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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A term that serves to degrades the user

I heard a self professed “freethinker” say the Flying Monkey Arts Center “looks wayyyyy too artsy fartsy for my tastes”. Too many times I’ve heard the expression “artsy fartys” used to denigrate creativity. It is a term used by the ignorant who think creative people are outside their capability for understanding. They relish their self inflicted ignorance of creativity wearing it like a badge of honor. I’m particularly disturbed by a person who calls themselves open minded using this term. This person is really a self claimed atheist who likes to claim she thinks outside of the restriction of dogma, but is in fact encased in her own restrictive inhibitions to examination of the world. She slaps a label on a concept that she thinks is cute but is really belittling.

I’ve heard others use the term in question. Why do they fear opening their minds to someone else’s creative expression? If they don’t like it, fine, they should say so, but don’t degrade it with shitty “cutesieism” rational. Don’t turn it into an “us verses them” issue. The artist is trying to open lines of communication. Take advantage of that opportunity and explore.

They only good thing about that term is it goes a long way towards identifying fakes and I guess I should be grateful for that.




Thursday, August 30, 2007

Good People - Good Community

I’ve wanted to write about an experience I had a few weeks ago that revived my faith in community. These days, with the current administration so negative about everything none American, the news media so willing to expound on the negative with no regard for the positive and business running skittish thus ruining so many peoples financial well being, it is rare that something can help get me past all the negative exposure. What I experienced went way beyond just getting past the negative. It gave me hope for the future and a great respect for local influence in our lives.

Emily is a RN and works at a retirement home and was, until recently, tagged the “Wound Care Nurse.” That is, along with the normal nursing responsibilities, she was the nurse called when a resident/patient developed an open wound. This responsibility is mostly for liability purposes, but don’t rule out compassionate care of the clients. She is called to not only care for the wound but to adequately document it – size, location, probable cause, etc. She works closely with another Wound Care Nurse, Gloria. Gloria’s husband, Doug, had a transplant a while back and after the extreme traumatic experience of the surgery, they have gone through some hard times with his recovery. There is insurance, but there is disagreement over what is covered. Meanwhile the pressure to pay the bills ignores the disagreement between the pained and the profiters. To help out, the little community of Boonshill put on a Grand Old* Opry show at the Boonshill Community Center. This is just a little place out in the country in the north-west corner of Lincoln County. If you looked up the stats most of the categories will read, “significantly below state average.” There are as many Indians are there are Blacks although its population is decidedly white. The community center is an old now unused public school building and, trust me, it wasn’t updated when it shifted purposes. It is a big building with some A/C on a good day. On this very hot July night it wasn’t up to the task.

The event was a multi-phased presentation broken into two functions. First there was a dinner which cost $10. The nursing staff at the county nursing home where Emily works provided the kitchen staff and it was served in the old school cafeteria. I got to meet a lot of the women she works with and let me tell you, they are good people. All that friendliness you read and hear about Southerners was there in abundance. That’s saying a lot for a bunch of women who were working in a steamy hot, un-air conditioned kitchen serving lots of people looking forward to a good meal. Not a lot of national chains in Boonshill, none to be exact. It’s a place where Mom is still respected for her cooking abilities. So a night out is A NIGHT OUT!

As I was in line working my way up to the service line and being introduced to all of Emily’s working buds along the way, I noticed pictures all along the walls of graduation classes. The early classes (70’s) had maybe ten people in the senior classes. As the years progressed the numbers grew, but not by much. The last picture had a respectful 30 or 40 seniors. All the pictures were black and white and faded to that old sepitone quality. Each individual’s picture in the early years was individual head shots in oval inlays. The years were showing on the photos, but the style of proper dress for such an important life event was more revealing. Most definitely something I could identify with.

The dinner was spaghetti and garlic bread. One of those hard to eat meals when the last thing you wanted was tomato sauce stains on your yellow shirt. There was a choice of deserts and the drinks were one’s choice of the national soda brands over ice in a plastic cup. Refills were expected. We sat at old folding tables and metal folding chairs with the only relief from the heat coming when the door opened letting people in or out. It was for a good cause so allowances were made.

