Friday, August 28, 2009

Fill 'er up?

A few weeks ago when I had my flat tire, I took it to get it fixed at a service station. Not a gas station, a service station. It sits at what I would guess to be the center of this old town, or at least at the intersection of the two main highways that run through it.

A real service station.

There was a self-service island of pumps and a full-service island, where they still pump it for you. And a garage with six bays where they still do actual car repairs--front-end alignments, brakes, shocks, and yes, tires.

A real service station.

I had driven by it hundreds if not thousands of times and even had some work done there before, but this particular afternoon was the first time I'd ever been inside. As I stepped in out of the Alabama summer and looked around, it was as if I had covered thirty years in a couple of steps.

I was struck by the relative emptiness of the large store area. There was one rack of various snack items--peanuts, chips, and such--two coolers of cold drinks, and a shelf of car care items. No bread, no Slurpee machine, no aisles and aisles of groceries. This was no convenience store.

As I sat and waited, no fewer than four mechanics passed through, each with his name on his shirt. They would be talking to some customer about their car or asking the lady at the counter what they needed to work on next, maybe stopping to grab a cup of coffee from the machine in the corner.

A real service station.

It was busy that afternoon and as the minutes dragged on I engaged in bits of conversation with the lady at the counter. She told a couple of stories about the history of the store as I walked around and looked at the numerous pictures on the wall.

There were photographs of the station through the years, including one each from the '60s, '70s, and '80s. In those particular three, you could see the sign outside with the price of gas on it: fifty-four cents in the '60s, eighty-one cents in the '70s, and a dollar and four cents in the '80s. The brand of gas was different and it had gone from two pumps to four and then six, but I couldn't help thinking not a whole lot else had changed.

As I sat back down, I looked out the big front windows at the world passing by. The contrast was not lost on me. Out there, cars whizzed by on the four-lane. It was a scene of noise and hurry. Everybody with somewhere to be. But in here, things were quiet. Cool. And just a little bit slower.

On three of the four corners at the intersection of the two main roads that cut through this old town sit a Walgreens and two gas-stations-slash-convenience-stores. On the fourth corner, right in the middle of a town that has sprung up around it, sits a service station.

A real service station.

"He pumped your gas and he cleaned your glass. One cold, rainy night he fixed your flat. A new store came where you do it yourself, you buy a lotto ticket and food off the shelf. Forget the little man..."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Four cardboard boxes

This weekend I embarked on a project I had been putting off for... let's see, I've lived here nearly four years, so... nearly four years: Cleaning out the office.

Wait, it gets even more exciting.

The office--AKA my spare bedroom--houses my workstation, two bookshelves containing among other things my Cheers trivia game, my old computer desk which has been turned into more shelf space, my old computer, some mostly unpacked luggage, an ironing board which is half covered with articles of clothing which I would estimate number around twenty mostly consisting of long-sleeved shirts still unironed from last winter, and last and most obstructively, four boxes that had been sitting along the north wall of the room since I moved in.

Trust me, it was messier than it sounds.

The centerpiece of this undertaking were the four boxes. Like a cardboard Stonehenge, they served as a constant reminder to all who entered--which was mostly just me--of my procrastination. This was not a task that I fancied (as evidenced by said procrastination).

And so with a modicum of determination, I opened the first box. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but a regular-sized sled and five well-kempt New Kids--on the cover of my New Kids On The Block Christmas cassette!

(Counter-clockwise from bottom: Joey, Danny, Donnie, Jordan, and Jon--he's a Sagittarius.)

I had been looking for this for years! And now the search for a working cassette player begins.

Well, things were really looking up. So after opening the case, browsing through some of the lyrics and singing a few bars of "This One's For The Children," I proceeded.

The first box contained the usual things you would expect to find in storage: books, TV Guides, an unopened envelope which when opened revealed a thank you card for a graduation gift I had given... in 1993.

Also included were several of my folders and notebooks from college. Inside those were literally hundreds of lyrics that I had scribbled down, notes that I had passed back and forth with a girl in Music Theory freshman year, and lists. Lots and lots of lists.

There was a list of the 42 most fun days in high school, a list of 29 apartment rules that I'm pretty sure I made well before I ever had an apartment, and a list of a thousand songs that I had made out when Little Joe bet me that I couldn't name a thousand songs. Won myself ten bucks. Not bad for nineteen pages, handwritten, front and back.

