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Right in my own back yard

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OK, I’m a little embarrassed to think how long it has taken me to get some photos on my blog, even though the infrequency of my posts camouflages it a little. I started this opus in 2018 so that’s really embarrassing. Well, enough of the groveling and begging for mercy here are some pics from my own back yard.

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Here’s a patch of bee balm. The white flowers behind are fleabane, which lots of people think of as a rank weed. I think it really sets off the hot pink.

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Here’s the same spot, last December. The small tree is a witch hazel we planted about twenty years ago. The bigger tree is a black walnut, which was already well established when we moved in. It doesn’t look like it’s that big here but it is.

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See?

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Here’s the front yard last April Blue Ridge mountains in the distance, shot from my front porch. Note the sidewalk to nowhere, tasteful.

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Here’s a hawk in a walnut tree.

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And here’s a super red dogwood tree.

This is just about like posting a whole lot of selfies, I know, but it was hard to quit. Since, however, it was like posting a whole lot of selfies, it only seems appropriate to close with an actual selfie.

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There you go. Later.

Breaking the Mold

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It’s 1:30 in the morning and I can’t even tell you how good I feel right now. I have been having some unexplained health issues: Varying levels of nausea every morning, in spite of being post menopausal all my life, sneezing, hacking and coughing, as well as being a real dim bulb, a very distressing development.

The room where I am sitting now started out as a really shabby garage. I renovated it back in 2002 and it became a really cool workshop. After discovering my prodigious lack of talent for woodworking, I sold most of my tools and got back into wargaming (See the banner at the top of my home page).

This is a pretty big room, 10X20 feet, so my wife and I agreed it would make a fine habitat for me, having determined that we like one another much better when we both get a decent night of sleep. So, one bed, four studio monitors, four hundred watts of power to drive them, four guitars hanging on the wall and a whole bunch of posters, et voila’ I’ve got the room I’ve wanted since I was sixteen. The honeymoon was beautiful, until it wasn’t.

Cathy, my incredible wife, had been telling me for a while that she could smell a musty odor but I had tuned it out so I didn’t pay attention. When she/I/we discovered a black patch of musty smelling stuff coming up through the parquet tiles, we got busy with the bleach. It helped with the smell, but when the subfloor began to expand and the parquet tiles began too buckle, it became clear that this beastie was going to put up more of a fight than we were going to win with bleach. And so it began.

When I built this room, I did it in such a way as to make it easy to dismantle, in case we wanted to sell the place to some scrofulous barbarian who wanted to turn it back into a completely useless garage. Knowing that gave me a completely misguided feeling of optimism, one of which I would soon be disabused.

When I got the plywood subfloor there was still an overhead door, so there was no problem moving it into my work area. Getting it out was not so simple. I had to cut it into manageable pieces, which meant lots of soggy moldy black sawdust. Tasty.

Replacing the plywood went fairly smoothly, which restored my foolish optimism (Emphasis on foolish). I couldn’t find parquet to match, so I went with a dark laminate locking floor, thinking it would look good. At least I was right about that.

By this time I had gone the best part of a week without a wink of good sleep. Cathy has to go to work, my couch is too short and my bed was next to everything else I had to move so it was like sleeping in a hoarder house. The only way I could get to sleep was by Xanax and/or exhaustion.

Installing the floor was when the sleeplessness and brain fog really began to take hold. It would have been much easier if I had oriented the planks in the opposite direction. I should have known that, it’s not my first day at the rodeo. It was hard to get a clean cut because the planks were too wide to cut in one go with my miter saw. The uneven surface of the concrete below made it hard to get the joints to lock together, so there was a lot of prying and tapping, as well as a lot of swearing. Eventually the light came on and I remembered I had an air compressor and a finish nailer. I remembered something else, something much more important: Perfect is the enemy of good.

