All posts by Jim

Joe: My Reflections

Joe.

Not my brother Joe. Another Joe.

Joe Hill.

i lost him about a week ago.

Saturday, Maureen and i drove to Huntington Beach to pay our respects and a great deal more.

It was a small gathering, perhaps on the plus side of twenty. In the home of Joe’s brother Gary. A quiet service devoted to remembering Joe, telling stories, and yes, quite a bit of emotion.

i didn’t spend a lot of time with Joe. He was frequently with his sister Janet when we would see him.

Janet and her then husband, Frank Kerrigan, met us when i was the executive officer on Yosemite. Both fresh out of the University of Chicago med school, Frank was the ship’s doctor and Janet was one of the doctors at the clinic on the Mayport (Jacksonville) Naval Base, Maureen’s doctor. This was right after Maureen and i got married and the two were a integral part of our first year together. They are the godparents of our daughter Sarah.

The two left the Navy and created a successful primary and urgent care facility in Palm Desert.  When we went to see them, Joe was often there.

Joe Hill is quite possibly the nicest guy i have ever met.

i could immediately tell Joe cared about me and about Maureen. We were old friends within minutes of our first meeting. It was always a feeling of happiness i would get when i found out Joe was part of our time with the Kerrigan’s.

Jan and Frank had a good divorce, if there is such a thing,  and they, along with their new spouses, Deborah for Frank and Greg Mokler for Janet, continued to include Joe in their activities.

The last time i saw Joe Hill was at Frank’s retirement party at his home in La Quinta. Joe had not changed one bit: full of energy, full of corny jokes, and overflowing with empathy.

Another thing about Joe: whenever we left some get together like the retirement party, i would find myself wishing i could spend more time with Joe.

i no longer have that opportunity.

Joe was a bit different from most folks i know. He was smart, practical, fun and chose window washing as his career. It wasn’t as if he had no ambition. It was as if he chose that profession simply because he liked it. Joe did things Joe liked to do.

Our world is not kind to people who are nice and do things they like to do and don’t make waves, don’t make judgements but accept people, everyone without judgement, love life as it is.

About a year ago, Joe came down with some health problems. They lasted six months or so. His window washing business went financially down hill fast. Joe suffered from depression. He drank too much.

About a week ago, he killed himself.

Joe was a dedicated Christian in his own way. He read the Bible at least twice a day. i did not know that until Saturday. It made sense. He was the kind of Christian that followed Christ’s teaching. He did not judge, he did not throw stones, he loved. As his sister said at his memorial, Joe was ready to go to his heaven in which he so strongly believed. i’m sure he is there.

And we have a void.

At the service, numerous people told stories of Joe, things i would have never suspected but made sense. Funny stuff. Living life to the fullest stuff. Joe Hill.

So Joe, all i can say is i will never forget you and the way you lived. It was an inspiration and, Lord, oh Lord, i wished we had many more like you.

The Courtyard Tale, Epilogue

It’s over…

Of course, it’s not over.

The courtyard concrete (hardscape, to be politically correct) is painted. Twice. Three coats. The last two actually a color agreed upon. And of course, the touch up. Several times. Done. But not done. i know it.

It only cost about three times my original estimate and the time required was only about two days over the original projected time.

But then, there is some more touch up that will have to be done after Maureen looks at it in a couple of days. And now that we have a nice looking courtyard, i must clean the teak furniture. And now we will have to actually put some dirt, plant stuff in the cool  pots Maureen got (the ones i got at the Navy Exchange apparently were cheap looking, at least cheap enough to be relegated to the backyard but not enough to be dumped into my garage) and then add flowers, probably succulents. Then of course, i must clean the walls around the courtyard and there is some stucco that needs to be scraped and re-stuccoed and of course, repainted. And then, we must do something with those tiles.

Hmm…

But for now? i’m done. Proud of it.

And the goofy guy…er, old goofy guy who did it…er, is still doing it. But it hurts a bit more than it used to. Time for a gin and tonic.

A Courtyard Tale

It began innocently enough.

i have been absent from my site for a while. i had a lot i wanted to write (oh why, oh why do i feel compelled to write?) but all of that lot was going to take some time, and i got into this book writing thing, kicking it into high gear for a change, and so i didn’t write here and didn’t hit the post button.

