Very Well Written, Love the Title…Thank You Forrest

Of all the money that e’er I spent

I spent it in good company

And all the harm that e’er I’ve done

Alas, it was to none but me 

And all I’ve done for want of wit

To memory now I can’t recall

So fill to me the parting glass

Good night and joy be with you all.

Oh all the comrades that e’er I’ve had

Are sorry for my going away

And all the sweethearts that e’er I’ve had

Would wish me one more day to stay

But since it falls unto my lot

That I should rise and you should not

I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call

Good night and joy be with you all

Good night and joy be with you all.

   “The Parting Glass” 

 

I started my day today with tears in my eyes.

Not that it’s all that unusual for me to cry.

I’ve said it often:

I cry when I write, and I write when I cry.

So here I am again.

I borrowed the lyrics above from a blog post I read first thing this morning.  The opening of a longer essay titled The Final Flash from the blogger’s website called Flashes of the Obvious. 

The Final Flash was posted January 8, 2018 and written by a friend of mine.

I wrote about that friend back in September.

You may remember.

My friend who was a decorated national hero, a writer, a historian, an engineer, a pillar of his church, a father, and a husband…

My friend, who was as in Matthew 25:21,  a good and faithful servant … who was set over many things, and while on this earth, had entered into the joy of the Lord, to the benefit of many of us.

My friend who had Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.

When I wrote my essay inspired by his story I made it his decision as to whether I would use his name, and his response was “It doesn’t need my name attached to be effective.”

But you should know his name.

The inspiration for that essay was man named Forrest Snyder.

In life Forrest taught many of us many things.  He was always encouraging to me as I began to share my writing publicly.

In fact the very first comment that I received on my very first post Three Score and Counting on my website,  was from Forrest:

“Very well written. Love the title. Welcome to the blogosphere.”

As time went on he often commented on my essays and I always appreciated the feedback.

Forrest Snyder entered into the joy of his Lord, this time for the everlasting, on the morning of January 14, 2018; six days after posting The Final Flash.

Very well written my friend; love the title…we will miss you.

But now you can rest Forrest, there is no need to struggle anymore.  Breathe deeply now and fill your new lungs with Heaven’s breath.

Rest in peace.  Those that knew you will have many memories to carry you with them.

And through your written words you may continue to influence those who didn’t have the opportunity to meet you.

So if you didn’t know Forrest, I encourage you to visit Flashes of the Obvious from time to time and read.

I particularly encourage you to read The Final Flash.

And finally, when it’s all over and I rest again in the arms of my Heavenly Father, to do so secure in the knowledge that I used every gift and opportunity He gave me to its fullest. (from Man With a Mission, by Forrest Snyder)

 

Thank you Forrest.

My friend Forrest (photo from Facebook)

 

Memorial donations can be made to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation.

 

 

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Resolutions…What a Waste

image courtesy of the What The Health facebook page

Animals living in their own waste…they’re living next to animals that are sick or even dead…stuck in cages with these animals where bacteria tends to spread…

 Three thousand people die every year in the United States from Salmonella…twenty thousand people dying from antibiotic resistance deaths…

 …if you live near a swine spray field …three times more likely to have a MRSA infection…

 …ten million pigs in North Carolina produce the waste of one hundred million humans…this is the equivalent of the entire eastern seaboard flushing their toilets in to North Carolina…

The pig’s waste falls through slats in the floors of the sheds they are forced to live in… then pumped into giant waste pits…and pumped out unfiltered on to fields…

(From the documentary “What the Health”)

 

Happy New Year!

Time to bust out some new resolutions!

Maybe I’ll finally fix that sink that has never drained properly…

Maybe I’ll quit procrastinating…

Maybe join the gym…

Maybe change that diet and eat healthier too…

 

A few months ago my wife decided to change her diet.  Not that she was eating poorly to begin with; she almost never ate meat with the exception of some chicken and fish; but this time she was going to try to live on a plant based diet only.  No animal anything. 

No cheese, no eggs, no chicken, no beef, nothing dairy; nothing derived from an animal.

Just plants. 

I thought I might go along with this and do it with her but I insisted that until the freezers were purged of all the leftovers and frozen foods; all those meatballs, chicken wings, and other food stuffs we had accumulated, I would hold back.  Somebody had to eat that stuff, it would be wasteful!

So while my wife got healthier… I got heavier. 

It would go something like this: 

ME: “Hey honey, how are you…you’re on your way home? Good, are you hungry what do you want for dinner?   

