Monday, April 30, 2012

Memory Lane Down Memorial Drive.......

Cindy and I just returned from a three day visit with my mom, who resides in a retirement community in Stone Mountain, Georgia, a four hour drive from our home in Knoxville, Tennessee.

We always have a great time on our visits, which we plan every couple of months or so.  We have come to know many of her friends who live there, and we enjoy having drinks at the end of the day with them in the pub or sharing meals with them in one of the dining areas of the facility. 

We arrived last Thursday afternoon.  On Friday we squired my mom around town so she could shop for bed linens.  She will be 90 this November, but I must say she will tire out the hardiest of souls with her energy level.  By dinnertime Friday, we were exhausted!

Even so, my devious mind began plotting our Saturday entertainment.  Early Saturday morning, over our eye-opening cup o' joe in her apartment, I announced that we would be going on an excursion for the day and would be leaving at 9:00 AM.  But I did not tell Cindy or my mom what I had in mind.  It was fun to hear their repeated squeals of pleading, "OH!---please tell us where we are going!"

But nay---this was to be a surprise of the first order.

We loaded our cooler into the car, filled with iced-down refreshments to slake our thirst during the day and set sail from the Park Springs Retirement Center, headed west on US 78 to the Memorial Drive exit.  There, I steered westward toward the big city of Atlanta, some 17 miles distant.

Down Memorial Drive we traveled.  You should have heard the conversation in the car as my mom would exclaim on each landmark from her past.  Well, after all---she has lived in the Atlanta area since 1961, and of course has come to know the area very well.

But---she had not been down Memorial Drive in a few years and was excited to see the changes along the roadway.  We talked about old restaurants we used to frequent that are now defunct---most memorable was the all-you-can-eat, pig-out fried chicken/fish joint known as Rio Vista.  Now, Rio Vista was a legendary place.  I'm talkin' greasy, folks...which is one reason it was so darn good...especially to teenage boys and otherwise hungry locals.

Why, for about 6 bucks you could eat all you wanted of fried chicken, fish, french fries and grease-laden but delicious hush puppies.  This place was a godsend for moms of hungry teens because it was a way to fill their growling bellies while spending a pittance.  Of course, remember this was the early 1960s, so the vegan/health/green thingie was unknown at that time.

Then, we talked about the old shopping centers along Memorial Drive where we used to shop that were no longer there, replaced by other businesses as times changed.

Pretty soon, the skyline of Atlanta loomed just ahead of us, and again the ladies asked where we were going.

A long---several blocks in length---old brick and concrete wall appeared on the right side of the road.  When we came to its end, I turned right and parked.  We had arrived.  This was historic Oakland Cemetery, burial ground for Georgia's wealthy and famous and poor alike.

The Oakland Lion Symbolizes the Confederate Dead

Oakland Cemetery---named for the the many old, majestic oak trees that guard the dead throughout the property---was established in 1850 and is today the city's oldest landmark.  There is a slave section, a Jewish section, and a section for Civil War dead. 

Angels Abound

Many famous personages are entombed there---people like the great golfer, Bobby Jones; Margaret Mitchell, who authored "Gone With the Wind" ,and Maynard Jackson, first African-American Mayor of Atlanta.

Margaret Mitchell Wrote "Gone With The Wind"

Oakland cemetery is the final resting place of 26 Atlanta mayors, 7,000 Confederate soldiers, and other notable personalities too numerous to list here.  There are 70,000 graves on 48 acres.

Maynard Jackson Was The First African-American Mayor of Atlanta
The tombstones are varied and beautiful.  My mom left me in the dust as she navigated her "walker" around the curving lanes to view the enchanting stones and to view and smell the delicious aromas of flowering plants.  The day was magic.  The elevated trains of MARTA roared across the outskirts of the cemetery.  The mighty skyline of Atlanta loomed over us.  The golden dome of the state capitol glistened in the sunlight only five blocks to our west.  Groups of guided tours meandered past us.  A ceremony was taking place at the Confederate section honoring those fallen in that terrible war so many years ago.

The Great Golfer Bobby Jones

We had a marvelous tour of the old grounds, and our conversation on the way home centered on the beauty and the significance of Oakland.

The Confederate Section

When we arrived back at Park Springs, there was no time to rest.  After all, the big monthly trivia contest was beginning at 4:00, and we could not miss that!

Part of the Atlanta Skyline Looms

Now, you might think a trivia contest for folks in their 70s, 80s and 90s would be easy stuff.  But trust me, gentle reader---it is anything but.

First question:  what was the first toy ever advertised on television?

Second question:  What does the acronym LASER stand for?

You get the idea.  These folks are pretty damn smart.

Following trivia, my mom led us to the pub, where she held court and regaled her friends with tales of historic Oakland cemetery.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My morning walk.......

