Monday, July 31, 2006

the week(end) that was.....

Meg and Sara took their first solo plane trip last week. They flew to Raleigh where they were picked up by Jennifer, who proceeded to spoil them rottem for approximately 72 hours. The deprogramming will take weeks. However, they did have a great time, and kids are supposed to be spoiled by cousins every now and then.

With the girls gone, the bride and I had a couple of date nights. McCreery's Pub for fish and chips one night, 5 and Diner the next where we had completely different meals - a ruben for the bride, and blueberry pancakes for me. Following dinner both nights we did what all couples who have been married for more than 15 years do when they have the house to themselves and their kids are out of town - we went shopping.

I took a half-day off Friday to drive to Johnson City for the weekend. Mark and Jennifer were bringing the girls there for us to pick up on Saturday. The trip up took almost 5 hours thanks to TDOT. And of course for those of you in the state of Tennessee, you know that TDOT stands for Tennessee Department of Terrible roads. It must be a state law that there be constant construction on I-40 365 days a year. They're doing resurfacing on a tiny bridge just before you get to exit 360 on I-40 east. Eastbound traffic was bumper-to-bumper for just over 3 miles; westbound traffic was backed up for almost 7 miles. Ridiculous. We bypassed it yesterday on the way back by getting off at 364 and ending up back on the interstate at 356. A little out of the way, but well worth it.

Saturday Dad and I did our semi-annual tour of Kingsport and the old neighborhood. I don't know what it is about it, but I love going back there and just driving around. We drove down to the lake that was about 2 miles from our old house. Years ago, when I actually liked to fish, a bunch of us neighborhood boys would ride our bikes down to the lake with our fishing gear stapped onto our bikes and we'd fish for hours. There was Kelly Bailey, Richie, Stevie and Jimbo Keesling, Steve Cooper and others. Thinking back, it wasn't so much the fishing we enjoyed as it was just hanging out. Just down from the spot that we fished, there are several new houses on the lake. I saw one that I'd move into tomorrow if it was for sale. It looked like something you'd see on a lake in the New England area. I wish I'd gotten a picture of it, but it was raining pretty hard at the time. We went by the 2 houses we lived in and they look so different now. The whole neighborhood does.

We went to Traders Village, an indoor flea market there in Kingsport. We went downtown and saw the old places we used to shop almost 40 years ago. Most of those places are out of business, having been replaced by other stores. Driving past the building that used to house Dobyns Taylor, I remembered buying my first 10-speed bike there. An orange Huffy.

Our tour of Kingsport wouldn't be complete without the obligatory trip to Pal's for lunch. Chili cheeseburger, frenchy fries and a Diet Coke. I once e-mailed the owner, Pal Barger, and asked if he'd consider opening a few Pal's here in the Nashville area. He responded by saying that their strategy was to stay in the upper East Tennessee area. Probably just as well, because if they were in the area I'd weigh 250.

Not long after I got to the office this morning, I got an e-mail from Chris who told me that a friend of ours from school died last week. Danny Brown was one of the people who hung out with us at our table in the commons area every morning before school. The thing I always remembered about Danny was that Chris and I used to tell him he looked constipated, and it always aggravated him. Sometimes I'd lean over and act like I was saying something to Chris and Danny would yell, "I AIN'T CONSTIPATED!!!!!" Chris reminded me of a story about Danny when we were at the beach a few weeks ago. Danny and I both tried out for basketball at Central our sophmore year, and neither of us made it. Danny went and asked the JV coach why he didn't make it. Coach Maddux said, "Brown, you couldn't guard a Christmas tree!"

My first thought when I read Chris's e-mail this morning was that guys my age aren't supposed to die, especially guys who are friends of mine. Then I had to remind myself that I'm not 17 any more.....

Friday, July 28, 2006

dear vince.....

Dear Vince,

Congratulations on signing with the Titans yesterday! Wow, $58 million over 5 or 6 years is very impressive!

I hope you're getting settled in at home. All the Titans fans are glad you're here! Well, most of them are. And for those who wanted Leinart instead of you, what do they know anyway? You got the national championship ring last year and not him, right?

Listen, I know you're busy and all but, well, I'll just come out and say it. When a young man comes into a great deal of money all at once, there's always the tendancy that he'll get mixed up with all the wrong kinds of things. Be sure that you get into things where your money will do the most good. There are all kinds of charities and good causes in middle Tennessee, from churches to volunteer organizations. Or, hey, here's an idea right off the top of my head - how about if you were to provide college money for kids in the Nashville area, say Franklin, to be more specific? I'd even be glad to find the first two recipients for you.

