Saturday, August 15, 2015

Rattlesnake Saloon


You spend the better part of the past decade hardly having any plans at all.  Then, with no warning whatsoever, two different friends invite you to do something.  On back to back days!  Well, that weekend is shot.

Such was my lot recently.  One Friday night, we went to see the new "Vacation" movie, marking my first trip to a theater since 2013.  The following afternoon, we ventured out to a little place I like to call... 'Murica.

B-Frickin'-E.

The Alabama boondocks.

Our destination was the Rattlesnake Saloon.  I don't know why it's called that -- though I have at least a faint idea -- and I was not about to ask.

To get there, you head out U.S. 72 West, past the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, Cold Water Inn, and Dry Creek -- the latter turned out to be a blatant misnomer.  If you get to the Natchez Trace, you've gone too far.  (That sounds like a euphemism out of a bad abstinence education class.  "If you reach the female's 'Natchez Trace,' turn back immediately, cease heavy petting, and repent!")

Actually, you turn on the very same road that you do to get to the Coon Dog Cemetery.  No, that wasn't just a scene in "Sweet Home Alabama."  It exists.  And we're pretty proud of it.  If you travel there, you can see heart-wrenching epitaphs like, "He wasn't the best, but he was the best I ever had."  So carry a handkerchief.

But digress, I have.  Let's get back on our way to the Rattlesnake Saloon.

Traveling south, you'll pass "I think we're lost" and "I no longer have cell service."  About five miles after that, you take a right at "This looks like a good place to dump a body," and you're almost there.

Seems like a lot to ask, of a horse.
The parking lot is a field with an eclectic array of motorcycles, pickup trucks, people on horses, and soccer mom SUV's.  From here, you can see horse stalls, rows of campers, a general store, and two silver grain silos, which have been converted into two-story bunk houses. 

The Saloon itself is located down in a hollow.  You can walk down or ride your horse (there's a hitchin' post).  We chose option three: the "Saloon Taxi."  It's a white Ford F-250 double cab customized with wooden benches on each side of the bed.  As we left ground level and headed down a steep, winding gravel road, I thought "This must be how the Clampetts felt."   I hoped it would not be my last thought ever.

I feel like we're putting a lot of trust in the sedimentary rock
here. Rock that is obviously not averse to chemical erosion.
A kindly old gentleman drove the Taxi.  I called him "Paw" and "Jed."  I assume he was employed by the Saloon, but maybe not.  Maybe he was just an entrepreneurial old-timer out to make a buck.  So I tipped him.  A buck.

We got a table for seven and were seated outdoors.  There were about twenty-five tables located in the coolness beneath a large rock shelter.  While it was 2 o'clock on another stifling 95-degree July afternoon across most of Alabama, it must have been 15 degrees less where we ate.

The menu is fairly limited, but the food was decent.  Passing on the Skunk Rings, Snake Eyes and Tails, and Bronco Bits, for obvious reasons, I settled on the Polish Trail Dog with a side of onion rings and a lemonade.  The onion rings were a highlight.

Saloon Taxi track, BFE Alabama, circa AD 2015
For those who require a heftier portion, there is the Gigantor -- a 2 lb. burger served with a pound of fries and a half-pound of the aforementioned onion rings.  It's 45 bucks, but if you eat it all in under 45 minutes, it's free!  Then I suppose you can use the money for some Pepto, or start saving for that angioplasty which just got exponentially nearer.  So, win-win.

Now I did find out from another friend who went  later in the evening that there's really no seating policy.  If all the tables are full, you evidently have to share a table or, worse, hover behind someone and wait for them to leave.  So I'd recommend going at an odd, less crowded time.  But that's just me.  You know how I am about being around people.

After a filling meal and some good conversation, we decided to walk back to the top rather than wait for the Saloon Taxi.

There was some mention of going to visit the Coon Dog Cemetery, but I'd had enough socialization for one fiscal quarter.

So, modern day John Wayne that I am, I saddled up my soccer mom SUV and rode for home.

"Alabama, when red leaves are falling, I'll roam through your pastures with fences of rail / Alabama, when possums are crawling and hound dogs are whining and wagging their tails..."

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Circling Back

As a kid, you don't need much of a reason to be friends.  You're friends with whoever sits next to you in class, or because some kid's mom invites you to his birthday party, or because you live in the same neighborhood.

But even though there were other kids in our neighborhood, it was the three of us -- me and Chris and Chuck -- that stuck the closest.

Chris and I were only a year apart, occasional rivals but always friends.  We were Tom and Huck.  Our neighborhood surrounded by woods on three sides, the creek that ran by the sewage treatment plant our Mississippi.  (In fact, if you followed the creek long enough, it would eventually lead to the Tennessee, just on the west side of the Wheeler Dam.  We never followed it nearly that far, but we did try making a raft once.  Didn't float.)

And little Chuck, with his old man name and his shock of orange hair, a few years younger but always determined to keep up.  He was the little brother Chris and I never had, much to his chagrin I'm sure.  We picked on him mercilessly, but let anyone else try and they'd better be ready to fight.

We raced tricked out bikes around that sleepy circle, pretending they were motorcycles, Indy Cars, or the General Lee.  Played football in the empty lot, baseball with ghost men, and golf with tennis balls and utility poles for holes.  We were Joe Montana and Roger Staubach, Jack Nicklaus and Calvin Peete, Mario Andretti and Danny Sullivan.  (I was Roger, Jack, and Mario.)

We had Ataris, but almost always preferred to be outside with our imaginations.  "Red Dawn" and "The Day After" weren't just movies, but very real possibilities.  We practiced for war with pop guns, canteens, and pine cones for hand grenades.  The woods, creek, and the old rock crusher a Soviet battlefield.

We were gymnasts in the '84 Olympics, taking the swings off an old swing set, using the frame as a high bar and practicing our dismounts.  When we were thirsty, we drank water from a hose.  When we were hungry, we asked one of our moms or scrounged around someone's kitchen for cookies or a popsicle or, in especially desperate times, loaf bread.

Chris's boom box played Run DMC, New Edition, Midnight Star, and Prince & The Revolution.  And of course there was the time Chris's older sister (kinda cute, but bossy) said we should start a band and she would be our manager.  New Addition.  That was the name she came up with.  And with that, her career in talent management was over as quickly as it had begun.

Scarce was the tree we couldn't and didn't climb.  We made a thousand mudballs out of the red Alabama clay and threw them at each other, built forts out of pine straw, and used an old chicken coop as a clubhouse.  We got skinned up knees and stung by bees.  And sometimes we fought, but were always friends again by the end of the day or the next afternoon.

We heard (and repeated) cautionary tales about Mr. Sampson, the neighborhood peeping Tom who none of us had ever seen.  He was our Boo Radley.  And we steered clear of Crazy Alice. One day an ambulance was in her driveway and my parents said she had taken too many pills and then nobody lived in her house again for a long time.

Still, those never seemed like legitimate threats.  They were more like urban legends.  Stories that grew tall in the movies of a 12-year-old boy's imagination.

We picked apples from the tree in Doctor Thames backyard (without permission), and played in the playhouse that had belonged to his kids (with permission), by then all grown and moved away.  We traded baseball cards and turns riding Chris's go-kart around the circle.  Once I accidentally ran it off the road and into Mr. Sampson's yard.  I had never been so scared and never told a soul.

The world felt so much safer then.  Or maybe we were just naive.  We'd leave home and be gone for hours, our only instructions to be back in time for supper.   We rode our bikes to the sewage treatment plant, past where the paved road turned to gravel, far beyond the last house in the neighborhood.  I think about today and my nephews and how I'm afraid to even let them out of my sight.

We moved away from that neighborhood when I was 13 or 14.  Mom and Dad didn't have health insurance.  So when we had our car wreck, the bills from the resulting hospitalization and various surgeries made it so they couldn't afford the house anymore.

I remember being a little upset when we left, but of course I wasn't nearly able to grasp the gravity of it then.  We moved into a trailer across town.  Chris and Chuck came to visit a time or two, but it was never the same.

One day not too awfully long ago, I made a familiar turn beneath a blinking yellow caution light and drove back through the old neighborhood. I figured most of the people that once lived there had moved or passed on during the past almost thirty years, but I was fairly sure Chris's parents were still there.   As I passed, I noticed some kids toys in their yard.  Grandkids.  I smiled.  Next door, a house had replaced the empty lot and it made me a little sad.

That third of a mile seemed so much shorter than I had remembered, the yards smaller, the hill we coasted down on our bicycles not nearly so steep.

I came to the stop sign at the end of the loop.  Years ago, a gangly kid with sandy blonde hair and a chipped front tooth would have turned right, beginning the descent down the hill, quickly gaining speed and always a tad nervous he wouldn't make the curve at the bottom.  Not looking back.  And never really noticing any time passing at all.

