Here’s Johnny

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Last night Andrea and Kevin wanted to orchestrate a belated birthday dinner for the General. Of course, as part of the entourage, I was also invited. In all truthfulness, I can say it proved to be an exceptional evening.

 

For starters, Andrea and Kevin chose a restaurant where the General and I have never been. Truthfully speaking, I am mostly a stranger to the kind of fine dining that includes something more than a white tablecloth and dinnerware. I am not accustomed to having a myriad of choices for the first course, second course, main course and the grand finale (aka – desert).

 

It was a touching moment when Andrea looked at the menu and said to her mom, “Why don’t we take this and this and this for starters?” She offered several suggestions to include for the second course and pretty much left the third course for our own choosing.

 

Seriously, for the most part, I had looked at the menu and had no idea what was being served. When it comes to culinary choices that include something outside my regular fare or frame of reference, my first reaction is to look for something else on the menu that seems more familiar. I kind of discount the possibility that I will like it if I haven’t already tried it.

 

Andrea has a culinary charm about her where she can get by with promoting a menu selection for consideration. She does a good job of convincing you that you have a treat in store. I had a flashback to the General coaxing Andrea throughout her childhood to try different foods.

 

It was both interesting to observe and experience the role reversal-taking place before my eyes. Andrea was taking on the role of teacher and mentor. Though she’d never suggest that we were her inept students, we were on unfamiliar territory. She was pretty convincing that we would enjoy the taste. Never once did she use the line: “It is good for you”.

 

The waiter was a young man named Johnny. Actually, when he first came to our table, I missed his providing us his name. At least, I didn’t recall his name when he came back around. Consequently, when he came back around I said: “Help me with my memory. I don’t remember your name.” He smiled and said: “It is Johnny. Just like Johnny Cash, except that I don’t have any cash. Okay, so now I had a frame of reference. I would remember his name.

 

As our two-hour-plus dinner took place, I watched Johnny interacting with a host of other folks dining in the restaurant. He was attentive, personable, and had a genuine gregarious nature about him that added to the ambience of the evening.

 

He mentioned early in waiting on our table that he had just returned to work. He had been on vacation. I asked about his vacation and he provided a thumb-nailed sketch. He had gone to Arizona. While he was there, he attended his brother’s wedding. He added: “I also had a great time visiting with my mom. I sprung her from the hospital for a while. She has just finished chemo and radiation treatments”. He mentioned that in four months she has aged about fifteen years.

 

Immediately, I had the thought associated to the complexity of his family’s circumstances. His mother’s health status had to weigh heavily on the family as they rallied around and celebrated a family wedding. I’m sure there were lots of emotions surrounding the celebration.

 

I mentioned that I was sorry he was dealing with that kind of stress. He said, “It comes with life”. Who could argue with that? He went on to say: “It is interesting, but my mother has developed the most magnificent sense of humor. She had never been so funny. I guess she figures, ‘What do I have to lose’?”   He added: “I really enjoyed the time with her. In addition, my brother’s wedding provided an opportunity for me to visit with a lot of old friends I’ve not seen in awhile. It was really nice. I enjoyed my time at home, but it is also good to be back at work.”

 

Through the course of the evening, bits and pieces about his life surfaced in conversation. He mentioned George Straight’s song: “Ocean Front Property In Arizona”. He said he had recorded the song and given it to several friends. His friends had responded with positive reviews.

 

I asked: “So did you come to Austin to get in the music business?” He said he had graduated from high school at the age of seventeen and was ready to advance his career. He had started skateboarding at the age of four and thought he could make it as a professional skateboarder. California was calling his name. He had to go and give that career track a chance”.

 

I doubt that is just the kind of thing every parent wants to hear from his or her seventeen-year-old son? Actually, he told his dad he was going to request court emancipation. The dad countered that he would allow him to go, but that he wasn’t going to be emancipated. The dad wanted to keep him on as an income tax deduction. Did I mention that his dad is a CPA and his mother is an art professor?

 

He had support from his family as he pursued his dreams. In the course of the two hours we shared, he shared several more tidbits about his life. He got a degree in nursing and things began to fall apart with his girlfriend at exactly the same time that he was beginning to see a line of white picket fences.

 

I had the thought: “What a clever way to express where he was in his human pilgrimage.” Romance didn’t work out in California and he made his way to Austin. His story associated to getting into the restaurant business really caught me by surprise. He said, “It was all about the Balloon Animals”. “The what”, I asked?” He said when he was still in high school a friend had showed him a stash of cash in his wallet. He said: “He had twenties and hundred dollar bills.” His friend explained: “I’ve been working at a restaurant making animals out of balloons for children.” He said, “The parents love it and they pay me. Some pay me very well”.

