Tuesday, April 19, 2011


What's more American than the mechanics of a mayoral election in "small town USA"?  Nothing - it's the envy of the third world.  There's nothing more democratic or screams freedom more than the free periodic elections held in our country.  That freedom is again coming to life this month in my hometown of Harriman, Tennessee with a new mayoral campaign.  It's time to elect the next mayor of our fair city, and you can bet it is going to be a heated contest.

There will be lots of handshaking, baby kissing, stump speaking, and gatherings of townsfolk enticed by the smell of BBQ and the promise of cool lemonade!  That's part of the reason I'm involved, that and the photo opportunities, but those are not the only reasons.

Why am I so concerned over an election I can't even vote in?  

Mainly it's because I know the incumbent personally, and I know he's as honest as the day is long.  I've watched him with his family and I know how much he loves his wife and children, and extended family.  To me, that speaks volumes about a man.

However, one of the strongest reasons I want Chris Mason to win another term is because we believe in the same dream.  That dream is to see my hometown come back to life and be as close to what it once was as possible.  We both think that can only happen if our beloved Princess Theatre comes back to life first!  It's not the only issue I like his stand on, but it's the most important to me.

Since September 4, 2009, the dream to give new life to the Princess has been moving forward.  Adding to a $300K+ grant from the State of Tennessee for the construction of a "trailhead", the Tennessee Valley Authority donated $1.7M toward the restoration of the Princess.  This came completely unexpected after an unfortunate mishap involving the breach of years of impounded coal ash that spread out in a tsunami like wave covering and destroying local property.

The dream continues to move toward life daily as restoration work continues, having never stopped since it began last August. 

This is the dream work I want to see continued, and Chris wants to see it completed and operating fully during his next term.  Actually, it will most likely be opened prior to the election, but there are a lot of benefits to the city's prosperity that will be associated the Princess opening, and Chris knows how to address these future opportunities.

The Mayor's office has recently received letters of promise and intent from 4 or 5 new businesses to move into downtown Harriman.  The central part of the city has been virtually dead for several years, and these new promises lift everyone's hopes that our beloved "small town" will come back to life.  

Maybe it won't be like it once was, but, there is potential for Harriman to actually be better than it was!  With new college and high school student foot-traffic downtown taking classes in media and the arts, someone will want them to spend the money they carry in their pockets.  Someone will want some of them to live downtown in refurbished apartments, to eat a meal, drink a cup of coffee, by a book or art supplies, or...whatever!  

To ensure "the dream" comes alive and remains alive, I want Chris Mason to be reelected.  After that, I personally don't care who comes in to pursue their own dream.  By then the Princess will be fully functional, being perpetually supported by Roane State's educational funding, and the city will have begun to reap and understand her importance to its well being.

So, that's why I went to Thursday evening's kick off to Chris' campaign.  Well, it could have been the free BBQ, but I'd rather think it was because I supported a man that supports my cause; my dream.

It was my small way of getting involved in my community and giving back just a little. If I didn't have such first hand knowledge of this man's integrity, and if I didn't believe in "the dream" so much, I wouldn't have gotten involved at all.  But, I believe in the dream and the man that can make it happen!

Good news...he said he will have another, more publicized, gathering closer to the election, and than means more great BBQ for me!

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Ever since I got my appetite back, sometime in February, I have looked forward to going out to eat.  I'm not content to cook up something like I used to, although I love anything Judy does.  I guess it's a matter of whether I had to cook it or not!

Anyway, this has been one of those weeks, and it ain't over yet, that I've gotten to eat out 4 times!  Strangely though, every time I weigh at the doctor's office I still come in at 217 fully dressed.  That's 30 pounds less than this time last year!  I'm sure if this appetite keeps up that it will change, but thus far I've maintained that weight for about 4 or 5 months.

Judy and made a run to Knoxville Wednesday, after her dental appointment, and ate at my favorite place; P. F. Chang's!  I love that place and their KUNG PAO SHRIMP OR SCALLOPS (I get both) which has peanuts, chili peppers and scallions.  Judy tried their new SESAME CHICKEN lunch bowl which is stir-fried with broccoli, red peppers, onions and ginger in a sesame sauce.
Of course I always have to have a draft of KIRIN ICHIBAN!  

