Religious Experience?

Recently, I was talking to a customer that I have become friends with over the years.  I was describing a memory from my trip to Alaska this past year. I was remembering the moment our fishing boat came out of an inlet and were greeted to a view of a jagged rock point.  The rocks were cut with almost perfect angles on all sides. They towered a hundred feet over our boat.

It was almost appeared contrived and fabricated for a movie.  Wet and glistening layers of brown and black surface crashing against the waves as hardy, gnarled rooted evergreens hung on for dear life against the onslaught of wind and tide.

It was a glorious site as our little boat chugged along against the ten foot swells.  It left enough impression on me that I remember is clearly.

I told the customer, Richard, that “It was as if God himself cut this rock”.  Rich fired right back at me…. “He did! God put that there for you to see.” Richards conviction that God had been there building sculptures ahead of my arrival seems silly at first…. But honestly…. The majesty and natural beauty of that scene have me wondering if I had had a religious experience.  

Maybe a Muir moment?

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Terrible inspiration

I was in a conversation a while back about being accused of something you didn’t do. I know the feeling from an incident about 30 years ago when I worked in Fort Meyers, Florida. (I’m like a freaking elephant… I never forget this kind of crap).

Anyway… I was inspired to write it down… I did a rough draft a month or so ago, and polished it more tonight. Look for that 2500 word diatribe out soon! I would release it now, but I am thinking about illustrating it, so its gonna be a few more days. Or months. Who knows!

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Christmas with the family 2018

I really just wanted to,share some of this video of Marie playing piano. Enjoy.

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An Englishman in Chicago

OK… That title is clearly plagiarized… And I am not talking about Sting, so I should probably start over. Sorry to you purist type A’s out there.

I am getting back to that The The concert concert from a few months ago. It’s great that that show and Matt Johnson’s music have that much influence on my day to day life that I still feel compelled write about it.

Back Story, as I recall:

The The were a mildly successful alternative “band” from England in the 80’s and 90’s. They had a “hit” with the song “Infected”. You may or may not remember it, and I would not hold it against you if you have never heard of the band outside of hanging out with me.

The The, the band, is kind of a misnomer. Matt Johnson is the singer and songwriter for all the music listed under the band name… But the rest of the band has been a rolling cast of characters. Jonny Marr, ex Smith’s guitar virtuoso has been the only semi-constant player in the band.

In the 80’s, The The used MTV and long-form video better than anyone. The album “Infected” was available as a full length VHS album as well. Every song was made into a video. Of course, only one or two made it to MTV, but the rest were produced with the same love and attention of anything showing on TV. “Mind Bomb” followed up this album with several video treatments of songs as well. Johnson was giving equal attention to video and music. (The good news is that both still hold up over time)

I never saw them live… And when they last toured… I lived in Florida. They never even came close! (At least I dont recall it)

Earlier this year:

When I heard that Johnson was bringing The The out of retirement to go on tour earlier this year… I was totally beside myself. Until I heard the news that his shows were only scheduled for the UK. ???? NO!!! I have already felt the depression of missing Kate Bush’s month long London engagement a year ago. I really didn’t want to relive this. After all the shows were announced… I began to talk to the Mr’s about a quick trip to London. Fortunately, The The sold all their venues quickly and decided to take the show across the pond. Dates for the US were made. 1 night in Chicago!

I didn’t think much about getting tickets when they went on sale… After all, this was a band that had not toured in 20 years… And an album had not been released for a decade. How flash can tickets sell?

The tickets sold out. Ouch. I was distressed, until I remembered that nifty website called StubHub. THANK YOU STUBHUB for existing. I got a pair of tickets for about 15 bucks more than list price. I can handle that for my stupidity.

Now the next hurdle. Would they be any good? Johnson was a solitary guy who has not been out practicing or playing gigs for years. He has released 2 singles over the last 10 years… But he wasn’t touring or backing up these songs with live shows. He had been doing some soundtrack work, but I believe that was instrumental work. Maybe the scariest realization was this: his amazing prowess with video had left a mental image of an artist from 1989 in my head. I saw Brian Wilson last year… He didn’t leave his Piano for the whole “Pet Sounds” show. He didn’t appear physically able too. Johnson would surely be better than that?