KIM:  “No not really, I had a big salad for lunch.

ME: “Oh… okay… no problem I will just stop and get some bread,   get some meatballs out of the freezer and eat a meatball sub.

The next day… 

ME: “Oh hey honey, great I will see you at home.  Are you hungry, want me to make something for dinner? “

KIM: “No, you know I had some beans and rice later in the afternoon today so I am good.

ME: “Okay… no problem… it’s all good…hey you know I will just have a meatball sub…it’s fine don’t worry about me. “

 So while my wife cleansed her body of toxins; I cleansed the freezers.   

And I gained weight. 

 All this got started with my wife by her watching the documentary I illustrated at the beginning of this essay. 

The documentary titled What the Health.

Recently while sitting with my parents and talking about growing up in New Jersey we got on the topic of septic tanks. 

Because back when I was growing up before they put the sewers in Oceanport in the 70’s, septic tanks were common.  You had a septic tank on your property that held the waste until it got full, and then a truck would come along and pump out the sewage until the tank got full again, and so on and so on.

My grandmother had a couple of these septic tanks on her property and she lived across the street.   

My parents went on to explain that they heard that these sewer trucks would pump out the sewage and then drive the raw sewage down to farms in south Jersey where it would be sprayed on the fruits and vegetable fields as fertilizer. 

What the hellllth?

Wait, wait, wait so I could have pooed at my grandma’s house in central Jersey and my poo could then have been driven to south Jersey and sprayed on a head of lettuce that may have subsequently ended up in my salad bowl; or on strawberries that may have been on my strawberry shortcake birthday cakes that I loved so much?

Somehow that whole pig spray issue sounded rather genteel to me now…

I seriously don’t know what to eat after learning all this…the meat is bad…the veggies are sprayed with poo…

Probably not mine anymore but maybe someone else’s!

What kind of resolution should I make?

Never to talk to my parents about septic tanks again?

Maybe…

And why couldn’t my good plumber friend from New Jersey have retired to Northern Virginia and not the west coast of Florida?  I don’t want to fix that drain.

And I already joined a gym, so at least my bank account is getting leaner.

I don’t know what to do…

I know… I will procrastinate.

That always works for me…

Now what is it that I could be more resolute about?…

 

If you would like more information about the film visit the What the Health website.  For additional information visit their facebook page.  It’s worth a look, draw your own conclusions.

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2017 Christmas Letter

 Christmas 2017

I went to see Santa today.

It had been a long time since I had gone to see Santa.

For many years after Donny’s accident I would go visit Santa, have my photo taken, and frame the photo or photos with a letter to my wife that was meant to cheer her up.

It would always be the first gift of Christmas.

As the years went by and things got more hectic and wall space began to run low, I stopped.

Eventually after some downsizing and renovations those framed items were taken down from the walls and stored somewhere in the chance that someday one or all of my kids would remember and want one or two.

Not only did I have my picture taken with Santa, most of those photos were taken with the same Santa, who I got to know over the years and he even looked forward to seeing me come back each year.

I don’t remember if I have shared this story before and I apologize if I am repeating myself.   I have learned that repeating yourself is just a part of growing older, which I am.

But Christmas is about memories, those that we pull out of boxes each year or put in picture frames; and those that we work so hard to plan for so we can create new ones that we hope will be engraved in the memories of our kids and now our grand kids.

That is what visiting Santa did for me each year, he created a memory for me, for my wife, and after a few years for him too.

But Kim and I had already begun to create some memories for this holiday season.

It started by spending Thanksgiving with Ethan and Christian in Florida.  Oh yeah and Alexa and Namaan were there too.

Then upon returning home, my wife went on a tear and decided that in order to make better memories for the kids who were all going to be here for Christmas this year, we needed to create fun space by downsizing even more and renovating the basement.  That meant I had to take apart my office one piece at a time and put it in bins and boxes to be moved elsewhere while the new floor was installed and the painting done.

And just like opening boxes of Christmas memories each year, this task made me touch a lot of things I hadn’t picked up in a long time like:

My photo of Donny grinning and holding up his ticket at our Monmouth Park wedding reception;  my sterling silver guitar pick with “Pop Pop” engraved on it; the card and letter from my wife  for our tenth anniversary with our tickets to the Kentucky Derby.

Haskell hats, and Derby hats, and glasses, and more photos; guitars and vintage harmonicas; “The Little Chickens” Blizzard Blend wine bottled during a snowstorm when we were all stuck together in the house.  All of it brought me back to some place and time…and then it got put in a box.