Armed with this wisdom and my shiny six shooter, I finished the floor in about an hour. We put down the (new) rug, moved the furniture in and hooked up the electronics. After a cool relaxing evening with no monkey on my back I went to bed, put on some ambient music and closed my eyes with a smile on my face. I woke up about three hours later, feeling like I had slept well all night. I got up and got a glass of water, put on some Moody Blues and wrote this post. Now I think I will go back to sleep, since it was so good the last time. Good night.

Tim (Not Tim)

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This man is Tim Nines, my father. His legal name is Charles, like my own, but nobody ever called him by it. The legend of Tim has it that his uncle Joe named him tiny Tim because he was  such a skinny little baby. The name stuck but the weight never did.

This photo was taken in 1956, five years before I was born. By the time I was eight that youthful, hopeful face had been replaced with a much more bitter and cynical one. That was the year I first experienced his anger; not “This is going to hurt me more than it does you” but blood in my teeth. That was the year I cancelled him.

I stopped paying attention to anything he did that might have been good. His sacrifices lost their meaning and I denied him any opportunity to overcome my disdain. I saw him for the last time two weeks before he died. He had stage 4 metastatic lung cancer that had spread to his liver and spine. His suffering must have been unbearable, but still I would not relent. I thanked him for teaching me how to be a man, which sounds good right now, but I was really just setting him up for the crushing blow I was about to deliver. What followed was a litany of every time I could remember when he did something that hurt me or set a bad example of how a good man should act. I told him how it would have been better if I felt like he took a little pride or pleasure in being my father instead of treating that whole experience like it was some shitty job he didn’t want to do but was stuck with it. Of course, I didn’t bother to consider how much of that I brought on myself.

He cried. That was the only time I ever saw that and it haunts me. When I left for home I was avenged, satisfied. Looking back through the corrective lenses of 20/20 hindsight I am appalled by my cruelty.

So now we are mired in the so-called “Cancel culture”, one in which people are condemned and disenfranchised for doing or saying something that angered or offended someone else. This offense may not even be as bad as the worst thing their bleeding victim ever said or did, but that’s how it is treated by people who won’t look at a person’s deeds, words or thoughts in the context of their life experience as a whole. The greatest hypocrisy, I say this because I have, often as not, been a hypocrite myself, and it takes one to know one, is that these sorry ass people lack the courage to step under that microscope themselves. Go ahead and cast the first stone, assholes.

Tim, I’m sorry for all the years of picking at the scab so my beloved pain, anger and self-pity would never heal and I could hate you forever.  I am forever grateful for this final lesson in how too be a good man: The longer you hold on to your anger, righteous or not, the harder it is to let go and the more it hurts when you finally get to the point where you have to. Sleep tight, (not Tim), Daddy.

There is None so Blind…

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I was kicked off someone’s blog today. My comment was erased and I was blocked. I’m not feeling any pain over it. This wasn’t the first time, as I feel certain many of you would guess.

This particular blogger, a well educated middle-aged woman, wrote a lengthy and very revealing post about a troublesome personal issue, one with which I have had considerable experience.

To paraphrase Shakespeare,, Hamlet in particular, “If I am cruel, it is only to be kind”. Perhaps If I had started out with this I wouldn’t be writing this post. No matter, though. I haven’t posted in some time and it’s an ill wind that blows no man good.

I have slept since the last paragraph, and discussed the matter with a trusted friend, which means I can trust him not to bullshit me because that’s what I want to hear. I feel much better now.

Still no lurid details for you guys, sorry, but maybe a little insight. Your blog is yours, as it should be, and you can throw anyone out who doesn’t please you, also as it should be. This doesn’t, however, mean you should. Sometimes you might choke on a pearl of wisdom but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t swallow it, and the cheerleaders who shake their pom poms while you walk the road to madness do nothing to serve you.

I question myself all the time, my intentions as well as my judgement. I don’t presume to know things I can’t and I try not to present ideas to people who can’t understand them. This, I believe, is what gives a person’s insights their value.

I did make clear to this person that I had no emotional investment in her or her life,, which made me the ideal person to present a perspective based in objectivity. It would seem that some people just don’t want that. That’s all right, it keeps the makers of letter sweaters, pleated mini skirts and saddle oxfords in business.

