Category Archives: A Pocket of Resistance

Venerable T Houston

i wrestled with posting this or not since early afternoon when i completed this draft. The first section, in italics and green like this, explains how it got started. It does not explain that after the first draft, i had some more ideas pop into my head and decided in some future form, it would be part of a group of stories i keep working on since around 1964. It eventually, maybe in thirty or forty years when i am 106 or 116, i will finish it and turn it into loosely connected chapters in a novel. No, i don’t think it will match Faulkner’s Go Down Moses. But it’s from my heart and all of those things popping up in my head in the middle of the night. i decided to go ahead and post it after the Padres clinched their playoff berth this afternoon. i point out again, this is a draft.

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Now this is a tall tale, or for mariners a Tennessee sea story, popping into my mind after laying back down after a pee break in the middle of the night, a habit i’ve acquired with age. i could not go back to sleep when i hit the rack again when a name popped into my mind.

The title character’s name is what popped into my head. In the middle of night. Wouldn’t leave. Don’t know why. Possibly because I had one date with a high school senior when i was a freshman at Vanderbilt in the spring of 1963. A friend set me up with Ann (if i remember correctly). She was a high school senior in McMinnville. Believe it or not (also the name of an old television show most of you won’t remember), her parents put Ann on a Trailways bus in the afternoon for the two-hour ride to Union Station in Nashville. i picked her up, and we went to the Kappa Sigma “pajama” party. She was beautiful in her red striped nightshirt in the photo of us on a bed. It was all in fun. Around 10:30 after she got back into her real clothes, i put her back on the bus to McMinnville. I never saw her again. Pity. Her father’s first name was Venerable.

That stuck in my head and found some recess for fifty-seven years from whence it popped out last night. Worse, my little brain kept adding things to it. Perhaps it came from reconnecting to Hamper McBee yesterday morning. Hamper McBee and Tubby’s which took me into bluegrass and mountain legends and songs like “Brown Mountain Light” and “Long Black Veil.” I think Mr. Warren, you know, Robert Penn, like in “The Ballad of Billie Potts,” and of course, Mr. Faulkner; some Jack London, no doubt; maybe even a touch of D.H. Lawrence had something to do with these thoughts. And from there, more stuff kept popping up, like my cousins over in North Carolina because their dads of the Lumbee tribe weren’t allowed to go to college at UNC and went to Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee where they met my two cousins, married them and took them away to the Carolinas. And i thought of injustice and Andrew Jackson, a hero of mine with a dark, dark side, and Sam Houston who lived with the Cherokee for three years as a youth, becoming a champion for Native Americans in later years (and he happened to have a law practice early on in Lebanon, Tennessee with the support of Jackson and my great, great, great, great uncle, John Knibb Wynne).

And then while i was lying there in the dark wee hours, these things popping around in my head started to form some substance, make some sense – at least as much sense as i can muster at three in the morning.

I think it fits with New Palestine, a place i’ve been writing about for years.

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Venerable T Houston came out of the mountains, or rather out of the glen a hill or two over, and up the mountain to the hamlet on the crest.The townsfolk of Aerieton didn’t know what to think of Venerable.

They wondered about his name.

Even though Venerable was his first name, he wasn’t very venerable. He claimed to have some blood of the Cherokee and had a distant relative named Sam, but they suspected he was of the Lumbee tribe, a prominent bunch much overlooked but still relegated to less than citizen status by other tribes and the beneficent (not) government of these here states united, of which Aerieton had been located in three without ever moving as the white folk claimed the narrow expanse of land some 150 miles north to south from the coast to the Mississippi River and named Carolina in honor of the king after which the province split into north and south states, and then east of the Smokies ridge it became part of the rebellious Free Republic of Franklin before becoming part of the State of Tennessee.

All of his name was strange. No, not the “Venerable” part but the “T.” It didn’t have no period and no one really knew what it meant or where it came from, not even Venerable.

And who knew who he was or where he came from other than from that one-room cabin with the clay floor with lots of hogs running around and an old fice dog (the educated folks spell it feist, but it just means it’s a hunting dog) in the glen over a hill or two? The Lumbee aren’t particularly loved by the Cherokee who found it convenient to have slaves when possible, but the Lumbee accepted whoever it was who joined them and the mix was white and black and red but those kind of words can get you into trouble depending who is sensitive to what.

And what is a word anyway? Good? Bad? What a disservice to language played out with determining the connotation of a word by someone actually getting upset about that word. Yet it exists and words keep disappearing because someone feels abused. By a word?

 But up in the mountains of East Tennessee, there ain’t much attention paid to color of skin. Everybody is pretty much accepted ‘cept the government men who came to shut down the stills or eventually roust folks out of their land to make way for a dam and electric power. Got too much work to do to bother with that kind of stuff. They didn’t worry about whether Venerable was Lumbee or Cherokee or any number of other things he could have been.

