Monday, June 14, 2010

Why Do We Go To The Coast?

As we are on our way home from Myrtle Beach, Mel is driving, so after waking from my nap I have time to write a little. I contemplate why it is that we take these long drives to find a place to relax when it tires us so much to make the return trip home. We usually need a vacation to get over the vacation. So, here are few reasons I can come up with, in no particular order, why people subject themselves to the pain of a Myrtle Beach trip.

Seafood: There must be at least 142,348, +/- one or two, seafood restaurants on the Grand Strand that are all wwwwaaaayyyyy overpriced. It’s odd to me that you drive 250 miles, or more, to the sea where seafood comes from and it cost three or four times more than at the fish camps at home and the waiting period for a table is always 2 or 3 hours. I’ve never met a shrimp that I would wait 2 or 3 hours to eat. A lot of people crave the crablegs on the “all you can eat” buffets. To me, it’s a lot of work for the little bit of meat you get out of it. My brother and son-in-law both love them. When they eat them it reminds me of a 60’s TV show that Daddy never missed called “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” with Marlin Perkins. On one particular show Marlin and Jim took a trip into the jungles of Africa and ventured into the Elephant Burial Grounds. It looked like what their plate looks like when they finish eating crablegs, as if a dead elephant was on it.
Neither Mel, nor I are big seafood eaters. I much prefer a piece of pan fried chicken, dark meat please, or a big ole piece of red meat, a little pink in the center, with potatoes fixed any way on the side. A bread product of some kind to sop up the left over juices is a must, plus, there in the center of the table, right beside the salt and pepper shakers, a big bottle of ketchup. All of which are not conducive with my heart condition but are my preference just the same. So anyway, seafood isn’t our reason to head to the coast.

Shopping: There are shopping centers everywhere you look. I counted at least 42 WalMarts in the Grand Strand area alone. Then there’s Broadway At The Beach, Barefoot Landing, two or three outlet malls, not to mention a couple of enclosed malls, and little strip malls stuck in every unused corner of the King’s Highway. That doesn’t include the 1367 Eagles, Wings, and Whales stores that are everywhere. Between Murrells’s Inlet and North Myrtle Beach there are about 6 Lowe’s and 6 Home Depot’s. Like I’m going to drive all that way to pick up a weed eater or a couple of hanging baskets for the balcony of the hotel room or a couple of 2x4’s to strap on the top of the SUV and bring home to finish that project I started before I left for vacation. Maybe a shop vac to suck all of that sand out of the car that gets in no matter how much you knock off of your shoes before you get in. Oh yeah, don’t forget that box of screws you needed.
I hate to shop when I’m at home and I’m certainly not going to take a 4.5 hour trip to do so. So, shopping isn’t our reason to head to the coast.

Shows: Myrtle Beach has become the Branson of the South. There are several music shows and dinner shows on the Grand Strand. The Carolina Opry, Alabama Theater, House of Blues, Dixie Stampede, Medieval Knights as well as a plethora of others. I have attended several of these and all are very good. However, they are all rather expensive and for a family of 4 or more it’s almost cost prohibitive to attend one of these shows unless you’re the CEO of some big company.
Since neither Mel, nor I, are CEOs, shows are not our reason to head to the coast even though we do enjoy one occasionally when it’s just the two of us.

Sand and Sea: Now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty, (no pun intended). Our favorite reason for a trip to the coast. Even though the two of us enjoy it differently we both use the same resources to make our trip worthwhile. We both love to hunt shark’s teeth. It’s a hobby we started about 30 years ago on a trip to the beach with some friends. We visited a lady that worked with our friend and she had a permanent site at one of the campgrounds. She had jars sitting all over her house full of shark’s teeth. When we asked about them she showed us how to spot them while we were in the ocean and we’ve been doing it ever since.

