Monthly Archives: March 2018

Tranquility

It was a bit too early for her. The chair wasn’t fully exposed to the sun.

In fact, i did not intend to jog my memory when i placed the chair on the patio by the kitchen. i put it there last night while i waited for the knock-off egg grill heated up for the steak i was cooking for supper.

Then was the first moving moment i had with this chair. i was reading the Vanderbilt magazine and the tribute to Perry Wallace, a man, four years younger than me, who will always be a hero to me. Perry was the first black basketball player in the SEC. He was from the poor, black neighborhood of Nashville. He was a dreamer. He reached his dreams, and he cared. He overcame so much more adversity than i can imagine. i cannot adequately tell his story. Andrew Maraniss did in Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of  Race and Sports in the South and then Andrew did it again in the article i read last night. i was impacted emotionally again.

Then this morning, i put out my sun tea to sun and took on yard tasks. i cleaned out the nice bushes lining our backyard en route to our sitting area (yes, Joe, where i sometimes sit though never enough; never enough), then i erected the garden box for planting roma tomatoes and strawberries for the first time in about twenty years. You see, i used to have some wonderful tomato and strawberry plants alongside our northwest fence, but Maureen wanted flowers there. My plants went away. So i’m trying again.

After completing the minor destruction and construction required, i started inside when i stopped. There was this chair there, too early for the sun to hit full force, but it was there. i swear she was there too.

You see, my parents traveled pretty much all of this country and Canada during their retirement. They began in a RV, towing a little Toyota truck and then a Volkswagen bug, and then they  upgraded to a fifth wheel and a full-sized pickup. They took off. Saw all of the continental states except Alaska, which they tried to reach but turned back due my mother’s first really serious asthma attack. They also hit, i think, all of the Canadian provinces. Pretty amazing really.

Then they got into a routine and left in front of the first winter storms heading West until they reached our home. 1985 to 2001. Every year. They would stay in a motor home place for seniors on the ocean in the South Bay and come to our house every day (unless they decided to explore for a day or two). They would do projects (god bless them), read, watch television, nap. He never stopped except for his naps. She did the projects, knitted, read, solved puzzles, cooked supper (Maureen’s thrill was to come home to my mother’s Southern comfort food), and then we would play bridge. Glorious times. As i said, i am a lucky man.

The time was January and February. My mother loved to stop all of the going on’s and go out into the Southwest corner’s winter weather. She would move a chair from one of the places we had placed them in the shade into a place where she could sit and face the sun.

i can picture her in that chair above, facing into the warm sun. Her head would be tilted back; her eyes were closed.

She was at peace. Tranquility. i have passed through. i have learned to meditate to some degree. It is a good thing for me, but nothing like my mother, her drive to do things only surpassed by her husband, sitting there facing the sun in total quiet. At peace.

i wish we all could achieve her tranquility in those moments.

Wonder Woman

You all should know by now i have a Wonder Woman.

She turns sixty-seven today even though she looks much younger.

For her birthday, i have planned to place something here in honor of her birthday. Sunday, i was going to write a photo essay with the pictures being her in various stages of her life. Monday, i was going to write the history of our relationship. Yesterday, i was going to write a love poem.

This morning, i thought of just expressing how much i loved her. You know, like Robert Browning counting the ways. Too damn many, i decided. Then i thought i should empathize the ONE thing i find most wonderful about her. That is absolutely impossible.

But there is this one thing about her which i always come back to think about her. Yeh, she remains beautiful. Yeh, she is sharp and many (but certainly not all) of our ideas about things are pretty well aligned. Yeh, she takes care of me, and i love her love for me. Yeh, i married my mother.

Yet that one thing is very clear. She cares. Maureen cares about everyone and everything. She not only cares, she attends to those who need caring. Sometimes it takes her a while to get to that caring stage, but she always gets there. A synonym for caring is loving, at least in my dictionary. She is the most loving, caring person i’ve ever known, and she does it with good sense, good common sense.

Oh yeh, i forgot to really say how much i love her. Can’t. Too much love there.

Happy Birthday, beautiful lady. We love you.

A Hairy Tale, Part I

One of my first columns for The Democrat in 2007. Alberto’s is still there but it is now run by his son. Alberto has retired. And i bought a $24 electric razor and cut my own hair. There is not enough to spend money on cutting what’s left. So no i miss those barbershops.

SAN DIEGO, CA – When I started writing for The Democrat, I planned to write from ideas saved over the years with a focus on connecting and comparing my Southwest corner to Middle Tennessee.

Then events seem to keep popping up, demanding I write about them. This week, nothing has interrupted my original intentions.

