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Archive for the ‘Life in general’ Category

I stopped for supper at O’Brien’s tonight and the place was hopping. It’s Good Friday and in addition to their regular meatloaf special, they offered a variety of combinations involving crab legs, shrimp and steak.

I was tempted to get the crab leg cluster and shrimp combo, but when I asked about portion size, I opted for the meatloaf instead. One cluster of 4 legs and a half dozen shrimp is an appetizer to this coonass.

The only open table when I walked in was right next to the kitchen and the pace was hectic. It reminded me of my high school days, when I worked as a busboy and dishwasher the last 5 months of my senior year.

It was about this time of year 44 years ago when Coach Gros, my Algebra teacher, suggested that my late-night job was affecting my class work. “If you don’t really need the money, you might think about cutting back on week nights so you can graduate.”

Graduate. That had been an abstract word to me up until that moment. I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I grew up and here I was, a month and a half away from graduation.

I thought about what he said during my shift at the restaurant that night.

Working at The Emporium had been the most fun I’d had in a while. I met some great people working there. (And stay in touch with them to this day.)

Most nights, we’d finish up by 10:30, then sneak into the back room of the Iron Horse next door and trade beer for washing glasses for the bartenders. It was easy to tell my parents I worked late. In a way, I wasn’t lying.

“Graduation.” That word kept playing in my mind as I scraped dishes and put them in the dishwasher.

At the end of the shift, I pulled the manager aside and told him I needed to quit so I could get my grades up. It was a tough decision. In a few short months, everyone there had become family to me.

“That’s a smart move,” he said. “You’ve got a job here if you change your mind.”

So here I am, 44 years later and another word is playing in my head.

“Retirement.”

Retirement starts in June. Where did the time go?

Last month I was a busboy. A week later a welder’s helper, then a fitter’s helper and machinist’s helper, then a freshman in college with ideas of becoming a lawyer. Then I was a college dropout working offshore and in the blink of an eye, I was a laid-off oilfield hand going back to college. I became a journalist because there weren’t many job opportunities in Thibodaux, La., for a history major with a journalism minor.

Journalism lasted for 20 years, then I became a corporate communicator after toying with becoming a locksmith for a few years. I got married. I got divorced. I’ve bought 4 houses and 10 cars and I’ve lived in three states.

And today I am 8 Mondays from retirement (though I’m off for 2 of them) and I’ve got that same feeling in my gut that I had 44 years ago.

During an interview in the mid-1990s, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. “Retired,” I said. “I want to be retired.”

We laughed. It was a good interview. I can’t remember what story I was working on.

But here I am on the precipice of retirement and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I guess I’m fixing to find out, though.

 

 

 

 

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It’s about choices

It’s about personal choices.

If you want to restrict someone’s ability to make a choice about which gun to buy based on someone else’s illegal use of a gun, are you willing to also restrict other Constitutional rights because a handful of people misuse a right and cause harm to the lives of others?

And if you want to restrict the right of someone to get an abortion, are you okay with them restricting your right to bear arms?

These are major issues that are dividing our country.

I think our forefathers envisioned this and offered a solution.

They enunciated our inalienable rights which no government nor individual can take away from us without due process.

They are the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And they all hinge on the ability of each of us to make our own personal choices without interference from anyone, any government, any special interest group or any political party.

Can’t we all just get along?

Focus on your choices and don’t be so quick to deny others the same right.

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You got a minute?

I was walking from the parking garage to the office this morning when a guy stopped me on the sidewalk.

“You got a minute?” he asked.

“Not really,” I replied.

“Are you familiar with the area?” he asked.

“Somewhat,” I said, casting a leery eye at him.

“Don’t worry. I’m not a bum,” the guy offered with an awkward giggle. “I still have all my teeth.”

“That’s nice,” I said while running my tongue over the spots where two molars used to be.

“Are you familiar with Fairview?” he continued.

I nodded.

“I’m from Fairview and I’ve been trying to take care of my dear old mom …”

“Yeah,” I butted in, “And she’s in St. Thomas Midtown and when you found out she was in the hospital you ran out of the house so fast you forgot your wallet on the dresser and now you’re out of gas and don’t have any money on you to buy some.”

His eyes grew wide and he started walking away fast.

“You tried that crap on me at Kroger right before Christmas, asshole” I told him.

