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.

house1

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.

Chief JET

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.

Chief Davidson

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.

 

 

Tales from the Tall Grass: Short Run on a Long Walk or Gooses Deuces

In honor of Championship Sunday at the Women’s US Open and on the eve of The Open Championship at Royal Troon in Scotland, I offer a short tale from some long grass for your reading pleasure. I’m conflicted, as the title might suggest, as to what I should call this one. Both me running on a golf course and goose poop on said same course, figure so prominently in this story I could not decide. So I went with both. Enjoy Short Run on a Long Walk or Gooses Deuces.

In case it’s not clear from a few of the pictures on this blog or my Facebook and Instagram accounts that I actually appear in, I’m not at what you would call fightin weight. I am working on it, at least on a part time basis. Well, seasonally might be a better word there. Yes I’m working on my physical health and fitness on a seasonal basis, much like a college kid in a department store at Christmas. Anyway, after twice being called out by, and ignoring, my 7yr old son that I need to exercise, I inadvertently got a real life lesson in my fitness, or lack there of.

Now it may seem like I’m projecting or flat out blaming others for what happened that one terrible day on the golf course, and that’s because I am. Months ago I downloaded the Amazon app to my phone. That app is the absolute devil in disguise, but that’s another story. The real story is while at lunch with John, my friend, counselor, Friday golf partner, you name it, I noticed he had all his wallet stuff attached to the back of his phone and no wallet in sight. He was too happy to tell me how this little stick on pocket on the back of his phone would change my life.

Curse you Amazon App!

Curse you Amazon App!

Cue the Amazon app. Not 10 minutes later mine was ordered and through the beauty of Amazon Prime, already on it’s way to my house. The pouch and it’s life changing adhesive pad was 4.99 American for two pouches; one white and one black. You know, for formal occasions. Two days later it was on my phone. The irony here is I had to use my web cam to take a picture of my camera phone. Yes I need to upgrade my web cam.

But still, you can see the glorious-ness that is the credit card pouch. I have abandoned my Castanza Wallet (see below) for good. It all comes in one convenient easy to carry thing-a-ma-bob. And that’s where the problem began on a fateful day at Deadhorse Lake Golf Club in Knoxville.

In case you missed it or was not following Frank’s Place back then, (for shame!!) I wrote a little expose about how in love I am with my phone. Read it here if you dare: Naked and Afraid: Two Hours at the Mall without my Phone.  It does everything. For the importance of this story, my phone serves as my scorecard and range finder when I play golf. So I have it in my hands almost as much as a golf club when I’m playing.

Castanza Wallet No More!

Castanza Wallet No More!

When I tried to put in our scores on the 9th hole the phone was not where it was supposed to be. Then in panic mode I could not find it anywhere in my bag. Crap! Damn you easy convenient Amazon sticky phone pouch! Now not only is my phone gone, but all the things are gone too. Military Retired ID, drivers license, Kroger discount card, not to mention my bank card, all gone. Egads! I have to find this freaking thing. So I start walking, then a quicker paced hurry. By the time I got back to the 8th green and didn’t see it I was in a full on sprint, you know as much as a 48 year old fat man can sprint. But it was continuous so I was getting cardio benefit.

At the 7th tee box I was still running and sweating. Mostly sweating. But my mind was still sharp although deaf to the calls from my playing partner standing by my bag at the 9th hole. Not sure what he was thinking as he saw me disappear over hill and dale and out of sight but it had to be funny.

Still my mind was working. It brought to me images of my bag falling over at the 5th green. Right! The wind pushed it over and I just picked it up without checking to see if everything was still in it. So off I go, running on the cart path back to the 5th green. Golf courses can be dangerous enough, but when you are moving in the opposite direction of play like I was, moving from 9 all the way to the 5th green, it can be a suicidal shooting gallery. So I figured it best to stay on the path instead of trying to navigate across fairways and greens.

Along the way the kind golfers I passed tested my fitness and aerobic condition by asking me questions as I trundled by. Appreciative as I was of their concern for my well being, I had no time to talk or air to waste. Somewhere out there was my phone/wallet.

Cresting the hill on the 6th tee box, what had been a search and recover mission turned into a full on quest. I would make it to the 5th green, on the run without stopping, or the heavens will fall.

Coming over the hill on the 5th fairway, now able to peer down to the 5th green, my spirit was torn asunder. No phone/wallet, at least that I could tell from about 200 yards out. But I soldiered on. Getting to the 5th green there was no sign of my wallet. Hmmm I wonder if those other gofers were trying to get my attention to tell me they had picked it up. So much for my mind working. About face. And I’m on the quick time again back up the 5th fairway.

Funny thing about golf courses, the hills run in both directions. By the 7th tee box, still running, I was seeing scenes of the after life. I always thought I might buy the farm right after hitting my first hole in one, or breaking par. Of course that would be the case, so I’d have no time to enjoy those events. But now it seemed for all the world my ticker would blow trying to run up the cart path at the 8th green and get back to my bag.

Secretly I had hoped John, my playing partner, went to get a golf cart to come rescue me. A blasphemy I know, we always walk when we play golf, but this was as desperate a time as there was. The golf gods would just have to understand. Descending to the 9th green and into a dark, now mile long run inducing delirium at the same time, I noticed John standing by my bag. In a moment of clarity I can see something in his hand. Could it be my wallet/phone! Huzzah! All is saved! But what is his other hand doing? His other hand appears to be pointing to my bag for some rea…. Oh crap.

