Jokers.......

...... so, having been raised in and around a very small town in the Tennessee Valley - just off the western slope of the Appalachians - I often hear stories from the locals that just make me shake my little red head.........

...... today I visited the local barber shop for my bi-monthly shearing and the following small talk by me morphed into something totally unexpected...... it was just we two, you see - the 73 year old barber and myself......... so, to the best of me recollection, the conversation wandered gently and steadily as described below.......

Me rising from the barber chair: ...... ahhhh, you always do the finest job, sir...... now my hair looks fine but I have to go home and curry this damnable beard...... say, are you ever called upon to shave folks very often?

Him, raising an eyebrow and placing his hand to his chin: ..... yannow, not a lot any more...... but back when I first started barbering, why, we'd have five shaves to every one haircut just about every single day..... yes, sir........

Me: ....wow, that is surprising!....... I guess it has just gone out of fashion as of late..... having folks go to the barber for a straight razor shave....... hell, I've only had a shave like that once..... I was in Bangladesh at the time the shave only cost me twenty-five cents...... scariest quarter I've ever spent, I'll tell you.....

Him:...... well, see, this was back when the railroad still carried passengers..... every stop they'd be walking in to get a quick shave before they made their final push on to Knoxville, Chattanooga, or Atlanta - depending on the direction the train was going...... yep, we'd have five shaves to every haircut........ say, that reminds me.......... I used to have a friend who would come in every single day for a shave back then...... he was a railroad detective for the L&N here in town.... real high roller.... rough customer....... anyway, he was in getting his shave one morning and Old Lost Tom came in......... Old Lost Tom was a guy who was left shell-shocked after WWI and he used to wander around town all day in beat-up old pants and his undershirt...... he was in a pretty bad way but everyone just left him be...... anyway, he sticks his head in the door one day and yells over to me, "hey, where can a man buy some rubbers around here?"....... well, I told him that he could go around the corner to Anderson's drugstore ..... all he had to do was ask the fellow at the back and he'd fix him right up......... well, let me tell you, that railroad detective never let me hear the end of that.........he thought it was almighty funny..... and once a day for the next two years he'd stick his head in the door and yell, "hey! got any rubbers? I need me some rubbers!"....... then, of course, he'd leave off laughing.... .and I would be left to explain the sordid story to my patrons - much to my embarrassment.......

Me: ...... he sounds like a character...... but I have a feeling that you broke him from that, eh?......

Him, moving through and taking a seat where the customers usually wait:...... well, it went like this....he did that trick one day when one of his fellow workers was getting his hair trimmed.... and after I explained the situation to him, he told me of a story that concerned my railroad detective friend...... it seems that he had been chatting up a certain young lady passenger on the train once and had been called away...... upon his leaving, his co-worker, having been looking for him, asked her if she knew his whereabouts....... "who", she had replied in her best Atlanta drawl, "that ole bull dick?? ..... why, railroad detectives are all the same.... he's likely in the caboose boozing!"...... well, see?...... detectives are "dicks"...... and railroad detectives are called "bulls"....... so, the street savvy lady had correctly titled him with a more than appropriate sobriquet, as they say....

Me:.. .... BWHHAAAHAHAHAHAHA..... good lord, baby Jesus........ what did you do?

Him: .....well, I did as his friend advised, of course........ the next time my railroad detective friend stuck his head in the door and yelled for the rubbers, I quickly replied, "why, you get out of here, you old bull dick! You know they ain't nothing around here that'll fit that scrawny pecker of yours!"......... and do you know what?......... after years of abuse?........ I only had to do that once, and he never tried that little trick again.........

Me: ..... sir, thank you for the haircut...... and thank you for the story........ I love the haircut, but I appreciate the tale much, much more.........

.... and with that, I left....... my goodness....... if you have never lived in a small southern town, you truly do not know the countless gems and treasures that you are missing out on daily......... you truly can't make this stuff up.....

Read the Bullshit »

Nuts.....

.... I spent a bit of the time during last night's Sochi Olympic opening hulling a few walnuts for this morning's banana bread....... initially I just put two walnuts in the palm of my hand and pressed them together until one of the shells inevitably cracked - something that I had seen my Father do a thousand times before....... but after a while, I wandered into the kitchen and broke out the pliers-like nutcrackers.......

.... there is something wonderful about cracking nuts, and I just can't put my finger on it...... it is visceral, I suppose..... harkening back to the days when we as a species were foragers..... alert, desperate, and always hungry....... it is deeply satisfying to feel those shells crack as the pressure is applied...... knowing that a delectable goodie is soon to be found...... wholesome, healthy, earthy, and natural.....

......and I was reminded - quite suddenly - of Sunday afternoon dinners at my Grandmother's house when I was a child... she used to make this wonderful cornbread with lard, black pepper, salt, milk, cornmeal, and wild black walnuts........ it was a real treat, and one that she only made on special occasions..... the wild black walnut is not like the walnuts that we purchase today...... it is encased in an impenetrable cocoon of iron-like husk....... as hard and fast as the gates of purgatory...... usually, it required a claw hammer and an anvil just to break through to the goodie.... and then, of course, the flesh of the nut was woven like a cancer through the dense inner husk..... it required hours of work for just a handful of emancipated flesh of the sweet and earthy walnut flesh....

..... I remembered my Grandfather sitting on the front porch patiently opening the nuts and picking out the sweet flesh with the flattened end of a 10-penny nail...... silently chewing tobacco and focusing on the task at hand, he would work for hours for only a small handful of black walnuts...... and then, dutifully as always, he would deliver them inside for Grandma to bake into the cornbread for lunch.....

.... Now?...... who takes the time to work that hard for a simple, natural treat?....... ahhhh, well...... still, for what it is worth, my banana bread is smelling pretty damned good as it bakes away in the kitchen....... life, I suppose...... we change over time, but it is good to think of the Old Ways from time to time.....

Read the Bullshit »

Ollie....

.... I mentioned a week or so ago that I had been enjoying sifting through old family photos with my Mother to try to find nice gifts for my Aunt who had lost her house in a fire....well, a few of those proverbial chickens have come back home to roost.....

.... in the course of selecting photos, I ran across quite a few where I had no clue as to who the photos were of... so, I bundled them up in a nice manila envelope and sent my Mother off with instructions to find out dustiest surviving ancestor to see if she knew anything about the people in the photos.... and all I can say is, be careful what you wish for..... here's the conversation - as best my Sainted Mother could remember it - as she relayed it to me a few days later over the telephone....

Momma: Lilace, I would like for you to look at these photos, if you don't mind.
Lilace: Certainly, dear, it would be my pleasure.
Momma: (handing the envelope of photos to Lilace)
Lilace: Well! Glory be! Now, would you just look at that!?
Momma: Hmmm? What? Oh, the photos from the graveside? I figured that must have been when Grandma Martha died, right?
Lilace: Oh, no, dear. This is a photo from the burial of my first son in 1937. See? There's Ida and Cheadle, and the rest of my brothers and sisters, and there's Willard. He was Willard and my first, you know. Only lived a couple of days.
Momma: Oh. I'm so sorry.
Lilace: (dumping the contents of the envelope into her lap.)
Momma: Do you mind if I make myself a glass of iced water? Do you want anything?
Lilace: No, honey, I'm fine.

Lilace: Well, will you look at THIS! It's Ollie! Your Father's eldest brother! Just look how handsome he looks in that suit!
Momma: That's Uncle Ollie in a suit? Where on earth did he get a suit from?
Lilace: Oh! He ran your Granddaddy's livestock business once he died. Your Father was just little when his Daddy died. And after his Mother died a few years later, your Father came to live with my Momma and Daddy back in Hiwassee.
Momma: I knew that he lived with Aunt Ida and Uncle Cheadle, but why didn't his big brother take care of him?
Lilace: Oh, honey, he was in jail at the time his Momma died, and as soon as he got out of jail he and his family lit out for Oregon.
Momma: Wow, I knew that he moved out to Oregon in the early 40s. But why Oregon? I've always wondered about that.
Lilace: Well, he was afraid of the ocean.
Momma: Afraid of the ocean? Then why move all the way from Tennessee to the west coast?
Lilace: I guess it was as far away as he could get from Tennessee without braving a boat to take him further.
Momma: Lilace, if you don't mind me asking, *ahem, why did Uncle Ollie want to get as far away from Tennessee as he could?
Lilace: Well, you know how all of your Daddy's kinfolk liked to drink, right? Well, one night the bigger boys were all sitting around drinking and talking - your Father was only about ten or twelve at the time - Ollie's Father-in-Law said something that Ollie took offense to, and Ollie hit him with an axe and killed him.
Momma: Good GOD!
Lilace: Yeah, well, you know how they get when they've been drinking. Anyway, they locked Ollie up for manslaughter for a few years. Evidently he didn't really mean to KILL his Father-in-Law, so everyone figured it was just some sort of accident. And as soon as he got out of jail, he grabbed his wife, his children, his Mother-in-Law, and they all skedaddled for Oregon.
Momma: Wait. He killed his wife's Daddy with an axe while in a drunken rage, and his wife & her Mother moved with him out to Oregon?
Lilace: Yep.
Momma: Wow
Lilace: Evidently the womenfolk figured that the old man had it coming. But Ollie wasn't one for waiting around to see what his Brothers-in-Law thought of the situation.
Momma: I'll bet.
Lilace: (holding the photo up to the light to get a better view) Good old Ollie. He sure does look nice in that suit and tie, doesn't he?
Momma: Yes, ma'am, he sure does. Almost makes it hard to believe that he's an axe-murderer, doesn't it?
Lilace: Awwww, honey, I'm sure it was an accident. Besides, they'd all been drinking.......

..... good God, Almighty..... honestly, you can't make this shit up, folks......

... and hey, the trick to GREAT genealogy is to wait around until your old relatives get just old enough to still remember, and just old enough to not give a shit about the waves they make.... because that is when all the really good family skeletons get unceremoniously unearthed.... heh.... Uncle Ollie the axe-murder...... I swear, my ancestors astound me....

Read the Bullshit »

Nuts!.....

.... driving into town this afternoon in search of potatoes for baking, I happened by the decrepit office that had once been Doc Kincaid's old stomping ground.....and I was immediately reminded of the time, years ago, when he offered to castrate my brother and I - free of charge...........

.... once upon a time Mr. Kincaid had been the local go-to guy when it came to any livestock emergency that might befall the McMinn County citizens....... your priceless Holstein down with the gas?.... he was your man...... your horse acting funky?..... just call ole Doc..... your sow having trouble brooding?....... Kincaid would come a'running to sort it all out...... puppy swallowed a thumb tack?.... Doc had a magnet and some lube....... he truly was quite remarkable.......

... on the other hand, he was also quite disturbing in his physical appearance as best that I can recall...... rather short and slim, he had swarthy skin and thick, wiry grey hair that stuck straight out all over his head..... and with a dribbling trail of brown tobacco juice trailing steadily through his grayish-blue beard, he was always quite the sight to behold..... especially if he had a scalpel in his hands......

... Mother, of course, had absolutely nothing to do with him in any way, form, or fashion......

... I guess that the ways of a backwoods veterinarian left him wanting in both the fragrance and self-grooming departments..... and besides, during the few times that I ever clapped eyes on the man he was forever coated in a fine sheen of some type of mammal's dung......

.... I suppose that the whole manure thing AND the tobacco juice beard was just more than my poor mother could bear, in retrospect......

.... anyway, I was reminded today of the last time that I saw The Doctor...... my Father had built a pen out of 2X10s that he'd scavenged off of the old Sweetwater trestle.... and my Godfather had donated four little piglets from his farmyard collection as a birthday present for my father....... and so, within the span of a weekend, my small little family became pig farmers for the summer.......

.... if you've never raised a pig, well, consider yourself quite lucky...... and even though our family foray into pig farming only lasted a few months, I quickly learned enough about pigs to know that I only wanted to eat them..... the whole raising, feeding, watching, and processing was something meant for far stronger beings that either me or my little brother......

.... it's a bit convoluted, really, this story and those poor piggies lives..... but I will cut to the chase.... see, originally we'd been slated to raise these pigs - in their little pen - from the summer through to the following autumn - 18 months hence, when the pigs would have been at their most tasty weight for butchering..... but due to the fact that once they'd grown for a month they could now leap easily out of my Father's fancy pen, the met their fate much sooner than originally imagined......

..... my Father worked away from home all week and was only home on the weekend...... and meanwhile, my Mother basically was a working single-mom of two for the rest of the week..... and the LAST thing she wanted to do with her spare time was to help her two children chase escaped pigs around the undergrowth of the sprawling country countryside....... so, that first autumn while dad was at work, she made the call...... the butchers came and slaughtered all four of the underage hogs right there in the back yard..... and when Dad returned home that weekend, she made a point to fry up a large tray of sausage for him at breakfast..... and that was the end of my Father's toe-dipping into being a pig farmer....... Momma was pissed....

... but back to Doc Kincaid and the piglets........ I remember Dad making the call the VERY next day after Mr. Jennings had given him those four piglets.... he called up the Doc and told him that he had three little boars that needed castration so that he could raise them for pork..... well, Doc was on the job..... and he arrived the following Saturday morning with a handful of rubber bands in one hand and a scalpel in the other....... I was completely unable to understand what he was about to do..... until I saw him put the bands around the testicles, twist the rubber, and place the taught bands around them a second time.......

..... today on my way into town for lunch, I passed his abandoned old shop and remembered that story...... and how we all stood there watching him as he prepared those three poor boar hogs..... how their flesh bulged as the circulation was cut off..... how the sack changed colors and the veins above the rubber bands bulged as he waited, waited, and waited...... and how he stoically glanced back at Joshua and I, spat, wiped his nasty beard on his sleeve, and said, "you boys pay attention now...... it may look painful, but trust me, it really isn't..... and if either of you want me to spare you a lifetime of pain, disappointment, mistrust, jealousy, and hate?..... well, I can do the same to either of you in less than five minutes....... and I promise you that you won't feel a thing....... "

.... I was shocked and awed.....

... just then the piglet squealed bloody murder as his blade slid silently between the two orbs, and Doc giggled...... he took a quick look back at me and smiled.... "well, it may smart just a BIT, but you'll be grateful to me in the long run!"......

..... Dad thought the whole scene was quite the riot, and he kidded us about it for years........ but I will tell you this.... neither Josh NOR I thought it was funny in the least........

.... country boys, folks.... we aren't HALF as dumb as you think we are..... and you can TRUST me on THAT one.....

Read the Bullshit »

Cliffs.....

... it has been my experience that young men are often fearless, reckless, and quite mistakenly imagine themselves bulletproof, indestructible, and capable of almost anything....

.... add in the thrill of being away from home for the first time, some military training, and a liberal dose of alcohol and you have yourself a recipe for mischief that knows very, very, very few bounds....

... Oom Keesie recounted a story a few days ago of being lowered into a blowhole in search of lobsters.... and I must say that I was fairly well impressed by his adventure... I noted in his comment section that I had experienced a cliff adventure myself - and he quickly asked me for my story.... and so, here it is....

.... years ago as a young US Marine stationed on the barren, windswept, Aleutian island of Adak, I performed one of the most stupid stunts of my life..

.... back in the early 1990s there were actually two groups of US Marines stationed on Adak Island.... there were the "downtown" Marines - Infantry types - barracked in downtown Adak..... and then there were the "uptown" Marines - Intelligence types - barracked 8 miles away sandwiched between the the foot of Mt. Adagdak and Clam Lagoon.... I was an "uptown" Marine....

.... in 1991 the "downtown" marines - actually a Security Forces Detachment - began slowly
removing their presence from Adak due to their mission there no longer existing..... as a result, we "uptown" Marines began to receive a steady stream of gifts and goodies from our downtown brethren... it was mostly stuff that they weren't going to ship back stateside.... gym equipment, etc.....

... now, most units on Adak had communal cabins dotted over the countryside to allow some form of escape from the grind of work, and the mental abuse of the foul weather there.... our cabin was on the shore of Lake Andrew on the northern end of the island..... well, just before the last of the Security Forces left, they smiled and tossed us the keys to their cabin... and their cabin was a lot better than ours ever was....

... needless to say, we could hardly wait to begin partying at the new cabin every chance we were afforded...... the only problem with their big, beautiful cabin was that it sat at the edge of a 250 foot cliff overlooking Kuluk Bay.... the cabin was, quite literally, only twenty or so feet from the edge....

.... one particularly calm evening weather-wise found myself and three other Marines standing on the edge of the cliff admiring the view of the sun setting, and nursing a few beers..... I'm not 100% sure of the early details, actually, but legend has it that it was LCpl Teeman who first noticed the "trail" wandering off through the clumps of tundra.... well, it wasn't very long before four Marines and two cases of beer were happily sitting at the foot of the cliff, drinking those beers, and listening to the waves of the Bering Sea crash on the rocky shoreline.....

... we were having a wonderful time.....

.... after an hour or so, the temperature began to drop.... and since there was no way of building a fire on the rocks, we knew that we had to get back to the cabin or freeze...... of course, the problem was that it was now pitch dark, cold, and we were all standing drunk at the bottom of a 250 foot tall cliff.....

..... needless to say, I did not die that night...... and yes, we all made it back to the cabin safely..... but we did not go up the same route that we had come down...... after clawing our way up the cliff using clumps of tundra, we lost the trail and veered way off course....... so much so that there were moments where we were actually free-climbing 10-15 spans of bare cliff-face at a time while 100 feet in the air....

.... but none of us fell.... at one point I even slid off my leather jacket and used it as a makeshift rope - with myself and another holding onto the taut, outstretched arms of the jacket....

.... looking back, it truly is a miracle that we survived that climb....

... oh, and I was wearing cowboy boots.....

.... absolutely amazing, now that I am remembering all of it...... and as far as I know?..... there's still a case of Milwaukee's Best sitting there at the foot of that cliff..... and it can HAVE it.....

..... young men, folks.... hell, it's a wonder any of us ever survived to adulthood......

Read the Bullshit »

Church.....

... when I was about six years old my family relocated from Madisonville, Tennessee southwards to a border-feud middle-ground area halfway between Englewood and Etowah... if memory serves, I do believe that we had an Etowah telephone number and an Englewood address - which kept us quite confused through most of my childhood....

... all in all, though, we gravitated towards the smaller town of Englewood for most of our family fun.... I went to grammar school there, I played little league baseball there, we preferred the community swimming pool there as well, and I was on the swim team from the age of 6 until I left for the Corps at 17....

.... we also went to church in Englewood every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and usually on Wednesday evenings as well....

.... for those of you schooled in the Culture of The South, I'll not mention the exact denomination of Charismatic Pentecostal Evangelical Protestant Christianity that we practiced..... but I will say that we made the good ole Southern Baptists look like Episcopalians....... as a matter of fact, if my church had been located about twenty miles further east, we'd probably have had snake handling sessions in between choir recess and the beginning of the sermon..... indeed that church was, and remains, quite hardcore when it comes to the flexing of the Jesus muscles....

.... be that as it may, I was reminded of an incident yesterday evening whilst chatting with my Mother..... she came through her recent elbow surgery with flying colors, and the happy side effect of her popping pain killers on a regular basis for a week is that she now enjoys telling all manner of tales from mine and my brother's childhood to anyone who will listen..

.... the latest installment being the time that I snuck away from Vacation Bible School and hid myself in the janitor's closet lest I be forced to prove that I hadn't spent the time and effort to memorize my Bible verse of the day..... now that infraction in itself was bad enough, but when my eyes became accustomed to the darkness of the closet and found the loose tile which would allow access to the attic of the church?.... well, I took being "bad" to a whole new level...

.... the church was situated in an inverted T-shape, with the front door being located at the base of the T..... the sermon was delivered at the intersection of the horizontal and vertical lines of the T.... and the horizontal line representing the class rooms and offices..... well, the closet was right on the other side of the wall from where the preacher delivered his sermons.....

.... so, as you do, I climbed up into the attic - not really an attic at all, I guess - more of just ceiling joists with fiberglass insulation stapled between them...... and using these joists that were placed every 24 inches or so, I gingerly made my way along them until I was peering out the vent over the front door of the church....

.... and there I stood, happily watching the world go by.... and knowing that there was nooooo way anyone was going to find me in my newly found hiding place..... and that is when I saw the preacher roll up outside..... and just as he headed for the front door of the church, Miss Polly comes running, screaming, and flapping her arms about "missing a child"....

.... I was mortified....... I stood at the little vent and watched as the preacher began a mad dash for the front door of the church to begin helping with the search...... and it was at this point that I panicked into action.... and that, as they say, is always your downfall...... for lo, folks, panic is not your friend..... and you can trust me on that......

.... now, had I been a seasoned, tried-n-true fella like I am now, I would have completely gotten away with my little soire into the attic.... alas, though, I was only twelve back then..... and in retrospect, my fate was probably sealed the minute that I decided to hide in the first place.....

.... I spun away from the vent as soon as I heard the front door slam..... and I began to hit the joists faster and faster with my tiny little feet as I heard the hurried orders being barked by the preacher below.... "Did you check every room?!.... How long has he been gone!?.... Does he have family within walking distance of here?!?"..... with each new query, I knew that my ass was grass when my Mother found out that I'd bailed on Vacation Bible School....... and my feet sped up - hitting those upturned 2X4's as fast as I could...... my heart was thumping in my chest as I made it to the halfway point....... I could still hear the preacher screeching his way towards the pulpit below me..... I looked up for a split second to see how much further I had to go, and in doing so, I missed the joist.......

.... the preacher and Miss Polly most likely heard the little muffled scream before they heard the "pop", and then the tinkling of mangled ceiling tiles dinging off the oaken pews below..... I still can't help wondering what went through their mind when they turned to see the spectacle of my scrawny right leg dangling from the ceiling in the absolute CENTER of the church..... oh, and did I mention that this was 3pm on a Saturday?...... yes, indeed......

..... so, yeah..... once upon a time, on a lazy summertime Saturday long ago, I fell through the ceiling of my ultra-God fearing church..... was I punished?..... sure, as far as I can recall...... but luckily a gentleman who frequented the church was also a builder..... so a quick call to him had the ceiling patched up before Sunday morning's church services began...... but, it being a bit of an old church, those replacement tiles were just that tiny bit off in color...... and every Sunday after that when I attended, Dad would poke me in the ribs, scowl, smile, and then slowly turn his face heavenwards towards the three virginally white tiles in the center of the church....... Mom always hated that he smiled at me after he scowled.......

..... I think she'd told him to just scowl every Sunday when he reminded me, but he just didn't have it in him to browbeat me for something that he'd most likely have been up to himself if he'd have even GONE to church when he was a lad......

..... as for me?..... well, I haven't been to that church in 15 years or more, yet I drive by it nearly every day.... but really?...... well, I just can't wait to see what Mom remembers the next time she has a surgery.....

Read the Bullshit »

Stealing.....

.... when I was a little boy, my friends and I used to spend the summertime exploring the acres of woodland that surrounded my Mom and Dad's house...... they were woods that seemed endless for such little fellows, and we'd take our rifles and shotguns and wander off to see what we could see.... we'd spend hours hiding under low-slung cedar trees calling in crows during the summer - just waiting for one to get close enough to blast....... and in the winter we'd set off in search of rabbits or squirrels....

... back then most of the land surrounding my folk's five acres was owned by the Blair family.... and what wasn't owned by the Blairs was owned by the Armstrongs....... the Armstrongs never minded my meanderings, but the Blairs were different....... they had strict, yellow-painted signs up on trees all along their property lines that read "No Trespassing"...... not that it really made much difference to us, though, as we were "Free Upon The World"....... but, we were all afraid of old Mr. Blair......

... he had an old beige 1962 Dodge truck that he patrolled the back roads in, and it was always the same....... him driving slowly around each curve of the gravel roads searching the underbrush for interlopers...... and, eagle-eyed as he was, he'd often catch me and one of my young friends as we made our way back home with a bag of squirrels or a pigeon or two tucked away in a pocket of our hunting jacket..... and he'd always be as mad as hell when he brought his old truck to a sliding halt......... and honestly?.... it scared the living shit out of me every single time..... he was such a bitter old cuss of a man.........

... he lived in a 1880s two-story clapboard down by the railroad tracks - about a mile from my front door - and every time I'd walk or drive past that house I would be filled with trepidation....... the house exuded that "I'm haunted" feeling absolutely equal to the amount that Mr. Blair oozed that "I'm a mean old bastard" feeling........ it always just gave me the creeps....... just as he did, actually.......

...... but I write this with a bit of a purpose, I suppose......... I believe (I have had this blog for over six years now, and I might be mistaken.) that I said once that I had only ever stolen one thing before in my life...... and after tonight's events and recollections, I think that I might have told you good people wrong.......... for, I did, after Mr. Blair's death, rob his home.......

.... perhaps "rob" is the wrong word....... he lived alone, after all, and had no close family, so all I did was "break into" his home after he died and collect some interesting things that caught my fancy.......... does that sound like robbery?....... can you even call taking abandoned things from a dead man's home "robbery"?........ well, whatever you call it, I did it.......

..... my friend Mike and I found ourselves out wandering the woods one autumn day in search of small, furry, forest mammals, when we stumbled upon the house of Mr. Blair...... one thing led to another, and before either of us knew what we were doing, we were standing with our noses pressed to the window of the old house trying to see what was inside....... pressed noses led to the turning of door handles..... which led to the trying of window latches...... which, as way leads on to way, led to the kicking down of doors held fast by old, corrupted, unnegotiating locks...... and with that, we were inside the dilapidated two-story home of a gentleman that we'd always feared and hated.....

..... I remember that the house was dusty inside........ and that there was no indoor plumbing....... I remember looking at the pail that sat beside the sink and imagining him bringing in fresh water from the cistern every day to do the dishes....... it struck me then that maybe he was so cantankerous to us kids simply because he was so lonely and miserable........ odd, I guess, but I did think that for a few minutes as I stood in the kitchen......

.... but I was jerked out of my train of thought by Mike squealing with glee as he canvassed the living room........ when I ran in he was standing beside a crumbling sofa holding up a copy of Time magazine dated 1947........ he shoved a few magazines in his hunting jacket and we both headed up stairs...... the downstairs area was stacked wall to wall with old copies of magazines and newspapers........

..... when we arrived upstairs, I found an old footlocker and began to explore the contents......... I'd only recently been given a collection of letters that my Mom and Dad had exchanged while they were just getting to know each other (and he was in Vietnam), and I had been mesmerized by the old stationary and postage stamps........ and that is when I saw something that caught my attention..... 1 cent and 2 cent stamps on old envelopes...... Washington and Franklin....... I quickly checked the dates on a few of the envelopes and saw 1835, 1832, 1837, 1845......... and fearing that we'd both get caught breaking the law (and we were both Good Boys back then), I stuffed them into my backpack and we were off.........

.... it wasn't until much later that I actually sat down and read all of those letters... and, good god, I was amazed....... there were tales of buffalo hunting in Texas......... tales of being bribed to vote for Sam Houston when he was trying to become president of Texas..... tales of Indians, Cowboys, and card games..... tales of a long ago Tennessean who had left My Area and moved out west to search for his destiny...... two weeks later - while Mike and I stressed about people possibly finding out that we'd broken in and finding our fingerprints, the place caught fire during a lightning storm and burned to the ground...... leaving nothing but the old barn and the remains of a cistern that had been the house's water supply......

..... I always felt guilty knowing that I had those old letters in my closet...... even as I traveled the world, I knew that they were back there at home..... and that they didn't really belong to me.....

.... the last time that I came home on leave before leaving The Corps for good, I contacted a cousin of mine who was a teacher at McMinn Central - where I'd gone to high school........ my old chemistry teacher was a Blair there, and his sister was our high school librarian......... and even if I didn't know for sure - it was still a small county - so I suspected that they might have been related to MY old Mr. Blair....... the same Mr. Blair from whom I had liberated those family heirlooms once he had gone on to meet his maker.......

..... she divided the letters into two envelopes and placed one in Mr. Blair's puca and the other into the librarian's........ two weeks later the local paper had an editorial written by The Librarian thanking whomever had given her such wonderful pieces of her family's history....... evidently her Great Uncle - being such an evil bastard - had been disowned by most of the family........ and being the oldest surviving Blair around, he had claimed inheritance of the Family Home and all of its contents.........

....... my childhood curiosity........ and my first-and-only attempt at breaking and entering gave those two a chance to see parts of their family history that would have been lost in the fire had I not robbed the place.......

.... it's odd, I know, but I was never really a bad kid....... I always said "yes, ma'am"...... I was always polite....... I hardly ever got into fights....... I only lied when I positively HAD to........ and when I robbed someone?...... I ended up giving it all back to people who appreciated it much more than the folks that I stolen it from.......

...... how strange is that?...... maybe I should rob more people?......

Read the Bullshit »

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.....

Read the Bullshit »

Golf.....

..... the tournament at Wimbledon begins today..... and every year for the past 15, I have watched bits and pieces of the play there..... it's become an annual event for my household........ and never having been a tennis player, I'm awed by the players' abilities.... I took the time to watch The French Open in its entirety this year - something that I've never done before - and while the play was fun to watch, it just didn't have the civility of Wimbledon......

..... I suppose it is the grass.... or perhaps the white tennis outfits..... or maybe the old custom of serving strawberries and cream..... but it just seems so much more gentlemanly (and ladylike) when you watch the players at Wimbledon...... there are no flashy outfits to distract you from play..... it's just more genteel....

.... golf, on the other hand, is another thing all together...... there is an innate gentility to golfing, sure, but there there has always been something about golf that never caught my fancy....... Elisson writes a beautiful post here of fondly remembered golf memories, and it started this whole thought process spinning for me this morning.....

.... while I am a tolerable golfer at times (especially for the first nine holes), I can probably tally the number of times that I have played at well under 100.... and I guess that it is my status as a relative golf novice that keeps me from enjoying televised championships....

.... in all honesty, my first forays into the Golfing World consisted of covert, midnight, commando-style raids to steal harvest lost golf balls from our local country course.....

.... from the ages of 13-16 I was employed by a neighbor to do odd jobs around his home..... I mowed his lawn, helped him paint his log home, repaired broken palettes in his garage (he had a contract with a local manufacturing plant to buy their broken skids, repair them, and then sell them back to them so that the forklift operators could break them again.) ..... and during the occasional moonlit summer night, he'd telephone a few of his golfing buddies for a raid....

... looking back now, it doesn't seem logical for a well-paid, well-known Man of The Community to dress up in camouflage, sneak onto the local golf course, and wade through the ponds searching for errant golf balls...... but that's exactly what we did..... three or four men in their late twenties, and me.... hip deep in a pond, bent at the waist, feeling along the mud for a hard white orb.... and praying that you didn't lose a finger to a snapping turtle or catfish.... many was the time that I swept the murky gloom - my cheek barely touching the surface of the water - that I caught sight of water snakes hunting frogs only feet from where I was.....

..... good lord, I must have been to Ridgewood thirty times before I actually showed up with a proper tee time to play a round..... I still can't watch that scene in 'Apocalypse Now' where Martin Sheen's camo'd face peeps up from the steaming water without remembering Harry and how we stole all those golf balls...... and how much unabashed joy he seemed to get from selling those balls back to the clubhouse for fifty cents a piece......

.... later in life I lived twenty minutes from the course at Carnoustie.... and about thirty minutes from The Old Course at St. Andrews.... both of which hosted The British Open while I lived there...... and now, when I occasionally talk to the Upper Crust of County Society, that are both shocked, appalled, and just a bit saddened - as golfing enthusiasts themselves - to hear that I had so gleefully squandered such golfing opportunities that living 10 years in Scotland had offered me.....

... for instance, the last time that I played a round of golf was at the cliff-side course at Stonehaven in Scotland..... and as I recall, three of the party turned their clubs around and had an impromptu swordfight on the 15th green....

.... and it is forever thus, folks...... I've always enjoyed golf courses, I guess..... but certainly for all the wrong reasons.....

Read the Bullshit »

Clinton....

.... Clinton, Tennessee is the county seat of Anderson County..... snuggled in between the western edge of the Appalachians and the eastern fringe of the Cumberland Plateau, it's a kind of natural crossroads....

