About 16 years ago, I decided to go all in with technology again and buy a digital clock radio with built in adjustment for daylight savings time.

I was getting married and my old battery-powered alarm clock, with it’s shrill alarm reminiscent of a smoke detector’s shriek, seemed outdated. This clock radio I spied at Circuit City seemed like the best thing for me as I was leaving another Ludite phase in my life.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with technology.

I was an early adapter when I was flush with money working in the oil field. One of the first things I bought with my oilfield paychecks was a digital watch, which was a new thing in 1977.

Who wouldn’t want to know the exact time, down to the second? So I went to Service Merchandise in New Orleans East and bought a fancy gold Casio watch with black liquid crystal numbers large enough for me to see without my glasses.

I could press a button and read the time in the dark. The same button could also tell me the date and work as a stopwatch, depending on how many times I pushed the button.

Life was good for a while. Then one day, we were driving somewhere and a friend’s little sister asked what time it was. “It’s about a quarter til 2,” I said glancing at my watch, which read 1:44 p.m.

“Quarter til? What is that? I asked what time it is,” she said smartly.

I got to thinking how much my old watches, with their round faces divided up into 12 equal parts helped me better visualize how I was using my time and dividing up my day. I felt sad that the generation after me wouldn’t know how to do that.

A few weeks later, I bought a new watch. It had a black face and gold dots where 12, 3, 6 and 9 should be.  It had a second hand, but no calendar function. It served me well. and I have not gone back to a digital watch since then. I use my time wisely (for the most part.)

The 1981 Thunderbird I bought had a digital dashboard. Coolest thing I ever saw. lighted bars showed me how much gas I had, the radiator temperature and the oil pressure. The speedometer had a digital display, like my Casio watch.The door locks were digital, too.

You could toggle the speedometer between miles per hour and kilometers per hour, which allowed me to freak my mom out, because 60 mph converts to 100 kph. “You slow this thing down right now,” she yelled from the back seat.

The Thunderbird had a 36,000 mile warranty. The digital dashboard went out at 37,000 miles and by that time, my oilfield earnings were cut in half by the bust in the 80s. The speed would flicker on every once in a while. I drove by instinct for the next 3 years. The power windows went out at 40,000 miles and the power antenna at 38,000.

I replaced the Tbird in 1987 with a Chevy Nova, which was really a Toyota Corolla, with a 5-speed manual transmission, hand crank windows and a conventional dashboard. I got 66,000 miles out of the Tbird. I got 150,000 from the Nova.

But technology started creeping back into my life as my newspaper career started paying better. The Corolla I replaced the Nova with had a digital radio and I started building my own computers. (My current Toyota has a powered moon roof and power windows along with a door remote, but no digital dashboard.)

A clock radio that automatically updated for daylight saving time seemed like an absolute necessity in 2000. And it worked great.

The amber digital display is big enough for me to read without glasses in the dark, but not enough light to bother me when I’m dozing off. Not having to remember which weekend was the end of daylight savings time was a bonus, too.

But Congress changed the daylight savings law five years after I bought the clock and suddenly, I had a problem.

Where before I had a clock that I had to physically change twice a year, I now have a clock I have to change four times a year. It is set up to automatically change on the second Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October. Daylight saving time changed in 2007 to the first Sunday in April and the first Sunday in November.

So why not buy a new alarm clock set to the new time changes? Because the law also gave Congress the ability to revert to the old system if it wants to without altering other provisions in the Act. Rest assured that as soon as I replace this clock with a more modern version, Congress will change the law back.

Plus, it’s the only radio in the house that can consistently pick up LSU games on WWL-AM at night.






That’s the word my credit union and two banks used to describe my request for a mortgage on my new home.

They were talking about the house, not me. (But that word has been used to describe me before.)

The issue they have is that I have to pay for my house before the builder delivers the shell. Once delivered, I will have the electrical wires run and the plumbing installed, then the builder will come out and finish the interior, except for the flooring, kitchen cabinets, and bathroom fixtures, which I’ll either do myself or have someone skilled to do them for me.

Unconventional. They like to give money for completed structures. Mine’s not finished at the time the money is due.

Unconventional. They appraise the value of a home by looking at sales of comparable homes in the area. There are none.

“We don’t have anything that can help you,” two loan officers told me.

“Not a problem,” I said to no one in particular.

While heavy debt can be a burden, good credit can cover a multitude of sins.

Because I have paid off the heavy debt load I had four years ago when the divorce was final, my credit rating is in the highest bracket right now. I have no outstanding credit card balances and get offers for new credit cards and signature loans in the mail all the time.

So I got a signature loan this week to pay for my house through one of the loan offers I got in the mail.

It’s a 5-year loan, but I’ll pay it off in less than four. In a month or two, my FICO score will drop a little, but not enough to cause concern. Come January 1, I won’t have rent to pay and my loan note is 20 percent lower than I pay for rent right now.

