Wednesday, December 31, 2014

We Survived Another Big Wind...


I don't know why--I'm sure a geologist or meteorologist can explain it, but for some reason there's a small corridor of land between Ogden and Salt Lake City Utah where, when the wind blows, it blows hard. Starting Monday afternoon the winds started and they didn't stop until Tuesday night.

We've had strong winds in the past. I think this storm recorded hurricane-strength winds in our town. I wouldn't doubt it. I tried reaching my car early Tuesday morning and I was almost blown over. What scared me was the darkness. If I made it to my car, I wasn't sure if I could see any black ice. I decided to stay home and work on my day off later in the week.

As usual with these storms, the news showed pictures of blown over semi-trucks on the interstate that runs through town. One of these winds that his years ago even blew over a train. That was pretty amazing.


Monday morning we had a foot of snow on the ground. By Monday night all the snow was gone, or it was moved. Some areas had no snow, others places had drifts several feet high. It was actually pretty cool. I tried taking pictures and videos that would capture all the fun, but the images fail to show just how strong the wind was. It's hard to see but in the picture of the pine tree the right side of the tree has been blown away. The trunk of the tree is actually not in the middle of the tree, but close to the right side. Below the very top of the tree is where the trunk is.

Tuesday night the wind began to die down. It tried picking up a few times. We sat at home and it was strange not hearing the howling outside. Like people who live on the East Coast and deal with hurricanes or Californians living with earthquakes, those of us who choose to remain where we live, we'll again encounter east winds, and they'll be bad. But for us, living here is worth a strong wind every once in a while.

video

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Speckled"...Is It Real Now?


So, when does it become real?

I think my whole life I've asked myself that very question. When does it become real?

A few years ago I went back to school and got my masters degree and I got it in something that I found I really loved.

English.

I had dabbled in writing stories before I went back to school, but the degree pushed me, made me think I could actually put several thousand words together and get them published. Along the way I met amazing people who helped me, encouraged me, believed in me.

A couple of years later, I can call myself a published author.


Is it real now? 

When I started to write in the hopes of selling my stories, I always wondered what it would be like to be published. I went to conventions and heard authors who had done exactly that. What would it feel like to hold a book you wrote in your hand for the first time? What goes through your mind when you get the call or the e-mail delivering that news that the project's a go? Can it be as good as you imagine when you walk into a bookstore and see a book with your name on it?

Some of these things I know--some...not yet.

I always thought I'd feel like I made it when my first story sold, or when I got my first residual check. Those things happened and yet, I wasn't quite there. I was SO excited when I found out my story was chosen for the anthology--same went for the second story. Still, I didn't feel it was real.

Funny how we think sometimes, isn't it? We always want more, want bigger, want better. Today I received an advanced copy of my short story collection, Speckled. The fact that it's a physical book is amazing to me. It's fantastic. It's so cool! But I can also look at the book and see its deficiencies--that it's self-published, it's not a novel (with profit generating sequels--multiple sequels to follow...), and it most likely will never be in a bookstore.


So, to answer the question, "is it real now?" a person could go either way. No, it's not real because _______ (fill in the blank). Yes, it's real because...well, because it's real. It's a real book and after I edit the proof copy and get everything set up, I'll be able to sell it and people will read it and hopefully enjoy it.

Of course, writing novels and getting book deals and having books in bookstores--there's no guarantee that'll happen, but there's no guarantee it won't either. Chances are, if I do accomplish all those things, I could still be asking myself if it then becomes real. I hope that for me it's real the whole time.

Monday, December 29, 2014

J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher In The Rye"...A Book Review


J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye is one of those books that I think almost everyone has read. At least, it feels that way. I've heard about the book almost all my life. I finished the last book I was reading and saw Salinger's sitting on the bookshelf.

I figured it was about time I read this classic.

It turned out to be nothing like I expected...

Except for the profanity. I think I knew about that.

I finished the book just before Christmas which, as it turns out, was exactly the timeframe written in the book. Holden Caulfield, the prep-school reject makes his way home the week before he would have been released for Christmas break. The book revolves around the young man's journey home and his thoughts (so many of his thoughts...) along the way.

As I read the story, I kept returning to a coming-of-age story I've written and that I actually need to re-write. I could easily see my story being written in the same manner, first-person from the boy's perspective. It could definitely work for my story. In fact, I think it made reading Salinger's that much more enjoyable for me. I really liked his style

Another interesting aspect of the book for me was the ending. Usually with a book you can tell when the ending is drawing near. With this story, I had a couple of chapters left and I had no idea how it would end. Would Holden head out West? Would he face his parents after another failed attempt at school? Would he end up with one of the many girls he talked about? There was just no way to know.

