Behind Children of Mercy: Part One: Conception [Exclusive]

For most of you out there, you are probably aware of the charity based book and compilation project I created entitled Children of Mercy:  Tales and Teachings From The World Of Independent Music.  It’s still a relatively new project, and I know I would be a fool to believe that most of you are checking out Trainwreck’d Society simply because I am such a profound writer, and I surround myself with geniuses from all directions that deserve to be read.  Hopefully time will show that the latter is definitely true.  For those unfamiliar with the project, this will definitely be new.  For the rest of you loyal fans and readers out there, this is just a bit of inside scoop on the development of a project that I still hold very dearly to my heart.  I love everyone who was involved with this project, in any way shape or form.  I can never thank them enough.  But, I will definitely keep trying.  So here we go…..


Shortly before Trainwreck’d Society was becoming a reality, I received an e-mail from a very nice journalist from College Magazine requesting an interview about my involvement in the creation of Children of Mercy.  It turned out great, and written very elegantly.  (Check out that interview HERE)  In doing this, I realized there are so many little details about this project that either made me laugh externally, or were such prime examples of just plain great luck that I really wanted to share so much more than a questionnaire that only required 5 answers could ever really give.  I got to say a bit more for an interview with and TRAX Magazine a few months ago, but, the story is so damned interesting to me that I wanted a free forum to tell all the small details that might be of interest to others.  Or just to get them all out there for my own personal amusement.  That in conjunction with my desire to showcase my friends and their talents, was what made Trainwreck’d Society come to life.  I guess that is Fun Fact #1.

The idea for Children of Mercy came around about a year ago, in July of 2010.  I was at the tail end of a tour in in Qatar.  Right around the 4th of July, a little known singer/songwriter was touring the desert with a traveling band of Baltimore based indie rockers and jazz musicians.  Her name was Jenny Boyle.  I had been writing for Fensepost for almost two years at this point, and decided it would be fun to contact her via e-mail for an Independence Day special for the site (see article HERE).  To my surprise, she answered right away, and we set up an interview.  Within this interview.  I was surprised to actually have the table turned towards me when it came to additional questioning.  I began to be prodded about whether or not I had any plans of writing a book or starting my own blog.  I explained to her that I had no desire to EVER start my own blog because I enjoyed the freelance aspect of the music writing world much better than the idea of running something (which is still true, even though this site now exists).  But as far as a project was concerned, I did actually have an idea in mind that I couldn’t quite explain.

A few months earlier, I stumbled upon a book that was free for the taking at the Al Udeid Base Library.  Somewhere among the mass gathering of DVD’s and Magazines, there were actually books!  And some of them were looking for homes.  The book I came across was entitled Heavy Rotations:  Twenty Writers on Albums That Changed Their Lives, edited and with an introduction by Peter Terzian.  It seemed like a great read.  And in retrospect it really was.  There were some strange choices to say the least.  Abba?  The Jacksons?  Kate Bush?  Some very strange choices, yet they came with very sensual tales.  But, after reading a few essays, I soon realized, that I could do this.  And not only did I think I could do this, I could do it better!  But why limit it all to just one album?  What about experiences?  Granted, the writers in this book were just that, writers.  They weren’t musicians in the regular sense, just writers who loved an album or two.  Where I had the advantage – so many of my fellow musician friends and colleagues were also amazing writers.  It all just made sense.

I began to think of all the fine musicians/journalists/bloggers/promoters etc. that I have had the fortune pleasure to get to know over a couple of years as an amateur (still am) music blogger.  I knew this fine people would definitely have something worth wild to say.  I just had to get them together.  What I wasn’t expecting, was how many amazing folks I have never even spoken to would jump eventually jump on board, and within the short period of one year, would become friends I could never imagine not knowing.

But still the whole concept seemed like a pipe dream of some sort.  Money was an issue.  Time and even bigger one.  But, where there is a will there is a way I guess.  And as history would show, we made it happen.  Through a series of fortunate coincidences and possible acts of fate, it happened.  And this our story………

Stay tuned for Part Two of this Exclusive series.  Coming up next: Direction.

