Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Radio City Spectacular - In Nashville

So, Hey, it's Christmas.  It doesn't matter to me if you celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hannakah, Winter Solstice or the Start of Football Bowl Season, so I will wish you all a Happy Holiday - or non Holiday. Here in the South we have a myriad ways of celebrating this time of year (many of them include a non-light beer) but none of them is as spectacular as the annual visit from the Radio City Rockettes and their annual Christmas Spectacular. It's all part of the Holiday Celebration at the Opryland Hotel and at the Opry House. The Opry House is home to the long running Grand Old Opry Radio Show.

Started in 1933, the Radio City Christmas Show has been changed many times to not only meet demand, but to also celebrate it's own longevity.  This year marks the 80th anniversary and has been totally revamped with new music and stories.  1994 saw the first road show, in Branson, Missouri and along with other 'touring' groups, the Rockettes returns to Nashville year after year since 1997.

Another reason to visit Nashville during the Holidays.
Merry Christmas to you and yours.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Creepy Art in the Southern Winter

Regular readers will know that I take the bus to work. Between the bus stop and my building there are several art galleries. 4  in 1 block.  The other morning, in the pre-dawn dark, I came across one gallery with just one big installation. I had to take the shot you see above. The place was closed, but the installation was fully lit, allowing me to take this shot through its front door.  

Now, imagine this.  It's dark, the streets are deserted and the art gallery, with its polished tile floors has this three dimensional ...exhibit is the only word I can think of. It's big.  I mean it's a full sized room! Set up like a dorm room, it's got real twin beds and accessories, and even a nightstand with flowers on it. The room is littered with papers and things from the drawers and what appears to be a sewing kit is open in the middle of the room where two small folded white paper birds fight over a piece of string. 


Yeah, paper birds. The ceiling is covered with more, but these are big black crow like birds...maybe ravens. And just below them hangs another handful of the smaller white birds. The walls are lined with stick like branches, that stretch out, reaching into the room itself, black against the light blue walls. 
See the pretty birdies?
Creepy much? I showed it to my wife and she actually likes it. And yes, it has a certain visceral quality, but that doesn't mean that we're about to have the thing installed in our living room.  I mean, I love art - all kinds of art. My mother was an artist and I still have one painting she did when I was a mere lad. I watched her create it, watched as a futuristic city rose out of the mist she created, and when she didn't like it and was about to paint white over it, I complained enough that she gave it to me. It's a great piece and part if it is the story behind it.  Every bit of art I place in my house has to have a  story behind it and I'm afraid the story behind this big diorama is written by Stephen King and directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

I think I'll just leave it where it is, and be glad that i got to see it one morning on my way to work and don't have to see it every morning on my way to the bathroom.

The diversity.  That's what's really nice about living in a city like Nashville.  Diversity and creepy paper birds flying over your dorm room bed.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My Brush With Fame

In every city of any size (heck, even the little ones) there is someone that is a local celebrity. Whether it is the local Sheriff, or a AA Baseball Team player, or the local news team, people recognize and revere these people like none other. Here in Nashville, you'd think that I'd run into Country Music Stars as often as I run into a Starbucks. (You'd be right, I never go into Starbucks - but I digress.)

So, the other day, I'm headed out to the store to pick up something for the office and I run into the celebrity above. Anyone growing up in Nashville in the last 30 years (especially my daughter) will recognize this local Nashville Celebrity who paused in his Christmas donation gathering long enough for a fun photo with yours truly. That's him on the right, and me on the left, Bubba!) 

He's Snowbird. (No last name, and it's just Snowbird, not The Snowbird and more correctly "Channel 4's Snowbird.") Originally just a cardboard cut out who squawked "No School! No School" during the weather reports on the Local Channel 4, snowbird has evolved into an entire personality. He's witty and fun-loving, but cares about the safety of kids when snow hits the streets. But Snowbird is more than a winter weather presence. During his long career, Snowbird has appeared in a year-long "Word from Snowbird" public service series, starred in three Christmas specials, and hosted children's programs about sportsmanship and self-esteem. These efforts have earned him numerous awards, including regional Emmy awards. Not many penguins can boast of a past like that.

So, go ahead and be jealous, Bubba! I'm standing in the freezing weather here in the South with a big goofy expression on my face while I stand next to Snowbird. Eat your Nawthun heart out. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Nothing Is Ever As Easy As It Looks

It's amazing to me how things spiral out of control so quickly - and it tends to happen to me a lot.  Perhaps it's only because I don't have my GOB Certification, but I think there's more to it than that.  At least I HOPE so. Recently, in preparation for the annual onslaught of visitors for Thanksgiving, we decided that a few vents in the house were just a bit old and tired and thus, in need of replacement.  

Being the Southern  Handyman Wannabe that I am, this is the kind of project that I can get into. I mean, on the surface, it seems so simple. Quick trip to the Big Hardware Store...pull out the old vent cover, put in the new one. This is something even my All-thumbs Brother Bubba could handle. And yet....

So, I find myself down in the laundry room, getting ready to replace the last vent cover.  Reaching behind the washer, using a slot screwdriver, I attempt to take out the old screws. 

OH, not so fast there, says Mr. Murphy.  It seems that the old slot style screwdriver won't say in place and using it at this odd angle will wear out your arm and no amount of creative cursing will fix that.  Ok, so I'm going to have to move the washer.  Washer moved. Screws pulled out - and I'm clever enough to have a PHILLIPS Screwdriver to put in the new vent! I'm almost done!

OH, not so fast there, says Mr. Murphy.  It seems that the NEW vent cover has holes that do not line up with the old vent cover's holes!  This means I have to head out to the tool pile to dig out the drill and a drill bit for the new screws.  Then I have to line up the new vent cover and make sure that the holes are right. 

OH, not so fast there says Mr. Murphy.  It appears that the old vent has a deeper stance. This means that all the vent sides folded over have to be flattened so that the new vent cover will fit flat against the wall.  Back out to the tool area, and back with the hammer.  Get all the edges nice and flat, so that the new vent cover fits. Mr. Murphy just needs to be dealt with properly.

Mr. Murphy is duck taped to the side of the dryer, and I can now take my time getting the new vent cover installed.  Tools picked up, washer moved back into place and Mr. Murphy has been 'de-taped' from the side of the dryer and chased off until the next time. 

Replace the vent cover? Easy peasy...yeah, right!  It's never as easy as it looks.

Never.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Late Night Blue Light Special

When I was a young lad, growing up in the snowy Rocky Mountains, I learned to drive on both city streets and snowy mountain roads.  One of the more important things we learned in Driver's Ed class is that the Snowy Colorado Roads are patrolled by snow plows. Ok, only during the winter, (obviuosly..we don't have snow plows out running the roads in the sunny summers) but it was important to know because one had to learn to yield to these behemoths of the roads so that the snow could be kept constantly plowed. Snow plows always have the right of way...or something like that. The mountain roads and highways are fairly festooned with signs that remind us "Blue Light Means Snow Plow." 

You can imagine my thoughts when I first came to the state of Tennessee when I was out driving along the highway, minding my own business late one night, when what should appear in my rear view window, but a set of blue pulsing lights.  And true to my training, I pulled to the right, and waved them around me. 