But on this day, he turned left to head back to the two-lane state road, stealing one last glance in the side-view.

"Objects in mirror are closer than they appear."

If only it were so.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Brought to you by the Roman numeral XIII and the Norse god of thunder

A long time ago, in a blog not that far away, there was a weekly blog meme known as the Thursday Thirteen.  The premise was straightforward: Blog a list of thirteen things.  It could be your thirteen favorite Keanu Reeves movie quotes ("Excellent!" "Party on, dudes."), your thirteen favorite Oprah giveaways, or simply thirteen random thoughts.

With all it's alliterative allure and randomness, how could I refuse?  So I participated for a few weeks back in late 2005 and early 2006.  And here's a bit of Bone trivia: The Thursday Thirteen was how I "met" Renee (I'm pretty sure).  An encounter which has truly enriched her life (less sure).

So for old times' sake...

I.  I watched "Sharknado 3" last night.  I never saw "Sharknado 2" so I was a bit lost for the first few minutes.  Spoiler alert: The movie ends with David Hasselhoff floating off infinitely into space.  Which, coincidentally, is where I thought he had been all along.

II.  Summer TV: 200 channels and "Full House" reruns are still the best thing on at least four nights a week.

III.  Sticking with the TV theme, Monday is Luke Spencer's final day



IV.  "How do you tell somebody that you care about deeply, I told you so?  Gently, with a rose? In a funny way, like it's a hilarious joke?  Or do you just let it go, because saying it would just make things worse? ...Probably the funny way." ~ Michael Scott.  (I've been rewatching a lot of "The Office" on NetFlix lately.)

V.  I'm in between books right now.  Waiting for "West of Sunset" to come out in paperback, 'cause that's how I roll.  And wondering should I read "Go Set a Watchman." 

VI.  Dad turned 65 this week.  I bought him some Fender wall art at Hobby Lobby for his guitar/amp repair shop, then signed his card, "Love, Bone: The Fender Stratocaster of sons."

VII.  Mom slipped "POTUS" into a conversation yesterday.  Which prompted a "Whoa, whoa, whoa!  WHAT did you just say?" response from her firstborn.  "POTUS?" she repeated, sounding a tad uncertain she had used it correctly.  I continued. "First you get an iPhone.  Now, POTUS is part of your daily vernacular???"  This is a woman who cruised through the 80's and 90's never even attempting to figure out how to program a VCR.  I'm gonna need some time to process.  I don't understand the world anymore.

VIII.  "I wish you would post even more political and religious stuff on Facebook," commented no one, ever.

IX.  We went to see the musical, "Oklahoma!" last week.  I think I can sum it up in one word:  long.  It was an hour and forty-three minutes before they got to intermission!  I wasn't sure I was going to make it.  Hopefully, I scored some bonus points.  Although I may have just been making up for some previously accrued demerits.  I firmly believe some mysteries cannot be known by mortal man.

X. The same local troupe that did "Oklahoma!" is doing "As You Like It" later in the season.  I'm thinking it's a go.  After all, can one desire too much of a good thing?  And by desire too much of a good thing, I mean, accumulate too many bonus points. What sayest thou? 

XI.  In honor of the 46th anniversary of the alleged moon landing... We can put a man on the moon but we can't put a small, respectful partition between every single urinal in every single public restroom in this country?!  (Sticking with the Shakespeare theme) I think no partitions is taking this "All the world's a stage" thing a bit too far.

XII. There are 44 days until college football season.  "I can tell you who time strolls for, who it trots for, who it gallops for, and who it stops cold for."  And I can tellest thou who it dost moveth like a snail for. (Hint: It's a blogger who accrues demerits at a sometimes frightening pace.)

XIII.  I've been listening to the new Jason Isbell album.  (I had to do something to get "Oh what a beautiful moooooor-ning" out of my head.)  After the brilliance of "Southeastern," I was afraid I'd be disappointed in whatever came next.  Kinda like losing the best girl you ever had.  But music is not like women, so I needn't have worried.

Even though the album only came out this past Friday, the folks at YouTube are all over it.  This is one of my favorites so far.  The hook line is sort of a theme woven throughout the album and many of the characters he paints such vivid pictures of.  It poses one of those profound, make-you-think questions.  I know I've been obsessing over it for days now...




"Are you living the life you chose?  Are you living the life that chose you?"

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Summer: A Retrospective


Why does every year feel like the hottest summer ever?  Maybe it's just that I'm older.  Or maybe they are getting hotter, but this isn't a post on global warming.  I think we all know that's a farce perpetrated by Al Gore, the liberal media, most scientists, and the melting polar ice caps.

We're working on our 7th day of 96-degrees-plus.  Haven't hit triple digits yet, though we're hopeful for the weekend.  It gives us something to watch for, and helps break up the monotony of treating ourselves for signs of heat stroke.

I imagine it was like being on the Ark on day 39 of rain, and Noah's wife was probably like, "Dude, I'm so over rain."  But Noah was probably like, "Eh, the house is already a total loss, I'm gonna have to go to the Apple merchant to get a new abacus, may as well go for an even forty at this point."

A midsummer night's storm passed through Tuesday evening, providing a brief respite from the heat and bringing a few small tornadoes to neighboring counties.  The worst we got was having someone's trampoline blown into the road in front of my house.

It wasn't always like this.  Was it?  Summer used to seem cooler.  Plenty warm, for sure, but not my-internal-organs-are-going-to-fry-if-I-stay-outside-more-than-ten-minutes hot.  Anyway, it all got me to thinking about all the things summer used to be.  If you'll indulge me whilst I wax nostalgic for a moment...  ("As opposed to every other post you've ever written, Bone?")

----------------------

Summer was a ballpark.  Lit up six nights a week.  Never on Sunday.  (You were in church then if your momma had raised you right.)  It was something to do in a town that didn't have anything else to do but go to the Hardee's or get up to no good.  I met a few girls there and played a little ball.  I was better at the latter but the former became a lifelong pursuit.

Summer was freedom.  Being out of school.  Every night felt like Friday night.  And that sultry evening air seemed to feed the restlessness.  Windows down, radio up.  Night driving and singing loud to some old summer song.

Summer was morning trips to Mamaw's with Mom.  Taking her into town and having breakfast at the Burger Chef.  Days lived with no real concept of time.  Mom was young, Mamaw was old, and it seemed that they would always be.

Summer was the city pool.  Learning to swim at the ripe old age of... well, is that really relevant here?  The cute lifeguard who unfortunately was too old for you.  (Which, personally, I've come to find I much prefer to them being too young.)

Summer was vacations.  Mostly just to Nashville.  They were small but they were ours.  Mom and Dad were still together.  I'd sit in the back seat and add up the miles between dots in the Rand McNally.  First I got too cool to go, then too old, and then Mom and Dad weren't together anymore.

Summer was time well wasted.  Countless hours spent on video games, hanging out at the mall, riding bikes, trading baseball cards, building forts, playing basketball, or long afternoons simply being bored.  Staying up late and sleeping later.  Some might disagree, but I say remain a kid for as long as possible.  Once the real world takes hold, it doesn't easily let go.

Summer was a song.  A thousand of them, really.  Sometimes sweet and wistful, sometimes upbeat and carefree.  But always, ended too soon.


(One of my thousand favorite summer songs...)


Thursday, July 09, 2015

No-talent assclowns and such

I want you to consider the state of the world for a moment...

Now consider this: 

Weren't we all better off when Michael Bolton was still having hits?  Think about it.  Gas was cheaper.  We were all much, much younger.  Some of us were thinner.  "Full House" was still on the air.  I'm just saying.

Lots has been going on in America lately, not all of which I'm thrilled about, but more on that later.  We celebrated another birthday here in the land of liberty over the weekend.  I wore my Old Navy U.S. Flag shirt.  Which was made in Vietnam.  I would not object if you say I am patriotism exemplified.

Enjoyed some good fried Fourth of July festival food.  I know it will kill me someday.  But my thinking was, "Surely it won't be today.  And hopefully not tomorrow either."  (Because tomorrow was Sunday and I didn't want to miss the U.S. Women's soccer match due to my untimely death or anything.)

I survived.  Though things may have looked precarious at times...


I also ran a 5K, recording my slowest time ever (24:59).  It was... interesting.  No timing chip.  No bib with a number on it.  We were given pre-race instructions as follows: Run down the hill, turn right at the stop sign, then turn left at the first road.  Run until the road dead ends.  We know it's dark so there's a truck parked out there with its lights on.  When you get to the truck, turn around and come back.

One guy got lost.  He evidently took a wrong turn and it wound up costing him about two minutes.  And no, it wasn't me!  Though that would've made for a much better story.

