Summer reading…my list

images.jpegLast week I mentioned that I’ve been doing more reading than writing, and though I should probably feel guilty, I really don’t. I guess it’s because I don’t always have much to say, but I always have the desire to read. And so my mornings usually are given over to reading in the peace and quiet of the cottage on Magician Lake.

Although I enjoy fiction, my tastes have really turned more toward non-fiction, specifically biographies and history. I like to keep a pattern of alternating between the various types, following a biography with a good thriller or mystery.

So far this summer, these are the books and authors I’ve finished and enjoyed, in one way or another:

  1. Stealing America-(Dinesh D’Souza) – An intriguing work that explains a lot of things about the current state of the Democrat Party.
  2. The Betrayal: The 1919 World Series and the Birth of Modern Baseball-(Charles Fountain) – For baseball fans who enjoy the history of the game, and for a White Sox fan such as I, this is a wonderful book that provides so much background of the circumstances that helped create the most notorious scandal in the history of Major League Baseball, the Black Sox scandal of 1919.
  3. Sycamore Row-(John Grisham) – Another fine legal tale from Grisham that is a sequel to his first successful novel A Time to Kill. The main character, Jake Brigance, is once again caught up in a very strange case that keeps one turning the pages to see how the whole thing will turn out.
  4. The Edisons of Fort Myers: Discoveries of the Heart-(Tom Smoot) – I bought this book on our trip to Fort Myers, Florida, where we visited the Edison-Ford Estate in March. It was a fascinating work that explained how Edison came to Fort Myers in the first place and his love of the community, making this his winter home for many years.
  5. Papa: Hemingway in Key West-(James McLendon) – This is another book I picked up on our recent Florida trip, specifically in Key West. Hemingway’s life and times in Key West and how the “Papa” myth grew is explained in this nice little book. Makes one want to dash on down for a cold drink at Sloppy Joe’s!
  6. Night-(Elie Wiesel) – This very small—but extremely powerful—book has rested on my home bookshelves for quite a long time, with my having every intention to sit down and read it. Ironically, when I packed this in with the other books to take up to the cottage, I had no idea that the author would pass away shortly thereafter. This is Elie Wiesel’s recounting of the horror that came to his family and other Jews during the tragic Hitler years, before any kind of help in the form of liberation eventually materialized. It is the story of perseverance in the face of hopelessness and inhumanity. Rest in peace, Elie Wiesel! Your story shall not be forgotten, nor any of those people who suffered.
  7. Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty-(Charles Leerhsen) – Another biography and baseball book about one of the game’s greatest players, yet historically misunderstood. The book enlightened me as to the misconceptions I have always held about Ty Cobb, who was cast as a racist and overall mean person on and off the field. Leerhsen provides clear evidence that just the opposite was actually the true picture of Cobb.
  8. The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindberg, and the Epic Age of Flight-(Winston Groom) – The author has interwoven the stories of these three Americans who showed uncommon courage and never backed down from the challenges they faced in the world of aviation. It seems as though when faced with daunting adversity, each of these Americans ratcheted up his inner fortitude and met the challenges head on.

images-2.jpegThere are still several weeks remaining, and I do plan to devote much of that time to my writing. But there are still more books to read and enjoy as well.

What's next to read?

Under the March Sun: The Story of Spring Training-(Charles Fountain) Yep, another baseball book, but what can I say? There’s always room for books about baseball in the good, old summertime! Can’t wait to get to it.  :-)

What are some of your favorite summer reads this year?

That morning I’ve been awaiting…

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The “lane” through the cherry orchard to the cottage

It rained sometime in the pre-dawn hours. I heard its pleasant patter on the roof above my head upstairs as I was about to get up to put the coffee on. I pulled the covers back over me and lay there and enjoyed the sound.

Now, a couple of hours later, it’s gray, a slight breeze ruffles the wind chimes out here on the screened porch, and all is quiet on the lake and surrounding land. No wave runners or zealous ski boats are churning things up this morning as the “reality” of mid-week settles in.

Coffee cup filled now, it’s time for me to get to “work.” My trusty MacBook has waited patiently these past few days for me to be inspired enough to fire it up and catch up on my writing. Instead, my mornings have been given over to reading rather than the creation of my own words, and all of the noise and excitement of the 4th of July weekend wasn’t too conducive for getting any kind of writing going, either.

This morning is different, though. My current “read”–The Aviators–rests inside and will stay inside until I’m finished with this post and some work on the novel.  Later, we’re heading away from the lake for lunch and a visit to an Outlet Mall in Michigan City. With the change in the weather, I suppose it’s a good day for that, too.

With some company arriving this coming weekend, I guess getting this sort of weather out of the way now is a good thing, and, besides, it is that inspiration for me to start up the MacBook and get back to writing! Let’s hope so…

In my next post, I will share my thoughts about all of those books I’ve read rather than spend time writing. Which causes me to wonder: When did/do all of the good and famous authors find time to read and get their writing done?

