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December 29, 2007

The parents are due here late this evening. I've been spending a lot of time these past few rainy days cleaning house so that things come close to my parents' idea of clean.

I've rearranged the livingroom furniture so it all points at the TV set. They are actually bringing their satellite dish with them from Michigan and having their Dish Network service switched to here for the duration of their stay. They cannot believe I'm satisfied with the handful of fuzzy channels the rabbit-ear antenna bring in.

When I was planning this move a couple years ago, my father actually told me "That area doesn't have cable television so you'll HAVE TO get a satellite dish." He believes pay-TV is one of life's necessities. A lot of people here feel the same way too. It's hard to find a house in this town that isn't sprouting a little satellite dish.

More football and other assorted sports will be watched on my television in the next two months than in the seven years I've owned it. God, I hate football. Sometimes I think I'm the only person in Alabama that hates football. This state has such a hard-on for football. Pro, college, high school - they don't care. As long as some guy in tights is carrying a ball, they're in hog heaven.

My backyard has an almost 180-degree view. On a clear day I can see for at least 40 miles to the north, west and south. By far, the brightest lights on the entire night horizon belong  to the high school football field five miles away.

 

Well, they should be here soon. The house is as clean as I'm going to get it. Time to sit back, relax, smoke a bowl, drink a beer and listen to a little music. It'll be a while before I get to do that in the livingroom again.

 

 

 

 

December 21, 2007

Ah...Winter Solstice. This is the real reason for the season. Say all you want about babes in mangers or oil lasting waaaay longer than it should, what really  matters to me is that the sun is coming back. Starting tomorrow, the days start getting longer. Now that is reason for celebration.

The days here in Alabama certainly aren't as short as the ones in Alaska right now, but I'm looking forward to more than ten hours of sunlight in a day.

I'm currently getting ready for my parents' annual months-long visit. I can't help but be pissed that they didn't mention their winter plans until I arrived in Alabama last January. Hmmm...why didn't they say anything earlier?

I never really went into the details before but they plan on spending every winter here. EVERY WINTER! This year, they're going to stay for ONLY two months. I guess that explains why they spent so much goddamned money on the accommodations. The only thing I asked for was the old camper that my dad used to take on hunting trips. Instead I got a big-ass mobile home that I'm expected to pay the insurance on.

Ah...two entire months of being reminded of what a disappointment I am. Two whole months of being reminded that I should have applied myself. Two months of turning into an eye-rolling, angsty, bad-poetry-writing teenager. Oh fuck. What the hell have I gotten myself into?

On the bright side: I am the proud new owner of a cedar chest that is probably almost 100 years old. I traded four hours of labor for the chest and the old feather mattress inside. I'm pretty stoked about the feather mattress. I had found one inside my grandmother's old house but it was absolutely ruined beyond repair. I had no choice but to throw it on the bonfire. By the way, a whole mattress full of chicken feathers on fire is pretty damned stinky. But this new one is in pretty decent shape. If you come visit, I'll let you sleep on it!

I also got a wooden end table that's about 50-60 years old. Let's hear it for free old stuff! Whoo-hoo!

 

 

 

December 18, 2007

It was one year ago today that I loaded my life into an early '90s Mitsubishi Gallant and set off across Alaska and Canada in the dead of winter. Today marks one entire year since I left Anchorage - my favorite little big city in the entire world. Damn. I miss it. Been spending a lot of time replaying those last few days in my mind.

I'm flabbergasted by how drastically my life has changed in that year. I used  to love sleeping until noon. Now, for the first time in my life, I think of 7:30am as sleeping in late. Of course, I'm not up until 2am every night anymore. No more late night bull sessions at downtown bars. Hell, it's almost been a year since I even set foot in a bar.

I really miss living within walking distance of good red wine. It's absolutely impossible to find a nice Argentine Malbec here.  Not that I could afford one anyway. I haven't been this broke since I lived in the Gilbert Hotel - the hotel so shitty Tom Waits wrote a song about it.

