Our Honeymoon Part 6

At The Grand Canyon
At The Grand Canyon

We left Farmington, NM and headed west to The Grand Canyon in Arizona. We left fairly early, and with a stop for breakfast, made it to the canyon in around five hours. We travelled the south rim and drank in the gorgeous views. I love Yellowstone National Park and Niagara Falls among other places, but for sheer “knock you back on your heels” grandeur, nothing beats The Grand Canyon. It was the first time that I had been there, but it won’t be the last.

I wish that we had been able to spend more time there, but it was not to be. We knew that we couldn’t go any further west or spend more time at the canyon without running the risk of not getting back to Indiana before our honeymoon time was up. So after spending a few hours at the canyon we headed back east and then north in search of a place to spend the night. After around two hours on the road we came to Paige, Arizona. And now we enter a somewhat surrealistic portion of our trip.

Paige is on the border between Arizona and Utah, and it appeared to be our best chance of finding a place to stay before nightfall. We passed two or three motels, all of which had NO VACANCY neon signs lit. Then, on the eastern edge of town there was a motel without a NO VACANCY sign. Hurrah!

I went into the motel office and enquired about a room. The fellow behind the desk looked somewhat startled and said that they had no vacancies, and then realized that he had not turned on their neon sign. I told him that I was surprised that there were no vacancies in the entire town. He explained that a movie was being shot on location just across the State line and the movie crew had taken all of the rooms in town.

He then said that he had a friend who occasionally rented rooms in her house. Would he like me to call her to see if she was willing to take us in? She would only charge as much as the motel would charge us. I knew that Cindy was tired, and I didn’t want to drive strange roads for hours after dark, so I said I would be grateful if he would call his friend. So he called her and was told that the rooms she normally rented were filled, but that she would give up her master bedroom and bath to us. She could spend the night with her boyfriend. I told him that we would take it.

He told me to get in our car and that he would lead us to the house. When I got in the car and explained what was happening to Cindy, she was dubious, but agreed that we didn’t want to get back on the road. She almost changed her mind when the fellow came out of the office and climbed on his bicycle to lead us to the house. Shades of Ciudad Juarez!

The house was just a few blocks from the motel, in a nice section of town. It was a new, two-story house. Like all of the other houses in that area, there was no grass, but landscaped gravel and succulent plants. The motel/bicycle guy took me in to meet the owner and to see the room. She was a pleasant person. I looked at the room and bath on the second floor and was pleased. There was large, comfortable looking bed in the room, as well as a love seat and chair, and a largish television. The bathroom had both a shower and a tub. I paid for the room and in return was handed two keys, one for the front door of the house and one for the bedroom. She explained that the other two bedrooms were rented to a couple of construction workers who were in town for a few months. They would be coming in later. They were usually very tired and didn’t make much noise.

So I went to the car to collect Cindy and our luggage. The motel guy came out, climbed on his bicycle and rode away. The owner got into her car and drove away before I could introduce Cindy to her. We went into the house and settled in. Cindy wanted to call home to check on how the kids were doing, and since this was a time before we had cell phones, we went out in search of a telephone booth.

We drove back to the west side of town where we had noticed a large supermarket and drug store. Sure enough, in front of the store was a phone booth. Cindy got out of the car to make the call, while I stayed in the car and read the local newspaper. After a few minutes Cindy came back to the car in an agitated state. It seems that while she was in the booth she had looked over at some men sitting at a nearby picnic table. One of them looked back at her and licked his lips, and made other suggestive gestures with his lips and tongue. Of course I should have been there to protect her honor, but instead I was reading a newspaper.

She calmed down a bit over dinner, but her calm evaporated after returning to our rented room. Cindy decided to open the French doors in our room and to step out onto the balcony. Luckily it wasn’t yet dark so she saw that when she opened the doors there was no balcony. Disaster averted. We tried the TV, but there was nothing on that either of us wanted to watch. We started talking about our trip so far, and that we would be getting home soon. We talked about how strange things had been in Paige. (Here’s the foreshadowing) The strangeness wasn’t over completely.

We were ready to go to bed when we heard the other renters enter the house and come upstairs to their rooms. That’s when Cindy decided that they weren’t construction workers, but were really drug dealers who would attack and kill us in our sleep. I don’t know; maybe she thought they had trailed us from Mexico and wanted the purse she had brought through customs. At any rate, we couldn’t go to bed. We must stay up and be vigilant in order to protect ourselves. She broke out a deck of cards and we played Rummy until early in the morning.

