Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dream Land Part 3: Papa's House

[Previous: Dream Land Part 1: Grandma and Papa's House, Dream Land Part 2: Grandma's House]

Part 3 of 3.

Grandma's House, the Dream Land from our childhood, had sat unoccupied while Grandma lived at the guest house at my mother's. This went on for four years, until after she celebrated her 100th birthday. Before the year was up, my uncle made the hard call that something needed to be done with Grandma's House.

My mother, never one who wanted to be told what to do, even if what she was told was right, was unhappy with the suggestion. It wasn't that my uncle was wrong, it was something that she had dreaded doing, and now had to do. And no one was happy about it. Not Grandma. Not my mother. Not my uncle. Not my sisters. No one.

My sister had mentioned about buying the house, but wasn't sure she wanted to take on that expense. She already had a house that was too big for her, and that she couldn't sell.

My mother finally decided to buy my uncle out. She gave him half of what he said he wanted to sell it for. Since the idea was they'd split it -- they actually had title to the house, not Grandma -- my mother simply gave him his half, and assumed full ownership of the house. She knew she'd need to dispose of it in some way, but wanted to do it on her own schedule, or at least when she was ready.

Grandma celebrated her 101st birthday worried that some stranger would end up with her little house. She understood that the current situation couldn't continue, but she still was saddened by that prospect.

My sister decided to buy the house after all, and began doing the work to get it fully livable again. After four years sitting unoccupied, it needed a little work. Heck, it needed a lot. And, truth be told, a lot more than they realized.

During the whole remodeling process, my sister changed her mind and decided that she needed to not buy the house. My mother wasn't happy about that, but that's not the first time one of us made her unhappy about something. Anyway, I made a couple of phone calls, and, when I was happy with what I heard, approached my mother about buying the house. She was surprised, but welcomed my offer.

This is a good time to let you know that when my first grandchild was born in 1999, there were several suggestions made about what she, and the other soon arriving grandchildren, would call me. I wasn't thrilled with any of the suggestions. I knew, though, that whatever the grandchildren called me would be how I was to be known for the rest of my life. If I didn't like it, I'd change my mind and embrace it. It's what grandfather's do.

When one of them was able to call me a name, it came out "Papa." I hadn't thought about that. No one had thought about that. But I loved it. And, to this day, I'm Papa to all the grandchildren.

Now, back to the house. The whole process of buying a house was what you would expect: the unexpected popping up and such. It was much frustrating, as you can imagine, but finally, it was done. I bought the Grandma's House, formerly Grandma and Papa's House.

It's a little different inside than before. Some of the same furniture is there, some arranged as always, but some arranged a little different. Just enough like it always was to make it very familiar. Just enough different to make it someone else's house.

Grandma was thrilled last year when she found out that I bought the house. She told me she was so worried someone she didn't know would get the little house. She celebrated her 102nd birthday last September knowing that her little house was still in the family.

Grandma died this week, and we're burying her today. She's gone. Her house is still around. It's Papa's House, now. But, in many ways, it's still the same Dream Land we all loved as children.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Dream Land Part 2: Grandma's House

[Previous: Dream Land Part 1: Grandma and Papa's House]

Part 2 of 3.

After Papa died in 1979, Grandma lived alone in the little house she had shared with her husband for over two decades. She knew that, without Papa, she wasn't long for this world. So, she figured she'd be passing on soon after.

Grandma continued to feel that way throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, all the way through this year. She continued her life in the little house, the house that had been her Dream Land since her first grandchild, my older sister, was born.

Grandma had retired a few years earlier, and had spent most of her time taking care of Papa. With him gone, she grew restless, and went back to work. She and several of her friends, some from the church, some from the Eastern Star, some she used to work with at the shirt factory, went to work part-time for the local newspaper.

The local paper, in addition to printing the local news, also printed the small town weeklies for several other places. That meant stuffing the local Sears or K-Mart sale paper and such into the newspapers. And, apparently, old retired women have a knack for that, because they did a lot of that.

Grandma continued to stuff papers, attend church services, shop at the Winn-Dixie, and attend Eastern Star meetings for years, and, at the end of the day, return to her Dream Land.

