Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween ~ Halloween Podcast

Boo! Did I scare you? It scares me that this year is zipping by so fast, and this coming Wednesday is Halloween. 

When I was a kid, I looked forward to Halloween. When it came to holidays, Halloween was right up there with Christmas.

It seems it’s still quite popular. I saw a picture on Facebook this week of a little boy and his dad dressed up in matching super hero costumes. 

I thought that was cool, but thinking back to my dad, that’s not something he would have done. 

My dad would have sooner doused his head in a bucket of kerosene and set his hair on fire with his Zippo lighter than suit up in a full-bodied man’s leotard and walk around the community with me asking neighbors for candy. 

But times have changed, and Halloween is a big deal. Some of the popular costumes this year will be Zombie Shirley Temples, Princess Darth Vaders, along with the old favorites: Batman, Spiderman, and Ninjas.

It’s been years since Jilda and I have gone to a Halloween party, but we’ve seen some very creative costumes.

Once a woman came wearing one of those big signs (The End Is Near) that hang in front and back. On the sign she’d painted a huge “P.” Her right eye was painted black.

I was puzzled trying to figure out what she was, but Jilda jumped right on it. “She’s a black-eyed P”. 

One party goer was dressed in a green toe sack. He’d go over to the corner of the room and plug himself in and you immediately knew he was a Christmas tree. I should have realized that, when I saw he was wearing gift boxes with bows, for shoes.

Even though we haven’t gone to any parties in a while, we always prepare for Halloween in hopes that we’ll get a few trick-or-treaters.

In all the years we’ve lived here, we’ve had very few kids come to our door. We load up with bags of treats, but at the end of the night, we’re left with enough sugar to throw Walker County into a diabetic coma.

I understand that people gravitate to communities where the houses are closer together and have smaller dogs.

When we were kids, Red Star Hill was Mecca for trick-or-treaters. Those people over there knew how to treat kids. If a kid left that neighborhood without enough candy to lay waste to all his teeth, it was his or her own fault.

Then there was Granny Cora Bell Thomas, who dressed up like a witch every Halloween and scared the dickens out of every kid that crossed the railroad tracks. 

She was Asa Faith Bobo’s grandmother and she had long dark straight hair and a laugh that sent involuntary chills up your arm if you came within hearing distance on Halloween.

This Halloween we’ll stock up on goodies, leave the front-porch light on and hope that a few kids come our way.

Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mindful Bell

I downloaded an app for my desktop called the Mindful Mynah. It's the tone of a bell that resonates and slowly fades. The idea is that whenever you hear the tone, you take a few seconds to be "in the moment."
I set it to tone every 15 minutes. Before I loaded the program, I'd get so involved with writing, coding, editing photographs or video that I'd lose track of time. All of a sudden my rear end would go to sleep, my fingers and knees would be stiff as sticks.
Now, whenever I hear the tone, it's like a respite that lasts a few seconds. I'll stand and stretch, or simply take my hands from the keyboard, and breathe deeply for a few minutes.
I've only been doing this for about a week, but it seems to be helping my concentration.
Tomorrow is Halloween. Let's all be mindful of the ghosts and goblins that will be out and about tomorrow evening.
I'll post my Halloween Column and if I can figure out how to upload an mp3 file, I'll post my Halloween reading.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Stormy Weather

I was taking a training class in Boston during the Perfect Storm in 1991. The weather was horrendous, but fortunately I was several miles inland.
Since then, we've been through a lot of brutal weather here in Alabama, so we have a lot of practice. And, we take weather events seriously. Well, except for ice storms which serves as a cue to drivers here in the south, that in order to get proper traction, you must drive much faster that on drier roads.
I've been tracking hurricane Sandy for days and I've worried that some folks in the northeast might not take this storm seriously.
Jilda and I have a checklist we click off when stormy weather is heading our way. I service our generator, we stock up on food, batteries, water, medicine, and a store of fuel.
Back in 1993, our house was total electric. Our heat, our stoves, and everything else depended upon the power company.
I worked south of Birmingham then and Jilda called just before noon to say the storm was projected to be a blizzard.
I was a little skeptical, but the boss said I could leave early for home so I headed out. The sky was gray as woodsmoke when I walked to the parking lot with spits of snow falling.
By the time I'd driven the 10 miles to Birmingham, a blinding snow was blowing and traffic had slowed to a crawl through town.
Home lay 30 miles further north. I made it home a few hours later and not long after that, the power went out and it didn't come back for almost a week.
We almost froze to death and what made it worse, we could cook. Had it not been for my brother-in-law next door who had a gas stove, we'd been in a mess.
On Monday afternoon, the sun poked out from behind the clouds and a block of sunlight came through our garden doors on the back of our house.
I remember Jilda and I lying in the floor in that pool of sunlight. I hadn't shaved, bathed, or been warm for days. Jilda looked almost as bad, and I said to her, "We look like street people."
After than event, we bought gas logs, a gas heater, and a gas stove. I also bought a generator. We now take the weather very seriously.
Tonight as I type this, I'm sending a prayer for our neighbors up north. Be Safe.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


