Monday, March 30, 2009

Spring Snow

It confounds me every time. This year, just like every year in Colorado, we had a couple of weeks of mild, 70 degree weather. Then--wham! Winter came back with a vengeance. So what if it's still March? Couldn't the groundhog have been blinded on February 2?

The groundhog rule never applies in Colorado. That's what I have learned after living here for 17 years. Never, ever does Spring start winging its way in February. We get glimmers and tastes of it, then we get jerked back to reality with a foot or more of snow on the ground.

This year was no different. I kept busy watering our trees, and was preparing to plant some seeds for peas and radishes. People were wearing shorts in the grocery store and at the post office. The, lo and behold, here was winter back again. Last Thursday we had a foot of snow. Now the temperatures are once again below freezing--just as my trees were starting to leaf out. I hope they'll be okay. And really, this is the routine. I have found that it is always like this here.

Colorado doesn't boast much of a Spring. It goes from Winter to Summer. Period. That's something I miss from Kentucky. Kentucky has a lovely, long springtime. There's no snow on the tulips and apple blossoms, like here. I miss that Springtime.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

I watched the movie, "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" last night. My sister had warned me about it--how sad the ending was. I told her that the ending was pretty much predictable--I meant that that's how it is with the Holocaust. She got quiet and I knew that there was something she wasn't telling me.

The movie was nice and very well made. It captured my attention very well--the story of a boy who was the son of a concentration camp commander. The child was 8 and he crept off regularly and sat outside the fence of the camp and talked with another boy his own age. I had assumed before I saw the movie that at the end he would see his friend go off to die, in one way or the other.

As I got to the last ten minutes of the movie, the main character crawled under the camp fence and put on a set of striped clothing that the other child gave him and then the two of them went in search of the Jewish boy's father. As I watched the guards round up the Jews and herd them, the boys included, into the gas chamber, I realized that the gentile boy, the son of the commander, was going to die with his friend and the other camp inhabitants.

After my jaw first dropped, I had a really odd reaction to this. Rather than weeping as the story progressed to the end, I was delighted that the writer of the story had devised such a clever twist. I shook my head incredulously and said to myself, "I can't believe he has done this!" The pure irony of the story amused me to no end, especially since the boy's father was an extremely cruel man.

As a writer, I admired that twist so much, that it completely pulled me out of the movie. Rather than feeling overwhelmed with sympathy for the characters, I was instead filled with admiration for the writer. I woke up this morning still marveling over the story.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Opelika, Alabama

I was reading my fourth "Dave Robicheaux" novel in a row when I came upon the city name. Dave is the police officer character that James Lee Burke writes about in all of his novels. One of the things I really enjoy about these books is the way Burke describes the settings in Louisiana--the smells, the sound, the water. This book had my hero, Dave, discussing an earlier time in his life when he was in Opa-Locka, Florida. I studied the name and let it transport me to a place with a similar name--Opelika, Alabama.

When I was a child, about ten I guess, my father went down to Opelika to do some work. I asked him about the circumstances around that after I read about Dave going to Opa-Locka, the words having triggered my memories. My Dad explained that the company he was working for at the time, May Electric, had a job doing electrical wiring for some rock quarries in Opelika. So he went on down there. It was over a seven hour drive--nearly 450 miles from our home. The electricians stayed in a motel--quite a big deal for them. The thought of it now sounds novel. Why in the world would the place hire an electric company that was that far away? Were there really none closer or was Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia in the 60's bereft of electricians?

The work went on for months during the summer and since we were out of school my family planned a trip down for a visit. My sister and I told our friends that we were going to Alabama. "Oh, where at in Alabama?" they asked--"Birmingham? Huntsville?" "No, Opelika," we proudly answered as if it was just as well known as those other places. As we rarely traveled anywhere, this was a big deal for us.

I have only very spotty memory of this trip. I vaguely remember the long car ride and the heat. I vaguely remember the motel. It had an elevator and a black doorman ran the elevator up and down all day--there were only three floors. We would ring the elevator bell and then get tired of waiting on him and go down the stairs. Sometimes we would ring the elevator bell just for the heck of it and go back to our room. My mom had five of us to keep track of and so she didn't know we were doing this. I think the doorman was glad when we were gone.

At the end of our time, we headed back to Owensboro, Kentucky and filed away the city of Opelika in our memory banks.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Picking a Book

I have this kind of weird thing going on in terms of deciding what to read. I have a huge stack of books that I have accumulated over years (bought--otherwise the library fines would wipe me out). There are probably at least 100. So when I need a book to read, I go through the stack. Some books have been in the stack since it was made up of three books. Some only sit in the stack for a few days, calling my name until I HAVE to read them.

Sometimes I will wake up in the morning and know that it is time for me to read a book that has been hanging around for five years or so. There is nothing else to it--I have to read that particular book right away. I recently picked up "The Green Mile" by Stephen King. It had been on the shelf for at least five years. Heck--maybe ten--I probably bought it when the movie came out in 1999. What a treat; it was one of the best books I ever read. But I couldn't read it until the time was right.

Right now I am reading James Lee Burke--some books in the Dave Robicheaux series. I used to read those books and suddenly stopped. I even know when, I can tell by the books that are on the unread shelf: 2002. For some reason I lost interest in Dave's adventures at that time. But not forever, as I am working to catch up now and reading my third Dave Robicheaux novel in a row. I am up to his exploits in 2005.

There is no rhyme or reason in my reading choice that I can think of. It's an interesting phenomenon--always an adventure deciding what to read next.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Farewell to the Dear Departed Olsmobile '98

So we were driving the "boat" (i.e. 1967 Oldsmobile 98--David's pride and joy) home from a show in Broomfield a couple of weeks ago, and it caught on fire. Then it burned up. Now it is gone forever.

