The Holiday Season, and all the various things it means to different people, approaches with a vengence. I am stuck at a truckstop for almost 48 hours. I've been here since yesterday afternoon, and they have yet to change the Holiday CD on the intercom. Over and Over, the syrupy sweet over-sung R&B holiday sounds are about to make me vomit. I think it's Usher, but it could be El DeBarge for all I know. If I hear "our cheeks are rosy and comfy cozy are we" with a jazzy break two more times before I die, I'm going to L.A. and burn someone's house down.
I am really torn about going home. I miss my family and friends there, but I am way behind on my goals for saving money this year. These "training companies" get you started on a driving career, but part of the deal is you work for slave wages for a year. Most guys plan to just survive this first year. Not me! I am trying to save enough money to quit after a year and get back to the boat. :oP
Plan B may be to find a driving job close to Bay City in the spring or summer and work through one more winter before leaving. It all depends on how many miles I can drive between now and then. It seems when I ask for time off, they spiral me into home with short concentric trips. Then I'm home. Then I get spiralled back out into the freight lanes. The end result is I don't make any money the week before I'm home, the week I'm home or the week after. I don't know what guys with families do.
Given these realities, I am going to stay out here and just drive. It is not a decision that was easy or fun. I have chosen the Vagabond's Life. It works better to just live it; full on. Even once I get off the road, after a period of repair and refit, I'll be living this life again, albeit in another mode.
So, amusingly, I have felt some of the typical pressures of a holiday that is not my own. It was more the pressure of having to decide; facing a decision I knew would disappoint some of the people I love. It is, however, what it is and, ultimately, how it should be.
This time of year, I prefer to look ahead to the New Year. I don't do resolutions because they are typically a ridiculous fallacy. If you don't have Daily Discipline, how in the world are you going to succeed with Annual Discipline. It is, however, a natural time of year to reflect on life and where you are headed. Hopefully, those with their heads down pumping their legs in "the race" or "the hamster wheel" can take the time for a little reflection.
Reflection is a rare commodity in the world today. All of us could benefit from a daily reflection. Not basking in vacuous platitudes, but some deep thinking, introspection and evaluation.
When I knew I was unhappy, but didn't know why, it was because I had no idea what I wanted or what would make me happy. I was being carried along by the ever present current of expectations, by what other people thought was normal or proper. I simply hadn't thought about it; the "thinking through" that is hard work.
I turned my eyes and ears inward. The cacophony of the world was shut out. Of course, I had help doing this. Coach Kathy was instrumental in helping me discover the tools. As I shed all the weights and the accumulation, I began to hear my own voice again.
Your path may not be as far off the road as mine seems to be, but how do you know you're on the right street when it's been so long since you've looked at the Atlas?
I thought that I was having a bad day. There I was in the mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania, Wilkes-Barre. Dispatch sent me to Elizabeth, NJ to drop a trailer. This is more complicated than usual. I had enough hours to get down there, drop the trailer, find out what's next and the get out of Dodge - I mean New Jersey. Elizabeth is right down near the Port of Newark and the Airport. This is not an especially nice neighborhood.
There is a lot that goes on in New Jersey down by the Port. Legitimate business and otherwise. It is a land of freeway overpasses and blind alleys, buses and taxis. There is triumphant steel and glass architecture and grubby old cinderblock buildings. There are handbills on every light pole; loose paper and plastic bags flying in the wind. You can find any kind of food you want, but you have to see it; you can't smell anything. I can't tell if there are no smells or if everything just blends into one big smell. People are everywhere; businesspeople, hustlers, pedestrians, grandmas, babies and the lost.
By the time, I get down by the Port it is dark. I'm on the tail end of rush hour, but everyone is going out and I'm going in. The directions take me onto an unfamiliar ramp, but as I come down off the Turnpike, under an overpass and around a corner, I realize I've been here before from another angle. Around a curve and under another overpass, I come to a light. The street goes through a short block and deadends into one on a weird angle. My directions tell me to turn left and go through the first light. There is a small triangle block with a little diner on it formed by the street I'm turning on and the angled street. Three cars could almost park at the diner, but it is doing a bustling business. It is so different here in the urban sprawl. There must be people all around that have never needed to own a car. A successful looking diner with no parking; an intriguing concept to this Midwesterner.
I notice a guy hanging around the intersection. He has an air about him that kicks up my 'spidey-sense.' I casually lock the door with my elbow. He is busy watching traffic and doesn't notice. Stepping off the curb, he is coming over. He steps up on the running board of my tractor, grabbing the mirror to hang on. "We're not lumping today, you'll have to go straight," he says doing his best to sound official. I am letting him talk through the glass; no chinks in the armor.
"My directions tell me to go left."
"Yeah, but we're full up. You gotta go straight."
Looking at him, he is not obviously a vagrant. He is a hustler who may have had some success. His beard seems trimmed, his clothes are typical of someone with a regular job, but his hair is a little wild; not quite kept.
"When that light turns green, I'm going left," I tell him in a bellow that covers the small doubt I ignore. He gives me this classic look; Emmy-worthy. It is the perfect hustler's last stand. The look says "OK, man, if you want to screw up you life, go ahead. Turn left, I don't care."
"Another man might have been angry, another man might . . ." Sorry, that's Harry Chapin as a Taxi Driver. The light turned green. I stepped on the accelerator. The big diesel always pauses as it pulls 70 feet of truck out of its inertia. The guy frowns and jumps off just as I roll to the left. Through the light to the next right, I find my street.
Around the corner, I'm in another small NE industrial neighborhood. There are trucks all over. One business has car haulers in line; another has piggybacked sea containers. I'm on a surface street surrounded by businesses. People headed home fill the opposite lane. The directions say third building on the right. I call them. The guy on the line says just a minute and looks out on the street. "Pull on out. That second container is right before our drive. Just don't go past my building," he says ominously.
Swinging out into the homebound traffic, I pull around the trucks on the curb. It is a tight turn into the drive, I creep along and in. I jump out to check in with the guard. It is cold! He tells me to go around back and talk to the shipping office. Around back is small! The office tells me to drop my trailer back by the fence. I do. Checking in with dispatch, they send me to Lakewood, NJ; down to the south past Asbury Park. I'm bobtailing; driving with no trailer.
I'm nearly out of hours, so I head down the turnpike and find a place to park. My pickup in Lakewood is for the morning.
Quick recap: I was in Pennsylvania; dispatch sent me into New Jersey to drop a trailer and then bobtail to a pickup.
Morning rolls around, I drive about forty more miles to my pickup. It is way around through residential areas, some downtown type neighborhoods, through a small Hasidic Jew enclave. Lots of men in black; those cool hats; beards and curls around the ears. And bagel shops. There is a bus loading in a hotel parking lot; going into to New York or somewhere. Everyone in black, curls etc. but doing all the quintessential family stuff. They scurry around parking cars, putting babies in car seats, tracking little ones running around next to a main street. Moms, Dads, Grandmas and Aunts; Uncles and Grandpas.
I go past a park that looks like it is close to the ocean; the map reveals otherwise. Often the directions have no mileage on them. So, turn left on Route 88 and then take a right on Eisenhower could be a block or, as in this case, about 20 miles! I turn off Eisenhower into the industrial park. Another mile almost, another left, around a curve, into a drive and around back. There are mountains of tires! A front end loader is piling them and moving them around.
I park and walk up to a couple guys who are milling around. "I'm here for a pickup." They just smile and shrug. I could use some Spanish, but I don't have any. A few yards further on is a guy in a dark coat and a yarmacle. "I'm here for a pickup," I repeat. He smiles and looks over my shoulder. "Where the hell's your trailer," he asks wrecking my morning.
I send a message in to dispatch. "I need a trailer here." They send me to Sayreville to get a trailer. Almost all the way back to Elizabeth where I dropped one last night!! Looking at the map, I head up NJ 9 rather than going all the way back out to the Turnpike and north. There are lots of stoplights and traffic, but I would have a lot of traffic on the Turnpike heading toward New York with all the commuters. It is about 30 miles up to Sayreville. The way wasn't bad.
I get to a distributor who has an extra trailer or two. There is a truck in the lot and another out on the street. I hit the "four ways" and sit behind him. The guy in the lot is having a hard time. The lot is small. We've all been there. He just can't hit the dock they assigned him. Back and forth. Crank the wheel. Back and forth. Jerk to a stop. Inch forward. Inch back. Roar forward. He is getting very frustrated. Finally, he decides to freelance and backs into an easy hole in front of the far dock. Just as he is about to bump up to the dock, the yard dog [the company's driver who moves trailers around the yard] pulls in from down the block. We're in New Jersey remember. The Yard Dog screeches to a halt on a funky angle in the middle of the lot. He steps out of his tractor in an overly casual way, walks over the frustrated driver and starts yelling at him. I can't hear from where I am, but the Yard Dog is gesticulating and waving his arms around. Apparently, he can't use that dock. The driver pulls out, pauses in the driveway and takes off down the street. The second driver assumes, like I do, that the guy is leaving; calling his dispatch to cuss about the small lot. The second driver pulls in to the lot and walks inside to the office. I pull up to the drive. Before I can pull in, the Yard Dog is coming out. The frustrated driver comes back and roars into the lot!