The reviews of the shows in England were all glowing. But can you trust super-fans spewing praise at their favored artist? I took all the reviews with a grain of salt. Adding to this apprehension… Johnson made a plea online, instagram, facebook etc that nobody record the show. “Put your phones down and enjoy the show” was the extent of the message. While this is a great message, it leaves a cyber snoop like me little to work with for my show expectations.

The show:

I titled the piece “An Englishman in Chicago” because that is exactly what we got that night performing. Matt Johnson does not write cheery or bubbly music. He writes about lost love and personal failings. I was not expecting this handsome, non-aged and jovial man to pop out on stage and start complimenting us for coming to his show. He was truly enthusiastic and spoke in a wonderfully chipper English accent.

I was blown away. Even hearing him talk a little bit as the show started eased many of the fears I had been harboring.

The lights dimmed and in true The The fashion… The artistic element was introduced. A solid while background behind a band that were not illuminated. It was a striking contrast. The video backdrop played into the show all night.

The first song he played was “Global Eyes”… It starts with a chunky guitar riff and has all the brooding Johnson you have come to expect. It sounded amazing. The band was tight, and Johnsons multiple microphone setup had him sounding perfect. (Before Brandon Flowers could even walk, Johnson was using mics for different song moods)

The set list wasn’t completely timestamped, but the band played songs that started with earlier music and worked their way to his early 90’s triumph, “Dusk”. I do like that album, but have always been partial to the earlier stuff. The song choices were strong. He picked all the signature music that everyone in the crowd could sing along too.

The encore started off with the devious intro to Dusk and included one of my all time favorites, “Uncertain Smile”… The song includes a piano solo that goes on for nearly 5 minutes. The encore gave the band the opportunity to play this twice the length. The song was turned into a jam session. The ending was “Lonely Planet”. A song that I have sung 500 times but never listened to the lyrics that intently. Probably because it came out later… When real life had intruded into my ability to absorb and memorize lyrics.

The last verses of the last song resonated more-so now than ever before. We live in a time and an age where our every action can mean so much to the people around us. It was personally touching.

Johnson ended the show as he started it… Thanking everyone for coming. Even after playing two hours plus of emotionally wrought lyrics.. He was a cheerful gentleman.

Please Matt… Please. Don’t wait so long to tour again!

Lyrics to Lonely Planet:

Planet Earth is slowing down
Overseas, underground
Wherever you look around
Lord, take me by the hand
Lead me through these desert sands
To the shores of a promised land.
You make me start when you look into my heart
And see me for who I really am.
If you can’t change the world. Change yourself.
If you can’t change the world. Change yourself.
I didn’t care if the sun didn’t shine
& the rain didn’t fall from the sky
I just cared about myself
From this world to the next
And from the next back to this.
By our actions we are bound.
We’re running out of love
Running out of hate
Running out of space for the human race.
Planet Earth is slowing down.
You make me cry when you look into my eyes.
And see me for who I really am.
If you can’t change the world. Change yourself.
If you can’t change the world. Change yourself.
And if you can’t change yourself….change the world.
I’m in love with the planet I’m standing on
I can’t stop
I can’t stop thinking of
All the people I’ve ever loved
All the people I have lost
All the people I’ll never know
All the feelings I’ve never shown.
The world’s too big. And life’s too short.
To be alone…To be alone. 


Angela did take a few pics… You see those here. I tried to take 2 at the beginning and end… But they didn’t turn out. In hind site, I don’t need a video from the show to remember it… But a few pics are nice. Sorry Matt.

Also… I finally got a The The T-Shirt… I’ve been waiting my whole life for this!

Link to Uncertain Smile: Spotify

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Have you noticed that I look a bit different lately? I’m growing my moustache for 30 days and it’s not just a bold fashion statement. I’m doing it to raise funds for the Movember Foundation, and I need your support:

I’m supporting the Movember Foundation because they’re tackling some of the most significant health issues faced by men. Your donations will help them stop men dying too young.

There are two ways you can contribute to my Mo growing effort:
Donate online at

Or, write a check to ‘Movember’ referencing my registration ID (12702305) and mail it to: Movember, P.O. Box 1595, Culver City, CA 90232

Learn about the important work Movember is funding and the impact your donation will have:

There’s a lot riding on this moustache, so thank you. I appreciate your support.

