Monthly Archives: October 2015

Of a job lost and a list made …


As some of you know, the hammer came down at 9:15 this morning; as of 9:22 I no longer worked for Bank of America. It was as cordial as I could make it. How else should it have been? It’s my way.

When the chairman mentioned the continued need for ‘expense reduction’ during his 3rd quarter earnings report a few weeks ago, that put the writing on the wall – in indelible ink – for many of us. I am no longer an expense.

Ellen and Reid got the news first by phone – I just love the supportive, ‘Dad, it’s okay’ way they handled it – and my four prior supervisors shortly thereafter.

So now speeding down the tracks comes the rest of whatever it is that is in front of me. I was at a momentary loss for what to do – until I scratched out this list. It’s in pencil, but might as well be in stone:

I thought about this list as I drove to Starbucks for a stiff cup of coffee. Some of the elements may be out of order, but the basic tenets are in place. What remains to be seen is how each will pan out - or if the list will expand or contract.

I thought about this list as I drove to Starbucks for a stiff cup of coffee. Some of the elements may be out of order, but the basic tenets are in place. What remains to be seen is how each will pan out – or if the list will expand or contract.

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The ointment of a single page salve …


If you’re like me – and for your sake hopefully not – you gotta wonder from time to time how it is that life has ended up the way it has. The twists and turns or the odd bit of fortune that was a life changer. I do. Like North Carolina. How the hell is it that I ended up here, and for nearly 10 years? It seems to me the weekly letters are that odd bit of interpretation of a life that changed – in large part for the better – by landing here.

So that’s what the kids see and hear; a nuanced existence that, for nothing else other than luck of the draw, came to be the way it is today. As it has done for you, life here has demanded a whole new set of adaptations; attitude, discipline (sort of), Southern-isms (sort of), pluck, introspection, maturity and no doubt a host of other things that escape me at this very moment.

It’s 1,165 miles to Ellen in St. Paul and 765 miles to Reid in Chicago. Hardly the stuff of weekend jaunts. But once a week there is a piece of paper that makes that trek in my stead and in some ways closes the gap and cuts the separation, the me-from-them isolation and the depressing distance to more tolerable limits. Perhaps that single page salve is an ointment of sorts. You wonder about it, or at least I do, because life has ended up the way it has.

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October 19, 2015

Ellen/Reid: There may be some frost on the ‘ol pumpkin this morning; stepped outside to fetch the newspaper and got bonked in the noggin by 34F temps. Aside from being a vegetable killer, it’ll also make the Bermuda grass go dormant by this time tomorrow which will make golf all that much more difficult than it already is. Such is living in the South. The space heater is on in the office.

I head to the mountains, such as they are in North Carolina, for golf this weekend with my Golf for One Meetup group. Six or so months ago, on a whim, I set up a weekend outing for about 20 people which ought to be a lot of fun. We golf Saturday and Sunday, and the drive is about two hours straight up I-77 with a little veer to the left to a place called Olde Beau.

The North Carolina mountains were a sight to behold this weekend. Incredibly beautiful.

The North Carolina mountains were a sight to behold this weekend. Incredibly beautiful.

They say it’s a lovely spot and I’m anxious to see it. I set up another Friday music situation and 10 folks have signed up but the odds are I’ll bail and head to the hills sooner than later since I’m perpetually nervous about all the details for the 20 people that will be there. We’ll tee off at 11 a.m. both days with a cocktail hour/dinner squeezed in on Saturday night. There’s been five straight weeks of tournament play for the group and I’m totally fried from the organizing of it all. So I may switch from Guinness to G&Ts to set the world straight.

The plumber/tile guy grouted the new tile yesterday and did a terrific job. He comes back tomorrow to set the fixtures, baseboard and, short of me installing some new lights, the job will be done. It’s a relief to have it nearly finished rather than dragging out for weeks and weeks like was done with the master bath. The total cost will be in the $3,200 range which was more than I planned for but when you consider the payback, it will be a good deal for your old man. My rough calculations are in should add – knock on wood – about $7,500 – $8,000 in home value. Ellen, I really, really, really appreciate your help and guidance. There’s a bit of sanding on the walls today and the walls will see a first coat of paint so I won’t have to sweat painting behind the new vanity and toilet.

For a while there I thought I was headed squarely down the vegetarian path and then I got crosswise with a big slab of prime rib on Saturday followed by a big burger yesterday. Hopefully my right-minded senses will return this week but then there’s this weekend’s outing and my diet might go to hell all over again.