The frustrated driver pulls in to the small lot; now smaller because the other driver is in there. He makes a halfhearted effort to swing around. The Yard Dog is under another trailer and walks over to the man. He must have told him to just leave the trailer out on the street because that is what he does next. That trailer was his empty. Now he has to get another trailer with his load. He rolls back into the lot. The Yard Dog leaves again. I see an opening and sneak in to get my empty. All this action, and I simply need the empty back by the fence. The trailer is an oldie but a goodie; in decent shape. I hook up, check the lights, tug on it to make sure I'm connected. Looking out at the lot, I've got a little shimmy to get around the second truck. The frustrated one is under a trailer but still at the dock. He must be checking lights or cranking up the dolly. I hop back in the cab and start moving. Meanwhile, the Mr. Frustrated has climbed back in his cab. He sees me coming and floors it to get out before me . . . and rips one of the doors right off his trailer. But he doesn't know it yet.
The scene morphs into a bad movie. Depending on your generation, starring either Jerry Lewis, Steve Martin or Adam Sandler. The guy ambles down his side of the trailer, unchains the door, folds it around and locks it. He walks over to the passenger side of the back end of the trailer. He kind of jerks back but doesn't really understand what has happened. He reaches out and gently touches the trailer where the door should be. As his gloved hand falls back to his side, he looks up. I can just hear his internal voice. "Where the #$%^&* is my door?" Then recognition washes over him; the shoulders sag. He looks back to the dock and must see the door. I can't see around the other trailers, but I know it is there.
Suffice it to say, this poor guy is about to stroke out. He valiantly walks back to the truck. The dock workers have told him to put it back in the dock. Here we go again. Back and forth. In and Out. Steer tires cranked one way and then the other. I AM STILL TRAPPED IN THE LOT BY THIS FOOL!! I creep forward a little. He is so frustrated he is not thinking about what he is doing. He is trying to will the trailer back into the hole but it won't go. Back and forth. His tires are up over the curb and into the landscaping. He is very close to a gate out in the drive. I can see a couple times that he has it right, but he gives up to soon and oversteers again. The other driver is on my running board talking to me. We can't offer to help at this moment. He'll just bite our head off. If he asks, we'll get all over it. We are busting up inside, but outwardly trying not to even smile. I tell the second driver, as soon as I see an opening, I'm going to scramble out. Back and forth. All the way right. All the way left. Just then he is in just a little deeper, I tap my street horn and start barreling for the gate. He doesn't realize it but once he successfully gets into the dock. HE HAS FORGOTTEN ABOUT THE DOOR HE CLOSED! He will have to pull out and open the door. I'm not convinced he'll survive the day. I'm gone, it is no longer my problem. The poor other driver is from the same company [not mine] and is stuck there until the Stroked Out One gets out of the way.
Back down NJ9 I crawl through downtown Lakewood and through a length of residential street. I'm around to the customer again. There is a truck between me and the dock. I can't pull in and sit there 45 minutes. But you know what? That is OK. I'm not having the worst day in New Jersey!
It is sleeting a little when I leave. I have plenty of time to get to my delivery in South Carolina over the weekend. Suddenly, I am exhausted. I get right back to the same truckstop I slept at last night. It is only about 40 miles in the right directions, but I am done for the day. There is a buffet here. I splurge and go inside for some real food.
Every where I go I'm waiting in line. I've had an air leak causing me trouble so last Friday I took advantage of some flexibility and went through our terminal in North Jackson, OH. The head mechanic made me no promises, but had me drop my tailer. "Just hang out there and I'll see what we can do when one of my guys is done with the cab they're working on." I sat all day and they couldn't fit me in.
I sent a message to our Parsippany, NJ shop that I was on my way in. My delivery was in New Jersey, so I was headed that way. It took most of the day Monday, but they got my leak fixed. Now I can sleep without the Low Air Alarm going off.
I got to my delivery Tuesday morning. There were already about 9 trucks waiting at the gate. Another line!! Nevertheless, I'd rather be lucky than good. Two security guards amble down the line with a checklist. "You're the one they're looking for this morning," they tell me. "Pull on in and go to the Receiving Office." Bonus!
Carlisle, PA is one of the worst truckstops I've been to. Coming in the driveway, you go past the exit of the fuel islands. You have to drive through the parking area and loop around to get into the fuel queue. When you're done fueling, you have to make a left turn through the entering traffic to get out. If anyone, especially a rookie, is trying to back in to a spot, the whole process shuts down. I don't even like to fuel in Carlisle, let alone sleep there, but I was out of hours.
In the morning, I fueled and hit the road! 14.4 miles down the road I was at a dead stop. The DOT was cutting apart a bridge. When the torches were cutting, they closed the road. Another line.
After pushing through that jam, I needed a pit stop. Pulling into the next truckstop, and stepping out of the truck, I see the last stragglers of a busload of Mennonites going in. Guess what, another line. They looked very Amish, but I heard the driver say he was driving for the Conservative Mennonite Church.
There I was, in Oklahoma City, standing in line at a truckstop. I've got a couple six packs of water and a package of Mango Con Chile. "Can I help you, Hon?" she asks. She was elegant for working the fuel desk at a truckstop. There was an air about her; prairie woman beauty. A ringer for Val from Dallas [Joan Van Ark]. White shirt and black pants, the uniform for fuel desk employees, but she carries hers better than the rest. "What are these like," she asks picking up the Mango Con Chile. "It's dried mango with cayenne pepper and sugar. Want to try it?"
She finished ringing me up and was fishing for a bag. "Want to try it?" I ask again. "OK, sure" I open the bag and let her fish a piece of mango out. Taking a bite, her eyes widen; cheeks purse [likely, both sets]. "That's wild," is all she chokes out. "Have a great day. Be safe out there" As I walk out, passing the length of the fuel desk, I hear her say to the next in line, "Hang on just a minute, Hon." She is racing me down the length of the desk. She's looking for a trash can to either spit in or puke in. I really wanted to tell her she should think twice before sticking something a truck driver offers into her mouth, but I want to be able to come back here some day too.
Looking at the Scale Ticket in my hand, I'm still illegal for the road. I have to adjust the fifth wheel and re-weigh. Back in at the Fuel Desk, she calls me over because the line at her register is gone. "You had to reweigh, baby?" "Yes," I tell her, "I had to adjust the fifth wheel. Usually I just have to move the tandems, but this load is heavy." I can see that her eyes are glazed. She doesn't really care about my weight problem, or my truck's. :o) She's probably sorry she asked such a specific question. An occupational hazard I suppose. That's alright. I'm not really interested in a woman who can't handle her Mango Con Chile.
The night before, I slept across the street at the TA. I had a shower about to expire on my Road King card. I left at 4:30 am, went across the street to fuel at the Pilot. As I left the Pilot on my way to Southard, OK, a fire engine goes by. Heading around to get back to the highway, I see a plume of smoke. Huh!?!? Passing the TA I see a truck, on the scale, almost fully engulfed in flames. I had slept about 40 feet from that very scale!! I never heard what happened, but that is scary.
I sat in Nashville for 28 hours before I got my next load; that sucks. While I was there I walked a half mile or so to an Outlet Mall. I bought several books to keep me occupied. I am schizophrenic in my reading. Along with a couple Linux Books [i just can't seem to stop], I also got the second installment of David Crosby's autobiography [i need the first now] and a book on Buddhism and Science by the Dalai Lama.
Moreover, I haven't done a crossword since I was married. It lead to haunting flashbacks. I've done 5 or 6 this week already. I enjoy them actually. It is especially fun to put one down, 2/3 full and I'm stumped, only to pick it up the next day and burn through it with a fresh mind.
My married crossword experience is hilarious and should have been in "The Honeymooners" or "Roseanne" or something. She always had the puzzle and the pen. I was reading something else. And it goes:
Her: "What's a ten letter word for rules of thumb?"
Me: "How many letters do you already have?"
[ At least 180 seconds go by ]
Me: "How many letter have you got?"
[ maybe 90 more seconds ]
Her: "Oh, I'm on the next one already."
Me: "Grrrrr" [in my head]
subtitle: can I get a witness?
So, I'm sitting there in Nashville. A guy is walking around the lot handing out pamphlets. I'm not sure what denomination. And his wife isn't with him, so I don't know if she is flat chested or not [See, he did it again]. He is harmlessly, almost painfully, wholesome looking. Flannel shirt, windbreaker, blue jeans, comfortable shoes. Those shoes that look like they're from KMart, but are actually $200 mail order orthopedic appliances. He is in his late 50's, maybe a youthful 60. His hair is grey and combed over. He could disappear into almost any crowd. Or he could be the BTK killer. As he approaches my door, I feign to not see him, but he knocks. "Here, its free," he says with a pause and thrusts a couple pamplets up to me. When my arm doesn't reach for the ephemera, he adds cheerfully, "Doesn't cost a thing." and flashes a $200 mail order smile.
"Oh, it costs more than you think," I respond wryly.
For a nanosecond, his features begin to change like he will chuckle. Some internal filter clicks on and his smile fades. He doesn't frown, his face doesn't goes that way. He just looks at me, like a webpage with "Loading . . ." hanging across the middle. For just a moment, he got my meaning, but the system rejected it; saving him. The wind pushes at his combover as he turns to go. He jerks away like a robot running Windows 95.
Two doors down, another driver sits in his cab. Familiar territory again. All gauges are returning to normal. Crisis averted. He darn near shared a chuckle with me.
"And I'll have the pastrami," Tom Swifty adds wryly. [do you remember Tom Swifty?]
