Dallas Wayne

Dallas Wayne
Snapped by my buddy Winker in Austin a few years ago, here I am mugging it up with XM Outlaw Country host Dallas Wayne backstage somewhere on 6th.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

I'm not the kind of guy who embraces a lot of change. Yes, there are things that need changing; I get that. However, rocking the boat just to see who or what falls out, isn't something I do for kicks.

Last month I was on the road for two straight weeks. Well, I was back in Greenville once for a whopping 11 hours and home for about 9 hours of that. It was long enough to unpack, do a load of wash, repack, grab six hours of sleep and get back to the airport. Sometime between that brief home stand and my final return three days later, all hell broke lose.

Maybe that's being a little too dramatic.

For the couple of weeks I've been back, I've been in connectivity/technology hell. I'm ready to gut punch a kitten. I've had it with computers, printers, personal devices, AT&T, whoever the jerks are who make GoPro, Apple, iTunes, and the list goes on and on. My head is pounding just thinking about it.

I get alerts from Duke Energy whenever there is a significant power outage in my area. Apparently there was one during the three-day period mentioned above. The lights went out at my home. I have no clue how long the house was without electricity, but it was long enough that I received two messages about it over a 24-hour period. If I lived in Wisconsin, a 12-plus-hour outage in February might have meant frozen water pipes, as well as other catastrophes. But, that's why I live south of the Mason-Dixon line.

No, what I did come home to was all of my digital clocks flashing, and all the timers controlling lights when I'm out of town turning those lights on at 2:30 in the afternoon. I reset all of those only to have Duke Power, the next day, intentionally shut down electricity in the area to “make some improvements.” Whatever that means. I got to reset everything all over again. (Oh and then the time change: another round of resetting it all.)

It wasn't until that afternoon that I finally fired up my PC to do a little work and found my Wi-Fi wasn't working. I couldn't connect to the Internet. I rebooted everything. I unplugged my ATT gateway and plugged it back in. Nada. My network didn't even appear when accessing available Wi-Fi networks. I was on the phone with the AT&T robot three times trying different troubleshooting solutions. By now, I had burned through more than two hours. I was steaming. You see, I can't make phone calls from inside my house with AT&T without Wi-Fi calling. Each call entailed me heading out to the carport in 40-degree temps to make calls.

Eventually, I got a human being on the phone. Although English was obviously not her first language, I had her repeat things until I understood what she was saying. Sometimes I got the gist of what she was saying on the first repeat and sometimes on the third or fourth. For some reason known only to the gremlins constantly attacking our technology, during all of the power outages, my Wi-Fi network reset itself to the factory network name and password. The technician I spoke with couldn't explain it, or if she did, I didn't realize it. There was a lot of chattering going on. We reset the password and I had Wi-Fi again. Of course, that meant going through my long list of Wi-Fi-connected devices, including outside security cameras, and reconnecting. Another 90 minutes up in smoke.

While in Florida during my two-week sabbatical, I decided the issue with my phone signal reception was due to the phone. I was having the same problem making calls and sending texts where I was staying as I was at home. Because one of my friends I stay with works for Verizon, he was familiar with the closest AT&T cell site, which also happens to host a Verizon site. They have no problem with their cell-phone signals. Although my phone was only 13 months old, I decided to pull the trigger and replace it. I ordered a new phone, which was waiting for me when I returned at the end of my trip.

Of course, signal reception isn't any better on the new phone. I'm keeping it, however, because it's a little smaller than the phone it replaces. It's easier to slip in my back pocket. When I bought the phone just over a year ago, it marked a switch from Apple to Android. After nearly 14 months, I am still not an Android fan, but I stuck with Android because for the last 12 months of using my third iPhone, it was updating twice or more a week. What a pain. Finally, somewhere in all that updating, it caused the GPS function on the phone to quit working. The phone knew where it was as long as I was stationary, but the moment I began to move, it had no clue where it was. I couldn't use Google Maps or any other direction app. That was enough to finish me with iPhones.

Since I've been with Android, I've been trying to figure out a way to move all of the iTunes music I've purchased over the years to my Android phone. Last week I finally broke down and spent $40 (annual subscription) on an app to transfer iTunes music from my iPod to my PC and then back to my Android phone. I'll eventually cancel the subscription. I have been able to make the transfers, but rather than playlists, the songs have transferred in file folders. I struggled with being able to get the phone to play songs in succession. I had to click on each song to play it. Another blood-pressure raising task.

