Saturday, March 31, 2007

Computer Angst

I've just about got my stuff moved over to my new computer but I'm leaving my old computer up for a while to make sure I've gotten everything off I need. I noticed while sitting here that I can barely hear my new computer even though it is currently sitting on top of the desk. The fan in my old computer sounds like a leaf blower compared to this one.
I'm still not convinced that I'm going to like Microsoft Vista. It's doing some squirrely things like change my screen resolution when I reboot. Not every time, but enough to make it annoying. It also throws up my dial-up network connection box as if I wanted to dial out while I'm surfing on my cable connection. What's the deal with that. If you've had a computer for a while and collected software that makes it do things like automated backups of your data, edit graphics, or record music be ready to upgrade software on all of those programs. So far it's going to cost me more than two hundred dollars just to get the functionality I had with my old computer. I'm a little miffed about that as you might imagine.
But I do like the fact that this computer uses less power and is quit as a whisper. On the bright side, I can make use of the old unit this autumn when the leaves begin to fall.

Friday, March 30, 2007

A Place by the Water

I had an unobstructed view of a Birmingham sunset this evening. The sun passed through a few clouds in the western sky but that last few minutes before it dipped behind the city skyline, it was fabulous.
Looks like my mom will have an all expense paid vacation in St. Vincents Hospital for the weekend. They are still running tests to see what's causing her pain. You can probably guess the theme of the posts for the next few days.
Jilda is going to a Reiki class tomorrow on the southside of Birmingham . It's a natural healing technique developed by a Japanese guy. The literature says it treats, mental, physical, emotional and spiritual ailments. I'm anxious to find out what she learns.
A friend of mine has some property on the Little Warrior river that we are thinking about buying. I've wanted a small place on the river for years. I helped my dad build a little two room cabin on the Black Warrior river when I was a teen. It was a fun place to spend summers. I spent a great deal of time every summer at that cabin. We fished, swam, and burned up a lot of gas running up and down the river in a small V-bottom aluminum boat. I learned to ski behind that little boat in the cool green water of that river.
The Little Warrior is too shallow in places for most boats but it's perfect for canoes, rafts and kayaks. An inner tube would be perfect. Since most boats can't get up and down the river, it's not fished that much. There are bass, bream, a crappy in there just waiting to be caught, cleaned and fried over an open fire on the bank.
The main reason we'd like to have a place on the water is for a writer's retreat. It would be easy to entice our friends from south Alabama, Nashville and other nearby cities to come and spend a relaxing weekend by the water.
It's not a done deal because we haven't seen this property and we might not be able to afford it, however I might be tempted to knock off a liquor store in order to get the necessary funds.
Take care and have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mom Update

My mom's back in the hospital but this time they kept her. Apparently she's got a kidney stone the size of a small pine cone which is the source of the infection. Not sure what the options will be but I'm betting none of them involve fun.
A young nurse came in shortly after she got to her room and asked "How do you feel Mrs. Watson," to which my mom replied "with my hands." The young nurse quickly looked at us almost bewildered and all we could do is shake our heads.
They brought her some lemon Jello, two cartons of cranberry juice, a cup of tea and a small bowl of chicken broth. She snerled up her nose as if someone had stepped in a cow patty and walked into the room. What she really wanted was a glass of milk and a few crackers which is her normal meal before bed but apparently that was not on the menu. STRIKE ONE.
She had me searching through the channels of the TV for the Braves. The game was not on TBS or Fox. She said "try channel 16." I tried to explain that were were forty miles from home and on a different cable provider and the channels were all different. She said "try channel 16," as if I were hard of hearing. As it turns out, the Braves would be playing on the Sports South channel which is not carried by the hospital cable system. STRIKE TWO.
After ensuring that she is stable and resting, I made a hasty retreat towards home because the nursing staff was about to come to take blood and hook up an IV. I decided that they stood a real good chance of getting STRIKE THREE and I didn't want to see the carnage if she were pushed over the line.
I plan to check the paper early in the morning for trouble at the local hospital before stopping by to see her on my way to work.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Late Night

I didn't get a lot of sleep last night. We were in the emergency room until almost midnight but they released my mom to go home. She has a really bad infection and a kidney stone. She's real excited about all the fun she'll have with that but we're trying not to talk about it just now until she gets over last night.
It's very hard to watch a loved one suffer. My mom was as strong as a horse until about five years ago when she had another really bad infection which landed her in the hospital for the first time since Nixon was president. Once there we learned that all her arteries were clogged. They fixed that with bypass surgery but before she left the hospital a pacemaker had to be installed. The next year she broke a hip...months of hospital food and rehab. Some time later she fell and broke the other hip and finally a stroke from the blood thinner she had to take to wart off blood clots which are common with pacemakers. It's been a rough several years for mom and all of us, especially my sister who is caring for her.
Through most of this my mom took it all in stride. I know she must have wondered why the Good Lord put so much on her plate, but she didn't spend a lot of time complaining. The stroke seemed to be the hardest because it took away her fight. She just looks tired most of the time and I have to wonder deep inside if she is not ready for it all to be over. If I were to put myself in her shoes, I can't say that I wouldn't feel the same way.
But I hope I'm wrong and I hope she can reach down deep and find the strength to carry on. There are so many in her debt. Her kindness to friends, neighbors, and strangers is legendary.
So I'll ask you again to keep my mom in your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Post from the Emergency Room

