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.

 

 

The World of Humor and Self Help: I’m Awesome, but Getting Better

Awesome, but Getting Better

I’m Awesome, but Getting Better….

….And here is why…..

Humorists Keep Me Alive
Groucho Marx Swami Beyondanada Antsy McClain

I have always loved humor. It always makes me feel better.  There are studies that argue strongly that happiness and laughter are natural immune boosters (see this one). In fact, before you continue with this post, enjoy the following video from Belgium entitled “Merci!” produced and directed by Christine Rabbette in 2003.  If this doesn’t give you a chuckle and keep you smiling for a while nothing will. The man laughing in the video is Belgian comic Jan Hammeneker. I love this piece!!

Though always one for fun, I have always sought for laugh inducement, whether it be Dr. Demento in the early 1970s to the Blues Brothers or Steve Martin comedies in the movies and TV.  One of my favorite “immune boosters” is the Marx Brothers.  I was first introduced to them in the 1970s and totally embraced the world of Punnishment (using puns…). Then in the 1980s I got to embrace FUNdamentalism via the great Swami Beyondananda. Finally in the 1990s I got to Enjoy the Ride of the Way Cool World of Singer/Songwriter/Humorist/Artist/Author Antsy McClain. I have never looked back since and humor keeps me alive, happy and well.

The Marx Brothers – I’d Never Join a Club That Would Have Me as a Member

The Marx Brothers

The Marx Brothers

I was officially introduced to the Marx Brothers and their antics while I was a senior at Murray High School in Utah. Like many others my age I had grown up watching the Three Stooges on TV and had seen some Laurel and Hardy shows and had even seen some of the Marx Brothers skits (and all about slapstick).  But the real impact happened when I joined my friends at the Blue Mouse Theater in downtown Salt Lake City (which closed around 1987). This arts-centric theater showed a number of old movies, hosted the Rocky Horror Picture Show, etc.  During 1974 they hosted a number of Marx Brothers movies on the big screen.  We went and had a blast.  In fact, though already a good punster, my punning skill level zoomed to new heights after watching Groucho Marx and his verbal antics.  To this day I have been known to repeat many of his famous one-liners such as the following:

  • I have a mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it
  • Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana
  • Whatever it is, I’m against it
  • I would never join a club that would have me as a member
  • While in my pajamas I shot an elephant.  What it was doing in my pajamas I’ll never know.

Click here to visit a great page of Groucho’s one-liners.  And even more are here!

Then there is my favorite quote from Chico Marx in “A Night at the Opera.” It’s a scene where they are discussing terms of a contract.  This is one of my all time favorites!!

The contract scene between Driftwood (Groucho) and Fiorello (Chico) (“the party of the first part …”) is telling of my kind of humor (and have used the punch line myriads of times:

Fiorello: Hey, wait, wait. What does this say here, this thing here?
Driftwood: Oh, that? Oh, that’s the usual clause that’s in every contract. That just says, uh, it says, uh, if any of the parties participating in this contract are shown not to be in their right mind, the entire agreement is automatically nullified.
Fiorello: Well, I don’t know…
Driftwood: It’s all right. That’s, that’s in every contract. That’s, that’s what they call a sanity clause.
Fiorello: Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! You can’t fool me. There ain’t no Sanity Clause!

Here is the actual video clip:

Swami Beyondanda – Take Humor Seriously, and Seriousness Humorously

Swami Beyondananda

Swami Beyondananda

In the 1980s I was introduced to a book entitled “Driving Your Own Karma: Swami Beyondananda’s Tour Guide to Enlightenment ” by Swami Beyondanda. My step dad had it and thought I would enjoy it.  This book had me in stitches from the first page, but I was also impressed about the “self-help” content intertwined with it.  The Swami uses puns and humor to actually work towards this self help. It was my first venture into FUN-da-Mentalism where the effort is on more FUN and less mental.  Or, as the Swami says on his site: He has “held forth on topics such as “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sects” (“… unbridled sects can lead to unwanted misconceptions …”), “Teach Your Dog to Heal” (“… being around friendly canines generates healthy hormones called puptides …”), “Tantrum Yoga” (“… the latest rage on the path to ire consciousness”), and “Be There Now, Swami’s ultimate take on bi-location” (“… the first time I stepped outside my body, I was beside myself with excitement …”).