I cook a lot more. No more running down to the corner for sushi or ordering Chinese delivery. If I want sweet and sour sauce, I gotta make it myself. I make tortillas from scratch now. I've even learned to make my own yogurt.

My average daily schedule looks like this: Wake up, drink coffee, check email, let the chickens out, cut back kudzu, watch General Hospital, eat lunch, clean out the old shed, lock the chickens up, bring in firewood, check email, eat dinner, read book, go to sleep, repeat.

Oh sure, there's some variation. Sometimes I drink a few cheap beers with the Boomhauer Brothers - a bunch of local middle-aged rednecks. Occasionally I have a housecleaning gig.  Once in a while I substitute "dismantle old barn" for "cut back kudzu."

I've lost a lot of weight in the last year. Jeans that fit last year now hang low, threatening to fall to my ankles. I'm like some urban hip-hop kid, constantly hiking up the crotch of my pants. It looks silly.

Sigh...I am almost 40, still single and have too many cats.

At least the cats get along with the chickens - as you can see in this video of Artemis breaking bread with the birds. (The first chicken in the video, by the by, is the one and only Cheepacabra - sexiest chicken in the whole wide world.)

 

 

It's been cold again - getting below freezing for most of the night. Everything all white and frosty in the early morning. Yet even the coldest daytime temps are still in the 50s. I can't help but snicker when the locals call that cold.

Earlier this month, we had record-breaking high temps that got up into the low 80s. I have to keep reminding myself that this is December - a.k.a. Winter. There's still greenery and a few flowers outside. On warmer days, grasshoppers and butterflies can still be found - just not in the same numbers as in the summer months. Black widows still lurk in the woodpile.   

 

 

 

December 5, 2007

 

"Would you like to see a picture of the slave my granddaddy bought?"

 

Well, there's a question you don't hear everyday.

I was visiting with the 90-year-old woman for whom I occasionally clean house. She's already pretty tidy so I don't really get a lot of work out her. Today we just visited.

I'd recently discovered that her parents had been members of a small Baptist church just down the road from my place - the same church that my family's former slaves attended. I've mentioned them here before - they're buried on the side of the road, across from the church's cemetery. I was hoping that perhaps the old woman remembered them.

"Ol' Nigger Marth!" the old woman exclaimed, referring to Martha Smith. "Oh, she was the sweetest thang!" I could see her catch herself, remembering that decent folk don't use the word nigger anymore. I didn't say anything because...well...she's NINETY years old. Besides, the old woman probably hadn't thought about Martha Smith in 70 years, since the days when that word was much more commonplace in these parts.

Unraveling the circular genealogy of my family is tough enough, but tracing the history of a pair of southern slaves with no living descendents is damned near impossible. There are few people left with first hand knowledge of the Smith family so I'm thrilled to find anyone who remembers them. I swear I'll remember the tape recorder next time I go to visit this woman.

I explained to her that Martha Smith and her husband, George, had once been my family's slaves and that I was trying to piece together their story. That's when the old woman asked "Would you like to see a picture of the slave my granddaddy bought?"

She retrieved a white envelope from a book and pulled a small photo from it. She wasn't sure when it was taken, but my best guess is the early 1920s. The man's name, Henry Sullivan, was written on the back.

 

 

 

 

December 3, 2007

Got a little rain last night. There was just enough mud this morning to preserve the tracks of a visiting bobcat. I discovered them this morning on my way to the chickencoop.

Since Artemis was following me while I did my morning chores, I had her pose for these photos to give you a sense of scale. Compare the tracks to her dainty paws. This ain't no snuggly lap kitty that's prowling my yard.

Like all cats, a bobcat's hind paw print will land almost directly on top of the front paw print. And unlike dogs, cats retract their claws when they walk so you'll rarely see claw marks in their tracks. A cat's claws will show up though if it was running or pouncing, like this bobcat was doing here:

Again, note the size of the bobcat's print compared to those on the right belonging to my cat, Artemis.

If any of my chickens go missing, mark my words, this fucker is toast.

 

 

 

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