Hither and Yon

I’ve been on the road and in the air pretty continuously for the past nine days, pursuing the sorts of ridiculously complicated travel that I used to do all time time during my original stint with TREE Fund, but which I’ve (thankfully) not endured often during the years beyond the Anno Virum.

My first leg was a flight from Phoenix to Charlotte, North Carolina, following a two-hour drive to the airport that began at 4:30 AM. I went to Charlotte to attend the semi-annual in-person TREE Fund Board Meeting, at the amazing Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories. The organization’s incoming CEO joined us, and it was truly great to have him with us. My current term as TREE Fund’s Interim President/CEO will end on July 1, when we’ll engage in the traditional “I had it, you got it” hand-off of the reins.

I had a free afternoon after the meeting ended, so I took the opportunity to visit my Dad’s hometown of Albemarle, North Carolina, seeing lots of nostalgic sights and eating what I consider to be the world’s best barbecue at Whispering Pines, an iconic local establishment since the 1940s, and the first place I can consciously recall having classic Carolina smoked meat.  A big pile of chopped pork barbecue, just smoked, no sauce necessary, some tater tots and hush puppies gave this boy a happy, happy belly. Slightly sadder: I visited my grandparents’ graves in Albemarle. In life, they really cared about where they were to be buried (they had bought their plot many years before they died, and used to take us out to see it when we’d visit), but it’s a bit shabby looking all these years on, and their shared grave marker is in bad shape, the flower urn that was mounted on it having been twisted off, and the stone itself seeming to have sunk irregularly into the ground. I guess “perpetual care” is an easy concept to sell to the living, but a hard one to enforce on behalf of the deceased. Too bad.

That bit of family business done, I headed over to the Uwharrie Mountains, a weird and beautiful ancient forest range just east of Albemarle. In the heart of the Uwharries sits the Kron Homestead. Francis Kron was a prominent early 19th century country doctor who had a farm in the Uwharries. People perceived him as being very wealthy (probably a racist element there, as he was an immigrant Prussian of Jewish ancestry), so legends emerged soon after his death (and then were reinforced after the deaths of his unmarried daughters) that he had buried a fortune in gold somewhere on his property, but that he had cursed it so that the spirits buried there would protect it.

People have been digging around the property ever since, including in the family’s cemetery, looking for the elusive Kron Gold. When I was a little kid, it was a really, truly scary place to visit, because it was way back in the woods, with all the stones knocked over and lots of evidence of grave-robbing attempts. And then there was the fact that “The Legend of the Kron Gold” was one of the more frightening chapters in Ghost Tales of the Uwharries, a seriously scary book written by my grandfather’s friend, Fred T. Morgan. I used to read it most every time I went to Albemarle, and it always gave me the jibblies.

At some point, the North Carolina State Park Service seems to have decided that preserving the Kron graveyard was a lost cause. All of the old markers except for Dr. Kron and his wife’s obelisk have been removed, but the stone walls around the burial plot in the woods remain. It is still kinda creepy: you are in these dark, shadowy woods, with a strange monument that does not seem to belong there appearing as you walk through the forest. Someone (or something) had been making sacrifices recently, as there were animal bones in the middle of the plot. I didn’t do any digging, so hopefully the ghosts did not follow me back to the hotel in Charlotte, or onward to the next legs of my trek.

From Charlotte, I flew up to Minneapolis, meeting Marcia there. Many of her surviving siblings, nieces and nephews gathered for one of her sisters’ 75th Birthday, and all of the sisters present also got to watch the Twins beat the Padres at Target Field. We drove by the house Marcia grew up in, and the church right behind it, where we were married in 1989. We also visited the George Floyd Memorial site, just nine blocks due east of her home; you can see the tower of the church where we were wed from the stoop where George was murdered. We then went out to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, had a great Mother’s Day Dinner at Barbette, and got to spend some nice time with friends from Sedona who decamp for Minnesota during the hot summer months in Arizona. I also visited Fort Snelling National Cemetery and paid respects to Marcia’s parents, who are buried there.