 

“You’ve got to show me how to do that,” was his response to his friend. In short order, he received permission to do the same thing in another restaurant. He said, “I guess it was my gregarious nature, but folks really liked me. When the restaurant decided to stop allowing me to do that, they said I was too valuable to loose. They employed me as a part-time server while I was in high school”.

 

When asked about his passion going forward he said: “I am a writer. I was made to write. I can’t stop writing. I haven’t gotten anything published yet, but I will. I write. I can’t stop writing”.

 

Something tells me, he’s got the stuff to reach his dreams. I liked his line: “I was beginning to envision a line of white picket fences”. What an incredible way to say much in a very different way of expressing it!

 

Johnny gave me permission to share his story and reluctantly provided the same regarding his picture. It would serve you well to find him. He is an exceptionally knowledgeable server who works for an incredible restaurant. You’ll enjoy a fantastic meal and an exceptional waiter.

 

All My Best!

Don

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A Book Store With A History


Greg – a local patron

My friend Moe and I figuratively hit the ground running yesterday morning. He was at one hotel and I was at another.  We opted to meet at the Dupont Circle Metro Station and head for Capitol Hill where we had back-to-back meetings throughout the day.

Seriously, when the Metro stopped at the Dupont Station, it was beyond standing room only. I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to get inside. Even a can of sardines has more free space than the Metro had yesterday morning. I questioned whether the door was going to clear the backside of my trousers as the subway moved out of the station. Of course, my first thought was: “This is blog worthy. I’ll get a picture”.  

It was a great idea, but impossible to execute. We were wielded together so tightly inside the metal capsule that I didn’t have the freedom to move my arms to even reach for my phone. It was way too close for comfort.

Fortunately, by the next couple of stops, we had a little more breathing room. I can’t imagine the kind of stress that folks regularly commuting have to endure. For years, I’ve fantasized how great it would be to regularly ride the Metro.  Yesterday morning I let go of that fantasy.  Life is too short to live that way.

By the end of the workday, Moe went one direction and I went another when we arrived back at Dupont Circle.  Now to find my hotel was the $64,000 question?  The battery life on my iPhone was showing “low battery”. Seriously, how difficult could it be? Let me caution you before you answer, at one traffic circle you were to take the fourth exit. At another, it was a different number.  Frankly I found it all somewhat confusing.  In fact, it was very confusing.  

I know you’re thinking “Silver Alert”. I am resistive to that notion, but I can’t really step too far away from the possibility. However, the detailed instructions provided me made it almost impossible to miss as long as I had battery available, or so I thought.  I’m not so sure!  Technology isn’t all it is supposed to be.

At 6:15, I sent a text to Moe asking if he’d like to meet for dinner?  He didn’t respond back, so I simply put the thought of dinner out of my head.  Over an hour later, Moe responded: “I’m just seeing this?  Where do you want to go?” 

Moe has a tendency to be overly accommodating. He doesn’t weigh half a minute, but he humored me at lunch yesterday by walking into a Something Green restaurant. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of salad.  Consequently, I thought I’d defer to his selection for dinner.  Long story short, travel and counting calories can represent a major conflict.

Moe subsequently sent me a text that we had a reservation for 7:45 at Kramerbooks and Afterword. The address was 1517 Connecticut NW.  I responded: “I’m on my way”.  He subsequently wrote: “It is a bookstore with a café inside.” I’m not making this up. I did NOT see the message about the restaurant being inside a bookstore. Like I replied: “I’m on my way”, I was literally on my way.

I may be a creature of habit, but so is my phone. The battery was nearly gone before I started my journey.  Long story short – the address on Connecticut NW was just off of Dupont Circle. Fortunately, I made it that far before everything turned red on my phone and the directions disappeared.

Would you believe the map feature led me completely around the circle?  I’m not making this up. God as my witness, I’m telling the truth. At some point, a person stops looking at the face of their cellphone and starts looking through windows. There was not a restaurant in sight.  There was a bookstore at the designated address.  It had to be a mistake!

I’m slow to connect the dots: “Krammerbooks and Afterword”. Was I at the correct location? Sure enough there was a café tucked away on the backside of the restaurant. It was not visible by looking through the window. True to his word, Moe was seated at a small table.

