31 October 2007

Here's Squirt in my eye...

Seraphim said it was like a slap in my face, but I beg to differ. This, dearfolk, was a punch in the gut. Or - thinking about the old '70s "Alka Seltzer" commercials - The Ol' One-Two.

It was an otherwise uneventful trip to our local Bolivarian House Of Groceries, getting a few needed things, and finding ourselves traipsing down the soft drink aisle. When, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something I did not expect to see: A 12-pack of Diet Squirt. It was orphaned, sitting in an empty spot next to Mountain Dew Code Chartreuse Caffeine-Free Whatever.

Squirt - for those unfamiliar - is a citrus/grapefruit soda. It's not a thing like Mountain Dew or Mello Yello, or -- eccccccccccch!!!!!!! -- Sun Drop. Squirt is a great soda with a bite, without all the gooey syrupy aftertaste common to many regular soft drinks. I've loved it for many years, ever since I had my first taste of one back in Pine Bluff.

Yes, Pine Bluff. You can get Squirt just about any-friggin'-where in Arkansas. Even Atlanta has 'em. So why not here??!!

Suddenly I got excited. GREAT CRISPY BUDDAH, THEY'RE CARRYING SQUIRT IN THESE PARTS!! AT LONG LAST!! I made a beeline for the RC Cola section (the RC and 7-UP distributors typically carry the Squirt line). Not a thing. Not a single gap. No shelf tags anywhere. I then went to the "Canada Dry" section, where the club sodas, tonic water and other mixers are kept; Squirt (and the late, lamented Canada Dry grapefruit soda "Wink") is regarded in many corners as a superb drink mixer.

Would I finally be able to buy Squirt at the store as easily as a loaf of bread? Would this mean no more stopping at a grocery store anywhere we're visiting, in the chance that it's a "Squirt-friendly" market? I have a name for those stops: Squests. It's a quest for Squirt.

When I see the bright yellow packaging peeking out from the RC section, I know I've found carbonated nirvana. I usually buy 'em out (always earning looks of bewilderment and/or amusement at the checkout). What's more, I even share my booty with Tiger and send him home with at least a couple of 12-packs (yes, the kid loves Squirt, too). Ain't I a good Dad?

Well ANYhoo, I summoned the manager on duty. Now, I should've known that whomever was in charge of a grocery store at 8:00 at night would not necessarily be closest to the loop when it came to matters of procurement. This woman, indeed, knew nussing about this mysterious 12-pack.

I asked her if there was any chance, or any way, Kroger would be able to stock Squirt. The tone of her voice said it all: "Why can't you just get Coke or Pepsi and be happy, like everybody else?"

Well, I put this 12-pack into our shopping cart (or, as they like to say in Tiger Ridge and other places where family trees have single limbs, "buggy"), and decided I'd test their elaborate inventory system. "Will it scan?" (said to the tune of "Will it Float?")

As we were checking out, the young woman scanned the Diet Squirt.



Well, I'm going to have some words with the Kroger store manager tomorrow. He also happens to have another job, too: Mayor of Rincon, Georgia. If he wants the vote of several friends and relatives in Alabama, living or dead (may God bless Georgia!), I'll deliver 'em if he can deliver me some Squirt.

Add this to the pile of Great Mysteries: Why are there two dozen different flavors and lines of Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper .... but not so much as ONE regular grapefruit soda? I mean, you can buy Fanta Pineapple Soda, and, yes, there's Fresca (which I do enjoy whenever the mood hits. It's not bad for a 'diet' drink). So why not a sugared Fresca? Fanta does make a line called Fanta Citrus, and it's parallel to Squirt. Is it carried? Hell, no!

My six favorite soft drinks, in case you're curious:

6) Coca-Cola. By default and getting lesser so by the minute.
5) Fresca. Aspartame is very 'meh.' It's okay, but it ain't sugar.
4) Barq's Root Beer. Anything else -- Mug or A&W -- is flat tasting to me. Barq's, which started in Biloxi, Miss., is how root beer is supposed to taste.
3) "Fountain" Dew. It's what I call Mountain Dew 'on tap.' I don't understand it -- MD tastes very low-carbonated and as gooey/syrupy as Vick's cough medicine out of the can or especially bottle. But in the fountain, it has bite. Strong and cuts through a thirst.
2) Double Cola. Regional drink out of Chattanooga, Tenn. More bite than Coke, and actually has a hint of a Dr. Pepper-y flavor. Huntsville used to be a major Double Cola market ... DC vending machines and outdoor signs on stores were as common as those for Coke and Pepsi.
1) Squirt. When I can bloody find the stuff.

By the way, I've never before tried Diet Squirt. I guess I'm gonna try it now.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Herb Bishop is my hero" Gleck

27 October 2007

One more fan of the 'Dan

Got a call from my kid a little while ago.

He asked if I could burn him a CD of Steely Dan's greatest hits.