Not everyone is blessed with great athletlic talent. Not everyone has the ablility to market themselves in front of millions and millions of people on the national championship stage. Some kids simply want to be graphic designers/interior designers and teachers. Giving them that chance would no doubt provide you with a great sense of pride.

So let me know what you think about this idea. When you consider that a couple hundred thousand is just about one-third of a percent of your total compensation package, you'd be giving so little to make such a difference in the lives of two kids.



PS - I always wore the #10 on my jerseys when I played sports, too. Pretty cool, huh? OK then.....

Thursday, July 27, 2006

you've got on your brown shoes.....

Let me go ahead and state for the record that I realize I can be a horrible person. I sometimes find humor in things that other people may not. Television networks have created shows like "Reno 911" and "The Office" for people just like me. So if you want to tell me what a terrible person I am after you read this, just understand that I'm way ahead of you - I already know.
I decided to go out to the west side of town for lunch yesterday. I needed to run by Stein Mart on White Bridge Road and check out some prices on clothes.

Before going to Stein Mart, I stopped in at Wendy's for some food. I usually just go through the drive-thru, but today I decided I wanted a baked potato. Since it's difficult to eat a baked potato in the car, I chose to eat inside.

It was 11:15 and there were about 8 other people in front of me in line. After waiting for maybe 90 seconds, I noticed an older lady come in the side door and she's talking up a storm with a guy who's on his way out the door. I figured they knew each other, so I didn't think anything about it.

Then the lady gets in line behind me, but only for about 15 seconds. I notice that she starts to move just to the side of me in line. There's a little girl who looks to be about 4 years old standing in line with her grandparents just ahead of me. The older lady, now beside me in line, taps the little girl on the shoulder. The little girl turns around, gets this scared look on her face and starts clinging to her grandmother's leg. The older lady says, "Oh, honey, just look at me. I just want to tell you that I love you!" The grandparents get this nervous look on their faces and keep saying "She's just shy" over and over. My first thought was, "Poor old lady. She's probably very lonely and was just thrilled to see this cute little girl. She probably just wanted some attention."

Another couple of minutes pass. I feel a tap on my shoulder. I knew it was the older lady. I figured she was going to tell me about the little girl, how cute she was and how she would have loved to talk to her a little more. So I turn. The older lady points at my shoes and starts singing to me -

"You've got on your brown shoes, and I've got on my brown shoes, and we'll go a-walking....."

Not only is she singing, she starts moving her arms, almost in a running moting, and she begins to dance. And the look in her eyes is if she's inviting me to join her. Of course, I decline the offer.

By this time I'm rethinking my previous speculations about this lady. I'm thinking, "Houston, we have a nut" and "Oh, (insert your favorite word here), what have I just stepped into here??????"

I give her a smile, the kind of smile you give someone who you're trying to be nice to without alluding to any kind of obligation on my part for further interaction. I wasn't rude, just non-committal. The smile doesn't work.

"Have you ever heard of Jimmie Rodgers?" I nodded and said that I had. At this point, I was willing to say that I'm best friends with both Michael Jackson and Tom Cruise to speed this conversation along. She began telling me about a time when her brother brought home their first Victrola and how she loved to sit and listen to Jimmie Rodgers records over and over again. How she loved to hear Jimmie Rodgers yodel. Then there was more singing, complete with hand gestures. It had something to do with a train, because I distinctly remember hearing something about about a conductor attempting to collect a fare from a passenger. I'm smiling politely.

Then it happened. The one thing I've never had anyone direct towards me. Not in private, and certainly not in public.

She's evidently finished the first verse, the bridge and the chorus. How do I know this? Because she starts yodeling. Yep, she yodels.

"Yo-dah-lay-he-ho, ah-lay-he-ho, ah-lay-heeeeee..."

So I'm standing there being seranaded by a yodeling older lady in the middle of Wendy's at about 11:20 AM, praying that one of the cashiers will soon rescue me and say "Can I take your order please?"

Finally the cashier calls me over and I move over in mid-yodel. She's still going. I don't think she even realizes I'm gone yet. But I can still hear her. With my luck, I'm thinking to myself, she'll come over and do a show at my table while I'm eating. Should have gotten chicken nuggets to go. I order the potato, strawberry yogurt and a Diet Coke.

I sit down and immediately start eating my potato very fast. So fast that it's burning the inside of my mouth and tongue with each forkful. But I don't care, because I wanted to make sure I didn't have to continue with the concert.

Then I start thinking about what just happened and I have this uncontrollable urge to start laughing. I tell myself that I can't do that; that just wouldn't be right. With every bite, I can feel the laugh building up inside me. I've got to get out of here before I burst from holding in this laugh, I think to myself. I finish up my potato, drink the last sip of Diet Coke, then dump the contents on my tray and leave.