I've always considered Jilda and I to be, for the most part, clean people. Our house is often cluttered with books, magazines, and the stuff of daily life, but rarely would it be described as being dirty.
That's why I was a little embarrassed today when the carpenter showed up a little early to help us build shelves for the laundry/TV room.
When I moved the old cabinet the dust back there was deep enough to plant carrots, and there was a dustball as big as a pony.
It only took a few hours for him to build the shelves, but afterwards, Jilda and I spent the rest of the day cleaning, tossing junk, and reorganizing the room.
We've known for some time the room was a disaster and promised each other to put out big-couple under-roos on and get-r-done. Neither of us looked forward to it, but tonight as we sit here sipping tea and winding down, it feels good to be in here.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Scary Fish Fry

We had a fish fry this afternoon and since Halloween is approaching, all the kids wore their costumes. We had enough fish to feed an army. By the time everyone left I was whupped.
I plan to open a nice bottle of red wine, sit back and watch Alabama play tonight.
 Y'all have a great weekend.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Wimping Out

Today was homecoming at our local high school. Since I do the alumni website, I always cover the Homecoming Parade and the football game.
So today has been a long day and I'm about to drink some sleepytime tea and rest my weary bones.
Y'all have a remarkable weekend.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I Love Autumn

I had a full slate today but I managed to get most of it done. Jilda was a happy camper because the body shop finished repairs on her Volvo after her unfortunate encounter with a deer.
She headed off to work so I spent the afternoon working on a story that's due next week.  When I got to a stopping point, I put on my hiking boots, called the dogs, and went for a long walk.
Peak color is still a week or so away, but it's beginning to look a lot like autumn, everywhere I go.
As I walked back from Meditation Rock toward the barn, I saw this strand of poison ivy threading its way up the trunk of an old hickory tree. The sun had dipped below the horizon, but there was still enough light to get a good picture.
When I got back into the yard, I built a fire in the fire pit. I sat in silence a long while listening to the sound of pine crackling in the gentle flames. I've come to love the fire pit.
When Jilda got home, I went inside to help with dinner. Once inside I realized I smelled of woodsmoke. I love autumn.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Old Pictures

I shot this photograph a few days ago and I posted the original, un-doctored version on Facebook.
Today I had a little time to kill while waiting for Jilda to get ready to go shopping for autumn flowers.
I noticed a filter on one of the photography apps on my phone and with a few clicks, I got this effect. 
The original is of the sun rising over a lake near here.
This effect looks similar to the old daguerreotype which are some of the first photographs ever made.
I actually have an old enlarger and darkroom in our barn. I learned to become a better photographer by spending countless hours working in the amber glow of a safelight. (A safelight is a type of dim light to which photographic paper is not sensitive. 
The process of making pictures had improved dramatically since Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre invented the daguerreotype process in France around 1839. 
I can't imagine the investment in time just to get an image on a silvered copper plate. 
That's what flitted through my head as I created my daguerreotype in a matter of seconds.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


We describe our house, to those who are curious about were we live, as a cottage. We have floors made out of spruce shelving. The boards alternate between 6 inches wide and 12 inches wide. It's a rustic effect that suits us.
Our furniture can be described as old meets new. Our bed which is from the late 1800s, belonged to Jilda's great-great grandmother. Of course we replaced the old feather mattress with a Tempurpedic that probably cost more than her great-great grandmother's house when it was built. We love the old bed and it sleeps great.
Jilda's mom also gave us some cane-bottom chairs that we've had forever. Several years ago the cane began to fail, and slowly the bottom of the chairs began to disintegrate.
Getting them repaired is something that's been on my list for quite some time now,  and last week I remembered while I was writing my blog.
I saved the the words I'd written,  and did a quick search for recaning chairs + Birmingham Alabama. My search returned several hits. I picked one a random and called.
The old gentleman answered and said that he did in fact recane old chairs. I made an appointment with him and took the chairs.
He called last night to tell me they were ready and I picked them up today.
He was a fascinating gentleman in his 70s (I'm guessing). He had the chairs sitting in his driveway when I pulled into his yard.
He stepped out and we stood to talk for a long while, both enjoying the warm morning sun. Before I left, I shot this photo.
The chairs looked great. I just hope ever who gets them when we are gone, love them as much as we do.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Shopping for Shoes ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

When it comes to shopping for shoes, I’d rather pass a kidney stone. My wife on the other hand would skip a meal to shop for boots and pumps. 

