Thursday, March 5, 2015

More Snow and Ice In the South

Today's blog is a bit late.  I'd planned on finalizing a nice post when I got up, but then they closed our office due to the impending snow.  And snow it did!  At least 2 inches on our estate, more in some places and less in others. 

It always amazes me to see snow.  Oh wait, I hear you, "Marv, you grew up in Colorado, surely you've seen enough snow in your life for it to be less important!"  to which I respond, "Don't call me Shirley!" (I'll wait while you get that joke.) 

What I mean is that snow in the SOUTH always surprises me, even when they predict it.  It sort of takes me back to my childhood, waking up, looking out at the snow, and knowing that they won't be closing school anytime soon. Snow in Colorado is not as big a deal as it is in the South. 

Snow in the south starts out as rain.  Then it gets cold, so the rain freezes.  Then it snows.  So, we end up with this frozen icy under layer that makes everything slick.  This means no driving, careful walking and most assuredly, no dancing out on the sidewalks.  

Growing up in a snowy clime means I know snow. Me and snow, we're old adversaries.  I have 2 winter coats, 2 pair of gloves and mittens (made just for snow) along with both rain boots and snow boots to which I attach a set of walking treads. I have a collection of warm woolen and cotton sweaters and special thermal underwear all designed to keep me warm in the snow. 

Even with all that gear, I loathe the snow.  I see that white shite (see what I did there?) and I just know what it's going to take.  I have to put on layers.  Undergarments, heavy clothes, and a sweater to start. When it's time to go out, I have my heavy coat, scarf, wool hat, put the hood up on the coat and then I have to sit down and put on the boots, add the treads and carefully head to the door. (Careful not to scratch the floor with my metal treads!) 

Outside, there's shoveling the walk and then putting down the salt.  Whew.  Now, the car. While it warms up, I de-snow the car, scrape the windows (that can take for-freaking-ever!) and check the headlights.  After all that, I'm ready for a nap! AND that's why I hate seeing snow of any kind.  

Weather notwithstanding, the south is a nice place to live...when it's not snowing....or sleeting....or raining.  

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Icy Winter in the South

25 years I spent living in Colorado so you know that means I lived through a lot of snow. With a birthday in February, I even learned to drive in the snow.  I've seen more than my fair share of snow. Snow in drifts, snow in blizzards, snow in snowmen, snow, snow, snow.  Then I came to the South.  (Yes, I know, Nashville is the Mid South, but stick with me here.)

One of the first weekends I spent in Tennessee, it snowed.  Oh, I thought, this here is lightly inconvenient.  Then I went for a drive.  I still have nightmares of that night.

You see, in this area, the cold weather doesn't produce the soft powdery snow that the Colorado Rockies are famous for.  Here, we get ice.  Then Sleet.  Then a touch of snow on top of that, and it looks so pretty, but under it is....deadly black ice. You don't drive on ice like this.  You shouldn't anyway.  What you do in a car is more of sliding and hoping that at the end of the slide you will arrive at your destination and without banging into any of the other sliding cars along the way.

This last month we had another of those storms come through.  I got out of the house just long enough to take a few pics, like the one above.  Look at that closely, it's got a full 1/2 inch of solid ice on top.  You can't tell, but every surface, even the sides facing the camera are covered in a nice thick coating of solid clear ice.

Here's another way to look at it.  See this tree?  (Again, my humble back yard.)

Here is a close-up where you can see that every branch is coated with ice.

When the sun hits these, it's like living in a fairy land, where the trees sparkle like diamonds. (oooo purrrrty...) The only problem is that this is as deadly as driving on the streets. Well, almost... When the ice gets this heavy, a simple breeze can cause trees to lose branches as the heavy ice tears them apart. They come crashing down on cars, homes and even bystanders. Some trees split right down the middle! Worse yet, when the ice starts to melt, the ice itself falls off in huge chunks causing damage to the aforementioned cars, homes and yeah, innocent bystanders.

We have a huge elm in our front yard which always scares us when it gets coated like this.  We're waiting for the day that it splits right down the center and causes us grief, or pain, or both.  Thank goodness these storms are usually short lived, and the ice is then gone and we can get back to enjoying our lovely 2 weeks of spring weather before the rain storm season hits.

Even with all that, I still love living in the South. I'm cold... But still, I do  love it here.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Who Do That Voodoo

There is a part of the south I've been reluctant to talk about and that is voodoo.  In part  because I knew so little about it, but mostly because it falls into that realm of 'religion' and my mother always taught me that there are three things you do not discuss in public, and that's politics, sex and religion. But this blog does not shy away from such things so after a long research project (I Googled a bit) I feel I can bring some of this unique Southern Religion into focus.

Let's start by making sure you understand what Voodoo is and what it is not. Voodoo is not Magic.  No one is waving around a magic wand.  Voodoo is, in fact a recognized religion in many areas of the world.  Voodoo is one of many incarnations of African-based spiritual folkways rooted in West African Dahomeyan Vodun. (You still with me, Bubba?)  Its liturgical language is Louisiana Creole French, the language of the Louisiana Creole people.  (AHA, Southern Folk!)

