Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Another Fun Record Store Day (2017)

Hi Bill

Rayna and I participated in another very pleasurable Record Store Day on Saturday, April 23. It was our second or third Record Store Day and we both had a very good time seeking recorded vinyl treasures. Every time this annual event arrives I intend to make lists of the groovy vinyl that I should acquire. However, I never really get much of a list prepared and this year I didn’t even try to compile a list. There is something about forcing myself to concentrate on ferreting out specific items that just repulses me, even though I really would like to own those items and I’m not gettin’ any younger. Anyway, I had no prepared list, but I enjoyed flipping through shelves, boxes, stacks, bins and random piles of vinyl music at record stores in Sioux Falls with Rayna.

Every time I participate in one of these organized, but chaotic, vinyl hunts I am amazed by the almost tribal comradery of the roving crowd. Rayna and I visited three different record stores and we encountered many of the same fellow-record-seekers in each of them. Even more amazing were the friendly interactions that these total strangers initiate with people they don’t know from Adam. Perhaps there is some mystical force that emanates from all those strange vinyl grooved discs that just makes even timid or obnoxious humans realize that we all need pleasant affirming communication, especially when large hordes of us are squeezed together during possibly competitive circumstances.

Well, enough of these ramblings!

Marianne Faithfull -  Rich Kid Blues (2017)
I met Rayna at Ernie November at 1pm last Saturday when we began our Record Store Day hunt. Many of you may know that Ernie’s is a record store chain that sells new and many more used vinyl albums. It provides a large and diverse selection of vinyl and Rayna and I spent considerable time flipping through pretty much their entire collection. Rayna bought a few albums, and I bought the following new album that was one of the exclusive Record Store Day releases this year: 

  • Marianne Faithfull - Rich Kid Blues (2017): This album was first released in 1984 and released again with a different cover for this Record Store Day exclusive. Actually, Rayna grabbed this album first, but I snatched it out of her hands. Instead of playing tug-of-war she acquiesced because she knows I am a longtime big Faithfull fan. That purchase turned out to be the most expensive single item that I purchased on Record Store Day this year, and the only thing I bought from Ernie November.

Roberta Flack - First Time (1969)
After finishing at Ernie’s, Rayna drove us to Total Drag, an independent record store in downtown Sioux Falls, where customers must endure extremely loud, and not particularly fetching, music while shopping. I usually do not frequent Total Drag very often because my hearing has already been decimated enough by various concerts and powerful home music systems. However, Total Drag is not a drag when it comes to the varied selection of vinyl albums that they offer. Like at Ernie November, we spent a long time trolling through "The Drag’s" large vinyl inventory. I purchased:

  •          Roberta Flack – First Time (1969)
  •         The Original Animals – Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted (1977)
The Original Animals - Before We Were
So Rudely Interrupted (1977)

Next we went to Crosstown Vinyl, which is my favorite record store in Sioux Falls. I frequent Crosstown Vinyl very often, and consider Steve, the owner of Crosstown, to be a friend. He is a good guy who is very knowledgeable about recorded music and provides good advice about the records he sells and collects. We also have many casual conversations about music and lots of other topics. In addition, he repairs and sells used amplifiers, turntables, speakers, etc. for reasonable prices. I bought a very powerful system from him last Christmas and I love it. Of course he also knows Rayna and it was nice to visit his establishment again on Record Store Day. Even though his prices are regularly very reasonable, he was giving his customers an extra discount that day. I crave diversity in my vinyl collection and I bought the following four albums at Crosstown Vinyl:
  •         Brenda Lee – 10 Golden Years (1966)
  •         The Spinners – The Best of The Spinners (1978)
  •         Ray Charles – I’m All Yours – Baby! (1969)
  •         Donovan - Donovan P. Leitch (1970): Rayna and I are both big Donovan fans, but she took pity on the old guy and let me have this 2-disc, 20-track album.

Clark & Rayna at Starbucks on
Record Store Day 2017
After we left Crosstown Vinyl, Rayna and I were tired and we needed a snack. Therefore, we stopped at the Starbucks an 41st Street in Sioux Falls. We each had a latte and a snack while we relaxed and talked for about an hour. Then Rayna dropped me at my car in the Ernie November parking lot, where we began our vinyl hunt. I made the drive home and Rayna went wherever.

It was another very enjoyable and satisfying Record Store Day in Sioux Falls with Rayna. However, it was very nice to see Pat when I got home. Luckily, she tolerates my vinyl obsession as well as many of my other strange behaviors.

