Saturday, December 18, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS! (With No Apologies)

It is time that I put childish ways behind me. I promise it shant last long. Give me a moment while I take off my dark glasses, headgear, pocket my cigar and grab the old soapbox and climb aboard. Ready, set, rant......OK enough with the "Happy Holidays" crap! I want to celebrate Christmas!

We are turning this season into a generic, one size fits all celebration of what? Can someone explain it to me? What are we celebrating? What is the meaning behind "Happy Holidays?" In the effort to be non-controversial, inoffensive, (insert favorite PC phrase here) we have not only stripped away the name of Christmas but we have also stripped away its meaning.

I acknowledge there are other beliefs other than my own and I do respect them. And in turn, I would ask that my beliefs be respected. I was brought up to say thank-you to anyone who prayed for my well being, and that of my family, no matter to whom they prayed to. Today, I am told I am offending someone when I pray for them in the name of the God I believe in. Diversity of ideas and beliefs are a gift not a curse. We should learn from this diversity not try to hide it away.

Christmas acknowledges the birth of Christ and through the story of his life and sacrifice, we see the person we should be striving to be--forgiving, compassionate, patient, and humble. Putting the needs of others before ourselves, treating others as we would expect to be treated. Traits, frankly, that run contrary to our human nature which means we have to work hard at it and must acknowledge that we will sometimes fail. And who wants to do that?

So today, we take the message out of the celebration so we don't have to be reminded of our human frailties and our obligations towards our fellow man. Instead we can feel good about ourselves by wrapping a few gifts for family and friends. Our only challenge is to sit in traffic a bit and suffer the inconvenience of standing in line at the post office. As for our obligation to the rest of humanity dropping some loose change into a kettle can cover that.

I know it's a lot of work and frustration when faced with being a better person. So how is acknowledging this message considered a celebration? We are celebrating a gift from God which inspires us to rise above our human frailties. And that we are forgiven if we sometime fail which should encourage us both to be more forgiving ourselves and not allow our own failures to divert us from our task.

In the spirit of the Christmas season I have posted the original verses of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem (and in edited form--a carol) "Christmas Bells" written in December of 1863 during the American Civil War. I would call your attention to the last three verses. As in 1863, so it is today, there is no "Peace on Earth." But with some effort, hope, and a little faith, each of us can help get us a little closer to achieving that dream....If we take to heart the true meaning of the Christmas season. Thus endeth the sermon.....

OK the soapbox has been stowed, the headgear and glasses are back in place and I'm taking my cigar back out of my pocket. Some photos of the season and a few fun Christmas facts you can amaze your friends with as you make the Christmas Party circuit..........Oh, and I almost forgot...from the Kelly family to yours we wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy, safe, and prosperous New Year........."God bless us every one!"

" Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts."

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

In 1850 Richard Stoors Willis introduced one of the first American Christmas carols, "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear." There soon followed other now popular carols--"Oh Little Town of Bethlehem", "Away in the Manger", "I heard the Bells on Christmas Day" and "We Three Kings."
"To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas."

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

The first documented Christmas tree sale was in New York in 1851. Catskill woodsman Mark Carr and his son sold them for a dollar a piece at the corner of Vessey and Greenwich Streets.
"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

On Christmas Eve in 1822 Dr. Clement Moore who was known for writing, A Compendious Lexicon of the Hebrew Language, a biography of the King of Albania, and translated a French Treatise on Sheep Raising, wrote a poem for his children which began, "Twas a night before Christmas..." Embarrassed by its popularity he would not acknowledge writing it until 1838.
"The earth has grown old with its burden of care, But at Christmas it always is young...."

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

In the early nineteenth century, American slaves didn't have to work as long as the Yule log burned, so they would choose the biggest, greenest log they could find. If they did have to work while it burned their master had to pay them for the work.
"Greater love hath no man, than a man should give up his life for his friends. "

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Holly & Evergreens--Holly leaves represent Jesus' crown of thorns, while their berries represented the drops of blood shed for humanity's salvation. Evergreens represent eternal life.
"Christmas began in the heart of God. It is completed only when it reaches the heart of man."

