Oh The Places You’ll Go!

Oh The Places You’ll Go!

 

It’s time to talk about the places I’ve lived because I’ve moved around a lot. I’ve lived in a lot of places, in different states and stayed for a long time in a lot of places people don’t typically get to go. Most of them are places people dream of living in. So in that regard, I’m thankful. I’ve seen and experienced things a lot of people can’t even imagine, which I’m grateful for, and I hope one day I can share these places with my daughter.  

Where I’ve lived is different of course from places I’ve stayed for long periods of time, like New Hampshire or different spots in Florida or at the beach house in North Carolina. I traveled a lot as a child and into my twenties and thirties, I moved around a lot, looking for opportunities and adventure. I usually found more adventure than opportunities. Sometimes more than I wanted.

I’m a South Carolinian. I’ve lived in Quinby, Columbia, Lexington, Charleston, Bluffton, and Beaufort. I’ve lived in Asheville, NC. I’ve lived in and was born in Atlanta, GA. And by Atlanta, I mean the HEART of Atlanta, not the sprawling suburbs that people tend to want to include in that city, like Decatur and Alpharetta. I was born right on Peachtree St. In Crawford W. Long Hospital, which is about an 8 story building that was probably a magnificent edifice in 1969 when I was born. It’s right around the corner from The Varsity, a culinary institution where my dad and uncle were when I was born, having a beer and a hot dog. The little hospital’s still standing today, amazingly, dwarfed by glassy skyscrapers on every side. It’s owned by Emory Hospital and who knows what its fate will be. I hope it’s designated historic and won’t be leveled to the ground by development.

crawford w. long

Crawford W. Long Hospital. My birthplace.

I’m proud to be from South Carolina and my parents made a good decision to plant roots there. My mother went to Converse College in Spartanburg, SC, so she was introduced to the Palmetto State at an early age. We shuffled around Columbia, Lexington, and Irmo until my mother got her CPA and a job with Uncle Sam as a business tax auditor. I can’t imagine finding that interesting.  But she had a plan and was the leader of the family, for sure.

SC-regions map

I’ve lived in Montgomery and Tuscaloosa, Alabama and have spent a lot of time at Lake Martin in Eclectic, Alabama, where I married my last and final ex-wife. Coincidentally, my grandmother briefly lived in Eclectic before moving to Helen, Ga. I never cared for Alabama, and although I have a degree from the State University there, there’s not much that is compelling about it. It’s still very rural and is a low-lying piece of land, which makes it hard to develop and why it doesn’t have a lot of companies looking to headquarter there. So it maintains its quiet southern charm. But it doesn’t offer anything unique other than an incredible football and MBA program and some good hunting. I have relatives there, but only because my aunt married a person from Montgomery and he decided they would never leave. Ever. There are some good people there and some beauty, but nothing like if you went eastward.

Georgia Florida ALabama

You can see the many roads I’ve traveled just through these three states.

I spent 10 summers in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. We had beach houses in Holden Beach, North Carolina, Alligator Point along the panhandle of Florida and in Marathon Key in the southern part of Florida, and I went to school in Winter Park Florida for 9 months and spent a lot of time in Ft. Lauderdale, where my grandparents lived when I was growing up. Enough to know how to drive around the place and know my way around. I went down to Florida a lot, even though I’ve never liked Florida. I spent a lot of time there as a kid both in the car, and poking around on my own. It’s too flat, hurricane-prone, full of transients, grumbly Yankees and misfits, and in general, it’s a boring, weird state. It’s where a lot of people go to die. I’ve been going there since I can ever remember, having my 4th birthday down there at Alligator Point which I still have photos of. It’s changed a lot since then. I met the mother of my daughter not far from there, and we even took a trip to the house we owned, which is still there in its same form, when my grandfather built it back in the 1950s. I have a lot of childhood memories from that beach house as do my parents and relatives. I’ve spent a lot of my life in Florida, mostly unwillingly. But the memories are good and the beaches are pristine. It’s the closest to California you’ll get in the East. Unless you surf – the waves in Florida aren’t anything to write home about. My grandparents moved there to keep an eye on things/their daughter and grandchild when my father announced he was going to some diving program down there, and of course, didn’t. It’s similar to the false alarm that caused me to move from Asheville to Montgomery, Alabama which comes later. And my grandparents stayed, with a house in Albany and in Alligator Point, which we made good use of until they sold them.

Beaufort is beautiful but it will go the same way as Charleston eventually and soon. There’s only so much waterfront property and plantations around. And the Yankees are buying it all up. And hiking up the prices of everything and bringing the worst aspects of the North with them, changing the landscape of the South that I grew up in. That’s how life goes — I understand it. I’m complaining but I’m not ignorant of what’s going on.

the castle in beaufort

I lived across the street from this house for over a year.

New Hampshire was like a dream. I was there from late spring until early fall so I got to experience the best weather, the freshest air, the cleanest spring water, the juiciest blueberries, and all that New England had to offer every year. Happy, friendly people all around, and they should be. It took me away from my friends back in SC so of course, I complained like a child. But looking back it was perfection. I went to a two-week boy’s camp every Summer on a big lake and took golf and tennis lessons and traveled around New England with my grandfather in a giant pink and white Cadillac for 3 months out of the year. What more could you ask for? I had it all. I have some funny stories from hanging out with a bunch of 70 and 80-year-olds all summer every year.

boathouses on lake

Boathouses were everywhere on Lake Winnipesaukee, housing some gorgeous Chris Crafts

I plan to go back to New Hampshire and revisit my old haunts. Things change slowly up there, so although I know it’s not going to be the same, it shouldn’t be too different. I know my name is still emblazoned on the wall in the Lodge at Camp Belknap, nearly forty years later. And I can still get ice cream at Baileys and bread from the Yum Yum Shop. And I can still catch crayfish and sunfish all day long in Lake Winnipesaukee.

I’ve lived in some dumpy apartments and some grand mansions. Every place I’ve lived had some character, though. And has a lot of stories through me they can now tell. I’ve lived in some of the most beautiful places in this country, which at times makes me think I’ve been spoiled. But we all have the ability to some degree to choose where we live, and I think it’s an important decision. I was married to someone who I honestly believe didn’t care where she lived and in what manner. She never evaluated the quality of what was around her, to her detriment. Including her spouses. But to me, it’s one of the most important aspects of life. So I’ve chosen some very pretty places. And I’ve wound up in Louisville, which I’m bound to stay at least until my daughter turns 18, or my ex-wife and I decide to move to another place, which is unlikely to the degree that it’s impossible. She’s gotten everything she wants, (at everyone else’s expense) so she’s settled in for a while until she has another selfish folly or something truly extraordinary happens, which on occasion does happen I’ve found.

new zealand

New Zealand, which is a small magical country consisting of 2 big islands and a few really small ones.

I’ve spent time in places for rather long periods as well. I spent 3 months in New Zealand, for example, which was an adventure to remember. And a month in Statesboro, Georgia in a hospital setting, which is where I got the Statesboro Blues. Georgia is where my family really hearkens from. My father was born in Macon, Ga, where the Allman Brothers are from, which is about the only cool thing about Macon. My mother was born in Brunswick, Ga., near Savannah, which is near Bluffton where I lived for a long while. I was born in Atlanta, as stated earlier, and my parents lived almost on Piedmont Park, back when Atlanta was much different. The hippies hung out at Piedmont Park and Atlanta didn’t sprawl out into the suburbs like it does today. Lenox Mall was an outdoor mall, and everything north of it was fields and Kudzu. The crime rate wasn’t off the charts and the political corruption was under control. My parents grew up in Albany, Georgia, and that’s where I visited a lot growing up. Radium Springs and the Flint River were all I heard about and I’ve spent some cold time swimming in both. My dad was stationed in Ft. Benning, Ga. when he was in the Army. My grandmother eventually moved to Helen, Georgia, in the northern part and is buried among many of my relatives in Thompson, Ga., if I remember correctly. I went to her funeral in 1993 or so, so my memory fails me sometimes.  

bluffton

I spent much time in Bluffton, SC

At one point I was free financially and unburdened in every way, and I had the liberty to decide where on this Earth I wanted to live. It seems like a liberating situation, but it’s overwhelming, in fact. I kept trying to think of a place like Asheville, NC. I went to Roanoke, Va, and found a beautiful house and even made an offer on some mountaintop property for sale there. But I finally realized, instead of looking for a place “like” Asheville, just move TO Asheville. Which I did.

asheville

Asheville was great, and it was where I met up and adopted a very good friend, Annie. I had a lot of friends there (I still have a few), and there was a good reason George Vanderbilt decided to build his little vacation home there: it’s gorgeous. The Blue Ridge Mountains are cozy and rich in color and history and I loved the stone and river feel to it all. There are a lot of craftsman style houses there, and the world’s largest Stickley furniture collection is at the Grove Park Inn, which I lived a stone’s throw from. The fishing and air and arts and people were all lovely, and although the NYT calls it “progressively minded” and there are a lot of hippies around there, it’s not overwhelming like you might find in Portland, Oregon or San Francisco. Or Louisville, for that matter. 

asheville

As I mentioned earlier, like my grandparents, I was conned into picking everything up and moving to Alabama, to renovate a little weird house for my father to move into, which he never did. But I fixed it up and maintained it for him for several years and ended up staying in Montgomery, Alabama which had its good moments and bad. I have family there, which was wonderful to be able to finally get to know them. My entire life I was shielded from that part of my family for reasons I won’t get into, so I’m grateful for that overdue opportunity. And I enjoyed being so close to and getting to know them while there. Montgomery itself was a pretty bad place to live. High crime, sprawling development, very segregated, hot, hot and hot. I had someone steal the hanging plants off my front porch. I had someone steal my CDs out of my car at a gas station while I paid. Hardly any decent restaurants or places to go for entertainment. You make your own fun and food, which I was groomed to do, fortunately. Luckily I lived in one of the most picturesque neighborhoods. Unfortunately, as soon as you stepped across the street you were in the ghetto everywhere you turned and risked your life going to the store after dark. I tried to find some nice pictures to post here of Montgomery and failed. That says it all.

