Sunday, September 30, 2012

An Old Rainy Day

I've spent the day wrapping up loose ends. Jilda was in a training class this afternoon so I had the house to myself.
Rain moved in from the southwest and began to rattle the metal roof just after lunch. I would have been easy to have spent the afternoon napping, but I had several little things nagging.
I caught up on my reading, I wrote an overdue letter, and I filed some correspondance. I also went through our financial documents and credit card statements over the last quarter and entered them into our financial spreadsheet.
It's not stimulating work, but it's something that can get away from you if you don't stay on top of it. It was perfect work for an old rainy day.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Autumn Daisies

We set out just before lunch today for a memorial service.  Jilda's friend from the treatment room passed away earlier in the week and her service was today.
We left in plenty of time to get there early and visit with the family because Jilda had a yoga training class that started in the afternoon and we knew we'd probably have to leave the service before it ended.
On the way over we encountered a funeral. If you live in the south, you probably know this means  you stop your car until the procession passes.
No problem, it only takes a few minutes, but we hadn't gone a mile until we came up on another funeral. Again we stopped.
Less than a mile later, another. All in all, we encountered eight funerals, but we only had to stop seven times, as one of the funerals was awaiting police escorts and was just sitting there.
We pulled into the funeral home just as the service started so we didn't to speak with the family, before we had to leave.
I dropped Jilda off at the training center and I headed home. Fortunately a friend of ours was attending the class too, so Jilda caught a ride with her.
I had little on my calendar so I rolled the windows down and took the scenic route home. It's been cool this week, but the rain is moving in and it got warm this afternoon.
On a long stretch of county road, I came upon what seemed to be miles of yellow daisies on the roadside. I slowed to let some cars behind me pass, and I pulled off to take a few pictures.
Nothing says fall like autumn daisies.

Friday, September 28, 2012


Photo credit - Ford Pinto Car Club
When Jilda's parents retired, they kept the roads hot. They owned a 1974 Pinto station wagon and when they went shopping the first of every month, the back bumper of that old Pinto would almost drag the pavement.
When they remodeled their house, the Pinto doubled as a pickup truck.
They hauled lumber, plywood, paint, and sheetrock from discount salvage, and home improvement stores all across central Alabama.
Once when I was down there helping unload some wood, I noticed a red and white fishing cork as big as a golfball on the antenna.
When I asked about the fishing cork, he laughed and said that on a recent shopping excursion, they'd misplaced the Pinto and had walked the parking lot from end to end without finding the car.
Just before they were about go inside and report the car stolen (who would have stolen a 1974 Pinto?), a van backed out of a parking spot, and there it sat.
The Pinto had a curiously long antenna and when extended to its full length, the cork was like a beacon. You could spot the vehicle from thirty yards away.
I said all that to say this: Jilda and I went to her sister's retirement party today and afterwards we drove to the nearby Apple store to buy a car charger for my new phone.
There was a Williams and Sonoma a few doors down and we stepped down to browse for a moment. When we headed to where our car should have been, it wasn't there. We walked few aisles over and nada.
I was scratching my head and trying to figure out our next move when an SUV as big as a mobile home backed out and there was Ingrid.
I laughed and started to speak, but Jilda beat me to the punch when she said, "We need a fishing cork for our antenna." We both howled.
I knew immediately what my blog would be about tonight.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Important, Not Urgent

Years ago I went to a mandatory training class set up by some curriculum manager. I often dreaded these classes because good ones were as rare as winning lottery tickets.
The class for which I was scheduled was What Matters Most, by Stephen Covey. I've actually written about this class before, but the information I learned has been invaluable. 
In fact, I liked it so much, I actually paid for Jilda to go out of my pocket. We both have day planners that we updated daily.
In the class he says that most things we do in our lives fall somewhere in one of the following quadrants:

Important/Not Urgent
Not Important/Urgent
Not Important/Not Urgent.

As an example, if your roof leaks, and the rainy season is approaching then getting the roof fixed is both Important and Urgent.
On the other hand if your roof leaks, but rain is not predicted for a month, then getting it fixed is Important, but it's not that Urgent.

Today, I handled some things that were important, but not urgent. We spent a fortune rebuilding our decks last year and one of the things you need to do after the wood dries a little is to treat it with a wood sealant. 
It wasn't urgent that I do it now, but it was important because an untreated deck lasts about half as long as one that's been cared for.

One problem that everyone struggles with it spending valuable time doing things that are not important. I'm not sure why, but when things are "on fire" they demand attention and action, right?

Not always. Ask yourself, what would happen if I didn't put out the fire, but let it rage. Would it matter a year from now?