$10 bought your way into the second phase which was a music regalia, silent auction, a not so silent pie/cake sale and a gas card and country ham raffle in the old dark wood gym with a stage at one end. The basketball goals were cranked to the ceiling. The hard steel folding chairs populated the gym floor all dress-right-dress and a couple of huge (5 foot) fans were placed here and there in front of the ancient bleachers. I captured a couple of chairs in front of one of those huge fans for the evening. Along the back wall the items up for bid during the silent auction were displayed. The items ranged from exercise equipment and office furniture to candles, country painting and song birds complete with wood cage. Many of the restaurants from Fayetteville put up dinners for two and several hair salons offered haircuts, manicure and pedicures. I went through when I first got there and made a few bids. Emily would pass through several times that night refreshing her bids after someone would out bid her until they reach her limit. She also donated a quilt to the silent auction. It would net the proceeds $200. That surprised me, but not her. She knew it would bring that much.

It is hard to describe this phase of the evening. So much was going on and people were everywhere. After we had made our initial bids and took our much envied seats, Emily continued to introduce passer-bys. I had a little time to observe the people. All ages were represented and while tee-shirts won the most worn category, there were lots of folks in clean neat plaid shirts and jeans or nice colorful summer tops and caprices. Older white haired men wore clean baseball caps with neatly trimmed haircuts. Younger men were well tanned and either had very long hair or closely cut but not quite crew cuts. The older women carried purses and fussed over the kids and the younger women tended to be knockouts in tight jeans and healthy long flowing hair. The teens were teens, boys and girls alike. They fully accepted the style of the times. The little kids . . . well let’s just say I knew they were there but they never slowed down long enough for me to get a good look. A few of the entertainers were standing around waiting for their time on stage wearing the recognizable clothing of the singer they were going to portray. A few had square dance dresses that were brightly colored and lots of ruffled slips. No one was a stranger and no one was out of place. A few of the teenage boys had the “I need an identity” fright in their eyes, but everyone else was as comfortable being there as they would be in their own living room.

When the show started it was just like the Grand Old Opry. For you who don’t know, I lived in and around Nashville during my high school years. My folks loved country music. I have lots of pictures of them taken with the likes of Grand Pa Jones, Porter Waggoner, Loretta Lynn and the like. So when I tell you that I was floored by the talent of these country folks, I know of what I speak. Their attempts to look like the stars they pretended to be may have only gone as far as the costumes they had on, but their talent was right up there with the real country singers of my youth. When I heard Andea Delap as Patsy Cline, I was transported back in time as her voice was indistinguishable from the real Patsy singing “I fell to Pieces”. Charles Sullivan singing Conway Twitty’s “15 Years Ago” had me doing a double take. Michelle Hardiman as Jeanie C. Riley singing “Harper Valley PTA” moved me to join in. As much as I wanted to rib Emily (an avid Tennessee Vols fan) when Mary Ann Tackett sang as Dolly doing “Rocky Top”, I just couldn’t because it was so good. That night’s stars ran the gamut from Merle Haggard to Elvis Presley and Connie Smith to Emmylou Harris. All of these performers were backed up by the great sounding Boonshill Grand Old Opry Band. Emily says when they are out on their own they call themselves "The Carpenters."

The graceful Sharron Reavis sang a special tribute to Doug and Gloria, who were front role video taping the entire performance. Mrs. Reavis has her own beautiful voice and it lend itself nicely to the evenings performances. Now remember, these are local folks who do this not for money or fame, but for a good cause and to give a helping hand, not with cash, but with their gifts of song.

There was a brake in the performances for the raffles and cake sale. Emily was sitting on the edge of her chair when they called out the winner for the $50.00 Gas Card. I guess driving to Huntsville as often as she does, this was a real deal. Alas it wasn’t destined to fill her gas tank, so she got up to refresh her bids back in the silent auction.

The cake sale was interesting not because the cakes were brought to the announcer by cute little 10 to 12 year old girls nor because the pointers in the audience hurriedly ran around pointing out who was bidding nor because there were so many cakes up for bid. No, what made the cake sale interesting was the sale of one cake in particular. I so wanted to find out the history behind this cake but couldn’t. See, most of the cakes and pies went for $7 to $10. However, the gym was brought to a stand still as the bidding for one cake rose to over a hundred dollars finally selling for $130. There were “ooos” and “awwws“ as the price rose and a thunderous applause as it was finally raveled sold. Imagine a $130 dollar homemade cake. I’m sure it didn’t come from a box.

