Hell of a Guy
Freedom of Press is limited to those who own one - H.L. Mencken

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mr. Johnson, Luke and Justin…


You all have read about The Farm and have seen photographs of it from time to time posted here.  This place isn’t anything special insofar modern housing goes, but it is comfortable and it is spacious.  The total square footage of the living space, including the very large basement is just under 6600 square feet.  We have room to move around, for sure!

The original part of this house was constructed in 1912, so we are told.  This modest home was a Sears Kit Home, meaning it was a “mail order” kit shipped by Sears Roebuck to this site and constructed.  The house had three bedrooms, a living room and dining room and a kitchen and was maybe 1400 sq. ft.  There was no bathroom or closets, and only a crawl space under the house.  The whole farm had about 120 acres of rolling pasture and crop fields.

Around 1972 the land and this old house were purchased by the Groff family.  They had planned to subdivide it into 20-acre parcels and purchase the farm with friends as a corporation.  The “partners” backed out one by one, and the Groffs bought it on their own and built a weekend retreat about a quarter of a mile away from this one in one of the few wooded spots on the property.

In comes Mr. Johnson.  He was a co-worker of Mr. Groff’s, and had an interest in this old house.  He wanted to buy it and renovate it.  As I understand it, he owned a house in the village of Berkeley Springs, as well as one in Florida.  This house was to be a place he and his wife could bring their older children and their families on occasions.  The renovations were begun; Mr. Johnson was in his late 70’s at the time.

The old house was put on jacks and raised up so a basement could be dug, and it was, and the result is about 3000 square feet of it.  Three additions were added – a master bedroom suite (25’X25’), a family room (20’X30’) and a sun room (15’X20’).  All of this construction was completed in the late 80’s, early 90’s.  While most of the work was done very professionally, I can see where some corners were cut.  Old doors were used in some places, the sink in the basement appears to have been salvaged from somewhere and brought here, as were some light fixtures, even some of the woodwork.  But all in all, Mr. Johnson made a nice job of it.  One nice renovation is the indoor plumbing that includes three full baths and two half baths.

One day after working outside on a project, I suppose yard work of some kind Mr. Johnson came into the house and sat at the dining room table.  Mrs. Johnson told him she had some ground beef thawed and asked if a hamburger would be good for his dinner.  He said fine and asked her to bring him something to drink.  When she did, she found him dead seated at the table, the same spot where our table is located today.

This week while four of our grandchildren were here visiting us for Thanksgiving I told two of the boys Mr. Johnson’s story, and pointed out to them the location of his demise.  It just so happens they slept here in this room that very night.  Being the nasty old devilish grandfather I am supposed to be, I embellished the story telling them of some fictitious, strange occurrences and happenings we have witnessed – like noises and stuff.

Apparently, the boys took the stories to heart.  Luke woke up in the middle of the night needing to use the bathroom, which is maybe fifty feet or less from where he was sleeping in a chair.  While there are a number of low-wattage lights on throughout this level of house all the time, Luke was afraid to make the trip alone, so he woke up his older brother to go with him.  Justin, 13, was not amused, but did the brotherly thing.  Mission accomplished, Luke went back to sleep.  Justin, however, did not.  While he did not admit being uncomfortable laying in the dark in the room where some guy croaked, I kind of get idea it began to bother him as he lay there thinking about it.

This is how I found the boys in Saturday morning when I got up:

I entitled the photo “He Ain’t Heavy; He’s My Brother.”

And that is all I have to say about that… 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2011


Thanksgiving on Valley View Avenue when I was a kid was a special time.  It was not so much the dried out turkey my mother would cook for five or six hours or the vegetables cooked to the consistency of mush, it was all about the occasion.  First of all, as you might have guessed from my comments, my mother was not a great cook, certainly by conventional standards.  One thing I can say about her cooking is that nothing, absolutely nothing, was ever under cooked.  But, as you might also guess, it did not kill any of us. I just know mom would think my turkey was under cooked if I had told her the 18-pounder only took 21/2 hours.

Thanksgiving was about family and very obviously about giving thanks.  I suppose it is looking back on it that made it so very special.  As I approached my “formative years” Thanksgiving was a day when brother Bob would come home with his family for the day.  The rest of us, Barbara, Diane, Wayne and me, still lived at home.  It was a day full of family fun and loads of laughter.  When Bob would come with his wife and two boys, it seemed the house was complete, it became a special day.

At church the Sunday before Thanksgiving and Sunday after were always about giving thanks.  When I think of those Sunday’s and church, I can’t help but think of this hymn:

He chastens and hastens His will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing;
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!
We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be;
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

I love when events or things bring up a childhood memory, especially ones so vivid as a hymn I sang in church with my family over fifty years ago, or for that matter, anything that might conger up memories of my mom and dad.

Here’s hoping each and every one of you has a wonderful and fulfilling Thanksgiving.  I sincerely hope for each of you this is The Best Day Ever.
And that is all I have to say about that…

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fly, Fly Away


Yesterday I got to fly from Louisville, Kentucky to Baltimore on a Southwest flight.  Southwest has become my favorite airline, and this was the perfect day to fly on it.