Barber shops are an interesting study of human nature. I am not referring to the franchise stores but the locally owned shops which have been existence since the barber gave up doing dental work out here when the West was young and dentists were in short supply.

For about a dozen years after I moved to this neck of the woods south of San Diego, I got my hair cut at Alberto’s, located in a strip mall across from Southwest College on a mesa, about four miles from the Mexican border as the crow flies.

In many ways, Alberto’s reminds me of the Modern Barber Shop where I received my first haircut just off the square on West Main Street in Lebanon. Growing up, my haircuts were mostly administered by “Pop” at the Modern Barber Shop and later his own place in the Dick’s Food Mart mall.

As I moved into my teenage years, my father and I went to Edwards Barber Shop, located across from the end of University Avenue on South Maple. It was a one-chair shop.

Alberto’s looks very similar to both and even smells the same, a pleasant, somewhat musty aroma. There is a clock running backwards so it will read correctly if you are looking at it through the mirrors back of the chairs. It would have fit in the Modern Barber Shop, Pop’s, or Edward’s.

I first started going to Alberto’s in the mid-1980’s after spotting John Sweatt in a chair. John was commissioned as a Navy officer about three or four years before me. He had been a strong supporter for me on the Castle Heights football team when he was a senior and I was a sophomore. Later, he gave me some hope I might actually complete Navy Officer Candidate School when he visited me in my barracks, resplendent and fearful (to my senior officer candidate tormentors) in his lieutenant junior grade (LTJG) dress blues.

I decided Alberto’s would be good for me as well.

Alberto is a small man with salt and pepper hair and a thin, neatly trimmed mustache. Although his five children are spread from Alaska to San Diego, he still lives in Tijuana and remains a Mexican citizen. His English and my Southern don’t always mix well, but we communicate adequately. He always cuts my hair the way I ask and trims my mustache at no charge.

Alberto reminds me of Pop, although I probably would have been banned from the city limits had I tried to grow a mustache in Lebanon in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The strongest tie is not their barber skills. Alberto’s ethics growing up in a middle class Mexican neighborhood are very much akin to Pop’s. Giving a great service for a reasonable price; they were proud of their work, enjoyed their customers; and in turn, their customers enjoyed them.

Bob is the second in command at Alberto’s. He knows everyone by name. Curiously, Bob always looked like he needs a haircut with a long, untamed mane.

Still he gave me one of my favorite barber shop stories:

A couple of years ago, a recently retired man came into the shop while I was waiting.

Bob stated, rather than asked, “Been retired about six months, haven’t you, George?”

George affirmed and Bob followed, “How’s it going at home with you and the little lady?”

George replied “It’s going great.”

“You and your missus don’t get in each other’s way?” Bob prodded.

George, pleased with himself, turned eloquent, “Nah, she’s very precise and keeps a weekly calendar on the refrigerator.

“So on Sunday, I check her calendar. When she is scheduled to be out, I stay at home and work on my projects.

“Then when she is scheduled to be at home, I go play golf.

“It’s working just fine.”

When this occurred, I thought, “At the core, there is not much difference between barber shops in the Southwest corner and in Middle Tennessee.”

And there is an unlimited supply of barbershop stories in both places.

sunrise

i have somehow retained a lot of stuff i’ve written. Some nonsense, some self-pitying, some never finished, some just ugly silly, some with promise, and one or two okay. This one is one of those categories above. i’m not sure which. These lines were written in what will always be the darkest time of my life, and reminders still make me cringe. i will let you judge the quality of this one. i have a hard time taking the poem out of the memory of what was happening.

sunrise

it was a beautiful sunrise
this texas morning;
i could breathe the spring,
smell the bacon in the air;
dog and cat were restless,
ready to go out, feel the spring,
feel freedom as they know it;
the dawn was pink-streaked;
on the sea, the sun would have been a blazing pink disk;
here, the trees hid its newness;
it first appears as a blazing yellow blast;

freedom is here;
i can smell it;
i must find it:
tonight, a cold front will pass through
this part of texas;
will i find it in tomorrow’s morning?

When Will i Ever Learn? The Hummingbird Incident

Well, you see i was anticipating a relatively calm Saturday.

From experience, i knew it would not go exactly as planned as it never does, but i was anticipating getting quite a few urgent tasks completed. i try to go to the places i want to go during the non-commute hours in the week and stay at home doing those tasks on the weekend. i play my golf during the week to a) keep away from crowded courses and slow play — i may not be very good but i play fast — b) i don’t want to clog up military courses and give active duty personnel more opportunity to play on the weekends, the only time they can get to the courses; and c) it is considerably more expensive to play on the weekends.