And it didn’t matter when ole Venerable T Houston set out to work hard. He worked in the railroad yard for the line that climbed over and down the mountain from Carolina to Tennessee and back, and he slopped hogs, and he slaughtered them and made sausage, and he got enough to buy a patch of land, and he planted taters and ‘maters and onions and made stew, and of course, cooked it all with sausage, and sold it out front where he had built a little stand, and under the counter of the stand, he had mason jars filled with the splendid liquid. You know, that stuff they  make in those woods in the glen, far, far back, a trek to take the fixings of a still and set it up, and light the fires and pour the mash into the crackling steaming vats and pipes and coils to come out with white lightning as they call it that can fetch a fair price for the toil and strife of cooking the batches in the hills deep in the woods to keep it out of the reach of the government men.

Venerable T Houston made enough to buy him a mule, and it was white. So he had something to help him plow his plot and carry the heavy loads of still making deep into the woods and carry him to the tavern and the bank where he was going more and more often.

There ain’t many white mules around those parts anymore. No need to mate a jack and a mare with automobiles, pickups, jeeps, all-terrain vehicles, tractors, and such around nowadays. And not as many cows either but more horses ‘cause the folks gone uppity and want to ride ‘em for fun, and the big grocers started getting their meat from the stockyards in the Midwest and out in the west, which pretty much ruint cow counting games on road trips and the fun of seeing a white mule that would add ten to your cow count while sitting in the back seat with the windows rolled down before they made air conditioning for cars, but that’s okay ‘cause them new-fangled interstates ain’t up close to the fences of the pastures passing by, and you can hardly see the cemeteries, which would wipe out the cow count of your sibling sitting on the other side of the back seat and the bumps in the road are gone, smooth, which ended the “thank you, ma’am” shouts, and the switchbacks are gone too, and the world has changed since Venerable T Houston ran around those hills.

Then, Venerable T Houston met the banker’s daughter, and she knew he was a strange fellow, dark and crazy sometimes, and like some women, she was drawn to a man with a dark side, and even though Venerable T Houston thought she was pretty in her gingham dress, he didn’t even consider she might be interested in him until she began to chase him, a long and intricate mating dance of a sort, and her father was against it all ‘cause he had seen Venerable T Houston operate and suspected that money Venerable T Houston kept putting in his bank wasn’t all, if any, on the up and up, and it made no difference ‘cause Beatrice had her mind made up, and once a woman of her sort had her mind made up (just like her mother), there weren’t going to be no changing it, and sure ‘nuff, the mating dance came to a final resolution, and Beatrice left the fine things of the banker’s manor and moved into Venerable T Houston’s shack, which she immediately began to spruce up, which was fine with Venerable as he didn’t have to cook all the time, and Venerable T took Beatrice Houston down to New Palestine on the train. Palestine was a real town down in the valley. There Venerable bought her the wood for the floor he would put in, a stove, an icebox, and a nice dress.

The stores were on the square of New Palestine. While Beatrice was trying on a dress in the women’s clothing store, Venerable T Houston walked over to the water fountain from the spring underneath the square about twenty yards in front of the courthouse. The Giddings family had just moved to New Palestine from Clarence Junction, a small town to the west past the foothills. The Giddings brothers, Ezekiel and Zebediah were horsing around with some new friends outside the courthouse. One of the new friends, Merritt Brown recognized Venerable T Houston from a trip he had made over the mountains about a year before. Merritt had stopped at Venerable’s stand and bought some stew and some of the magic elixir.

The two exchanged greetings. Then, Merritt asked Venerable if he had brought along any of his hooch. Venerable T Houston was always prepared and told Merritt he had about ten half-pints in his satchel. Merritt bought a half pint for a dollar. Zeke and Zeb watched this and decided they should get some of this stuff too. They introduced themselves to Venerable and each of them bought a half pint, a dollar each.

After Venerable and Beatrice had taken the train back up the mountain, the Giddings boys were talking while sipping their whiskey at the back yard of the mule barn. They realized there was a bunch of folks in New Palestine who would like to have some good whiskey without having to go to Nashville and pay a pretty penny. The boys figured they could sell Venerable’s stuff for a buck twenty-five and make some good side money while working their dad’s farm out on the pike.

The next day, Zeb took the train up to Aerieville and found Venerable. They worked out a deal where Zeb and Zeke would get a runner to bring Venerable’s whiskey down from the mountain on the train in half pints, fifth’s, and jugs. They would buy it from him for seventy-five cents a pint, a dollar and fifty cents for a fifth, and two-fifty for a jug of the stuff.

