Dancing Duck Gets Down From Dusk Til Dawn

You have to give it to the duck. They are versatile little creatures. They can swim, they can fly and if they have to, they can waddle. And now I finding out, they can also dance.

I actually have one of these dancing ducks. She perches right outside my front door doing what she does best – – dancing. And she does this from dusk ‘til dawn. She rests at night. But before you know it, she’ll be back at it again, shimmying at first light.

photo (10)A duck shouldn’t be allowed to have that much fun. Let’s face it, most ducks don’t have that much fun. This one does, and she only cost a dollar.

I’ve always said, if you get an hour’s worth of enjoyment out of a dollar-store toy, then you got your money’s worth.

I like to think of her as my personal Walmart greeter – just without the greeting. She’s a nonverbal greeter. She simply waves hello and goodbye with her hips.

It’s been a couple of months now since I’ve had this dancing duck and there’s no signs of stopping. In fact, it’s not even mine. But luckily my 3-year-old neighbor hasn’t asked for it back yet.

I’m not worried though. If she does, I’ll just distract her by giving her all the Disney princess stickers she wants…

Dancing Duck on Make A Gif

Using The Force To Kill A House Fly

House flyThe Summer of Rain has spawned a sequel already. It’s called the Summer of Bugs. You can run and you can hide, but you won’t escape their wrath.

The outdoors is by far the worst, but going indoors offers no reprieve. This is where the persistent house fly has his way.

At least with a mosquito, you have a pretty good chance to kill it. Flies, on the other hand, are too fast to kill with an open hand slap. They land and nip and move on, only to land on you again two minutes later. It’s an endless cycle – – land, nip, repeat.

I think the fly that is annoying me today is the same fly that’s been annoying me for the last month or so.

It’s a simple formula, though. If you have kids under the age of 12, you will have house flies. The frequency in which the front door opens and closes is directly proportionate to the number of flies in the house at a given time.

And I use the word ‘closes’ very loosely. When you’re dealing with kids under the age of 12, the door doesn’t ever fully close. As a result, you end up trading cool and refreshing air-conditioned air for house flies.

That’s not exactly a fair trade.

Star wars nerf gun
But today is different. Today, I declare war on this pesky house fly. And as my weapon of choice, I’ll be using one of my son’s tried and true methods of fly extermination – a Star Wars Nerf gun.

Some would ask why not use a fly swatter? Quite simply – a fly swatter would be too easy.

A Nerf gun requires patience and skill. It gives the little guy a chance to retreat. That’s the least I can do.

Mr. Miyagi didn’t kill flies with a fly swatter. He used chopsticks.

After all, it was Miyagi who once said, "Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything."

Fly nerf gun bullet 500px
So if I kill this fly with a Star Wars Nerf gun, what does that say about me? Mr. Myagi may not be proud, but I know one thing.

Yoda would be.


Nothing Says Happy Birthday Like A Plastic Funnel

FilterMy dad’s birthday was this past Monday. He turned 67 years old. That’s hard to believe.

Then again, I’m 37 years old. That’s hard to believe too.

I think Ben Folds said it best in his song “Jackson Cannery” when he said that ‘seconds pass slowly and years go flying by.’

So what do you get the man who has everything? The same thing you got him last year. And the year before that. And the year before that.

The number of candles on the cake may change from year to year, but the presents don’t. Without fail, either one of my siblings or me ends up getting my dad a bucket, a bundle of red shop rags, a roll of shop towels, peanut M&M’s or the original Dentyne gum.

Because like my dad says, you can never have enough buckets. Or shop rags. Or shop towels.

What did my brother get my dad this year for his birthday? A funnel, a bucket, and shop rags. What did I almost get my dad? A funnel, a bucket, and shop rags.

But I didn’t. But I almost did. It was my last resort if I couldn’t find anything.

He doesn’t need a whole lot, and if he does, he goes ahead and buys it himself – – like a new tool for whatever his latest project he's working on.

I guess he just likes people to be present rather than people overdoing it with presents.

There is not much one really needs when you reach a certain age. Giving someone your time is present enough for most of us.

So a plastic funnel may not seem like much. And it really isn’t. A birthday, afterall, is just one day.

The key is being available the other 364 days of the year so you can hold that plastic funnel while my dad changes the oil in the car. That’s the real present.

Snake In The Freezer!

Ten-year-old boys are pretty predictable.
Evan and his snake jun2013 They like to play computer games, ride bikes, play sports, and wander through the woods. They are fascinated by trees, water, fire and bugs. Oh yeah, and snakes too.

That may explain why I have a snake in my freezer. Well, maybe ‘I’ is not the right word. My son, Evan, has a snake in ‘our’ freezer.

The snake is not that big. But then again, I suppose a snake is a snake – no matter the size.

I know this would gross a lot of mothers out. Maybe it’s only something a father (former 10-year-old boys themselves) would understand.

