Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Smell of the South

That title probably makes most people giggle like a third grader. Well, at least some of the guys  I hang out with. Though the thought of smelling the South does conjure up thoughts of 7 day old overalls or maybe a weed infested pond on a hot, humid summer day.  But better than that, the south is known for its cooking and cooking means SMELLS. Aromas.  Lingering affects of culinary combination and innovation.  It seems like each day I find this out, in more ways than one.

Every morning I get off my "58-foot-limo" right in front of that place above- but when I get there it's usually just before dark-thirty! No one around but me, the bus driver and a few early morning workers such as myself.  Even though the rest of the world is still crawling out of bed, this place is busy heating up the ovens, and creating those smells that define the south.

Ok, let's be specific.  BACON.  Or at least that's what I get out of it.  Smokey wood, pork products and a touch of ..hmmm...Brown Sugar? Maple? Whatever it is, it's intoxicating.
That glass door is the best place in the wee hours to
snort some bacon scented goodness...

Even though they've been tearing up the street recently, I cross the barricades and step lightly over the wood cement forms just to get close enough to the windows to take in that ambiance. Breath deep..wait for the breeze... ahhhhhh...the smell fills me up like a good southern breakfast and I'm ready for my day. Sometimes the breeze shifts and the smell follows me down the street as I walk that final block to work. Heaven.  

Only thing else I need is a good cup of coffee.  Hmm maybe if I swing by the coffee shop at that hour I can sniff a few beans being roasted.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Very Nashville Christmas!

Every year here in Nashville we are fortunate to have some great Holiday entertainment. Some you pay for, and some you don't.  Here are a few highlights.  

The Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular is straight from New York City and comes to Nashville every year and has been doing so for the last 20 years. Why they chose Nashville is anyone's guess.  My estimation is that there is less Snow in Nashville and even more, less traffic and less New Yawk Attitude!  Yeah, that's some good reasons to spend the holidays in the South.

The Opryland Hotel puts up more Christmas Decorations than my neighbor Bubba, but not by much.  Seriously, they put up more than 2 MILLION lights all over their hotel.  Outside...

AND inside!  Three huge solarium areas with live music, waterfalls and decorations in every corner.  Pay for parking and a whole carload of folks can enjoy this free show.  Walk around the inside and visit the shops and restaurants, too!  The Opryland Hotel shares parking lots with the Opry Mills Mall, where you can shop for anything from a new boat to a Gibson Guitar!

There are hundreds of other things to do at the Holidays here in the South, but I don't think there is enough room here to list them all.  

I'll leave you with a good thought.  Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukah, Felize Festivus, or what ever you celebrate this year. And a Happy New Year, too!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Nashville's Downtown Bike Rental

Just last week, I was headed from my office to the Bus Station to take the long ride home when I came across this.  It's a bike rack with a credit card machine attached.  Quite apparently, you can rent bikes by the hour to travel around Nashville and see what there is to see.

The downtown area of Nashville is on a hill and it's one of the things which gives me a workout when I go walking.  I can't imagine what it would do on a bike.  The more I think on this, I realize there are large flat areas to view and with a bike may just be the best way to do it.  The downtown area itself is rife with history and historic places to see going back to before the civil war and as recent as the civil rights era of the 1960's.  For many years our downtown  sidewalks have been adorned with a wide green stripe giving tourists and locals alike a path to follow to view each of these historic places.  The Walking Tour, it was called. (And no, I never went a-walking the walking tour - so sue me.)

It's neat to see the city embracing the idea of biking as a way to get around the city, even if you do have to pay to rent them. The bikes are all painted a nice rich red and each comes with a built in basket and heavy duty lock. Across town are the newly installed GREENBIKES which are Free to use to visit the local parks and biking areas within.  (And yes, those bikes are indeed painted green.)

You'll also note that this rack has a big "B" on it. At first I thought this was identifying it as the 2nd such installation. No such thing!  It's actually the name of the company, "Nashville B-cycle" and there are actually more than 20 locations across the main part of the city.  You can learn more at their site.*
Ride around and enjoy the city, a great way to visit the south! 

In truth, the site you see pictured has been removed (reasons unknown); but there are many others close by and I know folks to use this service regularly.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Southern Wine glass

Well, here it is, just in time for Gift Giving Holidays (you know, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus or what ever holiday you may celebrate and give gifts this time of year) and you know you want it!  

This is a real item, as pictured below, photographed at my local retail store. It's nothing more than a Ball Canning Jar (approximately a pint...hey, I didn't take time to measure things) fixed permanently on top of a glass base (glass candle holder maybe?)   I have even seen these in a smaller size for the women-folk.  ("Women folk?" Honestly, I rarely talk like that, I don't know why this always happens when I get to typing on this blog.) 

Now there's two things to like about this creation.  One: There's a lid to keep the flying critters out of your fermented grape beverage (yes, I agree that it can also be used for fermented apple, fermented succotash or even some of my brother Bubba's Bottle Barley Beer. Let's not quibble on the is the happiest of holiday seasons after all...) The lid can also keep the young progeny from pilfering your sour mash/beer/whatever as opening the lid is a two step process which  gives even the most tipsy of teetotalers plenty of time to thwart such pilfering in process.  

The other reason is of course, the design. The classic Ball Jar Design.  Perfect for any time of year, actually . And of course there is the size.  Enough to keep you going through Aunt Trudy's long winded speech about how she personally stopped prohibition or some such thing (clearly I was more interested in my fermented beverage than in that story she's told again and again, and yeah..again.) 

So,  if you're looking to LOOK like a southerner you'd best be asking Santa (aka: Bubba Claus, here in the south) for one of these.  Else-wise you may find yourself drinking out of some left over 50's aluminum juice glass come New Years.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I Didn't See You There - Christmas Edition

Well, it's Christmastime in the south and I came across this bad boy and I'm a bit ker-flumoxed.  I totally understand the whole Stocking thing, but the camouflage just eludes me.  What if Santa doesn't see it?  What if you can't find it on Christmas morning?  

Ok, I joke, I chide and in fact, I really like this kind of decoration.  It's not red and green and it's not gold or blue.    It's the color and design of someone who loves hunting.  Or wait, maybe they just like Camouflage?  Yes, I think that IS the ticket.   Seriously, there are more designs of Christmas Stockings than you can shake a Yule Log at, so why not a nice design that makes you feel good?  You want Hooters Girls? Go for it!  You want Crimson Tide? Why not?  You want Camouflage?  It's right there for you!  (Hey, seriously  I found this near to home.  If you want one, let me know...) 

