Up, Up And Away!!!

October 11, 2010

It is a date I remember very well. It was one day before my 18th birthday. I had just recently graduated high school and even more recently decided I was going to try college. it truly was turning out to be one of “the” summers of my life.

My friends and I were all young, free (kind of) and invincible (in our minds). Life was one party followed by another. We had jobs. But that rarely stopped us from doing exactly what we wanted to do and when we wanted to do it. It was the summer of 1988. July 18th to be exact.

My aunt and uncle had gone out of town. They asked if I could keep an eye on their house and feed their cats. Absolutely! That is just one more place to be “free”. But I wasn’t going to be going all Risky Business. First, I didn’t really know any prostitutes. Second, I just thought it could be a place to crash for me and a select few friends. No debauchery.

So, on July 18th we were making plans for the night. We would all get off work and head to the house to clean-up before going out. We met up at the city pool. That is where almost everyone worked anyway. I was lifeguarding at the country club pool, but still hung out at the city pool with everyone else when I wasn’t working. We discussed who was going to drive and decided that we would all drive separately. That way, if any of us had a last second change of plans (read as “booty call”), we would not be stuck dragging someone back to their car. This house was a little out of the way.

We take off in our mini convoy. This route just happens to be very similar to the route to the liquor store. Remember that, as it will come back into play. We turn onto the windy country road that will lead to the house and it begins to rain ever-so lightly. Just a summer sprinkle. As I said earlier, we were invincible, so none of us ever wore a seatbelt. This drizzle of rain made me a little uneasy, so I buckle up while driving along. I still to this day do not know what made me decide to do that. It was truly out of character.

We continue driving the twisty road and have now gone about a mile since I buckled up. There is a sharp left turn ahead, so I use a little brake and slow down to take the turn. As I turn the wheel, I am struck by the lack of change in my direction. I have turned my wheel! I am sure of it. But I continue on…straight ahead. I leave the road and then quickly leave the ground. “Sweet Child o’ Mine” plays on  my tape deck as I fly and spin through the air. This can not end well.

Strangely, as I am airborne, my mind can only think one thing. This is kind of cool. Trees are crashing around me. the world is tumbling by like I am in a clothes dryer. I can’t focus on anything. But I can still hear Guns N’ Roses. I wonder if this will be the last thing I hear on this earth. If so…excellent! I love this song! I eventually black out.

When I come to, I am still pretty disoriented. I hear water, but I am not wet. I hear muffled voices too. After a few seconds they become clear. it is my friends standing on the hill above me. What I hear is “Mitch! Are you alive! Say something! If You are a in pieces, I am not coming down there! That is gross!”. My friends…true heros. I quickly release my seatbelt so that I can get out of the car. I fall a few inches into some water and realize that I was laying on the drivers side of the car. I stand up while opening the passenger door above me. I climb up onto the side of the car and see my friends looking down at me. I am a good 40 feet below. That was quite a drop. James Paul is the one that has been yelling to me. Brad has been yelling too. But more at his car (which is now wrapped around a tree). His words are: “You Son of a ……! You made me wreck my car! Look at this!”. It seems that as I launched in the air, Brad was directly behind me and was completely overwhelmed at the sight. He was watching me fly off the hill and didn’t even bother to make the turn himself. He caught himself in time to hit his brakes just before hitting a tree. James Paul came sliding in behind. What a mess this was turning out to be.

I decide That I am all right. I am not bleeding. All my appendages seem to be functioning. So I decide to jump down onto the rocks I had come to rest on. Just as I hit the rock, I see a copperhead startle and scurry back into some brush. In one fluid motion…as I crouched down from my landing…I spring right back up and back onto my car. I can only imagine that I resembled some sort of X-Man or super hero. In reality, I probably looked like a bumbling oaf scrambling to climb onto a crushed 1972 VW Beetle.

I scout my area again. ANd I start throwing random objects in the general area I want to go to get back up to the road. A few cassettes, a couple of Mountain Dew bottles and an Iron MAn action figure are used to scram any more slithering onlookers. No motion. The coast seems clear. SO I leap to the rocks again and start running/climbing up the hill. I am grabbing roots and small saplings to finally get back to the top. As soon as I get there, I realize that I have left my brand new Ray Ban Aviators behind. I contemplate for a second, give J.P. a glance and off I go. Back down that snake infested hill. These are Ray Ban’s dammit! I can’t leave them behind. Priorities people!