I try to spend as much time as possible doing things that are important, but I still find myself wasting time doing things that really don't matter.

But getting the deck water sealed, felt good today.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's Here

I interviewed an older guy today that I've known for most of my life. His daughter called me last night and asked if I'd come and capture his story.
It seems he has terminal cancer and it sounds like his time is short. I took my recorder, and got him to tell his story.
I was there about 30 minutes before he grew tired. During that time, we laughed a lot, but some of his stories brought tears to my eyes.
He grew up in a house with his parents and eight siblings. He was young during the Great Depression, but he still remembers that life was hard in those years.
He had four kids, of his own, but he lost his oldest son in Vietnam in 1969. "That's something you never get over," he said.
I shot a picture of him before I left and I told him to be well. He said he would love to be well, but he didn't think he would ever be well again.
I've thought about him a great deal today.

On a lighter note, I ordered a new iPhone on Friday the 14th. The confirmation email said they would not ship for at least two weeks, but I got an email Monday saying it had shipped from ZhengZhou, China.
I logged on and began tracking the shipment make it's way toward Empire, Alabama. There was a note on the door when we returned home around lunch.
Our UPS guy normally doesn't run until late afternoon and that's when I expected the phone would arrive, but Apple expedited the order and he brought it early.
We've had this guy for years so he left his cell phone number on the note. He guessed that I'd be anxious to get my hands on the new phone, and he was right.
I called him up and met him as he was making rounds a few miles away.
It took me a while to set the new phone up because I had some cleaning up to do on the old phone. But like most Apple products, the activation of the new device was flawless.
What struck me about the new phone is that it's thinner than my old phone, but it's about 3/4 of an inch bigger and has a bigger screen.
I've had an iPhone for years, but the camera and the screen resolution on the iPhone 5 is incredible. It's also much faster than my old phone.
Jilda shot this photo of me an my new iPhone 5. I posted the pic on Facebook thinking I was probably the first in our area to have one, but I soon learned I thought wrong..

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Unwanted Guest

Years ago we had out TV in the living room. We discovered that the set was always on, even when we were doing other things. It was like a third person, in the room. Sometimes that was OK, but at other times it was like an unwanted guest. We discovered that the TV time was eating away our precious free time and we created less. We wrote fewer songs, we practiced less often, and when we ate dinner, we rarely talked to each other.
When we decided to remodel about 15 years ago we made the decision to move the TV to what would become our laundry room. We bought a small love seat to go in there. We made it less comfortable for a reason.
If there was a program we wanted to see, we would sit out there, often listening to the TV over the clang of the clothes dryer and the spew of water going into the washer.  We watched TV less.
As a result, our creative output exploded almost overnight. We wrote more songs, Jilda painted, and we talked during dinner.
I have nothing against TV. There are a lot of great programs to watch. But I really don't miss the unwanted guest that spent too much time in our home.

Monday, September 24, 2012

My Column from Sunday's Paper

Some days writing this column is as easy as telling a story to an old friend. Some days finding the words comes so hard, that it would be less painful to have the enamel scraped off your front teeth with a rasping file.

Today has been one of the latter days.

I’ve written three pieces today, all of which seemed as thin as onion skin, so I saved them to my “work in progress” folder. 

This is where I put things I’ve wasted a good bit of time on, and don’t have the guts to delete them. I would have been better off going fishing, cutting grass, or dusting behind my computer. 

At least I’d have something to show for the time I spent. That’s not the way it works. I’ve spent a lot of time reading about how to become a good writer, and listening to writers at conferences. They all say that you must write through the garbage to get to the good stuff. I don’t think they realize how bad my garbage stinks at times.

At any rate, I did what they suggested. I got a glass of iced tea, took my laptop to the side porch, turned on the ceiling fan, and started tapping keys. And eventually this idea came.

I know that I only write one column a week, and some may say “What’s the big deal, just write something.” But it’s not that easy for me. I feel that I owe my readers my best. 

Doing my best is something that was etched into my brain from a very early age. My mom insisted on it. 

Whether I was working on a science project, writing a paper, or playing little league baseball, doing my best was expected.

I didn’t have to be the smartest, the fastest, or the strongest. 

As long as I did my best she stood behind me. If on the other hand I sandbagged, she’d be all over me like a chicken on a Junebug. To continue on the theme of trying to do my best, I wrote a few weeks ago about my new book “Life Happens”. I thought it would have been at the printer by now, but I wanted it to be as error free as possible. 

So I asked Dale Short to do one final scan, and I also asked my friend Asa Faith Randolph, who taught English at Walker High School for years, to sharpen her red pencil and go over it too. Together they found upwards of 30 errors in a book that I thought was tighter than a Shakespeare Sonnet. 