And though the whole thing really stressed me out, at the time my wife said to me “when this is all done, you will say ‘Thank You Honey.’”

Next up,   was a trip with Cameron to see Santa on a Polar Express like train ride (the Northern Express) from Cumberland to Frostburg, Maryland and back that was an awesome day and a forever memory.

The next day I put up the really nice artificial Christmas tree with the lights already built in that I picked up really cheap at the yard sale.  And in typical Christiansen curse fashion only the middle section lights worked…well, so I save some money on the electric I guess.

And then today I get the idea that it might be nice to go visit my Santa friend again.

So I went, but sadly my Santa friend was not there anymore and hadn’t been there for a couple of years according to the girl I spoke with at the desk.  The last time I had stopped to check on him I was told he had taken that year off because his wife was very sick.  I am hoping he and Mrs. Claus are well and reclining on a beach on the west coast of Florida right now.

My new Santa was okay of course but since there were so many other kids waiting impatiently in line to see Santa (oh…and they had reservations!)  I didn’t have too much time in the chair so I didn’t get to tell him what I wanted for Christmas.

But If I could have I would have told him I wanted this Christmas to be more special than any other before.

That I wanted to spend quality time with my grandchildren;

That I wanted to enjoy the company of my kids and family and friends;

That I wanted my wife to have the happiest Christmas ever;

And that most of all I wanted some young kid to show me how to use the new Xbox One in the new basement.

Time goes on and age changes us all; Santa Clauses retire, and technology leaves me standing in front of a massive TV flailing my arms to no result.  And even as I write this, I am dribbling oatmeal on my sweater.

Though once again it has been a year of change for my family, God has been good.

 

And to my wife I must say I am not going to write you a letter this year and put it in a frame with my new Santa photo, have it be the first gift of Christmas, then hang it on the wall.

But I am going to say, “Thank you Honey.”

For all those Christmases and all those memories.

Let’s hope that time allows us to enjoy many more.

And to all of you out there I hope your Christmas season has been as good as mine.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from my family to yours.

Kim and Curt

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  James 1:17

This year’s Santa Pic

The Christmas Card. Ethan and Christian with Santa. Cameron with Santa. My “new” Christmas tree. Alexa, Hayley, Savannah, and Donny with Santa…not sure date.

This year’s Santa Pic too.

With Santa on the “Polar Express” Train

Here are a few of my friend Santa. He was always a good sport.

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Hey Joe, Where You Going With That Gun In Your Hand

I left the house this morning with a song stuck in my head. Hey Joe, a song made popular by the Jimi Hendrix Experience and one of my favorite Hendrix tunes.

It’s not a very happy song however.

Hey Joe, where you goin’ with that gun of yours?
Hey Joe, I said where you goin’ with that gun in your hand,

I don’t know why I had this song in my head this morning but maybe all the recent violence and these lyrics had something to do with it.

I spend a lot of Sunday mornings in church, don’t hold that against me.  I guess one doesn’t expect to go to church and be confronted by a shooter, but as we all know, that happened this past Sunday.  But then again one doesn’t expect to go to school, a concert, a nightclub, or a softball game and have that happen there either; have their wife or husband killed; their kids killed; their mother, father, sister, brother killed; their friends killed.  The venue doesn’t matter, it’s all horrific.

And it’s final, they are gone…they’re just gone.

 

I read on Facebook last night that the recent rash of killings and violence was on account of the Republicans.

Well I don’t know if all that’s true

Cause’ you got me and baby I got you…

Wow sorry, there I go again, I just launched into a Sonny and Cher song…my wife says I do that a lot; hum, or sing mostly when I am nervous or uncomfortable.

But seriously, I don’t know whether all these bad things that are happening are really because of the Republicans.

But still, I am being vigilant.  Especially when I am around my Republican friends.

 

It is true though, I do hum a lot and sing a lot because I do love music… and I like to sing. And not just when I am nervous, I like to sing just as long as no one else can really hear me.  I can sing in a crowd, not to a crowd.

I was in church Sunday morning in Western Pennsylvania.  Since the pastors were on vacation, the sermon was delivered by a lay speaker.  A guy who is maybe a little younger than me; a guy who if I had to guess might be dealing with some health issues; a guy who just lost his job.  But in spite of all that, a guy who delivered a message that was positive, inspiring, and one that hit home to me.  It was awesome.

