Friday, February 27, 2004

Summer, 1965

We went to Jackson, Mississippi, to spend the summer between George Rodney’s graduation from State and his beginning graduate school at LSU.

He had a job at an oil company, whose name I have now forgotten. It might have been American. They had some rules for employees that would probably not be tolerated in this more PC age. For example, they kept a close watch on their employees’ personal financial lives. They reasoned that these people were spending large sums of the company’s money and if they were personally undisciplined with money, that they would probably be the same with the oil company’s money.

This was a small office. I think there were five production engineers, and that summer they had two summer engineers. Besides George Rodney, there was a student from Mississippi College with a degree in, maybe, geology. This was the other person who was involved in the infamous search for the number of days in the year. They were working on a report that involved average oil production per day. They needed to know the number of days in the year. It was decided that in order to have a check that each of them would independently add the number of days in January to the number of days in February etc. They did that and when the answer came up 365, they looked up with goofy expressions on their faces. They decided not to tell their boss what they did.

He worked in an office in downtown Jackson on Capitol Street. Everyday they played some kind of gambling game with coins to determine who paid for the afternoon snacks. At the end of the summer they insisted that George Rodney pay for the last day’s snack since, as far as they could remember, he had eaten free all summer. I packed lunches for us to eat every day.

So every morning we left our little apartment, got on our bikes, and rode in opposite directions to our jobs. If it was raining, I rode the bus to my job at the medical center. I am ashamed to say that I worked at the computer center of the University Of Mississippi Medical Center.

When George Rodney got to the office the first day, his boss had one question for him. “DO you play bridge?” He said yes, but he should have answered yes, but badly. The office had a daily bridge game at lunch but one of the foursome had transferred and they badly needed a new player. He was it. George Rodney always had a good time but bridge was not his game. He never learned the rules for bidding, for example, he wanted to use logic to figure out how many tricks he thought his team could make and bid that. Once the whole office flew to Louisiana to the Port Charles oil fields. On the way down, he played bridge as a partner to the man who was boss over the whole region. He played very well and the man talked to him about joining the company permanently. On the way back, he was that boss’s partner again and played poorly. The job was not mentioned again.

We found a small apartment on Fortification Street about halfway between the Capitol and the university medical center. We moved in as soon as we could but the gas company could not turn the gas on for a few days. Our stove was gas so for those days we built little twig fires in the gravel parking lot to cook our food. Our neighbors felt sorry for us but we had a great time.

I worked in the computer center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. They were working on ways to predict the blood flow through the hearts of dogs. They would measure the increasing amount of dye put into the blood stream of the dog going into the heart and then measure the amount of dye going out. All this data was then sent to the computer center where the engineers there tried to develop mathematical models to predict the blood flow. It was a summer spent fitting curves using least squares on up. I have little real memory of what I did that summer and I don’t think I learned very much. Computer technology was very primitive then.

We had a little bit more money than we usually had. We decided to rent a piano and take piano lessons. Neither of us had much of a musical bent and that was soon confirmed but we enjoyed the summer.

Our apartment was very close to Baptist Hospital. My parents came and spent a night on their way to Florida. Mother did not sleep a wink because of all the ambulances she could hear throughout the night. At home, if she could hear the ambulance, she could usually figure out whom it was going for, and all she could think about were all the poor people in Jackson going to the hospital with no one knowing who they were.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

November 22, 1963

I was in school at Mississippi State. That day after morning classes I ate at the cafeteria and then went to the post office to pick up my mail. I had a letter from Julia so I took it upstairs to the YMCA where I sat and read it. On the stairs I heard two boys talking so animatedly that it made an impression on me.

Then I walked home to my dorm, Cresswell Hall, which was behind the President's Home. Now that site is occupied by Allen Hall.

When I got to the dorm, I saw that several people, both boys and girls were milling outside. That was unusual. As I walked by I heard one guy say "And they shot Jackie, too."

Inside I was shocked to see boys in the lobby. Boys were not allowed in the halls and rooms at all and not in the lobby until 4 c'clock.

There were a lot of boys and a lot of girls, all gathered around the one TV in the building, the one in the lobby. There were no seats but I stood in the back to see what was happening.

That is when I learned that the President had been shot. Now when something like this happens, we understand and believe.

Then things were different. Such tragedies did not happen, so my reaction was excitement. How interesting! The President has been shot. Now that was unusual.

