How does one assure that you’ll stand out in a crowd of about 35,000 people at a Major Golf Championship? You wear the Blue note.
That was my plan as Chris and I embarked for an epic vacation to Ireland and Scotland that would include attending The Open, held at Royal Port Rush Golf Club in Northern Ireland as well as playing The Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland.
How it all came about, resulting in the photo you see above is somewhat amazing, involving two of my fellow Blue Buddies from St. Louis U High and an ancestral journey that my wife, Chris, made to Ireland about seven years ago with her mom.
I guess I’ll start there as Chris and I would have probably never made this trip had she not first gone across the pond with her mum (we’ll use the English vernacular) to see if they could find any ties to her mum’s grandfather who hailed from a town called Ballymoney. The trip was a success, including their stay at a Bed & Breakfast. Two years ago, while Chris and I were watching The Open, a promo came on announcing future sites for The Open which included this year’s event that would return to Northern Ireland for the first time in 52 years at The Royal Port Rush Golf Club.
Chris said the site of The Open was less than 15 minutes from Ballymoney and that she would check to see if we could stay at the same Bed & Breakfast.
It was available – so that set our travel plans in motion which we expanded to include a round of our own at the birthplace of golf, St. Andrews in Scotland. Chris was quite the travel planner as she blocked out and booked all aspects of our journey. The week before, as we were discussing what all we should pack based on temperatures in Northern Ireland and Scotland at this time of year, I mentioned I was going to wear the Blue note. I know I could have opted for a Cardinals jersey but saluting the Stanley Cup Champions on a completely different continent seemed like the right thing to do.
I was hoping that someone, somewhere might notice. Turns out that someone did. Dave Hemenway, one of my high school classmates from SLUH was watching The Open on an early Saturday morning from his home in Cary, North Carolina and noticed someone wearing a Blues jersey behind the 6th green.
He got out his phone and snapped my image from the TV coverage and sent it along to another class of ’76 grad, Pat Leahy, who’s one of my golf buddies. Dave’s message to Pat – “Look in the gallery”
And there I was, right next to Chris, proudly wearing my Blues shirt. I don’t think it drew any comments from the TV analysts. But it did get noticed. And now, through the power of social media, will get noticed a bit more.
It’s a small world after all.
Volkswagen has a new commercial that I have already seen about 10 times and though I’m a fan of Dean Martin, I’m not a fan of this commercial.
Set to Dean’s rendition of “The Birds and the Bees” this spot was probably considered ‘cute’ and a throwback to VW’s days as a bit of a rebel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyPbpU3Smhg
Back in the hippie days, a couple going at it in a VW bug may have made sense. But with this timeline, it doesn’t really go back more than 8 years or so and the couple portrayed don’t exactly seem like they’re counter-culture. Dad just seems to have a weird thing about procreating in very tight spaces – rockin’ away in the VW bug at first resulting in a trip to the dealership for a larger VW. The process repeats itself and the happy, growing family continue to have mom and dad go at in the confines of their car. It concludes with another VW rocking away – presumably VWs are very fertile places – only it shows the entire happy family inside the vehicle causing enough of a commotion that they’re causing the car to sway back and forth on its apparently not very sturdy frame.
The commercial ends with the statement, “Life’s as big as you make it. Introducing the all new 7-seater Volkswagen Atlas.” Oh, I get it.
This commercial is trying too hard. Personally, I find it kind of obnoxious, too. In-between all of the Viagra and Cialis commercials, I now get this couple that loves to breed in a bug.
I’m not sure what the key selling points of the Volkswagen Atlas actually are. There are all kinds of vehicles that can seat 7 or more so that isn’t much of a sales pitch.
To me, Volkswagen simply isn’t getting enough bang for their buck.
And I certainly would never want to ride in the back seat of their vehicle.
Last November, I learned that I’d be having my first gallery showing in more than 21 years. It would take place at 1900 Park – Creative Space and Gallery and would feature at least 30 of my modern art and surrealist paintings, accompanied by the music of Tom Jr. and friends.
I was truly excited but March 3rd was a long time away back in early November. I began compiling a to-do list, starting with the overall invite. Initially, we were going to title the event “The Tom Blood Experience” – but since Tom was only playing for the opening night reception and because that title seemed a little self-serving to me, I opted instead for “Blood On The Walls”. It was simple. It was memorable. And it pretty much described what attendees would see – lots of paintings by Tom Blood, hanging on the walls.