The printers will have the final book by the time this column appears. I’ll be signing books during the holidays.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

If You're Ever Going to see a Rainbow

We've been looking forward to today for months. Our songwriter group (except for a couple that couldn't make it) played a gig at the Community Foundation's amphitheater today.
The Foundation has offices in the house of Tallulah Bankhead's folks. Of course Tullulah was a "bigger than life actress" from Jasper, Alabama.
Jilda and I approached them back in the summer to ask if our group could perform one Sunday in September. As it turns out, it was this Sunday, which was fortunate weather wise. It was absolutely stunning today.
We didn't know what to expect as far as attendance, but as it turns out, we had a full house....or a full amphitheater I should say.
All the folks in our group did an exceptional job and we came home glowing.
The only downside to the day was a call we received this morning before we left. I didn't recognize the number, but when I answered, the girl wanted to speak to Jilda.
It was the daughter of one of the people who take treatments with Jilda. Their mother Rosemary had passed away.
Jilda looked as if someone had punched her in the stomach, and I knew what had happened before she hung the phone up.
This evening as I type these words, the tune to an old country song by the Oakridge Boys drifted through my mind.
"If you're ever going to see a rainbow,
You have to stand a little rain."
RIP Rosemary.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

It's Autumn

All the signs, clouds, and colors were pointing to this day. Autumn has arrived here and they day was beautiful.
Jilda and I had to pick up our contact lenses in Birmingham so we lunched at an Italian restaurant and afterwards Jilda wanted to look for a new comforter for the bed in our room.
I really don't have a horse in that race. I'm good at a lot of stuff, but picking out shoes, window treatments, and things to put on my bed are not things I'd put on my resume.
She, on the other hand is very good at this kind of thing so I went along for the ride and grunted in appropriate places.
We're both on a mission to get our space in order. We've lived here for a long time and we spent so many years working to make it ours.
We had a mortgage burning party a few years ago, and we've spent a great deal of time and money since then, making improvements.  There are a few more things on our wish list. 
Today was a great day for driving around. We rolled down the windows at one point and let the wind blow through our hair. 
This evening I built another fire in our fire pit and sat outside. The hummingbirds are tanking up before they head south for the winter and they found the fire fascinating.  
They hovered from a distance and watched the flames, as if they were some kind of warm flickering flower.  
I tried to imagine what they were thinking as the zipped here and there to get a better angle to improve their view.
I have no idea what they were thinking, but I do know that when I looked back at the dancing flames, I thought what a blessing it is to be alive on this first day of autumn.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Brain Rebooting

I've written long enough to understand that sometimes, the well runs dry. I struggled with my column this week. I actually called the editor and asked for an extension. In all the years I've been writing for the paper, I've only asked for an extended deadline a couple times.
I'm not sure why. Perhaps my muse is in Florida with plans to celebrate the autumnal equinox at the beach this year.
If that's the case, I wish she would let me know so that I could take a break too, instead of wasting time tapping keys.
I hope you all have a remarkable Weekend and that your team wins (unless your team happens to be Florida Atlantic which plays the Tide tomorrow).

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Maiden Voyage

Our fire pit had its maiden voyage this evening (I could kick myself for not shoot a photo). I haven't had time to lay the stone patio yet, but the weather was simply too perfect to pass up.
This morning it was 48 degrees here. The sun was warm today, but a breeze out of the northwest kept things pleasant.
This evening when the sun neared the horizon, I went to the edge of the yard and fetched some applewood that I saved when our old tree died late last year.
I took small twigs and pine straw to get things started and then added the larger pieces of applewood. I placed the mesh cover over the pit, fetched a glass of red wine, and pulled up two chairs so we could watch the show.
We sat outside for a long while enjoying the crackle of the small fire. The aroma of burning applewood was perfect for an almost-autumn evening.
I sat by the fire while Jilda went inside to finish dinner. She'd cooked pinto beans, and baked a dish of beets, rutabagas, and sweet potatoes, along with pan fried hoecakes (cornbread).
I stepped outside just now to check on the fire and it was down to embers the size of lightning bugs. I could still smell the applewood so I stood for a long while taking it all in.
I can't think of a better way to end the day.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Lightening the Load

