Thursday, November 30, 2006

Goodbye Aunt Jessie Ruth

The sky to the east this morning was the color of fresh butter. The winds out of the south felt more like April than the last day of November. The squirrels and chip monks were not fooled by the warm spell. They were scurrying around like banshees collecting seed, nuts and acorns. Parts of the Midwest will probably get snow and ice tomorrow but they are tight lipped as to what's in store for us.
We're headed to the funeral home tonight. One of Jilda's last surviving aunts passed away yesterday. She had Alzheimer's and the truth is, Aunt Jessie Ruth has been gone for a few years now. The last time we saw her she was in a state of confusion trying to place names to unfamiliar faces.
Jessie Ruth's husband, Uncle Raymond died several years ago during an Auburn/Alabama football game. Jessie Ruth made a hysterical call to Jilda's mom and dad with the news. We just happened to be visiting her mom as the call came in. We drove the few miles down there and stood in the kitchen drinking coffee as we waited on the coroner....we searched for words of comfort, but those words are rare. So we stood around making awkward small talk. The coroner arrived alone so Sharky (Jilda's dad) and I helped get Uncle Raymond out of the house and into the hearse.
Aunt Jessie Ruth was in the hospital when she passed away yesterday so the logistics were more simple but her death won't be any easier for her kids and grand kids who were left behind.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Christmas Season

The hints are getting less subtle now. They started out innocently enough a few weeks ago with a conversation with one of her friends...that's just a little too loud..."I really loved a watch Rick I saw at Rich's (department store) last week".....Or perhaps (to me) "that turquoise sweater looks so good on you think that color would look good on me?"....a silent HINT HINT.
Today there was a catalog by the computer left open to page 33, the corner was turned down with the item number circled and the word "small" scribbled in the margin. I pretend not to notice.
Soon the hints will be blatant......."ARE YOU GETTING ME THE BOOTS!!!!????" What boots? I say, as if I had just fallen off the turnip truck.
Fact is, I learned a long time ago not to leave Christmas presents up to chance. I'm good at a lot of things but I'd have better luck translating hieroglyphics to Mandarin Chinese than trying to guess what she wants for Christmas. I take her clues and I get her what she wants with a few surprises. Thankfully she does me the same way.
We don't spend a lot of money on each other. Some clothes, a CD or two, maybe a power tool, and a gift certificate to our favorite store. We spend most of or money on our nieces and nephews. We have a bunch of them and we get them nice things. We don't buy toys but we buy books, globes, games, art supplies or musical instruments. Usually it's not the first gift they turn to on Christmas Eve, but they are gifts they grow in to......they often keep the gifts until they are grown....long after the plastic toys are in a landfill some where.
I've got to run now, there's a sweater at Bloomingdales Online with her name written on it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Little Help From My Friends

The night air is nice tonight. I decided to do my writing on the deck while Jilda rustles up some supper. I offered to cook the cornbread but she was already pouring up the corn meal so I decided to write.
The half moon tonight has a ring around it.....making it look like a winking bulls eye. Usually when there is a ring around the moon, rain is on the way. The Weather Channel confirms my country forecast.
I've started preliminary work on the Best of Life 101. I'll be asking a few of my friends to send me their "pick of the litter". It's interesting to me what people enjoy. I'll write something that I'm proud of and nobody comments. I can write about an observation or a walk down memory lane and I get comments, letters, and phone calls. I guess the really good writers instinctively know what people will like and simply write that stuff. It is a mystery to me.
Next week (December 2nd) will be my one year anniversary. I've written every day....OK, it might be a stretch calling some of the entries "entries", but I'm doing it none the less.
My friend Dale told me a long time ago that writing can be a chore. "If it were easy...heck, everybody would have a best seller," he said. Some days the words flow like pure water from an artesian well and other days trying to get a decent sentence out of the keyboard is like pushing a chain. It's the good days that keep me at it....that and notes from my blog friends.
So, if any of you that have read this blog before have a suggestion for an entry to include in the book, please let me know because I could use a little help of my friends.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Deer Story

