I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Night at the Dirt Track

Over the weekend, I went to a local dirt track with a friend and his stepson to watch a little racing. We didn’t stay the entire night, but we saw some good action before we left.

The first few heats we saw featured new drivers—I think the proper term for that division is “hobby stocks,” but I could be wrong. It looks like some of these drivers are doing anything they possibly can just to be able to race. I loved some of the numbers on their cars. One car was A1. Here’s a photo:

Later in the night, we saw a car (the number 18 car with M & Ms painted on it) that had a similar paint scheme to something Kyle Busch would run on his number 18 car:
And of course, even later we saw cars that look more like I was expecting (this was a three car accident in the middle of turns one and two):
But I think I got the biggest kick out of a little boy who had all of the flags sitting in a stand in front of him who took out the proper flag and waved it vigorously every time the official flag man did so. Here's a picture of him in action:
I stood in a long line and paid $7.00 for a meal that wasn't horribe and it wasn't great. While I was standing in the line, a few small rocks flew off the track as cars sped by and one hit me in the leg. I survived and now I even sound tough for having survived.

Okay, not so much.

By the time we left, dust hovered over the track. And as we reached our car, dusk was settling in, making for one more nice photo:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Which State are You?

I glanced down a list of 50 conversation starter questions recently over at Suite 101.com and one of them intrigued me: “If you had to be named after one of the 50 states, which would it be?”

I’d hate to be named after a state for a couple of reasons. First, it sounds a little too Frank Zappa to me. Second, one state wouldn’t suit me for my entire life. 

Early in my life I was introverted, shy, and avoided risk. I’m thinking I would have been called Kansas. In my early 20s I was a partier so I would have probably had to submit a name change to California. In my late 20s I became a Christian so I would have had to bug the judge again to change my name to one of the states in the Bible belt. In my 30s I was heavily involved in conservative politics before the movement became everything it said it was not; maybe I would have chosen one of the U.S. territories for a name as a form of protest. In my 40s I find myself immersed in the publishing industry with a strong desire to be immersed in community, so maybe I should be New York now, but I suspect I would probably end up being Colorado.


New York has too many people. I wouldn’t know where to start to fit in. Colorado seems to have a nice mix of secluded areas and gathering places for community. And several publishers are located there. Yeah, I know about upstate New York and it’s beautiful wooded areas and I know that NYC has a vast number of publishing houses. But Colorado seems more my speed.
What about you? Which state would you be named after?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

17 Again

When did the dollar show become the $2.50 show? Not that I'm complaining. It's sort of nice not dropping a twenty spot when going to the movies.

A friend and I went to see 17 Again at the $2.50 show last night (my friend snapped the photo you see on the left on this Blackberry). I haven't been to this particular theater in years. It was in better shape than I expected, although certainly nothing like the digital movie theater that opened in town a year or so ago. The last time I was in this theater, the seats were tiny and they didn't have a head rest. Thankfully, they've done some remodeling since then and it turned out to be an enjoyable evening.

The movie itself was better than I expected. The story line intrigued me because who among us doesn't have regrets? It's about a guy who gets a chance to back to high school to see if he'd still make the same decision to marry his high school sweetheart. His life hadn't been all that he expected and he blamed his wife for that. I won't spoil the ending for you if you haven't seen the movie. But seeing the movie does make you wonder what you would do if you were given the chance to go back to high school to make the same life changing decisions you had to make during your senior year. Even if I had the chance to do it, I don't think I would take it. The mistakes and poor choices we make are part of who we are. They feed our wisdom and presumably prepare us to make better choices in the future. Besides, the real world doesn't allow us to become 17 again.

Admittedly though, that means that sometimes our wake up calls come too late. Not too late in the sense that we can't change, but too late in the sense that sometimes we can't undo the ramifications of a poor decision. Sometimes we just have to accept the ramifications and move on. And sometimes we can redeem the situation, but it's much harder to redeem a failure than to have our circumstances changed magically. In redemption, there's a price to be paid and the magic is slow, imperfect, and painful. But that makes it more real.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Drive-in Theaters

A couple of weekends ago, I drove past an old drive-in theater south of Kansas City that had been closed for some time. The screen was torn down. The grass in the field was quite high. And all that really remained was the old concession stand, which was a cylinder shaped building with peeling paint. I wish I would have stopped to take a photo of it because it really brought back a lot of memories.

I miss drive-in theaters. I miss getting there early with a carload of friends to stake out the best available parking spot. I miss rolling down the window and then rolling it back up again to secure the speaker inside the car. I miss walking through row after row of cars to get to the concession stand. I miss the opportunity to laugh as loud as you want to, and as often as you want to, without being concerned about bothering somebody else. I miss seeing children playing on the playground below the screen. I miss the double and triple features that drive-ins used to offer. I miss getting home at 2:00 or 3:00 AM after the double and triple features were finally over.