Today was treatment day for my lovely spouse. She gets her infusions in the same room as people with cancer and other maladies. For the most part, it's not a happy place.
Just before we left, she suggested that I take a box of books to give out to the patients in the treatment room.
I still have a few boxes left over from my first book, and since we are trying to de-clutter the homeplace, I thought that was an exceptional idea.
Even though she often feels like "death eating a cracker," when she goes for treatments, she's on a personal quest to raise the vibration level in the treatment room.
She acknowledges everyone, and talks to those who want to talk.
I usually leave her in the room, and head to the food court to write. Some of my best columns have been written there.
Today, I didn't get much writing done. I'd just settled in, and was pecking out the first few lines when I got a text - "Come when you can to sign two books."
I typed a few more lines and my phone vibrated again. "I need another books signed." I snapped the laptop closed and walked back across to the treatment room. When I walked in, I signed a half dozen books, and before we left, just after lunch, I'd signed a dozen more.
Jilda chatted with folks as if they'd know each other all their lives. People who have every right to be depressed, left the room smiling.
You might think I'm prejudiced, and perhaps I am, but I think my wife is a remarkable person. She's going through hard times herself, and yet she still does her best to help lighten the load of others.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Rain

Last night it rained so hard that from inside, it sounded like wind in the trees. Water swept off the roof in sheets.
We were in the relaxation phase of Jilda's yoga class, and she turned the soft music up a little because the sound of so much water in such a short time was disquieting.
But she's gifted with a soothing voice, and when coupled with soft music, I soon hovered in a place somewhere between being asleep and awake.
After class, when I walked outside to load up the mats, most of the clouds had passed on to the southeast and between the remaining scattered clouds, the stars looked as though I were seeing them through a veil. I could tell the temperature had dropped noticeably.
This morning I got an early start on a story I've been writing and rewriting for a week now. I took my coffee to the screened porch, but I had to step inside and put on a long-sleeved shirt.
This evening I had to fetch supper because Jilda was working, and on the way to the restaurant, I found myself turning the heater in my truck on low for the first time since February.
We're playing this weekend at the Bankhead House Amphitheater in Jasper. The highs will be in the 70s, but sense we're playing in the afternoon, I might have to wear a sweater.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised, autumn arrives officially in less than four days. We'll be wishing each other a Merry Christmas before we know it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

My Column from Sunday's Paper

I know my younger readers are probably sick of me lamenting about the good old days, but I doubt many of them would disagree that the cars from the 1950s and ‘60s were some of the coolest cars ever made.

Cars built in those years were beautiful, except for Edsel’s and Ramblers, both of which had particularly unfortunate designs.

But Chevy, Ford and Chrysler, beginning in about 1955 up through 1967, had designers that were artists with metal, chrome and paint.

The Chevy Corvette came along in 1953, and the Ford Thunderbird came out in 1955, and both models were stunningly beautiful. Even today, I’d trade a kidney for a 1957 Corvette.

Some of the old Cadillacs from that era were masterpieces too.
I started thinking about this story today when Jilda and I passed a 1957 Plymouth Fury on the way home from shopping. It was as red as a sunset. The swath of chrome on the fins, around the grill and headlights shined like a mirror.

I rolled down the window of my truck and listened to the low rumble of the exhaust as we eased by.

I noticed the driver was probably my age. He was driving one-handed with his left elbow propped on the ledge created by the open window. It was obvious he was enjoying the ride.

My family had a 1957 Plymouth like that in the early ‘60s. It had a motor as big as Rhode Island, and when you stomped the accelerator, it slung pavement from under the wheels.

Of course, each time you put your foot in the carburetor, you could watch the gas gauge drop noticeably. 

That wasn’t a factor in 1960 when gasoline was 31 cents a gallon, but when gas prices soared, it got expensive fast.

The price of gas changed the playing field in Detroit. Things went south in the 1970s when the Arabs turned off the oil spigot, and gas prices soared through the roof. 

The Japanese manufactured Hondas and Toyotas, which were easy on fuel, so sales of those models skyrocketed, while the sales of gas guzzlers built in Detroit dropped like a stone.

It took some time, but the Americans got a handle on the fuel-efficiency band wagon and began to build cars that could compete with their imported counterparts.

Cars today are more aerodynamic, with state-of-the-art fuel emission control and ignitions systems, which allows them to get much better gas milage with less pollution. But for the most part, I’ve seen toaster ovens with more style.

Detroit learned that building more fuel efficient cars required a trade off. They traded steel for more plastic and glass. The fins had to go.

Today as I watched the old Plymouth shrinking in my rearview mirror, I realized that a little sadness washed over me.

I know that we all must be better stewards of the environment, and we can’t think of oil as an infinite resource, so I understand why the tradeoffs had to be made. 

But I have to say, I really miss the fins.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Phone is in the Mail

I pre-ordered an iPhone 5. My old iPhone is several years old and while it still works, the screen is beginning to show signs of age.

The new phones are faster when it comes to surfing the internet, accessing apps, etc. But it's the camera that interests me. The phone I have now takes great pictures, but the specs on the new iPhone are incredible.