.... it's a small place, in the Great Scheme of Things.... and with a population of just under 10,000, it literally dwarfs the small town where I grew up - Clinton's population density being nearly 10 times larger than my little hometown.... but it still feels like a small, cozy, friendly town....

..... the Clinch River flows through Clinton.... further to the east, the Holston and French Broad rivers conflue at Knoxville to produce the Tennessee River... and the Clinch eventually flows into the Tennessee further to the southwest at Kingston....

.... in days gone by, my Father often found himself using the small railroad yard there as a daily base of operations for his welding crew.... traveling out with his two-ton truck each morning to repair various points along the great Southern Railway as it snaked through the mountains towards Virginia....

.... and on one such occasion, I made the trip with him......

.... I was a tall, scrawny 15-year old red-head with seventeen billion freckles who probably weighed 150lbs soaking wet.... he was the same height as I, but you could hardly tell that we were related.... broad, straight, and with a bone-deep suntan & a shock of golden-blonde hair, he looked like he should be heading ashore to sack York with the rest of his Viking mates instead of frying eggs for me before heading off to work....

... it was late July, if I remember correctly... in any case, that date sticks in my mind.... mainly because one of the tasks that I had been given to accomplish while he was off railroading (and I was wandering around Clinton exploring) was to find a Tennessee pearl ring for my Mother's birthday..... that area of northeastern Tennessee having been famous for their freshwater pearls.... (and her birthday being in July...) ...

.... I spent the first few days wandering up and down Main Street looking in shop windows.... I'd find a place to have lunch by myself - usually a burger or a hotdog - and just generally watch the world go by until time for him to get off work..... but as I said, Clinton, while much larger than my old stomping grounds, still isn't exactly a metropolis.... and after two days of strolling, I had pretty much seen all that there was to see in the fine, old town of Clinton, Tennessee.....

.... and that's when I decided to explore the trains......

.... what is it that they say about "Idle hands being the Devil's playthings"?..... well, I suspect that there is more than a little truth in that old one-liner....

.... for verily, on the third day, I got into trouble.......

.... there were three or four sets of tracks laid out in neat rows just yards from my Dad's little trailer.... and after he had departed, I sat on the top step and watched the cars slowly being pushed around.... one boxcar switched to the left.... another - a tanker - switched to the right.... coal car after coal car clanged their way towards a newly-forming train..... the noise was terrific as each car slammed into its neighbor and the couplings caught..... I was fascinated.... being around such heavy, slow-moving pieces of equipment was like being a pygmy surrounded by elephants in some far off jungle..... curiosity and boredom finally got the best of me, though, and I crunched off through the gravel to get a closer look at the cars..... looking back, I suspect that any random jungle pygmy had a lot more common sense than I did at 15.....

.... to be continued tomorrow...... (and yes, I know that 'conflue' isn't a word..... but hey, it is now!.... )

Read the Bullshit »

Trains....

.... when I was fifteen years old I accompanied my Father to work one week..... he was foreman of a welding gang for Southern Railway, and his territory stretched from Bristol, TN in the north to Ooltewah, TN in the south..... quite a stretch of real estate, actually...... and as such, he usually spent most of every week away from home.....

... nowadays the railroad will put you up in a hotel room.... but back then, they'd provide their traveling gangs with a small trailer that slept 8 men..... his "gang" consisted of he & his assistant..... and since his assistant was from Strawberry Plains, he normally traveled to and from work each day from home..... this mean that - most of the time - my Dad was alone in the trailer after work....

..... I bring this up because I'm just back from having nipped into town for some light bulbs & laundry detergent.... and on the drive, I found myself stuck at a railroad crossing while one of CSX's finest slowly chugged its way southwards.... and as the boxcars rolled by, I noticed a gentleman laying inside one of the cars soundly asleep..... (at least I assume that he was asleep and not, well, dead...).....

.... anyway, I was a bit shocked to see someone "hobo'ing" these days..... with surveillance systems, barcodes, homeland security, etc, one would imagine that the railroad police would have a pretty firm grip on keeping people from hopping on a train just to see where it'd take them... I've seen people riding in boxcars before, though, so it must be quite common......

.... when I was growing up, I was surrounded by everything Train-related... my maternal grandfather used to regale me with tales of his own hobo-type adventures from when he was a young man during The Great Depression.... how he caught a train in Sweetwater that was headed north.... on to DC, Philly, and Boston.... west to Columbus, Chicago, and eventually the West Coast.... and finally back to Tennessee just before the beginning of WWII..... I remember thinking back on his stories as being so amazingly romantic.... an adventure born out of something other than what it really was - desperation.....

... and my Father, too..... he'd arrive home on the weekends and tell of far away places where he'd worked all week..... John Sevier Yard in Knoxville, Coster Shop, Lake City, Clinton, Jellico..... he'd give me timetable pamphlets that were tattered and covered in coal dust and I'd soak up each place name..... every town, siding, and yard seemed so exotic..... and my mind would take me there like an explorer.... again, never realizing just how hard of a job it was that he was doing..... how he was frozen in the winter, baked in the summertime, and soaked in the spring and fall.....

... and yet Trains have always been romantic to me..... even now....

.... there's a track near my house, and every time I hear the whistle go, it sparks my imagination.....

.... but seeing that fellow today also reminded me of the first (and only) time that I ever jumped on a train illegally..... I guess I should attempt to write it down..... I was nearly friggin' killed.....

Read the Bullshit »

Wood...

.... back when I was still a little boy, I remember watching my Father split firewood in the back yard..... he'd cut the wood himself from trees that he had hand-selected during long walks through the woods on Uncle Bob's farm..... oak, sometimes..... or hickory.... and occasionally a maple or a poplar....

.... I remember bumpy trips across freshly-cut silage fields in his old blue Ford truck.... I'd help him as best I could by dragging off branches while his chainsaw buzzed.... I wasn't much help, really, in retrospect.... he could have accomplished the task just as easily without my help.... but it made me feel that I was doing something worthwhile and I know he enjoyed the company......

.... but he wasn't after the limbs, though..... he was after the trunk - the meat of the tree.... and for that mission, he could have gone it alone....

.... he'd tell me the same story that he told me every winter when we'd start up the truck, turn on the heater, and begin the drive home with our load of fresh wood.... he'd point to a slight curve near the edge of the 80-acre field and say, "your Uncle Ben and I used to chop wood there for our house when I was little.... we had a little wooden sled that we used to pull it in back to the house.." ..... and every year as we pulled up onto the gravel road that bordered that field, he'd just be ending that childhood memory of his....... a memory of two brothers cutting wood with cross-cut saws and then dragging a sled full of firewood the 1/2 mile back to where they lived.....

.... he'd be silent then for a while.... and before either of us knew what hit us, the gravel had turned to blacktop, the blacktop to highway, the highway back to gravel, and we were home......

.... he'd pull the truck around behind the house and we'd unload the wood piece by piece.... and there it would lay until he gradually changed the pile of wood into neatly stacked ricks of busted wood.... one piece at a time....

... one load would take him four weekends, usually...... and the wood would lay stacked all through the summer - drying - and by the next autumn, it was ready for the fireplace..... from the time that I was old enough to walk, this scene repeated itself every single year......

.... I was talking with my Mother the other day about him, and the whole "busting wood" thing came up..... it turns out that she was just as mesmerized by him as I was..... how he'd turn the wood to just the right angle, lean in and let his eyes search the surface for natural splits, breaks, or signs of weakness.... and once he had achieved some sort of near-mystical understanding between he and the hunk of wood, he'd steady himself, bring his mall to the port-arms position, and in one single moment of extreme violence, precision, and focus, he'd smash down on the wood.... and more often than not, he'd make the split in one beautiful movement..... and if the wood didn't bow to his will after the first lick, it usually gave up after the second.....

.... knots, on the other hand, were a thing to be studied and analyzed with greater skill and a more thoughtful mind.... and for those he used homemade steel wedges, a razor sharp axe, and a sixteen-pound hammer.....

.... he tried to teach me The Art of It All many, many times, but I was not a very good student......my aim was always just that little bit off, or I didn't quite have enough upper body strength yet.... something was always just not quite right...... I tried, sure, but I just didn't have that Zen moment of skill, balance, and knowledge that he had......

.... looking back now, there were a lot of lessons afoot as I watched him work - and in what he tried to teach me...... determination, focus, precision, forcefulness, perseverance, courage, strength, attention to detail, tenacity..... some of which I understood then... and some of which I am only coming to see now........

.... I guess he was a bit like a Hillbilly version of that guy from Caddyshack who kept saying that you had to "be the ball"..... except with an axe and a stick of firewood....... "imagine the mall hitting the mark that you've drawn in your mind... and the wood yielding as it is meant to be.." ..... (him doing his best to channel Obi Wan on a stifling spring day in Tennessee) ..... heh, I never quite mastered it....... but he was something else to watch......

..... and the best thing about watching him?..... each new piece was a brand new struggle.... another puzzle, another challenge, another game...... it wasn't a chore to him to break his back busting all of that wood..... no, not at all.... it was fun..... he'd pick up a new piece of wood, spin it around until it was just right, and smile...... saying to himself as the sweat rolled down his cheek, "I see you." ..... then WHAM!, it was split...... and he was exactly where he wanted to be.....

... in all honestly, I don't get every aspect of it just yet.... but I am trying..... I just wish that he'd lived longer so that we could talk about this stuff now...... now that I truly realize how amazing he was.....

Read the Bullshit »

Dogs....

. the area of East Tennessee in which I live is mostly rural. there are two or three small cities dotted around with some heavy industry, but agriculture is the mainstay of the majority. the northwestern corner of my county is almost entirely dominated by large dairy farms.. many of them well over 1000 acres and cross-cut with pastures, woods, and fallow land..

. the farms bordered each other in a patchwork of more than 30 square miles and they were often only separated by ancient barbed wire fences that acted more as boundary lines than as something to actually keep cattle from crossing. Old, pre-civil war, family farms. Armstrong, Gibson, and Robinson land.. these farms, many of them, were where I spent my youthful summers hunting, camping, fishing, swimming in the brown-water creeks, helping with some of the farm work..

. earlier today, I read Oom Keesies story of his hunting a lion years ago. the beast had taken to munching on a farmers livestock and it had to be taken out. I must say that I admire ole Kees fortitude. Id have been wired pretty damn tight if I ever found myself in a lion-hunting role.

his post did remind me of an old childhood pastime though. hunting feral dogs.

.. the sprawling farms were crawling with wildlife. wild turkeys, rabbits, whitetail deer, possums, raccoons, squirrels, and the occasional wild boar and local sportsmen often struck deals with the farmers to be allowed to run their dogs in search of game. sometimes, though, a dog would not return to its owner at the end of a hunt. instead, it found itself running with a pack of once-tame dogs that wandered the huge tracts living by their wits.

over the course of many decades, the pack grew. both by inbreeding and by the introduction of new hunting dogs or household pets gone astray, the pack ranged in number from twenty to fifty individuals at any given time. and the assortment of breeds was mind-blowing everything from Beagles, Walkers, and Blueticks, to German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Rottweilers.

. They truly were a menace. having crossed that fine line that resides in the hearts of all beasts, they eagerly let civilizations grip slip away and descended towards their more primal selves.

.. a few times per year, my Uncle would call his Brothers, Brothers-in-laws, and nephews to come help thin out the pack. Invariably one of the members of his dairy herd would have been taken down as it tried to give birth and hed lost the calf and cow. It took time for the pack to work up the nerve to take down a 1200lb Holstein, and once they had gone that far, the rest of the herd was on the menu too.. and so, as sure as water is wet and the sky is blue, wed be summoned to hunt down the wild dogs and take out as many as we could

I say take out as many as we could because wed only get one opportunity after our initial ambush was sprung, what members of the pack that survived would not likely be seen by another human until they had restocked their ranks. It was just the way things worked. Ive written once or twice about what it feels like to hunt predators before, if youre interested..

. but it truly is amazing, really, when you think about it.. a wild animal domesticated and then allowed to go wild again, well, it aint coming back. they had no fear of Man. Or maybe their disdain for humans outweighed everything else, who knows?. after all, it was us humans who had kept them as pets and denied them their basic instincts.. perhaps when they finally were accepted into the pack, they simply did not want to return to being a slave to a Master. either way, there was no reasoning with them when they were in that state. there was no way to reclaim them back to civilization. the only thing you could do with them was to either ignore them or kill them.

I could go on and tell stories of the epic encounters (by teenage Tennessean standards), but there really is no point. After all, it wasnt like my hillbilly Uncles and I were stalking a pride of lions. so I tip my hat to Kees Kennis, people..

. Ive never had to face down a male lion (and I hope that I never have to). but I have been charged by a fully-grown Alsatian who was wholly intent on ensuring that I have a seriously bad day. he failed.

damn, Ive lost my train of thought here.. Civilization, I suppose. once you go off that deep end, there never really is any coming back

Read the Bullshit »

Coastlines....

I once lived at the mouth of a beautiful river. at #4 Ferry Street, Ferryden, Montrose, Scotland.

. my front lawn consisted of about ten feet of grassy sod and then another five to twenty feet of stony beach (depending on the tides phase). Indeed, when the tide came in, the northern side of my clothesline was unreachable except by boat (or hip waders) .

the river was the River South Esk and it emptied into the North Sea via the Montrose Basin not 100 yards from where I was living in that 2nd floor walk-up apartment on Ferry Street.

I remember it being very cold in the winter months the wind seemed to always arrive angrily from the west or northwest and scream through the space where our latchkey went and the wind often forced the mail-slot to fly open with a bang.

the entire small apartment was sheathed in wood. wooden floor, walls, and ceiling. a pine of some sort, I believe Norwegian or Swedish most likely and there was a blue, porcelain-tiled fireplace where I learned to build coal-fires for the first time.

the harbor was literally a stones throw away.. and it was always quite a treat to stand in the living room and watch the ships pass by the bay window.. day or night, they were just as beautiful.

. there were dolphins in the straits sometimes, too. and a few times I saw seals chasing the random homecoming salmon. Oh, and always a hundred jellyfish gasping their last on the rocky beach.. the first time that I ever saw a jellyfish was there, actually. and I poked a hole through it with a stick because I wanted to see what kind of resistance its clear body would show.. karma will probably catch up to me on that one, I guess.. but it was beached anyway, so I suspect I might be safe still, I did kill it.. so there is that

. I lived there for just over a year and loved every second of it. even climbing those twenty icy steps at night when I was returning from watch on base

it is funny, really, as I never imagined that I would have enjoyed living by the sea but there I was. just about as close as one could live to the sea and not actually be in it..

. The Missus and I moved out just before Christmas and rented a larger house higher up on the hill overlooking the basin.. but we kept paying the monthly rent on that little house as well.. I figured that since my parents were arriving in March for our wedding, we might as well keep that place as a home for my Mother and Father to stay in..

as I was writing this post this evening, my Mother rang me up.. and after a short talk, I asked her what she remembered about her two weeks in that tiny apartment..

she said that she remembered my Father jamming old newspapers into the mail-slot on the front door to keep the wind out and how in the morning she would come down the stairs to find him sitting on the countertop beside the oven with the door open and all the eyes on contentedly smoking a cigar in the warm gas-glow and how he marveled that first morning when the milkman showed up on the doorstep with two pints of fresh milk that I had ordered for them.. and how pretty the ships were when they passed by the bedroom window. and how they both bumped their heads against the angled ceiling of the loft-bedroom each morning when they got out of bed.

amazing, really, how everyone sees a place differently. how memories are selective......

I asked her if she remembered the fireplace or the wooden floors and she said that she didnt..

Read the Bullshit »

Teachers...

.... I telephoned the lady this morning who cuts my hair and scheduled myself for an appointment.... she only works a few days a week, and even then, only for a few hours each day.... so to secure her services, one must be both lucky AND preferred.... today I was both in equal measure... she slated me to get snipped as she worked through her lunch break...

.... and so, with homemade cheeseburger in one hand and clippers in the other, she worked her trade on my melon.... and a fine job she did, too.... of course, as short as I keep my hair, her work is more akin to sculpting than what normal people would call a hair cut.... but there you go...

... I parked just around the corner from the bank and slowly strolled along the concrete sidewalk toward her shop.... the door was open when I got there, and a number of elderly ladies were nodding off to sleep... gently propped-up under those hairdryer/chair combinations that you see in the old-style beauty shops...

... I recognized the woman who was sitting in the swivel chair when I walked in... Mrs. Borden... my 3rd grade English teacher... Eva looked up from Mrs. Borden's gray, thinning hair, and smiled... ".. hello, Eric... take a seat and I'll be right with you... " ....

... it was alright with me, of course... I was ten minutes early anyway.... So I just sat and watched the ladies do their thing - mainly, well, being senior citizens.... talking and joking about people that I had no inkling of, and who most likely died years ago... bringing up the news and the politicians who were advertising at each commercial....

... I sat in silence and watched their interaction.... they were familiar and loving... that kind of comfort that only knowing - and liking - someone for forty years can produce.... It is always such a treat to get my hair cut and watch the ladies......

... but today was a bit different... for when Mrs. Borden rose from her chair freshly hair-do'd, she proceeded to say her goodbyes to each of the old ladies in turn... all the while making her way to the door.... and I was right at the end of her route - sitting beside the open door....

... her walk took her from the regimented line of hairdrying machines, past the coffee table laden with Southern Livings from 1984, and deposited her perfectly at me.... and when she arrived, she looked down and smiled.... "Hello, son... you look familiar... but I don't remember your name." ....

...I nodded and sat forward... "yes, ma'am, Mrs. Borden.... I was in the same year as Eva's son... I'm Eric.. "....

.. her eyes widened a bit... "oh, yes!... you were Mike's best friend, weren't you?.... I heard you married overseas and were in the military.... It is good to see you looking so well after these twenty years, Eric." .... and then she bent herself down.... so that her face was only six or seven inches away from mine... and placed her hand atop my head and patted it like I was a puppy...

.... "I've had so very many, many students," she said to no one in particular while patting my noggin and closing her eyes.... "but I loved each one of them... each and every one of them, I loved them all... "....

.... she locked eyes on me one more time before making it to the door and exiting... and then with a flourish of her 85 year old wrist, she eased down the sidewalk and was gone...

... truthfully?... I am not bothered in the least that she didn't remember me... I didn't expect her to... but for a young pup like I was back then, she was a formidable being... and hey, I saw her whip Davy Campbell with a yardstick once back in third grade and she definitely had some moves.....

.. and now - me a grown man, slightly balding - I get a sweet, Southern Granny patting me on the head and mistily dreaming of the halcyon days of her middle-agedom.....

..... if she only knew how I murder the English language on a daily basis for you retards, she'd have slapped me hard, I just know it..... hard... and probably multiple times, too...

Read the Bullshit »

Presence...

... I suppose that this story (a part II of this story, if you will) should begin with "it was a dark and stormy night".... but that would be a lie.... For it was, in fact, just a normal, mid-Spring, Scottish evening.... Cool and windy....

... this was my first encounter with a ghost'.. and I use that term loosely.... Because, well, I really have no idea what actually happened...

.... I do remember that it was a very late Friday night... a late Friday that had turned into an early Saturday morning....

... the Missus and I had been fed a late dinner by another couple and we were full and well toasty from the wine when the taxi dropped us off at the small cottage... as I mentioned before, we had lived there for almost a year and had already grown to love the old place...

... we undressed and immediately went to bed.... I was a mere slip of a lad at barely 22 years of age, and I was feeling my oats.... So we hadn't been in the sack long before I was angling for some whoopee... I remember distinctly that an agreement for lovin' was struck - provided that I did all of the heavy-lifting....

... so, as you do, I climbed aboard and was having my way... and two-thirds through the bump and grind, I felt a cold chill run down my spine... and I stopped - mid-pump - and slowly looked down.... the Missus was looking up at me with a total look of horror on her face..... she knew - we both knew - that someone was in the room with us... you could feel it in the air.. and what's more, this someone in the room meant us harm....

... in all my life, I have never felt anything like it before.... a seething anger that you could almost smell... a violent evil that vibrated so loudly that you could almost hear it through the quiet darkness.....

... I turned my head back towards the foot of the bed and the open bedroom door that lay just beyond, and peered into the darkness... there was nothing there but the blackness of the dark hallway.... I looked back down at The Wife... she was gripping my forearms so tightly that I thought her nails would cut my flesh....

... I got up and walked to the doorway... flipped on the light switch and stepped out.... nothing... the hallway was empty and cold.... But the feeling was still there.... I reached down and picked up my discarded jeans and retrieved my pocket knife.... And with a deep sense of dread, I stepped across the hall and into the bathroom.... again, nothing.... my search continued through the entire house, but each room was found empty....

... the frightening thing is that, well, the whole time I searched the house, I was absolutely sure that there was someone in the house... you could feel it... and I was completely terrified as I opened each door and checked each room....

... after clearing the house - each room, door, and window - I returned to bed to see my Wife stiffened with terror.... Which, of course, scared me even more... and as I started to climb back into bed, she spoke... "please close the bedroom door... I don't want whatever is in the hall to be able to watch us sleep." ....

... I did as she asked.... and I don't believe that either of us got much sleep that night.... the fright was such that neither of us even remembered to finish our bout of whoopee....

.... was it a ghost?.... I have no idea... was it real?... 100% and without a doubt... and it continued to happen each year.... for one night only - every Spring that we lived there - whatever it was would come back.... for each of the seven years that we rented that cottage...

... the second time that it showed up, I was in the living room huddled by the propane fire watching Australia play South Africa in a fine rugby match... the Wife had turned in hours before, and I could hear her gently snoring a few rooms away.... it was quite late at night and raining hard.... I remember suddenly having such a strange feeling of dread wash over me... I sat up and felt the hair on the back of my neck rise.... I knew someone was outside the closed living room door... and ten seconds later I heard the quick patter of my Wife's footsteps running down the hall...

... she flung the door open, raced inside, slammed the door shut, sat her naked-self on the couch, and stared at the closed door.... she was petrified... and whatever was in that hallway had awoken her from a peaceful sleep.... We both felt it at the same time - even though we were in different rooms.....

... it happened again, of course.... every year.... and always in the springtime....

.... I never witnessed anything... but I sure felt it... and whatever it was, it definitely had an attitude problem... the Wife actually managed to see a few things on occasion.... A woman walking through the kitchen in a nightgown.... and even the sensation of a child hugging her leg while she washed dishes a few times..... but me?.... never.... I only ever felt the Bad Man in the Hallway.... and he was more than enough for me...

... crazy stuff... but true...

.... Anyway, I'm tired and am off to bed... tune in for the next installment... we have The Mystery of The Slamming Gate'.... or, The Time Eric Was Told to Bugger-off By a Ghost In Broad Daylight' ....

Read the Bullshit »

Ghosts...

... a long while back I was asked to write about my experience with ghosts... I've been vastly idle in tackling the job and feel quite down about the whole thing... hey, it is a poor host who denies the wishes of his guests... and my tardiness is inexcusable....

... so with that out of the way, here is my tale...

... once upon a time... in a land far, far away... The Wife and I rented a small cottage on a hillside overlooking a tidal basin... the small house was known as the "gardener's cottage" and it had been the residence of the groundskeeper and his family in days past... a stone lintel that spanned the top of the front entrance read 1790', but no doubt there had been a home there for hundreds of years before...

... the front lawn was bordered by a stone wall about twenty feet high... this wall continued for hundreds of yards and formed a large rectangle that held within it The Castle... the castle was higher up the hillside - near the crest - and offered a commanding view of the North Sea, the Basin, and the town that lay below...

... originally built in the 1100s to keep the marauding Vikings at bay, it was reported to have been sacked and burnt by Edward I when he was hammering the Scots in the early 1300s... but the original Keep endured the battles... and it became the centerpiece of the Ancient Pile.. additional rooms were added on continuously during the following centuries, of course... and the entire structure ambled and twisted ad hoc across nearly two acres...

... and so.. the scene is set...

... my ghost story involves three separate incidents... the first one took place on the grounds of the castle in broad daylight... the second and third happened in the cottage late at night....

... The Wife has many stories of The Cottage herself that involve ghosts... but during the two instances I will speak of, she was present with me both times and can corroborate my testimony.... as for her other hauntings, I was either asleep or away at work and can't vouch for them...

... to be continued....

Read the Bullshit »

Communication...

...I was sitting here searching through the family archive of photographs and I ran across some doozies.. I was originally looking for a snapshot for Yabu.. ideally, one that my Pa had taken of a napalm strike near Phu Loc back in 68... I figured it'd be right up Yabu's alley.. but, dammit, I couldn't find it... I'll look again tomorrow...

... what I found instead were a few pics of the first time I nearly had dinner with the Grim Reaper...

... I was sixteen years old and had only gotten my license a few months previously... it was late October, 1989... my sainted Mother was laid up at the UT Medical Center in Knoxville with blood clots in her lungs following some shady back surgery... flat on her back and feeling like death warmed over... my Father had organized for my little brother and I to stay the night with my Uncle Jim and his family while he went up to hand-hold Momma...

... I stopped in Englewood and gassed up the car... and a fine specimen it was for a geeky kid like me... a 1988 Chevrolet Celebrity... man, I thought I was The Man when I zipped around the country roads at the bracing clip of 45 miles per hour...

... but upon pulling away from the Red's Gulf station, I gave it a little more pedal than I normally did... and with my little brother in the seat beside me grinning like a wildman, off we thundered up highway 411 towards Madisonville and the Hiwassee countryside...

... my brother and I made excellent time and arrived at my Uncle's house to find no one home from work yet.... hatching a plan, we decided to motor back out about five miles to town... pick up a video, and be back before anyone even knew we were gone...

... "Major League" was our purchase.... it had just been pressed out on video a few weeks before, and we both loved it... hell, I still love that movie.... anyway, we picked up the flick and headed back out into the country...

.... and this is where the trip got interesting...

... first off, let me just say that I was driving too fast... probably 65mph or so.... and the wreck was entirely my fault.... and I have no excuse other than just wanting the thrill of topping those country hills at high-speed.... so there... I admit it....

... anyway, I was zipping along and caught some air as I went over the hill.... a local woman was tending to one of the graves there and had parked on the leeward side right in the middle of the road... big, black Ford F-150... needless to say, panic fucking ensued.... so as soon as I hit the asphalt, I jerked the wheel and hit the ditch on the right...

... for some reason, I didn't even have time to hit the brakes... I cleaned out the ditchrow for sixty feet or more with my right front and rear tires... and then I hit a rock... well, I guess it was a rock... something in the ditch broke off my right front wheel and tossed me back into the middle of the road....

... this was actually a bad thing... see, while I was trying to get out of the ditch, I had cut my tires all the way to the left... so when I was unceremoniously placed back on terra firma, my tires were at such an angle that I immediately cut across the road and hit the embankment on the left... which was about ten feet high...

... I was probably still doing sixty when I hit the hillside's upward slope.... I actually remember feeling dirt hit my face just before feeling like I was falling.... and then smelling freshly-struck flintrock sparks as the car slammed down from its spiral arc...

... what had actually happened was that I had hit the bank, ripped most of the trunk off, slammed my brother into the windscreen (he didn't have his seatbelt on), climbed the bank, and then climbed halfway up an ancient cedar tree at the top of the embankment, launched the spiraling car another forty feet, and landed it on the driver's side post-portion of the roof....

... the post collapsed and bashed me in the noggin... pressing me back into the seat with such force that my shoulders actually bent the frame.. I had my seat belt on, so I was lucky... my little brother got dinged up pretty good.... he was bleeding from his forehead, nose, and chin... and his bottom teeth had gone through his bottom lip - creating an inch-long wound.... he was a messy little twelve-year old, that's for sure... I was mortified when I saw him after the car stopped sliding at the bottom of the hill.... it was upturned and facing back the direction from which we had been coming.... I'll never forget seeing him lying unconscious and bleeding and covered in autumn leaves and twigs.... in a way, it almost looked at first like the car was resting on top of him....

.... 327 feet... from my first skid mark to where we finally rested... 327 feet.... we were lucky to be alive... and that little grey Celebrity was torn all to HELL....

... anyway, he regained consciousness in the ambulance halfway to Sweetwater hospital... immediately complaining of back pain, the paramedics feared the worst... and no matter how much he complained or cried, there was no way that those heroes were going to unhitch him from that backboard....

... as it turned out, he was alright.... see, he had been wearing jogging pants.. and when I dragged his unconscious body out of the back window, the elastic of his waist-band had scooped up about five pounds of broken glass... the poor little guy.... he spent four hours strapped to a backboard while that broken glass ate away at the cheeks of his lily-white tush... oh yeah, we still laugh about that today...

... the worst part about the whole tale concerns a lack of communication... or a miscommunication...

... upon arriving in Knoxville (an hour away from our humble home) my Dad was greeted with a phonecall from my Aunt... knowing that my Mother was deathly ill just feet away, she kept the message short and sweet...

... "I am so sorry... there has been an accident... Eric and Josh have had a car wreck.... Josh is alright, we think, but he may have some spinal damage... we just don't know yet... you stay there and take care of Sis... I will call you as soon as I know more... "...

... that was it... that was the message... no mention of me being well.... so naturally, my Father assumed that I had been killed...

... so he walks over to his chair and sits down.... fearing the worst for Joshua and grieving for me at the same time... and knowing that he can't tell my Mother for fear of killing her too...

... people, I cannot even imagine what it must have been like for him... those fifteen to twenty minutes of him holding on to the worst news he could possibly give a Mother... and how he must have felt in his own heart at losing his first son.... it shakes me to my core to even BEGIN to think of how inconsolable he must have felt.... how hopeless and helpless....

... but as luck would have it, another Aunt called them with an update... and told them that I was fine...

... the next morning my Mother insisted that they drive us, beaten and battered, all the way up to Knoxville so she could scope out the damage for herself... even if she WAS laying in a hospital bed herself.....

... you know, I had almost forgotten about that little wreck until today.... with no great injuries, it is easy to forget.... but after seeing those photos again, I am reminded again of how beautiful it is to have family... my Dad is gone now, of course... but my ole Momma is still around....

... us kids... good Lord... all of us..... we have no idea how much we tweak the hearts of our parents... even when we are sixty-five, if they are still around, they'll still be worrying and fussing over us... and we'll still be frightening the shit out of them... or breaking their hearts... or making them remember us as slobbering babies who needed a diaper changed or a good swat on the behind....

... it is the nature of things... and it is good.... but tomorrow, dammit, I'm finding that napalm picture....

... anyway, here are the photos I found this afternoon....

wreck_1_small.jpg

wreck_2_small.jpg

wreck_3_small.jpg

wreck_4_small.jpg

... messed that Celebrity UP, people.... but it was just a car... and cars can be replaced...

Read the Bullshit »

Missed....

.... back in January, I mentioned how nice it was to sip gin and watch happy young lasses prepare for a lifetime of wedded bliss... how the times do change, people... just a few short months ago, it truly was a sight to recline back in a cozy nook and watch them come and go....

... prior to arriving at The Palm, I had even mentioned the scene to Denny... and how pleasant it was to see everything unfolding across the street in white satin and crushed silk.... and I was very much looking forward to seeing it again.... so it was with a heavy heart that I strode through the doors and onto the veranda to find the bridal parlor closed... windows boarded up... sprigs of weedlings clinging to cracks in the black asphalt driveway.... white antebellum columns standing stark and graying....

... next door, a building site... complete with fifteen-story crane and a high wall with "Coming soon - The Mansion on Peachtree! An exclusive living community".... times change, I suppose... progress marches on... but I sure missed seeing those young couples laugh and giggle as they walked the path towards their tuxedos and tiaras....

... some moments and some scenes are fleeting, I suppose... and once they are gone they are lost forever... so I'm kinda glad I had a chance to witness that moment back in January... the veranda at The Palm will never be the same again....

Read the Bullshit »

Amazing...

... my Dad worked away from home most of my childhood.... as head of his own Maintenance of Way gang, the railroad supplied him with a small trailer to sleep in while he was on the road.... parked near a depot in some small town, he'd retire to that tiny trailer after his workday was done... hard work it was, too... he was a welder with a 5th grade education, but still managed to accomplish some amazing things in his life...