That leg of the journey complete, I flew on to Annapolis, Maryland via Thurgood Marshall BWI Airport, with a stop at Chicago O’Hare, getting to see our old condo building at 340 East Randolph as we flew in over Lake Michigan. My writing partner, Jim McNeal, and I had a book-signing scheduled at the U.S. Naval Academy during the annual “Plebes No More” ceremonial climbing of the Herndon Monument. We had a front-row seat for the climb, which was great to see, 40 years after our class completed it. This year’s ex-plebes, the Class of 2026, took two hours and 31 minutes to finish the task; our class (1986) did it in one hour and 44 minutes. It’s a thing to experience, for sure, and it was surprisingly emotional for me to see this year’s ex-plebes get ‘er done, remembering clearly how amazing it felt in May of 1983 to know that my own plebe year was finally, thankfully, permanently done.

I flew back from Annapolis (via Charlotte) to Phoenix, meeting Marcia there as she came in on her own flight from Minneapolis. Another two-hour drive, and we finally made it home last night. A busy, tiring trip, but lots of great visits embedded therein, so worth it all, in the final analysis. As always, I snapped myself some photos along the way, and share them with you below, each of the three destinations with its own album over at my Flickr site. Click and forage, as you see fit!

Albemarle, North Carolina and Environs

Minneapolis, Minnesota and Environs.

U.S. Naval Academy, Herndon Day. (This photo is me pointing at “The Zoo,” where I lived during my senior year).

Basket of Eggs

1. Back in November, Marcia and I visited Las Vegas to spend Thanksgiving with Katelin and John. We were staying at a hotel with a casino in it (which is a needless distinction when you mention Las Vegas, I guess), and after I got my coffee one morning, I stuck my change in a slot machine and had a nice little $100+ return. Since I prefer to invest ill-gotten gains of that nature into other potential ill-gotten gains, I put some bets down at the Sports Book window. For the NBA, I put four $5.00 bets on each of Phoenix, Miami, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA Title in 2023. None of them were doing particularly well at the time (the Lakers were especially bad), but now: all four of them are in the Final Eight of the NBA Playoffs , none playing each other, so conceivably I could end up with money on all of the Final Four. With the Washington Wizards (my team since their Capital Bullets days) eliminated before the playoffs started, I’m rooting for the Lakers to win the whole thing, as my $5.00 bet on them with pay out $655 with a Finals victory. I’ve also got a bet on the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL, and with the seeming-Team-of-Destiny Boston Bruins shockingly knocked out in the first round of the playoffs, that one’s looking healthier than I thought it might. I’ll have to come up with some really crazy bets as reinvestment if I win these NBA or NHL picks, that’s for sure.

2. I had mentioned here some time back that I was working for TREE Fund again (I had been the organization’s President/CEO from 2015 to 2019) as a consultant,  helping them through a period of executive transition. It took a little longer than any of us expected, I think, but I’m pleased to report that the Board has engaged its next President/CEO, per this press release. I’m most pleased that Paul has agreed to become the organization’s leader, and am happy to see that he has already registered for the Tour des Trees, the organization’s per-eminent community engagement event. If you care about the organization, the cause, and the event, you can join me in supporting Paul’s maiden Tour at his fundraising page, here. This year’s Tour is going from Reno, Nevada to Half Moon Bay, California, in what promises to be a spectacular ride with loads of community engagement events already scheduled. So maybe you want to support it by riding with Paul and the rest of the peloton instead? You can do that here. Great cause, great community, and a life-altering adventure for many. Highly recommended!

3. I will be in Charlotte, North Carolina this week at the amazing Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories for TREE Fund’s semi-annual Board Meeting. I’ll have some afternoon down-time after the meeting adjourns, so am planning to make a nostalgia visit to Albemarle, North Carolina, where my Dad grew up, and where I spent loads of time in my pre-college years visiting my grandparents. It’s a dear place to me, and I don’t get there often. Planned highlight: dinner at Whispering Pines BBQ, a legendary local institution (my Dad used to go there when he was in high school) that I consider to be the pinnacle of the Carolina barbecue experience. Mmmmm . . . salivating just thinking about it! Then I’m headed to Minneapolis, where I will meet up with Marcia for some family celebrations around her sister’s 75th Birthday. And from there, I’m flying on alone to Annapolis for a book signing with my co-author, Jim McNeal, of our Side by Side in Eternity: The Lives Behind Adjacent American Military Graves, in conjunction with the epic annual Herndon Climb. If any of my Navy peeps are going to be on the Yard for Herndon, do track me down and say “howdy,” please and thanks, as I’d love to catch up in person. And for those who have read and enjoyed the book, a respectful request (again) to say that Jim and I would be most appreciative if you’re able and willing to review it Amazon, or on your own websites, or anyplace else. Those blurbs are helpful to marketing future projects, so we’re looking to build a nice catalog thereof.

