Sunday, March 29, 2009

Regatta Saturday

Saturday the 28th was the Regatta Alison and Jason and the rowing crews had been working tirelessly on. Mother Nature was NOT cooperative. Heavy rains put the Black Warrior River into a flood stage. Thursday morning I knew things were bad as the rain fell torrentially at 4:30 a.m. as I had my first coffee of the day. There was a bright flash of light, a boom of thunder, and then another boom of a power transformer. The power went out, and then came back on. When I first moved to Tuscaloosa, this type of event unnerved me: now it is no big deal.

This is the launching dock for the club on the Black Warrior River. There is normally a ramp going from the concrete to the new floating dock section. The water had receded a bit when I shot this picture. The trails of scum on the river show the fast current.

The decision was made to scrap the regatta at the original river location. The river was so high and the current was so fast it would have been impossible to row in such conditions. Fortunately a local State Park, LakeLurleen (Named after Lurleen Wallace) would be able to host the event.

Friday morning I hauled some equipment to the site from the boathouse. This weather has been so crazy. The wicked nasty stuff has been pretty much in the late night early morning, and then clearing during the day.

We had to be on-site at Lake Lurleen at 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning. My alarm woke me at my usual time of 4:00 a.m. I could hear the gentle falling of rain. S—t! I heard rumbling of thunder and then saw flashes of lightning. The sky opened up and it poured rain.

Before I left the house I packed a change of dry clothes, reading material and some food. I wanted to be prepared for the worst.

The starting times were pushed back an hour as the storms slowly moved out of our area. Ever so slowly the dark clouds broke up.

This the pavilion area where the registration tables were set up. The volunteers and referees are pictured here early on in the morning as things were just clearing.

I was a nervous wreck, this being my first real regatta: My assignment was calling the races on a public address system. I had to announce each race 45 minutes prior for first call, and 30 minutes prior for last call. This alerts the teams as to when to launch. Once I got into it, things made more sense and I relaxed a bit.

This is parking lot area not far from the launch site where the clubs rig up their boats.

One of the novice teams launching off the floating dock.

I’ve been to so many functions. I know how annoying a blaring P.A system can be. I tried to speak s-l-o-w-l-y and distinctly announcing the races twice. Throughout the day I also gave plugs to the clubs selling tee shirts and club stuff. It is an unwritten rule since the clubs are non-profit; technically this stuff is not for sale, but for a donation. I only slipped up once announcing that “tee shirts are for sale at the registration tables… opp’s I mean for donation!” That got a chuckle from a group of rowers passing by!

This years tee shirt.

There were a few cloudy threatening periods during the morning, but the weather cleared up to be a glorious afternoon. With the clubs all working together the regatta was a success. With all the roadblocks thrown at us Alison and Jason working with the crew at the park took a mess of lemons and turned it into lemonade.

I was at the park ranger station with the public address system. Chatting with the rangers I was able to learn a lot of the behind the scenes action that transpired. What a great group of people. Seeing how these parks function I can feel some payback for the taxes I pay.

Arriving home about 3:30 I found my income tax return in the mail. Boy did I ever mess up!!!! That is another story!!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chapter One: I Am Born

“Chapter One: I am born. To start my life with the beginning of my life I record that I am born.” So read Melanie to the sewing circle ladies as Ashley Wilkes and Frank Kennedy were being shot up by the Yankee’s in the movie “Gone With the Wind’s” Atlanta during reconstruction. So too, I’ll record that I was born on this date 57 years ago: March 26, 1952. Where have the years gone?

Back when my parents were alive my birthday dinner would always be at Garlock’s Steak House in Lockport. My usual entre would be the prime rib…rare, baked potato with sour cream/butter, and salad with the house dressing. I can hear mom telling the story of how when she knew I was on the way, she ironed out dresses for my sisters to wear the next day. Then my great Aunt Teenie was called in to watch the girls when mom went to the hospital that night. I was an early morning baby, I wonder if that has anything to do with me still getting up at 4:00 a.m.????

My day this morning started out with a viscous storm: Pouring down rain, high winds, thunder and lightning. So much for rowing on the river! Even worse news is the regatta planned for this weekend is all changed around. The Black Warrior River is in flood conditions. Poor Alison has worked so hard to bring this all together. Now everything is being moved to Lake Lurleen State Park about 15 miles distant. Tomorrow I’ll be helping Jason and the crew move floating docks, boats and God knows what else from the boat house.

The rain cleared and I walked to the Y. I wanted to burn up LOTS of calories so the steak dinner tonight will not make a difference to my waistline!!