Around sunrise the next morning, while the construction workers were still sleeping soundly, I lugged our luggage to the car. When I stepped out of the front door I was greeted by the owner of the house. She was holding a hose and was watering the gravel. She said good morning and then explained that she was having sod laid in the  next week. I was pretty sure that the water would be evaporated by then, but what did I know? Besides, I didn’t have to pay her water bill. I returned the keys to her and thanked her for letting us rent to bedroom and bath.

Cindy came down, got into the car, and we drove away. We shall never forget that stop in Paige, AZ.

Our Honeymoon Part 5

Somewhere in New Mexico..I think
Somewhere in New Mexico..I think

We left Santa Fe fairly early by our standards. Cindy’s legs were aching from her sprint through the caverns, so we decided to make it a short driving day.

You’ll remember from my post about our wedding and reception, that I had made a few mixed tapes to be played. For the most part they were ignored by our DJ, but I made sure that I brought them with us on the trip. We played those tapes and many more that I had packed all through the trip. One of the songs that I particularly like is my favorite cover of a Beatles tune. It is by Blood, Sweat & tears. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fnNIvIQp58 It seemed appropriate for our wedding day, and just about every other day.

While we were driving in and around the Santa Fe national Forest and the Carson National Forest, another favorite of mine started playing. Frank Sinatra, of course. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XCVnV5CGh0. Why couldn’t they have played this at our reception? I just don’t get it.

Eventually we stopped driving north, and turned to the west. Cindy was curtailing most of her discomfort with pain pills, but I knew that we couldn’t keep driving indefinitely. I decided that we would stop at the next fair sized town, and that was Farmington, NM.

Since Cindy had stopped thinking about an annulment, and we had shared some good laughs, I decided that it was time to put in a tape that we hadn’t listened to before. I told Cindy that it had a song that I thought was perfect for our honeymoon. It was Lyle Lovett https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdLCFjPjr_k. Cindy has something of a feminist streak, so she was torn between laughter and outrage. Lucky for me, she had stood by me for 25 years so far. Maybe it was an omen.

We found a motel in Farmington, but I don’t remember if it was a Motel 6. Cindy was still in pain, but it wasn’t as bad. While she rested, I started reading a book that I had brought along. It was a Tony Hillerman mystery, the first that I read, and part of it was set in Farmington, New Mexico. I found that to be quite a coincidence.

Eventually we started getting hungry and went out to eat dinner. On the way back to the motel we stopped at a drug store and picked up a few needed items. As we checked out, the cashier said to us, “Have fun tonight.” Gosh, I hoped so too.

Tomorrow – The Grand Canyon and beyond.

Our Honeymoon Part 4

Inside Carlsbad Caverns
Inside Carlsbad Caverns

I should probably speed up the narrative of our honeymoon trip. Today is Part 4 and we’re only nearing the half way point. Yes, compression is in order. But I don’t want to skip any of the interesting points. Bear with me.

Luckily the next day’s drive was a short one, so starting late was not a problem. We started very late, like around noon. We were only on the road for around three hours when we got to Carlsbad, New Mexico. We both wanted to visit Carlsbad Caverns. Cindy had been there before, but I had not. It was one of the places on my wish list. Since we arrived in Carlsbad in mid-afternoon, we opted to get a motel room and spend the night before going to the caverns. Cindy was happy to find a Motel 6. It wasn’t nearly as nice as the one in El Paso, but Cindy was pleased.

Cindy told me that it was always cool on the caverns, and that I would need a jacket. I hadn’t packed a jacket. We decide to go shopping while we were out finding a restaurant for dinner. As luck would have it, we found a small shopping mall wherein a J.C. Penny store was the anchor. So we went into the store and bought me a lightweight jacket. Then it was off to dinner.

We returned to the motel after dark. The light at our door was lit and had attracted around a hundred moths. People think that bats are the most numerous in Carlsbad. Nope, it is the moths. I tried to shoo the moths away from the door while we entered, but a dozen or more made it into the room with us. They were our companions for the night.

