New Shoes in the Rain

Monday, June 11, 2018

Meet and greet

It's Monday here in Steam City, otherwise known as Lexington.  It's not even summer yet, and the weather here is already chronically humid and uncomfortable.  At least we're getting rain every few days to keep grass and plants healthy....

Had a couple of experiences last week that were worth noting.  Both involve meeting people, but in different contexts.

The first was a complete surprise to me, as I got to visit with a former roommate, the last one I had before getting married, for the first time in better than ten years!

He contacted me via LinkedIn to say that he was in town for a few days and asked if I'd be available to meet.  It turned out that I had some morning time free last Thursday, so we agreed to meet for coffee that morning.

Here's a little background.  This guy had always wanted to live in Florida, and after I got married, he made good on that intention and moved to the Orlando area, if my memory is clear.  I heard from him occasionally (remember, this was before e-mail or text messages made staying in touch from a distance so much easier) and all seemed to be well.

Then, out of the blue, he called to say that he was a) moving back to Lexington and b) marrying an old girlfriend.  Both surprising, but his call was to ask me if I would be one of his groomsmen, and I readily agreed.

We still didn't see each other frequently, though, by that time, he was working for a local office of a national bank and handled a loan refinance for us.  Then he communicated to me that he had accepted an offer to transfer to a new loan center being started in Houston, and was relocating with his wife to that area.

Next time I saw him was probably 2007 or 2008, as I had a business trip that was going to take me through Houston, so we arranged to meet for lunch and had a great visit.  We would trade messages once in a while, I routinely checked on him and his family following the hurricanes that affected the Houston area, and exchanged Christmas cards annually.

But last Thursday was the first time in so long that I'd seen him in Lexington.  And, as he said to me, our visit almost resumed in mid-conversation, picking up where we'd left off.  His kids are now teens, with one in college, and I now have five grandchildren, so our frames of reference are quite different than they were way back when.

He had traveled here alone to see family, so was heading back the day after we saw each other.  Great visit.

The other meeting was quite different.  There's a person whom I have followed on Twitter for quite a while who's as much a fan of the Cincinnati Reds as I am.  She follows me as well, and through a series of coincidental messages, we determined we would both be at Great American Ball Park for a Reds game on Saturday, so we agreed to meet.  My son and I made it to the area where she and her party were sitting, and we had a ten or fifteen minute visit and conversation.  She is exactly the same in direct conversation as she is online, which is pretty refreshing.

I don't make a point of meeting people with whom my initial contact is online very often, but this was certainly worth a little effort to go and say hello!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

On the go

Happy Thursday to all.  Or, as I've been calling it, short-work-week Tuesday.

This is my second consecutive three-day work week, which is great in some ways but challenging in others, namely in the area of scheduling appointments and such.  Now that I'm just about to get back to normal I'll have another week off after Father's Day!

Those of you who have been visiting this space regularly will remember that in a past professional life, I used to travel by air.  A lot.  Like in three weeks out of five each month.

And I frequently documented my experiences here, because, well, who else was I going to tell about interesting things that happened?

So my air travel is much less frequent these days.  For my current job I've traveled by air a total of three times--once for orientation, and two more times for meetings.  But leisure air travel has become much less common for me, largely because I don't rack up frequent flier miles that can (allegedly) pay for personal flights!

We had occasion to travel to Colorado, where our daughter and her family have resided for some years.  Our grandson had his first Holy Communion on Saturday, and we knew well in advance of the date of this occasion.  So for some weeks I tracked various flight options for price and availability, and finally settled on a set of flights out of the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport on Delta Airlines.

Worth noting that this airport actually is in Kentucky, which is a point of amusement for many folks who visit this part of the world only occasionally.

Anyway, I'm here to tell you that this was by far the smoothest trip I've encountered in a long time.  We elected to take one large bag, rather than two smaller ones and attempt to carry them onto the plane.  The bag wound up being slightly overweight, but the friendly Delta counter agent in Cincinnati sort of waved off any concern about extra charges, and we headed off to security, with me virtually empty-handed for the first time in forever.

And we scored the TSA PreChek status on this trip in both directions, which saves loads of time in the security line.  No need to produce liquids or remove shoes, although I did have to empty my pockets.  Very nice indeed.

We got to the gate with a good (but not too long) amount of time to spare, and boarded at the designated time.  The seats we selected were toward the back of the plane, but since we had to wait for our bag to get to baggage claim, that wasn't really a problem.  And I chose the same seats on both flights, on the side with only two seats and with limited recline.  Most don't want seats that don't recline, but neither my wife and I find a reclined airplane seat to be very comfortable.

