A Tale of Two Salutes

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

I don’t think there is anyone presently alive that doesn’t think that perhaps the most famous opening line ever written in fiction doesn’t apply to England and theUnited States in the opening two decades of the 21st century.

The contrast seems to be on display on an almost daily basis.  In England there is Brexit struggle – do we go, do we stay.  In the United States there are the ceaseless tweets emanating from President Johnny Pontiac’s unsecured iPhone.  The sides are evenly divided in England, in theUnited States it always seems to be the President against the world, with the President occaisionaly taking on the role of Victim in Chief.

The last several days have provided a clear contrast between the best of times and the worst of times,  the death of President George H W Bush the 41st President of the United States. 41 was probably the last everyman President our generation will see.  There will no doubt be others but not in this half of the 21st century.

41 was a war hero, an ambassador, a spy, a devoted husband, father, grandfather and if you believe Maureen Dowd he was also a closet nice guy to liberal journalists, while the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania ?Avenue is an openly Machiavellian manipulator supreme without shame or scruples.

So there you have it, this week our focus has been drawn to 41 vs 45 as if we are on a nationwide debate as to which Super Bowl ranks as the greatest of all time.  For me it has quietly come down to two very brief moments in the Rotunda of our nation’s capitol.  Two salutes.

One from President Johnny Pontiac with his dark haired Estonian Barbie first lady at his side.  This salute looked so plastic, much like the Esotonian Barbie’s smil.  President Pontiac standing stone faced, no doubt suffering from year sof agony caused by the after effects of stone bruises that prevented him from learning how and when to properly salute.

The other salute, rising from a wheel chair with great difficulty and assistance came from a lifelong competitor, war hero & friend.  Former Senate Majority Leader, permanently disfigured and disabled World War II veteran Bob Dole.

I close my eyes and reflect upon having seen both salutes to the last great everyman President and come to the same conclusion time and again.  “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…..”

Shut Up and Rake

And there you have it California.  President Johnny Pontiac blew in like a reverse Santa Ana wind from the east and pronounced the solution to your problem.  Rake the forest. Works for Finland, right?

Well not exactly.  It seems as though there are some differences between Johnny Pontiac’s advice and facts, once again.  It seems that the year round climate in Finland is about 60 percent wetter than that of California. Not to mention a large portion is covered in snow 4 or 5 months of the year, has more rain than California and many other factors which have nothing to do with raking.

But facts, truth and other sticking points that many of us contend with while raising children, conducting business with integrity and going about our daily  lives are of no concern for President Johnny Pontiac.

The main concern for President Pontiac is optics. How does it look?  Will the thing that I did or say cause me to become the story and obscure the suffering of others?  It always the same script and the only thing that varies are who is getting attacked by President Pontiac.  And what ever their suffering, it’s nothing in comparison to President Johnny and the wrong done to him or his family.

A caravan of folks walking up from Guatemala, walking a couple of thousand miles has no suffering in comparison to the persecution felt by Ivanka for ignoring government e-mail guidelines.  The thousands of deaths attributable to the hurricane in Puerto Rico are nothing compared to the insults hurled at the paper towel point guard that flew into San Juan for a couple of hours never to be seen again.

And so it goes.  President Pontiac thrives off of the challenge issued by Irving Berlin for the 1946 Broadway musical “Annie Get Your Gun”.  The line repeated over and over in that song “I can do anything you can do better” is the mantra for President Johnny.

President Johnny can do it better than you, he can insult louder, harder and more hateful than you, and he can be injured more grieveously than people with no electricity, food, water, homes or who have died due to inflated or made up death tolls.

He was doing it long before he got off that escalator and came into our lives on a non-stop basis.  It’s as if President Johnny is like some sort of televangelist that has control of our TV’s, our phones, laptops and computers.  He pops up at will with a new crisis justifying his need for a new private jet.

We can be hopeful that some combination of scandal, indictments or charismic opposition candidate takes Ole Johnny down in 2020.  In the mean time we should all follow his advice and just shut up and rake.

