Sunday, November 29, 2009

Helping the Homeless of Nashville

Homeless folks struggle to eke out a life on the streets every day of the year. I don't even begin to pretend I have a full understanding of all the causes for homelessness. Some folks have drug or alcohol problems. Some suffer from domestic abuse and head to the streets to avoid it. Some find themselves on the streets due to mental illness. Some are on the street as the result of multiple or even a single indiscretion. Some are lifers on the street. Some are homeless for only a short period of time. Some have recently become homeless because of their bottomed-out economic situation. Some hold jobs but simply don't make enough from one week to the next to secure and maintain a place to live.

Regardless of the reason why, the facts remain the same. Folks are homeless, they're vulnerable, and you can help in ways perhaps you haven't of. This time of year I wanted to highlight a few ways for individuals to help for a couple of reasons.
  • One, its getting friggin' cold on the street, and warm, safe places to stay can be scarce. Support organizations need volunteered time and financial support to provide housing, food, clothing, and other types of relief.
  • Two, an attitude of giving is in the air this time of year, and folks are seeking ways to help with dollars and/or time.
Here are a few ways to get involved - especially if you are in the Nashville, TN area.

Wednesday, December 9
- Project Homeless Connect at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville - Project Homeless Connect is a one-day event to provide one-stop professional support, community agency services, and quality of life resources to homeless individuals and families. Homeless individuals and families can get medical assistance, shoes, foot care, dental care, haircuts, job assistance, legal help, etc. PHC has several opportunities to help - including helping at some of the individual support booths, data entry as folks are processed through the reception area, greeting folks with a smile, etc. Visit PHC on the web, follow them on Twitter @PHCNashville, and volunteer by clicking here. I'll be there from 8:00 until noon helping with Room in the Inn's booth.

(Hat tip to Kevin Barbieux)

Sunday, December 13 - Eddie & Martha Adcock will host the 10th Annual Bluegrass Benefit Concert to support Room in the Inn and the homeless at the famed Station Inn.

Wednesday, December 16
- Nashville Unlimited - Each December, Nashville session bassist Dave Pomeroy hosts Nashville Unlimited, a Christmas music show, to benefit Room in the Inn, a phenomenal ministry supporting Nashville's homeless. This year's concert is December 16 at Christ Church Cathedral. No tickets are sold, and an admission price isn't set. People who attend are simply asked to donate at the door what the heart and wallet agree to. Admission is first come, first serve until the pews are full and fire codes say "no mas". The artist line-up is never announced in advance either. You can always expect Nashville Mandolin Ensemble and Three Ring Circle to perform (Hint: Buy NME's out-of-print Gifts CD if you want to really enhance your Christmas music collection). But everyone else is generally a surprise. In past years, I've seen folks like John Prine, Emmylou Harris, The Steeldrivers (vid), Riders In The Sky, and Tommy Emmanuel (vid). Here is my blog entry about the 2008 show. Wait...was I really still blogging on MySpace 12 months ago? Wow.

Outside of Nashville? Don't worry about it. The one truism about homelessness is you can find such folks in just about every city. Simply find a way to get involved to help.

An additional way you can help year-round is to prep a few "manna bags". Do you travel? If so, grab the unused soap, shampoo, and hand lotion from your hotel room and add it to a ziploc bag when you return. Add a few other essentials or nice-to-haves (e.g. a pair of socks - priceless for life on the street, small tube of toothpaste, toothbrush, prepaid phone card, 2 or 3 Nutrigrain or power bars, a bottle of water, disposable razor). Voila! - you've got a manna bag you can give someone living on the street! Keep a couple of these in your car, and give them away when you see someone in need. You obviously don't have to be in Nashville to make this effort happen.

For more ideas about what to include, visit these sites:
For a first hand blog account from someone who lives on the street, read The Homeless Guy's blogs (different entries at each blog):

Friday, November 27, 2009

Eliza Gilkyson to put you in Christmas spirit

Hard to believe Thanksgiving is behind us and its now a push towards Christmas. Where exactly did 2009 go anyway?

Rather than charge all-out, full-speed, max-stress towards Christmas, relax a bit and enjoy the journey of the next few weeks. Perhaps you can start by enjoying this laid back 2004 show from Eliza Gilkyson.

