My Father’s Horn: A Grown Son Reflects on a Priceless Musical Legacy

Most of my music posts share technical exercises or theoretical information. This post is different. I want to share with you something very personal. It is the story of the saxophone that I play: my beloved Conn 6M Ladyface. When I was a small boy living with my family in Niles, Michigan, my dad kept his alto sax in its original black case up against the wall by his bed. He had bought the horn back when he was a young man, and was learning to play it until service in WWII interrupted his musical aspirations and a bout of tuberculosis finished them off entirely. He met my mother in the TB sanatorium, where she worked as a nurse. Dates followed, letters, a ring, marriage, and then me. My parents moved from Chicago to Niles when I was a year old. The sax sat quietly in its case, all but forgotten. Once in a great while, though, Dad would take that case and open it up, and it was on one such occasion that I got my first glimpse of the horn. There it lay, cradled in the case's rich, purple velvet lining: a shining complexity of rods, springs, pearl buttons, pads, and palm keys, all neatly arranged on that deeply golden, sensuously curving body. It was beautiful, fascinating, and to me, impossibly complicated. How could anybody take something so bewilderingly engineered and make music with it? Ever after that first glimpse of my father's horn, I wanted to see more of it. From its aureate luster, to the resonant sound of its bell pads thumping against the tone holes, to its mysterious, brittle reeds, that saxophone captivated me. I was far too young to play it, but it was already beginning to play me. In the summer after my sixth grade year, my family--which had grown to include my brothers Pat, Terry, and Brian, and my sister, Diane--moved to Grand Rapids. Junior high school loomed on the horizon. No longer would I be attending a private Catholic school; the Forest Hills public school system awaited me in the fall, including its band program. Band? I was going to be in band? Yes, that was the plan. In September, when I climbed aboard the school bus for the first day of school, that black case containing my father's horn was in my hands. Private lessons with my band director, Richard Streng, commenced soon after. And I took to my dad's alto sax as naturally as if I had been born for it--which, of course, was the case. The first note I learned to play was A. The second was D. After that came G, and then, I think, C; after that, I don't recall the order. What I do remember is stopping between each note and carefully inspecting my fingers to make sure they were positioned properly. It seems amazing that the fluidity with which I get around on my instrument today got its start with such painstaking deliberateness. But I didn't mind. I was learning to play music, learning to play my dad's saxophone, and I was absolutely thrilled. I could do this! No one needed to tell me to practice; I couldn't wait to get in my daily time on the sax. Mr. Streng seemed to enjoy my private lessons with him as much as I did. He recognized in me a genuine desire to excel. I came to my lessons prepared and ready to play, so he consistently had something he could work with. I still remember his baritone voice after every lesson: "Bob, as always, it has been a pleasure." From Mr. Streng, I learned a life lesson every bit as important as those first music lessons, and that was the power of praise. Never underestimate what a good word can accomplish in a person's heart. A child's heart, a young adult's heart, a heart of many years' experience ... it doesn't matter. Praise empowers; praise instills vision; praise nurtures an inner voice that says, "Yes, I can!" (To be continued)