So Saturday was relatively free for my home work.

Then, as i was working on some computer stuff, Maureen comes into my home office. i smelled trouble. We previously had a discussion about the new hummingbird’s nest in the Phoenix roebelenii in the courtyard’s center planter. We had not seen the mother for quite some time. At breakfast, we agreed it just might be timing and we had  missed the mother feeding her babies. Or, as we considered, they might have matured enough to leave the nest. i said something to the effect we should leave the nest there until the frond died, then we would be sure they were gone (Of course, that is the way i remember the conversation: i’m damn sure Maureen has a different version).

Then as i walked into my office with my last cup of coffee, i spied Maureen talking on her phone to her good friend Karen. She was on her new mobile phone (another story) in the courtyard. i noticed she was on her tiptoes trying to peer into the nest. i was a bit concerned but dismissed my thoughts. Apparently, she went a bit further and pulled the frond down enough to see into the nest.

Trouble. My trouble.

When she came into my office, she spoke in that tentative, little girl voice, which means i have no choice but to do her bidding.

“I hate to ask you this,” she began (uh ho) almost in tears, “But i looked into the hummingbird nest, and the little babies are dead.”

“Oh no!” i said following the script rather than muttering some asshole comment, which i have been known to do if i thought it was funny.

“With no regard for my pity,” she continued, “Would you please take down the nest and throw it away? I can’t stand to see them, much less handle them.”

i’ll bet you know my reply. It sure as hell wasn’t “No.”

Relieved as if she didn’t know she had control of me, she then instructed, “Be sure because the nests are known to have lots of mites and things with infectious diseases.”

“Yes, dear.” i mean what the hell was i supposed to say?

i went out to the courtyard and it dawned on me i didn’t have to handle the nest or the dead birds. i would simply take my bush shears and cut off the frond, then throw it into the yard waste bin for pickup.

Good plan.

Good plans can get screwed up.

i cut off the frond at the trunk. It fell onto the courtyard concrete. There was only one problem: the baby hummingbirds weren’t dead.

When i looked down in the frond, the two baby birds had tumbled out of their nest and were moving their wings and beaks.

Now, this is a guy who has shot guns, big guns. This is a man who hunted submarines. This is a man who was in charge of nuclear weapons. This is a man who was damn near close to blubbering because there were these two little hatchlings out of about a gazillion that would suffer from nature’s call of the wild and that food chain thing who were fluttering on the concrete.

i puzzled as to what to do. First, i decided to put them back in their nest. Now in case you haven’t seen me in a while, i have fat fingers, not to mention several other areas i’m not proud up. This makes picking up a hummingbird hatchling about the size of a pea back into a nest about the size of a large thimble quite difficult, no, impossible.

i tried.

No success.

So i succumbed to what i knew would be another saga, opened the door and called for Maureen. i explained my dilemma. Did she understand? Was she sympathetic? Did she want to help?

Hell, no. She got pissed because i told her those two birds were alive, not dead.

“Why did you have to tell me?”

i was speechless for a few seconds and then blurted, “i need you to put them back in the nest.”

She of the tiniest, most graceful fingers in the world even with gloves, put the two tiny creatures back into their thimble.

i took the frond and carefully wedged it between a couple of other fronds near where it was originally located in the Phoenix roebelenii.

We went inside and went immediately to, where else? the computer and the genius of genius google search. We read all of the things we should do, and patted ourselves on the back because we had done pretty much what we should have except, of course, thinking they were dead and cutting down the frond.

We read what we should do next. In case, the mother did not return, we learned how to make fake nectar, sugar water. We were prepared.

Then we learned we should monitor the nest to see if the mother returned. This is fairly tricky. Hummingbird mothers apparently are not dumb. Once the hatchlings have feathers, she stays away from the nest to not draw predators attention. She returns for literally seconds to feed them before taking off again. Her time away varies from about ten minutes to about ninety minutes.

Have you any idea of how boring it is to monitor a hummingbird’s nest for a mother’s return? If you look away for a minute, you could miss her, and then have to wait again.

Maureen, of course, had to go to her yoga class. Guess who got to monitor? Guess who was not very damn good at it? She came home. i had not seen the mother. i thought we should just let fate take its course. i thought she agreed. This is yet another in a long line of thinking incorrectly. As i walked by the window, i caught her on the ladder with twine around the base of the cut frond.

“What the hell are you doing?” i asked in my best tough old Navy guy voice.

“I want to make sure it doesn’t fall down, but i can’t tie the knot,” she replied.

