Time to Let It Ramble

Sit down, turn on the computer, and write. That’s the system today. I have no preconceived course, agenda, or axe to grind.

Just be.

“Let it grow, let it grow,
Let it blossom, let it flow
In the sun, the rain, the snow,
Love is lovely, let it grow”

This from the Eric Clapton ‘461 Ocean Boulevard’ album. ‘Let It Grow’.

That record released in 1974. Great record. ‘I Shot The Sheriff’, the Bob Marley song, was my intro to it.

And this train of thought leads me to, ‘Let It Be’.

“When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be”

We, too often, want to force the action don’t we? Push, shove, cajole, manipulate, etc. We generally see time or a timetable as liner. That is a Western concept. Eastern thought sees time as cyclical.

But, what is time? Here you go.

Ecclesiastes has this to say.

War Eagle! I like that!

And how about this one from Chicago?

“As I was walking down the street one day

A man came up to me and asked me what the time was that was on my watch, yeah
And I said

Does anybody really know what time it is (I don’t)
Does anybody really care (care about time)
If so I can’t imagine why (no, no)
We’ve all got time enough to cry

And I was walking down the street one day
A pretty lady looked at me and said her diamond watch had stopped cold dead
And I said

Does anybody really know what time it is (I don’t)
Does anybody really care (care about time)
If so I can’t imagine why (no, no)
We’ve all got time enough to cry

And I was walking down the street one day (people runnin’ everywhere)
Being pushed and shoved by people (don’t know where to go)
Trying to beat the clock, oh, no I just don’t know (don’t know where I am)
I don’t know, I dont know, oh (don’t have time to think past the last mile)
(Have no time to look around) And I said, yes I said (run around and think why)

Does anybody really know what time it is (I don’t)
Does anybody really care (care about time)
If so I can’t imagine why (no, no)
We’ve all got time enough to die

Everybody’s working (I don’t care)
I don’t care (about time)
About time (no, no)
I don’t care”

Let it grow. Let it be. Let it all hang out. Let it go. Let go and let God.

let1
let/
verb
  1. not prevent or forbid; allow.
    “my boss let me leave early”
    synonyms: allow to, permit to, give permission to, give leave to, authorize to, sanction to, grant the right to, license to, empower to, enable to, entitle to;

    archaic suffer to
    “let him sleep for now”

I would love to stay here and chew the fat with you this afternoon, but, “Time won’t let me.”

Grace and peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ramblin’ 1/19/17

I found myself “Googling” the nutrition information of Krystal products the other day. And AFTER my next round of blood work was completed, yesterday, I stopped by one of those franchises to chow down on two or three of those 130 calorie, 2 grams of saturated fat babies. It would have been my first “cheating” episode since our trip to the Big Easy.

As fate would have it, they were still in breakfast mode and it would have taken too long to put together those little square devils to suit me. Solution? Down the street to Hardee’s and a smoked sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit combo. War Eagle!

Back to being “good” last night, split pea soup courtesy of our dear daughter, Leah.

And this AM? Multi grain toast with a bit of honey cinnamon spread.

The life of a heart patient, should be impatient, wrestling with food demons.

Funny, today’s scripture passage was from Luke 4. Jesus was just beginning his ministry and was in Capernaum casting out demons and healing folks, droves of folks.

Come out of there you mean ole Krystal demon! Come out of there potato chips, hot dogs, rib-eyes, pizza, and fried chicken! Come out! (In my best Ernest Angley).

In the verses prior to his work in Capernaum, Jesus preached his first sermon in Nazareth and was run out of town on a rail. The “church people” even tried to throw him off a cliff. You don’t hear about that one too often.

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga on Apple Music. “Anything Goes” “Cheek to Cheek” “Let’s Face the Music and Dance”, etc.

Music recommendations. Margo Price, Maren Morris, Iry LeJeune’s cajun music, Lukas Nelson (yes, Willie’s boy) and The Promise of Real, and Doug Sahm.

I’ve mentioned it before on Facebook but’s it’s worth another promo. James Lee Burke’s series of Dave Robicheaux novels. I’m on number seven and I can’t stop. Latest obsession. Seriously considering attending the Dave Robicheaux Literary Festival In New Iberia, LA (where most of these books are set) on March 31-April 2.