Fall Meeting of the Michigan Storm Chasing Contingent

Last Thursday, October 27, the Michigan Storm Chasing Contingent convened at its favorite meeting place, the Walldorff Brewpub in Hastings. Present were L. B. LaForce, Ben Holcomb, Bill Oosterbaan, Tom Oosterbaan, Nick Nolte, and I, the unofficial recorder. The meeting was called to order, or at least something approaching order, and it was immediately moved that beer should be purchased. The motion was passed by five out of six, with one member abstaining. The recorder found himself in possession of a 24-ounce schooner of Cobain's Double Dark IPA, which easily balanced out the abstention. Truthfully, there is no official Michigan Storm Chasing Contingent. I made up the name. Membership dues have not been levied and cards have not been issued. The whole notion of a Michigan Storm Chasing Contingent is something of an oxymoron to begin with. Nevertheless, most of these guys have had a pretty impressive year, with plenty of miles logged and tornadoes observed. The sorriest mug in the lot was me, but I won't go into that; 2011 is almost over now, and I'm done whining. The big thing is, Ben Holcomb was visiting from Oklahoma, and that seemed like a good reason for all of us to get together and hang out for the evening. The Walldorff is becoming a tradition for us, and it's not a bad one. The place has award-winning craft brew. The cuisine, made from scratch using local produce, meats, and dairy products, is also fabulous, but the beer is the main draw. Not that this is a hard-drinking bunch; they're actually pretty conservative. But they do enjoy the Bee Sting Ale, one of the many superb craft brews turned out by Sam, the Dorff's world-class brewmeister. As for me, I opted for the Cobain IPA with its double-bitter blast of mega-hops and roast malt. It was the first beer I had ordered at the place since I joined its pub club a couple months ago, and I figured that it was time I finally took advantage of my member's discount. I expected a nice price break. What I didn't anticipate was the 24-ounce mug that the waitress set in front of me. It was big enough to generate its own lake breeze, and I could see surf breaking against the brim. Good grief. At 8.5 ABV, the Cobain is a potent brew, and all I wanted was a modest glass. I just can't knock off such stuff with impunity anymore like I used to. Out of shape, out of practice, and getting older. Oh, well. It was great to see all the guys, though we missed Kurt Hulst, who had to work. There's nothing more interesting than storm chasers talking shop, at least as far as other chasers are concerned, and this year afforded plenty of notes to compare. Ben, Bill, and Tom had been on the May 24 Chickasha tornado, a particularly violent beast that may be upgraded to EF-5. Seems that it pitched a Ford F-150 pickup truck 800 yards--nearly half a mile. It's hard to fathom that kind of power. But enough. It's late, this recorder is tired, and it's time I put this post to rest. Till next time, gents: L'chaim!

Going Beyond the Music

Last night's rehearsal for our June 11 concert at the Buttermilk Jamboree with Ed Englerth, Alan Dunst, and Don Cheeseman was much more than a shared creative time with three of my favorite musical droogs. Life has been pretty intense lately--financial pressures, Mom recovering from a knee replacement, Lisa struggling with what appears to be a ruptured bicep, physical concerns of my own--and I'd be lying to say that I've born it all with a smile on my face. I haven't. I've felt weary, discouraged, and depressed. So reconnecting with the band and working on Ed's music gave me a badly needed release. I needed to just forget about the rest of life for a while and play my horn with some friends with whom I've shared a love of music for many years now under the auspices of Ed's songwriting. Speaking of which, the guy just keeps getting better and better, and so does the band. Ed's upcoming CD may be his best effort yet, which is saying a hunk considering the benchmark set by his last CD, Restless Ghost. I hope to finally hear the final master tonight, and then I'll know for sure which album is my favorite. What's certain is that we pulled out a few extra stops in the studio with this project, including the use of multiple sax tracks to create the effect of an entire sax section. Also, in an unprecedented departure from my die-hard devotion to the alto sax, I played my soprano on a couple tunes. I may have even played it in tune; I'll find out soon enough. But I was talking about how much I needed to tune up, blow some notes, and forget about the rest of life for while. Music is as much a part of life as anything else. In my case, it's a very good part and a very large part, and I needed to be reminded of that. When I forget what "normal" looks like, nights like last night help me draw back to the center of who God created me to be and reclaim some parts of myself that I sometimes lose track of. It seems that I wasn't the only one. Don and his wife have been going through a difficult, hugely demanding time with their new baby son, who has Down Syndrome and has struggled nonstop with acute allergies. Ed has been dealing with the advancing, age-related health problems of his beloved mother- and father-in-law, who reside with him and his wife, Panda. Alan was the only guy who didn't seem to have heavy stuff going on in his life at the moment, or if he did, chose not to share. But he's been through his own fires. We all have, and last night at least three of us were feeling the heat. So it seemed that the right thing to do, after we had finished practicing, was spend some time talking and praying together. It's so easy to just pack up the instruments and head home without ever thinking to pray. But there's power and healing in the honesty, faith, earnestness, and hope of collectively conversing with our heavenly Father. I would go so far as to say that a band of Christian musicians that bypasses the opportunity to get real with each other and with the Lord is missing what may well be the most vital part of their time together, more important even than the music (though that's important). Real is what the four of us got last night, and it was good. I left feeling not only connected with God and with the guys, but also reconnected with myself. Something about standing humbly and openly in the presence of Jesus has a way of doing that, of reminding me who and Whose I really am. The gloom lifts, the lies and warping influence of the world's nonstop millrace lose their grip, and I discover once again that quiet place where I can hear God speak. It is a place of peace and a place of power. When David spoke in Psalm 23 of God as the one who restored his soul, I understand what he meant. I think, I hope, that all of us last night discovered the potential of prayer and our need to incorporate it into our rehearsals more often. More even than the songs we play and the creative passion we share, the Spirit of Jesus Christ draws us together, and it's the thing that can take our band to the next level--possibly the next musical level, but more certainly the next level of what God has in mind for us. Lord, I thank you for last night's blessing of connecting with you and with my brothers Ed, Don, and Alan through the gift of heartfelt, down-to-earth, unpretentious prayer. Please look after each of my friends. You know their needs and you know mine. Care for us and our loved ones as a shepherd cares for the sheep of his pasture, for that is who you are: The Good Shepherd. Give us to hear and treasure your voice--for in it, and it alone, is life.

