Monday, February 12, 2018

Maple Coffee

Maple Coffee

I've been behind in my last Montana post from last summer. So, since it's Feb and below zero this morning I post some warm memories:)
Here this morning day 11 in the (2017 listen for God and catch trout trip),  I sit here alone with espresso and heavy cream (in my custom Hal Empie coffee mug) at Mountain Palace along the banks of the Mighty Missouri River.  

Going back and upstream 11 days ago I arrived into Ennis MT on a Sunday Morning at 6:30. Pulling into my friends joint "Maple Coffee", I drove to the drive through to hear Lori’s always upbeat and smile filled voice. “Good Morning, welcome to Maple Coffee what can i get cha this morning?”

{Now those who know me know I love a surprise.}

{In a low cowboy voice} "Good Morrrrrrnin. Yesssss, I’d like a large Latte…. an please put it in a small french yogurt  espresso cup……”
There was crackling silence on the drive thru speaker as if a ghost had arrived.

Suddenly she shouts in a high southern accent “ CRAIG T :) is that really you?”

Now these are the moments you treasure when you travel long distances.
Surprising people you care for,  making their day, and yours a bit more special.
You see a few years ago my lifelong fly fishing partner Bruce and I drove by this place one early morning on it’s opening day. In fact it was a test run day, it opened the next day. But anyway, we’re suckers for good espresso and this was a cool new building right on the road into Ennis, MT.
Lori a retired retailer from the NY scene and her Berkshire Hathaway husband had a 2nd home up here and built this Espresso Shop to keep Lori’s energy from blowing up the Madison valley.  Here we are on pre opening day.

So a few years later I come in to Maple early one morning with a small blue clay French Yogurt cup refilled with espresso.  Lori says oh my gosh I want that!  I tell her my wife Jane flies for Delta, ,  and these are Yogurt cups from Paris, found in a corner Deli that she brings home to me:)  We have A LOT of these cups now, so I promise Lori I’ll bring her a couple next time i’m driving 1,000 miles past her place. 
I’m sure she was thinking, “sure he will”..

So the next year I pack two cups up with my supplies, and drop them off on my first morning thru Ennis. Surprise and Joy was on her face again.  So you see the little blue yogurt cups were the special connection.  And now you know the rest of the story on why she wailed “Craig T is that really you?”.

Her cool retired husband Kevin (From Wisconsin), who worked for Berkshire Hath, got a tip on N.Dak land, bought it before the digging... and the rest is Maple Coffee and Ennis McMansion history :) 

Thank God Kevins WI roots and a retail wife kept him from blowing all those profits years ago. Now making a dollar tip at a coffee shop is actually fun for him. If only now I could convince him to spend more than 2 bucks on a cigar. 

Finding ways to connect with people over things you love makes life richer. Get out and make someones day this week. You'll feel better by it.

And as always I have to have a few fish pics:)

At one in the morning along the bank of the Missouri River near Craig, Montana.
There were 4" crayfish in the shallow rocks as I walked the banks. That afternoon I picked up 2 Crayfish patterns as big as I could get them. Went out at 11PM where I had measured an area in the river I could fish safely by moonlight (you can see the moon above the fish head).  You look for a rise on the moving water or the crash of a big trout and you measure and cast to the spot. It's a bit of a waiting game, but worth the wait.   My first cast of a crayfish to a rising trout was snapped off 1 sec. after it landed. It was a  4x tippet cut clean.   So I moved to a 3x and tied on my only other crayfish. In the same area another rises 10ft from the shore and I lay another crayfish 3ft over the rise and pull it in.  Wham, again, instant mega power line snap. You get so excited at these moments and when you're alone, it's funny, but you're talking to God mostly in whispered tones for no reason other than Silence while fly fishing is the proper thing to do..  In the end this picture above was one of many caught on big double hooked marabou streamer (the only big thing left on my vest in the dark:)

For trout hacks who love to eat trout as well,  Brookies are the sweetest tasting. I took this picture in a small complicated stream 20miles from nowhere.  A large log was over the stream from a beaver. The channel choke point was to dangerous to wade into. So I climbed up the bank and over the tree and back into the stream to find another smaller log crossing just ahead (as seen in the photo). There was no room to cast standing up with these big fallen trees and a narrow stream, so I ended up gettin on my knees, leaning forward and side casting from my left side into the hole that drifted under the tree. You had to get into a position so that when your fly went under that tree (where the trout hang), you could pull it straight back out without snapping off your hook on a branch every cast.  It took about a dozen casts to get my fly into a proper drift into that hole.  When you catch a trout in a technical stalk, it's the most rewarding regardless of size, and she was a great snack before dinner.

At the end of the day in Grizzly bear country, you are always aware of survival.  This means as a "tent dweller"  you don't cook real meals where you sleep.  This place is at least a mile away from where my tent is along the river. I'm camping somewhere at the bottom of that first peak over that tree line.  Of course I have a JetBoil and weeks of backpacker country freeze dried in a bag for emergency, but if I can, every night I plan a real meal. I carry a large Yetti with Dry Ice everywhere I go filled with all fresh produce, proteins and liquids needed. Heck, if you break down my truck it's 1/2 cooking gear, 1/4 fishing gear and 1/4 clothing I never wear:)

 This is my evening prayer.
Wineglass to the heavens and my everyday cheer,
"To The King".

Monday, March 13, 2017

Music in the Clouds, Gigs in the Basements...

