Dang, here I am, my 53rd birthday, still alive. Who woulda thunk it?

My health and appearance are pretty good for my age. Few people would guess from looking at me that I am even 50.

Yes, I have a hernia that I have learned to live with. Sure, my eyes are getting worse. OK, I have a lesion that is probably some kind of skin cancer and there is a joint in my right shoulder (not the ball-and-socket) that may be slightly arthritic.

And of course I have chronic pancreatitis, which has me trying to figure out what I can eat without becoming ill for days at a stretch.

But I'm alive and sober. Happy birthday to me.


the recharging effect of a good weekend

My weekend ends in a few hours.

Rocko and I went around the block twice this week. On Monday we took the trip, then on Tuesday I was bored so we went toward Canton. I needed to pick up my prescription refill and I wanted to wash the car. I recently replaced the rear brake pads and there was still brake dust that I wanted gone.

When we got to town, I remembered the car wash but forgot the prescriptions. On the way home I decided to head up Lake Logan Road again rather than turning left toward Cruso. It worked out well; we explored a section of the West Fork of the Pigeon that we hadn't stopped at before. The water had an odd milky cast to it, not the usual crystal-clear mountain water I am accustomed to seeing; Rocko didn't like drinking it. That particular stretch of the river is downstream from the fish hatchery, which probably has something to do with it.

By the time we reached the Blue Ridge Parkway at about a mile's elevation, we were inside rain clouds. All of the overlooks were overlooking grey nothingness. The fog (cloud) was so dense that I pulled over at an overlook for a while. I was worried about being rear-ended by someone because I was going pretty slowly. We wandered around for about 15 minutes, watching other cars go by slowly. There was a long line - maybe 10 vehicles - who drove by close together. I told Rocko that it looked like somebody traveling at a sane speed for conditions was being followed by a bunch of fools, and I was glad that they passed us by.

Soon it started raining hard and we jumped into the car and headed off again. Torrential rain continued until we reached the bottom of the hill on Route 276, at the Big East Fork trailhead. A couple of miles away at home, we had received 0.21". Not a torrent, but appreciated nonetheless.

It was a good weekend. We got to play in the water, see the wilderness, and escape civilization for a while. I feel rested.


weather information sources

Since turning off the television about 28 months ago, I've found more accurate weather forecasting online.

I used to default to The Weather Channel as my "background noise" channel, the one I had on the TV when I was busy around the house and didn't want to get tied down by a plot line (or when nothing else that interested me was on any other channels). When I turned off the TV, the Weather Channel website became my default weather outlet.

(The Weather Channel, on cable/satellite TV, doesn't have good local weather for the Asheville area during their Weather on the 8's segments, so it really isn't the great resource that it can be in places like Rochester NY or Tampa FL. Going online tremendously improved my home forecasting ability.)

The Weather Channel website's radar is good, and I still use it a lot, but their pages are full of clickbait video links that eat up bandwidth (if you do click on them) and are never as "OMG" as the links would have you believe. Their hourly forecasts are passably accurate for Canton, but I live 10 miles south of town, in very different geographic conditions, separated from the forecast location by numerous mountains. Weather systems tend to travel west-to-east here and I'm less than a mile east of a 6000-ft-high (3000 ft prominence) north-south mountain ridge. Canton is situated on an east-west river valley, relatively open to the weather compared to my place.

Lately I have been partial to AccuWeather's Minute-By-Minute™ forecast. If you plug in your address, it will give you pretty accurate precipitation forecasts for the next couple of hours - accurate, believe it or not, down to the minute that the rain will start and stop. I've been checking this on our summer pop-up storms and it's pretty accurate for 15 or 30 minutes out. Cold Mountain, Shining Rock and the rest of the Great Balsam range make forecasts any further out sketchy, at best. They are able to magnify or destroy storms in minutes.