I'm writing this post from the emergency room at St. Vincents Hospital. My sister called me at quitting time this evening to say that my mom was hurting and not feeling well. I didn't think it was that serious but since my medical educations went only to tenth great health, I decided to consult a doctor. I immediately called my friend Tom who after hearing the symptoms, said she needs to see a doctor...I know that's probably not what you want to hear but she needs to go.
So over the protests of my 83 year old mom, my sister called for an ambulance and we've been sitting in the waiting room ever since.
The wheels of medicine turn slowly. Sitting here in the waiting room I get a feel for just how fortunate I am. Many of the people waiting for medical attention are very sick. Most are old but some are young. One elderly man was as thin as a scare crow and pale as a ghost. He had a hollow haunted look in his eyes that seemed to be saying "I'm so tired, and ready for this to be over." You could almost see the life draining out of him as he sat there lost in his misery. It made me sad just sitting there.
My mom was feeling better about 9 p.m. and was lobbying to go home, but the doctors were studying charts, and looking at x-rays. I'd be willing to bet she'll be an overnight guest here ....if she's lucky. She left her hearing aids at home so all the activity around her is a tangled confusing noise. She looked a lot thinner too under the harsh florescent emergency room lights.
But she's been here before and she's gone under the knife more times than she likes to remember and she's a trooper.
Y'all keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Singing Just for Me

This has all the makings of a dry spring. My black truck is now an odd puke green from all the pollen. We started last week to move forward with planting but I'm glad now we didn't because it would probably have been a wasted effort. We did that one year and all the seed had to be replanted in late April. Jilda and I will do a rain dance tomorrow to see if we can't rustle up a cloud or two.
I was doing yoga this morning before daylight when I heard the sound of a Cardinal outside ( I thought for a moment that it was on the music CD to which I was listening, but when I walked out on the deck I could tell the redbird was in a tree at the edge of the yard singing away to its sleepy audience. Off in the distance I could also hear a Whip-o-will.
I do my best thinking in the early morning hours. No phone, no office chatter, just soft ambient music and the sound of my breath.
I usually return all my correspondence before I have my first cup of coffee. I plot out my planned activities for the day and go through the list of things for which I am thankful.
This morning, in addition to my normal list, I'm thankful for a Cardinal with insomnia who, as Bob Dylan writes, "Is singing just for me."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Living in the Country

I ordered a necklace for Jilda this week. It's not found at Dollar General or Wal-Mart, so I ordered it online. The woman that took my order asked for my credit card information and then she asked for a mailing address. Yes it's 310 Stacks Bottom Road Empire, Alabama..... The line was quite for a moment and then she managed, in a Bostonian accent, "you live in the country don't you?"
You could say that, I said. We live in a community that does not have a red light, a post office, police, a grocery or video store, a doctor, a lawyer, or drug store. She sounded if she were talking to someone from Darfur.
I could have told her about the things that I love about living in the country but I didn't have the time and I don't thing she really wanted to hear it. Most folks from other parts of the world judge Alabama by what they watch on the news, read in the paper and what they see in movies. To be honest, what they see is most often true to some degree, but there is a lot more to the story. Yes, some of our ancestors treated black folks poorly and for that I am truly sorry. I think we are doing a much better job now and it is my opinion that "those who have not mistreated someone can cast the first stone." I think there is enough blame to go around.
What slips by the attention of most people from other parts of the world is that the people from Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, North and South Carolina have a higher rate of charitable giving than any other part of the country. The poorest section of the country gives the most. How odd is that? It's a story that is rarely told.
While we can't afford to have a full-time paid fire department, we have volunteers that would rush into the fires of hell to save a neighbor, or their pet. If anyone in the community dies, the local chicken processing plants have to go into overtime to deliver enough chicken to be fried for the family of the deceased. When a funeral procession is met, out of respect everyone pulls to the side of the road and stops until the funeral passes.
Most forms of popular music can be traced to the south. Not only Country and Blue Grass, but the Blues, Gospel, Rock and Jazz all have roots here.
There are too many incredible writers from here to name. The south is a strange and wonderful place and I hope it stays that way.
With the price of heating fuel, and the good climate here, there are a lot of folks moving here from other parts of the country. The first thing most of them want to do is to make it like the place they just left. The quickest way to get on a southerner's bad side is to tell them about all the bad stuff.
The best advice I can give for those moving here is to slow down, buy a tiller, grow a garden, learn to fish, and if someone says "You're from the country aren't you?" just say yes and I love it here.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

I Miss Ol' Buddy

The pine pollen was as thick as a light dusting of snow on Jilda's car this afternoon. If you stood still you could see it in the air. The doctor gave us some kind of nasal steroids to keep the allergies down to a manageable amount of sneezing. So far I'm doing fine.

We went out of town this evening and we had to leave Ol' Buddy, our little mutt dog at home on the couch. He was mad as a hornet. I'm sure he'll find a creative way to show his displeasure. Often times it's something out of the dirty clothes but we had them all washed up before we left. We also emptied both the waste baskets in our bathrooms. He loves to shred paper. He has not demolished a plant yet but I figure it's only a matter of time.

