2015 In Review: People, Friends, Family and More

Singing with Antsy McClain at Woodflock 2015The world is filled with people. And people enrich our lives. I have never written a post in the past just focused on the people in influences that they’ve had in my life. Any of my post to be included comments about people and it includes my life, but over the year 2015 I found it I had many people that had a profound and positive impact on my life and I wanted to make note of that in this post.

Hanging with daughter Amaree and her husband Aaron in Washington, Aug 2015

Hanging with daughter Amaree and her husband Aaron in Washington, Aug 2015

I was blessed to spend time with all of my children and grandchildren
at one time or another this year. That is probably the best and most
blessed of all of my people experiences. But there were many others, both old and newly made friends, and other people who I met along the road of life during the year.

All of these people added to the great year I experienced in 2015.

With newly minted son-in-law Jorge Mendez

With newly minted son-in-law Jorge Mendez

Hanging with daughter Marissa on one of our trips in 2015

Hanging with daughter Marissa on one of our trips in 2015

Smile Man in Seattle

Smile Man in Seattle

I think of the stranger that I met on the streets of Seattle who stood on the corner holding a sign that you said smile be happy. He was not seeking donations. He was not seeking welfare. He was wanting people to smile. He kind of became a symbol for my year.

I made some new friends and acquaintances over the year. Some of these are artists or authors and I was able to enjoy and appreciate them.

Sumoflam with Rob Roy in 2015

Sumoflam with Rob Roy in 2015

One of these was former Navy seal and Author Rob Roy. I noted on more than one occasion how his book the Navy seal art of war inspired me and help me on my path to a more healthful life.

Then there is my friend the musician Pete Huttlinger. He too inspired me with his current. A great guitarist and musician who has performed over the years with John Denver and many others, Pete has suffered from a heart defect that almost caused him to lose his life. With his
wife Erin, they have struggled and he is come back. This year he to wrote a book with his wife, it is inspiring and I can’t wait to dig into it. And, as I do I will listen to his inspiring music as well.

Pete Huttlinger

Pete Huttlinger

With pal Kevin Twitchell at Woodflock 2015

With pal Kevin Twitchell at Woodflock 2015

During the summer, beginning in May, I had wonderful opportunities to travel to San Francisco and up to Red Bluff, CA and visit with many old friends that are associated with my very close friend Antsy McClain. This was my first venture to Woodflock and many of the people that were in attendance were people whom I had met in the past or who I became very good friends with over Facebook as a result of my association with the band.

Along with too many friends there, I got to get back together with Antsy’s saxophone and slide guitar player Bruce Wandmayer. Bruce is
himself, a wonderful person and a fabulous musician. On this occasion I also got to meet with his wife who, during the event, did morning
meditation. And really took me to another level as I listen to her. She is one of those people that brings peace to you just speaking and mingling with her.

Hanging with good friend Bruce Wandmayer

Hanging with good friend Bruce Wandmayer

With Carla and Ione in Santa Rosa, CA

With Carla and Ione in Santa Rosa, CA

And this trip also introduced me to a wonderful host and sweet person
in Carla Lockwood. Known as Christmas Carla because she was born on Christmas Day, she picked me up and took me for three days to stay at her place and then took me up to Red Bluff. We traveled parts of San Francisco and then parts of north-central California on our way and enjoyed sightseeing and mixing and mingling with each other along the way. She and her good friend Ione Snyder, whom I have known for a number of years, were great hosts and so kind to me. I won’t soon forget the happiness and the good times we spent together during my time in California in May.

Carla and Ione give old Sumoflam a kiss at Woodflock 2015

Carla and Ione give old Sumoflam a kiss at Woodflock 2015

At that time I also got to spend time and meet with a number of other people. The Flamingoheads, as they are known, are a great group of people. I am thankful to be associated with them. Here are just a few pictures of me with some of my Flamingohead family.

With Jacque and James Ferreira

With Jacque and James Ferreira

Good friend and official "teaser of Sumoflam" Kathy Aspinwall

Good friend and official “teaser of Sumoflam” Kathy Aspinwall

Men with Hats...my pal from Cal...Ed Townsend

Men with Hats…my pal from Cal…Ed Townsend

And we did dance because we wanted to...with MATCHING HATS!

And we did dance because we wanted to…with MATCHING HATS!

Can't forget Uncle Fred...one of my good California friends. He took me back to the airport and we had a fabulous time!

Can’t forget Uncle Fred…one of my good California friends. He took me back to the airport and we had a fabulous time!

Woodflock

Woodflock 2015

With Johnny Mac at Sundance Resort in Utah

With Johnny Mac at Sundance Resort in Utah

Through my association with Rob Roy, as I noted above, I was able to go to Utah and participate in one of his training sessions as a photographer. That program was interesting in and of itself, but along the way I got to spend some time both in Lexington and in Utah with John MacLaren, another former Navy Seal. Johnny Mac, as he is known to many of his close friends, has been a trainer to the stars and to many others. My first meeting with him was in Lexington as I picked him up at the airport when he arrived in June for the Great
American Fitness Challenge. His first words to me were “are you from Utah or Idaho?” That was a shocker, but he was able to pick up on the slight accent that I had from Utah, as he too, was a graduate of high school in Utah. He has an intensity about him, but also a very peaceful and pleasant demeanor. It was good to meet an individual like him. Not all military or former military people are hard-nosed.

With high school friend Jonathan Jensen at Sundance

With high school friend Jonathan Jensen at Sundance

With high school friend Russ Graves in Murray, UT

With high school friend Russ Graves in Murray, UT

During my trip to Utah, I was honored and excited to spend a littlebit of time with my very close high school friends Jonathan Jensen and Russ Graves. I wrote a blog post in detail about that visit, but just want to show them again here. Both of them had a profound impact on my life in the direction my life took after high school.I owe them a great deal in terms of setting my life in the right direction. I will eternally be indebted to these two great men, both of them strong members of the LDS Church and great leaders. Yet, also very good friends.

Then there are the people that you meet in every day life. A couple of these people have become good acquaintances. And I want to point them out in this post because in their own ways they too have had an impact on my life just as the examples they set.

schmoozing with my pal Joe Seebold at Valvoline

Schmoozing with my pal Joe Seebold at Valvoline

 

One of these is Joe Seebold. Joe,is a good-natured car repairman. The manager of an oil change place, I have been associated with him for a few years. But it’s always great to speak to him about things other than car repair. And, over the last couple of years Joe and I have become good friends. Not through religion, not through common beliefs. But because we’re people and we enjoy each others company and that’s what is important.

 

Sumoflam with Asian Bistro's JJ Chen

Sumoflam with Asian Bistro’s JJ Chen

 

This past year, Julianne and I begin frequenting a restaurant near our house. The Asian Bistro Express is a great little Chinese place. The gal that runs the place with her husband is JJ Chen and as we have frequented the eatery, we have become friends with her as well. It’s nice to speak with them about things other than their food or their restaurant. Nice to learn about where they’re from, and what they do, what their goals are, about their children, etc. (They have a cute little girl in 4th or 5th grade). We all share a common trait in this world and that is we live life.

 

Visiting Al Luminum and his Airstream on a 2015 visit to Lexington.

Visiting Al Luminum and his Airstream on a 2015 visit to Lexington.

Over the last couple of years I have become Facebook friends with folks near and far, many whom I have not met in person.  But, occasionally there is the unique opportunity to meet some of them.  One of these goes by the name Al Luminum (not his real name).  Al is an Airstream Gypsy with his family.  They travel the country in their Airstream and live off of a rental property income and who knows what else.  In the winter you can find him and his family staying in the quiet of the desert and in the summers they may be up north in any of dozens of locales.  On one occasion they pulled into Lexington, where they stayed in a church parking lot. He gave me a ping in Facebook and I went over and finally met them all in person.  What a delightful family!

I left the visit with envy as they travel freely in this beautiful country…something that I wish I could do full time!

Alex and his Ukranian friends at Fat Smitty's

Alex and his Ukranian friends at Fat Smitty’s

On another occasion I was with the family in Washington and we ventured into a unique eatery called Fat Smitty’s (see my blog post about this quirky place), near Port Townsend.  I was in there taking photos and there were three Russians (Ukranians actually) enjoying a wonderful Fat Smitty burger. One of them, named Alex, noted, “You must be famous,” to which I replied, “In my own mind!”  I sat down with them and asked if I could do a selfie with them.  Turns out these guys were from Ukraine and were in the area working.  Alex and his friends were great!  You never know who you can meet in this wide world.

Meeting Nelson Campbell, Director of Plant Pure Nation

Meeting Nelson Campbell, Director of Plant Pure Nation

Julianne and I meet with acclaimed author Dr. T. Colin Campbell

Julianne and I meet with acclaimed author Dr. T. Colin Campbell

Then, as many of you may know, Julianne and I have strived to change to a healthier eating lifestyle.  We have moved predominantly to a Whole Food Plant-Based regimen.  She has been more perfect at it than I, but I too am trying!  As a result of this effort we had a unique opportunity to go to an advance screening of the Documentary Movie called “Plant Pure Nation” back in April (see my review of the movie) Nelson Campbell, son of the acclaimed T. Colin Campbell (author of “The China Study“) was there. We met Dr. T. Colin Campbell as well, along with the Producer John Corry, who also happened to produce another famed documentary called “Forks Over Knives.”

Meeting joe Cross, of 'Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" fame in Louisville

Meeting Joe Cross, of  “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” fame in Louisville

Along the same lines, a few weeks later, we met another famed Whole Foods Plant Based proponent in Joe Cross, who produced the movie “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” and has also authored a number of books on whole fruit/veggie juicing. (See my post about this)  We picked up his new book, which has some great inspirational stories that helped me out.  His talk was great and he was very understanding of the plight of big people.

I consider myself blessed to meet people like Nelson Campbell and Joe Cross, both of whom are on a mission to get people to eat healthier and live better, happier and healthful lives.  Yes, they may be famous in their realms, but it is not the fame that they desire as much as the ability to help others.

Sumoflam with Santa Claus in Santa Claus, IN

Sumoflam with Santa Claus in Santa Claus, IN

Speaking of famous folks, I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with one Jolly old elf in the small town of Santa Claus, IN just a week before Christmas.  The town was named after this guy and he looked like the REAL one….hmmm… I wonder.  He did know some stuff about me and about my grandkids….

Yes, he did tell me I was nice (and NOT naughty like some in my family may have tried to lead others to believe!)

