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Chris Sherwood

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Chris Sherwood last won the day on February 22 2023

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  1. I don’t know what got me thinking about this, perhaps it comes from reading GiddyUpAmerica by Ryan O’Connell. But instead of some of the other ideas I’ve intended to write about, I decided to do something a little lighter and write about some of my personal favorite album covers. Until recently, it was a long time before I owned an actual record. Excuse me, “vinyl” as the newest generation of aficionados call them. ( This seems silly to me, referring to an object as the material it’s made of. It’s akin to calling a compact disc a… wait, what the hell are cds made from? ) I don’t pretend to think these are the end all of iconic album covers. Nor do I rank them in any particular order of importance. It’s simply a list of album covers that, to me, have stood out over the years. Rolling Stones – Tattoo You To be honest, I’m not even sure why this one occurred to me as I was thinking about album covers. But if you were to ask me about a Stones album, I believe this is the one that would pop into my brain. Maybe it’s that late 70’s turning into the iconic decade of the 80’s artwork. I didn’t even know until just now that it contains perhaps my favorite Stones song, Waiting On A Friend.So I guess now it fits on this list even better. Blondie – Autoamerican Keeping with the turn of the decade theme, Autoamerican by Blondie is another one of those albums with artwork that just popped into my head. It’s got that gritty, New York look to it for starters, but also you’ve got Deborah Harry there, striking a pose. And anyone who knows me surely knows that even before every school boy’s crush Princess Leia, for me there was Deborah Harry. Lest I seem shallow, I’ve long loved her voice and this album contains two of my favorite songs, The Tide Is High and Rapture. Molly Hatchet – Molly Hatchet I’m gonna be honest with you, I haven’t heard a single song from this album. Truth be told, I don’t know if I can name a single Molly Hatchet song off the top of my head. But I know this album cover. I don’t know where I first saw it, it’s been so long. But I knew at first glance it’s a badass cover. Look at that artwork and tell me it isn’t. I have no idea what’s going on there or what it represents, but I like it. Nirvana – Nevermind The very first thing that comes to mind when I think of 90’s music is the birth of grunge. More specifically, the first time I heard it. I still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when Smells Like Teen Spirit came on the radio. Like an entire generation, I was completely blown away. So it’s this album cover that really encapsulates all that for me. Interestingly enough, the baby in that picture grew up to sue the band for use of his image, saying that hill at first he enjoyed some notoriety from it, he eventually grew uncomfortable and likened it to child pornography/ exploitation. A federal judge later dismissed the case, and rightly so in my opinion. Embrace that shit man! Asia – Asia To me, Asia is one of those groups that you don’t really think of until you hear a song on the radio and think, “Who is that again?” They had a lot of really trippy albums covers, but this one has always gotten my attention. Look at it. Seriously, I have no idea what’s going on there, do you? It reminds me of the cover art for an Atari 2600 game cartridge more than an album cover. But I like it. I don’t know why, but I do. Bruce Springsteen – Born In The USA I tried to think of an album that represent the 80’s in a way that Nevermind did for the 90’s, at least in my head. I considered a lot of them, but ultimately this one seemed to be the one. If for no other reason that it was arguably a great decade for “The Boss”. Van Halen – 1984 Sometimes I wish I knew what was going on in someone’s head when they came up with this. “Dude, a kid smoking a cigarette? We can’t use that!” “Wait. ( Sketches furiously ) How’s this?” “Angel wings? Brilliant!” If you were to ask me to name an album from my childhood, this would likely be one of the first to come to mind. And, it’s got some great music on there, as well as some of the band’s best music videos before Dave went solo, and in doing so, committing career suicide I think. ( He just never recovered that cool, “Diamond Dave” swagger, did he? ) Motley Crue – Dr. Feelgood First off, while Dr. Feelgood may have been more polished than their previous albums, it’s my favorite. Not only for this great album cover, but the music was perhaps their best. Vince hadn’t killed anyone lately, Nikki hadn’t killed himself, and the band was, in fact, clean and sober for once. It shows in this album. The cover art, specifically the tile background, has a clean yet still flawed appearance, much like the band at this time. I don’t know, it’s just a cool design. Johnny Cash – American Recordings This and other albums Cash recorded in the early 90’s are simply amazing both in the song choice and the simplicity with which they’re recorded. It’s not something you’d expect out Rick Rubin, but he had the vision and appreciation of Cash to let him do what he wanted, and how he