Family Feud.

To say that this has been an interesting week, well in 2017, that’s really something.  How does a topic rise to “Top of Mind Awareness” or TOMA when everything this year has been absolutely surreal?  Well, that takes some work.

We started the year off in January with the inauguration.  You remember that, the third Friday of this glorious year in Washington, DC.  A dark inauguration speech, that apparently was a clip left on the cutting room floor of one of the Mad Max movies.  You remember those, right?

They started coming out in the late 70’s and lasted a few years and resulted in a few sequels.  Mel Gibson hadn’t really become controversial and Tina Turner became a movie star.  If you look it up on Google. you’ll no doubt encounter the term “dystopian future” somewhere in the  millions of Google search results.

Well, dystopian future and dystopian reality have become commonly used phrases in 2017.  Think back to the inauguration of our most curious occupant of the White House, Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States.

I watched the speech that day at work, and thought to myself “that wasn’t very uplifting or inspiring, but at least its over.”  I didn’t vote for him, but like my Dad when refusing to renew his Time Magazine subscription in 1974 while Nixon was under assault from all corners, when he wrote “I support the President” on his renewal and declined another year and mailed it back in.

I thought, based on informed commentary by Mark McKinnon, whom I respect very much, “it isn’t going to be as bad as everyone fears or as great as everyone hopes”, so give the guy a chance and see what happens.  Well it turns out, at least from my perspective, the dystopian future is here.

In comments that surfaced several months later, George W Bush, the 43rd and perhaps its most in eloquent President of the United States, was reported to have said upon leaving the inaugural dais, “that was some weird shit”!  At this point in time, I can only say that I wholeheartedly agree.

Having said all of that, I guess I need to get to tonight’s topic.  Family Feud, we all have them with somebody that we have supposed blood or marital connections to.  It’s inevitable, unavoidable and just plain reality.  Without going into detail of my entire existence on this planet for the last 62 years, lets just enter into evidence the fact that I have more than one ex.  Wife that is.

One is my children’s mother and the other remains my best friend.  I know that seems odd when you look at it, but its the truth.  We all have best friends, we don’t always agree on everything, but when we talk, it seems as though the last time, well it was yesterday, right?

A lot of us have ex-spouses that we  have share responsibilities of children with and that is the “Supreme Test” in life.  How do you constantly put the well being of your children ahead of self interest?  Sometimes it easy, sometimes, it just plain hell.  Hell would best describe the path that I have walked for nearly 20 years, but it is a path I chose, and one that I walk daily.

When my oldest left for college in the fall of 2006, I was a custodial parent with full financial responsibility for all that lay ahead.  I thought I was up to date because I texted, took calls more than 3 or 4 times a day from my freshman daughter and sent in-depth e-mails to add my insight to what ever were her current problems.

Somewhere along the line, I joined Facebook.  Mostly to find out what was going on in the distant city 200 miles away where my oldest was attending college and then later to connect with family and long lost friends.  Facebook became a way of daily communicating and pictures and soon video of getting your message out to those you thought gave a damn, one way or the other.

By the time I joined Facebook, I had re-married and now had a hybrid family and suddenly more friends and family than I could possible imagine.  Initially, the hybrid family seemed to function, four children ages from 8 to 21, not quite the same, but trying to make a go of it.  My best friend and I found ourselves involved in a social activity that exponentially expanded our social network beyond our wildest dreams.

I began to write, as so many others did on Facebook about anniversaries, birthdays, other special events as so many do.  I would post pictures from the past to tie in with memories and my circle of friends kept expanding as did the positive comments and likes.

I’m in the car business and soon I started posted a series of comments under the heading of “If I’m lying, I’m dying”.  These were short stories about some of the more special people you run into when dealing with the public,  Well, lately, I’ve pulled back from some of the postings, because, well, people come in and talk to you, then go home and check you out online and in social media to see what’s been said about you.  Don’t believe me, Google yourself and decide if you’d want to do business with you.

Back to my children’s mother.  As part of the dystopian future, guess who joined Facebook recently?   Well apparently, my children’s mother went through my entire Facebook timeline, and like the nurse that she was, she took notes on everything of interest.  Should have seen this coming, but nope, missed it.