It won't ship for two weeks, so it looks like I'll take delivery sometime after the first of October. I must say I'm excited.

I plan to take my old iPhone and donate it to the program that provides phones for servicemen being deployed overseas.

I've written three posts tonight, but they all seemed lame, so I deleted each of them and started anew.
Keeping things fresh is not alway easy.  I'm not sure how some bloggers do it.

In December I will celebrate my seventh year as a blogger. For the most part, I've blogged every day. There were times we lost power that I could not post. There were a few times when were traveling to places without access to the Internet that I couldn't post. And then last year when tornadoes raked Alabama and we didn't have power for almost two weeks, there were days I didn't post. But if we had juice, and a wireless connection, I put something out there.

It stands to reason that there will be off nights. It is my intention that the off nights will be few and far between.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Icing on the Cake

There's something that's almost magic about the evening sky; that time of day just a blink between dusk and nightfall, .
I posted a picture of an evening sky last night, then this evening I took Jilda along with her sister Pat, and our friend Asa to dinner.
Asa helped edit my book, and we've had more than our share of Sunday dinners at Pat's house, so tonight was our treat. Dale, who also did a great deal of work on my book is still considering his options for payment, but Asa and Pat chose the Cyprus Inn in Tuscaloosa, which is a little more than an hour south of where we live. 
The Tide played tonight, but fortunately the game was in Fayetteville, Arkansas so a lot of people were either out of town, or watching the game on TV. 
We arrived a little past 5 p.m. and we waltzed right in and took a window seat. I understand that it's not unusual to wait for a table there.
The restaurant is situated on the banks of the Black Warrior River. The Black Warrior is the same river that flows a few miles from my house, but it winds its way through the hills and hollows of central Alabama to Tuscaloosa and beyond.
We had a table with a view as you can see by the picture I snapped with my iPhone. 
The food was as good as any I've ever had. I ordered a fried seafood platter. I rarely eat fried food, but a friend recommended this dish, and I wasn't disappointed. Jilda, Pat and Asa had filets.
Good food, good conversation, with good friends. All in all, I can't think of a better way to spend a late summer Saturday evening. 
The sky was icing on the cake.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Evening Sky

Tonight's post will be short. I shot pictures at my high school football game tonight but as I was preparing to head to the field, I stepped down to dump a scoop of corn for the deer and as I looked off to the west, the sky was stunning.
The old school was winning when I left in the 3rd quarter.
Y'all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Not One of those days

Some days you spin your wheels. You wake up with an agenda and every intention to kick names and take butt, then life happens, and you wind up at the end of the day with little to show for your effort.
Today was not one of those days.
 As I mentioned in last night's post, I was a slug for most of the day yesterday, but when my feet touched the floor this morning, I got traction.
I finished and submitted a column before the coffee pot stopped gurgling. My morning chores were dispatched post haste. 
I had breakfast, kissed the wife, and I was on the road with a go-cup of coffee and a full agenda.
I hauled a ton of old newspapers, old electronic equipment, and other debris that we've been tripping over for months, to the recycling place. Our county doesn't have any kind of recycling, so we have to make a conscience decision to do it. Sometimes it's a pain, but both of us are committed to trying to do what's right by the environment.
I left the recycling place and headed to an Alabama Media Professionals meeting. The guest speaker was from the communications department of Children's Hospital of Alabama. Her topic was how to freelance for their organization.
She had a lot of great tips, for the folks looking for work, but I'm doing about as much freelance work as I can handle now. 
After lunch, I met with my financial planner. He switched from one company to another and wanted to keep me as a client. 
He's been my planner for years, but I couldn't help having a little fun at his expense.
I asked him what would happen if he got hooked on crack cocaine and ran off with a 15 year-old cheerleader from Dolphin Island. 
He got that deer in the headlights looked and got all professional on me. "Well, any money that leaves your account has to be made out to you......."
I let his squirm for a while because I get my kicks in strange ways :) I was having fun, but I did want him to know that I do check.  
When I left there, I ran by a local high school and shot a photo for a story I wrote last week.
In between, appointments, I ordered new contacts, set up a dental appointment for Jilda and me, I arranged for a stone mason to come and give an estimate for a stone patio, I ordered lumber for a small remodeling project in our TV room, and I sent out invoices for work I've done this month.
Tomorrow, I think I'll sleep in.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I had a routine colonoscopy this morning, so much of the day has been a blur. I remember chatting with the nurses just before the procedure about being being drafted and then suddenly I felt a little light headed. And then the lights went out completely.
A few seconds later (or so it seemed) I was in the recovery room trying to get my sweat pants on. That would have been an amusing piece of video.
Once home I hit the couch and slept for most of the afternoon. My head still feels like it's full of gauze soaked in cold mollasses.
I'm guessing I'll sleep tonight.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Life of Writing ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

   My first job as a writer was with The Community News in 1973. I’d just gotten out of the Army and I badly needed a job.
A lot of responsible soldiers saved money to help smooth the transition from military life, where you didn’t have to worry about buying groceries or paying the light bill, to civilian life where Uncle Sam was no longer footing the bill. I wasn’t one of those responsible soldiers.