... today I went through his old barn - that he and I had built together when I was ten - and prowled through the dusty stuff... the man was a complete packrat.. nuts, bolts, hammers, light fixtures, log chains, axes, chainsaw chains... all shelved or leaning in corners or filling old Maxwell House coffee tins.... I even found an old baby bottle that was mine... shaped like a basset hound sitting on its hind legs....

... during those long hours he spent away from his family, he took up a few hobbies... at first, it was exercising... he'd jog or do push-ups after sweating and toiling all day on the hot tracks... later it was fence-building....he'd split a discarded crosstie into four pieces and then use an axe to taper the ends... making the bodies symmetrical.. then he'd bring the cross-pieces back home to be used as railings in a fence he was building on the weekends....

... but his last little hobby before getting ill, was making swords.... and just as with all of his endeavors, he dove in whole hog... using a side-grinder, an electric welder, and a cutting torch, he kept himself occupied every evening for years making swords...

... it hit me today hard... just how much time it must have taken him... and the great lengths he strode to keep his mind off of being away... he could just as easily have gotten off work and hit the nearest pub..... but instead he stayed there around that trailer and kept his hands busy... that just amazes me....

... I sorted through stacks and stacks of those swords today... each one different.. each one an example of a man who could work a 30lb sidegrinder with the grace, gentleness, and precision of a master....

... I picked out a small selection... six or seven pieces... and I'll hang them up in the garage next week....

Read the Bullshit »

Falling...

.... back in my younger days, I dabbled in rock climbing....it was something that initially was alien to me.. having no knowledge of ropes, harnesses, or knots.... and also, being as incredibly afraid of heights as I was, it was 100% New Ground for me.... but it was an incredible learning experience... balance, feeling a crease, reading the rock, and being unafraid to reach out, hold on, and pull yourself upwards... it was something new...

... a friend of mine in Alaska started me off gently... he showed me how it was done.... clinging by sore fingertips and pushing upwards on 1/4 inch toeholds.... forgetting that your fingers were bleeding and your muscles were in spasm... Ballet on a Vertical Plane, he called it... and although I felt it was somewhat more dangerous than ballet, I never disagreed.... after all, I was the student......

... he laughed once when I was performing a layback on a vertical crack at about fifty feet... I jammed my hand into the rock and made a fist... twisted it slightly and leaned back... my eyes searched upwards for the next hold while my right hand dropped down to the small of my back where the chalk bag sat.... one foot on the rock... one hand paining as it held my weight... I looked up and chalked my next hand while my right leg arched back for balance...

... I heard Sam laughing down at the belay point... "That's IT, Eric.. you got it!.... and hey, it doesn't matter if you stick that next move or not.. that was fucking awesome... " .... I looked down at him, momentarily distracted, the five-foot overhang looming above me ... "huh?... what the fuck are you talking about, Sam?.. I want to get to the top... shut the hell up, you are distracting me.."...

... "you're missing the point, killer," he yelled up at me, tightening the belay rope... "that kicked ass, just now... see, it isn't HOW you climb... but how you LOOK while you climb... and just now, well, you kicked this wall's ass... you were relaxed.. you were in control... you were focused... and THAT is the point.. even if you fall now, you were there, man.." ....

.. I never really understood what he meant by that, but I used the same terms when I started teaching my Scottish friends to climb two years later...

.... grace, focus, ballet on a vertical plane... sure, it matters if you make it to the top... but it is much more important for you to comfortable with the situation you are in... namely, hanging by a thread with burning muscles halfway up the face of a cliff...

... yesterday, that was been driven home to me again....

... something drew me to dig out my old climbing shirt.... just a simple white cotton long-sleeved shirt.. the front adorned with a red embroidered "Aum" symbol.. and the Eyes of Buddha on the back.... now, I'm no Buddhist... but I did spend the better part of this afternoon watching my Wife rescue wandering caterpillars and ensconce them in nearby trees as I sipped gin.... so I do feel a bit kindred.... on a purely existential level....

.. but other things too, have dredged up these memories.. memories of old tee-shirts and continually reaching... unafraid...

.... sometimes it doesn't matter if you fall, I guess... it just matters that you tried... and that you enjoyed one incredible time while you were there.... after all, conquering fears is not an easy thing.... if it were easy, it would not be called "conquering" to begin with....

.... still, it's not all goodness... there is nothing like that pinch in the groin that you feel once your fall ceases...... that sudden stop when the rope saves you.... and you swing suspended, grinning like an idiot.... muscles tired, lungs burning, adrenalin coursing through your veins from the unexpected fall.... and all you want to do is swing back in and give it another try....

... I went to sleep last night thinking of that... falling... and this morning it is still here...

Read the Bullshit »

Easter....

.... I worked up an incredible appetite this morning and ended up gorging myself at The Family's Easter Gathering.... turkey, dressing, fried okra, baked beans, mashed potatoes, country ham, buttered rolls, macaroni and cheese, and even a deviled egg.... all finished off with a big scoop of sweet potato pie...

... some mornings you just wake up insatiable, I guess... but like a good little boy, I did a pretty good job of cleaning my plate.. and now it is 4:30 in the afternoon and I'm still stuffed... what a memorable Easter...

... sat on the porch in a rocking chair and watched all the Mothers hide eggs around my Uncle's front yard.... then watched the young ones scurry around like their hair was on fire trying to "find" the most eggs.. it was a sight... laughing kiddies everywhere.... but I do believe that our generation has lost something in their ability to "hide" Easter eggs... goodness... from my perch on the porch, I could see at least fifteen eggs plainly... kids these days, they got it too easy... either that or the parents back when I was a kid just delighted in watching us scrounge for twenty minutes before finding an egg...

... still, plans are afoot tonight... the plan?... sit very still on the deck and sip iced tea until the Sun goes down..

... hey, I need to recover... it's been one helluva day....

Read the Bullshit »

Secrets...

... earlier this week, I let slip a secret to The Wife... nothing big, of course... but something that she had been unaware of through all these years of marriage...

... see, occasionally when we are discussing how we met, how we started dating, etc, she brings up the "missing two weeks"... these are, of course, the two weeks that passed from the time she gave me her number until I finally called and asked her out... no biggie, right?... ladies?.. is two weeks too long to wait to call a girl after she's given you her number?...

... anyway, it was nothing clandestine... I was busy with honest toil for those two weeks and didn't have the time.... but does she believe me?... not really... I think she is under the impression that I was pubcrawling and incessantly trawling for poontang for those two weeks... and when I failed miserably, I finally broke down and gave her a jingle...

... but as I said, nothing could be further from the truth.... and while we were chilling in Chili's awaiting the arrival of Liv on Tuesday, she brought up the missing two-weeks again... and that is when I laughingly mentioned that the only person I ever even considered going out with while in Scotland (and before meeting her) was Jacqueline Dunne...

... big mistake, campers... for I had unknowingly let slip a secret that I had naturally assumed she was already privy to... namely that I had performed a flawless full-court press on a cute English stewardess on the flight up from Heathrow to Aberdeen... and had, in fact, exchanged numbers with her... even going as far as to ask her to ring me up when she next found herself in Aberdeen..

... seven days into my duty though, I met the soon-to-be Missus and all was set...

... no harm, no foul... right?... but here is where the penny dropped... I carried on the conversation... and told her that I had arrived home one night after one of our steamy dates and was greeted by a message stuck to my bunk...

... "hey, hammerhead! .. some Brit chick named Jacqueline Dunne called and left a message while you were out on the town... she says she's at The Carlton in Aberdeen and wants you to give her a call"...

... uh huh... your humble SWG was getting a booty call.... but did I call the delightful Ms. Dunne?.. the hot, alabaster-skinned, doe-eyed stewardess who was in town for only one night and wanted my gentlemanly company?... probably for wild, tear-you-hair out, sweaty, no-questions-asked, monkey sex?...

... nope...no, Sir.... I did not make the call... but after telling the story on Tuesday, well, I think that I should have probably told The Missus about it before waiting through 12 years of marriage...

Read the Bullshit »

Seasick...

.... Rob brought up a not-so-fond memory for me the other day.... sea sickness.... specifically, he asked for people to tell their stories of sailoring woe..

... now, I'm not much of a sailor... I come from a long, long line of guys who could barely even swim.. hillbillies, farmers, ridge runners, etc... not much call for being able to swim when the only water you ever get into is the six inches you run into your bath at night... sure, they could climb trees, jump ditches, and ride horses... but they steered clear of The Ocean...

... I traveled far and wide as a young man and relished the thought of doing new things... so when I found myself on an island off the coast of Siberia at 19 years of age, I leapt at the chance to head out into the Bering Sea with a group of my mates to hunt halibut....

... I remember starting out of Kuluk Bay that day... everyone else was in the cabin escaping the freezing wind... but I was hanging over the edge of the railings watching the two orcas who were following our boat.. big, meaty beasts with eyes that seemed to wink at me every time they surfaced just yards from our craft....

... the Captain of the little 30ft boat slid open the door and yelled out to me... "better get in here, Lance Corporal.. the weather says we're going to hit some rough stuff as we round Cape Adagdak.. "...

... I left the gaze of the killer whales and staggered into the warm cabin... and along with the other five "fishermen", I listened to the Captain verify weather reports....

.. it seems that the weather front was coming in from the Southeast... and was coming up behind us as we skirted the edge of the island heading northward... finally the grizzled sailor looked at us and said, "boys, we've got a decision to make... with the storm coming the way it is, if we round the Cape, we are committed to going all the way around the island to get home... if we don't round the Cape, we can turn back and be back in Sweeper's Cove in an hour..."..

... someone piped up, "so the fishing is off for today?"...

... the Captain grinned and shook his head... ".. just you wait and see... there will be no fishing today... we need to get back to the harbor... "...

... we turned south into the storm a few minutes later..

... at first, I was terrified... a 30ft boat smashing into 20 and 30ft waves... water crashing over the entire boat.. the ship being tossed sideways.. the groaning of the engine as it struggled to push the boat forward against the raging wind... I just knew we were going to die... but like I said, I am not much of a sailor...

... after twenty minutes of being brutalized by the Bering, I started to feel the first rumblings of seasickness... and then, with an incredible swiftness, it set in..

... someone else already had their head buried in the boat's commode... so the First Mate handed me a bucket that they had used to hold halibut bait... and as horrible as that prospect sound, I didn't care...

... never in my life have I ever felt such an overwhelming apathy... I did not care if the boat sank... I didn't care that the water would kill me in three minutes because it was so cold... I didn't care that I was puking onto three-day old chunks of baitfish... I didn't care about anything... I was too consumed with the lolling and rolling of my head and stomach... it was almost like being sedated - and still unable to stop puking...

.... fortunately that was the only time I've ever been through the effects of seasickness.... and I hope I never hit those same high notes ever again...

... but I do so still love me some halibut steaks...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(5) | TrackBack (1)
» Tammi's World links with: A Sea Story

Sweetgums...

... the half-acre of back yard that I have is dotted with trees... tall, slim pin oaks, tulip poplars, maples, sweetgums, and short, squat dogwoods.... the poplars are budding now and their tulip-like blooms give off a purplish tint against the sky... the dogwood's white flowers are everywhere... the maples are coming on too, but their leaves are being born burgundy this year... the whole collection creates a kind of strata as you tilt your head upwards... white, green, then a deep reddish hue... and then purple... what a great time of year..

... the guys came around and mowed my lawn yesterday while I tended some phone calls... they were working as a team as I watched out of the kitchen window... one man riding the lawn tractor and the other wandering from tree to tree and shrub to shrub with a weed-eater doing his thing... all was going as planned until the man on the mower plowed by the stand of sweetgums... now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with sweetgum seedpods, let me try to describe them... they are brown, hard, and the size of a golfball... and on top of that, they are covered in spines... as if, by some evolutionary mistake, a porcupine could lay eggs... and if a porcupine COULD lay eggs, they'd look just like sweetgum seedpods...

... anyway, the blades of the mower caught the seedpods and launched them at an incredible speed... like a scene from David and Goliath... it was amazing... the poor guy with the weed-eater got pelted by a spray of sweetgum seedpods that could have put off a charging rhino.. a full spread, people.... probably fifty pods in the air at the same time... there was no escape and the guy just weathered the storm... it sounded not unlike a .30cal Browning firing off half a belt.. heh... and the next time the guy with the mower came around, weed-eater man hid behind a maple tree...

... in retrospect, I guess I should have raked them up before they arrived... but then again, where would have been the fun in that?... besides, I'm paying those fellows good money...

Read the Bullshit »

April, 1968....

... my Pa with 1st Shore Party BN, 1st MARDIV at Phu Loc in '68.... I wonder what he was thinking...

vietnam_small.jpg

... Boudicca has a photo of her Pop up too... The Great Omnipotent One, as he is known... and he cuts a handsome figure...

.. and even ole Elisson is digging through the photo albums...

.. must be something in the air...

Read the Bullshit »

12 Years...

... cheers, my baby... it's been quite a party....

wedding_small.jpg

.. how you've put up with me, God only knows.... but I'm glad you have... 12 years, fifty pounds, receding hairline and all... thanks, babe...

... now, what's for dinner??...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(32) | TrackBack (2)
» Drunken Wisdom links with: Git...
» phin's blog links with: Milestones

High Noon...

... Gary Cooper was on the tube a few days ago.. some ancient interview where he was talking about his performance in "High Noon"... he was blethering on about the Strength of the Individual, The Defeat of Communism, and how hot Grace Kelley was... even though she did deserve a spanking by the time the movie was over...

... anyway, as I was watching him hem and haw while the interviewer stroked his ego, I remembered the time that my Father attacked a nest of bumblebees with only a long-sleeved shirt and a ping pong paddle... one of the bravest acts I have ever witnessed...

... I remember it like it was yesterday... he had this old antique cabinet that sat against one side of the main room of the barn... it was chocked full of old bottles, bits of stripped copper and brass... and bags of nuts and bolts... well, someone (probably me) had haphazardly dropped a half-bale of hay in front of it a few months before and no one had bothered to move it... well, a family of bumblebees found it and nested there....

... now the normal way of getting rid of bees around our home was the tried and true method of dousing the nest with a flammable liquid and then setting it alight.. sure, not the safest way to murder bees, but it was Tennessee... we were happy to take what little entertainment we could find... and nothing says fun like watching flaming bumblebees or wasps whirl like Zeros over Midway... besides, it was better than watching re-runs of Hee Haw...

... well, as you can imagine, we couldn't exactly go tossing a can of gasoline into the barn and setting it alight... so another method was decided upon... hand to hand combat... why he didn't just go into town and buy a can of Raid, I'll never know... maybe he thought it an opportunity for an Adventure... a Man against Beast thing... who knows... all I do remember is him putting on a big hat, gloves, and buttoning up a long-sleeved denim shirt... a form of armor, I guess... and kicking that bale of bumblebees... and what happened next was a truly awe-inspiring sight... he standing there while one bee at a time crawled forth and attacked him... it was like the ending sequence in Jeremiah Johnson, you know, where the Indians would only send one brave at a time to hunt down and do battle with Jeremiah... well, those bees did the same thing...

... he was nimble, my Dad... I'll give him that... and I'll never forget the almighty *thwack!* that reverberated off the tin roof when he finally tagged one of those bees with that ping pong paddle... he'd take a short breather after his victory and within seconds, another fat bumblebee would appear....

... the whole thing probably took a good hour and a half... he was worn out by the end of it... but unscathed, too... nary a sting... just a big pile of dead bees next to the wall where he'd knocked them... it was pretty impressive, when you think about it.. I mean, he killed a whole nest of bees one at a time in hand to hand combat...

... anyway, I know it really doesn't pertain to much, my little story... except that I wanted to say that Gary Cooper may have been a good actor.. and High Noon may be a classic... but I'll be willing to bet that he never battled a nest of bumblebees before...

.. everything is relative, people... everything... and in my mind, Gary Cooper was a wuss....

Read the Bullshit »

Grooming....

... last week, my Mother asked me if I could polish a pair of black leather boots for her... she had neither polish nor buffing brush, and knew that I did.... so I said "sure"... as you do...

... and this morning I spent three hours polishing and buffing all of the black shoes in the house... my combat boots... my Danner Ft. Lewis boots.. my wingtips... Mom's boots... and a banged up pair of ankle-high slip-ons that the Wife sometimes wears....

... it was quite relaxing, really... I took a cup of coffee and some handkerchiefs out to the deck... and just sat there coughing, drinking java, and polishing shoes... zoning out on the Sudafed and keeping my rhythm.... the weather was nice, too... warm and sunny with a slight breeze.... the air was full of birds heckling each other over mating grounds, nesting sites, and feeding grounds... and other than the noise they were making, it was quite peaceful...

... but after two hours, I started thinking... polishing boots must be swiftly becoming a thing of the past... hell, even the Marines are going to those drab canvas and suede boots now.... and dress shoes?... how many businessmen actually put some elbow grease into their shoes before the big meeting?... sure, they make those little oily-wipe type things that give your leather a quick dust-off... but it's nothing close to a real shine-job...

... and for that matter, handkerchiefs... who carries a real linen handkerchief nowadays?... who knows how to tie a bowtie or orders their dress shirts with tab collars instead of button-downs just because tabs highlight your half-Windsor better?... and what about tie clasps?...

... sure, I know that I live in a subtle form of vacuum here... cradled to the bosom of jeans and pajama bottoms... and my days of suit-wearing are probably over... but it still begs the question...

... are we losing these archaic grooming traits?... tab collars, tie clasps, cufflinks, and freshly polished wingtips?... I don't have the answer... but I really hope that we are not losing them...

.. .but still, the fact remains... I'm the only one in the family who owns a tin of Kiwi and a buffing brush...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(12) | TrackBack (3)
» basil's blog links with: Picnic 2006-03-20
» Tammi's World links with: Well, That's It Then....
» Bad Example links with: FOR STRAIGHT WHITE ERIC

Old Gossip...

... I was in town this morning collecting the various bits and pieces needed for tonight's meal, when I decided I needed a haircut... a quick phone call later, and I was set...

... see, the woman who cuts my hair only works three days a week...

... Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday... and she is very choosy about her clientele... probably because her license expired twenty or so years ago... but then again, maybe she's so picky simply because she has reached the age and experience level where she no longer has to deal with irritating customers... if she doesn't like you, she'll tell you politely over the phone that she is too busy.. if she does like you, she will invite over to chat with the old hens until your turn in the chair arrives...

... her name is Eva... and she's cut my hair since I was a child...

... so I arrived around noon today, placed myself in a corner and just soaked it up... ancient women in curlers under hooded dryers laughed at jokes they couldn't have heard above the hum... Eva clipping wildly and laughing... still a beautiful woman now in her late fifties... smiling always... glancing over at me with a wink and including me in the discussion of who died last week, who is getting married to whom and whether it'll work out... who got smacked in the back of the head at the church social last weekend...

... the un-maliced gossip of people who have reached the age of ceasing to judge... sure, they still see the entertainment in the crazy lives of the people that surround them, of course... but they are casually indifferent and yet still paying attention... it really is pretty cool to watch them work a story...

... twenty years ago I'll bet they were tigers... ripping to shreds the loose women and philanderers of the neightborhood.... but now they are like hoot owls... watching from high above all of the ruckus... softly hooting to each other and doing little else...

... anyway, I sat there until I received my hair cut... an almost-in-regulation 0 to 1.5 fade.... and it only cost me three bucks... and believe it or not, she is one of the best barbers in town... the other guy does a lesser job and charges me twelve dollars... and hey, I'd rather be hanging with those old ladies.... even if Eva charged me twenty bucks... because, well, some things are just worth paying for...

Read the Bullshit »

Big Mac...

... I really am continually amazed by where I am today.. incredibly so, in fact... especially today...

... if somewhere in my shady past you told me that I would be here, I would never have believed you.... and yet I am contented with the way my average life continues to whirl daily.... spinning me in directions I never thought possible... quietly amazed by the wonders that I am allowed to see... full of little treasures and gifts... nightmares, dreams, and choices.. all fading together to weave themselves into the path that I see in front of me....

... ever have someone tell you, "hey, man, just go with the flow!"... and then, in the very next breath, they cheerfully beam, "hang in there, buddy!"... well, which is it?!?.. hang tough or slide along with everyone else?... make up your damn mind!...

... it's almost like standing in the surf and letting waves pound on your body... feeling the water swirl and retreat past your legs... down the sand and away.... sliding backwards to rejoin the next incoming wave... continual motion... constant movement....

... they say every seventh one is the largest, but I don't know about that... I've not been to the beach enough to know those intricacies... but they each do have a different kind of power, I suppose, the waves... I know enough of the sea to know that... and they each strike, swish, and flow away with different sensations... one no bigger than the next... or stronger... just different... each one offering a unique battering... a unique massage... slowly coaxing your feet from the sand and your knees towards them... folding your legs slightly... and then a bit more... begging to release you from your grip on the world....

... until finally you are swept away.... and it is glorious.. not a fearful thing at all... but a feeling of floating on the surface as the strength of the next oncoming wave passes beneath you.... and you're no longer an obstacle in the Way of Life, but drifting along with the foam instead... above it... ungrounded and at peace.. going with the flow.... no longer "hanging in there"...

... but what are you, really?... are we somehow weaker because of the letting go?.... or are we stronger people because of our newly found freedom?... and what have we really become?....

.... hey, let's face it, people... when you boil it all down, we're just bait.... for anything that floats in the surf dreaming dreams of blissful wonderment is about to get munched.... right?... right... we've all seen those programs on the Discovery Channel... and sharks have sharp teeth... so be careful.... because once you let go and start to float, well, you're just a slow-moving top-water buzz-bait in the Great Scheme of Life...

... dreamers dream, sure... but floaters get eaten... so the next time someone tells you to go with the flow, smack them upside the head...

... anyway, I'm hungry... I'm off to town to buy a Big Mac....

Read the Bullshit »

Changes....

.... today will find me driving Miss Daisy up to Knoxville again... and it should be her last visit for a long time... the last of the stitches come out and the last of the prescriptions will be jotted down... and then it will finally be over... kinda...

... see, in a way, this whole thing is just beginning... I swooped by her house a few days ago and found her smiling and chatting with another old widow lady in the kitchen while a family friend flitted about the living room hammering nails into the walls and hanging pictures... meanwhile, the two ladies pointed and commanded... "hang that big painting there, sonny!... no, the OTHER one!... yeah, that's it... "... good Lord... re-decoration of a room by remote control...

... so as I sipped my coke and watched the scene, I got this: "Eric, dear, what do you think of my new haircut?"... much swishing and flicking of the hair ensued.. and then, "I had it cut and colored yesterday.. isn't it nice?!"...

... of course, I complied... "yes, ma'am... it's very nice.. I like the color..." ...

... but the real kicker came as I stood up to leave... approaching the door, she calls through to me... ".. Eric, dear... when you are next in a music shop, could you find me a CD of some Middle Eastern music?.. I was remembering that stuff they played at the church Christmas play and I really liked it... it would be nice to play that stuff in the house... it sounds happy and was kinda fast... they played it at the part where the camels carrying the three Wise Men were walking on stage.."...

... I said I would, and made my exit... and as I slid the key into the Audi, it all suddenly became clear..

... I lit up the engine, touched the button on the stereo to turn Waits on, and put the car in reverse... checked my mirror and backed out into the road... and with a disbelieving shake of my head, I said out loud to Tom as I pulled away...

... "Damn, my brother... my Mother just asked me to buy her some belly-dancing music...that is just not right.." ...

... listen up, rubberneckers.... I never knew a tit-job could have such an effect on a woman... I really didn't... and I have a feeling that this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg... which is a good thing... and it sure is going to be entertaining to watch...

Read the Bullshit »

Dirt...

... spring is creeping forward around these parts... ever so slowly... but she's on her way...

... my teacup magnolia is showing the first signs of the pink blooms to come... and the fescue I planted in October is beginning to peek through the red clay... and before I know it everything will be bouncing to life...

... and so, today finds me slated to play gardener... not my finest occupation, I assure you... but I'll be scattering the remainder of the seeds that have sat in my garage all winter... clearing the fallen limbs from the backside of Hell's Half Acre and burning them... dousing the rhododendrons and azaleas with plant feed with the hopes that they'll rouse themselves from their Winter deaths...

.. makes for a nice change, really... being able to get outside and get my hands dirty instead of staying in here with you people and getting my mind dirty...

Read the Bullshit »

Dead Gentlemen...

... working my way through traffic up to Knoxville today my Mother chatted continuously.... and at first, it was all about how she felt... where she hurt... how the tape itched... how her meds made her feel... how she was nervous about having her stitches taken out...

... I just let it slide... hey, it's all cool..... she is worried about herself.... been there and done that myself, actually... but I said nothing... just letting her talk as I drove.. quietly listening to my Johnny Cash CD and letting her words imprint me with only a nod and a distracted "uh huh"....

... but then she said something which drew my attention away from Cash's version of "Big River" that I was securely entrenched in... she paused for a moment in her complaining... and simply said, "You know, my Dad has been dead for 19 years now.. I really miss him.. not so much my Mother... but him..."... I was gob-smacked.... it was new ground to be sure..... hell, I talk about Grandpa twice as much as she does.....

... and it is true, what she said.... Grandpa died back about 1986... and it seems strange to type that... damn, almost twenty years... and she is still pining for him.... I suppose I shouldn't really be surprised... he was a cad after all, but a very lovable cad....

...anyway, I kept on driving and pulled into a Macdonald's for breakfast a few minutes later... we went through the drive-thru... and goodness... life is so simple when you boil it all down to the basics.... fast food and CDs in the car stereo and drowning out the thoughts of your Mother..... how easily we have learned to escape....

... she ate her sandwich and I drank my coffee for nearly half an hour in total silence as I dodged traffic.... it was almost as if she felt she had crossed some unwritten line.... exposing herself more than she was comfortable with... I just drove and drank my coffee...

... but when she did speak, she started it with a laugh..... it was odd.. she began quietly as I sipped my coffee at the red-light in Maryville.... "I dreamed that the phone was ringing last night and it was your Dad... I said Hello, hon! I was waiting to hear how your day went!'... and then the receiver went dead and he was gone."...

.. Great Holy Jesus... what do you say to that?...

... so, I bucked up.. I could feel that I was being chided into action... first Grandpa and now Dad?.... it was all too much...

... so I placed my coffee back into the holder as the light changed. looked over at her and gave her a wink... "it's alright, Mom.. he was just going to talk about welding... it would have been a welding story, sweetheart.... nothing too exciting... ".... she laughed and smacked me in the back of my head as I eyed the traffic in the rearview mirror....

.... but I think she'd have liked to have heard it.. even if it was just a welding story....

... hey, guys.... after today, well, there is nothing like being removed from the one that you love forever... finally... and completely.... and just let me tell you this..... in all honesty, dealing with sick women is going to be the end of me... it really, really is... they just don't see my sense of humor... and I certainly see their pain..

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(5) | TrackBack (1)
» ArmyWifeToddlerMom links with: Winter's end

Boys...

... my plans for the afternoon were derailed totally today... it was a simple plan, really... head into town and pick up lunch... but some bread, milk, and apples for my Mother... deliver them and head home...

... didn't quite work out that way... as it turned out I ended up driving an neighbor to and from the ER, filling prescriptions, feeding livestock, and generally doing anything and everything than what I WANTED to be doing....

... but something just happened as I rounded a curve a few minutes ago near the home I grew up in... a little boy was walking alongside the gravel road.. iPod in hand.. baseball cap pulled down.. a scrawny, short-haired kid.. pale.. with big eyes that looked up and smiled at me as I slowed when I passed him... probably ten or twelve years old... baggy jeans too large for his thin body... he waved to me as I went around him, and smiled....

... just a kid walking down a country road in the evening... 5 O'clock and he's got nothing else to do between then and being called in for supper... no other children live on that dead-end road... so he was just killing time... grooving to his music and scuffing his feet on the dusty road...

... by the time I reached the top of the hill where his Father and Mother live, probably 300 yards away.. it hit me...

... 25 years ago, that was me... sans the iPod... and carrying a Daisy Red Ryder instead... heading out in the evening to patrol the dead-end roads around my house... jumping into the bushes when hearing a car approach... or standing and waving stupidly when one managed to sneak up on me...

... as strange as it sounds... seeing that Baxter boy kicking stones with his tennis shoes kinda made my day... those roads have gone too long without little boys to explore them... my Brother and I stopped doing that long, long ago...

... it was nice to see that kid today... it brought back a lot of memories... and if my day hadn't gone to Hell in a handbasket earlier in the day, I would never have noticed him... I guess a derailing is a good thing sometimes.... it's all about being in the right place at the right time...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(1) | TrackBack (1)
» InstantMash.net links with: A Story for Another Day

Indians....

... I support various charities with small donations every month... the DAV, Paralyzed Veterans, Soldier's Angels... and lots more good causes.. ones that deal with various and sundry diseases are particularly favored... diabetes, cancer, etc...

.. anyway, you can imagine my surprise when I opened the post a few months ago and found a letter from a group of Indians out in Montana asking for a donation... how'd they get my name?... probably off of some "Hey! This guy donates! List"... anyway, I cut them a cheque for fifteen bucks and thought no more of it.... the next week I received a thank you letter... I was shocked... no "second donation form" was inside either... I was amazed... I mean, the DAV sends me a donation paper every WEEK... and I only respond to every fourth beg... but the Indians?... nope.. a hand-signed thank you card...

... a month later I get another missive from Montana... this time it is their school newsletter... telling me what my donations were doing in the small village and asking if I would like to donate more.... So I leafed through everything... and there sat an envelope with MY address at the top, THEIRS in the middle, and a 32 cent stamp affixed...

... heh.. those Indians are goooood... so I immediately wrote them a check for twenty five bucks and tossed that day's March of Dimes beg into the trash...

... and today in the mail?... I get a little handmade beaded key fob in the shape of a cross... beads that little Montana Indian hands had strung together just for me... hell, it made me want to cut them another cheque right then and there...

... all the other charities should take notes from those Indians in Montana... you want my money?.. .do more than just send me stickers with my name on them once a year... do more than just beg every single week for donations... only beg once a month or so... when you hit me every week, it just goes to show where MY donation is really going... postage and envelopes probably...

... look... I don't mind giving mindlessly to charities that do good things... and I will continue to do so... but let me tell you... those Indians running that school out in Montana have made it a pleasure to give to charity again... and I mean that.. all that crap signed by some guy begging for money that is always enclosed in the letters?... I just throw it away and write the cheque... but the Indians?... I've read their school's newsletter... twice...

... maybe I'm wrong... or maybe I'm just jaded.... but it sure feels nice to be appreciated for a mere twenty-five bucks....

Read the Bullshit »

Freud..

.... my sleep has been haunted recently... and my dreams have been fitful... hurried, hot, fast, and overpowering... waking up with my mind racing... I sleep deeply, but when I wake I am exhausted....

... last night I dreamt of a re-telling of a story an old buddy of mine once shared... over a few beers at the pub one evening, he told me that he had dreamed of me the night before... now, had he not been such a stud hoss and all-around fine fella, that statement would have triggered my flight or fight response... but as I knew him pretty well, I just settled back into the leather sofa with my McEwans and heard him out...

... and it was a good thing, too... as his dream was pretty interesting... in it, the small town we lived in had been hit by some riotous calamity... burning buildings... low-flying airplanes.. screaming Mommas and corpses in the street.. he had been running hither and thither trying to find a safe haven when he happened upon me... I was, evidently, carrying a bawling toddler and covered in blood and oil... and I was rallying people around near my house (which was on the edge of town to the South).. gathering them together and giving them directions on where we should all go.. what supplies to bring along... sending others back into the embattled city to carry messages... and people were flocking to me... wounded, crying, lamenting... real End of Days kinda crap... and the message was... "..get to the cave at Lunan Bay as quick as you can... spread the word.. it is the only safe place..."

... I was enthralled by the story... for in it, I was actually doing something useful... and secondly, well, there ARE no caves at Lunan Bay.... and yet that was what he dreamed... I'm still amazed at how vividly he remembered it... and how it has stuck with me all these years later...

... the mind is a tangled place, rubberneckers... it really is...but what does it all mean?... who knows... hell, maybe we aren't supposed to understand our dreams... just lay back and enjoy them....

