Summer’s End

 

We need water badly.  Little rain for the past month has taken the starch out of the leaves, fall blossoms…and me.  A wet early summer has turned into a dry late summer.  A cold front is on the way…a dry cold front.  Rain is as likely as me eating Pumpkin Spice Spam…well, Spam period.

The dry weather seems to have angered the already angry yellow jackets too…I think my mere presence angers the yellow jackets.  I water my bride’s flowers daily so she doesn’t get carried off or bled dry by mosquitoes.  The yellow jackets appreciate the water, they just don’t appreciate the person laying it down.  Three have expressed a stinging rebuke of me over the past week along with two red wasps adding their own firey reprimand.  Fair is fair.  I dislike them too and retaliate with wasp and hornet spray.  “Die you little bastards, DIE!”  I may be as angry the yellow jackets.

My own anger comes from more than the lack of water or hostile flying assholes.  Less than a week from the Fall Equinox, despite the summer-like temperatures, I can tell the seasons are changing.

“All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven.”  Or, if you like the Byrds better, “To everything, turn, turn, turn.  There is a season, turn, turn, turn”…so forth and so on.

A change in wind direction causes falling leaves to swirl.   The wind still blows warm but the fallen leaves crunching underfoot turns the backyard into a minefield of sorts.  Searching for puppy leavings and not finding any until I step on them.  Not realizing I stepped on a turd taco until I get back into the house.

Being knocked unconscious by this year’s bumper crop of falling black walnuts or rolling an ankle over on those already on the ground when not paying attention.  I hate black walnuts almost as much as yellow jackets.

Oh, Lawd, gutters to clean out and what to do with Linda’s plants as the temperatures fall.  The power washing I didn’t get to do in the spring.  Wood to cut and split. Time to pay the piper I suppose.  “All things have their season” and ’tis the season of doing today what you should have done three months ago.

I’m of two minds…both very small.  I welcome the fall temperatures while lamenting the end of summer and the shortened days.  I don’t know why I lament.  I’ve been very non-productive this summer…can I be less productive in the fall?  Yeah….

Will we even have a fall?  Some years autumn in the foothills of the Blue Ridge lasts for a whole two hours on the third Tuesday of October.  Otherwise, it is straight from summer to winter.  The weather has been so crazy maybe this year summer will last through winter…”But the mosquitoes!”  It doesn’t seem to matter about the mosquitoes.  If they can survive in the sub-Arctic tundra, they will have no problem here.

Bonfires, hoodies, boots traded for flip-flops, Wranglers for shorts…there will be no bonfires if we don’t get some rain and I don’t ever totally put away my flips.

Store promotions ignoring Halloween and Thanksgiving while attempting to sell Christmas tree lights and tinsel.  It’s a month and a half till Halloween Wally World, two to Thanksgiving.  You’ve already turned your garden area into a bicycle area.  Slow it down a bit okay?

Pumpkin spice…pumpkin spice everywhere.  In an autumn beer?  In Spam?  Pumpkin spice should be limited to pumpkin pie and pumpkin pie…well…should be limited.  Does citronella come in pumpkin spice scent?  Pumpkin spice scented Deep Woods OFF!  I’m sure the mosquitoes would love it.

“To every season” maybe my problem.  Every time I turn around it seems I’m facing a changing season.  The realization that there are fewer seasons ahead than behind?  As God or the Byrd’s song reminds me, “A time to be born, a time to die, A time to plant, a time to reap, A time to kill, a time to heal, A time to laugh, a time to weep.”  I don’t know if I should laugh or weep.

Quotes are from:

Ecclesiastes 3, 1-8

“Turn, Turn, Turn” The Byrds, 1965

The image of Pumpkin Spice Spam https://www.spam.com/varieties/pumpkin-spice

For more click on https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

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On World Wide Suicide Prevention Day

Originally entitled, “The Easy Way Out,” I first wrote this three years ago and it bears repeating.  “Suicide is not an easy way out.” My own contemplations of suicide and my battles with clinical depression fuel my emotions, along with the thoughts of three friends and former students who in the last few years have opted to take the “easy way out.”

No one who knows me would think, “Coach Miller is suicidal” without being told so and many would say, “Aw shucks, you’re pullin’ my leg.  You?” Yeah, me.  Many people who contemplate suicide don’t “look like someone” who might because we are masters of disguise.  “So, take a good look at my face, uh-huh. You see my smile (looks out of place). Yeah, look a little bit closer it’s easy to trace, oh the tracks of my tears.”  The problem is Smokey, we do our crying alone and put our smiles on when we are out in public.

The Easy Way Out

Rewritten 9/10/2019

“A brave man once requested me,

to answer questions that are key,

‘Is it to be or not to be,’

and I replied, ‘oh why ask me?’”

“’Cause suicide is painless,

it brings on many changes,

and I can take or leave it if I please…

and you can do the same thing if you please.”

