Monday, October 31, 2011

Boo! Did I scare you? Happy Halloween

I saw this video and it reminded me of our vacation in Ireland. We arrived on the island, collected our bags, and looked for the car rental counter.
We opted for the mid sized car which turned out to be an Opel which here in gas guzzling America would have been considered a compact. But it was plenty big enough for us. The biggest issue was the steering wheel was on the wrong side, but within minutes I was tooling down the wrong side of the road like a pro.
The only piece that was touch and go was the right turn. Here in the states a right turn is the simplest, but an American right turn in Ireland set tires squealing and horns blaring, because obviously I was driving down the wrong side of the road for that country.
After a while I fell into the rhythm of the road and oncoming trucks on narrow roads barely raised my blood pressure.
The scenery there was remarkable. Like this little video, the roads curved like a lazy snake on a warm summer afternoon.
We haven't had any trick or treaters tonight so I'll need to get rid of the tub of candy I bought or both Jilda and I will be in sugar coma by mid week.
As I posted earlier, Phil Campbell is now leading the Give a Note Contest. I know that it's in large part to all of you. There are 7 more days before the contest ends and the big schools will be upping the pressure so please vote if you can.

I hope you all have a great Halloween. Enjoy the video.

 Click here.

Subsequent Post ~ another one to follow

 Phil Campbell moved into 1st Place. WWWWWWHOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! A lot of thanks goes to our blog buddies.
There is still 7 more days in the contest and Lane Tech is a huge college prep school in Illinois so I'm sure they'll be beating the bushes.
Again, thanks to you all.

Phil Campbell Rocks and they are #1 Please keep voting.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sing Alongs

We played the Beanstalk 10 Year Anniversary Festival yesterday and it was a hoot. We followed a cover band playing country line dancing music.
I'm always apprehensive following bands that have drummers and bass players. Our show is acoustic and is normally stuff that no one has ever hard before, but I felt like we held our own.
Afterwards we were invited to play at the home of one of Jilda's childhood friends. They reconnected in 2010 after 40 years. She is a delightful woman.
Then in January her husband died in a small plane crash in Birmingham. Obviously she was devastated. But her family and a core of close friends rallied around.
The gathering last night was for just a few friends. She prepared chili, tocos, and other stuff. One of her friends baked something she called pumpkin crack.
I was a little hesitant to try it, but after the first bite, I knew exactly how it got the name.
After dinner, we retired to the living room and everyone got in a circle. She plays guitar and sings. After Jilda and I sang a couple of our songs, she nervously played a song she'd been practicing. She did a really good job. I'd never heard her before, but I was impressed.
We started playing old songs and soon the crowd joined in singing Country Roads (John Denver), City of New Orleans (Steve Goodman), Margaritaville (Jimmy Buffett) and many more.
At one point while I was playing, I looked around and everyone had a smile on their faces. No one was judging whether someone was singing on key, or if the timing was right.
We were all simply making a joyful noise and I'm not sure there is a better way to have fun (with your clothes on).
Tomorrow is Halloween. Y'all have a spooky week.

Phil Campbell is about 1,000 votes out of first. This is the last week so I hope you all will stay with me on this. Vote Here.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Early Snow

I saw a picture of Vermont on my news reader tonight.  An early snow cloaked the landscape and the trees looked as if they'd been wrapped in gauze. Off in the distance you could see the sun shining and I can imagine that skiers all over the north east were ecstatic. 
If I'd grown up around snow I think I would have been a skier, but here in Alabama we don't get that much snow.  The only time I ever tried to ski was when I was in the Army.
I was stationed at Fort Monmouth and one of my buddies lived in Watertown, New York. He invited me to go home with him one weekend and so we boarded a bus out of New Jersey and headed northward. 
I took my guitar with me and sat on the back row of the bus and played old songs. I didn't know how people would react, but the bus was about half full and a bunch of people moved to the back. 
We had a sing along late into the night.
When we got to Watertown, a fresh snow blanketed the ground so we headed to the slopes. The hardest part for me was dismounting from the ski lift. I fell down every time I got off.
I also spent more time on my rear end than I spent on the skies, but I still had a great time.
The return trip wasn't nearly as much fun because we didn't leave for home until late Sunday afternoon and we had to be back on base by Monday morning.
We tried to sleep on the road but were unsuccessful. I was 20 then and my body bounced back with remarkable speed. If I went three days without sleep now, I'd require hospitalization.
Anyhow, I hope the folks in the north east get some quality skiing in this weekend.
Y'all have a great Sunday.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Slim Pickin's

Some nights my mind is like a desert. Stark and barren for as far as the eye can see. Ideas shimmer on the edge of consciousness like a mirage only to disappear when I grasp for them. 
Writer's block is something I hear constantly. When I Googled Writer's Block, I got over
10 1/2 million hits. Apparently there are a lot of people who struggle with this condition.

When I Googled Writer's Block + Books, I only got 8 million hits. I'm guessing not all the hits were for different books, but I'm betting there are enough books on writer's block to fill up the bed of my truck.
The thing about it is, I've visited a ton of these sites, and I've read my share of these books and they all say the same thing. The condition is temporary. There's no need to fret. You should just write.
Don't evaluate, don't worry that what's coming out stinks worse than three day road kill whose last meal was garlic flavored potted meat.
Just write.
So tonight, that's what I'm doing. I'm writing because I know that tomorrow, I will have saved enough karmic equity to buy a decent idea about which I can write.
But tonight --- it's slim pickin's.
Y'all have a great weekend.