Update:... ... and just you guys know, my dreams last night were amazingly varied... in one I was happily swimming along with a pod of dolphins when they decided I wasn't cool to hang with anymore and started biting me.... In another I was being slowly ravished by a sexy little nymph... and in another I was trying to kill a large frog with my cricket bat but it kept jumping away just in time... and no, I have NOT been digging into my mother's supply of pain meds...

Read the Bullshit »

Biscuits....

... well, the deed is done... and my nauseated Momma is happy reclining in a warm family room... replete with cozy blanket, puke bucket, and Percocet... the coming days will be hard on her, for sure, but she's a tough old bird... and she wants this... so it is good....

... anyway, I spent most of the day watching a gaggle of octogenarians play cell phone tag with each other in the 2nd floor waiting room at the UT Medical Center.. it was truly mesmerizing... those old coots and ladies... giggling as they buzzed their sister's cell phone two seats away...

.. five of them and their spouses sat in the same little area as my Aunt and I... and by the end of the night we were almost family to them... I guess the boredom and stress of hanging around in a hospital for 9+ hours bonds people... mutual suffering... denial... or fear of the unknown... and hey, we all deal with it in our own way... me and my Aunt?... drinking coffee, pacing, and biting our fingernails... those old crusties?.. phone-tag, laughter, and homemade bacon and egg biscuits made by Eddie (Sister Susan's husband who always gets up early and cooks breakfast) cheered their hours...

... sure, they were just as worried about their "big sister" as she was undergoing her back surgery... who, by the way, was all of 100 pounds and 90 years old... but they did not let the facts of age, life, or the cost of prescriptions bay them from enjoying being together... even if it WERE under such dire circumstances.... they were a real, honest-to-goodness, old-school Family... sisters laughing as brothers in law joked about something that took place forty years ago... brothers sending text messages about the size of their brother's "equipment" to their aging sister-in-law... to be quite honest, it was refreshing... they were family... they were together... they were worried about their sister/sister-in-law... and they were dealing in the only ways they knew how...

... I was honored to watch them... and I was honored to get a chance to meet them and talk.... hell, it took my mind off of my own worries... and they made me envious too....

Read the Bullshit »

Sick...

... my better half was ill yesterday and I played nursemaid all day... fetching crackers and tissues while she slipped in and out of a cold-medicine coma... the poor thing... actually though, she's a pretty good sick person... I mean, she whined a little and sneezed a lot... but otherwise she was cool... I made her soup.. mushroom soup... and I made lemonade because she asked for it... and just generally let her sleep on the couch all day and brought her whatever she wanted... comforted by British accents courtesy of BBC America, she rested all day....

... but if it had been me?... no way... everyone in the neighborhood would know I was sick... hell, I would be calling up friends continents away just to let them hear my creaky, phlegm-clogged breathing... it's bad... I am the World's Worst Sick Person... when I'm sick, I have an overwhelming desire to make sure everyone everywhere knows just how rotten I feel.... luckily, I don't get sick much...

... anyway, after a day spent nursing, I got to thinking last night... specifically, about how we're all so different and why that is so... how we all turned out the way we are... being born with a certain mindset and a certain disposition and abilities.... and how our lives - from the moment we're hatched - are changed by our adventures, education, and relationships over time... how we ended up being molded into the people we are now... I mean, why is it that when I'm sick I turn into a totally different person?... all needy and pitiful?... and her?... she just endures with no need for babying...

.. I don't know... but it just struck me as odd... how a totally different side of my personality could be uncovered by the common cold...

Read the Bullshit »

Decrepit....

... lo!.. how the mighty have fallen... I'm here to tell you people, age certainly sucks the juice right out of you.. Hell, I'm only 33, for crying out loud... sifting through the boxes in the spare bedroom this afternoon, I came across some great photos... me and my date at the senior prom... me at six years of age chopping up a tonka truck with my Christmas axe... me standing in uniform so my Momma could take a photo of me in the living room... where has the time gone?.. and who was that guy looking back at me?..

... I actually got up and went to the mirror and looked... and damn, I didn't see the guy anywhere... sure, the freckle patterns are the same.. same thin, bird-lips... the eyes are the same... they just have bags under them now... but everything else is gone... my cheeks, chin, and nose are totally different... my heyday is finished, people... I peaked somewhere way back in the mists of time and didn't even notice it... and I'm now steadily sliding downhill towards the grave...

.. it was incredible to imagine it, really... how different I am now at 33... check out this photo of me when I was 20...

summer_1992_small.jpg

... see what I mean?.. damn, I am depressed

.. sitting in the floor thumbing through the photographs, I would occasionally lay one aside.. perhaps to scan for later... and as the pile grew higher, Helga the Nordic Trak giggled... I swear she did... after all, there was no one else in the room... no one else in the whole house... I shot her a mean look, but there was no response...

... and just now - as I was typing this up - in a clear, strong, and deeply accented voice, she spoke again... "You're kidding yourself, Eric. I can't give you that back."

... I didn't answer her, of course... because, well, she's right.. she can't give that back to me... and besides, it would have been a little nutty to have a conversation with a Nordic Track... and hey, I don't really want to be twenty again anyway... she misunderstands my intentions completely... "the older the violin, the sweeter the music", I guess.. and I just need a bit of re-stringing..... and she CAN do that for me....

Read the Bullshit »

Gone...

... my Father built a swing in our backyard when I was little... and a monstrous thing, it was.... huge and rough... made of materials scrounged from the far corners.... the swing itself was made of lengths of 2X6's robbed from the Sweetwater Depot back when the depot was being torn down in the early 1980s.. the pillars supporting the swing were Sweet Gum switch ties.. rough and knotty railroad rejects that had seen their day long ago.... sixteen feet tall and sunk four feet deep into the rocky earth of our backyard... the chain connecting the two was made from an old logging chain that my Grandpa had handed down to Dad when he had gotten his first car back in '62... I suppose he figured that, knowing my Dad, he'd run off the road somewhere - due to excessive speed - and need to be pulled out of the ditch by a passing Samaritan... so he, in Fatherly love, gave the boy a log chain...

... how it ended up supporting that old swing is anyone's guess... perhaps the two ideas overlapped in my Father's mind... driving fast and needing to be saved by a passerby.. or hanging up the chain so that it could carry the swinging joyfulness of family and friends back at home... a different kind of saving, sure... but it was a kind of saving for him, I believe... as it turned out, the chain was able to fulfill both purposes equally....

... I remember sitting on that swing with him the evening before I left for basic training.... rocking back and forth and listening to the creaking of the old, rusty chain as it bore our weight... it was a very quiet time and he didn't say much... we just sat and rocked... later that night he had to leave for work, but I do remember us just sitting on the swing together and apart... both of us quiet... and both of us lost in our own thoughts.... Parris Island looming on my 17-year old horizon....

.. I was just thinking of that swing today... and how I would have said things back then... important things... if I'd have known then what I know now... instead of just sitting there mindlessly letting the swing take me back and forth through the Spring evening.... while I and my Father both quietly struggled with the thoughts in our minds....

Read the Bullshit »

Reuben...

... well, well... it looks like Phin finally asked for the Sandwich Photo... Hot Damn.. I'm totally loving this new scanner, boys and girls....

... ok, before I start, I feel the need to give you people a little background.. I do so love me a Reuben Sandwich... thus, this post...

... once upon a time (about two years ago), I met up with Acidman and The Gang for dinner and drinks at the Six Pence Pub in Savannah... we had ourselves a knee-slapping good time as always... we were even told to "shush" on various occasions by the management, but we paid little heed... it was a real hoot in the Olde Southern Townie Style...

.. anyway, as you do when hobnobbing with locals, you ask them what fare is best at any particular restaurant... Rick suggested a burger... Georgia suggested fried fish... and Rob suggested the Reuben Sandwich... and being that I crave nearly incessantly for them babies, that's what I ordered...

... good God, people... when it arrived, it was four inches thick.. and it was a masterpiece... alternating layers - incredibly thin - of corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island Dressing... served up high on two wonderful slices of marbled Rye bread... without a doubt, the best Reuben Sandwich I have ever had... without a doubt...

... so, fast forward a couple of years.... me quietly living here in Smallville, Tennessee... which, I might add, is a Reuben Sandwich desert.... and suddenly the Wife gets an idea to vacation for a week in Manhattan... I was totally downtown with that...

... and when I arrived, I was not disappointed.... Manhattan has got to be the Mecca for Reuben Sandwiches... every shop on every corner served them... I'll bet I ate at least ten of them in seven days... some from fancy shops... some from delicatessens... some from fine Wine Houses... some from street vendors who were recent political émigrés from Afghanistan ... yeah, go figure.... but I ate my fill... and it was complete bliss... none of them measured up to the sandwich I devoured in Savannah, but they managed a pretty good impersonation.... and so, we come haphazardly to the photo... here it is...

reuben_small.jpg

... we'd just made it back to our suite in the Beekman Tower to watch a Tennessee football game on satellite... after a day spent wandering up and down Manhattan Island, I had nipped across the street to procure dinner and a six pack of Grolsch... my dinner?... an exquisitely greasy, tart, melted, and perfect Reuben Sandwich from the little shop that sits across from the United Nations Headquarters...

... Tennessee lost, by the way.... but what a sandwich... I was sitting at the table smelling it and feeling the buttery dampness of the grilled bread when the missus looked up from the UT game and asked to see aforementioned sandwich... I looked up at her, took a swig of Grolsch.... and then picked up half the sandwich and showed it to her.... and she snapped the photo.... Viola... me and my sandwich... isn't it just marvelous?... a truly happy moment...

... here is the jumbo version for those of you with proclivities to search out details....

... ladies and gentlemen... I sure miss Reuben sandwiches.... and once again, I can feel the cravings beginning to build... it is an ominous feeling.. the proverbial itch... I'm thinking a trip back to Savannah will happen soon... very soon....

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(19) | TrackBack (3)
» phin's blog links with: Sammich Bloggin'
» Agent Bedhead links with: Sandwiches?
» ArmyWifeToddlerMom links with: A Sandwich, just isn't a Sandwich folks...

Proof..

... the following photo is offered without commentary... it was December 25th, 1976... I was four years, two months, and eleven days old... and Santa had just brought me an axe for Christmas...

.. and you people wonder why I'm warped.... good God...

christmas_small.jpg

... clicken zee heer to embiggen...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(17) | TrackBack (1)
» Gut Rumbles links with: blog-hopping

Two Dreams...

... last night was spent tossing and turning... two distinct dreams woke me in the early hours... around five, the most erotic dream of my quiet, simple little life was experienced... mercy sakes.... I nearly had a damn heart attack.... I drank some water and had a cigarette as one does, and then returned to sleep...

... the second dream was more confusing... it involved an old barn that my Great Uncle owned... an ancient and weather-worn structure... bleached gray from years of enduring all-weathers, it stood at the edge of his tobacco patch beside a stand of hardwoods...it was tall and had a stone foundation... each end was open as to allow tractors pulling wagons to enter or exit from either side...

.... many was the day that I rode on the back of a tractor laden with thousands of pounds of freshly cut tobacco.. late August usually... hot sun and dust... hands caked with the sticky dried tobacco juice...

... once in the barn, all of us workers would take our places... climbing higher and higher into the rafters of the barn... stopping at our allocated places and balancing ourselves on the beams.... Then the tobacco would start moving... the man on the wagon would take a runner full of stalks and pass it to the first man... then up and up until the runner reached the top man... on and on this would be repeated until the barn was slowly filled - from top to bottom - with an entire field full of tobacco...

... the top man was probably fifty feet off the ground... I was always one rung below him... see, the higher you were, the less work you had to do... and as I was very young and the Top Man was very old, we took positions higher up.. lots of times I would hear his head thump the tin roof as he tried to straighten himself or swat a wasp... I'd laugh and he'd cuss... which ended up making me laugh even harder... (I wasn't old enough yet to be allowed to cuss)....

... anyway, the point of all this is to get to the dream... after all, if I could afford therapy, I surely wouldn't be writing and telling these stories to YOU people.... so, on to the dream...

... the guys on the wagon were acting up... they seemed to think that the Top Man and I were having it too easy... not pulling our weight, so to speak... but unknown to them, he and I had a problem...

... now, here are the mechanics of the situation... all of us, as we fill up our rows, are slowly backing up all the time... legs spread wide with our feet balancing on a old, slow-cured sapling that had been worn smooth by years and years of use... it was a precarious situation, to be sure.... but here is where it gets worse.... as we inched backwards, our backs were getting closer and closer to the other wall of the barn.... and it just so happened that a group of wasps had built their nest in the very top of the barn where the tin roof and wall met... the Top Man was backing up to the nest and he wasn't really too happy about it...

... so the guys down below are giving us grief... me and the Top Man were eyeball to eyeball with those wasps... the nest was a large one... about the size of a grapefruit... and it literally crawled with probably 150 red wasps...

... I asked the Top Man, since he had more experience, what we were going to do... he winked at me and said... "those fellers down on the wagon had better shet up... they're bout to see why I'm REALLY the Top Man... but don't you worry about them bees, boy... we'll be just fine up here... "

.. I watched in amazement as he took off his battered John Deere baseball cap and gingerly turned himself around on the spindly rafters.... deftly holding on to the tin, he moved both feet to the same support, spun himself, and then balanced again facing the opposite direction... and in one movement, he cupped his baseball cap over the entire nest and squeezed it hard.... he pulled it away from where it was attached to the wall and then released it... as long as I live, I will never forget watching that cap fall... it was almost in slow-motion...

.... it was like watching Slim Pickens ride that A-bomb.. the cap dropping directly towards the wagon... the doe-eyed farmboys looking up at us and laughing....

... sheer pandemonium erupted when that cap hit the wagon.... grown men and boys leaped from the wagon as a cloud of pissed off wasps began swarming... hardened, tobacco-chewing workmen loped like schoolboys and screamed like girls...

... me and the Top Man... we watched it all as it happened... safely perched as chaos ensued...

... so here I sit this morning.. half a pot of coffee down me, and I still can't figure out why I dreamed of the Top Man... and I shudder to think of the wasps..

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(13) | TrackBack (1)
» Blog d'Elisson links with: PARRISH THE THOUGHT

Dad...

... me and my Pa....

fourth_birthday.jpg

.... it was my birthday.... I was four....

Read the Bullshit »

Snow....

... not sure if you guys saw it or not, but I once told a tale about getting stuck on a mountain during a white-out... yeah, yeah... I know you guys probably didn't believe me when I wrote it... and hey, that's cool... us bloggers are tough skinned... anyway, now that I have a scanner... here are some photographs from the trip...

... I'm in the orange bag fast asleep...

ice_bag_small.jpg

... here's me peeking out to ask about breakfast...

ice_eric_small.jpg

.. and here is a close-up of the ice axe...

ice_axe_small.jpg

... mercy, we sure knew how to have fun back then....

.. bigger versions are here, here, and here if you feel so inclined...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(9) | TrackBack (1)
» Boudicca's Voice links with: Hell Frozen Over

Brides...

... sitting on the veranda of The Palm this weekend waiting for Elisson and Zonker to arrive, I couldn't help but notice the goings-on across the street... the elegant mansion that houses Melissa Sweet's Bridal Gallery seemed somehow out of place in the urban sprawl... and I watched the young brides-to-be come and go through the evening rain with a smile on my face...

.. all kinds of young ladies.. many accompanied by a gaggle of giggling friends... bridesmaids, most likely... or flower girls.... brimming with the excitement of picking dresses and flowers... drunk with the heady dream of marching down a Georgia aisle with Mr. Right...

... frail, waspish brunettes... meaty blondes with cheeks flushed rosy by the cold mist that was falling... Grandmothers escorting grandchildren up the old antebellum steps.... I watched it all....

... and not in a lecherous way... even though I could have definitely slipped into that mode easily had the mood struck me... but I didn't... instead, I felt a sort of muted happiness as they came and went... piling in and out of their Volkswagens and Escalades with an infectious giddiness... dreaming dreams of a life not yet known...

... hey, I hope it all works out for those girls.. I really do... and even though they never knew it, the Wife and I raised a toast in their direction... they're in for quite a ride...

Read the Bullshit »

Afternoon...

....the lots on either side of my house are vacant... hardwood timber stands thickly at three sides of my small property... ensuring that my neighbors, however inclined, are always foiled in their voyeur attempts.... but just a few minutes ago, my protective ramparts were overrun...

... typing away at the keyboard, I heard a strange hiss coming from the window... and as I looked out towards the woods, I saw that the whole of the ground was covered with starlings...quite literally, there were thousands of them... probably three thousand on the ground and flicking through the leaves... another two thousand in the trees... and at least a thousand in mid-flight...

... I yelled through to the Wife, and we both headed for the deck out back...

... we stood and watched them for probably twenty minutes... the powder blue of the sky marking each bird perfectly as they swirled and twisted over the eaves of the house or drifted from tree to tree.... 2:45 in the afternoon and I'm standing on the deck blocking the sun with my hand as I craned my neck skywards... January 19th and it's sunny and sixty degrees... absolutely amazing...

... a few times, I would clap my hands together loudly and every bird would take the air simultaneously... it sounded like a train as they strained to get off the ground... not at all like a covey of quail being flushed.. that is a gentle, almost heartening sound... with the starlings, it was as if the beats of so many wings were ripping the air... powerful... loud, like the tearing of a piece of cloth or denim... almost angry...

... amazing stuff...

Read the Bullshit »

Lasagna...

.. my dear Mother came over last night and ate all the left-over lasagna I had stockpiled for tonight's dinner... sure, she enjoyed it... but, man, I could sure murder a plate of that stuff right now... ahh, don't get me wrong... it was a great time... we talked and reminisced about various things while she dug into that steaming pile of pasta-goodness...

... and as she was chewing gleefully on the al dente pasta, she brought up the time that my Father decided he wanted me to become an earthworm farmer...

.. I was about five at the time... I'd helped him build a wooden trough in the basement where it was cool and dark.. the perfect home for a bunch of nightcrawlers... layers and layers of dirt, cardboard, dirt, and more cardboard...

... in retrospect, I think he was trying to instill some sort of self-employment vibe into my wee frame... I can hear him saying, "Make your own way, boy. Grow these earthworms and prosper. Sell these wigglers to those bucktoothed fishermen, son. There will always be dirt, worms, and fishermen, boy."

... well, that lasted all of about a week... I was left in custody of the worms in the basement.. told to water them every evening and make sure the top layer of cardboard stayed nice and damp... after giving me my orders and promising we'd make millions, Dad headed off for a week of work in Clinton....

.. well, piss-poor, I was...a Good Steward, I was not... two days into my stint as an entrepreneur, I forgot all about my new friends in the basement and settled into watching cartoons after getting home from 1st Grade... and when my Dad came home on Friday night, every one of those damn worms had either died or jumped ship.. that soft, moist combination of cowshit, earth, and cardboard was as dry as the shifting sands of the Sahara...

... I didn't get spanked, but I probably should have been... worm murderer that I was... strange how time replays itself, though... today, just as it was 28 years ago, I sure am easily distracted...

... I think I'll order a pizza..

Read the Bullshit »

Tongue...

.... I took the Wife into town this afternoon for an ice cream... we've a small, 1950's style diner on the main street that does a wickedly wonderful banana split, and the Wife had been jonesing all morning... so what do you do when you've got a dollar in your pocket, a tank full of gas, and a craving for chocolate sauce?... well, around here we head into town to scratch that itch...

... now, at this point I would like to report that everything went according to plan...that, however, would be a lie...

... it all started going pear-shaped when our ice creams arrived.. my chocolate milkshake had a cherry on top... as did her dessert... she tossed her cherry over to me and I immediately munched it... and then I ate mine... leaving two spindly little cherry stalks on the napkin...

... halfway through her treat, I mentioned that Kelley had once told a story at a blogmeet about being able to tie a cherry-stalk in a knot with her tongue... now, this piqued the Wife's interest... and determined not to be outdone, after a few seconds of mulling it over in her noggin, she popped one of the cherry things into her mouth..

... people, I thought we were going to get thrown out of the diner I was laughing so hard.. I kept my composure at first... her face contorted and her eyes rolled as her lips twisted and morphed... the look of complete concentration reading across her brow was left in the dust by the sheer pandemonium going on with her lips and cheeks... it was a horrible and entertaining thing to watch....

... but it was all too much for me... I broke... hee-haw belly-laughs erupted from deep within... I think I even slapped my knee once... my normally erudite composure was reduced to ashes by the uncontrollable spasms of my diaphragm... I choked for air... and just when I thought I could bear no more, she started laughing too.. almost swallowed the damn cherry stalk.. hyperventilated.. and then laughed some more... all the while keeping one end of that cherry stalk clamped firmly between her teeth and performing some kind of tongue-yoga back in-behind her lips...

... after five minutes of watching her look as if she were chewing a mouthful of bees, she gave up... a failure...

... ahh.. just another adventurous visit into my sleepy town... but I have to give her an A+ for effort though... that cherry stalk sure looked worn out when she was finished.... and so did she, actually....

Read the Bullshit »

Solitude..

... there is a place I used to go.. sometimes alone... sometimes with a chosen friend... a deep valley a day's hike from the end of a bumpy gravel road that wandered back out for miles before hitting asphalt... a clear stream was fed from a spring there in the valley... and miles away, that stream became a river that eventually emptied into the North Sea..

... I've had that place on my mind recently.. the little stand of evergreens that encircled the spring on the southern slope of the valley where the steepness of a looming mountain began... I would build a small, hidden campfire among those trees when I would spend the night there... set in a shallow pit I dug by hand, the flames were only inches high and surrounded by stones that I had carried up from the bed of the stream... so that the light would not be seen by other ramblers or ghillies searching for poachers..

... building fires was forbidden there... so was camping, for that matter...

... but I spent many comfortable nights there... alone or with a companion.. hidden in plain sight...

... I dreamt of that place last night.. I want to go back there again soon..

Read the Bullshit »

Civilization...

... I was drifting around my kitchen yesterday when the phone went... an invitation to lunch with an Aunt and Uncle was on the other end of the line.. after explaining to them that I was baby-sitting a sauce, needed to put some clothes on, and it was cold outside, they upped their ante.... and I finally acquiesced to their calling...

... an hour later, I was sitting alone at the table of a fine restaurant awaiting their arrival... cup of hot coffee cradled in my hands... quietly reading and re-reading the menu while the cute 18-year old brunette (with glasses) filled and re-filled my cup with a quick smile and a swish of her hip-hugger clad backside...

... it was all very civilized... very civilized, indeed... and I noticed something that I hadn't felt in a long time...

... the ride from my house to town had barely given the old Audi a chance to heat up... and the morning had been cooler than usual... and as I sat there with my hands around the steaming coffee, I became aware of the difference in temperatures... it struck me as odd, and I pondered it for a long time... cold hands and warm coffee... a kind of creature comfort that we all overlook... warmth when you're cold... a smile from a stranger when you're all alone.. the hum of busy people surrounding you when you have no place to be... just sitting at a table anonymously soaking up the world around you...

... they arrived soon after, and a fine meal was enjoyed with good company... I had a Reuben sandwich and a cup of homemade chili.. and I'm glad they asked me to lunch...

Read the Bullshit »

Bubbles...

... things have been skewed lately around these parts... not bad, mind you... just sort of wispy... transient... or foggy.. like the whole world is encapsulated in a big floating bubble and I'm watching it all drift by from a comfortable recline on my couch... maybe it's the holidays... a time when you are together with your entire clan to feast and gift... and as you look at each smiling face... each newborn babe.. each adult a year older... you find yourself withdrawing into the memories of holidays from long ago... when those now dead or otherwise absent were once laughing with the rest of us...

... thus the bubble, I suppose... strange, really... each human connection softened with a life-preserving detachment.. sure, you blame the glazed look on too much turkey or an over-sized helping of baked beans... but there is always more than meets the eye... always... it's the nature of things...

... anyway, enough of all that... I watched "Armageddon Week" all day yesterday, and maybe that's the cause of this morning's introspection... Death, Hell, Dante's Nine Circles, the Seven Deadly Sins, Monsters with three heads continually gnawing on the screaming flesh of the cursed in the lowest bowels of Hell, the Antichrist... even The Exorcist was on a few days back... how charming is that?.. Tis the Season and all...

.. not a bad way to spend the slow week between Christmas and New Year, I guess... after all, it's always good to do your homework before visiting a new place.. and riding around in the handbasket is starting to get old, people...

Read the Bullshit »

Real Life...

... driving home from my Mother's today, I saw three birds sitting on a power-line... the poles, with their electric cable running between, were dotted alongside the curvy country road I was on... as the car moved closer, I saw that two of the birds were Mourning Doves... and the third was a Sharp-shinned Hawk...

... I often see that hawk as I head to town... usually on the same mile stretch of line... sitting there eyeing the barren cornfield for an errant mouse...

... today?... same fellow chilling on his perch... and sharing it with two nice, fat, prey-animals...

... and hey, I'm not making this up... the Hawk and the Doves were living in peace... side by side.....

... of course, I have to believe that what I saw was only a blip... a split-second of peaceful freakishness between beasts... and that the hawk probably had one of those doves for supper later today... after all, you can't change Nature... no matter how hard you try...

... that said, I'll break from tradition here, and sign off till the morning...

... peace on Earth, people... and goodwill towards men.. even if only for a little while.... Merry Christmas... and Gott bless us every one...

Read the Bullshit »

Lunch...

... yesterday was a very strange day... I was in a rarified zen-like state most of the afternoon... even when battling holiday traffic, I was zoned... all alone, I was cocooned in my own little Audi-encased world... Bose audio pumping out alternating Bloodhound Gang and Dean Martin tracks as I weaved in and around cars and SUVs like some sort of perverted Jedi Master...

.. for instance... my first stop was at Aubrey's in Maryville... there, I intended to buy myself some lunch and kick back with a beer... well, the place was packed... 12:30 on a Wednesday and it was standing room only...

... no skin, I thought, I'll just run my errands at Target and Kroger.... Maybe the herd will have been thinned down by the time I'm finished...

... and as luck would have it, that is just what happened... two hours later, and I'm ensconced in a booth at Aubrey's eating something called seafood alfredo and sipping down a Bass ale... the service?... courteous and smiling... the food?... delicious and nutritious... even the entertainment, while slightly sorrowful, was still good... I watched a re-play on ESPN Classic of #2 FSU nipping #1 Tennessee back in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl....

... then, the drive back down 411 into the afternoon sunlight... all in all, a good day... Hell, when I stop and think about it, I'm pretty damn good company...

... but don't get me wrong, though... I've still got more humbug in me than most... and really, it still doesn't yet feel like Christmas... but yesterday I was 100% content... and if only for an afternoon, the World was right...

Read the Bullshit »

Layers...

... on a birthday long ago, my brother-in-law gave me, as a present - a photograph that a friend of his had taken... the scene was black and white... an ancient farmhouse with old-growth trees set in close at the back.. in the foreground, a delicately detailed white picket fence... a dirt road wandering from left to right across the bottom of the photograph... thus creating a kind of layering..

... grass in the foreground... then the dirt path... then the fence.. with the house pressed in between the whitewashed wooden rails of the fence and the darkness and shadows of the wood behind it...

.. the picture hangs in my living room... it's not really the sort of thing you see in a home... but it is here anyway... a gift from a relative...

... as the work hangs on my wall, a portion of the fence has been crushed and pushed over... and the grass shows the distinct pattern of having endured the twisting treads of a tank... more than likely, as it veered off the dirt path and sought cover in the woods... the windows, too, are gone from the home.. and the stark whiteness of the façade is pockmarked with grey and black gouges... likely caused by shrapnel... but then again, small arms might have caused the wounds... if applied with a certain vigor and volume...

... the path that the tank tore though the lawn curves slightly as it approaches the house.. chasing left and then right further on just past the structure... the marks in the grass giving away that information.. either that an assaulting heavy vehicle fired upon the building and then circled around behind to disgorge troops for an assault in the back door... or, perhaps a fleeing vehicle... damaged and seeking shelter, used the civilian home as a refuge.. we'll never know, I guess...

... the importance of this photo?... my brother-in-law's friend took it while working as a photo-journalist in Kosovo... why was it given to me?... I honestly have no idea... but I am grateful that it was...

... I see that picture every day... and every day I see something more in it... the sheer, impeccable abandon captured by the photographer.. the decay and the loss... the wildness and violence of tank tracks over a white picket fence...

... a black and white photograph that personifies our timeless brutality... where men kill men.... taken in 1993, it could easily be mistaken for a hedgerow circa 1944.. except that the tread marks are wider today than back in '44... but today, it reminds me that every single thing I have in my life is worth fighting for...

... I don't think that my brother-in-law envisioned that when he gave me the present... knowing that I had mates in Kosovo at the time, I am fairly sure that he intended the gift as a "statement"... well, I see it as a statement alright... but not the one he imagined....

Read the Bullshit »

Bart...

... whilst dining at the local Applebee's this afternoon, I happened to see a guy I went to grammar school with... back then, he was a mighty force of corn-fed malevolence... well, at least from the perspective of a 12-year old...

... I remembered him brawny and with tousled hair... a monster who loomed large over water fountains and playgrounds... a type of menace that Epics are written about...

... well, today he sat quietly across the aisle from me sipping iced tea with his Wife while I cradled a Sam Adams longneck... oblivious to my presence.. unaware of my identity...

... when he first walked in, I thought I recognized him... and after a few minutes, I finally placed him in my mind... I leaned forward over the giant plate of nachos, and whispered to my Partner...

.. "see little guy over there?.. I went to school with him... he was a mortal terror back then.."...

.. "really?.. he looks pretty harmless to me.."...

... "Black Bart... that's what we called him... remember that black spot on the meaty section of my left shoulder?... that was him... that's the remnants of the sharpened tip of a No. 2 lead pencil..."...

... "What?... he stabbed you with a pencil?... Jesus Christ, Eric.. Americans are so violent..." ...

... distracted by the sudden remembrance and unaccustomed to coming face to face with old schoolmates, I failed to answer her slanderous Euro-view.. instead, I continued...

.. "8th Grade geometry class... the bastard sat right in front of me.. he'd hit his growth-spurt about two years before everyone else, and he was huge.."..

.. "You should go over and talk to him... introduce yourself... bury the hatchet, so to speak..." ..

... "no need, babe... no need... buried the hatchet with him a long, long time ago... " ...

... "good.. that's good... it's never good to keep wounds like that open... " ..

... "yeah... I caught him at a campfire party the next year when we were freshmen in high school.. beat the living hell out of him with a split piece of a 2X4 they'd been using for firewood... he was a lot bigger than me, but that 2X4 worked like a charm..." ..

... "good grief, Eric, I give up.. " ..

... "hey, what goes around comes around... especially around here.." ..

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(11) | TrackBack (1)
» Boudicca's Voice links with: The Metamorphosis

Corduroy...

... it just doesn't seem like Christmas this year, truth be told... sure, the tree is up... and a steady stream of Christmas Cards fill the mailbox every afternoon, but it just feels like something is missing... I'm thinking gingerbread or holly...

... the packages are wrapped as well... sitting almost mournfully under the small white tree... costume jewelry and a pink corduroy jacket both lovingly wrapped... picked out by a charming black fellow who asked attentive questions about my beloved as he escorted me to the various racks and shelves of the store... a homosexual man with exquisitely manicured fingernails as I remember... long, too, like a lady's... between the two of us, we managed to find gifts The Wife will love...

... bloody hell... shopping in Chattanooga... it just gets stranger and stranger every year...

... I really can't put my finger on it... but it just doesn't seem like Christmas this year...

Read the Bullshit »

NYC...

... there are places that each of us envision ourselves going... dream trips, so to speak... locations that we've made a list of, maybe as a child full of wonder or curiousity, that now as adults we want to check off.. one by one... it's one of the fulfilling things about being an adult... being in a position to make those naïve, child-like dreams of visiting exotic locations really happen...

... when I was a young buck, it was Cairo and Venezuela.. have a beer in Alexandria ala "Ice Cold in Alex".. when I first arrived in Europe, I made a list on a bar napkin in Edinburgh with my Scottish girlfriend by my side... crazy stuff... have a hamburger in Hamburg... abseil down the Tower of London in the dead of night.. get my tongue sunburned at the topless beach in Nice.. take a camel trek across the desert from Rabat to the Red Sea... I still have that napkin, too... how the times do indeed change us.

