Saturday, February 16, 2013

While I'm Out In This Tent With These Freaks and Musicians

Sometimes, it pays to be in the right place at the right time.  Actually, I'm betting it always pays to be there, but it's such rarity for me that I'll just enjoy it when the occasion comes along.

Earlier, this week I was miserably sick, which is usually a big pain in the ass, but it kept me home in bed for a few days instead of actually, you know, working.  And since I wasn't working, I was goofing off on Facebook, which is almost impossible while I'm at the office.

Anyhow, like most people do, I follow one of my all-time favorite musicians, Todd Snider, and keep an eye on his posts, hoping for early info on concert dates, new albums, and stuff like that.

A lot of you may have never heard of him, and that's understandable--I didn't hear about him until about four or five years ago.  While I was living out in Las Vegas, my sister Amy made me a modern-day mix tape, basically a CD of a bunch of stuff that she liked that she thought I might like also.  In fact, at the time, I think I wrote a post about it--the CD was called Hello CD Listeners (Check out the archives for March 2008, 'The Tom Petty Reference' for the full story).  Anyhow, the first song on the disc was Todd Snider singing Vinyl Records, which was not only a great song, but it cracked me up.

Hope you enjoyed it, but that's just a taste of his collection. Not only does he write fun songs, his live shows are great because of the stories he tells between numbers--they are sometimes the most memorable part and always good for a laugh. 

I had the opportunity to see him live at the Ryman Auditorium last fall, and if you ever have the opportunity to see a show at the Mother Church, please take advantage of it--unless you have the misfortune of sitting under the balcony, it is one of the greatest places in the world to see a live show.  Words can't quite describe the coolness factor, and for an old-school venue, the acoustics are excellent, and most of the seats are fantastic--I've yet to have a bad one for any of the shows I've been to.

Anyhow, after finally being able to see him do a live show, I was hooked.  I had so much fun and was amazed at how good of an entertainer he is.  Some people have a real talent for it, and others, while being great artists in their own right, either don't care or never really learned the craft of entertaining.  Hell, Bob Dylan is one of American music's greatest songwriters ever, but if I paid a few hundred dollars to see him sit on a bar stool for two hours, never looking up, never engaging the audience, just working through his songlist, I'd be pissed.  But Todd Snider, he knows how to entertain--those of you who've been to a Bruce Springsteen concert will understand.  He's got a reputation for putting on high-energy shows where everyone in the audience has a great time.  Eddie Vedder and Bono are supremely talented, but I don't want to pay to get preached to--I come to see them sing, not pontificate.  But that's a whole different rant I guess.  My point is, some artists have really embraced the performing-for-an-audience gene, and Todd Snider is one of them.  It would be well worth your time to familiarize yourself with his music and go see him next time he comes to your town.

Point is, I'm a huge fan.

So when I saw on his Facebook feed that he said he'd be playing a semi-impromptu gig at Drifter's BBQ in east Nashville the next night, I was all in!  A few weeks ago, he put the word out that he'd be doing an open rehearsal in town and everyone was invited, and it turned out that it was in that very same rehearsal space that I wrote about a few posts back--he was there the night before we were and only about fifty people showed up.  Up until then, I'd never been to that place, so I had no idea what he meant when he said he'd be at 'the big purple across from the red door'.  Of course, I found out when Scottie and the guys were doing their Geek Jam practice and the sound guy told us that Todd Snider had been there the night before.


Yeah, we were all a little pissed that we'd missed it, but at least now I know.  I already knew that the guy lived, and drank, in East Nashville, so when he's not touring, he's just hanging around his neighborhood like a normal guy.

