Category Archives: Observations

The world as I see it

Last Home Game

As Peggy and I were tailgating for today’s game against Texas A&M it occurred to me that this is our last “home” game. It is LSU’s last home game of the season, but that’s not what I mean. This will be our last LSU game that we get to attend from this home. It made me a little sad.

I have been attending LSU games in Tiger Stadium since 1966. Not counting games attended as a student, I lived in Baton Rouge only for the first five years and the past four years.

We will still come to LSU games in the future, but it won’t be from here. I have loved being so close to campus and everything that entails. “Tailgating” on our back porch until an hour before kickoff and still being in our seats in time to see the band march on. Riding the “contraflow” lane back to the house in ten minutes once the game is over. Going to campus to visit Mike the Tiger.

It was a beautiful night for a game. LSU punished Texas A&M, 45-21, in a game that was never really even that close. It was a perfect way to finish the regular season.

We stayed in the stands a while after the game. Waited until the band had played the alma mater and their traditional “Let Us Break Bread Together” before they march out of the stadium. Peggy felt the emotion of the night as much as I did and she never went to school here.

Then we did our usual postgame routine and went home and sat by the fire on our back patio. We talked about the game but mostly we talked about the weekend and how thankful we are on this Thanksgiving weekend.

And about how thankful we are that LSU beat A&M before we moved back to Texas. That is going to help a lot…

After the game. It was a great night!

And so it begins…

Peggy came to San Antonio this past weekend for us to begin looking at potential places to live. So naturally the kids came, too…

It’s not like they’re a problem. Mike lived here as a child and wanted to show his wife all the things he remembers. I’m not sure how much she cares, but, hey, they were hanging out in San Antonio in beautiful weather. And they got to experience their first flight with a not-quite-two-month-old child.

A few observations from the weekend:

There are definitely some areas of San Antonio in which we would be happy to live. We are narrowing the search to areas within a thirty-minute commute of my office, but that doesn’t narrow the search too much. It is really going to come down to how much we want to spend — doesn’t it always — and what is available when our house in Baton Rouge sells.

Mike’s wife seemed to enjoy San Antonio. She is from a small town in Louisiana, so her first instinct is to dislike/distrust anything that is too large. Or in Texas. So enjoyment is a positive step since we would very much like to see our grandchildren.

LSU whipped up on Ole Miss. That is always fun. Even more fun is getting a picture during the game of my college roommate and my brother-in-law running into each other in Oxford at the football game. The were sitting a few rows from each other without either knowing the other was at the game.

Mid to late October is not too late to be in the pool in San Antonio. Getting out of the pool can be a little nippy, but it definitely stays warms enough to enjoy a pool through October. Something to consider for observation number one above. The opportunity to see my wife in a bathing suit for more than half the year is a strong selling point.

Looking at houses this weekend really drove home the point that we are going to be leaving Baton Rouge and moving to San Antonio. This will be the third time I have moved and left the job of selling the house to Peggy. It is not fair, but she says she would rather do that than live in Baton Rouge without me five days a week. Just one of the many reasons I love her.

Baby in an airport
Happy baby!
Surprise photo op selfie at the Ole Miss game

Missing You

When Peggy and I were dating we spent most of our time apart since we went to different colleges. There was a John Waite song that came out during this time called “Missing You.” Even though that song was really about a break-up, I think about it a lot when Peggy and I are not together. Every time I think of you, I always catch my breath…

I have been back in San Antonio for a couple of weeks after a trip home extended by a hurricane. I will be going back to Baton Rouge this weekend for the football game and just to spend time with Peggy. It has been a while since we have been apart this much, and I really don’t like it. When she got her first job after college we both traveled quite a bit for work, and then her next job had her traveling about thirty-five weeks a year. It was bad enough that when the doctor asked us if we had any idea when Mike was conceived we were able to give her an exact date — it was the only night we had spent together that month. One benefit, she didn’t have any trouble giving us a due date.

When I am in San Antonio I live with my brother and his wife. The three of us also work together, so it is pretty convenient. I get to hang out with their two dogs, one of whom loves to come visit me upstairs. But I don’t get to see Peggy.

I chose this for us. With the birth of a grandchild I really couldn’t see moving Peggy away from the kids. I don’t mind the driving back and forth, and we really love our life in Baton Rouge. Good church, great friends, grandbaby, LSU, new tiger — there is so much there to enjoy.

