Snowy synchronicity

I hate Winter. Especially when it happens in the Spring. Woke up this morning to find a dusting of snow on the ground. Enough, Jack Frost! Game over… I surrender, you win. But there was some good that came of it. I got to wear my Buffalo Tom knit cap while waiting for the bus.

My kids need to teach me how to take selfies.

And that reminded me of the Buffalo Tom song “The Bus”…

Obviously, it doesn’t take much to take my feeble mind off the weather.

I love those little moments of synchronicity, or at least of loose ends all tying up neatly in ways you’d never think of ahead of time. On Friday, I stopped by the offices of Cincinnati Magazine to pick up a copy of the April issue. Seems my subscription had lapsed in March, and I was never notified. But my old friend John Fox is the editor, so I hounded him for a copy – after all, it was the music issue, which is right in my wheelhouse. The cover photo is of the Cincinnati-bred band The National.

Lead singer Matt Berninger has a side project called EL VY. Their song “Return to the Moon” name-checks Cincinnati landmarks Eden Park and the Serpentine Wall. I heard that song yesterday afternoon… in friggin’ Big Lots! (Don’t judge me – it was their 20% off storewide sale, and I’m a cheapskate. Also, props to whoever programs the Big Lots Muzak channel.)

The magazine features a profile of Bootsy Collins, written by Gil Kaufman. Gil’s wife Stephanie was the teacher’s assistant for our son Andrew in grade school, and our daughters have played on the same soccer teams. Saturday night I went to the FC Cincinnati soccer game with my friend Phil, who had gotten the tickets from — you guessed it, Gil and Stephanie.

The April issue also features an article about Chuck Cleaver from the band Wussy. Before Wussy, Chuck was in a band called Ass Ponys (Chuck’s not big on having a band name that has broad appeal, clearly). I love both bands, but Ass Ponys will always have a special place in my heart because they were big when I was at 97X. Back then, John Fox (hmm, where have we heard that name before?) was the editor of Everybody’s News, and he and his staff would come in once a week to do on-air segments about local events.

Yesterday, our son Andrew had a soccer game. He’s one of two Andrews on the team. The other one? Well, he’s the son of Dave Morrison… drummer for the Ass Ponys! But wait, there’s more… they have a song called “Last Night It Snowed”!!!

All roads lead to music. Just be careful, those roads may be icy in spots.

“Dryer” rhymes with “fire”

It was a very relaxing Easter weekend… oh, other than the part where I nearly burned down our house. On Saturday morning, I threw a load of freshly laundered clothes into the dryer, just as I’ve done hundreds of other times. (With four kids, laundry is never “done” – the wash/dry cycle goes on forever.)

Roughly 30 minutes later, I was upstairs and smelled an acrid burning-plastic smell. My son Peter did too, and he was in another room. We couldn’t figure out where it was coming from until Peter looked out the kitchen window and saw smoke billowing out of the dryer vent pipe. We headed down to the basement laundry room… and smoke was pretty thick at the ceiling level. I opened the dryer and saw clothes on fire in the drum, as well as flames behind the clothes compartment. We unplugged the dryer, and used a wet towel to extinguish the burning clothes, then poured some water in the back to put out the flames we could see yet not reach any other way. All of my fire safety training (i.e. a childhood spent watching every episode of Emergency!) had paid off! We were like a modern day Gage and DeSoto.

“Give them an I.V., D5W, and transport to Rampart immediately.”

At the time, it seemed rather funny – especially the sweatpants/running shirt/boxer shorts that had melted/melded into a charcoal briquette. But after the adrenaline rush subsided, I realized that if no one had been at home while that load was frying instead of drying, our home would be toast. Scary stuff.

Welcome to laundry hell!

It wasn’t lint buildup, either. I clean out the dryer vent line once a year. But our dryer is so old that recently drawstrings have been getting caught in a gap between the drum and the back of the dryer. My best guess is an article of clothing got caught in there, and the spinning of the drum created enough friction to start a fire.

Don’t worry, Fire Marshall Bill… I’ve learned my lesson. I won’t dry clothes when I’m not at home. Unless I’m using this:

 

 

 

Egging you on

[I’m doing a rerun today – this post originally ran back in 2015, when only three people knew of this blog’s existence. Now there are at least 10 – count ’em – 10 folks who check out this blog on occasion, which counts as “going viral” in my book…]

Happy Easter! Here’s hoping your kids feel like these kids today:

Parents, just a few Easter Egg Hunt reminders…

1. Don’t hide hard-boiled eggs unless:

A. you really really would like egg salad for lunch for the next 3 weeks

B. you keep a map with the location of every egg. If not, it’s guaranteed that at least one egg will go undiscovered… and your house will stink to high heaven in a couple of weeks.

