If I may paraphrase . . . If you've got five hours to spare, let me tell you the story of July.
34, clumsy, and shy, I went to Fort Collins and almost died. This is one seriously LONG newsletter, packed with details and photos which will really satisfy. In fact, it includes a supplementary opinion piece on a separate page, for those who feel the spirit of adventure. On with the details!
It all began (when I say "it all" I mean, of course, July) with a trip out west to play at the Evangelical Free National Gathering. Over 5,000 youth and adults came together for a week of fun, learning, and acrobatics. It was a truly wild week. Michael and I were employed as busboys on the stage as well as occasional musicians.
Business picks up for Michael
Michael tries out new credentials
We saw Grace every single day
And we met the guys from PFR, so we made them pose for a cheesy name-dropping photo
Now for a little background . . . Michael and I grew up in upstate New York; there are no mountains there. Consequently--though we spent time eluding truancy officers and chemical dumps--we have never rappelled down a cliff. While there is the Niagara gorge, only the members of Greenpeace are nutty enough to go hanging by a rope over those rapids. Suffice it to say: we have no experience with Because-It's-There equipment. Carabiners are people who vacation in the West Indies. Rappelling is the function of Deep Woods OffTM. Harness describes trifecta results or is what we do to natural resources.
So, on the last night of the Ev Free National Gathering, after much set-up, here we come dropping out of the ceiling.
We can fly! We can fly!
Here's the view from where we started
What a finish, eh? All in all a great week--nobody got hurt. You know the old saying: it's not a party until somebody rappels in off the catwalk above the stage!
After that fun, we headed off to visit our neighbors to the north in Canada. The whole drive I kept making comments about how rough the roads are in Canada. Turned out that the fellows over at the local auto repair place (who shall go unnamed except to say that they're the first ones listed under the heading General Stores) forgot to attach one of the new shocks they installed! Anyway(s), we got to Canada just fine and played in the town of Waterloo (as in Napoleon). Here's a picture of our childhood hero, Randy Stonehill, entertaining the folks from The True North Strong And Free.
From there, we somehow got back into the United States (I've maintained everyone's dignity by skipping over the excitement of our entry into Canada) and stayed at my house to watch the annual fireworks display over the mighty Maumee River. From there we headed to the Sonshine Festival in Willmar, MN. On the way we stopped to provide a little mosquito food and play some music for the campers at Camp Omega in Waterville. Here's a shot or two of people wearing mosquito repellent.
Then we arrived at Sonshine. (Speaking of that festival, when you're done with this narrative stuff, if you want to go to the supplementary opinion page, click here.) Here are some photos to prove our whereabouts for those four days.
Michael and some helpers
Happy monks, at that
As soon as I arrived home, my wife had to head out to visit friends. Since I was scheduled to play the next night, my daughter had to choose between Cleveland with me, or Genoa with her grandmother.
Here she is packed for Genoa
And here are the fine folks of Cleveland
Then (can you believe it's still July?), my family and I went on a brief vacation to upstate New York (refer back to paragraph 3 for justification of locale). We had a fine time at the mouth of the Niagara River, which included a relaxing boat ride.
I also had the opportunity to check out the construction site of the new high school in Niagara Falls. If you know a little bit about the history of our hometown, then you can understand that they're building this new school in the safest location they could find. Looks pretty inviting and serene, doesn't it?
Then we went to the event of the year: The 1998 Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Youth Gathering in Atlanta, Georgia (enough capital letters there?). For five days over 30,000 people descended upon the city of Atlanta and had a most wonderful gathering of folks. Cannot begin to cover it all, but if you want to see photos, click here to go see various crowds and possibly find your own bad self amongst the people.
As for your heroes, LOST AND FOUND, we were honored with the opportunity to climb up on the big stage (you know, where the real bands play) and do a couple of numbers. We know that the organizers were cutting us a tremendous break and we were thus in no danger of getting big heads about being up there. However, try though we might to keep excitement in check, the camera guys give everyone a big head when they're on the main stage. Take a look here and you'll see what I mean . . .
Then (and it's STILL only July!), we headed back to Ohio and played in Ottawa, Ohio at the "Taste of Putnam" festival (or maybe it's a street fair? Possibly a train depot?). We had a really great time and had to stop three times to wait for Casey Junior to cruise by in his Engineer cameo. The first time he came by we played Locomotive Breath by Jethro Tull. On subsequent passes we just asked the crowd to stand and wave.
And finally (FINALLY!), we have come to the end of the month of July. Don't forget to go back and check out the supplementary opinion page if you have time. And since it is now August, that means that we have a little newsworthy news to pass along. Our friend and traveling companion Justin Vetrano (known by various mutations such as Dustin B Trano, Justin of Toronto, Jason Vetrano, not to mention his aliases "Stage Boy" and "The Italian"), where was I? . . . oh yes . . . Justin will be leaving the LOST AND FOUND life to veer off on an adventure of his own. Justin, Kim, and Sydney are moving to New York so that Justin can go back to school (I think he needs another semester to finish sixth grade). He'll be working with the youth at St. James Lutheran in St. James Long Island and probably listen to Rebecca St. James' records; his goal is to move on toward medical school. If you'd like to send Justin a note, you may do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To quote Storyhill: We wish them well, what else can you do? They're on their way and so are you. You look forward to another time, to tell them how it's been.
May God bless the Vetranos. We thank them for their sacrifice in the ministry of LOST AND FOUND. It will not be as easy nor nearly as fun without their help.
More next month,
Read more of George's monthly newsletters.