Speaking of East Nashville, for those of you who aren't familiar, I guess a few details are in order.  I actually lived in 'East Nasty' eight years ago, just before I moved out to Vegas.  Back then it wasn't nearly as hip or as trendy as it is now.  It was pure ghetto.  And old.  It's across the Cumberland river from downtown, so the running joke about going there is 'over the river and through the hood'.  It's come a long ways since then, and although it doesn't have the upper-middle class cache that Franklin and West Nashville have, the wannabe hipsters that infest the place are just fine with it.  All the tourists hang out on Broadway and Second Avenue downtown.  East Nashville is where the real people live.  Especially if 'real' means having a neck beard and 60's nerd glasses, wearing a beanie hat 24/7, you like to be seen drinking tallboy cans of PBR, and never did quite made it to Austin... (Sorry if that last bit sounds snarky, but all seeing all of these stubborn individualists trying to look exactly the same cracks me up)

Most every place you want to go is within a block or two of Five Points--lots of bars and restaurants and such, and maybe my next post will be about the Vodka of Doom we had at Mad Donna's, also in the area.  But if you ignore the hipster d-bags, there is a lot of coolness to be found in the neighborhood. Just not a lot of parking spaces.

Anyhow, I told the hippies (Amy and Scottie) about the show, and we made plans to go. I was feeling well enough to finally get out of bed, and was looking forward to solid food for the first time in a couple of days, too.  While the show wasn't scheduled until 7:00 pm, we wanted to get there early.  The  announcement had way too many 'likes' on Facebook, and we wanted to make sure we got seats.  I found a place to park about a block away and scored two small cocktail tables and three chairs maybe twelve feet from the 'stage', which was actually just a taped-off corner of the tent in the alley behind the restaurant. About the time I took my first sip from the front end of a two-for-one Sweetwater 420, Amy and Scottie walked in and joined me.

We had about an hour to kill before the show started, so we ordered some dinner.  I got a basket of some excellent hush puppies for an appetizer (made with bits of jalapeno!), but could only eat two of them.  For dinner, we all got variations of their signature BBQ.  I had three sliders--one pork, one brisket, and one chicken.  They were great, but entirely too much food for me.  I managed to eat two of them over the course of about a half an hour, then just picked at the chicken from the third one.  The bun just got in the way.  And even though I rarely, if ever, eat french fries, I was told that their seasoned fries were pretty good.  I ate two.  They were.

As we ate dinner, the crowd started showing up and space in the tent got to be a premium.  We'd scored primo seats, and nobody could get in front of us, so it was ideal.  About twenty people had seats around the stage area, the rest was Standing Room Only, so it was nice to be part of the chosen few.

The show started a few minutes late, but well worth the wait.  Todd came in talked to the crowd for a minute and thanked us for showing up, and kicked in to a couple of his more popular songs to start things off--Play A Train Song and East Nashville Skyline (a huge hit and a favorite local anthem).  I guess that was it for his play list because then he just asked us what we wanted to hear.  Both Amy and I offered up Vinyl Records (much too early in the evening to yell Freebird!, although later, somebody behind us inevitably did).  The word from people who've seen him a lot more times that I have is that he rarely plays Vinyl Records in his live shows, and he didn't do it when I saw him at the Ryman, either. But it's our favorite and he looked right at us, got up off the stool, and off he went.  The rest of the band caught up in no time and the small crowd all went bananas for it.  (And bananas is good!).

He played every request we tossed out, so it was like having our own personal concert.  Imagine sitting front row at a concert and just dictating the playlist to your favorite artist.  Yeah, it was that cool.

He took a break after about an hour to let everyone go to the bathroom, have a smoke, or get a refill.  And while the tent emptied out and everyone headed inside to the bar, Amy went over to talk to him, got a hug, and then I had the chance to spend a minute or so talking to him.  Nicest guy in the world, and genuinely appreciative that we'd come to see the show and knew so many of his songs.  Now, he's not a hugely famous artist by any stretch, but he's got a pretty big following and could easily have a big ego and attitude to match, but that's just not the case. (This is Nashville fer cryin' out loud--the town is full of musicians with big egos!).  He's totally laid back and mellow, and it's quite obvious that he knows he's got a good gig going--people will actually give him money to sing for them!

After the break, he played for another 45 minutes or so, and had a few other people from the crowd join him on a few songs.  He took requests the entire time, too.

An absolutely awesome show.  And it was totally free, except for the dinner bill.