After filling our bellies, she wanted to stop by Markman's Jewelry, supposed just to look, but naturally she ended up trading up on her wedding bands!  I should have known better!

Thursday evening, I went downtown to the kick off rally for Chris Mason's second run at the Harriman mayor's job, and ate free BBQ.  It was really good, and I need to find out who catered that affair, 'cause I want some more soon!

Friday evening we were invited to meet Jerry and Gene Eblen at RedBone's in Kingston for supper.  They are good company for dinner and kept us laughing.  I had eaten almost half of my half of the GULF SHRIMP AND GRITS we ordered before I thought of taking a photo.  Besides, the tables are relatively close in there, so I didn't want to blind someone next to us and cause them to miss their mouth and put out an eye!  However, trust me, the dish was good...along with the fried green tomatoes on the side!

I'll have to say, the margaritas were a touch shy on the hard stuff!

Then there was tonight, Saturday, and we met the other Dragons and Knights at Carrabba's.

Everyone was in rare form, but Neena and Ron seemed anxious to leave on their western trip in their camper.  However, they sat still long enough to enjoy their meal.

I had a hankering for their brick-oven pizza, and ordered one with pepperoni, onions, and olives.  Man was it tasty! 

I've found that beer really fills me up quickly, so I ordered my next favorite - scotch/rocks!  It was good, but man the markup is almost as painful as gas these days!

Then there's tomorrow...wonder what I can sink my teeth into before Monday!?

Monday, April 11, 2011


Since my mom lost her closest friends over the past two years, see has held up pretty well, but I can tell she needs to talk to someone, or to go somewhere, once in a while just to keep up her spirits.  She and her friends Virginia and Oz used to go shopping and eat out at least once a week.  In between times, she and "the ladies" would visit with each other, or talk outside their condos when working in their flowers, check the mail, or taking out the garbage.

They were very close, close enough that the two ladies were with mom and me the morning in '06 when Bill, mom's last husband, died.  They saw to it that she was comforted, took rest occasionally, or just sat and listened to her sorrow.

Her shopping companion and confidant, of late, has become my wife Judy.  She often calls just to talk to Judy, and when she has an appointment at the doctor, I can tell she would just as soon it be Judy that takes her.  She trusts Judy's judgement in drape colors, furniture style, and with her financial business.  I can understand it too, Judy's had control of my pocketbook for over 30 years, and I know she's as honest as the day is long.

Mom just called while I was writing this, just to tell me how much she appreciated us bringing Lily by to see her today.  "She sure is sweet, isn't she...and smart!  I could tell she wasn't too comfortable standing by me for that picture, but she just don't know me too well."

I apologized to her for not bringing her by more often, and, of course, she understands how life is.

"The other girls (her other granddaughters) act a little more lately, 'cause I don't see them very often either," she said sadly.

I agreed that we could all do more to see that she gets more visits from them.

I call mom every evening after the news just to say hi, and to be sure she is okay.  I also certainly don't want to know she fell and couldn't get up.  That would just haunt me for the rest of my life!  

She still drives to the store weekly, but I know there is coming a day soon that I'll have to do more and more of that for her.  

She has had several dental appointments lately, and is still facing having all her upper teeth pulled next week.  Judy and/or I will spend a couple of nights with her after that surgery to make sure she eats and does well.  As time goes by, there will be other nights spent at her house, until finally a day comes when she says she's ready to move to an assisted-living facility.  I will leave that totally up to her, because I know how she feels about all that, and I also know that she would tell me when the time comes.

Sunday we called her and invited her to go to see a stage play at Roane State, here locally, and she jumped at the chance.  She thoroughly enjoyed the play, called "The Diviners", but I could tell she was just happy to be out and with people that loved her.

We picked her up and chauffeured around the county like she was the queen, and after the play we went to the Cracker Barrel and ate.  She, at a 100 pounds soaking wet, ate like a little pig!  She always eats more when she has somebody to talk to and share a laugh or memory or two.  She ordered meat loaf and soft vegetables, since she is missing several upper teeth, but managed to put the majority of the meal away!