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

In 1659, a ban on celebrating Christmas went into effect in the colony of Massachusetts. The General Court banned the celebration of Christmas and other such holidays at the same time it banned gambling and other lawless behavior, grouping all such behaviors together. The court placed a fine of five shillings on anyone caught feasting or celebrating the holiday in another manner. The ban would not be lifted until 1681
" I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

The first drawing done of Santa Claus appeared on the cover of the January 1, 1863 edition of Harper's Weekly. Santa was shown wearing a coat of stars on a blue field and his paints with red and white stripes handing presents out to Union soldiers. It was done by Thomas Nast who would also later give us the symbols of the donkey and the elephant for the Democrat and Republican parties. In 1866 Nast would draw Santa in his traditional red and white garb so that no nation could claim him as their own.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black Friday--A Different Perspective

"Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall. We traditionally do this in my family by driving around the parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2,000 years ago followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space."
Dave Barry

I am going to have to pay a little closer attention to those calendar memos I periodically received from home office. And then again...maybe not. Case in point Friday morning. While many were checking their credit card limits, firmly securing elbow pads (studs or spikes optional), girding (protecting) their loins and preparing for battle on the roads, in the parking lots, and in the aisles of their favorite retail Mecca I was looking at a less exciting and dangerous day on the road earning my paycheck. Later that afternoon when I called home office regarding a coverage issue I learned from the office answering machine that I had the day off. I have to say that on this occasion my typically male--What me ask for directions? Reading manuals (or memos) takes away the excitement of discovery--attitude actually paid off. I bet had had a much nicer day than most...........................
Truly The Road Less Traveled
This is a typical road on which I traveled on Black Friday. Note that there is not a car, traffic signal, speed limit sign, billboard, turn lane, or human being in sight. I truly enjoyed my day on the road.
I've Got Dibs................
Orange County--Large yard and a wrap around front porch on a country road. Add a porch swing and a cooler and some munches and I'll be ready to sit back and watch the world go by. Hey Dan, it's a little bit bigger yard with a few more leaves to rake but I think you can manage.
A Question Looking for an Answer......
Rt. 3, Spotsylvania County--Monument to the 154th New York State Volunteers. This commemorates actions of the regiment at the Battle of Chancellorsville. I've checked both the regiment's history and the unit's roster to determine the German connection--Note German flag. While there were members of the 154th born in Germany there were actually more Irish born members in the regiment. So one has to wonder what is with the German flag?
No Parking Problem Here
Somerville, Fauquier County--This is it! The local general store and post office. In the background is the feed store. Took a moment to check for moon pies and cherry smash but had to settle for a Coke and some chips. Didn't have to wait in line though. In and out in 10 minutes with no problems with parking or back-up at the intersection.
A Different View
Madison County--While many of you were staring at the back end of an SUV; or finding yourself trapped in the household cleaning supplies isle choking in a haze of cheap perfume and aftershave, battered and bruised after another failed attempt to reach the men's clothing department; I was enjoying the view of the Virginia countryside void of the struggling masses.
The History They Could Tell.
"These tractors had served some farmer faithfully and well,
had helped him plant his crops, his sweat, his family's dreams
into the ground. Generations of farm history they could tell.
But at auction, sentimental value has no worth it seems...."
A glimpse of a simpler time and a beacon that shows us how far we have come. Sometimes I wonder what we left behind in our rush towards progress?
Old Virginia Mansion
Madison County--Rural Virginia is dotted with the mansions of old dating back to the 18th century. And in this particular case a cast-iron urn just as impressive as the house itself.
......And the Other Kind of Mansions
Orange Co.--And beside the mansions of old can sometimes be found a different kind of mansion of smaller size and less grandeur but with an equally impressive entry way.
A Little Reminder
Orange Co.--One of many makeshift memorials along the back roads of Virginia. During this season we can get caught up in commercial frenzy trying to prove our love for one another with material things. Life is short. Just taking time to enjoy family and friends is a gift which is undervalued and too often take for granted until it is too late. Take a moment and put aside the perceived cares and priorities of the day and spend some time reacquainting yourself with those around you.
It Has Been A While..............
....since I have posted a photos of a real fixer upper opportunity. This little gem is located in Orange County.
Time For A Mid-Life Crisis.....
Near Midland--Don't know what make or model it is (If it has a heater and a radio I'm happy); but its small, its red, and it exudes speed. My guess would be that most self-respecting middle-aged men would be proud to have this as the symbol of their mid-life crisis. Speaking as one who has never creased the pages of an issue of Car & Driver or Motor Trend what first caught my attention were the two old gravity feed gas pumps in the background.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