Bill, I believe you know that I cannot produce a lick of any even remotely pleasurable music. However, you were very influential in spawning and enhancing my love for music and I am very grateful for that influence. I hope you are still enjoying, collecting, and playing beautiful music.

Take Care,

Sincerely

Clark

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I Was A Truck Drivin’ Man, Well I Thought I Was


Hi Bill

Today I was thinking about when Pat and I moved from Volga, a small town outside of Brookings SD, to Dell Rapids, a small town about 20 miles north of Sioux Falls. At that time, Pat was working at the University Center in Sioux Falls and I was still working at South Dakota State University in Brookings. We figured that Dell Rapids is pretty much halfway between our two employment cities, although Pat’s commute to the south was a little shorter than my forty-five minute commute to the north. Anyway, that move brought many changes to our daily routines.

I had to endure getting up a lot earlier to make that drive to SDSU, but Pat was happy to give up her hour commute from Volga to Sioux Falls. Both of us quickly adapted to waking up early and making the drive each workday morning, although I was able to gradually adopt a much more flexible schedule than Pat had to endure. Anyway, after making those commutes for a couple of years they became fairly routine. However, we discovered that South Dakota weather turned out to be a bigger factor during our commutes than we anticipated.

We were very naive about being able to cope with weather conditions on the interstate between Sioux Falls and Brookings, and neither of us had a rugged vehicle that provided at least minimally safe transportation during snow events. Therefore we couldn’t always make the drives to work and back during snow/ice/blizzard conditions. Luckily, our employers were mostly sympathetic toward us during those conditions.

However, I decided that I needed a more rugged vehicle that could get me through snow, ice, wind, wild fires, and volcanic eruptions. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford to buy a vehicle that could conquer all of those forces. Therefore, I leased a Ford pickup truck. Well actually I leased a 2001 XLT Super Cab 4X4 Ford Ranger for two years, which cost me $255 per month. Then, doofus that I was (and still am), I paid the dealer $705 to install a Box Cover and Bed Liner on my new expensive (leased) toy. In my defense, I figured I was going to love this new toy and would be purchasing it at the end of the lease period. 
The truck had a much higher ground clearance than any other vehicles I had owned, and it also had four-wheel drive. Therefore, I was confident that it would enable me to blast through much deeper snow than the other vehicles I had owned. It also provided a fairly spacious truck bed that could help me haul all kinds of stuff to wherever I might want to take it. I thought I was all set for my daily commutes between our little town and the South Dakota State University campus in Brookings even when heavy snow was falling.

Unfortunately, I really had no significant experience with driving any kind of truck, except U-Haul rentals when Pat and I moved from Omaha to Cincinnati, back in the day. I also rented a big-box truck when we moved from Cincinnati to Brookings, South Dakota. In addition, I rented other trucks to help move our daughter from Minneapolis back to South Dakota and move our son from Minneapolis to Fargo, ND. However, those were all U-Haul trucks that were big and heavy when loaded and I drove them on mostly dry pavement.

Anyway, I really liked my spiffy little gold, four-wheel-drive, Ford pickup truck and I enjoyed my daily commutes between Dell Rapids and Brookings with it. I was convinced that the truck’s road clearance and its four-wheel-drive would get me safely through ice and snow during my winter commutes. I was all set!

I sailed through the summer and fall and was actually confident about driving through some snow during the coming winter storms. The first time we got a couple of inches of snow I just sailed right through it without even hardly slowing down. I had four-wheel-drive! However, when the snow became heavier and deeper I continued to blast right through it, until the first time I found myself spinning off the highway. I did not completely leave the berm of the road, and luckily I did not collide with any other vehicles. Somehow, my enthusiasm for donuts in the snow had waned! I was annoyed, until I realized that I had forgotten to Turn On The Four-Wheel-Drive. I pushed that button and got right back on the road and finished my commute with no problems.

Well that snow melted and my commutes were once again without trauma. I also remembered to turn on the four-wheel-drive when I encountered snow. Therefore, I still thought I could just blast through the snow without slowing down very much. That stubborn belief caused me several more frightening uncontrollable spinning episodes on the interstate. Someone, eventually suggested that adding some weight in the truck bed should help foster a more stable and controllable drive through snow and ice. So, I put some large bags of salt back there to help stabilize my commutes. However, surely I did not need to slow down much in my rugged, weighted-down, truck during those commutes. Well, unfortunately I endured a few more close calls and even got the truck stuck in the snow a few times. Clark’s ego took quite a beating during that first winter with my “not so beloved” truck. It is amazing that I did not have any collisions or rollovers during my first winter with that truck. Stubborn person that I am, it took me a while to admit that I must slow down when there is snow and/or ice on the road.

