With the start of road construction season and the rainy, dreary days of spring (40 and raining has to be the worst weather), I like to take time to think about things that make smile. Sitting at the bar on an April afternoon, I compiled an incomplete list of those people, scenarios and craziness that pry a smile from my lips. Here it goes:
Driving with the windows down. I never understood people who seclude themselves in the stale air of their vehicle when they could feel the breeze blowing through their hair on the drive home (if the wind messes up your hair – get a new hairdo).
A pretty bartender*. For some reason they make the beer taste better and flow easier. I’ve followed a bartender to a different bar when she got a new job, I’ve gone to a bar when I was feeling crappy knowing one of my favorites was working and she’d coax a smile out of me, and I’ve bought a pretty bartender a drink after her shift is done to name a few things. Bottom line, pretty bartenders make my life more enjoyable.
*Not all pretty bartenders are worth a smile
|Andura is one of my favorites - I go bartender's choice with the beer when she's working|
Other people smiling. Sometimes you don’t realize how powerful a smile can be. A smile from a stranger, or even better, a friend, can turn a crummy day around. I even once wrote a poem titled “The Smile On Your Face.” What’s the point of passing along your grumpy mood?
|Sharon has a great smile even while working|
A warm shower. Nothing beats a shower where I can gradually increase the temp so by the end, it’s bordering on scalding. This is in my top 5 favorite things in the world.
Live bluegrass and Allie Kral. Music is best experienced live when you can witness how hard they are playing and the crowd helps fuel the bluegrass inferno. One of my favorite bands to see live is Cornmeal and their supremely awesome (and sexy) fiddler, Allie (especially in Madison where the crowd just knows how to throw down). Another go to concert is Pert Near Sandstone - especially when Allie joins the stage along with special guest Ryan Young of Trampled by Turtles. That’s three fiddlers, nay, great fiddlers on one stage (did I mention they have a clogger?). Starting from the 2-minute mark, my happiness crescendos at about the 2:52 mark when I completely lose it, only to stay lost for the rest of the song (I was lucky enough to witness this in person).
Showing someone a favorite place of mine. When they experience the beauty and serenity that you’ve experienced, it is like revealing a secret – you’ve let them into your personal sanctum.
Completing a crossword puzzle. Crossword puzzles are one thing that will never be more enjoyable electronically. Folding a paper in just the right way to highlight the puzzle and clues and then filling in the puzzle is immensely gratifying. When using a pen, trying to lightly write in an answer without ruining the square is a skill to be excited about.
Grilling in a snowstorm. When everyone is huddled inside, curled up in a blanket watching some crap on the TV, I like being outside and showing people that a little snow and wind only enhances the grill flavor. It’s a challenge and I accept.
Finishing a good book. Following the arc of a well-written story, whether it is nonfiction or a memoir (I’m a nonfiction snob). So much of our lives are exuded in short bits and bursts that we never take the time to learn or fully delve into a topic or person. TV, TMZ and Twitter have supplanted Thoreau and Tennyson.
|Gibraltar Rock is a great place to sit in silence, gaze at the beauty of WI or finish a good book|
Campfires. The simple act of sitting around and staring at a campfire can bring you back to a more primal state of mind, enlightening and elucidating an evening. One of the few skills I’m proud of is my ability to start and keep a fire going. Playing with fire can be calming as you focus on how log placement can keep a blaze a-going or rekindle the warmth felt earlier. Sigurd Olson sums it up best - “Something happens to a man when he sits before a fire. Strange stirrings take place within him, and a light comes into his eyes which was not there before. An open flame suddenly changes his environment to one of adventure and romance.”
|Not sure if this is what Sig was talking about, but it was fun|
Meeting random people in a random townie bar. Our lives are too short to lock into being friends with the people you went to college or work with. There are so many people out there who share your interests that it’s almost a sin that you don’t go out and try to meet them. Some of the most fulfilling relationships are the random (said by a bum), the unexpected ones. It’s a tired cliché, but you can’t judge a book or person by its cover.
The Vikings losing – I really hate Minnesota sports teams. I don’t think anything else has to be said.
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Wilderness. The B-W may be the most visited Wilderness in the U.S. but it’s my favorite place. The ability to fill a pack with your wares and with a day or two of paddling or snowshoeing, be in the middle of nowhere with no one to be seen is a joy all should experience at least once in their lives.
The beauty of Wisconsin. I’ve written about this and don’t think I need to elaborate.
The movie “October Sky”. Call me sappy, but this movie always leads to a huge smile on my face at the end. If it’s on TV, the remote stops and I watch to the end.
Horseshoes and Hand Grenades new album – “This Old Town”. This bluegrass band from Stevens Point has lit up the Midwest music scene since their inception a few years back. It’s a lot of fun watching bands grow as songwriters and musicians, always improving their product and expanding their crowds and Horseshoes has done that. Their set at Boats and Bluegrass in 2012 was memorable as they were crammed into the side tent with a crowd shouting and chanting for more music. I think it would be safe to say that they could have played for the rest of the night and crowd would have stayed delirious. Their new album (recorded thanks to a Kickstarter campaign) shows the breadth of ass kicking they bring to the table. Collin Mettelka’s songwriting and subliminal fiddle pair well with the hard-driving guitar and vocals of Adam, while Russ’s clawhammer banjo and vocals remind me of Levon Helm (Whenever I see them play and Russ really gets into a song, it reminds me of Levon Helm of the The Band in the Last Waltz, singing his heart out) and with Sam holding down the bottom of the scale with his upright bass. On top of all that, Davey on harmonica and squeezebox brings instruments (and fishing expertise) not readily heard on an old-timey bluegrass album. This album makes me smile.
A smile can come from any number of sources and when you least expect it. My list is woefully incomplete, but even this makes me smile knowing that my happiness is not limited to a 2 page inventory. When the world has got you down, take time to think about all the great things in your life. A smile is more powerful than you know.