The holidays came and went. I developed the invite and then began pushing it out, setting up a Facebook event page as well as personally inviting friends, family members and work associates both past and present. Tom Jr. began his portion of the event as well, working with several of his musician friends to plan the evening’s musical entertainment.
People began to RSVP, starting slow, but as of last week, the number eclipsed 200 and I was fairly confident, even with multiple no-shows, that we would have a great crowd on hand.
Tom and I made the painting selections, narrowing the number of choices down from more than 50 to what I thought might be a too many number of 40. It turned out to be just right. I created explanations for each of the paintings, trying to give viewers a glimpse into my thought process behind the painting and I’m glad I did as I thoroughly enjoyed watching people read the captions, then look back up at the painting.
It’s kind of unnerving when you see so many people staring at art that you created. But that’s why art exists – to be viewed and enjoyed and interpreted. It was so refreshing to unleash some of these paintings, getting them out of my basement and into a gallery.
It felt like they belonged.
The show officially got underway at 6:30. By that time, we already had more than 20 people wandering around. I was raffling off several items from my http://tom-blood.pixels.com site and the jars quickly began to fill.
People kept pouring through the doors. Cousins. High-school and college buddies. People I’ve worked with through my many years in advertising. Fellow parishioners from St. Gerard-Majella. Tom drew his own crowd and it was such a cool mix of people.
I wanted to talk to everyone – which made my attention span almost gnat-like. Every time I’d be talking to someone, someone new would enter and tap me on the shoulder or give me a hug.
At one point, I stepped off to the side and just gazed at the crowd. Though it wasn’t wall-to-wall people, it was crowded everywhere you looked. The band was jamming and I smiled to myself, knowing that, like all things, the evening would come and it would go.
By the end of the evening, I had lost my voice. Already, I was looking back, wishing I would have made an appeal for people to toss in a few bucks for the great music that was played. I wish I could have personally thanked every single person who came, (though I certainly tried.) I wish I could do it all again and savor the joy and warmth and friendship and soak in all the many compliments I heard throughout the night.
But the Opening Night Reception of Blood On The Walls is now in the past.
And all I can do is press onward and keep painting to assure that the next event comes a little sooner than 21 years from now.
Thanks to all who made this special night one for the memory books.
I shall return.
To see some of Tom’s work, visit http://tom-blood.pixels.com – there, you can order prints or a wide variety of items featuring Tom’s artwork to turn ordinary items like iPhone cases or pillows or tote bags into conversation pieces.
I’m glad there’s still a fair amount of time until my first solo art show since 1994. I’m going to need it.
The Opening Reception will be on Friday night, March 3 – still more than 40 days away yet it seems much closer than that to me. Once I had heard that 1900 Park – Creative Space and Gallery was willing to give me a solo show, it sent my planning wheels into motion.
That was back in early November which now seems like a long, long time ago. I knew that I needed to wait until after the new year came and went before pushing out in too big a way. But now that January is in its final week, it’s time to start ramping up the planning.
Invites were created and a good deal of them have been sent out – but not all of them as my list continues to evolve. Since Tom Jr. is going to be the featured musical entertainment the night of the opening reception, we were initially calling the evening, “The Tom Blood Experience”.
Though I liked the title, it didn’t quite seem right to me. Plus, the show will be up throughout most of the month of March and just calling my artwork ‘The Tom Blood Experience’ wasn’t making sense to me. When you have a last name like mine, you might as well capitalize on it – thus ‘Blood on the Walls’ seemed to be an interesting and memorable name for a collection of my artwork that would be hanging on the walls.
So I went with it.
I intend to try and showcase some of the many objects that my art can appear on as well – pillows, iPhone cases, greeting cards, tote bags – the bright, colorful and often quite weird subject matter of what I paint just might be a good conversation starter. So I’ve ordered a number of items that we’ll have on display the evening of the event.
So far, the biggest challenge is figuring out just how many people are going to show up. That’s always your biggest fear – “What if we have the show and nobody comes?”
I don’t think that’s going to happen. Rather, it’s trying to figure out, “What if we have the show and everybody comes?” 1900 Park isn’t a huge facility. Still, I think they can handle a crowd and I’m sure they’ve had big turnouts before.
So we’re trying to figure out a food and drink allotment and be ready for anything.
Choosing which particular pieces I’m putting into the show remains a work in progress as well. There will be more than 30 paintings on display. Just how many, I’m still not quite sure. But each one will have a title, a price tag and a brief explanation as to what in the world I was thinking when I created it.