Gobble gobble, yum yum, slurrrrrrrrp! Eat everything on your plate. Listen to John Prine’s “Fish and Whistle” for more on that.

Follow the thread, exhaust your possibilities, retain or summon your curiosities, and follow them wherever they may lead. God is in the little things. You are you for a reason.

National Signing Day for college football is February 1.

Also on 2/1… In 1861, Texas voted to secede from the Union. Puccini’s opera “La Boheme” premiered in Turin in 1896. 1900, Eastman Kodak introduced the $1 Brownie camera box. And Grand Central Station Opened in New York City in 1913.

Birthdays on 2/1 include Ronda Rousey, Clark Gable, and Lisa Marie Presley.

Setlist change. ‘Inspired by Beatlemania’. “I’m a Believer,” The Monkees, was first up. Mercy! I love that song! Do you know who wrote it? Jeopardy theme song. Time’s up! Neil Diamond. Neil is embarking on his 50th Anniversary Tour. Go if you’ve never seen him. Red, Red Wine is my favorite of his.

Mony Mony was just on. I saw Tommy James and The Shondells at the Big Bam Summer Spectacular back in the late 60’s. Neil Diamond was also there, oddly enough. I miss those shows. Lightnin’ Lou Christie, The Beach Boys, Tony Joe White, Boyce and Hart, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and Porter Wagoner were just a smidgen of other acts I caught there in the Garrett Coliseum. Saw a few rodeos and the circus there too. Also Disney on Ice.

64° here in beautiful Acworth, GA. temperatures are expected to rise to 69 with mostly cloudy skies. A l0w of 58 tonight. The chance of rain rises to 85% at 11 PM. Winds SE at 8 MPH.

I’ll never stop my DJ and play-by-play yammerings. Melodye is one patient soul. And my breaking into a song and/or dance with no perceptible provocation. God bless her sweet soul.

And now Nirvana’s “About a Girl.” Sweet!

Their “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is an all-time favorite. What genius lyrics!

Well, I’ve got a column I’m struggling to get completed due to technical difficulties. It’ll publish next Friday. ‘The Best and Worst of 2016 – SEC Edition.’

Lunch? Oikos Triple Zero Yogurt. Wheeeeeee…

Reading Buddies at 2:30 today.  There is not much that warms the heart like Josue, pronounced Ho-sway, running across the library, with his arms outstretched, yelling, “Mr. Bird!!!!”

Yes, God is in the little things.

Grace and peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November Rain

Weep, oh weep November Sky

December darkens and earth doth lust for thee,

Parched land and blades of grass

Now lift brittle arms to thy blessed plenty.

Sing sweet droplets upon this hallowed home

Cleanse our hearts and souls,

Winds to follow usher forth winter,

Frigid frost our companion,

Thoughts then shift to Spring’s resurrection.

Ramblin’

This is my first Ramblin’. A shout out goes to my old buddy, Meg Tatom. Yesterday I finally promoted this site on Facebook and Meg said she looked forward to reading my ramblings. The descriptor for Bird’s Banter reads thusly, “A potpourri of ramblings, stories, musings and opinions.” The problem is, there were none, officially. My blogs contain all of the above, but none were dedicated to ramblin’.

So, let’s ramble. 

The song that is currently playing on my iTunes is Willie and Hag’s “It’s All Going to Pot.” It is. The world is, at least. But not the kind Willie and Merle are singing about. That might not be so bad.

I became addicted to Buffalo wings back in the mid-eighties in Upstate New York. The Hudson Valley. Albany and environs. Melodye, or Paul as you may know her, might have it worse than I do. Anyway, our favorite place to get said wings was at Skipper’s Tavern in downtown Albany. It was not in the nicest part of town. No matter. It was THE place to feed one’s jonesin’ for wings. Mild, medium, hot, or death. We liked ’em hot. I’m sweating under my eyes thinking about them. Skipper’s is closed. Burned down. Gone. Sigh.

Speaking of pot, it ought to be legal. Of course, Big Pharm and Monsanto would screw that up like everything else.

How’s your mommer ‘n ‘nem? Don’t y’all just love that interrogative phrase?

BTW, I hope all of y’all’s mommers are well. If you mommer is gone, I’m sorry to hear that.