The Tremolo Train Tour

My dear friend, and Children of Mercy contributor, Phil The Tremolo King is planning on hitting the road this autumn in a very peculiar and wonderful fashion. By train. Therefore, as members of a Trainwreck’d Society, we are obligated to support him!  He will be documenting the event as he passes through the Southwest with his acoustic guitar and a few friends playing in coffee shops, bars, clubs, etc. This will definitely turn out to be an experience he, and possibly you, will not soon forget.

But, he needs our help. If Phil cannot raise $2,000 by September 21st, the entire thing will be thrown into the dust bowl of time and thought, and basically will not happen. That’s where we come in! Phil has started a Kickstarter Page with the hopes and dedication to earn just enough cash to get him across the country, and he needs our help more than ever!

And as always with Kickstarter, there are several amazing rewards to be had. Including Phil The Tremolo King’s entire album catalog, DVD’s, tour only CD’s limited edition T-Shirts. acrylic paintings, and maybe even a song written just for you! Plus more! It’s a win win situation.

This is your chance to cop yourself some amazing music, and help an artist reach his goal to accomplish something truly incredible! 

C’mon people. Every dollar counts! Even just one of them! And remember, you do not have to pay right away. You will only pay WHEN (not if, have confidence!) the event is proven to be a success in late September! So let’s do this!
And now, a message from Phil himself:

“All aboard! “ How many times has this familiar cry beckoned travelers ? It marks the beginning of an adventure by rail ,seeing new places, meeting new people, exploring the vast open spaces of America. What better way for a Belgian immigrant musician like me to tour? Taking inspiration from Woody Guthrie andHarry Partch,  I will be traveling 1,995 miles, playing in coffee shops, bars and clubs along the way; me and an acoustic guitar, joined by friends and fellow musicians along the way, playing songs of and by an immigrant musician making his way in America.

I will record my travels and travails, sharing with you the breathtaking beauty of wide open spaces, golden sand dunes, mountains, swamps, and bayous of the Southwest . I will share with you the touring life of an independent musician and offer a window into some of the  rural towns in that are often passed by.

As a child growing up in Belgium,  I was fascinated by the American West, its legends  and folklore as immortalized in comic books, movies, and National Geographics. Beautiful and forbidding, full of creatures and plants not found anywhere else in the world. A magical, haunting place. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I would actually see it with my own eyes during a short trip from Austin to the Davis Mountains in Texas. It was a very moving and spiritual experience that will stay with me forever.

started brainstorming about going on tour …it hit me! Why not tour by train? And why not take in the very place of my oldest fantasies about America, and document the trip?

The Amtrak Sunset Limited is perhaps the most legendary of all modern trains.  Dating back to 1894 and originally known as the Sunset Route, it takes a southernmost path through the bayous of LA, Texas Hill Country, the Chihuahan desert with its ancient rock formations, the haunting Painted Desert and finally the hills of California and the City of Angels.

I need YOUR help to make the Tremolo Train Tour a reality. I’ve written a theme song for the tour and am putting together a limited edition CD/cassette of traveling songs for this tour only. That little gem and much more can be yours in exchange for your generous contribution. I will also be giving away original artwork, t shirts, and my collected musical works ( 4 CD’s total recorded in NYC, Austin and New  Orleans ) for different contribution levels.


Many years ago I immigrated to NYC from Belgium with a back pack and a guitar in pursuit of my dream of playing music. It became the adventure of a lifetime.

I’ve lived as a squatter in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, doing odd jobs for survival, playing in a gazillion bands, soaking up all the wild beautiful creative energy of what was then still very much a bohemian neighborhood. I recorded a six song cassette, ‘Songs from Planet B’, and a nine song CD, ‘A Man…A Mood…A Guitar.’

Eventually I met the woman who would become my wife, and with wife and son I moved to another musically renowned city….New Orleans.  We bought a small house which I completely renovated. The renovation took up all my time and money but I still managed to write and record songs and made a 5 song EP with the Tremoflex9000 project, featuring Flex Unger and Vic Ruggiero from legendary NYC ska band the Slackers.