Meeting with Solar Guru john Schaeffer

Meeting with Solar Guru john Schaeffer

While in California on the road with Carla (mentioned above), we stopped at Real Goods Solar in Hopland, CA. Quite the quirky place (see my post about it), it was perfect for the travel writer in me.  While there I had the chance meeting of the founder and proprietor John Schaeffer. He was also the author of the Solar Living Sourcebook, a book I had procured back in1990 while working with Asahi Solar in Japan. It was a great opportunity to meet one of the founders of solar energy in the US.  I left with a smile, a great photo and a new, signed copy, of his book.

Julianne and I with Tregoney on the Wicked set in Louisville

Julianne and I with Tregoney on the Wicked set in Louisville

 

In November we had the great chance to go to Louisville and attend the Broadway traveling musical “Wicked” (see my post and review).  It was especially meaningful since Julianne’s cousin Tregoney Shepherd was a performer in this musical.  As a result, we were also afforded the opportunity to go backstage and see the props and learn more about the entire production.  Tregoney also came over to our house on Thanksgiving and the three of us went out to a wonderful catered dinner.

 

Antsy and Sumoflam at the SOLD OUT show in the intimate Downtowne Listening Room in Cincinnati

Antsy and Sumoflam at the SOLD OUT show in the intimate Downtowne Listening Room in Cincinnati in April 2015

Of course, I have to note my good friend Antsy McClain.  A week doesn’t go by when we are not talking.  He is like a brother to me in so many ways.  It is wonderful to have a close friend who is also a musician, story teller, amazing artist.  We have been friends since our first meeting in 1992 at an auto plant in Kentucky. Much has happened to both of us since that time.  I am grateful for friends like Antsy McClain!

I have seen him go from a newbie in the business into a world traveling musician.  I have met many wonderful musicians who have since become friends, as a result of my friendship with Antsy.  I have seen his family grow as well.  Accomplished musicians and artists in their own right.

IN MEMORIUM 2015

MemoriumAs I get older there are those that pass on before me. Seems like the older I get the more I am seeing of my friends and acquaintances making the journey home. The year 2015 was no different as I lost a dear brother in law, a couple of friends and a couple of Facebook friends who I had become well-acquainted with but never got to meet in person.  I want to remember these folks as well.  They too had an influence in my life, if even minimal.

Ultimately, our lives are canvasses and every individual we meet adds their little piece of color to our complex life portrait.  I am grateful for the relationships as they all enrich my life.

Jamie Showkeir - August 16, 1952 - August 16, 2015

Jamie Showkeir – August 16, 1952 – August 16, 2015

Jamie Showkeir was my brother-in-law and mentor and was a down to earth solidly wonderful individual.  I wrote about him on his passing (see my post). He passed away after a year long struggle with the devastating disease known as ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.  He knew from the outset that his days were numbered.  But he chose to deal with it rather than to let it deal with him. Jamie left a positive impact on 100s of people, including me.  He was a mentor to me (and he didn’t even know it!) Three or four times I called him for advice due to his wisdom of the business world. (He and his wife Maren, my wife’s sister, had authored two books).  I miss Jamie.

Dan "Photoman" Smith - Aug. 5, 1959 - June 16, 2015

Dan “Photoman” Smith – Aug. 5, 1959 – June 16, 2015

I first met Dan online through Facebook around 2010.  We shared many common interests, especially our love of photography in the Lexington area.  I had a couple of opportunities to finally meet him.  The first time we met was at Jacobson Lake, a favorite photographic stomping grounds for both of us.  He was out shooting a sunrise and I walked up and said “Hey Photoman!” and surprised him.  He knew me because of my Facebook photos. From then we met for breakfast a couple of times.   Dan was one of those who ended up losing a job and worked at a call center.  Photography and writing were his passions. He was a libertarian at heart. I am glad to have had the pleasure of his association over the years.  Dan collapsed into a coma in mid 2015 and never fully recovered. I am sure he is enjoying the heavenly sunrises.

Phil J. Norris - Dec. 3, 1962 - Dec. 29, 2015

Phil J. Norris – Dec. 3, 1962 – Dec. 29, 2015

I never got to meet Phil in person, but we had become Facebook friends back in 2013.  He was an avid Antsy McClain fan and friended me through the Flamingohead Family group. Our last communication was on my birthday, Oct. 4, in 2015.  We both lamented that we had not yet had the opportunity to get together.  He was in Idaho and I was in Kentucky.  We had chatted via Facebook Messenger weekly with our many common interests of family, LDS Church (he had served an LDS mission but later went inactive), Antsy McClain, Aussie musician Pauly Zarb (another good friend of mine) and grandkidz. Like my friend Dan, Phil went into a sudden coma in December, slipped out of it for a day or two and then back into it  He succumbed on Dec. 29 to the dismay of many of his family, Facebook friends and Flamingohead cousins.  I will miss our nice chats.

 

 

Synchronicity on a Saturday Night: Take 2 – UK Basketball & Antsy McClain

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Antsy McClain

Artwork by Antsy McClain (with some revision by Meadowlark Creative and Sumoflam added the colors and UK logo)

Artwork by Antsy McClain (with some revision by Meadowlark Creative and Sumoflam added the colors and UK logo) This is the “Go UK!” Sumoflam logo

Back in early April 2014 I wrote a post entitled “Synchronicity on a Saturday Night: UK Basketball & Antsy McClain“.  It was all about a Saturday night (April 4, 2014) when I attended an Antsy McClain concert in Harrison, OH and, on the same night, the Kentucky Wildcats were playing in the opening game of the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament against the University of Wisconsin.  I noted the synchronicity and a number of unique coincidences revolving around the whole evening of events. (And UK won on a last second three pointer by Aaron Harrison to advance to the finals – they lost to Wisconsin this year)

Antsy and Sumoflam at the SOLD OUT show in the intimate Downtowne Listening Room in Cincinnati

Antsy and Sumoflam at the SOLD OUT show in the intimate Downtowne Listening Room in Cincinnati

Almost one year later I was again in Cincinnati to see Antsy McClain (March 28, 2015) and, again, the UK Wildcats were battling it out against Notre Dame in the Elite 8.  And here I was, in my UK hat cheering on Antsy McClain at the intimate, yet wonderful DownTowne Listening Room in Downtown Cincinnati while the UK Wildcats were in yet again a barnstorming back and forth battle.

DownTowne Listening Room Cincinnati

DownTowne Listening Room Cincinnati

Antsy McClain SOLD OUT

Antsy McClain SOLD OUT

Antsy McClain at DownTowne Listening Room

Antsy McClain at DownTowne Listening Room

The DownTowne Listening Room is located on the second floor of the Art Deco Shillito Place Building in downtown Cincinnati.  With food (included with tickets) and couches and close seating, is a perfect place for a performer like Antsy McClain and other singer songwriters.

Shilito Building in downtown Cincinnati.  Home of the DownTowne Listening Room

Shilito Place Building in downtown Cincinnati. Home of the DownTowne Listening Room

Panorama shot of the DownTowne Listening Room

Panorama shot of the DownTowne Listening Room

Founder Scott Skeabeck is an avid music lover who moved to Cincinnati from Philadelphia about five years ago. As a frequent concert-goer and listening room patron on the East Coast, he was determined to bring the experience to Cincinnati.

DownTowne Listening Room founder Scott Skeabeck

DownTowne Listening Room founder Scott Skeabeck

View from the singer's mouth

View from the singer’s mouth

Scott Skeabeck knows how to book a good show and provide a great entertainment venue

Scott Skeabeck knows how to book a good show and provide a great entertainment venue

The show was opened by singer/songwriter Steve Saunders, who is from Cincinnati but originally from Paintsville, KY.  Much like Antsy, Steve is a storyteller with his music. He has been around for a while.  One of his close friends, Tommy Bolin, was with the James Gang in the 1970s and Steve was able to get to know one of my favorite musicians, Joe Walsh, as a result.  Steve’s rootsy music was good.  You should give him a listen on his ReverbNation site.

Opening for Antsy McClain was singer/songwriter Steve Saunders

Opening for Antsy McClain was singer/songwriter Steve Saunders

Cincinnati artist Steve Saunders at the DownTowne Listening Room

Cincinnati artist Steve Saunders at the DownTowne Listening Room

After Steve’s great performance of six or seven songs, it was Antsy McClain’s turn to give the crowd some unequivocal fun.  I have known and worked with Antsy for well over 20 years and it is rare to see him doing a solo show in such an intimate setting. He did a good number of his hits as well as some new things from his upcoming album “Somewhere Past These Gravel Roads,” which is scheduled to be out in June 2015.

Antsy's hand-written set list

Antsy’s hand-written set list

Antsy McClain singing one of his songs at DownTowne Listening room

Antsy McClain singing one of his songs at DownTowne Listening room

Here are a couple more shots of my friend Antsy McClain…all shot by me

Smiling Antsy McClain

Smiling Antsy McClain

Antsy sings a mean tune

Antsy sings a mean tune

Antsy McClain in B/W

Antsy McClain in B/W

The DownTowne Listening Room audience enjoying Antsy McClain

The DownTowne Listening Room audience enjoying Antsy McClain

As Antsy’s show finished just before the basketball game, I had the final couple of minutes on a screen in hand (thank you iPhone and NCAA-TV!!) Steve Saunders, also an avid Wildcat’s fan, joined me. Once again, with only a minute or so in the game, Aaron Harrison drops another 3 pointer and the Cats take the lead.  But, alas, Notre Dame comes back with their own.  UK then ties it and Notre Dame attempts to come back.

UK Basketball player, Sophomore Andrew Harrison

UK Basketball player, Sophomore Andrew Harrison

After what seemed like an eternity, UK stopped them and got the ball back.  Andrew Harrison, Aaron’s twin brother, drives the full court for a layup and gets fouled.  With just seconds he left he drops them both for a 2 point UK lead.  Notre Dame has a few seconds and one last chance and is again stopped, as UK gets their record-tieing 38th win of the season and was only two games away from an undefeated 40-0 season.  Unfortunately, on April 4 the Wildcats lost a heartbreaker to Wisconsin.

Antsy's Flamingo Capo

Antsy’s Flamingo Capo

As for me…on that Saturday night I was a double winner as Antsy’s show as awesome and I got to hang with one of my best friends, and the night was finished off with a UK Win.  Synchronicity rules.

After the show with Antsy McClain

After the show with Antsy McClain

Top Ten Nature Photos from 2014

SUMOFLAM PHOTOGRAPHYThroughout my travels I took over 3000 photos in 2014. Many are travel and quirky things, but there were a number of nature photos I took while on the road as well as right here at home in Lexington.  I have grown to love nature…watching squirrels play in the trees, watching geese fly overhead, gaining joy points from a sunrise. Herein are my ten favorite nature shots from 2014 and the stories behind them (and a few honorable mentions).