A few days ago, I received a text message covering many screens on my phone, attempting to litigate a failed marriage that lasted 15 years, but somehow covered the last 30 years.  It was rambling, not very flattering to say the least, and foretold a series of storms to come.

After consultation with my daughters, I decided to bring to an end my Facebook adventure.  I logged in and deactivated my account and then blocked the offending ex and her phone number.  I’m not sure, but I think I’ve broken my Facebook addiction, at least for now.  For now, I have this blog and it’s anonymous, at least as far as my children’s mother knows.

So Family Feud showed up in my life on Monday and I think I have dealt with it.  No need in arguing over the past, not sure I even care.  No, I don’t.  I miss Facebook, not checking my phone 20 times a day to see what has been posted, I just miss the pictures and comments.  Not all of them, but I will move on.  And based on recent reporting of the ads that  Facebook has been selling. it’s probably not a bad idea.

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If I only had wind chimes, I’d know

As an upstate South Carolina resident, I don’t have first hand knowledge of the force and destruction of a hurricane making landfall.  I’m about 4 hours from the coast, figuring in bathroom breaks, and this is the second time in my adult life that such a storm has gotten my attention.

Today and tonight, we are dealing with Irma, certainly on a lesser scale than the folks in Florida and the Caribbean.  The wind has been up most of the day and light rain has been falling since early morning.  During the morning, it was unusual, after lunch it was more than noticeable.

At this moment, Irma is bearing down on the state of Georgia as a tropical storm.  That’s timid by comparison to the havoc wreaked on Barbuda, Cuba and Key West.  As darkness has settled in, the winds in upstate South Carolina have intensified and the rainfall continues to pelt the ground in a horizontal motion that I haven’t seen for awhile.

The thought that strikes me tonight, is Irma for real or is she just a reincarnation of Hurricane Hugo in drag?  We’re about 10 days short of the 28th anniversary of Hurricane Hugo making landfall directly on South Carolina and I remember that like it was yesterday.  Hugo landed with a fierceness not seen in South Carolina in a generation.

Hugo was a monstrosity that made land fall somewhere around Sullivan’s Island at the mouth of Charleston Harbor and McClellanville, home to South Carolina’s shrimping industry.  Hugo came ashore, went far inland and made a turn towards Charlotte.  The devastation was remarkable at the time.

Hardwood and softwood forest were leveled by the force and fury of Hugo’s winds similar to what was seen after the eruption of Mt St. Helens in 1980.  The devastation and economic impact on the coast and the state in general were valued at $10 Billion, an enormous sum in 1989 dollars, but paling in comparison to Irma and Harvey in today’s dollars.

My earlier reference to Irma being Hugo in drag is because the conditions four hours from the coast are similar to that night 28 years ago.  In 1989, the Weather Channel was in its infancy, supported only by local news stations with in-studio weather folks repeating the facts that appeared on the AP/UPI wires.  Cable TV had a few basic channels and in larger communities, included The Weather Channel, CNN and WGN out of Chicago.

There was no internet yet, unless you wanted to log in to The Library of Congress to read the Declaration of Independence.  So, in 1989, without Facebook and Twitter, smartphones and an endless supply of “APPS”, there was basic cable, your local TV stations, community newspapers dependent upon the Associated Press or United Press International news stories.

Some of us had IBM or Compaq computers on our desk at work, most of us had dual 5 & 1/4 inch floppy disks and the higher ups had only one disk drive with an accompanying 5 MG hard rive.  Main frame computers communicated over phone lines at the blistering speed of 9,600 MB over dial up modems.  If you never used a dial up modem, stop by a pay phone on the sidewalk and it’ll give you and idea of what that was like.

Anyway, back to Hugo and Irma.  In October of 1989, my oldest daughter was a few months away from her 2nd birthday and my second daughter was a little over 5 years away from making her initial appearance.  At the time, we lived in a Victorian Cottage approaching 100 years of age, with soaring 11 foot ceilings, seven foot long windows and heart pine floors.