I was actually shocked at the menu.  There was a lot to choose from. I opted for the blacked salmon. It was a pleasant surprise to subsequently discover the salmon came on a bed of guacamole and a couple of tomatoes. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

A man eating alone at a small table about twentyfour inches away from the table where we were sitting eventually joined in on our conversation. His name was Greg and he dines at the restaurant often. He actually eventually gave me permission to use his picture in my morning blog.  Boy, did he have a story to share!

 Actually, I think Moe was the first to engage him in our discussion. He mentioned, that there were lots of things for a tourist to see in the area. For starters, “Did we know the story-line associated to Krammerbooks and Afterword?”

Okay, so as the story unfolded, he perked my interest. In the bookstore’s early history, it was a “go-to-place” for neighborhood residents, authors and politicians.  Whether purposefully or by happenstance, it came to have a reputation for the ideal place to meet for a date. Who would have thought? According to the New York Times, “Kramer’s was one part bookstore, one part restaurant and perhaps on part singles bar”.

I guess you could say: “Like a fine cigar, the memory of the bookstore’s history  lives on and on” and I’m not just blowing smoke.Kramer’s came to national attention in 1998 during the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, when the store fought a subpoena from Kenneth Starr to disclose which books Monica Lewinsky had purchased. Seriously?  Isn’t there some level of privacy associated to what a person chooses to read? Maybe/Maybe not?

I’m not familiar with the book “Vox”, a 1992 best-selling novel by Nicholson Baker, whose theme is telephone sex. Reportedly, it was one of six books purchased my Monica Lewinsky. I figure it is a person’s right to build their personal library regardless of their reading interest. 

The legal costs associated to fighting the subpoena were over six-figures.  Subsequent Starr got what he wanted, but it was the store’s lawyer that turned over the list, not the bookstore.

The meal and conversation were interesting, but how was I ever going to get back to my hotel? Moe looked at his map and the highlighted route.  He then asked a good question, Why not just walk down “P” street and turn right on “15thSt NW.”  Even I couldn’t mess that up. It worked perfectly.

All My Best!

Don

The Passing Of Time

My walk this past Sunday along the road we live on prompted thoughts from long ago. I actually noticed things I have seen for years, but didn’t really see.  Strange isn’t it how we can fail to notice the obvious?

On my walk Sunday afternoon, I walked past the property where our first home was located. We moved into that home on Christmas Eve, 1980. Our daughter was subsequently born Jan 2ndof the next year.  The folks who bought the place from us twenty-eight years ago still live there.  No doubt they’ve made changes, but I’m not quite sure.  When we lived there, we purposely cut down all the cedar trees to offer us a view of the roadway.  Today, it is impossible to see the house from the road. Cedar trees completely block the view.

I invested a lot of sweat equity in that yard. Both the front and back of the house were carefully landscaped.  I suspect it is still a good look.  At least I hope so.  The front yard had a white picket fence. We built the fence and we were figuratively living the dream! 

Isn’t it idyllic to have a white picket fence? I talked several months ago with a young man who moved from California to Austin. When I asked what brought him to Austin, he said in essence: “I moved here to mend a broken heart”. His was an unrequited love. While he was thinking of marriage and white picket fences (those are the two terms he expressed), she didn’t have the same vision for her future.

The home we first built in Henly looked like an old country settling with a metal roof.  Both our son and daughter lived in that house. In fact, it is the only home we ever lived in where that was true. Craig was in college when we moved to Midland. His subsequent summer stays were very brief.

Of course, having children almost ten years apart accounts for fact that the only  home they shared was the one in Henly.  It tugs at my heartstrings to remember them in that house. They were good years. They were happy years. They were years that went by way too quickly.

In playing it forward, I couldn’t be prouder of the adults they’ve become or the sense of closeness that they share. The difference in their ages doesn’t seem as significant today as they did back then. It makes me feel good to know the tie that binds is durable and unbroken.

It never occurred to me before, but the only home we’ve lived in since we’ve been grandparents is our present home in Henly.  We’ve lived in lots of places across half a century and in multiple houses, but Henly is the place where we dually raised our children and is the only place our grandchildren have ever thought of as Granddad and Gram’s house. 

We are fortunate to live in a community where there is a sense of connectedness with neighbors and friends.  Craig and Andrea are both privileged to still have contact with folks who’ve literally known them for almost forever.

