Tag archive for "featured"

Shades of Gray

Tuck of the Week!

No Comments 08 September 2018

This week’s submission comes from a promising young prospect from our “Junior Writers With Promise” program: Felicity from Rhode Island.

IMG951466

Great job by you Felicity!

Poetry, The Written Word

Comments Off 01 September 2018

old couch

How old are the
Pens and Pencils
we use
and
the ones
we toss

What can we ask
friends who
do not understand
the questions
we wonder about

The middle of
my couch is
now
uncomfortably
caved in

It is going to bother
me
more and more

Then
Finally
maybe Friday or
the Friday after that
I will
buy a new couch
with no money down

National Obituary Review

DPD Emeritus: Aretha

Comments Off 16 August 2018

Choked up and a bit stunned here at the HQ.

I’m about an hour and half into a Spotify binge and it took all my strength to sit up and get this down.

The Queen of Soul. Gone.

I knew things didn’t look good a few days ago when I saw the news about her but how much can you prepare for a thing like this?

My first brush with Aretha was brief. I heard Respect driving around in the car with my parents listening to the oldies station. It sounded good. Real good. But I didn’t really get it then. I was too young.

Later, some time around 15 or so, I caught Aretha’s rendition of The Band’s old standby The Weight. Then it stuck. Being thoroughly ensconced in my Classic Rock Phase the song was familiar but not like I heard it on the radio that time I heard Aretha sing it. The voice I heard kind of made everything go fuzzy for me. Not mentally. I’m talking literally my vision went fuzzy like there was a blip in the cosmos that was happening just for me at that moment. The hairs on my arms stood up and something kind of shifted inside me. The whole feeling was disarming and weird. As a teenager I took to that feeling immediately.

As soon as I could I had my mom drive me to Circuit City so I could try to find a CD with that track on it. As luck would have it right there in the budget bin was Aretha Franklin’s 30 Greatest Hits for $8.99. I was amped. You know those tracks you used to just put on repeat for like 45 minutes and really wear out the song’s welcome in your brain? That’s what I did with The Weight – except it never wore out.

Not really being ‘into music’ I’m sure my parents were probably alarmed to walk by my room and see me lying on the floor, eyes closed with (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman blaring out of my Aiwa stereo. They let it ride though god bless ‘em.

It’s tough to articulate but that was a time in my life when I was just starting to listen to James Brown & Otis Redding. What Aretha brought was different but in the same sphere. Listening to that sound at that point in my life made an awkward teenager think he might know what rhythm felt and tasted like. I’ll never forget it and I’m so, so grateful.

So until further notice the flag will be at half mast here at The Shade HQ. I don’t know how long I’ll be… but if you need me I’ll be takin’ time to make time to lament the Queen of Soul

Norm.

Poetry, The Written Word

The Show Tonight by T.W. Snicket

Comments Off 15 August 2018

Staring at you, staring at me

The Show Tonight/Inside Sailing through the Night

 

If you Messes

Weren’t here

And the Band

Didn’t show up

I would be home

Wishing both

Of those

Things had happened

Pages of Prose, Poetry, The Written Word

We hiked over my limit I think

Comments Off 11 November 2017

santee

Reading is Fun

Laughing is Fun

Smiling is Fun

Silence is Fun

Awkwardness can be Fun

We all want life to

Be a simple

Handshake with the world

Saying

I am here

I have time

I am ready

Are you Ready

Ready

To Smile

To have fun

To be yourself

Forever

 

 

 

National Obituary Review

DPD Emeritus – Gregg Allman

Comments Off 29 May 2017

Enthusiasts,

The love light is turned down way low tonight. We lost a good one. For yours truly Gregg Allman brought a lot of things in focus. At a weird point in my life, going to music festivals, I’d see the Allmans on the venue and find it reassuring. I couldn’t tell you why. I just did.

As I got older I’d read about them. Learn about the feuds. All the weird stories you’d hear about how they couldn’t stand each other and when they were out on the road they’d travel separately. They were a family that had some issues going on too.

Then there was the music. Sweet jesus. I always felt that because Gregg Allman was white it gave us hope that white people had rhythm too.

Not to mention it was a non-threatening concert my parents would let me go to with my friends without supervision. Steve Miller was in that bucket too…along with the Doobie Bros and a few others.

I learned and saw many things at Allmans’ shows. I saw Derek Trucks for the first time. How about that? I got a Case Logic CD book stolen. The big kind with 4 discs on each page. One time I slept through the entire show in the Lawn. Well worth it to take a snooze under the stars listen to that sound.

I’m not sure about the rest of you guys but there are very few bands that have been relevant to me from the time I was 13 to present day. The Beatles obviously. And maybe some Oldies you used to listen to driving around with your parents. But the Allmans always felt filthy. Classic and current at the time.