Yep, I just ran a little over a mile to find my wallet/phone that was apparently in my bag the whole time. I panicked so quickly after doing just a cursory search in the bag that I looked right at the phone and completely missed it. John is pretty gracious. He explained where and how he found it and how he tried to summon me back. But it appeared I was on a mission so he just waited by my bag figuring I would return some day. Not much ball busting. But he did say something that caught me completely off guard.

“I dropped it in goose poop.”

Ah wut? On purpose?

“No. I dropped it and it fell in a pile of goose poop.”

Well I guess that’s the icing on the cake for this saga, if you’ll permit my strangling of a wholesome metaphor.

As I said, we walk when we play golf. Even in the blinding heat of a day like the day I lost/didn’t lose my phone. Charity tournaments and really expensive courses that won’t let you walk are the only times we are forced to ride. So week after week we essentially walk and carry our clubs 2 to 3 miles every time we play. That walk usually precipitates a hearty nap in the afternoon. Add in a mile long run in sweltering heat and another 9 holes to play you can imagine my afternoon slumber. Safe to say I felt like goose poop by the time we finished.

Golf: the struggle is real people.

 

 

Back to Work: Don’t they know it’s Masters Week?

So as y’all may or may not know, I went back to work in October of 2015. It’s been an adjustment for sure. Aside from leaving the kids I’ve been raising for six years in the hands of Mrs Frank’s Place, I had to learn new stuff. After all, these people are paying me. With American money no less. I feel obligated to at least learn my new job. So I started adjusting.

First there was the time thing. I went from thinking about getting up around 7am to bolting upright at 4:30am so I can shower and be rolling to the J.O.B. by 5am. Then there is the whole not staying up till 1 am anymore. It’s not like I didn’t foolishly try that. But I keep passing out around 9:30 in the pm. I mean what’s next, taking my place in line at the Shoney’s early bird dinner buffet trough. As I write this at 11:30 in the pm on a Friday night, I am struggling to stay awake. And that’s as I’m actually hitting the keys!

Of course there was driving again, in traffic, in the dark. I had forgotten about the skills, or more accurately the lack there of, Knoxvillians posses behind the wheel. Gas pedal on the right, fast lane on the left, lets get it straight people.

If that wasn’t enough, I had to adjust to working and playing nice with people again. Well, if I’m being honest, I never worked and played well. So it wasn’t so much adjusting again as it was initiating adjustment. And surprisingly it turns out people are pretty cool. In fact it may be the main source of satisfaction of the job. (Yes some of them read this.)

But as it turns out the largest adjustment would involve, not surprisingly, golf. Going back to work would mean an adjustment to my golfing. Although not as much as I had anticipated. One of the things that made this particular job attractive was the 4/10 schedule. Friday’s off! Golfing would be unharmed. Golf watching on the other hand…

C'mon Frank, keep practicing. I'll make this look good.

C’mon Frank, keep practicing. I’ll make this look good.

This would be the first time in 7 years I would not be home for Masters Week. I know! The horror right!? No scheduling would save that. I could watch the Drive, Chip, and Putt competition on Sunday but then would be radio silent until Friday. That would mean missing the player interviews on Monday and Tuesday, State of the Game speech by the Pres of Augusta National on Tuesday, the Par 3 contest on Wednesday, and the ceremonial tee shot and entire first round on Thursday.

I may have to quit. I mean, do they know it’s Masters week at work? Worse even, do they care? Not sure I could work with a bunch of godless golf heathens.

Now I know what some of you are thinking. Just take the week off. Look I’m an addict, but I ain’t stupid. No way I could justify taking 4 days off to sit around and watch golf. I can justify it in my mind all day long. But I don’t live alone. Burning my vacation for golf watchin may not be good politics currently. Someday…

No an adjustment had to be made. Since there is no way to watch a millisecond at work (Don’t they know it’s Masters Week?) DVR would be my friend. Well more like a step-sister I can’t stand really. I’ve never been one to watch live events on tape after I know the results. Also the advantages of DVR, mainly buzzing through commercials, is lost on The Masters. There are only two sponsors, usually AT&T and Coke. The commercials are very limited.

In 2003 Martha Burke and the National Organization of Women (NOW), protested Augusta National’s men only policy. To do that they targeted AT& T and Coke. Augusta responded by shielding it’s main sponsors by having no sponsors for that year’s Masters. You know what that meant? Yep, a commercial free telecast. Almost 12 hours of uninterrupted golf at The Masters. I’ve been a big Martha Burke fan ever since. My e-mails to her asking for another protest go unanswered to this day.

But if that little episode doesn’t make you love The Masters then I imagine you must be a communist. Augusta National literally said, “We don’t need outside money to run the biggest tournament in the history of the sport. Watch if you want or don’t, but we still playin golf.” It’s one of the endearing aspects of The Masters. Meanwhile The Masters has expanded to Sunday to Sunday coverage and an app that shows the entire week including a live camera on the driving range. Martha Burke on the other hand… She Gone.

So no buzzing through commercials and I already know who won the Par 3 contest. Alas better than nothing. Plus I did have a floating holiday to spend, so I was home on a rare Thursday to watch the broadcast on ESPN and the 3 live streams on themasters.org. Yes 4. And yes I had a monitor going for each one. Peep a little glimpse of golfing greatness.

The struggle people, it is real.

The struggle people, it is real.

Yeah that’s my setup. I ain’t ashamed. We all need a hobby. But now I have a J.O.B. too. So I’ll have to adjust. Maybe not for too long though. Presidential candidate John Kasich, Republican Governor of Ohio, has offered that the Monday after the Super Bowl should be a national holiday. He now has my vote.

I mean how long before Master’s Week is declared a National Week of Jubilee?