70th....

.... morning by the lake with a cool mist clouding in.... jackdaws and crows fighting over acorns in the tops of Irish oaks.... sausages and bacon frying in the kitchen..... steaks marinating for tonight's birthday celebration....

.... it has been an amazing trip..... but Tennessee is calling me back......

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Surreal....

..... of all the places that I have ever visited, Ireland is the most surreal......

..... and of course, I mean that in the best possible way......

.... we don't want to call down the fury of the local leprechauns down on us, now do we?......

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Chocolate......

..... although I have been in Country for the past three days, I have refrained from partaking of The Irish Drink until today........

.... and today - the 250th anniversary of its creation - I had my first pint of Guinness with this afternoon's meal....... photographs to follow....... roasted lamb, a pint of Guinness, mashed potatoes, and boiled carrots.........

.... followed by a chocolate fudge cake that would knock your socks off........ good god, nothing goes together like coffee and chocolate cake.........

..... of course, I really didn't order it for ME, per se...... but after it arrived - the only lonely dessert at our table - it didn't take long for nine spoons to appear out of nowhere and make short work of that cute little delight..........

....... I was already out in the parking lot smoking Camels by the time the cream and chocolate sauce gave up their tasty little ghosts..........

..... what a day.....

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Pike....

.... safe and sound in the mild, damp, gently entangling arms of Clare, folks.... County Clare, that is...... so far the weather has been mild and misty with occasional rain......

.... dined last night in Bunratty - across from the castle - at an inn built in 1620..... the pub must have changed hands a few times since then as it is now called "Durty Nelly's"......

..... the owner of the property dropped by just before evening meal yesterday and suggested that I use the kayak to explore his lake tomorrow if the weather cooperates...... soooo, that may be the plan for the day.... evidently the lake is inhabited by "ancient pike" that are such a menace to the local gosling population that the owner has taken to shooting them with a rifle instead of fishing for them.....

... damn, it'd suck to capsize a kayak and get eaten by an ancient Irish pike...... what a way to go, eh?......

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Gone....

.... got a flight to catch, people....... and hey, it should be an interesting trip... I hear that they have a pet donkey roaming the compound.......

.... Ireland.... good lord, you can't make this stuff up.....

... y'all play nice!...

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Limericks....

.... weeeeeeellll, it's just about that time, boys & girls........ time for the Annual Autumn Excursion, and this time it's County Clare, Ireland.......

.... so if anyone needs me, I'll be in the stables at Mount Cashel....

.. in the mean time, I will soon be presented with an opportunity of a lifetime.... that's right, folks.... I shall recite a limerick on the streets of Limerick..... any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, of course...... the winning entry might even end up here as a video in a couple of weeks....

.... so.... y'all know any good limericks??..... preferably ones without the word "Nantucket" in them?......

... next year?.... a hamburger in Hamburg!....

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Art.....

..... I happened to see Mr. Hiatt at The Tennessee Theatre in way back in 2002 and loved every minute of him.........

.... unfortunately he never played this song........ which in itself is quite a tragedy........ but hey, I am glad that I found it now!.......

....... give it a listen!....... and as he is wont to say on occasion?..... "the tiki bar is now open!".......

.... songwriters absolutely amaze me on every level............ and did you notice that John Prine was sitting there on his right?........

...... magicians and artists have more in common than we mere plodders can imagine........ good god..... what a funny song!.....

.... and it reminds me so much of one of Prine's classics...... I mean, check this out... and listen closely.....

...... what charisma and language.......... wow......... I saw Mr. Prine at The Tennessee Theatre in 2006......... and he was magical..... and I just loved it..... but you know?....... good god, I miss Acidman....... he was an ass, sure..... but he was OUR ass..... and I miss his words very, very much........

.... here's another one that absolutely amazes me........ and makes me sad at the same time......

....... I wish that I knew how they wrote such lyrics......... I truly do......

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Flying......

.... I renewed my domain name today so that it'd be available for the next four years..... my goodness.......

.... I guess that means that I am now officially committed to keeping this limper staggering along for a good while yet....... hey, who knows what might happen in the future?......

.... this time next week I will be halfway across the Atlantic....... and you guys know that I'll be missing you!......

