Thursday, October 30, 2014

Don't Miss It

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

A few days ago Grumpy took up the matter of his upcoming Fiftieth High School Reunion and his lack of, shall we say, motivation to attend, although it seemed there was also a lack of curiosity, a lack of recollection of a large enough percentage of classmates to make the trip worthwhile, a lack of interest in those he did remember and his presumption of their lack of interest in him. I made a comment then that I hoped would change his mind but I feel a need to reiterate with the hope of encouraging not only Grumpy but everyone else to attend at least some of these events when they occur.

I, too, am approaching the same fifty year event as Grumpy and I will definitely be going. I’m pretty sure we all get the opportunity to attend five of these things during our lifetime, every ten years through fifty. After that it just gets sort of maudlin or creepy or both as people just go to see who’s left. And who wants to be a part of a bunch of almost eighty-year-olds trying to remember let alone relive their teens.

I remember my ten year reunion. High school and its attendant emotions still reasonably fresh in the mind and the ego. You go to see who’s married to who, who’s married at all, who’s already married and divorced, who got the good jobs and who’s making a career of attending college. You probably drink more than you should but all in all you’re young and resilient and it’s a good time.

Then life gets in the way. You shuffle priorities and move on. Work was my excuse for missing both the twentieth and thirtieth. By the time the invitation showed up for the fortieth, along with a personal note from the lady running the show threatening me bodily harm if I did not surface, I decided I was tired of being an enigma. I attended my Fortieth High School Reunion and had a great time. I was tentative as I entered the hotel but the nervousness was quickly replaced by smiles of recognition. I first met some of these people when I was five years old, some as late as fifteen. Some looked exactly the same either having made a deal with the devil or a great cosmetic surgeon. Others tried to look the same but did not succeed. Most just didn’t care, and that set the tone for the event. Here was a bunch of people approaching sixty, having lived life away from the group but now were back to share the experience. There was warmth and there was awkwardness, but for the most part all those youthful pretenses were gone. Things that mattered didn’t and things that didn’t did. It was two fascinating evenings of talking about life.

That’s the experience that has me looking forward to my fiftieth and as I told Grumpy the other day, when it’s high school reunion time, especially Fiftieth High School Reunion time, you should go. You really should go. Do it for your psyche. Do it to run into someone who sat near you in math class or history class. Do it to satisfy your curiosity, and believe me there are still things you are curious about. Do it for the pleasure of knowing that you could kick the ass of the guy who kicked your ass, even though no one’s into ass kicking anymore. Do it because the girl who would never talk to you then will talk to you now and won’t remember she wouldn’t talk to you then. Do it because you will never see any of these people again for the rest of your life. And do it to discover what you remember about others and what they remember about you during a very special time in your life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hero Of The Week

Army Sgt. Shaker T. Guy
Age:  23
1st Battalion
184th Infantry Regiment
California Army National Guard
Died 29 October, 2005
Baghdad, Iraq

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I'm Hard Pressed To Find A Reason To Go

I got one of those "Save the Date" cards last week.  You know the kind; they're commonly sent well before a wedding to give you enough time to plan ahead, sell or give away the football tickets you would rather be using that day and subtly remind you that the happy couple's gift wishes can be found online for your convenience.

But this wasn't a heads up for a wedding.  No, it's for the 50th Reunion of my high school class.  Two night affair in August.  Friday night is a casual gathering at a county park lodge and Saturday is a more dressy dinner at a local casino.  The people heading up this thing have done a great job, with a website, a registry where you can post "then" and "now" pics with a little history of your life and a pretty comprehensive list of those for whom they don't yet have contact info.

Here's the thing:  I have zero excitement about this event.  We had a graduating class of well over 600; when you get right down to it, how many people did I really know?  Everybody had friends they ran with all the time, others that were friendly acquaintances and a whole lot of people they didn't know at all.  In looking through the list of "missing", I was surprised at how many names I didn't even recognize.  It's almost like those people were shadows then and fifty years later they still haven't left a trace.  It's kind of spooky.

Here's the other thing:  Of all those 600+ people there is exactly 1 (ONE) that I'm still in real contact with.  A few are Facebook friends, but we don't have any social interaction other than that.  I haven't felt the need over the years to reconnect with anyone from my class; apparently, they feel the same about me. 

So two nights (or even one) with people who I feel little connection to and who probably feel likewise about me?  Give me a reason to go.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Loss Of A Legend

You have to be of a certain age to know who Jack Bruce was.  It would be easy to be overlooked in a band that included Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, arguably the greatest drummer of all time.  Bruce was the bassist for Cream.  Think "Sunshine of Your Love" or "White Room".  I once had hours of Cream music that I recorded on reel to reel tape and would listen through headphones for long stretches.