I got drilled by friends yesterday for not yet signing up for Medicare. I’ve been oblivious to some of this retirement stuff and they pressed me to sign up today – not tomorrow – otherwise there would be some sort of penalties involved. We shall see. Last week I got to thinking about what would lie ahead in retirement and it dawned on me that there are no real hobbies that have captured my time or attention. I don’t paint or play music or other arty things like that. Golf more than twice a week would bore me to tears. The Harley is going to go away since its time has passed. Perhaps there’s more tennis since my shoulder seems to have held up to it. A guy can only write so much although you never know. My hoped-for letter writing class on eventbrite.com has seen no takers so that will likely get scrubbed. For a while there I thought that might be a fun thing to do, teach class after letter class, but that appears headed down the tubes. pickupyourpath.com seems to have gained steam in terms of visitors, about 50 a day which, in the grand scheme of blogs, isn’t a lot but there does seem a spike in interest. Perhaps I can parlay that into something. You never know. Maybe that’s the way retirement goes; you figure it out as you mosey along. One thing I do know for sure: I sure as hell want to sleep in beyond the usual 5:00 a.m. wake up. That’s no way to live. Later, guys.

Love, Dad

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Vivid yes, flowery no and 789 words of pure nothingness …


Really, letters don’t get much more mundane than today’s tepid yawner. 789 words of pure nothingness. Bath projects, Thanksgiving, kayak fishing and arugula in a pot. Where’s the beef? as Clara might have said. (You remember Clara, don’t you?)

Who said letters had to be flowery prose? Not me. Vivid yes, flowery no. Ellen and Reid know the difference.

———————

October 12, 2015

Ellen/Reid: Well, the flooring/plumbing guy is set to come today to get things moving on the guest bath. He’ll rip out the particleboard sub flooring and begin to set the underlayment for the tile itself. The tile chipping escapade saved me about $400 in demolition cost which is better than a kick in the butt. Yeah, the whole shebang will set me back about $3K (which is $2K more than the shoestring budget originally pondered) but on the flip side there should be an appreciation in the overall value of the home.

In keeping with today's 'mundane' theme, here is a boring shot of guest bath tile.

In keeping with today’s ‘mundane’ theme, here is a boring shot of guest bath tile.

Ellen, I was thinking of  a boxcar type of painted white wainscot rather than just a straight paint job. What would you think of that? It might modernize it a bit more than simply paint on the walls. The upper walls would still get the coat of gray you suggested. The drywall work went pretty smoothly. Hopefully no problems there.

All the brushed nickel faucets, towel racks, etc., came in from Kohler the other day, and it’s all spread out on the coffee table in the living room.

so you think I was kidding about Kohler fixtures spread out on the coffee table? It's a guy thing.

So you think I was kidding about Kohler fixtures spread out on the coffee table? It’s a guy thing.

So, except for the tile, everything is here. The toilet and vanity bide their time in the upstairs hallway. I guess the lighting isn’t here yet and perhaps I’ll get that tonight when I retrieve the tile. With any luck, the job will be done perhaps by the end of the week or maybe a few days into the next.

It looks like Thanksgiving likely won’t pan out for you down here, Ellen. I completely understand. It’s a real production to get the girls moving from your Point A to my Point B (i.e. Savannah) and that is understandable. Plus, ticket prices are just exorbitant. Reid, your tickets seem pretty reasonable, and a Wednesday arrival would be just fine. You know, you might think about in-and-out from Savannah since I’d have to haul all the way back to Charlotte to pick you up, and the offer is still on the table to split if not buy your ticket outright (I still owe you for the ticket for Wyoming in July). The aim here is still to head down on the prior Sunday. My friends Jody and Sondra are still planning on coming down so you and I will bunk either on the pullout couch or we can flip a coin for the remaining bedroom. Another friend, Ted, might come down, too, so it could be a big slumber party. They’ll be golfing while at least I (and maybe you) prep the T-Day meal.

I am no longer on the fence about toting the Miss Emma down to Hilton Head. She's going and we are fishing.

I am no longer on the fence about toting the Miss Emma down to Hilton Head. She’s going and we are fishing. End of discussion.

I’m kind of on the fence about bringing down the kayak although I hate to miss a chance to hit the water for at least one morning. I’d love to fish and catch something, perhaps even on the open water rather than the Intracoastal. No guide this time, however, as we’ll take our chances on the briny. There has to be a rental fishing kayak situation down in those parts and I’ll scope that out. Lord knows we have enough fishing gear. Now we just need some fish.