Personally, I liked the non-eventful ending. It was sort of like Holden's story. We're placed in the middle of his life and the story stops, still in the middle. I enjoyed the book, but I'm glad I waited until now to read it.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Happy Birthday John Sr.!


I met John Sr. almost twenty-three years ago--I don't recall exactly at which function, but I know it was soon after I met the woman I would eventually marry. John Sr. is my brother-in-law's father. John Jr. married my wife's sister. Today John Sr. turned 90. Last night our family was invited to celebrate John Sr.'s birthday and we did so at the Faustina Restaurant in downtown Salt Lake City.


It was a great evening.


John Sr.'s an inspiration for me. The man is in great shape and he even skied regularly until just a few years ago. If I'm not mistaken, Alta was his resort of choice (I apologize if I'm wrong...). He chose engineering as a career and I believe he and my dad worked at the same place for a few years. I asked him once if he knew my dad, but that was in the late sixties. Relationships and memories can fade after several decades.


John has gone through some changes as of late. He lost his wife a few years ago and this last year he sold the house where he raised his family. Yet, last night the man sat in a room full of friends and family and thanked us all for coming to share his day.

John Sr.--it was an honor.

Happy birthday John! And here's to many many more!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sledding...One Of Life's Simple Joys


I don't know exactly what made my parents purchase the particular plot of land they bought some forty-five years ago. I can guess why--the view, ten or so acres on the hill in Farmington and I'll bet they got it dirt cheap.


Unfortunately, I can't ask them why and I didn't ask them when they were alive. All I know is that I'll be forever thankful they did. I loved growing up on our little part of the mountain for so many reasons. One of which is the access to excellent sledding in the winter.


Fast forward several decades. Things change. A house sits where we used to sled (our run was called The Ravine From Hell...). In this picture, our run began just above where that upper rock wall is on the mountain. It twisted and turned and ended up near where I'm taking the picture. Even though that run is gone, our neighbor to the west opened up his backyard to the neighborhood each winter, and that's where we now sled.


It's a great hill--perfect for kids.


Which turned out to be perfect for sledding this morning. I took pictures. As kids we loved to sled in the winter. Inner tubes were my personal favorite. We would patch those things every time they sprung a leak and used them over and over. The Ravine From Hell claimed its fair share of tubes and sleds and even those with runners.


This morning, the kids--and many of the adults--had a great time and after the sledding we all came inside for hot chocolate and what the Danes call hygge


Because when it's all said and done, flying down an incline across frozen water on a tube or a sled while the sun kisses your face and the cold air chills your cheeks is one of life's simple joys. If you've been lucky  enough to experience it, you know what I mean. If not, you really should try it.

Friday, December 26, 2014

So Long, Chers Deli...


Earlier this week I had a choice--go get something for lunch at an eatery near my work or open a can of soup I brought.

I chose to go for a walk. Usually, I have a couple of cheap options when it comes to getting something to eat near my work. My first choice was unavailable to me--the Taco Cart was on a break and he won't be back until next month. Bummer.

There's a Carl's Jr. a block away, but burgers didn't sound good so I decided to check out Cher's Deli. I've written about the small restaurant before. I believe it was run by a Korean family and they made good, no-nonsense sandwiches. 

But no more.

I walked the block east and was shocked to see the little deli has closed. It's hard to see from the picture below but on the walls were what looked like paintings for children as if the space had previously been used as a kid's art gallery.

I always feel bad when a business that I like closes. I feel bad because I think if I had only gone there more, they might still be in business. I haven't gone to Cher's in months. Then again, I doubt me going there every day would have saved it. I'd like to think they closed this location because they found a better, more advantageous one where they're making delicious, relatively low-cost sandwiches to appreciative patrons.

Even though I don't think that's what happened, I still like to think that. So long, Cher's Deli. You'll be missed.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

One Of My Favorite Hats...


If you know me, you know I wear hats...lots of hats. I wear hats in the winter to keep my head warm and I wear hats in the summer to keep my head from getting sunburned.

For me, hats are more than an accessory--they're a necessity. 


So, over the years I've amassed quite a collection of baseball hats. I've even worn out more than a few. But in December, we unpack the Christmas decorations and lights and Advent Calendars.

We also get out the Santa Hats.