Believe me, I had no idea he would die. I found it exciting because I could not fathom that he might die. It seemed impossible. Not in the realm of possibility.

Then there started to be rumors reported on TV that the President was dead. No, I thought, that can't be true. Then priests came out who had administered the Last Rites of the Catholic Church to the President. They reported the President was dead.

And I began to worry and be afraid. We were watching CBS with Walter Cronkite reporting. He was in his shirtsleeves and he took off his glasses and reported the President was dead.

Much has been written about the South not liking President Kennedy. The South did not like the President. Mississippi, in particular, did not like the Kennedys. I remember seeing caps being sold outside football games that said TMK, Too Many Kennedys.

But I remember that the South, and Mississippi in particular, reacted to the President's death with shock, fear, deep sadness, and regret. Mississippi mourned. I never heard anyone say anything other than bitterly condemn the assasination.

The rest is hazy. I remember talking to George Rodney about it and expressing my deep fears. What would happen? I could not believe the world would just go on after such a trajedy. Now we have had so many blows that we understand that the world will change and go on.

George Rodney assured me, as he always did, that things were going to be okay. And, as I always did, I believed him.

I miss that. Now I have no one to assure me that things are going to be okay, and I know, that with him gone, things can never be okay for me.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

I was asleep on September 11, 2001, when the planes hit the World Trade Center. Julia and Jay called me. I think Julia called first, waking me up, and telling me what had happened, and then Jay beeped in.

I turned the TV on and watched a bit while I was on the phone. I remember being astounded to see the film of the second plane hitting the building. There it was right there on tape.

I can't imagine any work got done in this country that day. The TV was riveting and I couldn't take my eyes off it. The big holes in the buildings, the worrying and praying for the people on the floors above the hole. I thought all the people on the lower floors could walk down and would be saved.

But it was horrible. Beth called, so disturbed about the people jumping. I told her what I thought about it. That those were lucky ones. They had decided to take their fate in their own hands. Not accepting the awful end that had been planned for them but deciding themselves what it would be. Also I had heard that people who have attempted suicide by jumping off bridges and who then have survived have described the fall as exhilarating and euphoric. So these people chose their fate and then did not suffer.

Still the scenes were awful beyond belief. Then the plane hit the Pentagon. At first reporters in Washington saw smoke across the Potomac.

After that we wondered what else was going to happen. How many were there? I don't know when we heard about the plane crashing in Pennsylvania. Julia called me several times to ask Is that all? Do you think it's over? I hope so is all I could answer.

Then the awful moment when the first tower fell. It fell. To this day I can hardly believe it. If I were a fiction writer, I would never have made this up. It would have seemed too wildly improbably. Then the other tower fell.

All the dust and debris. People running for their lives, covered in ashes. Rescue workers going the other way, into danger.

All planes were grounded. To this day, I am amazed at how well this calamity was handled. I would never have thought to ground all the planes, but now it seems obvious. All in all, althought some mistakes were made, I am proud of my country. Proud if the way the people in New York and the government handled the crisis. And the people in the rest of the country reponded. Anything they needed, we gladly gave.

It became more than I could handle so Julia and I decided to go to the volleyball game at the high school, which was still on schedule.

At the school, the talk was of gas lines, and how high gas prices were going to go. After the game, many were going to line up to fill their tanks. I thought it was silly. I was not going to wait in line to save a few cents and, if the supply of oil was cut off, one tank would hardly make a difference.

My brother James was at the game, taking pictures and writing it up for the local paper. As he left the game, he later told me, he saw a jet trail being left by a plane he could see above the American flag at half staff. How sad and proud it was to know that was a military plane, guarding the skies.

None of us knew that day what was ahead. How we and the world would react. And that pilot in sky, what was he thinking, what was he looking for, what was he dreading.

AFter the game, I went back home and watched more TV. I watched TV 16 hours a day for three days. I could not get away from it. The evil of the perpetrators and the good of the rescuers.

Then it was too much. I could not watch it anymore. Just could not, but that was all that was on TV, and when it was turned off, all I could think about was the trajedy.

I needed something to do to get my mind off it. I went through my old video tapes and took out the ones of Joan Rivers selling jewelry on QVC. I watched these tapes for hours. So silly and inconsequential, I laughed and it helped.

The first football game after 9-11 was the Mississippi State-South Carolina game in Starkville on Thursday night, the week after. I had heard they were going to be collecting money at the game so I took my contribution and dropped it in cash in the Red Cross bucket as I went in. Getting a tax deduction for it seemed too trivial to bother with.