I stopped on the Penn Turnpike to use the facilities and maintain my sobriety. There's a Starbucks here! Woo Hoo! I haven't had green tea in weeks. At the counter is the cutest girl this year. My goodness! She is subtle gorgeous. Her features are not fine, but just slightly rounded in that Mixed Breed Middle American way. She has the rich wholesome beauty that the tortured starlet always begins with; fresh off the bus in L.A. Joy bubbles over in her work, her voice, her demeanor, and especially her eyes. She has my tea seeping in a flash. Her auburn hair is pulled back under a scarf. The voluptuous natural curves of her lips are like the shoulders of a black cherry. When she asks "Is that everything?" "That's a loaded question," I smile. Just a little flirt. Those eyes sparkle a bit more. I thought they would burst. She giggles with depth; hidden knowledge expressed in a smile. "Have a nice day, sir."
That last word. . . now I'm the herky jerky robot. I stagger back to the truck, wounded. I knew she was too young. I really wasn't on the make; just practicing. Honest. But, Sir!? How could she hurt me that way?!?!? SIR is an acronym for "you're such a nice old man."
I take heart in knowing she will always be happy. She will work hard, play hard and live well. She'll always have a smile for some old man. I have a friend, became a teacher, who could be her older sister. Starbucks Chic will go to college somewhere like Ball State.
Gypsies in the Palace
I pulled into a Love's Truckstop in Jeffersonville, OH. I'm two hours away from my delivery, four hours early. Love's is surrounded by farmland out in Southwest Ohio. There is a Crisp Fall Wind coming across the open fields like a Dentist Drill. I run inside and zip my jacket to the cold. Almost the same feeling as being called 'Sir.'
Heading back to the cab, there is a guy talking to the driver next to where I parked. As I approach, he breaks off and comes to me. "Did you hear about the flat bed and the tanker?" he asks, "D'ja have your ears on." I indicate I hadn't. "Come here, this is hilarious." We walk across the lot. I see a flatbed but no tanker. Hmmm.
The guy has a walrus mustache and perpetual stubble. Even clean shaven, the line of his chin would be indistinct. Jowls curve south, rounded by cheap beer and fried food. Flannel shirt over a tshirt and jeans; midwest trucker uniform.
As we approach the flatbed, three more guys converge. There is a lanky goofball waving a wad of cash. He has no front teeth. People with thin lips should floss. His upper lip sags across the gap except when he smiles. He wears the ill fitting clothes of garage sale chic. You don't buy for fit, you buy for utility. There is another midwest trucker; dressed a little better. Company jacket over a henley. His wife must work in an office. Her style, and expectations, stain him. There is another tall, thin, older farmer-looking guy. Toothless Jones keeps flashing his wad of cash. I begin to understand that he really wants me to know he is loaded. He is probably the long lost Uncle of a guy we used to call Gums and Roses. Another bystander walks up.
It is an elaborate scam. I'm sure of that much. I really think the whole thing was orchestrated by Toothless Jones, the farmer and the two Midwest truckers. The wad is probably $40 in ones with 5 or 6 twenties on top. It is Three Card Monte with a twist. Toothless is supposed to be an idiot who doesn't know the game. There's money to be had here, man. An Exquisite Grifter change up.
Farmer makes a bet and loses. On the second bet, he picks a card and holds it behind Toothless' head. Toothless makes dramatic twists like he is looking for the card. Meantime, farmer flips the card behind Toothless and turns up the other two cards and bends a corner of the Ace. Two Jacks and an Ace are at play. Farmer flips the Ace back over. He's lost again.
Now the fun begins. Supposedly, Toothless can't see that 3/8" of his Ace is bent up on a terrible angle. Farmer wins! Twice, even! Now, the better dressed trucker jumps in. He wins twice picking the marked Ace. Shocking! A new rule emerge. Toothless can't tell his Ace is marked but now you can only bet twice and then its someone else's turn. Midwest tries to hand me a twenty. "He won't let me bet again," he winks "you do it." I point to the other bystander "He should."
"It's easy money, man. Go ahead. Just bet for me." He taps me on the arm with the back of the hand holding the twenty.
"I'm don't want to join in. I'm not buying it," I finally say. Immediately, Toothless jumps up and walks off. "I'm tired of this," he says to the wind.
When I turn back to my truck, another driver approaches. He has an enormously, and perfectly round, beer belly with a leather jacket 2 sizes too small. His trucker hat stands straight up off his forehead. He strains to put as little weight as possible on his left leg. A trucker malady. 50 yards across the lot might as well be the Appalachian Trail. "What's going on?" he snorts between gimps.
"Three Card Monte," I say.
"The Shell Game with cards," I explain.
"Oh, $%^&* I thought you guys were talking about something juicy!" he smiles.
"I just got here, but I didn't fall off any truck," I say. "I didn't buy it; can't afford it anyway."
"I've been out here to long for that $%^&*()," he says and stumbles back with me.
Then I started to think: I've inadvertently gone into business with a drug dealer and got out; spent four hours on the side of the road with the Lee County Sheriff Narcotics Squad for his guilt not mine; went into business for myself two and a half times before I was 35; had two groups try to hoodwink me out of a business [one an SBA scam, the other a reverse acquisition worthless stock scam]; I broke into a building and stole a bunch of stuff, that a judge later ruled was actually mine, and used it to start the business over with 2 out of 3 original partners; was once sued for $600,000, settled out of court for $40,000; and once closed on a house the same day my checking account was fifty dollars in the hole. These guys were going to take me?!?!?! I have a finely tuned radar. I might have to tell some of those stories.
So I was going to tell you about the trials and tribulations of simply paying my phone bill, but I have a way better story than that now.
Jerry Jeff Walker first drove Jimmy Buffett to Key West.
Jerry Jeff has a song called "Life on the Road."
"Let me tell you 'bout the life I lead
It ain't all it's cracked up to be
Of what you been told, 'bout life on the road ."
Of course, Jerry is a traveling troubadour. If you ask a Truck Driver, life on the road is Sex, Drugs & Rock and Roll; just like you hear. That mostly goes on in the minds of truckers. Now real Rock and Rollers, they seem to enjoy the physical manifestations as well.
I was down to one stamp and I hadn't seen a mail box for more than a week anyway. I knew I was overdue to pay my phone bill. Driving through the mountains of West Virginia, I spotted a plaza with a Sprint Store sign. The next exit was only three miles, so I got off eastbound and back on westbound.
I pulled on to shoulder of the exit ramp. You just can't take a semi where only cars were meant to go. I've been in some tight spots and didn't want to push my luck on a plaza built into the side of a mountain. Besides, it had been a few days since I had a good walk. I popped the Four Ways on and locked up the truck.
The walk down the rest of the ramp wasn't bad. I could see that far. I turned up the road toward the plaza. It is really dry in West Virginia. As I crunch through the right of way, hundreds of crickets jump off in all directions. It is almost as if I'm wading through them. Like wading at the beach when you don't care how wet you are, your feet just kick up the splash.
At the entrance of the plaza, I realize this isn't some northern strip mall. The plaza is in four parts up the side of the hill. I really could have changed into some shorts before I started this trek.
The first tier is a rise of 10 or 15 feet above the road. I can see the backs of the stores on the next tier. They must be 40 feet above my head. Starbucks is the only store marked on the back. They even have a drivethrough, but I'm walking.
I cut from the road up an embankment to the first tier. There is a Wild Birds Store, a Quick Med Clinic, a couple empty storefronts and an O'Charley's Resturant. The stores all face the road; no Sprint.
I walk up the access road around the back of the Starbucks Tier. There is another embankment to climb. At the top, I can see that Sprint is not in the Starbucks Strip, but looming on the horizon is the main plaza anchored by a Target and an Office Max. There is Sprint! However, it is on the other side of a huge parking lot. It is real warm now.
As I walk across the steamy tarmac, I plan my next move. I've got a couple bucks in my pocket. I know my phone bill is more than that. I duck into Target in search of an ATM. I haven't seen a bank branches in any of the tiers. The cool air inside the Target washes over me as I enter. It bites on my lower back where I've sweated some moisture into my shirt. Almost too cold. I spot an ATM. Funny, someone has got Stickie Notes all over it. As I walk up to it I realize the Stickies say "Out . . . Of . . . Order." Dog!
The shy girl behind the Service Counter thinks that ATM is the only one in the Plaza. Well, I might as well try Sprint and my Debit Card. The Comdata card that we truckers use isn't a normal Mastercard or Visa Debit Card. Walmart and other stores can take it on their machines. I enter Sprint with my fingers crossed. No such luck. The dudes in football jerseys at Sprint echo the shy girl's ATM story.
Just to make sure, I walk across another steamy tarmac to check at the Home Depot. Also on the third tier but separated by another huge parking lot. Nothing.
The walk back to the truck is downhill and more enjoyable. At least I got some exercise. I resolve to find an ATM and pat that bill. Better than to leave and have to stop again. Back in the truck, I go under the highway to jump back on the eastbound freeway. I had seen some gas stations when I turned around before. I can see a bank south of the highway but it looks pretty cramped for truck space. I head for the highway.
At the next exit, one of the gas stations I thought I saw, is under construction, or perhaps disassembly. There are three or four contractor pickups parked in the lot which is more dirt than pavement. After that there is nothing else that isn't behind tight curbs or some other hazard. Life on the Road. There is just nowhere to go. I head back west on the highway. I'm going to take a closer look at that bank.
Back over on Exit 18, and under the highway again. The good news is the cross road is a WV state highway. It will be legal for me to drive on and big enough for the truck. I slow to look at the bank. It is a left turn onto a small road. I can't see very far. I'm pretty sure I can't drive through and there isn't room to turn around. As I consider my next move, cars begin to pile up behind me. I decide to bail. I drive down WV-60; this is the same road that comes out at the next exit where I've been turning around.