wanted: stripped down and raw. Some of Johnny’s best work resides in these recordings if you ask me, including covers of heavy rock and grunge band songs such as Rusty Cage and of course the most beautiful swan song ever recorded, Hurt ( which, it you can watch the video for and not tear up, you’re not human and I don’t want to know you. ) Getting back to the album cover, it’s simple like the music within, and like that music, there’s a quiet ferocity to it. There’s strength emanating from that picture. It says so little, and exudes so much. Christy Moore – King Puck Many artists have influenced my own musical style over the years. Starting with John Denver, whose songs helped me learn guitar to in more recent years, Christy Moore. Moore isn’t as well known as the others listed above, but he is a giant in the genre of Irish traditional and contemporary music. And while two of my many favorite songs reside on this album, ( The Two Conneeleys and a cover of Jackson Browne’s Before the Deluge ). The picture on the album cover is simple, but again, it speaks volumes. Years ago I purchased a copy of King Puck from someone in Ireland to frame and hang in our living room where it still hangs. Perhaps speaking for me a little as well. What about you? Is there album cover art that speaks to you for some reason? Let me know in the comments! Chris Sherwood writes from his home in North Chemung. He is the author of the In Times of Trouble and In Times Of Trouble: Aftermath, a post-apocalyptic series set in Upstate New York, and is currently working on the third book in the trilogy. To learn more, go to cmsherwood.com
  2. For a while now I’ve been thinking about a concept which compares our lives to the changing of the seasons. To be honest, I don’t know if it’s an original thought and I haven’t bothered to look. If someone has done this already, no plagiarism is intended. Think of it as one of those, “great minds think alike moments.” The idea is, assuming an average human lifespan of eighty years ( statistics say it’s 77.28 for the average American, so ever the optimist, I’m rounding up ) you can divide those years into four “seasons”, each lasting twenty years. Spring would be birth until age twenty. We’re born and grow into adulthood, our bodies and minds developing into adulthood. Summer, from age twenty to forty when we’re in our prime and our lives are robust. The blood runs hot in more ways than one. Some days are calm and breezy and others raging with storms. All of these must be not only weathered, but excepted as well. It’s not so easy at first, but with each passing year, we gain wisdom and experience. Around age forty, things begin to slow down and as tends to happen on a late September day, there’s a certain feeling of comfort that comes over us. We perhaps look back at our summer days, remembering fondly the fun of the cool breezy ones, and knowing now that the storms we endured tempered our minds, despite what it may have done to our bodies.We see the fruits of our labors in the comfort of our homes, the success of our children. If we haven’t already, we look ahead to the coming winter and prepare. Around sixty is what I consider to be the beginning of our winter years. Things slow down around us which is good, because perhaps we’re a little slower too. Like the snow settling on the ground, we too are a little more gray. The wind blows cold, but there’s still a warmth inside us and in our homes, where we take comfort and solace in the lives we built and created. The end of this season for some people could be considered death for some people I suppose. For those who believe in a higher power, death may just be that final step in this world and a first step into a new Spring elsewhere. I have no idea, and no one has come back to fill us in so I guess we have to find out for ourselves. For my part, I’ll wait a bit longer, thank you. In little more than a week, I’ll turn forty-nine, taking one last trip around the sun before hitting the halfway mark of my own autumn I suppose. Unlike the year or so leading up to my turning forty, I don’t feel a lot of anxiety or dread about turning fifty. As I came to realize, there’s no changing it, so may as well go along with it. Still there’s some things that are more difficult to accept than graying hair and aching joints. Perhaps the most painful part of getting older is having to watch the generation before you do the same, until the day comes they take that last/ first step into whatever comes next. I’m at that stage where all but one or two of my grandparents’ generation are still alive. I recognize of course that there are many who never knew, or knew well, their own grandparents and their peers. However growing up and spending a lot of time with my maternal grandparents, I had a lot of exposure to the great-aunts and great-uncles who frequently visited, especially on the weekends, for coffee and conversation. How many families can say they still do that on a regular basis these days? Yet that was normal back then, and I remember those visits and even some of the stories told over cigarettes and coffee well. Upon hearing of another of that generation passing away a while back, I commented to my wife, “I’m witnessing an entire segment of my family disappear, one by one.” And look, I know