While getting my $80 sunglasses, I also realize that I have some other items that demand attention. There is the matter of, roughly, 50 parking tickets that are crammed in my glovebox. Those found their way into the stream to be taken away. I also had a street sign that had been pillaged a few nights before. The cops would eventually be here. I had to get rid of that too. I toss it as well. However, it did not really float away. Metal has a tendency to sink. And this stream was only a about a foot deep right now. So that sign was just laying there, face up, a few feet from my car. Not obvious at all! Back up to the road I go.

A guy driving a big truck pulls up and looks over the edge. “Did anyone call an ambulance?”, he asks. J.P. says “no” and asks why we would. The trucker says, “For whoever is in that crushed car down there.” I step up and explain that I was in that car. He just laughs a little and says “sure. Whoever is in that car needs help. And I just radioed the cops. So, If you boys have been drinking, you better figure something out.” Then he takes off. Well, we are all stone-cold sober. So the cops are not a threat. What should we do now?

We decide to go on up to the house (only another mile or so). We call our parents and tell them what has happened. While I am talking to my mom, she asks if we are drinking (I am starting to see a theme here). I tell her no. She follows with, “Well, we passed you on the road to the liquor store. Are you sure?”. I tell her we came that way to her sisters house and that I was certain that all I had had to drink that day was a lot of Mountain Dew. She accepted this and they were on their way. It was starting to get dark as we drove back to the crash site to wait for the police and our parents.

As the parents arrived and scoped out the scene, we tell them about our trucker friend. He has used his radio to call the police. We wait a little longer and decide to call them ourselves. The police still never show up. But Crace’s Wrecker service does. And they drag my car back up that hill. What a mess. My poor, beloved “Bug” is destroyed. It resembles a crushed pepsi can. But that pepsi can stood up to a Hell of a ride and left me virtually unharmed (it turns out I had mashed the dashboard with my knee, but the adrenaline had kept me pain free for those few hours). Brad’s Fiero GT was basically totaled too. He was not real happy about that.

The funny thing is, I do not remember the next day at all. I turned 18. My knee was swollen and I was using crutches to get around. Other than that, it is all a blank. I was “let go” from the Country Club pool because I was not able to work for the next week or so. When Joyce Miller (City Pool Manager) found out, she offered me a job on the spot. I was back to work soon after and did another two summers at that pool. I guess there was a silver lining to this after all.

Just a few things to add. The pictures above were taken today (the date on the article). That sign and guardrail were not there back in 1988. It was just a straight shot off the side, with a small mound of dirt that actually helped launch me into the air. We also found out that a truck had spilled some diesel fuel on the road in that curve. The rain shower had brought that diesel back to the surface and caused me to slide out. I was also told that they decided to put up this guardrail after several others wrecked here. I was supposedly the only person to walk away of my own accord. There had been deaths and severe injuries every other time. This did not help with that sense of invincibility at all!

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By tmhale13

Who Are You? And Why Are You So Paranoid?

September 30, 2010

I have been in the D.C. area for about 21 months now. In that time, I have seen a few motorcades. Not a lot mind you, but a few. We saw one blast through D.C. right in front of the Washington Monument. That one was pretty big and kind of cool, since it was right in the heart of the capitol. And a week or so ago, I saw…what I think was…the Houston Texans football team being escorted back to the airport after playing the Redskins.

But today I saw my most interesting motorcade to date. They go by me, and then I catch up again and pass them. There are some things that need to be noted here. First, it is raining. And pretty steady I must say. Second, in each of the actual police cars was a passenger wearing the official G-Man suit and tie. Third, the SUV is loaded with riders at every window…with the windows down (again, it is raining) and the two rear passengers practically hanging out the window.

Each of the “civilian” cars have been outfitted with alternating, flashing lights. So, they look like normal cars until the flashers are activated. The SUV stays close to the Cadillac, so I assume that the protectee is in that Caddy. This group is in the dedicated Dulles Airport lane that goes directly into the airport. No cars are passing them and they end up with quite a queue behind them.

