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Today is Halloween, so I guess late in the day it’s ok to begin talking about Christmas.  I hate to do it because I like Halloween, and there is still Thanksgiving yet to come.  A very important holiday.  But this is kind of business related so here we go…

This weekend the antique mall where I have one of my shops is having it’s Christmas open house.  I know, it’s very early in the year for that.  Gotta give customers plenty of time to shop for Christmas items, and gifts of all sort.  And I like all the festive feeling and merry making of the holidays.

Anyway, the owner of the mall asked all the dealers to write up a little blurb on our favorite Christmas memory.  When I gave mine to her the other day she acted like I was the only one who had submitted anything.  Too bad…  I don’t really know what she’s planning to do with these stories, but it was fun to reminisce a little while putting mine together.

I have lots of Christmas memories.  Good and bad.  Favorite gifts.  Funny events.  Great experiences.  I saw the Pope at eh Vatican one year.  But one thing kept coming back into my head over and over.  It was the tree.  I’ve always had a live one.  Sometimes so alive it needed to be planted in the ground after the season.  And sometimes barely hanging on until its last needle turned brown and fell off.

Big trees and little trees.  Firs and pines and cypress.  Anything green.  But its not just the tree that stands out.  Its what we did to the tree preparing it for the holidays.  Making it beautiful….

My favorite Christmas memory is not of one event, but of one that happens every year. And every time with a different result. No, its not like in the movie Groundhog Day where I get to come back over and over to do it again until I get it right. I get it right every time. It just turns out differently. I decorate he Christmas tree.

When I was a kid Christmas Eve morning meant going to the garage to grab the tree we had chosen and cut in the forest the previous weekend. It sat in a bucket of water waiting for this day. My dad and I would wrestle it into the house and get it set up in its stand.

After lunch I was given the honor of putting all of the light on its boughs. String after string I’d test the lights and replace burned out bulbs, carefully choosing the color to be placed in each socket. This was the old days wen bulbs screwed in and could be replaced. When one loose or missing bulb shut down the whole string. And when each bulb had to be clipped on to the tree branch.

After dinner we would break out boxes and boxes of ornaments and everyone in the family would carefully hang dozens of them. A very eclectic looking tree, just as the members of my family are very much individuals.

We’d go to a Christmas Eve church service and when we returned home the children would drift of to bed. Not to sleep though! My mother would then get busy hanging tinsel on the tree.   Each strand carefully place to reflect the multicolored lights. She always told us that Santa Claus had put the tinsel on the tree. And the tree would remain in place until January 6th, the day of Epiphany. Thus, the twelve days of Christmas.

Now that I have my own family some of that has changed. I still do the lights, but now its much more a matter of shoving the strings into the tree, burying the lights deep to give a sense of depth. I usually forget to test them until after they are on the tree, and find that some work and others don’t. Or maybe I’ve strung them somehow I’ve sequenced the strings wrong so one has no power. But it always ends up beautifully lt.

And stays up for a long time. Going up right after Thanksgiving, we enjoy it all of December. The Southern tradition is that it must come down before New Years, which we observed of r many years. Now though, we put it up early and leave it up until the last needle is dried up and falls off. Well, not quite. It comes down in Epiphany.

Lots of other great holiday memories, but this one I get to refresh every year. To make it better perhaps, but always to make it memorable.

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


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It’s Everywhere!

When you are looking for something you need it seems like it’s often impossible to find. Once you have it of course you see it everywhere. And at a much better price. You might call that extra cost a convenience fee. Or just bad timing.

A couple of weeks ago the weather warmed up and the grass started to grow. And with it, the weeds. So, OK I thought, lets get out the weed and feed and kill some weeds and fertilize that good old grass. One problem: I didn’t have either the weed and feed, or the spreader to put it out. Off to the hardware store.

The weed and feed was easy to find. A dozen different choices. This one fertilizes and kills 250 different weeds. This one fertilizes for three months and kills every weed but crabgrass. And so on.