NUMBER 1 – BLUE HERON AT SUNRISE

Blue Heron at Sunrise

Blue Heron at Sunrise

This shot was captured only a few miles from my house on a late spring morning.  I frequent Jacobson Park on nice mornings after dropping my wife off at work at the University of Kentucky.  I like the lake there and the wildlife and the sunrises on partly cloudy days. This silhouette of the heron against the bright orange lake was one of many “lucky shots” for me in 2014.

NUMBER 2 – THE SNOWBALL SQUIRREL

The Snowball Squirrel

The Snowball Squirrel

Many of my Facebook friends have seen this shot of a squirrel that looks angry and appears to be getting ready to chuck a snowball at me.  This little guy was frolicking in our front yard after an overnight snow in February and I took about 20 photos.  As I began reviewing them, I was delighted to a chuckle to see this shot!

NUMBER 3 – MAGNIFICENT SUNRISE

Magnificent Sunrise

Magnificent Sunrise

There are many mornings that I am able to catch the sunrise after dropping of my wife.  On this particular fall morning in October I caught the magnificent glow behind the clouds.  I had to drive through a couple of neighborhoods as I saw it coming up.  To my good fortune, I came to a clearing and was able to get seven or eight nice shots.

NUMBER 4 – SPIDER WEB IN SPRING

Spider Web in Spring

Spider Web in Spring

On one trip to Jacobson Park, I came across this droplet enhanced spider web.  I love Spider Art!!

NUMBER 5 – PELICANS

Pelicans

Pelicans

In June I took a trip to Galveston, Texas and became fascinated by the brown pelicans (see my blog post).  They flew gracefully, in very specific formations and in synchronized flight.  I took this shot while sitting on the beach relaxing…a rarity for me in my travels.  But, mind you, I was there for a family reunion and we were all at the beach. Love the pelicans.

NUMBER 6 – WATERCOLOR SKY

Watercolor Sky

Watercolor Sky

My good friend Antsy McClain has a song entitled Watercolor Sky (unreleased on any albums – I have a demo version). When I see skies like this it reminds me of the title, though the song is about a broken up love relationship. “We cut our way through evergreens that stood a mile high, through a patchwork quilt of farmland and a watercolor sky.”  I love to look at the skies as I drive through the evergreens, the mountains and the patchwork quilts of farmland. This photo was taken in Lexington, ironically.

NUMBER 7 – THE BEARTOOTHS

The Beartooths

The Beartooths

I fulfilled a life long dream on Memorial Day weekend in 2014 as I got to drive the Beartooth Scenic Highway in north central Wyoming.  These mountains are spectacular (see my blog post) and my photography could never do them justice.

NUMBER 8 – ANTELOPE CONVENTION

Antelope Convention

Antelope Convention

On my trip through Wyoming (see my blog post) I ran into a herd of about 10 antelope on the side of the road.  I stopped, stayed in the car with the window open and took about 30 photos of these beautiful animals.  Apparently, in Wyoming they outnumber people.  After a while they all gracefully sped away…they are the fastest land mammals in North America.

NUMBER 9 – BIG SKY COUNTRY

Big Sky Country

Big Sky Country

As I drove on US 89 heading south in Montana, I caught this expansive view of clouds over the plains.  The dark clouds and blue sky are so Montana….

NUMBER 10 – SUNRISE

Sunrise

Sunrise

This was an amazing fall sunrise I captured one late October morning in Lexington.  I could see it peaking as I headed down Richmond Rd and found a place where I could pull off.  The clouds intensified it.  As I look at this it reminds me of woodblock drawings from 1600 Japan…the land of the Rising Sun.

HONORABLE MENTION

I have a few more shots I wanted to include in this post….other shots I am proud of.

Goslings - Jacobson Park, Lexington, KY

Goslings – Jacobson Park, Lexington, KY

Red Moon - Lexington, KY

Red Moon – Lexington, KY

Whatcha Doin'? - Jacobson Park, Lexington, KY

Whatcha Doin’? – Jacobson Park, Lexington, KY

Sunrise in Montana - US 89 east of Great Falls, MT

Sunrise in Montana – US 89 east of Great Falls, MT

Wispy Clouds - Lexington, KY

Wispy Clouds – Lexington, KY

Icicle Fence - Jacobson Park, Lexington, KY

Icicle Fence – Jacobson Park, Lexington, KY

The Heavens Are Bright - clouds and sun over Shiro, Texas

The Heavens Are Bright – clouds and sun over Shiro, Texas

Serenity in Winter - Jacobson Lake, Lexington, KY

Serenity in Winter – Jacobson Lake, Lexington, KY

Date Night - Ashland, Wisconson

Date Night – Ashland, Wisconsin

Big Moon - Lexington, KY

Big Moon – Lexington, KY

Blue Heron in Flight - Lexington, KY

Blue Heron in Flight – Lexington, KY

Spring Time - Lexington Cemetery, Lexington, KY

Spring Time – Lexington Cemetery, Lexington, KY

Glacier Mountains - Bynum, Montana

Glacier Mountains – Bynum, Montana

Geese in Flight - Lexington, KY

Geese in Flight – Lexington, KY

Livin’ the Dream – Following the Reinvention of Myself

Last week I put up a post on my Less Beaten Paths travel blog noting how writing that blog lead to a reinvention of myself and my career path (and also celebrating that blog’s 50,000th visit). This post is a follow-up to that one and I do it on my Sumoflam’s Singlewide blog because it’s not really associated with travel (though I do note some travel things in here….let’s face it, its in my blood).

Livin' the Dream

Living the Dream – masking Antsy McClain

I have called this “Livin’ the Dream” as that is the best way for me to express what my current career situation is for me.  I have gone from nightmares to living the dream and doing what I am passionate about.

DreamJob1To me, a “dream job” does not necessarily mean a job that provides tons of income, but rather a job that provides satisfaction and doing what I love doing. Don’t get me wrong, income is necessary and more of it is better.  But doing what I love while earning money to do it…now THAT is a Dream Job!

My fist real dream job - being a tour guide in Flagstaff in 1983

My first real dream job – being a tour guide in Flagstaff in 1983

Over the years, I have had a number of dream jobs. Perhaps my first was working as a tour guide in Flagstaff, Arizona in the early 1980s.I drove vans and buses and took tourists all over the beautiful locations of northern Arizona to places like Sedona, Monument Valley, the Navajo and Hopi Indian reservations, the Petrified Forest, Sunset Crater, and many other fabulous locations including the Grand Canyon. I met wonderful people, saw beautiful scenery year around, and I truly had a great time.

Working as a Tour Guide with visitors from the Isle of Man on the Navajo Reservation in 1983

Working as a Tour Guide with visitors from the Isle of Man on the Navajo Reservation in 1983

It was not until the late 1980s when we had an opportunity to go to Japan as a family that I was able to experience my next “Dream Job.” After graduation from Arizona State University with a Master’s Degree in Political Science/International Relations, I landed a position through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET Program) to work for the Oita Prefecture Government as a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR).  In fact, I was one of 32 Charter CIRs in the first year of the JET Program, which also brought nearly 500 Americans, Canadians and British to Japan to teach English.  This was my second “dream job” as I once again got to work with people from all walks of life from different parts of the world as they visited Oita and I got to travel, I did TV shows and had a wonderful two years on that gig (as well as an additional 2 years with Asahi Solar Corporation. My children were in TV commercials and all of these were a result of that particular position.

I served as interpreter, guide and host for then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe (L) and Oita's Governor Morihikio Hiramatsu (R) in 1987

I served as interpreter, guide and host for then British Foreign Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe (L) and Oita’s Governor Morihikio Hiramatsu (R) in 1987

I spent three days as host, guide and interpreter for famed Olympian from Romania Nadia Comaneci

I spent three days as host, guide and interpreter for famed Olympian Gymnast from Romania Nadia Comaneci

I did many TV shows while in Oita.  This was in Bungo Taketa at a famous Samurai museum.  I have the authentic swords used by the samurai as I presented a show (in Japanese) about this historical site.

I did many TV shows while in Oita. This was in Bungo Taketa at a famous Samurai museum. I have the authentic swords used by the samurai as I presented a show (in Japanese) about this historical site.

I was a co-host for a New Year's Celebration program in Oita in Jan. 1989.  Here I am with the camera man prepping fr the show.

I was a co-host for a New Year’s Celebration program in Oita in Jan. 1989. Here I am with the camera man prepping fr the show.

Upon returning from Japan in 1991, I struggled to find gainful employment for quite a while and ended up doing a lot of Japanese translation work and other work related to my Japanese language skills. Though very skilled in Japanese, I believe that I went through a “burnout stage” because of all of what I was doing. Indeed, it was a Japanese-related position that brought the family to Kentucky in 1993.

Japanese interpreting at the Toyota Plan in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada in 2008

Japanese interpreting at the Toyota Plan in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada in 2008

Nevertheless, it was interesting to work in manufacturing plants such as the big Toyota plant in Georgetown, Kentucky (1997) and the Toyota plant in Woodstock, Ontario (2008). I worked in a number of parts manufacturers plants as well. Learning the manufacturing process was quite enlightening. In between a couple of those jobs, I worked on a Japanese-owned horse farm (which was beautiful) and I also spent a number of years working at Lexmark where I thrived on the job, but I would never call them “dream jobs.” The best part of the job at Lexmark was the opportunity I had to travel to Cebu in the Philippines (where I trained my eventual replacements!).

Island Hopping in the Philippines

Island Hopping in the Philippines

On a boat off of Mactan Island in the Philippines with "Team Higante", the crew I was training in 2006

On a boat off of Mactan Island in the Philippines with “Team Higante”, the crew I was training in 2005

The trips to Cebu (which altogether totaled about 7 weeks) were definitely one of the best parts of the job. Despite the daily work routines, I spent many evenings and every weekend traveling around Cebu and other islands.  In fact, my first real trip journals (which lead to my travel blogging) were borne out of these trips (check out these early trip reports). Little did I know back then what my travel writing would do for me!

Sumoflam squeezed into an outrigger canoe on a small island north of Cebu.

Sumoflam squeezed into an outrigger canoe on a small island north of Cebu.

With friends in a Jeepney in Cebu

With friends in a Jeepney in Cebu

After Lexmark I did more Japanese work and eventually made my way to Ontario (which I noted above).  I really did not enjoy the translating work, but it brought income.  The best part was the travel to and from home every two weeks.  I took a different route each time, took lots of photos and wrote lots of trip journals (see them here).