Clark and His Truck 2001
I was much wiser during my second winter in that truck, but my romance with the truck had diminished. I did not purchase it at the end of the second lease year. Instead, I returned it to the dealer. In addition to Pat’s car, we also had another car that I used for my commutes to work and back. In 2005, I bought and new large Mitsubishi Endeavor, with all-time four-wheel-drive. That vehicle was, and still is, wonderful, and luckily I have treated it much more kindly than I did that pickup truck. However, I often wish I still had a small truck for hauling stuff, but I can usually get most things that I need to haul into my Mitsubishi. Then there is always U-Haul for other stuff. I am a very careful driver in those rental trucks.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this recollection of our move to the south and my commutes to the north. For some reason, neither of us could work in the same town that we lived in. We each made daily commutes in opposite directions. Anyway, we don't work anywhere now so who cares!

Take care. 

Sincerely, 

Clark

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Remembering James Hallman

Hi Bill

I have been thinking about our father this morning for some reason. As you know, he was a remarkable man who struggled through his younger years, and worked hard to provide a good life for Mom and us boys. Below are some of my thoughts about him. If you want to add your thoughts about him please do so.

Me and Dad - Our property is on the left
Our father, James Hallman has been gone now for about 48 years. However, I still think of him often and I am grateful that he was part of my life. He was an incredible person (and father) who had a big influence on me during those seemingly fleeting years while I was a young boy and then while growing through my teenage and college years. He died suddenly one day in 1969. He had walked back from our mailbox at the end of our long driveway after retrieving our mail and my Aunt Helen’s mail (she lived next door to us). He walked into Aunt Helen’s house and handed her mail to her and then just fell dead on the floor. He was 54 years old when he died. Needless to say, that was a tragic day for our family and friends.

Dad building an addition to our house
However, we have a long legacy of memories of him that our family cherishes and embellishes. I still think about him frequently and miss him very much. He was quite a man, who lived through many difficult times during his 54 years on the planet. His father (Emerson Hallman) died when Dad was very young and his mother, Lila Brantner Hallman, had her own problems to deal with and was not able to take care of him. Therefore, he lived in an orphanage at a very tender age, when orphanages were not very nurturing institutions. I’m not sure where the orphanage was located, but I believe it was somewhere around Saxton PA. Luckily, his uncle, William S. Hallman (WS) and WS’s wife, Mable, who lived in Altoona PA, eventually took him into their home and raised him through his junior high and high school years. They treated him with caring affection and provided a safe and secure home for him to grow up in. During his time growing up with WS and Mable, he experienced what it was like to be part of a loving family with a mother and father figure to depend upon. He flourished in junior high and high school, both as a student and as an athlete. He was an awarding-winning pole vaulter and a very proficient boxer while in high school. He was not very tall, maybe 5’7’’ or so, but he was very muscular and very smart. (BTW: WS was my great uncle, but I always knew him as my grandfather, and he was a wonderful grandfather, indeed. Unfortunately, Mable died when I was only one year old so I never got to know her.)

HS Pole Vaulter
Dad met our mother, Marie Newton, while in high school and they were an item from the get go. They were married shortly after high school and they rented an inexpensive row house in Altoona, PA. Our father worked at several different jobs that did not provide a living wage after high school. However, he eventually landed a job with the Pennsylvania Railroad shops in Altoona, which did provide a living wage. Working for the railroad also deferred him from serving in the military, during World War Two and the Korean War. Meanwhile, you were born in 1941 and then I arrived in 1949.

I don’t remember the circumstances, but somehow our parents moved in with our grandfather (WS) 1950 or so, shortly after Mable died. Grandpap had a beautiful large brick home with plenty of bedrooms, and a spacious living room, dining room, kitchen, sun room, and a full basement, and large attic that I loved to play in with my friends as I grew older. We lived with our Grandfather until the summer before I began second grade, and I remember that it was a wonderful time for both me and you, Bill. I also attended kindergarten and first grade near that neighborhood.

Jimmy and Marie
Our parents were certainly not wealthy, but living with Grandpap helped them save a little money. Dad landed a slightly better-paying job at the Hollidaysburg Pennsylvania Railroad Reclamation Plant (or something like that), where he used a cutting torch to cut apart scrapped railroad cars in an outside scrapyard. It was a very difficult and dangerous job, and he suffered from several serious injuries over the years. He also endured breathing toxic fumes and chemicals in addition to many burns from the cutting torches. However, he did what he had to do to support our family.