2. Be prepared to find that fake plastic Easter basket “grass” around your house until at least the 4th of July.

3. Using leftover Halloween candy in Easter baskets is unacceptable.

4. Coconut may help your cake look more like a bunny, but most kids won’t eat it.

5. Get the hollow chocolate bunnies unless you want to make an emergency visit to the dentist for a cracked tooth.

choco_bunnies

 

It’s your third birthday – have a beer!

Don’t call Children’s Protective Services on me… I’m talking about a brewery. Braxton Brewing to be exact. Today is their third anniversary celebration (it was supposed to be last week but it got snowed out – thanks March!).

Braxton started with four guys and a dream. A father, his two sons, and a Yoda-like brewmaster.

L to R: Jake Rouse, Richard Dubé, Greg Rouse, Evan Rouse

Now they have two taproom locations, their beers are distributed in three states and their staff has grown exponentially. It’s a true American small business success story, and I couldn’t be happier for them.

My friend Keith Neltner created the killer logo

I worked with Greg Rouse, one of the founders, for 12 years. He left his full-time gig as a print production manager at our company a couple of months ago to take over as COO at Braxton. That was always the plan, but he was such a superstar at our company that our leadership had to hire two folks with 20+ years experience in print production to attempt to replace him. He was a great guy and a genius at what he did – we miss him dearly. But I’m thrilled that he’s able to work with his sons and wife every day now.

Nice job title!

I plan to drop by the celebration this afternoon, and if I do, I raise a glass to Greg, Tina, Jake and Evan, and to dreams coming true. #LiftOneToLife

 

Back in my day…

The whole “we had to walk ten miles to school, barefoot, in the snow, and it was uphill… both ways” trope is played out; it’s useful only for comedians and great-grandparents. But, believe it or not, my siblings and I have a similar story… and it’s totally true!

I was reminded of it recently when I saw a sweet Ford Ranchero in L.A.

Ford Ranchero. Accept no substitutes (looking your way, Chevy El Camino). 

My wife wondered why I was taking pictures of an old car… but then again, she wonders about a lot of the stuff I do (e.g. saving dryer lint… it’s great for starting fires in our fire pit!) But seeing that car reminded me of the white Ford Ranchero we had back in my grade school days.

Not our actual car… but you probably already knew that.

On cold mornings, it wouldn’t start. So my three siblings and I had to push it down our driveway (a short stretch, but with a decent downhill slope) so my dad could pop the clutch and start it. Usually that brief launch would work, but if not, we’d have to give it another push, down past the Church of Christ and onto the dirt road, where there was another downhill run. So before we even got into the car (OK, truck, but barely) to go to grade school at Holy Redeemer (which was, you guessed it, 10 miles away), we were winded and tired. It’s a handy story to use on my kids when they want me to drive them to the bus stop (~200 yards from our house) on winter mornings.

Also, you might be wondering why my dad thought a mini pickup with only a bench seat would be a good vehicle for a family of five. You’re not alone – I wonder the same thing. The most likely reason is because that was only car on the used car lot that fit our meager budget when our previous clunker bit the dust.

I can’t quite recall how we all fit into the cab… memories are hazy nearly 50 years down the line. I think there was enough room behind the seat for one or two of the kids to stand up and ride. I’m sure we looked like a clown car when we were unloading at school… or one of those overloaded bicycles or mopeds from a third world country.

I never gave it much thought back then… it was just how we rolled (and sometimes pushed). But now it’s great leverage to use on my kids. And it allows me to state equivocally that Subaru Brats, with their fancy-pants extra seats, were for mollycoddled whippersnappers.

Back in my day, we didn’t need extra seats. We didn’t have a seat at all… and we liked it!  Now get off my lawn!

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy some meaty links for your Saturday breakfast

Don’t worry, I’m still a tree-hugging vegetarian. The “meaty links” that we’re serving up at the dubbatrubba café are longer reads/listens that are worth chewing on.

