Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wednesday stuff....

     Further evidence that I'm a dichotomy of epic proportions,  The fact that I'm in a tizzy today because the season premier of Duck Dynasty is on at the same time as the finale of Top Chef illustrates the oddness that is me.  Camouflage vs. Camembert.   Sweet tea vs. Sweetbreads.    I'd be as happy sitting in the woods talking trash with these characters and their beards as I would be putting on my suit and picking out a wine to go with our first course.  I'm odd, I tell ya.

     Seeing the headline on the story above I just knew I'd have much to say about the article...but I couldn't really figure out what in the hell the writer was saying.  I think that the remark regarding "human welfare" is a bit overstated...but being one who grew up on vinyl, I do miss a lot in the digital downloading of music.  Remember the magic of album covers?   Remember reading liner notes?  I've read similar discussions from folks who miss the physical comfort of holding a book when using an electronic gadget to enjoy the written word.   I'm not saying that art must now stand on its own without the packaging to help carry it  - album art never hid any bad music.  Album art did sometimes, though, enhance one's enjoyment of the music. 
someone agrees with me!
(by the way, yesterday would've been The Man in Black's 81st birthday)

      "Comfort food" rivals "literally" as the MOST overused descriptive in our dialect today.  So I won't use it-but a bowl of collard greens makes this child feel really good on a cold day.  It's a bite of tradition and a bite of culture.  It's the smell of your mother's kitchen in the morning, all coffee and bacon and biscuits.  It's the bed you slept in as a child where you knew a daddy was lying close by lest the devil (or a cat!) was to sneak in and try to suck the breath out of you while you slept.  It's someone you love at the end of a really crappy day, that someone who doesn't need details of why it was a crappy day ( but they know by the look on your face that it was.)   Ok, so it LITERALLY IS COMFORT FOOD dammit!   I honestly think collards may be one of the things on this earth I could eat every single day and never grow tired of (oysters is one of the others.) 

Friday, February 15, 2013

What goes around...