By the time it ended, I was absolutely drained.  I'd gutted it up for as long as I could, and was glad that I made it as long as I did, but I was back on the freeway headed home less than ten minutes after the show.  I made it back to the house, took a hot shower, and collapsed into bed, thinking I hadn't had this much fun since I left Vegas.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Saturday, On The Couch

I don't think it was the fourth of July...

Hey Gang!

I hope y'all are all having a great weekend. I had big plans for mine, but they fell through with a thud.  Friday seemed OK at first, but it was one of those days at work where you just have to grind through it and try not to look at the clock.  However, instead of spending the entire day at work, I had to go to Summit Hospital and visit one of my least favorite places in the world, Tennessee Oncology.

Yes, I have an oncologist, but no, I don't have cancer.  We had a huge scare earlier last summer and I dealt with it for several months, which was a definite pain in the ass, not to mention worrisome.  Long story short, after several months of scans and every test known to man, in November they finally decided to cut me open again, then took out a bunch of stuff, tested it all, and a week later gave me the good news that all results came back negative.  Of course, no doctor in the world is going to declare you 100% healed, that would be bad for business, so I have to go back every few months, cough up that co-pay, and have more tests and lab work done.  (Cynical me thinks that if I didn't have insurance, I would've been 'healed' months ago...)

Did I mention that it's a pain in the ass?  Well, that's how I spent my Friday--after getting bent over at work all morning, it was off to the Oncology center to get poked, prodded, stabbed, and examined all afternoon.  What makes it worse is that I'm in there with all of the cancer patients, everyone else is getting chemo, and the whole place is about as lively as a funeral home. I hate going there. On the plus side, my doctor, who by the way is fantastic, told me that I'm his healthiest patient.  Well duh, I'm the only one there who doesn't have cancer.

I was there for quite awhile, and it turns out I was damn near the last one in the building.  Half the office staff was already gone for the day by the time I got checked out and released.  The problem was, they had drained several vials of blood from me, and since I hardly eat much of anything anymore, it just wipes me out.  And also, since the hospital is about 50 miles from my house, the drive is a tough one in my condition.  They told me to go eat ASAP, so I called up Amy and Scottie to see if they wanted to go out and get some dinner since I was down in the city and needed to get some sort of nourishment, even if it were bar food.

They suggested that I just drive over to their house for dinner, Amy was cooking turkey chili (one of my favorite things nowadays) and our friend Cory was over with her kids, too.  So I motored over to the west side, exhausted, played with the puglets and visited with Scottie for a bit, then collapsed on the couch before dinner.

The food did me good, and they even broke out a bottle of good red wine, which always makes me feel better, although only in small doses. 

We had an enjoyable evening, but then one of Cory's kids dove head first into my wine glass after dinner, covering me with purple stains.  My white shirt immediately giving me the look of a victim at a crime scene (We were all sitting on the couch, and since most kids treat me as a jungle gym, well, shiat happens).  I ditched the clothes from the waist up, and just wore my fleece jacket while Amy threw my stuff in the laundry.  Of course I kept it halfway unzipped, rocking the Seventies porn-star look for the rest of the evening.

But the rest of the evening was a short one.  Even though the food and wine were just what I needed, I still felt pretty crummy and shuffled off to the guest room earlier than usual, sharing my space with two adorable pugs who's small stature belies their uncanny ability to completely take over an entire queen-sized bed.  Scottie even turned on the PA in the music room, running the Pink Floyd Spotify station through it, so I drifted off much too early, listening to Dark Side of the Moon.

My alarm went off at 6:30 in the morning, and I swear I was out the door, sans shirt, at 6:45.  To all outward appearances, it probably looked like a walk of shame, but the neighbors know me and my car, so it didn't raise too many eyebrows when I snuck out early on a Saturday morning. 

I was scheduled to work that day, and although the shirt I wore the day before was still in Amy's washing machine, I still got called out for obviously not going home the night before. Luckily I had a company t-shirt in the trunk of my car for just such occasions--although it's business casual during the week, on weekends we can wear any of the swag the vendors provide, and so my collection of t-shirts and polos with logos I would never buy in a million years is quite extensive.  Perfect to have on hand when I have an unexpected need for a change of clothes.