I'm reflecting on the value of "gigging" in days gone by and the future of it all. Yes, a few of you can relate..
For most young musicians, they have no idea what the life of a professional musician was like before I-Tunes or Muzak.
To my musician friends. Remember 40 years ago when we proudly paid union dues and ASCAP or BMI or SEASAC. Royalty checks were more than $16.00 We had no chance of affording health ins. or dental ins. (We didn't think it was owed to us and so we just stayed as healthy as possible and took fewer risks... right :)
Few were smart enough to even think about a retirement plan. Road gigs were the yellow brick road; even if they ended in a dumpy band house in St. Cloud or E.G.Forks. A savings account was a vintage amp or instrument. Taxes were something you debated if you even needed to file every 5 years... A day job was giving up and losing the right to call yourself a musician. Opening a personal studio was the only other option outside of opening a music store or venue..For this was long before someone figured out how to game the Govt and subsidize "music" education schools with no chance for real jobs.
And where are we all now. Who's laughing now?
I took great pride for many years in saying I never missed a gig 6 nights a week for over 20 years. Regardless of sickness or health or family or personal, never missed a gig. All my years alone with my trailer and truck on the road from coast to coast, flying home on Sunday and Mondays to be with my family and then leaving again.
Raised my children as a full time musician. Never had a W2 job. I took so much pride in that. Multiple houses, nice cars and vacations in Europe were part of the drive to continue the grind.
And as pop music changed, you had to change yearly. Outside of pop music, you could hone in on one style and rotate your gigs but likely this meant a day gig or teaching on the side.
What did it teach us?
Self-Reliance, Re-Inventing Ourselves, Balancing Responsibilities? Or did it teach us to be Enabled, lost, bitter, broken, divorced and addicted folks who still are holding on to our youth in one way or another?
For those who held out and didn't migrate to a trade, How do you move from there to todays economy?
What skills have we learned that make us valuable and marketable today in this economy where live music has lost it's value?
Men and women musicians today silently making "maybe" 500. a week without any life, health, dental or business insurance,  trying to find a way to continue in their craft and passions and stay off WIK,  Govt. assistance or living with some family?    Now folks at Walmart and Home Depot and fast food joints don't make 500. a week, and there's nothing wrong with those jobs till they are automated and go away,   but if you're young and in your prime, you choose a horse and your ride it hard for all it's got. The music business has become like playing penny slots. Now you don't know this yet, but, you can only ride a horse hard for so long and the thrill of pulling penny slots will wear off, even if one in a million makes a million and is deified in media as your role model. 

   If you're nearing retirement with a home paid for (or not).. , an extra $2,3,4,or 500. a week at $50 to 100. A gig may be all you need to survive.  And in that, if you hustle, heck, you just might be able to play till you die and help keep money for gigs down. That is unless all the new kids getting out of music school are willing to play for 25 to 50. a gig because they are living at home on someone else's dime with free  health ins., food, lodging, phones, cars, ins., utilities, wifi and a place to store their gear for free as well.  I'm not down on youth and pursuing your passions, I'm just saying it is a horse that tops out at 25mile an hour for most regardless of what MTV and the few owners of the music system push.
Every seasoned musician knows having a partner with a good job is 50% of the game. How many full time musicians are alone today thriving on their own efforts? They are the musical Marines. (The few and the proud) Semper Fi' and God bless each and every one of you.
40 years ago we hated the words "get your teaching certificate so you have something to fall back on". That was a cop out and incited us to trying harder and living leaner.
We'd quietly say that those with public and govt. jobs playing on the weekends were not "real" musicians, they were "silent sell outs" who were under cutting real musicians only to play for $25. and beer, thereby keeping wages lower. Well, looks who's retired with State and Fed. pensions now Mr. and Mrs. Rock Star. :)
Today I look at opportunities for our next generations of musicians. Honest opportunities.
Kids being enticed to spend 25 to 100k a year to learn music, or digital mixing or light design, or performance art or ...? For what?
To keep the institutions open for the non gigging musicians to survive?
Certainly not for the kids with 50 to 300k worth of school debt and virtually no opportunity to pay it back other than tell the govt. they should absolve it because... well, we're special.
And there was the newer churches, places where for the last 30 years musicians could serve and lead and teach and mentor and mix.   But,  pop culture like culture is speeding up and is taking a 30yr career and making it  15 years of viable pop service followed by "what do I do now" with 10 chords and a capo.?
Bleak? Yup, I'd say it is. But that's ok, Those with the curse of artistry and creation will pursue it regardless, just like the painters and dancers and street performers thru the ages..
I guess that's it. There was a window once. One of opportunity to play and sing and dance seven days a week if you chose.
And it's closed now. For the new breed of restaurants are chef based. Their visions and prime costs realities do not factor entertainment in their slim margins and increasing costs.   Old bars in cities with paid off brick and mortar, well, they will continue to use those wider margins to hire musicians for beer, a dinner and $25. and the door.
New places will have music at the expense of the owners and investors who love music until they can bleed no more. God bless them, I hope their losses don't completely destroy them or their investor and that in the end they are proud of shifting their wealth to feed a few starving artists.
And the European model I saw in Germany 40 years ago? The one of players just getting together in every local pub to play for beers and soul fulfillment? Well, that just may be our future outside of Disney,Branson,Vegasland.
And God bless "The Voice" and those few outlets that keep hope alive for the children and grandchildren with gifts, to be inspired regardless of their ability to live from their gifts. 
So now I still say in 2017, yea, pursue your passions. If they are music? beware and be realistic.  Ask your mentors and teachers what the chances are of you making anything in the business... really?
How best can we really help our next generations of future artists and musicians? 
Garage bands will always be important. Parents sacrificing their basements and personal space and sanity to help a child grow.  That outlet is as important and valuable as local sports fields paid for by property taxes to keep kids busy and active. And listening to a garage band is no gauge of talent. Imagine all the great writers who couldn't sing or play well who changed music. How many of them went to music school anyway unless it was to study jazz or classical?
Now certainly, Govt.'s role was never to be our musical sugar daddy, nor should they be.  I guess every dollar made and ripped off of poor artists and writers by Youtube, Google, FB,  Apple and every other music service should put 10% into a non profit fund to re-fund the arts. Those billions might help in creating musical outlets for youth without Govt. intervention.
And like in days of old, Church could step up for the arts,  but it's to caught in the pop culture of top 100 of CCM and staying hip enough to keep folks from going to the next cool hip church and leaving them bankrupt that that that ain't gonna happen.  Classical arts have endowments and old money, but that's gonna go away when those funds run out because baby boomers are not investing in classical endowments...  Unless the classical instruments are somehow infused back into pop music and arrangements in a way that the need for a real musicians over great samples is viable?  They are pretty much left in the key of F'd.
On a bright note :), "I always think F# is the brightest triad". 
No really, I heard this morning that the new ACA for all the doom and gloom being shoveled about, may, I say MAY give tax credits for health insurance to self employed people.... Really? Musicians might actually be able to have a portion of their health ins. covered in tax credits applied to a health savings acct? Well, this socialistic thought sure sounds nice to all of us who didn't have a spouse with a good plan, or to kids now living at home at 27 who have to actually begin to pay for something... And gee wouldn't it be nice if you didn't have to pay the first $4000. of your medical bills before any of your ins. kicks in? What a joke this has become for the poor, and all for the evil of votes... :/
Well, I've been in construction mode for months now. Away from any music. Away from that hook and always dreaming of a dry fly hook.  My studio has been silent for almost a yea,r other than software updates and private use and an occasional late night narcissistic keyboard session. Well, I am refilling my creative barrel slowly.