We saw a young deer this morning as we were drinking our coffee. She was down in the orchard having her way with some apples that had fallen off the tree. I tried to get a picture but the light wasn't right and she moved on to more promising food further down in the hollow.
It reminded me to get some feed corn because it's supposed to start getting cold this weekend. A lot of timber has been harvested around us so they come to our property for safe haven.
They've only started doing this the last few years. We built a fence and we keep our dogs fenced during the daylight hours. Before that, our dogs would tear out at the first whiff of wildlife and chase it to Indiana.
I love to watch deer. I went deer hunting with my dad when I was a kid, but I made it a point to never shoot one.
The coldest I have ever been in my life was one November when I was 16. We went to Sumter County on some land leased by a friend of my dads'. I wasn't that cold when we arrived but the skies were overcast and the wind was out of the west. Not long after I got to the stand, it started raining/sleeting and I got soaking wet. My dad had told me "what ever you do, don't go walking anywhere until we come back for'll get shot!" So I stayed put and what started out as a little shiver turned into full blown shaking. I was chilled to the bone and it seemed like it took hours for them to come and fetch me.
I found an old beech tree that had a deep hollow place in the trunk from a long ago forest fire. I crawled in there and covered myself with leaves and straw. I was in that tree about an hour when a deer as big as a Buick came right up beside the tree and walked close enough that I could have petted him. The wind was blowing from behind me and carried my scent in a direction away from his ever alert nose. I just sat still and never raised my gun. All of a sudden the deer started and ran away in the blink of an eye. A few moments later I could hear the Jeep coming for me.
I didn't mention the deer until dad and I were on our way home. "Why didn't you shoot it!" he asked. I stretched the truth and told him I was too cold. The truth was, I couldn't bring myself to shoot such a magnificent animal.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Vacation's Over

This afternoon we rode down to the home of our friends Tom and Judy who live on the Warrior River. It has been a beautiful day and we spent some time sitting in their new gazebo which is situated at the edge of the river. The sun was setting behind the hills and hollows and bathed the eastern bank with a crimson and golden light. As we sat there drinking coffee the reflection of that light off the water looked like a Cezanne painting. They don't make paint that color. It can only be mixed by God or artists with good eyes and pure hearts.
Fishermen puttered by in john boats in search of autumn bass. They waved in passing which is customary on the river. Folks that live on the river have their own little community. Often on weekends when people cruise lazily up and down the river they will pull up to "howdy up" with folks out sitting on their docks. They will pass some time just chatting about family happenings and rivers stuff.
It is a wonderful way to spend some time....I've come to learn is very difficult to feel stress on the river.
Today was the last day of my vacation and I can't think of a better way for it to end.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Chico's Gone

My niece was so happy when we let her keep the Chihuahua that we found a few months ago. It wandered up in our yard half starved and eat up with fleas. It had been on its own for some time by the looks of his coat.
We tried our best to find its owner but no one came forward. We were perplexed as to what to do because we have too many dogs already. Samantha, our niece who lives next door said she would care for him until the owner showed up. Well, the owner never showed up and Chico, as she called him bonded with her. I could tell she was becoming attached to this dog because when I went over there earlier in the week he was sitting in her lap as she watched TV.
She had started buying him Christmas outfits and planning for a Christmas photo that involved a hat for her ferret and antlers for Chico.
But due to one of those random events, Chico was killed by a car this afternoon. Sam had let him out to use the bathroom. We live on a dead end road and there's not a lot of traffic. As she stood watching from the porch, Chico ran to the edge of their year and then right in front of a neighbor's car who never saw the little dog until it was too late. He jumped out and ran back to check on the dog but he was gone. The old neighbor was saddened because he could tell by the look in Samantha's eyes that she was heartbroken. "There was nothing I could do," he apologised. "I know," she said "I could tell you never saw's OK." The old gentleman picked up Chico and put him by the side of the road and reluctantly left.
Her mom and dad were out of town but she called them and her dad called me to go over and check on her. She was acting strong, but I could tell she had been crying. I took Chico and buried him in her back yard under an apple tree.
I went back in afterwards to wash my hands and I stayed with her for a while. I tried hard to think of something to say but for someone who works with words every day, I could not think of anything. So I just said I'm sorry and that I love her.

Friday, November 24, 2006


We took a quick road trip yesterday and returned today. I'm whupped.
More tomorrow.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


For us, the nature of Thanksgiving has changed. Ever since the early 70's we have spent every Thanksgiving at the home of Jilda's parents. The turkey went into the oven before first light and cooked slowly as the rest of the meal was prepared in its time. Watching Jilda, her sister and her mother cook was like watching a dance.
The kids, grand kids, nieces, nephews, and friends began to show up around 11 a.m. and the volume level of the chattering and laughter sounded like a rowdy bar on Superbowl Sunday.
We would start jockeying for position just before noon and as soon as the blessing was said it was Katie-bar-the-door. When everyone got their food, the noise level dropped dramatically as we all stuffed ourselves.
Like I said this was the routine until last year. Jilda's mom passed away in early November and we were all still mourning during the holiday season. But this year, it begin to sink in. We placed a For Sale sign in front of the old home place yesterday which drove home the point that Thanksgiving, for us would never be the same.
Jilda started calling the grand kids, nieces and nephews a few weeks ago and everyone has plans that don't include us.
Ruby (Jilda's mom) was the gravitational force that kept the family together and now that she is gone, we are left to drift apart.
A friend called this morning and was a little stressed because their parents wanted all the kids to come to their house. "The house is small and it's a pain..........." "Let them have Thanksgiving at their house," Jilda counseled "you will be having it your house way too soon."
Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Another Roadside Attraction