And in fact, here is the actual front of the thing, I turned it over to see the back and took the top pic.  Gotta love the 'leather' there at the top, with the 'embossed' deer emblem.  Yes, Christmas in the South.  Camouflaged...It's a southern thing.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

That Pie is Nuts!

One of the things that the South is truly known for is food.  No time is this more evident than at this time of year - Thanksgiving. Along with the Deep fried turkey, and the usual Poke Salad or collard greens, the Southern Thanksgiving is not complete without Pecan Pie. (You can call it 'PEA-kan' or 'peh-KAHN'- it don't make no never-mind to me.) Pecan pie is so important to Southerners that it's on almost every menu in every restaurant from Raleigh to New Orleans. (Pronounce this as 'Nawluns', to be sure. There is no other pronunciation acceptable in the South) 

When I was a kid, one of my father's relatives sent the same gift every year. A big bucket of Pecans. It was her signature gift. When I say bucket, I mean a big cardboard thing (easily 1-2 gallons!) of Pecan halves from a reputable fruit and nut seller. (They are still around, I'm just not about to advertise for them this time of year.) 

My siblings and I would lay waste to that bucket, grabbing handfuls on the way through the kitchen, on the way to watch Star Trek (before it was hip) - but there was so much it would still last at least a month - sometimes more. And now here is my childhood snack fave made into a pie! I swoon, I drool, I reach for a fork!  

What's in this amazingly simple dessert delight?  Pecans (Well, duh!), but the rest is just corn syrup, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Mix it all together and pour into a pie crust. Bake. Eat. Repeat. It seems like a simple recipe, and yet Southern cooks each have their own special recipe, more corn syrup, less sugar, some with less eggs, some with more and most assuredly, some better than others. One such recipe I just found has...let me sit down while I write this as I'm feeling sort of faint ... CHOCOLATE! Yes, CHOCOLATE!  Pecan Pie with chocolate chunks!  Oh lordy, it makes you want some right this moment!

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and I plan to get me a mess of the aforementioned pie - with or without chocolate. One Serving at least.   (What's this they put at the bottom of recipes? One pie serves 8-12?  Who's idea is this? One Pie - One serving! And don't forget the whipped cream!) 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Margaritaville Drive-In

There are times I'd like to be able to hop in the car and head out to pick up some ready made drinks for when friends drop by.  I mean, let's be honest here, I'm not about to share my Tennessee Sippin' Whiskey with just anyone who drops by and besides, company always puts me in a 'mixed-drink-and-fruit-with-an-umbrella' kind of mood.  But who wants to do all that work?

If only...

HOLD THE PHONE!  Back up the TRUCK!  That drive-in up there serves not one, not two, but SIX different flavors of Margaritas and if you can look careful at the big photo, you will see that they also have PiƱa Coladas, Sangria, Mudslides and more!  I may be in heaven!  No, wait - if that is heaven, then heaven is Louisiana and I'm stuck in Tennessee!

To those that don't know, these are only legal in Louisiana and Texas.  Drive-ins are legal in these states in that they sell closed drinks for transportation to a destination (and not for imbibing while you drive.)  Perfect for picking up a couple of cool refreshments on the way home from work, or - as I stated above - for when that special company comes visiting for the Holidays!

Now, if we can just figure out how to get them to deliver to Nashville, I'd really be set.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What Can We Call These?

It's here somewhere...I know it...
Halloween just passed, and what with all the ghoulies and goblins running around the neighborhood, I didn't notice that there was something else more sinister at work. It didn't even seem evident until this last weekend.  Y'see, this last weekend, I finished my latest household project, a set of handrails on the front porch.  

A couple of weeks ago, I carefully dug four holes next to the porch and set four posts into cement. Yes, Me, working with cement -and doing a mighty fine job of it, too, but that's not the problem.  (My brother Bubba the retired English Teacher will fairly swoon at the proper use of a comma instead of a semicolon in the last sentence, and I'm happy to do it to him.  Digressing, yes, as always.) 

The problem was or is as it always is when I am working on projects of this nature.  It goes like this: I put the posts in cement and now that the cement is set, I'm ready to finish.  This last Saturday I picked up the final two pieces of wood for the handrails.  Careful cutting and positioning and I'm ready for the special deck screws I know I have left over from a big project.  

But I can't find them.  

I'm pretty sure this is not the usual, 'Where did I put those?' No, it wasn't me who misplaced them. This is something more sinister.  I looked in all the places I would have put a box of screws - a special plastic box of 100 that I purchased some time ago and I KNOW I didn't finish the box.  They should be there, right where I left them.

Something took them. 

No. Seriously, hear me out.  Someone, or ...Some THING, took them. I know it. They were here, I remember putting the box on the shelf in the shed where I have decided to store all my fasterners   (Screws, Nails, Staples, bobby pins and what not..) 

If this were Ireland, I'd know it was leprechauns.  If this were Scandinavia, I'd say tomten, but we're here in Southern USA. Nashville. So, it must be some little creature who steals things like this and places them someplace I just can't see them.  I've looked and can't find the screws anywhere..well, I can't see the little Tomte-chauns, either, but that's to be expected.  

So, now along with the missing screws, I have to figure out a name for these little Southern Lepra-tomte-gremlin critters and I just don't have the time.  And since I know you're wondering, Yes, I went out and purchased yet another box of screws to finish the project.  It's nice. Handrails for the front porch.  Gonna paint them next weekend.  (I should rename this blog Marv Digresses, or better yet: Reader's Digress...ok, where were we?) 