I moved from there to Tuscaloosa, about 2 hours Northwest to go to graduate school and earn my MBA, which was a goal I’d had in mind for a number of years. I was glad to be able to check that off. I traveled between Tuscaloosa, Eclectic Alabama, where my family had a lake house and where I got married in 2010, and Montgomery relentlessly. I must have driven that triangle a thousand times. I got to know that region of Alabam really well and documented it pretty well with photographs. I lived in a teeny-tiny one-bedroom apartment with Annie while I went to school, and would go to Montgomery on the weekends to maintain my father’s house there, and to the lake house during the warmer months in Eclectic. Tuscaloosa is a small University town, that without the school, would be like most small towns in Alabama are, a place for truckers and trains to pause and travelers to fill up with gas and food on their way to a better place. Alabama has its southern chams, but if you’re from the South then that doesn’t matter much.  

And from there, I ended up moving to Louisville so my wife could live out her dreams and I could watch. And that places me here, where I am now. I long to move back to the “real” South – it doesn’t even matter where. But that goal is in the distant future because of the situation I now find myself. I hope to one day share the oceans and woods and mountains that I enjoyed growing up with my daughter. It may appear that I love moving around. I don’t. In fact, I hate it. I would love to have a home in one place and never move from it, which I believed at one time I’d found but it was taken from me. I’d somehow always planned to get back to South Carolina, where all my best friends still live, as life passes us all by.

I love to travel, which is much different than moving, which of course is more difficult, exhausting, expensive, stressful, dangerous and taxing in every way than traveling for pleasure. But at least I know the world well enough now to present it to my daughter and know what I’m talking about.

 

 

 

 

 
 
 

downtown charleston

Beaufort is beautiful but it will go the same way as Charleston eventually and soon. There’s only so much waterfront property and plantations around. And the Yankees are buying it all up. And hiking up the prices of everything and bringing the worst aspects of the North with them, changing the landscape of the South that I grew up in. That’s how life goes — I understand it. I’m complaining but I’m not ignorant of what’s going on.

the castle in beaufort

I lived across the street from this house for over a year.

New Hampshire was like a dream. I was there from late spring until early fall so I got to experience the best weather, the freshest air, the cleanest spring water, the juiciest blueberries, and all that New England had to offer every year. Happy, friendly people all around, and they should be. It took me away from my friends back in SC so of course, I complained like a child. But looking back it was perfection. I went to a two-week boy’s camp every Summer on a big lake and took golf and tennis lessons and traveled around New England with my grandfather in a giant pink and white Cadillac for 3 months out of the year. What more could you ask for? I had it all. I have some funny stories from hanging out with a bunch of 70 and 80-year-olds all summer every year.

boathouses on lake

Boathouses were everywhere on Lake Winnipesaukee, housing some gorgeous Chris Crafts

I plan to go back to New Hampshire and revisit my old haunts. Things change slowly up there, so although I know it’s not going to be the same, it shouldn’t be too different. I know my name is still emblazoned on the wall in the Lodge at Camp Belknap, nearly forty years later. And I can still get ice cream at Baileys and bread from the Yum Yum Shop. And I can still catch crayfish and sunfish all day long in Lake Winnipesaukee.

I’ve lived in some dumpy apartments and some grand mansions. Every place I’ve lived had some character, though. And has a lot of stories through me they can now tell. I’ve lived in some of the most beautiful places in this country, which at times makes me think I’ve been spoiled. But we all have the ability to some degree to choose where we live, and I think it’s an important decision. I was married to someone who I honestly believe didn’t care where she lived and in what manner. She never evaluated the quality of what was around her, to her detriment. Including her spouses. But to me, it’s one of the most important aspects of life. So I’ve chosen some very pretty places. And I’ve wound up in Louisville, which I’m bound to stay at least until my daughter turns 18, or my ex-wife and I decide to move to another place, which is unlikely to the degree that it’s impossible. She’s gotten everything she wants, (at everyone else’s expense) so she’s settled in for a while until she has another selfish folly or something truly extraordinary happens, which on occasion does happen I’ve found.

new zealand

New Zealand, which is a small magical country consisting of 2 big islands and a few really small ones.

I’ve spent time in places for rather long periods as well. I spent 3 months in New Zealand, for example, which was an adventure to remember. And a month in Statesboro, Georgia in a hospital setting, which is where I got the Statesboro Blues. Georgia is where my family really hearkens from. My father was born in Macon, Ga, where the Allman Brothers are from, which is about the only cool thing about Macon. My mother was born in Brunswick, Ga., near Savannah, which is near Bluffton where I lived for a long while. I was born in Atlanta, as stated earlier, and my parents lived almost on Piedmont Park, back when Atlanta was much different. The hippies hung out at Piedmont Park and Atlanta didn’t sprawl out into the suburbs like it does today. Lenox Mall was an outdoor mall, and everything north of it was fields and Kudzu. The crime rate wasn’t off the charts and the political corruption was under control. My parents grew up in Albany, Georgia, and that’s where I visited a lot growing up. Radium Springs and the Flint River were all I heard about and I’ve spent some cold time swimming in both. My dad was stationed in Ft. Benning, Ga. when he was in the Army. My grandmother eventually moved to Helen, Georgia, in the northern part and is buried among many of my relatives in Thompson, Ga., if I remember correctly. I went to her funeral in 1993 or so, so my memory fails me sometimes.  

bluffton

I spent much time in Bluffton, SC

At one point I was free financially and unburdened in every way, and I had the liberty to decide where on this Earth I wanted to live. It seems like a liberating situation, but it’s overwhelming, in fact. I kept trying to think of a place like Asheville, NC. I went to Roanoke, Va, and found a beautiful house and even made an offer on some mountaintop property for sale there. But I finally realized, instead of looking for a place “like” Asheville, just move TO Asheville. Which I did.

asheville

Asheville was great, and it was where I met up and adopted a very good friend, Annie. I had a lot of friends there (I still have a few), and there was a good reason George Vanderbilt decided to build his little vacation home there: it’s gorgeous. The Blue Ridge Mountains are cozy and rich in color and history and I loved the stone and river feel to it all. There are a lot of craftsman style houses there, and the world’s largest Stickley furniture collection is at the Grove Park Inn, which I lived a stone’s throw from. The fishing and air and arts and people were all lovely, and although the NYT calls it “progressively minded” and there are a lot of hippies around there, it’s not overwhelming like you might find in Portland, Oregon or San Francisco. Or Louisville, for that matter. 

asheville

As I mentioned earlier, like my grandparents, I was conned into picking everything up and moving to Alabama, to renovate a little weird house for my father to move into, which he never did. But I fixed it up and maintained it for him for several years and ended up staying in Montgomery, Alabama which had its good moments and bad. I have family there, which was wonderful to be able to finally get to know them. My entire life I was shielded from that part of my family for reasons I won’t get into, so I’m grateful for that overdue opportunity. And I enjoyed being so close to and getting to know them while there. Montgomery itself was a pretty bad place to live. High crime, sprawling development, very segregated, hot, hot and hot. I had someone steal the hanging plants off my front porch. I had someone steal my CDs out of my car at a gas station while I paid. Hardly any decent restaurants or places to go for entertainment. You make your own fun and food, which I was groomed to do, fortunately. Luckily I lived in one of the most picturesque neighborhoods. Unfortunately, as soon as you stepped across the street you were in the ghetto everywhere you turned and risked your life going to the store after dark. I tried to find some nice pictures to post here of Montgomery and failed. That says it all.

I moved from there to Tuscaloosa, about 2 hours Northwest to go to graduate school and earn my MBA, which was a goal I’d had in mind for a number of years. I was glad to be able to check that off. I traveled between Tuscaloosa, Eclectic Alabama, where my family had a lake house and where I got married in 2010, and Montgomery relentlessly. I must have driven that triangle a thousand times. I got to know that region of Alabam really well and documented it pretty well with photographs. I lived in a teeny-tiny one-bedroom apartment with Annie while I went to school, and would go to Montgomery on the weekends to maintain my father’s house there, and to the lake house during the warmer months in Eclectic. Tuscaloosa is a small University town, that without the school, would be like most small towns in Alabama are, a place for truckers and trains to pause and travelers to fill up with gas and food on their way to a better place. Alabama has its southern chams, but if you’re from the South then that doesn’t matter much.  

