Gills Rock

I was once an inspector for AAA. My job was to inspect and rate hotels, restaurants, campgrounds and attractions for this iconic American institution.

I truly enjoyed working for AAA. The work took me places I never dreamed I would see, and explore, when I was a child growing up in the Deep South. About the farthest we would venture from home, back in the fifties and sixties, was the Gulf of Mexico. Our destinations tended to be either Pensacola, Florida or Gulf Shores, Alabama.

There was the one occasion, though, that we made our way west. Across Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas we crept and crawled in our Plymouth Belvedere, tail fins and all. It certainly felt like creeping and crawling to an active five-year-old. But we did stop in San Antonio to visit the Alamo. This was a grand treat to one who’s imagination was filled with thoughts of Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett. And yes! I was gifted with an authentic replica coonskin cap which I wore proudly for many weeks to follow.

But back to the sugary white sands of Lower Alabama and the panhandle of Florida.

Whenever we were lucky enough to go on one of these short trips, usually one or two nights, we would never make plans or secure motel reservations. We piled into the car and headed south. When we reached our destination we would slowly cruise by the little ‘mom and pop’ motor courts and look for a decent enough looking place with a swimming pool. A pool was a requirement. When one returned to the room form the salty waters of the Gulf, there had to be a fresh water oasis we could enjoy before bathing and eating dinner.

How did one know if the establishment were decent?

On one such excursion we were all craning our necks at the places that dotted the shores of this paradise as we made our way past them. My father slowed down considerably as we approached one neatly-manicured inn. He almost came to a complete stop, pointed at an emblem that hung from the motel’s flashing neon sign, and asked, “Do you see that?” My eyes now fixated on the three large A’s and the word APPROVED. “You can trust that place. It’s triple A approved.” And from that day to this, I, for the most part, continue to agree with daddy.

Triple A approved. That is how I found myself in Gills Rock, Wisconsin. Gills Rock is located in Door County. Counties are important to we Southerners and I was taken by the close knit community that is Door County. There were no hotel or fast food chains here, except in Sturgeon Bay, which serves as the southern gateway to the county. It also serves as the county seat of this peninsula.

The Door County Maritime Museum was located in Sturgeon Bay. I had to visit the museum for possible inclusion in the AAA TourBook. The most notable feature, in the opinion of this nautical novice, is the Edmund Fitzgerald exhibit. The ship had a number of layovers in Sturgeon Bay during the winter months. Two of those who perished, when the Fitzgerald sank, were Sturgeon Bay natives.

Now Gills Rock, an unincorporated community, is situated at the northern point of the peninsula and has long been a commercial fishing outpost. Scuba divers also enjoy exploring shipwrecks at Death’s Door, the narrow straight which connects Green Bay to Lake Michigan. I had no desire to scuba dive at Death’s Door but I was intrigued by the opportunity to do some charter fishing for salmon.

My room had a television but no cable. Its reception relied on ‘rabbit ears’ which protruded from the top of the nineteen inch, faux wood box. There was no phone in the room but there was a phone booth outside in the parking lot of the motel, The Shoreline Resort.

The owners of Shoreline also operated a restaurant and bar which was downstairs from my second floor room and observation deck. It was quite good. The chefs and servers were students from a culinary institute. They were both eager and adept. It was great to have such a place mere footsteps from my front door.

I spent a portion of each evening at the bar where one could also get food service.

One night, after a long day of inspections, typing reports, and following my daily walk, I ambled down to the bar. I pulled up a stool, situated myself, and greeted the fellow patrons on each side of me.

The gentleman on my right, already well-lubed, inquired in a voice that was a tad more loud than what one would consider a normal tone, “So where are you from?” I indicated that I hailed from the home of country music, Nashville. “So, are you enjoying Wisconsin?” “You betcha!” I replied in my best impression of the phrase I picked up from the movie ‘Fargo’, which had been released a couple of years earlier. He roared with laughter and repeated the phrase.

Mary, both barmaid and co-proprietor of Shoreline, with her husband Jim, smiled as she poured my Leinenkugel from the tap. I recognized the jazz tune, be-bopping from the Bose speakers in the corners of the room, as one of Charlie Parker’s. Julie placed a ‘Leiney’ coaster in front of me and then the foamy mug of brew on top of it.

Mary was approaching middle age. Her dark brown hair was bobbed and her eyes were almost the color of her hair. Her smile was warm and unpretentious. She was a beauty. She exuded a humble, yet confident, air.

“Is that Charlie Parker?” I asked her. “Yes,” she answered, and her expression indicated that she was pleased, but not overly surprised at my possible recognition of Bird’s work. “I just got this a few days ago and I really like it,”she then handed me the mini-box in which the discs were packaged. ‘Yardbird Suite: The Complete Charlie Parker.’ “I’ve got that too!” I confessed.

And off she went, to the dining room, with a tray which supported four cocktails, vodka tonics.

At about that time, Peter, one of the student servers, was making a beeline to the rectangular beer chest to grab some bottled beverages. “Nice work,” I chimed in as I nodded at the tattoo on his right forearm.  It was a coyote which was howling at a bright yellow moon and stars, set against an indigo sky.

“Thanks! How about you? Any ink?” I rolled up my right t-shirt sleeve and revealed an interlocking AU, which is the logo my beloved Auburn Tigers. “Nice colors! How long have you had that?” Pater continued. “About a year,” I answered.