After the shock wore off, I told him that I have no such creature. (well, yeah, I have Gold ... but that's more 'classic album tracks' than their "hits", per se) I have every SD album ever made, so having the hits package is kind of redundant. Gold, however, has a few treasures not found on their regular albums, such as "Here At the Western World" and the live version of their 1973 track "Bodhisattva" (originally the B-side of "Time Out of Mind"). So that one sits on the Gleck CD shelf. Shelves. Crap, WALL.

But what I told Tiger I'd do is flame-broil him a CD's worth of all their classics, and then some. I might throw in all of Countdown to Ecstasy and Aja, while I'm at it.

I'm amazed (and, I admit, delighted) at how my son's musical tastes have suddenly branched out into classic rock and old-school R&B. One group he's begun exploring is The Ohio Players. I asked him this morning if he's ever heard "Skin Tight" - their best song, IMO - but he hadn't. Seeing as the kid is a sucker for good bass lines, he'll love it.

It's a far cry from our little trip to South of the Border back in March '06, and we had Donald Fagen's (then) new CD in the car ... he was cringing at the voice, and hated every note of it.

Amazing what a little growin' will do to ya.

Well, I'd best get my dirty Pig Pen arse into the shower, because Seraphim's jonesin' for a trip into town for a Nordicware demo at some kitchen place in midtown. And I could use a good visit to Silly Mad CDs.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge Don't Lose That Number

How many, indeed

LogoThere are
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

No, there aren't 249 Talmadge Glecks in this country .... perish the idea! But there are 249 other people who have my real name which is S[PSSSSSSSSH!!!!]ar[PSSSSSBZZZZZZ!!!]t.

Pardon the excessive amounts of QRM on here. It's one of those mornings -- pulled in some really weird signals, too. There's somebody with a blog out on Jupiter, called "Weighty Matters", where this woman has shed impressive amounts of weight ... from 4,385 pounds down to a nice, svelte 2,113. There was a nice before-and-after shot, too. Taken at Gigantic Red Spot National Park.

And there was a blogger from Mars -- poor woman, her husband left her and their kids so he could pursue his delusional fantasy. Something about an "Eludium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator" and nightmares about being chased by rabbits and ducks.

Ahhhh, some great reading comin' over the ol' Grundig.

As for Talmadge Gleck, here's how that model ran:
You may discard your many fears.

Oh, and ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "One is enough!" Gleck

23 October 2007

It's the harmony, stupid.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss making an album together just might be the most unusual pairing this side of Bing Crosby and David Bowie in the 1970s. And you know what? It works. Damn, it works.

Today saw the release of Raising Sand, a collaboration of bluegrass fiddler Alison (Union Station) Krauss and rock god emeritus Robert (Led something-or-other) Plant. And this afternoon I made a slight detour to Best Buy to relieve them of one of their copies. The album is on Rounder Records, Krauss' label, so it was found in the country section -- admittedly not a part of the store's carpet I tread very often. I enjoy Americana and "modern bluegrass" -- which Krauss' band Union Station can be so-pigeonholed -- but mainstream country is too redneck/NASCAR/Republican for my taste.

This was one time I couldn't get out to the car soon enough, because I was chompin' at the bit to tear into the shrinkwrap and pop in that sucker. Nettiemac was able to score a preview, and already has posted her thoughts, but until about 4:15 this afternoon I had no idea what was about to fill my ears.

As I heard the opening track ("Rich Woman"), my first reaction was "holy shitzu." The harmony. No, it isn't exactly Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Gifted, Black and Decker, but what is? Their two voices blend nicely. The next cut, "Killing the Blues" is another piece of magic.

Track 4 -- "Polly Come Home" -- is, in a word, gorgeous. It has that dark feel which calls to mind a lot of Chris Isaak's music. This early in the game, I think it's my favorite song on here.

"Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)" is the 'hit single' -- or, as it's known today -- a 'focus track.' It's catchy and gets your attention, but while I like the song, other cuts trump it. Oh, and the early '60s M-M-M-Mel Tillis tune "Stick With Me Baby" is given a new coat of adhesive on this album. Yeah, I think I will.

About the only track which didn't speak to me was "Through the Morning, Through the Night." Alison has a beautiful voice, but here she's a little over-the-top with the twaaaaaaaang. I like twang when it comes from a pedal-steel guitar. I don't like it when it sounds like half-baked Shania Twang--er, Twain. But just knowing that it's Robert Plant vocalizing with her on here validates the whole exercise.

Seraphim and I had the same reaction: Raising Sand is making a beeline for the "mountain roadtrip" collection. As I was listening, all that was missing was a hearty serving of Appalachia, sauteed with generous amounts of Fall color.

Bolivar, dammit pal, come out of hibernation and give us your review. 'Cuz I know you bought a copy, too.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "What's next? Bruce Cockburn and Britney Spears??" Gleck

22 October 2007

Mighty Carson's Art Slayer

What's Rod Stewart doing with that gun????

The look on Johnny's face says it all. And Letterman's gestures speak volumes: "You mean he has to sit by ME??"

Poor Miss Vicki. Poor tulips.

Poor US!