A Christmas Meditation, Revisited

Good morning, and Merry Christmas to you! Thank you for spending a few minutes of your day with me. I don't take lightly the fact that, amid the helter-skelter of this Holiday, you've taken the time and interest to drop in. I'd like to offer you something of real worth in return, and having checked my traffic stats, it seems that my readers have already been pointing the way for me. My readers are wise. They've been finding their way to a post I wrote a year ago today, in which I shared a still older writing of two years previous. I was 51 when I wrote that piece, and dealing with a broken heart, singleness, and loneliness. Yet, sitting alone in my apartment, I experienced a deep comfort and contentment that transcended my circumstances. That was in 2007. Last year was different. Two years had elapsed, and my beloved friend, Lisa, had entered my life. In the midst of a new set of circumstances, I added a prelude to account for the time that had passed and then shared my original writing for the first time on Stormhorn.com. Another year has now come and gone. Lisa and I have weathered a lean financial time in the face of what some have called The Great Recession. Since our needs are simple and Lisa has a practical attitude that flexes with life's realities, we've managed to stay afloat and feel grateful. Along the way, we've made choices concerning each other and ourselves that have demonstrated our love for one another. It hasn't always been easy for either of us. But it has been rewarding, and the gift of who Lisa is continues to shine more brightly in my eyes. What a unique, brilliant, talented, good-hearted, godly, and most beautiful woman the Lord has blessed me with! Yet, knowing her heartaches as well as my own, more than ever I understand that the words I first wrote on Christmas Eve of 2007 are relevant today, and will remain so through the long years. Today, I reaffirm that Christmas--not "The Holidays," as political correctness now insists that this occasion be called, but Christmas--is not about warm traditions, wonderful though they may be, but about a living, deeply invested Love that has reached out, and continues to reach, to those of us for whom this time of year seems anything but warm, or rich, or wonderful. I cannot add to what I wrote three years ago; I can only introduce you to it from the context of today and hope that you will find meaning and encouragement in its message. Without further ado I now direct you to that writing, together with its preamble, in last year's Christmas Eve post titled "A Christmas Meditation on Jesus." Whatever the realities of this season may be for you, may the great grace that is the driving force of true Christmas touch and uphold you in ways seen and unseen. Your friend, Bob

45 Year Commemorative Event Planned for 1965 Palm Sunday Tornadoes

April 11 this year will mark the 45th anniversary of the second worst Midwestern tornado outbreak of modern times. The 1965 Palm Sunday Outbreak is noteworthy not so much for the number of tornadoes involved as for their violence and the number of fatalities they produced. Out of 38 "significant" (F2 or greater) tornadoes that occurred in six state over 11 hours, 19 were rated at F4 and two at F5. Going by NOAA's death toll and adding to it one Iowa resident who died a month later from his injuries, 272 men, women, and children lost their lives in the storms. One of the victims was Stevie Forsythe, the brother of my friend Debbie Forsythe-Watters. Debbie is the owner of a tornado memorial park that occupies the property where her childhood home in Dunlap, Indiana, just south of Elkhart, was swept away by F5 winds. To learn more about the park, check out my earlier post on the Dunlap tornado memorial, complete with photos. Debbie is currently planning this year's commemorative event, to be held on the date of the tornadoes: Sunday, April 11. If you take an interest in this historic and influential weather disaster, you may wish to attend the service. It will be held on the park grounds. The time has yet to be determined, but it will likely be in the late afternoon. I will post more information as details are solidified.