I’ve talked about this before, but I think it’s a point worth reiterating.

Who else do you know that has Zappo’s shoe store on speed dial? The folks answering the phone recognize her voice, and they’ve all memorized her American Express number by heart. 

She has a bumper sticker on her Volvo that says, “Will Work for Shoes.”

She has shoes for every occasion. In fact, I challenge anyone to come up with a situation for which she doesn’t have appropriate footwear.

It wouldn’t matter if she was trekking in Tibet, spending a night dancing at Musgrove Country Club, attending the funeral of a third cousin twice removed or going to a pig toss, she always has the perfect pair of shoes.

Whenever I go shopping with her, I take something to occupy my time. I once read “War and Peace” from cover-to-cover while she was perusing a discount shoe store.

For me, part of the problem is that I can never get a mental picture of how they will look when I wear anything other than what I’m wearing at the time. I’m not sure if it’s a genetic “thang” or what, but I can’t. 

I can go to a store looking for shoes and after a few minutes, all the shoes seem to meld together like a giant cow that's been shaved with a straight razor.

Jilda will see a pair of shoes and say, “Oh, these will look good with your crimson sweater and black jeans.” Inevitably I’ll ask, “Do I have a crimson sweater?” 

At that point, she selects a pair of shoes and barks, “Try these on.”

I clomp around the store like I’m wearing water skis. For me, shoes don’t start feeling or wearing right until I’ve worn a hole in the sole big enough to toss a puppy through.

Right now, I only have three pairs of shoes in my closet that I wear with any regularity. I have tennis shoes (Converse, because even the stylistically challenged understand the coolness of Converse tennis shoes). I also have a pair of black loafers and some hiking boots.

Currently, I can go anywhere and I feel comfortable with my shoes. I take a shower, I pick out either jeans, shorts, or dress pants with a corresponding shirt, and slip on a pair of shoes and bam! I’m hunting my keys.

Jilda, on the other hand, has a mind like a Cray Super Computer when it comes to picking out the right combination of clothing and shoes. 

She calculates color, texture, weather conditions, altitude, location, and whether or not she’ll be singing. (She always takes her shoes off when she sings.....don’t ask me why.)

I started down this path because yesterday when she was helping me reorganize my closet to get ready for fall and winter, she happened to pick up one of my comfortable loafers. She held the right shoe up and peered at me through a hole in the sole. 

Even with her eye framed in leather, I knew what she was about to say. 

“We’re going to shop for you a new pair of shoes before the holidays.”

I was more excited when I went for my recent colonoscopy.

Read more: Daily Mountain Eagle - I hate going shopping for shoes 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

October Sky

Jilda and I had a recording session today just after lunch today. We're working on a new project that's long overdue.
It felt good to be in the studio again, with headphones clamped on my ears.
 Playing in a studio is a lot different than playing anywhere else because you hear EVERYTHING.
If you fail to nail a note, it will be obvious during playback. So you have to be on your toes. It's fun, but it's draining.
The ride home was a quite one because Jilda was as spent as I.
As we got closer to home, we turned a curve and this picture came into view. Is there anything more beautiful than an October sky? 

Saturday, October 20, 2012


We bought Stark Brother's apple trees when we first moved to our property in 1980. We lost our golden delicious apple tree last summer and it broke my heart.
The red apple tree we planted in our garden and we've nursed it through the years like a child with colic.
The think we learned long ago with this tree is that you can't rush the fruit. Back in August, the apples looked ripe, but we weren't fooled. Time and experience has taught us that they aren't ready until October.
The last few weeks we've been almost giddy picking sweet crunchy apples off the tree, shining them on our pants legs and then eating them while we do our daily walk.
Tonight Jilda made our first apple/raison crisp pie. If my mama was still alive, I would drive to her house and slap her. (I'm not sure where that old saying comes from -- That's so good it will make you want to slap your mama).
But anyhow, while I sat and watched the Alabama/Tennessee game, I could smell the intoxicating aroma wafting from the oven into the TV room.
When it was ready, she cut us both big slices and we blissed out in culinary heaven.
I wish you all were neighbors so I could share some with you.
Y'all have a great weekend.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Dad

