I opened the freezer, took out a battered gallon of Blue Bell Ultimate Neapolitan Ice Cream and tossed the lid away. There wasn't a lot of ice cream in the carton. I'm not crazy, not going to eat a half gallon of ice cream. The carton had a few spoonfuls more than a reasonable person would eat. I'm shoving the extra spoonfuls in because I'm in a semi-reasonable state. I went to the DMV to renew my driver's license. I went there with the correct expectations - the worst. Turning 50 in December, I needed to get a new license with a new photo. I've some wisdom and wisdom dictates wear comfy shoes because I'm going to be standing on an ugly line. Things went well – smooth and quick. No problems. Wow, wonders. No big wonder, however, my new driver's license photo sucked. The photos get worse every time. It's not them, it's me – 50 soon. I'm not overly unhappy about it, not happy either. It's coming, in December, 50 is coming for me. I'm not feeling it. Not feeling much of anything besides a nagging desire to do something special – quick. So, eating the ice cream I'm thinking about what to do with my life – the deep stuff – a thinking pattern which rapidly gets distracted with the question of why am I eating the ice cream with the lid tossed away. The answer is vanity. At the DMV, I had to check off my hair color. I wasn't sure. I asked the clerk, “what do I check off, brown, gray, bald, what?” She paused and with an expression of compassion I've never seen on a government official said, “I would say gray.” It was the truth and the truth can only be stated once. I'm 50 in December.
Remarks by George Furman
I've a romantic story to tell, but am too jet lagged to tell it.
Returning to Tennessee. Assignment complete, I rode a high-speed train to Frankfurt on route to the airport. German trains travel at 300km/h (186 mph). I traveled in comfort – smooth and fast... and they serve nifty snacks on the train – better than the airplane. I'm all about snacks. I travel well, as I enjoy my own company and keep myself well entertained. My favorite daydream game is “What if”. As in, what if I lived in Germany? Would I live in the farm house with wind power or the apartment with solar power? The game quickly advances to, what if I married that woman in the green dress crossing the street or the one driving the mini-cooper way too fast? It's the art of the crush, the 60-second romance. I chose the tall, blue-eyed, with white hair. We had two kids. We lived a good life, birth to death, imagined in a New York minute. We had a solar powered house, she was a doctor, we spent holidays on long adventures while the kids stayed with their uncle in Switzerland. We always traveled by train because we both loved to read. Mass transit rides seem to be the only time I read a book cover to cover. Can't do that driving a car. And, as I don't sleep well on airplanes because they don't design seating for my Sasquatch body type, I'm motivated to crack a book there. On this trip, I read the Untethered Soul – perfect for me. Right book, right time. Germany was good for me. My life as a journal photographer is underway. My website is sort of up and running. Lots of work to be done still. Have a visit now – a quick peek. Stories to come.
I spent the day with my old friend Hector Black. He is 91 and a half – he counts the halves now, like a kid. Hector is old, he knows stuff. Hector knows more than most. If you don't know him he's one of those Harvard -WWII vet -piano playing-Quaker-blue berry farmer-civil rights leaders who enjoys blue cheese on his crackers. There is more to him than that for sure. The thing is, I spent the day with him and now my head if full of thoughts. In Nashville, We talked to some smart people today about Black Lives Matter, Trump, Hillary, poverty, the death penalty, lost friends, family, community, and the quality of Dublin cheese. At day's end, the world's problems had me feeling sad above the grief of rush hour traffic. At the Hermitage Exit, I asked him, “how do you take it? All this terrible stuff all your life, how do you take it?” An hour later at the Baxter Exit, Hector looked at me and said “I honestly believe, LOVE is greater than hate. That's how I take it.” Me too.
I took a Hell Fire Ride last night. My old pal Jeremy Averitt invited me out on a Monday night to the High Watt in Nashville. I had a large time. I made the acquaintance of the charming and complicated Esmé Patterson - whose band Jeremy plays bass for. I enjoyed the show. True to my quirks, I found full happiness cruising Broad with my friends in the back of a pickup truck at night's end. I'm all about Nashville's neon lights and now, after seeing the show, I'm all about Esme. I'm fascinated by her music. She is the sound of my summer.
It's my 6 AM habit to peek in on my child. A check, for the sake of checking. I've always enjoyed watching her breath. When she came back from the midwife's care years ago, I checked her sleep. I was afraid she would stop breathing, or that she was breathing too fast, or maybe not breathing deep enough. My mind finds worries. Morgan is away with her mom for summer. I still check her room. At sunrise, the sun forced shadows across the lawn, through her room, and onto the hallway wall. It was a melancholy moment. I miss my baby.