At that point, I learned two things.  One: The Tennessee State Patrol has blue lights on the top of their patrol vehicles; and Two: They tend to frown heavily when they turn on their Official Blue Pulsing Lights and all you do is slow down and wave them around.  

You  can also imagine my surprise when the 'snow plow' behind me turned on a siren.  
When all was said and done, more was said than done.  I didn't end up behind bars, nor did I get a ticket; but I did get a stern and lengthy lecture on Tennessee State Patrol vehicles blue lights, and what to do in Tennessee when they appear behind you. 

Lesson learned. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Food of the Gods - The Low Fat Southern Biscuit

There is something about Southern Food which causes Southerners to swoon with glee and non southerners to give that tight lipped grimace of hate.  Southern food? Oh No, they shout!  Southern Food just has way too much butteroilflourporkbadstuffgalore! It's bad for you, it's bad for the environment and will cause the downfall of modern civilization as we know it!  (Deep Breath, Calm now...) But as much as people hate Southern food, or hate what's in it, there is something that Southern food has that you can't find in any other kinds of food.

Honesty. 

Southern Food is not pretentious.  It is what it is. No frilly white aprons or gold bespangled dishes needed. (Some of the best southern food is found on paper plates!)  Southern food is flavorful and filling and its roots in the early years of our country are evident in the ingredients as well as the flavors and comfort they convey. 

One of my favorites is the Biscuit (with the requisite capital B.)  I grew up not eating biscuits.  When I was a kid, I eschewed biscuits because they fell apart as you ate them. They were dry and flavorless bombs of dough which required half a jar of jelly just to get it to slide down my throat.  No, I was not a fan.  Until I got to the South and had one of those big biscuits from that chicken place down the street that left me in a butter daze for days.  My life then revolved around finding the Perfect Southern Biscuit. 

Fast Forward 20 years and I'm sitting in my Doctor's office as he speaks to me of high cholesterol and health hazards.  My love of biscuits crashes to the polished Italian Travertine tile of his office. But, wait, this is not going to be an indictment of the Southern Biscuit.  No, this is a re-imagining of that most American of breakfast breads.  After much work on my own part, (and the quiet suffering of my biscuit loving spouse) I have created a Very Low Fat Biscuit which is (almost) Too Good To Be True.  I present the recipe here for your enjoyment. 

Preheat the oven to 410-425 (You know your oven. You want the biscuits to be a lovely golden brown on top and done inside but not black on the bottom.)

Gather:
2 Cups Self Rising Flour
2 Tbl Sugar
1/4 Cup Liquid Fat Free Butter*
7/8 Cup Fat Free Buttermilk

In a large bowl, combine the Flour and the Sugar.  Add the fat free butter and work this mixture until it has a consistent 'sand' like look. (This is an important step.  You want NO lumps. Flour looks like powder, but this will look like 'sand'.  It may take a while to work it into this state, but it is important to the quality and consistency of the biscuit. I use a large fork and work the lumps against the side of the bowl until the mixture looks all the same.)

Add the buttermilk and again stir and work the mixture to get all the 'sand' mixed in. This doesn't take very long and you end up with a nice doughy lump the consistency of soft clay. 

Put a small amount of flour on your workspace and turn the dough onto it.  Now, work the dough carefully.  Press it down until it's flat (about an inch thick) and then fold it over onto itself and pat it down. (Add a sprinkle of more flour to the work surface to keep it from sticking if you need it.)  I do this about 6-8 times, leaving it about 3/4 inch thick after the last fold. 

Using a biscuit cutter (I use a glass with a 4 inch mouth) press out the biscuits and place them on a cookie sheet - at least an inch apart.  You may need to re-combine the dough to complete the last few biscuits, but be careful not to 'over work' the dough as this will make them tough.  I get 5-6 big biscuits, or 6-7 medium biscuits. 

Bake them on the top rack of the oven until the tops of the biscuits are a dark golden brown, about 10-12 min (which can vary according to your oven. This can take a couple of batches to learn what works best in your oven.)

My mother in law is a great lover of biscuits and is also one to call a bad biscuit a bad biscuit (as well as the biscuit maker!) She loves these and asks for them whenever she visits. 

Score 1 for the Southern Son In Law (with the low cholesterol!)

A final note: These may be LOW fat, but they are by no means Fat Free. They also have caloric content, and gluten.  They just have LESS fat than true Full-Fatted-Stick-Of-Butter-Age-Old-True-To-Southern-Recipe Biscuits.
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*Because someone is going to ask, I use one of these low-fat 'fake' butters:


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Where the Road meets the CMAs

Last week, I posted a blog about Trucks (with the requisite capital "T") on the day that the CMA awards were held here in Nashville.  I'm sure there are some southern fan-girls (and fan-boys) somewhere out there wondering why I never seem to report/blog on the music scene here in Music City USA.  It has nothing to do with my preferences (other than much of country music makes me want to drive my car off a cliff in the rain with my ex in the trunk and my dog drinking coffee and lamenting in harmony beside me.) No, it's just that the Nashville Music Scene is not my Cup of Southern Sweet Tea.

Tuesday evening, as our bus wound its way out of the downtown area, we saw huge crowds surrounding one of the local clubs on our route.  When I say huge, I mean 20-30 people deep standing OUTSIDE the club watching the performers through the big windows.  No one on the bus knew who was performing, but someone pointed out that many of the "B" performers will schedule a performance in Nashville during the CMAs so that their travel expense is tax deductible.  (Yeah, these are the things we discuss on the bus.)  But the main point here is that no one knew who it was - and we even got a nice view of the performers above the heads of the crowd as the bus turned the corner right in front of this place. So it's not just me who seems out of touch with the scene. 

A lot of it comes down to my music background and my view of music and music listening. There is a prevalence in the music industry these days which is counter to my own thoughts and beliefs.  It works like this:  Let's say there is a song coming on the radio.  Let's say it's Elvis' "Such a Night."  I like this particular song, and turn up the radio just a bit.  Someone will say, "Oh you like Elvis?"  They say it like I had just admitted that I like to roast kittens on an open spit. 
  "Well, no, not exactly..." I reply, "I do, however like this song." 
  "Oh.." There is a short pause while they take this in.  "So, you like Elvis, is that it?"
  "No..."  this can go on a long time before someone (usually me) calls an end to it. 

You see, - to me, just because I listen to one song by a performer doesn't mean I am going to go out and buy all their albums, tickets to live shows and have their band logo tattooed on my shoulder or name all my kids after the band members.  I like the Song.  This means That I Like This One Song, Regardless of Who Performs It. Maybe two or three by this performer, but regardless, it's the song, not the performer that catches my attention.  AND, if the same band puts out a song I DON'T like, this doesn't mean I am going to stop listening to that one song I DO Like. It's not an all or nothing proposition.  I like music, not bands or performers per se. 

