...slices of life in the Garden of Good & Evil

Monday, July 30, 2007

For Me??

Well, I really don't have a rancid clue how to describe the feeling one gets from being ambushed with a truly "surprise" party - but here goes....

Last Saturday, I arrived home early morning from an overnight gig in Jackson (I played a little wedding reception and stayed over with Will & Meredith in Madison). Marquita told me we were meeting our friends Perry & Michelle for dinner later that night. I nodded my approval and went about wasting the rest of the day. Certain things should have let me know something was afoot.

Clue #1 - around 4:00pm
Me: "What time are we meeting the Rackleys for dinner?"
Wife: " We're picking them up at 5:45."


That's when the senior citizens hit the Cracker Barrel for some sort of all-you-can-eat catfish or waffle fest, right? Oh well, maybe there's more to the story...

Clue #2 - as we're leaving the house

Me: "And why is it we're going so early?"
Wife: "We're going over to their house afterwards to play cards."

Cards...what kind of cards? Go Fish? Canasta? Uno? I don't play cards. Neither does my wife. Perry plays a little poker now and then. Maybe he thinks he can take me and the wife in a "friendly" game. That scoundrel...

Me: "I really don't want to play cards. Can I just watch?"
Wife: "Whatever...let's just go."

Dinner was at The Veranda. We were joined by two other couples - Tommy & Kathy Prentice and Bob & Diane Daniels. The conversation was enjoyable, the food was tasty (as usual), and the evening was marching on. It took us 2.5 hours to get out of there - despite a 6:00pm start in a very uncrowded dining room. I think our waiter was working another job in another restaurant simultaneously.

Clue #3 - leaving the restaurant

My wife was getting antsier by the minute as we waited for our checks. She bolted for the parking lot well ahead of me and the Rackleys.

Me: "What's the big hurry?"
Wife: "I'm just ready to leave."
Me: "To do what - play cards?"
Wife: (stinkeye)

Guess I'll just shut up and go with the flow. Maybe Perry has some good cigars around the house. My new affectation...smoking Perry's good cigars.

We pull into the Rackley's driveway and are greeted by about 100 people lined up in front of their house... Meredith & Will, Cam, my minister and his wife, several musician buddies, The Kollard Kings en regalia (MSU football tailgating pals), friends from the Delta and Jackson (crazy long drive for them) - each and every one a good friend.

But for some reason, I still didn't think about a surprise birthday party when we rounded the corner and saw this mob. All I could figure was that lots of people liked to play cards...

Thursday, July 26, 2007


OK- it has been pointed out that some liberties were taken by me on my last post. Seems like some readers (and you know who you are) have a problem with me, Opie and Ossie being lumped into one big birthday pile.

My real birthdate is July 25th. Most accounts of Bin Laden's birthdate are sketchy, but there is some consensus about him turning 50 this summer. Why not July 25th? And I realize Oprah is like 53 or 54 and I have no idea when her actual birthdate is. I vaguely remember a big shindig on primetime network TV for her 50th birthday a few years back. Lots of celebrity pals and general opulence. Very Oprah.

Like I said at the end of the post, it wasn't really about 50 anyway. Besides, if I did share a astrological link with those two I would probably explode.

Lighten up, people...

I have removed the "doctored up" photo of me with the big, toothy grin from the right side of the blog. I got tired of the old tux pic and the new one was too large and just a bit scary. As part of my newfound maturity (being 50 and all), I will continue blogging sans recurring personal photo.

This is not to say one won't pop up on occasion, but all the cool kids seem to manage a slight anonymity - good enough for me...

After making good on #2, the layout looked really dull. I've changed templates now. And some font colors. Added a random picture of Scott (not me) sleeping at work. This will probably entertain me for a couple of days.

As a creature of habit, changes like this go against my nature. Don't be surprized if it all goes back by next week...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Pop Quiz

What do all these people have in common?

Here's a hint...

If you guessed that all three like to drink beer and make fun things out of Play-Doh, you are correct! If you said happy 50th birthday - nice try...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Homecoming and A New Jones

It was nice to see Jon and Elizabeth at Adam and Abi's wedding this past Saturday. The Wagners look no worse for the wear - obviously Pittsburgh is an agreeable climate for these guys. I know it was a quick trip, but they'll be back for a two weeker in August, I'm told.

As if this blogging thing isn't a general distraction from a productive adult life, I've discovered online Scrabble. There's a little freebie site called Scrabulous.com that I stumbled into sometime last week. Games of varying time lengths are offered solo, against "robots", or head-to-head for rating points. You simply register and then begin playing - every available minute day or night. I might need to join some 12 step program for this...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Is It Really Better To Give?

Yesterday was Bloodmobile Day at the church I attend (FPC of StarkVegas). I think it's a good and noble thing to donate blood and I've done so on several occasions. Never really thought twice about it.

