Category Archives: A Pocket of Resistance

September

This is a bit of rolling around in  my thoughts of a post.  It began with some wonderful memories of autumn growing up in Lebanon. Then, i thought about my passion for playing football and those six wonderful years i actually got to play. And then, i started writing, and then, i realized i had written a lot about the stuff i was writing about. And then, i decided i would edit it. And then, decided i didn’t want to and didn’t. But i didn’t want to do much editing, perhaps because i’m not very good at editing. And then, i felt depressed about my not being a very good editor, which probably keeps me from being a very good writer. And then, i wondered why i was working on this book when i enjoyed redoing our trellis, replacing beams, painting, hanging sun shade screen, painting all the hardscape, hanging old lights, discovering shorts, replacing with new lights, cleaning the teak furniture, setting the lighting timer, losing about five pounds in water weight from sweating, taking a cold shower, drinking a gin and tonic, having another of Maureen’s fabulous chef quality meals with a nice couple of glasses of red wine, turning on the streaming television to watch the Padres while reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit, which i may never finish.

And then, i think, “What the hell? i ain’t no superlative writer. Hell, i’ve got two daughters, a brother, a sister-in-law, a niece, a nephew, and a bunch of friends who write better than me, and this is really some sort of stuff for my grandson to know what his grandfather was like, and that’s enough, so here it is rambling, piecemeal, no attempt to puff out my chest cause i was just another boy growing up in a different world in a different time, and i think we would all be a bit better off if we took the good things from the past and deleted the bad instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater and completely refusing to learn from our past.

So:

We just rolled over into September.

This is no longer such a big deal for me since…whenever the world of reality overwhelmed my ideal of  autumn.

It was a long time ago.

Now i think of the lyrics (and the song) of Jimmy Durante’s “September Song:”

Oh it’s a long, long while, from May to December
But the days grow short, when you reach September.
When the autumn weather, turns the leaves to flame,
One hasn’t got time, for the waiting game.
Oh, the days dwindle down, to a precious few.
September. November.

i get a little maudlin.

So i start to write. i started this about the time we actually rolled into September this time around. i wrote about how i loved my pre-autumns in Tennessee. Then i tried to describe why and i rambled through a whole bunch of stuff i had written before. Then i couldn’t remember what i had put in and what i left out and then i became frustrated.

Perhaps it was the weather. For the past week, the Southwest corner has felt more like August in Tennessee. You know: 95 degrees, 95% humidity. This was after a summer of highs below 80 and the usual low humidity. Coastal high desert weather driven by the Japanese current. So the impact of two-a-day practice weather in pre-season football was smacking me in the head, along with memories of digging graves in such weather in Cedar Grove. But mostly, it made me think of the discomfort (and that’s putting it mildly) necessary to get to the wonderful memories of Tennessee autumn.

i wrote:

From my six to twelve years of living, the beginning of September only meant to me my summer was pretty much over. i could no longer spend every waking moment, usually barefooted wearing shorts only, in our yard or the Padgett’s vacant lot between our house and theirs playing football, baseball, cowboys and Indians (which is what i thought was a rather noble tag but is now considered politically incorrect) and pretty much any thing Beverly and Roberta Padgett, Martha,  Bill Cowan, Bill Simpson, eventually Joe, and i could make up, not forgetting our cousins, Nancy and Johnny Orr and our games while they visited on many weekends from Chattanooga back when it was US 41 through Jasper and Monteagle and down the switchbacks to roll through Manchester, touching the edges of Tullahoma on what was then about a four-hour drive and finishing off with Murfreesboro before Cedar Grove Cemetery and Wilson County Memorial Gardens wiped out the scores in the counting cows game, both sides.

In 1956, the semester at the second year of Lebanon Junior High began on September 4. My world changed and September took on a glorious song for me for six incredible years.

Front: Billy Jennings, James Manning, Jim Jewell, Tommy Wood, Jimmy Gamble, Tommy Palmer, Buddy Boyd, Reed Oliver, Middle: Henry Harding, Townley Johnson, Frank Moody, Mike Dixon, Frank Newbell, Eddie Taylor, Earl Majors, Eddie Sellars, LeRoy Dowdy; Back: Mike Gannaway, Paul Thomas, Jimmy McDowell, Ronnie Wooden, David Hall, Jimmy Howell, Jimmy Hatcher, Steve Organ.

My introduction to organized football as a seventh grader did not start illustriously.

The dust and dirt field used for recess kickball, softball, dodgeball, and many other shenanigans of which i cannot tell was converted to the Lebanon Junior High Colts (Coach Jimmy Allen changed the name from Blue Devils); the next year we wore red and white disconnecting us even more from where i dreamed of being a star fullback like Clifton Tribble, not yet willing to accept my parents would send me to Castle Heights, not the place for my dream of stardom.

You see, i wanted to go to Castle Heights and be a post-graduate football hero as well because each fall i could hear the band play their march songs and hear the crowd roar from the field not a block away across West Main, and Harold Greer was my second choice to follow after his and my LHS Blue Devil careers. It was not so outlandish a dream in that i was sure i would grow to six feet, two inches tall, weighing in at 180 pounds, something i have attained and now wince at on the scales every morning because i remain vertically challenged at five-six and trust me, 180 doesn’t go well with five-six.

But the maroon and gold Tigers were not in my immediate plans for the future. i first had to don an ill-fitting uniform with high top shoes that were way too big and a helmet that could stay fix in one direction if i rotated my head real fast.

This feat, not intended in September on that dusty old field in 95 degree temps with 95 percent humidity, was something that benefitted me over a quarter of a century later when JD Waits and i held an Okinawa wardroom party in our Coronado Cays condo, and to entertain our guests put Dennis O’Connor’s title song from Walt Disney’s “Johnny Appleseed” 78 rpm album on the stereo, and to the delight of our guests, danced before them and twirled with cast iron frying pans on our heads that also, like that helmet, did not move, gaining awe from our guests. This was the party created when the wives of the ship’s officers had a party just for them. JD and i pointed out this was discriminatory and invited the ladies to a “wardroom wives” party hosted by the two single officers…only the guys showed up too.