And so now we have the CMAs.  Which, like the Emmys and the Oscars and the Tonys and the Drama Desk Awards and the Golden Globes and the VMAs and the BAFTRA awards and the MTV Music Awards and the CMA Video Awards and the YouTube Awards (Dear Lord, YouTube? Really?) which, to me, are merely a reason for a bunch of entertainment millionaires to get together and congratulate each other on making another million off those of us who don't know how to download their stuff free. 

Now, don't get me wrong.  If I made a million dollars in the same way I'd probably be going to these awards events myself.  I used to watch them on TV, rooting for my favorite performer and reacted properly when they won or lost. Then I found out that I don't need to watch, I just need to check the winners list the next day. I care, but I don't need to BE there or WATCH to actually care.  

In point of fact, Wednesday morning, the day of the CMAs our big bus pulls into downtown at just before sunrise (about 6:30 am) and there is already a huge crowd in front of the Arena. Almost 12 hours before anyone of any note actually shows up! I tried to get a photo, but the bus driver wouldn't stop for me to frame the thing up right.  All I got was the shot above. Two blocks away and you can't even see the big tour buses parked up and down Broadway.

Now, here is the part I've been leading up to.  As much as I really don't care who wins or who loses, I have to admit, I'd like to be part of that crowd.  Take the day off and hang out down there watching the stars arrive and drink a few cool beverages and listen to some good music (hopefully something I will enjoy.) No matter where you live, if someone important is in town and things are happening, it's always something you want to be a part of.  Here in the South, we get the CMAs and that's what's neat about the South. 


Yes, Bubba, I Like Elvis - THIS ONE SONG (and maybe a couple more, don't push it!)  Now, let it go. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Trucks and Pickups


Well, now wouldn't you know it, here's another thing I don't have which it seems that every Southern Male has, and that's a truck. Alternately called a "Pickup" or more colloquially a "Pick-em-up Truck" it's a handy thing to have when you need to go get a load of topsoil for the garden, or some chat* for the driveway, or maybe you just need to get a couple of pieces of lumber which don't quite fit in that cute little bug you drive. 

Ok, I don't drive a bug.  I drive a Jeep.  It's a Jeep Grand Cherokee and it can carry just about anything in the back - except for the aforementioned chat or topsoil.  No way is the lovely Mrs. going to let me fill the back of the Jeep with dirt.  But I have always wanted a truck.  A Pick-em-Up Truck to be exact.  Something old and with an oxidized paint job that I don't have to baby, and maybe it's got a lot of rust, but it runs and carries bricks or cement or enough lumber to build a new garage.  Not that the truck needs a garage, no sirree.  Leave that old workhorse out in the rain, it just looks better and better each day.

Pickups are a big deal out west.  Texas is full of them and Colorado (my original home) had more pickups per capita than just about anywhere - except maybe for here in the south.  Pickups are a way of life here.  It doesn't matter how old the pickup, or the style, as there are many MANY old El Caminos floating around out there.  One of my original first blogs noted the use of an El Camino in what I have deemed the "Southern Moment." The El Camino is the perfect vehicle: Part 2 door coupe, part pickup truck.

I see pickups everywhere.  Most of them are right off the brand name lots, nice standard paint jobs and customizations. Many more are several years old, antiques and hybrids of customization. Those trucks that have paint jobs show the owner's southern roots, sporting everything from state flags, to sports teams and that Southern Flag (Confederate Flag.)

But again, it's not the paint job, it's the truck itself. Something in the actual shape, or utilitarian feel of the truck itself is what a good Southern Man wants or needs.  I suppose it's even a requirement of being a Good Ol' Boy.  Neighbor Bubba calls my Jeep a car, but the state considers it a truck.  When I point this out to him he laughs.  He also points out how we ought to put a load of compost in my 'truck' and see how it fares.
Neighbor Bubba can be a pain sometimes.   


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*Chat is a term for broken up bedrock.  Originally a byproduct of mining, the broken bedrock pieces are used for packing driveways or walkways.  Its rough and odd shaped nature makes it a better surface for traction as well as not being easily pressed into the topsoil.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I Didn't See You There - Donut Edition

I love these shoes.  I mean, first of all, they are so casual, but not so casual as say, boots you would wear out to the forest to hunt.  These are casual, slip-on with no laces.  They are soft soled and look like something grandpa wears with his golf pants when he's sneaking off to the grocery store after 4 pm to pick up some donuts at mark down prices. (Yeah, you were wondering about that title, weren't ya, Bubba?)

It's ok, no one is going to see him, after all, they're camouflaged!  

In truth, there are a lot of people who think camouflage is only for soldiers, hunters and stars of Duck Dynasty. As I've said before, camouflage is for anyone with the gumption to wear it.  Pants, vest, and sure, casual shoes to get you to them donuts on time!  Me? I just can't seem to find the kind of camo gear that I think would fit in with my lifestyle (donuts excluded.)  I can't see wearing some big heavy camo jacket, and pants don't seem right either.  I might carry a camo wallet, but I like my plain black leather one.  So, where does that leave me?  (Camo Donuts?  Ooo there's a thought!) 

I think it's about time for me to get some camo gear, so I guess I'll just have to suck it up and find something to fit in.  No worries.  It's just another way of lovin' the South.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What a Crappy Day


Even though I love the South, there are times when things make you question your place of residence. This was one of them, and I hope, truly hope that this was a Southern moment that we'd all best forget.

So, it's no secret I ride the bus.  It's a nice bus and I've been a regular rider for nearly ten years.  It's amazing really that those of us regulars sort of have our own favorite seats, and our own ways of riding. Mostly, we read. So, I get on the bus, I get into my seat and I read.

Last week, there was this guy on the ride home, who got on and sat right beside me.  For the visual, my seat faces front and his, right in front of me, faces the center. There is only a stationary arm between him and me and for some strange reason it's folded UP out of the way.

So, it appears that my riding neighbor is drunk. Not just a bit tipsy, this guy is roaring stinking drunk and carrying a big gulp cup full of some noxious mixture which he continually sips at during our ride.  When the bus pulls away from a light, he all but falls over, and once he did fall almost right into my lap (amazingly not a drop was spilled!) Annoying yes, but the really interesting part come when the drunken rider gets up after 30 min to get off the bus at his stop.

I look up, mostly just to make sure that he wasn't going to fall into my lap and sure enough, the guy has pissed his pants.  The odor now fills the bus as the rest of us also get off. (This was, after all, also MY stop so I was happy to get out of the smelly proximity.)  They aired out the bus a bit before heading on, and the bus driver took time to let the drunk know the rules, even if he did forget within moments. 

Riding the bus is anything but ordinary. And it's times like these that hopefully prove the rule and not set it.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Places to See, Food to Eat

Every day I pass this place.  It's called the Arcade and it's located almost in the center of downtown.  Now, to me, Arcade means one of those places where I would go and play video games at a quarter a play.  $10 was a cheap date.

But this place is more than just an oddity. It's a shopping place where you could find anything from clothing to food.  It was built in 1902 as Nashville's first shopping center. It's a covered alleyway that runs through the center of the block to the next street.
These days you can find a Post Office location, jewelry store, and tobacco shop, but mostly, FOOD.  There are all sorts of restaurants here, and every time I get a chance to walk through the Arcade, there are always new ones. Places that sell Tortilla wraps, sandwiches, food from around the world - oh yeah, and mini donuts. There's this new mini doughnut place I just discovered.  I hope it's there for a while, too.  