And of all the hats I own, I think I like wearing the Santa hat most of all.

I hope you've all had a happiest of Christmases. And, as Tiny Tim said...


God bless us, everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Our Christmas Eve, 2014...In Pictures


The bus that arrives before ours pulled up this morning and opened the doors. Usually five or six riders board the big bus. Today there were none.

"Anybody on the bus?" I yelled through the door as I awaited our own bus to show up.


"Yeah," the driver said. "I've got two people!" I joked that I thought maybe his bus would be completely empty considering no one showed up at our stop. After chatting a bit, we wished each other a Merry Christmas and he drove away. When our bus finally came, there were four of us. There's usually fifteen or twenty.

That's just how it goes when one works on Christmas Eve.


The bus was nearly empty. So was our building. A few of us who either couldn't get the day off or chose not to take time off put our shoulders to the grindstone and stuck around. Several departments had treats (personally, those green and red doughnuts were very off-putting and that's a tough thing to do to a doughnut...). I even took a picture of my friend's empty chair and texted him the photo with the following message: 


“I see a vacant seat in the overly-lit cubicle, and a little keyboard without an owner. If these shadows remained unaltered by the future, the will to work will die.”

I'm sure Dickens would have written the same thing, had he lived in our day.


I did leave a few hours early so we could attend my brother's family Christmas Eve party, a tradition going back several years. We stopped off at a rock shop--not heavy metal, but gemstones--and I saw a Scooby Doo Green Machine. I just had to get a picture.


We also picked up a little pre-party food at one of the few Popeye's Chicken restaurants in Utah. If you're hungry and you happened to be near a Popeye's, I highly recommend it.



We entered the valley where my brother's family lives just as the sun was setting in the west. I wish my camera could capture just how beautiful it was.


At the gathering we ate, conversed, met new people. We even played a game or two. It was such a wonderful way to end this year's Christmas Eve. Happy Christmas everyone! I hope you all get enough sleep.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Coach Whitt...Good Job!


A friend of mine told me of the time he heard the Superbowl-winning coach Mike Ditka speak at a convention. He remembered the coach talk about how tough it is to be an NFL coach. He said, "Imagine you at your job and there's dozens of cameras directed on you the entire time you're at your job. The camera's record everything--every move, every decision, everything. Do you think you would do your job differently if you had cameras on you at your job?"

That thought stayed with my friend and since he told me, it's stayed with me, too. I think being a coach of a sports time is one of the more demanding jobs out there. I know I couldn't do it, or if I did, I'd do a poor job at it.

One person he is pretty good at his job is the coach for the University of Utah football team, Coach Kyle Whittingham. I don't know him personally, but I know people who do. As with any person, there's good and bad, but as a fan of both him and the team, I admire what he's been able to do.

On the heals of a great Las Vegas Bowl victory last weekend, news broke today that two of his assistants are leaving for other jobs. A good leader will tell you that you increase greatly your chances of success when you choose the right people to help you. Many fans are worried (and to be honest, I am a little as well...) that the program will take a step or two backward. And it might; life is so unpredictable in sports. Many a person has gone broke betting on the outcomes of games and programs. Even if Coach Whitt has a terrible year and/or gets replaced, I'll always appreciate the job he's done and the way he's honored his position, the players, the school and the fans.

Hopefully, though, I hope he has an even better year next year. Good job, Coach Whitt! Good job!

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Circle Of Trust...


"Five minutes to for opening act!" Todd screams through the halls and at the door of each dressing room.

We all respond by saying, "Thank you, five." with various levels of enthusiasm. At least, that's what we've done for the past month every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings and if the show continued, that's where we'd all be at around 6:30pm tonight, on an empty stage with the show's opening song blaring on the speaker system.


We form a circle--a circle of trust--and link arms with each other, a few cast members arriving after the music starts. Together we'll sing, some with solos, others harmonizing in small groups until we sing together and finish the song.

"Opening choir--on stage now!" Most are already there, waiting. Some come late. And when the music starts, our circle of trust solidifies until we become a family of performers sharing a single stage with a single goal of bringing magic to friends and strangers.

So, to Laryn, Abby, Ella, Truman, Sam, Tyler, Addie, Chantelle, Samantha, Jackie, Marsha, Tyler, Chase, Adam, Robert, and Carson, sing a song of gladness and cheer! Thanks for accepting me into your circle. Happy Christmas to you and yours. Take care.

video

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Annual Ward Choir Christmas Program...