Flights in both directions departed on time, there was virtually no turbulence, landed early and our bag was where it was supposed to be by the time we got to the claim area.

I know, I'm still a little stunned that it worked out that way!

So I'll give Delta a good endorsement here.  I've flown them all three times I've traveled for my current job and now this trip.  Always preferred that airline, but this renewed my good feelings about their service.

For now it's back to auto travel, like today I have to head west about an hour for business.  Saturday my son and I are due to travel north to see the Cincinnati Reds in action.  My first game this year, so I'm pretty excited!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Sorry/not sorry

Good Wednesday morning to all.  And, yes, I almost wrote "Tuesday" there, given my general confusion about what day it is.

I love a long weekend, but, wow, do we all pay for those when we have them!  On top of that, I'm going to take a few days off work starting Friday, so I expect to continue to be a little off my game for a few days!

Unless you've been without access to news, you know that comedian and television actress Roseanne Barr learned yesterday that, yes, bad jokes and satirical comments that go too far can and do have consequences.  I won't replay the blow-by-blow timeline of it here, but since her revived television show is aired on ABC, a network owned by the family-friendly Walt Disney Company, the final result was, in my mind, inevitable.

Supposedly since making the comments on Twitter that started all of this, Barr apologized in what appeared to be a "you'd better get online to issue an apology" apology that seemed somewhat insincere.  She has since apologized further, and finally acknowledged that her thoughtless actions cost quite a few people who worked on her show their jobs.

I told my wife that every time something like this happens within a Disney-controlled network or property that Walt Disney turns in his grave, or something to that effect.  And I truly believe that, that Disney so carefully cultivated an image of family and purveying what's best for family consumption that he would have taken the very action that ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey did.

But let's think about some other famous folk who were caught doing something they shouldn't have, apologized and got to retain their positions.  Or didn't ever apologize and got away with it.

If you'll recall, recently Fox News and conservative pundit Laura Ingraham was in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, as she said some snarky things about one of the more visible survivors of the Parkland school shootings.  She lost many of her program's advertisers, issued a lukewarm apology, but ultimately Fox News retained her and her program is still on the air each weeknight.

Most everyone who's been swept up in the #MeToo movement and its aftermath has issued an apology of one form or another.  Many lost their jobs and won't get them back, like NBC's Matt Lauer, and Charlie Rose, formerly of CBS and PBS.  Others are defiant, like Harvey Weinstein, who was just indicted last week on charges related to some of his past conduct.

This happens to athletes pretty commonly, as they are not camera-ready performers in many cases, and say things in interviews that they shouldn't.  The good ones simply apologize, knowing they're in the wrong, and the lesser ones generally claim they were misquoted and try to move on.

Starbucks has apologized extensively for what happened to two black men in Philadelphia recently, in which they were awaiting the arrival of a friend, denied the use of the restroom and ultimately were asked by police officers who were summoned to the scene why they wouldn't leave.  Starbucks took the additional step yesterday by closing their approximately 8,000 stores to conduct racial bias training for all of its associates.  I'd say that constitutes a proper response to a mistake, but that's just the start.

Then there's Donald Trump.  As several people more famous and widely read than I have already pointed out, Trump championed the "birther" movement, in which he claimed not only that former President Barack Obama wasn't born in this country, but that Trump had proof of it.  This continued for quite a while, and all the while Trump was the star and host of the NBC reality show "The Apprentice" and "Celebrity Apprentice."  Some have offered the opinion that if NBC had held Trump to a standard of conduct requiring him to not only cease and desist but also to apologize or face losing his spot on this program that he might not have persisted so long with these claims, and might not have used it as a springboard into the political world.

That's something we'll never know.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Old ways

Happy Friday, friends.  Or, for most of us, Happy-Friday-Before-A-Monday-Holiday!  Hope you have the opportunity to enjoy the long weekend!

Had an interesting experience this week--I went to a barber shop.

This statement requires some clarification.

For the past fifteen or so years, I've worn my hair in a crew cut.  It decided to grow in a couple of different directions at the point when I started this, so this has been the norm for me for at least that long.

At about the same time, I was ready to try something different as far as who would cut my hair.  Up until that point I had used traditional barber shops, but, as most of us know, the type of barber shops that I knew from childhood forward are becoming a thing of the past.  My last experience with shops of this type was several years ago, as I tired of the stylist-of-the-week mode that most of the "haircut" places I visited seemed to employ.

