2018

Saturday, 22 December, 2018: The Houses of Leavenworth

've begun taking photos of the interesting houses here in Leavenworth while out walking Cooper; it's my only respite. There are some nice ones, but mostly this town is like the Northside of Birmingham...beautiful homes from the hay day of the town, now in disrepair. Click on this image to take a closer look at this tired old beauty.

Sunday, 9 December, 2018: Leavenworthless Kans-Ass

I love spending time with E and with Cooper, especially during the holidays, BUT can we please go back to Newport News or Savannah? Everywhere I go in this town, I'm carrying. This place is run down and looks like it has been decaying since 1950. The only industry here seems to be the prisons, so revitalization of this area seems unlikely.

There are some bright spots.

We ate at The Depot for brunch this morning and it was great. I hope we go back soon. My steak, eggs, and grits were outstanding. Everybody got steak and eggs.

Some of the homes here are amazing, old homes from the 1800s and the early 1900s, beautiful old mansions in great condition. There are many needing a lot of love and money, sad old ladies in much need of repair. The problem with these homes is that, interspersed among them are absolute wrecks of houses, lived in by people who take pride in making sure their yards are full of junk. Derelict cars are all over the place. No one in their right mind would buy one and invest their money to fix it up, unless they had the money to buy up the whole area.

City planning sucks in this town. It is amazing how haphazardly the sidewalks are laid-out around the town. Cooper and I will be walking down a walk and it will just END, in the middle of the block. Then we'll have to walk in the road for two more blocks before finding another walkway.

I like the old downtown area, close to FT. Leavenworth, and there are some great old brick storefronts there. There are some nice little shops and cafes in this area that I would try out, but I always have The Coop with me.

I'm not bored.

Cooper and I walk a lot.

Kady, Sandi, E and I went to see Love Actually on the big screen in Kansas City Thursday Night. It was a Movie Party with crowd participation. Pretty Fun.

E and I went to buy a car on Friday. She and A bought a new VW Atlas, which is what I want for Kady, now. It is pretty amazing for a great price and has a fantastic warranty.

Kady made dinner for us Friday and Saturday nights. We watch a lot of football and we play card games at night. We've eaten out at a couple of places, but nothing worth mentioning.

We've had a little snow here, but, happily, I haven't had to shovel. As a matter of fact, we had to order a shovel in case it snows again. Meanwhile, Charlottesville is covered. From our security cameras, it looks like about six inches. I'm enjoying the photos of VMI Covered in snow and now how much work happens there to keep the place running...work I don't have to do.

So then, the days are going fast. I'll enjoy the holidays with this half of my family and see the others when we get back.

Wednesday, 28 November, 2018: Cooper and E Time

E in her office talking to A on Face Time. Kady and Cooper curled up on the couch, Kady putting on her makeup, Cooper under a blanket, warming up from a romp in the snow and chasing the Frisbee out back. SS living out at the trailer and driving back and forth every day to spend time here. Me sitting at my laptop writing, behind everyone at a little desk E's has set up for me and calls "Dad's Office."

This is The Holidays in Kansas.

E is off until Monday. She'll only work two days next week, a test week. She and Cooper are the reason we're here in Kansas...in the Snow. Worth it.

Monday, while E studied for her test, I took Barb and Al to the Airport. I drove the BMW which I enjoy driving. E thinks there is something wrong with it, but every time I drive it there doesn't seem to be a problem. She's got the new car bug. We test drove a Honda Pilot. the other day. Today, we're driving a VW Atlas.

The drive to Kansas City Airport wasn't too bad, but one road we a bit dodgy. The BMW is all wheel drive, so I felt pretty confident. There was only one incident where I felt the tires slip, but I corrected easily. I wouldn't have wanted to do the trip in my car.

It's supposed to go up in the 40s today and tomorrow, so maybe the snow will melt. I need it to so I can go out walking, safely. I almost busted my ass a few times yesterday and I don't want to chance injuring myself. E is out walking Cooper right now and I feel guilty not going with them.

Kady has begun decorating the tree. I'm going to go help, though I know that she'll run me off before long, usually for putting an ornament in the wrong place. She is very opinionated about the placement and balance of ornaments.

 Thursday, 22 November, 2018: Thanksgiving in Kansas

After our static week off in Fruita, we took two days to drive across Colorado and Kansas. The trip over the Rockies was beautiful, but east of Denver is a boring spectacle of farmland and wind turbines.

Once we set up in the Leavenworth RV Park, I packed up everything I brought on the trip in the truck and we drove to E's place. I'll live with her for the next 40 days to be with Cooper while she goes to school. SS will stay in the RV and Kady will stay here and there doing whatever she wants.

E and I had a busy day yesterday. After a walk with Cooper, she and I took A's truck to the shop for a tire rotation and oil change. Kady and SS linked up with us at the house for lunch fro Jimmy-John's, then E and I drove to the airport to pick up Barb and Al, A's parents, flying in from Minnesota. Dinner was at a Mex place, who's name I plan to forget. My meal was terrible

After dinner, the boys hit the liquor store for Champaign, bourbon, wine, and beer. The girls hit the grocery store.

Last night Al and Barb stayed up late, and I stayed up with them. The conversation was lively and I haven't solved this many world problems since my last conversation with Mitch Pigg. I'm on the couch until they leave on Monday, so I can't go to bed until they do.

I slept better last night, having pounded naproxen-sodium during the day and ibuprofenlast night for my sore back. Riding in the back seat in the truck and bouncing around like I'm riding a bull in the rodeo is taking a toll on me. Happily, I won't be riding back there until January and hen only for about three days.

She made biscuits and gravy for breakfast, which was ready as soon as Kady and SS got here, about ten. My Favorite! I made the Mimosas under the watchful eyes of my daughter.

This morning, I took Cooper for a nice walk to a baseball park down the road. It was perfect. I could close him in and let him run around like a goofy dog all he wanted. Next time, tomorrow, I'll take a ball. E ran a 5-miler and got back just after Cooper and I.

During breakfast, A Face-timed us from Jordan. His deployment there is the reason we're here this holiday season.

Dinner will be traditional; the cooking beginning last night. Al is cooked the Turkey, Barb made the Pecan Pie. Kady and E made the fixins.

Football was watched.

Before Dinner, I took Cooper in the other direction, East, and down to the Missouri River. It was a hump and I struggled coming back. My legs were toast but that equaled 4 miles. I've really missed my walks on this trip and I've been sitting way too much. Tomorrow I think I'll go downtown and see how much farther I can go.

Everything was great at dinner, even the sweet potato dish, which caught fire, blackening the marshmallows. We still ate it and it was delicious.

November, 12, 2018: Static in Fruita

We spent a week in Fruita, replenishing supplies, washing clothes, cleaning up the place, watching TV, and sight-seeing.

There are some fun little restaurants in the town that we visited, Hot Tomato Pizza, Rib City Grill, El Tapatio and Strayhorn Grill.

We drove into Junction City a couple of times, once to eat at Main Street Cafe a 1950s themed diner.

Sunday night, we drove out into the desert, back into Utah around Westwater, to star gaze. I set up my camera and tried a few shots. I had pretty good success, but probably had the exposure set for too long.

Monday, We drove up to the Colorado National Monument. It's beautiful up there and we saw our first Big Horn Sheep. Amazing!

 Friday, 9 November, 2018: Kowalski Lives

We drove to Fruita Colorado this morning, arriving late afternoon. On our way here, I had the kids take me to Cisco UT, a pilgrimage of sorts. Cisco is the second and final stop I requested on this trip. It is as important to the history of me as anything else in my life.

Vanishing Point, was THE defining movie of my young life. I have watched it over thirty times. I could watch it again right now, except that I loaned it to a cadet who never returned it. I'm sure he just "borrowed it."

Cisco was the location for the opening and closing scenes of the movie, the place where the hero, Kowalski, drove his 1970 Dodge Challenger to his death. I was searching the net for things to see on I-70 in Utah and Cisco came up. In the movie, it is called Cisco California, so I was skeptical. However, after watching videos and looking at photos, I recognized it right away (see: watched... thirty times, above). I had to be there.

Luckily, it is right off the Highway, so I didn't inconvenience the others. They were good sports and acted as if they were into it as well. Kady even found the railroad tracks, with SS confirming with his Binos.

I was happy to see tire marks on the road, from people spinning their tires, proof that the movie and Kowalski are not forgotten. I'll have to bring Bess back.

 Thursday, 8 November, 2018: White Shirt and Black Tie Country

Last night we ate Mex at a place called the Red Iguana. Everything was delicious. Yelp is really coming in handy on this trip and gives me a way to participate in a plan that has been pretty much finalized--I find the cool, out of the way places to eat.

We arrived in Salt Lake City on the 7th, at a really nice RV Park in a seedy part of town. Kady won't let me walk about the streets, so I'm washing clothes. SS went to the LDS family research facility here. I thought about going, but, checking their site, I came up against the same road blocks. I decided not to go. SS didn't stay long either. After clothes washing, we'll go shopping. We'll be here till Friday Morning, then we're headed south west of here.

We drove up to Wasatch National Forest today and the views driving up were spectacular...wide open desert with snow capped mountains in the far distance. It was higher up than we had been the whole trip, and COLD!

We passed Park City Ski Slopes, best know for being where Alana Sores, Playboy's Miss March 1983 once skied. Well, that's all I know about it. She's still my all-time favorite.

Monday, 5 November: Zion and Laverkin UT

Monday, we drove to Zion National Park. It is beautiful up there and easy to see by driving, stopping, and hiking a bit. I loved the switchback road going up the mountain and the tunnel, Amazing.

Sometimes the heights are overwhelming to Kady. She's frightened of heights, so, if the road is on her side of the truck, she faces away.

While we were camped at Zion River Resort, we rode into town twice to eat atRock River Roasting Company. Both times we went, I got the Quiche Blossoms. They have three different types, Spinich, Ham and Mushroom, and Bacon, corn, and Green Chile. I had all three and they were delicious. I want to make them when I get back. Looks like you just make a cup out of filo in a muffin pan, pour in the mixed egg and ingredients, and bake. Can't run to Utah every time I want one.

I'm a little traveled out and I'm looking forward to spending time with Cooper and E. We'll hit Ft. Leavenworth, where she's assigned, on the 22nd and will stay until after the New Year. We'll fit a trip to Minnesota to see Barb and Al, A's parents, after Christmas.

 Sunday, 4 November, 2018: It's SUNDAY!

It was a consensus this morning - "We'll sleep n and then do nothing all day."

I began the morning watching12 Strong. It was good, but I kept thinking what they could have done with Spector Gun Ships, Artillery, and a Task Force Parachute Assault. Calling in B52s sure looked like lots of fun though. I'm a little jealous that all I got to call in were F-4s, A-10s, B-111s, and Spector. Cleared Hot!

I think I'll go for a walk and see what's up.

OH! Brief Answers to Big Questions is Great. Read it.

Tomorrow we're going to Zion National Park.

 Saturday, 3 November, 2018: Virgin UT

Auburn beat TAMU with no help from me. I was on the road from Northern AZ to Virgin UT, in what can best be described as a NO CELL PHONE area. We skirted in and out of Utah so many times, my cell phone gave up trying to give me the correct current time and just displayed Virginia Time.

We're in a small RV park, Zion River Resort, that has the best internet so far. It's a quiet, though packed place, There is little to see here, so we're cooking hotdogs and watching Football on Cable. Cable AND Internet. Can't believe it.

Quiet Day.

 Friday, 2 November, 2018: All The Things

We've been traveling fools. It seems like everywhere we go, the scenery gets better and better. The west has such interesting and beautiful things to discover. This area is the perfect backdrop as I read Steven Hawking's last book, Brief Answers to Big Questions.

Monday we sent to the red cliffs of Sedona. Heather and Buck led the way in their car, every stop was covered up with visitors, but we, somehow, found places to park. The best stop of the day was at the Church of the Holy Cross. The surrounding hills were amazing. The church was a nice piece of architecture and the statue of poor Yeshua, still on the cross, as the Catholics portray him, was well done. To me, however, the whole thing seemed to detract from the beauty of nature and history surrounding it. I dubbed it "Jesus on the Rocks," and didn't let it spoil my commune with science and the universe.

Sedona is a wacky place, filled with shops selling hippy clothing, every kind of talisman, therapeutic minerals, and crystals. Spiritualists, mediums, readers, and fortune tellers seem to have shops every other store. Even the food has a hippy flare.

Tuesday we drove to the Grand Canyon, then out to the Meteor Crater, then hit an old ghost town, Two Gun, on the way back.

 

Everyone knows the canyon is beautiful and big, but it took me aback just how Beautiful and how Big. I stood at the overlook saying Wow, over and over. I had seen it from the air, flying to California, but from above, you just can't tell. Let me say it again, "Wow!"

After the Canyon, we drove to Meteor Crater, the first of two places I told Kady and SS that I "Had to See." I wish that my Dad and my Brothers had been with me. It was spectacular. After walking around to every viewpoint, I went inside to see the largest piece of the meteor. I was amazed that they let people touch it and I did, of course. Let the hippies in Sedona have their minerals and crystals, I'll take a nice big chunk of iron from space that arrived 50,000 years ago., plus, my footfall in glasses is always suspect.

 

Wednesday, we moved to Page and Lake Powel. This the most beautiful spot that we have camped. The RV park is in a National Park and sits high above Lake Powell, which is surrounded by mountain monuments and mesas. It's quiet out here. Unlike Lake Pleasant, which wasn't, this place is inhabited by people who are nice, friendly, and respectful of the peace and quiet. I haven't seen a 4-wheeler yet.

The day we arrived we drove to see Horseshoe Bend, very cool, extremely beautiful, but a hike, especially at this altitude. Kady wouldn't get close to the edge and told me that for her sanity, I didn't need to get close either. No problem. The place gave me vertigo, plus, my footfall in glasses is always suspect.

