Thanksgiving

Reflections on Sixty

Yes, today I hit the big 6 – 0, I think about 7PM tonight, but I don’t have my birth certificate here to read. Sixty damn years on this rock travelling around the sun. Not bad for one who didn’t expect to see 25. But you can blame Wifey® for that.  I would have been either dead or living on the street long ago if not for her love. 

Here are some of the things that stand out about my early life growing up in South Florida. 

  • Go barefoot as often as possible – screw the sand burrs.
  • Rain can be fun – I remember sitting in my front yard watching it rain on the house across the street – but not on me.
  • Wear sunscreen – well, I didn’t learn that as a kid. I was much older with kids of my own before that sunk in. I dare say I was sunburned more often than not.

Needless to say, life has taught me many lessons since those carefree days of running around in just a pair of shorts, chasing lizards, and playing ball. Most of it good, but there have been lots of tough lessons too. But I won’t get into that. 

Things from way-back-when I still remember;

  • My big brother picking me up early to go fishing on my birthdays. I never caught a single damn fish, but it was still fun, riding down US1 to the Florida Keys and fishing off the pylons and bridges. 
  • The first football game I went to. My mother was president of the high school PTA, so she always had a little table or booth at every game. I don’t remember what the function of the table was for, was she selling something? But I remember that first game, I was maybe 6. Her table was in a location where she couldn’t see the field, so she had to listen to the PA announcer to know how the game was progressing. Our team had made a first down, and mom, being the somewhat rabid football fan that she was, was happy. I had no idea what a “first down” was, so I asked. All she said was “that means they get to keep going”. Not knowing anything about football, or any sport really, it made no sense to me. But it made my mom happy, so I took it as a good thing.
  • My oldest sister took me along with her date, to a local fair. This was one of the little travelling deals that used to set up in shopping center parking lots. You just don’t see those anymore.  She, and my other sister as well, would take me along to these affairs quite often.  I clearly remember sitting in the Faris Wheel, between my sister and her date, stuck at the top for a good ten minutes. It was night time, so all the lights in the area were quite amazing. We could even see a little of the airport from our vantage point. I don’t think her date was as excited as I was. I wonder why??
  • My other sister and her friends using me as a makeup dummy. They used to try different shades of lipstick, and who knows what else on me to find the correct complimentary colors. Maybe that’s why clown makeup was such an obvious thing for me. Who knew lipstick was a gateway drug??
  • The importance of animals. We always had a pet of some kind in the house. Many times several at the same time. I learned just how important that relationship is, and it taught me the compassion and some of the responsibilities that are needed to maintain a family. 
  • Since my birthday falls around, and sometimes on, Thanksgiving, my mom would buy me pretty much whatever I wanted for my birthday dinner. Mostly to get me out of the way while she and my sisters were working on the big dinner. I always asked for pizza. From one place only. Frankie’s on Bird Road. They didn’t deliver, and the line was always long. But I would get my pizza, take it to my room, turn up the music as loud as I could get away with. That was cool!
  • My (still) best friend, Maurice and I spending entire days driving around in what we called “The Search For The Blue Nehi”. For those that don’t know what that is. A blue Nehi is a cream soda. It just happens to be a very lovely shade of blue. And it’s very hard to find. But it was a way to just drive around, make fun of people, and spend time with someone important.

I could go on forever. Remembrances of my military days. Going to Alaska, Korea, and all over the country. Having spent twenty years in the military and never seeing a day of combat is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it kept me safe, but all my soldier buddies that were pulled from our hospital duties to deploy for Desert Shield/Storm came back at least one rank higher (some two ranks higher). Meanwhile, the reservists that came in to take their place lost my promotion paperwork twice!

What about my wife and kids and grandkids? So many memories I could write pages upon pages. So that will be another post, I’m afraid. 

Before I leave you today, I do have a birthday request. Not just for my birthday, but for anyone’s birthday. 

I have been blessed with more than I need. I have family, friends, a roof over my head that has room for more than just me, food aplenty, lots of beer and whisky, and pretty good health. While I want lots of stuff, I am not in need of anything. I bet you’ve friends and family that can say the same. So, don’t give material things (unless there is a special need for that thing). What I would love is donations to a good charity instead.  And there are many LOCAL charities available.

  • A local women’s shelter
  • A local homeless shelter
  • Your local animal shelter
  • A local food bank

I don’t like big conglomerate charity places (i.e. United Way and the like). Their problem is overhead. One report I read said that for every dollar donated to these types of organizations, only 3 cents or so actually make to the folks that need it. Give directly whenever possible.  National charities are good too.