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "I miss Johnny Carson" Gleck

PS: How would "Hi-YOOOOOO!!!!!" sound if said by Tiny Tim?

20 October 2007

Just get your mind out of the gutter.......

As immortalized in the late '70s film Norma Rae, here's something I found while organizing pictures for this year:

This is the actual name of a motel in downtown Opelika, Alabama. Has been for decades, too.

But the Golden Cherry was named after the two people who founded it: Mr. J. M. Golden and a Mrs. L. A. Cherry.

With a name like this, who needs advertising?

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "On game day, even this motel fills up. Quit bitching, Bama fan -- at least it ain't the Moon Winx!" Gleck

Talmadge's Private Music Hell®

How about yet another musical rambling? Aimless as the other ramblings, but sometimes with melody.

Want to be an avowed enemy of Talmadge Q. Gleck? Send me a mix tape consisting of the below:

Nettiemac has a great name for this genre: "Yippy Skippy for Jesus." I can take the more peaceful hymns, raucous black gospel, and even some Florida Boys-style Southern gospel during those rare moments the mood hits. But I completely, unabashedly and wholeheartedly r-e-v-i-l-e "contemporary christian music." It's like diet soda -- taste resembles regular cola, but the saccharine leaves that awful aftertaste -- in CCM's case, the music SOUNDS like rock 'n' roll and/or pop melodies, but something's just not right. And I get a terrible aftertaste when I have to listen to it.

If I want positive, inspiring music, I'll pull out a Van Morrison album, thank you.

19) WALKING ON SUNSHINE / Katrina & The Waves (1985)
Asbestos Nikes, anyone? If I want a happy song, I'll take another Van Morrison track: "Back on Top." (After that 'unpleasantry' two years ago, I get the feeling one won't be hearing this song much anymore ... or at least nobody'll dare backannounce the artist.) Played backwards: "Stop shaking our FEMA trailer with your dancing, young lady!"

18) WE'VE ONLY JUST BEGUN / The Carpenters (1970)
Karen and Richard's harmonies, like ABBA's, seep into my head and feels to my brain like tiny, yet horrendously painful pinpricks. Picking just one Carpenters record was not easy. But I eventually settled on is this #2 hit (in more ways than one), a knock-off from a bank commercial. Played backwards: "Must ... have ... EX-LAX....."

In all fairness, tho', as with ABBA, there are isolated exceptions where I can actually tolerate the song. And I do feel for poor Karen -- check out the bootleg film Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story ... in a way, it's a vicious parody of the whole "clean-cut" life of the Carpenter siblings; the movie is acted out with Barbie dolls! But deep inside the film's plotline, it paints a very sympathetic portrait of Karen, and the demons eating at her. Richard was a big @#$%, and they had repressive parents -- geeez, even amidst their biggest fame in the early '70s, they still lived at home with Mom and Dad ... and had a curfew!!

17) PLAYGROUND IN MY MIND / Clint Holmes (1975)
Michael & Cindy did get married. They did have a baby or two. They got divorced. Now, the kids not just visit their grandma ... SHE has custody! Played backwards: "My name is Michael. I've got a nickel. Will that help toward all that back child support I owe?"

16) WAITING FOR A GIRL LIKE YOU / Foreigner (1981)
Foreigner fell victim to what I call Gleck's Rule of Ballads and Downfall ... a normally hard-edged and/or uptempo pop-rock outfit recording a ballad, hitting paydirt, chart success, followed by one or more of the members turning greedy and changing the group's musical course, alienating the loyal fans in favor of "selling out" for the soccer moms.

Want a couple of fer-instances? Look no further than "Babe" by Styx - the moment a great Midwest rock band jumped the shark and became Dennis DeYoung's vehicle for recording proto-Delilah pap .... or Chicago. While they had ballads from the beginning -- "Colour My World" (Seraphim's favorite) and "Wishing You Were Here" are truly beautiful pop records -- there was the small matter of "If You Leave Me Now", the musical anti-epiphany of Peter Cetera. I swear in the bridge of this song visions of a young Amy Grant appeared. From there, the brass and kick-ass were gradually attrition'ed from Chicago, and before we knew it, it was "You're the Inspiration" city!

Foreigner, granted, wasn't quite as afflicted here, but WFAGLY did lead to "I Want to Know What Love Is" and "I Don't Want to Live Without You" -- songs I admit to actually liking okay. Key word = "okay"

Played backwards: "Mick, when you said 'Head Games', I thought you were referring to that new Parker Brothers board game. Just play with my mind .... ahhhh, you mean THAT 'head.' Oh."

In 1998, I was waiting for a girl like Seraphim. But I didn't sing this to her; I knew better.

15) DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY / Bobby McFerrin (1988)
A record so beautifully and mercilessly tweaked one 1989 Sunday in Berke Breathed's long-departed strip Bloom County. There's nothing wrong with being happy; heck, I prefer happiness to the alternative any ol' day. Still, there's a fine line between being happy and being a g(BLEEP)ddamned Pollyanna! People like that make me want to swig Pepto. Played backwar ---hey, if I play this backwards, does that mean I don't have to be a Pollyanna anymore? You know, like you play a country song backwards, and your wife comes back, you get out of prison and your teeth grow back in.