Pretty soon, they made enough money to buy a 1930 Buick 64C roadster for the runner. The business thrived until the early 50’s when the local police began to hit the bootleggers and the lesser stills around New Palestine and sell the confiscated hooch (evidence) out the back of the police station to those in the know.

The Giddings’ “side money” was their main source of income while they worked odd jobs around the city and worked the farm. They socked away enough for Zeke to buy a dairy business and rename it Heavenly Dairy Products and Zeb to buy a Chrysler dealership and a tire franchise, naming both with the family name. After the senior Giddings passed away, the boys sold the farm and moved to big houses across from each other on the main drag, Paradise Pike, in New Palestine. They got married and both had two daughters.

Zeb became a quiet member of the First Presbyterian Church and sat in a pew near the back of the sanctuary every Sunday. He believed in Calvin’s idea of original sin and paid a significant amount for his penance but requested that his pastor never reveal the money came from him.

Zeke’s wife was Baptist. So Zeke became a Baptist and gloried in it while tithing more than any other member of the Calvary First Baptist Church of New Palestine. He became a deacon and finally an elder of the church.

Venerable made a lot of money too, but other than fixing up the shack for Beatrice, adding on until folks quit calling it a shack and called it a nice house. Venerable turned the stand into a small diner and ended up with four diners and taverns on the mountain. He spent a lot of time in the taverns, telling tales and singing old mountain songs. You could tell he was at one of the establishments when his white mule was tied up outside. He eschewed automobiles but would take a ride if offered. But most of his travel around Aerieton was on the mule.

And all of the world of Aerieton and the hills and the mountain was good.

Now would be the time for interjecting some problems into this tall tale, but to be truthful, i ain’t up to it. And it took ‘em a long time to get television up in the mountains. Even radio didn’t have reception all that good, and the townsfolk only read the New Palestine Gazette. So they didn’t get all that information about how the world was going to hell and how sports team had heroes (?) and how countries and businessmen and politicians were vying for power and people were fleecing other people.

And except for every once in a while someone breaking into a house, stealing somebody’s whiskey , an occasional killing, or a big fight, things went along pretty much as usual up in the mountains, and Venerable T Houston and his wife Beatrice lived pretty long and pretty well and had four kids, a white mule, a fice dog, chickens, and a couple of hogs.

Addendum II to “Fit for a Goober”

David Whitten, one of the better men in folks i’ve met in my life and someone i consider a great friend even though we haven’t seen each other in nearly sixty years, pointed out i erred in this post. Of course, it wasn’t “Mrs.” Fahey. It was “Miss” Fahey. It wasn’t spell checker’s fault. It was mine. Too quick. Not thorough editing. Old man.

And Miss Fahey was the matriarch of Castle Heights Military Academy for years. It seems like forever. She cared for all of us, but man, could she rip you a new one if you stepped out of line. Terrific woman.

Thanks, David.

Phil  Turner, that town boy with such a pure jump shot, along with George Haynes, who graduated from Heights in the spring before i walked up that hill in 1962, were the alums who pointed out i had omitted one term for Heights cadets in my first addendum. In addition to “goobers,” the high school cadets became “geebers,” a label that does not exist in any dictionary i have checked. How it originated, i have no clue.

Thanks, Phil and George.

For further clarification, “town boys” was used interchangeably to classify cadets who did not board and those boys who did not attend at all

And while i’m at it, the balcony and only seating area in our wonderful gym had two bench seats, solid wood, not one as i described in the post. i got to thinking about that one (in these times, someone my age has time to think about such things), and i looked up some old photos of Heights cadets in the stands.

This, of course, led to me thinking about several other gyms. One i recall had less seating than Heights. It was on a mountain.

Heights regularly played Sewanee Military Academy and St. Andrews School in sports. Both were in Sewanee, Tennessee, atop Monteagle mountain and near The University of the South, one of the prettiest college campuses i’ve ever seen. The military academy as with nearly all of those which were across the Mid-South in my days is gone. St. Andrews, an
Episcopal school, is extant. i suspect they have new gym.

My first trip there was as a member of the Heights’ B-team basketball squad. With the varsity we rode up in the winter of 1960 with the varsity team. The varsity team was good, and looked even better. They had long-pant and jacket warmups. The JV’s had a pull-over tee worn over the uniform singlet and their shorts.

Normally, that would not be a problem. But the St. Andrews gym was tiny. It made the Heights gym look like Madison Square Garden.  There was no basement. There was no balcony. A 2×6 piece of lumber about five feet in length had been nailed at an angle roughly nine feet from the floor. This seating allowed two or three students to climb up and sit. Any other fans had to crowd in the available space on the floor not occupied by the team, coaches, scorekeepers, timers, and assorted hanger-ons. i’m guessing maybe twenty fans could be in the gym for a game.

