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.


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 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 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.

*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!