Over hill and dale, my morning walk takes me through woods, over grasslands, on crosswalks over paved highways and into enchanted coves.  Come with me now as we navigate the 2.1 mile paved pathway near our home.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dear Diary.......

Good morning.  It's another beautiful, clear, cool day in east Tennessee.  Looks like it's gonna be a hot summer, and it's only April now.  We totally skipped winter.  And that's a shame because I was looking forward to four distinct seasons.  Instead, we got two---summer and everything else.  Hummmph.

I.  The subject of bullying keeps coming up.  Listen---bullying will always be with us.  It begins in childhood and lasts throughout life.  Kids have to be taught to handle it, or else they will be preyed upon from womb to tomb.  The bully does his/her work because he/she can get away with it.  The bully derives a benefit from getting away with it.  The bully can be stopped only by being taught the lesson that there is NO BENEFIT.  In my opinion, the best way to teach this lesson is to bop the perp over the head with a hard object to get his/her attention, and then do it again to administer the lesson.

Otherwise, the bully will continue to bully into adulthood and old age.  As long as they are getting away with it because folks are afraid to confront them, the beat goes on.

II.  On another note, I have been thinking about the great American pastime of "acting out".  Acting out is a pattern of behavior that begins in childhood and continues into adulthood and old age.  Sound familiar?  Acting out involves an individual doing something in their life to gain a benefit that is otherwise lacking.  It is related to ego defense mechanisms.

For example:

---A spouse has an extramarital affair because he/she does not feel they are being appreciated enough by their marriage partner

---A child is a juvenile delinquent in their behavior because they do not get proper discipline at home and are seeking some kind of attention

I don't know the answer to solving this problem.  It is widespread and permeates our society.  But, I do know one thing---it is always destructive. 

III.  Cindy and I have been discussing the subject of hosting a party.  We agree that, if one is invited to a party, one should tell the host whether or not they intend to attend.  If one says he/she will attend, one should make every effort to be there.  If one cannot attend, one should say so.  No excuse is needed.

A related topic:  when entertaining, the host should have regular and decaf coffee already made.  Do not ask the guests, "Would anyone like coffee?---It's no trouble to make..."

This line makes everyone say, "No thank you" , because the guests do not want to cause the host to have to do more work than they have already done, even if they really would like a cup of coffee.

IV.  Have you ever wondered about seeing someone from your past again?  Have you noticed how the passage of time always causes you to recall only good things about that person? 

Several times I have had occasion to reacquaint with old friends I had not seen in decades.  Within minutes of our initial meetings, the bad things of their personalities came oozing back into my memory.  Yes, my friends---I am sure they felt the same way about me...

V.  You ever have regrets?  I do.  I especially regret how certain people in my life have passed away, and I feel like I was not there for them in their old age like I should have been.  I regret not being able to see/be with my grandparents more than I was.  But, I suppose everyone carries these feeling around to some extent.

VI.  Reader's Digest used to have a feature in every issue titled "My Most Unforgettable Character".  I have a few from my life.  My father-in-law.  Man, what a trip this guy was!  He was a country farmer/store owner.  Tough as nails and funny as all hell.  He was loved and hated. 

Then there were my grandparents.  Every single one of them was unforgettable.  Solid, accomplished, loaded with personality---maybe just a little of that rubbed off on me, for which I am eternally grateful.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hope For The Best...Prepare For The Worst.......

I have given thought over the past few years to the question of what would happen to the citizenry of this country in a true national emergency---a situation where there is no electricity or gas or water available in individual homes.  What would we do?

There are a number of scenarios that could lead to such a crisis.  I'll leave that speculation to others.

Of importance to me is the incredibly important question:  WHAT WOULD WE DO?

It's funny how we just don't want to think about that.  It's odd how our first reaction to this topic is that this is a subject for the lunatic fringe, because it is insane to think that could occur in the 21st century.

On the other hand, any casual student of history will  readily testify that these circumstances have happened over and over throughout our time here on this relatively insignificant planet.  You can read history books or you can read the bible.....and the same theme of mankind being subjected to all manner of severe deprivation is present time after time.

So why wouldn't we as individuals prepare for that?  It isn't difficult.  But it sure would be difficult if we were UNprepared.

I have done some research and come up with a list of supplies to stockpile for such an emergency.  Please realize that this list pertains only to me---your needs may be far different.