Phil Campbell has moved tow within 2000 votes of the leader. They can hear footsteps. Thanks to all of you who are voting for our little school.

Phil Campbell - Vote Here

Thursday, October 27, 2011


We had a gig in Homewood tonight at Hart and Soul Coffee House. We weren't playing until 7 but headed out early in case we encountered rush hour traffic.  Turns out that was a good move.
The sun was dipping below the horizon but the evening light reflected off the autumn leaves and the color was stunning.
Homewood is about 30 miles away to the south. You'd think that the foliage here would be further along, but you'd be wrong. I was driving so I didn't shoot any pictures, but I plan to shoot a few tomorrow.
Tonight was the first time we've played and used our new sound system. Our friend Fred helped us put it together. He knows my grasp of sound engineering is tenuous so he helped us put together a very simple system that we could use when he can't come with us.
I was hesitant, but he assured me that spider monkey doing barbiturates could set up this sound system. Turns out, he was right.
We arrived just after 6 p.m. and both Jilda and I went to work. Less than 15 minutes later, we were doing our sound check.
Just before 7, a bunch of our friends piled in to give us moral support -- some of which we hadn't seen in quite a while.
We tried out a couple new songs, and we had a great time.
I'm updating late this evening, so it's off to bed for me. I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Phil Campbell has moved tow within 2000 votes of the leader. They can hear footsteps. Thanks to all of you who are voting for our little school.

Phil Campbell - Vote Here

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I wrote all morning on some articles that are due, but I finished up just after lunch. Jilda had to work today so I decided to spend the afternoon fishing.
As I was putting on my waders and gathering my stuff at the truck, two guys had called it a day. When I asked if they had any luck, only one guy responded with "no, we didn't catch anything" . The other guy was muttering to himself and about every third word was an expletive. Come to think of it, I think he was twitching a little and listing to starboard as he walked around their truck. I probably should have taken that as a sign, but sometimes I'm such an optimist.
There was a light breeze out of the west but the sun was warm and it felt good to be on the water.
About the third cast, a gust of wind caught my fly and launched it like a kite, turning my line into a rats nest. I tried for about 10 minutes to untangle the mess, but I finally cut it off and tied on new leader.
The thing about it is, I could see trout all around me. One came very close to swimming between my legs. I threw every kind of fly that I had at them and I didn't get so much as a bump on my line.
The water boiled up all around my fly, but nada. After about an hour of this, my mind began to drift to uncharted territory. I remembered that road crews were working on the highway just at the turnoff to the river and I wondered if there were explosives in any of those construction sheds.
Oh Mr. Trout, you aren't interested in any of my flies, well how about a taste of dynamite!!!
At the end of the day, I dejectedly headed back to the truck. I realized as I took off my waders that I was muttering to myself.
Maybe I've lost my fishing MoJo.

Phil Campbell - Vote Here

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Skin Deep

I ran by Walmart yesterday for some roasted chicken. That's one of Jordan's favorite meals. I picked up some French bread, a salad, and a few other things.
I got in the express lane behind a woman with two small children -- one in her buggy, and one hanging on to the side.
When the cashier totaled up the purchases, the woman was short. She was so embarrassed because she'd put enough money (she thought), into her pocket and left her purse in the car.
She bolted from the line saying she'd grab the money.......when I asked the cashier how much she needed, she said 27 cents. 
I'm not sure if something bigger was at work here, but I reached my hand in the pocket and I had exactly 27 cents in change. I put the money on the counter and the cashier called after the woman. She was very appreciative. I told her it was nothing and it really was nothing. 
I told her that someone had done the same for me recently (OK, it's been several years, but time is relative, right?).
Anyhow, that's not the interesting part of the story -- the cashier was a young woman in her early twenties. She was overweight, she had red hair and freckles, but she had an inner beauty that showed through. She seemed to glow with an inner peace that's elusive to most folks.
She had an interesting name and when I asked her about it, she said that her mother was a fan of soap operas and had named her after one of the characters.
The name sounded Italian, but I was pretty sure her linage did not come from Italy. I told her she looked Irish. She smiled. I told her that Jilda and I had gone to Ireland several years ago and that all the girls were pretty like her. She flushed slightly, but she smiled and said thank you.
I may be wrong but I'm guessing she doesn't get called "pretty" enough.  We've all read too many magazines, watched too much TV, and seen too many movies. We measure beauty against images that have been air brushed, face lifted, tummy tucked, botoxed, and made up by makeup artists who make more money than our teachers and nurses.......
I didn't intend for this to turn into a rant but it's something I felt needed to be said.
Y'all have a great Wednesday. I think I'm going fishing.