Japanese trainers in Sparta, Ontario on a Sumoflam led "tour" of Southern Ontario

Japanese trainers in Sparta, Ontario on a Sumoflam led “tour” of Southern Ontario

My little home away from home in Paris, Ontario in 2008

My little home away from home in Paris, Ontario in 2008

After my Ontario gig ended, I spent nine months in a job that was a literal hell for me.  I worked as a call center rep for Sprint, then Boost Mobile, then Apple.  I hated the jobs…low paying, low morale and no challenge.  I sought for opportunities to leave at every corner.  And, then in 2009 it finally happened.

Working a baseball game for iHigh.com

Working a baseball game for iHigh.com

My next real “dream job” evolved from being hired by iHigh.com in 2009. I have always enjoyed working in web design and web related services. I have also always enjoyed working with people. And, furthermore, I have loved working in things related to sports, especially high school sports. As a result, my position became one of great passion and enjoyment. Indeed, I did not even take a vacation for almost 3 years. My job was practically a vacation.The job also included a great deal of travel and meeting with people at high schools around the country. I got to do broadcast work which I enjoyed immensely.

Polo Cross at the Kentucky Horse Park - we broadcast a number of Pony Club events.  Was great fun.

Polo Cross at the Kentucky Horse Park – we broadcast a number of Pony Club events. Was great fun.

I traveled to many locations to broadcast BMX Races and took many photos, like this one.

I traveled to many locations to broadcast BMX Races and took many photos, like this one.

As part of my iHigh work I was responsible for the USA Swimming partnership and got to attend the Olympic Trials and broadcast some events.  I a interviewing multi medalist Kaitlin Sandeno

As part of my iHigh work I was responsible for the USA Swimming partnership and got to attend the Olympic Trials and broadcast some events. I a interviewing multi medalist Kaitlin Sandeno

I participated in the FFA National events and helped manage broadcasts of this huge event in Indianapolis

I participated in the FFA National events and helped manage broadcasts of this huge event in Indianapolis

That dream job came to an abrupt end on November 2, 2012. At that time the company had made some major decisions in the business direction and the shifts left both my wife and myself unemployed as we did not fit into the new program.I was devastated as my “dream job” had fallen out from underneath me.

Had to Ponder the Future

Had to Ponder the Future

From the time I lost that position in 2012 through 2013 I struggled again to find any full-time employment. And that is where my previous post begins and how I have participated in the “reinvention of myself” and my skill sets.

Resilience in hard times is always best

Resilience in hard times is always best

I like to think of myself as being resilient. I have learned to adapt to change and always try to take a positive angle towards it despite any challenges, frustrations, hurdles, etc.I also make a great effort to not burn bridges along the way and to do a good job wherever I am up until the last day.

Working with VYPE

So, this reinvention of myself and my skill sets led me to learn the WordPress CMS through my travel blog and then through this blog and others. Relations that I had created such as those at VYPE.com brought me work and I was able to continue to build on the foundation that I had learned through my blog. With VYPE.com I worked with a developer and helped build the entire network after VYPE left iHigh and had to build their own network.and now, for over a year, I have worked with them and manage their entire Web structure which is all based on the WordPress platform. Through them I picked up other work and through other connections I picked up even more work to where I now have number of clients and I was working from home. I was doing things that I enjoy as putting together websites is just a form of creativity that I seem to thrive at.

Working with Antsy McClain

Working with Antsy McClain

With the freedom of working from home, I have reestablished the management of a number of websites I had done in the past. One of these was moving my good friend and well-known singer/songwriter/recording artist/graphic artist Antsy McClain’s website into the WordPress platform.  I once again manage this for him and work closely in his promotion. Indeed, this has been part of “Living the Dream” as I remain in the music industry, something I had dreamed about as a high school student.

On tour with Antsy McClain in San Francisco in the early 2000s

On tour with Antsy McClain in San Francisco in the early 2000s

Then, in early September I got “The Call.” I had been doing some work with my former boss at iHigh.com who now runs a multimedia company called BlueMillion.com. Blue Million is a digital technology and marketing company specializing in social media, digital marketing, and live video to online and mobile audiences around the world. Through this work, he called me from the offices of iHigh, Inc., which runs the Great American Rivalry Series.

Working with the Great American Rivalry Series

Working with the Great American Rivalry Series

This company used to be a sister company of iHigh.com, but recently split away as iHigh.com moved to VolarVideo. I was asked to use my web skills and social media skills to be their “Control Central” during football season. This has literally brought me full circle as I am now working out of the old iHigh Office on Mondays and Fridays and then from home during the week.  Like the days of iHigh, I watch and monitor high school football from the office on Friday nights.  I get to work with many of the high school coaches and broadcast organizations of the past as well. I count this both as an immense blessing and a recognition for my devoted hard work ethic.

Wearing two hats (OK, a hat and a shirt) as I am full swing into high school sports again.

Wearing two hats (OK, a hat and a shirt) as I am full swing into high school sports again.

Coupled with this, I have partnered with Fieldhouse Media Group as their Web Manager (and as an extension I am the Digital Media Coordinator for VYPE.com, part of FMG now). I work with many wonderful people. As a result of this work, I am once again working with a number of broadcast groups across the country and am able to bring them on to the VYPE network as partners.

David&Tui

Sumoflam with Texas author and blogger Tui Snider

Another wonderful “dream fulfiller” which originated with my blog writing was “meeting” other bloggers, photographers and writers. They have all inspired me in so many ways that I will continue to “reinvent” myself and move towards writing some books about travel the back roads of America…an extension of my blog. (Shown above is Tui Snider, author of two books recently and blogs at Mental Mosaic).

A couple of others that have become an inspiration:

Derek Ace a professional photogapher...does amazing work.  We met at Hells Half Acre in Wyoming in May 2014

Derek Ace, a professional photographer…does amazing work. We met at Hells Half Acre in Wyoming in May 2014 (See some of his work on Facebook)

A video about Minnesota Travel Writer Seth Hardmeyer, who does the Highway Highlights blog about Minnesota (and beyond).  We have shared many inspirational stories and places.  He has been an inspiration.

The Dream Job is here and better than ever. Its not about the money, its about the doing what you enjoy and excel at. I now have a photo blog, a photo site on National Geographic and have become a member of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association  Life is Good!

Life is Good

Life is Good

The Selfie King – The Art of the Selfie

The Ultimate Selfie

The Ultimate Selfie – Alligator, Mississippi, June 2014

This is all about “The Art of the Selfie.” I have taken hundreds of them and love doing so.  In 2013 the Oxford Dictionaries announced their word of the year to be “selfie”, which they define as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” As most of us know, the “selfie” has become a very popular form of sharing one’s activities, travels and a photograph with one’s friends, family and the world.  Though taking self-portraits has been around since the birth of photography (Robert Cornelius, a pioneer in photography, produced a daguerreotype of himself in 1839), since the mid 2000s, and especially since 2010, the genre has exploded, thanks to the proliferation of social media.

Clowning Around (Sumoelton)

Clowning Around (Sumoelton) – taken at home, Halloween 2012

I have always been one that wanted to have my picture taken wherever I went, more as a record, but in the past couple of years, with the new technologies that smart devices provide us, I’ve been very active in taking selfies without having to have other people interact with me. Honestly, with the posting of all these selfies, one might think that I am self absorbed. But that is not really the truth. I enjoy sharing the joy and excitement of the places that I have been and the activities that I have participated in.

Selfie with a HUGE potato at a drive-in theater in Driggs, Idaho

Selfie with a HUGE potato at a drive-in theater in Driggs, Idaho – March 2013

Even as a young boy I was always fascinated with being in front of the camera. Over the years I’ve had numerous “goofy” pictures taken of me and I’ve even taken a few “selfies” on my own. Here are a few “non-selfies” from years gone by.

My first "selfie" using a mirror.  I was at a barber shop in Japan when this bird landed on my shoulder.  I took it from an angle

My first “selfie” using a mirror. I was at a barber shop in Japan when this bird landed on my shoulder. I took it from an angle.  Taken in 1977 in Ogaki, Japan

I took this "selfie" in Jemez Springs, NM in Dec. 1978 - Turned the camera towards me and "point and shoot"

I took this “selfie” in Jemez Springs, NM in Dec. 1978 – Turned the camera towards me and “point and shoot”

Mirror image - used my cell phone to take a mirrored selfie at Colter Bay Village in Grand Teton National Park, March 2013

Mirror image – used my cell phone to take a mirrored selfie at Colter Bay Village in Grand Tetons National Park, March 2013

Kewpie Hair - took this after a nap with wet hair - taken in the mirror with my cell phone

Kewpie Hair – took this after a nap with wet hair – taken in the mirror with my cell phone – July 2014

Nowadays, it seems like I take them wherever I’m at, whether I’m traveling across the country or whether I’m with my grandchildren. Taking selfies is fun for me and fun for those around me (I hope).  But they also have become a great way of documenting trips and events.

Real Quiet Lane, Lexington, KY - October 2013

Real Quiet Lane, Lexington, KY -November 2013

In May and June I took two trips across the United States. The first trip was north to Michigan and across four states to Montana to see my daughter and her family. From there I returned south into Wyoming and across Wyoming, Nebraska, Illinois and Missouri to return home. On the second trip I drove south through Tennessee Mississippi and Texas and then back home through Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois.

Friendship, Arkansas - July 2014

Friendship, Arkansas – July 2014

On both of these trips I took close to 100 selfies each. Many of these were posted in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and some of my travel blog posts at lessbeatenpaths.com. As I moved across the states, friends and family were able to follow me (probably to the point of overkill). Of course, anyone that follows my adventures knows that I also like to ham it up in many of my selfies.  Always more fun.

Bison and Sumobison, Havre, Montana - May 2014

Bison and Sumobison, Havre, Montana – May 2014

In this post, I have no intention of posting all 150 or 200 of my selfies from those trips, but I am going to post a selection of them that I found fun and interesting. I will include the location and, if there is a back story, I’ll include a little of that as well. At the end of the post, I am also going to include a few of my other favorites from past trips.