The grandchildren, me included, didn't visit as much. We were growing up, or grown, and had started our own families. Some of us lived in the area, and others moved away. But, Grandma's House was always a special place to us. We all managed to find time to visit on occasion, but not like we should, or, like we wanted to. We could have made a better effort, but we were busy. At least, that's what we told ourselves.

However, when we did visit, it was almost like being back in that Dream Land we visited as a child. We missed seeing Papa, but Grandma was there. She was always there. Until one day.

Grandma fell while working in the yard in 2010. It was pretty severe. She looked bad, and hurt really bad. After 31 years living alone, it was time for some other arrangements to be made.

My mother finally got a large dining area set up at her house. It was a building separate from the main house, that had a large room where tables and chairs could be set up, with a kitchen just off that room. There was a bathroom, an office, and a bedroom.

Yes, it was actually laid out like a guest house, but her intent was to have big family gatherings there. We called it the Fellowship Hall. (Baptists can truly appreciate that.) In 2010, though, she lost that functionality. It became quarters for Grandma. By living there, my mother could watch out for her. Actually, she paid a lady to sit and watch soap operas and Grandma, while she went to work at her job at the Baptist church.

Four years went by with Grandma staying at the guest house. The little house, Grandma's House, sat unoccupied. Utilities were still on. Mail was still delivered. The grass was cut. The yards were raked. The only thing making it unoccupied was the fact that no one was staying there.

My uncle (my mothers brother) was tasked with upkeep of the house. Well, the hard stuff, anyway. If it needed any work done, he did it. Air conditioning, wiring, pipes, whatever, it fell to him. And, living an hour and a half away, it was difficult on him. He put up with it for four years, until everyone finally accepted that Grandma wasn't going back to her house. She was approaching 101 years old, and really wasn't in any condition to look after herself by herself.

He finally had the difficult conversation that no one wanted to have: it was time to do something about Grandma's House. He thought the best thing to do was to sell it. And, after much anguish from some, that's what was finally agreed upon. None of the grandchildren were happy about losing their Dream Land from their childhood.

[Next: Dream Land Part 3: Papa's House]

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Dream Land Part 1: Grandma and Papa's House

Part 1 of 3.

The little house was built in the 1950s as part of a planned neighborhood. I don't really know if my grandparents were the first ones to live there, but the house was less than four years old when they moved in. Grandma and Papa. That's what we always called them. And that little house was Grandma and Papa's house. It was truly a Dream Land for us grandchildren.

It was alway a treat to go there. Grandma and Papa always made us welcome. I don't remember spending the night there a lot. The small house had two bedrooms, so there wasn't a lot of room for the grandchildren to stay over. Still, just being there was a dream.

Christmas Eve was always spent at Grandma and Papa's house. We got to open a present that night, and we went home all excited about what we got and what we dreamed we'd get the next morning.

Birthdays were always special at Grandma and Papa's house. We always got a card and a dollar for every year of our age. In the 1960s, getting seven dollars for being seven years old was a treat.

Grandma and Papa had a little black and white TV when I was young. When we were there, we got to see the stuff they watched. Papa always watched the six o'clock news from channel 3 in Savannah: Dateline Savannah had the news, Cap'n Sandy gave the weather, and then there was sports. And, on weekends, there was Lawrence Welk (hated that), Porter Wagoner (hated it, except for Spec Rhodes), and the other stuff that old people watched.

In late 1967, my great-grandmother (Grandma's mother, who we all called "Ma") moved in part time. My great-grandfather (he was called "Pa") died that Autumn, and Ma had to move out of the log cabin they had leased since the 1930s. She spent a couple of weeks at a time at each of her three daughters' places. When she was a Grandma and Papa's, she'd sit in a rocking chair with a can of snuff in her hand and watch Georgia Championship Wrestling.

Grandma and Papa were the first people I knew to get cable. Of course, when cable TV first came available there, it was the three stations in Savannah and three main ones from Jacksonville (yeah, duplicate network programming). Other than the six network channels (two of each major network) and a couple of PBS channels, there was a channel that showed the weather -- actually, a camera rotating between a thermometer, a barometer, and a clock -- and not much else. It was different. But, since it was at Grandma and Papa's, it was special.

They got a new color TV, we grew up, but always went to Grandma and Papa's when we could. Ma died in 1976, and it went back to Grandma and Papa's house, though we had always called it that.