And I see my musical friends around the country struggling more than ever before. Fighting for the same 10 gigs and fighting an ever more difficult grind to survive. Putting up more and more FB posts for fewer and fewer interested people to show up for fewer and fewer live gigs over fast food and 2,000 HD cable channels with Surround sound.
So what's the future look like for 99% of the musicians who don't develop some new "thing" with music and make a ton on the cloud?
I know it sounds stupid to many, but I'm sounding old now.
Find, Develop and get a trade job. Become a tradesperson. Work with your hands and be creative and play on off nights with your friends. If you're that good, you will have your measure of success regardless of your day job.
And look and pray for a life partner who's not crazy creative, but happy to have that steady job, and kiss their feet on occasion, or wash them if you're of that ilk.

This began as a FB post some time back and it's not here from requests to have it somewhere where it can be re-located by link. 

Today in closing, i'd say that not one of my friends would trade their journey of musical experiences for anything.  Like the military, the things you serve with passion in become precious, even if the memories are divided.

The phrase "thanks for the memories"? Well it is truly apropos when it comes to remembering the early days of our lives on the road.  They are priceless.  And the phrase "what happened in Vegas"?.  Well, only the NSA, Jesus and road managers  know those things.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas Sweaters

Oh, the colors, the figures, the ties, the layers, the design, the warm and fuzzy's, the candy canes and nature thangs.   

Step right up, it's time for a new sweater. The latest, the greatest, better than the other brands.
Designed just for you, with the substance of your passions and desires in the latest colors and finest sheep wool.

Now who am I selling this sweater to?  That's later.

The automobile industry was never designed, built or marketed for someone who doesn't drive.
  People and companies are paid out billions to get you to "switch" to their brand.  Money is not spent on trying to get people who don't believe in cars to "see the light, embrace the vehicle and watch your life change".

Ok, I'll admit there are people in the automobile industry who's job it is, is to influence young people who will have the right to drive someday. Like candy cigarettes of the 60's and gum cigars, the marketers were gunning for us before we could smoke.  But, the lions share of dollars are spent on companies trying to get folks to move from one brand to another.

The corporations bottom line, the executives that run them, and their stock holders or financial base (for the NFP's) are based upon ROI and the bottom line. That, is the bottom line.

I'll say this before moving on. "There are no perfect people".  Not you and certainly not I.
Most of the planet are not leaders or shepherds, they are followers and sheep.
Willing to believe, do what they are told and give their wool to the sweater makers.

Now me? I didn't go to the Warton School of Business nor a prestigious 2yr M.Div program. But i can tell you by those leaders who did, that in their implementation of classes into their values, vision, mission and carnage, what kind of sweaters they  have and are creating from the teachers that taught them.

Creation.  What is it?  In it's natural state it "is" God. The constant of the womb, the soil, the water, the air, the suns of unknown systems. Creation creates to create, not to be sold.

And here is where a good sweater went bad.  If you are happy with Jesus current church, you most likely should stop here and read "Our Daily Bread". i like that one.  If you ask questions and then pray about them, you might learn something from the rest of this.  Might...

Where creation goes bad...  "ascribing value".

Enter money into creation for sale, and Judas comes to life. Believers with more justifications and lies than Walter White in Breaking Bad.   Entering Religion into money, and trying to manage that oil and water has become the game of shake it up and say its all ok. Ok for a few seconds until they naturally separate on our lettuce.... entertain you salad served in a new sweater.    For me, there is really no turning back that I can see, since justifying our actions has become the basis for our wealth, and then our ability to give back that 10% makes us Walter White.   Oh the sweaters we allow woven from our wool.
|:  No wonder so many moral people fall for socialism  when given the state of religion  :|

And yet, in all of that, we find pockets of pristine beauty. Pockets filled with love and healing and grace on those sweaters.  Friendships that make you stay in a job or a  building. That make you accept the unacceptable like an abused spouse afraid to lose the house and family and friends.
  And the more pockets they weave on your sweater, the more chance you'll keep it for what good, of good report, you have put in those pockets.

My first question was "Now who are we selling sweaters to?"
Or better yet. With our wool, who are we giving wool for sweaters to and why, and what's the ROI....

This becomes the foundation to which I pen this blog today.

In my successes and failures of 60 years, one thing is clear, not much.

For a man named Solomon used to confuse me in his writings, and  a man named Paul's words seemed so clear and direct from old to new Testaments.
Now, 45 years into this faith journey, this has reversed in so many ways that I do not have time to o-pine about here.
Yet, in and thru it,  I believe in the eternal life of these words and the ever living power of and in them.  In them long before they were written or printed, filmed or blogged about...  For Truth is Truth, whether used for good or evil.  Love is love in the same manner and we apply this to "choice" as well.  Now, Deciphering each "use of" for good or evil is the eternally difficult question for all choices.

So,  again, who are we selling sweaters to?  You already know the answer if you understand my question. The only other question becomes, what reasons or (to some) excuses will we give to justify our sweaters.  And in the end who's responsible for that? You  & I, or the Shepard, or his teacher, or his father, fathers father? Where does the "buck" stop?
Ask a Jew, A Palestinian, A native American, A Shite, A Sunni.  It doesn't end, even if you somehow think you were a grasshopper last time.

First, I would submit this.
In following Jesus as a group, we have confused the offices and buildings completely.
I have been and may continue to be a part of this very broken system for many reasons, but truth to me is truth as I see it and observe it from the side line or the fine line.

A couple simple questions for Christians (or) Jesus Followers as it relates to scripture?
1.   Why do Christians meet? To build each other up for a life of service or to build and fill seats?
2. What should Christians do when they meet? Build each other up for a life of service or plan and do events to give out sweaters and fill seats.
3. What is a Christians mission in life? To love the Lord God..... or to build better sweaters for jesus to increase the size and scope of one church over another through sweater envy.

So how would Solomon answer that? And how would Paul and how would Jesus himself?
Do scriptures and statements from each of these men come to your mind as you read this question?

