The Steady Eddies keep on tickin’

watches

With apologies to Yeats, time is not always an endless song.

Time began anew last night, delivered by UPS.

I bought my last watch 39 years ago. It’s a Seiko, not a Timex, but John Cameron Swayze would be proud, nonetheless.

But nowadays when I adjust the date, the stem pops out completely if I’m not careful. A stem-winder it ain’t. In fact, I have to adjust the date daily, as the function doesn’t work at all. Ditto for the day. But I don’t bother setting the day, since I can’t read the type anymore. Whoever dreamed up blue type against a black background deserves a bit of a stem-winding of the neck.

All of which is to explain why I finally had to buy a new watch. If this one lasts 39 years … heck, if this one last 39 years, I’ll be 107 years old!

I ordered it Sunday from Amazon, where cyberMonday was already in full tilt boogie. Saved 56% — ka-ching!

My taste in watches has not changed much in 39 years. It’s another Seiko; with longevity going for it, why would I change brands? The background color of the new face is white instead of black. And I hadn’t noticed until I had them side by side, but the old one has lost a bit of its luster. Beyond that, the new timepiece is still just a mid-priced, middle-class watch. Not a two-buck waste, not a Rolex. Just a dependable watch.

Something Mrs. Foellinger would call a Steady Eddie. Back in the day at Union University, Betty Hillix Foellinger was chair and chief bottle washer of the journalism department. She WAS the journalism department. And in the days of Vietnam and Nixon and the explosion of investigative reporting, riding herd over youngsters hell-bent on changing the world was not an easy task.

She encouraged the constant. The steadfast. The dependable.

But I digress … or do I?

Here’s to you, Mrs. Foellinger, a real stem-winder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me tell you about Rattlesnake Annie

Let me tell you about Rattlesnake Annie.

But first, the recent 50th reunion of the Grove High School Class of ’67 brought back … surprise, surprise … a flood of memories, most of them much loved.

Of a class of 168, we had 65 attend the reunion. Strong showing, I suspect. How many do you get for your high school reunions?reunion

While visiting with close friends of yesteryear, one classmate remembered that I used to play drums, not just in the school marching band but also in four-piece rock bands: lead guitar, rhythm, bass and drums.

I instantly remembered the first time I ever tried playing drums in a rock-n-roll band. “Tried” is the operative word. “Flailing” would be more accurate.

To relay the story to classmate Hawk, I began, “Picture it: three young teenagers – I don’t remember our ages, but we were too young to drive. – with two guitars, an amp and a set of marching drums, borrowed from the school band and arranged as if they were a drum kit.”

The first jam session was at vacation Bible school at the Gallimore cousins’ church, about halfway between their rural community and mine. It was out in the sticks. Their families always recruited VBS kids from my community; about 3-4 of us went every summer.

Byron and Moppy, cousins with guitars, encouraged me to bring drums and we’d get up a band. I did and we did, but the “get up” part went south that first day.

The cousins practiced a lot, I would soon learn, and were light years ahead of me. So, with disaster lurking, Byron coolly counted off and they started playing a now-forgotten song. I quickly joined in, flailing wildly on as many drum and cymbal surfaces as I could reach.

Byron, laughing but heroically not doubled over in hysterics, quickly stopped the massacre and gently suggested that I might want to play on the same beat as the rest of the band. Lesson learned.

And although I don’t recall ever playing with the Gallimore boys again, I did play lots of rock throughout high school and college, and even a bit post-college.

Moppy became wildly successful in the temp-worker business, and Byron is a well-known producer on Music Row. And to think, one of his earliest success stories was me. Forget about Tim and Faith and Lee Ann and Randy and Martina and all the others. His first success story was me!

At this point in the tale, Hawk pulled me back from the ’60s to tell me that Moppy, today called by his given name of Crawford, has an older sister who is still a big-time performer in Europe. Goes by the name of Rattlesnake Annie.