4. Speaking of future book projects, I’ve received the proof print copy of Ubulembu and Other Stories, which won the 2023 Unleash Creatives Book Prize, and am busy doing a detailed re-read to catch any nit typos or errors that I’ve made and missed along the way. It’s very satisfying to hold it in hand, and I love the layout and design that Jen and Chris at Unleash Press have created for the book. It’s already up for pre-order on Amazon Prime and Barnes and Noble, with a target print release date of August 1, and an eBook release on September 1. Very exciting to be so close to having it out!

It’s a book! With an awesome cover! (That’s a lichen, if you’re wondering).

We Strive for Excellence

1. In my prior post, I celebrated the best new music of 2023’s First Quarter, including a special nod for Buggy Jive‘s outstanding new single, “Don’t Quit Your Day Job.” Buggy had written the song about the thought processes behind submitting a song to NPR’s acclaimed Tiny Desk Concerts series, then he submitted same song to said contest, because of course he did. And, no surprise here, given how wildly crazy I’ve been about his work over the years, NPR has warmly embraced it through the ongoing review process of over 6,000 submissions, featuring it prominently in a pair of promotional videos. Here’s the most recent one of those, its first third scored to those sweet and mellifluous Buggy stylings:

The winner of this year’s contest will be announced on May 11. Which happens to be this brilliant soul-rock singer-songwriter’s birthday. I hope and think everything’s coming up Buggy in 2023. Wishing him all best in the weeks ahead (and beyond), and am thrilled to pieces to see his fine work getting this level of attention. He deserves it, for sure.

2. I’ve been communicating closely with, and remain most impressed by, the team at Unleash Creatives as we work to bring my forthcoming collection Ubulembu and Other Stories to market in late summer/early autumn 2023. Jen Knox, Chris Shanahan, and their Unleash Press colleagues are a vibrant and creative and fun bunch, right up my alley, and they place a high value on building community among the writers they represent and publish, which also does my heart good, as a networking fiend. As we move toward the final proof stage of the process, Ubulembu has begun appearing as a pre-order on the various and myriad online bookselling platforms, which is exciting. Even more exciting: Seeing the cover concept coming together, wow! The aesthetic is right up my alley, as those of you who used to receive my black Christmas cards every year may well imagine, and the imagery is deeply meaningful to the title story, even if you don’t know what you’re looking at before reading. Behold!

I’ll obviously provide additional information on ordering as we get closer to publication date, with thanks in advance to any and all of you who choose to acquire it. It is a thrill to know that these stories will be finally set before a wide audience this year, in some cases after they’ve been sitting on my computers for decades. Slow and steady and such, yeah?

3. Also on the writing front, Side by Side in Eternity: The Lives Behind Adjacent American Military Graves is trucking along nicely in its post-publication life cycle. I have a few signed copies left here at the homestead, so if you’re interested in one of those, hit me up, sooner rather than later. For my Naval Academy peeps: I’ll be doing a signing with my co-author, Jim McNeal, in Annapolis on May 17, the day of the annual Herndon Climb. Hope to see some of you there! There will also be a local event in Sedona in September, and we are exploring some other options to discuss and present our work in other in-person or online settings. We’re both happy to present the project if you’ve got any virtual or meat-space opportunities to suggest. If you’ve read Side by Side in Eternity and posted thoughts about it anywhere, do share those with us, please and thanks, as we are working to acquire and assemble blurbs and reviews. We are still hard at work on our next book, Crucibles: History’s Most Formidable Rites of Passage, for Agate Publishing, and it’s been a fascinating and enjoyable process thus far. We’ve already written about our 1982-83 Plebe Year experiences together at the Naval Academy, and also about the French Foreign Legion, the Dahomey Amazons, the Koa (warriors) of Hawai’i, and the Shaolin Monks. We have another 14 chapters coming in the year ahead, plus our analytical synthesis of centuries’ worth of elite society trials, ostensibly to frame what works, what doesn’t, what’s good, what’s bad, and what’s just mystifying and fantastic and fun. It’s a great project, if I say so myself, and Jim and I are very appreciative for Doug Siebold at Agate and Mark Gottlieb at Trident Media Group, who saw its potential and share our enthusiasm for the work. Thanks, guys!