The next day we went to the caverns and signed on for a guided tour. As we started the tour Cindy found that a few things had changed since she was last there. For instance, smoking was not allowed. Cindy’s attitude toward the tour changed completely. We had been at the back of the pack, but she started double-timing and soon passed the guide. I started regretting wearing the jacket since I was trying to keep up with her. Soon I was bathed in sweat. So much for a cool cavern.

Some of the trail through the caverns was pretty steep. Cindy bent into her walking, and at times looked like Groucho Marx in an early film with his brothers. Occasionally she would come to a panting halt and I would be able to take a picture like the one above. I am proud of the pictures I took in the cavern, because I had no flash and was only using the light supplied by the park.

We arrived at the bottom area where there was a food stand. I think smoking must have been allowed there, because we stayed long enough to eat a hot dog and drink a soft drink. Rather than walk out of the cavern, Cindy chose to ride the elevator to the top.

Since we had a truncated trip in the caverns, we climbed into the car and drove to just south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we spent the night…with no moths.

Our Honeymoon Part 3

Heading into a storm
Heading into a storm

I remember taking this picture in Texas while Cindy was driving. It looked ominous up ahead, but we couldn’t drive out of the storm’s path. We were lucky in that it turned out to be only a brief downpour.

***

We left Dallas the next day and moseyed on down to El Paso, encountering no problems. I remember that at one point I looked over at Cindy and saw a sombre face. It was then that I realized that neither of us had smiled in the past three days. I mentioned it to Cindy and she agreed. That seemed to loosen the mood, and soon we were actually enjoying the trip.

When we got to El Paso we found and checked into a Motel 6, Cindy’s favorite motel chain. This was actually a pretty nice Motel 6, clean rooms and an outdoor pool. Cindy inveigled me into going to the pool with her. We spent a long time soaking in the water and setting in deck chairs. After a while we went back to our room to change for dinner.

We went searching for a restaurant that we found in the Yellow Pages, but gave up after driving around for a half hour or more. We settled on stopping at a German restaurant that was just down the street from our motel. I wish I could remember the name of the place, because it was the best German food that I had been able to find since I got out of the Army. It was great!

The next morning I awoke with one of the most uncomfortable sunburns that I have ever had. I knew that there was no way that I would be able to sit in a car all day, so we extended our stay in El Paso for another day. I could however stand a short drive across the border into Ciudad Juarez. So off we went.

Once we crossed the bridge I was desperately driving, looking for a shopping district where we could pick up some souvenirs for the kids and friends back home. As we were sitting at a stop light, a little man riding a bicycle pulled up beside us and asked Cindy if we were looking for a place to buy souvenirs. She waffled a bit, but said yes. He then told us to follow him, and he would lead us to a good shop.

I followed his bicycle as he weaved through the traffic leading us further from the main streets. Finally he pulled into a dirt parking area and stopped beside a nondescript building. It looked like a very small house. He escorted us into what appeared to be a side entrance. Inside were tables with typical souvenir knickknacks, T-shirts, etc. I chose a T-shirt for me, Cindy found a leather purse, and we picked up a few things for the folks in Indiana. We paid and left the building.

In the parking area the man with the bike came up to us with his hand out. He told us that we were expected to give him 20% of what we had spent. That seemed too much. Cindy told him that people don’t expect that much in the U.S. He started to get angry. I thought of telling him that he was probably getting a decent kickback from the shop owner, but decide that he might not understand that much English, and that there was no need in angering him.

At that point Cindy glanced around and saw two men staring at us. She started to get nervous. She was certain that the men were getting ready to attack us. I looked at them and didn’t feel that they would. I think they were just curious. But Cindy wanted to give the man some money to get rid of him. So I gave him some bills from my wallet (not as much as he wanted), and told him that it was all that we had. He scowled. We got in the car and I drove away. Luckily I remembered how to get back to the main thoroughfare.

When we got to line of cars lined up for border customs I made the mistake of pulling up too close to the car ahead of us. The border guard got upset and ordered me to back up, so I did. I felt foolish. When our turn came, he asked if we had bought anything in Mexico. We told him what we had bought. When Cindy said that she had bought a purse, he said that often drug runners would put drugs into purses and then rob the innocent people who brought them across the border; sometime killing the people.

As we pulled away, Cindy took the purse and opened it. She tore out all of the paper that was stuffed in the purse to give it shape. She was frantic. It didn’t occur to either of us that if the border guard was concerned he would have asked to see the purse. He hadn’t. But we weren’t thinking coherently. As we headed back to the motel Cindy saw a Denny’s Restaurant. Back then Denny’s was Cindy’s comfort restaurant. She begged me to pull in, so I did. The food wasn’t as good as at the German restaurant. But we ate and then drove back to the motel. Tomorrow we were leaving El Paso.