Then came hurricane Katrina. For the next four years I divided my time between Austin, TX where my wife and son relocated and New Orleans to finish repairs and renovations on our little house. Finally we were able to all move back into our house and start the process of rebuilding our lives.

The silver lining was that the upheaval in our lives caused by Katrina inspired many of what I think are my best songs.  So I made eleven of my favorite post-K songs  into a CD simply called ‘11’.

It is available from Norman Records ( UK) , got a really nice review in Drunken Werewolf ( also UK )and is receiving airplay on radio stations and podcasts all over the UK, Spain and the US.  I also became involved in Children of Mercy, a compilation CD/ book project by indie musicians from all over the globe to benefit the fight against cystic fibrosis, that received quite a bit of grassroots attention.

And so here I am…the Tremolo Train Tour is a big step on the path to realizing a life long dream. But remember…kickstarter is all or nothing! If I don’t raise at least $2000 by September 21 I won’t get a cent! So it’s up to you now.  Help me make this dream a reality. And be a part of something truly unique and unforgettable.

And you can be sure I will forever be grateful to each and every one who helped make the Tremolo Train Tour a reality!!

Xenophobia,Vikings,Rubert Murdoch


This was the headline swirling around the Rubert Murdoch right-wing media empire shortly after the attacks in Norway. People were watching this on Fox News absorbing this message up like a sponge, and allowing more hate to fill their veins.The bigotry flowing out with a vengence, crying for more war, more blood, and proclaiming Western Christianity as the only religion that should exist.Hatred that brews discrimination of a greater race that extends not only to religious practice, but skin color. Innocent people are being tormented, threatened, discriminated against due to the media`s portrayal of a minority of extremists. The media makes them larger than life, makes them seem like they are numberless like the stars, unstoppable.  This causes a psychological effect on people whether they are aware of it or not. It effects them. It causes them to boil, explode, and lose logic in thought. It may seem like a stretch, but truly is it a stretch?

I can only imagine how the “foxnites” felt when they discovered it was a white right-wing extremist. I wonder if he watched Glenn Beck? Just kidding. The news media is a deadly weapon upon people`s minds, and history proves that. The news media needs to take a direct approach to the news, and letting temperance be their guide to the truth. When companies use news sources to promote their agenda, their feelings, their perception of what the truth is, we lose. Democracy is lost. We are lost to the bowels of anarchy. Responsibility, patience, temperance, equality, acceptance, democracy, and truth are what will break us from this propaganda of hate.

It only takes a spark…

Poor Boy’s Soul: Burn Down [Album]

When I heard that the newly introduced blues phenomenon to be was recently arrested (again) for hopping freight trains in North Dakota, I knew right away he must be honorable inducted into the Trainwreck’d Society.  What a beautiful character and crafty bluesman.

Poor Boy’s Soul, a.k.a. Trevor Jones, makes whiskey laced old time blues with a strange punk like element that could only be induced by a mirage of life experiences that don’t seem to fit into this era of digitalized indecency and loss of respect for the roots of America.  No matter how tattered and malevolent said roots may be.  Poor Boy’s Soul embodies that no holds barred spirit we just can’t find in rock n roll these days.

On his debut album, Burn Down, we receive a large dose of the broken glass reality shoved down our throats in such a beautiful way.  Not since the likes of Anton Newcombe has there really been someone who can simply naturalize a sound that you can only think of as extremely pure, and deriving solely from the heart.  Tracks like “Annalisa” find our hero in a sullen like state very different form the rough around the center, pretty around the edges style from previous tracks like “Movin’ To The City” or “Throwing Stones” (which is a wonderful replica classic train songs).  And this is where we really feel the organic reality of pain and suffering to the highest degree.  No matter the mood of a song, you can guarantee that you are hearing true and heartfelt reality of  a man born way after his time, yet not afraid to express himself as he was always meant to do.