Needless to say, when you live in house like that you are appreciative of the woodwork, craftsmanship and ridiculous heating bills in the winter that come with owning a home with basically no insulation.  The winter heating bills coming on the heels of Christmas are something that they don’t talk about on “This Old House”.  Remember, there was no HGTV, Flip This House, or Property Brothers in 1989.  This Old House was available two ways:  SCETV or by magazine subscription.

OK., Hugo, right?  The night that Hugo came ashore everyone was tucked in tight and yours truly was watching out by watching The Weather Channel in a 100 year old house with no insulation and windows that rattled when the train went by a block away.  The thing I remember most that night were the wind chimes.  There was a set hanging on our front porch and another set on the neighbors side porch less than a few yards away from my rattling windows.

That night, I could measure the intensity of Hugo from 4 hours away from the coast by the music from the wind chimes.  The more melodious the sounds were, the calmer the storm seemed to be.  When the music became frantic, Hugo’s winds were roaring through a town 4 hours from the coast.

Tonight, in my apartment, I don’t hear the sound of wind chimes.  I’ve looked at several on my visits to Wal-Mart, Costco, Lowe’s and Home Depot over the 1st three years since I moved further inland.  I’ve always come up with a rationalization for not buying them and walked away.

As I sit here tonight, I wish I had bought a set at the very least, if not two, one for each end of the apartment, since I have two porches.  If I had bought wind chimes, then I would be able to compare Hugo to Irma.

The sounds from that night twenty eight years ago still ring in my head like it was last night.  If I had wind chimes tonight, I’d be able to compare the two sounds.  Was one louder than the other?  Almost four hours from the coastline, I’d know for sure what the people of the Caribbean, Cuba and Florida already know.  Is Irma really that much bigger, or is she just simply Hugo in drag twenty eight years later?  I’m buying a set of wind chimes tomorrow, the answer to that question is just too important to relegate to The Weather Channel.

 

Irmageddon, Wal-Mart and Hoarding

This is my second attempt to put words to paper, as it were.  This idea began to gel as I was driving home from Wal-Mart earlier.  I have friends that thoroughly detest Wal-Mart, not just the store itself, but the injustice they perceive that Sam Walton and his heirs has visited on America.

But for me, Wal-Mart is an adventure every time I go for a visit.  I don’t look at it as going shopping, nope, its a visit with a few hundred strangers all doing the same thing, preparing for the next few days.  I use the term strangers because I moved three years ago and outside of work, my family and my customers, I don’t really know anyone.  My neighbor is simply “Porkchop” and I usually see him to talk about every other week.

But the people I see at Wal-Mart, well, they are special and today was no different, it was a treat that I really hadn’t expected.  As I sit here sharing with you, Irma has been wreaking havoc on Florida for several hours now and totally dominating the news cycle.  Like everyone else, I think I have seen my lifetime quotient of rain gear clad reporters standing in running water, commenting on fallen palm fronds and pounding surf all the while pointing out the painfully obvious, its not safe to be were they are reporting from.

There is no relief from these weather warriors on social media either.  Every local TV meteorologist is busy tweeting and posting on Facebook your local likelihood of wind and rain, even though you may be 600 miles from Irma’s eye.  Well that’s me today, about 600 miles away but not entirely safe from 40 MPH winds and 3 to 6 inches of rain

One of the things that I can’t seem to escape on social media is the video of how to charge your phone when the power goes out.  We’ve all seen it.  You know, the 9 volt battery, your car charger and the spring out of an ink pen.  Followed by the comments & testimonials from your friends and followers who all swear that it works.

Since today is my day off and Irmageddon is now just under 24 hours away for the Upstate of my beloved state, I decided to make an appropriate shopping list and venture out to my nearest Wal-Mart Supercenter.  I must mention that since Harvey dropped a few feet of water on Houston and the Texas gulf coast in general, I’ve been visiting the grocery store every couple of days.

I’ve done this to protect myself from shortages and price gouging.  During Harvey it was everywhere I looked that pipelines carrying gasoline from Houston to the east coast were being shut down and there would be no gas.  In just a few days the price of gasoline went from under $2.00 a gallon to $2.49 a gallon and I responded accordingly by topping off my gas tank every three or four days.