“It won’t fall down; i wedged it between the other fronds; oh, don’t worry; i’ll tie it off.”

Sound like a man who is trying to ensure domestic tranquility?

Now if you don’t live in the Southwest corner, you may not know the traits of a Phoenix roebelinii, you should learn in case you are ever out here. A Phoenix roebelinii is like a dwarf palm. But the fronds have many, many needles about two inches long, that can hurt, draw blood. i know. After all, i have been assigned hummingbird nest monitoring and Phoenix roebelinii adjustment for hummingbird duty.

This task wielded about two dozen sharp pricks of two-inch thorns into my hands and arms.

The frond is now secure.

We then worried and continued to watch intermittently for activity around the nest.

It was cleaning day. Our two ladies, including one who has become as much a friend as a cleaning lady, Marde de Jesus, were in the family room. i was in the office. Maureen peered out the family room window and shouted.

“The mother’s back and feeding them.”

When i got out and indeed saw mom hummingbird taking care of business, the two cleaning ladies and Maureen were jumping up and down in glee with smiles across their faces.

Now, i’m not gonna tell you i wasn’t smiling or glad the reprieve of two small hatchlings had come about. i was just as happy as those three women. It was a glorious moment, a triumph. i was convinced throughout the entire episode, those two hatchlings would be dead, sooner or later, even if they weren’t as immediately. But we, including mom hummingbird somehow had done the right thing.

As i headed out for errands, Maureen was commenting to the ladies about the miracle and how wonderful hummingbirds were.

i, returning to curmudgeon status, added, “And they are awfully good at playing dead.”

One Moment’s Wish

During my photo search tonight, i also found this poem. It is one i wrote on newspaper paper and an old typewriter. i’m guessing it was somewhere around 1971.

One Moment’s Wish

How i long to return to the sea and the moods that linger in blue
To feel the spray of the ocean wind and the cool night air anew;
How i long to return to the sea with two hundred or so but alone
To feel the emotions that rage on the sea, not to condemn or condone.

Just a Little While Ago

It is early, but i am trying to get to bed just a bit sooner than usual. Thirty, even twenty years ago, Friday mornings, or any morning to be truthful, used to be a lot easier. In ten minutes, i would arise, jump out of bed, brush my teeth, grab a bite or not and certainly a cup of coffee on my way to the golf course and our tee time around 7:00 a.m. Now, there are a whole lot of ablutions and other morning necessities which should not be mentioned in polite company of whom i hope we are in required before i take off around 5:30. So tonight, i will set my alarm (on low volume to not disturb my sleeping beauty Maureen more than necessary. It won’t matter because i always wake up for an old man’s business trip about forty-five minutes or a half-hour before the alarm. No matter when i set the alarm. That is just right to keep me from going back to sleep before the alarm goes off. Which is, in some ways good: Maureen will rest better.

So i am scurrying around the office, shunning the college basketball games, and that’s okay because Maureen wanted to watch a chick flick or something anyway after her wonderful dinner…er, supper of white bean chili, her incredible salads that once allowed my father to pronounced he could have been a vegetarian which i doubt very much because that man did love his country ham, steaks, pork chops, fried chicken, bacon, and Tennessee sausage.

Thus, i am trying to get done all of the things i had on my plate today to make the load a little lighter in the honey-dos and my-dos, the lists that keep getting longer, not shorter when i get home from my golf game and of course, my NORP, a requirement when i really don’t get to bed any earlier and wake up thirty to forty-five minutes before planned.

i was working hard on several posts, one an edited version of a 2009 column in The Lebanon Democrat. i began looking for a photo of my mother, a particular one. Of course, i couldn’t find it, in my computer files, in the cloud, or an actual photo. It’s there, but tonight to verify i really am electronically, technically challenged (and several other challenges) the photo in all of its forms disappeared from view because i only have eyes…oh, excuse me: that’s a song lyric i can’t get out of my head.

i searched. i didn’t find what i wanted. But instead i found this:

It was the thing to do in 1918. Put your photos of your children on a post card and mail it for what? Two cents.

That is my mother, Estelle Prichard (Jewell) on the left and my aunt, Evelyn Prichard (Orr) on the right.

Oh, what a world it must have been. So simple. So small. So country. “The Novelty Studio / Lebanon, Tenn.” it reads. Don’t know about that one. All i knew was “Seat’s. ” Even that was a long time ago when the world revolved around home, home town, family, folks.

And they sang “Bringing In the Sheaves” and they brought in the sheaves and it had some problems but folks were folks back then and there and sometimes i wish i were there then.

