Friday, August 17, 2018

Happy Bob Ross Watching

So yeah, I didn’t get to update when I said that I would. My apologies. Jamie lit a fire under my buns to do more around the house. My buddy Bradford Hines came over on Wednesday so we spent the day hanging by the pool and drinking. And we’re preparing for a party tonight with a dual celebration of milestone birthdays. We had a small gathering last Saturday playing Heroclix in Matt's honor. Matt turned 16 last Monday and Sam hit the fully legal age of 21 today. Sadly, Sam won’t be joining the Hellcats for Thirsty Thursday at Lowes Foods this week because he’s headed back to UNCW.

But I left off with Bob Ross and how we’ve gotten addicted to watching his painting shows on YouTube.

It’s a hypnotic and relaxing show. He made such great nature scenes and he made it seem incredibly easy to do. And that was the point, it was an instructional show.

I remember flipping channels and finding myself stopping to watch the shows on the local PBS affiliate. I thought it was amazing and felt like I could do it too. But I never tried painting his way. My experiment with oil painting didn’t really work out that well even with the teacher that I was taking lessons from. I found oil painting to be quite difficult and went back to pencil and charcoal. “Happy little accidents”, as Bob Ross would put it, were easier to correct with a gum eraser.

But did you ever realize that with all the natural scenes that Ross painted there’s no wildlife? Why is that?

There are trees that live there. There are happy little rocks just watching the water flow by. There are paths to fishing holes. There are barns and cabins in the middle of nowhere. But there are no birds, no happy little deer, no guy walking down the path to his fishing hole in the middle of nowhere, and no cows hanging close to the barn. All of the paintings that I have ever seen are devoid of life.

He painted trees for birds to hang out, but there are no birds. How difficult would it be to paint a few of those happy little birds watching it all from high above?

And why did he only do nature scenes?

I would have loved to have seen him paint something urban… A street scene with a junkie sleeping on a park bench. A happy little cop beating an unarmed man. A cute little mailbox for the pigeons to poop on. “Let’s paint in a storm drain where a happy little rat lives and sustains himself with tiny little nibbles of flesh from our sleeping junkie”.

Or maybe Ross could have added things in his nature paintings… “Let’s paint in a lifeless body floating in our river. Maybe he was a mob informant that got outed and was dumped up stream. It’s too bad that Antonio got caught wearing a wire for the Feds. Oh well, he’s feeding all our happy little fish that live in our river. Boy, if these rocks could talk.”

“Remember that hiker that got lost? Well, lets paint in a decomposing body right here next to the happy little tree. Let’s make a few branches for the vultures to sit as they digest our unfortunate little hiker. Maybe there’s a hungry little coyote just coming out of the woods to investigate the smell of possible food that’s wafting through the air.”

Those of the kinds of things that I would have like to have seen Ross tackle in his paintings.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Hampton Hellcats

I hang out with mostly retired folks where I live now. Since I’m underemployed, I’ve embraced a lot of their lifestyle and activities… The Hampton Hellcats Sunday morning breakfast at 7 A.M. The Monday morning meeting at 10 A.M. And the Thirsty Thursday afternoon meet up at Lowes Foods in Clemmons. All but one of those activities involves some kind of alcohol consumption. The core of the group has always been my father-in-law Jim and his best friend Bait. I’ve been lucky enough to tag along and now I’m a presence that can usually be counted upon. Ya know, like a rash on a baby’s bottom.

My stepsons and I were made members of the Hampton Hellcats in order to keep the tradition alive and well. The Hellcats were created in the 1950s and used to hangout near the home of Richard Childress. It seems that they terrorized the mean street of Hampton Road in Clemmons and where it winds its way through Davidson County.

But these days it’s usually Bait and Jim terrorizing each other. At times, you’d think that they absolutely hate each other. But they just like to contradict and argue with each other. Once, they got into an argument about which end of a mattress cover belonged at the top of the bed. My stepson Sam got to witness the whole incident and felt bad that he didn’t document it with video. It got heated with all kinds of expletives being thrown around before they called the customer service number to find out directly from the manufacturers. I don’t even remember who came out on the right end of that deal unless you count Sam being in the right place at the right time to observe it all. You will never know boredom around those two men, I assure you. And seriously, you could make a reality series with those two.