As soon as I get to the parking lot, I realized that in my haste to leave I've thrown away my yogurt. I consider it the price I had to pay in order to prevent another encounter with the yodeler.....

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

you're one of my favorite people.....

So I'm waiting to ride an elevator up a few floors in the building one day last week. The door opens, the arrow lights up red, indicating that this elevator is going down. A couple of other guys that I've been talking with while waiting step into through the doors to descend. Another gentleman gets out and I say something like "Hey, Fred, how's it going?"

He smiles and says, "Hey, man, you're one of my favorite people. How you doing, Bill?"


He calls me Bill.

I'm one of his favorite people and he calls me Bill.

A strange, panicked look spread over his face. I smiled and tried my best to stifle a laugh, which I did mostly but not entirely, and his face turned bright red.

"Bill? Why did I say Bill????? I'm so sorry!" He comes over and puts his arm on my shoulder.

I back up, put my arms up in the air and say, "Dude, just step off, 'k? Look, you can't even remember my name, and then you get all gay and everything and start groping me? I'm sorry, B, but that's just not how I roll! Now, step off, a'ite?"

OK, I'll admit, the last pargraph will completely made up. It's just there to embarrass my 16-year-old daughter. She doesn't like when I use slang like that, so I do it as often as I can.

I told "Fred", after he stumbled and stammered while getting my correct name out, that it was OK. I'm sure he had alot on his mind, it was an honest mistake and it wasn't that big of a deal. I told him that if that was the worst thing that happened to either of us that day, we'd be able to look back and say we'd had a good day. He apologized again and went on his way.

I got on the elevator and waited for the doors to shut before I laughed out loud.....

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

just turn the radio up.....

Last week I read "Through Painted Deserts" by Donald Miller. It's about Donald and his friend, Paul, who decide to take a trip from Donald's home in Texas to Paul's home in Oregon in an old, beat up, hippie-looking VW van. There's alot of symbolism (how their trip is like a spiritual journey, the van is like our body in that it's fallible, etc.) in the book and I loved it.

At one point in the journey, Donald notices that Paul's face has a certain red glow about it while they're driving one night. He looks at the instrument panel and notices that the "check engine" light is on. He asks Paul if he knew this, and Paul responded that he noticed it about 20 miles back. Their solution? Donald got some gum out of the glove compartment, chewed it for about 30 seconds, then stuck the gum over the light. Problem solved. If you can't see the light that must mean that everything's fine, they reasoned.

It made me think about my first car, the '76 Monza. Any time my car would start to make a strange noise when I was in high school, I'd tell Dad about it. His common response? "Just turn the radio up and you won't hear it!"

Donald Miller and Dad are probably somehow related.....

Monday, July 24, 2006

funny birthday card.....

I turned 42 yesterday. And I lived to tell about it. We had a great weekend and everyone was very nice to me. Not that they aren't always nice to me, but I guess they were "birthday" nice to me this weekend.

I got several cards, but this one made me laugh alot. I've left the signed part of the card off to protect the identity of the not-so-innocent:

Friday, July 21, 2006

chivalry is, in fact, still alive.....

I've lived in the South all my life. There are certain things you're brought up to do as a Southern male. One is that you open doors for ladies. It never ceases to amaze me how surprised some women are when I open a door and allow them to go though first. And I see this happen all the time to other guys.

Wednesday after lunch at Provence (sort of a snooty/yuppie kind of place to eat in the same building as the downtown library; I go there because it's convenient, and the sandwiches are very good; plus, I saw on the show "$40 a day" that Rachel Ray ate there, and I'm hoping to run into her there one day) I came out of the library and paused to hold the door open for a lady going into the library. You would have thought I'd just handed her a hundred dollar bill. She had this overjoyed look on her face that just blew me away. And for those of you who know me, it's not because I'm often mistaken for George Clooney; Curious George, maybe, because we're about the same height and we have about the same amount of neck hair, but never George Clooney.

I remember being in Madison, Wisconsin for a seminar several years ago. I parked my rental car and headed towards the hotel lobby after a day of meetings. The hotel clerk, probably in her early 40's, was also coming in from the parking lot and I opened the door for her. She said, "Well, how nice! Thank you so much!" with an unmistakable nasally tone that only midwestern ladies can emit. I said "You're welcome." She said, "OK, I didn't think you were from around here when you opened the door for me. Now after I've heard you talk, I can definitely tell you're from the South." I told her that I was from Tennessee, and she went on to tell me about once living in Alabama for a year and how she missed the manners displayed by Southerners.