But I would be lying if I said it isn’t hard. Peggy and I have been together for almost thirty-seven years. It was one thing to be apart when we were dating. It was even almost OK when we were first working in our careers. But, the “empty nest” is meant to be enjoyed together.

Tonight in Baton Rouge she had dinner with Mike, Caitie and the baby. They sent me this picture: 

Family time minus one

Every time I think of you…

Long Weekend

I stayed at home an extra day this weekend.

You may recall that I had ankle surgery at the end of last year, and today was what will likely be the last follow-up visit with the surgeon. The surgery was largely unsuccessful, even after seven months of serious rehab work. Bummer.

But it meant I got to do something very important.

LSU has had a live tiger mascot since the 1930’s, and I have known all of them since Mike III. I would visit Mike III every time I came to campus, and he always came over and greeted me. Probably because I looked tasty.

Mike III died when I was about to start high school, so I had to develop a new relationship at an awkward time in life. Fortunately, Mike IV and I struck up a wonderful friendship. When I went to LSU in August of 1980 I lived in the football stadium. Mike’s enclosure was right outside my window, literally forty yards away. One of my favorite memories is when he would occasionally roar at night. I would frequently roar back. I spent many an evening sitting in my lawn chair outside his enclosure visiting with him, and we had many meaningful chats. I also took Peggy to meet him when we were dating. I know it was a lot of pressure, but Mike approved of her wholeheartedly. I think Peggy understood…

Mike IV — one night when I was in school he got out of his enclosure. Can you imagine running across that in the middle of the night?

Mike V had a glorious reign, including a football national championship and five baseball national championships. My visits with him were more limited since I lived so far away, but every time I came to see him he would meet me at the fence and roll for me. He also provided a personal highlight by “spraying” a group of obnoxious tourists who were yelling at him to come closer for a picture. He came closer, all right, and let ’em have it. Tiger justice.

My buddy Mike V

Mike VI may have been the most beautiful cat I have ever seen, and he had a wonderful personality to match. He was the mascot when I moved back to Baton Rouge, so he and I visited often. He oversaw a football national championship and a baseball national championship. He was extremely playful even when he became ill with the cancer that killed him. His death was a very sad day.

Mike VI “the Regal”

A lot of tiger history, but it sets up what happened today. Today was Mike VII’s first day on campus, and I got to be here to share it with him. He is just a baby — a 175-pound baby — but he walked right over to me, flopped and rolled for me. I told him that I had stuck around just to see him.  He is likely to be the biggest of all the mascots, but today he is still a kitten. I told him I would be back soon to visit. I think he was pleased, but it is hard to tell — we’re just getting to know each other.

Mike VII — mascotting is hard work for a young man. He flopped at my feet and took a little nap…

Too Soon

I have written a lot this year about the pain of losing parents as we get older. It sucks, but it is inevitable and is the way of the world. To be honest, the alternative — parents losing children — is much worse to me.

I am not ready to start losing friends.

We all have those tragic moments of death in youth. Two of my closest friends died together in a plane crash when I was 21. It was tragic and it was tough. But that’s not what I am talking about.

I’m talking about people my age or even a little younger. We got news today that the former husband of one of Peggy’s closest friends died this week. He was a year younger than me.

When we lived in Dallas we used to do things with Paige and Bruce. Paige was Peggy’s maid of honor and Peggy was a bridesmaid and I sang in Paige and Bruce’s wedding. When we left Dallas we would see them when we came to town, usually for dinner or lunch somewhere. Food and drink was an important part of the relationship. Sometimes too important a part, especially the drink.

Bruce didn’t die in a car accident. He didn’t commit suicide. He just died, and that is not supposed to happen to 53-year-old men. He was a week older than Peggy.

I suppose this is one of those moments that should cause me to think about being healthier, exercising more, eating less. In reality it just makes me sad. Even though Bruce and Paige were no longer married they were still close. They have been excellent parents to the son they share, and they have been very engaged in his life. I don’t think either of them held out any hope or desire for reconciliation, but they have remained very good friends.

I am truly sad for Paige, and I am truly sad for a young man losing his father while still a college student. He should have had many more years to get support and advice from his father.