"The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name."

Capt. Sullivan Ballou, 2nd RI Vols.
Letter to his wife July 14, 1861.
Died of Wounds received at Manassas July 28, 1861

Another Veteran's Day approaches and for those who take a moment to mark the occasion they will again hear the words--dedication, sacrifice and suffering. Yet for many those words cannot be fully understood. We who have not been called upon to endure the horrors of battle cannot comprehend the fear, privations, aguish, pain, and loss that such an experience entails. But while we may never comprehend, we must acknowledge what others have gone through on our behalf. Not just by listening to the words; but by our own actions both honor and advance the principles for which they fought.

Today I do not look beyond my own backyard to try and understand what lay behind the words-- dedication, sacrifice and suffering. Every day on our way to work, to school, to shop, or on to our favorite watering hole; we pass little reminders of what those words mean. Acknowledging the limits of my own experiences I shall let those who have stood in harm's way speak to us. And from their words and actions I hope we all have a better understanding of their sacrifices and also an understanding of our obligation to ensure that they were not in vain........

...Closed the Mouth of this Vast and Awful Tomb.

Fredericksburg National Cemetery--

"the bodies of these poor fellows, stripped nearly naked, were gathered in huge mounds around the pit, and tumbled neck and heal into it: the dull thud of corpses falling on corpses coming from the depths of the hole until the solid mass of human flesh reaches near the surface, when a covering of logs, chalk, and mud closed the mouth of this vast and awful tomb."

The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last Tattoo;No more on life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame's eternal camping ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And glory guards, with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.

...Bounced Through Our Ranks Like Rubber Balls.
Slaughter Pen Farm, Fredericksburg--
"cannon balls were flying over and among us all the time, killing men and horses and tearing up the ground all around us." The adjutant of the Second Reserves, Evan M. Woodward, recalled that many of the missiles, "plowed up the earth in deep furrows, or went howling and bursting over our heads, filling the air with iron hail and sulphur." Some of the shots landed among the Pennsylvania Reserves and kicked up spigots of mud "higher than the tallest tree," while others bounced through the ranks like grotesque rubber balls."

No rumour of the foe's advance
Now swells upon the wind;
No troubled thought at midnight haunts
Of loved ones left behind.
No vision of the morrow's strife
The warrior's dream alarms;
No braying horn, nor screaming fife,
At dawn shall call to arms.
...Knew it is Surley as Though I Culd Read His Thoughts.
Tapp Farm, Wilderness Battlefield, Spotsylvania--
"I saw many wounded soldiers in the Wilderness who hung on to their rifles, and whose intention was clearly stamped on their pallid faces. I saw one man, both of whose legs were broken, lying on the ground with his cocked rifle by his side and his ramrod in his hand, and his eyes set on the front. I knew he meant to kill himself in case of fire—knew it is surely as though I could read his thoughts."

Their shivered swords are red with rust,
Their plumed heads are bowed;
Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,
Is now their martial shroud.
And plenteous funeral tears have washed
The red stains from each brow;
And the proud forms, by battle gashed,
Are free from anguish now.
I Continued in the Tallest Running Match of My Life.
Motts Run, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania--
"At about the same time I felt that some part of my accouterment on the left side had given way; instinctively grasping for whatever it might be, I caught the straps of a leather pouch and of a haversack in my left hand, they had both been severed by a bullet, without halting, I continued in the tallest running match of my life, seemingly swinging my booty, i.e. my own provisions, in triumph, while the sword, in my right in its gyrations seemed thirsting for blood and the metal scabbard on my left was indented and bent by another bullet."