Natural Bridge was in its heyday in the late 50's/early 60's before interstate highways diverted the flow of traffic away from small town two-lane byways and onto mind numbing stretches of four-lane highway with exits jammed full of fast food joints and cookie cutter gas stations.
Natural Bridge is a privately owned park is located just off highway 278 between Double Springs and Hamilton, Alabama. The Natural Bridge is a double span of sandstone and iron ore that lays like a giant foot bridge across a natural amphitheatre. The small park has huge Oak, Hickory, a type of fur and a type of hemlock that according to the handout says dates back to the ice age.
There were some very nice picnic areas with BBQ grills. There was a small gift shop with handmade items made by local craftsmen. I enjoyed the hiking path that meandered among the rock and trees. We saw all kinds of ferns. The handout says there are 27 different varieties.
The old gentleman who owns the place looked happy to see us. He stood and talked for a long while. I knew I would like him right off because when we went in to pay the small admission I was going to stay outside with Ol' Buddy. The owner said "hey, come on in...he's welcome too. What's his name?"
The thing that was remarkable to me was the silence. Standing under the bridge, looking up you can see patterns in the rock which have been created over thousands of millennia. The trickle of water seeping out of the stone was melodic. My blood pressure dropped 20 points just standing there.
Jilda and I both love roadside attractions and we make it a point to take side trips at every opportunity. I'm really glad we found time to visit this roadside attraction.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Old Barn

There is some color left in the leaves here but most of the color is south of here. The wind and rain have stripped the the hickory, maple, and poplar trees down to bare limbs. It's beginning to look like winter here.
I went down to the barn and winterized my old tractor this morning. It's a 1949 Ford that has been like a faithful friend for many years. It don't have the bells and whistles of the newer tractors shipped here from Japan and Korea but it cranks when you need it and it turns furrows straight and deep for our seasonal gardens.
I sat in the loft window of the old barn with my legs dangling down. We don't have cows now, but the old barn still has the smell of hay and livestock. It's hard to think about deadlines and conference calls sitting in that barn. It has electricity but those walls have never heard the sound of a phone.
I'm getting to a stage in my life where I long for the solace that my old barn provides. I have less patience for shallow people who believe that anything less that total dedication to a company is foolishness.
I guess you can tell I really needed this vacation.

Monday, November 20, 2006


I've been keeping a journal for almost 30 years. Even before I bought real journals, I had notebooks full of thoughts, ideas, pieces of songs and poems. A great deal of what I wrote is similar to what I write on this blog.....things I see, hear and feel. In reading back over the journals, I used to beat myself up a great deal. I'd set a goal and if I didn't reach it, I laid it on hard. Some of the goals I set were unrealistic so I set myself up for failure.
I always took my journal when I traveled and I dedicated a great deal of time describing what I saw and how it affected me.
A year is a pretty good piece of your life and if you don't do something to help you remember, you lose valuable experiences.
Today as I went through some of my journals, I came across an entry for the first time I ever went to California. Reading those pages sent me back to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes. I went to Fisherman's Wharf and had hot clam chowder in a sour dough bowl. I walked to the end of the wharf and saw the sea lions that lounge on platforms built especially for them. From the end of the wharf, you can see Alcatraz and on beyond Marin County and the bay side town of Sausalito. You can also see the Golden Gate Bridge.
The fruit, seafood and vegetables were fresh and aromatic. I saw a hand carved carousel horse that was as big as a pony and was a work of art.
It was a joy reading back over some of those old journals. Taking the time to write about your life as it happens is a gift that keeps on giving. Not only to yourself but to those you leave behind when your journey is over.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Shooting Stars