He didn’t make big money, but it was enough for him to eventually buy a few acres of land on route 220 between Altoona and Duncansville near the Alto Reste Cemetery. That property had been part of a large apple orchard and the apple trees were still there on the neglected, wildly over grown, weed infested property. Our Uncle John and Aunt Helen purchased an identical acreage next door between our land and the Alto Reste Cemetery.

James, Brother Bill, Marie, and Dopey Little Clarkie
Our father somehow cleared our acreage pretty much by himself although he and Uncle John helped each other sometimes. However it was a horrendous job that Dad gladly endured during weekends, after work, and on holidays and vacations when he did not have to work his job. I remember playing on that wilderness property while he was working there. It was a lot of fun for me, but he and Mom had to keep me under control while he worked on clearing that land. He pretty much tamed that land all by himself, but it took some time. That property also had a dilapidated small cabin on it, which he slowly renovated and our family eventually began living in it. Over the course of many years he added two additions to that structure and transformed it into a beautiful large home for our family.

It was amazing how many different kinds of skills Dad had (or developed) over the years. He did electrical wiring, roofing, plumbing, carpentry, cabinet making, landscaping, tree trimming and removal, concrete laying, mechanical car and tractor repairs, etc. I watched him do much of that work, but I was mostly too young to help him or even to learn much about those skills for many years.

In addition to the skills I mentioned, he had lots of other skills and interests. He was a very talented artist. He grew up drawing all kinds of comical caricatures and also painted landscapes and even portraits in water color and oil. He and Mom also played pinnacle regularly with some of their long-time friends. He was also an active member of a Masonic Lodge in Altoona.

Unfortunately, Dad also coped with numerous health conditions over the years. He suffered from a long-time heart condition, and endured a few serious heart attacks. He also suffering severe headaches and eventually discovered that he had a cerebral hemorrhage and underwent major brain surgery at a hospital somewhere in Ohio. However, even while suffering major health problems, he would not stop working. Eventually, he was forced to retire on disability from his job. However, he just couldn’t sit around resting. He had to be doing something and he endured his health problems for many years while continuing to work on enhancing our house and property.

James Hallman 1915 - 1969
He was a remarkable man of many talents, which included being a wonderful husband and father. I spent many hours watching him work on many different tasks, and he made and effort to explain what he was doing and why he was doing it. As I got older I realized how much I learned from him and how wonderful those times with him were. He also had a wonderful sense of humor and loved to laugh. As you know, our Mom was never the same after Dad died. She, you and I (and our Grandfather) were devastated, and I can still feel that pain after all those years. I miss him and I think of him often. However, I know that he is still alive in our memories. He will always be with us.

Sincerely,

Clark

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

“Well, I’ve Got Two Lovers and I Ain’t Ashamed” – Actually I Am Ashamed!

Hi Bill

You may remember that back in high school I had a long-time “steady” girlfriend. She (let’s call her Bachelorette #1 or B#1) and I were steady for a couple of years in HS and then on and off during most of my college years. I thought we were in love and she would be my partner for life.

In the fall after high school graduation, I moved to Pittsburgh and began my freshman year in college at Pitt. B#1 attended nursing school, I believe somewhere near our home town after HS. It was a difficult separation at first, but I traveled back home to see her as often as I could. I lived in a dormitory with a roommate so it was difficult for her to visit me in Pittsburgh. Even so, the relationship continued to be fulfilling.

However, as time went by I became more connected to my college life (and friends) and didn’t make the journey home as often. B#1 and I remained a “couple” but I believe we were both growing apart from each other. I had many college friends and it was more fun to stay in the big city with them instead of traveling to the home town.  However, B#1 and I maintained a rather tenuous “on again, off again” thing during most of my college years. I thought the relationship would improve some after B#1 finished nursing school because she got a job in Pittsburgh. However, I wasn’t smart enough to realize how complicated our relationship was going to become.

You see, I had a group of very good friends to hang with in Pittsburgh and I had casually met, and dated, other women there. One of those women (Bachelorette #2, B#2) lived in my apartment building just down the hall from me. The other tenants on that floor were very sociable and we all got to know each other very well and hung out together quite often. Duffus that I was, I didn’t foresee any problems with B#2 becoming an important part of my ongoing social life. I totally didn’t understand that there was a very big complication. B#2 was very attractive and we became very good friends. Unfortunately, I wasn’t smart enough to realize how strong that friendship was and I thought I could continue dating both B#1 and B#2. 