4. I’ve mentioned before that I’m back on Facebook, ennhhh, as a necessary evil for various promotional activities in 2023 and beyond. Since I spend much of my free time these days hiking, I’ve been doing little “photo essay” reports of various routes there, which people seem to be enjoying. One thing that I’ve noticed with all of the photography I do hereabouts is that it’s really, really difficult to communicate a sense of the scale of the rock formations within which we live and play. I’m a reasonably strong and accomplished hiker, and there are a lot of places I go which are struggles, up close and personal, but which in pictures look, well, too easy, I guess. If pressed to name my favorite hike in this area, it’s a loop that I do up to a summit that I can see from our back porch. It’s a tough one, but totally worth it. I decided to do something of a step-by-step documentation of it the last time I was up there, and posted it as its own Flickr album to see if it did a better job of communicating the scale we experience here. If you click on the first picture and then scroll through the rest, I’ve captioned each one to explain what you’re looking at in each case. I’m not sure that it does a better job of showing the bigness and majesty that I feel being in it in real time, but you can click the summit photo below if you’re interested in seeing it and deciding yourself. If you come visit me, I’ll likely propose we do it together. So be prepared.

5. And finally, speaking of hiking: Marcia and I have just booked a 14-day trek through the Alps for August-September, leaving from Munich, crossing Austria, and ending up in Venice. Want to join us? You can do it here. It would be a blast to experience it with friends!

Crucial Velocity

1. Marcia and I returned yesterday from a quick trip to New Orleans. I went on behalf of TREE Fund to help conduct finalist interviews for the President/CEO position, my former job until 2019, and the one I’ve been filling again on an interim basis since last December. Marcia came with me because we’ve both been to New Orleans on our own for work over the years, but we’ve never visited it together. It was a good and fun and productive trip. On the work side, we hope to be announcing the new TREE Fund President/CEO within the next couple of weeks. On the personal side, we got a lot of good walks in, and ate some truly amazing meals, all of them involving various types of crustaceans, which pleased my belly immensely. Of particular culinary note, if you find yourself looking for a meal in New Orleans, were Luke, Toast (for brunch), and Seafood Sally’s. We also visited the New Orleans Jazz Museum and the National World War II Museum, both worth the time and attention. I snapped some pics along the way, as I do, and if you’d like to see our photo album, you can click on the mid-meal scene from our first night’s dinner at Seafood Sally’s. Messy good deliciousness, just so.

When the dinner table features a roll of paper towels, a plastic pitcher, and a bucket, then I know I am where I am meant to be. Mmm mmm good!!!

2. On the writing-related front, things are trucking along very nicely with Unleash Press toward an October 2023 release of Ubulembu and Other Stories. I’ve seen the cover art mock-up and I love it, so will be most excited to have it out for your delectation this autumn. The roll-out for Side by Side in Eternity continues to go well. As I’ve noted before, if you’ve acquired it, thank you! If you’ve read it, even bigger thanks! And if you enjoyed it and would be able and willing to leave a review on the book-buying or personal platform of your choice, Jim (my co-author) and I would be most tickled, indeed. I do still have 11 copies of the book here that are signed by Jim and I. If you’d like to have one of those autographed copies for your personal library, hit me up by email and I’ll be happy to get it off to you, pronto.

3. I’ve typically done a “Best Music of the Year (Half-Way)” type post each summer, highlighting the first six months of each year’s offerings as an interim step toward my annual Albums of the Year report. 2023 has started on a super-strong front to my ears, so I think I’m going to mix it up a bit with a quarterly interim report instead. For January to March, here’s what’s been rocking my world the hardest:

BEST ALBUMS OF 2023 (FIRST QUARTER)

  • Gina Birch, I Play My Bass Loud
  • David Brewis, The Soft Struggles
  • John Cale, Mercy
  • Fever Ray, Radical Romantics
  • Steve Mason, Brothers & Sisters
  • Caroline Polachek, Desire, I Want to Turn Into You
  • Iggy Pop, Every Loser
  • Yves Tumor, Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)
  • Uriah Heep, Chaos & Colour
  • Young Fathers, Heavy Heavy
  • Andy White and Tim Finn, AT