So i pushed around those blocking dummies in the heat and sweated and my feet flopped in the shoes and my vision was constantly blocked by the non-rotating helmet, and i learned “gee 46” and “haw 35” and cut into the line so Earl Major or Jimmy McDowell could slam me into the dust turned to muddy dirt in my sweat with my helmet going every which way except with my head, and i woke up the next morning hurting like i had never hurt before and lay on our living room rug hoping to die but crawled back up, went to school, got through the classes to don that not yet quite dry uniform and the same ill-fitting helmet and shoes to do it all over again for about a week that felt about two days short of eternity.

But it was worth it. With very little playing time for the second stringers, you know, the seventh graders, the 1956 Lebanon Junior High Colts went undefeated. The entire team, seventh and eight graders; first, second, and third stringers; managers, and coaches have remained close friends.

The next year was my highlight in football notoriety. i was co-captain with Jimmy Gamble. i was at my dream position, fullback, but it was dicey. The junior high powers that were had limited junior high backs to 125 pounds. i was on the edge. i was at 124 at weigh-in but added a pound or two during the season.  We didn’t weigh me again. The season produced my only touchdown, according to The Lebanon Democrat sports story, i ran a punt back against Shelbyville  four hundred and forty seven typos of yards for my score. i still feel bad my father was on a business trip to Atlanta and missed it.

Jimmy Gamble, Jennifer Brewington the homecoming queen, and the goofy guy, 1957.

And then we lost to McMinnville. It was close but we lost the first and only game of our junior high football. Several of us cried all the way on the short ride from the field to our locker room. i was devastated. But it did not cloud my love of the game.

In 1958, i reported reluctantly to Castle Heights and went out for freshman football, not reluctantly. The uniform fit a bit better than my seventh grade outfit, but not by much. It was a mixed season. Wayne Pelham and i alternated at tailback in the single wing and were co-captains. More importantly, i began to develop a love for defensive linebacker. The highlight of my season may have been at practice when Wayne ran through a hole in the center of the line and i met him about a yard past the line of scrimmage. We were both at full speed, we both lowered our heads and probably looked like  a bad version of competing rams, meeting head on. It knocked both of us out for a moment. Back then, you kept playing.

In 1959, Castle Heights classes began on September 1. The varsity began early practice two weeks before. i was invited, and thrilled. Of course, there was a possibility (i denied it was possible) i could be cut and required to play on the JV team. At five-six still and weighing in at a whopping 128 pounds, i was assigned to blocking back on offense and linebacker on defense. i’m still not too sure why. It really didn’t matter. Castle Heights, a member of the prep school “Mid South” conference allowed a post graduate year. Single wing blocking backs were a force, a guard in the backfield essentially. It was pretty evident i was not cut out for the position. But my role would be a running back on offense, the “T” team fodder for the first stringers. Yet it was a victory. i had made the varsity.

Then in practice as the diminutive linebacker in the tried but true 6-2 defense, the fodder faced a fullback off tackle. But it was no ordinary single wing fullback. It was Snooky Hughes from Carthage, the post graduate who was six feet and 200 pounds of red hair, ruddy complexion, more like a steam roller than a running back, who breathed like a steam engine, and when he got hot, which one can do in Tennessee early practice and September, his face would turn white hot, and the forehead scar from a childhood run in with a barbed wire fence and the scar from the slipped baseball bat whipped around the backstop and caught him on the chin would turn dark red. He looked like the Apocalypse coming in maroon and gold. Even worse (or better for me) he could get about three feet off the ground at full speed, a cannon ball. Except the little guy could get down to two feet off the ground, just enough to get under the fire and brimstone and tackle Snooky by knocking him from under his feet. It was enough to earn me a spot on the travel team which traveled 300 miles to South Alabama to play Marion Institute’s junior college team. It was brutal, the 6-4, 230 pound tight end went to Bear Bryant’s Tide the next year. Down by a large number, someone decided i should get a shot, so they sent me in…128 pounds of linebacker. The quarterback noting my size or lack of it, called an audible, tight end, yeh, that tight end, crossing across the middle. i  had him covered, but there was no way i could stop him from making the catch. Then i had to try and tackle this Sherman tank. i, thinking i was cool and macho, although i don’t know how the hell a 5-6, 128# bozo could possibly think he was either, followed the manly fad and had rolled my jersey sleeves up above the elbow. i reached out to grab the behemoth and stuck his free arm out like a straight arm, so i grabbed his arm. He flicked said arm and the bozo attached to it, sort of like a sling shot. i went sliding across that Georgia clay and sand field like mister behemoth had flicked a fly off his sleeve and my bare forearms skidded across the Alabama mix of clay and sand and became raw from elbow to wrist ensuring my sleeves would not be rolled up for the rest of my football career.

In 1960, September 6 started what was a a good junior year when i played a bit more, but still second string. Ronnie Naar cut through the line; i went low; Ronnie jumped; and kicked my shoulder, dislocating it. Still, i produced the only action photo (by JB Leftwich, of course) of me in action in a football game, Carson-Newman’s B team.

The goofy guy is #30 in front of the ref. i made the tackle. Two-yard gain.

This junior year was when Mike Dixon, The Cavalier sports editor dubbed me “Mighty Mouse” and gained the quote from assistant coach Jimmy Allen, “If he weighed 200 pounds (i topped at 148), they would have to make a law prohibiting him from playing football.” It was also the season of a great story told earlier about our game against Baylor School.