Take care of yourselves, folks. And show the ones you love that you love them, every day.

Godspeed, Bruce. And God bless, Paige.

Peggy and Paige before our wedding — August 3, 1985

 

Last Night

I love bringing people with us to Colorado. Even though we do many of the same things each year when we come, sharing them with others keeps everything new and exciting. It is always a blast to see everything through someone else’s eyes.

I think I love it even more when we are here by ourselves. The guests are gone and it is just Peggy and me for a couple of days. There’s just something so relaxing about hanging out on the back deck looking up Keystone Mountain and enjoying the cool weather. Wine in hand, sometimes coffee in hand, just soaking it up.

We drive to Denver tomorrow to fly back to Baton Rouge. Then I will drive to San Antonio to start the new gig. Life is going to be changing in a major way when we get home, but here on the back deck everything is peaceful and perfect. Peggy loves it here and I love Peggy. So, by the associative property I love it here, too.

The real world waits for us but we don’t have to go back just yet.

We always stay on the back porch too long on the last night and end up in sweatshirts or blankets simply because we do not want it to end. We don’t want to leave the cool weather, we don’t want to leave the beautiful scenery, and we don’t want to leave the relaxation.

But we will leave. And we’ll come back next year and do it all over again.

Last night relaxing
It doesn’t take long before you need the sweatshirts. Still daylight and 55 degrees!

Barber Shop

One of my guilty vacation pleasures is to visit the barber shop every year while we are in Colorado and get a haircut and a shave. Peggy calls it my “spa day” — I’m OK with that.

When I started going to Scott he was located in Dillon. I would grow a beard each summer (technically a Van Dyke) and let Scott either shave it off or trim it for me. It is kind of my end of summer ritual, even though we will still have at least two more months of summer when I return home to Baton Rouge.

A couple of years ago Scott moved up to a larger location in Frisco. He now has five or six barbers working for him and the place has become very busy. So busy, in fact, that my failure to make an advance online reservation with Scott proved to be fatal to my chances. I walked in and took my chances.

The young man who cut my hair today did an excellent job, but he was nervous about the shave. He told me that he had not shaved anyone since he finished barber school a few months before. I told him to relax and do his best.

I am not giving his name because he cut me. It didn’t hurt, but any cut on your face bleeds like a mother. He was so upset by it that I was comforting him. It really was no big deal, but Scott came over and looked at it and said, “Guess who just got a free haircut?” I tipped the young man $20 and told him not to worry about it — chalk it up as an experience to improve his technique.

It did not ruin the experience at all, and I recommend the shop to anyone I know who is going to be in the Summit County area. Of course, next year I will make my reservation in advance. We went ahead and did everything we had planned to do for the day. But for now, I am going to try to get some sympathy mileage out of it.

Chicks dig scars. 

That’s gonna leave a mark…
…but it didn’t keep us from going to Vail with friends…
…or from finishing the day at Sapphire Point!

Still standing by me

I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?

That is the final line of a great movie that was made when I was already an adult, but it captured my group of friends perfectly. I really have never had better friends than I had then.

That is what makes it so cool that we still get together every chance we can. Every year if we can make it happen, but always at least every other year.

It’s no small feat! The group consists of ten of us — eight who have been together since we actually were twelve years old and younger, one who came to our school in the tenth grade and one who moved into town our senior year. Those ten men live in Northern California, Tucson, Dallas, Memphis, Nashville, Tampa, Charlotte and Baton Rouge. We try to spread the wealth on where we congregate, but in reality the guys out west get screwed. And they still show up!

A majority of the group went on a senior trip together to celebrate graduating high school. A smaller subset went to Europe to celebrate graduating college. One of the guys married the wrong woman and disappeared from our lives for a while. When he figured out his mistake he was welcomed back with open arms, no questions asked. We have gathered single, with girlfriends, with wives, with children, and with new wives. Our wives love each other and have exhibited remarkable patience hearing the same stories for thirty-five years. To our credit the stories don’t change too much as we get older.

This week we met in North Carolina for our “NC-17” trip. Conveniently, Peggy and I were already in North Carolina for a work trip, so it worked out great for us. The gang member that lives near Charlotte was our host, and for the first time in a few years all ten of us were able to make it. It was just incredible. We played golf (mostly poorly), we went sightseeing (and are now mostly poorer), we rode on the lake, we ate, we drank, and we reveled in old friendships.