“Slap the dog and spit in the fire!” I heard Naomi Judd utter this euphemism many years ago. Do any of y’all know how she’s doing?

South Carolina plays at Vanderbilt the first Thursday night SEC game on September 1. Tick tick tick.

“Long Way Down”, by the SteelDrivers is now playing on my shuffle. Apple Music created this Americana setlist for  me. I really like it. It features Brandi Carlile, Dwight Yoakam, Sam Outlaw, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Banditos, among many others. I’m in my three month free trial with Apple Music. I like it. Still haven’t decided if I’ll keep it and pay the $9.99 per month. It ain’t much, but when you add in Netflix (streaming and DVD), the Xfinity starter package (with a sports channels extra), etc., it all adds up for a po’ boy on a fixed income.

Back to ‘tick tick tick’. Frasier Crane responded with that line, on Cheers, to no one in particular after Woody said he never talked about his problems. He just stuck them away somewhere and tried to forget them. “Tick tick tick.”

It’s now thundering outside. Could it be thundering inside? The dogs are tick tacking all over the house with no lap to sit in. Uh oh.

*GOT SPOILER ALERT*

Me and Paul just finished season six of Game of Thrones a couple of nights ago. WhoooWeee! I was so happy to see Ramsay Bolton (who let the dogs out?) and Walder Fry (give ’em hell, Arya!) get theirs. WDE!!! I just wish Cersai Lanister would get hers.  GOOOOOOOO Daenerys! And how about Jon Snow turning out to be a “true” Snow?

I do enjoy binge watching these TV, Netflix, Amazon series! Some favorites are House of Cards, The Fall, The Killing, Wallander, Broadchurch, Mozart in the Jungle, Transparent, Happy Valley, Luther, Longmire, Rectify, Damages, Boss, Bloodline, and Last Tango in Halifax.

If you’ve never used The Message translation of the Bible, you should. It is self-described as ‘The Bible in Contemporary Language’.

And with that, “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” (And HURRY!)

Grace and Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Land of Enchantment

The small space was rife with a sense of the sacred. The sights and silence spoke. Out of the harried and into the still. Mary and Jesus. The Virgin and the Christ child. What drew me here? Why did God avail himself, now?

Taken aback by the presence of something other, yet I. Images, memories, both past and present, were now enmeshed in an harmonious cacophony. Hope whispered and healing began. The often tortuous and troublesome were quelled.

Peace.

That “peace that passes all understanding.”

He came “like a thief in the night.” Out of the darkness and into the light.

The highways that led to “The Land of Enchantment” were familiar and well worn. Atlanta to Birmingham to Memphis, and beyond to the mysteries that would unfold in the beauty of the desert.

What is it about the purple sage? The scrub brush? The cacti? The wind?

IMG_0683

Purple sage

God.

The path to God is short and straight yet long and winding. It can lead one around the world only to deposit him or her back home. Home, where the familiar comforts and keeps. Home offers a sense of security but the call of God beckons one toward the unknown.

Across the rice fields of Arkansas and into the bluster of Oklahoma. The boredom of the Texas panhandle transforms gently as she sweeps past the border of New Mexico. Yes, enchantment, and a sense of coming home. A spiritual home. Like a sailor coming into port or a cowboy off the range back to the ranch. A place of respite, peace and contentment.

Albuquerque, Roswell, Ruidoso, Santa Fe, Taos, and Tucumcari.

Tucumcari

It was in Tucumcari that I made my first stop upon leaving Texas. I almost lost my life, that summer day in 1999,  in Amarillo and was relieved to put that city, in extreme northern Texas, in my rearview mirror. Now it was time for some lunch. What would it be? It’s not like the choices in Tucumcari are plenteous, but they are a welcome sight for hungry eyes. ($1 to Merle Haggard).

Ah! A Lotaburger! First spot on the left after the exit off I-40. ‘Blake’s LOTABURGER’, to be exact. Lotaburger is a fast food chain indigenous to New Mexico with all but two of the seventy-five locations to be found there. The other two are located in Texas, I hear that a new spot will soon open in Arizona.

So what will it be? Burger? Chili dog? Maybe a chili Frito pie? Hey, there are burritos as well! But, when push comes to shove, you gotta go with the Lotaburger combo, don’t you? Indeed!

