Thursday, June 29, 2006

Commencement Speech

Kurt Vonnegut on the writing trades:

They allow mediocre people who are patient and industrious to revise their stupidity, to edit themselves into something like intelligence. they also allow lunatics to seem saner than sane.

This is how I feel about writing, I just haven’t had the time to revise my stupidity enough to express it as well as Vonnegut.

Part of what has really helped my writing skills develop is that I have trouble forming sensible sentences with my mouth. With that being said, I just recently gave my first commencement speech.

The 5th graders at Woodland Heights were inspired and enlightened by my every word, but mostly they were hot, tired, and uncomfortable. The school doesn’t have A/C and they were sitting on the gym floor. I have pasted the unedited outline of my talk below (Note: the layout is a little screwy in the transfer to the blog - deal with it).

Warning: May cause uncontrollable picking and eating of boogers.

When people hear where I’ve been and what I’ve done they often say: “Aren’t you afraid? You must be brave.”
What it means to be brave…
Shark story
i. Shadow could be one of two things
ii. Shark Surprised
Brave or not brave?
i. Superman X-mas Tree
ii. Not brave because Knowledge is power and I know sharks and how rare an attack is.
Sharks like a school teacher

Jungle Snake story

Brave or not brave?
i. Stupid
1. No idea what we are getting into
2. Nothing brave about scurrying to the back of a canoe

What is bravery?
If swimming with shark and going into the jungle with snake and crocs isn’t brave what is…?
What scares me when I travel is meeting new people, making new friends
i. People, that’s what I remember the most
ii. Each person I meet has something new and different to teach me
1. 80 year old monk in Nepal who hasn’t spoken a word for 15 years
2. Guide in the jungle who gets paid $5 to accompany a crazy biologist into the jungle to whack poisonous snakes across the head
3. Each one of you

6th Grade: the Adventure
Opportunity to meet new people: teachers students
Explore a new environment
i. Familiar place boring

So be Brave. Make a lot of friends. Explore your new school. But before you set off on the adventure of 6th grade have a great summer.

Thank you

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Stupid thought for the day

My mind wandered off and here’s the stupid though it came back with …

When I am out of my element, I am in my element.

Let me explain:
I prefer to be…
…in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language

Why? Because the more uncomfortable the situation physically and socially the better my writing will be.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Don't hate me because I'm American

It’s hip to be Anti-American in New Zealand. Or so says this recent piece in the Christian Science Monitor: Kiwis have turned sour on Americans.

The article introduces Gregg Smith an American who has lived in NZ since 2005 where he works as a teacher. Smith has filed a lawsuit with the Human Rights Commission because people give him a hard time about being American.

Smith says: "It can't be just personal - it has to come from a wider concept about what America is and isn't. But how did that happen?"

Of course the article goes on to reveal declining American approval rating abroad such as a drop in Kiwis’ approval from 54% in ‘01 to 29% in ’06. Big whoop! Isn’t this the same story in our own country?

Maybe it is personal Gregg. Maybe your students don’t like you because you spell your name with two “G’s.” By the way I’m not your typical “Greg.” I’m Gregg with two “G’s.” The way I see it - Gregg is Greg with 25% more work.

I spent some time in NZ and the people there were awesome to me. Of course in Gregg’s defense, I wasn’t in much contact with school kids who are highly trained at the sticks and stones game.

Maybe Gregg has BUSH tattooed on his forehead or flaunts his politics in and out of the classroom, which is a bad idea no matter what country you are from. I find it hard to believe that I would be treated any differently today than I was treated when I was in NZ three years ago. People see people as people not as extensions of a nation’s government to be scorned.

Regardless of why Kiwis don’t like Gregg, I would like to offer him some advice:

Gregg you’re Rubber, they’re Glue.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Just a reminder to stop cussin’ the damn hot humid weather we’ve been having. It could be worse - you could live in Antarctica like my firefighting friends Scott and Vanessa who sent me a pic of their local forecast. -58 below windchill. Yikes!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Hondo Soccer

This time last year my Brother Kyle and I were involved in some heated international soccer competition in the village of Mocoron, Honduras. Our field was a rocky sandy, grassy, muddy, shore next to a river. It was covered with fresh shavings from a newly carved dugout canoe. The river wasn’t out of bounds. Soccer balls float and as long as the ball wasn’t in danger of washing down stream in the deeper currents it was playable. At random, the kids would all stop play and dive into the river.

It’s easy to see why the world loves soccer.

Monday, June 19, 2006

My New GIG

What’s this? You haven’t signed up to receive Glucose Magazine, Ohio’s premiere outdoor magazine? Man are you missing the bus. SIGN UP NOW. It’s FREE so even if it blows you’ve got yourself a free glossy mag filled with various fonts great for cutting out individual letters and gluing to a piece of paper so no one will recognize your handwriting and be able to trace the whacko letter back to you. And that’s worth something!