It’s unsure where Poor Boy’s Soul really fits into today’s culture and society.  Is the world really ready for a young man with an old heart to break through to the other side of stardom right now?  Thankfully, none of this unfathomable bullshit is really applicable to this cool cat.  He’s still out there hopping freight, picking till his fingers bleed, and blending Woody Guthrie with the likes of Blind Lemon Jefferson in everything he does.  Even beyond the music.  Beyond the lighted stages of a depressed society.  Beyond, and behind it all, we have an amazing talent in our views.  Try and look away, if you think it’s possible.  But you will know what you are missing out on.

Key Tracks:  “Annalisa”, “Throwing Stones”, “Ain’t Comin’ Back No More”

Download “Burn Down That House” for FREE, right over HERE.

Burn Down will be released in early November.  Be on the look out!  Check out additional tracks on his Myspace Page.

Anja McCloskey: And Her Head/Impeccable [Single]

Whether you hear her bust out a sweet accordion solo all by her lonesome.  Or providing sweet background noise for friends (i.e. Moneytree).  Or working her magic with a hand selected troop of fabulous friends (solo work, Haunted Stereo) you can always fully comprehend one solid fact…..Anja McCloskey is a true artist to the core.  The spirit of a sweet, sensual, and tantalizing song is what drives.  It’s what makes her tick.  What seems to be her entire reason for being.

And now she is back for more!  On September 5th, McCloskey will be releasing to the world a an amazing single, and a just as impressive b-side to the world.  We hear a whole new side of Anja on “And Her Head”.  We hear the classical composure of a tremendously talented singer with more talent than is even conceivable.  This Southampton based songstress has vocals that will set your world ablaze.  On the lovely corresponding single “Impeccable”, we hear the same wonderful classic composure blended elegantly with a piano driven indie rock sound.  Both tracks are extremely desirable, and better than so much available to us these days.

Just as she did on her debut EP, Turn Turn Turn and the rest of her work to date, McCloskey continues to impress her fans, and anyone who may stumble upon her luscious tunes.  Her ability to create something amazing seems to come as natural as breathing to her.  And this September, we will surely begin the exciting musical journey with one of the greatest songstresses of our era.

And Her Head will be released on September 5th 2011 from Sotones Records (UK).

Find more great work from Anja McCloskey at the Sotones Records Website.

Rites of Passage

I’ve been doing some thinking about rites of passage lately. Mainly, how our current culture doesn’t really have them.

In nearly all primitive cultures, there is some event that signifies the transition from childhood to being an adult. In some cultures it’s marked by the accomplishment of some act of bravery, in others it’s noted with the achievement of some level of wisdom. In ours, it’s mostly attributed to living to the age of 18. There are “mile stones”, obtaining a driver’s license, getting a first job, graduating high school, but no real rite of passage.

I feel this is one of the reasons why we have a surplus of grown men and women in our society acting like children. We really can’t hold them accountable, no one ever formally told them that they should “grow up”, so how can we honestly expect them to act like adults when they’ve never demonstrated that they could act in that capacity. I think the “should” part has the most impact here. Why should someone “man up” when they don’t have to? There’s honestly not much benefit to it, I mean, growing up sucks! In the minds of many people, there’s no up side to it. Who would want to accept all that responsibility? Trying to make a relationship work, raising kids, keeping a job, maintaining a household, being accountable for your own actions, it’s really hard! Wasn’t it so much easier when no one depended on you? When the only consequence to doing poorly was making a bad grade? When you got an allowance rather than having to work and someone else provided you with a home, clothing and food? Any amount of money you had could be spent on the things you enjoyed because someone else provided all that you needed. Those were the days huh? Why shouldn’t they last forever? Why couldn’t they?

Well, there’s no easy answer to that these days. In traditional societies, people were looked down upon and scorned if they didn’t grow up. When they did, it was cause for celebration, a welcoming into the ranks, respect, and the endowment of those things that would otherwise be unobtainable. In today’s culture, many whine their way into the ranks, demand celebration, have no concept of respect and still obtain the same things as anyone else. Peter Pan Syndrome is actually rewarded in many ways. Can’t hold a job, never graduated, can’t budget, never got a driver’s license? Don’t worry, we have social programs for that.