14) BROWN-EYED GIRL / Van Morrison (1967)
There's only one Van Morrison song I don't like. And it's more than "don't like"; try REVILE! There's nothing like playing it 13 times during the course of an evening while DJ'ing a dance at a country club -- while the city fathers and mothers of Troy, Alabama are getting drunk and belligerent -- to destroy a song.

That person stalking out the green grass behind the stadium with a high-power rifle? Yep, that's ME! Played backwards: "Colored contacts, please."

13) DO YA THINK I'M SEXY? / Rod Stewart (1978)
a/k/a "Selling My Soul and Credibility To Get A #1 Hit" Proving once and for all that Never a Dull Moment and Every Picture Tells a Story were looooong ago. Played backwards: "Maggie May DID make a first-class fool out of me."

12) WALKING ON THE SUN / Smashmouth (1999)
Could this band be less subtle in angling for corporate shillhood?? Songs like this and "All Star" were written with the complete intent of eventually reaping a profit from selling out to advertisers. WOTS has the line "so don't delay, act now" -- perfectly cut out for use in a car commercial (which, indeed, it eventually was). And today, the opening organ riff from "Can't Get Enough of You Baby" (itself a bad cover) is being played to death in current Pizza Hut commercials Played backwards: "2.9% APR financing, with approved credit."

11) WE ARE THE WORLD / USA For Africa (1985)
Musical madness from the pen of Michael Jackson. First time I heard it, my impression was that it sounded like the jingle for a friggin' PSA! Played backwards: "A message from the AD COUNCIL." .......Or "We are the Ethiopians. Leave us alone. Let us starve to death. But please cut off our ears first."

10) SUGAR, SUGAR / The Archies (1969)
The lamest record ever "sung" that year. Vocals in actuality were provided by Midge and Big Moose. Played backwards: "I can't make it to band practice today -- Mr. Weatherbee gave me detention for calling Sabrina a witch to her face."

9) I WRITE THE SONGS / Barry Manilow (1976)
Do you have to REMIND us??!! Why didn't you just run off with Lola from the Copacabana?? Oh yeah, that's right, I forgot ...

Played backwards: "Like a good neighbor, I don't have to pay another @#$%ing penny for car insurance as long as I live."

8) I'M HENRY THE VIII, I AM / Herman's Hermits (1965)
...Second verse, stupid as the first. Played backwards: "Dumb, gullible Yankees will buy ANYTHING!"

7) GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN / Cyndi Lauper (1983)
Note to self: Take rubber band from Captain Lou Albano's beard, fire point-blank at Cyndi.
Played backwards: That stupid "HAH! HAH!" laugh toward the end of the record still sounds the same. Damned palindromic interjections......

6) IT HAD TO BE YOU / Harry Connick, Jr. (1989)
If I want something that sounds like Frank Sinatra, I'd rather have Sinatra.

5) MACHO MAN / Village People (1978)
...I should have a bumper sticker on my car: I SURVIVED 1978-1979 TOP 40 RADIO. This record is a big reason I went toward AOR during my junior-high years.

4) SWEET HOME ALABAMA / Lynyrd Skynyrd (1975)
...Then again, AOR (album rock) radio wasn't all that and an Iron Butterfly LP, either. Case in point.

3) BILLIE JEAN / Michael Jackson (1982)
...The kid is not my son. He's my lover. Played backwards: "Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir, le infante"

2) KARMA CHAMELEON / Culture Club (1984)
...I truly cannot stomach this song. I don't know why, but I completely detest it. Played backwards: "Yes, I really want to hurt you. But after I put on my foundation and eye shadow."

1) YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE / Debbie Boone (1977)
...Helen Keller should've gotten a larnyx transplant from Miz Deb. She needed the voice much more. Played backwards: "My daddy is Satan. What part of 'AIN'T that a shame' don't you understand??!!"

Boy, I could use some Maalox. Sam's Club size, please.

Ciao for Niao.

--Talmadge "I feel a song comin' on" Gleck

19 October 2007

It's good to be king

"Calling all parents! Calling all kids! Here's your chance to buy a Davey Crockett Bed!! It's a twin size bed, just right for the kids, with scenes of Davy Crockett in action on the mattress."
--1950s radio commercial

About this time ten years ago (would this qualify as "XYAT #5-1/2"?), I dropped about 500 bucks of money which I barely had in order to buy a new queen-sized mattress set.

That mattress has taken me -- and Seraphim, and Puddy -- to the present day. A decade's worth of sleeping has taken the normal toll on her, and her springs are dun sprung out. She's sagging in more places than an 80-year-old woman's .... ummmm, errrrr .... the mattress is old. Needs replacing.

For the last year or two we've discussed getting a king-sized bed. Enough room for two people who don't exactly have the dimensions of Calista Flockhart. And enough room that Puddy can stretch out. And, sometimes, nudge herself between us.

