Labor Day

They say Labor Day is the end of summer. The last hurrah before the chill of winter settles in. The last cookout of hot dogs and hamburgers. Last chance for ice cream cones. No more days at the beach. And the last day off from work until Thanksgiving!

But of course it’s not really as bad as all that. Oh sure, by Labor Day almost all of the kids have gone back to school. Some have been back in school since early August. So traveling is much harder and summer vacation is behind us. But by the calendar we still have several weeks of summer left.

In my neck of the woods it’s so damn hot you’d think we’d barely hit the Fourth of July. We’ll be able to swim in the lake or at the beach into November most likely. And of course we’ll be tailgating and cooking out into December!

Neighbors to the north, and you don’t have to go very far north, will soon be seeing frost on their pumpkins. And Halloween will be here before you know it. But that’s another story, as is the real meaning of Labor Day.

For now, I’ll just enjoy my holiday boat ride. Wearing my bathing suit and sweating my tail off in the mid nineties heat. I’m always up for a boat ride! Good thing the boat goes fast. Cool breeze!

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

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Stop the Drooling!!!

So you think the title says it all? Sounds pretty disgusting and certainly paints an ugly picture. But wait, before you turn the page, let me explain something. Maybe you’ll feel a little better.

One of the things that I like most in the world is “pretty.” From disgusting to pretty, just like that. Read on.

What I look for in the world is beauty. Could be a pretty girl, or a beautiful spirit. Put them together and ooh-la-la! C’est tres bon!

When I go to yard sales I see many things, but am always attracted to “pretty.” Could be a piece of colored glass. Or a piece of furniture with sleek lines. Or what I saw that made me drool.

It was shiny, and colorful, and old and one of the things I love to look at. One of the things I would love to own, but can’t really afford. But I look so I’ll know when I see a good one. And this was it. I just knew it.

I’m not big on looking at most jewelry, but this was different. This was Native American sterling and turquoise. It was old. And it was gorgeous. A big old squash blossom necklace. And next to it was another sterling necklace with delicate beads and tubes, and huge shingles of silver with shadow boxed turquoise. Magnificent. The kind of stuff you only see in jewelry stores and museums. I just knew it…

I asked about the price and damn, I WAS right. Way out of my range. I passed on it, but not by choice.

And that’s when the drooling started. The rest of the day I couldn’t get it out of my head. So I went back. I wasn’t sure to what purpose. The price would be the same. It would be torture to look at and not be able to have. But I had to have another look. It was just so unusual to see something like this at a yard sale!!! Learning experience if nothing else. And maybe that would stop the drooling.

It was still there when I returned. Talking to the owner a little more I kept thinking of some way of justifying a second mortgage to buy this thing. And then all of a sudden the price began to drop. I told her I couldn’t afford it and just wanted to look. She saw the sparkle in my eyes I guess.

After more conversation the price dropped to a point where it would be a reach, but I could do it. I’d have to resell one to keep the other.

It was an awesome piece. I wouldn’t sell my soul for it, but I would dig deep into my bank account. After double-checking how much money was actually in that account, I made a final offer. The deal was done.

Turns out I was funding two people’s dreams. Mine of collecting a real treasure, and another person’s of hitting the road to make it in the big time. I felt good doing that because I wish someone had funded my own dreams years and years ago.

It wasn’t that expensive. I had the money. A win-win situation. That’s the kind of deal I’ll make anytime. Such a beautiful thing.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

www.personalhistorywriter.com

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Beach Music

My dad had this to say about his 50th high school reunion: it was full of a lot of old people.  He didn’t consider himself to be old. Just the others. His contemporaries. And I’m sure he’d feel the same today at his 70th gathering. When I went to the concert featuring a band popular in the 60s and 70s, I felt the same way. The audience was a bunch of old folks. With a young whippersnapper, me, in the middle of it all.

The band was The Tams. I don’t know how famous they might be globally, but in these parts they have a following almost as dedicated as those fanatical Deadheads. My wife is a big fan and spent many of her college aged evenings in the presence of the band.

The Tams play what we call Carolina beach music. And the audience is supposed to shag to the music. That’s a dance. In case you weren’t sure what shagging is. In these parts.

The Tams can best be described as a group of men who sing and do synchronized dance steps while being supported by a group of men who play instruments. Drums, guitars, horns, rhythm and of course a bass fiddle.

The opening act was just the band. One of them even sang. All the while the audience was busy setting up lawn chairs, eating barbeque, and hitting beach balls into the air.

And then came The Tams. They were all wearing white suits and white tam-o’-shanters. Thus the name I suppose. In spite of Mick Jagger still prancing around the stage at his age, it turns out that the music business is really a young mans game with the fast pace of the music and the synchronized dancing. What I noticed about this group, and they weren’t trying to hide it, was that they were really the sons of the original Tams. Those dudes would be nearly 75 now.

Throughout the show I kept expecting James Brown, The Godfather of Soul, to leap out onto the stage and I’ll b damned if he didn’t come out when the Tams sang an inspired version of I Feel Good. They also sang Shout, like we heard in the movie Animal House. They did the Love Train while they swayed through the audience with a line of enthused dancers. And for the oldsters among us, they sang Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy.