Sitting alone at this pitstop, which proved to be an oasis of refreshment, the town’s name, Tucumcari, provided a spark of association to the Little Feat tune ‘Willin’. The lyrics now assimilated my my brain, which is almost always continuim of free association and melodies.

“And I’ve been from Tucson to Tucumcari, Tehachapi to Tonapah
Driven every kind of rig that’s ever been made
Driven the back roads so I wouldn’t get weighed

And if you give me, weed, whites and wine
And you show me a sign
I’ll be willin’ to be movin’ “.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzLDsg70-JQ

And it was time to be movin’ again. I wanted to make Albuquerque by mid-afternoon. I emptied my tray into the large red trashcan, emptied my bladder in the acceptable facility, settled into the black, two door, ’98 Saturn Coupe, and continued west toward the capital of the state.

But before pressing on to Albuquerque, I’ll take you back to Amarillo and my brush with a potential tragedy. I was blowing through there, amused at the numerous billboards encouraging travelers to come and attempt to eat around four or five pounds of steak, singing and playing flute along with Jethro Tull. The cruise control was on and we wuz rockin’!

I was in the far left lane passing an eighteen wheeler when he decided to move over to my lane. No signal. No warning. No NOTHING! I had no place to go. I immediately attempted to tap my brakes and slip into the small emergency lane that was, fortunately, there. The Saturn was equipped with a manual, five-speed transmission and, in my panic I found myself furiously pumping the clutch. I continued to haul fanny while weaving between cars, changing lanes summoning my best Dale Earnhardt.

I don’t know how I managed to work my way out of that pickle, GRACE, but I did. I soon realized I was not actually reaching the brake, found it, righted the car and wound up safe and sound, headed west, and ALIVE.

“In the shuffling madness of the locomotive breath, comes the all-time loser, headlong to his death. He feels the pistons scraping — Steam breaking on his brow — Old Charlie stole the handle and the train (Saturn) it won’t stop going, no way to slow down.”

Whew!

I didn’t even scrape anybody AND I didn’t have a heart attack! (That would come five years later and will be dealt with in time).

And finally, back toward Albuquerque. Having consumed the, most satisfying, Lotabuger combo in Tucumcari, I was now sassy and satisfied.

Albuquerque (and beyond)

I made the Holiday Inn Express, on the north side of the city, by the time three of us AAA Inspectors had agreed upon. It was there that our trio divvied up the files, yes we were using paper for work of our hard copies back then, plotted our courses and said our goodbyes. The areas I lobbied for, and received, were Santa Fe/Taos, Ruidoso and Roswell (insert UFO/alien joke here).

My dear spouse, Melodye, AKA “Paul”, has family in Roswell. Her Uncle, aunt and first cousin live there. Uncle Judson, Mel’s mother’s brother, met Aunt Wanda back when he was stationed at Walker Air Force Base in Roswell. After marrying, they dwelled a few years in Lower Alabama where he was a football coach and spent at time in Uniontown and Sweetwater. Thomaston, or Magnolia really, is where he and his siblings grew up. It was there that “Paul” spent her four years of high school.

I loaded up my files and made my way, northeast, toward Santa Fe and beyond. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains are the backdrop for this area of the state. It would be difficult to overstate the depth of their beauty and the power of the ‘Spirit’ that this thin space holds.

The first time I took an assignment here was two years prior, in 1997. I was completely captivated by Santa Fe, Taos and the surrounding desert. It struck a chord deep within my soul. I think of this sacred place frequently and my spirit often longs to return.

Sangre de Cristo.

In english, ‘The Blood of Christ’.

“In the 1800’s, when the Spanish dreamed of conquest, they wanted it all from the native peoples – their land, their gold, their soul. Spanish entradas, entrances, into the lands almost always included armor and friars. It is during one of these early explorations into present day San Luis Valley that a legend was born.

Virginia Simmons in her book, The San Luis Valley: Land of the Six Armed Cross, recounts the legend.

An exploratory party had reached the mouth of the Rio Grande. Father Francisco Torres, a missionary from the Pueblos, looked on to the majestic valley and called it, El Valle de San Luis, after the patron saint of Seville, Spain. As was the custom, the Spanish brought with them natives who were essentially slaves. Weary of their treatment, they rebelled and in the process wounded the dreamer, Father Torres.