We began shopping in earnest this week, starting locally with Farmer's Furniture and Badcock. Farmer's prices were middling, but they wanted $69.00 just to deliver .... yes, even if the house is less than a mile away. Badcock's wanted only $59.00 for delivery, but their prices were highway robbery. And both wanted another $50 or so for the bed frame.

I again quote the great philosopher and my old college friend Lance: "F(BLEEP)k that sh(BLEEP)t."

Yesterday we swung by a local chain called Mattress Depot. Very unpretentious hole in the wall of a strip on the Southside. Nothing but mattresses. This place offered free delivery up to 35 miles (Rincon is 33 miles away, heh heh), and the bed frame came with it. The price was good, too -- a Simmons Beautyrest king-sized mattress set for about $200 less than what Farmer's Furniture wanted for a similar Sealy. Plush, but no pillowtop.

We got approved for six months same as cash, and they're gonna deliver it tomorrow. We'll get to sleep in Sunday morning on our new bed.

Ahhhh, but was the expenditurin' over with? Hell, no. Queen-sized sheets don't exactly fit onto a king mattress, so we had to go shopping for a new comforter, new sheets, new pillows and a new mattress pad. Headboard? Not enough money to go that far. But that's optional, and can wait another year or more.

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

Sam's had a good deal on a set of two (2) king-sized pillows. $15.99. Check.

But Sambo's only had the "satin"-like sheet sets, and Seraphim vetoed that. So, across Pooler Parkway to Wal-Mart we went. We found a "bed-in-a-bag" for $79.00 -- the comforter looks nice, at least from the outside of the bag. Let's hope it isn't as cheap as the price. The sheets in there are 250-thread count. Meh .... that may become our 'extra' set for now. We'll wash 'em and then see how they feel.

Mattress pad at Wal-Mart. $34.99. Check.

King-sized sheet set. $54.99 for a 330-thread-count. A bit cheaper than the 400 count, but it didn't feel any rougher. We're not the snobs my brother and his wife are, but we don't like sleeping on sandpaper, either. I remember the scrambling we did trying to find the "right" kind of sheet set for their wedding gift back in '99 .... I think my SIL's skin breaks out in hives if there's so much as a thread below 600.

Total price for accessories on top of a $799.00 Simmons Beautyrest "Hanson Bay Plush" king-sized mattress? Just a hair under 200, with tax.

Grand total for this whole change in sleeping? About $1,050. Thank gawd for Christmas money and using other peoples' money to bridge us 'till then.

The feeling we'll have when my wife and I can move around without pissing off the dog? Priceless.

Meanwhile, just one more night on this old bessie of a queen-sized mattress.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "King me." Gleck

14 October 2007

Bridge over troubled productivity

Damn this guy. Damn him to an old highway leading to an abandoned bridge!


I've unwittingly spent the last, ohhhhhhh, two hours of my life browsing this site. It's mostly centered on historic bridges in the Midwest and around his native state of Missouri (coincidentally, he's from not too far from Cape Girardeau), but he's branching out toward the South.

I'd keep looking, but I really need to get to bed before too much longer.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "A truss in his heart, but not the hernia kind" Gleck

PS: Thanks for coming down, Nettiemac -- as always, a fun (and too short) time was had. We both look forward to the next time. Enjoy the vinyl. :-)

11 October 2007

These machines go up to 11

Just call me "Spinal C-PAP."

The Omnipotent Sleep Doctor this morning tweaked my CPAP machine and turned up my pressure to 11. After my 'titration' study last month, they found the perfect setting for my machine, and it's 11.

"Tonight I'm Gonna Breathe You Tonight."

As the "general" says in the Carolina Volvo commercials .... "that's all."

Ciao for niao.

--Puppet Show and Talmadge Gleck

10 October 2007

It's a gas....

More from my Yellowhammer State retreat. I'd like to introduce you to MFA Oil:

You're looking at a long-abandoned gas station/grocery store barely (as in, less than a mile) inside the Alabama line along US-278 in Lamar County.

A little background: MFA stands for (M)issouri (F)armers (A)ssociation. They're your typical "advocate for farmers and agriculture." Like similar "advocate" organizations as ALFA (Alabama Farmers Federation), MFA went into insurance in a big way. I remember the commercials for MFA Insurance from my days in Missouri and Arkansas ... "MFA is your shield of shelter!" In the early-ish '80s, the slogan became the name, changing to the present-day Shelter Insurance.

But there was also MFA Oil. And it's purely coincidental that MFA's logo is in the same shape as another oil company, Phillips 66. It might've even predated Phillips Petroleum's adaption. I'm not sure.

Today it still exists in pockets of Missouri and elsewhere close to MFA's home turf, but once upon a time MFA stations were found into parts of northwest Alabama, where the rest of MFA didn't conduct business.