As you probably know, Southwest does not assign seating on any of its flights, although you can pay a little extra and be assured of a lower number in the boarding queue.  My routine, since I am almost always in the first sixty on-board, is to go to the very back of the plane and sit in window seat in the last row or the next to the last row.  Quite a few times when I’ve flown Southwest, having assumed my customary position, as the masses board the plane and grab the first empty seats in the front of the plane, I find myself to be the only one seated in my row. You know I hate it when that happens.  My flight yesterday was packed to the hilt, all the seats were occupied, but it was still a very pleasant experience.

The sky was strikingly bright, just a few puffy clouds floating around and a very clear view of the terrain below – no haze to obscure it.  Earphones in place, Michael Hoppe’s “Solace” playing on my iPod, and I was almost in Heaven. 

I have said it before, and probably will again, when flying on days such as that, under those conditions, I can feel the presence of a Higher Power as I get to enjoy the beauty of Its creation.  Whether you believe in Intelligent Design or evolution, there is joy to be found while observing the earth on a perfect day from six miles up.  Having some beautiful music flowing into you ears only adds to the experience – and I ain’t talking about rap, hip-hop or rock and roll.  For me, this is an emotional awakening, the kind I get when I see a beautiful sunrise over the mountains or a gorgeous pastel sunset.

One more thing that made this particular flight a nice experience was a young lady of about 10-years of age sitting next to me.  She brought out a set of markers at one point, and in colors of red and green neatly and with two-inch high letters wrote “Merry Christmas.”  Jokingly I asked her if mom and dad were getting her a new car for Christmas.  She very quickly replied, “Yes, a Lamborghini.”  She was a delight and brightened my “Best Day Ever.”

And that is all I have to say about that…   


Thursday, November 18, 2010

More Bullshit I Call Art…


I posted something on Facebook yesterday and it has drawn me a number of kudos.  Basically I lauded the workshops I did at the Millennium Center is Dallas that began six years ago today.  I said the workshops (3) opened my eyes as to who I truly am, and taught me to love me for it.  It was the best thing I have ever done for me. They have had a huge impact on my life.

Not long ago I read an e-mail story written by a guy who piloted the SR-71, the Blackbird spy plane capable of speeds upwards of 2100 miles and hour, and how he flew over hostile territory in Libya with missiles chasing him just to get some surveillance photographs of terrorist training camps.  It made me feel a tad inadequate with what I have done with my life.  A few days ago The Nancy and I watched “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” a story (aka, tearjerker) about a music teacher who had a tremendous impact on his students and their lives with his love of music and of teaching. The movie made me wonder all the more about me and my impact on others.  And then to top it off, earlier that day we saw an old friend who is a hard-working, single mom, but it didn’t stop her from getting her masters degree so she could better support economically-depressed kids in crisis.  She is making a huge difference with her life.  All of that got me to thinking and begs the question, what have I done with my life, what is its value, have I made a difference? 

I have been more than lucky most of my life, good jobs, a relatively good income and all that goes with it.  I think my success can more simply be explained as merely being in the right place at the right time.  Frankly, I am just not the brightest bulb in the lamp, and I cannot pretend to be.  I chose not to finish college, the reason is more sloth than IQ; I just didn’t care to do what it took to get the job done (yet another story).  School was not for me, sitting in class was for me what time on the rack must have been for French prisoners in the early 1800’s – extremely painful.  Bullshit seemed to come easy for me, and I used it to my advantage more than once in my life.  I have to admit it, if I had relied on IQ I would be in a world of do-do!  BS was the only route left to this lazy, underachiever.

This blog is an outlet for me: It is my diary, my journal.  I really do this for me and no one else, though I am more than flattered this blog has been accessed over 240,000 times in five years, which goes to prove there are a lot of people out there with way too much time on their hands.  It is also a means for me to continually examine and evaluate who I am and what I am about.  Life, after all, is a journey, not a destination.

I am not sure if I have ever really written anything that might have an effect on someone’s life, but this blog has on mine.  It allows me to think, to ponder the “what if’s” and the “only if’s” of my life.  So, while writing this and thinking about what a worthless piece of crap I might be, this is where I ended up.

I have had a relationship with two incredible, very smart women.  Both have a place in my heart – one past, one present.  I am blessed with two incredible daughters who in their own way have made me more proud than I could have ever expected to be.  I have a step-daughter who I think of as my own, and who is incredible in her own right.  I have six grandchildren who tickle the crap out of me, and more family members and friends than I can possibly count.

Over the years, fully using all the BS I could muster, I fooled my various bosses into believing I know what I am doing out here.  I put up such a smoke screen back in the early 80’s, I got promoted.  Along the way a number of salespeople working for me have been promoted and recognized with awards for sales accomplishments.  I have been recognized by peers as a “giver,” but not sure why.  I just do what I think is right and fair.  I have been blessed in many more ways than I feel I deserve.

Time will tell what my legacy will be, not that it is important.  I try to “pay it forward” with “random act of kindness” whenever an opportunity arises.  I won’t pass by someone in need; it just isn’t in my nature.  I won’t cheat you, or take advantage of you and I won’t lie to you…and this allows me to sleep like a baby every night of my life.  You know, the more I write, the more I like the guy operating these keys. 

I suppose I will always wonder if have made a difference along the road of life?  I suppose as time goes on and I go with it, I will be presented opportunities to dispense with the bullshit and dive in with determined action to make a difference and to add value to my life, and perhaps someone else’s, but until that time eventuates, I suppose using a little bullshit will be okay?

And that is all I have to say about that…

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