The Best Song I Ever Heard

St. Patrick’s Day. Leprechauns. Shamrocks. Green clothes. Birthday cakes. Yeah, I know. One of those things doesn’t really fit. Not to most people, anyway. It’s a perfect fit for me, though, as it was on St. Patrick’s day of 1969 that I came into this world butt first. I’ve said here before that my three older sisters like to say that I came into this world showing my butt and never stopped. That’s not what this post is about, though. It’s about the fact that this Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day, is my 43rd birthday. There’s nothing particularly momentous about  birthdays as one gets older. Maybe the biggies like 50 and other milestone years are cause for a party but there’s certainly nothing special about 43. It’s…43. A prime number. Good for OCD-ers like me.

What is different about this birthday for me is that it will be the first one I’ve had without my mama. Anyone who’s ever read much of this blog probably knows that she went to Heaven last July 27th and I have to say that this birthday is not one I’m looking forward to. It’s been a strange week. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how the person God chose to give me life here on earth no longer has life here on earth. Sure, she’s in Heaven and celebrating and she knows it’s my birthday. I’m sure of it. Good for her. No cancer. No dementia. No arthritis. Good legs that can walk and ears that can hear. My mama loved to sing more than I can even begin to express with mere words. She sang lots of hymns for over 80 years. My dad, too, though I don’t have any specific memories of them ever singing together, even just around the house. I’m sure they did. I was probably too busy making plans on how to show my butt to hear them.

There is one time I do remember them singing together. Actually, that number is probably closer to 20. From the time I moved out at the age of 23, not a single St. Patrick’s Day passed without an early morning phone call that went like this: Me: “Hello?” Mom and Dad, in perfect two part harmony: “Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear Thad! Happy birthday to you!” My dad would then launch into some sort of silly, made-up verse and then they’d wrap it up by telling me how much they loved me and that they hoped I had a great day. I always did. You could hear the smiles in their voices as they sang and it was darn near impossible to have anything but a good day with that sort of pep rally right off the bat!

It’s one of those little, special things that you feel like will go on forever no matter how old you get. I didn’t know that St. Patrick’s Day 2011 would be the last time I’d hear that duet in this life. If I would’ve known, I’d have done something special. Maybe recorded it or told them how much it meant to me. You just can’t know those things I guess. That would probably take the fun out of it. I think maybe this year I’ll get up early on my birthday and call my dad and just tell him thanks for doing that all those years. We’ll both probably cry like I’m crying now and I’ll tell him that I can’t wait for the day when we’re all back together again with Mama and that I want the two of them to sing that song to me every day, birthday or not. I can hardly wait. What a day! Revelation 22:20.


Arts or No Arts…That is the Question

Art. A word that often conjures up visions of large pieces of canvas covered with paint in a manner from which only the artist or those who fancy themselves connoisseurs of the arts can derive any beauty or inspiration. Those of us who aren’t as cultured as these occasionally uppity and snobbish folks stand back and mock them for being bamboozled by the “artist” who appears to have not had a haircut or shower in some number of days if not longer. That may be an unfair characterization of the artsy set, but it is a characterization that is probably more prevalent than the artsy may care to admit. I grew up in the country. There weren’t a lot of museums or concert halls in Slapout. There is a Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts but it is located in Washington, D.C., not Kennedy, Alabama where my dad was a pastor in the late 70s. As such, I didn’t have the opportunity to be exposed to “the arts” the way some folks who spent their formative years in larger, more populous areas did. What are “the arts” anyway? Congress, in the United States Code, defines the phrase like this:

The term “arts” includes, but is not limited to, music (instrumental and vocal), dance, drama, folk art, creative writing, architecture and allied fields, painting, sculpture, photography, graphic and craft arts, industrial design, costume and fashion design, motion pictures, television, radio, tape and sound recording, and the arts related to the presentation, performance, execution, exhibition of those major art forms, and the study and application of the arts to the human environment. 