We set the clock for 3:45 a.m. to watch the meteor showers that were predicted early this morning. We were psyched when we went to bed, but when the alarm went off Jilda was less enthusiastic. "You go look and come back and get me if you see any," she yawned.
I stepped out on the porch and the air was cold but the sky was clear as crystal. I watched the night sky for a long while but I saw no shooting stars.
Sometimes you see them and sometimes you don't. The ones that were supposed to make an appearance last night were Leonid Meteors. They arrive every year around Nov. 17, when Earth passes close to the orbit of comet Tempel-Tuttle.
Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through the trail of debris left by comets - clumps of ice and stony particles that become visible when they get near the sun. While Leonid is one of the more famous meteor showers and can be spectacular, its radiance depends on the year. I learned this from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Web site.
Several years ago when my nephews James and Haven still lived next door we spent a Saturday night watching meteors. We saw on the news where a shower was predicted so we got lawn chairs, popped up a bucket of pop corn, made some hot chocolate and watched them for hours. Some of the meteors shot by so fast that if you blinked your eye, you'd miss it. Others appeared like a slow pitched softball....natures fireworks extravaganza.
Last night as I stood out on the deck in my pj's freezing my butt off I did not see the first shooting star but that's OK. If you saw them all the time, they would no longer be special. Instead of being a thing of mystical beauty, they would become ordinary. Shooting Stars are a gift the good Lord provides to us free of charge and I would hate for Him to think I was ungrateful.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

My Cousin Joe

I just got off the phone with my cousin Joe. He now lives in Florida but he was born and raised right here in Walker County. He has had a hard life. His dad left the family when he and his younger brother were kids and his mom struggled to to make ends meet. There were times when Joe lived with us for long stretches of time. We were very close as kids. I still love him like a brother but time and distance keeps us from visiting as much as we'd like.
In the spring he bought a used motorcycle against the wishes of his wife. He should have listened because he had a really bad accident on the way home. He broke too many bones to name. He survived, but doctors gave him little hope of walking again.
Joe has always been hard headed and he had made up his mind that he would not only walk, but he would go back to work by the end of the year. He has spent months in rehab and there were times when I talked to him, he sounded down. But he remained determined.
He called tonight to let us know he starts back to work on Monday. He is still using a crutch but he's been fitted with a new brace that will help him to walk almost without a limp. He is excited and I'm excited for him.
The day his wife called to tell me about the accident, I had been thinking about buying a motorcycle. Gas was high as a kite and I thought I could save some money. After talking to Janet, I decided that a bike was probably a bad idea for me. When I told Joe that I had decided against buying a bike because of his accident, he said "we at least there was something good that came from it."

Friday, November 17, 2006

Richer Than Most

Our old friend Clarke Stallworth is a remarkable writer. He has been a friend to Jilda and me since the early 70's. He was once the editor of the Birmingham Post Herald...or maybe it was the Birmingham News but his true love was writing.
He called Jilda one summer morning in 1987 asking if she knew of any interesting stories. Jilda was working in public relations for Wallace State Community College at the time and she had met an older fellow that lived up near Holley Pond who made guitars, fiddles and banjos.
Jilda called up Arlon Moon and asked if he would mind if Clarke came out for an interview. Arlon said y'all come on out and we'll talk a spell. I was off that day so I decided to ride up too.
It was a Friday in mid-July and we headed up to Holley Pond before lunch to avoid the afternoon heat. I took my camera and and shot some photos while Clarke did the interview.
Arlon and his family were delightful people. He told stories about their life in the country...about music and the joy of building musical instruments.
We were on the front porch just before lunchtime and I caught the aroma of chicken frying and corn bread (made from corn meal freshly ground in their mill) baking in the oven. We were starving and Clarke said "we better be heading back to Hanceville, we don't want to keep y'all from your lunch."
"There's-a-plenty for everybody, won't y'all join us." Clarke said "we wouldn't want to impose"...I started to slap him naked and hide his clothes (as aunt Ester once said).
Arlon's wife said "if we didn't want you to stay and eat, we wouldn't-a-ask you." So we stayed.
We ate not only the chicken and cornbread but fresh corn, black eyed peas, tomatoes, and hot pepper that was grown right out back.
After we stuffed ourselves, we went out on the front porch again and Arlon picked a few songs on his banjo.
They didn't have a lot of money but they were happy and as I came across this photograph tonight it occurred to me that they were richer than most folks could ever hope to be.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I'm sorry I made you cry