This was called Franklin's Grocery, and this puppy has been closed for a long damned time. I have only a faint memory of when this thing was in business. I remember when that Pepsi banner wasn't covered in rust ... like '60s-style Pepsi signs, its legend was yellow. The (now peeling) letters were in basic black.

Now here's the part guaranteed to ruin your day.

Here's a close-up of a rusting and rotting gas pump out front. This should illustrate just how long it's been since these pumps were active. Take a gander at the price: 35.9 cents per gallon!

I'd peg this station's last days as some time late in 1973. This was just as the first Arab embargo hit the U.S., driving prices toward 50 cents a gallon.

And it cost a mere $78.00 to bring over 204 gallons through the pump. I'm guessing this readout was after the underground storage tanks were emptied.

Just sit and chew on that price, friends. Back when a dollar's worth of petrol was enough for your average '60s-era V8 gas-guzzler to cruise around all evening.

The closest I ever came to buying gas this cheap was in 1986, during the big oil bust. In September 1986, I filled my tank in Cape Girardeau, Mo. for the astronomical sum of 46.9 per gallon.

But wait, there's more.

One sight as common to gas stations as the pumps themselves was the ubiquitous "Coke machine" (in the South, it's called "Coke", regardless of what brand it is. "What kind of Coke you want?" "I'll have a Pepsi" is a true exchange of words in these parts).

While this doubled as a grocery, it was far from your garden-variety 7-Eleven style "curb store." Convenience stores and gas stations weren't married until late in the '70s.

But in 1973, you refreshed yourself by going to the Coke machine / soda machine / pop machine while the attendant pumped your gas, checked under the hood, put air in the tires, gave you your free road maps, green stamps, etc. And maybe, if you were lucky, the gas station also had a Lance or Tom's machine next to it. That way you could pair your drink with some 'nab' crackers ... or Tom's Salted Peanuts, which you were supposed to pour into your bottle of Coke. That concoction (which my Dad liked, but I couldn't stand) has a name. Something cocktail. But I'm not sure what it is at this late hour.

The light-blue color of this vending machine clearly indicates it to be of Pepsi parentage. You can see the bottle opener embedded in the front. And each soda choice was denoted by bottle caps above the selector buttons. A couple of them are barely visible in the picture above.

These are the times I miss leaping out of the car, quarter in hand, to feed the machine, make my selection and hear the clinking of glass as the object of my carbonated desire entered the downward maze toward the receptacle at the bottom. Bottles, baby. Soft drinks were in glass bottles.

And I had change back from that quarter, too.

Time stands still at Franklin's Grocery and MFA gas station. BankAmericard and Master-Charge accepted.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Don't forget to leave a nickel deposit if you plan on driving off with that bottle!" Gleck

09 October 2007

Traces of roads, long ago

Last week, during my Birmingham junket (or, to be more precise, east Walker County), I made a daylong trip over to the tortured wilds of Tupelo, Miss., and from there I went over to Madison, Ala. before dropping southward back to the motel. I called this trip "the triangle", as my path kinda resembled one.

With a new and better camera, I wanted to take some improved shots of what I previously had in low-fi digital form. I also longed to take a nice, leisurely joyride ... so that's what I did.

As much as I love making roadtrips with Luvuhmylife Seraphim, I just as much enjoy making the occasional trip by myself. Driving and reflecting. Or "D&R" for short.

It was one for the surreal book, that's for sure. From Tupelo to Madison on the same day. That's like visiting Satan and then going immediately upstairs to break bread with Yahweh.

Yes, Satan. Because only the Devil would've caused an awesome roast beef sandwich to become nearly extinct. Tupelo is home to one of the few remaining Danver's locations.

Tupelo, Mississippi is also the headquarters for the Natchez Trace Parkway, a two-lane 'national parkway' of some 443 miles. Or thereabouts. (Amazingly enough, the other NPS roadway - the Blue Ridge Parkway - is longer than "The Trace"; I only learned this fact the other day!!)

The Natchez Trace visitor center is located north of the city nearby where the parkway intersects with Miss. 145 (a/k/a Old US 45). During my years in Tupelo, this roadway was as much a part of the area's culture as a certain jelly doughnut-swilling favorite son. Plenty of memories arose from the Chickasaw Village site, along the parkway ... there's a cool hiking and "interpretive nature" trail, with plenty of trees. And that's where I learned how Tupelo got its name.

I hadn't done very much traveling of this parkway through my driving years. At least until last week. After leaving Tupelo -- and still wolfing down the last of my Danver's booty -- I drove north on Miss. 145 and picked up the Trace, heading northeastward toward Alabama, where I'd get off on US-72 going east toward Tuscumbia, Decatur and Madison.

When I was little, I found the NTP to be a mite boring. Nothing but trees to look at. As much fun for a roadgeek as watching paint dry.

At age 42, it was different. After, ohhhhh, a handful of miles, I quickly found my groove on the Trace. It's a long National Park ... complete with the brown guide signs, in distinctive "clarendon" font, a speed limit of 50 MPH, and trucks and commercial vehicles of any kind are verboten from traveling the parkway. Billboards are also contraband. Ditto for any roadside commerce. It's a 'limited access' roadway, with overpasses and access ramps to get to and from "civilian" roads.

