an irritating yaccent

Soundtrack in my head: The Boo Radleys “I Hang Suspended”

I discovered something funny about myself the other day. I was at work dealing with a difficult caller on the phone. No matter what I said to her, even with some coaching from some more senior co-workers, she was never satisfied with my answers, and the call probably dragged on for some twenty minutes. When I got off the phone, I was listening to myself talk about the call with my co-workers, and was shocked to find that my Chicago yaccent had resurfaced.

This was not the first time I’d seen this odd phenomenon. When I went to school at the University of Illinois in Champaign, I was friends with a number of people from downstate Illinois. It was there that the word “soda” replaced the more common Chicago term “pop” in my vocabulary. Champaign is a 2 1/2 hour drive south of Chicago, and as I drove up to Chicago to visit family, I noticed that my Chicago accent would return right at about the point that I got off Interstate 57 and found myself on the Tri-State Tollway. Usually it would be triggered by some overly aggressive or careless driver, and suddenly I’d find myself saying, “Hey, buoddy, where’dyoo learn to drive like dyat?”

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Chicago, for all its charms, is a stressful place to live, and it’s more noticeable the longer I live away from that megalopolis. Thus it would stand to reason that stressful events elsewhere might, well, make me “go Chicago.”

When I moved to Madison over three years ago, I really wanted to drop the Chicago accent. It’s not like I wanted to adopt a Wisconsin accent either. But the best antidote to the rather annoying “Yeeeeeah!” that is common in Chicago lingo is the Wisconsinite “Yah!” While I didn’t quite go so far as to give myself Wisconsin elocution lessons in the bathroom mirror, I really did make an effort to drop the excessive use of the letter “y” prior to certain vowels.

So when the irritating caller triggered my old Chicago accent, I got concerned. I got more concerned when it didn’t go away immediately– when I noticed that a friend on the bus was wearing a jacket in the 80 degree weather, and I said, “Hey, what wuz da tempercher dis morning?”

Now I was scared. I ran home and locked myself in the bathroom. I looked in the mirror, and repeated to myself “Yah! Yah! Yah! Yah! Don’cha know! Don’cha know! Thurty point buck! Thurty point buck!” Then I popped open a New Glarus Spotted Cow and, after a few sips felt like a normal person again.

Okay, so I made up that last part about the bathroom mirror elocution exercises.

MKE’s (Milwaukee’s) blog of the week

Soundtrack in my head:  Neneh Cherry, “Trout”

Just found out today that the different drummer soundtrack is one of five nominees for MKE’s (Milwaukee’s) Blog of the Week.  For my readers who don’t know, MKE is a free weekly magazine in the Milwaukee area.  I’ll have to make sure to pick up a copy next time I’m out there.

For MKE Online readers checking out this site for the first time, welcome and have a look around.  Feel free to check the Journal Archives.  I should also make sure to use the word “bubbler” at least once in this blog since it seems that word is used more often in Milwaukee than it is here in Madison.  Schlemiel, schlimazel, Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!  Go Brewers!  (Okay, I think I just deep-sixed myself in the Cream City.)

Fans of this website, all two of you, you have until 11:59 p.m. Wednesday night (6/28) to stand up and be counted.  (What should you be called anyway, the different drummer posse?  Different Readers?  Soundtrekkers?  Drumsticks?)  You can vote at


parting the waters in Madison

Soundtrack in my head: Velo Deluxe, “Jesus Let Me In”

Is there anyone here in Madison who is capable of parting the waters the way Moses did?  Because my co-workers and I saw a strange thing on the weather radar on the Internet.

monolithic part of the waters, sunrise, lake, parting of the waters

pasja1000 (CC0), Pixabay

Weather reports this morning predicted thunderstorms today, some possibly severe. One co-worker often checks the weather radar on the Internet to see what’s happening with the storms. This morning, we saw a solid block of storm clouds about as long as the length of Wisconsin coming into the state from Iowa and Minnesota, and some of those showed potentially severe weather. They appeared headed right toward us as they hit Iowa County, the county to the west of us. Several of my co-workers went out to the parking lot to close the windows on their cars.

But then in the afternoon a funny thing happened. It didn’t rain. Later on, my co-worker looked at the radar again. It seems as if the storm dissipated as it approached Madison and then began to reappear just east of Madison.

We’ve noticed for a long time that storm systems tend to go to either the north or the south of Madison, and it’s probably because we have large lakes on two sides of the city. But for a storm to dissipate before hitting Madison and reappear on the other side of Madison?

If anybody has seen someone here in Madison holding a staff skyward with eyes closed in concentration, well, at the very least I’d recommend being nice to the person and hope that he/she is on our side.


a lazy night watching the rotating ceiling fan blades

Soundtrack in my head: Squirrel Nut Zippers, “Got My Own Thing Now”

Tonight, for the first time in a week or so, I have both my ceiling fan and my window fan running,, as temperatures will be climbing into upper 80’s and lower 90’s again in Madison. There’s something about ceiling fans and the sound of fans that bring back many memories. I’m listening to the Internet radio station “Folk Alley” and just letting myself relish the moment.

ceiling fan, tray ceiling, crown molding

JamesDeMers (CC0), Pixabay

I’m reminded of a similar ceiling fan I saw at an historic hotel that I stayed in eight years ago in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. I remembered that the ceiling fan and the environment around me inspired a rather spontaneous journal entry, and so I decided to look it up. To my surprise, I wrote it eight years ago almost to the day. Also, it came out as a poem, which doesn’t happen very often. This seems like a good time to reprint it.