St. David's Episcopal Church - Austin, TX
December 10, 2004
KGSR FM broadcast

01. Children Go
02. Sanctuary
03. Prayer 2000
04. Announcer
05. Dreidel Dreidel
06. Dark Side Of Town
07. What Child Is This?
08. Interview

01. Winter Wonderland
02. Instrumental
03. We Three Kings
04. Intro
05. Easy Rider
06. In My Dreams
07. intro
08. false start
09. Peace Round-> O Come O Come Emanuel-> Peace Round
10. talk
11. Down To The River To Pray
12. Auld Lang Syne
13. Peace Call

Sample Track: Children Go

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

2009 entry no. 5 of I'm Thankful For...

Final in a series...a cornucopia of random stuff

I'm thankful for:
  • the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. I expect their games on TV just as much as I expect the sun to rise in the east.
  • brown sugar pie made by my mother. For 364 days of the year, its a toss-up between my two favorite desserts made by her - this one or her banana pudding. But on Thanksgiving Day - its brown sugar pie hands down.
  • the beginning of Christmas show season. From childhood to adult age to parent age and beyond, I still enjoy watching shows such as A Charlie Brown Christmas, How The Grinch Stole Christmas (the cartoon narrated by Bela Lugosi - not the Jim Carrey movie), Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase, and of course all the Rankin-Bass Christmas episodes. And as much as I cringe to admit it publicly, I even bought The Homecoming on DVD last year. I never much cared for The Waltons TV series, but I think this movie is a classic. (12-02-2009 edit: It was Boris Karloff not Bela Lugosi who had the Grinch voice over. To quote Bugs Bunny, "what a maroon". DOH!)
  • four cups of coffee in the morning.
  • a day with immediate and extended family on Thanksgiving Day. The meal was overwhelming, the discussions were great (except for that annual, awkward, under his breath rant from my mumbling, bigoted, racist uncle), and multiple vintages of homemade wine made by a non-bigoted uncle were tasted-tested by folks from Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida who gathered under one roof today.
  • John Irving's novels.
  • Americana music and its fan base. I've listened to this type of music for the better part of 20 years. Yet until recently, the type of music I've grown to enjoy really didn't have a genre label. Also, my immediate circle of friends didn't know about and/or particularly care for artists such as Joe Ely, Robert Earl Keen, Blue Rodeo, Townes Van Zandt, Wilco, Roger Miller, etc. The web has helped me realize, however, how many others do enjoy this type of music.
  • NASCAR and Nashville Predators hockey. Can't get enough of either.
  • the four distinct seasons and three grand divisions of Tennessee.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

2009 entry no. 4 of I'm Thankful For...

Today's thankful theme...this nation, its liberties and freedoms, and those that defend them now and have defended them in the past.
  • My father served in the Air Force in the 1950s.
  • My great uncle, who I never met, served in World War II...but never returned.
  • My son's scoutmaster served in the Navy during World War II.
  • Several co-workers from days gone by served in various branches before working for us.
  • We just extended a job offer to a college senior to work for us beginning next summer. He served proudly in the navy before returning to school to get his degree.
  • The son of a friend of mine is a member of the Kansas National Guard. He is currently deployed to "parts unknown" for an extended hitch.
I couldn't be prouder of this last young man. We first met when he was about 10 years old. He had just caught the fever of NASCAR racing - something I jumped on myself in the mid 1970s. He, his brother, his dad, random others, and I went to several races together in the early 1990s - Daytona, Talladega, Charlotte, Atlanta. As a matter of fact, it was he and his brother who hung the nickname "toomuchcountry" on me. Well, actually it was spoken as a bit on an insult. But I've worn it as a badge of honor ever since. Fast forward about 20 years, and this now almost 30 year-old "kid" is serving his country in uniform. He's not my child, but he certainly has my admiration and pride.

The freedoms we have today - the freedom to blog, tweet, text, and e-mail; freely worship the risen Savior or even a friggin' shrubbery; say what we want and listen to what we want; not testify against one's self; not have the po-leece come rummaging unreasonably through all your stuff; to own a gun; etc. - these are precious to this nation and us as individuals.