Am I implying that if you're not a Southern guy you're not polite and well-mannered? Absolutely not. It's just that it seems to come naturally for us. Now, on the other hand, just ask the bride how non-gallant I can be when she asks me to hold her purse.....

Thursday, July 20, 2006

and i said, what about breakfast at tiffany's.....

The bride had bunco Tuesday night. I'll spare you the sob story about how she came home with her hands smelling of dice and what not. With Sara at camp, that left Meg and me at home alone. I asked if she had any plans and she said she didn't. I asked if she'd like to watch "Breakfast at Tiffany's" with me and she agreed. I recorded the movie from AMC a couple of months ago because I'd always wanted to watch it. (I recorded and watched "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" last month and really enjoyed it.)

At the risk of offending anyone reading this who loved "Breakfast at Tiffany's", I'll have to say that it wasn't one of my favorite movies. And I wasn't alone. Meg felt the same way, so it's not just a "guy thing". And, yes, I understood the overall story - true love is better than having things. It just wasn't one of my favorites. However, since it's considered an American classic, I am glad that I took the time to watch it.

Now, considering that this movie came out in 1961, it was probably a breakout kind of movie. I've been told that Henry Mancini's music was one of the reasons it was so popular. I remember Mom and Dad had the soundtrack when I was growing up. I didn't get "Moon River" at the time.

Here's what I took away from the movie:

* Audrey Hepburn was beautiful, that's a given. (I always thought she was weird looking on the album cover when I was younger. Funny how time changes one's taste.)

* Mickey Rooney's character, Mr. Yunioshi, would be considered politically incorrect today.

* I couldn't watch Buddy Epson without hearing "whee, doggy" in the back of my mind.

* Paul "Fred" Varjak and Col. John "Hannibal" Smith were very different characters for George Peppard.

I've got "The Graduate" on the DVR and plan to watch it soon. I've heard the slow guy from "Rain Man" is in that one.....

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

could've been worse; could've been michael bolton.....

SYDNEY, Australia - It could be magic for some, but the use of loud Barry Manilow music to drive away late-night revelers from a suburban Sydney park is getting on the nerves of nearby residents.

In a move reminiscent of U.S. efforts to drive former Panama strongman Manuel Noriega from the Vatican Embassy where he took refuge in 1989, the local council in Rockdale, in Sydney's southern suburbs, started a six-month trial of high-volume hits by Manilow and Doris Day to chase away car enthusiasts who were gathering on weekend nights at Cook Park Reserve.

"Barry's our secret weapon," Rockdale Deputy Mayor Bill Saravinovski told The Daily Telegraph newspaper, four weeks after the start of the effort. "It seems to be working."

But some people living near the park are less than enthralled. They say the barrage of "Copacabana," "Could It Be Magic" and "Que Sera Sera," blasting from 9 p.m. to midnight every Friday, Saturday and Sunday is driving them crazy.

"I don't know how I will cope," said Moya Dunn, describing how the songs have invaded her house. "I just can't sleep when it's on, and to think there's going to be another six months of this."

Officials have given in a little, agreeing to turn down the volume a bit after residents complained.
"The initial reaction was that they found it irritating," Saravinovski said. "I'm not disputing what the residents are saying. I can't swallow some of the tracks like `Mandy.'

"We have tried to reduce the sound and we are reviewing the songs. I don't mind Barry Manilow, but I'm more of an ABBA and Celine Dion fan."

In 1989, U.S. soldiers blasted hard rock music and news bulletins about Panama at the Vatican Embassy in Panama City in attempt to drive Gen. Noriega from refuge there. The Vatican complained, and U.S. troops stopped the noise. Noriega later surrendered.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

too outta' shape to read.....

Yesterday started off as one of those days I wished I'd just stayed in bed. Out of all the things that "went wrong" in the first 90 minutes I was awake, the one that would weigh most heavily on the events of my day was when I realized I'd forgotten my security badge for work. I NEVER do that! But I'd left it in my car last night and forgot to get it before the guy I carpool with picked me up for work.

See, I work in a building that's interconnected to several other buildings. All the same place, but still you need to have your security badge to get to parts of the complex. Without the security badge, you're a caged animal. And you have to wear the colored badge of shame for the day. And I've been told that those not wearing some kind of badge are subject to cavity searches. (I've never actually seen this happen, but a story like that's gotta' be true!)

By lunchtime, I had to get out of the building. I'd originally told myself I'd just stay in and grab something from the cafeteria rather than face the heat of downtown Nashville at lunch. But I just had to get out. I decided to compromise - walk to Subway, eat a sandwich, then head to the Nashville Library. That way I could get outside for a little while, then duck inside to climate-controlled conditions for a little reading.

