Friday, June 21, 2013

On The Radio

The world grows smaller every day as youth around the world become friends through social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter.  Friends are made across borders and oceans and a friend of a friend of a friend just may be somebody you want to talk to.  As my kids upload photos, videos and songs for the world to see, their virtual footprint expands across the globe.  Just yesterday, I was, oddly, not surprised by the message from my son that he was being played on Lebanese radio.  It made me stop what I was doing and smile.  I had to ask the obvious question, "How?"

It appears that one of his many Instagram followers has made a friend in Canada who is residing there while she is temporarily away from Lebanon.  I'm not sure what the means exactly, but the kids believe her to  be Lebanese royalty on the run.  (Da do ron ron)  She liked a song that my son has on Sound Cloud and shared it with her friend who is a Disc Jockey in Lebanon where he supposedly played it on Lebanon airways.  At first, I wondered how odd that must seem to have traditional Lebanese music playing and then suddenly hear the voice of western boy singing an English love song.  Little did I know how much American music is played world wide.  Perhaps my blonde headed boy can be the next Lebanese Justin Bieber. I remembered the Italian tour bus I was on years ago where they played non-stop American 50's music and wonder if perhaps my boy's voice did sound out in the Lebanese streets.  It's a thought that makes me smile.   I pulled up Kiss Lebanon FM radio and Albalad 106.5 Beirut on my laptop and while I did not hear my child, I did hear someone who was not Billy Ray Cyrus belting out the words to Achy Breaky Heart..."You can tell your Ma, I moved to Arkansas."  What a strange coincidence I thought!

As I perused the Lebanese radio websites, exploring their world and probably being watched by my own, I realized that their world is not how I see it in tiny CNN video clips of protests and war.  There is music and laughter and beauty.  Somewhere over there right now is another person, with similar likes as we, sitting behind their computer clicking on Instagram photos and uploading beautiful images of their world.  It's not just a small world.  It's one world where we're all connected.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hitchhiker Beware

  After a particular challenging day at work, I was glad to escape to my car so I could head towards home where I could collapse on my couch under the cool breeze of a ceiling fan.   As I sat in my car that had baked to a nice 104 degrees in the middle of the asphalt parking lot, I rested with my head on the air-conditioner vents praying for cooler temperatures.  While certain it has nothing to do with age, I've recently begun experiencing sudden onset hot flashes. They come on quick, without warning, and according to my family, my mood changes instantly, as well.  In my defense, I would imagine anyone's mood would change when they are about to spontaneously combust.  I've seen those pictures of the tiny pile of ashes sitting on the pile of clothes where an unsuspecting victim once stood.  Of course, if I were to suddenly burst into flames, my ashes would be found sitting next to a pile of laundry waiting to be folded and nobody would ever notice.  They would shake the towels out and assume I was at work or out running errands and have no idea that I was now floating about the living room disguised as dust.   Hoping to avoid spontaneous combustion, I peeled myself off of the air vent, put the car in gear and headed home. 

  As my car approached forty miles per hour, I glanced over to see a bright green cricket attached to my window holding on for dear life.   He had the same look I had when attached to the air vent - a look of total despair.  I  noticed his little cricket feet grasping the window in a desperate attempt to hold on.  I empathized with the cricket and slowed my car down to thirty miles per hour to see if his hind legs would still flap in the wind or if he could secure a better grip.  Before long I was driving down the highway doing 20 miles per hour watching the changing disposition of the cricket as he continued to hold on to the last shreds of hope.   I passed many a grassy area where I could have stopped to release the cricket from this ride of terror, but I was determined to get us both home to the safety of my house. 

  I passed in and out of hot flashes and speed zones as the fearful cricket stayed with me clinging to the side of my car.  Of all the challenges I had faced that day, this was the challenge that consumed me...  Could I round the corner at thirty miles an hour and still keep Jimminy attached to the car?  It was like a video game with a real live player.  I realized the craziness of this as I slowed traffic behind me.  My daughter called and asked where I was and I was embarrassed to tell her I was three hours away from home because I was now traveling 5 miles per hour down the parkway in an attempt to secure the fate of a hitchhiking cricket.   