On Sunday when I was soaking in the sunshine and reminiscing of earlier days in Henly, I thought about the numbers of folks whose life touched ours in a meaningful way and then they were gone.  We currently live on property across the street from the Old McCarty home place. Mr. Lauren (his first name) was still living when we first moved to Henly. His wife had already preceded him in death.

Mr. Lauren or Grandpa McCarty as he was often referred, raised five children on that ranch. Their old home place is directly across the street from where we now live.  Actually, in our four decades associated to Henly, the two homes we built were built on land that once belonged to Mr. Lauren.  We purchased the land from his heirs. 

That generation is now all on the other side of eternity. I was privileged to have known and been friends with all of them.  I participated in the funeral service of Mr. Lauren’s oldest son shortly after coming to Henly.  I subsequently was privileged to officiate at his funeral. He was the epitome of a gentleman. During subsequent years, I was also gifted with the privilege to officiate at the funeral services for the other four of his children as well as their spouses. 

Consequently, the neighborhood where we live was defined in part by folks who’ve gone on before. In addition, as I walked on Sunday afternoon, I counted eight other neighbors who are no longer in the neighborhood. They, too, are now on the other side of eternity.

When I took pictures of the old barn on Sunday, I thought about the family (unknown to me) that had built that barn.  Obviously, it was not always a structure in disrepair.  

The land, picturesque and vibrate, will always remain the same. The people privileged to call it home only have the land on loan to them.  Our home is our home, but it won’t always be. One day the land and house will be the place of excitement and life associated to living on the edge of heaven for another family.  Until then, I’m grateful to have it on loan.

All My Best!

Don

The Road Less Traveled

On Friday, the flow of traffic through and around Garden City resembled my sense of what it may have been like in 1848 with folks heading to the Sacramento Valley in California in search of Gold.  It wasn’t referred to as the Gold Rush because people were taking their time getting there. 

James Marshall, a carpenter from New Jersey, was the first to make the discovery.  At the time he was working to build a water-powered sawmill. It all started when he discovered flakes of gold in the American River at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Coloma, California. He said of the experience: “It made my heart thump, for I was certain it was gold”.

At any rate, on Friday I had the sense that I was headed to Boom Town.  I sensed the ride from Garden City to Odessa was going to be a dangerous stretch of road. I say that simply because of the size and the speed of vehicles traveling the roadway.  I know, you’re thinking: “If you can’t run with the big dogs, you need to stay on the porch”.  I couldn’t agree more. I didn’t want to be wedged between two semi-trucks hauling drilling equipment. I wasn’t particular concerned about my personal safety. I’m not that smart. I was concerned about the gravel being thumped in the direction of the windshield of my truck.

An then there was the “hurry up and wait” approach where only one-lane-in-one-direction was available and the two lanes of traffic took turns.  I opted to look at text messages while stopped in traffic.  I figured I wasn’t at risk for a fender bender unless I took by foot off of the brake.

A friend from first grade sent me a private massage: “If you ever go to Odessa again, when you pass through San Angelo, instead of taking a left to head to Garden City, continue straight on to Big Spring and I-20. Take I-20 on to Odessa.  Much safer, much safer, repeat Much safer. The oilfield traffic is horrible and dangerous.

Of course, my son wanting to ensure some level of a check and balance system, emailed me: “Dad – Don’t forget what Texas Monthly said about Odessa.”  That was closely akin to “watch your step.”  Texas Monthly had made the observation that Odessa was a great place to raise hell and Midland was a great place to raise children.  Personally, I found that a bit offensive since I grew up in Odessa.

At any rate, on Saturday in the resourcefulness of my thinking, I decided I’d take my friend’s suggestion. I would not go back the way I had come. I would figuratively take the road less traveled. 

Perhaps, predictably by Sunday morning as I was heading out of Odessa, I had the thought, “Going back the way I’d come would be okay.” After all, I was leaving early. There couldn’t be that much traffic on a Sunday morning. Perhaps it is an indication of being old and resistive to change. 

Of course, I could justify my decision by the difference in the distance. I had done a Google search and discovered it was seventeen miles farther to go through Big Spring. Nah – it would be okay, I’d go back the way I’ve always gone.

Intent in going the distance that would get me there faster, I surprised myself when at the last minute I opted to continue forward and take I-20 to Big Spring.  After all, why not take a friend’s wise counsel. The jaunt to Big Spring took me back to my childhood. My grandmother had a sister who lived in Big Spring for a period of time. It wasn’t infrequent that I’d ride with my grandparents on a Sunday afternoon to drive to Big Spring for a visit.  The sixty miles took forever.