Phil Campbell - Vote Here

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Beat Goes On

We fell asleep last night after 1 a.m. and for the first time in recent memory, we slept until 7:30. 
Our bedroom windows face north'ish which means at certain times of the year, the angle of sun is such that it slashes through the blinds at sunrise. 
Normally it's not an issue, but we went to bed bone tired last night and I could have used about another hours sleep but that wasn't happening today.
As it turns out, our great nephew who now goes to a local daycare wasn't feeling up to snuff so his mom called to ask if he could stay with us today.
He walked over from his house across the hollow with is mom. As we sat on the couch drinking our coffee, we could see him walk up through our front windows. He looked as sleepy as I did.  He pecked tentatively on our door with his plastic hammer and as always, his face lit up when we opened the door. 
He must have understood that we were weary because he was very low maintenance today.
Before lunch we all decided to take a walk. Down behind the barn we came up on a small sumac bush backlit by the sun. The leaves were glowing red as embers. I snapped a picture with my iPhone.
Later I spent time doing research and collecting my thoughts for an upcoming article, but it was hard to focus.
So I cleaned my office. I hadn't dusted in a while and when I moved some of the stuff off the rolltop desk, the dust was thick enough to plant a few rows of cotton.
Tonight as I write this update, it feels better in here. I plan to get up early tomorrow and knock out all the stories that are due.

Phil Campbell is still in second place, but we're picking up steam. I got several calls today from readers saying they were spreading the word.
The huge school in Illinois is still leading at the moment, but Phil Campbell in gnawing away at the lead which is down to a manageable 6,000 votes or so.  I have a gut feeling that we really do this.

Vote for Phil Campbell

Home At Last

We left North Carolina at 4 this afternoon. By the time we made it to highway 64 and started driving west, the sun was headed toward the horizon.
So the first two hours of the journey home were spent looking into the evening sun. I got a blinding headache, but when we got closer we got to Charlotte, N.C. the clouds moved in. I considered that a blessing.
Traffic was heavier than I expected for a Sunday evening. At one point the tail lights looked as though a strand of red Christmas lights strung to infinity.
The traffic tapered off when we got to the Georgia state line and we made good time through Atlanta.
We feared a mess at Telladega, Alabama because it was race weekend, but the bulk of the traffic had gone before us so we blew through there.
We pulled into the yard and before I got the car door opened I could hear out dogs celebrating. They were so happy to see us.
I can tell you that after four days away from home and  10 hours on the road, our pups were a sight for sore eyes.
You could say I'm a tired puppy.
I'm calling it a night.


I just checked on Phil Campbell and they have almost 23,000 votes. My column today in the local paper was about the contest.  I feel good about their chances. Thanks everyone.

Vote here

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fun in North Carolina

I took Jilda to her training class just before lunch today and then headed out exploring. Yesterday when I was doing a little research on the area, I discovered there is an Orvis store here. They sell outdoors stuff, but they have really cool fly fishing stuff so as you can imagine, that found its way onto my schedule today.
I picked up a few things and spent a lot of time browsing.
Afterwards I headed down to Moore's Square on the recommendation of my blog buddy Sush.
It's an area downtown where there are tons of restaurants, bars, galleries, and other fun stuff. 
I stopped by a small Italian restaurant and found a table on the sidewalk.
I order sweet tea and an Italian club sandwich. I spent time watching people while I waited for my food to arrive.

Across the street was a huge two story building housing a business called the artspace. It was a gallery, a place where artists work, and they had art classes. The place was buzzing.
I love areas like this.  I could have stayed there all day but I had some writing to do so reluctantly I headed back to the hotel.
This evening just after five, I headed down to Apex to fetch Jilda and find a place to have dinner.
She was whupped so we did something we rarely do, which is to eat at a chain restaurant.
The food and service was good.
We sat near a table full of young women in their early twenties. We overheard part of their conversation and one of the girls said, "that won't happen to me when I get old."
When she realized that we might have heard her, the conversation hushed. Both Jilda and I smiled knowing that we said things like that a lot when we were kids. 
What I wanted to tell them was that Jilda and I were their age yesterday -- yes, time moves that quickly. Be mindful of what you say about what you will and will not do when you "get old" because believe me, you'll get there in the blink of an eye.
Tomorrow Jilda has class until four and then we head out on our 10 hour drive, so our blog entries tomorrow night might be unintelligible. 
Y'all have a great Sunday.

Again, thanks to you all for supporting Phil Campbell. They're hanging on to second place with over 20,000 votes.

Phil Campbell High School  Vote Here

Friday, October 21, 2011

Small Town

I've been pretty worthless today. I've got a deadline whizzing up like a Catfish Hunter fastball and I can't seem to get in gear. So, when the going gets tough, the tough goes to lunch.
And that's what I did. We went to the historical district of Apex, North Carolina and walked up and down the street. 
We walked by a frozen yogurt place, and ice cream shop, a couple pizza places, but we ducked into Salem Street Pub. 
We talked to the waitress (Kelly) about the choices, and we both decided on Carolina Burgers which had chili, cole slaw, and some other stuff on there. As I always say, you can't fly on one wing.
It tasted good but I felt like I needed a shower when I finished eating and by the time we made it back to the hotel, I felt like an arterial gram might be in order,  and my stomach made it clear to me that I need to be more mindful of my nutritional choices. So I snorted a few Tums and soon began to feel better.
Jilda's class started at 6 this evening but she got out at 9 so I drove down to fetch her. I was a bit early so I walked down the street to the Salem Street Pub where the live music was just starting. 
I stood outside for a while and listened. I hadn't worn a jacket and regretted the decision. As I headed back up the street I saw Jilda walking out of class and heading toward the car. The heater felt good on my feet.
Earlier I stopped by Whole Foods and picked up some hummus, pita chips, cheddar cheese, and some fancy~smanchy crackers.
When we got back to the room tonight, we snacked on the chips, hummus and fruit that we'd scored down in the lobby.
Sitting here tonight trying to think about a topic, I thought back over the day and our short tour of Apex. We only touched on the historical section but what we saw was interesting ~ lots of shops, antique stores, eating places, and art/gallery places.
It occurred to me that this is exactly what Jasper (the town near where I live) is trying to do -- to bring people downtown to eat, shop, listen to music, and spend time -- a place with a little culture, and not just a place to do commerce.
I'm guessing it's not an easy thing to do because until you get enough people, businesses, and activity going on, so that it's not only profitable for the business but also a unique experience for the visitors, the people won't come.
It was not my intention to start delving into city planning and urban renewal, but it's nice to see a place that seems to have gotten it right. There is nothing better than walking around and soaking up the ambiance of a small town.