See, I'm not here to give you answers. I'm here to love you and ask questions to myself, and to you so we can think about, and to meditate on and to listen for answers that resonate in each soul as truth from God's Holy Spirit.

So here it is, here's my current issue today with Christmas Sweaters...

Pretty, novel, ever changing for another dollar, ever changing with pop culture, layered with fake layers of real things. (vests, pockets, ties, shirts) that from a distance look real, show value, get you to buy in,  but up close are just not the real thing. One layer of many fake layers.  Folks can tell you you look great in it, you can say it's warm, but unless you get a new one every year, you're not as happy as you could be. And if that other sweater maker move in with a new location down the street that has better colors or sizes or features... Well, it's the" all about me" world we live in, so see ya.

That is unless the sweater maker has been schooled on this wolves tactic and so has invited you to make best friends with those in the weaving guild..  Or the design guild or refreshments guild or greeting guild or children's guild., or 12 step guild.  Or better yet gotten your children into the children's guilds programs on shearing and preparing wool for sweaters. Classes with trips to foreign countries to show them the value of wool and giving sweaters to the sweater less.  After all,  we live for our kids till they are gone and then we live for their kids...
If all this is done, chances of you leaving for a cooler sweater company will be diminished by your friendships and relationships that in the core are designed to help you keep put. It can be an ugly thing pulling back the curtain.  And even if you do, there will be even more justifications than your grade schooler coming home with a hickey.

Movties... What are the root motives..really...

I turned on the TV a few weeks ago, and got a miriad of Web Based ads in Dec.
It was like Vegas and Branson and Europe Cirque Du Soleil with Jesus goin on. Super creative, Professional everything, best in camera, video, lighting, comedy, harmony, symphony, dance, Latte's, decorations, christmas sweater'd everything.   Our company's productions are hipper and better than anyone elses, so come join the best of the best with the best and we will out sweater the world in  ©Jesus name.
And I've been a part of this (in Jesus name).

But don't write me off.  For I've seen lives changed and hearts touched, including my own. I still love hundreds of people and sheep I've looked over. And 1,000's I never got close enough to.
     Yet why am i'm still sickened at seeing the latest version of our christmas sweaters on TV and the Web. Why does it feel like sheep dip on my soul.   Why?

Because of the fall out?  Because people matter?
 Because all people matter, and I've seen enough behind the curtain of it all and it's root motives?
 You see, people are not wool, They are not a commodity. Should not be lined up for use based upon size, shape, color sex or smell. They should be loved, nurtured, forgiven, and taught to live in community in love, not obligation or fear or guilt to give and serve and obey.

As Jesus followers, we are to go to the ends of the earth with His love and story of redemption. Beginning with our own story of our lives changed in word and deed, and then bringing that to our own circles and out ward from there to the world around us.  If we wear a sweater, it should be one He wove of our lives. One people can see is really us.  One that a lost world would envy to emulate. Ask honest questions of and want to be like. One that the Holy Spirit speaks thru one heart at a time. Then if your wool leads another to the Shepherd, you can invite them to come celebrate with you, do life with you, be apart of your circle if they choose. New Sheep in a flock, not an NFL trade or switching schools or promising a cooler newer sweater.

Here it is.  What place does building a sweater factory to get people to move from one sweater factory to another have in the big picture of the great commission.  Church Shifting for sweaters as an acceptable form of a business  model at it's root,  is just another cute but fake sweater with a short shelf life.   Yes, shiny things will bring short term wool for sweaters and inflated egos of numbers, but they will leave, and leave with heads down in time, looking for the next sweater and another shepherd to love and tell them they matter for not their wool.

I would submit that the place where believers meet should be a place where the Book of Acts is lived out. Where the words of Solomon are balanced with the words of Paul and the words of Jesus are the final authority against the rest in each mans heart.  

Radical Theology and Ideologies are not born over night.  Bad ones take generations and centuries to justify by their actions. From the outside it can seem so clear. And over the centuries we've seen this over and over.

Intent? So leader...  what is your intent, and are you humble enough to accept responsibility of defeat for a future victory that may look like a total loss for you.. well there it is.  And why would you be willing to do this?
If your answer of "yes" contains a " but" upon discussion, you need something kicked.

If you have not noticed, I've been mainly speaking to leaders here today. Our leaders.
Questions to help sheep ask real questions of eternal consequence for the greater church.

I have not discussed music, or worship today, which has become the tip of this knitting needle.  The color of the thread and the designs of the sweaters for most leaders to play with for their survival..  Another time....

Community with Faith, Hope and Love is an unbreakable rope. We as sheep try to find and make this happen with churches we give wool to.
It usually fails in the end, because at the top, it really has become business. Business about the survival of those in charge making choices to implement survival for a few, by the lure of beautiful sweaters, and keeping up with the competition at all reasonable costs with scripture filled explanations.  And yet,  for me the Sheep are innocent. Not because they don't have a brain, but because they are not stained with ownership and leadership over each other by under shepherds.. They have entrusted under shepherds to lead them for better or worse.
Well, "do not grow weary in well doing sheep", but do not also stop listening to your heart beat or stop being willing to "dust off your robe" and move on. Re-think old teachings. Move on not for the next coolest Christmas Sweater but for a community that moves you , that you want to do life with.  Well, perhaps you've done this so much that you're done moving now and you just say, "here's my wool, Jesus will deal with you over whatever you knit from it, I'm just here being faithful with my wool"
Ok, I Totally.. get that, and that prayer would be a great prayer to meditate on and listen back from, every day.. Every life matters at any age, don't forget that.

My prayer this next year is for Jesus sheep to honestly, prayerfully, humbly review the role of church.
It is not to be a glittery evangelistic outpost. That would be the gift of the evangelist. They should give up churches and just do evangelism thereby sending people from there to churches.
And,  It's not a Health Club with memberships and a list of perks either. But you'd never know that today.
For to many young evangelists building churches today have no pastors or teachers in sight. And to many pastors reject their evangelists passions to allow this to happen. And so it is with all the gifts God has given to his children.

And now sadly to many shepherds and sheep are working in shopping malls doing life ministry now, because they just could not accept the christmas sweater business model.