He's a great dog most of the time, but he has fear of separation syndrome and let's us know he is not happy when we leave him over night.

I wish more places allowed pets. Grandpappy, one of my blogger friends, said that they don't travel as much as they would like because they have two dogs that they prefer not to leave at home. I'd be willing to bet there are a lot of us out here that feel the same way.

I'll stop on the way home tomorrow and get him one of those giant Slim Jim's and try to make it up to him. He will sulk and act uninterested, but he will eat the Slim Jim. After he makes us suffer for a sufficient amount of time, he will be his old lovable self again. I miss that little rascal.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Happy Birthday to Jilda

Today is Jilda's 55 birthday. It hardly seems possible. We met when she was in junior high and all of fourteen. She was playing a character in a history play/project for her history teacher Yerby Oxford.
She was as thin as a pencil with long blonde hair. A year or so later, she went to Dora High where I was a senior and she was in the tenth grade. I had been dating her best friend, but just before graduation, we broke up and I asked Jilda to be my date at the graduation ceremony. She agreed so our first date was May 20th 1968.
We dated until 1971 when I was drafted so we broke up while I was away in service and while she went to college.
Soon after I returned in 73, we started dating again and we married May 5th 1974. We sort of grew up together. We lived in a single wide mobile home for ten years before we could afford to build our house. Some of the most amazing parties we ever threw were in that shag carpet and all.
We moved on the farm in 1980 and have lived here ever since. I know there have been times she could have killed me and hid my body in a nearby strip pit. Even if she'd gotten caught, she would most likely have been acquitted by a jury of her peers, but we have had fun through the years.
The phone started ringing before we'd finished our coffee this morning. Friends and family calling to wish Jilda a happy birthday. She's gotten calls from well wishers from all over the country. We did go to lunch with some friends and when we returned we went for a long leisurely walk. I know those younger might fail to see the allure of such a day, but it's what she wanted and on her 55th birthday, that's all that matters to me.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

St. Joseph

I didn't want to play hardball, but I'm pulling out all stops to sell the old Chevy. I put a St. Joseph statue in the console. Back last year when we got ready to sell the home of Jilda's deceased mom, everyone told us we were crazy. The house will never sell this time of year. It will be spring or summer before you'll sell it. We had a real estate agent look at the house and he found everything that was wrong and told us the property was overpriced.
Jilda got on the Internet and ordered a St. Joseph's statue which is the Saint of Real Estate. We went down that afternoon and buried our little statue at the end of the front walk near the road and said a littler prayer.
I know you will think I'm yanking your chain, but there was a message on our machine when we got home. "Yes, I'd like to ask about the little blue house for sale in Sumiton." Well they didn't buy the house, and neither did the other dozen or so people that called the next few days, but a young preacher called a few weeks later and made an offer on the house. I took a while to work out the details and get all the paperwork through, but he bought the house.
We promptly went down there and dug up St. Joseph.
I put an ad in the newspaper yesterday and three people have called so far. I rushed home this evening and cleaned the old Chevy up and put St. Joseph in the console. Not sure if he works for cars, but we'll know soon enough.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ol' Black

Ol' Black, our ancient black lab, came home late last night and he looked like a hedgehog. He was covered in mud from head to toe. For the most part, he lies around and observes the world from his throne which is a foam cushion under the kitchen table. But every now and then when the moon is right and his arthritis is not acting up, he wants out.
I'm not sure what he chases but it goes subterranean and he goes after it. I think it's an armadillo, but I can't prove it. Most of our other dogs tire easily and they head home at the slightest smell of food, but Ol' Black is slow to give up the ghost. He has that intestinal fortitude. He's not a quitter. Most of the time he comes home in the early morning hours and you can hear him collapse on the front porch letting out a slow mournful groan...."Lord, just take me," I can almost hear him say.
When he drags in, he staggers toward his throne and lies there for days. We have to slide food and water under the table to him because he is too weak to walk the ten feet to the regular feeding place. After a few days he regains his strength and he's content hang close.
We are down to five dogs. We've had as many as eleven before we had the females spayed. The last time we had a litter it became a sporting competition between Jilda and I to see which of our friends we could rook into taking a puppy. In fact we've given all of our close friends a dog at some time or the other.
But now all the females have been fixed and the males have been tutored so there are no more puppies....and they are all aging. Buddy is the youngest and he's five.
We love our dogs and it's always sad when we lose one. They get treated better than a lot of kids. So tonight I'll set a bowl of food under the table and scratch a little mud off Ol' Black's ears and hopefully he'll be back among the living by weeks' end.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Happy Spring

