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.

 

 

Countdown 365: #343 – Guitar Heroes 1 – Pete Huttlinger

(Editor’s Note: As I approach age 60, I am “Counting My Many Blessings” by doing a daily countdown from 365. These are in no particular order, but, as you will see in days following, there is a method to the madness.)

Pete1Over the past twenty years I have been very fortunate to meet some amazing musicians due to my long friendship with musician Antsy McClain. Through him I also met the amazing producer and music aficionado Eddie Mattiningly, who introduced me to some of these amazing musicians and people. These are phenomenal guitarists yet are not “all about themselves” as they are friendly, giving and caring.  Among these, there are a group I call my “guitar heroes.” Some of them I have not met, but most I have and with some of them I have been blessed to develop a friendly relationship.

Pete Huttlinger

Pete Huttlinger

The first of these I want to mention is Pete Huttlinger. I have had the amazing blessing of getting to know Pete and his wife Erin over the years. I first met them at a show in Elizabethtown, KY and actually did some videos of Pete, which I have on my YouTube site (one of which I have shared below).  Pete is one of those fine musicians who made others even better.  He toured the world with John Denver over the last four years of Denver’s life.  He has performed with LeAnn Rimes in many places around the world and on television.  Currently he also does some performances with John Oates of Hall and Oates.

But, he is also an amazing musician on his own.  He has released a number of albums including my favorite, McGuire’s Landing.  He has done an entire CD of Stevie Wonder tunes (including Superstition as can be seen in the video below – filmed and edited by Sumoflam Productions).

But, there is another less known side of Pete.  He is a survivor. About five years ago he had a major stroke that caused him to be paralyzed on his right side and rendered him speechless. He went through a scary surgery only to find that he had a defective heart.  His wife and many of his friends and fans prayed often for him and Erin stuck with him through thick and thin.  He is now back on the road performing and doing what he loves best…playing fantastic guitar licks to satisfy the musical hankerings of many like myself and entertaining those who attend his shows. His playing style is heart-warming.  His person is even more so.

JoinedAtThe HeartHe and Erin have recently published a book called “Joined at the Heart.” I have recently obtained a copy and can’t wait to read it.  The book is all about his struggle and the struggle of his dear wife Erin.  And, moreover, it is a love story — it is all about their joint effort in love and humor to overcome the dire adversity that they faced.  I know it will be inspirational and uplifting.

Pete is a survivor.  Erin is a survivor.  And I am grateful for their acquaintance and the inspiration they provide — even more than the heart-soothing sounds of Pete’s amazing musical talents.

Knowing them is a true blessing in my life.

Countdown 365: #355 – The Right Side of the Dirt

(Editor’s Note: As I approach age 60, I am “Counting My Many Blessings” by doing a daily countdown from 365. These are in no particular order, but, as you will see in days following, there is a method to the madness.)

“Everyday you wake up on the right side of the dirt is a good one.”

We're All On the Right Side of teh Dirt - photo by Carla Lockwood

We’re All On the Right Side of the Dirt – photo by Carla Lockwood

Enjoying life on the right side of the dirt

Enjoying life on the right side of the dirt

Sometime life can be expressed in a song and this one is a biggie for me (and for anyone else who loves life!) – When I wake up in the mornings, I thank the good Lord for another day of life, amen. Each day that I wake up on the Right Side of the Dirt I am grateful and count it as a blessing.

Despite the trials, the challenges, and the hard times, I am still alive to enjoy the smells of the earth, the sounds of the waves on a beach, the taste of a favorite food and to see the beautiful creations on this earth.  I can bask in the sunshine. I can get soaked in the rain. I can hug my wife, children,grandchildren and friends.  That is life on the right side of the dirt.

Antsy and Sumoflam - On the right side of the dirt

Antsy and Sumoflam – On the right side of the dirt

Every since I first heard my friend Antsy McClain sing his song titled “Right Side of the Dirt” to me over the phone a number of years ago, I have used the term.  The following video is of Antsy and my good mate, THE Australian musical whiz Pauly Zarb, performing a version of his well known ditty. Thanks to photographer and friend Ed Polakoff for this video. (You can also listen to a studio version of “Right Side of the Dirt” Cajun Style HERE with Pete Huttlinger on Banjo)

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

DSC_1371

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

Feeling Lucky on Friday the 13th – Part I

There are THREE Friday the 13ths this year that we can be lucky on…the first one is today, the next one is in March and the last one is in November.  Here are 13 things I count myself Lucky for on this February 13, 2015:

Number 1 – Wonderful Wife

My Wonderful Wife of over 35 years

My Wonderful Wife of over 35 years

I most certainly Married Up!