The Sunday breakfast is usually a chill and hang with a core of characters… Jim, Bait, Andy, Randy, Brent (not so much anymore), and myself. Chad has made appearances on the last 2 Sundays. We usually gather around 7, talk about what we’ve done during the week, gripe about the Winston-Salem Journal being late, and eat. Bait fries the bacon and sausage. Randy brews the decaf and he used to make the sausage gravy, but one little criticism didn’t sit quite right.

I have no opinion since I don’t eat that stuff. I just don’t care for its ultra-blandness. It’s like eating paper Mache paste to me.

Brent would take care of the biscuits, but that has fallen into Randy’s hands now. Jim fries up the eggs or scrambles them for a large turnout and I usually try to wash the dishes. Bait can be hard-headed about letting me do something or maybe he feels that I don’t do a good job. We usually break up between 8:30 or 9.

Monday morning meetings are different. I’ve made it to core group status. Sometimes Richard (Bait’s neighbor) will meet with us. Randy has shown up on several occasions. We’ve also had D-Wayne and Mike. And if it’s raining, Brannon will show up.

Brannon shared his lunch of sardines once. I haven’t eaten sardines in over 30 or 40 years. Just never felt the desire, but we devoured those two cans and they’ve become an almost regular food at the Monday meetings. Sardines or kippered snacks. I’ve even started eating them at home. I’m quite fond of the sardines packaged with Louisiana Hot Sauce (AJ Allmendinger sponsor).

Every meeting starts with the ceremonial opening of a growler. The beer starts flowing and then we talk about current events and what projects that we have coming up for the week. We also set out to solve world problems, but we haven’t taken notes to make our reports to the United Nations.

But here lately, we’ve gotten into watching Bob Ross videos on YouTube. It can be quite relaxing.

I found his show on Netflix and put it on once as we sat around the table drinking beer and eating pork rinds with Bait’s wife Bobbie. But for some reason, they like watching on YouTube. And I say that only because I have an OCD about watching things in order even though every show completes a painting. It’s not like ‘The Joy of Painting’ had two parters or season ending cliffhangers. I’m just wired weirdly.

But I am making THIS blog post a two parter. I hope to have the second part up tomorrow or Wednesday. And here’s a hint… I’ll be talking about Bob Ross.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

My Little Music Trees

Remember the Zune that Microsoft put out some years ago?

I loved my Gretchen II. I took her everywhere. She could hold like 750 albums in a package that was just over the size of a deck of cards. I fully embraced the MP3 player revolution. I LOVED being able to take that many albums with me just about anywhere. And with the Zune music subscription, I could sample anything for like fifteen bucks a month without the risks of plunking down ten dollars on each CD to find that it’s total crap. The subscription was more reward with no risk. I LOVED it!

Then there was the switch to Groove and the ditching of Zune. It totally made my Gretchen II useless. It sent me into a deep dark depression for a few days. I cancelled my subscription to Zune, ah, Groove. I started looking for alternatives.

There was one alternative right before my eyes. It was part of the DirecTV package that we had. So, I tried Pandora. I hated it within the first 30 minutes. It was playing what it wanted to play even though I gave certain songs the “thumbs down”. And it KEPT PLAYING songs by those bands. It was maddening so I ditched it.

Our friend Melissa gave me her daughter’s iPod. I have had my issues with Apple products. Every time that I deal with Apple stuff, I end up with jacked up blood pressure and Yahoo Serious hair. But I NEEDED to hear what I wanted in a random play format without some computer or programmer telling me what I didn’t want to hear.

But the iPod was just a Band-Aid on my problem that brought me more problems like jacked up blood pressure and Serious hair… again.

When the Chigs and I moved to Davidson County, I checked out Spotify. I started with the free version with commercials about every 30 minutes. Even with the commercials, I loved it. I made a couple of playlists right off the bat. I even made one for our wedding that was a month away from the day we moved into our new digs. I saved the free trial week of the non-commercial premium version of Spotify for the week with our wedding day right in the middle. We even used Queen’s version of the wedding march from the ‘Flash Gordon’ soundtrack. But being excited about our big day and the party afterwards, we totally forgot about playing the wedding mix. We just went with the “Big House Mix” where there’s a little something for everyone.

