Friday, January 19, 2018

Fun Friday

We talked to a local coffee house today to set up a series of singer/songwriter events for this coming spring and summer. We'll do one event a month and have our songwriter friends join us.

Jasper is the county seat. Over the years, businesses in the downtown area fled to be closer to the the mall.

But the downtown merchants who stayed have worked for years to revitalize the area. Those efforts were in vain...until a few years ago. The city put a lot of focus on main street and all of a sudden those efforts are paying off. Seventeen businesses opened downtown this past year. Microbreweries, restaurants, retail and a coffee house all opened for business.

Now when you go downtown it's harder to find a parking place. You can sit in the courthouse square and hear music on Friday and Saturday evenings. You can hear the clatter of dishes and silverware and smell pizza and fresh seafood. It's an exciting time here. And believe me, we are way overdue.

We'll start our events in April and they'll run through August. We are cranked.

After we talked to the owner of the coffee house, we headed over to the Bankhead House for the opening reception for the Smithsonian  Waterways exhibit.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I had some pictures taken of the Sipsey Forks that they wanted to use in the displays.

When we got there at 2 p.m. the place was packed. We'll have to go back at a later time to have a chance to look at all the interactive elements of the display.

I was flattered they asked me to be a part of this event. Jilda snapped a picture of me by one of my photographs.

I hope your Friday has been a good one. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Moving on

Things are winding down at work. I spent much of today boxing up loaner laptops, books, and other things I've used in the last few years. 

I took a load to the Dean's office around lunch today. I have more to take in the coming days. And even more to toss before I start hauling my personal things home. 

I'll miss the view from my office window and the sound of rain on the cobblestone in the courtyard – and the way sunlight slashes through my blinds and crawls across my office floor.  I'll also miss the ornamental cherry trees that bloom early in spring. 

But it's time to move on and I'm excited about the next phase of my life adventure. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Change of venue

This morning when I checked the weather, the temperature in Empire was 8 degrees F with a wind out of the north that sent the "Feels Like" temp below zero. That's chilly for Alabama. It's been several years since it's been this cold. The last time it happened, we had a standpipe in the backyard that we used to water the birds. When I tried to turn it on, the faucet broke off.  I had to hustle to the water meter and turn the water off while I capped the standpipe. When the weather warmed, I removed that standpipe.

These days, I wrap all the outside faucets and if something outside needs water, we haul it in cans from inside.

I write my Sunday column on Wednesday, so I spent most of the morning tapping keys. After a late breakfast, we decided to take the dogs for a walk. There was still a little snow on the ground in the shade. When we walked the long path across the new property, I saw color out of the corner of my eye. A patch of snow-moss next to the path. Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a photo. I love the contrast of white on green.

Jilda had to work this afternoon and I wasn't sure about the roads so I decided to take her to work. There's a Starbucks not far from the facility, so I went there to write. I bought a mocha and New York Times. There was an empty table in the corner, so I spread my things out there and wrote my column in about 20 minutes. Sometimes, all it takes is a change of venue.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Second snow

The college sent out an emergency alert yesterday afternoon saying the college would be closed today due to the potential for hazardous weather. In the past, I would have whined about this because I'd have to make up the time. That's no longer true.

So this morning we slept until almost 7 a.m. We kept our eyes on the sky but the snow didn't come. The weather radar showed the clouds lifting just before the snow reached us. But there was more snow to the south in Mississippi. Around noon we began to see if fall outside our window. A flock of Orioles swooped in from the south to feast on the birdseed and suet we'd put out this morning. The flakes were slow to fall at first, but it got steady over time. It wasn't wet snow like the one we had in December. It was dry snow and not good for making snowballs.

The temps are dropping. It will be in the single digits by morning. I had to go out this evening and put long johns on our chicken.

The reason for the weather alerts is that the roadbed is still wet from the melting snow. By morning, it will be a solid sheet of ice. Schools will be closed tomorrow too.

Tonight, Jilda made chicken and dumplings with collards.  It was the perfect cold-weather dish.

I hope your Tuesday has been special.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Dodging a bullet

At lunchtime yesterday, I left my office at Bevill State Community College to attend a chamber of commerce lunch meeting. The sky was tombstone grey with light mist falling. Cranking up my truck, I sat for a moment while the engine warmed and the wipers squeaked on the windshield, looking for water to swish. I rolled the driver’s side window down to wipe the mist off my rearview mirror.