I'm please to report, however, that I finally overcame the song-transfer issue. For the first time in 16 months, I'm able to share my entire music library with my Android phone and play songs in whichever car I am driving. A small victory, but I'll take them as they come.

Over the Christmas holiday, I bought a GoPro on a site called Daily Sale. I get an update of new sale items each day. I really have never had an interest in GoPro. Recently, though, I've been thinking about doing just3things car reviews from behind the wheel. As I was scrolling through the sale items one day I came across an $80 deal on GoPro Hero 3+ cameras for $80. I couldn't pass it up. I ordered it. It's arrival required about two weeks. Once delivered, it sat, unopened for another month. I finally got around to opening the shipping box since returning from my two week trip.

Once I had the shipping box open, I discovered the GoPro in a plain white box. Somehow I totally missed the fact that this was, in fact, a refurbished camera. Had I realized that, I would have opened it sooner. Once open, I had to buy a mini SD card. I got on Amazon ordered that, as well as one for my new phone. I also bought a couple of other GoPro accessories like a mount and spare batteries. A couple of days ago I watched a YouTube video on the subject and then set up my Hero 3+. I also downloaded the App allowing me to perform some basic operations on the GoPro through my phone, as well as use my phone as a monitor. Of course, the phone and GoPro wouldn't automatically sync. No, I need the serial number to do it manually. Where's the serial number? you may ask. It's supposed to be in the battery compartment. Fat chance. The serial-number sticker is missing leaving behind some glue residue in its place. Had the phone not been sync'd previously, I could do it with the factory settings, but that's not an option either. I reached out to Daily Sale. More on this in a future Clanging Bell.

As part of my Wi-Fi fiasco, the Wi-Fi connection between my PC and Canon printer was severed. I couldn't get the printer back online. I attempted to delete it from my PC, download a new driver and whatever else I could think of. After fooling with it for more than an hour, I was well over my tolerance threshold. I sprang a gasket. I was fed up with fighting technology. I got on Amazon and ordered a new printer. Of course, even though the new printer is from the same Canon line as the old one, it takes different ink cartridges. They looked the same in the online photos, but they are different. Consequently the box of spare cartridges is worthless to me. I'm hanging on to the old printer. It will rest in the upstairs spare bedroom until I have put enough distance between my breakdown and recovery to attempt to get it up and functioning again.

I am fed up with AT&T. I'm going to have to live with its lack of cell coverage for another year. I'm not going through all the crap associated with reconfiguring my phone for a new carrier. But I will be shopping for a new broadband provider. I am too exhausted to lay it all out here, but even after doubling my broadband with AT&T, I still can't stream anything between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. I assume it has something to do with kids being home from school and, en masse, logging on to game or whatever. All the extra traffic on AT&T's system knocks me off. It's fine earlier in the day and later in the evening. So, I'll waste more time and expend more energy (physical and emotional) addressing this issue.

Oh, the humanity.....

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Super Bowl Blues

I'm not the kind of guy to cry over spilled milk. As I prepare myself to attend a Super Bowl party later today to watch a game in which I have little interest, I can't help but think about how the Steelers squandered yet another season with a team that should have, at the very least, made it into the playoffs, if not the Super Bowl.

When a team begins its season by being played to a draw by the less-than-dynamic Cleveland Browns, you know there is a problem and it originates at the top. I have always been a fan of Mike Tomlin, but how can you explain fielding a team brimming with talent to so little effect, if not an issue of coaching?

I can't.

Sure there was some drama within the Steelers ranks. Bell sitting out the season in a snit for one example. The front office miscalculated when they supposed he would eventually show up for practice rather than lose nearly $10 million. Clearly he is willing to sacrifice short term-money for long-term wealth. Or, maybe he just doesn't really want to play football anymore. That's a possibility. In either case, his talent was missed, particularly in the scramble in the season's closing days to squeak into the playoffs. Then there was Antonio Brown who may have so poisoned his relationship with the team that he can't effectively come back.

But, historically, these sorts of troubles aren't reserved just for the Steelers. Every team has its drama.

Nope, the Steelers missing the playoffs is a failure of leadership plain and simple. And because it is, I don't see a way through. Next season will be a repeat of this season. Talent and opportunity wasted.

