Blue Chair Bonanza

31 Oct

For a long time, a set of blue chairs has been sitting outside of my office. They look a little worse for ware, but they have become a fixture in this part of the building. They have become a gathering place for students waiting for class; for faculty looking for a place to meet outside of their offices; for History majors to sit around and complain about the books that we assign to them. In fact, the History Department, both students and faculty, have come to think that the chairs are our territory.image-17

One semester, we returned to school to find the blue chairs missing. I sent our students on a mission to find them and return them to their rightful place. How dare someone attempt to redecorate without consulting us. It too a few days, but the chairs found their way back.

Since the chairs are outside of my office, I get the full effect. As students filter through, they have all spent time in the chairs. They have gone on to different paths, but they all have one thing in common. The blue chairs. Our current students sit in the chairs and talk about all kinds of things, and they do not realize that there have been generations of students before them who have sat in those same chairs and talked about the same things.

From my office, I have heard enough information to fill volumes. Relationships. Parties. What happened last night. Complaints about teachers. Complaints about me. The list goes on and on. However, I recently heard a conversation that shocked me. I sat stunned as the conversation progressed. Are they really talking about that? Did I hear what I thought I heard? I stopped what I was doing to make sure my ears were not playing tricks on me.

I have heard things from the blue chairs that would make your ears bleed, but, until this week, I was never this surprised.

Our students were talking about Bonanza. Yep, they were talking about Ben, Little Joe and Hoss. Heck, they were even talking about Adam, who left the show in its early days. They had the entire Cartwright gang pegged. On top of that, it was not that they had heard the name of the show and the characters in some far off conversation with their grandparents. They knew that each son had a different mother. They also thought Little Joe was cute.

As a person who specializes in the history of the American West and a mental collector of trivial popular culture, I could not have been prouder. Our students are going into the world with the knowledge that they need. I know that people worry about the time when the younger generation will take over. There is no need to worry. The world is in good hands, and the Cartwright’s will live on for another generation.

Losing My Blogging Mind

29 Oct

Earlier, I wrote what I thought was a great post about one of my childhood memories. It was all about this restaurant and the cool jukeboxes at each table. I wrote it. I made sure everything was correct. I published it.

That is when I started thinking that maybe I had already written about that. Going through my archives, I found that I had written about the exact same thing in a post called Childhood Memories: Country Roads. That is when I realized that I have lost my blogging mind. Things are bad when I start repeating myself.Shining

Hopefully, it is a condition that many people face when they have been blogging for a couple of years. If not, then I know that I am on the cusp of going bonkers in the blogging part of my life.

Childhood Memories – French Fries and Jukeboxes

28 Oct

It is interesting to watch our surroundings change. As time passes, places come and go. Looking back at my town, I can think of places that used to be. There were stores, restaurants and other popular places. They were locations where you could find people who you knew. They were places that helped define the community. It is sad to think that younger folks and newcomers do not know where and what those places were.

For me, the places from my childhood pop into my mind on occasion. I might be riding by where they used to be and remember being there. I could be listening to a song and have the memory of a place come to my mind. In fact, there is one song that always brings a certain place into focus.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite songs was “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver. I have no idea why I liked it, but it still brings a smile to my face when I hear it. The tune is great. The words are great. When I was a kid, I could sing the entire thing.

As an adult, I realize that the song is all mixed up. It is about West Virginia, but the words describe Virginia. It does not matter because I can look past all of that. Instead, this song makes me look back at a restaurant that is long gone.

El Rancho sat on the outskirts of town and specialized in barbecue. For me, it was always an adventure to eat at El Rancho. through the eyes of a child, it was like going on a long journey to a far away place. In fact, it was only a few miles away. I think that it being on the other side of town made it seem further.

There was also the food. I cannot tell you if the barbecue was good, but they always made the best french fries. What kid does not like french fries? On top of that, these were the best french fries ever cooked. I can still see them, smell them and taste them. They were awesome.Jukebox

You are probably asking yourself a question. What does a song about one of the Virginia’s have to do with a barbecue restaurant in Tennessee? the answer brings me to the other adventurous part of the restaurant. The booths had tabletop jukeboxes, and they were the coolest things I had ever seen. I could pick the music in the restaurant by dropping a nickel in the slot and flipping through the pages. Just push a letter and a number and the song would play.

I always picked “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” I would have played it over and over if my parents had let me. After all, who does not want to hear the same song multiple times?

I do not remember when El Rancho closed, and I do not remember the last time we ate there. However, I still remember the french fries, and I still remember playing that song on the jukebox.