I most certainly Married Up!

Number 2 – Great Family/Children

My Wonderful Family - 1993

My Wonderful Family – 1993

My Wonderful Family - 2012

My Wonderful Family – 2012

Number 3 – Grandkids (of course!)

Grandchildren!!

Grandchildren!!

Number 4 – My Siblings

My Siblings - ca 1971

My Siblings – ca 1972

Number 5 – My Cleveland Family

My family in Cleveland

My family in Cleveland – ca 2001

Number 6 – My Wonderful Cousins

My wonderful cousins...here I am with my cousin Lewis from Texas

My wonderful cousins…here I am with my cousin Lewis from Texas

Number 7 – My Friends in the Philippines

My Filipino friends - ca 2006

My Filipino friends – ca 2006

Number 8 – I am on the Right Side of the Dirt

Number 9 – My Friend Antsy McClain

With Antsy ca. 1998

With Antsy ca. 1998

Singing with Antsy around 2008

Singing with Antsy around 2008

Number 10 – I’ve Been Everywhere

I've Been Everywhere

I’ve Been Everywhere

Number 11 – Don’t Mind Being Weird — Its Awesome!

Being Weird is Awesome

Being Weird is Awesome

Number 12 – Bountiful Baskets – Veggies are Good!

Bountiful Baskets!

Bountiful Baskets!

Number 13

Living in a Wonderful World!

Living in a Wonderful World!

Christmas Music – Some of My Favorites

Antsy McClain Christmas

Antsy McClain Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year.  We think of others and give gifts.  The colors of Christmas are everywhere.  And then there is all that Christmas music playing everywhere…from the bouncy notes of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” to the heavenly sounds of Handel’s “Messiah,” there is the old. Turn on the radio and some stations are playing Christmas music 24/7.   Such is the case in Lexington, with TWO stations dedicated to all Christmas all the time in December. WGKS (KISS FM 96.9) and their 12 Days of KISSMas along with WMXL (Mix 94.5) and their MixMas both play the classics and a few more recent tunes.

KISS FM 12 Days of KISS-Mas

KISS FM 12 Days of KISS-Mas

MixMas

Mix 94.5 Mix-Mas

Though I love the classic Christmas songs I grew up with, such as Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” Johnny Mathis’s rendition of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” and a couple dozen others, I get tired of hearing the same versions on BOTH stations, with little variety between the two. I am refreshed by listening to our Public Station WUKY-FM, which is an Americana format when NPR is not on the air. During the Christmas season they mingle in many fun renditions of Christmas tunes not typically heard on the pop stations such as a recent version of “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch” by Aimee Mann.

But, I have my own “eclectic” mix of Christmas favorites (mingled with some of the classics I hear on the 24/7 stations). I have a 1 TB Hard Drive dedicated to my MP3 collection (nearly 100,000 mp3s) and, within that is my collection of over 4000 Christmas songs ranging from the 1940s to the 2010s. Following are some of my favorite albums and tunes from over the years….

SOME OF MY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS ALBUMS (in no particular order)

AntsyMcClainAntsy McClain – Merry Christmas from the Trailer Park

Antsy’s Christmas album has a refreshing twist of redneck humor mingled with some sentimental tunes and Christmas favorites.

 

HoeyGary Hoey – Ho Ho Hoey Christmas (4 different CDs)

Gary Hoey is a fine rock guitarist. His remakes of some classic rock songs are fabulous, but his rocking versions of Christmas classics became so popular that he now has four albums. Definitely worth a long listen on a snowy winter night!

TSOCoverTrans-Siberian Orchestra

Founded by rock producer, composer and lyricist Paul O’Neill (who has managed and produced bands such as Aerosmith, AC/DC, Joan Jett and the Scorpions) in 1996, he, along with members of the rock band Savatage created a music spectacle of classical music melded with rock music and then a stage show that beats ALL stage shows (and I have seen them perform). The band has a Christmas trilogy and all three of their Christmas albums are classics!

SetzerBrian Setzer

Brian Setzer was the brains behind the new wave rockabilly group The Stray Cats. He broke out on his own with the swing band Brian Setzer Orchestra and has three rockin’ Christmas CDs that’ll surely get you up and dancing!