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 100% commercial-free zone. It's a nice alternative to the clutter, hustle and bustle of interstates and regular highways. The speed limit might be lower, but you're enjoying the slower pace.

The radio was tuned to AM 580 out of Tupelo, WELO. The Music of Your Life. Sinatra, Clooney and other 'pop standards' made a splendid soundtrack. And being a weekday, I damn near had this roadway to myself. I don't think I saw more than half a dozen cars.

I loved it. And I was so disappointed when I reached US-72, where I had to exit the parkway. I almost changed my plans and kept northward to the Trace's north terminus outside of Nashville.

Even such roadside drama as state lines are incredibly subdued on the Natchez Trace. No big green "Welcome To Alabama The Beautiful ... Bob Riley, Governor", or gigantic signs screaming "Mississippi Welcomes You." Here it's just a simple "Entering [state]."

In the above picture, I'm straddling the line. I'm Alasippi-ing. Or is that Missi-bama?

The dominant motif along the parkway is the arrowhead. It's the shape used for all the historical marker approaches, and for the entrance signs for the various pull-offs.

One should not press their luck while driving this slab -- speeding on this, or any NPS roadway, is a Federal offense. Me, I set the cruise control for exactly 50 M.P.H. and just enjoyed the ride.

And I found out something really cool:

Driving at that rate of speed does wonders for the ol' gas mileage! Check out the 'trip computer' -- when is the last time anyone achieved 30 MPG in a friggin SUV??!!

Seriously, I filled up in Tupelo and the needle didn't budge from "F" until I was past the Alabama line.

I realized something else, too.

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a thoroughfare maintained by government interests, without any commercial traffic, businesses, billboards or anything resembling the conduct of free enterprise.

In addition to its purpose honoring an early pioneer trail, the Trace also serves as an alternative route to get from Tupelo to Nashville or to Jackson.

It's very low-key. It's dignified. It's scenic. It's full of substance in a world where other highways are cluttered and bottlenecked eyesores.

I dare say the Natchez Trace Parkway is the Public Radio of highways.

And I so much want to drive this thing from beginning to end. Seraphim and I shall do just that one of these days.

Isn't it nice to know that roads like this exist?

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Proud to have his tax dollars funding it" Gleck

Circles of life.....

"Take your time, it wont be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down."
--Joni Mitchell

I'm back from my annual retreat to Birmingham. All told, a fun time -- as usual -- but these trips are always full of deep introspection, wistful reflection and a process of "mental defragging."

I wish I could make more frequent visits up there. Perhaps after my son enters college and starts a life of his own, I can. Meanwhile I enjoy it there whenever I'm able. There's a profound comfort I feel whenever I first see all the TV towers along Red Mountain, overlooking the city, and then the city's iconic Vulcan statue.

It's rooted, I'm certain, in all the change that's been part of my life over the years. In the middle of it all, there has always been Birmingham. Some things in the city have stayed constant over the many years, such as the giant red neon "WBRC" sign behind their studios atop Red Mountain, a landmark for more than 50 years.

And next-door neighbor Channel 13 - an NBC affiliate - has recently put up a giant backlit peacock behind its building to add to the mountaintop decor.

I was born in a hospital on the north side of Red Mountain. From its parking lot, one can look upward for a good view of the WBRC sign.

For years I've said the same joke: Ask me what sign I was born under, and I'll tell you "WBRC."

Last Wednesday, after I got into town, I made a beeline for my great aunt's house, where we had a nice visit. From there it was to see "Miz Eve", a woman whom I've always considered "kinfolk", although she was merely a close neighbor to my grandparents. Her husband, "Mr. Jim", who passed away in the early '80s, was an audiophile's audiophile, and had the most awesome audio system one could ever want. His circa-1970 Sony tuner/amp is still set up in her house, along with his Garrard turntable, although they're hardly used anymore. They still work, though. I'd give so much to have it all someday. So much.

You see, it was this gentleman who got me started on the road toward appreciating the fine art of music and a lot of his audiophilic tendencies rubbed off on me. I can still remember the day as if it were last week. I was nine years old, visiting my grandparents for Spring break, and we were eating dinner at their house. That afternoon we were at Eastwood Mall, and I'd bought a 45 at Newberry's. I wanted to play that record on his [pause to catch my breath] AUDIO SYSTEM. Mr. Jim said I could, and what happened after I took the record out of its sleeve became a major event in my life.

You see, I committed the ultimate cardinal sin.

I had my fingers on the grooves of that record as I was taking it out, eager to hear the opening notes of Steve Miller Band's "The Joker."

And Mr. Jim was horrified. He didn't love my peaches, but boy did he shake my tree. He told me in no uncertain terms that I was never again to touch the grooves of a vinyl record. Did I understand??

Yes sir, Mr. Jim. Never again.

