Sunday, September 30, 2012

Food and the aging process

Kim and I were in a Winston-Salem restaurant for brunch recently when something caught my eye.

An older woman, perhaps in her sixties and wearing a beautiful white blouse with her jeans, was sitting alone at the counter enjoying her breakfast. Nothing unusual about that — until she reached around the back of her neck and untied a small bow that held her bib in place.

Her what?

"Kim, look at this," I said, because the woman was sitting off to the side behind my wife, who couldn't see what was happening. Kim never got oriented fast enough to see the woman carefully folding her bib and stuffing it into her pocketbook.

Seriously, it was about the size of a lobster bib. The woman was finished with her breakfast and presumably had just saved her blouse from, what, a spillage of cheesy shrimp and grits? Ketchup drowned home fries? Runny Eggs Benedict? A breakfast lobster?

I don't know. I chuckled to myself over this for a moment until I started thinking about all the times I've unwittingly splattered ketchup on myself or somehow slobbered coffee onto my prized Gettysburg T-shirts.

I am getting older and sometimes the food I try to eat occasionally (and mysteriously) wrestles me to the ground. I mean, how can I possibly miss my mouth? And yet, I have the stains to prove I not only missed my mouth, but just about everything close to it. The more I wondered about this woman having no fear of wearing a bib in a public restaurant, the more I started to admire her for her ... her ... her wisdom.

"Maybe," said Kim, "we ought to invent bibs for older adults. You know, with a pocket or trough on the bottom to catch the food so it doesn't fall on the floor and you can still eat it. That way, you don't waste anything that costs a lot of money. We could be millionaires."

"Yeah," I said, catching on. "We could call them 'Elder Aprons' or 'Senior Savers' and put little slogans on them, like 'I stop for slop' or, 'I've got it, I've got it' like baseball players. Or 'You can't mess with me.'"

It was about this time that it struck me that the aging process is cyclical. We wear bibs when we're infants, then go through adulthood so full of ourselves by trading in our bibs for napkins (if we use anything at all), and then back to bibs down the homestretch because by our golden years we shake, rattle, roll, can't see and can't hear.

Sometimes I wonder if, in fact, I really need to wear some kind of jumpsuit when I eat.

I'm sure it's only going to get worse. I guess it's only a matter of time before I start wearing Depends with my bibs.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

This (town) is nice

Every once in a while something comes along to remind me how much I enjoy living in Lexington.

This video certainly doesn't hurt:

See here.

Actually, I don't have to be reminded about how much I enjoy living in Lexington. I've lived in six different towns — all of varying sizes — in four different states in the past 61 years, and none compares with Lexington, which I find to be New England quaint, Southern friendly and uniquely special. Living here just seems to come naturally for my aging soul.

I moved to Lexington from my Pennsylvania roots in September of 1976, so I'm celebrating my 36th year here. I can never be a native of the town, like my wife, but I certainly can be one of its ambassadors.

The video — I missed the original televised broadcast, so thank goodness for the Internet — shows not only how Lexington has changed in the past decade or so, but also its potential for the future. I hope I get to see some of this potential come to fruition in my lifetime, like Raymond Smith in the video has seen so far.

Does Lexington have problems? Of course. You can hear it on the street almost any time: there's no jobs, there's nowhere to eat if you don't want to suffocate in barbecue, the schools are inferior, there's no after hours entertainment options. Therefore, city hall is clearly filled with scoundrels.


If that's what you think, you aren't looking hard enough. I was surprised by the fact that nearly 200 businesses are located in a six-block Uptown perimeter with 94 percent occupancy. In an era of economic downturn, this is amazing. But you know, when I think about it, I don't see many vacant buildings on Main Street anymore.

Some of those buildings are being converted into second floor loft-type living quarters, so that's exciting. People are actually wanting to live in Uptown again.

High Rock Outfitters has brought us quality live entertainment on a regular basis, bringing in talent from Winston-Salem, Greensboro, even Asheville. I'd like to see Lexington gain momentum as a budding artist colony with perhaps other Main Street venues. Thanks to HRO for showing the way, the potential is there. I don't think the importance of what HRO has done for Uptown can be overstated.

The city's commercial heart beats with a healthy pulse, particularly around noon on Saturdays — about the time the vibrant Farmers' Market is finishing up for the day.

I live in a historic neighborhood with tree-lined sidewalks just a few blocks from all of this action. My neighborhood is loaded — totally out of proportion, by the way — with at least six teachers and former teachers, so I can hear firsthand how the school system is making strides. If it wasn't, they'd probably be leaving to teach in Chicago.

