Milo T Dog: Read My Lips

Can we all agree to get past the point that I (we) have a dog. And the fact that we, (I) love that damn mutt. After three years now I think you all have wrung out the whole, You’re a dog lover now. Ok, yes I am. Moving on.

Aside from Milo being my constant running partner when I’m home, he happens to be incredibly smart. He’s still exuberant, but obedient for the most part. He also appears to be getting smarter. Yeah he heeds more commands, but it’s more than that. Maybe you life long dog lovers have already experienced this.

I know this might seem crazy. Honestly I’m surprised I’m even typing this next sentence.  Lately it appears Milo is trying to talk. When I say talk I mean speak in human verbiage. We all know dogs can communicate on a high level with barks, body language and their eyes. No, the communication I’m referring to is Milo looking and sounding like he’s attempting to use human words of the English variety.

I think the more weird or maybe concerning part of it all is that I feel like I understand what he’s trying to say.

Usually when he needs or wants to go out he’ll stand by the door. Where I sit in my office affords me a clean view of the front door. So when he posts up on the door mat he expects that I see him and will respond quickly and efficiently. When I don’t move to his liking he approaches me and starts to do this weird wailing/whining type noise.

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His, “Please stay home today.” look.

He looks right at me, backs up three of fours steps as he makes this weird noise.  All that as his head is bobbing up and down. It’s like he’s trying to say, “C’mon bro time to go.” And when I don’t move at that little exhortation he gets closer and starts talking. Bitching me out even. At least that what it sounds like.

The long whining switches to short bursts of sound and his mouth moving as if he’s trying to form words. I swear to you.

When he really needs to go out he gets more demonstrative. As if somehow the more he urges me,  the more he gestures, the easier for me to understand. If I didn’t know better I’d say he was scolding me for not understanding him.

He doesn’t do it for long.  Mainly because if it becomes clear that I don’t understand or I’m not going to comply he runs upstairs and bothers the Mrs. Milo is not long on patience.

God forbid I don’t understand him where he’s hungry. Which is always. But again, he doesn’t bark. He goes into this weird short burst growling/whining/wailing type machinations.  I firmly believe he’ll speak one day. I sit and wait for the day real English words come out of his mouth.

The only question is will they be the four letter version?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking in Dayton: What’s a Bear Bag?

We learned a lot of lessons on the first run into the woods with Troop 6.

The first lesson was Bear Bag does not mean what I thought it meant. And yes I do have the mind and sense of humor equal to or less than that of an adolescent. Fart jokes still make me laugh uncontrollably. Sue me.

As much as I dreaded the cold and then almost actually froze to death, there was so much good out of that weekend. I learned the entire time. And even at my age that’s a good thing. One of the lessons I learned from the outset; camping stuff is expensive as I don’t now what.

Let me tell you one thing, I don’t want to hear another peep about golf clubs, balls, greens fees, and what have you. Golf could never ever approach the expense of camping. I mean both are outdoors, both involve walking and at times carrying a heavy bag on your back, other than that…

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My only camping experience before the Frank joined the Scouts. That’s our backyard.

And you’re kind of stuck you know. It’s Frank’s first gig with his new boys. Can’t have him in hand me down stuff. First of all there is no hand me down stuff. Tracy and I are not campers. If we’re not in a Marriott or something equivalent, we count that as roughing it.

So it was off to the outdoorsy store for stuff. I should have hit the prescription med store for some nitro pills first. Wow, my heart jumped a few times and I had not made it out of the special “hiking and camping” water bottle section yet. As I said in the original camping post, we did end up with some cool stuff, but that stuff cost a cool nickel. Again I was just in the accouterments area. I was on my way to tent/sleeping bags and then hiking clothes. Cause you know you need layers and such. And those layers should be as low key chic as possible. Although there was no peeling of layers on this trip. But I got Frank some good stuff and he was styling without looking like he was trying to be styling.

He did get a few things for Christmas so it wasn’t the full monty of equipment but it was close. I managed to cobble together my kit. Styling, low key or otherwise, just ain’t my thing. My old boots still fit and were in great condition. I was advised they weren’t great for hiking. I said, Boy these boots walked miles and miles, and most of that was the hard concrete of Air Force flight lines. They’ll be fine.  And they were.

Tracy had a sleeping bag and mat from a Cub Scout trip so I was good there. I wore a plain pair of kakis. I’m not dropping $45 on a pair of “specialized” hiking pants.  Honestly my old camo from work still fit me. The pants did anyway. But I had to balance not spending money and not embarrassing the kid. I get the situation. Trying to make an impression on his boys, he doesn’t need his old man wearing knee high black socks to the beach if you know what I’m saying.

Look man I’m not a granola eater. I don’t go out of my way to become one with nature and I build fires the old fashion way, with matches and small fire starter thing-a-ma-jigs I got at The Kroger.  All neatly vacuum sealed in a bag you use to seal up meat or veggies  or whatever. However I made myself keep an open mind and try to let some of these 14 to 16 year old kids teach me something. They’re all granola. And styling. And cool. And Frank idolizes them. So I gave way to these kids most of the weekend, and cheated the fire when they weren’t looking.