The neighing troop, the flashing blade,
The bugle's stirring blast,
The charge, the dreadful cannonade,
The din and shouts are past;
Nor war's wild note, nor glory's peal,
Shall thrill with fierce delight;
Those breasts that never more may feel
The rapture of the fight.
....When Others Would Take Their Places.
Bloody Angle, Spotsylvania--
"Nothing but the piled up logs of breastworks separated the combatants. Our men would reach over the logs and fire into the faces of the enemy, would stab over with their bayonets; many were shot and stabbed through crevices and holes between logs; men mounted the works and with muskets rapidly handed them kept up a continuous fire until they were shot down, when others would take their places."

Like the fierce Northern hurricane
That sweeps the great plateau,
Flushed with triumph, yet to gain,
Come down the serried foe;
Who heard the thunder of the fray
Break o'er the field beneath,
Knew the watchword of the day
Was "Victory or death!"
Late in the Afternoon of This Day.....
Railroad cut, Wilderness Battlefield, Spotsylvania--
"Late in the afternoon of this day I went among the wounded of the Third Regiment South Carolina Volunteers and of the Yankees who had fallen into our hands. As usual on such occasions groans and cries met me from every side. I found Col. James Nance, my old school mate, and Col. Gaillard of Fairfield lying side by side in death. Near them lay Warren Peterson, with a shattered thighbone, and still others who were my friends."

Long had the doubtful conflict raged
O'er all that stricken plain,
For never fiercer fight had waged
The vengeful blood of Spain;
And still the storm of battle blew,
Still swelled the glory tide;
Not long, our stout old Chieftain knew,
Such odds his strength could bide.
....but it is a Line of Dead Men.
The Stonewall, Fredericksburg--
"Owen reached the Stratton House and looked for Hancock's line. "To my amazement," he reported, "the two lines which I was told to support I found to be almost totally annihilated." The Philadelphia Brigade recognized "some scattered companies and parts of regiments." Most soldiers however, recalled "one long line of battle, lying down two deep, but it is a line of dead men."

Twas in that hour his stern command
Called to a martyr's grave
The flower of his beloved land,
The nation's flag to save.
By rivers of their father's gore
His first-born laurels grew,
And well he deemed the sons would pour
Their lives for glory too.
The Dead and Wounded Were Torn to Pieces.......
Bloody Angel, Spotsylvania--
"The dead and wounded were torn to pieces by canister as it swept the ground where they had fallen. The mud was halfway to our knees. ...Our losses were frightful. What remained of many different regiments that had come up to our support had concentrated at this point, and had planted their tattered colors upon a slight rise of ground where they stayed during the latter part of the day."

For many a mother's breath has swept
O'er Angostura's plain,
And long the pitying sky has wept
Above its moldered slain.
The raven's scream, or eagle's flight,
Or shepherd's pensive lay,
Alone awakes each sullen height
That frowned o'er that dread fray.
It is for Us the Living.........
Fredericksburg National Cemetery--
"It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground
Ye must not slumber there,
Where stranger steps and tongues resound
Along the heedless air.
Your own proud land's heroic soil
Shall be your fitter grave;
She claims from war his richest spoil,
The ashes of her brave.
And Should Those Lives be Sacrificed in Vain?

Camp of the 28th Mass., Vol. Near Falmouth, VA June 1st 1863--
"And should those lives be sacrificed in vain? The heart of every true Irishman will answer no emphatically no. they have a vital interest in the preservation of our national existence the perpetuation of our institutions and the free and untrammeled execution of our laws. We who survive them have a double motive then to nerve us to action. We have the same national, political and social interests at stake not only for ourselves but for coming generations and the oppressed of every nation for America was a common asylum for all. And we have the stern fact before us that thousands of our race have sacrificed their lives in this cause and should we now fail to support it they will have fought, bled and died in vain."