Got a name for these critters?  Let me know.  (Something tells me if we find their name, we can control them and I might get my box of screws back.) 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

TV or Not TV, that is the Question

Security guys relaxing on the steps...
Just the other day I was walking down to Broadway and took the photo above.  For those of you who don't know what you're seeing there, it's a whole parking lot of trailers used by production companies during filming of movies and TV shows.  Ok, so by now it's no secret that there is a new  TV show based on the music industry being filmed right here in Nashville, cleverly entitled "Nashville."  And if you've seen the show, then you know that apparently we here in Nashville spend our days worrying about hipster vocalists and big bubble breasted blond country singers and how they hate each other and sleep with... well... everyone.  
Same parking lot, different view.
As much as I enjoy seeing a well done TV show with lots of drama and good acting, I'm not going to watch "Nashville."  For one thing, there is more to Nashville than the Music Industry.  They could have called it "Music" for all the real view of Nashville that is shown. And to be sure, 'Country' music is the true base of this endeavor. Oh yes, they show some hipster vocalists out in some dark dank bar performing hipster music of some sort but this whole 'music for drama's sake' just doesn't sit well with me.

Now, to be sure, let's also note that the show is filmed here, in Nashville, and that the sound stages are just north of town, where they have recreated such venerable institutions as the Bluebird Cafe with a high degree of accuracy (as if that makes up for the storylines.)  Ok, so I hate this new show.  I hate that people think THIS is truly my southern home. It's not.  Nashville is so much more than the music, the SOUTH is more than the music genre and I would hope that YOU my readers know that from the hundreds of posts I have made on the subject.  

Oh look at that, across the street equipment
trailers disgorging their innards...
Now, you can go ahead and watch the show.  Enjoy the performances and watch the aforementioned bubble breasted blonds bed hopping through an hour long drama. As for me, I'll refrain from watching due to my own sensibilities and love of my southern home.

I only hope that the rest of my southern neighbors feel the same.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Southern Repurposing

The other day, my wife and I were enjoying an afternoon at our local Used Item Store when I came upon a utility type of item I had been searching for.  It is the belt above.  It's made of black nylon webbing, with several loops for holding accessories.  In addition, it has great solid metal hooks at both ends - perfect for what I had in mind.  

A little over a year ago, I purchased a new string trimmer.  As much as I love my new string trimmer, I really hated the fact that it did not come with the shoulder support.  A shoulder support allows you to carry the item around the yard longer without straining the muscles in your forearms, and allows you to keep it at a standard height as you work.  

The new belt is long enough and adjustable for just this need!  And the price tag of $1.99 made it an easy decision.  I took it home and proudly placed it beside the string trimmer for use later this fall (or next spring if the weather turns cold quick - which it can in the South ...hmmm digress much?)

As I got to looking at the belt, and as I'm marveling at my luck in finding it so inexpensively, I wondered at its original use since it came with no particular label or use indication. What wonderful tool or utilitarian ensemble would have this belt as part of it? It seems perfect for a string trimmer, but part me of thought that perhaps it was a shoulder belt for a hunter.  It's trimmed in orange, has loops that would hold extra shells and that nylon webbing is heavy duty enough to withstand the worst that any hunter can throw at it while tracking that fresh kill through the underbrush.  Now, imagine my surprise when I find this on the internet:  

That's right, it's a toy.  Or rather, it's an accessory for a toy and by toy, I mean those nifty little toy guns by NERF that shoot bullet shaped sponge-like projectiles.  It's all so Little Boopsey can hole-up in the back yard with extra ammunition and take on the kids from down the street without having to scramble around picking up used Nerf projectiles!  And here I am going to use it in my Lawn Arsenal. 

This is Southern Re-purposing at its finest. Re-purposing this belt to be useful in my Lawn wars, well, that's the whole idea behind Used Item Stores!  I mean, it's not like I'm using a Pringles Can to repair the air in take on my car...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I Didn't See You There - In the Bedroom!

Ok, I am officially dumbfounded. Found dumb, struck senseless and somewhat higgledy piggledy.  The above picture was sent to me by a known Suthun Associate with the note "WANT".  (For those of you without the understanding, this Southern friend wanted me to know that he (or she) really wanted this set of camouflaged sheets.)  


Did you hear me?  Camouflaged SHEETS?  Along with comforter, drapes  pillows and maybe even matching pajamas, too.  They are verifiably aquiver with the idea of having this in their home.  To which, of course I immediately remarked, What?  The! Ever! Lovin? HECK???

Me, I'd be afraid I'd go to lay down and find myself stretched out on the dresser because I couldn't find the bed.  Yeah, can't find it CUZ IT'S CAMOUFLAGED!  

Ok, Ok, I know what you're all saying. It's just a pattern, someone is showing off their love of camping, hunting and blending in with the flora.  Perhaps this means you could take this set and set up your bed in the wilderness while camping and not worry about some Deer being spooked by your sleeping arrangement.  

I think for me, I'll stick to regular sheets so I don't have to play a game with the wife at bedtime.  

"I'm over here, dear, waiting for you!"
"'re getting warmer. NO, that's the laundry hamper..."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Welcome to the Rock

Nashville is built on rock. Solid rock.  Nowhere is this more evident than downtown, where the buildings crowd up against the river. Even the outlaying areas must be mindful of this fact, which is why you see very few in ground pools.  It takes a lot of effort and not a few sticks of explosive to get rid of the rock.

This last week, the building in which I toil for the man has begun construction of additional space for parking. Underground parking. Are you ahead of me on this?  This means that they must first dig out the aforementioned rock.  The parking lot beside the building has become ground zero for this activity, centered around two giant pieces of equipment.  The first is pictured above, a large claw machine (no quarters accepted!)

Second, here you can see the real culprits which have now affected my day.  (Effected?  Affected?... gotta call Bruthah Bubba on the Grammer-Phone! - Bubba says "Effected."  We can continue, now.) Anyway, these are two very large jackhammers.  I'm sure they probably have their own name, or code word or nickname or some other way of referring to them that makes good ol' boys squeal like a 12 yr old girl at a Justin Beiber concert.

It started as they tore down the old loading dock. Noise. Vibration. And the two in combination, you can only imagine! Remember back in high school there was always a couple of kids who thought they were drummers and would pound rapidly (and loudly) on their desk in a very misguided attempt at the drum solo in The Surfari's "Wipe Out."* Staring off into space, mouth a grim, tight line of determination.  Conversations came to an abrupt end as you could hear or feel nothing but a giant muddled rumble in the study hall floor as the unevenly balanced desks transferred this mad, loud (and bad) frenetic pounding into the floor and across the room. That's what this is like, only 100 times worse. It's like the School of Amateur Drummers has set up auditions outside my office and they are all doing the same drum solo but they each started at a different time.

