Thursday, November 24, 2016

4 Thanksgivings Before the First

The meal we eat today is to take the time to share our thanks. Even though the food choices and dates have changed over the years, the reason for coming together is still the same. It's my favorite holiday, but it didn't start in 1621 with the Pilgrims.

I believe in embracing the history of our land as far back as it goes. In other words, my history doesn't start when the Pilgrims landed, nor did it start when the Charter of the Virginia Company of London established Jamestown in 1607. Let's not even get into Columbus. This post is about Thanksgiving.

History Channel

After watching the few short videos made by the History Channel, I started asking a simple yet effective line of questioning. I wanted to know if the HC was missing anything. Let me rephrase that: What did the HC leave out?

For entertainment purposes, the content and history that HC puts out is limited, but it was still enough to spark a line of inquiry that led me to some information I had never read about.

I've found mistakes and gaps in the HC shows in the past, many of which are not shown anymore for these reasons, so I had to poke around and follow my nose. My first stop was the Library of Congress. It usually has what I need.

The First Four

It didn't take long to find several resources on the thanksgivings that predate the Pilgrim's feast with the Wampanoags. As I began summarizing the events, I decided to make a map and add some of the images I found.

Click on the flags for more information. Grab the map to adjust as needed. 

1. Texas Panhandle, 1541

When Francisco Vasquez de Coronado left Mexico City in search of gold, he stopped for a couple weeks in Palo Duro Canyon in what is now the Texas Panhandle. In 1959, the Texas Society Daughters of the American Colonists acknowledged the celebration Coronado put on for his men as the "First Thanksgiving."

2. French Huguenots, 1564 

The Huguenots were French protestants. When a group of them settled near what is presently Jacksonville, Florida, they celebrated a thanksgiving. I am not sure if the Spanish attack on the settlement a year later had anything to do with the religious wars happening in Europe during the decades leading up to the Edict of Nantes in which the Huguenots gained more rights.

3. Kennebec River, 1607

Leave it to Maine. If Vermont is the Texas of New England with all its independent nature, Maine is definitely the Florida with all of its ... well, take my word for it. In 1607, the same year Jamestown was settled, the Abnaki (not the Aliens of Sumer) and settlers led by Captain George Popham held a harvest feast. This settlement was abandoned a year later.

4. Jamestown Supply Ships, 1610

The settlers at Jamestown experienced a terrible famine in the winter of 1609-1610, which reduced the population by almost 90 percent. They celebrated a first Thanksgiving when the supply ships arrived.

Capitalist Harvest

The Pilgrim's Thanksgiving in 1621 was a three-day festival of games and feasting. We still do this, only it's been scheduled by politicians and now centers on rest, reconnecting with family, and spending money.

It's not an agrarian harvest celebration. It's capitalist. Spend money, get stuff, and find very little joy if you think the stuff itself will make you happy. Our people and our opportunity to share the gifts we give, whether harvest or stuff, will always be the source of happiness – something for which to be thankful.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Some Fools Never Learn

Before I left Texas, a very close friend and former band mate, David Shaw, told me that sometimes I need to give people more time to understand. We were standing in the backyard talking about the remaining items on my list. It was a day before I put Texas in my rear view, but I'll never forget the thankful feeling as he left me with some advice that he knew I needed.

Even though I'm an educator, and you would think that David's advice would be something always on the front of my mind, personal matters don't process the same way. I've had to reflect on what David told me several times over the last year, settling into Massachusetts with my family.

Will I Ever Learn?

At this point, you must be thinking, "Okay, what brought on this blog post?" I've been sick the past week and a half and had a lot of time to catch up on digital world stuff. Besides updating blogs, YouTube, and making better lessons for my students, I've been reminiscing on the music I've made with so many great people over the years. Now, that I'm back in Massachusetts, it's a new chapter for me musically.

This time, there will be no full calendars and weekend trips with regional legends. It's time to relearn about my voice as a musician. I'll get back to playing gigs with other bands some day, but now it's time to keep it close to home. I'll only play with my band, my music.

I did, however, come up with a few good shares. Thanks to Soundcloud, I was able to find recordings of tracks on albums that I never even received (I got a hard copy of the one below).

Something to Share

I'm excited to share the following song because it reminds me of my struggle to be a dad, husband, educator, and musician all at once. It never worked, as hard as I tried. I learned that much, anyway.

This song was recorded in Denton, TX about six years ago. The guitar player on the track was Rodney Pyeatt. If you don't know who this guy is, do a little Google search and look him up. We played with Mike Ryan for a bit after the album was done. I regret leaving that band, but I had a new career and a new baby. Something had to give.