And from there, I ended up moving to Louisville so my wife could live out her dreams and I could watch. And that places me here, where I am now. I long to move back to the “real” South – it doesn’t even matter where. But that goal is in the distant future because of the situation I now find myself. I hope to one day share the oceans and woods and mountains that I enjoyed growing up with my daughter. It may appear that I love moving around. I don’t. In fact, I hate it. I would love to have a home in one place and never move from it, which I believed at one time I’d found but it was taken from me. I’d somehow always planned to get back to South Carolina, where all my best friends still live, as life passes us all by.

I love to travel, which is much different than moving, which of course is more difficult, exhausting, expensive, stressful, dangerous and taxing in every way than traveling for pleasure. But at least I know the world well enough now to present it to my daughter and know what I’m talking about.

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
new hampshire

I was headquartered in Wolfeboro on Lake Winnepesaukee which is the BIG lake in NH

I spent my teen years in pastoral Virginia near Charlottesville and went to Washington DC quite a bit, so I know northern Virginia pretty well. I lived in Arlington after my freshman year in college in fact and hung out on a farm in the Shenandoah Valley. Virginia is one of the prettiest States we have with its rolling green fields and white fences and blue skies. I love Virginia, and Virginia was my grandmother’s name, which makes it even more special. I tried to stay close to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is one of the most beautiful drives you can take in the Fall. I drove along it in a convertible red Porsche I owned for about a year when I lived in Asheville, and the experience is truly magical. Fall in Virginia is absolutely incredible. Crisp, clean air, warm colors everywhere you look, everyone’s invigorated. 

The rolling hills of Virginia. It gets much hillier than this.

My best friend growing up had a beach house in Litchfield, SC, right near Pawley’s Island, so I spent a lot of time surfing and playing in and around Litchfield, which is the beach across the inlet from Pawley’s Island, which was where more people visited because it was bigger. But we spent a lot of time on Pawley’s as well. And he lived in Darlington and had a large family farm, so I spent a lot of time out in the country on that farm with him. And I was an hour from Myrtle Beach, so I drove over to the beach a lot back before it turned into a crazy place. From the woods to the farm to the beach. Most of my beach time was at Pawleys, Litchfield and Holden Beach. Holden was with family, Pawleys was for fun with friends. And I had lots and lots of fun at Litchfield growing up.

pawleys island - litchfield

Litchfield and Pawleys Island. Much time was spent here.

My parents bought a beach house in Holden Beach, North Carolina which we went to frequently. Holden Beach is just above the NC/SC border and was about 3 hours from our house. I fished, surfed, learned a lot about sea life and nature there. I complained a lot about being bored when we were there, which in retrospect was ridiculous. I was free to roam about the entire island, sea, inlets and wherever I pleased. Which was how my life was growing up everywhere, which is entirely different from today, where I wouldn’t dare let my daughter out of my sight. Not because I don’t trust her. I do. Because I don’t trust the world to behave the same as it did when I was young. It doesn’t anymore. America has twice the population it did when I was a kid, and the types of people and rules are different. It’s not for the better. It’s been much for the worse, which politically, the left wants more of. Keep that in mind.

holden beach pier

Our beachfront house was very close to this pier, to the left of it in this photo. I walked down there to the arcade, to surf and see what people were catching all the time. The longest pier in NC, actually. 

I’ve spent my life growing up in the Deep South, near the Atlantic Ocean. I grew up during a time when it was normal and safe to play outside, with friends. Football games in friends’ yards, biking and exploring creeks, woods, rivers, farms, and ditches with my buddies. And since there were so fewer people around, there was a lot more wilderness to explore. I spent a lot of time in the woods, the fields, the dirt roads, the creeks and swamps and many other places I discovered. And I learned a lot about the animals and vegetation that grew around such places. I’ve always loved animals, so finding new ones was always exciting. I’ve always loved catching animals and know how to properly catch nearly every living thing. I had a bike, and roamed as far as I could pedal, which at times was pretty far. Crazy far, to places that Daniel Boone and Captain James Cook would have been frightened of. 

Something I’ve noticed is that when I was a kid there were lots of forests and land overgrown with Kudzu. Today that land has all been subdivided, turned into apartment complexes and groomed to look like an architect’s rendering. Everything is nicely curbed, with trimmed bushes and flowers, and just so. It’s all starting to look the same. There’s not the abundance of nature and unkempt properties like there were in the 1970s and 1980s even. That’s not to say it doesn’t still exist, but you have to go farther into the heart of the south and look deep to find them. When they used to be everywhere. Kids probably don’t even know what Kudzu is today.

kudzu

I live in Louisville, Kentucky today. They like to pretend it’s the south here, but it’s not. I’d even say Kentucky itself isn’t Southern. It doesn’t have anything southern about it. Tennessee is below and it has some southerners, and especially a southern twang. Virginia is the South by proxy. It’s the gentleman’s south.

South Carolina is where my heart is and will always be. It fits me and I consider myself a South Carolinian above all else. And Proudly I should say. SC gets a lot of unfair heat thrown its way(no pun intended. SC can get HOT), but it’s one of the best Staes in the union, even though one of the smallest. I never realized how small until I moved back to Atlanta, and found out the populations we’re the same. It’s why I feel like I know everyone in SC, and I still feel that way. Everyone that matters, at least. It’s a unique place and the people there are special.

oak alleyI’ve spent a lot of time on plantations in South Carolina

I graduated from the University of South Carolina and spent years in Columbia, which is a fine city, but too hot for my taste with no relief. It gets hot in Charleston but at least you can go jump in the water. Which is why I love Charleston. Charleston is an elegant city with more to do than you can believe. But over the past few decades the secret got out and its become overrun. It’s not as fun anymore. Traffic. High prices. People that aren’t from SC living there and telling you what to do. It got crowded with Yankees, basically. It’s not the same at all. 

My heart belongs to Charleston. Charleston is neither the same as North Charleston nor the areas surrounding it, which people confuse it with, intentionally or not. Like Atlanta proper, and the many square miles that surround it. South of Calhoun Street is what I mean. It’s a richly storied, historic neighborhood where I spent my youth and many days and nights walking, bicycling, running, singing and stumbling down the streets of. At night, when no one else is around at all and the streets are empty and strangely quiet, with the gas lights and cobblestone and brick streets and pathways, it feels like you’re in Europe. Charleston has a distinct smell, with horse pee from carriage tours, the marshes, the ocean, the vegetation, and the trash cans all the restaurants have out in alleyways. You’d think it smells atrocious which on some summer days it does. But with the sea breeze that comes through, it’s tempered with a fresh life-fulfilling scent that you get nowhere else. And the bright sunny days from the reflection of the sun off the water is something I took for granted until I moved ot drearier, greyer inland locations.

The memories and stories I have from Charleston are epic and many. They defy reality at times. Which is what makes it such a magical place. There’s a lot of me in the streets, houses, graveyards, churches, nightclubs, gardens, porches and sidewalks of that city. And that doesn’t begin to mention the time I spent on the beaches of Sullivan’s Island, James Island, Johns Island and in Mt. Pleasant, where I lived for a long time. I was all over that place and saw it grow from a tween to an adult. The sudden development was mazing, which was due to a few things. But it managed to preserve its authenticity, which is important. Not without a lot of fights, to be sure, between architectural review boards and longtime residents, and no-good lawyers and carpetbaggers. At the heart of it all is money of course, versus keeping things like they were. I had boats and knew the waterways blindfolded. I could captain you all through the waterways, inlets and creeks of the coastline around Charleston. I spent the night in my boats around there and shrimped and fished there. It seems like another life looking at it from landlocked Louisville, where I’m trapped now.

downtown charleston

Beaufort is beautiful but it will go the same way as Charleston eventually and soon. There’s only so much waterfront property and plantations around. And the Yankees are buying it all up. And hiking up the prices of everything and bringing the worst aspects of the North with them, changing the landscape of the South that I grew up in. That’s how life goes — I understand it. I’m complaining but I’m not ignorant of what’s going on.

the castle in beaufort

I lived across the street from this house for over a year.

New Hampshire was like a dream. I was there from late spring until early fall so I got to experience the best weather, the freshest air, the cleanest spring water, the juiciest blueberries, and all that New England had to offer every year. Happy, friendly people all around, and they should be. It took me away from my friends back in SC so of course, I complained like a child. But looking back it was perfection. I went to a two-week boy’s camp every Summer on a big lake and took golf and tennis lessons and traveled around New England with my grandfather in a giant pink and white Cadillac for 3 months out of the year. What more could you ask for? I had it all. I have some funny stories from hanging out with a bunch of 70 and 80-year-olds all summer every year.

boathouses on lake

Boathouses were everywhere on Lake Winnipesaukee, housing some gorgeous Chris Crafts

I plan to go back to New Hampshire and revisit my old haunts. Things change slowly up there, so although I know it’s not going to be the same, it shouldn’t be too different. I know my name is still emblazoned on the wall in the Lodge at Camp Belknap, nearly forty years later. And I can still get ice cream at Baileys and bread from the Yum Yum Shop. And I can still catch crayfish and sunfish all day long in Lake Winnipesaukee.