“You are wrong, though,” I said loudly as he trotted up the sidewalk away from me.

“You’re a bum,” I said. “It doesn’t matter how many teeth you have.”

That Christmas run-in has bothered me for almost 2 months.

He sounded sincere. My heart said, “help him out.” But my mind said “his story doesn’t add up.”

The Kroger and the Farmer’s Market across the road from the grocery aren’t in any way, shape or form along the route to the hospital from Fairview.

I told him I couldn’t help him and went into the store.

After I left the store, I looked for his truck in the Farmer’s Market parking lot. I had decided that if I saw him at the truck, I would pick him up and get some gas for him.

There was no pickup in the lot, but still, in the back of my mind, that little voice kept reminding me that I walked away from someone who might have needed help.

It bugged me. A lot.

I never give people money. If someone says they need a dollar to buy lunch, I offer to buy their lunch for them. Only two have taken me up on the offer and the lunch we shared was really quite educational.

A guy who’d worked as a laborer all of his life, ran out of work in the building bust in 2008. He was a proud man, but hunger has a way of suppressing pride.

A woman who stands on the street corner on Fifth Ave. North, drawing in a sketch pad all day long told me after I brought her an order of lasagna from the Italian place in the Arcade, “When this is all over, I’m going to tell you something that will make us all laugh.”

I still buy her lunch occasionally.

But this guy. This guy really pissed me off.

Here I was, double guessing my decision all these weeks and this guy is plying his trade without an ounce of conscience.

On the ride home tonight, it occurred to me that I may have met this guy before, at a Burger King on Charlotte Ave., a few blocks from downtown, back when I still worked at the newspaper about 15 years ago.

His story then was that his child was being treated for cancer at Children’s Hospital and he needed to get back home in Fairview to pick up his favorite toy to help in the recovery, but ran out of gas.

I told him I didn’t have any cash, which was true. But as I used my check card to buy my burger, it occurred to me that I could also use my card to buy him a tank of gas.

He was gone when I came out of the restaurant. It bothered me, then and it still bothered me from time to time, that I didn’t help someone who I could have.

Tonight, when I turn out the light and put my head on my pillow, at least that annoying voice in my head won’t be harping on that time I didn’t help a guy whose kid was in the hospital or another whose mom is in the ICU.

Looks like I’ll get that minute back after all.

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The next generation

Looking at pictures of my nephew and his family’s trip to the Magic Kingdom this week got me thinking.

My nephew’s grandson, my great-grand nephew, fell asleep on the flight from New Orleans  to Orlando. He’s a little more than 1 and a half and already, jet travel is old hat to him.

I was 6 when my dad talked a helicopter pilot reviewing the pipeline right of way to take me and my brother up for a flight. I fell in love with flying, but I was 23 before I had my first commercial airline flight.

Even after 10 years of flying in helicopters to get to and from offshore oil rigs and countless other flights across the country and into Mexico, Canada and Belize, I still can’t bring myself to sleep on a flight because, well, because. It’s flying.

That first commercial flight was for a trip from New Orleans to Las Vegas for the second annual COMDEX, a huge computer expo that was cutting edge at the time.

COMDEX lasted for another 22 years before it went out of style in 2003. It was replaced by the Consumer Electronics Show, because computers had lost their luster and iPods, iPads and Smart Phones were about to come of age.

When I was born in 1957, there were 48 stars on the flag and the only satellite orbiting Earth was the moon. Yesterday, we shot a sports car toward Mars and the asteroid belt.

When my maternal grandmother was born in 1903, the only things that had flown in the sky were birds, kites and balloons. Before she died, a dozen men walked on the moon and people were flying shuttles into space and working for days at a time.

Times change. New becomes old. The next generation moves things forward.

I’m pretty sure my great-grand nephew won’t sleep through all of it.

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They say that change is the only constant in life and that is becoming more apparent as the calendar changes to 60 for me in a few weeks.

I started noticing it when I turned 45 and couldn’t find my cologne, British Sterling, in stores any more. At my then wife’s suggestion, I switched to Paul Sebastian.

But when I turned 55, and newly divorced, I couldn’t find a bottle of Paul Sebastian for less than $60 in stores. eBay came to the rescue and thankfully, I can still find a bottle of Paul Sebastian after shave for under $15.