And all the while, all the old peeps were having a lot of fun. Around 9:30 I noticed a serious reduction in the crowd. Past their bedtime? Or were they off to another party? I don’t know, but the next time The Tams come to town, I’ll Be There. I’ll Be Around.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

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Freddy Kruger on Craigslist

At some point I actually thought I was headed into the woods with Freddy Kruger. Lamb to slaughter. My wife always warned me about buying and selling stuff on Craigslist. Might meet a thief. Or an axe murderer. Or even Freddy.

I had ridden my scooter up the road about thirty miles, way into the country, to meet a guy who was selling glass insulators. You know, from old telephone poles. Super price. And he said he had a lot of them. Unusual ones too. I found the house and rode up the driveway to meet the man standing in the driveway. Seemed nice enough.

He had said he found a stash of these insulators. In my mind that meant that the guy had found a box full in his parent’s attic. Or he ran up on them at a yard sale or something. So I was expecting to go into the house to look at the insulators. But as we talked, he kept walking. Past the house. Past the first barn. Past another outbuilding. And then we came to a fence with a locked gate and we climbed over. Into a field with tall grass and down a dirt road. Where the hell was this guy taking me? And that’s when I saw Freddy Kruger’s face superimposed on my guide.

I don’t know this dude. Never saw him before. Did I tell anyone where I was going today? But it got really weird when he hung a left turn off the dirt path and went straight into a dense forest thick with underbrush. No path. Just crashing through the bushes. And for some reason I followed him. Maybe because he had been telling me about the religious poetry he wrote.

Inside this thicket I realized that his stash of insulators was there in front of me. On the ground. There were hundreds of them strewn all about. Some half buried. They had been there a long time because the trees and the vines and the shrubs had all grown up around them.

He told me his father had worked for the telephone company and had dumped them all there over the years. Don’t know why. He didn’t say. Just that they had taken up residence there because they had been dumped there. I was more interested in finding some rare and valuable specimen than in asking those questions. A lot of them were broken. Or chipped.

The two of us, me and Freddy, spent about thirty minutes rooting around digging these things up. In the end I had five really nice ones. Dirty, but they would clean up well.   We walked back to my scooter, through the thicket, and the field, and down the dirt path, over the fence, past the barn and past the house. And he told me he was sorry for all the inconvenience.   He knew he had a box full of really nice ones in the house somewhere, but couldn’t remember where. He told me to take the ones I’d found, no charge. When he found the box he’d let me know.

Nice guy. Looking for a job. Tough times. And I thought to myself, “ I sure do meet some nice people doing this Craigslist thing.”

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.persnalhistorywriter.com

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The Smoker

Sometimes it’s the ones you don’t know about that turn out the best. Every Friday evening I sit down with the newspaper and my phone to create a list. Yard sales. The newspaper has ads that I scour for interesting locations and items and the ones I like I write down the location, the start time and maybe a keyword or two. Then to the phone for my yard sale app. Type in the date and general location and wham!, up pops a map full of red dots representing sales. Click on the dot and it gives an address, description and start time. From all of that I make my list.

I’ve seen as many as 62 sales listed within 20 miles of my home. Obviously, I can’t get to all of them. Especially when they all start at the same time! So I have to narrow the list to something manageable. Like 15 maybe. That’s a good Saturday morning. Sometimes it’s the description that eliminates an ad from the list. Baby stuff doesn’t cut it for me. Or maybe the location. I like older neighborhoods or places where I know there are eclectic people. New yuppie subdivisions don’t usually cut it. Just sayin.

But then on Saturday morning when I hit the road in my search for treasure there will invariably be a sign somewhere that says yard sale thisaway. And that one isn’t on the list. Or even advertised in any of my data sources. Somebody just put up a sign on the road, at a stop sign or busy intersection, and is hoping that someone will be intrigued enough to come on by. Must work. I see it all the time. And sometimes, these are the best ones.

I was driving down the road, going from one sale on the list to the next, when I passed a house with a lot of cars parked in front, and a little sign. Yard sale. Not on the list. But I had to stop. I went in and looked around. They were moving and just about everything was for sale in the front room and the hallway. I saw an interesting piece of furniture on the front porch, but wasn’t interested enough to buy it. Looking around the rest of the place didn’t yield much else of interest. And then, being me, I went into the room that wasn’t really included in the sale. There was a lot of stuff in there that said not for sale, but a few things that were. I don’t just want into people’s private space you know.

I looked up at the wall, and there it was. Modern found object sculpture. There were a half dozen or so of them. Spectacular! But one in particular really caught my eye. A piece of roofing tin with a bunch of wires and an old rake and some other stuff attached. And a sparkplug. It was a face! I loved it.

The man who seemed to be the homeowner came by and I asked if the sculptures were for sale. He hesitated. Then said he thought so. His wife was the artist and he’d have to ask her. She came in and it began.