It wasn’t cold so I left the window down as I navigated the parking lot. A clicking sound came from somewhere underneath the truck. It changed rhythm as I slowed down, and that concerned me. Pulling to the edge of the parking lot, I stepped out to check the tires. The rear driver’s side tire had what looked like a piece of metal as big around as a kindergarten pencil wedged into the tread.

Running my finger over the object, I couldn’t tell if it was stuck between the tread or jammed through the rubber. Had I pulled it free, there was a chance I’d have to change the tire. That meant that I’d have to get on the ground to reach the spare tire. So, I opted to go have the tire checked instead of attending the lunch meeting.

I clicked down to Sayre Auto Parts and pulled up to the tire bay. They do all the work on my vehicles. The mechanic was there in a second and looked at the piece of metal. “That’s a bullet,” he said.” I thought he was joking until I had a closer look. It looked like a cartridge for a .357-magnum handgun. “I hope it’s a spent cartridge and not a live bullet” he said. I involuntarily stepped back.

He removed the tire and took it inside. Sloshing soapy water on the area around the projectile, he looked for air bubbles. When he didn’t see any, he reached for his pliers and pulled the object free and held it up for me to see. The spent casing hadn’t damaged the tire at all. I was amazed.

He bounced-rolled my tire back out and replaced it on the truck.

As he worked, I surveyed the sky. The clouds had thinned enough to make out the outline of the sun hiding above. I thought about the things that happen from day to day in our lives. I half expected to fork out a few hundred dollars to replace a tire that was not quite a year old. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened to me. I adopted something that Jilda’s dad Sharky used to say: “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

When I asked about the charge, the shop manager standing nearby said, “There’s no charge.” I tipped the mechanic and opened the door to climb back into my truck. The window was still down. The shop manager called to me as I cranked the engine, “I guess you could say you dodged a bullet.”

Pulling into traffic, I and thought to myself, “Yep, it’s always good when you can dodge a bullet.”

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Girls Rock

One of my goals this year is to straighten up my office closet. A while back when we decluttered, we took it in steps. The books, the music CDs, clothes, etc. The office closet what overwhelming and I kept saying I'd do it next. I lied. When I opened it up yesterday, a small piece of equipment fell from a top shelf onto the big toe of my right foot. The pain was exquisite. That one random reminder from Mother Nature upped the priority of cleaning out that closet. I started today. 

I threw a garbage can full of junk away, but there were several items that I needed to repurpose somehow. Then I remembered a project with which my friend Fred is involved. 

He works with the Girls Rock group initiative in Birmingham. The group works with young girls to teach them the basics of music. Many of the girls come from homes where buying a guitar would not be an option. At the end of the project each year, the girls do a concert.

Fred, who is handing refurbishing musical equipment was a natural as a volunteer for the group. He knows sound, performance, equipment, lights, and cables. 

I had an old electric guitar, an effects pedal, music stands, and some other equipment that was sitting in my closet. When I called to ask if they could use it, he said, "Of course." 

There is always a market for this kind of equipment. I could have put it on Ebay or on Facebook and sold it, but that didn't feel right.

I loaded up the stuff and took it over there this afternoon. Thinking about putting the equipment in the hands of a young girl and giving her a chance to find joy playing music seemed like the right thing to do.

The picture of me was taken just after Jilda and I married in 1974. The guitar is a Gibson Les Paul. I wish I still owned that guitar.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Alabama Ice Castles

We ate a late breakfast this morning. Since we'd be eating out tonight for my birthday, Jilda decided to prepare an Irish Breakfast. By, Irish Breakfast I mean eggs, bacon, grits, and biscuits. 

After we read the papers, we bundled up for a walk. The dogs were bouncing off the furniture, so I took them outside while Jilda finished bundling.  I remembered my gloves, but I 'd forgotten my toboggan. Halfway through the backyard, I felt a steady wind of out the north. One gust was so strong it made my ears whistle. I hustled back inside and got my headgear and pulled it down over my ears.

The walk was invigorating and the critters were beside themselves. They love the cold. When we headed around the old place and turned up the barn road toward the mailbox, I saw something you rarely see here in Alabama. Tiny ice crystals pushing up through the gravel and red clay.  They looked like tiny ice castles.

I bend over long enough to snap a few pictures. There wasn't as much color as I would have liked, but I still thought they were interesting.

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