The Squirrel Nut Zippers then replaced Charlie Parker’s set and, seemingly, bounced out of the speaker system. I knew who they were only because Peter had shared that with me three days prior.

My food arrived. Baked salmon with parmesan herb crust, and fresh out of Green Bay. I smiled as the aroma titillated my olfactory senses. The fish was complemented by garlic mashed potatoes and a glass of Bogle Petite Syrah.

When the delicious meal had been consumed I asked Mary if I could get a Makers on the rocks to take back to my room. “Absolutely!” she cheerily replied.

I paid, tipped generously, took my bourbon, and headed upstairs to my room.

Now sitting on the back deck of my simple but contemporary style room in Gills Rock, Wisconsin, I could see the point where Green Bay meets Lake Michigan. A flock of Canadian geese, in formation, honked their way across the now dusky sky. I dipped the tip my Dominican cigar into the glass which was one-third filled with Makers Mark.

The words to Neil Young’s ‘Helpless’ came to mind and I began to softly sing them as tears filled my eyes.

“Blue, blue windows behind the stars,
Yellow moon on the rise,
Big birds flying across the sky,
Throwing shadows on our eyes.
Leave us

Helpless, helpless, helpless
Baby can you hear me now?
The chains are locked
and tied across the door,
Baby, sing with me somehow.”

How I wished that this were possible, but she was fourteen hours away and nestled with our children in the lush green hills of northern Tennessee. In a cabin on a tobacco farm which was replete with livestock, we now made our home. It really wasn’t “our” home as we had rented it from a farmer who had been cajoled, by his wife, into purchasing a large, white, two-story home in a nearby subdivision. It was a bedroom community of Nashville which was a mere twenty-five minute drive from this haven in Sumner County.

My thoughts then turned to the mournful lyrics of Hank Williams’ ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.’

“Hear that lonesome whippoorwill
He sounds too blue to fly
The midnight train is winding low
I’m so lonesome I could cry

I’ve never seen a night so long
When time goes crawling by
The moon just went behind the clouds
To hide its face and cry

Did you ever see a robin weep
When leaves began to die?
Like me, he lost the will to live
I’m so lonesome I could cry

The silence of a falling star
Lights up a purple sky
And as I wonder where you are
I’m so lonesome I could cry.”

And I did.

The tears began to trickle and then pour down my cheeks. I missed her. I missed them. I longed for our home in Tennessee.

I ground out the remainder of my Dominican stogie, wiped my eyes, and went back inside my quaint, but newly refurbished room at this AAA Approved lodging.

I was now completing week four of a five week stint here in an idyllic getaway for many who flee the suburbs and bustle of Chicago and Milwaukee. Weeks one and two had found me in Green Bay. It was there where I ate fish on Friday. “How’s the perch?” queried one elderly female patron. “Fine,” I replied, although it was a bit dry and not so flavorful.

Green Bay was great. I visited Lambeau Field, drank German beer, and dutifully performed the task that had brought me here.IMG_2765

The Packers were my favorite pro football team when I began to follow sports back in the early sixties. I liked the Packers because they won. Their quarterback, Bart Starr, was from Montgomery, AL near where I was born and raised. Starr played Sidney Lanier High School and, later, the University of Alabama.

Some of the other standouts, on those Packer teams, coached by the great Vince Lombardi, were Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Forrest Gregg and Max McGee.

On my first Saturday night in Green Bay I wound up at the Iron Horse Saloon. But first, Friday night’s proceedings.

I spent the previous night at the Grizzly Rose Saloon. It was enjoyable enough but was too ‘Urban Cowboy/Line Dancing’ and not a classic honky tonk, which I strongly prefer.

I was observing the evening’s said proceedings, at the Rose, when I glanced up from my seat at the massive surround style, polished wood bar, and in through the door strolled a gentleman by himself and scouring the cavernous facility for a spot on which to land. There was an open stool next to me and I knew, somehow, he would make his way to it. He did. We exchanged informalities and began to chat.

I don’t remember his name, I carried it and his phone number in my wallet for months, but I can almost see him now. He was a slight fellow with a scraggly mustache and dark brown hair. He wore a faded yellow Peterbilt cap, worn jeans and work boots. He had just come in off the road having ridden shotgun with a friend of his who was an over-the-road truck driver. Their trip had taken them across the country and back.

As our conversation progressed, it came to light that he had been through Memphis on their return trip to Green Bay. I mentioned that I had also travelled through Memphis but had never stopped there. I was also about to take a territory of my own and it would encompass Memphis, as well as the western portions of Tennessee, Kentucky, and southern Missouri. The entire state of Arkansas would also be included in the territory.

We spoke of Elvis, Sun Records and the Mississippi River before our conversation turned to country music. Now we’re getting somewhere. Our tastes were very similar. We shared a passion for traditional country music and neither of us were keen to the’Boot Scoot Boogi’ and the like. For us it was Haggard and Jones, moans and groans, and not the slick-sliced, overproduced pap that Nashville continues to churn out to this day.

We then began to formulate an idea of the type of honky tonk we’d like to open. BEER was the name we came up with for our place. Just one word… BEER. It would also have a banner strung across the intimate room which would read ‘No Line Dancing’. BEER would harbor the  world’s finest country jukebox. Hell, we were open-minded sorts. The carefully chosen house band would be allowed to perform both kinds of music, country AND western. Who doesn’t like Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers and Riders in the Sky?