The loan is an unsecured loan, which means it’s not tied to the house. So when I pay the builder and the house is delivered, it’s mine. No liens attached. I can sell it any time I want to. (I don’t want to.) I have 100 percent equity in it.

It’s just like my land, which belongs to me. I have the deed although I still have 3 years left to pay for the signature loan I took out to buy it.

Unconventional? That works for me.

Getting there

I ordered my cabin last week, which means the shell should get delivered by the end of October, so the real work begins in earnest.

I cut the grass finally, so the next step is to stake out where the house will go. Weather and stomach issues have delayed that part, but I hope to do it after work in the coming week and pull the septic permit as soon as possible.

I met with the loan officer on Saturday and there are a few possibilities, which will all get resolved in the next week or two.

Once the septic tank is installed, I can have the foundation installed. Once the shell is delivered, I will get the electrical and plumbing work done, then the builder will come out and insulate and finish the interior walls and ceiling while I get the rain gutters and cistern installed and the water system up and running.

After that comes the laminated wood flooring, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, light fixtures, shower, toilet and appliances (stove, refrigerator and dishwasher.) Yes, a dishwasher. They use less water than if I did the dishes by hand.

If everything works out (which it usually does) I’ll be in my new home before Christmas.

Estimated cost, less than $65,000, including the land.

Here’s a peek at what the inside of the cabin will look like.


The crypt marker

On July 27, 1927, the Companions of Nashville Council No. 1, Royal and Select Masons, gathered on the southeast corner of the Tennessee state capitol grounds in downtown Nashville to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the council’s founding.

Thanks to a joint resolution of the Tennessee General Assembly, they were able to mark the anniversary by burying a time capsule to be opened by the members of Nashville Council No. 1 100 years later, on July 27, 2027.

The time capsule was buried in a crypt and a triangular column was erected over it, with a copper plate on top telling the world what was inside and when it would be opened.

The same Companions who buried the time capsule wrote the script for a ceremony to be held every year on July 27 until the crypt is opened.

It was their way of crossing the generations to continue the bond of brotherly love that is a hallmark of our fraternity.

Eighty-eight years later, I was among the dozen or so Companions of Nashville Council No. 1, Royal and Select Masons, to mark the occasion with a short ceremony this evening at the crypt.

BothellSentinelCitizen-CouncilNo1Crypt-July-16-1927The quiet, elegant ceremony has been held every year. Generations of Masons have come and gone but the fellowship has endured, as tonight we noted their undertaking and sang songs of patriotism and fraternity from another time.

I hope that I am around in 12 years when we open the crypt.

According to news stories from the time, they included pictures of the members, several  Masonic items and a variety of seeds, including wheat, corn, rye, oats, barley and tobacco.

They put everything in a copper box and filled the void with coal tar to keep out moisture and the elements. Inside the box, the seeds were hermetically sealed. There’s supposed to be a note inside, too, asking that the seeds be planted whenever they are unsealed.

I can’t wait to harvest some of that corn one day.



A red, white and blue flower honor the Companions of Nashville Council No. 1, Royal and Select Masons of generations past.

The thing about history is it tends to repeat itself on a fairly regular basis.

Take laws regulating marriage, for example. In 1967, the US Supreme Court finally heard a case involving interracial marriage.

A Virginia couple — he was white and she was black and Native American — got married in Washington, D.C. in 1958 because it was illegal to do that in their home state. Five weeks later they were charged with violating the state’s miscegenation law, which not only made it illegal for a white person and black person to get married, but also made it illegal for them to cross the state lines to get married where it was legal.

After today’s Supreme Court ruling and the heated rhetoric about what that will eventually lead to, I decided to look up the 1967 case in the New York Times. I chose the NY Times for no other reason than I have a digital subscription that gives me access to its archives all the way back to the 1850s.

I found a story in the April 11, 1967 edition written by Fred Graham, who covered the arguments the day before.

(The name was familiar so I looked him up. Fred Graham is a native of Nashville who went on to work for CBS and CourtTV after his stint with the Times ended in the 1970s.)

According to the story, attorneys for the state of Virginia claimed the state had as much right regulating interracial marriage as it did to ban polygamy and incest. (Sound familiar?). Then there was this gem:

He (Assistant Attorney General R.D. McIllwaine 3rd ) said that Virginia’s “strong policy” against interracial marriage was based upon strong scientific evidence. As proof he waved a thick volume entitled “Intermarriage – Interfaith, Interracial, Interethnic,” by Dr. Albert I. Gordon.

Mr. McIllwaine cited statements by Dr. Gordon that interracial marriages were often contracted by rebellious individuals to express their social hostility. He said that “the progeny are the martyrs” of such unions, and contended that the state had a legitimate interest in preventing them.

In other words, the state’s primary interest was in the children’s welfare. (That also sounds familiar.)