BEST NON-ALBUM SINGLES OF 2023 (FIRST QUARTER)

  • Buggy Jive, “Don’t Quit Your Day Job”
  • David J, “Quelle Tristesse” / “Vienna Song”
  • Mammoth WVH, “Another Celebration at the End of the World”
  • Public Image Ltd., “Hawaii”
  • Sparks, “The Girl is Crying in Her Latte”
  • Bartees Strange, “Tisched Off” / “Keekee’in”

Since I’m still caving to streaming (grumble), I’ve created a playlist if you’d like to sample one cut from each of these releases, below. Enjoy them, and let me know what else I might have missed over the past three months!

 

4. I must point out a sad note and a glad note related to songs in that prior playlist. The sad news first: Public Image Ltd’s (PiL) “Hawaii” single was released as a love song for Nora Forster, the wife since 1979 of PiL front-man John Lydon. Nora has been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for several years, and this beautiful song was crafted as an ode to a memorable vacation that John and Nora spent in Hawai’i, even as Nora’s memories of it, and many other things, were fading. Lydon has been Nora’s primary caregiver throughout her devastating illness, and this song (among other activities) were John’s way of preserving Nora’s dignity, celebrating her life, and heightening awareness of Alzheimer’s impact on those living with the disease, and those caring for them. I was sad to read yesterday that Nora has finally succumbed to her disease at the age of 80. “Hawaii” is a beautiful ode to the long power of their partnership, a mature love song written in the waning days of a life-long romance, not in the passionate throes of its early moments. I can’t think of a lot of other songs crafted from that perspective, with Kurt Weill’s “September Song” (best performed by Willie Nelson, to these ears) as perhaps the exemplar of the idiom. Until “Hawaii.” RIP to Nora Forster, and all affection to John Lydon in the dark and lonelier days ahead of him. His dedication to his wife, though better and worse, in sickness and in health, moves me. Here’s the video for this most sad and special song:

On a happier front, Buggy Jive’s “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” was created for and entered into NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, and yesterday, the judges highlighted nine favorites (out of over 6,000 entries) from their rating and screening process. Guess what? Buggy Jive is one of them. This year’s winner will be announced in May, and I would be tickled pink to have Buggy earn that most well-deserved honor. I’ve counted him as a genius since first being exposed to his work in Albany in the ’90s, and it is thrilling to see him getting this level of acknowledgment and recognition. Go Buggy Jive! I’m cheering and rooting for you, with all that I’ve got! Here’s the video of the song, which is typically fantastic, discussing the whole Tiny Desk concept while participating in the same, meta upon meta upon meta. Plus, Buggy gets his very best band together again for this special performance, worth seeing them work their formidable chops. Oh, and The LORD makes a special appearance, which is always a good thing. Love it!

Far Country

1. Marcia and I are home from a wonderful birthday visit to Las Vegas, where she and Katelin celebrated their natal date at the same moment when huge swaths of the world were marking International Women’s Day. My mother joined us, on her first ever visit to Las Vegas. We kept telling her we were going to buy her a carton of Pall Mall’s, give her twenty dollars, and leave her at one of the convenience store casinos for three days, to giver her a true, old school, hardcore Vegas experience. But that didn’t quite work out, as we opted for some tourism time on the Strip and at Fremont Street instead. As is typical for our visits to see Katelin and John in their home city, we also had some superb meals, with two new-to-us destinations being particularly pleasing: Edo Gastro Tapas and Wines, and Panevino. The former offered an exceptional ten-course tasting menu, where everything was superb and interesting, the latter was a high-quality traditional Italian restaurant in a lovely space with a great view out over the airport and Strip. Both recommended if you find yourself needing some substantial sustenance between bouts of gambling and partying. I took some snaps during the week, as I usually do, which you can see by clicking the photo below of the posse waiting for the Bellagio Fountains to do their thing:

John rented a mobility scooter for my Mom. It was easy to do, affordable, and greatly enhanced her ability to get up and down the strip and around various casinos. Recommended if you’ve got a family member or friend whose Vegas experience could benefit from having some wheels.