So, looking forward,  if Jesus shows up wearing a Christmas Sweater on a white horse with LED lights dropping packets of miracle water with a .god web address ... well, I'll be very disappointed as i plan to be shouting whooo hooo for the twinkling of an eye.  But something tells my soul that's not very likely.

Love hard, Forgive more, and as I say to my kids, make more good choices than bad ones each day. It will all work out in the end as the Holy Spirit speaks to our choices, if we humbly listen after speaking.

Humbly listening. hmmmm  There's a mortal oxymoron for most leaders, unless of course your business or church is 10 times bigger than mine.  Then i won't just listen, I'll follow you based upon your epic sweaters.

And in the end I say, Forgive me Father for I have sinned again. Help me see mens true motives through Your eyes and act according to Your words.

And if you have made it through another long CT blog, I pray that God will somehow give you wisdom to see through my shallow words to some truth, for your soul.
No,  not from my words mind you, but from your prayers as a result of questions to a loving father.

Happy New Year and may we all expose our roots this next year, get them planted into good soil, get our vines trimmed and see less but better fruit....

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Birth Of The "O-Pine"

With the exception of Right Wing crazies and then all the way over to Fascists, the right has laid silent with passive humble prayers for too long.
Now many labeled "Alt Right", are a fed up mix of left, center and right.. As if tea party has lost its ring, now it's Alt right... What's next?
In my life, the politics of the late 60's and early 70's folk scene was all about music not politics. None of that stuck ironically. I sang and played it all, but the politics of it from the liberal campuses and folk activists? I dismissed as "thats just not me". I still respected all the music, just not the speeches. Still, i knew in a folk context that any artists who were there in protest would and could say anything at any time. The ones who I couldn't hang with any more?, i stopped going to their concerts over their political speak, not their musical giftedness.. And I've stopped going to movies by actors who have gone to far... And I'm starting to boycott sports who've gone to far... And now with #boycotthamilton, I'm saddened by this selfish act of personality over purpose.
And music? It's no coincidence that most of the the liberal US down right hates country music. They believe IMHO that those in the arts of "higher folk" or Country, are racist, homophobic, xenophobic, ignorant backwoods white trash twangers. (hmmm sound a bit like calling the kettle black... or white)? Well in the words of the great Cracker Barrel golf tees game... (yer just plain ignorant).
Then came the Rush....
For me, entertaining in Palm Desert in the winters in the late 80's, I heard a guy on the radio with B1 Bob Dornan (the orange county congressman). I listened again to hear his name. It was like finding a tribe leader. He spoke my language (with attitude) and I agreed with someone on the radio for the first time in my life...
It was Rush Limbaugh with one hand tied behind his back.
I laughed each day at his sacrilegious songs and self aggrandizing look at the left and media.
I took my commodore64 and tried to email him from my Nashville living room floor. Baud rates were 12.2. C-prompts were necessary to connect, and since I didn't have a Compuserve or AOL acct, my attempts were hysterically ignorant.
I opted for the mail to get my "Rush is Right" lapel pin in '87. No one back home knew who this was yet. He wasn't on midwest radio.
I still own that pin but just don't wear it anymore so as not to offend others.
You see middle class Conservatives here in fly over land had no voice outside of coffee after church or in a hunting or fishing shack or around a quilting table or a rural watering hole.. Rush changed that, and the new voice of the conservative was amplified.
Rush for the first time made it loud and clear that it was ok to be a normal conservative.
It was ok to speak up for the first time and tell an arrogant left wing activist for the first time that they were not the only ones with an opinion any longer or a protest sign outside the election cycle. Rush made it clear to young skulls of mush that their opinions on 99% of college campuses were NOT flawed and reckless and damaging to the nations future. They should not shut up, but stand up.
Till then, the left was used to an occasional loony kkk, fascist, nutcase right winger showing up, but regular folks? .... game changer.
And now 30 years later as a result we have Trump.
Without Limbaugh (love him or hate him) we would not likely have had Trump, or Bush 43..
And all the very rich conservative talk show hosts today on radio and Cable and Web, should have to pay points to the golden EIB mic fund to keep Rush in new C. Implants.
Yet with all the current O-pining going on in social media and with "non news" folks, we now know that bias has crossed into the main news organizations big time. Journalists have come out and crossed the lines of an impartial press.
Taking sides in the name of a free press. Writing very slanted and skewed opinions in a field that needs an even playing field.
I'm guessing 60% of America are all standing around today, turning on our TV's, I-pads and phones to try to find real honest news without the sickening spin every 15min.
So where does O-pining and news go from here?
Newspapers are certainly dying..
Is it back to local news at 6 and 10 where you have (at least) a chance to not get spun? And then the rest of your info is gathered from radio and ever changing web portals and apps that you think you can trust on your phone?
There is no putting the genie back in the bottle now. 24hr 15min. breaking news spin cycle is here for good till the next modification.
Will it be "turning off and out?". Is that the future?
I listen to O'Reilly, that's about it.
I keep looking for a moderate voice on the left that I can at least listen too and learn from. No luck there yet, and I don't see anyone rising on the left with any common sense except screaming and yelling that "some lives matter" and that only "they" really care about the planet and anything but a human.
So today i pray the populists rise up after this election. I pray they are who I think they are. "Centrists" with common sense from all social and religious backgrounds who want a better America for Americans.
I hope they force the two parties to change their way of doing business. If Trump actually does this first it will lead the way for the rest of the country to follow suit.
And politicians? Like so much of the country who've lost their pensions from their struggling companies? Yea, Trump could start by eliminating the congress retirement system that we pay for and the states could then follow suit. These guys and gals can make a living doing something after congress without taking tax dollars for the rest of their lives... Right?
And term limits? yea, make that one so, even if after number of years served, you have to wait to run again. ie: you serve 6 years? you have to wait 6 years to run again (if you want to).. 
Whatever it may be, can it be done without slandering each other, calling each other names, defaming and exposing, lying and spinning and weaving webs of deceit? doubt it...
This is one reason why we have faith and hope in higher things. To keep us sane while trying to live in this fallen world of greed and selfishness.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Take A Breath And Say Thank You.....

In Fly Fishing there are so many left brain right brain moments that collide on a trout journey,  that you stop sometimes and question what you're really doing here. John Gierach writes about it so well in "Standing in a River Waving a Stick".  