Growing up in Sloss, I'd never heard of an oyster until I was probably 15. My mom cooked them for my dad one Friday evening.
Most of the time we had meat, beans, and/or taters. That was fine with me because it's hard to beat fried chicken, mashed taters, purple-hull peas, and hot buttered cornbread.
But on that Friday we had our usual meal, but mother cooked a small can of oysters which I didn't realize until that evening, was my dad's favorite meal. It was a rare treat for him.
I kept looking at them and he asked if I wanted to try one. My mom assumed, I wouldn't like the taste, but I discovered I loved oysters too.
Fast forward to today -- I had an early interview in Mountain Brook, but I finished before lunch. Jilda had been feeling puny since her treatment Wednesday, but she bounced back today.
I picked her up and we drove to Jasper to Blackrock Grill. It's a small cafe just across the street from the   courthouse. We both ordered Oyster PoBoys.
As we sat there eating and enjoying the ambience, I couldn't help but think of my dad. He passed away in May of 1986, but he would have been 89 this coming Sunday. If he were here today, I know he would have enjoyed an Oyster PoBoy as much as we did.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

New Endorsement

Writing, to me, is the easy part. Selling books is a great deal like work. I guess that's why people who do marketing professionally make the big bucks.
Since I've been working on my chops with Photoshop, it seemed only natural that I enlist the aid of celebrities to help me move some product.
I started doing a picture a day on my Sloss Holler Scholar Facebook page.
The first few days slipped by with little reaction, but on the third day, things began to pop. People started commenting and sharing.
I'm nearing the break-even point on the first shipment and I've yet to set up my first book signing or speaking engagement.
I have to say, I've been having some fun with my "Celebrity Endorsements."
I'll post some now and then as time goes on.
Feel free to Like my Facebook page and share it with anyone you think might would enjoy my style.
Rick Watson, The Sloss Holler Scholar.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Column from Sunday's Paper

Life comes in stages, and sometimes the transitions can be rocky. I think the trick is to think about who you are and where you want to be.

Recently, while looking back over 30 years of old journals, I noticed that I’d written time and again that I wanted to retire by age 59. 

I'm not sure why that number resonated with me, but I'm guessing it stems from the fact that both my dad and granddad died young. 

One thing I’ve learned in my life is that there’s power in intention.

I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of things had to fall into place in order to make my intention of retiring at 59 become reality. I often say that life is a gift, and this was just one more example.

I know it sounds all “new-age'y”, and perhaps goofy to some folks, but it was almost as if the Universe conspired to make it happen. 

It's much too complicated to cover here, and I doubt any of you would be interested in the details, but it happened, and I haven't looked back.

During this stage of my life, I write. It’s something I love, and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to do it.

All this stuff was percolating in my head today as I sat across from a Social Security administrator. I'll be 62 in January, so I signed up. I could have done the paperwork online, but it's such a milestone that I wanted to do it in person.

Usually when one thinks of dealing with the government, they cringe, but I must say today was painless.

I walked in, took a number and sat until they called my name. A security guard came over and chatted with me pleasantly while I waited. It seems he was in the Signal Corps in the Army too.

A few minutes later, my name came over the intercom and I walked back. Mandy, a young woman in her 20s, greeted me and we chatted for a while.

She recognized my face, but she couldn't place me. I helped her out by telling her I wrote for the Daily Mountain Eagle in Sunday’s Lifestyle section, and she smiled broadly.

She and the other folks there were very helpful. Mandy took all my information and after about 15 minutes, I was out the door and on my way. I must say that it feels a little strange shifting gears for the next stage of my life. I spent so many years on the grindstone. For the last five years I was employed, I was on call two weeks of every month. 

There were many nights during that time that we were startled awake by a jangling phone or a chirping Blackberry pager. 

Those calls almost always involved grueling hours on the telephone coordinating repairmen, locating and shipping parts and listening to screaming managers who were upset that their computers were down.

I have to say, I don't miss that. The holiday season these last two years have been unmolested by ailing computers.

But at each stage of life, new challenges rise up to take the place of old ones. The loss of loved ones, the need to be more mindful of your money, and of course, staying healthy.

The journal entry and life goal entries I've been writing these last few years involve being healthy, happy and seeing the world. 

I plan to travel using my hard-earned money that the government’s been holding on to for the last 40 years.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Strange Day