Phil Campbell update -- They moved into second place today and only a few thousand votes behind the leader. 
I am so excited for these kids. I'm going to continue to remind my blog buddies to keep voting because the huge schools can turn the tide in a heartbeat. But for right now, I feel really good for their chances.

Phil Campbell High School  Vote Here

Thursday, October 20, 2011

10 hours on 4 wheels

We headed out to North Carolina this morning and it's been a beautiful day for driving. But right now, I'm bone tired.
Fortunately, Jilda's class doesn't begin until tomorrow afternoon, so we can relax in the morning and drink coffee by the pool.
It's not as cool here as I imagined.
It's bed time now.
Phil Campbell High School update -- they've moved into third place with 15,300 votes and are less than a thousand votes behind second place.
I can't thank you all enough.

Phil Campbell High School  Vote Here

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Jilda had a private yoga class with her friend Becky today and she met another friend for lunch. That left me lunch-partnerless today.
I went to see my my mom and took her some potato soup. Afterwards I drove down town Jasper to deposit a check and I ran by the Blackrock Bistro.
They've been located out on the highway for some time but made the decision to move downtown across from the courthouse. They have great food.
Jilda and I ate there after the Heritage Festival on Saturday.
We both had oyster poboys. The oysters were fried to perfection and the sauce and other stuff they put on there is scrumptious.
So today I decided to try the shrimp poboy. I sent Jilda a text to "rub it in"a little and then placed my order.
She fired back a scathing reply because she was lunching at a fast food place.
I smiled as I sipped my sweat and awaited my order. When it arrived, I saw that it had boatload of shrimp on it with all the other stuff.
I snapped this photo and texted that to Jilda as well.
I knew I'd pay when I got home, but it was worth it.
What can I say, I love good food and it's all her fault. Before I met her all I ate was butterbeans, cornbread and meat. I'd never had an oyster or shrimp in my mouth before I met her in 1968.
Anyhow, we're heading out of town tomorrow. Jilda has yoga training for post traumatic stress, and I have to ....... well, I have to write, fish, and hunt for places that serves good food.
I know it's a tough gig, but I feel up to it. We have a house sitter coming in to tend the dogs, the fish, the deer, and the chickens.
Y'all have a great Thursday.
Below is a quick update on Phil Campbell High School. They're battling for 4th place now thanks for you all. When I first started blogging about this on Saturday, they had 4200 and weren't in the top ten.
When I looked just now, they have 11,629 votes and have moved into 4th place.
I contacted the local CBS affiliate in Birmingham today and she promised to do a story on it. When I contacted James Spann, the famous Birmingham weather man, he started blogging, Facebooking, and tweeting about Phil Campbell. He has thousands of followers.
Since they've moved into the top ten, I'm sending one link.
Help Phil Campbell High School band

Supplemental Post ~ Phil Campbell High School Vote

Hey All,
 Just a quick update on the vote for music grant for Phil Campbell High School, the small town that lost most of their music and instruments on the April 27th tornado.
 With your help, the school has jumped from 4200 votes to 9658 in about three days. We jumped from near the bottom to fifth. The schools ahead are from Illinois, Florida and California. Many of you have asked where the school stands in the number of votes.
I'm writing my weekly column on the vote and I'm calling the local TV news media to try and get coverage.
Here is the link. I know I may be going a little overboard on this, so I hope you'll bear with me a while longer.
Here's the ranking link:

Here's the link to Phil Campbell. Thanks for all  your support.

In your debt -

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Like Music to my Ears

I began to worry about the autumn color because the ground is dry. The early part of the show started on schedule, but the second act was placed on hold because October has been a dry month so far. 
There were years in the past, where we've skipped straight from summer to winter because of dry weather in the fall -- the leaves go from green to brown and then to the ground.
Tonight as I wrote, I put on my headphones and listened to some music that helps me to concentrate. I could hear something but it sounded far away. When I pulled an earphone out, I could hear Jilda saying come here, you've got to smell the rain.
When I went into the greatroom, she'd thrown open the door and was standing under the arbor at the front steps looking up into the night sky letting the rain fall on her face.
I stepped outside too, and it felt heavenly. 
When I went back inside to finish my work, I left the earplugs out so that I could hear the rain on the roof. Tonight the sound is better than music to my ears. I'm sure the trees feel the same way. 


Phil Campbell High School Update:
When we started out a few days ago, Phil Campbell only had 4200 votes for their band,
but tonight when I checked the site, the number had climbed to 8975. I am amazed and humbled. A great deal of the increase is because of you and your followers. Thank you.
Watch touching Phil Campbell High School Video and vote

Monday, October 17, 2011

Love Affair ~ My Column in Sunday's Paper

I’ve been in a love affair for most of my life. I started out younger than most, but I understood at a tender age the power of the attraction.

