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Three score and ten or more

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Well, we closed on the house this morning. Will post some pics of the old and new sometime this week. Spent three hours signing papers. I'm glad I trust my attorney, this stuff gets harder the older you get. Now, I look around the old house in what passes pretty well for despair. How in the h## are we ever going to get all this stuff out of here and into there. I was muttering to my realtor (who has been in my house a bit) and she said "Take things gradually over to the new house and arrange them the way they make you feel good. Just leave anything that doesn't fit and hold a helluva yard or moving sale--- And call me in time that I can come shopping before the crowds get here." My daughter came over on the weekend, while we were in Gatlinburg, to pack stuff. She spent two whole days just packing the stuff in the china closets.

Today we moved a wicker furniture set over just so that, when we are over there, we will have a place to sit. My kids are all hoping that the sale of our house will go through ( after a somewhat doubtful zoning change) because the new owners want to tear the place down, and the kids want to pillage the wood-fire fireplace insert, the free standing wood stove, the chandeliers, the fireplace mantle, the rough hewn cyprus shelves, etc. I am hoping it will go through so that it will make all the paper signing this morning be worthwhile.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Well, the first few days in the Gatlinburg area have been interesting. As I was tooling up I 40 to Gatlinburg I stopped at a rest stop for the kind of activity that all coot males over 70 have after two or three hours in the car. I was sure I knew how to get into Gatlinburg, I have been here quite a few times, but I overheard a “state employee” giving someone else directions then asked him,”I just turn off on 321 West, right?”

“Oh no,” he said, “That’s the long way. Turn off at the next exit onto the Foothills Parkway, it is much shorter and a better road” Though I seemed to have some negative recollection of the Foothills Parkway, shorter sounded good since it was pouring rain, so off we went. As we drove I remembered what I didn’t like about the Foothills Parkway. It is a twisty, winding, hilly narrow road, and I instantly had to slow to about forty to stay on the road. Wet, slick pavement didn’t help. I made it to the last turn in the road, topped a hill and looked down a steep grade at a “Warning; Dangerous Curve” sign, and tapped my brakes to slow down. At about the fourth tap, the brakes seemed to lock and I started sliding down the hill. This time I hit the brakes and held them down, but it was much the same sensation one has when the foot is on the brake and the pedal goes to the floor. I just went along merrily till I came to the curve. Taking my foot off the brake and accelerating slightly (but futily) I tried to take the curve; Nope, but I did miss the barriers, slid across thirty feet of wet grass and crashed into a small thicket. I tipped up a small thee or four inch tree with the right corner of my bumper till the root was under the car, and stopped. I couldn’t move the car at all.

With the help of a passing stranger, who had a book of phone numbers, I finally got in touch with a Park Ranger (I discovered that I was in the Smoky Mountain National Park.)
He called a tow truck which pulled me back to the pavement. The car is still drivable but that little bitty tree took about a dragon sized bite out of my bumper and the right quarter panel next to the right headlight. I was off to a great start.

Things improved as we got to our time share unit and were swamped in luxury. We had asked for a two bedroom, handicapped equipped unit. (We were hoping one or more of our kids might make the trip when we reserved the space a year ago.) What we got was both parts of what time-shares call a lockout. We have the equivalent of two small one bedroom apartments, each with one king size bed, a make-out couch, its own kitchen, bath and laundry facilities and one of them has a hot-tub on the back porch. Talk about the lap of luxury. There is wi-fi available in the room for seven fifty a day or thirty nine dollars for the week. I have been too cheap to pay the bill and am using the free wi fi in the Resort lounge.

For the first day here we just went around doing touristy things, buying bathing suits since we had left ours home by accident, going in and out of some of the outlet malls and craft shops. (Gatlinburg has more craft shops per square mile than almost anywhere, and between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge (home of Dollywood) there are six outlet malls.) This evening we went to the first of five Gaither Family Fest concerts.