That’s the beauty of summer. It’s a season made with boys in mind.

There’s no homework to complete. Bed time is less strict. When you boil it down, there is very little expected of you. Unless, however, you find a dead snake on the side of road. Then you must put it in the freezer so you can dissect it later.

Boys are simple. They find a dead snake and that’s the end of it. You can thank a mother down the street for the dissection idea.

So that’s how it came to be. A ‘found-on-the road’ dead snake is now an ‘in-my-freezer’ dead snake. And so, a potential snake dissection is being discussed for his next week-long visit.

When you only see your son once a month at best, you make your summer-week experience into a mini vacation for him. It’s an actual stay-cation for me. But sometimes it’s not where you go, but it’s what you do.

Kids don’t have a lot of down time anymore. Actual school bleeds into after-school. Somehow extracurricular activities get  squeezed into any remaining time available.

You’d think when school ends in early June, things would open up. But that’s not so. Kids jump straight into summer camp routines, having to get up early and go to bed at a decent time.

These kids don’t know anything different. It’s what they’ve always done.

This makes unplanned and unstructured time a commodity. That’s where some of the best experiences occur.

That’s what last week looked like during Week 1 of what I call ‘Daddy Camp’. We stayed up late. We slept late. We went to the pool and jumped in a warehouse full of trampolines. We even made a few spontaneous bike trips to Burger King for ice cream.

That’s what summertime is all about. It doesn’t get any better that. Unless, you find a dead snake on the road.

That just happens to be the icing on the cake.

Savannah Smiles

463762_619594988053747_1919485399_oWhen four-year-old Savannah smiles, good things happen. It makes the sun shine brighter and the grass look greener. And for a brief second, it makes all bad things in this world go away.

On the outside, Savannah looks like your typical little girl – healthy, happy and vibrant. On the inside, there’s a battle raging.

In biology class, we learned that cells are the building blocks of life. And in Savannah’s little 32-pound body, that’s where the battle is taking place – at the cellular level.

Savannah Greenawalt was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Disease just three weeks after her first birthday. Mitochondria are the fuel-burning factories in the cell – giving us the energy we need to stay alive.

Unfortunately for Savannah, her mitochondria don’t function as they should. This creates havoc in her little body causing her to deal with an array of health issues including gastro-intestinal problems, asthma, low blood sugar and more. Her immune system is weakened as a result, making her more prone to infections.

Savannah’s parents, Brian and Amber, decided long ago that they were not going to be victims of this disease. They wanted to be part of the solution. They want to find a cure. But the road to a cure starts with awareness.

That’s why they’re asking for your help. They’re not asking you for money. They are asking you do one simple thing – ‘LIKE’ their “Saving Savannah” Facebook page.

Their goal is to have 5,000 likes by August 2. Why that date? That’s Savannah’s 5th birthday.

So go ahead. ‘LIKE’ her page. That’ll surely make Savannah smile.

Spotlight on…The Spongetones

The Spongetones - photo Ray Henderson The following column will appear in the June 2009 edition of Gaston Alive:

The Spongetones had plenty to celebrate last year. Not only did they release their 10th studio recording Too Clever By Half, but they also released a greatest hits compilation celebrating their first 25 years as a band.

So you would think, after a busy 2008, they might take some time off this year. But never underestimate the passion and drive of The Spongetones. Now in their 29th year, this band is still rocking on, releasing yet another collection of songs they are calling Scrambled Eggs.

The Spongetones’ music is rooted in the mersey beat sound – a pop music genre made famous by such bands as The Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, The Hollies, and The Dave Clark Five. Its origins can be traced back to the United Kingdom around the early 1960s. However, long after the British Invasion, the Spongetones are still waving the mersey beat flag.

The one thing I love about the Spongetones is that they have never claimed to be innovators or pioneers of any musical sound or movement. They are four guys who simply love what they do – writing, recording and performing great pop music.

Even though they call North Carolina home, their music has national and international appeal. If you stay up late at night, you can catch their song “The Skinny” on ABC’s “World News Now”. In addition, they’ll be traveling to Japan later this year to play for their fans over there.

With twelve records under their belt, they are just as relevant today as they were back in 1983 when they released their debut album Beat Music.

They say there are over twenty ways to prepare eggs. The Spongetones have chosen to scramble them this time around.

In preparation for their big trip to Japan, the Spongetones are appearing at the Evening Muse every Wednesday throughout the summer.

Just leave your eggs at home. The Spongetones will have plenty for everyone.

WHAT: The Spongetones
WHERE: Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., Charlotte
WHEN: 8:00 P.M. every Wednesday night through August
COST: $7
ONLINE: www.theeveningmuse.com

For more information on The Spongetones, including music samples, please visit http://www.myspace.com/spongetones.