....anyhoo, I found this tonight on YouTube and enjoyed it very, very much........ sure, I love The Cowboy Junkie's version, but it is really just a homage....... the real art is when the writer takes the plunge and sings it himself....... and that was very true when it came to Townes........

.... I hope that you all enjoy!....

...... the delivery may be lacking a bit, sure....... but the lyrics are just as advertised..... and absolutely beautiful.......... I hum this song at least three times a week......... I swear.....

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Greedy.....

.... does it really seem like two years since I stormed stormed Godfrey's castle?....

.... my goodness..... it has been, but it certainly doesn't seem so.....

... two years ago this very moment my countrified self was propped in the corner of the bar in Diehl's Hotel gazing out at the Deutsches Eck.....

.... I remember that they had a courtesy computer near the window overlooking the spot where the Mosele and Rhine run into one another...... I remember that I checked my email before gathering with my fellow adventurers and wandering off in search of the beautiful and deadly Lorelei.... and then taking the chair-lift up to Koblenz castle for lunch & incredible views of the Rhineland....

.... this past Saturday I broke out my old, dog-eared copy of Ogden Nash poetry and read from it out loud for a while..... and as I leafed through the pages searching for an old favorite, out fell a postcard from Diehl's Hotel...... good lord, it'd been two years nearly to the day since I had read from my old, beloved Nash book.....

..... and last September I was wandering through France & Belgium......

.... and while drinking my coffee this morning, I heard the geese honking as they made their way to the lake at the end of my road..... September is here once again - as sneaky as it is - and one week from today we'll be jetting off to see what surprises Ireland has in store for us....

.... it's so very, very odd, but traveling always mixes my emotions.... I always wonder what I will remember and what I will forget....... and what will remind me, in some offhand way, of where I was and what I was thinking..... I just want to soak everything up..... absolutely everything...... I want to absorb The World and not let a single drop escape...... and really?...... as nutty as it sounds?....I truly want to be everywhere at the exact same time.....

.... I think that I have the greediest soul....... but really, I just can't help it....

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September 11th....

... no posting tonight, boys & girls....... turn off the computer and get yourself over to the television..... pick a channel - they'll all be showing something..... and watch.... and remember..... has it really just been eight years?.....

... watching some footage earlier today, it only seemed like yesterday.....

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Graveyards.....

.... I know that I have been on a bit of a kick lately regarding death, but this is the last story...... I promise..... but actually, it is two stories in one......

..... the scene is set with myself, my 2nd cousin Kenneth, and my little 1st cousin J. Dee standing at the edge of the little graveyard talking amongst ourselves..... Kenneth, a Vietnam veteran, is always an interesting guy to talk to..... J. Dee is just nearing 20..... and thinks that we're all absolutely nuts.....

.... so, we're standing there chewing the fat and smoking cigarettes when I look down and realize that I am standing at the foot of my my 3rd cousin Arvil's grave...... who died in 1982 when I was only 10.....

.... so I look over at Kenneth and say, "hey!... there's Arvil!.... is it true that Sylvester shot him right here in the churchyard?..... I was too young to know, but I've heard the stories all my life...... so, is it true?"....

.... Kenneth shuffled around a few steps and then looked back at the gravestone and read the name out loud.... "yep, he shot him...... shot him in the leg with a .38 on Decoration Day here at the church......... shot him right over there underneath that old oak tree..."

..... I looked at J. Dee - who was absolutely horrified AND amused at the same time and said, "see?...... you honestly can't make this shit up, big guy....... OUR history is all OVER this place...... and decorated with stories that you can't possibly even imagine......."

.... Kenneth laughed and stuck his hands in his pockets nervously.... "so," said I, "why'd Sylvester shoot Arvil?...... I've heard the stories all my life, but no one could ever tell me exactly what caused the whole thing....... any ideas?"...

.... He stopped his hemming and gazed upwards towards the nearest cloud and hesitated for a moment or two before he answered..... "ahhhh..... well, I guess that Sylvester was just scared of Arvil..... they'd had some land deals and such, but nothing much to speak of........ but honestly?.... I think that Sylvester was just plain scared of Arvil....... I mean, I can't even imagine shooting my first cousin on Decoration Day just ten feet from the steps of the family church house!".......

