Ryan Welton

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California Thinkin’: my takeaways from a trip to the Golden State

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A vacation to end the summer symbolizes the start of autumn, on the calendar if not the thermometer. It won’t start to feel autumnal in Oklahoma until November. To escape the last bit of heat in the Sooner State, we went to San Diego and Los Angeles for some sun, sand, surf, baseball, football and general adventures.

Last year, Kristi and I went to Albuquerque for our Labor Day trip.

This year, we went all the way West.

Some quick observations about southern California:

1 — They don’t have the big, sprawling convenience stores we have in Oklahoma and Texas. There’s no Buccee’s not to mention a big OnCue, QuikTrip or Love’s — not in the heart of Los Angeles or San Diego at least. The cost per square foot is too high, Kristi tells me.

Kristi was born in Los Angeles. She knows these parts.

2 — The difficulty of traffic in Los Angeles is probably overstated, based on my small sample size. There was a lot of it, but Dallas drivers go a lot faster. I remember when I first moved to DFW in 1996 and folks raced up Preston and Hillcrest — side streets — at 60 mph.

That was culture shock.

Los Angeles provided more of what I’d call a constant state of heavy traffic. Constant.

Kristi has since corrected me on this.

“Oh, honey, this was a holiday weekend. We didn’t see nothin'” in terms of real L.A. traffic.

As I said, she knows these parts.

3 — Folks are friendly in California, drivers and otherwise. Not sure that they’ll ever be as friendly as they are in our part of the world but I’ll posit this:

— the service at Petco Park in San Diego was best I’ve ever had at an MLB game

— the staff at Hotel Z in San Diego (the Pineapple) was as friendly if not friendlier than any staff we’ve had at any hotel

— I had my usual “random people talk to me in public” experience, which usually only happens down South but to which I’ve often attributed to my winning personality and approachability.

I have this “please come start a conversation” look on my face.

4 — Cell service is poor in California. I don’t know if “poor” is the best word for it, or rather if it should be “not as strong as you’d expect considering it’s California.” I just imagined Cali to be a haven of technical wonder and connectivity. I was left with ‘No Service’ and 4G in a lot of places.

5 — Much of Los Angeles is stuck in another era architecturally, and this isn’t a bad thing if you’re into all-things mid-mod. If the late 50s and early 60s are your stylistic jam, L.A. is your place.

What’s old becomes new again.

As I settle back into routine, I reflect on every new place I’ve visited this year. We spent a weekend at Beavers Bend in southeastern Oklahoma, a few days in north-central Virginia for a wedding, a trek across the South from Atlanta to Myrtle Beach to Asheville to Nashville and then our trip to Los Angeles and San Diego.

The place I could see myself retiring to? Asheville for sure, but with enough money for a decent beach house, Myrtle Beach or Santa Monica — either one — seem pretty appealing.

The entire state of Tennessee is gorgeous. North Carolina, too, I’d imagine. We only traveled through part of it. As for Tennessee, we covered it all along Interstate 40.

I’m refreshed and rejuvenated, as you should be after time away from home. Ready to get to work – the day job, my side interests and personal projects, all of it. I’ll post a few more stories from the road over the next few weeks, too.

And I’ll ponder future vacations.

Kristi and I are talking about London. I’d have to attend a couple football matches, Tottenham Hotspur and maybe some club in a lower flight. QPR? Sheffield Wednesday? Nottingham Forest?

We’re considering a football trip to West Point to watch Army play. They play the Sooners next year, but I think I’d rather be free to root for the Black Knights.

I’d still love to go to Montana and Idaho, catch a Montana Grizzlies football game.

I’d also love to trek through Canada — from Vancouver to Halifax — and maybe catch some hockey or a CFL game.

Dreams for 2019 and beyond.

For now, it’s time to reconvene the hustle.


Fitness Hack: Using sports to pile on the steps

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Since I’ve downloaded the Pedometer++ app, I’ve become a bit obsessed with checking my steps. Considering I have an iPhone and an Apple Watch, I’m not sure why I’m just now really attuned to how much movement I can produce in a given day, but there you go.

I topped 20,000 steps Saturday.

Weekends aren’t lazy for me. I’m go-go-go, whether it on personal projects or chores, and I tend to get more exercise, too.