And let me say this about one thing that bugs me… I absolutely HATE when someone gives me the side eye when they hear things on the “Big House Mix” that they don’t like. The MIL is the biggest culprit… “Why doesn’t it play anything that I like?”

Well, ya know… The “Big House Mix” isn’t about just you. Sure, I put most of the music on it. I try to cater to anyone that may come over to our house. My friend Hinzy was totally digging it when he came over with his soon to be wife Karla and her cousin Todd. And it seems that the MIL only wants to listen to old country or Chris “THAT’S MY MAN” Stapleton. The funny thing is when Stapleton or an old country tune plays randomly, she has usually just gone inside for a beverage with A-Rita in its name. It has become a running joke around our house with our usual cast of drinking buddies.

If you don’t dig the current tune, just suck it up because in about 3 to 4 minutes a different song will play. Grrrrrrr

Anyone that follows the “Big House Mix” playlist and comes to our home is welcome to put their favorite songs on that playlist. There are ONLY two rules. No songs with explicit lyrics (songs that aren’t FCC acceptable because some people have children or they just don’t want to hear “the filth”) and no songs over 7 minutes. Bait added one that runs almost 12 minutes, but we left it on there because it’s a jam that’s mostly instrumental that you don’t really notice.

My Spotify playlists have become my own little bonsai tree forest. I cultivate and trim my little trees every day. It’s an obsession. And lately my obsession has been the “Yes Virginia, it WAS a Top 40 Hit” playlist. That little tree of mine is growing and growing. I add to it every day. And when I pull my random CDs for the coming week of listening pleasure in the truck, I add songs to that playlist from the year the albums were released. It gives it a certain randomness. I started adding songs to it from when the charts were first being kept with the best sellers in 1955 and I’m currently deep into 1957. And every week when the new chart comes out from Billboard, I add the new songs. Not all of them get on because I used the clean edits. That’s because I enjoy blasting that playlist around the pool and some guests don’t care for “filth”.

I make it available to anyone that wants to listen to it and I’ve found quite a few people that really enjoy it.

And my other little tree is my “Random Play Exploration” playlist. I add 3 catalog titles and 4 new releases to it every Friday. I keep a notebook that the playlist feeds off. And I use the playlist to add 6 titles from my random CDs for the week and one of those artists gets a bonus album added. Ya know, just in case they have an album on Spotify that I’ve never heard or own. And when I listen to the “Random Play Exploration” playlist, I will delete the songs that I hate and add songs to other playlists. The playlist is capped at 4,000 songs (the others will go on to infinity) so it's totally being refreshed with new stock while the old goes away.

I’ve also gotten into the practice of adding the Top 10 songs and Top 10 albums every Wednesday to the “Random Play Exploration” playlist. I do it to try to stay current. I even add things that I don’t like or know that I won’t like. I don’t want to embrace the old mandom habit of being stuck at a certain place in time and declaring that there’s no good music being made today. I find LOTS of new music being made today that’s excellent. And with the monthly subscription, what’s to lose if I don’t like it?

I just delete and move onto the next song. It’s a win-win situation for me. Spotify allows me to basically use them on my Amazon Fire tablet as my personal MP3 player.

The thing that I don’t like about the streaming… A lot of musicians don’t make the money they should off the streaming of their music not just on Spotify, but everywhere. I get why they’re upset. It takes a lot of money to craft their songs for listeners. I just don’t buy CDs anymore unless I really want a hard copy of my favorite artists. Again, I hate it for the local musicians around me. And even with my hatred for them not being fairly compensated, I’m going with the convenience of what works for me. I can play any of the millions of songs just about anywhere that I am either with my phone, laptop, or Amazon Fire tablet. Sorry ladies and gents…

I love Spotify and I shameless suggest using the service to just about everyone that I know.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

It's A Croc!

I’ve been forced into the waters of old mandom within the last year, but that’s okay. It’s the natural progression of things in life. And with the understanding of “how it’s going to be” comes a certain clarity. Things that used to matter to me just got tossed out the proverbial window like used motor oil.

I used to somewhat care about my appearance. There was a time that I wouldn’t leave the house without washing my hair. At the time, my hair was thick and lustrous. It wouldn’t take long before it got greasy and dull looking. But since time has thinned out the follicles, my worries about leaving the house with unwashed hair just aren’t there anymore.

