Rumours of Glory by Bruce Cockburn


As soon as I heard that Bruce had written his memoir I knew that I had to read it.  I first heard of him and his music in 1984 and have been in awe of his talents ever since.  His songwriting has always been a breath of fresh air in this age where marketing is more important than the product.  Then there is his mastery of the guitar(at this moment I’m listening to Cader Idris – a remarkable acoustic solo)…whenever I see him in concert I inevitably focus on his hands while I lip-sync the lyrics. The last time I saw him in concert was just a week ago and is where my wife purchased the book for me for my birthday.  As you can see from the picture above, Bruce was kind enough to sign it for me. This was the second time I met him, the first was in 1994 at Berklee College of Music backstage after a show with my wife and three kids.  He was gracious enough to have our picture taken with him.  One of the things that jumps out in the book is how he struggled early in his career with relating to his audience because he is not naturally drawn to the spotlight.  He recounts his life in a mostly chronological order, starting with his early home life and in which he punctuates with lyrics from songs written during he period he is describing.  I found his telling of what certain songs were composed for and for who to be most enlightening.  Some of the songs were for specific instances in his life and yet could still be taken in other ways by the listener; that fascinates me to no end.

I’ve known for many years that he was involved in many humanitarian trips to war torn countries and in Rumours he goes into detail about those trips and how they shaped his perception of the world and the good and evil it contains.  His passion and compassion for his fellow humans comes shining through in this memoir as does his Christianity and his search for The Divine.  That aspect of his writing is certainly one that I found refreshing as I identify with his faith in God in a world where many of the religious among us are so intolerant of others to the point where my country is borderline hypocritical.

All in all the book was a balm to my mind and soul and has me feeling a bit more positive about my thoughts on God and the workings of the spirit.  I am glad Bruce took the time to produce a work that had to be hard to do.  He bares his soul and we, the readers can reap the benefits of his struggles and triumphs.  I highly recommend Rumours of Glory.  5 stars

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Bruce Cockburn at The Cabot, Friday night 8/21/15


My Bruce Cockburn love affair began shortly after my family moved from Detroit, Mi to Salem, MA in July 1984.  We made the migration in order to join with a group of similar minded Christians living in community and learning how to exist as small house churches.  It was at a summer night party, my new friends liked to party, we weren’t your normal church group.  The music was loud and everyone danced.  Then it was that I first heard Bruce’s music, the song was Justice and has this refrain: “Everybody
Loves to see
Justice done
On somebody else”

I was standing next Jim Lacy and asked him about the song and he then regaled me with how great this guy Bruce Cockburn was and said I should hear the song that had just started getting some radio airplay in the Boston area, “If I Had a Rocket Launcher.”  Within a week I had purchased his new album ‘Stealing Fire’ and was working on acquiring his previous albums as well; I was hooked.  I had always preferred listening to intelligent and imaginative singer/songwriters the likes of Paul Simon & Shawn Phillips etc, and Bruce certainly fulfilled those qualities and to boot he was, as I found out after seeing him play live, a world class guitarist.  Over the years, we have attended many of Bruce’s concerts, I’ve no idea how many but I would say 12-15; some with opening acts (Sam Phillips, Patty Larkin to name two), some accompanied by a full band, some just intimate Bruce only shows. Even managed to go backstage with my wife, two 14 year old sons and 5 year old daughter  and meet him in 1994.  Even though for only a few short minutes  I was struck at how gracious and engaging he was.  He actually remembered me from a letter I had written him about a year prior.


Tonight at The Cabot was a solo show and as we waited for the concert to begin and then again after as I caught up with old friends while we waited in line for Bruce to sign his book, I reminisced about some of the shows we were at.  I got to thinking about my preferences for who should be his band mates if he ever goes on a “retirement tour”.  This after all may not be a far fetched idea as our hero is now 70 years old and while he is still going strong, I could see that he was tired, his energy level a little lower than usual.  Anyway, his farewell tour band should include the following: Ben Riley on drums, Steve Lucas on bass, Colin Linden on guitar and on keyboards – well I can’t remember her name, think her last name was Wolf.  So, if his manager, Bernie Finklestein is reading this, that is my humble suggestion.  :-)

As to Bruce’s performance tonight, he pulled songs out of every era in his vast repertoire from early works like ‘God Bless the Children’ and ‘All the Diamonds’….to later songs like ‘The Iris of the World’ and ‘Bohemian 3 Step’.  The staples were also played, ‘Lovers in a Dangerous Time’, ‘Rocket Launcher’, Wondering Where the Lions Are’.  Of my many favorites, he included ‘Rumours of Glory’, ‘Hills of Morning’ and ‘Pacing the Cage’.  His voice was strong, his fingers still displaying a mesmerizing nimbleness as he coaxed love out of his three acoustical guitars(I’m guessing that two of them were Manzers, not sure about the 12-string.)  I find that no matter how far I am sitting from the stage that my focus is always drawn to his amazing guitar playing.

I mentioned earlier about waiting in line after the show to get a copy of Bruce’s recently released memoir, Rumours of Glory, signed.  This was a birthday gift from my wife, indeed the tickets to the concert were also a birthday gift from my three children, two daughters-in-law and three grand children.  Bruce was most obliging to sign mine with a happy b’day to boot.


I am glad I got to see him play again, it had been too  many years in between and I certainly cherished the music as it washed over me like a soothing balm for the spirit.  If you have not listened to him in a while, you should remedy that soon.