Spotlight on…Blues Out Back 2009

John Dee Holeman The following column will appear in the May 2009 edition of Gaston Alive:

It’s hard to slow life down. There is always something else to do or somewhere else to be. And it seems, the older we get, the faster it goes by.

That’s what I love about the Gaston County Museum’s Blues Out Back concert series. It forces me, for just a few hours on a summer night, to slow down and do nothing.

Now you don’t have to love the blues. You don’t even have to know any blues songs.
All you have to be willing to do is to sit back and relax. And do nothing.

The Gaston County Museum does the rest. They create this place once a month, from May through September, so we can shut out the noise of the world and enjoy time with our friends and our families.

It’s a small glimpse into a simpler time – a time before air conditioners, televisions, cell phones, and computers. It’s a time where the only entertainment available was stories and songs.

For better or worse, we live in a different time. And in our world, we must shut it off if we are able to enjoy the present. So, turn off your computers and your cell phones. Leave you air conditioned home. The Gaston County Museum offers you the chance to live in the here and the now.

Blues Out Back Schedule

May 8 – Abe Reid
June 12 – John Dee Holeman
July 10 – Big Ron Hunter
August 14 – Drink Small
September 11 – The Harris Brothers

WHAT: Blues Out Back Concert Series
WHERE: Gaston County Museum, 131
West Main Street., Dallas
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on May 8,
June 12, July 10, and Aug. 14
COST: Free
ONLINE: www.gastoncountymuseum.org

Spotlight on…Dodd Ferrelle

The following column will appear in the April 2009 edition of Gaston Alive:

I am proud to say Dodd Ferrelle is back on my musical radar. The Athens-based singer-songwriter first popped up on my radar about four years ago, after releasing The Murder of Love with his band the Tinfoil Stars. But shortly after that – things went quiet.

It all makes sense now. With his first child on the way, Ferrelle decided to take a self-imposed break from recording and touring back in 2006.

Three years and two kids later, Dodd Ferrelle is back. And this time, with a renewed sense of musical purpose.

After spending the last ten or so years with the Tinfoil Stars, Ferrelle felt it was time to take on a project he could call his own. This new project would be all his – his words, his arrangements, and his ideas.

Three years in the making, and with the help of his trusted advisor and producer David Barbe, Lonely Parades was born.

Lonely Parades features eleven new songs written and arranged by Ferrelle. Now that these songs are out of his head and on CD, he is now excited about getting back on the road and sharing them with the musical world.

For Ferrelle, this three year sabbatical gave him a chance to step back from life on the road with a band to get refocused on what he does best – telling stories.

But it’s more than just telling stories and writing lyrics. As much as Ferrelle loves to put pen to paper, he has gift for what he calls “marrying the words to the music”.

After listening to Lonely Parades, he still has that gift.

I have always felt music is the best medicine for the soul. But when music is your job, and your job is getting to be too much, more music is probably not the answer.

After all, he’s been holding onto them for far too long. It’s time to share them with the world.

To learn more about Dodd Ferrelle and to hear samples of his music, visit his website at DoddFerrelle.com

Spotlight on…Laurie Koster

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The following column will appear in the March 2009 edition of Gaston Alive:

Some say life without passion is not much of a life. I tend to think life without music may be even worse.

That’s what I like about Laurie Koster. She’s passionate. Even better – she’s passionate about music.

If I were ever to forget about Laurie’s passion, it wouldn’t take long for me to be reminded. That’s because every Wednesday, I can expect an email from her chock full with more music news you could ever want. And this isn’t just any music news. It’s all about the music and musicians that live, play, and record in our backyard.

Her email newsletter is a weekly snapshot of what’s going on in our area. It’s an exhaustive list of concerts taking place that week, as well as concerts coming up that you should know about. It’s filled with music reviews, news, contests, giveaways, and special benefit concerts involving our local music community.

If you were to measure Laurie’s passion, you’d think she lives in either Nashville or Austin. Not so. This former Ohioan is now a Carolina girl, and she couldn’t be any more proud of her newly adopted hometown, and the music it creates.

Laurie’s not alone in her support of North Carolina musicians and their sounds. In fact, in a recent ranking issued by the Roots Music Association, North Carolina came in at #9 in states that support their local music scene.

As budgets and resources shrink in newsrooms everywhere, it is becoming harder to find good quality local content. Before you know it – national syndication becomes the norm.

This is what makes Laurie’s newsletter so special. It’s compiled by someone who loves the music.

When people move into town and ask me about local music in the area, I automatically refer them to Laurie. She’s the expert.

Waving the local music flag doesn’t pay big money. Most musical endeavors rarely do. But as one musical mentor and friend told me the other day, “music is a spirit quest – not a money one.”

I wonder if she has been reading Laurie’s emails too.

To learn more about Laurie Koster’s Charlotte Events Weekly Newsletter,visit her online at www.lauriekoster.com/happenings.htm