So today, i decided after a bit of book writing, i would do home tasks. By my count this morning, there were about seven hundred and fifty-six, but i haven’t asked Maureen about what she would like me to do for about a week, so i suspect the number has doubled.

We have this courtyard, see. Our garage is in front (i still want my garage in the back. i have had that twice. Once on Castle Heights Avenue before my parents added on the family room and the carport, and then in Bryan, Texas: our house would meet my hopes and dreams if it was flipped and the garage was in the back, but they don’t do that out here in the Southwest corner nor pretty much anywhere else anymore) and the breezeway leads to a hall entrance and a courtyard with the front door into the living room and dining room. It’s a nice courtyard with a history.

We broke damn near every rule for buying a house when we bought this house twenty-eight years ago. i mean we were out for a drive, saw it and the sign, looked inside, and said to each other we want this house. So we bought it. Shouldn’t have, not with breaking rules and all. One of the best things we have ever done…except it’s getting old, so are we, and now the upkeep is eating into my playtime, time wise and money wise.

One of the culprits is the courtyard. i love the courtyard. We don’t use it enough. We should sit out there. We rarely do. When we were house poor after we bought this house against the rules, we looked out into the dirt courtyard for as long as we could stand it, and then we broke some more rules and had it landscaped. Pretty, of course.

My parents helped. We had started. Had the concrete poured (the actual beginning of this tale) and Maureen found the perfect tile for the stoop and the edge of the concrete. “Adaquin” i think they called it. One of a kind from a mine in Mexico. Of course, expensive. Maureen found it. We suffered in our decision until my folks came out for their winter outing, which they did for about 15 years. Somehow, we found a shop in Tecate, across a hole-in-the-wall border crossing about thirty miles dead east from Tijuana. Quaint place then. The knock-off concrete tile looked great. Mother and Daddy bought it for us for my birthday.

They delivered the pallets on our driveway. My father and i laid the tile. It was mostly him. We built the center planter together but he did most of the tile work. Nice place. Good job.  But the bozo concrete company supposedly had this beautiful colored concrete. It looked like it had the measles. So i painted it.

i painted it three more times, sometimes with primer, other times just paint like they told me to do. It never met our expectations. Then the years came and the knock-off concrete tiles begin to show they were made of concrete. i did not like the courtyard. It looked forlorn. The concrete tiles were fading; the concrete was rising to the surface. Gray. Ugh. The paint jobs didn’t hold. About five different paint jobs including the primers and several combinations of the various attempts made the original measles look look healthy.

Now we have a grand plan. We are going to put flagstone in the patio. When we can afford it. i have calculated that will be in about 2040 when i am ninety-six. So i came up with an interim plan. i would paint it again. With a better product now available. One problem: Maureen had to pick the paint and she wasn’t really enthused about my plan. After all, she wanted flagstone. So i brought home a brochure with very small paint samples. She picked one out. Gray. i like earth colors. She likes gray. i, of course, said okay.

i went and got the paint. Expensive stuff with the textured finish. But not as expensive as flagstone. Today there was the confluence of my wanting to get away from this infernal machine for something besides golf and the availability of the paint. i wrote some this morning, did some stretching, ate Maureen’s incredible, apple-blueberry pancakes, and began my project, planned to be about two hours of preps, two hours of drying, and three hours of painting. Good plan.

Did i mention the airplane soot? You see, i have learned about airplane soot. It makes most EPA announced dangers look like ice cream. All of the other dangerous emissions can’t hold a candle to airplane soot if you ask me. We are about four or five miles in a direct line from the flight path into Lindbergh Field, which they now call San Diego International Airport for political correctness concerns. Apparently, the wind patterns normally blow from the flight path directly to our hardscape and outdoor furniture. Our outdoor teak dining table, small patio tables and all of the chairs do not look like teak. They look dirty black…from airplane soot. Our courtyard gets the biggest hit. The soot mixes with the three or four paint jobs, and in addition to being a measles concoction of ugly colors, the courtyard  is extra ugly with the soot.