That meant the visitor dressing rooms were about 100 yards away. The JV team had dressed and was ready to go the gym. Basketball shoes, shorts, and our pullovers. We opened the door and a blast of cold air smacked us in  our faces along with snow flurries. It had not been snowing when we alit from the Heights bus and entered the dressing room, but there was already about an inch of the white stuff on the ground for our traverse to the gym.

i can now testify it is difficult to run in Converse All-Star basketball shoes with a skiff of snow on the ground. But we made it. And we won. Handily, much to the chagrin of the dozen of students sitting on those 2×6’s.

This post is beginning to have no end. i have two more stories emanating from my original crazy thought, but i’ll save them until later.

Addendum to “Fit for a Goober”

It has been noted by a couple of Heights cadets there was another term bandied about in those days of yore, which i omitted. While the senior school cadets called the junior school cadets “Goobers,” they modified the term to label themselves as “Geebers.” The town boys (also a term used to describe us’n’s who did not board but also the term for non-Heights cadet boys), i.e. Lebanon High School males, did not distinguish and called us all “Goobers.”

i hope this explanation muddles it up more for the uninitiated.

But i tried to explain. i really did.

Fit for a Goober

This might get a bit confusing. There are, according to my Merriam Webster, Unabridged Dictionary, thirty-four definitions of fit.

Nah, i’m not throwing one, a fit that is. There are times i would like to throw one. But i’ve come to realize in my old age, it does absolutely no good and has some negative impact on my digestive system, not to mention this old man’s blood pressure.

And this “fit” ain’t addressing my wardrobe. It couldn’t because damn near everything doesn’t fit anymore. i’ve been needing to lose about 20 pounds (more actually, but i’m not going to admit it), but i don’t run six to fourteen miles four or five times a week anymore and a three-mile fartlek at old man speed won’t get it done, especially when i’m wolfing down Maureen’s chef quality food and sneaking out for burgers occasionally.

The “fit” i’m talking about is related to that running mentioned above. But it was a long time ago before i really started running “running” after i bought a pair of twenty-dollar Adidas running shoes at J.C. Penny’s in College Station, Texas around 1977 — i ran in those shoes without socks until the soles were about ninety percent shoe goo; i might still be running in them, except someone inexplicably stole them while i was in the sauna, jacuzzi, and shower in the Diego Garcia gym in the middle of the Indian Ocean in 1981. Guess the thief was impressed with the shoe goo and the smell since they had never been washed — and after i bought those shoes, i finally figured out i wasn’t supposed to sprint. That’s when i began running almost every day. i was never really fast and never ran a full marathon, but it became something that was extremely rewarding.

i miss it.

As old men do, i was thinking about earlier times and realized i had run quite a bit, long before i started running “running” on my own.

It was Castle Heights. For four years, i was probably the most “fit” i have been in my life. It began with pre-season football (even pre-school) two-a-days, always concluding with an interminable number of forty-yard sprints until the end of the season. Then for the first three years, it was B-team basketball. And in the spring, baseball wasn’t super fit exercise, but Mike Dixon and i, along with most town boys at one time or another played pickup  basketball games almost every day, weekends included, and Mike and i were known to play one-on-one after baseball practice  and would have until the cows came home, but Mrs. Fahey would kick us out because her apartment wall abutted with the gym proper wall, or we would realize it was past time for supper at home — and that’s when my mother was “fit” to be tied.

However, one thing i remember about “fit” back then in the dark ages was after JV practice had ended. Frank North was a football man, assistant coach to Stroud Gwynn. He also was our B-team basketball coach. We sort of played the way we wanted to play, and Frank would yell at us if we messed up — Pretty much the same in baseball, and i never understood why Jimmy Allen wasn’t the head baseball coach from the beginning. Now Frank was a nice guy who believed in us being “fit.”

Our practices began at two after the lone post noon-mess class — i must confess i don’t think i ever went to a 2:00 to 4:00 drill on the drill field. Football, basketball, and baseball practice always conflicted. Practice ran about forty-five minutes. But did we call it a day and either go home or back to our barracks? Nope. Frank had us running. There wasn’t a great deal of places to run during basketball season. As the varsity took to the court, we climbed the stairs to the fans’ seating area.

Now i loved that old gym, but it was not conducive to large crowds. Seats were one long bench across each side and about four rows of the same bench seats in the west end zone, all in the balcony. There was only a wall on the east end of the court, no balcony. In big contests, cadets sat on the balcony floor with their feet hanging over the edge. i’m guessing the capacity probably topped out at less than one hundred.