Wounded though he was, he and the Spanish party fled down the mountain through the great sand dunes and onto the lake, which is today San Luis Lake.

The party quickly produced a makeshift raft and sailed onto the lake for safety, but it was too late for Padre Torres. His wounds were too deep, and he lay dying on the raft. In his last hours, the sun was setting on the beautiful mountain range. He, no doubt, saw Mt. Blanca and the other peaks that towered over the giant sand dunes. The setting sun hit the snowcapped mountains creating a burst of red – as so often happens to this day. With his dying breath, the Padre soulfully exclaimed, ‘Sangre de Cristo, Sangre de Cristo’ – that is, ‘the blood of Christ, the blood of Christ.’ ”

After spending a week in Santa Fe, I made my way up the winding road to Taos. I landed at El Pueblo Lodge which is just north of the plaza, the heart of this captivating village. I unpacked my luggage, portable stereo (Tull could never be far from me in those days) and files. It was a Sunday and I thought I would take a walk and get a feel for the “place of red willows.”

When I hit the sidewalk , I glanced south toward downtown and then my gaze shifted to the north and Taos Mountain. My spirit stirred and quickened within me. The sacred spoke quietly as if saying, “Welcome back, my son.”

My consciousness returned to ‘anno domini’ 1999. The Best Western was almost immediately across from me. Doug Sahm, of the Texas Tornados and the Sir Douglas Quintet, died in a motel room in Taos in November of 1999. I later learned that it was here at the Best Western.

“Mendicino, Mendicino…”

I blinked and one week of work had come to an end. Eske’s Brew Pub and Eatery had become my go to, after dinner spot in those five days past. There is an outdoor beer garden on site and it is a wonderful place to spend time on a summer night sampling the specialty beers which are served up cold from the tap. The Scottish Ale comes to mind.

Saturday morning! Free time! The lure of Taos Pueblo was strong. I hopped in the Saturn for the very short trip north.

Taos PuebloIMG_0694

“This Pueblo Indian settlement in northern New Mexico, consisting of ceremonial buildings and facilities, and multi-storey adobe dwellings built in terraced tiers, exemplifies the living culture of a group of present-day Pueblo Indian people at Taos Pueblo. As one of a series of settlements established in the late 13th and early 14th centuries in the valleys of the Rio Grande and its tributaries that have survived to the present day, Taos Pueblo represents a significant stage in the history of urban, community and cultural life and development in this region. Taos Pueblo has been continuously inhabited and is the largest of these Pueblos that still exist, with its North and South Houses rising to heights of five storeys. Taos Pueblo and the people of the Pueblo itself claim an aboriginal presence in the Taos Valley since time immemorial.

Taos Pueblo, whose culture and community are active and thriving, shows many similarities to settlement sites of the ancestral Pueblo people that are preserved in nearby places such Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde. It is nevertheless unique to this region and not derived from Mesoamerican precedents. The property includes the walled village with two multi-storey adobe structures, seven kivas (underground ceremonial chambers), the ruins of a previous pueblo, four middens, a track for traditional foot-races, the ruins of the first church built in the 1600s and the present-day San Geronimo Catholic Church. The Taos mountains (Sangre de Cristo range of the Rocky Mountains) provide the setting for the Pueblo. Within these mountains is the 19,425-ha Taos Pueblo Blue Lake Wilderness Area, a resource of critical importance to the Pueblo’s living culture and agricultural sustainability. The Sacred Blue Lake, intrinsically linked to the Pueblo’s culture, is the source of a stream that flows through the settlement.”

Taos was one of the primary locations for the shooting of the iconic movie, ‘Easy Rider’. Taos Pueblo was one of the major locations utilized in its shooting. Dennis Hopper, like many of us, was also enamored of Taos and the surrounding area. Hopper lived, off and on, in Taos for several years and is buried in nearby Rancho de Taos. His funeral was held here in San Francisco de Asis (St. Francis of Assisi) Church and he is buried in Jesus Nazareno Cemetery.

I later, in June of 2013, made a pilgrimage to Taos and this church and cemetery. It was then and there that I had one of the most profound spiritual experiences of my life.

Ruidoso 

The drive from Taos to Ruidoso is is a long and lonesome one. Hank Williams was deemed a fitting companion. He and I moaned and groaned our way south to the the resort town of Ruidoso which is nestled in the Sierra Blanca mountain range in the heart of the Land of Enchantment.