Sumoflam with Hiawatha, the largest statue of a native American in the U.S. This was taken in Ironwood, MI in May 2014

Sumoflam with Hiawatha, the largest statue of a native American in the U.S. This was taken in Ironwood, MI in May 2014

I had the opportunity to visit my cousin Lew in Austin, TX in June 2014.  This is the famous Welcome to Austin mural

I had the opportunity to visit my cousin Lew in Austin, TX in June 2014. This is the famous Greetings from Austin mural

Big Fish Supper Club in Bena, Minnesota. Taken in May 2014

Big Fish Supper Club in Bena, Minnesota. Taken in May 2014

Pink Elephant in DeForest, Wisconsin - May 2014

Pink Elephant in DeForest, Wisconsin – May 2014

Not only do I find pink elephants with glasses, I can find big cows with PINK glasses - this was in Russellville, KY in June 2014

Not only do I find pink elephants with glasses, I can find big cows with PINK glasses – this was in Russellville, KY in June 2014

Bucksnort, Tennessee in June 2014

Bucksnort, Tennessee in June 2014

With Chief Washakie in Cody, Wyoming - May 2014

With Chief Washakie in Cody, Wyoming – May 2014

At Mammy's Cupboard Cafe in Natchez, Mississippi in June 2014.  Yes, I ate in that place too...unique looking place

At Mammy’s Cupboard Cafe in Natchez, Mississippi in June 2014. Yes, I ate in that place too…unique looking place

A star shining brightly at Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska in May 2014

A star shining brightly at Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska in May 2014

Sumoflam visits the Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX in June 2014

Sumoflam visits the Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX in June 2014

Personally, I think that the selfie has become a great form of “journal keeping.” These are things that will allow family and friends to look back and see what we have done. I think that too many people don’t document the things that they have done and then we lose that personal history.

At the corner of This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, Texas - June 2014

At the corner of This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, Texas – June 2014

Wyoming's Wildlife - yes, probably me...  taken at a rest area on US Highway 20 about 40 miles west of Casper, WY in May 2014

Wyoming’s Wildlife – yes, probably me… taken at a rest area on US Highway 20 about 40 miles west of Casper, WY in May 2014

Visiting Rock City near Valier, Montana in May 2014

Visiting Rock City near Valier, Montana in May 2014

I always endeavor to find unique places for selfies and just for a visit.  This was Endeavor, WI in May 2014

I always endeavor to find unique places for selfies and just for a visit. This was Endeavor, WI in May 2014

Sumoflamalope (a mix between a Sumoflam and a Jackalope.  Taken in Douglas, WY in May 2014

Sumoflamalope (a mix between a Sumoflam and a Jackalope. Taken in Douglas, WY in May 2014

Some gator teeth and me at P'maws Bait Shop in Pierre Part, Louisiana - June 2014

Some gator teeth and me at P’maws Bait Shop in Pierre Part, Louisiana – June 2014

With the old Paul Bunyan statue (built in 1937) in Bemidji, MN in May 2014

With the old Paul Bunyan statue (built in 1937) in Bemidji, MN in May 2014

Visiting the giant pyramid in Nekoma, ND in May 2014

Visiting the giant pyramid in Nekoma, ND in May 2014

With Sam Houston's head in Huntsville, Texas in June 2014

With Sam Houston’s head in Huntsville, Texas in June 2014

Naturally, when I travel, no matter when it is, I have my cameras on the ready.  In the past couple of years I try to also get photos with state signs and unique town signs. Here are a few from trips over the past couple of years.

Welcome to Winner, South Dakota.  Always great to be a Winner (and they had a major lottery winner in that town too!!) Taken in June 2013

Welcome to Winner, South Dakota. Always great to be a Winner (and they had a major lottery winner in that town too!!) Taken in June 2013

I meandered into Okay, Oklahoma in November 2012

I meandered into Okay, Oklahoma in November 2012

A visit to North Carolina in April 2013.  We actually took a trip to South Carolina and Georgia as well.

A visit to North Carolina in April 2013. We actually took a trip to South Carolina and Georgia as well.

Smile, you are in Pennsylvania...so I smiled in July 2013

Smile, you are in Pennsylvania…so I smiled in July 2013

Went through Nebraska on my to see Carhenge in May 2014

Went through Nebraska on my to see Carhenge in May 2014

Arriving in Texas on my way from Colorado and heading to Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo in June 2013

Arriving in Texas on my way from Colorado and heading to Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo in June 2013

Rudyard, Montana - and no, I am not the Old Sore Head...  May 2014

Rudyard, Montana – and no, I am not the Old Sore Head… May 2014

Welcome to Louisiana in June 2014

Welcome to Louisiana in June 2014

In Lost Springs, Wyoming (Population 4) in May 2014.

In Lost Springs, Wyoming (Population 4) in May 2014.

Had to visit the town of Cut and Shoot, Texas north of Conroe, just for a photo op with their City Hall and the town name - taken in June 2014

Had to visit the town of Cut and Shoot, Texas north of Conroe, just for a photo op with their City Hall and the town name – taken in June 2014

Naturally, I had to visit the birthplace of one of my favorite characters, Kermit the Frog, in Leland, Mississippi in June 2014

Naturally, I had to visit the birthplace of one of my favorite characters, Kermit the Frog, in Leland, Mississippi in June 2014

Route 61, the Blues Highway in Mississippi in May 2014

Route 61, the Blues Highway in Mississippi in June 2014

Heading to Carhenge in May 2014

Heading to Carhenge in May 2014

Welcome to Arkansas in June 2014

Welcome to Arkansas in June 2014

Then there are my ham it up, goofy and whimsical selfies that I love to take.  Here are a few from previous road trips and at home, around movie theaters, and other odds and ends for fun.

Bull headed at the Frontier Steak House in Dunkirk, Montana in March 2013

Bull headed at the Frontier Steak House in Dunkirk, Montana in March 2013

The Hodag and Sumoflam in Rhinelander, WI in August 2012

The Hodag and Sumoflam in Rhinelander, WI in August 2012

Home of the Hamburger - with the Charles Nagreen Statue in Seymour, Wisconsin, August 2012

Home of the Hamburger – with the Charles Nagreen Statue in Seymour, Wisconsin, August 2012

At the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee in June 2014

At the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee in June 2014

At the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas in June 2014

At the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas in June 2014

Being chomped by a Transformer Dinosaur at the movie theater in Lexington - July 2014

Being chomped by a Transformer Dinosaur at the movie theater in Lexington – July 2014

Escaping a T-Rex in Choteau, Montana in May 2014

Escaping a T-Rex in Choteau, Montana in May 2014

Within reach of the amazing metal dragon from Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI in August 2012

Within reach of the amazing metal dragon from Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI in August 2012

Being stomped by a giant dinosaur at the Indianapolis Children's Museum in September 2013

Being stomped by a giant dinosaur at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum in September 2013

Under a Fire-breathing Dragon in Vandalia, IL in September 2013

Under a Fire-breathing Dragon in Vandalia, IL in September 2013

Cuddling with a troll in Mt. Horeb, WI in August 2012

Cuddling with a troll in Mt. Horeb, WI in August 2012

Almost didn't see the stop sign covered in snow at the "Top of the World Store" in the Beartooth Range at 10,000 feet in May 2014

Almost didn’t see the stop sign covered in snow at the “Top of the World Store” in the Beartooth Range at 10,000 feet in May 2014

Suffering with Flamingo Pink Eye at the former Lynn's Paradise Cafe in Louisville in December 2012

Suffering with Flamingo Pink Eye at the former Lynn’s Paradise Cafe in Louisville in December 2012

Took a SumoGothic photo in Eldon, Iowa at the house used in the painting American Gothic in September 2013

Took a SumoGothic photo in Eldon, Iowa at the house used in the painting American Gothic in September 2013

Being corny at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD in April 2013

Being corny at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD in April 2013

Selfie with the Caddies of Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX in June 2013

Selfie with the Caddies of Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX in June 2013

Peek a Boo from behind an umbrella at Cave Run Lake in Kentucky in June 2013

Peek a Boo from behind an umbrella at Cave Run Lake in Kentucky in June 2013

Then there are my references to Antsy McClain…my good friend and favorite singer/songwriter….

Livin' the Dream - taken at a Hobby Lobby in December 2013 - refers to Antsy's CD of the same name

Livin’ the Dream – taken at a Hobby Lobby in December 2013 – refers to Antsy’s CD of the same name

Juxtaposed Antsy's Living the Dream CD with my face in July 2012

Juxtaposed Antsy’s Living the Dream CD with my face in July 2012

A "dualie" with Antsy McClain taken in 2013

An “usie” with Antsy McClain taken in 2013

Everything's a Dollar - in reference to an Antsy McClain song of the same name

Everything’s a Dollar – in reference to an Antsy McClain song of the same name

Enjoy the Ride - The Aluminum Rule from the Antsy McClain song "Living in Aluminum"

Enjoy the Ride – The Aluminum Rule from the Antsy McClain song “Living in Aluminum”

And just a few more goofball selfies to round out this post…

I get the point at Gronk's in Superior, Wisconsin in May 2014

I get the point at Gronk’s in Superior, Wisconsin in May 2014

Hanging with the Tin Family in North Dakota's Enchanted Highway in June 2013

Hanging with the Tin Family in North Dakota’s Enchanted Highway in June 2013

With a bottle of "Route Beer" at Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, IL in August 2013

With a bottle of “Route Beer” at Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, IL in August 2013

And how about some Ice Cream with that "Route Beer"... in Peoria, IL

And how about some Ice Cream with that “Route Beer”… at Twistee Treat in Peoria, IL

I always like to get a selfie at unusual places, like Stoner Drug in Hamburg, Iowa

I always like to get a selfie at unusual places, like Stoner Drug in Hamburg, Iowa

Or with famous things like the car used in American Pickers. This is in LeClaire, Iowa

Or with famous things like the car used in American Pickers. This is in LeClaire, Iowa

Took this at a place that had a bunch of totem poles made with chainsaws, in Wisconsin

Took this at a place that had a bunch of totem poles made with chainsaws, in Wisconsin

The Artsy side of me likes to get selfies where I "kind of" fit in....  This was in Council Bluffs, Iowa in August 2013

The Artsy side of me likes to get selfies where I “kind of” fit in…. This was in Council Bluffs, Iowa in August 2013

I recently read that there are now words being created for group “selfies,” with “usie” being one of the more common names, but other names are used as well.  here are a few “usie” pix I have gotten over the past couple of years….

David and Julianne at Corn Palace in South Dakota in 2012

The best “usies” are with my wife Julianne, this one at Corn Palace in South Dakota in 2012

An 'usie" with travel writer and blogger Tui Snider from Texas in June 2014

An “usie” with travel writer and blogger Tui Snider from Texas in June 2014

This "usie" is with Troy Landry, one of the stars of the History Channel's "Swamp People" series.  He hunts gators near Pierre Part, Louisiana.  I got this with him at his Dad's bait shop in Pierre Part in June 2014

This “usie” is with Troy Landry, one of the stars of the History Channel’s “Swamp People” series. He hunts gators near Pierre Part, Louisiana. I got this with him at his Dad’s bait shop in Pierre Part in June 2014

An "usie" with Danielle Colby from American Pickers taken in 2012

An “usie” with Danielle Colby from American Pickers taken in 2012

An "usie" with world renown guitarist Tommy Emmanuel

An “usie” with world renown guitarist Tommy Emmanuel

Naturally, as a grandfather of nine, I get a number of “usie” photos with my grandchildren.  My next “selfie” post will include quite a few of them, but, in closing, here are just a couple of my all time favorites to include in this first post.