Much of this could be eliminated with a set rite of passage. Now, I’m not necessarily advocating that people strike out to kill a lion with a spear or walk barefoot into the wilderness for a vision quest. Our social structure isn’t set up for that and if you tried it you’ll probably get kicked out of the zoo or taken to jail for suspicion of drug use. “Honest officer, I’m just looking for spiritual enlightenment”. Our civilization doesn’t recognize the tradition anymore and I think it’s a shame. I honestly can’t think of one way that it could happen, and we’re dealing with the fallout of that now. I had thought in the past that some rite of passage could be implemented at the family level, but it still wouldn’t change how society sees our youth. No celebration for doing things right, no condemnation for doing things wrong. Since the days of personal responsibility are gone, the only thing we can do is understand how this affects our culture and do our best to deal with the consequences of that.

I do think it’s interesting to note how in almost every culture throughout time, the rite of passage is accomplished right around the time a child is turning into a teenager while our current culture holds off on calling someone an adult until they’re nearly two decades old. Maybe many adults act like children because they’ve been treated like children much too long? Maybe that’s the reason why teenagers are typically rebellious? Every fiber in their being is telling them that they need to go out into the world and gain some real life experiences to come to terms with their mission in life, but society tells them to shut up and be good little kids and stay quiet in class. We could very well be forcing kids to embrace being a child for years after they’re biologically ready to move on. Is it any wonder why so many never “grew out of it”?

Aliens, Squirrels, Conspiracy and Society.

Alright, here’s a little mental exercise in sociology.

Imagine that you turn on the news and a UFO has just landed on the White House lawn and little gray aliens walked out and said that they come in peace. Would society as we know it end on that day? Many people think it would. But why?

Anyone who makes a habit of listening to late night talk radio knows that there’s a large group of people who think that aliens from other worlds exist and that they’ve been visiting Earth for thousands of years. Many believe that the world governments know all about it but are suppressing the information to keep the public in the dark. But why would they? It is a possibility that the governments wouldn’t want the public to know about something like that because they think that people would panic. Some think of it as a vast “cover up” based in some insidious effort to control the world’s population. Others think that it’s just such a rare thing that the governments may still be in the dark. There is no end to the theories surrounding this scenario.

In western civilizations many people believe that aliens could not exist because they think it would be contradictory to Judeo-Christian theology. I fail to see why and think of such lines of thought as bordering on faithlessness. Why would belief in extraterrestrials contradict western theology? Some people say it’s so because the bible never mentions aliens… At this, I like to point out that the Bible never mentions squirrels or penguins either but we have no problem believing in those. The next logical step in the argument is to say that the Bible couldn’t possibly mention all the different types of animals but it does mention animal kind, plants, human kind, and spiritual beings and those are the only types of life that God is accredited with creating in the Bible. God created Adam and Eve, not Adam, Eve, and E.T. At this, I would like to point to the story of Adam and Eve and note that they are only said to have had two children, and when they were of age, they left and found wives… So where did the wives come from? It’s clear that Adam and Eve weren’t the “first” humans, but only the first specifically named by God. The Bible isn’t so much of a history book as it is a family tree that follows one blood line, the blood line of Jesus. Adam and Eve were the first of this blood line, but we can clearly see that there were humans created on Earth before them. If Eden was a literal place, most experts theorize that it’s location would have been around the “fertile crescent”, and all the happenings of the Bible revolve around the same geographic region on Earth, around the Middle East. In fact, we can see that God’s “favorite” place on Earth is Jerusalem. Maybe “favorite” isn’t the right word, but it’s clear that he seems to focus on the location of Jerusalem quite a bit. When he speaks about the kingdom of heaven coming to Earth, he says that Jerusalem is where it will be located. Out of every place on this Earth, he has chosen this one location to focus on. Does that mean that no other place on Earth has meaning or could be reached by the salvation of Jesus? Clearly not.

It took a long time for the message of the gospel to reach other places on Earth. Distance from Jerusalem has never been a factor of salvation. Jesus died for the salvation of Native Americans, South American tribesmen, Australian Aborigines, and Alaskan Natives just the same way he died for members of the early church half a world away. Since distance isn’t a factor, wouldn’t it make sense that people on other planets would be treated the same as those from other continents on Earth? Who’s to say that there aren’t humans like you and me on other worlds? By this line of thought, it would seem that the Christian thing to do upon meeting extraterrestrials may be to convert them.