But that balcony was a good place for Frank North to have us run. And we did, all the way through varsity practice. We ran in a single line. When we got to the east end wall, we would turn, jump up on the bench seat, run around to the other wall, turn and jump down from the bench seats to the balcony floor and repeat. Lap after lap.

i don’t recall ever really being tired from those runs.

i was fit.

The most fit (not fittest as some folks believe) i’ve ever been.

Now when i get up from a chair, i often think about how fit i was. Didn’t smoke until i graduated. Didn’t drink. Didn’t even drink coke. That stuff would cut your wind, they said. Just ran and played some kind of ball nearly every day.

Until the cows came home.

Note: For those who aren’t from Lebanon or younger than fifty, “Goober” may not be understood. At Castle Heights Military Academy, the senior (high school) cadets called the junior (elementary school) cadets “Goobers,” i.e. peanuts. Somehow, i guess, some Lebanon High School boys decided “goober” was enough of a derogatory term and began using it for all of the Heights attendees. As we did in those days, we didn’t take umbrage unless it was detected the issuer of such a label was mean in intent — as the Virginian said, “Smile when you say that” — and it became a term we laugh about and simultaneously take pride in still today. We don’t whine about “Goober” needing to be eradicated from history.

 

Mea Culpa

i am trying to find an email concerning a service i bought i now wish to cancel. This has led to a long morning of cleaning up my emails.

i quickly noticed i had not responded to a number of recent comments on my website posts (still dislike the term “blogs). i have been preoccupied with a number of things and just flat didn’t answer.

i do not like my lack of response. i have tried to respond to all of the comments, and have done a fair job until the last several weeks.

i apologize and will try to be more responsive and responsible from here on in.

Thanks to all of you for your comments.

A Fable

It turns out in 1970, i was already a pocket of resistance. i was in the South China Sea about half-way between Pusan, Korea and Qui Nhon, South Vietnam. It was around 2030, GMT+8 time. The seas were relatively calm. i was relaxing in my cabin at the aft end of the 03 level.

i was executive officer of the military unit aboard the USNS Upshur (T-AP-198), She had been planned to be a luxury cruise ship for American President Lines by the New York Shipbuilding Company before she was requisitioned by Maritime Administration and configured to be a troop and dependent passport for military personnel. The cargo holds had been converted to troop berthing, about 1500 of them and the dining room and all above the main deck had been kept in the cruise liner configuration, where my cabin was located. By the time i got there, the “troop and dependent” bunch had turned into Korean troops and officers. My detailer had told me they would still be U.S. personnel and dependents, the reason i accepted the tour. i wrote him a nasty letter pointing out that the passengers had morphed into ROK troops and officers and all the major ports in the Pacific were Sasebo, Pusan, Qui Nhon, and Nha Trang.

This particular evening, i had completed my nightly pinochle game with the two doctors and the chaplain. Outside my porthole looking aft were Republic of Korea troops chattering, laughing, and swapping smokes, the variety of which i did not wish to know.

i wrote nearly every night, mostly letters back to folks back in the states. i frequently taped a rather horrible cassette to family or friends — i know they were really bad as i have since had several returned to me and listened to a couple for as long as i could stand, something just over a minute. Rather than write, i was reading a book, probably Vonnegut because i was really into his stuff at the time, and listening to something from the pile of records i had purchased in the Navy Exchanged in Sasebo, Japan, our logistics port for the twenty-two day round robin sail. But on this night, i just got this urge to be whimsical. Don’t know why. It just came upon me.

i took my seat at the fold-out desk with the clothes bureau underneath, lit up a Pell-Mell, and just started.

This early morning fifty years later, i woke long before first light for an inexplicable reason other than i am officially an old geezer (and proud of it). What i wrote back then kept popping up in my head for some other inexplicable reason, or perhaps the same one. So i found it in my files and decided to share it again.

It is pure whimsy. i suspect only the older crowd will catch all of the silliness involved, and those so engrossed with the new, slick, graphically enhanced version of super heroes might get confused.

i would like to think there are some things one might learn from it, but i don’t know. i don’t know. 

As with nearly all of my dealings with folks nowadays, i’ll let you decide.

A Fable

Raga Muffin, the half-Indian, half-British scholar, fought his way through the crowd only to find the bloody carcass of his cat (his reincarnated pet cow).

“What happened?” he asked tearfully.

“A covered wagon driven by a little old lady from Pasadena ran over him,” Billy, the young newspaper boy, informed him.

“From whence did it come and where does it head for?” Raga implored in his best pleading tone of guttural Dutch.

“To the gold rush, obviously to become a tenant farmer raising grapes and sheep in an apple orchard,” Billy said wisely, then added, “I’ll cut her off at the pass and bring back her golden inlays.”