Normally, I can drive for nearly two weeks on a tank since I only drive about 15 miles a day.  This brings me to hoarding, which was genetically passed on to me by my Mom.  My Mom, like my Dad, was born during the depression and lived an early life of doing without or having basic necessities rationed during World War II.  My Dad was the oldest of five, my Mom was the youngest of four and like my Dad, both of her parents were employed in the textile mills.

Being an only child, in the post World War II baby boomer era, things were better for me growing up.  My Dad worked for the textile company, but he had a good job, managed his money well and that allowed my Mom to stop working when I was young.  We didn’t live an extravagant life, Mom and Dad managed their money well, but we ate well, lived in a comfortable home and enjoyed a yearly vacation to the beach in late spring .

However, my Mom, did have a tendency to accumulate things.  Not everything, but things like towels.  If they were on sale, Mom bought towels.  I mean you take bath everyday, right?  So what if there are only three people in the house and one washing machine always present?  Something could happen to the washing machine, so why not have 24 sets of towels and washcloths?  Eight days is an eternity, if the washing machine goes out.

Mom’s tendency accelerated when my first daughter was born.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was showing tendencies of early onset of Alzheimer’s.  The purchases were now for the benefit of her granddaughter, not herself or my Dad.  If Crayola sidewalk chalk was on sale, you can’t have too many packs in the closet where the towels were stored, right?

If Kraft macaroni and cheese box dinners were buy one get one free, why buy four when eight will just fit into the kitchen cabinet if you work at it.  Which brings me to my trip to Wal-Mart today.  I had a short list, beer, 9 volt batteries to recharge my phone when the power went out and light bulbs.  If the power goes out, you don’t need light bulbs, and I had no pressing need for light bulbs, but they were part of my justification to go to Wal-Mart.

Now, as I said earlier, a trip to Wal-Mart is a visit with America.  At work, I’m somewhat insulated as I sell Subarus.  Not every walk of America wants or needs a Subaru, and those that do, can easily afford them and thus they are actually an easy sell.  When I have sold more mainstream cars, I’ve been in contact with folks that either direly needed a new car, could barely afford a car, or came out to shop for cars when their power had been disconnected for non-payment, and decided to get out of the house because the air conditioning wasn’t working.

Those are the people of Wal-Mart.  Not all of them, but the folks I don’t see every day.  But today was special.  The place was packed for an early Sunday afternoon, remember Irma?  As I walked in the door, I checked for a buggy with four wheels that tracked straight and didn’t make an embarrassing noise and wobble and off I went.

My first stop was the battery carousel behind the express checkout stations.  There they were 9-volt batteries and since I was there, why not an 8 pack of Double A batteries?  They fit my TV remote, the mouse for my computer and all the clocks in my house, never mind that the TV and my computer will probably not work if Irma denies me power for a few days.

Down to the household aisle and I found a 4 pack of LED light bulbs for only $22.22, what a bargain!  Then for only another $3.96 I scored an LED tap on light(that only needs 3 AA batteries, well I’m set.  And I’m only down about $39 at this point and have found an immediate use for 3 of my 8 new AA batteries.

By the time I get to the grocery section, I’m confronted with a new type of customer that I’m not used to seeing in Wal-Mart.  It’s the husband doing reconnaissance by smart phone with his wife.  You see it occasionally, the guy on the phone talking to his superior, describing in detail the product he was sent in search of, only to be told, that its the wrong brand, size or doesn’t have the proper seasoning.  It’s somehow emasculating to watch.

I was in search of a simple 18 pack of beer, but no, the only option was 12 packs.  OK, what to do, buy the 12 pack and get back out in the remnants of Irma in a few days and purchase more mid-week, or get two 12 packs now.  Obvious answer.

Well the rest of my trip was shot, except for the lady in her mid 40’s in the spandex pants and heavy eye liner that met me head on about every aisle, no I didn’t do it on purpose, but we did wind up in the check out line together.  So after setting out for a visit with America at Wal-Mart this afternoon and donating an extra $5 to the Red Cross, my total was $116.13.

