Lonna is no longer working for Universal Background Screenings. As a matter of fact, she is no longer working at all. She's...
As of October 29th, she no longer has to answer phone calls from clients, attend Teams Meetings at 4pm on a Friday, put out daily "fires", deal with equipment, technical and internet issues, be concerned when people don't follow through, etc. She's done!!
VIENNA, CAMERON, TALYA & ADAM
Vienna turned 9 years old September 28th and Cameron turned 8 years old Christmas Day.
After finally receiving their vaccines, Vienna and Cameron attended school in person for the first time in 20 months, on November 16th. To say they were excited is a huge understatement. It was like going to Disney World! They RAN to the school doors, barely saying goodbye to Mom and Dad.
Adam's "Rent the Delorean" business is STILL going strong. It's hard to believe that after the 30 Year Anniversary in 2015, he's still getting so many bookings each year for that car, and doing some very cool gigs! Here's video of a commercial for Porsche that included Adam's Time Machine because they needed one that could do what no other Time Machine around could do. For those who are familliar with Adam's documentary, "The Fastest Delorean in the World", this commercial may look familiar, as Adam explains.
By the way, that's Don Fillilove in the commercial. He was Mayor Goldie in "Back to the Future" and co-starred with Adam in the documentary. They have also been good friends for many years.
We finally get to see the whole family in person for the first time in over two years right after Christmas. In preparation for their visit, we had a quick video conference with Adam and Talya on December 1st, while the kids were in school.
After our call, Adam sent us the itinerary.
With them arriving after midnight on the 26th, they will stay at a hotel at the airport and we'll pick them up early on the 27th.
As they were walking out the door to drive to LAX, Adam received this notice from the airline.
Obviously, a flight on the 31st was out of the question because the grandkids would have to fly back on the 2nd in order to return to school on the 3rd. We were devastated! Especially Vienna and Cameron.
We agreed to connect with them via Zoom on the 27th around noon, which is hardly the same, but at least we saw them and were able to interact.
Did I mention that big 10 foot screen they have for seeing us?
KENNY, BROOKE, ALEENA & GRAYSON
www.KontrasPerformance.com is now in its third year of business. Kenny has been working long hours, often until 8:00pm each evening to keep up. The work is grueling, but when you love what you do, it doesn't feel grueling. His fabrications can be found on everything from Corvettes to Subarus to Mustangs to Hondas. If you want it to go fast(er), he's the guy to go to.
Brooke & Kenny have been together nearly 5 years. They now rent a house in our neighborhood but are looking to buy a house with plenty of property around it so they can build a very large garage for some of Kenny's hobbies like motorbikes, jet skis, snow mobiles and virtually any other gas powered, internal combustion engine vehicle. (Whew, that's a mouthful!)
Her two children - Aleena (age 9) and Grayson (age 8, February 2022) attend the same elementary school that Kenny, Adam and I attended. Small world.
According to Kenny, the only time Aleena and Grayson are not getting in trouble is when they have their helmets on. Unless all four are playing...
It's hard to believe Dad will be 91 years old in January. He's still in very good physical shape, but his memory is slipping. Hardly unexpected at his age.
Here he is sporting his new eye glasses. According to my brother David, these are from... the ELTON JOHN Collection. Not kidding.
Special kudos and a huge thank you go to David and his wife Beth for taking such good care of him for the last 7 years in their home. Caregiving of an elderly parent is one of the toughest jobs anyone can have, both physically and emotionally.
A pic of the whole family on Thanksgiving Day. Left to right on the couch: (on top): Carly, then Beth, David, Dad, Billy, Gracie, Jacob, Nick and Meghan. And of course, Max.
Nick and I continue to stay in touch and have lunch from time to time. When we do talk to each other, we prefer using FaceTime rather than just talking over the phone. I have no idea why. Here's one FaceTime call where I woke him up from a nap at 5:30pm on a Friday. Sorry, Nick. (sort of)
I'm in my 9th year performing at Unity, playing piano and singing, once a month. Church services have resumed on location and it has been great to be back in the building and seeing everyone.