The result can be felt throughout the entire building and then some. The really hard part is that there is no place I can go, no way to get a respite from it all.  It's not like I can take the next 18 months off.  (Yeah, Boss, I'm going to be needing a few paid days off....about 550 days to be exact. Am I sick?  Ok, let's go with that.)

18 months.  My nerves are already like mush....and they haven't even started blasting yet.


If, for some unknown reason (read: you're too young) you haven't heard the Surfari's "Wipe Out" you can hear it by clicking here;

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hardware Touristas

It was last Saturday when I drove by my local Hardware Store (pictured above) and saw the most amazing thing. Now, I knew that many a tour bus headed into our fair city laden with Tourists (with the requisite capital 'T') and not a few music acts. Most of the music acts head downtown and most of the Tourists head to the local Outlet Malls and other - let's not call them Tourist Traps, let's refer to them as "Local Centers of Attractive Tourist Type Activities."  (Maybe a few of my 'fans' come to see me? No? Ah, well...) Here we have not one, but TWO big tour buses parked at my very own local big box Hardware Store (also with the requisite capital letters. I like Capital Letters.  So sue me.)

What's up at the Big Hardware Store? Looking for Hardware?  Two buses worth? Me, I don't think so.  I think they are all in there looking AT hardware not looking for it.  Y'see, the big Hardware Store is one of those places that I can go walking through just to see the sights.  When I have time (read: I'm alone) I'll hit every aisle and side and view every display and end cap.  It's one of the few things that I have in common with my mother in law. Yes, you read that right, my Mother In Law. We can turn a quick trip to the Hardware Store into an afternoon and not spend a dime. Bring along a snack and make a day of it!

I was over at the Big Box Hardware Store to pick up some pieces I needed to finish a gutter on the side of the house.  While I was there, I looked at some tools, (more like drooled over some new tools) along with a new work bench and a pair of suspenders for my work pants but I never did see any large groups of people with cameras maybe following dutifully along after a tour guide walking backward speaking loudly.  (Maybe I could hire myself out?)

The aforementioned gutter is all fixed up, but I didn't get back in time to see what the tourists bought while they wandered (If'n they bought anything at all.) Maybe I'll see them next year when they come back for the reunion tour.

Hey, it could happen. Anything is possible here in the South.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Legacy of Thunder Road

When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was Thunder Road, starring Robert Mitchum.  Not so much for the storyline of a young kid driving a fast car to deliver his father's homemade 'white lightning,' but for the theme song.  Mitchum–who not only starred in the movie, but also produced the film, co-wrote the screenplay, and is rumored to have directed much of the film himself also co-wrote (with Don Raye) and performed the theme song, "The Ballad of Thunder Road."  If you've not heard it, go find it on youtube or something and give it a listen. Very powerful.

Ok, so now let's get back to that illegal brew that young man had in his trunk.  Moonshine, also called white lighting, mountain dew, hooch, "Tennessee white whiskey", and many other names is a very high proof beverage,190 proof (95% alcohol), distilled spirit. Made in the woods, using an illegal still, this mountain beverage got its name from the fact that most of the original distillers did their work 'by the light of the moon.' And now, all legal like, comes this new stuff. And does it have a kick!

I will go on record and say that I do not drink. At least not anymore. Oh sure, there was a time when I drank, and wore lampshades on my head and danced like a mechanical monkey on crack, but there are no films of it, so I can say it never happened.  Though the main reason I stopped all that nonsense is that I hated waking up with a headache and covered in my own vomit.  Isn't THAT a pretty picture?

Wow, do I digress.  Ok, so no drinking, we got that, now let's get back to the stuff above. Legal White Lightening, named Ole Smokey Moonshine, this is the best quality hard (and I do mean HARD) liquor you can buy.  No one else makes it, and it's made right here in the South, just a hoot and a holler from downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  

This hard Moonshine (with the requisite capital M) comes in Apple Pie, Peach and regular old take-the- paint-off-your-undershorts Original Moonshine Clear White Corn Whiskey.  I'm pretty sure a gulp of this would turn anyone into a Good Ol' Boy, though it may take a couple of jugs for guys like me.  

Best Legal Moonshine you can find.  Only here in the South! 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Southern Man's Tool Box - Addendum 1

Not too long ago I finalized my look at the Suthun Man's Toolbox (and additions) with a nice list of items that every Good Ol' Boy needs to keep handy. Then, this last weekend I took a trip under the house. (As any regular reader will tell you, taking a trip under my house ranks just above a root canal, and just below listening to Rap Music.)

But besides my trepidation in going under the house, I found a new item to add to the handy tool kit. For one of the myriad of projects I had to take care of under the house, I had taken a can of expanding foam to do a couple of spots and realized that if I didn't use the entire can, the foam would fill up and dry out the applicator thus ending it's use.  The applicator appears to be a 'one use' sort of thing. So, I got to thinking, what can I take along to clean and preserve that applicator tip?

History Time: Many years ago I smoked a pipe. I also owned a Pipe and Tobacco Shop - two of them in fact. Because of the mosquitoes this week, I had taken out one of my old trusty pipes to keep the flying varmints at bay. Along with the pipe, I also took along the usual pocket accouterments: tamper, matches and a pack of Pipe Cleaners. What a wonderful addition to the tool kit! It's an absorbent cleaner, it's a flexible wire! It's two tools in one! What a wonder! I used one to clean the applicator for the foam not once but TWICE!  I also used one to wire some things in place while I worked.

My wife can use them to wire plants in place, I can wire cords together to clean up that octopus under the desk and I can even make little pipe cleaner critters for the grandkids. This is the perfect item to keep handy.  And, let's be sure, because that's the kind of Suthener we all aspire to be: there are three kinds of pipe cleaners. Along with the fluffy ones that are absorbent (regular AND tapered), there are thin ones with very little fuzz on them, and - my favorite - the Ream 'N Clean. This is a soft cleaner with plastic fibers implanted for a good deep clean - perfect for your tool-kit!

Perfect for the Suthun Man's Toolkit!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I Didn't See you There - Handheld Division

I came across this in the store the other day and it left me with a sort of unease akin to vertigo. What you see there is a case for a tablet PC much like an Ipad.  It is camouflaged. That's right, camouflaged.  Nicely done, too.