So when I got home from Panama, I moved back in with my parents and started looking for a job.

 Fortunately my friend Dale Short who was the editor of The Community News, which was owned by The Daily Mountain Eagle at the time, suggested I apply for a staff writer job. I applied and the company hired me the same day on Dale’s recommendation.

 I sat down at my desk which was by the window. A fern with leaves dry enough to smoke, sat on the window sill. Horticulture was not one of Dale’s strong points.
On my desk was a  Royal manual typewriter as big as a microwave.

 The beast had been used so much that the center of the Q and the C keys were packed as tight as a plug of chewing tobacco. Years of black ink had been pounded into the keys by cub reporters writing about football, obits, and family reunions.

 I took the small blade of my Old Timer pocket knife, and gently picked the hardened ink out. I threaded in a piece of copy paper and started a journey that has lasted a lifetime.
I loved the feel of that typewriter. The clack, clack, clack, ding as I slapped the carriage return to advance to the next line, made me feel more involved in my stories.

 I wrote about sports, civic events, and monster watermelons. But my favorite assignments were interviews. I found myself getting lost in the details.

 I learned then that everyone has a story, but often people don’t take the time to listen to them.

 I think sometimes that I lost a little bit of my “MoJo” when I started writing on computers.

 Tonight as I started writing this column, I chose to compose the story in a program called Pages. It’s Apple’s version of a word processor and it has a font called American Typewriter.

 I clicked a few words and they looked just like the words I once typed on the old Royal.
I chose the option that lets you work in Full Screen mode, which removed all distractions from my computer screen.

 Just looking at the font brought back a rush of memories from those few years I spent writing for The Community News.

 I know in the scheme of things, the work I did there didn’t further the cause of World Peace, or True Happiness, but it felt right. I felt like I was doing something important.
No other job I’d had before, or no job since provided me with the feeling of accomplishment I felt.

 So it’s no mystery that I’m a freelance writer now. I knew when I left The Community News on January 15, 1976 that one day I’d write again. Maybe I can find an old Royal on Ebay.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

I Miss the Fins

Driving home from Jasper today we passed a 1957 Plymouth Fury. It was red and ivory with chrome on the fins. I miss the fins.
In the 1940, 1950, and 1960’s American cars were beautiful....well, except for Ramblers, Pacers, and the Dodge Cornet which was a particularly unfortunate design.
My family had a 1957 Plymouth with a motor as bit a Rhode Island. When you stomped the accelerator, it slung pavement from under the wheels.
Just before I was drafted, I bought a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air. Even with rust spots and peeling paint it was a beautiful car.
These days, with all the emission control, electronic ignition, and other modern-day enhancements, you can barely hear the engine.
In the 50s and 60s, when you cranked the engine, you could hear windows rattle.
I realize that cars must be fuel efficient, safe and ergonomically engineered, but I really miss the fins. 

Saturday, September 08, 2012

A Change In the Weather

Our great nephew Stone had a game today, so Jilda and I decided to go.
Just before we left, Jilda flipped on the weather channel to check out the forecast. The weatherman was pointing to a glob red and green stuff drifting south like soft icing on a warm cake. This usually means we're going to get wet, or blown to South Carolina.
As Jilda put finishing touches on her makeup, I loaded our canvas chairs, a case of water, and a parasol into the Volvo.
It was overcast when we left, but by the time we got to the park, the clouds had parted and the sun was hotter than a microwave.
Off in the distance, clouds piled on the horizon like dirty laundry, and before we left, the temperature began to drop.
Tonight, the wind out of the west was much cooler. I’m not ready to break out the long handles, but this evening when I stepped down to the apple tree to spread a scoop or corn for the deer, I realized my shirt wasn’t damp as if I’d just ran the first leg of a marathon.
I finished reading the second of two of the books on writing so far, and it’s obvious why they come highly recommended.
Inspiration is a subtle business. You can read the best instructions in the world, but the words fall like barren seeds on a fertile field, unless they resonate. So far, these have resonated. 
Tomorrow we’re going to visit a new friend that Jilda met in the treatment room. The woman is going through a hard time right now, and needs some positive energy in her life.
Have a blessed weekend.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Out of the Dumps