Today is the first day of spring and it was beautiful here in Empire, Alabama. It's hard not to love spring – well except for pine pollen and those ensuing hellish sinus infections, but spring is a lovely time of year in more ways that one.
I noticed Sunday that the wild honeysuckles on our land have started to bloom. Some time back loggers cut timber on the property behind the barn and I feared that all the wild honeysuckle back there would be destroyed but they are back and as beautiful as ever.
The wild honeysuckle is often called a wild azalea but it's real name is Ericaceae and is a member of the (blueberry family). Whatever it is called, I am thankful it lives in abundance on and around our property.
My neighbor has several large Bradford Pear trees in his yard and this morning as I drove by they looked like large fluffy clouds. I would say that I love this time of year, but by now if you've read many of my entries you know that I love most of the seasons.
I was on the mountain this morning before sunrise and the sky to the East was crystal clear. The horizon was turning from amber to a vivid rose/orange/red in anticipation of the arriving sun. Up high you could see jets heading in all directions and their vapor trails made it look like a sky full of Comets. All along the roadside I passed redbuds, which are actually purple, but they are one of the first flowering bushes to arrive on the scene and they grow wild here. They are a beautiful sight to behold.
I got spring fever today as I walked outside. I remember spring when I attended Dora High School when the days got warm and the oak and hickory trees began to leaf out. Most of the kids in class sat with our heads propped on our hands staring longingly out the large windows. Those days seemed very long and the voice of the teachers sounded as if they were speaking in tongues. Note to teachers, if you haven't taught a ninth grader every thing he needs to know by spring, you've missed the boat because nothing else will fit in their heads except dreams about fishing or perhaps walking around barefoot in the grass.
Come to think of it, I didn't get a lot done after lunch today either. I kept wondering if the fish were biting. Happy spring to all.

Trouble with Power

I was typing away on my new computer when the lights went down hard. Had it been the routine power outage out here that is caused by a squirrel dancing on the lines or breeze blowing from an odd direction, the lights would have flickered a time or two and then faded to black. This outage was different and that usually means one thing - someone driving at a high rate of speed has hit a power pole.

My phone rang three separate times before the ceiling fan stopped spinning. My niece and two neighbors. "Is your power off," they questioned. "Yes the power is off," I reported. I'm not sure when I became the community power monitor, but I am. Everyone validates that the outage is widespread, meaning the fifteen or so houses between here and the main road are affected.

A few minutes later I heard the sound of our volunteer fire truck heading in our direction siren blaring. Our little volunteer staff has become adept and using the jaws of life to extract people from crumpled vehicles. You tend to get good when you get a lot of practice and they get a lot of practice.

We live in a rural area where the roads are long and winding…and narrow. Seldom does a day go by that you don't see a horrible wreck within a ten mile radius of our house. Almost every day when you pick up the paper, there is an obit for someone killed in an automobile accident. It has become epidemic.
I don't drive slowly; the speed limit is 45 on the main road and routinely drive around 50 but it is not uncommon for people to pass me on a curve doing 80 or so. I have to wonder, what's the hurry? One guy passed me the other morning as if he were headed to fight a fire. When I got to Jacks to pick up my sausage and biscuit, the guy that was casually walking in the restaurant to order a cup of coffee. I'm guessing he REALLY needed a cup of java.

I'm not sure what it's going to take to get people to driving more carefully. You can't police the entire countryside, it's just too big. At some point people have to take responsibility for themselves and their neighbors.

I hope ever who hit the pole this evening is OK, but I also hope they learned their lesson and slow down – for every one's sake.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

New Things

The morning was cool today but when the clouds burned off around noon, the sun was warm and inviting. Unfortunately, I have spent most of my waking hours working on getting the new computer up and running. My office is a mess right now. I've got my new computer set up but I have to leave the old one functioning until I make sure I have everything I need. I could take weeks.
On Friday night Jilda and I went to a play. I mentioned a few months ago that we were writing some songs for the stage and it all came together this week at the Virginia Samford Theatre in Birmingham. "And They Heard the Thunder of Angels" is a work by Ryan C. Tittle. It was an interesting play and I think Ryan has a future as a playwright.
I haven't mentioned it to Ryan yet, but I'd love to work with him on an idea for a play that Jilda and I have been kicking around for a few years now. We really didn't know where to begin but I think it's very good idea that would translate well to stage. I also think that with Ryan's experience we could make it happen.
The plot revolves around a down and out country music songwriter who after series of life changing events, becomes hugely successful. Obviously we'd use a lot of our original material that's already written.
I love trying new things. My resume looks like it belongs to several people. Some of my past jobs include:
Chicken catcher
Chain Gang (survey crew with the State of Alabama)
Army Corporal
Newspaper Reporter/Photographer
Garage Attendant
Telephone Repairman
Computer technician
And some other things I'd rather not post.
I think playwright adds a certain symmetry to my credentials. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Moving Data

Getting a new computer is a blessing and a curse. The new one very nice but getting all my data transferred over is a real bear. It has taken the better part of the day and I'm still not through. I'm working on the music, pictures, and website files. Hopefully I'll be finished tomorrow.
I did take a break earlier in the evening so that I could run up to the package store and get some Guinness Beer for our St. Patty's day dinner. Jilda put the corned beef in the crock pot early this morning and cooked it all day. Tonight while I was fetching the beer she cooked the cabbage and rolls. We plugged in Darby O'Gill and the Little People and watched it while we feasted. We toasted St. Patrick and reminisced about our trip to Ireland and we vowed to go again soon.
I hope to get back into my writing routine soon but for now, I'm moving data.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Last Respects