The last drive-in theater in the metro area in which I live closed in 2007. I wish I had taken better advantage of it before it did close. The last movie I remember seeing at a drive-in was Purple Rain, which, if my memory is correct, came out in 1984—the year I graduated from high school.

I did a little searching and found this website that says there are 494 drive-ins that are currently open in the United States. At one time there was 4,000 to 5,000 in operation. The same website says that there are only two drive-ins remaining in Nebraska—neither of which are anywhere near where I live. It sounds sort of crazy, but I wouldn’t mind going to visit one anyway, making a weekend out of it. And it would be even more fun if they were showing showing three classic movies in a row from the 80s.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

On Summer

I know that summer doesn’t officially begin until this weekend, but when the temperature is hitting 91 degrees, I don’t think we can call that spring, can we? My thoughts about summer:

  • Reading.
  • Cookouts.
  • Watching friends play softball (I retired after rupturing my Achilles tendon).
  • Wimbledon.
  • July 4 celebrations.
  • The summer movie-going season.
  • Fishing.
  • Going for ice cream.
  • It lasts too long.
  • It’s way too hot (about 40 degrees hotter than I prefer).
  • Bugs, more specifically, bees.
What I Miss:
  • Going to the drive-in theater.
  • Taking one my nieces to an amusement park when she was small. She’d squeal on the rides, and demand my attention, and I loved it.
  • Cruising with friends for the mere sake of it.
  • The A/C can never be set too low. It just can’t.
  • Baseball is still a great sport—even if many of the current occupants have tainted it.
  • Dressing down is more accepted—that’s a good thing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Over The Rhine: Ohio

When I was young and had more time, I used to buy cassettes (yes, cassettes) of my favorite bands and I’d unravel the cardboard insert with the lyrics with the greatest of anticipation. I’d read through the lyrics, finding the songs that spoke to me, and then I’d pop the cassette in and listen to it, following the lyrics as the songs rolled by.

I rarely do that any more.

It’s not because I don’t love music, but I’m busy, and frankly, so much music is full of ridiculous lyrics. I’m older now and I crave depth. That’s where Over the Rhine comes in. I’ve written about them here several times. Over the Rhine is made up of the husband-wife team of Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist.

I was watching a few of their live performances on YouTube yesterday when I ran across this one -- a song called “Ohio” which is the title track to their double-CD that was released in 2003. I love this song and seeing Bergquist perform it live made me love it even more.

I don't know if you have the time today to hit play and pause a few times, but if you do, I'd love to have you follow along with me verse by verse (if you are receiving this via email subscription, videos won’t show up in the email, you’ll need to click here and view the video on the blog):

[Hit Play]

Hello Ohio
The back roads
I know Ohio
Like the back of my hand
Alone Ohio
Where the river bends
And it's strange to see your story end

[Hit Pause]

This first verse is chilling to me. Bergquist is singing about watching life as she knows it come to an end on the back roads of Ohio. For the record, Linford wrote the song, but the sentiment is the same. And you get the feeling she's going to camp out and reminisce for a while because that's what humans do when we want to make sense of change.

As I watched this video, a picture flashed into my mind -- a picture I took on the back roads of Arkansas, which is where my father's side of the family is from. As a kid, I traveled with my grandparents and sister to Arkansas most summers and we would meander down one dirt road after another visiting relatives. When I got older, I drove my grandmother down those same dirt roads. We took two trips, one in 1991, I think, and the other one was in 1993.

She wasn't great at navigating me from city to city because things had changed and she pretty much went by the way things looked rather than actual street names, but once I found the cities, she could take me right to the dirt roads we needed to travel to visit relatives. During one of those visits, we stopped at an old cemetery to visit the graves of family members. After we did that, I did a little exploring and I remember seeing grave markers dating to the late 1700s in that cemetery.

I don't know why, but before I got into the car to leave, I pulled out my camera and snapped a photo of the dirt road that went past the cemetery. I think I took the photo because I wanted a clear reminder about how much life, and ultimately death, existed on the back roads of my heritage. I needed the tangible proof because the mind doesn't do an adequate job in remembering. At least my mind doesn't.

Here's the photo, dated October 22, 1993:

It wouldn't mean a thing to anybody but me, but now you know why this song moves me so much.

[Hit Play]

In my life I've seen a thousand dreams
Through the threshers all torn to pieces
And the land lay bare
Someone turned a profit there
And a good son lost his life in a strip pit


[Hit Pause]

Bergquist is lamenting the fact that the landscape of Ohio has changed. When she gets back to the chorus, you can just feel her emotion. She doesn't over sing the way some writers use exclamation points to dress up their words. Instead, her emotion pours through the words themselves and no dressing up is necessary. You feel for her because you know what a changing landscape can do to a person and in the purist way imaginable you just want to reach out and put your arm around her and say, "I know. I know."