Now the great question a young person never asks themselves is "is it the journey or is it the pay check".
  The answer a lifetime fly fisherman will always tell you in the end is, "it's never the pay check or the fish, it's always the journey.   Oh sure you can re-live landing the biggest fish of your life time.   You can rewinds and relive it over and over on a snowy winter day or on a cold rainy day stuck in a tent in the middle of nowhere.

Like cooking, it's the trips to the market and the smell and feel of your produce. The size of the cuts and the breaking of the fat or the yeast or the sound and smell of a sear. It's the plating and the wine. 
Like music, it's the musicians on "that" gig. That crowd and that magic. Its never tasting or the check.. That's the bonus.

People often ask me, how and more importantly "why" do you like to go into the forrest alone for 3 or 4 weeks at a time to be alone where you can be eaten by those higher on the food chain for something so low on the food chain that you can buy in most fish markets for $20.

Well, if you've never slept on a high plateau of sage brush on a moonless night over looking the waters. And heard the sound of a lost calf bleeting all night for its mom while you sit at a fire of dried sage and listened to your favorite cowboy music whilst sipping old Bourbon with a good 6/50 magnum only to fall asleep and wake after a good rain to the smell of Gods kitchen.  God's kitchen is a 1,000 acres of Sagebrush soaked in rain with the smell of sage so strong you don't want to open your eyes. You just want to breath in and exhale saying "thank you God" over, and over, and over.

And you cut down a fallen cedar tree and split it up to expose the beautiful red and orange and vanilla interior.  Put that on your night fire and start it up in the morning.  That smell.. of fresh cedar?  No words..
Grandmas Cedar chest? That's about a million times less powerful than the smell of a fresh cut cedar.

And you go to the river and catch a few small 8" trout. clean and wash and take them back to your fire and put them on the coals for 5 min with your potato's and onions and garlic and fresh sage that have been cooking since you left.  The dew on the ground, the coffee in the french press, the sun rising, your breath in the air and chill before the sun fully comes up?  Well, that is church. A church service that demands devotions and praise and worship and a quiet pinch to your soul right there. 

And then there is eating.. The bonus.

Now if you're a beginner, you miss all this. You're focused on the pay-off. The fish, the applause, the photo, the touchdown, the golden calf...

Many years ago, when, if lucky, I had 72hours to fish between rental cars and flights, I'd get to the rivers without sleep and run to the banks to jump in 20 yards from where i came to the river.
There where "those guys" there. Older guys sitting up on the banks relaxing, staring, having a small cup of coffee watching the sunrise. I figured they were just tired, so I'd race past them or worse yet ... fish right past them on my way to the goalposts. Never did they speak a word. I'm guessing none of them were east coasters or football fans.  

Years later, I'm learning... and reflecting... and smiling.
I've never seen one of those guys or occasional girls on the bank with a beginner at their sides. I now understand there is something sacred about those moments. Almost as un-natural or immoral as inviting someone into your bedroom or a Kazoo player into your favorite symphony session.
  Sure, I've seen a 1,000 guides at put ins (put ins are where fly fishermen launch their drift boats), teaching men and women a 15min. class in the attempt of casting only to hope they don't get hooked on their $500. float.  But that doesn't really count since when you're doing it for money only the pay off matters, and you're day off on the water is your only  attempt at redemption along with a beer with other guides sharing stories in an old western bar. 

There are those days when you can drift a river and nary a fish will rise regardless of what you see above the water. I've entered the water during the famous Salmon fly hatch. Had those 2" goddesses without teeth crawling all over me and Yellow Sallies and Hex's and and and the sky so full of Fish Tenderloin bites that's no fish in their right mind should not be jumping out of the river to eat. And yet.. nary a fish to rise.  And you question everything you ever learned about fly fishing. And you force yourself to take in the journey not the prize. And it's painful, but you know there will be other days. And on those days you will not be worthy of the fish you release.

I've only had a few of THOSE days.  And those days i walked for miles down stream before putting together my rod. And those days i didn't even enter the water till 5pm.  And 35 to 60 trout in a few hours were the hours of Caddyshack. The priest playing golf out of his mind.. And you remind yourself not to get cocky and think you're special.. You breathe in and exhale saying "thank you" over and over and over again.

Ironically those days taught me only one thing I could never learn on a river catching a fish ever hour or so.
  The art of releasing a fish is beautiful in those moments.  You false cast to your spot to figure distance and cast method and then lay it out and let it drift to your spot. A fish take it every time, every spot, every good cast. You take them in as fast as God will let you and you put your net in the water and your rod under your arm as soon as the fish is in the net.  As you put your rod under your arm you grab your forceps and reach down into the net with them and grab the hook. The fish will twist out your hook in a second and you release your forceps at that moment to fly back on it's zinger to your vest as you take your rod back in your hand and put your net back behind you all in one long 10sec. motion... And your eyes go back to the river and your next spot and your taking a step or two forward and beginning the process all over again and it's magic and you're not worthy... and you inhale...

And then you break off a large fish on the shoulder turn or if you have a 3x tippet, they straighten out your dry fly hook like it's a piece of tinsel. 

And then, like a moment before sunset last year, I stood across from an overhung tree throwing two flies a foot apart. A common purple haze terrestrial on 3x followed by a small purple attractor bead head nymph on 5x.  It took me 3 false casts over the end of the tree to make sure I didn't land in the tree. 
On the forth cast I had a tight fast loop to get the flies in there. About 12 inches before both flies it the water, two rainbows in tandem like porpoises came flying out of the water together to take both flies. Like slow motion with my jaw hanging open I raised my tip up in unbelief. The rainbow who hit the little nymph turned and snapped himself off before even hitting the water. The other one on a 3x tippet was mine. 
 I actually looked up and down the stream to see if anyone but God was looking or smiling. Now where i was I know there were no people within 5 miles of me in the middle of the mountains but when things like this happen you naturally look around like a golfer playing all alone who hits a hole in one.

That rainbow measured 16" as was his sister who snapped off. Now I thought it was 17 or 18 but my darn creel has a ruler on it to 22" so I couldn't lie, but, I did measure it 3 times to make sure :)
Ok, 15 and 7/8ths.