A Peek Into Why i Love Ireland Thanks to two Johns, Moriarty and Eagle

Well, you see i stayed up late, much later than usual two nights ago because i was on a roll, writing about the rain and things. So today, i was going to catch up on my writing on my book. It was a busy day with a dental cleaning and the trash men coming and the honey-do’s and a NORP, in fact two NORP’s, so i was going to catch up on that book writing this afternoon.

But somewhere in the midst of all of this, i caught caught up in a Facebook exchange between John Eagle and John Moriarty. In case you can’t guess, these two gents are from Ireland, southwestern Ireland to be more accurate. Kenmare, County Kerry for John Moriarty; Eyeries, County Cork for John Eagle to be more specific. Neighbors practically. John Eagle lives on the Beara Penisula. John Moriarty’s Kenmare is where the the two counties meet where the Beara and Iveragh peninsulas meet (Either John or both, please correct me if i messed this up.)

We are talking about something better than tourist movies or tour booklets or PR flyers. John Eagle captures what i’m talking about in his wonderful photos and artwork: a magical place so Irish with little tainting from the rest of the world…as it should be.

The exchange in today’s entry took me back, not just to that lovely little corner of the world, which so much reminds me of “Brigadoon,” the 1954 movie but mine is in this corner, not Scotland, but also took me back home to Lebanon, Tennessee. It was not Brigadoon, but it was just a step later of what it must have been like a generation or two before (as long as i did not think about the underbelly, the plague of Southern history and the dealings with people of different skin tones). My lovely trip to that little corner of Ireland the two John’s painted for me validated the beauty and gentle people i had only dreamed before. i met John Moriarty then, and i wish i had met John Eagle.

Their exchange yesterday shows just how wonderful a place and the people are in that little beautiful corner of the world. It all started with a rather incredible photo John Eagle posted:

John Eagle posted this with the comment to John Moriarty: “Is this the place where your relatives come from in the Black Valley?”

(For my convenience, i am dropping the “John” from the remainder of this exchange.)

Moriarty replied: “Yes that is my late Mother’s farm.”

Eagle: “I was over there today showing a couple of friends around, they loved it there.”

Moriarty: “Yes, it is beautiful: many happy childhood memories there. Sadly, all my family from there are now with God.”

Eagle: “Sorry to hear of your loss.”

Moriarty: “When I was a child my uncles Patrick and JohnJoe lived there. Both never married. At Christmas, Patrick would have a candle lighting in every window. I used to love going up to the house and seeing it lighting in that upper window in the Gable, that was my Grandmother’s room when she lived. I slept there many times.”

Eagle: “Thank you. That’s a lovely memory. Do you recall anyone living in the ruin that I keep photographing up after the hairpin bends?”

Eagle: “I well remember lighting candles in my mother’s house at Formanes near Eyeries, we were one of the last houses to have electricity.”

Moriarty: “The house on the bend: it must be one of the most photographed ruins in Ireland. That was the Casey homestead as far as I can recall, they were cousins of my mothers family, the Foleys in Kenmare, O Donovans, Davits, Foleys are all part of that family, I think their Grand Mother came from that house. Agnes, she was amazing and years ahead of her time.”

Eagle: “Thank you. I often go into Davitt’s for a bite. It’s an interesting ruin especially with the snow on the hills. I got lucky with sheep today. I put up some images on Instagram.”

Moriarty: “Cool, if you walk further back along the road you will come to 2 houses and tall standing stones, 5,000 year old way markers the original SATNAV.”

Eagle: “That’s interesting. I must go back there. I was once all the way to the end with Dr. Lyne from Castletownbvere who took me up Carrantouhil.”

Moriarty: “You can hike up and over down in to Glencar. Amazing hike.”

Eagle: “I need my strength to return before I can do that. Not sure I will ever be strong enough to do that sort of climb again, but the idea spurs me on” (John Eagle had surgery and all of the attendant procedures a year ago to this day. He is not only a survivor. He’s continues to be a  contributor to goodness in this world).

There were several other comments from several people including one goofy guy, when Mary Jo Knipper McKinley joined in:

“John, Is there where you take your hikes? I would love to hike your family homestead next time we visit. It is beautiful!”

Moriarty: “No, Mary, that is too far away from the hotel to hike there. There is good hiking there up and over the ridge to the right of photo and down into the next village. There are “standing stones” there which are 5,000 year old way markers. The original Google Maps!”

And  then Marie Kissane remembered: “Lots of great nights were had in that house: Singing, dancing & of course whiskey.”

Moriarty: “Amazing nights.”