Next stop: Google.

Rattlesnake Annie does indeed exist, and she’s apparently a phenom in Europe and Asia, especially Eastern Europe and Japan.

Rattlesnake Annie is the stage name for Annie Gallimore McCowan, older sister to Crawford. She got the Rattlesnake moniker as a kid with an affinity for snakes. Much of her music is a paean to her American Indian roots. (Her grandmother was a Cherokee.)  I’d highly recommend a Google search for Annie. It’s an interesting story. Her long climb to fame began as a 6-year-old in Henry County, Tennessee, and would take her through South Texas, where she recorded her 1977 break-out tune, “Brazos de Dios, Adios Goodbye.”

That led to a 1982 tour behind the Iron Curtain and into Asia. And if you don’t want to be drawn to her music, I would highly suggest you avoid an iTunes search.

About that insomnia thing …

The doctor has surmised my sleep problem is a rare side effect of a drug I’ve been taking a few years. Why now? Who knows. What to do about it? More drugs. I’m not comfortable giving drug advice to the public, so if you’re interested, message me. Just know that it’s not a sleeping pill but something entirely different.

And for those of you eager for the results of my tests on the sleep-inducing effects of chocolate, sorry to disappoint. But I’m sleeping like a baby and have no intention of further research.

Another time for heartache

litteredInvestigators search through the debris on festival grounds in Las Vegas.

E pluribus unum

Out of many, one … but not for long.

As the death toll mounts – 59 at last count – the arguments have already begun. Mourning in America doesn’t last as long as it used to. At least, not for politicians and lobbyists and the press.

It strikes me that mortal man just cannot stop evil. We cry, we pray. And when it happens again, we cry and pray some more.

Before the political crap begins, take time to read these words of a grieving father. Following is a Facebook post, shared many times, from James Warren Melton, the father of the man from my hometown of Paris, Tenn., who died protecting his wife in the Las Vegas shooting.

“My thoughts about Sonny and heroes.

“If my calculations are correct, in my 62 years, I have seen about 22,623 sunrises. As of this past Sunday morning, I had never really experienced one that I couldn’t find at least some good in and I had never, ever hated anyone. And I mean that, not anyone.

“Well, as of 12:57 am Monday morning Oct. 1, 2017, I am now well acquainted with both horrible things, a hated day and a hated person.

“That’s the moment I received the telephone call that everyone, especially a parent, fears.

“The words came fast from the phone’s speaker, too fast as I tried to wake up and shake off the sleep-stupid feeling. Thirty seconds later, I prayed to be sleep-stupid, drunk, having a nightmare or crazy. But as they say, it is what it is. James Sonny, my youngest son at 29 years of age, was dead. Bullets in his back as he lay over his wife, protecting her as best he could with all he had available, his body. Shot by some sick bastard too cowardly to even look him in his eyes as he snuffed the life out my child. Oh no, this guy did it from 32 floors up and 300 yards away.

“As I understand it now, it was just bullets fired wildly into a crowd of about 20,000 country music fans. A crowd where Sonny just happened to be with his wife, listening to music. However, this crowd turned out to be a target of several acres in size with a 99% chance to make a hit on a human body with most every single shot fired into it. And in this sea of carnage, Sonny was a hero right up until the bullets pierced his back and lungs and he couldn’t go on.

“But my tale of heroes doesn’t end there, folks, not at all. As Sonny and Heather ran away from the sniper, he always kept his own body between the danger and his wife. A running human shield. Heather says he had his hands on her shoulders and she felt him get hit and start to fall. And even though she was only a few yards from the safety of a concrete retaining wall, she stopped and turned around to kneel by his side. She made a quick exam and yelled for help as dozens of others fell around them. Bullets hitting the concrete so near that the resulting dust irritated her eyes. “But she stayed right there and started CPR out in the open on the cold ground in a last-ditch chance to save her husband. Don’t you see, Heather is a hero, also. Protected by nothing more than the grace of God’s invisible hands, she stayed with him and I’m comforted now knowing my son didn’t have to die alone.