In 1961, September 5 was the first day of practice, and although i had yet to admit it, my last autumn of football. i had a great pre-season, and in our first game against Ferrum, the fourth ranked junior college in the country, i began alternating with Harper Ruff, a PG, at linebacker. Ruff was hurt toward the end of the first quarter. Amazingly, i made 16 tackles to which i contribute my being so small, the behemoth Ferrum linemen didn’t see me. Ferrum won, 6-0. We fumbled on their six-yard line to keep us from scoring, and they recovered our fumble deep in their territory and they scored, missing the PAT.

i hurt my knee in practice the next week and only played a couple of rounds

Coach Gwynn sent the film of that game to the coach at Centre College in Kentucky. The coach wanted me to play there, but Centre didn’t award athletic scholarships. They offered me a $2000 academic scholarship, but it could not match the NROTC scholarship to Vandy, which i took. Sadly, the film of that game has disappeared. i’ve always wanted to see if i really did make 16 tackles.

 

The Castle Heights Tigers went 6-2 that year, beat Baylor for the first time in two decades, and won the “mythical” Mid-South Conference championship.

i still love autumn in Tennessee, but i miss playing football, always have.

The Good (Sean) and the Ugly (DawgOutWest)

Several days ago, i stumbled upon a link to a “Dawg Sports” article entitled “Why I Hate Vanderbilt” written by “DawgOutWest,” an obvious alias (or whatever they call them nowadays) to keep the author from revealing who he really is. i think…no, i hope he was trying to be funny. He wasn’t. His article was ignorant, and mean. i guess that is required to be a fan of a particular college football team. i mean who would want anyone to know their name if what they were writing reads like they are an idiot.

i kept thinking i should respond but also kept putting it off.

i root for all SEC football teams because that is where i’m from and i grew up on that football. i root for Tennessee every game except when they play Vanderbilt because i grew up idolizing triple threat tailback Johnny “The Drum”Major and fullback Tom Bronson, and later the Canale brothers, George, Frank, and Whit in the early 60’s. Of course, Vanderbilt is my hope, not only because i went there, but because i think they are trying to be competitive and win the right way, or as the late and very special Vanderbilt Vice Chancellor for Athletics said, “The Vandy Way.”

i don’t demean other schools or their fans except, of course, when i run into someone going over the top in stupid.

i’m just sad that such yahoos as DawgOutWest feel it’s a good thing to be irresponsibly negative about other schools, apparently believing this makes him a good fan of his (or her) college football team.

Then this morning as usual i read Sean Dietrich’s post. i share it here primarily because it is funny . His anecdote about the Georgia and Auburn football fans sparked me to finally make my response to DawgOutWest’s article.

i have included the link to Sean’s post”

https://seandietrich.com/imperfect/

Thank  you, Sean.

For those of you who are over the top Georgia Bulldog fans or wish to read something mean and stupid, i have included the DawgSports article as well:

https://www.dawgsports.com/2019/8/26/20832858/georgia-vanderbilt-vandy-sucks-uga-football-uga-versus-vandy-why-i-hate-vanderbilt-dawgs-on-top

Blonde Joke

Evelyn Drummond is one of my favorite people. She worked with Maureen as “account executives” at Parron Hall Office Interiors.

Evelyn is a blonde. A natural blonde. She loves blonde jokes.

Carl works at the pro shop at North Island’s Sea ‘n Air golf course. He is a great guy.

After our round on Friday while, per tradition, the curmudgeons sat on the patio with our traditional pitcher of beer, Carl approached us and told us a joke.

It was a great blonde joke…unless of course, you are one of those people who are super sensitive to words, phrases, and jokes you consider offensive and politically incorrect.

i read in the newspaper this morning, a new semi-pro baseball team in the Adirondacks is changing its nickname from “River Pigs” because some local folks, who are apparently super sensitive and politically correct to the point of stupid objected: “River Pigs” was the term used for loggers who were expert at breaking up logjams on the rivers, a very impressive and dangerous kind or work, and they took pride in their work and liked the moniker of “River Pigs.” But not those over sensitive folks in the Adirondacks. Oh no.

But when i heard Carl’s joke, i knew i had to retell it to Evelyn. i imagined her laughing that great laugh:

There is the blonde who walks into a library and comes up to the receptionist’s counter.

The blonde loudly explains, “I WANT A BIG MAC, AN ORDER OF FRIES, AND A LARGE COKE.”

The astounded and alarmed librarian quietly asks, “Can’t you see this is a library?”

The blonde looks around to see the shelves of books, pauses, and whispers, “i want a big mac, an order of fries, and a large coke.”

Enjoy, Evelyn.

Labor Connections

It is still not finished.

There are the lights to hang. The hardscape needs a new finish. The teak table needs to have all of the aircraft soot cleaned off and should be lightly sanded before adding a sealant. i need to figure out a better place to hang the hammock. Extra shades need to be constructed to hang on the south and west corners to keep the sun out of the eyes for folks sitting there in the late afternoon.

i figure these finishing touches, based on the primary project, will take about six months. i’m planning to get it done in two weeks. Optimism versus experience.

But the major renovation is done. It was not easy. It ain’t Tennessee August hot. It ain’t Texas four or five months out of the year hot, but seventy-five to eighty for a seventy-five year old man is hot. And it was really sort of silly. Really.

The original idea was mine. i wanted a trellis not connected to the house. i had a very stupid run-in with the city’s “construction development” department at our previous home. We envisioned the Carolina jasmine vine growing over the top. My father, looking for a project during my parent’s annual pilgrimage to the Southwest corner to escape Tennessee winters, took it on.

What he created was unique, simple but really a piece of art. i did not want to ruin the effect by adding slats to encourage vine growth. Consequently, the vines didn’t grow. We were okay with that. It looked nice the way it was.