True to her name, only beer would be served. Tap, bottle or can! If you wanted whiskey, I would keep my private stash in the office or you could leave it in your car and get a snort or two between sets. No wine! Beer damnit!

Dreams huh? And those that are formed and fueled by alcohol and a mutual love of twin fiddles and a steel guitar.  It was a good Friday night to commiserate with a newly made friend about the sad state of country music. Nothing has changed to this day. The decline continues. RIP Hank Williams. We miss you, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty and Waylon Jennings. Who’s gonna fill your shoes?

“I feel tears wellin’ up cold and deep inside like my heart’s sprung a big break. And the stab of loneliness, sharp and painful that I may never shake. You might say I was takin’ it hard when she wrote me off with a call, but don’t you wager that’ll hide the sorrow when I might break right down and bawl.”

The house band, at the aforementioned Iron Horse Saloon, opened with one of my favorite old Jones tunes on what was a rather pleasant Saturday night in the land of the Packers. Well slap the dog and spit in the fire! We got ourselves some COUNTRY music! And off we went! Yep, the race is ON!

I was so happy to have found some ‘real’ country music in a setting to my liking, nothing against the Grizzly Rose, that I was pickled tink. Well, maybe that’s how the beer would describe my elation. One set led to another and then to another break. I became so engrossed in the music that I had almost failed completely to absorb my surroundings. I downed my last swallow of Bud, climbed off barstool mountain, and took in the scenery. Bikers! That was it, about thirty or forty bikers and ME!

I had never before, but have several times since, found myself in the company of so many leather and bandana clad Americans. I was, initially, taken aback but soon found that there was no need for alarm. It’s all good. Yes, it was.

The Iron Horse, duh! think about the name for a minute, was not a place where a bunch of weekend warriors happened to show  up one Saturday night. It was a bar for bikers. Owned and operated by bikers. Well, me and my new found Harley hound friends had a big old time. There were no brows furrowed with suspicion or furtive glances. Just slaps on the back and the occasional bursts of laughter.

As midnight rang in Sunday, I turned it over to the rice-burnerless regular patrons of Green Bay’s finest bastion of country music.

There were no such establishments in Door County but there was a restaurant and lounge in Egg Harbor, just a few short miles from Gills Rock, which had come recommended by a couple of the locals.

But before plowing into an evening with a more upscale crowd in Egg Harbor, WI, something needs to be said about one of the neighboring communities more interesting features. It’s Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant & Butik in Sister Bay, WI.

Al Johnson’s is famous for its ‘goats on the roof’. Yes, there are real live goats who graze on the restaurant and butik’s sod roof. Lucky for me, when I passed through Sister Bay, that it was August because the goats are NOT on the roof in winter.

I have seen a good many odd or quirky sights growing up in Lower Alabama, but never anything like goats on the roof. I have chased goats. I have eaten goat meat, mostly in the form of an Indian curry, but I had never, before or since, observed goats grazing on a rooftop.

I didn’t eat or shop at Al Johnson’s either. Maybe I should have. Surely they don’t… NO!

Back to the eatery in Egg Harbor. I do not recall its name and I do not remember what I ate there, but I do recall its jukebox. This jukebox was, absolutely, loaded with tunes of Nashville’s finest!

After I secured my position at the bar, in the lounge of the restaurant, I ambled over to this jukebox to select the tuneage for my time there. The bartender asked if I needed any change. I replied in the negative, whipped out an Abe Lincoln and fed him to the music machine. George Jones, John Anderson, Willie Nelson and more were chosen to serenade me and anyone else who might wander in here over the course of the next couple of hours.

There was a father and son sitting a few stools down from me, and after about six or eight songs, the eldest questioned aloud, to no one in particular, “My god! Who played all this sad stuff?” I immediately fessed up in the affirmative.

I love my ballads. Or as Jones himself would describe them, “Slow, slobbing tear jerkers.”

We struck up a conversation and the father wound up inviting me to go out on his boat with him and family the following day. I don’t know if that was just bar talk but I did appreciate the invite. I politely declined as I had other plans on the docket. I was going salmon fishing.

Yes, that salmon fishing that piqued my interest developed into a reality. My reservation was set and it was off to Lake Michigan, on that beautiful Saturday afternoon, in quest of fishes.

As I would come to understand, there is not a lot of “fishing” that goes on in trying to land salmon. Back in Lower Alabama we used to actually cast with a rod and reel or just plunked a cane pole into whatever body of water we found ourselves.

When one salmon fishes, by charter at least, the host or guide takes care of everything and mounts the rod and reel on the back of his boat. The fishing, for his guests, consists on watching the rod and line of one’s setup. If you get a hit then the rod will bend and the IMG_2762bobber will plunge underwater.

There were four of us on this excursion into the Great Lake; the host, a young married couple and moi. The wife of the married folks caught the first salmon. It was a decent sized fish. There were not a great many hits that afternoon but eventually I got a good one and began to grapple with my salmon. These guys put up a pretty good fight. I hooked him, released the lock on the rod and the salmon took off. I would reel a bit and then let him run some more. I finally got him into the boat, after about a four or five minute struggle, and our captain netted him.

This was great fun. But those two fish were the only ones we kept. There were a handful of misses and a couple of false alarms. My salmon weighed about fifteen pounds. I was proud. Pictures were taken by the couple who remembered their camera. I had left mine behind in my room.