Little by little the day cleared and really turned nice. It was a perfect day to work outside. I turned over lots of dirt and pulled lots of weeds. Daggy was right there with me demanding attention. She thinks the only reason I exist is to give her huggs and loves.

You don’t need a huge farm in the country to get back to nature. There was so much life going on in that back yard of mine today. The hollies have set tiny white flowers. There was a “blanket of bees” covering the hedge. The audible buzzing was reassuring as I played in the dirt. The mockingbirds that have settled into the hedge were singing up a storm until they turned their attention to the pesky squirrels running through. They were too busy dive-bombing the squirrels to pay attention to Daggy and Stump. A yellow butterfly pigged out at the last of the camellias and azaleas.

I love this time of rebirth. Life is good……

The northeast corner of my backyard. My little "secret garden".

The little yellow butterfly getting a snack.

The busy bumble bee pollinating my holly hedge


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Returnin to Rain / Marsha

The weather seems to be turning back to rain. This weekend is a regatta on the Black Warrior River sponsored by the collegiate men’s team. Our masters rowing coach Alison has worked so hard to bring this all together. If the expected five inches of rain materialize the river may be too high and fast to row Saturday, even if the rains abate.

Pulling something like this off requires a lot of manpower. Because of health regulations we can’t serve food cooked on site. I was originally assigned to help cooking burgers etc. Now, I’ll be working announcements! This will be a VERY laid back event so I’m not too worried. I’m trying to get a few jokes together to lighten things up a bit. I’ve attended too many events where the speaker would lose the audience by just rambling and being boring.

My boating joke will be: We just got a new boat for the club. Ted wanted to rename it “the Girdle” because it takes a lot of tugs to get it into it’s slip!!!!

There are usually a lot of professionals in attendance at these functions. My doctor joke is: What is the difference between a doctor and a bartender? A bartender gives you a shot in a glass.

On a sad note: I received an e-mail from Linda back in Lockport, informing me of the death of an old friend, Marsha. Marsha and I grew up in the same neighborhood. My most vivid memory of Marsha was back when she was out for me. I was hiding out of sight behind the chimney of the house. My dad was in the front yard;

Marsha: Mr. B------ where’s Jamie at?

Dad: I don’t know Marsha, why?

Marsha: (Saying this as she was shaking her fist!) When I get my hands on him, I’m gonna POUND him!!!

Dad: Oh, no Marsha, don’t do that!!!!

My family laughed over that incident for many years. For the life of me, I can’t remember now I did to incur Marsha’s wrath! She was such a good person. As life progresses we lose track of people over the years. Sadly, Marsha and I rarely connected after graduating High School. I like to think that by sharing these stories they will serve as a record of those who had an influence on my life…..

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Warming Temperatures

The weather is warming up. The afternoon temperatures are venturing into the low 70° range. I just started up the box fan in the window to circulate some of that warm outside air into my house. The sweet olive I planted outside the window is finally putting out blossoms. That wonderful aroma is now permeating the bedroom.

I have been trying to get work done in the back yard. Stump tries to help, but he needs loves and rubs. I can’t deny that cat anything! Gardens and flower beds are pretty transient…I’m contemplating some major changes in the bed lay-outs.

Stumpy luxuriating in the warm dirt and sunshine.

Another project is to design the final display spot for my Holly Fire Hydrant. I want to build up a raised area consisting of some of my Lockport bricks so it will feel "at home”! I need to have it anchored so it will not get stolen. I really doubt that would happen, but you can’t be too careful. There are not a lot of Holly Hydrants on the market!

Taking a reading break with my book late in the afternoon yesterday on my front porch I got into a conversation with a University Police Officer who was “walking the beat” in front of my house. The University is patrolling the “Fringe areas” of the school on a daily basis. I appreciate the presence of authority as it keeps the kids in check as to wild parties etc. I was telling him about my experience with the panhandler the other day. He knew exactly who it was. The guy lives about six blocks away in some nasty apartments! That “cab fare” line is a bunch of crap! LOL!!

I was planning on getting some grocery shopping done Saturday. Once I got working on projects I never left the house. That shopping did not happen till early this afternoon. Publix had a good sale. Steaks were still on special so I picked up a beauty for my supper when I get off the river later. I still have smashed potatoes left over from the other night to reheat. The Florida strawberries looked and smelled great: a two pound box came home with me. They are sliced up and sugared in the ice box. There will be good eating tonight!