But as much as I like the camouflage on this piece, it also brings up many questions that beg answers.  Do a lot of people take their Tablet PC into the forest while hunting?  Is having an Ipad important to hunting to such a degree that you're afraid a deer might bolt if he saw you playing Angry Birds?  Wouldn't it be better to carry something smaller such as this:
Then at least you could keep your hand on the trigger of that deer rifle while you're attacking the pigs.  Just don't set it down, or you may not find it again.  

Of course the real question on everyone's mind is 'Why are you playing  video games while fooling around with weapons?'  Such are the Mysteries of Living in the South.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Good Ol' Neighbors in the Good Ol' South

At one time, when I first purchased this Southern Homestead, the entire backyard was encircled with a 6 foot privacy fence. Like the old adage "Good Fences make good neighbors,' that fence helped me define the relationships with several of my odd neighbors, and over the years there have been several.

When I was a kid, we barely knew our neighbors.  My mom never seemed to have the time to put into getting to know them, but we at least knew them by reputation or in passing.  Once I moved into my own house, I vowed to get to know the people I would be living near. I think my mother knew something she wasn't telling.

On one side, the house was a rental.  After we moved in, the people renting that house had a small fire.  The owner decided then and there to stop renting it.  The house has stood empty now for more than 15 years.  The owner works on it from time to time, fixing the burned flooring, adding a brickwork porch, or taking out the trees, only to plant new ones in a perfect straight line... because ...well...just because he can, I guess. He also put in the big sturdy fence you see above, so at least I have a privacy fence on one side. 

In the back, I just never got the chance to meet or know my neighbors, except for one time when I went out to work on my swimming pool.  (The pool is gone now, the victim of a heavy storm.)  Sitting in the bottom of the pool I found several rocks of varying sizes, mostly 'hand-sized', and a line of these same rocks from the side of the pool to the back fence.  It didn't take a team of forensic scientists to determine that the rocks had come from the back fence, and right in the one place where the bushes and trees sort of formed an open spot. Hmm, target practice?

I took a walk around the block and went up to the back neighbors house. She was a very nice woman with an engaging smile and a gaggle of younguns running around (who oddly disappeared when the door opened.) I explained to her that the rocks seemed to have come from her back yard and her smile disappeared and her face grew dark. She thanked me, apologized for her kids and said she'd take care of it.  As she closed the door, I heard her hollering for her brood.  Never had any more trouble with rocks in the pool. But I never got to know them any better either. 

On the other side of the house from the empty one, there was also a rental, which was later sold to the nice family living there now.  While a rental, I had to deal with several different families which over the years included a couple of ornery  kids who beat their dog for fun, a man who liked to peek through the privacy fence at my wife swimming in the pool and a woman who felt that since she mowed the strip of my grass which bordered her driveway that she owned it.  I still shake my head at that bit of suthun logic.

My neighbors across the street are all easy to get along with, not to mention my good ol' Suthun Buddy, neighbor Bubba - a regular in this blog.  

The fence is gone, the victim of a tornado and I've never had the time (or funds) to replace it.  The privacy fence was merely for show, as a chain link fence was there behind it.  And the growth of trees and bushes has helped the privacy to some extent, but I will always miss that big privacy fence.  Keeping things hidden from your neighbors may seem a bit selfish, but in the end, that also makes good neighbors and good neighbors are part of the Suthun Tradition.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The 8 Legged Visitor

It may come as no surprise to regular readers (since I'm pretty sure I mentioned it in another post) that I have an almost pathological fear of spiders. It's not something I brag about and in recent years, I've actually become quite adept at killing the ones that dare to enter into my space. (Hammers, shoes and any flat surface become weapons of bug destruction around me!) This last weekend, however, I had a relapse.

There I was, stark naked, just starting my morning shower, when a shadow seemed to move in the corner of my vision.  Always mindful of bugs and yeah, spiders, I turned to see if this was a real shadow, a trick of the light, or perhaps just a mote in my eye moving across the surface.

The shadow, easily the size of a small car, moved up the shower curtain between the curtain and the liner.  Fast.  It was up and over the top of the shower curtain before I could do anything.  So, now it was on the outside of the shower curtain...waiting for me.  And that noise, what was that?  Oh yeah, that was me screaming....and pounding on the wall...and screaming some more. 

My lovely wife, thinking I had just fallen and needed help came running.  She took one look at the spider and began speaking to it as one might speak to a child.,  "Aw, it's just a widdle wolf spider..."  She is Native American and spiders mean a lot to her so she ran out and came back with a container.  She carefully captured the offending mutant arachnid and safely placed it outdoors in the bushes. (It was huge, I swear!   Big...Really Big, you know?)  My pulse slowed to a decent level by the time she got back and I finished my shower.  But I still kept checking the shower curtain for lurkers.  

Twice a year I spray for bugs.  I use a household bug spray that kills when you spray the bug but also is a deterrent in that it has cedar oil in it and the scent chases away bugs and, most importantly, the spiders. The cedar oil causes spiders to come out and run around looking for a new place to live. That's usually when I squash 'em!  Today, I have no idea because we sprayed a good 3 weeks ago.  I may have to reapply, but that also bothers me because they seem to be getting immune to the spray.

My wife actually suggested leaving the giant wolf spider in the bathroom to take care of the other less- er desirable spiders.  Yeah, that's a good idea.  I can just see it now, waking up and finding this spider on my shoulder staring at me like I'm an all-you-can-eat buffet. (Cue more screaming and pounding on the wall.)

For now, the giant mutant-yet-friendly spider has taken up residence in the crawl space.  We don't charge him rent and he's pretty good about not playing loud music after 10 pm.  Now, i just have to find a new spray which won't make the cats sick while keeping a hammer ready for the continuing 8 Legged Roundup.

Life in the South sure is fun.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Tale of the Pink Suspenders

Working in the out-of-doors is part of the Suthun Experience. With the moderate climate, we've got the ability to work outdoors most of the year. Even with that, I find myself outdoors more in the summer than any other time.  Because of this, I have my 'work' ensemble for replacing roof shingles or for mowing or just for work in the heat of the summer.  This includes a pair of lightweight work shoes, carpenter pants, light tee shirt, and a sun hat (my good ol' hard-hat in the shape of a pith helmet.)

A problem has arisen in that in recent years, I've lost considerable weight.  I cinch the belt on my pants and head out but in no time, thanks to humidity and the sweat it brings, the pants are sliding down and I'm stopping every few seconds to pull them back up on my near-non-existent hips. (No comments about that, Bubba!)