Now I find myself forced to pull for the Rams today, if I even pay any attention at all. What a waste.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Most Problems Begin at the Top and the Steelers Are No Exception

I'm not the kind of guy who is so invested in a team that its fortunes in any way impact my mood. I don't pay much attention to college football. I know it's out there. I live in South Carolina for crying out loud. After people here ask which church you attend, they ask whether you are a Clemson or South Carolina fan. “Uh, n-n-neither,” I stutter. I then receive a look as though I had brought a cat box to the pot-luck supper.

Now, I must admit, if I were someone at least somewhat interested in college football, I would have watched the championship bowl game between Clemson and Alabama. I don't care about either team, really, but I'm a bit sorry I missed the smirk being knocked off Nick Saban's face. I lived in South Florida when, as coach of the Miami Dolphins, he fiercely denied he was leaving to coach at Alabama and two weeks later wound up in a press conference in Tuscaloosa being presented as Alabama's new football coach. I have no feelings one way or the other about Alabama, but I have a strong dislike for Saban. What a cockroach.

But I digress....

If I were someone who got all lathered up over a sports team's fortunes, I'd be positively inconsolable regarding the Steelers missing the playoffs this year. For the second year in a row, this highly talented team won't be in the championship game. This year it even managed to miss getting into the playoffs. With more than half the season behind it, it looked to have its division sewn up.

What in the wide, wide world of sports went wrong? Oh, let me count the ways.

Actually I won't bore you with my armchair analysis other than to say, at its core, it's gotta be a coaching issue. I am a big supporter and fan of Mike Tomlin and always have been. But there is something basically wrong in Pittsburgh.

Week after week, game after game, this team only played to the level of its opponent. Only three games were decided by more than one score – win or lose. The trend was set with the first game's 21-21 tie with the Browns...THE BROWNS! From there, for the next 15 games only four were decided by more than one score – several by a field goal.

There were only two real bright spots in the season: The 52-21 win over the Panthers and the 17-10 win over the Patriots. The Panthers win because it was the only game where the Steelers were firing on all cylinders on both sides of the ball, and the Patriots because, well, it was the Patriots.

After four games, the Steelers record was 1-2-1. At that point, I thought Tomlin might be coaching his first losing season. I didn't miss it by much. It wound up being 9-6-1, with the 1 being the tie with the Browns that had the deflating impact of a loss. Of the actual loses, three were by a field goal. How is it that one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL can't muster at least three more points against teams like Oakland and Cleveland?

There are those who argue the real issue was the turnover ratio: The Steelers lost the turnover battle in a very big way. I agree, but I argue, that really boils down to a coaching issue. Now it looks as though the Steelers will be coming back in 2019 without Bell and Brown. That's a front-office/coaching issue, too.

It's the coaching, stupid.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Can't Get into the Groove

I'm not the kind of guy who lounges around contemplating his navel. I may well be a slacker, but my strong sense of self-preservation is a constant angel on my shoulder whispering, “Get off your ass and do something to make some money.”

December is always a slow month for assignments and revenue. I don't embrace this forced vacation with a happy heart. We all have a finite number of productive days in us. The difference for me is that I'm closing in on the end of mine. I hate wasting nearly a month of those days each year sitting on my dumper.

I've ranted about this before on these pages. Nothing new here. But other fallout from my annual December sabbatical is trying to get myself back in gear. Although assignments aren't exactly flowing to me – it's more of a trickle – I do have some work to do; but motivating myself to do it is proving a real challenge this year. As I write this, it's January 6, and I have two assignments partially written. I can't seem to screw up the motivation to finish either. Both deadline in less than a week.

The issue is I have work to be completed, but not enough to put me in the groove. I'm sure it's some law of physics that once an object is in motion, it takes less energy to keep it in motion. That's why car transmissions have a first gear. When there isn't a flow to assignments, I have to gear back up for each separately as they trickle in.

I am currently slogging through the trickle. Psyching up oneself to meet the challenge of the occasional assignment is tougher for a slacker. It requires drawing on energy that, by nature, simply isn't there. Attempting to generate that energy after a 30-day shutdown is a monumental task. It's probably similar to a climber gazing up at the peak of Mount Everest before grasping that first handhold. It seems almost insurmountable.

Today is Sunday. It's my beer-drinking day. (You may be surprised that I have a designated beer-drinking day. In fact, unless I'm out of town with the opportunity to visit an unfamiliar brewery or shooting a brewery segment for BEER2WHISKEY, I rarely drink beer other than on Sunday.) Because it's Sunday, I don't have to face my demons and try to coax myself into finishing one of the soon-to-be-due assignments. I get to put that off until tomorrow.