With that, he said “ZHAZAM” (or however it was spelled, and what did those letters stand. for anyway?). Captain Marvel dashed into the sky, barely missing a Boeing 747 returning from a test flight and completely covered with pigeon dung. Later, the runway of La Guardia bloomed petunia and porky pigs because of the extra fertilizer. Even later, the ancient mariner, complete with an over-fed albatross closely resembling a young Jimmy Durante, stubbed his tow on one of the petunias when he wandered onto the airfield after mistaking it for the red poppy field located about two blocks from the city of Oz.

Several weeks after the cat died, Raga received a note sent via pony express through LA. There was no return address, but the typewriting was definitely in Billy’s hand.

Found the good life. Tony B. sings it on Columbia records. Caught her at a pass. We were married in a small mosque, two doors down from the local Salvation Army brewery, by the JP from Ontario. Settled in Death Valley. Traded in twenty mule team for some Dial soap and wish everybody did. Disguised the Conestoga as Apollo 13 and converted it into a streetcar cafe selling pork and beans to Navaho. Her gold inlays were prefab, and she turned out to be Tricia Nixon. I go to RVN as ambassador next month.

Love and Kisses,
Capt. Ima Marvel
Israeli Air Force

Raga chucked the intellectual bit and now lives as a hermit on 95th and Park Avenue, eating only banana peels and used gypsies. Marvel eventually made a fortune by turning his old newspapers into paper mache models of Batman and Robin, without tights. The cat is alive and well in Nova Scotia, but it came back as a Brylcream advertisement because a little dab will do ya. The sacred cow, once Raga’s pet, never made it to the rodeo but fell in love with a mink stole in Sears window. The stole stole away with Phinnias T. Bluster during a rain squall over Honolulu, 74 degrees and cloudy.

Mesopotamia rose again under the leadership of little orphan Annie and was aided considerably by Xerxes and Damon Runyan.

Heracles left for Homer as soon as he heard the news. All of them denounced Raga as the original instigator of the plot, and he was picked up in the Bronx for littering.

Moral: A rainy day brings a little sunshine into everyone’s life, but bicycle spokes do not good guitar strings make.

Your local terror firmer
South of the North Pole
Midnight, two minutes past sex (dreams of)
Wednesday named after Tuesday, 1970

Murphy’s Law

From my “Murphy’s Law” desk calendar archives thanks to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Pipey, and cousin Nancy:

First Law of Procrastination: Procrastination places the responsibility for completion on the authority who imposed the deadline.

Goofy guy’s admission concerning the First Law of Procrastination: Since i must be the authority on imposing the deadline for posting “Murphy’s Law” daily, i haven’t been responsible for about a month, and neither has the goofy nut who is supposed to post them…or some lame excuse like that. BUT i am an excellent procrastinator.

Rambling On, And On…

After my rambles yesterday, we sat at home trying to be cool and continue to observe energy conservation to avoid rolling brown or black outs (i don’t guess you can have a “white out” except in company of the not so polite of which i’ve been included for a large portion of my life). Between three and nine post meridiem on a rare day where the thermometer reached 101, Southwest corner residents were urged to keep the air conditioning up to 78: no problem for us as we only have a small portable one which we turned off, to minimize water usage because of the power required to run the pumps, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed (hmm, wonder who leaves them open?), turn off pool filters (again no problem: we don’t have a pool), and turning off all unnecessary lights off: guilty as we left several on to read and walk safely.

We never really got hot. Of course, we weren’t too cool either.

We were a bit worried about wildfires, and one lit off about three yesterday afternoon. Jatapul Valley is about twenty miles northeast from us. As i write, the “Valley Fire” has burned 4,000 acres with no containment yet, primarily due to the rough hill, mountain, and dry terrain makes access difficult, especially in heat reaching well over 100 degrees in that neck of the woods. Mount Miguel blocked my view from seeing flames reaching 80-feet high yesterday, but i saw plenty of smoke, dark menacing clouds rising above the crest of my Mount Miguel.

We are safe for now. The winds are blowing north to northeast, away from us. Our home is situated where a wildfire would have to be weird and huge to get to us. Nearly all of these conflagrations start in the east and move westward. It would take some powerful gymnastics for embers to leap from the east to our home due to all of the houses and infrastructure between us and a fire from that direction. We have open space, high desert vegetation (a culprit to abetting these fires) to the west but any fire would have to do some very strange things to get to our property. It could happen, but it’s not likely.

Today is a repeat of yesterday, supposedly cooling down will begin late this evening. Fire season is upon us.

A danger to put up with in the Southwest corner, and a lot of California.

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While in this keep-cool stage, Maureen found a Netflix movie last night. i was reading and writing but stopped to watch. The Way brothers directed the documentary, “The Battered Bastards of Baseball,” the story of how Bing Russell, an actor known mostly for his “Bonanza” role as Deputy Sheriff Clem Foster and the father of Kurt Russell, created the Portland Mavericks, the only independent baseball team in the country at the time (1970’s).