I'm ever and all ways seeking ways to make life easier, happier - smoother. It's not easy, troublesome people out there... and even good people can be cantankerous. There is a bucket full of ways to make people happy and an empty ocean of ways to make them unhappy. The longstanding and the most famous problem arises between men and women. The other curious George – George Carlin – wrote,”... women are crazy and men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.” This observation applies to me. To make my life easier, I work on an evolving protocol of behavior to ensure I get on well with women: my mother, daughter, girlfriends, or any woman who may be called upon to be a mother or the President of the United States. The protocol has to be simple, easy to remember. I'm stupid. Here is how is stands now: Open all the doors, carry all the bags, buy her wine, tell her she's pretty. If don't know how this may work on transgender people – I don't do complicated – unless it's a relationship – I'm a master of that. All I know is, I'm not holding the men's room door for anybody.
I went to the library and used the back door so no one would see me. It didn't work. I ran into Professor Michael Bridwell. He hornswoggled me into buying a copy of People of the Upper Cumberland. He told me the book was written by local outlaw intellectuals like Mark Dudney andLaura Austin Clemons. I'm the only fool in town who goes to the library and buys a book. I'm a happy fool. The history book is a rare collection of great Tennessee history. The essay I'm hot to read is the story about the Native Americans in Tennessee. Which I'm surprised to find the average Tennessean doesn't know shit about – really. There are also tales about traveling and doing business on the Cumberland River - and of course, the best business is Moonshine. Birdwell knows more about moonshine than an old woman knows about other people's business. What he has to say about booze is surprising – there is a lot of nourishment in an acre of corn. Sadly, I blew all my whiskey money on the book and the text does not come with a free mason jar, as I think it should. Just as well, I want to remember these stories.
I have a problem with a dog. It is a long and terrible grudge between me and Harry the Tooth, a lhasa Apso. The old dog hates me and the grudge is firm and lingering. It's like the hatred between nursing home residents who sit on opposite sides of the cafeteria as they did in high school. When I walk in the door, Harry bites me. He nails me when I arrive and chews me up and down when I leave – heel to calve. Today I resolved to make peace with the old dog. He's not long to live – maybe two years. I could endure his resentment, but … no. On my knees at the kitchen gate, I sat nose to nose with Harry. He barked and yapped himself into a sneezing frenzy, as small dogs will. I forced eye contact with him and then gave him a treat. I worked this method until he gave me a face lick. The fence removed, I entered the den of the beast, with not even a chair or whip to protect me. I traded snacks for face licks. A peace formed. The day went and went well. As I left, Harry happily followed me to the door. He bit me. He barked and yapped and chewed on my leg and barked some more. I don't know what he was saying, but I know what he meant – fuck you, Furman. I shall return – with a smile... and a treat.
There are things I've done, that I'm glad I've done, that I never wanted to do. I had no desire to take statistics or physical anthropology in college – glad I did. I had no want to ever drink carrot juice or know what a radish is. Vegetables are for rabbits. I eat meat and steak is the meat I eat when I can get it. I walked into Jason Richardson's kitchen years ago. He was making carrot juice. He got me to drink a shot of it, the way you get a drunk friend to drink a bar mat shooter – the one with every spilled drink in the club and a good dose of cigarette ash. I drank the carrot juice. I loved the carrot juice. I became a juicer. To jazz it up, I've been adding radishes to the mix in recent months. As a kid, I wanted to eat spicy food about as much as I wanted to calculate standard deviation in stats class. I learned about spicy from Ryu, Shu-Yin and Sei Iwai in a Port Jefferson sushi bar during high school. They got me to eat sushi and back then, raw fish was not a thing - at all. I can still see Ryu smirk when he got me to swallow a marble of wasabi off a chopstick. Pain, wonderful pain. I loved the spice with yellow tail and every sashimi that followed. Life is better, having tried new things. I've gratitude for being carried forward. Glad , I've done things I didn't want to do.