....... J. Dee nearly passed out from trying to stifle his belly-laugh at what was meant to be a very, VERY solemn moment for the whole family....... as for me?.... I simply coughed a few times as the new information that Sylvester was Arvil's first cousin caused me to strangle slightly on the cigarette smoke I had been trying to inhale........

....... and just about two minutes later?.... enter my Sainted Mother into the situation........

.... "what are you three up to over here out of sight of everyone?..... no good, likely...... have you gone up to see J.R?.... well, if you haven't, don't........ I did, and he didn't look like I thought he would..... so it is best that you remember him the way that he was when he was still alive..... "

..... we settled ourselves after she invaded our space and let the memories of gunplay fade for a bit...... but just before the service began, she turned around and told us all the oddest story......

....it was odd at first, her reaction...... she turned slowly and looked us all over before she began......... she licked her lips, and creased her brow....... and then she looked us each in the eye.....

.... "you know, when I finished walking past the body just now, one of J.R.'s boys took me aside and told me the oddest story......... he said that he hadn't been in this graveyard for over fifty years.... but that he still remembered the last time he was here......... it'd been August of 1956, and a young neighbor girl had died of pneumonia at the age of 6......... he asked me if I remembered her, and I told him that I did........ she and her family had lived about two miles over from us in the knobs around Hiwassee......dirt, dirt poor folks....... I was about 13 at the time.... and he was probably 15.........

.... he told me that he had remembered her his whole life because of my Dad....... evidently she died one Tuesday morning and the local men had gone up to the church to dig her grave........ and that night while she lay out for the wake in her parent's living room it rained and rained........ and that next morning when everyone arrived for the burial, there was two feet of water in the bottom of her grave.......

..... well, you're Grandpa took one look at that rickety, cheap coffin and told everyone present that there was no way that he was going to let that little girl get buried in that water......... Daddy had never told me that story before.... and honestly, I can remember that little girl, but little else about her.......... but J.R.'s boy?...... he said that he was so amazed that his Uncle Carl had stopped everyone in their tracks out there on that rainy day.... and how he'd watched him jump down into that grave with a bucket and start bailing out the water..... and how after five minutes of watching him get more and more muddy, he had jumped down into the grave to help........

...... I just don't know what to think of that, boys", she said........ "I never knew that he had done that........ we were just kids ourselves and we didn't come to her burial.......... but how wonderful it is that J.R.'s son has always remembered that........ "

....... it's an awkward story, for sure....... and I am still trying to digest it myself......... but as I said a few posts back, that is one amazing little graveyard.......... and that tiny little acre holds more memories of my kin than I can possibly even imagine or dream........

..... every family has such stories, I guess......... but there are very few families who actually get to HEAR and SEE the stories..... ours is one of the lucky ones.....

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Gone.....

... if you've never been to a burial in The South you should consider your life just that little bit incomplete...... for when they are done right?....... they will be an event that you will never forget as long as you live.........

.... I arrived at the small country church just a little bit early..... but little did I know that the guest of honor had already laid out the events of his burial long beforehand....

.... I stood on the peripherary and watched until Great Aunt Eula caught sight of me....... she approached and I bent down to give her a hug...... "My redhead," she said, "I love you, boy!"..... and with that, I kissed her cheek and said "thank you"......

.... I stayed on the edge of the crowd for the rest of the service..... probably nearly 200 were in attendance - which was amazing in itself...... hell, he hasn't lived in Tennessee for over forty years.... but old friends and relatives seemed to crawl out of the proverbial woodwork this morning.....

... and it was a beautiful September morning..... 10am was the perfect starting time, I guess..... the dew was still wet on the ground - and it hadn't gotten too hot yet......

.... the Marines removed his casket from the herse and placed him on the frame over his grave, and then the mortician who had driven down from Kentucky with him opened his casket for his family to begin the viewing......

.... I didn't press forward when everyone else did.... it somehow seemed more appropriate for me to just stay back, watch, and listen......

.... he lay open for an hour as per his instructions, and then they began his service....