Now, it was getting late, sunset was fast approaching and oh captain, our captain, moved to crank the boat. It didn’t start. After several more failed attempts at cranking, he realized, as did we, that our vessel was not crankable. And the diagnosis? A dead battery. So here we are, a good ways out on Lake Michigan, with our salmon all dressed up with no place to go.

Ahab called the coast guard, to come jump us off, and the wait began.

Darkness descended upon us, as did hunger. It was only thirty or forty minutes before the Coast Guard arrived but it seemed like an eternity. Then there was the business of getting us going. That didn’t happen. We were towed back to safety in the harbor at Gills Rock. It was now around 9 PM. I let the couple have my salmon, as they planned to cook them, and proceeded to make haste to the inn for some sustenance.

There was a restaurant, nearby, that I had intended to evaluate that Saturday night. I called them and they said they would be open until 10 o’clock. I made it over there a few minutes before the kitchen closed and was fed. I didn’t opt for salmon. I had enough of that for the day. Something for land lovers was more to my liking.

All’s well that ends well.

Then it was a stop by a convenience store for beverages and back to my room and the nineteen inch telly with the protruding rabbit ears. I could only pick up one channel clearly enough to be watched. So there it was… me, Dennis Quaid, Jessica Lange and John Goodman all enmeshed in ‘Everybody’s All-American’. The thinly-veiled story of the great Billy Cannon, his time with the LSU Tigers, and the entirety of his life.

Hold that Tiger!

“Well I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that it did not hurt…” Not true, but it makes a good segway.

What does one occupy himself with on a Sunday in Door County Wisconsin? I had my fill of fishing. I had been to the Maritime Museum. So, it’s off to Sturgeon Bay for a couple of hours at the cinema and then, maybe, a small sack of cheese curds.

You might ask, “Just what is a cheese curd?” Well, as you may know, Wisconsinites are fond of their cheese, as am I. Packer fans are affectionately known as ‘cheeseheads’. You’ve seen them in those silly cheese wedge hats they wear to  Green Bay games.

But the curd!

From our dear old Wikipedia:

“Cheese curds in cuisine, or cooking, are the solid parts of soured milk either eaten alone or used in various regional dishes, mostly in eastern Canada and the northeastern and midwestern United States. They are sometimes referred to as ‘squeaky cheese’.

Production
Cheese curds start off with fresh milk. The milk is pasteurized, much like in the process of creating cheese. During this process, rennet is added to clot the milk. After the milk has been pasteurized, the result is a mixture of whey and the early stages of the curd. This mixture is then cooked. Next, it is pressed to release the whey from the curd, thus creating the final product of cheese curd.

Characteristics
Their flavor is mild, but can differ in taste depending on the process in which it was made. It has about the same firmness as cheese, but with a springy or rubbery texture. Fresh curds squeak against the teeth when bitten into, a defining characteristic due to air trapped inside the porous material. This “squeak” has been described by the New York Times as sounding like “balloons trying to neck”. After 12 hours, even under refrigeration, cheese curds lose much of their “fresh” characteristic, particularly the “squeak”. Keeping them at room temperature can preserve the squeakiness.

The curds have a mild flavor and are sometimes somewhat salty. Most varieties, as in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Vermont, or New York State, are naturally uncolored. The American variety is usually yellow or orange, like most American Cheddar cheese, but it does not require the artificial coloring.

Fresh
Fresh cheese curds are often eaten as a snack, finger food or an appetizer. They may be served alone, dressed with an additional flavor, or with another food, such as a small smoked sausage or piece of cured pork, with the elements skewered together on a toothpick. Examples of flavorings applied to fresh curds include jalapeño chili peppers, garlic, various herbs, or spice blends such as Cajun seasoning, with garlic and dill on cheddar curds being a popular combination.”

There you have it, folks! All you ever wanted to know about cheese curds… and MORE!

Well… all good things must come to an end. I did may fifth and final week in Wisconsin and it was back to 1025 Brinkley Branch Rd. in the beautiful hills of northern Tennessee.

I made one final stop at a house of cheese and then it was down the eastern coastline of Wisconsin to Manitowoc. I spent the night there at a Super 8 Motel. I would traverse the remainder of the drive on Sunday, all told about twelve hours.IMG_2764.jpg

I couldn’t wait to see Miss LeCroy, Luke, Leah and Misie (our Bichon Frise)!

Wisconsin was great! But, “There’s no place like home.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Myocardial Infarction

Myocardial Infarction. That’s a fancy name for heart attack. I have had two of these, the most recent on January 28-29, and I OH SO DO NOT want to suffer any more of them, but is that possible? More in a moment, here’s Wikipedia…

“Myocardial infarction (MI) or acute myocardial infarction (AMI), commonly known as a heart attack, occurs when blood flow stops to a part of the heart causing damage to the heart muscle. The most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort which may travel into the shoulder, arm, back, neck, or jaw. Often it is in the center or left side of the chest and lasts for more than a few minutes. The discomfort may occasionally feel like heartburn. Other symptoms may include shortness of breath, nausea, feeling faint, a cold sweat, or feeling tired. About 30% of people have atypical symptoms, with women more likely than men to present atypically. Among those over 75 years old, about 5% have had an MI with little or no history of symptoms. An MI may cause heart failure, an irregular heartbeat, or cardiac arrest.
Most MIs occur due to coronary artery disease. Risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, lack of exercise, obesity, high blood cholesterol, poor diet, and excessive alcohol intake, among others. The mechanism of an MI often involves the complete blockage of a coronary artery caused by a rupture of an atherosclerotic plaque. MIs are less commonly caused by coronary artery spasms, which may be due to cocaine, significant emotional stress, and extreme cold, among others. A number of tests are useful to help with diagnosis, including electrocardiograms (ECGs), blood tests, and coronary angiography. An ECG may confirm an ST elevation MI if ST elevation is present. Commonly used blood tests include troponin and less often creatine kinase MB.”

