Saturday, July 26, 2014

Kids and Grandkids

English: Tony Caris with extended family, Roma...
 Tony Caris with extended family, Roma, 1937 Three generations of the Caris family are standing on the front steps to the house. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

     When I was a young kid, up to about eight years old, I had frequent contact with my grandparents, especially on my maternal side.  My family didn't live in the same town as my grandparents did, so visiting them or having them visit us was not usually a spur of the moment occurrence.  At various times we lived anywhere from two hundred to less than a hundred miles from them.   Weekend visits were fairly common.  I got to enjoy getting to know my grandparents and extended family fairly well during those first few years.  Still, these were visits and not part of my everyday life.

       Then we moved across the country and didn't see them for the next five years.  When my family later moved to Northern Indiana and then East Tennessee, we were still a bit too far for much more than one or two visits per year.  I was fortunate to have had at least some extended contact with my grandparents, but it was nothing like those who live nearby to theirs.

         With my own children it was a bit different.  They all had frequent visits with my parents as well as their mother's parents.  There were times when we actually stayed with my parents for extended periods or lived near to them.  Cheaper phone rates allowed my kids to have regular contact with the grandparents even when we were on the road or living at a distance.   My children were even closer to their grandparents than I was with mine.

         Now my children are across the country from me and I only get to see my grandchildren maybe twice a year if I'm lucky.   We have the technological advantage of easy phone contact and visual computer chat.  It's not the same as spending time with them and being able to hold them and hug them.  Maybe eventually I'll be able to live closer to all of them.  I hope so.

         Currently I'm in New Jersey with my girls and their girls.  The time has been going quickly.   I'm thankful that we've been able to have the time we have had.   These are special times that I hope one day will come more often.

          If your children are grown, do you see them often?   What about grandchildren--if you have any, are you able to spend much time with them?   Did you enjoy a relationship with your own grandparents?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Yard Sale Memories


Not the most professional signage, but it was a beautiful morning.

         Today I'm driving over to Nashville to visit my brother.  He's been diagnosed as a schizophrenic unable to live outside of a care facility so he's been living in an institutionalized setting for over thirty years.   It's been a few years since I've seen him.  I would always visit him when he was staying in Knoxville, but since they closed the state mental hospital there he's been moving around to various group homes.  He's been in a care center in Nashville for the past couple of years or so.

         I've been wanting to visit my brother for some time, but I've just not been able to make it over there in the short visits I make to Tennessee.  This year with my wife visiting in Houston and flying up to meet me, it was more economical to fly from there to Nashville and it afforded me an ideal opportunity to visit my brother.  Too bad that he is so inconveniently located for me, but that's the way it is and not much I can do to change that.
Maybe a sale in the basement is not the best for drawing customers, but it was cool inside on a hot July Saturday.

        In my previous post I mentioned how I was organizing a yard sale at my mother's house in order to clear out some of the accumulation of unneeded things.   The sale was a bust.   We had about 12 visits with a total sales of $11.50.    It was basically an experiment for me and a clean-up mission.  I think I took a pretty effective marketing approach with listings on various internet sites, but there was not much signage.  This lack of signs might not have mattered too much since there didn't seem to be much traffic in the neighborhood.  And we seemed to have a lot of competition in the area.   One visitor said he had 23 sales to go to that day and mine was number 14.   Looking at the yard sale location maps on a couple of web sites confirmed that there were indeed a ton of sales going on that day.
A pool table served to display some of the goods.  What a jumble!

        There were other factors which I realized would probably keep visitors down and my fears were confirmed by the outcome of the sale that day.   No worry though.   My brother's family and my sisters are planning a much larger sale in the fall and I helped get part of the merchandise organised for them.  They'll have a bigger draw since they will be adding tools, furniture, and baby items to the inventory.   Those things always seem to attract more potential customers.
There was some pretty weird and obsolete stuff in our sale.