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The Official “Good for me, Bad for you 2015 Eastside Kids Reunion Tour & The Moron Hall of Fame Convention Travelogue”


Roll Call for the Moron Hall of Fame Convention – a list of this year’s attendees:

  • Jim ‘$6’ Irvine Jr.
  • Tracy ‘Turtle Got Game’ Justice
  • Mark ‘0 for 1966’ Winningham
  • Ralph ‘Alley Ball’ Emerson
  • Chuck ‘Sofa King’ LeFurge
  • James ‘Paparazzi’ Shields
  • Wing ‘Golden Dragon’ Tom
  • Rick ‘Dog Lover’ Prince
  • Paul ‘Road Trip’ Bennett

Special cameo appearances:

  • Kerry ‘Bed Fixer’ Justice
  • Sharon ‘Hot Chick’ Bartl
  • Theresa ‘Are You Guys Here Again’ Prince
  • Debby ‘The Knox Heartthrob ‘ Vassallo

Arrival: Thursday, June 11, 2015

This tale may ramble a bit from subject to subject; from episode to episode but hopefully will be okay by the end.  Way back in the mid-70’s I lived in a second floor flat with two of my peeps and fellow travelers, one of whom was Mark Winningham who now happens to be a founding member of the Moron HOF and tonight he seems to have the parking lot greeter job as his is the first face I see upon arriving at The Pub Froggy in Roseville, MI.  Way back in the mid-70’s, I noticed that when Mark was in the ‘realm of no pain’ that he would sport a very large and silly grin.  When I stepped out of The Gray Wolf, after a marathon 16 hour trek from Providence, RI. Mark was sporting a very large and silly grin.  It was 9:30 p.m. and the boys had been going at it for a few hours, shooting bull, shooting pool and having a few beers.  Judging from the size of Mark’s grin he’d had about a pitcher or so and so would have the rest of the guys except Wing, who doesn’t drink beer, and Chuck who makes up for Wing’s abstinence 5-fold.  I was greeted with a resounding, ‘Hey, he made it’ and spent the next few minutes extolling the magnitude of the trip I had just completed, though it should be duly noted that Mark supplied me with a freshly frosted mug and filled it for me before the press conference like q & a began.

Next thing I remember is being engulfed in a bear hug.  We have slowly built up the ranks of the eastsiders and while he did attend last year’s reunion, I did not, so this was the first time I had seen Ralph Emerson in nigh unto 40 years.  He was thinner back then and a lot less muscular though I am happy to report he still affects the style and verve of a child of the 60’s.  We’ve reacquainted ourselves, over the last two years, via that cornucopia of nostalgia, Facebook, after finding each other on Classmates.  When I look back I realize that Ralph was the second friend I ever made, the first being Harold Brem whom I met at age 5…I’m not sure when I met Ralph but I’m guessing 6 or 7.  I lived on Lenox, Ralph lived on Dickerson, a few houses closer to Mack than me.  Between our streets ran a lovely alleyway, a locale that has so many memories, not the least of which is that is where we first learned to play baseball.  Using a manhole cover for home, a crack in the cement for second base and the corners of garages for first and third, we began our lessons in hitting and fielding.  The most important hitting lesson was to learn to hit straight away as many of the backyards that lined the playing field were sort of off limits and we took some risk in retrieving a ball hit into them.  One of the more important fielding lessons was to learn how to catch, while batting, any pitch you did not want to swing at.  You see, we often only had four players so that meant that most of the time we did not have anyone catching behind the manhole cover.  Not only did we improve our physical ability, we also, following a time honored tradition in baseball, improved our math skills by keeping personal batting statistics.  I believe 100 home runs per season was typical.


Friday, June 12

Spent a restful night at The Turtle’s Bed & Coffee Inn.  Well it was restful once Tracy’s brother Kerry helped $6 Jim put together his roll away bed.  The first, second, third and fourth tries were attempted with the help of Chuck; word to the wise – beer is not a performance enhancer.  One of the many perks available at The Turtle’s Bed & Coffee Inn is the backyard deck.  It’s a perfect place to enjoy the morning coffee, to recover from the night before, to prepare for the day’s activities and to share a few moments reminiscing with Kerry about the old days when our world ended at 8 Mile Rd; beyond that was still covered with woods, fields and farms.

Today’s plan is breakfast at Dan’s Diner (omelets – oh my, you gotta try the country omelet covered in sausage gravy), followed by bowling and batting cages.  After that it’s just a matter of finding a bar with pool tables and pretty barmaids; an observation – the barmaids got prettier with each pitcher of beer.  J  First up then, the Apollo Lanes for a rousing three games of a sport I have not partaken of in roughly 30 years.  Not to worry, I used to carry a 150 average and am positive I still have the skill; this despite that I have a cantankerous right shoulder that will be rolling a 16 pound ball; yeah no worries.