When I took the turn off of I-20 onto the highway to San Angelo, I intuitively pegged it as “the road less traveled”.  There were very few cars and absolutely no construction. It was a very relaxing drive – quite a contrast to the experience from Friday.

So what was I supposed to learn from that?  I often ask those questions of myself. Is it possible that folks repeatedly follow a routine even if it doesn’t work for them? Maybe it is the fear of the unknown. Duplicating what you’ve always done at least isn’t filled with a surprise. Same old – same old is how most of us live our lives. Why not take the road less traveled.

The commute home was without incident. Later yesterday afternoon I walked about an hour on the road where we live. It really is he road less traveled.  It was a good investment of time. It gave me opportunity to regroup and think about life.

I even took some pictures while I was walking to substantiate the stretch of road could rightfully be renamed “The Edge Of Heaven”. The pictures included in my blog were taken during my walk yesterday afternoon.  I couldn’t identify the make or model of the car in the photograph, but the couple waived as they drove past me.

Hint  – Stick with the back roads and always opt for the road less traveled.

All My Best!

Don

Butterfly Kisses

Obviously the highlight of the weekend for me was the privilege of officiating at the wedding of my cousin’s granddaughter. It turned out to be a really nice wedding with a western theme. I even dressed the part. Cowboy boots, heavily starched jeans, a white shirt, black vest, black coat and a bolo tie.


I’m not a fan of skinny jeans, but truthfully there wasn’t room for much in the pockets. That meant my iPhone 6 plus wasn’t going to fit in my pocket. For that matter, what was I supposed to do with the keys to my truck? I thought about leaving them in the console and using the keypad on the truck to open the door. I ruled that out. It was leaving too much to chance. I have enough passwords stored away in my head that I could momentarily come up with the wrong set of numbers needed to open the door. Consequently, I carried the keys with me.


Shortly before the wedding, I asked the groom to provide me his last name. When he pronounced the name, I connected the dots. His name ended with an “I”. It was clearly an Italian name. Presto – that explained the theme of the dinner the previous evening. We had Italian food at the rehearsal dinner and it was the best I’ve ever eaten.


The only hitch to the wedding was the lack of availability of a lapel microphone. The setup was such that a microphone was necessary in order to be heard. That meant I needed to hold the microphone in my hand. “Hello Houston, we have a problem” because I have a tendency to talk with my hands and I’m not even Italian.


As I waited for the wedding to start, I was quietly having a panic attack. The person in charge of the sound system told me to simply rest the microphone on my chin. “Do what I thought?” He really did provide that instruction? All I can say is that I tried to follow instructions, but it was a little awkward.


Even more awkward was managing the notes. When you are holding a microphone with one hand and holding the script for the wedding in another, it creates a dilemma. It was a juggling act of sorts and I almost made it. Halfway through the ceremony I shuffled two pages forward instead of one. From there I was on my own. I doubt that anyone noticed, but the butterflies weren’t all flying in formation.


Speaking of butterflies, the father-daughter dance was to the sound of “Butterfly Kisses”. Perhaps you’ve heard it? It begins with the words: “There’s two things I know for sure She was sent here from heaven And she’s daddy’s girl As I drop to my knees by her bed at night She talks to Jesus, and I close my eyes”. The song then chronicles a father/daughter relationship through childhood and adolescence.


The song concludes with the lines: “Oh like the wind, when the years go by Precious butterfly Spread your wings and fly She’ll change her name today She’ll make a promise And I’ll give her away Standing in the bride room Just staring at her She asked me what I’m thinking And I said “I’m not sure I just feel like I’m losing my baby girl… I know I’ve gotta let her go, but I’ll always Remember Every hug in the morning, and butterfly kisses”.


The father of the bride was a tougher man than I. How do you dance through that song and process the words without wanting to hang on too tightly?


I’m headed back to Henly this morning. I’m grateful to have had the time to visit with my cousin. I always call her: “Mary Claire Melvina Rebecca Jane”. Obviously that isn’t her real name. Her name is Rebecca and she goes by Becky. At some point in the past, I was traveling with her family and we stopped for lunch at a restaurant In Jacksboro. I selected the “Mary Claire Melvina Rebecca Jane” song sung by Eddie Arnold on the jukebox in the diner. I’ve called her by that name ever sense.


The last time I saw my cousin was a decade ago. The occasion was the funeral of her mother. The year before, it had been the funeral of her dad. Her parents were kind people. I miss them to this day.