I was only going to work a half day, but I still felt like crap on a stick all morning.  Another friend of ours was having a housewarming party/cookout that afternoon, but I just wasn't up to it.  Instead of partying with everyone and enjoying some more bacon-wrapped dates (Amy made up two full trays of them to bring), I spent the afternoon and evening at home.  I took a shower, as hot as I could stand, grabbed some old comfy gym clothes that are about four sizes too big, and put on a pair of my favorite wool socks.  I don't think I got off the couch for about eight hours straight. 

I cleaned up some of my DVR, and watched a couple of movies, also.  That movie, Flight, with Denzel Washington, about an airline pilot who survives a crash, was actually pretty good, and it certainly wasn't about what I thought it was about.  I also watched Battleship, which wasn't nearly as stupid as I thought it would be.  Clearly I went in expecting the worst, but it wasn't too bad for mindless entertainment.  Lots of action movie cliches and a little bit of ripoff of Independence Day (or was that an homage?  I couldn't tell), but having Brooklyn Decker in a supporting role kept me watching...

Speaking of movies, that reminds me of the absolute WORST movie I've seen in a very long time--the other night I watched Alex Cross.  Oh dear god what a steaming pile of crap that was.  It was awful.  I think Tyler Perry wrote it (he must have, I mean, who would cast him as the lead in an action movie?), and while I understand how difficult it is to write a script and a screenplay, he, and everyone else involved in the production, should seriously do some hard time for crimes against creativity.  I felt bad for Edward Burns, who I really like as an actor, but it appears that paychecks must be getting hard to come by for him to take a role in this silver-screen turd.  The only problem is, once people see this, it's gonna be even harder for him to find work.  Yeah, it was that bad.  Imagine a two-hour long Cadillac commercial, with a script churned out by a bunch of eighth-graders, and well, you get the idea.  The most ridiculous over-the-top product and logo placement you could possibly imagine.  I expect that crap from Pepsi, but now Cadillac is in on that annoying game, too.

OK, rant over.

So yeah, that was my Saturday.  I didn't do a damn thing except go to bed early.  Of course I woke up at 6:30 this morning all pumped up and excited to go on a six-mile hike in the woods, but I'm still under the weather.  I've got a pot of coffee brewing, and I'm hoping I feel better after I get a bit of food in me, but right now I'm still pretty drained and listless.  The weatherman says it's supposed to rain all afternoon, and it's pretty windy out there right now, so we'll see how it goes. 

I have an excellent Marmot rain hat that I bought at REI last summer that I use exclusively for hiking, and it's so nice that I also wanted a Marmot rain jacket.  I got the jacket for Christmas, but I purposely asked for one that was too small for me--their stuff is *expensive* and I didn't want to shrink out of it like the rest of my clothes.  So while I can put on the rain jacket, and this point I can't really zip it up--it's still too small, but I'm getting there.  But basically it means that for now, if it's raining, I'm not going--I know it sounds fun walking in the rain, and it is, but only if you can get back to someplace warm and dry whenever you want.  Being out in the woods soggy and cold all afternoon, a few miles from your car, with no shelter around, is not fun at all.  So I'm in a holding pattern this morning.

I'm tempted to just say the hell with it and park my ass on the couch all day, but then this picture starts to gnaw at me and guilts my soul:


Saturday, February 09, 2013

I Keep My Eyes Wide Open All the Time

I started this on Thursday, but ran out of energy...

Right now I'm one tuckered out little trooper.  I just got back from walking over seven miles out on the local greenway, and I have to toot my own horn because seven miles is a new personal best for me as far as distance goes.  The most I've walked at one time since I embraced this form of exercise was five miles, and that one wiped me out.

This hike didn't really kick my ass, but I sure took a few punches. I was thinking earlier of strapping on the full backpack and doing a six-miler down at Beaman Park, but that seemed a little bit too ambitious for me at this stage in the game.  Instead, I did an easier hike with a longer distance, and instead of my full-on 36 lb. expedition pack, I just took my daypack.  With water, a snack, a rain jacket and some other essentials, it tipped the scales at only eight-and-a-half pounds.