Our Honeymoon Part 2

Where is this?
Where is this?

I don’t know if we were in Missouri, Arkansas or Oklahoma when I took this picture. I do know that I took it because of the clouds and the person in the lower left corner. I wanted him in the picture for scale. I was using my Minolta 35mm camera back then.

***

I should have written all of my memories from our honeymoon a long time ago, because I’m sure that I have forgotten a lot of things that happened. As late as ten years ago I could probably have traced our route on road maps, but now I just know general directions and some of the high points of the trip. I can only offer truncated versions of the journey.

So when I stopped writing the other day, we had stopped and spent the night somewhere in western Illinois, about a half hour drive to St. Louis, Missouri. We safely negotiated St. Louis and started angling south and west. The weather was fine and we were making good time. Then we had a tire blowout. Well, why not? Things had been going too smoothly. I changed the tire, but realized that my spare was old and smooth, so we found a tire repair shop to get the blowout repaired. I was afraid that the entire honeymoon was going to be plagued by unforseen expenses and delays.

The tire was repaired, we ate lunch in a nearby restaurant, and got back on the road in a reasonable amount of time. We continued heading south and west. Now my memory fuzzes over, so bear with me. I know that we travelled through a portion of the Ozark mountains, probably in Arkansas. And I know we went through Oklahoma Hill country, but I’m not sure if we did that all in one day.

The next stop that I remember is when we stopped for the night in Dallas, Texas. We got in late and found a motel somewhat off the beaten track. By off the beaten track I mean that we had to go searching for a restaurant where we could eat dinner. There was nothing near by. We did find a family style restaurant where they served breakfast all day. It was very busy. We ordered and ate. While we were waiting for our bill, the restaurant manager came into the room and announced that the place had been robbed by a person who came in and demanded all of the money in the cash register. We all had to wait until the police arrived. Somewhere between a half hour and an hour later the police still hadn’t shown up. The manager returned and announced that he had gone through all of the paid bills and had determined how much money had been taken, so we could leave. I doubt if the police ever did show up.

In the next installment: More fun in Texas and Old Mexico.

Our Honeymoon Part 1

From our wedding reception
From our wedding reception

This picture was taken at our wedding reception twenty-five years ago. Cindy’s step-father, Clyde, her mother Florence, and grandmother, Gladys are no longer with us. There can be sorrow when looking at pictures from happier times.

***

As you may recall from yesterday’s post, when our reception ended and we were ready to leave on our two-week road trip through the southwest, we realized that neither of us had enough money to get us out of state. We couldn’t go home because our relatives from out of town were spending the night there. So we decided to get a hotel room for the night. There was a problem with that plan. Because it was race day for the Indianapolis 500, and Lafayette is only about an hour from Indianapolis, all of the hotels and motels were packed. Except one hotel. They had one room available due to a cancellation. Of course it was the most expensive hotel in town, but hey, it was our wedding day. I was willing to splurge.

So we checked in, went to our room, and tried to relax. Well, I tried. Cindy went into the bathroom, locked the door, and started crying. They were not tears of joy. She was having second, perhaps third, thoughts about the wisdom of marrying me. She stayed in the bathroom and cried until around 2 a.m. on Monday morning. It was a hell of a wedding night. Marital bliss? Phaw!

At some point Cindy decided that yes, our wedding was the right thing to do. As far as I could tell, the weeping was over. We did not get up the next morning and rush to the bank to secure funds for our getaway. We couldn’t because it was a national holiday, Memorial Day, and the banks were closed. So we went home. Our families were still there, so we ruefully explained that we had spent the night in a local hotel, and wouldn’t be leaving town until after the banks opened on Tuesday.

Cindy took her father aside and told him about the second thoughts that she had Sunday night. His response was that it wasn’t too late to have the marriage annulled. Have I mentioned that he wasn’t my biggest fan? Cindy told him that she wanted the marriage to last.

Since we weren’t leaving, we decided to open our wedding gifts, making notes on who gave us what so that we could send proper thank you notes when we returned to Lafayette. Of course some people gave us money that we added to our honeymoon fund. I enjoyed that part of the day.