Theme from MASH, “Suicide is Painless” by Johnny Mandel

 

I don’t believe there is anything easy about committing suicide nor do I think is it totally painless. That would be two of the major reasons I don’t attempt it. When you are sick like me, one may find it not to be the easiest of ways out. I don’t mean sick as in “I have a terminal illness and it is going to eat me up from the inside out” kind of sickness but the “I’m crazy as a bed bug” kind of sickness.

I have suffered from clinical depression for over forty years now, so I believe I have the right to say, “I’m crazy as a bedbug.” Also, like a world-class alcoholic, I have become very adept at hiding it. You see, almost daily, I still have thoughts of suicide or when I do something I consider “wrong,” there are the thoughts that I deserve to be hurt in some way even if I do it to myself. YES, I JUST CUT OFF MY FINGER ON PURPOSE!!!! I’ve done neither so suicide may not be the easy way out after all.

Being suicidal and repeatedly not pulling the trigger, not slitting a wrist or taking a short step out of a very high window is hard. I spend some of my “very best” depressed “self-speak” contemplating, quite morbidly, the pain of a bullet entering my head as opposed to the pain the same bullet would have on the people I leave behind. The people I love and, despite my depressive hate speech, those I know to love me, at least I think…maybe.

My wife, my daughter, and son-in-law, my grandchildren, who I don’t yet know as well as I want, my brother and my friends. So far, my belief is that the pain of my action on those I leave behind would be greater…therefore, I don’t do it. There is also the fear of the unknown. Am I going to find myself inside of a vat of boiling “hellfire and brimstone” for instance, am I just going to “wink” out of existence or turn into some type of cosmic energy? Will I be reborn as an Egyptian Dung Beetle?..one of my favorites.  All options are scary, as are others, and I find I am not a very brave person or is “sticking out” the mental anguish, itself, brave?

Clinical depression is one of the odd ducks of mental illness. “Oh, you are just a little blue…” and the Grand Canyon is a little hole. Logically you ask yourself, repeatedly I might add, “What have you got to be depressed about?” Nothing!  Absolutely nothing.  Or, friends and loved ones ask, “Why are you depressed?” Those questions are quite tiring because there is no answer unless it is everything.

My depression is due to tiny, little, itty bitty chemical imbalances in my brain. AND IT IS TREATABLE, once you figure out it is nothing more than a disease. No different than diabetes, or arthritis, or toenail fungus except that for some reason it seems to be much more embarrassing to say, “I am clinically depressed and suicidal” than “I have toenail fungus and it is yucky.” It shouldn’t be.  Toenail fungus is pretty yucky.   We need to dispel the stigma of “I’m crazy as a bedbug” and treat the illness.

These thoughts were triggered by a phone call. A friend told me of suicide. I didn’t know the man; I know the family he left behind and can only imagine the pain they are going through. The unanswered questions, “Why?”, “Why didn’t I see it coming?”, “What did I do wrong?”

Suicide was not an easy way out for them. Suicide was not due to an incurable and painful illness like cancer. It was due to an incurable and painful illness like clinical depression.  There are no answers to the “Why” and “What” questions.  Quit asking them!

His suicide has me, selfishly, thinking about ME. I worry someday suicide will appear to be the easy way out… I won’t have enough clarity of thought to keep me from pulling the trigger. No there is nothing easy about suicide including the contemplation of suicide.

Before you worry, NO! I do not need to be put on suicide watch…at least yet. I’ll try to let you know and you should be paying attention…not only to me but the people who are close to you.  Don’t be afraid to ask, “Are you okay?”  Your loved one will lie and say “Oh, I’m fine” or “I’m just a little blue,” but you should be looking for lies.

This post is for the people who have not had their clinical depression diagnosed or those who have and still battle it every day. You are not alone and you are not an embarrassment. There are many of us out there, a depressing estimate of one hundred and twenty-nine million worldwide, one out of every ten Americans and even more depressing, eighty percent never receive treatment. I was lucky.

There ARE people you can talk to. If there is no one in your life, try these:

National Suicide Hotline (800) 273-8255

Teen Health and Wellness Suicide Hotline: 800-784-2433

Crisis Call Center: 800-273-8255 or

text ANSWER to 839863

For more statistics  http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/statistics-infographic

If you are interested in reading more “Ravings of a Mad Southerner” or other writings by Don Miller, please use the following link:  https://www.amazon.com/DonMiller/e/B018IT38GM

The image featured is from https://www.docsopinion.com/2018/02/25/depression-symptoms/  and comes from an article entitled 10 Important Symptoms of Depression.  I would suggest you check yourself.

 

Deafening Silence

 

I’ve been outside three times this morning…and it’s not yet seven-thirty.  The puppies woke me way too early.

I am troubled by the silence…the sounds I don’t hear.  I seem to be drawn to the quiet like a moth to a flame.  Everything is muted, even the vehicles climbing up the grade toward Hendersonville.