For the record I rolled 110,133 and 90 but I was robbed on several occasions with direct pocket hits that left that damnable ten pin still standing.  Those scores were good enough for a very convincing 4th place finish as I beat out Tracy by 3 pins and Chuck by 7.  Mark and $6 tied for 1st and Wing came in third.  That leaves Ralph; laughing all the way to last place, though I think I may have heard a few unmentionable words intermingled with the laughter.   When Mark announced that Tracy beat Chuck by four pins, Tracy did an immediate turn to Chuck and pointing his finger, first at himself and then at Chuck exclaimed, ‘Good for me, bad for you!’ Before I move on to the next activity, I must say a word about the rental bowling shoes.  They have certainly gone all out for fashion and comfort; a double strap Velcro closure with a sole that might be thicker than two sheets of paper and for this we have to leave one of our own shoes as a deposit.  I was sorely tempted to keep the rentals.

Stepping outside after the bowling, we commenced a lengthy discussion on which batting cage to go to; the indoor one (it was threatening rain) or the outdoor one.  For the unwashed masses, among the many activities we try to get in, there are the inevitable debates on what to do next, where to do it, who’s driving, who’s riding with who and do we need to get more beer (that particular debate lasts the shortest amount of time).   We chose the indoor one but in the end we went to both; what the heck, my shoulder was still attached and my left knee had only buckled a little after the first set of cages.  At first I was frustrated with my inability to hit a line drive, something that I was always able to do.  The problem was two-fold; the pitching machine insisted on delivering the ball way inside off the plate, the other was my abysmal timing.  Once I convinced myself to step out of the batter’s box and use that as home plate my timing got better and was able to get a few nice hits.  That was on the slow pitch machine.  I tried the fast pitch softball machine, think I’ll stick to slow pitch…took a few swings and misses to realize, ‘Boy, I better start swinging a bit sooner.’  Even then the results were not typical of my ability 40 years ago but that was the case for all of us; good thing we have our memories.  As I told one of the other patrons, “You wouldn’t believe it if I told you, but this (pointing to our group) was the nucleus of a championship softball team in 1966.”


One of the mainstays of our reunions, besides beer and laughter, is shooting pool.  A sport I was never really very good at.  I blame it on the fact there is too much geometry involved and I was an inept mathematician.  In fact the only two classes I ever failed were math classes.  However, on this night I was on fire and with Jim Shields as my partner we won the 1 game knock out, 8-ball tournament in a devastating fashion.  Now there are some who would question our overwhelming domination simply because the two teams we annihilated lost by scratching on the 8-ball.  To this I say, ‘good for us, bad for you.’

I suppose I should elaborate on the catch phrase of the weekend.  One of the salient features of all of our reunions has been an undercurrent of competition between Chuck and Tracy.  Whether it is basketball, football, shooting pool or playing poker, Chuck’s mission was to beat Tracy, so the ‘good for me, bad for you’ mantra became the winner’s exaltation of victory.

Sharon 'Hot Chick' Bartl on the left...

Sharon ‘Hot Chick’ Bartl on the left…

Another pool tabled bar we visited on that day was at Colleen’s Pub in St. Clair Shores.  We ended up staying there for a while and made that our dinner place for the night.  Unbeknownst to me, Ralph had posted, via his phone, on Facebook that we were currently at Colleens and had tagged me in the post.  I was sitting there lost in the reverie when a woman came up behind me and said, ‘what are you doing here?’  To my surprise I found myself looking at my very lovely sister-in-law, Sharon Bartl, who had noticed on her phone that I was sitting in a bar in St. Clair Shores.  Don’t you just love technology?  She was on her way home from work (her and husband David live in SCS about a mile from Colleen’s) and when she saw on Facebook that I was in town and she stopped in to say hi.  Now, some of the guys were sitting at the table so I introduced her to them, but there were a few of the guys who were shooting pool and she departed before they came back to the table.  One of them exclaimed, ‘who was the hot chick hitting on Paul?’  So, Sharon, to a bunch of aged geezers, you are a hot chick.  Whether that is a good thing or not, I do not know.  J


Saturday, June 13

If it is the Saturday of reunion weekend, then we must be at Rick’s basketball and poker emporium.  Each year we try to minimize the physicality of our activities and this year was no different.  It was decided that a friendly, non-contact game of around the world would be our version of basketball this year.  It is strictly a shooting game only; no running or jumping or defending involved.  Naturally, Tracy ‘Turtle Got Game’ won and also, naturally, we then morphed into a 3 on 3 contest and that does involve running, jumping and defending.  It was an exciting and close contest that pitted $6, Ralph and Rick against Chuck, Tracy and me.  About halfway through $6 needed to bow out (we are getting smarter I think) and Chuck took himself out to make the rest of the game a 2 on 2.  At this point my tactical genius came to the fore as I designed the winning plays around a simple yet effective strategy, ‘Give the ball to Tracy.’  With Rick draped all over Tracy like he was The Turtle’s shell, I executed a perfect bounce pass under the menacing octopus like arms of Ralph.  Then the genius of Turtle took over; with Rick expecting a jump shot (well jump may be overstating Tracy’s capability nowadays), he up-faked Rick out of position, ducked under Rick’s arms and made a beautiful game winning scoop shot.  Now, if you are keeping score, that makes two significant victories for me, pool and basketball; good for us, bad for them.  J

The picture above was taken by yours truly as I wisely chose not to engage in the following game of 21; another contest that involves a lot of physical action and contact because each contestant is playing against everyone else.  You grab a rebound or loose ball and are then set upon by a Mongol like horde intent on your destruction.  As you can see from the photo, Ralph paid the price for daring to take a shot.  J

An interesting facet of our basketball follies is that Rick’s neighbors and even the mailman take the time to enjoy the antics of our group of aging hoopsters.  Like those who watch NASCAR they are waiting for an accident to happen but instead are treated to a scintillating display of geezer ball as occasionally we look like we used to know what we were doing.  Once again we foiled their ghoulish desires and came away unscathed, if a few bumps, scrapes and bruises qualify as unscathed.  No need for a call to 911 or to use Mark ‘0 for 1966’ Winningham’s ever present jumper cables; the only required need was to drink a couple more beers in order to better remember another future Glory Days discussion, or perhaps more truthfully, to help deaden the pains of the bumps, scrapes and bruises.  I can foresee that soon we will be regulated to shooting paper wads at a trash basket to satisfy our basketball jones and even then, Tracy will most likely win.  Good for him, bad for us.