Jack Bruce died a couple days ago.  He was 71.  A valued and integral part of one of the greatest rock bands of all time.  He and his band mates are all in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  A loss to his family and friends as well as the world of music. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Do It For The Environment

Levi Strauss & Co. President and CEO Chip Bergh made headlines recently when he suggested at a conference on sustainability that it isn't necessary to wash your jeans as often as most of us do.  The media then twisted his words to claim he said "You never have to wash your jeans".  Headlines everywhere and everybody taking sides.  All the guy was suggesting is that we use less water.  He claims that he washes his good jeans (explained as those he wears to work) infrequently and when he does he washes them by hand and dries them on the line.

I remember when it was hip to have soft jeans.  Jean manufacturing has progressed to the point that the denim you buy in the store is already soft; it wasn't always that way.  We would bring new jeans home and wash them repeatedly before wearing to soften them up.  Now the idea is to save the Earth by not washing them.  Anderson Cooper claims to wear the same jeans daily and wash them once a year.

I wash mine about every two wearings.  I would prefer you do likewise.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Oops, I Did It Again

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

Yes I did. I went out a few days ago and early voted. I’m lucky. I live in a state where the opportunity to vote in a national election is made as easy as possible by the wide availability of early voting locations and hours. For a full two weeks prior to Election Day I can go to any of the dozens of polling places in my county. They’re open 9-5 Monday through Saturday (yes, Saturday) and 9-3 on Sunday. Next week they expand the hours. You can vote from 9-7! That’s the way it should be everywhere across this great land of ours. It’s not.

I’m pretty sure that in Ohio polling places are now only open to cast an early ballot between 3 and 4AM (because someone said that after all, it’s supposed to be EARLY voting) on a Friday sometime between now and Election Day that has yet to be announced. In Texas, of course, it’s a bit more accessible. Early voting is open to people that own more than ten guns (or five automatic weapons) or any registered republican. Meet these criteria, you can vote whenever and wherever you damn please. And in Alabama early voting is open to anyone wearing a Crimson Tide football jersey who can spell their name correctly on the first try.

Of course my luck ran out when I sat down at the touch screen voting machine and saw the names from which I could choose. I have had several months to learn everything bad these people have done in their lives from their opponent’s television advertising. I never again need to hear the words “Washington insider” or “Career politician” again. Isn’t anyone who wins elected office a career politician? Does that make you a bad person? Never mind.

I found some of the other voters in the room amusing. We were rather tightly packed in with fifteen voting machines, all of which were in use when I was there. The lady to my left seemed to be convinced I was cheating off her ballot. She kept glancing my way and “tsk”ing. I wanted to tell her there were no wrong answers and I didn’t care who she voted for but I figured she’d scream “harassment” and have me detained by an election judge while she ran to her car and drove off. An older guy across the way was getting assistance from one of the staff. Apparently he couldn’t make out the names on the screen so she was reading them to him. He would say, “Who?” and she would read it to him a second time. He grunted and quietly opined, “You know, he’s an ass.” Quiet giggles all around.

I often think of how many times people have said we should vote for “none of the above” and start over. Unfortunately, that won’t work unless we know that everyone’s going to cooperate. And that’s the problem. Cooperation, more than anything else, is what’s lacking in our governance these days.   

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hero Of The Week

Marine Lance Cpl. Jonathan E. Gadsden
Age:  21
1st Combat Engineers Battalion
1st Marine Division
I Marine Expeditionary Force
Died 22 October, 2004
Tampa, FL from injuries sustained in Anbar Province, Iraq

Monday, October 20, 2014

So Close, Yet So Far

Yesterday we drove home after 4 days in Charleston, SC.  Under ideal conditions it is a 10 hour drive.  We had ideal conditions.  Sunny, cool day.  Traffic through SC was light, turning a little heavier for some reason in North Carolina, but still moving at a good clip.  We breezed through Tennessee and were making excellent time through Kentucky, even with stops for gas, lunch and to let Mrs. Grumpy pee.  You thought I was going to say "to let the dog pee."  No, the dog is happy to wait for hours; Mrs. Grumpy has never seen a Rest Stop she doesn't like.

Anyway, it looks like we're going to be home between 5:30-6:00.  Just after we pass the Dry Ridge, KY exit, about 32 miles from home, BOOM, nothing but a sea of brake lights.  As far as the eye can see.  In the next hour we moved exactly two tenths of a mile.  When we started moving again there was no sign of what the cause of the backup may have been.  No tow trucks, no cops, no mangled metal, no debris on the side of the road.  Nothing.  Plus, the glut of cars that had been backed up caused slow traffic all the way to the Ohio River.  For awhile we might be moving at 45 mph and then it would suddenly drop to 20.  It remained that way all the way home.

For some reason we were listening to the Sirrius radio Top 40 countdown from 1981.  They had just started as we approached Dry Ridge.  After we got stuck in the mess I jokingly said to Mrs. Grumpy that we'll hear the entire Top 40 before we get home.  I wasn't even close; we heard all of the Top 40 from '81 plus another half hour of the following show.  It took us 2 hours to travel the last 32 miles.