Congress’ recent and numerous shortcomings notwithstanding, I think that’s a pretty solid explanation of the arts. I can only speak for myself, but I wish that I had had more opportunities to learn about and be exposed to various forms of the arts. My wife grew up dancing and singing and still does both of those things regularly as an adult. My son takes piano lessons and sings and my daughter takes violin lessons as well as dances under the tutelage of my wife who owns and operates a dance studio. I want my children to grow up with an appreciation for the beauty that can be found, not only in the performing arts they are involved in but in other forms of art as well. Larger cities like Montgomery and Birmingham provide a means for them to do that but I’d love for them to be able to have that sort of experience right here in Wetumpka as well.
With the growth that Wetumpka and Elmore County have experienced in the last several years I have to believe that there is an ever growing segment of the local population that would like to see the arts have a larger presence here. The Wetumpka Depot Players provide a number of high quality, award winning productions each year and our city is also home to The Alabama River Region Arts Center. Among others, there are art classes offered by Stephanie Burdick Harrison at The Jasmine Hill Art Gallery. My desire is to see more opportunities afforded Wetumpka residents to be able to both view and enjoy as well as actively participate in all forms of the arts. Perhaps a civic choral group of some sort or more emphasis on arts in some of our civic events. Even though I had to step away with the declining health and subsequent death of my mother there seemed to be much interest in having a music and arts festival in Wetumpka. I still think that is a very real possibility and hope to revisit trying to make that happen in the coming months.
Art is a broad term and a particular art form that one person enjoys may not be something that someone else does. That’s okay. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. We would all do well to follow my high school literature teacher’s advice to me when I said that reading Shakespeare was stupid. She said that just because I didn’t like it didn’t make it stupid. It just meant that it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. Don’t like what someone else is doing artistically? Do something different! Your preferred medium not being represented? Be the catalyst that gets it started! I think we are limited only by our own imagination and ideas. One thing I think that true art doesn’t do is inspire hatred and vitriolic behavior. I believe that at its worst, one might find true art benign, perhaps based upon personal preferences. I think that true art can certainly inspire a vast array of emotions but at the end of the day is not harmful or damaging when taken in context. That’s my opinion anyway. I digress.
So, what do you think can be done in Wetumpka to promote an interest in the arts, whether performance, visual, or literary? Are there things you are aware of that the rest of us may not have heard about? Do you have a talent or gift you could share with our community to promote the arts in some manner? Am I waiting for a ship that has long-since sailed or will never leave port? I hope not. I’d love to hear your thoughts. It’s an election year here in Wetumpka which means it might be a bit easier to get some things done since politicians will be looking to please voters and secure their support at the ballot box. What do you think?

Yummy Seafood! The Guru Goes to Wintzell’s.

Target: Wintzell’s
Target Address: 105 Commerce Street, Montgomery Alabama
Service: Dine in/or Carry Out – Lunch and Dinner menu (Average entrée – $14.65)

If you like Gulf Coast cooking, then you will like this one for sure. Wintzell’s was started in Historic Mobile in 1938 and quickly became known for its Oysters which you could get Fried, Stewed or Nude. Personally speaking, you can have my Oysters based on their function in life, to filter water. Wintzell’s came to Montgomery a few years ago with the completion of the Civic Center make over and has been a hit here ever since.

On this day there were 4 of us dinning. The Wait Staff was kind and courteous but not so quick to get us settled in and order the beverages. Some of us decided to get a cup of Gumbo only because we don’t pass it up where it’s offered and we were glad we didn’t pass on this one. It was perfectly seasoned, good ingredients and left us all wishing we had one more. Our table then ordered Back Wrapped Shrimp ($16.99), a Shrimp Po Boy ($9.99), Fish Basket ($8.99), and I slid in there with a Crab Cake BLT ($9.99). All of the entrées were perfectly cooked and had an ample amount of food for the price.

Desert was offered and refused by all; too many full people sitting around a table after a meal like that will run your desert business right down the drain. However what they had to offer looked delicious and may just draw us back again for a desert run. 

You cannot go to Wintzell’s and not sit around reading the walls. Some of the sayings are timeless and priceless. It also helps to pass the time for the young ones in your crowd as well. For an after work dinner and drink or a family outing, Wintzell’s Downtown Montgomery is a good solid choice. 

Guru Grade – Over all they get a 91out of 100 points on the scorecard. The 91 is not exactly reflective of Wintzell’s, but let’s face it they lose points on parking because after all it is Downtown Montgomery. The service could have been better, although it was not bad, just a little slow. Not sure if it was because of the crowd or maybe the person was new. All in all, you can’t go badly with Wintzell’s in Montgomery. To Wintzell’s, the Guru had your food, and was pleased. **Guru TIP** – after dinner, take a nice walk down by the River, they have really fixed the place up nice there.