(I think we lost the game.) There was a tribute at half time to those who had died, and especially for a Mississippi State graduate, an officer at the Pentagon, who had died.

Last year my sister Julia, nephew Jay, and I went to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the plane crashed. It was a rainy and rather dreary day. The site is way out in the country. However the route is well sign-posted, and I understand that the Pennsylvania Turnpike toll booths will give out maps of how to get there.

The road is bad, but for a good reason, so many people have been there to pay tribute that the road is full of potholes. Some have said there is not much to see there. That is true in a way. All you can see is a mound of dirt off in the distance but it is the meaning, the significance we give this place, that is important, not the actual physical sight. This is where Americans fought back.

There is a gravel parking lot and a fenced area where there are many, many tributes. A long, 15 foot high fence covered with flowers, hats, stuffed animals, and everything else that people feel compelled to leave. Then there are real tributes, with concrete footings, and bronze plaques. From all over the world.

The people of the area have formed a volunteer organization to help visitors. There is always someone there during daylight hours to help people. I enjoyed talking to the volunteer that day and I am very impressed and pleased that they have done this.

The National Park Service has bought the land for a National Historic Site. They will fix it up and build an Interpretive Center. I much prefer it as it is now. People's heartfelt tributes there on the ground and a volunteer who really cares.

I urge everyone to write up their own account of what happened and how they felt on September 11. Do it for your grandchildren.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Movie Review


We all know this story. The miracle hockey win of the young US hockey team over the professional Soviet team in the 1980 Olympics. But it was wonderful to see it again.

Kurt Russell was great as Herb Brooks the coach. His mannerisms, down to the chewing, was perfect.

The only thing wrong with this movie is that we DO know what happens. We know the story so there are almost no surprises. And there is too much hockey playing for me.

Warnings: I don't even remember any bad language.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Yesterday on the early morning show on CNN the weatherman gave a question. Suppose the temperature today is 0 degrees. What is tomorrow's temperature if it is twice as cold as today?

Eventually he gave the answer as something like -230 degrees. I forget exactly what absolute zero is but the answer was half way between zero and absolute zero.

There are several things wrong with this problem. First, I don't know how to measure "cold." I know how to measure "hot." It is the measure of the motion of molecules but what is cold.

If I were going to measure cold, I would say it is how much lower the temperature is below comfortable. Therefore, assuming that 72 degrees is comfortable, the answer to the question would be -72 degrees.

I also have a problem with using the word twice when correctly it should have been half. I think twice should be used for increasing and fractions for decreasing.

I concede that this is a totally unimportant subject but it bothers me and led to a lot of thinking on my part.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Trying to post.

Snow. It covers a lot of mistakes. Like in the old Gospel song "He washed It White as Snow."

It started snowing here early Sunday morning. It came down in great clumps and I thought surely it was too warm for the snow to stick. But it kept coming down and the end of the day we had about 6 inches.

Lovely snow covering the ugly leaves and sticks and dry grass. My brother James and sister-in-law Rene had come on Saturday to take down my rail fence. It needed too many repairs and I didn't want to do it. They loaded up the fence and put it up at their house. (They are fast workers.) Rene sent me an email picture of the fence in the snow. Just beautiful.

The snow melted a lot Monday and most on Tuesday but still there was no school in Chester County on Tuesday.

The amazing thing about the snow is that there was no snow in Madison County. I was talking to Julia Sunday morning and she said the snow had stopped there. I didn't think anything about it at the time but truly the snow had stopped there.

While I got 6 inches, Julia, 13 miles away, got absolutely no accumulation. You would think the snow would fade away gradually but it just stopped cold in Pinson.

This is the first snow of the year and it is already the middle of February. I called Beth to report on the snow and she was riding her bike on the beach in the sunshine. She was happy and I was happy.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Mother spends all her day sitting in her chair by the nursing station. Her unofficial chair is the second one against the wall. It is not assigned but no one else sits there. She can see the people coming in the front door and the people passing in the hall.

Miss Louise sits in the first chair. Today they had valentines left by a 4-H club. I took Mother's to her room. Then Mother and Miss Louise started their routine. Miss Louise hands Mother her valentine and says it is not hers. Mother hands it back and says it isn't hers either. Eventually I take the valentine and lay it on a chair.