Canada day

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I am an American, but I’m not blind. Poutine is incredible. It gives French fries a reason to exist. I’m from North Carolina,, deep in the heart of Krispy Kreme country, but if there was a Tim Horton’s within fifty miles I would be having a serious emotional conflict. There’s Rush and Gordon Lightfoot, the Trailer Park Boys,,, Emerald Lake and the Shuswap, But mostly there are all the wonderful people who inhabit this great land and all those I feel privileged to think of as my friends.

I have only spent a short time in Canada but, even eighteen years later, the memory of it is strong in my heart and mind. I was lucky to be there, thanks, Tamatha.

Have a happy day, my friends, and be proud. You should be.

The Gauntlet

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This is my Confederate battle flag. Or, at least, it used to be. I put it in that trash can with my own hands and of my own free will and now it is the property of the Buncombe County landfill, to be interred beneath an inverted mountain of garbage forever. This is my sacrifice on the altar of peace.

Let’s not make any mistakes here. The peace I’m talking about is for me and me alone. My heart and mind will no longer be occupied, rent free, by squatters who keep me awake at night with their ignorant prattle. Any of you who think you can demolish a statue and change anyone’s mind is flat out wrong, but go ahead and try. Anger breeds anger and all of history bears that out.

I have turned my back on my anger and I am not looking back.

For those of us who are unfamiliar with the terminology surrounding single combat, the gauntlet, as it is referred to here, is a glove, presented to a person as a challenge. Refusal to take up the gauntlet was widely considered to be an act of cowardice, but I am not going there. I would prefer to think of it as an invitation to anyone who wishes it to challenge themselves, to stand up and show their courage; to excise the anger from their heart and be at peace.

This is doubtless going to be a long journey and I am sure there will be moments of moral and emotional conflict. I expect  it to last for the rest of my life. Here’s hoping it’s a long trip for all of us.

 

 

Roger, do you think they’ll drop the Bomb? (Or,George Floyd is important, Pink Floyd is not.)

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The music of Pink Floyd has been an integral part of my life since I was a boy. David Gilmour made me want to play the guitar and Roger Waters held the yardstick with which every word I ever wrote was measured.

The 1983 breakup of this great band was a very sad thing, and not just because of the music. The fans were polarized almost immediately into the Gilmour camp and the Waters camp. This could be understood decades ago, when the wounds were still raw, but not anymore.

Still, ridiculous as it is, the childish bickering continues and for what? Money? If you don’t have enough by now you never will. The love and respect of the fans? That can’t be it, you’re pissing that away every single day (that’s for you, Rog.) I know. It’s got to be for justice. Oh, it’s just not fair that David Gilmour is playing music and making tons of money while Roger Waters has to content himself with playing music and making tons of money.

If I’m honest, I have to say that I haven’t heard much of this coming from the Gilmour side of the fence, even in the face of the insults leveled at his wife and kids. Maybe the stone in Roger’s craw has more to do with the fact that David’s happy at the basic human level and Roger doesn’t seem to be able to get his head far enough around the concept to make it happen for himself, which makes him more to be pitied than scolded.

George Floyd, a working class black man who lived in Minneapolis, a city in the midwestern United States, until he didn’t, was killed as the result of blatant police brutality. This heinous act was enough injustice to make any thinking,, caring person sick but it’s really just the beginning.

The injustice done to Mister Floyd has sown a swift growing seed of fear, anger and, yes. injustice which sickens the hearts and minds of otherwise good hearted people all across America. Police officers,, even good ones, are now regarded with fear and suspicion by people who would not ordinarily do so, out of fear  that they or someone they love could be the next to be unjustly hurt or killed. The gross injustice perpetrated on George Floyd by these so-called law enforcement officers, so utterly derelict in their duties, has rebounded to endanger the very ones they would call their brothers.

