Daily Archives: October 7, 2008

Everyday People column: Spring break in New England


There was lots of snow in the hills of Vermont. And we walked through snow to view the ocean in Maine. Note to self: Let's do New England in the fall next time!

For us, another spring break trip is history.

Sherry teaches, so she has the week before or after Easter off each year. They used to call it Easter vacation. But now, in this politically correct keep-religion-out-of-school-so-you-don’t-make-atheists-angry age, they call it spring break.

I take five vacation days at the same time and, for the last half-dozen years or so, we’ve chosen a different city or region to visit during each spring break.

In the past we’ve toured places like New Orleans, the Great Northwest, San Antonio, San Diego, Chattanooga and the Colonial Williamsburg area. This year we traveled to the New England states of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Though Sherry and I always look forward to arriving home after a week on the road, unpacking is never quite as much fun as preparing for a trip and actually taking it.

When you arrive home, there are suitcases to unpack — we always seem to take more clothes than we need — and dirty clothes to launder. Packing is fun. Unpacking is work.

There are AAA Tour Guides, state road maps and travel brochures to deal with. We have a digital camera full of photos to print.

There is a week’s worth of mail to go through. The junk mail will quickly go into the trash, the credit card offers will get shredded and the bills will go into a stack for eventual payment.

There is a week’s worth of newspapers to read, too. Sure, they’re full of old news now, but we’re curious people; we want to know what we missed.

There’s garbage to put out at the curb. And a refrigerator to restock. And it will take time getting used to the quiet.

We used to have dogs and cats waiting to greet us when we arrived home. But they’re all gone now. Our remaining pets are a rabbit and some goldfish. They’re taken care of by a housesitter in our absence, so they don’t much care when we leave or when we get home.

And, of course, there are jobs to return to on Monday. We’re happy to be employed, but returning to work after a week of vacation is a shock to the system that one doesn’t look forward to.

I find preparing for our annual spring trip, on the other hand, lots of fun.

We could have a travel agent plan our trip, but I do all of that because I get a thrill out of it. First we choose a place to visit. Then in my spare time for weeks in advance of our trip, I use travel books, maps and the Internet to study the destination, sites of interest, lodging possibilities, the highways, the airports, the airline prices and the rental car prices.

Then I carefully develop a daily travel plan, buy the plane tickets and book a rental car to use while there. I’m no Peter Greenberg, but by talking to people smarter than me, doing lots of research and sure, making some mistakes over the years, I’ve learned a lot about travel planning.

To maintain some flexibility in the number of miles we’ll need to travel each day, I book advance lodging only for every other night or so.

The remaining lodging sites are booked via our laptop computer during the trip when I have a better idea where we’ll be on a given night.

This year we stayed in some motels, an 1800s inn and two bed-and-breakfasts.

All of the lodging sites I choose offer a complimentary breakfast. We generally skip lunch, then eat a full dinner at a place of our choice. That saves money and time. It also helps us return home weighing no more than when we left.

But now it’s all over. It’s back at home and back to work. My travel planning skills are on hold until next spring. All we have now are memories, photographs and, of course, the bills to pay.

Copyright March 30, 2008. This “Everyday People” columned appeared in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

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Posted by on October 7, 2008 in Uncategorized


Everyday People column: Chuck Berry still rocks

Rock legend Chuck Berry (l) and his son, Charles Berry Jr., a member of his band, play Feb. 13, 2008, at Blueberry Hill in St. Louis.

Rock legend Chuck Berry (l) and his son, Charles Berry Jr., a member of his band, play Feb. 13, 2008, at Blueberry Hill in St. Louis.

“It’s a mean ol’ world. We’ve all got to live our lives. There’s one thing certain: Ain’t none of us gonna get away from here alive,” sang rock and roll legend Chuck Berry on Feb. 13. “While I’m here, I’m goin’ to keep pickin’ my tunes. Because I love what I’m doin’, and I hope it don’t end too soon.”

An appreciative audience, made up of men and women of all ages, cheered.

Berry, 81, was performing — as he does regularly — to a couple hundred people crammed into the Duck Room in the basement at Blueberry Hill (, a St. Louis restaurant and bar.

I was there at the invitation of my son Brendan, who lives in nearby St. Charles. He wanted me to see a live performance of this rock icon, a 1986 inductee into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, before it’s too late.

No one person is credited as the inventor of rock and roll music, but Berry ( is referred to by many as the “Father of Rock and Roll.”

The Hall of Fame says “Berry laid the groundwork for not only a rock and roll sound but a rock and roll stance.”

Charles Edward Berry was born Oct. 18, 1926, to a middle class family in St. Louis.

A beautician by day in the early ’50s, Berry, whose idol was Nat King Cole, led a popular blues trio at night. He befriended Muddy Waters, who sent him to meet the head of Chicago-based Chess Records.

Berry’s first single, “Maybellene,” was released Aug. 20, 1955. It sailed to number 5 on the Billboard chart.

He later wrote and performed “Johnny B. Goode,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “Rock and Roll Music,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and scores of other hit songs.

Oddly enough, though, the only Berry tune to ever hit number 1 was his novelty song, “My Ding-a-Ling,” in 1972. It knocked Michael Jackson’s “Ben” out of the top spot.

Accompanied by his small band, Berry, who in 1985 was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy Awards as “one of the most influential and creative innovators in the history of American popular music,” sang many of his hits at Blueberry Hill.

Dressed in a red sequin shirt that sparkled in the spotlights, dark dress slacks, a bolo tie and a mariner’s cap covering white hair, Berry entertained for about an hour. He even did his trademark duck walk at one point for old times’ sake. Those of us who stood just 10 or 15 feet away from him knew we were in the presence of a legend.

During the instrumental portion of many of those tunes, Berry would chat with the audience.

“Where’s my lawyer?” he asked during one tune. Then he pointed to a man up front and introduced him as his attorney.

“Give him a big round,” said Berry, who’s had some well-documented legal problems over the years, including a five-month sentence for income tax evasion just a month after entertaining President Jimmy Carter on June 1, 1979, at the White House.

“If you ever get in trouble, he’ll put you right where I am,” said Berry of his smiling barrister.

Then, having forgotten which of his many songs he’d been singing at the time, Berry asked of his audience, “Why don’t you all tell me what I was singin’?”

Folks shouted out the answer and he was back in action, never missing a lick on his guitar.

Berry took requests and sang one hit after another that cold February night, sometimes making small talk between the songs: “Are we going to be able to put our Rams in the Super Bowl?” and “Isn’t the boy doin’ good? The young boy. I’m talking about Barack Obama.”

Despite being an octogenarian, Berry performs monthly at Blueberry Hill. Why?

“When I play here, I feel like I’m home,” he said at one point. The crowd roared in approval.

“We love you!” someone shouted.

Will Chuck Berry be slowing down anytime soon? I don’t think so. According to his Website, he should have just concluded a multi-city European tour.

Copyright March 31,2008. This “Everyday People” columned appeared in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

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Posted by on October 7, 2008 in Uncategorized