Several years ago before coming to work for my current company I worked for the phone company as a supervisor. The father of one the folks that reported to me passed away and as was the custom, I attended the funeral. It was on a warm Friday afternoon in July and after the funeral, Jilda and I planned to hit the road to Florida on vacation. I figured thirty or forty minutes at the outside, we'd be on the road to the beach. But neither Jilda nor I had ever attended the funeral of an African American and the time we allowed for the service was grossly underestimated.
I had never been to a funeral where they had women dressed white nurse uniforms whose soul job was to fan the folks who faint. The service started with several rousing spiritual songs that had the entire gathering singing at the top of their lungs. Jilda got swept away in the moment and her voice was as loud as any.
After the singing the preacher began...low at first but then with the help of the organist, who looked like a black version of Minnesota Fats, joined in bringing the sermon to a crescendo. I thought we were on the downhill side and heading toward the cemetery, but I was wrong.
The preacher then stepped down from the pulpit and headed for the many sprays of flowers. He read the note on each and every one and held the flowers high so the folks in the back could see. Not sure how long this took, but it was longer than I had foolishly allotted for the entire funeral.
The hard part was not the service, but the heavenly smells coming up from the kitchen in the basement. It was about 2 p.m. and we had planned to grab some lunch on the road so the smell of fried chicken, cornbread and apple pie wafting up through the open door to the basement was making my mouth water. The preacher went back up to the pulpit and had another run at the sermon and when it got to the part where he started building the gathering up, the music was absent and the preacher kept looking over toward the empty organ and the open basement door. Just then the big ol' musician squeezed through the door and hustled over the the organ and began to play. I imagine he had to wipe his hands on his pants because I just about know he was moved as I would have been had I had an chance to descend those stairs towards that fried chicken.
The preacher began to unwind and things began to settle down and I thought to myself, surely this thing is about to end, but again I was wrong because the preacher asked the gathering if anyone in the crowd if they had anything to say about the deceased. Well, Mr. Smith (not his real name) was well loved in his church, his community, and he had also retired from U.S. Steel after thirty years.
Folks began to stand up and tell the story of Mr. Smith's life. I forgot about my growling stomach as I listened to the tributes from his friends, neighbors, and co-workers, I smiled, chuckled and laughed out loud as his friends told about the ways in which he affected their lives. I was moved to tears with some of the stories about his selfless kindness and some of the injustices he endured during his lifetime. He was a remarkable man and when the stories were finished an hour later I felt as if I had been on a roller coaster.
I've been to a lot of funerals in my lifetime but the funeral of Mr. Smith was the most interesting one I've ever attended and I'm glad I did because I think it's important to see how different cultures pay their last respects.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

New Computer

Hey Folks, I'm unboxing the new computer. Y'all pray for me. If I get it up and running before bedtime, I'll add to the post otherwise it may be tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Stressfully Yours

It's time for a new computer. I've struggled with my old one for several weeks now and I realize that if I don't get rid of it soon there could be problems in my neighborhood. "I'm not sure what happened officer, I was sitting there trying to write in my blog and the computer froze up and lost my work and I just snapped." "Yes I understand my neighbor drives an expensive car and I probably shouldn't have used it as firewood, but I simply could not help myself. Yes, you will find most of the road signs down in my barn."
I'm using my old faithful laptop to make this entry but the battery is weak at best so this one will be short and sweet.
Hopefully by tomorrow night, I'll have something that won't freeze up.
Stressfully Yours,

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Life Lesson

I was eating in the lunchroom today with our normal crew when one of the guys asked a female at the table if she was in the "Biggest Loser" weight contest. My head snapped around so fast it almost gave me whiplash. I could not believe my ears. He's in his fifties and plenty old enough to know that you never ask a woman something like that. You can ask about her cat, you can ask about her car, you can ask about her kids, or maybe what books she enjoys reading but you NEVER ask a question that implies that you think she is overweight.
All the other women at the table jumped on him like chickens on a June bug. I scooted away from him just to make sure I wasn't chastised just because of my proximity to him. He jumped back, apologized, tried to explain but he just dug the hole deeper and deeper. He might not have known what he said was inappropriate, but as Richard Pryor the comedian said "he'll know next time."
The last year or so my mother-in-law was alive, she would say really inappropriate things to people she encountered. I heard her say more than once "My, you have really gotten fat," or "you need a haircut. When someone chided her afterwards, she would always say "well it's the truth." She was usually right on the money but we still told her she shouldn't do it.
The woman at lunch today just shrugged off the remark and she laughed along with the rest when the guy was verbally abused but the truth is, insensitive remarks can hurt even if it is the truth.
I try to be mindful as to how I phrase things so that my words won't be hurtful. If there is any doubt, I usually hold my tongue. I mean if a woman is nine months along and I can see an infant kicking through her blouse, I would never mention anything about her being pregnant unless she said something first.
It's just a little life lesson I learned a long time ago and one that my friend at lunch learned today.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Fly Naked