If I had thought to bring my small can of WD-40 I would have had that fire going tout suite. Nothing like good old Ozone depleting aerosol to get a roaring fire going at the spritz of vaporized lubricant. But like I said I did learn a few things. Helpful things for next time. If there is a next time.

Weight is an issue. This isn’t your typical overnighter. It helped to be mindful of what went in the pack. There is no conveyor belt to drop your bag on after the TSA agent unfolds all your undies. You got to hump that pack brother. So what goes in there better be necessary.

Food and water are more important than a second change of clothes.  This one I kind of knew myself. We didn’t have change of clothes on the flight line. And there were no rain delays. Plenty of days I spent the entire shift soaked. It happens, it won’t kill you. In this case the recommended three set of clothes, the set on your back plus two in the pack, was overkill. Likewise with the “camp shoes”.

Camp shoes are any foot type gear that isn’t hiking boots. Flip flops, Crocks, tennis shoes etc… This was so you could take off your hiking boots and relax your feet in camp. In my case unnecessary weight. I spent hours and sometimes days in those issue boots. A two mile walk and another eight hours in them was nothing.

Sit your ass down. Bad move on my part. I had plenty of opportunity to sit. I just didn’t. No idea why. And it became a problem when I got up the next morning to hit the old #1 tree. My legs didn’t work. Cramps in both calves and thighs. Down on my face in frost covered leaves.  I’m old what are you gonna do?

Get off the ground. Two different adults had no tent. They strung hammocks and put a tarp over themselves. (Good call G. Granroth) With a sleep mat lining the hammock in addition to his sleeping bag, the one guy said he actually stuck his feet out a few times because he got a little too warm. The gel in my iris’ almost froze solid and this guy was so warm his little pig toes had to get some crisp, fresh air a few times during the night.

The ground he said, the ground saps your heat. I knew that too. Damn it. Well I’ve never been accused of being the brightest bulb. Have my eye on a light weight camping cot now. This Scout parent will be sleeping in comfort next time.

Be smart about packing your food.  This was one of the biggest lessons I learned. And it provided the funniest/scariest moment of the trip. Well, aside from my stranded turtle scene early in the AM.

As it turns out hiking/camping food is either a smell-able or it isn’t. Meaning bears can either smell it or they can’t. If they can, they’re coming for it.  And they can smell a damn lot from a long way off.  I was looking forward to hitting a few Slim Jims that I was going to stash in my sleeping bag for a middle of the night snack. Yeah, no. Into the Bear Bag please.

The what now? Bear Bag? The Bear Bag is for all the smellables. It’s just any type of bag that can hold all the food, and is then strung up in a tree away from the camp for obvious reasons. Can’t have no bear traipsing through camp looking for my Slim Jims at 2am. Speaking of which…

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Skippy you home? Is that bacon, why I had no idea.

So I learned what would be Bear Bag necessary. Some things are not as obvious as others. Factory sealed foods like Slim Jims can still be smelled by bears from a long distance. Didn’t know that.  Bacon, Bear Bag. Even I knew that one.

Yet somehow the community bacon that was going to be cooked for the morning meal provided to all the scouts was left with the youngest member of the troop. Said young man failed to offer it up when the Bear Bag went round. Everyone got a portion of the community meal to put in their pack. Share the weight as it were. This poor kid knew less than me about camping and that’s saying something. He had no idea, no one had any idea four pounds of Oscar Meyer’s finest was tucked neatly and safely in Skippy’s pack.

He might as well have been carrying a live grenade. It wasn’t until the morning when the call went out for breakfast to be assembled that the Bear Bag came down so the food could be sorted. 

Adult 1. Hey where is all the bacon? (Names changed to protect the guilty.)

Adult 2. I think Skippy has it. 

Adult 1. He ate all the bacon!?! When!?! Did he eat it raw!?!

Very young scout 1. Yeah I think Skippy ate it all. (Very young scout 1 has no idea by the way. Skippy has eaten none of the bacon.) 

Adult 1 to other adults who will not be numbered. Holy cow who gave Skippy the bacon to carry? He ate it all. 

Other adults. Undecipherable mumbling and dismissive/judgmental shaking of heads.

Skippy. (Walking up still in PJs, bed head, and 1 sock, oblivious to the great Dayton bacon incident of 2020) Hey what should I do with all this bacon?

Adult 1. (Pale as a mother f*****g ghost when he realizes what has actually happened and the lawsuits that would have sunk Boy Scouts had Timmy been pushing up daisies in the belly of a bear because most of the veteran adult campers just assumed everyone else knew what they were doing on their first camping trip.) You had that in your pack all night Skippy!!!!!!

Other adults’ begin to shake their heads for real when they realize 1. they dodged a huge bullet and 2. four pounds of bacon packed sloppily in Saran Wrap was like setting out bear bait. Skippy and everyone who was slower than they, probably should have been eaten in their sleep by a pack of roaming bears.