But that’s an essay for another day.

Something else happened at church Sunday.  My mother-in-law’s birthday was Monday, so my father-in- law was the special music at church that morning.  He got up, stood at that microphone, and in front of everyone introduced the song as being for his wife in honor of her birthday.  He then proceeded to sing a solo for his wife, in front of me and my wife, and everybody else in that church.

It was awesome too.

It was very moving, it was the ultimate act of expression of love for his wife in my opinion.

I sat there thinking, wow… I am not worthy.

 

Some years ago a friend of mine who was also friends with a few guys who worked for my wife at the time told me one day;

“Dude, those guys would jump on a grenade for your wife.”

I got that.

I understand falling on a grenade for my wife. I can do that.

But singing…alone…in front of other people?

Sorry Kim, if given the choice between singing to you in front of large crowd of people and falling on a grenade?

I will take the grenade.

 

Breaking news, the democrat was elected in the Virginia governor race.

I feel safer now.

 

 

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You Got Dirt? We Got Curt!

This morning, Cameron and I were sitting in my bed having coffee and playing on the computer when he looked up at the ceiling fan and asked:

“Pop Pop, why are there spider webs on the ceiling fan?”

Luckily my wife wasn’t in the room when he asked that question, but I already knew my fate for today included cobweb duty.

“Those aren’t like real spider webs,” I said.  “Those are cobwebs.  Cobwebs look like that because of dust.”

Alright so that wasn’t entirely true but an okay explanation.   I could have included that spider webs tend to get insects in big trouble whereas cobwebs tend to get his Pop Pop in big trouble,  but instead I explained that since it was rainy and cold today his Pop Pop was going to clean those cobwebs on that ceiling fan.

“Are you going to clean the cobwebs on my ceiling fan too?” he asked.

“Yup yours too.”

“And mommy’s?”

“Yup mommy’s too.”

Because since it was a rainy, cool, dreary day, it was a great day to clean cobwebs, and dead bugs in the light fixtures, and other such things I have been putting off.

 

My wife thinks that we don’t have someone to come in and clean our house because I am cheap.

And as ridiculous as that may sound to some of you, I must confess…it’s true.

I tell her why pay someone to clean your house when you have a husband that can do it?

 

Let’s face it, I don’t pay someone to cut my grass…I do it.

Why would I PAY someone to clean my house?

I don’t pay someone to clean out my gutters…I do it.

Even when the downspout on the second level is clogged and I am too scared to climb the extension ladder that high to clear the clog.  Why would I pay someone when I can duct tape a perfectly capable garden tool to the end of a ten foot piece of one inch PVC pipe; get up on the top step of a step ladder on the deck;  and maneuver the pointy end of the garden tool around until it clears the clog?  It’s that simple.

Job done!

And trimming high tree branches?  Why pay someone when I can back my pickup truck up in the front yard, put that same step ladder in the bed of my truck and climb up to reach the ends of those higher branches.

Job done!

High five myself!

You see, you just have to be smart.

 

I always tell my wife I may be cheap, but I am smart.

 

I once bought my wife a very expensive vacuum cleaner for Christmas.  Now I am not that much of an idiot to know that you don’t just buy your wife a very expensive vacuum cleaner for Christmas unless you attach something else of value to it that will be more personal.  It could be diamond tennis bracelet or some nice anniversary ring or something.

So since I am smart and I knew this, I attached something really special…

Me.

Yup me.

Got Dirt…I told her…Call Curt!

You see her vacuum came with a trained professional to push it around for her.

Me.

And I was smart and made up this funny little contract that said in the fine print “Acceptance of this vacuum is your commitment to never hire an outside cleaning service for as long as you live.”

She accepted the vacuum.

And I was cleverly under contract and free from worry about paying future cleaning crews.

Smart.

(High Fives again)

So tomorrow don’t ask me about how the game went, or what fun thing did I do this weekend, because I am so smart, I was busy fulfilling my contract.

And though I would love her till the end of time, in the end though, there is some kind of Paradise by the Dashboard Light irony to this situation for both my wife and me.

But I just have to remember, I didn’t want to go out and watch that football game anyway; or go play harmonica at that winery.  That’s right, because I am smart…I saved some money today.

So until the day when I get a little less smart…

Got  Dirt?…Call Curt!

No I am not trying out as an extra in Braveheart Two, I am getting ready to clean the gutter.

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Pulmonary Fibrosis, A Little Bird Told Me

It’s Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month.