Thus 'neath their parent turf they rest,
Far from the gory field,
Borne to a Spartan mother's breast
On many a bloody shield;
The sunshine of their native sky
Smiles sadly on them here,
And kindred eyes and hearts watch by
The heroes sepulcher.
For Every Man That Falls in Battle.....
Confederate Cemetery, Spotsylvania--
"For every man that falls in battle, someone mourns, for every man who lies in hospital wards and of whom no note is taken, someone mourns. For the humblest soldier shot on picket, and of whose humble exit from the stage of life little is thought, some one mourns."

Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead,
Dear as the blood ye gave,
No impious footstep here shall tread
The herbage of your grave.
Nor shall your glory be forgot
While fame her record keeps,
For honor points the hallowed spot
Where valor proudly sleeps.
...a Confederate Volley Ripped Through
Bloody Angle--Spotsylvania--
"Under a furious rain, the 15th New Jersey charged across a narrow field towards the famous "Bloody Angle." Just 50 yards from the enemy's works, a Confederate volley ripped through the regiment's right flank. In less than 30-minutes, 151 New Jerseyans has fallen, more than half of the unit present that morning. The regiment's chaplain and first historian, Alanson Haines, believed that, "no experience during the whole time the fifteenth was in service was more destructive than that half an hour, from 10 o'clock to half-past-ten on the morning of May 12th."

Yon marble minstrel's voiceless stone
In deathless song shall tell,
When many a vanquished age hath flown,
The story how ye fell.
Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter's blight,
Nor time's remorseless doom,
Shall dim one ray of glory's light
That gilds your deathless tomb.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Day In The Life...................

"The hammer banged reveille on the rail outside camp HQ at five o'clock as always. Time to get up."

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

And your off....... Welcome to the rat race. There are many who probably can relate to Solzhenitsn's protagonist Ivan Denisovich Shukhov in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Up at 5 a.m. On the road by six. God willing, there are no accidents on I-95 or a delay at a VRE station, or on the tracks; and you are at your desk by eight....ish. Then the mind numbing routine of the day begins. Where process is everything and outcomes are not. Mired in office bureaucracy and politics. Yet no matter how bad or boring one's day may be there are always moments to be savored. Even for a prisoner in Stalin's Gulags. "Shukhov went to sleep fully content. He'd had many strokes of luck that day."

Thankfully I am not part of the pack fighting their way up the interstate with a small cubicle awaiting you at the end of the trip. I do feel for those people and take this opportunity to provide what I hope is a moment to be savored. A glimpse into my day and some more pics from the road less traveled.............................