Bringin’ the Pain with my College Football Picks of the Week!

These are my seven, totally baseless, unresearched college football picks for today. Well, maybe a little bit of a base. Based on what little bit of ESPN Gameday I might pay attention to that doesn’t involve the University of Alabama or what I might skim over in the paper. Why only seven? Because my OCD dictates it, that’s why. I could try and explain the whole number issues regarding prime numbers, good and bad numbers, and numbers that are multiples of six or seven but it would take several paragraphs. So, suffice it to say that seven is a good number and it is what I settled on. Here they are…

  • Georgia at Tennessee: Gotta’ take the Dawgs in this one. Not the old, scruffy hound named Smokey, but the rough and tough UGA XIIIXIIVVI or whichever number they’re on now. I hate Tennessee. I hate orange, I hate checker boards, and they some snitches. Need I say more? If so, refer to this video.
  • Auburn at Arkansas: Remember that part about me hating orange? ‘Nuff said. With apologies to my many Auburn friends, if Auburn played Wetumpka’s 7th grade team, I’m afraid I’d have to pick the Indians. This will be the case week in and week out. I pick with my heart, not my head.
  • Florida at LSU: Did you ever just have a feeling about something with nothing to really base it on? Me, too, and they’re usually way off base, but I’m having one of those feelings now. LSU is located in Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge is about an hour and a half from New Orleans. I love New Orleans. Great food. Great music. I love it. For that reason, I’d love to say LSU wins this one and stays undefeated when they collide with my beloved Tide in Tuscaloosa. Gotta’ go with the gut feeling on this one. Which likely means LSU wins in a walk. Hey, no guts, no glory, right? Gators chomp the Tigers.
  • Kentucky at South Carolina: If the Gamecocks completely lay down against Kentucky the way the did against Auburn, expect the Cats to prevail. In fact, the aforementioned 7th grade Indians might prevail in that case. Spurrier has decided to let Garcia have a seat for at least the beginning of this game and may I say, IT’S ABOUT TIME!!! You never know what you’re gonna’ get when SC takes the field. They’ll be able to do enough today, sans Garcia, to whip the Mildcats who are already looking forward to March Madness.
  • Iowa at Penn State: Iowa is trekking to Happy Valley, the home of Joe Paterno who happens to be the oldest living man in North America. Is he anything more than a figurehead at this point? A not-so-subtle reminder of glory days past? Heck, he didn’t even have on the dark glasses as he sat, without even a headset on, in the press box a few weeks ago when the Crimson Tide rolled into town. A friend always told me he thought Paterno wore the dark glasses to hid his eyes which were actually just empty sockets with actual fire in them. Methinks the fire has gone. I say the Hawkeyes win.
  • Maryland at Georgia Tech: Wetumpka’s own Tevin Washington is Tech’s QB. I’m a homer and I hate Maryland’s stupid, ugly uniforms. Ramblin’ Wreck wrecks the Turtles.
  • Vanderbilt at Alabama: This ain’t a math test, it’s SEC football! ROLL TIDE!

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Evangelical?

A few weeks ago, after reading the story regarding the weekend of religious themed observances at the National Cathedral in Washington, I wondered both aloud and on Facebook why there was no representative of our country’s large evangelical Christian community invited to take part in these events. I am prone to occasional bouts of pondering and so I began to do just that. I think I’ve finally come to a conclusion and that conclusion is, simply, that evangelicals are mean, ornery, narrow-minded, violent, selfish people who don’t deserve to have a voice in any sort of public discourse, let alone something as important as marking the tenth anniversary of such a tragic event as the terrorist attacks of 9/11. How could I not have seen it before when it’s as plain as the little round nose on the end of my bearded face? As my kids wold say, “DUH?!?”
In fact, I go to church with some of these thugs! Do you know that every time there is a natural disaster of some sort, there is a group of men from my church who have the nerve to pack up and travel to wherever that disaster happened and try to help the people affected by it? What a bunch of self-serving, right-wing goons! They don’t waste time, either! The people who may have lost their homes or other belongings haven’t even had time to fill out a pile of paper work only to be given more paperwork by FEMA before these guys in their yellow shirts are already pulling into town wielding chainsaws and all sorts of other tools to clear debris or do whatever else might need doing. They even set up mobile kitchens so that victims and volunteers alike can have a hot meal! How obnoxious and divisive can some people be? In an as yet unrivaled show of pure meanness and spite, one of these guys actually spent time in NYC following the 9/11 attacks helping to clean up, among other things, the apartments of people that had been damaged by the collapse of the twin towers. Good gravy!