There's a spot in the Nashville Library that I like to sit and read. It's on the 3rd floor overlooking the courtyard. On milder days, it's a popular spot for moms to bring their kids for a picnic lunch. There are several Japanese maples surrounding the fountain. It's very pretty, and a nice backdrop for reading. The only problem is that it's on the 3rd floor. That means there are about 66 steps to climb to reach my desired destination. That's alot of steps for someone who's out of shape.

I started running before vacation, but I've yet to get back into the routine again. The first week of running and non-snacking, I lost 3 pounds. It all came back (and then some) during vacation. It's not a matter of not having the desire or ability to run, it's been more of a time thing. That plus the fact that the bride is convinced I'll die while running if the temperature's above 85. That's not to say I'm blaming her for me not running, because I usually do just the opposite of what she says I should do. In this case, it's actually been too hot even for me. The bride and I did get out and walk around 8:30 last night on the golf course Sunday night. It was much cooler on the fairways than the neighborhood streets.

I think I need to find the elevator in the library.....

Monday, July 17, 2006

no need for the sears catalog any more.....

Yeehaw! We got us a turlet upstairs again! The girls are glad they no longer have to go out back. It wasn't so bad at night, but the neighbors were starting to stare during the day.

The original plumber who suggested that we just buy a whole new commode (because I dismantled the old one, thereby rendering it useless) said that he could come back the next day and install it. He told the bride that it would just take about an hour-and-a-half. When she told me that I said he was crazy. I've actually replaced an entire toilet before, and it just took me an hour. And as we've learned, I'm an idiot when it comes to toilet repair. It was going to take this guy, a person who plumbs for a living, 90 minutes to replace our toilet. I told the guy I carpool with that the only way it would take that guy an hour-and-a-half is if he took the new porcelain for a "trial run" after eating bad Mexican food for lunch (of course, I'm paraphrasing here).

We decided to let Home Depot do the installation instead. Took the guy 30 minutes total. That's taking out the old toilet, installing the new one, making sure it flushed properly and that there were no leaks, and taking the old one to his truck. 30 minutes. Think the other guy was getting paid by the hour?

By the way, we didn't want to spend a great deal of money on a new toilet, but we also didn't want to sacrifice comfort. We're pretty pleased with our choice.....

Friday, July 14, 2006

corporal "boots" miller could sell this.....

In May, Lester Clancy was awarded a U.S. patent for a ropeless jump rope (a handle that electronically duplicates the feel of a jump-rope handle), which he said would be practical for, among other places, mental institutions and prisons where actual rope is banned.

OK, let's talk about the mental institution example. I remember an episode of MASH where an injured soldier (Corporal Boots Miller) shot at invisible enemy fighter pilots flying over the compound above the 4077th with a not-so-invisible rifle. He received a Section Eight, was discharged from the army, and went on to start his own toy company featuring a product called "invisible enemy fighter pilot". He never saw the enemy pilots, but he believed they were there; rather, his mind convinced him that they were there.

Ol' Lester is convinced that the ropeless jump rope will be practical for mental institutions. If I were a bettin' man, I'd say that somewhere over time a patient from a mental institution has already "invented" the ropeless jump rope. I mean, I've heard of people who believed they were Benjamin Franklin or Napoleon Bonaparte. Surely at some time a mental patient has believed he's jumping rope without a jumprope.

Perhaps the reason Lester believes the ropeless jump rope will be successful in mental institutions is because he actually escaped from one.....

Thursday, July 13, 2006

fm adapter vs. ipod adapter.....

Meg and I went to Circuit City Tuesday night to have a car stereo installed in the Accord. It already had a factory AM/FM/CD player, but it wouldn’t play CD-R’s. Plus, iTrips don’t work too well in the Nashville area, so (gasp!) Meg couldn’t listen to her iPod in the car. I could have ordered the same thing from Crutchfield, saved some money and installed it myself. However, the last time I did that it took me almost 5 hours and since I’d just gone through the toilet debacle, I thought I’d do the smart thing and let someone who knows what they’re doing handle it. Besides, installation was FREE! Yeah, free, right. By the time you add on all the adapters, wiring harnesses, installations kits, etc. (all of which actually comes free from Crutchfield), the installation ain’t all that free. The point is that you end up paying for it one way or another.

We went in thinking we knew which unit we were going to buy. But the salesman showed us a stereo that you could add an iPod adapter to, allowing you all the iPod functionality on the face plate of the stereo. Yes, it was $50 more, but I think it’ll be well worth it in the long run.

