The Music of the “If” Game

The Music of the If Game

If…the biggest, most awesome word ever invented.

My Dad always told me when I used “if” that “if a bullfrog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his butt when he jumped” I guess he wouldn’t.

“If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you?”

“If I were a carpenter, and you were a lady, would you marry me anyway and would you have my baby?”

“If I listened long enough to you, I find a way to believe that it’s all true, knowing that you lied straight faced while I cried. Still I look to find a reason to believe”

Hundreds of songs, I’m sure….

Hundreds of quotes….. All beginning with “If”

We are all going to have hundreds of “if” moments in our lives. Those moments of choice that make a difference going forward in how we will live our lives. Moments we look back on and say: “if I had only done _____, then ______. When we make those decisions, they are made.

I’m pretty tired of playing the “if “ game in my life. I’ve done what I’ve done…sometimes until I’ve become undone! It’s a game that’s a waste of time to play.

As that intellectual group of the 60’s “The Grass Roots” once said: Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today, and don’t worry ‘bout tomorrow….

It’s a good philosophy.

The Common People of America

Common people badly need a place, a niche in today’s America. We little people, which includes not only those who work for hourly wages, but also the retired, the disabled, and the veteran’s who fall in any of the aforementioned categories…we need a spot in America. Unfortunately it’s been being taken away for the last thirty years or so, and I see little movement on the part of our constipated government to ressurect it.

I’m not sure the “powers that be” realize that you cannot have a “body” without a middle. They may want to have an America with just a head and an ass, but without the guts and especially the heart, you have a country which will soon be DOA in a world full of sharks which have been circling us since World War II. They smell our blood in the water and they want a piece.

We haven’t had leadership in this country since the fifties or very early sixties who have had the welfare of our middle class, and so by default the welfare of our actual country at heart. They all have either been under the control of the billionaires, or trying to become billionaires themselves. I’m tired of hearing all the patriotic hogwash about some of them, and about the fake progressiveness of others. You know what I’m talking about. They all have sucked when it has come down to the brass tacks of making America work for Americans.

There are SO many balls in play in the court of mistakes made, or purposeful acts committed in order to hurt common Americans, that the Williams sisters couldn’t keep them in play. It’s time we realize, we little people, that they.. the rich and super rich, and the Wall street minions intend to enslave us. If you think I’m wrong or I’m kidding, just sit quietly somewhere for a while if you are over fifty, and think where you are now as opposed to where you used to be. Then think about how the media feeds you milktoast in the form of the Kardashians, Deflategate, the Oscars, House of Cards, HDTV, the Cooking channel, the Today show, Fox news, the Weather channel, ESPN, etc, etc, ad infinitum. Think of how they seek to divide you by keeping issues such as gay marriage, guns, religion, abortion, and wars always in the forefront while never mentioning how 1% of the population owns 99% of the wealth. As long as they have that power they don’t give a crap about anything else…period. Listen to Robert Reich, that inequality gap really is the issue.

I for one hate being manipulated and even sometimes falling for the manipulation.

America is lagging behind the rest of the world in so many important areas that it is shameful. Other countries take care and revere their elderly. We put them away, and allow the system to bleed them dry to the point of poverty before they die. We produce High School and College graduates who have NO practical knowledge about what it takes to really function.

So, I guess I’m just fed up with being fed up tonight. I’m touching on unpopular areas which people would rather not think about. Unfriend me if you can’t stand to hear it because I’m probably just getting started. Somebody, somewhere has to piss people off in order to get them to pay attention and perhaps…just maybe begin to participate in taking our country, the little people’s country, the hourly worker’s country, the disenfranchised veteran’s country, the honest teacher’s country, the former manufacturing worker’s country, the small three bedroom house owner’s country, the hunter and fisherman’s country, the small farmer’s country. Maybe if we work together and forget about some of this manure they are trying to use to divide us…maybe we middle class Americans can make a come back.

I swear I hope so…and my apologies in advance for rambling, preaching and blowing off steam.

My Life With Coal- A Short Story

COAL- My life story in a few paragraphs…..and in relationship to coal….

I have lived, up until this past year,…and for the short number of years I was away at college, I had lived in a little Cotton mill town all of my life. It was a great place to grow up, with regards to my own personal situation. A wonderful place really. But, things change. Things go unnoticed by most people if they don’t pay close attention to what goes on.