Several of my friends are on city council, including the mayor. Because I know them, I know their ethic and their concerns. Change doesn't come in the next five seconds, like most of us want. It may not even come in the next five years. It takes laying the groundwork. The changes we've already seen in this town were no doubt prepared for us years ago, back in the days when we were complaining there was nowhere to go.

But changes certainly will continue. I can feel it in the heartbeat.

Monday, September 17, 2012

It's National What Month?

Kim and I were driving down Silas Creek Parkway the other day when I glanced at Biscuitville's towering promotional sign out in front of the familiar yellow building.

"September is National Biscuit Month" it shouted at me.

I almost slammed on the brakes. Oh, no. You've got to be kidding. How could I have forgotten? Did I need to rush right in and surprise Kim with a ham biscuit? A gravy biscuit? A liver mush biscuit? Here it is September and I didn't make any plans to buy her a biscuit.

But this got me to thinking about other national months that sometimes creep into my awareness zone. Who determines what month is going to celebrate which cause, or which illness, or which food item? Why do we have national months of anything in the first place?

I thought a national biscuit month might be one of the more frivolous celebrations on the calendar, but I wasn't sure. So I did what I always do when I have a question and googled it. So I googled "What national month is it?"

(Remember the old days when you had a question and you'd run to an encyclopedia for an answer? Or an almanac? Or, better yet, to dad? Thank goodness for Google, I say...)

Anyway, I got this (see here).

I'm not sure it's a complete list, but it looks like it could be. There's nearly 200 national months of something on there, to be somehow parsed out through 12 actual months. And I figure it's probably legit since the site draws its sources from the National Health Observances, National Health Information Center, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, U.S. and the Department of Health and Human Services.

I found out that September really is National Biscuit Month.

Some are indeed frivolous, like "Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month" (February) or "National Toilet Tank Repair Month" (October). Who knew? Who cares?

Some are important, like "National Nutrition Month" (March) or "American Cancer Society Month" (April). This is the kind of awareness we can appreciate.

Some are insistent. "National Noodle Month" is listed twice for March, although I suspect this is a typo. However, Foot Health Month is listed for both March and May. C'mon.

But some appear to be conspiratorial. I mean, don't you find it odd that Chocolate Lovers' Month and National Dental Month are both in February?

Some seem to come at the wrong time. Do they know in Tabor City, home of their October Yam Festival, that February is National Sweet Potato Month? Uh-oh.

October, the month of festivals, is also the month of national recognition with 38 listings, including National Apple Month and National Caramel Month. OK, that makes sense — a conspiracy that works. October is also National Applejack Month, and I don't think it's the cereal.

December, which gives us enough to celebrate, only has three listings, although one of them is International Calendar Awareness Month.

It just goes on and on. Kind of makes you glad there aren't 13 months in a year.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mountain air

What we needed was to get away from Lexington for awhile.

But Lexington decided to follow us anyway.


It's been about a year, maybe longer, since my wife and I had any time off together. This is significant because Kim's father passed away last November, and for several months before that, she was his caregiver. She was virtually chained and locked to The Ton. ("The Ton" being our little circle of friends' admittedly obscure nickname for Lexington. You know, Lexing-TON). And we couldn't find the keys.

An ocean of arts and crafts tents fills up Art in the Park in Blowing Rock.
Even after he died, poor Kim was nearly overwhelmed as the executrix of her father's estate, an emotional and seemingly never-ending respon-sibility. On top of all this, she had to look for a job after her position at a local bank was eliminated after 31 years because of financial downsizing.

But then, almost as if by magic, doors and windows opened. She found part-time work that she enjoys. We closed on the estate. The calender suddenly had a September vacancy and Blowing Rock — one of our favorite three-day weekend getaways — beckoned with an Art in the Park siren song.

So we went. We left Friday morning and thoroughly enjoyed the two-hour drive to the mountains, and when we got there, we did the usual: Mast General Store, shopping, eating, more shopping on Main Street. It was comfort food for the weary soul.

We got up early Saturday morning, shared a huge breakfast omelet and then made the up-mountain trek to Art in the Park. We took in the art, the crafts, the fresh perspective — Lexington had faded into another dimension. We were giddy with...

"Hey guys," said the voice from thin mountain air. "Are you having fun?"

There's no escaping Lexington with John Horne (left), Lee Jessup and myself.
I couldn't believe it. Standing there in front of me were my good friends John Horne and Lee Jessup, with their wives, Lisa and Mary Jo. Oh my gosh. It was like that moment in the Christopher Reeve movie "Somewhere in Time" where Reeve's character discovers a 1979 penny and is suddenly thrust back into the present after self-hypnotically falling in love with a woman in 1912, never to return (hey, it's a sci-fi romantic time-travel saga too complicated to explain here). It was like we were suddenly back in Lexing-TON.