This experience made me think about the “stereo” I had in my first car. I was 17, and Dad and I started shopping for a car for me to drive back and forth to school and work. I remember going to look at a Mercury Comet. It looked a lot like the Ford Maverick in the picture, even down to the same puke green color. Don’t get me wrong, I would have taken it. That’s the thing about being a 17-year-old teenage boy who doesn’t have a car to drive – he’ll take anything with wheels and be grateful for it. But deep down I remember actually praying , “God, please don’t let Dad buy this car. I really don’t like it. I’ll take it, but I don’t like it.” Then we looked at a couple of Chevrolet Monzas. Seems like one was a 1977 and the other a 1976. We ended up with the 1976. It was sort of a copper-brown color. And I loved it. I thought it was the greatest car anyone could ever have.

My 1976 Monza didn’t have a CD player. It didn’t have a cassette player. It didn’t even have an FM radio. (And it didn’t have air conditioning!) All it had for entertainment was an AM radio with a 3-inch paper cone speaker in the dash. Smokin’! My solution, since I didn’t have enough money to add a new stereo, was to buy an FM adapter to add to it. For those unfamiliar with an FM adapter, it looked alot like a regular in-dash car radio, only a little slimmer. All you did was plug the adapter into the cigarette lighter outlet, tune your AM radio to 1610, then tune in 101.5 WQUT (or any other FM station) on the FM adapter, and you gots all kinds of stereo tunes coming out of a single 3-inch paper cone speaker in the dash. It wasn’t a Bose, but I could at least listen to Southern Rock instead of static.

So as we stood there in the car stereo section of Circuit City Tuesday night trying to decide whether to go with the front auxiliary input for the iPod or the iPod adapter, I couldn’t help but think back to 25 years ago. Meg's very proud of her car stereo, with its iPod adapter, wireless remote and MP3 capability, but I don't think she's any more proud of it than I was of my FM adapter and my 1976 Chevrolet Monza.....

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

yet another reason why i'm an idiot/why i hate toilets.....

Before leaving on vacation, we started having toilet problems in the upstairs bathroom. First the handle broke and I had to replace it. Only the kind of handle I bought didn't exactly fit, so I "made" it fit with wire. Problem was that the wire kept rusting and breaking. Then the tank started leaking and the valve wouldn't close all the way, which caused the water the keep running because the tank never filled up. So before we left for the beach, I turned the water supply off to the toilet and put a "do not use" sign on the lid.

Let me stop and say this - I hate repairing toilets. I don't really hate toilets. I've used them all my life with a great deal of success, I might add. I just despise fixing them. Every time I go to fix something "simple", something that should just take 30 minutes, it becomes a difficult 4-hour project. And as much as I hate repairing toilets, I hate having to pay a plumber to fix it for me even more. It takes him about 10 minutes and he charges me through the nose. And I'm sure it's just me, but I also imagine that he snickers when he fixes what I've already screwed up. So to save money, and to save a little of my pride, I've always tried to do it myself.

I went to Home Depot Sunday afternoon and bought the standard toilet repair kit for $10.99. I'd told myself that I'd wait to do it Monday after work, and that I'd go into the project with a positive attitude. The positive attitude thing lasted for about 38 seconds. I go to replace the flapper, only there's no flapper. In the flapper's place is this thing that I've never seen before. (The guy at Home Depot last night said that they'd had alot of leaking problems with the "tower" thing over the flapper. Thanks, I've got that information already.) And I can't get it out of the tank. I pull it, twist it, yank it and turn it. Nothing. The stupid thing isn't budging. By this time I'm wringing wet with sweat, my hands are black from touching the seal inside the toilet, and I have no idea what I'm going to do next. On top of that, I'm mad. Mad that I don't know what to do. Mad that God didn't bless me with the knowledge of a plumber at this partucular moment in time.

So I give in. I tell the bride that we're going to have to get a plumber. By the way, she suggested we do that in the first place. And she reminds me of it. (Ladies, here's a tip, even though you're right and we know you're right, never remind your husband that you suggested he call a plumber in the first place right after he's unsuccessfully tried to fix the toilet and he's lathered up a good sweat. I'm just sayin'.) The bride got online and requested an appointment for a local plumbing company to come by.

I was on my way to lunch Tuesday and the bride calls on my wireless phone. The plumber's there. He said all the toilet needed was a small seal. A small seal on the thing that was there instead of the flapper. Because I'd broken the thing that replaced the flapper (oh, did I mention I broke it when I tried to remove it?), he said the whole tank needed to be replaced. And to be honest, it would be cheaper for us to buy a whole new toilet and then call to have him come back and install it. He then collected his fee for the service charge and told the bride to call when we decided what to do. I'm sure he went back to his office and told all his plumber buddies what this stupid guy did to his toilet.