By enjoying it differently I mean that Mel likes to take her beach chair down to the edge of the water where the waves just barely reach her and cover her feet as they come in and back out and she sits there and reads a book. When the tide moves in or out a little she repositions her chair accordingly. My routine differs in that it usually includes sand and shade because I don’t get a kick out of sunburn. It hurts. In years past I’ve always rented an umbrella and 2 chairs from the lifeguard for about $25 a day which winds up being over $100 for the entire vacation. This year I wised up and bought a 10x10 canopy for less than the umbrella rental fee for the four days we were there so next time I use it, be it at home or on vacation, it starts paying for itself. Comparatively speaking, that’s more shade for the buck. Since the main reason we went this year was the SC State Firefighters Conference and I had to attend morning meetings Thursday and Friday, Johnathan had to go out to the beach in the mornings and stake a claim on our 100 square feet of sand and turn it into 100 square feet of shade. I gave him my daughter, the least he could do is set up my shade!

I’m a people watcher. I watch all kinds of people, male and female, short and tall, big and little, pretty and ugly. Wait, that wasn’t nice. I should have said real pretty people and just barely pretty people. All people have their own styles. Some children have similar styles to their parents such as the way they walk or talk, etc. Usually, if you watch them long enough, you can find something unique about them. Therefore, I sit in my shade and I watch.

I find it amusing to see what some people, male and female, try to stuff into a bathing suit that’s too small and walk out amongst the hoards of people as if they were Miss America or Mr. Universe. Now that’s self confidence. You’ll see guys with six pack abs and guys whose abs looks like a whole keg, walking just as proud as if both thought they were the perfect specimen of the human male. I know I’m big better than anybody knows. I see it every day in the mirror but at least my bathing suit fits.

In most animal species, the male of the species is the most colorful and prettier than the female. They usually take on the role of the flirter and are responsible for attracting the female mate. Take the Cardinal for instance. The male has the beautiful bright red feathers and the crown on the top of his head while the female is grey with an orange beak. The Mandrill apes are another example, the male with the bright red and blue face and the female without color. Or, the Lion whose mane looks like he just left Vidal Sassoon’s salon but the Lioness has no mane at all.

The human race is different though. The female is the one who usually is the fairer of the race. You can see this at the beach if you are a people watcher. Take the 6 or 7 sixteen or seventeen year old girls with their bronze bodies in their skimpy bikinis walking together down the beach strutting their stuff and 15 or 20 yards behind them are 6 or 7 boys of the same age. One has a football and another goes out for a pass that happens to be overthrown landing right in front of the group of girls. So it begins.

Behind them is the newlywed couple in their early twenties walking down the beach holding hands and making goo goo eyes at each other as the diamond ring sparkles on her left hand. Behind them is the couple in their mid to late twenties, both holding the hand of a three year old little girl with her mama’s golden curls and her daddy’s eyes. Up under an umbrella is a mid thirties couple talking to a fourteen year old girl. You over hear her say “But Mama, I know I just met him but he’s a nice boy. Why can’t I walk up the beach with him?”

On the other side there’s a mid fifties couple in their chairs under their canopy with a two year old between them playing in the sand with a shovel and pail. In front of them, out of the shade of the canopy, are the parents of the two year old working on their tans while behind them in the same 100 square feet of shade is a couple in their late seventies. Him in his baggy legged bathing suit, her in her one piece with a skirted bottom. You overhear the middle aged woman say, “Mom, Dad, do you need anything? Can I get you a bottle of water or a sandwich?” And Dad says, “No honey, we’re fine.” as he looks over at his beautiful white haired bride of 58 years. Somewhere in the recesses of his memory he sees the sixteen year old girl that he met some sixty years earlier on this same beach as he failed to catch an overthrown pass of a football that almost hit her and a sly grin appears on his face as he reminisces.