My first impression arriving at the concert hall was that, on that evening, this place was geezer/coot central. The number of “under forties” would seem to be way less than fifty percent. I have rarely seen more walkers and “scooters” in one place at one time. It is a rare crowd, in which I am attendance, where I feel like one of the young ‘uns. We both (Jan and I) had a sort of negative reaction when we realized that we would be at ground level about a hundred rows back and that the stage was something like a massive boxing ring in the center of the audience, only about three feet above floor level, so that we couldn’t see anything below the waist of the performers on the stage. We were going to be completely dependent on massive projection screens at the four sides of the stage.
(I know that rock fans have been watching concerts that way for a long time, but I resented that situation as part of what was (at our income) a pretty expensive ticket. In a short time, I became accustomed to the situation and ended up enjoying the whole thing a great deal. By the time Eddie Haas and Signature sound came on stage I was thoroughly “in to it”, but when the group (Eddie Haas was the about final first tenor for the Cathedrals quartet) went into the original Cathedral arrangement of He Made a Change it was worth the trip. The young bass, Tim Duncan, seemed to channel the deceased George Younce (one of the greatest bass singers in any musical field except grand opera).
***Reader's should note that I have been attacked in the comment section for referring to ERNIE Haas as Eddie Haas.. I was not intended as a slight, but was one of the many slips in names that occur to folks who are over seventy. As those who follow the Gaithers know, Bill Gaither (who is almost as old as me, but not quite) often has the same kind of slips, but they make wonderful comedy when they occur. I would repeat, that even if I slipped on the name, the performance of Signature sound using the Cathedral arrangement of He Made a Change (with which I sing as it plays on my CD player as I drive in the car pretending to be George Younce,) was alone worth the eight hour drive and the hundred plus dollar ticket. To Ernie I apologize, to Anonymous I say, Get a Life.*****

I won’t spend much more time on the concerts except to say that the music here included most of the styles of American music except Hip Hop and Heavy Metal. The pianist, a blind guy named Gordon Mote is remarkable. He played a solo riff that reminded me of Fats Domino, and was billed as having both perfect pitch and a photographic memory, which I believe. He also sang several numbers (accompanying himself) in a polished baritone voice. The blend all of the musical groups was really fine. There is probably not a quartet style that was missing except beach music. At the end of the first day, I reflected that a great variety of music was represented without a glissando in the bunch. (I truly despise the emphasis on glissando that permeates current pop music – for those who don’t know, glissando is the process of “swooping” up two or more notes on the vowel sounds.) I was feeling good about that till the entrance of a Blue-grass group which used glissando in a typical Blue-grass context. Oh well, thought I, it is Blue grass, to which the short glissando is as typical as singing through the nose. I found that I was going to have to live with the glissando when the baritone of the Gaither Vocal
Band (a great quartet over the years) came on and glissandoed his way through the old children’s hymn Jesus Loves Me This I Know . I guess that I can’t win ‘em all.

A remarkable thing about the crowd (in spite of common age and infirmity) was that the crowd was remarkable for its musicality. On occasions when the crowd was invited to sing along (and sometimes alone} I could hear very clear harmony, sometimes in as many as eight parts. (and most of the singing was GOOD.)

One of the key themes of the family fest and all the concerts was caught up in a Bill and Gloria Gaither song that was repeated several times called Give it Away. The idea being that there are givers and takers in the world, and that one way to be truly happy is to be a giver. This was strengthened by the way that the Gaithers gave away five door prizes at every concert. Each door prize was two hundred dollars cash, and the stipulation on the gift was that the recipient must find someone, or some organization that really needed the “seed money” and give the two hundred dollars away. (They were then requested to send a letter to the Gaither homepage and tell about the gift, the results, etc.) I thought that was cool enough that, even though Janet and I did not receive one of the door prizes, as soon as we can get out from under this house purchase, we are going to try to practice this (above and beyond our church tithes and our regular charities.)

That’s all about the music. I would like to reflect a little about Gatlinburg and this part of Tennessee. I really love this place. A few years ago, when we first retired, Gatlinburg was one of the places we considered as a possible permanent residence. The countryside is almost unbelievably beautiful, but it is now so crowded and jammed that I am glad we didn’t do it, but it is still fun. It has a very active theatre life, with theatre of all kinds; massive”floor shows,” dinner theatres dance venues as well as a wonderful craft community that includes craftsmen (and women) in just about any kind of (art and) craft from quilting to sculpture, or building and playing esoteric mountain musical instruments.

Gatlinburg backs up to the Smoky Mountains National Park, and is still occasionally visited by bears from the park. It may be the only crowded noisy city in the country to still have signs posted near many of the in-town resorts advising strangers what to do if one meets a bear on the street. When we first started coming to Gatlinburg (for the fall craftsmen's show) we were riding our then free trolley when we were shocked to see a large sow bear and her cub swimming in the pool of the resort where we were staying. Shortly thereafter a radio message came asking people to stay indoors while the ranger types herded (or bribed) the bear into returning to the National Park.

When we first came here, in an attempt to limit motor traffic the city had a trolley system that was free, and always crowded. They now charge fifty cents, it is no longer free and still largely crowded, but the streets are also jammed with both motor traffic and pedestrians. It seems like wall to wall people from about two in the afternoon to late at night.