It was nice to have the opportunity to reminisce and also fill in the gap of all the years we’ve not had contact. By happenstance, they have been many. It was good to spend time with Mary Claire Melvina Rebecca Jane and her family.


By the way, weddings are a much happier occasion for a family gathering than a funeral.


All My Best!Don

Surprise of Surprises

I apologize for my lack of attentiveness in responding to all of the “happy birthday” wishes from yesterday. It is humbling to realize there are so many thoughtful and kind people. In fact, I haven’t yet gotten through all of the messages. Part of the complexity is that different folks posted some references to my birthday. 

My niece posted several pictures of her dad and I.  Truth be told, social media is not a forum intended for pictures of folks in their underwear.  I recognize that I didn’t have a say in the matter. Someone else took the picture. Of course, in typical fashion my mother dressed both my brother and I alike. 

I now know how Prince Harry must have felt several years ago when he made social media with pictures from Vegas.  It may be strictly coincidental, but a short time later he was enjoying the sunshine in Afghanistan and flying military helicopters.  

Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised to see messages from long ago and far away.  It underscored how extremely fortunate I’ve been to have so many friends.  Please know that every one of you have enriched and blessed my life. 

I only have two first cousins on my dad’s side and we share a host of childhood memories.  For starters, for a period of time, in our very early childhood years, they lived two-doors (down or up – I can’t remember how you decipher the difference) from our family. Our paternal grandparent’s home was between our house and theirs.  

Of course, the folks in the middle were my grandparents. Seriously, how lucky could a kid get? Ronnie, Donnie, Larry, Gary and Becky were privileged for sure.  In fact, just living with the memories add a resource of things that put a smile on my face.

Yesterday Gary sent me happy birthday wishes that gave me pause for reflection. He said something akin to: “Happy Birthday to the senior member of the family”.  I should have connected those dots years ago, but I never thought of it before.  “Senior member”, doesn’t that make me the patriarch?  All I can say is that I have big shoes to fill.

I also had the thought yesterday that we know a lot more today than we did even ten-years ago. Take distracted driving for starters.  Who would have thought that talking on the phone could be a distraction? In fact, I’d say it isn’t. Texting – I get it. You have to take your eyes of the road to do that. But talking? Seriously?

I was talking on my phone to my niece’s step-father and wishing him a happy birthday yesterday. Obviously, we share the same birthday. He is also the same age.  I was driving out of Llano headed west when I initiated the conversation. At some point I realized, that I’d driven a long way. Could I have missed the intersection where I should turn to the right to go to Brady?  

You know what they say: “It is all about the adventure”.  Yeah, but how far out of the way would it take me.  I pulled into a driveway to look at a map on my iPhone.  I had missed the turn and it looked like a significant distance out of the way for me. Consequently, I backtracked the seven miles and went the way that was shorter.

By the way, there is no short way from Henly to Odessa.  So how many years did I commute from Midland to Henly every weekend to go to church? Honestly, I don’t know how we did that? I guess you do what you need to do, but it would take a lot of convincing for me to sign on to that commute on a regular basis. 

Under the heading of a warning: “A person could get run over trying to walk across the highway in Garden City”.  I ‘ve never seen so many trucks on the highway. I thought it was going to take installation of a traffic light in order for me to turn left out of the service station where I stopped for fuel.  I’m curious about the name of the town.  Does anyone know how Garden City got it’s name? Seriously, a person would have to be delusional! Either that or I want some of whatever he was smoking.

The ride from Garden City proved to be a surprise. Road Construction -Road Construction – Road Construction. There is something about having one-lane-in-one- direction-at-one time that can put a damper on making the distance in a timely fashion.  I’m going to explore the map for another route. I don’t want to go back the way I came. 

I am in Odessa for the wedding of my cousin’s granddaughter.  The one thing I have going for me is that for that family, I’m a family tradition. I had the privilege of officiating at my cousin’s wedding, her daughter’s wedding and now her granddaughter’s wedding.  I mentioned last night that at my age, there won’t be a fourth generation wedding. It figuratively isn’t in the stars. My cousin responded: “If you live as long as Granny and Granddaddy it could happen”.  Frankly, I find that a hopeful contrast to my sense that this is the last of the line for family weddings. After all I am the senior member of the first cousins remaining.

I am not always the quickest to connect the dots. In a room filled with people, I was caught off-guard to the sound of extended family members singing Happy Birthday.  It took me a moment to catch on.  I didn’t see that coming. In addition, the cake was really-really-really good. Did I mention the icing was the best part?  I’m just hoping it is true that calories don’t count on one’s birthday. 