They have been repeatedly attacked by many different forces, but they've also been repeatedly defended by the folks in military uniform. If you are reading this and are serving or have served in the military - thank you!

I cannot imagine living in a country without these freedoms. I cannot imagine not having a military committed to defend them. And I cannot imagine a Thanksgiving without turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, and the NFL.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

2009 entry no. 3 of I'm Thankful For...

Today's shout-out goes to Boy Scouts of America...

My son and I have been involved in Boy Scouts for about the last 4-1/2 years. He has gone from a bear cub scout to an Arrow of Light Webelo scout to entry-level Tenderfoot boy scout rank to now a Life rank scout.

For me, I've gone from ...
  • being on the sidelines as he and my wife worked through his early cub scout experience
  • to signing-on as a last-minute, pinch-runner den leader of his Cub Scouts Webelos posse when his existing leader chose to move on to another pack
  • to helping him earn his first few ranks and merit badges as a Boy Scout
  • to observing other parents get involved with helping other kids progress
  • to signing up as an assistant scoutmaster to help other kids
  • to teaching a few merit badges on my own
  • to having enough confidence in myself and earning confidence from other leaders and parents to plan and execute multi-day trips hours away from home.
I'm really trying not to sound as if I'm wrenching my shoulder while patting myself on the back. But I'm pretty sure my son likely would not have joined Boy Scouts if I had not stepped in to struggle my way through a year as a Webelo leader to help him complete Cub Scouts . He and I both would then have missed the fun and growth experiences we've had the last few years. Instead of trying to sound like I'm grandstanding, I am thankful for having the chance to watch my own kid grow and assist in the development of other kids.

With immense pride, I've watched my boy grow from a 10 year-old kid who I thought might flame out his first few months of scouting to one who is now a few months, a project, and couple of merit badges away from being an Eagle scout. He's gone from being a introverted kid quite unsure of himself to an introverted, developing young man seeking and performing leadership roles and who is regularly complimented by other adult leaders for his maturity and the example he sets for other scouts.

Back in June, I blogged about the passion and commitment of my son's 80+ year-old scoutmaster and the admiration I have for him. He's dedicated over 50 years of his life, time, and resources to grooming young men. In addition, he is a World War II navy vet and a lifelong resident of the community that I've called home for only the last six years. Recently, he and I were simply chatting about the Pioneering merit badge he teaches every year or two. Next thing I know, an e-mail is sent to everyone saying he and I would be teaching it between November and March. Had anyone else just assumed I'd commit to this without direct agreement, I'd be pretty bent. But because of the appreciation I have for him and for what he's done for this country, for other young men, and for my son specifically, I'm all-in. I'm truly thankful for the opportunity to spend time with him learning from him and also teaching the kids.

I didn't have the opportunity to participate in scouting as a kid other than one year of cub scouting. And serving as a scout leader certainly wasn't on my bucket list of things to do as an adult. Being involved with scouting, however, has been very rewarding. This old dawg has learned a few new tricks. Having the opportunity to work with these kids has been very cool and humbling for me - and hopefully a positive experience for them.

Test me baby. A shear lashing, a square knot, or a tautline hitch? Please, they're all mine. I own 'em. A kid who has never done more than 1 chin-up, built a rope bridge, used power tools, kayaked a river, spent a night in a cave or improved his grades from B's to A's in one grading period? Oh yeaaahhh, THAT is cause for celebration! High-fives, shoulder chucks and back slaps are the order of the day. I have no desire to be a surrogate parent for these kids nor the primary confidant of a young teen. It is awfully cool, however, when these young'uns connect with you and care enough to share some key accomplishments.

Tying this entry to my previous two "I'm Thankful For..." entries:
  • I'm very thankful my employer only allows me the flexibility of being involved with my son and other scouts as often as necessary.
  • I've built a lot of new friendships the last few years - both with other adult leaders and with scouts who I've seen grow from awkward kids to young adults.
I do wonder sometimes though if I maybe got involved as a scout leader simply because chicks dig a uniform. At least that was Ernest T. Bass' belief.


Monday, November 23, 2009

2009 entry no. 2 of I'm Thankful For...

Family and friends

I've actually spent more time with friends this year than family. Probably true for most of us.