The Day Begins
Around 7am. Not the bumper to bumper interstate traffic but a drive down Hanover Street towards downtown. Not to an office but for my first and only coffee of the day and to catch-up on the comings and goings of Fredericksburg. An hour for coffee and back to the office by eight. Did you get that boss? And today we are off to Orange.
Time for a Morning Cup of Joe.
OK while you are spilling your coffee either on yourself or on the person next to you as you slam on the brakes and veer right to keep from hitting that (expletive deleted) who just cut into your lane while at the same time getting an earful on your Bluetooth and the finger from the person driving in the lane next to you who you almost hit; I'm strolling down this picturesque sidewalk in downtown Fredericksburg for my morning coffee at Hyperion.
The Inner Sanctum....
My office...well not really as I share the room with my wife. Which brings into question the whole inner sanctum thing. I've been told that Bogart has to go as its encroaching on my wife's space. Hey, see if you can find the 1916 Lee-Enfield rifle. There is also a piece of the deck of the HMS Iron Duke, Britain's flagship at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916 somewhere in here along with a bronze crucifix from the time of the First Crusade! Not the typical corporate America office. One of the advantages of working from your home. Does beat a 6' x 6' cubical with temporary walls.
It's Lunchtime in the Burg.
Olde Town Grille in downtown Fredericksburg. I always sit at the counter and marvel as Shawn (pictured) and Dan the owner (one of my wife's former students) whip through multiple orders at one time. Today it's a bacon cheeseburger with jalapenos and chipotle sauce with potato chips made on the premises. No desert..watching those calories. I did get a shot of the burger but I thought this picture was more artsy. So you'll have to go in an order one yourself to see it.
Hey Matt What the Hell is This?????
Brock Road in Spotsylvania County is what it is. We are getting off Rt. 3 and taking a short cut on our way to the town of Orange. And yes its a rather ordinary..almost boring, why in the hell did you take it, shot. What may seem ordinary today may not have been so ordinary at some other time. In this case 1864. After the bloodbath of the Battle of the Wilderness the Union Army was heading east to this point. Turn left was to retreat. To continue on ( in 1864 the road continued across somewhere near the mailbox in the background) was to head south and advance. When the army continued down the Brock Road Union Soldiers began to cheer. Union General Grant was heading south and the Confederacy's days were numbered.
Take Me Home Country Roads to the Place I Belong.............
Frankly I never was much of a John Denver fan. Hey, quick fun fact! Did you know he wrote the lyrics to I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane made famous by Peter, Paul & Mary? OK I'm both off track and dating myself. If you haven't figured it out we are heading south on Rt-20 in Orange County. Lots O' old Farms heading down this road. I've posted a number of photos of the sites on Rt. 20 and there are still a lot of photos to take.
We Have Arrived!!!
Today's destination is the Town of Orange. This is the courthouse downtown. And as with every small town in Virginia it has the statue in front honoring the sons of Orange who fought for the Confederacy. This is a rather unique looking courthouse. At some point I'll have to spend some time doing a little research........Not during working hours of course. Right now I've got to head down a block or two and inspect some water damage to a dining room ceiling.
Going Back Home by Way of the Road Less Traveled....
The bridge over the Wilderness Creek driving through the Wilderness Battlefield. Especially in the fall its nice to get off the main roads and a drive through the battlefield parks. You would have to agree its quite a view this time of year. And it only gets better as fall progresses. Beats the hell out of the view from I-95 and Rt. 3 around 4pm!
What Does This Have to Do With Work You May Ask?
Simple answer--it doesn't. As I could probably lose a pound or two...or three+ I have taken to skipping a lunch or two to document the pedigree of this Model 1841 cast-iron, smooth-bore six pounder sitting in front of our fire station. It is either one of thirty-six imported guns from Sweden or was cast at the West Point Foundry (1817-1911) in New York. In arrived in Fredericksburg by way of a request to the governor by the City Council in February 1850. In June of 1851 the governor authorized the state Adjatant General to send a six-pounder cannon to the city. Only time it was fired was on the 4th of July and Washington's birthday. Now trying to document how and when the gun was turned over the the great Commonwealth of Virginia. HEY! Wake-up!

Friday, October 8, 2010

I Pulled A Pooh

"I don't see much sense in that," said Rabbit. "No," said Pooh humbly, "there isn't. But there was going to be when I began it. It's just that something happened to it along the way."

Winnie the Pooh

Most of us are sensible people. We travel the shortest distance between two points as quickly as possible. We are task oriented and play by the rules. Being sensible is ingrained in us and to do otherwise we believe is to lose focus and waste valuable time that could be better spent doing more sensible things. We also fear that straying from the sensible course will bring about chaos and uncertainty.........Or maybe not?

This week I was off to attend the annual company conference . I put the address into my GPS, not bothering to confirm it of course (It's a guy thing), and the most direct route was calculated (the shortest distance thing) and off I went ........ It was about an hour into the trip when I started to feel a bit uneasy(that ingrained sensibility thing) . My surroundings were not as I remembered then from previous years. The sensible thing to do was to check in to confirm where I was going. In this case the sensible course of action lost out to a desire to play fast and loose with the rules and continue exploring my new surroundings.

When I was about seven miles from my, "destination," I finally called in and learned that I had punched in the wrong resort into my GPS. Where I was supposed to be was about 60 miles north or where I was. The sensible thing to do at that point would be to become highly agitate (the whole shortest distance/time wasting thing again) and question my GPS's parentage while throwing it across the road--It gave me the wrong directions didn't it?