In summary, if I'd let the bride call in the first place and the plumber had simply replaced the defective seal, I'd be paying about one-third of what we're now going to have to pay. So there's another reason why I'm an idiot. Just add it to the list. For those of you keeping score at home, that's number 12,387.

Henceforth, I vow to ALWAYS call a plumber when we have toilet problems and to NEVER attempt to repair a toilet myself. I guess if I'm going to flush money down the toilet, I might as well pay someone who's qualified do it for me.....

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

the vacation week in review.....

Friday, June 30

We left on Friday, June 30 at around 9:40 AM, headed for Johnson City to spend the night with Mom and Dad. Traffic was decent, just a slight delay in Knoxville as usual.


Saturday morning we met Chris, Kathy, Landon and Kaitlyn at about 7:30 and left around 7:40 for North Myrtle Beach. At this point, the bride would like for me to mention that the three female bladders in our van held out much better than those four total bladders in the Jeep Cherokee that we were following. There’s even a story about a towel (or a t-shirt) and a potty break, but I promised to save that for Landon’s wedding rehearsal dinner.

We arrived at the condo at about 3:45 and unloaded the vehicles. This is the point in the post where I blast Condo World. If you’re traveling to the Myrtle Beach area, avoid this realty company – unless you enjoy being ignored. Use anyone but Condo World. Go with 21st Century/Thomas, Elliott or Condolux, but AVOID Condo World.

We’ve stayed at Ocean Bay Club before. It’s a great facility. However, the unit we rented for the week was not only dirty but also sparsely furnished compared to the other units at OBC. We spent the first couple of hours cleaning out the food around the table surface, cleaning glass tabletops (as seen in the picture), finding LIPSTICK PRINTS on a supposedly clean glass in the cabinet, learning that lamps were not in working order, etc. I called Condo World twice and left messages – neither call was returned. Then I sent a lengthy e-mail detailing all the problems with the unit – no response. (They had the nerve to send us a thank-you e-mail for booking with them when we got back. Attached to the e-mail was a survey. At this point I doubt they’ll do anything with my complaints, but I did go ahead and fill out the survey and I sent them a copy of the original e-mail.)

We went to Bi-Lo that night, as did everyone else in a 10-mile radius. Not fun. Stay away from Bi-Lo at the Beach on Saturday night. It’s not their fault, it’s just crowded.


This was a special day because Meg turned 16! We’d already had a surprise party for her before leaving, so we just spent the day hanging out as a family of 8.

We spent the morning on the beach. I spent the majority of my time riding waves. Before going out that morning, the bride applied what we thought was plenty of sunscreen. When we went in for lunch, we realized that we’d left the sunscreen in a bag on the beach so I thought I’d be OK for the afternoon. Bad decision, and I’ll elaborate on it later. I went to bed that night worn out. Chris mentioned that I had played hard that day, and he was right.

We went to Wal Mart that night. Bad idea. As I heard one gentleman remark on the way out of the store, “I ain’t never spent so much #$@% time buying no #$%^ water in all my life.” Eloquently put, my good man.


On Monday, I became the fat, nerdy kid whose mom made him wear a t-shirt in the ocean because she didn’t want him to get a sunburn, only I was wearing one because I ALREADY HAD a sunburn. Meg mentioned to the bride that this particular look was not a good one for me. I would also learn later in the week that after a good sunburn, no amount of aloe in the world will prevent peeling.

That night we went to the Myrtle Beach Pavilion. The Pavilion will be closing after this year. The owner of the land found that he could make more money selling the property to developers, so next year construction will begin on new condos there. It’s sort of sad in a way. Sara and Landon were our champion “ride riders” of the night. All I rode was the go carts, mainly because I want to throw up after most rides because I get motion sick very easily in my advanced age. Kathy did step up and ride some ridiculously crazy ride that Sara wanted to ride. I don’t do that any more. On those rides which are motion sickness inducing, either Sara rides by herself, gets another adult to ride with her, or she doesn’t ride at all. No more flashbacks to the Williamson County Fair, thank you very much.


Chris and I had a 7:30 AM tee time at Beachwood Golf Club. We played in about 4 hours and 15 minutes, but we could have easily played it in 3 hours. There was a foursome in front of us who held us up quite a bit. This was their shot routine: 4 practice swings behind the ball, 2 more as they addressed the ball, then the actual swing which would send the ball about 10 yards towards its target. At this point, the golf club would be tossed to the side, and the golfer would then thrust his arms heavenward as if to say, “now how did that happen?”. And it wasn’t just one guy doing this. 3 of the 4 “golfers” did this with almost every shot. Marriages have been reconciled in less time than it took these guys to putt. The courteous thing to do when the group behind you is playing faster than your foursome is to let them play through. They weren’t courteous. Frustrating day on the golf course, and my score proved it. I won’t share my score with you, but I will say that I hope to live to be that old. But I also had a sunburn. Yeah, that's it.