With some of the grandkids in the car on the way to a movie

With some of the grandkids in the car on the way to a movie

Hamming it up with my East Coast grandson Rockwell

Hamming it up with my East Coast grandson Rockwell

A couple of the grandkids with Grandma and Grampz

A couple of the grandkids with Grandma and Grampz

Teaching my granddaughter Lyla to drive

Teaching my granddaughter Lyla to drive

Wnjoying time with my West Coast grandkids in Montana

Enjoying time with my West Coast grandkids in Montana

On that note I will end by noting that I am grateful for the wizardry of technology that allows us to do these “selfies” and “usies” and share them with the world. Photography has become fun and documenting one’s life has become more fun. Wizardry is fun…right Gandalf?

Sumoflam and Gandalf "usie"

Sumoflam and Gandalf “usie”

So, with that being said, I will probably have a couple more posts in the future of other selfies and most certainly of some family “usies.”

Julianne and David celebrate 35 years together

My daughter Marissa compiled this look back at our 35 years of “merried” life.

This video includes music by my good friends Antsy McClain and Anthony Snape and also a touching song by Joe Walsh.

An Ode to America

SumoflamUSAAs we approach Independence Day 2014 I look at my country with different eyes than I did 20 or 30 years ago.  We have gone through some tough times as a country and these have impacted each of us at a personal level.

The economy is tougher than it has been in years and many of us, including me, have gone through job losses, economic difficulties and more. It has not been a fun ride.

Yet, we move on and we survive.  We find ways to make it.  Despite the political and ideological differences that sometimes divide our diverse population (as can be seen be all of the banter on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.), we still come together as a country.

LambertsCafeOzarkMOThis became very clear to me as I traveled across America during May and June of this year. Whether in the plains of North Dakota, the swamps of Louisiana, the mountains of Wyoming or the impoverished deltas of Mississippi, the flag hung high, people were Americans (and not political parties, races or otherwise).  All spoke their dialects of English (and indeed, American English in Minnesota is different than that of American English in a small town in Southern Mississippi or in central Nebraska).

EStLouisILUltimately, I am grateful to live in this free country.  I can gripe about rising gas prices, Obama’s political agendas, dramatic inflation, bad roads or anything else.  But, I have the right and freedom to gripe if I desire…it is my inalienable right in this country.  Something many other countries don’t have.

I have the freedom to drive across this great nation without discrimination and go through the Blackfeet Reservation, a Cajun community and predominantly Scandinavian community or a small mid-American farm town and still feel these freedoms and experience others enjoying them.

So, despite any challenges, I believe it is time for me and all of us to Fall in Love with America again.  So, here is an ode to America by my good friend Antsy McClain.  It was his reminiscence of experiences while loving in America. I was fortunate enough to work with Antsy in producing and making this video. I hope you enjoy it.

Erie Canal, the Jell-O Museum, Bethlehem, PA, Nicholson Bridge, Taughannock Falls, NY




Bethlehem MusickFest Trip

Bethlehem MusikFest Aug. 1-4, 2008

Visiting Erie Canal, JELL-O Museum, Bethlehem, PA,
Nicholson Bridge and more

by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz

 

August 1,
2008:
Instead of heading back to Kentucky this weekend, I had the
opportunity to go to Bethlehem, PA and join
Antsy McClain and the
Trailer Park Troubadours
for their two performances at the
Bethlehem MusikFest
I decided to make a weekend of it and visit more places along the way that I had
yet to get to.  It would be a fun weekend indeed!!

 

I headed out early and headed southeast towards
Buffalo.  My adventures for the first day would take me to the Erie Canal
and the Jell-O Museum, among other places.  The map of the entire trip is
below.

 

Woodstock to Lockport, LeRoy and Penn Yan, NY then to Bethlehem and back

 

My first “tourist stop” along the way was
Lockport, New York
Lockport derived its name from the locks that were built on the Erie Canal
through here.  It is only about 20 miles east of Niagara Falls.  Like
many towns in NW New York and SW Ontario, the town was initially settled by
Quakers.  In the 1820s construction on the Erie Canal was well underway and
part of the route would go through Lockport. 
The locks were the idea of Nathan Roberts. A sixty foot drop existed at Lockport
and a way had to be devised to raise and lower the packet boats to complete the
journey to Buffalo. Roberts’s idea was a twin flight of locks with five locks
each. In 1823, work began on the lock construction. These locks were crucial to
the completion of the canal.

 


(click on link above to learn more about the canal)

 

 

Portions of a large painting in the museum depicting the construction of the
locks on the Erie Canal

 

Another depiction by

Robert E. Hager

 

Another image from 1839 by W.H. Bartlett

 

Today the town of Lockport welcomes many visitors who come to see the historic
locks, which have since been improved upon considerably as technology has
allowed.  When I got to Lockport I visited the Erie Locks & Canal Museum,
where there was a small video about the building of the canal and locks in the
area.  I then walked over to the locks.

 

Welcome to Lockport, NY

 



Museum on the left; a couple of girls who act as guides; the Old City Hall and
Lockport Cave

 

There are tours down and through
the canal
from here as well as a boat tour down in the
Lockport Cave. Due to
time and money constraints I chose not to take them.  But I would love to
have the time to take a whole day here to see the sights and history.

 

 

There are basically two locks in Lockport, as the sign above shows.  The
Erie Canal reached Lockport in 1824, but the locks were completed on Oct. 26,
1825.

The complex was built as two sets of five flights of locks (one east-bound, one
west-bound) and was considered to be an engineering triumph.
 
These would help traverse the Niagara escarpment which dropped 60 feet in the
Lockport area. Lots of early photos can be seen
here.


 



 

 

Some views of the locks in Lockport

 

From Lockport, I headed east along the Erie Canal and made my way into
Middleport,
a quaint little town with an interesting restaurant and bridge.  The
Original Basket Factory was begun around 1893 to make baskets for fruit farmers
along the canal.  It later became a nice little restaurant.  I wish I
would have had a chance to stop there.

 

 

Middleport Bridge over the Erie Canal

 


The Original Basket
Factory Restaurant
overlooks the Erie Canal

 

From Middleport I continued east to Medina, NY (pronounced Ma-DIE-nah as I later
found out) on NY Highway 31.  Another nice little town along the Erie
Canal, Medina is the home to the
Medina Railroad Museum
(which I did not visit) and is also home to a very large sculpted apple along
the Erie Canal. 

 



Large apple in Medina, NY dedicated to the W. NY Fruit Growers who have added to
the economy of the area.

The apple was sculpted by Richard D. Bannister between Jan. 99 to Sept. 2000. 
It is Lion’s Park.

 

I went further east of Medina on NY 31 to find the only place along the canal
with a tunnel going under it.  Just down the road on the left was Culvert
Rd.  Take a left and it takes you directly to the tunnel. Known as the
Culvert Road tunnel (or something like that), it was the only one ever on the
Erie Canal and has existed here since
Clinton’s Ditch, another
name for the Erie Canal. The original road culvert, on a slightly different
alignment, was removed about 1854-1855 as part of the Erie’s enlargement. 
The contract for the Enlarged Erie road culvert is dated October 24, 1854 and
lists Conway and Slater as the contractors. The
1854/1855 Enlarged Erie culvert
was substantially rebuilt or replaced as part of the Nine Million Dollar
Improvement of 1895. The contract for the new structure was given to Charles A.
Gorman and is dated December 7, 1896. The current road culvert represents an
attempt during the Barge Canal’s construction to preserve, if unknowingly, the
historic significance of the structure. The facade of the south end was
dismantled and the stones numbered. It was then reinstalled at a new location to
allow for the wider Barge Canal channel.

 


This tunnel is in Ripley’s Believe It or Not

 


Another view of the tunnel and the canal just above the tunnel.  The rail
fence across the canal

is the same one above the tunnel photograph in the upper left.

 

After my drive along NY 31, I headed south on NY 98 towards Batavia and then
east on NY 5 into the historical town of
Le Roy, NY. My main
objective in visiting Le Roy was the
JELL-O Museum
This delectable bouncy treat was first developed in Le Roy in 1897 by Pearle
Wait.  He was working with some cough syrup and laxative tea and then added
some gelatin.  His wife called it Jell-O. The recipe was bought by a man
named Orator F. Woodward in Sept. 1899. There is a lot of
history
about Jello
, but perhaps the one thing that many people my age think of is
Bill Cosby.

 


The JELL-O Museum, in Le Roy, New York

 


JELL-O Museum Stuff

 



Bill Cosby memorabilia at the JELL-O Museum, including brick on the “JELL-O
Brick Road”

 

Most popular flavors – Strawberry is #1

San Francisco is largest consumer, though

Salt Lake City is the largest consumer of Lime JELL-O

 


JELL-O molds and lots of spoons!!

 


A cow adorns the porch–with JELL-O on its forehead

 

After Le Roy I headed east on I-90 to highway 14 South.  I then went south
through Finger Lake country along Seneca Lake to Geneva, then on 14A to the
small town of Penn
Yan
, which sits on the north end of Keuka Lake.  This is beautiful
country.  Penn Yan is also home of
Birkett Mills,
known for its famous Buckwheat flour, but also known to have the largest griddle
in the world.

 


Two shots of the World Record Pancake Griddle.  People walk by so you an
see the size.

 

I continued south to Corning, NY and then to Elmira and then eventually wended
my way to Clarks Summit, PA (near Scranton), where I spent the night. Scranton
is the home of Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate (with Barrack Obama). 
I spent the night in the Ramada Inn, which is right next to an extremely high
bridge called the Freedom Bridge.  It towers 163 feet high above the town
and is 1627 feet long. At one time was known as the “Suicide Bridge” due to the
more than 20 suicides that took place from the 1980s to the present.

 

The Freedom Bridge over Clark’s Summit, PA

 

August 2,
2008:
I was off to Bethlehem this morning.  No plans to stop along
the way, so I headed south on I-380 and then down US 209.  I got into
Bethlehem around 10 AM and had a great time driving around the town while
waiting for Antsy McClain and the band to arrive in town later in the afternoon.