I saw him though, as I ambled along at my 8:03 pace.  This little glow stick coming through a cornfield towards the road.  (We all had to carry or wear glow sticks because it was a night race.) I'm not sure if anyone else got lost or not, and really with no timing chip or identification bib, there would be no way to know.  So, probably.

Saturday afternoon, we went for a brief two-and-a-half-hour canoe ride.  And while the canoe did not tip over, we did manage several unintentional 360's.  (Note: These should only be attempted by paddlers who have experienced a minimum of 2 to 4 canoe trips with varying degrees of success, are not in a hurry, and are able to express their frustrations with each other without using the paddle as a weapon.)

The part of the river we were on was sparse, which played right in to my dislike of crowds, and people in general.  We only saw four kayakers, two of whom cruised by just as we were performing some of our canoe acrobatics.  And there was one group of party bargers.  They had their inner tubes tied together, were shotgunning bad beer, and screaming the words to "God Bless the USA."  God bless us, indeed.

Speaking of these United States and what's been going on here lately, I just have one thing to say:  WTF????

It's ridiculous.  And I can't believe some people are actually supporting it.  Someone even invited me to go and see one of these disgraceful "productions," which I impolitely declined.  It's an insult to my intelligence and everything I've ever been raised to believe (about comedy). 

Is this really what we want to be as a nation?  Where a suburban Boston boy can grow up the younger brother of a New Kid On The Block and go on to earn excessive wealth and a modicum of fame by co-starring in not one, but two movies alongside a talking teddy bear?!

Mmhmm, suddenly my Michael Bolton theory's not sounding so terrible, is it?


Monday, June 15, 2015

Nine days with Stephen

Empty are the hours post-Stephen
Lonely in the afterglow
Still, I'll not yet move on
For to this am I resigned
The next will ne'er sate me
As once he did


I knew of Stephen, but didn't come to know him personally until around ten years ago.  He gave me some tips on writing.  Useful tips.  Though how much and how well I've applied them is quite debatable.

Then we sort of drifted apart for a few years, as guys are wont to do.  Of course I heard things.  He was quite successful.  Me, less successful.  But I knew deep down that that never mattered to Stephen.

When we ran into each other a couple of weeks ago, it was as if we hadn't missed a step.  No, I take that back.  It was even better than before.

He was different somehow, but just as thrilling as ever.  And I realized I had matured in those ten years.  I was more equipped to handle a relationship now, the kind of commitment Stephen required.

And so we began.

Like I so often do with a new relationship, almost immediately I began to neglect friends, writing, and all other aspects of my life.  If there were a free moment to be stolen, I would spend it with him.

It's not that Stephen demands that, not in so many words anyway.  And yet he does, simply by the intensity he himself brings to the relationship.

So that's where I've been.  With Stephen.  I blame him completely.  What with his tales of time travel, the obdurate past, preventing the JFK assassination and such.  Who could resist?  Certainly not me.

As so often is the case with guys like Stephen, after only a week I could feel our time coming to an end.  Our relationship was sort of like an 842-page book, and I was already on page 627.  It was exactly like that, in fact.

Stephen lingered a couple of days more.  Then he was gone.

That love which soars the highest so often burns out the quickest.



There's a sign in front of the elementary school I pass on my way home which says, "Enjoy your summer. Read, read, read!"  Apparently their repetitive marketing/mind-control has worked, as I've been on a reading rampage the past few weeks (see above).  My most recent conquest was Stephen King's "11/22/63."  It's the longest book I've ever read (and it's not even really close).  I always feel a touch of melancholy in the days after finishing a good book.  And yes, I still buy actual books.  I haven't been converted to electronic readers yet.  They already took my cassettes and Polaroids!  I'm hanging on to these as long as I can.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Harbor bar

The harbor bar at sunset.  Those five words elicit a contented smile within me.  My blood pressure drops twenty points.

It sits upstairs, on the roof really.  There's a full restaurant below, but I never go there.  The bar is open air, providing an untainted view of the sunset over the bay bridge to the west.  You can see the cars, so tiny in the distance and completely silent, as they disappear over the bridge.  (Over the crest of the bridge, not plunging off the side or anything, just to be clear.)

It's always crowded but somehow there always seems to be an open table.  Inevitably, there's a band playing whose only redeeming quality just may be that they're not quite as bad as the last band you heard here.  But the deck is large so that if you sit far enough away, the music blends in with the hum of the crowd.

Down below, scores of people stroll along the harbor walk, excitedly boarding or disembarking from one of the many boats.  Dolphin tours, sunset cruises, fishing charters, and other sea craft, all designed to lure tourists and their vacation dollars.

A lone man stands amidst them all strumming a guitar and singing Jimmy Buffett songs for tips.  Upon hearing him, you conclude that despite all its other magnificent qualities, the harbor bar is not a music hotspot.

You think of the old cover band joke, "The more you drink, the better we sound."  Then you wonder if that really is an old joke or if you just now made it up.  If you did, you conclude that you must be a genius.  Like Einstein-level brilliant.  In fact, you decide you would like for people to start referring to you as Einstein, and not in an ironic way either.  (None of this thought process has anything to do with the two-and-a-half Shock Tops you've imbibed.)

You're not sure why you're referring to yourself in the second person all of the sudden.  Perhaps it's something geniuses do.  Your 9th grade English teacher (not to mention Jocelyn, oy!) would probably cringe.  But why should you care?  She let the girls in class call you "Elvis" the entire year.  Just because you curled your lip when you smiled and got a bad poofy haircut from your uncle who eventually wound up living near the coast for thirty years with the same male roommate.  Besides, why is your 9th grade English teacher even still reading your blog?  A little creepy, Ms. M.

(For those who may be curious, you feel you should mention that you soon returned to your 77-year-old barber for the remainder of your high school days.  And stopped using hairspray.  But thankfully, Elvis lives on forever in 9th grade yearbook photos.)

Beyond the boats, you can see the levee and seawall, and further out the Gulf, silvery and shimmering, at her most serene this time of day.

You breathe in slowly and completely, taking full advantage of the calming, mind-clearing powers of the sweet ocean air.  You savor the feel of the breeze as it chills your sun-stung skin.  (You're a guy so you try not to shiver, but it's difficult, and eventually impossible.)

Then you realize that all this, virtually everything you see, is only here because of the water. Without it, there would be no ocean breeze, no seagulls, no boats, no bay bridge, no tourists, no Jimmy Buffett wannabe, no harbor bar.

It's not a particularly profound realization, but even theoretical physicists (and those of us that should have been) have an off day now and then.  Probably.

As you amble toward the stairs to leave, your waitress runs up to you from behind.  (You had thought she was kinda cute, but had no idea she may have felt the same.)

"Hey, Einstein," she says.  But before you have time to wonder how she knew about your new nickname, you see her holding up a familiar plastic rectangle.

"You forgot your credit card."


"The King," circa 1988.

This came from a writing exercise I found on author Chrys Fey's blog.  Sage interviewed Chrys on his blog recently, which is how I made her blog-quaintance.  This particular exercise was to write anything that comes to mind involving water.  It started as a description of one of my favorite places near the ocean, then evolved (devolved?) to include a tiny bit of fiction as well.  See more writing exercises here.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saying goodbye to three-fourths of my life

I could not say what David Letterman meant to the rest of the world.  I can only try and articulate what he meant to me.

In the early days, he (and the Beastie Boys) seemed to speak directly to my teenaged soul.  I can remember Axl and I discussing the previous night's Top Ten List the next day at school, when we weren't busy writing down color-coded lyrics to "Paul Revere" and "No Sleep Till Brooklyn." 

Sardonic, absurd, non-conforming, self-deprecating, and more than a bit of a goofball -- wait, are we talking about Dave or 17-year-old me?  Even so, he somehow managed to come across as hip and cool.  (OK, yes, we're definitely talking about Dave.)

In the NBC days particularly, the surprise element of the show was off the charts.  One article I read put forth the idea of how enormous Letterman would have been on the internet and Twitter has such things been around/popular then.  I cringe at using such a cliche, but you literally never knew what was going to happen.  It made for must-see late night TV.

One of my favorite parts was when Letterman took the show to the streets of Manhattan and somehow magically made you feel as if you were there, a part of New York, the center of the world.  The show lost something as those escapades became rarer, eventually all but stopping.

It's easy to forget how the late night landscape looked when Letterman, having been passed over to succeed Carson, made the jump to CBS.  ABC was airing "Nightline."  Prior to 1993, I think CBS had a late night movie offering in that slot.  Arsenio was around in syndication.  But for the most part, no other talk show had been able to sustain for any considerable length of time opposite "The Tonight Show."  (Remember "Into the Night Starring Rick Dees?"  Me either.)