2. Right before we headed to Las Vegas, I was tickled to receive word that my full-length collection Ubulembu and Other Stories had won the Unleash Creatives Book Prize. I posted a screen cap of the announcement at that prior link, but then when I went to look at it again a couple of days ago, I noted that they had since added a review quote from the Final Judge of the competition. The review makes me blush on one hand, but it also deeply pleases me that someone clearly gets what I do, writing-wise, which is always a wonderful affirmation to receive. Here’s the quote, with deep thanks to Dick McPherson and all at Unleash Creatives/Lit:

3. As I wrote at length in this post, I somehow missed the great Buggy Jive‘s late 2022 album, The Ghost of Alexander, which coulda woulda shoulda been a contender for my Album of the Year last year, had I been paying better attention in real time. One of the nice things about being back on social media for book marketing purposes  is that I can now keep better tabs on current events involving the artists who move me, like Buggy Jive. And so I was very pleased to see yesterday, in real time, that Buggy has already got a new single out, called “Don’t Quit Your Day Job,” which is typically great, and which features yet another awesome video. Here ’tis, hooray!

Impetus

1. Side by Side in Eternity: The Lives Behind Adjacent American Military Graves (my new book with Rear Admiral Jim McNeal) is now available for sale at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble says they will have it next week. So you’ve got options for ordering. And options make everything better. Later this week, I should also have a stash of copies signed by both Jim and I. Hit me up by email if you’d like one of those, first come, first served. If you missed it, my prior post provides more detailed information about the book and its contents.

If you do score a copy, Jim and I are very interested in your thoughts and reactions, especially on which of the various chapters and topics we covered worked best for you. As we’re shaping our next book, nominally titled Crucibles: History’s Most Formidable Rites of Passage and constructed around a similar omnibus history narrative approach, it will be helpful to know which of our prior pieces hit the hardest with our readers. Also, if you’ve got any pull with libraries or local booksellers in your market, if you’re looking for a Book Club idea, or if you see an opportunity for Jim and/or I to speak or sign somewhere, do please advise. We’re ready for full-court press marketing at this point, and appreciate any and all help on that front.

Got my autographin’ pen out . . .

2. I’ve been enjoying fiddling about the colorization applications at Palette, applying them to a bunch of old black and white family photos. It’s surprisingly naturalistic looking, and I’ve produced an album of the photos I’ve reinterpreted, here: Fiat Colorum. I post a sample pair below, of my father (first picture) and my mother (second picture) when they were young children. These and others do a good job, I think, of powerfully capturing what the rural American South looked like, once upon a time. And still does, if you get away from the coastal, golf or mountain places where most Northerners retire to, or the ever-sprawling cities and their endless suburbs that have transformed the region during my lifetime.

My dad with Rose, who essentially raised him on a day-to-day basis while his mother worked as a teacher, and an unknown-to-me neighbor girl.

My mother with her dog, Lorna, and Lorna’s puppies. Love the debris pile in the background, classic Southern style. Why dispose of anything when you’ve got a perfectly good field to store it in? Who knows when you might need some of it again for something?

3. While 35+ years of living in the frigid climes of Idaho, Upstate New York, Chicago and Iowa certainly raised my non-native tolerance for foul weather, one of our primary motivations in moving to Arizona was to get away from all that. And, in relative terms, we certainly have, though long-time locals hereabouts concur that the winter of 2022-2023 has been, thus far, the worst in local memory. I woke up Monday morning to this view out of our kitchen window:

I do not approve. Nope. Not one bit.

Uggghhh!!! The one nice thing about this type of weather here, though, is that it generally all melts quickly, except in shaded areas at higher elevations. The day after I took that snow shot, I did a short-but-steep hike up the nearest major rock face to our house, and the view from on-high at that point looked like this, with the white stuff mostly gone from view:

Watch that first step. It’s a doozy . . .

Then yesterday, I went and climbed the snow-flecked mesa at the top center of this photo, looking back across our village at the red-rock face I’m standing atop in the photo above. You’d have never known we’d had any snow:

The formation in the center with the pointed green caps is where I do more hiking and climbing that anywhere else. Our house is at the base of that formation, at its left-hand side in this view.