As I was sitting here tapping my keyboard trying to think of something to write when my second line rang. It seldom rings because....well, it's my second line and no one has the number.
Hello, I said. "Who is this!" came a terse voice. "I don't know, I can't see you," I said. I heard a laugh on the other end of the phone and then "I must have the wrong number."
I always say that when someone calls and asks "who is this?" Spanky from the Little Rascals did this one one of the old episodes. The principal called the Spankster's house because the latter was absent from school that day. The phone rang and Spanky said, Hello. The principal crossly said "Who is this?" Spanky said "I don't know, I can't see you." The principal who was not amused said this is principal Sam, now who is this? Spanky said "that's easy, you just told me you're principal Sam."
I am amazed at how funny TV (and movies) were back in the 40's, 50's and 60's and never was an "ugly word" uttered. The Beverly Hillbillies, Andy Griffith, Bewitched, and a zillion others kept us in stitches without degrading women, minorities, or others. The humor was not mean spirited. Had there been "cussin'" on our TV, it would have wound up in the yard. Momma would not have stood for it. She takes a dim view of a foul mouth. Even today she would whack at me with her walker if I made an off colored remark within ear shot.
I think dirty humor is easier. Comedians can utilize practically any kind of profanity, or make any group the brunt of jokes and someone will laugh.
I believe clean humor takes more thought. I'd like to hear your opinion on this fact, I'd like to post some clean jokes. If you have a good one, send me a comment. I'll start it off:
Knock Knock
Who's there?
Boo Who
I'm sorry I made your cry

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Old Cars

I thought for sure my old Chevy would sell by now but it hasn't. It has some things that don't work and a few rough spots which probably steered prospective buyers away. So this winter I'm going to put it back into shape and sell it in the spring when the weather starts warming up and people are getting tax refunds.
There's just something about warm weather that puts people in the mood to buy a car. This car is not for just anyone. It's big and powerful and sounds like a million bucks. Most young folks opt for new Mustangs, and foreign cars with ear splitting stereos and exhaust systems that make the car sound like a cross between a sewing machine and a mad mosquito.
But guys who remember the 60's and the muscle cars: GTO's, Olds 442's, Chevy Chevelle, Impala SS's, Cameros, Nova's, and Dodge Challengers and Super "B"s look at my old lust. I'm not talking about like.....I'm talking about lust. The Beach Boys sang about all our great cars from that era.
I've gotten away from working on my cars the last few years so it will be a change of pace to get down in the barn and spend some quality time with real metal.
My real fear is that when I get it back in tip top shape, I won't want to sell it.
Oh well. We'll see what happens next spring.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Can't Get Started

I've worn my back key out tonight. I've had a number of starts only to click, click, click. Not sure what causes it and there is no need to get upset with myself because it will pass....just not tonight.

Monday, November 13, 2006

My Camera

I saw a black swan swimming on a pond before sunrise this morning. The fog was thick in places but when I saw the swan, I hit the breaks and started to reach for my camera but this morning a car was behind me. There are NEVER cars on that road in the early morning hours.....but this morning there was so I missed the photograph.
I have had a camera since the early 70's and when I worked for The Community News, I took my camera everywhere. I shot thousands of pictures.... and I have a plastic tub that is full of photographs to prove it.
But I got out of the habit and for several years the only time I shot photos was when we traveled. For the last year or so, I've gotten back into the groove and now I don't leave the house without my camera.
Last night after I posted my entry I had a few minutes so I hit the "Next Blog" button and jumped to a beautiful Blog by a lady who moved from California to 63 acre farm in Montana (I think). She does a picture of the day and these pictures are great! It was a joy reading over her daily experiences on the farm. She too has gotten into the habit of taking her camera with her. It's a good thing to do because you can never tell when you will see a rainbow, a tree, a deer, or a black swan.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sad News

It was overcast this morning and the wind out of the west was cool. We were sitting in the living room drinking coffee and reading when I happened to look out the french doors towards the barn. The Autumn breeze was blowing leaves across the field and it looked like a ticker-tape parade.
We got a call this morning from one of our oldest and dearest friends. She had found a lump last weekend and doctors removed it on Monday. The preliminary indication looked good but she got a call back from the lab on Friday with news that stung. The tears in Jilda's eyes told me more than I wanted to know. After she hung up Jilda managed to say "she's got breast cancer and......." but my mind would not accept any additional information.
I choose to believe that our friend will be fine. But it breaks my heart to think about all that she will have to go through before she can say "I'm a cancer survivor."
I know she will need a great deal of support. Jilda and I have been brain storming all day thinking of things we can do to help. If we can do one thing that gives her comfort or makes her burden a little easier to bear it will have been worth it.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

New Blogger Software

Google Blogger has been bugging me to go to their new software so I converted over today. Please let me know if you see any problems with the new blog area, please let me know.
I've also been looking at Google Earth. I am totally blown away by this software/service. I was looking at Panama recently when I was writing about David Panama. I could not believe how much that area has grown in the last 30 years.
While I was scanning other parts of the globe, I saw tiny red triangles. I wasn't sure what they were until I clicked on one and discovered that it was a volcano. When you click on the red triangle, it shows you a picture of the volcano and gives you in depth information about it.
When looking at populated areas, you can seen an incredible amount of detail. For example I looked up the address of where I work in Hoover. Not only could I see the building, but I could see my truck....not a lot of detail but enough to know that it was my truck.
If you haven't downloaded the free Google Earth software, I highly recommend that you do it and give it a try. I think you too will be amazed.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Off Day