Today has been strange. Last night I stayed up a little later to plan all I wanted to do today. My planner page was full, but I felt confident and my head hit the pillow that I'd be all over the day like mayonnaise on a home-grown tomato sandwich.
I even got up and started the coffee gurgling a little earlier than normal. But then I got a text from our niece who lives next door.
The transmission in her new car was acting up. When she called yesterday evening just before they closed, they jacked her around some. She wanted me to go with her this morning to make sure they knew she was miffed that her car was having problem. Of course I told her I'd go. 
Even though it's her car, when the service manager talked about everything they were going to do to correct the issue, he was looking at me. I'm not sure why they do that. SHE's the one working her butt off to make payments, so they should be addressing her, but so often, that's not what happens.
Now were was I?
Oh yes, strange day. The car place agreed to provide her a rental car until they fixed her transmission, but the logistics got screwy. She'd planned to take me back home, but getting the rental late was going to throw her late getting to work so I told her not to worry, I'd call Jilda to come get me. Problem solved.
Jilda got around and headed out, but on the way to get me, a big honkin' deer ran out full speed and hit her car on the passenger door. The impact was so violent that it threw her into the other lane. Fortunately no one was coming. If she'd had airbags in the doors, they would have deployed.
She called me in hysterics. I used the line that she always uses on me when I get worked up.....just breathe.
She was calm by the time she picked me up a few minutes later, but her car looked like she'd been hit by a truck. It ripped the molding off the side and the passenger door wouldn't open.
I called the insurance company and we took it to a repair shop. All the guys had a lot of fun at her expense, but by that time she'd gotten over the initial shock, so she held her own with the repair guys (who are actually friends of ours).
She still had to work this afternoon, but since most of the things on my list were things I could do via email and phone, she drove my truck.
She called me when she was on her way home to tell me that a hickory nut had fallen off a tree and chipped my windshield. I laughed so hard I spewed sweet tea out my nose.
It's been a strange day.
To read Jilda's version of this tale, go to Transformation Information.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cultural Evolution

I had errands to run today, so I decided to stopped by Micky "D"s for a mocha before heading home. I had my laptop, so I decided to drink the coffee inside and check my email.
As I sat there, four young middle-school cheerleaders sat at a table nearby. I wasn't being nosy, but I happened to be close enough that it would have been difficult not to hear the girls.
What's interesting is that I could only understand a little of what they were saying, and I realized they were not only talking fast, but they also had no trace of a southern accent.
I'm not sure what's at the root, but I tend to think that television, computers, music and movies have become influencers.
We're known for talking slow down here. Often when we talk to people from up north, they have the impulse to finish our sentences for us, and some want to reach their hands down our throats and drag the words out.
When I mentioned what I'd experienced to Jilda, she said she'd recently read where Baby Boomers would be the last generation where a southern accent was prevalent.
On a larger scale, it seems that English, because it's the language of business, is becoming the dominant language across the world.
Since news and information circle the globe at the speed of light, it's only natural that the world would seem to be getting smaller.
I doubt there much that can be done to change the course of cultural evolution, but I can tell you -- I would be a shame to lose our southern-ness. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Happy Child

We made a child happy today. Our great nephew Jordan helped me plant some watermelon back in early summer before the rains came.
He's been coming over ever few days to get a first-hand update on the progress of the crop. When the melons first appeared, he wanted to pick them then and took the skills of a seasoned diplomat to convince him to let them stay on the vine.
When school started back, his visits were less frequent so we called his mom this morning to tell her that one of the melons was ready to pick. We told her to come later in the morning after we'd finished our coffee.
A few moments after Jilda hung up the phone, it jangled to life. "Can he come to get the watermelon NOW," his mom said with a little exasperation.
Soon I could hear him running through the yard and up onto the front porch. We walked to the garden in our house shoes.
They called a little later to tell us the melon was scrumptious. He was a happy child.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Life Stories

A woman I grew up with asked me to interview her father a few weeks ago. I've known him all my life.
He'd gone downhill this year, and about a month ago, doctors told the family it was just a matter of time.
A few days after she called, I drove out to the nursing home where he was staying and spent some time talking. I took my recorder and recorded the interview.

I learned that he'd been an ice man, back before our town learned about refrigeration (no, I don't remember those days).
He'd also served in WWII and afterwards worked as a garbage man, a policeman, a custodian for a local school, and a coal miner.

Even though his body was ravaged by cancer, his mind was still sharp. We talked and laughed about life in a small town.
He was born into a large family and was a child during the depression. When I asked what that was like   he got a distant look and his eye and said, "Times were hard."
His oldest son and I were friends in high school and he was one of the local boys who died in Vietnam.
I was hesitant to probe about how this affected his life, but the subject came up in conversation and he said, "Losing a son to war is something you never get over."
The woman who asked me to interview her dad knew his days were numbered and she was compelled to get someone to capture his story. I was glad to do it. I enjoyed the time we had together.
This morning when I opened the local paper, I learned that he'd passed away yesterday.
I printed the story I'd written and burned a CD of the interview for the family.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wild and Wacky

I've been trying to come up with unique ways of marketing my new book. I had Marketing in college and to be honest, if I'd realized how handy it is, I'd paid closer attention in class.
My first book was a learning process. I'd never spent a great deal of time trying to promote anything. I can tell you from experience, that writing the book was the easy part. Moving them is an entirely different skill set.
Anyhow I had a little time today so I started brainstorming. I floated a couple photos on Facebook to see how they were received.
Let me know if you think this campaign will fly.