Papa's health problems and heart condition caught up with him in 1979. After watching the Independence Day fireworks, he went to bed happy, and never woke up. He went to Dream Land, and stayed. And the little house became Grandma's House.

[Next: Dream Land Part 2: Grandma's House]

Monday, February 22, 2016

Pensacon pre-show

I went to Pensacon on Friday. That's the Pensacola Comic Con. It's in Pensacola. But I bet you figured that out by now. I'm not much of a convention kinda guy, but The Doctor was there, and it was one I hadn't met. Which is most of them.

Peter Davison, The Doctor (1982-1984: Stories 117-136)
Anyway, it was crowded. At least, the line to get in was crowded. I got sunburned from standing in line, and am still a little uncomfortable. I'm still more than frustrated over the line to get in. I'm kinda ticked off. And, I wasn't the only one. Many in that line were not happy about it. But let me tell you about this one guy.

After two hours standing in the sun, we (that is, I and the people immediately around me) had advanced to near the stations where actual passes were issued. This is not as good as it sounds. All that meant was that we were now at the turn around point, and had to proceed through the queue that now moved away from the entrance back to the road, then back to the entrance and the passes stations.

When we got to the turn-around point near the entrance, we could see the six stations. They were numbered 1-6. Stations 1 and 2 were handling Will Call. That was us. We had purchased tickets ahead of time, already paid for them, had printout receipts from which our actual passes would be issued.

What about stations 3-6? Well, those were for on-site sales. People who hadn't purchased tickets in advance, but simply wanted to walk up, hand over money, and go in.

How many were in the Will Call queue? Hundreds. Handled by two stations.

How many were in the On-Site Sales queue? None. Zero. Handled by four stations.

That made us not very happy. It made one person in particular not very happy. And he let them know about it.

Our Hero stood up on the railing, waved to get the attention of one of the cashiers (number 5, I think it was), and yelled out his questions.

"You not Will Call?"

She shook her head, unsure, it seemed, of where this conversation might go.

"People who haven't already bought a ticket?"

The crowd was quiet now. All conversation had stopped. The Pensacola police officer a little ways down to the left hadn't yet made his appearance. At least, I didn't see him at that time.

"So if I get out of this line I've been in, go over there and give you money, I can get a pass right now and go on in?"

Number 5 slowly nodded.

Mr. Unhappy proceeded to march his unhappy ass through the queue and over to Station 5. She had left her post about that time, and had, it appeared, gone to get someone to deal with Loud Mouth.

With Station 5 abandoned, Loud Mouth went to the next station. Number 4 was a quiet, unassuming young lady, not quite sure what Fate had bestowed upon her.

"I want to buy a ticket to get in." A credit card and driver's licence was produced and handed to Number 4, who took it and began typing.

About that time, some young Bernie Sanders voter-looking fellow showed up and asked what was the problem.

"This is ridiculous. You got two people handling hundreds in Will Call and these four handling nobody. Whoever is in charge of this is incompetent. Is that you?"

BSV didn't actually address the question, but said that there were three people handling Will Call, and four handling Sales. He didn't explain how three stations plus four stations equals six stations. Bernie Sanders math, I suppose.

"That's nuts. You got all these people done paid their money and they been waiting hours, and these people over here (pointing to Stations 3-6) not doing anything."

"You need to calm down. Lower your voice."

"You need to fix this."

Number 4 spoke up. "He's already in the system. He already purchased tickets."

"That's right. And I've been waiting hours in that line, while you got two people working that line. These other people, you need to put some resources on Will Call and get it moving."

"We have three on Will Call and four on Sales."

"You need to put your resources where the demand is."

"Nobody else is complaining."

It went back and forth. Finally, BSV said, "You've already paid. We'll issue you your pass, and..."

"No no no no. All these people here? That would mean I've jumped them in line simply by being an ass. That's wrong. No. Don't do that to them. I'm not going to. I'm in the sales line, and I'm going to pay for another ticket. But you need to get this fixed."

"We have three on Will Call and four on Sales."

"And that's not how you need to be doing it. If you knew anything about business, you'd put your efforts where they're needed."

I was unable to hear what BSV said as he left Number 4 to finish dealing with Our Hero.

