30 September 2006

She Wasn't Really a Nazi

I've been in this weird place for a while. With all of the goings on in our lives for the last few months, Cameron suggests that we're depressed. The funny thing is that most of the time I feel fine. But, we have both been contemplating change. Or, growth.

Some of the changes are radical. Some are not so much. But, they're all for the good of us both individually and together. For many weeks I've been working on actually trying to plan financially, budget and invest rather than spend myself into interest-rate oblivion for the first time in my life. Of everything I do I believe that this is the most destructive but it's an ongoing process. It has actually become easier with time. The ridiculous thing is that I worked very hard in 2003 to become debt free. By November all of my credit cards were paid off and the only debt I owed was the mortgage and my car loan. I was so proud.

But we went to Amsterdam in April, 2004 and I was a little short on cash. I guess using that Platinum American Express just once broke the dyke. We were in Holland afterall. So two years later I'm back to wondering how the hell I get myself into this mess, working on getting out of it and moving on to better things.

Which brings me to the next step. We went to an outdoor concert last night to see Keb Mo and Bonnie Raitt. I had heard of Keb Mo but was unfamiliar with his music. If you like blues you have to check him out. Anyway, we arrived at the venue an hour and a half early to secure our place in line, which begets a great seat on the lawn. At these gatherings the people who learned how lines work in Kindergarten file in place as is standard. The others, who apparently were the ones cutting in line at the water fountain, gather on the opposite side and rush in front of those who did their time. This happened last year when we saw John Mayer and Herbie Hancock. But, not last night. Three times last night the event staff went to the front of the line and told everyone forming a clot at the head of the line to go to the back, including a former coworker that thought if she yelled our names and came up to give me an unwanted hug/kiss/whatever that we'd say "Come on in!" Um, don't think so, not only because I would then suck to the people behind me, but also because you are a backstabbing, two-faced nevermind.

After staking our claim on the lawn, Becca cleaned the dog poop off of her new shoes and we were off to a great start. She and Petey brought fantastic food like plank smoked salmon and grilled shrimp and asparagus to share with Petey's brother Danny, his friend Patsy, and us. While we waited the 90 minutes for the show to start, we mixed cocktails, ate, talked and watched slides on the large screens flanking the stage. Because I had read earlier that this was a smoke-free event I was prepared to tough it out for the 3-hour concert. And so was Cameron with his Nicorette (which he uses at work during those long flights). Much to my delight, however, one of the slides stated that smoking was permitted in the Port-o-let area. So Cameron and I went to the far reaches of the space and lit up.

Suddenly, some woman's voice shouted, "PUT THAT OUT". I'm thinking, "what?" There were several other people here smoking that had apparently seen the same slide. "PUT IT OUT, NOW". When I questioned her about the slide she yammered on about "Miss Raitt... blah, blah." I said, there is a slide in rotation that contradicts what you claim. Luckily, the young woman who was working the Will Call window during lunch yesterday recognized me and said she would correct the woman. But rather than make a crappy situation worse I thanked her for her concern and walked outside the gates to smoke -- where to a guard I referred to the "PUT THAT OUT" lady as a Nazi. He was much more gentle and told me I need to put those down anyway, but that I could go outside with my stub, get stamped and come back as much as I liked.

The second time I went to smoke, the first volunteer was gone, but now there was a very friendly young man working as a guard who bummed a couple of smokes as we talked. I'm supposing he was a friend of Dorothy, too. Not that it makes any difference, but it's nice to run into folks like us sometimes.

All this is to say that I'm tired of being in situations like "PUT THAT OUT" for the sake of a cigarette. So, they're next on the change agenda. I'm reading a book called "The Easy Way to Quit" which was given to me a few years ago by a friend in Nagoya, Nick. And after Matt's enthusiastic new post about quitting I'm going to visit and register for support.

That said, the concert was fantastic. Cameron and I had a nice, relaxing date with friends. And we have some new music interests. Change. It's coming.