From him I learned proper record care. I also learned what it was like to hear music on good equipment. And my life was forever altered. I might not have been able to ride a bike at age nine, but by golly the records I bought after that fateful dinner were as immaculate as Jesus' conception.

[Of course Mr. Jim would've been horrified if he saw me at home -- I didn't touch the grooves of the records I bought, but after seeing what DJs did to 'em at radio stations, I started imitating 'em. I was, I'm sure, the only ten-year-old who CUED his records before playing them.]

I always think about that evening each time I lay eyes on The Audio System, still set up as it was 25 years ago. And I got another gander last Wednesday when I paid a visit to Miz Eve. It was the first time I'd seen her since 2004. It was a bit strange and unsettling looking next door at my grandparents' old house on Saulter Road, but it was looking good. The people who bought it from my family have kept it up faithfully.

In 2004, Miz Eve was as peppy and upbeat and full of life as I'd always remembered her. Given that she was 88 years old at the time, that's no small feat. Today, she's 91. And my aunt gave me a heads-up that she was now having trouble with walking. Still, Miz Eve gave word to my aunt that she wanted to see me. So I did.

I almost wish I hadn't. What my aunt didn't know was that it was more than walking Miz Eve was having trouble with; the grand lady's mind was beginning to give out, too. I think Alzheimer's, or some form of dementia, has taken root. Evidently Miz Eve was far more 'lucid' the day she talked with my aunt. My grandfather was the same way -- some days the brain was operating on more cylinders than others. Good days, and bad days.

My luck, I caught her on a bad day. She didn't even know who I was. Her 'caretaker' -- who did some work with my grandmother in her final days -- reminded her of who I was. "He's 'Agatha's' grandson." Her reply still gives me chills: "How is she?"

It was, suffice to say, the most awkward ten minutes I've ever had as a houseguest, and I cut the visit short, and walked down the hill toward the backyard of my grandparents' old house.

I saw the broken remains of an old steel rod mounted between two trees which for years held a swing. It wasn't broken the last time I saw it.

I got the hell out of there, post haste, because I was fixin' to lose it.

The familiar -- oh, so familiar -- landmarks along Saulter Road closed in on me. Something as ephemeral as the steel towers of the power lines paralleling a part of the street unleashed so much pent up inside me. Miz Eve ..... holy shit, this was Big John all over again!!!!!

I thought back to when my grandfather was alive. And back to when I was five years old. Those power lines meant one thing once upon a time: We were getting near Kmart!! Suddenly my mind morphed the street into 1969. The way the houses looked, the street signs, even the dashboard of Big John's car. I felt him with me. I heard him call me "Buddy."

Seraphim said something about "the circle of life." Well, I don't have a whole helluvalot of 'middle circles', and the outer ones -- the familiar, the relatively few loved ones who were major parts of my life -- are going fast. When those rings fall away, my circle is going to get tiny in a big hurry.

It's the familiar refrain of everything dying around me. Now my aunt ... she's doing well. Of course, she's far from pushing 90 (she's in her late 60s). My uncle is in good health as well, but he's always in Florida and Birmingham to him now is little more than a maildrop.

I have cousins on both sides of the family, but I'm in little contact with them. Just one, if you wanna know the truth. And he's in Australia!!

Some day, and last Wednesday I was reminded that it's coming up sooner than I think, some day I'm afraid I might have little around me except for Seraphim and Tiger.

But maybe not. I've recently reestablished contact with my Aunt Cindy outside of Augusta and hopefully we can make a day trip in that direction before long. I haven't seen her in many years. There's a lot to say about her, and I'll save that for after the visit.

I was, shall we say, more than a little bothered as I drove around Birmingham, killing time before I was to meet a friend of mine for supper. I knew I'd bounce back over the BBQ and his comraderie, but that was still a couple of hours away.

Things indeed looked up later that evening. And ditto for the rest of the trip. But that afternoon was a cruel reminder that I am getting close to my mid 40s. Youth was a long time ago.

If you have an older relative in your life, especially one who is into their 80s -- i.e. past standard life expectancy -- and they're in good health, count your blessings. Nothing lasts forever. Enjoy them every minute, because you're not guaranteed another one like it.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Dizzy from all dem circles" Gleck

01 October 2007

Not that I give a royal gaggle of flying f-bombs, mind you

File under "B2TH" (Boo To The Hoo):

Britney Spears loses custody of the kids to her ex-husband.

It all falls down to one question, and I fully intend to address God with this should I have an audience with Him, whenever that may be:

Why do you curse some women with "reproductive issues" -- women who are teeming over with love and nurturing to give, thus keeping them from a simple dream and desire of motherhood -- while you allow millions of low-life trailer park bottom-feeders to crank out babies like Powerball tickets out of the machine at the curb store??!!

Just a simple question. I don't expect an answer from anyone, as none of you are God. No offense.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Dear Lord, please smite her ovaries. Amen." Gleck

That bumping you hear is Sgt. Carter

News item: Gomer Pyle has been promoted......


What's next? A tour of duty in Iraq?

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Hooty-HOOT!!!" Gleck