I’ve lived in some dumpy apartments and some grand mansions. Every place I’ve lived had some character, though. And has a lot of stories through me they can now tell. I’ve lived in some of the most beautiful places in this country, which at times makes me think I’ve been spoiled. But we all have the ability to some degree to choose where we live, and I think it’s an important decision. I was married to someone who I honestly believe didn’t care where she lived and in what manner. She never evaluated the quality of what was around her, to her detriment. Including her spouses. But to me, it’s one of the most important aspects of life. So I’ve chosen some very pretty places. And I’ve wound up in Louisville, which I’m bound to stay at least until my daughter turns 18, or my ex-wife and I decide to move to another place, which is unlikely to the degree that it’s impossible. She’s gotten everything she wants, (at everyone else’s expense) so she’s settled in for a while until she has another selfish folly or something truly extraordinary happens, which on occasion does happen I’ve found.

new zealand

New Zealand, which is a small magical country consisting of 2 big islands and a few really small ones.

I’ve spent time in places for rather long periods as well. I spent 3 months in New Zealand, for example, which was an adventure to remember. And a month in Statesboro, Georgia in a hospital setting, which is where I got the Statesboro Blues. Georgia is where my family really hearkens from. My father was born in Macon, Ga, where the Allman Brothers are from, which is about the only cool thing about Macon. My mother was born in Brunswick, Ga., near Savannah, which is near Bluffton where I lived for a long while. I was born in Atlanta, as stated earlier, and my parents lived almost on Piedmont Park, back when Atlanta was much different. The hippies hung out at Piedmont Park and Atlanta didn’t sprawl out into the suburbs like it does today. Lenox Mall was an outdoor mall, and everything north of it was fields and Kudzu. The crime rate wasn’t off the charts and the political corruption was under control. My parents grew up in Albany, Georgia, and that’s where I visited a lot growing up. Radium Springs and the Flint River were all I heard about and I’ve spent some cold time swimming in both. My dad was stationed in Ft. Benning, Ga. when he was in the Army. My grandmother eventually moved to Helen, Georgia, in the northern part and is buried among many of my relatives in Thompson, Ga., if I remember correctly. I went to her funeral in 1993 or so, so my memory fails me sometimes.  

bluffton

I spent much time in Bluffton, SC

At one point I was free financially and unburdened in every way, and I had the liberty to decide where on this Earth I wanted to live. It seems like a liberating situation, but it’s overwhelming, in fact. I kept trying to think of a place like Asheville, NC. I went to Roanoke, Va, and found a beautiful house and even made an offer on some mountaintop property for sale there. But I finally realized, instead of looking for a place “like” Asheville, just move TO Asheville. Which I did.

asheville

Asheville was great, and it was where I met up and adopted a very good friend, Annie. I had a lot of friends there (I still have a few), and there was a good reason George Vanderbilt decided to build his little vacation home there: it’s gorgeous. The Blue Ridge Mountains are cozy and rich in color and history and I loved the stone and river feel to it all. There are a lot of craftsman style houses there, and the world’s largest Stickley furniture collection is at the Grove Park Inn, which I lived a stone’s throw from. The fishing and air and arts and people were all lovely, and although the NYT calls it “progressively minded” and there are a lot of hippies around there, it’s not overwhelming like you might find in Portland, Oregon or San Francisco. Or Louisville, for that matter. 

asheville

As I mentioned earlier, like my grandparents, I was conned into picking everything up and moving to Alabama, to renovate a little weird house for my father to move into, which he never did. But I fixed it up and maintained it for him for several years and ended up staying in Montgomery, Alabama which had its good moments and bad. I have family there, which was wonderful to be able to finally get to know them. My entire life I was shielded from that part of my family for reasons I won’t get into, so I’m grateful for that overdue opportunity. And I enjoyed being so close to and getting to know them while there. Montgomery itself was a pretty bad place to live. High crime, sprawling development, very segregated, hot, hot and hot. I had someone steal the hanging plants off my front porch. I had someone steal my CDs out of my car at a gas station while I paid. Hardly any decent restaurants or places to go for entertainment. You make your own fun and food, which I was groomed to do, fortunately. Luckily I lived in one of the most picturesque neighborhoods. Unfortunately, as soon as you stepped across the street you were in the ghetto everywhere you turned and risked your life going to the store after dark. I tried to find some nice pictures to post here of Montgomery and failed. That says it all.

I moved from there to Tuscaloosa, about 2 hours Northwest to go to graduate school and earn my MBA, which was a goal I’d had in mind for a number of years. I was glad to be able to check that off. I traveled between Tuscaloosa, Eclectic Alabama, where my family had a lake house and where I got married in 2010, and Montgomery relentlessly. I must have driven that triangle a thousand times. I got to know that region of Alabam really well and documented it pretty well with photographs. I lived in a teeny-tiny one-bedroom apartment with Annie while I went to school, and would go to Montgomery on the weekends to maintain my father’s house there, and to the lake house during the warmer months in Eclectic. Tuscaloosa is a small University town, that without the school, would be like most small towns in Alabama are, a place for truckers and trains to pause and travelers to fill up with gas and food on their way to a better place. Alabama has its southern chams, but if you’re from the South then that doesn’t matter much.  

And from there, I ended up moving to Louisville so my wife could live out her dreams and I could watch. And that places me here, where I am now. I long to move back to the “real” South – it doesn’t even matter where. But that goal is in the distant future because of the situation I now find myself. I hope to one day share the oceans and woods and mountains that I enjoyed growing up with my daughter. It may appear that I love moving around. I don’t. In fact, I hate it. I would love to have a home in one place and never move from it, which I believed at one time I’d found but it was taken from me. I’d somehow always planned to get back to South Carolina, where all my best friends still live, as life passes us all by.

I love to travel, which is much different than moving, which of course is more difficult, exhausting, expensive, stressful, dangerous and taxing in every way than traveling for pleasure. But at least I know the world well enough now to present it to my daughter and know what I’m talking about.

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti

This is a dish I make a lot because like almost everything I post here it’s easy, cheap, fast and makes the house smell unbelievable. You’ll think you’re in Italy. And my 4 year old loves it, which is important. You can add sausage which has been rendered, shredded chicken, meatballs, or whatever meat you like, too. But I like the vegetarian version and sometimes add a few handfuls of steamed, seasoned broccoli florets before baking.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 3+ cloves of garlic
  • 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 1 box ziti pasta
  • 4-5 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tsp dried Oregano
  • Kosher S & P to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Start water for pasta to boil.
  • Pour about 2 TB of olive oil in large saute pan and add garlic and saute until soft, about 1 minute
  • Add crushed tomatoes, salt & pepper and oregano and basil, chiffonaded, simmer for 10+ minutes
  • Cook pasta until al dente. Drain.
  • Add Tomatoes to pasta.
  • Oil 3 qt baking dish. Add tomato sauce/pasta just to cover the bottom of the pan. Add a healthy layer of cheese. Repeat until the last layer is cheese. You can also top with parmesan.
  • Spray foil with cooking spray and cover. Cook for 20 minutes. Uncover and cook for 10 minutes until the top is browned and bubbly.
  • Let cool for 5 minutes.

baked ziti

 

 

 

Chicken Bog

Chicken Bog

It may seem strange that I post so many recipes on this website, but as someone who cooks a lot, it makes it easy to find recipes that I cook often but may forget the exact measurements or times or ingredients. So it’s a quick reference, plus these recipes are really good, so I thought it’d be nice to share.

I have a giant 6 Quart KitchenAid crockpot that I use all the time. A few times a week. I have the “Easy Serve Lid” but if I bought one again, which I would, I’d just get the regular lid, for $24 less. I rarely use it. Somebody might, if they use it to serve from, but it’s not helpful to me. This is the best slow cooker I’ve ever used, for a variety of reasons. If you’re ever in the market, I suggest giving the one I linked to up there a close look.

Chicken Bog

Chicken Bog is a South Carolina dish, called Chicken Purleau in Sumter. But it’s known as Chicken Bog everywhere else. It’s an inexpensive, hearty dish that goes a long way. It’s really tasty and uses rice, which is a southern staple. It’s usually found at barbeque joints in SC and family dinner tables when there’s a crowd to feed.

I’ve made it many times and have learned a few things. It’s easy to make, but it’s also easy to make where it’s disappointing, which may lead people to not make it again, which would be a shame. That’s because it needs lots of seasoning. The rice and chicken don’t provide a lot of flavor on their own. A common way to cook it is to boil the chicken and use the stock to cook the rice in. That boils a lot of flavor out of the chicken. And sometimes I use chicken breasts, which really need to be heavily seasoned. But it’s a very lower-fat option. Cooking a whole chicken renders a lot of fat which needs to be skimmed. But the trade-off is more flavor, of course.

A store-bought rotisserie chicken could be used as a time-saver. But there are a lot of additives you may not want to eat in those, plus the convenience erases some of the value cooking your own provides. Cooking a whole chicken couldn’t be easier, and there are multiple ways to do it. Bake it, boil it, slow-cook it, grill it, and so on.