The story is captivating on its own. i kept shaking my head as it kept demonstrating the greed and pomposity of Major League baseball, something i’ve been ranting about for several years.

It is also heartwarming with a sad ending and then a good victory before the actual conclusion. i won’t divulge too much here because i think all of you should watch it. In addition to bolstering my complaints about MLB, it just flat made me feel good, it actually happened. It also is pretty much a commentary on how we operate today in our country.

However, i will point out the Sonoma Stompers (wine country, get the name?) are in the mold of the Mavericks. i sure wish i was watching them today with Alan Hicks and our score cards.

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To get some exercise and not melt on the road, i went for my run/walk a.k.a. fartlek (i love that name) early this morning. It was pleasant. But it also made me scratch my head.

The neighborhood watch bunch decided to run a contest for the area’s most beautiful yard. They have put up signs in the yards of “contenders” for the final award at the end of the month. We were already aghast when a home on our cul de sac sported a “contender” sign. We have always considered it garish and looking fake.

Then on my journey this morning, i took stock of the contenders. At least 90% of the contenders sport artificial turf: you know, fake grass. Those without the fake stuff boast plants not native to the area and certainly not in keeping with water conservation. There are no contenders with native plants or drought tolerant (called “xeriscape” around here) landscapes.

Now we happen to have drought tolerant landscape. i think it’s beautiful, naturally beautiful. i really don’t have any beef about fake grass, it is a good way to conserve water (and mowing). But to me, it still looks fake.

i’m just amazed that these judges think fake is beautiful. It seems to be the wave of taste today in many things.

Guess i don’t fit in, but if they had put a “contender” sign on our yard, it would not likely last more than a couple of minutes.

Curmudgeons rule, at least among some old folks.

And i is one.

Saturday Morning Ramblings of a Curmudgeon

There was this feeling of…how do i describe it adequately?

Stillness, maybe. Peace is in there also. It was out there, but i also could feel it inside me innards. That’s not quite it, but maybe you understand. It was one of those times i’m not quite sure if i just thought of it or someone from my life no longer around is really speaking to me.

Peace and calm. Yeh, that may be it.

It was about 5:45 this morning. i had quietly left our bedroom to allow her to continue to sleep around five. She doesn’t sleep as hard as i do, nor does she, or very few people i know ordinarily arise between 4:30 and 5:00: just an old man who went to sea for quite a while, i guess. She would sleep for another ninety minutes or so. Good.

i performed my morning ablutions, fed the cats, organized the kitchen, checked the weather, email, and text messages. Somewhere in there, i began to realize the sun was rising later. i went out to retrieve the newspaper.

It was about 5:45 as i noted earlier, or about five minutes past first light, one of my favorite moments of the day. The day was announcing it presence in a red-orange hue, a shawl over the shoulders of Mount Miguel, my daily reminder of the Navajos’ hogan front doors facing east to worship the sun rising. i looked up at the lightening sky and was surprised to find Venus hanging there east, southeast, high up against the light blue gray. i turned to my right to find Sirius and Rigel holding out against succumbing to the dawn. Turning more,  i saw the moon still claiming its presence and above it,  Mars joining the resistance against the last gasp of summer clamoring to claim its space, clamoring a fierce denial of decline with 100 degree heat projected by mid-day. A couple of days of that last gasp facing us like a bear pontificating futilely, not a great prospect for those who rejected air conditioning.

But the bear had not roared yet. There was a cool quiet breeze. The neighborhood, like Maureen, was asleep. This peace, this stillness came over me like a white organza cloth. With all of the turbulence disturbing my world, it was a wonder to feel the calm in the middle of the storm, like in the eye of the hurricane but somehow above it.

i decided someone was talking to me. i wished it would continue, knowing it would not, for i had things to do.

Like make the breakfast run. Every week or so, i make a run to Donny’s Café, down the hill. The main purpose is to get my whole bean coffee to gratify my snobbish French press coffee fix

Columbian is preferred but Donny’s blend is almost as good: his coffee for Café Moto is roasted fresh each morning. But not today. Today is for Maureen’s sesame seed bagel with cream cheese, Sarah’s everything bagel with cream cheese, and my lox and bagel (onion bagel preferred, everything the norm since somehow onion bagels are dwindling in supply, and the lox is not really, but fresh salmon and with tomato, avocado, and capers). Donny is one of my favorite folks in Bonita. A local, he left for a while to be  a professional bike racer in Spain before coming home and opening a kiosk outside his parents’ bicycle shop. When his parents sold the business, part of the deal was to create a small cafe on the back side of the building where Donny and his wife Rosie have been operating to a large and appreciative group of locals ever since. i first met Donny at his kiosk in the middle 90’s when i would go to work early and get his coffee en route. Donny is a good man. He is friendly, always helpful and a good Christian in the best sense of the word.

i come home to Maureen rising and we eat outside before the bear roars. Maureen fills the birdbath, and the birds in a goodly number began flocking to the nearby coral tree, some already venturing to the birdbath while we eat and read the newspaper.

