The Sign

Signs make a difference. They identify things to make our lives easier. Enter and exit. Men and women. Price tags. They tell you where to go, how much things cost, what you are looking at and in general allow us to understand without thinking so much.

The other day I was at the art museum and while I’m pretty good at figuring out what I’m looking at, reading the sign put up by the show’s curator sometimes brings me new insights. Who might have thought that a blank white canvas titled “Empty” was really a deep and penetrating examination of the loss of interaction and communication between individuals dwelling in our urban areas? That is a better, or at least more intellectually satisfying explanation of the blank canvass than would be scam artist trying to pull a fast one and expose the snobbery of art aficionados looking for a deeper meaning in a blank canvas slapped up on the wall as a joke. Jokes on you sucker!

Of course the same sign can have very different meanings for different people. That octagonal red sign so often seen on our streets means to some people “stop!” To others it means slow down a little, look both ways and speed on. And to still others it means nothing. Yesterday a sign was put in my front yard. It says “for sale.”

Twenty years ago I bought this piece of property and built a nice house. I’ve lived here with my family ever since. My two daughters grew up here and I’ve experienced all the joys and sadness of raising children here. I’ve painted the inside of the house and decorated it to reflect my style, taste and personality. I’ve planted trees and shrubs and flowers to make the outdoors satisfying to me. I’ve done many things here, all tucked away in my mind, some further back than others.

We have been talking of selling the house for sometime now. Ok, lets get it ready. And I’ve cleaned and scrubbed and painted and planted and beautified to make it appeal to another family. I’ve told myself that it’s a building with four walls and a roof. No emotional attachment. After all, I lived in my last house for seven years and never thought of it as mine. Selling the house will be like selling an empty picture frame at a yard sale.

My wife on the other hand talks about how emotional it all is. Our children grew up here. It’s been twenty years of our lives. I remind her that her family moved three times before she graduated from high school. And that my parents moved from the house where I lived for thirteen years the day after I graduated from high school. It’s just a house. Home is where the heart is. All that. The kids seem ok with the whole thing, but they do say that this is where they grew up.

And then the sign went up in the yard and I signed the deal with the real estate agent. I could feel my heart sink. This is my home. I’ve been here for twenty years. So many memories. Even the ones in deep storage came flooding back.

And now I look at selling the house as a matter of personal pride. This is the greatest house ever built and if you, Mr. and Mrs. Buyer, can’t see that then there is something dreadfully wrong with you. I’m waiting to be insulted with low ball offers. And I’m waiting for the perfect buyer to come along.

To a buyer, the sign says “this house is for sale, check it out.” For me, the sign says that a huge part of my life is about to change.

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

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Starman Who Graced The Earth

Much in the news this past week was the death of David Bowie. A rock and roll icon! It was big news at least until the death of Glenn Frey. Or whatever the next big thing was.

In the early days of my music career, as a listener, David Bowie was one of my favorites. Like me, he had a fascination with outer space, and alien life. Not monsters from outer space, but real “human” types of life that just happened to be from other worlds.

Look at his work. He WAS Ziggy Stardust. On records and in the movie The Man Who Fell to Earth. He wrote songs like “Moonage Daydream,” “Starman,” “Life on Mars?,” “Hallo Spaceboy,” “Dancing out in Space,” “Born in a UFO.” And a whole album called Space Oddity. It had to do in part with a sense of alienation from the “real” world and confusion over how he, like many others, fit in. And in some ways he didn’t.

But I’m not here to write his life story. I’m not a Bowie scholar. It’s just that I’m sitting here at the Foundy Lounge in Athens, Georgia, waiting for an open mic music night to begin and as background music the club is playing what else, David Bowie.

And as I look up at the ceiling, I see a thousand stage lights, arranged all willy nilly, but all small and white. And I think it looks like deep space. I’m gazing into the depths of the universe. And I’m wondering what stellar performances I will hear this evening. And who might emerge as a superstar. That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Atlanta Highway Stardom

Athens, Georgia. If you live here you know all about it. History. Fame. Some folks who aren’t from around here might have heard of it too. History. Fame. And if you have never heard of it, you are about to.

I’m not a native but I’ve come to appreciate parts of it. Let’s see. The Arches at the University of Georgia. Tradition. Georgia Bulldog football. National Champions. OK, so that was a long time ago. Some folks think of it like it was yesterday. The double barreled cannon. Civil War oddity that stands as a testament to ingenuity gone wrong. The tree that owns itself. Look it up. And some magazine keeps saying that Athens is a great place to retire. Top ten in the nation.