I don’t understand the silence and I am a bit disturbed.  Usually, the birds and bees are active by this time, chirping and buzzing.  But nothing is moving…just the toad that keeps trying to find a way into my house and the mosquito he must be chasing.

I don’t really mind the toad and admire his persistence.  I wish he would nab the mosquito. The blind puppy dogs seem to mind, picking up his scent and leading me to his location.  Waiting patiently for their “good dog” treats after I remove the interloper to his normal habitat.   Where is that damn mosquito?

Now I am looking at the bird feeders and they are not attracting any kind of activity…squirrels included.  I squint into the pre-dawn light to see if they were emptied during the night.

Did some spaceship descend from the heavens and abduct my wildlife deciding they didn’t need my toad?  I’ve seen too many end of the world movies.

My murder of crows has been quite active recently but not this morning.  Why I wonder?  Why are gatherings of crows called murders?  As I ponder, I realize I really have seen too many horror movies and am crazy as a loon.

It is as if the very air is absorbing sound.  Not a leaf moving.  The citronella torches I just lit are burning straight up, reaching toward heaven.  The heavily scented smoke defies gravity, swirling neither left or right as it disappears toward space.

It has been hot and dry…for us.  I think that makes us all crazy…wildlife included.  Mid-nineties in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Pre-dawn has become after dawn and there is no dew on the grass at all.  We need rain badly and a break from the heat.  It is as if the wildlife has already hunkered down in a cool place for the day.  Maybe that’s why the toad continues to break and enter.

Maybe it just my diminished hearing or my increasingly bad mood.  I find myself anxious and a bit depressed.  Am I depressed because of…or is because of why I am depressed?  I don’t know.  I don’t know if I even make sense.

What I do know is the silence is as oppressive as the building humidity and heat.

According to the local weather guru, there is hope on the horizon.  Rain chances increase late in the week.  Nothing for sure…just like life.  Maybe what rain we do get will wash away the silence…or maybe I should get off my ass and make some noise.

The featured image from https://dahni.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/words-matter/

Please take time to like Don Miller’s facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/cigarman501/?eid=ARB0OtYgbYydIVtqtxaOGKECb-AvbbILtPybDOE835b4sChVMzC7w_vB9jqu161yiZWOmbn134yI6lwT

Or his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

 

Chicken Sandwich Wars and Other Useless Thoughts

“And just like that everyone forgot about the Amazon burning and started fighting over chicken sandwiches.” – Forrest Gump

Is the Amazon still burning?  Have seen nothing since Popeyes and Chick-Fil-A began to duke it out.  The battle has been joined by several other fast food empires as they try to control our cholesterol intake.

I wonder what has happened to the real arguments we once picked.  Pumpkin spice creamed coffee, green and red coffee cups that said Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, “taste great, less filling”, a tan suit and a certain President.  The battles we pick amaze me, much in the same way a bit of tainted chicken turns me into a porcelain throne hugging quivering coward.

Just saw this one….

Popeye's

I know this is posted as a joke but there are people who believe this.  If you are in a closet (Not a Pun), we had a Cat 4-5 Hurricane named Dorian slamming the Bahamas and presently looking as if it will miss most of the East Coast of the USA.  God must have forgiven most of us for eating at Popeyes despite its founding in Sin City South, New Orleans.  I see Charleston and the coast of North Carolina might be in harm’s way.  What did you do to incur God’s wrath?  Maybe you should “eat more chickin’.”

Has the Twitter war that began over chicken sandwiches turned into a religious war of words over good versus evil?  God’s anointed sandwich versus the Devil’s spawn?  If so I find myself on the wrong side once again.  Maybe…I really need humor or satire alerts.  I can’t seem to tell the difference these days.

I’ve never enjoyed Chick Fil A to the degree some people worship it and have been a Popeyes fan since I first ate its popcorn shrimp, dirty rice and slaw in Pensacola back in the middle Eighties.  Love those Cajun spices but I wouldn’t turn down a Chick Fil A sandwich and have purchased one or two or two thousand in my life. Nothing religious, just my eating habits.  My taste buds prefer Popeyes over most fast-food chains involving chicken…Bojangles’s Chicken Filet Biscuit’s pretty good too…Spicy!  You know, warm like the tropical breezes from Dante’s Inferno.

There have been calls to boycott one or the other for various reasons, LGBTQ rights or lack thereof and there have been not so subtle jabs since Popeyes ran out of their chicken sandwich and the fact Chick Fil A doesn’t open on Sundays.

chickfila-popeyes

Boycott?  Not very likely…unless it is KFC’s plant-based, fake as a certain President’s phone call to China, fried imitation chicken.  There are just some things a Southerner can’t eat and still bear to look at himself in a mirror.

kfc

I have consumed my fair share of fast-food chicken dating back to when Colonel Sanders was a young man and hadn’t yet been brought back from the dead by George Hamilton or…gasp…Reba McEntire.  Bizarro …Both Reba and George’s fake tan.  I prefer George Costanza’s reanimation of Col. Sanders anyway.  Let the Col. Sanders wars begin.