If you read my blog last week, you’ll know I’m focused on walking at the moment to help ignite some weight loss and strengthen my Achilles tendons. I need to get in leg shape before I get back to running, and I’d like that temperature to get down a bit more, too. We’ve been enjoying upper 80s and lower 90s here in Oklahoma, quite the change from typical 100-degree days this time of year.

My Mom’s treadmill that I inherited is upstairs, and I’m using it every chance I get. I’ve found an easy, easy weekend hack to getting my steps up, too!

Walk during your favorite sporting events.

In my case, I follow Tottenham Hotspur, whose Premier League season started a week ago with a 2-1 win over Newcastle. Spurs won 3-1 over Fulham this weekend to top the league table.

And I walked on the treadmill for the entire match at an easy 2.8 speed.

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By 10:30 a.m., I was at 11,000 steps on my way to 20,000.

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Sure, I mowed the yard later in the day, which means I probably would have hit 10,000 regardless. However, I’ll take any opportunity I can get to push myself well beyond 10,000 steps — especially for those days when I can’t come close.

Sometimes work and life come first no matter what your fitness priorities are.

But what I’ve found is that if you have time to watch sports, you’ve got time to walk — and a soccer match at 90 minutes is totally doable, halftime and all.

#COYS

Ryan’s Weekend Soundtrack (July 14-15): BLOXX, Spencer Lee Band, Elvis Costello

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It’s clear that 2018 is a year of transition. I’m finishing up my first year back in a newsroom, and that feels great. I’m gradually going through the process of moving to northwest Oklahoma City, and of course, my brothers and I are working to sell Mom’s house after her passing June 5.

Transition isn’t all bad; it’s a precursor to new beginnings. For me, this weekend, however, it just meant work — a lot of it. I have a high tolerance for a big to-do list, and this weekend it meant three lawns and more house organization, specifically getting my new (er, our new) office put together.

And did I mention I was by myself for the weekend as Kristi and her daughter were at Disney World.

That meant a lot of Ryan-ing.

And that birthed a new idea for a regular blog post: Ryan’s weekend soundtrack. I hear lots of different music, both old and new, and I like to share my treasures. Depending on your taste, these may also fall into the category of musical trash.

The inspiration for this weekend’s songs was listening to BBC Radio London (formerly BBC 94.9) Saturday afternoon with the great Gary Crowley, this after an out-of-this-world lunch at The Garage on Rockwell, which is turning out to be my go-to spot in the new neighborhood. Saturday’s special was Banh Mi tacos for $6.99, and I paired it with a New Belgium Fat Tire (amber). The food was great; the beer was only so-so. Should have had an IPA or a Mexican beer with the tacos.

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Then I got to work on the house with BBC Radio London on. The theme for the show was flying, and I’ve forgotten why it was the theme. It just was. First tune was Jigsaw’s “Sky High,” a delightful tune from the mid-70s. And check out the drummer singing lead. How he’s able to do that with that lick is beyond me:

The next song is just awesomely bizarre. One part ABBA, one part pure-Brit pop, and check out the Jeff Daniels look-a-like on bass! This is my new jam anytime I’m going to Will Rogers World Airport. It’s The Motors with “Airport” from 1978:

One part of the Gary Crowley evening show on BBC Radio London (afternoon in the States) is about older music, but then he does this show called “Introducing,” where new music gets the spotlight. First tune that caught my ear is Stereo Honey’s “Don’t Speak,” although I think it was more of an acoustic version, maybe?

The next song that caught my ear ended up being my favorite new find of the weekend. Group called Bloxx and a song called “Novocain.” This is terrific. I cranked it several times on the way to Henryetta Sunday.

Of course, this is how the rabbit hole goes. That song reminded me of a group called Metric and a song called “Help I’m Alive.” This tune is very Liz Phair.

At this point I’m into early Saturday evening. The office is in shape, and I’ve got the front room and kitchen put together. I’m so domestic, folks. Truly. But now I needed to mow the yard, and I’ve abandoned the Texas-Baltimore game for more BBC Radio London, which played Roxy Music’s 1979 hit “Dance Away.”

BTW, speaking of Texas-Baltimore, what is up with the Orioles’ unis Saturday night? They were celebrating Maryland, so they incorporated the state’s already loud flag into their beautiful uni. Gross.