That was about twenty-six years ago. Wood outside in the Southwest corner can take some hits over twenty-six years, like termites and wood rot. It was time to fix it or tear it down for something else.

i am a sentimental old fool. It was mine and my father’s project, although he did the largest part of the work. So i replaced two cross beams, sanded and gouged out significant chunks of other beams, became a believer in “Plastic Wood,” and figured we could get at least fifteen, maybe even twenty more years out of it, and by that time, i wouldn’t care.

And so it began. i shall not go into the twists and the turns, but a week-long project adhered to my modus operandi: unforeseen problems, forgetfulness, wrong tools, interruptions, and on and on and on. And then, it dawned on me it would be a much nicer area to sit with sun shade screens on the top. Voila! An addition to the original project. It would have been funny if it had not been me. But i stuck to my guns. i did not take short cuts. i did not go buy fancy or even un-fancy tools i would use only once or twice. i did, except for the electric sander, our gardener, Paul Shipley, loaned me and used only sparingly, not use power tools. My father would have chided me for that: he was a practical man.

As i was finishing nailing the last sections of battens onto the shade with sweat darkening my tee shirt, i stopped.

It was almost as if he were talking to me. Jimmy Jewell seemed to be there. He did not speak. But i could feel him. From the top rung of my ladder, i looked up at the cloudless sky. Out loud, i said, “Thank you, Daddy (i don’t think i ever called him “Dad”).

i stared upwards. i could feel her too. i added, “Thank you, Mother (and i never called her “Mom”).”

i didn’t cry, but it was close.

And i thought of the world as it is today and how the things they taught me aren’t the ways of today’s world.

And i am glad i am stuck in their world (and mine) where a good job, hard work, taking care of things without malice on your own is really the reward.

So again, Thank you, Mother and Daddy.

Late In Summer…Quite a While Ago

i was a month away from my first and short marriage. i was not smart enough to realize what a stressful situation i would be putting my bride-to-be through, taking her out of Atlanta debutant equine loving environment to a place she would be alone while i traveled from our apartment in Newport to my ship in overhaul in Boston. Dumb. But i didn’t know it. i was in love (she understandably gave it up after just over four months).

So on that New England late summer morning driving to my ship, the USS Hawkins (DD-873), this poem came into my mind. 

Tonight i walked out to give Billie Holiday, Sarah’s Catahoula mix, a relief break after her evening meal. It was another of those glorious sunsets in San Diego. Being sensitive to giving someone too many sunset photos ever since my father jokingly admonished me for sending them one thousand or so sunset phots in Vietnam, i did not include a photo.

But the scene took me back to that August morning fifty years ago.

Late in Summer

palsied pink fingers: looming autumn clouds
gently tap
the horizon awake;
an infinite gray ribbon of highway
slashes through
green phosphorescent hills

non-think
embraces the drive;
his mind wanders
to pines and someone
far away.

cool solitude,
impervious to the immediate objective
excite brute loneliness:
thoughts of someone
gather as a gray storm
tumbles like a cascading stream
in his mind.

palsied pink fingers
curl to a fist;
enlightening rain
spits on the windshield
while far away
sweltering rays silhouette the pines.

Boston, Massachusetts
August 1968

Thoughts of Stuff in the Early Morning

When i woke up early, even a bit earlier than usual, i was pleased. i had slept through the night, a rare treat for an old man.

i fed the cats and began my morning ablutions. As i brushed and flossed my teeth, i looked in the mirror and began to think about…stuff. All kinds of stuff.

i considered how stuff seems to have accumulated, surrounded me. i wondered if all this stuff made my life better. Hmm…

Hey, until i was about 40, i didn’t have a lot of stuff to deal with in the morning. My ablutions lasted maybe ten minutes, if that. i brushed my teeth, washed my face, combed my hair, and left for work. Sometimes, i had a quick bowl of cereal with orange juice or ate on my ship with lots and lots of coffee in the morning, but my morning routine was nothing compared to now. And now, the stuff under the sink and in the drawer is extensive to say the least. There are lotions; salves; sunscreen (now apparently another source of cancer); contacts, extra lenses, rinse for contacts; batteries and cleaning devices for the hearing aid; nasal spray and rinses; floss. About the only thing removed from this list over the past fifty years is hair cream (no longer needed), after shave, and cologne (apparently men can make people sick with these aromas, but women’s stuff is okay; go figure).

We have a lot of stuff. One of my major considerations whenever Maureen and i discuss the possibility of moving or buying down is what the hell are we going to do with all of this stuff. Then i think, why the hell are we keeping all of this stuff? i mean our children aren’t going to want much of it or perhaps none of it when we are gone. And i’m pretty sure posterity isn’t going to give a damn about it. And i know we are not going to use at least half of it and don’t need at least half of the other half.

Sid high chair amidst other stuff…in the garage naturally.

But we like it, or at least most of it. There’s the high chair sitting in the garage. It needs some repair and begs to be refinished. It is not of the child safety variety that cost more than my first house. It is wood. The bottom of the tray has worn or rotted off. A wood bushing where a screw fits the tray onto the seat so the tray can be put down for use or lifted is missing. A wood slat has fallen off the back of the chair. It is painted brown and that paint is now of several colors. It was not painted when it was used from 1944 to somewhere in the early 1950’s. It was bought for me. My sister used it. My brother sat in it for several years. It was put in the  attic. My parents gave it to Kathie and i for Blythe to use. We painted it brown (earth tones were the thing in 1972. i have had this idea of refinishing it and giving it to Blythe to use as a plant stand or interest piece. But Blythe and Jason’s house is small, and all of this is really just a pipe dream of mine, and i’m pretty sure it will not make it to the top of my priority list. And it takes up space. But i know as i write this, i ain’t gonna toss it. Not yet.

