Saturday, January 21, 2017


Is there anything that has more earthy beauty than a produce stand? Squash are almost the color of freshly-churned butter. Cucumbers are a soft shade of jade. Cabbage with ivory veins ribbed around the leaves seems to spread out like an embrace.

Part of the experience of produce stands is holding fresh vegetables up close to my face and smelling its essence. The experience is different when buying produce from big-box stores. I get a sense that some of the veggies travel long distances in refrigerated trucks and spend time in warehouses before they make it to the shelves. They often lose some of the color and aromas. Our produce stand is only open four days a week so there are times when we need lettuce or bell peppers that we buy from the larger stores, but if given a choice, I opt for the local produce stand. Our produce guy knows what to pick up and which to pass up. 

In a few more months, we'll be picking fresh produce from our garden. Lettuce from raised beds in the backyard, and pole beans from the fence. It's the main reason we live so far from the city.

I'm not sure there is anything more beautiful that a backyard vine hanging full of tomatoes.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Same time last year

This week last year I was on my way to New Orleans for a conference. I love New Orleans. The food there is incredible. Back in 1980 after Hurricane Fredrick, I worked in Mobile for almost a year helping restore temporary telephone service and later when everyone was back in service, I stayed on to help replace the infrastructure. Jilda joined me and we lived at the Howard Johnson. Our address that year was HoJo, Gov. Blvd. Mobile, Al. room 232. 

The work that summer was grueling. Hanging wire, and digging trenches as the mercury hovered near 100 degrees with humidity so high that it made the air feel like Karo Syrup was brutal. At first, we worked as much overtime as we wanted, but the infrastructure work wasn't critical in nature, so our overtime work declined.  This meant that the crew was off every weekend. 

You can only go to the beach so much and then it becomes tiresome. So we branched out. We'd go to Biloxi, Mississippi, and other places within driving distance. But about every third week, we'd head down to New Orleans.

We had an opportunity to explore the city. The sites, aromas, and the music. I fell in love with the place

When I was there last year, Jilda couldn't get off work, so I went alone. That wasn't as much fun, but the conference left little time for leisure. But I did get a chance to enjoy some seafood.

 I hope you all have a remarkable weekend. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Visual people

The first time I stepped into this building was in 1983. I was beginning a new job after being surplused from my old one with MaBell.

I'd worked outside hanging miles of wire through the rural landscape of Central Alabama to connect phones for farmers, carpenters, and steelworkers. 

I enjoyed the work but at times it could be brutal. None of the service trucks were air conditioned then, so in August my van was like a furnace by lunchtime. 

It did have a heater but servicemen spend a great deal of time out in the elements where a heater does you little good.

I remember hanging on the south side of a telephone pole 30 feet off the ground with snow and ice blowing in my face. It was my last job before Christmas vacation and the people REALLY wanted their phone before the holidays. 

So I hung there, with the wind whistling in my ears. My fingers were frozen around the headset I used to call the assignment office. They were late coming back from their lunch Christmas party. I needed the cable pairs to make the connection for the phone. Cable pairs are the tiny twisted wires that connect a telephone to the world. 

As I hung there for what seemed like hours, I said to myself, "There's got to be a better way to make a living." The Universe must have heard me because when I came back from my Christmas vacation, my supervisor told me of cutbacks...and that I needed to find another job within the phone company or I'd lost my job.

I found a job as a computer attendant in the building above, and I worked there until March of 2010 when I was offered a voluntarily/involuntary separation. I could take the money and run, or stick around and take my chances. I ran.

The day I walked out of the building after 27 years there were geese on the top edge of the building. They honked as I walked to my truck. Some people, when the leave a job after working that many years, go back and visit. Not me. I never set foot in that building again.

This picture brought a flood of memory. We are a visual people.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Slow news day

It's been a slow news day here. I'm normally off on Wednesday, but the holiday on Monday made it a short week at work. Jilda is still recovering from the flu so I worked from home in case she needed to go back to the doc.

I'm not sure why, but I seem to get more done when working from my home office. There are fewer distractions, and it seems I can focus better.

The requirements for my job changed this year, so I'm having to revamp the approach to my work. Change is not a bad thing. It's easy to fall into a rut when you do the same thing for too long.

I wish I had something more profound to say. Maybe today would have been a good time to start Wordless Wednesday posts.

Grass Art

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Time near the water

Thanks for all the kind comments from last nights post. It was a beautiful weekend. We saw two sunsets, two sunrises, and a waning moon that painted a blue-silver swath on the surf.

There were some beautiful shells on the beach. Most were small, but I find myself picking up the perfectly formed ones that survive the pounding surf. I wonder what story they would tell if they could talk? 

We spent one New Years at Blue Mountain Beach, Florida in the early 90's. Our friends had bought a beach house in the fall and we helped them move from Atlanta with my truck and some U-Haul trailers. A few months later, they invited us down to spend their first New Year's with them in their new home.