... now, my goals are a bit more sedate... see the river flowing green on St. Patrick's day in Chicago... call a friend from the top of the Empire State Building.. have a champagne cocktail and scrambled eggs for breakfast in an open-air café near the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan...

... from adventure to comfort... the prizes I seek have changed from "me doing" to "me enjoying".... That's probably much too simple of a way to describe it, but it is partially true... another facet of it can be viewed differently... everything on my list of long ago was meant to be done alone... today's list is meant to be experienced with family and friends by my side...

... strange, I know, this changing of attitude... or outlook...

... over at Letters from NYC this morning, I was reading her post "You know you're from NYC when..." and I came across a line that reminded me of a conversation I had with Dax while I was visiting Manhattan... "being truly alone makes you nervous"....

... in the conversation, I described how you could look out the window of our hotel, The Beekman Tower, at any time day or night and see the throngs of people in the streets... horns, sirens, and other diversions... and how The Wife and I had made our way up to the bar at the top of the hotel before it had opened for business one night... we found ourselves alone amidst the plush sofas and leather chairs.. surrounded by tall windows on every side that opened the darkened city before us at every angle... and at that time, for the first time during the entire trip, we felt that we were alone in New York City... we were too high for the sounds of the street to find us, and even with the lights from the neighboring apartment blocks easily visible, the strange sense of solitude and comfort was palpable..

... and at that moment, my mate did something I would never have imagined she would do... as I sat sinking into the easiness of the sofa, she walked over to the piano and lifted the cover.. and with a calm and quiet look of happiness, she played... after twelve years of marriage, I had forgotten that she used to play the piano... and don't get me wrong, it wasn't Mozart by any stretch of the imagination, but there was something beautiful about it... something honest... a new openness, maybe.. or a straying from the usual self-reserved shyness... but nonetheless, she played...

... later that night, Dax called... and I tried to convey to him via words how much I enjoyed sitting alone in the bar at the top of The Beekman - with Manhattan lit up and sprawling out before me - while my Wife pecked on the keys of that Baby Grand... and then, like now, I didn't do it justice...

... but what does interest me is the idea of "being alone"...

... I have been truly on my own for days at a time... walking cross-country where not even a passing airplane could be seen... days on end without hearing the sound of your own voice or that of another... only the trails of the wind rustling the heather, the rain against the tent, and the rushing flutter of a startled ptarmigan's feathers as it takes flight... and I've reclined in a skyscraper, that probably held 1000 souls, and felt like there were no other people within miles except for my Wife and I..

... the point of this?... well, quite often I don't have one... just thinking, that's all... but I can tell you this... the only times I have truly felt alone have had nothing whatsoever to do with being around other people... even three days into the mountains on a seven day trip, it never crossed my mind that I was alone... sure, I was by myself... isolated and quiet... but I was never alone... just by myself..

Read the Bullshit »

Tail...

... the Missus has quite a few autographed photos of old movie stars in her collection... Gene Kelly... Cary Grant.... sure, she likes the pretty boys... but something is missing...

... in my blogroom, I have Robert Duvall and Clint Eastwood.... again, hardcore gentlemen... but something just isn't full tilt...

... I'm writing this down because yesterday a strange conversation began over our choices... and somehow, as only our conversations can meander, we ended up wondering which old movie actor in a movie we were watching probably got the most tail...

... of course, there were hundreds to choose from... but we let AMC be our guide... as each of the evening's movies came on, we'd try to come up with an idea of which actor got laid the most off the set.. and then provide the necessary explanation/argument as to why our supposition was correct...

... verdict?.. it is my honest belief that of all movie actors from the "classic" age, Vincent Price was the man... tall, gruesome, and slim... groomed voice... nice mustache.. looked equally dashing in a suit or lumberjack flannel... loved the fine arts and a sharp machete on a dark night.. quoted Poe...

... hell, I'll bet that back in the day, Vincent could cause a woman to dampen at thirty paces...

... maybe I'm wrong... but he is now on the Christmas list.. so if anyone finds a cool autographed photo of Vincent Price, be sure to let me know... as for which collection it goes into, well, that's still up for grabs... does he hang forever in the room with "yummy men"... or does he proudly take his place on the "role model" wall... personally, I think he'd enjoy hanging with Clint and Duvall much, much better than Grant and Kelly...

Read the Bullshit »

Ghosts...

.. my dreams of late have been fitful... a pantheon of heebie-jeebies has haunted my sleeping hours... running from zombies, hopelessly adrift with sharks, tied down while Hillary Clinton slowly grinds her pubis on my face... even one where I was swarmed upon by bumblebees... scary stuff.... all resulting in being jolted out of bed drenched in sweat....

... the peace normally found when dozing has evaded me... I wake up more tired than when I lay myself down.... and when not plagued with monsters or psychopaths in the small hours, I've found myself waking, fevered and shaking, from nocturnal visions of unbelievable violence... performed by me.. or performed on me...

... last year, I described my "finding the Dickens" in "A Christmas Carol"... and while watching Alistair Sim act out Scrooge again yesterday, I latched on to his words to the ghost of Marley... here is the original as Dickens penned it:

Then he heard the noise much louder, on the floors below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight towards his door.

It came on through the heavy door, and a spectre passed into the room before his eyes. And upon its coming in, the dying flame leaped up, as though it cried, "I know him! Marley's ghost!"

The same face, the very same. Marley in his pigtail, usual waistcoat, tights, and boots. His body was transparent; so that Scrooge, observing him, and looking through his waistcoat, could see the two buttons on his coat behind.

Scrooge had often heard it said that Marley had no bowels, but he had never believed it until now.

No, nor did he believe it even now. Though he looked the phantom through and through, and saw it standing before him, -- though he felt the chilling influence of its death-cold eyes, and noticed the very texture of the folded kerchief bound about its head and chin, -- he was still incredulous.

"How now!" said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever. "What do you want with me?"

"Much!" -- Marley's voice, no doubt about it.

"Who are you?"

"Ask me who I was."

"Who were you then?"

"In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley."

"Can you -- can you sit down?"

"I can."

"Do it, then."

Scrooge asked the question, because he did n't know whether a ghost so transparent might find himself in a condition to take a chair; and felt that, in the event of its being impossible, it might involve the necessity of an embarrassing explanation. But the ghost sat down on the opposite side of the fireplace, as if he were quite used to it.

"You don't believe in me."

"I don't."

"What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your senses?"

"I don't know."

"Why do you doubt your senses?"

"Because a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"

... indeed... "because a little thing affects them"... perhaps my dilemma is the fault of a over-spiced burrito?... maybe a guilty conscience?... that last olive stuffed with feta cheese?.... perhaps, as Scrooge said, my nightmares are merely the result of a fragment of an underdone potato.... who knows...

... one thing's for sure, though... we've all a bit of Ebenezer Scrooge in us... pre-ghost and post-ghost...

... as I said last year, I'm no fan of Dickens.. but I truly love "A Christmas Carol"... I just wish my ghostly visitations were as helpful as his...

Read the Bullshit »

Thief...

... the road that ran past my childhood home curved through a hardwood forest and ended at a stretch of the L &N railroad track.. just prior to the tracks was an ancient gabled house where an original Grumpy Old Man lived... he had shared his ancestral pile with his siblings for many years after his parents died.. brothers and sisters living contented together in the old two-story clapboard... and gradually over the years, time took each of them to his bosom... and in the end, the Old Man was all that was left... none of his brothers or sisters having ever married...

... my brother and I, in the midst of playing cowboys and Indians (or VC and Marines) would watch him from the bushes on summer evenings as his rickety old Ford would creep along the gravel road towards his home... he scared the living hell out of us... all gnarled with age and twisted by farm work... he looked like a Vincent Price clone who had been attacked by some sort of soul-sucking beast... that had left him merely the husk of the once proud clodhopper he had been back in the day...

... he died when I was about twelve and his house lay vacant for nearly two years... one fall evening just before my fourteenth birthday, a friend of mine and I were wandering the oak thicket behind my home with our squirrel guns when we suddenly found ourselves on the edge of the field behind the Old Man's house...

... goaded by my hunting companion, we approached the spooky place and found the kitchen window unlocked... we entered the house with our squirrel rifles locked and loaded... expecting to fire upon the first haint that dared attack us.. doubtless that the house was haunted by a myriad of ghouls and long-dead relatives of the Old Man...

... the place was littered with old newspapers and magazines.. many from the 1960's and earlier... the hermit lifestyle was in full evidence... even after lying unused for such a long period of time, the place was still clean but cluttered... stacks of old mail in shoeboxes were stacked neatly in one corner... looking back now, the poor old man probably had some sort of mental illness.. then again, maybe it was just the result of an insurmountable loneliness, this clean clutter...

... in one of the shoeboxes, I noticed some yellowed envelopes that had unusual stamps affixed.. 2 cent stamps.. decorated with George Washington.... I took them... yes, I stole the letters...

... later that evening, I secretly read my stolen booty in the privacy of my bedroom... pouring over handwritten tales of men hunting buffalo... and being bribed with pints of whiskey to cast their vote for Sam Houston as the first president of Texas in 1836... letters written by a young, adventurous Tennessean who had ventured westward from McMinn County... and who was now writing home to his Mother back on the farm... the same farm that I had taken the letters from... the same ramshackle white clapboard that had stood for centuries... and I was ashamed....

... I couldn't take them back, though.... so I stowed them away in my closet and forgot about them and my crimes... four years later, on leave after bootcamp, my Father told me that the Old Man's home had caught fire during a thunderstorm and burnt to the ground... no one had ever moved into it... and it had lain just as it had been for the better part of ten years... and I remembered the letters... still tucked away in an old coffee can in my closet...

... in the days that followed, I re-read those letters and took note of the names... Borden... William Borden... taking up the telephone book, I started making phone calls... with no luck, I remembered that my old high school algebra teacher, Mr. Borden, might know who William belonged to....

... in my dress blues, I drove to the school and asked to speak with my old teacher during lunch... he readily agreed, and as he quizzed me about my training and where I was about to be sent, I asked him about William... after thinking for a few seconds, he told of a story that his Grandfather used to tell.. one about a long, lost Great Great Great Uncle who had headed to Texas during the War and found it over before he got there... no one knew what ever happened to him...

... it was at this point that I told Mr. Borden of my crime... my breaking and entering... and my theft... and I handed him the bundle of letters... letters dating from 1836 to 1855... all written in beautiful penmanship by his long-dead Uncle...

... I was expecting to be chastised for my crimes... punished in some way... but as it turns out, he was thankful that I had saved those wonderful family heirlooms...

... funny how sometimes you end up doing the right thing even when you thought it was wrong to begin with...

Read the Bullshit »

Eggs....

... I write about cooking here from time to time as the muse decides... I like to play in the kitchen and create edibles out of raw ingredients... hey, if you like to eat, you should like to cook, right?... and actually, I am quite proud of my culinary prowess... I can cook a chili that will blow your mind... mashed potatoes that'll have you begging for more.. and a spaghetti bolognaise that'll have you bowing down before me in a puddle of your own saliva...

... but lately it has come to my attention that I am at the bottom of the cooking list when it comes to family gatherings...

... slighted, that's what I've been... and the funny thing is, I didn't even realize it at first... it took the Missus talking with co-workers to discover exactly how underestimated my mad skillz are...

... with Thanksgiving on the horizon, family members were doled out their projects... an Aunt is doing the turkey... and Uncle is bringing the baked beans.. a Cousin is even tasked with a cobbler... me?... The Deviled Eggs...

... now, when I first was asked to do them, I was down with it... pretty important job, I thought... the ultimate holiday finger-food... wonderful in it's simplicity and yet marvelous in the intricacies of subtle flavors... my chance to shine, I thought, with the World's Best Deviled Eggs...

... fast-forward a few days... the Wife is conversing with co-workers about the upcoming feast... all of whom are well aware of my legendary power in the pantry... and they were comparing notes on festive feasts past and present.. all was going well until she lets slip that we've been jagged with the deviled eggs..

... guffaws, people... great whoops of laughter erupted... cackling fits were witnessed.. ribs were evidently nearly split...the Wife was stunned.... and when inquiring about the commotion, she was told thus:

... "oh, we always get the worst cooks in the family to cook the deviled eggs!!... it's impossible to screw them up!"....

... uh huh.... slanderous!.. scandalous!... I'm thinking of mixing in a little of the left-over blue cheese in the stuffing portion this year... I'll put the damn Devil in those deviled eggs...

Read the Bullshit »

Extremes....

... walking out to check the mail this afternoon, I flipped up my collar against the rain and smiled... what a day... a fifteen mile an hour breeze... 45 degree temperature.... replete with gray skies and fat raindrops... it reminded me of Scotland...

... you know, people talk about extremes... and they admire their ability to endure them... especially when hiking or camping... desert, jungle, or arctic.. they all have their challenges...

.. but today?... walk 10 miles in a slow, chilling rain with the temperature just above freezing... stay dry and comfortable... then camp for a couple of days in those circumstances... and stay dry and comfortable....

... it doesn't always take an extreme to make something hardcore... and in my mind, a cold and wet day is the most sapping of climates... especially when a nice wind is thrown in....

... I've had my cheeks and eyelids chapped so badly that I could hardly open my eyes.. I've had my face so chilled by wind and rain that I couldn't use my mouth to form words... I've had my hands so cold and numb that I had to use one to push the other into my pocket... and all of that happened in temperatures between 35 and 45 degrees....

.. where am I going with this?... I don't know... just sitting here drinking coffee and rambling.... but one this is for sure... never underestimate the power of the mundane... sure, extremes get all the sexy press and the prime-time slots on the Discovery Channel... but hanging out in the everyday gray is the true challenge... trust me...

... damn, I need to go camping....

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(12) | TrackBack (1)
» Bad Example links with: TODAY'S LOVE NOTE

Flee me....

... for the past week I have been attempting to cultivate a mustache... why, I just don't know.... maybe the frosty mornings are birthing this urge.. then again, maybe it's like Little River Band said and simply time for a Cool Change... either way, I really don't know why I put myself through the whole mustache ordeal...

... dear old Dad, God rest his Soul, had a killer tash... it stood out red and bushy on his chiseled jaw.... shocks of blonde hair, blue eyes, and a red mustache... full and proud like the bristles of a brush.... looked like a Viking, he did...

... Me?.. I seem to be the recipient of some seriously twisted DNA... red hair and blonde beard does not a marvelous mustachio make... add to that fact that I just scared the sweet Bejesus out of the missus when she sleepily wandered through - eyes only half opened - to give me a morning peck on the lips... I guess her delicate lips didn't enjoy being poked by my budding follicles... yeah, it was the scream she delivered as she sprinted back, wounded, towards the bedroom that gave it away...

... "get rid of the abomination!!... get rid of the abomination!!..."...

... damn, I sure hope she was just talking about the mustache...

Read the Bullshit »

Baseball....

... baseball... goddamn.... back in the day, I played catcher... 10 years of sweating, directing, and getting steamrolled at home plate waiting for the fortuitous throw that never came... but still, catcher is the best position on the team...

... haven't watched a pro game from start to finish since the 1985 World Series when Kansas City spanked St. Louis after being two games down..... Bret Saberhagen, people.... that man could throw.... and it was George Brett's arguable swansong... and damn, only in baseball could some white-bread knucklehead with a name like Saberhagen rock everyone's world...

... but I'm losing my point... see, in the end, baseball movies break me up... and to prove my point, here, check this out.... I watched Steinbeck's George blow Lennie's brains out by the river today and thought to myself... "damn... I don't know who I relate to more... Lennie or George.. sometimes I feel like I'm on both sides of that literary trigger."... but the fact remains, nary a tear was shed... sure, the mind churned and the brain baked.. but there was no feeling.... Hell, hardly even a sniffle as the movie ended...

... now... fast forward... "Major League" just finished on the family television, and by the end I was crying like a fucking baby.. unbelievable....

... sometimes things just are what they are.... a friend busting a cap in a retarded soulmate?... dry eyes... even when understanding the complexity of Steinbeck's tale and having played "George" in the high school reproduction... but a whackjob with a gay haircut striking out a New York Yankee?.... waterworks....

.... it truly is strange... it seems that baseball, much like syphilis, evidently never fully leaves your system....

Read the Bullshit »

Cars...

... way, way back Panasonic ran a television commercial singing the praises of their in-car stereo equipment... now, this is of small consequence to most, but to me it provided a strange inspiration...

... for many Americans, that commercial provided them with their first glimpse of a teen-age Cindy Crawford... a few years later she would be gracing the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition with hard nips and baby-oiled skin, but right then she was smoking hot in denim and flannel... this was all way before she made out with that Baldwin guy and lost her mojo....

... anyway, that cheesy commercial was brilliant... Cindy pulls up to a deserted gas station in a hot-rodded 1953 Mercury and starts filling up her tank... a preppie guy across the way is cleaning the windshield of his Porsche... they flirt a little.. she turns up the volume on her Panasonic, and the next thing you know they're both sitting in the front seat of the Merc making goo-goo eyes at each other... and as Cindy pulls up onto the road, you see the Porsche... strapped to the top of the Merc as it drives away...

... it was at that point that I knew that the car for me was a '53...

... and as my 16th birthday approached, my Father and I searched everywhere for a 53 Merc that we could restore... we failed, unfortunately, and I settled for a beat-up black 1951... that car was my baby... all original... fender skirts and whitewalls... I drove that beast all during high school...

... why do I bring this up?... well, I see that a lot of bloggers are taking a stroll down memory lane in regards to their buggies.... and since I have nothing better to do, and I just got back from an exhausting day-trip to Nashville, why not join in?...

a black 1951 Mercury (Tennessee)
a black 1951 Ford (Tennessee)
a silver 1987 Mustang (Tennessee)
a brown 1969 International Scout (Alaska)
a green 1985 Diahatsu Charmant (Scotland)
a silver 1995 BMW 316 (Scotland)
a dark blue 1997 Audi A4 (Scotland)
a silver 2003 Audi A4 (Tennessee)

.. not many cars, I know... but hey, nobody said this post was going to be riveting...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(4) | TrackBack (2)
» Miasmatic Review links with: Motoring
» That's Not Very Nice! links with: Cars, Cars, & More Cars.

Help out a Bro...

.... back when I was a nipper, my Dad used to let me stay up late on Saturdays and watch Shock Theatre... remember that?... Dr. Shock and Dingbat?... yeah, my formative years were jimmied by those two...

... anyway, I had a nightmare last night that immediately brought back memories of a long lost episode of Shock Theatre... the details are sketchy, and the haze of a thousand Saturdays obscures the past... but here is what I remember...

... in my dream, I was being chased by a 12" tall bronze statuette with a knife that had come to life... I eventually beat it flat on the kitchen floor with a large brass ashtray that I was given for my birthday...

... the reason I am bringing this up though, is that the dream reminded me of an old movie... I've been searching on the internet to no avail... so, I thought you rubberneckers might make yourselves useful for once and help a brother out... here is about all I can remember.... that small metal statue in the movie was scantily clad... either wearing a loin-cloth, Roman garb, or perhaps Viking clothes.... yeah, maybe a Viking... and he had a short-sword or a battle axe... I don't remember which, but what ever it was, it was sharp... something happened and he came to life... there was much drama and shrieking... he could cut just about anything with his weapon.. cardboard, linoleum, table legs.... and he eventually killed the Wife while the Husband was away at work and lay in wait... once the guy got home, battle ensued and Good won out by tossing his evil ass into a hot oven and holding the door closed... melting the bronze.. reducing him to a small puddle of non-evil goo... (in retrospect, that must have been one hot-assed oven to melt bronze)...but I stray off-point...

.. so, pony up, people... anyone seen this movie... it was black and white and cheesy... but last night's nacho-induced nightmare makes me yearn to see it again... any ideas?...

Read the Bullshit »

Valium...

.... up early and out of the house before light... at the surgery sipping free coffee as the Sun came up... back home now with a very sleepy Wifey... all went well... we be supercool...

... hey, watching the immediate change in someone as valium is injected into an IV is pretty damn cool...

... at one point during the procedure, I stepped outside for a quick smoke... Mars was up just southwest of the full moon and was shining bright orange... as I was admiring the scene, cradling a cup of coffee and letting the nicotine kick in, a line from Casablanca came to me..

... "the problems of two little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.."...

... how true... Bogey is a God..

... Casablanca... probably the most quotable movie of all time....

... anyway, an hour or so later and I was called into the recovery room... a groggy and helmet-haired Wife was blinking at me and still obviously lovin' the effects of her chemical-cocktail breakfast...

... "how YOU doin', sweetness?!", I said as I bent down to get a reading on the thermometer they had stuck to her forehead...

... "what WATCH?"...

... "twenty till nine, babe... "...

... "NOT MUCH WATCH!"...

... and then she laid back and laughed...

... Lordy... I think I'm going to enjoy having a drugged up Wife.. she's a barrel of laughs...

.. and the really strange thing?... I only noticed that we BOTH had quoted Casablanca this morning during the drive back..

Read the Bullshit »

Hung...

... a few months back, my dear Mother forced me to take gifted me with a gigantic portrait of myself as a babe... 12X16 or something... imitation brass frame... an Olan Mills special... it's been sitting in the floor of the blogroom collecting dust ever since she brought it over...

... I mean, there I am... sitting upright in a 3/4-facing position... jaw slack... eyes slightly unfocused.... head like a cueball with only the faintest sheen of the coppery-red that would soon be blossoming... and, I'm dressed to the nines in a genuine blue and white pinstriped Railroad Conductor's uniform... complete, people... jacket.. trousers... and waistcoat...

... why do people do that to their offspring?.. not the giving of the picture to the now-adult me.. but having the dastardly thing taken to begin with?... sure, I have no kiddies of my own, so maybe I am just out of the loop.. is this kind of torture what goes on behind the closed doors of Parenthood?... I certainly hope not... and I know that if I fathered a child, I'd be a total sap just like all Fathers... but still, I like to give myself enough latitude to imagine that I'd never do that to my kid...

... why do I bring this up?... well, I just hung that puppy up on the wall... right above my poster of John Wayne.. and just below my hand-drawn rendition of Stonewall Jackson's monument at Manassas... and as I type this, the little bugger is right in front of me grinning like a beady-eyed madman....

... fine... it was given, and it is up.. but, and hear me people, for this I swear... if my Momma tries to pawn off that life-size monstrosity of me as a toddler wearing the Hee-Haw overalls that's hanging in her hallway and that she's happily shown every girlfriend I ever brought home since I first started dating, that'll be the last straw....

UPDATE: RSM weighs in on the subject.. and kids, it ain't pretty....

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(7) | TrackBack (3)
» Boudicca's Voice links with: Lions, and Pumpkins, and Santas... OH MY!
» Letters from NYC links with: H E L P!
» Seven Inches of Sense links with: Moms and Moving Trucks

Ribs...

... being ever the adventurer, I drove into town yesterday for the Pumpkin Festival... spent an hour or so casually strolling around the court house square and watching goings-on... grown men giggling like school girls when their pumpkin won the "scariest face" ribbon... millions of kids running rampant with caramel apples and cotton candy... doddling crumblies beaming with pride while showing off their mint-condition Ford Model-T.... it was a fine day to be loafing.. bright blue sky and sun shining.. just barely still warm enough for short sleeves...

... and I picked up three pounds of ribs on the way home... the good kind.. country-cut and boneless... grilled them up with a hot Caribbean jerk & 57 marinade.. perked up some baked beans as well... and choked them down while watching the Georgia/Vandy game... all in all, not a bad way to spend a Saturday...

... one thing did stand out though... I stood in my garage with the grill going and some Neil Young on the stereo, and just looked down my driveway... two young girls were tossing a softball back and forth in a lawn across the street... their laughter rising and falling far off as one would make a catch... my neighbor in the house across from them had just taken her dog outside for a walk and was sitting in a rocker watching it play... taking it all in, I sat my evening tumbler of whiskey down and took a step forward.. the sun was slanting down through the burgundy of the dogwood leaves and the wind was whispering along with the lyrics of "Powder Finger"... I closed my eyes and tilted my head to the Sun.... feeling the last fading warmth of the day... the meat was popping and sizzling quietly.. the Wife was on the deck out back finishing up a Randian work... and I could barely make out the faint sounds of LSU grappling with Florida coming from the vacant living room...

... I was right where I wanted to be.. the good and bad of the day had been cooked down along with the ribs... and what was left was a feeling of wonder...

... I gathered up the meat, turned off the CD player and walked back inside... using the bowl of food to peck on the glass of the back door, my Wife glanced up from her book and smiled.. I began preparing the plates and she entered the house just as I was dipping out the beans... she sat down at the table and removed her wooden bookmark from the pages of the book...

... "well, babe... old Atlas has stopped shrugging... and thank God... one Ayn Rand book is enough for anyone.. I'm finally finished.."..

... "hard going, was it?"..

... "yeah.. but damn, those ribs smell good".....

Read the Bullshit »

Mojo...

... yesterday, the Wife and I drove into town for dinner at a local watering hole... see, today's the day and she has to suffer at work, so we used yesterday as a surrogate... we ate... wandered through various shops... and just generally meandered as whimsy caught us... and at one point, we ended up in a shop that sold CDs and DVDs..

.. this, of course, is where the whole scenario went tits-up... I, on one side of the aisle, was fingering a copy of "Elvis - Live from Hawaii" which I was coveting... she, on the other side, deftly whisked a CD off the shelf, asked for my car keys, and headed towards the checkout....

... when I arrived out at my silver sled, the needling that assaulted my eardrums caught me totally off-guard... I knew something was wrong even before I opened the door, though... seeing the Wife's head swaying side to side in musical bliss as I approached the car from behind had me worried... her musical tastes being slightly above that of.. well, I can't think of anything that has worse musical taste than her.. hey, don't get me wrong... she's definitely lovable, just don't let her near your stereo...

... and yet, I smiled as I slid into the seat... saying nothing... patting her leg as we drove home... all the while the screeching strains of Karen Carpenter were chaffing my nerves like the cheese-grater of the Dark Lord himself.. indeed, at one point as we hit the driveway, I was almost wishing for ABBA.. almost, but not quite....

.... verily, anyone who willing listens to The Carpenters probably likes lima beans, hangnails, and dripping lemon juice into paper cuts...

... anyway, today's the day... and much like Velociman's marvelous missive, I am off to cleanse... not my soul, though... although it probably needs it, it's just fine in the funk it's in... instead, the object of purification is my Audi's bose...

... I plan to drive up to a friend's house in the mountains alternately blasting AC/DC, Dean Martin, Tom Waits, and George Thorogood at painfully loud decibel levels...

... hey, it's my birthday.. I need a relaxing drive through the country... and my stereo needs it's mojo back...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(32) | TrackBack (8)
» Drunken Wisdom links with: Today's Assignment
» Boudicca's Voice links with: Just a Few of Eric's Favorite Things
» Technicalities links with: Happy Birthday Eric!
» A Swift Kick & A Band-Aid links with: Building Character...
» Tammi's World links with: Happy Birthday
» Bad Example links with: I THINK STRAIGHT WHITE ERIC'S GETTING OLD
» When The Smoke Clears links with: Daddy's Gettin Older
» Letters from NYC links with: Better Late Than Never!

Done...

... today's the day... after sporadic weekend workings, the two-month long deck building project will be finished... we put up half of the hand-rails yesterday.... the rest go up today... oh, and the steps as well.... we'll finally be done...

... to say I am excited is an gross understatement... but, and here's the twist, I'm almost sad to see it completed... for the past few months, it has provided me with daily grief, success, pain, teeth-gnashing, hair-pulling, wallet-fleecing, sore muscles, and pride...

... unlike writing, building something tangible really is... well... tangible...

... and so, dear Mr. Deck... it has been a pleasure, Sir... watching you grow and transform from materials to structure has been wonderful... and from now on, you and I get to kick back...

.. today is the day...

Read the Bullshit »

A Visit to the Dr...

... right now, the lovely Wife is on the deck with a pint of wine in her hand telling The Tale of The Toomah to her Ma and Pa in Scotland... and damn, the saga is only half-writ....

... we spent most of the afternoon at a day-surgery waiting to get that fucker weaseled out... and after some local anesthetic and an hour of fiddling, the Doc says it's in too deep.. slippery, slidey, and wrapped around something important... a real pissant according to the sawbones...

... mercy sakes... still, today be Wednesday, and y'all know what that means.... yes, yes... The Wife shall regale a garage full of inebriants with tales of swash and buckle, blood and gore... it should be most interesting...

... oh, and on deck two weeks from now, The Rhyme of the Ancient Spindly Thing... we're all about the entertainment around here... and damn if we don't find it just about everywhere....

Read the Bullshit »

Mirrors....

.... I was up early this morning, and in a rush to get out back to do some writing, I skipped my morning shave... normally the shower is where I do it... but not today.... well, I just came inside to fetch a drink, and I decided I should go ahead and shave.. what a difference...

... it must have been years since I shaved without being in the shower... watching the movements of my hands in the mirror was incredibly strange... after ages of shaving by touch with my eyes closed, it was pretty interesting to watch the process again...

... I suppose that tomorrow I'll perform the task in the shower...

.. strange, though... how handling a mundane task with a slightly different twist can start you thinking...

... anyway, I'm headed back out to finish a story and drink a Becks on the patio..

Read the Bullshit »

Stuff...

... looking around my blogroom, I've managed to collect quite an assortment of truly weird shit... detritus of a life misspent, I suppose... plastic lizards and salamanders purchased with foreign coin on far away shores... Zippos from bygone, halcyon days when smoking wasn't a crime... even a cricket bat that was gifted to me - signed by my platoon of Marines - as a de-mobbing present at my Hail and Farewell ceremony... why a cricket bat, I have no idea... perhaps they envisioned my beating Tennesseans with it on occasion.. but like I said, I honestly have no idea...

... the list continues, of course... piles and piles of crap... it's amazing... in one corner there are scattered photos waiting for an album... London, I believe... one of the lions that guard Trafalgar Square has my arm jammed down his throat up to the shoulder... a lone, discarded 25lb dumb bell sits near the stack of photos...

... dog-eared tomes of poetry... Frost, Service, Owen, and Nash... two dictionaries.. one Webster's New World, and one NTC's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions... a crumpled pack of Camels... a vial of Outers gun oil... my tree-stand... a rolled poster of Joanne Guest that The Wife won't let me put up.... not even in the garage.. an old address book I've had since 1990 with the addresses of friends and relatives long dead or out of touch...

... it is mayhem.. and it is my space... contented amid the clutter, I am... peeking under the randomly tossed magazine in search of a CD or two... the rest of the house?.. polished and buffed, dear ones.... suitable for visitation by even the highest of lowbrows... but the blogroom... ahh.. it is the primordial funk of the place that both disgusts and inspires... tis truly a wonder... a savage place at times, but yet still homey...

.. shit, people... I don't write this blog.. it writes itself...

Read the Bullshit »

Jeans...

... when I first moved back to the United States, I found myself in a strange situation... in the land of cowboy boots and flannel shirts, I was lacking... I realized on the first day that I was woefully without a staple... jeans... hard to fathom, I know, but I can explain... see, I wore business suits to work everyday and my closet was overflowing with them... if I did lawn work or went hiking, I wore my old fatigues... if a meeting, dinner party, or some other occasion called for "casual dress", I wore khakis... I had no jeans....

... one does not realize how much of a social modifier the correct dress is... everywhere I went for the first two weeks of being back in Tennessee, I was overdressed... in a way, it was quite shaming... we are, for the most part, social creatures after all... and like it or not, subconsciously we want to blend... oh, sure.. we all have our individual fashion flourishes.. the things that make us stand out and set us apart... but all in all, we're herd animals... and I was definitely the odd man out...

... my ailing Father took it upon himself to open up his wardrobe to me.. share his jean wealth with his number 1 Son... I leaped at the chance, and found a faded pair of non-namebrand jeans that fit perfectly... I cleaved them unto me, people... and as I slipped them onto my bony legs, I suddenly felt that I was Home...