Fear not my GPS is still firmly attached to my windshield. I decided to accept, "...that something just happened along the way," and realized I now had another hour of exploring to enjoy. The moral of the story is that happiness is tied to more than just straight lines, time management, and other sensible things. And that a little uncertainty and chaos can also be fun. And now for your viewing pleasure.....................

The Road Warrior
Yours truly embarking on another road trip into the unknown. With me are the essentials. My trusty Garmin GPS to make sure I don't following the most direct routes. My Fuzzy dice to insure I can find my car in mall parking lots. You would be amazed of the number of 2010 Ford Fusions are on the road today. Also can't really tell the difference between a Focus and a Fusion. But I digress. My pine tree shaped air freshener that smells like vanilla (I can't explain it either) to cover the smells of stale coffee, burgers and fries, and smoke from the fire loss I just left. My hand carver German Rosary given to me by my son. Yes, God is my co-pilot. I need all the help I can get. And finally no car is complete without a bobble head. In my case a Stu bobble head from the movie The Hangover. When the bobble head moves it recites three lines from the movie. Needless to say I now have them all memorized and they are now getting a little irritating. Hey, I just noticed in the picture the button for my hazzard lights. Go thing to know.
To Boldly Go Where No Sensible Person Would Consider Going
Star date 100610. While our GPS system says we are on course I am feeling a bit uneasy as my surroundings seem foreign and unfamiliar. Every fiber of my being is telling me to do the sensible thing and call in for directions. Yet....something else which I cannot put my finger on has just decked my sensible side with a right cross. We continue on into the unknown.

I can't tell you what county I was in, or the road I was on, when I took this photos. I was just enjoying the view.
See, If I was Sensible I Would Have Missed This.
Somewhere on Rt 340 about 40 miles from where I was supposed to be. OK, how many times do you get to see the laundry hung out to dry on the porch of an 19th century home that needs some serious work? By the way, this is my yard in about another month or two if I can't get my son Joshua back on the dating circuit. Keep those pictures and resumes coming!
For You Sensible Folks Out There
Wintergreen Resort. A view from the resort where I had rejoined all the sensible folks at the annual conference. Don't want you to think that there aren't opportunities for the sensible among us to look up and enjoy the view.
Thank God For Digital Cameras........... And A Pop Quiz!
A quick stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway. You cannot travel more than a few feet on this parkway without wanting to pull over and break out the camera. At that rate the cost in 35mm film and developing costs would probably cover my mortgage for a month. With my digital camera I point, shoot, crop, sharpen, highlight, etc., and finally post. Save a lot of money at the cost of a few hours sleep. And now for your quiz.........Virginia has I believe 34 National parks, trails, historic sites and parkways. There is one state in the Union that has zero, the big goose egg, nada, zip, zilch, no National parks, trails, historic sites, etc.....Which state is it. Some hints: The current Superintendent of the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Battlefield Parks calls this state home. One of the state's more famous mascots is a sexual frustrated chicken.
"I Wanna Know What Love Is. I Want You to Show Me..."
Oakwood Cemetery, Orange County. I do believe Lou Gramm of Foreigner has gotten his answer. In addition to everything else note the solar panels on the roof that keep the lights on 24/7. In a recent story in the local paper a mother was told by another local cemetery that she had to remove all the mementos around her daughter's grave because they violated cemetery rules. Don't think Oakwood has any rules.
Don't Rush Me Dear I'm putting My Face On.........
Fredericksburg, VA. A few weekends ago our local arts community hosted a street art event called Via Colori. The event can be traced back to 16th century Italy were itinerant artist used to draw pictures on the ground, usually based on the Madonna, in front of cathedrals hoping to get some loose change thrown their way. Unfortunately, it rained Sunday and most of the works at this event were not completed. Even unfinished this effort it quite impressive.
Another Opportunity to Ignore the Sensible Approach
Westmoreland Co. I spend a short period of my misbegotten youth in Westmoreland County. Back then after partying with friends you stayed off the main roads on the way home to avoid the local constabulary. Looking back now after 30+ years I would have to say it was pretty stupid to drive on unlit narrow winding roads after a six-pack or two. You were too intent on staying on the road and it was too dark to see anything. Being a bit nostalgic recently I decided to ignore the, "continue 5 miles and turn left on Rt. 3 west," coming from the Garmin (the sensible thing to do) and took a quick left onto Rt 624 which had been well traveled in my youth. But today I had the opportunity to see what I had missed all those years ago.
This Can't be Stafford County?
Stafford County is part of the fastest growing region in Virginia located on the I-95 corridor. Considered a suburb of Washington, D. C it is expected to double its population in the next 20 or so years. How to handle this growth is a hot topic in the county at the moment. This little single lane gravel track is called Leeland Road. Just up the road a piece it does widen a bit and is paved. Not too far from here is a major commuter parking lot. Crossing over this section of the "road", and Potomac Creek to the right, is an old railroad bridge. Will have to come back here in 20 years to see which side won the growth debate.
An Eminently Sensible Fence
A back road in King George, VA--A pallet fence. Amazing what can be done with a bunch of discarded wooden pallets and a few metal stakes. Cost effective and functional. I see a cover story in Southern Living. This fence truly is eminently sensible. Anyone care to guess what type of house this fence surrounds?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

