Sunday, July 31, 2016

My email problem

Sometimes it's amazing how life imitates ... life.

The other day my flip phone (I'm a dinosaur) buzzed, and I answered it.

It was a text message.

I usually don't do text messages, figuring it's a lot more efficient just to talk into the damn phone instead of thumbing alphabet characters in some kind of pseudo shorthand that denigrates everything I've been taught about grammar and spelling.

But, hey. That's just me.

Still, I occasionally get excited by receiving text messages, which I figure are something akin to emails from my cell phone. Most of the texts I get are from our young family neighbors across the street who are inviting us dinosaurs over for another porch party.

Oh, boy.

But this particular text was different. It wasn't from our neighbors. In fact, I think it was a wrong number text, because this is what it said:

"How quick can u get here. He gone now"

Holy crap.

I had to read it twice before I read it a third time. I didn't recognize the phone number of the sender. Whaa...? I read the message to Kim.

Then I deleted it. I deleted it as fast as I could. Gone. Trash can.

Except, in a sense, I couldn't delete this one. It stayed in my mind. Who was that calling? Is there some kind of an affair going on, or is it something perfectly innocent, like, I'm late, I've got a flat tire, so hurry. I decided there was nothing innocent about it at all. In fact, it sounded incredibly urgent.

The fact that the text came to me instead of its intended target is also a bit troubling. I'm assuming the intended never got the message. How does that bode for that relationship, especially if the intended doesn't get there quick enough ... if at all? The fact that I got the message might suggest the sender was overly eager and carelessly misdialed. Why wasn't the intended on speed dial? Well, that won't work because if the cell phone is found by the partner, then what is this unfamiliar-but-incriminating speed dial number about?

Man, this is complicated.

Sounds like government work.

I'd like to say this whole episode is precisely why I don't do texting because of the unintended consequences that hide camouflaged in the ether, but I'm not that smart.

Mostly, I'm just lazy. And maybe that's good enough.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Cool it

Bear with me as I write this blog post. I might be a little crazy with the heat.

All day Friday I was looking forward to coming home from work. That's because the five-story building in which I'm employed was having its air-conditioning chillers, located on the roof, under maintenance.

And that meant our portion of the building — the "new" building — was more than just a little uncomfortable as nearly the entire country swelters under an unmoving high pressure heat dome during the third week of July.

Uncomfortable? Workers on several floors had their overhead lights turned off in an effort to reduce ambient heat. It was like a ghost town where even the ghosts were trying to cool off. Fans popped up in every cubicle or aisle.

One of my colleagues was wearing shorts and a golf shirt. Can you imagine, ever, a banker wearing shorts to work? Even PGA golfers don't wear shorts when they work. But a professional banker? "Come into my office," he explained. "It's 93 degrees in there."

Several departments were thankfully dismissed to go home around mid afternoon.

I happen to work in the windowless basement of the building. Most of my lights were off. I had two fans blowing on me all afternoon. It was survivable. But I still looked forward to going home.

But when I walked through the front door of my house, I could tell something wasn't right.

It was warm. Toasty, even.

"Oh, no," I thought to myself, and went to check the thermostat. It was 81 degrees in the house. The central air fan was running, but it wasn't cooling.


There could be several things going on here. Our system is probably about 20 years old and not necessarily energy efficient for our quaint two-story house, which is approaching 100 years old. I think our system is probably too small to properly heat or cool the 1,700-square foot building.

Or it could be that we simply need a new (flux?) capacitor. Or belt.

Or maybe there's something expensively wrong.

I'll call the repair specialists tomorrow, which means we'll be somewhere around No. 100 on their list of service calls and they might get to us by Thursday. That's fine. Kim and I have a 16-inch oscillating fan we used back in the early years of our un-air conditioned marriage, so sweating profusely in our own home will be kind of nostalgic for us (See? I am crazy with the heat). Several of our rooms also have ceiling fans, which do a good job of simulating a breeze and moving the hot air around from here to there.

So we'll make do, just like people in the South did 100 years ago before Willis Carrier changed the world: Accordion fans from the funeral parlor. Mint juleps. A damp handkerchief to wipe our brows.

Ahh, that's the life...

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Weight, weight, don't tell me

The day after I turned 65 years old I joined the YMCA, having learned that I just became eligible for the Silver Sneakers exercise program.

I needed it. I'm only 5-foot-6, but I checked in at well over 200 pounds.

Not good.

So I started my own unsupervised exercise regimen, mostly working out on two different types of low impact bicycle machines each morning.

The machines are computerized (for the lack of a better term), and before you begin each session, you enter your weight and age on the touch pad. I assume this somehow calibrates the machine to determine how many calories or how much mileage you personally burn during each workout.

On some machines, the hand grips are sensitively designed to capture your heart rate, if you need that information.

I don't know how the machines know this stuff. And maybe they really don't, but I'm believing the readouts are somewhat accurate because it's good for my psyche while I'm pedaling my butt off and the sweat drips into my eyes.

When I first started on the machines, I was tickled to burn 300 total calories in a session, which usually lasts about 90 minutes. But over time, as I got used to the exercise, I significantly increased my pedal resistance and thus my calorie burn.

On Saturday, I reached a new personal goal. I burned off 1,000 calories in about two hours. Between the two machines, I pedaled 22 miles, which might be the equivalent of riding a real bicycle to Thomasville and back again.

I cool down after each workout with 10 minutes in the whirlpool and 10 minutes in the sauna, of which the sauna, for some reason, makes me feel like I'm in Norway. Norwegian wood, I guess. Hey, I have an active imagination.