The sausage you use is your own choice. I’ve had every type imaginable in it and it’s all good. Cooking it in a pan beforehand renders a lot of flavors, especially if you scrape and use the fond from it. Andouille is great but higher-fat. Kielbasa is also a favorite but not the lowest fat. Smoked turkey sausage is the lowest fat but not the most satisfying.

If you boil or slow-cook the chicken, you’ll end up with a good base for chicken stock. I put in chopped onion, a few celery stalks and carrots chopped, and maybe a green pepper chopped up along with salt and pepper and some garlic while it cooks. I skim the fat and add 33% less sodium chicken broth to make about 5 cups to cook the bog in.

A tip: when you’re cooking the bog in a pot, versus a crockpot, you have to be careful not to overcook it and burn the rice. If you do, it’s ruined.

So with that prologue out of the way, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 14 ounces smoked sausage, halved and sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 2 cups uncooked medium grain rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 chicken (about 3 pounds), meat removed and shredded
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 3 carrots
  • green pepper

 

Instructions for slow-cooker

  • In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and sausage; cook until sausage is lightly browned. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer; transfer to slow cooker.
  • Stir in 4 cups broth, rice, salt and pepper. Cook, covered, on low until rice is tender, 4-5 hours. Stir in chicken and remaining broth. Cook, covered, on low until chicken is heated through, about 30 minutes

Instructions for chicken-in-the-pot

  • In a large pot, add celery, carrot, onion, pepper, seasoning, and chicken. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.
  • Remove chicken and reserve liquid. Shred chicken and discard skin and bones. Set aside.
  • Skim fat from liquid in the pot. Strain vegetables. (Quick tip: put in fridge or freezer to let the fat solidify faster, and use a fat-strainer)
  • Add broth to stock to make 5 cups. Add rice, sausage, and chicken.
  • Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until rice is done, about 20 minutes. Make sure it doesn’t burn. Don’t lift the lid off the pot any more than necessary.
  • Fluff with fork and stir. Season as desired, if necessary.

chicken bog

Chicken Bog – YUM!

The Chicken Bog in this photo is too soupy. This is before the rice has been cooked, obviously, and this looks like long-grain rice and chopped chicken instead of shredded, which is fine but not authentic. It should be fluffy rice and chicken and sausage when done.

Some notes after I published this

I’ve been making this a lot lately, Autumn being the perfect season for it, and it just being so cheap and easy and my daughter likes it, so I’ve been making it about every other week until we get tired of it. So I’ve been trying different little ways to see what makes it better.

I’m cooking my whole chicken in my big crockpot and using aromatics to keep the chicken from sitting on the bottom. Some carrots, celery, coarsely chopped onions(like in quarters-coarse). This is an excellent way to use past-their-prime vegetables. I hate wasting food and try to use everything for something. So putting a bed of vegetables on the bottom of a slow-cooker with a chicken on top is a great way to make some stock.

I put cut up oranges or lemons inside the bird while it cooks. I buy tangerines and apples for my daughter which often she doesn’t eat the whole thing or the bag of citrus is too much. So I’ll stuff the bird with what’s left of an apple or a bag of tangerines that we’re not going to be able to eat before they expire. Same with onions or garlic cloves.

I’ll season the bird with chopped garlic, some seasoning without salt, lemon juice, or whatever strikes me or I have on hand. I cook it on high for 3-1/2 hours and let it cool in the cooker until I can handle it to remove the bones and skin and fat. I use three big bowls for that process, which isn’t the most fun, but it’s necessary and what adds the love to the dish. I remove the aromatics from the cooker and pour the drippings into a separation/strainer/measuring cup thing I have to yield usually 1 cup of stock. I discard as much fat as I can.

Meanwhile, I cut the sausage on the bias into slices and render it in a deep non-stick Calphalon pot. I remove that and pour out the grease but save what’s cooked on the bottom, which is fond. I put the pot on the burner and turn it up to high and once it’s good and hot, I slowly pour some chicken broth in it while stirring to release the fond. You don’t want to burn the fond and you don’t want to burn off the broth you’re pouring in and you don’t want to warp your pot, which putting cold liquid not a hot pot or pan will do. So just watch what you’re doing.

Once you’ve scraped the fond from the bottom and the bottom of the pot is “clean”, pour your stock and broth into the pot to make 5 cups. I find 1 cup from cooking the bird plus a 32 oz. box of Swanson’s no-sodium Chicken Broth is perfect. Bring that to a boil. It shouldn’t take but a few minutes.

Pour 2 cups of medium grain rice in. That’s a 1 lb bag of Minute Maid. There’s a difference between long-grain and medium grain. Don’t fool yourself. Bring back to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and set a timer for 20 minutes.

Cooking rice is what throws most people off. Cooking rice properly isn’t easy. You have to know your range and what “High” heat and “simmer” means to it, your pot(how heavy/thick it is) and that you have a lid that fits properly. You’ll come to appreciate a glass lid so you can see what’s going on in there and determine your rice’s doneness.

Rice is done when you don’t see any bubbling going on, don’t smell anything burning, and there’s a good separation between the grains when you look through the lid. It should look moist and full, and not gluey and gloppy.

Remove the pot from the burner and carefully remove the lid. There’s a lot of steam in there. Gently fluff the rice with a large fork and make sure to fold the bottom rice up to the top and you should be good. Stir in the sausage and chicken well, season to taste, and serve.

 

Stay Positive

Stay Positive

Some Ways to Stay Positive

Staying positive is something that seems obvious to be happy, but it’s hard for some people to do. Harder for some than others, and I believe that’s because of constantly training ourselves to either think positively, which is hard and must be consciously done sometimes or think negatively. Thinking negatively is easy and I’d even say lazy, and it’s poisonous to ourselves and to relationships. No one like to be around or associated with someone that always thinks negatively, whether it’s about others, events in life, themselves, situations they find themselves (which are typically no different than any others people find themselves in at some point), or any and everything that comes their way.

Either way, we condition ourselves to think one way or another. And after time goes by, it becomes the routine way our brains travel when we have to ponder a matter. Do we look at it with optimism and trying to think of good things about it, and try to see the positive, or do we curse it and look at it woefully and how bad it is is how helpless it makes us change it? I know people that do both, and I prefer to be with the optimists. Everyone has negative events that occur in their lives but it’s how we learn to manage and cope with them that I think makes us stronger and able to hand even worse matters, that, unfortunately, do lie around the corner if you live long enough.

Learning to be grateful is one way to change yor way of thinking positively. Keeping a list of things you have to be grateful for work for me, and I still write down things I’m grateful for. Gratitude goes hand in hand with happiness. And everyone has something to be grateful for, no matter how dim life might look at times. I wrote down 10 things each day I was grateful for, and it changes your perspective. It conditions you to be more positive.

I’ve also found it’s easier to be more positive when you’re more down and out that when you’re on top. When you have more to worry about losing or are up on top, there’s a long way down to fall and the footing sometimes feels unsteady. When at rock bottom, things feel like they only get better, so it’ easy to be optimistic. It’s ironic, really.

People that have a negative outlook on life are corrosive and have an anchoring effect on your soul. They drag you along, tire you out and drain your resources. Miserable people love to commiserate (misery loves company is true) and they’ll pick at you until they find a spot to saturate and infect you with their cancer until you quickly die. So I tend to stay away from negative people because it’s as unhealthy as smoking, eating poorly, drinking alcohol and being complacent. All things I coincidentally did when younger and have quit and never been happier and both mentally and physically healthier as a result.

Everyone’s different so I don’t have specific answers for everyone can achieve that outlook, but I can list some ways that have worked for me:

  1. Keep a gratitude list
  2. Exercise. Get off your butt.
  3. Go for a walk. I don’t really consider this “exercise” exactly, but it gets you outdoors and gets your blood and chemicals pumping, which is good for you.
  4. Change your playgrounds and playmates. The people and places we choose to go to have an impact on us, good or bad. And if you struggle with keeping a good outlook, it may be due to these things.
  5. Music. Music can instantly change the mood I’m in and the things I think about. I find it’s one of the most powerful influences in my life, which is why I embrace it the way I do and play guitar and go to live performances. Bonus: Live performances also put you among lots of other happy people who share the same love of the music you’re hearing.
  6. Pets and animals. They have unconditional love, which goes a long way. They are appreciative of everything you do for them, which lifts spirits automatically. Dogs especially have a profound impact on my life. Good dogs, at least.
  7. Read good books that have a positive message or make you stronger somehow.
  8. Listen to a Ted talk. (Not a TedX talk. There’s a difference.)
  9. Help others. There are always people that need a hand, and everyone can help someone else somehow.

I’m sure there are a lot more I’m overlooking but that’s a good list for starters.

You may ask: why bother? Because being positive allows us to be happy. It makes us happier and healthier. People want to be around us more, which has a snowball effect with regards to happiness, and I’d say even success. You become a magnet for positivity and a repellant for negativity, which draws negative events and people to us, which I doubt many people welcome. When you’re happy you want to help others, which I’d say is a big reason to live. If you want fulfillment in life and are trying to find a reason we exist as people, one is to help others, which being positive helps us do, and want to do.