For Parents With Teenage Daughters--Boyfriend for Rent (And Some Pictures)

My youngest son, age seventeen, recently broke up with his girlfriend. Being a thoughtful parent I had to remind myself that I was once that age and approach the situation accordingly. One of my finer parental moments I must say. However, what I did not see coming was how this event was going to impact me until I noticed that the grass in the front yard had grown to almost knee level in places. What you may ask does the dating habits of a seventeen year old have to do with lawn care? Isn't it obvious?.....Let me give you a little lesson in capitalism.

My son receives financial remuneration for mowing the lawn from mom, as they are wont to do; while Dad just stands by and grumbles about never getting paid for doing chores at his age-- as we are wont to do. But the remuneration itself is not the prime motivator. For most of us older folk our motivation is to provide for our families. Pay the bills, groceries, and occasional night out on the town, and whatever else our wives want. But what is the motivator for a seventeen year old boy? You got it! A seventeen year old girl--or somewhere in that age range--to spend money on! No girl. No motivation to earn money. Which in this case translates into knee high grass in the front yard. Which in the end meant that yours truly instead of being able to waste time posting pictures on this blog was out pulling weeds and mowing the lawn! Thus my dilemma.

So if anyone out there has a spare teenage daughter in the seventeen year old range I've got a seventeen year old son available for rent or lease with terms negotiable. He is in the National Honor Society, loves to cook, very artistic, plays the guitar and drums, and is a perfect gentleman. Any parent would be proud to have their daughter dating him. You can feel good that your daughter is out with someone who will respect her and I will have the time to post pictures instead of having to mow the lawn. Is a win win for everyone!

And yes I do realize that my youngest off spring will soon be leaving the nest and leaving me with lawn care duties. Fear not I've already got plan B in place. A retired friend of mine is planning to sell his house in the county and move into a condo a few blocks from my house. His one regret will not having a yard to take care of. No I'm not making this up. I'm told that when you reach a certain age a chemical imbalance or something occurs in the brain and you begin to enjoy yard work! So I have graciously offered my friend the opportunity to take care of my lawn. What a guy right? So as my son walks out the door to go forth and make his mark on the world my friend Dan will be out front mowing the lawn.

Not one to disappoint I will struggle through with my cut, bruised and blistered hands (yard gloves are for girls) and post a few shots of my recent travels through Olde Virginny.........but first

Boyfriend for Rent
My son Joshua getting ready to go para-sailing during our recent trip to Myrtle Beach. As I write this my fingers are cramping up and my blister is beginning to sting. Don't know how much I will be able to post if I have to do yard work again. Any help in the girl friend department would be greatly appreciated.