We made it back to the condo, had some lunch then went back to the beach for the afternoon. Yes, I still had a t-shirt on for protection. We had take-out pizza from Giorgio’s for dinner. Very good. We watched fireworks from the Cherry Grove pier on our balcony that night.


Another beautiful day. The weather during the week was very good. I was able to don some BullFrog sunscreen and get rid of the t-shirt. The picture to the right is of Chris and Vanna White. Yes, THE Vanna White. Vanna owns a condo there at Ocean Bay Club and spends the week of the 4th there every year. She was very nice and graciously stopped to posed for pictures with anyone who asked.

We ate at Preston’s for dinner. Our family doesn’t eat that much seafood, but Preston’s has a lot of home cooking type of food – fresh vegetables, good rolls, all kinds of meat, and a dessert bar. After dinner, we went to the Tanger Outlet Mall across from Wal Mart. Here’s a tip for anyone traveling with the bride and Meg – don’t take them to an outlet mall and plan to spend just 30 minutes there. They won’t get out of Banana Republic in 30 minutes, whereas I can do the whole complex in 30 minutes.


At about 2:00 PM, a storm front rolled through the Grand Strand area. It rained for the rest of the evening, and it cooled things off quite a bit. But the little bit of rain for the week wasn’t all that bad, so I’m not complaining. That night the bride, Kathy and Meg went to another set of outlet malls, returning later that evening at around 11:00 PM. Chris and I stayed in the condo with the rest of the brood, briefly touring the North Myrtle Beach area for potential condos for the next vacation.


Cooler and overcast with a high around 80. We didn’t spend much (if any) time in the water that day. Instead we just sat out on the beach and enjoyed the sand and tidal pools. That night we walked back to Main Street for dinner at Giorgio’s. The sandwiches weren’t nearly as good as the pizza, but they were OK. We walked back to the OD Pavilion where the kids played arcade games and Sara traded in the tickets she’d won over the week for a valuable prize. Later Chris, the bride and I took another tour of Ocean Drive and took down condo names for our next trip to North Myrtle Beach. The bride and I were able to take a short walk on the beach. We came back and started packing up for the trip home.


The Moffitts saw all week that it takes them less time to get ready in the mornings than it does the Stapletons. See, we have more females, so we take longer. See how that works? This was very evident Saturday morning. Though we seemed to have everything packed before they did, they still beat us by being ready before us.

We left the Condo World offices at 8:50 (they didn’t open until 9:00, so no confrontations upon check-out) and got back to Mom and Dad’s by 4:15 that afternoon. The drive back was very relaxing, with fewer traffic problems.


They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I guess that means I’m insane. I offered to stop at another outlet mall on the way home. I thought we’d be there for 30 minutes. Again, I must be insane.

The week was wonderful, just what I needed. It was good to get away and not have to deal normal everyday life for a few days. Not that my normal everyday life is all that bad.

One final thought – Meg gets her official drivers license today. If you’re on the road in Franklin and you see a silver Accord coupe, just do me and my insurance agent a favor and pull off to the side of the road…..

Monday, July 10, 2006

2 observations on the first day back after vacation.....

1. Time flies when you're on the beach; in the office, the clock seems to be frozen, and sometimes feels like it's moving in reverse.

2. Swim trunks are much more comfortable than dress pants.....

vacation recap - summary.....

Gonna' be a busy day. Monday. First day back in 10 days.

Let's see if my predictions from the 29th were correct:

10. Leave my watch on the nightstand - yep, it was off my arm within an hour after unloading the van.
9. Rest, relax, recharge - yep, pretty much.
8. Build a few sandcastles with the girls - yep, one or two; their best was one of Mike Wazowski.
7. Take a walk or two on the beach with the bride - only one, but it was nice.
6. Enjoy spending time with Chris and his family - of course.
5. Attempt to lose no more than 3 golf balls per hole - I mean - round - only played once, but just lost 2 balls
4. Completely ignore my e-mail from work - yep, right up until Saturday night.
3. Battle Kathy on a daily/hourly/minutely basis for control of the thermostat (act your age, Mrs. Moffitt, have a hot flash or two!) - actually wasn't necessary; more on the condo tomorrow, though.
2. Walk to the pavilion and have ice cream every night - only did it 3 times, but I ate plenty while I was there.
1. Unintentionally snort gallons of salt water up my nose every time I wipe out on my boogie board - yes, without question.

More tomorrow.....