Category Archives: admiration

Stormy Skies: A Study in Contrasts

It’s difficult to explain the enormity of some of these storms that pass through Pensacola and the speed at which they develop. A panoramic might be the only way to show it, and even that won’t show it correctly. This sucker is moving over the top of us right now. I saw it in the distance, jumped on the bike, went to the closest decent vantage point near the house (2 miles away) and shot a few.

Being a Yankee from Ohio, I’m used to slow developing storms that, when they hit, they envelop the entire area and take all damn day to move through (if not longer).

Here in semi-tropical Pensacola, scenes like the picture above are commonplace. One section the sky is blue, the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, etc. etc. and a half mile away, foreboding storm of death, doom, and destruction.

Ain’t complaining. Personally, thunderstorms are my favorite things to sit on the front porch and watch.

“Live Forever!” Thank you, Ray Bradbury.

My heart truly hurts knowing that my favorite writer, Ray Bradbury, died this morning. I first read his short stories back in 5th and 6th grade (and still own those copies of the books I read) and would say it’s not an exaggeration that I learned much about the world through them. His use of figurative language – metaphors, similes, personification, idioms, etc. – is ultimately what draws me to his books. He describes things in a way that few others can.

As I’ve told my students for years: When Bradbury describes running barefoot in a meadow through the dew-covered clover at sunrise, I can see it, feel it, taste it, touch it, hear it. His writing engages all the senses, forcing you to participate whether you want to or not.

For all his excellent works, Dandelion Wine is still my favorite. It’s an annual read for me, usually sometime during spring or early summer. I first read it as a junior higher, about the same age as his protagonist, Douglas, who has several mind-blowing “coming-of-age” experiences and realizations about life, the human condition, and the people around him. It guided me through many of those same realizations, and re-reading it takes me back to that time and those sensations.

Best birthday gift ever: 1st edition of Dandelion Wine, inscribed to me and signed by Ray Bradbury. (thanks, Dad!)

Bradbury frequently told the story of meeting Mr. Electrico at a carnival that came through town when he was a youngster. The magician sat in his electric chair, sword in hand, and, “when the electricity surged through his body he raised a sword and knighted all the kids sitting in the front row below his platform. I had been to see Mr. Electrico the night before. When he reached me, he pointed his sword at my head and touched my brow. The electricity rushed down the sword, inside my skull, made my hair stand up and sparks fly out of my ears. He then shouted at me, ‘Live forever!’” (from an interview with Ray Bradbury, December 2001)

As sad as I am at his passing, knowing that, through his writing, he will indeed “Live forever!” gives me strange comfort.

Recommended reading:
Dandelion Wine
The Stories of Ray Bradbury
Something Wicked This Way Comes

Navy Blue Angels

every summer the Navy’s crack Flight Demonstration Squadron, aka the Blue Angels, put on an incredible show at Pensacola Beach. the performance is legendary, as are the crowds and the noise. we wanted to go, but the thought of having to be at the beach by 7am for a show that doesn’t start until 2pm… it was a bit much for us.

so when we heard that they do 2 full dress rehersals the two days prior to the actual show, we were totally game! we packed lunch, books, lots of water, and hit the beach late morning. at 2pm, the first plane came overhead, and a few short minutes later, the Blue Angels screamed across the beach from behind us. for the next 50 minutes, we were absolutely floored at their ability, speed, and execution. it was incredible!

each of the thumbnails below blows up to a bigger shot.

happy father’s day!


thunderstorms. playing cards. reading. nature. driving.

these are only a few of the things my dad loves that i also love. these are things that he introduced to me when i was a little kid, and i am a much better man because of them. some of  my earliest memories include:

  • watching thunderstorms roll in while sitting on the back porch together and jumping at the lightning and thunder.
  • being read to at night (by mom, too!) – this was a nightly occurrance – at least one story before bedtime in my room or in jason’s.
  • being read to, having a thunderstorm roll in, STOP reading, turn out the lights, and watch the storm together.
  • learning how to play gin rummy & chess and spending time playing both (or should i say losing both – i doubt that i’ve beat him at either).
  • camping trips to Heuston Woods & Miami Whitewater, building fires, hiking, swimming.
  • drives, sometimes just to drive. other times, 3 weeks worth of driving (remember the RV trip from cincy to wisconsin to california to mexico to tennessee to ohio?).
  • raiding his bookshelves for good reading material. dad loves to read – being read to every night as a youngster was pivotal. being grounded from TV for five years in my later years didn’t hurt, either. i was introduced to Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, JRR Tolkien, and John Steinbeck, among others, in those junior high years.

now, to be sure, we have our differences. we have very different personalities. we have different likes and dislikes. we disagree about things.

but dad is level-headed. intelligent. loving. kind. analytical.

he is still the first person i call when i’m trying to make a decision about this or that and need someone to see more sides of the situation than i can figure.