There was also a list of 75 qualities to look for in a girl. It began with the line, "The perfect girl to marry would be a girl who..." These ideal qualities included:

#3. likes the Naked Gun movies.
#8. has a good, nice plump but not too big butt.
#14. likes Married...With Children. (Clearly, a few of these are still applicable.)
#16. has heard of Tom T. Hall. (That always knocked a lot of girls out as I recall.)
#19. doesn't eat a lot.
#35. would rather watch an Alabama football game than have sex. (Well, that goes without saying.)
#44. doesn't call your car a grocery carrier. (A definite deal breaker.)
#46. always cuts the grass. (It's possible that I was watching too much Married... With Children at the time.)
#72. knows how to play rock, paper, scissors. (The foundation of any solid relationship.)
And #'s 10, 17, 25, 32, 42, 51, and 57: looks like Brandy. (I may have had a crush.)

You know, compared to this, I actually seem mature now. Me! I know, scary.

And then there was the top secret Top Fifty list, typed out and dated, 3/17/94. This was a list of the fifty hottest girls we knew, compiled by LJ, Ben, me and my ex-roommate late one night at a Motel 6. The rules were that at least two of the four of us had to have seen the girl, and at least one of us had to be able to talk to her. We stayed up until at least 2 or 3 AM finishing the list. I still remember us tossing a Nerf basketball and hitting Ben as he kept trying to fall asleep before the list was done. Afterward we swore each other to secrecy. So, I'm not even really supposed to be telling you any of this.

Wow, I feel like I just betrayed the divine secret of the ya-ya brotherhood, whatever that is.

There weren't too many noteworthy items in the rest of the boxes: three bicycle inner tubes for the bike I no longer have, at least five shirts and two pairs of pants I had received as gifts that still had the tags on them, and a Tupperware container of chocolate candy. Let me reiterate here. Four. Years.

Still, I pressed on, sifting through the pieces of my past, cringing at some items, laughing at others. And then it happened, I found the proverbial crown jewel of my excursion. Behold, the jam shorts I sewed in 8th grade in Home Ec:

I still remember going with Mom to pick out the fabric, which to this day is the only time I've ever been inside a fabric store. I remember realizing too late that I had sewn in the elastic waistband all twisted--which is probably a good thing because as a guy, you don't wanna be too good at Home Ec. And from the looks of the nearly worn-through seat area, I must have worn them a lot. Which could help explain my girlfriend drought which extended into 9th grade.

My office is much cleaner now, the four cardboard boxes having been condensed down to a single plastic tub. I threw a lot of stuff away this weekend, and will be taking some more to Goodwill. But on the bottom shelf of one of the bookshelves is a shoebox with a couple of folders in it.

"Remember when we said, girl, please don't go, and how I'd be loving you forever? Taught you 'bout hangin' tough, as long as you got the right stuff..."

Friday, August 21, 2009

That first year

You turned one yesterday. I'm fairly certain you didn't even know it. We had a small gathering at your house. All your grandparents, both your uncles and your Mom and Dad were there. You looked around at everyone, as if you couldn't believe we were all in the same place at one time. You have another party on Saturday. It's a big week for you.

Oh to be like you and have no sense of the time passing. When you wake up, you look around for a couple of minutes then a smile breaks across your face. It's as if you're thinking, "Alright! Time to play some more!" I can't figure out if every day is a new day for you, or if every day is just a continuation of one long play party occasionally interrupted by naps and eating.

You're the happiest baby I've ever been around. Sometimes I lift you high above my head, lower you down quickly, then lift you up again. Over and over. This seems to be one of your favorite things right now. Your mouth is wide open and it looks like you want to laugh, but the sensation of rising and falling is just too much and you can't stand it. When I finally stop and hold you still, you let out a giggle. It's the most wonderful sound I've ever heard.

Sometimes as you're laughing or playing or otherwise entertaining us, I'll look over at your mother as she watches you. I've known her for twenty-eight years, yet there is a look on her face, a gleam in her eyes, an utter joy to her being that I have never seen before. We are all in love with you.