But unlike us, the damn bears knew what the temp was gonna be and packed it in for the night. No doubt all snuggling together in a nice cave somewhere, deciding Skippy’s bacon wasn’t worth the nut freezing cold.

So a big lesson learned there kids.

If someone has the bacon in their tent for the night, make sure you’re not the slowest runner in camp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking in Dayton: Camping and Freezing with Troop 6

So here’s a big disclaimer. Feel free to e-mail, text, or call with your righteous indignations at the following statements. But believe me when I tell you I do not care already.

Here it is. I have never been a fan of the Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts. My older brother was one, still not a fan.  My son is one. Still not. I’ve never been woodsy and I am loathed to sell microwave popcorn for hours on end out front The Kroger.  The fact the crates say “Gourmet Popcorn” but smell like moldy grass only emboldens my stance.

And since modern day Cub/Boy Scouts is predicated on being woodsy and indenturing first graders into selling popcorn curbside at The Kroger, count me out.

Of course having said all that, Frank loved Cub Scouts and he now loves being a Boy Scout. So while I am an ass, I have put my assiness aside to support my oldest offspring. If you need proof of that statement, and I sure would if I were you, behold! That’s me at The Crossover. Supporting my kid just like I said.

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Loyal, Kind, and Respectful, he amazes me constantly.

The Crossover is when Cub Scouts move on to become Boy Scouts. Honestly I didn’t think he wanted to do it. He said as much. But at the last minute with some prodding from his mother he decided to attend the Crossover ceremony and listen to the sales pitch from the scout leader of what would be his new troop.  The millisecond he was told Troop 6 was the oldest troop in Knoxville and founded in 1915, the boy was sold.  He is on such a history bender right now it’s tough to describe.

In the pic we’re about to fist bump after he’s crossed the bridge and met his new Troop. He’s telling me his new Troop is over 100 years old. He was stoked. And I have to say, my disdain for the Scouts was overwhelmed by my son’s happiness. And not for nothing, the kids handled the Crossover very well.  They didn’t have to come, they just wanted to welcome Frank and the other two boys crossing over.

The young Scouts met Frank when he literally crossed over the bridge on stage as well as figuratively crossing over from Cub Scout to Boy Scout.  They had a Troop 6 patch for his shirt and new neckerchief in hand as they met him on the other side of the bridge.

It helped to amp up what was fast becoming an emotional scene. Of course add to that the beaming look on Frank’s face when the two older boys shook his hand and very professionally welcomed him to the Boy Scouts and the eyes got misty. Mine not his.

Afterwards it was dinner time. That’s when I got the sales pitch. I was prepared with a few diatribes, rants, and all around general musings of Scouting in America. But I laid all that down.  I had to. The kid was in. But the dude still pitched me anyway. It didn’t help. He gushed about the hiking and the camping and the hiking and the camping again, and more camping with some hiking. It was like he was daring me to go on a rant. And I don’t need much encouragement. 

In a word – I don’t camp.  The operative word there being don’t in case you’re not keeping up. And for those of you who know me, we didn’t camp in the Air Force either. I had turn down and pillow mints when I spent time in Central America. Air Force ain’t got no time for no camping. 

Of course I just lied to you. Because on the first camping trip Frank’s new Troop had, I went. So apparently I do camp, or did camp, and might possibly be camping again. Mr. Levy, my freshman year English teacher from high school, would be proud of my conjugation efforts there I think. Maybe not.

Anyway so yeah, I hiked and camped all in one trip. I got nature on me. Had to. I made a decision right there on that stage when my son came directly over to me after getting his new patch and neckerchief with a huge smile and look of pride, that I would support his scouting for as long as he wanted me to.  No matter how much I disliked it.

I folded, caved, gave in. I’m soft, I know it. And that was a problem for various reasons.

First of all, the Saturday morning of the hike to the camp site it was 30 warm hugging degrees when we gathered in the church parking lot to depart as a group. What was billed as one of the most active Troops in Tennessee was a little light on adult attendance I noticed. Below freezing temps will do that to a person. As will the knowledge that 30 degrees was the warmest it was going to get that day.

No matter, Frank was in so that meant I was too. And off we went. The drive to the Ranger Station and trail head was twice as long as the hike would take.  The drive took us through Dayton Tennessee and the hiking/camping area was not far from Dayton. Any of you history nerds care to hazard a guess as to the significance of that? Google the Scopes Monkey Trial and get back to me.

We had already checked all our gear, but we did another quick inventory when we yanked the packs from the trunk and we were good. I have to admit we got some cool stuff. Frank got his first real knife to call his own. I busted out some of the stuff that somehow never got turned in when I retired 11 years ago, carried my father’s small ditty bag from his days as an Army draftee in 1950, and a  zip lock bag loaded with chik-fil-a. Man we were set. I was actually feeling good about it. Temp still had not breeched 30 degrees.