I would argue that Letterman's move and success spurred a significant shift in late night programming, for better or worse.  Pretty soon every Tom (Snyder), Dick (Dietrick), and Chevy (Chase) around were joining the party. 

All this is not to say Dave and I didn't have our issues, or that I was always a faithful viewer.  I hadn't been for awhile.  Heck, I fell asleep during the finale and had to watch the rest of it the next day on DVR.  Staying up until midnight and waking up at 7:00 when you're seventeen is slightly more exhilarating than staying up until midnight and waking up at 5:00 when you're forty-two.

And I think we all remember the Bone/Letterman online Top Ten Contest feud.  (Top Ten Little Known Facts About Santa Claus? My entry: Doesn't believe in HIMSELF.)  Unfortunately, it was overshadowed by the far-less-criminal Oprah/Letterman feud.

In recent years, the surprise element was not nearly what it once was.  The show became less funny to me.  But at the same time, Letterman became more real, more human.  (This is something Leno never quite managed, in my opinion, and I suppose maybe never wanted to.)

Letterman made very public mistakes, he had serious health problems, he became a father.  He cared and talked about world events and politics.  And I always thought his interview skills to be excellent, far and above any of his late night contemporaries.

As he sort of became the elder statesman, it seemed like he appealed to a wider audience.  At least within my test group.  Because while I didn't watch nearly as often, my Mom became one of his biggest fans.  I know she would not have even considered watching him in 1989.

"That David is so silly, isn't he?" she would say with much affection.  Rupert Jee and Jack Hanna were two of her favorites.  And anytime Regis and Letterman were on together, it was the highlight of her month.

I wonder what she'll do now, what she'll watch, as she doesn't seem to care for or get any of "those kids on there now."

I can hardly remember a time when there wasn't a David Letterman on television.  For thirty-three of my forty-two years, there has been.  And then it hits me, I'm not writing about what his show meant to me.  Instead, in all selfishness, it's about what his retirement signifies:  The inescapable passing of time.

And all you can do is remember, and say goodbye.  To the gap-toothed smile, the tossing of pens at cameras, and those years of your life.


"And I wonder when I sing along with you / If everything could ever feel this real forever / If anything could ever be this good again..."

Friday, May 15, 2015

Farmer Bone

I've always said I wanted a garden.

Turns out just saying it doesn't mean it gets dug, planted, watered, blessed by a priest, and whatever other steps are involved in facilitating fresh vegetables springing forth from God's green.

No, it's kinda like saying you want to climb Mt. Everest.  It's a nice thought, but unless you buy climbing gear, do numerous smaller climbs to prep, happen to know a good Sherpa, and many other steps I'm sure, your chances of ever scaling the Lhotse Face are slightly less than your chances of winning the Powerball.

After moving in to the house and actually having a yard for the first time in twenty years, my agricultural dreams -- unlike most of my other dreams -- seemed on the verge of coming true.  Time and home improvement projects would not allow for it last year.  So all winter I set my sights on this spring.

Then it rained for approximately 28 of the first 25 days in April and apparently standing water, while ideal for starting the world's largest natural mosquito habitat and malaria hotspot, is not good for planting.

There was also an issue finding a tiller.  While many people I know have a garden, not a single one had a tiller I could borrow.  "Oh, John Brown comes over and plows ours every year."  Unfortunately, I didn't know John Brown from... well, John Brown.  And even if I had, I'm fairly certain his tractor wasn't fitting through the four-foot wide gate in my back fence.

Renting a tiller didn't work, either.  We'd reserve one, but then had to call and cancel.  Again because of that pesky little 28 days of rain.

Then one day it hit me: If there was going to be a garden, I was going to have to dig it myself.

There are few realizations I hate more than the one where you realize if something is going to get done, you are going to have to be the one to do it.  It's right up there with "I'm going to have to confront this person" and "This toilet water is rising instead of going down" amongst my least-fave realizations of all-time.

But I was going to have to do it.  Old school.  By hand.  Like MacGyver.  Surely you remember that time MacGyver had to dig his own garden?  No?  Maybe it was one of the lost episodes.  Pesticides and hormones in commercial produce were the enemies.

Yes, I would MacGyver a garden right there in my own backyard.  First step?  Go to Lowe's and buy a shovel.   (This was the last season of the series when MacGyver was just mailing it in mostly.  It was sad to watch.)

Then I started digging.  And digging.  And digging. I dug a hole about 9 feet by 6 feet and roughly a foot deep.  It gave me a whole new appreciation for those people on "Forensic Files" who dig a hole to bury a body.  Unlike those lazy criminals who just dump it off the side of the road and down into some ravine.

I dug so much I got a callous!  My first, I believe.  Thankfully, some Aveeno did wonders for that.  (I'm pretty sure Aveeno was probably a big sponsor of MacGyver.  And now we know why.)  

My hamstrings hurt like they'd been beaten a thousand times with a cane by one of those women you saw on a video you accidentally came across years ago on the internet who whip people for sexual gratification.  But you could only watch like four seconds of it because it was 1998 and you still had dial-up.  Not that you tried.  I never remember MacGyver having hamstring problems.

During my 72-hour hamstring recovery period, I was able to ponder my next move, which would obviously be implanting my seeds into Mother Earth.  Though exactly when and how deeply I was unsure.  I asked, but again, there didn't seem to be a single garden Sherpa amongst my circle of family and friends.

But I'd forgotten about one friend that I knew.  The garden Sherpa warehouse: Lowe's.

And suddenly I was shoveling manure, per their advice.  Two 50 pound bags of pure cow malarkey.  I always figured I'd wind up shoveling manure at some point in my life, I just never thought it'd be voluntary.  (MacGyver refused to do the manure shoveling scene, which I believe is why the series was canceled.)

Finally it was time to impregnate the Earth.  Which I did, with seeds I had purchased from another man.  (It briefly occurs to me that perhaps there is a better way to phrase this?)

With lotioned hands and hopeful heart, I now wait for God to give the increase.  For the Earth to swell and spring forth with pesticide-free vegetables, which I and "Chad" from Lowe's hath made together.

The miracle known as life.

"Hey farmer, farmer, put away that DDT now / Give me spots on my apples / But leave me the birds and the bees, please..."

Sunday, April 12, 2015

How will you spend eternity?

I didn't mean to scare you.  I just wanted to check in, really.  Make sure you know I'm still here.  That I'm not going on another one of my Tony Geary-esque three month hiatuses.  Side jobs got a little busy this week.  Plus, I'm poeming once a day for National Poetry Month.  It really is true what they say, a poem a day keeps other blogs posts away.

Also, I continue to name my future children.  (I'm really gonna have to get on the ball to get all this begatting done.)  My latest adventure in nomenclature has yielded yet another gem.  Are you ready for it?

Annie.

Little orphan Annie.  Annie, get your gun.  Annie freakin' Lennox!  Annie are you OK, so Annie are you OK, are you OK, Annie?!  It's classic.  I think she'll fit right in with little Luke and Adrian.

Picture, if you will, a dad and daughter walking hand in calloused hand through an overgrown meadow.  OK, so it's more of a yard that the dad hasn't mowed in four days, but it looks like it's been three weeks.  That's because the dad put out some Miracle-Gro a couple of times to try and save a fledgling tree, never once considering it would cause the grass to grow like the ever-loving national debt.

Anyway, back to our story.  The daughter pauses to ask one of those age-old questions that kids ask sometimes.

"Daddy, what's that three-foot tall purple thing growing by the house?"

Now that could have been a stumper.  But little does she know he's been waiting for this moment for years.  He looks down into those trusting eyes, pulls out his phone, swipes it from camera to video so that he can Facebook this immediately afterward, and responds with four words he's practiced and perfected.

"That's poke salad, Annie."

Sigh.  Raising my future children is so rewarding.  Will be, I mean.

I thought I'd close today with a short poem from my NaPoWriMo collection, a little cross-pollination if you will.  Also, ideally, this will help explain where the title of my post came from.


Beyond the blue
If I make it somehow
That first day

While everyone else
Is in a scurry to
See the Savior

I'll search out
He who built the ark
To discuss mosquitoes


"Every day 'fore supper time / She'd go down by the truck patch / And pick her a mess of polk salad / And carry it home in a tow sack..."

Sunday, April 05, 2015

A Confession over Coffee

I don't know where I was that day.  Maybe I was hanging out by the immaturity booth trying to get an extra dose.  Perhaps some fig-leaf-clad hottie was distracting me with her forbidden fruit.  Whatever it was, this much is certain:  I was nowhere to be found when they were handing out coffee-making ability.

I suck at it!

You've heard of the little engine that could?  I'm the little barista that couldn't.

Let's delve into a little of my history with the wakey juice.  It's probably important to start by mentioning that at one point I thought you poured the water directly into the filter.