Albert Einstein said that "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." This is so true. My niece at the age of seven came up with a great idea for cleaning pollution from the air. "We should get a lot of helicopters with big ol' vacuum cleaners on them and fly around the cities sucking up the pollution. I thought that was a pretty good idea coming from a seven year old.
I've come up with some ideas myself through the years. Like using giant magnifying glasses and the power of the sun to super heat coils. Any Boy Scout can tell you that a magnifying glass focused on a piece of wood or straw will catch on fire in a matter of minutes. With my giant magnifying glass, the hot coils would be used to heat water and make steam which would then be converted to energy.
My latest idea is an approach to combat terrorism. I know there are those who say this is thinking way too far outside the box, but I think we should all have to fly naked. We could also prohibit carry-on luggage. This would actually solve a couple problems. No more standing in unending lines to go through those scanning machines. Where are you going to store a gun or a knife if your naked. As you undoubtedly already know, most of the folks that who want to blow us up are Islamic extremist. We also know that they frown on nudity big time. So if we have a bunch of naked women and men flying on a plane, they wouldn't come within a mile of an airport. Jilda said that since those folks don't eat pig or drink alcohol, we could add a little insurance of making everyone drink a Budweiser and eat some pork skins prior to boarding.
At first when I raised this notion at Sunday dinner, my sister, my niece and most of the other kin folk were slow to embrace my suggestion, but as I explained the merits of the plan they all came around....well everyone except my mom who confided in a friend who had also joined us for dinner - "don't pay no attention to him, I dropped him on his head when he was a baby, he can't help cause he off."

Sunday, March 11, 2007


It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood today. Jilda made sausage and cat head biscuits for breakfast and we ate them on the veranda as we watched the Bluebirds inspecting the the Bluebird house that hangs on the Sweet gum tree in the back yard. He flew up on a limb and inspected the outside while she watched from the Crepe Myrtle then they changed positions. She flew over to the Apple tree and he came in for a closer look. He cautiously poke his head in and then pull it out an look around as if a big old Tom Cat were lurking nearby. She chirped impatiently as if to say "Go In You Big Baby!" He finally did and then she went in, I'm guessing to make sure the both would fit. Anyhow, they are closing on the deal this afternoon and they'll be moving in by the weekend .
After lunch, I came home and worked in the yard until late afternoon. I raked a mountain of Water Oak leaves and hauled them to the compost pile. I also burned about three cords of pine limbs and small trees that had succumbed to beetles. They yard is looking better. A few more days work and it will be in shape.
I also had to remount our mailbox. The paper lady has backed into it a number of times and this morning when I went to fetch both papers the mailbox, which is as big as a dog house, was lying next to the road. She pulls into the driveway that leads to my neighbor's house across the road and she back up close so that she can reach the paper box from her driver's side window. She apparently has done it so many times that she no longer looks. I'd like to sink a beam into the ground next to the box so that the next time she hits the box it will make her air bags deploy. I'm guessing that would encourage her to be more diligent in her backing chores.
Time changed this weekend and it's bedtime already. Y'all have a great week.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


I am psyched! I attended the Writer's Today workshop at Birmingham on Friday and Saturday where I met Gay Talese, and a bunch of other great authors. There were agents and professionals from the online publishing industry. I took a notebook full notes and I'm in the process of digesting, organizing and journalizing the information so that I can keep it fresh in my mind.
One of the most delightful authors I met was Watt Key who is also an Alabama writer. He has been writing for years. In fact he has written nine novels but his first book, Alabama Moon was just published and he was on cloud nine. He got a three book deal with an option on his fourth. He didn't say how much the deal was for, but he was smiling. He spent a great deal of time talking about the specific things he did to get a New York agent.
After listening to a New York agent yesterday, I was disheartened but Watt gave us all hope. He said that he could wallpaper his room with rejection slips, but he was relentless. He believed in what he was doing and he learned everything he could about writing query letters, packaging, research and persistence.
Watt said that he was not that good a student and he struggled with English/grammar but he loved to tell stories and he never gave up. I left that session with a smile on my face.
I have not written a novel yet but it is something I have dreamed of for a long time and I know now that it will happen.

Friday, March 09, 2007

That Smile

It's a wonder my older sister did not spend her adolescent years in jail. She was basically easy going kid that was quick to lend a helping hand and slow to rile but once she was pushed over the line of what she thought was wrong, Katie bar the door. I've mentioned this tendency in earlier entries.
When we lived in Indiana she had a Schwinn bicycle and she loved that ride. My mom often asked her to go to the corner store and buy things for supper or perhaps pick up a prescription at a nearby drug store. I think it was her first bicycle and she was glad to oblige.
One afternoon she had parked the bike outside and went in to get some water when my older brother commandeered the Schwinn. She ran out but Neil was off like a flash up the block. He was riding with a cousin of ours who lived nearby. They would come by and taunt Mary Lois. At first she asked him nicely to return the bike, but he was having a large time. They would speed up to one end of the block and race back towards our house laughing and swerving at her as she stood there with her hands on her hips. She was one angry little Gentile.
I was about five at the time and I sat on the bumper of our neighbors car to watch the show. I thought it was great fun, because the boys would speed by and just laugh. At first I thought Mary Lois was having fun too and I laughed as they executed another strafing attack. She looked over her shoulders and I swear I could see steam coming out of her ears so I took shelter on the far side of the car.
Mary Lois disappeared around the side of the house and she came back a few minutes later with something concealed behind her back. She ambled over toward the sidewalk and looked up the block toward the two speeding bikes. In contrasts to earlier pleas, she just stood there with this demonic smile on her face. I looked at her and then up the street. Neil was having a large time. Just as they got to her she whipped out a half of a broom stick and tossed it into the spokes of the Schwinn. The next few moments were like slow motion. The spokes ripped from the rim and it sounded like breaking banjo strings. The bike came to an abrupt stop but unfortunately for my brother, he did not. He launched off that bicycle seat in a sidewalk swan dive. The first thing to hit concrete was his chin followed quickly by his hands and knees.
My eyes were as big a saucers as I watched the blood draining down the front of my brother's shirt. Mary Lois turned away and left him twitching on the sidewalk. She still had that demonic smile on her face and she walked by back into the house I heard her say "I bet you'll bring my bike back the next time I tell you to."
I thought my brother would rat my sister out to my mom after he scraped himself off the sidewalk but he never did. I think he remembered that smile on her face and made a silent promise to himself to never push Mary Lois over the line again.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Hat in Hand