But tomorrow will come. And then what.....?

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Let's Do Away with the 52nd Weekend

I'm not the kind of guy who is so disciplined that he works throughout the winter holidays. I'm a unapologetic slacker at heart. Despite that, I do half-heartedly keep my nose pressed to the grindstone from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. Though I am only able to do that to the extent I have a client or clients doing the same.

As a freelancer, I can only make money when a client issues marching orders. No assignments, no work. It's a fairly elementary system. I can almost count on at least one client also working from Turkey to Yule Log; although often at a reduced pace. From Christmas until January 2, however, I always find myself adrift in a forced vacation. I suspect if I were on salary with these same clients, they would find a way to keep me busy. But, because I'm contract labor, my clients only pay me for what I produce. No assignments, no production, no money. It's a lose, lose, win (for them).

This in and of itself isn't traumatizing. I know this will be the case. I mentally and fiscally prepare for the lost 10 days from Christmas Eve to January 2. In fact, historically there are a couple of other times during the year when I alert clients that I will be unavailable for assignments because of short vacations. These down times are just part of freelancing.

No deadlines to meet between Christmas and Jan. 2, only exacerbates for me the disorientation rampant everywhere during that period that has most people I know feeling untethered to the realities of time. I also deal with not being at home, which totally disrupts my daily routines like going to the gym. Over the course of my Christmas stay in New Mexico, I crash in two different households, sleeping in two different beds. “Where am I?” and “What day is it?” are questions I have to ask myself every morning upon awaking. It's like every day I stumble out of a long-term coma with no grasp on my place in time nor space. I have nothing to do and nowhere to do it.

I'm of the mind that we should petition the government to reduce the number of weekends each year from 52 to 51. After all, what's the point of the weekend sandwiched in somewhere between Christmas and Jan 2? Throughout the rest of the year weekends are treated as mini holidays, right? What's the point of a mini holiday in the middle of another holiday? What the hell are you supposed to do with the weekend that always falls somewhere between Christmas and Jan. 2? Do you go out? Do you stay home because you are going out on New Year's Eve? What's appropriate. I find myself adrift in a sea of uncertainty. I don't know. I think a government that was stupid enough to come up with Daylight Savings Time could be easily convinced to do away with that post-Christmas/pre New Years weekend.

With all of that said, I am back home this Sunday before New Year's Eve, contemplating the rest of my weekend. I will head to my usual Sunday beer-drinking spot where I will hook up with my buddy Big Jon for a pint or two. A little dose of normalcy in the heart of this holiday, well, holiday. At least I think it's Sunday.

And, here's to a great and prosperous New Year for you and yours!

Monday, December 17, 2018

House Sitting: Did I Mention There Was an English Bull Dog Involved?

I thought I had posted this little adventure on Clanging Bell previously, but when looking for it to send the link to someone, I couldn't find it in the archives. So, I decided to take the chance some of you hadn't read it and posted it. It took place 10-or-so years ago. What follows is all true.

This is a cautionary tale about what can happen when you lack the good sense to avoid talking about house/dog sitting for friends after several beers, a half dozen glasses of wine and a shot of Don Julio. As a guy, I should have more respect for the power of alcohol and its ability to soften one’s inhibitions and crumble one’s capacity to just say, no. I broke down the defenses of many a young lady using alcohol over the years. Now I can’t find a woman who can consume enough alcohol for that strategy to work, but that’s another story for another time.

The friends in question are Karen and John. The house in question is on Lake Norman in North Carolina. And the dog in question is a 100+-pound English Bull Dog named Tully. The occasion was a 10-day May vacation to Italy to celebrate John’s 50th birthday. Although there are neighbors who have and who are willing to drop by the house, feed Tully and even take him for walks, Karen and John didn’t want him left alone for that length of time. Evidently they had worked their way through both sides of the family without securing a willing volunteer. During an overnight trip to my house in early January, and after a 5-hour afternoon saloon slog through downtown Greenville and several glasses of wine at Peddler Steak House at dinner, they posed the dog-sitting request to me. I eagerly shouted, “Yes. Sure. Why not? Sounds like fun. Count me in. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.” At least that’s how I suspect I answered.