Gregg Allman’s musk will infuse the smell of American music for years to come. I think he can be heard from legacy acts such as the Black Crowes to contemporary stars like Chris Stapleton (the relations is particularly strong in this example).

Gregg Allman was rock, soul, R&B, Rhythm & Blues, Country & Western and a whole bunch of other stuff too.

We lost a good one today. If you’re so inclined we’ll be celebrating the Allmans at the HQ all weekend. We just refilled the cookie closet too (Thanks Earl!)

Respectfully,

Norm.

 

Ask Norman, Features, Shades of Gray

A New Dear Norman! Religion & Sneezing

Comments Off 11 April 2017

dear Norm,

 i was shopping at the grocer when a man picking out pickles (kosher dill) turned to me and sneezed in my cart. 1 other man in the aisle turned and said “bless you” whilst a 2nd man said “blesh you”. I frowned at the new found germs I’d be paying for and walked away. Can we please do away with this public sentiment of filth and religion?
Shopping in Shirley,
Kweez
—————————————————————————————————————-

Dear Shop,

Thanks for writing – always nice to hear from a lifelong fan. It’s an honor, truly.

From what I can tell in reading your missive your challenges are two-fold – a public health concern and an ecclesiastical affront. I’ll take them in that order.

I’m with you. I don’t consider picking up a nasty illness during my weekly grocery a ‘bargain’ deal. In fact, if I were running things, that pervert would be drawn and quartered in the town square for spewing his venom in such an egregious way. I’ve long been a fan of public shaming and violence and feel both of which send a clearer message than the passive aggressive harrumphing that has come into vogue with the advent of millennials. This quack threatens the livelihood of you and yours it should be well within your bounds to smack his ass. This is why we shove a pup’s face in his poo while training. It works.

On to the ecclesiastical matter.

I’ve long been a staunch supporter of the separation of church and state – and certainly public health for that matter. Moreover I think the church should be separated from everything and be made to sit by itself. It’s been misbehaving for far too long. Nor do I see any reason to associate any type of heavenly body with snot and/or phlegm. If one were being helpful in such situations they’d shout instructions on how to not spread germs while promptly running in the other direction as to not worsen the situation.

Norm.

Pages of Prose, The Written Word

The Day I Became a Coventry City Supporter

Comments Off 08 April 2017

In our Coventry homes,
We speak with an accent exceedingly rare,
You want a cathedral we’ve got one to spare,
In our Coventry homes…

Culture: The sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another. Culture is transmitted, through language, material objects, ritual, institutions, art, and – in the most extreme cases football – from one generation to the next.

We landed in Gatwick at 8:32 (a.m.) and promptly caught the express to Victoria which is where everything started. It was subtle at first. Groups of two or three people donning Sky Blue shirts skittering amongst early Sunday morning crowds. Some chatted quietly, others – too anxious – simply navigated the Underground in anticipation.

While we’d been traveling for 8+ hours in many ways our journey was just beginning. Needing to drop our things before we headed to Wembley we continued on to the Victoria line (north) to Oxford Circus. As we waited for the Bakerloo line heading northbound numbers started to grow. Not just Sky Blue jerseys but yellow and black jerseys too. Their presence grew less subtle as volume increased.

Finally, arrived at Paddington we were hoping for a quick drop-in (maybe snap one off), leave our things and head towards Wembley for a few pre-game pints. For reasons I won’t get into here we ended up having to wait quite a spell for our flat owner due to a key mix-up and a general all around massive fuck-up by a wretched woman with her head so far up her arse she should consider proctology. Again, I won’t get into that here.

With the flat (finally) sorted we were on our way. Pip, pip!

Back on the tube the volume of supporters had grown dominating the lazy Sunday afternoon revelry. Primarily Sky Blue jerseys mixed – to a lesser degree – of yellow and black jerseys. And the songs start. Yes, I’d heard team supporters on TV sings songs/chants at matches. As an American I’d always been impressed/jealous of the crowd enthusiasm and interaction but seeing it in person is completely different. Amongst supporters anyone can start the song and immediately dozens (at least) jump in in support. In mixed company City supporters would start their anthem immediately rebutted by the Oxford United faithful. This is on public transportation – miles from the stadium.

Finally we switched over to the Metropolitan line for our final leg into Wembley. The train was packed full of CCFC fans. Young and old. In the final 20 minute ride decibel levels hovered between 85-100. For reference Black Sabbath concerts typically register at ~120 (on average).  The atmosphere was jubilant. The anticipation was palpable. Kinetic.

What specifically stood out to me was the older supporters making it a priority to include the young. There’s a fraternity there that cuts deeper than just one match. The team, the culture is present for everything. Bringing the younger fans in isn’t a chore. It’s shepherding a birthright. It’s an honor.