A couple of uncles steadfastly fought and defeated cancer over the last 12 months. Both have been a big influence on me since childhood, and I'm glad I get to share the turkey, trimmings, and post-meal beer with them again this year.

My kids continue to give me a huge upswell of pride. I'm glad my employer allows me the flexibility to be as involved as I can with their various activities.

My relationship with my brother is essentially non-existent. I haven't heard from him in ages. He did poke up his head at least once this year to let our mother know he was still doing OK. I'm at times bent with him for tuning his mother, father, brother, sister, nieces, and nephew completely out of his life. Other times I simply feel apathetic and resigned that he has no interest in replying to the effort we've made to connect with him. Yet I'm thankful he's still around and apparently healthy and housed.

My best friend since way back when is getting married again New Year's Day. He's had a tumultuous last few years, but now things seem to be looking up for him. For that, I'm thankful.

Through work travel and a couple of NASCAR race trips, I had the chance to reunite with some friends from across the US and Canada. Plus, I met a few new folks along the way - some of whom will likely turn into friends as more years pass. A friend and former co-worker toured the world for a year. We followed him through his blog and then greeted him with a smile, a hug, and a cold beer when he returned safely to the states. A college friend who later moved to Nice, France with his wife and kids vacationed for a few weeks in the states - including a stop in ye ol' hometown. We, along with a mutual friend, and his brother took in a hockey game and caught up on life. All very cool folks - many reasons to be thankful.

Music trading, blogging, and my limited time on Twitter has resulted in some new friendships. Many say its a risk becoming friends with someone you've never met face-to-face, with interaction only through a keyboard, and no idea about the integrity of the persona reflecting back through a monitor. Yet others say I should spend more time developing friendships on the ground where I stand vs. through the web.


Through the use of the web, I've met some great folks who I would otherwise not have met. I'm not throwing around my home address and phone number. I'm not assisting anyone in Nigeria looking to repatriate some dollars back to the states via my bank account. I'm not posing as a 17 year-old girl looking to "meet new friends" nor searching for such a person. And, I'm not looking to the web for my deep-rooted, to-the-core, personal relationships. If I can drink a beer with you, share some tunes, chat about hockey or NASCAR, I can pretty much be friends with you.

Lastly, I've found two great benefits of web-based friendships:
  • I learn about similarities and differences from others about music, life, political leanings, sports passions, business and economics, and cool things to do in other parts of the country or even the world, and
  • Web-based friends don't borrow tools and then never return them.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

2009 entry no. 1 of I'm Thankful For...

The debut of a mini-series of planned blog entries...

Over the next few days, I'm going to blog about a few things for which I'm extremely thankful. They are not intended to be in sequential or priority order. I'll just blog about them as they come to me.

Entry No. 1 - My employer

The last couple of years has been pretty tough for many companies and consequently their employees looking to continue their careers and employment.

The company I've worked for the last 13 years has fared better than many. Yet, we have not been on an island completely away from all the economic mess. About a year ago, many of my co-workers - both in my office and in our operations areas across the company - were laid off in response to economic situations present then and expected to occur in 2009-2011. Furthermore, salaries were not increased in 2009 for those who continued.

I was not laid-off in late 2008 and remain at work today largely in the same role. Even without a salary increase, I am paid a competitive salary allowing my family and me to give, save, and live a comfortable lifestyle.

Also, our annual benefits selection window opened last week, and once again we still have a pretty good selection amongst health and dental plans, discounted term life insurance, retirement, and pre-tax flex spending plans. The company also encourages us to spend time where we can supporting charitable organizations in our community. As a result, I can allocate part of my time each year working with Boy Scouts and Room in the Inn, a fantastic Nashville-based organization providing assistance to the homeless.

A good bit of travel is required as part of my job. Travel gets old a bit at times with airline delays, yet another hotel stay at the same quality yet predictable chain, and a handful of missed kids' events. But its also a lot of fun. I've been afforded the opportunity to visit a dozens of cities I would likely otherwise not have visited. These opportunities have allowed me to experience many great cities (and a couple of regrettable ones), meet a lot of great people, build new friendships, dine and drink at some first class restaurants and low rent dives, and accumulate frequent flier credits to travel outside of work with family. And with the lion's share of the costs being reimbursable company expenses, that makes the visits even better for a cheapskate like me.