I have always been careful about footwear. I have never worn sandals. I cannot and will never wear flip-flops for several reasons… I can’t abide that post between my toes. They make an annoying sound. And they just look like they could be dangerous when you walk fast, run, or misjudge a step. Plus, there’s the idea that I have about no one wanting to see naked man feet.

Being at the beach of pool is one thing, but who really wants to see naked man feet?

Men’s feet are generally hairy. A lot of guys don’t pay close attention to the trimming of nails. Men don’t take the time and effort into the appearance of feet that women do. It’s just not a pleasant thing to see. That’s just my opinion based upon seeing too many hideous men feet.

But lately, I’ve been venturing out of the house with my Crocs slippers. They don’t have that strap across the heel. I’m careful about wearing ankle socks with them before leaving the property. I wouldn’t want to give anyone a glimpse of my own ugly man feet. I wear them around the house. I wear them by the pool. I’ll wear them over to my father-in-law’s house. I’ll wear them to Bait and Bobbie’s. I’ve even worn them to Hoyt’s for lunch with the wife. NOT that Hoyt’s is the gathering spot for clothes horses in the Reedy Creek area of Davidson County. The place is a laid back breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner spot with one helluva fried tenderloin.

I’ve told Jamie that I just don’t care anymore. I used to cast a disparaging eye towards Crocs. But after having mine for a few years now, I totally get it now. They’re as comfortable as slipping your feet into a big ol’ pot of oatmeal. I love them. And now I’m on the look out for a new pair WITH the strap to venture out every day of the week when my appearance just doesn’t matter.

First of all, I don’t want the ones with the holes in them. I’m sure it’s a breathable function, but I’m going to make sure that I’m wearing ankle socks with them. I like the looks of The Specialist II Clog. Especially the black ones. I also dig this one and this one.

I recently told Jamie that when I’m leaving the house, I just don’t give a damn anymore. I’m settling into the comfort of being an old man and not just giving certain things like footwear a single thought anymore. I have worn my Crocs to Lowes Foods, Hoyts, the neighbors, and Lord willing I may just wear them to a church service one day. No one gives two squirts that Jesus wore feminine footwear like sandals for the majority of his life. I’ve never really understood the whole “dress to impress” BS when it comes to going to church anyway. But that’s another subject for another time.

I won’t hesitate wearing old torn up t-shirts when out and about. I have a gray tee that I love wearing. It has to be at least 20 years old and oh so comfortable. I was wearing it around the house just last Saturday and Jamie said, “I love that shirt.”

She has worn it too. And I gave it to her that afternoon after I got ready for my fill-in assistant announcer gig at Bowman Gray Stadium. As far as I know, she wore it as a cover up when she got out of the pool.

Overall, I feel that this old mandom thing is good for me. It probably won’t be long before I start shouting random things at people that I don’t know doing things that I don’t approve of. But I think that I need a grayer hair in order to be dismissed as a crazy old hoot instead of being shot.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

The MIL Part Four: Communication Breakdown

As I’ve mentioned before, my mother-in-law lives with us. And seriously, the wheels would go spinning off if she didn’t live with us. Sure, I’ve got the underemployed time to spend doing the laundry and keeping things going, but I understand and realize all that she does. If the Jamie and I were working full time, we wouldn’t be able to suck down beer and float around in the pool all day on Saturdays.

It’s the littlest of things that causes friction in the house. And it’s usually just misunderstanding each other. Jamie and I both believe that the MIL's hearing is fading away, but she doesn’t crank up the television like it’s Eddie Van Halen’s wall of amplifiers.

My wife has started working from home one day a week. We tend to leave her alone, but I think Jamie is starting to understand some of the “little friction points” on my end. She has suggested that I get away from the house during the day for my own sanity. Jamie has discovered the “flop, flop, flop, flop” sounds when her perpetually housecoated mother walks around. Then there’s the constant dog inquiries… “Do you wanna go outside?” “Do you wanna come inside?” And she is always talking to herself. You just don’t know if she’s talking to you or what. It can be maddening when you’re not in a good mood or like Jamie, you’ve got work to do.