The hike it self was uneventful. About a mile and half, maybe a tad longer, barely uphill until the final 200 or so yards to the camp site. We were warm from the hike though.  My pack weighed in at 47lbs, Frank’s at 22lbs. I was told by the scout leader 45 to 50lbs was about normal. That sounded heavy to me but what do I know.

Guess what, it was heavy. Frank’s was too but that kid could have carried mine he was so damn happy. He had his own tent because he wanted to be on his own like the high school kids in the troop. I get it, no problem. And because we practiced setting the up the night before we left, we had them up in short order.

Frank was a part of six new boy scouts to the troop, so while the older kids went on a five mile hike, Frank and the other newbies stayed in camp. That time was filled with lessons on the basics of camping, caring for the environment, scouting history, knife and fire safety and so forth. The guy did a great job and most of the six participated and did well. Of course Frank didn’t speak up until the history of the Scouts came up. Then he plowed through the questions. Another proud moment.

Then it started getting colder. Looked at my weather app and it said 26 degrees. I decided not to look at my weather app anymore. My mind was calculating how cold it could get when the sun actually goes down and what effect that may have on the sleeping part of the entertainment.

On the ground if you aren’t following, we were essentially sleeping on the ground. Yeah I had a sleeping bag rated to below zero, and by the way that became an issue. And yeah I had a “mat” under the bag, but lets not be aristocrats here. That mat was not making the frozen ground one wit more comfortable for a 225lb full grown man. But really the ground was not the issue.

It was the freaking cold! That was the issue. I was tucked in my bag fully dressed save my boots. I had a hat and gloves on and a face mask. A very cool looking face mask I might add. And since I have been trained by your tax dollars, I had the next days clothes I was gonna wear packed in the sleeping bag with me. I did put on clean clothes to sleep in. I had gone through various stages of sweating and not sweating in the clothes I wore all day. Figured it would feel better with clean clothes on and it did. Plus I hung them over the fire right before I changed into them.

A father actually asked me “Won’t they reek of smoke?” Yeah man they will, but I’m good with that. What I wanted to say was Bro, its south of 25 degrees and we ain’t done. There is not a cloud in the night sky which means any heat left in the sub atmosphere is rapidly escaping the earth. Meaning whatever real temp it gets down to, it will feel colder than that. Smoke filled clothes is the very least of our worries right now.

But he was a really nice guy and was probably worried more about his kid than anything and I was likely overreacting to the impending ice age, so I bit my lip. Frank seemed unaffected. I felt like I should worry more about him but he was so damn happy. He changed, bundled himself in his bag, and was out. Kids.

It was cold man. Laying on the ground letting the cold drain your life away is not a lot of fun. The area around my eyes was the only exposed part. Opening my eyes was not good either as I could feel my eyeballs immediately  get cold. Such a weird sensation. In the morning I had another issue. I had basically stood up all day. Even by the fire and during the big dinner and camp skits the boys put on, I was standing up.

That became a problem when I tried to get up and get out of the tent the next morning. My calves and thighs literally gave up.

Yeah screw you man, we have gone as far as we can carry you my friend. You got your last click out of us.

And down I went, into the leaves. On my face. Like a struggling turtle in the heat of the sun, except in the freezing damn cold and in reverse. I flipped over from my face onto my back. That’s when I saw it.

Why the hell is the top of my tent all white? And why does my face feel frozen but burning?  Well the tent, which I thought would be useless, acted as a barrier to the decent layer of frost that settled on the area. That frost would have been on me without the tent. So the tent did it’s job. Lesson learned.

My face burned because the small area under my eyes left uncovered, my cheek bones I guess, was also frosted over. These revelations aside, I still needed to pee. I was still on my back in the leaves. I needed my legs. It was gonna be a tough morning.

Finally got my legs under me, took care of all morning ablutions and got the fire going. I received a few kudos from the veteran parents who were there. I had the fire rolling by the time they all got up. They made breakfast for everyone and we broke camp. By the time we policed up the grounds and doused the remains of the fire it was 60 degrees.

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Proof of life shot. Alive and much warmer.

We were sweating like pigs when we made it to the car. For some reason we both laughed as we loaded everything in the trunk. Not sure why.

Also important to note, I may be soft but I’m not dumb. I left shorts and t-shirts in the car for us to drive home in. Man that felt so good. Like taking off your boots after skiing all day.

We talked about Dayton as we drove through town, knocking down fries and shakes from the local establishment. He was riveted about the history of Dayton, astonished it was only an hour from our house.  We talked about the events of what we just went through together, laughed hard about me laying in the leaves and a lot of other stuff. Even cussed a little.

Anyway then we had to call Mrs Frank’s Place to tell her we survived and that we had slept in 16 degree weather, the lowest temperature point during the night. I let a few four letter words slip, as is my Modis Operandi, and was scolded immediately.

Frank blurted out, We’re mountain men now mommy this is how we talk! I supported with an Amen Brother! Then hung up the phone. We went back to our fries and our walk through history.