 

 

Why Parades Are THE WORST

Why Parades Are THE WORST

Louisville Bardstown Rd. Halloween Parade 2019

Let me explain firstly, this is not a complaint. It’s more of a rant. The difference being that rants are truthful observations. Complaints are when you’re letting off steam because you feel like you’ve been wronged somehow and are seeking justice. There’s no justice for what parades take from our souls and I have no skin in this game to feel wronged.

I try to stay away from public gatherings because at my age I’ve experienced them to every degree imaginable, and they seem to characterize more of what I have less patience for as I get older. Yes, I’m changing, but so are the factors that comprise “The Public.” And if you think I sound snobby, then you probably are part of the problem. But my daughter and I went to this “festival” and parade because she should experience what these things represent, for good and bad. Even she had enough at a point and wanted to leave early. I’ve never liked parades, and fairs and public gatherings give me hives. They’re too much of everything that makes me roll my eyes. And as I get older, that’s more and more stuff.

There’s also a difference between the crowds when you talk about “the public.” What you experience at Disney World, for example, is different than what you get at, say, today’s Halloween parade my daughter and I attended. Disney World filters out 99% of the riff-raff through its pricing. It’s so expensive for an authentic Disney vacation that most people, being more than 50% of America, simply can’t afford it without some subsidy. I know people that have six-figure salaries that have to use time-share scams and University conferences as ways to go spend just a couple of days at Disney World. And you need probably a week to do it there right without having a nervous breakdown, which for a family of 4, easily would cost close to $10,000. So it’s not exactly caddy day at Bushwood country club. My freshman year I went to Rollins College in Winter Park Florida, just outside of Orlando. The number of times I went to Disney World: zero.

Juxtapose that with going to a free parade on a Saturday afternoon that’s held along a street that’s nothing but bars, tattoo and piercing parlors, head shops, shuttered commercial spaces that represent shattered dreams of the stupid variety(which I’ll discuss later), burrito counters, vape/CBD stores, cell phone stores, and little stores that have somehow stayed open defying all odds, like vinyl record stores, comic book stores, vintage high-end guitar shops, and nail and beauty salons. That street in Louisville is Bardstown Rd. It’s around the corner from methadone clinics and runs through the bluest area of a blue city, The Highlands. High-crime as well, which shouldn’t need to be said.

Bardstown Rd. is a place that many cities have, like little 5 points in Atlanta, and where the “counter-culture” hangs out. Lots of restaurants and nightlife. Except the counter culture doesn’t exist anymore. In the 1970s and 1980s and for a bit of the early 1990s, yes. But the internet and shifts in mainstream culture and music and the arts all changed forever. What was “alternative” became mainstream. And it hasn’t changed. The people that are being “different” and “themselves” are doing nothing more than copying what they see online, at the mall, at school, parades, and with the general public and the other mainstream places the public at large dwells. in the 70’s, having a tattoo, a body piercing, a mohawk, short hair if you were female or long hair if you were a male with unique facial hairstyles, colored hair, wore ironic, vintage, ill-fitting, donated clothing, and listened to bands no one else had even heard of, then you were counter-culture. That’s all mainstream in 2019, and it’s not ironic, and the music is pop music. I feel more eccentric going out in public here with no tattoos, dressed well, hair neat and myself groomed, than a man would with a bun in their hair and wearing a skirt.

Counter culture in 2019 is conservative. No tattoos. Pressed, collared shirts tucked in with belts, wearing styles that buck trends and have been worn since the 1950s and 1960s with hairstyles to match the gender. Cuffed pants and shoes with shoestrings. And knowing exactly what gender we are and proud of it, and even try to accentuate the fact via taking care of our bodies and maintaining a reasonable amount of self-esteem. Self-esteem has been thrown out the window in 2019, proven by looking in any direction when attending a parade as we went to today. In every direction were people that were morbidly obese, with clothing that was 10 times too small, showing off the inner-tube-like physiques struggling to stay within the overworked fibers of their t-shirts, tank-tops, jeggings and spandex pants, pajama bottoms, and whatever they found on the floor when they rolled off the couch. Self-esteem seems to the controlling factor of why we see what we do today versus what we saw a few decades ago. Americans used to have some. No more.

What white skin that was unfortunately visible to the naked eye was graffitied with a landscape of colors, but no telling what they comprised. Names of common-law spouses, maybe? Some motorcycle badge perhaps? Who knows, and who wants to look at it long enough to try and find out? No one. I don’t know what tattoos cost these days, but I imagine they aren’t cheap, which makes one wonder.

I don’t have anything against tattoos per-se. I know plenty of people with them, and I know why, when and where they got them. Getting a butterfly on your ankle in 1987 when you were following the Grateful Dead is a lot different than a massive skull, snakehead and knife blazoned across your back above a tramp stamp and below a tribal around your neck in 2017 because you saw it on “Dawg the Bounty Hunter.” It’s become nothing more than monkey-see, monkey do. I’ve hired designers with tattoo sleeves and on their necks and heads and God knows where else. I can appreciate that people who love art and design see it as an extension of their own love of art. But beyond that, you’re losing me. Men that get them to look tough, women that get them to look sexy….no. It doesn’t happen that way.

So back to the Halloween gala today. My daughter and I waited patiently for nearly an hour in a spot I chose so we could see the parade well, maybe get some candy that was tossed and have a good time. “The public” had a different idea in store.

What we experienced sitting there with the world passing by around us was: people so overweight they have been placed on motorized scooters to haul their blubberbutts around, playing bumper cars with people and obstacles in a heavily crowded parade route. Many of these whales were smoking cigarettes, just to punish their bodies and those unfortunate enough to come into proximity of them further. And then the people sitting on the curbs smoking, with children lining up all around them to watch the parade. It’s hard for me to believe anyone still smokes in 2019, but to do it smack-dab in the middle of a family crowd is beyond inconsiderate. And most of these people were eating some type of fried street food they found, and leaving their litter on the curbs for people to step in and swerve around when ther were trash cans all over the place. I hate litter and people who litter blow my little mind.

People would constantly mosey up and stand right directly in front of me and my daughter, sitting in her stroller, taking up 1-1/2 feet horizontally and maybe 3 feet vertically, like we weren’t even there. We grabbed a choice spot for viewing and grabbing candy, which my daughter wasn’t aggressive enough among the other children to get the little treats being tossed out. I wasn’t sure to be glad or worried about that fact, but in the end, I think it’s best she doesn’t try to fight strangers for road candy. I will give her better, and her hesitancy to engage in battle for sugar is probably a demonstration of manners, restraint and consideration, which I try to instill.

Speaking of Strangers with Candy

So I mentioned Bardstown Road is a street lined with pubs and bars and places people go to imbibe every hour of the day each day of the week. It’s our own little Bourbon Street. And not surprisingly, it’s where you can find the homeless, the shady, the unwashed, the barflies and the down and out. I saw several children on their own out along the parade route, while daddy was back in the pub knocking back a few while little princess was standing alone out in the street with her plastic grocery bag waiting for candy to be thrown her way. Warmed my heart. Every now and then they’d stagger out and make sure everything was OK and stumble back up to the bar. The vision of someone walking by, scooping up the child and moving on back to their van with their prize and driving off forever playing over and over in my mind. The children’s’ mothers somewhere nearby with their noses in their mobile phones in another world.

Bardstown Road is a street where there is an endless number of storefronts that house the dreams of people who have an idea, some savings to start it up, but no business sense. And a year later, it’s out of business for the next dreamer/tenant to move on in. Boutique chocolate cafes. Dog treat stores. Stores that cater to cat owners. Small bookstores. Indian vegan street food. If you can dream it, it’s been tried and failed on Bardstown Road. I think every city has a street or area like this. It’s where liberals congregate to throw their savings away. Cafes, bookstores, record shops, concepts that soothe the liberal mind and sound great at the book club and on NPR but make no sense on paper and are an accountant’s nightmare.

It was often hard to tell who was dressed for Halloween and who was just there for the parade.

bardstwon road halloween parade louisville

Louisville – Bardstown Road Halloween Parade 2019

 

 

Gratitude and Humility

Gratitude and Humility

We often hear that we should be grateful and be humble, which is true. Humility is a lack of ego. Some people confuse it with “humiliation,” which is totally different. But I wonder if everyone really takes that into consideration as much as it should be, which is enough to actually practice them consistently. They aren’t natural ways to be, and for some people, it comes much harder than others.

I know a lot of people who I’ve known for nearly my whole life that have grown up demonstrating a facade that they have and are the way they are because of entitlement or some God-given grace. They’ve never had to show gratitude or humility, and to do so in the least would be as mortifying as standing in Times Square at noon naked. Admitting that would be impossible, which comes with the attitude. But through life, I’ve gotten to know many people who are gracious, grateful and humble, and they are some of the people everyone wants to strive to be like and want to know. It’s the difference between people that give and people that only take. It usually takes some twist of fate that puts us in some compromising position to begin thinking about what we should be grateful for and how to truly be humble. I know in my case that’s true.