My dear departed Pop used to give up a pint or two on a very regular basis when I was a young lad. He was a fireman and sort of the quiet, heroic type. I remember it well - and maybe that's why I feel compelled to do the same. Genetic disposition to blood giving...hmmm - there's an interesting concept.

Anyway, I had signed up for the 6:30pm bloodletting session thinking I'd just catch it on my way home from the office. When I arrived at the Bloodmobile (with its fabulously frigid insides on a 90+ degree Mississippi day), I found it a bit crowded. Seems there were a few "walk-ins" and the Bloodmobile people don't send anybody away who comes knocking.

After a 20 minute wait spent in a quasi-agonizing chat with the parish nurse, my number rolled up. I got the perfunctory pre-sticking workup in a 4 x 4 closet with a rather large Bloodmobile worker. She might have been a nurse - we weren't properly introduced. About 700 questions followed in rapid succession. I made some offhand comment about her asking about "any tattoos in the last 6 months". She scowled as she lifted her 125 lb. arm to reveal a seriously intricate work of ink. Big arms get big tats, I surmised.

Slipping away from the closet of growing funk, I made my way down the corridor to a waiting couch. A friendly sort named Tom complimented my veins (I don't think it was inappropriate in this setting) and hooked me up - literally. I squeezed the little rubber heart/ball every few seconds and tried not to think about the blood pressure reading that Nursezilla had told me earlier(130 over 90 - that can't be right...).

In about 10 or 12 minutes, Tom pronounced me as "done". At that exact moment I went slack - cold, clammy, sweaty, weak. This had suddenly become a near death experience.

Tom: "Are you OK?"
Me: "Yeah - just let me get outta this bus. I'll be fine"
Tom: "You don't look so good - wanna juice box?"

Okay. Middle aged guy is showing classic symptoms of heart failure in a medical setting and Tom wants me to have A JUICE BOX!! WHAT ABOUT ATROPINE? A CRASH CART?

I grabbed an oatmeal creme patty instead and broke for the parking lot. I managed to make it home, all the while envisioning me draped over the steering wheel careening into a group of unexpectant school children - never mind that it was 7:30pm. In July. I stumbled in and flopped on the couch.

Wife: "Are you OK?"
Me: "I'll be fine. Could I have a juice box?"
Wife: "You don't look so good - wanna sandwich?"

I think it saved my life....

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Wrapping Up Some Loose Ends

I suppose it's a sign of at least a moderate blogging addiction when one realizes that almost a week has passed without a new entry and the albatross of guilt glides overhead. That would be the case today.

I thought it might be a good time to update some information from my first month of blogs...working in reverse order.

1. Apparently, the good folks at AT&T managed to clean up my phone lines at home. Thus, the new computer is cruising along the Internet rather nicely. Not sure if they (the fix-it guys) came at night or what. They never called. Kinda creepy.

2. Bill Cooke actually has two stepsons. One is getting married in New Orleans in December, but I haven't met him or his fiance. Stepson #2 is the alcoholic with the alcoholic girlfriend. Sorry if I caused any damaged reputations through my confusion of siblings. It happens.

3. My two miles a day regimen has been outdoors on the MSU campus lately, largely because treadmills suck. I stopped yesterday to talk a while with my buddy the ex-executive director that got the hosing from his board. He's pretty much in good spirits as I knew he'd be. This episode has nevertheless taken a toll on the boy. He harbors some bitterness (rightfully so, in my opinion) and he knows there's still some fallout to come. A tip of the hat for the inspiring resilience of a good man...

4. It's been almost three weeks and I have not heard back from Annette the Visa Nazi. Maybe she's found a new victim to torment. Maybe she's been laid off and is aimlessly wandering the streets of New York (I assume all major credit card companies have to be in New York). Maybe she's found a new line of work in an orphanage or a circus or something. At least she and I haven't spoken - and that's a good thing.

5. Finally, I've managed to get a couple of encouragements about my little blog. Just one or two mind you - as I still have yet to really go public with this thing. If you're reading this now, rest assured it's still mostly by accident. But then, I guess that's basically how this works.

At least I don't feel guilty anymore...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cut Off From the World

"Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

- Joni Mitchell from "Big Yellow Taxi"

We've really been needing a new computer at my house. The old one was chugging along on a seriously dated Windows 95 platform with processing speed (or lack of it) to match. Streaming media - pretty much impossible, even with a good DSL connection.

So Monday, we got upgraded.

Craig, the IT genius at work, slapped some pieces and parts together for me and before you know it, we have a somewhat more suitable computer for 2007. Not exactly state of the art (which I don't think is actually possible since whatever you get is immediately eclipsed by the latest & greatest), but certainly a ginormous leap of technology for us at home.