To be honest, I didn't know it was so old, I figured it was built sometime around the 60's or 70's.  It just looks like something of that era.  It's always nice to learn the vast history of my new home, the South.  Nashville in particular.  (Uh oh, a sentence fragment.  Brother Bubba won't like that. Ah well, let's keep on , shall we?) 

The Arcade is mostly a place for the downtown worker to get lunch.  It's open from about 6 am, but none of the places serves breakfast (yet) and my pic above is taken about 6:30 - sans crazy homeless person who shouts at the nonexistent people in the arcade at that time of day.  

At any rate, the Arcade is a great place to grab a bite and as soon as I can get down there, I'll be tasting those aforementioned mini-doughnuts.  In fact...where's my wallet?



Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Getting It From Here to There

I caught this picture Monday while on my way home. Well, actually I nearly caught it.  My camera was not as quick as I had hoped, and the car was nearly out of the frame by the time I got the camera to capture the shot.  And what a shot.

You see, the Southern man (or even women - yes, women, it is the 21st Century after all, and yes, I am digressing again) The Southerner is nothing if not an 'out of the box' thinker.  It seems that this Southerner wanted to transport their lawn mower to another lawn, and didn't have a pickup truck, roof rack or trailer hitch and trailer.  (Wait a Southerner without a pickup truck? Yes, remember? 21st Century?  Out of the Box Thinker?  Stay with me now....) So, what does one do? He (or she) improvises with the tools at hand,  or rather - vehicle at hand; sitting there on the back of the car - no wait, IN the back of the car, dangling out of the trunk space itself, holding on to the handle of the mower, dragging it along.  Low Speed - High Efficiency - Low Cost. 

What box?  I don't see a box, do you see a box?
Definitely OUT of the Box thinking.  Southern Thinking.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Music in the Music City

One day, not too long after I had moved to Nashville, I was walking in the downtown area and heard some music. Well, it was the Music City after all, and at any time you can expect to hear music from one of a few dozen bars, nightclubs or even the many buskers that ply their trade in this area, but this was music coming from - of all places - the big control box which controls the stop lights at the corner.  I thought this was rather unique and forgot about it, until just last night. 

Walking to the bus, I came across this box (above) with some nice jazz playing.  (See that circular hole near the top?  That's a speaker!)  It never fails to make me smile, regardless of the day I've had.  Where else but Music City could you find recorded music set up for the public to enjoy.  

I've never found any rhyme or reason for these boxes as not all of them have speakers and are not on all the time.  It may just be that the music is there only when needed - and today they are working on the street and perhaps street workers work better when listening to Charlie Parker.  (You never really know!)  Or maybe that traffic cop over on 1st really prefers country for directing traffic in the rain.  I've also not found out whether this is pre-recorded music, or (as is my best guess) radio being piped in as requested by the city folks nearby. Each box is different, it seems and one day I may find the City Office of Extraneous Music and find out more.  

In the meantime, enjoy the music of the South. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Closing the Pool for the Winter.

It's late September and that means only one thing: it's past time to close up the pool for the winter. Now, one might think that with the heat and humidity of the South that the winters wouldn't be so bad.  Far from it.  We get lots of rain, some snow and most assuredly ice.  Closing up a pool, especially an above ground pool takes a special knack.

So, I was drafted into helping to close the pool at my neighbor's house.  Now when I owned a pool, it was as simple matter of removing a little water and adding the cover. With him, well, he has this plan to keep the water from collecting on top of the cover.  I am intrigued.  So, in no time I'm pulling that big pile of milk jugs out of the storage and filling them with water.  They will be weights when were done.  
The next step is to create a little pyramid of air pillows for the center which will create an apex and allow the water to run off.  Lots of planning and tying of ropes and re-thinking and only one of us had to get into the COLD COLD water!  (It wasn't me.)

When it was all done, the cover is held firmly in place by the jugs and (hopefully) the water will run off and not collect in little puddles. Little Puddles means stagnant water and stagnant water means mosquitoes next spring so, of course, little puddles are not desired.

It took us 3 hours. We're waiting for the first rain so we can see how well the water runs off.  We may find ourselves out here in a month or two reworking it.  So, anyway....that was my weekend.

...in the South...like you didn't know....

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Say What?


I've had a couple of emails about Southern Speaking, and I have to take this moment and point out that how you pronounce a word is not as important as how you use it. As an example, I've had many people tell me that 'Etlanna' (pronounced 'et-LAN-uh') is Southern for the capital of the State of Georgia.  This is not so much an idiom as a way of speaking.  An idiom is a word or group of words that mean more than the individual words may indicate.  (Brother Bubba the Retired English Teacher is gonna enjoy that!) 

So, with the above in mind, "Ahm gohn to Etlanna, thet citeh down in Jowja." is just a Southern way of speaking. It's that famous Southern accent everyone knows about.  (For those who need a translation: 'I am going to Atlanta, that city down in Georgia."

So, what about word usage? Southerners don't just pronounce words different, they also use words a might differently than the rest of the world.  This week, I'd like to introduce you to 'Airish' which, to be sure, is not the mention of people from the country known as Ireland.  Airish ('AIR-ish') speaks to the air about you, as in too drafty or cool.  "Pa said to shut dem winduhs, Bubba, it's a might airish in hee-ah." (Again, the translation: "Father has asked that we close the windows as it is getting rather drafty and cold in here.")

My office gets a might airish, but that's due to the air conditioner being left set on Arctic Freeze even when the rain is soaking the streets or snow is covering the sidewalks.  That's when I have to put on a heavy sweater and gloves just to work or maybe I'm not using the word right.  

Living and working in the south is nothing if not adventurous. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Slicing And Dicing in the South.


Every Southerner, it seems, owns a pocket knife and yes, I carry a pocket knife with me where ever I go (except to the Airport, I've had to throw out two good pocket knives right there at the TSA Pat-Down Area and I'm not going to do it again!) A pocket knife is always good to have in my line of work. It's good for opening boxes, or tightening screws on the back of computers.

Most Southerners keep a pocket knife around for one of two reasons.  The first is cleaning the gunk out from under their fingernails, and the second is whittling. When you drive into a small town, into the town square you'll always see a group of guys sitting outside the general store either whittling or a chewing a few ears with stories of yore.  (Yes, yore.  Stories of yore is what we all go to small towns for, right?)  What most Southerners carry is what is referred to as a "Pen Knife," which, oddly, is not for the carving of pens.  Go figure.  (A Pen Knife is usually defined as a knife with only one blade which folds into the handle.  It does not mean it has a pen built in - but it gets its name from the fact that originally, pen knives were used to cut and adjust the point on a quill pen.  I am nothing if not well informed!)

So, anyway, I've been looking for the quintessential pocket knife for some time and the collection you see above is mine, even missing a few.  I seem to find pocket knives in every drawer when I'm looking for something else.  I've had my friends and family give me pocket knives and most ended up being tossed in a drawer (not counting the two that ended up in the trash just outside the TSA pat-down area at the Nashville Airport.) I'd carry them for a while only to find some reason that they didn't really work for me and then I'd stash them someplace for 'later use' which, of course, never came.