Walking the greenway is fairly enjoyable, and while the pavement harder on the feet, it's much easier on the knees, ankles, and lungs.  I think it was designed so that people in wheelchairs can enjoy it, so it's an easy stroll for the most part.  However, there are a couple of pretty steep hills along the way, so that would explain why I've never seen anyone with a wheelchair out there hiking with me...

I caught a break in the weather, too--all the predictions were for overcast and rain all day, but even as I type this it's still 66 degrees and sunny out.  It was a beautiful day to be outside.

I parked my car at the trailhead in town, and did the exact same walk I did last Thursday--three and a half miles along the Honey Run Creek.  This time, however, I stopped to eat a coconut/chocolate chip Cliff bar when I got to the trailhead at the far end, rested for about five minutes, and turned around and started the long walk back.  It was motivation in the purest form--there was nobody around to pick my tired ass up, and my car was three and a half miles away.

Like a wise man once said, It's just walkin'...

The first half took me about an hour and twenty minutes, on the way back, however, I stopped for a couple of three minute rest breaks, and my pace was definitely slower on the way back, and over all it took me right at three hours to do the entire seven miles.

Yeah, I was wiped out when I was finished, and my right foot was on fire.  I had the beginning of a blister that wanted to form, but didn't quite make it.  I wasn't smart enough to bring tape and moleskin with me this time, but on my next hike, it's definitely going along for the ride.

I credit my lack of blisters on having some good gear.  First of all, everyone has their little quirks and things they obsess about.  Some folks like jewelry, some have to have the latest electronic gadget, others are particular about coffee--everyone has their oddball triggers that put them in their happy place.  I may be weird, but I swear, one of life's simple pleasures, the thing that presses my button, is wearing high-quality wool socks.  Not just any socks, but the expensive stuff.  Yeah, I know it doesn't have the cache of a Coach bag or Gucci sunglasses, or even an expensive post-Rolex watch, but I love me some Wigmam silk-and-merino wool socks.  And Darn Tough Vermont Boot socks, too. I think I have about four or five pairs now, and while they range in price from $16 to $25 a pair, they are worth every penny.

First of all, I've spent the better part of the past twenty years living in the desert.  Phoenix, Vegas--both extremely hot locales.  I've also lost about 150 pounds, and I'm now on blood thinners.  So let me share with you a bit of my daily misery--I am COLD all the time. I may be living in the South, but it still gets damn cold here in the winter time, and everyone makes fun of me for bundling up like Randy in A Christmas Story every time I venture outdoors between October and March.  And half the time I'm home watching TV down in the den, I've got the space heater cranked on, I'm under a sleeping bag on the couch, and I'm wearing a knit beanie on my head. 

So I started buying wool socks to keep my feet warm.  Once I got into hiking, I decided to invest in the ones that would last, and, well, here we are.  I put a couple of pairs of Darn Tough socks on my Amazon wishlist, and a generous soul got them for me for Christmas.  And every long-distance hiker I've talked to swears by them.

So I wore some on this hike, just to see how my feet would hold up.  I also wore a pair of synthetic undies that Reverend Dave swears by, along with my favorite hiking shorts.  Imagine, if you will, a pasty white guy huffing and puffing down the trail wearing a fleece jacket two sizes too big and a pair of old cargo-style swimming trunks hiked up above his belly button yet still hanging down below his knees, with the crotch blown out.

Sexy, huh?  I know, ladies, try to hold back your orgasms!

But it worked for me. I was plenty warm (even ditched the fleece halfway through).  So while it was a shakedown on socks and underwear, (both proved to be up to the task), it was an enjoyable hike also.  Besides being great exercise, I saw all kinds of excellent wildlife.  Every time I go, I always see plenty of cool birds and squirrels, and this time I saw some sort of hawk, a blue heron, and the usual assortment of robins and cardinals.  But the absolute coolest thing that made me damn near freak out was I saw a real-live bobcat for the first time ever. At first I couldn't tell if it was just a huge rabbit or possum or something when I first saw it creeping through the underbrush, but then it jumped out on the trail, stared at me for about two seconds, and then darted off in the woods.  Not nearly enough time to get my camera out and snap a picture, so hell, it may as well have been Bigfoot, but still, that's one of the reasons I love wandering around in the woods.  Oh, and that picture above, the one about watching out for snakes, yeah, there are four of those signs along the entire seven miles.  I didn't see any, luckily, but I was on the lookout.