Everybody has their reasons for making the trek to the coast. None are better than others, just different, and it’s okay to be different. Bottom line is that everyone needs time away from their normal rat race even if it’s to attend a different rat race. Enjoy your vacations this summer, I did.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Last week a friend of mine delivered the message at the early service at church. He gave an illustration that was simple enough for me to understand so I thought I'd share it here since I haven't wrote anything in like forever. It seems that, according to the author of this illustration, whose names escapes me, all people fall into one of three catagories, carrots, eggs, or coffee beans. Sounds strange, uh. Here's how it works. Say difficulties in your life took the form of hot water. Subject a carrot to hot water for a period of time and it becomes soft and plyable. Subject an egg to hot water for a period of time and it becomes hard on the inside. But subject the same hot water to the coffee beans and what happens? The coffee beans change the water instead of the water changing the coffee beans.

I tend to fall into the egg catagory. I try not to but when bad things happen to me it tends to harden my insides. I've never had a problem with being a carrot and gotten soft when faced with adversity but in my opinion it's very hard to be a coffee bean and change the adversity that's ahead of you.

So, what catagory do you fall into, carrot, egg, or coffee bean?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I Thought It Was A Good Trade

Mrs. Ross' third grade class, Startex Elementary School, circa 1963 - 64. Her favorite word/phrase was fortylebun (forty eleven) as in "I've told y'all fortylebun times to be quite." I made the mistake one time of asking her if that meant fifty one times. It was a mistake because one of the bad things about living in a small town is that your mama was friends with all of your teachers. Third grade was, back in those days, the year that you learned the times tables and the gazentas (you know, 6 gazenta 24, 4 times). Today, kids learn math much sooner. Jessi was telling us just the other day that Noah, a first grade student, had a math problem that said ____+____=38. People, that's algebra. Any way you look at it. In my algebra I class in 9th grade it would have read X+Y=38. Anyway, third grade was also when you learned deducted reasoning, as in word problems, cursive writing and a host of other things. All in all, third grade was a pretty jam packed year. Back then, I was a pretty good student with decent grades. As I said, mama was friends with all of the teachers so I did what I had to do to survive.

There was a classmate of mine and for the life of me I can't seem to remember his last name but his first name was Robert. He wasn't from the "mill hill" and I think it was his first year at Startex Elementary. He was a big ole boy, bigger than the rest of us anyway. He might have even been older and failed a grade, I don't know. One day he needed a pencil and I had a couple of extras in my plastic zippered pouch in my three ring binder. Being a good student and learner of the reasoning stuff, and being the entrepreneur that I was, I asked what he had to trade. He went into his pencil box, which was an old Tampa Nugget cigar box (he didn't have a zippered pouch), and came out with this cool looking medal. It had this colorful ribbon with a pin on the back and a heart shaped medal hanging from the ribbon. The medal was purple in color and had a gold head on it that looked like George Washington that was on the dollar bill which to me meant that it must have been worth a dollar at least. Man, I had hit the jackpot. This thing was worth three pencils, 2 cat eye marbles and a paperclip and it only cost me one pencil.

The mistake I made was bragging about my good trade when I got home. When mama saw my medal she went ballistic. Seems that my prize turned out to be something called a "Purple Heart", duh, what else would it be called given the description I just gave you. Anyway, she put me, and my medal, in the car and off to see Mrs. Ross we went. After she explained the situation to her we headed to the office to see Mr. Tucker, the principal. Boy, my good trade was turning into a fiasco. After a bunch of phone calls it was discovered that the medal belonged to Robert's grandfather who had been awarded the medal for being wounded in WWII. I was 8 years old, how was I supposed to know what a Purple Heart was? I wound up giving the medal back to the grandfather and I didn't even get my pencil back. I guess I still came out better than Robert, though. I still had my cat eye marbles and paperclip and he had to make a trip out to the woodshed.