We talked into the night on New Year's Eve, sipped champaign, and ate the best seafood gumbo I've ever tasted. Our friend Ron was a gourmet chef. 

A storm moved into the Gulf and forks of lightning stabbed at anything tall enough to dare it. A warm front did battle with a cold front infringing on its territory. Rain pounded the metal roof. We turned the music up loud.

The next morning, we rose early in spite of late night toasting. Apparently, the warm front won, because it was almost warm enough to swim.

We hadn't been on the beach five minutes when I found a perfect coffee bean trivia. Jilda spotted a conch shell that looked like one you'd see on a gift shop shelf. We found Gulf oyster drills, Scotch bonnets, and a Pectin maximus. (Not sure about the capitalization.)

We have baskets of beautiful shells on our shelves and every time I look at them I think of that New Year's weekend, and our friends.

I hope you all get a chance to spend some time near the water.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Birthday at the beach ~ my column from Sunday's paper

My birthday is this week. I celebrate 66 years on the planet.

Through the years, the gifts from my lovely spouse Jilda have evolved. During the early years when my hair was thick and my waistline was thin, she gave me records, books, and snazzy clothes.

This year, I got sweatpants with an elastic waistband and an In-Tone Rebounder exercise machine. The refrain from an old Sheb Wooley song, “I Just Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore,” flitted through my head.

On the upside, we reserved a condo at Orange Beach for the weekend, and I’ll have an opportunity to spend some time by the water. It’s a great getaway in January because the kids are usually back in school and we have the beach to ourselves.

We rise early, sip coffee while waking up and then walk the shoreline. We normally spend this time in silence. There is no better place for contemplative strolls.

My thoughts go deeper as I fall into rhythm with the ebb and flow of the waves. The concept of time seems out of place there. No matter how old my birthday bones feel, my spirit soars making me feel younger — ageless.

The sights, sounds, and smells of the ocean are like no other place on earth. When the sea is calm, the surf sounds like a whisper. But after storms, it sounds more like thunder, and you can feel the vibrations deep inside.

The colors at the Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and the Panhandle of Florida are like no other beaches I’ve ever visited. The sand is so white it looks as if you could use it to sweeten tea.

It’s hard to put a label on the color of the water when the weather is fair. It’s not blue, and it’s not turquoise, but a fusion of many shades from that end of the spectrum. I’ve always wanted a 1967 Chevy Chevelle SS the color of the Gulf in January.

Another reason for loving the beach is fresh seafood. I know I say almost every food is my favorite, but seafood is very close to the top of the list.

Usually, when we go to the beach, we’ll have an oyster Po’ Boy sandwich at least one day for lunch along with a cup of seafood gumbo. Then at night, we’ll hit one of the restaurants where the locals go.

These places are often under the tourist’s radar. Last year when we asked a hotel concierge about a good place for seafood, he told us about a high-dollar place that gets all the press. We’d read about the place, but we were hoping for some out-of-the-way place. An older woman who worked in housekeeping overheard our question and stepped over as we walked away from the front desk. She told us about a small restaurant nearby where her family went for seafood. It was perfect!

I’m excited about my birthday getaway and for an opportunity to reflect on all the blessings in my life. But there is an old saying that resonates with me as I celebrate my 66th year — “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of my knees.”

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Birthday boy

We spent the last two days at Gulf Shores on the Alabama Coast. As Jilda and I stopped at a red light, a blinking bank sign that reports the time and temperature. I glanced over and it as 3:25 and the temp blinked 81 degrees. It was Friday the 13 of January. 

Last year when we were here, it was much colder. When we walked on the beach I had to wear my L.L. Bean windbreaker. This year, I probably could have gone swimming at sunset. It was a low-key trip. We drove around and looked at beach properties. "This one has a good view, but I don't like the floorplan," said Jilda. "But this one has a great layout and faces the Gulf, and out the back, there's a view of the bay."  "O.K., it's settled. When we hit the lottery, we'll buy this one" I said. It's a game we play each year.

Other than house hunting, we didn't have a lot on the agenda. We walked on the beach and got in our steps while listening to the pounding surf and squawking pelicans. Walking on sand is a good workout plus, as Jilda says, "The beach is a natural luffa." We practiced for a few hours on our upcoming performance working out some of the rough spots. We both are reading good books by Verlyn Klinkenborg. I'm reading A Rural Life and she's reading his book entitled, A Few Lines About Writing. Both came highly recommended and after reading about half of mine, I knew buying them was a good choice.

Klinkenbork wrote opinion essays for The New York Times about life in the country. His prose is simply beautiful. I'm thankful our friend Christine Olhman recommended him.
Of course, we ate seafood for dinner last night with key lime pie for dessert. The birthday boy was happy. 

Jilda caught some kind of crud late last week and it hit her hard yesterday so we decided to head out early this morning so that she could contact her doctor if needed. 

As the coffee brewed this morning, I stepped out onto the balcony. Off to the east, the sun was peeking out of the Gulf. I felt honored that it was there to greet me on my 66th birthday. 

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