I usually get up around 2 a.m. on Wednesdays. That's the day our newspaper is published. I still get excited. I'm like a kid at Christmas, busting open the yellow, plastic ties that bind the bundles destined for the lake shore. I get satisfaction knowing mine are easily within the first dozen set of eyeballs who peruse the weekly features and advertisements. It's a modest claim to fame, but cool all the same... at least in my nerdy, Clark Kent/Perry White/Peter Parker/J. Jonah Jamison kind of world.
It has been an honor and privilege to know true, blue newspapermen. The most authentic one was Everett Jones. He always wore a raincoat and old man hat. Everett never learned to drive, but enjoyed walking to and from work for at least 50 years straight. He knew everyone in town back then and always had a nose for a story. The newspaper staff fondly nicknamed him "Scoop." And although this ancient, crusty reporter was small in stature, I was unknowingly working with a giant.
I spotted this chair "sitting" all by itself at Jones Exxon in Denver today. I was leaving their weekly ration of Lake Norman Citizen newspapers, when it occurred to me to take a picture.
This piece of furniture was apparently a fixture at the fillin' station. I wondered about all the people that had sat in the chair. Children, grown-ups and old folks. Whoever owned it, must've experienced hard times. This chair was a generational piece. It looked as though the seat might have been replaced a time or two. Anyone else would have thrown it out and bought another.
Maybe I'm just getting old, but I miss seeing pieces like this chair. It reminds me of simpler times. It reminds me of days that made sense. It reminds me that relaxing is not a crime and multi-tasking is overrated.
So, if you happen to stop by Jones Exxon, sit a while in the chair. I doubt the proprietor will mind. That's why it's there. To sit and relax. No need to multi-task here. Just sit.
I pulled up to the pump and started answering texts and e-mails. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted an older gentleman approaching the car.
"Regular gas?" he asks, to which I replied, "Uh, well, yeah. Is this a full service station?"
He explained I could get out and do it myself, but in the next breath he was cleaning my windshield! It was as though I was transported back to a simpler time. A time when someone else actually cared to check your oil and tire pressure. A time before air bags and seat belts. A time when folks gathered and talked about politics, told jokes or just enjoyed one another's company. So as my car and I shared a bit of culture shock, something told me to get a closer look inside the fillin' station.
While seated in a local coffee shop, I overheard a lady saying she recently butt dialed someone in England. That seems crazy to me. It's akin to putting a man on the moon. How has technology advanced to the point we can sit down while simultaneously calling someone in Liverpool? Alexander Graham Bell would no doubt be ecstatic.
But there's a flip side to the strides we've made telephonically. For instance, we can no longer make anonymous crank calls. Oh the fun my brother and I would have on the rotary! When's the last time someone inquired if your refrigerator is running? Whatever happened to Prince Albert? And how about conducting a random survey from a fictional company? Those were the days. Before political correctness, before the iPhone and way before a generation hooked on mobile appliances.
Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
That's what publisher Ross Connelly was hoping would happen after concocting a contest to win the town newspaper. The only requirement was a compelling 400-word essay with a $175 entry fee. He didn't mention if the composition was to be typed or double-spaced. He did expect to have at least 700 entries. He received less than 100. To quote the Caped Crusader from the 1966 movie Batman, "Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb!"
I happened to read about a couple of special people recently. Although they were from different towns and written about in different publications, their stories encapsulated a similar equation: simple, ignored, sweet and eclectic equals loved, missed, remembered and revered.
The first article refused to pass me by. I initially saw it as a post on social media. It was about Tin Can Ann. She was known to sport orange outfits as she pedaled her bicycle in east Charlotte. A bit of a misfit, she'd ramble about the Queen City. Eventually, a nice lady befriended Ann and they remained close. The nice lady would take Ann out to eat and celebrate her birthday for an entire week! Sadly, Tin Can Ann passed away this summer.
I don't see very well without my glasses. My hair is turning gray and I get up at the same time I used to go to bed. I'm not familiar with anything the kids are listening to. Thankfully, my taste in music supersedes all other genres. I've always wanted to be an old man; that is, before the term creepy was commonly placed before the curmudgeonly expression. It's only now I feel I am indeed aging.
I remember my grandma's scrapbooks. She kept them near her Bible in the living room. The living room was off limits except for special occasions. So it was always a treat to go through family photographs with the matriarch of the family.
The Polaroid One Step was state of the art back then. We were awed to push a single button and watch the film dry into an actual photograph! Many of the scrapbook entries were yellowed with age. All of them had information written somewhere on the back documenting the when and who of the subject matter captured. Others were bent and folded, the creases telling their own stories. I recall realizing the progression from black and white to color. Color was once revered, while the black and white snapshots screamed of the olden days.
There is a Walmart right around the corner from my house. I am a frequent customer. I know the greeters by name and can take you throughout the store to locate the hardest to find items. I refuse to use the self-checkout. When buying something, the expectation is for someone else to ring it up at the register. But mostly it's the convenience. It's one-stop shopping at its finest. Unless you like to shop from your home or office.
In an age of going green, it seems like there are fewer gardens than there used to be. Like most of the things that were going on at the time, I was oblivious to the beauty that surrounded me as a kid. One of those I took for granted was my grandpa's garden.
I remember half of my grandparents yard was dedicated to what we ate throughout the year. I can still smell the dirt, feel the texture of the vegetables and hear the snap of the beans my grandmother prepared for canning. Their garden was so much a part of our lives that my brother, who hated corn-on-the-cob, was convinced otherwise when our mother told him it was from grandpa, even sometimes when it wasn't. Mom's white lie persuaded my ear-eating sibling nibbling away at a food he once detested. Today, one of my brother's favorite dishes is corn-on-the-cob.
Grandpa and grandma's house has long been sold. A yard full of grass has replaced any signs of a garden. But there's still a large pecan tree that we used to climb as boys. Just as I can see that tree, I can see the garden that is no longer there. The stalks of corn are situated in the far back row. In front of the corn are the tomato plants. There are some cucumbers hiding under a leafy patch of green. There might even be some watermelons and cantaloupes! And grandpa is working in the sunshine while grandma sits on the front porch. She's waiting on the beans that need snapping, preparing them for canning. Her grandson is listening, although he doesn't know it. But he will recall those golden times, once the garden has grown into a memory.