Johnny Pontiac

I just can’t seem to make up my mind these days.  Since my recent unpleasantness on Groundhog Day,  I thought that by now I would have a potential NY Times Best Seller at the printer soon to be ready for Christmas release.  As visions of sugarplum fairies, autograph parties and one hour appearances on C-Span at 3 am danced through my head there was a mid-term election.

I’ve sat here at my keyboard staring at the screen watching the backspace key furiously at work reinterpreting what appears on the screen.  I’m not sure if my problem is a direct result of my recent unpleasantness, the election or the fact that I have spent way too much time on Twitter.  Honestly, I belive its the latter.  It was my intent to write about the former but cardiac hunor is just so dark while Trump humor is so much lighter and happier, right?

I’ve tried, I really have.  I started writing a few weeks ago seeking the answer to the question:  “What if Christopher Hitchens had been at the bottom of the escalator in Trump Tower that ominous day in June of 2015?” But I soon found myself entrapped in Hitchens razor which isn’t really Hitchens’ but nonetheless states that what is asserted without reason can be dismissed wihtout reason.  My only conclusion after several days of thinking about it was that there really is no reason for Donald Trump to exist, so I trashed that one.

Last week I went aligator wrestling with the phrase “Body of Work”.  Once again politics and Twitter dominated my thought process and totally wrecked my writing abilities.  I didn’t see this crash coming.  I thought I would transition from politics and “don’t look at my 50 votes to abolish healthcare” to Heather Densch and the NCAA Bowl Selection mess trying to justify including Ohio State in the College football playoffs again.  Somewhere I thought that I would put a bow on it about 1,800 words down the page. Wrong, another crash and burn.

I think the 300 lb gorilla in the room is Donald Trump.  I don’t just consider him to be a public nuisance, which he is, but the man knows no bounds.  He is even more dominant in American Society than he realizes or he could hope to be.  I curse his very existence and not because I think he is truly evil.  Nope, he knows what he’s doing, well for the most part.

I mean he went to Paris and holed up in his hotel or the Ambassador’s residence and ditched his appearance at an American cemetary commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.  Which incidentally was about the time the phrase “the war to end all wars” originated.

This phrase was popularized by H.G.Wells and was the title of his book “The War That Will End War” released as a series of articles starting 1914.  Most know Wells as the author of “War of the Worlds” published in 1898 and popularized that Sunday night in 1938 when a young Orson Welles captured a nation via the radio airwaves.

So then Trump leaves Paris early to fly back to Washington presumably in time for Veterans Day.  Well by 10:00 AM the White House had announced there wouldbe no Presidential events for the day.  No wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  No parade with nuclear weapons, nothing but Executive time.  The man don’t show up and dominates the headlines for doing not one damn thing.

And you wonder why I’m pissed at him.  He reminds me of this guy in the sixth grade named Johnny.  Johnny had a second shift job and drove his Pontiac to school, when he bothered to show up.  That guy did nothing.  Except pushups, he did pushups in the back of the class when he was bored.  Then he’d get up and comb his Vitalis soaked hair in the best Arthur Fonzarelli style.  I need to point out that Happy Days and the Fonz were still about 10 years from coming into our living rooms.

I think I’m going to start calling Trump President Johnny Pontiac.  Maybe then I can put up with his arrogance, constant intrusion onto my television and news feed on my phone.  I’m not going to put down my phone for anyone, not even my cardiologist and I do like him.  I probably need to stop using Twitter because the sub 300 character count is definitely killing my writing style.

But now, I have a new and refreshing perspective.  I’m no longer plagued by the ever intrusive orange headed lout from Queens.  Close your eyes and imagine a new image.  A guy with dark slicked back hair combed into a greasy ducktail wearing a tight white cotton t-shirt, tight jeans, white socks, black lace up shoes and a shiny black leather jacket.

President Johnny Pontiac

Adapting to the fact that I’m no longer Superman, hell I really ain’t Clark Kent either.

Well here I am, the day after my 64th birthday just feeling all mere mortal wondering what happened to my invincibility?  I no longer have the ability to leap over tall buildings in a single bound and I sure as hell can’t out run a speeding bullet.  But I am able to sit here and type and my brain works pretty well, still.