I was just about to post this entry when Anne and Robin called. I thought we were meeting at four. They were all at the boat house at 3:30!!! It was a fast trip over the river. The boat was just getting set up as I arrived. I was in the bow seat. Robin did an excellent job coxing. The transitions went pretty well. It was a wonderful way to round out the afternoon. I knew it was to be a laid back row so I brought along my camera. Ann’s seat went off the track so we had some down time mid-way back to the dock to get things back in order. It was long enough for the Collegiate Men’s team to overtake us.

Getting the boat ready at the dock:

View from the river, the gazebo at River Road Park.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Lights Went Out

I have been doing phonograph shows with Billy for nearly 30 years now. It really takes a lot to make an impression on me after all we have been through. Boy, did the North Carolina Show ever make an impression! Sadly, it was not the good kind.

Billy and I arrived at the show around 7:30 a.m. It was a steady rain the poor dealers were carting their wares through. We had set up the previous day, so all we had to do was straighten up the tables a bit and scope out the new merchandise coming in. When the show is slow, I resort to a favourite pastime of “bug-eating”. This is a term we use that pertains to record collectors. Back in the old days when some shows would be under big tents, piles of records would be on the ground. Around these record piles would be all these asses in the air as collectors sorted through these records. It looked as if they were scratching through the ground looking for bugs to eat: hence the name “bug-eaters”!

This show was so grim I was bug-eating before it even started! I found a pretty clean copy of a favourite song for a dollar! The copy I have is worn to death, I love to play it so….

Leroy was supposed to arrive early to unload his music box and put it in Billy’s space. We had a “lottery” as to when Leroy would show. Charlie had 10:30, Billy did 11:00 and I stuck to 11:30. The show was scheduled to run 9:00-3:00. I was not exactly on the money but was closest as Leroy turned up at 11:45! We did not unload the music box. It would have been a real nightmare to maneuver it to Bills booth.

Finally at noon it was “legal” to have a Budweiser. Soon as I cracked open that beer I smelled coffee. FINALLY they got into the kitchen and brewed up some Java. I was starting to get a headache from caffeine withdrawal as we did not stop for coffee on the way to the show. I switched to coffee after that first beer and all was well with the world.

Leroy was sent back to the store; we will meet him there after the show to unload that music box. If we don’t, it will ride around in the back of his Jeep until it disintegrates.

The rain finally let up by the time we loaded up the Honda Element. It is amazing how much stuff can be packed into one of those things. We got to the store and safely unloaded the Regina Music Box and deposited it back to its old resting place.

Now I have to backtrack about five or six years. It was sometime in the early days of the century Leroy was bragging about this investment outfit he was involved in. It was run by a guy named Dean Martin and paid out huge returns. I kept saying “If it seems too good to be true, it is”. It just smelled of scam to me and I said so. Leroy just laughed in his way, he knew better.

Saturday Leroy showed us a newspaper article on how his buddy Dean Martin was running a “Ponzi Scam”. This guy took the local people for millions of dollars. Bernie Madoff is the head cheese of scams so to speak, but I wonder now how many small timers are waiting to go bust around the country.

Leroy was trying to hunt down this stained glass to show Billy that is packed away at the store someplace. Halfway through the search Leroy let it slip that the glass was a present from Glenn and he was not supposed to sell it, because it was a present. In my “innocent voice” I just piped up, “Well, Leroy, you don’t have to sell that glass to Billy, just GIVE it to him.” Billy nearly split a gut trying not to laugh and Leroy just about passed out! I was only trying to be helpful…..

Billy and I are having dinner with my nephew and his wife. Naturally we invited Leroy, never thinking he would accept. We are planning on Chinese tonight and Leroy HATES that kind of food. Leroy jumped at the invite, but first we had to stop at his house. Leroy’s house is so depressing and full of stuff it literally makes my “tits itch”. We don’t want to stop there, but what could go wrong?

On the way we had to detour to Red Lion to stock up on some brews. I worked in a supermarket in my past, so I can feel for the kids stocking the shelves and running the registers. As we were leaving one of the stock boys crashed an empty shopping cart into the side of the rows of empty carts. I had to say, “Pull his license!” Billy added, “Where’d he learn to drive?” That poor kid: his face got so red and then he started laughing. We make fun wherever we go!

We pull into Leroy’s and he is more messed up than usual. He screams something to us through the door, and then appears with a dim lantern. His power was out.

· From here I have to use bullets as to how things unfold.

· We have to go into the finished lower lever to find the breaker box. This entails moving piles of stuff. The breakers are all fine.

· Leroy attempts to call the power company. Then he realizes he can’t use his phone without electricity.

· He takes Billy’s cell phone and calls the number in the phone book. Leroy screams back at the automated voice, and curses he can’t remember the numbers they tell him to call.

· Then he finally gets a pencil to write the numbers down and he breaks the point.