But wouldn’t you know it. There was only one spreader on the shelf in the store! The guy working there said that the warm weather had brought out the gardeners and there had been a rush on the spreaders the day before. Just one left. And more than I wanted to pay. But I got it because I thought I just had to have it to get this job done right now.

Fast forward one week. I’m on a road trip exploring Georgia’s longest yard sale. Two hundred and forty miles of highway lined with countless yard sales. And guess what I saw everywhere!

The first time I saw a spreader I thought it was humorous. Ten bucks. And then it seemed like I saw one at every sale. It was probably a dozen or so, and every one was ten dollars. Some almost new. Now I feel stupid.

What makes it even worse is that this weekend I went to a big sale at one of the local antique malls. Spring clearance! Half of the dealers were slashing their prices. And one guy had a, yes, a fertilizer spreader! It was very out of place in an antique shop as it was rather new. I think it was just there because the universe wanted me to feel even worse. Or maybe I just imagined it.

I’m in the antique business. I live in antique stores, thrift stores and flea markets. The only things I buy new are eyeglasses and food! Why did I buy that spreader at the hardware store? Who knows?

I learn life’s lessons well. Because I learn the same one over and over. Maybe one day I’ll remember what I’ve learned. Right!

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

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Sales Pitch

The sight of a twelve year old vehicle pulling into the lot makes a salesman drool. This guy has to be here to trade in that heap is the thought going through her mind. Let me at him!
I pull up to the service bay and notice her watching me. She’ll be waiting when I finish in there. When you bring the car in for service you can sit and wait or you can wander around and look at cars. Just be prepared for a sales pitch.
In another lifetime I sold cars. New and used. Luxury. And otherwise. I know the deal. Normally I don’t want to waste people’s time but I’ll at least let them try to do their job. You shut them down at the appropriate time.
Ok. Give it to me. I don’t have anything else to do for a little while. She asks what I brought the car in for. It’s been recalled I tell her. Nothing serious I hope she replies. I tell her it’s something about a shift lock mechanism. I don’t know if it’s serious or not. The manufacturer didn’t seem to be in a huge rush to fix it.
When I explain that the car is twelve years old she says the magic words. Have you thought about trading it in on a newer model?  Actually, I had.
What I have suits my needs well.  The right size. Easy to get in and out of .  Rides well. Looks like crap. But it’s always nice to think about a newer one.
I let her go through the spiel on new and certified used. We talk about what I’d be looking for. Oh, we have several of those she beams.  The idea is to get the customer into the car. To smell the new car aroma. To see all the features. Take it for s spin and get sucked in.  When she wants to get a key to show me the vehicle it’s time to shut it down.
She gives me her card and thanks me for speaking with her. If I can be of any service in the future please let me know. Car sales has a high turnover rate in salesmen. By the time I’m ready she may well have moved on. But someday I’ll have to get a newer model. And there will be a salesperson waiting for me.
That’s part of my story. What’s yours!

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King Cotton

Cotton used to be king in Dixie. Now there are a number of other crops grown for a greater profit. Cotton wore out the soil and the boll weevil nearly killed it all off. But it is still grown.

In the fall we begin to see the bolls appearing on the plants around here.   The fields extend deep into Georgia, and the fluffy white balls are hard to miss as you drive down the roads. Small fields and large.

It’s a mystery to me as to how the farmers decide when to harvest the stuff. Looks ripe to me. But they wait. And not everyone harvests at the same time.

One day there will be a field full of cotton, and the next day it’s all gone. Depending on the equipment they use, some farmers grab all the cotton and plow the stalks under. Others grab the white stuff and leave the stalks. Some seem to leave half the cotton, and all of the stalks. Is it really a cash crop?

That question struck me today as I was driving past the fields. The crop had been harvested several weeks ago, but the bales of cotton were still in the barns and fields.

A bale today isn’t what you might have seen in the history books. Nowadays a “bale” of cotton is the size of a forty cubic yard dumpster. A huge solid block. Or it may be rolled up like hay. A cylinder five feet tall and five feet across.

But why is it still sitting there? Shouldn’t it be headed toward a factory or something? I guess it won’t go bad. Or rot.