The weatherman said it would be 80 degrees today but I don't think it ever got there. I was off today and spent my time getting things done. New tires for the truck, oil changed, hauling off garbage to the dump and taking a load of stuff to the Hannah Home (Charity Thrift Store).
Jilda had a painting gig for a new kid's store up in Carbon Hill and she asked me to run up and shoot a photo of the wall she had painted.
Me and Ol' Buddy headed west and got on the Appalachian Highway and drove towards Tupelo. I rolled down the glass and Buddy got in my lap and barked a passing traffic. "You git over here close and I'll bite your ear off," he seemed to be saying.
The sky was overcast and though the leaves were beautiful, when I tried to shoot some pictures, they looked muted.
After shooting the pictures in Carbon Hill, Buddy and I took the long way home. We turned south off of the old highway 78 and turned on highway 102 which goes by the Wolf Creek Wildlife Management Area. Ol' Buddy looked out the passenger window as if he were trying to memorize the route in case he had to find his way back alone. We were back in the sticks. I'm guessing these folks don't get Friday's TV programs until Sunday afternoon.
We stopped and got a chocolate milk shake. I thought it was a little pricey until I tasted it. The young girl making it put in three scoops of homemade chocolate ice creame. I got a buzz from the chocolate. It was worth every penny.
Tonight I went to see my high school team The Dora Bulldogs in the first playoff game of the season. It was a close game but Dora managed to win 21-14. I'm not sure who they play next week but each game gets more challenging. I hope we can go all the way this year.
Go Dawgs.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Road Trip

It was late in 1972 in Panama. The guys in the barracks had a hankering for a roadtrip so we all hopped the train to Panama City, pitched in and rented a Ford and hit the road.
We'd spent months by the ocean in the heat. The Fort Sherman was slightly less humid than a glass of water. Someone said "you know in the highlands near David, Panama there are square trees." That was enough to send us on a mission.
We were on the road for a few hours gradually climbing above sea level when we saw a roadside attraction that served food so we decided to grab a bite. The sun was on its way down and the place had an outside area with Christmas lights everywhere. A band was playing an odd mix of salsa and meringue with a touch of reggae. The waitresses couldn't speak a word of English and we couldn't speak that much Spanish, but we managed to order up some chicken and some kind of bread/biscuit/roll things. We listened to the music and drank Panamanian beer and fresh rum. A couple of the guys danced with the waitresses and tried to make some time, but the girls only wanted to dance. We decided it was unwise to drive impaired so we decided to sleep in and on the car. My friends Dave, Doug and I lie there on the hood watching the stars from near the equator. Without competition from city lights, the view was stunning. We talked ourselves to sleep and continued our journey at daybreak.
The road was as crooked as a river and we soaked in the change of scenery in silence. The trees got somewhat taller and we saw sloths, raccoons, and a ton other critters that we couldn't name.
We spent the weekend in and around David taking in the sights and keeping an eye out for square trees. My buddy Dave stopped a policia on a big ol' Harley Hog to ask about the square trees. None of us knew how to say square....or trees, in Spanish so we tried our hand at sign language which was no help either. He pointed us towards an outdoors toilet. I know it probably doesn't sound that funny now, but we laughed until we cried.
On Sunday morning it was time to head on back toward Panama City. We had to make it back before dark so that we could catch the last train back across the isthmus to Fort Sherman.
It was a good weekend. One that stands out in my mind even after all these years. That trip was like so many road trips you take in set out with goals and are looking for one thing but you find something quite different.
That's what is so amazing about life. If you keep an open mind and expect to see remarkable things, you will always see remarkable things.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Exciting New Job