So, my curiosity is peaked. Who is this? Why have such attentive guards? They are constantly scanning the road and cars around them while hanging out the windows like dogs on a joy ride. Again…in the rain!

By tmhale13

Tsunami of Tunes

September 21, 2010

Sometimes I find myself drifting in the ocean of my music collection. Digital music allows for this much more than any other medium. I can pick any song and just click “Shuffle” and I will be on my way. No idea where I will go. Just listening as each song presents itself. But every now and then my tranquil seas are disturbed. sometimes a wave comes along. This wave is a song that has purpose. It has a destination. And it will take me away if I let it.

Today that song was “Oh My Sweet Carolina”. The original was done by Ryan Adams (w/ Emmylou Harris). But today, I was listening to the latest version by the Zac Brown Band (with Mr. Adams himself). I hit repeat (a sure sign that I am caught in the wave). As it plays for the second…and then third time, I am online searching for more versions. YouTube shows me Elton John performing the song live in Australia. Comments direct me to the original Ryan Adams “Heartbreaker” album on Amazon. It seems that Sir Elton has credited this very album with changing his life. There must be more gems. I listen to samples and am soon buying the entire thing. But the wave continues.

I read more comments while I download. There are other albums I “must” hear. I already had three Ryan Adams CDs and some random singles, but it seems I have missed so much. I venture on to “Gold”. Yes, I needed to hear this. I buy it as well. I am now not only in the wave, I am consumed by it. I only find myself in this type of obsession once every year or so. The last wave saw me scouring the music sites for all things Drive-By Truckers. Now I am overcome with a need to have everything Ryan Adams has ever touched. Crying for help only results in the lyrics of “When the Stars Go Blue” echoing in my head. So I let the warm water drag me down. There is a certain peace that comes with submission.

When all is said and done, I have four new albums. There are more, but I have gotten myself under some semblance of control. I stopped with the “essentials” today. But I added at least three more to my iTunes Wish List. That will allow me to listen to them when the riptide is not pulling me along.

By tmhale13

Is It Really Worth Getting Killed? Maybe…

September 17, 2010

One of my favorite stories from my time in Iraq was talking to one of my Army compatriots about taking a convoy down into the Green Zone. You see, I was not in the Green (or International) Zone of Baghdad. I was located out near the Baghdad International Airport. That is where Saddam had his “Summer” Palace. That is also where we set up the major operating base for the U.S. Military. The Green Zone was more for the diplomats, celebrities and politicians. Also known as “The Tourists”. I am sure this location was chosen because they could envelope a few hotels and some of the existing government facilities all inside their “wire”.

When I arrived at Camp Victory, I was told that we had to make occasional runs down to the Green Zone for various reasons. Sometimes they just needed extra bodies to ride security. Sometimes we would actually need to perform some sort of computer maintenance. Either way, the Air Force folks were informed that we would get tasked for these convoys just like the Army guys do. So be it. I was here to do a job, and this was part of that job. I decided I would not volunteer to go, but certainly would not balk if asked (or told) to go.

So, the day came that my boss pulled me aside and informed me that my turn had come. The next day there was to be a convoy to the Republican Palace in the Green Zone. They needed bodies, and I was a body. I nodded and asked if there was anything I needed to do to prepare. Just as I get the words out of my mouth, my Army colleague interrupts. He looks me right in the eyes and, with a look that you would get from someone asking a huge favor, asks me, “Hey man. Do you think I could take your place?”. Now, I was a little shocked. Taken aback you might say. I reassured him that I was fine with taking this one. After all, we all had to do our part. And that is when he really floored me. He said,”They have a really good sandwich in the restaurant there”. And then he added, “They also have a great pool and a gift shop. I want to get something for my son”.

Now, this guy has been in Baghdad for about 13 months at this point. His unit already knows that they will be heading back to Germany within the next 8 weeks. He has made it this long and is willing to risk his life for a “I ♥ Baghdad” t-shirt or teddy bear, a deli sandwich and a dip in the pool? Mind you, the road that leads to the Green Zone is called Route Irish. It was, at that time, the most dangerous road in the world. Convoys were getting blown up nearly every day. Military vehicles were getting shot at in the hopes that a random bullet might get a soldier. I am baffled! But I absolutely let him take my spot. He wants it, he can have it.