Gal

As a child, I would never eat fast food chicken any more than I would eat fast food fried bologna or fast-food TV dinners.  They were staples at my home.  Why would I want to eat something I ate many times during the week?  Fast food was for some exotic meal I didn’t usually get at home…like, I don’t know, a fifteen cent overcooked hamburger with a single dollop each of mustard and catsup along with a single dill pickle resting between two halves of a sesame seed bun.  Did we have hamburger wars between Hardee’s and MacDonald’s?  No, and we didn’t have folks on social media stoking religious disharmony either.  Wait…Wendy’s.

Wendy

I would say food wars should be fought over beef or chicken…again wait…one of the combatants in the chicken sandwich war has already thrown down that gauntlet.

Maybe the war should be over plant-based fake meat products served as chicken or hamburger.  That’s a war I get behind.  Tofu covered in barbeque sauce is still tofu and “parts is parts” shouldn’t include ground-up vegetables masquerading as meat.

tofu

Update:  A Tennessee man has filed suit against Popeyes.  Their crime?  False advertising because they ran out of sandwiches.  “Oh, the humanity….”

Not to be outdone a disgruntled Houston man pulled his weapon on his local Popeyes’s staff when told they were out of chicken sandwiches.  Somewhere there is a Florida man thinking, “Hold my beer.”

Guess I’m gonna have to get one of the devils’ sandwiches just as soon as they reappear.

Featured Image source was Twitter.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

 

 

Confessions of a Coaching Fraud…

 

My induction into a former high school’s athletic hall of fame has me flitting hither and yon over memories from forty-plus years of teaching and coaching.  For some reason, I don’t feel very worthy of the accolades.

It was great to see former players now conquering their own lives and being successful by any standard applied. Former students, coaching peers, and parents stopping by and pumping my hand or hugging my neck.  It wasn’t great, it was wonderful.

Still, I wonder in the back of my head, “Why?”  “How?”  “Am I a fraud?”  Sometimes things were too easy…except when they weren’t.

Dozens have extended congratulations and well wishes on social media and email.  Despite my pride and delight…I don’t feel worthy.

The festivities were poignant, my plaque sitting alongside Tim Bright’s, a player who passed too soon due to colon cancer.  A player who was, along with hundreds of others, responsible for my success.  I wonder what he might have accomplished had he not left us.  His family is so dedicated to his memory.  His charity is still doing great things for those who suffered as he did.

My wife…a former coach herself and far superior in my estimation.  As always, standing by my side.  Always supportive, always ready with a meaningful critique of the last game’s outcome.  Greatest supporter and greatest critic.  “Just let them play and quit bunting so much.”  “Why did you do….”  I do miss her voice distinguishable from anywhere in a stadium no matter how large or loud the crowd was.  “Come on Coach, run your other play!”  I am so lucky and so unworthy.

As I look back, it seemed too easy.  I know I’m looking through the sands of time and the time is becoming a sandstorm.  Still, great assistant coaches, great players, and great parents made my successes.  I just walked around being me.

I’ve heard so many horror stories that I never experienced.  There were just a few bad apples, just a few obstacles…maybe they weren’t bad apples…maybe I just did find the key to unlock their potential.  I do feel like the king of frauds.

There were laughs and tears but the tears were minimal.  When we gather and exclaim, “Do you remember…?”, the question is always about the laughs.  It is easy to remember the good times.

Through the magnifying glass of retrospection, even the bad seasons were good.  Seasons we knew we were bad but managed to get better.  Sometimes a seven-win season could be as rewarding as a state championship season.  Seasons you really didn’t know how good or bad you were.  Seasons you just put in the work that didn’t seem like work and hoped for the best.  I believe I always received the best they had.  I hope they received mine.

When I first began my coaching journey, I was terrible.  Some might say, “Nothing ever changed.” It is a fact I’m comfortable with because I believe I grew despite feeling apologetic to those early teams.

I grew and turned a corner of sorts after a bitter loss. I lamented to the offending coach. “I don’t know what to do.”  His answer was, “You love them.  Remember, you’re not coaching football, you’re coaching kids.  Win or lose you love them.”  I tried to apply his nugget through the rest of my career.

Names and faces blur over time but I can honestly and unapologetically say, “I loved them.”  I didn’t coach football, soccer or baseball, I coached kids.  Maybe I’m not as big a fraud as I believe.

It has been three years since I last stalked a sideline or a dugout.  I honestly haven’t missed the practices or the games.  Every time I think I might return to a grassy field my body does something to remind me of the beating it has taken over the years and those feelings pass.

What I miss is the comradery.  I miss the interactions with my players, the coaches and the opponents staring back at me from the opposing dugout or sideline.  Those were good times and I miss them.