As the day went on, various family groups left to go to their own homes. Cindy did not lock herself into the bathroom to cry that entire time. Things were looking up. and fade out…

…fade in on Tuesday morning. Come on. You didn’t expect spicy bits, did you? There are no spicy bits in this blog. We arose and had coffee. I remember thinking that I wished Cindy was in as big a hurry to get on the road as I was. That has been a recurring theme for the past twenty-five years.

We did finally leave the house and drive to the bank. We withdrew enough money to get us through the next two weeks. But we couldn’t leave town yet. We had to stop at the caterer’s restaurant to drop off the cherries and her champagne flutes. While we were there we ate breakfast and chit chatted with the caterer. I saw that as another delay, but I think Cindy saw it as a way of life.

I believe that it was noon or later before we finally left Lafayette. I’m leaning towards later, because we only made it to western Illinois before we called it a day and stopped to spend the night in a motel. and fade out…

May 27, 2015

And they're off
And they’re off

I don’t know who took the picture at our wedding. If it was you, please let me know. You need to read around a thousand words before you get to an explanation of what is happening in the picture.

***

Today is Cindy and my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Looking back I can only shake my head and wonder where the time has gone. Parts of that day seem as clear as yesterday, while other parts seem hidden behind a dense fog. For instance, it was only when drafting this post that I realized that almost all of my memories of the actual ceremony come from the videos, not from being there. But we do have the videos and still pictures that I can draw upon, as well as picking Cindy’s brain for her recollections.

In 1990, the twenty-seventh fell on a Sunday. It was race day for the Indianapolis 500 auto race. That also means that it was in the middle of the Memorial Day weekend. I don’t know why we chose that date. I do remember thinking that those facts would suppress the turnout for our wedding. That was one of my first errors in judgment.

It was a beautiful day. That’s not just my memory; pictures bear it out. I woke up early in our new home. We had bought the house a few months before, but I had stayed in my apartment in order to set a good example for Cindy’s teenaged children. Check with them so that they can explain how well that exercise went. Cindy had spent the night with friends to prepare for the big day.

We had taken care of all of the arrangements for our wedding. We didn’t have a wedding planner. I’m not sure such an occupation existed back then. Cindy was quite practical (except for the three or four wedding dresses that she bought) and I was cheap. We were both State employees, so there was not a lot of money to spend extravagantly. Also, we had to set funds aside for a two-week honeymoon road trip through the southwest.

We arranged for the wedding ceremony to be in the Presbyterian Church in Dayton, Indiana, which is only a few miles from Lafayette. The ceremony was conducted by Dr. Paul Kitley. We chose the music; Sandy, one of Cindy’s friends, agreed to sing; Cody, the son of another friend, agreed to start the taped instrumentals at the appropriate times; other friends used their video cameras to tape the event, and others took still photos; another of Cindy’s friends, Candy, agreed to cater the reception; I printed the order of service on the blank service forms that we purchased; and I also made three or four tape cassettes of music that we wanted to play at the reception. We got the Moose Lodge for the reception very cheaply because I was a member (a long story that doesn’t belong here). Everything seemed well in hand.

I remember getting up the day of the ceremony, putting on the coffee, and thinking that this was the big one. Family members who were coming from a distance started arriving at the house. More coffee would need to be brewed. My parents, as well as Cindy’s would be staying in our house that night while we left on our honeymoon. My aunt and some cousins came to the house; more coffee was brewed.

I drove over to the Moose Lodge where Cindy, my sister (She Who Must Not Be Named), and Betty (Cindy’s first mother-in-law (another long story that I don’t want to get into in this post)) were setting things up for the reception. The caterer had been in a rush to drop everything off and to get on to their next catering event. It was a larger affair that was paying her more. In her rush she erred by not leaving the potato salad (we went inexpensive by offering cold roast beef and ham, potato salad, etc.) and instead left cherries that were to top the dessert at the other event. Great. The caterer also promised to supply the champagne flutes for the bride and groom. The flutes weren’t to be found. So I left to buy champagne flutes on a Sunday morning in Indiana. Someone else was dispatched to buy a lot of potato chips to replace the salad. We got the reception back on track.

I returned home where I took a shower and got dressed for the wedding. I climbed into my slate gray Firebird (a bachelor’s indulgence) and drove to the church, leading the way for the gathered families. At least I think that I did, because at this point my memory has pretty well faded completely. From this point I am relying on the video for documentation.

