Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Old Guard

It has been three months since I last blogged and frankly, I didn't think I would have time to blog until our busy season ends in another two weeks.
So what happened to give me time?

My friend Tom Itsell is what happened, or to be more specific, the information about the Old Guard that Tom Forwarded to me is what happened.

I'd heard of The Old Guard and even knew who they were: the U.S. Army unit charged with guarding Arlington National Cemetery.  But, as I quickly discovered, that's pretty meager knowledge, which I realized when I read Tom's email.  In a moment I'll share a few excerpts from the message and a couple of videos of The Old Guard.

When I decided to write the blog post about The Old Guard and what it takes to be one of them, I ran a few Google searches and knew I had to write it now, not two weeks from now when the busy season is over.  The photo above confirmed it - notice that everyone in the picture, except the guardsman, has an umbrella.  That, in a photo, is pretty much what The Old Guard is about.

Here are a few facts from Tom's email:

Before a member of the Army can apply for duty with The Old Guard, he must meet the physical requirements:  height 5'10" to 6'2" tall with a waist size not to exceed 30".

That's the easiest part.  Then comes the time commitment.  A tour with The Old Guard is a minimum of two years.  During that two year period the guardsmen live in a barracks under The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where they train and prepare for their duties.

In addition, a member of The Old Guard swears to never drink alcohol or use profanity in public, not just for the their tour of duty, but for the rest of their lives.  The rest of their lives!

That kind of commitment is beyond most of our imaginations.  In fact, just a week without swearing or consuming alcohol would put most of us in the dust.

Commitment is what The Old Guard is about.  The kind of commitment I understand is at the heart of ancient esoteric orders.  That's what drew me to learn more about the Old Guard.  If you're interested, there is quite a bit of information here.

Here are two videos I found on YouTube.  The first is a 4 minute study of the life of a Tomb Guard:

And a short piece about a guard and his final walk:

I appreciate this information more than you can imagine.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The High Road - Chapter Fifteen

Bert Carson      &    Noah Charif
Noah and I just finished some "holiday work" and wrote and recorded Chapter Fifteen for your entertainment.

Enjoy it and have a safe, fun holiday.

Remember, if you are just joining us, or if you've missed one of the chapters, they are all here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The High Road Chapter 14

Here is Chapter Fourteen of The High Road, a novel co-written by Bert Carson and Noah Charif.

If you've missed a chapter or if you are just joining us, all of the chapters are here.

Thanks for joining us.  We hope you enjoy the rolling adventure.

All comments are appreciated
Bert and Noah

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dates To Remember

by Bert Carson
February 7, 1982 is not a date I remember, though I do remember what I did on that date - I ran my first marathon.  I wasn't in nearly good enough shape for it, crossing the finish line a little over four hours after I started.

Over the next few years, I ran eight other marathons, with a best time of three hours and thirty-four minutes.   Now, at age 71 (72 in a couple of weeks), I'm in better condition than I was for any of the marathons, half-marathons, ultra marathons, and 10K's that I've run.

I didn't say I am faster, though I think I could be.  I said I'm in better condition.  There are two reasons for that.  First, May 12, 2014 I made a commitment not to miss a scheduled running day for the rest of the year - by the way, my running schedule is simple - run three straight days, take one day off, repeat, etc., etc.

The second reason brings me to the title of this blog - Dates to Remember.   Before I share the dates and the events that transpired on those dates, let me share a quote, which you are probably familiar with, from Eubie Brown:  "If I had known I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of my self."  And my thought on Eubie's words - IT IS NEVER TOO LATE.

The dates are  March 25, 2013, the day I gave up sugar and thirteen months later, April 18, 2014, the day I gave up caffeine.

So, running six out of every seven days, has put me in the best physical condition of my life.  Giving up sugar made me 20+ pounds lighter and sounded the death knell for a 45 year chronic sinus condition.  Giving up caffeine ensured that my energy is always at a high level without peaks and valleys, and of more importance on many previous occasions, I no longer wonder what I'll do if I receive an emergency call of nature because that is no longer a possibility.

So there they are, three dates that moved me around the corner:  March 25, 2013, April 18, 2014, and May 12, 2014.  Days like any other, until I made three radical commitments and didn't waiver in implementing them.  

What dates do you remember?

Friday, August 22, 2014

The High Road - Chapter 13

by Bert Carson

Here's Chapter 13 of The High Road.

Remember, if you've missed a chapter or if you're just joining the trip,  all of the chapters are here.

Enjoy the ride with John, Bird, and JoJo.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Narrative License

by Bert Carson,
My Friend Ted The Gryphon
You've heard of Poetic License, however, you may not know that Wikipedia has lumped poetic license with a number of other "licenses" and arrived at this definition:

Artistic License, also known as dramatic license, historical license, poetic license, narrative license, or simply license, is a colloquial term, sometimes euphemism, used to denote the distortion of fact, alteration of the conventions of grammar or language, or rewording of pre-existing text made by an artist to improve a piece of art.  