  • The Red Cross (International!)
  • St. Jude’s
  • Many veteran’s organizations.

That’s enough, you get my drift. Make a donation in your loved one’s name (and don’t wait for a birthday or other holiday). And if you’re an Amazon shopper like I am, use their automatic donation option. You can have a portion of your purchases go directly to the charity of your choice. It costs you nothing. Currently, I have St. Jude’s as my choice. But I do change it now and then.

Having said that, if anyone wants to send me a boatload of cash so I can get those “wants, but not needs”, I’m not gonna say no. A nice big pellet smoker, an RV (along with a new vehicle) are on that list. And they ain’t cheap. 

But now I have to take on another of my birthday traditions. Namely, cook my own birthday dinner. But hey, I don’t mind. I cook because I love to eat. 

Thanks for spending a little of my birthday with me. I appreciate your time. Hope your day goes well, as I expect mine to go. But I really must go, the smoker ain’t gonna light itself!

I leave you with this video, which has absolutely nothing to do with birthdays. But it’s another memory from one of my trips around the sun. This one is for you Lloyd.

Peace,
B

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What’s Stuck In My Head – 21 November

So you either know this song, or you have no idea what I’m talking about. This particular track has become a Thanksgiving classic. But it’s only tie to the holiday is that the beginning of the story takes place at Thanksgiving, but as Arlo says; “That’s not what I came to tell you about”. The true message of the song is anti-draft and against the Vietnam conflict.

I am, of course, talking about the classic Alice’s Restaurant Massacree“.  The song was originally released in October of 1967. I don’t think I heard it until 1974 or so. Since the song is long (over 18 minutes), it wouldn’t fit on a 45 RPM single, and therefore was never released for airplay. It would take the advent of the “AOR” (Album Oriented Radio) format, a precursor to today’s “Classic Rock” format (Oh! How I hate that term) for radio to start playing longer tracks like this. Think Iron Butterfly’s iconic In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida“.

Alice’s Restaurant is based on a true story. Arlo Guthrie, like a lot of folks at that time, resisted the draft. I don’t totally blame those that did resist. Even though I went on to join the military and eventually retire from the Army, the prospect of going to Vietnam was not something I was looking forward to. But I was too young for the draft.

The moral behind the song is summed up in one line;


 The ironic punch line of the story is that, in the words of Guthrie, “I’m sittin’ here on the Group W bench ’cause you want to know if I’m moral enough to join the Army—burn women, kids, houses and villages—after bein’ a litterbug.” 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice%27s_Restaurant_Massacree

What I find is that in all my years in the military, I served alongside plenty of folks that had much worse than being a litterbug on their records. In the end, Arlo was not drafted. And though the draft board used this arrest as the reason not to draft him, I think was more that his dad, Woody Guthrie, also a singer-songwriter, and a political activist, that had more to do with it. They just didn’t want a potential disturbance in the ranks.

So, go grab you a beverage, and a snack, and sit back and listen to the tale of Alice’s Restaurant Massacree. 

Oh! And have a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow (if you’re here in the USA). Otherwise, just have a great Thursday! 

Peace,
B

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What’s Stuck In My Head – 19 November

As I’ve mentioned before Turkey Day 2018 is just around the corner. And that also means my birthday is right there too.  But this isn’t a post about my birthday. It’s something very Thanksgiving related.

In a previous life, I was an on-air DJ. I didn’t do it very long, as the money just wasn’t there, and I had a wife and newborn to take care of. Back then I watched TV. There were several shows that I really enjoyed, Barney Miller, Taxi, and SNL were excellent shows (although I had trouble staying up for SNL). But my favorites were Cheers and WKRP In Cincinnati. Music and a bar? Even back then that was where my head was at.

WKRP and the cult movie FM were two of the reasons I wanted to be a DJ. I have not been able to find a source to watch FM again. Which is a major bummer because Martin Mull is so hilarious. But WKRP, well that’s a different story. I believe every episode is available on YouTube.

This episode has to be the craziest ever! According to the wiki page, it’s even based on a true story!  Check out the wiki page for some very interesting facts about the show.

 Many of the characters and even some of the stories (including season 1 episode 7, “Turkeys Away”) are based on people and events at WQXI.