The University has it’s own draw for academics and cultural activities. And bars. Hundreds of them. And college students. Thousands! Funny how those two things mesh.

But the big deal here is some pseudo-fictional place down the Atlanta Highway – the Love Shack. Sounds like a brothel, and there was a famous one here at one time, but it’s the music scene I’m referring to. Love Shack. B-52s you know. And REM. And a few others you may have heard of. And, and yes, lots and lots of others you haven’t heard of. And probably never will. And I’m sure some that should never have been heard from . Those hundreds of bars have thousands of college students, and graduates, forming hundreds of bands that play in them. Probably thousands. Some weird names. A band might last a day or years. They night change their name, or their members. And their sounds.

Recently I found a great place to explore some of the local musicians. On Thursday nights at The Office Lounge, Reverend Conner Mack Tribble and the Deacons play their own tunes for a while, and then open the floor to anyone who would like to jam with them. Lots of guitarists. Couple of drummers. Keyboards. Even a flute player. Lots of rock and blues. Singers strut their stuff too. You don’t have to be good necessarily, just confident. Everyone gets applauded.

Tuesday night has seen the addition of the good Reverend Tribble’s open mic night at The Foundry. First ten people to sign up get to go on stage, alone, and do their musical thing. The audience votes, by secret ballot, on who should win, and there is a cash prize. You still don’t have to be good. Just confident. But they are good. There is amazing talent hidden everywhere. And more and more jams and open mic nights are popping up to copy Reverend Tribble’s work.

This doesn’t even consider all of the karaoke nights and the people who show up for that. But karaoke is a different story.

Everyone hopes that somewhere down the Atlanta Highway their star will rise. That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Motorcycles and Zen Maintenance

Vroom! Vroom! Sputter. Splhhhht! Dang! Now what? Many, many years ago I read the book titled Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It was supposed to be very meaningful and an important book. Maybe because I was still very young, or didn’t care much about either motorcycles or Zen, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I suspect that it was one of those books that was so weird that everyone thought it had to be great. I don’t know. I’m sure people still read it, but it didn’t do much for me. Then or now.

I hadn’t ridden my scooter in a couple of weeks, unbelievably, so I knew there might be some minor issue in starting it up. I had a nice long ride planned. A long ride. And it was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. Mid seventies. Sunshine. Perfect. Battery needs a jump. Simple.

Fired right up. Let it sit for a while to charge the battery. Anxious anticipation. When I hopped on, ready to ride, I gave it the gas and splrrrrhhhrt. Dead. And now it won’t start. Not even with a jump. So much for todays ride.

Doing a little research on the web, and asking a few biker friends, I concluded that it could be one of any number of things wrong. Battery. Starter, Fuel. Fuel lines. Spark plug. And so on. I’ll admit right here that my expertise as a mechanic on tins thing is pretty much limited to putting gas in the tank. I had the rear tire changed once and recall that it was quite an ordeal.

I left it at the shop and when it was finished the guy who worked on it wanted to tell me all about how he did it. Turns out its not like a bicycle or even a car where you unbolt the wheel and change the tire. Nope. To get to where you can begin to fool with the tire you first have to take off the cargo box. Then remove the seat. Then the cargo rack. Then the rear fender. And the taillight. Then, I think, you are ready for the tire.

Taking it somewhere to get it fixed was proving to be quite a challenge in itself. The place I had purchased the scooter went out of business years ago. A couple of the guys who had worked there each opened their own shops. And both had also gone out of business. There was the Harley place, but they couldn’t do it because they couldn’t get the parts. Or didn’t want some candy ass scooter showing up in their hog showroom maybe. One other possibility. Wait! I can do this. Of course I can.

The manual that comes with the bike doesn’t say anything about how to do anything. It gives specs, but not much else. So I went on line and found a couple of forums and blogs that talked about doing some simple stuff. Lets see, change the sparkplug. That seemed like the most likely culprit so I’ll try that.

Remove trunk. Simple. Remove seat. Not too bad. Remove luggage rack. Three little screws. Good God! They used an air wrench to put these screws in. I have a handheld Allen wrench. I’m just gonna strip the hole. I am not taking this thing to the mechanic because I can’t get a screw loose!

Try another wrench. Bigger, smaller, longer. Then I figured it out. I needed a little more leverage. A handle. I huffed and I puffed and I tried to blow that piggy’s house down and finally, after nearly passing out, I heard that sound made by a screw coming loose. Holy smokes!

