Friday, July 03, 2015

Getting ready for the fourth

It's been an old rainy day here today. Even when the rain stopped the sun remained hidden behind the clouds. The humidity would build to a state near steam, and then the rain would return.

Jilda and I worked most of the day sprucing the place up in preparation for our company tomorrow. This evening Jilda looked at me and said, "How do you feel about Chinese food tonight?" I thought that sounded like an excellent idea.

I slipped into shoes and grabbed my wallet. A few moments later I was on the road. Calling in the order ahead is always a good idea. The sun had decided to make an appearance just before exiting for the evening so the drive was a pleasant one.

The restaurant is usually packed on Fridays, but everyone must be headed to the beach because the restaurant was almost empty. My order was waiting when I arrived.

A few moments later, I was headed home. Jilda was taking a shower while I was gone so I decided to swing by the forks of the river to get a fishing update.

Not many people were there either. My old buddy Randy from the Fly Shop was waiting to pick up a couple of kayakers who'd rented his kayaks to float downriver.

I didn't want the food to get cold, so I got the reader's digest version of the fishing report, snapped a quick picture of the river mist, and the headed home.

We plugged in an old movie that we both love and enjoyed our food. Tomorrow we'll hit the gound running to make ready for the Fourth of July fun.

I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.





Thursday, July 02, 2015

Evening stroll

I did yoga on the back deck early this morning. I try to alternate yoga and walking. The days have been warm and most days I need a shower after an evening walk.

The yoga felt good. Holding the poses for eight or 10 slow breaths gives my muscles a chance to relax into the pose. I did a plank, which is a the starting position of a pushup. You're back is straight and the weight of your body rests on extended arms. When you're in motion, the pose is not that difficult, but when you stay in that position of 10 SLOOOOOOOWWWWW breath, it feels like an eternity. My forearms quaked after seven breaths but I held it.

This evening, I finished up work and headed home. The sky was overcast so I decided to walk. Down behind the barn I came upon a small dogwood and one of the leaves had already turned. July just began and already it's ready for autumn.

By the time my timer sounded, I looked as if I had showered with my clothes on. Even in the heat, it felt good to get a little more exercise.




Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Gone fishing

My nephew Haven asked me to go fishing with him today. He had work to do this afternoon, so he wanted to go early.

Going early is fine with me. I was off today and the weatherman called for cooler temps and a chance of rain this afternoon.

I headed out at 5 a.m. for the rendezvous. We were fishing a private lake the size of New Hampshire, but he asked me to meet him at the forks of the river.

At 5:15 this morning there was no one else down there - shocker!  I wheeled into the lot and switched the ignition off. I rolled down the window while I waited. The engine ticked as it cooled and off to my left, I hear wings flapping. Out of the morning mist, a blue heron winged his way down stream, fussing because I'd interrupted his breakfast.

Haven arrived a few minutes later and we headed to the lake. While loading our fishing gear in the Jon boat, we could hear the bass pounding the water and it sounded like a child learning to swim.

I caught a small bream on my fist cast, but I released him back into the lake. That was the only fish I caught all morning.  I hung several fish, but lost them before landing them. Haven caught seven bass which will go into the freezer for our next fish fry later this summer.

I've been in a bit of a fishing slump lately but I won't let myself get discouraged. The best thing to do when you fall off the horse, is to get back on.



Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It's not in the manual

I love the work I now do. It's a job that's easy to love because I'm working with people who have been down, but get a chance to turn things around. They learn new things and some are finding meaningful jobs. It's been a slow process, but the last few months, I'm beginning to see results.

The downside is that some of the stories I hear are heartbreaking. I would never compromise the privacy of any of the folks I'm working with, but suffice it to say, some of their lives have been brutal. For some, their plight was the result of ill timing or bad luck. For some, it was the result of bad choices. I wish there was a tab in the manual that advised how to navigate sad situations, but they left that tab out.

I met one person for coffee this morning at a local restaurant. The sky was overcast with a nice breeze from the west so I asked if he'd like to sit on the patio. He said if given the choice, he'd always prefer to be outside. I grabbed our drinks and headed outside to join him.

After the coaching session, he seemed to want to talk. I had time, so I listened. He ticked through a string of events that did not turn out well for him.

We sat in silence for a while watching the traffic pass by. He did not minimize his responsibility for where he is today. I asked what he'd learned from it all. Looking off into the distance, he said, "All through my life, I've been good at making bad decisions."   He went on to say that he strives each day to make better decisions. I told him that was all any of us can do.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Summers without air conditioning ~ My column from Sunday's paper

This week, it’s been hotter than Satan spreading asphalt. Early this spring, I heard people whining about the rain, so I hope they’re happy now. When the rain did move off to the east in April, it left a sweltering sun and humidity as thick as honey.

Heat never seemed to bother me when I was a kid. I don’t remember anyone having air conditioners in those days.

Thinking back, air conditioners would have been a waste in those old camp houses because there were cracks in places wide enough to toss a puppy through. The only insulation people used was tarpaper siding and old newspapers stuffed into the cracks to keep the winter wind out.

We had an old belt-driven window fan with steel blades that we ran in the evenings. The fan was installed in an open window. The whirring blades sucked cool evening air through our open bedroom windows, making summer sleep possible.

When we built our new Jim Walter house in 1966, Daddy bought a new window unit from Sears, and the house seemed like a refrigerator compared to the old place.