On the Road Again

I ran into Rodney a few years later in Austin while playing at SXSW with Clay Thrash. I got off the stage after having to listen to sophomoric performers complain about tempos. The fact of the matter was that they didn't have much experience playing full band in shitty bars, and the feel was really loose with players tugging in different directions. I was also at the end of my rope with the situation and didn't care much if I played another show with them.

The pic below was right after I packed up my gear. Rodney bought me a beer and we drank and talked. Most importantly, he lifted my spirits. Anyone who knows him would agree that he's great for conversation and good vibes.

One of my regrets was not being able get a band together with him. He was back in Fort Worth at the time and playing around town during the week. It would have been nice. Rodney is high on my list of great musicians who have inspired me to be a good person and musician all at once.

I take this lesson of getting on the road and getting off, however many times I've done that, to the next chapter in my life. Although I'm not on any band's road, I would be a fool to forget what I've learned.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Monkey See, Monkey Do | Wising Up To Tradition

Many people know me as a drummer or an educator. Some know me as a mining consultant or all around bad ass at whatever needs to be done, as long as no one is in my way. But many people don't know that the majority of my graduate education and much of my undergrad is anthropology.

For those of you who don't know what anthropologists do, they study characteristics of humans in societies by analyzing aspects of culture. This means a lot of things, so the field is divided into areas like archaeology, linguistics, and physical anthropology, to name a few.

I studied cultural anthropology, focusing on music as culture and music in culture. In the words of John Blacking, music in culture is "humanly organized sound," and music as culture is "soundly organized humanity."

What does this have to do with anything?

Culture is developed by humans for the purpose of surviving more successfully. It is also taught to those who do not already have the knowledge, skills, or tools. Some people question what is taught. Some don't. Watch this video about the five monkeys experiment and think about something you do without knowing the reason or origin.

I thought of a few ... (1) Taking your hat off indoors; (2) "It's raining cats and dogs"; or how about (3) punch buggy (or slug bug)? We know why we do these things, but we don't always know why we do these things.

Hats off – probably dates back to removing battle helmets as a sign of peace and trust. Many hats got dirty and were worn to keep hair clean when our economies were more agrarian. Imagine walking into someone's house with a hat that smelt like horse manure. You'd take it off if you cared about the comfort of those in the house. At Holliston High School, where I teach, hats can be worn indoors. Everyone's hat is clean, and it's an outdated tradition without much relevance to its original functional benefits. This is especially the case in a school of teenagers whose brains will be primed for anything but learning if you keep shoving antiquated traditions at them. No offense grandpa.

"It's raining cats and dogs." – This one is simple. Cats and dogs would rest on grass thatched roofs. When it rained a lot, they slid off. There's so many of those sayings and idioms that people don't understand but say anyway. The saying could also be referring to dead animals washing down the street in a heavy rain storm.

Punch Buggy – No one knows. It started in the '60s, probably for no better reason than why we do it today.

Just thought of a couple more ... One or two spaces after a period that ends a sentence? "Milk – it does a body good." Sure, if your body is a baby cow or would like to look like one. ;)

These examples are rather benign compared to the way we decide to support a politician or remain loyal to religious traditions mostly on faith (not that I have a problem with the latter). Be honest. Not many people check facts – do they?

I can't tell anyone to support one candidate over another or why one god is more true than another. But I will say that there is always an origin, and that it is often not nearly as grand as the mysterious tradition that so many follow for no known reason of substance.

We are social. It's how we learn, and it's how we play the game of survival. Don't feel bad if you're not much better than the replacement monkeys. And if you've read through this whole post and still don't feel like a monkey, do you trust everything your doctor tells you?

Monday, October 5, 2015

"My Way" | Not One to Compromise

Last spring, amid packing and cleaning, painting and stressing, my world in Texas ground to a halt when my Dad called to tell me that Uncle Chris had passed away. I can still feel the trivial worries fall away as a piece of my heart searched for itself in Dad's words.

He told me stories about Uncle Chris – the same old stories, only not the same way. This time, the stories were full of his feelings for his brother. I quickly typed away as Dad retold parts to add details so we could get it right.

After all, he wasn't going to let his brother down, especially now that he's not around to tell him how it should be done.

Here are a few tales that I had to share with the world because, as Bobby said, "Who's better than us. Our family is the best!"

Dad says ...
"It reminds me of how it’s been since we started caring for the graves.  
Leader of the Pack

In the early 1970's, we started taking care of the graves together – Chris took care of the graves since 1963. But when we got together, we met afterwards to fix everything that was wrong.