Further down this road is a credit union. Back in the day, to get a fresh 6 pack and some ice, truckers would pull into the left hand turn lane,. hit the Four Ways, jump out and run into the liquor store. I borrow the maneuver.
After my hike up the hill to the plaza, I know I can get the truck up there. It'll be slow; I'm carrying 38,000 lbs of springs. I jump back on the highway one more time westbound. Hit the exit, turn up the hill and then into the plaza. At the first tier, by O'Charley's, the access road is marked for deliveries. As I approach the corner, some high school couple pull into the left turn lane. I need to go over them. I creep forward right at them.
Junior gets paranoid about his little rice burner dolled up like a drift racer. He throws it in reverse to get out of my way; narrowly missing mom and half the soccer team in a minivan. The truck groans up the hill. I circle around in the empty edge of Target's lot and pick an escape route.
I trudge across the tarmac and pay the damn phone bill. I am hot and thirsty. Tucking into Target again, I feel the cool blast. At the snack bar, there is a huge line of Moms and kids. I'm not staying for that. High maintenance soccer moms. They order yogurt smoothies and soft pretzels with the same customization as a Latte. "For Marlee's pretzel, could you scrape off some of the salt? And she wants cheese, but I don't like her to have much dairy. Could you just dab a little on it? And Bobbie wants his with chocolate and coconut. And the baby can't have anything with wheat . . . ." If I was at a Walmart, it would go fast. Redneck mothers order in bulk. "7 corndogs, a bag of Cheese Popcorn - SHUT UP, BILLY - and a 64 oz. Pepsi with eight straws."
My only other choice is Starbucks. That Rasberry Green Tea Frappacino something or other sounds good, but I haven't been in a Starbucks in months. And I don't really want to spend four bucks on a cold drink. Time to leave West Virginia.
And that was the easy part.
I was headed to Newark, NJ. The directions were good, so I had no trouble getting there. You come in past Newark International and enter a zone that is one part ghetto and two parts Industrial Park. This plant has an infamous dock. To get to their dock, you have to turn up a side street that I thought was tight [just you wait, dear reader]. Down at the end of the street, you pull into their back lot, then back across the street into an alley to turn around. This would be routine but the alley is offset from the drive. So you kind of waggle through a serpentine turn into the alley. Also, everyone on the street is on lock down, so the drive has a gate and concrete barricades to protect the fence. Heading back out the street, you can now back into their dock on your sight side rather than your blind side. Another gate, more barricades and on the other side of the street a curb, four feet of sidewalk, a fence and a building.
I wiggled into the alley and got set up for their dock. I got so close to the neighbors building across the street that a couple manager types decided to discuss something right out on the sidewalk. I managed to back in almost square.
Looking around the neighborhood, I imagine places like Beirut or Gaza must be worse, but it is hard to imagine how. The plant I've delivered to is an old block building. The loading dock was an afterthought. The lift driver has to drive up a ramp on the inside to reach dock height. The dock juts out from the building; tacked on. There are four or five ancient transformers behind a board and batten fence. The crumbling corrugated metal roof reveals some very old looking insulators and wiring. I walk around the fence, but they don't seem to be connected anymore.
This lot has the traditional three strands of barbed wire angled with brackets on top of the fence. The uniform service across the street has razor wire across theirs. The street has a half dozen businesses; all like armed camps.
At the end of the street and across the main drag is a bus stop. Some of the people look like they're having trouble making their way. Others are having their way, making trouble. Some are on their way to work. Some just hanging around. Another is like a half crazy street preacher. He talks to almost everyone, but gesticulates the most when he wanders off by himself. Behind the bus stop is a large old building. It must have been a school or a hospital. There is a large chimney from the old boiler and some men bricking in the first floor windows.
I get unloaded and my next dispatch is into the city. Thee city. New York City. The borough of Long Island City. This will be fun. I call for help on directions. My dispatch shows that I should head north in Jersey to the George Washington Bridge and then head south into New York. That just doesn't make sense.
The person who answers the phone sounds vaguely Indian. He passes me to someone who works there but lives in Jersey and sounds like it.
"Nah, that's crazy," he reacts to my directions. "You want to go south on the Jersey Turnpike to Exit 13. Take that across Staten Island and then the Verrazano Bridge and get on the BQE." "HEY FRANK, doesn't he want the BQE?" he shouts away from the phone. "Yeah, take that to the Van Dam exit. Turn right on 47th Ave. We're right here at 32nd Place."
"Yeah, 32nd," he says. His voice says "Everybody knows its 32nd Place. Whaddya talkin' about?"
"Alright?" he asks. Then click, he's gone.
OK, then. I scroll around on Google Local on my phone. I find Van Dam St. Comparing that to my Atlas, I see he didn't tell me I need to get on 495. There is I-495 the Long Island Expressway and what looks like NY-495 going west. I need NY-495. So I trek off toward Exit 13.
The Jersey Turnpike has this annoying habit of numbering exits the same number but adding A or B or even EX. I pause by 13A but flinch and go on in search of just 13. A guy behind me smokes his tires to avoid me. Yeah, well, he was way back there.
I-278 is the Staten Island Expressway. Crossing over the Gothals Bridge there are lots of ships and port activities. But crossing the Verrazano Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn, my heart soars! I'm looking out over the Atlantic!! Mother Ocean! I'm high enough above the water, individual waves are indistinct. The ocean has a texture though. You can sense the gentle roll. And it just stretches out across the horizon. A flat line from north to south. You can't get that accept at sea. None of the rest of the day can take this joy. And I'm going to need it. Read On.
I-278 nicks the western edge of Brooklyn and runs up toward the bridges to southern Manhattan. Mostly residential scenes and then some industrial areas until I get north of the Prospect Parkway that head over to Prospect Park; the Central Park of Brooklyn.
Moving through northern Brooklyn toward Queens, the highway is at 2nd and 3rd floor level of the surrounding buildings. My eyes are assaulted by color and signs and neighborhoods. I just want to stop and walk around. There are resturants and bars, a myriad of languages, even a large Auto Shop plastered with Chinese. But the shop is a Registered New York State Emissions Inspection Station for both Cars and Big Trucks. The official New York State signs are the only English on the building. An awning and patio tops a building with an Italian Restaurant on the street. It looks as if they took an old awning from the restaurant to use over their patio. There is patio furniture and lots of plants. But for the noise of the highway, it must be quite an escape.
There are several buildings with two faces. One on the ground level to cater to the neighborhood and another on the third or fourth floor. This second one is angled toward the highway to sell to commuters. This creates some funny looking buildings. There was a huge futon store aimed at the highway.
I see the sign for I-495. I'm looking for NY-495, I think. A couple exits later, I realize that I must have missed something. Now I have to turn the truck around somewhere in the city. Moments later, I have no choice the highway takes me to cross the Triborough Bridge; so named because it connects Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Driving across the bridge and wrestling with the Atlas, the new plan is to take I-87 right after the bridge to I-95 east to I-895 and back to I-287 and the Triboro Bridge. No turning around in the city, just exploring a lot of its highways. It is getting late. I have to pick up before 4:00 pm.
Cutting across the western edge of the Bronx, the river and Manhattan are on my left. Yankee Stadium is on the right. I notice a lot of cars parked willy nilly around the stadium, but there is crazy parking all over the city. Back in Brooklyn or Queens, I had to leave the highway because of construction and cut through a neighborhood. Between construction barriers and cars parked by the retarded, I could barely get my truck through. A couple times I was only "pretty sure" the trailer would follow me safely. I just eased on through and tried not to watch in the mirror. If I was wrong, the sound would be bad enough. I didn't want to have to watch it happen too. The crazy parking around Yankee Stadium will come back to haunt me.
I made my first turn on the new plan. Right away on I-95, I see a sign that Wide Loads are not allowed further on The Bronx Expressway. Wide Loads must go south on I-87 with an arrow pointed up an exit ramp. I'm not a Wide Load [shut up] but South on I-87 would save me all the I-95 to I-895 to I-287 shuck and jive. That would take me right back how I came. Surely, I can make it through where they are directing Wide Loads.
It was a bitch. And quit calling me Shirley.
I climbed up into the city from I-95. There was a sign directing Wide Load traffic to the left. There is also several steel columns for the elevated train all over the road. There must also be a school because backpack toting pedestrians are everywhere. In front of me is a street; two traffic lanes and a left turn center lane. The steel columns are on either side of the center lane making it a tunnel. While the light is still red, I scan the scene calculating if I should angle through the center lane into the far right or if I should go all the way through the intersection and make the full turn.
Normally a left turn is much preferred to a right turn in a semi. Your trailer will 'off-track' as you pull it through the corner. This causes the trailer to turn further inside the corner than you and the cab do. A left turn gives you the whole road to work with. A right turn is tight. Trucks will take out stop signs, light poles and pedestrians if the driver is not careful. The steel columns in the middle of traffic pretty much make this left more like a right turn.
Times Up!! The light is green. On impulse, I take the full turn. I pushed my luck enough back in the construction zone. Halfway through the turn, I am way too close to one of the steel columns. I turn wider and ride the curb with my right hand steer tire. We just make it through. The next light is a right turn back to the highway. I am taking this turn very wide too. On the entrance ramp, there is one of those little triangular island curbs to ease the flow around the curve and separate the traffic coming straight across from the left. The backpack toting crowd all jostle to a halt as I go right up and over the island. My diesel tanks are just 8" above the ground. Luckily the curb is quite low. No sense in having a HazMat spill in the city. Whew, I am back on the highway and headed to my pickup. How the hell would a Wide Load get through there?