· At this time I stepped backwards into a pile of something. Then I smelled an odor that confirmed my worst fear: I had stepped into shit from the dog. It is everywhere in that house.

· Now the downstairs reeks of dog-shit. I had to go outside to clean off my shoes.

· Billy’s phone went dead, so Leroy had to root through the crap in his Jeep to find his cell phone.

· After he finally made contact with the power company he needed some orange juice. Leroy is diabetic. Opening the ice box door he keeps it open as he leisurely looks at the inventory on the shelves. I can’t take it, “Shut that door Leroy, you’re losing all the cold air!” I said. I swear I I keep the door to my fridge open more than 5 seconds I hear my mother screaming that to me in my head!

· He shook up the orange juice container and opened the lid on the last shake going up. Orange juice spattered everywhere in the kitchen.

· As we go to leave I spy some neighbors on their front porch. I shout to them asking if they had power. “No, they answered, it went out halfway thorough the basketball game, it is supposed to be back on by 7:00.

· The reality dawned on me: Why did we not just ask the neighbors FIRST and we could have saved ourselves all that aggravation???

Just typing out that episode gets me going. I have to call it quits for now. Leroy is such a paradox. I have known him for almost as long as I’ve known Billy. But, in the past twenty years he has really developed into a real “needy, high maintenance” person. His negativity and helplessness just drains me of my positive energy. Billy is about his closest friend in the world. He has no support or “extended family” as I like to say to fall back on.

Returning from these trips makes me so thankful for my daily routine and the friendships I have cultivated. My little Daggy just came in the side door and is perched upon my lap. It is time to post this entry, pour out some box wine and break off a chunk of Trader Joe’s Bittersweet Chocolate. Then it will be time to relax to a Jack Benny radio program on the internet.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Thursday and Friday of the Trip
Monday, March 16, 2009

It is so good to be home from the weekend trip to Huntersville, NC. I have to be honest and state that the weather really sucked: Cold and rainy all weekend. It is still raining as I type this out. I’m glad I sprinkled Epsom salts all round the hollies, camellias and sasanquas before I left on Thursday. This rain will get those salts and minerals to the root systems in no time.

Thursday morning I coxed for the morning row. It was so windy, it was impossible to hold a point. The weather turned chilly, so I was bundled up in my long johns and sweats. I’m truly getting serious as I was bitching at certain rowers as they were slacking. I’m not the coach so it was not for technique, but for certain things like holding the “set” when not rowing. When you are not rowing you are supposed to hold the blades of the oar flat on the water to keep the boat level. Now that we are rowing in sets of six there are only two people holding the set at one time. It is work, and not the “rest” it was when we were first starting out. Some rowers don’t realize that yet…..

It was a routine trip over to Atlanta and then up I-85 to I-77. I got to matt and Jens at about 6:00. It was so good to see them again.

Friday morning I met Billy at Leroy’s house. He had arrived on Wednesday to work all day Thursday to do maintenance work on Leroy’s collection. Leroy has a fantastic collection of music machines crammed into a small dark house. You could not walk into the front room as there was a ladder in the only open space of the room: That open space is only an aisle about 2 ½ feet wide. Everything else is music machines and crap piled up. A huge slag glass fixture hangs from the cathedral ceiling. Five of the six internal light bulbs were dead. Bill was able to get them changed out: hence the needed ladder. Bill installed new 60 watt bulbs. One hundred watt bulbs would have better for light, but the way Leroy’s house is, the chance of fire would be greatly increased with all that extra current draw. Even with all new bulbs, little light escapes from that ugly fixture.

This was my first visit to Leroy’s place in years. Visits there just get me too depressed. His Violano Virtuso was restored a while back and equipped with a computerized “Midi” system. This machine, a violin that is played automatically was manufactured in the first quarter of the 20th Century. Originally it played off a paper roll. Some years ago the expert rebuilders put together a midi system to operate the mechanical works. The results are so amazing. Leroy is not mechanically inclined so the midi system is a godsend for him. After the first rebuild of his Violano a few years ago, he burnt up the “convertor box” changing the paper roll the wrong way. That was an expensive mistake.

Leroy’s machine is playing pretty well, although it needs a few adjustments to being it up to where it should be. Working on such a piece is pretty specialized. The restorer who did the work will not come back to Leroy’s house. There is so much crap to work around he can’t access the guts!<

The ladder was loaded up and we headed to Statesville to drop it off and load up a Regina Music Box for Leroy to take to the show. He wants to try and sell a rare Rookwood model. They used to go for big money, but I’m not sure what the market is now for them. This particular model of Leroy’s has an open bottom with a sliding rack for the tune discs. It is pretty rare. As pretty as these machines are to look at, they were constructed of the cheapest wood imaginable. These open base models are especially flimsy. Leroy’s machine is no exception. Bill and I carefully load the germ into the back of Leroy’s Jeep Cherokee. First we had to clear out piles of papers, letters, circulars and crap to make room for the cabinet. All that clutter and shit drives me crazy.