It was a beautiful day out, too.  While the weatherman called for rain and overcast all day, it was sixty-plus degrees and sunny--perfect weather.

Even though it was a gorgeous day out, and I really wasn't that far from civilization (I mean, the trailhead is right next to a Sonic fer cryin' out loud), I only encountered a few other people the entire time I was out there.

One of the things I learned, however, is that using the Motion-X GPS app on my iPhone for three hours will completely drain the battery.  I like to use it as an accurate way to track my time and distance (and also upload it to Facebook to brag a little), but it's too much of an energy suck to use it for that long.

I'll probably stop using it on longer hikes altogether, and when I head out into the 'real' woods, not along a paved greenway, I'll ditch my iPod, too.  I love having music to motivate me along, and it's fine for a paved track that's relatively civilized. But whenever I'm way out in the middle of nowhere, I never use it.  First of all, I want to hear if there's anything else out there with me--human or animal, and second of all, it just seems like blasphemy to do so--like talking on the cellphone in church or something.  On the uphills, however, it was an awesome tool to have at my disposal.  Just as I started up the steep hill near the end of the first half, Joaquin Phoenix's cover of Walk the Line came on, and that two-step country bass line mirrored my pace almost exactly, and that extra 32 measures at the end of the song where there is no singing and it just drones on and on, well, that got me to the top of the hill. I got a kick out of that--it was some great unplanned timing, but I think the all-time greatest hill climbing music has got to be Promontory from Last of the Mohicans:

Can't help but motor up the mountain when hearing that, especially if you remember the movie.

On Sunday, Scottie and I were planning on doing a six-and-a-half miler down at Garrison Creek on the Natchez Trace, but doing my pre-hike planning, I found out that part of the trek involves a knee-deep creek crossing of about twenty feet.  Ain't gonna do that in February!  I bitch about being cold enough already, so I think we'll just go to Beaman Park instead.  I know I won't have to get my feet wet there--it's nothing but hills.

More in a bit...


Wednesday, February 06, 2013

An Expedition to the Bowels of the Storage Shed

My move back to Tennessee from Las Vegas was much less of a hassle than my move out there five and-a-half years prior, and y'all don't have to dig too deeply to read all about it.

But since I got back, circumstances have prevented me from having my own apartment again, so most of my household stuff is still in storage, sealed up like an archeological treasure, just waiting to be re-discovered.

And human nature being what it is, all attempts to simplify and not acquire more 'stuff' have been a series of ongoing battles.  I'm too embarrassed to post a picture of my room at my current digs, as I have tons of books, magazines, clothes, office supplies, and other assorted junk cluttering up the joint.  It's not up to Hoarders level just yet, but it's getting to be too much.  I always *plan* on being more organized, but something always distracts me or I find some other more enjoyable ways to spend my time.

Today was a normal Wednesday, and I was grinding out another workday in the cube farm when my alarm chimed on my cell phone, reminding me of another doctor's appointment.  I thought it was going to be a long one, but it was a quick in and out, only getting stabbed in the arm once.  Instead of going back to work (hey, I'm getting paid for the whole day), I decided to bag it and enjoy an all-too-rare sunny day.  I thought about going hiking, but then realized that all of my good wool hiking socks were wet and sitting in the washing machine, having forgotten to put them in the dryer last night before going to bed.

That plan was out, so I decided to tackle the never-ending to-do list that I seem to carry around with me like Earl and his Karma roster.

The first order of business was to stop at the auto parts store and buy a new bubble mirror for the passenger's side rear-view.  My car, as cool as it is, has a huge blind spot, and the drivers here in Tennessee are a lonely sort--they never want to pass, but they love to catch up to you and drive along in your blind spot, like a baby whale next to his mama.  I don't know why that is, I've never encountered that anywhere else, but since my car is basically ALL blind spot, I need a little extra protection from the all the good ol' boys trying to absorb some of my coolness by proximity. I also picked up some wheel polish and tire cleaner, along with a vanilla scented flip-flop air freshener, and if Sunshine and Day Off ever collide, I'm going to detail the hell out my car.  I don't have time to today, and there's a 50% chance of rain tomorrow, anyways.