        I've never been one to hold big yard sales or shop at them for that matter.   I've probably visited not more than 8 yard sales in my life and bought very little except for one time in Richmond, Virginia when I was buying furniture to put into a decrepit apartment my girlfriend at the time and I were moving into.  I'm the kind of person who generally prefers to buy everything new.  Yard sales and thrift shops are typically not my thing.

Had a lot of books on sale.  I think I'll be taking some of them back home to read.
       As far as my own yard sales I guess I've only done about four of them.   I've never had too much to sell at them so consequently I didn't make much.   But it was a good way to get rid of stuff that I didn't need and pick up a few bucks in the process.  My most fun sales were two that I had when my daughters were still living at home and they helped me with them.

        Yard sales?   I could certainly stand to do another one at my own home.  So much stuff to get rid of and I hate to give it all away or throw it out.   That's probably what I'll end up doing, but it's kind of fun to think about having a yard sale.   It's usually less fun to actually do one.

          Have you ever done a yard sale?    Do you ever shop at yard sales?   How do you prefer to get rid of the stuff you no longer need?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Big Yard Sale Today!

Yard Sale Northern California May 2005. This i...
Yard Sale Northern California May 2005. This image is in the public domain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

          My sisters and I have been talking about having a yard sale while I'm in Tennessee.  It's something they had planned for back in May, but one thing and the next came about and the sale never happened.  They have most of the inventory assembled and waiting to be put out. There is a good bit of stuff.

         Bottom line is that I've been crazy busy getting things ready for this yard sale today (July 12th).  Consequently I've not prepared a real post for today.   While I've been on vacation blogging has taken a back seat to family activities and other things.

          Hopefully next week I'll have a report on the yard sale and some memories about yard sales in general.  See you then!


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Fourth of July Memories

English: Fireworks on the Fourth of July, 2009...
 Fireworks on the Fourth of July, 2009; Happy Birthday America!
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       When I was a child the Fourth of July was a celebration of sparklers and bottle rockets.   I'm not sure that we ever went to see a professional fireworks display--not specifically on Fourth of July at least.   My father was not much on shelling out money for home fireworks.  To him it was like burning money, an economic tradition that I carried on into my adult life.  My mother on the other hand would always buy at least a few simple fireworks.

        The Fourth was typically a stay at home time for us.  No picnics, no festivals, or anything like that.  Once our family juggled in a parade.  It was a hot ordeal walking while juggling for however far the parade route took us.  We did it because it was a paid gig and that made the experience worth it.   Otherwise I remember nothing about that parade.

         After I started working on the road with shows I almost always went to Fourth of July festivities.  After all, we were away from home and since we never worked on the Fourth going to some event in whatever town we were in was better than staying cooped up in our motel room.  And I wanted to take my kids to do fun things.   We had some good times.

        One of our more memorable Fourth of July activities was when I went to visit a cousin who was living on Bainbridge Island across the sound from Seattle, Washington.   We went out along the shore area where many folks were congregated for holiday festivities.  A friend of my cousin brought some snacks and a few bottles of locally made wine.   Once the skies darkened the shoreline became like a war zone with revelers setting off their own fireworks displays.

       Across the sound the Seattle skyline was silhouetted against the darkened skies with tiny soundless flashes of fireworks glimmering like fireflies.  As Jupiter rockets and Roman candles zoomed perilously close to us we decided to pack up and leave.  After all we had small children and the alcohol infused crowd assembled at the shore was starting to lack good judgement.  We had our good time, but the hour was late and kids needed to be put safely in their beds.

         This year's Fourth was a sedate affair with fireworks on television and lightening bugs quietly drifting on the balmy summer night.   It was a peaceful evening that was befitting of older folks gathered like my mother, sisters, and I.  There were a few verbal pyrotechnics, but mostly a settled atmosphere of family on the back patio in the Tennessee dark.  Not a particularly memorable Fourth like some in my past, but a passably good one for this time of my life.