The previous reunions were mostly devoid of any female involvement except for Rick’s wife and daughter who risked coming into their house during the Saturday night poker games.  This year we were practically inundated with women (a bit of hyperbole).  In addition to the surprise visit from Sharon ‘Hot Chick’ Bartl, we finally got Debby ‘The Knox Heartthrob’ Vassallo and Theresa ‘Are You Guys Here Again’ Prince to attend some of the festivities.  One of the more enjoyable things we did was to sit in Rick & Theresa’s living room and watch a video compilation of some old 8mm movies of Knox Church activities in the late 60’s.  The movies were made by James Irvine Sr. ($6’s father) and then converted to DVD by John Irvine ($6’s brother) and included such activities as the boys basketball teams, snow camps and men’s canoe trips.  My word, we did look young and vibrant in those days as opposed to the bumped, bruised and scraped geezers recovering from overly exuberant attempts to recapture the youth exhibited in the videos.  Now, I am not saying that we aren’t still vibrant.  No sir, we must still be vibrant to do what we do at these gatherings; it’s just a vibrancy rooted in wisdom and age; yeah, that’s my story and I’m gonna stick to it…good for us, bad for no one.


Enter The Golden Dragon

Wing ‘Golden Dragon’ Tom once again put his restaurant at risk by allowing The Eastside Kids and Moron Hall of Fame to descend upon it for a sumptuous banquet.  As usual, the food was excellent and oh so plentiful; I think Tracy took enough leftovers to last him and Kerry a week (oh who am I kidding; Tracy will have the stuff devoured in a day.)  J  During the meal, a proposal was put forth to create an auxiliary branch of The Moron Hall of Fame in order to honor those of the female persuasion who influenced us as youths or who continue to influence us in our doddering years.  The proposal was met with an enthusiastic response from the membership and from Debby and Theresa who realized at once what an honor it would be to be associated with us (again, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)  Hopefully, by the time you read this we will have gone through the vetting process; although there is an undercurrent of thought that the vetting process for the Auxiliary Branch should be circumvented in the case for Debby and Theresa and that they immediately be enshrined.  Alas, there is a faction in the Moron HOF who are sticklers for tradition and process and so we wait for the nominations and ratifications to go through.  On a personal note; it was really great to see Debby again after all these years.  She was and always will be my first unrequited love.  J


While it is a glorious thing that we have reconnected with so many of the friends of our youth, it does present some challenges to our annual poker night.  Eight players sort of negate any 7-card games or even 5-card draw and it certainly presented a challenge to figure out how to divide the chips in a manner that would leave all of the participants with $10 worth.  Even with the less inebriated Morons, Wing and $6, working on the solution it took a very long and amusing time…well, amusing up to a point which when arrived at Mark and Ralph went out and after visiting three different stores finally returned with another batch of chips enabling the game to begin.  The stand out hand of the night happened on the last one we played.  It was Hold ‘Em and was between Ralph and me…I do not remember what my hole cards were, nor did it matter what they were, nor Ralph’s either for that matter…the five community cards were 3 aces and 2 queens and neither of us could do any better than that so we split the pot.  It was an exciting way to finish the night and the weekend ($6 and me were due to depart very early the next morning) and what was even better was the fact that I didn’t lose any money as I broke even for the night.  I can’t remember who won the most but it is my contention that with my victories in pool and basketball and by not losing any money in poker that I be named the MVP of the reunion.  J Good for me, bad for the other Morons.


For those interested here’s the link to the Facebook photo album of the reunion:

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A Motley Crew – Disdain for the Ravages of Time


In 20 days, the gang known as The Eastside Kids will be gathering in our hometown of Detroit, MI.  Pictured above are a few of them.  These are the guys I grew up with.  We shared the joys of sports, the pains of school, the search for meaning in life and just plain having a good time in an era filled with civil unrest and an unpopular war.  That we survived those things and our own brand of foolishness is a miracle and yet, we did survive.  This year, in addition to eating some great food and drinking some good beer, we are planning to visit the batting cages, do some bowling, shoot some hoops, play a little pool and wager a bit in our annual poker game.  As is expected, I will chronicle the reunion with as much honesty as I can muster, though some fabrication may be necessary in order to preserve our dignity.  So, dear reader, keep us in mind as we once again show complete disdain for the ravages of time.  :-)

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excerpt from chap 5 – Clash of Empires