This caption read. Now we know why Joe laughed so much, he was reading Life Happens.
Mystery Solved.

Help me caption this photo of Elvis holding Life Happens

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Sloss Hollar Scholar

Today was a school day. The professional organization to which I belong (Alabama Media Professionals) had a social media training session today.
I thought I was pretty savvy, but I realized I don't know squat about this stuff. Of course all the presenters were young enough to be my grandchildren.
As I've said before, I don't spend a great deal of time on Facebook, but these kids pointed out some of the best ways to engage your peeps.
Social media is not a place to "Sell" things, but it is used to build relationships. That got me to thinking. I follow Paul Thorn who is an Americana musician from Mississippi, but he plays all over the country. Jilda and I have seen him three or four times when he comes to our area.
He is a master on Facebook. He uses humor, and clever posts to engage his audience. Almost everything he puts up is entertaining. Every now and then he'll post something about his schedule, or any new records he's released.
Followers never get the feeling they are being "sold" anything, but I'm betting he sells a lot of tickets and CD's.
After I got home, I created a Facebook Fan Page for Rick Watson, The Sloss Hollar Scholar which was the tag line from my first book.
I'm going to try and mimic Paul's approach to hopefully generate interest in my new book.
My great nephew Jordan said "Mozy on over to Facebook and LIKE my uncle Rick  at TheSlossHollarScholar  I promise he won't spam you.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Rare Treat

Our schedules have been hectic this week. It happens occasionally and when it does, it tends to throw us off our routine. One casualty this week has been our daily walks.
So this morning, we got up a few minutes earlier and hit the trail. It's been cool this week, but the days are warming, but this morning it was excellent walking weather.
The Goldenrod and sumac along the path was to gorgeous to pass up so I snapped a photo with my trusty iPhone. I made it black and white so that you could color it with your imagination.
We had appointments in town, after lunch so while Jilda did her thing, I finished up my column sitting in Starbucks sipping a Mocca Latte.
Later, Jilda perusing the local gift shop getting an idea on what to charge for the hand-painted Christmas cards she's designing, while I lugged books to stores in the mall.
On the way home, we stopped at Jacks, which is a local hamburger chain, and ordered double scoops of ice cream in cones. She had strawberry and I had cookies and cream. It's a rare treat, but I can tell you it hit the spot.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Tree Slayers

I've had an ongoing conflict with the power company's hired tree slayers. They are notorious for scalping, and trashing trees. Beautiful yards laid to waste by overzealous guys with chainsaws.
A few years ago a crew showed up in my yard and said they had to cut my dogwood. I told them that would not happen.
The guy with a chainsaw rattling in his hand began to give me the lowdown saying the power company owned the right-of-way and that they could do as they pleased. I told him to hold that thought.
I stepped inside and called an old acquaintance who was in upper management with the power company.  I told him the tree slayer was being arrogant, and that I didn't appreciate it.
He told me he'd handle it.
By the time I walked back to the yard, the radio in the head slayers truck crackled to life. As the guy shut the chainsaw off and started back to the cab of the truck, his supervisor told him to vacate the premises.
When the guy walked back toward the dogwood to collect the rest of his equipment, the veins in his temple were pulsing like spasming earthworms. I'll be back he snarled, like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator. "I'm looking forward to it," I said to rub a little salt in the wound.
He did come back, but a manager from the power company who hired the crew, came with him to personally supervise the trimming.
They did trim a few of the upper limbs off of our trees, but they were left unmolested for the most part.
My friend at the power company has since retired, so I don't have an ace in the hole for when the slayers show up tomorrow.
On the up side, the guy that came to talk to me earlier in the week seemed to listen, and he didn't think they would have to do any major damage to my trees. I guess we'll see tomorrow.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Lost ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

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 almost dragged pavement on their way home.

When they remodeled their house, they didn’t have a truck. The old Pinto doubled as a pickup.

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 golf ball on the antenna.

When I asked my father-in-law Sharky 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 to go inside and call the police to report the car stolen (who would have stolen a 1974 Pinto?), a van backed out of a parking space, 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 30 yards away.

Fast forward to today: Jilda and I went to her sister Pat’s retirement party, and afterwards we drove to the nearby Apple store to buy a car charger for my new iPhone.

Jilda decided to check out the Williams and Sonoma store a few doors down, and when I finished, I joined her. 

After browsing for a new coffee maker, we headed to where our car should have been. It wasn’t there. We walked a few aisles over and nada. 

Like the Pinto, I couldn’t imagine anyone stealing a 1996 Volvo with a quarter million miles on it, but the car still looks good, and the longer we looked, the more plausible it seemed that Ingrid had fallen victim to grand-theft auto.

I’ve had a car stolen before, and I can tell you from experience it’s not fun. 