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So, we get to Sunday, and my rambling continues. That’s all this new blog feature will be: quick impressions of the weekend gone by and the music that influenced it. The early part of my Sunday was spent fighting with Public Service of Oklahoma’s parent company AEP for trying to auto-debit from Mom’s bank account after I had told them she had died – and they had the nerve to charge us an extra $22. I think they’re going to waive it; it’s the right thing to do. However, I’ve got all sorts of thoughts on how empathy could transform every call center in the country.

The problem is that business call centers have no vested interest in *more* phone time between employees and customers. Most call centers are trying to reduce their total help hours, forcing the end user to help themselves. That’s an actual metric goal for most call centers. It’s highly shiteous.

My jam for the ride to Henryetta was Courtney Barnett’s “Avant Gardener.” She just sounds so weary in this one.

Don’t think for a second that all my music selections are all cool-kid hipster tunes. Hell, no. Peter Allen and Waylon Jennings were part of the playlist as was this tune, which I think is the best thing Taylor Swift has ever done. This is her “Borderline,” if you will.

Oh, I did stumble upon a new guy I really like: Spencer Lee. Dude sounds like Bill Withers and Justin Timberlake had a baby with Robin Thicke. Seriously polished. The song I heard while driving was called “Kissing Tree.” I’m just hoping he didn’t borrow too much from Bill Withers’ “Use Me.” Just don’t steal from Marvin Gaye, dude. His estate goes hard.

Great voice. He actually sounds like a young Withers in the first verse. Here’s another one from Lee’s band called Spencer Lee Band. The Wolf. He’s far too good to not be very, very famous soon enough.

By this time, I’m in Henryetta mowing yard No. 3, and the whole weekend was a giant sweat bath. I think I’m burned also despite the fact that I put on sunscreen. I’m definitely zapped.

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The road home was Elvis Costello central — “Everyday I Write The Book” and “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love & Understanding.” Costello was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. I’m a huge fan of his; hope the surgery got it all and that Mr. Diana Krall keeps making music.

As for me, I’m enjoying a cold Yuengling and preparing for the week, a short one. I’m headed for a quick vacation across the deep South, including Atlanta, Myrtle Beach, Asheville and Nashville. But soon enough, I’ll be recording new videos for YouTube on Dad’s piano, which is now my piano – set up at home and tuned thanks to the folks at Bruce Music in Edmond!

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Cheers for now! Have a great week.

Godspeed, good Buick: Brothers try to revive 1987 Buick Century

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We were sure that Mom had given away the 1987 Buick Century. She certainly didn’t drive it.

My brothers and I thought some charity had claimed it at least a year ago. I had read online that not all of those organizations were reputable.

Another thought was that one of the many handy men who helped Mom over the years had it hauled off for parts.

She certainly didn’t drive it.

 

Mom had a drivers license but it was merely a piece of formal American identification to prove she was “bona fide,” as she’d say.

She drove us around a little back in the 80s, in Muskogee. But that was in a large green Ford station wagon, and the round trip was to Homeland on Okmulgee and 32nd and back – less than a mile.

Mom wasn’t a driver. Always feared getting somebody hurt in an accident. She kept Dad’s 1987 Buick Century after he died in 2003 for sentimental reasons.

A silver hair or two might still be on the seat.

The driver’s seat might smell like Dad, if even a little.

Just looking at the metallic blue four-door evoked memories of morning trips to Okmulgee or McAlester, and most recently the trips Mom took to Cancer Care before lung cancer got the best of Bill Welton on March 16, 2003.

But Mary Welton never got rid of that Buick because it carried too many good memories.

If only she had kept the car’s title in a spot where John, Charles and I could find it after she passed on June 5. Thanks to government regulations and the criminal element, you practically can’t even give away a vehicle without a title.

And to replace a lost title requires updated registration and insurance, and this is a 1987 Buick Century, I’ll repeat for the umpteenth time. It’s totalled by its very existence.

I looked it up.

Kelley Blue Book only goes back to 1992. A blue Buick Century with 151,000 miles on it in fair condition only trades for between $49 and $258. This is a 1987 Buick Century.

We weren’t going to pay a dime only to get the car to a place where we could give it away. Why is this information not kept electronically so that once a person dies, the electronic record gets noted?

Our first thought was a site called theclunkerjunker.com. John talked to a rep, and they were going to give us $400 for the car if we could get it to where John lives near Tulsa. Mind you, nobody had even attempted to start the car since before March 2003.

My brother John is a handy fellow. Charles is super smart technically, too. And I know how to play the piano and to record video with my iPhone — so we teamed up, the Welton brothers, on a quest to get a 1987 Buick Century back on the road.