The soot also complicates painting preps. Power washing doesn’t just take the planned hour. It takes about four. Hours. And i don’t care what anyone tells you, power washing a courtyard with three or four coats of paint and airplane soot is a pain in the ass.

Done. After a lunch break and my every day nap, it is dry. i am excited. i get out the roller and the paint. i get a sample tile because Maureen and i decided we might paint the tile as well as the concrete. i paint the sample. Then i paint about about ten square feet. Feeling good, but i decide i should ask Maureen if i should paint the tile. i call to her and ask her to come out and decide. She opens the door, looks at the paint and gasps.

Now, we have been married for over thirty-five years. i know when Maureen is not pleased. i could tell this was one of those times. Being a complete idiot and frustrated, i say, “What? You picked it out.” This, as i knew it would even as i spoke the words, did not help.

i try vainly to recover. “Why don’t you go down to Home Depot and see if there is a color you like better (than the one YOU picked out, i did not add).?” Dammit. She did. Now, Maureen likes to shop…at Nordstrom’s, at boutiques, at art galleries, at Trader Joe’s. She likes shopping at Home Depot about as much as she likes getting a two-by-four slammed into the back of her head, which i figured she would like to see happen to me as she walked into our nearest Home Depot.

She came home with a gallon of another color. To test. We may do that tomorrow.

i finished the paint job around eight. About eleven hours including lunch and my nap. Of course, it’s not done. i will have to touch up tomorrow. We’ll (we?) have to decide if this is okay or if the sample is better. Regardless, by my count there are at least five to ten more steps in this process.

But it will look good when done, even pretty. After all, the two of us work well together.

i came in, ate the Thai food, Sarah went and picked up for us rather than the steak i was going to grill but ran out of time. i ate, showered, and sat down to write this. Before i started i walked out the front door and took two photos. Our new paint job…in the dark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did i mention there was a beautiful full moon tonight?

 

Tick Bryan and Tommy Duff Take Me Back

Late yesterday afternoon, my nephew Tommy Duff “tagged” me in a Facebook link. Tick Bryan did it last year for every game. This morning Tick posted a link to highlights of the link Tommy had me tagged.

It was the Lebanon High School (Tennessee, of course) Blue Devils playing their first football game of this season against Hartsville’s Trousdale County High School Yellowjackets.

The Blue Devils won, 16-10.

And the highlight reel below (Do they still call them “reels?”) shows the run that took me back.

Way back.

Like early 1950’s back. Not August. The nine-game season didn’t start until September back when school didn’t start until after Labor Day because there were still farmers whose high school sons had farm work to complete. Not at the Hartmann Drive, Hickory Ridge Road intersection, not even the stadium bounded by Knoxville Avenue and Tennessee Boulevard near where the old pencil factory was an even longer time ago.

No, i went back to the field bounded on the east by Fairview Avenue and whatever there was before the Baddour Parkway by-pass was even thought of. Steel girders and wood bench seats. October maybe. Late October. Cold enough for me to see and laugh at my frosted breath. Cold enough to make my feet sting. In one of the first few rows around the south side 40-yard line. With my father’s encouragement, the feisty, solid but not fat, little kid with a flattop covered by an ear-flapped billed cap screaming his head off. Often. Because i went into that high-pitched yell every time Clifton Tribble took the handoff from David Robinson and cut through the line in a hole opened up by Don Franklin, then weaving his way gracefully through the secondary and then put it into high gear headed unstoppably for the goal line. Many times it seems some 65 years later.

Yep. Last night 22 miles northeast of the old stadium where Sellars Funeral Home now stands, Chandler Crite, the Blue Devil quarterback takes a snap looking more like a tailback in the single wing (i wonder if he knows what that means), cutting through the line, weaving through the secondary, diving over the goal line.

Ain’t Clifton. But man was i back, all the way back to football a long, long time ago.

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Thanks, Tommy. Thanks, Tick. Thanks, Chandler.

My Harding Place (republished after it was actually completed in spite of fat fingers)

Last night, my fat fingers hit the wrong button and this was published. Sara Yahola queried me about whether this was to be continued. The answer is yes, sort of. i will leave it here as is until i finish it and republish. Thanks, Sara.

i have finished for now. You see, Maureen has called and supper is ready. Henry would understand. i will put the link on Facebook and rename it for a second, completed run in my emails.