Lastly and most important, I've extremely thankful to work with a team of extremely skilled co-workers. Some of these folks are on my immediate team. Some are in other functional groups within our department. Some of them blog (ahem...cough...ozzynelson, squireponderings, loisandjon, the wandering raccoon). Most of them don't. The people I enjoy working with the most are (1) those who make me laugh and (2) those who help me challenge what, how, and why we're doing. (Bonus points are also available to those who also dig NASCAR, have music tastes similar to mine, watch The Office, and don't use hair gel or styling mousse).

The group with whom I work most directly is given an lot of latitude about what things we should be doing, how we do them, and who should be hired to do them. We spend a lot of effort on that last item - finding the right folks. Without my talented co-workers, I'd have neither the enjoyment of work nor the comfort of on-going employment with this company.


Monday, November 16, 2009

A Heavy Metal Epic Failure?

Twenty years ago in 1989, the Grammy Awards debuted an award for Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Performance. Jethro Tull won the award as a "safe" decision by Academy voters. The decision was vociferously boo'd by 98% of folks from the four corners of the globe. (The remaining 2% of confused folks simply said "Huh? What was that?")

Even the band thought they had no chance at winning against fellow nominee Metallica, and they didn't attend the awards show thereby missing their chance to accept their award. After all, you knew it, they knew it, I knew it, and we all knew it. Music with a flute in it is barely in the rock category - much less hard rock or heavy metal. Perhaps only Jethro Tull and The Marshall Tucker Band had the stones to pull off flute tunes in the rock genre - then or now.

Fast forward 20 years: I saw this billboard near Times Square in New York City - an acoustic performance of Jethro Tull songs by frontman Ian Anderson.

An acoustic version of Aqualung - is that really the legacy the Grammy voters intended two decades ago? Ugh, that has to be considered one Heavy Metal Epic Failure.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Newark to New York Part 2

I often view the pairing of Newark and NYC to Oakland and San Francisco. Newark and Oakland are like the desolate, tornado-stricken, black & white, Kansas plains in The Wizard of Oz. Crossing into New York or San Fran is like jumping into the Technicolor portion of the movie. One big difference though: In the movie, a flying house fell on a witch leaving only her legs and ruby slippers sticking out. In New York, I saw several sets of legs sticking out from store fronts and alley ways. But the help they needed was way beyond getting a pair of ruby slippers.

* Disclaimer: The Wizard of Oz is used here merely as a metaphorical reference. I am not a Judy Garland fan nor do I own any ruby slippers nor did I stroll the streets of New York as described below with a pastel sweater knotted around my neck. Not that there is anything wrong with that....

After abandoning my plans to visit NYC Thursday night and staying in Newark all day Friday plus Saturday morning, I was ready to finally set out for New York. Its a piece of cake to catch a train from Newark's Penn Station to New York's Penn Station. Once you poke your head above ground on the NYC side, you'll realize you've just popped out from under the famed Madison Square Garden. From there, its either a few blocks walk or a cab ride to Times Square. We opted for the cab - an experience I've repeated yet never quite gotten used to. Nothing tightens the ol' bum quite like the "thrill" of cabbies dodging in and out of traffic like a NASCAR driver or Gene Hackman in the French Connection.

After purchasing tickets for a Broadway show at the TKTS booth, we roamed around a bit and casually made our way toward W. 55th Street and 7th Avenue where we gorged ourselves at the famed Carnegie Deli.

A big ol' pastrami sammich, onion rings, and a couple of Amstels? Oh yeah, just what the doctor ordered. Wait...I think the doctor's orders will eventually be something else resulting from this meal. But dadgum, this was some good eating!