I haven't been back to Arkansas since 1993, but I'm planning to go this September. Most of the relatives I used to visit are gone now. Their kids are mostly grown up and moved away. I doubt if many of my relatives who remain will even remember me. And the landscape is going to look different. I just know it in my soul. As I pull up to the little towns that are trapped in my memory, they are going to mock me. Or at the very least, treat me like a stranger.

[Hit Play]

When the sun went down we would all leave town
And light our fires in Egypt Bottom

And the reservoir was just as good for Joni
'Cause we knew we would
Dream outloud in the night air

Holly said, Don't go inside the children's home
Mary said, Don't leave your man alone
Valerie was singin' to the radio in Ohio

It was summertime in '83
We were burnin' out at the rubber tree

Wonderin' what in the world
Would make this worthwhile
And if I knew then, I was so much older then,
Would I see regret to the last mile



Now Bergquist gets personal. She tells us about her friends and she talks about how they dreamt outloud. And she remembered wondering about the future. In some fashion, all of us fear looking back on our youth with regret. But I think she is talking about more than that. I think she is talking about looking back on that particular time in her life with regret because she didn't value the moment long enough, but I could be wrong.

I didn't grow up in Arkansas, but my father was born there. I don't feel regret about the place as much as I feel regret about not capturing the precious moments I should have -- the pictures I didn't take while visiting relatives on houseboats, the journal entries I didn't write to remember every detail of my fishing trips with relatives there, the letters I didn't write afterward to the relatives I visited. So, in some small way, this post is about remembering life on the back roads, even if my memory is flawed.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hidden Gems on My iPod

Do you ever feel like you aren’t getting the full value from your music collection? I do. I get hung up on one or two albums and I listen to them over and over and that causes me to forget some of the great music I have stored on my iPod. One day last week, I read something on an online bulletin board that sounded like a great idea: create a playlist in iTunes of all of the songs you haven’t listened to on your iPod and then hit shuffle. I did just that before hitting the road this weekend.

Here are a few of the gems that popped up on my trip:

I Would Have Loved You Anyway,” by Trisha Yearwood: I bought this CD when in first came out in 2001 for the song “Inside Out,” which I have listened to many, many times, but I forgot that this CD has a few other good songs as well, this one being one of them. The lyrics in the first verse have such a sad resolve to them, but I’m sure nearly everybody can relate when she sings:

If I’d have known the way that this would end
If I’d have read the last page first
If I’d have had the strength to walk away
If I’d have known how this would hurt
I would’ve loved you anyway

Coward of the County” by Kenny Rogers: This song always reminds me of my dad. I don’t know why exactly, probably because Tommy, the subject of the song, gets advice from his father and he has to figure out when to use it and when to tweak it. I can’t tell you how often bits of advice from my dad run through my head during difficult circumstances. And dad was a Kenny Rogers fan too, so I’ll always think of him when I hear this song.

The Heart of Worship” by Matt Redman: This one came from a worship CD that was released in 1999. I bought the CD for another song I heard during a worship service in 1998 or 1999. I don’t listen to enough praise and worship music. Listening to this song again for the first time in few years reminded me of that. I love this verse:

King of endless worth
No one could express
How much You deserve
Though I'm weak and poor
All I have is Yours
Every single breath

Lay it Down” by Jennifer Knapp: It’s been ions since I listened to the Lay it Down CD that came out in 2000. I loved Knapp’s first release, Kansas. Lay it Down was her second effort and I don’t think it was as strong musically as her first CD, but her songs always prompt me to think and do a little soul searching. The title track from Lay it Down contains this verse:

Pride can break a man right down from iron
Twist him ‘round ‘round and tatter up a soul
Handprint of God on the small of my back
My second chance, my second chance
I'll bend a knee my friend, I'll bend a knee

I love the visual of God placing his hand on the small of her back. It’s such a holy and intimate thought.

I’m enjoying this so much that I’m going to continue . . . I have another 3,000 or so songs to work my way through and I expect to find many more gems I haven’t listened to in a long time.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Hole in One

A couple of my friends and I get together once a week or so to play the Golden Tee golf game. The winner has bragging rights for the week. This past weekend, I won the first game, but it was still early so we decided to play again. I finished last. Bummer. One of my friends hit a hole in one that game--that didn't help matters. After he hit it, the game offered him the opportunity to send the video of the hole in one to YouTube. He did and sure enough, it's out there. How crazy, and cool, is that?

