If history repeats itself, we are in for our coldest days of winter yet…of course, this global climate change “thingy” might have erased any previous history. Still, I have faith. I predict our coldest days will occur on or around February the Third.
Why am I so sure? Since the early Seventies, I have kept a close watch on the weather of late winter. Spring sport’s practice, a misnomer in this part of the world, begins in the late winter. For thirty-eight of the forty-five years that I coached, I coached baseball. Usually, the coldest days of winter occurs around the start of baseball practice in South Carolina. This year’s start date, February 3. Sleet, freezing rain, snow, and winds are sure to follow.
Truth be known, the cold start of baseball practice is what finally convinced me to retire.
If history repeats itself, Mother Nature will be bi-polar in the foothills of the Blue Ridge and in the Piedmont of South Carolina until April…or maybe early May. We will have days of teeth chattering bitter cold with howling winds. We will have frigid rains bordering and sometimes crossing over to the freezing variety. We will have sleet driven by icy winds or huge, wet snowflakes that are here today and gone tomorrow.
If history repeats itself there will be spring days as well. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde weather with lows in the twenties and highs in the fifties or sixties. Days that defy the calendar of January, February, March, and early April. Days when crocus, buttercups and Scotch Broom are confused and punch out of the winter ground and bloom. Days when my Red Bud begins to show pink only to be nipped in the bud by Jack Frost and Old Man Winter a day or two later.
Yesterday was the day that proves the rule. With daylight hours lengthening enough to recognize, I was greeted with deep blue, cloudless skies. Redtail hawks caught the thermals in the brightest of sunshine, whistling to each other…sharing their joy with me. A purple finch stopped by my feeder showing the spring color that gave him his name. A day so bright I felt the pull to search seed catalogs and almanacs to see when I should plant.
Don’t get me wrong, the feeling passed. Yesterday was a deceptive day. All spring looking but… There was still a nip in the wind making the low fifties seem like low forties and with no nighttime cloud cover, the lows have dipped into the high twenties before thinking of rebounding into the mid-fifties. It looks like spring even if it doesn’t quite feel like spring.
This crazy season in the foothills of the Blue Ridge seems a lot like life. It’s the good times that make life livable and the bad times less so bad. Days like yesterday and today make the winter more survivable until the rains come tomorrow. According to Longfellow and The Ink Spots, “Into each life, a little rain must fall”…but the sunshine makes it survivable if not likable.
Here is a toast for more spring days in January…and February….
The 1944 song by the Ink Spots took its title from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Rainy Day. If you listened you might think you hear Ella Fitzgerald. You did. She had a voice like a springtime too.
I saw the ’56 Chevrolet sitting at a local diner, parked off to the side as if to keep it out of harm’s way. As a teen in the middle and late Sixties, the Belair was my dream car…my first unrequited love…just like Elizabeth Taylor looking wantonly at me from a picture wearing that light blue slip. Neither proved to be attainable. Both the car and Liz caused a flood of teenage hormones of Biblical proportions. My teenage libido revved like the V-8 under the Chevy’s hood.
The car brought memories of pulling into Porter’s Grill or the Wheel-In as a teenager. Sometimes with friends, occasionally with that special someone. Carhops in white paper “garrison” style hats rushing out to take our orders in hopes of a good tip…”Don’t take no wooden nickels”…Ha!
Food brought on a tray that hooked on to your car door while the “Devil’s music” played from tinny-sounding speakers hung above the covered parking places. ”One, two three o’clock, four o’clock rock….” The smell of deep-fried anything and sliced onions permeated my memories. An “American Graffiti” moment…or maybe a Shoney’s Big Boy moment.
The car I paused to lust after was a bone stock Belair in turquoise and white and reminded me of many that I saw during my teenage years in the Sixties…except this one might have been in better shape fifty years later. The car’s paint was flawlessly polished, the chrome smooth and shining in the bright sunshine, the interior clean as a whistle and only lightly worn. Wow, what a beauty. Is that a three on the tree?…nope, a two-speed PowerGlide.
My folks were Ford people for the most part right down to my Dad’s ’64 Ranchero. My father did have a momentary lapse of judgment with a ’68 Buick Skylark. Thankfully my brother wrecked it with no harm to himself. Late in my father’s life, there was an Olds Cutlass but no Chevys.
People of that day were loyal to certain car brands, especially during NASCAR races. I pulled for “Fast” Freddie Lorenzen and his Galaxie 500…the same model we drove except his didn’t have four doors. Pulled for him until he went over to the dark side driving Dodges and Plymouths. “Traitor!!!!”