Today we took a Jeep Tour up to Antelope Canyon. Kady told me two nights ago, "I made a decision. I spent the money to take a jeep tour to Antelope Canyon. You'll Love it." It was worth any price. This is the place I have liked best so far. It is a photographer's paradise. It is a canyon cut deep through a mountain out in the desert. Never the same place it changes after each rain, with the time of day and season, and the periodic flash floods borne up stream. Every photographer, sees something different, the Navajo more than anyone. Our native guide pointed out different features that looked like this and that. She would borrow peoples cameras and take photos of "birds, dragons, sunsets, and whatnot." I saw color, light and shadow, contrast.

Oh, and I got to see where Brittany Spears stood in the making of I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.  It was a big moment.  Kidding.  We did meet some nice people on the tour, two Aussis and a Swiss teacher.

Thursday, 25 October, 2018: Unpleasant Harbor

We're in Phoenix, staying at Pleasant Harbor RV Park. The area is beautiful, but this park is overly crowded. There are hundreds of people here. All of the sites are back-in, gravel, with fences around them on three sides. It's Noisy! People are running around in their big trucks, 4-wheelers, motor cycles, playing their music too loud, and using leaf blowers to clean off their site. There are certain amenities you expect at these rates which are not available. There is no cable. The place is wired for cable, but not turned on or hocked up. There is internet, but it is slower than shit. I feel like I'm back on AOL.

And, we're staying here for 5 days?

Luckily, SS has a good HDTV antenna and Phoenix has plenty of HD Stations.

This place is a boater's mecca for Arizona. There are yachts, house boats, fishing boats, speed boats, and sail boats of every size on the lake here. I imagine sailing on this lake in a small boat would be a blast, but I don't see why there are such big boats here; the lake is big, but not that big.

We went to Heather and Buck's place last night and the whole family assembled, Buck cooked up Tacos and they were fantastic. We watched a little of Game Two of the World Series and I was happy the Red Sox won. More tonight, I hope.

I wouldn't live out here. This place is just too arid. Cactus are fun for a while, but I can imagine it getting old really fast. I'll keep Virginia. I Know Buck's work is out here, and Drew is training to do the same, but I sure wish they were all on the East Coast. Especially My Daughter, my Son-in-law, and my puppy. Can't wait to get to Leavenworth.

I'm missing Bess. I'm used to going where I want, when I want, and pulling the trailer doesn't allow that. Once we're parked, we unhook, set up the trailer with water, electricity, and sewage, and then we can roam around. But I'm letting the other two decide where and when we go. If I think I want to see something, like Old Fort Stockton, they have been really supportive. Still, I miss my car.

Today, we're going for In-N-Out Burgers. Yum! Can't wait.

 Tuesday, 23 October, 2018: West Texas

Traveling West Texas is beautiful. Some find it boring, but the desert holds many interests for me. During my trips out here for JTF-6 and the Academy, I learned to look past a land that looks barren and see the animals, plants, and beautiful landscapes.

I took classes in South West History in college so I have an appreciation for what I'm seeing when we visit places like Historical Fort Stockton, where we went last night.

However, I can't see a damn thing. We've been driving through fog all morning. We can barely see 50 meters up the road and less to the side.

As we approached El Paso, I began to think I wanted to see the Academy.

What the hell was I thinking? No fucking way! I hated that place.

Fort Stockton is a sad little town. Most of the buildings are boarded up and run down. Broken down cars are everywhere. The old Army post, though interesting, needs some love, a museum curator, and a benefactor. The train station is nice.

We met Buck for dinner. He's working an oil rig out here somewhere. He recommended K-Bob Steakhouse which turned out to be a real treat, an oasis in the cultural desert which is Fort Stockton. Everyone had steak and shrimp, except me. I got the grilled chicken Kabab, and I swear by it. If you're ever out here, don't miss this place.

Just before El Paso, the fog burned off. We could see for miles.

I had forgotten about desert rain storms. I used to watch them for hours from our OPs along the border; you can see them coming for miles. After the fog cleared, we could see one headed our way from the mountains in Mexico. It took more than two hours to reach us.

We're staying in Deming NM tonight, which looks like a nicer town than Stockton. The weather is nasty, so we're staying in and Kady is cooking in the RV. Better anyway.

Sunday, 21 October, 2018: San Antonio and Gurene

After visiting Uncle Ed in Houston, we headed to San Antonio to visit the other side of Kady's Family, her aunt B, a spry young 92 year old, B's son Terry, his wife Debra, and their son Weston. We got to meet Weston's fiancé, Bree.

We arrived early enough to have dinner with them Friday night.

Our first house, we had visited before, but only walked through. Now we had our own personal guide. Villa Finale, or the Norton-Polk-Mathis House, is probably the most visited house in the King William neighborhood. Built in 1846, it came into disrepair until bought by Walter Mathis, a decorated Army Air Corps pilot in WWII and a banker, in 1967. He restored the place and made it his final home for forty years.

I'm guessing he was a bit of a quack by the things he collected. First and foremost, he loved Napoleon and collected all kinds of Napoleon things, Then there was Wedgewood, stick pins, shaving mugs, pocket watches, china, silver, and loads of other things, which, when he donated the house to the National Trust at his death, he asked to not be moved except to dust.

This is not the normal display of his things. There was a crack in one of the walls being repaired.

Saturday, we had brunch at the Guenther House, which was spectacular. This is a MUST when in San Antonio; we go there every visit. No not miss the Texas-sized cinnamon rolls. After, we went touring another of the historical homes in the city.

We drove to the Maverick Carter House, by far my favorite of the two. Purchased by the Frank Carter, a prominent attorney, in 1914, the house was built by W. H. Maverick in 1893. It is gorgeous! Unlike Villa Finale, the decorators of this house understood that less is more. The artistry of stone masonry and wood crafting is seen everywhere, from floors to ceiling.

Just inside the front door, there is a turret room. In the middle of that little round room is Ms. Aline Carter's harp. Across from that room is a parlor and then a small arched door where Ms. Carter had a ten-seat chapel built. I was told that she also built an observatory on the roof of the house and had a telescope installed.

OK, I was intrigued. What kind of woman builds an observatory and chapel in their house? Like discovering Lady Dianna Manners and Martha Gellhorn in past years, my tour of the house became a a journey to the past discovering Ms. Carter. I was a lot like Richard Collier seeing the photo of E McKenna in Somewhere in Time.

On the bottom floors where you get a sense of Ms. Carter's style and tastes, you don't meet the whole person until you get to the third floor. There you see all of the things in which she was interested, There are specimen tables and work tables around a large open space. Along the walls are curio cabinets with bones, rocks, shells, a preserved octopus, and hundreds of other things from nature, There were larger tables with chairs where she taught science, reading, and writing to delinquent children, microscopes, and an eight-inch reflecting telescope. She was into everything about nature.

Sadly, we were unable to visit her observatory she had built on the roof to see her refractor telescope.

She was a social worker who worked throughout the community and in the local jails and orphanages. She loved Poetry and became the Poet Laureate of Texas from 1947-1949 and won an international poetry contest for Poems for Peace in Paris 1950. She published two books of poetry which I intend to find and read.

That night we visited with Aunt B at her house. In her 90s, B still loves to entertain, just like in the days at the Lake House in Alabama. How I miss those lazy days on the dock with the kids swimming all around me. I've never called the house "Luke and Barb's," but "THE Lake House," as if it belonged to the whole family, because they truly made us believe it was our home while we were there.

Sunday, we went to Gruene, We got there early and walked about the town. It was crowded! Gruene is a cool town of artisan shops and antique stores, a dance hall, and one big restaurant, The Gristmill River Restaurant. The food here is great and we eat there every time we're around San Antonio. Another MUST when in San An.

 Thursday, 18 October, 2018: Edwin

The bottom half of this trip, Texas to Arizona, is designed to visit Kady's side of the family. Today was our first stop, visiting Kady's Uncle Edwin, Sylvia's younger brother, who has lived in Texas since joining the Army right out of high school.

Assigned to Fort Sam Houston in the 60s, he worked is a clerk for a while, then ran the post news paper and worked for the Army film department. When he got out, he worked for the local TV station in San Antonio as a camera man and photographer until retirement. This man is so much fun and has such great stories, and strong opinions. Ed does not mince words.

Ed is the man who gave me his Mamiya 6 camera and lenses.

After a fun visit at his house, interrupted periodically by the workmen refurbishing it, we went for Bar-B- Q at Joe's. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't Alabama BBQ. The meat was a bit fatty and the sauce a little runny, but the sides I liked.

We'll pull pitch tomorrow morning and head toward San Antonio for more family time. Kady's Aunt B, Bill's older sister, her son Terry and his wife Deb, and their son Wesley live all live there. We love San An and have visited many times. I'm looking forward to the next three days.

Wednesday, 17 October, 2018: Peacocks and All Sorts

Last night we stayed in Camp Tonkawa, a small camp outside ofNacogdoches, Texas. This is a really rustic camp, meaning, No Internet and No Phone Service. I don't know how they lived back on Old West times.

Once we had our site picked and the RV set up, we headed back to town for the requisite Whataburger. Awesome! And, the vanilla shake was, like always at Whataburger, fantastic!

I may have to have one every day, until I'm in In-and-Out Burger Land.

The coolest thing about Camp Tonkawa were the animals. It's like a zoo where the animals run wild. We had Black Tail Deer, even a buck, come right up close to the RV. This morning, we were awaken by Peacocks. On my way to the bathhouse I say a white deer and then walked up on a guinea roost. Wacky bird the guinea.

I got in a walk, a short one, after breakfast. I walked down by the lake, actually a swimming hole, looking for more deer, but seeing none. There were two little bridges across and rope swings n every tree. It reminded me of that summer at Wind Creek with Carey and his folks, when we met Yvonne and Kit Williams and their friend Tootie Murphy from Morris Alabama and Mortimer Jordan High. That was one fun summer.

Tonight, we're just south of Houston. Have I mentioned that I am so glad I'm not driving this thing? I would have had a nervous breakdown trying to get this RV through Houston. Props to SS Smith.

This is a real Park. Concrete pads, cable hookup, high speed internet, all the comforts of home. The weather is warmer here; still overcast, but nice enough that I'm writing this out on the picnic table. This is how I pictured the trip.

Kady is inside making something that smells delicious. Can't wait. All I've had today was a bowl of Special Kay and two croutons I stole from the salad bowl. Kady loves when I do that.

One of my favorite things about the Southwest is Grackles! We have Great Tailed Grackles all over this park.

Monday, 15 October, 2018: Tennessee Crossing

Monday morning Kady, SS, and I departed his place and Rogersville headed down I-81 picking up I-40 just passed Knoxville, headed west through Nashville, to Memphis, crossed the Mississippi River into Arkansas, and stopped overnight at Tom Sawyer Campground, in West Memphis.

SS does the driving, Kady helps navigate, and I'm on the back seat Wazeing.  My job, if you can call it that, is boring, so I listen to music and read.  I finally finished The Sun Also Rises, a great story but Hemingway frustrates the shit out of me with his dialogue. Yeah. We got it Poppa.  Mike hates Cohen, Brett loves herself.  Everyone loves Brett, especially Cohen.  Bill has money.  Jake is the damaged hero.  Everyone is a drunk.

Damn, this book was a struggle.

It rained on us almost the entire 9-hour trip, but SS is a great driver and took it in stride. He's amazing with this monster; I never want to drive it. He's been teaching me how to setup and teardown, and how the systems work so I can help. Mostly, I'm just in his way right now, but I'll get it.

The campground was right on the river, had all the hook-ups for sewage, water, and power, but wasn't nearly as nice as the RV park in the Keys. It was cold out but I walked along the river a bit. We mostly stayed inside.

Tomorrow we head for Texas.

Sunday, 14 October, 2018: I'm Here in Old Tennessee

Kady and I loaded the Fusion Friday morning, and by that I mean I loeded up the car while she girled-up, read for our trip out West.

The drive was a bit crazy, especially around Christiansburg, when we got behind some idiot with some kind of mental issue, driving erratically, stomping his brakes and driving about 25 in a 65. We didn't realize what was going on until we were directly behind him. Another guy was trying to wave us down to stay away while he called the cops. A few seconds later, we all spotted a trooper in the median and the weirdo took off at a rapid rate. The cop pulled out, chasing him, and Kady and I took off, because we didn't want to miss the show about to take place. The other guy took off as well. After about three miles the weirdo pulled over and tried to get out of the car, but we were close enough to hear the trooper order him to stay in the car. The other guy pulled over as well. I sure wish I knew what happened.

After we passed I-77, the traffic thinned out quite a bit, which made the rest of the trip more fun.

We got to SS's place by early afternoon. SS owns an old farm, with a farm house, barn, pump house, a creek, and a few acres of hilly land. It's very quiet there.

We've spent the last two days hanging out, buying supplies, and packing the RV for the trip. We beging the trip officially tomorrow.

Tuesday, 9 October, 2018: Family Days

The kids ran the Army 10-Miler on Sunday. E and A flew in as did Barb and Al. Jonathan, KS, and Em joined them Saturday night. Kady and I drove in and met them Sunday afternoon, right after the race, at Chrystal City.

 

We all caught the tram in to China Town and had lunch at Sixth Engine. Jillian and Mike joined us as well. I can't say enough good about this place. My meal was fantastic, the service was outstanding, and the place is a really cool old firehouse.

I had the Fried Chicken Loco Moco with seasoned sushi rice, a fried egg, mushroom gravy, and togarashi. I want that again Right Now! KS had the same thing and also raved about it. Kady has the Bistro Filet with eggs. She let me have a bite and it was perfect. Even the white bread toast that came with it was delicious.

The end of the day was a little rushed, because KS and Jay had to get back to get Brasco out of the kennel, but that worked out well, getting Kady and I back to the house before dark.

Saturday, I took Kady's car to the White Horse Auto Wash and watched, from a rocking chair, as someone else detailed it. Totally worth the $35 but they missed some stuff , I assume, so I would know that I am still the king of detailing.. Her Fusion looks like a new car.

Last night we ate dinner at Jay and KS's. Kel made my new favorite meal of shrimp and noodles. I had to really fight the urge to have seconds, but I'm on a mission to drop some pounds, walking 5 miles a day and cutting out the junk. After dinner we played Trivia Murder Party. Ann was there for the night , which always adds to the fun.

I began packing for the trip today. We leave Friday. Pretty excited.