Our friends were following us that night; they were going to stay at our house. At first they thought it was a trick when they saw the flames. Ron said later that he remarked, "Boy, Dave really has that car tricked out like the batmobile." Then they started to become concerned.

We, on the other hand were sailing along, unaware that flames were blazing underneath the car. As we headed for a downhill stretch, there was a popping sound and the car lost power. Dave said, "Uh oh" and started wrestling with it to get it into a grocery store parking lot. He rolled it up to a parking curb away from the other vehicles in the lot and only then could I see the flames. We jumped out and Dave pulled out his banjo from the back seat and then we stepped away from the car, but stopped to look at it. A young guy ran by saying he was going to try to find a fire extinguisher.

Our friends pulled in and parked a little ways away and yelled at us to get away from the car. So I picked up the banjo and trudged over to them. The car continued to blaze. Dave stood a little ways away and watched his baby go up in flames. I kept waiting for the car to explode but it never did. I never saw a car on fire before--it's a scary thing with the potential for explosion.

The police roared in and a couple of minutes later, the fire department followed and started hosing the hell out of the car. I knew that was pretty much the end of that car.

I have thought a few times about how we drove to the show that night and there was just nothing like the way the car smelled. It was just so awesome.

We don't know why the car caught on fire. It had been driven recently. It had been serviced in the last couple of months. I guess it was just one of those fluke things. The garage sure seems huge without it in there.

The only time I ever drove it was when I first got my bass and that was the only vehicle we had at the time that the bass would fit into. I drove that car out to Niwot to Dan and Gail's house for a jam. The other cars coming toward me on the road swerved when they saw me coming. It was a monster.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lucille is Deaf

My little kitty has lost her hearing and I am sad for her. She is only 9 years old; the vet was quite startled and said it could only be age related. They checked her for mites--I was so hoping that was the problem, because getting rid of the mites restores the hearing. But no joy. Lucille does not have mites.

I think this hearing loss only took place over the last two months. I had noticed six or eight weeks ago that she slept really deeply and started when I tried to wake her up--I remarked to my girlfriend about it. Only after Lucille pulled a couple of chunks of hair out on her paws and I started really watching her behavior to ascertain if something was wrong--only then did I realize that she can't hear.

I stood over her and called her name as she slept--nothing. Then I put my hands down on her and she about jumped out of her skin. Then, I knew. She is living in a silent world now.

Lucille was a stray cat at Jim Bertolin's house; she came to live with us after she had been living on her own for a while. She had a ragged ear and mites and ringworm and all kinds of things wrong with her--the result of living outside and fending for herself. We cleaned her up and I had made arrangements for her to be spayed--when the vet cut her open, it was apparent that had already happened. Lucille is very social-- and had been since we got her. She obviously belonged to someone once. Who knows what happened and how she ended up out in the country at Jim's house, in the cold.

Of course, we never knew exactly how old she was. We had to guess and the vet and I talked about this the other day when I had her in for her hearing loss. The vet said she could be a little older than we thought--but not much. She's still really young to be deaf.

So I am trying to be aware that she can't hear. I go out of my way not to startle her--she does notice vibrations from the floor. I stomp up to her and she can hear me coming. That way she doesn't jump. Poor girl. I wish she could hear. I told my dear father that Lucille can't hear. He has been dealing with deafness for years--and said, "Welcome her to the club!"

Sunday, March 8, 2009

My Berlin Marathon Medal

A houseguest asked last week about the medal that is framed and sits on a stand on our mantel. I explained that it is the participation medal that I received when I ran in my first and only marathon in Berlin. That was quite the day in 1990; it was the first marathon after the wall came down and the first time that the route wound through both east and west Berlin. My girlfriend, Tammy, and I ran together the entire race. David was all over the route; he rode the subway around town with a map so that he could cheer us on from strategic places. It was quite an experience and of course I am proud that I finished the race.

The medal languished around our house for years, stuffed into a box, tumbling out when one of us dug through that box looking for something. David fished it out one day and squirreled it away for a while, feeling that it deserved a more honorable storage place. Finally he reached a decision point; he decided to have the medal framed to place in a visible spot to remind me that I can do whatever I put my mind to. He took it to my buddy Janet's frame shop and she fixed it up beautifully.

The mantel is a perfect spot for it. Sometimes when I walk through the room I glance at it and it reminds me that anything is possible.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

R.I.P. Paul Harvey

I heard on the radio today that Paul Harvey died at age 90. Wow--I grew up with his voice. When I was a child, we listened to him on the radio every day at noon, regular as clockwork. I can clearly hear his voice in my head--even though it has been many years since I heard his show. I mentioned his death to David; he also was raised on Paul Harvey. It is a little startling when such a stalwart of your life departs--even though you never really knew them.

I spoke with my friend Catherine this morning and we discussed Paul Harvey. She mentioned that it is hard to lose people like Paul Harvey and Paul Newman because she feels as though her era is slipping away. That clicked for me, too. Pretty soon others will be gone--like Andy Griffith and Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Redford. These are the famous people we have known all of our lives. Instead we will be left with P. Diddy and Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. Yuk. They lack the class of those who came before them.

The only other radio voice that I can recall that was so memorable for me on an everyday basis was the announcer on the Armed Forces Network radio station when I lived in Europe and worked for the Department of Defense. On the hour and even half hour the station announced the news and finished with "This is AFN and you are up to date"--as familiar as Paul Harvey.

I enjoy the nostalgia of thinking about these voices and people. I miss them.