But I don’t think it has to be that way. Empathy and the ability to put ourselves in other people’s shoes allows for it. Men like Robert E. Lee understand humility and haven’t been down and out like some people have. Although “down and out” is relative, generally speaking. What seems huge now might seem laughable at a later point in life. I know I’ve faced what I thought were some hard times, but in retrospect, they were pretty easy comparatively. And although I’ve been what people would certainly consider “broke” I’ve given my last $5 to a man standing out in the Summer heat on the corner of a highway asking for help because obviously, he was in a worse spot than I. I at least was sitting in an air-conditioned car, driving to a house with water and food.

R.E. Lee

Whenever we feel great about the position we’re in life and proud of where we find ourselves, it’s a perfect time to reflect and try to think of all that we should be grateful for, and not proud of. And remember that it can all be taken away in the blink of an eye. Usually, the easier it comes, the easier it goes. But not always. And to remember that we’re all human and imperfect is something to keep in mind. No one’s better than anyone else. It’s easy to judge someone else based on perceptions we have thanks to the experiences and gifts we’ve had and been given that others haven’t. I don’t think it has anything to do with “luck” or fortune or misfortune. It’s that everyone takes a unique, complex set of routes through life that makes us see things differently, and make choices to the best of our ability that differ from others because of what we’ve been exposed to and learned from our past.

At the very least we need to be able to be grateful to be happy. They go hand in hand. And when the cards are down, being humble makes life much easier when you have to reach up and out for help. There will be many more hands available than if you need to reach down for help from the pedestal you’ve maintained, and turns out you’ve borrowed the whole time.


Definition of a Gentleman

Robert. Edward Lee


The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.

The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly–the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light

The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.

 

 

How Humans Cope with Stress

How Humans Cope with Stress

I’ve been noticing some interesting things recently as I deal with a number of stressful issues occurring in my life. They are separate and related, and vary in scope and scale and how they were injected into my life and relieved. They’re dynamic, in other words, but persistent, and lately, sizable in any way someone looks at them. They’re relative, I know. Everyone has problems, and I know there are people with greater problems than I have, and others with less. But to each person, the stressor is relative to the amount and type of coping skills they’re armed with, the amount of time they have to devote to them, and all the other resources needed to deal with each one separately, in conjunction with one another, and often compounded by each other. I don’t mean to compare my situation with anyone else’s because they’re all unique.

So I’m not writing about this as a complaint; more like a clinical observation about how my own person, physically and mentally, have reacted to what I’m experiencing. I think nearly anyone would agree that what I’m experiencing, knowing the details of it all, is unusually high-stress in any context, however. “Measuring” it seems pointless and futile because of what I described above. I’m just trying to impress the fact this isn’t your everyday “I got into a car accident” or “my power was cut off” type of problem that’s being dealt with.

So what initially happened when I was hit with the sudden news that my wife left me and my family was destroyed, dreams shattered, the dog died, etc… was that I lost a lot of weight quickly. My cortisol levels went off the chart. I lost over 25% of my weight in two weeks, and I wasn’t overweight. That was from about 175 lbs to less than 152 pounds, and then it kept dropping into the 140s, to about 145 and then to 135 when I stopped weighing myself because it was frightening to see myself turning into a skeleton and not being able to stop it. Even though I was eating normally and living as I always had. Eventually, after gorging myself for months and time doing the work time tend to do, I put the weight back on. Yes, I went to the doctor, and he just said it was because of stress, which is what I already knew and why I dismiss most doctors to begin with.

fight or flight

Fast forward to now, about 2 quick years later when I’m experiencing a resurgence in stress from some of the same issues that remain unresolved, or have become worse, plus a number of new ones. I had financial stresses removed temporarily, and then the rug pulled out from under me and me crashing on the ground even harder than before, which I’m working on getting back up from now.

But what is interesting to me is my body’s response this time. I went through a period of sleeplessness where I would go days without sleep until my common sense and biology made me get some sleep. And then I’d rest very hard, and find it hard to even move a muscle in the direction out of bed, to shower and tend to the numerous obligations I have. I don’t drink or smoke, and I exercise when I can, but I’m not on a regular exercise regimen. My daily chores typically provide quite a bit. Just mowing my nearly vertical yard is more than I believe most men my age could do, and I do it every week, plus chasing my daughter nonstop around gets the heart pumping. I’ve never worried about becoming Mr. Universe but I’ve always been active. Always.

What’s more, I find that I have an insatiable appetite. I’ve never eaten for comfort or as a coping mechanism. I consider food fuel and eat healthily. I tend to graze throughout the day and night instead of eating big several full meals like most people I think do. I don’t wait until I’m starving to refill my tank. I’ve never been a snacker. But I do have a sweet tooth and will eat dark chocolate or ice cream as a rare treat.
 


 

But lately, I have been eating non-stop, which I think is due to our fight or flight instinct. I stay awake forever as a fighting stance. And my body wants me to bolster my energy sources by eating a bunch of food and resting, once I give in and lie down. It tries to keep me down to rest, to be prepared to fight, although to me when I’m lying there, it feels more like flight. I keep getting bad news which is body blows that also tempt me to hide from the world as well. But I know that’s the least productive thing I can do and will only make matters worse, so I fight it. I’m a fighter, not a quitter, and I’m a doer, not a talker, which is are facts that will remove me from this pit eventually one way or another. People have had to face far worse circumstances than I am, and have emerged so much stronger than most people on Earth as a result. I don’t think that I fall outside that group of people with the background and fortitude I have. And although nearly everyone has turned their backs to me, I still have a group of people that I know live me and care about me, which will always be remembered and helps lift me up when I just want to lie down and give up.

emotional eating

This time, despite my ridiculous appetite, I’m not putting on any weight, but it’s especially noticeable when juxtaposed against my daughter’s appetite. She is 4 years old and eats like a bird, to begin with. And she’d rather play than eat. I have to force her to focus on settling down and eating, and even then she’s picky, so she’ll only eat a few bites at a time and then it’s back to work for her. She reminds me of myself in that regard, where I will often neglect myself in the name of finishing something else I’m focused on to the point of being manic. When I did consulting work, I’d stay up for 3 days straight to finish a project and not come up for air until it was done. That’s always been my ethic, and I recognize it and recognize it’s crazy, but that’s another post. I also notice stress compels me to want to create/produce, like writing, building things, fixing things around the house, playing guitar, and being artistic. And it’s the reason I’m up typing this at nearly 2 am instead of getting sleep. But I’m not crazy, so goodnight.

When You’re Out of Answers

When You’re Out of Answers

I’ve come to a point in life where I’m truly between a rock and a hard place. My whole life I’ve been able to come up with solutions to some complex problems, but I find myself suddenly stuck with no way out.

I have no one to turn to, no safety net and no one but myself to save me. I’ve tried to prepare myself for any emergency, but this one is stripping me of all my resources and leaving me completely vulnerable.

I’ve asked my tiny family for ideas to remove me from this position, and it has resulted in nothing more than a pat on the back. So now I’ve decided to ask the world, via the internet, for solutions.

Here’s the problem that needs to be fixed:

I am a recently divorced father of a wonderful 4-year-old who has found himself in a city where he doesn’t belong: Louisville, KY. But this is where we landed so that my ex-wife could begin her teaching career, and is where my daughter was born, and will likely have to stay, unfortunately. Away from family, away from where I grew up in South Carolina, and away from my reality.

All savings went to divorce lawyers and staying alive.

I’m 50 years old and have spent much of my time learning to prepare myself for the working world. I’ve held a lot of jobs along the way to make ends meet so that when I entered the workforce I had some experience.

So, I’m educated and experienced. Perfect. Not quite, apparently.

I’ve pulled every string and applied to every company in a 30-mile radius, and remotely, and the response has been chilly. Lots of nibbles thanks to having an MBA. But no curious interest beyond that. It makes a person wonder.

It leaves me with no income yet I still have responsibilities, such as taking good care of my daughter, paying weekly rent to a very gracious landlord, utilities, food, toilet paper and so on. So I systematically relinquish my limited and cherished possessions in exchange for money to survive. But I’m quickly running out of road and I can only see three exits, which is always the good, better, best scenario:

  • Best case: Job falls in my lap from my hundreds of applications. Unlikely.
  • Better case: I find a job that will allow me to get back on my feet and move along. Although I’m willing to do anything, there are areas that I’m trained in (marketing) and I must earn at least enough to pull me out of this pit. Because of circumstances that are now out of my control, I’m fixated in a lease that requires $2000 per month, which I’m paying weekly, so my daughter and I at least have shelter. I’d like to move to another house that’s less expensive but I haven’t the necessary funds to do so. That’s a tight knot.
  • Good case: No job is found, I’m evicted and cannot see my daughter anymore. Homeless wretch, a possible suicide.

So that’s where the puzzle presents itself and I turn to the world for solutions. What says the world?

Michael and Cecelia

Cecelia and her Daddy

POSTSCRIPT EDIT OCTOBER 7, 2019:

Well it’s been a week and I have my answers.

It was interesting to see who responded. This post was a distress signal. An emergency SOS cry for help, for anyone that couldn’t figure that out. When you open yourself to the entire world and plea for some help, there’s no road left and life has become dire.