I feel bad for those poor ducks in South Carolina. They got hammered by Hurricane Joaquin while we waltzed away relatively Scot free considering all the rain. I was up by one of big impoundments yesterday and the water levels have totally recovered from the drought levels.

My lettuce (arugula and romaine) is making a strong showing in the container pots along the driveway. That’s the big difference between where I live and where you guys live. The cool weather is ideal while you put the finishing touches on your garden season. Saw a small black snake in the garage last week.

This black snake slithered his/her way close to the sunflower seed but the snake's wait appeared in vain. It is welcome back anytime.

This black snake slithered his/her way close to the sunflower seed but the snake’s wait appeared in vain. It is welcome back anytime.

Some mice had gnawed on the sack of sunflower seed even though it was placed well above the garage floor and the snake had obviously sensed the presence of rodents. I don’t mind black snakes and let him wander his way along the same path followed by the mice. He ended up next to the sack and I let him be. He stayed there for a few hours and then slithered back whence he came. It didn’t appear he had gulped down his prey. But he’ll be welcomed back any time on his mouse foraging adventures.

Love, Dad

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A class on letters and the usual and sundry …


For those in Charlotte, I’m about to dip my toes into untested waters; I’ll teach two 90 minute letter writing classes on successive Tuesday nights, November 10 and 17. The class will be in my home (aka Letter Writing Central).

The class – The ABCs of letter writing – yes, you CAN write letters! – is listed at EventBrite.com, and you can register now. It’ll be a fun couple of nights. As you’ve seen (or hopefully seen) at this blog, letter writing is so rewarding and so fulfilling vs. how we communicate now; bland emails and snippish text messages. You can do better. This class will help you in that regard.

But now, on to the usual and sundry in last week’s letter to Ellen and Reid.

—————–

October 4, 2015

Ellen/Reid: It occurs to me I continue to underestimate, mis-diagnose, ill-manage and be perplexed by home projects, notably the guest bath. What was once considered a potential weekend project will now stretch into a near budget-busting few weeks. Honestly, the whole sordid affair just drives me up the wall. The tile removal went without a hitch. Hours of banging with a hammer and chisel (listening to Milky Chase, Alabama Shakes, Beck, Birds of Tokyo and Arcade Fire blasting through the Boze speakers eased what was largely tedious,

There are a lot better things to do on a Saturday than mindlessly chip away at tile. But hey, it's gotta be done.

There are a lot better things to do on a Saturday than mindlessly chip away at tile. But hey, it’s gotta be done.

mind numbing work) revealed the sub-flooring to be in far better shape than I expected.

Of course, the ‘experts’ all say fiberboard is not the ideal layer for tile. The thinking goes fiberboard will expand if exposed to water, causing the grout between the tile to crack. But there’s hell to pay to remove fiberboard that is glued to the floor joists. That’s waaaaay beyond my skill sets. My jack-of-all-trades plumber guy also does nice tile work so he and I will powwow on the issue and, in truth, I will defer to his opinion.

But at some point it was 5:00 o'clock somewhere, and, hence, Miller Time.

But at some point it was 5:00 o’clock somewhere, and, hence, Miller Time.

Ellen, thanks for the boost on both the vanity and the porcelain tile and the wall color. That made life a little easier for me. The vanity and Kohler toilet are on the premises, and the tile will be tonight. I like that the tile is rectangular in that it will make for a more interesting pattern. The Kohler faucets, valve, etc., are on order and should be here in a few days. I like your suggestion of gray walls since I have no sense of real decor style. The drywall work will commence this evening and hopefully, knock on wood, there will be no underlying, and therefore secret, surprises.

We dodged much of Hurricane Joaquin’s rain this past weekend. We still got a relatively measly six inches or so, but 90 minutes south in Columbia they got nearly 18 inches and to the immediate west and east of Charlotte the rain totals were the 15 inches and up. So we got off lucky. It postponed my golf but that time was better spent in the guest bath anyway. At least our drought is broken and the reservoir levels restored.

The shootings in Oregon just continue to perplex me and ought to perplex us as a society. I just don’t get any of the faulty logic of the NRA. I really don’t. How can the conversation about a remedy be limited, in their putrid view, to mental health issues and having more folks armed to the self-protected teeth? It just flies in the face of rationalism. The statistics alone would merit some sort of gun control, but no, zealots rule the day. We have absolute cowards in elected office. Bush and his “stuff happens” comment are proof enough of that. We are morons of the first order. Safety and security take a back seat to open carry and assault weapons slung over the shoulders of folks in grocery aisles. The rest of the world laughs at us and my sense is their derision of us is well placed and on target, no gun pun intended.