People kept cars longer back then and had time to develop loyalties. There were no lease plans, people of my father’s generation just drove them until they wore them out, new technologies and designs be damned. There were still many Forties vintage sedans parked in the church parking lot on a Sunday morning in the mid-Sixties. Even a late Thirties Pontiac, headlights still on top of the fenders.
Despite our Ford loyalty, my older cousin’s Nassau Blue 55 Belair caused me to break a few of the Lord’s commandments. Coveting was assuredly one. It’s tiny two sixty-five V-8 fitted with Corvette accouterments and a racing cam put out a throaty growl as it flew low down Highway 521.
Three on the floor, I did love the white knob sitting atop the shifter. Lake pipes peaked out from under the doors and matched the chrome rims with half-moon hubcaps. Like most young teenagers I was in love.
The only Chevy I ever owned was a more rusted than blue ’72 Chevy C10 work truck I bought for a paltry one hundred and fifty dollars in the early Eighties. It had been old long before I bought it and showed near one hundred thousand miles on its broken odometer. There was still a throaty roar from rusted-out mufflers, the sucking sound associated with a Holly four-barrel, and an alternator whine you didn’t get from other brands.
I was a teenager in the muscle car era of the Sixties and drooled over ’63 Stingray Split Windows, GTOs, Cobras, Hemi powered Plymouths and the like…still do. I couldn’t wait for my monthly Hot Rod Magazine to be delivered RFD.
Briefly, in the Seventies, I owned a ’66 GTO, “Little GTO, You’re really lookin’ fine. Three deuces and a four-speed and a 389…” Yeah, the old Ronnie and the Daytona’s tune pops into my head but my Marina Turquoise ’66 would fall to the wayside, abandoned due to rising gasoline prices and the oil embargo. I wish I had had a crystal ball during those days, but single-digit gas mileages didn’t cut it.
My high school parking lot was loaded with tricked out Chevys, but few Fords. Most were for show rather than go. There was a white ’58 with the Impala badge that rocked with a type of slow lope associated with the 348 Chevy had introduced that year. Red bucket seats matching the red trim down the side…a beautiful car.
Unlike baseball, cars were no more an American creation than…well…apple pie and hot dogs, but we found a way to turn them into the American culture traits the Chevy commercial sang about.
Young men piecing together spare parts into cheap “rat rods.” Jan and Dean lamenting Dead Man’s Curve or ‘grabbing their girls and a bit of money’ heading out to Drag City. The Beach Boy’s close harmony singing about their ‘Little Duece Coupe‘. “Necking” at The Fort Roc Drive-In Theater before a milkshake at a drive-in diner, Hardee’s fifteen cent hamburgers, the suburbs. Cars cruising main streets on Saturday nights across America. The ultimate car TV show, Route 66.
I never drove across America’s highway, Route 66. The closest was the Woodpecker Trail from North Carolina through South Carolina, Georgia and Florida with its alligator farms, swamps, Spanish moss, and Magnolia trees. Small signs posted at close intervals telling me that “the…end…is…near…Repent!” Shops selling matching salt and pepper shakers to commemorate our travels.
Roadside pull-offs with picnic tables to enjoy homemade fried chicken wrapped in wax paper, Pepsi Colas iced down in old-style metal coolers. Roadside treats geared toward travelers in their automobiles. It would have been more exciting if I had made the trip in an early ‘60s Vette with either Tod or Buz instead of my family in a ’63 Ford.
Americans have a love affair with their cars, but I find that my tastes have changed. I still pause and commit a mortal sin looking at cars from the period of my youth and wouldn’t turn down a ’61 Impala Bubbletop or an Oldsmobile 442. A Jaguar XKE might be nice…hum. I wouldn’t turn down the old four-door ‘63 Galaxie.
Today my taste runs toward the more utilitarian. Four-wheel drive pickup trucks, Jeeps, or a certain Japanese vehicle quite capable of off-roading. As ugly as my Landcruiser was I still miss the ’77 FJ-40 that was stolen from my front yard. It broke my heart when it burned. It breaks my heart when I see one for sale and the price they sell for.
Despite my change in taste, I can still pause at a drive-in diner and appreciate an amazing old car. Appreciate its artistic beauty and the efforts of its owner to maintain it…Appreciate my memories of past road trips and the cars that made them possible.