Mo Bro Eric Stahl

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Missed the shot

A few weeks ago I was traveling through northern Arkansas for an off road event in Hot Springs Arkansas. This year, like years past, I was enamored by the cotton harvest in process and “burns” they do on the fields afterward.

The air was still… and for miles around my truck in all directions there were columns of smoke rising into the air. The hue of the sky was a orange and pink tone with the oncoming sunset. It was beautiful, in an industrial “slash and burn” kind of way.

As I was driving next to fields of cotton that were ready to be harvested… Rows of little plants with white polka dots sat dutifully waiting their eventual fate. The visual of the white speckled crop against the tinted skyline was striking, and I wanted to pull over and take some pictures.

But I didn’t! I was in a hurry to get to my destination… I was sure that I would not find a photo that would capture the moment anyway.

I wish I would have stopped and I regret that decision still. Lesson learned… Stop and take the picture if you see something interesting.

Tonight… I took this picture on Broadway near Tremont. It wasn’t quit what I wanted… moments earlier, I had a view of the tractors working the fields and thought it could be a cool against the horizon. I perfectly timed it wrong as the tractors disappeared behind the hedge row. This picture would have more ideal if you could see tractors kicking up the dust as they turn over the dry, harvested fields. I stopped and took the time to snap a few pic’s though… And I am happy I did.

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Lyrics to live by

I want to write a review of the amazing The The concert I saw this past weekend… But time is a premium right now. If I get a chance, I’ll comeback and redo this.

Of all the greatness of the show… The most beautiful moment was the last few verses of the song Lonely Planet.

I’m in love with the planet I’m standing on

I can’t stop

I can’t stop thinking of

All the people I’ve ever loved

All the people I have lost

All the people I’ll never know

All the feelings I’ve never shown.

The world’s too big. And life’s too short.

To be alone…To be alone.

The concert was a lifetime goal for me… As I have never seen Matt or the band live. Which, if you know me, seems odd that I would have missed them at all.

The song selections on the set list that led up to these final words quoted above had ripped through a bevy of emotions. Ultimately, Johnson’s wisdom and understanding of the world and the shades of light and darkness everyman carries were fully represented. While I never want a concert to end, especially this one… if it had too, I am not sure that any song could close it better.

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Obituary Writing 101

Scott’s obituary was posted at…  This is how you do it…  Blaze of glory.  Good job Scott. 

Scott Sutton Charleston – Scott Eldon Sutton, 47, of Charleston, South Carolina died, Thursday, August 23, 2018, after a short, brave battle with cancer. He was born on May 11, 1971 in Huntington, Indiana to Andrew and Nancy (Zinsmeister) Sutton. He graduated from University of Illinois (Champaign) and had a rewarding career in retail management. He described himself as a bungie jumpin, para-sailing, Harley ridin, parachutin, scuba diving, jeep driving, “going Mach 3 with my hair on fire kind of guy.” Scott is survived by his wife Jennifer, children: Andrew, Nick and Lauren; his mother, brother: Doug (Mary); sister: Allison, as well as numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles. He was proceeded in death by his father. The family will receive friends from 2 pm to 4 pm on August 28, 2018, at McAlister-Smith Funeral and Cremation, 347 Folly Road, Charleston, SC 29412. The Celebration of Life will follow from 4 pm to 5 pm. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society or the Hospice of Charleston. Expressions of sympathy may be viewed or submitted to www. Arrangements entrusted to McAlister-Smith Funeral and Cremation, James Island , 347 Folly Road, Charleston, SC 29412, 843-614-8494.

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Maxwell Perkins… Ya got a minute?

Maxwell Perkins.  Never heard of him?  Neither had I until I did a quick search.

I am embarrassed at some of my writing.  I sit back and write a few hundred words…  Then hit “publish”…  Only to come back a day (or hour) later and see the glaring mistakes.  It was extra painful this week when I posted the previous article “The Race” and went back later after I shared it.  Ugh.  About 10 fixes later I felt better about it being read by strangers… Worse yet… Alumni that are probably doing more with their education at PCHS than myself.  Based on my report cards…  Mrs. Ward was unimpressed with my work in her classes (multiple!), and I am sure my current work, while easier to read than my handwriting in 10th grade, (“I have some poems on restlessness in my binder, ya want to see them?”) is equally filled with cringworthy mistakes and grammar.