Then I came upon a nifty utilitarian pocket knife in a dollar bin in a local craft store.  I loved that knife.  It had a couple of blades, a flat screwdriver and Phillips, nail file, an awl, can opener, bottle opener and even a pair of tweezers and toothpick -and a cork screw. Yes, a corkscrew.  It was a copy of a Victorinox pocket knife (you know, the old 'Swiss Army Knife?') and it did everything I needed, except of course, keep a sharp edge.  I had to sharpen it almost daily. I nearly wore out one sharpening stone.  Then, one day, I lost it.  (No, it's not one of those at the airport, I lost it on the bus - I think.)

I hoped to find another, so I haunted the dollar bins in the store where I originally found it, but to no avail. I had to go without for several months. I felt almost naked with no pocket knife in my Southern Pocket. Then, my lovely wife gave me the perfect gift.  The REAL Victorinox pocket knife - even better than the one I lost!

It has two blades, a file, a saw, fish hook extractor and scale remover (really? for work?) scissors, several flat screwdrivers and Phillips, nail file, an awl, can opener, bottle opener and even a pair of tweezers and toothpick.  It's got a magnifying glass, a corkscrew and then it also has a couple of things I have no idea what they are for, and a little bitty pen (blue ink...I have no idea where I would go for a refill, but it's neat to have.)  Oh and it holds an edge for weeks! I carry it everywhere and I check for it before I get off the bus too. 

I may not yet be a good old boy, but I do have a pocket knife. But I don't know how to whittle. 
More's the pity. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Escaping to the South

Just the other morning, I took this picture on my early morning walk from the bus to my office in downtown Nashville.  On the ground was this bright  yellow sack, from a nice Southern company known as Dollar General. Though it sounds like some sort of Official Military position in a bank, the name is rather easy to understand.

And Now:Your Daily or maybe Weekly Dose of Southern Knowledge: Headquartered here in Nashville, Dollar General has over 10,000 stores in 40 states.  Even though it has 'dollar' in the title, the stores are not 'Dollar' stores. Many of its offerings are priced at more than one dollar. However, goods are usually sold at set price points of penny items and up to the range of 50 to 60 dollars, not counting phone cards and loadable store gift cards.

 Besides all that, the store is known for it's big bright yellow signs with the black letters -  AND, getting back to my photo, bright yellow merchandise bags. The reason I took to this situation is also the fact that the plants growing there beside the road are almost the same shade of yellow! At first glance, it almost looked like one of the plants had tried to escape!

Ok, so it was a nice morning, no rain and I had to take the pic.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Languages of the South


Every week my wife and I go to a lovely Chinese restaurant for some good food.  It's our favorite place. The odd thing is that the cook who works the 'hibachi grill' is not Chinese or oriental of any ethnicity.  He's Hispanic. But more than just Hispanic, he speaks hardly any English (or 'Mericun' if you're of that line.) 

Now, I'm not going to get into any rant or lecture on speaking the language; I'll consider that said, and move on.  The problem comes in letting this nice (and talented) cook know the special way in which we'd like our meals cooked.  I've tried speaking plainly and clearly, knowing how Southerners chew their diphthongs and create whole new idioms and phrases just in not moving their lips.  But this hasn't worked. I don't speak with a southern accent, a fact which neighbor Bubba seems to find daily delight in pointing out, but this is also not the problem. What to do, what to do...

FLASHBACK!

When we were in High School (out west, Colorado to be exact) we had to have a language credit in order to graduate. While most of my classmates chose Spanish, (Colorado is a huge magnet for the Spanish speaking immigrants coming up from Mexico...) I chose to be different (hey, it was the 70's, being a rebel is what I did.) and chose German.  Ja, ich spreche Deutche! Ich studierte zwei Jahre in der Höheren Schule. In retrospect, Spanish would have been a much better choice. In the 30 years since graduation I've used my German in conversation exactly twice. (Thrice if I count the two sentences above.) The number of times that Spanish would have been helpful...well, I've lost track, but I'd expect it's close to daily.  

My lovely wife was raised in the Southwest.  She understands a lot of Spanish, but does not speak it. Oh a word or two here and there, (she's taught me the good curse words plus a few) and perhaps a phrase or three, but when it comes to asking a Spanish cook in a Chinese restaurant to add more Teriyaki and leave off the garlic -nothing in her language toolkit works here.  I'd ask in German, but you know, I don't think he'd catch on at all. 

Finally, we turned to the Internet.  A nice translation page gave us the translation of Garlic to Spanish, "acho"  (which, if you're wondering is pronounced more like the word 'sock-o' and not like a big sneeze) so it wasn't that hard to put together 'mucho teriyaki, sin acho' for our new favorite chef. And yes, every time I use it, I'm back in high school, only this time I'm selecting Spanish for a language, and not German.  (Oy , solch eine schlechte Entscheidung!)

So, now along with the usual curse words and a few menu standards, I have my Chinese Cook - Spanish Instructions Phrase. I'm now MULTILINGUAL.  Now, if I can just master Y'all in such fashion, Neighbor Bubba would stop laughing at my 'non-accent.'

Such is Life in the New South. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Southern Idioms and Weather Predictions


A lot of people have clicked on my little blog post about the use of the word "Y'all". It got me to thinking of some of the other phrases and words used by Southerners that the rest of the world may not.  So, I am starting to search for these.  If you want to send me one you know of, click here..

This first one, is a phrase that comes from a woman I knew who grew up in Georgia. (No, not eastern Europe, the state in the South!)  It's the phrase "She's a-comin' up a cloud.."

What's it mean, Marv?  Well, when looking into the sky, one can tell when the clouds indicate that a storm is on the horizon and headed your way.  These clouds are the indicators, and the phrase speaks of them.  Who the 'SHE' refers to is probably Mother Nature, but with a Southerner you just don't know for sure.

So the next time you are out discussing the weather, you might notice the accumulated dark clouds and calmly remark to your assembled friends "Looky yonder, y'all; she's a comin' up a cloud."

If they look at you like you're grown a 2nd head, don't blame me.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The War of Northern Aggression



Most every high school graduate in the US has grown up on the story of our Civil War.  And if you ask most of those graduates, they will tell you that the reason for the war was slavery.  The Union fought for equality and the South wanted to keep their slaves.  In part, this is true, but in whole, it's more than that and it's the reason that most Southerners refer to the Civil war as the War of Northern Aggression. (Not me, I always sound like Yosemite Sam when I say something like that; but other people do - other Southern People - and with good reason...I think.)