22 September 2006

For Matt v 2.0

After reading Matt's entry on multitasking I got back to work and started looking for an image for a project I am working on. My search terms on were "just in time". This is one of the results of that search. So, Matt, this is for you.

14 September 2006

What Next?

This has been a weird week. Or, maybe I just feel weird this week.

Sunday was our first night of this season's league bowling. Usually my average is in the mid-170s. But, as I so often like to do, I started this season off with a bang and set my average at 200. Can we say, "no handicap"?

Monday, September 11, brought the barrage of "it's been five years" video recounts of our nation's tragic terrorist attacks. And with this windfall of emotional reminders I remember being stuck in Istanbul, desperate to come home, on September 11, 2001. As I have mentioned on this blog, my partner of 14 years is a flight attendant. On this same day the Today show demonstrated what flight crews are trained to do in interest of air safety. Yet Doug Steenland/NWA calls my guy a "glorified vending machine", cuts flight attendants' pay by 40% and suggests that they dumpster dive to make ends meet.

Tuesday, my baby sister had a hysterectomy. It's not something that she wanted to do, but it was necessary. Complications from a previous surgery required it. When I called to check on her, I got her husband, Dan. We weren't on the phone long before he asked if I wanted to talk to my mother. We talked a bit about Tina. We discussed that my mother was enjoying chicken livers from Kentucky Fried Chicken. (I don't understand why all KFC stores don't have them). During the conversation I mentioned that my friend Eric told me, "tell her not to grow a mustache." I guess I was ignorant. I thought that the hormone therapy would keep things pretty normal for Tina. Especially after she and I joked before her arrival at the hospital about her not having to go through menopause I figured it would be OK to try and add some levity to a heavy situation. So I told my mother Eric's joke. Let's just say it wasn't funny.

Wednesday, I took our friend Jerry, who was boarding a plane to Seattle with a one-way ticket, to the airport. (He was between jobs for about six weeks and stayed with us the majority of the time. Even though space occasionally got tight, I really enjoyed having him here.) As we approached the interchange between Democrat Road and entrance to the airport we saw what must have been about 15 police cruisers blocking all access to the interchange below us and a few officers crouched down next to a guardrail. We couldn't see any wreckage. And at 4:30 AM it was creepy. Driving home, I got a better look. I saw a man dressed only in shorts, lying on his stomach on a blanket next to the guardrail. No shoes. No shirt. I couldn't help but think about how he was there, away from his family, alone. Vulnerable.

Back at home, during the traffic report the newscaster only mentioned that it was a motorcycle accident and suggested that drivers steer clear of the area for an hour to an hour-and-a-half. He could have been on a wreckless joyride. Or, he could have been leaving his job at the FedEx hub that's about a half-mile away. That's about the time hub workers would be heading home.

Last night Cameron called to tell me that his schedule had been changed and he wouldn't be home for our anniversary. And knowing that she was one of the people I have admired most, he asked me if former Texas governor Ann Richards had passed away. He had seen some retrospective of her life but not the entire story upon arriving at his layover hotel. I didn't know. So after we said our "I love yous" and "sweet dreams" I went to bed and turned on CNN. Anderson Cooper was reporting from Afghanistan about Mike Spann, the CIA agent from Alabama, who was the first American casualty in that country. And at the end of his report I learned that Ann Richards had died at her home at the age of 73. And that Larry King Live was going to rerun a show from 2004 when Ann was the guest. While I watched I was reminded of why I adored her. I plan to read her book, "I'm Not Slowing Down."

So, it's 8:27 AM, Thursday, September 14. It's our anniversary, but Cameron won't be home. I am grateful to start year 15. I should be at work, now. Doris is outside barking. I need to feed the koi. Maybe I'll feel better after my 1:00 presentation. I hope.

05 September 2006


Labor Day Weekend. Usually, we spend it here with friends drinking piña coladas by the pool. Later in the evening we switch to appropriate cocktails and grill steaks or whatever sounds good at the time.