In addition to performing music once a month, I also handle the live stream duties when Rev. Joanne and her husband, Joe, (who normally handles them) take their monthly weekend off. This is new technology for me but with Joe's excellent instructions, I've been able to step in without any major glitches.
I joined the Unity Church of Delaware's Men's Dinner for the first time on December 1st. Left to Right: Me, Joe, Paul, Bryan, Jefferson and Cliff. Good food and good conversation. Ya can't beat that!
Yours truly was able to perform at this annual church event for the first time since its inception. Had a great time working with all these wonderful performers. The short clip is just a portion of my contribution to the evening and also a portion of B J Searcy's contribution with me accompanying her.
I had two opportunities this year to play my 2019 Surprise Christmas Gift from Lonna somewhere besides my studio.
My good friend Joe Lambert celebrated his 70th birthday in June with some close friends and everyone brought an instrument to play, including me! Happy Birthday Joe! You are now officially a Septuagenarian.
Then on December 26th, Lonna and I were invited to the Bead People's Reunion Jam. Jim Fuller and his wife were in town from Wisconsin, and "the band was back together again" with a few "extras" from the In Spirit Band joining them in the fun. OMG! To say my left hand and its fingers were really sore after that little jam session would be a gross understatement. But it did feel good to play music with everyone. Lonna shot some video.
HALF A GANG
In May, we attempted to get the "Gang of Four" (former co-workers from MAPFRE Insurance) together for lunch. One of them - who shall remain nameless - forgot to put it on his calendar and the other (Rich) couldn't get out of a meeting in time. Seriously, it's like herding cats to get the four of us together for lunch.
So John Gardner and I met anyway, and had a great lunch. We'll try again soon to get everyone together. This time Steve, put it on your calendar! Whoops, did I write that out loud?
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FOURTEEN YEARS AND COUNTING!
2021 marks TGL's 14th year on stage and my 10th year with the band. The group has some great history that was shared by co-founders Mike Keller and Michael Doctor in this video.
The first part of 2021 was very challenging for the band. Although we were fortunate to have Flint Vasher join us in December, 2020 as our new bassist / vocalist, our search for a good drummer became a major endeavor and lasted until mid March (or so we thought), when we made this announcement:
TC proved to be a very good drummer that also sang well. We started working with him, sending him material and vocal parts and we were looking forward to our first in-person rehearsal once everyone was vaccinated.
At the end of March, we received a phone call from him saying he was going to re-join his previous band. WHAT A GUT-PUNCH! Our first booking for 2021 was at the end of May and here we were, two months away, with no drummer. True, we could have found someone to fill in until we had a permanent drummer, but we know from past experiences, that results in sloppy performances.
Our sound man, Ross Davis, mentioned to us that Marty Brasington was not doing anything currently and said that we might want to give him a call. Marty was our drummer from August, 2014 through December, 2018. The only reason he left the band was he needed a break from performing to pursue other interests and we performed too many engagements in a year to allow him to do both.
But going into 2021, we decided to cut back on the number of shows we want to perform each year, so we reached out to him. We had a great conversation and at the end of it...
Below is a pic from our first gig in 2021. It was still a bit chilly, but it felt GREAT to be back on stage!
We performed our last gig for 2021 in October. Our lead singer, Michael Doctor, had been experiencing severe neck pain that was also causing issues with movement in his right shoulder and arm. After an MRI, he learned that he needed surgery to remove bone spurs from his spine in the neck and upper back area. The surgery was performed on November 22nd.
While he was recovering at home, we decided to surprise him with a group visit on the 28th. With the help of his wife Susan, we coordinated the visit so all of us would be coming through the front door at the same time. He was very surprised and extremely honored that we would make this effort. It was a great visit with lots of laughs.
2022 looks very promising for the band. We go back on stage in January. For booking details, please visit our website.
We were finally able to bring all four Blasi siblings together in one place in October. Lonna's neice attends Miami University in Oxford, OH so we decided that would be a great place to meet. The campus is exquisite. The trails were fun. The food was great. But being able to see everyone for the first time in 2 years was the best part of the gathering. Here's a short clip.