And then I turned thirty-four.

Far too often, (read: almost always) me attempting to make coffee somehow winds up with grounds in the coffee.  And not like one or two grounds.  We're talking a multitude of grounds.  The best part of waking up is... well it's definitely not that.  Logically, I know the grounds are not supposed to drip into the pot, but I don't know how to stop it from happening.

At work, since I'm the first one to arrive every morning, the secretary used to get the coffee pot ready to go before she left in the evening.  Then all I had to do was plug it in when I got there in the morning.  Fortunately, even I couldn't screw that up.

Unfortunately, she quit in December.  So now we don't have coffee in the morning until someone besides me gets to work.

I even called the publishers of the "...for Dummies" series.  "I'm sorry, sir.  There is no 'Coffee for Dummies' book.  There's just no demand for one."

"Oh yeah?  Well there's no demand for your mother!" (I didn't really say that.  Curse my non-confrontational, Maxwell-House-challenged self!)

In my very frail defense, I haven't tried to make it that many times.  Only twice in the last two years.  Last year, I even texted a friend and asked for careful step-by-step instructions.  She texted back exactly how much water to add, how much coffee, and.... well that's pretty much it, I guess.

Then...

I'm not sure what happened. (This is a common theme with me and coffee.)  Coffee was leaking out of the top of the maker.  There were grounds running down the side of the pot and onto the counter.  I was pretty sure the whole thing might explode at any second.  I thought maybe the coffee maker was broken.

It wasn't.

Over the next months, I was careful to watch when others would make coffee.  Where did they put the water?  Where did they put the coffee?  How did they turn it on?  Were animal sacrifices to appease the coffee gods involved?

Fast forward to this past Sunday.  The urge struck me again.  I, foolishly, felt confident.  I'm a grown man, theoretically.  There is no way I can continue screwing this up.  Even the worst barista lucks into a perfect cup now and again, right?  So I hopped back up on that deceptively complicated horse.

And...

After about ten minutes, there were only a couple of drops in the bottom of the pot.  Intuitively sensing something was wrong, I opened the top to find the water was in the filter -- which is not where I put it, by the way, this time -- and on the verge of overflowing!  What in the world is going on with my life!?!?!?

Eventually, I found that if I pushed down harder on the top of the coffee maker, the coffee would come out.  Albeit that meant grounds and all by this point.  Naturally.  

But something had clicked.  I mean, literally.  The top of the coffee maker had clicked when I pressed down on it.  That must be the key.  So I decided to give it one more chance.  Yes, I'm giving the coffee one more opportunity to behave as it should, because clearly it is the coffee that is underperforming and not me.  I cleaned out the pot -- I'm sorry, the "carafe."  Perhaps if I speak like a barista, I'll become one.

I pushed down.  I heard the click.  (These may be my two most phenomenal sentences ever.)

Wait....what's that?  Could it be?  Yes, yes, I believe it is!  I'm making coffee.  It's coming out!!!  (That's what she said.)  And the best part of all?  There didn't appear to be any grounds in it. My great-great-great-great-uncle Bone Valdez, if there is such a man, would be so proud.

I poured myself a cup, with just a bit of milk, and 3-4 heaping teaspoons of sugar, of course.  I felt accomplished.  So this is what making coffee is like for everyone else in the world.

And then, I tasted it.

The chemical formula for caffeine is C8H10N4O2.  This was more like... 10W30.

Ah well, at least my "pistons and valves" should be good to go for another three months or three thousand miles.



"I like my sugar with coffee and cream..."

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Roots



Us two
Fighting, at first
For the same ground
To escape the other's shadow
Then maturing
Content in our own petals
Yet forever sharing
An undeniable resemblance
Always side by side
Until someone
Picked you
Took you away
But if e'er you should miss me
Return to your roots
I am always here
Your sibling



April is National Poetry Month.  I am going to attempt to poem each day at my Poetry Wrecks site, home for wayward lyrics and disadvantaged poetry.  If I like any of them, I may cross post here, as I have done with this one.  For this, I was given an image of two flowers and challenged to write a 55-word free verse poem.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Act the Second

(This is the conclusion to a story I began a couple weeks ago.  If you missed part one, you can check it out here.  Unless you're a member of law enforcement, in which case, there's really nothing to see.  I consider this a motivational story.  As in, it motivates me to post something else soon so this won't be the first thing people see when they come here.)

Punishment was swift.

The following Monday, most of the student body was in the gym for the intramural finals.  The principal walked in and pointed at the three of us -- Axl, Neil, and myself --and called us to his office.  We unceremoniously made our way down the bleachers and out of the gym in front of all our peers and every girl I'd ever made out with or wanted to.

Actually, if I hadn't had the worst game of my life in the intramural semifinals the week before, we probably would've been playing and they'd have had to stop the game to pull me out.  So, it could have been worse.

When we got to the office, I saw LJ first.  He had graduated the prior year.  They had contacted him and made him come back to the school!  This had to be bad.

Then we were led into another room -- the actual principal's office -- where sat the middle school principal, Mister Mims.

He was Ferris Bueller's Rooney, The Breakfast Club's Vernon, and every other self-important school administrator starving to wield what little power they'd been afforded rolled into one.  I was certain he had waited for this day his whole life.

The basic gist of the meeting was that we would perform 100 hours of "community service" which would largely be made up of painting the middle school.  In exchange, he wouldn't press charges, nothing would go on our record, and we would all be able to graduate as planned.

It seemed like a power play then, and still does.  Intimidation and scare tactics at their best.  I'm sure they needed someone to paint the school.  Here was a chance to get someone to do it for free.  But what choice did we have?  Felt like none.

They had also contacted our parents.  Axl and I would miss our senior trip, to the beach.

And so that became the summer we learned to paint, and bonded, with each other and with the middle school custodian, Ms. Bullard.

Ms. Bullard was sort of a manly woman.  Not all that fetching.  It wasn't hard to imagine her in younger days plowing ten acres nine months pregnant, stopping to squeeze out triplets with no medicinal assistance, then going right back to plowing.

She was no nonsense, but good as gold.  I got the feeling she didn't agree with the principal's punishment, and she made that summer as bearable as possible while still ensuring we got some painting done.

One thing I remember most about that summer are the days when every single thing she said seemed to be a euphemism for something sexual.  OK, so most days are probably like that when you're seventeen.  But this one day, she was having a problem with the tractor (seriously, like a lawn tractor, she was mowing) and had Axl and I on the ground looking underneath it.

"Do you see anything sticking out?"

"Just feel around under there until you find it."

"Don't make me have to get down on my hands and knees."

On and on it went, for like ten minutes.  I swear she was doing it on purpose.  If ever I was going to pee my pants from laughter, that would've been the day.

Another thing I remember about the summer is that somehow LJ had managed to keep the whole ordeal hidden from his parents.  When we found this out, we began "accidentally" splattering paint on him so they'd figure out something was going on.

To counter this, he started bringing extra clothes every day and changing in the car before he went home.  That's when one of us got the wise idea to call his parents, and when they said he wasn't home, we'd say "Oh, is he not back from painting the school yet?"

It seems like a crappy thing to do now, but guys are like that sometimes.  We rag each other incessantly, make up fun games where we punch each other in the upper arm to the point of bruising, and sometimes... tattle on each other like whiny babies.  Evidently.

Mostly I just remember the hours.  The painting.  The long days.  The camaraderie.  Talking about anything and everything to pass the time.  Listening to the radio.  You haven't lived until you've sung "Daytime Friends" by Kenny Rogers out loud with three of your best male friends while sweating profusely in the June Alabama humidity at what amounts to little more than a glorified work release camp.

When it was finally over, I can remember a feeling of "what do I do with all this free time now?"  I might've even had a touch of Stockholm syndrome.  It's easy to understand how people who are in prison for a long time can no longer function on the outside. 

I suppose the worst part of it all was disappointing my parents.  And Neil's mom.  Neil was two years my junior.  She had always trusted me to look out for him, and I had let her down.  One day when I knew he wasn't home, I went over and apologized to her face to face.  She forgave me absolutely and completely, I know.  Still, few times have I ever felt lower.

And of course, missing my senior trip seemed like the worst thing in the world.  It would be another five years before I saw the ocean for the first time.

Despite all that, most of the negative feelings have simply faded away with time.

Someday when I recount this tale for my great-grandchildren -- running a paint roller up and down LJ's shirt, Ms. Bullard and the tractor, getting to see the inside of an actual teacher's lounge -- one of them (while marveling at how sharp my memory is for a 104-year-old) will ask, "Sir Bone (I get knighted in my swingin' sixties), why are you smiling?"

And I'll reply with a hint of a gleam in my eye...

"Not now, what's-yer-name.  Go play in the yard or something.  It's time for my bi-hourly nap."