        How did you spend your Fourth of July?   Do you usually buy fireworks?    Is there a certain holiday that is particularly memorable to you?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

From Houston to Home

English: Mississippi Old Capitol; Jackson, Mis...
 Mississippi Old Capitol; Jackson, Mississippi; December 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        Even though I've lived in Los Angeles for the past 23 years, I don't really think of it as home.  It's a place where I have a house where I stay most of the time and keep my possessions.  My house feels like home but that's about the extent of it.  The city, though I've become familiar with much of it, does not feel like what I think of as home.   When someone asks me about home my mind immediately conjures up memories of Maryville, Tennessee.

        I didn't move to Maryville until I was in high school.   Over the years this Tennessee town has been a sort of home base for me.  It's where my mother still lives as well as my brother and sisters.   Fortunately I manage to make it back to East Tennessee at least once, sometimes twice, each year.  It's a long trip from Los Angeles that requires a three day road trip or a flight.   I prefer the road trip and that's what I've done again.

        After leaving my wife off at her daughter's house in Houston, Texas, I continued on by myself on the 15 hour drive to Maryville.   My wife will be spending a month with her daughter while I spend a month with my mother and family.   Toward the end of July my wife will fly up to join me and we will continue our travels.

        The drive from Houston to Maryville was pleasant and not particularly stressful.  I broke up the trip with a stay at the halfway point in Jackson, Mississippi.  My original plan was to eat at a somewhat famous soul food restaurant called the Big Apple Inn.   I'd seen something about it on television a couple weeks before we'd left home and figured I'd try the food--most famously the pig ear sandwich.  This was not to be since they are closed on Mondays and that was the day I happened to be there.

        Jackson has some atrocious streets as I discovered in my drive around town.  And the city from what I saw seems a bit run down.  Since I'd arrived at about 3 PM I had time to kill so I checked out downtown and the area around the capitol building.   There's not much I can rave about regarding this city.  I'm sure there are some nice things that maybe I missed, but Jackson is not high on my list of cities I want to spend much time in.

        As things turned out, I had an early dinner at some nondescript seafood joint that specialized in fried plates--didn't kill me, but didn't set all that well with me either.   A hard rain shower came as I sat in the restaurant eating.  Since I was seated by a window I had a grand view of the rain storm and the cars passing by on the interstate.  The rain stopped when it was time for me to leave.

        My room for the night was a freebie at the Country Inns Suites.  Having found this chain to be rather nice, I'd stayed in various locations enough times to acquire enough points for a free room.  This location in Pearl, Mississippi--right outside Jackson--was the worst I'd stayed in.  Not to say the hotel was bad--I'd say it was among the best in the area--but it didn't meet up to the standards of my other experiences with this hotel chain.  I guess this is kind of par for the course for a lot of hotels in places like Mississippi and Louisiana.  I don't mean to disparage these parts of the country, but I think there's just something about the climate or something that leads to places not being quite as nice.  That probably sounds kind of weird I suppose and I may be totally wrong about this.  It's just been my experience.

         The next morning I left the hotel at about 6:30 and had another uneventful relaxing day of driving through Alabama and into Tennessee.    I pulled into the driveway at my mother's house at 3:22 PM--eight minutes ahead of the schedule I had predicted for her.  The whole family dropped in to visit that evening. It feels good to be "home".

            What has been your experience with traveling in Mississippi or similar climes?   Do you have any favorite motel or restaurant chains that you frequent when traveling?   How far do you live from family?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Heading To Houston

Las Cruces, New Mexico
Las Cruces, New Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        I've lost track of the number of times my wife and I have made the long drive from Los Angeles to Houston.   Since our daughter moved to Houston several years ago we've made the run many times.  We've got it down to a schedule for the most part.

       On the day that this blog article posts we will be undertaking the first leg of our journey.  We'll shoot for a departure of between 5 to 6 AM.   After grabbing a to go breakfast from McDonald's (it's across the street from where we live), we'll hit the road.   The destination for the first day will be Las Cruces, NM.  This is almost precisely the halfway point between L.A. and Houston and makes for a fairly comfortable twelve hour day including a stop for lunch and a few gas stops.

        The western portion of I-10 traverses hundreds of miles of mostly desert.   From Palm Springs to the Arizona border we'll be crossing the empty expanse of the Mojave Desert.  Not much here other than empty space.  Not bad to look at, but not a place you'd want to break down in the middle of a hot summer day.  We'll try to make it to Arizona before 11 AM.