Our four-legged best friend passed away this year on June 14th. He was a joy right up to the end, but when it became obvious he was in pain, it was time. We miss you, Koal.
My love affair with Toyotas began in 1986. Here's why. I drove my 2000 Toyota Avalon for 21 years - July 2000 to June 2021. It was, and probably still is, a great car. Nearly 248,000 miles later, I had a full inspection done on it because I knew necessary maintenance repairs were due.
Bottom line, it was due for it's second timing belt and second water pump, a second set of struts, rear sway bar links / bushings, a transmission flush, the driver side door lock actuator (which controls the locks on all the doors), a possible right rear wheel bearing, and within a few months, tires. None of this was anything more than regular maintenance (except for the wheel bearing and the actuator), but looking at spending about $4,500, it was time to say goodbye, even though it still drove well and looked good.
I was told by others that I, "...should have made $3000 on the car." That "...all cars in that price range need work" and that a "...clean car with shiny rims that runs is worth at least $3000." According to them, I was foolish for not getting more money for it. One person even told me that they, "...had a buyer that would pay $3000 sight unseen." Of course all this advice came after the fact.
I was able to sell the car right out of my driveway to the second person who drove by and looked at it. I gave him the full list of what it needed and he still wanted it. That's a true testament to the quality cars that are built by Toyota. The buyer got a good car at a very reasonable price, and he knows everything the car needs. By the way, he paid cash. This is why I sleep well at night.
Time for a Change ?
Due to extremely limited inventories at Toyota dealers, Lonna and I realized that we might have to go with another brand. So we test drove a Hyundai Sonata SE on Wednesday, June 16th and a Honda Accord LX on Thursday, June 17th. Both were base models with no extras. Both were priced within $1,000 of the Toyota Camry LE base model.
After driving Toyotas, these other models didn't seem to be of the same quality - especially the interiors and their ergonomics. Nonetheless, what brought us to the Honda dealership after test driving the Hyundai was a sale on a red, Honda Accord LX base model, with an ivory interior. I made the appointment that morning immediately after seeing it online but by the time we arrived at the dealership that evening, the car was gone. Even though that car was sold, we did test drive an Accord LX and told the salesperson that if he was able to locate another LX to our liking, we would be back.
That never happended.
It's now Friday morning, June 18th, and there are no Hondas, Hyundais or Toyotas in the area that we're interested in. While I was on a break at work, and desperate to stick with Toyota, I contacted one last dealership. They too had a very low inventory, but I emailed them anyway and asked them to contact me. Here's what happened...
The salesperson said he could hold the car until Saturday morning at 10am with a $250 deposit.
On Saturday, June 19th, without a test drive, we drove the new car home. Lonna wanted to take it for a spin so off we went up I-71. As she was driving, a smile came over her face. She looked over at me and said, "I feel like I'm home!" I couldn't agree more.
Lonna and I met on Saturday, May 15, 1993 at a place called Signature's Deli in Gahanna, OH. I was there supporting my musical partner at the time, Doug Smith, as he entertained for a special event his family was having. She was there with a couple of friends enjoying what I can only assume was a glass (or two) of red wine. I joined Doug on a song and after that, she and I struck up a conversation.
On Sunday evening, we talked on the phone for nearly two hours - something I'd never done before. On Tuesday, we agreed to meet for dinner. She was a bit nervous about having someone she barely knew pick her up for a date at her apartment.
We were married almost exactly three years later on May 10, 1996 at her parents' home by their minister. In 2021, we celebrated 25 years of marriage. Here's hoping we have 25 more.
I love you, Lonna. You're not only my wife, but my absolute best friend and confidant.
Reflection was a band I formed back in 1974, with its first performance in 1975. The band (and later, the duo) was together until 1983. In 1988, I put together a revival of the band that played at my bar in Gahanna, OH, The Music Man. (The Doug Smith, pictured below, is the same Doug Smith I worked with later in the duo Smith 'N' Kontras)
Noticing an FB post from bassist/vocalist, Gerry Rhodes, earlier this year, I contacted him and we had lunch together on August 26th. Gerry's unique sense of humor still shines!