My daughter will come to see me as a flawed man someday. She sees shortcomings in me now and tolerates them with a smile. I daydream, burn the popcorn, forget about the school meeting. I sign school letters without reading them, or when I burn my attempt at home pizza. At times, I'm dismissive, when I've arrived in the mood where I'm not folding another dish towel ever. I'm going to watch people get eaten by space aliens – no matter what – screw dishtowels. I've got bad taste in movies and music my kid thinks - except when I don't. I'm folding laundry now, not well. My kid doesn't notice that flaw in me. She uses the hamster nest style of organizing her clothes. I let her, peer pressure will make her fold and press her shirts... or it won't. In the laundry process, the dishtowels are coming up and a list of 30-minute purple-eyed people eater sort of shows to watch is forming. The last shirt is a Phantom Bill Sticker T - top of the pile. When I stare at that dog – what a mug – I remember the cold goo sliding up my arm as years ago I inserted my courage into the paste bucket for the first time. Five AM and risking deportation is my memory. I miss the simplicity of a see your breath morning before sunrise. Those are still moments. We don't remember days, we remember moments. I take photos to remember the good moments and to have the power to delete the bad ones - bonus! Photos are good - at least mine are, for me.
It's over. It's on. Another dramatic Christmas in the storage box and cataloged in the scrap album. I keep my holiday memory books on the shelf between the holy bible and texts on combat in Vietnam. The holiday chaos is over and I'm back to a regular routine in the gym. If I die on the stationary bike, check out my scrapbook it will deliver more entertainment than a spaceman at a New Year's party. I was disappointed to not see any newcomers exercising their New Year's resolutions at the gym today. I enjoy giving advice to the newcomers, even though I've little idea of what I'm doing. My big qualifications are I trained with Chris King for a few weeks and my little brother earned his Iron Man tattoo at the legendary heatwave race in Kentucky... and I have a long term relationship with junk food. With no new people at the gym this morning to give advice to (flirt), I'm giving my advice out on FB. When you get the craving, buy the potato chips. Open the chips, eat a few, then dump them out of the car window. You are wasting $3.79. That is a cheap price for not putting 1,120 calories on your butt. You will overcome the craving and you will feel good. Next time, don't buy the chips, give me the $3.79 and I'll slap your skinny ass and direct you to the stationary bike. There you can watch TV shows about gourmet food and you will never eat chips again for fear I'll pat you on the butt again in public. You win with me.
I meant well, so please bless my heart. I bought a book of poetry called the Existentialist Cookbook. I attended a poetry reading for reasons … it's complicated. I don't like poetry. As a teenager, I had a girlfriend who loved to read e.e. cummings. She wanted to feel the poetry. I waaaanTed to FEEL her buttttttt. We broke up, never fooled with poetry again – not worth faking it. Poetry is for crazy people. The wrong kind of crazy, not the fun crazy, the melancholy crazy. No, not me, not going there. I listened to Shawnte Orion read his poetry from the Existentialist Cookbook. I laughed. The man made me laugh with poetry! I bought the book, “for” my daughter. I was going to read it on the sly – in doctors offices. I stopped reading in doctors offices because the magazines suck. I mean take People Magazine. For 49 years, People has found reasons not to put me on the cover. I understand, they pass me up for one the top 10 sexiest men alive. I get that, no place for a Sasquatch on the cover – hard the crop. Why, oh why, don't I ever get on the cover as one of the most intriguing people alive. I'm a talking Sasquatch who reads, writes and make art out from stuff like bottle caps, paint, bronze, sticks, and zeros & ones. I may need to add a deeper James Bond dimension to my life – coming soon, blackmail photos of the staff from People. I meant well, but I never remember to keep the Existentialist Cookbook in my car. The book sits on my Naked Lunch typewriter. It's become a sculpture that threatens poetry on anyone who walks near. My solution -friends – is to find a dark and intriguing way to get Mr. Orion to return to Cookeville and read his book in more detail. I'm not going to read it on my own... and the stunt might get me into People Magazine.
It's snowing the kind of snow I love. The flakes are falling slow, sticking to trees... and the important part, the storm is shutting down the town. The world is forced to sit still and that's good for everyone. The chop, chop, busy, busy is too much - too often too much. Snow, however, does not slow down teenagers. I'm in my space reading Albert Camus – chilling to the winter chill and my kid smashes the serenity with SCIENCE! The science fair is 6 weeks out and she has chosen - with sudden urgency - to do a behavioral science experiment about optical illusions. I'm qualified to help her, I have a degree in behavioral science. I don't remember how I got the degree – I”m no scientist – I just remember why I got the degree. I didn't want to major in business and didn't have the guts to major in art. Anyway, how do you get a BA (bachelor of arts) in BHS (Behavioral Science) isn't that just BS (bullshit)? To my point, my kid is wearing my lucky #31 Drew Ranger shirt. She dug it out of deep storage in my closet. No space is private or sacred where a child resides. It was my special shirt – a high-quality Champion shirt back (1989) when that company made the best athletic clothes on the planet. I'd saved the shirt all these years in the hope that I'd give it to my wife. To me, the t-shirt was more sincere than a diamond wedding ring could be. The marriage didn't happen – I blew it – and the shirt has sat so long in the closet it has now shrunk from a large to a small. As the snow falls today, I've given up on the soul mate wedding thing dream. I am letting my daughter have the t-shirt. It looks good on her, my sweet science nerd.