So today I finally sit down to watch the movie “The Green Zone”. In the film, Matt Damon is requested to meet a contact poolside at the Republican Palace. As he and his team enter the compound, they see a very different world. They live outside the wire. They operate in the dirt, the wreckage and the rubble that is left from the many battles. But poolside at the palace is another world. This is the hang out. Women are wearing bikinis and sarongs…with a weapon slung over their shoulder. “Tourists” drink beer and lounge in the sun, seemingly oblivious to the carnage just a few hundred yards outside the walls. This must just be the “Hollywood” version, you may be saying. But this is the scene as described by the soldiers I knew that had been there. This is what made a dangerous trip appear to be worth it. They could not have a drink (that is forbidden for all military members in Iraq under General Order #1). But they could throw on some trunks, order a decent meal and mingle with the journalists while playing Marco Polo.

Would I risk so much for what seems to be so little? I don’t think so. But I do need to say that I was only there for 5 months. Tack another 9 or 10 on there and I may feel different. Maybe that would be the best roast beef sandwich to ever grace my tongue. And I am sure a dip in the clean, clear water would be a welcome reprieve. And after seeing women in only camouflage (or occasionally a t-shirt and baggy work-out shorts), I am sure you would not have to twist my arm to throw on some shades and try to look nonchalant while sneaking a peak of a few scantily clad “warrior” princesses. I will just chalk this all up to one more very good reason I did not join the Army! But had they put this scene in the brochure……..nah! Still wouldn’t have done it.

By tmhale13

201 Words Are Not Worth A Picture, But I Will Try…

September 16, 2010

I posted this as my status on Facebook. But, I felt it deserved a place in my blog as well:

I saw a whole new level of “wrong” today. I was driving in pretty heavy traffic on my way home. And at a traffic light, this SUV pulls up next to me. Well, the guy driving was just talkin’ away on his cellphone. Now, that bugs me anyway. With all the Bluetooth cars and headsets, there is no real reason someone needs to be driving and holding a phone.

But that in itself is not the “wrong” I need to discuss. The guy in question HAS NO HANDS! He has two HOOKS! One hook on the wheel…one holding his phone. C’mon!!!! Really!!!! I sooooo wanted to pull out my phone and take a picture. But that would have been far too obvious. Plus, I was afraid he would get ticked off and jump out and start “hooking” my car….or my face!!!

So, sorry that there are not any pictures to accompany this blog post. It just doesn’t seem right to throw in some generic picture. Because nothing I would find on the web could capture what I saw with my own two eyes.  Two eyes that I just got laser corrected and would prefer not be ripped from their sockets!

By tmhale13

PHS Decade of Decadence

September 8, 2010

I have tried to explain it many times. My kids don’t get it. My Air Force friends don’t really understand it. There is just something about coming from a small town. It is that feeling of family. That sense that the people you grew up with are always going to be there. That is exactly the thought that was running through my mind this past weekend at the PHS Classes of the 80’s Reunion.

I pulled into The ‘Ville on Friday afternoon and could just feel the excitement in the air. The town seemed more alive than I had seen it in years. I am sure most of this was in my own mind. I was excited to see old friends. I knew many of them were already around and I projected my excitement outward. But there sure seemed to be electricity coursing through the streets. After picking up my brother, we headed to the big tailgate party that was already kicking off in the old K-Y-Fried parking lot. This spot itself held so many memories. The half-time treks to get a bag full of “Chicken Littles”. The runs from the city pool for some hot wings and a big-ass Pepsi. It was just a memorable spot to hold our big Friday night gathering. A decent crowd was on hand. There was a lot of synth-heavy music blaring and pods of people reminiscing about the glory days. It was looking like this would be a great event.

Milling about, you could hear some of the stories being recanted. Talk of football games past, girlfriends and boyfriends and some of the memorable parties we had all attended. Every story seemed to have grown over the years. That 20 yard touchdown run was now a 40 yarder through all 11 defenders. Those 6 beers before the Poison concert was now a half-case AND a pint of beam. It seems our glory days had become somewhat more glorious. And that is alright. Because we were there. We all remember exactly how it all happened. And the fact that each story had evolved into legend allowed a little creative license. After all, even the actual events warranted a place in history. What is the harm in beefing them up a bit.