It may be a result of the fact that Janet and I have been really struggling to lose weight since we came home from Finland (minus twenty two pounds so far for me) that I have become more aware of the size of people, but the only explanation I can find for the current tourist type occupants of Gatlinburg at this time is that there is a secret communion of the absurdly obese, and they all came to Gatlinburg this year to dress like they were half their size and parade the streets for Memorial Day. If our current lifestyle changes and I return to my old rotund form, I probably will come here and be less aware of the size of others.

I will go up to the main office of the resort and try to send this today (Memorial Day). If I fail I will send it from home Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Well, as far as I can tell, all the proper documents have been signed, enough stuff has been packed to make our home a real mess, so tomorrow morning I am off to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where I will pig out for three days on Southern Gospel Music (a real serious passion of mine) with Bill Gaither and the Homecoming crew. My wife bought me the tickets last year for our anniversary and this week I get to use them. I love jazz, especially really cool jazz and be bop), really love show tunes (especially the older ones), play classical music a lot and was in early adulthood when I became part of the rock generation,( though I have never been able to get deeply into heavy metal) and I enjoy a lot of country music (though I hate whiny blondes). I can't seem to get beyond the beat of hip hop, I can dance to it, but I can't listen to it. But, I am seriously addicted to Southern Gospel, from George Younce to the Gaither Vocal band. (Now all my dark secrets are revealed). When I am properly prepared by the music, I return here to close on my loan May 31.
(Then I have to get seriously into moving, Yuck). I am not sure whether I will have access to the web in Gatlinburg. If not, I'll see you in a week. (If I do have access, I may try to figure out how to post some of my "tunes", like Take My Hand, Help Me Stand, Where no one stands alone, or When I Lay My Burdens Down. If that drove everyone away I would go back to Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn or Dave Brubeck (Maybe, Jazz at Oberlin).
Of course you're all safe, I will never get music posted here, it's all I can do to get the occasional picture. See you next week if not sooner.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Well, for two days we have been packing, sorting, junking, preserving. Saturday, with all the stuff to dispose of, we went off yard saleing and actually bought stuff, an entertainment center for the new house so the TV won't always be the center of attention and a computer armoire because we have more computers than desks.

I don't think that there are many things sadder than packing books in boxes. I'm afraid that I am a book-nut. I have already given away more than two thousand books and the shelves just stayed full. Now the shelves are emptying and many of the books are in boxes. Some, to give away at church, some to foist on former colleagues, some for yard or moving sales, and some to keep.

I found a slowly disintegrating script of Hamlet that is over a hundred years old, a book of poetry that was signed as a wedding gift in 1887, a set of Hardy Boy books that must be near the first editions. There are Encyclopedias almost a hundred years old and I picked up a children's book or two: A book of poetry for children written by Emily Dickinson and a book of children's poems by Judith Viorst that was printed in 1995 entitled Sad Underwear that is so delightful that I read it twice last night, and found myself reading some parts out loud as personal bedtime stories. One of the poems seemed in my mind to relate to some of the political and argumentative discussions (if that's the word) in many of our blogs (or not? Maybe it is just me?) that I am going to risk copyright violation (we'll call it fair use, thank you Ms. Viorst) and put it in the blog. The title is:


My father, the miller had lied to the king

He had said I spun straw into gold.

And although I knew not how to do such a thing,

I was locked in the lie he had told.

I was locked in a room with a spinning wheel,

And some straw, and this terrible lie.

And told if I failed to spin straw into gold I would die.

Remember this story? A dwarf cuts a deal:

In exchange for my necklace, my ring,

And my future first baby, he'll sit by the wheel

Spinning straw into gold for the king.

It's not fair to blame me---I wanted to live.

So I did just what you would have done.

I was saved. I was queen. Then the dwarf returned for my son.

You must keep your promises, people will say.

But I had little honor or shame.

For I could not--would not--give my baby away.

And with three days to guess the dwarf's name,

I (cheating a little) discovered his name.

When I spoke it, the creature went wild.

I cared not a fig. I had won. I could keep my first child.

The miller's young daughter is now an old queen,

And I do not sleep well at my age.

There are nights when I dwell on that long-ago scene

Of the dwarf, torn apart by his rage.

Yet when I recall how, afraid and alone,

I was saved by the gold he could spin,

I wonder what I might have done to save Rumplestiltskin.

Or one more little lagniappe:

If you think that the hardest thing is saying you're wrong
When you've been wrong,
I think you should know
That the really hardest thing is, when you've been absolutely
Not saying nyah nyah nyah, I told you so.