I know when Paula and I first moved back to Trion in 1974, we moved into a little house on Ninth street. The first 10 years or so after we moved back were “thin” years. We got by….we did get by, but on a lot less than most people would ever think or know. Our dinners were populated with a lot of fish sticks, creamed chipped beef, tuna casserole, spaghetti, and salmon patties. Now, don’t get me wrong. I still like most of those things. I still fix them from time to time. Brings back old, good memories.

One of the things about living in a cotton mill town is smoke. As I previously mentioned, we moved back to Trion to 9th street, which had always been know as “Smokey row” or smokey road. The reason it was given that title was because it was the street that led right to the mill, which was only a block away. Actually, the “back end” of the mill, where the boilers and power generators were located was only a few hundred yards from our house. When they were burning coal, hard and strong back in 1974, we couldn’t leave the windows open for a breath of fresh air at night. If we did, we would wake up the next morning with a coating of fine black dust and tiny black coal crystals covering the areas inside the house near the windows.

Of course this was nothing really new to me, having grown up near that mill. We had never lived out of sight of those gigantic tall smoke stacks at any point during my childhood. Simmons street and eighth street had been our homes and you could see the smoke stacks from both places. You could hear the “work whistle” as it blew at 20 minutes before the hour, and the hour itself at 8 a.m., 4 p.m., and 12 a.m., for all the shifts. Many times those smoke stacks would be belching out smoke. Sometimes white. Sometimes gray and sometimes black…especially when the stacks were being “blown out” As a child, I don’t remember it being as “nasty” as it was in the 70’s. Perhaps there was a reason for that. As I recall, we could go by the big coal stack as kids, and the coal was actually beautiful. Large, shiny, almost obsidian looking pieces lay all around the coal pile. I collected some of them as a kid, and took them home. You could rub your hands on this stuff and you would get very little, if any, black on them. It also burned very clean. It was what they called Anthracite coal.

You see, back in the fifties, a lot of things were still being made in America. Riegel Textile had a lot of high end goods. Baby blankets, and cloth being made into all kinds of wonderful products. Government contracts making cloth for the DOD. Riegel had one of the best dye houses in the country, with men dying cloth who could make it look like almost anything. None of these people had been betrayed…yet. And times were pretty good in that small town, at that time, for those people. Not so much for some people in other places, but for those people…at that time, the fifties, the early sixties…perhaps even into the late sixties, things were good.

Jobs hadn’t been farmed out to China and India, or Vietnam and Mexico yet by the owners of the businesses, the soon to be millionaire and billionaire traitors who traded American jobs for money in their pockets. Some of the people who are still around today, and who still have that money. Some of the people….

By the seventies, I believe they were using Bituminous coal. The dye house was gone, and Riegel Textile had turned into Mt. Vernon mills. The big thing that was keeping the mill going, and the jobs there was denim. Blue denim. My Daddy and some more hard working men at that mill had gotten the mill switched over from running the cloth of the fifties, and the owners had switched the business model around to suit the fashions of the times. Everybody needed blue jeans, and things made from denim, and they were making the best denim in the world at that mill, at that time. When I went to work for them, and they were burning that Bituminous coal, and all I had to do was walk down the street to the mill, they were running seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 364 days a year. We got Christmas day off. They were making BIG money on denim, and they were taking advantage of it while they could. I can’t blame them. But I didn’t fit in that environment, like my Daddy and his Daddy had for so many years. I left working there in 1978 after four years of that seven days a week stuff. I never went back…except for a ultra short stent in the 90’s. But that’s another story for another day. Denim rocked on for quite a few years after I had gone. I continued to live in Trion, and work out of town. But I paid attention to the smoke stacks, and the coal. If you’ve been following me for very long on Facebook, you have seen some of my photos of those stacks. I may just attach one to this post if I can find one.

Now, the last time I looked at the railroad cars that were coming into the mill at Trion, the last time, before I moved out of town…before I stopped walking that little town and left for other places, that last time I looked they were using Lignite. The lowest grade of coal, the cheapest and the kind which burns the dirtiest. Denim was not king anymore and business was again changing. Some jobs had gone other places, outside the United States. But, some of them stayed, and they have stayed, and they still stay. And I admire them for that. One of the very few who could keep some jobs here, in the face of all the change, and all of the pressure of the years, and all of the temptations to put profit totally over location. They didn’t give raises, they hired the folks coming from down South, but they have kept the doors open. And they are still open, but things are not the same…and they will never be the same. From Anthracite to Bituminous to Lignite. The story of our country in coal. It’s just a story though, and I’m a poor story teller. I have not solutions. I offer no advice. It is what it is, and it will never be the same. And that’s the shame of it….that’s the shame..