After the tailgating began to wind down, we embarked on a bold new adventure. Something most of us never envisioned throughout our high school careers. We were on our way to party in a bar in Paintsville! Where as we used to rely on the surrounding counties for our high-octane liquid refreshment, we could now purchase and partake right in our own back yard. This is great! And just a hop, skip and a jump from the city parking lot that was our drinking refuge in the 80’s, was now the Cafe on Main. And it is packed. The party continues…

Saturday comes around and we have some celebrating to do. There will be a Kentucky vs. Louisville football game, a surprise party commemorating a 40th birthday for one of our own…as well as his daughters 1st birthday. Then, to cap it all off, we will have the official 80’s reunion festivities in the place that will forever be the Carriage House (sure, it is now the Ramada…but that is not how I will remember it). The surprise party goes off without a hitch (he never saw it coming) and UK beats the evil UL. Now it is time to clean up for the reunion. A freshly shaved head and something decent to wear….I am out the door.

The crowd is thin at the Carriage House. People are scattered about in a few small groups. I grab a drink (still feels a little strange typing that) and pop in on a few long lost faces. Friends that go back as far as I can remember. The crowd grows by the minute until we have a full blown event going on. People are laughing, cameras are flashing and beer is disappearing. This really is just a continuation of life at PHS. And this is the kind of stuff that is hard to get across to people today. We graduated roughly 60 people in 1988. Of those 60, I am pretty sure I started kindergarten with about half of them. To me, that is amazing. A group of friends that began the first day of school together and graduated together. Not to mention many of us went to the same colleges. Those are bonds that will last a lifetime. And you could certainly feel that in the reconnections at the reunion. Conversations picked up like we had just left them yesterday. Although some folks stumbled to recognize a few faces, once that realization was made, they fell right into that comfortable place that comes with years of shared experiences. And that is something that my children may never get to have. They move around, their friends move as well. They may keep a handful together for many years, but they will not keep a large portion intact for the majority of their childhood and early adulthood. And that is too bad. Because they will be missing the one thing that made living in such a small town enjoyable. The people that transcended “friends” and truly became “family”.

By tmhale13

Rolling Thunder 2010

May 30, 2010

Every year on Memorial Day weekend, Washington D.C. hosts a massive motorcycle rally. It is called Rolling Thunder, and it is one of, if not the, biggest motorcycle rallies in the U.S. This year, I decided to take part. I wouldn’t want to live in the D.C. area and say I missed this opportunity.

 

My first clue to how big this thing might be was my “highly” recommended show time. The actual ride from the Pentagon through downtown Washington was supposed to start at noon. I was told to be at the Harley Davidson dealership in Fairfax by 6:30 a.m. Wow! that is awfully early. But I followed the advice and rolled out of my driveway at 6:00 a.m. sharp. I got about 3 miles from the Harley shop and saw my first traffic cop. He was motioning me and several other bikes to the right of some cones. He was motioning cars down the left side. I followed my cones and passed no less than five more officers doing their traffic dance. It looks like a disco dance…just less foot movement. Then I see a herd of Ford Mustangs in a parking lot next to ten or twelve motorcycle cops. I cruise on by and get to within 1/2 mile of the Harley place. Then I see it. A pretty big group of bikes are being herded into four rows. Some burly bikers were making sure everyone was right where they needed to be. I fell in line quickly and got off my bike. Then I see the wave of bikes filing in behind me. Within about two minutes our queue had grown to over 1/2 mile long. Wow…again! I meet up with my buddy from work and some of his riding club. We meet/greet and then start walking to the dealership, where they will have some festivities before our 9:00 a.m. departure to the Pentagon.

The Harley shop opens its doors at 7:00. We wander in and peruse the merchandise. I sit on a few bikes and think that maybe one day I would like some American steel. but they are costly, and high maintenance. I will just stick to my Suzuki. After we have had our fill of browsing, we make it back to the parking lot just in time to see the local high school band come marching in. Impressive. Then we get a group of bagpipers. I am a sucker for bagpipes. They just sound so regal. They bring chills most of the time. There is a stage setup and we get a string of speakers from the local riders group (the Patriot Riders) that are our hosts, some American Legion folks that are accepting a donation from the riders and then a recently retired army general. I am starting to see the magnitude of this “little” event. Just consider that this is merely our rallying point before getting to the “big” ride.