I decided to make a list of the things I need to do. Lists are handy-dandy and do the job. To make my list, I needed to sharpen a pencil. The art box was full of dull pencils. One sharp pencil felt like not enough. the feeling compelled me to sharpen pencils until the motor of the electric pencil sharpener over-heated and shut down – about 2 dozen pencils. I turned to the old Exact-o sharpener – the one used to by kids since the dawn of time as an excuse to get out of their seat in school. I sharpened until a blister formed. I had reasons, a list forming long and wise of reasons to have a bucket of sharp pencils on hand. I'm teaching my daughter to draw – or the art books I piled upon her are teaching her to draw. She'll have sharp pencils. I'd make her more, but my blister hurts.
Putting things out of reach is method of stopping children from hurting themselves. Knives high and away, cabinets locked - all that. They made a cool magnetic cabinet lock when Morgan was young and a foot. Don't need the locks now she's big. I still have the master magnetic key that opened the locks. The large magnet now holds recipes to the refrigerator. (Funny what remains in a home over a decade later. ) My kid is learning to cook, so now is the time for putting things in reach of the child... or better, in the way of the teenager. The plot is to have her trip over them and gets the idea on her own – give something new a try in the kitchen. Yes there are some serious messy food causalities – that's all part of it. Things are in reach now. I'm tall, so things were set high and inconvenient. New today, the blender and other tools are now low and easy to get at – moved this morning – here, tonight I scored a strawberry smoothie served with bashful pride. Daddy wins.
A productive way of being non-productive on a Sunday is to start a fire. I reduced a pile of branches to ash. It's not hard work. Toss a match, watch it burn. I sat in a lawn chair next to my pal Griffy. We talked. We're guys,we talked about rocks. How a river stone can be tossed in a fire, the water expanding faster than the rock can expand, causes the rock to explode. It's a thing, it happens. You could be blinded or killed. There are lots of weird ways to die and we reviewed them because that's what men do when sitting around a fire. That and trying to figure out ways to use hot flaming marshmallows like napalm. When the fire settled to ash we began to hose down the ashes. When we did, a salamander crawled from the ashes like she was the Mother of Dragons. Death proof critters, it's a thing.
I am not yet the old man who plants trees under who's shade he will never sit. I'm stuck on ferns. In my yard, I hope to overtake the forest with so many ferns that a brontosaurus might move in ... oh wait, those are extinct... or never existed. It's called an Apatosaurus Excelsus now. It will always be thunder lizard to me. I'm old fashioned like that, prehistoric. My fern project needed some planning – don't mind wasting money, it's time in the sun that burns me. I keep a small council of advisers on gardening to make sure I do it right. If I am ever appointed Czar of the People's Politburo Committee on Gardens, Forestry, and Green Stuff of the Upper Cumberland, then Betsy Moon is going to be my committee chair. I go to her for gardening answers – she's a pro. Last year, my friend Ivan inspired me to convert my yard to native plants When Invasive species show, measures must be taken. I got aggressive, went to Betsy for professional advice. Betsy knows everything. Her advice paid off BIG & GREEN – lush. (say “lush” out loud. You'll enjoy it.) She saved me work... I'd have saved more labor if she'd manage our 13-year-olds digging holes. As it was, I did the digging and Betsy did the laughing. She's good at that too. I appreciate what Betsy knows. Want to do the job right? Don't call me – I just dig holes - call Betsy: work, 931/ 235 0532.
My taste in candy runs mysteriously parallel to my attraction to packaging that kids love. The more childish bright and shiny the wrapper, the more I'm going to like the candy – all of it one bite at a time. This package is kind to give me the 220 calories per serving warning on the front. It's a tiny bit helpful, in the way a tobacco package warning is helpful. I ate the entire package – hello, it's a serving. The red ones were the best – always. I knew what I'm doing. I was warned. I'm aware. I'll eat better, tomorrow... no, no, today. Tomorrow, I'll make better mistakes, which may or may not involve candy.