Even the Chief Astronomer of the Vatican has made the statement that belief in aliens isn’t contradictory to belief in God because they would still be the creation of God.

Getting back to the original line of thought here, it could be true that if the government is aware of aliens, they may actually want to disclose that information. Clearly, if aliens did exist, they don’t seem to be a threat to national security since they haven’t overthrown our world and enslaved us all yet. It would seem that if they can travel the cosmos, that they would also have the ability to make their presence known to all human kind regardless of what our governments think if they wanted to. By that line of thought it would seem that the aliens don’t want to be widely known, possibly for fear of how such a shock would be to our fragile civilization and they don’t want to interfere with our Earthly way of life. Something like the “prime directive” mentioned in Star Trek. This begs the question of how aliens would view our planet. Maybe not as another rock in the galaxy to conquer or study for some scientific gain, but as a sovereign nation of intelligent beings on the far side of the Milky Way neighborhood. They probably don’t take into account the belief or will of every individual on this planet, but view us more as a democracy. They may be waiting for the “majority” of Earthlings to call for contact with anyone who may be out there before they send an invitation to us to join the galactic housing committee. There are endless possibilities for why aliens may exist, why we wouldn’t be privy to that information, and that if they do exist that it really wouldn’t change life all that much as we know it.

The main point in this mental exercise is to decide for yourself how strong (or weak) society is. More importantly, how strong is your own belief in society when faced with something only slightly outside of our collective civil norm. Society may just fall apart. But if it does or doesn’t it will be the result of the individual’s own ability or inability to hold onto their own beliefs and self-identity when faced with something “alien” to their view of civilization. In short, my example of “aliens” is just a metaphor for any form of civil unrest.

The truth is out there… And it lies within yourself.

Sassy: Diggin’ Deep [Album]

Every once in a great while, you might just hear some women in pop punk music that might just scare the shit out of you. You might think of sweet old Juliette Lewis screeching about chaos with The Licks, or maybe the wild and freaked out antics of the likes of Tacocat and Forever. But then there are some that might just make you fall in love. And with that, I present to a group that truly exemplifies the latter, a fantastic tweaked out harmony based duo known as Sassy. Lay your preconceptions to rest, and check out their beautiful release Diggin’ Deep.

The track list of Diggin’ Deep holds a wide array of tracks that dance between love, love loss, and loving the loss of love. The pinnacle of Sassy’s “feeling oh so good” popped out mentality comes pretty early with “So Bad It’s Good”, but it only slows down slightly by the time “Blink Once” polishes off the 13 songs. Elements of Lynda Mandolyn’s previous work with Fabulous Disaster are present, but not definitely not dominant. What we have here is entirely fresh, and without a doubt, a remarkably cool genre bending work of art.

For every ounce of sweetness Sassy pours into their songs, there is a fair about of tartness as well. Then again, if you call a tall glass of everclear being slow dripped into your veins “tart”, then I might be spot on. One thing that is absolutely for certain, this angels of chaos certainly bring the love and pain on their debut album, Diggin’ Deep. And there is no denying that these ladies have what it takes to make you beg for their love, as they bury you with beautifully tuned and precise instrumentations of fun

Key Tracks:  “Blink Once” and “It Really Hurts”.

Find more information on this illustrious duo on Facebook.

Chivalry and Civilization

It’s so hot! We are WAY above normal temperatures for this time of the year! It was never this hot before! Thunderstorms are popping up all over the place with little or no warning, and they’re happening too frequently! This clearly IS the ”end of days”! The Mayans are winning! Global warming or something, it’s game over man!