Walking the Mall with Memories

Walking the Mall and The Memories

One of the places which I still like to go and take a walk when it’s rainy and bad outside, is the Mt. Berry Square Mall. As a matter of fact, my wife and I went there today and walked to get our cardio workout. Unfortunately, as my Dad once sang about the old gray mare, “she ain’t what she used to be, many long years ago.”

Mt. Berry Square Mall opened back in 1991. It was brand spanking new back in mine and my wife’s “heydays” of our working careers. It was beautiful. Skylights illuminated the food court and it was full of new stores with new smells, and stocked full of stuff we needed in our lives. Our sons were still living at home with us then. If I remember correctly, they opened it early in 1991….almost a “late” 1990 opening. The first Christmas we shopped there would have been in December of 1991.

As with all other years, 1991 had it’s memorable historical moments. The first Gulf War took place that year. Space shuttles were being launched with regularity. The shuttle Columbia carried another piece of Spacelab into space that year. In December of that year, Gorbachev resigned and the Soviet Union collapsed. Memorable historical events.

Of course there were the everyday events also occurring in our lives. Paula and I got on the same shift at Crown Crafts where we were working that year, and we rode out and back together to work every day for the next eight years or so. We had a lot of discussions and listened to a lot of music in those years. We went to lunch together practically every day. We were very lucky to have good jobs at a good company.

Then, on a lot of weekends we went to Mt. Berry Square and shopped. Afterwards, we might go to the movies in Rome. A couple of years later, can’t exactly recall when, they opened up a movie theater there at the mall. We made a lot of trips to Rome during the ensuing years. A lot of trips to that mall. Most of them were great trips.

Paula’s Mom and Dad made one of their last “spring visits” to Georgia the year the mall opened and we took them there. Cancer took them both in a few years after that. My dear mother in law died first in 1992. She really enjoyed her first and only trip roaming around that mall. She would always say “Wow” or “Oh my” if she thought something was special. She was a wonderful, caring woman who passed too soon.

There were the Christmas shopping trips, when we would always buy a Christmas ornament from the little old folks from Loganville, who set up in the middle of the mall. They always had some interesting and nicely priced things, and it was a pleasure to look at them and select “just the right thing” Evie played with a set of Russian nesting dolls this year that we bought from those good folks way back then. Good quality to have lasted so long.

We always looked forward to the day that Santa came to the mall, and started letting the kids come sit on his lap and have pictures made. I think we have photos of almost all of our grandchildren sitting in that mall Santa’s lap. A couple of them are hanging on our refrigerator now, held up with assorted animal magnets. I know my children could recall a lot more memories associated with the mall than me. Ted was learning how to drive during those years, and I am sure that old red EXP of his went out and back to Mt. Berry quite a few times.

The stores were jam packed with great merchandise back in those days. You could always find what you were looking for to celebrate a birthday, or any other special day. For years, businesses were on waiting lists to open up a storefront in Mt. Berry Square. It was bustling and full of people on weekends. Not anymore.

As we walked around and around today, there were more empty spaces than spaces with stores. Sears, which had a presence in Rome for over 100 years closed up last year and sits empty. The mall has up ads begging businesses to come move in. It’s a little sad. No, more than that, it’s a lot sad. It’s amazing how quickly things change in the world of business, as well as in our lives. Just as Walmart opened up their stores in many small towns across America and closed up most of the “Mom and Pop” shops in those towns, the Amazon’s and other “online” shopping ventures have begun to cause many malls across America to close up. I suppose that’s progress, but not for a sentimental old guy like me.

I hope that Mt. Berry Square manages to stay open for a while. I go out of my way to go there sometimes just to walk and to remember. There are still sights and smells which invoke the nostalgia of days gone by. Good days, wonderful times, great memories. There are closer places to where I live in which I could walk in the rain, but none of them have those memories contained in their walls. They don’t contain my memories, which are kindled and which burn warmly inside my chest every time I go around one of those familiar corners

I hear a child’s laughter, and for just an instant I’m back to 1991, walking through there with Matt, looking for the newest and greatest transformer for Christmas.

And so, it’s worth the few extra miles drive. Well worth it.