We had to stop back at Leroy’s on the way to Mooresville, the location of the phonograph show. Leroy was not up to the trip, and will show up early Saturday morning before the show to unload his music box. Leroy has a score of health problems, diabetes being the major one at this time. You would never know it, as his countertops are filled with half eaten cans of cashew and peanuts along with bags and boxes of cookies. The freezer is stocked with Mayfield Ice Cream and Nestles Crunch ice cream bars. I could write a book…..

Billy and I locate the hall where the show is being held. Dealers are already unloading. Oh my god… this is a long narrow hall with three rows of double tables. The traffic flow for the show will be horrible. Bill has two tables of stuff that got unloaded from the Honda Element without much trouble. We are secretly laughing thinking of how the big console machines will get maneuvered around this cluster f—k.

Supper was at Carraba’s. It was right on the way back to Matt and Jen’s. You would never know there is a recession going on: the place was packed. We were able to get a spot at the bar. I indulged and got my favourite dish of the mussels. The couple sitting next to Bill ordered them too; I made them look so good!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Inspiration From Ray

I was amazed when my VISA bill was delivered Monday. There was only one debit on the card which was for the lockset I ordered for the back screen door. I always charge my gas. I had gone a month without putting gas into the truck! I’ll make up for that on this trip to North Carolina Thursday!

Finally I took the truck in to have the oil changed. There are a number of quick change places I frequent. It was Speedy Oil Change for Tuesdays visit. The place seemed pretty empty. As I was reading in the waiting area, the manager appeared wanting to show me a “problem”. “See all that black in the injectors?’ he grimly said. “That should all be cleaned, we have a service for $59.95 that will clean that all out.” Using my favourite line now, I simply told him I did not have the money for it. He sighed and finished up the oil change. It is those worthless add ons that make those oil places their profit. Besides I have SeaFoam Cleaner at home I can run through to dissolve that crap!

I’ll be staying with Matt and Jen, my nephew and his wife in North Carolina. He details cars for his livelihood. I can’t show up in a ratty truck. I broke down and washed the beast, and waxed it with NuFinish: the once a year car wax! That stuff works pretty well. For a truck that gets as beat as mine does, it looks pretty good for being seven years old! I even Rain X’ed the windshield! If I have time today I’ll vacuum and clean out the cab. I can’t get too carried away!

I woke up at two this morning and could not get back to sleep. The street was silent with the exception of a lone mockingbird singing his little heart out in the holly hedge. That little guy would not stop. If you can’t beat them, join them. I put on my heavy bathrobe, poured out a small glass of box wine and settled into a deck chair on the brick patio. Stumpy was thrilled to be outside so early to check out his territory.

I was enjoying the “Mockingbird concert” and chuckling to myself over the note my friend Ray had left on my Facebook page: “For God sakes Martha ..... could you be any more sugar and spice? Even Glinda the good witch had a bad day every now and then. What ever you’re taking I want some.......” Ray is a close “sister friend” so he is allowed to say that!

I was annoyed that I could not get right back to sleep, but what did I gain? I relaxed for about half an hour nursing that glass of wine as the Mocking bird sang into the still night. I laughed at my Stumpy chasing after bugs, real and imagined. He wanted to stay outside, so he stayed clear of me! Overhead was a bright full moon; the air was warm and infused with the intoxicating fragrance from the Sweet Olive.

I feel kind of guilty as this type of happiness and bliss has become commonplace for me in this crazy world. There is no lack of bad news if you want to be brought down and depressed.