Rather than typing in my entire address at the AccuWeather link above, I just enter "Shotgun Cove, 28716" in the search box and I get information for my next-door neighbor's house, which is maybe 600 feet up the road.

Accuweather's radar isn't as helpful, however, for area overviews. Quite often it will not show all of the precipitation. For the big picture, I go back to the Weather Channel. Their radar seems to be more sensitive and while it occasionally tells me that it is raining when nothing is reaching the ground, at least it will generally show me precipitation when it really is raining lightly. Accuweather misses the lightest rain.



Savage Chickens

a quiet weekend at work, and for me on mine

The cops must be doing their jobs. The crazies were not out this weekend. It was nice.

My weekend started at 7 AM on Monday. So far it has been pretty good. A ride around the block with Rocko yesterday that included fishing with my energetic home-grown worms; rock-hopping in places, usually inaccessible, made available thanks to drought and the resulting skinny rivers; eating fresh blueberries and blackberries on the crest of the Blue Ridge, and bringing some home as well. It was a good day and we slept well last night.

Today I've been working with my plants, both potted and in-the-ground. The strawberries needed water and a little weeding. A friend gave me cuttings of several plants last weekend; jade plant, something else similar to jade, and a seedling from some large houseplant. I have been potting them in the containers left over from my strawberries, using as soil the almost-pure worm castings that pile up under the dead leaves beneath my front windows.

I'm also slowly creating a begonia farm. My biggest one is leggy and I hate to just compost the healthy ends, so they go into vases until they start to set root. Then I pot them. I'm going to have to give some away. This is probably how I ended up with a begonia myself. I even put some in my garden a while back, right there in the dirt, even though they won't survive the winter. Why not? Let them live free for a little while. Maybe I'll dig them up in the fall and bring them in, maybe not.

All right, I'm getting back off of the computer. Things to do and worms to see, don't you know.


things are getting hot

The cops are putting some resources into the drug problem in and around my store.

If recent history can be taken as a guide, this weekend should be another wild one. It is my payday, and seems to be likewise for a number of dopers. Meth and heroin are both problems in our little mountain home; meth is the worst.

A town cop told me yesterday that several people had been arrested at the store earlier in the day, and when I clocked out and headed home this morning, the chief of the town police was riding with a K-9 officer from the county.

I pointed out to another cop, a few days ago, that they need to have a female deputy who can search the female suspects' bras.

The very worst (looking) addict of those who have been hanging around even had syringes (plural) visible in her bra while she was in the store one day last weekend. She was confronted but pleaded diabetes. I have to say that I don't know any diabetics who use a spoon and cotton to draw the insulin up into the needle. Somebody's been shooting up in the ladies' room, and she always seems to be around when the evidence appears. So far, the cops have not been able to find her with anything.


they say that first impressions are the most important

I hear that Tom Brady doesn't want to be remembered as "that Deflategate guy", which is too bad, since I had never heard of him before that little misunderstanding. When Deflategate hit the news, I said to myself, "Tom who?"

And so, my first impression was of a guy caught in a cheating scandal.

Nicely done, Mr. Brady. You go now, play with your abnormally soft balls and ooh! oh no, you are going to get fewer millions showered upon you over the next few weeks.

So sad.

So soft.

So cry me a river.


Lisa tied a leather string around my wrist

She has been gone almost three years, and the string finally broke this morning.

And with the string goes my last excuse for staying single. I've been in touch with my nice lady again, last week, and now I feel completely free to pursue a relationship. Not that it will be any easier now than it was before, but my last daily physical contact with Lisa is gone.

It makes me sad, losing that leather string. By the time I noticed that it was gone, it was too late to find it. It came off at work some time early this morning and probably ended up in a trash can.

Rocko and I went down to the river a little while ago and I just sat on a rock, thinking of Lisa and softly singing Pink Floyd's song, "Wish You Were Here." Pink Floyd was Lisa's favorite band.