There’s a lot more that’s going to go into this show. Tom Jr. has to work out his playlist. We’re ordering specially made t-shirts for the event (that will also be available for online purchase), There might be hand-outs and who knows what else.
So as of now, time is on my side. I’m excited about the opportunity. And even though February only has 28 days, it’s going to be a long, long month.
Back on June 24th, we gained an additional member of the family – a rat terrier that we named Luna Mae.
Earlier in March, our dog, Annie, died while we were away on vacation. There was considerable discussion as to whether or not our household needed another dog. Catherine was leaving for college. Michael was beginning his junior year at Mizzou and Tom had officially graduated from SLU.
We were potential empty nesters, free to move about the country.
However, I lobbied hard for a dog. Working from home, I was facing an empty house. In the evening, Chris is often attending some sort of meeting as her volunteer time for groups and organizations considerably outdoes mine.
Catherine and I searched a variety of rescue websites, in search of a new puppy but the timing didn’t seem to be working in our favor. We were gone for two weeks in early June and immediately upon our return, I was set to attend a trade show in Las Vegas.
That’s when I decided to investigate rat terriers. Annie was an awesome dog and the rat terrier breed is a high energy, quirky but totally lovable breed. I discovered a breeder in Lebanon, Missouri that had a new litter of pups on their website. One of the pups was named Hannah, and seeing that Catherine’s middle name is Hanna, which is Chris’ mom’s maiden name, it seemed like a sign.
We inquired about Hannah and were told she was available and that they could hold her an extra week so that we could get her upon my return from Vegas.
Even though it seemed like a sign that the pup was named Hannah, we didn’t want to stick with that name so Catherine came up with Luna which had that ‘nah’ sound to it so as not to confuse our new pup too much when we shifted her name. We made it Luna Mae to give it a bit of a country sound, reflecting her mid-Missouri roots.
Luna Mae has been with us now for about 2-1/2 months. Sometimes, we call her Lunatic. Other times, we think about what an act of lunacy it was to get this puppy who takes up so much of our time and is quite adept at chewing up shoes, chair legs and other assorted items while having a fascination with eating live worms and bugs whenever possible.
On Thursday, Luna was spayed, so currently, she is sporting a plastic cone wrapped around her head which she has been working hard to figure out how to destroy it.
Our vet told us it was important to not let Luna get too active. After just a day-and-a-half of sporting her conehead, we have found that to be a challenge.
So this Labor Day weekend, I’m laying low with Luna, trying to make sure she doesn’t rip her stitches open from her operation while escorting her on a leash in our backyard encouraging her to do her business and we’re both enjoying this idyllic weather.
She (and us) will be dealing with the cone for about ten more days. Then it’ll be back to the on-going adventure of raising the pup.
Though Luna Mae is proving to be a major commitment, there’s no doubt, she’s a keeper.
This weekend, our labor of love is a little 11-pound pup with her head wrapped in a plastic cone. Long may she live!
The fourth of four posts with musings and thoughts about our recent visit to Europe.
In case you don’t understand German, that stands for “One, two, three … drink!” Seeing that our last stop on our European adventure was Munich, which included a stop at the legendary Hofbrauhaus beer hall, that statement certainly fits.
But there is so much more to Munich, the 3rd largest city in Germany. I feel like we barely scratched the surface, getting an overview of the city through one of those guided tour buses that showed you the main attractions but all you did was pass on by. There simply wasn’t enough time to really explore.
We did manage to take in some pretty cool sights, though. Our hotel was in the heart of Munich so places like the NeuesRathaus with its chiming glockenspiel was nearby.
When we bought the bus pass, we decided to make it a two-day pass so we could travel more to the outskirts of the city. One of our first stops was visiting the Nymphenburg Palace. We had already seen our fair share of palaces and elaborate grounds but the immensity of this place did make quite an impression.
After touring the insides of the palace and just a small portion of the grounds, we climbed aboard and set out for the world headquarters of BMW, which is adjacent to the Olympic Park grounds. Though I’m not a huge fan of BMers due to their high maintenance needs, I was impressed with their headquarters and their museum. The German engineering that goes into the ultimate driving machine was also on display at their complex. It was uber-modern – very sleek and cool inside and out.
We decided to take a quick jaunt through the Olympic grounds as well but an unexpected shower put that to an end. So instead we climbed back on the bus and made our way to Alliance Stadium – home of Bayern-Munich – which just so happens to be Michael’s favorite team on the planet. Unfortunately, the tour times of the stadium which took you into the locker room and onto the field didn’t coincide with our schedule. So we saw what we could, bought a few souvenirs at their gift shop and made our way back to the heart of the city where we set out on foot, ready for whatever came next.