Yup this was a hole in one, a double overtime win, a final lap come from behind win, a real honest spontaneous standing ovation. And yet, it was really just the bonus. 
  For it makes me think back over and over of the hours of packing clothes, and tents and supplies. Of sorting thru fly boxes and checking leaders and tippet material and bear spray and 160 grain 357 loads. The nights of stripping and cleaning line and reels. Finished with that trip to the local fly shop in the area to ask for advice on what patterns are hot right now (knowing full well if they don't know you, they are selling you last years shit flies at a premium, and you just take them like stupid panfish during spawning.

Well,  late at night, at your fire, all alone in the forrest after eating two trout and some grilled carbs or a jetboil tinfoil $6.00 carbfest with salt, you sit on the dirt and stare at the fire and the crickets are loud and the bourbon is warm and temp drops 10degrees an hour and you time your fire to your dropping eyelids and head to your tent to disrobe quickly and zip your self in till morning light.   And you take one last sip from a flask and see your breath and turn out your head light and cover your head. Then recheck your reach to your bear spray and handgun and cover back up and say your prayers and take a big breath and say "thank you over and over and zzzzzzzzzzzzz. :)

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Streets of Paris..

Walking the streets of Paris if you think of  Charlie Hebdo or the Cafe shootings or train bombings,  your brain will get you feeling a bit uneasy. 
The unreality is: we look at the news on a small screen filled with tight images over and over and those images seem larger than life.  The reality is there are over 2.5 million people living in Paris proper and you just don't think about it until you see a Jesuie Charlie sticker or grafitti spray in one of a million places.  
Walking in Paris is much like any other European city until you turn a corner and run into something historic. The writer of Les Miserables Victor Hugo's home is around one of those corners and  if you've never seen Owen Wilson in "Midnight in Paris", it is a fantastic visual of every persons fantasy of Paris.  You do walk the streets at night on cobblestone. You're voice echos and you look into the windows of every cafe' and think you might see someone famous or from the past.
(Now I love taking photos when I travel. No longer with real cameras but only an I-phone but none the less I work pretty hard to find interesting shots and angles and form. I hope you enjoy some of the views.) If you only had four senses and sight was missing, you could walk and smell and probably figure out that you were in Paris. The amount of perfume shops, and crepe' shops and the sounds of street musicians and African street vendors every 50ft and a beggar from supposedly Syria on their knees with a cup every corner speaking bad french would let you know.  

There is this mashed potato cheese thing sold on the streets.
Oh, it's amazingly good. this guy just continually mixes it up and puts it in
"to go" containers and sells them all day long as you see people standing or sitting on a corner eating this no calorie snack. I mean this kind of reminds me of Americans stopping and buying a bag of  chips to snack on while walking but the French buy fresh, hot mashed potatoes mixed with a smooth fresh gruyere cheese.
Ok, perhaps French snobbery works in this case :)  I'm all in with swapping chips for this...

 Form this little cafe' where stopped for lunch on the Champs Elysees (in the background).  The paris marathon was going on and we viewed the runners from multiple locations that day as well as people the next day wearing large medallions around their necks with great pride. Us, we had walked at least 10 miles and i had no pity for the runners since our legs, hips and feet were in full out burn mode. Nothing a tureen of Foi Grais and a premier Cru Chablis couldn't fix in an hour. 
Now Foi Grais.. I know it's a nasty fight going on with the PETA folks.  

Me, I'm very concerned for these ducks. I think they need reparations and better health benefits.  Really?  Infact i'm feeling so bad, I'm going to crack a can tonight and make it the 1st course in my dinner plans for our house guests.  If you've never had seared Foi Grais  with a port or Sauterne' or ceviche'd (omg) , or even cold from a tureen with toast points, you must experience this if you love food.  I'm not kidding here.  It is truly the best fat in the world to taste with mild liver overtones. You can't explain it, you have to taste it and it needs to be cooked properly.  And no, I can't have you all over for dinner. :)

Now from tureen it looks much like liver pate' and yes, that i guess is really what it is except any brownsweigert from the yellow plastic tube i ever ate growing up,  tasted like roadkill compared to this..

I can't go down this food road right now or i'll have to stop writing and go eat. Wait, my bride just brought me yogurt with blueberrys, peanutbutter toast, espresso and 9 pills... so i continue...
One of my favorite things about Italy is that they only cook what is local.  If you are on the coast it's all seafood. If you are inland it's vegetables, beef, pork, lamb and chickens with no fresh fish on menus.. I kinda love that thought in a world of "Supermarkets with Everything for the rich and famous, or middle class with a desire to eat like the wealthy".  In Paris, there are outdoor markets selling fresh fish and shellfish.  This stand I walked by 5 six times in a week on the way to dinner or a train. I never was able to stop and eat there and Ohhhh, i wanted to. I' mean click on this picture (it will enlarge).  Now look to the left. Fresh Scallops in the shell. I mean, I've wanted to eat fresh scallops from the shell raw my whole life.  I thought this might be the first time, but no. arggg the museums were waiting for this newbie.
I guess If I ever get to London, I'll go to Herod's and buy "one" fresh scallop in the shell and eat it there.. yup that is a bucket lister for a foodie :)
 If you walk the Champs Elysees (a long walk), there are gardens and park like grass walking areas on the sides. Here you can stop and sit and have a bottle of wine and baguette and cheese with fruit as many do on their blankets. Yes this is very "Paris" and leads to the romantic feeling you get there. It was cold and raining much of our week but there were signs of spring and a few things blooming a few of the days we were out marathon walking.

   From the river you can cruise and see Paris in a wholly different way. An hour cruise will get you from the Eiffel Tower down past Notre Dame and back along the other side or the islands and back.  The bridge work is incredible like it is in Venice. There are still Wooden bridges in play along with some of the most ornate Eiffel style iron works I've ever seen.
There is a whole new side of Paris like the new Vegas, but I have no desire to go there.

Here where the Tour d' France ends, you are reminded you are only one place...

From outside the walk along a pool and museum.

Under the Champs Elysees looking back to old town.

Last blog will be dedicated to some of the art and buildings.. They are truly "Paris". From The King's palaces ,NotreDame and the Opera House to the 3 main museums, I'll post a host of some of my favorite picks with less talk and alot more photos... :)  

Till next time,  consider my servant Job... 