Following dinner, I took my sweet time to stroll down Broadway towards Times Square and soak in as much of the midtown experience as I could. A few of the sites along the way included:
  • The Ed Sullivan Theater, home of Dave Letterman - The show obviously wasn't being taped on a Saturday night. But I was pretty sure I saw a room lit above the sign and wondered if Dave might be doing some "show prep" with any of the staff.
  • Times Square - My bucket list overflows with all sorts of random stuff I'd eventually like to try. The pail, however, does not include celebrating New Year's Eve in Times Square. Every time I visit, it truly is a surreal experience to be at the site where the ball drops and seeing thousands of photo-snapping, fast-moving locals and tourists. Its like watching a bunch of ants scurrying about. Yet I experience only a fraction of the number who shoehorn their way into that confining area each December 31. I can't even begin to imagine...
  • St. James Theatre on West 44th Street - We chose to see Finian's Rainbow. This is only the 5th Broadway show I've ever seen. Interestingly (to me at least), our group ended up this year at the same theatre as we did a year ago where we saw Gypsy.
I've grown to enjoy my annual trek to New York. Its not my favorite city, but I do enjoy taking in part of it in the limited time I have to visit. As someone who is "too much country", I suppose New York City is just "too much culture" for me.

After 72 hours or so of Newark and New York, I was ready to head for home. As we made our final approach into Nashville's airport, we suddenly and sharply ascended. The pilot finally spoke once we leveled off and banked to come around for a 2nd attempt. He said flight control radioed about a large flock of birds on the runway and suggested another attempt be made. While it was a bit unnerving when we rapidly went up when we were supposed to be landing, I was glad he took the tower's advice.

But almost as quickly, I chuckled under my breath at the drink I learned about during dinner at the Deli. After the USAirways flight landed safely in the Hudson River earlier this year, some New York bars created a new drink called The Sully in honor of the praised pilot. The drink is 2 shots of Grey Goose with a splash of water. The story sure sounded funnier and the drink idea sound tastier once we were at the gate.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Newark to New York Part 1

A week ago, I flew to Newark, NJ to attend and speak at the 19th World Continuous Auditing and Reporting Symposium at Rutgers University. I'll pause a moment here to let the envious chorus of "oooooh's" subside...

OK, ready to proceed?

Newark is right across the Hudson River from New York City. I'm a mid-size city kind of guy - always have been. Yet, the view of the NYC skyline as the plane descends always leaves me slack-jawed - the Chrysler building, the Empire State Building, and especially the sight of Lady Liberty standing watch over lower Manhattan. Yet, the view will forever remain a bit odd with the twin towers gone. I only go to Newark/New York once a year, but the missing towers are still noticeable even 9 years after I last saw them in 2000.

Right or wrong, various song or album titles, lyrics, and/or artists will often just pop in my head at random points as a contextual reference point. Maybe a musical GPS if you will. So many songs have been written about New York City:
  • Old school: New York, New York - Frank Sinatra
  • Rap: No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn - Beastie Boys
  • Obscure rock: New York Groove - Ace Frehley (formerly of Kiss)
  • Classic pop: New York State of Mind - Billy Joel
  • Horrible, forgettable pop: The Heart Of Rock & Roll - Huey Lewis. Seriously, remember that crap?
New York, New York, is everything they say
And no place that I'd rather be
Where else can you do a half a million things
All at a quarter to three
Newark songs? Eh, not so plentiful. I tried finding some - at Amazon and Lala. Not many offerings. The Newark Airport Boogie vs. The Chairman of the Board? Yeah, right.

Once the plane landed and I got settled in at the Hampton Inn, I had big plans for Bright Lights, Big City Thursday night. I had hoped to pay a visit to the International Bar in the East Village - better known as The I-Bar. You can get a can of Schaefer and a shot of well whiskey for $4! I also learned a nearby club was hosting a Guy Clark tribute show in honor of his birthday (though Guy himself or anyone else I'd ever heard of wasn't playing). And, and, and I learned via Konrad Meissner that Tracy Bonham was playing a couple of shows. Bonham has recorded with the Blue Man Group among other ventures, and Konrad plays drums for about half the bands in New York, including The Silos - one my my faves.