And so it goes as i mentally go through all of the stuff we have. Finally, i decide i will have it arranged to get one of those junk removing outfits to go through the house and get rid of all of my stuff when i die, take it to the dump and dump it. Maureen can keep what she wants, which won’t be any of my stuff, which somehow has been designated as stuff to keep in the garage.

i make coffee and do the preliminaries for breakfast. i retrieve the newspaper and sort it so Maureen can read all the news and the “food” section which is in today’s edition, and put the sports section and the business section next to my table setting. Don’t laugh. The business section is not there for me to read that stuff. It also contains the comics. As i commented to Judy Gray recently, i don’t read any of that other stuff anymore. i check the headlines, but i simply don’t wish to get depressed in the morning when i read all the bad news, and it’s all bad news as far as i can tell.

While Maureen is still sleeping, i enter my home office for many reasons, one of which is to write this, which came in mind this morning during the ablutions and calls me to this infernal machine, and i look at all of the stuff, especially the wires. For most of my life, i had an all-in-one machine with no wires, not one. It was called a typewriter. It did not have a scanner, but it printed what i wrote instantaneously. It did not have to be charged with anything other than my fingers and my brain. It clacked when i hit the keys. It made me think. i dug into the Webster’s Unabridged, Roget’s Thesaurus, occasionally a French to English translation book, and more rarely an Italian to English translation book. It often inspired me as i saw my words appearing after the keys passed and the clank of the return lever put on its own exclamation point. No wires. i think i have one of last ones somewhere up in the garage attic.

But with wires and magic signals in the air (of which has electrons and invisible charges i figure will eventually be discovered to cause some kind of disease or mental disease), there is so much more knowledge (and misinformation, perverted political messages, and oh so much more) available, and its easier and you can scan stuff and insert photos and it even checks my spelling and screws it up even more than i normally do. It’s easier. Bah, humbug.

i return to the kitchen, after several stretching exercises, for my morning medicines. i only have a few prescription pills, but man, i’ve got a pickup bed full of over the counter stuff, mostly extra elements for addressing old age proclivities.

Being old ain’t so bad yet. Oh, i have some aches, occasional pains, and am a great deal stiffer than i used to be. But i don’t have to comb my hair. And i can dress anyway i want to (as long as most of this old body is covered) and be considered quaint or old fashioned.

And old gives me the license to whine about how i miss the good old days. But i forget, and i forget a lot nowadays, that if there had not been change, i would most likely be dead. i bitch about all my doctor’s appointments, but had it not been for those doctors and the new detection devices and the medical advancements and treatments, something that killed a number of my relatives and friends from the older generation i am sure would have killed me.

i curse the current state of politics and the lines in the sand. Yet when i read about the history of our country and recall the political cronyism, backdoor deals, criminal acts, and philandering that allowed prejudice, bias, immoral behavior, and subjugated people based on gender, color, religion, etc. to a subservient or worse role, i think we are better off…with a long, long way to go.

i must interject here i still believe the ideas promulgated by our founding fathers created the best system of government yet possible, and it’s the people who have screwed it up, and the difference is all the other systems would not allow those who protest now to protest at all, and those other systems would allow those in charge to be worse than they are under our system, and we need to fix what we got, not come up with something new. That equality and independence go hand in hand with accountability and responsibility and caring for our fellow humans, not fear, hate, revenge, and retribution. ‘Nuff said.

Maureen comes out and begins to prepare breakfast. i have fresh fruit, eggs, juice, coffee, and occasionally when she so deems i need it, Tennessee Pride Country Sausage. Our breakfast routine, with newspaper reading, and exchange of ideas usually breakfast takes an hour or more.

When it’s over, i normally clean up. There is…yep, a lot of stuff to clean up. Maureen has a cupboard full of spices, and oils, and lord knows what. My mother had some spices in her cabinet, but i don’t recall her using much more than salt, pepper, butter, and bacon grease. Condiments of all sorts fill our refrigerator and another shelf in the cupboard. Growing up, i remember salt, pepper, mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup, with some rarely used hot sauce somewhere.

Stuff.

But you know what? i’m enjoying my stuff. i just won’t forget when i didn’t have so much.

Amazing Medical Science Discovery!!!!

Now you should know i am not a medical kind of guy. This was a realization i suffered when i thought i was capable of  doing anything in the world i wished to do.

It was my freshman year at Vanderbilt, the spring semester 1962. Engineering required me to take Chemistry 101 and then 102. i had made a “D” my first semester. i wasn’t doing much better that spring semester. Perhaps this might have been a product of not picking up my chemistry book for two weeks, then pulling an all night cramming session on Thursdays before the regular two-week test on Friday. You see, i really did think i could do anything, like not studying and passing an extremely tough college course in chemistry.

But even after the first semester grade and carrying a high “D” at the end of the semester, i went into the final exam with great expectations (i have always been and remain an optimist).

i scored in  the 50’s. Bad. But Chemistry 101 and 102 were weed-out courses for all of the folks who matriculated to Vandy with the goal of scoring well in the pre-med regimen with aspirations of being accepted for Vandy’s medical school, one of the best in the country . It was tough. It was doubly tough for my class of 100 or so who got the professor from Russia whom i could not understand and consequently slept through his dramatic lectures filling about thirty feet of black board behind him with chemical notations i also did not understand, perhaps abetted by previously mentioned time, or lack thereof, with my nose in the chemistry books and not yet mentioned proclivity to nap during the lectures because of drinking beer the night before.

Regardless, i scored in the 50’s. But looking at all of the other scores and knowing the professor graded on the curve, i actually believed i might pull out a “C” on the exam. i was on cloud nine, an optimistic cloud nine, but still cloud nine.

But then there was Andy Berry. Andy was in my graduating class in Lebanon. He graduated from Lebanon High School and i graduated from Castle Heights. He is a good guy. i like Andy a lot except for that semester in chemistry. Andy scored 97 on the final exam. His grade completely screwed up the curve. Consequently, i got a “D” on the exam and a “D”in the course on my way to an infamous exit from Vandy the next year.