Then, this goofy guy from the Southwest corner joined in asking if could put the exchange on his website, and after getting an okay from both of the John’s, he asked if he ever got there again (moving that way up on his bucket list), if either or both of the John’s would like to take him on the hike. John Eagle responded:

“You are most welcome. I loved hearing what John Moriarty had to say about candles in the windows and who lived in ruin up the road. I think it’s been the best news thread yet. Thanks again, John.”

And then John Eagle told me he would be happy to do that hike with me.

Now folks, there is some magic here. It is a magic place. Those folks are magic people. They seem to have reduced life down to living, enjoying that magic corner, not getting wrapped up in all of the insanity seemingly surrounding us. It is as i remember Lebanon, Tennessee three-quarters of a century ago, even though now i know it wasn’t what it appeared to me, just as i am sure those good folks have their problems as well. But they are of the earth, being people dealing with people. Good people.

So all of you folks stay at home. i don’t want you to crowd that wonderland. i want it the way John Eagle’s photo and John Moriarty’s recollection has captured it.

For those of you who ignore my request and go there, look up John Moriaty at the Park Hotel in Kenmare. He’s the head bartender and the all knowing when it comes to good whiskey. And find John Eagle. He has some of the most incredible photos and artwork of that part of the world. His website is http://www.johneaglephoto.com/index.htm.

Thanks to you two John’s. You have made my day…no, my life a little bit brighter.

Rain and a Moment Damn Near Like Michener’s Sayonara

It was the Southwest corner’s version of crappy today: high of 68, light breeze, but there were several white clouds in the blue sky. Bummer.

However, the last two weeks, we have had rain. This is good, you see. We haven’t had any rain like for the last four hundred thousand millenniums. However, the weather guessers are predicting doom, not good. For you see, they know the rain is good, but it makes things grow, and for weather guessers who are trying to keep their watchers and listeners on edge, it means there will be more vegetation to burn when the fires come again. Weather guessers have a penchant for making things bad regardless how good they are…sort of like some clown saying a few clouds make it crappy.

But one thing that is good about the rain it clears things up. Yesterday, going from the mainland over that beautiful blue arch of the Coronado, San Diego Bay Bridge, it was clear. So clear, Maureen and i could see for miles, all the way to the horizon, crystal clear, no marine layer. We could see all of the Los Coronados Islands, all of them, and the hundreds of sailboats off the coast with their spinnakers unfurled, catching the wind, and the white sails in the bay, the dark blue-gray of the ocean and bay sparkling.

We were going to see a play: “Camping with Tom and Henry,” a fictional comedy-drama about Thomas Edison and Henry Ford taking Warren G. Harding on a camping trip in 1921.  Thought provoking, relevant to today, funny, and sad. It was the Sunday matinee at Coronado’s Lamb’s Theater.

i like drama, plays. i don’t have anything against movies. In fact, my wife and two daughters are aficionados when it comes to movies. Most of my friends enjoy movies. Me? Perhaps i’m too critical, not into making gore as realistic as possible, not enthralled with graphics, not into making something as much like life as possible. After all, life can be pretty miserable at times. Oh, i loved oaters and spaghetti westerns. And i even liked some comedies, even some chick flicks like “You’ve Got Mail,” and “French Kiss” but then again, i was in love with Meg Ryan before she did that thing with her face which seems to be a popular things now a days with women. You know that skin stretching, bio something, they do that make them look like mannequins, distorted mannequins. And i remain a big fan of Christmas movies, almost all of them, “Silverado,” and “Hidalgo.” “Star Wars” sort of wore me out, and the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies failed to match my imagination when i read the books a long time ago and several years after that and pretty much every three or four years after that until they came out with the movies with that wimpy Frodo. And Maureen and i could watch “The Quiet Man” pretty much end on end until the end of time. And yeh, there are several others but i really don’t even know who the actors are now a days unless they are in a television commercial they run during sports events. Sorry. i’m glad other people enjoy them, even wish i did sometimes, but it ain’t me, babe.

But plays? There’s an edge there in live drama. And they have to project. You can get wrapped up, but it’s not reality and you know it. It’s your imagination and theirs and you can see it and feel it. No, i’m not talking about all of those silly things with flying wires and fantastical makeup and smoke and mirrors. i’m talking about acting, drama, real, no kidding, no retakes acting. i like it.

And we went. And i enjoyed the hell out of it. And we went over to our friends’ house afterwards. Pete and Nancy Toennies. And we all went to dinner at the Bleu Boheme in Kensington and i refrained from ordering the mussels, something i’ve never done before, and i even refrained from a martini, which goes well with such an atmosphere and had some wonderful pork dish which i cannot pronounce because i can’t do French well and Maureen is used to saying all things French for me (and then giving me shit about it, which i deserve) and the world was fine, beautiful, and mine for a day.