  You'll be relieved to know that the green bush cricket and I both made it home safely and he was gently placed on a leafy clematis plant where I'm certain he is still recovering from shock.   It concerns me that the summer heat wave and pre-menopausal behavior are having such affect on me and fear it may be a very long summer in these parts. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Squeeze Bottom Road

  When a container truck and a horse trailer collided on Interstate 40 near Cuba Landing, it shut down traffic in the East bound lane.  After three hours in the car, sitting in the same spot on the highway, it became apparent that some of my choices were probably not good ones.  For instance, providing the family with extra large caffeinated beverages and a sack of candy might have been a poor choice had I known there would be no bathroom available for hours and that we would all be stuck in a small space, wedged between semi trucks, for a prolonged period of time.  As we entered the fourth hour on the highway and the lady in front of us urinated in her car and poured it on the ground, I knew we were witnessing the loss of civility and decided it was time for drastic measures. Over the course of our wait on the highway, we would occasionally notice the adventurous law breaker who had broken from the ranks and was then driving down the side of the road in hopes of finding a better route.  I put the car in gear, placed my trust in our GPS system and headed off down the side of the highway, unknowing if we would drive into a roadblock or straight off the edge of the Earth.  We made it to the closest exit and began our journey into the back roads of the Tennessee hills.

  It's funny how little things suddenly become important.  I assured my family we were fine when the asphalt changed to gravel and I continued forward in search of the highway.  I was thankful for the rock road that led us away from the thousands of people still stranded on the interstate.  The GPS showed that we were entering Hellsneck road and I wondered if perhaps this was a huge mistake.   We snaked around the hollows and found we were soon on Squeeze Bottom Road.  I ran into a lost pack of SUVs around the time the gravel changed to dirt and I asked them if this was the way to the highway.  They had no idea.  I exclaimed that my GPS indicated that it was and the group rallied around and we headed out like a wagon train of weary travelers no longer able to sit idle on the highway.   I led the pack as we climbed hills and turned sharp dirt corners expecting to find hidden stills or drive into some Aryan Brotherhood Lodge.   The piled dirt on the edge of the road was indicative that someone had recently graded the path, so I assumed we hadn't driven too far away from civilization and continued forward.  We saw back woods that most have never seen and I was thankful for the adventure.  Suddenly we rounded a corned and were driving through expensive farmland.  We passed a man fishing on the side of the road and pretended that it was probably some famous country music star wondering why a caravan of SUVs was flying past his house intentionally located in the middle of nowhere.  It was great fun and we laughed all the way as the roads disappeared and we took a chance traveling into the unknown.  Before too long, we drove onto the asphalt road that led us to the Interstate.  We had successfully bi-passed the accident, and avoided the detour that was now carrying traffic 50 miles out of the way.  
  When we returned home a few days later, we passed the exit that we had taken to escape the traffic jam and I smiled knowing that I driven by there a hundred times before and never knew what adventure was just a few feet away. It's because we found the best in a bad situation that we can add one more fun memory to our list of things we did that were completely unplanned.  It seems the best times have been found in those moments.   That's the same way we discovered the blue bird factory, the giant gong in the woods, the spaceship chair and the bathroom that defied physics. My kids know what I'm talking about... and I know they are smiling when they read this. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Gilbert's Journey

It is a small world, even to turtles.  On a lazy summer day in 2012, one Allie Brodnax found a box turtle and a discarded can of enamel paint.  She quickly painted her initials and date on the turtle’s shell and enjoyed his company for a short time.  We have a rule that no one is allowed to keep a lizard, turtle or other wild creature more than three days.  At that time, the visitor is returned to the wild.  Gilbert, as this highly decorated turtle was named, bid farewell and headed off towards the woods. 
A year later, on the other side of town, across two highways and several major intersections, Gilbert made his way into the yard of a young boy who discovered Gilbert’s faded message on his back.  A picture was taken and Gilbert made his debut on Instagram.  Four hours north of here in the land of Wal-Mart executives, a distant friend saw the post and recognized the letters “AB” on the back of Gilbert’s shell.  She quickly posted to all that the faded message said “AB 2012” for Allie Brodnax.  

It was a rainy, stormy day, when the young boy with the newfound turtle received a message from a my child that said, “Please Get Gilbert Out of the Rain.”     
I never knew a turtle could travel such a distance.  With algebra not being our strong suit, we attempted to do the math to figure out a comparable scale of how far the turtle traveled in turtle miles.  We think it was much like walking to Asia over the course of a year.  In that time, I’ve seen many turtles in the road and even stopped to pick up a few.  I hope Gilbert is released in three days and continues his journey.  Nothing would be more exciting than stopping to save the next turtle and discovering “AB 2012” on its back! 

Early Retirement and the Great Resignation

        At the age of 57, I stared at my 35 year career, whispered a polite thank you to the heavens and hit the send button on my retiremen...