Actually,  it was kind of amazing. Back in June, I'd encountered the Jessups in Gettysburg. Then, about a month or so after that, I was in the same vehicle with Lee as we made a Civil War Round Table trip to Appomattox. Boom, boom, boom. Jessups everywhere I turn.

That wasn't all. Later in the day we bumped into Jim and Gayle Burke. We also learned that our dentist, Sim Siceloff, was meandering somewhere on the mountain. I was starting to think Kim and I needed to get in the car and drive yet another 100 miles or so, maybe into Tennessee or Virginia. It probably wouldn't have helped.

I sound like I'm being harsh with my friends, but not really. It was just that the whole meeting thing was totally unexpected. In fact, there was a moment later on Saturday when Kim and I were in the park at Blowing Rock where an amazing free concert was presented by the Grandfather Mountain Highlanders, dressed to the hilt in kilts and brandishing bagpipes and drums. We arrived in time to hear several Scottist laments. Then someone requested Amazing Grace. I go jelly-kneed with Amazing Grace anyway, but to hear it live with bagpipes, oh my. It started off as a bagpipe solo, then reached a soaring crescendo when the other 10 pipers joined in for the final stanza.

I teared up. I suddenly wished my friends were there to hear this. I wanted them there.

As it was, the rest of the weekend belonged to Kim and me. We recharged the emotional and psychological batteries. We had breakfast at the Daniel Boone Inn, and then got back into town in time for the annual neighborhood picnic. No Jessups were in sight.

But we did run into the Burkes.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Musical interlude at HRO

Kim and I recently found a new place to enjoy ourselves.

Actually, it's not a new place at all — it's been around for at least several years and maybe even longer — it's just new to us.

The other evening we dropped by High Rock Outfitters (HRO) on Main Street, next to the square, to listen to a handful of musicians perform during open mic night. Oh boy. Freebies. This usually occurs on Wednesdays. And usually, they're playing in front of 30 or so customers who are sipping local wines or boutique brews from North Carolina.

But what a treat. When we got there the omnipresent Scott Gibson was performing with his wonderfully named backup band, the Side Effects. Scott plays acoustic guitar and usually has a harmonica braced around his neck. It's better than a tie — at least you can play a harmonica.

Anyway, Scott is a hip folk artist — maybe even eclectic — leaking out of the Woody Guthrie mold. He sometimes performs Guthrie tunes, and most times he does original compositions. Either way, the gravel in his voice lends an earthy, you-can't-beat-me-down truth to his art. (See here) I really like his stuff.

When he was done with his set, Scott yielded the mike to Old Dave Williams, another acoustic artist from Lexington. I don't know that he's actually old, but that's how he introduced himself. "Old" might be his first name, as far as I know. He did tell us that he helped produce a public television show several years ago about the decline of the local furniture industry and wrote some of the music for it.

I googled Dave Williams just to see what came up and got about 800 hits (I exaggerate only slightly) for the name. About 700 of them were for musicians, so I didn't bother to look any further.

Old performed three songs and gracefully gave way to Davis Tucker.

Keep in mind that, other than Scott, I have no clue about the other artists. I'm hearing them for the first time. But Davis, who really might be old, has been around. He's got a few CDs out there, and while his chest-length gray beard and shoulder-length gray hair makes him a genuine Santa Claus candidate, he's got a nice voice. I like to call it an acoustic voice.

Anyway, he had a female vocal accomplice with him whom he introduced as his ex-wife Shannon. I figured that had to be an incredibly amicable separation if they're doing free open mic sessions on Wednesday nights in small-town honky tonks in the Piedmont. That's cool. They do sound good together.

I googled his name and found out he has a relatively steady gig most Tuesdays at George's Pizza in High Point. He sometimes plays with a band called "The Geezers," appropriately enough. I think they all have gray beards. He also does fairly steady work at the Sagebrush Steakhouse in Kernersville.

Davis and his ex did a half-dozen original tunes, including my instant favorite, "I started out with nothing, I've got most of it left." (See here) Amen, brother. They were still performing when Kim and I left around midnight, because we had to go to work the next day.

My point here is that HRO gives Lexington some nice after sunset options. The place is booking groups left and right, including talent from Asheville, that little artist colony in the mountains. Sometimes you pay a cover charge for the bigger name acts, but that's OK. I'll pay $7 to listen to music every bit as good as the $75 or so that I pay to hear Alison Krauss or Martina McBride.

Kim and I might be a little late to this party, but we're still glad that we came.