Watch the video below. Click here to visit my YouTube channel where I vlog about music, running, digital, the 80s and much more.

First things first, the tires were all flat. Nearly two decades locked inside a garage will do that. John managed to get them inflated with some Fix-a-Flat pretty quickly. We were able to roll the car out to the driveway.

John hooked up some jumper cables to the Century from his Chevy Colorado, and – boom – we saw inside lights!

We were stoked. This bad boy was going to start.

It wasn’t. It clicked. It tried.

And so did we – to the tune of five or six more times that day. Each try was better than the last, with the belts turning albeit struggling and the engine coughing up years of wear, tear and every available product known to the enclosed American garage. We even went to WalMart at one point to buy a new battery for the car, a worthwhile $40 investment for a return of $400. However, we soon learned that theclunkerjunker.com was no longer interested as long as we didn’t have a title.

John returned the battery.

We gave up on reviving the Buick Century, although with a new battery, we may have achieved success. No, we would have, as long as the belts weren’t too rusted.

I don’t know. Watch the video I recorded from the days soon after Mom’s passing to see us come together and give it the old college try. I’m pretty sure we were *this* close to getting that Buick Century back on the road.

The good news, however, is that we were able to sell it as-is to a salvage yard for $150, just like we thought in the very beginning.

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Godspeed, good Buick.

‘This Is A Beautiful Life:’ Clean House, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose

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We are selling this house for $74,900 in honor of our mother. The home was owned by two families in 80 years, both of which kept the house immaculately. We’re open to any offer, but frankly, it’s a steal as-is. Three bedrooms, one bath. New HVAC. Great roof.

Terrific, safe neighborhood. Henryetta schools. Centrally located.

You can call me directly at 405-996-0586.

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Even if you expect the death of a loved one, one can’t quite know how you’ll react the moment you get the news.

With my dad in 2003, I was home at my apartment in Dallas at 1:30 on a Sunday morning when I got the call from Mom. I let it roll to my answering machine, but I knew what it was, and I could hear the pain in her delivery.

Mom’s pain and struggles are no more. She passed away on June 5 at 12:28 p.m.

I was in the parking lot of my employer, KWTV News 9 in Oklahoma City, on the return side of a trip to Panera, where I got my lunch usual: a Greek quinoa salad with broccoli cheddar soup. My brother, John, who is a fantastic nurse with hospice expertise, texted our group that “she passed peacefully,” and a second time to reiterate, “Just to let you know: mom has passed away.”

While I expected it, it was still a shock.

The immediate wave of emotion was pretty intense, but it didn’t last long and subsided into a mopey sadness, at least for the rest of the day. I went home and ate my sad little Panera lunch, shot some hoops and mowed the yard, simple distractions from the tasks at hand.

Task 1: Meet up at Integrity Funeral Service at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Task 2: Do everything Mom wanted us to do, things we had discussed for the past two years at the very least.

We were prepared.

Mom had been super specific about her wishes. No funeral. No newspaper obit. Hell, she didn’t want us parading her photos on Facebook either, a one-way ticket, she said, to her haunting us for eternity. I will test that one eventually, which wouldn’t come as a surprise to Mom, although the focus will be on the early years and the mom I remember growing up.

But she didn’t really want us posting the news or announcing it to the world until we got some things in order, to make sure her will was executed precisely as she wanted. She had a distaste for people wearing their emotions on their sleeve publicly, and she was a big fan of people who led their lives privately with quiet and dignity. I remember when David Bowie died that Mom really liked how private he had been about his cancer and how, poof, he was just gone.

“Classy,” she’d say.

“Death, a necessary end, will come when it will come,” William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Our mom was 79, the youngest of seven children born to Ava Caldwell of Marysville, Ohio. However, she had lived in Oklahoma since the mid-1960s when she married our dad. After he passed 15 years ago, we kids vowed to help mom wherever we could, and we did.

She didn’t drive of her own choosing, so for the past 15 years we drove her to Walmart and to Tulsa and to wherever she wanted. My brother Charles did that for years before his move to St. Louis, and I took the baton about midway through. And then there was my brother John, the nurse. If you don’t have a great nurse in the family, get one. I know that nurses make good money, but I’m not sure that they aren’t still underpaid.

Good nurses, that is.