This year, Cameron, Doris, Billie and I drove to Troy, Alabama on Friday to visit with friends I hadn't seen in a long while. Unfortunately, Cameron had seen them a month earlier when he drove down for Shel's dad's funeral. After getting the dogs fed and settled, we spent the first evening catching up over a great spaghetti dinner. During the conversation we figured that it had been 10 years since we were all together. I was embarrassed. And, this is Cameron's best friend since before Kindergarten. They have remained in touch throughout their lives.

We promised that Labor Day from here on out was our time to get together. Next year, we'll see them up here.

They took us to the old square in Troy, Saturday, where we had lunch at Byrd Drugs. The place had the familiar scent -- sort of like the smell of Band-Aids, the hot grille and iodine -- that threw me back to the hot afternoons when my mother would pile my sisters and me in the Cadillac and drive to Walk's Drugs in Sellersburg for butterscotch milkshakes and grilled cheese. Or fountain Cokes and making straw paper snakes with a drop of soda ona crinkledd straw wrapper. I didn't see one of the old scales that would tell fortunes while reporting your weight. Playing on that scale was always a sure way to be reprimanded for misbehaving.

At Byrd's, the food was exactly as I expected. Because they only had enough bacon for one BLT (which had already been ordered by Leslie), I changed my order to a burger with everything. One of the women who ran the fountain -- I can't bring myself to call her a waitress because she is so much more -- brought various iced drinks to the table and told us that the shakes were coming up. Shel had ordered chocolate, and I requested vanilla. Hearing the blades on the old Hamilton Beach hit the sides of the stainless mixing glasses was a long unheard but comforting sound. When the shakes were ready she brought them over in the stainlesscontainers wrappedd in a paper napkin so our hands wouldn't stick. It was like two milkshakes for the price of one.

After lunch we walked next door to an antiques store. There were many items I was interested in, but none more than the one that seemed to say "you have to have me". It was a McCoy turtle sprinkler. I had been wanting one of these for years, but up until now they'd always been chipped just below the spout. This one was nearly perfect. No chip on the spout and most of the cold paint was intact. There wasn't a price tag on it but the man who was there gladly called the booth operator and got a price for me. If I remember the listing in the McCoy collectors pricing book, their initial price was right in line at $85. But, they offered to take $70 for it. So it now lives in my kitchen window, on one of the glass shelves, with many of my other pieces of McCoy.

Cameron also found some champagne glasses with open stems, which he's been on a quest for for many years. We have a nice cut crystal set of six given to us by our friend Thom, but that's never enough on New Year's Eve. So, now we have 12. Although they don't match exactly, everyone will be able to watch in fascination as the bubbles ascend from the foot of the glass up through the stem.

After we paid for our treasures we left for Brundidge, another old Alabama town that has been given a new lease on life with the addition of a Wal-Mart Distribution Center. We passed through what might be considered the main intersection of "downtown" toward what I might consider heaven on Earth. You wouldn't know that I am a freak about logos, brands, and signs because I haven't mentioned it in my profile or on this blog before. But I am a died in the wool fanatic about these things. I have always loved just about any vintage porcelain enameled sign. I have several authentic and reproduction signs, a Vendo 39 Coca-Cola machine and a strong desire to add more to my collection.

"Heaven", or our first stop, was City Antiques -- home of "The Sign Man." I had anticipated seeing this place from the numerous billboards beckoning us as we drew closer to town. From the parking lot I could see that this was much more than I had expected. I wish I had spent time talking to the man who built this mecca. I learned from our hosts that he retired from his career a few years ago and has made his hobby his livelihood. I learned a bit more about this place from an article I found online at

"It's okay to call Oscar McDowell O.K. In fact, he'd prefer it. He'll even answer to Alabama Sign Man, his self-dubbed title. "I figured that since I had more signs than anyone else, I was just going to keep that name," O.K. says with a chuckle.

"You'll find all kinds of authentic tin signs, advertising everything from RC Cola to Goodyear Tires, in his five rustic buildings. O.K. built one and moved four here from the countryside in and around Brundidge. Of course, he also carries old gas pumps, metal gliders, antique heart-pine furniture, and other pieces."