The basic list was beer, batteries and light bulbs and I spent $116, WTF?  I didn’t mention the two pork loins now simmering in the crockpot.  And the best part of the visit was the pass I made through the meat department.  There was an older gentleman on his knees busily restocking the prepackaged meat section which looked as though everything had been “buy one get one free all weekend”.

I said hello and engaged him in a short conversation about his labor.  He told me, “honestly, you’d think the forecast was for 15 inches of snow and it’s been like that since Thursday”.  I smiled as I added a 2 lb pack of sliced turkey, which should last me to Thanksgiving, to my shopping cart along with 2 lbs of sliced cheese.

As I was driving home, it dawned on me that I had forgotten to buy ink pens, you know the click type with the spring I could remove to charge my cell phone.  I use a pen that has a removable top and have for the last 40 years.  Incidentally, I have an unopened three pack of those in my computer bag.  Thanks Mom.

When I get home and am getting my $116.13 of purchases out of the plastic bags, I take the unneeded light bulbs to the closet where they shall reside until the next one burns out, I found my jump box for my car.  I bought it about two years ago specifically because it has a USB port to charge a phone or a laptop in the event of power loss.

So here I sit, with the smell of two pork loins simmering in the crock pot filling my apartment.  My jump box is on the floor charging, my Mophie is plugged into my laptop, I have charged my old cell phone and turned it off knowing that if worse comes to worse, I can switch my SIM card back to my old phone and still communicate with my daughters and the outside world while I am 600 miles away from Irmageddon, 5 miles away from Wal-Mart and never more than a smile away from my Mom.

Thanks Mom.  You’ve been gone for a little more than 10 years and I just want you to know, I miss you, but especially want you to know that you live on through your son.

Standing your post

This is my first real attempt at writing on here.  I’ve been encouraged by a friend I’ve never met to get after this.  I’m neither a writer by training or talent, I just happened to have had a damn serious 12th grade English teacher that was very passionate and one hell of a character.

I came up with the title for whatever this turns out to be from my Dad.  He would be 90 now were it not for an Astro-cytoma in his brain twenty one years ago.  My Dad was the oldest of five boys born to a struggling young couple who worked different shifts in the textile mills of this area of South Carolina in the times leading up to the Great Depression.

Imagine working for .10 to .15 cents per hour.  Then having your rent deducted from your weekly check for the house that was provided for you and your family.  that doesn’t leave a lot to raise a family that grew from one son in 1927 to five sons by 1934.

By 1944, when my Dad graduated from high school, the US was involved in a two front war fighting the Germans and the Japanese.  After 15 years of being the oldest of 5 boys, being responsible for their well being while my grandparents worked second and third shifts in the mill, my Dad, enlisted in the US Marine Corps.

With no end in sight, he joined, with his parents permission, along with several of his friends from high school, the branch of service that would surely send him into battle in the South Pacific in the largest war this planet had ever known.

My Dad proudly rose to the rank of Lance Corporal in the Corps as a radio operator and served in the Occupation force under Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur at he end of World War II in China.  He was recalled during what was know as the “Korean Conflict” but never left the United States, only my mother who he married in 1948.

All of this brings me to present day, China, Korea and another Marine called back into service.  General John Kelly, Chief of Staff, White House serving our current President.  After the ouster of Reince Preibus, General Kelly left his position at the Department of  Homeland Security to take on an unruly and undisciplined White House.

Today, I have shunned television news coverage of the  underground hydrogen bomb nuclear test by North Korea.  I have, however, visited Twitter a few times for insight from sources that I deem credible.  Of those, I read an article that relayed the ‘off the record” feelings of General Kelly.

The quote, or the lede. or what ever you call it was attributed to the temper tantrum by our current President after his latest off the rails rant in Arizona last week.  In a meeting with aides, President Trump reportedly dressed down all of those present in a profanity laced tirade.

News reports have surfaced with a quote attributed to General Kelly stating that “in his 35 years of service to this country, he had never been talked to like that”.  General Kelly, now more than ever, please do not consider the source of the outrage and vitriol that may have been directed at you.

As my Dad told me as he was dying from the aforementioned Astro Cytoma….”remember what you were taught in Sunday School, the Golden Rule, Semper Fi and most important of all…….Stand your Post!”