The leaves are starting to retreat in the trees out back, and I sat just outside the open garage door on Saturday night with a couple of glasses of wine and listened to the onrush of water in the stream a few feet away. Not a bad way to spend an evening, even though my forearms still tingled from the mere act of hammering away at tile, a task that should never have been needed in the first place. If only the builder had taken enough time to grout in eight more tiles – a scant eight more tiles – under the old vanity. Think of the labor that would’ve saved.

Love, Dad

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Chipping at tile vs. live music: we have a winner …


I don’t know how you find a balance between chipping away at bath tile vs. the music of Nick Black. I’ll take the latter over the former. That likely applies to Ellen and Reid, too.

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September 28, 2015

Ellen/Reid: Ellen, thanks for stepping up on the decor of the guest bath. I like what you’ve suggested so far, and the demolition should start this week although I suspect there’s a fair amount of drywall work in my future. The project – I remind you, nothing is ever as simple as it seems – will keep me preoccupied and that’s a good thing. Plus what’s in there now is passé, dull, boring, old, decrepit or however you want to call it. The plumber is on call to help. At least the floor and the tub tile will stay. I’d given some thought to stone on the tub walls, but after all, it is a tub. You’re probably right about the gray on the walls vs. the white of the sink. That would upgrade the look of the space from the god-awful lilac hue. How the hell did someone come up with that?

It was finally Miller time after hammering away at old floor tile one chunk at a time. My friend Jody reminded me there are power tools that could've shortened my torture.

It was finally Miller Time after hammering away at old floor tile one chunk at a time. My friend Jody reminded me there are power tools that could’ve shortened my torture. So now he tells me.

The framed mirror above the sink is a good idea, too. I wish I’d kept all the plumbing samples sent to me when I was writing for the Assoc. Press. Those would come in handy right about now. Kohler looks to be the fixtures of choice for the sink and the toilet. I’ll wander over to a showroom to see what there might be on the market from Grohe but won’t hold my breath. Now, all I’ll need are some visitors and guests to use it once it’s done.

Really saw an odd thing on Friday. For some reason I was staring absentmindedly out the window (that happens a lot) and here comes this 5 – 6 inch feather slowly floating upward and parallel to the ground as if it’s on an elevator. It was caught in some sort of updraft and continued its ascent past the window and out of sight toward the roof. It was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen.

The other bizarre scene was a dismal crowd for one of the best young musicians I’ve seen in years, a kid named Nick Black from Tennessee. He and his band were at a local joint called the Double Door which allegedly bills itself as a premier music spot. There were only eight people to hear this incredible performance.

Nick Black can flat out bring it on stage. A handful of appreciative listeners and he brought it like a pro. This kid is good.

Nick Black can flat out bring it on stage. A handful of appreciative listeners and he brought it like a pro. This kid is good.

The five piece group had driven all the way just to be there and then to have eight folks. It was pathetic. That’s what’s nuts about the music scene in Charlotte. It’s flat at best, and weak most of the time. I don’t quite get it. I plunked $20 in the tip jar plus got a CD. They were headed up the way to Raleigh for the next night and I hope they had at least a double digit crowd. They deserved it. I sent a note to management of the Double Door, and they responded about how tough it was to attract crowds.

For the first time ever, I downloaded music from the iTunes store. It worked okay, but somehow my playlist keeps disappearing on my iPhone. I bought 20-some songs and they all showed on the initial list, but while songs would play the music would suddenly stop and multiple songs would disappear from the list. Maybe I’m just an idiot but this doesn’t seem a very user-friendly approach on Apple’s part. You can also call me the original late adopter. Nothing unusual in that. I am probably the last adult to download music. Reid, I remember your 10,000 song Napster days. Ask Tim if he has any answers. Reid, you gotta help your father out here.

The summer garden is maxed out. Time to plant winter greens. We had a misty, rainy weekend and I’ll let the pots dry out a bit before yanking the tomato and basil and planting new seeds.

Bought some new Levis over the weekend and my waist is now 32 with some room to spare. Ellen, I think it’s the almond milk and just flat out eating less. Lots of fruit and smoothies. I dunno. But it feels okay for now.

Alright, over and out. I’m on the Thanksgiving plans as we speak. Tickets on me.

Love, Dad

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