      It's seems such a slight to call Alan my cousin.  Being the baby in a house full of sisters Alan provided all that a big brother would have provided...and that's what he became to me.  I wanted to walk like Alan, talk like Alan, be strong as four mules like Alan and make everybody around me as happy as Alan made us.  Alan had a huge, beautiful Irish Setter named Blarney.  Blarney took every step that Alan took and wanted to go on every ride that Alan took in his truck.  When that beautiful animal was run over by a car down on the highway one day, Alan dug a hole big enough to bury a piano so that Blarney would be comfortable.  So it's no wonder that - after we tragically lost Alan to cancer - I badly wanted to have the same breed of dog as one that he had loved and lost.
     And not long after he died, that opportunity presented itself.  I got my Irish Setter.  He was 2 years old, fully grown with that perfect, red hair that became even more radiant when the sun hit it.  Mama - proud of the Irish heritage on her father's side of the family - insisted I give it a good Irish name.  Her favorite book was Wuthering Heights and she said "Heathcliff" would be a fine Irish name.  So Heathcliff it was.  Proud name for a proud dog..he was smart and cocky and not afraid of anything.  In the first 2 weeks I had him I grew to love everything about him and wondered what I'd ever done without him.  Like Alan's Blarney, Heathcliff insisted on being wherever I was and doing whatever I was doing.  But one day Heathcliff realized he could make it over the back fence and took off.   He was just gone.  I drove all over the place looking for that dog and couldn't find him.  I was crushed, but Mama said "well, some men and some dogs have wandering feet and there's not a thing you can do about it." 
     A week or so later, I was walking down Main St. in Stone Mountain and came upon an old, old man walking a beautiful Irish Setter.  Sixth sense clicked in even before I got close to them and I knew he was walking my dog.  By the time they were next to me on the sidewalk I could see the collar I'd bought for him and noticed his ears perking up and a strong tug on the leash that damn near pulled the old fellow right onto the ground.  Definitely my dog.  I was ready to plead my case and demand that this beautiful creature be returned to its rightful owner!   Then the old man spoke;  "Good Lord, he usually walks better than this.  You shore got him excited for some reason."   I decided to play it cool -  "Where you'd get this dog?" I asked while giving Heathcliff a scratch behind the ears.  He answered "Well, I was just sitting on the porch one day and he came running up and laid down next to me like he owned the place."   You could hear both pride and contentment in his voice.  I began to lose my resolve to take back something that - just a minute ago -  I'd been ready to fight for.  That resolve became even weaker when he continued  "....and it was perfect timing, too.  My wife died about 6 months ago.  Only woman I ever loved...known her since we were kids.  Got to where I sat on that porch all day...didn't matter if it was cold, hot raining or whatever...sat out there because I couldn't stand to go in that empty house.  Well, now my house ain't empty."   Game over.  I gave Heathcliff one final scratch behind the ears, told the man he had himself a good dog and I walked off.  I'd done my good deed for the day.........hell, maybe for a lifetime!
     Fast forward to 2003.  I'm married and living with my bride and a 130 pound black Labrador Retriever named Buzz.  He was my roommate in my single days and when I got married my new wife learned to love him every bit as much as I did.  But there in December of 2003, I turned 40 one week and Buzz died the next week.  (There's a country song in there somewhere - I turned 40 and my dog died, all I needed was a broken down truck.) We were crushed and not sure when we'd get another dog, but we knew we wanted one at some point.  A week after Buzz was gone the vet we'd used for him called and told us they were so sorry to hear that Buzz had died.....and wanted to know if we were going to get another dog.  "The reason we're asking........"   They'd found what they guessed to be a 1-year-old yellow Lab running loose down Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.  She was housebroken, she'd been spayed (had a fairly fresh scar) and was smart and sweet (what Lab ain't??)   They thought of us first because they knew how well we'd treated our last Lab.  I told them we'd come by to LOOK at the dog.  I emphasized "LOOK" to the lady of the house.  I told her that we were doing this out of courtesy.  And it was just a look and it was just a courtesy.....until this gorgeous creature ran and got a tennis ball and came and dropped it at my feet, wanting to play with me.  Again, game over. 
     Maggie had a huge hole to fill.  No dog should've been asked to replace Buzz.  But with her funny, funny personality and good disposition she did her best.  We began to think she had an ailment of some sort that kept her from barking.  She never met a stranger that she wanted to bark at - anyone that entered our house was just someone else that could provide a belly rub.  And she's a "retriever" in every sense of the word, with repeated instances that serve as proof that someone did considerable training.  Her skills and concentration when simply bringing back a ball or a toy are just too good.  One afternoon she pointed at, then snatched up a bluebird she thought was dead (it wasn't) in the backyard.  She brought it up to me, dropped it at my feet and then sat down at my side. The bluebird gave a quick shake of its head and flew off.  She looked at me dumbfounded - "You let it go??????????"    
    The older you get the more you learn that it really is all just one big circle.  An old man in Stone Mountain needed an Irish Setter to make a house a home again.  30-something years later we needed a soul  full of life and humor and mischief to help us smile again...and she came running down Peachtree Industrial Boulevard to find us.  She's lying over there right now in a spot of warm sun shining in the window, snoring and dreaming ("chasing rabbits.")   I'm going to be forced to go over and wake her up just so I can rub her belly. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thursday stuff....

     I could listen to that repetitive riff from "Stranglehold" for hours (and I've done so many times.)  It's sitting right over there on the cd shelf and discussing it makes me want to go over there and pop it in.  I dig "The Motor City Madman."  But I don't know what to make of a 64 year old Ted Nugent and his role as, uh - what?  A prop?  A spokesman?  An activist?  Please explain this to me Steve Stockman.  I'm not even addressing the argument over gun control itself - I'm asking what you were trying to accomplish by inviting Mr. Nugent to the State of The Union gathering last night.  When you look at Nugent's resume, it's probably  no more shocking than any other of the musicians I've enjoyed over the years.  But I find it puzzling that to illustrate how absolutely by-God American the gun control issue might be you've chosen someone who might not fit the GOP's image of a by-God American.  He told CREEM magazine that the only time he used any sort of drugs was when he did a line of crystal meth before his draft physical because he "wanted to see the look on the sergeant's face."   He later told the U.K. newspaper "Independent" that he did that and enrolled at Oakland Community College (thereby earning a "1Y student deferment") because he "did not want to get his ass shot off in Vietnam."   Again, that makes him not much different than a lot of young men in the late 60's.  But can you imagine the NOISE that we'd hear from the right-leaning folks should the left-leaning folks ever put a "hippie/draft-dodger/drug addict/you must hate your country/bet you burned a flag/commie"  right there in the gallery while a republican president made a SOTU speech?   Forget the epic irony of trying to make him  the face of the whole "when you pry it from my cold, dead hand...."  manifesto.  Swing and a miss Mr.Stockman.  Your counterpart Charlie Dent, a fellow republican from Pennsylvania probably made a better choice when inviting someone to the SOTU...a constituent he's nominated for admission into the United States Naval Academy.  That's how you sit in chambers and look by-God American should the cameras find you.
     And once you mention "Stranglehold" you have to listen to it......over & over & over.....