Hilton Head – Thematic Relaxation

26 Oct

Instead of giving an hour-by-hour description of our Hilton Head excursion, it has been decided to go with something more thematic. After all, it would take a while to write about everything. With that being established, here are the themes that I have come up with.

Beach – We spent the first afternoon hanging out on the beach. It was relaxing to hear the waves continuously crash. However, my people-watching is my favorite thing about the beach. People walk. People jog. People ride bikes. People play in the surf. People wear things that make you wonder if they thought that looked good when they began their day.

I did not make it back to the beach until the third afternoon. This time, I decided to get into the water and play around with my stepdaughter. I wonder if anyone was watching me like I was watching people a few days before.

Food – I must admit that the restaurant choices at Hilton Head were not that great. I am probably a food snob, but I was not impressed with the places we dined. I guess that I expected some good seafood places like those that can be found at other beach places.

In retrospect, Hilton Head is not a place that caters to tourists. It is a place where people go to retire or spend their leisure time at beach houses. This means that they do what people do all over the country. They eat at home and, occasionally, go out to eat.

The best meal was made by our friends who have a house a few blocks from our hotel. On Saturday night, they cooked pizzas on the grill. It was an awesome meal.

Sightseeing – On Saturday, the ladies went to the beach while the husbands went on a short island tour. We drove into a private resort that was the first to be developed in the area. It was full of big houses, hotels and golf courses. In fact, this is where Hilton Head’s PGA tournament is played. When it is on television, the cameras always show the lighthouse at Harbour Town.image-15

The lighthouse can also be seen on postcards and in photographs. When I think of Hilton Head, this lighthouse is the thing I picture. We climbed the lighthouse and walked around the harbor filled with yachts.

I must admit that the climb to the top of the lighthouse was disappointing. The lighthouse is not a real lighthouse. It was built to be the symbol of the development. It is filled with a museum about local history, which was interesting, but I was still disappointed that the lighthouse is not a real lighthouse. Heck, there is not even a light at the top. There is a souvenir shop that is not unlike the souvenir shop at the base.

With all of that being said, the view from the lighthouse is great.image-13

On Sunday, my wife and I tried to ride bicycles to the lighthouse, but they would not let us through the gate. We had to go back and get the car. This time, we found relaxing place to eat. Wait, should that go under the food category?

Engine Light – Late Saturday afternoon, the engine light glowed on the dashboard of the car. It was too late to take it to the dealership, and we decided that we would let them look at it on Monday, which was the day that we were going home. We got to the dealership when they opened, and they were good about looking at it quickly. Unfortunately, the had to order a replacement part. That meant we were going to spend another day in Hilton Head.

There are worse places to be stuck, but we had our minds set on heading home. I kept thinking they would give this to us as a loaner.image-14

Instead, they provided a less expensive car. Luckily, we did not have to sleep in it because we had the keys to the house of our friends. They had already gone home but were good enough to allow us to crash at their pad. My wife went back to the beach. My stepdaughter got back on the bike. I laid around the house and thought about the greatness of our vacation.


Saturday Morning Ramble

25 Oct

I was going to write about our trip to Hilton Head, but, frankly, I am not ready to write about that. The post needs to be as fun as the trip, and that feeling is still working its way through my mind.

Everyone has left the house, which means that the only sounds are the keys of the laptop and the neighbor cutting the grass. Most of the lights are off, which means all of the light is filtering through the windows. My desk is a disaster, which means that I need to, once again, straighten it up. It is amazing how much stuff can collect on top of desk.

One of the things that cannot get thrown away is an answer sheet for an assignment that I assigned. It will be coming back to me in a few days, and the trusty purple pen will be put back to work. It was put to great use when we returned from Hilton Head. As soon as we got home, I was heading to campus to grab a stack of tests.

Speaking of tests, my nephew is taking the SAT this morning. I am certain that he will do well, but it must be tense to take a test that higher academics takes that seriously. When I was in school, it was not that big of a deal. They told us that we would be taking a test in a couple of weeks. When the day arrived, the put us in the cafeteria and let us work. It turned out that we were taking the ACT.

These days, kids are put into courses to prepare them for the test, and they also take it several times. My stepdaughter is taking it in December, and she is in the seventh grade. I know that we must have some measurement for college acceptance, but, to me, this seems to be a lot of stress at a young age. They will have enough stress in their lives. Do they really need this?Stress

Speaking of stress, I will have plenty of the self-made kind by the end of the day. In a few hours, we are driving to Knoxville to watch the University of Tennessee play football against the University of Alabama. I have already written about this rivalry, but, honestly, it is not much of a rivalry at this time. My team, Tennessee, is going through one of the worst times in its history. Alabama is going through one of its best. That does not make for a good game or a good rivalry. It may be crazy, but watching my team struggle stresses me out. However, it is not just me. I know a lot of people who cannot wait for better days.