 

ChicagoChicago

Chicago has been one of my favorite groups since its beginnings in the early 1970s. In 2005 they released their first Christmas CD and a second one was released In 2011. These CDs offer the fresh sounds of Christmas with the bands famed horns and alluring vocal arrangements. Great music for a hot chocolate and nice fire in a snowy December evening.

PTXPentatonix

The A Capella group Pentatonix took the Pop world by storm after winning the TV show “The Sing Off.” This group of five has made A Capella an “in” thing with unique videos of renditions of favorites from three decades. Their Christmas CD is amazing and their videos are too.

MannheimMannheim Steamroller

Mannheim Steamroller was the creation of composer/record producer Chip Davis (who was also the creator of the famous 70’s era song “Convoy” by a made up artist named C.W. McCall. After a few albums albums that contained a blend of baroque classical music, light jazz, and rock, he forged ahead in 1984 with his first Christmas album called a Mannheim Steamroller Christmas. The band has since produced a number of Christmas albums and, like Trans-Siberian Orchestra, they tour the country during the holiday season with live shows.

HerbAlpertHerb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Christmas

Herb Alpert was an iconic name in the 1960s with his Latin-flared mariachi-style music.  He had a string of hits and later made it possible for him to create the record label A & M (the A was for Alpert and M for partner Jerry Moss).  A & M signed groups such as the Carpenters.  His Christmas album from 1968 remains a classic in my books!

dr dimento christmas vol vi335Dr. Demento’s “The Greatest Novelty Records of All Time” Christmas

I have always loved Dr. Demento (and I even have an autographed photo and a personalized iPod greeting from Dr. Demento!!) Having grown up a big fan of Dr. Demento in the 1970s, I have grown to love these “classics,” which I am noting below

SOME OF MY FAVORITE NOVELTY CHRISTMAS SONGS (in no particular order)

I am such a big fan of novelty Christmas songs that I am including some below.  Yes, I still love many of the classic songs, but these Christmas Novelty classics are always fun!!

Single_Elmo_&_Patsy-Grandma_Got_Run_Over_by_a_Reindeer_coverGrandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer by Elmo and Patsie

Written by Randy Brooks, the song was originally performed by the husband-and-wife duo of Elmo and Patsy Trigg Shropshire in 1979. In the lyrics, a family matriarch gets drunk from drinking too much eggnog and, having forgotten to take her medicine and despite warnings from her family, staggers outside into a snowstorm. On her walk, she is trampled and killed by Santa Claus and his reindeer.  Always a fun laugh.

GaylaPeevey_HippopotamusI Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas by Gayla Peevey

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” is a Christmas novelty song written by John Rox (1902–1957) and performed by Gayla Peevey (10 years old at the time) in 1953. Peevey was a child star from Ponca City, Oklahoma (and yes, I have been there!!). When released nationally by Columbia Records, the song shot to the top of the charts and the city zoo acquired a baby hippo named Matilda. It is a Dr. Demento Christmas staple, and is currently available on Dr. Demento’s The Greatest Novelty Records of All Time Vol. 6: Christmas.

spike-jones-all-i-want-for-christmas-is-my-two-front-teeth-rca-victor-78

All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth by Spike Jones & His City Slickers Band

This song was written in 1944 by Donald Yetter Gardner (1913-2004) while teaching music at public schools in Smithtown, New York. He asked his second grade class what they wanted for Christmas, and noticed that almost all of the students had at least one front tooth missing as they answered in a lisp. Gardner wrote the song in 30 minutes. The song was originally recorded by Spike Jones & His City Slickers on December 6, 1947, with lead vocal by George Rock and was released on a 78 RPM recording. 

12-DAYS-FEATUREThe Twelve Gifts of Christmas by Allan Sherman

Allan Sherman was an American comedy writer and television producer who became famous as a song parodist in the early 1960s. His first album, My Son, the Folk Singer (1962), became the fastest-selling record album up to that time. His biggest hit single was “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh“, a comic novelty in which a boy describes his summer camp experiences to the tune of Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours.  His Twelve Gifts of Christmas was released in 1964 and skyrocketed up the charts. Sherman, who was Jewish, made it really fun!

WhirlingDervishesYou’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch by the Whirling Dervishes

I started off with a cover of the Grinch and am gonna finish with the same.  I love the song and the Whirling Dervishes do it great! They were an alt-rock band from Westfield, NJ, that was big locally through the late 80s-early 90s.

I am closing with their song….

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.