Plus, I’m writing for them so you know that the magazine is going to be wildly successful.

The July issue will include a definitive feature on paddling in Ohio and some other stuff that will be of interest to people from all over.

As for the name…

If I have to listen to one more person say, “Glucose? Is that some kind of diabetes magazine?” I will personally find the nearest supply of insulin shots and stick you with them until your limbs shake from your torso.

What’s in a name? Heck, I’m not sure what Glucose means, but here is my take: Energy drinks are full of sugar (glucose) that pep people up and help them through the daily grind. At Glucose, fresh air is our source of energy, adventure our sugar high. Or something like that.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

My latest contribution to the CSM

A week has almost past and I have yet to plug my most recent piece in the Christian Science Monitor, A house on wheels provides tons of adventure . It’s about RV adventures with my grandma, grandpa, brother Kyle, and cousin Brice. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any high quality photos to accompany the story in the CSM, but as you can tell I’ve got a pretty decent, yet terribly embarrassing, one of the cousins.


From left to right: Me, Kyle, and Brice

I’ve spent more time than I care to admit staring at this photo and trying to come up with captions. My favorite so far: “This is one stupid hat I’m wearing, but I’m still the only normal looking one here.”

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Eau De Kayak

“What are you wearing?”

I’m wearing shorts, T-shirt, and flip-flops, but I’m not sure why the fella checking me in at the Best Western should give a darn. I look up after considering this for a moment, befuddled.

“What scent are you wearing?” He, a man in his mid-20’s who could play on the offensive line at most Division II schools, says this as if he is clearing up the confusion instead of adding to the awkwardness.

I have been kayaking all day in the rain, working on a feature for Glucose Magazine. I smell of sunscreen (I know it was raining but those are the days that you can really get burnt), sweat, and a little BO. I stink a little. Mine is a scent that should be politely ignored, not complemented.

“You smell, woodsy. A good sort of woodsy.”

I don’t know what to say, but eek out, “Thanks.”

I take my key card, grab my bags and head for my room.

After about 15 minutes the phone rings. “This is a courtesy call from the front desk. Do you need anything?”

I’ve stayed at a few Best Western’s in my day and this is the first in which I received a post-check-in courtesy call.

“I’m good.” I hang up the phone, walk to the door. I lock the deadbolt and insert the chain lock.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Another Poem by Elizabeth Horner

Someday Elizabeth Horner will be President of the USA, but today she has agreed to let me post a poem she wrote about attending a World's Fair in Dayton, Ohio. She first contributed a poem to Touron Talk way back when she was 11. Now she's 12.
Once a year we celebrate
The lands from which we came
We learn how we are unique
And how we’re all the same

And although we each have
A native language, cuisine or dance
We join at this place
For an opportunity, a chance

To see the world a different way
From another’s point of view
To understand what we do not share
And learn those that we do

For our hearts are linked together
Despite what our outside might be
We need to learn to understand
The thoughts of friends and family

As next year comes around
We will gather here once more
Because while learning from each other
There is fun and excitement galore!!!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

If you're stupid and you know it scratch your head

Aron Ralston cut his hand off with a pocket knife after a boulder fell on his arm while hiking solo in the slot canyons of Utah. He told no one where he was going or when he would be back, which was pretty stupid. He waited 3 days before hacking away at his arm. Of course, you likely know all of this already since he has published a book and been featured on Dateline.
Now he's making Man Laws in beer commercials with Burt Reynolds. In one commercial he even scratches his head with his stump. If you poll all of the one-handed people you know about what they use to scratch their head, trust me, they’ll say something like, “My hand. My one and only hand. The one with the fingers. Vibrating beds aren’t called ‘magic stumps’ are they? No. They’re called ‘magic fingers.’”

Aron Ralston is just another example of how being average stupid pays nothing, but being exceptionally stupid pays heaps.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Who knew?

Lunch had passed. I just finished kayaking and I was hungry. I reached down into the Scooby Doo sandwich bag for a Gummi Bear.


The end of my fingers dip into multi-colored, hot, gooey gummi ooze. I pull out my hand and a string of gummi guts stretch from the bag.

Gummi bears melt! I didn’t know. It took me 27 years to find out.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Yakin' down a country road

Many of the rivers and creeks were too swollen to paddle this weekend, but the roads weren’t too bad.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Great American Pastime

This past Sunday I went to my first game at the Cincinnati Reds’ Great American Ball Park. We had box seats and passes to a restaurant overlooking the field. The seats were almost as good as the game.
The Reds won on a walk-off two-run homer in the bottom of the 9th, but the best part of the game, by far, was when the Reds’ manager got tossed. There is nothing quite like watching a senior citizen in Pajama’s yelling at a stuff-shirted bubble-butted umpire.

Ah…the Great American Pastime. If the hotdogs were under 6-bucks, I’d be tempted to go more often.