I post these pictures and thoughts now, as we await the next forecast wave of snow, three to five inches expected through the afternoon and evening today. UGGGGHHH!! We will be driving to Las Vegas on Saturday to celebrate Marcia and Katelin’s shared birthday at Katelin and John’s house, so I’m hoping that this snow event also disappears quickly, as we need to climb up a few thousand feet en route from here to there.

4. I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve reactivated a Facebook account to help with promotion on Side by Side in Eternity. I’m here, if you’re there, and you care. I’ve been posting information about the book and various hiking and other outdoor adventures in Arizona. But, somewhat predictably I suppose, the most popular things I’ve posted are photos of the charismatic (?) mega-fauna (??) that hang out in our yard:

I’m here to eat the bird food. Please spill some more here for me. Do it now. Snort.

Home From Hawai’i (With Representation)

Marcia and I made it home from Hawai’i late this morning after a classic red-eye flight from Kailua-Kona (depart 11:30 PM) to Phoenix (arrive 7:30 AM). I pounded some melatonin and tried to sleep, but it was fitful at best, so I’m definitely in the logy zone this afternoon.

The trip was a great one. The first week was spent, as reported in Item #1 here, at The Writing Workshops Hawai’i program, held at a lovely, isolated retreat center on the far northern corner of the Big Island. We met some wonderful and talented folks, read, discussed, and listened to a variety of great stories (fiction and otherwise), ate outstanding food and had spare time to explore some of the more accessible sites on that side of the island. Good times with good people, doing things we love to do. Can’t go wrong with that sort of situation.

For our second week, we shifted over to Kona Town, renting a condo where Katelin and John joined us. In a fortuitous turn of events, Marcia’s sister Evelyn was also in the Kona area for the week, so we spent enjoyable family time with her, and benefited from her deeper knowledge of the island. Over the week, we pretty much circumnavigated the entirely of the Big Island, which deserves its name, because it takes a lot of car time to see that much of it. But the sights you see, oh my, they are glorious and unique, and well worth the effort.

Between this trip and our recent Spanish adventure, we were away from home for a longer period of time than I think we’ve ever experienced before over a five week period. It was all wonderful to be away in such great places, of course, but then it feels especially wonderful to be home after such travels.

And not to bury the lede here, but that bit about “with representation” in the title of this post refers to a most delightful happening from this working vacation. With apologies to those of you who are my e-mail lists and have already heard this, here’s the message on this topic which I sent out earlier this week . . .

Hello, friends,

With apologies, as always, for my occasional mass emails, I wanted to let you all know that I have a new book coming out this month in collaboration with my writing partner, Jim McNeal. For the non-Navy folks: Jim and I were classmates at Annapolis and Supply Corps Corps school, so have known each other for 40+ years at this point, and it was a joy to work together on this fun and interesting project.

Here is the publisher’s link to the book, titled Side by Side in Eternity: The Lives Behind Adjacent American Military Graves. It is currently available for pre-order from the publisher, and also from all of the major book-selling platforms, if you prefer to order from Amazon or Barnes and Noble or elsewhere.

For my friends in the working media, if you would like to acquire a review copy, please let me know directly and I will provide your information to the publisher’s marketing folks. Jim and I would be deeply appreciative of such support, just as we’d be deeply appreciative if any of you are able and willing to pre-order Side by Side in Eternity to help generate buzz around its actual release.

Finally, I am also most pleased to announce that Jim and I recently contracted for representation on our next book project with highly-esteemed literary agent Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media Group. I had the opportunity to spend a week in Hawai’i at a writers’ workshop with Mark and was most impressed by him and his work. Jim and I are truly delighted to have him as our agent. Our working title for the next book is Crucibles: History’s Most Formidable Rites of Passage. Watch my website over the months ahead for updates on that project.

Again, with apologies for mass mailing, thanks so much for all of your ongoing support for my creative endeavors. It means a lot to me.

All best,

Eric

And with that wonderful piece of news out there, I now turn to the obligatory post-travel photo album, as I always do. You can click on the photo of Marcia and I illuminated by Kilauea’s lava glow, just after sunset. There are some “wow” pictures in the album of what you see when you look over that volcano rim, too, along with all sorts of sights from all sorts of other places around and about the island. Pretty darned impressive, I tell you. Pretty darned impressive, indeed.