Across the vestibule are no chairs. This is where the wheelchair people sit. A woman starts talking loudly. She wants to go to her room but she can't because she has both a wheelchair and a walker. She says they gave her the walker and she is not supposed to be without it.

I offer to take it to her room. She takes me up on it. She paddles to the first room which she says is hers. It is because she reads her name on the door. But she doesn't know which of the two beds is hers. The B by her name indicates the window bed.

I take her over there and she insists we angle the wheelchair just right. Then she takes the walker from me and walks out, changes her mind, and asks again which is her bed. I remind her it is the window bed. This up and down skit goes on. Each time she has to ask me or her roommate which is her bed. Finally she sits down and stays.

She walks well. I think the wheelchair is not hers. She probably walked outside and just sat down in it. Once there she thought it was hers. Later I see the wheel chair folded up in the hall.

I go back to Mother, grateful for something else. Everyone tells me to be grateful that Mother can recognize us. I am but now I am grateful she can find her bed.

How awful it must be not to be able to find your bed, not to know where you belong. That would be utterly lost in this world. Just totally. and perpetually, confused.

Mother can find her bed. She can find her room and the dining room. They are very close together and only one turn. Two turns and she couldn't do it, no matter how many times I showed her.

So life is good. Mother knows me and can find her bed.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Movie Reviews

Girl with a Pearl Earring
In 17th century Holland, Vermeer painted a picture of a girl with a scarf wrapped around her head and wearing a pearl earring. The book and movie is a fictional recreation of that episode.

The movie is beautifully filmed and makes the bland colors look lovely. What is not lovely is how hard life was during that era. Grete goes to the house of the painter as a maid. She cleans, cooks, washes, mixes paints, dusts, scrubs doorsteps, with little remuneration and no respect.

If you read the book, you will love it. If you did not, you will think it slow-moving.

Warnings: Premarital sex implied.
Stars:**** ( for me)

Whale Rider

A girl is born in New Zealand in a long line of Maori chiefs. Her mother and twin brother dies during the birth.

She is taken in by her grandfather. He is good to her even though, being female, she is a great disappointment to him.

The film show life in New Zealand today. If you don't have an interest in New Zealand or Maoris, this movie probably isn't for you. If you see it, it is important to know that "pakeha" means white person.

Warning: Some bad language.

Worth reading.

fighting words A wartime lexicon.

All Against Bush
Whom should the Democrats nominate?
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Sunday, Feb. 8, 2004, at 9:39 AM PT

Since the editors at Slate have been good enough to ask me for my Democratic pick, I hasten to share the experience of an ill-spent political lifetime. The only shard of wisdom I have acquired over the years is this: Personalities count for much more than issues. This might not be true in the few remaining countries that have programmatic and parliamentary contests based on competing political manifestos, but it is absolutely true of presidential elections in the United States. The character of the candidate is itself the only "issue," and it is furthermore the only "issue" about which a thinking voter can be expected to make up his or her mind.

To phrase the matter in another way, I know many people who are much more intelligent than George Bush (even if they do keep saying so themselves) and whom I have heard, over the past decades, talk with perfect seriousness about the prospect of electing Gary Hart, Michael Dukakis, Bill Bradley, or Tom Harkin as president of the United States. Do such smart people really wish that Michael Dukakis had been president when Saddam invaded Kuwait, or when Mikhail Gorbachev began to signal from Moscow? Of course they don't, or not really, but they always think it must be better by axiom to have a Democrat (or "any Democrat" as they often put it) in office. Are they then in favor of permanent one-party rule? Of course not! They are for a healthy bipartisan system, where their candidate always wins. (One of the pleasures of the recent cycle has been the discovery of the true value of an "endorsement": If only Dukakis had endorsed Dean as well. Or perhaps he did, and I didn't notice.)

Party-mindedness is an enemy in itself, if only because it makes intelligent people act and think stupidly. But the belief in the candidate's "program" is hardly less of a trap. I hate to say it, but a successful contender for office can change his mind on, say, universal health care. What he cannot change is his personality. If he's a money-grubbing, narcissistic, and approval-seeking psycho at the start, he will not doff these qualities in the Oval Office. One ought therefore to begin by eliminating all those who are running for some kind of therapeutic or Oedipal reason. (This doesn't cost much: It would only have deprived us of Kennedy, Nixon, Hart, and Clinton in the recent past, and superior candidates from both parties were readily available in all those instances.)