Just because you're happy doesn't mean you don't have some adorable little intricacies. Your mother claims that you pull all the toilet paper off the roll when she isn't looking, but I find that hard to believe. She also says you've dropped three remotes into the toilet. I say, at least you're consistent and they always know where to find them.

When I think that it has been a year since you arrived, it blows my mind. I thought the time went fast before, but this year has gone at near light speed.

Just the other day, you were crawling. Well, you sort of scooted at first. Then crawled. Then held onto our hands as you learned to walk. You were walking before you were eleven months old. I am thankful every day that you are healthy and seem to be growing and learning as you should.

You've gone from falling asleep in my arms to walking up to me, tugging on my pants and lifting your arms so that I will pick you up--which by the way is my current favorite thing.

And while I know you probably won't remember anything about it, I will never forget that first year.

"Thank God for kids, there's magic for awhile. A special kind of sunshine in a smile. Did you ever stop to think or wonder why the nearest thing to heaven is a child?"

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The time I boycotted ESPN (for one day)

You know that girl you keep breaking up with? At first, you start to miss her and do anything to get her back. So she takes you back, once maybe twice, but it's never quite the same. Then after a couple of times, you just don't care anymore. The very sight of her makes you nauseous. Her voice makes you want to jab a toothpick into your pupil and see what oozes out. You start to avoid her calls hoping she'll eventually fade out of your life completely. You can't believe you ever thought you loved her in the first place.

Brett Favre is that girl.

Let me tell you a little story. Every day of my life since we first got ESPN on our cable, circa 1981, I have done three things: breathe, sleep, and watch ESPN. (Shower? No, I've skipped a lazy Saturday here and there. Sorry, but it's true. Eat? Nope. See "stomach virus of 2007.")

Today, I can no longer say that. Because yesterday, I boycotted ESPN.

Why? Because I'm sick of hearing about Brett Favre. And I knew that was all they would be talking about. Oh yes, if Favre stubs his toe, ESPN has a reporter at the scene. Brett got a bad peach today at Joe's fruit stand? They're on it. Brett woke up feeling all emotional this morning? It's their top story.

You know what I wish? You know how when you're watching a game and some spirited (and possibly nude) fan runs onto the field, they never show the fan on camera so as not to give them the attention they so crave? I wish they would do that to Favre. Oh, you're coming back? You're not coming back? You're working out shirtless at some high school in Mississippi? We. Don't. Care.

Of course, that'll never happen. Which is why I was reduced last night to watching Nutella commercials, reruns of Married...With Children, and the episode of South Park where Cartman starts a christian rock band. ("It worked for Creed.") Thank goodness I had the forethought to only impose a one-day boycott.

Maybe if my afternoons didn't revolve around ESPN, this wouldn't even be an issue. Oh great, now I'm over-analyzing my own empty life. All because Mister Center-Of-The-Universe can't make up his ever-lovin' mind.

And it's not like I'm not sympathetic to indecisiveness. Au contraire. Heck, this morning I spent five minutes trying to decide whether I should wear this shirt or my other clean shirt. But this has gotten ridiculous. I don't need a play-by-play of every single thought and inclination Brett Favre has and every little thing he does.

That's why there's Twitter.

"Set me free, why don't you, babe? Get out my life, why don't you, babe? Cause you don't really love me. You just keep me hangin' on..."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The day the blog stood still

We were at a double-A baseball game. It was around the second or third inning. Day had all but surrendered to night's gradual but certain takeover. Wolfgang, Little Joe, and Little Joe's girlfriend were talking amongst themselves. Meanwhile, I was halfway through an order of nachos, and had been amusing myself by listening to the girl behind us asking her poor husband/boyfriend/brother things like "What quarter is it?" and "How come they got two?"

If I recall correctly, I had just finished barking along to the last few bars of "Who Let The Dogs Out" when Wolfgang turned to me and said, "Why didn't you tell me my name was Wolfgang?"

And there it was, that always unexpected and often awkward clashing of the blogosphere and the real world.

As you might imagine, I have been questioning everything the past few days, including my very existence (in the blogosphere). Is this the end of the Darryls as you know them? What a blow that would be not only to my blog but to Newhart references in general.