It was nothing more than a very fuzzy memory that I had to be prodded to recall at all when a month later I was at their house for the Super Bowl, and John asked if I was still willing to baby sit Tully in May. Baby sit? Tully? May? It just didn’t ring a bell. After pondering it for a few seconds, I managed to dredge up a faint recollection of the conversation. Having acquiesced to the Tully-babysitting request doesn’t rank up there with losing your car or waking up next to a carnival freak whose name you just can’t place, but it’s still one of those what-was-I-thinking experiences that all too often seem to be related to binge drinking. (Sometimes I even drink enough to, gasp, dance in public.)

The die was cast, as they say, and it was time for some damage control. I certainly didn’t want them to think I am not a man of my word. I already have a grocery list of creditors who think that. “Ah, what are those dates again?” I stammered. It was May 14 through the 24th. Rolling my eyes up into my head, I concentrated for a couple of minutes trying to remember some pressing commitment I had during that time frame. Nothing! Dammit! There I was caught on the horns of a dilemma, sporting a little pre-Super Bowl buzz, and lacking the capacity to come up with a plausible excuse for reversing my original answer. The snake alcohol reared its ugly head again. I’ve got to stop drinking.

Like a desperate shipwreck victim awash at sea, I grasped for the only chunk of flotsam within my short reach: “No problem,” I assured him. “As long as I don’t come up with a job between now and then, I’m good to go.” It wasn’t much, but it was something. It could happen. People are hired all of the time – just not me. I’d have a better chance of winning Power Ball or getting struck by lightening than getting a nine-to-five job during the intervening three months or the next ten years for that matter. John didn’t appear worried.

As the appointed dates persistently drew closer, events that could have saved my bacon had they materialized six weeks or two months earlier began to present themselves. First there was the Kenny Chesney concert in Greenville on the 21st. Learning of this performance, I e-mailed Karen and told her she needed to find someone to spell me the afternoon of the 21st and morning of the 22nd because I was going to be in Row F, Section 230, Seat 1 at the Bi-Lo Center for that concert. She understood because she and I had discussed going to see him if he played a concert in our area. “I’ll be back in time to handle the Friday late afternoon schedule,” I told her.

A week later my Illinois buddy Joni called to say she and her pal Lynn would be enjoying their annual week in Hilton Head on May 16 through the 22 and wanted to come visit me on their way home on the 23rd. This inspired another e-mail to Karen. I told her I needed to leave again on Saturday morning and could she possibly find someone to handle Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Again, she said, no problem. She had found the adult son of a friend who loves English Bull Dogs (Of course at this point he hadn’t spent any real time with Tully.) and had offered to take care of Tully any time. He would assume Tully duties on Thursday morning for the balance of their trip. Hallelujah! Other things came up as well, such as a 2-day Hyundai event on the 18th and 19th, but I just didn’t have the heart to try to reduce my sentence further.

I arrived at Karen and John’s house at 11 AM on the 14th. My replacement and I were scheduled for a Tully tutorial at that appointed time. During the next 45 min not only did we learn the many intricacies of the 3-bedroom, 31/2-bath edifice known as Chez Kewn, like how the universal remotes for the six flat screen TVs work, where the stash of steaks are kept, how to operate John’s ATV, and so forth; but we also received detailed instructions on all things Tully.

Here is a typical day in the life of Tully: At 7:30 AM he arrives bedside whining to get you up and moving. You, of course, are well rested because he has slept in his bed three feet from yours snoring, sputtering, muttering and farting nonstop for six or seven hours. He gets you up at 7:30 AM not to go out – that would be much too much like a normal dog. No, he gets you up so you can feed him stuff. First are his morning pills. This dog takes more vitamins, capsules and supplements than Arnold did when training for Mr. Universe. Most of these have to be wrapped in cheese or he (Tully not Arnold) won’t eat them. Then you give him a little biscuit for being a good boy. Then you put drops in his eyes, so they don’t dry out. He gets another biscuit for being a good boy.

Now it’s time to really feed him. He gets served a cup of dry food in the morning and one in the afternoon. Besides sleeping, this is probably the most normal thing he does during the course of a full day. You pour the cup of food in his dish and simply set the dish on the floor. When he digs in, it sounds like an industrial-strength garbage disposal. It’s a good idea to stand back to prevent getting hit with splashback and to make sure you don’t accidentally fall into his bowl. If you did, you’d be the lead story on the 6 o’clock news in seconds flat.