At 8:45, we are called to our bikes and told to “saddle up”. At 8;55 we fire up our engines. For those that may not know, the sound of what must have been thousands of motorcycles all cranking up is nearly deafening. I got even more chills. I take a quick look behind me and can not see the end of the line. It disappears over a small hill. I was told later that the line was about two miles long. The Patriot Riders start rolling out of the parking lot and then the rest of us start falling in behind them. I had not really noticed it before, but the streets had started to be lined by spectators. A Fairfax fire engine had its ladder extended over our lanes and unfurled a U.S. flag over us as we rolled through. People were cheering and waving for several miles as we made our way to Interstate 66 (one of the major arteries into/out of Washington). As we merge onto the interstate, I see that they have shut it down going eastbound into D.C. They shut down 66! That is unheard of. But we had it all to ourselves all the way in. Again, people were lined up everywhere they could. On overpasses. At on ramps. On walkways that meander through the neighborhoods along the route. Everywhere.

As we pull into Arlington and approach the Pentagon, we start to meet other large groups of riders. We are taking up every inch of road. More traffic cops and volunteers are guiding us to our designated parking lots. We are lining up in long rows once again. But this time it is 40 or 50 columns wide. I have never seen so many bikes at one time. My chills are still there, but they are now accompanied by some awe. We shut down and just turn 360 degrees, taking it all in. Everyone is walking up an embankment and we just follow along. These folks seem to know the lay of the land. As we get over the hill, we start to see and hear more people. More bikes. There is yet another parking lot full of bikes. This is the Rolling Thunder members area. There are charters all over the country. We see flags for almost every east coast state, many mid-west states, Texas, Arizona and Nevada. I heard later that there were members from all 50 states accounted for. Some were just in smaller groups and harder to identify. The bikes must be well over 100,000 so far. It is a sea of steel and chrome. Sunglasses are a must as the sun reflects off of mirrored parts in every direction. We take a lap and get some food and decide to make our way back to our lot since it is now 11:45. Fifteen minutes till take off!

When we crest our embankment again, our lot has more than doubled in occupancy. And another lot has begun filling up. This is insane. People are milling about and just admiring all the hardware. The folks at this event range from the dingiest, road-weary biker to the doctor and lawyer types that are trying way to hard to look “biker”. And everything in between. There are news crews and reporters getting interviews, helicopters floating as close to Pentagon air space as they are allowed and an unexpected B-52 bomber fly-over. This is quite a spectacle. One guy near our bikes states that he was in this same area last year and it was 2:00 p.m. before they pulled out. That is a solid two hours away. So we meet up with some friends-of-friends-of-acquaintances that have coolers of water, soda and beer…and a tent. I will stick to water. Beer and bikes is a bad, bad combo.

We hang out with this crew for about two and a half hours. We hear a few bikes start up near where we parked and pop our heads up to see what might be going on. All we see are people scrambling for bikes like fighter pilots scramble for their planes. It is go time…and we are a few hundred yards from our wheels! We just take off. Running with the pack while trying to locate our bikes in all the madness. We zero in and grab all our gear. We jump on and start up just in time for the crowd to start rolling toward some semblance of order. We slowly pull into a formation of sorts in two columns. We ride toward Arlington National Cemetery and from there will turn onto Memorial Bridge to the Lincoln Memorial.

While i was baking on a big pad of blacktop for hours, Julia was moving the girls toward Washington to meet me at the end of the ride. This was not an easy task and they got stuck on the Arlington side of the bridge. All foot traffic was stopped for the 3+ hours of motorcycles that would be coming through. She let me know where they were and said to get on the left side if I could. The photo above shows me riding by and giving Payton and Rylee a high five. This gave me my biggest chills. It really took my breath away a little. I was so happy they got to see this great tribute.