No, no, not Nashville’s Harding Place that wanders a dozen miles south of Murfreesboro Park to Belle Meade. if i remember correctly, that Harding Place was named after the kin of the folks i’m writing about here. i’m talking about MY Harding place.

It’s still there. Perhaps i should call it My Arnold place. That’s the way it got started. Moved off a farm, Grandpap Arnold’s farm, once again if i remembered correctly, the move including Grandpap and Maude.

When i got to know Harding place, Grandpap and Maude lived in the back room on the southside of Harding Place.

218 South Tarver.

Memories. Good people. Really good people.

i spent a great deal of my Lebanon life at my Harding place. It was my second home.

The primary reason was this black haired kid named Henry. George Henry Harding, V. to be more precise. “Henry” seemed to fit. Still does. But more about him later.

Because he was only a year younger, Beetle was nearly always involved in our shenanigans as well. James (Jim) A. Harding. i’m pretty sure the “A.” is for Arnold. More about him later as well.

When i visited, Grandpap and Maude seemed like visitors from an another planet of long ago. Lebanon history. Country folk, caring, with the scent of history. They were old then, but they were nice.

The grounds of my Harding place were about a half-acre i would guess. Across from Cumberland University, the yard ran from South Tarver back to the Tarver Branch of Barton’s Creek, which further to the southwest, i shared some more adventures with the Harding boys of my Harding place.

The Harding Place was freedom. There were about four outbuildings in the back. The furthest from the road was a comfortable one-room living space. An older relative lived there, an uncle as i recall. If Henry or Beetle were to say his name, i would remember. The relative whittled, but back then, there were a whole bunch of older Lebanon men who whittled. i don’t know if this relative chewed tobacco but most of the men who whittled also chewed tobacco. i’m convinced all of the old men who whittled on the court house steps in the square whittled, chewed, and spit on the sidewalk with some thought of perhaps getting someone walking by to slip and fall on his backside, preferably someone all duded up in a suit and tie.

This relative had a Ben Franklin stove in the back of his living space (the front of his living space faced the branch at the back of the lot).

The other buildings had equipment, all kinds of equipment, really interesting stuff to Lebanon boys. But the building on the north side, the other end of the living space was magic, pure magic. There were all sorts of enchanted, broken of course or at least in need of significant repair, pieces of stuff. Like the old pinball machine. This stuff could hold a young boy’s attention for a couple of hours. Easy.

And we would walk by the side of Tarver Branch north until we ran into the back of my relative’s backyard on West Spring. Burton Wilson was the son of my great aunt Ida Webster Wilson, the sister of my grandmother Katherine “Granny” Webster Prichard. Burton worked at the Woolen Mill, just like most folks it seems. He also was the choir director at the First Methodist Church. Mignon, his wife, doted on their children. Betty Burke Wilson was a beautiful blonde. i think i might have been in love with her but she was older and always out and about, i think perhaps in school, and boys my age then had illusory infatuations that left as quickly as they struck.

Dan was younger, but he liked to play with us and the Wilson large, screened in porch on  the east side had a ping pong table and the back yard was large enough for football and baseball games.

George, the patriarch of Harding place was well known throughout town. A staunch and active Democrat and Kiwanian, he was dapper, especially for a town like Lebanon and outspoken. Yeh, outspoken. He remained that way for all of his life. The boys, including George, would tape barbershop songs in the front room of Harding Place, singing with all of our might. He also had a sizable collection of LP albums, party albums, and comedy routines, even Redd Foxx and Moms Mabley. Of course, they were not something we were supposed to be listening to, but many a Sunday night, i would spend with Henry in the front room. There was a big radio and record player in the corner, and when we thought we wouldn’t get caught, Henry would go into George’s stash, and we would listen. If we thought we would get caught, there were late Sunday night gospel songfests we would find on the radio.

George and i, often with Virginia, became closer when high school football rolled around.  i rode with them in the black Mercury to every game not conflicting with my Castle Heights game schedule. George would give me his philosophy on all things great and small. i admired him.