And even though it’s the last day of Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month I still think it’s important to mention that it’s Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month.

Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis or IPF is: a rare disease characterized by progressive replacement of normal lung tissue with scar tissue. The scarred tissue becomes thick and stiff making it harder for the lungs to exchange oxygen.  Idiopathic means there is no known cause of the disease, pulmonary refers to the lungs, and the scarring is called fibrosis…At this time there is no cure or treatment to reverse the scarring in the lungs.

 

I spent a little time with a friend of mine the other day.

I had been watching Ken Burn’s The Vietnam War on PBS so I asked him,

“Have you been watching PBS?”

“No,” he said.  “I was there, I don’t need to watch it on TV.”

My friend flew a Cobra helicopter in Vietnam.

One day a bullet came through the bottom of his helicopter and traveled through his foot and into his lower leg.   The surgeon warned him before surgery that he may lose the leg, but thankfully when he woke up it was still there.

During my visit he told me the story of comrades returning to the US on a civilian airliner and having people spit on them at the airport.

He however didn’t have to worry about that, because that bullet that went through his foot had him coming home in blue pajamas on a stretcher in the back of a Military Airlift Command C-141.

Once home though, he told me about his first contact with the public; he and his wife attended a church service in Maryland. Now in civilian clothes,  before the service,  he and his wife stood with a crowd of people outside the church waiting.  Someone asked my friend how he had broken his leg.

“I didn’t break it,” he responded.  “I got shot in Vietnam.”

After hearing my friend’s response, the crowd parted.  It wasn’t out of respect or patriotism.

When he and his wife entered the church and sat down, they were the only ones in their pew that otherwise would have sat about 20 people.

No one else in the church that morning chose to sit with my friend and his wife and his Vietnam shot up leg.

They sat all by themselves.

 

The other night I had this dream.

I dreamed I was holding a little bird in my hand.  After holding on to the bird for a while I passed it off to an older man, my father I think.

I don’t remember much else about it but the next morning while having coffee,  my wife shared with me the daily Bible verse she receives via text each day.  It was a photo of a hand holding a bird with  Matthew 25:21  as the overlay.

I told her about my dream and holding this little bird in my hand.  Hey, maybe this was a sign for me, I thought.  And maybe not.

But maybe…

 

But even if this scripture had no relevance to me, it had great relevance to my friend.

My friend now sits at home connected to machines that provide him additional oxygen to breath.  He monitors his oxygen saturation frequently.  Yet in spite of the two machines making oxygen and the 50 foot of oxygen tubing he drags around with him; simple activities like going to a different room, taking the stairs, going to the bathroom are major undertakings.  It’s not that he is unable to leave his home, it’s just that now the effort required to make such a move seems not worth it.

My friend; a decorated national hero in my opinion, a writer, a historian, engineer, a pillar of his church, a father, and a husband…has IPF.

In his lifetime he was shot and wounded and ostracized; but just like the scripture said, he was a good and faithful servant and he overcame.  And he was set over many things.

He entered into the joy of the Lord.

And he has shared that to the benefit of many of us since.

 

Many of us Americans behaved badly and did stupid things during the Vietnam War.  Many are regrettable now looking back.

Maybe twenty years from now we will look back on this time of “taking a knee” or hiding in the tunnel during the National Anthem and regret those actions too.  But then maybe not.  Maybe the hatred of this President will trump reasonable decision making like it did forty five or fifty years ago.

I am not a political person and this is not a political commentary.

But we do have many national treasures like my friend out there.

They are all around us. We see them in church, we see them at work, we see them on motorcycles, we see them in wheelchairs parading down the airport terminal as they come off their Honor Flights.

They fill our cemeteries.

Then there are those, like my friend, who in spite of being good and faithful servants and after all the sacrifice they have been through, end up with IPF or something else that limits their ability to live normal lives.

But still, if we are lucky we can sit with them, talk to them, and learn from them.

 

I hope we learned something from our experience in Vietnam.  We may have also hated that President at the time and we may have hated the war.

But we have to remember who it really affected, who it was who took the spit, the  proverbial bullet and for some, the actual bullet in those causes.

Those folks still bear the scars.

We have to remember as we protest today’s causes, the spit doesn’t always land on those who it was intended to hit.

And it opens old wounds.

But I digress.

This concept for me started out being about pulmonary fibrosis; a dream about having a  bird in my hand  that came to some clarity with scripture the next morning: and,  associating all of that with living a life of service.