I recently posted about South African singer/songwriter/amazing human being Johnny Clegg. Here’s a great 50-minute interview and performance from a recent World Café:

Bill Janovitz is the lead singer of Buffalo Tom. He’s also a father. The latter is more important. He wrote a blog post back in December of 2012, about the Newtown school shooting. Sadly, it remains just as relevant today, in the wake of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (and dozens of other mass killings that have come since Newtown). Please read the entire post here… but if you don’t have time, please ponder these excerpts:

We may not be expected to stop every insane bomb-making McVeigh-like terrorist, nor will we stop every future mass shooting. But no one can deny that we need to start to take logical steps to regulating guns to make it more difficult for the most damaged among us to gain access to machines that slaughter the most innocent among us…

Each day that goes by without substantive corrective measures should bring each and all of us collective shame. As long as we are unwilling to take advantage our self-evident truths of individual liberty, enshrined in our nation’s most sacred documents, to speak out loudly and demand action, days like Friday should make us all feel ashamed to be Americans — ashamed to have done so little with the responsibility that comes with such advantages…

We have already failed these 20 first-grade children, as we have dozens, if not hundreds of others. What are we going to do to stop the next obscenity?

Speaking of gun violence, this article from German Lopez (formerly of Cincinnati’s alt-weekly CityBeat) is a must-read.

So while politicians often lean on mass shootings to call for gun control, the problem goes far beyond those incidents. Though it’s hard to fault them for trying; mass shootings, after all, force Americans to confront the toll of our gun laws and gun culture.

OK, let’s try to brighten things up a bit. Or not. Check out a Wired article about how social media is eroding our love/pursuit of knowledge. Here’s a quick excerpt:

Social networks, though, have since colonized the web for television’s values. From Facebook to Instagram, the medium refocuses our attention on videos and images, rewarding emotional appeals—‘like’ buttons—over rational ones. Instead of a quest for knowledge, it engages us in an endless zest for instant approval from an audience, for which we are constantly but unconsciously performing. (It’s telling that, while Google began life as a PhD thesis, Facebook started as a tool to judge classmates’ appearances.) It reduces our curiosity by showing us exactly what we already want and think, based on our profiles and preferences. Enlightenment’s motto of ‘Dare to know’ has become ‘Dare not to care to know.’

Along those same lines, here’s a long, cleverly illustrated, irreverent article well worth checking out, about how our Social Survival Mammoth can block our Authentic Voice… and how we can overcome that.

Anyone who disapproves of who you’re being or what you’re doing isn’t even in the same room with you 99.7% of the time. It’s a classic mammoth mistake to fabricate a vision of future social consequences that is way worse than what actually ends up happening—which is usually nothing at all.

Let’s end on a brighter, sunnier note, shall we? Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin and Hobbes, one of the greatest comic strips ever) gave a fantastic commencement speech at Kenyon College back in 1990. It’s well worth reading nearly 30 years later.

I tell you all this because it’s worth recognizing that there is no such thing as an overnight success. You will do well to cultivate the resources in yourself that bring you happiness outside of success or failure. The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive. At that time, we turn around and say, yes, this is obviously where I was going all along. It’s a good idea to try to enjoy the scenery on the detours, because you’ll probably take a few…

…having an enviable career is one thing, and being a happy person is another.

 

Second generation famous

I’m not a doctor, and I never even played one on TV. But at least some relatives of mine are getting their star turns.

My cousin Tom’s daughter Jamie just wrapped up her second season as a New England Patriots cheerleader.

(Pro tip for Jamie: stand next to Tom Brady on the sidelines and you’ll be on TV roughly 10,000 times during a game.)

My niece Julia just moved up the TV food chain from Myrtle Beach, SC (#101 in market size) to Greenville, SC (#38) where she is the weekend sports anchor for the NBC affiliate, WYFF.

Last but certainly not least, my cousin’s daughter Erika will be playing the role of Cady Heron in the Broadway-bound musical adaptation of the iconic movie Mean Girls. She’s getting all sorts of kudos for her performance (they had a short sneak preview/tune-up run in D.C., and Broadway previews begin March 12th). You can read more here. And here. And here. Or you can check out the article in the latest issue of Vogue, along with a photo by Annie Freakin’ Leibovitz! NBD.

HT to my sister Jeanne for letting me know about the Vogue article… she’s the fashionista in the family.

I remember going to visit my cousin and her family in Northern California back when Erika was about 6 years old, and she was already performing plays for her family, friends — and house guests like us –on their back patio. (So basically, “I knew her when…”)

One of the characters in Mean Girls is named Damian…

Here’s hoping Erika thinks of me, her old pal and early theater patron, whenever she hears that name.

“You know I couldn’t invite you. I had to pretend to be plastic.”