I’ll never forget the sight of Wembley as we got off the train. Organized chaos. Seas of people surging towards the stadium – yet, somehow parsing out by supporters. Black and yellow up the left ramp, Sky Blue up the right. In the states we don’t have the separation by supporters. It’s just a big jumble for better or worse. I understand the concept but seeing it in person, on that big of a scale was impressive. It has to be said – there seemed to be 3 or 4 Sky Blue jerseys for every Oxford United. Despite the differences one similarity this event had to other big time sporting events I’ve been to in America was the Jesus Freak. You know the type. I guess some things transcend culture & country. That poor bastard was there reminding us all that Jesus died for our sins. I only gave him a passing glance as we made our way into the stadium but at the time he was being approached by 4-5 clearly inebriated United fans. I was somewhat concerned for the zealot but soon got over it rationalizing that he put himself in that position.

We were lucky enough to have a friend (and CCFC supporter) already at the stadium that we were going to meet before kick-off. For those that haven’t been Wembley is massive. It took us a bit to navigate the crowds but we finally made the rendezvous point across from section 548.

“This is literally the best day of my life!” Tom yelled as he wrapped us up in a bear hug.

“You guys….landed this morning and came right here. You’re fucking insane! Here, meet my mom and dad.”

He was there with the entire family – brothers, sister et al. Our meeting consisted of sweaty hugs, spilled drinks, singing and some yelling. It was great! Tom, ever gracious, realized we had no beers and quickly went to remedy the situation.

“We really are shit this season” Tom said handing us our drinks. “But it doesn’t matter, this is literally the best day of my life”.

We chatted a bit more about the teams, match, our travels etc. The unbridled enthusiasm, jubilation and revery from Tom – and his family – was palpable. I’ve been to big games for my home teams and experienced nothing like this. On one of their biggest sporting days, before a crucial match the Fosters took us in like we were one of their own. Mr. Foster imploring my fiance – Kerry – “to come up to Shipley, we’ll cook you something nice”. It was incredible. Gametime fast approaching we bid farewell and heading for our seats.

Signs were posted everywhere clearly stating no alcohol be brought to the seats but the bloke sitting next to us didn’t seem to know/care. He came barrel-assing through with two meat-pies and 3 cups of red wine. Interesting combination. Other than his body odor I really liked his style.

God Save The Queen. Side announcements. All 75,000+ supporters accounted for – and we’re off!

The Sky Blue supporters were raucous. 43,000 people chanting in unison creates a wall of sound like I’ve never heard before. Frenetic energy mixed with some sloppy midfield play had the pace at a breakneck, end-to-end clip. Before we knew it the bloke next to us was 1 ½ pies in and slugging is merlot. At the 11 minute mark winger Jordan Willis sent a delicious cross into the box. Stuart Beavon’s attempted volley was blocked invitingly into Gael Bigirimana’s path for a somewhat easy finish.

1-0, CCFC! The supporters jumped and roared! The stadium was quaking! Our neighbor lost 2 cups of merlot but didn’t care. The underdogs had scored! Could momentum be setting in?

Despite the scoreline United always looked the stronger side – dominating possession and set pieces. Anxious play caused a few unfortunate off-sides. The pace of the game slowed as the minutes ticked away. City was primarily defending. Pressure was building and the Sky Blue supporters feared what seemed to be inevitable. Our neighbor in front sensed what was going on and lept to his feet. With a festive thrust of his hips he pointed to his crotch and taunted the United supporters with a chant of “suck my cock!”. The 43,000 Sky Blue supporters went ballistic.

Stand up,
If you love City,
Stand up,
If you love City,
Stand up,
If you love City…

The players, feeding off the crowd, finished the half strong. At the referee’s whistle the scoreline stood at 1-0, good guys.

The concourse was a melee at the half. City supporters were jubilant with a hint of cautious optimism. Surely United would capitalize on all this possession and equalize. Surely the Sky Blues couldn’t see this out…could they?!?!

Early on we knew there was no chance we’d reach a rendezvous with the Fosters. Even a beer was a bridge too far. Not wanting to miss any of the second half we returned to the seats.

After a cuppa the crowd filed in, the players took the field and the second half commenced. It only took 10 minutes for Coventry winger George Thomas to net a cracking goal further tilting the match for CCFC. Thomas neatly settled Kyel Reid’s left-wing cross at the top of the box before smashing a shot just inside the post, 2-0. The Sky Blue section went bananas! There were thrusts! There were taunts! There were cigarettes rolled! Our wine-glugging neighbor cursed at a prodigious pace! Hope sprung eternal! We were a half hour away from glory.

LET’S GO CITY!

Oxford felt the time crunch and began to press. They were relentless but City goalkeeper Lee Burge was a force between the pipes. First tipping Chris Maguire’s set piece over the bar in the 74th then – doing his best Patrick Roy impression – turning away Rob Hall’s shot with a kick save in the 76th. Tension was high – both sides began to grind. The clock continued to tick and the unbelievable became increasingly more believable!

