It’s like anything else.

15 September, 2014
Rat Fink

Writing for fun or profit — although I don’t know much at all about the latter — takes discipline. And lately, I’ve allowed too many other things to stand in the way of my time with you in the mornings. How to stop this hemorrhage of responsibility? One answer: having some things go “right” from time to time helps.

Of course, I’m not talking about the Cleveland Indians’ baffling inability to beat Detroit, or the ridiculous “reformers” ruining public education for good, or that upstanding citizen Ray Rice is appealing his NFL ban (and he’ll likely win, because, after all, no one died, and who do they think he is? Donte Stallworth? Ray Lewis? Sheesh, people), or that I lost my chocolate covered dried cherries to Pax last night when I left the room and absentmindedly forgot to put the lid on the box. Those things — not so right. But in spite of all this and more (refer to my last post, when I wanted to strangle things and people), wanna know what’s “right” in my world, besides my wonderful family?


And I hate to even say it because of the jinx factor, but regardless of the enormous morale problem teachers face today, and the asinine evaluations and testing based on nothing but profit at the expense of our children — there is joy in the choir room, and during musical rehearsals at night. Not every day and not of the highest caliber (yet), but there is decent music being made. Why wouldn’t I want to write about that? Refer to the last word in my opening sentence. Oy.

And looky: with every paragraph, I’m feeling more like my old self. How do you handle stuff like this? Prithee? Hmm? You know there’s a task that needs tasking, but you just put it off and put it off, allowing other things to insinuate their way into your routine. And the heck of it is that writing is something I adore. What fresh Hades is that? Please provide psychoanalysis below. I’ll wait here.

I’m still waiting.


Happy Monkday, all. Good to be back. The Bears, Packers and Browns all won yesterday; things are rosy in the Fink football family. For the moment, anyway.

Saving up

9 September, 2014
Rat Fink

Fink, where have you been? I’m sure my 100 worldwide readers on the vast internet might wonder. Well fiends, I’ve been saving up. After what happened yesterday and last night, I have plenty to yammer on about. I just need the time in the morning to give it my best effort.

Suffice to say that this week has been a bit difficult in the time management area. When I get home at night, I’m pretty much worthless, and all I manage to do is maybe watch a little news, catch up with the Thriller, and get stuff ready to take to school the next morning. Not complaining, mind…it’s the way it is and has been for many years, so I’m good with it. Still, I know I’ve handled this better in years past; what’s going on here?

There are issues, however. I’m hoarding them at present, but I plan to give them away — to you — in the very near future. Just letting you know this morning that I haven’t completely dried up and blown away. I hope you’re well and enjoying this beautiful September weather, wherever you are.

In the meantime, I seethe. Updates forthcoming.

I’ll leave you with an exciting announcement to tide you over: Next Friday, I’m spending the evening and following morning with my favorite Dutch girl ever — RtB fiend Suzanne! She will be in the States (she makes it across the sea only once a year or so) visiting her mama in Michigan, so I’m making the drive to spend some quality time catching up and being generally silly. Can’t wait; it’s been far too long.

For now, though, I must fly to make my daily contribution to the music education of our youth, one wrong note at a time. Ta!


You simply must try this.

2 September, 2014
Rat Fink

Leave it to me to go from posting serious and personal thoughts about suffering and other existential issues yesterday, to writing “HEY — BUY THIS CUZ IT’S LISHY.”

Rat Fink, Rat Fink. What a donkey. ;-) But for good or ill, it’s what makes RtB RtB. I wasn’t joking about the “at random” part of the slogan up there, Jim. Anyway…

If you are a fan of conserves/jams, you haven’t lived till you’ve tried this. It trumps all the homemade jams I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve taken home some great stuff from private kitchens over the decades. I’m not kidding; this beats all.

On last weekend’s bimonthly trip to Earth Fare, I discovered some jars of St. Dalfour on the shelf. Having never tried it (indeed, I never knew it existed), but noticing that there was no cane sugar added, I picked up two jars: blackberry and apricot. I also noticed it’s imported from France, which made me feel all foofy & such.

Fiends, I’m here to tell you that there are whole blackberries and huge chunks of apricot in that stuff.  And the aroma, oh my. Of course, the proof is in the tasting, and it was divine. Just the right amount of tartness, and most importantly, not cloying, which many jams can be. Of course, it’s not a treat for every day, but…wait, scratch that. I’ve had it every day since I bought it. haha

This morning, I went to Amazon and bought the black cherry and strawberry varieties. My excitement is visceral.

Are you a jammer? I know several in my family who are not (sister Mavis, son Seamus, others), but I’ve been hooked since childhood, when Dad would bring home Hostess powdered donuts, and we’d make an extra-special dessert by putting Welch’s grape jelly on them. To this day, I won’t eat a Hostess powdered donut without grape jam on it. Ah, the curse of connecting food with emotions…story of my life. (But that’s another long, serious, existential post.)

Well look at the clock, wouldya. Five-ten a.m. and I’ve been up since 3, thinking about the rehearsal schedule starting today. Bring it. Well actually, bring it after breakfast, which, of course, will include a slice of toast with St. Dalfour on it.

Happy Tunesday!

