Monday, February 08, 2010

Super Bowl hijinks

To paraphrase the Chairman of the Board, this could only happen to a guy like me in a town like this...

So, it's Super Bowl Sunday and I'm feeling lazy. Don't want to get off the couch. Didn't even want to crawl from under the covers.

But, I peeked out, poured caffeine and watched a talking head on "CBS Sunday Morning" observe that television executives put so much reality TV on the air because they've discovered we have reptilian brains.

When I finally figured venturing out would be worth the effort, I pointed the Xterra in the general direction of buddy Matt Shelton's house.

Along the way, I discover that a favorite station has changed formats -- to classic country! So, I shift into high gear, so to speak, and belt out "Between Her Blue Eyes and Jeans" along with Conway Twitty somewhere between Broadway and the Lovell Road exit.

I pull into the driveway about the time Shelton arrives with a haggard look on his face. Turns out his car had blown up -- literally -- on the interstate the day before. He is OK. His car isn't.

We decided we needed to shore up on refreshments before the big game and other guests arrived. We walked to my car. Shelton was in literal mid-sentence telling me about his automotive woes when the key in my ignition was turned.

Nothing happened.

Attempt No. 2: Dead as a doornail.

Off we go to Walmart, where the two jokers in automotive are yelling at each other as we search for a battery.

"Forget this," I say. "Let's go get the drinks."

We do so and walk back. All appears calm on the automotive front.

One clerk with two teeth is grinding out a key for a patron. "Now, I will tell you that this may not work except on the doors," he says.

The clerk tells us he'll be with us in a minute, finishes up the key, then helps two people who arrived before we did.

Then he finally rings up my battery but keeps us standing at the door for two minutes before he finally decides to finish with the previously mentioned customer (who needed help in more ways than one) and ring us out the locked door.

We had better luck at the wings place, where the guy in the back gave Shelton our order without waiting for the cash. Shelton paid anyway.

"Those guys never talk to people," the girl up front said.

Battery changed and bellies full, our group sat down to watch bad football and worse advertisements. Thanks to an unexpected arrival and J.M.'s antics, we had a good time anyway.

At least nobody else's car decided to die.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Eight years ago

Mom called me just after 1 o'clock. What she had to say took me back to those halcyon days after high school, back when making music and making memories led off just about every night.

Two or three summers during college, I worked at the telephone company in Powell. The majority of time, I hung out in the CO with Steve, Darrell and Jerry. They were kind enough to put up with a glorified intern, there on a scholarship, and I tried not to get in the way.

I liked 'em all, but Jerry was my favorite. Cause he liked Merle. And George. And Tammy. And all kinds of good ol' country music.

One day we snuck up to Rutledge. I remember we were stopped at the red light at Emory Road and Maynardville Highway, waiting for it to change, when some idiot came flying up and nearly hit us.

I heard the screeching just as Jerry said, "Somebody needs to get some brakes."

He took me by the courthouse. We chatted with the girls awhile, then Jerry took us over to the phone company's Grainger County office. He did whatever business he had to do, then we headed for the Down Home for lunch.

I thought about it, and him, last month when they interviewed several of UT men's basketball player Skylar McBee's fans in the eatery following Skylar's big shot against Kansas. I remember that Jerry was going to see Doyle Lawson at a bluegrass festival later that month. He was excited.

But Merle was his guy. He would bring in tapes of rare live recordings. (I'd still like to find that concert he had in which Merle sang a rare live version of the Vietnam POW song "Do They Ever Think of Me.") One day he brought in a tape that had Johnny Paycheck singing a cover of Merle's song "Carolyn." It wasn't bad.

Jerry died eight years ago today. When mom reminded me of it, I remembered stopping at the funeral home before hopping a flight to New York that afternoon. Jerry had fought a brave fight with cancer. He'd lost weight. He didn't look like the same guy.

I thought about Merle, and the Down Home and those summer days in the CO. I thought about how much I miss a good friend.

And I hummed a few lines from one of Hag's best, about wearing his own kind of hat.

Because Jerry always did, too.

Monday, February 01, 2010

When what used to be meets the here and now

It catches up with me from time to time.

Usually in the quiet moments of a Sunday afternoon -- imagine that -- when the ghost of what used to be catches up with the here and now.

It floated in yesterday through the words of a Jay Clark lyric, about another Sunday afternoon, when he had no place to go, and nothin' he had to do.

I've yet to figure out why the roller coaster ride ever has to end. But, I'm learning to remember the ups and forget about the downs and not worry so much about what happens when the music stops and the lights cut off.

I do miss the music, sweet and sad. But, I have my memories, and have a few records, and -- best of all -- I still have several of the people who made those moments as warm as the glowing logs of a winter night's burning blaze.

Life is what we make it. And it's been my experience that so, too, do those you choose to accompany you.

So I guess we should choose them wisely, on a Sunday afternoon or any ol' time, remember the ups, forget about the downs, and give yourself time to look for a little space, when the ghost of what used to be catches up with the here and now.