Later we'll probably go up to the Devils Courthouse, sit where we poured out Lisa's ashes, and cry a bit.


madness, bookended with humor

The crazies were out this weekend and, according to the local police, they weren't just at my store.

I have noticed lately that every other Friday - my payday, as it happens - the meth addicts are partying harder than they normally do. This weekend was the worst yet. I wondered where all the cops were, and they later told me that they were busy all over with similar madness.

One of the meth-heads won almost $3K at our store on Thursday, and I'm sure she hasn't slept yet. She was there during the day on Friday, and for most of that night. She was back in the store before noon on Sunday; when I arrived at 11 PM she was still there. She didn't leave until the cops ran her off, a few minutes before 7 AM.

Over the several days that she was around, she kept locking herself in the one-hole ladies' room for an hour or more at a time. When she came out, she would have fresh wounds on her face and arms from picking at her skin. Last night I went into the ladies' room to check the toilet paper, soap, etc. after she went back to the games, and while in there I looked into the trash can.

There were a number of pieces of folded tinfoil with some kind of burnt residue, and there was a hypodermic needle in an otherwise empty cigarette pack. I brought the trash can out and told our local cop to look inside. He told me to save it, and he'd consult his chief about getting a biohazard bag for it.

Earlier in the day, I was told, there had been a lot of foot traffic coming into the store, back to that woman at the games, and back out. An incriminating conversation was overheard by a cop. But nothing concrete could be pinned on anybody.

As a recovering addict, I know the signs. These people - nice, polite people, believe it or not, despite their hyperactive states - were almost all high on methamphetamine and/or other hard drugs. The real problem for me and the police, so far, is that nobody has done anything blatantly illegal. They come in, they buy smokes, they buy gas, they buy munchies, they buy scratch-off lotto tickets, they gamble on the video games. They spend money, and Money is Good!

But they have been hanging around too much and for too long. When you are high on amphetamines, you do not sleep, so they have to keep busy. Lately they seem to have discovered that video gambling not only allows them to use some of that extra energy, it occasionally pays off well enough that you can go see your man for some more dope. Maybe even well enough to get a hotel room and have drugs delivered for a bender in a safe place.

I've seen that happen. Last winter one guy won several thousand dollars, got a room at the casino in Cherokee and brought along all his friends. He got good and high on something(s) and eventually passed out. When he awoke, his "friends" were gone, along with his couple-thousand remaining dollars, his drugs, and his car.

I joked to the cops, before leaving this morning, that this weekend our store was the "Clyde Casino and Meth Market." We both managed a sad chuckle.

The weekend wasn't all bad, though. On Friday night, amid all the madness, there was some entertainment; on Monday morning, as I drove off toward home, there was a light moment at a bend on a country road.

Friday's entertainment was the saga of a meth-head who couldn't get his motor scooter started. That wasn't the fun part. The fun part came when a woman with a subcompact sedan offered to help him get his scooter home. First they opened the comically small trunk, and Dog bless the boy, he actually lifted the front wheel up to the trunk and thought a while before seeing the futility of that operation.

Did they give up? No! The good samaritan lady opened the back door of her car. The subcompact car. You guessed it: they tried to get the scooter into the back seat. Again, only the front wheel would go, but they tried for a few minutes. It was truly comical, and they were laughing too by the end. Especially when he gave the scooter one more kick and the engine started, to everyone's relief.

And finally, as I left town on Monday morning on the country road that lets me escape from the four-lane road, I saw the cop from the store stopped in the road ahead. A cow ran out of the woods on one side of the road and down a gully on the other side. The cop got back in his car and we all headed off, in a slightly better mood, into the misty morning mountains.

Hola, Cuba! ¡Bienvenido de vuelta!

Welcome back, indeed. (I hope Google Translate didn't mangle my title line too severely.)

The Cuban flag is flying at their embassy in Washington, DC once again. This can only be a good thing for the Cuban people.