On suffering

1 September, 2014
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If you evade suffering, you also evade the chance of joy. Pleasure you may get, but you will not be fulfilled. You will not know what it is to come home.— Ursula K. Le GuinThe Dispossessed

You will not know what it is to come home.

I tend to skim over quotes on the web. They’re positively ubiquitous, as everywhere you look, someone has turned one into a picture. Entire sites have been created for making your own quote photos, with no thought for the veracity of the text. This is particularly evident on social media (this one especially makes me cringe; friends have posted it on Facebook, and since I don’t want to come across as a joy killer, I don’t say anything). Anyway, you get the point. Overkill.

But this quote stopped me. I read it three times. Isn’t it true that we always, always endeavor to avoid suffering? It flavors our every choice, I’m certain of it. And for the purposes of this particular post, I don’t mean physical suffering, per se. Millions of us live with chronic ailments to varying degrees (migraine, arthritis, allergies, etc.). Some are afflicted with hideous diseases that disable and maim and kill. I will also exclude for today the suffering we endure after the death of a loved one.

Rather, my point is that we seek mainly pleasure in this life, true? Monetary, physical, emotional; we’re drawn to it. We crave it and wear it, and as the years roll out, we even come to expect it. Therein lies the curiosity for me today: many of us do not know how to suffer. I’m sure I’m in that lot. Moreover, I believe that we sometimes see ourselves as suffering, when in fact, we’re just being presented with circumstances outside our “locus of control.” My locus is likely very small, as I’ve suffered little in comparison to people I know who have fought in wars, dealt with emotional illness, and endured the horrors of abuse and addiction.

I think we’re hard-coded to resist and avoid hardship, and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I’m saying that as a culture, we’ve honed to a science the pursuit of pleasure and the dreaded instant gratification to the extent that we will go to extraordinary lengths to keep the gravy train running. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either, but…it desensitizes a part of our brains — the part that sees past the now and focuses on the “homecoming.” In our desperate mission to avoid unpleasantness, we lose the ability to cope with it. Then, in the inevitable collision with adversity, we often crumble.

Looking at the long view — the big picture — makes the end product sweeter, yes. But I think we (I) need to take it one level deeper. Instead of frantically grasping at ways to escape hardship at the first sign of pain, we might instead embrace the temporary discomfort (or at least accept it), and weather the storm while we figure a calmer, more long-lasting way through it, whether it be through personal introspection, faith, or other means. Only then we can know what it is to “come home.”

I don’t know why this simplistic ideal grabbed me so tight this morning. The above is no groundbreaking treatise. It’s just my version of what has been said for decades — heck, millennia. Still, it made me reconsider the benefit of suffering, for lack of a better term. I need to widen my personal orbit to include it, and resist the knee-jerk tendency to fear it and run from it. Who knows? I might learn something.

In the books

30 August, 2014
Rat Fink

The first full week of school, that is. And while I’m feeling pretty worn out, it’s good. My voice usually takes the brunt of the fatigue, what with singing with shy fifth graders and making demo recordings of various songs for cast members to rehearse at home (most of which are way out of my comfortable vocal range, oy). But thumbs up; we made it through, and I’m excited for the choirs and shows this year.

I think. :-)

One of the highlights of my week was going to the Browns/Bears game on Thursday night. What fun! We met up with friends from the Cleveland area who are season ticket holders, and we had a fantastic evening. The weather was perfect: mid-60s, no clouds, and a soft breeze off Lake Erie. Perfect night for football, and of course, stadium hot dogs. (Candid mouth-stuffed photo here.) First Energy Stadium in Cleveland has undergone quite the facelift recently, after being built in 1999 to encourage a heartbroken fan base that had just endured one of the cruelest sucker punches ever pulled. Whether or not Art Modell had legitimate reasons for doing what he did mattered little then, and is inconsequential now. The fact remains: the Browns haven’t been the same since.

Our view from the upper deck of the Dawg Pound

Our view from the upper deck of the Dawg Pound

But back to the stadium renovations. They are spectacular! If you click the “facelift” link in the previous paragraph, you’ll find a graphic that allows you to use your mouse to compare the views before and after the project. I must say, the design is impressive. Our seat location allowed us a great view of all these improvements, as well as the fixes to come. It’s exciting to watch; I just hope the team rises to the occasion.

As darkness fell, the crowd had relaxed considerably, and it was easy to carry on a conversation.

Preseason games are, of course, not well attended. But that was fine with us, as regular season games are pandemonium. During the 10-minute dashes to and from the parking lot, our friends shared their wonder at not feeling like a moving tin of sardines on the sidewalks. Emily kept holding her arms out to her sides as she walked, marveling at the amount of “personal space” she had on the concrete.

Winning didn’t hurt anything, either. (Props to the Thriller, who was likely one of 14.5 Bears fans in the entire stadium.)

And here we are, finally arriving at Saturday morning. We all survived, and I was fine yesterday, despite the three hours of sleep the night before. I’m taking my time, sipping coffee and enjoying 15 open browser tabs of Gothamist articles. Later this afternoon, it’s grocery shopping, cleaning bathrooms and folding laundry. I need this kind of day, because as you know, after Labor Day, yeah

Happy weekend, fiends!