But I hope I was able to bring some awareness to you about IPF.  I hope you click a link and read about it and think about providing some support to find a solution, other than a lung transplant, that will allow people like my friend to be out mentoring others and not sitting in his living room.

And as for my dream and that scripture,  I hope it means that I have been faithful over a few things, and as a result will be set over many things myself.   If I can ever impact half as many lives as my friend has, I know I will experience joy too.

 

If you would like to support Pulmonary Fibrosis research, visit Angela and Alicia Snyder-Miller’ s team Run (for) Forrest Run! page of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. They have a goal to reach that should easily be exceeded as they run to raise awareness of IPF.

 

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Ethan, Christian, and Irma

Ethan, my littlest guy, safe and asleep somewhere in north Florida

Just five days ago I was joining many others and praying for the survivors and the first responders in Texas and Louisiana after Hurricane Harvey made landfall and continued to rain and flood for days.   For me, mostly faceless and nameless people, known to me only by images on my TV.

But to many others these folks most certainly had names and faces, some were family like my friend Drew whose brother lives in Houston; others friends and colleagues.  For them their prayers were more specific, their anxiety more real, their concern hitting home beyond CNN or The Weather Channel.

This week I understand.

Yesterday, in the early hours of the morning, members of my immediate family; my daughter, son-in-law, and their two sons fled Broward County and began to head north.  Their sons, two of my three grandchildren, are just babies.  One is two years old, the other less than two months old.  Yesterday morning they became part of the Irma refugee movement north.

Later in the day they found shelter in northern Florida; far enough north where, though they may not avoid a hurricane, they should be safe to ride out a much lesser storm.

Though I find some comfort in a weaker threat, I am not comfortable.

As I sit now and watch CNN, detail after detail, listening to the interview of the mayor of Hollywood Florida, the town where my kids live; watching the storm track and those spinning 5’s and 4’s go up the Florida peninsula I am relieved my daughter, my son-in-law, and those babies are not in south Florida.

But I am not without great concern.

I have a lot of extended family and some very good friends in Florida.

If you are from Jersey, you have family and friends in Florida.

I am concerned for all of them.

I am safe many miles away.

My biggest weather related concern this summer has been how the rain has forced me to have to cut my grass every six days and still my mower sputters and stalls. What an inconvenience.

There are people in Texas and in the Caribbean tonight who don’t have lawns to cut anymore, some don’t have houses, some worse than that.

I am safe far away from the chaos, but I am also helpless to those that I love who may be close to danger.

All I can do now is pray.

And like last Sunday I will pray for the safety of all those in harm’s way as residents, visitors, and those responding to the call for help.

But in addition to that, for me this week I will pray in greater detail.  This week I have names, and faces, and memories, and futures to prayer for.

So for now I will watch the storm projections and listen to the countless interviews. I will act cool and supportive on the phone and in the text messages.

But I will continue to worry about my littlest Irma refugees and my family and friends.

And I will pray.

Ten o’clock update.  A little more shift to the west.  I think it’s working…

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The Houston Kid

The Houston Kid, album by Rodney Crowell

“I pray that the benevolent God from whom I draw strength brings, with ever increasing speed, the peace, comfort, healing and resource so badly needed by our brothers and sisters whose lives have been so drastically altered by Hurricane Harvey. Since Friday, in my mind’s eye and heart, the streets, houses, alleys, bayous, gulleys (sic), plant life (elephant ears, and chinaberry trees) and people of my youth have been vividly alive. These are the souls and images I’ve mined in search of song for forty-plus years. In childhood I knew floods, Audrey’s and Carla’s, intimately. Today, their memory seems tame compared to the images on my current living room screen. If there’s a silver lining—and I believe there will be—may it find us fast. We are all in this together.”

Yours as ever,

Rodney

It’s National Day of Prayer.

This prayer was posted on Facebook by my friend Rodney Crowell the other day.  Well, he is not really my friend, I like him on Facebook.  I mean I don’t only just like him on Facebook, I like him.  Actually I don’t really know him so I don’t really know if I would like him or not.  I guess I like his music.

If you don’t know who Rodney Crowell is, he is an American musician, singer, and songwriter mostly known for country music but you may recognize one of his more successful popular songs  “Shame on the Moon” which was recorded on the 1982 album “The Distance” by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.