As funny as this clip is, it leaves out station manager, Arthur Carlson, after the drop exclaiming “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”

But my hero’s, intrepid newsman Les Nessman (winner of the Buckeye Award!), cry of “Oh! The humanity!” makes this so damn funny.

Peace,
B

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Turkey Day!

Now. Let’s talk turkey.

I’ve smoked, fried, roasted, undercooked, overcooked, done damn near everything to that damn bird. One year we even did a bourbon brined and bourbon smoked turkey! That was interesting. I’ve cooked them whole, spatchcocked, even quartered, just the breast, you name it. But, I’ve never done this:

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I have lots of friends that are firefighters and I’ll feed them any time. But not like this!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday (even when it doesn’t coincide with my birthday). One thing I like is if I take the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of turkey week off, I get a total of nine days in a row off (counting weekends). I’m always down for extra days off! (I’m just starting day 1 for this year). 

More importantly, family and food are what make this holiday special. Even though I end up cooking for days ahead, and the day of, I enjoy it. Wifey®, not so much. We are usually the hosts for everybody, and it’s very stressful for us. That’s why last year we took off, just the two of us, to the Smokey Mountains for the holiday. We also took a cruise one year, but it kinda sucked. Not only did it feel weird not having the usual Thanksgiving trappings but the cruise was rather boring. But we lived through it. We’re still deciding what to do for this year’s turkey day. But it looks like we’re going to a friend’s house this year (although we may end up here mainly because we have more room). All I can say is that the menu had better be set by the time I go shopping later today. Any turkey large enough to feed this crew will need to start thawing today! 

One of my fondest memories of Thanksgiving over the years was my mom’s turkey pot pie that she made from the leftover turkey. That was to die for. I’m sure my siblings remember it.

As I mentioned above, last year at this time Wifey® and I were headed up to Maggie Valley, NC all by ourselves. (Start here to read about that trip. There are 6 total posts.) The granddaughters usually go with their other grandparents to somewhere in western Tennessee to visit the girl’s great-grandparents. And as much as I’d love them to be here, it’ very important they spend time with other family too. I just hope they tolerate the 15 + hour car ride well. 

But remember –

reindeer

‘Nuff Said

What are your plans for the holidays?

 

Peace,
B

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How We Spent Our Thanksgiving Week – Day 4

This is part four of the Thanksgiving series. You can find the first three here:
Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

The reference map for you;

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Day four is Thanksgiving day. So it’s a laid-back, no rush day for us.  We made a simple breakfast in the cabin since we didn’t want to make anyone work for us, even if they were open anyway. Then settled in to watch some of the usual parades. We watched some of the Asheville parade, which reminded us of our local parades, and some of the big Macy’s parade.

We did have one trip planned for today.  Wifey® found a small waterfall we had missed on our trip south on US276 on day 1.  We had to stop at Moore Cove since Moore is Wifey’s® maiden name. It’s not a very big waterfall, so the trek up to the top was easy.

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Not named for Wifey’s family (as far as we know)

 

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A smaller waterfall, but still very pretty

On the way down, we took a couple of side paths to see how the stream, or river, whatever the falls flow into traverse the area. Took Wifey’s® picture at a big rock on the way down.

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It takes years of practice to get your subject to stand just right so her face is in the shadow of a tree. I suck as a photographer.

The river that flows from the falls must join with another water source, as it is, to me at least, at “river” size now. It’s not very deep, which most of these fast flowing bodies of water aren’t, and it moves quite fast.  This picture is under the bridge at the bottom of the falls area.  We were quite intrigued with the lawn jockey.  Who put it there and why, and where are the missing body parts?

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Mysterious lawn jockey, or at least what’s left of him

 

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US276 bridge, you can just see the lawn jockey under the bridge.

As that was all we had planned for the day, we went home to have, as Arlo Gutherie said; “A Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat.” (See Arlo’s “Alice’s Restaurant”).  We started off with some shrimp sautéed in white wine and garlic, with a little chipotle thrown in as well.  We had purchased the shrimp at a local grocery store several days before.  The sign said “Fresh Carolina Shrimp”.  We wondered where the shrimp were harvested, were they wild caught in the ocean and trucked in or farm raised? Unfortunately, the girl at the counter had no clue. But it didn’t matter we bought them anyway.

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Fresh Carolina Shrimp?

Unlike last years Thanksgiving (a cruise with only a few pieces of overcooked sliced turkey on the buffet), this year we made our own feast. We had a small turkey breast that we roasted, sweet potatoes, asparagus with mushrooms, garlic, onions, and bacon, and cheddar garlic biscuits. We also had our leftover chocolate bourbon pecan pie and banana pudding from Haywoods Smokehouse we didn’t eat from the night before for dessert.  But as usual, we forgot about dessert when we were done. (More on this with day 5).