I talked to Mom every day on my drive home from work, even up to the week before her death, which made her sudden demise a tad odd. She had suffered from COPD for years, and while she would from time to time suffer dips in health and had lost weight gradually over time, she had really lost a lot of weight in the month before her passing. However, we had texted as recently as May 29 and had FaceTimed each other on May 30.

Her final text to me came on May 29:
feel better today!! Going back to bed this afternoon!

We called the past two years “bonus time” after an exacerbation almost killed her in 2016. Mom got super serious about her will, her wishes and her care. At the time, there was some talk about hospice, but Mom insisted that she wanted to fight through it — and she did for two more years. During that time, we had many more trips to Tulsa, to Walmart, to lunch and dinner and a lot of laughs and discussions about the day’s news.

She squeezed the ever-loving most out of life, and we squeezed back.

At Mom’s request, we hired an estate attorney, and we got her wishes codified. If I could offer one piece of advice to any of my peeps between 20-50, encourage your folks to make a will and to keep their estate out of probate. It’s been a godsend. Heck, lots of folks are disbursing their estates before they pass, putting homes into the names of their heirs and distributing money. You don’t need the extra headaches after a loved one passes.

I called attorney Michelle Nelson, from Tulsa, the week before Mom’s passing, to let her know we didn’t think Mom would make it this time. The night before, I had started getting LifeAlert calls (with a Los Angeles area code) at 11:30 p.m. While John headed south to be at Mom’s, I navigated the discussions with the LifeAlert operator.

It was clear that the time had come for hospice and a focus on continuous, palliative care. Sometime I’ll blog about COPD and how it progresses and how to manage it, but I’ll also write about the reality of a lung capacity that shrinks to zero and how life-extending devices such as a BiPAP eventually lose their effectiveness.

She stopped wearing the BiPAP a couple of weeks prior, a proverbial white flag to what is a devastating condition. Besides, it made the inside of her nose really, really, really sore. I don’t blame her for not wanting to wear it.

She didn’t verbalize it, but her actions spoke it:

“Enough,” she said.

There is a lot of stress associated with caring for a loved one, in whatever capacity you do so. I internalize stress, but a lesson I learned from Dad’s death is that a grieving person needs to give themselves a whole lot of slack, for weeks and months even.

Be good to yourself, I’d tell other people in the same situation.

Kristi and I visited Mom over the weekend of June 2-3, and it did not look good. I did what I do: I mowed her yard. In the world of love languages, that’s how I show affection: I do stuff for you. Labor.

John and Tammy and Charles and Rebecca were with Mom continuously, and a hospice nurse named Candace helped immensely. Truth be told, there are dozens of nurses who helped Mom over the years, and they were all excellent…and interesting. Mom told me about all of them.

While Mom’s end was ultimately fairly sudden in terms of actual demise, COPD is a condition that had progressed for 21 years. Heck, it really started with a severe asthma attack she suffered back in 1985. For the past several years, I had gone about my daily life mildly worried about getting that text or that call that something had happened or that Mom has being taken back to the hospital.

It was mild stress, worried mostly that she might be suffering at any given moment.

For the record, I never minded the hospitals part of it. In fact, I like ’em, St. John’s in Tulsa, especially. Mom did, too, and that’s why she wanted to be taken there. We both detested Hillcrest, which we unaffectionately called Killcrest after Dad passed from sepsis in March 2003. But St. John’s is in a beautiful part of the city, near Utica Square, and their cafeteria was pretty sweet. Good pie. We’d often sneak snacks up to Mom.

And then when Mom would get released, we’d go eat at Olive Garden across the street.

St. John’s is also where I was born 47 years ago.

Alas, the realization set in pretty quickly last week that there’d be no more hospital visits, no more weekend grocery trips or afternoon conversations. That part makes me sad. However, the realization also set in that Mom and I actively stayed engaged via FaceTime and texting practically every day, at least 30 minutes to an hour every day for the past five years. Initially, we started that routine as a way for her to help me from dozing off in traffic along Interstate 235.

I quickly figured out that we had birthed a ritual that would ultimately comfort me for the rest of my life.

Mom also got to know my Kristi, as she knew Rebecca and Tammy, my brothers’ wives. A mother’s stamp of approval is a big deal.

Of course, Mom loved her grand kids and extended grand kids as well. Immensely.