A few months before I got drafted into the Army, I was in downtown Birmingham Sears looking at tools. I’d driven my 1965 Chevy Impala SS and parked it by the doors at the front of the store. 

I was in the aisles between ratchet sets and screwdrivers when I heard the old beast crank up. I ran for the door, but when I got to the street, all I saw was tail lights. It broke my heart. Ingrid means as much to Jilda as my old Chevy did to me. As I stood there scratching my head and trying to figure out our next move, a big old SUV as big as a mobile home backed out, and there she was.

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.

Read more: Daily Mountain Eagle - Lost in the parking lot 

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Making Things Right

The weather began to change yesterday during the The Frog Festival. I'd planned to take a long-sleeved  but somehow planning doesn't actually get the shirt in the truck.
Just before the rain began to fall, I could feel the temperature drop noticeably. Then I felt a few drops of rain.
I made a mad dash for the plastic garbage bags and the tarp to cover the sound equipment. I got drenched and I never warmed up for the rest of the day. By the time we played at 2:30 p.m. it felt like my fingers were Popsicles.
By the time we finished up and got home, we were both toast.  Today, we put in some quality couch time.
We napped before lunch and then took a long nap after lunch. There's nothing like good long naps to make things right with the Universe.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

First Time For Everything

Jilda and I have helped with The Frog Festival since day one. Jilda actually suggested the theme of the festival.
Since day one, every festival has been blessed with remarkable weather.....until today. The weather forecast has been great all week, until last night. The national guys were still saying no rain, but our pesky local guy said take an umbrella.
Jilda and I did the  singer/songwriter stage today and about 10 minutes before our first act, I felt a couple of sprinkles.
I alerted Fred, our sound guy and we made a mad scramble to cover all our electronic sound equipment before the bottom fell out. Soon after it rained, the temps dropped like a stone in a well.
Since we've never had rain, I assumed that people would not turn out. I was wrong. Even with the bad weather we had a great crowd. Even in the rain, I managed to sell a few copies of my new book.
Tonight, when we got home, Jilda drew a bath with generous helpings of epsom salts. After she soaked here weary bones, she filled the tub with water hot enough for tea.
I could almost hear my knees rejoice. It will be an early night tonight. The pillow calls.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Getting Ready for the Frog Festival

Jilda and I are doing the singer/songwriter stage at The Frog Festival tomorrow. I helped set up our stage today and put up the tents. 
The place was a madhouse and tomorrow it will be pure chaos. We'll head out early so parking shouldn't be so bad, but there will be wall-to-wall people by 10 a.m. 
Last year there were thousands walking the street munching on steak-on-a stick, eating cotton candy, hotdogs, peanuts, funnel cakes, and tons of other festival food.
So it will be an early night tonight. I hope you all have a remarkable weekend.
Here's a link to some pictures I shot from last year's Frog Festival.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Fun at Micky D's

I had a ton of stuff on my todo list this afternoon and I'd made a great deal of progress. But we got a call from our sister-in-law saying she had to go to the doctor.
She was supposed to pick her grandson (our great nephew), up at daycare at 3 p.m. and ask if one of us could fetch him.
In the scheme of things, I had nothing that couldn't be put off until tomorrow, so I grabbed the old carseat from the shed and headed to the daycare.
When I looked in the room, he was near the back, but his face lite up when he saw me. The teacher put his shoes on, and rounded up his lunch kit and we were off.
"Are you hungry?" I asked. I knew he would be because he's always hungry. So I told him we'd run down to the building supply place to pick up some plywood, and then we'd run by Micky D's. He was a happy camper.
Once under the golden arches, he wanted to dine in the kids area. He slammed down a couple pieces of chicken, fries, and some chocolate milk.
He then wanted to play for a while. I pulled his shoes off and sent him in. He has an infectious laugh and I could hear him above the other kids somewhere in the pipes and tubes of the play area.
After a while, I called to him and asked if he was ready to go. He ran over, I put his shoes on and we were off.
I snapped this picture and sent it to his mom.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Storm Roses

I stepped out of yoga glass the other night to load the mats while Jilda spoke with a few people who lingered after class.
The community center must be in some type of vortex because the evening light there is often stunning.
I shot this photograph with my iPhone of the horizon just after the sun said "goodbye until tomorrow."
The atmosphere was unstable because one moment the air would be as warm, and then the wind would shift and the air was cool on my face.
Storm clouds from the south raced across the sky and I expected a downpour at any minute, but it raced on by.
Spring and autumn are like that here. The weather is never boring. I read along-range forecast that said the middle of the country would have more snow this year than we've had in some time.
Maybe I'll get a chance to shoot roses in the snow.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Life and Stuff