There is another church in my city that selfishly and small-mindedly decided that they would not only create a charity that helps those in our community who may be in need, but they actually created a space right in their church building where someone could actually sleep and shower if they happened to be traveling through and had no money for a place to rest and clean up. Another church started a food pantry that, when they still had it at their church, had a line of cars waiting for hours on Saturday mornings to get food. How dare they?

I became a Christian in 1977. My father is a Baptist minister who pastored various churches for almost 50 years. I’ve been around an evangelical or two in my time. With very, very few exceptions, I’ve known them to be loving, caring people who want to share the love of Christ with a world that seems to be in desperate need of something permanent. Something that will give them security and peace in tumultuous times. Christ can do that, so they want to share it. Some may be misguided in their methods and understanding and some will make mistakes. Sometimes, big ones. We never claimed perfection, only forgiveness. And, like every group of people who adhere to the same or similar beliefs, be they social, political, religious, or otherwise, there are those on the fringe who claim to be followers of Christ but their deeds do not bear their alleged beliefs out. Those who would kill an abortion provider in the name of Jesus would fall into this category. They are few and far between, though. We shouldn’t all be judged violent or dangerous simply based upon the actions of an occasional nut-job who decides to do something foolish. That is unfair at best and demonstrates a terrible misunderstanding of what a real evangelical is and what their objective is.

Don’t be afraid or run and hide the next time you see the big, bad evangelical coming down your street. They’re pretty harmless and if you have a tree on your house they’ll probably help you cut it up and move it. You might even get a hot meal out of the deal.

Like Good Seafood? So Does the Food Guru…Check Out the Latest Review.

Target: J&D Seafood

Target Address: 461 North Eastern Blvd, Montgomery Al

Service: Carry Out ONLY – Lunch menu (Average entrée – $9.15)

Guru, ready for a request? I think that is about how Thad put it. One of his readers requested that I take on J&D Seafood. Now I will be honest with you, walking in the place reminded me a lot, A LOT, of the Destin Connection. I don’t want to pit one against the other here, so I will just say this; Destin Connection had better step it up! This place was great in every aspect. You can also order all kinds of seafood to take home and cook yourself from this place. They had a section of spices for sale to take home and prepare your seafood with. I was very pleasantly surprised to see “Slap Ya Mamma” on the shelf.
First of all, don’t look for a table to sit at, it’s carry out only. There are however plenty of chairs around the perimeter to sit in while you wait on your order. There is a lunch menu posted and all of it is cooked to order. To say that this food came to me hot, fresh and ready to eat would somehow be an understatement because it had to be even better than that. Oh yeah there was something better, it was PLENTIFUL too.

I ordered the Fish and Shrimp Platter with Okra and Hushpuppies. Can you say 2 for 1? There was a dozen perfectly breaded and fried shrimp, two of the largest yet not strong tasting catfish filets I have ever eaten outside of my own house, 6 hushpuppies and enough okra to feed a small 3rd world country. Ok, maybe the amount of okra is stretching it a bit. I assure you though; there was more than enough food for two people there. The Catfish was light, flaky and none of it was greasy at all.

Now let’s talk about the place, it’s a fish market. They tell me in all of my training that you’re not supposed to smell fish even in a fish market. On the other hand I have been in fish markets from the Gulf Coast to Seattle and all up and down the East Coast and have never been in one that didn’t smell of fish. However there was a smell of fish and if you have a serious problem with that, then you’re not going to like walking in the door. That said, everything I looked at was clean and orderly. The State Health Department is not going to give these types of places a 98 just because, they have to earn it.