I am a lucky guy!

All My Best!

Don

Hands Tell A Story

Hands down (pun intended), twenty-seven was my most difficult birthday.  For starters there was a mother/daughter combo advertising something on television. It may have been dishwashing liquid? I don’t know.  I can’t remember. That, too, could be a sign of advancing age. What I do remember was the question asked on the commercial.  Both mother and daughter displayed a hand as the question was being asked.  The question was simply: “Which is the thirty-year-old hand?”

I am not the kind of guy that is easily rattled, but that commercial elevated a level of disdain in me that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. I wanted to scream: “What’s wrong with having a thirty-year-old hand?” Actually, I did scream it more than once.  The commercial made me nuts!  However, I never hurled an object at the television.

My daughter would be quick to say that relenting that kind of power to something as mundane as a commercial on television is a reflection of not thinking smart.  Perhaps you could say: “I taught her well”.  She is a smart lady at thirty-eight! You should have seen her at sixteen!!! 

I have mostly forgotten those years.  The General and I considered a 12-Step program just in case we figuratively fell off the wagon attempting to provide the structure and level of supervision we perceived was in order. As it turned out, we were the problem. Who would have thought? God has an incredible sense of humor.

Interestingly, some suggest that a person’s hands give away their age more than any other dimension. And all this time, I thought the first clue was having some kind of difficulty climbing in and out of a car that sits too low to the ground. 

The General has been on my case for having “improper posture”.  She alleges that I look like an “old man” by the way I carry myself. That is both an interesting and unkind observation. I don’t think I look like the “hunchback of Notre-Dame and my shoulders aren’t slumped. Consequently, I’m now on a self-imposed behavior modification program to learn to stand tall.

The folks crafting the television commercial referencing the hands were thoughtfully strategic in their ploy. Some would say it was a good use of psychology and smart thinking. After all, one’s hands are always exposed to the elements. A person’s hands probably give away their age more than anything else.

There is a poem that begins with the expressed thought: “My hands are old. I never said that out loud before, but they are”.  Instead of thinking my hands are old, I’d prefer to simply think of myself as an old hand.  The General would be quick to say: “I don’t lift a hand to do much”. Consequently, she’d probably say that my hands are none the worse for the wear.

My mother went through a phase that she wore white gives whenever she was driving. She didn’t want sunspots on her hands.  After all, aren’t sunspots the tale tell sign of old hands? In addition to the white gloves, mom also put sunscreen on her hands.

I don’t know about the sunscreen, but I do know the General can’t go more than five minutes without needing to put some kind of lotion on her hands. Sometimes I get a little impatient with her, because she doesn’t hurry even when we are running late. First things first – that always includes hand lotion. She isn’t going out the door without it.

I don’t know about you, but I’m attempting to reframe the concept of old age.  After all, isn’t it true that seventy-years-old today is much like the “new fifty?” I know what you’re thinking, but I didn’t really say that I was seventy.

My hands may be old (oops – I mean “I may be an old hand”), but I have a firm handshake I am not reluctant to look a man in the eye.

They say a man is only as good as his word. I don’t always get it right, but I generally think of a verbal commitment as a binding contract. I told a builder once that I wanted the house he was building. He said, he’d get me the paperwork in a couple of days. The next day I looked at a house I liked better, but I’d already made a verbal commitment. In addition, we even shook hands on it. Consequently, I moved forward with the house I’d verbally obligated myself to purchase.  It was the right thing to do.

They say age is a matter of mind. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. Unlike the disdain I experienced watching the commercial about the thirty-year-old hand, I reframe the question surrounding one’s age.  I think it is a better question to ask: “If you didn’t know how old you were, how old would you be?”

I can tell you with conviction that folks don’t refer to me often as Mr. Forrester. My name is Don. Consequently, I attempt to provide gentle redirection when they try the mister stuff. I also enjoy hanging out with folks who are young enough to have something for which to look forward.  

Who knows, maybe the General and I ought to take up dancing lessons?  I missed that track when I was young, but they say exercise is good for you and I figure dancing is more fun than jogging.  In addition, it is not nearly as hard on the knees. 

So, today is another birthday. I figure I am good to go.  I’m taking a road trip today and before my travels are over, I’ll go back in time, at least in the resources of my memories.  I’m headed to Odessa where one is guaranteed to find friendly people. In the line-up of things some folks say matter, friendly people is always fourth on the list. Hills, water and trees normally get mentioned before friendly people. 