I still feel like a fraud.  It was too much fun, it was too easy.  Great players make for good coaches.  I had a cornucopia of great players. Thanks for the memories guys, thanks for the effort, thanks for my successes.  Thanks for letting me be me and letting me be a part of your lives.

HOF

Don Miller writes at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The featured image was lifted from https://eic.rsc.org/feature/coaching-for-success/3010068.article.

The whistle is the symbol of the coaching profession.  I find it interesting that I rarely used one.

The Champagne of Bottle Beer 

 

I can remember the best beer I ever drank…can you?

I have a love-hate kind of relationship with beer.  Mentally I think, “I love beer,” in my best Brett Kavanaugh voice.  Mentally I should think, “I love ‘good’ beer.”  I’m not sure Justice Kavanaugh cares if it is good beer or not, just cold and in large quantities.  I also understand ‘good’ beer is a subjective term and I might not know what a good beer is should it bite me on my ass.  I’ve had many bad beers bite me on the ass too and any beer past three is a bad beer.

A video of a very young country “singer” triggered my thoughts.  Thanks, so much for sending me that at five in the morning Leland.  The young crooner was singing of “ice-cold root beer in long-necked bottles” and the thought of ice-cold beer took me down a pig trail to a hot summer on a loading dock or in my case an unloading dock.  I was between year four and five of my teaching career and working summers to help make ends meet.

Ten-hour days, eight on Friday.  Time and a half over forty unloading goods for a five and dime chain.  Big boxy trailers that had made the long ocean voyage from China, offloaded on our left coast and stacked on flatbed railroad cars headed east.  Off-loaded again in Greenville and hauled to me to be unloaded and broken down before being distributed all over the Southeast.  I remember thinking of my Asian counterpart slaving away loading the trailer I was now unloading.  He or she got the ball rolling as these goods would be loaded and unloaded at least one more time before they found their way to shelves near you.

I wondered why he had loaded so much dust and filth with the flimsy boxes I manhandled out the back of those trailers.  Now I wonder what life-threatening timebombs are waiting to go off in my body from that filth and dust.  Get back on the subject, please.

The subject was beer, the best beer I ever drank.

A six a.m. to four p.m. shift had ended and it was still hotter than forty kinds of hell.  The day had been spent in an airless trailer pulling out corrugated boxes filled with who knows what and covered with who knows what.  Every box I moved sent dust swirling in the airless trailer.  Even on the dock, the mid-July sun and humidity was merciless, pounding me like a superheated hammer on the anvil that was my head.

Bone weary and headachy, I drug myself to my car.  With no air conditioning, I dropped the top of the ’76 MG and headed home, fifteen miles away.  I remember being dry as the Sahara and stopped at a country mercantile featuring peeling white paint and rusting Esso and ice-cold Pepsi signs.  I could think of nothing better than an ice-cold Pepsi to relive the dryness in my parched head and made my way straight to the old waist-high blue cooler with Pepsi in red across a white field.

Pepsi

Opening it I found no Pepsis…or Coke.  There were no soft drinks in this cooler.  Instead, tall long-necked bottles of Miller High Life beckoned to me and I contemplated a change in beverage.

The woman behind the counter, a peroxide blond fireplug with too much makeup and carrying an extra fifty pounds in weight cautioned me, “That’s the coldest beer you’ll ever find as long as you keep the top closed.  You’re lettin’ the cold out.  You need to make up your mind.”

Sufficiently chastised, I made up my mind and was rewarded.  As I removed a Champagne of Bottle Beer there was an audible crunch as the ice gave way.  It was so cold it was stuck to the bottom of the cooler.  Promptly I picked a second one and after paying the blond fireplug headed to my car.

Huge oak trees formed a canopy over a wide pull off and I decided to enjoy my heavenly elixir picnic style.  I was rewarded with ice crystals in my first swallow…and the second.  I drained that amber potation in seconds.  I remember holding the still cold empty against my forehead, the condensation providing a cool bath.

After wiping my mouth with the back of my hand, I twisted the top off the second and drained it almost as quickly.  The beer went straight to my head and I was still a dozen miles from home.

I broke the law, but the law didn’t win.  It was a different time and I was still young and stupid.  This wouldn’t be the last time I drove impaired but maybe God does take care of drunks and fools.  At this stage of my life, I was certainly equal parts of both.

It would be the last time I had a beer, two beers, so good.  Believe me, I’ve searched high and low, and stopped at the little country mercantile enough times during the summer that remained to find out the blond fireplug was named Ramona.  She was a nice lady with a boisterous laugh and a bawdy sense of humor.

Miller High Life, The Champagne of Bottle Beer.  I do love a crisp pilsner so cold you have to snap it off the bottom of an ancient Pepsi cooler.  I wonder…no…I’m sure it would be a wasted trip.  I’m sure the general mercantile only exists in my mind…just like the best beer I ever had.