 

Bethlehem is in
Eastern Pennsylvania and is a city of about 72,000.  It was the home of
Bethlehem
Steel
, which began in Bethlehem in  1857 but succumbed to bankruptcy in
2003.  At one time it was the second largest steel producer in the United
States.  The buildings look rusty and the factory is like an old sore. 
But, there is now construction of a
new casino on the site
As I drove around the city I was taken by the cultural diversity.  There is
a large Puerto Rican community, the beautiful old Lehigh University and the old
steel mill. 


The old Bethlehem Steel Plant – now defunct

 


More pictures of the old buildings

 



Old gears dot the properties

 


Large crane on the site of the new casino;

a dichotomy of new homes with the rusted steel plant in their backyards

 


A couple of views of Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley from Lehigh University

 

I drove up and down the streets near the steel plant and imagined how this area
must have thrived in the heyday of steel production.  Homes were tightly
built in rows, with little or no yards.  Nowadays most of the neighborhoods
I drove through appeared to be Puerto Rican. 

 



 



Homes of Bethlehem

 

Lehigh University
is a beautiful old campus and has some wonderful old buildings.

 

Some scenes from Lehigh University

 

I also drove around the outskirts of town and there was nice farmland and even
some geese….

 

 

A nice stone house, some farmland and a lovely old barn

 


Goosey goosey gander

 

Of course, the highlight of the visit to Bethlehem was the
MusikFest and most
especially, the performance of the fabulous music group known as Antsy McClain
and the Trailer Park Troubadours!!  The Troubs were scheduled for two
nights here.  They were just a small part of dozens of performances on a
number of stages.  The first night we played at 9 PM on the Liederplatz
Stage.

 


MusikFest 2008,
Bethlehem, PA

 


Antsy and the Troubs rock the band on the Liederplatz Stage

(Troubs photos courtesy of “Argosy Bob” Fowler…a true pink
flamingohead)

 

The show was a blast and all had fun.  After the show we all crashed at the
hotel.

 

August 3,
2008:
This morning was a great time to sleep in, which I did.  The
hotel was comfy, had a huge TV in the room and I just lounged until late in the
morning.  Antsy and I then took a small ride around town and then back to
the hotel to get ready for the second night’s show.  We played the larger
Americaplatz stage at 7:30 PM and had a crowd of nearly 500 watching the show.

 



Antsy rocks the crowd

 


The band had a blast…

 

Antsy and the Troubs play their hearts out…

(band member photos by Sumoflam Productions)

 


…while Sumoflam works…

 



…and plays to the crowd (notice that “I Married Up!”)

 

But more than the band, the crowds had a blast (including a number of die-hard
Flamingoheads from PA and NJ!!!):

 


Antsy dances with and wows the crowds!!

(crowd and fan photos by Sumoflam Productions)

 


And the crowd goes wild….

 


Flamingoheads dance and frolic in front of the stage

 

Flamingoheads show their happiness in seeing Antsy live…and yes, he Married Up
too!!

 

August 4,
2008:
Well, as with everything else, the good things eventually go away
and are done.  The two days of fun with the Troubs were done and I had to
be back on the road to Woodstock again.  I chose my route home carefully so
I could see one spectacular sight on the way.  So, from Bethlehem I drove
north on PA 33 then to I-80.  I then drove wet to I-380 and headed north
towards Scranton and eventually back to Clark’s Summit.  I exited there and
headed north on US 11 towards Factoryville, which took me north along the
Lackawanna Trail into Nicholson, PA.  As I drove into town I was awestruck
by the amazing sight in front me.  Towering high above the town was this
humongous cement train bridge.  This is the

Nicholson Bridge
(actually the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct).  It is 2375
feet long ( 724 meters ) , 240 feet tall ( 73 meters ) and 34 feet wide.  
Yes, 24 stories tall !!!!!  The bridge was built as part of the Clark’s
Summit-Hallstead Cutoff, which was part of a project of the Lackawanna Railroad
to revamp a winding and hilly system. This rerouting was built between Scranton,
Pennsylvania and Binghamton, New York. All thirteen piers were excavated to
bedrock, which was up to 138 feet (42 m) below ground level. Almost half of the
bulk of the bridge is underground. The bridge was built by the Delaware,
Lackawanna and Western Railroad and was designed by Abraham Burton Cohen.
Construction on the bridge began in May 1912, and dedication took place on
November 6, 1915.

 


The bridge towers over the small town of Nicholson

 

Considering the immensity of this
bridge, it is amazing that it was built nearly 100 years ago.  A detailed
history of the bridge is
here.  
Following are more pictures.  I drove all around the town to get these
photos and found that the best place to get photos of the length of the bridge
was at the cemetery, which is up on a hill overlooking the town.  This is
by far one of the greatest places I have “discovered” on my trips thus far.

 


More shots of the bridge’s expanse over the town

 



Some great views of the bridge

 



Looking up at the bridge from underneath was dizzying

 



More views, including a train going over the bridge.  I found a place on a
hill near the edge as a train approached.

 

After the magnificence of the viaduct, I then had to head north.  I went
through a town called Hop Bottom and then on the way up to New Milford. 
Hop Bottom got its name from the hops that are grown in the area.  New
Milford had an interesting library…

 

Here are some scenes from places I drove through: Hop Bottom, Great Bend, New
Milford (Pratt Library)

 

I also made my way through the Finger Lakes of New York.  Along the road
north of Ithaca I saw a sign about
Taughannock Falls
I knew nothing about this waterfall, but the viewpoint was just off the road, so
I took a little jaunt to catch a peek.  The falls has a drop of 215 feet
(66 meters) and is one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern U.S.  
It was an amazing sight, but unfortunately the light was not at the best angle
for a good photo.

 



The bridge on the left is the one seen at the bottom of the middle photo. 

Check out the people in the bottom right of the photo on the right.  This
gives an idea of how high the falls are.

 



More views of Taughannock Falls

 

Beautiful scenery, but no time to stop along the way…

 


I ran into this pink elephant along the way

 

Corn fields and a big lake

 

And finally, beautiful sunflowers

Some roadside guidance provided by……

 

 See more of
Sumoflam’s Trip Journals

sumoflam@sumoflam.biz

 

 

 



All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.

More Adventures in SW Ontario: Baseball, Crokinole, Swans and Stuff

More adventures in SW Ontario
Baseball, Crokinole, Swans and stuff

Beachville-Embro-Tavistock-Shakespeare-Stratford-St. Marys
by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz

June 7, 2008: Today would turn out to be an interesting day with loads of variety.  I headed out around 8:30 after sleeping in.  I then headed west on county road 9 towards the small village of Beachville, Ontario, which is between Woodstock and Ingersoll. Beachville is where the first recorded game of baseball was played, at least in Canada, if not in N. America.  I also made a visit to the World Crokinole Championships.  If you have not heard of Crokinole, you’ll know what it is after reading this.  After that I made a venture into Perth County, visiting Shakespeare, Stratford and St. Marys. Some beautiful spots.  After this day of events, I returned to the hotel, showered and then headed to Bright, Ontario to see the Walters Family Dinner Show.  I have done a separate page on that visit.

Beachville: This is a small town just west of Woodstock founded in 1791.  The town was NOT named because of a nearby beach.  Rather, it was named after Andrew Beach, who was the postmaster. The town also claims to have had the first post office and grist mill in Canada. I am not sure how many people live here, but there aren’t many.  But, the town does have its claim to fame being noted for the first game of baseball ever played on June 4, 1838, one year before the game in Cooperstown took place. This game was played by the Beachville Club and the Zorras.  This event is now commemorated at the Beachville District Museum.


According to the history, a group of men gathered in a Beachville pasture on June 4, 1838 to enjoy a friendly game of baseball and had little idea that they were making history. Their match was the first recorded baseball game in North America. Beachville’s claim is based upon a letter to “Sporting Life” magazine by Dr. Adam E. Ford detailing the rules and recalling the names of the various players. On April 26, 1886, Dr. Ford, a physician who had grown up in Beachville and emigrated to Denver, Colorado, wrote the letter describing the June 4, 1838 match. Ford’s letter confirmed that the game had a long history in his community since: “certain rules for the game” were insisted upon by two of the older “gray
haired” players, “for it was the way they used to play when they were boys.” The importance of Ford’s letter lies in the fact that it provides the first formally recorded account of baseball as a formal game.  In this letter, the game was described as having five bases or “byes,” base lines twenty-one yards in length and the distance from the pitcher to the home bye was fifteen yards. Innings determined the length of the game as opposed to playing to a specific number of runs. Fairly and unfairly pitched balls were described and techniques mentioned for the pitcher to make it difficult for the “knocker” to hit the ball. The differences between “fair and” “no-hit” balls were described and each side was given three outs per inning. Base running became even more exhilarating because you did not have to follow a straight path to the next bye, (or base). If in danger of being plugged you could take off into the outfield, and while fielders then had the chance to “plug” you, other runners could advance.

Field Breakdown for the First Game

The two teams playing that day were the Beachville Club and the Zorras. The Zorras hailed from the north townships of Zorra and Oxford. The site selected for the game was the field just behind Enoch Burdick’s shops, (today near Beachville’s Baptist Church.)  The ball was a ball of double twisted woolen yarn, “covered with good, honest calfskin.” It was sewn by Edward McNames, the local shoemaker. And, according to Dr. Ford, “the club was generally made of the best cedar, blocked out with an axe and finished on a shaving horse with a draw knife. A wagon spoke or any nice straight stick would do.”

One of the Original Jerseys from the first game

Replica of Original baseball used

An old catcher’s mask, ball glove and chest protector from the
olden days of baseball

The reason for my visit today was that the museum was celebrating the 170th anniversary of the first game by setting up a field and different age groups of teams would compete.  Winning teams would get a trophy and each participant would get a commemorative patch.

L-A commemorative jersey from the 150th celebration.
Commemorative patch went to all participants.

I did not stay for the game, but I did look around the small, but unique museum. There are a few other baseball artifacts and there are a number of other old farm implements and other things.

An old sled, some old pulleys and the original Beachville jail
are on one of the barns

Old farm tools, gauges and yokes


An old National Truck that was converted to a bus

The museum building, first built in 1851

An old game board

There are lots of old farm and business implements on the site

Embro: I left Beachville shortly before the games had begun and was on my way to Tavistock, Along the way I went through the town of Embro, which is famous in Ontario for their Highland games, which take place in July. The town is yet another small town, but has a rich heritage.  I loved the sign in front of town and the big Tug-of-War.