Mom had a great friend in a local woman named Betty, a friend of the quality Mom hadn’t had since Edith Heathcock passed away suddenly in 1981. Betty took Mom to the store and to wherever she needed for during-the-week errands. Mom also had an extended family thanks to the Maddux crew out of Tulsa, relatives of my brother John’s wife.

They are part of my family from here forward as well.

There are many people who regret not being there for a loved one in their time of need or at the end of their life. That is not us whatsoever. And I think if you asked Mom, she would echo the no regrets, aside from not ever taking the time to travel to England before her COPD kicked in. I’ve got two vials of ashes, one to spread in San Francisco and one to spread in London, the two places she wanted to visit most.

The meeting with the funeral home was pretty straight forward. We had worked with Jimmy Spurlock’s crew previously in 2003 when Dad passed, and I joked that we might ought to get a volume discount. I always appreciated how willing Jimmy and his team were willing to comfort by reflecting the personality of their customers.

In our case, it’s through humor, often a dark, morbid humor.

And telling stories.

I plan to tell several of them via my blog over the next few months and years, as writing and content creation is genuinely therapeutic for me. However, we also discovered a gold mine of content from Mom’s collection of letters over the years: notes from her mother, Ava, and letters from our very serious grandfather, The Rev. W. Roy Welton, of McAlester. He was very fire-and-brimstone. All written in the 1960s and 1970s, these letters paint a picture of a world much simpler than ours, slices of Americana during an era when a handwritten letter was the equivalent of a Facebook Message or iMessage.

I have hundreds of family photos to get digitized for my brothers and me.

I have some videos of Dad from back in the day that I need to get digitized.

And so much more work to do, including helping Mom and Dad find their final resting place, which has been a tale unto itself. Folks are apt to say to the grieving, “She’s in a better place now,” but I would tell them that she’s actually in my car, at least until I can get her to my house in Norman, awaiting hers and Dad’s final destination at the cemetery in McAlester across from Tandy Town.

Mom loved McAlester. We used to go to The Meeting Place on Choctaw two or three times a year on Sundays.

And she would have found that “she’s actually in my car” joke damned funny.

But back to the task at hand: Aside from financial dealings and all sorts of communications that have to happen when a loved one passes, we needed to get Mom’s house in order, get it emptied and get it on the market. With the help of Tammy, Rebecca and Kristi, my brothers and I were able to get it done in a week.

We spent the first couple of days going through papers and documents and photos and gadgets, doohickeys and thingamabobs. John had a pile of things he wanted to keep. Charles did, too, and I as well. We also had a pile of things to give to Goodwill, and Kristi got us set up on Facebook to sell bigger items. Before Mom died, I had thought we might need to hold an estate sale, and I fully realize now that in 2018, you just need an active, local Facebook group.

For the first two or three days, we toiled for 7-8 hours and then had dinner together. This week, it was more like 10-hour days and upward of 2,000-3,000 miles on my new Subaru. We stayed the night in Tulsa a couple of nights, but much of the week, we just commuted — my brothers to the Tulsa area and Kristi and I to Oklahoma City. To say that the effort of the past week was a bonding experience, I believe, is an understatement although we were already pretty well bonded.

We recommitted however to get together more as a group and have Christmas together, rotating homes each year.

It felt like the movie “The Big Chill” minus the scene where an old college friend of Alex plays “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” on the organ at his funeral. Mom didn’t want a funeral because she didn’t want a random preacher who never knew her eulogizing her impersonally. She also never wanted to inconvenience people, making them feel obligated to come in from out of town.

Along the way this week, I inherited Dad’s 1964 Baldwin Acrosonic spinet piano, a model I learned might have been featured in a 1980s sitcom, perhaps “The Cosby Show,” I was told. When it’s tuned, it sounds terrific.

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We also discovered that Dad’s 1987 Buick Century had stayed in Mom’s garage since 2003, and so we recorded some video of us trying to revive it. Side note: There’s more video than just this clip. Need some editing time.

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Speaking of that garage, we cleaned it out, and that was a feat unto itself.

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As I’m apt to do, I documented the entire experience. Tons of pictures ahead, today and tomorrow and the weeks ahead.

Mom mostly wanted to make sure we carried memories with us, executed her will and got her house clean before we put it on the market. She was immensely proud of having a clean house, and we weren’t even allowed to eat or drink anywhere besides the kitchen, a rule we struggled with in the first days after her passing.