full well I am not unique in this, it’s something we all have to endure. We have to accept it, it doesn’t mean we have to like it. As one generation passes through that last phase of life’s winter, another steps up to take its place. In time they’ll pass on into that Eternal Spring and then it’s my turn. I don’t know what that will look like, and truth is, I’m in no hurry to find out. But as someone once said, “The days are long, the years short.” In the blink of an eye, the feeling of “that feels like just yesterday” looking back will be here soon. I won’t lie, that scares the shit out of me, but I also know there’s no use dwelling on it. To do so is to just waste the time we’re given, so it’s best to live in the now. Still, those thoughts and feelings of dread come from time to time and to offset them I think about what the generation behind us is doing, watching them build their lives and families just as we and the generations before us did. James Taylor sang, “The secret to life is enjoying the passage of time.” And while it’s not always easy to, the truth it, we have no choice. So like Sweet Baby James says, we may as well enjoy the ride. Chris Sherwood writes from his home in North Chemung. He is the author of In Times of Trouble, a post-apocalyptic novel set in Upstate New York, and is currently working on the sequel. To learn more, go to cmsherwood.com
  3. "It's so beautiful out here.” That's a statement I used to hear a lot, usually from someone who was lost and needed help finding their way back to Elmira, Horseheads, I86, etc. I'd point them in the right direction, and after a quick “thank you” they'd usually say how pretty our area is, then drive off to their destination. And it's true. Chemung County is blessed with a beautiful rural landscape. But unfortunately I don’t hear that a lot these days. That’s because there's far too many in this county who don't see it as a beautiful thing to be enjoyed and respected. They look at it as a place to dump their garbage and other unwanted items. This is nothing new of course, there's always been those areas that people confuse for the county landfill. ( For the record folks, it's in Lowman. Like Toucan Sam, just follow your nose, it's easier to smell from miles away these days. ) There's always been the beer cans, fast food wrappers, and so on that it's apparently too difficult for some to dispose of properly. And that too seems to have gotten worse over the years. But more and more it's larger household items. For example, ( at the time of this writing ) in the four to five mile stretch of Jerusalem Hill Road I drive each day, I can see: random couch cushions, a small recliner, a microwave and other assorted stuff over an embankment. Garbage bags in the trees. There's a couch on the edge of another embankment ( so that's where the cushions came from ) and if you stop and take a look over the bank, there's years of stuff piled up there. Bags of household garbage, just tossed along the roadside without a care. This isn't just happening here in our part of the county, it's everywhere. On nearly any given rural road in Chemung County, you’ll find broken televisions, computer monitors, construction debris and more. It's not only disgusting, it's infuriating, it's... it's sad. And it's got to stop. And I can already hear the keyboard commandos out there, "So if you don't like it, why don't you clean it up?" How do you know people aren’t? Look, it’s one thing to walk up and down the road picking up trash the local slobs toss out of their car window. But how many stoves, televisions, etc can one person pick up? How many times can one person haul someone else's garbage to the proper locations and pay to properly dispose of? It's not as simple or inexpensive as paying for a couple extra bags of garbage to be hauled away. Local officials and law enforcement know it's a problem, but it doesn’t seem to be much of a priority for some muncipalities and law enforcement have enough on their hands as it is. I’ve brought it up over the years, and would love to help find a solution. But to be honest, I don’t have a lot of answers. Are people doing this because of the expense of taking it to the dump? Then maybe there’s a way municipalities can make it both easier and more affordable to dispose of an old couch, or a 55 inch tv that no longer works. Make it free somehow, hell, it’s got to be better than having dozens of mini landfills across the county. Maybe the local road crews could clean this stuff up as it’s found, pile it up somewhere. Then, let’s find a way to catch the dirtbags doing it. Perhaps invest in some cameras ( Elmira bought fifty of them for God’s sake ) and install them in places known to be a common problem area. I’d happily kick in for some up here in our section of the county. Then as a punishment the ones caught can pay for its disposal, even the stuff they themselves didn't dump. I don’t know folks, part of me thinks it’d still continue. Maybe there’s no cure for the slobbish behavior, the lack of respect for our hometowns. I don’t know… To the slobs doing this, knock it off. If you want to live in filth, that's your prerogative I suppose but do it in your own hovel. These hills are our home, and we're tired of it. “It’s so beautiful out here.” Well, it used to be.