While I’m in town briefly, I will drive by my childhood home and reminisce and treasure all over again the memories from long ago and the people I loved who are now only with me in my heart.  Truth be told, I got a good start on life. I feel a little guilty that I didn’t turn out better than I did.  But, hey, I’m a work in progress.  I figure if I’m still here, I’m not done.

All My Best!

Don

Everything Is Coming Up Roses

I went to bed last night with the sense that yesterday had been a Do Dah Day.  Maybe I’m a simple guy, but there is something about the presence of “springtime like” weather that puts a spring in my step and orchestrates the sound of “everything’s coming up roses” in my head.

It happens every year. I prematurely embrace springtime and fill the patio with begonias and geraniums only to toss them out a couple of weeks later when mother nature reminds me it is not yet spring. Seriously, the experience chills me to the bone.  The geraniums don’t fare all that well either.

I wanted to buy plants for the patio over the weekend and the General reminded me that Easter is late this year.  Sometimes her sense of “knowing everything” amazes me.  She has never read the Farmer’s Almanac and is not known for having a green thumb. For that matter, the two of us together have the skillset of Dr. Jack Kevorkian with plants. Of course, as he pointed out: “Dying is not a crime”.

I haven’t read Dr. Kevorkian’s book “Prescription Medicide”, but I suspect the subject matter might be a downer.  I like books that make me laugh and foster the notion that everything is coming up roses (oops –pardon the pun). There is nothing like embracing a Do Dah Day and squeezing every ounce of pleasure from it. That was the kind of day I had yesterday.

Sometimes you have to purposefully choose to ignore things that don’t go the way you anticipate or expect.  After all, someone said to “err is human”. So does that mean the envelope filled with checks that I mailed to a bank in Washington, DC should take three weeks to reach their destination?  I didn’t think so either, but I’ll deal with it later.  The whole experience could cause me to go postal. 

I was a little amused on Tuesday when the Federal Aviation Administration firmly took the stance that they hadn’t found any issues at fault with the Boeing 737 MAX that would merit a grounding order. I guess that is explainable. Perhaps they’ve been so busy with their work that they haven’t watched the news.

After all, it is not like airplanes fall out of the sky every day? So how many people unexpectedly have cut their trip short on the Boeing 737 Max in the last five months?  You could ask them, but they are not talking about it. 

Seriously, just because countries and airlines across the globe were banning the plane from their skies, the action could have been an over reaction on their part. After all, Boeing stressed its “full confidence in the safety of the planes”. Isn’t that enough?

Maybe common sense isn’t all that common?  Reportedly, a subsequent Presidential order to the FFA changed their modus operandi and reversed their position. Reportedly, today Congress is asking why the FAA waited so long? Seriously, some days you just can’t win.

I didn’t let any of that bother me yesterday. It was too good of a day to mess up with negative thinking.  Just because it figuratively rained “cats and dogs” all morning, by noon the weather changed and I put the top down on my car and made a run on the bank in Austin to deposit a check. Currently, I’m a little shy of putting any more deposits in an envelope and mailing them to the bank. 

My son called at some point yesterday to ask how I was enjoying the peace and quiet.  I responded: “Snickers doesn’t bark and your mother has almost stopped. It is all good.” He laughed.  Reportedly, the General was having a great time tagging along with his kids during their spring break. Initially it had been our hope that grandkids would come this direction, but sports activities during spring break has them tied to their neighborhood. Consequently, the General went that direction this week. I had appointments here and a pile of work to do.

Last night before church, I telephoned a friend who had a medical procedure the day before.  I guess the crescendo of his day filled with a stress test was the decision to stop his heart and use electrical cardioversion to get things going again. It isn’t that dissimilar from the magic of unplugging your computer to reboot it. Well, maybe it is. 

I could tell from the tone of his voice, that it worked well. By his own admission, he was a changed man.  He was even laughing.  He said, “I’ve got a new heart.  You can’t believe the difference it makes when your heart is in the right rhythm. His energy level was soaring and all was good with his world. He, too, was having a Do Dah Day.

After church last night, I joined Andrea and Kevin for dinner. Miracle of miracles, Kevin was upright instead of horizontal. The three weeks of pneumonia following the flu almost killed him, but he was having a Do Dah Day yesterday. All was well with his world. Consequently, everything was good with mine.

All My Best!

Don