With this in mind, one reviews the current Democratic "field." I claim no prescience for predicting the implosion of Howard Dean: He was obviously very lucky to get as far as the governorship of Vermont. A man who will say anything to any audience if he thinks it will raise the roof is a candidate to be shunned: It should have been all over when he trashed his Hippocratic oath to invent a story about an incest victim from his physician's office. Think of all the money he raised and squandered: It would have been far better spent donated to the reconstruction of Iraq. His entire campaign was, to borrow one of his sillier slogans, a distraction from the hunt for al-Qaida.

Dennis Kucinich is the sort of guy who we need in politics. He thinks long-term, and he doesn't think that in the short or long term it pays to trade principles for compromises. That's the attitude one wants in a president, of any party. This, however, is probably not the year for a man who basically believes in the downsizing of the United States.

Wesley Clark is a loss to the United States armed forces, and President Clinton and Defense Secretary Cohen ought to have been excoriated for firing him when they did, as well as for how they did it. Many Kosovars owe their lives to Clark, and the victory won in that war also helped to bring at least a semblance of democracy to Serbia. But there's something bizarre about a conceited man in uniform who now can't remember which regime-change he favored or why, which party he belongs to, or which "faith-based" community he espouses. He also has a weakness for half-cooked conspiracy stories and gets snappish when he's questioned on the last weird thing he said. Again, beware of those who run to pacify their internal demons.

John Kerry should decide whether he's a moral hero for fighting in a futile and filthy war against the Vietnamese revolution, or for protesting against that war. Can I guess from his demeanor which of the two was his "noble cause"? No. Shouldn't I know by now? Yes, I should, since it's not evident at this relatively late date whether or not he's proud of voting to remove Saddam Hussein. As with most senior Democrats, Kerry's revolving-door record with lobbyists and donors is one to make Cheney and Bush look like amateurs: As with all Democratic primary seasons there is an agreement to forget this collectively in the interests of "change." That's why Lucy in "Peanuts" has become a great national character.

Nothing occurs to me when I think about Al Sharpton, but as a rule it's even worse to run as "Reverend" than it is as "General." We haven't sunk to the point where we need either. It's a relief to see how few black voters identify with a big-mouth shake-down artist, against the patronizing expectations of the media, whether it's an election year or not.

A couple of years ago I wrote a profile of Sen. John Edwards for Vanity Fair and decided that he is a good man who is in politics for good reasons. He voted for the essential measures on Iraq, but has also made some trenchant criticisms of the Homeland Security farce. I'd add to this that he has since—unlike Joseph Lieberman, say—given up his very promising Senate career in order to run. I leave to you the calculations about his Southern roots, his trial-lawyer connections, and all the rest of it, except to say that he earned his money from fighting large and negligent corporations rather than from fawning on them. I'm totally bored with the idea of "small town" origins, since for generations most Americans have lived either in big cities or suburbs, and it's high time for someone to advertise himself as urbane. However, a good man can be glimpsed even through the necessary hypocrisies of election time. He has a terrific wife, as well.

I'm a single-issue person at present, and the single issue in case you are wondering is the tenacious and unapologetic defense of civilized societies against the intensifying menace of clerical barbarism. If in the smallest doubt about this, I would suggest a vote for the re-election of George Bush, precisely because he himself isn't prey to any doubt on the point. There are worse things than simple mindedness—pseudo-intellectuality, for example. Civil unions for homosexuals, or prescription-drug programs, are not even going to be in second or third place if we get this wrong. And presidents can't make much difference to the stock market or the employment rate or to income distribution. But they can and must uphold their oath to defend the country. So, having said that "issues" are only tangential to campaigns, the best estimate I can make is one about the seriousness of individuals. I was open-mouthed at the idea that anyone would even consider entrusting the defense of the United States and its Constitution to Howard Dean, but that problem appears to have taken care of itself, even if only through the sort of voter-intuition that one is ultimately forced to recommend. Make up your own mind, is my own best recommendation, and put "electability" (once a Dean property, for heaven's sake) to one side. An Edwards-Kerry ticket would be made up of serious men, at least, and this is a test that people and politicians have to pass whether they are looking for votes or not.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Beth and Laura look a lot alike. People that meet them think they are sisters. They used to say they are fake cousins since they call each others parents Aunt and Uncle but that didn't work so now they usually just go with cousins to avoid explanations. (And what beautiful cousins they are!!!)

On Friday I checked out of the hotel and walked to Beth's house where I stayed for the next two nights.