  4. “Well, we tried.” As the dog and I returned from an abbreviated New Year’s Eve walk, ( for reasons I’ll get to in a minute ) that’s what I found myself thinking this evening. A couple strands of the Christmas lights on our porch burned out a couple weeks ago and frankly, I didn’t give a damn enough to try and fix them. We tried. Man if ever there was an illustration for 2021, particularly the holiday season, those lights would be labeled “Illustration A”. This time last year we were coming out of a collective Hell, or so we thought. And damnit we were going to have some well deserved joy in our lives. So we threw ourselves into the holidays head first. People were stringing up Christmas lights and decorating their houses sooner than ever. Even Nature got in on the act when, a couple days before Christmas she dumped a couple feet of snow to give us a white Christmas worthy of Bing and Co. Sure many of us still celebrated differently, but after the year we’d had, even different was good. I said last year, and I still believe it: It may not have been the holidays we wanted, but it was what we needed. This year however, man, I don’t know… Thanksgiving seemed fine, but from there things changed, at least for me. The following day we hung the outdoor lights and decoration as usual but the weather was bitter and brutal, and the whole thing felt like something to get through. Then as the weeks progressed everything turned to mud, plans got canceled, and so on. And all through it, at least in recent weeks, those friggin’ lights… a perfect metaphor for 2021 if ever there was one. I wasn’t completely miserable, don’t get me wrong. We got Winter break, the kids came home from college, we had some laughs. But for me there was a sense of Yuletide “meh” that lingered throughout. “It is what it is,” I figured. A mental health counselor I know ( she’s a dear friend, although I probably should be a client as well ) would probably say it’s okay to feel the way I feel. At least that’s what I told myself, and decided to move on and find a way to enjoy the time off between Christmas as New Year. This is an interactive post, by the way. You’ll need to click the button below to continue: That was the sound I heard Tuesday when, after waking up with a scratchy throat, I took a home Covid test. The pink line was faint, but like a home pregnancy test, there’s no half-way. You are or you aren’t, and I was positive. Later confirmed by official testing. I’ll spare you the complaints about my symptoms. I’ve felt like crud, but I’m upright and breathing on my own, albeit with a bit more effort depending on my activity level. Any and all plans of going on a day trip to browse through some junk at an antique mall, hitting Market St. for the olive oil I like to cook with, stopping to see a buddy at his store… sayonara to all that. Okay then. Well, we have a bunch of goodies I’d bought in advance for New Year's Eve. We’ll snack on those and then go to bed three hours ahead of the ball drop like usual, right? Go back and click that button up there again. Well, we had the snacks, but I couldn't really taste them. As I was preparing the snacks earlier that evening, I munched on a piece of pepperoni. Like Violet Beauregarde I tried to convince myself that, hey, I can taste the spicy goodness of the pepper, the paprika, the… whatever the hell else is in pepperoni. "This tastes like sh*t!" But the truth is, it was more like a mouthful of lumpy grease followed by a slight burn in my throat. And the cheese? Forget it, couldn’t taste a thing.I gave the rest of it to the dog. And if it gives him gas, hell, I won’t be able to smell it. “Silver lining” and all that. (I’m trying folks.) It aint always easy, but like so many I’m trying to keep on keeping on in these crazy times. But I’m not gonna feel any sense of sadness when those P.O.S. lights come down in the coming days. Some will make it to the attic, and the others the garbage. We’ll carry on and hope for things to improve as the new year begins And if ever I’m asked to sum up 2021 in three words, it’ll be: “Well, we tried.” Chris Sherwood writes from his home in North Chemung. He is the author of In Times of Trouble, a post-apocalyptic novel set in Upstate New York, and he is currently working on the sequel. To learn more, go to cmsherwood.com