... a woman with a beautiful voice sang "Amazing Grace" a capella, and then the preacher said a few words before she sang "The Marine's Hymn"..... after that, the Marines from Knoxville did their duty and performed the rifle salute and the playing of "Taps"....

.... it was an absolutely beautiful service........ the day was just beginning when we arrived at the tiny country church..... and by lunchtime it was all over.....

.... the oddest thing about the whole scene was how peaceful it was, I guess.... he had been dying a long time and knew what was coming...... so he had planned out every little detail...... sure, there was a sadness present..... but the overwhelming feeling was unlike anything I had ever felt before...... it was a burial, yes, but it wasn't a mourning...... it was silent and still...... everyone standing around with dew and fresh grass clippings on their wingtipped shoes...... it was as if a great book that you had enjoyed reading was slowly being closed.........

.... it was the oddest thing, this burial..........

.... tears were shed, of course...... but the weather was amazing.... the preacher was succinct...... the singer was off-key but perfect in her own way............ and it was such a pleasure to be back in that little family graveyard again......... and I know that sounds odd, but it is true.......... it was the most peaceful that I have felt in a long, long time......

.... he was buried on the right-hand side of his Father...... I noted his birthday -June 10th, 1888...... there were at least four generations of my kin buried in that one small acre plot....... how can so many lives have all come to rest in such a small place?.... I mentioned to one of my cousins just how special that little acre was, and she agreed.......... I suppose that if Robert Frost were to re-work a poem or two, he could say that THAT little acre is where all of "us" would be "run to ground" when the genealogists finally decide to sink their teeth into "us" as a family.......

.... but then, Robert Frost is already dead, isn't he?........ so that nips that in the bud.........

...... after the service was over we all meandered back to the fellowship hall and we all ate lunch together..... 200 folks...... it's another odd Southernism that while the men hem and haw around a grave - and tell stories - the women head to the nearest kitchen and begin working hard......... perhaps it is their backbones that truly are the most wonderful part of living in a southern, rural community.........

..... our women have always been our most prized, treasured, and loved companions............ and they allow us the frivolities of being Men.......... they are our anchors, our grounding rods, our truths........... and while we go off and dream, and do, and wander, they are the Real Stuff of Southern Life......... and they are amazing.........

...... so, today was a very interesting day, folks.........

..... I've buried two people....... and I must have seen a hundred buried.......... but today was the very first time that I saw someone buried and actually felt happy....... not that he was dead, of course........ but because he was honestly the first person that I ever saw buried who was completely ready to go......

.... you know?...... may we ALL achieve such an end.........

.... I wish that you guys could have seen it today........... it was truly a beautiful, beautiful thing......... and I was proud to see it........

.... (and yes, I know that peripherary is not really a word....... but I use it all the time...... so it bloody well should be a word...) .....

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Bitterman.......

... and by the way, this shit just aint right....

..... check this out....

.... thank you, Bitterman..... you certainly know how to push my buttons....

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Time......

... up early tomorrow, folks......out of the house by 9:20 for a sunlit drive through the Monroe County wilderness after having donned the first suit that I've had on in a coon's age.......

.....it seems that these days I only get to wear suits to funerals........ pity, really, because I have a closet full of them just hanging there......... good god, let us all pray for weddings.....

..... any more funerals around this place and I'll likely join the crowd.......

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Harrison....

.... fresh from the mailbag this morning, a poetic gem sent to me from a friend of mine in Alaska.....

Larson's Holstein Bull by Jim Harrison

Death waits inside us for a door to open.
Death is patient as a dead cat.
Death is a doorknob made of flesh.
Death is that angelic farm girl
gored by the bull on her way home
from school, crossing the pasture
for a shortcut. In the seventh grade
she couldn't read or write. She wasn't a virgin.
She was "simpleminded,"we all said.
It was May, a time of lilacs and shooting stars.
She's lived in my memory for sixty years.
Death steals everything except our stories.


..... absolutely beautiful..... "Death steals everything except our stories."...... you know, I'd never thought of it like that before, but I suppose it is very sound wisdom.......

... and with that?..... well, I'm off to mow the lawn and think deep thoughts......

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.... Bedtime.....

...... wow.....

...... dialogue, folks..... that's where the art is...... all day long and twice on Sunday.......