Anyway, I'm starting to get results where you can't deny the numbers. I now weigh in the 180s (which means I'm about halfway to where I want to be), and I've dropped at least one pants size.

I've coupled this daily exercise with a reasonable diet, thanks to my wife. Kim has been following her own diet plan through Slim Solutions, and while I don't do the supplements, my meals are the healthy meals that Kim prepares.

It all seems to be working.

There was a time when I once weighed 155 pounds (I was also 5-7 back then, before gravity and spinal compression got me) and wore 32s. I may never see those numbers again, but at least I feel like I'm headed in the right direction.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

1966 Mustang redux

The email startled me because it was so unexpected.

After my wife, Kim, and I finally sold our beloved 1966 Mustang convertible a little more than a year ago, we thought that was that. I mean, the car had been a good friend. We'd had it 19 years and we slowly brought it back to near factory specifications — we rebuilt the eight cylinder 289 engine, rebuilt the transmission, put on a new ragtop, rechromed the bumpers, and basically gave it a complete frame-up restoration and high quality paint job.

It was a beautiful car. So beautiful, in fact, that we were reluctant to put it on the road for fear of getting it damaged.

Consequently, it was doing no good sitting undriven in storage. So, as we entered our silver years, we made the difficult decision to downsize and sell it. We shipped it to Streetside Classic in Charlotte, an auto consignment operation who finally sold it to a buyer in ... Maidstone, Kent, England. (Please see here).

Our old 1966 Mustang, in Newcastle, with its UK license plate. Sigh.
Wow! That was cool. I never really considered it going overseas. But, clearly, it was going to have a good home. It could still speak English.

And we really thought that was the end of the story.

Until Friday morning, when I woke up and checked my emails. There was a message from a fellow named Phil, who said he'd just purchased my old Mustang from a guy in Kent and was about to drive it 340 miles north, about the length of England, to Newcastle Upon Tyne.


Usually, I'm a little bit leery about unexpected emails. Most of the ones I get are unsolicited and they tell me they are from some financially strapped royalty languishing in some third-world nation and I can have a percentage of their embargoed treasure if I give them my checking account number.

But as Phil explained to me in his email, he purchased the car when it was put up for sale because the guy in Maidstone had hip problems and couldn't drive it.

Oh, my.

And Phil, as it turns out, owns a business called Northumbria Classic Car Hire (see here, click on "Our Cars" and then click on "1966 Ford Mustang Convertible"). He bought the Mustang (I still have to fight the urge to call it "our" Mustang) to add to his collection of 10 or so European classics that he hires out for special occasions, like weddings, parades, etc).

The Mustang now shares garage time with Jaguar E-Types, an Austin Healy, MGB's and who knows what else.

 Just to make sure of all this, I looked up Northumbria Classic Car Hire on Facebook and, presto, there were several pictures of our ... I mean, the old Mustang, already on display at a streetside car show in Newcastle. It is surrounded by happy faces who appreciate American metal.

Somebody over there has already written a blog about the car, complete with pictures (Please select "July 9" here).

Holy smokes.

I even checked out Phil on Facebook, found him, wrote him a message and put in a friend request, which he accepted. Phil is now my first overseas friend. He's already trying to lure me to England by allowing me a free day of driving in my old Mustang (Well, I did drive it for 19 years. If we go, I might ask to motor a right-handed drive Jaguar XKE instead).

My only concern in all of this is that Newcastle Upon Tyne (which is close to the border with Scotland and boasts of nearby Hadrian's Wall) is a seacoast town heavy with salt air. Mustangs were notorious for rusting (Rustangs), but I suspect Phil knows this and the car no doubt rests in climate controlled comfort.

All in all, I feel really good about all of this. The car has found an incredible new life in its iconic status, still drawing admiring glances when it hits the road, and I know it will be treated with care. It makes me smile and a little bit proud.

Kim and I celebrated its latest resurrection with a six-pack of Newcastle Brown Ale, which I'd never had before. To me, it's kind of like a little brother to Guinness. I liked it.

So cheers. Here's to the unexpected.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Well, that was pretty good

Sometimes I surprise even myself by how late I can come to the party.

On Saturday my wife, myself and a friend decided to open the July Fourth holiday weekend with a visit to the Junius Lindsay Vineyard in Welcome to take in a little music by Allison Crowell and her husband, Lee.

I'd heard of her before, of course. I just had never heard her in concert.

I hate admitting things like that.

Lee and Allison Crowell perform a tune.
Anyway, as we parked the car and headed over to the open air tasting room, we could hear Allison performing "Landslide," which is a favorite tune of ours. I immediately sensed we were in for a treat. So we settled in for the next two hours or so being serenaded through one familiar tune after another.

Allison, as most of you know, won the Childress Idol competition in 2009. She can coax and prod and soothe and caress her way through a song with a wide-ranging voice that surreptitiously entices you to come along for the aural ride. You don't even know you're in motion until you're already down that road.

As talented as she clearly is, I also enjoyed watching/listening to her husband play. He doesn't sing (at least, he didn't on Saturday). But he's a finger magician with a rhythm guitar, giving Allison some unassuming background and depth to her own acoustic guitar. Somehow he was providing her with a subtle bass line, or some gentle wah-wah, or some fuzz, or whatever was required.

Consequently, we walked hand-in-hand with Fleetwood Mac, or Patsy Cline, or Aretha Franklin, or Otis Redding, or even the Beatles (emboldened by my viognier, I requested 'Here Comes the Sun' during a set break, and they responded with 'Hey Jude' when they returned) through the afternoon.

It was a pretty good show. OK, OK. So I was a little late for the party.

Better late than never.