I mean, how often does a dork like me get to date two beautiful women at the same time? I thought I had hit the jackpot and I enjoyed every minute of the experience for a while. Even though I knew it couldn’t last forever, I couldn’t seem to walk away from either of these incredible women. I knew I was playing with fire, but … Hey I could handle it! I must admit that I enjoyed the logistical challenges and the status of dating two beautiful women, although keeping each of them from knowing about the other woman was sometimes challenging and stressful. It was like Heaven on Earth for a while. However, I couldn’t ignore the dark warning that floated in my brain telling me that I was going to get burned big time for this, and I would end up broken and alone. 

Well unwisely, I managed to cope with my two romances until I finished my last year at Pitt and graduated. Then I moved to Philadelphia where I landed a decent job as a welfare caseworker, and B#1 and B#2 remained in Pittsburgh. However, they both decided to visit me in Philadelphia and I didn’t see any problem with that. So, B#1 visited me first and I was happy to see her. It was a nice visit, but it was short because she had to get back to her job in Pittsburgh. Soon after B#1 left I was happy to welcome B#2 to my extremely humble Philadelphia domicile. I thought … This is working out very well! 

B#2 and Clark - Philadelphia 1973/74
I was really very happy to see B#2 and we were having a wonderful visit, UNTIL SHE FOUND SOME THINGS THAT B#1 HAD “ACCIDENTALLY” LEFT IN MY APARTMENT! She demanded to know who they belonged to and what that woman was doing in my apartment. I thought about “Pleading the 5th“, but I knew she wouldn’t buy it. I also was panicked because I knew that B#2 was “My True Love” and I did not want to lose her. Therefore, I thought honesty was required and I confessed that I had another woman friend who had visited me. 

Well B#2 was not the kind of woman who was going to tolerate a “Dumb Ass” like me who had tried to enjoy two relationships at the same time. She reamed me out and told me that I needed to decide just who I wanted to spend time with. Basically, B#2 gave me an ultimatum ... Pick B#1 or B#2 and let each of them know my decision. She packed her things, walked out the door, and returned to Pittsburgh. 

I knew what I had done was wrong and was amazed at how devastated I was by the likelihood that I had lost B#2 for good. I had already realized that she was the special one for me, but I had probably ruined any chance of a continuing relationship with her. Indeed, I experienced my prophecy of ending up “Alone and Broken”.

I dragged myself through life for a while (a few weeks turned into a couple of months or so) without communicating with either of my “Two Lovers”. Finally, I ended my relationship with B#1, although not very diplomatically. Then I made the trip to Pittsburgh and begged forgiveness from B#2. I was not confident that she would forgive me and certainly doubted whether we could renew our damaged relationship. 


Clark, Pat, Jessie - Near Philly 1973/74
Well, Pat (aka B#2) eventually took another chance with me and we have been happily married for 44+ years. Believe me, there has never even been a thought in my feeble brain about being with another woman since that little dustup way back in the early 1970s. I am grateful for the wonderful life I have with Pat and I hope we can last for many more years. 

Bill - I you have probably heard at least some of this story from previous conversations with Pat and I, but I thought it might be somewhat entertaining for you to experience it again. 

Please take care and keep in touch. 

Sincerely, 

Clark  



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Don’t Go Near That Quarry!

Hi Bill

Once again, I have been thinking about the acreage on West Plank Road (Route 220) that our family moved to during the summer after I finished 1st grade. Uncle John and Aunt Helen lived next door with their little dog (Tippy) on an identical acreage between us and the Alto-Reste Cemetery (now known as Alto-Reste Park). We had been living in Altoona with our grandfather, but we had moved to the “Country” into a very small, and crude, house that was on the acreage, which Dad eventually rebuilt into a wonderful home for us.

Anyway, moving from Altoona to the acreage was a traumatic move for both of us. However, the parents let you finish high school (10th, 11th and 12th grades) by commuting to Altoona HS, but I had to attend a different school.  I wasn’t the most outgoing kid and it took some time for me to adjust, although you helped me meet other kids in that rural neighborhood and you hung out with us sometimes.

Eventually I adjusted to the new environment and made friends with the local country-bumpkin kids. In fact that neighborhood turned out to be a wonderful place to grow up. I quickly gained an array of both younger and older friends who welcomed me into their midst.