We’re mountain men now, that’s what we do.

 

 

Corona Hair and Cooking Class: Living Through History

For all you old faithful followers, you know who you are, I’m not back to writing again… I don’t think.  A thought occurred to me and has not left my head so I’m banging away on the keyboard in hopes of excising it; a bit like a sore tooth.

It’s not even a very profound thought. Frankly it has no profundity at all. When you read this whole thing you’ll be sadly disappointed, I promise.  You will most likely wonder why I even bothered. And why is it so damned long? Trust me I’m wondering that too as I fix error after error, typo after typo, clearly rusty and lacking any type of flow on my keyboard. But as a good friend once said, Hey man find your battel rhythm and get on with it. So I’m getting on with it.

It was really just a  comment I heard from someone else’s conversation that sparked the thought in the first place and now I can’t rid myself of it. The comment, unlike this post, was actually very profound. Since I’m devoid of deep thought I’m stealing it.

Nothing will be the same. Nothing we do will ever be the same. Our world and the way we do things has changed forever. 

This was a co-worker and he was obviously driving home a very serious thought in a very serious time. The world he was referring to was our workplace and our mission and how we do business in the age of Corona. The moment itself wasn’t serious really; just another meeting in a sea of meetings. But it was said with such matter of fact-ness and passion, if I can use that word, that it stuck with me the rest of the day, the ride home and every day since then.

And yeah man it is serious stuff and should be taken as such. But one thought kept dove tailing from my mind onto his eloquent but short declaration. Something has changed, and it will forever change the way we do business where I work. And the thought kept churning and churning as I drove home from what would be my last trip from the plant for almost a month:

I can’t believe they are going to let us work from home!

The work from home revelation was so surprising I didn’t even know how to act. Should I still get dressed? Should I shave and do my rug up all nice? Then I went to the other extreme. Should I stay logged in longer than my normal 10hr day? Should I take bathroom breaks? Should I skip lunch and stay at my computer? Am I allowed to get up, walk the seven steps to the kitchen from my cozy home office and get a snack if I prefer?

Who knew, who knows?  Hard to say.  So I sat and I sat, at the ready on my home PC.

A little side note here.  They will never get the credit they deserve, but our IT department are assassins.  They ramped up a pandemic plan and got everyone who needed it, and we’re talking thousands of employees, set up at home in crazy fast fashion. Their efficiency at getting the whole network set up and handling serious traffic so quickly after the order was given, and as positive Covid cases began to mount in our area, saved lives. I have no doubt of that. Absolute steely eyed assassins.

Now back to my working from home ethical conundrum. Turns out the issue was of my own making. Someone put it simply, which is good because I’m a simpleton.

Do you take bathroom breaks at work? Yes. Well then take them at home. Do you stop for lunch at work? Yes. Well…

You see where this is going.  So easy even I could follow along. So here is the double edged sword of finally getting comfortable that you’re not screwing the company because you get up to pee in your own toilet three times in a ten hour period.

Ready?

Getting comfortable is the worst thing you could do working from home.

I mean it’s not like I was laying on or near the couch drunk as a hoot owl by noon or anything. But I got comfortable in my kitchen real fast. With the kids home and the general populace wearing masks like people who had no idea how to wear masks, I decided to do one huge shopping trip and then eat the fridge and pantry empty before venturing out again. That meant cooking.  Three meals a day. And it shows.

It has become so bad, my oldest, now 10 and a veteran of cooking classes from a joint down the street even remarked about the daily menu. Um daddy? We’re eating a lot of steak these days aren’t we? 

Yes Frank and the reason for that is daddy saw Gordon Ramsey do it over and over while binge watching all 17 seasons of Hell’s Kitchen. And I’d really appreciate you getting out of my face about it.

Unfazed, he moved on to the other thing that really showed during this work from home excursion. My hair. Daddy did you brush your hair, cause it doesn’t look like it. 

Tact is not his strong suit. No clue where that trait, or lack there of comes from.

But tact or no, he was right on both fronts. Actually I am a little disappointed in him.  He failed to noticed another issue. It’s one he gleefully points out most times. I guess he figures it was so obvious he needed not highlight it.

I’ve gained 11 pounds in a little over three weeks. And it’s all Gordon Ramsey’s fault.

Back in December Frank and I were both sick for long periods of time with flu like symptoms. Frank was actually diagnosed with Flu B. I had the same symptoms; except for one.  I lost my appetite. I wasn’t nauseated. I just didn’t want to eat. A very rare thing for me. Nothing tasted good to me. Even my beloved Diet Canada Dry was not hitting the mark.

So while I wallowed on the couch, not eating, coughing my head off and feverish, a condition that went on for almost three weeks, I binged watched all 17 seasons of Hell’s Kitchen at a sharp 18 to 20 episodes a season. Watching Ramsey teach those chefs how to properly cook a ribeye steak in a frying pan while calling them all donkeys was a revelation.

Hence all the steak now. Application comes after comprehension. And I felt like I finally understood how not to turn a steak into a burned shoe.  It was a glorious lesson. So I am practicing.  A lot.