Beetle and i had our own ventures together. We did many things with Henry, the three amigos, or perhaps the three stooges, but we had fun. Beetle and i started working for the Lebanon’s Public Works the same day. We collected a dead dog and took it to the dump. Then we had the wreck when i bounced Wilson Denny’s gas golf cart on the railroad tracks and into the fire hydrant outside Henderson’s Florist shop. We rode in the hospital in the same ambulance, laughing until it hurt…and beyond. We found each other in Vietnam, a fairly difficult thing to do when i was on a ship carrying Korean troops to and from Quinhon and Nha Trang and he was an army medivac officer on helos. And how, Mr. James Harding did you get the garbage truck duty while went to the waterworks and on to grave digging?

And then there was Virginia. She was beautiful, she was smart, she was caring, she was tolerant of our antics, and she made the only tacos and chile rellenos this side of the Mississippi. She and my aunt were my other two mothers and both let me get away with a lot more than mother would. i loved Virginia.

When she passed away way too early, i was in my spring semester at Vanderbilt. i remember running, the first time i just ran with no real place to go. Not a jog but a full out run in my regular clothes in the street. In a driving spring rain. Running until my lungs and my legs would carry me no further. I stopped somewhere on West Spring on my route to my Harding place i had walked so many, many times before. i cried all the way. And when i stopped, i bent over gasping and cried until i cried no more and walked back home. i will always miss her.

And then there is Henry. We took up running together sometime around first grade. i’m sure we got hooked up at the First Methodist Church Sunday School. But in fact, we met long before. We were Christened together along with Sharry Baird Hager  on VE Day in 1945 in the church’s sanctuary. i could tell you about 787,602 stories about Henry and me. Henry went to Lebanon High School.  i went to Castle Heights. Henry went to UT. i went to Vanderbilt. Henry went into the army. i went into the Navy. Henry stayed in Lebanon. i wandered around a whole bunch of this earth. We see each other rarely. We talk to each other once, maybe twice a year. We may exchange three or four emails a year.

He remains my brother. Our conversation is continuous. i admire his life, sometimes i am even envious he is the one who stayed and i am the one who left.

He and Brenda have made a lot of improvements to my Harding place, all good. It is a comfortable home with a comfortable couple living there.

They make me smile.

Sure would like to go back to my Harding place and spend a little time talking. Just talking.

My Harding Place

Last night, my fat fingers hit the wrong button and this was published. Sara Yahola queried me about whether this was to be continued. The answer is yes, sort of. i will leave it here as is until i finish it and republish. Thanks, Sara.

i have finished for now. You see, Maureen has called and supper is ready. Henry would understand. i will put the link on Facebook and rename it for a second, completed run in my emails.

No, no, not Nashville’s Harding Place that wanders a dozen miles south of Murfreesboro Park to Belle Meade. if i remember correctly, that Harding Place was named after the kin of the folks i’m writing about here. i’m talking about MY Harding place.

It’s still there. Perhaps i should call it My Arnold place. That’s the way it got started. Moved off a farm, Grandpap Arnold’s farm, once again if i remembered correctly, the move including Grandpap and Maude.

When i got to know Harding place, Grandpap and Maude lived in the back room on the southside of Harding Place.

218 South Tarver.

Memories. Good people. Really good people.

i spent a great deal of my Lebanon life at my Harding place. It was my second home.

The primary reason was this black haired kid named Henry. George Henry Harding, V. to be more precise. “Henry” seemed to fit. Still does. But more about him later.

Because he was only a year younger, Beetle was nearly always involved in our shenanigans as well. James (Jim) A. Harding. i’m pretty sure the “A.” is for Arnold. More about him later as well.

When i visited, Grandpap and Maude seemed like visitors from an another planet of long ago. Lebanon history. Country folk, caring, with the scent of history. They were old then, but they were nice.

The grounds of my Harding place were about a half-acre i would guess. Across from Cumberland University, the yard ran from South Tarver back to the Tarver Branch of Barton’s Creek, which further to the southwest, i shared some more adventures with the Harding boys of my Harding place.