Subtle Hustle

1. As reported earlier, Marcia and I returned from Spain (yet again) in the middle of last week. We spent a couple of days getting our body clocks back in order; I always find that harder when making a long trip from east to west, rather than the other way around. Then we have had several days of what passes for awful weather here (i.e. balmy and pleasant winter days in Albany, Chicago or Des Moines), keeping us more housebound than we’d like to be. The day after tomorrow, Marcia and I are hitting the road and the airways again, this time to Hawai’i’s big island for two weeks. During the first week, I will be participating in this writing workshop, and in the second week, we’ll be joined by Katelin and John for some less structured family time in Kona. When I originally retired from my President/CEO job at TREE Fund in late 2019, I had booked or been awarded positions in three writing workshop type events (most notably, Ideas Island), but as with so many other things, those events were quashed in the Anno Virum. I’m participating in the fiction component of this writing workshop, figuring that my non-fiction writing has been far more widely published (more on that below) than my stories-based work. We’ll see how it goes. I’m hopeful for some good connections and tips on the marketing and sales side of the equation, since that’s the stuff that I hate to do for my own work, as much as I like and am good at marketing and selling other things. In any case, we’ll be getting some nice weather and good family time, so those are pluses in any equation.

2. Speaking of TREE Fund, in an unexpected turn of events, I’m working for them again in a consulting/advisory role, per this notice. My role is to assist the Board of Trustees with the search processes for two key positions, and to provide interim staff leadership until those positions are filled. It has been interesting to re-step into shoes that I thought I had set aside permanently. I know a lot of my readers here are seasoned nonprofit professionals, so if you are interested in taking a look at the two roles we need filled, either for your own purposes, or for the benefit of colleagues who might be seeking new challenges, I’d be most appreciative. One of the roles (President/CEO, i.e. my old job) is not geographically specific, and can be done from anywhere, as TREE Fund went to a remote, non-brick-and-mortar structure after I left, and after the coronavirus started running the show. The other (Operations and Governance Assistant) is a remote job, but does require at least weekly access to TREE Fund’s legal Naperville, Illinois mail drop, so there are some geographic considerations there. And since I’m working on the organization’s behalf again, I’d be remiss in not sharing the fact that Tour des Trees 2023 rider registration is now open (the peloton and crew will be going from Reno, Nevada to the California coast south of the Bay Area), and that you can support the mission of TREE Fund any time with tax deductible gifts here. I’ve always appreciated your collective support of my charitable causes in the past, and hope you might be moved to continue that trend of philanthropic benevolence as a statement of support for the current staff and volunteers, and those we hope to hire over the next few months.

3. And then speaking of my non-fiction writing, I’ve received the final galley proofs on my forthcoming book, Side by Side in Eternity: The Lives Behind Adjacent American Military Graves, written in collaboration with my Naval Academy and Supply Corps School classmate and friend, Rear Admiral Jim McNeal. It’s nice to get to this point of the process and see just how the whole thing’s going to look in print, and I’m quite pleased at the layout and editing done by McFarland Books, our publisher. While the release date has been slipping around a bit, Amazon is currently showing it available on March 14. It may be sooner, it may be later, based on the number of times we’ve seen the date shift since submitting the manuscript last year, but given the point where we’re at with final edits and indexing, we know it’s going to be soon. (Note that the Amazon page for the book has some inaccurate holding pattern information blocks, most notably on page length, so I presume that will also be updated in weeks ahead). I’m trying to get the indexing done before we head to Hawai’i, though it’s fairly time-consuming and painstaking work, so that may be over-ambitious. That said, I’m about 70% through the 225 page manuscript, and the index I have created is already over 20 pages long, containing nearly 800 specific entries. (!!) That’s a lot of people, places, and things, and I think it all makes for a rich and well-researched text. (Of course, I would think that, wouldn’t I?)

What’s it all about, beyond the summary blurb on the websites linked above? Here is a scan of the Table of Contents (in two images over two pages, that jog in the formatting is not in the book), showing the specific stories we share at length in the text:

It was fun and interesting to write, and I’m hopeful that others will find it fun and interesting to read. You can pre-order it from the outlet of your choosing if you’d like, and Jim and I would be most grateful for such expressions of interest and support. We’re already pitching our next collaborative book project to publishers (it has to do with extreme rites of passage through history), so if you’ve got any good leads for us, holla!