Friday, April 29, 2016

Shots Fired!

If you're the type to watch the news then you have, no doubt, heard of the shooting which took place this week in Nashville, Tennessee.  The shooting took place in the downtown bus station (aka Music City Central) and is both tragic in its circumstances and outrageous in how it all went down.  

To recap, two teenagers rode up and down the escalators for a long time looking for their 'target.' Once spotted, one of them produced a handgun and proceeded to fire 10 times. His intended victim was hit, as were 3 innocent bystanders.  

It is unimportant to note that this is the bay where I pick up my bus, and that this was, in fact, the same number bus I take every afternoon, but this one leaves 20 min before I get to the bus station. What is important to note in this story is that the teenager who fired in cold blood upon another fired 10 times and only hit his intended target once.  This, from a mere 20 feet away.  

I could talk about the crowds running in terror from this terrorist. (Yes, anyone who fires a weapon in a crowded area regardless of intention spreads terror and is, therefore, a terrorist.) I could talk about the unintended victims who were shot only because the shooter was such a bad shot. (Fired 10 times from only 20 feet away and hit him only once.) I could talk about my own involvement in this entire scenario, but in fact, I didn't arrive at Music City Central until the crowds were out and the large gates were already pulled down so that the police (who arrived in 2 minutes) could do their job. 
Gates are down - nobody in or out!
I could talk about all that, but so many other news agencies, blogs and tweets have already said as much. What hasn't been said is what happened to the large crowds who, like myself, ride the bus nightly and rely on those buses to get us home.  

What happened was this: The MTA supervisors, walkie-talkies in hand, stood in the street, directing the onslaught of buses as they arrived, directing them to the curb.  Once at the curb, passengers got off, passengers got on, and the bus pulled away.  Immediately, the supervisor directed another bus into the vacated spot.  It was like a well rehearsed dance. 

Oh, but wait, there's more.  The entire time the supervisors were out in the street, the crowd milling around, talking loud about the whole thing, cars pulling through to pick up friends or family; the supervisors never lost their cool, calm, professional demeanor. There was no shouting on their part, no exasperated pointing or waving of arms. It was the most incredible display of 'being in control' I have witnessed.  

The police also responded cool and calm, and took over the situation quickly as has been said many times over. It seemed to me that no one mentioned the bus station employees; drivers pulling into a street loaded with other buses, cars and supervisors vying for their attention.  There were few, if any, problems. This can only be attributed to the pre-planning on the part of Music City Central Staff and well trained bus drivers. 

And the true temperament of the South.  
Thanks to you all.   It needs to be said, and said again.  

Friday, April 22, 2016

Crepe Murder Most Foul!

Living in the south, and doing the amount of lawn work I do, it's a darn good thing I don't have a Crepe Myrtle Tree. They take a lot of understanding. The Crepe Myrtle is a beautiful shade tree with blossoms that run from white, to lavender, to magenta to ruby red.  These trees start off their lives as rather unassuming diminutive things. However, if left to grow in their natural beauty, these trees become majestic monuments to the charm of the Southern landscape.  My goodness it all but makes you want to put on a white suite and sip a Mint Julep!

But there's some (cue dark menacing music) who lurk in the shade that know not the beauty of the Crepe Myrtle.  In the late fall, they cut away at the branches, hacking and sawing until all that is left are bare stubby trunks and all but nonexistent branches.  Murder!  Crepe Murder, Most Foul!

Crepe Murder, Most Foul! 
So, since again, no Crepe Myrtle in my yard (and thankfully, no Crepe Murder) I thought I'd look into what it really takes to trim one of these beauties, without murdering it, and post it here.  And, here's what I found. When you chop a crepe myrtle, the branches will grow back.  However, the shape of the tree is destroyed and you will produce a stunted shrub-like tree that lacks the grace of a naturally-shaped crepe myrtle.  The pic above shows a tree hacked just above it's 'knees.'  This tree will be short and stuffy and lack any definition. But, I hear ya, what DO you do to trim such beautiful lawn guardians? ok, so now we present:

Marv's Notes on How To Properly Trim a Crepe Myrtle
When the tree is dormant (in late winter/early spring), you can lightly prune a crepe myrtle in order to encourage a particular shape or to remove limbs that are in the way. The key words here are LIGHTLY and SHAPE.  You're not trying to start over, you're just making 'adjustments.' In addition, when the tree starts to put out new growth, you may see shoots that appear at the base of the tree. These should also be removed cutting close to the ground. Look back at the top and you can see that tree has been trimmed lightly, allowing the several 'legs' to grow naturally, no knees, no hacking and chopping.