Note: I had to use the word "ginormous" somewhere because I read today that Webster's has just included it in their new dictionary. I promise I won't use it again - stupid word...

Monday evening after supper, I managed to reassemble our computer setup without looking anything up or spewing foul language. I went through a few files, printed a page, and then headed for cyberspace.

But the internet connection was bad...

We've developed some trashy static over our land line in just the last couple of days and it seems to be getting worse. It might be related to all the rain we've been having lately. Calls are hard to understand, the answering machine is pretty much useless, and now the web is inaccessible.


I know Thoreau said we should simplify, but good Lord - no internet? Are you kidding me? How can we survive? Even for a day or two? Never mind that I'm only actually at home for a precious few hours every weekday - I MUST HAVE INTERNET ACCESS!!!

Do you sense my despair, dear reader? I still have web access at work (where I'm writing this from), but even if I'm not online while at home I'd like to know I could be.

I managed to get through to the AT&T repair center and was told someone would be at my home between now and Friday. This means potentially three more days at my house with NO INTERNET!! COME FIX IT NOW!! TODAY!!

I did get a spiffy deal on a reconditioned laptop that included a good wireless setup last week. Maybe one of the neighbors wouldn't mind if I sit in their yard and soak up a little bandwidth...

Friday, July 6, 2007

A Tale of the Tavern (and Two Weddings)

As most of you know, I can be found the first Thursday evening of every month playing bass for the Bill Cooke trio at Dave's Darkhorse Tavern - a venerable StarkVegas institution known for good live music (even us!) and killer pizza. Last night was indeed one of those Thursdays.

I managed to meet Abi, Adam Cooper's fiance. She and I made a few mutual connections (MSU Philosophy major, FPC, Cameron) and now I hope we're friends. The big day's coming up really soon for those two - just a little later this month, in fact. Let me say that Adam is one lucky fellow - Abi's great.

On to the gig...

Bill and I knew that the Damminator (our drummer, Bob Damm) would be out of town, so we opted for a duo format since MSU was in between summer terms and everybody was out of town. Times like these routinely translate into a slim door take from the cover. On the bright side, Bobby Shannon, a long time friend and superb musician said he would drop by and sit in with his soprano sax. Very cool musical expectations on my part for the night. I even showed up a little early for the gig.

Bill arrived a bit later and had his stepson, Ben, and Ben's fiance (can't recall her name) tagging along. They're getting married in December in New Orleans - but that's another blog entry down the road. Anyway, Ben and his girlfriend find a table after helping us with the equipment load in. Bill offers to handle their tab, with the advice to observe "moderation".

Turns out, moderation was a whopping $72.00 bar tab for our lovebirds. In a little over two hours. The crowd was as measly as projected and that was certainly reflected in the door receipts. I'm reminded of the classic scene from The Blues Brothers movie when Jake & Elrod go to get paid and the bar owner says "here's yer $200 and you drank $300 worth of beer."

Easy come, easy go, I guess. At least our free pizza at night's end was excellent as usual. Ben and his woman ate half of that, too...

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Have A Seat

As of the last five years, we have lived in a house with an actual dining room. In prior living arrangements we've had nooks, alcoves, eat-in kitchens, and the like - but never an honest-to-God dining room.

When we first moved in, we acquired a nice big dining room table. It came with six chairs. We also had four odd little wooden chairs that are old, but wouldn't (at least in my mind) qualify as antiques. They were salvaged from the old cafeteria at the "W" (a nearby women's college that both my parents worked at) some years back. If all ten chairs are crammed around the table, we can seat a good sized dinner party.

In other words, we're all set for dining room chairs...or so I thought.

My brother-in-law and his family have very recently sold a large custom-built home in the Nashville area and moved to smaller digs. The idea was in their constant motion of raising two active and athletic teenage sons (who between them play some manner of sport year round), they needed a smaller house and smaller lot for lower maintenance. Plus, I'm sure they came out OK on the resale of a very desirable house and acreage overlooking a river.

Part of their "downsizing" included an APB to the family to see if anyone would be interested in certain pieces of furniture that they no longer had room for. Like dining room chairs. Six of them.

My wife said we needed them.

They arrived yesterday by special courier (my in-laws had been to Tennesse for a visit and managed to load them all in the back of their truck). Imagine my unbridled glee at adding six more dining room chairs to our collection.

They're OK, I guess, but they certainly don't match our chairs that originally came with the table. They don't really match the little chairs from the women's college, either. These chairs are very ornate, like the kind Louis XIV would sit in for elegant palacial soirees. We tend to grill burgers a lot.

Our dining room is now completely overrun with furniture, but - hey - we can seat 16 people. Never mind that only ten can actually have their plate on a table. Lap eating or TV trays for everyone else.

This means, of course, that any of you reading this should keep a vigil near your phone. We may ask you over for dinner - and you'll most definitely have a chair...