My typing skills seem to have deteriorated and the backspace key more frequently serves as my early warning spell check than in the past.  At first I though it was this laptop but then I have a new company computer at work with a “Chiclet” keyboard.  They both have the same defective keys on the left side of the keyboard.

While my typing skills have fallen off, my eyesight has improved greatly.  I accomplished my main health goal coming in to 2018 a month early.  Yep. I spent about $500 on new progressive lens eye wear and then experienced nausea every time I walked with my eyes open for about two weeks. 

I don’t know about anywhere else, but in South Carolina you can get a driver’s license that serves as an ID when going through TSA to board a plane.  So I got a copy of my birth certificate from the health department and then carried a bank statement, a utility bill, proof of insurance, the renewal form, my old drivers license, my favorite recipe book – just kidding – to the DMV and I now am the holder of a REAL ID and can board a plane with it.

Problem is I haven’t flown since early 1988 and I sell cars for a living.  The only time I go near the airport anymore is on a test drive.  However, my youngest daughter has moved just beyond comfortable driving distance.  She left South Carolina for Salt Lake City and who knows, I may go for a visit.  If I do, I am prepared.

Back to my mortality.  I am enjoying my first weekend off since I returned to work after my recent unpleasantness.  That’s a saying we have been using in the South for the last 150 years or so.  We use it when we refer to something that happened in the past and when we want to claim no responsibility we call it “recent unpleasantness”

Frequent examples here in the South include: “the war of Northern Aggression”, “what happened in November of 2016” and in my case “the events of Groundhog Day 2018”.  Now I don’t totally deny that there is a causal effect between smoking for 45 years and congestive heart failure, it’s just the after effects that I’m not too happy about.

So for the last eight months I have been smoke and alcohol free and I feel better.  Despite my misgivings neither Reynolds Tobacco nor Anheiser-Busch have filed for bankruptcy protection thus far.  There really haven’t been any withdrawal symptoms or mental side effects from giving up that deadly pair.  If there have been any, they are greatly overshadowed by my newfound fear of riding in the back of ambulances.

My breathing is much better and I eat healthy, monitor my sodium intake, take my blood pressure and weigh twice daily and try to make sure that I average least seven to eight thousand steps every day.  I have realized that running is not an option and often joke that I can’t run across the street but at my age I already know whats on the other side anyway.

A couple of months ago I saw where there was going to be a “MAJOR” Cornhole tournament here in Greenville the same weekend as my birthday.  Now I don’t think I’ve ever written about this but a decade ago I played competitive cornhole and traveled around the south in pursuit of my youth while in my 50’s.  I probably won about 40 percent of my matches and a lesser number of tournaments but I had a good time, made a lot of friends and was in pretty good shape for a guy my age.

In reality, I was an average cornhole player about the age of most of the other players parents.  However, I was married to Karen and she was a fantastic photographer with a great eye.  Karen made me and a lot of other guys famous with her wall of Facebook pictures from all the tournaments that we traveled to.  As time went by, we stopped going to tournaments.  We also stopped being married but remain very good friends.

So, back to this weekend I decided to play in this tournament knowing full well that my somewhat lacking skill set from a decade ago would be seriously lacking. A few weeks ago I entered a very competitive social tournament and promptly had my ass handed to me in short order.  I found out that the bags I had played with a decade ago were now outlawed and purchased a set of bags that “everybody likes and uses”.  I attributed my early exit from that tournament in part to these new bags.

In the interim I practiced when I had time with these new bags “that everybody likes and uses” but I just wasn’t comfortable with them.  I did however, find the many things wrong with my delivery, release, arc, foot position and my music list playing in my ears.  But there was still something about those bags.

Well yesterday dawned and it was my 64th birthday and the first day of the two-day tournament.  I ate breakfast, took my morning meds and packed my book bag with a towel, a couple of bananas and “the bags that every body likes” and set off to recapture former glory, yeah right.  I was hoping just not to embarrass myself.

I was virtually one of the first arrivals and my old buddy Ryan, the tournament director, informed me that bags were furnished and that there were four styles available and approved for use.  Well I found a set that closely resembled my old “back in the day” bags.  After a few throws my spirits were buoyed as reality began to resemble my memories.