Ruidoso in in Lincoln County which was the old stomping grounds of one William Bonney. That took me back to my childhood days of playing ‘Pat Garrett an Billy the Kid’ around our house and in the yards of our neighbors. The question was, always, who would be Pat Garrett and who would get the privilege of playing Billy the Kid.

As you drive the roads of Lincoln County, you begin to feel a palpable sense of Bonney and the Lincoln County War.

From Wikipedia:

“The Lincoln County War was an Old West conflict between rival factions in 1878 in New Mexico Territory. The feud became famous because of the participation of a number of notable figures of the Old West, including Billy the Kid, sheriffs William Brady and Pat Garrett, cattle rancher John Chisum, lawyer and businessman Alexander McSween, and the organized-crime boss Lawrence Murphy.

The conflict arose between two factions over the control of dry goods and cattle interests in the county. The older, established faction was led by Murphy and his business partner, James Dolan, who operated a dry goods monopoly through Murphy’s general store. Young newcomers to the county, English-born John Tunstall and his business partner Alexander McSween, with backing from established cattleman John Chisum, opened a competing store in 1876. The two sides gathered lawmen, businessmen, Tunstall’s ranch hands and criminal gangs to their support. The Murphy-Dolan faction were allied with Lincoln County Sheriff Brady, and supported by the Jesse Evans Gang. The Tunstall-McSween faction organized their own posse of armed men, known as the Regulators, to defend their position, and had their own lawmen, town constable Richard M. Brewer and Deputy US Marshal Robert A. Widenmann.

The conflict was marked by back-and-forth revenge killings, starting with the murder of Tunstall by members of the Evans Gang. In revenge for this, the Regulators killed Sheriff Brady and others in a series of incidents. Further killings continued unabated for several months, climaxing in the Battle of Lincoln, a five-day gunfight and siege that resulted in the death of McSween and the scattering of the Regulators. After Pat Garrett was named County Sheriff in 1880, he hunted down Billy the Kid, killing two other former Regulators in the process. The war was fictionalized in several Hollywood films, including Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, The Left Handed Gun in 1958, John Wayne’s Chisum in 1970 and Young Guns in 1988.”

You can see where the old jail was from which Billy escaped and his alleged hiding place in not far away in the local mountainous country. He was laid to rest, at the age of 21, in Fort Sumner cemetery after being shot and killed by Garrett.

Capitan, in Lincoln County, is also the place of Smokey the Bear’s birth and death. Smokey Bear Historical Park is yet one more place in the fascinating lineage of Lincoln County history.

If you are ever in Lincoln County, be sure to check out all of its historic sites and stop by El Paisano Restaurant for some of the best green chili stew you will ever eat.

Roswell

And then, there is Roswell. Roswell, in southeastern New Mexico, is the county seat of Chaves County and is most widely known for?  You got it! UFO’s, aliens and the like. But the UFO’s and aliens, too often, steal the headlines from what is, also, a most interesting place.

Notable Roswellians or Roswellites?

John Chisum, Demi Moore, John Denver (born here), Pat Garrett, Nancy Lopez, Robert Goddard, Tom Brookshier and ET (NOOOOO!!!) Lol!

The Roswell Museum and Art Center is a must if your travels happen to carry you near the area.

And, of course, there  is the Roswell UFO Festival which is held around the Fourth of July weekend. There is also a UFO museum and many local shops which will be happy to sell you some UFO/Alien related goods.

But, the thing that makes Roswell special is my wife’s family, which I am now very proud to call my own. Her uncle Judson, Aunt Wanda and first cousin, Dorothy, and Dorothy’s husband, Steve, are very good people who have meant more to us than words can tell.

Now if you REALLY want something special, outside of Martin’s (pronounced Mar-TEENS) enchiladas, you would have to imbibe on one of Aunt Wanda’s famous ‘Bulldogs’. Bulldogs are known by most as ‘Colorado Bulldogs’, which are essentially White Russians, with a dose of Coke. Now she makes them STRONG, and sometimes without the benefit of anything non-alcoholic, if the mood so strikes her.