As the evening grew long they finished the silent auction just before the 4th portion of the show. Emily’s boss, Debbie, got the ergonomic office chair and Emily got two dinners at Tammy’s Outback, not to be confused with the national chain with the Aussy image. Tammy is a realtor broker by day and runs a Bar at night that serves great food. Emily just happens to be neighbors with Tammy’s best cook, Farnel, who works full time at a local appliance manufacturing plant. I’m telling you these people are interesting.

There was recognition for Doug and Gloria and the tough times they had so far endured with still more to come. This little fund raiser with all the events brought them $10,000. Not bad for a community of around 1500 people. Granted a lot of outsiders came like me, but one evening’s take like that just adds to my early testament of the talent of these voluntary performers and the generosity of this community. Its good to know that there are places where people can be this generous with their time and talent and community recourses and not get hog tied by policy, regulation and political correctness.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Have you ever seen a deer pee in the wild?

It is my habit to get up at 0500 and spend the first 2 1/2 hours of the day on myself. I’m awaken by my local morning NPR station broadcasting Morning Addition which it runs through twice by the time I get to work. I’ll fix breakfast or go out to breakfast, I’ll read (usually the news paper) and ponder issues that the news inspires. I like this schedule, but I often don’t get time to write or blog what’s come to mind during these morning activities.

Case in point is this blog. I had a great time last weekend running around middle Tennessee and wanted to write down the unique things and some of the not so unique things (depending on where you live), but time was just not making itself available. Maybe I should start going to work at nine instead? LOL

I drove up to Fayetteville (about 45 minute drive north of Huntsville) where Emily was waiting to take me to breakfast. She had promised a good one at “The Chuckwagon” or something to that effect. I seem to recall the name had something to do with cowboys or horses. After good morning hugs and kisses, we headed over to this breakfast haven Emily was so excited for me to try. I’ve turned her on to the omelets at Victoria’s and she wants to repay the favor I guess. Now some of you will look at the names of those two eating establishments and try to do some kind of mathematical computation to stereotype the kind of people Emily and I are. Don’t waste your time. Yes, Emily is a Tennessean and was raised country, but she has a unique sophistication about her that I dearly enjoy. While Victoria’s may evoke images of ladies underwear for some of you, I can assure you it’s not the kind of place little boys go to to ogle scantily clothed women. Think further back in time and you’ll understand what a friend of mine told me, “You wouldn’t like it Chet because it’s a gray hair ladies place. They serve things like quiche.” And they do but that’s another story to tell another day.

Emily directed me to the “Chuckwagon” (I’m really terrible at names) and as I first laid eyes on the place, I had two feeling at once -- disbelief at what I was seeing and relief it was closed. Its a 60 foot long gray-black-white variegated pattern house trailer sitting on an asphalt parking lot with not a single cowboy or horse image about it. There was nothing visually appealing about the place at all. If it’s a good place to eat and I trust Emily that it is, they sure aren’t inviting anyone to discover it. (someday I need insert a picture of the place here)

Not discouraged but not sure if my "big" city taste would be offended, Emily suggested we head over to the town square where there are a could of local favorites that she knew would be open. Now if you read this blog religiously, and I know my loyal fans do, you know I’ve talked a bit about Fayetteville’s town square before. Actually I think I just mentioned it had one. LOL As we parked, I saw the two eateries side by side with a handful of men wearing baseball caps and denim bib-overall standing around talking. They all were weather worn and silver haired and fit the old 20’s facade of the building they where standing in front of. A few eyed us as we crossed the street, but the most were too involved in their discussions of pork prices, bushel yields and drought to notice us. Emily picked out Honey’s Restaurant and Billiards saying it was more refined than Bill’s CafĂ© and Billiards next door. (Actually she was not so generous in her description.) Inside, the grill and counter were on the right and booths lined the left. Above the booths was a very long shelf housing a fine collection of vintage Jack Daniel’s bottles (emptied) and every booth had a vintage photo of people who once worked in the place since it opened in the 1920s. The very back was were the pool tables use to be but in these modern times I guess billiards is not such a draw for an eating establishment that specializes in food cooked on a film of grease over a hot flat steel surface. That area was now the overflow area “for when things get crowded.”