Sunday, 7 October, 2018: Cleaning House

The moments of happiness prevail around here. I'm living my best life right now and have few worries. However some anxieties try to invade my little piece of heaven on earth Kady has built for me.

The Newsis particularly negative as , I guess, it always has been. The negative is easy to glean out of your life. Just read the headline and the first paragraph, that will tell you what's going on. Then, if you want further info, read on. I stay away from opinion pieces.

Face Book sucks. I just ditched that, again. Too many people there are just stupid. I got tired of blocking people...so, I blocked everyone. If you want to keep up with me, call, write me an e-mail, or a letter. I'm still on Instagram.

After last night, I'm swearing off Auburn Football...at least until they get their collective shit together. I have never cussed at the poor TV as much as I did last night. I've never seen a team with so many problems--no running game, dropped passes, overthrown passes, a fumbled punt, a fumbled touchdown run, a missed field goal, and, just for this game, no defense. They are untrained, unprepared, unmotivated, undisciplined, and just downright sloppy.

Did I mention, No Coaching? How do you let their QB make run after run without doing something. He was their only offense. Had I been coaching, I would have given the job to two line backers. If he runs, hurt him. Every time he tries to run, clean his clock! If he drops back to pass, blitz. Sack his ass.

I was beyond upset. I let the whole situation get to me.

And then, I thought, "Why?" You don't have to watch this.

So, to cut that from my life, I'm watching something else from now on, and I'll check the scores on Sunday. I'm hanging up the Auburn Cap. I'm putting Aubie on a shelf.

Good Luck Auburn, but you've ruined my last Saturday.

Wednesday, 3 October, 2018: Little or Nothing

It is nice out, so, why am I not out there in it? I don't know. After my morning walk, I seem content to stick around the house, cat napping, watching movies, and a doing lot of nothing I would consider worthwhile. I think it is because I know I'm about to go on this trip and away from my house, so, I want to be in the house as much as I can.

I'll be gone quite a while. I've been on deployments that were shorter. Am I looking forward to it? I don't know.

Thursday, 20 September, 2018: Oil Change and a Haircut

I got up this morning well before sunup, to drive Bess to Lexington for maintenance. I hate the Ford Place here in Charlottesville and Lexington knows my car and gives me great service.

The "Check Engine" light came on last week, and try as I might, I couldn't figure it out. I cleaned and oiled the cold air filter, cleaned the MAF sensor, and replaced the gas cap, Still On! It took the mechanic a while to figure it out too, but he decided it is a slight leak at the evap vent valve, part of the emission control system...$346.50.

No Thank You. I'll do that myself. I think. After the trip.

I used the visit to have the tires rotated, have the oil and filter changed, top off the fluid levels, and check everything else out.

Then I went for a MUCH NEEDED HAIRCUT.

Damn it was long. I had about three inches over my whole head, more hair than I've had since 1975. I looked pretty scruffy, though incredibly handsome, but it was tickling me like crazy. It had to go.

Amazingly, a good friend, Lou, posted on face book that she'd seen me and Bess, about five minutes into my Lexington trip. Then, walking to Buck's Barbershop, I ran into her husband, Mark, coming out. While there, one of my old troopers from the 82nd Airborne and a VMI Grad, Mike, came in the door.

It was a typical day in Lex Vegas.

Tuesday, 18 September, 2018: New Cats Preoccupation

This is going to be the most ridiculous shit I've posted in a long while.

If you know me well, you know of my love for cats and Cats the show. Kady and I saw the show in London at the West End, back in 1988. It was fantastic. I loved everything about it, the words by TS Eliot, the music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, great dancing, and excellent acting and singing.

A few months ago, I found out that a movie was made in 1998. What?! How the heck did I miss that? I ordered it straight away and I've been watching it ever since. Kady says I am "Obsessed."

No. It's like any time you have music you really like, you play it all the time.

This is the first time I've been able to watch it and look into the story and learn the characters and experience all the things I missed in the stage production...and I missed a lot due to my bad Infantry hearing. In the movie you learn the intricacies of the characters, and their relationships, and things about the story that could not be conveyed effectively in a stage production. Every time I watch it, I find or notice something new.

OK, I'm obsessed.

The other day, Kady picked up on an announcement that a new movie was in the works. Due out 20 December, 2019, it will star Taylor Swift, James Cordon, Ian McKellan, and Jennifer Hudson. The news announced the director and producers, which sound fine, maybe even outstanding, but I've got issues with the cast.

It has already been announced that Jennifer Hudson will play Grizabella, considered the lead female singing role. That's going to go well, I think, because she can definitely sing and there is no dancing for that part.

I'm guessing that Ian Mckellan will play Gus the Theater Cat, That part doesn't have dancing or much singing in it and it's perfect for an aging actor.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that James Cordon will play Bustopher Jones, mostly a spoken part with no dancing. He could, however play Rum Tug Tugger, which would fit his personality well, and singing and dancing for that part are very campy.

That leaves me wondering (and stressing about) what they are going to do with Taylor Swift. I think I have it figured out. She's too big a name to be given some small part. She can surely sing but she is not a trained dancer. As a matter of fact, the dancing I've seen her do is pretty awkward. There is the problem. All other parts beside Rum Tum Tugger and Grizabella are Singing AND Dancing parts.

There is only one part, that I think fits. Jemima!

Jemima, one of the Kittens, is considered by most people as the second female singing part behind Grizabella and the second dancing part behind Victoria. Usually cast are incredibly beautiful girls who can both sing and dance. Jemima is an important part and she becomes one of the heroes of the story, maybe THE hero. Everyone falls in love with Jemima.

Taylor's got the face and voice for the part, and her sweet personality is in keeping with Jemima's always sweet disposition. A little coaching, some imaginative choreography, and some clever camera angles should do the trick for the dancing issue. As talented as she is in all other areas, I'm sure she can do this...maybe not dancing with Victoria, but being in the forefront when she needs to be.

There, then, are my predictions. I'm sure some of you are asking, "what the hell happened to the SGM?" Well, you would ask only because you don't really know me. I'm as excited about this as I have been about anything in a long while, but even E, who is more like me than any person on the planet, tells me I need to "Let it Go!"

Call it sublimation since Kady won't let me have a Real Cat. Blame my Warbler roots.

If you're looking for me on 20 December, 2019...you know where I'll be. Join Me; My family will probably make me go alone.

Monday, 17 September, 2018: Florence

It is finally raining here There hasn't been a lot of anything going on around C'ville since the hurricane started heading this way, a little mist, but that's about all we got. The Weather Channel made the situation sound so bad for the east coast, I had friends as far away as Turkey and Australia check in to make sure I was alright.  Thanks.

Poor North Carolina. Everything pretty much hit beautiful little Wilmington, but, now, the whole state is flooded. If you've ever lived in NC, you get it. The place is FLAT and LOW. Water just doesn't go anywhere fast, and when you get really heavy rain, like this, you are going to have problems. It happens all the time.

But, Nothing Like This.

I've been intermittently talking to my buddy Ken in Wilmington, and he's one of the lucky ones. He only lost a bit of his fence, but he says his neighbors lower down are all flooded and, as he put it, "looks like it (Wilmington) has been bombed.". And it is still raining. And they have no power.

I'm trying to get him, and wife Alice, to C'ville, but he won't come. Something about being part of the emergency recovery team...

Auburn played a highly typical early season sloppy game against LSU on Saturday. Penalties, a good LSU defense, and a missed field goal cost us a victory. It's OK. It's AU football. Losing by one point in the last second of the game still sucks. At least we played somebody.

The Kids, Kady and I played a new game called Pandemic at Jay and KS's house Friday night. Different than the other board games we play, where we play against each other, in this game, you play together against the game, fending off, curing, and eradicating disease outbreaks. Very Cool!

We won, but we figured out later that we had cheated.

Thursday, 6 September, 2018: Touring Spain with Dan Brown

Dan Brown is Smart! I just finished reading Origin and I thoroughly enjoyed every word and every second I spent with it.

My Brother Rat, Jim, sent me a text telling me I should read it. I trust his judgment, so i ordered it from Amazon. Two pages into it, I was puzzled, "Why did Jim tell me about this book?" It is all about the age old struggle between science and religion, and one man's research to prove science primacy once and for all. Reading it was like hearing my thoughts out loud.

I called Jim and he told me my Daughter had told him about my rejection of religion and gods, and he thought of the book for me.

The book is set in Spain, a place I've never been, so it took me a while to get through it. I had to look up every person, every place, and every organization mentioned in the book. It was like a brilliant tour of that country. Reading brown's descriptions before looking at photographs on Google showed me just how good a writer is Dan Brown.

He does his homework. Close to the end of the book, he mentioned a block of roads, that I immediately brought up on Google Maps and, There it Was! Looking at it on my computer jumped me a little ahead in the story, so I had to curb that a bit, and I had the ending figured out, but it wasn't obvious; my brain just thinks like that.

I highly recommend this book...no matter which way you lean. As I said, Dan Brown is smart, and leaves the god question open.

Wednesday, 5 September, 2018: The Last Days of a Tree

Out in front of our house we have a beautiful little Red Mulberry. It shades the front of the house and I've seen a lot of different birds there. It gives the front of our townhouse a nice country look and is one of the few trees in front of any of the town homes in our area. It is a really beautiful tree.

I'm going to kill it.

I've just spent the entire morning scrubbing the leaf stains off of my car and it was no small chore. This little tree and I have been in a running battle since we got here. It drops leaves all year long. Even with the amount of rain this year, brown leaves are still falling, making me believe the root base is vary shallow. The rain, the dew, and the brown leaves make for a particularly tough stain on my paint job, which bakes as hard as a rock on the late morning sun.

If I leave the car cover off for just a few minutes, it is going to happen.

Well, I was lazy. Bess has been out front for over a month with no cover, no wash, and it has been too long since I waxed her. Stupid Move. I washed her last night and realized that I had a problem. No matter how hard I scrubbed, the rust stains just wouldn't come off. I researched and most everyone said that alcohol was the best remedy. No. These stains must be from Hell.

Reason #25 Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is one of the best inventions ever. Yep, water and a Magic Eraser, and a little elbow grease took them right off. It was a little like wet sanding, but not abrasive to the paint. I'm sure I probably stripped the wax, but I'll wax her tonight or maybe the next overcast day. It's still in the 80s here.

Goal #1: Keep the Car Clean and Covered.

Goal #2: Kill The Tree.

I'm kidding, of course.

For the time being, Bess is clean. I'll have to work a little harder here to keep her that way. It'll be worth it; she's still such a babe.

Thursday, 30 August, 2018: The Neel Noggin

Wednesday was a day I will never get back. It wasn't a total waste, but it surely could have gone smoother.

I had an MRI, just down the road at Fontaine Research Park, literally fifteen minutes from my house. "Be there no later than 10:20am," they called to tell me. I was there by 10am so I could change over my Insurance from VMI's insurance to Tri-Care and Medicare. When I checked in at Imaging, the receptionist told me they were running a "little behind." The nurse took me back to the MRI Room at 12:45.

A little behind MY ASS!

I was only two minutes late for my 1:30pm doctor's appointment and that wait was short. DR Vance came in and said everything looked fine, then Dr. Jane came in and discussed the MRI with me. It looked exactly like last year's MRI; no change. That means the critter is not growing back and now my MRIs will be spaced two years apart. I am OK with that. Happy Even. I frigging hate the MRI!

One day, people will look back and think, "Wow! They really did that to people?" The MRI will be looked at like we look at Leaches in medieval times, Bone Saws in the Civil War, and Electric Shock Treatment in the early 20th century.

By the time I got home, I was dehydrated and starving. I had the weirdest dreams last night, I believe, caused by that damn machine. Poor Kady had to listen to me whine during our entire morning walk.

After a shower, some breakfast, and a nap, I was OK again.

KPol came by today one her way to Interview for a job. I hope she gets it so she can be up here in Virginia.

It's storming tonight...cooling things down.

Sunday, 26 August, 2018: John's BIG Adventure

I got back home last night about 8:30, happy, but wondering where my wild side has gone.

My plan was simple: Meet my buddy Gerry in Yorktown for lunch, eat a lot of oysters, see the Yorktown battlefield, and then hit the coast, headed south, sleep in the car, walk on the beach, find good food, drink a bit, smoke some cigars, and come back when I was ready.

I tried to get Kady to go with me, but she was having nothing of it. She was, however, mysteriously supportive of the whole idea. I assume she was looking forward to me being out of her house. So, I packed for three days, made sure I had all my stuff, checked the cameras, plotted my first leg, and went to bed. Saturday morning, I got up at 6am, packed the car, and headed to Yorktown and the Water Street Grille.

I-64 East out of Richmond reinforced my loathing and frustration for that road. Typically, as I approached the exit off of I-295, traffic was backed up well out into the by-pass. It took me about 30 minutes to get from the back-up on I-64,and even then, the traffic was bumper to bumper for the next twenty miles moving about 30 miles per hour. It's not always like this, but it's always pretty bad. I didn't think about it, but this is summer and it was Saturday, and I was in beach traffic.

I got to Yorktown about 12:30, walked around a bit, took some photos, and then waited out in front of the restaurant for Gerry. He was right on time and we waited at the bar for a table. He wasn't drinking, so I had a coke too. Yawn. When we sat down, he told the waitress to bring him the check, which wasn't our agreement. I argued for a bit, then said, "OK, you can buy, but I'm going to hurt you. I'll start with two dozen raw oysters, Ma'am."

That fixed the problem. The Oysters were fantastic. I paid the bill.

My next stop was to be the southern tip of Newport News and Greenlawn Memorial Park, where, supposedly, my Great-Great-Grandfather, Andrew Lee, is buried after dying in a federal prisoner of war camp. Checking my navigation, I discovered that the cemetery was closed on weekends. Great. Now what?

I began weighing options by doing a map Recon. Like Cornwallis and McClelland, I realized that going anywhere from the Peninsula was a pain in the ass. I chose North, and decided on Malvern Hill for my next stop. This was the final battle of the Peninsula Campaign and a real tactical disaster for the Confederacy. Though it convinced Mack that he couldn't win in this terrain, the Confederates threw hundreds of men across open terrain to be slaughtered by well fortified positions and cannon firing pointblank canister. Gruesome Shit.