.. since then, of course, my closet has changed... laid by are the suits and khakis... and laid on are stacks and stacks of Levis and Wranglers... there is even a pair of Marithe & Francois Girbaud, I think... (but I don't wear them.. they were a gift from someone.. they're like rock candy... they're just for lookin' at)....

.... anyway, yesterday, after five years of loyal service, my faded non-name brand jeans gave up the ghost... dripping in sweat, I bent down to screw in one of the deckboards, and the knee gave way... ripped from side to side a full five inches... it was truly the end of an era....

... twenty more minutes of crawling around on the deck, and the other knee gave way.... with a heavy sigh, I jumped off the deck and sat myself in the shade of a poplar tree.... and with misty ceremony, withdrew my trusty blade.... sitting there quietly, I turned my favorite jeans into shorts... carefully running the serrations of the knife against the grain of the denim... feeling the slight pull as I cut.... feeling more than a tinge of sadness in their loss...

.... I woke up this morning and realized that, had my Father lived, today would have been his 60th birthday... writing this now, I feel that those jeans died as he would have wanted... under the yolk of The Man... damp with the sweat of honest labor...

... Cheers, Dad... I miss you, buddy... I know I failed you a lot, but yesterday I would have made you proud....

Read the Bullshit »

Old Texas...

... there is an area in the hinterlands of Englewood known as "old Texas"... a sprawling, tangled parcel of scrub covering a couple thousand acres... not useful for much of anything due to a combination of rough-as-hell topography and some truly devilish geologic phenomena.. the place is riddled with sinkholes and caverns.. fouled brimstone springs... quicksand... and yes, it was in such a place that I played as a youngster...

... tall tales were told once by my Father and Uncles of how a train carrying the Barnum & Bailey Circus' animals north through the county derailed... back in the 1930s, I believe... releasing various exotic beasts into the jungle-like forest... (one side of old Texas was once bordered by the Louisville & Nashville railroad)...

... anyway, as the ancient lie goes, over the next few weeks all of the large critters were captured... elephants, zebras, ostriches, and the like... but the sneaky and/or elusive managed to evade the local redneck denizens of 1930s McMinn County... the stage was set for hijinks...

... ever since I can remember, I've heard stories of giant snakes living for generations in the warm, spring-fed sinkholes back there... and giant cats prowling the undergrowth... stealthy, unseen panthers snatching the occasional calf as late as the 1960s... remnants of Barnum's jaguars or Bailey's lions, I suspect...

... so of course I bought the story hook, line, and sinker... after all, as a kid, you WANT to believe that there are tigers in the forest... right?.. especially when you're coon hunting late at night with a .22 rifle... now, I've never actually seen a giant snake or a panther in old Texas... but the old hearsays sure did spark the imagination on those childhood campouts...

... you know, I'm tempted to write to those circus boys and ask if they lost a train back in the day... part of me really wants to know if it was true... but another part wants to keep the mystery as it is... in the end, there is magic in imaginative fibbery.... kinda like blogginig...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(3) | TrackBack (1)
» Gut Rumbles links with: quote of the day

Look again....

... I woke early this morning and drove to my Mother's house... it's quickly nearing time to close the pool for the season, and I had been asked to help move some of the Summer furniture... Autumn is in the air here in the mountains... 64 degrees at daybreak... it'll get hot by the afternoon, but this morning it was bearable... soon my favorite season will be here...

... I came back home around eleven and settled myself on the patio for a while... temperature hovering around 75 degrees and a slight breeze stroking the wind chimes... dappled sunlight falling through the branches of the dogwood trees creating patters on the pink and tan stones... the smell of the fallen leaves that the poplars let go when the remnants of Katrina came through on Tuesday... I could almost feel myself recharging... the past week has been hard to deal with... writing has become almost pointless as you watch the scenes on television... sitting inside the house glued to the agony... you forget that there is still beauty and happiness... and there is, you know...

... two flocks of geese passed over as I was smoking... honking their way east towards a small lake I know.. blue jays, too, were making noises in the trees overhead.. no doubt doing what they always do as the gangbangers of the forest - robbing a nest of a smaller bird.... but even in their own evil way, they are performing as programmed.. nature...

... and that's the point, I guess... you can sit in the same place and see two different worlds if you want.. but it is your choice on which one to dwell on... lately, I've been seeing only the ugly... but today I'm choosing differently...

Read the Bullshit »

Dinner with Katrina...

... while glued to the television last night, I prepared dinner between commercial breaks... I succeeded in producing, around 7:35 pm EST, the planet's most horrible pork chop... baked that sucker to greasy oblivion, I did... I will report, however, that my mashed potatoes rocked the house...

... yeah, how the mighty have fallen...of course, I am the king of the sauces... chili and spaghetti are in the bag... and grilling meat?... I can hold my own with the best of them... but give me a lowly pork chop and a televised natural disaster, and I'll hand you a complete culinary failure... and for what?... I definitely should have spent my evening tending my pork and rubbernecking much less... well, you live and learn, I guess....

... still, my Uncle's home in Metairie is most likely under water... at least part of it... he and his family reside in a nice duplex just off of Veteran's Memorial Blvd... Kenner police report large pods of bandits swimming through the six foot swells towards the loot and booty of the Pontchartrain neighborhoods.. wow... that, children, is hardcore thievery...

... even though Katrina ruined dinner last night, New Orleans never ceases to amaze me...

Read the Bullshit »

Rambling again..

... back when I was a sprout, a bootlegger named Bill ran a show on the bad side of Madisonville.... hard hooch... Ole Granddad.. Fighting Cock.. rough stuff... high octane corn squeezings.... his clientele being the type that was after the genuine busthead and frowned upon fine sipping whiskey... they sought the cheapest high around... and Bill usually had it laid on... how do I know this?... well, one does not grow up in the bald tire-haywagon area of the South without seeking fun and games... and I was no different...

... from early on, me and a few buds would slip into the black section of town and purchase a half-pint or two... then steal to the backside of the farm for a camp-out where we'd get hammered and dance like wildmen by the campfire... inevitably puke, fall asleep on the ground, and wake the next morning to find our jeans soaked by the dampness of the dew.. shivering.. hung over.. and tired... good times...

... not that I was a miscreant, no.. not at all... it was simply what was done back then by young snappers such as I...

... I actually met Mr. Black's niece in Pensacola while I was going through Crypto school.. a big, black, buxom lass... a SSGT in the Army at the time... she was teaching one class or another, I can't remember... I do remember that I was in awe of her technical abilities though... SSGT Black was a true cryptographic force of will.. crunching numbers and algorithms like a big number crunching thing...

... I'd known her for about two months before she finally told me that she was from east Tennessee... my 17 year old mind put two and two together, and I realized that this fine, upstanding woman who held a Top Secret SCI clearance was niece to a man who consistently got most of the youngsters, drunks, and deacons of Monroe and McMinn county wired up every given Friday night... it was an incredible revelation... and proof positive that the FBI currently crawling the county asking questions about my wayward childhood would find absolutely NOTHING to keep them from handing me my clearance when the time came...

... anyway, we had found a common thread, and it was beautiful... she a relative, and I, a customer of a fine bandit...

... she offered to give me a lift back to Etowah during the Christmas break from training... I immediately took the bait.. a great trip too... the long drive from Pensacola to Etowah zipped by in no time.. although, we must have been a strange looking couple... a fine black woman in her prime and a scrawny pup of a redhead with freckles tooling along the Alabama backroads in a 1985 Cadillac land-yacht..

... strange stuff, though... I heard a few years ago that Bill had checked out...died at home on the couch, I believe... and the neighborhood that he sold cheap liquor from was now in shambles... violence, drugs, and such... no more bootlegging there... meth and crack instead... no more kids sneaking off with a fifth of bourbon and a knapsack for an impromptu "camping trip"... instead, kids showing up with the trunk of their mustang full of stolen silverware and trying to score some rock... kinda fucking depressing, really....

Read the Bullshit »

fishing and watching....

... just back from spending the day in the mountains fishing with family and friends...beautiful stuff... and now I'm off to make some firehouse chili to get the blood pumping again.. the water in the river was liquid ice and we need some fire.... caught two small fish, but threw them back.... dinner wasn't the point anyway... had a few brews and watched the Wife fish for a while as I sat on the bank... knee-deep in the Hiwassee and her khakis were clinging... not a bad afternoon when you think about it...

Read the Bullshit »

Work....

... the workmen who were scheduled to help me today called off.... they'll be here tomorrow instead.. no big deal, really... in the great scheme of things, it's a pretty insignificant endeavor... besides, we should find ourselves putting the finishing touches on our masterwork shortly... so no harm, no foul...

... the result?.. well, I worked alone today from 8:30 to 2:30... I don't think I spoke a word out loud during those hours... just working, drinking water, smoking cigarettes, and resting... as it turned out, having my crew bail on me was a strange pleasure...

... I'd stop occasionally to water the plants, of course... and then, after a short rest, I'd dive back in.... a few times I even took a smoke-break in the shade and listened to the insects for five or ten minutes... unexpectedly loud for the hot time of day... cicadas, most likely, although I never saw one...

... sand and gravel were slowly moved - one shovel-full at a time - to their precise location and the beginnings of the path started to appear... first shrouding the stone and then grasping and hugging it as I soaked it down with the watering hose.... sand and gravel making a makeshift mortar...

... I was soaked by the end of it all.. my BDU working pants were wet, and my combat boots were squelching as I walked along the path from being filled with sweat... the baseball cap that I wore actually became a relief after an hour of wear... soaked to bursting, it offered a slightly cooling effect as the hot breeze dwindled past....

... funny, really.... I thought of my Father at times today, and how hard he would work himself... I never understood why he'd push himself so hard when it was just a simple lawn.. or fence row... or barn that he was working on... part of my mind would tell me as I helped him... "there is always tomorrow.. why can't we call it a day?".... don't get me wrong... laziness didn't factor into it... it was just that I'd rather be doing something else... listening to music or reading a book or playing baseball... instead of sweating and getting calluses on a hard-scrabble bit of land....

... but today, as I have done many times, I worked in my lawn alone... but it was different this time.... for a split second as I stood there sweating, I could almost understand the pride that my Father must have felt all those times.... lost, as it were, in the toil... goal in mind... focused... the finish line in sight.... bones and muscles aching but determined to see the course....

... it didn't last long, that feeling... and as I ground out the cigarette butt and picked up the shovel again, the idea passed from me.... there is a difference, and I see it now... between my Father and I... see, if he were here today, he would still be out there working... finishing the job.... me?... well, I am here... settling back with a Scotch and preparing to watch a DVD as the Sun starts to set...

... I miss him... and love him... but I don't think I'll ever really understand him....

Read the Bullshit »

Trust...

.. I awoke this morning to a truly gruesome scene... as I was walking through the kitchen with a fresh cup of coffee, I glanced out the window into the back lawn... on either side of my nearly-completed patio, Fred and Ginger reclined.. I noticed their uncanny resemblance, in their own miniature way, to the lions of Trafalgar Square and laughed to myself... I stood there for a while and watched them... and then I noticed that they both were crouched upon juvenile rabbits.. headless, of course, and were leisurely crunching through fur, bone, and flesh...

... now, those two cats are the Wife's pride'n'joy... and I have to admit that even I occasionally enjoy their company.. they aren't snooty like most cats, and readily come when called... it is almost as if they imagine themselves dogs... but this morning I realized why, deep down, I dislike all cats... domesticated cats show a side of nature that cuts you to the bone... the hunt, kill, eat that is everyday survival... the problem is that even with "domestication", cats continue to follow their primal instincts... they are well fed and groomed... wanting for nothing... and yet the kill everything that happens to wander into their path....

... I have to admit, it pissed me off when I realized what those cats had done.... and I thought about putting the Wife to an ultimatum today.. either get them de-clawed, or stop feeding them.... after all, they are going to hunt, kill, and eat regardless of whether they are hungry or not... so if that's what they want, at least their victims can be for actual sustenance... OR have the Vet cut their switchblades off... render them slightly less harmful....

... domesticating cats is wrong... they are never 100% domesticated anyway... they are like miniature tigers who happen to let you pat them on the head once in a while... and if they weighed 200lbs, WE would be on the menu... and they'd kill us just because we moved... argue all you want, but it is true.. we admire some of their traits, sure... their grace and speed.. the beauty of their physical design... but some others are just plain offensive... cats are wild animals in their hearts... and on a very deep level, I simply don't trust them..

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(19) | TrackBack (2)
» Gut Rumbles links with: Quote of the day
» basil's blog links with: Lunch: 8/8/05

little fish...

... there is an old concrete bridge on highway 39 - halfway between Englewood and Athens - that crosses a brown-water creek.. the creek is a tributary of the Conasauga, and it winds slowly around my Uncle's farm... the backside of which is covered in a mixed hardwood and pine forest.... grazing cattle kept down the saplings and undergrowth... and in my youth, my Father and I would wander back to sit by the creek bank and fish for bluegill... it was a rare pleasure.. neither my Father or I really had the patience to sit and fish.. our temperaments usually found us perpetually in motion... but, as if pulled by some Fatherly unwritten rule, we'd sometimes find ourselves spending a sweltering Saturday dangling our feet in the cold water and playing a hand with the mosquitoes...

.. we never were very successful at catching fish, though.. in all fact, I doubt that the pickings were very good in the small creek anyway... but I do remember one particular occasion when I caught the tiniest bluegill ever.. probably about three inches long... but perfectly formed and colored... a miniature version of its pan-fry parents...

... we'd taken a five gallon bucket with us on the trip just in case we caught anything... in retrospect, my Father must have been attempting to use the Power of Positive Thinking... but that was before that catchphrase has been invented... this time, though, it worked... and I proudly dipped the lip of the bucket in the creek to fill it with the silty water... when I was finished, Dad removed the hook from the mouth of the fish and splashed it into its new home.... I was pretty damn pleased with myself..

... of course, with our trophy bluegill now in our possession, we decided to call it a day.... the long walk back to the truck passed easily with the splashing of the water onto my legs as I carried the half-full bucket... and before I knew it, I was standing tall before my Mother back at the house... displaying with pride my darting victim in the pail...

... I kept him for almost a week in that little bucket... I'd caught him on the Sunday before my Father headed back to work... and as the week passed, I refilled his home with fresh water from the well... plucked insects from the garden to feed him... and cared for him as best I could...

... the following Friday night, my Dad arrived back home... I began excitedly telling of how I had fed and kept the little fish alive.. given it clean, fresh water... and spent time with it every day... he was horrified.... I suppose that he had expected the little guy to expire after a few hours... instead, when he found out that I was still holding him captive, he realized the error of what we'd done...

... the next morning, he began softening me up.. explaining how the fish was probably missing his mates... and how he needs to be back in the creek... and after a while, it worked... my Mother made us some sandwiches as we loaded the bucket in the back of Dad's truck... we drove back to that concrete bridge, parked the truck, and walked back to the spot where we'd caught the tiny fish... my Dad took off his shoes and socks and waded into the creek with the pail... once he was in the middle, he slowly poured all of the contents into the dark water... and my little prisoner was gone...

... we sat in the shade of a huge sycamore that day, and ate our sandwiches... the sun was hot, as it often is in mid-August, but we didn't care... and I remember us talking about that fish, and what adventures lay in store for it...

... here's the strange thing, though.. every time I go over that bridge, I remember that little bluegill.. I really don't understand it... even more so because I left Tennessee for so long - one third of my life... but now that I'm back, it just seems strange that one particular trip, one fish, and one circumstance is brought to the fore of my mind every time I pass one section of road... I know there must be some importance there... but I just can't put my finger on it...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(6) | TrackBack (1)
» Velociworld links with: PRISONERS

Marion....

... the Wife's Grandma is long dead, but I've got a photo of her on the wall above my computer screen.... a little 3X5 in a pressed frame.... in the snapshot, she is seated in a tall, comfy chair wearing a knitted, bright red cardigan... she was probably 92 or 93 years old at the time, and always cold.. thus the cardigan.... the family is all lined up behind her... and her head is craning back and to her right so she can stare up at me... everyone else - including me - was smiling at the camera and not paying attention to her antics... we didn't even know she wasn't paying attention until the photo was developed.... a few months after that photo, she died quietly...

... I often forget that the photo is up there.. but when I notice it again, it makes me laugh... she was one interesting lady... always doing what she wasn't supposed to... always breaking with convention... even in her latter years... and much to the distress of her young daughter, I might add....

... for instance, back in the day, she used to race motorcycles.. all through the 1930s and up until 1940 she'd head off alone for cross-country races... she won, too... not often, but enough to keep her trying.... but that's what it is all about.. keeping trying...

... my Mother-in-Law has an old, black and white photo of her by her bike... a BSA, as I remember... she's dressed in leather from head to toe.. leather helmet.. leather goggles... and a knee-length leather greatcoat... she's also covered in mud and smiling like a schoolgirl... the number that was placed between the handlebars read "28"...

... sometimes I hope I go out just like that... having lived a life of adventure and excitement and surrounded by people who love me.. of course, nothing is ever certain.. and I'm too lazy for much adventure these days.... Hell, when it comes right down to it, I'd probably just settle for an interloping whippersnapper writing a blog post about me once I head off to the hereafter... fame and glory are almost as fleeting as blogging and bloggers these days...

Read the Bullshit »

Tuesday...

... the Wife and I spent most of today driving the backroads of Meigs, Roane, Loudon, and Monroe counties... we had no place to be.. no roadmap... and no timeline... just slowly cruising the narrow roads of a few rural counties... the elements played along well for most of the trip.. a few thunderstorms forced us to close the sunroof... but other than that, it was a very nice drive...

... no place to be and no timeline... it feels perfect just to type that...

... a lot of people need to be driven by a goal... they strive... my goals have nothing to do with being a certain place... or arriving at a certain time... sure, I do have goals... but I guess they are just different from the norm.... today, after all, was a Tuesday... a day of toil for most... soon, it will be just another day of toil for me... just like it has been in the past... but today?... in a way, it wasn't a Tuesday at all... today was just a day of pleasure out with my mate... today was a day when we bought ice cream in the rain... today was a day when we pulled off to the side of the road to watch Canada Geese root junebugs out of the freshly mown grass...

... today was a great day to have no place to be..

Read the Bullshit »

Contagious...

... the blogworld is a strange place.. yeah, yeah... I like to state the obvious... but this morning it just got worse... as I rolled out of bed a few minutes ago, the Wife greeted my morning with this....

... "wait.. let me tell you about my dream"..

... now, of course, this immediately grabbed my attention.. sometimes her dreams are quite entertaining... and I've read that they often offer a rare insight to the psyche... needless to say, I settled back to hear the tale...

... "you and I were snuggled on the couch watching Sex and the City when the doorbell rang... you walked over to the door, and this creepy, geeky guy was looking through the window beside the door... you turned to me and said.. 'oops... 'I forgot to tell you... all of the Munuvians are coming over for a blogmeet... you opened the door and the entire front yard was filled with people standing around waiting to be let in.... there were camera crews, news helicopters.... it was horrible... my hair was a mess..."...

... lookit.. I've dreamt of bloggers and blogging before... Hell, I've even read about other bloggers having nocturnal emissions dreams about bloggers... but I have never heard of one's spouse dreaming about bloggers before... much less showing up at her house for a blogmeet...

... you know, in a way it was quite funny... deeply, deeply disturbing, of course, but strangely funny as well... after all, I've never been able to sit through a whole episode of Sex and the City...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(7) | TrackBack (1)
» Fistful of Fortnights links with: Blogzilla!

Good Will Hunting...

... after The Wife hit the rack last night, I stayed up and watched the end of "Good Will Hunting"... it's not that I really like the movie that much... it's more that I like watching Robin Williams in real roles rather than comedy...

.. anyway, at one point in the movie, Mr. Hunting is asking the psychiatrist if he "married the wrong woman"... it was definitely a sore subject for Williams' character...

.. in a flash, things started to get intense... and after two warnings, he snatched his sorry ass by the throat and told him, and I quote... "if you ever disrespect my Wife again, I will END you. I will END you."....

.... bloody Nora... what a line.. I loved it...

... and what's more, I have been there.. once upon a time, I snatched one of my Uncles up by the hair on his head at Thanksgiving dinner... it was about three years ago... one of those surreal moments that just happen after years of watching someone be a prick... now, don't get me wrong... I was always brought up to respect my Elders and I always try to.. but he was being an ass.. look, it's one thing to be an ass to me.. I'll just laugh it off... but it you make fun of someone I love, I'm going to be in your shit faster than you can choke down a bite of holiday dressing... which, incidentally, might be your last...

... anyway, to cut a long story short, he took a shot at my Wife's hair... she turned beet-red.. she is a shy creature... perhaps I have always been overprotective.... but her brunette hair is naturally curly, and I love it... so there we were with the whole family at the table... my Uncle had been on a kick all night and the liquor was flowing, but he was just plain out of line... I let the first two jibes of the evening run... but then he went too far... he was sitting to my direct left.... and as soon as the words left his mouth, my left hand grabbed the hair at the base of his skull and lifted.. my right hand grabbed his right hand at the wrist.. and I kicked back my chair as I rose up behind him... he was mine.. all mine... he tried to move in the shock, but I brought his right arm around behind the chair he was seated in... he was fucking mine....

... the table grew still as everyone watched me... I looked up and quietly eyed everyone at the table... other than the first small "yelp" that my Uncle let out when I grabbed him, no one said a word... until I began to speak...

... "I am sorry it has come to this, everyone... but he was out of line... ".... eyes all around the table cast a downward glance as I continued to stand...

... "now, dear Uncle, apologize to my Wife for being an asshole...and if you say another word about my Wife's hair or anything else, I'll ensure that all of yours is pulled out at the roots right here, you vain, arrogant, insensitive bastard"...

... well, he did... he apologized.... and after I let him go, he stormed off to the kitchen and I have not seen him since.... for that matter, I have not been to that side of the family for Thanksgiving since... I don't feel I am missing a lot.... but you really want to know the funny thing?... cousins I hardly ever speak to have called and written since that episode... they say things like... "yeah, he used to hit on my dates when I brought them home"... and "he would say stuff just to embarrass them.. creepy stuff.. sexual stuff.. Hell, we were only 17 and 18 at the time...".... and MOST of all, they say "... I am so glad you did that.. no one has a right to make fun of anyone else like that... and it's not like he is doing it playfully... he is just being mean... I've wanted to do what you did for the past twenty years but just never had the nerve... "...

... Family... Jesus Christ... I still love them all, of course... but, damn, they are assholes sometimes...

Read the Bullshit »

Church...

... I saw this, and immediately started laughing... not because of the post, but because of a tale it reminded me of....

... I was brought up very near the buckle of the Bible Belt... and what's more, two of my Great Grandfathers were Church of God ministers back in the day... if you aren't aware of the Church of God, then let me clue you in... in their prime, they were so strict that they made Southern Baptists look like flaming infidels... we were like Baptists on steroids.. as straight laced as laces can possibly be laced straight... how I ended up the husk of a man you see today is still a mystery to me...

... anyway, after reading that post, my mind harked back to a sunny Sunday morning at Church.. my Uncle was sitting directly in front of me, and my Mother and Father on my left and right.... well, the Preacher commenced to preach.. the deacons started speaking in tongues... and general Church of God holiness was in full swing... and then, for some reason, my Uncle started sweating... perhaps he was getting into the spirit of things... perhaps he was afraid the next speaking in tongues session would out him in some way... but regardless, as the perspiration came on, a bright red mark appeared on the back of his balding head... my Mother became mesmerized by the blemish... the longer the Preacher spouted, the brighter the mark grew... finally, she leaned across me and whispered to my Pa...

.. "what's that mark on your Brother's head?.. it seems to get brighter and brighter... I've never noticed it before.."...

.. Dad turned his head and eyeballed the offensive mark...

... "Oh," says he... "that's from stealing watermelons... we were crawling under a barbed wire fence at Stephen Daugherty's and he cut his head bad.. it bled for a week.. but boy, those watermelons sure were good..."....

... was it a sign of a guilty conscience?... was it merely the spirited commune with Godliness?.. was it just the summer's humidity?... we'll probably never know..

.. but my Mother laughed out loud when Dad said that... and not just a giggle... a good, old-fashioned, Southern Woman HEE HAW... right there in church...

... had it been the Church of God of the 1880s, we'd probably have been stoned to death out back after the service...

... still, this doesn't have much to do about anything, but I felt like sharing.... Rob's right about one thing, though... nothing is quite as sweet as when you've risked a little of yourself to get it..

Read the Bullshit »

Uncle Eric...

.. I love the aquariums in Chattanooga... I'm usually partial to my fish lightly battered and served with a slice of lemon, but I love those aquariums.. they are the epitome of a lazy man's afternoon... air-conditioned havens from the broiling outside heat with gently sloping downward walks... even the lights are turned down so as to keep you in mind of dusk or early morning... marvelous stuff... and after today, I think that Boudicca's three boys are singing from my songsheet.... they took to the aquarium in a flash and have already promised to come back for another visit... their favorite exhibits were the turtles and the sturgeons, though... that was kind of disappointing... sure, I can go halfers on them with the turtles, but sturgeons are just foul.... but hey, her boys are just nippers... the nuances of the jellyfish and the sea dragons are lost on such wee men... maybe as they grow they'll realize that sturgeons are creepy and jellyfish are where it's at...

... anyway, one thing struck me about the whole affair.... how like Bou they are, and how totally unalike to each other they are.... for instance, her boys were allowed to choose gifts at the end of the day... each resulting gift perfectly represented the outlooks of those little guys... in just a short time of being with them, their differences were obvious... but one of their similarities was remarkable.. they are all charmers.... early on during our festivities, Boudicca explained them to me thusly:

.... "I like to think of my kids like this... as if they were in the airplane business... Son #2 would design it... Son #1 would build it... and Son #3 would FLY it.. "

.. a more perfect analogy does not exist for her babies... check it.. I made my escape from the gift shop and found a shaded wall to smoke against... this left Bou and her three gentlemen inside shopping... upon exiting, I asked them about their choices of souvenirs....

... Son #2... a drawing kit with gigantic plastic eyeballs embedded into every page... artistic to the last....
... Son #1... a puzzle... 1500 pieces, no less... a young man trying to figure everything out..
... Son #3... kickass ubercool sunglasses with sharks on the side.... definitely a fighter pilot in training...

... I'd tour them and their Momma around Chattanooga anytime...

... the only strange (and yet, very pleasant at the same time) was that as I helped herd the kids around the exhibits.. talked to them in the foyer of the hotel as Bou checked in... and passed them the nachos in the restaurant... everyone kept looking at the boys.. and then Bou and I... smiling and nodding... and saying stuff like "what nice boys you have!"... wow... I've never felt more like a Daddy in my life... it was a trip.. it almost made me want to have some kids of my own.. almost..

... but still, I'm a much better "Uncle" figure than I am a "Daddy"...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(8) | TrackBack (1)
» Boudicca's Voice links with: We Love Eric!

Comfortable...

... after five years of constant companionship, I have said goodbye to a great friend today... and on many levels I am laid low by the experience... I met him in Bangladesh.. in a dusty market just across the bridge that spans the Brahmaputra River... we became instant buddies... fast friends.... and from that day until this morning, he was at my side every single day...

... but the past two years have witnessed his deterioration... slowly, he lost his luxuriant hair.. the dappled blonde and brown locks were worn smooth by my constant patting... especially when I'd ask him to give me some money... the fruit of our friendship was in the showing of the gray and mottled skin that emerged as the hairline receded... a sad and woeful shape for such a fine and loyal companion to be in... but he never flinched.. never complained... true, steadfast, and doing his duty right up until the end...

... so it is with dull and heavy heart that I report the passing of my old friend.. Mr. Handmade Furry Leather Wallet... purchased on the eve of a monsoon for 150 taka and loved by me and all who saw him...

... I laid him to rest in the gunsafe this afternoon.. stuffed with a few hundreds.. some folding money from various nations he's visited with me... and a two dollar bill that my uncle gave me when I was 12... he is now resting in the warm darkness of his new home...

... you never really understand how much you'll miss something until it is well and truly gone...

Read the Bullshit »

Pets...

... I was forced, kicking and screaming, to visit Pet Smart the other day... our cats needed new beds, evidently, and the trip was necessary... as I strolled around the aisles of captive critters, I was impressed to see a large selection of snakes, toads, frogs, and lizards of all shapes and sizes... it was pretty impressive... and for a split second, I rolled the idea of procuring a pet snake for the blogroom...

.. of course, not anything that would grow to 12 feet... just a corn snake.. pretty red, yellow, and black stripes... something to provide me with a little blogfodder on occasion... the tank that the bugger was in was built in such a way that I'd never have to let the thing out... never have to handle it.... I'm not afraid of snakes, but I'm not exactly lining up to handle them either... so it would be purely an exercise in watching the varmint do its thing behind the safety of 1/4 inch Plexiglas...

... but then I balked... I don't need a pet... much less a snake... and if you're going to own an animal, you should handle it and lurve upon it.... and that got me to thinking... I've never really had a pet of my own... the Wife has two cats and they're pretty cool.. but they aren't mine... when I was a pup myself, my Father would bring home the occasional stray dog.... it'd last a few weeks and then get hammered flat by a passing farm truck... the scene repeated itself though most of my youth... thus, I never cared too much about pets... I could take them or leave them...

.. only once did I have a dog for more than a year... a wooly, snaggletoothed English Sheep Dog.. his name was George... he was fully grown when my Dad brought him home and he took to me and my little brother immediately... in the end, he went the way of the farm truck as well and tears were cried... that was the one and only time I ever got attached to a pet...

... you know, perhaps I am a lesser man because of it all... perhaps my childhood was hampered by never having a close relationship with a family pet... I just don't know... but I do know this.. I have never loved ANYTHING enough to let it shit in my hair...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(17) | TrackBack (2)
» A Swift Kick & A Band-Aid links with: For The Birds
» On the Patio links with: The Only Good One Is a

ghosts...

.. T1G called me a tease... that's just wrong.... I'd never do that to you people... y'all know that I love each and every one of you like perverted little Brothers and Sisters.... (and some of you like 3rd Cousins in the hayloft when no one is looking...)

... anyway, a few of you gentle people wanted to hear of my ghosts.... well, since my sole purpose on this planet is to please you rubberneckers, I shall comply...

... I once lived in a small cottage that overlooked the Montrose Basin... from my living room window, I could easily see where the South Esk River emptied into the North Sea... the garden was small and enclosed by ancient hedges... it was a "gardener's cottage".. and as such, it was of basic design.. two bedrooms, a sitting room, a kitchen and a bath... but before I begin my ghost story, I want to describe the layout of the rooms...

... in the front of the cottage, there was a break in the hedges where the path crept up to the door... the entirety of our "front yard" - meaning the area between the hedge and the house - was a gigantic rose garden... upon opening the door, you were immediately faced with a door to the left and right... on the left was the master bedroom.... on the right, the bathroom... a dark hallway lay directly ahead... five or six steps down the hall, and you were again faced with doors on the left and right... the left took you into the sitting room... the right entered into the spare bedroom... directly ahead, steps flowed down into the tiny kitchen...

... that's it.. a spacious master bedroom with windows looking onto a bed of roses, buxom hedges, and gigantic holly trees... a large sitting room with views of the ebb and flow of the tidal basin... a tiny bathroom and bedroom on the other side of the hallway.. and a kitchen that had been added on in the 1860s as an afterthought...

... the house stood just outside the rock walls of a genuine castle... Craig House.. sometimes simply referred to as "The Craig".. our cottage was built around 1793 as a home for the working help... I am sure that it was not the only residence to have been built on that site... Craig House had existed - in one form or another - from the 1300s, and I am sure that their servants had to stay somewhere... Edward I, the "Hammer of the Scots", is reported to have burnt the first version of Craig House when he had ventured North to teach John Balliol a lesson...

... the house was a treat to live in... cold in the winter, but comfortable and quaint... and the Wife absolutely loved it... but the house was also haunted.. we didn't know it at the time we signed the lease, but we soon found out that we were not alone in the house at times...

... oops... to be continued, folks... gotta do some work on the patio... heh heh... tease, indeed...

Read the Bullshit »

Life...