6bf4dc5d857e7596f4fbc5c76aafa61c--beer-signs-tin-signs

Further wanderings may be found at Don Miller’s author’s page by going to https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

King of Syrups, All Hail King

 

I have a sweet tooth I must guard as tenaciously as we should be guarding our nuclear launch codes…not a good analogy because I slip up and let my guard down.  While letting my sweet tooth guard down might equate to an increase of a pound or five on my bathroom scales, letting your guard down concerning the launch codes could equate to increases in radiation levels and nuclear ash swirling about.  I’ve seen too many end of the world movies.  This morning my end of the world scenario involves my sugar and fat cravings.

I awoke with a hankering.  I flat out fancy something sweet.  To avoid such scenarios, I have made my fridge and pantry a post-apocalyptic, barren wasteland of sweet treats.  If not, I would be chin deep licking the container from a former half-gallon of Breyer’s Chocolate Chip Mint ice cream or reaching into the bottom of a bag of Hersey’s Dark Chocolate minis I had just opened.

Absolutely…No…Willpower.  Twice I’ve walked over to the freezer to see if there was something sweet hiding behind those frozen Lean Cuisines.  This is despite knowing, “There ain’t nothing there!”  Wait…I wonder if Linda has something stashed in her purse…“F@#$ Me!”

My cravings have taken me down one of Alice’s rabbit holes.  Instead of enjoying a cup of tea with the Mad Hatter I’m thinking about thick, lard infused, buttermilk biscuits, “runnin’” in butter, topped with King Brand Golden Syrup.  Even those cravins’ are for naught.  No lard, no freshly churned butter, and no King Syrup.

As I mentally toast the Mad Hatter’s similar insanity, I regale him with stories of peanut butter and Missouri cookies served by my grandmother.  They too are favorites from my youth, but for some reason, this morning it’s biscuits and King Brand Golden Syrup.

Biscuits and honey, you say Mad Hatter?  I would not turn it down…it’s just that in the memories of my youth it wasn’t honey, it was Golden Syrup…or maybe molasses…”Wait! I have molasses…a little toast drizzled in blackstrap molasses!”  Nope!  It ain’t what I want.

Growing up in a Southern rural area one might think I would crave honey…or sorghum.  One would be wrong.  I found sticky, sweet heaven in a large, red labeled metal can featuring a lion’s head and a pry-off lid.  Made in Maryland, somehow the syrupy ambrosia found its way South to the shelves of Pettus’s Store.  From there the contents had found their way onto the cathead biscuits my grandmother had made and placed before me.   A dessert fit for a King…or made by a King…All Hail!

Some people don’t consider biscuits and sawmill gravy a meal.  My guess…those same people would not consider butter covered biscuits drowning in a King Syrup a dessert.  Their loss…and mine cuz I ain’t got none.

Well, Mad Hatter…I’ve no biscuits and no King Syrup.  All I have are the memories of a small kitchen and the narrow dining area that went with it.  The warm biscuits on a chipped china plate with freshly churned butter. and the red labeled tin waiting at the ready.

My heart is thankful for the memories and much “heart” healthier because the memories are all I have…until I get myself to a grocery store.

For further trips down a rabbit hole, Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

Bookmarks From My Book of Life

 

I’ve sung, played and danced badly all my life.  Some of my earliest memories include the old upright in my grandmother’s hallway, my uncle’s mandolin and the whiny bluegrass he sang…”Blue moon of Kentucky….”  Singing, first in the youth choir at church, then in the adult choir, the high school chorus and playing in the concert band, the college band and a brief stint as a discordant sax playing rock star.

Participating in a men’s quartet singing “Just Have a Little Talk With Jesus,” my thin baritone joining in at the Fifth Sunday Night Sing.  My Uncle James making a not so joyful noise unto the Lord, my cousins and I trapped in the cab of the old flatbed truck as we moved hay bales or corn to the songs he sang.  I’ll say this, he sang praise tunes with great gusto and vigor, but if notes were water molecules, he couldn’t have found one while standing in the ocean.  It didn’t stop him from trying.

I guess what I’m trying to say, on this fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock and the death of Easy Rider’s Peter Fonda, music has played prominently in my life…if not a backdrop for my life, a bookmark.  “Don Miller, A Rock Opera.”

Dancing in the privacy of my room to the songs played on WLS, Chicago.  Beach Music at The Cellar as a young adult.  A cute redhead, and Eddie Floyd singing “Knock on Wood” as I danced badly with her at a rural jook joint outside Newberry.  We danced badly around a divorce later.  Not all bookmarks lead to soothing anodynes.  Some are like sleeping in a patch of prickly pear cactus.

Doing the horizontal rumba for the first time in the backseat of an old Ford while Lou Christy sang “Rhapsody in the Rain”.  Humm.  That earlier relationship didn’t end well either, but I don’t believe it had anything to do with the music.