And that's why I like to stay home.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Welcome To South Carolina

Musings of the Season

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

Well, it’s a few days after Columbus Day (and just to dwell on Mr. Columbus a few seconds longer, do you know anyone who isn’t a mailman or the occasional teacher that has the day off?) and you know what that means: time to start listening to that very special song of the season. No, I do not mean “Monster Mash.” I mean, “It’s beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” of course.

The first announcement regarding the sport of Extreme Shopping came from our pals at Macy’s. Just a few days ago they let us know that they will be opening up their stores for your shopping pleasure on Thanksgiving evening at 6PM. Clearly, Black Friday falls on a Thursday this year and probably every year from here on. I am certain that announcements from Kohl’s, Walmart, Target and all the others will be out soon. The only way they could open up earlier would be to encourage shoppers to show up at their stores with a drumstick in one hand and the mashed potatoes and gravy in their pocket or purse. Someday we’ll regard the term Black Friday as something quaint.

I’m trying to back off the position I’ve held for so long, foolishly believing that Thanksgiving is a holiday for the family to celebrate together, whenever possible, with generations gathered together around the same table, to feel the warmth of being with those who love you. Apparently, as the last of the dessert dishes and the coffee cups are cleared, the opportunity arises for discussion of those items that, shall we say push the buttons of those closest to you, leading to the opportunity for mayhem. So perhaps having the chance to turn to everyone in the room and say, “I’d love to stay and chat all night but I’ve got to get to work behind the fragrance counter,” might be just the thing to avoid some bruised egos or worse. Maybe this is Macy’s way of saving the human race.

Actually, I think the myth of the Black Friday “Sale” has been explored a great deal in the last few years. It’s been pretty well proven that, while there are always those few incredibly cheap items of which each store has a limited number to sell, most things on sale over the Thanksgiving weekend are usually no greater bargain than they are when on sale during September or October. Most autumn and winter clothing hits the racks days after Independence Day (the new official end of summer) so there’s no reason you couldn’t get a great price on a pair of gloves or a scarf at the Labor Day Sale that you know is conducted at each and every store I’ve mentioned, as well as the online alternatives.

So go to Macy’s or anyone else who’s open Thanksgiving evening for some holiday shopping if that’s your idea of fun. I’d just suggest you put the mashed potatoes and gravy in a Baggie before you drop them into your pocket or purse.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hero Of The Week

Army Sgt. Michael G. Owen
Age:  31
9th Psychological Operations Battalion
4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne)
Died 15 October, 2004
Karabilah, Iraq

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

This Is Just Cool

This is just too cool.  Sneaky, but cool.  Seems like something G$ would do if he were the coach.

Monday, October 13, 2014

My Head Is Still Spinning

Last Wednesday afternoon I was just settling in to watch the Sons of Anarchy tape from the night before when Mrs. Grumpy appears in the doorway.  She says "You busy?".  That usually means that whatever I was about to do isn't going to happen because she has other plans for my time.  This time she had a whooper.

I should preface all of this by saying that Mrs. Grumpy's car is nearing 100,000 miles and for about 6 months has had nagging little repairs every month.  Rear brake job, leaking intake hose, pesky oil leak, not to mention new tires.  All a lot cheaper than a new car, but still it seems like we're shelling out $250-$400 every few weeks.  It's adding up and doesn't help the driver's peace of mind. 

Last Tuesday she came home from working reporting a "clicking" noise on acceleration.  She called our mechanic Wednesday morning and made an appointment for Thursday to have it checked.  That brings us to early Wednesday afternoon and the dreaded "You busy?".  When I paused SOA she suggested it would be a good day to go new car shopping.  She had already done some research and wanted to look first at an SUV at a nearby dealer.  We checked on the value of our trade-in and looked at the dealer's online inventory of her chosen model.  They had a couple that after discounts and rebates were listed at $23, 080.  I figured with a little haggling and our trade-in we could get a brand new SUV of her choice for well under $20K.  I'm down with that.

So we hit the dealer and as soon as the salesman takes us to the selected vehicle and opens the door I know I'm in trouble.  No leather, no sunroof, no heated seats, all creature comforts she has gotten used to over the last 9 years.  She test drove it and liked everything about it except what it didn't have.  So she asked to see a model with those features.  That moved us from the mid-priced model to the top of the line, cream of the crop model.  All of the above plus a panoramic moon roof, touch screen display that does everything but give you a blow job and little buttons on the steering wheel that control everything.  Did I mention that everything can be controlled with voice commands?  Change the temperature, change the radio, get directions, get sports scores, make a phone call, receive a phone call, send a text, answer a text and a million other things we'll never use.  The section in the owner's manual for the touch screen command center is longer than the info about the rest of the vehicle.  We were even able to upload a picture of our dog as wallpaper.

Before I knew it we were driving off in our new car, we had looked at nothing else and spent about $10K more than I had planned.  But this winter Mrs. Grumpy's butt will be warm and that's what really matters.