“And that’s not all! Suddenly out of the blue came two more angels. These angels were in the form of two young concert goers who chose not to hide or run away. These two guys braved the hell of that killing field that must have resembled the Marines landing on Omaha Beach. They ran to Sonny and Heather, picked him up and carried him all the way to their pickup truck. There, they loaded Sonny and two other victims into the bed of the truck and raced to the closest hospital. One guy driving, the other helping Heather give CPR to Sonny. We don’t even know these guys names, they asked for no praise or reward. They just said they were sorry they couldn’t have gotten to Sonny quicker. They are heroes!

“But, it just wasn’t enough. Heather cried as hope slipped away and the doctors in the ER pronounced him dead. Sonny was an ER nurse himself. Once when I asked him why, he just smiled and in a matter of fact way said, “I want to help save people’s lives.” Well, he lived up to that high standard until the very bitter end.

“I know I’m not the first to feel these horrible things like grief and loss and I’ll certainly not be the last, but I sure wish I could be. Because it hurts, man, I mean it really hurts.

“A few years ago, I had a really good friend who was an American Indian. (Now dead from the cancer that robbed him of life in the end.) His people have a prayer that he often recited that always touched my heart. I can’t remember it word for word, but I have repeated it often in my own words: ‘Please God, let me live honorably and when I take my last breath, let me die standing tall protecting my family.’

“I haven’t had the opportunity to finalized those words yet for me, and it may not even be in my future. But Sonny did. He stood the final test. He was just a good guy, doing what good guys do. He was a hero.

“I truly thank our Lord that we had Sonny for these past 29 years, and I like to believe I even helped him a little grow into the great young man he was.

“Susan, Janie and I made the five-hour flight to Los Vegas without a total breakdown only because of the employees of Southwest Airlines who went above and beyond to help. One flight attendant even took us by the hand to his personal car and drove us to find Heather in this strange city. I say this so that I don’t lose sight of the fact that there also good people everywhere.

“My hatred of the shooter may diminish given enough time; again, I’m not the first to bare this burden. But right now, that’s not an option. As an ex-cop, I share the frustration of the SWAT officer we heard about who was crying because the shooter killed himself before the cops could breach the door and take care of that ugly business themselves. Like I said, a coward.

“To all the folks who have tried to call or text me or Janie or Susan, please don’t be mad if we didn’t answer. Or If I’ve misspelled words in this letter; it’s difficult to see clearly through tear-filled eyes. We are all just overwhelmed right now. Prayers for Sonny, Heather, Susan and Janie and I are appreciated beyond belief. The grief has us now firmly in its relentless grip and this evil day has lasted way too long. Once again, my prayer is to just be sleep-stupid and have this sadness go away, even for just a few hours till I wake to my new, changed and darker world.

“Sonny was a hero.”

 

A confab of the sleepless souls

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I asked for it, and you let me have it.

When I wrote about my bout of insomnia earlier this week, I asked for your recommendations. The number of responses reminds me that just about everyone has trouble sleeping now and then. From the ridiculous to the sublime, your words poured in.

Eddie, a good neighbor just down the street in this community of retirees, suggests a late-night meeting at the community clubhouse. “Maybe we can have everyone out here with that problem meet at the clubhouse at 1:30 every morning. After hearing the same old stories over and over, we will probably all fall asleep. I’ll bring the coffee!”

Your thoughts vary on whether age plays a part in insomnia.

“I hate to tell you this, but I think our age has a lot to do with our insomnia!” writes Bobbie. I’m not telling her age, but she was a classmate in high school.

On other hand, “Sorry you are having trouble sleeping,” writes Robert, a church friend who turned 80 years old last month. “Many of us, including me, have the opposite problem: sleeping when we should be listening!”