The Harding Place was freedom. There were about four outbuildings in the back. The furthest from the road was a comfortable one-room living space. An older relative lived there, an uncle as i recall. If Henry or Beetle were to say his name, i would remember. The relative whittled, but back then, there were a whole bunch of older Lebanon men who whittled. i don’t know if this relative chewed tobacco but most of the men who whittled also chewed tobacco. i’m convinced all of the old men who whittled on the court house steps in the square whittled, chewed, and spit on the sidewalk with some thought of perhaps getting someone walking by to slip and fall on his backside, preferably someone all duded up in a suit and tie.

This relative had a Ben Franklin stove in the back of his living space (the front of his living space faced the branch at the back of the lot).

The other buildings had equipment, all kinds of equipment, really interesting stuff to Lebanon boys. But the building on the north side, the other end of the living space was magic, pure magic. There were all sorts of enchanted, broken of course or at least in need of significant repair, pieces of stuff. Like the old pinball machine. This stuff could hold a young boy’s attention for a couple of hours. Easy.

And we would walk by the side of Tarver Branch north until we ran into the back of my relative’s backyard on West Spring. Burton Wilson was the son of my great aunt Ida Webster Wilson, Katherine “Granny” Webster Prichard. Burton worked at the Woolen Mill, just like most folks it seems. He also was the choir director at the First Methodist Church. Mignon, his wife, doted on their children. Betty Burke Wilson was a beautiful blonde. i think i might have been in love with her but she was older and always out and about, i think perhaps in school, and boys my age then had illusory infatuations that left as quickly as they struck.

Dan was younger, but he liked to play with us and the Wilson large, screened in porch on  the east side had a ping pong table and the back yard was large enough for football and baseball games.

George, the patriarch of Harding place was well known throughout town. A staunch and active Democrat and Kiwanian, he was dapper, especially for a town like Lebanon and outspoken. Yeh, outspoken. He remained that way for all of his life. The boys, including George, would tape barbershop songs in the front room of Harding Place, singing with all of our might. He also had a sizable collection of LP albums, party albums, and comedy routines, even Redd Foxx and Moms Mabley. Of course, they were not something we were supposed to be listening to, but many a Sunday night, i would spend with Henry in the front room. There was a big radio and record player in the corner, and when we thought we wouldn’t get caught, Henry would go into George’s stash, and we would listen. If we thought we would get caught, there were late Sunday night gospel songfests we would find on the radio.

George and i, often with Virginia, became closer when high school football rolled around.  i rode with them in the black Mercury to every game not conflicting with my Castle Heights game schedule. George would give me his philosophy on all things great and small. i admired him.

Beetle and i had our own ventures together. We did many things with Henry, the three amigos, or perhaps the three stooges, but we had fun. Beetle and i started working for the Lebanon’s Public Works the same day. We collected a dead dog and took it to the dump. Then we had the wreck when i bounced Wilson Denny’s gas golf cart on the railroad tracks and into the fire hydrant outside Henderson’s Florist shop. We rode in the hospital in the same ambulance, laughing until it hurt…and beyond. We found each other in Vietnam, a fairly difficult thing to do when i was on a ship carrying Korean troops to and from Quinhon and Nha Trang and he was an army medivac officer on helos. And how, Mr. James Harding did you get the garbage truck duty while went to the waterworks and on to grave digging?

And then there was Virginia. She was beautiful, she was smart, she was caring, she was tolerant of our antics, and she made the only tacos and chile rellenos this side of the Mississippi. She and my aunt were my other two mothers and both let me get away with a lot more than mother would. i loved Virginia.

When she passed away way too early, i was in my spring semester at Vanderbilt. i remember running, the first time i just ran with no real place to go. Not a jog but a full out run in my regular clothes in the street. In a driving spring rain. Running until my lungs and my legs would carry me no further. I stopped somewhere on West Spring on my route to my Harding place i had walked so many, many times before. i cried all the way. And when i stopped, i bent over gasping and cried until i cried no more and walked back home. i will always miss her.

And then there is Henry. We took up running together sometime around first grade. i’m sure we got hooked up at the First Methodist Church Sunday School. But in fact, we met long before. We were Christened together along with Sharry Baird Hager  on VE Day in 1945 in the church’s sanctuary. i could tell you about 787,602 stories about Henry and me. Henry went to Lebanon High School.  i went to Castle Heights. Henry went to UT. i went to Vanderbilt. Henry went into the army. i went into the Navy. Henry stayed in Lebanon. i wandered around a whole bunch of this earth. We see each other rarely. We talk to each other once, maybe twice a year. We may exchange three or four emails a year.