Before you start thinking that old Rick has lost his marbles, let me explain that my love affair is with coffee.

I remember one cool December morning when I was about five, I stumbled into the kitchen and stood with my back toward the Warm Morning coal heater that occupied the corner of our kitchen. Mama had stoked up the fire so hot the stovepipe was glowing as orange as the devil’s poker and the heat felt good on the back and legs of my pajamas.

Mama had the coffee pot sitting on the stove heating water for her morning coffee while she baked biscuits and fried up eggs and bacon.

Like most kids, I was interested in everything. I loved the smell of the coffee and that morning I asked if I could have some.

These days folks would probably have turned her in to DHR, but she didn’t bat an eye. She pour milk into a cup, added a teaspoon of sugar and poured in enough coffee to make it the color of a caramel apple. I sipped it tentatively, but from the first taste, I was hooked.

Later when I was drafted in the Army, I couldn’t find a lot of good things to say about the food, but the coffee was top shelf. It kept me from committing the Japanese ritual of harakiri (suicide with a big old sharp knife).

When I got back to the states and married Jilda, she was more of a coffee connoisseur than me. Back when we were so broke we couldn’t pay attention, and had very little to spend on food, coffee was at the top of our grocery list. We bought the best coffee we could afford.

We may have lived on rice and beans, but the coffee was as good as you could get at the Four Seasons in New York.

We joined the Gevalia Coffee club and received coffee from all over the world – dark roast coffee from Kenya, Columbia, New Guinea, and other exotic locales.

I make the coffee at our house because Jilda cannot articulate a coherent sentence until she’s had a cup of coffee. She also stumbles a lot and bumps into things until she gets her fix of caffeine.

Each day when the aroma of coffee wafts through the house like morning perfume, I can hear her feet hit the floor and she shuffles out of bed, and with a part moan and part growl she says – C O F F E E.

In the early years of our marriage, most of the live music was in bars and nightclubs, but these days our favorite places are coffee houses. Hart and Soul and O’ Henry’s in Homewood, Berkeley Bob’s in Cullman, the Daily Brew in Decatur, the Blue Bagel in Mountain Brook, and Red Cat on the south side of Birmingham.

Not only can you hear great live music, but you have the experience of seeing, smelling and tasting coffee. It doesn’t get any better, and you don’t wake up with a hangover.

So when the conversation turns to the loves of my life, the discussion would not be complete without talking about coffee.


To vote for Phil Campbell High School, click below. I will keep posting the link until voting is over. Again, thanks to all of you.

Watch touching Phil Campbell High School Video and vote

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Picture-Book Weekend

If you died and went to heaven and the Good Lord said "order you up a weekend", I couldn't imagine a better weekend than this one.
We slept in on Saturday (7:00 a.m.) and after we drank our coffee, Jilda whipped up a good old fashion country breakfast of homemade biscuits, bacon,  fried eggs over medium, with sliced tomatoes.
I felt as if I was vibrating on a very high level while I savored the food. I broke one of the biscuits in half and filled it with frog jam. I know that sounds disgusting, but it's a jelly that we buy from our local produce market and it's made by the Amish. I don't know that I've ever tasted a better jelly.
Later in the day we made our way to the Jasper Heritage Festival. It's an annual fall festival and we've played there the last few years. We invited our friend Skip Cochran, and his friend Connie Jean (a Texas songwriter) to join us on stage.
I thought we had a good set, and afterwards we met our new friends Jessica and Debbie Sanders at the Blackrock Cafe (Bistro) and had oyster po boys. Both Jilda and I are both po boy connoisseurs and we both agree that this is one of the best we've ever had. I can promise we'll be going back to the Blackrock.
Today we headed to Northport which is about 70 miles south of here for the Kentuck Festival.
The Kentuck Festival is rated one of top ten best art festivals in the country. They have not only art, but also great food and music. We saw one of favorite performers, Paul Thorn.
He normally plays with a band, but he played solo today and he put on a remarkable show.  We got to see our friends Steve Norris, Judy Daussman, Dan Gainey, and Randy Palmer.
On the way home Jilda looked at me and said -- I love weekends like this. I had to agree.
On Another Note
I want to thank the folks who visited the Glee Give a Note site and voted for the Phil Campbell High School video. It went from 4200 votes to 5665 votes over night. We were really encouraged. When we spoke with our friend Kim today (her son is in the video) she said it was looking doubtful because some of the larger schools in California had over 10,000 votes.
I know in my heart that Phil Campbell High School is the most deserving school, but it would take a miracle to overcome those odds.
Again, thanks for all of you who voted. The contest goes on until November 7th and folks can vote once a day.  I'll keep the link up and give periodic updates.