Usually he is pooped after all of this whining and eating. He’ll lie down and nap for an hour or so. I doubt that he has figured out that this gives you time to make coffee, go to the bathroom, eat some cereal and so forth. I’m sure if he did realize his napping provides some “me” time, he would figure out a way to keep you occupied for that intervening hour or so, too.

Recovered from his early morning routine, Tully is finally ready for his AM constitutional. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just open the door and let him into the fenced-in backyard? Or put a leash on him and walk him down the driveway and around the block? Dream on. No you have to load him into John’s Nissan Titan or ATV and drive him to one of his familiar potty areas. This twice-a-day activity can take 15 min or an hour depending on the spontaneity of his bowels on any given day. For the most part, this activity is consumed with Tully peeing on 15 different objects – trees, shrubs, ferns, sign posts, and the like – or standing pat watching traffic go by. Don’t even dare to think you are in control here. He goes where he wants to go and doesn’t where he doesn’t. If he decides to stand in place for five minutes, you are not going to budge him. If you are lucky, he will find a spot to drop his load. He only did No. 2 once a day while in my care. They were loads of Biblical proportions. After dropping them, he was quite pleased with himself and would prance back to the truck. Built low to the ground, Tully can’t get up into the truck under his own steam. Nope, he puts his front paws into the truck and you have to grab him by his back legs and alley-oop him up into the cab.

Back at the house, Tully gets a biscuit for being a good boy. Then he sits by the refrigerator for his morning ration of ice cubes. He doesn’t like to drink out of a water bowl. I suspect he would if he was thirsty enough, but that’s not his routine. His routine is to be fed 20 or 25 ice cubes after his twice-a-day walks. So you stand by the freezer dropping ice cubes into his mouth one at a time. As he is chewing them up, he is drooling nonstop. So once he has had his fill, there is a puddle of slobber and melted ice that requires mopping up. This is also a convenient time for his daily butt buffing. Yes, you pull on rubber gloves as if you are going to remove a gallbladder; take a baby wipe by its ends; and work it up between his tail and bung. No kidding this is part of the daily routine. He typically sits in the same spot for his butt buffing as he does for his ice cubes. It can create some confusion. I always tried to first feed him ice cubes when he was sitting there. I am the eternal optimist.

With all of his morning activities completed, he is ready to nap for six hours. The temps were fairly cool during my Tully-watch week, so I was able to leave one of the back sliders open giving him free access to the outdoors. So he was able to sleep on a lawn chair by the pool or in one of his many beds scattered around the house. This was the six hours a day when I could get some work done.

Around 4:00 or 4:30 it was time to begin the afternoon Tully routine. Back into the truck for his end-of-day walk. For the first three or four days, I took him for his stand rather than his walk. He would get out of the truck, pee on several things and then stand still for several minutes, while, like a fool, I would call his name, tug on this leash and attempt to cajole him into taking a few steps. No way. He would eventually turn and amble back to the truck. He decided after a few days of this that he would actually do some walking on these little expeditions. But it still wasn’t more than a couple of city blocks.

Back at the house he received a biscuit for being a good boy, and then he’d get his afternoon serving of ice cubes. Sometimes he was so tuckered out from his two-block walk, he would have to lie down to eat his ice. His afternoon pills, wrapped in pieces of Kraft American, would be next followed by his cup of food. Whew, that’s a lot of activity – time for another nap.

Sometime during the end-of-day schedule, he also gets his daily bone. This is the shoulder or hip knuckle from a cow. He gets a fresh one each and every day. He usually chews on it in his bed in the living room, so a towel needs to be laid down to keep all the muck out of his bed. After 20 minutes or so of chewing on it, he is plum worn out and needs to take another nap.

Karen and John recently purchased one of those Tempurpedic mattresses. I wanted to try it out, so I slept in their room. “Slept” would be too strong a term. For the first three nights I tossed and turned in their bed as Tully snored three feet a way. It was like sleeping next to a wood chipper or camping out in a sawmill. The variety of sounds this dog can make in its sleep is nothing short of staggering. It was a relentless sawing racket punctuated by snorts, lip smacks and groans. I may have slept three hours each for the first three nights. After that he decided to sleep in the living room and I actually managed seven or eight hours of sleep a night.

John had assured me that my work would be undisturbed during the day when Tully somehow sleeps for hours on end. For the most part this was true, except for my first full day when he turned into a 100-pound wrecking ball on legs. I spent an hour chasing him around taking things away. Karen had left an 18 pack of beer sitting on the floor in their party room. Hearing some commotion in there, I went in to find Tully with the carton ripped open lapping up beer that he had managed to spill out after biting open one of the cans.