Much to our surprise, we ran into three Mizzou students who were all touring Europe. They had been a part of Mizzou’s Prague experience the year before and Michael had met them earlier while he was in Prague. We first ran into them in Vienna and they joined us in a bier garden. Next thing we knew, they were on our tour bus for the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg. When we encountered them a third time on the streets of Munich it was totally by chance.
They told us they had just been to the Hofbrauhaus where it was totally packed with people spilling out into the street so of course, we had to check it out. And they were right. The place was rocking with singing and toasts and beer chants going on all around us. There didn’t appear to be any place to sit – until Michael discovered the second floor and we managed to get a table that had just been abandoned. There was an Ooompah Band playing, beer was flowing, pretzels and schnitzel were great.
It was a fitting ending to our Munich adventure.
Next day, it was off to Amsterdam, onward to Minneapolis and finally home to St. Louis and its 95 degree heat and reeling Cardinals.
It’s a small world after all.
The third of four posts with musings and thoughts about our recent visit to Europe.
For some strange reason, I was really excited to be visiting the city and surrounding countryside where ‘The Sound of Music’ took place.
I’ve always loved that movie. I think I’ve seen it at least seven times, maybe more. So when we were planning out our European excursion and the possibility of visiting Salzburg came up, I was all in.
It’s a gorgeous city, surrounded by truly breathtaking scenery. Once we checked into our hotel, we set out on foot to explore the city. Looming high above us was the Hohensalzburg Fortress – a formidable looking structure that was truly a work in progress – with work beginning on the structure in 1077 by Archbishop Gebhard von Helfenstein and continuing for the next 800 years or so. Talk about a work in progress.
We took a tram ride up to the Fortress and then began exploring it’s many nooks and crannies including a torture room that was quite frightening. Once we reached the top, the view in all directions made you contemplate what an infinitesimal speck in the universe we all actually are.
Next day, we were ready for our Sound of Music tour. Apparently, Americans are the only ones who take this bus journey. There was a German-made movie in 1956, called The Trapp Family that quickly came and went. That story was turned into a Broadway musical in 1959 but it wasn’t until 1965 when Hollywood worked its magic on the story that it became a huge success in the States that is still quite popular today.
So our tour bus was packed with a variety of Americans, all waiting to be filled with the Sound of Music.
Our tour guide didn’t disappoint. He was part carnival barker, part Liberace and a fountain of knowledge on all things regarding the movie. Our first stop was a home overlooking a lake that served as the back of the von Trapp residence that included the scene of all the kids tumbling into the lake from their canoes.
No, I’m not going to take you through every stop we made along the way. We saw the Gazebo where they filmed the “I am sixteen” song; the Church where Maria got married to Captain Georg von Trapp; the garden where the kids learned the “Do Re Mi” song and patted a gnome’s head for good luck.
All along, our tour guide was singing along with the music track that was played over the bus loudspeakers. Though I had hoped that I could twirl and sing in a field of flowers just like Julie Andrews did, the closest we got was a field next to a roadway.
That was good enough by me. Next morning, just like the von Trapp’s, we fled from Austria, leaving behind the beauty of Salzburg and with some new memories that will make our next viewing of the movie just a little more memorable.
The second of four different posts featuring musings and thoughts about our recent trip to Europe.
In my mind, I always thought of Vienna as a city of art, music and culture.
I was pleased to find that it did not disappoint.
Vienna was the second city we visited on our European adventure. We arrived courtesy of a rented Ford Fusion, checking into a hotel that was once again in the heart of the city, only these accommodations proved to be a bit more cramped than our rooms in Europe. But that didn’t matter – we weren’t there to stay in a room we were ready to explore.
We started out by visiting Schonbrunn Palace. Sorry, I know nothing about the history of this place. The only thing I can say is that the grounds were immense. Though we couldn’t go in the palace, we were free to walk around the grounds – which could have taken hours had we gone from one end to the other. The views were stunning.
It seemed that everywhere we went, we were surrounded by history. So it only made sense to try and take in a little history of our own by visiting a few museums. Though their history museum was closed that day, we did pay a visit to Vienna’s Art Museum where Catherine and Michael struck a pose similar to one of the pieces on display. Again, I have no idea what the name of the actual piece is or what significance it may have had. We were tourists on cruise control.