It was a collective argument that rehashed our week’s work – how our Dad did things, how uncle Butch did things, and how Joe was always better than Chris. But that didn’t matter because Chris always had to be right. 

At the cemetery, we never did anything until Chris arrived. The landscaping around the graves was usually his idea.

As younger brothers, Chris was our leader of the pack because Mom always made him set the example. It could be something as simple as Chris is wearing work uniforms, so Paul is wearing uniforms. Then, Joe and I couldn’t wait until we were wearing uniforms.
An Incredible Driver

Back in the day, when he got his first car, his 1950 Cadillac lost drive one day. He said, “I’ll get this home.”  

He put it in reverse, foot to the floor, and went 50 miles an hour up 1A all the way home. If there was a car in his way, he’d pass them. He was just an incredible driver.  

But this is all because somebody said he couldn’t do it.
He Had Style

Then there was his record collection of 45s – all the old Everly Brothers songs. But we couldn’t touch his records.  

Mom and Dad bought the stereo, but it was his because he had the record collection. And we didn’t cross the line because it was a big deal to hang out with our big brother.  

We didn’t want to do anything to mess that up because it didn’t happen often.
The Garage

Every Saturday, Mom brought Joe and I to the garage to say hi. It wasn’t often that the twins were allowed to stay because we got into a lot of trouble. Dad would usually have us washing tools. He’d lay out the wrenches from the toolbox and we’d dip ’em in fuel oil to scrub off the grease.  

At the garage, Chris would be changing lights on a truck. Paul would be changing oil. People were changing tires. But Chris was the lead guy there; right along with Uncle Butch.

Look at the trucks! The lights. The big Z on the grill. These were all Chris and Paul competing to dress up the trucks. These were the things that I saw about Chris. It was never good enough. He had to take things to another level.

If you were riding with dad, we would help hold the auxiliary going up the East Street hill so it wouldn’t pop. Chris installed a piece of metal so it wouldn’t come out of gear. He didn’t have to hold it. It would stay in over.      

When I was 9, we were at West Sand. The loader was parked. He said, “Do you think you can drive this truck down back?”

I said, “Yes.” So he put it in gear and hit the starter button. He jumped in the loader, and followed me down to the Bird pile. He jumped in the truck, backed it in, loaded the truck. I drove the truck back up front. And that was when he taught me how to drive an Autocar. I remember that he said, “Don’t tell Mom or Dad about this.” And I never did.

Chris taught me that I could do whatever I want to do, and do it to the limit.
Delivering Milk

When I went to get my commercial drivers license, I rode with him Friday nights after I got my permit.  

Chris wanted to meet Uncle Butch for breakfast at 8:30. The last stop was Stop N Shop on Walnut Hill, which wouldn’t receive deliveries before 7:00. So he would run 60 miles an hour on 1A all the way back to Walpole because breakfast was already lined up.

And that wasn’t the only thing he had lined up on that run. We had a 4:00 a.m. nap on Walnut Hill. That meant all seven previous stops had to be done like clockwork.  

There was two dollies, and you had to be timed with him because if you were in his way on the ramp, he'd tell you to park the dolly and sit in the truck.
 Taking On Apple

When Chris bought his first computer, an Apple, he was going to figure it out. He was never happy with the way it was.

It was amazing the kinds of things he took on.
Sweatin' in a Blizzard

In the blizzard of ’78, Chris said we should put the CAT 988 and the Michigan 275 side by side to clear the streets. No one else was doing this.

Sammy Lorusso put Chris in Loader 5, which had no heat. So Sammy said that he would take care of him. And he did.  

Sammy brought him hot chocolate every two hours. It wasn’t until his fourth Thermos of hot chocolate that he caught Chris in a T-Shirt. What Sammy didn’t know is that the heat was fixed before the loader left the shop.  

Chris bolted a fan to the floor to suck air through the heater core. But that’s how Chris was. He didn’t care if Sammy wanted to bring him hot chocolate.

If I had to write a book about Chris, I would definitely title it, My Way. He wasn’t one to compromise."      
We will always miss Uncle Chris, and we will always love him and be thankful for the impact he's had on our lives.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Looking Back on the Icepocalypse Texas 2013

New England boast some endurance when it comes to winter weather. It can also put a feather in its cap for the ability to manage massive amounts of snow. But it cannot poke fun at North Texas when it was shut down for six days in December 2013.

A lot of good things came out of that winter. I started this blog and a Twitter account. Here's the Tweet that started it all.

I remember that it took three and a half hours to drive for milk. It was normally a 20-minute round trip.