It's important that the family, her sons, her grand and great-granddaughters, daughter and sons-in-laws all see to it that she gets lots of attention for these next few years - visits, calls, cards, and kiddie visits!  Odds are she doesn't have that many left and we sure don't need to end up with regrets.  She gave us all life and happiness and it's the very least we should do.

She wanted to pay for the meal Sunday, but I told her I didn't want to be beholding to her for anything!  I was kidding, but she came back with, "Oh, but you are."

It's true...I owe her everything.  Besides giving me life, she formed my moral values...she's responsible for who I am today.

Love ya mom!

Thursday, April 07, 2011


Way back around 1971 I took an anthropology class at the University of Tennessee taught by Dr. William  M. Bass, who had just arrived at the university that same year.  Dr. Bass oversaw the development of the discipline at UT Knoxville, which culminated with the creation of the Forensic Anthropology Center within the Department of Anthropology, and many resources for students, researchers, and law enforcement agencies.
Dr. Bass began to see the need for a "body farm" back in 1977, after making a self-admitted 112 year mistake in judging the age of the decomposing body of Col. Shy, a Confederate soldier who had died in 1864, from a wound on the battle field just 12 miles from his home near Franklin, TN.

"I got the age, sex, race, height and weight right but I was off on the time of death by 113 years."

The body was discovered sitting up outside a cast-iron coffin, after vandals cracked the coffin in order to steal his sword.  Confederate Colonels were always buried with their swords, or at least that was the general custom, however Col. Shy's family removed his uniform and military accoutrements, and buried him instead in his black suit.  

Since Dr. Bass found pink connective tissue on the skeleton's femur, he could only assume, with the knowledge of the day, that the body was much fresher than 113 years old!  However, the arsenic embalming and the closed atmosphere of the iron casket preserved the soft tissue much longer than was then known.  

The grave marker specifically stated the death was in 1864, so Bass knew he needed to go back to the drawing board, and create a "body farm" in order to study decomposition.  Without the facility that Dr. Bass pioneered, law enforcement investigations would be gravely (no pun intended) hampered.

Since those days, Dr. Bass and John Jefferson have collaborated on several books under the pen name "Jefferson Bass".  Naturally, Dr. Bass contributes his expertise to solving the plots John Jefferson creates in their fictional books.

Tonight, in the Harriman High School Auditorium, I again sat, listened, and was taught by Dr. Bass again.  He is just as humorous and sharp as he was all those years ago.  Judy and I were thoroughly entertained!

We sat mesmerized by his stories of drug deals gone bad, and, of course, the tale of Col. Shy.  One slide depicted his use of superimposition to match skulls with photos of the living, another how to tell if a body has been burnt or simply decayed, or if a skull was cracked by heat or from bullet energy.  All so very fascinating!  

Should this brilliant innovator ever come to a venue near must go...sit, listen, be taught, and completely entertained.  

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


I know, this will sound like I'm bragging, but damn, do I have the most beautiful backyard this time of year, or what!?

Judy and I made our monthly pilgrimage to Walley World today, mostly for toiletries, but ended up buying $300 worth of crap!  Most of the cost was in vitamins, which will probably do us not good at all, but into the cart they went!

'Course we did buy some good tasting stuff, like the hamburger steak and salad we had tonight.  Add to that was some canned green beans my sister-in-law gave us last week.  Man, it sure was tasty, and really made that scotch I had while grilling the steaks taste mighty yummy!  Uh oh, did I say that out loud?!

As I cooked, and imbibed, I noticed how blessed I was to live where we live.  Now you can say I'm bragging, but just look at this scene out across my deck.  Is that not "spring" to the twelfth power!? 

Pay no attention to that little UT highball's just water in case there is a flame up!

Judy was in side cooking up the beans, adding garlic and crushed red pepper to the mix, while I'm outside tending the propane fire!  It was in the seventies, windy, with fresh young green growth everywhere.  What a day!

Judy had dropped off her watch, and my mom's, at the jeweler in town, so we stopped by on the way home from Walley's.  It turned out that they had t-shirts from this Saturday's "Cruisin' in Harriman", so I bought one to wear.  The front has tree great cars on it, two of which I photographed, and the back has a photo of the Princess Theatre, which I took back in '09.  I'm so excited that Jim Thornton honored me by using my photos in his design for this year's shirt!