So you are correct: i’m not a medical or science expert.

But i am a good observer, and i have been observing a lot of stuff for a lot of years, three-quarters of a century actually.

Through those observations, i recently stumbled upon a medical science phenomenon overlooked by the most brilliant medical and science experts.

i have discovered, through blurry observation, the primary, never-to-be-argued, undeniable reason for dying.

Are you ready for this?

Everyone, and i mean everyone, dies because of…

living.

Simply put: If you live you die; if you don’t live, you don’t die.

i think there is an important aspect in that revelation. But i also know each of you will  have your own idea about what that aspect is for you. For me, it means i should live, if it is the reason i’m gonna die, to the fullest everyday…and not sweat the small stuff.

Medical science: eat your heart out.

For Sam, Thoughts and Memories of an Old Man Sitting Here at Night

i am sitting here in my non-reclining chair because recliners do not match our decor…according to Maureen. It’s a comfortable chair. But it’s not a recliner.

It is the evening after a nice meal at a new Japanese restaurant. i had gyoza, fried of course, octopus fritters with a long Japanese word beginning in with “T” i cannot pronounce nor spell but means pickled ginger, and with it, i enjoyed a glass of Chardonnay.

Our younger daughter is off to Orange County to spend time with friends from Austin. We are alone except for Maureen’s two cats and Sarah’s Catahoula hound. The pets have eaten and are quiet, lying in the family room in funny poses. Maureen is taking her bath. i have sworn off television for the evening.

i am drinking a pleasant red wine. i’m not going to get up and read the label just to record it here. i am eating my final dessert, a good hard cheese, something my son-in-law, Jason Gander taught me to appreciate. i miss him. We don’t see each other enough.

i am at peace…almost. There is a nagging sense of guilt that creeps in almost every evening about this time because i didn’t come close to doing all the things i planned to do during the day.

You see, i am writing this post instead of taking another chunk out of reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s tome, The Bully Pulpit. i blew off writing more on my book today so i could take care of some immediate business and continue my honey-do task of prepping, painting, and putting a sunshade on top of the trellis outside our bedroom. So i got a lot done, but never enough, never enough. But i did take my nap.

The trellis is really not a honey-do. It’s my priority. Daddy built this thing in the mid-1990’s with a few ideas and a bit of assistance from me. He was 80 and hadn’t slowed down a bit. It was more a nice piece of artwork than really functional, but we liked it and kept it as is. Termites and wood rot have taken their toll. i’ve replaced a couple of beams and the sun shade screen will allow us to sit out there more than we have. So that feels good.

While painting and thinking of Daddy, i wondered why. Why?

It seems looking back, recalling what i can, i was one lucky man.

i grew up, protected from the bad things in this world, even the bad things in my backyard. My parents, my friends’ parents, my teachers, and my church taught me good things. They even taught me, sometimes i wonder if it was unknowingly, that people are people, created equal. Notice there was not caveat on skin tone, origins, race, religion.

They taught me ends do not justify the means. To do things right. The Golden Rule.

They taught me i had to earn my living with them. There was not an allowance, but they gave me what they thought i earned. i vividly remember when i was around ten, we went out to dinner to Maple Hill Court, home of some of the best hamburgers and malted milks known to man. In the back corner, there was a pinball machine, not the payoff variety with no flickers like the ones i paid nickels to and played at Rotier’s, Linebaugh’s at Fourth and Broadway, and Mac’s, the working man’s restaurant on Broadway near Division while i was at Vandy. No, Maple Hill Court sported a pin  ball machine with flashing lights and bumpers and flickers and a scoreboard, and my father sternly said “no” to my request for a dime. A waste of money he explained.

And it seemed, er, happy. i remember it being happy for all of us. My parents worked their tales off. Daddy worked from around seven until five unless something needed fixing that day or someone came in late and he was the backup wrecker man if there was a wreck in the middle of the night, and later he opened up the business in the morning and closed it down at night. He filled the coke machine, the old glass bottle coke machine, red, where you put your dime in and slid the bottle down the row to the release point, pulled it out, and popped the top on the opener designed to let the metal top fall into the basket. And until i and then Joe were old enough to mow (that happened around nine years old), Daddy would come home and mow the yard in his blue working outfit, sleeves rolled up, smoking his Lucky Strike, as the sun set. Then, we would eat supper (What the hell? Dinner was the noonday meal, even if it was sandwiches; old habits die hard). He usually worked a half day or more Saturdays.

My mother? Well, while she was the mother at home, she was taking jobs at various businesses like the credit union, the hardware stores, and others to keep their books or get their taxes ready. When Joe started school, she went back to full time work as the secretary of the city school’s superintendent. But she was more than that. She kept all the records. She kept all of the financial records. She paid the bills. She submitted the taxes and prepared the budget reports and financial planning reports. While that was going on, she took care of the children who somehow ended up in her office like they were her own children.  And her pay was piddling.

Then she would come home and fix supper, wash and iron the clothes, do what cleaning was necessary, see the kids to bed, wake us up, fix breakfast, make sure we all got off to school. She went to all of our special functions, ball games, plays, recitals, and for eight years, she washed and ironed Castle Heights uniforms, mine and then Joe’s, every night.

On Saturdays, she and her children would do deep cleaning. Sundays, she got us all ready for church, ensured we got to Sunday School, monitored all three of us during the morning service and made sure we got back for the evening youth fellowship.  On a regular basis, which seemed like every Sunday night, she and other ladies would cook and serve the men’s choir before their practice, and, of course, we all went to the evening service and mostly sang gospel songs.