An old hardware store, the unique Embro sign and a nice church

The town of Embro is also famous for renowned missionary the Reverend George Leslie Mackay, who founded the first Canadian overseas mission in Tamsui, Taiwan in 1872.  He was the first Canadian missionary to venture to China. In 1881, Mackay inspired the people of Oxford County to launch an ecumenical drive throughout Oxford County that raised over $6,000 to help establish Oxford College, now part of Aletheia University in Tamsui. He also
founded many schools and the Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taipei.  Oxford County and Tamsui, Taiwan have become twinned and have a number of exchange activities as a result of the McKay connection.

Bust of G.L. McKay located in downtown Woodstock

This was done by Sculptor Neil Cox from Toronto

I next headed to Tavistock (East Zorra-Tavistock), which is, coincidentally, the home of the Zorras that played the first baseball game.  Tavistock is a small agricultural community and sits on the northern border of Oxford County and is just a few miles south of the small town of Shakespeare, Ontario in Perth County.  The entire township (including Innerkip, Hickson and some rural areas) has a population of little over 7000. Their largest industry is cheese manufacturing. I arrived in town and saw that the entire town was having a yard sale, similar to how neighborhoods in Lexington do it.  I thought this was a unique idea and most definitely a good exercise in community building. (Mayor McKay told me that this is done in conjunction with the Crokinole tournament to provide the members of the community to do something during this event that draws folks from all over Canada and the United States.)

Vital residents of Tavistock (other than the people)

Cheese is a large industry in this township

I was invited to the 10th Annual World Crokinole Championships by Tavistock Mayor Don McKay, one of the officials at this year’s event.  I was greeted by Mayor McKay and also met Tavistock Gazette Editor Bill Gladding.  Both were gracious enough to introduce me to this game.  The championships are held in this small town as this is where the game was apparently invented in the 1870s.


Tavistock Arena, home of the World Crokinole Championships

Historically, the game of Crokinole got its start near Tavistock. According to the Crokinole
website
, “the earliest known Crokinole board (with legitimate, dated provenance) was made in 1876 (not 1875 as previously reported) in Perth County, Ontario, Canada.  Several other home-made boards of southwestern Ontario origin, and dating from the 1870s, have been discovered within the past 10 years, suggesting confirmation of this locale as the probable ‘cradle’ of Crokinole birth.  Earlier Canadian written sources detail the game from the mid-1860’s.  Several years after that time, a registered American patent suggests 1880 as the time when commercial fabrication began – first in New York, then Pennsylvania.  The games that no doubt contributed to the arrival of Crokinole seem to be the 16th century British games of shovelboard-from which modern-day shuffleboard descends, the 17th century pub game shove ha’penny, and the Victorian parlor game of squails that appeared in England during the second quarter of the 19th century.  In addition, Burmese or East Indian carrom (developed during the 1820s) seems a logical ancestor of Crokinole due alone to the very similar shooting or fillip technique involved.  And while a German game known as ‘knipps-brat’ (various spellings in high and low Germanic dialect exist) may have had similar features, game historians agree the aforementioned British and Asian predecessors seem the most likely links to modern-day
Crokinole.”  The design of the board is credited to craftsman, Eckhardt Wettlaufer ca. 1876.


Oldest known Crokinole board on left (made in 1876) and modern day competition-use board on right.

Crokinole (pronounced croak-i-knoll) is an action board game with elements of shuffleboard and curling reduced to table-top size. Players take turns shooting discs across the circular playing surface, trying to have their discs land in the higher-scoring regions of the board, while also attempting to knock away opposing discs.


Crokinole objectives and a full board used in the tournaments

I am not going into detail about the rules as they can be seen here. But the object of the game is to knock your opponent’s disc into the ditch or into a lower scoring position.  Players flick (or shoot) the discs with their fingers and try to hit the opponent’s discs to gain the most points.  Points are scored as shown in the above diagram.  There is also a variety where the players can use cues.  For the world tournament, the games are timed.



Flicking the disc or using a cue, either way, you want to knock
the opponent’s disc out

The Tavistock and District Recreation Centre was near capacity with a registration
of 548 people playing throughout the day.  There were not only folks from all over Canada, but there were representatives from seven US states (including Colorado and California) and even participants from Scotland and Australia. The joy of this game is that young and old can play together.  This was evident in that there were 6 year old participants and even an 87 year old. For a full detailed article about the tournament this year, please visit Bill
Gladding’s (from the Tavistock Gazette) news article. Read carefully…I was pleasantly surprised to see that Bill mentioned me and my site as well.

Over 500 participants from around the world participated

Brian Cook, from Owen Sound, ON,  was this year’s champion
(as well as last year’s)

(photo courtesy of Bill Gladding, Tavistock Gazette)

A couple final notes about Crokinole.  The interest in this game has increased in recent years.  In 2006 there was a documentary movie made on the game. The world premiere occurred at the Princess Cinema in Waterloo, Ontario in early 2006. The movie follows some of the competitors of the 2004 World Crokinole Championship as they prepare for the event. It also features interviews with Wayne Kelly (Mr. Crokinole) and Crokinole board maker Willard Martin.  Also, Joe Fulop, who was awarded a lifetime achievement award and of whom the Toronto Press coined as the “Wayne Gretsky of Crokinole“, has written a new book called “It’s Only Crokinole: But I Like It”, an 83 page book about the game.  This year’s champion, Brian Cook wrote a section and, ironically, the person for whom I worked for 5 months as a contract Japanese interpreter at Toyota in Woodstock, Derek Kidnie, also wrote a section.  Turns out that Derek is an avid Crokinole enthusiast and I never knew!!  Strange how this world throws fun things at you! By the way, Mr. Fulop’s book is available for $18 (or $27 for a color edition) by calling him at 519-235-1022 or by email at
jfulop@cabletv.on.ca.

 

Crokinole: The Movie  & Joe Fulop (on left)
author of Crokinole book with Barry Raymer

(Fulop/Raymer photo courtesy of Bill Gladding, Tavistock Gazette)

The fascination with Crokinole was fun, but short-lived for me.  I would have loved to stay all day, but I also had a number of places to visit before the day was done.  I left Tavistock and headed north to my next stop, about 3 miles away…

Shakespeare: This small and quaint little town is an antique lovers paradise.  I think there are maybe 750 people that reside in this town.  The town was founded in 1832 by David Bell, and used to be known as Bell’s Corner. The name changed from Bell’s Corner to Shakespeare in 1852 when Alexander Mitchell suggested naming the town after his
favorite playwright, William Shakespeare.

The old sign to Shakespeare & the Shakespeare Antique Centre

I really had no idea what I would run into in Shakespeare, but one shop (or
shoppe in Canadian) caught my eye….

Anything Funky with “stuff” or “junk” always catches my eye

What really caught my eye was the flamingos (being Sumoflam and
all….)

I met owner Terianne Miller, who work with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival for many years, recently opened this unique shop. She actually has aspirations of “flamingoizing” the shop.  Funky Junk was really a fresh shop and had some really reasonable prices.  In fact, I got one of the wire flamingoes as seen above.  The green ball actually has a
solar panel/light in it and lights up.  I got one for Julianne…for only $15!!



Bears Am I in Shakespeare, Ontario

A couple of doors down from Funky Junk was the Bears Am I shop. This shop is owned and operated by Bear artist and collector Sue Gueguen. Sue provides one of those fascination stories to me.  From the outside the shop appears to be one focused on selling teddy bears, etc.  But, the REAL story is that she makes many of the bears herself. She has been making them since she was 7 years old.  In 1989 she started doing her craft — making bears from real fur from old coats, etc.  She calls her hand-crafted (I prefer that over hand-made because these really are a craft!) bears “Powder Puff Teddies.”  Her bears are fully jointed, have German glass eyes and the noses are embroidered.   She spends hours on the bears.

Sue Gueguen hard at work hand-crafting one of her Powder Puff Teddies

The key to her work is that families bring in their old fur coats, or other fur items that they want to remember as an heirloom item. Sue has had folks bring her a number of types of furs.  She has even made a bear out of skunk fur!!

Sue shows a kangaroo skin that will soon become a bear. 

The bear on the right was made from raccoon fur.

Sue had a number of interesting stories and we had an enjoyable discussion. She really got a kick out of my story about the Trailer Park Troubadours song Aunt Beula’s Roadkill Overcoat.  For her benefit and yours, here is a picture of the overcoat from the 2008
Polyesterfest Cruise that the Troubs’ sponsor.

Aunt Beula’s Roadkill Overcoat

(photo courtesy of Jim Aspinwall)

Stratford: Not too far west of Shakespeare is the lovely town of Stratford. I cannot really do the town justice on this page, but will at least preview it. Since I will now be in Ontario until October, I plan on making a longer trip to Stratford for more exploration.  The town sits along the Avon River and there are some beautiful sites along the river in town. There are also fascinating buildings and lovely parks, including the famous Shakepearean Gardens, which I did not visit on this trip.



Some Stratford Scenes

Along the river there are a number of small boutiques and lots of small cafes.  But the most impressive part to me and what I really wanted to see was the swans on the Avon River.  The serenity of river along with the gracefulness of the swans provided me a peaceful feeling.

Swans on the Avon River

And I got the double pleasure of catching a young girl and her family interacting with the swans.  In fact, these swans are very tame and not afraid of individuals.  While I was taking photos one of the swans actually pecked at my feet, my pockets and hands.

I love the photo in the middle as they stare each other down.
It was a lucky shot!

Her mother and father enjoyed them as well


The ducks also wanted their day in the spotlight

St. Marys: The final leg of today’s trip took me into St. Marys, which in a sense was full circle as it is home to Canada’s Baseball Hall of Fame.   I found my way to the museum but had no time to go in.  I did get a couple of shots of the outside though.  Some of those inducted in the past include former Chicago Cubs pitcher Ferguson Jenkins; the first black ball player in the majors, Jackie Robinson; Andre Dawson from the Montreal Expos; former L.A. Dodgers manager Tommy LaSorda; and James “Tip” O’Neill, who became the namesake for the former U.S. Speaker of the House.


The Canadian
Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ontario

More fascinating tome were the stone water tower, the waterfalls, and the lovely muraled youth center.  The stone water tower was built in 1899 and currently displays the slogan “St. Marys: The Town Worth Living In”.


St.Marys water tower and looking downtown


Waterfalls with scenic backdrop. Another angle of the church on the hill.



The St. Marys Youth Centre is totally surrounded by murals.  The art work is fabulous!!


I have tried to find more info on the artists, but have had no success


After my visit here, I headed back to Woodstock, took a shower and headed straight to Bright to attend the Walters Family Dinner Theatre Show.  You can see more on my page
about that visit here.