... I dragged myself away from the television yesterday and headed into town... my turn to cook dinner had arrived, and I was hungry... I bought two stuffed flounder filets and some potatoes for baking... but as I wandered towards the check-out line, I passed a stand of fresh fruit... they were plump and full of color... and for some reason, I purchased a few pieces of each selection... apricots, raspberries, peaches, plums...

... but I don't plan on eating them... I'm going to plant them... I've never been much of a gardener, but I want to see if I can cultivate something that will bear fruit... take something that is normally discarded and give it a chance to live... watch something sprout and grow and mature...

... they may not germinate.. but then again, they just might.. and that's what its all about, right?... Hope...

Read the Bullshit »

...slow and easy...

... for the past two days, I've been driving the Caddy... meanwhile, the Wife has been forced to demean herself by puttering around town in the Audi... demean herself, indeed... I finally get shed of the beast this afternoon... for me, it is a relief beyond words... truth be told, I'd rather drive my car than the V any day of the week... too much power... I mean, c'mon... six speed manual transmission?... that's just insane... for instance, when driving it to the shop yesterday I used all of three gears... 1st, 3rd, and 6th... and I burnt rubber in the beast at every shift...

... I think you need a special mindset to work her out every day... to give a good stretch to the her shapely 400 horsepower legs... you've gotta be part Evel Knieval, part Michael Schumacher, and part Mad Max to get her moaning just right... I just ain't got that... my killer instinct does not carry over onto the road... when I drive, I drive slow and take my time.. with the Caddy, it is impossible to drive slow without feeling like you are breaking the heart of some motor-headed engineer somewhere.. talk about a guilt-trip... if I wanted a guilt complex, I'd go read my archives...

... so, today I say goodbye to the Cadillac... and let me tell you, I'm more than happy to welcome my 1.8L Turbo back into my encircling arms... 5.7L V8?... I'm sure it'd light fires for some of you guys... but for me it just doesn't... why would I want to drive a car that'll go 180mph and torque my body with three g's when I never plan on getting it over 70?...

... yeah, yeah... I can hear some of y'all now... accusing me of being a wuss... questioning my manhood... giggling over my lack of speed-addicted testosterone... well, guess what?... bite me.. today I get my Audi back...

Read the Bullshit »

Craig Cottage....

... once upon a time when I was about 9 years old, I saw a ghost.. I had been spending the night at my Grandpa's old place in Madisonville... he lived on Hull Road.. a tucked-away corner of old tobacco patch out behind Hiwassee College.. the land bordered a rise of hills that separated the first branch of the Tennessee Valley from the nearby Sweetwater Valley... the eastern edge of this state being a whirlwind collection of peaks and troughs until you rise up to the Cumberland plateau....

... that night long ago, I saw a horseman on a gray mule riding up to my Grandpa's house... he looked like he was dead.. slumped in the saddle.... I had been told to fetch firewood, and it was then that I saw him.. in the moonlight, I heard the sound of hooves on the gravel road.. I remember the smell of the autumn night air and smoke from the chimney.... and I stood there with my hands full of hickory logs while the rider approached... when his mule finally reached me, the rider turned his white head... he looked at me and then the house and said... "anyone home inside?.. I'm awfully cold"... I was fucking mortified.... his mount never stopped as he spoke, although it was flea-bitten and bone-tired (and likely long ago dead)... as for me? I was frozen where I stood... unable to scream or cry... unable to do anything but hang on to the split wood and gape... but the ghostly mule kept going, and it vanished as it reached the clapboard of the house.. after that night, I never laid my head on a pillow in Grandpa's house again... ever...

.... that was my first ghost.... I was 9 years old... after it, I forced myself to believe that I had imagined the whole thing.... it wasn't until much later that I realized that I truly believe in ghosts... then, I was 21 years old and serving my country as a United States Marine overseas..

... anyway, apart from the mysterious rider, I have felt I was in the presence of the spirits of the dead on three more occasions... all three of them took place at my old home in Scotland... the house had been built in 1793 and had undergone many restorations... lived in by countless peoples through war, famine, pestilence, and disease... my Wife and I lived there from 1993 to 2000... and the house was haunted... haunted in a way that was not benevolent.. but instead, in a way that was deeply, deeply threatening... three times.. always in April... we would be visited... between 10pm and 2am, something mean would come into our home... if y'all are interested, I'll share... why this sudden shedding of these stories?.... well, The Wife told me of another experience last night... one that I hadn't heard before... one that she had never told me about while we lived in that cottage... it brought back, again, all of those little memories that I had thought I had forgotten... so yes, rubberneckers.. as much as it shames me to say it... I believe in ghosts.....

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(17) | TrackBack (1)
» Drunken Wisdom links with: Tell Us More...

first responder...

.. took all day today to cruise the back roads around three counties... down to the Hiwassee.. over to the Ocoee... up to Tellico... then back down to Ducktown again... a lovely drive through the mountains.... just me and mine... stopping when we wanted... eating when we were hungry... and even though we drove through a few rainshowers, it was a great day of doing nothing... the mountains are beautiful even when they are drenched by a fresh downpour...

... about four this evening, two custom choppers passed us... beautiful machines.... we were only doing about 45 miles per hour, and they were only slightly faster than us... I remember watching them - about 50 yards in front of me - as they weaved along the curves my Audi was about to take.... I remember thinking to myself what a freeing experience it must be to ride a bike... especially on such fine machines as they were on.... gliding along in the warm summer rain...

... and then, just like that, we rounded a gentle curve and they were gone.... the first thing that caught my eye was the leather-shirted rider slamming into the guardrail.. and then I saw the first chopper in the median...

.. I pulled over about thirty feet in front of their crashed vehicles and jumped out to check them.. they were cut up, but awake... I stayed there until the cops turned up... then I split... totally surreal at the time... one minute you are watching machines perform... daydreaming... and then next minute there is blood and ground up meat and men gritting their teeth as they wait for an ambulance... trauma, people... whether combat, or accidents.. I do not envy ER workers...

... I was going to post tonight about visiting with the Amish community near Delano, TN that we visited with today... and the impact that watching them till their fields, sell their produce, and live their lives had had on me... even as I was driving back and forth through the Cherokee National Forest today, I was forming that post...

... right now, it just won't come... I've tried, and it's not in me.. maybe it will surface in the morning sometime.... if not, well, just let me say this... the Amish people impress me... they really do... just as bikers do after today..

Read the Bullshit »

Snapping Turtle...

... I type this breathlessly, people.... heart pounding.. I have just kidnapped a wild creature... he's in the garage under the pool table right now.... big, big, big... heavy as lead and uglier than Hell...

... I had just gotten up from reading Interview with Velociman and headed to the kitchen for coffee when I saw it.. lumbering with purpose across my driveway...

... for some reason, I immediately sprang into action... it rained hard last night, so I guess that is what triggered the beast to roam... either that, or he's looking for some snapping turtle love.. in any case, I plan on fucking with him for a while... getting some good action shots of him snappin' at a broom handle or something.... regardless, he'll be held prisoner until The Wife gets home and gets a gander... she's never seen one before... I'll let him be on his way after that.. me?... I used to catch them as a kiddie so it's no big deal.. I have to admit, though... he's a formidable varmint.. and it certainly got my adrenalin pumping when I grabbed him by the tail...

.. damn, what a morning... Velociman interviewed and an alligator snapper in the garage... perhaps I'll post later with a comparison and contrast...

UPDATE: After surfing a few turtle sites, I have new information... the turtle is a Chelydra serpentina serpentina... or a Northern Common Snapping Turtle... oh, and it's a she, too... it's shell is 14 inches long and 11 inches wide... oh, and she gets really pissed off when you try to measure her shell...

UPDATE #2: .. cruising the blogroll, I happened up on two wonderful posts on the glories of animal husbandry.. one by Rob... and one by Kelley... man, I am so ashamed for capturing Mrs. Chelydra... I'm off to take a few photos and set the dear free...

Read the Bullshit »

Lunch...

... sitting at the kitchen table with the light of a candle flickering.. the thunderstorm that took our power echoing past... the windows opened to allow the angry wind to swirl in... angry noises of water and thunder reverberating through the house... hot lapsang souchong and two grilled cheese sandwiches... one Swiss and the other cheddar.. my Monday afternoon in the rain... not too bad, really...

Read the Bullshit »

The Ocean...

... I remember once swimming in a riptide... I was twelve years old and it scared the Hell out of me... I had been invited to join a friend of mine on vacation.. his family was set to enjoy their time at a condo in Panama City, and he had asked me to come along.. it was the first time I had ever seen the Ocean... two years later, my own family would take my brother and I to visit Charleston, Savannah, and Parris Island... it was my Mother's idea to show me at 14 what I would be getting myself into at 17... heh.. it failed miserably... her dissuasion flopped... but I did get to see the Ocean again... the same silty saltwater as before...

.. a few years later, my life had taken me to many new places... in boats, ships, and airplanes... the Pacific and Bering.. the Atlantic and North Sea... blue waters, cold and deep... but I always thought of the real Ocean as brown and full of foam... Myrtle Beach.. Destin... Pensacola... and a million other places...

.. I've never been a sailor.. and I have to admit, the open waters of the deep Ocean scares the Hell out of me.. but I'll always remember what it was like that first time I saw it... brown and dirty and huge and incredible... from the point of view of a pubescent hillbilly - a child of the mountains - that first visit to the beach made an indelible impression...

... these days, we seem to let incredible things pass us by.. silently they slip from the wonderful to the mundane... I once did it with my mountains... the things that I saw around me every day.. I almost let the same thing happen again with the sea.... but now, sitting here.. a storm is coming through.. it's a sight to behold.. and it is marvelous..

Read the Bullshit »

Home...

... a few days ago, I found myself walking around the courthouse square in Athens.... near the rear entrance there is a wizened old Magnolia tree that is decked out with saucer-sized, ivory blossoms... deep green and almost leathery, the broad leaves created a calm shade against the bricks of the old building... it was beautiful to imagine just sitting for a moment under that tree... protected from the Sun by her shadow... but before I knew it, I had walked on by and was at the corner of the block...

.. I crossed the street towards the coffee house and turned again to admire the view...

.. later, as I was standing at the register waiting on my change, it hit me.. I've been all around the World, and I have to admit... even with the hurricanes, tornados, sweltering heat, humidity, and bugs galore, I love my South... better than any place I've ever been... I love my South... from the mountains to the swamps, there is no place more beautiful or evocative or so full of contradictions... from coastal Georgia to the dry plains of Texas...

... who hasn't visited Charleston and fallen in love with the Live Oaks dripping with Spanish moss?... or spent time in Tennessee when the Dogwoods are in bloom?.. Palmettos, Mountain Laurel or Willow... Tulip Poplar, Cottonwoods, or Elms.. native species of my native land... I may have traveled far and wide... but I'm Home now...

Read the Bullshit »

Friends....

... yesterday, it was spiders... today it's snakes... welcome to the Jungle, people....

... the spider was a fully grown female Black Widow.... a body about the size of a grape.. black and shiny... she'd taken up residence in the left wheel of our plastic outdoor garbage can... I noticed her when I was preparing to tote the can down to the end of the driveway for pickup... I took a few photos, but it'll be weeks before they are developed... anyway, I shooed her off the can and into the grass... after all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, right?... I'd join forces with the Prince of Darkness himself if it would rain destruction down on the local mosquito populace...

... I wasn't planning on blogging about that spider.. after all, it is no big deal.. we have loads of Black Widows around the house... but I just came in from watching the cat, Fred, get bested by a 5 foot long black snake... heh heh.... again, I let it be... those woods are where it lives... my lawn borders it's world... who am I to lop off it's noggin with a shovel just because it interloped?... nay.... even though it doesn't grub upon mosquitoes, I gave it a free pass anyway... why?... well, I guess I'm just in a charitable mood today.. oh, and I was on the deck... the shovel was all the way in the garage... priorities, people... priorities....

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(9)
» Fistful of Fortnights links with: Screw Humanity.

Cub Scouts....

... lately I have become averse to joining things.. clubs and the like... I've provided a few of my relatives with documentation to join clubs, though... SAR, DAR... but I haven't taken the plunge yet... joining a "society" just seems suspect... I never know when I will be pooh-poohed for some insidious infraction that I never even knew I was committing....

... why so pessimistic?... here is an example... once upon a time, I was an assistant cub scout leader in Alaska... I assisted the "leader" in our activities... fishing, hiking, trips to the rifle range, teaching little cub scout classes.. you get the picture.. we'd planned a two-day camping trip for our 9 intrepid cubs, but the "leader" was called away for an emergency and I stepped up to the plate... me, 19 years old, took on the awesome responsibility of ensuring our nine 10 year olds camped, had fun, and arrived back to their parents safe and sound... the "leader" had the whole thing planned out... but when he handed me the permission slips, the map, and the activity guide, it all seemed boring... so I took the initiative...

... I did a good job... no, really... the kids loved it... instead of heading to the lake (at sea level) to camp, I took them to a ravine near the summit of Mt. Adagdak (2500 feet above sea level)... up there, we dug snow holes and stayed for two days... no tents... just sleeping bags and thermarests... it was a blast.. lots of stories were told.. lots of great grub was cooked... the boys had a whale of a time... the children of Sailors, they were...

... when I brought the kiddies back downtown to be retrieved by their parents, everything was groovy... the kids were absolutely beaming with pride over their accomplishments... two days later, the "leader" started getting phone calls from pissed off parents.. see, little Johnny and little Joey had begun to articulate the tales of their trip... digging into the snow with an entrenching tool... tunneling in, and carving out a seat... lighting a candle to help freeze the snow on the roof for better stability.... setting up a propane stove to cook on.. and then going over their cub scout manuals and practicing for their first aid badges... real survival stuff... well, the parents freaked.... how could I have "endangered" their little treasures on such a weekend get-away?... 10 year old kids evidently didn't need to know any survival skills... even though they were totally safe the whole time and had the experience of a lifetime, I was told by the "leader" that I could no longer take the children out on fieldtrips...

.. that's right... I was "fired"... I was fired from being assistant cub scout leader... why?.. because I taught 9 ten year old boys self-reliance?.. because I strayed from the game plan that the "leader" had jotted down?... why?... I still don't know... take it any way you want it, but I've been wary of joining clubs ever since...

Read the Bullshit »

taming a vine...

... today's scheduled fun shall involve sweat... I shall not despair, though... even hedonistics like me need to get worked up once in a while... the target of the proposed festivities?... a wild muscadine vine growing on the backside of Hell's half acre that is my back yard....

... the gentleman who mows my lawn found it a few days ago and suggested I cultivate it... little does he know of my mystical ability to kill green things with a mere glance... but wild things are hardy, after all... so I decided to take his advice... I mean, it's not like I paid good money for the plant... it is pre-existing... Nature's bounty... perhaps even the random planting of a higher being.... so even if my pinning it to a trellis causes it to give up the ghost, it's no biggie.... I can always claim that it offended me in some way and therefore I purposefully purged it from the garden.... a win/win situation....

... I have to admit, though... I hope the plucky bugger survives... part of me is already envisioning lazy evenings in my hammock... reaching up into the shady, luxurious leaves.. and picking wild fruit in between naps.. Hell, it would be positively Emersonian.. well, except I'd have Scotch....

... "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist"... indeed...

Read the Bullshit »

..and so it went...

... well, I'm back... our family mission has been accomplished... with the help of a case of beer, 1 pound of cheese, and an emergency pit stop at the Loudon County VFW post, each veteran we knew - or were related to - now has a fresh, crisp flag over their grave....

.... we met up with my Uncle at a breakfast joint in Madisonville and made our gameplan.. sure, we had all day to make the rounds, but we needed to mull over our options for a bit.... we first visited my Father and were surprised to find his grave already adorned with flowers and flags... I suppose one of his friends must have dropped by... everyone who knew him knew that he took Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, and November 10th very seriously... I doubt that any of my family would have been by to place a flag... other than my Mother, that is... still, I could be wrong... people's fondness for their relatives often peaks after they've waited too late to show it... in any case, his grave was already decked out, and I was very pleased....

... from there, we wandered back into the hill-country of eastern Monroe County.. curving our way through the steep roads - well past Hiwassee College - and ending up at the Keller Cemetery... overgrown and unmaintained... to decorate the gravestone of one of our Civil War ancestors..

... long ago, the cemetery had fallen into ruin and 60 year old Hickory and Maple trees sprouted from each depression... the stones, too, had been moved from their broken locations, and leaned against the posts of a fence that ran alongside of the bordering field... a thick covering of sweet ivy and poison oak covered the ground and wandered up each tree trunk... we battled through the curtain of greenery, and found ourselves inside the thicket... it was amazing.. no wind stirred there.. the stones stood white against dark and mossy trunks... the smell of honeysuckle and jasmine hung heavy as we strained to make out the names on the markers... it was not a gloomy atmosphere at all... if anything, it was an overpowering feeling of peace.. the aroma of damp soil, fresh flowers, and decaying leaves... as strange as it sounds, I actually looked at my Uncle and said... "ashes to ashes, earth to earth.. this is where it happens".. he smiled and nodded.. and said something under his breath that I didn't quite catch.. I'm not totally sure, but I think he said, "yes.. we should be so lucky when our time comes"..

... some people find unkempt graves a sore sight... and in a fancy cemetery, I might agree... however, I feel that those ancient people are exactly where they are supposed to be.. forgotten for a long time... but resting in a place of wild beauty... with only us three paying them the occasional visit....

... we visited with the rest of the relatives too.... GGreat Uncle Levi and Virgil... GGGGrandpa Petty... we even erected some flags on graves of people we didn't know... a few, in particular, I remember... we'd been out for most of the day, and I had just remarked to my Cousin how all the veterans we were honoring had survived the wars and lived long lives... no sooner had I said that when we saw the first graves of the combat deaths.. one who had been killed in action in Italy in 1944.. we three stood there and read his memorial... decorating his grave came second.. it is one thing to decorate a grave of a veteran who'd seen Hell.. and then lived to 87 years with family and friends around him... but it is a different thing, indeed, to decorate the grave of a young man snuffed in his prime....

... we saw four more combat casualties today... one was killed in October 1918.. another in January 1969... and another in February of 1972.....

... my Uncle and Cousin traded stories as I drove them from graveyard to graveyard... they sipped on beer and ate saltine crackers with sharp cheddar cheese... we laughed some... and we were quiet some times... the Sun was shining hot for most of the day, and when the conversation dwindled.. or the silence began to shade upon what we were actually doing, someone would inevitably quip... "Damn!... it sure is hot today!.. you'd almost think it is July already.".. then, of course, people would be jolted into more tales.. where so-and-so lived.. who used to own this property... remember putting up hay in the Dyer field back in 65?... and so it went... I wouldn't have missed it for the world...

Read the Bullshit »

Mobility....

... from the first time man picked up a weapon and proclaimed himself a warrior, his search for better equipment has been never-ending... be it a sharper sword... a lighter rucksack... or a more accurate cruise missile... since time immemorial, he has strived to perfect his tools of war....

... reading a post from Laughing Wolf the other day, my mind went back to a time when I was taught - in no uncertain terms - what the most valuable weapon of warfare really is... what is it?... mobility... whether on horseback... skimming the battle-zone in a Sea Cobra, or slogging through the brush in soggy jungle boots... mobility is the most prized weapon a warrior has... when you lose the ability to maneuver, you've lost the battle...

... so, what's brought on all this rambling?... feet, children, feet... in Laughing Wolf's post, he asks for foot stories.. heh... well, I've got some doozies... blisters, raw flesh, and cellulitis.. I've been there and got the tee-shirt....

... the one that comes to mind first is also the bloodiest... Hell, that is probably the reason that it is seared so well into my mind...

... the scene begins at the end of the 1st Phase of boot camp... we were gearing up for the hike that would takes us looping around the island.. eventually, it would deposit us at the White Elephants across the road from the rifle range... these White Elephants were two-storied, clapboard structures... long ago white-washed... and they would be our home for the month-long quest to perfect basic weapons training and the eventual rifle quals... tall and bleak in their whiteness, these buildings signaled the first true birthings of a brand new Marine... arriving at them meant only one thing... learning the art of firing a weapon... hitting a target.. and destroying an enemy... exactly what Marines are meant to do...

... prior to the eight mile hike out to the range, we were given our first chance to visit the base exchange.... every recruit had a short list of approved items they could purchase... and I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that Dr. Scholl's inserts were on my list... I was truly stoked, people... after a month of close order drill, my boots were well broken in... comfortable, even.... under their previous abuses, my heels had hardened, and now I knew I could walk a hundred miles in those black Cadillacs without getting a single blister... so the Scholl's were just going to be the icing on the cake... at least, that is what I thought...

... I remember the day well... a bright, humid July day in South Carolina... even at dawn, we were beginning to sweat as we stood in formation... I remember the bugs, too... sand fleas by the millions were pushed into our faces with each warm breeze... the air was heavy with moisture and the buzz of insects... I'd cut my Dr. Scholl's the night before and secured them firmly into my jungle boots... the old mesh inserts were ceremonially shit-canned, as I strode across the barracks... I was in forced-march heaven... feeling the magic of Dr. Scholl massage my feet with every step... I remember thinking, as I settled in my bunk that night, that the coming morning's eight mile hike was going to be a walk in the park...

... good God, rubberneckers... words cannot express how wrong I was... see, there was an unexpected side effect of replacing a 1/8" thick insert with a 1/4" insert... a side effect that was not immediately apparent the night before... strolling around the barracks was one thing... humping a 60lb pack through the wet sand of a South Carolina marsh was something entirely different.... at first, all I could think of was how wonderful my heel felt... how happy my toes were... how much I wanted to buy this Dr. Scholl guy a beer... but after about 45 minutes, I started to notice a burning sensation... a different sensation than getting a blister... five minutes later, I was in Hell... less than halfway through the eight miles, I was in serious trouble... I began limping.. getting slower and slower with my strides.. I tried taking longer strides to reduce the friction that the tops of my feet were enduring... nothing worked... nothing helped... and we didn't stop... it was one of the most painful days of my life....

... after the hump, our Drill Instructors made us take our boots off, and line up in front of our racks in the White Elephants for inspection.... I remember taking off my shoes and seeing the blood.. while I'd been walking, I knew I was hurting myself... but I didn't understand how much until I actually took off the boots... my socks were soaked with blood... the top of each toe had rubbed against the hard leather with a vengeance... quite literally, I had crippled myself...

... the Drill Instructor called for the corpsman to come and bandage my feet... I could see the look of disappointment on his face as he watched the sailor dress my wounds... I had let him down.. I knew better... he had taught me better... and I was ashamed.... to this day, I still have scars on the tops of my feet from that agonizing day... and to this day, the pain of knowing that I let my DI down still stings... after all, a Marine who can't walk is useless... since healing up, I have taken care of my feet religiously... sure, I have blisters from time to time, but nothing like the ones I had that day... I learned my lesson the hard way... mobility, people... if you can't maneuver, you are dead...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(5)
» Cadillac Tight links with: On feet
» Boudicca's Voice links with: Left foot, left foot, right foot right

A Day Out...

... yesterday, the Wife and I opened up the sunroof and drove down to Benton.. we drove the backroads and took our time... skirting the edge of the National Forest, the view of Gee Creek and the mighty Hiwassee was wondrous... the steep mountains are covered in a dense growth that is impassable to man during the summer... tangled and jungle-like, the foliage overhangs the rivers and creeks.. it looks hungry to devour anything that doesn't move...

... we stopped by Nancy Ward's gravesite after lunch, and walked around... three large cairns and a huge cedar tree marked the spot where she'd been lain... a Cherokee Princess buried beside her son, and some person identified only as "Longfellow"... her son's stone mentioned service in the War of 1812... his name was "Five Killer"... one can only imagine how that title was earned...

... we made our way up and around the square iron fence that protected the funeral cairns.. waist high, and black with the mountains rising behind it, it was quite a view... nearby, a farmer was mowing a field of green hay... early Spring hay, bursting with life... you could see it all from Ms. Ward's grave... the deep green of the mountain.. the baby blue of the noonday sky.. the dark, coolness of the Hiwassee River below.. and the hazy heat rising from the mown field... not a bad place to spend eternity... not a bad place at all....

... as we started to leave, I noticed that small, white, cloth bags had been tied to the center portions of the fence... tied with ribbons, they were at each direction... white ribbons to the west.. black to the east... and red ribbons at north and south... they were fresh with their contents as well... I suppose a Cherokee must have been by recently to pay their respects to the dead...

.. after a while, the Sun was beginning to make us sweat... so we wandered down the small rise towards the river and the shade of the trees.. we found a clean, concrete boat ramp that slid into the water at a pleasant angle, and we sat there for a while watching the water move... we hadn't been there long when we heard the sound of a kitten coming from the riverbank... we couldn't see through the undergrowth, but when we spoke the cat would call to us... The Wife took off her shoes, rolled up the legs of her trousers, and eased herself into the fast current.. she found it almost instantly... in a hole in the river's edge just out of our view.. vines and exposed roots of trees had formed a makeshift pocket for the animal...

... once it was carried over the water and placed on the boat ramp, it began circling our legs the way only a cat can do.. brushing against your calves with the full length of a nearly starved body...

... I walked up to the car and grabbed a bag of beef jerky out of the trunk.. I offered a piece to the ravenous kitten, but the meat was too hard.. it tried to eat it, and even though it was starving, it gave up.... I opened the bag and scooped it full of fresh water from the edge of the stream.. working the bag with my hands, I could see the meat beginning to soften.. it brushed against our ankles in a never-ending series of circles and figure eights.. all the while keeping that bag of Pemmican held firmly in its gaze... heh...

... once the jerky was soft, I broke it into small chunks and doled them out to the kitten... when it'd finish one small pile, it would look up at me for more... I gave it what it wanted... The Wife was stroking and talking to it as it ate...

... I poured the remains of the bag onto a large flat rock, and we made our way back to the car... at the top of the boat ramp, we looked back towards the river and the kitten.... it was still eating... occasionally taking a break to look up at us... had it followed us to the car, we'd have taken it home... it certainly looked like it needed a home... but, it didn't follow us... perhaps it needed the meal more than companionship... either way, we left it as we'd found it... but at least it had a full stomach... I suppose that sometimes, that's all you can do...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(6)
» A Swift Kick & A Band-Aid links with: Rescuing Animals

Birds and Bars...

... today's a day of decisions.. I've been offered a quick weekend escape to DC to hit the Georgetown bars and catch a Cubs game... man, I really want to go... the problem is, I still have to wrangle a suitable conclusion out of the Audi dealer... oh, and I've got a website to work on too... you know, for an unemployed guy, I seems like I sure have a lot of shit to do... I'll keep you posted... heh heh... nah.. on second thought, you guys know me... who am I trying to kid?... I am going...

... in totally unrelated news, I spooked two whippoorwills yesterday as I was checking the property marker behind my house... sweet Jesus, rubberneckers... I've listened to their distinctive evening call ever since I can remember... but I've never actually seen one before... I'm here to tell you, those suckers are enormous... easily as big as a crow... I was impressed... hey, who knew?... I suppose I was expecting something less intimidating in appearance... after all, their song doesn't lend itself to visions of big, butch birds... I suppose, in my imagination's eye, I was expecting an extremely scaled down version of Bigbird.. but with darker plumage... not some foot-tall nighthawk looking beast...

... I suppose that is the nature of it, though... you hear something every day, and you think you know it.. you understand it.. you feel comfortable.. and then reality lays the almighty smackdown on you.. misconceptions, people... we've all got'em.... and in all my years of living... I thought whippoorwills were tiny...

Read the Bullshit »

A Gentle Man...

... when I was about six months old, my Mother and Father were living in a small, rented house just outside Niota, Tennessee.... my Dad was fresh back from the Vietnam War, and had managed to land a job with Southern Railway as a laborer on a Maintenance of Way gang... Southern was big into hiring disabled and wounded vets at the time, and his wounds gave him a leg-up... it was a good job for 1973... hard work, but good pay.... the downside was that he traveled with the gang... Bristol.. Jellico.. White Pine... way up in the northeastern corner of the state... as a result, he was gone all week and returned on Friday evenings... tired, hungry, and wanting to spend the weekend with his family...

... the row of basic, clean houses were painted white.... all of them faced onto a rural road that snaked down the hillside towards highway 11 and the town... the other side of the road was dominated by a large brick mansion with a 2 acre front lawn... the owner of the row of houses lived there at the crest of the hill...

... one evening when my Father arrived home, he noticed that there was a small fire burning in a 55 gallon drum... the drum was in a small drainage ditch that separated our lawn from next door.. when he came in the door, he asked about it... Mother said that the owner across the street had brought his garbage over and burnt it... she had asked him what he was doing, and he had replied that he had "always" burnt his garbage there... so he lit the fire, and left...

... now, the problem with this scenario is that it was late Spring.. unseasonably hot... and the house had no air conditioning... so to combat the effects of the heat on her new child, she had to open the windows... when she did, the breeze carried the smoke straight into the house..

... my Father did what anyone else would have done, I suppose... he turned on the water hose, and doused the fire in the barrel... then he walked up the long driveway towards the brick house... after knocking on the door and waiting what seemed like an hour, the gentleman opened the door with a Scotch & water highball in hand...

... "Excuse me, sir", he began... "I've just got back from working away all week, and my Wife tells me that you brought your garbage over here to burn at our house... is that right?"...

... "yeah, that's right", was the polite response... he took a sip from his drink, and continued... "I've always burnt my trash in that ditch there.. is there a problem?"...

... "well, I didn't know that when I rented your house... and yeah, yeah, there is a problem.... I've got a 6 month old son over there who is breathing that smoke... it's too hot for us to keep the windows closed, and the smoke is coming right into the house... so, here's an idea.... I leave out every Sunday night heading to White Pine... if you sit your garbage at the end of your drive, I'll be happy to haul it off on my way to work once a week... that way there is no smoke, and you get rid of your trash... sound like a deal?"...

... the Landlord stood in the doorway eyeing up my Father... 6'2.. 210lbs... short blonde hair.. sky blue eyes.. a bone-deep suntan from working outdoors his whole life... and more recently, from the Southeast Asian sun... "Sure, my man.... not a problem at all.. I didn't realize the smoke was bothering your baby... think no more of it..."

... feeling that a compromise had been reached, Dad walked back to the house and ate dinner...

... the following Sunday evening, he was putting his work clothes into the back of his beat-up Impala... he looked over at the mailbox of the mansion... there were no bags of garbage....

... he arrived home late the next Friday to find a smoking barrel in the ditch... after hosing it down and extinguishing the smoldering papers, he looked up the hill towards the Brick House... the cars were not in the drive... he went inside and sat down at the kitchen table and wrote a note....

Sir,

I spoke to you last week regarding the burning of trash around my child. I offered to take your trash away on Sunday evenings. I am still willing to do this service for you, but I wanted to make myself clear. There will be no more trash burnt in my yard. I am returning your barrel. If you would like, please feel free to talk with me about this matter. I am sure that you and I can work something out.

regards,

MHS

... after finishing a now cold meal, my Father rolled the old 55 gallon drum up the hill to the house... he placed the note on the front door, and left...

... all day the next Sunday, he watched out the window... hoping to see the Landlord toting garbage bags to the road... but when the time arrived for him to leave, there were none... with a feeling of sadness, he drove the long hours to work...

... the week's work had been hot.. the kind of heat that boils up from the blackened crossties and steel rails - exposed to the eternal sun - and bakes a Man... the life of a laborer on the railroad is modernly akin to slave labor, and he was tired... wanting rest, his eyes caught the wispy smoke as he eased into his small driveway...

... covered in the grime of a day spent driving spikes and lining rail, he opened the trunk of his old Impala and retrieved a tie bar.. six feet long and an inch and a half thick... this solid steel bar is used to hold the rails in line near switches... he approached the smoking barrel slowly... methodically... and with a mighty slam, he knocked it into the street... ashes and sparks flew... but he continued... with another blow, it spun across the street and spilled garbage against the mailbox of the Landlord... again and again... the barrel spun closer and closer to the Brick House... a trail of embers and half-burnt pieces of the Chattanooga Times snaked across the 2 acre lawn... and finally, he was there.. the dented, rusty drum was resting on its side by the welcome mat...