Liam awoke to the sound of thunder and Liza preparing porridge for their breakfast.  That he had been asleep surprised him as he had not slept for almost three days, the sight of Orenda tied to that tree haunted his dreams still as did the sound of her screams as she cried out to him.  Daniel and Henry were already awake and making ready to begin today’s trek to Donehogawa’s camp on Mahoning Creek.  Teeyeehogrow and Pierre had risen before dawn and went back tracking to see if anyone was in pursuit.  They had gone about two miles and were standing on the top of a hill looking down at a troop of French about a mile distant preparing to break camp.  ‘Best to warn the others and hasten our pace,’ said Pierre.  Teeyeehogrow nodded in agreement and replied, ‘We don’t know for sure they are after us though I suspect they are and there’s little chance they won’t find our tracks.’  They returned to where they had tethered their mounts and had to soothe the trembling horses as a blast of thunder and flash of lightning pierced the early morning quiet.  Another sudden clap of thunder brought with it a pelting rain that soaked them to the bones as they made their way back to camp.  ‘The beckoning call of the rising sun,’ spoke Pierre, ‘the breath of promise on the early morning breeze.  Dawn is God’s blessing to man and beast, though it seems to be an off day for the almighty.  I suppose even God enjoys a bit of variety.’  Teeyeehogrow slapped Pierre on the back and chuckled, ‘more likely he’s just pissed about something.’  ‘My friend, you are quite probably truer to the mark,’ replied Pierre.

With the news that they were probably being tracked by the French, Liam and Daniel decided they would take a position a few miles behind the others as they rode, keeping a watchful eye on their pursuers.  By mid-morning the storm had fled eastward and now the sun was beginning the drying out process as steam rose from the horse’s flanks and the ground was enveloped in a swirling mist.  Birdsong now replaced the staccato rhythm of the rain.    This was the third day after leaving Fort Necessity and they were pretty sure they could reach the Mohawk camp on Mahoning Creek by nightfall if they pushed their mounts a little harder.  As they crested a hill they found themselves looking down at the creek but could not see the Mohawk camp and were not sure which direction they should take once they crossed the Mahoning.  The sound of hoof beats from behind had them reaching for their weapons but as Daniel came into view they relaxed and dismounted.  He came to a halt, the suddenness of his stopping sending up a spray of dirt and leaves.  ‘We’ve got trouble,’ he started, ‘the French have split their pursuit and now half of them are heading down to the creek to keep us from crossing while the rest drive us into it.  Liam and I will hold them back for as long as we can but you need to make haste across the water.’  Teeyeehogrow motioned with his hand to point out the fact that there was already a group of French getting into position for the ambush at the water’s edge.

Lieutenant LeFurge positioned the six men with him behind a scattering of boulders and fallen trees.  ‘We have them now,’ he murmured to himself as he slid his saber in and out of its scabbard, willing himself to not be nervous about his first real taste of battle and there was no way he was going to obey his orders to the letter.  ‘No one fires until I give the command,’ he ordered, ‘shoot to kill but spare the woman, she’ll make a fine gift to our Shawnee friends.’

Wahta and Deganawidah were returning to the Mohawk encampment from a hunting trip and from the trees noticed the French across the creek setting up for what appeared to be an ambush.  They set down the deer they were carrying and crept to the creek bank to see if they could be of help to whoever the French were after.  The sounds of gunfire from the hill in the distance drew their attention but they still could not make out who it was.

‘We can’t take on both groups, there are too many,’ said Daniel, ‘Pierre, go get Liam.  We’ll meet the group behind us from here.  We’ll have the advantage of being uphill with enough cover to protect us.  Liza, I know you’re a good shot but for now I need you to reload our muskets.  We have two extras so we should be able to keep up a continuous fire and no doubt Liam will be using his bow as well as his musket.’

Liam and Pierre rode back to the others and took up positions behind the trees just as the first of the French came riding up the slope.  They dismounted quickly as Liam let fly and struck one the horses with an arrow in the shoulder causing it to rear and throw its rider.  Daniel and the others then opened up with musket fire taking down two in the first volley.  The remaining three returned fire but Liam and the rest were too well sheltered for any clean hits and when they reloaded and stood to fire again they were met with another volley wounding two more of the French troops.  Setting his musket down and holding his palms outward, the lone remaining Frenchman helped his wounded comrades onto their horses and took off back the way they came.  ‘Looks as though we won’t have to worry about that group,’ said Daniel, ‘How do we deal with those in the rocks below?’  It was then that Wahta recognized Liam and shouted while he drew back his bow and released an arrow, striking one of the surprised French in the back, the force of the arrow causing him to stumble and fall into the creek, ‘Snake slayer my brother, let us meet our foes together.’  At the sound of his voice and seeing one of his troopers floating away, LeFurge turned to see two Mohawk braves shooting from across the creek.  He barely had time to duck as an arrow whizzed by his ear.  Taking advantage of the changing situation, Liam, Daniel, Henry, Liza and Teeyeehogrow charged down the hill, muskets at the ready and firing into the rocks.  There wasn’t much chance of hitting anyone from the back of a charging horse but it kept the French pinned down as they took fire from front and rear.  Thirty yards from the French Liam and the others veered off to the right and plunged into the creek while Wahta and Deganawidah kept up their fire killing one more of the French and wounding LeFurge.  Once his friends were safely across, Wahta stopped shooting and headed up to meet them in the trees.

With a smile almost as broad as his shoulders Wahta embraced Liam, ‘It does my heart good to see you again brother.’  ‘Not as much as I am to see you.  We were in some trouble and the outcome would have most likely been different without your timely involvement.  How far is it to Donehogawa’s camp?  I fear our horses are sorely tired as are we.’  ‘We will be there before the sun sets and then we will feast on venison and talk late into the night,’ replied Wahta.