The first time I ever had Chinese food was in Central America when I was stationed in Panama. I obviously didn't speak Chinese and didn't speak Spanish that good either. I thought I was ordering egg roles and soup but they brought me some kind of fish with the head still attached. It had an accusing eye that stared at me no matter where I moved it on the table. It reminded me of a teacher I had in grammar school.....long story that I'll save for another time. Fortunately they also brought noodles which I did eat. I was mindful from then on about ordering Chinese in Spanish.
I was thinking about that fish this morning....not sure what could have prompted it, but there it was. So I started thinking about Chinese for lunch.
The dark clouds dispersed about mid-morning and I was ready for some sunshine. Hunan Gardens is not too far from where I work so I started ambling toward it on foot.
The sky was blue as a swimming pool. Big white puffy clouds were drifting lazily toward the east. The temperature was about 65 with a light breeze out of the west. The sun felt warm on my face and my spirits were high.
Hunan Gardens is a great little Chinese Restaurant with sudden service and killer Hot and Sour soup. I got what I always get when I go there - Moo Goo Guy Pan.
I sat alone, ate slowly looking at the ceiling, the art on the walls and the people eating there. It's one of my favorite past times....watching people I mean. I looked around but didn't see anyone having fish.
I paid my check and got a fortune cookie on the way out. It said "An exciting new job is about to present itself." Now that was good news indeed. Of course I always add two words to all my fortune cookies.......In bed. Try it the next time you read a fortune cookie. It adds an entirely new dimension to fortunes. "An exciting new job is about to present itself IN BED".

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

I probably should have waited until this evening to vote but I always fear getting stuck at work or caught in traffic and not making it to the poll in time to vote. I could count on one hand the number of times I have NOT voted since I got the right.
It had rained hard last night. At one point it rained so hard it sounded like Niagara Falls outside our bedroom window. It had not slowed down much when I made a mad dash for the truck at 6:50 a.m. When I rolled into the parking lot of the union hall in Empire, there were only a few cars there. When I filled out my ballot and poked it into the machine it said number 6.
Election day has a storied past in Alabama. I can remember when it was illegal to sell/buy alcohol on election day. I can only imagine that it was because some crooked politician would hit the poor sections of the state and get all the hillbillies and black folks tanked up enough on cheap hooch that they would have voted for Stalin. I guess by prohibiting the sale of alcohol on election day, that only the clever crooks who stocked up on the hooch prior to election day could sway an election.
I figure at some point the Alabama legislature decided that the electorate was now educated enough that they wouldn't fall for such a ploy..........or perhaps they thought the only way the could get re-elected was to repeal the liquor law use the Thunderbird Wine method for increasing voter turnout.
We'll be watching election returns here in a few minutes and things may get interesting.....or not. I bet if I got tanked up on T-Bird, I wouldn't care until in the morning :)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Election Eve

Driving in this morning the sun peaked through a bank of grey clouds which dispersed the light. It looked much like I always imagined it would look like at the dawn of time. The wind kicked up and the autumn leaves started turning loose in a shower that looked like crimson snowflakes.
The cold rain moved in late this afternoon and between my swishing wiper blades it looked like winter.
Tomorrow is election day. I'm not sure about you, but I'll be glad when it's over. Not only have we been bombarded on the TV with negative ads from both parties, but we have also been getting a ton of phone calls...usually while we're eating.
I find myself becoming discouraged. I long for politicians that work for us instead of spending ALL their time working on getting re-elected....afraid to make an unpopular stand for fear that the oil industry or the drug industry or the gun industry or the farmers might not approve.
I'm concerned about our future and the future of our children. But like the rain tomorrow - chances of me voting is 100%.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sunday Fun

Most folks would think we were crazy but we spent our Sunday morning doing chores. We have a small utility room where the washer and dryer live. The TV was once in our living room but that was counter productive. We'd come in turn on the boob tube and watch it until it was time to go to bed. We decided to make it harder to watch TV so we moved it to our utility room. There's not a lot of space in there....just a small love seat and ottoman and the TV. The love seat is not that comfortable so you really have to want to watch something badly to endure the experience.
It is also Jilda's paint room and the room where all extra stuff gets stored so to call it a mess would have been a gross many states, it would have been condemned.
After our morning coffee, we tackled this room and threw away a truckload of stuff that was sitting there collecting dust. We were brutal.
After this room I tackled my office with the same enthusiasm. We cleaned the aquarium, light fixtures, front windows and one of the closets. By lunch time we were both whupped so we took a nap.
This evening we went to a friend's house a wrote a new song. The writing session started out amiably but soon deteriorated rapidly and before I you could say melody we were writing a song about an aging stripper. We laughed until we cried. Not sure where we would ever sing this song or who in their right mind would ever record it, but it was a scream to write.
Tonight we are settling in and we are going to watch A Prairie Home Companion. It should be a good way to close out Sunday.
Do something remarkable this week.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Our Walking Path