Numero Uno

My first heart attack occurred on May 19, 2004. I had the classic symptoms for five days leading up to it but, brain surgeon that I am, I tried to ignore these symptoms, hoping that they would just go away. They did not.

They began on Friday, May 15. As usual, I went out for my daily walk and could get no more than about 1/8 of a mile and I became winded and felt I could not go on. I had slight chest pains and shortness of breath. Back to the house.

Saturday found me at a Perfect Circle concert with my son Luke. I had chest pains walking to the venue and during the concert so I spent much of the time sitting in the concourse and sipping beer while my mind entertained thoughts like news headlines which would read, “Acworth Man Dies of Heart Attack at Rock Concert”.

Sunday I attended a CD/Record show in the ballroom of a nasty hotel in Atlanta. I picked up three or four CD’s, Grateful Dead and Gov’t Mule, I think, and deceived myself about the minor chest pains and shortness of breath I was experiencing. Really?

Monday was uneventful. Tuesday I went to the nearby Stone Age Tattoo parlor to sit for Mike Bargeron as he filled in a great deal of the psychedelic back tatt I was trying to have completed. I was there, hunched over, for around three hours. I got home and, again, made an effort at my walk. I got almost nowhere as the pains returned. It was if something heavy was sitting on my chest.

I crept home, went to the basement to get some files from my car and trudged back up the stairs. I almost fainted and had to grab the railing. I made it to my office, sat down, bent over to place the files on the floor and became very light-headed.

I FINALLY realized this was going nowhere and I picked up the phone to make an appointment with my doctor. The phone attendant asked me what my symptoms were and I told her. She said ,”Sir, you need to hang up the phone and dial 911. This is an emergent situation.” I did.

The person who answered at 911 said that they would be sending out the ambulance. I asked if the fire truck had to come with them. I said I didn’t want them to turn on the siren and make a big fuss in the neighborhood. They replied that they would do their best.

I was embarrassed. Complete stupidity, no?IMG_2678

So, here they all came, no siren, and they loaded me into the ambulance, gave me aspirin and nitroglycerin, hooked me up to an EKG and headed for Kennestone Hospital in Marietta. I was feeling fine and, now, even more embarrassed. I called Melodye and told her where I was headed. She had suggested that I do this as soon as everything started a few days back. Men!

At the emergency room I spent several hours on a gurney, waiting on a room to open up. I watched the whirl of activity in the ER with a bit of trepidation. My thinking was that there is just too much room for human error in a situation like this.

A cardiologist stopped by and told me that there was about a 90% chance I had/was having some type of heart event. I was unusually calm.

I was finally put in ICU and hooked up to a monitor while a blood thinner drip was attached to my arm in the form of an IV. I couldn’t go to sleep very well as I thought there was a possibility that I might not wake up Wednesday morning. I was administered a heart catheterization which showed that I was 99% blocked in my main artery, the Left Anterior Descending artery. The doctor told me they needed to rush me to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta for an angioplasty, as they were not equipped to handle that procedure there in Marietta. That has since changed. More on that later.

Ole Mel climbed into the front seat of the ambulance with the driver and I layed down in the back as the other EMT gave me aspirin and did another EKG, which showed nothing. EKG’s are useless.

They rushed me into the OR and, almost immediately, began the angioplasty. I was sedated but awake. There was a screen by the table and I, drowsily, observed as the process began. Well, maybe halfway into the procedure I began to sweat profusely, “like a whore in church”, as I told one of the nurses when it was over, and lose consciousness.

It turns out that my 99% went to 100% closed in that main artery, I threw a clot, my blood pressure crashed to almost zero, and I almost met our Lord Jesus Christ face to face. During this time I thought about my grandchild, who was scheduled for birth in November, my family and my Auburn Tigers. I was expecting great things on The Plains. I was not disappointed as they went 13-0 and won it all. You will never convince me that that group was not the best in the country. They were.

I went to CCU for one night and then to a regular room for one more night and I was dismissed on Friday, May 21st.

Everything went splendidly until Thursday, January 28th, 2016.

MI Number Two

On that evening Me and Paul were enjoying a typical Thursday evening together in our den. We had a good dinner, a couple of beverages and all was moving along swimmingly.

I began to have, what I thought, were gas pains, I mean SEVERE gas pains. 8 on a 1 to 10. I really did think it was gas but I had never had it so brutally. Pain radiated into my jaws, arms, fingers and all the way to the top of my skull. I took some prilosec and a nitrostat , which I had NEVER had to take before, drank a few slugs of Diet Pepsi and, eventually, all was well.

Until the next afternoon.

I love to go to matinees by myself on Friday afternoons. If the movie is especially good I’ll take Mel back with me at a later date. About an hour had elapsed when I began to have pains just like the night before. It was then that I knew. I have to call friggin’ 911.