June 16, 1998
Harpers Ferry, WV, 1:20 p.m.

light of the room flickering under a ceiling fan
in the wake of the blast furnace heat which has plowed through
bringing all activity to a sudden halt
and in its aftermath
an ocean of humidity
leaving ideas, thoughts and action plans suspended in the thick air
just floating, not going anyplace
so that you have no choice but to slow down and look at them
really look at them
and you realize that you are souuuuth
hanging from the bottom of that letter “u”
and have no choice but to taste and savor things
such as the sturdy construction of that 1936 washboard
and the front porch rocking chair
and the mushrooms growing out of the rotting tree stump
and the paint peeling off the flagpole
and the creek water polishing the stone that is temporarily acting as a dam
and little puffy clouds creating giant shadow-dance movies on the side of the green mountain
and you begin to ask yourself why you are really here
no, why are you REALLY here
no, why are you REALLY here
as you reflect
and watch different pieces of life
hang in suspended animation
in the soupy air

monty python and the defense of organized religion

Soundtrack in my head: Bjork, “Human Behaviour”

A number of friends of mine consider themselves spiritual but not into “organized religion.” They look at the rather checkered history of organized religion and wonder why anyone would want to get involved. When I think about the question, I think about the Monty Python sketch about a soccer game between the great German and Greek philosophers. At the beginning of the game, the philosophers line up on opposite sides of the center line, the referee throws up the ball, and…the philosophers begin wandering aimlessly around the field, hands under chins in deep thought while the ball just sits there.

To me that sketch illustrates perfectly the difference in potential impact between organized religion and “going it alone” with one’s own personal beliefs. I could easily establish my own religion with myself as its only practitioner, with my own insights and thoughts about the state of the world and how humankind can overcome the many challenges it faces in this modern era. But then somewhere else is someone named Charlie with his own insights and solutions for the challenges of humankind, and he’s wandering around in a slightly different direction. Meanwhile, the ball goes nowhere.

Of course, religion and how one practices it is a personal choice.  And for many people, their understanding of spirituality is more of a philosophical one, having to do with questions of where we came from and the origin of the universe.

But if you are going to talk about organizing and actually moving the ball in the philosopher’s soccer game, that is, making a difference through your faith or spirituality, of course you have to talk about a goal. And that’s where things have often gotten tricky. There have been good goals and not so good goals, ones that have brought people together, ones that have caused strife, ones that have caused people to run in circles, and ones that have led people over a cliff.

My interest in spirituality grew when it became clear to me that something more than politics and political movements was necessary to respond to the challenges facing humanity. It was clear to me that change needed to occur on a more fundamental and revolutionary level, starting at the personal level. Having witnessed sectarian differences and strife, not only around the world but also to some extent, within my own family, I became most interested in a religion that wouldn’t put walls between themselves and those who had slightly different beliefs.

Over the last 200 years or so, there has been development of religious movements that tolerate and even recognize the validity of other religions. At some point during the 19th century the Unitarian Church became more and more a religion that embraced other religions besides Christianity. The Baha’I Faith was founded in 19th century Persia (now Iran), and its founder, Baha’u’llah made reference to multiple “Manifestations of God,” saying that “Each one of them is known by a different name, is characterized by a a special attribute, fulfills a definite Mission and is entrusted with a particular Revelation.” (By the way, I read an article in the New York Times yesterday how the Baha’is in Iran have recently started facing more persecution under the current Iranian government, including more slander in government publications, and a greater number of arrests and interrogations.) Sukyo Mahikari says “The origin of all religions is one,” and talks about the need for them to cooperate to help humankind to overcome the challenges facing us. In 1893, the first Parliament of World Religions was held in Chicago, and there have been a lot of interfaith dialogues and efforts that have occurred since then.

My experience has been that all religions talk many of the same core values, but with emphases that are unique to the time and place of the each religion’s founding. I find that many of the differences cited are merely same teachings viewed from a different perspective. I was disappointed when Pope John Paul II criticized Buddhism as supposedly teaching salvation through detachment from the world, rather than union with God, and claimed that Islam was not a religion of redemption. I think Muslims would beg to differ and not only do most Buddhists believe in some sort of union with God but there are plenty of examples of religious orders within the Catholic Church practicing a form of detachment from the world. Most people are familiar with the parable of the blind men and the elephant—where one man feels the trunk of the elephant and declares it to be a long and skinny animal and whereas another feels the elephant’s torso and declares it to be huge and fat, etc.

So I would argue that there is, in a sense, a common goal that all religions aspire to—the love of humankind. I have generally tried to avoid religions that focus too much on the differences between themselves and others. I think it’s when religions come together to make a difference that we can start getting excited about kicking the ball into the goal. Or, as a famous soccer announcer would say, “Gooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllll!”