Phil Campbell High School Band Video

Saturday, October 15, 2011

You Can Help Bring Music Back to Phil Campbell

This little high school lies just a little to the north and west of where we live in Empire, Alabama. Like so many communities here in Alabama Phil Campbell was hit on April 27th by a tornado.
The storm that stomped through Phil Campbell was an F5 (the most destructive). Twenty six people died in this small town and all of the schools were damaged.
Glee Give a Note is sponsoring a contest that gives money for high school bands. I know there are a lot of deserving high schools across America, but I doubt that any need your vote more than Phil Campbell High School.
You can vote once a day and they have a shot at getting $50,000 if they get enough votes. Please take about three minutes and watch this video and consider voting for Phil Campbell, and share the link if you'd like to help more.
The son of one of our friends is in the video.
Thanks so much.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Didn't Get the Memo

The combination of cotton white clouds and deep blue sky has been incredible the last few days.
As we walked this morning, I noticed a monarch flitting around as if it were August. I shot this picture as he settled on a piece of broken sage grass.
He didn't look as if he was in a hurry to get to Mexico. Maybe he didn't get the memo.
I've been there. Back when I worked for a living, one day I noticed everyone was scurrying around like squirrels gathering acorns for winter and I was going blissfully about my day. 
All of a sudden, ten minutes before an important meeting someone asked me, if I had the presentation ready for the meeting?
What meeting? The meeting with mister bossy pants big wig that fires people for sport! 
I didn't hear about the meeting because I'd been left off the email distribution list -- I literally didn't get the memo.
But I'm pretty good at flying by the seat of my pants so I did the presentation sans Powerpoint slides or handouts. 
Maybe mister monarch is also good at flying by the seat of his pants. Let's hope so because it's getting cold here next week and he needs to be winging his way southward.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Show out

Yesterday was overcast with a mist so thick at times I had to turn on my wipers.
We've been anxiously awaiting the autumn color. I fished for a few hours yesterday morning and as I turned onto river road, you could see a change in the oak and hickory. They are not there yet but they will be soon. You can expect some pictures of that.
After lunch we ran by the funeral home to do a quick visit with one of Jilda's cousins who lost her husband earlier this week.
As we turned into the driveway, I spotted this maple that decided it was time to show out.
I slowed, rolled down the window and snapped this shot with my iPhone as we passed slowly by. The sky was still overcast and looked washed out in the photo so I used Photoshop to frame the maple.
The techgods must have heard my pleading last night because my upgrade went flawlessly.
Other than losing some bookmarks on my Audible app, everything else works as expected.
Both our contracts are up on our phones at the end of the year and I'm thinking about getting us new iPhones. The camera is even better than the one I have now and the video is better too.
Last night I dreamed I made a full length movie using my iPhone. It won all kinds of awards for originality. I'm not sure what that dream came from but I woke up smiling this morning.
Today was a beautiful day and tomorrow is supposed to be nice too. I hope you all have remarkable weekends.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Big Boy Panties

I guess my column in Sunday's paper read like I was depressed. I got several calls from readers wanting to know if I was planning to quit writing.
I was in one of those moods after reading a couple of killer stories by Rick Bragg, and a short story by Dale Short. As writers sometimes do when they're feeling insecure about their work, I wrote a poor, poor, pitiful me column.
It was not my intention to come off so downbeat. Jilda has a way of addressing these moods by saying stuff like -- "Stop being such a big whiny baby" or "why don't you put your big boy panties on and just write."  I tried to conjure up that image in my head but it was much too scary.
The good thing is that these introspective, self spanking, moods are short lived. I whipped out a column yesterday in about 10 minutes on my love affair with coffee. I'll post it next Monday night after it runs on Sunday.
I have a writing workshop tomorrow and I've scheduled a couple of interviews afterwards. 
I'm upgrading the software on my iPhone tonight -- y'all pray for me :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesday Evening 9 p.m.

It's Tuesday evening 9 p.m. and I'm sitting here reflecting on the day. Today my niece Samantha reported to work for her first day on the first job she's ever had.
She's spent the last two years in intense coursework and she graduated a few months ago with honors. The offers poured in and she decided on a company that seemed to suit her.
She's decided on a daycare for her three year old Jordan (our great nephew), but she didn't have everything in place so she asked if he could stay with us today.  He came in sleepy eyed at 7:30 this morning, but by eight he had his game face on.
We did the normal stuff -- we fed the fish, we fed the chickens, we fed the birds, we fed the deer and then we came in and had breakfast.
I had another story to finish up so I worked in the office until just before lunch, and then left for a meeting.
When I returned, I watched Jordan while Jilda took a nap. He loves Baby Einstein so we watched that for a while. He needed to go to the bathroom but we didn't want to wake Jilda so I told him to pee off the back deck. We're not close enough that neighbors can see our back yard, so he scooted through the doggie door and did his business off the back porch.
He came back in holding his pants in his hands. I helped him get suited up but then I pulled his cargo pants up almost to his armpits. He giggled. I snapped a photo of him with my phone and sent it to his mom, hoping it would make her day.  It did.
Later in the evening I drove in to Jasper to see my mom at the nursing home. She's been sick the last few days, but she was much better today.
The sky has been gray and dreary today but on the way home I pulled in to the public boat launch and walked down by the river for a moment.
The water was as dark as smoked glass. A couple guys from out of town that were working in the area had decided to get a few hours of fishing in before dark.
The fish weren't biting so one of the guys asked if I'd take a photo of him with his phone so that he'd have proof for his wife that he was actually fishing and not up to no good :)
I love the river. I love the fact that I see it daily. I love the folks I meet there. It's a place I can stop for a few minutes and collect my thoughts...or take a few moments to simply be.
All in all, it's been a good Tuesday. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