Now, the reason I bring this up and get particular about it, is that I don't want you to mix things up as there is also Haitian Vodou, which is a bit different. Haitian Vodou is a syncretic religion practiced chiefly in Haiti scattered Haitian peoples. Practitioners are called "vodouists" or "servants of the spirits". Vodouists believe in a distant and unknowable Supreme Creator, Bondye.

Neither of these is to be confused with Hoodoo. Yes, Hoodoo is a recognized religion too.  The word Hoodoo is usually used to describe jargon one doesn't understand like legal documents or political rantings. Unlike Mumbo Jumbo, Hoodoo is real. AND Hoodoo is the one of the three that, to me is the most interesting.

Hoodoo has some spiritual principles and practices similar to spiritual folkways in Haitian, Jamaican, and New Orleans traditions. It is believed Hoodoo evolved in the Mississippi Delta where the concentration of slaves had been dense. Hoodoo then spread throughout the Southeast as well as North along the Mississippi as African Americans left the Delta beginning in the 1930s. Hoodoo is an ever-evolving process, continuously synthesizing from contact with other cultures, religions, and folkways. What is notable about the hoodoo folk process is the use of biblical figures in its practices and in the lives of its practitioners. Most practitioners of hoodoo integrate this folkway with their Christian religious faith. Icons of Christian saints are often found on hoodoo shrines or altars.

Now, let's not get into any discussions of sticking pins in dolls or people who walk around like extras in a horror movie.  I like to bring up things about the South that people just might not know about and might like to know a bit more.

Southern hospitality is like that.  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Death of a Chain Saw

Due to the warmer weather we had, this last weekend was a beautiful time to get some things done around outside the house. I was able to put some caulk in the brickwork to prevent the wasps from nesting in the crevices and even hauled a bunch of branches out to the brush pile so the city can pick them up later.

As I was hauling one of the groups of branches, I made note of the fact that I was not concentrating on my branches as they knocked over one of my wife's tomato pots. (No breakage, dear...) Then I took note of the reason I was not concentrating. My chain saw won't start.

It's been about a year since I last tried to start my chain saw. Last summer I practically rebuilt it. New gas filter, new air filter, new tubing for the gas, new spark plug, new primer bulb. Did it help? It did not. I fiddled with the settings and pulled the rope pulled the rope pulled the rope pulled the rope pulled the rope. No start. I adjusted this and that and then pulled the rope pulled the rope pulled the rope pulled the rope pulled the rope. No start. I adjusted the choke and pulled the rope pulled the rope pulled the rope pulled the rope. No start. I cursed. I threw things. I screamed prayers to deities of fossil fuel powered yard implements all to no avail. The chain saw has sat in the shed ever since. Dead.

So, while hauling the branches I was thinking of the poor dead chain saw.  (You see, I didn't have the chain saw for the cutting off the branches, which is why it was on my mind.) I even stopped to take the pic above. 

But I have to admit, I was not thinking like a true Southerner.  It might seem that, as a Southerner (or Southern-Wanna-Be) I would be thinking more Southern thoughts.  More mechanical thoughts. Thoughts like "Gee, Marv, maybe it's the gas mixture or perhaps it's the framus widget." (It's never the framus widget.) Or maybe I didn't pull the rope enough times. (Input Silent Scream Here.)

No. I wasn't thinking any of these things as I carelessly knocked into the tomato pot. (Again, dear, no damage to the pot.) I was, in fact, writing poetry in my head to immortalize my lost fossil fuel powered friend.

Yes, Poetry.
For a chain saw.

Not just any poetry, mind you.  A Haiku.
(Look it up, Bubba, I can wait.)

You see, I was stuck on the last line, which any Haiku writer will tell you is the most important part of a Haiku. This is not like a limerick with a twist of a word or wry innuendo.  A Haiku breathes life and emotion into words and syllables.  So, as you might imagine, my mind was preoccupied.

The tomato pot interrupted my 4th attempt at getting this line right. It wasn't until much much later that the line came to me. And so, I present it here. No, not the pot, (no damage, I swear) the Haiku.

Death of A Chain Saw

my chain saw has died
it sits in the shed alone
gasoline tears fall

Very Un-Southern, I'm sure.  I blame my brother, Bubba-the retired English teacher and that darned un-oaked chard he once mentioned.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Lights on Top

This is one of thoe short posts that sort of speaks for itself.  Story Time:  I was headed home the other day when I noticed that the bus was both slowing down and not taking a turn it always takes. Now, immediately, I begin to wornder if I took the wrong bus!  (Yes, bubba, it has happened before.)

So, we're all craning our necks, looking for the problem, expecting some sort of fender-bender.  YOu know, a couple of cars, people milling around, maybe a police car with it's lights on.  We sure didn't expect one of our own in a wrestling match with a light pole.