In my neighborhood I am surrounded by insanely talented people. I'm sure you are, too. Most are talented in one thing or another (even if they don't know it...). But in my neighborhood, for some reason there lives many who are musically gifted.


And at this time of year, a few of us put on a Christmas program at church. Today was that day. But a good program requires good preparation, which in our case, included a delicious breakfast yesterday morning. Everyone brought something yummy and we breakfasted with good friends and good food. We then rehearsed for a couple of hours in preparation of this morning.

At 11am our meeting began and one hour and fifteen minutes later, it ended. In between we sang and heard inspirational words. I think I've participated in this particular program every year going back decades. In the past I've sung solos, in duets, quartets and sextets, and even played handbells. They've all been good, but this was one of my favorite programs.

In our church all over the world such programs were held, all in an effort to honor the birth of Christ. Hopefully those who attended our program left feeling better, and more prepared for the Christmas holiday only a few days away. I know I did.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Family Christmas Card...In The 21st Century


I never think about Christmas cards until the day I start receiving them in the mail. I know that for many sending cards is a Christmas tradition. For some reason, it's never really caught on with me. Maybe it's taking the time to get the cards, write on the cards, address the envelopes, get stamps, put the stamps on the envelopes, write and include a note explaining how the passing year affected each member of the family, insert that notes into the already-stamped envelopes, seal the envelopes then put them in the mail.

No...for some reason, it always slips my mind.


But, I do find myself with a computer on my lap much of the day and I find it so much easier to create something then mass send it to as many people as possible. I know it's impersonal, but if I don't do it, then it won't get done.

I was asked to make a little video that includes pictures of our family during various events of the past year. I admit--it was fun to put together. I then chose a great song to play with the pictures and videos and we burned several DVD''s...you know, for family. We sent those in the mail for family out-of-state.


Today I tried to post that video on Facebook, but they have a little something called "technology" that they have working for them and this "technology" detected the song I used on my video might not be mine (the "technology" is correct--I am not Bing Crosby or a member of the Andrew Sisters, nor I did not write, sing, nor do I own the rights to Mele Kalikimaka...). "Technology" 1, me 0.

I edited the video, put on some generic music then put it on Facebook. I wanted to include it on the blog, but it's too long, so if you'd like to see it, check out the link: HERE But even if you never see our little video, rest assured, the Taylors have experienced much in the last twelve months. It's been a great year!



Oh, and for the record, the cute red SUV isn't ours...it's my mother-in-laws, in case anyone was wondering.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Karaoke Night...2014 Edition


kar·a·o·ke
ˌkerēˈōkē/
noun
  1. a form of entertainment, offered typically by bars and clubs, in which people take turns singing popular songs into a microphone over prerecorded backing tracks.

There's a tradition at the theater where I've done a few shows, the tradition of Karaoke Night. Basically, we stay after a show, put music on the killer sound system the theater has and let the magic happen.

And tonight's that night.



I've gone to a couple of these Karaoke Nights--I even sang at the last one. I don't know if Karaoke is as popular anymore. I'm sure it is some places, but since I don't spend a lot of time in the places where Karaoke is popular, I wouldn't know.

But, I've got to tell you, having a Karaoke Night together with a bunch of people who long musical theater is like none other. Let's just say they get a little creative.

One thing that amazes me is--on those rare events that I actually do sing--is how LONG the songs are. It's one thing to sing a song to the radio while you're driving, but it's another thing when you're on stage and you can't remember the song ever being that long.

In fact, I wonder if kar-a-o-ke is really Japanese for "Extremely Long Song."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Jennifer A. Nielsen's "The False Prince"...A Book Review

The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy, #1)*

I think I heard Jennifer A. Nielsen speak in person back in 2012 at a League of Utah Writers gathering. I was impressed, so much so that I asked the author if she had any copies of her books that she could sell. I think the question surprised her, but she did have a couple of copies in her car. She got one out and autographed it for me.

That was very nice of her. I had not attended a lot of these meetings so I didn't know if asking her if she had a book to sell when she was a guest speaker was a faux pas or not. I bought it for my daughter. I gave her the book (Jennifer signed it for her...) and she loved it. I finally got around to reading it and I liked it very much as well.

In The False Prince Nielsen creates a world where a fictional kingdom is in jeopardy. The royal family has been killed and plans are made by evil men to gain control of the kingdom. Their plot involves a daring plan that hinges on deceit. Basically, a boy would be found that could pass as the heir to the crown, a prince who had died in a shipwreck. Several boys were chosen and trained as princes in order to fool the powers that be. It's a great premise.