I was weak but made my way to the cashier at the front and asked for an aspirin. I was out in the fresh air and the cool breeze felt good. A manager came out with some Advil and Tylenol. No aspirin. I took a nitro.

It was then that I called 911, much to my chagrin, and the phone attendant kept me on the line talking until the ambulance arrived, with TWO firetrucks no less! Sirens a blarin’. I was embarrassed.

Well, they got me in the ambulance, gave my four baby aspirin and hooked me up to an EKG, which again showed no abnormalities. USELESS!

I called Mellie and gave her the news. that I was on my way to Kennestone Hospital, about 7 minutes away.

It was almost twelve years since Numero Uno, heart attacks deserve caps, and I had never even experienced a twinge since then.

I got checked in pretty darn quickly and they put me in an observation room before too terribly long. I talked to doctors and I talked to nurses, who were so helpful and kind. They, eventually, came to the conclusion that my blood enzymes were positive and slightly elevated. They thought if I had suffered a heart attack that the enzymes would be more highly elevated if an MI had, indeed, taken place.IMG_2679

They debated whether or not to give me a stress test, and if that showed trouble, then do a heart cath. Me, our wonderful pastor, his equally wonderful wife and Paul thought that odd. Look at my history! Look at my family history (stroke, quadruple bypass, leaking aortic valve and an aneurysm)! Daddy had all but the stroke, which befell my mother.

Common sense did prevail and they decided to do a cath… MONDAY MORNING! The doctor said they only do caths on the weekend if it is an emergency. Then what the hell was this?

Fine.

Fast forward to Monday. After two nights in the new cardiac unit, state-of-the-art, and some good visits and poor food, it was showtime.

If you have seen any of this on Facebook, posted by my goddess Mel, or heard about it at all, you know what happened. I was, again, 99% blocked in the same artery. I do love to live on the edge, I suppose. Peer over into the abyss. Not really but that’s the way it’s gone for me.

Two stents later, one inside the old/clogged one and one more new one, I found myself in recovery.

I DID have a heart attack but there was NO damage. Hallelujah! Same as Numero Uno.

A minor detail. There remains a 40-45% blockage between the stents and the heart. They can only do three at once. That’s got to be dealt with. My follow-up appointment is (now, WAS) Monday, February 15th (2016). We shall see. There are also a couple of other spots, in different arteries, that have a 10-25% blockage. That’s for sissies.

What is the moral of the story? I don’t really know. “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we shall die!” I don’t think so, although it is a tempting option.

I’d say do your best with the light that has been shed on you. All things in moderation, including moderation 😉

When one is faced with a crisis such as this it truly puts things into perspective. In my case, and most of yours as well, I am exceptionally blessed. God has been exceedingly good to me. I have the dearest of family and friends. The prayers and outpouring of love has been ever so humbling.

I enjoy life and I enjoy it to the fullest. Simply put, I love living. My hope is that I have many more years of doing just that. But NONE of us is guaranteed ANYTHING.

I have Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) and it ain’t going nowhere.

Life is so very short. Get your priorities right. Only you can decide what those priorities are.

And this. “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35 NLT

Grace and peace.

 

 

 

 

It’s Time: Opening Day In Auburn

It is a mere matter of hours before the Auburn Tigers and the Arkansas Razorbacks kick off their 2014 seasons. Anticipation and anxiety walk hand in hand as we approach what promises to be a most exciting football fall. It’s time!

There is little in sports more exciting than your team’s first football game of the season. School is back in session. The first hints of autumn have barely begun to reveal themselves. A few leaves have fallen. The sun has taken on a slightly perceptible difference. High schools have already taken the field for their openers, and the familiar sounds of marching bands practicing have piqued the memories of Fridays and Saturdays in days past. It’s time!

Saturday, August 30th, orange and blue clad faithful will converge on Lee County, Alabama by the thousands. They will be joined by throngs of supporters from The Natural State… Arkansas. It’s time!

Magnets will have been affixed to every shape, form and fashion of vehicle. Flags will be flying. Tents, ice chests, grills, food and children will also have been loaded into these cars, trucks, SUV’s, buses and RV’s. Their sound systems will emanate with recordings of games past. Fight songs will blare loudly through open windows as the battle cries of both sides permeate the east Alabama landscape. It’s time!

They will come from the cities of Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile. They will also make the trek from communities like Camden, Ft. Deposit, Pell City, Eufaula, Anniston and Autuagaville. They will come to create the sixth largest city in Alabama. They comprise the Auburn family. It’s time!

Tigers Rags, Toomer’s Drugs, Flowersmith’s, Five Guys, Ander’s, J&M, Mellow Mushroom and the local watering holes will all be teaming with patrons. They will be seeking to find that piece of memorabilia that just might prove to be a lucky charm. They will be fitting themselves with this year’s “uniforms”. They will be eating. They will be drinking. They will be seeking to occupy the hours, minutes and seconds that separate them from 3 PM Central Daylight Time. It’s time!

The parking lots and lawns, throughout the campus and beyond, will become villages of navy blue and burnt orange with smoke billowing and the smell of burgers, brats and chicken titillating the appetites of the masses. It’s time!

Laughing and squealing kids will be tossing footballs, chasing each other and pretending that they are the next Nick Marshall, Sammie Coates or Corey Grant. Even adults will don jerseys with the numbers like 34, 24, 2 among them. It’s time!