But i’ve been thinking about that rain. i love the rain. i especially love Tennessee rain in August when the heat and the humidity are draining you and you know you are going to early football practice and lose ten or fifteen pounds of water weight and you walk out the front door of that little house with the Chinese elm in the front yard and you can smell the rain on the wind and there is a coolness, perhaps just in your mind but you can feel it and you can smell it and you see it coming moving like wisps of relief in your mind and the world stops for a moment to let you smell and feel the rain.

i used to like to run in the rain. i loved running in the rain on the beach. One day about a million years ago, i took my usual run at lunch from the Naval Amphibious School, Coronado. i chose to run the long route around the island. i was not much further than a block or two from my start when it began raining. i continued. i kept at it, rerouting to extend my running in the rain, around the island and then when i got to back to the beach i chose to run between the beach and the Hotel del Coronado before the development men and the investment men gussied it all up and raised the prices to keep the riffraff like me from going and i ran on the sidewalks about a foot in water and i got to the end of the hotel property and they had put up a temporary fence to keep the riffraff like me from running through that water but i had fooled them by coming from the other way but the fence was still in the way so i climbed the fence because those California folks weren’t about to be out in that rain and i ran back to the base, late because my run of forty-five minutes had been rerouted into water running, fence jumping hour and a half and i was beat to hell but totally exhilarated like that time in Sri Lanka when the Aussies took us out in the country for a “Hash House Harriers” run and they let us out of the bus and the trail started out running on the berms of rice fields and up the hills into the unknown and it started to rain and we ran down the hill following the trail through a village of mud huts with grass roofs, no shit, and could look in the glassless windows to see life as we didn’t know it so we kept running through the rain where the old man in the white robe and a white beard looking like a guru motioned us to run into a dead end canyon and when we turned around and came out he was laughing like a mad man and the rain got harder and the incline increased until we came to a bluff where the only way down was to slide down the side by holding onto the vines so we wouldn’t plunge to stupid death and reaching the bottom we ran on the road for another mile after the last nine or ten or lord knows how long with the detours and the old man and the mud huts and we were knee deep in the monsoon rain and we reached the covered shelter where the buses were parked but we ran into the shelter and grabbed the steaks off the Aussies’ barbies with our hands and grabbed the Fosters out of the ice bins and drank and laughed like crazy with the Aussies and…oh yes, i could go on no doubt but i remember the rain. i wrote about it once because of two women. One is with me today. The other might have been here instead in a different world with a different end or i might have been there in a different world with a different end but it didn’t happen sort of like a parallel and less dramatic Sayonara  like Michener wrote and the movies butchered it and i am glad i wasn’t like the movie or how i would dream it would turn out then but when it rains i think of both of those two women like when i wrote this:

Tennessee Rain

You never smell the rain coming here. It just arrives, usually descending from an established grayness. Sometimes it comes in a sudden sweep but always from the west, expected, not interrupted in its journey as the land abuts Balboa’s folly to the west.

Back down in the heart of Tennessee rivers, hills and lakes, the rain has no season but comes of its own accord, its own rhythm, its schedule not dictated by some seasonal order.

It is more whimsical. There you can smell the rain coming. It clears the nostrils and lungs, smelling more fresh than wet, more cleansing. Out here, there is oil from the earth, dust from the desert air to the east, and salt from the sea that mutes the feel of coming rain, chokes off the smell of fresh rain. Back in Tennessee after the smell awakens your attention, you can see it rolling across the hills in sheets, the sight of it sweeping across the country embellishes the smell of the rain.

Today is a warmer version of Tennessee rain. In the summer, i would infrequently walk hatless in the Tennessee rain, but only alone. Many years ago, i would walk the beach or countryside of Virginia or Newport, Rhode Island in all but the coldest, breath-of-sleet rain. One year on the island of Kyushu, i walked the harbor roadsides of Sasebo in the rain, the only time i have pursued such an individual, quiet joy with someone else.

Delicate and tiny, Kosyko was exquisite with her dark hair wet but tightly clinging to her skull exposing her delicate neck; you know Japanese think the neck of the woman is a key to beauty. It rained a lot on Kyushu. The rain and her parents tragic fate in Nagasaki may have contributed to my love for her .

Here, over on the island that has covered its charm with tourist dollar chasing, i used to run in the rain. This was before encroaching baldness made a visor look out of place on my head. i would wear an old visor from Texas A&M – where i never walked nor ran in the rain and never smelled it either – to ward off the rain drops from my eyes.