I got two of them loose. The third one is under something else that needs to come off. That has a nut that needs to come off. Getting to it means sliding a wrench up under something and trying to turn. Let me be sure, lefty loosy, righty tighty. Most of the time. That’s the next step. And maybe I’ll get to it today. It’s mid January and not exactly like the day that all of this started. But I’m gonna whoop this thing and fix it myself. That will give me some Zen! That’s part of my story. What’s yours?


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Storage Wars

Enough is enough! She finally told me to pack up my stuff and get the hell out of her house. Well, not exactly all of my stuff. And she wasn’t quite ready to throw me out. Yet. The Powerball numbers hadn’t been drawn yet and I was waving my lucky ticket.

It was the garage. And the basement. Over the past couple of years I had filled them both up with all sorts of wonderful treasures. Things I had gathered from far and wide at yard sales, junk shops and even the occasional antique store. These were things I knew had great value, and I knew I could sell them for much more than I paid.

If you are any kind of collector, or dealer, you probably know exactly what I mean. You buy something you think is cool and save it for yourself. After a while you have a lot of these things and it occurs to you that maybe you should thin the collection. Time for a yard sale. But you keep collecting. A yard sale is not going to handle what you need to dispose of. So you move up to having a booth in an antique mall.

And then two booths. And still its not enough to handle the growing collection.

Soon you look into finding a storage place to keep it while it waits to hit one of the antique markets. What I found was that renting a booth at the antique store was cheaper than renting a storage unit! No brainer- get another booth and keep the stuff out where people can see it and buy it. But that isn’t turning over the inventory fast enough. The garage once held two automobiles. Now there is no room for either. She wants her car in the garage. She doesn’t care where I park mine, but she wants hers in the garage. Get that crap out!!!

I finally found a place to store the stuff that cost less than another antique mall space. Its got twenty-four/seven access so I can go visit my stuff when I get the urge. Or need to move something to one of the stores. Trying to load up my truck I find myself struggling to decide what to take first. What might I be able to leave in the garage once I clear enough room for her car? Keep the mid century stuff in the garage because it will be the first stuff to go the the store. Keep the “projects” in the garage because I need to be able to work on them. Keep the things I like in the garage. Because I like them. Shit. There is nothing left to go to the storage place!

Rethink this. Wicker furniture. Spring and summer sale item. Take all of that. There is a desk that needs a lot of work. Save that for later so off to storage. This is getting s little easier.

Then the bubble bursts and she reminds me that what she really meant to say was I want ALL of this crap out of here. Everything!!!!! So now it’s a matter of what goes first so I can pack the storage place in some order. Damn. I may have to move myself into the storage booth so I can see my stuff.

But, we are going to sell the house soon. And it will be a lot easier to do that if the garage and basement look like there is plenty of room for storage. We don’t have to show buyers that by example. Let them use their imagination. Full of their crap.

Hopefully, over the next couple of days and weekends, I’ll get it all out. As well as all of the junk my two kids are still storing here. And no more stuff will fly out of the back of the truck while I’m driving down the road. And the garage and basement will be beautiful. And we will sell the house to move on to the next thing. Whatever that may be. Hopefully it has plenty of storage.

And if the lucky ticket doesn’t pan out, it could very well be that I’m out the door too! That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Change is good. Change is hard. Both old clichés. Both true. Sometimes you plan it, and sometimes you don’t.

You might be thinking that you need a new car. You have your heart set on something. Maybe it’s new, maybe it’s used. Or it could be some classic you’ve always dreamed of. Or you might have walked onto the car lot and found something that suited your needs. Utilitarian. Affordable. Just something different. Whatever your approach to car buying, you decided you wanted a change, you found what you wanted to change to, and you make the change. Simple.

The thing about change is you don’t always have control over it. It just comes along and you have to adapt. You might be just rolling along, thinking everything is going great just as it is. No cares. No worries. Then change jumps up in front of you. Could be any number of things. Someone offers you a job. You lose your job. You meet the girl of your dreams. You lose the girl of your dreams. Whatever. Here is a change for you! Go with it…

You might have made very elaborate plans for a change, precise down to the smallest detail, but then something comes along you hadn’t anticipated, or couldn’t control, and poof, your plans are shot to hell. You are renovating an old, downtrodden house. Classic bones. With your hard work and dedication it’s going to be magnificently returned to its former glory. And modernized too. OOOPS! The whole thing is full of termites. Has to be torn down. Change in plans. Go with it…

Some of my readers know that I run a little antique business in two locations. As the new year dawned I decided to shake up both stores and redo their contents. Get rid of the things that were sitting there collecting dust. Move in new items to see how they did. Move things from one location to another. Two stores. Two markets. Different customer tastes.