He remains my brother. Our conversation is continuous. i admire his life, sometimes i am even envious he is the one who stayed and i am the one who left.

He and Brenda have made a lot of improvements to my Harding place, all good. It is a comfortable home with a comfortable couple living there.

They make me smile.

Sure would like to go back to my Harding place and spend a little time talking. Just talking.

Dark Side of Three

It is 2:56 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, the dark side of three o’clock.

i am awake.

i woke up because it’s a tad warm for the Southwest corner. i tend to wake up once or twice a night because of old man things, but i’ve always been a great sleeper and nearly always go right back to sleep. i don’t consider myself “great” at hardly anything, but i am a great sleeper, always have been, got it from my father…but he was better. i mean anyone who in ’34 and ’35 could go eat lunch at Homer’s in the northeast corner of the square and then walk back to Philpot Motors a block off the square at North Maple and West Main before Philpot sold the business to the McDowell’s which became McDowell Oldsmobile and Cadillac or vice versa because i can’t always remember things exactly as they were, which is another old man thing, but anyway as my mother used to say when she wanted to let you know she had finished her aside and was returning to her original thought, my father would go to the lot behind Philpot’s where there was a big flatbed trailer parked just across the corner from the mule barn where West Market Street tees into North Cumberland and he would climb up on that flatbed trailer and go to sleep for whatever time was remaining and he slept hard but knew the mule barn, which was where Taylor’s cleaners and the feed store, which is Edwards Feed now and i think it was then, i mean before it was the mule barn, when i was growing up if i remember correctly but there goes that old man thing again and i don’t wish to sound like i’m really old because i’ve been blessed with good genes and am in better shape or at least have less body parts replaced than just about every man i know in my generation so i’m not complaining but i am old and that’s just the way it is, but anyway, mother again, my father would take his nap lying on the top of that flatbed trailer knowing the mule barn’s whistle would go off just before one to let the mule workers know they needed to get back to work and my father would wake up, climb off that flatbed and go back to the garage part of Philpot’s long before they called them service areas and certainly not service departments and he would work like a dog for twelve dollars a week.

Anyway, i woke up. Unlike most of the time, i couldn’t go back to sleep. Thinking about things. All sorts of things. Like most of the stuff i just wrote down above. But many more like why i haven’t finished that book or for that matter the five or six i keep thinking i’m going to write but never finish, at least not to my satisfaction, and i think about all of the things i’ve done wrong in my life, and on the short side of seventy-four, there are one hell of a lot of things i’ve done wrong in my life and i wonder why in the deep of night when i wake up i think about the wrong things and not the right things i’ve done because i think i’ve done a number of those as well, but it’s always the wrong things i think about in the middle of the night, and another thing that makes me wonder is how come i keep thinking about those wrong things i have done when there is not one damn thing i can do about them now, especially not at this time of night.

And then i wonder why i write even though i know i don’t have a clue why i write. It’s just there, this writing thing, and quite truthfully, even though i can’t seem to get this book finished, i can’t stop writing even though i would probably be happier if i just did the chores, the tasks around the house you know, and played golf. And i could, you know: i’m old, retired, can do anything i want so i get up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep because i’m thinking about all sorts of things and yes, i write.

Maybe it’s because i’m stoked. Crazy. You see, i cooked dinner last night. That’s a rarity. It’s also crazy. i used to cook dinner quite a bit when Maureen was working and i was mister mom and even beyond because i wanted her to rest after a long day at the office until i discovered it was her way to relax, to take work off her mind, and she loved to cook and since she saved her earnings at the movie theater and Kentucky Fried Chicken long before they changed it to KFC because they had real chicken back then, her earnings over and above the amount she needed to take her summer trips to Europe so she could buy those stainless steel pots and pans, a set that we still use today. Then she retired and cooking became a passion for her and she has turned into a gourmet chef and i get high end restaurant dining every meal. Yes, every meal. Even breakfast.