     Well Happy Valentine's Day.  Noticing the kids at the bus stop this morning I was wondering if they still put them through the torture of having to bring Valentines for everyone in your class.  I can't remember if teachers or mothers made us endure that torture there at Rockbridge Elementary.  I do remember one girl who brought a box to share and - on all the boys' cards - she signed it "just kidding."  I remember wanting to "return to sender" and tell her "get over yourself sweetheart!  You ain't all that a bag of chips yourself!!!  You think I WANTED a valentines from you??    I'm going to throw stuff at you on the way home today!!"  Through the miracle of these social networking sites I've seen mention of where she and her husband are living.  Perhaps I should've dropped one in her mailbox signed "No, I'm just kidding!!!! HA!"  
Barney and I both move on very well....

     On this day that Hallmark and jewelry stores have set aside for us to celebrate love that we should be celebrating 365 days a year, there was overwhelming evidence at our house that I married perhaps the only woman on earth who could put up with me.  As she left for work she said "I know it's Valentine's Day and we can do something special if you like....but I'd really just like to come home and watch the Tech - Clemson game tonight."   Thank you God!
     It's easy to take what's "everyday"  for granted and forget how beautiful some people are.  Case in point- Last night, during a visit with my in-laws, my bride's father pulled me aside (as he often does) to share a sentiment with me that he didn't  necessarily want the whole room to hear.  I know that many of you reading this remember my father-in-law as your elementary school principal and probably still tread lightly at the sound of his name.  But his heart is huge and getting more so as he advances in years.  He gave us a Valentine's card that had a sentiment regarding "My daughter and son-in-law."  He pulled me aside last night to tell me "I nearly took a pen and scratched out that 'in-law' part...but it was a pretty card and I didn't want to ruin it.  But remember that you aren't anything but a son to me...there's no 'in-law' to the situation...ok?  Promise me you'll remember that."  Without losing all dignity and crying in front of another man I assured him that I'd always remember that.  Again, thank you God!
       Well we didn't  leave the womb as married people.  There were a lot of years I was alone but not lonely.  See, I came dangerously (DANGEROUSLY) close to getting married when I was very young to a female human whose name I dare not speak (and only refer to her now as "Satan's Daughter."  Worried she might read this?  I'm not.)   When I escaped that I celebrated freedom and got to know myself.  Even learned to like myself a little bit, recapturing any self-worth that relationship had drained from my soul.  Still, though happy, I wondered if finding someone with whom I wanted to share a life was in the cards.  Even if I was  now liking myself I had to admit to myself  that I didn't fit the husband prototype that I'd  learned from....well, uh, not sure where we learn these parameters of what a husband looks like and acts like.  I only knew I didn't fit it and it would take someone quite unique to put up with me.  I was relieved, then, to hear an interview with Gregg Allman and find out that such thinking was his inspiration for writing one my favorite songs.  He wrote it in 1967 and it's not about anyone in particular.  It's about the "idea" of someone who could put up with his less than traditional life.  He got the name when he heard a woman calling after a little girl named Melissa in the grocery store.  I used to say I'd get married if/when I ever found someone that considered this a love song.  But I had no idea that a wife wasn't someone I had to find.  She was living right down the street.   I just had to quit looking for her to find her.