Our wanderings led us to the home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and though none of us pretend to be classical music lovers, we did enjoy learning more about the life of this extraordinarily gifted man who craved the spotlight and loved to gamble. Rock me, Amadeus!
Our two days there were exhausting. My fitbit reached more than 23,000 steps on one of the days but they were well worth the effort. Of course all that wandering built up both a hunger and a thirst and we managed to satisfy both each night – the first night with an awesome outdoor evening meal enjoying some wienerschnitzel and beverages and the second night watching Austria take on Hungary in a Euro Cup game at a sidewalk cafe.
Our stay seemed like a short one. There was so much more to see. But we were on a schedule, so after two long days, it was “Goodnight, Vienna. I barely got to see ya.”
She was the cutest dog in the entire world and she lived in our house.
Annie the dog died on Wednesday morning, March 23rd. We think she was somewhere between 12 and 13 years old, almost 11 of them spent with us.
Annie was a rescue dog and we were the ones who came to her rescue, getting her out of a miserable existence and bringing her into our home.
In return, she gave us unconditional love. Every single day.
Annie was a rat terrier. Those two words certainly don’t connote cuteness. But this dog was cute – actually, beyond cute. When we first got her, she was white with brown spots. Those spots faded over the years but even in her old age, she still had the personality of a puppy. How fitting that our pupper chose to go on National Puppy Day.
Annie had many names. When Chris, her sister, Catherine and Tom Jr. first brought her home, her official name was AnnaBelle. But that was quickly changed to Annie.
She went on to be called DiDi, Donna, Ern, Sockhead, PupperButt, Annie Banannie, The Baby, Tippy and PupPup, just to name a few. She answered to them all, and each one has its own story attached to it.
God, how we loved that dog. Whenever we got home from wherever we’d been, we’d all rush to greet her. “She’s my best friend,” Catherine would say. “She’s my best friend, too,” I’d chime in. She was our whole family’s best friend.
I work from home and Annie was always at my feet when I worked. Last night, as I reached down to instinctively pet her came the crushing reality that she’s not there anymore. I was wearing black sweatpants that are still covered with short Annie hairs. So she hasn’t entirely left me. She never will.
Annie was a loyal dog, an unbelievably friendly, happy dog. She was a lap dog and most of the time, it was my lap that had the honor of her presence.
She had her moments – Annie was terrified of thunder – something we believe tied back to her time in the puppy mill where she was probably left outside in the rain. She would tremble and shake at the sound of thunder and her little heart would beat way too fast.
As she got older, we feared that her rapidly beating heart would give out on her and about a year or so ago, a visit to the vet revealed that she had a heart murmur.
So we got her on some heart medicine and hoped for the best but we all knew her remaining time with us was probably not going to be measured in years.
The boys are in college now. Catherine will soon be graduating high school and we hoped that Annie would at least make it to the fall so that if she did go, it would be while Catherine was away.
That’s kind of what happened – the timing just wasn’t what we anticipated.
Last Thursday morning, Catherine took off for a Spring Break vacation with her friends. Chris and I used that empty nest time to take off ourselves and we were on an unbelievable golf trip. We put Annie in the good care of Chris’ mom and dad who had watched Annie before. Their home was a home away from home for Annie. Driving her to their house last Wednesday night, Annie did her usual of sitting on my lap, looking out the window as the world passed by.
All was well and when I left, I bent down and said goodbye to Annie, not knowing it would be the last time I ever saw her.
On Wednesday morning, Chris got a tearful long-distance call from her mom and dad. They woke up to let Annie out. But that would no longer be necessary.
The pup-pup had died. Her heart simply gave out.
There were no dramatics. No mess. Just a little white dog, lying on the floor – her work was done.
Annie won the hearts of everyone who ever met her. She didn’t have a mean bone in her body. So the dog that had never done anything wrong passed away while we were all away.
Now there will be no more volleyballs to dribble around our back yard. No more squirrels, birds or rabbits to chase. No more tug of wars with her toys that she loved to fetch, return and then refuse to let go of in her awesome displays of toughness.
Our house feels so empty now.
She was 16 pounds of love, goodness and happiness.
As we were flying back yesterday to St. Louis, I knew we were returning to life without Annie. I cried when we took off. I cried when we touched down. I cried because of all the tears that I knew Catherine would be shedding as well. Our best friend is gone.
I mourn the loss of that little dog. But I am so grateful that I got to be a part of her life.
Annie changed our lives – 1000% for the better.
Rest in peace, little pup-pup. Rest in peace.