If you’ve never been to one of these tournaments, you try to get there early and throw for at least a half hour or longer to get loosened up and to find out if the humidity will affect the bags, are your shoes too tight and in general to gauge the competition.  I threw for about an hour stopping only to drink plenty of water.  Remember my recent unpleasantness?

The first event was a blind draw doubles event and I was paired with guy about my age.  I had watched him warm up and figured that we were about the same.  I didn’t think he had a chance to win outright but surely we would win a game or two. 

Then we started throwing.  It was over in six frames and we didn’t score a single point, we got waxed.  My partner and I each gave up about the same number of points but I thought I threw like crap but not really any worse than my partner.

After about a ten minute break we were called back to our losers bracket game.  As I walked over I noticed I was a little wobbly and light-headed but didn’t think too much about it. Once the game started I couldn’t seem to get my feet under me and well you can guess how this game turned out.  We did manage to score about 8 points and prolonged the inevitable until 9 frames.

As I walked away I was extremely dizzy and found my chair and water bottle thinking I just needed a break.  I ate a banana and propped up for a while.  When I got up to refill my water bottle my gait remained unsteady.  So I approached Ryan, told him I didn’t fill like I needed to be there and I would see him the next day.  I got home and ate a lite supper and proceeded to go to sleep for the night at 5:30 in the afternoon. I didn’t get back up until  seven this morning.

When I did get up I felt like I could lay back down and sleep another 14 hours.  The morning proceeded at the pace of a good college hangover morning.  In just 24 hours yesterday’s 64-year-old Superman had become this morning’s ClarkKent that felt like he was 84.  But then again Clark always seemed to be ready to go in his suit, eyeglasses and fedora. Not me.

Today I realize that a couple of hours of leaning over, bending over, walking back and forth playing a simple game like cornhole is now something that I should no longer attempt.  That’s pretty disappointing but I guess this is my new reality.  I really can’t run across the street and now I really do know whats on the other side.

Greeting Mortality

Thirty days ago, I came face to face with my mortality.  It probably wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time I realized what was happening.  I wasn’t afraid, but I certainly was paying attention.

I was having a heart attack and spent the day telling myself that my symptoms were something else and if I just sat still a while longer, I would get better.  It was a Friday and finally around 10:00 pm I accepted the truth and dialed the dreaded three numbers – 911.

Within moments I was under the care of a voice on the phone and soon the flashing lights were outside and my living room was home to three paramedics.  Endless questions, sensors and wires and I was getting an EKG in front of my flat screen TV sitting in my old comfortable chair.

Minutes later I’m in the back of the ambulance looking out the back window at the streets that I travel every day. I was grateful for the oxygen lines that made my breathing easier although I had them in my mouth.

I told the paramedics I was a mouth breather and laughed.  After thirty days I understand that being a mouth breather is a result of being a pack a day smoker for forty-five years.  I haven’t smoked in these thirty days and pretty much I breathe through my nose again, amazing.

I was admitted to the hospital through the ER on Friday night, spending several days in ICU and then discharged on Wednesday afternoon. I was given an external defibrillator to wear at all times.  I’ve nicknamed it “Sparky” and it’s either around my waist or slung over my shoulder.

“Sparky” is by my bedside overnight and is only away when I’m in the shower. “Sparky is plugged into my “mansierre” which contains sensors and three paddles that will restart my heart if needed.  Yes the “mansierre”.  That’s from Seinfeld if you’re struggling with the term.

The “mansierre” has about all the sex appeal as my mother’s Playtex bras that she would hand wash and line dry on the shower rod.  And yes, that’s exactly where my spare hangs.  There is limited sex appeal since it is a front closure garment as two of the paddles are between my shoulder blades.

Back to the serious stuff.  Congestive Heart Failure (CFH) is my diagnosis.  I actually had a heart attack back around Thanksgiving but didn’t realize it. But the amount of damage showing in my heart indicated that to be the case.  Currently I have what I think they call about a 15% “pump out rate”.

Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a cardiologist to figure out what that means.  Eighty five percent of my heart is currently not working. I was not a candidate for stents, bypasses or any type of surgery during my stay.  I am currently taking about every kind of heart medicine, blood thinner and what ever else that you see on TV every day all day long.