7 1/2 on 7/12

Yesterday was my 7 1/2 year sobriety anniversary, and I noticed that the numbers match, though the slash moves and a space vanishes.

I've been in serious hermit mode for a couple of months now. It has been a long time since I have logged into Facebook and I haven't been in touch with that nice lady that I mentioned a few months ago for at least a month.

This is a problem that I've been dealing with for as long as I can remember. When things go too well, or too badly, I retreat into my hermit shell.

What really set it off this time, I think, was my last visit to the shrink. She told me several things that I should do that would be good for my health and emotional well-being, and of course my subconscious rebelled. I have done none of the things she recommended. This is not really OK with me, but there it is. At least I am aware of it.

Oh well. Since I've been holed up at home, I have started a little garden this year. There were existing plants that I never did much about; daffodils, hostas, columbine, and a white-and-green variegated ground cover. The daffodils haven't been touched, but I've cleared out the weeds in the ground cover as well as between the hostas and the columbine. I transplanted some of the ground cover to that newly open space, and tore up about half of the existing ground cover to plant strawberries.

Next year, we eat strawberries! Today, we water them and wish.


the accursed rag is coming down at 10 AM on 10 July 2015

Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina signed the bill at 4:18 PM on 09 July 2015.

I am listening to a live radio broadcast of the event as I type this. Haley used many pens to sign the document, nine of which she says will go to the nine families of the victims of the Charleston shooting.

And she is handing out the other pens at 4:20 !! Woo-hoo!


holy fucking crap, Batman!

I'm typing this with one hand, as the left hand is occupied holding an ice pack to my left ankle.

Rocko and I went down to Camp Hope this evening for a hike in the woods down by the river. It was a beautiful day and the water is quite low, so I did a lot of rock-hopping. It was a good time.

As we reached about the halfway point, I told Rocko which trail we were taking and he headed that way. I hadn't gone too far when Rocko came running back. "No," I said, "Keep going." He turned around and headed down the trail again. A few steps later, my ankle started screaming in pain. It felt like a hornet, and indeed it was. I swatted it away (or so I thought), picked up my walking stick and water bottle that had been thrown when I was stung, and I quickly hobbled back to a place to sit.

Taking off my hiking boot, I saw a small hornet - about the size of a yellow jacket, but white and black - vigorously stinging the tongue of my boot. I knocked it off with a stick and stepped on it.

(A yellow jacket sting hurts like the devil for 15 minutes or so, then the pain eases gradually. This sonofabitch still hurts like the devil an hour later.)

Rocko and I took the short way back to the car from that point, but not until I sat down and waited for the pain to let up. When it didn't, I was thankful for my adjustable-length walking stick. I shortened it to a good length for leaning heavily on it, and slowly made my way back to the car. There are teenage campers there this year, and I had to literally bite my lip to avoid grunting and swearing every couple of steps.

Every once in a while, even now, the sting will suddenly throb once and make me curse or grunt. Like just now. Nggggghhh. Gah!


happy birthday U.S.A.

You feel especially free since the recent SCOTUS decision re: marriage.


berry season

Berries are starting to happen around here, and I just received a flat of strawberry plants.

Around here, individual species will ripen at different times depending upon the location of the individual plant. Sun exposure and altitude both make a great difference, and we have a great variety of sun exposure/altitude combinations in a fairly small area. And so I've been able to eat ripe (and even overripe) elderberries, for example, on a sunny mountaintop a couple of miles from home while the berries at home are still flowers.

Black raspberries are almost over now; the blackberries are pink and won't be ready for a while yet. I did find one scraggly, very ripe blackberry growing out of the rocks in a sunny spot on the river - its bitterness was a shock after feasting on a few sweet black raspberries.