The movie Easy Rider was an eye-opener and for me heralded a change…although it might have taken forty years for the change to occur.  I’ve only recently embraced my hippie self.  I was a rhythm and blues, beach music, soul music kind of guy…probably still am but sitting at a drive-in with the cute redhead who became ex-wife number one, I became mesmerized, not by the film but by the soundtrack.  Later, I would add the complete Woodstock to my album collection…wonder what happened to those bookmarks, the albums not the ex-wife.

I walked today as I do nearly every day, my playlist playing in my earbuds, just like every day.  Today there was a little dance step to my walk as I thought about Peter Fonda.  I decided to dial up my Easy Rider playlist that includes three different versions of “The Weight”.  One can never get too much of a good song.  

I think I scared a local woman smoking an early morning cigarette on her front porch as I belted out “Born to be Wild”.  I flushed a pair of mourning doves, mourning my off keyed version of “A Little Help From My Friends” while doing my best Joe Cocker impersonation on the double lane. “Don’t Bogart that joint my friend….”  Fun memories bookmarked in my mind.

Some of the bookmarks haunt me but even those trigger warm memories. Ghost stories of friends now gone.  My coconspirators in crime the summers of ’68 and ’69 are both gone to the great cosmic rock concert that is the afterlife.  I miss them almost as much as my lost youth of the same time period.

I wrote about a haunted pink iPod in an earlier blog from a couple of years ago.  A former love now dead gave me the Crosby, Stills and Nash album that featured the song “Southern Cross.”  It’s a song about a long boat trip taken by a man trying to heal his wounds after a bad divorce…what is a good divorce?

We were both wounded, and the song spoke to us as we tried to console each other in ways men and women have been consoling each other for all recorded time, I guess.  After she died, I put the song on my playlist and for some reason, no matter how many times I changed the playlists, the lament was always there…haunting me along with her.

“When you see the Southern Cross for the first time

You understand now why you came this way

‘Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small

But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a coming day”

 

We were never truly in love, more like friends with benefits, but she is still one of the bookmarks that haunts me.  The old iPod is long since been retired but she is a bookmark, like Easy Rider soundtrack or an old Gospel tune that triggers warm memories in my book of life.

“So I’m sailing for tomorrow, my dreams are a dyin’

And my love is an anchor tied to you, tied with a silver chain

I have my ship and all her flags are a-flyin’

She is all I have left and music is her name”

Music is her name and I call to it often.  For the complete song…

 

 

Quotes and video are from the song “Southern Cross” and the album Daylight Again by Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

Don Miller writes badly about many subjects, both fictional and only somewhat embellished.  For more, go to his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The featured image is of Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson, and Dennis Hopper.  It is from a movie review https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/easy-rider-review-movie-1969-1221117

Dark Tempest

Excerpt from alter ego Lena Christenson’s new romantic thriller, Dark Tempest.  All tempests are not storms.

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***

Belle was blind, trying to keep up with turns and the time between them by counting in her head.  She feared it was a failed enterprise.  It had been so easy on the television program she had seen.

They had been forced into a nondescript, white panel van before dawn broke.  “Why do all abductors use white panel vans…if I were the police, I would ban them.”  Hands ziplocked together in front, gagged and a cloth bag pulled over their heads, she had been unceremoniously dumped on her ass before having her feet roughly zip-tied by the gorilla named Teddy.

She felt changes in surfaces contacting the tires and tried not to think about what might await them at the end of their journey but couldn’t keep her fears at bay.  “Damn I lost count.”

“Could this be my last day on earth?”  Belle didn’t consider herself a religious person, a non-practicing Roman Catholic, but was spiritual, believing death was a pathway to something else.  She didn’t fear death…just dying hard.  Belle also knew that if things went from bad to worse, she would pray to Mother Mary to intercede on her behalf.  She could never understand why a loving God would allow the evil these three animals brought with them to exist.

“If they think I’m going down without a fight….” Belle considered her options…there weren’t many.  One woman with her hands tied against two armed men.  Poor odds at best but they weren’t going to get better.  “What about Phillipe’ and Erica?”  She had little hope for their help and believed the only way to save herself was to act alone if necessary…and act decisively.

The van slowed causing her to slide on the uncovered metal floor.  She noted the change in sound and heard the gravel as it was kicked up by the tires.  After a jolting ten minutes, a right turn was followed by slushing sounds of wet dirt and the bouncing associated with washboard rutted dirt roads.

She was suddenly thrown forward as the van came to a sliding stop.  A door opened and slammed; the side door rolled open.

“Be ready Belle.  You’ll never know when a chance will present itself.”

An opening presented itself almost immediately.  Violently pulled to the door, she felt her legs being released and immediately kicked out.  There was a solid jolt and the sound of someone’s breath exploding from their lungs followed by a loud splash.  Pulling the hood from her head she saw Teddy scrambling out of a blackwater canal.  Jumping down from the van she ran.  She didn’t know where she was going but there was a dirt road behind the van and that was where she was headed…until she ran headlong into the skinny man called Felix.  They went down in a tangle of arms and legs giving Teddy time to recover.