When Jilda and I married, we spent the first 10 years in a trailer without air conditioning. We spent a lot of time outside in the shade, swatting mosquitos that seemed as big as pigeons. It’s always been hot here in the South, but we survived. Thankfully, we can afford to keep the air conditioning humming in our house these days.

I noticed an issue with my truck this week that I feared would get into my back pocket. When the bank thermometer blinked 106, it seemed to take the air conditioner in my truck longer to cool the cab than it took last summer. I ran down to see my buddies at Sayre Auto Parts to have them check the coolant.

Jerry, who is one of the owners, raised the hood and checked the metal pipes connected to the unit. He then stepped back and bent over to look underneath. Water puddled on the shop floor from the engine’s innards. I thought there was a leak, but he said it was condensation, which is a sign the unit was functional.

“I’d be willing to bet the coolant is not low,” he said.

He turned to me as he started back across the street to his office and said, “I actually know what’s causing the problem.” I listened as he pointed out that it was 103 degrees outside, I was driving a black truck and I was a year older.

A few moments later, the mechanic appeared and hooked hoses with gauges to the air conditioner. He watched intently for a few minutes and tapped the dial with his finger for good measure. “It was full of coolant.”

I walked across the street to settle up the bill. I sheepishly told Jerry he was right about the coolant.

He and a gentleman standing there got a good chuckle at my expense. I had to chuckle a little too but had he not been a friend of mine, I would have been tempted to lean over and smack that smug smile off his face.

I told him all I needed was a smart aleck mechanic, which only made him howl a little louder.

When I asked how much I owed him, he smiled and said, “No charge.”

They were still laughing when I drove out of the parking lot.



Sunday, June 28, 2015

Beautiful weekend

It's been dry here and hotter than habaneros. We'd been praying for rain. Apparently the Good Lord had written down the wrong zip code because it rained all around us, but not on us.

Then on Thursday night around a slap of nearby thunder jolted both Jilda and I from a deep sleep just after 3:30 a.m. A few moments later, the rain was playing our metal roof like a kettle drum.

Without a word, both of us got out of bed and walked onto our back deck. Looking into the darkness, we let the rain fall onto our faces. I know that sounds a little wacky, but we were both grateful for the rain. What made it even better is that the front that brought the rain dropped the temperature by 20 degrees. 

We didn't have plans for this weekend. In fact, we'd decided to lay low and rest up. But it turns out that both of us felt great and we did things that had been on our task list for some time. 

This evening, Jilda baked a chicken, did new potatoes, fresh corn on the cob, and green lima beans for supper. Samantha and Jordan walked over and had dinner with us.

After they went home, we did our gratitude ceremony, and then sat on the newly cleaned screen porch. The sun painted the sky burnt orange and amber before sliding below the horizon.

It was a perfect ending for a beautiful weekend.


Deck Flowers

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Adams Guitar

Jilda and I were doing the last couple of songs in our set Saturday night when two guys rumbled up outside on motorcycles and dismounted. I thought they’d head to a bar down the street, but they walked in to Berkeley Bob’s Coffee House. What’s even more odd is that one of the riders was holding a guitar. That’s something you don’t see every day, I thought.

He gently placed the guitar by a table and stepped up to the barista to order a coffee for himself and his friend. After ordering, he leaned against the counter and listened. Jilda launched into our closing song and I followed along, but I kept looking at the biker…then a flicker of recognition slid across my mind and the story began falling into place.

The biker was my old friend Carl. We worked together at MaBell for several years before I became un-jobbed. He had put on a little weight, let his hair grow to his shoulders and he now sported a beard, but there was no mistake. He smiled when he saw I recognized him.

Carl and I were close back then. We had breakfast together every morning and solved most of the world’s problems by 7:20 before hitting the data center floor running.

I thought of those good times as we hit the chorus of our final song, which gave it a lift.

When we finished, we thanked the crowd for coming out to hear us. I turned and secured my guitar in the stand, and stepped to the edge of the stage to hug my friend.

A lot of fond memories came to mind as we stood there taking stock of each other. But all those good memories were overshadowed by the memory of the last time I’d seen him three years ago.

It was at a funeral home, and he’d just lost his only child Adam, who died tragically in an automobile accident at the age of 24. Carl had been divorced for years, and Adam was his world.

It’s in my nature to try and find words of comfort, but standing in a sea of flowers with my hands in the pockets of my suit, the words would not come. I had no point of reference so Jilda and I just stood silently with him. When he did manage a few words, his naturally booming voice was not much more than a whisper. There are few times in my life I’ve seen that much pain.

I’d known Adam since he was in grade school. He became interested in guitar at age 12 and
wanted to learn to play. Carl bought him a guitar, and would bring him to the data center after work. He was small for his age, and the first time I saw him wagging the guitar, which was almost as big as he was, it made me smile. I stayed over several evenings and taught Adam the basic chords and how the changes fit together.

He was a sponge soaking up everything I taught him and soon he was playing the songs of his generation. Hearing him play made both Carl and me happy.

On Saturday night, Carl stuck around and we talked. He pitched in and helped us load all the sound equipment. When we finished, he stepped to the table, picked up Adam’s guitar and brought it to me.

“I want you to have this. You can keep it, or give it to another kid who wants to learn to play,” he said.  It was painful for him to see the guitar standing in the corner unplayed, and he felt that giving it to me would somehow completed the circle. He’d written a haunting poem entitled “Back Then” and tucked it under the strings inside the case.

We hugged again as we said our goodbyes and promised to not let time slip away before getting together again. 

I’m not sure what I will do with the guitar, but you can bet it will be something that honors Adam’s memory.

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