I've been a little down today. It couldn't have been the weather because the sky was deep blue, with scattered cotton clouds that looked like smoke signals. But I felt almost displaced, if that makes sense.
Jilda normally doesn't work on Friday, but one of her co-workers wanted to be off, so she covered for him so he could spend some time with his young wife at the beach.
I had some work in Birmingham and headed home just after lunch. I had some writing to finish, so I put my laptop on the dining room table just to have a little change in venue.
After a while, I stood to stretch my legs. Stepping into the kitchen, I pulled a glass from the cabinet, and clinked some ice cubes into my glass. As I stood looking out the window toward the garden, I noticed a doe standing under the apple tree.
I sipped tea and watched the show for a few moments. Then at the far end of the garden I saw a tiny spotted fawn charging up toward the apple tree like its tail was on fire. He circled his mom a few times and then headed for the corn that I'd spread under the tree.
I stepped into the office to get my video camera and when I got back, a second fawn appeared. I think it was the same doe that had two fawns the year before last.
Somehow watching this critters lifted my spirits. I guess the Good Lord knew just what to send my way to get me out of the dumps.

Thursday, September 06, 2012


Not all work is glamorous. Sometimes you’d rather have the enamel of your front teeth removed with a rasping file, than do the work on your calendar.
Today, I hitched up my big-boy underoos and dove in. By noon, I’d checked off most of the things on my list.
I think doing unpleasant things builds character. I feel sorry for those with money, who never have to deal with the minutia of life. 
“Yes, here’s $300, go have this colonoscopy for me, and the results had better be good!” 
I’ve been updating the design of one of the websites I maintain. I wasn’t adding exciting content, interviewing interesting people, or writing compelling profiles, I was chasing down dead links. Those annoying things buried deep within websites that pop up when visitors are digging the site, but then stumble on a link to get more info, and they are thrust into cyberhell. It's not fun work, but it has to be done.
I also received the final edits for my book from a high school English teacher, and a book editor. Combined they found at least 30 errors. I though the book was as tight as a Shakespeare Sonnet when in reality it had more holes than a Chinese Checkerboard.
I took a deep breath and dove in -- page by page, and fixed all the issues. I’m at the point now that I’m sending it off and praying for the best.
Tonight, I’m about to brew a cup of sleepy-time tea and with any luck, I’ll soon be drooling on my pillow.
Y’all have a remarkable Friday

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


My first job as a writer was with The Community News. It was in 1973 and I’d just gotten out of the Army.  
A lot of responsible soldiers saved money so that when they were released from the military, back into the civilian population, they’d have some money to get them through. I wasn’t one of those responsible soldiers. 
So when I got home, I moved back in with my parents and started looking for a job.
Fortunately my friend Dale Short was the editor of The Community News and he suggested I apply for a staff writer job. I did and the company hired me the same day on Dale’s recommendation.
I sat down at my desk which was by the window. A fern with leaves dry enough to smoke, sat on the window sill. Dale wasn’t big on horticulture.
On my desk was a manual Royal typewriter that was as big as a microwave. 
The beast had been used so much, that the Q and the C were totally filled in with years of black ink packed into the open space of the characters, by cub reporters writing about football, obits, and family reunions.
I loved the feel of that typewriter, and the sound of the clack, clack, clack, ding as I labored away on my stories.
Tonight as I started writing this post, I chose to compose the story in an Apple program called Pages. 
Pages has a font called American Typewriter. I selected the font, and selected Full Screen, which removed all distractions from my computer screen.
Just looking at the font brought back a rush of memories from those few years I spent writing for The Community News.
I know in the scheme of things, the work I did there didn’t further the cause of World Peace or True Happiness, but it felt right. I felt like I was doing something important.
No other job I’d had before, or no job since compared to the feeling of accomplishment I felt.
So it’s no mystery that I’m a freelance writer now. I knew when I left The Community News on January 15, 1976 that one day I’d write again.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

It's about the stories

There is a lot of my work that fascinates me. I get so involved, I lose track of time and space. I get lost in the stories.
When the interviews are over, it's all I can do to keep from writing 3,000 words when the assignment calls for 600.
I wrote a story some months back about a man that grew up hard. He watched his father kill his mother with an ax when he was six. He lived with family and extended family for a while, but went through unspeakable abuse.
Most folks would have written him off, but a kind teacher told him that if he learned to read and got an education, he could become anything he wanted to become.
Long story short, he became a radio DJ, and later a promoter, and now he's CEO of one of the largest branding companies in the southeast.
The story ran this month and my inbox has filled with emails from people thanking me for doing this story.
As a freelancer, I make a little money, but money is not the motivation. It's about the stories.
Here's a link to the online paper. It's the lead story.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Autumn is almost here

No matter what the calendar says, summer’s almost gone, and autumn is just around the corner here in Empire, Alabama. There are so many signs that appear each day.