Stumpy is sacked out on the end of the bed as I type this out. A contented cat deep is sleep is the perfect model of relaxation. I’ll bet he will still be in this spot when I get back from the Y in a couple hours!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Night and Day

If there is a down side to my rowing it is I’m not able to carry a camera to document the voyages on the river. When not manning the oars, I’m helping to hold the “set” of the boat. The break time between rowing transitions is getting shorter and shorter as we improve.
With the time change we are once again setting out in the dark at 5:45 a.m. Thankfully, it is warming up a bit although there was a bit of mist this morning early on. I was supposed to cox this morning, but we were short rowers again. I filled in on the port side, and one of the women collegiate rowers filled in to cox. She was GREAT! I learned so much from her.
Rowing up river I was facing west. There was a HUGE full orange moon hanging just above the tree line. The air was still, the only noise was the oars breaking the water and Jason giving drill instructions from the launch.
The moon means so many things to different people. Whenever I study a beautiful moon such as this I think to one of the most important books I’d ever read; All But My Life, by Gerda Klein. She was one of the few survivors of the Nazi work camps. She relates in her book how early on in her separation from her family she looked at the moon and asked him to keep watch on her family. The moon I’ve seen my entire life is the same moon Gerda looked at. I find myself saying the same prayer when I see it now and I always think of her.
We had a great workout getting almost to the steel mill. Turning the boat around to return to the dock I was now facing east. This was the perfect perspective to watch the sunrise. We were rowing sixes and eights: trying to row in synch with the other rowers and keeping the boat set did not allow me much time to appreciate the beauty of the daybreak.
My homefries and onions are cooking as I type this out. I don’t have any sausage or bacon, so I’m splurging with having two eggs instead! Thursday morning I’m leaving for North Carolina to attend the phonograph show in Mooresville. I’ll be staying with my nephew Matt and his wife. Billy will be up staying at Leroy’s place. It should be a fun time. I need to get the oil changed out in the truck before I go. That poor beast has 122K miles now! It’s just getting broken in!! LOL!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Working on the Dock

This boy is so tore up! Saturday morning I got to the boathouse right around 8:15. I brought down a bunch of extra tools. The collegiate rowers were playing basketball and tossing a football around waiting for things to get going.

I was looking at the plans for the new dock with Jason and saw where a lot of clamps would be needed. I have enough clamps back home for what we will need. We worked up a list of needed tools and I made a quick trip back to my house to load up with required tools.

Things get jumping when I return and we jump into framing up the new dock. The hardest part for me was “scabbing” the two ten footers together on each side. The plates bolted on each side needed the holes lined up perfectly. This was not an easy task to drill a true hole through 3” of pressure treated wood freehand. I was able to get that task finished up without too much aggravation.

Framing up the dock;

The day warmed up beautifully; this was the hottest day of the year so far. The collegiate boys peeled off their shirts to soak up the sun. We needed to get some larger lag bolts for this scabbed section of dock. I made the trip to the hardware store that was close by. When I returned and walked back to the dock assembly I saw some of these crazy boys running up the boat ramp from a jump into the river! Luna the dog had joined them! God, to have that youth, energy and testosterone again!!!

We had to pull out the old section of dock. It was a very involved and heavy thing to move. It ended up getting “strong armed” by every available body to its final resting place.

I had to head out at 5:30 to head to Gary's for dinner. I drove directly to his house. I did a quick clean up to get the worst of the Black Warrior River dirt off me. I chugged down three glasses of water to get hydrated before having a beer. Em had brought some Panera bread and some great cheese. I collapsed onto the sofa and nursed a beer from an iced mug.

Paul was in rare form, he makes me laugh so. He was really ribbing on Gary. Two of his memorable evening quotes were: “Dinner at Gary’s used to mean wine, but all we have tonight are empty glasses!” Gary had made up this casserole with black eyed peas and turkey sausage and I don’t know what else. Paul’s second quote was: “Well Gary must be on hard times now; there is no meat on the table like there used to be!” We are all pretty much “sister friends” so no offence was taken. It was all in fun.

I was the first to leave; I was so exhausted from working outside all day in that fresh air and sunshine. The cats had been cooped up in the house, so I had to turn them loose soon as I got home. I tried to relax in the backyard, but the bed was calling me: I was so tired. The kids down the street had friends over. Their voices carry so, but so long as the stereo is not blaring, I don’t complain. My old fan was started up in the window to make white noise and I went to sleep wearing my ear plugs.

I never reset my clocks so when the alarm went off I was already an hour behind. The first order of business was to make my coffee and let the cats out. It promises to be another stellar day. I luxuriated in a steaming hot outside shower. There is no better way to start the day than to witness the sunrise from a hot shower while the mocking birds are singing!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Last One Picked

Friday rowing on the river was wonderful. It has been WAY too many months since I’ve been on the river without a sweatshirt! We were short a person, so it was kind of awkward rowing the eight with only seven people. Doing drills and transitions gets confusing with an odd number. Jason did a great job coxing. I was doing my best to concentrate on not collapsing my chest going up to the “catch’ and looking forward. I could really tell a difference in my performance. All that work on the Concept II rowers at the Y is now starting to pay off.