After several phone calls over the next couple of weeks we finally agreed on a price and set up a time to meet and make it mine. That simple exchange turned into a looong and wonderful conversation. We talked about art and sculpture. Louise Nevelson and Howard Finster. How she’d been a starving artist living in Atlanta. She couldn’t afford an apartment so she just rented the couch in someone else’s pad. When I met her she wasn’t starving anymore. She was in the process of moving to the beach in Florida. But she wasn’t sculpting anymore either.

It was a wonderful meeting. Just chance? I think not. I got a great sculpture. And she got something more than cash. Her words and demeanor told me that she really loved creating art. And missed it. And she seemed tremendously pleased that someone, me, had shown such interest in her work. Maybe she’ll get back to it again.

Her name is Emily. But in the folk art world they call her Emil. And that is how she autographed my sculpture. The Smoker.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.comphoto-39

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The Jazz Singer

Here in the South we have an expression: “you clean up pretty good.” Has nothing to do with vacuuming or window washing or dusting. What it means, in the case of a woman, is that with a little lipstick, some face powder, rouge and perfume, a nice dress, fancy shoes and a well manicured hairdo, she looks a whole lot better than when she rolled out of bed in the morning. With a little “cleanin’ up,” she’s a knockout.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a yard sale at a very typical place, and met a woman who seemed to be a very typical Saturday morning yard sale host. Jeans. T-shirt. Hair pulled back in a ponytail. And sneakers. She had a very interesting table that I ended up buying after a rather lengthy conversation. What I found out was that there was something just a little special about her. She was a jazz singer.

I asked her if she was famous and she told me a little about her career. And mentioned that she was singing in a club in my town in a couple of weeks. I put the date on my mental calendar. I like jazz. At least some of it. And I pictured her as a sultry singer in a smoke filled club in the fifties. Like in the movies.

On the appointed date we went to the club. Of course there is no smoking allowed in this club. And much of it was devoted to people standing around the bar, or dining at tables outdoors. But there were tables to sit at near the stage. And, there was this super cool seating area straight out of a late 1950s magazine. Orange velour sofa and chairs. Mid century lamps. Just my style!

A little while after the show was supposed to start the songbird appeared. All cleaned up and looking like a Jazz Singer. So different from that recent Saturday morning. And then she began to sing. Who woulda guessed she had the pipes she did? Beautiful. And just the kind of jazz I like.

Her name is Mary Sigalas. http://www.marysigalas.com/ When she gets to be famous, and come s to your town, you should go see, and hear, the show. Make sure you clean up good before you go. It wont be in no dive!

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?   www.personalhistorywriter.com

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A Hidden Treasure

The saying goes that the pen is mightier than the sword. Of course that refers to written expression and exchanges of ideas being much more powerful in narrowing the divides between us than armed conflict. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not. I’d like to paraphrase here a little and say that the pen is mightier than the computer.

Big statement! What it refers to is the fact that I prefer, when able, to write with a pen rather than with a computer. I realize that the vast majority of writers today use computers to do their writing. It’s just a lot easier. Here I use the term computers to include desktops, laptops, tablets, and even smartphones. Hell, you can even talk into the machine and it writes out what you said. Sometimes with hilarious results. But there is always spellcheck. A godsend of a tool if you remember its shortcomings.

I use all of the above technology to write. But there is something special about using a pen. Maybe it’s just me. Never do I venture out without a pen in my pocket. I’ve even had to offer my own pen to numerous cashiers looking for my signature.

For the most part the pens I carry are just any old thing. Whatever I’ve been able to collect in my days roaming. There are a lot of pens used as advertising today, some of which write better than others. I pick them up everywhere. And leave them behind somewhere else. They get around. And there are some regular pens that are really just for writing. They too find their way into my pocket. And back out.

And then there are good pens. The well made, perfectly balanced and contoured to your hand pens. You know, the expensive ones. Gold, Sterling, Platinum. Handmade with rare woods and precious gemstones.  

In this category you get a choice- ballpoint or fountain tip. I have a thing for the fountain pens. You really get to connect with the pen and become part of the writing. You have to fill it with ink. And you can get a wide variety of colors. I like brown for some reason. And every part of the pen is special, from the nib to the pocket clip. And in between, the body of the instrument can be truly beautiful.

One day at a yard sale I saw a plastic baggie with several pens in it. They looked like fountain pens and for the price of a dollar I snagged them. Upon a little closer inspection I determined that they were not regular writing pens but actually calligraphy pens. Not my thing. So I put them back in the baggie and tossed them into a storage box in the basement. Months later I was going to sell the whole lot for a couple of dollars when I really took a good look. Calligraphy. Calligraphy. Whoa, what’s this!!! It was a true fountain pen. And not just any fountain pen either. This was an early example of a Parker Vacumatic. Top of the line in1933!

The pen wasn’t gold, silver or platinum. It’s celluloid. Early plastic. It’s not priceless, but its worth more than a few dollars. A great piece for a collector. Like me. And to think I almost missed it! A hidden treasure in among the pretenders. What a glorious day!

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

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