There are a lot of people in the videos whom we had invited but didn’t expect to be there. The invitation had been more of an announcement to friends and family that we were actually going to take this enormous step. People came from out of state! My friend Jerry and his daughter Angela drove up from Tennessee! At one point, as people were being seated, the tape overhears Cindy’s grandmother notice Cindy’s father and says to Cindy’s mother, “Why, he can’t sit there.” They were not the best of friends. Of course he could, and did, sit there.

Cindy told me that our friend, Sara, was trying to calm her before the ceremony. Sara, of course, had never been married and had no idea how unnerving a wedding could be. My mother, ever the optimist, had told Cindy that she would believe the wedding would take place when she saw us at the altar. She Who Must Not Be Named told us that she had decided that I was gay because I was in my forties and had never been married. When Cindy had told her father that I had proposed, his response was, “How did you tell him no?” The consensus was that the marriage wouldn’t last because we were so different from each other.

Little things about the ceremony stand out. Cindy was crying (nerves?). Cody fell asleep and missed his cue to start and stop the music for the singer, Sandy (too much partying the previous night?). My voice boomed out during the question/response part of the ceremony (nerves?). The extraordinary length of the final prayer (get it over Dr. Kitley!). Also, if Cindy had been wearing flats she would have set a land speed record for bolting out of the church at the end of the ceremony.

We didn’t stick around long for congratulations and such. In fact Cindy was in such a rush to leave that Trina, Cindy’s daughter, got left in the church parking lot and had to hitch a ride with my friend Hank and his family.

Things went fine at the reception except that we hadn’t anticipated so many people showing up and we ran short of food. Lee, Cindy’s son, who acted as our DJ decided to scrap most of the music tapes that I had made and to go with music that he liked; so long Sinatra, hello AC/DC. Betty spiked the punch and enjoyed it quite a bit. Who would have thought that woman could polka? Cindy and I were able to spend time with our friends and family, some of whom we hadn’t seen in a long time. People started drifting away, and eventually we realized that the reception was over.

Part of the deal we made to get such a cheap venue was that we had to clean up after the reception, so we and a few friends pitched in to get the place back in order. That’s when we found the caterer’s champagne flutes hidden under a table. Well, we could return them along with the cherries. I was surprised to find that the sun was still shining when we opened the door to carry out the trash. We would be able to get some miles on the road before finding a place to stay on the first night of our honeymoon. Great!

And that’s when I remembered that I had been so distracted the previous day that I hadn’t gone to the bank. Twenty-five years ago our bank didn’t offer ATM cards, and the only credit card I had was issued by a gasoline company, to be used only at gas stations. I asked Cindy if she, by any chance, had gone to the bank to withdraw money for our honeymoon. She had not. We were not getting on the road that Sunday evening. Neither were we going home, because our house was filled with parents.

What were we to do? Tune in tomorrow to find out.

April 19, 2015

Not a wooden barn
Not a wooden barn

I normally take pictures of older, wooden barns. They have a classic look even when in disrepair. This newer structure caught my eye a few days ago. I think it is the shiny blue roof that makes it stand out enough to be photo worthy.

***

Today marks ten years since I last drank alcohol. I didn’t write that sentence with pride, it is just a fact. It is an anniversary that I chose to share with people. Some people who read this blog are friends, but most are people whom I have never met. Some people know this story and some don’t. Let me give you a brief background before I tell you briefly of the ten years after that drink.

I had been a light drinker from college to the time I lived and worked in Auburn. A busted romance tipped me into the heavy drinking column and bourbon became my best friend. I moved past that phase, but alcohol by then was an almost daily ritual. Years passed, I met and married Cindy, and while I drank after work most days, I thought that I had it under control. Then my dad got sick and eventually died. While I didn’t think that it affected my drinking or my work, I’ve come to realize that I built up a lot of anger and regret surrounding his death. Adding to that, my job was the pits. I had worked for the State more than twenty-five years and had reached a point high enough that politics affected almost everything that I did. I came to hate it. I started many mornings having a drink or three just to help me go in. Of course, that didn’t work or even help matters. That brought me to the last drink ten years ago. It was the last of many drinks that morning and I was arrested and tossed into a drunk tank before I ever got to work.