Speaking of concerts in the greater-Nashville area, I am supposed to go see Counting Crows tonight. I say "supposed to" because there has been one issue after another regarding the tickets. First, they were going to be mailed, then they were going to be emailed, and now they are supposed to be at will call.

I figure best-case, I get to see Adam Duritz belting out "A Long December." Worst-case, they don't let me in to the Ryman and I have something in common with Hank Williams. Then we go on a self-guided tour of the former Opryland location--which just happens to be my favorite tourist destination in all of Nashville--and I get to see a few Perseids while driving home. So, win-win.

While I am or am not at the Counting Crows concert tonight pondering the future of my very blog, which has become as much a part of me as any of my bodily appendages, I offer a repost. Originally posted in 2005, it goes along quite well with the subject du jour.



Announcing the all-new Opryland Historical Tours, by Bone. Come and relive the magic of Opryland USA. Tours are held Monday-Saturday, beginning at 9:00 AM, at the original location of the Grizzly River Rampage at the Opry Mills complex.

Each tour guide is arrayed in an original Opryland park employee outfit, and will share with you interesting stories, personal memories, and historical facts about the theme park. Each tour includes a a thirty minute video about Opryland USA, including footage shot by visitors to the park during its twenty-six years in operation.

After the video, you'll be able to walk thru the river bed of what once was the Grizzly River Rampage, where you will have plenty of photo opportunities. You can also take pictures next to the "Opry Mills Sucks" and "Gaylord Stole My Childhood" signs.

And browse thru tons several items of Opryland memorabilia, including an original Tin Lizzie, a log from the Flume Zoom, a skee ball, a half-eaten slice of pizza from Julio's, and some chicken wire from the park's famous petting zoo.

Refreshments are available, including fruit-shaped fruit drinks, just like those sold at the original Opryland USA. So if you have fond memories of Opryland, or even if you never got to go to Opryland because your baby sister always got to go where she wanted on vacation, you will not want to miss the Opryland Historical Tour.

Legal disclaimer: Opryland Historical Tours is not liable for the actions of any guests. We will not be held responsible for any legal action that may be taken against you or any member of your party by Gaylord Entertainment or any of its subsidaries, nor any physical harm or trauma that may be caused by the Opry Mills security. By taking part in this tour, you may or may not be trespassing, but most likely are.

Well, that's my dream. My entrepreneurial thought for the week. Or for the year. Whichever.

"They paved paradise and put up a parking lot, with a pink hotel, a boutique and a swingin' hot spot. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone..."

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Becoming "that" person

Thanks to everyone who has participated in NaBloSoFroDraWe (also NaBloSoThaDraWe). It's kinda cool to have several participants this year. And remember, NaBloSoFroDraWe continues all week long. So you still have time...

A couple of weeks ago, around 5:00 on a Monday morning, I was awoken from my midsummer night's slumber by a sort of rumbling noise. As I was coming to consciousness, I sifted through possible causes. Was it thunder? No, I was pretty sure it wasn't. A truck with no muffler? Quite prevalent on my road, but again, no. My stomach? Maybe.

I ventured downstairs where it became evident that the loud, booming noise was coming from next door. It sounded like a Buddy Rich rehearsal was going on over there, except without the cursing. (Not really, but I've been trying to work in a Buddy Rich reference for over a year now and figure this is as close as I'm gonna get.)

At 5:00. On a Monday morning. Seriously?

What could I do? I went back upstairs and tried to get to sleep. And tried. And tried. But all I could hear was this pounding bass that seemed to be growing louder and louder, even though I'm pretty sure it wasn't. I gave it a valiant effort, but finally after about 45 minutes, I gave up. And that is when I officially became that person.

No, not the person who bangs on the wall and hopes they get the hint. And not the person who goes next door and gets into a heated dispute. You know, the kind that ends up on COPS where one or more of the subjects don't have a shirt on. Nope, what I did was even worse.

I called the property manager and complained that the neighbors were too loud.

Yep, that person. (And I'm still cringing as I type this.)

I can't help it. I love sleep. And I need sleep. If I don't get at least six solid hours of sacktime at night--and a two-hour afternoon nap at least three or four days a week--I'm not myself. I'm not Bone.

Finally around 6:30 that morning, the noise stopped and I was able to get back to sleep for a few minutes. Needless to say, I was a walking zombie at work that day. (Is "walking zombie" redundant? And if it was needless to say, why did I say it anyway?)

