Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Great Southern Outdoors

While the north is still shoveling out from under all that snow, the South is enjoying spring like weather with temperatures in the 60's and 70's and a light rain to keep things wet. ( I guess keeping things wet is important in the south.)

In the winter, we spend a lot of time indoors.  Even though the South is always portrayed as being a hot place, we get our share of cold days and on such cold days, we stay indoors. Thus with the coming spring, we look forward to doing things OUT of doors.  Well, most people do. 

When it comes to doing things out in the out of doors, I'm an indoor person. Oh don't misunderstand me.  I love to be out on a cool day, mowing the lawn, or relaxing in the lounge chair with a delicious beverage at hand, watching the squirrels do what ever it is that squirrels do.  Growing up I spent a lot of time even camping in the outdoors, hiking, climbing and watching the birds do whatever it is that birds do.  

The problem is the weather isn't like that all the time. Now, I'm not going to get into the big debate of whether there is a climate change or not, I'm just saying that in the winter, I hate being out in the cold.  (As a youngster, my brothers and I would build snowmen in our shirt sleeves. Go figure...)  But at the same time I hate being out in the heat.  Even as a youngster, I hated the heat.  

It probably is due somewhat to the fact that I am fair of skin, related to that most maligned of types: the red headed, freckled skinned ginger.  My whole family has red hair (ok, now it's grey, but when I was younger, it was red.  Trust me on this here...) Standing in the sun - heck, just looking at a picture of the sun could get me a major sunburn. It didn't take a rocket scientist to prove to me the connection of being outdoors and getting sunburns.  

It might work here in the south, with all that heavy vegetation to be out in the out of doors, moving from shady spot to shady spot, but I have to admit, I hate stepping out into the heavy humidity.  Most southerners live in this humidity and seem to be acclimated to it.  (It's probably something in their genes.) Me, I step out of the house, and I'm covered in enough moisture to add 5 pounds to my clothes and make my skin so slick that my pants are falling down.  Pretty soon I'm breathing like a long distance runner (and sweating like one, too) And that's only after 5 minutes.  No, not fun.  

So, along with the delightful 10 minutes of spring like weather, I enjoy that part of the south which is unsung. Air Conditioning. Sitting by the window with a cool beverage, watching the southerners do what ever it is that southerners do in this heat and humidity, I tip my hat and my glass to them.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Plastic Project - Intro

The winter has started melting away and with the coming spring there are not only flowers and fresh buds aplenty, but also a chilling amount of things to do around the abode.  Not only is the "Big Rebuild" still waiting on me, but the number of "Honey-do Projects" seems to grow with every passing year - both inside and outside.

This year will see the addition of an important project and one that I've been planing for some time. This particular project I have nicknamed "The Plastic Project." I can just feel the excitement as you all wonder what on earth this project can be!  

My father in law owned several acres out in the Arkansas wilderness. (No, I'm not digressing again, stick with me here...) He understood that you needed things kept sealed up to keep the moisture out. His main item for this task was a five pound coffee can with a plastic lid.  He had so many of these spread across his house, barn and sheds that when he passed they thought of putting his ashes in one. The man understood the Southern Humidity Index and it's effect on tools and hardware.  

I don't drink that much coffee but I also need to put my hardware and tools into something that will keep the moisture out.   What I do have, is a bunch of plastic containers.  Over the past year or so, I've collected together a large number of empty plastic jars, boxes and, yes, coffee cans for the express purpose of sealing up my hardware and  junk  sundries in the shed to protect them from the onslaught of southern weather.  (Hence the name, Plastic Project.) 

Over more than a few blog posts, I'm going to show how I will use these to seal up my junk important stuff.  I will also point out where one might also find and collect the needed containers for such a project.  Like the above.  The Local Charity Thrift Store.  In this case, you can see all manner of plastic storage made for food, or whatever.  Cheap, too.

So, if you've got a  place like mine, messed up and full of moisture.  Follow along as I organize and plasticize my junk  important stuff.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

TV or Not TV

Several times, early in the morning, on my way to work, I've come across this truck.  The multitudes of equipment are recognizable to me as those myriad of cables and supports and extraneous things needed to film a TV Show. I've never really given it much thought until I had to make a trip into the back area of the ground floor of our building.  

I turned the corner and there was a sign: 

Now, this could easily have been pointing to a matched pair of earrings, or perhaps a nice china tea set (yeah, right...) but since it was pointing to the back elevator (and no jewelry to be found) it could only mean a set as in film set.  Where they film things.  Like TV Shows.  AND, since there just happens to be a popular TV Show being filmed right here in Nashville, it didn't take a Rocket Scientist to figure out that the above show was being shot right there in our building. I asked around, and apparently they shoot in our building on a regular basis. (I'm real wide awake at work, it seems!) 

All this time, I'd been in the same building with famous people.  Ok, so it's not as close as the day I met Snowbird, but it's still pretty exciting.  In my  gossipy research I discovered that  they also have shot across the street at the Hermitage Hotel both inside and out.  (No, you won't see me in the background of any of those shots.  Security is pretty tough.)

It's just a  bit of exra fun, here in the Mid South. 

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.