Have a good week, everyone.:-)IMG_0866.jpg

 

 

 

That magic summer…

images-1.jpegIt was summer 1964. The railroad had just transferred my dad from Huntington, Indiana, to Ashland, Ohio, and we were in the process of moving. At first I had been enthusiastic about it all, but then as summer rolled around, and my Pony League baseball season with it, I wasn’t so thrilled about the move at all.

As things developed, we had a pretty good team, and I was patrolling center field, making catches that, in distant recollection now, still amaze me! And I actually was hitting the ball more consistently. And it wasn’t only me. Every other player on that team had somehow metamorphosed into steady players and excellent teammates.

It’s pretty much a cliché now to say that we “came together” that summer, but I know of no other way to put it, nor can I think of another group, club, team, or organization I’ve ever been a part of and say the same thing about it. We came together, indeed!

Even practices out at an old rural school several times a week were something to which we looked forward to with the eagerness of the typical fourteen year olds that we were. Often, my good friend and I would pedal our bikes the three or four miles out to the school and meet up with the others. Along the way, we’d have serious discussions about when I was images-3.jpeggoing to have to leave for Ohio and what it would do to our friendship.

As much as I wanted to put those kinds of thoughts out of my head and focus on baseball, there was always something there to remind me about how things were soon going to change in my life. I never wanted to admit that I would be a long way from the friends I’d known most of my life, so I usually tried not to take any of it too seriously.

On the last day of school that year, several parents had a graduation party for us, kind of an “end-of-junior high-getting-ready-for-high school” gathering. During the party, it seems that all anyone wanted to talk about when I was around was how I felt about having to move. I put on a fake persona, one where I shrugged it off and joked about it all, but, truth be told, I was really torn up inside.

And that’s where that summer’s magical baseball season helped. Why we–a ragtag group of basically mediocre ball players–turned into a championship team, is still beyond my wildest sense of reasoning. But we did, winning the championship with stellar pitching, timely hitting, and game-saving defense along the way.

Meanwhile, my parents and my sisters had made the move to our new home in Ohio in Unknown.pngearly August, but I still had a few weeks left of the season. I was invited to spend those days at my good friend’s house so I could finish out. Plus, I had been selected to be the starting center fielder for the All-Star Game, and I couldn’t miss out on that honor.

Somewhere in my “vault” of treasured memories and other pieces of my past is a faded newspaper article about our team winning the championship that summer. There’s an accompanying team photo with our smiling faces as we hold our trophies proudly and throw out endless wisecracks. We’re all sweaty, dirty, and very happy!

What I recall most clearly, though, was that the day after the photo appeared in the paper, I was on a train traveling to my new home in a strange and unfamiliar place and wondering what lay ahead, and the magic of that team of mine tucked away forever.

We all vowed to stay in touch and get together whenever the opportunity presented itself. For a time we did. But we all grew out of being fourteen year olds and our lives found their own varied paths. Eventually, I adjusted to my new surroundings and made some very good friends there. Yet, fifty-two years later, I still remember that magic summer!images-2.jpeg

Miles to go…

Been home from the lake for a week.

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Mornings on our deck–coffee & reading

Doctor appointment, grandsons’ ballgames, yard work, and friends’ 50th wedding anniversary party necessitated our vacating the cottage last Wednesday. Within the last two weeks, we’ve logged many a mile traveling to the NASCAR race, and then the following day motoring on to Fairborn, Ohio, to attend Carolyn’s uncle’s funeral services. He was almost 93 and had lived a good life and everyone celebrated that fact.

After the meal that followed at the church, we made the four-hour drive back to the cottage in Michigan and quickly made ready for the drive home to Illinois the next day.

And now, all of the duties, etc., completed, it’s time to reverse the process and gather up the clean laundry, pack the suitcase and my MacBook, a cooler with “stuff” we bought at the store, and get it all in the back of my Equinox for the trip back to the lake sometime tomorrow. I say “sometime” because I’m expecting a visit from a technician for Frontier Communications (our Internet service provider) to check out why our Internet has been dropping out way too frequently lately. I would like to be here when he/she arrives, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an early arrival. But, it will be what it will be…

But wait, there’s more!

cms1209.pngOnce back at the cottage, we wont be there for long. It will be a quick turnaround, just long enough to unload and spend the night before taking off for Ohio for the weekend. My mom’s high school 70th reunion luncheon is Saturday afternoon in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, and a few weeks ago she strongly hinted that she’d love to attend but had no way to get there.

It didn’t take me long to see where she was going with this, and I figured I couldn’t let the opportunity pass to get her there! With nothing definite on our calendar for this coming weekend, I told her we’d enjoy driving her up there (about three hours or so) from Port Clinton. Obviously, there aren’t that many classmates remaining, but a couple of her best friends are, and she deserves to be there with them.

Anyway, I always enjoy going back there—my birthplace—so it will be a nice occasion. We’ll get her to the gathering and go explore the area as I remember all of my summer visits there as a kid. We’ll go out to the old farm that was my grandparents, and the place that inspired my short story “Pinewood Farm.”