Clark: 1959
 Today I remembered a very interesting area in the mountain woods behind the cemetery hill. I believe you and some of the older kids, possibly Mike H or Michael O, took some of us younger kids into that woods sometimes to play or just to walk through the dense foliage and over the steep hills that were there. It was always very exciting for us younger guys to accompany the older guys into the wilderness. Surprisingly, I don’t remember any of us younger guys getting lost during those treks in the wilderness. I guess you older guys were responsible and good people.

One of the big attractions in that mountain forest (at least for us little explorers) was the old abandoned rock quarry. The walls of that old quarry revealed a longstanding and relentless struggle with the elements and we always wondered who had worked that quarry in the distant past. Huge portions of the rock had dislodged from the steep and very high quarry walls and piled up at the bottom. I and the other kids close to my age were always excited to hike to the quarry, but we were strictly warned to not visit it without older chaperones. We were also warned not to attempt climbing the walls of the quarry or climbing over the big rock piles on the ground of the quarry canyon. It would have been very easy to slip and fall among those huge rocks and sustain serious injuries.

Clark: 1961 with the forest on the mountain
behind the cemetery in the background 
Well, us younger kids adhered to those admonitions for a short time. However, once we had learned our way through the forest to the quarry, we visited it whenever we wanted. We also discovered a path that provided an easier, and much safer, access to the bottom of the quarry instead of climbing down the quarry walls. However, it was fun (even though it was also frightening) to climb down (and up) the quarry walls. Parental warnings were forgotten and we often climbed on the quarry walls and over the huge rock piles at the bottom of the quarry. It was an extravagant-fantasy wonderland for us youngsters. We played monster attacks, hunting safaris, lost-in-the-woods scenarios, and any other adventures that we dreamed up while we were in the quarry. We mostly didn’t worry about following our parents’ orders to stay away from dangerous places. Why worry about the dangers of the quarry cliffs, e.g., falling while we were hanging on the rocks, or getting pulverized by a huge piece of rock falling on us from above, or twisting our ankles trying to walk in the rough terrain among the rocks, or getting bitten by huge (possibly prehistoric) poisonous snakes, rats, and ponderous nasty bugs, or getting poison ivy or poison oak, or getting kidnapped by some demented criminal who might be hiding in the quarry, etc. Why worry! None of that would happen to us strong, and invincible men of the forest! 

Clark: 1959/60 5th or 6th grade
Believe it or not, I don’t remember any of us sustaining any serious injuries while playing in that quarry.  However, I do remember that we encountered plenty of toxic plants and animals that didn’t hesitate to sting, bite or irritate us in that quarry area. I remember crawling over a nest of nasty yellow jackets on the quarry cliffs and they left me with several very painful stings. I screamed bloody murder for a while until my friends got me under control. It was a long trek home that day and my parents were not pleased that I had wandered into a nest “in the open field behind our neighbor’s property” (of course). It was only one of many injuries that I sustained while trying to grow up in the wild and magical environment that surrounded our property. I often suffered injuries and pain, but they taught me to be vigilant, to be tough, and eventually (after much pain and frustration) to be smart.

I wonder if that old quarry is still entertaining inquisitive and imaginative children! I doubt that those exciting quarry walls and rocks are providing adventures for current children. I believe at least some of the woods still remains on that mountain above the cemetery, but I doubt that many children are exploring it. That neighborhood area has been overtaken by big-box chain stores and other retail establishments, which provide much more appealing stimulation to young children these days.

Bill, I am grateful that you helped me and my friends to find that quarry in the mountain forest. It has obviously left fairly vivid (and wonderful) memories for me. I would be pleased to hear your recollections about that quarry and any other magical memories from back in those days.

Well, it was fun to revisit some of those long-past exploits near west plank road today and I hope memories of other adventures from the past will surface in my brain, or yours, sometime in the future. Also, what’s happening in your neck-of-the-woods these days?

Take good care of yourself and your family.

Sincerely,


Clark

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

This & That - January 4, 2017

Hi Bill

It has been awhile since I have communicated with you. I hope you had a wonderful holiday season with your family and friends. Pat and I had a wonderful holiday season, but it is nice to resume our normal lives. Today I thought I would provide you a glimpse of our life on the frigid plains.