I had stories due today so I've spent most of the day writing. You'd think with only two people living here it would be quite, but we now have five dogs that if you put on a balancing scale with say a Volkswagen, the dogs would drift down to the floor leaving the VW dangling like a pinata.
So, I've learned through experience that it's best to have headphones. I'm not talking about the old stoner headphones from the 60's and 70's that look like giant earmuffs and make your head tilt to starboard like a ship taking on water, but state-of-the art earphones that are about the size of a pencil eraser that you can shove up into your ear canal so close to the eardrum that no other sounds reach the drum except what's coming out of the headphones.
I turn on Dr. Jeffery Thompson's Awakened Mind which is a 30 minutes track that has embedded brainwaves in music that  is supposed to keep you mentally alert.
It seems to work, especially when I slam down a couple cups of double expresso's. Of course an approaching tornado, or some other calamity would be all over me and I'd be smiling like a dunce and tapping away on the keyboard like a woodpecker on cocaine.
I may have done a little permanent hearing damage today, but I knocked those stories out in record time.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

A Sunday

Thanks for all your well wishes last night. Jilda's shot full of meds and is feeling pretty good.
As it turns out, I must have been a big fat whiney baby because I feel fine today too. Maybe it was the hot toddy that snatched me from the jaws of affliction :)
We headed out for our walk this morning and though the color is still a few weeks away, we could see the beginnings of autumn color here in Empire.
We haven't had rain for about a month now...the last being the 10 inches we got in 24 hours about a month ago. We need a little rain to make the leaves really show out. The air was cool, which is perfect for our old dogs. 
About 10 minutes into the walk, I heard the wind whispering through the tall pine. It was as if they were sharing a secret with us -- the rain is coming, the rain is coming.
When we got back to the house and and Jilda was whipping up our blueberry protein shake in the blender, I stepped into the laundry room to get an update on the weather.
Sure enough, the weatherman says we should get some rain on Monday and Tuesday. I wasn't surprised because I'd already heard.
P.S. The regular portion of the blog just ended, but for those who are a glutton for punishment, read on.
I love those pictures called Stereograms. They are the pictures that don't look like anything at first, but when you stare at them and un-focus your eyes, a 3D image almost jumps out at you. They really give your right brain a workout.
I did a Google search to see if I could find any online and as it turns out, there's tons of them.
I'm going to include a couple below. If you've never seen one, you have to look at the photo and un-focus -- you almost have to cross your eyes. It also helps if you look at the pictures on the same plane as your eyes.
When you least expect it, your right brain will kick in and the 3d picture materializes.
Let me know if you see the images. (You can click on the pictures to make them a little bigger).

Saturday, October 08, 2011


I took Jilda to the after hours clinic this afternoon and tests showed she had another bacterial infection. The doc told her that if I got to feeling puny, I should come in immediately.
I'd felt great all day, but the moment I heard those words, I felt a burning in the back of my throat, and my nose started running.
I told myself that that there is NO WAY I'm getting sick this weekend and that's that. So, I've said it. My throat felt better immediately and my nose is no longer running.
The earlier symptoms had to be psychosomatic....or at least I hope they were. I'll know by morning.
I think I'm going to make a toddy like Jilda's grandmother used to make with peppermint candy and Jack Daniels and hit the sack.
Stay well everyone, and have a great Sunday.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Mock Neck

I had several comments on my blog entry about my mock neck sweater/shirts. A mock neck shirt is a hybrid turtleneck.
Steve Jobs wore a mock neck sweater in the photograph I used of him on Wednesday night. I've worn them for years.
My wardrobe is fairly simple. I have dark T-shirts, shorts, bluejeans, and tennis shoes for summer, and I have mock-necks, turtlenecks, bluejeans and tennis shoes for fall and winter.
I do have some dressier stuff that I wear when I attend funerals or some other event that frowns on jeans, but they don't see much action.
Back when I worked with MaBell and was first promoted to management, I had to wear suit and tie every day, even though I worked the midnight shift.
I was not a happy camper.
Later when I was outsourced to EDS, my desk and phone number remained the same, but EDS (Ross Perot's old company) was business casual. That meant golf shirts without logos and khaki pants.
Then even later when AT&T in-sourced me back into the MaBell fold, the dress code was tossed so I could have gone to work naked....well, that might have raised a few eye brows, but no one ever pushed the envelop to see.
I always felt like an impostor in a suit. The knots of my tie were alway wonky (unless Jilda tied them) and I always felt as if I were being hanged. I can tell you I don't miss it.
Even if I had to go back to work, I wouldn't work a job that required a coat and tie.
I'm sure this is more information that you folks wanted, but I got on a roll.
I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, October 06, 2011


One of the things, no two of the things I love most about autumn is that I can wear my mock-neck shirts, and I have a chance to see the autumn daisies. 
These flowers grow wild along side the road to our house. When the sun comes over the mountain and the angle of the light is right, these flowers make the countryside look almost like an impressionist painting.
I stopped today and shot this picture with my iPhone and silently thanked Steve Jobs once again for his contributions.
The leaves have yet to turn here, but I can see a hint of color in the mornings, and late evenings.
Jilda and I will travel north to the Carolinas soon, and we expect the foliage to be remarkable.
We both want to travel to New England in the fall. I went a few times when I was in the Army, but the timing was never right to see the color.
Once when my friend Kirk Trachy and I rode the bus to his house in New Hampshire after Thanksgiving, the words to James Taylors song, Sweet Baby James came to mind.

