Hell of a Guy
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. - Albert Einstein

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Thunder Over Louisville - a celebration


Yesterday was a terrifically wonderful day for Nancy and me.  We are here in Louisville, Kentucky to attend a conference that begins on Monday.  Yesterday was the kickoff for this year’s Kentucky Derby celebration.  I had no idea what to expect but understood this day’s events would be memorable.  As I walked outside the hotel Saturday morning about 6:30, I noticed several people placing lawn chairs and coolers in places where the river could be seen and laying claim to spots for the activities that were to begin later in the day.  “Thunder Over Louisville” refers to a fireworks display launched from two huge barges out on the Ohio River, the boundary line between Indiana and Kentucky.  The festivities began about 3pm with the commencement of an air show that lasted for nearly six hours. 

Military aircraft of all shapes and sizes flew overhead and out over the river.  Fighter jets and vintage aircraft in a display that took my breath away, pounded my ears, and even shook the balcony and building where about thirty of us stood watching.  The roar of an F-16 as the afterburner kicks in is deafening.  The Navy’s Blue Angels put on an incredible display of flight skills as they danced across the sky in various choreographed formations.  To see jet fighters shoot straight up into the sky for several thousands of feet is unbelievable.  Anyone who has piloted a Cessna knows it cannot be done in that aircraft, yet these planes are so very powerful they can fly on their sides for great distances defying gravity, it appears.  One has to wonder what keeps them up in the air – loss of lift and all that stuff we laymen think keeps planes aloft seems to be impossible when a plane flies with its wings perpendicular to the earth.  It is a conundrum, albeit a spectacular one.

So, about six-hundred beers later, the fireworks began.  Just about 9:30pm, from a barge in the middle of the river, there was a great boom and it was on.  I don’t know that I possess the words to describe what I saw.  For nearly twenty minutes the sky was lit up with multiple explosions of brilliant light and bright colors; some went high into the sky and others stayed lower near the shimmering water, and colors of reds, whites, greens, purples and oranges.  Straight up they flew and cascaded down over the water, a cacophony of sound and light.  Howitzers, manned by National Guardsmen, on a bridge stretching across the Ohio were fired for added affect, I suppose, with fire bellowing from the barrels and the blast echoing down the river.  Unbelievable!  Then as quickly as it started, it stopped.  Applause rippled through the estimated 800,000 people watching from both shores of the Ohio.  We, on the ninth floor balcony, sat in awe.  Just as we began to turn to move inside the hotel room, Thunder erupted, an encore, and the show went on for another ten minutes or so.  It is without a doubt the most spectacular show of its kind I have ever had the privilege to witness, and one I hope one day to see again.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.


I get many e-mails with stories that make me think.  I get some that make me cry.  This is one that moistens the eyes, for sure.


Babs Miller was bagging some early potatoes for me.
I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily apprising a basket of freshly picked green peas.

I paid for my potatoes but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas
and new potatoes. Pondering the peas, I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller and
the ragged boy next to me.

“Hello Barry, how are you today?”
“H’lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus’ admirin’ them peas.
Sure look good.”

“They are good, Barry. How’s your Ma?”
“Fine. Gittin’ stronger alla’ time.”

“Good. Anything I can help you with?”
“No, Sir. Jus’ admirin’ them peas.”

Would you like to take some home?”
“No, Sir. Got nuthin’ to pay for ‘em with.”

“Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?”
“All I got’s my prize marble here.”
“Is that right? Let me see it.”
“Here ‘tis. She’s a dandy.”

“I can see that. Hmmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?”

“Not zackley, but almost.”
“Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble.”
“Sure will. Thanks Mr. Miller.”

Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me.  With a smile she said, “There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn’t like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, perhaps.”

I left the stand smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later I moved to Colorado but I never forgot the story of this man, the boys, and their bartering.  Several years went by, each more rapid than the previous one. Recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died. They were having his viewing that evening and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them. Upon arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could.

Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts… all very professional looking.

They approached Mrs. Miller, standing composed and smiling by her husband’s casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket.

Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket. Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his eyes.

Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and mentioned the story she had told me about the marbles. With her eyes glistening, she took my hand and led me to the casket.

“Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about! They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim “traded” them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size ... they came to pay their debt.”

“We’ve never had a great deal of the wealth of this world,” she confided, “but right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho.”

With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined red marbles.

Moral: We will not be remembered by our words, but by our kind deeds.  Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath.

Today I wish you a day of ordinary miracles ... A fresh pot of coffee you didn’t make yourself ... An unexpected phone call from an old friend …Green stoplights on your way to work…The fastest line at the grocery store…A good sing-along song on the radio…Your keys right where you left them.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person; An hour to appreciate them; A day to love them, But an entire life to forget them.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

April 18th - Update in the Life of a HOAG


Today is April 18, 2006.  It is time I sat down and jotted a few notes as to what is going on in my life since I last posted an entry to this site.  So, here it is.

A few things have passed since my last entry.  I, along with some of my most favorite people on the planet, made a trip to Las Vegas, the land of glitter and silicone, lost souls and people that wish they were as happy as they wish you to think they are.  We arrived in Las Vegas at about 7pm on April 7th.  About an hour and half later, we arrived at Bally’s, about two miles from the airport.  The seventh being a Friday night in Las Vegas – as well as the rest of the world – had the streets filled with vehicles of every make and size.  We moved at the speed of snail for almost the entire trip from airport to hotel.  I, of course, kept my cool.  My intrepid mate did not, but stuck by her assessment it was me and not her who harbored the issue of frustration at the amount of time we were sitting still in the traffic.

Alas!  We made it to the hotel, managed to get into a room, albeit one with a Murphy bed (the kind that folds up into the wall), as opposed to the king-bed room we paid for.  This room was tagged as a “mini-suite” and it was, but being as one rarely stays in the room the “mini” was lost on us.  Nonetheless, we enjoyed the stature of the suite and most certainly the view from the twenty-fourth floor.

Las Vegas is one of those places everyone needs to visit.  I believe you either love the place or could simply walk away from it and not miss it.  I am of the latter group.  Other than the fact that I was there with my favorite person in world and a daughter and son-in-law, I could have not gone and been happy sucking down a brewski or two in beautiful downtown Berkeley Springs, WV, population 711.  The highlight of the trip for me was that I got to see the “Ka” version of the Cirque du Soleil.  That was outstandingly awesome and I will pass it along as highly recommended.

This is a town for all people.  I caught glimpse of the beautiful people, as well as the not so beautiful.  I saw the thin, the fat, the young and the old, people of every ethnicity, color and religion.  I heard many foreign accents and domestic dialects.  I stared at hundreds of beautiful woman and handsome men.  This is the ultimate people watching venue.

I passed by a couple in deep conversation in the lobby of the hotel on Sunday morning.  As I walked passed them I overheard the guy saying, “I would love for you to go to my room, but I am not going to pay you.”  About ten minutes later, as I waited for the valet to bring my car, she pranced out of the hotel and hailed a cab.  Such is life, I suppose, in Las Vegas.  The residents are trying to make a living and the visitors are trying to score a win.

This boy walked away breaking even.  I bet nothing, put no money in any of the ten thousand slot machines parked in every nook and cranny in Clark County, Nevada, and managed not to call any of the hundreds of “escort services” available to tourists, as advertised on handouts passed out by men and women looking very much, a nasty judgment on my part, like the now controversial “illegals” that permeate the nightly news shows.

All in all, Las Vegas was okay.  Highlights included, besides the Cirque du Soleil, a theme park type ride at the top of the Stratosphere Tower that had us hanging over the side of the tower and looking down at the ground 810 feet below, great beer at the Big Dog, walking through and gawking at the opulence of the mega-hotels (gamblers wonder who is paying for them, since they always leave with more than they brought).  I would go back, perhaps not any time soon, but I could go there again.  If that should eventuate, my sole purpose would be to see the other Cirque du Soleil shows and maybe grab a couple more beers at Big Dogs. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Las Vegas Adventure


I need to write this, so stay tuned.  I am on vacation this week and getting ready for some guests from out of town who will grace my doorstep tomorrow afternoon, and stay for the weekend.  Too, busy to post right now.

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