Stump woke me up with his “paw bats” at 3:45 this a.m. I made him wait till the alarm went off at 4:00 before going outside. I could hear the morning birdsong through the open bedroom windows. Those Mockingbirds were singing their little hearts out. My Google home page pegged the 5:30 a.m. temperature at 59°. It looks to be another beautiful day.

I just put potatoes on to boil with garlic. It will be a huge breakfast today of homefries, pepper bacon, and “real” fresh eggs from the farm. Last week Paul brought me a bag of fresh eggs. The shells are varying hues and the eggs sizes vary wildly. But, when they are cracked into the cast iron skillet, those yokes stand tall and are a bright orange color. What a change from the runny eggs having an anemic yellow yoke that come from the supermarket.

There is work to be done at the boathouse and dock, so a crew is meeting there at 8:00 today. If anybody had told me a year ago I would be rowing and involved with the Alabama Crew team I’d have said they were full of s—t. It just goes to show how a comment from Debbie about one of her clients rowing gave me the courage to show up to try something I had never done before.

When I was back in High School I dreaded gym class. I was usually among the smallest in body size and for whatever reason I was always put in a class that was a year ahead of me. When choosing sides for the team sports I was always one of the last ones picked.

On a rowing team everybody works together. Watching a boat with skilled rowers cut through the water is like witnessing a steam locomotive with the pistons and drive shafts working in perfect harmony. There is no way I could ever match the strength and endurance of the collegiate rowers. But, that does not stop me from trying! The kids get a kick out of being around us “old timers” and I have to admit the feeling is mutual. We are learning from each other. I like to think I’m showing how you can still have fun as you age, and to not be afraid to try things outside of the norm. my god friend Bob has his philosophy of life summed up into one word: ENJOY. No matter how grim things can get, I try to live my life following Bob’s wisdom. I pass it on…..

Friday, March 6, 2009


A few weeks back I received a phone call from an auction house. This was where I had purchased my Regina changer music box back in the spring of 2003. They were calling to inform me of an upcoming auction in warm springs Georgia. Usually they will send out a listing or e-mail the information to me. I was told there was an auction listing at their web site. I checked out the listings. There was nothing listed that would warrant the drive to Georgia for me. It has been six years since I have had contact with this place. They must really be hurting to warrant cold calling for a general estate auction.

Yesterday (Thursday) I received a call from the auction house in Roanoke, AL where I purchased my “Faux Bamboo” dresser back in 2006 about an auction they were having.

I get their listings on line and in the mail. They usually carry good quality stuff. This was the first time they had ever called to invite me to a sale. They were happy I had seen the listing of the sale and were eager for me to leave a couple “phone bids”. This must be evidence of the recession trickling down.

With my future in jeopardy I have gone into miser mode. It is a viscous cycle that feeds upon itself. One thing I would like to have is a new computer tower. My current tower is six years old. I have the RAM maxed out to its full capacity and my programs always running to a bare minimum. It has gotten so slow and rickety. A new tower from Dell would not cost that much…. It is just the thought of spending money I don’t have to. This miserable economy has me worn out…….

I had a great work out at the Y Thursday. I ended up erging nearly an hour on the Concept II Rower. The coach of the Woman’s Rowing team at the University was giving me tips on how to improve my technique. Hopefully we will row this afternoon. Jason is supposed to be coaching us. I’m hoping that some of the collegiate guys will fill in as they have in the past. Those kids are so funny and I can pick up so much technique from watching them. It is a break for them to row with us “old timers”! But on the other hand, it makes me feel good to be able to keep up with them. (For a little while at least!)

The sun finally broke through in the afternoon allowing me to work in the yard raking and pulling up weeds. My neighbors were out in force which meant visiting, and cars beeping as they passed. Afternoons like that really make me feel a part of the community.

Speaking of community, I need to get my butt in gear. I’ll get out my old 10 speed to make a quick trip to the Post Office, Bank and finally the Y.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Stop the World

The house was cold when the alarm sounded at four this morning. I wanted to just roll over and snuggle under the down comforter. Stump had other ideas. He knows once that alarm sounds he can go outside. He was relentless with his “paw-bats” to my nose to prod me out of bed! Opening the side door to let him out I shivered at the frigid morning air assaulting me. Checking my Google homepage on the way to make coffee the temperature showed up at 26°. This last cold spell is wearing me out.

Turning on the kitchen radio I learned of the shootings over in Pakistan. Then the newscast went to the economy: HSBC bank is in horrible shape and the Dow Jones at the same level it was at in 1997. This is not the kind of news I need to start the day on a cheery note. Checking out my hometown newspaper on-line I read where a classmate and former “boss” from my Burger Chef days was stabbed. (He is in stable condition according to the article.) One of the newsblogs I read had a link to a Wall Street Journal piece looking back to the great depression. The catch phrase back in the early days of that downturn was, “Prosperity is just around the corner.” It sounds too much like the “kool-aid” we are being fed today nearly eighty years later.