These were essential for making it home. I actually helped a guy push his vehicle out of the street. He was thrilled to have help, and I was happy to be one of the cars that made it down the holler in and up the hill. That only happened after my New Englander sense kicked in when I convinced everyone that we had to get speed and stay off the breaks -- to trust the steering wheel. 

I don't know if everyone made it because I did and didn't look back.

This is the gas station outside Karen's workplace. It was the worst I had ever seen. But I wasn't worried. I remember feeling adventurous. 

Day five meant that the stores were once again stocked. But if I remember correctly, the schools were closed another day because the ice was still everywhere, including the roof where it did some damage. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Same Page, Different Book

I recently reunited with my wife and kids after a 10-day excursion to Texas and Massachusetts – the details of which are not important for this post. It was hard being away so long, but oh does distance make the heart grow fonder.

... Or so I thought.

In anticipation of my arrival, I missed my family more than ever. I envisioned seeing them pull up to the airport with smiles and hugs, which is exactly what I got. Only, something was different.

The feeling of reconnecting was not sustained. I felt like it was right back to the honey-do list and kids screaming and fighting. The blues set in.

Why did this happen?

I looked around and realized that while I was gone, everything continued as usual. The kids enjoyed splash pads and playgrounds. Karen made preparations for moving to Massachusetts and visited with her family. We were all happy to be reunited, but our emotional journey over the last 10 days was very different.

I was on the same page, yet it was a different book. This is only significant now – as opposed to the many times I've traveled in the past – because, unlike the past, I am more so living in the same book as Karen and the kids than ever before.

It's one thing to be physically present, and it's a whole new level of being-there when you are emotionally immersed in each moment as your family grows and you fall more deeply in love with your wife. That's being in the same book.

For some, this is not hard. Their minds turn on and off as the work days begin and end. That's not me. It never stops, and the same goes for my family while I'm at work. I think about them, talk about them, and dream about what comes next.

This sounds all well, but it comes with struggle. I've worked hard to pay attention to the feedback from those closest to me, especially Karen. I've reflected, tested, and even prayed to become more mentally present with my family.

Here's what I've learned.
  1. I travel sometimes and therefore need to be involved with what is happening at home while I'm away.
  2. Connected devices are awesome and make our lives easier. This is not without consequence, however. Psychologists are seeing similar symptoms that resemble those of sibling rivalry. It can stress a relationship.  
  3. Most importantly, to strengthen a connection with your family (when your work takes you away) takes practice. Start with one event at a time and reflect on it. 
  4. Inquire before you comment. I still haven't mastered this one (ask Karen), but I keep trying and it's getting better.  
This was my big emotional lesson of the summer. Stay tuned for a post on mileage and the culture shock of talk.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Taking a Few Steps Back

I'm often accused of trying to control too many situations. The fact is, I'm good at a lot of things, but one of them is not letting someone else take the reins when I have a lot to risk. It's about time I fix this issue.

White Picket Fence at Brigham Young's Winter Home

Driving Me Crazy

We learn about our flaws at different points in our lives. The lesson I'm sharing started when Karen said she would drive her and the kids to Utah for her brother's wedding without me – if need be. My reaction was inappropriate. I said something like, "You really think you can drive to Utah by yourself."

Sure, it's a tough drive. I didn't want to even think about my family stuck on the side of the road in the desert or driving off a mountain road. But I didn't need to act the way I did. That was a display of low emotional intelligence.

It's three years later and I've done some growing up. We sold our house and Karen drove to Utah while I drove to Massachusetts. The thought crossed my mind that something bad could happen, but this time it was the faith I have in Karen that made the difference.

I was the one to have trouble.

Since our summer adventures started, I've taken a step back and checked my attitude on several occasions. Sometimes things went well, and sometimes they didn't. In the end, we will only remember how we're treated. Above all, we are emotional beings.   

Camping with Bears

As I wrote this post, we were on a camping trip with Bethany and Clarke in the Grand Tetons. The creek was rushing and the meals were cooked on the fire. It wasn't roughing it, but we were sharing the woods with bears. Close enough.

Michael had his issues with sticky hands (like I do), so we deal with it. He doesn't like the bugs and wants to go back to Massachusetts to get his robots, but we're here, now. And it's good for him. 

In a way, I'm not the only one taking a step back. Big Mike is doing great under many stressors for his young brain.

Andrew and Arielle? They were made for this life. They rock it hard – stepping forward as long as I'm not in the way.

My Promise

I'll take a step back and take a pic. Take a step back and watch my family grow. I'll take a step back and let everyone be who they become, including me.