Weather

Well it’s January and if you know anything about the climate in the northern plains states, then you realize that it is cold here in South Dakota. Last night it was a few degrees below zero and today it got up to about 10 degrees or so. Pat and I consider ourselves to be South Dakotans now since we have lived here for more than 30 years, although some of the born-and–raised South Dakotans would still not call us real South Dakotans. However our 30+ years in SD has taught us that single digits below zero is really not extremely cold. A few weeks ago we endured temperatures of -30 degrees, and below -20 degree temperatures are routinely experienced during our winters. Anyway the last few days it has been subzero during nights and in the single digits during the days, which has been more than cold enough for me, especially when there are winds blowing in the 20-30+ mph range to help cool us down outside (and inside). The amazing thing is that we actually feel lucky that this cold wave did not bring much snow. We have only about an inch or so of snow on the ground – at least when the wind lets it lie around.

So what the hell does a retired couple do when it is snowing, blowing, and cold enough to cause frost bite on any carelessly exposed body parts that might be swinging in the breeze? Believe it or not, in South Dakota we pretty much try to do whatever we want. Even retired people try very hard to do whatever strikes our fancy without worrying about the weather. Unfortunately, some people take that stubborn attitude to an extreme point and sometimes find themselves in bad situations. I mean whenever the temperature is -25 degrees, with two feet of snow on the ground, and the wind is blowing the snow around you don’t want to take your Fiat out for a drive on the interstate! Sometimes, doing whatever you want is not smart, but luckily we really don’t see that many Fiats around here.

So Pat and I are not planning on driving to Sioux Falls today, even though we have a much bigger vehicle than any Fiat. However, we may drive a couple of blocks to the Shopko, or to the County Fair, here in Dells to pick up some things and give our legs a little stimulation. I may also just drive around town to warm up the car and give it some exercise. I like to drive the perimeter around our charming little town during these “exercise the car” episodes.  It would be nice to visit a Starbucks for coffee and a snack, but there are no Starbucks in Dells. However, there is a local coffee shop that does serve lattes.

So what do we do when we don’t want to go outside on a wintery day in January? Well there are always the Major Crimes DVDs to binge-watch. We recently finished watching the entire Sopranos series again on DVD and then we started re-watching our collection of Major Crimes DVDs. In addition, both of us read a lot of books (fiction) and that consumes some of our time. Pat also spend much time doing cross stitch and I am obsessed with vinyl music albums. We also like to talk to each other, although sometimes my babbling can irritate Pat. Go figure! Anyway, neither of us has much of a problem with boredom.

Music

Like most people who know me, you may have seen some of the music posts that I have been posting on Facebook and other platforms. I love listening to music and I’m addicted to vinyl, which I have a lot of and the stock continues to grow. Maybe some people believe that I choose to force the music I listen to onto all my friends via those Facebook posts. If you like music you may understand that we who love it, tend to be overly pushy about getting our friends (or even acquaintances or perfect strangers) to listen to (and appreciate) the music we consume. Let me say that I do not consider myself to be any music authority. However, posting the cover of the albums that I listen to, with a brief description of them, is an excuse for me to listen to (and buy) more albums. It also provides a sort of visual and written inventory of my albums and a reminder of the last time I listened to them. I have accumulated a large collection of vinyl over the years and most of the albums that I purchase recently are secondhand and acquired for only a few dollars each. Of course I do occasionally buy some new albums. Well, I probably have said enough about my music fetish and everyone should feel free to ignore my music posts. However, I would be very happy to read your thoughts and opinions about them, even about the albums that you don’t like. I also welcome recommendations for album posts.

Bruce and Clark at Pat's parents house
sometime in the 1980s.
Longtime Friend

Last week I got a call from Bruce, one of my best friends during my last two years as an undergraduate at Pitt. Bruce and I met while we were each living in one-room apartments in the basement of an old apartment building at 317 North Craig Street. We quickly discovered that we had similar personalities and interests and became very good friends. We still remain friends, even though we haven’t seen each other for many years. Bruce lives in California where he has worked for a correctional institution for many years. We try to keep in touch via email and occasional telephone calls, but it had been a long time since we had last spoken via telephone. We had a very enjoyable chat about old times and current times. It was great to learn that even though we are both getting older and we are coping with some health problems, we are still enjoying life. Bruce is able to take advantage of the exercise equipment where he works and he seems to be in much better shape than I am. Hopefully, that fact will prod me to exercise more regularly. I can always be hopeful!

You’re Almost Finished

Well, this post has not gone where I thought it might go when I began writing. I just don’t seem to be very focused today. Pat would inform you (maybe warn you is a better phrase) that Clark has a tendency to sort of lose his focus sometimes (actually often) and things sometimes get weird. I fear that has happened this morning. However, I figured: Why should I not subject you to my rambling? Who knows what people will enjoy?

I believe it is time for me to bring this missive to a pleasant and fulfilling conclusion.


… ?

… !

… ?