So I found a barber.  At that time he told me he was in his early 70s, and he owned his own shop.  Three chairs, but when I would visit on weekdays he was the only barber.  And most often I was his only customer.  Nice man, but he seldom remembered either my name or how I wanted my hair cut, and when I noted his hands shaking I decided to look elsewhere.

For the past several years I've been using my wife's stylist.  She learned of her from our daughter-in-law, and this young woman has also cut our grandchildren's hair.  Nice gal, and since I wear my hair short, mine isn't difficult to cut.

A couple of different times during my time using her I've had to find an alternative.  The first was when she was expecting her first child and had a serious auto accident, which laid her up for some time.  Then she had her first child, thankfully with no complications.  And now she has just delivered her second child, and mother and baby are well.

So I needed to find someone else to cut my hair, at least for the next couple of turns.

I remembered talk of an old-fashioned barber shop where our daughter-in-law had taken our grandson, and he thought it was so neat.  Guys with beards and elaborate haircuts fussing over him, suggesting that they put "pig fat" (which I learned is a type of pomade) in his hair, just the thing for an impressionable little guy.

This same shop also shaved off my son's beard in its last iteration.  He proclaimed it an interesting experience.  Another factor in my decision is that I am a fan of traditional after-shave lotions, as opposed to cologne.  The scents are not quite as overpowering and it actually feels good on my face after a shave.

So I decided to give it a shot, since I was almost due for a haircut, and I'm working a short week next week.  Made an appointment for a haircut and a shave, which I've never experienced.  Compared to what I pay my regular gal this was going to be expensive, but experimentation often is.

I chose a barber of less experience in order to save $20 on the services I chose when booking online (a nice convenience) and arrived at the appointed time yesterday.  After completing a very basic form for the salon's records (incidentally, this shop is in the back of an established salon, and one of the gals there referred to the barber shop as the "man cave") I was escorted back to the waiting area, where I would meet my barber.

Americana music was playing, there were stuffed game heads on the walls and very old style furniture adorned the waiting area.  I sat down on a church pew and in a matter of a few minutes my barber walked over to introduce himself and get to work.

The haircut was not much different than I expected.  Being a barber he can do things a stylist cannot, namely handle a razor, and he did a great job with the sides and back, blending them into a nice fade. He also cut the top a little shorter than my regular stylist does.

Then the shave began, and from the perspective of the barber chair this seemed an endless parade of hot towels, conditioners, shaving cream and actual shaving.  I should note that I don't have an especially heavy beard and it's rather light in color on various parts of my face (which is largely why I don't wear facial hair), so he invariably missed a few places.  But overall it was a pleasant experience and the barber didn't cut me (but managed to cut one of his fingers while closing his razor).

When I checked out with the front desk I was asked if I wanted to schedule my next appointment, and I declined, offering some comment about my unpredictable work schedule.  Truth is, while I liked the experience, I probably wouldn't go back, as it costs quite a bit more and took a lot longer than I normally allot.

Based on some of what I've read, barber shops of this type are making a comeback of sorts, as more men are opting for hairstyles and facial hair that require more care and skill to maintain.  If the guys who were working there are any indication, those who wear that Brooklyn-style short hair-and-beard combo are becoming fashionable here in Lexington.

So I'll get my next haircut in three weeks or so from one of the mass-retail haircut operations, again, and hope my regular gal gets back into the swing of things!

Monday, May 21, 2018

The darndest things

Happy Monday, friends.  If ever there was an oxymoron, that's it!

Recently I've been thinking about some of the funny and surprisingly profound things that one or another of my grandchildren has said to me over the years.  There's a lot there, and I've always said that I should "write this down."  So this will have to do.  These are in no particular order, by the way. Bear in mind I have five grandchildren, but the fifth is only five and a half months old!

I took granddaughter #1 (along with her dad) to the movies once, to see "Toy Story 3."  If you're familiar with these movies you know that the ending is very emotional, even for grown-ups.  Toward the end I leaned over and squeezed my granddaughter and told her "don't grow up, sweetie!"  She turned, looked right into my eyes and said, "But I have to, Poppy.  I have to."  That was several years ago, and she's now twelve, soon to be 13.

Recently she texted her mother from school aftercare begging to be picked up early that day.  "What's wrong?" her mother replied.  "I just can't deal."  Oh, boy!  I text occasionally with this one, too, which I'm sure alternately delights and frustrates her.