As soon as I got home, I put the clothes in the dryer and headed back to the bedroom to get a good look at what needed to be done.  I figure that if I only had a decent bookcase in my room, 90% of the clutter would disappear, and then I remembered that I still had a bookcase out in the storage shed.

Unfortunately, it was deep deep DEEP in the storage shed--all the way in the back, buried under dozens of cardboard boxes and plastic storage totes.  And this storage shed is huge--it could easily be a two-car tandem garage and a workshop if anyone was so inclined. Not only does it have all of my stuff, but also a lot of Mamasan's junk, plus all of the camping gear and Christmas storage, too.  And Reverend Dave has used it to store his furniture when he had to spend a few months traveling for work. 

Of course the shed is older than Alabama, and it has a few leaks and holes.  Those leaks and holes invite critters in who seek shelter and more than a few mice have made nests in there, along with possums and the occasional raccoon.  The most unsettling thing came to light last summer when I was helping Reverend Dave get his queen-sized bed out of there when he took a job in Birmingham and had to relocate.  We got the box-spring out first, no problem, but when we pulled his mattress out there was a huge dried out snake skin attached to it.  Oh yeah... No nightmares there!

As an older brother, it was my duty to remind him that the snake is probably hunkered down inside the mattress somewhere and will crawl out once he went to sleep that first night in his new place, providing  a source of heat that snakes love so much...

Since then I don't go out there barefooted anymore, and usually I take work gloves with me, too. 

Today, however, I was in a hurry and just put on shorts, a t-shirt, and sandals.  I packed my whip and lit a torch, and picked my way through the maze of junk and boxes.  I found the bookshelf in question after just a few minutes of searching but it was covered in nastiness.  It had gotten damp over the past two years, and it was home to all kinds of bugs and spiders.  At least there were no snakes.

I found the shelves and set them out in the sun, then went back in for the main unit. Of course it was covered in spiders, mostly harmless Daddy Long Legs, but there were a couple of fat nasty cousins of the black widow that I didn't want to mess with, so I smashed as many as I could find.  Picking it up over my head to carry it out, a few more fell out on me, providing me with both the heebies AND the jeebies. And it's not like I could drop the thing to brush them off of me, so I just had to take it.

I made it back to the safety of the entrance ramp without getting any bites, as far as I could tell, so I hauled everything up to the driveway.  I found some 409 and a sponge, and then blasted the crud off with the hose.  It was a nasty, and cold, job, but after a few minutes drying in the sun, it looked almost new.  No bugs, no spiders, no mold or mildew.

So now I'm spending the afternoon organizing all of the junk in my room and filling up my new-found bookshelves. I'm making progress on my organizational goals, but I am NOT looking forward to the day when I have to go back out and organize the storage shed. 

I'm thinking of hiring some top men to do it for me instead.

Top. Men.


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Paved With Good Intentions

Is it Tuesday night already?  Wednesday for most of you, by the time you see this? 

Believe me...  I want to write and post more, I really do.  I'm just never in front of the computer very much any more.  Well, scratch that--I'm in front of a computer all day at work, but that doesn't count.  And while I can facebook and browse on my phone during the day, I don't much care to.  I even downloaded the Blogger app so that I could theoretically blog 'on the go', but it's better in theory than in practice.

I suppose one could blog from their smartphone, but only if one's blog posts are more like Twitter updates. Y'all know that once I get all this stuff moving, it's hard to stop, so pecking away on the touchscreen of my iPhone does not appeal.  And I can't even begin to imagine all of the nonsense that autocorrect would do to my updates. 

So you'll just have to be patient and let me go at my own speed...