  5. The season is upon us once again, when Christmas music once again fills the airwaves. Actually, if you work in any shopping mall you know that the Christmas music season starts promptly at midnight on November 1st. This is in an effort to get you, the consumer, in the Christmas, or more specifically, the Christmas shopping, spirit. Though in recent years it may inspire consumers to do some window shopping at best, only to go home and order it on Amazon. Now right out of the gate let me clarify: I enjoy Christmas music. Well, a lot of it anyway. And in measured doses. A couple years ago I vowed that I wouldn’t listen to a single jingle bell until exactly two weeks before the big day. And you know, it was just the right amount. Still, I think it’s time we put a halt to any new Christmas albums. A century or so ought to suffice. I say this for two reasons. First, how many more versions of Jingle Bells do we really need? I get it, cutting a holiday album is a quick and easy way for an artist to sell another million or two, often with minimal royalties and other expenses to pay out. But you can practically hear the artists phoning it in. Each new version is as banal and uninspired as the last fifty. Need proof? I submit Last Christmassung by Taylor Swift as Exhibit A. You may be thinking, “But what about new Christmas songs?” Again, boring and as chock full of cliches as Top 40 country radio… well, almost. There are very few exceptions to this, in my opinion. Nearly anything by Trans-Siberian Orchestra or Clint Black’s Looking For Christmas are two examples that leap to mind. It aint Christmas without Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 or Milk and Cookies (’til Santa’s Gone). I think it’s time we pump the brakes a bit on recording any Christmas music, covers or originals. In fact, I’ll go so far as to suggest we use the opportunity to cull a few head from the carol corral. There’s a few that I’d throw my rope at, and wouldn’t miss ever again: ( Note: YouTube won’t allow the videos to be played here, even though that’s why they offer embed codes. Click the links on the title if you wanna hear the songs. ) Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney Just looking it up the song to get the link above was painful. The most dangerous place in the world is between my hand and the radio when this song comes on. When that first synthesized note plays, I can’t change the channel fast enough. Chugging Ivermectin like Alex Jones couldn’t rid me of this most infectious species of ear worm. Honest to God, for all Paul McCartney contributed to music over the decades, this will forever be a black stain on his accomplishments as a Beatle and solo performer. All I Want For Christmas Is You by Vince Vance and the Valiants This is one I know you’ve heard. It’s on the goddamned radio every hour, after all. But you may be wondering who Vince Vance and the Valiants are. Honestly, I thought they were some unknown act plucked from the Vegas nightclub scene, thrown into a recording studio to do this song for a quick buck. Turns out they’re from New Orleans. So why is this song on my list? Well, in addition to being over sung and completely dripping with schmaltz, there’s an inflection in the singer’s voice that drives me positively apeshit every time I hear it. Listen from the 1:22 mark to 1:28 ( I hope you appreciate my personal suffering to get those times. ) “All that I want, can’t be foundUH.” What the hell is that?!? Did she and Metallica’s James Hetfield see the same vocal trainer? It drives me insane, and if not for that weird vocal inflection I could probably let this particular song continue to see light of day. Actually, no I couldn’t Rockin Around The Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee Man, I can hear the groans from here. “Surely he’s not attacking this classic, is he?” Well, no, not really. It’s not a bad song, per se. I’ve never exactly been a “kid person”. Now, if you know what I do to pay the bills, you find that statement ironically hysterical. So for argument’s sake we’ll narrow that down to “precocious kids.” You know what I’m talking about. That kid who’s parents shove a microphone in their hand every chance they get and say, “Oh you just have to listen to Susie sing.” Then etiquette requires you to sit there and be treated to a rendering of whatever pop hit is currently popular with the pre-pubescent crowd. Maybe you have such a child in your family. No? Me neither. But you know what I’m talking about, don’t you? That’s the kind of thing this song reminds me of, and for good reason: Brenda Lee was only 13 when she recorded it. The Twelve Days Of Christmas by Everyone on the Planet I’m not even gonna post a link to this one. You know what I’m talking about. This song is simply too long. In fact, so long I’m not gonna waste more words on it. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Barenaked Ladies ( featuring Sarah McLachlan ) Okay so in fairness I have to say I like Barenaked Ladies. And I actually like the first part of this song. It’s a fresh take on an oldie, simple and well produced. And then Sarah McLachlan comes caterwauling in to drag the whole thing down like a musical wet blanket. She sounds out of place and there’s a shift in the energy of the song that bothers me. I’m not saying she can’t sing. It’s just that when I hear her on this song I suddenly think of shivering abandoned puppies for some reason, so take from that what you will. Chris Sherwood writes from his home in the hills of Chemung County. He is the author of In Times Of Trouble, and is currently working on the sequel. Visit his website at cmsherwood.com
  6. As with much of the things I write, i lifted the title for this column from a song. Here's a rendition of it by local musician and friend, Pat Kane. We’re on our way out of March and with it, leaving behind that time of year sometimes referred to as “Fool’s Spring” with it. It’s safe to say I’m not alone being happy to say “goodbye” to Winter. Still, anyone who lives in this part of the country knows to enjoy the warmer temps, the snow melting away, and the grass getting greener, but that it could all change next week. The only good thing about six inches of snow in late March or early April is you know it won’t last long. If I’m not mistaken, the winter of 2020-2021 was the longest we’ve had continuous snow cover on the ground in recent history. I certainly can’t remember a time when we had snow arrive before Christmas and never see bare ground again until months later! It was nice to see all that white stuff for the holidays, no doubt, but man, I could have used a January thaw to get some manure shoveled out and make hauling firewood a little easier for a change. Speaking of manure, I still need to get the chicken coop scraped clean but since they’re all out happily scratching the ground for the first time in months, they haven’t complained. Maybe this weekend it’ll get done. I’m still traumatized by the mess I cleaned out of the goat’s shed. The snow and ice still on the hillside meant I had to handle everything multiple times: pitch it out the door, rake it to the fence, pitch it into the wagon and haul it across the road to dump it. With any luck it’ll be the last time I have to deal with it in this fashion again though, as plans are under way for them to get a new barn which should make life easier. Meanwhile the goats are shedding more now that the mercury is rising. Their wooly undercoat they’re losing gets on everything they rub against, especially the fence. Later as it will end up in bird nests all throughout the property keeping newly hatched birds warm. Nothing in Nature goes to waste. If you're not putting on your mud boots and grilling, you aint a real Upstate New Yorker. One of the best parts about this time of year is how the world around us suddenly comes alive. Last night the peepers started an early rendition of their annual chorus, joined occasionally by the raspy squeaking call of a wood duck nearby. The call of the robin in the pre-dawn hour takes over, followed by the Wren, the Chickadees and occasionally the distinctive call of the Phoebe. The loudest of all comes from our own trio of Narragansett Turkeys, a heritage breed we keep here. They’ve taken more notice of their wild cousins feeding in a nearby field and the hen calls to them seemingly non-stop, interrupted occasionally by the thunderous gobble of the tom. As I write this, it’s already 61 degrees out, with a high of 75 forecast. It seems a little much so soon, but no one in their right mind, or me, would complain. Combining yesterday’s rain with the warmth of today’s sun, I swear I can look out the window and see the ground turn greener by the minute. It occurs to me it won’t be long until it’ll need to be mowed in addition to all the other jobs I have been writing down for myself to do in the coming months. There’s a lot on the list, and more to come I’m sure. Thankfully a lot of them are minor jobs, and several could be checked off in a day. But for now there’s not much that can be done except wait for the mud to dry up a little more and simply enjoy the end of what felt like an extraordinarily long Winter.