The question is not mine although I mentally argue the subject with myself quite often. The person who asked the question pointed out, “You seem to be obsessed by race” meaning race relations. He is intelligent, both well-read and with common sense. Because of his intelligence and his view of the world, I had to wonder if he might be correct. If I am obsessed, what about people of color.
I have been told, “We must move on. No one alive today has owned slaves or picked cotton as a slave. Move on!” Having picked cotton as a small child I might dispute that assertion except I was “paid” with a BB Bat occasionally and was not living in a home that sharecropping was an only vocation available. Okay, for argument’s sake I’ll give you that assertion but would add the word legally…but then there are those prisons…
A simple joy? I ran…I jogged…I shuffled my feet…slowly. Call it what you want but “jogging” seven minutes out of fifty-six brought a river of “good” endorphins and a bit of hard breathing. Little “feel good” opioid peptides that have raised my spirits at a time when my spirits have been quite low.
To think, I sooooo hated running…I still hate the actual act of running.
I flirted with exercise my entire adult life. Flirted like the unsure introvert gazing wishfully at the beautiful homecoming queen from across the room. I’d contemplate asking her to dance and then take a good look in the mirror as I straighten my tie. Why would she be interested in dancing with me?
Similar to the pain of rejection, running was painful. Aching muscles, being short of breath, the queasy stomach after strenuous exercise…and…left to my natural state, I’m basically lazy.
The mirror suggested, “You don’t look like a runner…you are too round, your legs are too short, your feet are too big.” Compared to a thoroughbred horse, I was at best a mule, at worst a donkey…built for carrying burdens not speed.
A birthday gift from hell changed the way I looked at myself in the mirror. I embarked on a running program six weeks after a birthday heart attack in 2006. After the heart attack, I decided the homecoming queen could be damned.
Four stents overcame a life filled with Southern cooking, I completed cardiac rehab and embarked on a walking program. An old school coach, I just didn’t feel the “no pain, no gain.” I needed to hurt…and I did. I needed to pay for those caloric indiscretions of my youth…and I did. I used the “Couch to 5K”1 workout and found the pain to be manageable. I also found there were unforeseen benefits.
My feet were still too big, my legs will always be too short, but I wasn’t as round…sixty-two pounds less round. Those changes or lack thereof were foreseen. It was the changes in my mind I didn’t foresee.
I have battled depression for over forty years and suddenly my broken kaleidoscope of a brain seemed to reset itself. There were days I still battled but the din of battle had quieted. The voices in my head whispered instead of yelling.
There were (are) still days when I didn’t want to get out of bed, but they were less numerous and harsh. I had a reason to get out of bed…my early morning run.
Running for me was like the guy hitting himself in the head with a hammer. It hurt like hell while I did it but, “It felt so good when I stopped.”
I wasn’t satisfied with 5Ks and continued to push through 10Ks and half-marathons. I even wrote down a marathon on my bucket list and began to train. For five or six days a week, I battled my body instead of my mind. I was addicted. I wasn’t fast and would win no races. I might win in my age group if everyone in my age group had died.
My running wasn’t about competing with others it was about competing with myself. My running was about finishing a workout or finishing a race. I could put a 13.1 bumper sticker on my Jeep and look in a mirror and say, “I am a runner!”
And then I wasn’t. On my last run before a half-marathon in 2015, a misstep opened a can of worms. For two years I hobbled through workouts, tried to prepare to run only to reinjure myself until I decided I was being hardheaded and put my pain into a doctor’s hands. A torn meniscus was an issue…also the discovery of early-onset osteoarthritis. “A knee replacement is in your future,” he said. I wish I had never gone. I wish I had never found out.
For two years I have walked or rode a bicycle and mentally bitched over every mile. Walking doesn’t do it for me. Cycling doesn’t blot out the voices in my head no matter how much I crank up the volume. Walking fails to reset my brain.
This winter season has been the worst. The SAD and depression had laid me low until the New Year. I decided to run…jog…shuffle my feet. A different program, a thirty-second jog out of every two and a half minutes the first week, a minute out of three the second, the same next week.2 Twelve weeks to a 5K. I feel like a baby taking his first steps, but I am hopeful. Even my walking days have been…hopeful.
I am also going to be smart. Three days a week only, on the grass, not the pavement, no back to back days no matter how many workouts are rained ut. Good shoes and braces.
I scratched the marathon off my bucket list. It will never happen. I do hope to do a 5K even if it is a walk/run…jog…shuffle. Anything to reset my mind. Anything to keep the negative voices at bay. Anything to repair the broken kaleidoscope. Anything to get my mojo back.