So what's new?  Of course I worked all last week--I'm pretty sure it was the first 40 hour week I've done in ten months or so, and it wasn't much fun.  For those of you who don't know, I had a few more health scares this past year, but some pretty good health triumphs also, but even so, I've been under the knife twice and have had three hospital stays since last April, plus countless doctor visits.  Most of that is behind me, and I'm down to about once-a-month appointments, so instead of spending a couple days a week at various hospitals and doctors offices around town, I actually go to work and have to sit in my cube for about nine hours a day. 

It's not quite as enjoyable as pitching the cards at Bally's or Sunset Station, but then again, not much is.  I have a few distractions to keep me entertained.  This past weekend, for instance, was a lot of fun.  Although I worked all day on Saturday (Umm, yeah, we're gonna go ahead and need you to come in this weekend...), that night was a whole bunch of fun.

It was my friend Cory's birthday, and she had rented out the Nashville Performing Artists Co-Op for the night and hosted a party.  What is the Nashville Performing Artists Co-Op, you ask?  Well, imagine a combination of Forman's basement, your Grandma's attic, a condemned building, every stereotypical practice space you've seen in countless videos, and the bathroom from Trainspotting thrown in for good measure, and you have the NPAC.  (Did I use that reference last week?  I did? Sorry, it's the only nasty bathroom I can think of.  Writing is hard)

It. Is. Awesome.

The only thing fancy about the place is it's name.  But it was cleaned up as well as could be, with space heaters and candles providing heat on a cold night.  We had a keg of Fat Tire, a truckload of catered BBQ, all kinds of smokeables, and even a jar of moonshine on hand.  Scotty and the boys set up on stage and provided about five hours of live music while the rest of us mingled, danced, drank, told stories, took pictures, and had a much better party than all those dress-in-black poser d-bags from that Budweiser commercial during the Super Bowl.

Let me dig out the camera and find some pics:

The first impression as you walk in the door...

 The sound booth and 'facilities'

 The view from the stage.  Not sure what the random acts of hanging bamboo were about, but it only added to the funky ambiance

The band in action.  That's Scottie, Colin, Sparky, and Tommy

Lots of different people went up onstage and played with the band at different times throughout the evening, the most memorable being some dude I'd never met before singing a cover of Tush that brought down the house.  The highlight for me was one of my friends, so drunk she could barely stand, got up there and just absolutely nailed a cover of Rollin' In The Deep--not an easy song when sober, but she just killed it.

Good times all around.  Before we knew it, it was after midnight and being old farts, we were finished lettin' it all hang out, so we had to pack up the party and head home.  I think I got home around 1:30 (but hey, I had a beer in my hand pretty much ever since 6:15) and fell directly into bed.

I sure didn't want to get up on Sunday morning, and almost considered begging off of my sister's Super Bowl party (strawberry moonshine was a bad choice), but I gutted it up, packed a bag, and hit the road early that afternoon.  

My contribution to the party buffet was an old Vegas Firefly favorite-- stuffed dates wrapped in bacon. 

Oh hell yeah.  I made about sixty of those little suckers--about twenty of them filled with garlic and herb cream cheese, and the rest stuffed with pecans.  And I wrapped them in thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon.

They were the hit of the party.  Oh, there was some great food to be had--shrimp cocktail, pulled pork BBQ, Rotel dip, etc., but everyone raved about the dates.  I have to admit, they turned out pretty damn good!  This is the only photo evidence that I have, however...

The picture doesn't do 'em justice, but trust me, they were good.

As far as the game goes, I was rooting for the 49ers, but earlier in the week TRev and I were discussing wagers and settled on the Ravens getting 4 points and the under.  We were half right, as usual. 

Since my sister's place is much closer to my office than my house, and it would've been a 50 mile drive home after the game, I just stayed there in her guestroom that night and went to work from there in the morning. 

Monday was a tough day for me, but at least I didn't have a moonshine hangover to deal with.  I'm back at the homestead tonight, doing the never-ending chores and planning a hike for Thursday.  I think I'm going to try and do a 7 mile greenway walk or maybe strap on the 36 lb. backpack and head out to the woods for the day.  If it's not muddy, I'm heading to the woods.  If it's raining, I'll walk the greenway with the local soccer moms.

More on Thursday--