Now the first of December was covered with snow
And so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston
Though the Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting
With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go

We didn't see color, but we did see silver birches "on account of that frosting".  I know I say that every season is my favorite, but fall really is my favorite season.....until it's winter, spring, and summer.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

I spent the afternoon on the river and hadn't glanced at the news. When I checked tonight I saw where Steve Jobs of Apple died today. The news made me sad.
I knew he was in bad shape when he turned over the reigns to Tim Cook back in August. I held out hope that he'd hang on a while longer.
Jobs was a remarkable individual that I think changed the world.
I was late converting to Apple. I'd owned Windows based PC's mostly because they were compatible with my work PC.
But when Apple introduced the iPhone, I was intrigued and bought one.
It was so functional, elegant, easy to use, and took great photographs.
When it came time to replace my last computer, I sprung for an iMac and I've never regretted it. I recently bought an iPad for Jilda.
When Jobs launched iTunes, it was at a time when music piracy was booming. iTunes gave people an opportunity to download music at a reasonable price. It was an alternative to "stealing" music.
The idea struck home and iTunes flourished. Songwriters were happy because they got paid for their work instead of getting ripped off.
Maybe it was a matter of being at the right place at the right time, but I think there was more at work there.
I think there are rare individuals who have vision and manage to see those crazy ideas come to pass.
I think Steve Jobs was one of those individuals, and he will be missed.
RIP Steve.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Who Knew

iPads for $39.95; Genie Bra, look lifted and younger without adjusting straps; Language Experts, Trick you brain into learning a foreign language fast!
Can you believe all the neat stuff that Google Gmail thinks is spam? What are we missing? I mean, who wouldn't want to fill lifted and younger without adjusting your straps? How could that be considered spam?
And, just between you and me, I'd love to trick my brain....but I wouldn't trick into learning a foreign language fast, I'd trick into becoming smarter, more creative, and better at planning.
I clear my spam bucket out about every three days. I deleted everything Sunday and today I have 1704 messages that went straight to spam.
I'd call the people that send this stuff stupid, but I'm guessing that for every million or so messages they send, they'll get a few hits. Some poor sap will use a credit card to take advantage of the "enlargement special" but the only thing that gets bigger is the balance on his credit card.  Then he'll be telling his friends, who knew?

Monday, October 03, 2011

Memory Lane ~ My Column from Sunday

I took an unplanned side trip down memory lane today when I perused through my souvenir drawer.
My intention was to write this weeks column about dog tags and I figured I'd find my old Army tags in the drawer. 
Instead what I found was Pap's old pocket knife. Pap was my grandfather on daddy's side of the family.

It's a bone handled Old Timer knife with three stainless steel blades and if he wore his overalls, that knife was in his pocket.
Pap lived next door and what I remember most about him was the time I spent with him building things when I was a kid.
He had a shed for his blacksmith shop behind the house in Sloss, where he built fishing boats, mule-drawn mining cars, and shoes for mining mules.
There was a sycamore stump beside the shed as big around as a Maytag wringer washing machine, and that's where Pap installed his 250-pound anvil.
For those who've never heard of an anvil, it's a chunk of solid steel that looks kind of like an overgrown shoe horn. It's used with a hammer to shape horse shoes, make tools, and to crack hickory nuts – well, that's what I used it for.
Pap had a fire pit where he heated shoes until they glowed the color of orange Life Savers.
It takes a long time for a regular fire to get piece of metal sun-hot, so he rigged up an old 49 Ford heater fan as a blower.
After getting the coals in the fire pit roaring, he'd flip the switch on the blower and it turbo charged the fire.
I can still smell the sulfur from the burning coal and I remember the sound the hammer made when it struck the soft hot shoes. Each time he'd pound the steel, sparks shot away like tiny lightening bugs.
When he'd finish a shoe, he'd grab steel tongs with handles as long as my arm, and temper the shoe by dousing it in a bucket of water, which made the metal harder.
Once finished, he'd flip the blower off, throw a little more coal on the fire, and take a smoke break.
His thick fingers reached into the bib pocket of his overalls, and pulled out a small cotton sack of Bull Durham smoking tobacco. With the rolling paper curved around the end of his finger, he'd pour in some tobacco, and use both hands to roll it tight. When he licked and sealed it together, it resembled a lumpy stick of chalk.
More times than not, he'd poke a dry twig down into the burning embers of coal and use the twig to light his cigarette.
The image of him sitting on that stump wiping sweat from his brow with a handkerchief, and puffing on that lumpy cigarette is the one that's tattooed on my brain. It's a memory that always makes me smile.
I guess I'll save my story about the dog tags for another time because the pocketknife sent me down memory lane and today, that was good enough for me.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Wishing My Life Away

I wish I had more money to travel
I wish I had more time to visit with my friends
I wish I had a Porsche 911
I wish I'd paid more attention in English class when I was in school
I wish I'd learn to cook, and to dance, and to snow ski
I wish there were no such thing as hunger, abuse, or war
I wish the we were kinder to the environment, and to each other
I wish we could go through one election and focus on issues instead of mudslinging
I wish my father had lived long enough to see the book I wrote
I wish I'd listened more, taken better notes, and shot more pictures of my grandparents
I could go on, but then, I'd be wishing my life away.

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