The key is to use a light touch and your tree will grow to be a true Southern beauty. Sort of like me.  

Friday, April 1, 2016

Chimney Master Update

It's been a long winter and I've been trying to finish the living room project (don't ask) so I've been out of pocket (read: not wanting to blog) the last two weeks. I figured I'd better get my blog on and catch you up on some things. 

As you can see above, the living room is now painted, but my abilities with mud and tape are none too good so I'm going to have to redo a few areas.  Slowly, a section at a time, I should be done by the time I retire sometime next century.

The chimney cap has been in place now for nearly 6 months.  A half a year.  And with all the rain we've had lately, I thought I'd get up there and check it out.  Ok, so no, I didn't go skulking around on the roof at oh-dark-thirty but I did take some time to examine the piping in the attic, and the chimney cap itself.And from what I can tell, there are no leaks and the chimney cap itself is still as bright and great looking as it was the day I put it up.  I took this picture early this morning and you can see it's still looking good one winter under its belt.

When the weather is better, I plan to get up there and give it a thorough going over to see how my hand made invention fared.  Look for updates here! 

Stay tuned! 

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Southern 'Mater Sammich

Many years ago, back in the west where I grew up, a friend introduced my wife and I to the Southern Tomato Sandwich.  He was absolutely amazed that we had never had one.  (Colorado is not known for its tomato sandwiches.)  He worked feverishly to produce the two and watched us as we bit into them. I can only call his expression one of rapt anticipation.  

For the uninitiated, the South is known for all kinds of special food:  Southern Fried Chicken, Southern Barbecue, Fried Okra, Grits and yes, the Southern Tomato Sandwich (or 'Mater Sammich, one might say.) That day many years ago introduced me to this phenomenon, and to be honest, I enjoyed it; but when I recently took to the internet to find a picture for this blog entry, my heart fairly skipped a beat.   

It appears that there is no real consensus as to the makings of said Southern 'Mater Sammich.  I found inclusions of Italian spices, onions, and all manner of bread treatments just to name a few.  I suppose, to compare, it's like any good thing you find and enjoy, everyone has their own take.  

My take?  Bread, Mayo, Tomatoes, touch of salt.  A Southern Tomato Sammich.  If you add onions, then I'd expect you call it a Southern Tomato and Onion Sammich. If you like pickles  on yours, then I'd expect you'd call it a Southern Tomato and Pickles Sammich.  You want Italian Spices?  I will refrain from mentioning how I feel about that.  

My simple recipe for a 'Mater Sammich is as follows:
2 slices of bread (Regular white sandwich bread is preferred, but whole wheat is ok.)
2 slices of tomato (more may be needed to fill the sandwich, also ok.)
Touch of salt.

The best clue here is to use big beefsteak tomatoes.  2 slices, and slice them thick, about a quarter of an inch at least.  Then, cut the slices in half so that you have 4 half moon pieces.  Prepare the bread by spreading Mayonnaise edge to edge on both slices. (Again, my own enjoyment means that I use a WHIPPED, spreadable salad dressing rather than mayonnaise and it's a MIRACLE that I don't mention the name here.)
Incredible Life Like Simulation!

The true secret to the sammich is to lay the tomatoes so that the straight edges of the cut slices align with the outer edge of the bread.  All four rounded edges meet and overlap at the center.  (This means tomato in every bite!)  Sprinkle with just a touch of salt and put the top slice on.

My daughter will tell you that the finished sammich should be cut diagonally, corner to corner, but I prefer to cut it in half, side to side. (Cutting a Mater Sammich top to bottom is only for reprobates, heathens and surly dead-beat ne'er do wells.)

There you have it.  You can, of course add anything you want to your 'Mater Sammich; pickles, onions and  yes, even Italian spices.  It don't make no never mind to me, just don't ask me to eat one.

When it comes to my partaking of Southern 'Mater Sammiches, I am a purist.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Dinner is Rain Delayed

A few years ago, we had quite a rainy spring here in Nashville. It led to some historic flooding and we are only now getting past it.  Overall, rain is merely an inconvenience to southerners...more so to those who drive in the rain.

I don't drive in the rain much. Only when I have to. Mainly because I take the bus to and from work. But you knew that, didn't you, Bubba?  The real reason I don't like to drive in the rain is not the rain, but the other drivers.  At times I think it's worse than driving on ice and snow. 

You see, here in Nashville, drivers who brave the rain fall into two categories. Impatient and overly cautious.  You can extrapolate this to be 'fast' and 'slow.'  Unfortunately, the latter keep the former from going fast, and the entire thing ends up being more of an exercise in futility than a drive in the rain.  