I have an issue with the word distortion.  Who can say where fact ends and distortion begins?  No one can, since distortion is simply one person's perception.  In other words, what you think is distortion might well be my fact (and there is a good chance that is the case).  Take this simple history of an actual creature for example:

The ancient Greeks described the creature, which they called a Griffin, as a mighty being with the body of a lion, the king of beasts, and the wings of an eagle, the king of birds.  Obviously some ancient Greek, or more likely, a large group of them, saw a Griffin, or a flock of them.  Face it,  who could make up something like that?

Thousands of years after the Greek sighting of Griffins, Charles Lutwidge Dogson, whose distorted name was Lewis G. Carroll, spied a mutated Griffin, which had the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle.  He called this mutation a Gryphon, and described it in his classic "non-fiction" work, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.  

In 1948, the nuns who founded Gwynedd Mercy University (located in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia) also saw a Gryphon and were so inspired they made him the mascot of the school.  The Gryphon commemorated in the statue at the left, appeared in Germany a number of years ago and seems to have adopted the country and all its citizens, hence the stature.

My friend Ted (see drawing above) is undoubtedly a descendant of the Dogson Gryphon.  I've known Ted for most of my 70+ years and know for a fact that he is undistorted, loyal, talented and very, very strong.

I cannot believe the ancient Greeks would distort anything and neither would Charles Lutwidge Dogson, mathematician and Anglican Deacon.  And who would accuse the Sisters of Mercy of Bensalem of distortion? Not to mention all of the citizens of Germany who sighted the creature?  And, if you require further proof of the undistorted existence of both Griffins and Gryphons, you have to look no further than me:  You know I live far above the possibility of distortion (by the way, that's Ted tattooed on my left arm).

So much for the distorted definition of license.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Meeting In Vicksburg

by Bert Carson
Bert - Christina - Caleb - Stephen
I've anticipated meetings before, and, to be honest, more often than not my expectations have crashed and burned in the reality of the experience.  However, on those few occasions when it went the other way - when reality exceeded expectation, spirits soared and hope was renewed.

The particular meeting that I'm about to tell you about has been anticipated for a very long time.  We (me, Christina, Caleb Pirtle, and Stephen Woodfin) have been internet friends for over three years.  We initially bonded with the mutual objective of discovering the secret of marketing our books.  As we hacked away at the Indie Writer Mystery of Mysteries, we became good friends - as good as you can be when digital contact is your only connection.

We found each other through Triberr.  Since those early days, we have corresponded regularly via email, joined up on weekly Google Hangouts, and Stephen and I are regular pen-and-ink pen pals, yet, we'd never met face-to-face, until last Friday.  It isn't that we didn't want to meet sooner, it just never quite worked out, distance and schedules being the major obstacles.

Stephen and Caleb live in Texas. Christina and I live in Alabama.  In addition to being writers, we each have "day jobs" that take a vast amount of our time, so until now we haven't been able to schedule a date that worked for each of us.  With a time and date locked in place, we settled on a place - Rusty's Restaurant in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

It's 340 miles from Huntsville, Alabama to Vicksburg, Mississippi.  Since Christina and I aren't morning people, we elected to travel to the rendezvous Thursday and spend the night in Vicksburg.   We arrived a bit before 5 PM.  By 5:30 we'd changed into running gear and were jogging in the Vicksburg National Cemetery, a Civil War Memorial of epic proportions, whose hills are about three time higher than any hill in Huntsville, Alabama.

We were scheduled to meet at 11 AM, so naturally we arrived at 10, strolled through town, then visited the Corp of Engineers Mississippi River exhibition which is located across the street from Rusty's.  At 10:45 we left the exhibition, stepping out into the glare of August sunlight.  As we paused at the curb, letting our eyes adjust to the light, a horn blew and the driver pointed out the window toward us,  as the passenger shouted, "It's them."  That was the beginning of the long-awaited meeting.  A little over six hours later the meeting adjourned until next we meet - and you can be sure that we will.

So, what did four writers, who had never met before, do for six hours?  We talked like twelve-year-old friends who have just shaken the confines of a long day at school.  We talked in Rusty's until they closed at 2.  Then we walked down the street to a coffee shop, got beverages, and sat outside talking until the sun peaked over the river and began falling toward Texas, blinding us in it's glare as it heated up the eastern side of Washington Street, which parallels the Mississippi River.  We surrendered our position but didn't give up the meeting.  We simply moved to the west side of the street, without losing our place in the conversation.

At that point, the meeting became mobile,  as we meandered up and down the street, pausing often to gaze in windows and stare at old buildings while speculating on both.  That's what writers do, you know?  Did we come any closer to solving the mystery of mysteries?  Only time will tell.  However, there is one thing I can tell you about the meeting, it was joyous occasion - one that I'm already looking forward to repeating.