As I studied Google Maps and New York subway routes, darkness set in and rain began to plunk against my hotel window. I then called the club where Tracy and Konrad were playing only to find out the shows were sold-out. A sigh escaped, my enthusiasm disappeared like a fart in the wind, and I talked myself out of doing anything. For all the reasons I wanted to go, I quickly worked up a competing set of reasons not to go:
  • unsure about the safety of walking the East Village at night
  • realizing the silliness of paying fares for trains, subways, and cabs to pay for a $4 Schaefer/Shot combo
  • watching bands start at 11 PM
  • facing the reality of knowing I had to make my meeting at 8:00 the next morning.
After deciding to hang out instead, I Googled restaurants near the hotel and stumbled across Nino's Pizza. Fantastic! Shrimp & pasta with garlic bread delivered from order-to-door in about 15 minutes for only $18. Quality food and some vino from the lounge downstairs - ahhh, who needed NYC?

The conference itself may sound boring. I can hear you saying "C'mon, continuous auditing? Are you serious? " Well...yeah, much of it was boring to be quite candid. But I enjoy attending each year nonetheless. The participants represent academia, auditing software solution providers, Big 4 CPA firm partners, internal auditors, and students from undergraduate, masters, and PhD levels. Are you honestly going to sit there, read that last statement, and not think what a great party guest list this could make?

The individuals the symposium draws is of more importance to me than the content. Its a pretty small gathering (about 100 folks), but it draws a group of folks from all over the place. Over the years, I've met folks from the U.K., Brazil, Venezuela, South Africa, India, Russia, Spain, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, and the United Arab Emirates. Clearly some language challenges arise as we try to understand one another. The U.S. is also well represented so I can always find someone who speaks in English as a first language. Plus, with folks from Texas, Georgia, and North and South Carolina in attendance, well hell, I can even slip in a "y'all" every now and again without having to translate for anyone.

The time allotment for my session was whacked to a minimal 10 minutes because the day was running behind. I was told to abandon my prepared stuff and just kind of wing it by making some comments of my own and taking a question or two. So I did, but I couldn't resist sneaking in a bit of toomuchcountry humor. After talking a couple of minutes about the economic struggles of the US in general and our industry in particular, I remarked not everything was bad. I reminded the audience I was from Music City USA and then led into the bright spots by dropping the line of a Billy Joe Shaver song Good News Blues (covered in this video by Todd Snider).

After a day of sessions on Friday, we adjourned as we do each year to dinner at the Spanish Pavilion in Harrison NJ.

The restaurant is a bit mis-named as I understand it. Regulars tell me the menu is more Portuguese food than Spanish. But what do I care? I smile politely and ask "Hey, could you pass the calamari and paella back down this way please? And yes, I would enjoy another glass of Tempranillo. And Sangria?? Well sure, if you're offering."

Saturday morning was more of the same though the clarity of it isn't great. The Spanish Pavilion gathering splintered with many of us going to the Hampton Inn lounge while others turned in for the night (the wiser choice perhaps). From there, the number of players vs. posers shrunk even more until finally a couple of us remained talking until 3AM.

My motivation for hanging tough of Saturday morning was to make it to Saturday afternoon and evening for the eventual trip to New York - the subject of part 2.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Mask - A decision made easier?

Nothing has changed. The choice offered by my employer remains the same today as it did a couple of weeks ago - get the flu shot or be prepared to wear a mask when asked to do so.

As I mentioned previously, I've chosen to not get the shot. So the choice moved to which mask to wear.

I think I've narrowed it down to two choices. A compelling argument can be made for either.

Finalist #1 - As my mother reminded me via her scanning of a 1971 photo, I too once uttered those famous words spoken by Michael Keaton's rendition of the dark knight: "I'm Batman". So by choosing this one, I can roll old school. Other upsides include a cool car and my own personal butler.

Finalist #2 - As I strolled West 44th Street in New York City last Saturday (future blog entry), the image of the Phantom's big mask jumped right out at me - along with the word "Phenomenal!". It was as if some sort of karma-like, coincidental decision was being offered to me from on-high. Benefits? A nice apparel upgrade from my well-worn suits to a tuxedo and some cool orchestral music to accompany my trips out of the office. A big glaring negative? I'd likely have to accept a sewer gondola over a rental car for my local transportation needs.

I still have a few weeks to go before the final decision is made. Any thoughts/comments/suggestions?


Monday, November 9, 2009

Miranda Lambert is tops. No lying!

Forget Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, or Kellie Pickler. They are mere pretenders. Instead, choose Miranda Lambert as a much stronger female force in country or Americana music. But a word to the wise - don't cross her. With songs like White Liar, Kerosene, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, she's likely to get downright ornery if she gets scorned.