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J.R.

..... my Great Uncle J.R. died this evening at 7pm after a long illness and a great life.......

..... My Mother was sitting at my kitchen table when she heard the news - me having just fed her dinner and entertained her for a while.......

....she broke into memories of his life that had nothing to do with WWII, Iwo Jima, or Life at The Motor Works and taking care of his children...... and as we sat eating old Girl Scout cookies for dessert, she simply said, "you know...... in this life there are those who love us....... and there are those who know us........ and there are those who want to know us, and those who want to love us...... but I will forever wonder exactly which combination of all of those factors is to be most sought after........."......

..... and so, he is gone..... and he was a hero to many, a nemesis to many, and he was far, far from being a perfect man........ but hey, who is?........ every man has his foibles....... every human being has his moments of weakness......... EVERY man or woman has their doubtful, soulful, depression-slaked moments, right?........ yes, right....... we ALL have those moments.....

..... no one is perfect in life........ at least certainly not those that I have grown to know......... if anything, I have grown to love them because they were not perfect..........

.... but, having said that?....... hindsight is indeed 20/20.........and it most certainly, certainly is......... and good god, what a gift hindsight is by the time we make the age of 85?.......

...... my darling Mother told me of her earliest memory of my ancestor tonight and it frightened me beyond belief....... and yet, there was within her story a kernel of acceptance........

......but acceptance, good god....... is that what I really said?........ yes, I guess that it was....

....... so, what should I say?....... hey, every man is flawed on one level or another...... we all carry around the baggage of a lifetime of existence.....and our duffle bags are filled with the bones of all those things that just wouldn't fit in the normal state of packing...... but, yet, we ARE........ we ARE......

...... we are here, we are alive, and we ARE........... we LIVE..... we are like the fucking DUDE in "The Big Lebowski", we fucking ABIDE.......

...... fuck..... I am so very, very sad right now............. so very sad........ perhaps the more so because my Mom was here when we got the word of his death........

..... she was torn up but rallied strong as I served the stale Girl Scout Cookies for dessert.........

....good god, he was a a good man...... he was a Marine......... he may have not been the best man, but he WAS a man.......... and was he a good father?...... the verdict is still out....... he WAS a guy who was strict.... too strict?..... probably........ is that excusable?....... and back then?.... yeah, it was the norm........ and now?.......

... he'd probably have served time....... but can you say "every father on the block had PTSD for breakfast every morning?".......

..... I am angry, folks....... and I am also very sad...... and I know that people can change.... but really?......... after having spent the past three hours wondering about the what's and why's?...... I just want to try to forget it all....... and let things fall where they may...

..... goodnight, Great Uncle J.R....... you were just like all of us........ and yet you were set apart........

..... I wish you all the best.....

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... Gifts....

.... yesterday around noontime my buddy Gary dropped by for a visit..... for those of you who have read here for a while and remember when the Eagle Glen Social Club was in full swing, he was the guy that I referred to as "The Guy in the Witness Protection Program"....

... he's they type of guy who can do anything, has done just about everything, but yet still has the soul of an artist.....

...... and yesterday he came through again with flying colors......

.... in a few weeks The Missus and I will be jetting off for a fortnight at the Mt. Cashel stables in County Clare, Ireland to attend 70th birthday celebrations in honor of my Father in Law..... and yesterday Gary delivered his birthday present......

..... two months ago I asked Gary if he would create a handmade sgian dubh for me...... the Father in Law - being both Scottish and fairly well-heeled - he finds occasion to wear traditional Highland dress four or five times each year...... and in two weeks time he'll likely be sporting the only sgian dubh that can also act as a razor sharp tactical weapon AND work of American folk art at the same time.......

..... it truly is a beauty...... and the coffin'd handles are made of exhibition quality American bison horn...... the pins holding the handle are silver..... and the blade has undergone an expensive hardening, tempering, and quenching process........ so in short?.... this little sucker is bad, bad, bad to the proverbial bone........

.... and if he ever loses his razor he can shave with it.........

... pictures to follow tomorrow of Gary's beautiful workmanship..... as well as the odd gifts that I received from El Capitan the other day!.....

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