So many more stories to be told, but the first one ends like this: Mission accomplished, at least on the primary fronts. Each of us took home multiple loads of stuff, memories and gadgets, furniture and more. We carried out her will to a T, thanks to Michelle’s legal work and the guidance of Danyiel Green at American Exchange Bank. And we got the house cleaned with a lot of Welton hustle and on the market thanks to our new friend, Jill Francis.

I could not have done that without the support of my boss and fellow managers and colleagues at Griffin Communications, who granted me the latitude to take care of Mom’s business.

This house was full as of June 5.

John, Charles and I along with Tammy, Rebecca and Kristi put in long hours to get this place in order. I’m really proud that we were able to come together and get this done so efficiently.

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People grieve differently, and I grieved as much during the last two years after the exacerbation of 2016 as I have this past week. One was long and anticipatory, and the other a finality. Heck, wherever Mom is, she’s likely celebrating that she went first as she was always afraid I’d die in a mass shooting or drop dead of a heart attack while running. She really was. At the end of our daily conversations, we went through an odd, comedic routine that included her advising me to “watch my back.”

However, she was also fond of saying, “Kid, I’m the best friend you’ve got,” and “This is a beautiful life.” Even in the face of worsening health, she’d say that.

The latter is a sentiment I also hold. This is indeed a beautiful life. We’ve won the lottery insomuch as we’re human and alive, at least right as of this moment. There are very few circumstances that aren’t extraordinarily fortunate, especially if you live in America. I’m not closed to the idea that one could also replace ‘America’ with many countries around the world, too.

The point is: Gratitude is everything.

Anyway…

We still have some work to do, ultimately, to carry out Mom’s wishes.

I need to get with Zeke down at Oak Hill Cemetery in McAlester and contact his monument guy to get a headstone done for her and Dad. And then I’ll need to schedule a burial. It took us a little bit to even figure out where Roy and Beulah Welton were buried. Long story short, we had to establish that before moving forward on the other.

Mom’s house will sell quickly. It’s an 88-year-old house that has had two owners, and it’s in mint condition. But I’ll have to go back to mow the yard a few times and be there for closing when it sells.

And then we need to go see the world.

And turn up the music, especially Raul Malo, Chris Botti, Sting, Michael Jackson, Bee Gees and George Michael, and many more. Beyond any of these, Mom especially loved Chris Botti and George Michael.

We need to work hard, be kind and stick together.

Because this is indeed a beautiful life.

 

 

YouTube channel update: The YouTube growth struggle is real.

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A few days ago, somebody noted that they enjoyed seeing me play the piano online, and I gave a jumbled nonsensical reply about trying to master YouTube, which is at once the truth but not nearly as effective as just saying, “Why, thank you!

Everything I’ve been doing over the past 4-6 months online, personally, has been about trying to figure out which platforms I could possible master, which I’d want to master and which I should just forget about, personally, not professionally. With work, there are platforms such as Instagram and Twitter that I need to conquer for work purposes, but I’m especially passionate about YouTube.

But, damn, is it a grind these days.

When I started in 2007, it took me a while, and then it kind of blew up. And then I stopped making videos after YouTube started cracking down on cover songs. It’s like my willingness to execute is never matched by a vision for where the platform is going — and in this case, as of March 18, 2018, I’m convinced that YouTube is the new gold rush.

It’s where stars will be made.

It’s where businesses will be made.

It’s where experts will be made.

Even beyond FaceTwitaGram, YouTube is the platform where I’d tell an ambitious person to start their quest. It’s important to do the others to the extent that you can, but YouTube has the biggest upside. Just my opinion.

But I sure have gone nowhere the past six months, although it’s not for lack of trying.

I tried vlogging some piano tutorials.

I tried vlogging about Big Brother.

And I’ve tried doing some personal vlogs.

Oh, and I’ve done more covers of pop songs, old 80s songs and whatever I can knock out pretty quickly, trying to replicate some success I had last year with The Weeknd’s “I Feel It Coming,” which garnered me 13,000-plus views and probably accounted for most of the 100 or so new subscribers I’ve gotten over the past year.

Branching out hasn’t been the answer so far.

So I’m returning to the original niche that propelled me in the late 2000s: smooth jazz or contemporary (c-jazz). When I uploaded “Step To It” in 2007, I had no idea it would soon exceed 160,000 views. Of course, I attribute that mostly to the great sax work of Oklahoma City’s own Chris Hicks. However, I’ve had a modicum of success with other instrumentals.