Moral of the story is that when you make a good trade keep it to yourself or lose a pencil.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My Right To Rant And Rave

There is a radio station out of Charlotte that I used to listen to when I was driving back and forth to Fort Mill every day. I don't remember the call letters of the station but I think it was @ 107.9 on the dial. In the mornings they had the Bob and Sherri show and in the afternoon it was the Matt and Ramona show. On Tuesday afternoons Matt and Ramona did a segment called "Tuesday Tirades" which at times was very amusing. People would call in and unload things off of their chests that bothered them. Sometimes the tirades were silly but some of them were serious things that you could tell really bothered the callers. Since today is Tuesday I thought I would post something that gets under my skin.

It absolutely drives me nuts to hear people complain about their jobs. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about the occasional "I had a bad day" comments. Everybody has those days from time to time. I'm talking about the everyday "countdown to the weekend" thing or the "I hate getting up early" thing or the "I can't wait for the long holiday weekend" thing or the "I hate this computer" thing, etc.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this, I used to drive back and forth to Fort Mill every day. That's 90 miles in the morning, work 8am to 5pm, and 90 miles in the afternoon. EVERY WEEK DAY, EVERY WEEK. After several months of that, it was off to the various company owned distribution centers all over the country to implement the software we had configured in Fort Mill. That meant flying out on Monday morning and flying home Friday night, being away from family and friends. Occasionally, to save the company money on airfares, we would stay over a weekend and be away from home for two week periods. Once I had to be gone for 3 weeks without a trip home. This went on for 3 years. If anyone had a reason to complain, I did. But, as soon as those implementations were over, the company started closing some of it's locations and my home base happened to be among the first to go. All of the sudden, I, along with hundreds more, was unemployed. I received unemployment benefits, which amounted to about 1/3 of what I was bringing home while I was working, for 12 of the 18 months I was without a job. The other 6 months I did odd jobs to pick up extra cash.

I know of people right now who are unemployed and haven't got unemployment benefits coming in. People who would probably love to have the jobs that others complain about, just to be able to feed and clothe themselves and their families. Or, to be able to take the family out for an evening of entertainment once in a while. With Christmas coming up, how do you explain to your children that there won't be any presents under the tree because Santa Clause is as broke as a convict? With the economy like it is and the unemployment rate as high as it is, how many are out there, in addition to the ones I know, who are in the same situations. People like the ones I know who aren't receiving unemployment benefits aren't even included in the unemployment rates you hear on the news so no one really can say with any certainy what the real unemployment rate is.

I thank God every day for my job. Even though I'm not getting rich, I can pay my bills and I have enough to eat. After experiencing a heart attack, I thank God every morning that I am able to hear the alarm clock go off at 6am and I open my eyes and realize that I'm still breathing instead of waking up dead. There are times when I feel bad in the mornings and I begin to have thoughts of "I wish this" or "I wish that" then I realize what I have that others may not and I have to ask for forgiveness for my thoughts.

Anyway, that's my tirade for today. I only ask that if you have a job, be thankful for it. Work at it like it's the best job in the world and before you complain, consider those less fortunate.

If you have a "Tuesday Tirade" feel free to unload in the comment section.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Finally, An Answer!

Listen my children and you shall hear. Not about the midnight ride of Paul Revere, but instead, the answer to an age old question that’s been weighing heavy on the hearts and minds of us all. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, right here in River City, you’ll finally learn which came first, the chicken or the egg. Scientist, Biologist, and Evolutionist have been debating this question for eons. Finally, the debate will be solved and they will have to find something else to argue about.


Are you ready???????????

Here it comes!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And the answer is……………………


I guess, for the sake of science, I should explain the answer, (since Scientist very rarely take your word for anything). You’d think that all Scientist came from Missouri because they have to be shown. (Sorry Mrs. Isler, no insult intended)

The very first three words of the very first chapter of the very first book in the compilation of books that make up the handbook of life we call ‘The Bible’ are “In the beginning”. Let me break that down for you. In, means, well, in, except in this case where it means “at”. The, means something specific. Beginning, means a point in time that something starts or, before this point in time, there is nothing. Put together it translates “At this specific point in time when there is nothing”. Pretty self explanitory, right?