LET’S GO CITY!

As we approached the 90th minute referee Chris Sarginson delivered the harshest blow yet to the Sky Blue supporters – 5 minutes of injury time. 5 MINUTES!? What a wanker!

United pressed – whipping in balls into the City box from all angles. Players were cramping. There were late substitutions trying to run the clock. Then – all looked lost for the Sky Blues. There was a scramble on the City goalmouth. Surely an Oxford player could get a toe on the ball and send this game to extra time. Alas Lee Burge, with an eggplant in his shorts, thrust out his bear-size paw and inexplicably saved Josh Ruffels’ shot. That’s it! The whistle blew! The game was over. City took the title. The unbelievable happened. CITY TOOK THE TITLE!

I thought back to our meeting with Tom pre-game. “This is literally the best day of my life!” – a storybook ending. I couldn’t be happier for him, the Fosters and the 43,000 supporters. I was just glad to be a part of it.

Anything you read will say Coventry City supporters are ‘long-suffering’. Long suffering because of their exile from the Top Flight? Long suffering because currently their team is owned by a soulless organization that has no business being there (Sisu)?  If the performance of the group on the pitch and the stands on that Sunday at Wembley is any indication – they are far from suffering.

Some say Coventry may get relegated yet again this season. For me – no matter. Wherever they end up I”ll be there.

In our Coventry homes,
We speak with an accent exceedingly rare,
You want a cathedral we’ve got one to spare,
In our Coventry homes…

 

reins, The Written Word

Taking a seat at the adult table

Comments Off 02 November 2016

I took a seat at a highway 58 eastbound rest area to ponder the meaning of life. I wasnt sure if i had what it takes for this particular  struggle until I saw the writing on the wall:  ‘David was here ’07′, ‘David is a fag alwayz’, ‘that’s not cool’, ‘f u’, ‘Scraggy bangs ur mom’, and so on. What was i to do with all of new found  knowledge! With every passage of this learned doctrine i fell deeper into the wormhole. So much in fact that i would occasionally forget to push. The deeper i fell the more questions i had; mostly because I’ve never been in a position of determination, preparedness or coincidence to effectively scribe my own visionary message on powder coated bound sheet metal. That would all change on this day as i spent some time signing autographs in the parking lot for a large Asian family that didn’t speak English. I thought they were taking a picture of me but as more time elapsed in this menagerie of thoughts i began to think they could have been photographing anything.  Equipped with the same black Sharpie i penned the message, “To Whom It May Concern, I’m not really sure where to begin as I am a newbie with stall scripture.  The typically human has roughly 14 minutes of sitting time before their legs go completely numb. Don’t get so caught up in the reading that you forget to check for toilet paper before it’s too late. Better luck to you.”

Features, The Written Word, Top Ten

The Do’s & Don’ts for Labor Day Weekend

Comments Off 30 August 2016

Enthusiasts,

If you’re like me you can’t put this summer in the rearview mirror quick enough. Am I right? Sweet Moses Malone was it a hot one! But fear not, sitting right in front of us is the perennial Gateway to Autumn. Ah, yes – Labor Day Weekend.

Now, I’m sure you’ve got lots of irons in the fire what with Back-to-School in full swing and Old Navy’s sale on jean jackets. SO, we wanted to put together a quick list of Do’s & Don’ts heading into the weekend to both help maximize your fun levels and help you steer clear of any awkward moments.

Here goes:

Do:

  1. Beat the traffic. The last thing you want to do is spend a significant amount of time in the car. Make a plan and get after it early.
  2. Bring a snack. The worst case scenario is you don’t eat it. Perhaps you could even feed a stray dog and really make his/her day?
  3. Wear sunscreen – and lots of it. It’s too late in the season to tango with a burn.
  4. Have a few regrets – it’ll give you something to think about over the winter
  5. Say something nice about Ryan Lochte. He really needs a friend right now.

Don’t:

  1. Eat anything new. Epipens are now 600 dollars. Stick to the basics, save yourself a bundle.
  2. Drive once you get there. The most common case of this is picking up a friend. Don’t. Tell that friend to screw. Cops are everywhere and have nothing better to do than watch porn in their cruisers or bust you for having a few casuals.
  3. Commit to weekend plans through September. Didn’t you learn anything this summer? You won’t keep them. You’ll never keep them.
  4. Wait to fill up your gas tank until the weekend. Prices spike on holiday weekends you dummy. Get it done now!
  5. Say anything remotely bad about Beyonce, regardless of how sick of her you are. People are nutzo about this. Seriously you’ll be cast into such a shitstorm you’ll with you kept your mouth shut. Keep it to yourself and it’ll be smooth sailing.

Be safe out there!

 

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