DrivingYourKarmaThe Swami is the alter ego of Steve Bhaerman, an internationally known author, humorist, and workshop leader. For the past 23 years, he has written and performed as Swami Beyondananda, the “Cosmic Comic.” Swami’s comedy has been called “irreverently uplifting” and has been described both as “comedy disguised as wisdom” and “wisdom disguised as comedy.” One of his many mantras is “It’s time to take humor seriously, and seriousness humorously.”

Steve Bhaerman

Steve Bhaerman

The Swami teaches the ancient art of “Foo Ling” — where people use laughter as a tool to enlighten up their own lives, and the lives of those around them. And one of the best ways to multiply healing laughter is to celebrate those moments when laughter leads to a breakthrough — what the Swami calls moments of “Fool-Realization“.

DuckSoup In a play on the Marx Brothers’ movie “Duck Soup” (this was the movie with the oft parodied mirror scene and see Lucy and Harpo Marx do it ) coupled with the 1990s “Chicken Soup for the Soul” and other Chicken Soup books (now over 200 titles) by success guru Jack Canfield and Inspirational speaker Mark Victor Hansen, the Swami teaches in “Duck Soup for the Soul” that we can alter our own reality (and the reality of those around us) by Making Fools of ourselves, putting levity over gravity, remembering to Tell-A-Vision, being Esteem-Generators, and Committing Random Acts of Comedy and Beautiful Nonsense.

Antsy McClain – Welcome to the Trailer Park

Antsy McClain

Antsy McClain

I first met Antsy McClain (this is his stage name) in 1993 in Kentucky.  We worked together at an auto parts production plant as Japanese interpreters.  I was away from family, who stayed back in Arizona and Antsy too worked away from family on this limited time contract position. It was during this time that we discovered a shared love of humor and music.  It was soon after that Antsy had left the company and had coupled with a friend to form the “Trailer Park Troubadours,” a musical group with a bit of a goofy “schtick”.  Over the years I have worked with Antsy, managing his website, working concert shows, producing some of his videos, doing some of his photography (like the one above), sometimes touring and even singing with him on stage. (See my “History of the Troubs” for more on the group). Antsy is not only an amazing musician, but is a noted professional artist and has published a number of books.  If I die before he does, I want him singing at my funeral!!! Many of his earlier songs were quite funny, but over the years he has also developed some serious leaning, yet inspiring songs. One of the more humorous videos that I produced for him was that of “The Bathroom Songwriter (clink link below)

I did this for him in 2008 and have a number of his other videos on my YouTube Channel. Antsy’s unique humor and his famed “Antsyisms” have kept thousands of fans happy.  If I ever have a down day, I just need to pull out “Trailercana” or “Way Cool World” and may day is brightened.

Roger McFuddleton's Pet Grudge by Antsy McClain

Roger McFuddleton’s Pet Grudge by Antsy McClain

But music is not his only forte.  He has produced books such as the Pet Grudge picture book above, which is a delightful story of a man with a Pet Grudge that eventually gets too big. Won’t tell the ending…would ruin the story for you.  And then, almost mirroring Swami Beyondanada, in 2012 Antsy published “Resisting Enlightenment in 12 Easy Steps: A Guide to Making Mistakes

Resisting Enlightenment in 12 Easy Steps

Resisting Enlightenment in 12 Easy Steps by Antsy McClain

Between Antsy’s music, art and writing, he helps us to learn about “another code of living – the Aluminum Rule: Thou Shalt Enjoy the Ride”, he helps men learn that the three most important words they can say to their wife are “I Married Up” and teaches us that “a burden is small ’til you feed it” and so we need to “Let the Little Things Go.”  His amazing use of double entendre in his songs mixed with some humor and inspirational thought has endeared him to 1000s who now call themselves “Flamingoheads.”   He always can sing “A Happy Song” to make me happy.

laughter_medicineSo, I try to take my laughter pills every day to keep me smiling, reduce stress and even help others around me have a brighter day. This is what keeps me “Awesome, but getting better”

Jolly Sumoflam

Jolly Sumoflam

If Swami Beyondanda can don a funny colored wig, so can I……

Sumoflam's Alter Ego

Sumoflam’s Alter Ego – always smiling!