  7. We’re quickly coming upon the time marking one year since the world was turned upside down thanks to a tiny little organism known as Covid-19 came into our lives. I remember very well the sense of foreboding, the heaviness we all felt in the beginning. I sat our teenage sons down, one of them a high school senior, and we talked about it. I told them in no uncertain terms, “This is going to suck.” No one had been through what we were about to experience in 100 years, so we'd be making this up as we go along. “We’re gonna have to roll with the punches,” I told them. Looking back, I think that helped them cope and kept everything in perspective. Yes, this was going to suck, but we’d get through it. I just didn’t know how right I was. The “suck factor” would be off the charts. We all experienced “the suck” in our own ways, no use in rehashing that. On the flip side however, there were small glimmers of positivity, at least here in my own little world. Probably yours as well. At the very outset, right around the time of the shutdown, I felt strongly compelled to reach out to friends to make sure they were doing okay. I later learned this was a common reaction, and really, how awesome is that when you stop to think about it? I got in contact with to someone I hadn’t talked to in nearly two years. Someone I really respect and admired, and I'm glad I listened to that little voice in my head that had been there all along, but had become much louder. Being relegated to staying home, I needed something to keep me from going crazy. So I resolved to finish the book I had been working on for the better part of four years, an “end of the world” story funny enough. I even set myself a deadline of June 1st. Three months to make it happen, and it did. And I gotta say, our lawn never looked better than it did last Summer thankyouverymuch. Our oldest son’s senior year of high school was decimated, but the resilience he and many of his classmates showed with each disappointment was remarkable. And in the end, while they didn’t have prom and all the other stuff, they did get a graduation ceremony. And I have to say it again, kudos to the staff and administration of the local schools for making it happen. Through all the ups and downs throughout 2020, I kept telling myself if we could just have a nice holiday season, things would be okay. Uh huh, sure. Like millions of others, I think we threw ourselves into it head first. Damn it, we were gonna be jolly no matter what. And you know what? I think it worked. I for one enjoyed the houses all lit up everywhere. Add to that an epic snowstorm, it was hard to feel down. This holiday season was different, but it wasn't all bad. Our family did things a little differently than usual this year. My wife, sons and I had Thanksgiving dinner here at home, just the four of us, for the first time ever. Same for Christmas, we visited family, briefly and masked, then came home to enjoy a nice dinner, the four of us. While I missed the parties, seeing family and all that, I have to admit folks, I didn’t miss the chaos. Interestingly enough, there was none of the usual “post-holiday letdown” I and perhaps millions of others feel. As I’ve said repeatedly, it wasn’t the holidays we wanted, but maybe it was the holidays we needed. And when 2020 finally came to an end, we all breathed a sigh of relief. Is 2021 going to say “hold my beer”? The jury is still out on that one I think. I guess my point to all this is, if we look hard enough, deep enough, we can find some silver lining to the black cloud that was the past year. Perhaps now is a good time for all of us to do a little reflection on the lessons we learned and what changes we can make going forward. For all the talk about the “new normal”, none of us knows what that’s going to look like. But maybe we have a chance to shape it for the better. Did you have any positive experiences the past year due in part to the pandemic you'd like to share? Let's hear them.
  8. Since the riots and attack on the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, I've been trying to think of what I would say to the world about this week's events if offered the chance. Truth is, there's a lot I'd like to say. However in many respects, words have failed me. Well, multiple four lettered words, woven in strings as colorful as the lights on our Christmas tree, didn't let me down at all. I should probably apologize for what the neighbors may have recently heard, but overall, I am still trying to process much of what happened in D.C. So this could well be a shorter column, we'll see, but there's one point I want to really focus on. Wednesday evening, President-elect Joe Biden called the act of insurrection "...an assault literally on the citadel of liberty..." and to me, those eight words sum it up perfectly. With a lot less profanity as well. I don't know if you've ever been to Washington D.C., but we've been a few times and I highly recommend everyone see it at least once in their lives. For all the jokes and memes about it being a "hive of scum and villainy," it truly is a marvel to behold. Everywhere you look is a monument to our nation's history and majesty. To me, it's literally a concrete testament to all that is the United States of America. I don't think one can truly grasp what it is until you're surrounded by it. None of these monuments or buildings are more majestic and more awe inspiring that the U.S. Capitol. Seriously, you have to see it to believe it. Just standing at street level at Capitol Hill, I defy anyone to not swell with pride. I've never seen the inside ( and thanks to this week's events, stand even less a chance than ever ) but I can only imagine the grandeur and the history that surrounds one in what is essentially the cradle of American freedom and all this country stands for. And yes, lest I be accused of waxing poetic, I understand and fully agree that a lot of what is wrong with our nation stems from there now. Our nation and its government are not perfect. However the ideals, represented by the U.S. Capitol, are. It's enraging ( God, what an understatement ) still to think a mob, under the guise of their Constitutional right to assemble, not only tried to ( and for a short time successfully ) halt the peaceful transfer of power. Which, by the way, is also clearly defined by the U.S. Constitution. This wasn't just a heinous attack on what I believe to be symbolic of Ronald Reagan's "shining city upon a hill." It was an assault on American values, ideals, and freedom by pretend patriots. The minutiae of what happened, what went wrong, will be scrutinized for days and weeks to come. Where we go from here? Is it the end or the beginning of dark times? I have no idea. What I do know is what happened in our nation's capitol January 6, 2021 will forever be a stain on our nation's history, and it didn't have to happen. Chris Sherwood writes from his home in Chemung County. His first novel, "In Times Of Trouble" was released in June 2020. He is currently working on the sequel.