All the while my gut was getting bigger and my hair… well my hair was and still is out of control. I’m using product for the first time in my life if that means anything to you.

Here is a pic right before corona and from right now

Viola

 

 

 

Yeah man.  It’s real and it’s spectacular.

That’s about it.  That’s what’s been churning in my brain pan. See, nothing earth shattering. Just a realization that my work world has changed and for the better in some instances, my hair is longer than before I had it shaved off in basic training some 32 years ago, and it is possible to cook a perfect ribeye in a frying pan.

As for the Corona, it’s likely Frank and I both had it Christmas through New Year.  The anti-body tests might confirm that. Maybe not.

I was promised the doorway to hair long enough to go with a pony tail is just 3 or 4 bad weeks and then it would be fine. May have to test that theory but it ain’t lookin good. 

Work from home is tapering off for now. It may stick as a good idea going forward. No clue really. Hope so. I’ll definitely need to mix in a home office exercise program.

Hope there’s a Netflix series for that.

 

 

 

 

Francis, Frederico eh what’s in name?

I believe it was Juliet, that girl in that yonder window with all the light breaking that uttered the now immortal Shakespeare line, What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.

Well if that rose was being called Frederico and the sweet smell was Barbisol from the local hair shop, then Jules would be on to something. As it turns out the good people of Great Clips, the place where I’ve been getting my hair cut since I retired from the military in September of 2009, thought my name was Frederico.

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Just me and my dad. Francis and Frank. No Frederico’s present.

They have me in their data base as Frederico M. Linardo. Look, even in Italian my name, Francis, does not translate to Frederico. It would be Francesco. Phonetically: Fran-ches-co. As it turns out Frederico is Portuguese for Fredrick.

So universal a name is Francis, even in other languages it translates to… well Francis. Maori, Icelandic, Catalan, German, Latvian, you name it. Only in Latin, where it translates to Titus, does it really take a different form. Of course I’m ruling out the other languages that use symbols non-similar to ours. And by ours I mean the 26 letter alphabet.

Gotta be honest, I was less than amused.  I won’t go so far as to say I was hurt, but it was disconcerting to say the least. And the topper, she wouldn’t change it. That’s how it’s in the system, she says. And guess what, that’s how she put it up on the monitor that showed who was next in line for a great clip. Great Clip, see what I did there. Jokes are free at this level folks.

So there I was, getting my hair cut under a false name like a criminal on the lamb, praying the real Frederico did not decide to get his hair cut today. In defense of Great Clips, this was not my normal stomp. The monitor at the Great Clips I usually go to had seven names on it. No Frederico’s if you were wondering. So I went a block and a half east to this one. Only one Frederico there, me. But I went from being 8th in line to being 2nd. Fair trade I guess.

Sadly this is not the first time the locals have had issue with my name.

When I moved to Tennessee in 2000 I sought to change my home of record to Maryville so I could escape the “gubment” oppression of New Jersey. They don’t really have “The Man” in Tennessee. No more car inspections, no more state taxes, 1/3 the real estate taxes, a veritable financial heaven on earth. One step was changing my driver’s license over from the Garden State to the Volunteer State. That meant the a trip to the DMV.

Well let me tell ya. If Tennessee is heaven, the DMV is the waiting room.  Not a soul in the joint. I could not believe it. While I was filling out the forms a lady walked in with her daughter, grabbed their forms and sat down. That was it, me and this lady and her kid. I handed up my forms to the DMV lady and took a seat for what I thought could only be a few minutes.

Five minutes later I hear the DMV lady yell out for Michael. I don’t look up from the Home and Garden June issue I’m reading. A riveting debate on men who were opting to stay at home instead of work was holding my attention. Damn dead beats.  Anyway a few seconds more and a few more yells for Michael. My first thought was what a strange name for a girl, until I realized my name was Francis. The wheel of judgement comes round quickly in God’s country.

A few minutes after that the DMV lady was screeching the name Michael.  From the smell of Pall Malls, Jean Nate’ and Listerine filling the air space around me I knew she was close. I risked a glance up and she was looking and yelling at me.

Sir! Do you want your DL or not!?!!

I sheepishly responded. You… you didn’t call my name yet.

I was quickly ashamed of my blatant display of weakness. If the DMV lady was a dog she would have immediately peed on me to display her dominance as the alpha dog in the pack. I wreaked of yellow freakin fear.

Instead she yelled back.

I’VE BEEN CALLING YOU FOR THE LAST TEN MINUTES!!!!!!

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Francis? Bet your ass lady. She’s lucky I wasn’t packin that day I’ll tell ya.

I regained my footing. I’m from Jersey, South Jersey. We come from the blood line of Rocky Balboa. We don’t stay down even though we should.

Ah hun, you’ve been calling Michael for the last ten minutes.

Well isn’t that your name?

The condescension was dripping from her mouth like so much drool. But I realized her confusion, until I perceived it was not confusion, but a jab at my lineage.