Lonna and I purchased the house where I was raised in 1997. We then refinanced it when mortgage rates dropped drastically in 2012. Our goal was to be mortgage-free by the time we retired.
On November 15th, we were able to pay off the mortgage. What surprised us most about the process was that all we got for paying off the mortgage was this tiny little receipt! That's it! Nothing to sign. No forms to complete. Grocery receipts are longer!
I've worked since I was 15 years old. My path was certainly unconventional. My goal throughout my working years was to sustain myself in the music business. When it was no longer possible to make a living just playing music and afford things like health insurance and a mortgage, I worked full time at a day job while continuing to keep music in my life. Here's what I did for 56 years.
I can't complain about how my working life transpired. There are ups and downs in both the music business and the corporate world. Both are stressful and both can be rewarding.
The difference is the corporate world is controlled by a few at the very top with those working for them at their mercy. But the consequences for any decisions made also rest with them. In the music business, you have far more control over your successes and failures with the ability to make changes to your path without having to answer to others. Your decisions are yours and so are the consequences. Obviously, I prefer the latter.
I worked for a large corporation that showed little compassion or empathy for its employees. The pay was good and so were the benefits, but the daily stress was constant and that can result in poor mental and physical health. After that experience, I worked in a corporate environment, with the same pay and good benefits, that was very compassionate and empathetic to its employees. But my guess is that this is not the norm.
Even with all the twists and turns I confronted in the music business, it was never as stressful as some of my corporate experiences. There was always a way forward - a way to make things better - for everyone involved. The pay is certainly not as good or secure, but the personal rewards and sense of accomplishment are second to none.
My grandfather, Nicholas Kontras, died in 1946, before I was born, due to complications from a surgery to remove his tonsils. Apparently, he started bleeding profusely and the doctors could not stop it in time to save him.
All indications from family members who knew him say he was a very kind and generous man, even when he had little for himself and his family. He owned a small grocery store in Martins Ferry, Ohio. During the great depression (1929-1930), he helped people by giving them food with a promise that they would pay him back when times were better. When he died, my grandmother, my mother and my uncles were going through his things at the store and found a desk drawer full of IOUs dating back to the depression. It was obvious he had no intention of collecting any money from these customers. He wanted to help them without embarrassing them.
This year, for the first time ever, on August 7th, I was finally able to go to Martins Ferry, along with Lonna and my Cousin Denise, and find his gravesite. When Lonna finally located it, I started tearing up. It was as close as I would ever be to this wonderful man whose life was ended so abruptly. I will cherish this trip forever.
The other tombstone belongs to my Aunt Jennifer, my mother's sister, who passed away at the very young age of 22 from Rheumatoid Arthritis. She was older than Mom by a few years so I never met her. Both tombstones face the Ohio RIver.
Wow! I know time flies as you get older, but this past year went by super fast. That said, I had a great birthday.
First, my very creative cousin Denise, rose to the occassion with this surprise...
Next, my brother Nick stopped by. He chatted with Lonna and I while Lonna was putting up Christmas decorations and I was helping, mostly by staying out of her way. Then he and I went down the street for a cup of coffee. We ended up talking for nearly two hours. Thanks, Nick!
When I got home from my visit with Nick, Lonna and I decorated our Christmas tree - the first one we've had in 18 years.
Finally, Lonna and I sat down to a quiet celebration with some wine (non-alcoholic for me) and cake. Normally, we go to dinner to celebrate each others' birthday. This year, we decided it would be more fun to stay home, decorate our new tree, and have a quiet celebration. And then she surprised me with a book that I've been wanting to read since it was published earlier this year.
Thank you, honey!