Continue reading the whole first chapter and you’ll read in verse 25 that on the sixth day “God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.” Now if you really closely read all of the words between “In the beginning” (which I broke down for you) and verse 25 like I told you to do, you would realize that you didn’t read anything at all about an egg.

He does say in verse 28 for them to be fruitful and multiply so He instills the instinct in the hen to know what to do with the ability He gave her to lay eggs to accomplish this. Therefore, the scientist in us all must deduce that the chicken did indeed come first, at which point the hen started laying eggs to procreate, according to The Word of God.

Now, when you put it like that, who in their right mind can argue?

Next question please.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I Can't Mama, I'm A Linebacker!!!

This is Noah's first year playing flag football. He's playing Dist 5 ball instead of Upward. This league is sponsored through the school district and they start the kids out running similar plays to the high school program. This way, if a kid plays his entire elementary school years in the program, he should be able to slide right into middle school and high school football with few problems. That's probably one reason our high school team is nationally ranked now.

I have no problem with Upward Sports because the kids do get Christian teachings and devotions at the practices and games and I think that's wonderful. This is the only Gospel that some of these kids ever hear and that's great. However, I do have a hard time with the "everybody's a winner" philosophy. I understand that it builds self esteem but at the same time I wonder if it does more harm than good when it comes to 'real life' lessons. When a child gets out in the real world and finds out that there really are winners and losers and that you can't be the winner all the time, can that realization push them into depression? It can be a real shocker to find out life's not always fair.

Anyways, back to my topic. I never thought Noah would do very well on the gridiron because he's small for his age but boy was I wrong. He's really a go getter. He's playing on the defensive side of the ball and dead after the guy with the ball to grab his flag. There's some pretty big kids out there and he gets knocked down occasionally but instead of crying, like I expected, and running to his mama, he jumps up and is right back in there. Most of the time instead of getting knocked down, he zips right past the big guys because he's so small. It's fun to watch him in action.

I stand on the sidelines coaching him along, even though I'm not his coach. I'll bark an order out to him and he just looks at me like I'm stupid. The other kid's parents just kind of look at the old man and laugh. Sometimes he gets to go in on offense and he plays on the O line. Now you'd think that a kid his size wouldn't stand a chance in front of some of those big kids but he stands his ground pretty good. He got a flag thrown on him for holding one time because the kid was getting by him so he grabbed his shirt and threw him down on the ground. Never would have thunk it.

In last night's game, he wasn't hustling like he has in the past. I think the coach had had a talk with the team about blitzing because in this age group it's against the rules. When he came over to the sidelines after the game and Jessi and I were prodding him about why he wasn't going in after the flag he gave us that "DUH" look and said " I can't Mama, I'm a linebacker". Kids, what can you do with 'em?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hey, It's Good To Be Back Home Again

Going home in my mind, sitting in the kitchen of a house located at #16 North Main Street in a small village called Startex. I look around and I see several things that people in this day and time won’t see in their kitchens. First of all, I’m sitting in a booth, long before Hardee’s or McDonald’s thought about having them. I’m not sure if Daddy built it or it was already in the house when he bought it back before I was born. I don’t recall any of my friend’s houses having a booth but we had one. That made me feel special, don’t know why, but it did.

Over there on the door frame to the right, hanging on a nail is a flyswatter or two. A very handy tool in those days before air conditioning. Not the plastic kind you see today, these were made of what looked like screen wire like you saw on porches and windows of the people’s houses that were fortunate enough to have them.

Moving on around, on the other side of the door is our stove. I don’t remember much about the first stove we had but I remember in the mid sixties Daddy got a bonus from work. He spent most all of it on Mama. He bought a new stove for her kitchen. This one came from the Duke Power store up in Lyman instead of the Company Store across the street, like most everything else in our house did. It was wider than the one we had because it had two doors on the front. One door was smaller than the oven door and it was for storing pots and pans. It still had the drawer on the bottom for large baking pans. The new stove was a dark brown color called Coppertone. I can remember Mama was real proud of her new stove. He also bought Mama a car with that bonus but that’s another story for another time.