After that, I checked the map, to see where I might want to go next. The sun was going down and I was so close to I-295, the logical choice was to go home and strike out from there on Sunday. I called Kady and let her know I was on my way.

All in all, it was a fun trip with good food, one of my favorite people, and a little history lesson...my kind of day.

But...where's the crazy?

Monday, 20 August, 2018: Em Sitting

I went into DC with Jay and KS, Saturday, for a wedding. KS was a bridesmaid and Em was the flower girl. I went along to watch Em after the wedding while the adults went to the reception. After checking into the JW Marriott, Matt, Monise, Rachael and I, KS's Dad, Step-mom, and little sister, went for chow at theCorner Bakery Cafe, next to the hotel. All I had eaten all day was a bowl of cereal, so I was famished. This place was exactly like a Panera Bread, the trouble was that this place was dirty and the food not nearly as good. There were only about four other people eating there, but there was not one table that was clean for us to eat. Matt and Monise cleaned while I paid the bill. My soup was cold and the bread on my sandwich was stale. DC, Not Charlottesville. Don't eat here.

After lunch, I walked down to the Mall, around the Washington monument, and then to the Vietnam Memorial. I spent some time there, taking a few photos, and watching the people, listening to all of the languages. I love that...the diversity of the city.

I went back to the room by 1730 after checking out the Whitehouse...which looked all covered up by the trees. I realized that I had never seen it except in Winter. Jay dropped off Em about 6:30. We played, danced, had a rip-roaring pillow fight, and talked until 10 PM and she looked tired enough to go to bed. Once I had her in her PJs, She went right to sleep, and I did as well...but every time she would turn over or move, I woke up. It was pretty terrible.

About 1:30am, Jay sent me a text saying to just let her sleep and when she woke up, to bring her to their room. That was not the original plan, but I went with it. Em woke up about 5:30am (actually I woke her up snoring) and I took her to their room, went back, showered, got dressed, and went out for Breakfast. McDonalds. Back in my room, I read the news and waited for them to let me know it was time to leave.

I rode back to Matt's place with him and jumped in Bess as soon as we arrived for my drive back to Charlottesville. I made it in time to watch Simona get beaten in the Cincinnati Masters Final in three sets by Kiki Bertens. Boo!

After the match, I slept. got up for supper and Sharp Objects, and then slept some more.

What free time I had during the weekend was spent with my new phone. I got it Friday, and it took a moment to set it up with US Cellular...when it used to be so easy. Last time, I called, gave them my pin number, and they sais, "OK, you're good to go." This time it was a bit more work. After setting it up, I took a moment to delete as much of the bloat ware as possible, and disable those that I couldn't that I don't use. Next, I set up the security features and wifi. Then, it was time for downloading my normal use apps.

The hard part came next, tweaking and learning the new phone. There are a thousand things to do--power management, notifications, signing in to other-than-Google apps, setting up my emergency features, and choosing preferences like clock display and storage areas.

This phone is cool. I've been watching videos today on unknown features and capabilities. Most, I probably won't use, but I have found a few that I've already incorporated into my daily use.

I took the time before leaving for DC to download most of my music to the phone, which I've never been able to do. This phone has so much storage and added another 128G with the expansion...plenty for me and easily affordable. I really like the headphones that came with it.

So, bottom line, I love this new phone.

Saturday, 11 August, 2018: New Phone

OK, I watched the Note 9 Launch on Samsung's web site. It was OK. They really need to hire professional presenters and do a rehearsal or two. The whole thing really didn't "flow."

Samsung also needs to vet their presenters. Case in Point: Mr. Doodle. They hired this guy (read: clown) to come out on stage and demonstrate what you could do with a Note 9 and the S-Pen. Left to make his big creation while the main presenter went on to something else, he "creates" a drawing of little happy faces, that I could have done, and I'm no artist, in black and white, and decided to do it on a tablet because "The Screen is Bigger" right after Samsung had touted the big screen on the Note 9. Even the presenter was taken aback.

Built up for months, the presentation of the Note-9 only took up about a quarter of the hour and fifteen minute webcast, if that much. They used the balance of the time to showcase other products...their watch, a rival for Google Home/Alexa, their new tablet, and a partnership with Spotify. There were no surprises from the "leaks" we've been reading about for months.

Cool, BUT!

I was left with the question, "Do I want or need a Note 9?" Time for Pros and Cons.
1. It has a cool camera, but I'm a photographer with real cameras.

2. Yeah, the S-Pen is cool, and has fun features like using it as a remote for selfies and projecting presentations, but I rarely use my S-Pen on my Note 5, I don't do selfies much, and I don't do presentations anymore.

3. The "all-day battery" sounds nice, but they never said how many hours it would last. Is it a 12-hour day? 24-hour? The reason for this feature was, I thought, comical: so I wouldn't have to borrow a charger from my friend. I'm guessing it must ne less than 24-hours, and that they well claim they meant the average 18-hour day.

4. It is supposed to be much faster and faster would be good, especially since I'm using a 4-generation-older phone.

5, It has beaucoup storage and is expandable by an external MicroSD slot. I really liked that.

I was left with the opinion: " I don't need this phone."

Actually, I want/need a smaller phone. Since I left my last job, I don't use my phone for much more than a phone unless I'm traveling. While I'm home, I'm communicating with my Computer, The Star Ship, except for calls. When traveling, I'm on my laptop, Shuttle Craft. The phone is for talking and while on the road, navigating and such, so, something slightly more compact, faster, with lots of storage, and basically the same connection capabilities I have now, would be nice.

So, I checked the U. S. Cellular website for deals on other phones and found out that I could upgrade to a Samsung S-9 for FREE. At no cost, except locking me into my current contract for two more years, I get all of the features of the Note 9, except the bigger battery, the second rear lens, and the S-Pen.

Sold!

I had Kady order it last night. It should be here by Monday or Tuesday. I've also ordered a 128G MicroSD Card and a wireless, stand-up charger.

I love new gadgets, especially FREE gadgets.

Movie Suggestion: Netflix Original, Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Monday, 6 August, 2001: Rain before Piedmont
After a week of heavy rain, so heavy that Lynchburg almost washed away, I got out of the house for a Battlefield Trip. I've been reading all about the Valley Campaign of 1864, so I chose a little known battle, Piedmont, a pivotal battle in the fight for control of the Shenandoah Valley. it was a great trip with nice back roads, no traffic, and a battlefield easilyunderstood and lightly encroached. I took a few photos, but , they are probably only interesting to me. Much of the battlefield is now private land, and I don't walk on private land, so I drove most of the battlefield, battle map in hand.

While it rained, I watched both seasons of Goliath with Billy Bob Thornton. Very good, but I don't think the writers know a thing about munitions. They certainly don't know anything about Cluster Bombs or Napalm. The premise of the second season was equally as sketchy...a young kid taking the fall for a murder to protect a big drug cartel's stupid hit man. Why not free the kid, make their bought Mayor look like a hero, and then make the stupid hit man go away. In hen end, they had to kill the kid, the dirty cop and his whole family, another dirty cop, the guy financing their whole operation....and others I lost track of. Amazingly, their efforts to kill the main characters never worked. Their perverted attempts to make the show "dark" were pretty ridiculous and a distracter from what is otherwise a good show with great acting.

My favorite part of the show was the face lift the little red mustang convertible got for season two, after being beaten and bashed during season one. I guess Billy McBride but his $5-million to some good use.

I'm starting Spanish Headstart tomorrow. Another endeavor and a Put Up or Shut Up challenge to myself. I've always said that everyone in America should be by-lingual...and that the obvious choice for us is now Spanish. I've rested on my conversational knowledge of Turkish as My Language for too long. Now I need to learn something I can actually use. Spanish I can practice at every Mex place we visit....and we do that a lot.
Note: I plan to use Turkish again, One Day Soon.

Kady and I had dental appointments together on the first and I had a dermatology follow-up on the second. I had an Atypical skin spot cut off my chest as a precautionary measure...not cancer, but something that could possible turn into cancer. I now have five "better safe than sorry" stitches in my chest.
I'm looking forward to the release of the Samsung Note 9. I'm using a Note 5 right now and I love it, so this is a "want" not a "need. "I'll watch the release broadcast at 1100hrs on the ninth.

The first anniversary of the Charlottesville riots are coming up this weekend. I've been watching the City Council preparations and they sound about as thorough as they can make them. I'm taking my camera and going downtown to see what I can see.
DJ and new Boy Friend are coming the next weekend.

Sunday, 22 July, 2018: New Market and Games

Thursday, Kady and I took Vinny's Baked Spaghetti over to Jay and KS's for game night. We played Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails and a few rounds of Trivia Murder Party. I generally suck at both, but have a really good time playing.

Friday, I went to New Market Battlefield to walk the Federal positions for the first time. to include the ground on the eastside of Interstate-81. I took some shots of the Bushong House and Barn with my Mamiya-6.

I met NM, who happened to be in town visiting friends, for dinner at Jalisco Mexican Restaurant. It was the first time I had talked about VMI since retiring. She leaves in August for a prep course for her medical school in Miami. I'm proud of her for sticking with her dream of becoming a surgeon all these years. She went to the battlefield to take photos and told me little stories from the battle. She once worked summers at the battlefield as a guide.

Last night, after a meal from Taste of China, we played the world side of Rails and Sails, which is even harder, which means I sucked even more. I swear I'm going to go buy a Risk game for next time. I used to be a killer at Risk.

Today I slept IN! Kady and I have been walking daily at 5:30 AM, every day, but decided to take Saturday and Sunday off. We missed a couple of days last week, so I pushed for a make-up day on Saturday Morning, but enjoyed the late call this morning. After games last night, I slept in until 10:30. It was glorious.

After breakfast, I picked up Groceries at Wal-Mart and Harris Teeter. Both have a personal shopper service, so Kady orders on-line and sends ME to pick up. She's got this retirement thing DOWN PAT!

Tuesday, 17 July, 2017: Appomattox and Photos
This is going to take some time.

I've been scanning old Army photos for the last few days so I can throw away the hard copies. Then I decided to post some of them on Face Book for my Army FB Buddies. Then I decided I needed to explain the photos for those who weren't there. What should have been a two day job has turned into a chore.

I really should do one thing at a time--Scan everything, categorize by subjects in folders, then post if I just "have to."

During all this, the Corps of Cadets seems to have found me and I've been getting a lot of friend requests from them. I've accepted them all, but have already had to dump one who posted some political nonsense. I don't care which end of the political spectrum you support, if you put it on Face Book, it is NONSENSE.

I'm still relishing in my discovered Green Thumb. My anti-mosquito Marigolds, Catnip, and Lavender are thriving. My Lemon Trees are getting pretty big, about eight inches tall. Next, I'm going to try and grow some Japanese Red Maples. I ordered seeds and they came in Friday. They are soaking now, and, though it is the wrong time of year to begin, I'll plant them tomorrow. I count on a lot of luck in my gardening endeavors. The plan is Red Maple Bonsai Trees. I can do that, I saw it on YouTube!

Friday, I drove to Appomattox and looked around. It was a great trip and I'm going on one again this Friday. Hopefully I'll meet NM for Mex in New Market after I have a look at the right side of the battlefield. That's our plan, anyhow.

The day before, I went for a dermatology appointment, good checkup, but Dr. Dent wanted to biopsy a place on my chest. I got a call to day and said it was only an atypical mole, which she suggests I have take off. I go in 2 August. What's another hole in my body? No big deal.

Where has WNRN been all my life. They are an independent radio station that plays nothing but great music that I have never heard. I found them scanning on my way to Appomattox, broadcasting out of Lynchburg. Happily, I found out they are Virginia-wide. You can listen too at wnrn.org/listen. They also have an App which will come in hA on trips.

I bought a sketch book today. I'm starting with body parts...the eye first, then hands... Hey!  All Neels can draw.  Right?

July, 2018: Bingeing Game of Thrones

For the last five days, I've been on a quest, watching Game of Thrones from Start to the end of season Seven. I just finished.

The weather has been in the mid to high nineties with humidity above 80 percent, so I was basically hiding out in the air conditioner. I had a great time with it, and doing little else, printing off a GoT family wiring diagram and marking off the characters when they bit the dust.

Kady and I have been getting up at 5:30AM every morning and going for a walk together. She's been a real trooper for someone who is definitely NOT a morning person. It has helped me be more consistent as well.

Saturday, 30 June, 2018: Shows

There are a lot of good shows on Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Xfinity that I've been binge-watching--America: Inside Out, The Tunnel, One Strange Rock, Genius: Picasso, Lost in Space, Ken Burns: The War in Vietnam, and Killing Eve. Now that I am finished with them, I'm looking for more and waiting on a few: Sharp Objects, Jack Ryan, Luther, and of course, Game of Thrones. My newest is an old BBC detective series, Mid-Summer Murders, and a new series, that reminds me of Longmier, called Yellowstone.

I have the entire series of China Beach coming in the mail, but I think I'll make that a Saturday Morning thing. Can't wait. I loved that series when it was on. I've missed Colleen.

I re-watched Key West again. You can watch all thirteen episodes on YouTube Here. The quality is bad, but it's watchable. I think I could watch that show every day for the stories, silliness, and characters...and for Key West.. It is too bad it didn't get a following and FOX cancelled after its first season.

I'm becoming a bit of a Tennis fan. Kady watches it incessantly, so I end up watching more and more, and she talks to me about all the drama and court intrigue. We're Roger Federer fans and I chose Simona Halep as my player about three years ago; I think she is adorable. Roger is easy to cheer for, a bit like choosing the Pats as your Football team...you can expect a win. He was also Sylvia's player. Simona must appeal to my Auburn side, you never know what you're going to get with her. It was great to see her take the French Open this year.

I'm trying to get Kady to commit to a weekly Date Night. She countered with a Bi-Weekly idea, but said we couldn't start until after this week and Independence Day family stuff, and then Jay and KS and Jk want to go to see the new Jurassic World. After that is Wimbledon.

Such is my love life.

I still haven't been to the pool. I don't know why.