High definition televisions, equipped with satellites and driven by generators, will broadcast the games that will kickoff before and after the beloved Tigers take the field. Observer’s eyes will be affixed to the flat screens hoping to gleen a glimpse of a future opponent or check the score of a game they might have placed a wager on. It’s time!

A Volkswagon bus, garishly smothered in the home team’s colors, shakers and stickers, will roll down College St. as ‘War Eagle’ booms from it’s mounted siren style speakers. Cheers and shouts will affirm the passers-by familial bond with those in the mobile shrine. It’s time!

Long time friends and acquaintances will renew and relive the times, many or few, that they have shared on The Loveliest Village of The Plains. Past victories will be relished and the pain of defeats that occurred in days gone by will be dulled by liquid “spirits” and the indomitable “Spirit” that is unique to Auburn. It’s time!

The tailgates. The band. The Tiger Walk. The first announcements from the PA system startling the hordes. It’s time to get things in order. It’s time to pack up. It’s time to get your game face on. It’s time for that last snack or drink to brace yourself for the grand event that all have come to share and support. It’s time!

It’s time to make that old familiar hike to that old familiar place. That place where countless thousands have shared unbridled joy and gut wrenching sorrow. Jordan-Hare Stadium. It’s time!

It’s time for football!

Auburn Football!

Oh yes! Football! There is that matter of the game that is to be played.

The Auburn Tigers vs. the Arkansas Razorbacks.

SEC football.

West division foes.

The game promises to be physical. For the home team it promises to be fast. Auburn Fast. Fortunately for Auburn, they are deeper and more talented with more experience than Arkansas. That bodes well for the Tigers. It won’t be easy but the home team will prevail.

Auburn 42 Arkansas 20.

It’s Time!

2014 SEC West Division Champions: The Auburn Tigers

When one begins a discussion of the SEC West it often begins with Alabama. The Crimson Tide has proven their worth over the past seven seasons under head coach Nick Saban. Everyone knows what they have accomplished and those accomplishments have been extremely impressive. They don’t rebuild, they reload. The majority of pundits and prognosticators are, once again, picking Alabama to win the West. That’s fair.

Any debate over who will win the West has to include LSU. The Tigers have won the division three times since Les Miles arrived in the Red Stick back in 2005. They won the BCS National Championship in 2007 in spite of losing two games. LSU has lost a ton of talent to the NFL over the past few years. They lost ELEVEN underclassmen just last year to THE LEAGUE. LSU also just reloads and they have a lot of talent, per usual, but they have to replace their quarterback and fill many other slots as well. This does not appear to be THE year for the Bayou Bengals.

Texas A&M exploded on the SEC scene in 2012 with Johnny Manziel behind center. The Aggies had two very good seasons with Johnny Football as the signal caller but Kevin Sumlin’s team could not capture a division title. They will not in 2014 either.

The two Mississippis, Ole Miss and State, are receiving a lot of platitudes for the coming campaign. They both do appear to have solid teams. But the fact remains that Ole Miss has never won the West and State has only won it once and that was back in 1998. Both teams should make some noise this season and could pull a couple of upsets to make the Wild West just that, but neither will take home the crown. Hugh Freeze and Dan Mullen will have to continue to build those programs in order to have a serious chance at a title.

Arkansas. The Razorbacks play what coach Bret Bielema refers to as “Normal American Football”. That phrase is a bit of a head scratcher as many of us are not sure just what the phrase means. Bielema is building a foundation in Fayetteville and the Hawgs will be a better football team in 2014 but they absolutely will not take the West.

That brings us to Auburn. The Tigers will win the SEC West in 2014.

My reasons for picking Auburn to go to Atlanta in December are plenteous and not altogether without bias. But hey, all of us have our prejudices and presumptions, and we often wear our allegiances on our sleeves. Good… let us begin.

Without boring you with black and white statistics that you can find anywhere, I’m going to give you my three primary reasons why I think Auburn will come out on top in the West.

MOTIVATION

This most unlikely aggregation came within 13 seconds of winning the BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena last winter. How many people thought that would happen? I think the answer is somewhere near zero. Not even the most blindly optimistic of us even considered that a possibility.

Coming up just shy of a crystal football did not deflate these Tigers. All it did was instill a deep hunger to return to the title game. This is one motivated football team and they are on a mission… believe me. The 2014 edition of the Tigers is a more experienced, and a more talented football team than it was in 2013. They have more quality depth.

In essence Auburn will have a better team than it had last season and that spells trouble for the rest of the SEC, and for the entire college football landscape.

MARSHALL

Now this is where it truly begins to get scary. As good as Nick Marshall was last season, he will be much improved for the 2014 campaign.

Marshall is a freakish athlete with a raging inferno of a desire to win. He is brilliant and deft in commandeering this offense, and he is a magician in executing the zone read. Now that he has had a full season, off season, a spring, and a summer to further grasp the offense, and polish his passing skills, there is no reason to think he will not be the best quarterback in the SEC.

Finally, Nick Marshall could emerge as a bona fide Heisman candidate and could very well be Auburn’s fourth player to bring home that hardware.

MALZAHN

The final, and possibly the most integral, piece to Auburn’s return to the Georgia Dome in early December is its head coach… Gus Malzahn.

Malzahn is, arguably, the best game day tactician in college football today. But as good as he is on football Saturdays, his attention to detail in practices, his relentless work ethic, and his will to win, combine to make him a guy that is extremely hard to beat.