Well, no. It’s July. Yes, it WAS this hot before… Remember last July? How about the July before that? And guess what, it’ll be worse next month. In fact, it’ll be twice as bad in September because we’ll all be thinking that it should be cooling off, without remembering that it doesn’t really cool off to what we think of “seasonal” until at least mid October. You may think of this time in history as being hard on weathermen, with all the “500 year floods” and epic tornadoes, but I can pretty much sum up all the weather for the next three months; It’s going to be hot, humid, with a chance of thunderstorms. It doesn’t pay to keep dwelling on the whole “it’s never been this bad before” thing. Sure, it seems like the natural disasters are coming far more frequently these days, but a better statement might be;” It’s hot, it’s July, we didn’t see it coming because our memory doesn’t extend beyond last week, and saying that things are “epic” makes us feel better for not being properly prepared for a situation that we should have known would happen.” Most people just barely got properly prepared for winter when it started getting warm this Spring! We’ll all be ready to deal with the heat right about the time that we have the first hard frost of the year.

Be prepared! It’s the boy scout motto. I was a boy scout, in fact, I was an eagle scout, then I was an adult leader in the troop before joining the military. Scouting is a great organization. I learned a lot in scouting. If we all lived by scouting values, the world may be a far more civil place.

The motto; Be prepared.

Slogan; Do a good turn daily.

Oath; On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty, to God and my country, to help other people at all times, to obey the scout law, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

Law; A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

Very much like the Air Force core values; integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do. Imagine if everyone was held to that standard. Imagine if everyone really was “trustworthy”. How would life be different? How different would things be if everyone really was “reverent”, and not in the religious sense, but if everyone really had a reverence for life, other people and the world we live in. How about if everyone really tried to do their best, to be moral, and helpful rather than try to step on everyone they could to get ahead in life? Life would surely be different.

With every good deed we do for others, every kind word, and moral obligation that we meet, we stave off social chaos for another few moments. Hold the door open for someone, and civilization lasts that much longer. Have reverence for our world, and we make it that much more of a beautiful place to be in. Our duty to others as humans could be summed up by the desire to leave the world better than we found it. You don’t have to be a goody-two-shoes, or a saint. Just have the bravery to do what’s right, live honestly, and help others. Simple as that.

Being prepared is the first thing you’re taught in scouts. It’s the basis for living in a chaotic world, and the mantra of those who would want to minimize the damage caused by that chaos. You know it’s tornado season, have a plan for your family in case one comes. You know gas prices are getting higher, better buy a little more food at the store so you don’t have to make another trip. You know there’s going to be lots of thunderstorms, better clean out the gutters. Oh, and the time to buy all those summer clothes was last fall when they were all on sale… Forethought is a wonderful thing. Here’s a tip, it’s kind of late now, but if you see any nice winter clothes on the rack that are on sale from last season, go ahead and buy them now. It’ll be much more expensive if you wait until it gets cool outside, and besides, by that time, you should be planning for what Christmas presents to get the kids and starting to stock up on rock salt for driveway. It’s much easier to get all that out of the way in October rather than waiting until December when you really need it but all the stores are sold out. The hardest part of planning ahead is finding room to put all this stuff until you need it. But, the reward is peace of mind when all others are losing theirs.

Add to that preparedness a dash of character. I remember when I was just a lowly cub scout, and we went on a hike and all we did was fill in pot holes. I asked why we were doing this when we could be out having fun. “It builds character” was the answer I got. I have to say, that stuck with me. No one prior to that had ever talked to me about character. Character and integrity are kissing cousins. Both entail doing what’s right, even when no one is looking. Having character is rarely about doing things that are easy. It’s not even really about doing things that you “have” to do, it’s about going above and beyond. Lord knows we’ve done so much crap that we didn’t really have to do that we must be some real characters by now! But seriously, character is important. It encompasses the ideal of honesty and the ability to help others. How does this relate? Well, maybe if it’s snowing outside, you don’t take the last bag of rock salt in the store… Maybe you leave that one for someone else who didn’t think as far ahead as you… Maybe you saved someone from getting hurt by slipping on the ice. Maybe that’s the modern equivalent to helping an old lady across the street. The person who buys that last bag of salt will never know that you made a conscious effort to help them out, but it was the right thing to do. That’s character.