My green thumb is having ups and downs. My Bonsai Forest didn't grow at all. My jade plant, Bob, is thriving, but everywhere. I've begun tying up the limbs and will begin braiding them soon. The Jungle, a plant sent to KS and Jay, which ended up on our porch in stead, is doing well, as are my Lemon Trees and my Marigolds, Catnip, and Lavender. My next plant will be a Japanese Maple. I just ordered the seeds. The goal is to plant it in a shallow pot and make it a Bonsai one day.

My running, weight work, and Tai Chi are going well. It could be better and more consistent, but I'll get there. I need to add in Yoga for the stretching, but the beginners DVD wants me starting out sitting at 90-degrees with my legs flat on the ground. Hey! I'm an old paratrooper! We need our own beginner DVD. Yoga hurts and makes me want to throw up.

Nap Time.

Saturday, 23 June, 2018: Last Cooper Day

A came in this morning. Because of the torrential downpour in Atlanta, he didn't arrive until after 2AM. He, E, and Cooper will head to Anniston for the next week, before they head to Fort Leavenworth the week after.

I'll miss Cooper but I'm ready to get back on my schedule. I've already begun running a bit, but need to be more consistent and begin pushing out the mileage and begin increasing my speed. I started Tai Chi and will begin Yoga on Monday. I need to get more consistent with my weight routine as well. I've played my guitar until my fingers are so sore that I can't play, so I'll take a couple of days off from that. I've done all I can do with Ancestry, so I'll just keep building my family tree web site. I'm almost finished with the Hemingway books I have and need to begin buying or borrowing those I don't have. Te Library, I need to go to the Library.

I've found that a nap in the middle of the afternoon increases my productivity and my mental capacity, so I'll get back to that as well; Cooper sure wouldn't let me nap.

Tuesday, 19 June, 2018: Father's Day by Google Duo

E got back last night, much to Cooper's delight. The boy loves his mom above all others. She, A, Jay, and KS were in Las Vegas this past weekend, which made my Father's Day and Kady's birthday a nice, quiet time. They all got together and called us for a video chat Sunday Afternoon.

SS was here, so we three went to Sultan Kabab for dinner. We had plans to go to to Swannanoa, but it was just too hot for that. It has beenstifling hot these past few days with the humidity hovering around 90%. It's been Alabama Hot. Swannanoa can wait for another time, a cooler time.

Monday, 11 June, 2018: Rainy Days

E will be here in a few minutes, bringing Cooper to brighten the dreary mood around here. It has been raining for Days. The Pool is open, but every time I think I want to go, the bottom falls out of the sku and the thunder and lightening start.

We held the inaugural Sunday Lunch at The Grandparents House yesterday, and it was good, but didn't go like I envisioned it going. Kady cooked up a nice meal, Jay, KS, and the grandkids came, we ate and then everyone left. Jk wanted to go home and play Fortnite, Em, KS, and Kady went shopping. Everyone was gone but me by one o'clock. I thought it might be like Sunday Dinner at Mom's house where we all sat around before lunch and after and had great conversation. Maybe I'll get that when Football Season begins.

Kady reminded me that this is the way I prefer it...see everyone, eat, then get back to my stuff, and, she is probably correct.

Rainy Days make for good opportunities for catching up on shows. I have been binge-watching a few really good programs:

Wednesday, 30 May, 2018: Making Charlottesville Home

The one thing I needed to do to make Charlottesville my home was find a barbershop. I'm going to keep my dentist, optometrist, and GP down in Lexington, but I wanted to find a barber here so I didn't have to go down there every two weeks or even once a month. I love the girls at Bucks Barber Shop, but I was getting kind of shaggy and didn't want to go all the way down there.

I tried a barber shop here before the wedding, but he cut my hair entirely too short and almost cut my beard completely off...and this was just before E's wedding! The problem was communication. The guy knew no English...at all.

Today, I tried The Barber House and it looked like more of the same. However, this guy, Jack, at least knew barber terminology like hair, beard, short, long, taper, blend. He gave me a great cut, just as I described, and left my beard alone. When tempted to cut my sideburns, he asked and understood, "No."

So Then, I've found my barbershop and it is just across the street from the house.

The pool is open. I'm going by there today to pick up our passes. I didn't go this weekend because of the Memorial Day crowd and community pool party. I'll wait for the newness to go away.

I made an appointment, today, with Mallory Ford here in Charlottesville to take care of a Air Bag Recall. I left them my e-mail so they could check on the part availability and got this e-mail while I waited on their answer.

This is ____, I work in a special department helping the Used Car Manager. The average vehicle is 12 years old on the road. By the time we take them in as a trade, the wheels are falling off. We are paying a little more than usual we would love to have your vehicle. We can do a free appraisal for you while you are in our ServiceDepartment or during the week or weekend. Is this something you would be interested in? I will also tell service to call you!

And my Answer:

Dear Ms. ____,

Thank you for your kind offer.

My Mustang is 13 years old, with 150K Miles and in great condition...no wheels falling off here. It is a 2005 Mustang(The Car that saved American Muscle) normally aspirated Roush Sport ,with Roush Cold Air Intake, Stage 2 Suspension, and Short Throw Shifter. I bought it off the showroom floor and love it like the day I drove it home. People still stop me to talk about it and tell me how they wish they had never given up their Mustang.

You guys can come out and admire it while I'm there if you want. You can't have it, but thanks for asking.

Fondly,

John

Tuesday, 29 May, 2018: Cold Harbor on a Hot Day

The weather at Cold Harbor in June 1864 must have been much like it was today, Hot, Muggy, and Buggy. I walked the battlefield after taking Kady to the Richmond Airport, following the trails that follow the left side of the park, that cut across the killing fields, trace the Federal entrenchments, and then cut back along the Confederate breastworks. In the woods,along Bloody Run, I realized that I left my water bottle in the car and that I should have applied bug repellant. I was attacked by swarms of mosquitoes at ever stop as I tried to read each marker. I would stop, read, swat, and them move rapidly on. As long as I was moving, they weren't bad, but moving in that humidity was a workout. By the time I got to the car, I was drenched.

Kady is helping E pack out this week as she prepared to move to Ft. Leavenworth and Command and General Staff College (CGSC). Between Savannah and there, she and Cooper will spend almost a month here in Charlottesville. I'm looking forward to that. I'll have Cooper alone for a couple of weekends as she does a Half marathon in DC and while she is with A in Vegas.

So, with Kady away, I'm left to my own devices. To prove I'm not worthless, for a late lunch, I made myself a Ranelli's # 2 Italian Sausage Sandwich, every bit as good as they make at Ranelli's on the Southside in Birmingham. I was very impressed with myself. First, I boiled the sausages in beer, then browned them on the grill. While they were boiling, I sautéed green peppers and onions in olive oil with a little salt and pepper, then stirred in some tomato sauce. All of this went on some nice bread Kady bought for me. It was fantastic...and too much food. I didn't need Supper.

Sunday, 27 May, 2018: Quitter

I've made a few decisions about my photography, the biggest one is that I am never asking anyone if I can take their photo again. They will have to ask me.

I swear, I'm becoming a hermit and loving it. My hair is getting so long that it is starting to bug me. I feel like I should cut it, but I'm fighting the urge. I need to let it grow with my beard. Yes, NEED.

Kady is going back to Savannah, poor little thing. I'm taking her to Richmond to fly there on Tuesday. E needs help packing out, I guess. I thought we were done down there, but now I find we'll be going back for Roger's wedding this December. It seems I can't get away from that place. If I didn't love it there and if I didn't love Roger so much, it would be a pain...but then again, it is a four day trip to Savannah, staying in a new hotel, the Perry Lane, with a beautiful woman. Good Deal!

Saturday, 26May, 2018: Twenty-Six Reasons to do Nothing

Yesterday and today I watched season one and two of 13 Reasons Why...perhaps the most frustrating show ever made. If this show resonates with kids and they don't call Bull Shit, then our kids are in trouble...deep trouble. I've never seen such a bunch of weaklings in my entire life. I guess things have changed dramatically since I was in High School.

Kids! Stand up for yourselves. There is strength in Numbers. Find kids like you and band together. Stand up to bullies and be wary. If you see something, say something. Don't be afraid to take problems with assholes to the administration or to your parents. Bullying is not OK. Drugs are not OK. Sex at 13-17 is not OK. Guns don't solve problems. Never touch another person's Car. Close your damn drapes!

Thursday, 25 May, 2018: Get Out of the House!

I went for a drive today. The weather has been rainy for the past two weeks, but the sky was pretty clear this morning. I cranked up Bess and drove her up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to take her photo for her 13th birthday and then drove east to Crab Tree Falls for a hike and more photos.

It is so beautiful up there. Crab Tree Falls is really a series of waterfalls that stair-step down the mountain. The trail up is steep, but well maintained with rails and stairs along the falls, and switch-backs that take you to the nest fall. It was a good workout but worth every effort. All the rain we've been having made the falls huge. It was beautiful cool, moist, and breezy as I climbed the trail up. There were times I was so immersed in what I was seeing that I forgot to push the shutter, but I managed to get a few shots along the way.

The drive home was fun...faster than the BRPW.

I need to keep my car. I love it still. It Fits Me and fits what is left of my wild-side. Kady and I have discussed trading in both cars for a new explorer, but I can't see me doing that. Ever! I guy stopped by while I was on the Parkway to talk to me about it. That still happens all the time. People love this car...and the Mustang. The poor guy wanted to tell me all about his Mustang...that he wishes he still had. That would be me.

So, Get out of the house, Keep the Mustang, Take Long Drives and Beautiful Photos.

Got it!

Friday, 18 May, 2018: Lots of Rain

It has been raining for three days. It began right after my workout on Wednesday and it hasn't stopped. I'm getting cabin fever. I have about three trips planned, but I am not taking my cameras out in this. The weekend doesn't look much better.

I've dumped the idea of doing a photo every day for a year. I was getting bored with the suggestions and accepting mediocrity in my photos. I'll just go back to planning shoots of what I want to shoot. E wants me to shoot her next month. That will be a big change.

Wednesday, 9 May, 2018: Fitness

I actually got up and ran this morning. I did three miles, which surprised me. More tomorrow, plus weights, pushups, and abs.

I took Kady's car to Lex Vegas today to have it inspected, have the tires rotated, and have the oil changed. I took the Blue Ridge Parkway home and took some cool shots at what I believe to be the most beautiful Overlook. I had great sky, clouds, and sunlight, and the view of the mountains was the best I've seen since living here. This is located just past Mile Post 11, going south from I-64.

Sunday, 6 May, 2018: Cultural Misappropriation Day

Yesterday was Neel Cultural Misappropriation Day for Cinco de Mayo. A and E made a Mexican inspired brunch and dinner while we listen to Latin music and drank Margaritas all day. We let Google Home choose the music mix and it was great. Jk played Fortenite on my computer while I watched. Em watched My Little Pony on the TV. I took care of Cooper.

After Em went to bed, we played Trivia Murder Party on line. It was a laugh riot. There was a math competition portion where I always came in last and died a horrible death. At the end, it lists everyone who died during the game and lists the reason. Mine said, at least twice, "John: Too Slow at Math." Thanks Emmette and Juanita.

My stupid weird self education paid off when the questions weren't pop culture and were history, geography, science oriented. I won the game three times, coming back from last during the final race to be the one player to escape death. I was usually last because most of the questions were about the members of the Woo Tang Clan or some other nonsense.

The Virginia kids went home this morning...well...it took them till Noon to get going. The house is nice and quiet now. I am still amazed how the addition of a 3-year-old can make things so crazy. Jk was a dream; he just Killed People in Fortnite all weekend.

Kady and I head home tomorrow. I plan on packing the car tonight so we can get on the road early.

Tuesday, 1 May, 2018: It's May?

I have GOT to get out of this house. Cooper is not feeling great, after eating a squeaky toy while staying at one of E's friend's homes, so his walks with me are a struggle. Kady is under the weather and very uncomfortable. Em controls the TV, so the only thing on is My Little Pony. She takes up all of KS's time. E is at work. A went back up North.

I can't concentrate on anything with all the nonsense going on. Cooper's medicine makes him pee a lot, so I'm in and out of the back door to let him out. I can't write. Every time I put in my earphones to listen to my music, someone wants me to do something or ask me something.

(Two seconds after turning on a little ELO, Em came running downstairs to show me a ball. Adorable, Yes, but it was the perfect proof text for my situation. Now, Cooper wants to go out.

I need my car and all my stuff. I had to leave too much behind because of the crowded car.

I have to face it- I'm a selfish old man. I'm a retired guy who wants to do only what he wants to do.

I'm so messed up that I didn't even know it was May until I began writing this.

Later:

After writing the whine above, I decided to put myself to work, building me a space....a refuge to retire to then the noise level became too much, when My Little Poney is on the TV...where I would be able to work. I went out back and cleaned up the Patio, stacked the firewood, and prepped the fire pit for a fire. I went into the garage and got out the chair cushions, set up the outdoor chairs E took from us when we moved out of the VMI place, and set up the patio to look like the screened in back porch at The 404. Then I went up to my bedroom and grabbed my Otter Box full of goodies. In it are a few Arturo Fuente cigars, a flask with the last of the Jack Daniels Sinatra Select, my cutter, and my lighter.

After a nice Kady prepared, E approved dinner, I settled in outside, started my fire, poured myself a drink, and lit a cigar. The night air was cool, but the fire warmed things nicely. The rich smells of the burning wood and cigar kept the bugs at bay, while the sounds coming out of the swamp and the crackling of the fire added to my refuge better than I hoped it would.

While there was enough light to read, I spent a little time with Martha Gellhorn. I am enjoying reading about her travels. She is in Africa...suffering...which is the theme of the book...her travel misadventures. I think that, had I been living in that time, I could have stolen her from Hemingway.

I invited the girls to join me once it got dark, but I think they knew I need some time alone. Even Cooper stayed inside. It was a good end to the day and my attitude is better. I should sleep like a baby tonight.

I've decided this will be a nightly thing while I'm here. Maybe not the cigar, I only have three left, but certainly the whiskey and the fire.