Ok, can't help myself, here's a bit of the music under the city as you rush from train to train. :)


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Paris: The World of the Beautifully Complex

We all have moments when things take our breath away. Or perhaps slowly something will overtake our emotions as the brevity and the beauty or the history of something settles in.  I felt it the first time i thought I was in love. The first time I saw the Rocky Mountains, caught a trout on a fly I had tied. First time I heard a live orchestra, broadway production,  or held my children, or lay on the dirt and stared at a billion stars on a moonless night. The list goes on and on for everyone differently. And again, as I took this picture of Mona Lisa above, it was another of those moments.

So i've traveled a bit of Europe, Asia, entertained a summer in Germany at a 4 star, but I've never done Paris.., till this week.
As an american, i've always felt (because of what I've read and seen) that the French are arrogant, snobby and terrible to travel around...  unless you speak French.  Like this unknown French painter of a rich aristocrat with attitude, you get the feeling you're being laughed at as "less than French", and well, ok, this all may be true.  But then, with just a few words of French spoken, most will open up and speak English enough to help you leave their presence and that's ok with me, i'm a visitor..

  Considering America now prides itself in trying to help anyone who doesn't speak our language, and most our global neighbors are generally "not" French in their desire to try to help you, much of my first statement is actually true in my experience. But, it's no reason to run from beauty, and a visit doesn't mean we have to become best friends.. There is much to enjoy in Paris while enduring the Parisian.

Now look at these legs in this picture below. The stockings and robe and shoes. Not especially attractive legs mind you,  but well adorned to be sure.  Why the French are so fashion conscious, I've yet to figure out, but, I have figured out that at best, they have a rich "history" there to be viewed and enjoyed.
Most would say,  Louis the XIV was a clinical narcissist.
Yes, Germany had King Ludwig to create Neuschwanstein and a few other castles, but Louis?  This mix of Brian May hair and RuePaul flair, had the wealth to build his vision of style. I mean you gotta be pretty secure to let yourself be painted in those shoes and stockings, pulling your robe up like a Can Can dancer to show your legs..  The buildings, designs and decorations he assembled during his time,  are simply the most beautifully feminine of all time. No wonder it remains copied in so many ways still today.
I mean Hennessy named it's top XO cognac and bottle  "Louis the XIII". 

In the Louvre I found one of Louis' early bottles that was the precursor of the most expensive Cognac in the world today for public sale. Louis' Black Pearl at $27,000. a 750ml .  And hey, when your bottles empty, you can ship it back to France and get it refilled for a discount... Now does it seem a bit funny to anyone else  that if you can afford a $27,000. bottle of Cognac, you would need a discount for a refill?

 Really?  That's like selling a million dollar Ferrari with free oil changes for a year. Laugh with me please.

  Back to Paris now.

 I remember my wife walking me up from the underground train. Telling me not to look up until I turned a corner and then,  Volia' there was the Eiffel Tower as I opened my eyes.   Cue the Mancini theme from "Charades" with Carry Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Stand motionless for a moment now. Inhale slowly and hold it for 20 seconds. Now exhale. You've just experienced another one of those moments that won't ever happen again.

This is life. Only a memory, with photos to help you remember..   And it's fleeting, and really, the beauty is for that moment only.   And so, it's to be shared, so that others can hopefully go have their own "moment". 

 Like love, you wish for everyone you know to experience it.
Like faith, you pray for everyone to embrace it.
Like hope, you have to just keep believing the best.

For beauty is such a relevant thing. And what each mortal finds beautiful, is so uniquely different.
Our five senses are affected in combinations that can only be understood by God and hopefully each of us as we grow.  From a visual sense, the Louvre, the d'Orsay & Orangerie museums give you a chance to see art in a way you just can't see in the same way or depth anywhere else in the world, period..

If you've not really had the chance to see famous original art - but only photos, I'd say you must plan a trip to do so just once.  The size of paintings is so deceptive in books and the brush strokes on real canvas changes the total feel like live music is to recordings..
There are so many paintings that are 20, 30 40 feet tall and 50, 60 feet wide. You see the photos without the frames or people for reference and you just have no idea how large they are.

This fantastic painting of a woman doing what women have always done "knock it off boys", is so detailed for such a large painting. You can sit for long periods and stare and study if you had time This painting is over 20ft. tall.....

Now Renoir has been a favorite painter of Jane and I's forever. His studies of his two daughters have been printed as much or more than any other painters in time. Such feminine and soft strokes and colors. His daughters were not really beautiful in many paintings of head shots, but his paintings of the two of them in fields and at the piano and in the gardens have been hung in thousands of  homes.  We have a canvas oil copy of "girls in the field" above the piano in our home in a hundred year old swedish built gold frame. An antique frame that used to be a knick knack two shelfed boxed frame with a glass back in my house growing up.  A frame that fell and broke the box and glass and was put in an attic.  Well, 30 years ago, I found it and asked if I could have it restored. It had gold spray paint on it.  The restoration society in Nashville called me and said under the paint was 24k gold leafing and a very old mahogany solid frame.  They suggested I blow the wad and have it stripped of the paint and hand brush reapply another coat of 24k leaf on it again.  Yea, well those were the days when I thought money was just for fun, so the frame was re-guilded and no one really knows the difference but me..  Now my  my mother in law, she has had the Renoir  "girls at the piano" painting above the piano in her house all these years as well.  And so our children will live on with an unknowing love for Renoir... This is how we pass it on unknowingly.

Most of the marble sculptures in Paris are of body studies or famous people of the day.  Some massively large and others to scale.  Circumcision was not sculpted,  but in some cherubs. Personally, marble sculpture is on the top of the art list for me.  It has no place for sex or erotica.  If that were it's purpose they could have sculpted many an orgy or position in play,  like the chinese had done in their ancient etchings and carvings. No my friends, nude individual bodies are meant to be stared at for all their beauty. Male and Female alike.  If that turns you on then you best stay away from the internet. If that makes you uneasy, you best go stand in the mirror naked with the morning light shining in and look at the unique beauty of you, until you can find beauty in it. Age will change it at certain angles :) but the beauty of form always remains. Stand tall, walk proud, God made you specially... you :) And if you're out of shape.. well, that's 90% of us so hopefully it will inspire us to take better care of what God made in the first place.  Guilty as charged..

Now next blog I'll talk about whatever came up on the ...

I began today with the picture of the Mona Lisa I took. I'll end today with another of the Mona Lisa.
Well, here you have it. This is really what you have to deal with 24/7 when trying to make your way to see the most famous painting in the world..

C'est La Vie