From Storm–Some Musings on My 54th Birthday

Today dawned clear and blue, the sky braided with jet contrails and accented with just enough clouds to add drama. More clouds are moving in now, but I don't mind. The forecast for "mostly cloudy" means we'll be seeing at least some sunshine, and the temperature is above melting and supposedly will hover in that vicinity through the next ten days. One month away from the vernal equinox and just ten days from meteorological spring, we're getting what may be our first hint of warmer weather ahead. And we all know what that means: Storm Season 2010. Yeah, baby! Bring it on! Today is my 54th birthday. Sitting here drinking my coffee, with the sun slanting through the sliding glass doors, the birds flitting about the feeders out on the deck of my apartment, the cat sleeping on the floor, and my sweetheart, Lisa, sitting in her room working on her blogsite, I'm taking a pause to consider how simple and yet how marvelously rich my life really is. I am a jazz saxophonist and a storm chaser, and those are the topics I mostly write about in this blog. But before them, and above all else, I am a lover and follower of Jesus. That is my true, deep, core identity--the one sure and certain thing that can never be taken from me. All else can be stripped away, and in time, it will be, whether bit by bit, like leaves falling in the autumn, or in an instant that catapults me into eternity. Most of the things in life by which we define ourselves are temporary. That is not to say they're unimportant. They're very important. But they can be removed in a heartbeat--and yet, we are still ourselves. So obviously, our identity as individuals, our "I-ness," goes much deeper than what we do. We choose our pursuits because, in a very real sense, our pursuits choose us according to God's intentions for our lives; but the fundamental state of being ourselves--that is not something we choose. We are here by decree, not personal choice. Right now, if I choose, I can set aside my saxophone for the rest of my life. I can stop chasing storms forever, never trek through another wetland in search of wild orchids and carnivorous plants, never again pick up my fishing pole, never savor another mugful of craft beer, never hike another trail, never write another word. Those are all things I love to do, but I can choose not to do them. The one thing I cannot do is stop being me. That choice is not mine to make. So today, as I celebrate the family members and friends who bless my life...my vocation as a writer which I work hard to excel at...the interests that I pursue with passion and joy--as I consider all of these rich, wonderful, irreplaceable treasures in my life, I give thanks to the person who has been the source of them all, and who ordained that I should be here to enjoy them, fulfilling, in the process, a purpose that goes deeper than the things themselves, and a pleasure greater and more lasting than the works of my hands. Thank you, my Lord Jesus. Thank you for everything. Thanks for making me who I am--even in those times when it has been so terribly painful to be me. Thank you for my beautiful lady, Lisa; for my sweet mother and wonderful siblings; for my Jonathan-David buddy, Duane, and other close, close friends who truly know me and love me, and whom I have the privilege of knowing and loving. Thank you for the feel and smell of Gulf moisture, for the rush of inflow winds across the prairie grass, for cloud turrets over the plains that build into turbulent, dark skies and mighty tornadoes. Thank you for gifting me to pour music through the bell of my saxophone, and for my father who gave me that horn as his legacy and is now with you. Thank you for the promise of seeing him again someday. Thank you for more things than I can possibly say--things I know of, and things I will never know of, all provided by a great, unfathomably deep grace that runs like an invisible current through my life, unfelt but powerful, gentle but mighty, upholding me, carrying me, delivering me, guiding me, providing for me, shaping me. Truly, Lord, you have been a father to me, and a friend, and a brother, and a savior, and my Rock. Thank you, above all, for You. Your unfailing love has changed me. You, Lord, are the source of my identity and my life. I am who I am because you are who you are. Thank you for the gift of a grateful heart. Grant me to be your faithful follower and friend for all of my life, for there is no one and nothing else whom I desire to worship with all my heart. You, and you alone, are worthy. I love you, Jesus. On this, my 54th birthday, I thank you for the gift of my life, and the gift of yourself. Imperfect man that I am, warts and all, Lord, let me be a gift to you. --Bob

A Christmas Meditation on Jesus

Can it really be that I've experienced 53 Christmases? Magical Christmases of my childhood, filled with anticipation and Santa Claus and toys. Conspiratorial Christmases of my older boyhood, wherein, having been initiated into the truth about Santa, I now assisted my parents in the clandestine placement of gifts under the tree. Teenage Christmases, tinged with both family warmth and family struggles. So many Christmases. As I write, I'm wrestling with a nasty chest cold and am not in the frame of mind to write a lengthy, well-worded post. So I thought I'd share something with you from the past. The following is something I wrote two years ago on Christmas Eve, 2007, in my MySpace blog. Many things have changed since then. Significantly, my beautiful best friend, Lisa, has entered my life, and I am no longer alone. But the essence of what I had to share back then hasn't changed, not for me and very likely not for you, my reader. Without wasting more words, then, I give you...