The tone was lower now, and the conversation wasn't audible to the front of the line, but there were smiles from Number 4 and Loud Mouth as they concluded the transaction.

With a look of both disgust and satisfaction, Mr. Unhappy then proceeded towards the doors, past the Pensacola police officer who seems to have been waiting to see how this would turn out. Approaching the doors, Loud But Not Vulgar stopped in mid step, then slowly proceeded to the long line to actually enter.

It was about 30 minutes before Our Hero made it into the actual building. It was about 30-45 minutes before the group Mr. Unhappy had been in queue with made it through the Will Call and to the next line.

Was he crazy? He was angry. Maybe crazy, too.

I was crazy. I got up early, drove to Pensacola, stood in line for hours, got inside, found Peter Davison, got his autograph on six DVDs, and left. That's the only thing I was there for. Pensacon fell on a bad time again this year, but I've seen his appearance schedule and it was the best opportunity in 2016 for me to get Peter Davison's signature.

So, ten hours total driving, a few hours in lines, and spending over $200 for autographs of one person? Yep, I'm thinking I'm the crazy one.

Pensacon, by the way, did assign some additional resources to Will Call. But not enough. After I got the autographs and left, the line was still stretched out to the driveway, down the sidewalk, and up to the road. Hundreds who had missed the Pre-Show entertainment.

I'm not sure who was the winner in all this. Peter Davison, I think.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Washington's Birthday (2016)

George Washington
If you're celebrating Presidents Day today, raise your hand.

Higher. I want to see them all.

Now, take that hand and slap yourself with it. Again. Again. Keep slapping yourself.

What's that sound? That's the rest of us, the ones that know today isn't Presidents Day. We're laughing at you.

Yeah, that's kinda rude. But don't you think it's rude when someone forgets your birthday? Well, today isn't Presidents Day. It's Washington's Birthday. At least, that's the holiday. His real birthday is actually next Monday, but today is the federal holiday honoring Washington's Birthday. Check out 5 U.S. Code § 6103.

When George Washington was born, the date was February 11, 1731. You see, the United Kingdom of Great Britain was using the Julian Calendar back then. There is an issue with leap years with the Julian Calendar, so the calendar was always slowly getting more and more inaccurate. Also, in England and the colonies, New Year's Day was on March 25. Go figure.

Anyway, in 1750, the U.K. changed to the Gregorian Calendar and fixed things. New Year's Day was now in January. The calendar dates were adjusted 11 days, which meant that, retroactively, George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. But that was only the first time people screwed around with his birthday.

The federal government did try to do right by Washington in 1879 when they added a fifth national holiday. Washington's Birthday, February 22nd, was added to the list of New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day as national holidays. Other holidays were added later, until we have the ten we have today.

In 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act went into effect, moving many of the holidays to Mondays instead of the proper or traditional day. Washington's Birthday was one of those. And, just like the government, they made it so it would never be right. The holiday falls on the third Monday in February, which means it can be as early as the 15th, and as late as the 21st. It will never be on the 22nd, which is when it actually is.

Some states used to celebrate Lincoln's Birthday on February 12th. Around half the states have state holidays honoring both Lincoln and Washington today. And, states can do that. Still, the federal holiday is, and has always been Washington's Birthday.

If your state celebrates more than just George Washington today, fine. Honor Lincoln and the other presidents that your state recognizes. But, there is a reason the federal holiday is simply Washington's Birthday. Don't forget to honor the man without whom we might very well not have this great nation.

George Washington. February 22, 1732 - December 14, 1799. First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


In November 1954, Ann Elizabeth Hodges was sitting in her couch, when a meteorite crashed through the roof of her home and struck her. Unconfirmed reports are that she said "Ow!"

Apart from some bruising, she was okay. She lived another 18 years and died in 1972 for reasons having nothing to do with the sky throwing rocks at her.

That how it used to be in America. We could take on the universe.

This week, reports are that a man in India was killed as a result of a meteorite striking the ground there.

The U.S. economy is so bad we're even outsourcing meteor strikes. Used to be, we'd take a hit, then sue over possession of the rock. Really.

We have plenty of people right here in the U.S. that need to be hit by a rock from space. I can name several. You can too, I bet. But no. We're outsourcing to India.

Thanks, Obama.