Thankfully, the next few nights were pretty quiet. Then about a week later, it happened again. This time it was around 2:30 in the morning, again on a school night. So I called for the second time.

That was about a week ago and it's been quiet ever since. I figure if it happens again, I'm just going to have to move. I can't continue being that person.

The other obvious issue now is that my neighbor knows someone has turned him in. And as the townhouses are side-by-side, as townhouses are wont to be, then he doesn't have to be real smart to know that it was either me or the neighbor on the other side. So all I have to do is avoid seeing this one person--who happens to live next to me--for the rest of my life. That shouldn't be too hard.

So far, I've taken a few drastic measures toward this end. These include but are not limited to: peeking through the blinds to make sure no one is in the parking lot anytime I start to leave; making sure I'm on the phone anytime I come home so as to lessen the likelihood of any possible awkward encounters; and... have I mentioned that I tend to be non-confrontational?

The thing is, I've always considered myself a pretty amicable neighbor. In the nearly four years that I've lived here, this is the first time I've complained about anything! I mean, I didn't complain when the previous neighbor set that hideous plastic dog with the solar-powered lantern in its mouth outside the front door. And I never say anything when the lady on the other side of me screams things at her kid that even frighten me a little. (Actually, the Buddy Rich reference would fit better here.)

How did this suddenly turn into the crime of the century? Besides, he's the one who broke the rules. I'm well within my rights. It clearly states on page seven of the voluminous tenant agreement (which I'd never actually read before now): "Any noises in the building or parking lot that are disturbances to other tenants will not be tolerated."

All I want is some peace and quiet, an apology, and for him to be evicted.

"Well, I can't sleep sometimes but I've been told, it's a lonely condition called growing old. Let me stumble sometimes..."

Monday, August 03, 2009

A part of me

I do hereby proclaim this National Blog Something From Draft Week. This marks the second big year for this great but scarcely observed occasion which was begun way back in 2008. It is a day, er week, for posts that otherwise would have never seen the light of day, and maybe never should have. Remember our slogan: "Someday we'll look back at this and cringe!" Feel free to join in, if you dare. It's the next best thing to not blogging at all. And so without further ado, here is my entry for NaBloSoFroDraWe 2009.

A part of me will always be seven years old. I remember being woken up in the middle of the night when Momma told Daddy it was time to go. It seemed so inconvenient then. That was the only time I ever saw him run a red light. And I remember sitting in the waiting room by myself, feeling lonely but not scared. Then they told me you've got a baby sister. It's funny, but now I can't remember much at all about those first seven years.

A part of me will always be nineteen at the foot of those stairs. Coming home that night, I remember thinking it was odd that Momma's car wasn't there. Daddy met me at the door, and there was that kicked-in-the-stomach feeling as I shook my head at the words I wished he wasn't saying. I think that's the first time I ever truly felt death--the shock and the sense of loss. I remember trying to cry when they laid Mamaw to rest. And thinking to myself, "I'll miss you." But I just didn't know. I'll always hate that cursed day and harbor that emptiness.

A part of me will always be barefoot on that beach. I was twenty-three but I felt like a kid the first time I ever saw the edge of dry land. I remember breathing in that sweet air and rolling up my jeans to let the cold water run over my feet. And thinking this was the place that I was always supposed to be. Everytime still feels a lot like that first time, and I still feel like a kid. However far away I go, I'll always long to be there, knees pulled to my chest, listening to the song of the sea and feeling like I'm home.

A part of me will always be on the phone with you at 6 AM. I remember the daylight through the blinds and realizing we had talked all night long. Yet and still I didn't want to let you go. Love was new and it felt so good to let your warmth wash over my soul. And I remember two years later trying to hold on and feeling helpless as you moved further from my grasp. We haven't spoken since and we probably never will. But now and then I will always wonder where you've gotten to.

I don't know if the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And I've heard it said that you lose parts of yourself along the way. But I might disagree. I think I carry all those parts with me as I go, these and a thousand more, somewhere inside. I think I always will.

"You're on every highway just beyond the high beams, right beside me in all of my sweet dreams. No matter where you choose to be, in my heart I'll always see you everywhere..."