The hummingbirds are in a feeding frenzy, and although they weigh just barely more than your mental picture of them, they seem to be a lot bigger as they buzz your head when you venture too close to their feeders.

A few weeks ago, we saw the first tiny goldenrod blossoms which grow by our walking path. The flower was the color of egg yoke.

Further down the trail, I noticed the crimson-colored sumac leaves. I’ve always wanted a car that color. (Car dealer: “What color do you want for your new Porsche 911 Carrera?” Rick: “I want it the color of sumac in autumn.”)

This summer, there were days hotter than Satan in a sauna, but this morning when we walked we could feel a coolness on the wind — a promise of autumn.

Soon we’ll be digging through trunks for sweatpants, long-sleeved shirts and sweaters to wear when the nights get longer and the wind is out of the northwest.

Autumn changes the chores from mowing grass and hoeing peas to cleaning the BBQ grill and lawnmower to get them ready to winter in the barn. The tiller will join them as soon as the fall garden is in the ground.

I plan to plant collards, turnip greens, beets and onions this fall. Each year as the turnips mature, Jilda not only prepares the greens, but she also bakes the turnips like potatoes.

I like to mash mine mushy with a fork, scoop on enough butter to clog a major artery with cholesterol, then add greens, a few scallions, a pone of hot cornbread and a bucket of ice tea, and I’m in culinary heaven. 

If there’s a better meal on the planet, I’d like to try it and see if it’s actually better or if someone is recommending it without having tasted Jilda’s cooking.

Dang, after typing this past sentence, I stood and walked to the fridge and looked inside to see if I could find any left-overs. Now where was I? 

Oh yes, autumn also brings football. I realize there are a lot of people who could care less about football, but I can’t help believing that perhaps they were beamed down to earth several years ago by all those UFOs we routinely saw in the South. 

(OK, I’m kidding about this one, folks.)

The thing I like best about autumn is the color. Some years when the summer has been dry, autumn passes almost without visual fanfare because the color is non-existent.

Then there are other years when each turn on a Sunday drive is like color I experienced when I first peered through a kaleidoscope as a child.

I lived in Panama for a while, and except for the exotic birds, it’s one color, and that’s green. There are many other places where the landscape rarely changes.

But I’ve also been to some of the most beautiful spots on this part of the planet that become even more beautiful in autumn. 

Some of my favorites places were New Hampshire, Virginia, Tennessee, Washington and of course, Alabama. 

There are things about summer I will miss, but the seasons are like a slow-moving train on a circular track, and summer will come again. 

But according to Mother Nature’s conductor, the next stop is “Autumnville.”

Sunday, September 02, 2012


I arose early this morning and scooped coffee in the maker. I closed my eyes and let the aroma of freshly ground dark roast coffee beans waft gently up through my nasal canal and on to points north.
The smell of coffee in the morning sends me. A freshly brewed carafe of good coffe is like poetry in a cup.
I finally managed to pull myself away from the kitchen and slip on my some sneakers. Each time I put my shoes on, the dogs start bouncing off the walls because that means something's about to happen. They're not sure what but it usually involves something they enjoy.
I let them out, and Caillou lept off the steps and was on an unsuspecting squirrel in a heartbeat. Rocky scurried up a safe distance up a nearby tree and started saying bad things about Caillou's mother (or that's what it sounded like to me).
I stepped down to the road to fetch the morning papers for Jilda. When she lived at home with her parents, her dad did that for her every Sunday morning. No one else was allowed to open the paper until Jilda had her first look.
I liked that story so much, that I've continued the tradition through the years. It was tough waiting on her to get up this morning because I knew the paper was chocked full of stories about the game last night.....the game I watched. But I waited.
We invited Jilda's sister, her brother and her nieces over for ribs this evening. She'w working tomorrow, so we thought we'd celebrate Labor Day today. It was fun.
I hope you all have a remarkable Labor Day. If you're on the road, travel safe.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Let the Games Begin

Alabama College Football begins tonight. I'm posting early because the game lasts from 7 p.m. until probably 11 p.m. and normally I'm worn to a frazzle by the ending whistle.
Not sure how our team will be this year, but I loved and supported them through the lean years, so that won't change tonight.
But I feel good. We play the Michigan Wolverines, and they are always formidable, but hopefully our guys will have their game faces on.
I hope you all have a remarkable weekend and ROLL TIDE. 

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