Christmas Eve. As an older single male, age fifty-one and counting, I'm spending it alone. I would like to say that in reality, I am not alone—and really, that is the case. My Lord is with me. Jesus. But when it comes to polishing off a large bowl of chili (heated to a well-seasoned glow by a sub-lethal dose of Dave's Insanity Sauce), followed by a generous helping of spaghetti, all designed to take the edge off a bottle of 9 percent ABV old ale and another bottle of 11.5 percent Trappist ale…well, the work has been strictly mine. No one sits with me in my humble, though comfortable, apartment to make supper and the partaking of craft brew a shared effort. I am by myself—as are many who will read these words. Yet, as I have said, He is here. Here in these modest digs of a solitary, middle-aged male. And because He is here with me, I trust He is also there with you, wherever you are, whatever your circumstances may be. Some of you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Others are simply experiencing, like me, another "single" Christmas Eve by yourself. You have friends, and if you're fortunate, you have family, and you're thankful. But there's still something missing, isn't there? It's all right. He is here with you and me. Emmanuel, "God with us." And in a strange way, those of us who feel sorrow, or loneliness, or a poignant emptiness in this Season of Light, may be closest of all to the heart and soul of what Christmas is truly about. For you see, that little baby who was born into the lowliest of circumstances two thousand years ago didn't come for the sake of inspiring cozy traditions, or warm exchanges of gifts by the fireside, or happy family meals. No. Those things are wonderful, and I wouldn't detract from them for anything. But their absence in the lives of so many of us lies closer to the reason Jesus was born. He came not because this world is so wonderful, but because it was, and is, so broken. He came for those of us who long for a place called "home." He came for the lonely, for the disenfranchised, for less-than-perfect you and me who know firsthand the meaning of loss, and tears, and struggle; who long for something more in life. He came to give us that "something more." He came because he knows how deeply we long—and need—to be truly, safely, securely, and lastingly loved. I write with all the freedom that a couple bottles of high-potency ale can inspire, tempered by my editorial instincts and guided by my heart, which is consumed with Him. But who is He? In this day of well-publicized "new discoveries" of the same tired old heresies that have sought for centuries to recreate a more convenient Jesus, the marketplace of ideas abounds with options. I just Googled the name "Jesus," and on the first page of search results I find the following: * three full-color graphic images of Jesus * a Wikipedia article * a "Christmas Jesus Dress Up" * a YouTube clip of Jesus singing "I Will Survive" * an online Catholic encyclopedia article on Jesus * a  BBC news article that begins, "A statue of the infant Jesus on display near Miami in Florida is being fitted with a Global Positioning System device after the original figurine was stolen." Clever, all very clever. But when you're alone on Christmas Eve, cleverness doesn't really cut it, does it? For so many of us who are by ourselves tonight, the one thing we long to know is that we're really not alone. The older we get, the more that matters. So perhaps, after we've wearied our clever minds exploring all the alternatives, the Jesus of the Bible really is what we're looking for after all—because of all the gods available in today's spiritual shopping mall, He is the only one who has come looking for us in a way that is consistent with someone who cares not about religion, but about us. To  be born in our midst and commit a lifetime to experiencing everything about the human condition, from inglorious start to brutal finish, certainly smacks of a genuine and very personal investment. Christmas is God's way of acknowledging what all of us instinctively know (though we try so hard to argue otherwise): that this world is fractured, splintered. That we are lonely. That we are lost. That we long for something more. Christmas is God's way of saying, "My loved ones have lost me, and I have lost them. And that is unacceptable to me." This Christmas…you are not alone. I am not alone. Jesus came for us. If you've screwed up your relationships, Jesus came for you. If you've been sexually abused, Jesus came to clothe you with dignity and hope. If you're lonely, He came to give you a place at the family table. If you've been betrayed or abandoned, He came to hold you gently with arms that will not be removed. If you're_______, He came to fill in the blank with something better than emptiness. This Christmas…we are deeply loved. So to you, my friends, however you may believe and whatever your circumstances may be… May He fill this time with the reality, the glory, and the comfort of Himself… Have a blessed Christmas. Storm