I get back to the the area around I-495 and realize the exit goes both east and west. I don't know why the Atlas uses different shields for the two roads. I quickly find Van Dam and exit again. Another tight street in the city. I have to turn right up Van Dam with a building right out into the corner. I see 48th Ave and soon come to 47th. Another right turn but a little easier. The first light on 47th is 32nd Place. Here I am! There is nowhere to go. Here is nowhere. I am at a stop light at 47th and 32nd Place in Long Island City. All the streets around me are narrow. The buildings all come right to the sidewalk; only occasionally interupted by an alley or the next street. There is an international vitamin distributor to my left. To the right is a building with a 'space for rent' sign. There is a Prius parked illegally across the street and to the right. In front of it is a dumpster along the far curb. There are several pallets of small boxes or maybe bricks behind the dumpster. They are lined up against the building on the sidewalk. Beyond these skids, a garage door is open and a delivery truck is parked. All the other parking spaces on the street are parked in. The next building down the street has a marble facade. Used to be someone's World Headquarters I imagine. Now its a t-shirt company.
I call my pickup again. I tell them I'm outside with nowhere to go. He gives me the idea those pallets are mine. He's going to send one of his guys out. I literally can't make a move. I'm sitting in the street at a stop light. I've sat here through 3 or 4 cycles of the light already. A few tentative honks have already sounded from the cars behind me. I hit the Four Ways and pull the air brakes. My leg is tired! Now the honking starts in earnest.
After several cars rush by me in the other lane; gesturing with a particular digit, my favorite moment sitting there is a the Chinese Delivery Van. This van pulled out from behind me and sped to make the light. Going by me, the Chinese guy in the passenger seat craned his head and shoulders all the way around to glare at me. He gave me the quintessential NYC WTF look. The kind of look you would expect from a guy named Vinnie or Victor. The International Language of New York City Traffic. The Pa Nang Noodle Company Van disappeared around the next corner.
10 minutes later, I'm still sitting there at the light; still listening to honks and smiling at people past their finger. Some guys start to mill around outside the open garage door moving about frantically. They scurry like ants do if you stomp on the ground right next to an ant hill. A young oriental kid in a "I Heart NY" t-shirt comes jogging over. He asks if I can park where the delivery truck is if they move it. My trailer is longer than that truck let alone my whole rig. "OK," he says, "we'll move it and then see what we can do."
While they are scurrying around and moving the truck, I see an opening on the side street and begin my turn. A short blast on the horn and some eye contact shoo away a Cuban woman and her young son. I'm making another right turn and chances are I need their sidewalk. I can just barely get around because of the illegally parked Prius right on the corner. As I pass it, I notice the Prius has "Official" license plates. Some fool bureaucrat parked there. Around the corner and parked next to the dumpster, I can see 4 or 5 empty parking spaces up the road. I should insist they let me park up there and drive the skids down the block.
Instead they ask if I can pull up on the sidewalk near where the delivery van was. I shouldn't but who else can say they parallel parked a semi on the sidewalk in Long Island City? I'm game! As you can see in my Whacky Photo Gallery [page 2], I didn't really _parallel_ park. I got the tractor and a lot of the trailer over the sidewalk with the tail hanging in the parking spot formerly held by the delivery truck. They just don't pay me enough.
It was an international crew. There were two elder statesmen characters; one Black and the other Indian. They both excelled at observing; supervising without committing themselves to any particular action plan. The young oriental guy seemed to be in charge but not everyone was behind him. There were several younger guys; an Italian, a Puerto Rican, another Indian, and a Black guy driving the lift. A Jewish looking younger guy came out a few times sporadically. He carried the air of the owner's son.
They put a pallet jack in my trailer. The older Indian guy took a position in the trailer at the door. He didn't move much other than to gingerly act as if he was helping the Puerto Rican get a skid moving each time one had been lifted in. The guy on the lift either wasn't very experienced or he had made everyone else nervous somehow. Every 8" the lift moved, someone would call out with a better angle he should take. The oriental supervisor was especially bad about this. Lurch. Halt. Listen. Correct. Lurch. Halt. Listen. Correct. It was going to take forever this way. Then, incredibly, someone walked up from the street with an urgent question for the lift driver. The whole operation ground to a halt while the driver listened, scrunched his face to ponder, answer and then furrow his brow and clarify.
Then it began again. Lurch. Halt. Listen. Correct. Lurch. Halt. Listen. Correct.
I could have loaded the truck faster by myself. Pallet jack a skid to the curb. Climb onto the lift and set the skid in the trailer. Climb into the trailer. Pallet jack the skid into the nose of the trailer. Climb down. Start over again.
I had pulled up onto the sidewalk and behind some parked cars. There was a minivan that I was practically over. See the Whacky Gallery again. During the load process, the van driver left. I was surprised I didn't hear about how close I had come, but then again this is New York. It was going to be easier to get out without the van there. As the afternoon wore on, a woman, who had come out of the Ad Agency across the street, complimented me on my fine parking job. I told her to wait until I had managed to back out again.
The Oriental kid and another watched for me as I backed out. I had scoped out the next intersection for turning radius. It was still tight, but I made it out. It was getting late. From New York City, the nearest place to park a semi for the night was on the border with New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I had a couple hours to go, at least.
Back on the BQE, traffic was snarled. Tomorrow the UN General Assembly opens. Bush is in town. Amadinejad is in town. So was everyone else. There were limos and shuttle vans all over. I got back across the Triboro; this time on purpose. Traffic came to a stop.
30 minutes later, I passed the snarl. A four wheeler (a car) must have made a quick lane change without a second look. He ended up wedged under a semi trailer. Traffic was moving again . . . and then it stopped. All those cars I half noticed around Yankee Stadium were now merging into my lane. The game just got over! For the next hour and a half, I never got higher than third gear. Sixth gear is only 30 mph. I sat and waited, then ambled forward several feet and then waited; ambled; waited; ambled; waited. In two and a half hours, I drove 45 miles. But now I was in Jersey again. We were moving along quite well. The sun had gotten low enough it was no longer frying my eyeballs. This was better. And then we stopped again.
I thought I had survived the Yankee fans and rush hour that started just as the game got out. I had made it far enough into Jersey to pickup the last remnants of those brave souls who commute from Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. All through New Jersey on I-80, there just aren't many rest stops or truckstops. I was going to try and get 100 miiles or so into Pennsylvania before stopping for the night. Finally a place to stop came by. I took a much needed bathroom break and bought a pop.
The day was almost done. Another 100 miles, some sleep, and tomorrow will be a better day. I climbed into the cab, took a deep breath and opened my pop. It fizzed all over my hand, the steering wheel and on to the floor. Just a reminder it wasn't tomorrow yet. Life on the road.
In the last couple weeks, USA Today ran a poll and found that something like 55% of Americans "BELIEVE" that the Constitution set the United States of America up as a Christian Country [emphasis mine]. Wow, that makes me crazy.
Ayn Rand wrote "facts exist independently of anyone's fears, beliefs or wishes."
I am reading Richard Dawkin's "The God Delusion" [thanks, Tim]. I highly recommend it. I've also been listening a lot to the BBC. I've practically stopped consuming news based in this country. There are times when our present administration and that of Iran are indiscernable. Simply switch out Fundamentalist Muslim for Fundamentalist Christian.
My Ex Wife used to be flabbergasted that I almost always got the bible questions from Jeopardy right. I credit Doctor Anderson at Michigan State University and my father.
Dr. Anderson was a terrific guy. He was an ordained Methodist Minister, Distinguished MSU Humanities Faculty, and a world renown expert in Samaritan literature [more on that in a minute].
I had a personal philosophy when registering for classes at MSU: No classes before 10:00 AM. Ever. This usually meant that I had to take one evening class each semester; typically Mon/Wed or Tues/Thur. Dr. Anderson's class was unique because it met once a week, but for three hours. At the time, I was also interested in his series; two semesters on the Old Testament, and one on the New. I was in the middle of my long journey to where I am.
Dr. Anderson had an amazing memory. He had us fill out a 3x5 Card the first day of class; Name, Major, some interesting fact. At the beginning of each hour of class, he would call out about a third of the stack of cards. We were to raise our hand. It was a modified form of attendance for the large class. By the third week, he was looking at you as he called your name. I was taking the class with a girlfriend and her roommate. We tested him by sitting somewhere else. He looked where we had sat, scanned, found us and called our names. There were about 300 students in this class! 300!!
I took his two Old Testament classes in succession and then, because of a professional internship I did, the New Testament class the next year. Two or three years after I had finished his series, I met Dr. Anderson on the street in East Lansing.
"Hi, Dr. Anderson," I said.
"Well, Hello," he answered, "Wait, you're Thomas or Thompson or . . ."
"Todd Townsend," I offered.
"Why, yes! And you were studying Packaging, I believe." His eyes twinkled like a sage. "You should be ready to graduate almost. How did that internship go? It was here in Michigan. Automotive, I believe."
Right on all five counts. Amazing.
From Dr. Anderson I learned that there are many different authors in most of the books of the bible; especially the gospels. You can watch the transition from one to the next by their vocabularies and style. He taught the allegorical rather than literal bible. OK, 299 students. One night this girl stood up in the middle of his lecture. At the top of her lungs shouted "The bible is NOT a fairy tale!" and walked out never to return.
I think I meat her Aunt a few weeks ago at a truckstop in Tuscaloosa, AL. I am still deciding if I should ever go back there. It is one of my fuel stops. Anyway, I walked in early one morning and there was a driver laid out on the floor. One of the fuel desk ladies was heaving on his clammy chest doing CPR. Apparently the guy had had a heart attack and dropped right there in the store.