Beth and Laura live in a house with palm trees outside. Downstairs are a two car garage that is half filled with junk so it only holds one car. For some reason I don't know Beth gets to house her car there.

Also downstairs is Beth's bedroom and bath. Up a spiral staircase is the rest of the house: a living room, dining room which also functions as a study for Laura, kitchen, and Laura's bedroom and bath.

They have it nicely furnished with a combination of their furniture. The living room has pictures of bridges: bridges in Venice, New York, San Francisco, and Jacksonville. The Jacksonville bridge picture was painted by a former boy friend of Beth. It is very large and he did a beautiful job.

Friday night Laura, Beth, and I went to the movies to see Girl with a Pearl Earring, a fictitious treatment of a famous painting by Vermeer. Beth and I had both read the book and were anxious to see it. Laura just went along with us to her regret.

The movie just reiterated to me how hard life was in the 1600's. Hard work, cold, no justice, no respect for women. Beth and I enjoyed the movie but Laura thought it was slow-moving and in the end boring.

That night, while Beth slept upstairs on the couch, I slept in her bed. I was so cozy with her down comforter and fake fur throw.

Unfortunately there are some frat boys that live next door to them. The girls think they are nice but not their guests when they have parties. Particularly because they will not allow guests to smoke in their house. This drives the smokers out to Beth and Laura's lawn and then the rest of the party goes out there to be with them. They are loud, very loud. Beth says the girls are the worst; she calls them Brittney wannabes.

So I am sleeping peacefully until about one am when the party gets outside and gets loud. Just yelling and talking and a lot of profanity. Not good.

Saturday Beth and I bought her a surfboard at a pawn shop. Now she looks forward to surfing in the spring with her own board. Right now the water is too cold although there are always a lot of surfers out there wearing body suits. Body suits are expensive so Beth will have to wait.

Then we went to Amelia Island up the coast from Jacksonville. It required taking a ferry across the St. Johns river. Ferries are always fun. They say that sometimes dolphins follow the ferry but not Saturday.

Laura was studying so it was just Beth and I.

We passed a mixture of houses. The newer ones are all the homes of millionaires. The older ones are middle class and will probably be replaced by more high rises in the coming years. We passed the Ritz-Carleton. I looked at the front but will never be able to afford to pass their portal.

Our destination was the town of San Fernandino Beach. I remember this well from the year of 1957. Our family went to Florida every summer to visit our grandmother Webb but we only went to Pensacola.

In 1957 Daddy decided that we would see the rest of Florida. We left my baby sister Janice and my baby brother James at my grandmother Seaton's and Mother, Daddy, June, John, and I left for Florida. Julia was already married so she didn't go. This trip brings back bad memories for Janice and James, because they missed out on a great trip.

We spent our first night at a motel in Waycross, Georgia. How excited I was! I was 13 and this was the first time I had ever spent the night in a motel. All five of us were in the one room. I thought it was the most marvelous place I had ever seen. It seemed so luxurious. I resolved that when I grew up I would have my bedroom look like a motel room.

The next day we drove further east and hit the Atlantic Ocean at Fernandino Beach. We loved the waves, so much bigger than the ones on the Gulf of Mexico at Pensacola.

So now 47 years later, Beth and I were at Fernandino Beach. It has become a tourist town with a restored mainstreet with precious little boutique stores. Since we could get along fine if no one ever bought these wares, I call it an up-scale (very up-scale) Gatlinburg.

Beth and I ate at a place she had eaten before when she went up there with Richard, Carol, and Laura. She had a Turkey with Brie sandwich. I forget what I had.

Then we went to the shop that was the whole object of the trip: a store that sold things with university and sports teams logos. We bought something for Anne as we had planned. They had so many wonderful things. I could not resist a music box for myself. It is a wood box with the Mississippi State logo on the top. When it is opened up, it plays the Mississippi State fight song and a little band with MSU flags rotates on a football field with MSU decorated end zones. So cute.

We also bought a little fudge. Beth said that Richard had bought fudge there. I was surprised until she said that Carol was elsewhere. Carol does a very good job of supervising Richard's diet since his bypass operation.

Back at Beth's on Saturday night we watched the movie Whale Rider. The girl who stars in the picture had been nominated for an Oscar for best leading actress for her performance.

Laura came in during the middle of the movie but did not watch it. That is a good thing or she never would have let Beth or I pick out a movie ever again.