So I wondered, do they just grow it for the tourists to see? Is it something they use to put minerals into the soil? Or is there some reason why giant trucks have to wait to pick it up and drive it somewhere.

There is a working cotton gin a few miles down the road from my house. And forty-nine others in the state of Georgia. How much can they process? And how quickly? I don’t know.

I’m not a farmer. They must know what they are doing. All I know is that eventually the cotton will make it into clothing I can buy. And lots of other items.

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

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The Museum

My father and I have always been on separate pages. His was math and science, mine was history and art. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a brilliant man. A real rocket scientist who is responsible for a great deal of the technology that we take for granted today. And I , well, I’m different from all that.

He had great plans for me. And spent a great deal of time telling me what they were and how I could achieve them. What a letdown I was. At one point he was convinced that I was, in his words in the 1970’s, retarded. Until he had me take an IQ test. Same as his.

I tried. Really I did. A doctor. Sure, I can do it. Not. Lawyer, scientist, architect, same thing.   Even the business world was a little challenging with micro and macro economics, statistics and accounting. Yes, it makes sense, but only if you don’t ask questions. And I’m full of questions.

So, with great trepidation I entered the field of anthropology. Trepidation because as a college student I was certain that my financial stream would be dammed up. But he allowed it, only because my mother was an artist. She convinced him that anthropology was not totally worthless.

It’s always been like that between he and I. I’m a disappointment and have never lived up to his dreams. For the longest time I busted my ass to either satisfy, or surpass him. But somehow he was always better.

I published a book. But he had always written a journal and poetry and if only I did this like him I would be a better writer. I ran marathons. He ran to work as a young man and if only I would extend my legs a little further I could be an Olympian. Never. It even went so far as I had debilitating back pain caused by structural damage (too much damn running). Surgically repaired twice, but not corrected. But at age 93 he had back pain too. Much worse than mine. Give me a break!!!

So it was with extreme nervousness that I prepared myself for a visit from him. I go north to see him probably twice a year. I combine this visit with an antique shopping adventure through the Carolinas and Virginia. But he hasn’t come to see me since, well, I don’t remember.

He was coming to see my new home. My new home in the country. Would it match up to the place he had lived in for thirty eight years? I didn’t care. This was my house and I like it.

What did make me nervous though was my man-cave. I call it infinity. It’s full of the things that I love. Like mid century modern furniture. Asian art. Nautical artifacts. And no TV. It’s a real fantasy land.

I decided I would just show it to him and hope for the best.   I was surprised.

In this space he found things that he recognized from his own past. Sculptures he had created. Items that he and my mother had collected. Things he had never seen before that the thought were his. Some things never change.

But the thing was that he was very impressed. He loved it and spent quite a while in there looking at everything.

The biggest surprise was yet to come. He called me up one day and asked if I had any pictures from my infinity. I said no, but I could take some. What came next blew my mind.

He wanted the pictures. He said that the items housed in my man cave were museum quality. Wow!! Museum quality.

My mother worked in an art museum. I had studied at the Smithsonian. Surely my little stuff was not equal to that. But he’s a smart guy. And had learned a lot from my mother. And the stuff I have collected is good stuff. Ok. My man-cave is a museum – the Alexander museum of decorative arts.

I thought about this for a few moments and decided that if he wanted a few pictures, I would do him one better. Not just a few pictures, but a museum exhibit catalog. With me as curator. Dream come true!!!

Thus, the book was born. Thirty six pages with over one hundred photos of the items I keep at Infinity. The collection is ever changing but as of today, this is a sample. And I’ll give it to him so that he can remember history as he does.

It’s my museum. I love it. And it changes as I see fit. Museum quality. You said it dude, and you know you are always right!!!

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

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I Love A Parade

There were no giant flying inflatable characters. No Broadway dancers. This wasn’t the Macy’s Parade, or even New York City. But it had all the bells and whistles, and a few horns thrown in for fun. It was a small town America Christmas Parade.