Who came to help were my longtime friends from boarding school. No one from my family popped up to see what was the matter. No ex-wives who pledged to be by my side through thick and thin and obviously didn’t mean it. No drinking buddies from decades past when such things bound men together. I’m not mentioning them to shame them. That’s their decision and I try not to judge others when I don’t know what they’re thinking.

But the men who came to my rescue didn’t surprise me. And the way they did was no surprise either. When someone’s drowning, giving someone your phone number and telling someone to call you who’s going down for the third time isn’t going to save them. You have to reach out a hand, as hard and exhausting as it may seem because you don’t know what you’re going to be grabbing. It may be an easy lift up, or it may require all your resources and then some. But usually, it’s somewhere in-between those two extremes, of course. And how much it taxes the person reaching out is a measure of how strong they are and how prepared they are to handle such a rescue mission, from staying fit in the ways that matter leading up to the save. For men, it means a display of character. I didn’t expect any women to come to offer real help, because it’s rare they do. That may sound very sexist, but in my 50 years of life, that’s what I’ve experienced. You’re free to change my mind.

The men that answered the call all grew up with the same sense of honor and commitment that I did. It’s no surprise that we all went to the same boarding school, and shared the same life experiences, and learned to become a man the same way. We learned through teamwork, playing sports. We learned through leadership. We learned through having to be independent, away from our families. We grew to learn how to respect each other and how to behave in a healthy society and be there to help when another schoolmate needed it. It was a tight-knit community and always has been. It’s why it will always remain all-boys, all boarding, and relatively small, with 400 boys in 3rd through 6th form(9th-12th grade).

We learned that when times get tough, the tough get going. You don’t sit around and ask questions and talk, you start acting and doing. It’s what separates the men from the boys. I’ve known the guys that responded to my question for around 35 to 40 years+ now. And although none of us live in the same cities or even states, they didn’t think twice about being there when the alarm sounded. It’s truly amazing and demonstrates what a strong bond was formed back when we were boys. Our school’s mission was to transform us into honorable and respectful men of moral purpose. Something to think about.

 

Robert Hunter

Robert Hunter

Here’s an ironic bit of foreshadowing I stumbled across tonight. Something I wrote obviously about 2 years ago prior to my stepdaughter’s mother divorcing me. There are 2 passages that are particularly ominous, which I still hold to be true. And has become reality, as I haven’t seen my previous stepdaughter since June, 2017. I wrote this when she was 14. I last saw her when she was 15.

A Shoutout to All the Stepparents

One of the most thankless jobs in the world is that of a step-parent. Sure, praise is awarded when she or he goes above and beyond expectations from time to time, but generally, the role is status-quo. And the expectations are usually pretty high to begin with. At least those of the biological parents. And, of course, those standards vary wildly from person to person, but most parents at least consider their own parental standards to be high, even if in the scheme of things they aren’t.

I don’t write this to pat myself on the back, having been the surrogate father for a girl from age 4 to age 14. If you’re accepting the role for the accolades, you’re going to be highly disappointed. And that isn’t what the job is about anyway. The job is its own reward. Or at least that’s how I view it. You really have to, anyway. It’s a critical and very important job that has been awarded and should be viewed as a privilege. Same as I view my role of parent.

Stepparents have no legal rights regarding the children unless for some reason there’s adoption involved. That’s rare, however. So your input can be viewed as ancillary by some of the legal parents if that’s the view they’ve chosen to take. I’m sure every situation is different in what the agreement is as to how much influence the stepparent’s opinion and decisions have in the arrangement. It’s a discussion that must be initiated, an agreement must be made, and the situation evaluated, reviewed and tweaked as necessary through life as the child gets older and family dynamics change.

One of the most challenging aspects of being a stepparent is not having legal rights. So you don’t have any skin in the game to begin with but you’re doing at least all the work of a legal parent. You’re doing the job for the sake of wanting to help raise a child properly, in a home with a stable family consisting of a mother, father, and child. So it’s a rewarding job in that respect.

Depending on the age of the child, that aspect can be extremely important, and in the case of divorces, is a horrible reality the child must face day-in and day-out. There is no father in the house along with a mother, and the fact the parents don’t show affection or love towards one another surely causes psychological problems, or will cause relationship issues of their own when they get older. A small child sees nuclear families as the norm everywhere they look, except for their own new set of houses(they have no one place to consider “home” any longer), and they aren’t a part of such a traditional arrangement. There’s a lack of love that exists in the triangle. But that’s a whole different post.

Depending on the age of the child, that aspect can be extremely important, and in the case of divorces, is a horrible reality the child must face day-in and day-out. There is no father in the house along with a mother, and the fact the parents don’t show affection or love towards one another surely causes psychological problems, or will cause relationship issues of their own when they get older. A small child sees nuclear families as the norm everywhere they look, except for their own new set of houses(they have no one place to consider “home” any longer), and they aren’t a part of such a traditional arrangement. There’s a lack of love that exists in the triangle. But that’s a whole different post.

So not only is the child not genetically yours, which may even be a fact you’re reminded of from time to time by the child, parent, or other parties for any number of reasons(sometimes just to be rather rude), but you perpetually must walk a fine line with what type of input you give. Even figuring out if the input is needed or wanted can be difficult. As a natural parent, of course, you give it. But as a stepparent, it may be crossing certain unspoken or spoken lines. What you deem as support can be viewed as criticism or in any number of unexpected ways by the other parent and/or child. And then relationship problems may emerge between husband and wife where there were none. Minefields everywhere for the stepparent.

In addition to that problem, the stepparent doesn’t just have inlaws. He/she now has a whole, strange family to contend with in addition to her/his in-laws. The biological father/mother may be a fine person, but because of the disposition of the divorce(in most cases – you may have married a widower/widow, but that’s a rarer case) that led to the child being separated from one parent for at least half their lives, there’s usually some friction that exists already which you’re now a part of. Differences of opinion and arguments arise between the biological parents that you get stuck in and must help mediate, and some tricky negotiation often is necessary.

And it’s not just the other biological parent. Their parents, or the other, 3rd set of grandparents(at least, depending on your spouse’s family’s family tree), are involved. So you have two sets of in-laws, one of which you had no intention of dealing with. Can it get any better?

As you help raise the child/children as a stepparent, you have to keep a focus on the reality of the bond that’s established as well. You obviously can’t love the child to the degree a natural parent would, and even trying or allowing oneself to would be dangerous. That’s a bond that will be destroyed in a catastrophic way if you get divorced. That child or the children suddenly are no longer part of your life. It’s as if they’ve died since your involvement has suddenly been reduced to zero, and you likely won’t see them much again, if at all. And once again the piece of the family puzzle you’ve existed as in their life has been removed from the child’s life suddenly, and not in a loving way, to say the least. Needless to say, this has negative consequences for the child.

That’s a bond that will be destroyed in a catastrophic way if you get divorced. That child or the children suddenly are no longer part of your life. It’s as if they’ve died since your involvement has suddenly been reduced to zero, and you likely won’t see them much again, if at all. And once again the piece of the family puzzle you’ve existed as in their life has been removed from the child’s life suddenly, and not in a loving way, to say the least. Needless to say, this has negative consequences for the child.

These are all factors that the biological parent may realize but probably doesn’t dwell on much. Why would they? But for a person to accept the role of a stepparent, as much of an honor as it may be, is agreeing to add a whole universe of strangeness to a marriage. I don’t mean the child is strangeness, of course, the role of substitute is unchartered territory.

father daughter dance

Apples

Apples

As we head into fall, there will be no lack of pumpkin-spiced everything and fall harvest motif junk at every turn. But apples become a big thing and are a big thing year-round. They’re cheap and plentiful and can be used, like pears, as a base for a lot of juices and recipes. And when you walk into a grocery store or market, you’ll see a dozen different varieties offered. And I’ll bet most of the time, if not always, most people just walk over to one section and ignore the rest: Red delicious. That may be untrue in parts of the country where apples are grown a lot, but in the South where I grew up, Red Delicious was the standard and staple in every lunchbox and used for everything, no matter what. The rest were exotic.

Which would make a good behavioral study, as to why we go decades, if not our whole lives entrenched in such a decision when there’s absolutely no reason. We’re creatures of habit, but this would seem extreme. Nonetheless, hopefully, this post will change that.

Different apples are good for different purposes, from baking with to eating as a snack. And adventuring out of the Red Delicious routine is something that should be done immediately. It’s probably the lamest of the apples, once you start trying other varieties and seeing what you like better. There are sweeter ones, and ones whose cell composition are better-suited for cooking with. And the prices don’t veer that much, meaning you aren’t going to have to pay a fortune for a Gala, which is what I prefer for eating.

Here is a graphic which outlines the different types from most sour to sweetest. But again, their crunchiness and composition are slightly different as well, which should be considered when baking or cooking with them.

apple types

Something I plan on making with my daughter this fall are baked apple doughnuts, which I’m sure involve brown sugar, which she’ll like. She’s part hummingbird, I’m convinced.

Potatoes are another pantry staple that I think people don’t venture out of their ruts with. Most everyone grab a Russet potato, and that’s that. But the differences between the many potato types make all the difference in the end. Some are more starchy and some are better for mashed and for stews and so on. It’s worth taking the little amount of time to learn the differences for what will change your cooking for the better forever, I think.