THE HILL WE MUST CLIMB
Our experiment as a Representative Democracy is in desparate need of repair. And while all the elements (the Consitution) are still in place, we lack a commonality over respecting the law, telling the truth, taking responsibility for our actions, concerning ourselves with the health and welfare of others, and honoring those who are willing to set personal agendas aside for the greater good. With these principals now being challenged by many, including many of our elected leaders, the country we live in is at risk of becoming something we won't recognize in the next few decades.
Sadly, this is not hyperbole.
We are moving towards becoming an autocracy. And while it's easy to lay the blame for this "shift" in our country's behavior soley at the feet of the previous President, the truth is the elements have existed for quite some time, but were not exposed to the world until January 6th.
The well-known NBC News Anchor, Brian Williams signed off on December 9th for the last time, after 28 years with NBC. His words could not be more poignant.
So what can those of us who believe in our Republic and everything it stands for, do to change the direction? Short answer: Hold our elected officials accountable - at the federal, state and local levels. It's just that simple. If we don't, then any blame for the demise of this Republic is on each and every one of us.
Please stop believing...
...that voting the same people into office election after election will change things. That's insanity defined.
...social media somehow affects the outcome of an election. It doesn't. We do.
...people that are lying to you. Their lies do not benefit you in any way.
...that there is more than one set of facts. Nothing could be further from the truth.
On Inauguration Day, a young lady named Amanda Gorman stepped to the podium and spoke truth to power for the world to hear. She was only 22 years old at the time. Her words were not only inspirational, but a path forward for repairing our country, if we so desire. Her brilliance gives me hope for the future. Here is what she wrote. Here is how she delivered it.
STOP TRYING TO LOSE WEIGHT!
Over the last fourteen years and ninety pounds, I realized losing weight was only a symptom of what really happened to me. The truth is, I decided that it was time to take care of me first, to build up my immunity, to start feeling good, to get my energy back and to get really selfish about my health.
I still eat a lot of food each day: 2 eggs, fish or chicken (6-7 ounces), at least 2+ cups of vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, 2 types of carrots), 1 large tomato, kale, spinach, chard, 1 banana, 2 oranges, 1 apple, 2-3 cups of grapes and about a cup of strawberries. This is everyday, unless I make a change for a special occassion.
It took a long time and many attempts for me to realize that losing weight should not be the goal. It should be a by-product of the actual goal: being healthy enough to combat disease.
As for my health? I have what is known as mild Thalassemia. This is a hereditary blood disorder, commonly found in people of Mediterranean decent, which causes my body to have less hemoglobin than normal. This can make me slightly anemic and slightly fatigued. I combat this disease with the steps I outlined above.
I also have OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apena). I sleep with a CPAP Machine every night. This reduces my AHI (Apnea Hypopnea Index) from 34 events per hour to an average of under 10. (AHIs are periods of time when breathing stops. They typically last anywhere from 10-20 seconds.) Because Mild Thalassemia can cause my blood to be less oxygenated, making sure I'm breathing well during sleep is very important.
In my Lab Results from March of this year, you can see the Thalassemia indications show slightly lower than normal HGB, HCT, MCV, MCH, MCHC and Retic levels. None of the these numbers indicate a need for treatment. They have been very stable for years. The rest of my lab results are all in normal range. Here is the entire report. My weight ranges from 168-171 pounds. In 2007, my weight bordered on 260 pounds.
The flyer below is displayed in my office to remind me that I'm the guy on the left and will never again be the guy on the right.
A KONTRAS FIRST
Adam had no idea he was mentioned as the first video blogger in the 2017 Guiness Book of World Records, until this year. He is not only the first "vlogger" but also the first Kontras to be in the book!
It's located at the corner of North High Street and Morse Road in North Columbus. It was first built in 1956 and helped to introduce Clintonville to the "Choice Foods" at Jerry's Drive In. The restaurant also had in-car service and the best strawberry pie I've ever tasted. What many don't know is they baked all their own pies and pastries in their basement, which housed a fully equipped bakery.
This was THE north end car hop on Friday and Saturday nights in the mid sixties.
Jerry's was in business for 36 years. The picture below was shot from across the street at the corner gas station in the mid 1960s.