After passing the family, I followed the route across the bridge and around Lincoln. As we approached Constitution Avenue (the main drag separating the White House from the big monuments), there was a lone sergeant from the Marine Corps. He was in full service dress and stood right in the center of the street. There were roses at his feet and the boots and rifle that represent the POW/MIA soldiers. He stood there and held a salute. He held a salute for the entirety of the parade. Hours, standing still, holding vigil and paying tribute to those that we were there to honor. I guess I was just going to have chill bumps all day long. There was no way around it.

We passed the marine and followed our path to the U.S. Capitol and back around to Lincoln. This was the end of the journey. We were directed to some parking areas and we swarmed them. Roaring bikes after a long day of riding…and remembering. After all, remembering is what it was all about. You do not have to know anyone that gave their life for our freedom. You do not have to know anyone personally that is serving today, ready to give everything for our way of life. You just have to know that people have made this sacrifice. You just have to know that everyday that you wake up free, someone mourns the loss of those that protected that freedom. Every night when you go to sleep, military members are standing guard. They stand in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea hoping for the best, but training for the worst. On May 30th, over 500,000 people on more than 400,000 motorcycles helped a nation remember.

http://www.rollingthundermotorcyclerally.com/

By tmhale13

Let There Be Rock!

April 26, 2010

I have been to my share of concerts. It all started with Huey Lewis & the News back in 1983, shifted to Poison and Motley Crue around 1989 and even had some Prince thrown in around 1997. Along the way I even suffered through Milli Vanilli (and yes, they did lip-sync) with Young M.C. But there was one thing missing from my repertoire. Last night I filled that void.

Payton (my 14 year old) decided she wanted to go to a concert in downtown D.C. This concert was at a small venue and involved five smaller bands. Well, let me rephrase that. It involved five bands I would consider “smaller”. To the screaming mass of teenage girls, these were major players in the music world. The four lesser bands actually turned out to be pretty decent. The last act…the headliner…was another story altogether.

Let me state that I generally love concerts. There is a great energy that goes with a live act. They tend to crank it up and throw themselves into the performance. I loved going to big “arena rock” concerts to see the elaborate stages and feel the roar of the crowd. After this smaller show, in what was really nothing more than a club, I may have a new appreciation for an intimate setting. These bands felt so close even when I lurked off to the dark corner. Those corners seemed to be where the many other parents resided. I just followed the herd.

As for the music, the opening bands all put on pretty good shows. First up was The Summer Set. They were a pretty new group of youngin’s that had the oddity of a female drummer. That is not something you see a lot. They played a decent 5 or 6 song set. They were a fun group. I actually downloaded a song or two when I got home. Every Avenue followed with another 5 or 6 songs. They were not as memorable, but the overall sound was not bad. Just nothing really stood out. Next up was Hey Monday. This band sounded instantly familiar. They had a female vocalist and sounded a lot like Paramore (a relatively famous current band that Payton got me into). Again, I downloaded a song or two of theirs that struck me as pretty good. After this was The Cab. This is a band that I had actually heard of. I hadn’t heard much mind you, but I had heard a song somewhere along the line. Once again, this band made a good showing on stage. It was energetic and fun. They gave us about 7 songs. Once more, I downloaded a few songs.

Now we get to the fifth and final act of the night. This was the reason Payton wanted to to go. Nevershoutnever! is not a loud, rockin’ group. In fact, the “band” is really just one 19 year old guy. He has other players, but the frontman is really the whole deal. My best description would be that this was The Wiggles for the teenage girl demographic. He actually admitted as much during his set. He dedicated a song to the “dudes” in the audience, stating that he himself “would not be caught dead at one of his shows”. He is very mushy and plays a ukelele on many songs. In contrast, when the four lead-in bands shouted that “here is a love song!”, it was still a pumped up rocker. Nevershoutnever!’s love songs were…well…more sappy. Where I had rather enjoyed the first acts, I was ultimately bored for this last set. And he seemed to be ok with that. He knew who his fans were and played right to them. The girls screamed and jockeyed for position to get closer to the stage. They hung over the balcony and screamed his name. I guess I just didn’t get it. But what he did, he did well. I didn’t like the songs, but he did have a stage presence and played the crowd like another instrument.

One more thought I had while I watched from my dark corner. Lighters have been replaced! Back in the day, we used to fire up lighters and wave them back and forth. Especially during any anthems or power ballads. The glow of the flickering flame has been left behind in favor of the glow of cellphones and digital camera screens. These kids were taking pictures and videos the entire time. Just waving the camera/phone overhead as the crowd surged one way then the other.