I was waiting for a load so I was milling around. A couple hours later, back in the store, I asked at the fuel desk about the guy. This buxom patrician looking big ol' southern woman gently placed a hand to her breast, fluttered her eyes up into their lids and said, "The lord was watching over him. He was breathing before the paramedics arrived."
To no one in particular, I said, "You'd think if the lord was watching over him, he wouldn't have had a heart attack in a truckstop."
"Don't you blaspheme," she shouted. "Don't . . . you . . . blaspheme!" And waved a hand skyward.
Back to Dr. Anderson. He had a friend in the Athletic Department at MSU, way before the 'doctor' in Dr. Anderson.
Well, even before that. Imagine in the 30's or 40's, Michigan State had an Indiana Jones of its own. Apparently, someone from MSU traveled to the Middle East. I can see the trench coat, the fedora, the foggy night at the wharf boarding a rusty tramp steamer. The steamer is bound for the Suez with a mysterious crew. The Captain will have a scar, a black greek fisherman's cap and an outrageous Mediterranean accent.
So this intrepid explorer finds this large cache of Samaritan writings somewhere. I always like the Good Samaritan story. He 'one-ups' the pious and steals their thunder; almost like Prometheus and his fire. Apparently there are Samaritan books that didn't make the bible and early versions of books we're familiar with.
The man in the fedora packs up the Samaritan stuff and ships it back to Michigan State, but he never returns.
I figure he met a woman. Another outrageous accent; this one french or russian. I can see the slinky dress, the high heels, the hose with a seam up the back. She's the kind of woman who never takes off her pearls and makes you forget why it would even matter. Samaritan Who?
So these crates, that no one is looking for, get shifted around the buildings at MSU. Remember the ending of the first Indiana Jones movie?! The Ark of the Covenant in an anonymous crate in a government warehouse that no one ever inventories. Exactly like that.
Michigan State Stadium is a big bowl with tiers of concourses under it. Some of these are used at game time; souvenirs, hot dogs, the johns. Some tiers are just used for storage. Professor Anderson was a fresh faced, wet-behind-the-ears graduate student. He had a friend in the Athletic Department. This friend is in charge of cleaning out some of the crap that has collected in university storage. He is working on cleaning up the stadium when he comes across a crate or two piled with dust. He sends someone for a hammer and a crowbar. Dust flies everywhere as they clean enough to crack it open. The hollow squeak of nails being pulled out of old wood echoes under the stadium. No one know why, but they're all kind of quiet. Cleaning the sawdust and straw off the top layer, they see scrolls [might have been tablets, I don't recall]. There is odd writing.
"I've got a friend over in Humanities," says the Jock, "He'll know if we should throw this out or not. He's a minister working on his masters."
If I remember right, when Professor Anderson came over to the stadium, he was looking at the world's largest collection of Samaritan Literature. Dormant for years. Plenty enough for a Masters and PhD thesis [what the heck is that plural?]. In the process, he became a world renown expert in Samaritan Writing. This is the guy who recognized me on the street two years after the fact. Amazing.
I remember a poor Sunday School Teacher. I think we made her cry. She was so prepared for the Eighth Graders. Very early in the hour, she presented her gem. She had done the math. He created the heavens and the earth and all of us and the flora and fauna in 144 hours! Isn't that spesh-ell [SNL church lady accent]. You see 6 days times 24 hours; why that's just 144 hours for all this. We asked "Who are you to tell god his day is only 24 hours." It pretty much ended there.
Contrast that with the time my Dad taught a few Sunday School classes. I think it was the High Schoolers. He came equipped with poster board maps. The movements of people and armies were set against the land they had or wanted. Geopolitical back stories and deeper understanding. Context. I don't remember the specifics of the lessons but it was a completely different approach. I was still having those my-Dad's-the-coolest-smartest-guy moments when I was in high school.
Both my parents brought all of us up to think for ourselves. Mom was a Renaissance woman herself. She is a strong independent woman who worked, took care of the four of us [Dad included], and was on the School Board for many years. Her work with emotionally and physically handicapped kids was way more work than most anyone did, let alone what other moms did. Holding her own with some rough kids too.
So this USA Today thing is so frustrating. Americans are so frustrating sometimes.
In my opinion, the formula is simple. Facts are facts. Just as actions speak louder than words, the consequences of a system - the outcome of a system - is more important than who built it or how it was made.
Throughout history, governments of all varieties sought to protect their power from the people. The Unites States of America, at birth, was explicitly built to protect the people from the government. A historical first that we have defaced, defamed and bastardized in the last 250 years.
It does not matter whether any of the Founding Fathers were religious. It doesn't matter that they used words and phrases, like "endowed by their creator," in the founding documents. A nearly perfect system was built. These men were toiling to make something that had never existed.
You cannot square "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" with Original Sin, "Turn the Other Cheek" or "Love your neighbor as yourself." It just isn't in there.
And don't send me Paul's Letter to the Thessalonians. That is a bunch of end times hooey taken out of context in lame attempts to justify capitalism.
The beauty of our country at its birth came in spite of "anyone's fears, beliefs or wishes." Just as the whole is greater than the sum of parts, our Founding Fathers built something with timeless elegance that was bigger and better than they knew.
They also built in the freedom to practice any or no religion without the fear of persecution or prosecution. Even today, a rare luxury in the world. The only freedom left ungranted is to bring this nation down by calling it a Christian Country.
PS: The Midnight Heathen Philosophes were a group of us in John Holmes Hall at MSU that stayed up late into the night solving the world's problems. Jim C., Pisser, Eric Z. and many others.
For all of those who are always on schedule, never off route, you have my sympathies. Many of the greatest discoveries were mistakes. I made a good discovery last night.
I delivered in Jacksonville, FL. I had passed a truckstop about 12 miles before and went back. The Pilot at Baldwin, FL was packed full. So was the TA next door. Then, on the way out to the highway, I missed the left turn to head back to Jacksonville. I went west again on I-10. Grabbing the Pocket Truck Stop Guide, I found that there was a small Exxon two exits down the line. Soon after, I saw a billboard for a BBQ place on the same exit. I had been craving BBQ for a while.
I found Exit 335 and the little tiny Exxon. After battling my way behind the little convenience store and parking in sand mud, I spotted a Chinese Buffet next door. Well a Chinese craving almost predated the BBQ and it would save me walking about a mile. I bought a paper and went next door.
Now, a Chinese Buffet, one in tiny Macclenny, FL, is not apt to surprise or most especially not impress. Most of you could probably recite the menu at a Chinese Buffet; almost in order. Yes, there was par-boiled Sushi, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Vegetable Fried Rice and Pepper Beef. But along toward the end, past the delicate Spring Rolls, was something labelled Peanut Butter Chicken. I had to try it. It was boneless thigh crisply fried with, duh, peanut butter. The crispy crust of the chicken was infused with peanut butter taste. It was exquisite! I have never in my life seen or tasted anything just like it. It evoked Thai, but also PB&J on wonderbread. It was very interesting . . . and delicious. I had seconds and paid for them later. I just don't eat like that anymore.
I discovered Boiled Peanuts in a similar way. Boiled Peanuts are a southern delicacy. And are quite simply boiled peanuts. You get a peanut with the hint of mashed potatoes and a texture that is like a boiled potato not quite all the way done. They are very good. My man, Tony, used to bring them into the office thanks to his Georgia upbringing.
When I discovered Boiled Peanuts, I lived in Florida. About once a month, or twice in three, I would go down to Miami on business. From Tampa, I would cut across the Everglades and go through Arcadia. On the way, there was always an old Black Man sitting by an old blue pickup truck. There was a hand painted plywood sign leaning out by the road. It just said Boiled Peanuts. After going by several times, I stopped to talk to him. He gave me a sample. Scooping down into black, brackish, briny cauldron on top of a propane burner, like a turkey fryer, he brought out peanuts in the shell. I asked him how to eat them. "Most you Yankees crack open the shell and just eat the nut. We just chew and spit out the shell." I still crack them open. I liked the sample. They were not too salty, but salty just the same; warm and soft and delicious. For a Dollar, he filled an oversized Styrofoam Cup with peanuts and a little brine over the top. I ate Boiled Peanuts all the way across the 'Glades.
Down the same road, I once followed an old truck, every minute or so the bones from a chicken wing would fly out the driver's window and arc around in the wind back to the road. One even hit my windshield. I discovered Chicken Wings years later.
Florida was good for new food. Beyond the usual seafood you might think of. I had Armadillo and Wild Hog for the first time in Florida.
I went to a cook out at my business partners house. There was an amazing feat of Redneck Engineering that pulled into the drive. This guy had taken a 1000 gallon propane tank and turned it into a portable smokehouse on a tandem axle trailer. I'll tell you that later. In the smoker, there was a deer chopped up, several chickens, a wild hog, an armadillo, some gator and 6 turkeys. The turkeys weren't even for the party. The women knew he was coming out and that he would have lots of room. The turkeys went home to six houses for later in the week.
The Armadillo was a bit like gamey chicken. The Wild Hog was very good. I had learned to eat Gator at Skippers Smokehouse in Tampa. Better than the Hog was the story.
There was a legendary Wild Hog male out in the woods by Arcadia, FL [that's how I remembered]. The hunters knew him by his one ear that was almost torn off in a fight. As he lumbered through the woods, that ear would flop around; hanging by a thread. Everyone wanted to take him, but now sooner than they saw him, he would disappear through the thicket.