Down on the right, past that stove and the indoor water heater, was what Mama and Daddy used to call the laundry heater. Can't figure out why because our laundry room, if you could call it that, (all we had was a washing machine), was out on the back porch. Anyway, this heater was in our kitchen. It was black and had the name “Siegler” written in red on the front of it. It stood there in the middle of the floor with a stovepipe coming out of the back of it going up the wall and into a chimney up next to the ceiling. It was a lot like the one we had in the den except it was a lot older and didn’t have a blower on it. It burned #1 fuel oil and really put out some good heat in the wintertime. I can still see the cast iron kettle with the wooden handle that always sat right up on top of it with water in it to keep some humidity in the air. I remember on cold mornings standing in front of it rubbing my hands together to get warm when Mama would call us down for breakfast.

There were two drawers behind the old heater that you really couldn’t open all the way because the heater was in the way. The one in the corner was the most inaccessible and was our junk drawer where we kept miscellaneous stuff like hammers and screwdrivers etc. I still have a junk drawer in my kitchen today. The other was where we kept cooking utensils like big spoons for stirring and spatulas for turning hamburgers and eggs and such and large knives for cutting vegetables. The upper and lower cabinets there beside the heater were also where we kept junk stuff that you didn’t use often because they weren’t very accessible either, because of the heater.

There on the right side of the sink, hanging on a nail on the side of the upper cabinet, was the “dipper”. I’m quite sure you won’t see one of these in a kitchen these days. Heck, I bet a lot of young people probably don’t even know what I’m talking about. This was a big ladle that was used back in the day when people were working in the fields and someone would come by with a bucket of water and a big dipper. Each person would take the dipper, dip it in the bucket and drink a dipper full of water to quench their thirst. Everybody drank from the same dipper dipped in the same bucket. For a family of six, to keep from dirtying up so many glasses every time one of us wanted a drink of water, we kept the dipper right there beside the sink and all of us would use it, even our friends too when we had them over.

Coming on around on the left side, I can still see the painted cabinets, upper and lower, and remember what was in each one. In the last one beside the Hotpoint refrigerator was where we kept food stuff like cereal and canned goods. Opening the cabinet, I can see a small glass cup with a handle like a coffee cup. I can’t remember if it was clear or had some color but I can see flowers or vines kind of like Depression glass. In it is a small spoon with a brown plastic handle stuck down in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. There beside that is a glass butter dish with a stick of butter on it. We kept one stick out of the refrigerator, at room temperature, so it would be soft for spreading on toast or biscuits. When we used that stick up we’d replace it with a cold one.

Last, but not least, on the left side beside the door was the Hotpoint refrigerator. It’s the only refrigerator I remember being in the house up until my sister bought a new one after I had moved out in 1971. It was the kind with one big door from top to bottom and a little freezer door inside. I can remember on a Saturday, about once a month, Mama taking all of the food out of the top and bottom of the refrigerator, wrapping it in a quilt on the table, and defrosting the refrigerator. She would turn it off and put a dishpan full of steaming hot water in the bottom to melt the ice that had built up. She would have towels all over the floor to soak up the melted ice. Once it was defrosted she would mix up some type of cleaning liquid in a bucket and wash down the inside real good before she filled it back up with the food.

Mama died a little over 40 years ago when I was 13. She wasn’t one who liked to have her picture made very much. I only have two or three of her. As more time passes it gets harder and harder for me to remember her. But, when I sit down like this, close my eyes and let my mind go back home, I can see her standing there in that kitchen as plain as day, stirring something on the stove, humming ‘Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me’

As John Denver said in his song, “Hey, it’s good to be back home again.”