Engaging the world

Nov 15, 2017–As Thanksgiving brings its predictable menu of comfort food, dispensed in your family tradition, I started thinking about how as we grow older we tend to seek out stronger flavors.

The pungency of goat cheese and truffles.

The tang of red wine and black coffee.

The picante of peppers.

I used to speculate it was due to taste buds dulled by decades of use, yearning for sharper tastes to make them perk up.

But now I believe it has more to do with our need to stay engaged with the world.

One phenomenon of being an adult no one told me about is that if you are not careful, routine trumps novelty. Everything you do, see, or experience has happened before. Sometimes thousands of times, like eating breakfast or shaving.

It’s like driving cross country. At first it is exciting as you roll down the road. But by the 1845th mile you no longer notice the waves of grain or purple mountains majesty. It’s all a blur broken by bathroom breaks.

Life is fast forwarding on a VCR. So fast that half the people reading this won’t understand that reference.

Special occasions have a harder time being special. You have attended hundreds of graduations, weddings, and funerals. After decades of Jingle Bells, you no longer care what’s up on the rooftop or who mommy was kissing.

And that’s why we worship kids. No one engages in life like a child. No grownup gets so excited about that first lick of an ice cream cone, making a plaster cast of their hand, or just standing in the lawn sprinkler. Our senses have become dulled by repeated stimulations. Even our sense of imagination grows flaccid when flogged by daily routine.

It takes a strong experience to disrupt this background noise.

Maybe that’s why octogenarians decide to leap out of airplanes, marry their high school sweetheart, and boat the Volga.

At least, the interesting people do.

Doing otherwise is a long, slow walk to the grave.

So squirm, squeeze, and wiggle a bit. Engage.

Eat the ice cream and smell the cheese.

Bystander at the Birth of eSports

Nov 8, 2017–I was at Ground Zero for the birth of eSports, and didn’t realize it. The year was 1982. The location was Ottumwa, Iowa. More specifically, it was inside a storefront video game arcade called Twin Galaxies. After a challenging day teaching at Evans Junior High, I would often stop in to play aContinue Reading

Radney Foster: Telling stories differently

Nov 1, 2017–“I like being a storyteller.” Honestly, I didn’t know much about singer/songwriter Radney Foster before interviewing him. But when those were the first words out of his mouth, I knew I was meeting a kindred spirit. Foster–who will be doing an acoustic show in Luckenbach on Nov 10–is best known for his earlyContinue Reading

Beginnings: Chicago-style horns and harmonies

As published in the Kerrville (TX) Daily Times Spotlight Oct 19, 2017–The big, bright, brash sound of the seminal rock band Chicago had such an impact on Mason Swearingen, he remembers clearly the first time he heard it. “My earliest childhood memory is sitting in my parents car and hearing Saturday in the Park onContinue Reading

Still not hip

Oct 25, 2017–I attended my high school class reunion this past weekend, and as I reentered the shifting sands of adolescent memory, I confirmed I am still not, never was, and never will be “hip.” The concept of hipness is one of those things you cannot define, but you always recognize. Like great wine orContinue Reading

Nickels, Times, and Dollars

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Throw off your clothes

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Tejas Rodeo: True Taste of Texas

Oct 4, 2017–When we first moved to the Hill Country, there was a small rodeo arena on Hwy 16 south of Fredericksburg. I remember pulling in with the kids and letting them experience the dust, grit, and bellowing of bulls, broncs, and barrel racing. There is no greater thrill for a 5-year-old boy than toContinue Reading

How to Listen

Sept 27, 2017–How do you listen to a music performance? Is there a right or a wrong way? I thought about this while I attended the spring concert of Camerata San Antonio, a classical music ensemble. I was there to take photos, but as I settled into the back pew I succumbed to the music.Continue Reading

Rockbox, Gatlin Style

Sept 20, 2017–The first time I heard about Fredericksburg’s Rockbox Theater in 2005, I confess I did not grasp the concept. I had no idea how a community would receive a permanent music venue, offering a new show every week, year round. Apparently everyone else “got it.” Soon after opening their doors in June ofContinue Reading