If we have good character, a sence of duty to our fellow man, the ability to be prepared, and the desire to help people, then we have reverence for our world. If we are men and women of honor, maybe the chaos of this world wouldn’t be so devastating. Maybe society lasts a little longer. Maybe we save the day one more time…  integrity lives three doors down from chivalry in this big neighborhood we call civilization. Keep fighting the good fight. We’re all in this together.

Summer Requiem

The heat waves linger low along the pavement in the distance like a dark swamp spreading its tentacles from one side of the road to the other, welling up on the sidewalk and swallowing up the cracked paint on the lanes. The smell of hot tar and asphalt mix and the sweltering heat of the sun radiates from the sweltering greenhouse of your shoes all the way through your body. Sweat pours downward and your whole being longs for even a moment of relief. Yes friends, its Summer in the south. Wet, smelly, suffocating heat is the order of the day. Oh, and a chance of thunderstorms. I’m sorry, when was Spring? Did I miss something?

One minute I was scraping ice off the windshield and the next I’m woefully overdressed and wishing I had some sun screen. Eh, apparently some people were waiting with eager anticipation for Winter to lose its grasp on the land and at the first sign of heat advisories they burst out of their homes and apartments with unparalleled enthusiasm, fanny packs, sun visor hats, and shorts so short that they seem almost comical. Ah, it’s Summer in the south. Cars are riding around with the top down and music too loud, as if I really want to hear what they’re listening to. Kids are out of school and in every store I go to I’m stuck behind some family brood with fifteen children of varying ages who all want something very badly and they aren’t afraid to let their wishes be known at an incredibly undignified volume and if they don’t get their way they roam around the isles acting like hoodlums on parade, picking things up, throwing them, playing with things that don’t belong to them and ignoring the personal space of others… Take a deep breath… It’s just another sign of Summertime.

But, there’s something much more sinister about Summer, the crime rates skyrocket! Beggars and thieves take up post along street corners and alleys, the caravan of pedestrians pass by blindly as the thugs carefully single their victims out of the crowd. Car jackings escalate since the cavalcade mess of unwashed masses clog the streets with their freshly washed sedans, slowing traffic down to a limping crawl. Tourists stop to take pictures and drive around lost as they try to find their way to the next attraction. Road rage abounds and the cursing is only punctuated by the spewing sounds of someone asking for spare change. Gas prices are high, muggings are up, everything is crowded and all the worst aspects of the metro area are hung out in the open for everyone to see like sweat stained laundry hanging on a line to dry. Yes, again, ’tis the season… Or as I like to call it, Summergeddon!

As you can probably tell, Summer is probably my least favorite season. Bah Humbug! Things seemed so much better when the fresh snow fell silently upon the ground, sparkling in the cold moonlight like tiny stars and covering all the blemishes of the world in a wonderous blanket of natural beauty… Now the trash lays in the open, thrown along the roadside, bare in the bright daylight and the smell of body odor, tanning lotion and grass clippings cohabitate in an unholy motherload of funk.

I tried to retreat to the wilderness for some relief from the rat race as I have done for more than a decade, but even nature has turned into a thorn laden grindhouse. As soon as I opened the door of my Silverado, the heat struck me like a solar wind. I sprinted for the shade of the trees but to no avail. The forest was strewn with spider webs, I ran headlong into one, turned around to flail my arms about in a futile attempt to free myself from the invisible foe, jumped backward to avoid stepping on a copperhead snake and a cicada punched me in the face… Defeated, I slumped back to the truck. “Screw this”, I said to myself as I picked several ticks off my jeans and swatted at a mosquito. “I know where there’s an indoor pistol range I can have some fun at”. Anything to get away from this horrid season!

I once heard someone say that “cool heads prevail”. I’m inclined to believe that more and more with each passing day that brings nothing but record setting triple digit temperatures. The apocalypse is measured in degrees fahrenheit.

Alas! The worst is still yet to come. August looms ahead, ushering in the dog days of the season. Drink lots of water and remember the bug spray. Woe to those who do not heed my warning of excessive heat and perspiration! The end is nigh, be warned! Summergeddon is upon thee!