My cardiologist referred me to a “specializing cardiologist” in another city and that was somewhat unsettling, initially.  You see this guy works in a clinic that has a part of its title “Heart Failure and Transplant Clinic”.   Now those are words that get your attention, right?

Of course, I only had a couple of weeks to dread the drive to find out what other life changes I would be confronted with.    To say that I was filled with apprehension and dread would be an understatement.

But things turned out better than I thought.  My new friend, Dr. Gulatti, and I got along fabulously.  He was full of knowledge, confidence and clarity.  Those are the kind of characteristics that you would want in a heart failure cardiologist, right?

He was one of these guys that you see take charge. You know the one, the guy that steps forward and tells the less bold  “Here, hold my beer, I’ve got this!”.  Within minutes he explained to me his version of the next 30, 60 and 90 days and where we may or may not windup.

I don’t know exactly how this is all going to wind up, but I do know what the options are and how we are going to progress.  One of medicines was doubled at that visit and will be doubled again in another couple of weeks.  Four days later, I can tell a difference and yep, I’m feeling better.

I’m not out of the woods yet and I can’t even see where the woods stop and the clearing begins, but I do know a couple of things.  After forty five years I’m done with tobacco and most likely alcohol as well.  I have no intention of becoming a crusader trying to reform all remaining smokers.  I made my decisions, including the one to stop and that’s the end of my responsibility, as I see it.

If someone seeks my help, I’ll be happy to help.  That is what I hope to do as I write about my journey.  I tried to write about this when I first got out the hospital but I just didn’t understand my feelings.  After 30 days, my sense of humor has returned.  I’ve greeted mortality and I hope to be able to write about my journey for some time to come.

 

 

Milestones

A common saying these days is “life comes at you fast” and it only seems to come faster as we age.  When we’re young and think we will live forever we begin to place milestones in the future as we hope it will unfold.  Well this isn’t about me or any regrets that I may have, I talk about that enough, too much in fact lately.

This is about my daughters.  They were born seven years apart and are as different as night and day, but so much alike.  It amazes me to watch them as they interact with each other even today.  My amazement I guess comes from the fact that I was an only child so every day is still new to me.

We don’t get together as much as we used to.  The last time was just over two weeks ago for my birthday.  The oldest has her family including her son Graham, now six months old.  The youngest is a senior in college and tomorrow is a big day for her, she sits for her GRE.

The oldest is a pharmacist with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree.  This was what she had determined was her path in life when she was in high school.  When my youngest was a junior in high school, I had a mid-life crisis, but I was in my late 50’s.  After a period of time, I got my act together, but there was an impact on my youngest.  In her senior year of high school, I realized that I was in no shape to get her to college.

I asked her if she could wait one year,  an eternity for a high school senior, while her classmates moved on. I promised that I would get her where she wanted to go.  It was tough news for her, but she worked, I worked and one year later she entered the university of her choice.

After three and a half years, tomorrow is a milestone day for her.  She has an overall GPA of about 3.8 and can pretty much pick and chose where she wants to go next.  There is a lot going on in her world and I am so proud of her.

There is a lot going on in the world in general right now, in the United States in particular.  Tomorrow, promises to be a day like we haven’t had in this country in quite some time.

For me, tomorrow is a day of pride.  My baby sits for the GRE tomorrow afternoon.  That’s a milestone for her.  It’s a milestone for me.  I’m so very proud for her.  I know she’ll do well.  The rest of tomorrow, for me will just be noise.

 

It ain’t really Monday unless it sucks.

Today was supposed to be my day off, not a bad way to start your week, right.  I woke up later than normal and turned on the coffee and sat down at the keyboard.  Soon after, I received a text from a co-worker wondering if I might be interested in swapping days off this week.  My answer was elaborate. NO.

I had every intention of going into work late and leaving early like I normally do on my day off.  In car sales it never hurts to check in to see if someone who on Saturday swore they weren’t buying until year-end might have changed their mind in the last couple of days.