Now, I'm not going to get into a long dissertation about this as many other political historians have probably already discussed it and discussed it better.  But I will make it easy for you. To whit:

The Southern states decided that the idea of a central constitution would cause the state governments to become forgotten and eliminated. (Seems like a logical thought: Government forgetting the little people, sort of like today...)  Because of this, the South had decided to secede from the Union. Yes, that's the MAIN reason, not the slavery thing.  Ok, so slavery was widespread in the south, but the main reason for secession was the government thing.  And it was not a bad idea really, and since the Colonies had seceded from England citing similar issues, they felt that the Declaration of Independence supported them in this decision. The Political power of the north, swollen with citizens and money, wanted to dominate the South, which was rich with resources.  The South decided that secession from the Union was their only option.  The North responded and the war began.  It was really about control.  Slavery? Yeah, but really? Not so much.

There is a definite undercurrent of dissatisfaction here in the south with the way that the war is presented, in that much of the honor and forward thinking of the South is left out of this part of our history. Oh you won't find large protests, bearded men wearing camouflage, marching about carrying poorly spelled signs. The whole thing is more of a known undercurrent knowledgeable Southerners keep like a Civil War Sabre hanging on the wall over the fireplace where it waits for someone to ask, just ask about its history.  

So, there it is.  If you want to read a really good discussion on this subject, click here.  For more of my Southern Stories, and wry humor and digressions (not that bad, are they?) you can click on some of the great blog entries to the right there.  

And, for the record, I don't have a Sabre, I have a very rare Kool-Aid Bottle. With a history.  So ask, just ask...  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Hat By Any Other Name


I'm going bald. My brother Bubba will be ecstatic to hear this, as he went bald many years ago and has always held it against me that my hair lasted longer. Regardless, my head is now more exposed to the elements than ever before and here in the South that means sun and southern sun means sunburn. It's time to cover the exposed scalp.

But. Finding a hat to wear is much harder than it used to be. It used to be that you could find a good hat with the logo of your favorite team, favorite sayings and even representing television shows and movies. What I find now, in most stores are like the display above. ADVERTISING. Ok, so most hats we bought before advertised teams or television shows, but now we're talking BRAND LOGOS and most are logos for sports equipment and clothing like the pic above. Oh sure, if you take the time to go to some special place like the stadium or college book store you can find (and pay dearly for) a hat with the right team on it, but I want to find what I'm looking for locally (and no, not Walmart!)

Aside from the visible scalp problem, the Southern Man must have a hat. This heat is oppressive and the southern sun even more so, and even if you do have a natural pelt of thick fur on the top of your head you better have a hat. Now, I do have my old pith helmet with the duck tape repair and even a new one with no duck tape to replace my recently broken one (-thanks to my brother Bubba) but you can't wear a hard plastic pith helmet to the Auto Parts store - Ok, so well maybe you can, but you'd get some pretty heavy stares and maybe even a few caustic remarks. And, I can't go wearing same said helmet out shopping with the wife without her wanting to snatch it off my head and toss it in the trash! Not what I'm after. I just want to protect the pate from burn and heat. So, what to do?

It used to be that these hats were handed out almost with every handful of change when making a purchase. Heavy Equipment, feed stores, auto parts, heck even the local bars and boutiques were giving away hats. (Called baseball caps, ball-caps or trucker's hats depending on your point of view...) Where are they now? I need a hat, but don't want to be wearing the same hat that Justin Beiber might wear or that some douche might wear backwards*! (If anyone sends me a Justin Bieber hat, expect me not to wear it, but to use it to wash my car and store it on the roof of the shed! I digress, but anyone would where JB is concerned.)

There are a couple of these hats hiding in my closet. One is a hat given to me by a heavy equipment company I worked at once. Another is from the Peterbilt company also where I worked for a couple of years. I have one that is from a resort I stayed at in 1996 and a few others, but all these hats have one thing in common. They are old and dirty. It's ok to wear an old and dirty hat when visiting the auto parts store, but when out shopping with the wife, a dirty hat tarnishes your whole appearance.

In the end, I guess I will have to start looking in the sale bins and haunting the thrift stores for the better quality leftovers so that I can get the hat I truly need. Perhaps a John Deer hat to go with my lawn mower, or maybe a Jeep. Only time will tell.

------------------------------------------------
* For the record, anyone that wears their hat backward is wearing it wrong. Yes, I know it's a fashion statement; but the statement it's making is "I don't know how to wear a hat!" The wide part that sticks out is called a BILL and is for shading the sun from your eyes. The little band in back is for adjusting for size and does not go across your forehead. Let's change this now, Bubba! 
This does NOT say you're cool!
It says you're wearing your hat wrong!



Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I Didn't See You There - Tee Time Edition


I found this recently on a weekend trip to a local store. It's a camouflaged bag for carrying golf clubs. Now, at first, I was taken with the unique design; overlapping both the bold camo with standard piping on pockets and edging. 


Then I got to wondering, Is this really a problem on golf courses?  Is the bold solid color design of the bag detrimental to one's score? Does it help when you approach the tee so as to not scare the ball? And of course, shouldn't the golfer also wear camo Sansa-belt slacks and camo hat and maybe have a set matching camo drivers?

The thing about camo is that, beyond my meager attempts at humor, it's a Southern thing.  You won't find Tiger Woods sporting Camo polo shirts or on any of the links north of the Mason Dixon - or anywhere for that matter. Camo is The South.

Perhaps it's even time for me to purchase my first camo gear...maybe some pants, or a hat.  Here in the South, even Nashville - the MID South, I can find Camo gear everywhere.  Now, I just have to decide: Pants?  Hat? Golf Bag?  Perhaps a new Pith Helmet?


Decisions, Decisions...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Roll on, Roller Girls, Roll On!


When I was a kid, I remember seeing the Roller Derby on TV. It was usually Saturday afternoon, all the cartoons were over and there was something hypnotic about watching those skating babes demons going around and around that small track.  Ok, yeah, it was cool when someone got knocked out of the track, too.  I was a kid, so sue me.

Roller derby got its start as far back at the late 1800s, with endurance races and the like. With the advent of Television, Roller Derby made its mark and from the 1950s (when I was a kid) the Roller Derby grew into a legitimate sport. (There were both Men's and Women's teams - but let's face it, we all watched the women's teams more.) Due to the increasingly 'circus' like atmosphere of the games, fans began deserting the the stands and the sport officially closed in the mid 1970s.

Ah, but wait!  Roller Derby has returned!  Starting back in 2001 with the founding of new, local teams and new leagues.  Most, Women only. The way God intended it. Ok, I'm not sexist, but let's face it, All Women Roller Derby just makes more sense! And guys just don't look as good skating.  (Other than Scott Hamilton or Bryan Boytano, that is.  Yes. Digressing again, as usual.)

Today, there are Leagues/Teams in every state of the union and worldwide.  That includes the team above, the Nashville Roller Girls, in Nashville Tennessee. Have I been to a match? No. Will I? Probably not.  But I have to respect anyone who plays such a game.

The Nashville Roller Girls Team is more than just the 6 members you see pictured above. On the team's website, you will find 36 members.  I hesitate to call them 'girls' because one has to be careful what you call someone who uses the professional name "Bettie Rampage," "Firestormer" or "Happy Killmore."  Of course, that's part of the charm, the names.  Who's going to watch a roller match with someone named Suzie Homemaker? Not me.

