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!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

French Toast Emergency

It's Wednesday, January 14 and we had snow today. It was just a bit of a dusting; just enough to cause us all to scrape the cars off and for the roads to be a bit slick. It didn't stick around long but it did cause what many refer to as a "French Toast Emergency."

As I've many times pointed out, I grew up in Colorado. Snow, to me, is a mere inconvenience. I remember having to leave for school early because it takes longer to walk when the snow is up to your hips; but we dressed warm, we had boots and we headed out. No Big Deal.

Here in the South, there is some unknown factor that makes people go totally out of their mind when snow (any snow, even this light dusting) is announced as being "soon" or "in the forecast." At this point, it seems to become somewhat mandatory to drive to the store (any store, but the bigger the better) and buy all the milk, eggs and bread that they can.

That's right.  Milk.  Bread.  And eggs. 

All the ingredients for French Toast, and hence the term French Toast Emergency. (What, no cinnamon? No Powdered Sugar? And what about maple syrup?) The first time I heard this was only recently, but I plan to use it all winter. Oddly, we never make French Toast. Though when you think about it, light snow is more of a French Pastry or Doughnut Alert than a French Toast Emergency, anyway.

Yes, that's it, we need a new list of foods for our own alert system! Something like this, perhaps?

Now, I can just sit back and wait for the next emergency. Come on Rain and Wind! I got a craving for Nachos!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Construction Catch-Up

It was just a few months ago that I discovered the construction going on over by the river, where the new amphitheater was being built.  It seems things like this are always downtown, which makes better sense, I suppose than putting it next to my house.  

As I've also noted, right across the street (to my right, if you consider the picture above) is a group of really nice condos and lofts.  Made just for the young urban professional (we used to call them Yuppies) and hipsters (we used to call them pretentious,) these condos are only a couple of stories tall and were designed  beautifully to blend with the building designs nearby.  Every time I see this construction site, I wonder at the future of those condos.
Taken from the same bus at the same point. 
Now, either these residents are all music lovers, or they are going to be selling their condos for cheap in the coming year.  And no, I'm not going to be buying one.  And, if I'm going to be totally honest here, and I usually am, these actually are sort of diagonally across the street from the back of the venue.  Directly to the side of these, and directly across the street from the open air part of the amphitheater is a parking lot.
The parking lot, such as it is. 
But the condos are right beside it so my confusion is still valid.  As is my curiosity and my driver's license.  Ok, enough of that.

So, as the construction continues, I will endeavor to bring more of it's growth to this blog and continue to harp on the poor condo owners.  It's what I do.

And in case you hadn't noticed, I'm moving publication of this blog to Thursdays because ...of... I mean, it's, uh.... cuz I want to.  

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve and the Moon Pie

This time of the holiday season is a great time to reflect on the passing of another year (no matter how bad it was or how much you learned to hate termites! - oh, I do digress, don't I?) But the New Year is also a great time to learn about how other people celebrate this time of year. 

Along with the Southern New Year's tradition of black eyed peas and cornbread at midnight, one of my favorite celebrations in the South involves a 600 lb Moon Pie. (No, not a real one - more's the pity - this is actually a metal replica!) Although the Moon Pie was originally produced in Chattanooga, Tennessee the delicious treat has become the center of the New Year's Celebration in Mobile, Alabama. At the stroke of midnight, the gigantic metal snack is dropped to bring in the New Year! 

In addition, the celebration - called MoonPie over Mobile - includes a Mardi Gras like parade where mini Moon Pies (produced especially for Moon Over Mobile) are tossed to the throngs. There is also lots of live jazz music and blues and even a giant specially baked Moon Pie for the enjoyment of the revelers. 

A final thought, am I the only one who feels that the Moon Pie (or lighted Ball, or star or Hog*) goes the wrong direction to indicate the New year? Why down? Wouldn't it be so much better if the indicator went up the side of the building or tower and the lights go off, rockets explode and people shout as the New Year begins? Let's work on that for next year, shall we?

Have a great New Year, from your Southern Pal, Marv!

*Yes, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, they drop a big ol' Hog to mark the beginning of the New Year. No, not a real Hog, a big fiberglass and metal hog that lights up when it hits the new year. Yeah, Moon Pies and Hogs for New Years - that's Southern Living! 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Old Christmas - A Southern Tradition

There are many Christmas Traditions in the South, but none so unusual as "Old Christmas." Celebrated in the area of the Outer Banks, North Carolina, Old Christmas is celebrated - not on December 25, but on January 6.  

The basis for "Old Christmas" goes back to 1752, when England switched to the Gregorian Calendar which shortened the year. News traveled slow in those days, and on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the English settlers didn't get the word for decades, and had been celebrating the holiday when they always had, on what, in the new calendar, was Jan. 6.

Legend has it that the settlers didn't want to change and decided to merely keep celebrating the holiday on January 6.  Because of this, residents have found a place for both holidays. Christmas Day has become a time for family togetherness. Jan. 6, called Old Christmas, is a big community party.

Old Christmas celebrations have, in the past, been known to become rather rowdy and the celebration doesn't end until the arrival of Old Buck. Legend says that Old Buck was a wild bull that used to run amok on the Banks, and his spirit returns at each Old Christmas party in the form of a couple of folks dressed in an approximation of a bull outfit.

Old Buck runs around, makes adults laugh and scares a few children. But he’s also a reminder that this place, a finger of sand to which some of the toughest people in the world cling, is still a bit wild.