Charmin was my toilet paper of choice since I was a teen and my dad started bringing home multipacks from work. It was the simple, 1-ply style, which served me well. I’m not sure when, but they stopped making 1-ply, or at least the stores I used quit stocking it, and I found I was using way more 2-ply than I did one ply.

That’s when Cottonelle came into my life after I moved to the ridge. Cheaper than Charmin but as good as Charmin ever was.

It’s the same with paper towels. Dad brought an obscene number of rolls of Bounty home from work when I was a kid and I became loyal to that brand.

As my life simplified after the divorce, I found the large multipacks offered at grocers and discount stores impractical because I had a smaller amount of storage space. At about the same time, stores started stocking single or double packs, so I would just buy one roll and make sure I always had a spare in the pantry.

Now that I live in the country and my shopping options are more limited, I have found it impossible to locate a single roll of Bounty that isn’t that aggravating “select-a-size” type.

The local independent grocer in Charlotte has come to my rescue with a “premium” option for its store brand paper towels, though. It’s 70 cents cheaper than a roll of Bounty, has no feminine floral print on it and works as a sufficient substitute for the rare times when I run out of Kleenex or toilet paper.

Adaptation. Its a great tool to develop as you get older.

I think I’m ready to be 60.

 

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I drive an 18 year-old car because it’s paid for and it still runs great.

It’s a Toyota, of course, and has more than 276,000 miles on it. I bought it 6 years ago with 150,000 miles on it and my goal is to get at least 300,000 or more miles on it before I buy another car.

It’s a good car, but it does have its quirks.

Like the driver’s window. It stopped working three years ago. Just refused to roll down. A month later, it started working again. I never found out why. But it worked like a charm until six months ago, when it up and quit again.

My plan was to take it to a shop to get it fixed, but something always came up that required my attention (and my cash).

I’m working really hard to pay off my house, so cash is always tight. Replacing the window motor or carriage could cost anywhere from $200 to $1,200 depending on the shop. (I’ve called several.)

A new transmission (technically, it’s a used transmission) was the the first thing that bumped the window from my priority list. New tires for my dad’s truck, a gift when he decided not to drive any more last spring, were next.

Then there were new tires for the car, skirting for the house, new steps on the deck to pass codes, dues for the half dozen Masonic organizations I belong to, topped off by a busted water pipe and my attempts to better weatherize my water system.

It’s been really cold this week, with snow added as an accent. I drove the truck on the long holiday weekend and again on Tuesday and Wednesday in part because the roads were slick and because the driver’s window rolls down which makes getting in the parking garage for work much easier. (I had to unbuckle the seat belt, open the door and lean back to use my access card with the car.)

Today, with the temperature below freezing for two days in a row and fears that letting the car sit idle for the better part of a week, I used my car. Besides, its heater works better than the truck’s.

As the side window fogged up during the early part of my drive , I hit the window down button to clear the moisture and lo and behold, the window rolled down. And then it rolled back up.

A miracle, no doubt.

It worked great as I entered and left the garage, too.

God only knows how long it will continue to work this time, but now I can spend my cash on other things — like my water system, which froze again today.

I’m hoping for a burst-free thaw.

Stop laughing. Miracles do happen. Just ask my car.

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Tank you

If it’s possible to love an appliance, I never really cared much for my washing machine.

The washer came with a dryer in a package deal that fit my budget at the time five years ago when I was focused on paying off my debt. But it didn’t do a good job of getting stains out of my shirts, so I put a thermometer to the water when it was on the Warm setting. 72 degrees.

The repair guy who came out the next day said that’s how they build them these days. It runs the cold water for a bit and then a short run with hot water.

Hot water at my apartment was too hot for my shirts and pants, and the heater was behind a locked door that I didn’t have a key that would allow me to adjust it, so there were times after I dribbled soy sauce or salad dressing on me, that some shirts had to be washed two or three times.

I opted for a tankless water heater in my house, but the cold water problem was even worse since there was a 20-second lag from the time the washer switched to hot and hot water arrived at the washer. I started looking for money in the budget for a better model, but the budget was tight.

Then one day, while looking at the red glow of the temperature readout on the tank, it hit me. I can adjust the temperature down to 98 degrees, which is what most consider warm water.

So now, when I wash my permanent press, I set the washer temp setting to Hot and the water tank to 98 and you never see the remnants of soy sauce or salad dressing on my shirts any more.

I like my cheap washer now.

 

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