I felt like Forest Gump today on my riding lawn mower. The late afternoon sun was warm but the breeze out of the north was cool on my face. I cut the entire field between the house and the barn. It felt great!
I also cleared our walking path down to the bluff behind our house. This path was once a little piece of heaven. It meandered gently down a sloping hill through huge Oak, Hickory and Pine trees until it ended abruptly at a huge rock the size of a Buick. The rock hangs over a crevasse with about a hundred foot drop to a creek below. I've spent many hours meditating on that rock. It's peaceful down there.
Then last year the coal company that owns the land let loggers cut the timber and turned our little piece of heaven into a wasteland.
But Mother Nature is almost like a human body. If the body is strong, it will endure a lot of injury and still recover. This past year small trees, shrubs, and all kinds of grass began to grow. Even though the large trees are long gone, the path is beginning to take on a new personality.
The loggers, who were upset that I would not let them haul trees out through my property, apparently took pains to make sure our walking path was destroyed. They piled up trees and other debris in the middle of our path. For the past year, I've been slowly clearing the way. Today, I cut and cleared the remain debris so that we can walk our path again.
Tomorrow I plan to get up and take a walk with Jilda and start making plans for next Spring when we'll plant wild flowers and maybe a few dogwoods to help it along.
I hope you have a delightful Saturday evening.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Mind Map Thinking

Today was a day of reflection for me. I just finished several projects at work and I found myself with an empty inbox. That was interesting. I had a stack of papers, and articles that I had promised myself I would read so today I read them. I updated my goals and returned correspondence that was long overdue. I pulled out my job description and read over it for the first time in recent memory.
I took a blank pad and some colored pens and started drawing out a sketch of the things I'd like to do at work. Some would call it doodling, but I prefer the term Mind Map. It's a phrase coined by Tony Buzan and it refers to a method of doing outlines, project plans, and ideas for improvements. It's fun because it's non linear. Usually when you're doing an outline you'll think of something you left out and you have to scrunch it in to make if fit or even redo the outline. With Mind Maps, you can draw a connecting line with an arrow to capture the new thought and then move on with what you were doing before. I've tried to get people that are dominate left-brain thinkers to do this and it drives them up a wall. They think the little pictures I draw are childish and they don't see the point. Right-brain thinkers usually steal my colored pens and take them off to do their own maps.
I looked back at a Mind Map today that I did over three years ago and I could remember in detail the entire project.
I would encourage young folks that are trying to get ahead in the business world to give Mind Maps a try.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Full Moon

The moon is almost full tonight. The dogs love the full moon because they can actually see the things that they were only able to hear when the rest of the month. It drives me crazy of course. I'll have to get up numerous times to scold them to make them quite down. It's a routine to which I have grown accustomed.
Tonight as I drove home the sun had already set and the mauve and crimson clouds hovered just above the horizon. I could see the tale-tale signs of jets dragging their silver vapor trails behind them like the tail of a kite. I counted no few than eight jets in my span of vision heading west towards the sun. It was a beautiful sight.
Tonight is Dora High School's final regular season game and it's going to be chilly. Thirty degrees with a 17 mile an hour breeze that will make Old Glory stand at attention and make the fans huddle and shiver. I'm going, but I'll be on the sidelines shooting pictures. The playoffs start next week with a home game against Deshler. That school always has a bunch of corn fed boys that are more healthy than most. It should be a good game.
My older sister is supposed to return from Burma tomorrow. She'll be jetlagged for weeks and cranky. I plan to give her a wide berth until she gets back on Alabama time.
Y'all have a great Thursday night.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Penny Whistle

I've been toying with ways to add some interest and flavor to the songs we write and play. I started adding a little harmonica to the songs we do and Jilda is playing mandolin more as well. But this past week I ordered an Irish Penny Whistle with an instructional CD. I've never really tried to play a Penny Whistle, but I think I can do it.
Jilda and I played at a songwriter festival in Napa, California a few years back and one of the guys playing there wrote songs that were simple and beautiful. He played for a long while with just him and the guitar. Late in the set, a woman joined him and strummed a guitar and he pulled an Irish Penny Whistle out of his back pocket and began to play slow and soulful. The sound was incredible. It added a dimension that was unexpected and delightful. I don't recall his name, but he was of Irish decent and the song he played and sang told a story about his family's journey from Ireland to America. It was a very moving song and I was blown away.
Making music today can be so complicated. The sophistication of the musical options is almost beyond belief. I frequent The Guitar Center which is a mega-music store and they have a lot more than guitars there. They have keyboard/workstations that can sound like an orchestra or a freight train or a barking dog or an ocean wave. With all those options at your disposal, you could compose complex music with drums, bass, and practically any other instrument you could imagine.
But you know what? I don't think even with all the electronics in the world, you could duplicate a sound as pure and simple as that $3 penny whistle. There are just some things that bits and bytes of computers cannot approach. So wish me luck in my endeavor.

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