I recently looked back over some of my journals, and life goals that I'd written over 20 years ago.
One of the things I often wrote was that I wanted to retire by age 59. I'm not sure why that number resonated with me, but I'm guessing it stems from the fact that both my dad and granddad died young. I've come to realize there's power in intention.
In retrospect, a lot of things had to fall into place in order to make my intention of retiring at 59 become reality. I know it sounds all new-age'y, and perhaps goofy to some folks, but it was almost as if the Universe conspired to make it happen.
It's much too complicated to cover here, and I doubt any of you would be interested in the details, but it happened, and I haven't looked back.
I got to thinking about this today as I sat across from a Social Security administrator. I'll be 62 my birthday in January, so I signed up. I could have done the paperwork online, but it's such a milestone, that I wanted to do it in person.
Usually when one thinks of doing anything with the government, they cringe, but I must say today was painless.
I walked in, took a number and sat until they called my name. A security guard came over and chatted pleasantly with me while I waited. It seems he was in the Signal Corps in the Army too.
A few minutes later, my name came over the intercom and I walked back. Mandy, a young woman in her late twenties, greeted me and we chatted for a while.
She recognized my face but she couldn't place me. I helped her out by telling her I wrote for the local paper on Sunday, and she smiled broadly.
She took all my information and after about 15 minutes, I was out the door and on my way.
I must say that it feels a little strange. It's almost as if I'm shifting gears in my life. I spent so many years on the grindstone. For the last five years I was employed, I was on call half of every month. There were so many nights during that time when we were startled awake by a ringing phone, or a chirping Blackberry. Those calls almost always involved hours on the telephone coordinating repairmen, locating and shipping parts, and screaming managers who were upset that their computers were down.
I have to say, I don't miss that. The holiday season these last two years have been unmolested by ailing computers.
But at each stage of life, new challenges rise up to take the place of old ones. The loss of loved ones, the need to be more mindful of your money, and of course staying healthy.
The journal entry and life goal entries I've been writing these last few years involve being healthy, happy, and seeing the world.
I can't wait to start getting some of my hard-earned money that the government's been holding.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Laundry 101

I’ve been enrolled in Laundry 101. It’s a class taught by my spouse who is mild mannered most of the time, but her personality turns dark and she can be downright scary when she talks about fabrics, detergents and lint.

It’s kind of like when people get busted for driving drunk and are forced by the authorities to go to driving school. I was forced to attend Laundry School.

It stemmed from an unfortunate outcome from an innocent effort to “help out” around the house while Jilda was feeling puny.

It seems that stuffing the washing machine full of Sunday shirts, boxer shorts, throw rugs, her good sweaters, lingerie (hers), and a pair of work tennis shoes is not a good idea. You would think there would have been a warning on the machine that said something to the effect of “Man Helper — STOP! Go ask a female what goes together before proceeding.” 

I’ve since looked all over that machine and I saw no such warning. 

I thought everything would be fine. The throw rugs did look great, and though my boxers looked a little gnarly, I didn’t consider it an issue because nobody sees them anyhow. 

But when I got to her delicates and sweaters, I started sweating like a fireman wearing long-handle underwear. Everything looked as if it had shrunk two sizes, and the sweater looked like it could use a shave.

Jilda was not amused, so I gave her my Visa card. As she snatched it from my hand, she pointed her finger at me and said, “We’re having a laundry class, mister!” 

We’ve been married for 37 years and you’d think I’d know how to wash clothes, but we’ve always had a clear demarcation point beyond which neither of us normally crossed. 

I do the yard work. It doesn’t matter if I have deadlines and work stacked as high as the refrigerator. When the grass needs cutting, I cut it. If there’s a problem with her car, I handle it.

On the other hand, she does the laundry, the cooking, and she’s the keeper of the calendar. We share dishwasher duty and gardening.

This arrangement has worked perfectly for us in the past, but that changed this year when she started taking treatments to boost her immune system. There were days she simply didn’t feel like doing much. 

In hindsight, it would have been smarter to hire someone to come in and do the laundry, or take it someplace where they knew how to do clothes.

But I’m one of those problem-solver guys. I see a problem, and I charge in full speed ahead. That’s OK when I’m fixing lawnmowers or getting rid of a yard full of sand spurs, but I’ve since learned that it’s a wise man who knows his limitations.

Laundry 101 class starts tomorrow and I’m worried. From what little I’ve learned so far, doing laundry is like programming on a supercomputer. If this condition exists, then do this, otherwise do this, twice. 

If the clothes are colored, then NEVER do this, and never mix dark and light. Bleach is ONLY get the picture. I know the women out there think I’m a simpleton, but I’m not looking forward to this class.

I’m wondering if I should take the teacher a big shiny apple..

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