No ma’am. My name is Francis.

You mean you actually go by that name.

In the North we go by first names. It’s why we won the war you know.

To say that little phraseology went over like a fart in church would be a gross understatement. But her bark was apparently worse than her bite and she backed down, handed me my stuff and, as they say down here, I got my picture made.

She got in a parting shot.

I never met no boy named Francis before.

Cross it off your list DMV lady cause you just did.

 

 

Family: Just a dinner table away.

A rare respite on a warm Saturday night. Seems so easy right now but I can’t for the life of me figure out why I don’t sit in the cul-de-sac and write more often. Girl is riding her scooter, Milo T Dog is at my feet, my long lost friend Diet Coke is losing it’s battle with the melting ice. We’re approaching some sort of Norman Rockwell worm hole.

Of course it’s not like the heyday of the Sac. Those were the lazy hazy nights, and some mornings, as we sat out in the darkness night-drinking, fixing American politics and Tennessee Football. That gang is gone now but we have to start anew at some point.

Americana in the South.

So today, at the precipice of the dog days of August, I decided was the day to take a seat and fire off something that’s been buzzing in my head since an old friend passed through town not too long ago.

I’m gonna ask your forgiveness for this obvious point, family is a great thing. A lot of you are aware I had a huge family growing up. And still do. Holidays were great. They still would be if not for the almost 700 miles separation between me and my family in Jersey. I love living in Knoxville but there are time’s I’d rather be in South Jersey. But it’s tough to complain. I’ve been spoiled my whole life. I grew up with seven brothers and sisters. My mom hasn’t skipped a beat and my father lived into his late 80s, sharp as a tack until the moment of truth.

I was born into another big family when we decided to settle in Knoxville and raise our kids there. Staying in the Sac has been one of the better decisions I’ve made. Lifelong friendships have been forged on those weekend nights in the street. But like all things, change is inevitable. Several Sac-ites have moved off, and now my forever Friday golf partner is moving to Arizona to run a church.

Honestly my first thought was how much I’d miss him. A millisecond later my next thought was how great the golfing in Arizona is and when am I slated to visit Amarillo for work again. Arizona is just a quick plane ride from the Panhandle. And I know John would be disappointed in me if I thought otherwise. And a big thanks to those of you who have reached out to check on me. I’m fine. And as John and I both agreed a long time ago, if one of us died on a Monday the other would still tee it up that Friday. And while I’m aware people will not believe this, it’s not the golf. The lunch at Soccer Taco after or the breakfast at Waffle House when we get rained out that makes the Friday meet up so enjoyable. Tough to quantify the last nine or so years breaking bread with the same dude every Friday.

And of course I lucked out again with my work family. New members are added almost daily it seems these days. And as the family “down the plant” gets bigger, and the lunch table more crowded, it keeps getting better. Like I said, spoiled rotten for as long as I can remember.

But the family roaming around my thoughts right now is my military family. Normally I’d say Air Force but now after 22 years in and almost nine retired, it occurred to me my military family not only spans different branches, it spans different countries. Hey Bernie, Go Les Habitants! I’ve been spoiled there too. Not just with great lifelong friendships but with great mentors.

I named four friends/mentors in the bio of this blog. Click on my name next to the link that says Home and you can read about them. A person could not dream up a better start to their military career than I had. That continued on during my time at the NCO Academy. I have no idea why I was granted such advantages, but I was and I’m a better person for it. I can’t imagine the giant ass I would have become without those family members in my life.

Well, yes I can.

Part of that family rolled through Knoxville a week or so ago and immediately extended an invite to dinner to catch up. I had not seen Chief Joseph E Thornell, or JET and his wife Kerry, in a long while. He was the commandant I served under the longest when I was an instructor at the NCO Academy. To this day I cannot call him Joe. Regardless of differences in opinion he will always be my commandant and will always be Chief to me. But more importantly he and Kerry will always be family.

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Birthday time for the then unknown Warden.

In Jersey my whole family spent hours around the dinning room table. That’s where life happened. Witness the birthday of my youngest sister. You may know her by her given name Kathleen. But those special few know her by her real name, The Warden.

That’s me wearing a white belt on November 30th. I was a fashion risk taker even back then. I’m also sub-consciously flipping the bird. The verbalization of that gesture has become the foundation of my vocabulary.

Anyway the point is family’s just don’t eat. They break bread. They commune. The commiserate. The food is so secondary. What’s special about that space in the picture is no matter how old we got, no matter how far we moved away,  when we came to visit we gathered there.

Last Friday I met Chief Thornell and Kerry and some other old friends from my Academy days and we sat ourselves down at the dinner table. Now that table was in Calhoun’s, a restaurant in Maryville TN, but dinner is where the food is.  And family is where the dinner is.

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Sorry Chief, still can’t call you Joe.

It was like the years since we’d seen each other never happened. We told old war stories to be sure, but the bonds between all of us showed no signs of time or distance. It seemed to me as I drove home thinking about all of that and paying zero attention to the road, sorry lady at the Kroger intersection, real family is like that.