Allen, a seasoned prankster and all-around good guy, wonders whether my daytime foibles are contributing to my night time ferment.

“As my father said to us young’ns, ‘If you have problems sleeping, you must not be working hard enough!’

“And, ‘Do not love sleep, lest ye become poor.’ John 3:17.”

Maybe he’s got something there. I remember sleeping like a baby in my teen years, when I spend a lot of time baling hay, choppin’ cotton, suckerin’ and cuttin’ tobacco. All I need is to find a farmer willing to pay a 68-year-old arthritic has-been more than he’s worth and I’ll be asleep in no time.

A couple of friends, including one I’ve known almost 50 years, intimate the problem may be between me and the Good Lord.

“Here’s a couple of suggestions,” writes Janet. “Get a white noise app and listen to that. Also, if you have a bible app that reads the scriptures out loud, try that. The one I use is You Version. Both of these apps are free, and I bet that melatonin works better than you think. I would get the 5 mg, not 3. Gummy ones are the best.”

Patsy is more direct: “You know, Noah had an ark to escape the flood.  We have an ark to escape eternal death; Jesus is our ark.  Are you on board?  Are the people you love on board? The most horrible thing I can think of is for someone I care deeply about to be knocking on the door of the ark when it is too late.  Let’s get everyone on the ark.”

Patsy also touts melatonin, dishes on cell phones one hour before bedtime, and hopes I’ll share all the recommendations you send in.

“I guess we just keep looking for what works for us,” she writes, “but keep sharing any ideas, please.”

And like Patsy, Dan also says he’s heard that cell phone use in the last hour or so before bedtime is detrimental to sweet dreams.

And like Janet, Linda also recommends white noise.

“We bought a sound machine at Bed Bath & Beyond, and now we can’t sleep without it,” Linda writes. “Love it love it. We put ours on relax and the snoring starts. I don’t sleep good at all, lucky to get five hours. Now it’s eight to ten hours. Yeaaaaaaaaaaa.”

Shelley is a read-’em-and-sleep advocate: “I take a couple of Tylenol, get up and read and work cryptogram puzzles for 45 minutes to hour, until I can’t hold my eyes opened.”

Of all the responses, Hampton seems the most clinical.

“Sorry to hear of your malady,” writes Hampton, another one I haven’t seen in 50 years. “Perhaps the following site can offer some suggestions for improved sleep. Be Well, JHK”

Hampton then gives me this address on the well-known WebMD website.

All great advice. I’m now testing podcasts to sleep by, which was my doctor’s recommendation. So far, “Welcome to Night Vale” seems to be working … when I set it up correctly.

Twenty minutes on the timer; I’m usually asleep before it starts. Last night, though, I somehow had the timer set to 90 minutes instead of 20. I’d wake up and it would still be playing. At about 3:30 a.m., the Bluetooth earbuds ran out of power, so now it’s 3:30 in the afternoon and I’ve been awake 12 hours. Should sleep well tonight.

To sleep, perchance to dream

insomnia02

“To die, to sleep – to sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come …”

Poor Hamlet, afraid that his torments would follow him to the grave and he’d never get a peaceful night’s rest.

This is the same soliloquy that begins “to be or not to be” as Hamlet contemplates death.

With such heaviness as hangs over the man, is it any wonder Hamlet fears the afterlife would be rife with nightmares?

Why, who hasn’t complained of not getting a good night’s sleep only to be asked, “What’s bothering you?”

But I don’t have Hamlet’s excuse for not sleeping. These sleepless nights have been going on for a few weeks now, and we can’t figure out why. If you think you may have seen me dozing off in public, you’re probably right. Two or three hours a night just ain’t getting’ it.

I have a couple of friends who swear by Melatonin. I remember trying it years ago, in another life.  I’m trying it again. It has given me one good night’s sleep … or maybe not. I’m not sure Melatonin deserves the credit for just one night, and I’m positive that one night in seven is not a trend.