So, Merry Christmas and Happy 'Old Christmas' to you all! 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Glitter and the King

Ok, so last week I didn't post anything.  To be honest, I was too sick to even remember what a blog was. I spent the entire week home in bed. I won't go into detail, but suffice to say that I'm feeling better and am back at work and even took a walk over to the Arcade to mail a Christmas Letter to the Grand Kids.  The closest Post Office is located in the center of the famous Arcade, one of America's oldest covered shopping centers and located right in the heart of Nashville, and there in lies our story for today.  

The pic above was taken as I walked back out of the Arcade,  The place sort of snuck up on me and surprised me. As I've noted in the past, the Arcade is filled with all manner of businesses from shoe shine to a tobacco shop.  Mostly, you'll find quick eateries for the downtown worker to lunch upon.  Deli Sandwiches, Mexican, Eastern and even a nifty little Cupcake place (now closed, unfortunately) have all spent time in the covered spaces, but this is not a restaurant!

It's a bit nondescript, and it took me a moment or two to realize what I was seeing due to the hanging Christmas Decorations.  Take a close look at the sign in that window.  That's right, it's a Wedding Chapel.  The Rhinestone Wedding Chapel, to be exact.  I've always felt that we needed a bit more rhinestone in the business fare in the center of our city and it looks like they got it right.  

Not only that, the second poster is even better.  
ELVIS!!  ELVIS IS DOING WEDDINGS IN DOWNTOWN NASHVILLE!  Did I shout that loud enough?  I expect I did.  My wife and I often joked about getting married by Elvis, but when the time came we opted instead for the county clerk.  I think wearing a pair of gold sunglasses and a white speckled suit may have  been a better idea. Hey, we do have an anniversary coming up.....

Yes, I've deleted the phone number as I'm not about to advertise for someone else, so if you really can't find them, inbox me and I'll put you in touch.  Just remember, I get pics...lots of pics!  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Is it the Death of Southern Ettiquette?

While walking through the city the other day, I happened to get to a door just ahead of a woman who was carrying a couple of big packages.  (Christmas shopping, perhaps?)  As we both encountered the door at the same time, I pulled it open and stepped back to allow her to go first.  She stopped and looked at me. Then she looked at the open door.  She didn't say a word but it was obvious she wasn't used to that.  She looked at me again, while people passed her by and entered the door and after a few more moments she tentatively walked through the door. 

While all the people walked past us, and when she had finally entered the door, I noted that not one of them paused to say "Thank you."  None. Not one.  And this woman with the packages didn't either.  It got me wondering are good manners finally dead?  In our fast paced, internet based, stare at your phone while you try to carry a conversation world, have manners been forgotten?

There is a history of Manners in the South (yes, all caps.)  Southern Gentility and Manners seem to go hand in hand.  In fact, let's ask the unasked question; What are Southern manners? I'm not talking about keeping your elbows off the table or which fork to use, but more about how to treat one another whether you are acquainted or not.  

Southern Manners are, of course, cemented in Christianity.  Nashville is known as the Buckle of the Bible Belt* after all. Manners in general, and Southern Manners specifically are based on the simplicity of the Golden Rule:  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." 

I've done a bit of research (talked to a few southern friends) and have come up with a sort of Primer for Southern Manners and offer it here as a place for people to learn and perhaps keep the idea of good manners from dying. 

Southern manners are based on 5 basic principles.
  • Be Humble. Others first, yourself last. Self-denial and deference to others ("After you") are the cornerstone of good manners, acting selfish or uppity is not.
  • Be Courteous: Remember the Golden Rule. Go out of your way to be helpful and kind to everyone you encounter.
  • Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Don't be uncouth, rude, brash, loud, coarse, or cause a commotion in public.
  • Be Friendly: Put your best foot forward, whether you've been properly introduced or don't know the person from a hole in the ground.
  • Be Modest:  Practice modesty in all situations. "Why, shucks, I guess I was in the right place at the right time" would work just fine upon learning that you had won the Pulitzer Prize.
By keeping this five pointed approach in your life, you can easily become more well mannered - Dixie Style.  But there's more (of course).
  •  Always remember to say Please and Thank you.  Always ask, never tell. The only way to make a request is to ask for it, directives are much too surly.  Say "Thank you" without fail.   To show them you're really grateful, dress it up with "Thank you kindly," "Thanks a whole lot," "Preciate it". If your request is denied, say "Well, thank you anyway."  Keeping these two in your vocabulary is the very cornerstone of good manners.  
  • Always use "Sir" or "Ma'am."  It's as important as Please and Thank you.
  • Always refer to those of the female gender as Ladies. The descriptive "Woman" is usually reserved in Dixie for females of questionable respect. If you are a gentleman, then treat all ladies with a courtliness, deference, and respect you'd accord members of the royal family since, in the South, ladies occupy such status. This is an immutable rule of order in Dixie, no matter what may be happening elsewhere on this planet.
  • Hold the door open for all members of the fairer sex, regardless of their social station. 
  • Stand when a lady enters or leaves a room.
  • Walk on the street-side of a side-walk, when accompanying a lady.
In the south, being well mannered is not being "Politically Correct."  It stands head and shoulders above such trivial things.  PC, to a Southerner, is merely a way people try to excuse not bringing kids up properly, and not teaching them Good Southern Manners.

*The Bible Belt is an informal term for a region in the south-eastern and south-central United States in which socially conservative evangelical Protestantism is a significant part of the culture and Christian church attendance across the denominations is generally higher than the nation's average.