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Saucy

When a man looks into the not-so-distant future and sees himself being with one, and only one, woman for the rest of his life, it can be a staggering realization.

He begins to have thoughts he's never had before.  As he senses his window of opportunity closing, he may be tempted to have one final fling before the day to end all dalliances arrives.

In extreme cases, he may give in, trying various other women.  Some he's had before, some he hasn't.

I speak from experience.

It seems strange that this is me -- a guy whose first time didn't happen until he was fifteen.  It was at a friend's birthday party.  We had gone to Pizza Inn to celebrate.  One thing led to another.  It was new and different, but I had no doubt I wanted to experience it again.

If you're not following -- and really, how could you be -- this has all been a reverse euphemism... for pizza.

My favorite pizza place within a five-galaxy radius, Marco's, is opening a store in my town this summer.  Just the mention of it elicits a Pavlovian response.  I'm as excited as a 10-year-old girl backstage at a One Direction concert.  (Analogies like this, that's what makes me beautiful?)

But Niall, Liam, Harry and those other two guys have nothing on the fresh, juicy toppings, sublime crust, and sinful cheesy bread that I will soon be ingesting on a far-too-frequent basis.  There's also the award-winning (Wikipedia's adjective, not mine) White Cheezy.  Or as I like to call it, the Kate Upton of pizzas.

I think that must be why, within the past week, I've had pizza three times at three different places, including twice in one day!  My subconscious knows that soon I will never be with another woman, er, pizza place, again.

I've become a pizza slut.  Doing whatever it takes to obtain new and different marinara. And they don't even have to be good-lookin' pizzas, either.

Last Sunday afternoon, I had a pizza with potatoes on it.  Potatoes, people!  What in the name of Papa John is going on?

This is what comes from realizing you will soon be spending the remainder of your days loving just one pizza place.

To be honest, I'm most worried about my weight.  I think we've all seen what happens to a lot of guys after they get married.  Amiright?

I'm kinda hoping they'll have a walk-up window.  With a treadmill.  Run while you wait.

Otherwise, I may have to jog to Canada and back, twice a year, just to keep my weight somewhere between slightly stocky and morbidly obese.

Of course if I did that, I could stop on the way and visit the original Marco's location in Oregon, Ohio.

It's a sort of mecca for chubby guys like me.

"When the moon hits your eye / Like a big pizza pie / That's amore / When the world seems to shine / Like you've had too much wine / That's amore..."

Thursday, March 05, 2015

A Tale Not Proudly Told

I suppose I can write about it now.  Enough time has passed.  Although you can never be too careful with stuff like this.  But I think it's safe now, what with the statute of limitations and all.

It was the spring of my senior year of high school.  Must have been well into April, perhaps even early May.  I only say that because it was warm that night.

Six of us -- Archie, Ben, Neil, LJ, Axl, and I -- had gone to town.  Well, the next town over.  I don't remember for sure what we did, maybe went bowling or something.  I would say we went to the mall, we were always doing that, but that wasn't Archie's sort of thing.

On the way over, we were joking Axl that one of the teachers was gonna have the middle school gym open that night for basketball.  He did that sometimes, just not tonight.  But that really got Axl going.  He believed us.  And he wouldn't let it go, even on the way home from bowling.

First I should say, we were in two cars.  Archie had borrowed his brother's Corvette.  Who lets their 17-year-old brother borrow their Corvette?  But he had.  I don't remember who drove the other car, it's not really important, other than to say it wasn't me or Ben.  And it dang sure wasn't a Corvette.

At that time, Neil would've had a black Hyundai hatchback, before anybody even knew they made Hyundais.  We used to con him into letting one of us drive it, because he didn't know where he was going half the time.  We'd have to stop a few blocks before we got home and switch back so his parents wouldn't know.  Axl captained about a 1974 Oldsmobile houseboat-on-wheels, from back in the good old days when they still made cars that seated eight comfortably, and wouldn't fit in one lane.  I would've been in the gold, four-door '85 Cavalier I'd "inherited" from my parents, but like I said I didn't drive that night.

I know I didn't drive because I remember Ben and I fought over who had to ride back with Archie.  I don't even know why, other than it would have been more fun to ride in a car with four than just you and Archie.

Archie wasn't a bad guy.  He wasn't.  He was just... Archie.  He would get all mature on you sometimes.  But just sometimes.  His family was well-to-do.  His dad had started some industrial supply company and they were the first ones to sell those big arctic cooling fans that NFL teams used on the sidelines.  I mean, surely they weren't the first, but that's what Archie told us anyway.  I don't know, maybe they were the first.  But he really wasn't a bad guy.  Not in the least.

So Ben rode with Archie, and the rest of us rode back together, and we went to the drive-in restaurant, the six of us in two cars.  Then, because Axl just wouldn't let it go, even though we told him they weren't shooting basketball at the gym that night, we decided to take him over there so he would drop it.

At some point, we must have gone and gotten our own vehicles -- Axl, LJ, Neil and myself -- because I remember all our cars were parked outside the gym.  Somehow we beat Archie and Ben over there.  And being sophisticated as we were, we decided we'd run down to the old football field and hide on the bleachers so they couldn't find us.

The middle school used to be the high school, and the old football field was just an empty lot they used for a playground at recess.  But on one side, there were these concrete bleachers built into the side of a hill.  So we all laid down where they wouldn't be able to see us.  They looked and looked and hollered for us, then finally gave up and decided to leave.  We all thought it was the most hilarious doggone thing ever.

That's one thing about being seventeen.  The stupidest things are funny.  Maybe that's why seventeen is such a magnificent age.  Actually, I think most of us were eighteen.  But saying we were seventeen sounds better.  It makes it all seem a little more excusable.

In hindsight, Archie and Ben leaving turned out to be... what's the opposite of fortuitous?  Because Archie would have been our moral compass.  There's no doubt in my mind about that.  I think Neil would have objected, too, had he not been two years younger than us.  But as such, he didn't speak up much.  I didn't think his mother would ever forgive me for what we were about to do, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and all.

The recently-departed Ben oft regaled us with stories of guys -- older guys -- who were always sneaking into the gym on Saturdays to shoot ball.  Ben grew up in a house across from the school.  And not even across a road, just a dead-end alley.  I spent the night at his house when my sister was born.  Well, that was after I threw up in the waiting room at the hospital.  God forbid I miss a day of second grade.

Apparently, the back door to the gym used to be broken or something and you could get right in.  But that was Saturday -- "day" being the key syllable there.  I think you see where this is going.

We tried the door.  It was locked.  Had Ben lied?  Surely not.  Probably they had fixed the lock sometime in the past ten years was all.  

This is another thing about being seventeen, at least for me.  We were always looking for a place to play basketball.  It could be an old goal in the dirt in somebody's backyard, an outdoor court with no net at a local church, or, in this case, a locked gymnasium.

So there we were on a warm spring night 'neath the Alabama stars, a few weeks yet until graduation, the real world seemingly still far away.  An entire gymnasium with its two beautiful basketball goals, just sitting there, beckoning to us from the other side of a brick wall, a locked door, and some windows.

Ah yes, the windows.  Those big tilt-out windows that gyms always have.  Did I mention several of them were open?

I'm not sure how long we debated it.  I do remember having qualms.  Not many qualms, but a couple of qualms.  I think poor Neil may have even objected at first.  But peer pressure's idiocy knows no bounds.  So after ten or fifteen or thirty minutes, the four of us, a real crack group of world-class decision-makers mind you, settled upon a plan.

We would hoist Neil up to the ledge by one of the open windows.  He was probably about 5'10" and fairly slight of frame.  He would be able to climb through the window, make his way over to turn on the lights, then let us in the back door.  I don't recall why, but we seemed fairly confident the back door would open from the inside. 

It did.

And there we were -- in basketball xanadu!

We started out playing some "21," then two-on-two, and eventually broke off into two games of one-on-one.  I was taking on Axl, while LJ and Neil went at it on the other end.  I don't remember much about the basketball portion of the evening, which is a bit strange, as it is the whole reason for the story.  I just remember Neal kept killing LJ.

He would yell things like, "Bone, I beat him 21 to 4."  "Bone, I beat him again." "Bone."

"Bone!"

I had stopped even listening.  Then both their voices -- LJ and Neil -- were yelling my name.

"Bone!!!"

To this day, I never knew why they yelled at me.  I mean, why not Axl?  We were the same age.  Heck, he was four months older even.  Why did I have to be the ringleader?  But I was.

Axl and I stopped our game.  We turned to see what they wanted.  And there, at the far end of the court, stood two women.

I recognized one as a teacher.  Turns out they both were.

Suddenly the real world had gotten awfully close.

Evidently one of the teachers had been driving by the school and saw every light in the gym was on, you know, because it was night time and all!