As I was cleaning that up I heard some noise in John’s office and found Tully with a backpack John had left on a chair. He had it by one of the shoulder straps and was dragging it across the floor. I got that away from him. He ran back into the party room and found a 2-foot-long piece of quarter-round molding that he was chewing on. I have no idea where he got it, but I finally got that away from him.

I went back into the office and no more than sat down at the computer when I heard a racket downstairs. I had brought several protein bars with me. They were in a plastic grocery bag on the kitchen counter. Tully, who can barely negotiate a flight of stairs, had dragged the bag off the counter and snatched up one of the bars. Before I could get to him, he swallowed the bar, wrapper and all. He was on his way back for another when I grabbed the bag off the floor. I never saw the wrapper eject from the other end. As far as I know, it’s still moldering in his colon.

On Sunday I didn’t know how I would make it until Thursday. I was like a kid counting down the days until Christmas. Somehow I made it. I handed Tully off to my replacement who stood wide-eyed and slack-jawed as I described Tully’s snoring. As I backed out of their driveway I turned off the car stereo and enjoyed the peace and quiet for a few minutes. No snoring, no whining, no click, click, click of doggy nails on the hardwood floors. Ah, the sweet sound of silence….

Sunday, December 2, 2018

For the Love of All That's Holy, Stop Raining!

I'm not the kind of guy to grouch about the weather. Well, at least not too much. Why bellyache about something you can't change? At least in Greenville, South Carolina, I don't have to train my attention to 10 feet of snow each winter. I'm feeling better already.

But, I'm sick of rain. It's raining here now and feels like it has been raining nearly without pause for months. Forget about getting anything productive, such as mulching leaves, cleaning gutters or opening the chimney, done. Granted, this situation is exacerbated by my travel schedule. I'm sure there have been some pleasant days I've missed by being on the road, but that knowledge doesn't solve the issue.

My house has vinyl siding (I know: classy!) and the trim needs a coat of paint. I was waiting until cooler fall temps to tackle that project. Guess what? We really didn't have much of a fall, and what we did have, was one rainy day after another. In terms of temperature, I guess we may still be in fall, but the chances of getting anything more done than the remaining leaves raked and mulched are slim, indeed.

To compound the sky-water issue is that the damn rain is following me around. I was poured on for a week in Dallas last February, a week in Austin in October and it was raining as I left Los Angeles this past week. Los Angeles!!! WTF?

If you are living in an area that is below its average rainfall for the year, simply invite me for a week's stay. I can almost guarantee an inch or two or the wet stuff will accompany me. I'm like the Pied Piper of precipitation (a bit of alliteration for my English-major readers).

Having lived in places where water is in short supply, I almost feel guilty for bitching about the rain. We survived on well water when I was a little kid. Water was such an issue that during the summer my cousins and I would have to take baths in steel tubs located at a separate well 200 yards behind the house. I've lived in southern New Mexico and West Texas. I get the scarcity of water. That, however, doesn't mean I want to be rained on for days at a stretch.

Enough already. Stop it! 

As a post script to this blog post I'll share what is ultimately a rain story some folks from Nashville told me as we enjoyed a libation at my Friday night watering hole, Soby's. I've heard that the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has reliability issues. I guess this isn't just rumors.

This couple was in town because their oldest daughter plays on a travel soccer team and they came to watch a tournament. Apparently she had a game on Saturday and was dining with her team. They told me one of their current family cars was a Mercedes Sprinter. It is, in fact, the second Sprinter passenger van they have owned. They drive a Sprinter because they have five children and it's the only vehicle large enough to seat seven and still have plenty of cargo room for luggage or whatever.

On their original Sprinter they experienced chronic engine problems that they tried to get resolved at around 19,000 miles. Finally at close to 50,000 mi, Mercedes offered them a deep discount on a new Sprinter to resolve the engine issue. So far so good on the engine in the newer Sprinter. However, in both Sprinters leaks formed around the air conditioning unit located on the van roof. Whoever sits in the second-row seat usually holds an umbrella over his or her head when it rains. The first Sprinter actually had mold growing in it by the time it was traded. They are currently attempting to resolve the leaking in their current Sprinter.

I find the story fascinating and worthy of sharing. Oh, and a 2019 Ford Transit is in their future.