Not too long ago, my wife bought me a nifty tool belt and the accompanying heavy suspenders to keep them up.  I got the great idea that a similar pair of suspenders might keep my pants up and allow me to keep working without having to yank up the aforementioned pants. Off to the closet I skip (ok, so maybe I didn't skip, but I did move jauntily and with purpose), remembering that I had several pair of suspenders hiding in my closet.  

Many years ago, I was in college and performed a lot on stage. For these performances, I had not one, or two, but FIVE full tuxedos, complete with bow ties, cummerbund and suspenders.  You can imagine my dismay when I discovered that I had only one set of suspenders left. Where the others have gone, only time knows.  And, this one pair? They are pink. Yeah, bright Pink. 

There is no way I'm going out in the heat wearing a pith helmet (I already have enough people snickering at that) and pink suspenders. Just thinking about it I can hear Neighbor Bubba guffawing down the street!   Then I remember the way in which denim seems to get a life of its own (as well as double in weight) in the humidity of the South.  Ok, I'll wear them, but I'll hide them UNDER my shirt.

So, now when Neighbor Bubba comes over to ask about my cats (" taught that SEE EM EEZ to fetch a beer yet?") I only have to be careful that he doesn't see or even suspect the suspenders carefully hidden below my work shirt.

Life in the South is getting complicated.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Get a Grip!

I've owned a lot of gloves over the years and not just the kind that keep my fingers warm when I'm walking to the bus on a cold winter's day.  I'm talking about Work Gloves.  Gloves are a requisite item for working anywhere, not just here in the Lovely South.  But, (you knew there was a but, right?) once I got to the South, I discovered that gloves can also be wrong.  Above you can see my very own collection of gloves that I use for different chores.

For the most part, in the past, I used a pair of medium weight leather gloves. You can see them there in the photo to the right. They gave me a grip, saved me from cuts and thorns and overall made me feel like a construction worker. Growing up out west, they made me feel like a cowboy, too.  

Then I found that those were almost too much glove when doing some jobs. For doing small jobs around the house, I bought a set of those cotton gloves with the little dots on them. They are ok, but one trip into the shed, and they look like dead mice... smell like it, too. Wash them once or twice and they fall apart.
Skip forward a few years and I'm walking through the local Big Box Store and I spy the pair of gloves above.  They are made from a stretchy spandex like material which has had the fingers and palm dipped in Nitrile rubber.  They are thin, light and fit like second skin. Not only that, they give a grip like no other glove I've ever owned.  I bought two pair immediately. 

Never mind the fact that they say "BOSS" on the back, they are great for working on anything.  I can even keep them on when I dig into my pocket for my pocket knife! Get them wet and they only get a better grip! Only drawback I can see is that the more you use them, the less life they have. (Well, DUH!) By that I mean that the rubber will stick to the spandex for only so long.  My oldest pair is already losing the Nitrile off the area between the thumb and forefinger and it's less than a year old. The grip is still good though, so they will remain useful for some time to come.  Much longer than the dead mouse looking cotton gloves I mentioned before.  

In addition, the Nitrile gloves are cheap, by comparison to leather, which means I'll pick up another pair soon to put into the rotation when the time comes so I'm doing ok.  Though by using them I'm not sure if my not using the old leather work gloves will keep me from being a good ol' boy.  

Only time (and neighbor Bubba) will tell.  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Convention on the Roof

Recently, I had a chance to drive across the downtown area.  Actually, I was trying to get around some traffic jams and ended up driving a bit out of my way.

Anyway, I was driving along when I discovered myself driving past the new convention center.  This massive several block long structure is a conglomeration of shapes, colors and unfinished cement in unending awe.  I took the picture above from my dashboard.  The thing to note here is that this is one small corner of the structure. Here is another showing the front (?) of the gargantuan building. (You get the idea that this place is rather large? Good.)
The next day, as I was downloading the photos from my phone, I found out something even more awe terror inspiring.  The roof of the new Nashville Convention Center will be GRASS.  That's right, they are covering the top of the convention center with PLANTS!  I know what you're thinking. "Oh, hey, like wow!" says your hipster induced ejaculate.  "A green roof made of green plants!" (For the record, the roof will not really be grass, but will be Sedum plants, which are green plants with a yellow flower.) 
4 Acres of Sedum Plants up on the roof!
And then comes the realization that SOMEONE is going to have to go up on that roof to TRIM or MOW said Sedum plants. (At least my heat addled brain would assume so.)  Plants mean trimming or mowing and regardless of whether they are in front of my house or on the 4 ACRE Roof of the Nashville Convention Center, they gotta be trimmed or mowed or sedum-ated...or whatever you do to them.  (Do you mow sedums or just trim with a string trimmer? Maybe you have to get down on your hands and knees and cut them with a scissors! - Oh the horror!)  I get the picture of someone having to go up on the roof in the dead of winter and trim the dang plants so that the place can be considered "green." Just knowing that some poor Suthunah has to go up on the roof to do battle in the Lawn Wars is enough to give me nightmares.

And the worst thing?  I can tell all you guys about it but if you come visiting, there is no way to take you up there to show it off.  It will forever remain just another hidden gem here in the South. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I Didn't See You There - WTF Division

I caught this pic as I was crossing the street the other day. I stopped and backed up to get a photo of this truck and the guy must have thought I was REALLY interested in his ferrin' truck. Yeah, being a true suthunah, or at least a Suthun Wannabe, I'd only be interested in 'MERICAN made trucks.

But let's get back to the subject at hand, shall we?  It's not the truck I was fascinated with.  It's that panel on the front.  Can you see it there?  It's CAM-UH-fllaged.  Now, stay with's camouflaged, which means that when needed, like in the forest, it's going to blend in with its surroundings and not be seen. Ok, you got that?  Are you now at the same level of WTF that I am?

For those that don't truley get it yet, the only part of the truck that is camo'd is that panel. What happens to the rest of the truck?  Does having just that one panel sort of camo the entire truck by proxy?  Does the deer (or other game you're hunting) look around and see the truck, but since the panel is camo'd they think there's a hole through the entire truck and it freaks them out so much they forget that there's a truck there?