Drat!  The only flaw in our plan, and it had come back to bite us in the hindquarters.

They had an intriguing question for us: "What are ya'll doing in here?"

Neil, bless his heart, replied with the innocence of a child (which legally, he still was).

"Playing basketball?"

We would laugh about that part later, but I swear I could not have mustered even a whimper in that moment.  I'd have been less terrified if there had been Soviet paratroopers landing outside the gym.  I'd seen "Red Dawn" so I knew how to handle that.

Then Axl began trying to talk his/our way out of it, saying we thought the other teacher, the one we kidded him about, was going to be up there that night.  That old boy, I swear.  Once in 9th grade English class, he made up this whole book report about a book that didn't even exist.  If that wasn't enough, when Archie told the teacher the book didn't exist, she said pensively, "No.  I think I may have heard of that book." 

Axl could always, and still can, talk his way out of almost anything.  But he wasn't talking his way out of this.

The teachers told us to get out and that this better never happen again.  I'm not sure if they were yelling, but it sure felt like they were.  We scampered to our cars.

I bet it took me about twelve hours to fall asleep that night.  I hoped that would be the end of it.

It wasn't.


"Seventeen, only comes once in a lifetime / Don't it just fly by wild and free / Goin' anyway the wind blew, baby..."

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Snow Fell on Alabama

There's a rare mingling of sensations with a new-fallen snow.  Fresh yet familiar.  Excitement mixed with a remarkable quiet.

And every time feels like the first time.

Only a few things in life are like that, I think.  Christmas is like that.  The day you feel the first hint of fall in the air.  Sunsets are a bit like that. The beginning of college football each year is like that for me.

And here in the South, snow is like that.

After many letdowns and missed predictions the past two weeks, we finally got a beautiful, snowman-able snow on Wednesday.  And it was even more than they had predicted.  (I like to think of our local weather forecasters in terms of a Dos Equis commercial: "We don't always correctly predict when it's going to snow, but when we do, we severely underestimate the amount.")

It began around 2 o'clock in the afternoon and by sunset (when I went out to measure) we had nearly seven inches.  It continued to snow, though a bit lighter, until I went to bed.  My guesstimate would be we got around 9 inches.

So deep it was that I didn't go into work Thursday morning.  Anyone who knows me knows it takes an act of Congress for me to miss work.  (OK, so I actually did go in for about two hours around lunch.  Apparently there was a filibuster.)

Here are a few pics from our veritable winter wonderland...

"In the lane, snow is glistenin'..."

Where there's snow, there must be snow creme.

This looked like a postcard, except with poorer resolution.  Much, much poorer.

Hard to believe in a month, this yard will be covered with grass. And mosquitoes.

With apologies to Arthur Miller, I call this one "Death of a Snowman." (Biff Snowman?)
I'm sure it's comical for those in northern climes to see how we in the South react to snow.  Schools close.  Roads close.  (All roads were deemed impassable sometime Wednesday evening.)  Heck, even the Walmart closed this time.

People scurry to the store to stock up on milk, bread, and eggs like it's 1848 and they're at Independence, Missouri, stocking up the wagon for the arduous, months-long trip to the Willamette Valley.

And then there's the driving.

One guy had gotten stuck attempting to back out of his driveway.  This idiot had foregone shoveling any snow and somehow maneuvered his car to where it was now nearly perpendicular to the driveway.  So he was out there shoveling (It was more of a spade, really.  I mean, let's call a spade a spade, eh?) and had some poor woman out there attempting to help him, except she was using a garden hoe.  I can only assume she felt sorry for the hopeless sap.

It's not difficult to imagine every single person that passed during that twenty-minute ordeal were laughing heartily.

As for me, I didn't laugh.  But I was pret-ty sore the next day from all the shoveling.

"Forty-six, anechoic / Forty-seven, blown from polar fur / Forty-eight, vanishing world / Forty-nine, mistral despair..."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Music Monday: Horizons

It's twilight.  Chilly, but not awful for February.

The forecast is calling for 4 to 6 inches of snow tomorrow.  Of course, we've had approximately eleven winter weather advisories in the past fourteen days, and it has snowed exactly once.  All of a quarter-inch.

The night is mostly clear.  Here on the outskirts, half a mile from the city limit sign, it's dark enough to enjoy the evening sky.

Venus is the most radiant.  Hanging above the western horizon.  I realize my knowledge of Earth's sister planet is limited.  I know that's where women are from and that's pretty much it.  Then I remember a couple of ex-girlfriends I haven't heard from in years, and assume they must have returned to the mother planet.

Barely visible at Venus's five o'clock is Mars.  The two are so close together!  I enjoy the spectacle.  And wonder how Earth looks from there.

When I think of Mars, I always think of George Bush saying we're going to send a man to Mars, which leads my mind to Will Ferrell as George Bush, and I smile.

Overhead, I find the well-adorned Orion with his belt of three stars.  I see Betelgeuse. Then to the left and a bit lower, there is Sirius.  

Using a star gazer app on my phone, I am able to locate Jupiter in the eastern sky.  This makes me think of the movie "2010: The Year We Make Contact" and the message: "All these worlds are yours except Europa.  Attempt no landing there.  Use them together.  Use them in peace."  I shake my head at how I can remember that line exactly, yet can't ever seem to remember much else.

An airliner in a holding pattern circles overhead.  It looks for all the world like it will knock Jupiter right out of the heavens.  I watch to see if it will eclipse the planet, but its turn takes it barely below.

By now, my neck has begun to hurt from all the craning.  I think about how difficult it must have been for sailors in olden days, what with all the no-stargazing-and-sailing distracted boating laws.  And it strikes me that I may have just inadvertently solved the Titanic mystery.   

As I start to go in, my last view is of the horizon.  It's one of my favorite views.  Giant trees, skeletons of winter, against the evening sky.

Horizons.  It feels as if I'm standing squarely between two right now. 

I am in the midst of quite a lot of changes -- in life, not with my blog template -- and likely more are on the way.  As one who typically loathes and fights change, it seems all the more strange that this is me -- calm, content, and at peace with it all.

On the one side, I see the hope and challenges of tomorrow with its untested waters and brand new adventures.

On the other, the light has begun to fade on the day that was, with its different adventures, misadventures, familiar paths and beautiful indiscretions.  The people and places from these days evermore sewn into my soul.

So as much as I'm looking forward, and I am, there will always be times I will look back.  With a smile in my heart and nostalgia in my eye.

For I have loved these days.



"We're going wrong, we're gaining weight / We're sleeping long and far too late / And so it's time to change our ways / But I've loved these days..."

Thursday, February 19, 2015

XLII

The more I think about being born in February, I'm convinced my mother planned it that way, neatly nestled in the vast dead period between football season and the next football season.  I was a month early, but still it was post-Super Bowl.  I'm sure her thinking was, "OK, football's over, The Waltons is a rerun this week, let's go ahead and get this over with."

Sometime last week, the calendar reminded me I had clicked off another year.  Forty-two.  Which doesn't seem all that significant until you learn that is exactly one third of the way to my goal of one hundred twenty-six.

You think Betty White is a riot in her nineties?  Just wait until Bone in his hundred-aughts, and hundred-teens.  Hilarity shall ensue.

This also marked the year I officially turned into my dad with regards to gift requests.  I couldn't think of a single thing I wanted/needed.

Save for t-shirts.

And socks.  (I refuse to ask my mother to buy me underwear.)

No one makes a big deal about your age when you're my age.  I mean, I'm already old enough to run for President.  I can't get my AARP membership for eight more years (though judging by the number of mail-outs I have been receiving for awhile now, their advance recruitment efforts are unequaled).

Turning forty-two, it isn't like anyone says, "Ooo, you're twice the legal drinking age!  Don't do anything I wouldn't do!"

But it's not bad.

My birthday morning started with a call from Nephew Bone, who serenaded me with "Happy Birthday."  Minutes later, I played my highest-scoring word ever in Words With Friends (not against Nephew Bone).  The word ("stripier") wasn't all that impressive, but the 149 points was decent.  I basked in the afterglow of that achievement clean through lunch.  (Some would suggest I'm still basking.)

With grave apologies to the Hemingway estate, I suppose you could say the remainder of my birthday was a moveable feast.

Birthday night was dinner out with my dad and step-mom at a Mexican restaurant.  I had the shrimp burrito.  Then Friday night, we drove up to Nashville to meet friends at Famous Dave's.  Ribs, catfish, collard greens, and slaw.  Things wound down with Sunday dinner at mom's, or as I like to call it, Fat Sunday.  There were pork chops, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, cucumber salad, and more.