Time is different for family. Time doesn’t have the same impact, it doesn’t move in the same way. It’s not linear. Time in familial bonds happens all at the same time regardless of distance and frequency. And then time restarts when that family sits down to eat. In fact if it wasn’t for the gray, and or lack of, hair there would be no sign that time had passed between any of us.

The restaurant itself had changed over time. Chief was quick to point out we had all gone to a lunch in this joint way back when it was a Ruby Tuesdays. I remember it as the site where part of my family, who will remain anonymous, Hupp, Stoudt, and Kumes, bet I could not take down the deluxe ice cream cake sundae on the menu. It was the kind that came with four spoons. I said, “Remove the other three my good man as I will be doing desert alone this afternoon.” That was a situation where winning quickly became losing.

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Chief Davidson on my right. Ramey on my left. Family.

It must be the dinner table. Maybe it’s a time machine that turns back the clock when family members gather round. Honestly the conversation wasn’t even that profound. But the visit with Chief JET and Chief Davidson, my last commandant, and some of the gang from the academy, left me with a feeling of wonder on the ride home. I have been spoiled with some great families in my life time.

Ironically this little weepy screed is the product of time. Surely my age has left me to take stock of my life lived so far. I’m only 50 so I have no designs on the big dirt nap yet. But enough time has passed to take stock of what life has been so far. And so far, no matter where I’ve lived or served, it’s been dinner tables and family.

As far as life goes, that’s not too shabby.

 

 

You’re throwing out my best work!

I knew it would catch up to me sometime. Honestly I thought it would be him to catch me and not her. She just seemed so indifferent about it all anyway. I really didn’t think she’d care. She never showed much interest at all as far as I could tell. So her reaction was a little surprising.

No matter. The deed was done and I was caught red handed. Not much to say at this point. Her reaction is really the least of the concerns. It’s a trust issue now. The sideways glances and the constant wondering will be my punishment.

Funny really, it’s been going on for some time, a few years at least. But it’s the same old story. I got complacent, got lazy, too comfortable. Let my guard down and I got busted plain and simple. Obviously the relationship will never be the same. My only hope is she’s not damaged from this.

I can tell you it will be a moment I will never forget. The sadness on her face, the slumped shoulders and that phrase that keeps replaying in my mind over and over and over again. “Daddy! You’re throwing out my best work!”

I’m not sure what was worse, the tears welling up in her eyes as if to say How could you do that? Or her feeble attempt to rescue some of her work from the trash, clutching it like a strung out former Disney artist trying to get past the gate guard with some sketches she did on a cocktail napkin, hoping for one last shot.

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This one is safe!

Yeah I’m not proud of throwing out her completed school work. And I owe an apology to her teacher Mrs Givens and her pre-school teachers. They put in the work to get AM to this point. But really, if I’m being honest, I’m more disappointed I got caught.

You know it’s really just a pragmatic thing. Where the hell are we supposed to store every macaroni art or penmanship paper with upper and lower case Ks written on them? Well? Where do you keep it all? You know you’re glad it was me and not you. You all are secretly agreeing with me as you publicly judge.

Look it’s not like she’s dropping the first act of Othello or something. She had to pick four words that started with the letter K and then draw each word. One of the words she picked was Kind. Kind! I asked her how in the world was she was going to draw Kind. Well, screw me cause she did it. And it was good. So yeah it was a great effort, and vitally important to her development. But lets not get crazy, they aren’t clearing room on the roof of the Sistine Chapel for it.

But for the next few days, after she came home from school, she glanced in the kitchen trash can before putting up her backpack. I know it’s not funny but it made me laugh for some reason. Yeah, I’m a chooch. That ain’t exactly breaking news.

So now I burn them in the fire pit.

Haha just kidding. No really, now we have storage boxes, unused, pure as the driven snow, kept as secure as any repository could be, to preserve her works of art and penmanship. I’m now reformed and a new mission has risen from the trash heap as it were.

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Treasures

When we move from this house or I go to the eternal dirt nap that comes for us all, very large trucks will deliver all the boxes that will have kept me from having my own man cave. In my dream, the trucks drive in formation while some weird old time show tune plays in the background.

They pull up to wherever Anne Marie is living, preferably a 3rd floor walk up in Manhattan. The drivers, festooned in the garb of their profession, will move quickly and quietly in perfect unison, much like the Marine Corp Silent Drill Team.

And if there is a God in heaven, the first boxes will break the plane of Anne Marie’s apartment threshold just as her five year old is blasting her for 86ing that newly created Rembrandt, crafted on finger paint day.

The first box will have a note on top that will simply read, “AM: This is why.” And in that moment, as box after box parades into her living space to the back hallway between the kitchen and the guest can, a revelation. A true moment of self reflection in which my little Anne Marie, all grown up with Anne Marie’s of her own, will say the same thing I say now about my old man: The older I get the smarter he gets.

Twas ever thus.