Tomorrow, I'm going to take back streets into the city. I feel like I'm missing the real Savannah by traveling in on Interstate 16. I may take Cooper in with me. My goal is to spend some time around Forsyth Park...get some shots of the fountain. Maybe Kady will go with me.

Saturday, 28 April, 2018: Savannah, Ooh Na-Na

We're back in Savannah.

Kady, KS, Em and I left Friday morning in Kady's car, which made for a tightly packed trip, but a fun one. Em was amazing. I don't remember how the kids were when we traveled at that age, and we did a lot of traveling, but she was such a good little girl and only got fussy once. KS manages her and entertains her well.

This Morning, I went downtown, alone, to shoot the backstreets of Savannah, knowing I would find plenty of interesting subject matter to shoot.

Boy, was I right. Without going to any dangerous areas, I was able to find plenty of great shots. The architecture of River Street is beautiful on the river side, but down the alleys, behind the old warehouses that make up the bars and shops, you get to see an entirely different view of the old town. These are areas are overgrown, patched, crumbling, and boarded up. Doors go unpainted, trash spills out of cans and dumpsters, and vandalism is left unrepaired. Pipes, conduit, and electrical wires hang in haphazardly. These are the forgotten areas.

Tuesday, 24 April, 2018: To Lexington in the Rain

I drove to VMI today to have coffee with Rebecca at the new Starbucks in the PX. Crazy. Three hours in the rain for a coffee! It was good catching up. In great news, she and the water polo team play in the conference semi-finals this weekend. If they win the first game against the top seed, they play for the Championship.

Being back on Post was really kind of fun. I didn't realize that it was reunion week, so I was able to blend in with all the old guys walking around post. Not one cadet recognized me...or, maybe they have already forgotten. Certainly that will be the case two years from now.

Sunday, 22 April, 2018: Cedar Mountain Times Two

I woke up in the middle of the night last night wondering, "Where the hell is my walking stick? I had it at Cedar Mountain on Friday, but I couldn't recall if i had seen it in the car when I got home. I usually put it in the car first and get it out last, and I didn't remember doing that. I began backtracking.

"I remember leaning it up against the gate by the split-rail fence."

"I remember walking with it to the parking Area. I remember leaning it against the mail box as I signed the Visitor's Log."

"I don't remember putting it in the car or getting it out of the car."

"Uh-Oh!"

Now you're probably thinking, "Dude, it's just a Stick!" You would be so wrong.

My walking stick has been my companion since I was with the British Paras in 1988. I cut it on the wooded area out behind our house at Church Crookham from a vine growing in a tree. It has this perfect bend and shape that made for a great handle that fits my hand like a glove. Had I known how it would cure, I would have left it with the bark intact, like I did with the handle. It is beautiful.

I have carried it in England on my pilgrimages to Canterbury and Stonehenge, in Turkey walking the streets of Troy and visiting three of the Ancient Wonders of the World, in the field with the 82nd Airborne, on VMI exercises and road marches, and on hikes and to battlefields all over the country.

I was not going to lose this Stick!

First thing this morning, I checked the car and NOPE! It was not there. I grabbed my keys and drove the 45 minutes back to Cedar Mountain. Sure enough, there it lay, right next to the Mail Box. So, after and hour and thirty minutes on the road, I had my walking buddy back. Yay.

I wrote about Friday's trip to Cedar Mountain on my travel page.

Yesterday, I worked on my Family Tree in earnest. I have decided that a Spreadsheet would be better than a Database, so I began building what I think is a great one, with a tab for names, and tabs for each Grandparent--Neel, Lee, Dennis, Bragg, Spring, Gross, Spiece, Bennette, Gordon, and Polakiewicz. I'll add A's "Miller" info this weekend with his help. I worked on it most of the day Saturday as well.

Monday, 16 April, 2018: Left to My Own Devices

Last night we had WEATHER! We had Alabama Weather...long rolling thunder, high winds, and pouring rain. Lynchburg was hit by a tornado. It skipped just over Ryan's house and tore up her neighborhood. We're relieved that she, Nolan, and Eric are all OK.

This morning, the sun was out so, though it was cool, I headed for a county park outside Crozet. It was a good drive, but my phone kept loosing satellite and phone service. It was an easy route and the perfect road for my car.

The trails were tougher than I expected, so I had more than a good workout. I swear that the best part of the trip was the drive too and from.

When I got back home, I put the outside table together. My plan was to sit out back, sip some whisky and smoke a cigar, but it was pretty cold by the time I was finished.

Kady will be back tomorrow. She went to hang out with SS for the weekend down on his land in Tennessee. The weather turned sour on them...below freezing and wet. They're getting snow tonight.

I win.

Saturday, 14 April, 2018: Juggling Cameras with Ryan

I spent a few hours today with my Favorite Person, Ryan. She graciously agreed to sit for photos as I tried out all the new cameras. Ok, I just wanted to take more photographs of her and used the new cameras as an excuse, I admit it.

She met me at the house, driving an hour to get here. I showed her the place, kissed Kady goodbye, and we jumped in a pre-loaded Bess and drove to city center. It was a madhouse there and we spent a better part of an hour stuck in traffic and trying to find a parking slot in the parking garage. The place I normally park was filled with a crafts fair...which was the issue with the traffic and parking. Sunday would have been better.

But the time in the car was good for catching up. I told her about my new life and she told me everything going on with her. I miss talking to her like in the VMI days when we talked, called, or texted every day.

Since it was afternoon by the time we parked, we went to Sultan Kebab for lunch before photos. She liked it, which pleased me. It is important to me that all my people like Turkish Food. We ate outside and I took a few photos with each camera while we ate.

After lunch, Our first stop was the street where the girl was killed in the riot, then we went to the walking mall to try and capture a photo I had been thinking about all week. We were running out of time, so I took her down a side street heading back to the car park, and took a few more photos there. I think these may be the best shots of the day.

She was fantastic throughout the day, playing with the camera, doing what I asked, and looked really comfortable and pretty throughout. This was our fourth photo session and I love taking her photo. It took a while for her new hair to grown on me, but not I think it is super cool and fits her personality. It certainly photographs well.

The drive back to the house was a little sad. I think she misses me as much as I miss her. We are good, though improbable friends.

I was back home by two o'clock, and immediately began downloading the digital shots and preparing the film for shipping to The Darkroom. If I keep up this pace, I'm going to have to develop my own film again; this is getting expensive. With these photos, I will have spent $70 in a week, just on developing and shipping.

When I get the film back, I should be able to decide which cameras I like best. I sure don't want to juggle that many cameras again. It was too much. I'll chose one film camera to take with my digital and live with the decision while on my shoot. Then, I'll take a different one the next time. I plan to shoot black and white with the film cameras, going back to my roots, and use the digital for color. I tried two rolls of Portra 400 in the RZ-67 on Ryan, and if that went well, I'll use that film when I take photos of people.

That's my plan.

Wednesday, 11 April, 2018: Check Your Biorhythms!

I've been a hot mess this morning. I want to blame it on my new schedule, but that can't be it. Just Stupid? Maybe.

Anyhow, after coffee, I went for a run. I enjoyed it and realized how I have missed it in my life. I only ran two miles, but my pace wasn't too bad. I didn't feel it and ran smoothly, unlike yesterday which felt like my legs weren't working correctly, slapping the ground rather than in a proper motion. This morning I took the time to stretched more, especially my Achilles tendons and ham strings. I am sure that made the difference.

After my run, while I was eating my breakfast, there was knock at the door. I went downstairs and there was a potted plant on the porch. I looked at the card and it had Jay and KS's names on it, but our address. I assumed it must be FROM them and since it was the 11th of April, the anniversary of Sylvia's death, that they had sent it to Kady.

So touched by this kind gesture, I wrote KS and Jay a quick "you guys are so sweet" text, then, finished my breakfast. Once I knew Kady was awake, I grabbed the plant and took it to her...where I met much laughter and ridicule. The flower was not FROM KS and Jay, but TO them...a sympathy gift for KS's grandfather's passing.

KS had texted Kady wondering what the hell was going on.

When my mistake was, so rudely, pointed out, I went back to my office and texted KS and Jay my "sorry" and told her I would bring it right over.

They are in New York.

Bless my heart. It is weird how my brain works sometimes.

The good thing about this is that KS let me adopt the plant. It looks great on my specimen table.

I'm about to go to the downtown mall to take photos and scout some portrait locations. Ryan is coming to see me this Saturday to help me test out my new cameras. I'm not sure what I want, but I'll take cues from her; she usually knows what she wants. I may get more ideas as I walk around and search for good locations. I'm thinking alleys and sidewalk views...and for sure some sidewalk cafe poses. I'm going to take a coffee cup and book as a prop.

When I get home, I'll discuss the shoot with Ryan, showing her some ideas.

I have also begun playing, or trying to play, Fortnite. So frustrating! I'm sure if I stay with it, I'll get better, but my learning curve is great. I have never had good video game hand-and-eye coordination and never wanted to invest the time in getting better, but Jk and Jay play Fortnite, so, I thought I'd try it and see if this could be something that I'd like to do WITH them. Right now, I can't even move my self effectively...so, I die quickly. Yesterday, I was defeated by a guy dressed as the Easter Bunny. I was killed because I didn't even know how to run.

I have developed a plan- Pick one skill at, in a logical order, until I master it, practicing on the fringes of the game.

I'll get better, then I'll be dangerous. Watch Out.

Thursday, 5 April, 2018: Watching the Grands

Kady and I have been watching the Grandbabies while KS is gone to her granddad's funeral. Jk is out of school for spring break, so they asked for our help so Jay and B didn't have to take off work.

Jk doesn't need watching. He's either out with friends or playing video games. He has a cell phone now so he checks in every now and then. Em needs almost constant entertaining and supervision. Today, knowing her dad was upstairs answering e-mails, she told a bold-faced lie, saying she was going down to the playroom. Kady, being more attuned to her than I am, said OK, but watched her. Em told her to stop watching and every time Kady would turn her head, she started toward the upstairs. Kady had to go sit on the stairs to keep her from interrupting Jay. She is a sneaky little thing.

Kady has been cooking! She made two of the best pies I've ever had two nights ago. First was a lemon icebox pie, one of my favorites. For herself, she made a chocolate and peanut butter pie with Oreo crust. Think Reece Cup between two Oreos and you know what it tasted like. I swear the girl should do this for a living.

I've walked here for the last two days. It's about two miles and there are paths along the route. Today, I carried my camera Bag for the weight. I need to start running again. It has been too long. I also have a pass to the Gym. I need to do that too. Maybe I'll start Saturday after KS gets back. She and I are supposed to be workout partners. We're not sure how that is going to work with kids and all. B and I want to hike together. It's getting to be that kind of weather around here.

Tuesday, 3 April, 2018: Contacting Old Friends

KS is about to come over to use my scammer before she leaves for her Grandmother Spring's Funeral. I hope to pitch in with the kids while she's away, but haven't been asked to do anything yet. I may just go with Kady when she goes to help. She says she's making a pie for tonight and taking it over there. I guess I have to go along with that under the circumstances, but I do not like sharing pie.

This past Easter Sunday, NBC aired a live production of Jesus Christ Superstar. I watched it Monday morning and thought it a decent production. You can't argue with John Legend's voice and they guy playing Judas was great. Alice Cooper's appearance as Herod was campy....just what that part is supposed to be. The star of the show was Sara Bareilles who played a fantastic Mary Magdalene. I am not afraid to say that her performance brought me to tears. I have since been on a kick to listen to her music. How have I not heard of this girl until now?

Oh Right. Stuck perpetually in the 70s.

Re-visiting this show brought on a flood of memories. The musical first came out when I was in high school and it was a huge part of all of our lives. I knew almost every word or every song and the kids I sang these sons with came rushing back into my thoughts--Lynn, Jane Ann, Joanna, Ricky, Bill, Carey, Shelley, Janice, Cricket, Courtney, Bob, Roy, Patti, Ron, Vicki, Marta, Doug, JM, ...The Warblers (69-71 Best) and GGC...

I sat down right after and wrote a piece on High School. It was great fun, cathartic in a way. It seems to me that I was a stupid asshole in high school.

I spent the balance of the day writing everyone I had on Facebook and writing or e-mailing the rest...those I could find.

Monday: 26 March, 2018: All The Things

I got up this morning knowing all the things I had to do. After taking Cooper for a pee and feeding him, I read the news over coffee. When the others began stirring, I went for breakfast in Bess and parked her back in front of the house. I unpacked the car and then re-packed Buck and Heather's suitcases in it, then drove to get Eddie from the Omni and take him to the airport. Once done with that, I drove Buck and Heather to Richmond for their flight. On the way back into town, I picked up some food for cooper at the Veterinary Hospital and then picked up the groceries at Kroger.

That's it, weekend finally DONE! Tomorrow, Kady and I will be putting the house back in order.

It was a long one. Thursday, we all met for drinks and food at South Street Brewery. Friday was the rehearsal, then lunch at Sultan Kabab, and then a welcome dinner at The Space Downtown. Saturday began with a 10-mile road race for the kids, then the wedding at 5PM at The Old Metropolitan Hall. The after party was immediately after the ceremony, beginning with cocktails, followed by the wedding dinner, and then dancing and more drinking. The kids left us to clean up and went for more drinks.

The whole weekend went as planned. The weather which was predicted as snow and freezing turned out to be cool and beautiful. Buck officiated and did a great job. He kept it light and the crowd laughing. It was very enjoyable. E and A smiled throughout the ceremony. E looked more beautiful than I have ever seen her. I guess that's the way it should be. 

The one drawback to the whole day was the anti-gun crowd that marched in circles around the downtown mall. What a bunch of unattractive losers. We could hardly move and had to weave our way through them, while they stared us down, looked at us suspiciously, and called us "Operational," I assume because we were in suits and short hair...No Birkenstocks or man-buns. Those guys must be the enemy. They're probably the (shudder) NRA. Well, at least one of us is...that would be ME. Life Member...and I plan on living a very long time.

Hay Hay, Ho Ho, The NRA isn't gonna Go. Piss Off, Hippy!

Sunday, 25March, 2018: Hey Face Book! Fuck Off!