The guy with the Smoker was out hunting. Most of these guys hunted hog with a high caliber long barrelled handgun. I don't remember his name; I'll call him Earl. Earl had just parked his truck and was getting his stuff together when the hog, THEE HOG, came scrubbing out of the woods. Earl shook the holster off his gun and took a quick shot. The hog was hit, but just got mad. Charging Earl, the hog rammed him and bounced him into his truck. Squealling and loaded for bear, the hog came toward him again. Earl grabbed a shovel that was in the back of his truck. He was almost too close to take another shot; he wanted to miss his truck too. The hog charged; Earl swung. There was a tussle. The hog backed off just enough that Earl took another shot and finished the hog off. Earl was by himself and almost couldn't load the big old hog up. He told us at the cookout that if we tasted tomato in the hog it was because his wife had borrowed his shovel in her garden the day before he swung it at the hog. Anyway, it was Earl's story, but I don't think he bought any pork that week.
While I'm at it. I discovered Mango Con Chile out here on the road. Mango Con Chile is like Chili Con Cueso or Chili Con Carne. Con is 'with.' Chili Con Carne is Chili with Beef; Chili Con Cueso is Chili with Cheese. Mango Con Chili is dried mango coated in chili pepper and sugar. Sweet, Tart and HOT! Man, are they good. I bought some in Birmingham, AL. One of the cashiers asked mine what I was buying. She whispered "They're Mexican" like some Aunts whisper "Cancer" or "Divorce." I smiled and told her "I love mango and I love cayenne, so I must be gonna like these."
Try it you'll like it. Don't plan, just do it.
I've had Corporate America in my sights. In conversations, emails and obliquely here on the blog, I've railed against their inertial policy filled, creativity killing, joy sucking, frustrating ways. I proclaimed I was free of them. I really am, but Corporate America recently got the chance to poke me in the eye.
In the mid 80's, I did a professional internship through Michigan State and worked for an automotive packaging company. It was a great little company, which may not be so little any more. We were working on the first designs of a revolutionary idea; returnable packaging. The automotive industry, starting with Buick City in Flint, were going with a concept where packaging was made to last for several trips. The racks and dunnage would collapse or nest and go back to the vendor who would use it again to ship parts. It has become the norm in many areas of manufacturing. I designed several systems as a part of my internship.
So, Wednesday afternoon, I am looking for an empty trailer. I hauled a damaged trailer from a customer to our yard in Irving, TX. Typically, I either get unloaded while I wait at a consignee or I drop a trailer and pick up an empty. Occasionally, finding an empty is a problem.
At a yard, drivers congregate for different reasons like repairs or inspections etc. Empties are a valuable commodity because there are so many drivers; a supply-and-demand thing. I was having trouble finding one. So I thought I was getting inside info from a guy who checks trailer lights on the yard. I went around the corner to a drop yard that was full of trailers! I found an empty right away. After doing the computer "trailer change," dispatch informs me I can't have that one it is reserved for an automotive load. OK, no problem. I found another. Same deal; can't have it.
Irving, TX is right between Dallas and Ft. Worth. Wednesday, it was in the mid to high 90's. I began to check the other trailers in the yard. This time before I bothered to hook up to them. :o) There must have been 50 trailers in the yard. I didn't look at all of them, but it was close! I was wandering around the yard; doing a cursory inspection. I opened the rear doors on at least 30 trailers. Frustrated; dying of thirst; getting pissed. EVERY SINGLE TRAILER was unavailable. I didn't have to contact dispatch for these. It seems that because the Automotive Industry has slowed a bit, there is a glut of the returnable racks and dunnage. The "Float" between vendor and customer to keep the shipments flowing was now backing up. All of these trailers were at least partially full of Automotive Returnable Dunnage. I'd open one, two thirds full, and move to the next. The next might be only a quarter full of racks that looked exactly like the first racks. It is like those debit card commercials where drinks and sandwiches are flying around, everyone is happy, the music is pumping along. And then someone wants to write a check. . .
So, TOUCHE! Corporate America. You got me.
Of course, I'd never been to the Irving yard before. They all work slightly differently. A yard dog driver came over and asked what I was looking for. "AN EMPTY!" I said. Oh, sorry. He tells me I should talk to Mike over at the office. He doles out the empties. "There's three or four of 'em over there," he says. So, in fifteen minutes, after three hours, I was ready to roll. Of course, my then it was about 6:00 pm. So I slept at the terminal and ran off in the morning to get my load of bottled water in Ft. Worth. Now, I know.
Alex Dorsey is in the South Pacific on a 28' Westsail. He ends his posts with "Peace, Love and Coconuts." I can't wait to say that my self.
So for now,
Peace, Love and Diesel Fumes,
PS - I've been on Diesel Fumes for two months now. I don't have any trouble with worms or long term relationships. I highly reccommend it. :o) [stolen and paraphrased from a Texas Singer/Songwriter]
Two days ago, I was in Laredo, TX. I've been to Grand Prairie, Irving, Tyler and Dallas [even though my cousin Steve was not!]. This morning, I drove up US75 through Choctaw Country in OK. It was a nice drive. Lake Eufaulla could be the coast of Maine. I am in Roland, OK tonight.
Nature's adaptability is amazing. Puts us humans to shame. There are these little black birds with long beaks in Texas and Oklahoma. They have discovered the smorgasbord on the grilles and radiators of semi trucks. The birds literally hang out at the Fuel Island at truckstops and pick the bugs out of the radiator. I even saw one fellow with his head cocked on a funny angle as if deciding whether it was worth jumping up on that grille or not.
Another fuel island folly, I was fueling and noticed that someone had dropped a ten dollar bill. My first thought was whether I should turn it in or pocket it. By the time I finished fueling, I forgot all about it and drove off.
As I was driving up US75, I was chanting the name of Checotah, OK. It just sounded cool; very spaghetti western indian-ish. When I finally got there, it is the hometown of Carrie Underwood. She wasn't home.
I also heard a song destined for my repetoire:
"I never kissed a girl until I was in college,
she got drunk and cheated on me.
I never kissed a boy until I was in prison,
murder in the first degree."
What a hoot!
Bob was a free lance photographer. According to family legend, he did many covers for Stereo Review magazine. Bob and his family lived in New Jersey. I can remember a big tree in the backyard and some furniture made out of small barrels. Some time in the 1970's, Bob packed it all in and moved the family to a farmhouse in western Massachusetts where they lived off the land.
They sold chickens and rabbits to pay their property taxes. It was a big old farmhouse with a slate roof. I can still see the big garden, the barn and the yard. There was a big old pool table in a parlour off the living room. I ate cereal or oatmeal with milk still warm from the cow. We didn't have chicken one night; we had rooster! There is Uncle Bob sitting in the living room blowing smoke rings.
I remember playing pool downstairs at my other Uncle Bob's; #4. #2 and I played and talked for a long time. I was living in the basement at the time as I had just moved to the Detroit area. Another time, I was helping him grill snapper behind Grandma and Grandpa's Nokomis house. Uncle Bob showed me how the best part of the fish was the skin that peeled off as it grilled. While everyone else was waiting for grilled fish, we were eating fish skin like potato chips right off the filets.
When I started a business in Florida, I also went through a streak of empty headed conservative politics. I was rabid. We had a salesman working for us who was the only dyed-in-the-wool socialist I've ever met. His name was Ron something. I can't remember his last name for the life of me. Uncle Bob was in Nelson County, living with his ex-wife [something else we have in common] when he sent me a card and took a little jab at my politics. This was at the peak of the Clintons' Whitewater mess. I wrote back the worst, most immature, vitriolic letter. It began in the same fun his card was but quickly devolved into a mess. It must have hit him like a roundhouse slap.
When Uncle Bob got sick, I had just started a job in Sturgis, MI. Mom and Dad, Aunt Chris and Uncle Bob and Grandma and Grandpa went down to see him. As I waited for news on his condition and wrangled for some time off, he was gone. I have very few regrets in my life, but that letter is an open debt. I never had the chance to look him in the eye and talk to him. He probably would have told me to forget the apology. If we had talked, he would have known without me saying. We are still kindred spirits. I almost wish that I could believe in some way that he could be looking down on me; knowing that I am living my own life inspired by his. That is a salve I cannot afford.
If you have something to tell someone; especially someone you don't get to talk to often DO IT NOW! Just pick up the phone and do it. Uncle Bob always called at Christmas, I know that I was passed the phone. Just maybe, he could hear in my voice that I wasn't the guy in that letter. Maybe, but wouldn't it be nice if I had said it out loud.
For all of you who thought I was talking about Granholm, send yourself to bed with no supper.
I'm a Company Driver. I drive a truck owned by the company. An Owner/Operator is a driver who owns his rig and leases his services to a company. My truck (actually, the truck of my trainer) is therefore set up with the company in mind. The engine has a governor. I can only go about 68 mph. Of course, I've hit 75 mph down a mountain. :o)
It actually works out OK. Most states are 65 mph states, I can ride the governor and not speed enough to get noticed. In the 70 mph states, I'm pretty darn close. The 55 mph states are just a drag. So I spend a lot of time with either the Cruise maxed out or with the pedal jambed to the floor.
Not only are there cultural differences between Company Drivers and Owner/Operators, but not all companies govern at the same speed. There are some Co. Drivers I know I can pass; others I can only catch downhill. :o) Still others that are so close it takes miles to pass them. You little four wheelers have no idea some of the strategy that goes into just picking a lane to get through a big city.
Seeing the world at 68 mph creates its own issues. I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to stop and back up to take a picture. And the Arizona desert around US93 at dusk makes me want to paint. I might yet bring some colored pencils along.