In retrospect, it seems we lived in damn close to a perfect world. We were isolated. If John Cameron Swayze, Walter Cronkite, or Chet Huntley and David Brinkley didn’t report it; or the afternoon newspaper, the Nashville Banner; or the local weekly, the Lebanon Democrat didn’t print it, it didn’t happen in our world.

We grew up thinking there were heroes. We wished to follow in those footsteps and become heroes. The cowboys wore white hats. The bad guys wore black hats. Good guys would fight fair, not pull any punches or use dirty tricks, and beat the bad guys who tried all sorts of chicanery, including lying, to win, but always, always lost to the good guys. The good guys would shoot the guns out of the bad guys hands. The bad guys shot good, innocent folks in the back.  The good guys would win the girl’s heart, say “Thank you, ma’am,” doff their caps and ride off into the sunset. Not once would they take advantage of any woman. A kiss was about as far as those cowboys got, if that.

We dressed up for any occasion other than playing. We played outside until they invented television, but even then, we watched the Sealtest Big Top, and the Buster Brown Show on Saturday morning; the Howdy Doody Show and “Ruffin’ Ready’s oater on weekday afternoons.  We weren’t exposed to violence, real violence. Even in the gunfights in the oaters, there was a shot and a guy falls down, only a little blood where the bullet supposedly entered, and they closed their eyes and rolled their heads over when they died, like going to sleep.

We thought if we didn’t lie, didn’t cheat, did what was right, treated others well, and combed our hair and brushed our teeth, we would succeed.

We didn’t know about the dark side. And where i come from, there was a dark side. Prejudice. Jim Crow. Even lynchings. Segregation everywhere. The movie theater had a balcony, the only place the other group could sit and i remember wondering why. But that bigotry, that hatred did not invade my world. Oh, i wondered about it. Seemed strange. But it was far away, even though the other side of my town, the dark side, was only about two miles east of my home.

There was no”women’s lib.” There was no special effort to include other sexual preferences outside of heterosexual. There was no real effort to accommodate people with special needs. But i don’t think we ever treated anyone different because they had special needs.

And we went to our doctor without  any kind of “insurance” or health program. We had operations, the women gave birth, we had wrecks and other accidents. The docs were paid well, and we didn’t gripe about it. Sometimes, Dr. Lowe would come to our home to tend to me, most often to give me a penicillin shot in my rear. Other times, we would go to his house on West Spring Street for that dreaded moment when i would pull down my pants, lean over his knee, and receive the buttock pain.

And the boys wore jeans and collared shirts at school. Shorts were worn in the summer outside. That was all. Girls wore shorts and halter tops in the summer and one piece swimming suits. The rest of the time, they wore skirts and dresses — There is still nothing prettier than a young woman in a sun dress.

We got chicken pox; measles; mumps. Some got polio. It was bad. Otherwise, they put us in the guest bedroom downstairs, fed us soup, let us ride it out listening to the Lone Ranger, Tom Mix, Boston Blackie, and Gangbusters on the radio at night, and the Sons of the Pioneers during the day. We were miserable, but we were mollified because we were missing school.

We suffered mosquito bites. bee and wasp stings, cuts, bruises, burns, sunburn and the other kind, and poison ivy and poison oak. They gave us iodine, mercurochrome, and  calamine lotion. Butter was one application for burns. Daddy blew his cigarette smoke in my ear when i had an earache. It helped.

Then we went right back outside and played.

We rode one-speed bicycles with a basket on the front. At breakneck speeds, with no special gear, no helmet. But not to school. In fact, the only helmet i remember being around was the football helmet, a badge of honor with no face-guard until my sophomore year. We played pickup basketball everywhere we could; football, touch and tackle, sometimes in graveled lots. And we played baseball, inventing games when there wasn’t enough yard. There was stickball, where a small hard rubber ball was the ball and a broomstick was the bat; and used a whiffle ball to learn to hit curves and knuckleballs.

And we grew up with those principles, those morals, those ethics we learned and believed.

And then we met the world, the big cities, news, inventions, and we found our beliefs, our morals, our ethics was not the way it really was. Some of us adapted and became smaller, bitter, fearful of differences, hateful for anything not our own, protective, insular.

Some didn’t. i believe those that didn’t are happier, maybe not as successful financially, or politically, or in business pursuits, or as famous, but happier because they answer to themselves, they try to consider all sides of an arguments without bias, they try to listen.

i do not knock this new world with its technology. i keep trying to keep up with all of the sophisticated change, and the new way of doing things like no repairing stuff that breaks but go get a new one.

Not only did the Navy give me the opportunity to see a lot of this world i would have never seen. My career also allowed me to be with all sorts of people of different backgrounds, different religions, different ethnicity. It seems to me, each group is similar in many ways.

There are good people. In fact, there are mostly good people. There are bad people, even evil, who wish to dominate and hurt others for their own gain. The bad ones like to motivate folks to do their bidding, and surprisingly, there are a lot of lemming-like folks who will buy in to what the bad guys are selling. They become converts who refuse to listen to anyone else. They buy stuff, protest, do all sorts of strange things to abet the manipulators.

It’s been that way for a long, long time, way longer than my time around here.

But i grew up in a little slice of heaven. Oh yeh, we were isolated from the real world. We didn’t know a lot of things.

And i am glad. i wish others could have had that time of blissful ignorance growing up. Oh, it wasn’t perfect, not by any means.

But i think it taught me the right things.

A Few Quick Thoughts on Sanity and Lines in the Sand

i opened up the Sunday paper this morning to sort and throw out all of the ads, which we never even bother to scan, the same we do with all of the ads in the mail. There on the front page was the recounting over and over of the mass killings in El Paso.

Insanity.

i boot up this computer and my nephew, Tommy Duff, has posted a news item about another mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio.

Insanity.