One night, in particular, was a special one for “Auntie” and me. We were, per usual, being graciously hosted by Dorothy and Steve. I was working the surrounding area for AAA and had gone to bed at a, somewhat, decent hour. But I couldn’t sleep so I wandered into the kitchen to find Aunt Wanda and her busy self, sweeping the floor.

I startled her as I had my hair down and my bedclothes on. Initially, she might have thought I was one of those supposed aliens that had made its way to the western outskirts of Roswell in search of a drink. “Nanu, nanu!”

She literally jumped back and we both had a good laugh, a great conversation and more than one Bulldog. It remains, in my memory, one of those special moments when two people connect.

God bless the Browns. Everyone should be so lucky to have “outlaws” such as these.

AJ and Wan. I love you both so very, very much.

There are other peoples and places that also make New Mexico what she is. There is White Sands, Cloudcfroft, Carlsbad Caverns and so much more.

‘The Land of Enchantment’, indeed.

All of the above are so important in my ‘relationship’ with New Mexico, but none more meaningful than the last trip Melodye and I made to there, in June of 2013.

Goin’ Out West

We had made the trip on I-20 West, for what seemed, countless times in the past. They began when I was a seminary student in Ft. Worth and continued, of and on, over the succeeding thirty plus years.

Meridian, Jackson, Vicksburg, Monroe, Shreveport, Marshall, Dallas and Ft. Worth. The trip to New Mexico continued to somewhere around Big Spring, TX and then it was off the interstate, the remainder of Texas, across the eastern border of New Mexico and on into Roswell.

I had just retired on June 1 of MMXIII. This was our first trip following that day of liberation. I loved my job with AAA but it was time to move on to new horizons. I had NO idea.

We stopped in Brandon, MS to visit special old friends, Tony and Teresa Martin. It was a grand reunion. Tony and I went back even before I met Melodye at Troy State University, as it was known back then. He and I spent a lot of time there and at Southwestern Seminary after Mel and I were married and he joined me as a student there.

We had dinner, returned to the Martin abode and laughed and talked until the wee hours of the morning. It had been twenty-seven years since we had visited and we picked right up where we left off.

Something in my soul was aroused that night. Again, I had no idea.

We took it on in to Ft. Worth the next day. A Whataburger in Louisiana for lunch and then the final stretch to our destination. We settled in to our quarters for the evening on the northside of town in Fossil Creek.IMG_0629

From there we taxied to Cowtown, the Stockyards and old stomping grounds like the White Elephant Saloon. We had BBQ beef and ribs at the H3 (Hunter brothers) Restaurant and then it was off to some night life ( “Ain’t no good life, but it’s my life…” 😉 ) at Billy Bob’s Texas.

Mark Chesnutt happened to be playing on that night and that’s what drew us to Billy Bob’s for the entire evening.

Mark had recently had an accident, surgery was imminent, and he sat for the duration of the show. He kept a bucket of beer at his side and also made reference to the pain pills he was taking. A good time was had by all. Especially Mark.

When the concert concluded we were standing on a corner, attempting to hail a taxi, I heard the shout of one of Billy Bob’s patrons, “Hey Willie!” I have been called Willie on many occasions. It was no surprise. My long, braided hair and broken nose give me a slight resemblance to the red-headed stranger, but I’m certainly not a dead-ringer for him.

Up the next day and off to run by some old landmarks and an In-N-Out Burger (If you detect a burger pattern here, you are correct. We were in search of the best burger on our trip). The Metroplex had just become one of the latest to offer these tasty burgers which can only be found far west of the Mississippi. Yessir!

Now back on to I-20 for the, not so scenic, drive to Alienville.

As always, we had a great time with Uncle Judson, Aunt Wanda and Dorothy. It happens to be the last time we have seen them in-person. We ate the stacked enchiladas from Martin’s with both red and green chilis. Oh my! There was a salad on the side and I got choked on a rubber band which was, somehow, buried deep in the bagged greens. I had to extract it myself. No fun but I found it humorous, nonetheless.

One day, of our three there, we had lunch at the Cowboy Cafe.IMG_0646 I had been instructed, by Melodye, to be sure and not let Auntie pick up the check. Therefore, I secured the bill and placed it securely between my legs on the high top stool on which I sat. As we neared the completion of our meal, Auntie reached under the table, as quick as a road runner, and whipped that ticket from what I thought was a safe place.