I feel like a jerk. We started having problems with our newspaper delivery about a month ago. The first sign was that it began arriving later which is usually not a big deal because through the week I don't read the paper until I get home at night but on the weekends I like to get my paper early.
Anyhow I didn't get a paper at all yesterday which was particularly aggravating because our nephew James had written a column about Jilda's mom. I called the paper as mad as a hornet raising cane about not getting my paper chew, chew, chew. The lady in the subscription department said she would handle it.
This morning my paper arrived before the rooster crowed and I thought to myself "problem solved." But inside the rolled up newspaper was a hand written note from the carrier apologizing for the poor service. "I'm so sorry Mr. Watson," she wrote "but Jim (not his real name) who normally carries the paper had a stroke last month and I've been at the hospital with him a lot, so I had problems getting the paper delivered. I will do better and I will adjust your bill."
I felt small as I read the note. Life has been so good to my family and me. Sure I've had hard times like everyone else but if I were holding a scale in my hands the good would outweighed the wouldn't even be close.
I can't undo the complaint, it's ancient history. Had I known beforehand about her husband, I would NEVER have complained. But I can let her know that I'm not usually a jerk. Jilda is painting one of her beautiful cards and I will write out an apology to her.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Found Money

I'm drawing a blank as I often do after a hard day. But I decided to let my fingers do the walking to see what shakes out.
I made up my mind several weeks ago that I was going to start finding money. It was more than an affirmation, it was a knowing. So ever time I go to work, to buy groceries, to rent a video or to the library I start looking around as I walk. Almost every day for the past two weeks I've found a little money; a penny here, a dime there, and last Friday I found $6 in the parking lot of our building.
I have a jar by my dresser and I put the "found" money in there. I want to do something special with it but I've yet to make up my mind just what. At first I was thinking about buying a lottery ticket because I felt like the money had an air of luck attached to it, but then I began to think; this is a gift from the Universe and it should not be squandered. Jilda suggested we give it to charity which has a certain symmetry to it so that might be what we do but I'm keeping my options open. If you have a suggestion as to a unique way to pass along "found" money, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Strange and Wonderful

I didn't get away from work until dusk this evening. The lights of the city were coming on before nightfall settled in completely. At that time of day/evening, the light plays tricks on your mind making the world look like a carnival. As I sat at a stop sign, the tail lights of cars streaked by which looked almost like a time-lapse video. It is an odd sensation that happens to me now and again. It's like I'm sitting there detached from the things happening around me. I become an observer and time seems to stand still and yet the world keeps spinning around. It's very hard to explain. I sat there engrossed in the light show until a driver behind me honked his horn and yanked me back into the moment.
This happened to me once when we went to see the Matisse Exhibit at the National Museum in Washington, D.C. It was back in the late 70's and we were visiting my Army buddy Doug McGraw. Doug lived on the second floor of an old Victorian apartment and we spent a week exploring the best that our nation has to offer. One afternoon we drove downtown and parked on the street that led up to the Museum. It was a warm spring day and the cherry trees were in blossom. The Museum had Matisse banners announcing the exhibit flying out front. We paid admission and took our time meandering through some of the most beautiful art on the planet. I'm not sure if it was the color, the images, or the knowing that we were in the presence of greatness, but I got that out-of-body sensation.
As I said, I'm not sure what causes it or what it means, but it is not and unpleasant experience. In fact the feeling of detachment seems to make me feel even more alive. It's a strange and wonderful thing.

Monday, March 05, 2007


The weather is really getting nice here. The sun came out warm today and the wind died down to a gentle breeze. This morning as I was walking in to our building I heard the sound of geese before I ever saw them. They were honking and forming into a v as they ascended upward. I'm guessing they wintered in Riverchase Lake and today they decided to begin their journey back up north for the summer. A woodpecker was knocking on a nearby hickory tree. I thought to myself that today would be a good day to go fishing. My friend Charlie gave me a very good rod and reel last year and I've yet to try it out.
My better judgement won out and I spent the day on conference calls and working on problems. I did my walking exercise outside at lunch and I worked up a sweat before returning to my desk.
I'm thinking about taking a day off next week and calling up my nephew Haven who has a boat and wetting a hook. I usually don't catch anything because it's not really about the fish but the fishing.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Breeze's Bed