Her younger brother, grandson #1, recently was credited by our daughter with this commentary about school:  "It's like a prison.  You have to do what they tell you and go where they tell you."  He's eight and is not all that talkative, at least not around us.  This guy sleeps in his clothes, so he's ready for action from the time he awakes.  He may be onto something.

Grandson #2 celebrates his seventh birthday this week, and he's a real comedian.  From the time he could speak, he would gesture broadly, waving his arms, when trying to tell anyone anything, as if to say "you have to listen to me!"  We have him on video at an early age dancing up a storm to the Kook and the Gang classic "Jungle Boogie," right down to the "oohs" and "aahs" in the song.

What I love about this guy is telling him a story, that we both know is completely made up, and having him react with "you did?' or "it was?"  Important to find a good straight man.

I've been telling him since he could remember that I am Batman.  My evidence is that you never see me and Batman in the same place.  As he's gotten older, he simply won't have it.

I've recently been picking him and his sister, granddaughter #2, up at school occasionally.  Once the shock of Poppy picking up at school wore off, the two of them proceeded to reduce me to uncontrollable laughter on the drive to their house or ours.  They sing made-up songs, with no apparent practice, plus they play along with my bad jokes.  There's a line in a song by Talking Heads, "Found a Job," where, in the chorus, the song goes "Judy's in the bathroom" and I coopted that as "Judy" is somewhat similar to this granddaughter's name.  This turned into a running commentary about what she or her brother are doing, set to the same tune.  Harder than you'd think, but, amazingly, both kids join right in.

My wife is out of town right now, looking after her mother.  This gives my brother-in-law and his wife a break, as my MIL lives with them in a basement apartment in their home.  My wife was explaining to the kids that she would be gone and when told why, grandson #1 replied, sincerely, "Is she sick?"  He's met my MIL twice, but was that concerned about her well-being.  When told that, no, she's not sick, she just needs help with things sometimes, he exhibited relief that no one was having a problem.  Sweet little guy.

Granddaughter #2 is similarly sensitive, despite her well-developed sense of humor.  My wife misplaced something of hers not long ago and they found it, but my wife apologized to her.  The response?  "That's OK, Gram, it wasn't your fault."

We had the two older grandkids at the house not long ago for some afterschool fun and dinner and I mentioned spontaneously that I hated something (it was a dish we were having) and granddaughter #2 politely explained to me that "you shouldn't ever say you hate anything."  She's right, of course.

This same granddaughter loves my pancakes.  Particularly with chocolate chips.  Every time we have them for a sleepover, I start the same patter about, hmm, what should we have for breakfast tomorrow, etc.  Invariably, I suggest pancakes with carrots, or waffles with lettuce or somesuch.  I am ALWAYS corrected.

The very best stuff with these two that live nearby was when their mom was expecting their baby sister.  Before we knew the gender, I told them that I had wonderful name suggestions.  If it's a girl, I said, she should be named Esmerelda, and it it's a boy, he should be called Farquahr.  They loved that.  Then when the baby's gender was determined, I kept on with the comments about Baby Esmerelda.  Granddaughter #2 would always scold me with a stern face, proclaiming, "No!  [Baby's actual name]!"

Writing this post proves to me that if I took a few hours, I'd think of more gems, but, like taking pictures of every little thing that they experience, the recording of each special moment takes away from the experience.  And I kind of like being in the moment, particularly since each one is so special.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

What's left unsaid

Good Thursday to everyone.  Returned home from a business trip last night to find that it was warmer here than in Atlanta, where I was for two-plus days.

Do you ever think, as I do, about what you would say to people if you encountered them in the right circumstances?  And I don't necessarily mean people that we already know, but, rather, strangers that we've had some sort of interaction with.

For instance, I got off my homebound flight last night tired from the day's activities and the cramped conditions of a completely full flight.  When I returned to my car in the parking garage, I immediately saw that a car had parked less than six inches from my driver's side door.  So, tired as I was, I had to enter my car from the PASSENGER side, climb over the center console and finally put myself into the driver's seat.

What would I say to the offending driver?  Here are some of the things that flashed through my mind:

"Are you blind?"
"Could you not see that there was no way for anyone to get into their car with so little space there?"
"Were you in such a hurry that you actually parked in two spaces?"
"I can't believe you drive such a nice car so carelessly."
"How would you feel if someone did this to you?"

Of course, I said none of those things to anyone but myself, and probably wouldn't have said more had the other car's driver been present.  Honest mistakes are one thing, of course, but that kind of blatant disregard for others really gets under my skin.

