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.

img_1772

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.

img_1776

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.

Image1

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!!!!!!

me-benson-street.jpg

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.