The American Civil Liberties Union, arguing on behalf of the couple, used a familiar argument, too.

An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union compared Virginia’s antimiscegenation laws with the laws of Nazi Germany and South Africa and urged the Justices to strike down the system of statutes that dates back to 1691.

The attorney, Philip J. Hirschkop, of Alexandria, Va., said Virginia’s laws denied Negroes the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

“They are slavery laws, pure and simple – the most odious of the segregation laws,” he said.

Virginia then countered with a legislative intent argument.

Assistant Attorney General R.D. McIllwaine 3rd of Virginia leaned heavily on the argument that none of the framers of the 14th amendment intended to outlaw statutes against racial intermarriage.

“If any had suggested this, it would not have passed,” he said.

As usually happens in America, though, right beat might, and the court ruled in the couple’s favor, striking down 15 other state laws that barred people of different races from marrying.

But I found an interesting bit of information in the article as well. According to Virginia law in place in 1967, a white person was defined as one who has “no trace of any blood other than Caucasian.”

Family tradition holds that my mom’s paternal grandmother was a quarter Native American, which would have meant my parents would have broken the law if they had gotten married in Virginia instead of Texas in 1950. And I went to a lot of places that it might have been illegal for me to go that summer we spent in Virginia in 1964.

A simple man

Lynyrd Skynyrd is coming to town next month, but I’m not going to see them.

Truth be known, I’ve never been much of a concert-goer.

But there was that time in the summer of ’76. I was 19 and enjoying a fairly easy existence, working my way through college as a part-time welder, which gave me spending money and helped me pay tuition.

I had some extra spending money and a bunch of friends were going to see J. Geils, Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top in concert at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans in July 1976.

So I joined in, riding with Merrill and Robert and several others in their dad’s work van to New Orleans. We had a great time, drank a lot of beer on the way and even more when we got there. Legal age then was 18, though we’d been partying together since we were in junior high.

The football field was packed and we ended up sitting in the stands of the old stadium, the former home of the New Orleans Saints that hosted one of the early Super Bowls before the Superdome was built.

The Saints were housed in the dome by 1976 and even Tulane played its games in the dome by then.

J. Geils was up first and put on a decent show, from what I remember. It was late afternoon and hot and by the time they came on, we’d consumed a lot of beer and partook of things that weren’t legal for us to to do, if you know what I mean. The old metal stadium was rocking and rolling.

Lynyrd Skynyrd was supposed to be up next, but they had plane trouble and cancelled at the last minute.

A big fight broke out on the field when they announced Lynard Skynyrd was a no-show. The police started clubbing people, including a woman who stood in their way asking them to stop clubbing people.

That’s when everybody started throwing things at the cops. Tear gas and beer bottles went flying through the air on the football field.

We were in the stands, but we did make some strategic throws with beer bottles. Someone threw an ice chest over the top of the stadium as the police left with a couple of guys in handcuffs. it landed near the cops and ice flew all over.

ZZ Top came out after things calmed down and put on a hell of a show.

The riot was so ugly that Tulane never allowed another concert there and they eventually tore the stadium down.

A year later, three Lynard Skynyrd members died when the same plane that broke down before our concert crashed in Mississippi on its way to Baton Rouge.

I’ll probably stay home and watch TV when they’re in town next month. I’m just a simple man.


I have loved Pizza Hut’s supreme sandwiches ever since I moved to Florida and discovered no one there knew how to make a good po-boy.

I used to eat them for lunch all the time, even when I moved back to Louisiana. (I mean you can only eat so many shrimp po-boys, you know.) And then I moved to Tennessee and had neither.

For some reason, as soon as I crossed the state line, Pizza Hut quit selling sandwiches. I was devastated. No po-boys. No supreme sandwiches. And with the demise of the old Pizza Hut in Thibodaux, I couldn’t even a get a Pizza Hut sandwich when I went back to visit.

So I made my own. Here’s all you need:

Small loaf French bread — 6-8 inches will do
Thinly sliced deli black forest ham
Thinly sliced deli salami (I used Genoa salami)
Thinly sliced deli pepperoni
Sliced provolone cheese
Creamy Italian dressing
Lettuce and sliced tomatoes if you’re into that kind of thing on a sandwich. (I’m not.)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees

Slice the bread lengthways, stopping just before you slice it in two

Open the bread like a book with the cut side up on a cookie sheet

Put a slice of ham, then a slice of salami, then a slice of pepperoni on one side (or 2 of each if you want)

Put a slice of provolone (or 2) on the other side

Bake the open sandwich in the oven until the cheese is bubbly (10 minutes or so)

Remove from the oven.

If you must, this is the time to put the rabbit food on.

Drizzle Italian dressing on the sandwich and then close it.

Cut in two. Serve with a  cold beverage and potato chips (Ruffles is what Pizza Hut used).

Adapted from a July 2011 Facebook note


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