Writing about stress makes me think about our trip to Hilton Head, a time of relaxation. Now that I am getting the inspiration to write about that, the next post will be about our South Carolina adventures.

Hilton Head – Driving Down the Musical Highway

23 Oct

We got a late start on our trip to Hilton Head because I had a midday meeting. This meant that we would be driving through the late afternoon and into the night. On top of that, we had to hit five different interstates to get there.

Whenever I am on a long drive, my mind starts to entertain itself. This means that useless trivia moves from the back of my brain and dominates my mind. It is a good way to stay awake and a good way to go crazy. On this drive, music was the category of choice, and it all started as we made our way over Monteagle.

For those who do not know, Monteagle is a ridge that has to be crossed just north of Chattanooga. The grade is steep and trucks have a hard time making their way up one side and down the other. Each time I drive over Monteagle, I think about the opening song of Smokey and the Bandit and start singing it under my breath.

In case you do not remember the opening to one of the greatest movies in cinema history, the song recounts how the Bandit became famous in the truck driving world. I wrote an entire post about it, but, simply, it talks about how he lost control of his rig on Monteagle. With heroic driving skills, he was able to make it to the bottom.

(Brief Interlude: While writing that post, I looked up the lyrics of the song. All of the sites had him crossing something called Montvale. It is not Montvale. One of my life’s goals is to get those lyrics corrected and give Monteagle is rightful place in Smokey and the Bandit history.)

Of course, driving through Chattanooga brought to mind “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, but the route through north Georgia made my mind go musically dead. Atlanta played a big role in that. It does not matter what time you drive through Atlanta. The traffic is always bad, and your focus needs to be on the road. However, I still heard Ronnie Van Zant telling Billy Powell to “play it pretty for Atlanta.”

Eventually, we made our way to Macon and hit a desolate stretch of road toward Savannah. It was getting later. It was getting darker. That is when I saw a sign for Statesboro, Georgia, the subject of “Statesboro Blues” by the Allman Brothers. That meant that the next several miles were filled with an internal soundtrack of their tunes.

After several days in Hilton Head, which I will write about in the next post, we retraced our journey. This time, the excitement of a vacation was behind us, and we were making that long, tired drive toward home. That does not mean that the musical journey was over. As the miles passed, I tried to think of songs that have Georgia in their titles.Georgia

I ended up with the following.

“Sweet Georgia Brown” (I can see Curly Neal dribbling around Meadowlark Lemon.)

“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” (Charlie D. lives not too far down the road.)

“The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” (Yep, Vicki Lawrence can sing, too.)

“Midnight Train to Georgia” (The Pips make this song stand out.)

“Rainy Night in Georgia” (The Tony Joe White version is the best.)

“Georgia on My Mind” (It is hard to beat Ray Charles.)

“Marching Through Georgia” (I only know this one because it was mentioned in a John Wayne movie.)

“Walkin’ Back to Georgia” (One of Jim Croce’s lesser known songs.)

Before I knew it, we were back at Monteagle, but it was not before I thought of something else. Does anyone remember a television show called Carter Country?




My iPod Has Issues – Heading to Hilton Head

16 Oct

It has been a busy week, and I have not been able to spend as much time blogging as I would like. The posts have been few and far between. That trend is going to continue because we are heading to Hilton Head, South Carolina over the weekend. Certainly, there will be some good stuff to write about when we return.Hilton Head

In the meantime, here are some selections from the old iPod.

“Ole Slewfoot” by BR-549

“I Won’t Mention It Again” by Ray Price

“Hello Darlin'” by Conway Twitty

“Good Times” by Chic

“In the Still of the Night” by The Five Satins

“Sweet Sixteen” by Big Joe Turner

“Miss You” by The Rolling Stones

“Baby Get Lost” by B.B. King

“You Left a Long, Long Time Ago” by Willie Nelson

“Heartbeat” by Red 7

“Children Go Where I Send Thee” by The Fairfield Four

“Steamroller Blues” by Elvis Presley

“Jezzebella” by Vintage Trouble

“I Ain’t the One” by Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter

“Baby Let’s Play House” by Arthur Gunter

“Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton

“Too Close” by Clair Marlo

“Sirius” by The Alan Parsons Project

“Fat Albert Theme” by Dig

“Enter Sandman” by Metallica

As a famous general once said, “I shall return.”


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,706 other followers