Saw the doctor this week. Before appointments, I always send him an email through the patient portal to list the things I’d like to cover.

Regarding the insomnia, he suggested I put the iPhone and earbuds to good use and listen to some podcasts when I can’t sleep. Nothing exciting, of course. Something interesting, but not too interesting.

And don’t get out of bed to listen. Just have the earbuds ready and the podcast queued up.

I might add here that I have never, ever listened to a podcast. I have no idea what’s out there. So I go to iTunes and search “podcast.”

Not squat.

After searching iTunes for several derivations of “podcast,” I break down and call our daughter in Memphis. She said she uses an app called Stitcher Radio for Podcasts.

It’s like the secrets of the universe have opened before me. So many topics and podcasts.

You won’t believe this – I barely do myself – but the first podcast I click is a woman who is soliciting phone calls from people who are having trouble … sleeping. She calls her site “Nocturne,” and the episode I’m listening to is “The Dream You Should Be Having.”

She’s doing some kind of research … no, not research. She’s offering phone counseling to insomniacs like me.

But all of her advice deals with Hamlet stuff, people not sleeping because their dog went missing or they’re having marital problems or their boss doesn’t like them or …

None of that applies to me.

But I am intrigued by one recommendation: dark chocolate.

“Did you know eating dark chocolate might help you sleep better?” she asks in that soothing voice of hers.

And what luck. Her sponsor for this episode happens to sell a sampler of dark chocolates; her favorite is dark chocolate with sea salt.

I’m pretty sure Publix has dark chocolate. Maybe I’ll try it tonight.

Meanwhile, with apologies to Juliet, “Wherefore art thou, insomnia?”

Golden Friendiversary derailed by Mother Nature and Father Time

We had to postpone our Golden Friendiversary this week, of course.

Mother Nature’s fury was manifest in the hurricane named Irma.

Our friends and vacation-mates the Eddlemons live in Plant City, Fla., 30 miles inland from Irma’s targeted city of Tampa. And regardless of pleadings from us in Tennessee, Jerry and Susan hunkered down with their dog and cats. Actually, Susan wanted to evacuate, too, but …

“What would (the cats and dog) do if we weren’t here?” Jerry asked. Then he answered, “Probably the same thing they’ll do when we are here: get scared and run around like crazy.”

Initially, Jerry wasn’t even gonna tack up the plywood, which had been saved from previous hurricanes. “I wouldn’t be able to lift it,” he said.

Being 30 miles from Tampa Bay, he wasn’t worried about storm surge, but he was concerned about the wind.

Jerry finally relented and hung the plywood over the windows.

We were praying for the Eddlemons.

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Hurricane Irma sucked all the water out of Tampa Bay earlier this week. Photo courtesy Fox News.

By Monday, Irma was downgraded to “merely” a dangerous tropical storm, treacherous because of both the winds it brought and the tornadoes it could spawn.

And I still couldn’t raise the Eddlemons on the phone. Land line was out. Cell phone went straight to voicemail.

Finally, Jerry called Newt, in Jackson, Tenn., to both catch up on Newt and update us on how they fared with Irma.

“It was a harrowing experience,” Jerry said. “We were in the eye. It was a remarkable calm.”

Jerry said they lost only one piece of vinyl siding.

So, Jerry, now that you know how harrowing it is, will you evacuate when Hurricane Jose comes a-calling?

“We’re praying Jose will go somewhere else.”

But even without Irma, we still would not have been able to observe our 50 years of friendship. Father Time made sure of that.

Well, Father Time and a sizeable lack of understanding about his effect on our bodies.

You see, Newt, 68, was having trouble with his hip and decided to have it replaced in plenty of time for the Golden Friendiversary. But “plenty of time” at age 68 isn’t the same as age 21.

Newt’s surgery was July 25, leaving 47 days for rehab before the trip. Piece of cake, right? Yeah, if you’re 21.