  9. For the past few years I looked at the year 2016 as one of, if not the worst we have had to endure. I’ve long since forgotten most of my issues with that particular trip around the sun, with the exception of our family having to endure not one but two burglaries barely six months apart. So from that alone you can understand why I was happy to see 2016 ride off into the sunset. Or to Hell, it didn’t matter to me. Then 2020 came along and said, “Hold my beer.” Now, I knew 2020 was going to be a challenging year before it even arrived. By this time last year we knew Ginger, our adopted beagle was going to be leaving us. When we visited the vet that week before Christmas I got the news and the advice of, “When it’s time, you’ll know. Call us.” And yeah, we knew. But there was no was in hell we were going to give our sons that news right at Christmas. Doc said we should be able to get through a few more weeks, and we got through the holiday. Shortly thereafter, it was time. On January 17th, 2020 Ginger left us, wrapped in a warm blanket and her belly full of treats. She could be a pain in the ass, but she was our pain in the ass. Additionally, I’d begun mentally steeling myself for the day when our oldest went off to college in the Fall. Granted, he’d only be a couple hours away, but still, there was sure to be an adjustment period as the ‘ol nest half emptied out. There were some good things on the horizon though. Our band was scheduled to headline a major event in Scranton again after several years of not playing there. We’d get to have a big graduation party come Summer. A bunch of other things I can’t even remember at the moment. If this post had a soundtrack, right here is where you’d hear the needle dragged across the record ( “vinyl” as the kids call them these days). That little virus we now all know and hate so well made its debut. Life as we knew didn’t just become crap, it swirled the bowl a few times before becoming a clogged toilet. Event after event was canceled. In fact, life itself seemed to become canceled as shutdowns happened across the nation, including here in Chemung County. "Ready to go to Wegmans?" I’m sure I don’t need to write a list of ways 2020 sucked. ( “Oh 2020, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.” ) We all know what happened. A pandemic, a year of heightened civil strife, a contentious election cycle, businesses shut down for way longer than we ever thought, etc. Here on the home front, we knew things would suck and we prepared for it, as much as anyone could that is. Some things threw us for a loop but for the most part we managed to hold it together with each passing month, largely by trying to find the silver lining in those depressingly dark clouds. It missed both the building and my head, so I had that going for me. High school graduation managed to happen, albeit differently than any class before them. Freshman year of college would start online, but hey, it beat having to go back and bring him home after a major outbreak closed the campus down less than two weeks into the first semester. I spent a lot of time at home and when I returned, things at work changed in ways that really make a job I love a little less enjoyable. But it’s temporary, and at least I’m still employed. The holidays weren’t what we wanted them to be, but as I told myself repeatedly, maybe they were the “holidays we needed.” Quiet, subdued, and affording time to reflect. Yet, if you’ve guessed by this point I am Pollyanna-ishly optimistic about the coming year, you guessed wrong mein freund. I will consider it a minor miracle if things stay steady early in the coming year. I think any plans for the next six months need to be made with a huge frickin’ asterisk next to them and written in pencil. Things in the “new normal” ( tired of hearing that yet? ) are going to be different on the other side of this thing, and I just hope they’re different in ways that are good. Because let’s face it, many aspects of the old normal weren’t working so well. James Taylor sang, “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time,” and if ever there was a time to enjoy changing the calendar, it’s now. I just don’t think I’ll be getting my hopes up too high for what’s to come. Keep the bar set low, and then maybe be able to celebrate the minor victories as they come. And they will, eventually... someday.... maybe....
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