Actually I was put in a holding cell with a self-proclaimed paranoid schizophrenic. All that I wanted to do was sleep, and all he wanted to do was talk. And he talked for fourteen straight hours. He talked about hunting, Arbor Day, the Kennedy assassinations, television, the United Nations, beef stew, and I don’t know how many other topics. He weaved his narrative into one long, monologue in which each topic led to the next. In his mind they were all part of one story. At one point he was droning on and I was able to start to nod off. He raised his voice then and said, “Ah, my hypnosis is working. I can put anyone to sleep and give them commands. Why one time…” And off he went on another nonsensical tangent. I felt like I was being punished before I ever saw a judge.

After Cindy bailed me out, things started moving rapidly. That day I was given a pre-deprivation hearing in front of the agency’s HR head and the person who would ostensibly decide my fate. Needless to say, they decided to put me on 30 days unpaid leave pending termination. While on leave a few things happened. Since I was fully vested in my retirement plan, I filled out the paperwork to get my pension. I had my day in court, and then a couple of days in jail. I lost my driver’s license for a year. I went through a course of counseling. I took a part time job while I waited for my first retirement check.

I was ashamed because I had lost my job, that I had spent time in jail, and that I had let down my family and friends. For the rest of it, I have no regrets. In a short time I came to realize that losing the job was the best thing that had happened to me in many years. I learned that Cindy would stand by me and continue to love me despite the way I had screwed up our life. Some people whom I used to work with in Indianapolis avoided me from that time on, but my true friends stayed with me. My counselor, Dr. Paul Kitley, helped me realize some things about myself that I had been ignoring. My part time job brought new friends into my life; some have become very dear friends.

Do I miss drinking? Not really. I’ve had many opportunities to drink, but I’ve never been inclined to buy a bottle or even take a sip. It doesn’t bother me to be around other people who are drinking unless they are loud, obnoxious drunks. Surprisingly, the only times that I think about having a drink is on a hot day after I’ve cut the grass, and sometimes when a character in a TV drama pours themselves a drink. Cold water soothes me just as well as cold beer on a hot day, and as for TV…well they are obviously drinking Scotch, and I don’t like Scotch. In the past ten years I’ve never been tempted by drink enough to do anything about it.

So I’m celebrating this ten year anniversary not because I stopped drinking, but because it was like turning back the clock to a happier part of my life. I’m celebrating love of family, true friends, and new friends. I hope that you can celebrate with me.

 

Is it spring yet?

Green leaves please
Green leaves please

I noticed this lovely tree as I was leaving the doctor’s office a few days ago. I was in the building getting still more blood drawn for labs. At times I wonder if they are merely taking so much blood in order to build a stock for vampires. Think about it; a few tubes here, a few tubes there, it all adds up.

But that has nothing to do with the tree. I saw the tree and the brown grass, and thought about how soon everything would be turning green. I’m anticipating that day more this year than I can recall from past years. Oh, please come soon.

***

I slept with the windows open in the bedroom last night for the first time in months. I may have jumped the gun since it was only fifty degrees outside when I fell asleep, but the freshness in the air was glorious. I’m glad that the wind was not coming from the direction of Tate & Lyle, because that would have put a damper on everything.

I woke up this morning around five, hearing the sound of a train moving through town. The tracks are about a quarter-mile south of our house. Early morning, before people are out in their cars, is the only time I can hear the trains from our house. Cindy doesn’t like the sound of the trains, but I do. When I was growing up outside of Rolling Prairie, I would listen to the trains from my bedroom and be soothed by the sound. The tracks were about a half mile from our house. I would lay in bed, hear the trains, and wonder about what and who they were carrying. What did the engineers, brakemen, and other crew think about while they were rolling through the countryside?

I think that growing up, hearing the trains at night, is what caused me to fall in love with the song Fast Freight when I first heard the Kingston Trio recording. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1rWyyYfQaw. I still have to listen to the song when I play the recording. I hope that you like it.

November 22, 1963

Heading towards the snow
Heading towards the snow

Cindy and I took a road trip last weekend to pick up a table that she had bought earlier. On the way I took this picture from inside the car. The sun was behind us, and the snow clouds were ahead of us. That made for some eerie lighting. I wish I had the skill to translate that light to the photo. But, it isn’t totally lost.

Every  year on this date I find myself playing these two songs. The first song is one of hope, the second of sorrow. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_4Ft76I-MM