Thanks to ubiquitous tech… Spelling is no longer the problem.  Its the grammar.  I know the difference between There/Their/They’re… But sometimes you get carried away with the sentence and the rules are left in the dust of the moment.  Another one that gets me is Pronouns.  Writing in a passive voice always makes me feel like I am writing for a congregation…  Writing in first person makes me feel like a Penthouse forum letter.  (Shame on you if you get that)

It led me to ask…  “Did Hemingway have an editor?”  (yeah… I just did that… I loosely associated Hemingway’s craft with this blog!)  Thats where Perkins name came up.  Apparently Papa, F. Scott and many others relied on Perkins’ judgement to strip down stories to fit the space allotted.

I need that guy!  I have a 2000 word article on replacing a viscous cooling fan clutch just sitting in my google docs because I dont want to submit it before its thoroughly cleaned and made readable!  Also…It would help if I could find a video editor…  I have hours and hours of video from our trail team trips that need to be chopped and made view-able.

The gig economy offers some assistance with the bonus of being a international exchange rate value.  Last year, I paid 15 dollars on Fiverr to edit one of my articles about a Trail Team trip out west.  I think he name was Sven.  Sven reviewed the article…  Said it sounded like a fun trip…  And then ran off with my 15 bucks.  Great work Sven.  I think the adage, you get what you pay for, holds up on any format.  Digital or real-life.

I have also done some wild and crazy stuff like reading newsletters by other bloggers who write about “how to write”.  Free blogger advice.  Again, you get what you pay for???  Who knows.  I enjoy this blog by KL Wightman (see below)… But she might be a pen-name for some dude in Serbia who is just learning English.  (Exaggeration to be sure, but you never know)

Moral of the story…  For you and me…  You get what you pay for!  This is a free blog with nonsensical musings from me.  If I made you pay for it… I’d hire an editor.

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The Race

Today, I lost a fellow classmate from the Prairie Central Class of 1989… Scott Sutton. I will not pretend to tell you that we were close and his untimely death has a strong personal affect on me. Scott and I were acquaintances at best, but I remember always being friendly and sociable towards each other. I graduated from a class of 120 students… And those four years we spent together in High School along with extra-circular sports lay a lot of foundation for the rest of your life. It’s impossible to say his character or personality didn’t stick around somewhere in my head all these years later.

On May 16th of this year, Scott posted on Facebook that he had been diagnosed with Colon Cancer. I, at that time, and even today, have very little knowledge of what that diagnosis meant. I heard some people say that it’s a bad thing… But I really didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. Even yesterday when I got a message from another classmate about his hospitalization for pneumonia… I assumed it was a complication and that he would get past this battle. He’s didn’t.

Again… I didn’t know his life beyond HS. A quick online serarch showed me that he had some children.  Those kids left behind are the saddest part for me. Youth is hard enough without this handicap. Battling through school, wrestling with love and an impending adulthood are a lot easier to deal with when you have a Father to look too. I hope Scott’s kids have more family to help guide and love them as they work out the tragedy that has wreaked havoc on their lives.

The further I get into my life and away from those roots back in Fairbury it should be easier to distance myself from emotions over a lost acquaintance. You would think that anyway. It’s not the case.  They are troubling feelings.  This is not a race… Life is not a competition… But man, if it were… Its gotta be rigged or I certainly don’t understand the rules. If I were putting my money on the “horses” in the beginning of this race called “Life”, I would think the odds for a horse like Scott would have been 1:1 to have a long, full and healthy life. I don’t get it!

Rest In Peace Scott… You got a bum horse… I will be thinking about how unfair this is for a long time.

As I wrote that last bit, I thought “that sounds a little callous and it’s not sensitive to peoples feelings”. F*ck that… He was robbed. I am not ashamed to say it out loud. 47 is too young. Leaving kids to grow up without a Dad sucks. Dying within months of diagnosis is even more insult. He and everyone else who succumbs to crap like this deserve better.

God bless dude. I hope you had the time to sort everything out and come to terms with it. You deserved more of everything.

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