What Storm Chasers Do During the Off Season

What do storm chasers do when there's nothing to chase? Watch the "Storm Chasers" series on Discovery Channel. Of course I don't speak for all storm chasers. But a good number of you, like Tom, Bill, and me, have been parked in front of your televisions on Sunday nights, watching Reed dominate, Tim deploy turtles, and Sean wipe his face in frustration. Once a week, we all get to vicariously relive this year's chase season--the storms we got, the storms we failed to get, the days we wished we had chased, the days we're glad we didn't. Here are some photos of me droogs that I took during last night's "Storm Chasers" session. Just a nice, pleasant evening of buddies, beer, pumpkin pie, and tornadoes. Bill supplied the pie and I brought the Golden Monkey, a Belgian trippel whose potency I had forgotten but swiftly recalled. It's one of those beers where, once it gets a hold of you, the best thing you can say is as little as possible. Just shut up and enjoy the show. Last night's was great. Next week's, featuring the Aurora, Nebraska, tornado, looks to be awesome. Once the series winds down, whatever shall we do? View old tornado DVDs and mutter a lot, I suppose. Think thoughts like, "Only 120 days till April." Stay away from sharp objects. Or, if you're like Mike Kovalchick who just looooooves winter, hope for a good blizzard so you can go chase thundersnow. Mike is probably onto something. It beats sitting in a dark corner cutting out paper dolls with a blunt-nosed scissors. Or maybe not. I may give the doll thing a try once the snows roll in.

The Quintessential Encounter: Four Transformative Days in the Ozarks for Business Professionals

If you're a business owner or executive, this post is for you. It's admittedly a tangent from my normal focus on jazz saxophone and storm chasing, but I've a hunch that a few of you may benefit from the digression. This is to notify you of The Quintessential Encounter--a four-day retreat at an award-winning lodge in the heart of the Ozark Mountains that can help you set, and equip you to attain, your professional and life goals. Sounds pretty addy for a blog, eh? Well, as I've said, this is a departure from my usual style, and in fact it's the first time I've ever pushed a non-weather, non-music related event on Stormhorn.com. But the person who is organizing The Quintessential Encounter, executive life coach and mediation/negotiation specialist Lorraine King-Markum, is a close personal friend of mine. I know her vision, I know her capabilities, and I know the quality of experience she intends to deliver. The woman is incredible, and I can say with confidence that if you're among the twelve lucky people who will participate in this retreat, which is scheduled for May 25-28, 2010, you will find that it truly lives up to the description, "life-defining." It will also very likely be the most enjoyable developmental experience in your career. I've visited the Big Cedar Lodge, and it is sublime. Lorraine is going to great pains to provide a beautiful and relaxing environment for a very different kind of business retreat--one that serves you rather than the promoters; one that will invigorate and inspire you rather than leave you feeling brain-dead after eight hours of mind-numbing presentations. In Lorraine's words, "The age of 'market them to death' while they are exhausted and impressionable is over!"
Whether you're a beginner or seasoned business veteran, this transformational event is going to give you easy-to-follow blueprints for unlocking the lifestyle and business success you've been striving for. You will be mentored through the revolutionary new CRAFT coaching system, which provides real life applications. Your registration fee includes: * three nights at the award-winning Big Cedar Lodge from Tuesday evening, May 25th to Friday, May 28th * a welcome party * two meals a day plus snacks * all experiential exercises * workbook * coaching sessions * making a product to sell online * all facilities at Big Cedar
There you have it. For more information or to make a reservation, visit the website or email Lorraine at lorraine@kingleadership.com.

Waking Up in Dallas

Morning. I'm still in bed, and from the next room, sounds of family are drifting through the door. I'm in Dallas with my sister Diane, visiting with my brother Brian, sister-in-law Cheryl, and little nephew Samuel. Since the last time I saw him, Sam has transitioned from babyhood to little-boyhood. He has acquired a vocabulary, a white baseball cap that it's very important to wear (backwards or sideways, as is the custome), and a very cool train set that we played with last night. My lady Lisa is holding down the fort back in Grand Rapids, where the weather is providing a much cooler contrast to the upper-90s heat that's on the menu for this week here in north Texas. Chasing storms is of course out of the question. I've family to visit, a bit of work to do, and in any case, there are no storms. Summer has hit and the atmosphere is capped as tightly as an oil drum. On Stormtrack, chasers are bidding the 2009 chase season adieu. I note that the SPC has outlooked days 5-6, but they're not using the kind of language that gets me very excited. I'm keeping this short. I can hear the sound of forks clicking on breakfast plates. It's time to shower up and get myself going.