I'd  like to think that maybe the guy bought himself a camouflaged truck and could only afford to paint 99% of it a nice shiny black.  Then again, maybe this guy has this special cover for his truck which is all camo'd that covers the whole truck EXCEPT for that one space...Yeah, that's got to be it.

Ok, I can see that.  Now I got to hunt this guy down and ask him to see that truck cover.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

When Is It Time to Replace a Tool?

I hit myself in the face on Saturday.  Oh it wasn't because I had annoyed myself, or that maybe I had insulted myself.  I rarely get that annoyed with me. Me, myself and I have really great discussions together...but as usual, I digress.

No, the reason I socked myself is...well, I was using my pruner on a big tough branch and it snapped - not the branch, the pruner  (seen above) causing one hand to come up and rather forcefully smack me in the jaw.  Don't worry, no bruises. But I was pretty ticked off. Having a tool break like that in the middle of a job can really get to you. The job doesn't get done, I'm standing there shocked at the loss of an old friend and hurling epithets while I try and figure out what caused the break! (First, of course, I had to glance around to make sure no one saw the aforementioned Fist-To-Face Fiasco.) 

Y'see, it's those holes.  See them there in the hardwood handles? That's what caused the breakage.  Those are from when I hung up the pruner in the open air carport. No, I didn't cut the hole to hang the thing.  The holes were created by Carpenter Bees.  Xylocopa Latreille (if you want to get specific)  are found on every continent on the  planet and at first glance are about the same size as small flying SUV.  Ok, so maybe they aren't THAT big, but they are bigger than your average bee.  Nice thing is that they are fairly docile.  Except for that digging holes in wood thing they got going on.  The females dig the holes to lay eggs and sort of hibernate during the winters. Each year they return using ready made holes (whether they made them or not).  

The hole merely weakened the hardwood handles of my favorite pruner - ok, my ONLY pruner.  The pressure on the hole made it break.  It's like losing an old friend.  I've had this particular pruner for longer than I care to admit. I got it when the need got too great, the untrimmed trees and bushes calling out to be cut.  The paint has worn off the grips and the handles had to be tightened with a couple of wood screws, but it got the job done.  Now it looks like I'm going to be looking for a new one.  

I can't seem to throw out old tools like this. It will probably sit in the shed in a box until I come upon it in a few years and will toss it then, asking myself "What was I thinking keeping this old rusty thing??" 

The fact of the matter is, really, I can't go long without one.  Life in the south requires, no - DEMANDS that you keep trees and bushes from encroaching on your house, shed and walkways.  The only way to do this is with the right tools, and a pruner with as big an opening as possible is at the top of the list.  

This time, however, I'm getting the neigh-indestructible-non-wood handles. 
Dang bees can go mate elsewhere!  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Is It Hot Enough For You?

As I'm sure I've said once or twice, and to which this blog is dedicated, I love living in The South (yes, with the requisite capital 'S.')   I love most everything about it.  However, there is one thing about the South that I do not like and that is the heat. Summer heat in the South will make you imagine what the surface of the sun must be like.

More than that, it's also me.  Growing up in Colorado, my body was originally geared for cold.  If there is no frost on the window I'm not happy.  The wife and I have argued more than once about the setting on the thermostat. She being from Arizona likes it warm. Me: Cold.   (A digital thermostat only added to the fire, so to speak, as we now can argue over one degree.)  

The temperature outside today was 105 degrees.  One Hundred FIVE Degrees! Oh yes, I'm sure the heat is much worse where you are, but give me a chance here.  In the Rockies, a hot day is 90 degrees, maybe 95 but 105? Holy GuacaMoley!  If I had a fever of 105 they'd be digging a hole to put me in!  I've debated once or twice seeing if I could cook an egg on the driveway, but I just don't want to go out there.  Or waste an egg.  

But more than the heat, you got that Suthun Humidity.  Sometimes it's so humid, I feel like I need a snorkel to get to the car!  When it's that hot outside, and you got that humidity, stepping out the front door is like being hit with a hot towel.  Immediately you feel like you just stepped out of a shower.  The coolness of your skin causes the high humidity to condense and soak through everything. Don't even think about wearing more than one layer.   In only minutes you feel like you've been out there for days.  

It's just as well, I can't seem to do anything anyway because all my tools are too hot to touch. The Shed feels more like a sauna or better yet a steam-bath.  The only good thing about this heat is that the lawn doesn't need mowing as much which means the Lawn Wars are postponed due to weather!  

And then there's Bubba. Neighbor Bubba walks around in this weather like it's a temperate Spring Day. He wears a pair of overalls over a light cotton tee-shirt, and he looks like he's enjoying himself as he works on his car or pushes a wheelbarrow around the backyard.  Bubba is a real Suthunah, which is more than I'll ever be.  True suthunahs live for the heat, thrive on the heat, and perhaps even work outdoors in the heat.  

Me?  Turn down the thermostat, close the dang door and bring me another glass of ice water.  I'm not coming out til November.  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Andy Griffith Last of the Good Ol' Boys

June 1, 1926 – July 3, 2012
It has been a week since the death of Andy Griffith.  I cannot tell you how this affected me.  Andy was a part of our American heritage, as much as Mom and Apple Pie and he has been as much a part of my growing up as anyone I actually know.  He represented a male father figure to me and my brothers, and he represented the part of us all that was laid back and at ease in his own skin.  He embodied the true Southern Gentleman, the last of the Good Ol' Boys.

He was a Broadway Star in the 1950's and was reknowned as a comedian using a view of life from a backward hick to skewer such things as American Football.  He was a star of movies, tv and radio and won a Grammy for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album (1997). In 1999 he was inducted into the Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame and in 2007, he was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame and Museum. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush on November 9, 2005.

But above all that, he will forever be Sherrif Andy Taylor of Mayberry, North Carolina, USA, nephew to Aunt Bea Taylor, mentor and best friend to bumbling Deputy Barney Fife and of course, father to Opie Taylor.  He was also friend, confidant, mentor and father to us all.  You can't watch the show and not want to be there in Mayberry,  a town representative of just about any of the small towns of the South.  You can just see yourself walking down to the diner for lunch, hanging out at Floyd's Barber Shop for some gossip or just watching as Andy and Opie head down to the fishin' hole for an afternoon of close bonding; a friendly wave and a fading whistle as they disappear over the hill.