Have a nice night. I shall.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I have been very quiet lately. I have found that this buying a house business is almost a full time job. ( With a power of attorney, I bought a house for my son when he was deployed, and it didn't seem nearly as difficulty). The process was complicated by another buyer who immediately posted a back up contract, so that if I don't get anything done on schedule, they are prepared to jump in. I have begun to work from a planner for the first time in years just to get everywhere I need to be when I need to be there. Of course the process is complicated by the fact that I am a stove-up old coot with the memory of a sieve, and Janet is still pretty fragile. (Though, off topic, I am so thrilled with her. She still walks like someone pretty frail, but she tossed away her cane - well, at least put it away- two weeks ago, she and I are both working through a diet program, and between her illness, a lot of water aerobics, and the diet she tried on a size **I don't tell her measurements just mine** skirt the other day. It didn’t' fit her yet, but it fastened and will fit soon, and she will be hastening down the size ladder-- I'm moving a bit more slowly. I took my measurements the other day and I have lost inches around the hips and chest so that now they are both smaller than my waist. Somehow that makes diet and exercise feel less rewarding.)

Of course the impetus for the new house came from the fact that we have a commercial offer for our house (that is dependent on a zoning change). If it doesn't sell, we will rent it to students, the neighborhood is more like a fraternity yard anyway, but we need to get to somewhere more private and more restful.

When we finish packing boxes (we hope to move right after closing, May 31) sorting through thirty plus years of stuff stuck around a five bedroom house that used to hold six kids and still holds an amazing amount of their "stuff", holding some sort of yard or estate sale, and similar activities, I hope to begin posting regularly again. I have finished writing my account of our departure from Finland and our progress here, but I have to edit it for the blog. ( I am writing for my family, then editing it down for the blog). I was looking at "Tracksy", and thinking I ought to post less frequently anyway. It seems that my traffic has jumped.

I actually have been writing. I spent a whole day thoughtfully writing a comment for one of the posts on Saurkraut that had to do with Mormons. Of course by the time I got it in, the topic she was following had changed four times so it was probably a waste of time. (She posts EVERY DAY, she is currently writing some interesting stuff about Will Durant. -- and no, the in-text link doesn't work, I am a failure at that, but there is a link in my blog-roll.) By the way, with some help from GAYLE I am finally getting to where I can edit or add to the blog-roll a bit so I will try to up date that.

Thanks to those who read this thing with some regularity in spite of my peripatetic contributions. Now I have got to make a decision about the loan.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Well I did it.

I have signed a contract on another house. The house we have lived in for thirty years is in a confused neighborhood where most of the residents are now student renters. Only four houses in our area (counting us) still have owner residents, and it just isn't pleasant any more. It was the ideal house when we moved in with six kids. The recreation center was close, the university was close, everything we did was close (except my wife's job which was almost thirty miles away, poor wife). Now it is like living in the lobby of a student dormitory, and nothing is very close.

We signed a contract on a new house (well, not NEW, used, but new to us.) It is in a nice subdivision with 1.3 acres and a pool (we'll see how much we like the maintenance on the pool, I sometimes get tired of the maintenance on the hot tub). We haven't completed the financing yet. I have had one offer that I am not excited about. We'll see how that works out, and it will be interesting to move thirty years worth of junk (well, furniture too.), but right now, it feels good.

Friday, May 04, 2007

I have spent the week up in Oxford Mississippi visiting with my son. Yesterday evening, I drove down to Tupelo where Melaleuca, a company I have associated with for years was presenting some new products. Just at the end of my meeting my cell phone rang and my son said "They are beginning a Tornado watch in Lafeyette county, and if you haven't left for home you ought to leave soon. The storm that is coming in looks terrible."

WE bid farewell to the folks we had just met (Tupelo is not my regular stomping grounds) went to the car and departed. We had gone about twenty five of the forty five miles from Oxford to Tupelo without seeing a drop of rain, so I concluded that we were "home free", when suddenly there were a few drops of rain followed almost instantly by a torrent that was almost beyond belief. For the next ten to twelve miles I could only barely see the road. I was aware because of the flashers that some cars had pulled off to the side, but I couldn't see the side well enough to be sure of what was there. (It doesn't help to pull off where there is a twenty foot drop) One large ten wheel wrecker pulling a large enclosed truck passed me, (he obviously had either better visbility than I or he just didn't give a damn, but for the next five miles, having him in front of mee with all his lights on helped with my visibility.

I have driven through gulley washers (an Idaho term) many times, but not quite like that. I found my self shifting from bright to dim because the visibility was sometimes better with one than the other (bright usually causes reflections and is often treacherous. When we finally reached the outskirts of Oxford, my shoulders felt like a rod of hot metal had been pushed though to connect the two. When it dropped off to just pouring rain, I was seriously relieved , and I can't remember a time when it was more pleasant to leave a car, take a couple of ibuprofen (if I weren't Mormon, it probably would have been something stronger than Ibuprofen) and lie down. This morning the weather is, of course , delightful.