 

 

 

 

The pot calling the kettle black…

In my most recent blog post, I made fun of the garish sport coat and bow tie sported by Mr. Clyde McCoy:

Then I realized that I too was guilty of the same sort of sartorial selections:

“It was the 60s… things were different then!”

In fact, on the Severinsen/Sager/Tarlek Scale of wacky outfits, from 1 to Oh-My-Goodness-What-Is-THAT!, Clyde is only about a 5… whereas I’m easily an 8.

Former Tonight Show bandleader. Suit NOT furnished by Botany 500.

Former NBA sideline reporter Craig Sager. Always understated.

Would you buy radio ads from this man?

I’m willing to do one of those “recreate the childhood photo” things that are all the rage on social media these days.

But I don’t know if we can replicate the crazy pattern of my suit, which seems better suited for a great aunt’s couch than a suit.

Werther’s candies sold separately.

Sorry for making fun of your outfit, Clyde. I now realize you were a fashion trendsetter, just like me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to do a bit of shopping.

I will dare

The other day, I was talking to my buddy Jason, a co-worker of mine. He’s a fellow Xavier grad and we both have season tickets for men’s basketball, so usually our conversations are about rankings and seeds and opponents. But he got deep on me, and mentioned a conversation he had just had with his wife Charlene, where he said “you’re really only yourself up until about age 4, and then again at age 74.” Meaning kids are too young to know better, and seniors are too old to care, about what others think. But in the decades between, we give up our true selves, and worry too much about fitting in and playing by the rules. We let the weight of other’s expectations and societal cues bring us down. We let fear, judgement and shame take over.

Meanwhile, in a moment of true synchronicity, I happened to be reading the book  Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

This book covers the same territory. Here’s a great quote from it:

“When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make,” says Brown. “Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.”

Brown also talks a lot about “scarcity” in American society. We’re conditioned to crave more… a better job, a nicer house, a cooler car, a fatter bank account, more “likes” on social media… in a zero-sum game where we’re constantly comparing/competing with others. She mentions that the opposite of scarcity isn’t abundance, it’s “enough”… as in “I have enough. I AM enough.”

“Worrying about scarcity is our culture’s version of post-traumatic stress. It happens when you’ve been through too much, and rather than coming together to heal (which requires vulnerability), we’re angry and scared and at each other’s throats.”

Man, does that quote ring true in 2018! The solution, which seems counterintuitive at first blush, is to be more vulnerable.

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

“The willingness to show up changes us, It makes us a little braver each time.”

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”

Vulnerability is the best way to connect with others.

“Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The power that connection holds in our lives was confirmed when the main concern about connection emerged as the fear of disconnection; the fear that something we have done or failed to do, something about who we are or where we come from, has made us unlovable and unworthy of connection.”

The title of the book comes from a Teddy Roosevelt speech in 1910:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Here’s Brené Brown’s TED talk about vulnerability.

The book is well worth checking out. Dare to make it a great weekend!

Addicted to this Pot, Instantly

My named is dubbatrubba, and I’m addicted to the Instant Pot. 

It’s a combination slow cooker/pressure cooker/rice maker/steamer/yogurt maker… I think it might even play karaoke tunes – I’ll have to check the manual.

I couldn’t help myself – all the cool kids were doing it, and I succumbed to the peer pressure. Oh, and there’s also the fact that a lot of recipes that used to take hours now take mere minutes. Hence the “Instant” part of the name.

A co-worker was the one who introduced me to it. She kept bringing in her lunches and raving about how good they tasted, and how easy they were to make. Her recipe for lentil chili is killer, dude! Of course, she’s a darn good cook even without the Instant Pot.

Now I can’t go a day without using it. As a veg-head, it comes in very handy. I make a big ol’ batch of black beans every week. I used to have to make them on weekends, because they take 10 hours in the crock pot. Now it takes less than an hour. I’ve also whipped up red beans with veggie sausage, the aforementioned lentil chili, curried lentils, mashed potatoes and a batch of veggie chili. It comes in handy when cooking for my 16-year-old son (the fitness freak) too. He eats chicken for lunch and salmon for dinner every doggone day, and it used to be a laborious process of thawing and baking. Now we can go from frozen to finished in less than an hour. We also use it for brown rice and hard-boiled eggs. And I’ve merely scratched the (cooking) surface of what it can do. Seriously!

I think you might even be able to make brownies, but searching for Instant Pot Brownies might get me busted in Ohio.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m jonesing. I need to go make another meal. Be back in an Instant!