And I go back to what Gary Vaynerchuck always says about documenting the journey. Well, this is my journey, kind of back to square one in terms of narrowing my scope of YouTube production back to smooth jazz, some covers and personal vlogs, most of which will probably have something to do with music.

I also decided to put a little money behind what I’m doing, so I set up a few $1-per-day ads on four of my most popular songs. I’m not that well versed on what makes a particularly successful AdWords campaign, and the AdWords system doesn’t let me target nearly as narrow as I’d like. For this campaign, which stretches over four songs, I’m only able to target “music lovers.” There is no “likes smooth jazz” selection, although I might be able to associate some demographics with that tendency.

For now, I’m just gathering data and telling you what I’m doing.

Oh, and I figured out how to add a watermark to all the videos on my channel. That was pretty easy, although I’m not sure how effective it will be. And last but not least, here are the songs I’ve put money against. We’ll see how they do after a couple weeks.

And I’ll report back.

“Step To It” by Ryan Welton featuring Chris Hicks


“Nocturnal” by Ryan Welton featuring Chris Hicks


“Cool Like Kelsey” by Ryan Welton


“Vibe” by Ryan Welton featuring Eric Montgomery

 

 

Back to Basic(s): Lots of people ‘cut the cord.’ I reattached. Here’s why.

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There are hundreds of stories of people who “cut the cord,” meaning that they eliminated cable and went to slimmer services or none at all. Some go to things like DirecTV Now, like I did, while others use Roku or some combination of antenna + Netflix + Hulu.

Originally, I went from Cox Communications to DirecTV.

And then I scaled back to DirecTV Now.

What I discovered in going with a digital-only service such as DirecTV Now was that my dependence on strong WiFi was pretty intolerable because I only had an average connection. It doesn’t feel that way when I surf the web or upload videos to YouTube. However, any time I wanted to watch, let’s say, “Big Brother,” it took DirecTV Now forever to open and get through an hour’s program.

And I could be sitting right next to my modem.

Not that I watch that much TV at all. You know my love for “Big Brother,” but aside from that, I watch “Amazing Race,” and a variety of other reality programs. I also watch the news, especially local news since I work in TV news.

I watch a lot of sports, especially baseball. Spring training just started this past week, I should mention.

And I have no patience for buffering.

Besides, I’d like to write more about television, and I have to look for any efficiency I can get. Financially, it’s a hit: $53 more per month than DirecTV Now. But if I actually watch it, then it’s worth it — and having a DVR is damned near worth the extra $53 because I want to watch things when I want to watch things. If I missed an episode of “Big Brother,” for example, I had to wait until the next day to watch it on the CBS app.

No bueno.

So, the reasons for re-attaching the cord were simple:

  1. Digital is still slow. There are things I like to watch, but even my home internet connection couldn’t keep me from spending minutes upon minutes buffering through basic programs.
  2. The DVR is convenient. I can watch when I want to, from the time the program starts to any time afterward. I don’t have to wait until the next day, like one does with these network apps.

And Cox’s Contour system setup could not possibly be more simple as well. Check out how their system box was set up:

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The cords are numbered. It’s beautiful. One goes from the wall to the Cisco box (the cable box). Another goes from that box to the TV, and one goes from the system’s outlet to the wall. Plus, there is a Cox Communications remote control.

This took me all of 5 minutes to put together.

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It’s as simple as following these instructions.

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And this is the screen you get. However, in my case, eventually, I got a message along with Error Code IA09 that said my system would not work at this time. What that error means is that you had another system established in your house before Cox, which requires their technicians to come out and re-install your cable.

That’s what I had to do.

So, two weeks ago, I scheduled Cox to come out to my house this past Saturday. The technician’s name was Rodney, I believe, and it was pouring rain outside. Cats and dogs and pigs, oh my! So much precipitation. Rodney stayed in the Cox vehicle until the rain let up a bit, at which time he entered my house and fixed all the cords while I made him a cup of coffee.

It was still 8 a.m. on a Saturday. Coffee, required.

Rodney was awesome and got everything set up, but he got rain all over my house, and so he graciously offered to waive the installation fee, which I gladly accepted. Truth be told, I’ve always been a fan of Cox’s cable system; just didn’t care for their Internet.

And now I have their cable system with AT&T Internet, the best of both home-tech worlds in suburban Oklahoma City as of March 2018.

So, now that I have cable back, what should I be watching? 

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