We met the man who builds the heart pine furniture at our first stop in Troy -- he told us to be sure to stop there. The tables, some seating up to 16, are made from 100-year-old stock. There were freestanding gas station signs for Spur, Cities Service, Pure, Standard and other brands that have disappeared from the highways. I could have been lost in the place much longer than I was, but ultimately it was a bit overwhelming. While I would have liked owning many of these pieces of history, many were unmarked. As such, I assumed that they were part of his collection and "not for sale". Later, however, I would learn differently.

We tracked back to the main street through town and browsed through a few other antiques stores. In one, a young man asked if there were any questions he could answer. He was minding the store for his mother, who created many of the pieces in the shop which contained few if any antiques but lots of other things, including coiled clay vases and hand-decorated vintage furniture. We walked across the street to a couple more stores, including Charlotte's Web, where Teresa bought Leslie a small white doll's cradle for Brianna's room. We stopped in another store that was part antique mall, part junk store. There were lots of old electronics and other cast-offs here. After a while we continued away from town, past City Hall -- a white clapboard structure with long, sweeping porches that looks as if it used to be someone's mansion -- to the last stop on our antiques pilgrimage.

I can't remember the name of the place, but we wondered if this store was somehow connected or related to City Antiques. There were the same types of old signage and gliders, plus a fair amount of other things City didn't have. Like a curio cabinet packed full of vintage Fiesta and several long, low display cases with McCoy, Hall, Haeger, Roseville and other kinds of pottery. There were armoires filled with cast iron cookware and other cabinets filled with vintage Franciscan Desert Rose. When we asked if the resemblance was coincidental or intentional, the man jokingly said, he'd "taught him [O.K.] everything he knew". When I mentioned that I figured that many of the things at City Antiques weren't priced and assumed thatthey weren'tt for sale, he responded with, "see?" Here, everything was clearly priced. In fact, I wondered if some of the prices were a bit high even though some of the artifacts could be considered quite rare.

After our day of antiquing, we returned to Shel and Teresa's for a barbecue rib dinner complete with slaw and baked beans. It was a nice day. During dinner, we discussed the next day's plans and altered them a bit. We planned on playing golf. But after Cameron and I expressed an interest in seeing Shel's place of work, we added that to our morning.

The next day, Shel took us on a tour of the amazingly automated Distribution Center, where he works. For fear of leaking secrets I won't discuss details we discovered inside. But, it was awesome.

From there, we went back to the house for lunch and later drove to Tartan Pines for an afternoon of golf. As this was my first time to play anything more than miniature golf, I was at once excited and apprehensive. In the clubhouse we went to Shel's sister Christine's office in the pro shop. She runs the country club, which is situated in a neighborhood of multi-million dollar homes (at least by Memphis standards). I instantly liked her. She was happy to see everyone, but wasn't going to be able to join us for golf. She gave us keys to three golf carts and told us where to get a set of clubs for me. She has a building at the far end of the driving range that houses the equipment she uses to give private golf lessons.

After Shel began giving me some basics about how to stand, hold the club, and swing, we were surprised to see Christine ride up on a golf cart to give me a half-hour lesson. WOW. She was great. If I can get my butt out to the driving range sometime soon I'll probably remember everything she taught me. I started out with a 7-iron, and continued with that after we left the range and hit the course. We were playing a 3-man scramble with Shel's mother, Jeanne, Cameron and me. So I didn't completely suck. The one time I tried teeing off with a driver ended with my ball in the cesspool end of a pond, scaring some small frogs into the water. It's going to take some practice, but I can see me really liking this game.

The next day, we were packed and on the road toward home by 10:00 -- which should have put us back in Memphis around 5:30. However, much to my surprise, everyone on the road between Troy and Montgomery was driving 90 m.p.h. I am guessing that some were even driving 95. So, rather than be overrun I fell in. Imagine my surprise when we pulled in Memphis at 3:15. And in our driveway at 3:35.