My plan, as usual, was to roll in around 10:00 and be gone by 4:00 at the latest.  Another text arrived at 8:30, this one from my manager, informing me of mandatory training at 9:00 AM.  I cheerfully replied that while I would be in, 30 minutes would be an outlier for my arrival, but that I would be in shortly.

In the car business, mandatory training means that the owner has paid good money for an outside trainer to come in and teach those of us that have been sales forever that we have been doing it all wrong.  It’s usually entertaining for the new people and they generally overlook the fact that this person is telling them that their parents totally screwed up raising them.

So, assuming that it would be a 2 hour training session starting at 9:00 to be followed by a second session a few minutes later for another two hours, I rolled into work just before 10:00 am  It’s my day off, remember?  The joke was on me.

I was informed by co-workers that the first session was three hours and the second session would start at 1:00 pm.  So, I was basically three hours early on a day when it was steadily raining, which is not the best weather for selling cars.  Right on time, my co-workers and my manager returned almost precisely at noon.  My manager declared it to be useful training while my co-workers were less than effusive in their praise to say the least.

At 1:00 pm, four of us went across the street to the training location.  The class was a mixture of seasoned veterans and green peas, or new sales people and a couple of managers thrown in for balance.  Our trainer was introduced by one of the owners and pronounced as legitimate further stating that he had been thoroughly vetted and thus he had the house stamp of approval.

I knew instantly that we had been had when the trainer/speaker/owner of his own company told us that he had the privilege of working with Tony Robbins at an early age.  When I hear that name, alarm bells go off in my head.  Huckster, television personality and a guy that used to hold seminars in hotel meeting rooms and sell you a series of tapes, CD’s and monthly newsletters, for a monthly recurring fee of course.

Not to pick on Tony Robbins specifically, but this is an old con.  The secret to success in life can’t be revealed in one lecture, but requires continued devotion and monthly updates to the source of knowledge.  The source of knowledge usually jets around the world in his Gulfstream spreading the “gospel of success” to those that haven’t been to a Hilton ballroom lately.

My afternoon session, took a break at the half way point in the scheduled three hours right on time.  During this time, the presenter, sat down in a chair and lowered his tone of voice and talked to the non-smokers that remained.  Shortly after, he was back on his feet pacing and times, shouting at us again.  Then came the role-playing.  We were to use the tidbits that would make us successful and make impromptu presentations.

Having basically been in sales since I was fourteen, I lowered my head even further than it had been hoping to totally avoid eye contact with the presenter.  I was successful for a couple of rounds, but he tracked me down.  Now, truly the crap he was preaching is Sales 101, 102, 201, 202, etc.  Finally he locked in on me and it was decision time.

So, given the scenario I was to respond to, I said, fuck it.  I’ll answer his challenge, but in my own damn words.  Most of my co-workers had responded by reading answers they had carefully written down.  Not me, not after a lifetime in sales.  The scenario was after a test drive, the customer turns hostile and demands your best price.  What do you as a salesman do?

Well, I’ve been faced with this situation more times than I can remember.  When the presenter looked at me and said “what about you?”  I said “sure” and went into one of my standard customer complimentary dialogues that always ends up inside, with the customer seated with a bottle of water or cup of coffee in their hands.  When I finished, my co-workers were laughing, which really isn’t unusual.

There was another session and another role-playing exercise and another go around the room for show and tell.  Once again, I was called out directly to respond.  Unfortunate.  I had nothing written down and stood up holding an imaginary phone to my ear and talked my way through the hypothetical problem covering all of the presenter’s points in a slam dunk, tour-de-force performance.

Well, the joke was on me.  Our three-hour afternoon session turned into a four-hour session, about three hours and forty-five minutes longer than it should have, conservatively.  When we were discharged, released or perhaps paroled, we walked outside and the rain had moved on and the sun was glorious in the late fall afternoon.

The bad news after all of this?  Another training session tomorrow.  This time, I think I am due for the morning session.  I told my manager on the way out the door this afternoon that I was scheduled for out-patient hip replacement surgery in the morning and wouldn’t be available for a couple of days.