I have no idea why this is.  For some reason people who would drive at the posted speed limit (or more) on black ice will drive at 10 miles per hour in the rain. The fast guys think the rain is no big deal and speed around like they're planning on hydroplaning all the way home. Add to that the fact that most roads in this area are filled with engineered bottlenecks and you have the perfect situation for constant traffic jams.  (And accidents.  Many, many accidents.)  

Me? I'm safe and sound on the bus, reading my electronic reader, while the bus driver handles the crazy traffic.  Drivers on the bus are cool, collected and well trained.  Rain or snow, they have a 'we'll get there when we get there' sort of mentality that keeps them from driving their 58' behemoth over those small smart cars and their slightly larger cousins.  

Bringing this down to the end, it means that the rain gets me home late. Sometimes only 5 or 10 min, but sometimes as much as an hour or more.  My wife has no idea what time I will be home on rainy days.  

My wife plans dinners to such a degree that they are just about ready to be served when I walk in the door. Hot, juicy and tasty.  So, nights I'm late, means my dinner would be hard and dry and cold. So, when it rains these days, my wife plans simple means of salads, or quick cooking fish,

So, there you have it. Rain, Slow Southerners, Fast Southerners and Dinner Menus therein affected. Such is life in the South.  

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Plastic Project: It Begins

I've had a lot of time to think about the Plastic Project.  For those of you who do not remember, the plastic project was my idea of getting all of my tools into plastic bins, plastic boxes, plastic cups with lids and much etc, just to protect them from the oncoming humidity of a rainy Southern Spring.  

With much of my main project done, I've begun putting things away and what better way to put them away than to put them into plastic.  As I began putting things up, I noted that it was important to know what's in what box, as many of the boxes are the same. And the answer was obvious: Markers.  Well, yeah, the bins and cups and plastic rescued from Plastic Paradise all have their own labels; but many of them have the labels printed on the plastic. I had thought of using some sort of sticky tape or label, but then I remembered the hot Southern Summers and how that might dry out some tapes, or melt the glue on the backs of labels making quite a mess (as well as making it more difficult to identify what's in each box, cup or bin.) I decided then that each plastic container must be 'mark-able.'  That is, it should have a smooth surface somewhere I can take my nifty medium point permanent marker and label what's inside just as you see above and below.
There is, of course, one caveat - one catch - one noteworthy note.  Print clearly and press on the marker with a moderately heavy hand.  You don't want to be digging about in the shed next year wondering what that label says. Don't write where you will be holding the thing either, as you can wear off the letters.  

Ok, there you have it, the first steps in the Plastic Project.  I hope to post more as the project continues.  Check back next week!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Loss of a Southern Icon

It's been a long week, and longer still to learn of the passing of Harper Lee, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning "To Kill a Mockingbird."  Harper Lee was and may always be known as a Southern Icon.

Harper Lee, whose 1961 novel To Kill a Mockingbird became a national institution and the defining text on the racial troubles of the American deep south, has died at the age of 89. Lee, or Nelle as she was known to those close to her, had lived for several years in a nursing home less than a mile from the house in which she had grown up in Monroeville, Alabama – the setting for the fictional Maycomb of her famous book. The town’s mayor, Mike Kennedy, confirmed the author’s death.

Until last year, Lee had been something of a one-book literary wonder. To Kill a Mockingbird, her 1961 epic narrative about small-town lawyer Atticus Finch’s battle to save the life of a black resident threatened by a racist mob, sold more than 40m copies around the world and earned her a Pulitzer prize.

But from the moment Mockingbird was published to almost instant success the author consistently avoided public attention and insisted that she had no intention of releasing further works. That self-imposed purdah ended abruptly when, amid considerable controversy, it was revealed a year ago that a second novel had been discovered, which was published as Go Set a Watchman in July 2015.

The house where Lee lived for years with her sister Alice sat quiet and empty on Friday. The inside of the house appeared unchanged from when she lived there – antique furniture was stacked with books, audio cassettes and gift baskets.Her neighbor for 40 years, Sue Sellers, said Lee would have appreciated the quiet. 

Her literary agent Andrew Nurnberg said in a statement: “We have lost a great writer, a great friend and a beacon of integrity.” He added: “Knowing Nelle these past few years has been not just an utter delight but an extraordinary privilege. When I saw her just six weeks ago, she was full of life, her mind and mischievous wit as sharp as ever. She was quoting Thomas More and setting me straight on Tudor history.” 

The South has lost it's voice and is dark tonight.