Not all anger is righteous. Some isn’t anger at all. Please pardon me for saying so, but I have to question the motivations of people who protest social inequities by stealing from their neighbors. This behavior diminishes the credibility of people of good will and bolsters the arguments of their critics. Another injustice.

I watched an interview with Stephen Jackson, a lifelong friend of George Floyd. It pierced my heart in a way that Comfortably Numb never  did and never will. When he said that his friend would never want this, that he baptized people, I saw the greatest injustice of all: that the fire and blood, the hate, anger and fear were spewed out in his name.

Enough.

Can’t we just not be Friends?

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Before anything else, thanks to Caitlyn Kelly for suggesting that I post this, sight unseen. Let’s see how it goes.

I have lived in a lot of places, with a lot of people moving into and out of my life. I grew up in a military family, surrounded by other military families who were also constantly on the move. This changes things.

I figured out early that my base housing relationships were going to end and, most likely, they were going to end suddenly, with seldom more than a couple weeks notice. I wrote letters, maybe a few letters, to see how things were going, but it was inevitable that, by slow degrees, the distance would grow. The changes would come and we would not be there for them, until my Friends and I became people we used to know.

This used to hurt me. I didn’t understand how so many people I liked and remembered so well could just forget me. The old feeling of hurt has faded into a sort of humble acceptance that I, as a small part of the past, shouldn’t expect to be that important in the present, so good luck to you all and no hard feelings.

I have Friends now, seven at last count. They have seen me when I would much rather they had not and held me in their hearts even though I felt I didn’t deserve it. My Friends don’t all know one another but whenever I am with any of them I belong, and belonging is everything. I Love my Friends and, sad as it is to say, that’s not good enough anymore.

The wheels of progress roll and, while many good things come from this, far too often things of immense value are left ruined in the ruts they leave in their passing. Things like Friends.

The Gospel of John says ” Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” I’m an atheist and, gender politics aside, I feel certain this statement is in no way an accurate reflection of many people’s Facebook profile.

Sometimes I hope for some friendship and end up with a broken heart. I will meet someone and find I really like them, then something will emerge that I simply can’t abide, can’t respect. If I still think it’s worth it, I’ll try for a while but it usually rankles to the point that the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze.

Let’s not make any mistakes here. Often as not the problem is me. I’m less than diplomatic and people don’t like that, even though it means I’m addressing them like an adult. Some people don’t like that either.

So here I am in my shop and it’s LONELY. One day this will end and my friends and I will be together once more. I will, however, still be me, just like they will be who they are and we will belong.

To the friend I had who was taken by the covid-19 pandemic, I could not be more deeply sorry. This aside, all the sorrow and regret, the tender words and forgiveness can’t change the fact that we should just not be friends.

So what the Hell’s so funny?

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I just wrote a comment about being shut in the house during the present global shitstorm. In that post I wrote about the importance of laughter. The original title of this post was going to be Mel Brooks saved my Life. He’s doing it every day, along with the Marx brothers, the Trailer Park Boys, Loony Tunes, Ren and Stimpy and SpongeBob SquarePants. From the bottom of my heart I thank you all, even Squidward.

So help a poor country boy out and let me know what’s making you laugh. Your list doesn’t have to be sophisticated, like mine, just funny. This could be a real voyage of discovery, both of the art of comedy and of one another. See you in the comments.

A Taste of my Misspent Youth

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It seems to me the “digital” world has overtaken the “actual” world in a lot of ways. People, as a rule, once had to actually do something noteworthy to become famous because there is only so much space in any given edition of the paper.

Now, here in our sea of profiles, I hear posting a picture of your lunch can sometimes be enough to start you on your way to being the stuff of legends. So here I  go,, wish me luck.

Just about anyone who went to an American public school in the late twentieth century has eaten, or refused to eat, this meal. The meat is dry, the potatoes are mushy, the gravy is salty and lumpy and the vegetables are overcooked beyond recognition. In other words, it’s perfect.

I did cook this and then I ate it,, hard as it may be to believe. Am I famous yet?

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