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Thanksgiving feast for two

There was nothing left to do on this day. So after we cleaned up the kitchen, we just hung out at the cabin.

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Looking west off the deck towards the sunset.

So that’s all for day four.  A little bit of rest for us, because tomorrow we’re climbing Chimney Rock!

Stay tuned for day 5!  And please leave a comment. Let me know if you’re enjoying the series, or if want more information about any of the places we went.

Peace,
B

How We Spent Our Thanksgiving Week – Day 2

(This is part two of the Thanksgiving Week series, part one can be found here.)

Again, here is the map for your general reference;

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Day two started off, as all the days did, bright and clear with a morning temp in the low 30’s. This was the only morning we had frost on the car, so I guess it dropped lower overnight than other nights.

After a good breakfast in the cabin, we headed out west on US19 towards Cherokee. Neither Wifey® nor I had to been to Cherokee in many, many years. We knew that Harrah’s had built a casino there (yuk), so we expected changes. What we remembered of the town was gone. US19 and US441 used to be nothing but tourist traps. You could park on one end of the “mall” and walk all the way thru to the other end without ever having to leave a store and use the sidewalk. They were all connected.  Then cross the street and walk back thru those shops to where you parked. The biggest problem was, even though there were different “shops” in the “mall” everyone had the same junk.  And I do mean junk.  Made in China tomahawks, bows & arrows, blankets and “handcrafted” jewelry.

This time, while there were still a few of the shops around, the look of the town has greatly improved. You can tell it’s a tourist town, but it’s much prettier and better kept.  I’m sure the casino had a lot to do with that.

We didn’t take any pictures of the town (it’s just buildings after all), but we did visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. This was not the museum I remembered from my last trip sometime in the 70’s, but it was very moving all the same.

After a short video of the Cherokee creation myth (which was really cool), you went on a self-paced tour of the rest of the displays.

Just as I was as a teenager in the 70’s I was again struck by the inhumanity the white people subjected the Native Americans too. For the Cherokee, it’s called “The Trail of Tears”. I thought it was the proper time to visit the museum since November is Native American Heritage Month.

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Quote by Chief Tecumseh, a Native American Shawnee warrior and chief, who became the primary leader of a large, multi-tribal confederacy in the early years of the nineteenth century

And to relate to this on a somewhat personal level, this is Captain Hugh Montgomery, of the 77th Highlanders. The tartan (the green and blue cloth) is the tartan of the Black Watch.  The Black Watch is a military force mostly composed of and usually commanded by a Campbell.  This is also my family’s tartan, which I wear proudly to any Celtic event I attend. Of course, the painting shows his troops overcoming the local natives (the Lower Cherokee Towns) in 1760.   Events such as this and way too many others to list here, leave me ashamed of certain aspects of my WASP heritage. In reality, his troops were sorely defeated and had to withdraw to safety.

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Captain Montgomery

We spent quite some time in Cherokee, didn’t buy much, just checking out how much had changed since our last visit. It might be nice to note that the last time “we” were in the Smokies, we didn’t know each other. This was years before we met and married (and we’ve been married almost 36 years now)!

On the way back to the cabin, we stopped at yet another waterfall. This is Soco Falls. Located just west of Maggie Valley on US19.

 

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Soco Falls

While most of the waterfalls, and some of the trails, have steps, this waterfall was mostly just a path along the road.

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See that belly there? That’s what wings and good beer will get ya!

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For some reason, Wifey kept taking pictures of my butt.  But, this is only one you’ll have to see.

That was all the sightseeing we did on day two. We tried to go to the BooJum taproom on the way home, but for some reason, they, along with many other restaurants are closed on Tuesdays! We found this quite unusual. We stopped at a little market, the Sunburst cafe that actually had two local beers on draft.  A Highland Brewing Company “Gaelic Ale” that Wifey® enjoyed and an IPA I can’t remember the name of, that was good.  But obviously not very memorable.  We finished off the night we a few more brews and some tapas at Frogs Leap Public House in Waynesville. A very enoyable day.

Hope you enjoyed day two.  Day three is up next with a visit with the Elk and getting lost in Smokey Mountain National Park.

Please leave a comment (email address is required, just to prove you’re human). But not used in any way).

Peace,
B