he still loves me and lets me know it frequently.

he still lets me raid his bookshelves and “forget” to return the books to him.

he’s the first person i think of when lise and i are sitting on the beach or on the front porch watching a big thunderstorm move through.

i’m a better man because of my dad.

thanks, dad! happy fathers day! i love you!

my mom’s funny

for years, lise and i had coveted my mom’s doormat. we’ve laughed about it every time we visited her home, asked her to leave it to us in her will, hatched plots to steal it, and asked her to just plain give it to us.


so when she told me to take it with me when we moved to Florida 2 years ago, it was a bit of a shock. i mean, we had been joking about it for so long that now… well, we can just… take it?

i turned her down. thanks, but no thanks. why are you giving it up now? she tells me it’s time for her to grow up (to which i laughed – at age 61, to decide that this welcome mat is too “immature” for you… well, that’s my momma).

at any rate, every time i see it when i come home, i think about mom. she’s funny. i love her and miss her a lot.

wild spring weather in pensacola

on my way home from school i called the pensacola surf advisory hotline & found out that the water was calm on the Gulf and the flag was green – this was great news! lise and i grabbed our stuff and headed out.


not long after we arrived, the wind picked up and some pretty chunky looking clouds appeared.


we got in the car to drive around and investigate.


in some spots, the sky was clear. in others it was pitch black. and still in others it was yellow / pink / purple-ish.


it came through like a snake. pitch black up the middle, clear or colorful on either side.



after we’d hung about for a bit longer, we started to head back to the house for some dinner and playtime with dolby. along the bay (the “scenic tour” way home), i saw a HUGE bird in a tree – too big for a hawk, wrong neck for a heron, and pelicans don’t roost in trees.

we pulled a u-turn and then another, got out the camera and shot what i thought might’ve been an eagle or falcon at first glance. it was an osprey! a big boy, too!



a spectacular sunset was brewing after we saw the falcon. we pulled off into a cemetary by the bay and snapped some pretty cool shots. also got some rainbow shots that i’m having difficulty manipulating in the newest WordPress release. if i’m able, will update with that later.

we love nights like tonight – the time together, the variety of weather, the awe of creation. it’s good to be reminded of the insignificance that our puny lives represent when cast against everything else. crummy days at school melt away in times like these.

baaaaaby, i can’t hold it much longer

marvingaye002i was 13 years old. 1982. jr. high.

the song came on the radio and i froze.

the smooth beat started. the whispered plea, the wailing voice.

nevermind that the subject matter is first and foremost on the minds of jr. high boys everywhere.

the music stays smooth and cool through the entire song, but the intensity of marvin gaye’s singing, the urgency of his needs grows as the song goes on.

holy cow, the man had pipes.

my first 7″ 45 single? sexual healing.

i remember walking up to globe records and tapes at western hills plaza and searching through the singles on the shelf. finding my prize, i bought it and zipped back.

when i got it home, i played it. and played it. and played it. it was my first serious exposure to gaye’s music and it was one i never forgot.

it still has a mesmerizing effect on me. i’ve listened to it four times as i’ve written this and had to force myself not to play it a fifth time. truly addictive.

and no one else can quite set the tone like he does.

finally! a “25” list i WANT to do: 25 Favorite Albums, no particular order

the list that has been making the facebook rounds with 25 random things about yourself – it’s vexing to me. i don’t want to do it. and i won’t

but this – this list is something i can do and be happy about!

25 favorite albums in no particular order

1. Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
2. Jason Mraz – Live at Schuba’s Tavern 01-15-2003
3. Waterdeep – Sink or Swim
4. Herbie Hancock – Headhunters
5. Keith Jarrett Trio – Live at the Blue Note
6. Green Day – Dookie
7. Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds – Live at Radio City
8. Damien Jurado – Ghost of David
9. Cowboy Junkies – Trinity Session
10. The Band – The Last Waltz
11. The Black Keys – Chulahoma: The Songs of Junior Kimbrough
12. Chick Corea and Gary Burton – Crystal Silence
13. Iron & Wine – Our Endless Numbered Days
14. Jimmy Smith – The Sermon!
15. Joe Satriani – Super Colossal
16. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II
17. Mazzy Star – So Tonight That I Might See
18. Miles Davis and John Coltrane – The Complete Columbia Recordings
19. Yo-Yo Ma – The Cello Suites Inspired by Bach
20. Rusted Root – Cruel Sun
21. Phil Keaggy – Beyond Nature
22. Judas Priest – Screaming for Vengeance
23. Neil Young – Deepsix Vol. 2
24. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
25. Grateful Dead – Live at the Fillmore East – 4-29-1971
26. Over the Rhine – Drunkard’s Prayer

i noted over on facebook that the honorable mentions list would be at least as long as this one.

what’s your list?