A few hours will pass, and it will be time to pick Mom up and drive on back to Ohio, spend the night, and zip on back to Michigan on Sunday. We’ll be tired and ready to plop on the porch or the pier for a couple of days and realize all of the miles we’ve accumulated. At the same time, I’ll smile and know just how good each of those miles was.images-1.jpeg

Race Weekend & a great birthday…

images.pngA week ago today, I celebrated another birthday. And it happened to fall on our NASCAR “race weekend” at our cottage in Michigan.

This annual event begins on Thursday, with the arrival of my sister and her husband from Ohio, followed on Friday by my son and one grandson, accompanied by a couple of other friends. Every June, we all make a pilgrimage two-and-a-half hours over to Brooklyn, Michigan, for the Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday.

Before that, though, there’s plenty of fun in the lake and a traditional pontoon “Sinatra cruise,” on late Saturday afternoon. (I had to fend off the many requests by my little grandson to change the music. He’ll learn.)

In years past, we’ve had good weather, lousy weather, and in-between weather. This year’s was probably the best ever. Pleasant temperatures during the day and comfortably cool ones at night were more than we could have expected.

And then there is always the concern about what the weather will be like for the day of the race on Sunday. Again, we’ve run the gamut from unbearably hot conditions to miserable rain, more rain, and still more rain in years past.

Not this year. It couldn’t have been any better from the time we pulled away from the cottage at 5:30 a.m. until we returned about nine that evening. Our pre-race tailgating was outstanding, and the race itself was one of the best. Afterwards, we all enjoyed the pulled pork our son had smoked on charcoal and hickory chunks all day on Saturday at the cottage.

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Our son, Josh, getting ready to get the pork butt on the charcoal 

When it was time to break down the canopy and flagpoles, put away the tables and chairs and load up the F-150s for the trip back to the cottage, we all were in agreement that it had been a terrific day at Michigan International Speedway. And it had been a most wonderful way to celebrate my birthday!

Ah, summer!

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The pier, the pontoon, and the lake as viewed from where I write this.

Sunday evening. A quiet and peaceful atmosphere now at the lake. The gray and overcast day has finally given way to late sunshine and temperatures that don’t require a fleece or a sweatshirt.

Just back from another walk out to the highway a quarter-mile away, I decide that I’d better fire up the MacBook and ease on back into the blogging world and see if any comments or messages await my attention.

It’s been over a week since we moved in and gotten settled for another summer, and even longer since my self-imposed hiatus from posting and trying to keep up with the social media world. So, here I am once again.

Our weather has been terrific, although today was overcast and cool—one of those perfect for getting lots of reading done. It would have also been perfect to work on my novel, but I’m still not motivated to do any of that just yet, and I’m wondering if I ever will get back to that. I’m confident that I will.

The walks have been good, reminding me just how much they meant to me last summer, getting myself back into better shape and losing a bunch of unnecessary weight. And that is a great motivator for me to continue with the same thing in the weeks ahead, especially since I’m going to be another year older (and wiser?) come next Saturday (June 11).

I’m awake and up by 6:30 each morning, and after I get the coffee going, I set out for my twenty-minute walk. Then I grab that first cup of hot coffee and my book and settle out on the porch for an hour or so of quiet, uninterrupted reading. It’s my favorite time around these parts—before the lake comes alive with the noise of wave runners and ski boats and various other sounds of summer.

However, tomorrow morning is a “work” morning, in that I have to pay a visit to the laundromat to catch up on a week’s supply of dirty clothes. It’s a grueling task, but someone has to do it! And the bathroom will need attention and the vacuum run throughout the cottage in preparation for some company we’ll be having later in the week. It’s pretty standard practice and it doesn’t require a great amount of time—one of those “necessary evils” around the place.

It feels good to be sitting at the MacBook once more, creating a post to send out there. And now the dark of the night has settled in, the frogs are singing out back in the swamp across the lane, and the warmth of the bed upstairs beckons.

Ah, summer!

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(Photo: sisterlakesmi.com)

A pause in the action…

100_1844.jpgThe pier putting-in of which I wrote about in my last post went very well, even though we soon discovered one of the support pieces had been broken–somehow–during the off season.

Good fortune, though, as I have had an extra one stored under the cottage for the past few years, and with some adjusting and finagling, we made it an almost perfect fit–even better than–the one that had broken.

The weather was ideal, thank you, and we completed the job in just a little under two hours, even with the slight hitch in the process.

Now, I’m busier than ever getting all things ready for the early morning drive back up there this Friday with two loaded cars to “officially” open the cottage. As such, my blogging time and keeping up with my good friends out there is pretty much shot for the next several days.

Once opened and settled in up there by early next week (Memorial Day), I’ll jump back in here and resume my regular posting. And that goes for my weekend feature of One Good Thing as well. Stick with me, folks, I’ll be back.

In the meantime, I wish everyone well during my little respite and look forward to getting this all going again with much to tell you from our little cottage by the lake. Smiles…:-)

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Ready to hit the water for another summer.