I quit Face Book today. It has has become too invasive and far too divisive. It came down to either quit the whole thing or block members of my family and a few close friends over politics. I was tired of seeing post from people that I love being led around like sheep to the slaughter by their emotions, the anti-gun lobby, and the liberal media. I'm tired of being vilified because I believe in the WHOLE Constitution, which I swore to support and defend, and because I am a member of the National Rifle Association.

So if you wish to contact me, my e-mail is listed on this site. If you don't have my number, you probably don't need it. If you want to see what I'm doing, come back here. Being off FB should give me more time to write and update. I'm still on Instagram.

Wednesday, 21 March, 2018: Spring Snow

Yeah. It snowed today. I woke up , ready to go to the winery to pick up the welcome bag wine, and looked outside to check the weather. The neighborhood was covered. I think we got about five to six inches...that's what it looked like to me. A few of my friends who know my dislike for snow played around with me on Facebook, which I enjoyed. It was good to hear from Jessica, the first Deb from the Old Dominion Cotillion who adopted me. Great young Lady!

The winery was closed, so I didn't have to do that, but I did take Cooper out for a walk. He loves the snow and it was fun watching him tunnel through it. He would run, dip his nose, and plow ahead until he surfaced, and then pounce around like a crazy dog. I haven't laughed so hard in a long while. I took forever to get him calmed down enough to do his business. Clean up back in the house took about an hour.

I went for a haircut at Chung's Barbershop after the girls got home. Mistake. The guy spoke no English and the instructions to "leave my hair longer and leave my beard alone" were lost in translation. The cut he gave me looks good, but I want more hair than this. I miss Bucks. I will have to find an English speaking barber before my next cut...if there is a next cut...ever. Maybe I'll go with Kady to her Stylist.  Wait.  No.

Tonight we went to eat at Bonefish Grill...again. Not my favorite place. I need to get a steak next time. Their other dishes are just too foo-foo for me. "Foo-foo" is a technical man-term meaning 'fancy," but not in a good way. I made do with a lot of hot sauce on the Blackened Shrimp Tacos, but I won't get that again.

Tomorrow is full. I have to go to Blenheim Winery to get the wine, then to Richmond to pick up Heather and Buck. Ed comes in at 1930 to the C'ville Airport. Then we're all meeting at South Street Brewery for drinks. Friday shouldn't be rushed for me, but Kady, KS, and E are super busy. After that, I'm not sure of my time-line.

Sunday, 18 March, 2018: Dad-Daughter Time and The Tree

Yesterday, I picked up my suit and put it on after I got back to the house. I think I look pretty damn handsome in it. E and Kady said, sweetly, that they agreed.

E and I went to see Red Sparrow in the afternoon, a really good movie with Jennifer Lawrence. It is a movie that will keep you guessing until the very end, and then, still you aren't sure. I hope they make sequels. I hardly ever say that, but I want more of the story. More of Jennifer Lawrence would be OK too.

After the movie, I was supposed to go to Lex for the last home water polo game, but the movie was longer than I expected and we didn't get out until after the game had started. We went to the Airport to get A, so the main players in this wedding have all closed in. We did Bangers and Mash at Jay and KS's for St. Patrick's Day after A landed. They were drinking, but I wasn't so, bored and with nothing to read and my phone going dead, I had Kady bring me home; she went back.

They all came back to the house, well after midnight, and woke me up because E was having a small meltdown about her Grandmother not being at her wedding. They were very close friends. I knew this pouring of emotions was coming because she had been talking about how she didn't want her grandparents mentioned during the wedding and we talked about them all the way home from the movie. It was good for her to cry a little. Alcohol is good for that. We are all good now, I think.

I got up this morning and walked to The Tree for a photo shoot. I took my digital and my Mamiya RZ-67. was able to stay off of the guys property and frame the shot just as I had pictured it driving by day after day. I was just in time. It has already begun to bud, though from the distance I took the shot, you can't tell. The time of day was perfect. I was there just after sunup, so the side of the tree facing my camera was illuminated by the first rays of light and the shadows ran away behind it toward the path. My shadow was in the bottom of the photo, but easily cropped out. I may keep it.

E-mailing with Vicki about why this tree interests me so, I told her:

"I'm not sure what catches my eye. Maybe it is shape, but it isn't symmetry. Maybe it is age, but it isn't always health. Perhaps, and I think this most probable, it is my appreciation of what the tree must have "seen" in its life. Trees also say "Family" to me...or, more specifically, "Posterity." I like that I have a son, and he has a son, who will take the Neel Family Name into the future...seedlings.

Old struggling trees captivate me...especially now that I'm in my mid sixties, have lots of white hair, and the end of my life approaches. That's when I think of Burning and Raging...like an old tree in Spring sprouting what buds it can."

16 March, 2018: Getting Ready

E and A's big day is coming on fast. E's dress came in yesterday. I tried to get her to put it on so I could take photos, No Deal. My people are not being supportive of my photography.

My suit should be ready for pickup today. I bought a nice navy blue suit, just for the wedding. Kady talked me into a pink tie for the day, but I doubt that I'll wear that again...not my style. I bought a nice maroon for when I wear the suit again. Kady also bought me some navy and pink argyle socks. I think this is silly, but, OK, I can do this for my daughter. She seems very excited about the pink stuff.

Cooper and I had a good long walk yesterday. The weather was breezy, but warm, probably the warmest day of the month, so I wore a t-shirt and shorts. It was so nice to get out without a sweatshirt or jacket.

We had dinner at Jay and KS's house last night. It was good to have the whole Family around the table for a change.

14 March, 2018: Pi Day

Stephen Hawking died today. If he had to go, I guess going on Pi Day, was poetic. Maybe I can ENDEX on the 82nd's Birthday or something.

I drove to a dental appointment in Buena Vista this morning. Kady and I will be keeping our dentist thee because we love them. Best dental team ever. They finished my cleaning in no time, so I went to the car wash and washed Bess, then took COL Hutchings back his twenty dollars, then picked up Rebecca for lunch. I took her to foothill Mama's for BBQ. It was good to catch up and I may have asked too many questions about VMI for my perceived state of mind. I guess I still care...a little.

I was back home in time for the girls to go shopping and to take Cooper for a walk...my favorite thing!

12 March, 2018: Marines

Kady is home, just ahead of the predicted snow storm. We didn't get shit. It flurried a bit, but didn't stick. This is one time I wanted a nice snow. There is this tree across the highway that has my photographer's attention. It is huge, beautifully shaped, and standing alone in a big field, actually someone's yard. I see photographs of it in my minds eye during the four seasons. I just need the right conditions and correct vantage point. I sure don't want Highway 29, one of the most unhappiest of places, in the photo. No Snow, No Photograph...is what I'm thinking. Soon, it will be budding and time for the "Spring" photo. The Snow quadrant may have to wait till next Winter.

The wedding looms ahead in less than two weeks. I'm really looking forward to E's day. The planning is going well, a few hiccups, but well. E and Cooper drive in tomorrow. She, Kady, KS, and Em just had a girl's weekend in Charleston for her final dress fitting. Today, she and Cooper are in New port news at Femms and Fidos for his pre-wedding grooming. Of course, Cooper will be in the wedding.

While they were in Charleston, I drove up to DJ's to give her her coffee cup, which she left in the Appartement le Miz, and to pick up my Turk Cezve coffee maker, which she stole. After a steak and egg breakfast, we went to the Marine Corps Museum, a great place to visit. I loved the exhibits, especially the aircraft. They had a F4 Corsair! I love that plane...Baa Baa Black Sheep, What!

On the way back, I hit Spotsylvania Battlefield, and then went for a recon of Lake Anna State park. Good thing I did. I'm looking for a secluded cabin to rent for about four days, for hiking, boating, swimming, and WRITING. The cabin area of Lake Anna is too crowded, mixed in with the RV sites. James River and Douthat look more promising. I'll check them out this Spring.

7 March, 2018: Farewell

Kady, Jay, and I drove to Lex yesterday afternoon for my farewell from the Commandant's Staff. We all met in Moody Hall for drinks and food. Though I didn't want to do it, it was really nice of them to go to the trouble. They gave me my clock from VMI, which will be forever set at 5:05,and a really nice Ek Bowie knife, made in Richmond. Perfect.

The L-Train, Gary, The Hutch, Eric, and the Commandant, Bill, had kind words to say, and then they turned the floor over to me. These people are the best of the best and a great team. I have worked with no finer people in my life, and I will sorely miss them.

Today I took a walk around Preddy Creek Trail Park, a slightly confusing network of trails on the ridges above Preddy Creek. When I checked it out on-line, I knew I would need a map, so I printed one out and took it with me. It came in hA or I might still be out there. I certainly would have walked farther than I did, and i was pretty tired by the end of my hike. The trails are easily defined and marked, but there are no directional signs telling you which way to go. Yeah, Take a Map.

This time of year, it is pretty barren out there, but once the leaves come out, it is going to be a spectacular place to go. It's mostly secondary hardwood forest, with a few pines here and there. Even this time of year there were wrens and warblers in the trees. I caught a fleeting flashes of yellow throughout the park. I love the quiet in this park.

I only saw two people there the entire afternoon, one young lady with her dog, who were leaving, and a gentleman about my age down by the creek with his dog. This is going to be one of my favorite places to go, year-round, next trip being when Cooper is here while E and A go on their honeymoon.

1 March, 2018: Home to Cold, Rain, and Wind

The ride home was easy, but boring. I expected to follow Kady home, but she got up before me and left as I took Cooper for a last walk. I was on the road by 7 o'clock, about an hour and a half behind her. My trip was pretty uneventful until I got to NC. I stopped at Bentonville Battlefield State park and walked the ground. I had been there before and it was as I remembered it, not much to see but one canon, a few monuments, and eroded Union trenches. You really have to know the story to appreciate it. The battle is a great study in how Audacity can be used as an advantage. At this battle, twenty-thousand Confederates attacked sixty-thousand Union and came very close to whipping them.

There is a small cemetery of unknown soldiers and a large marker over the mass grave near the visitor's center, a stark reminder of the 4,133 casualties of this battle just a few weeks before the surrender.

Though I don't miss the pollen, I sure miss the Spring weather in Georgia. It is cold and rainy here, and for the next three days we're supposed to get 50 MPH winds. So, I'm inside. I've been doing the Honey-do-List. I repaired the leaky toilet flap downstairs, re-wired the perfectly fine hall lighting fixture to find out it was only the bulb, and I called VMI Human Resources about an issue.

AND...I've been working on this page, editing and figuring out problems. How I miss my editor and proofreader Sylvia.

26 February, 2018: Heading to Charlottesville

Kady and E are on their way home from Minnesota and Bridal Shower things. Cooper and I have taken a walk every morning, but have pretty much stayed inside. The ground is yellow with pollen out there and I'm covered with it after our walk. My sinuses are stopped up and my eyes are itchy. I'm managing it with Visine Maximum, a Neilmed Neti Pot, and frequent showers. Cooper seems OK with lounging around. We're enjoying Turner Classic Movies.

Kady and I will head home tomorrow. I'm looking forward to being among my things again. I have missed my guitar. I should have brought it with me, but I thought I'd be traveling and doing mostly photography things.

I'm going to miss the warm weather; it is still in the 50s in Charlottesville, but maybe I'll get a respite from this pine pollen.

March is going to be Busy!

23 February, 2018: Batchin' It with Coop

The girls left for Minnesota this morning for Bridal Shower stuff. Cooper and I will begin traveling again tomorrow. The pollen is killing me.

21 February, 2018: The Web Site

On the 7th, I took Cooper to see Fort Pulaski. It is a great site, very well-maintained and beautiful. Cooper was very well-behaved and fun for the entire crowd; everyone adored him. Our trip was a great history lesson and a very good example of why we have to invest in military technology and how we should never let our military fall behind.

When I began working on another web site, a responsive site that would work well across different browsers and platform. My old site looked OK on laptops and desktops, but wouldn't size for mobile devices.

I had a lot to learn.

Instead of starting from scratch, I downloaded a template from Expression Web and adjusted from there. Once I got a straw man built, I uploaded it. It wouldn't load on my phone.

I did a live text session with iPage Technical Support and they had the issue. My site up right away. Then I began working in earnest to get all the content loaded, robbing words and photos from my previous sites.

This morning, I tried to load them with Filezilla and could not connect. I tried so many times that my Host blackballed my IP address. Now I had a real problem. I had to do another live session with technical support to fix it. That took about an hour. They were great.

Now I'm tweaking, learning as I go...making sure it all fits. Building a site is like a puzzle where the pieces don't fit. Sorting out problems and figuring out what you are doing wrong is whi I like it so much. Editing will be a breeze and should take place in a short while.

E got home Monday afternoon and is here now, a little ill. Kady is driving here today.

6 February, 2018: Fort James Jackson

After our walk today, Cooper and i headed off for another day trip, this time to Fort James Jackson on the Savannah River. Built in 1809 and re-furbished in 1845, it served in the War of 1812 and the Civil War.

The drive was much shorter today, and cooper slept most of the way. Once there, I confirmed that he was welcome and we had the place, mostly to ourselves. There was a bus load of school kids, but the left a little after we arrived. I let Cooper sniff around and smell everything s I looked the place over. It was really well maintained and beautiful in its own way. Certainly it presented some great views, overlooking the river as it does.

There was a nice breeze, which was welcome as the day got warmer, and Cooper seemed to relish in it. It picked up as we got closer to the river and almost blew my cap off when we stepped out on the pier. The location, day, and breeze were so niche I found myself wishing I had brought a picnic lunch for the both of us. I should have,

Hopefully, I will have my National Park Pass by tomorrow so we can go to Fort Pulaski. If not, I want to go back to Forsyth Park to take photos of the fountain or down to River Street.

15 February, 2018: Driftwood Beach

After I washed and detailed Bess for the last two days, I took Cooper to Driftwood Beach onJekyll Island this morning. Big Mistake! Now the backseat is full of sand and nasty. It shouldn't take much time to fix, so, it was worth it.

Cooper had a blast and took off after a bird in the water about 200 yards down the beach. Luckily, the bird flew toward me to bring Cooper back my way. I put him back in the harness, but I did not scold him. He was having the best time..