Here it is (if you receive these posts via e-mail subscription, you'll have to visit Little Nuances to see the video):

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Best Romantic Comedies

Kate Beckinsale's performance in Serendipity
is one of my all-time favorites
Photo: Karen Seto
Paste magazine did a story recently about the 17 Best Romantic Comedies This Decade. I’m a connoisseur of the romantic comedy, so I ate this up. Unfortunately, not all of it stayed down.

I won’t dwell on the duds that made the list (Waitress, Knocked Up) or even wonder about the movies I’ve never heard of that made the list (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Before Sunset, Amelie).

But somebody must stand up for the great romantic comedies of this decade that didn’t make the list.

I volunteer:
Can you think of any others? Remember, they had to have been released this decade.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

2009 French Open

So, between the Tennis Channel and ESPN, I’ve been recording something like 13 hours of tennis each day during the French Open and sitting down to watch what I’ve recorded around 10:00 PM each night. Of course, the math doesn’t work, unless I want to avoid sleep and work altogether and I haven’t figured out how to pull that off. But it is fun to pick and choose what I watch—something the Tennis Channel has given me the opportunity to do.

French Open 2009 Roland Garros Paris 30/05/09 Andy Roddick (USA) wins third round match Photo: Anne Parker Fotosports International
Did you catch any of the Andy Roddick vs. Gael Monfils fourth round match the other day? Over the past couple of years, I’ve watched Monfils progress up the rankings (he’s seeded 11 at this tournament) and I could understand why he was headed toward the top. He’s loaded with talent and he really seems passionate about the sport. I wasn’t too impressed with his antics against Roddick though. As it got dark, Roddick began telling the umpire he couldn’t see. Monfils must have believed Roddick wanted play suspended solely because Monfils had a big lead. And there may have been an element of truth in that. But Monfils didn’t handle it well. He began making all sorts of incredulous faces, trying to stir up the fans (Monfils is from France, so he was playing in front of a home crowd). Roddick didn’t take the bait though. He got beat soundly, but somehow he kept his focus throughout the match and he didn’t respond to Monfils’ actions. I’m guessing that things might be a little different at the US Open if they happen to meet up in a night match in New York.

The tennis world was stunned to see Rafael Nadal lose in the fourth round to Robin Soderling. I was hoping for another Nadal vs. Federer final because the drama would have been so thick, but Federer is still in the tournament and therefore still in the hunt for his first French Open title. He breaks down in tears now every time he wins or loses a final in a major and I don’t expect anything different from him this time if he can get past Juan Martin Del Potro in the semi-finals.

On the women’s side, Dinara Safina looks to have things well in hand in the top half of the draw. At the bottom half, Samantha Stosur has been a huge surprise. She’s seeded 30th, but she’s in the semi-finals against Svetlana Kuznetsova. I’ll be rooting for the winner of that match to win the tournament, but I don’t see Safina losing unless her nerves get the best of her. She’s mentally tough and she seems like she is on the verge of securing her spot at the top of the women’s game for a while.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Final Survivor of Titanic Dies

Did you see that the last survivor of the Titanic died over the weekend? Her name was Millvina Dean; she was 97. I read the AP article about her with interest—not just because she is tied to such a huge historical event, but because of the lasting effects it had on her family.

Her family boarded the Titanic with the intention of starting a tobacconist shop in Wichita (or Kansas City—depending on which source you read). Her father owned a pub in England and he sold it to open the shop, but he perished some time after lowering Millvina, who was just two months old at the time, into a lifeboat. Her two-year-old brother and their mother also survived. They were taken to New York initially and then ended up going back to England.

Millvina never married, and of course, her family never opened that tobacconist shop in Kansas City. She went on to become a secretary. She died in Southampton, England—the same place her family left to start a new life in America.

The Dean family hadn’t planned on being on the Titanic. A coal strike caused them to transfer from another boat to the Titanic.

I wonder if Millvina spent a lot of time wondering about what might have been? Would she have gotten married and had children? Would she have ended up owning and running the shop her father would have started? How would her life in general have been different in Kansas?

I think anybody would wonder such things from time to time, but from that way it sounds, Millvina settled into life in Southampton. And it seems to have suited her just fine.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Origin of Woot

The first time I saw the word “woot,” I thought it was a typo. Then I saw it again, and again. Stuff like this reminds me of how uncool I am. Today, I heard the term again, so I googled it and here’s what Urban Dictionary says:

“w00t” was originally an trunicated expression common among players of Dungeons and Dragons tabletop role-playing game for “Wow, loot!” Thus the term passed into the net-culture where it thrived in video game communities and lost its original meaning and is used simply as a term of excitement.

[I might not know what woot means, but I do know that “truncated” is misspelled and that the article preceding it should be “a,” not “an.”]

So, it’s a new term for excitement. I pretty much figured that out from the context in which people generally use it. But I’m not a woot person. I think I’ll stick with “Wow!” instead.


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