I’m done! 

Sincerely, 

Clark



Friday, December 16, 2016

Random Thoughts, December 16th, 2016

Clark recently realized that he had not written a blog post since November 16th. He hopes everyone is happy, healthy and wise (wealthy as well, which would not apply to him).

Clark has definitely been enjoying his retirement, although he does become concerned occasionally that he does not do much of anything worthwhile these days. That wasn’t a problem when he first retired, because he seemed to have lots of things to do around the house and he attended many events in Sioux Falls, including: the annual suicide prevention walk, Sioux Falls Canaries (baseball) games, movies, arts festivals in Brookings and Sioux Falls, concerts, a couple of trips to Fargo to visit Zeb, and other activities. However over time, Clark has discovered that he doesn’t need to be as busy with activities as he was when he first retired. Recently he has learned to enjoy a more leisurely pace.

He also enjoys spending more time with Pat. However, he has noticed that she does not always want him following her around the house and constantly yacking about some stupid or annoying topic, such as: Donald Trump; The weather; What he believes needs to be done to the house (all of which will probably never get done); Donald Trump!; How much chicken breasts cost these days; The fact that it only takes 20 minutes to drive to the nearest Walmart; Donald Trump!!; What strange vinyl record he just listened to (such as The Fabulous Fabian, which he listened to recently and pronounced it to be a really bad experience); Which vinyl records he is seeking to purchase; Where are the pants he wore yesterday and wants to wear again today; Donald Trump!!!; What are we going to do today; Why he has been keeping one of his socks (with a hole in it) on top or the dresser in the bedroom for a few months, Donald Trump!!!!; etc.

Pat and Clark try to keep in shape by walking when the weather cooperates during the spring, summer and fall. They like to walk, with their three little dogs, along the fourth fairway of the golf course and past the green to the tee of the fifth fairway and the wooded area beyond and then back home. They used to walk a much longer trek that also took them along the fifth fairway and then back home on a neighborhood street, but these days both of them and the dogs are usually not up for that longer walk. Of course South Dakota winters are not very friendly to us casual walkers, so their outdoor walks have pretty much ended until spring returns.

Believe it or not Clark has gotten older, but he doesn’t like to admit it. However, he has also developed some nagging health problems, which are currently being controlled fairly well. He doesn’t quite have the stamina that he had only a few years ago. He doesn’t like that at all! However, “It’s Hell to get old, but it’s better than the alternative.”

Clark and Pat must hype themselves up to endure a rather extreme weather environment during the next few days. About 4-6 inches of snow along with a deep freeze of below -20 degrees and strong winds are expected. When they first moved to South Dakota back in the early 1980s they experienced temperature extremes like that many times and even more extreme temperatures down to -30 degrees. However, it seems like a long time since they have endured temps lower than -15 degrees, although they certainly have endured many snow storms that dumped a foot or more on their driveway and sidewalks. Living in South Dakota requires rugged determination and thankfully, Clark has a big snow blower!

Clark tries to ignore the climate and pursue whatever strange activities (within the limits of decency) that pop into his head, although pursuit of many of those activities turns out to be very disappointing. However, he pacifies himself with his vinyl collection, which is expanding at a threatening rate. Unfortunately for Clark’s Facebook friends, he likes to post some of the albums that he listens to on Facebook, which allows him to try to tempt his friends to listen to the albums and comment on them, whether they like them or don’t like them, etc. Anyway, the expanding vinyl collection is eating away at the family room and Clark already stores some of the vinyl under the pool table. He may need professional help with his vinyl addiction!  Although Pat seems unconcerned about the whole vinyl-hoarding situation, probably because it distracts Clark from following her around the house.


This morning Clark could not find his eyeglasses, which he usually places on top of a small bookshelf in the bedroom before he retires. Since he gets up earlier than Pat, he had to quietly search the bedroom for them this morning. Although Clark is not exactly the calmest (or quietest) person when he is frustrated, and his frustration increased while he continued to search all over the house including several different trips to the bedroom. He was sure that Pat was awakened by all the ruckus (and the sighs) while he was in and out of the bedroom several times looking. However, Pat refused to get involved with the frantic search process and just kept her eyes closed during the process. He finally found the glasses in the bathroom attached to the bedroom and Pat is still sleeping as he writes this.

Well, I doubt that anyone was impressed with reading these random thoughts from Clark today. However, both Clark and Pat wish a Very Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays for those who prefer it) and a Happy New Year to all of our friends, wherever you may be in this world or beyond.

Take care,

Sincerely Clark