Earlier this year, I heard an interview with her on a Jacksonville, FL radio station. She had a great quip about how she writes songs. To paraphrase, she said "Lyin', cheatin', drinkin' & the Lord. That's what country music is all about." Pretty hard to disagree with that generalization.

Plus, you automatically trump all other peers when you've got a bass player in your band with a spiked mohawk.

Here is the official video of her new single "White Liar" (sorry about the leading ad)...

...and here she is singing it on Letterman.

On top of all that, she tweets too!

Update: After posting Monday night, The Tennessean published this interview with Miranda by Peter Cooper on Tuesday.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Yes, its a double standard

My daughter's middle school dance team took about a month break following the wrap-up of football season. Wednesday was the team's first day to re-group and start practicing again. We were talking about the practice during dinner.

She was at an off-site education session yesterday and went back to the school after classes were done for the day. As is typical, all of the doors were locked from the outside. Her only option was to enter through a gym door where the boys' soccer players were leaving for a practice or a game. She was too embarrassed, however, to walk by all of them so my wife had to walk in with her.

With a bite of food still in his mouth, my son barked at her "What's the big deal? Why didn't you just walk on in the door?" I tried to hide my smirk but was unsuccessful.

She quickly snapped back "I didn't want to walk by all those boys. I was wearing my spandex dance clothes! Would you ... or Daddy (as I still failed to hide my snickering) ... want to just go walking by a bunch of girls and have them look at you?"

He looked at me. I looked at him. And we both said "well, yeah!"


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Week That Was

October 26 - Tickets purchased for a March 2010 John Prine show. I grimaced as my passed my credit card to the nice woman at the Ryman knowing I was paying for a show about 4-1/2 months early. But hey, its Prine, right?

October 27 - Tickets purchased for Billy Joe Shaver show on December 1 at the famed Exit/In. Truly, a country - yet alt-country - legend. (BJS trivia: Did you know Billy Joe wrote all but one track of Waylon Jennings' famed album Honky Tonk Heroes?) His ticket was not as expensive, not bought as far in advance, and will be in a much louder, more rowdy setting - a tri-fecta! Speaking of tri-fecta, next March I feel I will have hit my own personal songwriter legend tri-fecta - seeing Guy Clark, Billy Joe Shaver, and John Prine perform LIVE all within six months of one another. Dagnab it, why was I asleep at the switch when Townes was alive...

October 29 - First Predators game of the season for me. And they won over the division-leading Chicago Blackhawks! Hoo-ah! The game was made doubly-cool by an evening out with a couple of friends - one of whom goes back to college years, now lives in Switzerland, and only gets to the states every 2 to 3 years. Fun reunion.

October 31 - My daughter carved her first jack o' lantern, and she did a mighty fine job I think.

The next day we had a hard time deciding if one of our cats feared he might be the next to be carved or was volunteering.

My daughter dressed as a pirate. (Though with that red head band, she looks like she could also have been Head Wound Harriet.) My son dressed as a "Caution: Wet Floor" sign. And his friend dressed as Jack the Jacked-Up Janitor. They're beyond the age & I'm beyond caring where I even begin to try to understand their minds and costume choices. I just walked a parentally-safe yet outside the "its not cool you're still following us around" distance behind them sucking down a couple of brews along the way. Ever tried "Trick or Beer" in your neighborhood? It actually works sometimes!

November 1 - First Titans game for me in at probably about 3 years. Got to watch if up from wayyyy up in the upper deck on a sun-splashed Sunday afternoon. They also won just like the Preds a few days earlier - against the Jax Jaguars ending a very ugly 0-6 start to the season! I tailgated with a buddy of mine and his regular crew. Schaefer, PBR, Fat Tire, Mojitos, burgers, wings, and even freshly shucked oysters. Ahhhh....

So now its off Thursday through Sunday to Newark NJ with a side trip or two to New York City. The toughness of Newark and the bright lights/big city of NYC always intimidates this too much country rube. But I enjoy my limited time in the city each time I go. Hopefully, I'll return with some pics, some stories, some tweets, and some bloggable moments.