Like when I came down out of Chattanooga around a curve and across a lake, the road was cut into the side of a mountain loaded with pine. Or the snowy egret standing on one leg in a river in Texas over a perfect reflection of itself. Or the sunset behind the mountains in the High Desert of New Mexico.
Was it really such a beautiful sunset? Can I really tell at 68 mph. It is the same with women in cars; the wind whipped hair, the delicate wrist and hand on the wheel, the hem of a skirt, even those cute painted toes up on the dash on the passenger side. Was she really that pretty? I like to think so.
I'm living without a governor. Literally without the weight. I am on plan; working toward doing exactly what I've always wanted to do. I think the sunsets and the beauty are out here, but most of us are so wrapped up in a life that we don't notice. Your assignment for today is to catch the sunrise or wait for the sunset or find that perfect photo; even if you're traveling too fast to get out the camera. Notice. Acknowledge. Absorb. Enjoy.
Picture finally. El Paso Truck Stop WiFi FTP Blues.
The last bits of evening sun seem to only fall on the lake. Every wake, cats paw, and ripple is dark black against the color. The trees and the hills smudge into the background. Pinks and Purples and Oranges of every variety rip across the clouds. No time for the camera. I'm driving a heavy load of glass. Mirrors or something bound for Arizona.
By the time I cross the next valley the light is gone. There is nothing but flatness in North Texas. I can see towns in the dark from miles away. Streetlights twinkle across the valley; like spilled marbles.
Driving along, I grip the wheel like a skeleton, in some cave, clutching an obelisk. The dry sinew creaks and cracks as Indiana Jones, or some other intrepid explorer, pries it from my boney fingers. In the dark, I see a doe on the shoulder of the highway. My senses crackle to life. Where I come from, deer travel in pairs. Miles later a coyote skitters across right in front of me. I remember my dogs running around the kitchen. I imagine, if I could have heard him, the coyote sounds like that on the tarmac.
There are so many bugs out here on the plains, plastering the windshield. The road becomes something I can sense more than see. I had stopped to wash the windows at a little truck stop. The handles were so short on the squeegee that I opened the hood and climbed up on a tire to reach. Hanging on a frame member and stretching over the churning diesel, I am just spreading bug guts around. I got that much from the windshield wipers earlier.
I slept through Memphis as my trainer was driving. Probably not much to see from the highway. Tomorrow we cross New Mexico. Tucumcari is one of the first towns. Tuc is in a cool song called "Willing." It's a Little Feat song, but I think I've heard a Steve Earle version. Everyone should listen to more Steve Earle.
It is a different life out here. Another version of vagabond, so I'm comfortable. It is tough to do normal life from the road. Trucks can't go on just any road. Shopping becomes difficult. Ralph calls grocery shopping "marketing." I love that. Marketing is tough from the road.
The night is surreal, but its also just a job.
"Once I thought that to be human was the highest aim a man could have, but I see now that it was meant to destroy me. Today I am proud to say that I am inhuman, that I belong not to men or governments, that I have nothing to do with creeds or principles, I have nothing to do with the creaking machinery of humanity - I belong to the earth! I say that lying on my pillow and I can feel the horns sprouting from my temples." Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer.
I think that it fits well with the Anarco-Capitalist tendencies I have been feeling lately. It also resonates with the freedom of finally living my own life the way I want to be. Perhaps I have nothing to do with the creeds and principles of the bland "pinks" that trudge along 'in quiet desparation' in modern society.
I started working as a Boat Broker. The people I work with are great and like minded in many ways. One of the guys not only likes to hunt up ethnic foods, he and some friends built a Wharram Catamaran one summer in college. Until I bought In A Mist, I was carrying around James Wharram's Design Book for the last 15 years. Finally walking in my own skin, like minded people recognize me, as me. Think of Emily's First Law of the Spork [see below].
I found a boat on the internet this February, bought it, quit my job and moved to Bay City, Mi where the boat is. Earlier I had commented to people that it was a little eery that I found this boat straight across the river from where I found a boat 10 or 12 years ago. I thought that boat was THEE boat, but it wasn't for a variety of reasons; not the least of which is that I had even less money then than I do now.
I found who I think was the previous owner. I even poked around and found out some details about the guy. I'll not reveal him, until I've discussed that with him. Last summer, while ushering at the Elkhart Jazz Festival, I stood no more than 20 feet from the very person who used to own my boat!!! I believe that he played there the year before as well. When I saw the band's website a couple months ago, it did not occur to me.
I was trying to find an email to send a note to the previous owner. As I cruised around the website again tonight something hit me. I hadn't even finished reading about the places they'd been. I looked at the previous owner's picture again and I could see the whole band in the tent by the river in Elkhart! What a great show too. I'm just dumbstruck.
There is some info that I can share with you. I suspected that the boat's name, In A Mist, was derived from the 1927 Bix Beiderbecke jazz piano composition. The band has actually played a Bix Beiderbecke festival out in Iowa. I love it! I am leaving the name just as it is. I will, however, add "Bay City, Mi" on the stern in celebration of where my adventure started. For all intents and purposes, my home port.
Just remember, be good no matter where you are!
A few years later, I'm thinking of things to outfit the galley aboard s/v In A Mist. I thought of the Titanium Spork! There are also some cool chop sticks on ThinkGeek.com as well.
So, I was talking to my friend Emily, who is wise beyond her years, about the spork. Her response was that the spork ends up being neither a very good fork or a very good spoon.
I am struck that Emily's First Law of the Spork goes double for people. If you are trying to be more than one thing you'll be good at neither. Especially people who are trying desparately to be something or someone they are not.
One of the things that my coach Kathy helped me so much with was to separate these two. This is not a yin and yang relationship, it is a parasite and host. Once you stop listening to the constant hum of the what if's and worries of your life you can begin to here the soft whimpers of the real person you've been ignoring for so long.
You must do this now. Your real self, your actual soul, is not going to survive forever without nourishment. Consider also that you may have just enough in your life that your real self is alive. But if you slap it down everytime it rises to the top of your mind, it will find some other way to die.
I was lucky in a way. I had gotten so low that I didn't have much to lose. I also didn't have much to pay off or sell. I was really lucky in the timing of it all. Almost as soon as I realized I was on the wrong heading, I was able, and willing, to gibe and start heading away from the clouds.
I am not completely on the right heading, but I am going the right direction. I have a few details to clean up. Nevertheless, I am back. It is the real me. I am doing, almost exclusively, exactly what I want to be doing. It was some work to get here but you can do it too.
It takes a real hard eye and an internal ear. It is not unlike what I've been going through the last couple weeks. I am a natural born pack rat. While packing to go from a small apartment to a small boat, I am making decisions about stuff. Man, that's hard. There are things, and boxes of things, that I have been carrying around for years; and many many moves. These things are excess baggage; sheer dead weight. I have had to literally go through boxes three and four times. Each time I manage to sever the emotional attachments and really make a hard decision about something. I am staring now at three years+ worth of my sailing magazine. It is a lifestyle magazine more than a how-to publication. I have loved every sentence I've read and all the deck fluff pictures. :o) I haven't been able to throw them out yet. They will contribute nothing to my voyage. I subscribe, I will get them a while longer. I need to read them and pass them on. I may see if Dad wants to look through before I pitch them. I have done the same thing with clothes, knick knacks, books, two portfolios of drawings from junior high and high school etc.
None of that is easy, but is the same thing that I did with my life. You go back through several times. Each time that you pick something up, ask yourself: does this contribute to my happiness? If you cannot give an unqualified yes, it needs to go. I am not belittling all the different considerations and commitments you may have that I did not. The process and its benefits are the same. If you are carrying around more than you need, that is too much weight. If you are trying to be someone you are not, you can't possibly be happy no matter what you tell yourself. Go through your life's boxes. Ask that hard question.
You can't get rid of it all, but you can make your life easier, better and happier. I never did sort my CDs. I'm taking them all, you've got to have some ballast in a sailboat. :o)
Last Saturday night, Junior and the Igniters were playing at the venerable Midway Tavern. 6 or 8 of my closest friends were celebrating bon voyage with all attending, including several of my blues show phone bank friends from WVPE.
Wednesday night, I had sushi and beer with a wonderful woman and great friend. We must have been the talk of the bar; laughing and carrying on. A true friend, we talked for a couple hours, I think.
Thursday night, Mouldings Division people, plus Jeff D. and Bill, went to Hacienda. Chuck's Deb was there too. It was fun. Pete and I traded bad puns for hours. Somehow, I talked to Tony F. for three or four hours and we closed the place.
Friday night after work, my old friends from Industrial, Roxi and Ralph [with wife Cathy], Emily and Suzy, and Elaine and her husband Mike feted at Between the Buns. Food and Friends. Thank you all.
My coach Kathy got to BTB just in time, she and I tried to talk over the din; moved to the Mishawaka Brewing Company. Then, the MBC band Jazzy Grass showed up. I lost my voice about 11:30. Kathy and I will try again. I owe all this to her help. Jazzy Grass sound pretty good. I don't think the grass referred to bluegrass. :o)
Saturday, I helped Albert celebrate his birthday; 37, what a pup. 6 of us joked with Randy, all star bartender and harassed his compatriot, Charlotte. The waitresses were probably sick of us and we sat at the bar! The food was good, the beer was better. Albert had is Blazin' wings and several Guinness. I had Mango Habanero and Newcastle. The rest of the guys were whimps!
I was in sad shape and went to Barnes and Noble for coffee afterward. A couple hours of cruising the web did me good. I went home and slept the rest of the day away.
Hopefully, all that, except the good friends, is out of my system.