Sarah rises and finds her cold brew coffee and bagel. Last night, she went to Heather’s house to watch the Disney debut of “Mulan” in a sort of celebration. (Heather and Johnny are engated. Sarah and Heather have been close friends since high school). Sarah wore her grandmother’s kimono robe to play her part.

We perform our outside tasks before the bear really roars, preparing to hunker down with a closed, wonderfully insulated house (thank to Maureen). AC may not help anyone later today as rolling “brown outs” are more than likely throughout Southern California for the next several days.

And i contemplate, or contemplate as much as an old curmudgeon can contemplate. Yesterday was my nephew’s forty-first birthday. Tommy Duff is as close to a son as i have. i am proud of him. Maureen and i agree he has grown up to be a really good man. Of course, he is into sports journalism, and i did my share of that. This is Tommy and Sarah in 1992, our first Christmas on Signal Mountain, our go-to tradition.

The house is shuttered. Fans and the one portable air conditioner are heaving heartily. We will shut most of them down around three this afternoon to do our part in energy conversation. i have threatened to go shopping at Costco and just wander in the produce section, the coldest place on earth except for San Francisco in July. But it is an empty threat.

i have rambled. i am a curmudgeon. This morning, i had peace, calm.

That’s enough.

Mixed Me

Last night, i watched the San Diego Padres explode after seven innings to score eight runs in the eighth inning for an 11-4 win over the Los Angeles Angels. Watching four of the premier baseball players in the world (Machado, Tatis, Trout, Rendon) was exciting.

This year’s version of the Padres is exciting all of the time. They hit five grand slam home runs in six games. They run. They play great defense. Their offensive power is unlike any i’ve ever seen in San Diego, including the Caminiti, Finley, and Tony Gwynn years. Jurickson Profar, one of the lesser lights in the Friars’ starters, went two for three, a home run and two RBI’s last night.

Sure, that behemoth ninety miles north of here remains the creme de la creme  of the National League and perhaps the Major Leagues. Impressive. Winners and whiners all wrapped up in one (can you tell i’m a bit prejudice?).

This Padre going on is fun.

But as i watched last night, i find myself with mixed emotions.

For a number of years i have railed against the Yankees (since the 1950’s when the Kansas City A’s owner made big bucks by sending his best players to the Yanks), and the Dodgers (who i grew up loving when they were in Brooklyn, rooting for them against my father’s beloved Yankees), and then the Red Sox (when the guy who labeled them “the Evil Empire,” Larry Lucchino, turned around and acted just like them), the Cubs (i liked them and the Red Sox when they were the lovable losers) because of the money being exchanged.

Well, $300 Million for one player for ten years (Manny Machado) ain’t chump change, not to mention all of the other crazy money the Padres have spent on players and player development. So my Padres are in the same league (not baseball league, but money league) with all the other villains. And i fully expect the ticket prices (when fans can go) to rise precipitously, and will not be surprised if beer goes up to $20. This means, of course, that i ain’t going.

And there is another aspect i reconsidered. At the end of July, the Padres dealt 29 players one way or the other to acquire supposedly (according to the experts, of which i ain’t one) better players. And that doesn’t count the ones who left before the pandemic season began. Now i’m missing some of my favorites who left, Austin Hedges, Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot, Josh Naylor, Cal Quantrill, and Ty France. All gone. i find myself rooting for players i only know by reputation.

Flesh peddlers.

And the rich get rich and the poor get poorer. Why do owners spend megabucks buying championships to make more megabucks and why do players need $30 Million a year? If they continue to screw their fans monetarily, why aren’t they helping the less fortunate in the country? And why do players and their agents think they need several hundred million to PLAY baseball? And if they are going to demand those salaries, why don’t they put in back into helping others. And i am not talking about all of those wonderful foundations many of them form.

So essentially, the fans (me included) are rooting and spending for what? Money. Their money against everyone else’s money. Crazy.

Sadly, my rant is not going to change things. Today, the Padres new pitching star will be going against the Los Angeles (really, Anaheim) Angels (location change to attract more fans, i.e. more money). i will be watching.

And i love the way the Padres, new and old are playing. Excitement, incredible talent, laughing, having fun, playing the game the way it should be played.

And i’ll be rooting for them to win it all.

i’m just not sure why?

Please bring back college baseball soon.