          Lunch will be on the southeast side of Phoenix.  It was after several trips that we discovered that Chandler Blvd. was a good place to find restaurants.  We've now honed our usual choices between a couple of barbecue restaurants--Rudy's and Can't Stop Smokin'.  We alternate between these two most of the time.  Since there are no really good barbecue restaurants near where we live, eating at these is a treat for us.

           After a satisfying lunch break we hit the road again.  Passing through Tucson is not my favorite part of this trip, but once on the other side of that city we know we've got lots more open road ahead with maybe one more gas stop.  We'll pass though towns like Benson and Wilcox.   There's one mountain stretch that passes through a wild array of rock formations.   Or how about the tourist trap gas station/Dairy Queen that for miles advertises "The Thing?"   We've never stopped for that one, but I've been tempted.   My wife says, "Keep going" and I know she's right.

          Shortly past the eastern Arizona border we pass the odd little ghost town of Stein's.  It looks like an interesting place to visit in it's scenic setting, but I never want to take the time.  Someday I'll pull off to see what's there, but not today.   We've got a couple more hours and if we're on schedule it's now about 5 PM. No rush hour to worry about out here, but dinner and our motel room are beckoning us.

          The Springhill Suites has become like home to us we've stayed here so many times.  Before we get our room we'll stop first to have a light dinner at Applebee's.   My wife will probably have a frozen margarita while I'll cool off and relax with a tall schooner of draft beer.  

          In the room I'll grab my laptop to check on emails and this blog to see if I got any comments.  So if you read this post be sure to comment so I see it.   Once I'm wound down after a long day's drive, it's hopefully a good night's sleep before another early start and another twelve hour day to our Houston destination.

          Road trips are fun.  I've got a lot of road time to put in over the next few weeks.   Maybe I should think about selling our house and living on the road in an RV.   Might not be too bad of a life.

           Have you considered giving up the settled life for a life on the road?   Do you enjoy traveling through the desert?     Do you have a special place like a lodging or restaurant that you visit every time you pass through a certain town?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Summertime Travelling

English: Photo taken of the south face of Pica...
Photo taken of the south face of Picacho Peak, Arizona, United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         Will you be doing any travelling this summer?  Some of us in the northern hemisphere might be hitting the road.   A few with greater financial wherewithal might even be flying to far off places or hitting the seas in cruise ships.  Travel options are many.

        High gas prices and tough economic situations for some of us might curtail travel and cause more than a few to opt for staying at home if any vacation time is to be had.  Or maybe some of you work through the summer.  Since my wife is a teacher and I'm essentially retired we have a couple of free months in the summer.   Travel is on the current agenda.  If everything goes as planned we'll be packing up our Chrysler Town and Country van and visiting family scattered about the U.S. far from where we live.  If we don't go to visit them, odds are we are unlikely to see any of them during the year.  I'm not fond of scattered families, but life sometimes takes those turns as we all pursue the dreams that the economy sometimes dictates.

         In weeks to come you might find me in Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, and New Jersey and many points in between.  The trek from Los Angeles to all of those places means a lot of time and many miles on the highways.  No telling where you might find me in the weeks ahead.   I'll be pre-scheduling my posts before I depart so I'll be writing about generalities.  A bit of the past and some guesstimates of where I might be in general at the time when the post goes up.

           If you aren't travelling yourself you can join me in my travels.  In a sense that is.   I'll try to give you a feel for things that we might encounter.  We've made this trip a number of times so even with my bad memory I'm sure I'll pull up a few highlights that we've experienced on past trips that most likely we'll experience again.

           Hope you don't mind if I take the easy blogging route and reminisce about the road.   Maybe we share some memories between us and maybe I'll share some that are new to you.   I hope we all have a happy safe summer.

           See you next Saturday on the first leg of the journey.

            What are your plans for the summer?    Do you hit the roads during the summer months?   What is your favorite travel destinations and activities?

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