Jekyll Island is great. It was not crowded at all, I assume because it is the off season, and I just hit it on then first hot day of winter. There were a lot of folks my age, all friendly, and all seemed to be dog lovers. Cooper had to greet everyone, of course.

As we walked the beach, looking for cool driftwood to photo, the bugs got pretty thick, little black biting things that were the worst part. We learned to walk closer to the water, which, of course "Mr. Water Dog preferred." The bugs were less intrusive there.

The drive to and from was easy, and I may go back with Kady, once she gets here. I'll never go without Cooper, if I have him. If a dog could smile, he'd would have been smiling from ear-to-ear while he was running in the surf.

13 February, 2018: Such a Novice

OK, "my first Lemon Tree," must have been a little fungus. As quickly as it was there, it shriveled up and died. I knew it was about five days early to be a tree, but I thought maybe I was just lucky. This could be harder than I think.

Meanwhile, Cooper and I have been training (read: Playing). He'll do anything I ask for a snack, so today, I took the ball thrower out to the park and tossed him a few long-ones.. Just as he got back, ball in mouth, I showed him a snack and said, "Drop." Then I had him sit and I gave him the snack. The very next time he came back, I showed the snack, he dropped, and then sat. Smart boy. We did this a few time, about five, and he never missed a lick.

Once back at the house, I continued cleaning the inside of my car while he watched. He went back in the house, and came back seconds later with his big fluffy ball and dropped it at my feet. I did as he has trained me and gave him all my attention. Once he was finished with his rousing game of Keep Away, he curled up on his sleeping mat, which he considers Home Base where I can't mess with him, and I was able to finish detailing Bess.

The weather for the last three days has been dreary. Today, the weather is wet and in the 50s, so we're staying close to the house.  Tomorrow it should be warm enough to finish the car, maybe even waxing it, and Friday, it should be in the 80s and we plan on going to Jekyll Island for some sun, surf, and sand....and hopefully a few photos.

11 February, 2018: Savannah...Again...but not complaining
I'm in Savannah again, watching Cooper while E is in the field, Sunday Night through Thursday, then while she goes to Charlottesville for wedding planning, until she and Kady come back here. I will head back home on the 27th.
I got up at 2:30AM Saturday Morning, unable to sleep, and drove in, arriving a little before noon. That's the way to do it. The traffic didn't get heavy until I got to Columbia, and, still, it wasn't as bad as usual.
Once I got here, I took Copper out for a walk, even before unpacking the car. I took him down to the lake and let him run around and play with a young Aussiedoodle names Raya. They had a great time. Not much is more fun than watching to Doodles play together.
It was hot out, almost 80 degrees, and humid as only the deep South can be. I should have worn shorts. By the time we got home, I was soaking wet. It was good to get outside though; I have been huddled up in the house in Virginia, refusing to go out in the weather. I don't do Cold weather well, but love Hot and Humid.

I brought all my cameras with me, hoping to go on short trips around the Savannah area after E and A leave. I think my first trip will be to the ocean so Cooper can play on the beach, maybe Jekyll Island. E says that is the best, dog friendly beach.

A must, this time, has to be Ft. Pulaski. I have planned to visit every trip and have either been rained out or had my plans changed by family stuff. I have two whole weeks this time, with good weather in the forecast, and have a list of Cooper allowed activities to do.

One of my to do things during retirement is to grow things. Right now, all I have ever grown has been my jade plant, Bob. I rescued him from death and he is flourishing. Two weeks ago, I planted seeds to grow my own lemon trees. The first seedling came up yesterday. I'm calling them "The Babies" and treating them a bit like that.

I brought them along and have them upstairs in a south facing window ledge. I'll replant what comes up, once I get back to Charlottesville. I hope to have them mature by autumn, to go with a couple of potted Japanese maples that I'll buy this spring. I also want to pot some plants like Marigolds, Lavender, and Citronella that repel mosquitos. I want to make it nice out on the back patio, something like the screened back porch in Lex.

I'm almost done with Whole 30. Thursday, I get to begin adding things back. I'm not going to do that by the book. I'm adding cereal and almond milk, bean sprouts, and wheat bread, and soup. And chocolate. I'll also begin running and working out tomorrow. I lost 14 pounds so far and hope to get under 210lbs by Thursday...and continue to get more fit, stronger, and to get below 200, back to pre-VMI weight. 195lbs would be perfect.

Consistency!

My beard and hair are getting long. I am staying up later and sleeping in later too. I'm getting things done that I haven't had the time to do in the past.

1 February, 2018: "Finally Free"
Today is my first day of Retirement. I got nothing to do today but smile. Now begins the new journey, armed with my books, cameras, telescope, and computers, and an adventurous spirit.

Tuesday, I went to VMI to sort out a few last things, then made the rounds to tell the Staff goodbye. I spent a little time with a few of my favorite cadets, but missed a lot of others that I would have liked to have seen. There will be other opportunities, I'm sure. When I got home, I had a package from Kady's uncle Ed, a professional photographer, who sent me his Mamiya 6 with lenses. It is an amazing gift which I will put to good use.

Tuesday night we met at Jay and KS's for Movie night, watching "Get Out," which was good, but the best thing was that it was a preview of things like that yet to come.
I didn't go to work Wednesday, so, really, yesterday was like the unofficial start of my Retirement. I called it "Pre-retirement Activities Day, "and spent the day playing hide-and-seek with Em, packing up my uniforms, repairing my camera back-pack, and preparing this site to publish.

Today has been spent moving the uniforms up to the attic, scanning some photos as I try to glean down my stockpile if pictures, and arranging all my new camera Kit.
Kady and I are on our way, in a few minutes, go do Game Night with Jay and KS.

Friday, 26 January, 2018: My Last "Full" Week

I worked all day Tuesday and Wednesday, and about two hours on Thursday, getting a few last minute things done, rounding up and turning in my keys and fob, and sending out a few instructional e-mails.

Wednesday night, I had a few words with this year's New Cadet Military Training Program Cadre, a parting shot, attempting to impress upon them the importance of the program, and communicating, I think, my wishes to see it continue. It was all I could do. Now it is up to SsFC Ech and Bean, and, of course, the new Corps and Institute Sergeant Major to keep it going.

The whole family is doing the Whole30 program..It's working. Most people seem to have problems getting through the first few days. Not me. I felt and feel better each day. I have lost about six pounds already, though I'm not supposed to be weighing, and I have more energy. I sleep better and my acid reflux at night has not been a problem, no matter on which side I sleep. My cravings are really non-existent, but my habits are a bit hard to break...I still want to graze all day long.

Kady is doing a great job keeping it interesting; she's a great cook, as we all know. We're nine days in to it as of this morning and I don't even care when the 30-days is up. I'll keep you posted.

I took some time on Wednesday to take a few photos I've wanted to take. Those are off to The Darkroom for developing, as well as a roll of film by Rebecca Sorrano who wanted to get into film photography, so I gave her film and loaned her my Canon A-1.

I'm taking today and Monday off, Kady and I promising ourselves that we'll stay in PJs the whole four days. I may make it, but Kady and KS are out shopping right now. Next week, I'll go in Tuesday a whole day to take care of a few more things, and then Wednesday to say goodbye to everyone around Post.

Then, it will all begin-

Wednesday, 17 January 2018: Lee-Jackson Day, Snow Day

Taking this Ghosting Thing to the next level, I took Monday off. Yesterday, I went in for Staff meeting, My Last!, and today I took a snow day because we got about a half-inch of snow last night and because I had a Dermatology Appointment this morning. I will go in tomorrow for a bit and then I will go in Friday while Kady is at the dentist.

At staff yesterday, I wore my track suit and sat in the back. Still, they asked me if I could cover the VFT on Friday. My answer, "If I Have To," looked like it pissed a few people off who were sitting on their hands. Damnit. I have two weeks left and they act like they can't do without me. How many times was it just me and Chris Perry down there counting Pull-ups? No more. I'm done. Let the New SGM pull my weight. Oh Wait! He hasn't been hired yet.

I wrote the Corps yesterday, my last e-mail, thanking them for doing such a great job. Here it is:

Janissaries of the Commonwealth,  

You were most impressive on Saturday. I have viewed every video I can find, taken from all possible angles, and I must say that this has to be the perfect event to end my VMI career and my days in Uniform. I was proud like a dad. Your attitudes were amazing, your lines straight, and your rifles all at the same angle. I have received kudos from as far away as Britain, Japan, and Turkiye (not kidding), to which I replied, “I didn’t have jack to do with it; it was all the Corps.”

And, it truly was.

I spent all of yesterday reading articles about your performance and I only found one negative, which I would share with you here:

Military Coup at Inaugural

Richmond Free Press

Buffy Brightstar Moonchild, Reporter

On Saturday afternoon, during the parade honoring our duly elected, democratic governor, a large formation of trained killers from VMI appeared from behind the capitol building, marching to the sound of their war drums, and brandishing Claymore Battle Swords and AR15 Assault Weapons with chainsaw attachments. They stopped the entire parade and refused to move until forcing the poor governor to grant amnesty, which we can only assume means that they have the freedom to commit any atrocity throughout our state. Once they forced the governor to their will, they let out a demonic war cry and marched off, stomping their feet like storm troopers, to terrorize the peace-loving people of Richmond. This reporter was so scared that she had to hurry to the designated safe place at Starbucks on the VCU Campus and has since had to seek counseling for Post-Traumatic Stress.

OK, I may have written that.

It has been a pleasure Mates.

To the class of ‘18—Great Job so far this year. Finish Strong. I envy those of you going into the service. If I could do it all again, I would jump at the chance. For those of you not, there are many ways to serve. Find one and pitch in.

To the Class of ‘19—I look forward to seeing how you all transition to leadership billets for next year. I expect to hear great things. Bring my replacement up right, like the class of 1998 did for me, and teach him/her the ways of VMI. This might be your greatest legacy.

To the class of ’20—Be great Sergeants next year. Never make your officers do your job, keep them informed, train the Rats well…they will be your Corporals.

Cheers

Sunday, 14 January, 2018: Last duty and, oh by the way, I'm 65

Yeah. Today is my sixty-fifth birthday. I assume this means I am officially old. Ah well, You're only as old as you feel, age is only a number, and all that bull shit. Happily, at "Granddaddy's Birthday Brunch," with Kady, Jay, and the Kiddos, I found some great Shrimp and Grits at Fry's Spring Station. This may be a Sunday Thing from now on.

Yesterday the Corps marched in the Virginia Governor's Inaugural Parade. They did a fantastic job. I was amazed at their discipline and attention to detail. They looked sharp and did everything we asked of them. We practiced for only two one-hour periods and they did so well and were so cooperative that we let them go and cancelled Friday afternoon's practice.

Saturday morning was an early start. I got up at 4am to drive to Lexington, just to get on a bus to drive right back, passing C'ville, to go to Lexington. The smart thing to do would have been to meet the busses there, but I couldn't do that to The L-Train. I knew he might need a little help getting everyone going, but, really, The Corps had it.

Once in Richmond, we sent cadets for chow, which consisted of two pieces of bread with a few slices of turkey, a pack of mayonnaise, an apple, and a small bag of chips. "We'll feed you lunch," they said. This was the only disappointing part of the day; everything else went well.

Once we passed in review and the Governor had given the Corps amnesty for PTs and confinement, we loaded busses for Lex, passing, once again, C'ville. I'm Stupid!

Once back, I loaded up Bess and drove home. I was back by 5:30pm, happy and tired. Kady made me a quick sandwich and I went to bed, having accomplished the last thing I promised the Commandant I would do before I left.

Wednesday, 3 January, 2018: Back Home

Kady and I drove home Tuesday. We got up before E and Cooper and, rather than wake them, left without saying goodbye. I figured I'd hear about it from E, but she was happy to get to sleep in...Cooper too, from what E says.

I spent this morning gleaning the War Room of unneeded and unwanted stuff. Now that I'll in one place, I don't need all that I needed dividing my time between two houses. For instance, I don't need nearly as many white t-shirts for dress uniform wear. Hell, I probably won't wear Dress Uniform again. Perhaps I will on Inaugural Day, but I think I may wear Civvies just to make a statement. This should be the New SGM's first big event, with me advising, but, well, they are just beginning the hiring process. I should be pissed off, but, EH!, I'm just going with the flow.

While cleaning and organizing, I watched a couple of good movies, Hyena Road, a decent Canadian movie about the war in Afghanistan, and Stone of Destiny, a movie about the recovery of the Stone of Scone from England by Scot students in 1950.

It was a nice quiet day.

Monday, 1 January, 2018: Happy New Year

We all stayed in last night, shunning the wet and cold Savannah weather. Seeingwhat other crazier, braver folks were enduring across America just reinforced our decision to watch it on TV.

The music was traditionally bad bubble-gum pop, but there were a few good moments that even a 1970s music snob could enjoy. I thought Alessia Cara was very talented but, the best show of the night was Camila Cabello. Brittany proved that she can't sing and dance at the same time. Mariah did an acceptable job considering the conditions, better than last year, but, she wasn't great. Neil Diamond was fantastic. Florida Georgia Line need to stop singing and go away...never ever calling themselves a country duo again. Nick Jonas was only decent...rating an "Eh!" on my scale. Sugar Land...uh...not impressive, though I love Jennifer's voice. Walk The Moon was interesting. Of course, there were a lot of people I never heard of (read "pop" above).

Midnight was spent with my Kady and E, A and his family, with Jay and Kel on Face-Time...warm and snug in E's house.

While we were out on Saturday, I picked up a local news paper and read an article there about discussions to remove or "add historical content to" the Confederate Memorial from Forsyth Park. I drove there yesterday to photograph it. It is one of the most beautiful monuments I have ever seen, and I'm glad I took photos of it. It will be a sad day if they decide to remove it.

I used the Mamiya and the digital. I loved the looks I got when I started setting up the big camera. Like the decline of high-fidelity to iPods and ear buds, I believe that the ease of cell phone cameras may be the end of real photography. I swear some people were wondering what the hell that big thing was.

Kady and I will leave for home tomorrow morning. I'm ready, for sure, but this has been a fun time. I'll have about a week at home before having to go back to work for my last few days. It is going fast.