Motivational speakers, televangelists and certain politicians give me sharp pains in the ass.  2017 has been especially trying.  My left hip just can’t take sitting through this much longer.  Today, was Monday, it really did suck and frankly I’ve had enough of all this crap for a couple of days.  I hear titanium replacement hips are all the rage these days, especially if you’re going through TSA screenings.

Lawn jockeys and new friends.

Today I had occasion to travel the brief fifty miles back to my hometown.  I live in Greenville, SC firmly planted midway between Charlotte and Atlanta along Interstate 85. I grew up in Greenwood, SC and lived and worked there for almost 60 years.  Greenwood is sort of in a Bermuda Triangle of north-west South Carolina.

Greenwood is south of Greenville and Anderson, also along Interstate 85.  Greenwood is north and west of the capital of South Carolina, Columbia and thus in the middle of nowhere.  People often say,  “It’s a nice town with friendly folks, but you just can’t get here from any where else”.

Greenwood has four lane access to Greenville, but it’s not interstate.  You can look at all of this on Google maps.  Access  between these two cities is by way of US 25.  US 25 was designated an US Highway in 1926 and originally ran from Brunswick, Georgia to Port Huron, Michigan.  Currently it terminates in Covington, Kentucky at the Ohio River.

Having said all of that.  The drive from Greenville to Greenwood this afternoon was one I had not made in several months.  It started as a partly cloudy day and was mostly cloudy by the time I arrived in Greenwood.  I was meeting a new friend to retrieve a valuable family heirloom found in a thrift store.

The drive down was not congested at all and I was able to reorient myself with several landmarks along the way.  Throughout my lifetime there have always been two places along this highway that made and sold concrete yard ornaments.  You know what I’m describing here, right?  Birdbaths, squirrels, horses and bears.  Things we here in the south proudly were once known to use to decorate our yards.

Today, I noticed a new addition to the concrete statuary competition.  An old single story farm-house with a collection of concrete statues within a former chain link dog pen.  And there they were.  Lawn jockeys.  Not just raw, freshly poured concrete statues, but those painted in black face, with orange, yellow and red overalls ready to take home and proudly plant in your new flower bed.  Really?

I haven’t seen those in years.  They have become a rare sighting.  I mean if you live in South Carolina you’re more likely to see pickup trucks with  dual flags in the back.  You know – “Don’t Tread on Me and the Confederate Stars and Bars” mounted in jacked up  trucks flapping in the breeze as they speed past you.  But black-faced lawn jockeys?  Where is the market?

I was really flabbergasted to see these on the side of the highway today as I journeyed to my hometown.  Based on what we have seen in Charlottesville  and other cities besieged by hatred  this year, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

Anyway, the reason for my trip was to retrieve the previously mentioned family heirloom.  After a delay, the lady with this treasure arrived.  She knew me from earlier life, though in all honesty, I didn’t know her.  Soon she drove up with the portrait of my daughters that she had bought in a thrift shop simply for the frame.  She didn’t have any idea who the two girls were but had put out word on Facebook that she would surrender the portrait to the rightful owner.

We talked for a few minutes about our past lives, hugged and shook hands.  She had the portrait wrapped in a baby blanket and insisted on showing me that it was in perfect condition.  She was so happy that she had found the rightful owner and it showed in her eyes.  I was tickled and repeatedly thanked her for her kindness and loaded the portrait in my Blazer and headed back to Greenville.

On the drive home, I passed the black-faced lawn jockey statues again.  My thoughts going back home were different from they were on the way down.  Going down, I was almost incensed by the presence of the lawn jockeys.  Headed home, I thought hopefully there are at least two people looking to return treasures to their rightful owners  for every one that’s looking to purchase back faced lawn jockeys.

 

 

 

Family

We all have family that we care about.  Family that we treasure and love beyond belief.  I have one remaining Uncle at this point in life.  When my Dad was initially diagnosed with a brain tumor in early 1996, I couldn’t go to Duke for the diagnosis.  My Uncle went.

I felt so helpless.  My Dad had always been there for me and now I couldn’t be there for him.  I won’t go into the reasons, but there was just no way I could leave town and travel to Duke.  My Uncle and Aunt went, they had time, or maybe they just made time, but they went.