Trying to untangle herself from Felix with hands tied in front of her was a fruitless effort.  She felt wet fingers grabbing the back of her blouse and was pulled off the struggling man.

With swamp water cascading from his body, Teddy threw her on her back and straddled her.  His eyes were sharp points and the automatic in his hand huge, “You bitch I’m going to put a bullet tween your eyes just so you can see it comin’.”

Belle screamed in his face, “Well do it before your breath kills me.  Mouthwash, you freaks ever heard of it?”

Teddy slapped her hard across the mouth momentarily stunning her and bringing the coppery taste of blood.  Pulling back her feet, the attempt at kicking him was batted away as if she was a gnat.  Kneeling, Teddy grabbed the front of her blouse, ripping it to her waist.

Drawing back his fist to hit her again, Teddy felt a gun barrel behind his ear, “Get off her.  We need her.  I’m not going to tell you again.  I’ll shoot you before I have to face Moïse because you got dumped in the water and killed her.”

***

Felix thought, “Just drop the hammer and end this thing.  Call the cops, my boss, and set a trap for Moïse.  Everyone saved and Moïse in the bag…the problem was there was no phone service,” Felix had just looked.

Removing the gun Felix said, “Get off of her and let’s get them inside.”

Pointing it at Belle he added, “No more of your tomfoolery girl.  Teddy, get the other two and let’s get inside before some fool fisherman sees us.”

Teddy stood and brought his gun to bear on Felix, “If you ever point a gun at me you better pull the trigger.”  Slowly he lowered the gun, “Now get them inside and this time make sure her hands are tied behind her back.”

***

Belle saw the sun was barely above the eastern horizon.  “They had been on the road for an hour or so…maybe, who knew?”  A warped, silver-gray boardwalk connected the landing to a stilted house twenty-five to thirty yards on an island in the channel.  The house seemed to be equally ramshackle.

Pushing her between the shoulder blades Teddy snickered, “Pay attention, I’d hate for you to fall in.  Gator feedin’ time ain’t till this evenin’.”

Dark Tempest may be purchased or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

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Signs, Signs, Everywhere….

I see signs, not those signs.  I see and hear true believers espousing the nearness of the apocalypse; wars, and rumors of wars, national disasters, the anti-Christ, prayers for the rapture.  Those are not the signs of which I speak…mainly because doomsayers have been warning us since the book of Revelations was written, I guess.  The doomsaying is probably warranted but I have hope and believe humanity will come to its senses before we self-destruct.  Regardless, the Earth will continue to make its trips around the Sun whether we are around to enjoy the change in seasons or not.

No, not those signs but signs of changes none-the-less.  Here in the South, it is hotter than forty hells even in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Not the pressure cooker heat of the lower Southern states but plenty hot for me.  The heat will continue for the foreseeable future if the weather gurus are to be believed.

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Still, the signs of fall are upon me.  Years ago, I promised I would never protest the heat due to a particularly cold baseball season and my depression which intensifies as the days shorten.  This summer is taxing my promise, but I realized yesterday, the signs are everywhere.  The days are shortening, and dark days of winter will be too soon be upon me.

First, there will be Autumn, maybe a whole two hours of it…but there will be Autumn.

Many years ago, I noted the change when football practice and school began.  Since my retirement, I monitor the changes in more subtle ways.  The writing spiders spinning their webs, vees of geese flying south, a pair of wood ducks I haven’t seen since spring, bees and butterflies working the remaining blooms as if their very lives depend on it…or upcoming generations lives.  Damn the yellow jackets, the little bastards are working too.

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My wild birds have returned to the feeders from the mid-summer break as they fed their young juicy bugs and worms instead of my sunflower seeds.  New birds, small and quick, are flitting hither and yon.  There seems to be a bumper crop of gold and purple finches.  A new generation to enjoy our symbiotic relationship…my viewing enjoyment for their food.  Despite the cost of sunflower seed, it seems to be a fair trade.

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The turkeys are on the move too.  Hens followed by Jakes and Jennies and even smaller poults are passing through my backyard.  I didn’t see a Tom but there must be one somewhere…although I didn’t get much of a chance to see.  Despite Mr. Carlson thoughts on WKRP, “Turkeys can fly”…at least wild ones.

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I stepped outside last night to partake of one last puff on my cigar…the one I have been nursing all day.  The air was filled with the smell of citronella from the torches I burn to keep the mosquitoes at bay.  I watched the smoke dissipate into the freshening breeze…a breeze that seemed different than the humidity filled breezes from earlier in the day.  There was a hint of fall in it, just an underlying current of cool.  The best sign of all despite my wish not to wish my life away.    Pumpkin pie and ripening persimmons are just around the corner.

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If interested, more of Don Miller’s wanderings can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image of geese at sunset is from https://blog.theclymb.com/tips/signs-autumn-northwest-enjoy/

All photographs were legally lifted from Pexels.com.