Beth and I enjoyed the movie but if someone had no great interest in New Zealand or Maoridom then I can't imagine that they would be interested in this movie.

Saturday night was a repeat of Friday night with the party next door even though Beth had asked them for some consideration since I was there.

Sunday morning was cool and rainy as Beth took me to the airport. I got to Nashville and it was the same weather.

I had not realized how rejuvenating it is to go for a warm climate vacation in the wintertime. I highly recommend it, especially if you can also visit Beth and Laura.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

During the day in Florida, I would read in the morning, sometimes on the balcony watching people on the beach.There is almost always people there: walkers, surfers, fishermen, etc.

In the afternoon I would take a long walk on the beach myself. I spent a lot of time watching them tear down an old hotel on the the waterfront. The old hotels, restaurants, and low-rise apartment buildings are going and being replaced by the new high-rise condiminium developments.

This particular hotel was being torn down using one of those heavy iron balls. The ball would swing against the building and concrete slabs would fall several stories. It was fascinating and many other people were always there watching also. I know that Adam and George would have loved this. Maybe we are not so adult as we pretend we are.

Thursday night they finished the job by knocking down the 10 storied shaft that held the stairs. The streets were blocked off and there were many, many people watching. It was exciting as it fell in a cloud of dust but it was over in seconds after we had waited for it for an hour and a half.

I found Beth's favorite store, Goodwill, and bought several books. My luggage is always heavy with books, both coming and going. Two of the books, No One Left to Lie To by Christopher Hitchens and The PC Police by Tammy Bruce, I read while in Florida and I left them for Beth to read.

Monday night Beth and I met her roommate Laura and another friend Merideth at a restaurant on the Intracoastal waterway for dinner.

Laura is the daughter of our old, old (in length of friendship) friends Richard and Caroll Henderson of Florence, South Carolina. We met them when Richard and George Rodney were graduate students together at LSU. Laura is now studying psychology in graduate school at the University of North Florida.

Merideth teaches speech at UNF.

There is a rivalry between the beach people and the people in Jacksonville. Beth has a bumper sticker on her car that says "Islander. We don't cross the ditch." Meaning they stay in the beach area and don't cross the Intracoastal Waterway.

The food was good and the companionship was better.

Tuesday night Beth spent with me at the hotel watching the results of the New Hampshire primary. Beth has no TV reception so she kept wanting them to show Dean's Iowa speech but they never did. Beth and Laura have no cable. They sometimes can get one channel over the air. I brought them a TV antenna (rabbit-ears) this time but their TV does not have the proper connection for it. They will have to buy an adapter at Radio Shack. Then I will be able to watch the networks at their house.

Beth and I played Mexican dominoes and she beat me handily. I was not happy about this.

Wednesday night Beth, Laura, and I ate at a Chinese place, a real hole in the wall. Beth said the food was good but the help was rude. I have never had a rude Chinese server and now I still haven't as the woman was very civil to us. The food servings were gargantuan. We got two orders for the three of us but there was enough left for my lunch the next day.

Monday, February 02, 2004

When it is cold and rainy and dreary, it is hard to pack for a trip to a more tropical climate. With gloom outside my window, I had trouble packing suitable clothing for my week long visit to Beth in Florida.

I packed a knit cap but no sun hat. I packed warm boots but no sandals. So I arrived in Jacksonville on Sunday the 25th with inadequate clothing because it was sunny and warm there.

I had left Anne in a house of sickness. She had the flu and Emma had strip throat with rash. Then later Adam got fifth disease and George got strep. And to top it all, today, the 2nd Ken has strep.

I couldn't help but think that the entire Rucker family could use some of that Florida sunshine.

After the short, direct flight from Nashville Beth and I ate Sunday dinner at Famous Amos' which is, surprisingly, not a cookie place but a restaurant. I have gotten tired of fast food and I didn't eat at McDonald's or any other such place while I was in Florida. I asked Beth for restaurants "with vegetables." The food at Famous Amos' was good and the waitress called me Sweetie. My kind of place.

I checked into the Comfort Inn Oceanfront because I had gotten a good price on Priceline for the weekdays. The weekend was a different matter so I then I moved to Beth's.

When I left my room on Monday morning for breakfast, I had a surprise outside my door. My sweet daughter had gone by the hotel on her way to work and, without waking me, left me some things she thought I might need: a beach chair, a cooler, and a sun tent. Beth is thoughtful of her mother.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

My first post.

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