“You didn’t think I’d go there, did you Bird?” She barked as we all sat in amazement. Another moment I wouldn’t trade for the world.

“Parting is such sweet sorrow,” but that time came as we had planned to trek northeast to Santa Fe for lunch and then on to Taos for two nights.

Hunting For Hopper, Finding St. Francis

For the remainder of that first afternoon we reacquainted ourselves with Taos. Mel hadn’t been there since 1997 and I since 1999.

After we secured our room, on the south side of town, we began to walk up the main drag toward downtown. Taos Mountain rose dramatically into the brilliant blue sky where slight wisps of sugar white clouds dancing around her.

Is that a tear? I felt as though I was muddling my way to the cusp of a new adventure. Would adventure be the right choice of words? Or was it be more like a mission? Or a search?

There was a festival, of some sort, just west of the town plaza, that afternoon. There was music, arts and crafts, food and more. We enjoyed all but the food as we had plans to dine at Lambert’s later on.

Lambert’s was highly enjoyable with some fine food and drink. Green chili stew, a seafood enchilada (New Mexican style) and a bottle of Line 39 Cabernet Sauvignon. A stroll around the plaza, on an idyllic summer night, and it was back to the motel (NOT the Ritz!) for some rest and repose.

Day two began with with some more time in shops and art galleries, Taos is a noted art colony, and then to Orlando’s for some of the best New Mexican food you could possibly hope to enjoy.

After Orlando’s we went out to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.IMG_0678

Taos Pueblo was next. Mel had never been. San Geronimo Mission Church summoned with a whisper. The Virgin Mary, robed in pink for summer, stood as the centerpiece at the altar. The Pueblos honor Mother Earth in this manner. Father Sun is just to the right and peeping from behind one of the many saints honored here. A few moments of reverence completed our silent time there.

One of the big events of the day was to be the short, six mile, trip to Rancho de Taos to visit the grave of Dennis Hopper.

When we got to Taos we parked at the small town Plaza which is located adjacent to the St. Francis of Assisi Church. I had driven by here before but never stopped.

We were both struck by the beauty of the beautiful adobe building and its grounds.IMG_0722 There was also an adobe fence, flowers, trees, a fountain and statues of St. Francis and St. Clare. Clare was a convert of St. Francis and later joined a convent of Benedictine nuns in Italy, not far from the town of Assisi.

As we walked the grounds and took it all in, the “Spirit” began to move. Mind you, at this time I considered myself agnostic but always open to the next experience or encounter of enlightenment or growth or whatever one might term it.

The feeling became more intense as we entered the church. Christ hung at the altar before us. The presence of the “Spirit” became almost audible. It had been a very long time since I had found myself in such a situation. Words failed me as the Divine made its presence known.

The silence was deafening. I was moved, deeply.

But it was a mood of wonder and excitement. What was going on? I felt as though I had been ambushed. My mind raced back and forth.

We made our way back outside and I turned to Melodye, and asked, “What’s going on?” Does God want me to be a Catholic priest? I then realized I had just uttered the word God.

GULP!

The shop next door seemed to beckon us. We browsed around a bit and I wound up buying a book on the story of St. Francis. It then occurred to me that I had also purchased two driftwood, hand-made crosses from a local hispanic vendor at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge that morning. They both now hang in our home, along with the Prayer of St. Francis, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”

Yes, we did find Hopper’s grave at Jesus Nazareno Cemetery. That was also a nice moment. A denouement, if you will, to the monumental proceedings that had transpired just before.IMG_0725

Second Conversion

Two months later, on August 14, Christ, with a great deal of help from St. Francis, completed his awakening of me back into his fold. I would later find that others, most notably Thomas Merton, had experienced what is termed, a second conversion. They tend to come later in life, often in one’s fifties. I happened to be sixty at the time.

In hindsight, I realized that God never left me. He/She cannot leave us. He lives in each and every one of us. It is by the Divine that we are born and that spark is never extinguished. Read the first chapter of John. There are times of awakening and times of doubt and even unbelief, but the flame is NEVER extinguished.

She is always there, waiting patiently, ready to listen, to comfort, to heal, to save and to love us.

God is love. Perfect love. Our lives are a dance with that Love, God.

Dance Me To The End Of Love – Leonard Cohen

“Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We’re both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love.”

Care to dance?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.