So, I suppose I'll be walking Roane Street this weekend during the "Cruisin' in Harriman".  I sure wish you could be there with me!  There's nothing like a street party in "small town USA"!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


Yep, I don't know what I ever did to deserve it, but I've certainly been blessed!  I think about that fact every time I see Katie Bug, or pick up Lily at Prewee School, see her sister Kinsley, or get a hug from my son Corey, and daughter Tracy.

If I think back on all the things I did that I'd rather stay out of the light of day, I certainly don't think I deserve what I've been given.  However, Grace is free and forgiveness only requires a little faith!  I have asked for and received both, so I suppose I'm covered, and it's a good thing!

I so look forward to the weekends when I get to see Katie Bug, home from school, and to every Monday during the normal school year when we get to pick Lily up from her prewee school, and to seeing her dad when he comes by after work to pick her up.  Those are the most special moments of my week!

Nope, I don't know why I deserve these blessings, but I sure am taking advantage of them!

There's nothing like a big tight hug from a little girl that loves and trust you.  This precious photo can't capture the true emotion filling every part of my being, but it reminds me of what I was feeling at that precise moment in time.

Hopefully they will know someday, when they pause to reflect on these photos, and will probably have children of their own by then, what this old man was feeling and how special they all were to me.

Sunday, April 03, 2011


There's nothing like "small town USA" on a Saturday night!  

Everyone that enjoyed gatherings at the American Legion Hall back in their teenage years in Harriman still come out to see old friends, hear great oldie music, and dance their cares away.  It's things like these that make you glad you were raised in a small town.

One problem, after all the years, everyone has changed so much that it's hard to recognize them.  Some people are blessed to retain what is familiar about their faces, but some just change completely.  It's so strange to talk to someone and recognize their voice, but not remember anything in their face.  The common remark during the evening was, "Who are all these old people?!"

A friend, Jimbo Duncan, who plays the keyboard for an old band they formed during high school, invited me to come out this past Saturday night to hear the band play again.  The band, The Grand Prees (you may need a Google account in order to enjoy this video), even though they don't practice as much as they used to, was tight, and can still jam!  It was a hoot!

Prior to the dance/jam, a couple of girlfriends from high school invited Judy and me to meet them for some Mexican food and libation!  That was a hoot as well!  Judy has started going to "cackle parties" with these ladies recently, but I don't get to see them as much as I would like.

Jerry and Regina were two of my favorite people in high school, and Jerry (one wearing the black vest) was the one who gave me the moniker "Mushy"!

The photo posted here of Jerry was overexposed, but I was able to give it the "Andy Warhol" treatment to save the moment.  The moment captured is when the young waiter surprised Jerry by bringing her the entire bottle of tequila she had jokingly ordered!  No one expected such a sense of humor from the young man, but he cracked us up!

It was good to be out with friends, friends we've known most of our lives, and having a good laugh.

At the Legion Hall, we all sat down together and prepared for a good time.  I asked Judy to save my chair while I went to take a few photos of the band.  When I came back a big ball-headed dude had taken my seat!  Since there were no other vacant seats in the house, I did the polite thing and stood up the entire two and half hours we were there!  Every time I looked at Judy she was mouthing, "I'm sorry."  Later, on the way home she apologized, and I told her, "You should, 'cause I would have fought to save your chair!"

Oh yeah, note the mean look on Regina's face (gray white-striped sweater)!  I don't know why this beautiful woman hates to have her photo taken...maybe she's in the witness protection program!  Anyway, I kidded her all evening by turning an imaginary camera toward her and getting "the look"!

The house was packed and everyone seemed to have a good time.  Since I couldn't sit down, I milled around and talked to old friends and took more  photos.

There is no smoking or alcohol allowed inside, but it just goes to show you that you can have a good time without those things!  Besides, the majority of people there, like me, were well beyond the drinkin' age!  There comes a time when just being with good people having a good time is quite enough.

I think most people used to drink to get over their shyness in social situations, but today, at this age, you just don't care what people think anymore.  Besides, by this age people have stopped judging each other and just like each other for what they are inside.  Thank God...I'm over all that drama anyway!

And that's the way it ought to be in small town USA.