... but for some reason, he didn't stop... he pounded and pounded the barrel with the heavy steel rod... only stopping when it had been beaten flat on the doorstep...

... he stood in the lawn for a long time... breathing heavily from the exertion.. his arms burning with pain from flailing the heavy bar... he looked to his right... yes, the cars were there... yes, they surely must have heard him outside.... yes, they were watching him through the window... he stood, and waited...

... but nothing happened... as his breathing became normal again, he turned towards his house... "typical", he thought to himself... "you just can't be fair with some people"....

... he walked down the hill towards his little home leaving the littered lawn and smoking barrel behind... once inside, he ate his supper and played with his child.... we lived in that house 18 more months after that... and no one ever burnt garbage in that tiny ditch again...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(30)
» Velociworld links with: WORD UP
» SayUncle links with: A man's man
» Pajama Pundits links with: A to Z Linkfest #4
» Gut Rumbles links with: a man
» the tincanman links with: Mommy
» Letters from New York City links with: Boad Spectrum Reading

Sunday Visitors..

... I wandered through the house early this morning to perk some coffee... as I turned the corner into the kitchen, a large cave cricket was chilling out on the tile floor beside the liquor cabinet... I wiped my eyes, and stood for a second in disbelief... yep, it was a cave cricket..

... it looked at me soullessly and swirled his antennae... he was quite a big fella... I unfolded my pajama bottoms, and slipped them on while he watched... "fuck it", I mumbled as I wiped the sleep from my eyes... "I want coffee"...

... I staggered past, and started the brewing... the cave cricket continued waving his limbs and nibbling on something.... "wow", I thought dreamily to myself, "I wonder how he got in here?".... strange stuff, indeed... anyway, halfway through the pot's cycle, I robbed the rich, dark coffee from the machine and wandered back to the blogroom...

... an hour had passed, and I could hear The Wife stirring... she peeped a bed-frazzled head around the corner of the blogroom doorway, and asked it I'd made coffee... "Yes, dear... there's a fresh pot.. I robbed it early, so it is good and strong", came my reply.... well, just now.... sipping my coffee and reading, my quiet Sunday morning has just been split asunder... I was jerked into the real world by a bloodcurdling scream... the fear, anger, and revulsion was palpable in the reverberating roar...

... yeah.. you guessed it... I don't know for sure, but if I had to guess... I'd say she has just met Mr. Cave Cricket... and I also think that I may be trouble...

Read the Bullshit »

Sharing...

... a Cousin and I are heading out on a fieldtrip today... we're off to visit the grave of Jackson Petty in Philadelphia, TN... he's never been there before, and not many of our family knows where ole Jackson is resting... so, I am off to fix that this morning... it is time that someone else knows some of the secrets I've been collecting..

.. many years ago, I began tracing my family tree... I was living overseas at the time, and all of my research was done from long-distance phone calls, emails, and snail mail.. it was a costly endeavor... after about five years of collecting names, dates, and old stories, I laid my data aside.... I was burnt out... 5,000 names of dead relatives from across the globe... Switzerland, Germany, England, Ireland, Scotland... Cherokee, Choctaw, and Catawba.... it was all getting too tangled... so, I quit...

... in the past few weeks, I've suddenly begun getting questions fired at me... mostly from the younger Cousins... thus, the data has been resurrected.. and a renewed interest in the family roots is surfacing... I have to admit, I am stoked...

... I suppose, with every generation, it is only a matter of time before we start looking ourselves in the mirror and asking ourselves where it is we came from... sooner or later, we all want to find our place in the larger picture of history... maybe we are the product of dirt farming bit-players... or maybe headlining big-shots... either way, it really doesn't matter... we just want to know...

Read the Bullshit »

Replacements...

... I arrived home from Jekyll late last night tired beyond belief... mentally, physically, and emotionally... I really do hate to tear myself away from such an incredible group of friends, and the burden was wearing on me by nightfall.... these meets are gems to me... they really are.... if it is possible, they recharge - and drain me - at the same time... but as the dusk darkened, I opened up a Newcastle and sat myself on the deck.. I was feeling the fatigue of two days and nights of laughing wearing on my bones...

... about that time, a bloggeress called to me... and I sat and talked into the darkness with her as the Blue Jays in the garden were replaced with singing Quail.. I hung up the phone around midnight feeling better.... and I went to bed less tired than I had imagined.... I know it is a strange thought.... but sometimes, distance is something we create for ourselves... in reality, we're only as far away as we want to be...

Read the Bullshit »

Verily...

... keep re-reading the Hard Luck post below... some things become more and more true every single day...

Read the Bullshit »

Peace...

... I had the windows open last night, most of the lights turned down.... I was enjoying the smell of the damp forest entering the house.. springtime is mild here in Tennessee, and an evening of rain had created the perfect night... a night for letting the sounds and smells of a new season creep into my home... I turned off the television, and began reading a book in the blogroom... The Wife was reclining on the sofa quietly devouring her latest booty - courtesy of the McMinn County library... after a few minutes of quiet, we both became acutely aware of the outside noises... whippoorwills calling in the distance... the wind in the dogwood trees... even the dripping of rainwater from the damp leaves...

... the whole aspect was calming.. therapeutic... even the breeze was full of perfume.. and then, without warning, something changed...

... a true silence descended in an instant.. I am sure that the other noises actually continued... but something close - and almost unheard - drew the focus of my hearing away from all other sounds.. a steady feeling of dread and a whisper of something outside my window... close... and dangerous... as my ears strained to gather more facts, I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand-up.. part of me knew this feeling well... I have felt it before while hunting predators.. luring hungry coyotes with a screaming rabbit... if you let yourself go, you can hear the panic... the terror in the pleas of the prey... and you, as you watch the prowler come close, understand that you are being hunted....

... I eased out of my chair, and approached the open window... leaning forward for a better view into the darkness... just then, the neighbor's Labrador gave a mighty bark from across the road... and from just below my open window, I heard the familiar yelp of a coyote as it bounded back into the woods...

... the call of the coyote echoed through the house, and the Wife appeared at the door of the blogroom... "Eric?.... What in the Hell was that?", she said.. open book still in hand....

... "Nothing, dear... just the dog from across the street... are the cats in the garage?"...

... "uh huh... they are both in"... she shifted her weight, and walked over to the window... "what a beautiful night"...

... "it sure is, babe", I said as I found my way back to my chair... "let's open a bottle of wine"...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(11)
» Technicalities links with: Linky Luv

My Monday....

.. early this morn, I awoke with the need for action coursing through my veins... a heartfelt need for movement... after all, it is a Monday - a day which finds most law-abiding citizens venturing off to their places of work... yes, today is the customary beginning of a week of toil... a thing which I have become a stranger to of late.. so, after a nice stretch and a pot of coffee, I set about looking for some menial task with which I could slake my thirst for results...

... at first, I checked the laundry... yep... all done.. then the dishes.. yep, I did them last night... carpet?... clean enough.. Hell, I even opened up the gunsafe, and sure enough, all weapons were clean, lubed, and ready for action.... what to do?... ahhh... let us just drink more coffee and watch the Pope's procession.... which I did..

... well, after a few hours, I am happy to report to you all that I had a flash of brilliance just as my man showed up to mow my lawn... you got it, children... I realized - in a wild tangent kind of way - that The Wife ran out of vino last night... a situation that simply will not do.. so, I headed off to Lenoir City to purchase aforementioned vino... this also afforded me the opportunity to stop at Taco Bell and load up on burritos for lunch... a rare treat around my house for sure... anyway, upon returning, I found my lawn freshly manicured... as I was approaching the house with my liquid booty, I noticed a small hill of fire ants that had been knocked over by the mower... I stood for a minute, case of wine in hand, and watched the little beasts carrying their blind young across my walkway path, and disappearing into the gravel of the azalea bed..

... I was immediately reminded of my Robert Service, of course, but took no heed.... Hiroshima, indeed... Raid to the rescue, my friends.... I deposited the load of booze onto the kitchen table, retrieved my chemical weapons, and let those suckers have it.... I was standing there, victoriously watching thousands of critters writhe in pain, when I noticed the weeds in the flowerbed... Hot Damn... a NEW task... one in need of attention..

... see?... Creative Loafing can take you in directions you never even imagined... what is my current task, you may ask?... kicking back with a drink, and beginning an afternoon of reading blogs... yeah, I know.. and, yeah... I AM ashamed...

Read the Bullshit »

11 Years....

... last year, I wrote this story of where I was on this day in 1994... it still applies... 11 years may seem like a long time, but it isn't.. it feels like it has passed in the blink of an eye...

... yesterday, The Wife and I drove up to Maryville for an early dinner at the Lemon Grass... a small, Thai restaurant that serves large portions of rice & spicy meat... just as we were arriving, I had the pleasure of chatting with Sandy for a few minutes... we were pulling into the parking lot when my phone went off.. so, our conversation was cut short.. still, she had just enough time to give The Wife and I a few pointers on what to order in a good Thai eatery... thanks, Sandy...

... after our meal, we pulled into a gas station to fuel-up before the lightning rocketride home... I started the gas pumping, and moved around to clean the windshield... when I was finished, I moved around the side of the car towards the pump... The Wife, with a grin and a "thank you, Sir", rolled down her window and gave me a nickel... damn, people... Scots really are stingy...

... today, the Wife is working.... and I am going into town to buy some gifts for the crowd I am meeting in Chicago next week.... 11 years... it seems like one or two... Happy Anniversary, Dear... you are the best...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(15)
» Tammi's World links with: Happy Anniversary

Options...

... during one hot and humid evening back in the Summer, the members of the Social Club held a coup d'etat of sorts... yes, hard to believe, but they did it.. they rebelled against my musical taste... openly, vigorously, and loud enough that my neighbor ceased unloading groceries across the street to watch and listen... the troglodytes, it seemed, had had enough of Warren Zevon... it was truly a sad sight to see fully grown men crying, "we ALWAYS listen to that!.. don't you have anything ELSE?"...

... so, being at an impasse, I suggested that the ungrateful bastards bring some of their OWN music over... well, they did... Hell, I even went out the next week and bought about 20 CDs to add to the collection...

... for the following two Wednesday nights, we listened to The Cure, Hendrix, Cake, The Doobie Brothers, Bob Marley, and Lou Reed.. from the sublime, to the ridiculous, and all the way back again... some music is just is not meant to be played while shooting pool...

... on the third Wednesday, the "Genius" album by Zevon was played again.. followed by "Texas Flood" by SRV... followed by "Life'll Kill Ya" by Zevon... and, to this day, those three albums are evening staples... we may start out with The Doors, Willie Nelson, Fats Waller, or Butch Thompson, but we always return to the path of righteousness, and those three albums are played.. always..

... the rest of the CDs we bought as a result of the little rebellion?... never listened to... strange, that... those bastards screamed for the ability to choose from a larger menu, and once I bought the smorgasbord, they decided to hang on to every day's cheese sticks... shit, plead for diversity and choice, and never exercise it.. I'm not sure, but I think that a life-lesson might be hidden in the contents of that CD case in my garage...

Read the Bullshit »

on Brothels...

... a few days ago, the Wife received a phone call from her sainted Father... he's just fresh back from a six-week trip across Australia from east-to-west... topped off with a week of sun'n'fun in Kuala Lumpur.. heh.. him and two mates road-tripping across the Nullabor Desert Plain... and then throwing down in Malaysia.. some guys have all the luck... anyway, he ended up chatting with her for almost two hours..

... when they were finished, she brought the phone through to the blogroom..

... "Eric", says he, "us guys thought of you when we got to Kalgoorlie"

... "You did, huh?... cool.. is that where they dig for opals?"...

... "nope, that's the other place.. Kalgoorlie had a gold strike.. but, that's not what I'm wanting to tell you... Kalgoorlie is the only place in Australia where brothels are legal.. so, we naturally went for a tour of a really nice one"..

... picking my jaw up off the floor, I mumbled... "you've gotta be shitting me"...

... "heh.. no way, not at all.. they had an Orgy Room all decked out Romanesque... a French Revolution Room... and even one room that just had a parked car in it.."...

... beginning to realize that he is telling the truth, I start to come around... "DAMN, man.. how were the women?.. on a scale of 1 to 10?"..

... ".. heh heh... probably about 8's.. but still, not too shabby for the middle of a bloody desert"..

... "wait just a minute... they REALLY had a whole car in a room?"...

... "aye.. they sure did.... I guess some of their patrons like the back seats... well, anyway, nice talking to you, Eric.. like I said, we all thought of you when we were taking the tour.. have a good night"..

... "alright.. ok, then... glad you had a good trip... all the best.. bye...."..

... the whole thing only lasted about 2 minutes... 2 hours with the Wife, and 2 minutes with me.. the Wife was standing here listening as I hung up the phone... she looked me up and down, and said... "HE never told ME he went to a BROTHEL!"....

... I let out a nervous laugh, handed her the phone, and shrugged my shoulders.. I mean, really.. what was I supposed to say?.. I have a feeling that no matter what I said, I would have lost that battle... besides, why did he want to tell ME that he went on a tour of a brothel?... I mean, was it just me, or was that conversation just plain whacked?... still, it is nice to know I crossed their minds while they were traveling.. heh...

Read the Bullshit »

Visiting...

... if you want to know a place, you have to talk to the locals... tourists are just passing rubberneckers.. they breeze in with some brochures, spend some cash, and then dash back to their normal lives with a sunburn and a hangover.. thinking they have seen the City... they are 100% wrong...

... I am just back in from visiting with friends in Savannah, and I have to tell you.. their is no finer way to get to know a Great Southern City than by hanging with a crew of locals... Acidman, Catfish, Recondo32, Georgia, and Velociman.. children, between those guys, they know everything there is to know about that mysterious, moss-covered city... political bosses, corruption, streaking downtown, The Studebaker, coastal island-hopping, or cooking oysters on a car hood... those boys rock... they make this hillbilly see them & their city in a light that you don't get from brochures..

... as Key and I were standing in that graveyard, I could not help but notice the beauty of the place... tucked into a residential corner of a great city - a quiet, peaceful place... with trees spaced occasionally.. Spanish moss, mockingbirds, and sunlight... I saw a side of the real Savannah yesterday morning...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(7)
» Key Issues links with: Away From My Desk

Trouble...

... drinking coffee in the blogroom this morning, I heard the sound of the television being turned on in the living room... I knew the movie in an instant.. broken dialogue.. music...

... the show was two minutes from being over... and in my opinion, the best two minutes of cinema ever filmed... a summation of a movie.... a life... an outlook... boiled down to two minutes...

... a conversation between two hermits... high on a mountain in the snow... eating rabbit from a spit... and wondering what month of the year it is...

... "you've come far, pilgrim"..

... "it feels like far"..

... "t'were it worth the trouble?"

... "eh?.. what trouble?"...

.... may I never forget that as long as I live...

Read the Bullshit »

Memories...

... on the 19th of May, my Father will have been dead five years... I was in the room with him when he died, and I closed his eyes... losing him was the single most painful thing to have happened in my life so far... I still miss him... every single day... but one thing remains stuck in my mind... he was in pain, and he was suffering... the pain that I felt when he died was somehow overshadowed with a knowledge that the torments of the man I loved were finally over... no matter how much I wanted him to stay, he was better off being allowed to slip into the hereafter... as hard as it sounds, sometimes, when you love someone you need to set them free...

... Rob, you and your family are in our thoughts.. my sincere condolences, friend...

Read the Bullshit »

Community...

... once upon a time, I wrote a post about my little Brother, Joshua.. I mentioned how tough he was... and how proud I was of him... cancer had just been cut out of one lung, and the operation for his other side would have to wait for the first wound to heal... we both knew it was the beginning of a rough path... a path he is still wandering down...

... sitting at my desk, re-reading the post, I received a comment to it... it was from Jack, and I wept as I read it... my Wife heard me and came through... she read the post and the comment while sitting on the arm of my blogchair... when she finished, she looked down at me and smiled.. stroked my hair, and went back through into the living room... my blog was my confessional, and she knew that...

... Christina once asked me why I blog... at the time, I refused to answer.. but some bloggers already know my answer to that question...

... right now, Rob's Mother is in dire straits... I wish peace for her and Rob from the very bottom of my heart...

... I will not tell you why I blog... why I keep this infantile collection of jokes and stories going... but I will tell you that the friendships I have made here are valued more than I can possibly describe...

Read the Bullshit »

Tobacco..

... for all of you dazzling urbanites, this post is not going to make any sense...

.. I humbly submit to you gentle readers that the tobacco industry in the South is one of the most backbreaking, torturous, and time consuming institutions in the world... most people have no idea how much work went into them having their daily smokes...

.. you begin by painstakingly hand-planting each seed into a specially worked tobacco bed... then, after a few months, you transplant the fledgling weed into an enormous field... around where I lived, the average field would be 60 to 100 acres.. you hoe, and weed... fertilize and apply pesticides...

.. then you "top and sucker" each plant... by hand... with a pocket knife... bloody Hell... cutting the bloom from each plant, and searching for "sucker" leaves that would drain nourishment from the proper leaves..

.. then the harvest... cutting each stalk with a machete or "tobacco knife"... the cutting was a two-man job.. one hunched worker would slash the plant, and hand it back to a "spearman" who would impale the plant onto a wooden stick... later, after the field was cut, each stringer full of plants would be loaded and taken to a barn for hanging... usually, the tobacco barns were filled top to bottom... tobacco was hung four to six rungs high... fun stuff, I tell ya... the man on the top rung was probably 40 feet off the ground...

... a few months later (while you have been preparing the harvested field for next spring's new planting) it was time to "grade" the dried tobacco.. you hand-stripped each leaf... examined it, and sorted it into grades.. once the whole barn was graded, you baled the tobacco... these were then sold... by now, of course, you have slaved from February to mid-December for this crop of nicotine-laced goodness...

.. ahhh.. rest on your laurels... take a few weeks off... enjoy the New Year... because, guess what?... in two weeks, you have to start preparing your tobacco beds again...

.. as a kid growing up, I hated working in a tobacco field more than anything...

... however, it did teach me one thing... the importance of hard work... the importance of endurance... my Great Uncle Rob was an incredible man... looking back now, spending those terrible days in the field wasn't so bad.. I may have been getting paid minimum wage, but I'd be a lesser man today without the experience... even though I thought it was Hell-on-Earth... he was actually doing me a favor..

... thanks for the memory, Sandy...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(10)
» LoboWalk--Welcome to Blogville links with: Passing The Muster
» RedNeck Ramblings links with: Bacca Bloggin'

Sexy?.. no, Confident..

... I've read a few great blogs today who have responded to Christina's question... "What do guys do to make themselves feel confident and sexy?"... well, to be quite honest, I really can't answer that question... while I was getting my haircut this afternoon, I pondered the answer.. the same result kept appearing in my mind every time..

... first off, we actually have two questions here... one is "what do we do to feel confident"... and the other is "what do we do to feel sexy".... I'll tackle the latter first... let me just begin by saying that I believe there is a misunderstanding in how Men and Women perceive themselves.... how we feel about ourselves and our appearance... in my experience, during my entire 32 years on this planet, I can honestly say that I have NEVER used the phrase "I feel sexy"... I just don't think like that... I have felt horny... I have felt sexed-up... I have felt sexually spent... sexually frustrated... sexually victorious... and sexually inept.. but I have never looked in the mirror and thought... "Damn, Eric, you are one sexy beast"... that's just not who I am.... I am also notoriously bad at getting my radar to pick up women hitting on me for that same reason.. I just am not wired like that... I am polite, courteous, and friendly... (except at blogmeets).. the "sexy beast" deal does not figure into the mental image I hold of myself.. I wear cowboy boots, jeans, and tee-shirts almost every day... usually a fleece jacket too.. I am over 6 feet.. around 200 pounds... with very, very short red hair, and freckles... these characteristics do not a "Sex Beast" make... I am just Eric... your average, everyday Straight White Guy.. and I am totally cool with that... only once have I bemoaned it, and it is documented here...

.. as for the confidence, that is a different kettle of fish... in most circumstances, I know that I can take care of myself... in a bar fight... in a ship lost at sea... speaking before a crowd... or when a Server crashes.. I can handle it.... you know, I believe that I am the person I am today because of three overriding influences.. my Mother, my Father, and the United States Marine Corps... take away any of those factors, and I would not be who & where I am today....

.. but still, the question remains.. what do I do to make myself feel confident?... well, I read one of my favorite books, or I watch a favorite movie... I go to the range and pop a few targets at 500 meters... I go swimming... I cook a meal for the family... call up a friend on the phone and talk about absolutely nothing... sit back and remember that I am loved... I go back to the edge of my property, and build a fire... then sit by it, and look down at my house and the life I have built.... these things are what make me feel confident... not the clothes I am wearing, or the style of my hair.. in short, I guess I don't really DO anything... I just reconnect with parts of my life... looking at my life makes me feel confident...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(8)
» She Who Will Be Obeyed! links with: Dinner with Tammi

Bravery...

... Michele of Letters from New York City has asked a question... she seems interested in hearing tales of a few select men's first loves... I don't blame her one bit... stories of love intrigue us.. they inspire us... hardwired into your minds, we seek out these stories... tales of love lost... love found... eternal love.. and love left unreturned... it doesn't matter what the flavor is, we are hooked on it... we need those stories..

.. having the capacity to bare your soul to another human being and truly love - for whatever period of time - is the most beautiful thing to behold..

... last night I watched "Shadowlands", and it crushed me.. it threw my heart to the ground, and twisted it underfoot like a cigarette butt.... the story of a C.S. Lewis falling in love with a beautiful American poet who slowly died of cancer... I felt it...it resonated in me... I watched my Father die the same way... slowly... drop by drop until he was no more... I simply cannot imagine what it would feel like to lose a spouse that way... at the end of that movie, I wept... Love, people... no matter what anyone tells you, it will end in pain...

... the pain may be caused by your lover jilting you... finding out she's banging the milkman every Tuesday... or, it might be from the fact that you simply love her more than she loves you... but even under the most perfect circumstances, love will bring you pain... you may be married 75 years to the most wonderful woman on the planet... who loves you more than the air she breathes... but one day... she is going to die... through no fault of her own.. she'll get called away.. leaving you alone and still in love... it is inescapable... to love someone is to call down heaven's fury... it will always end in pain... sure, it might be bliss for an hour... a day... a year... or 50... but it will end in the same way... pain...

... here is the key... when you love someone, you bond with them in a way that is deeper than any canyon.. you surrender your self to them... many of you know what I am talking about... if you don't, then you have never truly loved... the thing is, to feel that bliss, comfort, and joy of loving, you must also accept that eventually you will suffer the greatest pain of your life.. either when she leaves... or dies... or when you are on YOUR deathbed preparing to leave HER.. not wanting to let her go.. fighting to stay alive for one more breath, just to see her face... one more time...

... loving someone is an act of unparalleled bravery... and that is a fact, children...

... as for my "first love" story?... I am sorry, Michele... but that is a post for another day.. I will tell you this, though... I know that I have loved... and that I do love.... and that I will continue to love... even though I know I will get hurt...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(8)
» Gut Rumbles links with: my first love
» Letters from New York City links with: To Love ...

The Sting..

... absolutely nothing on the planet says "WAKE THE HELL UP" like getting stung on the nutsack by a wasp first thing in the morning...

... well, not exactly on the nutsack... but close enough... right inner thigh - pretty high up... it's almost enough to make a man second-guess going commando...

... still, there is always a bright side... I mean, it could have been a black mamba like the one I saw on the Discovery Channel.. I mean, I wouldn't be writing this now if it had been a mamba... although, begging the question of how a mamba would get into my bedroom would be even more mysterious than wondering how that damn wasp got in there...

... now that I think of it, that wasp COULD have waited till I pulled my pants all the way up.. thus injecting the painful venom directly into the boys... so, I suppose I should just take this little morning drama in stride.. I mean, I'm not dead, and the jewels are secure... today is a good day...

... hark, children... listen closely.... no matter how bad things are, they can ALWAYS get worse...

UPDATE:.. sitting here now, I have had a chance to reflect a bit.. I would like to just take a moment to say how monumentally glad I am that it was not a gila monster.. they are venomous, and once they bite... well, they hold on like a vise.. that would have truly, truly sucked....

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(19)
» Fistful of Fortnights links with: Happy Presidents' Day.
» Snapshot links with: Good Morning!

Tangents...

... three years ago, I dropped my life in Scotland, and moved back to Tennessee to take care of my Father... his cancer had worsened, and he was on the downward slope... and my help was needed.. so, I packed up, and skidded the Ocean.. just like that... quit my job... said a few goodbyes... and caught the first flight to Chattanooga... in the process of leaving so quickly, my Wife's immigration paperwork was found to not be in order... after all, I had never planned on ever leaving Scotland... as such, we were caught flatfooted... but with our situation, I could not wait on her... and I left her behind...

.. the result of this was that I spent 7 months living off of my savings... taking care of my Dad.. and staying in my old childhood bedroom.. telephoning the Wife every few days to let her know what was going on...

... when I wasn't sitting with Dad and reading or talking, I was outside... doing yard work... building fence... target practicing in the back yard... helping with the vegetable garden... but I never strayed far from home.. I wanted to be near just in case something happened...

... it is strange how our minds work.. especially with memories... I was just reading The Redneck talk about flinging beer bottles at signs, and it made me think of this... what a tangent... still, I suppose you never know what will ignite the imagination... what might cast you back to those old, dusty archives...

... in the course of those 7 months, on two occasions, my Cousin Brad dragged me out of the house to seek normalcy... once, we took a lunch and a case of beer and drove up to White Cliffs on Starr's Mountain... we just sat there eating and drinking until the sun set.. we both knew that my Dad didn't have much more time.. we didn't even talk that much that day.. we just sat... it was a welcome break..

... the other time is better seated in my mind... as I write this, I find that I can remember strange little details.. had you asked me yesterday, I would have had no idea of many of these things.. .but today, it all seems so fresh...

... it was my 7th wedding anniversary and I had not seen my Wife in 5 months.. my Dad was now bedridden... and my Mother and I were bracing ourselves for the inevitable... then Brad called... it was his suggestion that we celebrate my anniversary... I agreed... I needed to get away for a while... we decided on Calhoun's at the Marina.. a fancy dinner... so, we donned our finest suits... (it was the first time Brad had worn a tie in probably 10 years).. loaded into his old jeep, and headed out... I remember our waitress.. she asked us what we were celebrating... Brad winked at her, and pointed at me, "My Cousin here, he just made his first million.. that's what we're celebrating, honey."... the rest of the night, we received sterling service, children.. and she was given a worthy tip...

... I remember ordering their locally brewed beer... a dark, Cherokee ale... then, prime rib... a blooming onion.. and a side of white chili... I remember that the waitress told us she was from Kingsport.. I remember sitting after the meal drinking double Macallans and watching the waitress flirt with Brad.. after the meal, the sun had set on the lake, and the Fort Loudon Dam was lit up like a Christmas tree... fog was rolling in off the lake, and the dam looked as if it was glowing... we stopping at the Jiffy in Loudon on our way back home and bought a six pack of Miller Genuine Draft... just south of town, we turned left off of Highway 11 and disappeared onto those deserted country roads..

... halfway home, I did something that I had not done in years... I unzipped the window of Brad's jeep, leaned out, and tossed an empty bottle towards a County Road sign.. I nailed it... the bottle exploded into a million shattered pieces.. and I smiled...

... it's hard to imagine what one act of civil disobedience - coupled with littering a public road - did to me that night.. that night, I was 17 years old again... my Dad wasn't dying... and my Wife was not 5,000 miles away... that night, it was just Brad and I enjoying a slight buzz with bellies full of the finest food in east Tennessee... dressed to the nines... living life on the back roads of McMinn County...

Read the Bullshit »

the Immortal Memory..

... during the past week, Burns Clubs the World o'er have been celebrating the birth of The Immortal Bard... sadly, I missed the festivities of the Montrose Burns Club this year... my friends, however, represented me there in spirit... it's always one helluva party, and one of the most sought after tickets in Angus...

... once upon a time, I wrote about attending my first Burns Night.... a night that ended with an Armistead-esque saber charge... ahhh... those were the days, children.... but this year, I am planning a much smaller celebration... I'll be partaking of some fine single malt... re-reading a few favored poems... and breaking out the guitar for some Rabbie Burns sing-along... in particular, this little ditty...

The Rigs O' Barley

It was upon a Lammas night,
When corn rigs are bonnie,
Beneath the moon's unclouded light,
I held away to Annie:
The time flew by wi' tentless heed
Till 'tween the late and early,
Wi' sma' persuasion, she agreed
To see me thro' the barley.
Corn rigs, an' barley rigs,
An' corn rigs are bonnie:
I'll ne'er forget that happy night,
Amang the rigs wi' Annie.

The sky was blue, the wind was still,
The moon was shining clearly:
I set her down, wi' right good will,
Amang the rigs o' barley:
I ken't her heart was a' my ain:
I lov'd her most sincerely;
I kiss'd her owre and owre again,
Amang the rigs o' barley.
Corn rigs an' barley rigs,
An' corn rigs are bonnie:
I'll ne'er forget that happy night,
Amang the rigs wi' Annie.

I lock'd her in my fond embrace;
Her heart was beating rarely:
My blessings on that happy place,
Amang the rigs o' barley!
But by the moon and stars so bright,
That shone that hour so clearly!
She aye shall bless that happy night,
Amang the rigs o' barley.
Corn rigs an' barley rigs,
An' corn rigs are bonnie:
I'll ne'er forget that happy night,
Amang the rigs wi' Annie.

I ha'e been blythe wi' comrades dear;
I ha'e been merry drinkin';
I ha'e been joyfu' gatherin' gear;
I ha'e been happy thinkin':
But a' the pleasures e'er I saw,
Tho' three times doubled fairly,
That happy night was worth then a',
Amang the rigs o' barley.
Corn rigs an' barley rigs,
An' corn rigs are bonnie:
I'll ne'er forget that happy night,
Amang the rigs wi' Annie.

... it sure brings back some fond, fond memories... Rabbie was a deft hand with the ladies, as well as the pen.... heh... among the rigs with Annie... oh yeah.. I can relate...

Update: The Maximum Leader is celebrating as well...

Read the Bullshit »

by Eric | Permalink | Bullshit(5)
» The Laughing Wolf links with: Happy Birthday Mr. Burns

Timing....

... over the past weeks, I have negotiated having every Friday off from work... I've cut myself back to four days per week.... and today was no exception... I got up early.. made some phone-calls... spoke to some dear friends... and headed out...

.... a small bomb had been dropped at Wednesday's usual poolfest, and I spent today assessing the damage... I have come to care deeply for those rambunctious ruffians, you know... but anyway, one of the regulars who haunts my mid-week evenings has just been diagnosed with cancer... he told me Wednesday night after everyone else had left.. he didn't want the others to know.... so, we played a few more frames... made a few toasts... and discussed the options....

... so, today, on my day off, I tooled on out to the gas station in town.. grabbed a dozen assorted Krispy Kreme donuts... two large coffees... and drove over to see him... most of my morning - and early afternoon - was spent eating raspberry filled donuts, drinking coffee, playing with Heidi, the German Shepherd pup, and talking about guns with my friend... I can't think of a better way to enjoy a Friday morning...

... when I arrived, he told me that he'd ordered a new Rock River collapsible stock for my AR-15... heh... it'll be in next week some time... I hadn't even seen it.. he just ordered it because he knew I'd like it... we ate some donuts, and drank some coffee... we stood around outside watching the dog play with a ball.... sometimes, children, you just don't need to say anything... you just need to be there....

Read the Bullshit »

Relax...

... as I sat in my car this morning waiting for it to warm up, I noticed that the outside temperature was 15 degrees... I turned on the defroster, and stepped out to scrape the windows... in about 5 minutes, I was finished.. I slid back behind the wheel, and noticed that I was shaking slightly from the cold... it reminded me... I've had this same feeling before in movie theatres... air conditioned, dark spaces... drinking an ice cold Coke... totally absorbed in a movie... and the next thing you know, your body is shaking to generate heat.... it's all psychological... it's not like I was going to die from exposure in a movie theatre... and it's not like my body needed to be shaking after five minutes outside either.... sometimes, your mind