In September of 1961 Hurricane Carla, mentioned in Rodney’s prayer, hit the Texas coast. Harvey is said to be the worst storm to hit Texas since Carla.  In his memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks, Crowell remembers Hurricane Carla and how it affected his family.  The $6,000 “cracker-box palace…essentially a tarpaper shack,” steadily became a wreck when Hurricane Carla thundered through in 1961.  This home was located in Jacinto City a town a few miles east of Houston.

Also in his song Telephone Road from the album The Houston Kid:

Rain came down in endless sheets of thunder
Lightnin’ bolts split pine trees down to the roots
In the shadow of the Astrodome with a hurricane comin’ on strong
We used to hit the streets and go swimming in our birthday suits

 

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim September 3, 2017, as a National Day of Prayer for the Victims of Hurricane Harvey and for our National Response and Recovery Efforts.  We give thanks for the generosity and goodness of all those who have responded to the needs of their fellow Americans.  I urge Americans of all faiths and religious traditions and backgrounds to offer prayers today for all those harmed by Hurricane Harvey, including people who have lost family members or been injured, those who have lost homes or other property, and our first responders, law enforcement officers, military personnel, and medical professionals leading the response and recovery efforts.

(From the President’s Proclamation to make September 3, 2017 National Day of Prayer as a result of Hurricane Harvey)

 

I am not President Donald Trump’s friend.  I don’t like him on Facebook. But I don’t know President Donald Trump either, so I don’t know if I would like him or not.

But I do know, those folks in Texas need some prayers.

Barbecue and beer on ice
A salty watermelon slice at the Little Taste of Paradise
On Telephone Road (from Telephone Road, The Houston Kid).

Better days in Houston, let’s pray for that.

 

 

 

 

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Rescue Me

My truck in the garage kind of…I couldn’t close the door.

It was a beautiful weekend.  One of the nicer weekends we have had in a long time.

I…had to clean out the garage.

I think I had to clean out the garage this weekend to make up for all the unintentional mean things I have said to my wife over the last twenty years.   I say unintentional because certainly I would never say anything intentionally mean to my wife.

I even had to part with my three level,  four by eight foot metal warehouse rack shelving that I have had in my garages since before we got married.

I was sad.

I took it and two truckloads of stuff…to “the dump.”

In Jersey we always called it “the dump.”

Here it’s actually called the Fairfax County Solid Waste Recycling Center.  That’s a mouthful.

But I should know better.

One Saturday morning a couple of years ago I was asked to open up one of the offices of the company that I worked for at the time, so that a group that we supported could use the space for a meeting.  This was a group of volunteer coaches for a youth sports program in the county.

It was okay with me that I open the office that morning because I had a pick-up truck load of stuff that I needed to take to “the dump” anyway, and this office happened to be close to the Fairfax County Solid Waste Recycling Center.

I opened the office and waited for the meeting to start.  The leader of the group, my contact, offered me the opportunity to speak so I stood up and welcomed them,  said a few words about the company, and in closing I said “now if you will excuse me I need to go to the dump.”

I said thanks, made my exit, and drove to the Fairfax County Solid Waste Recycling Center. Once done I stopped and had a cup of coffee while I waited for the meeting to be over so I could go back and lock up.

When I returned the meeting was over and everyone had left except for my contact who was cleaning up.

I asked how the meeting went and he said, “Great, but one funny thing did happen.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“Well after you left,” he said, “someone spoke up and said,”

Wow that was inappropriate.”

“What do you mean?” he asked the volunteer coach who made the comment.

“Way too much information” said the volunteer, “telling us he was going to go now and take a dump.”

So my contact had to explain that I didn’t say I was going to “go take a dump,” in fact what I had said was that I was going to go to “the dump,” the refuse center.

So we laughed, but I was little embarrassed.

I guess sometimes we say things we don’t really mean.  And sometimes people hear things we didn’t really say; or sometimes people hear what we say but take it to mean something very different.

Something unintentional.

And so sometimes we end up embarrassed…or sometimes we end up having to clean the garage.

But in the end it all worked out.  I don’t work for that company anymore; and my wife is really excited that she may be able to put her car in the garage this winter.

Life is good.

But you might be saying right now, “Geez Curt, this is inappropriate, this is way too much information.”

Maybe, but it’s not about crude bathroom humor or cleaning out the garage.

One of the prayers at church this morning had this opening line:

“Lord, please rescue me…from me.”

Since there are times when we do say things that are inappropriate; and there are times when we do say things that are embarrassing; and then there are also times when we say things or behave in certain ways intentionally that may be hurtful to others, even though we didn’t mean them to be.