This afternoon, i would like to walk with my lifetime love in the rain. We would not talk, i envision and more or less say to hell with all but us. She would be just as exquisite as tiny Kosyko with her hair clinging closely to her skull exposing her delicate neck and the Japanese had it right. i would not love her more. i already have pegged out that meter. i could just have another way to love her again.

i wish that she could smell the rain coming in Tennessee with me.

A Tribute to Great Friends’ Father

It is late, i mean really late for me. i am on a roll. Haven’t been on a roll like this for a long time. Feels good. Maslow’s level of self-actualization is burning the night oil. While rolling, i hit some poems i posted earlier. Then, i stumbled across this one. i am not sure if i sent it to Cy or Walt and i am almost positive it has seen no other eyes until i post this. Cyril Vaughn Fraser, Jr. was a good man. My friend from lord knows how many baseball games and even more one-on-ones in the Castle Heights gym, Mike Dixon, also worked at Dupont, and he immediately waxed eloquent on Mr. Fraser’s reputation at the Old Hickory plant when he learned of my connection. Here are my thoughts when my mother notified me of Mr. Fraser’s passing.

on the passing of Cyril Vaughn Fraser, Jr.

i sit here wondering in the dark of the cool, just north of the border august night
down mexico way about not a thing in particular except the southern lady i call my mother who has been calling me today because she doesn’t trust those infernal phone message machines; won’t have one in her house; she says can’t abide talking to a machine; she says there is too much to worry about without having to worry what people say when they aren’t talking to you but some machine; she says she’s right. i know she’s right on, having two of  those damnable machines myself.

my mother, the southern lady who makes fried corn and meat loaf you would kill for and tennessee country ham all the doctors and my wife says you shouldn’t eat along with the biscuits and gravy and butter and jelly and buttermilk damn near everything good, calls early on and damn near wakes me up because daughterwifeme made an end run to disneyland to shake hands with mickey and hear pocahontas rewrite history again where a chicken sandwich costs a sight more than chicken and white bread costs that tastes oh so much better back in fox hollow before it became a housing development before it was named fox hollow and just a farm with a tin roof house and earth covered hill of an root cellar in the back where foxes don’t run now or ran then but then much chickens ranclucked; the old man did run foxes that is in Tennessee, just down the road from where the man used to live that my mother called about:

that man died, she said.

Cyril Vaughn Fraser, Jr. died, she said; read it in the newspaper obituaries, she said.

gone.

notjustlikethat as ee cummings would like us to say, like most of us would want it to be, but pretty damn quick by government standards; she told me the services, cremation, all of those attendant necessities that follow death like a disease were pretty much done she said, and being the southern lady and my mother, she told me where the funds in lieu of flowers should be donated

78, she said the paper said in the article in the paper she was sending me. dead.

Cyril Vaughn Fraser, jr.

my first look at culture or what i thought it should be

proper, but dry humor, Mr Fraser, Virginia kind of drawl in the comfortably small house with everything in its place on the quiet neighborhood corner of Jackson’s old plantation called old hickory where i ran around with his boys and was introduced to upper gentility, another world from the limestone rock just below the surface of hill farming middle tennessee just up the road all along the Cumberland demarcated by the white washed fences common on Andrew’s old land.

it did seem cooler there especially when Mr Fraser would invite me to have a “martin” with him, which was a martini poured from a beefeater’s bottle straight from the freezer from whence he and the lady neighbor partook on the front porch one summer late afternoon until she had to ride her Saint Bernard across the street to home and hangover heaven

blue shirt sear sucker suit weejuns gone.

lately, his older boy told me his father had moved across town like our other friend Bivo to higher cotton, which is appropriate for a man with a new wife and all long after his boys and me were amidst all the hellbentforleatherlivingwithoutanet, but not to the edge of those that followed

i remember him smallish precise dapper gentlemanly southern who had a thing for Michigan in the summer, questing for knowledge and appreciating with his· sons as well as the crackle of the love of life i remember

gone.

most sad for me; his boys, whom i consider among some of my best friends passing through my times, especially the older boy for Cyril Vaughn Fraser, Jr. was a friend also who could laugh and enjoy youhimusthem without reservation as long as there was a quest for knowledge.

dead

gone.

sad.

the stars across the border grow dim; the added weight on my shoulder makes me weary thinking someone must carry that love of life and knowledge and gentility on to others

i do see the lights of the city south of the border smiling, and thinking of how i would have liked to have taken Mr Fraser on a tour of this Eden which some ways even makes Michigan in the summer pale a bit.