Guru Grade – Over all they get a 98 out of 100 points on the scorecard. Thad says I have to be fair, and well, that isn’t fair!! It’s a fish market and thusly smells like one. This place should be a 100 out of 100!! Everything else, and I mean everything else was perfect for a carry out fish market. I cannot wait to go back and take some seafood home to cook. One foot note, I had a short conversation with the owner and his line to me – “I only buy the best of everything”. If you have missed J&D Seafood on the Bypass, you have missed out big. Give it a try, Guru out!

Remind Me Again Why We Don’t Buy Everything at the Dollar Store

I thought I’d repost an old blog entry from way back on April 9, 2009, just after I started this here blog. I still wonder about the “Everything is only A Dollar” stores. Enjoy…

I just got home from church and eating Mexican for the second time today. Just in case you didn’t already know this, if you eat at a Mexican restaurant, at least this one in particular, you ain’t gonna’ be able to hide it from anyone. As I sit here writing, I can smell myself. I can only imagine how the people at the grocery store could smell me. Anyway, let’s move on.

Gigi and I went to one of the 28,352 Dollar (fill in the blank) stores in our area the other night. I love going to these stores because where else can you buy a watch, or a toy, or party favors, or pet supplies, or any number of other things for only a dollar? We bought some things for my daughter’s 3rd birthday party Friday night and may I just say, WHAT A BARGAIN! We also bought some Dial antibacterial bars of soap and a few other items. As we walked around the store I saw many items that we normally buy at Wal Mart or the Winn and Dixie (as a friend’s grandmother called it) and the thought entered my mind, “Why don’t we buy everything here at the dollar store?” Does anyone have the answer to that question? I’m sure there is a logical explanation. Here in Wetumpka, there is a Wal Mart Supercenter right next door to the dollar store. I wonder why the dollar store isn’t overrun with people buying all the things there for a dollar that cost a good bit more at Wal Mart.
Anytime I stand in any line at any store like Wal Mart or Target I am always tempted to buy, and often do, a Twix bar or some chewing gum or maybe one of those various sticks of meat that are always near the check-out line. I realized the other night that when I’m in line at the dollar store, I never even consider the items there because apparently the candy and gum at the dollar store is not up to par with the candy and gum at the big-box retail stores. I mean, if I can buy the four-pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups at Dollar General for a buck when they may cost four times as much at Wal Mart then something has to be wrong with them, right?

If I buy the toothpaste at Dollar Tree, will it cause the enamel to just slide right off of my teeth into my Diet Dr. Pepper, purchased at Winn Dixie by the way, resulting in my never being able to eat Mexican food again? Not that no Mexican food would be a bad thing necessarily.

Do the gummie bears contain an unusually high level of DDT or some other birth defect causing chemical. Benzene, maybe? Perhaps strychnine?

What happens if I somehow muster up the courage to buy a bag of the various kinds of potato chips they have at the dollar store? Upon putting one of these chips into my mouth am I going to suddenly be stricken ill by salmonella or trichinosis or develop some horrible Olestra type symptoms?

Is the bottled water there flown in after being scooped directly out of a mud hole in the most impoverished, malaria-stricken, desolate, built-on-a-dump African nation? Will I get leprosy just by getting a drop of it in my skin and suffer a horrible, rapid death within minutes if I dare take a sip?

Is all their merchandise made in China?

And the soap. We bought the soap. I have now bathed with the soap no less than four times. Did anyone who saw me at church today think that I didn’t look clean the way that Kid Rock never seems to look clean. Did I stink? More than usual, I mean. The bar looks and feels just like the ones we always buy at Wal Mart. Since it’s anti-bacterial, does it only kill 75% of the germs rather than 99.9% like the good stuff? I need to know.

It’s tough to beat the price at the dollar stores. There aren’t many things in the world you can buy for a dollar anymore. To have a store where everything they sell only costs a dollar seems like a deal that is just too good to pass up. Which brings me back to my question: Why aren’t people just breaking down the doors to buy the merchandise in the dollar store?

Here is what I know for sure. We ventured out and bought soap this time. We haven’t ventured out and bought much else other than a pack of green army men or some skewers or something. Anything that you eat or drink or put on a cut, those type things we always get at a big store. I’m not sure why and I’m hoping someone out there can shed a little light on the subject for me. Anyway, gotta’ go now. I’ve developed several oozing sores on my back since my shower this morning. Not sure what’s going on with that but I need to run to Wal Mart and get some Neosporin.