Monday, December 26, 2011

Great Men

I should be posting something spiritual today right?  Something about the greatest man that ever lived...take this right please, that's not where my writer's mind is at today.  No disrespect to the birth of the King, but my mind this morning has drifted 3,000 miles back to Ft. Lewis. 

I was a new private attached to the 9th Division, 109th MI (LRSC).  Airborne Infantry attached to an MI Battalion.  I met a man who I still think of with great respect.  If the Captain is the "old man," then Colonel Hughes was the "old old man."  He was quiet,  unassuming and respected.  I remember my inbriefing to the 109th MI.  He shared our history, our mission, and then thanked us all.  The he dismissed all but the paratroopers.  Praised our service, our toughness, reminded us of our fate should we be captured in combat.  20 years later I realize his speech was brilliant...he knew how to motivate men.  He was honest, and honorable and worthy to be followed.  He trusted us to carry out our missions.

We were paratroopers, and Colonel Hughes was the commander of a bunch of "Legs."  He had wings I guess, and a combat patch, but how tough could he have been?  We liked him, offered our respect, but often thought of him as the MI Colonel who knew little of infantry real army stuff.  He tried to run with keep up.  We respected that...immensely.  Even kept with  us for the first mile of the Sound to Narrows.  We respected that he tried to be a part of us, like a loving father teaching his son to play ball.  He included us, and at times excluded us from the chores of post duty, and he worked us hard.  No, he inpired our officers and NCOs to work us hard.  We earned all that we received, and we gave of ourselves gladly. 

Social media can be a great thing.  I met the Colonel again three years ago.  Wished him a Merry Christmas and shared a memory or two.  Didn't think much of it...  until the next year.  I was curious how he ended up.  Only then did he correct me...humbly with a simple link I read later that day.  He was no longer Lieutenant Colonel Hughes, but rather, General Hughes.  Lieutenant General Hughes - three gleaming heavy stars for all you civilians out there.  I was shocked...that man we had the audacity to think of as the "old old man?"  His career is impressive by any standards, and as hard as I thought I was at 20, I think he'd lost more by then than I've ever had.  Read it if you like:,r:1,s:200

Great things come in unassuming packages.  Maybe that's why MI treated him so well?  I'm a little awed that I stood at attention, and I stood casually shaking his hand, so many years ago...having no idea.  And he wasn't pretentious enough to care who he was - at least it never showed!

So to General Hughes I say, Thank you for your leadership, your example and for your service. 

But it's also time to turn back to the day at hand.  There was another man, a greater man.  The greatest man who ever existed.  He was born in a humble manger, lived a quiet and blameless life, died for sin, was raised from that same death so that we may live.  Unassuming, he was the King of the King of kings.  I make no comparison between Jesus and my beloved Colonel who became a General...but this one.  Sometimes it's worth the time to get to know a man.  Especially if  your life is in his hands...your eternal life is in His hands.

Merry Christmas

Monday, November 21, 2011

Moments with Tom Piazza

We all have brushes with "fame," don't we?  I for example, once stood as a soldier at the change of command for General Colin Powell.  Granted, I was a parade field away, it was still very cool. 

Somehow, I don't think my description as "fame" would be fully embraced by Tom Piazza, but I have no better word.  Let me paint a scene for you.  Black hair combed back, black boots, black pants, black jacket, black t-shirt, and a crisply pressed buttoned down white dress shirt - the contrast is a little striking.  He's comfortable with the audience, and immediately disarming.  Reading now.  Engaging.  Voice inflections that are somewhere between New Orleans (pronounced New Orlens) and Long Island.  First chapter of his latest novel.  We're immediately drawn in by the characters, by the story, and by the humor.  A wonderfully complex and vivid imagination at work.  Tom's body moves like water, movement and gesture taken to a new level.  Each gesture presented with rythm, poise and flare.  A man might open his arms for emphasis, Tom's arms open and his hands roll in the ripples of a stream of fluid thought.  Like a painter using his voice as a brush, and words as the media, he reads.  Then sing, "American Eagle..." in the voice of a character still being developed on a desk made from a door slab and sawhorses.  Sixty dollars at Lowes, plus tax.  We shook hands that evening, he signed our books, and we met his charming "better half."  It was a delightful date night with my bride.  It was the night WE met Tom Piazza.

My story is different.  I built a house for Tom.  We'll, renovated a house and built a living room.  One might even say I knew Tom before we knew who Tom would be.  Finding the house, drawing and planning the renovation, negotiating with the City and the neighbors.  More drawing...a bigger room, fireplace, change the second floor...  More'll flood my yard, where will they park... A hint, "I think you should sketch in a piano."  I fought with the Architect, "There's no room in the budget for a piano!"  The drawings came the morning I first met Tom in the run-down old place that would become the Trias House and the attached "tree house."  And what did Tom immediately focus on?  The Piano!  "Of course I said, but I'm not sure it will be a baby grand."  In retrospect, I think the hope for the piano is the only glimmer that he had to hold onto given the state of the house. 