Yesterday Rocko and I went down to Camp Hope late in the afternoon. I had just finished rotating my car's tires, and needed to give it a test drive. Plus, I was hungry and I know where there is a patch of big red raspberries down there. The berries weren't anywhere near ready, but we found a neat new trail that ends at a lovely pool in the Pigeon River. From there, I rock-hopped a good distance upstream (my Merrell hiking boots lived up to their "waterproof" designation) through beautiful trout waters. In fact, that section of the river has Trout Unlimited signs on it.

This morning, I headed down to the store for a pack of smokes and stopped at the swimming hole in "downtown" Cruso. When I got home, there was a voice message on my phone. A month or so ago, I asked my neighbor to save me a few strawberry plants the next time she was thinning her berry patch, but at her Master Gardener class last night, they gave out flats of strawberry plants. She grabbed one for me.

I drove right down to her house and picked them up! There are 18 plants in the flat, and my available planting area is not large, so I'll be planting them in various places around the southeast corner. The ones that are in good spots will thrive and spread. I don't have a lot of sun, but the wood strawberries do OK so I hope these will too.


a pair of good decisions from the SCOTUS

Not only can millions of Americans keep their health insurance (by a 6-3 decision), but same-sex marriage is now the law of the land.

I've not yet jumped back into consuming a breadth of news after my month or so without the Internet. I am continuing to depend upon NPR for most of my news, and am trying to avoid getting hot and bothered about politics.

There must be something going on with our weather, for this afternoon I'm listening to WETS radio out of Knoxville, Tennessee. On my kitchen radio. And it is coming in clearer than WCQS, the Asheville station. I wanted to listen to WEPR out of Greenville, SC on my living room radio, but I couldn't find the station. Then I found a strong, crystal clear NPR broadcast: it was WCQS, which the living room radio rarely receives.

Not wanting to listen to classical music (which is what WCQS was preparing to spend two hours playing), I went to the kitchen and played with the tuner on that radio. Amy Goodman's voice came from the speaker and I knew that I had found WETS. And that made me happy, because on Friday afternoon WETS plays two hours of Science Friday. I can never get WETS on any radio inside my house, but I wasn't about to argue.

On the home front, I have been working six days most weeks lately, so I stay around the house. This year, the south side of the house has been my hangout. It is shady and cool over there, even on the hottest days. Cool air comes down the wooded mountain across the street and crosses my yard as it goes back into the woods on the downhill side of my house.

Speaking of the wooded mountainside across the street, logging has commenced. They say that they are only interested in the tulip poplars (tuliptrees). I don't know what the place will look like when they are done, but they have made an access road that should make hiking up into the Shining Rock Wilderness much easier.


it's alive!

My Internet service, that is.

Last week I told my landlord about my Internet access problem, and that I thought the weeping cherry tree in the yard was the likely offender. He said he'd check into getting it taken care of, and to remind him if he didn't do so.

A few days ago I sent him an email, from my remote access point at the Cruso Community Center, to remind him and fill him in on some neighborhood news; today he showed up to cut the grass. He called a fellow he referred to as a "squirrel" who climbed the tree and trimmed some limbs with a chainsaw tied to his waist.

At first, he was taking out limbs too low on the tree to have any effect. I stood by the door with my laptop, browser open to the modem's status page, updating the page repeatedly. After a while I went out to the dish and did a line-of-sight check; I showed him which limbs I had been suspecting all along. He cut them, and the modem eventually came most of the way up. Signal strength was triple what it had been, and all red flags on the status page had been cleared. Signal-to-noise ratios rose to satisfactory levels.

The only remaining problem was the modem's Turbo function, which was not functioning. It wasn't red-flagged, but was "idle".

I rebooted my computer and. when it came back up, my Internet was fully functional. No, not like Commander Data! Get your mind out of the gutter. But I did have full and uninterrupted access.

Suddenly I am connected to the world again. It's been a quiet month or so, but I've been working a lot anyway. 50 hours each for the last two weeks, and they both come in one check. I'll be broke again just as quickly but I'll be closer to caught up.