I must admit that I found the first half or so of the book a little uncertain. I'm not saying I hated it, but I kept thinking about the logistics of the story--the likelihood that certain events would actually take place as Nielsen presented them. They weren't major plot problems, just little ones that would (momentarily...) take me out of the story, but Nielsen's style and prose brought me back into the story. It is very well written.

But for all the issues I had with the book's first half, the second half more than made up for it. I won't reveal any spoilers, but I saw the wisdom of some of the earlier choices made by the author and the ending totally worked for me. I'm glad there's more to read about this world. The False Prince is the first in The Ascendance Trilogy and I look forward to reading the other two. I'm glad I got to meet the author and hear her speak. It's always great to see a local author do well.

* Photo used without permission from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12432220-the-false-prince?ac=1

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Should I Stay...Or Should I Go?

*

Should I Stay…Or Should I Go?

That’s really the question, not this to be, or not to be? stuff that gets tossed around. Then again, to be, or not to be? could easily be converted to: to be (here), or not to be (here)?

Last night some friends of mine held an event, an event for something that was very cool. They are part of a podcast team and they recorded an episode before watching the latest and last The Hobbit movie at a theater that's very close to where I live.

I like podcasts. I like friends. I like movies. I like The Hobbit movies.

So, why didn’t I go?

That’s the question.

That’s the question I pondered as I sat at home, finishing up my blog post and journal and thought about leaving the house at 9pm and participating in the event.

You know how it is…you weigh the pros and cons; you consider the ramifications. Pros: fun, friends, film. Cons: cost (we hardly ever go to new releases—most films I see I get from Redbox…), and perhaps the biggest con—the time of the show. It began around 11pm which means I’d get home sometime around 2am. Then I’d need to be up at 5:30am to catch my bus and clock in at 6:30am. On top of that, I’m doing a show the next night so I’d need to leave work at 4pm to make the curtain call at 6pm, and the last thing I wanted is to be so tired I’d forget lines for the show.

If I had planned, I could have asked for time off on Wednesday—I didn’t (either plan or ask for time off…). So, as I think about the decision I made, I wonder would it have been worth it, and if I’m being honest, it probably would have. But when I make these kinds of decisions and seem to choose “not to do something,” more than do it. I kind of get in a pattern, a pattern of not deciding to stay late with everyone else at restaurants, of not jointng choirs and going to New York City to perform and not going to podcast recordings and watching the last The Hobbit films before anyone else.

Then again, I get more sleep and I save some dough. That’s about how it shakes out.

* Photo used without permission from from Legendarium's Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/thelegendarium

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What Exactly Is A "Quad Threat?" Adam West..That's What!


If you're involved in the theater in any way, you've most likely heard the term "a triple threat." If not, the term describes someone who can sing, dance and act. It's hard to get a part when you're competition is a triple threat because when it comes to performing, they can do it all.


So, what's a "quad threat?" Good question. During the past decade or so I've done a few shows and in more than a few, I've been lucky enough to perform with Adam West. No, not "Batman" Adam West, Utah resident Adam West. Chances are if you've seen shows in my neck of the woods, there's a good chance you've gotten to see Adam on stage. And if so, you've not been disappointed. 


The first show I did with Adam was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  He and I were in different casts but shared the same part. We played Rueben, the oldest (and wisest...) of all the brothers. I had done a show with Adam's wife a few years earlier, but I didn't know Adam did shows.


And at that time, he didn't. He only started doing shows after his wife was in the show with me and a few of my children. The first time I met Adam was at a Training Table Restaurant, a local joint that specializes in hamburgers. We chatted for a while and I was impressed with how friendly he was.

That was many years ago. Since then we've both done several shows with a few of them together. Doing a show with Adam is an experience. Just knowing he's in the cast means it will never be boring--either for the audience or the rest of the cast and crew.


So what exactly is a quad threat? Basically, it's someone who can sing, dance, act and is "eye candy." Whether or not you concur with the fourth qualification...well, that's up to you, but I can say with definite sureness is that the man is talented. He really can do it all and is a blast to work with. But, as good an singer, dancer, actor and/or eye candy-er, he's even a better friend. This show's almost over and I hope it will be sooner rather than later that we get to do it again.

Most photos used without permission from the incredibly talented (and nice...) Ron Russell and can be seen on the Centerpoint Legacy Theatre's Photo Albums (you can access them: HERE)