When I was younger, I took up skating.  I envisioned myself getting good enough to join the Roller Derby and kick some butt!  Then I realized that I could barely stay upright.  And backward skating?  Oh forget it! The reality of it all is, the physical talent needed for Roller Derby is more than I have that's for darn sure - and I'm talking these all female teams!

I can still dream.  Maybe as a coach?   

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

To Beard or Not to Beard

I've had a beard for over 30 years. I have an unsightly mole on my upper lip, so I've also had a mustache since I first could grow one - I think it was the third grade.  Anyway..  There is something very Southern in having a beard. It seems most everywhere you go in the south, you find beards.  In fact, when you think of great modern beards, you immediately think of Southerners like ZZTOP or maybe these Southern guys:

If you don't know these guys, you're not watching the
TV Show, Duck Dynasty.
These guys have done more for the Southern Beard than just about anyone on the face of the planet.  What's more, they're millionaires.  But, of course, that's not due to the beards.  I'd like to think my beard could make me a millionaire, but that's just not gonna happen. 

Does the beard make the man or the man make the beard?  My own beard used be a full beard, kept at a professional length (what is a professional length?) as you can see the old me there at the right. Yep, that's me. (Yes, it was taken some time ago, but I'm not lying when I say that's me.) I grew the full beard back when I first got to the South and have only trimmed it different ways ever since.  There is something very Southern about a beard.  In my office, we all have beards. All except the ladies, of course.

It is the South, after all. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

It's Time for BARBEQUE!


In my back yard, I have this nice propane grill.  I keep it covered as you can see.  It's a good sized grill, and just a year or two back I rebuilt it with new lava rock and baffles.  It cooks really good and we use it at least once a month.  Yeah.  Once. A. Month.

Here in the South, most true Southerners barbecue several times a week.  Some of them even use their grills all year round.  Grilling is just a part of southern life.  And, since it is, it's important for the true southerner to have their own grill, not only that, some people go to extremes in building the right grill

To give you an idea of what that means, here are a few of the more 'well designed' grills.
Well, I'll be a son of a gun, that's a straight shootin' grill!


I think I know what this guy is serving, and it's not barbecue!
Now, some people go in for these big barbecue competitions.  For that you need something not only big, and professional, but also portable.  Like this:

and then there's this - no trailer hitch needed!

And of course, you can so really large and portable... with this!
This thing is so big it needs a Semi-Tractor to haul it!
Then again, I think I'll stick with my little backyard grill.  My Non-Southern DNA would probably rebel if I tried something that big!


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sweet Baby Jesus Flavored Beer


Here in the South, we love our Beer (with the requisite upper case B). Ok, not me, but most of the guys I know stock in Beer for such special occasions as The Fourth of July, Sunday Football and ... Sunrise.  Beer plays a large part in all our celebrations and relaxing.  And, for the most part, it's specifically a Non-Light Beer (also with the requisite upper case letters.)

Beer is an alcoholic beverage produced by the saccharification of starch and fermentation of the resulting sugar. The starch and saccharification enzymes are often derived from malted cereal grains, most commonly malted barley and malted wheat. Most beer is also flavored with hops, which add bitterness and act as a natural preservative, though other flavorings such as herbs or fruit may occasionally be included.

Now, the reason I went to all the trouble to copy and paste that whole thing up there is that this last weekend. someone sent me a link to the beer above.  It's "Sweet Baby Jesus Chocolate and Peanut Butter Flavored Porter" made by DuClaw Brewing of Maryland. (English porter is a dark style of beer originating in London in the 18th century, descended from brown beer, a well hopped beer made from brown malt.) Let me repeat, in case you glossed over that part in search of my clever digressions...Sweet Baby Jesus CHOCOLATE and PEANUT BUTTER Flavored Beer!  I know what you're thinking - namely: " WTF, Marv? Are you serious?" And the answer is, YES. (All Capitals, too!)

For a couple of days, I've asked my Southern Friends, neighbors, acquaintances and total strangers on the street what would cause them to try a Chocolate and Peanut Butter flavored beer.  The responses varied, from stares of incredulity to loud laughter to sounds of heavy retching. Most agree, Beer should be beer flavored. No orange zest, or flowers or - most assuredly - candy flavoring!  (Though one young person did smile and remark: "Reeses makes a beer?")

Duclaw Brewing is in Maryland, which, because it is SOUTH of the Mason Dixon Line, makes it part of The South. I'm not sure what to make of that, and only guess that some one from the north suggested this beer.  Regardless, I have to admit, I suppose someday I will have to try it.  Until then, I will stick to my diet soda and unoaked chard.  No, I don't drink Unoaked Chard, mainly because I have no idea what it is (or how to capitalize it.) Brother Bubba used the phrase once and I liked it so I kept it.

But something tells me that I would like unoaked chard a bit more than Chocolate and Peanut Butter flavored Beer, let alone regular Non-Light Beer. But such is My Life here in the South (requisite capitals cuz I know it'll drive Bubba crazy!)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Big Step Toward the Goal


For almost 25 years I've been trying to fit in as a southerner. This last weekend, I came a big step closer. But first, we need to go back a week and sort of build up. It all started a week ago Sunday. It was a sad moment. I had taken off my "pith-helmet' shaped hard hat and set it aside while I worked in the shed, and when I turned back, I found this HOLE in the side of my old hat. I have no idea how it happened. Did I run into a branch or something?  Did I set it down too hard? (It's a freaking hard plastic hard hat, for crying out loud, it's SUPPOSED to take the abuse!) I suppose it's age caught up with it.

After a lot of tears, wailing and gnashing of teeth, the hat sat on our covered back porch for almost a whole week, whilst I pondered its fate. I looked up new hats on the internet (no, you can't find that exact hat) and I checked out possible replacements (there are some with wide brims, but it's just not the same); and finally, I considered repair. 6 days I pondered. Finally Saturday came and it was time for a decision.

Repair.

As a good Southerner, I grabbed my extra large roll of The Silver Savior, Duck Tape, and went at it. (I know somewhere in the house I have a nice roll of white duck tape, but I couldn't find it.) The Duck Tape went on in three layers and in no time it was ready for the yard. Somehow being able to use Duck Tape to repair my trusty hat gave my Southern DNA a kick - AND it doesn't look half bad!
Well, it doesn't look half good either...
But, as long as it keeps the sun off my balding pate, I'm a happy man! In fact, with my new 'Duck Taped' chapeau in place, there seemed to be a new energy to my day, a bit of Southern Zen joined me. 

In no time I had replaced the fuel line on my string trimmer, got the trimmer running, and used it to trim the whole front of the house. I also cleaned the shed out a bit, and got the floor swept. Lastly, I also took my blower and cleaned the sidewalk of all the trimmings from the string trimmer. I was in the Zone, Bubba! 

But most importantly, when I was hooking up the electric blower, I took my 25 ft heavy duty extension cord out and gave it a toss to straighten it out, just like I'd seen my neighbor Bubba do hundreds of times before. Usually, when I do it, the cable ends up in a tangled mess. For the first time ever, the cord flew in a gentle arc, the cable coming out of the wrapped bundle easily, forming an almost straight, but most certainly un-kinked line. It amazed me! I've written about the dang cord and how they confound me no end, so to have one react like that was sheer poetry in motion! I stood there with my mouth open, and then searched the neighbor's lawns for someone who may have seen this miracle. I wanted to show someone, and wouldn't you know, the street was empty of neighbors. Even Neighbor Bubba was not at home.