All-in-all, it was a pretty good outing. Payton and her friend Danielle had a blast and rehashed the entire show the whole drive home. I gave them my thoughts on both the opening bands (pretty good) and the headliner (pretty blah!) and they both ganged up on me to set me straight. I countered by pointing out that they, teenage girls, were his core audience and that is why they loved it. I, a nearly 40 year old man (that likes rock!), was outside of his core audience and therefore thought he generally sucked. That was not received well and we decided to agree to disagree…while they sang all his songs to show me how wrong I was.

By tmhale13

Technology Is Great!

April 17, 2010

I was sitting here just a few days ago reading the news and my mail. I was struck with the thought that these simple tasks have completely different meaning to me than they did to my parents. My parents would have been holding a newspaper to read the days news. They would also have been opening envelopes to get to their mail. In my case, I am simply clicking on a computer.

This is really nothing new. The internet has been around long enough now that it is almost commonplace. Every living generation has experience with the world wide web. But our technological evolution has not stopped there. That computer that we are used to is quickly becoming obsolete. I can now check my mail, read my news and so many other things right from my cellphone. It is this fact that has struck me the most. I am using the latest technology to watch the progression of the next great gadgets that will eventually take over. I used my iPhone to read a minute-by-minute blog of the release of the iPad. This iPad is sort of the iPod/iPhone on steroids. It has the potential to be (in CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs’ words) a “game changer”. We can now use one device to carry a library of music, movies, games and books wherever we go. Add to that the ability to surf the internet and make phone calls using voice over IP solutions like Skype, and you have one heck of an accomplished toy.

All of this truly astounds me when I think of it on a time line. I simply look back to my high school days. CD’s were just hitting the market. DVD’s were still several years down the road. Cellphones were available, but so restrictive and expensive that only the elite could expect to have one. Today, my kids use iPods to listen to digitally downloaded music. Movies are DVD’s to them, but quickly being replaced by digital downloads as well. My nine year old has been told that she has to wait until she turns ten before we will get her a mobile phone. My 14 year old might go into some sort of shock without her phone (which is rarely even used to have a conversation, it is all text messages in 2010).

So, in roughly 20 years we have seen a complete overhaul in how we live our day-to-day lives. We rely more and more on these budding technologies to manage our time, entertain us and ultimately do our jobs. Although I spent the first half of my life without these electronic marvels, the last half has seen me dive headfirst into the computer generated pool. If I awoke tomorrow and found myself in, let’s say 1986, I am not sure I could adapt and survive. How would I let all my Facebook friends know that I was 16 again? And ready to par-tay!

By tmhale13

Blizzard 2010

February 12, 2010

This past week we have been experiencing a full on blizzard here in the D.C. area. I think the final tally at Dulles International Airport (just a couple of miles from our house) was something just over 50 inches of snow. That was from two back-to-back storms in a matter of 4 or 5 days. I have never seen anything like this. The news stated that to shovel your average two car width driveway was about 2 tons of snow. So Julia and I got quite a workout. You can see in the pictures what kind of task it really was. It was so cold and windy that the girls didn’t even want to be out in it for more than a few minutes. Our county schools were out from release on Thursday until this coming Tuesday. That was an entire week of snow days (11 days total break!!!). They say that they have built in 15 days and they will not have to make this up in June. One more pelting like that and they will be owing some days though. I also have not been to work in that time. The federal government shut down as well. Today (Friday) was the only day that they opened back up. And that was with a two hour delayed report time and/or liberal leave. That allowed those that are in areas still clearing roads (most areas) to take that final day. I opted to stay home myself. I will use that one vacation day to not attempt that hellacious drive. The traffic is bad on normal days. My 1.5 hour trip home could have easily turned into 2.5 with the narrowed roadways. For those that have not experienced this kind of white-out, count your blessings. I can see why Jack Nicholson might have slaughtered his family in “The Shining” now. Cabin fever is no joke people! By the way, the tiki bar is now only serving frozen margaritas. And don’t ask for salt on the rim…we need that to thaw out the dance floor.

By tmhale13