Parades have always been a great attraction for me. Back in the day, Labor Day was the only Monday holiday. Thanksgiving and Easter have their own system of date selection, but the other holidays fell on a certain calendar day.

Memorial Day was always May 30. No matter the day of the week. Now that it is celebrated more as the unofficial start of summer, the actual date is less important than getting a three day holiday. And so, it is the last Monday in May.

I was born on Memorial Day. When it was May 30. And in my town there was always a parade that day. My father told me it was for me! And, yes, for many years I believed that. Wow! Marching bands, throngs of people, military displays. Even a tank!

Knowing now that there never has, and most likely never will be a parade for me, I still love parades. The sounds, the flash, the crowds, the spectacle of it all. Big or small, as long as the show goes on.

This years Christmas parade in my small town was much like it is every year. But the weather was a tad warmer. There was a fire truck to lead it off. From the volunteer company. And there was a high school marching band. And baton twirlers. There was a brigade of mountain bicycle riders, performing stunts. And a line of antique cars including the Volkswagen Club, and the private collection of a local citizen who owns an example of every version of 1932 Ford Model A ever built.

There were horseback riders. And a pooper scooper. And to top off the animal participants there was a poodle dressed as an angel. The Mayor and town council were on a float. Several local businesses had made up floats that were pulled behind their pick-up trucks. And there were Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts.

The karate school brought all of their students to march and show off their skills. But a crowd favorite is always the tractor parade. It’s a small town, built on farming. Hence… John Deere, Farmall, International Harvester, and Ford. Tractors of red, blue and green. Large, small, fancy, simple. Each well loved. Each a workhorse.

All along the route the paraders were tossing out candy to the crowd. But the biggest attraction was on the fire truck bringing up the rear. Yes, you guessed it. It was the jolly old elf himself! Santa Claus. Just like the Macy’s Parade.

The crowd watching all of this, whooping and hollering, shouting out to friends and family, was numbered in the thousands. Two or three thousand anyway. Many more than the population of this small town.

They had come from the town, and from the suburbs, and from the rural hinterlands. They gathered without concern for what made them different. It was their similarities that brought them together. And they were all having a good time together.

Small town.   Big city. Parades are a grand spectacle and fine American tradition. I love a parade.

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

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Thanksgiving Theory

This one is a no brainer. On Thanksgiving we write about the things we are thankful for. And this year I have a long, long list. But I’m not gonna go into all of that for you, dear reader, because that’s not what you came here to read. Instead, I’ll just hit a few highlights, and a few concepts on things I’m thankful for.

This year, I’ve come to see things in a new light. I’m thankful for my mediocre health. It’s better than it could be. I’m thankful for being retired. Going out on disability wasn’t how I envisioned it, and I’d rather be working to tell you the truth, but my career has always taken it’s own twists and turns. It’s better than it could be.

I’m always thankful for my family. And how well they are doing. Not as well as some I know, but better than it could be all around. They are happy. And so am I.

I have a new house this year. New to me anyway. And I’m thankful that it is one story, and that I live in the country now. After a long stint in the suburbs, it’s better than it could be.

But mostly I’m thankful for a new way of looking at things. I’ve found a new way of thinking about the way the universe works. You can call it what you want, but it works for me. In this new vision, great spirits and ancestors inhabit the world around me, and if I ask for their wisdom, they will share it. The wisdom of centuries of being.

I don’t ask for money or power or objects. What I am searching for, and asking for help with, is finding my happiness. I’ve opened my ears and my soul to listening for the wisdom that is out there. Wisdom on how to find what makes me happy, to surround my self with people who make me happy, and to know when I’ve found the right path to that happiness. I’ve also asked that I have a kind thought for myself. Forget the negative thoughts of the past and concentrate on the possibilities of the future.

Life is too short to be miserable. I live with physical pain. And I’m still working to shake off many great mental burdens. But I’ve opened myself to hearing new wisdom, and I’m finding that with the right mindset, I hear the voices of the wise. Happy to share.

There is a lot to be thankful for. And with an open heart, I find more and more.

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

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