Lieutenant LeFurge, his right thigh bandaged and in some pain seethed at the thought that in his first engagement he was so thoroughly routed and wounded on top of it.  All that and he didn’t even fire his musket once, so complete was the surprise attack from across the creek.  His already smoldering hatred for the English was now raging into an inferno of revenge especially at the expense of these uncultured backwoodsmen and that bastard Colonel Washington for allowing them to leave the fort.

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Clash of Empires excerpt Chapter 4

Chapter 4

The Raid

Abigail accepted a sip of cool water from the now noticeably pregnant Orenda as she rested from the last contraction.  Liza wiped the sweat from her mother’s forehead saying, ‘One more push and I think we’ll have that new baby.’  Abigail smiled at her daughter, ‘I hope so.  I am running out of energy.  Maybe 42 years is too old to have a child.  It was certainly easier when you were born.  Oh dear Lord, it is time.’  Orenda went to the foot of the bed and after a few seconds said, ‘I can see the baby’s head.  One big push Abigail and we’ll have a new life to celebrate.’  With all of her remaining strength Abigail pushed and Orenda soon had a squalling newborn in her hands.   ‘It’s a girl, mama!’ cried Liza as she placed the little one in her mother’s arms.  Abigail took one look at that tiny face and said, ‘It is only by God’s grace that she arrived safely.  Tell your father that his new daughter, Grace is waiting to meet him.’

Thomas lifted the child, tears in his eyes, ‘I am not a godly man but at times like these I can be.  Grace is a most wondrous gift and I thank God for her safe arrival and for the health of my beloved wife.’  He kissed the child on the forehead and handed her back to Abigail.  ‘Now it is time for a little celebration I think.  Liam, Daniel, get those ale casks out.  I feel a mighty thirst coming on.’  So the trading post took on a party atmosphere with plenty of singing, laughter and dancing.  The traders who happened to be there joined in the festivities, two of them producing fiddles, and with Phil Burke playing a banjo, Irish jigs and reels soon filled the night air.

From the top of the hill overlooking the post and in the cover of the woods, two Shawnee braves looked down on the proceedings below.  ‘It is time to teach these English a lesson,’ said Huritt, ‘Our French brothers would be very happy for this place to be destroyed.  Let’s attack tonight.  The English are in no position to defend.’  Chogan smiled at his friend, ‘That is what I would like to do but look again Huritt.  The white man called Snake Slayer is alert.  His bow is ever at his side and the other Mohawks with him are also watching.  No, we cannot attack tonight.  We have more warriors coming to join us in two days that is when we will attack and destroy this place.’  Chogan then turned and with Huritt jogged off back into the woods and to their camp three miles away.

Two days later with hangovers now forgotten, Liam, Joseph and Henry left the post to go hunting while Trent, Donehogawa, Dadgayadoh, Deganawidah and Wahta left on a separate mission.  They had heard from a trader who arrived that morning of a party of Shawnees heading south out of Fort Duquesne and were anxious to get more firsthand information.  Pierre and Liza were heading across the river by canoe to a meadow that teemed with plants Pierre used for their healing properties.  In the back of the main building in the room Thomas and Abigail lived Orenda was rocking Grace to sleep and feeling the movement of the child within her while Abigail took a deserved nap.  Thomas was in the front talking to Rob Carter and Rafe Stump Nose Emerson, two traders about the load of furs they brought in yesterday.  Those furs were stored under the canvas canopy of one of the freight wagons and were now being examined by Phil Burke, who could not believe the quality, knowing that he had come to the right place at the right time.

Chogan, certain that he knew where everyone was turned to the seven warriors with him and said, ‘Remember, I want the white woman and her child alive.  Kill the rest,’ he then added with a hint of disgust, ‘but leave the Mohawk woman to me.’  Silently the two Huron and 6 Shawnee jogged down the hill the rising sun behind them making them almost invisible as well.  The two Huron, Pajackok and Taregan headed to the southern end of the encampment in order to keep watch on Pierre across the river.  Keme, Kesegowiase and Nixamich raced to the front door of the main building while Chogan, Huritt and Etchemin veered off to the side door.  Unnoticed and forgotten, Phil glanced out of the wagon and saw the raiding party going into the building.  Climbing over the pile of furs he exited the rear of the wagon and ran to his tent to get his musket.

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Hoovers 2015 Myrtle Beach


This is a rambling account of our annual trip to Myrtle Beach, SC.  I have entitled each section with a song title or a line from a song.