When Jerry's closed and was eventually purchased by TeeJayes Country Place, many were concerned that the large neon sign, which was in desparate need of repair, would not survive the change of ownership. But it did. TeeJayes opened its doors in 1993 with a repaired sign that was not nearly as animated as the original, but was okay. It broke down periodically, but they always managed to get it running again. Tee Jayes stayed in business until this year.
Once again, the sign's future could be in jeopardy. It appears that Chic-fil-A will be the new owner of the property. The plans call for keeping the arrow portion of the sign, but nothing is definite yet.
Let's be clear. The portion of this sign that is so iconic is the neon arrow. It was a technical marvel in its day. Today, neon is very rarely used and is more of an art form than a manufacturing staple. Even finding people who can create neon is difficult. And this sign needs all of it replaced - one tube at a time.
It's possible that small, narrow LED panels could be used in place of the neon strips, but each would have to be custom made because the arrow's shaft widens as it gets closer to the point at the top. Add the necessary digital electronics and you not only have a monumental task, but a monumental expense as well.
It's doubtful that any business would want to spend the money to re-create the original look. At best, they would probably remove all the neon, install large LED light panels, and have it stay on all the time or maybe create some far less animated version of the original.
I took the liberty of using the first picture above and re-creating the animation of the sign, adding the sounds of a typical Friday night in the parking lot. Some of you will certainly remember...
JUST WHEN YOU THINK YOU KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT...
Like millions of others around the world, these four guys changed my life forever. What this documentary did for me was made me realize that these were four musicians who, in the beginning, just got together to play music. First, as a basic cover band, The Quarrymen, and then as an originals band, The Beatles.
What separated them from the millions of others that have done the exact same thing (me included), was their exceptional ability to write hundreds of songs with some of the most unique and memorable melodies and chord patterns in popular music history - and do it all in about 6 years.
Others have created a song here and there that might qualify, but none have the number of songs with the depth and breadth of creativity this band had.
Lonna's father, Lou, passed a little over 6 years ago on June 30, 2015. In his memory, one of her best friends gave her a set of outdoor chimes. We named the chimes "Lou". When it's nice outside, you barely hear him. but we still say "Hi Lou" when we're on the porch.
When the weather is less favorable however, he's calmly talking to us, letting us know everything is going to be okay.
On December 10th, he was really talking...
The Clifton Mill near Yellow Springs, Ohio, is a well-known Christmas Season must-see. The display has been named among the nation's best Christmas Light displays for the last three years in USA Today. Named No. 2 in the nation in 2020, No. 3 in 2019 and No. 2 in 2018. It is the only Ohio nominee. It boasts nearly 4 million lights and has been illuminating the holiday season for more than 30 years. Lonna and I visited the mill on December 13th. Here's a short teaser.
THE NEXT CHAPTER
Now that I have no set work schedule, my body is relaxed, even bordering on lazy. But please don't misunderstand me. I'm still walking or on the treadmill everyday. I still hand wash the cars, although I now use a rolling shop stool for the lower portions rather than bending over. I still go up and down a flight of steps at least 10 times a day because my studio / office is in the basement.
My focus is on staying sharp mentally. I want to ramp up the video business and keep working on new techniques in both video and audio production. In addition, I plan to start songwriting again. Having the time to do all this without the interruption of going to work five days a week is such a blessing.
Gotta Love Friends and Neighbors
Lonna and I had some surprises on our last day of work. We found these on our lawn that morning.
Lonna received a couple of gifts from friends who were so happy she was no longer working. We thought this first one was very clever.
No woman should retire without having these...
For us, the first real effect of being retired was the following Monday, when we were able to get up at our leisure, enjoy a nice breakfast out and have absolutely nothing we had to do.
As a Christmas gift for Talya this year, Adam took a few pictures from about 5 years ago and had the grandkids re-stage them this year - sort of a "Then & Now" collage. The above picture is one of five.
Thanks for taking the time to read and watch my year end page.
Have a great 2022!
ALL YEAR-END PAGES