Coming up for air.

September 11, 2019, was notable as the 18th anniversary of the attack on the United States that forced us into what has variously become known as “The Long War,” “The Global War on Terror,” and to some, “The War That Will Never End.” It was also notable because that’s the day I published my most recent blog post.

Two months and 14 days ago, which is a long time between posts. So I felt I owed it to you readers to break the silence and let you know what’s been going on since then.

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Well, nothing bad, thankfully. After completing one more in a long list of projects earlier today, I sat back and thought, Who knew retirement would be so busy? Yet that’s what almost every retiree has told me.

Shortly after posting that last entry, my wife Sue and I flew to the Turks & Caicos Islands, a British “overseas territory” (“colony” no longer being politically correct) in the Caribbean, just south of the Bahamas. We stayed at two different resorts on the island of Providenciales, and visited some other properties. Sue also attended a meeting of Travel Leaders agency owners. Here are a couple photos from the trip:

 

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The islands are known for their beaches, and I can well believe that they are some of the best in the world, as advertised. Our accommodations were first class, and we traveled in a group of fellow agency owners and spouses. A fine time was had by all. But after only four nights, we jetted back to the States and wound up welcoming autumn in chilly northern Wisconsin.

Just before we flew to the islands, my brothers Alan and Brian visited from Washington state and Arizona, respectively. Alan’s a big fan of the Green Bay Packers, but had never seen them play at Lambeau Field. Brian follows the Denver Broncos, and on September 22nd, the two teams squared off on the hallowed turf. Although it rained lightly through most of the game, we had a fine time. Alan came away a little happier, as the Packers won.

 

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Although the Pack was favored, Alan appeared a little more nervous than Brian as we approached the stadium. Being more of a follower of college football than the NFL, I stayed more or less neutral.

 

We had another trip coming up a few weeks later, but in the meantime I was able to get in some radio airtime. In early August, I’d been approached by the owner of our local radio stations, my old UW-Platteville friend Tom Koser, and asked to help out with their football broadcasts this season. I had worked full-time for Tom from 1991-99, my last period of full-time radio employment. From 2010-17, I worked for him as a freelance announcer, doing sports broadcasts. Well, this fall they were going to be a little short-handed, Tom said, and it was an easy decision for me to come back out of “radio retirement.” I wound up doing eight games from August 23 to November 8.

 

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Autumn brought some amazing harvest moons over our lake.

 

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My first football broadcasts in three years included an exciting run by Turtle Lake High in the state playoffs. Above, a Lakers running back tears through the Blair-Taylor defense in TL’s 44-6 rout in the 2nd round of the Division 7 tournament. The next week, the Lakers’ run ended with a tough 28-12 loss to Bangor. What made the games special for me was that I’d broadcast the school’s  run to its last state title in 1995, and some of those players had sons and nephews playing on this year’s team.

 

Just as the first snowfalls began dusting the ground up here, we escaped to the Central American nation of Belize. We spent a week there, in the company of another group of Travel Leaders friends. This was entirely a pleasure trip, though, and you can read about it on Sue’s travel blog here: In the Land of the Mayans.

 

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We stayed at two resorts in Belize. The first was Sleeping Giant Lodge, deep in the jungle. On our first morning there, we got up early to make the climb up to the resort’s mountaintop gazebo.

 

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The next day was my 63rd birthday, and we treated ourselves to an exciting expedition even farther into the jungle. First we explored ancient Mayan caves, and then we climbed another mountain and rappelled down its side, about 250 feet in this case. Here’s Sue, doing a very nice job for her very first effort.

 

I’d been hoping to spend a lot of October watching the Brewers in the Major League Baseball playoffs, but the lads bowed out early. After a thrilling run through September to clinch the National League’s final postseason berth, the Brewers fell to eventual World Series champ Washington in a tense, tightly-played wild card game on October 1st.

 

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When the dust settled at Nationals Park, the home team had overcome a 3-1 Brewers lead to capture the game in the 9th inning. Twenty-nine days later the Nats celebrated their first-ever world championship. Brewers fans tried not to think of what might’ve been.

 

As November arrived, more special events awaited us. On the 9th, a day after closing out my football broadcast season (I also had a volleyball broadcast thrown in there for good measure), my writer friend Darren Kirby joined me for a trip to Galaxycon in Minneapolis, the largest comic book/movie convention I’d ever attended. (Only the second, but it was bigger than the first.)

 

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Galaxycon attendees  availed themselves of some truly inventive costumes. I participated, too. Here you see me in my “cosplay” outfit as an author.

 

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The autograph/selfie booths were very busy, especially this guy. Posing with a Batman wannabe (emphasis on the second word) is Kevin Conroy, who has been voicing the Dark Knight in animated TV series and movies since 1991. Conroy, 65 this month, has a voice every male radio announcer would kill to have. His panel, which Darren and I attended, was one of the best of the day. We also attended panels featuring actor Dave Bautista of Guardians of the Galaxy, two separate Star Trek panels for Jonathan Frakes and William Shatner, and one with members of the Cobra Kai cast.