We ended the last evening with a screening of the movie that one of my friends is producing called “Beautifully Broken”. It’s the movie that Peggy was filming in Baton Rouge last Easter. It is almost finished now and we got to see it and see the story that our friends lived through. And cry and rejoice with them in the happy ending.

Three doctors, an engineer, a financial planner, a retired Air Force Colonel, a horticulturist, an athletic director, an insurance underwriter, and a COO. Seven different colleges. All from the same small town in Louisiana but now all over the country.

I know I am getting older, and I realize how rare it is to have a group of friends like this. I can’t wait for the next time we all get together.

Another golf course conquered
Yeah, we all pretty much out-kicked our coverage with these ladies…

Eating Memphis

The Spring Break 2017 Memphis Tour is over. We had a blast with the Doctors.

We went to Sun Studios and pretended to be Elvis (actually, I pretended to be Johnny Cash). We went to the Rock and Soul Museum on Beale Street. We even did two Escape Rooms (it was raining). Why two? Because we didn’t escape from the first one. I walked in Memphis with my ankle brace ten feet off of Beale. We even went to Mud Island. We did everything but Graceland.

But mostly we ate. It’s a good thing we were walking everywhere because the food in Memphis is not to be missed. I don’t think we missed any of it.

We did the Rendezvous. We ate at the Majestic Grille, a restaurant made from a 100-year-old theater that showed black-and-white movies while we ate. We ate at a place called Flight that served both its food and its wine in flights. We met my college roommate and his wife at McEwen’s, an outstanding restaurant downtown. We ate lunch at the Blues City Café. I’m telling you, we ate.

But the favorite place we ate was Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. If you haven’t been there you need to go. As you can tell, it’s pretty impressive to behold.

Don’t judge a book by its cover, especially when fried chicken is involved…

 We went at six o’clock on a Tuesday evening because we had been warned it can get pretty crowded. We had to wait about twenty minutes to get a table, then we feasted on the best fried chicken I have ever eaten (and, frankly, I have eaten a lot of fried chicken). Peggy swears that at one point she saw my brother-in-law’s eyes roll back into his head. We dined to a genteel sufficiency and left before seven. When we left the line to get a table was out the door and wrapped halfway around the block. On a Tuesday. In a rain storm. I can tell you for those people waiting in the rain, it was worth it!

I have not eaten fried chicken since we returned home from the trip. I do not want to sully the memory of the greatness of Gus’s.

It may not have been the last meal we had in Memphis, and it certainly was not the fanciest meal we had in Memphis. It was, however, the meal we had in Memphis. God bless Gus…

Joy at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken

TGIF

I love Fridays.

I know I am not alone in this sentiment, but I really love Fridays. Ever since my son went off to college in 2007, Friday has been my standing date night with Peggy. Since the first seven years of Friday occurred when we were living in Texas, those Fridays pretty consistently involved two things, chips and salsa and margaritas.

Now, I know what the non-Texans in the audience are thinking. “That’s three things,” they will say. And the Texans will laugh. Chips and salsa are not two things in Texas, they are one thing, joined in the holiest of matrimony. Perhaps you can have one without the other, but why?

Friday means Mexican food, a frozen margarita (no salt — sorry), and conversation that lasts as long as we want it to. And typically then we go sit on the back porch around the firepit and hang out as long as we want to. Because it’s Friday and we can.

This has been our utopia for the past ten years. Even when we are traveling we try to find a Mexican place that will have the essentials and not screw it up too bad. When we went to Santorini for our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary we found the one place on the island that served Mexican food and made frozen margaritas. It was called Senor Zorba’s, and the name alone would have made us forgive them for any shortcomings. But seriously, if you’re drinking a frozen margarita on a Greek island what possible shortcomings could there be?!

Tonight was no different. The Mexican food in Baton Rouge is not too bad, and the margaritas are excellent. The weather is cool and perfect on the back porch and the firepit looks beautiful.

If this is life at 54 I have no complaints whatsoever. If this is still my life at 74 I will count myself as the luckiest man ever.

Long live Friday!

Objects in picture may appear larger than they really are…
Perfect night on the back porch