We finished moving the last few items out of Ruby's house on Saturday before handing the keys over to the new owners. There were boxes of pictures, a lamp, a few what-nots and a day bed that she had given to Breeze.
I was whupped and disassembling the bed and transporting it to Breeze's house in Adamsville, twenty miles away, seemed like a significant undertaking and I considered letting the bed go to the new owners. But Breeze is growing like a weed and will soon outgrow the small bed in which she now sleeps. So I hitched up my belt and took the bed apart and started on the journey to Breeze's house.
Breeze is my two year old great niece and the daughter of my nephew James and his wife Andrea. Unlike most small children, Breeze actually likes me. She is not spooked by my beard or the fact that I talk loud and behave erratically at times. In fact, she seems to find me amusing because her eyes and face always light up when I come around. It was this smile that urged these old tired bones on to deliver the bed.
When we pulled into the yard, we were greeted by Breeze's older brother Stone. He was happy to see us too. Ricky who is their grandad (and my brother-in-law) went to help with the bed. Breeze had just gotten up because her hair was a mess and she was still in her jammies, but there was that smile.
We moved stuff around and assembled the bed as she and Stone looked on. I could tell by the look on her face that she loved the bed....and that smile on her face made it worth the effort.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Things You Remember

It’s funny the things you remember from high school. I can still remember the smell of the wood floors in the halls and the smell of the lunchroom on the days when they made macaroni and cheese. I remember the color of the evening light that filtered through high windows of the gymnasium. I remember the sound of the birds in the springtime when the windows were opened to let in the fresh air….the sound of squeaking shoes and bouncing balls in the gym floor.
I remember my first exposure to gambling behind that gym. The first morning I wandered back there before classes began I saw a bunch of guys flipping coins and catching them in mid air and calling even or odd. If both coins was heads or both coins were tails then the one calling "even" won the toss and the other person's coin. If they were not alike then the "odd man" won. When I found out what was happening and joined in that first morning I won a dollar. I was really encouraged and that afternoon stopped by Albritton’s store on the way home and pick up some candy, chips and a cold Orange Crush. The second day, I lost all my lunch money and I went home hungry. On the third day, I wanted to try to re-coop my losses so I stopped by the concesson stand to get change for a dollar to get the quarters. I rounded the corner just in time to see our principal Mr. Gant marching a crew of guys to the office. I acted as if I had gotten lost and headed back to the front of the gym post haste. I later learned that Mr. Gant had introduced the gamblers to the board of education. The next day, the area behind the gym was strangely quite.
I used to hate playing softball with Gordon May. He was a member of our class and a very nice guy with a smile on his face most of the time but when he came to to bat, he was formidable. He could knock the softball out of the county. When it was time for him to bat, we’d send a 7th grader scurrying for the top of the hill on the other side of the ball field. "No, go further, go further !!!!" we'd tell him....then WHACK!!! Gordon would launch that ball and the kid in the outfield would run off out of sight. The game would often end there because even if we could find the ball, it was usually lopsided and worked better as a Frisbee.
I also remember that one of the Cagle boys tried to jump from the back steps of the auditorium and grab a limb on an old cottonwood tree nearby.
He missed and broke both his arms. He came back to school a few days later with full casts on both arms which put him at a disadvantage when went to the bathroom. Never figured out how he managed that.
I remember graduation night even though it went by in a blur. What struck me was that as we all scurried around getting our yearbooks signed and telling everyone goodbye, it finally sunk in that I would not come this way again….that my time here, at this place, was over. All the time I spent daydreaming about the day that I would graduate and move on to the next phase of my life….well that day was here and the jubilation I felt was tinged with sadness.
These are just a few of the things that I remember, what do you remember?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Long Day

The storms blew through the state last night and the morning sky was blue and cloudless. The Bluebirds are building a nest in the Sweet gum tree in our back yard. This morning as we drank our coffee they were coming and going bringing twigs, straw and small clumps of moss to poke through the small hole in the Bluebird house for the nest. The male and female were both sharing with the gathering chores. It looked at times like a dance.
Soon there will be small blue speckled eggs in there and the male will spend a lot of time hanging out on nearby branches until the eggs hatch and then it's back to work feeding the youngun's.
It's been a long day today. I came home from work and picked Jilda up so that we could drive almost a hundred miles to the wake of a friend's father. We paid our respects for a few minutes and then headed on the long drive back home.
I feel like I will have to scrape my contacts off my eyes with a stick.
Y'all have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Bad Weather Day

I kept one eye on the weather today. My wife Jilda is a weather watcher from way back and last Saturday when the forecasters were saying it could get rough, she dismissed it. "The dew point is much to low for severe weather," she explained. The winds huffed and puffed but that was about the extent of it. Today however she called me at work early on to tell me to be ready to dive for cover because the dew point was ripe for violent weather and right she was.
The City Clerk from Opp, Alabama which is four hours south of here, called to give me some information about the upcoming RattleSnake Rodeo (I do the website for the rodeo). I asked her if the weather had been bad there and she said that the really bad weather was to the east. "A tornado hit Enterprise High School," she said. My heart dropped. She had no word on injuries but she said the school was demolished. Turns out there appears to be at least eight killed. There have been unconfirmed reports of at least thirteen. From the news footage it looks as if it was at least an F3 or possibly stronger storm. I'm not sure if the dead were students or faculty but either way it's a tragedy that will weigh heavy on that community forever.
The wind is still blowing here and the lights are dimming intermittently so I'm going to sign off for now. Please keep our neighbors to the south in your thoughts and prayers.

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