---Water                                                               ---Batteries
---Canned soup, Chicken, Tuna (in oil), Chili, Fruits, Beans, Vegs, Gravy (for flavoring)
---Salt, Pepper, other spices                                 ---Coffee, Tea
---Tissues (Toilet, Kleenex, Towelettes)              ---Duct Tape
---Soap, Toothpaste, Shampoo, Laundry Detergent
---Deodorant                                                         ---Floss
---Paper Plates                                                     --- Matches (Lots!)
---Electronic Fire Starters                                     ---Candles (Lots!)
---Alcohol, Drinking Variety (excellent for bartering)
---Plastic Sheeting, Tarps (for water collection, shelter, etc)
---Water Containers                                              ---Vitamins
---Aluminum Foil                                              ---Guns and Ammo
---Bleach (a varietyof uses)                               ---Crossbow + Bolts
---Alcohol, Non-Drinking Variety                    ---Short wave Radio
---Water Purification Tabs                                ---Tang or Kool Aid
---First Aid Kit                     ---Magnifying Glass (for starting fires)
---Hand or Baby Wipes (saves water)

NOTES:  I have researched canned goods.  In general, I find that canned food that has been stored at moderate temps will be edible for long (decades) periods of time.  The color and texture may change, but the nutritional value will remain.  Most commercially available canned foods have a published shelf life of two years, but as long as the cans are not bulged, dented or otherwise damaged, the contents should remain edible.  However, it is a good idea to smell before consuming!

C-Rations, WWII Era
ANOTHER NOTE:  When I was in army basic training in 1965, I was surprised/astonished to see that the C-Rations we were consuming had a manufacture date from 1943 to 1945.  Their quality was outstanding to the point that, if I had not seen the boxes they came in with the date stamped on them, I would have thought the canned goods were new.  My favorites were the canned franks and beans and the canned fruits.  My point is---don't worry too much about spoilage if you keep the canned foods in a moderate temperature.

ADDITIONAL NOTE:  Home canned goods are said to have a much shorter life-span. 

The above is a short list.  It would be impossible to include every necessity or desire, but maybe this'll getcha' started.

Many people are stocking a little bit each month, as their budget allows.

Have you ever needed to buy a necessity right after a hurricane or ice storm?  It's quite a shock to walk into a store and see that the shelves are bare.  Well, the scenario I envision is much, much worse.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dear Diary.......

Hi Diary.  How are you today?  Sorry, but I know I don't keep up with you the way I should on a regular basis, but, well, you know how things tend to get away from me.  Especially lately.  I guess I've kinda' been mentally absent the last few weeks.  But I know you'll forgive me since you always do.  Ha.

Anyway, a number of things have been on my mind.  One is the bird feeder on our back deck.  Man!---birds of every hue and feather flock around it all day and night.  My deck has become the avian focal point of the neighborhood.  An oasis, if you will, in the sea of east Tennessee's ridges and forests.

I love the birds.  I guess the cardinals are our favorites since they were the first to discover our feeder and begin using it on a regular basis.  But we also have grackles, wrens, sparrows, doves, red-winged blackbirds, blue jays, goldfinches, hairy woodpeckers, cedar waxwings, cowbirds and more.  It is great entertainment to just watch the antics of these creatures.

I will say that it is getting expensive, however---they go thru two feeder's worth a day of mixed seed.  Looks like they could at least show their appreciation by making a mortgage payment or two for me.  Hummmph.

Then there is the drama unfolding with one of Cindy's aunts.  Her husband is divorcing her after 40 something years of marriage (they are in their 70s).  The aunt is ill and the stress of her husband leaving her is overwhelming.  Funny how Cindy never heard from her until this divorce thingy came the woman wants to be friends.  Hummmph.

I got a creative streak over the past two months and have now authored 5 songs---three gospel and two country---that I am in the process of putting to music.  I especially like the gospel ones.

Cindy bought some pecans in the shell that she asked me to crack open.  I went to the garage and began hitting them with a hammer on the cement floor.  All went well until I missed the shell and hit my thumb.  Not good.

Finally got all the pecans shelled, but then noticed that I had not only cracked open my thumb but also had got pecan shell grit inside my fingernails from trying to get the meat out of the shells.  My hands and nails now look like those of a coal miner.  Sigh.

God and I made a deal a short while back---I would trust Him to take off the extra pounds I put on while I followed a mild diet.  Well, I have lost 8 pounds so far---in a month---but none in the last three days.  Now I am questioniong God's sincereity.  Moral:  It doesn't take much at all for us weak humanoids to question God.  I'm ashamed of myself, but this is not the first time this has happened.

Speaking of God, I have been reading 1 and 2 Samuel the past week.  I am always amazed at how the trickery, deception, envy, pride and all that are the same now as when these old books of the bible were written.  Nothing ever changes, does it?  Instead of learning from God's lessons and observing our own mistakes in life, we keep on doing the same sinful stuff over and over.  Hopeless.

Went with Cindy to the park after dinner last night.  We walked around the paved hiking path for thirty minutes and then got off the path because it looked adventuresome.  Ha.  Almost got lost in the woods as nightfall approached.  I got us out of the woods but I must say I was a little worried about bears, which have been seen in the area.  I told Cindy if a bear gets after us I don't have to worry about outrunning it---I only have to worry about outrunning HERsnicker.  Somehow she didn't see the humor it that.