Growing Older and Tenser With the Times[1]

Ocho and his gang of ever increasing in age hackers of the sacred turf have once again escaped the cruel and bitter bonds of winter.  A winter that was going along nicely until February and then all meteorological hell broke loose and the leaden skies and howling winds buried New England.  A winter that saw poor Ocho climbing out onto his deck through the removed lower window of the door in order to clear off the five foot deep ‘freshly fallen silent shroud of snow’[2].  A winter that saw poor Ocho hanging out of a third floor window in a desperate attempt to clear the two foot deep swath of ice and snow off the roof before it crashed down on a poor helpless vehicle in the driveway below.  A winter that saw a large chunk of the aforementioned collection of ice and snow on the roof, crash down on the wife’s lease car causing multiple contusions, bruises and the decapitation of the passenger side mirror thus prompting the aforementioned hanging out of the window.  All of the Hoovers have similar stories of woe, exasperation and deprivation.  All except Jimmy Two Birds who has retired and now calls Punta Gorda, FL as his home, the fat bastard. J

Another result of winter in New England, though this is not erratic like the fickle patterns of meteorological mayhem, this happens every year.  We do not get much golf played, say after Halloween, so by this time of the year we are salivating at the thought we will be teeing it up again.  While we are suffering from this environmentally enforced dormancy we get periodic emails from Jimmy Two Birds about all the golf he is playing, how many pars he averages, in general how much he is improving, the fat bastard.  J

All Strung Out from the Road[3]

It was an epic almost Magellan like trek, this solo drive from Providence RI. to Myrtle Beach, SC.  At 06:00 Gray Wolf pulled onto I-95 south, eager to stretch his legs on this 1050 mile jaunt.  The route chosen will avoid the nightmarish travel corridor of New York City to DC and the attendant dollars spent in tolls on The Jersey Turnpike.  Instead, Ocho will wend his way out of New England via I-84 as it travels through land formerly occupied and or used by the Delaware, Huron, Mohawk and others.  Ocho pauses for a few minutes to refuel and to grab a cup of mediocre yet necessary coffee to stave off the effects of being up all night at work as there are many miles yet to go.

Near the blood soaked hills and fields of Gettysburg a foursome walks a golf course fairway now cleared of snow renewing Ocho’s energy level; an anticipatory foreshadowing of the week ahead.  The Mason-Dixon Line looms just a few miles ahead, one of the landmarks/milestones that Ocho uses as another means of energy revitalization.  Not only are these sights important in terms of how far is left yet to travel but they also stir up the historical thought process that inevitably comes to the forefront of Ocho’s mind.  The more prominent milestones include the rivers, Susquehanna, Hudson, Potomac and James.  Formidable obstacles all and makes me wonder in awe at the hardiness of our pioneer forebears.  Imagine the sheer effort needed to cross those rivers and the countless smaller rivers and creeks, the effort needed to climb and descend numerous hills.  Not to mention that those game trails they followed weren’t exactly Eisenhower Interstates.

I-81 south runs through an area rich in history.  It seems every exit leads to a Civil War battlefield, not that that is surprising as the Shenandoah Valley was the bread basket of The Confederacy and both sides fought to control it.  General Philip Sheridan greatly hastened the end of the war by destroying Shenandoah.  It’s amazing that this is the kind of stuff that filters through Ocho’s mind as he drives, that and the hope that there’s a rest stop soon.  Ocho and Gray Wolf need another nap.

Twenty-five hours later, 1050 miles, half a dozen cups of coffee and numerous stops to recycle said coffee and to take naps, I arrive at Jimmy Two Birds timeshare.  We are scheduled to tee off in a couple hours but it is one of those rare occasions when I am glad it is raining.  Gray Wolf and I are just a tad worn out.  J



Won’t Get Fooled Again[4]

In an effort to add a little excitement and the chance to win a sleeve of golf balls, Jimmy Two Birds instituted a Par 3 contest.  You win a sleeve if you get a par on a Par 3.  The rest of us protested that no one would win on account of our self-acknowledged ineptitude but Jimmy Two Birds persisted and thus those are the rules.  Today’s round was the first one played in about 4 months for Joey, Bob and Rick and the first one played in about 4 days for Jimmy Two Birds.  Jimmy Two Birds won a sleeve of balls today, the Fat Bastard.

The teams having been chosen in a random fashion, for today’s golf match are Jimmy/Rick vs Bob/Joey.  A pairing that elicited an immediate, ‘We’re gonna kick their ass!’ comment from Rick who then went out and shot a front nine 57 thus winning a sleeve of Ram balls for his excellence in futility.  As to the arse kicking, Bob/Joey put up a valiant yet vain effort losing 9-7, although Joey did distinguish himself by taking individual honors for the day harking back to the year Joey won our most prestigious award, The Harry A.  A feat so astounding that even to this day no one believes it actually happened.

Scenes from an Italian Restaurant[5]

Some of our more memorable moments take place at the various eateries we frequent while in Myrtle.  Last night at the Texas Roadhouse, for example, we simply reinforced the notion that we are losing our mental edge.  The tallying up of the bill proved to be an exercise of mathematical futility.  Determining that $35 was needed from 4 people because 130/4=35.  No one questioned that figure and we ended up $10 over what we needed.  With no immediate solution as to why the discrepancy, Joey, out of kindness, handed the extra $10 to Ocho.  The problem gnawed at Ocho on the drive back to the condo so he whipped out the calculator on his smart phone and lo and behold, 130/4=32.50.  Mystery solved and a time to celebrate so Ocho used the $10 and bought beer.

I’m Just a Substitute for Another Guy[6]

As has been the case the past few years Ocho’s financial woes have relegated him to the position of a stand by substitute golfer; not unlike some alternate on the PGA Tour waiting on somebody to drop out of a tournament.  I have to be ready at a moment’s notice in case one of the aging Hoovers can’t shake out the kinks from the prior day no matter how long they hog the limited hot water in the condo.