Sometimes we just need rescued, rescued from ourselves.

 

 

 

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He Restoreth My Soles

The Apollos, with Wayne Groves behind the drums

It was 1964 and a win at a local “Battle of the Bands” got this group of six young Northern Virginia musicians some studio time at a DC recording studio.  Surf music was big and surf music was the kind of music they liked to play.

The band was called the Apollos.

Apollo was the Greek God of Music and masculinity too.   But the name also came from the space program that had recently been designed to land humans on the moon.  What a crazy idea that was.

Their demo consisted of four songs including That’s the Breaks their most popular song and a version of the Beach Boys Dance, Dance, Dance with drummer Wayne Groves also providing lead vocals on that track.

Fast forward fifty three years or so and Wayne Groves stands by his workbench in Berryville Virginia, his work apron on, looking a bit older than those Apollos days yet still with the somewhat familiar look of a musician who had grown up in the 60’s.  His voice is soft and his demeanor calm.  The drumsticks he relied in those early battles now replaced by leather tools.

“I brought you something special” I said to him on the day I brought in my early 70’s blonde square toe Frye boots, “these are old.”

Wayne had already been tested on three other pairs of my cowboy boots by that day, some of those going back to the mid 80’s.

“I hope you don’t take this the wrong way” he responded, “but everything you have brought me so far has been old!”

I laughed, but he was right about that. I’ve walked a lot of miles in those boots.

 

His hands moved over the skin of my boots like Baffert checking the ankles of his new Triple Crown prospect or Clapton sizing up the neck of a fine new Telecaster for the first time.

“These boots have a story” he said as his hands skillfully pulled back the leather and he examined the challenge I had just placed in his care.

He was right about that too those boots did have a story.  I was in high school when I got those boots; hopefully he’s not “the boot whisperer.”

 

“What did you want to do when you grew up?” I asked Wayne one day.

“A musician,” his wife Barbara chimed in before he could respond.

“Really” I said “tell me about that.”

And so that’s when I learned the story of the Apollos, and the battle of the bands, and how they almost made it.  Wayne played the drums, but did also get to do that lead vocal on Dance, Dance, Dance.

He learned to be a leather craftsman by apprenticing sort of in the early days with Georgetown Leather.   He learned to restore boots and shoes from a third generation Italian shoe maker.

 

As for my early 70’s blonde square toe Frye’s:

“I picked all these stitches out by hand, you can see where others before me had chewed up the edge” he told me one day when I stopped in to check on his progress.

“I almost didn’t want to do them” he confessed the day I went to pick them up, “but the further I got into them, I had to finish.”

They looked fantastic, almost 45 years of abuse by me and some less talented and surely less concerned leatherworkers, now restored by a true artisan.

When I asked Wayne about retirement he just laughed a little.

I think I understand.  How do you walk away from something that’s been so much a part of your life, like music I guess, you never just put it down.  Great artists don’t retire they just get older and keep creating.

And as the Apollos song says, that’s the breaks.

But I don’t think those breaks were anything regrettable.

As for that music, old dreams don’t die easy and those drumsticks weren’t put down either.  In August Wayne will be attending a music camp down south with some of his old band mates from the Apollos.

 

Wayne and Barbara’s shop is called Tricks of the Trade.  Originally located for many years in Great Falls Virginia, it now resides in Berryville Virginia at 101 East Main Street.  If you have something leather that needs created, repaired, or restored I recommend you make the trip to Berryville. Or maybe you have some new patches for your motorcycle jacket or vest; or a pair of vintage cowboy boots that need servicing, or maybe five pair like I did. Stop in and see Wayne and Barbara then go down the road a bit and have a glass of wine at the Veramar Vineyard and winery.

Then wait a week or two and do it again when you go pick up item.

You won’t regret it.

If you don’t live in Northern Virginia, call Wayne or send him an email, maybe you can ship your treasures.

And if you want to hear some vintage Apollos and Wayne cooking on the drums, just google The Apollos, garage band, you will find some of their music on YouTube or look them up on Ebay.

The mailman just delivered my vinyl copy of Round 2 The Battle of the Bands with The Apollos Live, 1966.

I’m good.

 

 

Tricks of the Trade:
101 East Main St.
Berryville, VA 22611
540-955-3565
email: groove1way@aol.com

Barbara and Wayne Groves
(Photo courtesy of the Clarke Daily News)

My early 70’s blonde square toe Frye’s, check out that stitching

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