When you take all of the above factors and combine them with a coaching staff that is exceptional, you have a formula that will lead the 2014 Auburn Tigers to Atlanta and, yes, beyond.

40 Years Ago: The 1974 Auburn Tigers

It was September 14, 1974 and the unranked Auburn Tigers opened the season at Legion Field in Birmingham, AL. The Tigers were led by Ralph “Shug” Jordan who was entering his 24th campaign as head coach. The opponent was the Louisville Cardinals who were coached by, then unknown, Lee Corso. Auburn came out on top that night, 16-3, in a game that didn’t give fans any reason to expect the run the Tigers were about to embark on.

I was sitting on the end of a bleacher seat in Troy, AL, with my ear glued to a transistor radio, listening to Gary Sanders call the Auburn game. It was incidental that the Trojans were embroiled in a hard fought game with Northeast Louisiana, a game which they won 20-19. I trudged back to my fraternity house, Lambda Chi Alpha, happy that Auburn had won but wondering what the remainder of the season held in store.

The Chattanooga Moccasins, not named for the snake but the moccasin shape of the river near their home, were next up and did not create much anxiety or apprehension in the week leading up to the game. Auburn summarily disposed of the visitors 52-7. Many of of us who attended the game left at halftime to get a head start on that evening’s festivities.

The following Saturday on The Plains was an entirely different story. The 14th ranked Tennessee Volunteers were coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time EVER and all in attendance would rarely even take a seat during this highly anticipated contest.

The previous year UT had beaten AU 21-0 in a driving rainstorm in Knoxville. Adding insult to injury, Tennessee punted on first down more than once knowing the combination of the downpour and the inept Auburn offense were probably not a threat to score that afternoon. They did not. The Vols came out on top 21-0.

The 1974 game was shaping up as a doozy. Neither team had lost and the Vols had been installed as a four point favorite. I told anyone who would listen to take Auburn and the points. This was a true “lock.” There was no way Auburn was going to lose this one… and they didn’t. The Tiger defense, led by linebacker Ken Bernich and bookends Rusty Deen and Liston Eddins, gave Vol All-American quarterback Condredge Holloway and his entire offense fits. The visitors would not score. They almost failed to cross the fifty yard line even once.

Auburn reserve fullback Kenny Burks scored three touchdowns in leading the Tigers to a most impressive 21-0 win. Yes, 21-zip. The same score the Vols had won by in ’73. People were beginning to take notice.

Visiting, and eleventh ranked, Auburn pulled out a squeaker in the rain against the Miami Hurricanes the following week. The Tigers vaunted defense was number one in the country. Miami had a stout group of defenders themselves. Auburn 3, Miami 0.

The Tigers were now on a roll as they mowed down their next three opponents. Their veer offense had come on strong to complement the stifling defense. Quarterback Phil Gargis along with running backs Secedrick McIntyre and Mitzi Jackson were putting up big rushing numbers. Gargis was also teaming up with wide receiver Thomas Gossom for some big plays through the air. The scores of said trifecta… Auburn 31, Kentucky 13, Auburn 31, Georgia Tech 22 and Auburn 38, Florida State 6.

On November 2, the undefeated Tigers went into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL ranked number five in the country. The Florida Gators were ranked at number eleven. The game was nationally televised. Hopes were high. Those hopes were dashed as the home team came away with a 25-14 victory.

Regroup and press on. In week nine Auburn got by a very tough Mississippi State Bulldog squad 24-20 in Jackson, MS. Even over the radio, the home team’s cowbells were deafening. This prompted Shug Jordan to complain loudly to the SEC office and the artificial noisemaker ban was spawned.

The Georgia Bulldogs were next up in Auburn. They came up on the short end of a real nail-biter, 17-13.

Now the stage was set for a showdown between seventh ranked Auburn and the number two Alabama Crimson Tide. Sitting with friends in the Auburn student section, I saw the Tigers come ever so close to pulling off the upset on a classic autumn day back in Legion Field.

Bama managed to go to the locker room with a 10-7 lead over the Tigers. They stretched their lead to 17-7 in the third stanza on a 13-yard run by Calvin Culliver. Late in that quarter Phil Gargis hit what appeared to be a 41-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Gossom. The points were put on the scoreboard, and then they were taken down. An official, who was far removed from the play, said Gossom had stepped on the boundary line and the score was called back. This same official had not even thrown a flag.

Gargis scored late in the fourth quarter on a two-yard run. Auburn missed on the two-point conversion attempt. They got the ball again with time running out and moved into Tide territory. In a bit of trickery, the Tigers ran a reverse to end Dan Nugent. He was met near the line of scrimmage by linebacker, and future head coach on the Capstone, Mike DuBose and was jarred loose from the ball. Bama recovered the fumble and went on to win, 17-13.

Auburn regrouped after the Iron Bowl and played the Texas Longhorns in the Gator Bowl. The Tigers were underdogs to Coach Darrell Royal’s team. They were having none of that. They dominated their Southwest Conference foes in a 27-3 walloping.

Auburn wound up the 1974 season 10-2. Their final rankings were number eight in the AP poll and number six in the UPI poll.

1974 was a great year for the Auburn Tigers as they far exceeded everyone’s expectations. It is now forty years later and expectations are sky high. Will they meet or exceed those expectations? The answer from here is a resounding YES!