Fast forward several months...let's pretend the neighbors and the city and the threatening of the contractors never happened.  10 am Monday morning, the first day of classes.  It's a "move that bus" experience as we give the keys to him.  Paint still slightly tacky in places.  A blue foam insulation door with hinges of duct tape still hanging just off the kitchen.  The house was done.  Beatiful. Wonderful.  Four bottles of wine on the table, all the clocks eventually set to the same time.  As close to home as I could make it...almost.   Tom was appreciative and kind, but something was missing...  It took two additional weeks to get the piano there. Some people think of dog as man's best friend.  And others?  It only became a home away from home the day the piano showed up!

So much I'd love to share, but privacy is so important.  I'll keep those stories, those moments with Tom Piazza for myself.  But I'll give you one hint as you wonder what Tom might have meant in the bottom left, when he wrote this as a thank you for a job well done...

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Future of Design

Can one ever be sure where the future is going?  Think about it, we have HAL who was there for the astronauts in a space Odyssey.  The Terminator.  Machines that think, that are aware, and who least until they become self aware, useful and make our lives a little better.  Like this guy below - forgive the gender assignment.  The value is immesureable, and the design is perfect, right down to the target aquisition marker.  I want one.  I want it now.  NO, I DO NOT DRINK TOO MUCH COFFEE...on second thought...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wine Appreciation
Responsible adults? LOL!  OK, well I'm not really laughing out loud, but I am smiling.  You see, a general message to the community went out, "wanted, responsible adults to temper the wine class."  Stacey and I agreed to come.  Date night.  80 students give or take a few.  Some staff and facutly.  And a bunch of wenches.  The professors term, not mine.  Wenches by his definition is a gender neutral term. We ended up at a table with six others.  Two students, three recent HWS graduates and a new staff member.  It was great!  Youth is always invigorating.  They have energy, life, and a perspective unencumbered by children, responsibility or experience!  I've always found balance important...have someone older to mentor you, have someone younger to be mentored, or to challenge you, or both.  So for the next six weeks : )  Red wines, white wines, a rose or two, French wine with a French woman.  What a blast we had.  Spilling on my clothes, sharing cheeses and stories and smiles.  And for the last class, dinner.  food and wine paired.  Great wines.  And as the evening closed I thought two significant things...  Why, I thought, does it have to be over?  And I smiled somewhere inside as I reviewed this photo on my Droid as I thought, noting the bunny ears, "who are the adults?!"

Saturday, November 12, 2011


So, I'm driving down the road minding my own business. Couple of sweet girls in the back seat. Heading for the championship soccer game for our small school league. I'm a responsible driver. 72 in a 65. No texting while driving. Checking my side mirror...and then my rear view...aaahhhhhh!!!I nearly swerved off the road. Terrified. A monster in the back seat. And it get's worse. I mean look at that face. Well, not the blonde. My sweet Gavi. NOT!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ever wonder how they test a toilet? I mean, do they line up a hundred lumberjacks after a hearty breakfast and see how things hold down? Practical yes, but good science? NO! Once again, thank God for the versatile soybean. With this modern miracle, the peanut of our generation, a scientific method can be created. I didn't believe it until I saw it, a dozen Cuban hand rolled cigars...oops, I mean...hand(?) turds. Not sure about the

Silly Americans

"You silly Americans, not understanding how to take a Rose wine seriously." These words were spoken by a lovely woman with a charming French accent. Somehow, in that context it wasn't offensive. And my gosh, she was right. The rose was amazing! What's more, Amanda the lion woman loved it. She told me the wine would be spectacular, and she was right. I smiled as we clinked our glasses and exchanged smiles. It kills me to think the French might be right...even once...but I must say, they do make a delightful Rose

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I called ahead. "I'll have half a Wills (corned beef, swiss, slaw and Russian), and she'll have...a Jerry's? Yeah, a Jerry's." I gave our last name, "Great, we'll be there in 10 minutes." Ahead of schedule, a plan, arrangements made...I was feeling pretty good about life. Isn't it amazing what a mouthwatering sandwich can do?!

We walked in to an empty deli. Perfect. "You called right," she said. "Yes." Is it Charles or Bucky?" "What," I thought, and apparently said out loud. I'm Charles (name changed to protect the guilty) but what's the order?" It was wrong. Hmmm...."What did Bucky get?" she read our order to the letter. "That's us." We grabbed our drinks, a bag of chips, the sandwiches and a good laugh.

I don't know what's funnier though, that she called me Bucky, or that we live in a town where being called Bucky doesn't even raise an eyebrow!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Perspective is everything isn't it. We all see the same things, but we each see it differently. Every week a new photo shows up on the Colleges website hilighting a new and exciting event. Some pass by me without event while others really grab my this one. Look closely, excluding the 1/3 of a man to the far right, what do you see? Ten dark coats and a light one? Two red scarves? One red tie? 11 closed jackets and one open one? The Obama children peering through the bulletproof glass? Just kidding on that one! Five from William Smith and six from Hobart? Maybe you noted that it's cold? Not me. I missed all of these things. All of them. I even missed the eleven and one third people in the photograp...but not the 12th. The twelfth man is the only one I really saw. Probably holding a 300 Winchester magnum with tripod and scope.

It's all about perspective isn't it?!