There are, I think, two prevailing theories as to why my fellow Hoovers insist that I come to Myrtle despite my monetary limitations.  Theory #1 is that they cannot do without my pleasant demeanor and witty repartee.  Theory #2 is they only care about not having to drag their clubs through airports and pay a small fortune to have them flown here.  Your guess is as good as mine as to which one is true.  J

Day number three and the call for a relief golfer has been made and Ocho is making his way in from the bullpen.  Now mind you the last two days were bathed in glorious sunshine and near 80 degrees.  Today is cloudy and only reaching the high 50’s.  Jimmy Two Birds is a no go for today’s round, the Fat Bastard.

Two days in a row for the relief golfer as JTB is once again hors de combat with a balky knee.  I feel bad every time I lace up my golf shoes at the expense of one of my fellow Hoovers, but only for a moment.  J

Day number five and for the first time ever in the annals of Hoover history a Hoover pulled himself out of a round halfway through.  JTB called ‘no mas’ after nine holes for the simple reason he was having no fun and was in danger of throwing his clubs into a gator infested pond.  Fortunately the relief golfer was at the course and took over for the distraught and frustrated Jimmy.  Unfortunately the relief golfer had to use Jimmy’s clubs and they weren’t any kinder to him than they were for Jimmy and almost ended up in the gator infested pond anyway.


Don’t Fear the Reaper[7]

For some reason, probably the onset of our advancing years and the aches, pains and medications needed, we had a jocular discussion on death and how we wanted our remains taken care of.  Jimmy mentioned having his ashes scattered over many of his favorite golf courses in Myrtle Beach but all I could imagine was a Big Lebowski type mishap.  A sudden gust of wind and Jimmy is scattered all over those officiating the event.  I came up with a couple possibilities for my epitaph … ‘All things considered, I’d rather be putting for birdie’… or (and this is a reference to my hard of hearing condition), ‘You can say anything you want about me, I won’t hear you anyway.’

Boring Stories of Glory Days[8]

I have been fortunate in my life to have two distinct groups of close friends.  The guys (and later the girls) I grew up with are once again a part of my life after nearly 40 years of no or very limited contact.  We have an annual reunion, this year being the 4th and those few days are filled with silliness and the chance to relive our glory days as young athletes.  We have played basketball & football.  We went bowling and visited the batting cages.  We recount our prowess with clear minds with no thought of hyperbole as we fail miserably to be what we used to be but laughing our arse off nonetheless.  We even have our own Hall of Fame of which we are all members and which we named The Moron Hall of Fame in honor of the fact that we actually made it to adulthood mostly unscathed and without criminal records.

That brings me to the group that sustains me in the ‘back nine’ of my life, The Hoovers.  For those who are not familiar with the history of the name we chose a brief digression.  It was somewhere on a golf course on Cape Cod.  We had just hit four of the more miserable tee shots in the history of golf.  As we watched the fourth one sail off to a place a golf ball ought not to visit, Jimmy Two Birds uttered these words, ‘We’re like a bunch of Hoover vacuum cleaners, and we can’t suck enough.’  Thus the name of the group was born along with our motto.  Since then we have traversed many fine fairways and even more not so fine areas of golf courses scattered throughout this great country of ours.  The main point of our exercise in futility is not so much trying to improve as that ship has sailed but to have more fun than should be allowed.  I would really like at some point to mike all of us for a round as there would be some great material to cobble together in a story.   So here’s to my buddies The Hoovers:  Joe Martin, Jimmy Two Birds Ouellette, Bob Svirsky, Loring Mackey and Rick Lobsitz.  May your balls be many and your strokes be few.  J


Every Day is a Winding Road[9]

Every nook and cranny of Gray Wolf is stuffed with the flotsam, jetsam and the necessary golf accoutrements needing to be returned to the normal habitat of our four intrepid Hoovers who must now sadly depart for the frozen wasteland of New England.   Rick and Bob are flying home from Charleston, SC while Joey opted to only fly to Myrtle and drive back with me.  Jimmy, of course, is driving back to Punta Gorda, FL where it is not a frozen wasteland, the fat bastard.  Included in the flotsam is Joey’s rather large suitcase that was not part of what Ocho brought down to SC.  Some creative packing was involved to accommodate it so as to leave room for Joey too.  It would have been a shame to have to strap Joey to the roof for the 1050 mile trek home.

On the road at 5:00 a.m. feeling the usual pangs of remorse that the week is already over, that the daily joy of camaraderie is once again relegated to memory and in my case to the written word.  However, those thoughts need to be suppressed in order to survive the long, long way home.  So with a stoical mindset Gray Wolf springs to life and we head home.  Nineteen hours later Joey is safely ensconced in his own bed and 15 minutes later Gray Wolf is safely at rest in his own driveway.  The trip home is mostly without incident.  The only traffic encountered came, naturally, when we got on the Mass Pike; a kind of welcome home committee.  Until next year, same time, same place.

[1][1] Paraphrased line from Bruce Cockburn’s ‘How I Spent My Fall Vacation

[2] Paul Simon I Am a Rock

[3] Bob Seger ‘Turn the Page’

[4] Pete Townsend ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’

[5] Billy Joel ‘Scenes From an Italian Restaurant’

[6] Pete Townsend ‘Substitute’

[7] Donald(Buck Dharma)Roeser –Blue Oyster Cult ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’

[8] Bruce Springsteen ‘Glory Days’

[9] Sheryl Crow, Jeff Trott, Brian MacLeod ‘Everyday is a Winding Road’

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