Another reason to just love the South, but without Andy in it, it's just not the same.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Southern Man's Tool Box Revisited

Back in January my New Years resolution had me defining the perfect tool kit.  It's only been 6 months but it feels like half a year; and after much heated debate (ok, I'll admit it, I'm debating with my evil twin and he's a real PITA) we're ready to reveal the Southern Man's Tool Box. This is the box/tool bag which you keep handy, for those quick jobs or easy repairs.  In addtion, we also have defined those things one realy needs to have handy just in case.

Let's take a look:

Tool Box – Sturdy. I personally like the soft type of bag, but for this sort of use, the sturdy box will allow you easier access in a hurry.

Hammer - Most everyone will immediately look toward the wood handled hammer, but I go for the fiberglass. I've had 2 of them for years and they don't wear out, dont split and they don't ever need to have the head tightened.

Carpenter's pencil - No, not one of those round #2 pencils you used in school. These are flat, which means when you set it down, it WON'T roll away.  I keep several around. A notepad is also a good idea.

Adjustable Crescent Wrench  -  One medium sized, but two sizes are always better.

Screwdrivers - I'm sure this is self explanaitory, and for those who don't realize it, there are many sizes of screw drivers, both Slot and Cross headed.  I have also found useful to have a set of bits to fit all sorts of screws (cross headed, stars, hex and even some sockets) which fit into a universal handle.

Vice Grips/Pliers - Reg/NeedleNose/Combination - Anyone that needs to know what these are for has never worked on anything. Pliers help you grip things and vise grips (locking pliers) help you get a good grip on things. Channel Lock Pliers make a big job easier. Needle Nose and Combination pliers will have wire cutters, and help pull things out that you can't otherwise get out.

Small Flashlight - Nuff Said. I like to have one that will fit between my teeth for hands free working and I also have one that is strung in such a way as to go around my head and focus light right where I need it. (Store with the battery removed, in a zip lock bag.)

Utility Knife/Scraper - A cutting implement is one of those things that you don't realize you need in a tool box until you do.  Gotta open those plastic cases somehow.  And the scraper can be a life saver when painting around windows.

Nail Set - Pound in a nail and be careful not to scar the wood, you'll still see a bit of that nail sticking up. Don't try to pound it flat, you'll only end up with a nice hammer sized dent in the wood. A nail set can knock that sucker flat (or further if you want to add wood putty) in no time. (You can even use a 10 penny nail in a pinch)

Awl - I rarely use an awl, but I keep one handy. This is like a long pointy screwdriver but round and very thin.  It's originally designed for sewing and can be used to poke holes in leather. It can also be used as an Ice Pick or to mark wood or metal with a scratch.

Power Tester - When working with electricity this is a must.  Unless you like testing power with your tongue.

Putty Knife -  Metal is best, but cheap plastic ones can be used and discarded after use. 

Tape measure - This is another of those 'you should already know what it's for' kind of things.  Make sure it's spring loaded retractable and even lockable once it's in position.

Chisel - When someone suggested this, I first thought it was a bit of overkill for this box. But then I realized how much I do use my one chisel for shaping wood, or cutting stubborn screw heads off.  Keep it sharp, you never know when you'll need it.

Tapes - Teflon tape for working with pipes.   Duct Tape is one of those things you will just HAVE to keep around.   Black Electrical Tape for making connections and marking wires (colors, too, like red and white are always good for that.)

Level - A small level is always good when hanging paintings, checking walls or putting up doors.

Cable, Stud and Pipe Detector - Now you might think of this as another of those overkill things, but when we're talking about some small type emergency and you need to know where the pipe or wire is in a wall, NOW, this will be important to have.

Baling Wire (or other thin easy workable wire), length of string, rope and other cordage (got that word from a show on Discovery) and even a few cable ties can help in a small quick job.

Pack of Pipe Cleaners - These are great for cleaning tools or wiring things in place while you work with them.  Wrap one around a screw to hold it in an odd position while you drive it home with the drill motor.  

Paint Brush - This is not really so much for paint as it is for brushing dirt or saw dust out of small spots or just keeping the work area clean.

Protection - Ya gotta have this stuff for any job, so keep some handy in this handy box.  Things like a dust mask, eye protection and gloves.  (I have a pair of heavy leather gloves for the hard work and a pair of nytrile coated gloves for all other work.)

Calculator - This does not mean you need a big plug in type. I have a small light powered calculator for making sure my math works well when I need it.

Drill Motor - When I grew up in the west, we called this a Drill and Drill bits.  Here in the South, they call it a Drill Motor and Drills. Whatever you grew up calling it, keep one handy and of course, cordless is always best if you can get it.  If you don't have cordless, then be sure you have a long enough cord. 

Band-Aids - ok, yeah, this last one was included by my brother, Bubba. There are times when I rate a job by the number of band-aids I use so a fresh handful is always good to have handy (in sealed plastic like a zip lock bag to keep 'em fresh!)

Along with the above tool box, you'll also want to keep the following handy for any job that might pop up.

Bucket - My wife will tell you the story of when I "borrowed" her favorite mop bucket and ended up ruining it. I still haven't been able to find an identical replacement and it's been a year or more.  Get a good sturdy bucket for your own use, Bubba. You'll thank me later, and so will your wife.

Step Ladder - I have a nice 6 foot ladder for small jobs and I keep it in the house by the back door. For smaller jobs I have a folding 2-step ladder I keep in the laundry area.

Extension Cord - This is a no brainer when working with power tools.  Everyone should have a good heavy grade extension cord.  No, not that thing you use to put lights up at Christmas.  Get a good heavy duty one made for power tools.

Portable Workbench - You take down a piece of wall and are about to put up some nifty thing you built in the garage, so don't go messing up the dining table by working there.  A nice folding table or portable workbench for your own projects is just what Dr. Marvinator ordered.

Variety of hardware - nails, screws and a way to keep them separate.  It doesn't matter if you keep them in a coffee can or a fishin' tackle box, just be sure to always have them on hand, or you'll end up running to the store for a 99 cent pack of nails every time you turn around.

There you have it.  Gleaned from a lot of emails and not a few lists on the internet.  Oh and one last addition.
You really need to have one or two of these things:
(In case you didn't know, it's a paint can opener and bottle opener.  
The Perfect Tool, the Perfect Suthunah's Tool I would hazard.)