I had it all planned. Take this from store A and move it to store B. Move these things around in store B, put in the things from store A, take out a few things and move them to store A. Simple. Couple of hours worth of work.

Delayed by a change, I got a late start.  I decided to take some things from my storage area with me to see where they might fit. I had to clean them. Had to price them. And tag them. And pack them for the trip. Took two hours for that. Going to store A was a breeze. Moved things around, pulled some out, made it look really good. Then, after talking to some people for a little while I was off to store B.

Here I planned to move a china cabinet from one side of the building to the other. But I couldn’t find the thing! It’s huge. Where the heck is it? Did it sell? After a few inquiries I located it, and found that it had been filled with silver and crystal. Looked really good like that so I decided to leave it. Now, what to do with the big hole I had created for it by moving other items? Fill it with something. Not like I don’t have enough stuff to fill a couple of mansions.

By the time I had all of that done it was so late that I didn’t have time to go back to store A. Another day. I had accomplished my overall mission, to change the stores around, but I hadn’t done it according to plan. I was tired and I was frustrated, but I thought to myself that it all looked pretty damn good. I was satisfied. For now. There would be another day for more changes.

And in my life there will be changes. Some I can anticipate, others I can’t. I know my daughter will graduate from college this spring. I don’t know if she will then head to grad school or the work force. Who knows what else might change. My whole world could be turned upside down. Good or bad.

Change is good. Change is hard. Sure. Planned or unplanned. Good or bad. Understood or not. It happens. Go with it. Lots of clichés. But this one is easy to understand: the only thing that is constant is change.

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

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Resolution or Revolution?

New Years resolutions are for losers! Not those who want to lose weight, just losers. Don’t be offended if you are a person who makes a New Years resolution. Making a decision to improve your life is a long standing tradition. And there are many good resolutions to make. Lose weight, get fit, quit smoking. The real problem is that in making some kind of resolution on new Years Eve, we haven’t really taken a lot of time to think it through. And without proper planning, we set ourselves up for failure. Loser!

Like a lot of you out there I used to make resolutions every year. And watch myself fail in their execution. Sometimes almost immediately. No planning. Unrealistic goals set up. Maybe no real goal at all. I’m going to live better this year. What does that mean? Quit smoking. Are we gonna do it cold turkey? Maybe gradually so that by the end of the year we no longer light up? Lose weight? Evert rime I’ve gone on a diet I ended up gaining weight!

Whatever your resolution, you cant succeed without being actively engaged in progressing toward a goal. A goal that is well defined. Measurable. And most of all, attainable. Set the bar too high and you can’t reach it. In order to satisfy these requirements, the plan has to be something you can stick to. Long term.

Sometimes, to attain a big goal we have to go way beyond resolving to get there. We need to start a revolution!!! And that is what I’m going to do this year. Matter of fact, it’s already under way.

Of course I’m not talking about starting an armed uprising to overthrow the government. No, I’m talking about making a huge change in the way we live our lives to attain the goal that is so important to us. Want a new job, a better job? Learn everything you can. Network. Actively look for opportunities. Better jobs rarely come to those daydreaming at their desks!

In my case, my revolution revolves around health and fitness. I have a physical impediment that has slowed me down some in the past few years. And because of it I have allowed myself to get fat. And flabby. And weak. I don’t like the way I look and I don’t like the way I feel. Sure, I’ve been to the gym. And I have dieted. But without real dedication and purpose. Lots of failure though.

This time, and I’m purposely not calling it a New Years resolution, I’m going all out. I got a personal trainer and he is working with me to develop exercise routines that can accomodate my physical issues. And he is jumping all over me about my diet. Before he would agree to work with me he explained all his ideas and philosophies and asked me if I was good with working with all of them. He said he didn’t want either of us to waste the others time. He’s not a taskmaster. But he does explain things and provide encouragement.

He didn’t weigh me. Or measure my body fat. Nope. They way he measures success is to see the difference in my appearance after certain time periods. If I look the same in six months as I do today, we have both failed. And I sense he is not accustomed to failure. And I will not accept it either.

With goals and plan in hand, I’m off to start my revolution. And since I have made public my plans, to you my readers, I have even more motivation to succeed. I can do this to show you and the rest of the world that I can do it, but mainly I am doing it for me. Being healthier will be good for my health!

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


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