Desserts sampled at one point or other during the four-day Carnival de Cholesterol included chocolate cake, apple cobbler, pineapple upside down cake, and a glazed creme-filled doughnut from Krispy Kreme.  (Hey, it's right by the Famous Dave's!  I was raised that when you're that close to a Krispy Kreme, it's impolite and possibly even sinful not to go.)

For Lent, I'm giving up my aversion to angioplasty.  Evidently.

I'm sure everyone says the same thing, but I don't feel forty-two.  I feel twenty-five.  Granted, a twenty-five-year-old who struggles to stay up past 10 p.m. most nights.  But also one who has grown to appreciate the value of life's simpler pleasures, like long naps, sunsets, liquid Maalox.

And new socks.

Here's to the next eighty-four years.

"The truth about a mirror / Is that a damned old mirror / Don't really tell the whole truth / It don't show what's deep inside / Or read between the lines / And it's really no reflection of my youth..."

Friday, February 13, 2015

J-Lo's Loss is Every Man's Gain

I hadn't thought of him in years.

Sure, I had the single for "I Need to Know."  (Tell me, baby girl, who didn't?)  I knew he had been married to Jennifer Lopez and vaguely recalled hearing about their separation and impending divorce.  But until this moment, standing next to the corner display table in the men's section of Kohl's department store, I realized I'd never really known the man at all.

The man I'm speaking of is Marc Anthony.  And this is the story of how he changed my life.  Or at least my early forties.

It all began a couple of years ago, sitting on a couch in Anytown, USA, watching the ABC sitcom "The Middle."  That's when I noticed that I owned (and frequently wore) the exact same shirt as one of the actors.  On the show, he played a 17-year-old named Axl.  In real life, I was evidently playing a 40-year-old "teen" named Bone.

From that point on, everywhere I'd go I began to notice my style was being imitated by guys half my age.  How could this be?  Did I somehow have a cult following of which I wasn't aware?

Perhaps.  I mean, what kid wouldn't look up to a guy who blogs, doesn't really "go out with people," and is a boss at Trivia Crack and Words With Friends?

Or maybe it was me.  Was I dressing like a teenager/college kid?  I did gets lots of clothes from Aeropostale every year for Christmas.  (What?  It's not like a have a pair of shorts with "Juicy" printed on the ass.)

But what else was there?  It was either dress like a teenager or give in and start wearing those old man shirts that should say "instantly turn into your dad for only $19.97."  (And now you have a window into Madonna's thought process prior to every major television appearance.)

No, I couldn't go there.  I wouldn't.  Not yet.  And so, I draped myself in cotton -- continuing to sport a variety of raglan t-shirts, zip-up hoodies, and my Chucks -- and slogged on.

At different times in my life, I had patterned my "style" after the debonair likes of Brandon Walsh, Jason Morgan, and Dillon Quartermaine.  (We'll conveniently gloss over the Wranglers and western boots days.)  Of course, Jason left General Hospital for Genoa City, new Jason mostly wears prison garb, who knows what zip code Brandon landed in, and Dillon is off in California making movies.  If only I could summon him for advice.  What would Dillon do?

Maybe that was the problem: All my TV heroes of suave attire were gone.  Now there is only Matthew McConaughey driving around talking to his car or Jeff Bridges trying to sing me to sleep.

Whatever the reason(s), my sometimes-bumpy fashion evolution had come to a complete standstill. There needed to be a middle ground, something to fill the fashion vacuum for guys of a certain age who are still attempting to be marginally stylish.  I mean, there must be dozens of us out there, right?

Enter Mr. Anthony.

Who knew we had so much in common!  He was born in New York, I've visited New York.  He was raised Roman Catholic, I've shot Roman candles.  He was married to J-Lo, I've.... shot Roman candles.

Standing in Kohl's that day, I realized that after years of wandering in a fashion desert, I had found my promised land.  A retail Canaan stretched out before me as far as housewares to the north and jewelry and accessories to the west.

It was a land flowing with a generous assortment of sweaters, polos, and button-down shirts predominately in blacks, no-nonsense greys, and pleasing blues.  There were even a few hoodies.  But more mature ones, which could be dressed up or dressed down.  And really, isn't that what everyone is looking for in life?

No longer am I a 40-year-old dressing like a 17-year-old.  Today, I stand before you a 42-year-old who dresses more like a... guy in his early thirties.

Forever comfortable in my own skin.  At long last, I'm comfortable wearing another man's clothes.

"Not a lot to lean on / I need Your light to help me / Find my place in this world..."

Sunday, February 08, 2015

One night in December

For almost everyone in attendance, it would have been nothing very remarkable.  One child, just one of thirty or so on the stage, singing, ringing his bell, and making hand motions with all the other kids as they sang along to "O Come All Ye Faithful" during the Christmas program at the county Christian school.

But remarkable, it was.  To those who had seen him the year before stand with his back to the crowd the entire time, not moving or saying a word.  And the year before that had watched him put his hands over his face and cast his head downward, again not uttering a sound.

There I sat, in the audience, more teary-eyed than any parent or grandparent who was there.  Because I knew how far he had come.  I had been through the days of not being able to understand what he was saying even though he was trying so hard.

To watch a child struggle, to speak or to do any other seemingly simple task, melts away whatever hardness might be inside you.  It puts life in perspective in a way only a few things can.

I thought of his mother.  She who repeatedly told doctors something wasn't right until they finally listened.  She who still spends hours on the phone fighting with the insurance company as they try to deny coverage of his therapy.  And she who makes the 90-minute round-trip three times a week so that he can receive what she believes is the best-available help for his apraxia.

I looked over at her, sitting in the next section, her 5-foot-1 frame having to strain to see over the people in front of her.  She had a smile as wide as the building.  It's the smile she always has when she is trying not to cry.

She had struggled with whether to put him in public school, eventually deciding against it.  She started him here in hopes that he would get more attention.  It was a hard decision.  We were public school kids.  But if there were still any doubt, this night was absolute validation she had made the right choice. 

A little later we listened as one of the older kids, a young man who had overcome autism, stood in front of the audience and read the Christmas story.

When the program ended, I high-fived my nephew and told him how proud I was of him.  He seemed rather unimpressed by it all.  I thought of his great aunt, a wonderful and kind southern woman he would never really get a chance to know, lying in rest twenty minutes away.

A couple of days before, she had slipped from this realm of sickness and dying.  Her visitation was the same night of his program.

His uncle and her nephew, I managed to make it to both.

Life was beautiful. And sad.

"Some of it's magic / Some of it's tragic / But I had a good life all the way..."

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Music Monday: Winter plods on

Alas, with football out of the way, now there is nothing.  Winter plods on.  And will for six more weeks, that is if you're inclined to believe a rodent from the Quaker state, or the creator of the Gregorian calendar.

Most of the things that have been on my mind to write are rather heavy.  I feel I'm in danger of entering the blog equivalent of Picasso's Blue Period, except with less fame.  Some fame, just less.

Wanting to ward that off for your benefit, I offer instead some lighthearted fare.

For once the Super Bowl was, well, super.  I actually had a nice little Super Bowl party, for one.  But it was catered.  By Domino's.

Everyone's talking about "the call."  Might I suggest Seattle change its name from the Seahawks to Mitt Romney?  That way, the next time they decide not to run, no one will be all that upset.

And can we stop making the Super Bowl commercials "a thing?"  They're annoyingly lacking in creativity and let's be honest, they've been going downhill for the past five years or more.  Which, strangely, is not unlike this blog.

Making it worse, I felt like the ads were super depressing this year -- childhood deaths, Cats in the Cradle, Jeff Bridges trying to salvage a once-passable career by begging people to visit his new website.  Thank God for Doritos and Lindsay Lohan!  Which, strangely, is not the first time I've uttered that sentence -- or as I usually refer to it -- sincere prayer of thanksgiving.

Speaking of Lindsay Lohan, why must the Super Bowl always make you think of your ex-girlfriend, amirite?

At least January has abated.  February isn't worlds better, but it's short and close to March.  I mean, it's not related to March or anything, but they know each other.  January and March have never even met.

I was involved in a 20-some-odd email thread about General Hospital today, so things are looking up.  I mean, what if Fluke really is the old Luke and he was hallucinating and fighting with himself in the basement?!?!  What if Helena has brainwashed him like she has Jake/Jason?  I know, but then why would Eckert's grave be empty?  Unless real Luke wanted to throw everybody off.  But then why did he seem so upset when the grave was dug up?  I can't take it!

Oh, and Harper Lee is releasing a new book!  I can think of no better news than that for a cold winter's day.

This week's Music Monday offering is one I've had on repeat quite a bit the past few weeks.  It's by Adam Cohen, who is the son of Leonard Cohen.  The lyrics just kill me.  Every time.



"I know the kind of thing that makes you laugh / The way you tilt your head for a photograph / What other guy knows you like that?"