So why the hell am i cooking? Since she retired, my cooking has been restricted to grilling steaks, hamburgers, smoking the Thanksgiving turkey and a couple of favorites my mother used to make like meatloaf and a squash casserole and biscuits and cornbread with something i made up on my own with okra but turns out to be a lot like jambalaya, which hacks me off because i didn’t know it was jambalaya and it really isn’t because whoever heard of jambalaya having Tennessee Pride Country Sausage (HOT) included.

But anyway, i’ve got this friend. Great guy. We reconnected and probably never would have had not somebody other than Al Gore invented the internet. He, my friend not Al Gore, lives in south Georgia. His name is Jimmy Nokes. We grew up together. We learned to play golf, such as we played it when Hunter’s Point Golf Course opened. We played with Henry Harding and Fox Dedman and they were a bit better than the two of us and Nokes would get to the fifth hole (i think: old man stuff again) where a small pond was in front of the tee box and the hole ran along the barbed wire fence on the west border of the course and he would hit his ball into the pond although that pond shouldn’t have come into play at all, but it did for Nokes and he hit his ball off the fifth tee into the water about a dozen times until one day, he hit a line drive, a slice to the right, but it cleared the pond and Nokes was beginning to jump up and down with elation when the sliced ball smacked one of the barbed wire fence posts and bounced back…yep, right into the water.

And on weekend nights, usually Saturdays we would go to his house on the lake, somewhere out on Mann Road or just off of it near Brunley’s Branch of the river if i remember correctly, and we (Nokes, Fox, Henry, and me and Marty would take care of all of us like little boys which we were even though we were into our twenties by then) would play penny ante poker into the middle of the night and eat pizza and drink coke.

And…

So Jimmy Nokes sent me some Navy stuff he had. Mementoes. And when i complained about not having a Souvenir, the 1962 version of the Lebanon High School’s annual, he sent me his, and then maybe he read about my recollection of Vidalia onions and so last week we get this box of Vidalia onions and Maureen made one of her gourmet dinners and asked me to send Jimmy a photo of her gourmet dish with his Vidalia onions because she loves, absolutely loves Vidalia onions, which she discovered during our first year of marriage in Ponte Vedra Beach near Jacksonville back several eons ago and so i did her one better by including the photo here.

But i didn’t take a photo of my dinner last night. Too busy. i got this idea and told Maureen i wanted to cook. She acquiesced, to my surprise, and so i looked up this recipe. Actually, i just typed in “Vidalia onions and tomatoes” because i wanted to use the tomatoes from our garden. It was something called “Grilled Walleye with Vidalia onions and tomatoes.” Perfect. Except there isn’t any walleye anywhere around here. So i go shopping and find some Pacific rockfish, which i would guess looks  a lot like walleye except i don’t remember what walleye looks like but hey, it’s a fish, and i come home and get out the recipe and ignore it except for the hushpuppies. As with all things cooking, or at least my cooking, i just started and grabbed stuff i thought sounded good with fish, Vidalia onions, and tomatoes. i stress “sounds good” because i usually don’t have a clue what all those spices actually do to the taste of food.

But it worked. Very well, thank you. And the hush puppies? It was my first time with hush puppies. i’m good with biscuits and cornbread, learned from my mother. But they were really, really good, not of course, good like Whitey’s Fish Camp on Doctor’s Lake off of the St. John’s River southwest of Jacksonville, but in fairness, my grease was corn oil, not some concoction Whitey has in big vats and changes once a year whether it needs it or not (Thank you, Bill Prichard).

And that’s my story. It worked. i am tired now and will go back to bed and go to sleep. i’ve stopped thinking about things.

And thank you, Jimmy Nokes…for the Vidalia onions and being a friend even after about a gazillion years.

Revisit

i put a bunch photos here to celebrate our anniversary Monday. But i had already posted about our anniversary, so i began deleting the photos this morning to write on a different subject.

Then i stopped.

After all, she is magic. Unconditional love. That’s Maureen. It’s payback with me. We are different in many ways, but as i told my brother and sister, the two of us are so locked in we give each other crap for our differences and then we laugh together. Yep. Magic.

So here’s what i didn’t delete:

Carmel, 1982
Hong Kong, 1983.
Tiburon, 20…sometime, maybe forever.

Magic.