Jamie tries to cocoon herself off from the rest of us, but her mother has the magical powers that cut through 8 inches of steel in order to reach her last nerve center. We all have mothers so, I think that I know that particular pain.

My wife came up to me early yesterday evening and said, “Well, you’ve managed to piss her off again.”

“What the hell did I do?” I asked even though I felt that it had something to do with the changing of the filter on the Roomba.

She explained that it was my tone when I asked a simple question… Several times.

It seems that I get a certain tone when I’m clearly enunciating and talking loudly enough to be fully understood. It could be the radio guy in me or the inner A-hole, I don’t know. But for some reason, they find my tone angry and a little condescending. It certainly isn’t the reason I get that tone. I’m just looking to be more clearly understood. I’m not even aware that I may be coming off like a jerk to them.

Eugene Infraction Exhibit A:

I was looking for our purple cooler. It’s a soft-sided cooler that you can sling over your shoulder for easy carrying. I needed to pack it full of alcoholic goodies to take over to Bait and Bobbie’s house to drink since we were all going to hang out. I couldn’t find it. I asked the MIL if she had seen it. She asked Jamie. Jamie told her to look outside.

The MIL came back into the game room where I was stuffing a less desirable cooler full of goodies from our beer fridge. The MIL had the purple cooler in her hands. She said, “It was outside on the little table under the eave.”

Since we just had a 20-minute rain shower I asked a simple question, “Is it wet?”

She fumbled around with it, took a step down into the game room.

I tend to be impatient when I ask a question and get no answer. Perhaps she didn’t hear me. “Is it wet?” I asked again a little louder.

She was talking about something inside the cooler and fumbling with the zipper. I said just a little bit louder, “Linda, you have the cooler in your hands. Is… It… Wet?”

Again, it’s a soft-sided cooler that you can sling over your shoulder. I didn’t want to sling a wet, soft-sided cooler over my shoulder if I didn’t have to.

Well, my innocent line of questioning rubbed her the wrong way. She was checking to see if the INSIDE of the cooler was wet. I didn’t care about the inside because chances were excellent that it was going to get wet even if it were dry.

Later, she told me that I should remember that her 72-year-old brain doesn’t react as fast as it used to. I told her that I didn’t know if her 72-year-old ears were hearing me.

So yeah, a misunderstanding.

Eugene Infraction Exhibit B:

Monday is the day that I routinely clean and service the Roomba. I take things off to untangle the hair from around moving parts and brushes. I get the lint, dust, and hair out of the brushes. I clean the axle of the front tracking wheel so when the thing wants to turn, it does so easily. If you don’t do that at least on a weekly basis, the joker won’t last you too long.

I noticed that the filter area had dust balls in it and the filter looked nasty. I took the filter off and banged it on the deck railing. I pounded a dust cloud out of the thing that would have signaled any Native Americans in the area about possible danger. So, I went back inside after the servicing and said something, again, about cleaning the filter after every use. It should be taken outside and tapped on the railing to get the dust out.

She said, “I’ll rinse it with water to clean it out.”

“Why would you rinse it with water?” I asked.

“You said it was okay!” she replied.

“The filter is made of paper.” I said. “Why would I approve of watering a paper filter?? Paper and water don’t really get along together.”

So somewhere along the way, there was some miscommunication.

I asked if she knew where the replacement filter was and she knew exactly where it was. I felt that it was probably time since we’ve had the thing for nearly 2 years AND that someone has been cleaning the filter with water. I tossed the old one and handed her the new one to replace.

Can I see the woman trying to prolong the life of the filter?

ABSOLUTELY! We’ve had to break the woman of trying to get every ounce of liquid soap out of the dispensers by making it ineffective with the addition of water. You know that last little bit at the bottom that won't come out through the pump anymore?

Well, she adds about a third of the bottle's size with water to get the last little bit.

We’ve explained that watering it down neutralizes the germ-killing power of the soap. But that didn’t stop her. So we took the passive-aggressive approach when we noticed a stream of watery liquid soap squirting on us or across the room. We just emptied the bottle and threw it away. And then finally Jamie explained to her again about how it’s not a good practice along with assuring her that we aren’t destitute. I think that’s starting to settle in.

Serenity now!