I talked with my Uncle on the phone when they were at Duke and my Uncle said to me – “this is what families do”.  That comment has been ingrained in my soul for the last 20 years.  I have repeated this phrase to my two daughters time and again as we have sought to cling together in the tumultuous times together in these last 20 years.

I had four uncles 20 years ago.  Three were brothers of my Dad, the other married one of my mother’s sisters.  Two of my Dad’s brothers are gone now and tonight  one of my daughters told me the one that was married to my mother’s sister was also gone.  He died about a year ago.

He was a conflicted individual to say the least.  My mother’s sister suffered from Alzheimer’s and Lord knows when she died.  They had no children, only each other.  I don’t want to go into the things that happened as my Mother’s oldest sister died, that’s done and in the past.

I just hope that the money that he got from my other aunt’s estate eased his journey into hell.  She had written her will so that pretty much everything, including her house would go to her church.  Well this SOB left her church standing at he altar, if you know what I mean.

As my Aunt was dying, her friends from childhood could not get in to see her and console her.  She was held captive in her sister’s house by this asshole previously labeled as my Uncle.  I told one of her closest friends from childhood that there would be a special place in hell  for certain people and an express lane reserved for a special few.

The bastard has been gone now for over a year and his descendants have his money.  They also have my other Aunts money, but they didn’t get my Mother’s money.  That went to my two daughters.  They are fine for now.

Twenty years later, my other Aunt’s church is fine.  I hope that the bastard’s great-nephew has enjoyed the money and is fine.  When he looks in the mirror and it has a wiggle in what he sees, I hope it gives him pause.  His great-uncle was a great big ole pile of crap.  Full Stop.

 

 

Donald Trump is coming to town

donaldtrumpiscomingtotownThis afternoon we here in the Upstate of South Carolina will be graced by the inconvenience of hosting the greatest inconvenience this country has ever seen.  Air Force One is set to land at Greenville-Spartanburg Airport at 5:25 pm.  To appreciate this tidbit of information, let me give you some local color on what happens at 5:25 pm on Interstate 85.

Nothing, Zip,  Nada.  You see the airport is at Exit 57.  BMW’s only North American manufacturing plant is at exits 58 & 60.  Michelin North American headquarters is at exit 54.  Beyond exit 60 to the north is Charlotte.  South of exit 54, well that leads to Atlanta.  Are you beginning to build the mental picture I’m trying to paint for you?  Traffic doesn’t move on a good day, much less a Monday.

Donald Trump will be attending a fundraiser for our accidental governor, Henry McMaster about two miles from where I work.  Henry is accidental in the fact that we sacrificially gave up our elected governor, Nikki Haley to Donald Trump.  Nikki is now on Sunday talk shows explaining that she agrees with Donald, it’s just that he keeps leaving out details when he says he is going to wipe North Korea off the map.

Back to this afternoon.  It will be an invitation only, private closed to the press, fundraiser at one of our swanky hotels for out-of-town business guests.  The hotel is located on a ritzy connector road between two major thorough fares that dump traffic onto Interstate 85.  Meanwhile, several miles away in the downtown district there are protests scheduled that are open to everyone.

In light of this, my escape route home involves none of the traffic and hopefully I can peacefully slide away from work under the radar and get home in my usual 25 minutes.  Speaking of radar and people and things that fly under it, I’ve written a little jingle about this afternoon’s visit that you can sing along to.  Once you read it, you should pick up the tune quite easily.  In honor of our visitor and to celebrate the Christmas (NOT HOLIDAY) season.

 

I‘m living in doubt, he’s telling a lie

He makes me wanna shout, I’m telling you why

Donald Trump is coming to town.

 

I‘m making a fist and shaking it twice

Where in the hell is that bastard Tom Price

Donald Trump is coming to town.

 

He tweets when you are sleeping

He never takes a break

He doesn’t know if he is bad or good

“Cause he never makes a mistake!

 

I’m living in doubt, he’s telling a lie

He makes me wanna shout, I’m telling you why

Donald Trump is coming to town.

 

Little tin hats, little tiny hands

Vegas is great – Puerto Rico must wait

Donald Trump is coming to town