I have kept up my workouts on a daily basis.  I got tired of the treadmill yesterday, however, and opted to instead walk briskly around the shopping center for 45 minutes.  Unfortunately, about 20 minutes into my power walk, I encountered an old geezer from the workout center who was also walking (except he was walking the speed of a turtle), and he stopped me and started telling me about his gall bladder operation and his diet and his medications blah blah blah and I couldn't get away from him for at least 15 minutes and by that time I was pissed off and had to resume my brisk walking for much longer than ordinary and from that time on I would look for him as I walked and if I saw him up ahead of me I would change my direction of walking into the parking lot to avoid him.

Of course then I was reminded of Jesus' words "What you do for the least of these you also do for me", and I was once again ashamed of myself.  Sigh.

Here are a few blog ideas I have for the future:

---Acting Out
---Hosting a Party
---Seeing Someone One More Time
---Unforgettable Characters


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Our Totally Unbelievable, Ridiculous Day!!!.......

Wow.  That's all I can think of to say.

Here's the story:  Believe it or not, Cindy has never been fishing. I mean, never been fishing in her life!

We have discussed this over the years, and I have always marveled at how someone could go through so much living, and travel, and fun...without ever having been fishing.

Anyway, on to the story...

I finally bought two nice, heavy-duty fishing rods, two good reels, some 12-pound test line for the reels, and some basic tackle.  I surprised Cindy by telling her we were going fishing!  Of course, she was ecstatic. 

I had done some investigating, and the information I garnered led me to believe we might have some luck catching a few small catfish in the Clinch River, which is near our house.

Since I don't have a boat, I figured we would just fish off a good spot on the bank for a while.  Hopefully she would get a bite, feel the magical tug of a hapless fish on the line and reel it in for her first historic catch.  I got a fried chicken picnic basket and some cold drinks in a cooler.  We stopped at the QuickSack and got two fishing licenses, and I drove us to a scenic, predetermined spot on the river.  I put up two stools I had brought from home, showed the dear lady how to bait a hook, pulled out two diet 7-Ups from the cooler, tossed the lines into the scenic river and enjoyed the feeling.

Clinch River, Near Where We Fished
We talked a little, ate some fried chicken, and watched as nothing happened with our bait.  Still, it was fun.

All of a sudden, ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE!!!

She got a bite so hard the rod jumped from her hand.  I grabbed it just before it could be pulled into the water.  My God, it was a monster fish! 

The drag on the reel spun and sang like an out-of-control  racecar.  Cindy shrieked in horror/amazement.  I hung on for dear life, dumbfounded. 

By and by, the drag eased and I gave the rod back to the Cinderoo, who had peed her pants at the excitement.  I told her to keep the rod tip up and reel, baby, reel.  Minutes turned to hours.  The denizen slowly began to move shoreward.  After two hours, we had drawn a sizeable crowd around us, as they could not help but notice the drama unfolding.  Cindy was definitely tiring, but the huge fish---whatever it was, was also obviously tuckered out, and it was being pulled closer and closer to our place on shore.

OH. MY. GOD.  When the fish got within 20 feet of us, we saw it for the first time.  It was a monster, unlike anything I have ever seen in my life.  It looked prehistoric.  It looked otherworldly.  This was a fish from the netherworld.  Whatever it was, I knew this was gonna make big headlines---and not just in Tennessee, but around the world.

It Took About 12 Guys From the Crowd to Haul the Fish Ashore
It took 12 men from the crowd around us to pull the spent beast ashore.  No one knew what it was until an old Game and Fish Officer was called.  He said it was a giant sturgeon, which had been absent from these waters for a couple of hundred years.  He said he had never seen anything like it at all, and he had been working these waters for 45 years.  The newspaper sent a photographer.  The school up on the hill let the children come down to the river to see the beast.  The University of Tennessee sent a team of Ph.Ds to make a report.  Cindy got interviewed by ABC News.  Excitement, excitement, excitement.

What a day!  And to think this was Cindy's FIRST fishing trip!  Like I said, "WOW"!!!

We paid this old geezer $20 to haul Cindy's catch to the Hatchery
It took four hours to land the big fish.  We got an old geezer in a rowboat to haul the thing up to the hatchery on the river, where we got one of the town's fish markets to dress it for us.  They said the beast weighed 480 pounds.  From that, Cindy and I netted six pounds of caviar and 150 pounds of sturgeon steaks for our freezer.  What a day!

NOTE:  On the way to our car to return home, I spotted the largest rabbit I had ever seen in the field.  I chased it down.  I thought you would all enjoy the picture of me and our new pet.