We sat at the bar and I ordered coffee and a western omelet. My coffee came as a tea bag. Kind of modern and a nice contrast to the old white thick porcelain mug and saucer I’m accustomed to in these vintage eateries. I just wished the sugar packets had not replaced the old clear jars of sugar with the stainless steal top that had the little flapped covered hole on top for pouring. The waitress looked to be 14 and served food like she wanted to be any place but behind that counter. She was pleasant, but it was clear this was not her career of choice. The food was good! I enjoyed sitting at a counter. The warmth of the place was homey and while I may be a bit harsh in my description its not out of disrespect. It is a proud honest place and doesn’t pretend to be something is isn’t.

Back in the truck we drove all over the country side stopping to take pictures of fine old homes with unusual character and landscapes that characterize Tennessee for me. Like Honey’s Restaurant and Billiards it’s a proud honest place with a character all its own. Not a lot of places you can go outside the south where driver wave to you as you pass and people on their porches smile and say hello. Only in this roughed landscape can you see a turkey hen and her chicks saunter across the narrow pavement of an old cow path turned road. And it is only here that I ever saw a wild deer pee. As silly as that sounds, I ask you to think about how many times you’ve been out in the country and saw a deer take the time to pee. BTW they squat their hind legs to do it.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Ditto Landing won out!

Ditto Landing won out! The baseball game would have been great but I’ve gotten to where I just love Ditto. I spend a few hours a weekend sitting at the mouth to the harbor watching boats come and go and get excited when one of the really big boats heads out. So choosing it for the 4th was pretty easy.

Emily and I got there a little before the scheduled opening time and that turned out to be a blessing. The place was packed by fireworks time. The powers that be set everything up at the main pavilion using the end of trailer parking lot as the fallout zone for the explosives. This was ok by me since the main pavilion is high ground and you get a great view of the Tennessee River. By sunset the River was full of boats and I was so envious. I got to be one of those fortunate ones next year.

4th of July is one of those days when one comes to grips with aging and knows it isn’t all bad. I enjoyed seeing the kids running with boundless energy as their patient yet tattered parents ran after them. The teens where so easy to read. Those who wanted to be cool but just couldn’t manage and those who coolness just came naturally, if being born beautiful and wealthy is all natural. Young lovers pawing at each other while lover want-a-be couples awkwardly fumbled in hand play and body bumping. Middle aged couples sat comfortably next to their significant other with looks of all-knowingness on their faces. Then there where the older folks like Emily and I who enjoyed being spectators. Clearly the fireworks and sky divers were not the only show that night. Everyone was beautiful in the setting sun.

The fireworks were grand and lasted a decent amount of time. Across the river, rival displays from people willing to spend the money would show their booming colorful explosions and the evening was a vista of July 4th celebration.

Getting out of the parking area was not as bad as expected and my fellow humans gave just as good a show there of their humanity. Those who couldn’t wait and shuffled their way into line while others just sat in their vehicles with their windows open enjoying the cool evening air. Families dragging coolers, lawn chairs and excitedly tired kids with them as they trudged back to their family chariot. Older folks, locked in arm with their adult children enjoying the end of the evening stroll. Emily and I watched as the confusion played out before us. Our patience was rewarded when we saw the masses had the wrong exit strategy and we slide out the back way while the masses dealt with each other. We got a McDonald's meal after unsuccessfully trying Sonic. The holiday staffing had played havoc all day at the restaurants in town. Returning to my place, I couldn’t send her home so late with so much activity still going on in the wilds of Northern Alabama. It was just too long and treacherous a drive back to Fayetteville, TN. So I offered her a place to sleep at my place. Well, heck, any excuse will do now won’t it. {wink}





Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Some choices are fun to have to worry over

The 4th of July is tomorrow and I have too many choices. LOL The Huntsville Stars will have a home game tomorrow and that will be followed by fireworks. They always have a good show and I’m sure they will go all out for the 4th.

Then there is Ditto Landing, Huntsville’s local marina on the Tennessee River. Oh I love the water! They are celebrating the 4th with lots of great food, kids entertainment, music- "Tribute to Willie Nelson" and a “A fabulous Fireworks show will immediately follow the National Anthem”, to quote them.

Oh how terrible it is to have to make a choice. LOL


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