Tommy had added to his earlier post on El Paso about what will happen next. All the people screaming for eliminating guns will exchange shouts and protests with all of those who scream about violation of rights, i.e. the second amendment to our constitution. The politicians will rally to the side where they think they can get the most votes, take the lines in the sand to the halls of congress and the white house and scream uselessly for their voters. The tirades will die down. Someone will appoint a committee, claim it’s “bipartisan,” which is simply jingoism to mollify the middle of our citizenship who want to do the right thing, politics not considered, because “bipartisanship” does not exist in today’s political climate. And nothing, as it has in past such incidents, will happen.

i must pause here to point out that stupid, inane slogan of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is damn near criminally insane because the people who kill people use guns, nearly always guns manufactured to kill people, lots and lots of people. And while i’m at it, this idea about using our second amendment rights to justify not limiting guns that kill lots of people completely ignores the rights of those  people who have been killed and wounded and those who will be killed and wounded by those guns intended to kill lots and lots of people.

And i should point out, i own a gun. It is a gun i acquired years ago to protect my home. It is not a gun intended to kill lots and lots of people. At the most i could kill six home invaders without reloading, one at a time. i haven’t had any ammunition for that gun since 1985. i still think about getting some ammo to protect against a home invasion. i still contemplate getting a hunting rifle to kill game if required to keep my family alive during a great catastrophe. But my neighbors across the street are hunters supreme and will have plenty of hunting guns available if such a disaster occurs.

Yesterday, i went to the Del Mar horse races, courtesy of Catherine Hooper and the Vanderbilt Alumni. Having access to the “Turf Club,” i wore the required sports jacket, adding my bow tie and straw fedora for effect. i felt pretty fine walking to the entry. At the narrow entry gate, there was a gaggle of folks, all ages, with signs. Everyone had a sign. About half of them wished to eliminate horse racing because horses die occasionally, sometimes unnecessarily (ignoring the fact that if horse racing were banned, many horses would die because there would be no reason for their owners to keep them). The other half of the protestors had signs declaring how noble horse racing was and noted it was their source for making a living. They shouted across the gauntlet at each other. Everyone going to the races, including me, averted their eyes and hustled through the screaming gauntlet as quickly as possible.

i wondered how many people changed their mind about horse racing because of those protestors. i’m guessing zero. Existing in my pocket of resistance, i recognized had there only been one group protesting, i most likely would tend to change my mind to the opposite view of the protestors. But being both sides were equally obnoxious, i simply tried to ignore them.

Then this morning after the newspaper headlines and Tommy’s post about Dayton and since our local newspaper cut out one of most favorite comic strips of all time, Non Sequitur out of the comics, i opened up a website to read today’s comic.

Wiley, you are right on once again.

https://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/2019/08/04nt

Now other than this tirade — i’m claiming it non-political because it is against the way we conduct politics today — i am not likely to do much more about the mass killing thing. Quite frankly, i’m not willing to get my hands in such such a quagmire of dirt or willing to give up some of my principles for one cause or political party or willing to part with any of  my ever decreasing amount of real money to a cause that will flounder because of the lines drawn in the sand.

Years ago while serving as the understudy facilitator to Dave Carey in the Navy’s leadership workshop for senior officers dubbed “Command Excellence Seminar,” i observed Dave explaining David McClellan’s Theory of Needs, the theory of motivation. Someone questioned the motivation of power. Dave Carey explained two types of “power.”  Personal power, which McClellan was not addressing in his needs theory, is all about a person dominating others, taking control with no real regard for the good of the whole. Social power is what someone seeks to use for the good of the people as a whole, not for personal gain.

It seems to me, our current world has abandoned any attempt at “social power” unless it serves the personal power driven person (or group or party or what have you) to claim as their purpose, a front for attaining that personal power.

Sad.

Insanity.

Could we have a moment of silence and pray that someone younger folks than me can obtain positions to yield social power with some sanity and, as so well said by other friend from those many years ago, Peter Thomas, do the right thing?

i hope so, but damn, i am not very optimistic.

Just One of Thirty-Six

We sat there, quiet mostly, arriving early as is our habit nowadays.

The bar, by the front window, was full and a little loud, but they sat us all the way back of the dining area in a corner. Perhaps it was because i had mentioned it was our anniversary. Only a table of six in the center and a couple near the bar were with us.

The restaurant is named Et Voilà! French Bistro. It is French. They import their bread from Paris. The owners came from France. The atmosphere is perfect, perfect for an anniversary, and unknown to us, Tuesday was “date night,” a three-course pre fixe meal for two including a bottle of wine, from France usually.

Maureen chose the salad de poires and the saumon d’écosse, pesto tomate et basilic. i also chose the salad, shying away from the escargots å l’ail et patis in consideration of my main course, moules marinière. We shared our desserts of melba à la fraise, and profiterolles with our bottle of Ch. du Grand Caumont ’13. It took me a while to write this out, and i ordered by pointing. Maureen spoke her fluent French. And neither of us or the restaurant are pretentious. The black tee shirt worn by the servers had the “EV” logo on the front, and the back read, “Et Voilà: Don’t be embarrassed; we can’t pronounce it either.

And it was good. i mean good.

And we had a lovely meal and a lovely time.

i was struck as we spent a significant portion of our time there remembering previous anniversary dinners. Our first was in Jacksonville. The restaurant is gone now. It was where, while we waited for our table sitting in the foyer, my head began to  itch. i asked Maureen to check it out. A tick had fallen from the foyer vegetation and was beginning to dig into my scalp. Maureen picked it out. We laughed, she her legendary laugh, and talked of how we looked like the orangutans at the San Diego Zoo. We never went back.

Then there was Silas St. John’s, one of our favorites, twice. It too has gone, and on and on we went. And i’m thinking thirty-six years is a long time and memories are good and what folks my age do.

i suspect we will go back there next year. And maybe even several other times for date night.

Thanks, Maureen.