Add those 47 days to age 21 and you get 68 years. Don’t ask me about the math; it’s in there somewhere. And so is the moral of the story.

The older we are, the slower our bodies recover when the good doctor cuts on us.

But in Newt’s defense, he was doing fine until a week ago when he discovered a couple of little blood blisters at one end of the incision. Well, he couldn’t see it around the corner on the back side of his hip, but wife Dale could, and she showed him with pictures.

They called the surgeon, who said he’d meet them at the ER. Upon visual inspection, the surgeon decided to dive in again with a scalpel. Newt came out of surgery with yet another new femoral head – the ball at the end of the femur that lodges in the hip socket – and entered ICU for three days. All better now … or at least, headed that way. That second, temporary hip is loaded with antibiotics. After he gets out of the hospital, Newt will be on intravenous antibiotics for six weeks, orally for another six weeks. At some point, sawbones will go in a third time and replace the temporary femoral head.

We’re rescheduling the Golden Friendiversary for some time in March, still in the off season for good prices, plenty of time for rehab and way the heck out of hurricane season.

Not sure which is more powerful, Mother Nature or Father Time.

Either can mock your plans and bend you to their will.

090617thegang

Microsoft Word - headline.docxFriend (n) 1a: one attached to another by affection or esteem

b: acquaintance

2: one that is not hostile <Is he a friend or an enemy?>

3: a favored companion

4 capitalized: a member of a Christian sect that stresses Inner Light, rejects sacraments and ordained ministry, and opposes war, also called Quaker

No. Nothing in the dictionary really covers it.

How would you refer to an intimate group of friends you’ve known 50 years? … 50 years? … 50 years!

Perhaps a few snapshots would help.

A real friend is someone who hops into the car and drives 12 hours when you’re sick.

Or drives 12 hours when your daughter is getting married.

Or a friend is someone who, through a planned series of tricks, leaves you standing on the front porch during afternoon traffic nekkid as a jaybird! (What can I say? We were in college at the time.) Regardless of which side of that risqué episode you’re on, you’ve gotta admit it’s funny. Friendship gives permission to laugh at each other, not just with each other.

See those six people in the picture up there? We’re all friends. Been friends for 50 years this month. That’s the Eddlemons on the left, the Williamses in the middle and the Greers at right. We shot this on the last day of our beach vacation in July 2008.

Beaches are our favorite vacation spots. And they’re usually in the Florida Panhandle. But one year we went down to Key West, perhaps our most memorable vacation.

Back when we were young, newly minted college graduates, we started with houseboats on Kentucky Lake. Two years we did houseboats.

I can tell you about waking up scared straight because something was trying to knock the boat over in the middle of the night! Turns out we didn’t drop anchor far enough from the main channel and a barge just about swamped us.

And I can tell you about losing my Dad’s 12-foot aluminum fishing boat we pulled along behind the houseboat for some crazy reason. It came unmoored one night – maybe when the barge almost swamped us – and floated away. We looked and looked, but how much searching can you do when you’re limited by the speed of a houseboat? Turns out a game warden found the boat, swamped but still afloat, a couple of miles away.

Some of the tales I’ll leave for your imagination. After all, I’d like to keep the G rating on this blog.

But I digress. Where was I?

Oh, yes, friends.

These six live in Jackson, Tenn.; Franklin, Tenn.; and Plant City, Fla.

We’ve planned our Golden Friendiversary vacation next week – Hurricane Irma willin’ – at Rosemary Beach, Fla., a small community just west of Panama City Beach. No one will go deep sea fishing. Or parachute riding from the back of a boat. Or snorkeling. We’re beyond those adventures.

I think I can guarantee we’ll not lose any boats, and no one, absolutely no one will stand nekkid on the front porch. At our age, we no longer seek to display our physiques, either by accident or otherwise.

“Friends.” Indeed. Guess that’ll have to do.