I can’t take it anymore! The radio was turned off, and my Pandora station was accessed on the internet. I started a load of laundry. While I had hot water primed in the system, I did up the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink. The thermostat was cranked up to 60° and extra lights turned on to brighten up my house. My great aunt Teenie used to always turn on all her lights to make her feel better during the winter months. She was on to Seasonal Affective Disorder before anybody had a real name for it!

Stumpy only lasted some forty fine minutes out in the cold before he clawed at the bathroom window to let me know he wanted back in. Once in the house it was time for “wet food treats”. With full bellies, Daggy is sacked out at the bottom of the bed, while Stump is asleep on top of his favourite Edison phonograph in the study.

Sunrise from my bedroom windows 3-3-2009 6:09 a.m.

The sun is rising it always does in good times and bad. There is still coffee warming on the stove. In an hour or so I’ll head to the barber to get a buzz, and then go to the Y for a workout. Life really is good for me. I try to not let the bad news grind me down, but I will not keep my head in the sand ignoring the reality of the world either. It can be so hard to find that balance….

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Snow in Alabama!

The first day of March sure came in like a lion. It was actually SNOWING here in Tuscaloosa when I awoke at 4:00 a.m. As the saying goes, now March will exit like a lamb. This brings to mind my years in elementary school. My grade school was located on the west end of Lockport, NY. This was where the Italian population lived. Back in those idyllic days, the school would sponsor a “Spaghetti Supper” that raised money for field trips for the older grades.

There was so much excitement for that event. The school had no formal cafeteria. There was a primitive kitchen set up though with one of those huge industrial gas stoves. For days the school would smell of homemade spaghetti sauce cooking down. The PTA sponsored bake sales and a “white elephant sale” to entice parents to spend a bit more money while waiting to get seated. A “fishing pond” was set up for the kids. For 10¢ you lowered a fishing pole over the bottom section of a double dutch door and a treasure was put on the line. Marty’s mom always took care of this!

There were two classes for each of the grades: kindergarten-sixth grade. The classes were evenly divided as the “lions” and “lambs” to sell tickets to this dinner. There was an intense rivalry between these groups. My third grade class was the top ticket seller for the school. I will never forget going door to door trying to sell tickets to this supper without any success. I felt like such a loser compared to the kids who turned in the money for scores of sold tickets. What did they do that I didn’t? It was years later I learned it was their parents who sold the tickets for them. For my entire working life I had to put up with co-workers selling everything under the sun for their kids. I always felt a resentment getting something from them thinking there might be some kid like me trying to sell that crap on his own. Just chalk it up to a formative growing up experience!

Saturday morning I kept hearing a motor turning on and then off. At first I thought it was the fan in my computer tower. Nope, it was not that, nor the ice box, or the water heater. Finally I traced it back to the basement. The five inches of rain caused water seepage, it was my sump pump! Normally it only functions when the air conditioner is running as it drains into the sump hole. I can’t remember the last time water had leaked into the cellar in this fashion.

The dinner Saturday night went wonderfully. It was a dank chilly evening which made the home cooked “stick to your ribs” food taste even better. The lamb shanks were warmed through after I baked up two pans of cornbread sticks. I had it timed just perfect to where I smashed up the potatoes just as the first guests arrived. There must have been about four pounds of tiny red creamer’s boiled in water/garlic and mashed with a stick and a half of real butter, salt and pepper.

For my vegetable I settled on tiny green peas. Publix had a buy one get one free deal. These I steamed up and mixed in a half stick of butter when it was put into the serving dish. Butter makes everything taste better! The guys raved on those peas!!!

I had to take pictures of the snow soon as I got up thinking it would soon melt away.

Boy was I ever wrong. It is 9:31 a.m. and it is STILL snowing!! This picture I just snapped from the bathroom window looking into the back yard.

Our rowing session for this afternoon was cancelled last night. Not because of the anticipated snow. The downpour of the past few days caused flooding on the river, which in turn messed up the “floating docks” we launch from. I just hope it will not be too much work to get them back into shape.


About Me

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Tuscaloosa, Alabama, United States
Retired auto worker who can now spend too much time restoring his 1922 Bungalow Home. I'm involved in a number of varied activities from collecting bricks to rowing with a masters rowing group. This blog is to share different aspects of my life on my Facebook page. I've kept an on-line journal for eight years.