No matter, I saw it, and I will always remember it. After all, it may be the only time it ever happens to me. It's the first time in 25 years, after all. I can't wait until next week when I have to get out the cable again.

I'll let you know how it all works out.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Planned Obsolescence and Tool Mainenance


Not too long ago, I got a new String Trimmer.  I selected it specifically because of it's quick start AND the ability to add an electric starter later.  The first year, it started easily.  My arm was able to pull-start the trimmer easily without dislocating anything.  The next year, as the trimmer broke in, it began having problems starting regularly, and my arm just couldn't take the strain...so I ended up getting the electric starter and it worked as it should for that entire year.  

Two years of ownership, and this year, it wouldn't start.  Not with the string pull, not with the electric starter and not by cursing at it with a litany of creative epithets. (And I am nothing if not creative in my cursing - just ask the kids from that bible class a neighbor had in their backyard a couple of summers ago.) So, what to do?  One person suggested that it may be time to buy a new string trimmer.  Buy a new one?  It's only TWO FREAKING YEARS OLD!

Hey, looky there, the thing has a 2 year warranty...now exactly when did I buy this...?  Oh yeah, MAY 15.   Great, I took it out of storage exactly 1 week after the warranty ended.  Did they PLAN this?  This is gonna take some genuine Southern ingenuity. Some genuine southern engine maintenance!

First up, a tune up.  Oh wait, these new things can't be adjusted by the average user.  It takes special tools- ! Who's freaking idea was THAT?? Ok, I can at least replace the spark plug. Easily done.  Yet, no change. Fresh gas, with a new mix of oil - again, no change. My arm is getting sore yanking that cord and the electric starter is getting so warm that it shuts off and can't be used for a while.  

Finally, in desperation, I rip the thing apart.  Well, as apart as I rip it. I take out the fuel lines and discover that they are clogged!  A new fuel line and a new in-tank filter and believe it or not it started just like it did that first year!  I didn't even have to use the electric starter!  It ran so good I immediately went out and trimmed all the front yard! 

I was, as you can imagine, ecstatic!  I went out and mowed the next day, preparing to use the trimmer to fully trim the edges front and back.  AND?  It won't start!  More cursing, shouting of disgusting epithets and I nearly threw the thing into heavy traffic.

Maybe a stick of TNT placed in the gas tank...yeah, that might do it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

That Southern Accent


One of the more obvious illustrations of my being "Non Southerner by Birth" is my accent. I don't have one. I don't say "Y'all" and no one at any time has remarked on my ability to chew a diphthong. In fact, I don't even have any sort of speech dialect which would allow someone to identify my origins at all.  Somewhere in College or other place of higher learning, I learned that Colorado (my area of origin)  is one of the few areas of the USA that has no discernible dialect of its own. Now this is totally different than in the South, where it sometimes seems that they have a different dialect for every little holler*.

Story Time!  This is one of those real stories you can't make up, and really why would you? My good friend Bobby caught me online not too long ago and related it to me, about how he nearly got his teeth knocked in by a northerner.

Bobby owns a nice little marina on the river. In the course of his day, among other things, he also runs the little marina grocery/convenience store. Bobby works behind the counter himself and for sure, Bobby has one of them Southern Accents with a life of its own.  The accent is the star of this story.

So, there's Bobby, working behind the counter and in walks a northerner (complete with family of lovely wife and a modicum of Devil's spawn younguns') After a few moments selecting some purchases, they all come to the counter.  Looking about, the northerner asks the innocent question: "Where can I get some ice?" to which Bobby replies in his southern drawl as he rings the man up....

"You can git your ass rat out that door..."

For some reason, the man was upset.
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*Holler: A Southern idiom; a shortened version of 'hollow' meaning a low lying area or valley in which, many times, many generations of Southern families will live, congregate and grow.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The CMA Festival - aka FAN FAIR


I'm sitting in my office in downtown Nashville cringing at the thought of the coming week. This is the week of the CMA FESTIVAL. For those who remember back a few years, this is the original FAN FAIR. FAN FAIR (wow, sounds like a fun time with rides and funnel cake and clowns right? ) was created for the Country Music Association to say 'thank you' to their loyal fans. They would have all sorts of Country Music stars in one place to give concerts, sign autographs and generally be friendly with the throngs of fans who else wise wouldn't get a chance to meet their Idols. Thank you fans - at $100 per person. (and that's the cheap seats - expensive tickets go for $300!) Hmm maybe that's why they don't cal it FAN Fair any more and call it the CMA Festival. (But, if you look close, you can see the name Fan Fair there in the logo, too!)

Those of us in Nashville remember when Fan Fair was held out at the Fairgrounds (wherein it got part of it's name..Fan FAIR) The crowds spent most of their time south of downtown, and life in the center of the city was much easier. The groups of fans that came downtown to touch the brickwork of the Ryman Auditorium and take their picture in front of the capital building were cute, and only mildly irritating. The amount of money they left behind is viewed as perhaps the one redeeming quality of the event - AND it was nearly canned until the CMA took it over just a few years back.

These days the newly minted CMA FESTIVAL is held downtown, concerts and all. Some of the concerts are indoors and some at the Riverfront park (is there any city on a river that DOESN'T have a "Riverfront park"..ah , but I digress). If you look at the CMA Music Festival Site, you will see a video of a "Block Party" which shows the amounts of crowds just around the corner from my office. To them it's one big party, but to those of us who have to work down here, it's lunchtime obstacle course! Yeah, it's gonna be a long week. A long week filled with Music, but a long week.

Taking a moment to view the CMA Festival site I have to say: Who are some of these people? I only recognize about half of them. They must be important, after all they are on the front of the site, touted as a reason to spend up to $350.00 PER PERSON for the 4 day concert pass. I still can't get over that.  (I also can't get over the fact that these tickets were SOLD out many months ago!) 

Not being a Country Music fan (careful, them's fighting words!) I can only reiterate those stories given to me by friends who have been to past concerts (yes, most were good, but waiting for your favorites was hard in the heat of the June Sun in Music City) and waiting up to 2 hours standing in line just to meet your idol and get their signature (John Schneider once reportedly CHARGED $5 each for his signature one year, though the money WAS supposedly earmarked for charity, one bristles at the thought of getting an autograph and being CHARGED for the pleasure, charity or not!) and generally finding one's way around town. Reba MacIntyre is going to be on hand for the first time in 13 years to sign autographs, oh be still my heart.

FAN Fair was originally a full week worth of events, concerts and the like, the CMA Festival is only about 4 days (Thursday to Sunday,  June 6-9 with the big closing concert Sunday night.)

Fan Fair Fans filled the city with cars, big hats, bigger hair, and money. The CMA Festival does the same, but add in skimpy outfits, stupid young people, beer and more beer and then concentrate it down town. Now you see why we're cringing.

Still, even with the traffic and people, I wouldn't live anywhere else!