Yes, yes, yes, the bus is empty, thank goodness.  And, amazingly, there are no crowds milling about. upon closer inspection, we can see the power line stretching from the street light over across the street.

This is why there's no one milling about.  And, what's more important, no one was injured.  It's just real scarey to see another bus in such trouble.  "There but for the grace of..."  Well anyway, at least we weren't late getting home.

Alls well that ends well here in the South.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Free Stuff Has The Right Price

This last week, I went to the big hardware store to get a bolt for a simple repair job and they had this big pallet of stuff.  I asked the guys working on it "hey, what we got here - stuff to be marked down?" (My heart beat went up a bit.)

"No," he replied, "mostly, this here is trash."  I took in the stack of bent and opened boxes, stuff without boxes and assundried...stuff...

"Oh?" says I, with a gleam in my eye.  "Can I help carry some of these out to the 'trash' for you?" (Yes, I even made 'air quotes' as I said it so the guy knew I was intending to take these to my car and not the dumpster out back.)

The guy looked at me then at the pile of stuff and believe it or not, he actually gave me one of the things. It's the nifty carry case you see at the top of this page. The label indicates that it originally went with some fantastic gadget by Porter Cable, but the case was empty. To the average person, it is nothing special.  But to me, it's like gold. I can carry tools, or rolls of duck tape or nuts and bolts in it. It's slightly smaller than a tool box but larger than a camera case. Can you just imagine the possibilities? And the guy gave it to me Free.  Free.  Gratis.  And at NO Charge. 

In other areas, the amount you spend on something seems to make you somewhat renowned.. The more you spend, the more people look favorably upon you.  This is true of anything from cars, to phones to Christmas lights.  The more you spend the better.  However here in the south, we tend to look more favorably on spending LESS.  Getting something Free puts me at the top of the list.  The only way I could have done better is if the guy had paid me to carry it out!  Nowhere can you expect someone to appreciate that more than in the South.

The South in General.  At My Place in particular. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hardware Made Easy

It seems to me that most Southern Men (yes, Bubba, with the requisite capital letters) must be handymen from birth. But the more I live here in the South, the more I'm inclined to believe it's something in the water or in the air.  When I lived in places like Colorado or even Southern California, repairing something seemed like Rocket Science.  I'd see something which didn't work right, or need repair, but I'd first need to think on it a while.  Maybe I'd expect to have to find a book (at the library), do some studying, examine some diagrams and then, maybe - maybe, I could replace that light bulb.

Something happened when I got to The South.  (Stop it, Bubba, I'll capitalize what I want.) Oh, it didn't happen right away.  It sort of crept up on me. I'd start by replacing the battery in the car, or even doing an oil change.  Yes, I know, people in the nawth do these things, it's true.  But the thing is, I had never WANTED to do any of these repairing things before lived in the South! There is something about living here that creeps into your bloodstream and makes you stumble toward a tool store the way a zombie goes for brains. 

Soon I found myself making trips to the hardware store collecting tools and looking for special nuts and bolts (and learning not to giggle when I said "nuts.") - but more than just owning the tools, I also found ways to use them in repairing things I had never thought to do (or that I COULD do.) Later, I found I could replace just about anything on an automobile engine and even replaced the brakes on my car more than once.  I've replaced the heating elements on our household water heater and even replaced the water heater itself (twice.)  I found myself wandering around the hardware store just looking or stopping by on a weekend just because I had nothing else to do.  

Then, a couple of years ago, as my interest (or is that 'need'?) in repairing things grew, my wife gave me a really nice tool belt.  There is nothing that says 'there's-things-to-fix-and-I'm-ready-to-rumble' like a big professional tool belt (with suspenders!) There is something almost cosmic about the feeling one gets when you put on one of those belts. I began in earnest and nothing stood in my way.  In no time I was replacing roofing, putting in flooring, and even replacing an entire bathroom (toilet, fan, electrical and shower!) 

This last year I had to tear out a 12 x 12 section of my living room. This included the flooring, the floor itself, floor joists, and the bands and sills (that's the parts that the joists sit on - you see how much I know about this?) as well as the walls and even some of the studs.  I even removed the fireplace (with the help of a neighbor) and will, in the coming months, replace it all and then some. 

It's got to be the The South that changed me.  No, I mean it CHANGED. ME.   I think if I looked at my blood under a microscope it would look like 10W40 motor oil.  If you held my DNA up to a strong light it would resemble electrical wiring.  There are times when I want to put all my tools in a big coffin under my house and sleep with them under a full moon....

(crickets) ...

Ok, so maybe I went a bit overboard there.  I am not some creepy hardware vampire. I mean, I like tools and finding uses for them, that's all.  But whatever it is, it's somehow tied to living in the South. 

Wait, is that a loose floorboard over there?  Where's my hammer....Ah yes, it's in my TOOL BELT!