 

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I’m a fan of the YouTube series Cobra Kai, which updates the old Karate Kid movies from the mid-80s. William Zabka plays Johnny Lawrence, and he does so with a deft touch, showing us a man who has been trying for 35 years to overcome the emotional trauma of losing that championship karate match. Plus he shows he still has what it takes on the mat. I complimented Zabka on his performance, and he asked me about my books. Hopefully we can stay in touch.

 

I was able to talk martial arts with Zabka and some fellow Galaxycon attendees, not just because I have 18 years of experience in the arts, but because I’ve resumed my own training. After taking a break from karate and weapons training after the summer of 2018, I tried a return to taekwondo early this year, stuck with it for three months and then went on another hiatus. A few months later I started showing up at the dojo of my good friend Lloyd Brown in nearby Barron. He’d gotten me started on my karate and weapons journey in 2010, and now I am training in his new class, studying the fascinating Filipino art of arnis. If you live around here, check out his website here: Brown’s Karate Academy.

 

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In this photo from Black Belt magazine, arnis master Julius Melegrito (left) defends against a stick attack. You can read about his ten reasons why you should study arnis here.

 

A week after Galaxycon, Sue and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe this wonderful woman has been by my side that long, but I’m sure glad it’s true.

 

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Next year is the big 2-5, and we’re already starting to talk about where we’ll want to spend it. As long as we’re together, I’m good for anywhere she picks.

 

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Our constant companion when we’re home is our Yorkie, Sophie, who is always up for a game of fetch or a walk, and is a fierce guardian of the house and yard against incursions by villainous squirrels, deer and the occasional bear.

 

We’ve also completed some important household projects this fall. A new furnace was installed earlier in November, new garage doors found their way to the house during our Belize trip, and just today we upgraded our home’s water-softener system. Since I’m the one home during home-repair visits, my skills as a supervisor have been tested. So far, everything’s worked out. (Thankfully, the guys we hire know their stuff, so only minimal supervision is necessary: generally it’s a “How are things going?” followed by a “Thanks!” and then a call to Sue to report the mission’s been accomplished.)

So that pretty much brings us up to date. Thanksgiving is this week, and today I picked up our turkey from Louie’s Finer Meats in Cumberland. We’ll dine with just our Yorkie and our Siamese this week, as son Jim has to work down in Milwaukee and daughter Kim is far away, near Boston. But we’ll be visiting her and our grandson, Pax, in a couple weeks.

 

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To say we’re looking forward to seeing this little guy again would be a serious understatement. (His mom and dad, too.)

 

On the writing front, I just finished a month-long project to update the manuscripts of my first three novels: The White Vixen, Quest for Honor and The Red Wolf. As any writer can tell you, no matter how hard you work to handle typos and other errors before the manuscript goes to print, a few always slip through, so I decided to just do them all in one fell swoop. I also cleaned up my email files; my online trash bin now has over 800 emails.

Now I can get down to business with my next novel, The Bronze Leopard, the third novel in the White Vixen series. My target date for publication is September 2020, when the novel will debut during my appearance at Fall Fest in Hayward, Wis. The new year is shaping up to be a big one; I’ll be making several appearances at festivals, including a pair of new ones for me. In June, I’ll be at Wild Deadwood Reads in Deadwood, S.D., and in August at Royal Readers at Mall of America in the Twin Cities. You can keep track of them, not to mention all the news about new books and so forth, at my website.

 

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Much of the action in The Bronze Leopard takes place on the slopes and summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. I’m trying to convince Sue that we need to make a trip there so I can do first-hand research.

 

Oh, and I’d appreciate you rooting hard for the Wisconsin Badgers football team to make the Rose Bowl. If they beat the Minnesota Gophers up in Minneapolis this Saturday, they have a good shot. My brother Brian and I plan to go to the game in Pasadena on New Year’s Day if UW is in it. To that end, I’ve booked a trip down to Phoenix to see him and our parents that week. Hopefully, the middle of the week will see my little brother and me heading west to root for Bucky.

Well, that about wraps it up. I plan to have more regular and frequent entries on this blog from here on out. In the meantime, don’t eat too much turkey this Thursday. And if you do, a good way to beat the turkey hangover is to relax with a good book. (Major hint.)

UPDATE on 12/3/19: I was going to put a link to this post on my Facebook page, and the photo that showed up was one I included in the original post, showing the Gophers celebrating last year’s  win over the Badgers at Camp Randall. Well, we can’t have that. Last Saturday, the Badgers drilled the Gophers in Minneapolis, 38-17, a game that was most satisfying for us Badger fans to watch. Here’s a more appropriate photo with which to close this post:

 

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And it’s on to the Big 10 Championship Game, this Saturday night in Indianapolis against mighty Ohio State. A Badger victory, or perhaps even a close loss, sends our lads (and my brother and me) to the Rose Bowl. Keep your fingers crossed. Add the toes for good measure.

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