On the flip side, as we were about to depart Atlanta, the flight attendants announced that the boarding door had closed and that we were ready for departure.  A young woman sitting directly across from me asked the nearest attendant if she could quickly retrieve something from her bag in the overhead, the overhead that was over MY head!  She smiled, apologized and said she would be careful, got her bag down, retrieved what she needed, replaced it, apologized again, and smiled again.

What would I want to say to her?  Well, "thank you" was what I actually did say, and when we landed, I happened to stand up in the aisle before she did, so I offered to get her bag down for her.  I wish you had seen the smile on her face.  Apparently she doesn't know too many gentlemen.

Here's one more, and this is again from my trip.  The work group with whom I was in meetings went out for an Atlanta Braves baseball game.  There was substantial confusion over where we would have dinner, because the organizers assumed they had purchased tickets that included access to a restaurant, and later found that they did not.  So we wound up in a sports bar inside the stadium, overlooking the right field wall.  We eventually got standing tables and all of us ordered food and drink.  The woman who was our primary server was very patient, as it was extremely crowded AND noisy in that environment.

In any case, I noted several of my coworkers complaining to this server about the length of time it was taking to receive their orders, accuracy issues, etc.  This woman never failed to help anyone and did it with a smile on her face.

When it came time for us to leave, I saw her settling the bill with my boss, and she passed me and wished me a nice evening.  I stopped her and thanked her for being so patient and courteous to our group.  She was genuinely surprised, thanked me, and asked me where I was from.  We exchanged a few more pleasantries and went our separate ways.

It wasn't hard.  It didn't take long.  But sometimes you should say something.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Interior yardage

Good Monday morning, my friends.  Hope you were able to celebrate yesterday with the moms in your life!

My wife and I spent a fair amount of time getting our yard in shape yesterday.  Last fall we determined that we needed a bit of a makeover in our back yard, since some of the plants we had put into our planting beds over the past few years were either overgrown or unhealthy.  So at that time and into the early winter I went about clearing out some of the old stuff.  Pulled an azalea plant that had never flourished (I'll come back to the subject of azaleas shortly), yanked a sickly holly bush from the ground with one hand, and chopped eight juniper bushes down to ground level, planning to remove them when we had a plan for replacement.

Fast forward to two months ago, and we examined the remaining three azaleas, which were originally quite pretty adjacent to our living room window that looks out onto the back yard.  They were also a bit spotty.  Sadly, they also came out of the ground without a fight, so they and our very clay-like soil never really got along, despite all of the additives and mulch I included when planting them.

We'd made a couple of trips to garden centers simply to get ideas, but in the meantime discovered that the ivy we used as ground cover on parts of the sides of our house was also looking a little peaked.  So I cut all of that out and was left with some twigs and such.  We decided to leave the roots intact in the event it decides to come back, which it has done before.

So, anyway, Saturday was youth sports day, as our grandson had a t-ball game mid-morning, and our granddaughter played two soccer games in the afternoon.  And it was warm, but breezy.  So we both were feeling the heat, so to speak.

Over a postgame sandwich we agreed we'd go to one of the home improvement stores to scout for new plants for, well, all of the spaces I mentioned.  Went to two different locations, and that night developed a plan.

Yesterday morning I went back to store #2 and bought what we'd agreed upon.  I won't go into detail, but we're allowing a little more space between some of the plants and decided to go a little simpler (our previous plan with the junipers, for example, allowed space initially, but they thrived to the point  that we inadvertently created a hedge, which was not what we wanted) this time around.

So I started this process after I got everything home, planted three of the items in question without incident, but then had to start prying up the roots of our eight juniper plants.  Three gave quite a struggle, but all eventually gave in to me and my trusty mattock (think pickaxe--if you ever have to dig up plants yourself I highly recommend it).  That allowed us to plant two more things on the front of our main planting bed, and we'll likely add one or two plants to that later.

This morning I went out early and planted the rest, spread more mulch (we buy the rubberized stuff for durability, as it's pretty expensive to replace shredded cypress mulch every year) and watered all of our new stuff.  And our timing is excellent, as we're due to get several days of rain starting tomorrow.

Full disclosure--I have no particular skills in gardening and such, and am not really that fond of it.  But my wife is.  So I do it for her, because it makes her happy.  And I do gain a certain amount of satisfaction from my efforts.

So I'm still pretty sore but it's better than it was yesterday.

Have a good week.