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Posts Tagged ‘Lifestyle’

As the Dog Barks

As the Dog Barks: A Soap Opera.” That was how my son Britt described the events that unfolded recently when I began looking for another dog.

You have your dramas, I have mine.

———

Early in 2016, I lost my friend Paco, the best dog I ever saw. The loss was profound and painfully slow to diminish. Even now, if I let my guard down, tears will flow.

For a year and a half after that, my heart told me it wasn’t time to get another dog. I checked often, and the answer was always the same: not yet.

I don’t know what finally precipitated the change, but one day, I realized it was time.

My first choice was a rescue dog, a young adult, male or female. I would consider any non-aggressive pooch that I connected with and would be content as a roommate and hiking buddy.

So I spread the word. I told the people at Paco’s kennel, his vet, and other places around town to be on the lookout for me.

I began checking the local animal shelters. I found Paco at a shelter; maybe luck would be with me again. Twice, I sent applications to local canine adoption agencies. They seem to be everywhere.

Two months passed. Over that time, I inquired about and looked at an array of adoptable dogs. But I didn’t come across even one that seemed right.

At that point, I began to question my tactics. And I turned, rather reluctantly, to a resource I had been holding in abeyance.

My ex-wife Deanna has a friend in South Carolina who breeds and trains border collies for herding competition. This woman is truly connected. She knows every border collie person in the Southeast and most of their dogs.

As Deanna explained, when people in the business identify a dog that doesn’t have a strong enough herding instinct, or simply lacks the skills, they don’t waste time trying to train it. They re-home the dog as a pet. And Deanna’s friend always knows when such dogs are available.

Why was I reluctant to contact the friend? Because I would prefer to save a shelter dog. This time, that didn’t seem to be happening, so I emailed the woman and told her my story.

Within 30 minutes, she replied with the name of a possible adoptee.

The timeline of events tells the story…

— Saturday 10:30 AM. I email the trainer.

— Saturday 11:00 AM. The trainer gives me the name of a local man who owns Trace, a 5-year-old male border collie. Trace suffered a hip injury that hasn’t responded to treatment. He is no longer suitable for herding competition. The owner wants to find Trace a new home.

— Saturday 2:15 PM. I email the owner to inquire about Trace.

— Saturday 7:30 PM. I call the owner’s home phone. No answer.

— No response from the owner on Sunday. I am puzzled.

— Monday 11:45 AM. Owner answers my email and provides details about Trace. Owner says he brought in a new male border collie to train, and Trace resents it. “Instant fight.”

— Monday 2:00 PM. I reply and ask owner when I can see Trace.

— No word from owner for several days. I am perplexed.

— Friday 8:00 PM. Email arrives from owner. He provides contact information and asks when I would like to see Trace. I am baffled.

— Friday 8:30 PM. I reply and suggest Monday morning.

— Saturday 11:00 AM. Owner replies that he prefers Sunday afternoon.

— Sunday 10:30 AM. Owner calls. He apologizes and says he has changed his mind. He is too fond of Trace to let him go. I tell him I understand and wish him luck. I am bewildered.

— Sunday 7:15 PM. Owner emails me to apologize again, this time for “letting emotions block good sense.” He has re-reconsidered. He suggests that I keep Trace for a week as a trial. I accept. I am mystified.

Until the trial period began the following Friday, I had not seen any photos of Trace. He turned out to be a striking, classic black-and-white border collie with a velvety coat and hypnotic eyes that would give pause to any sheep.

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At first, he was uncertain and uneasy, having been abandoned in a strange place with a strange human. But he soon adjusted and warmed to me. He was friendly and affectionate.

I gave him plenty of attention and ample time to run in the back yard. When I drove to town on errands, he rode with me. Twice, we went walking around Jefferson. At night, he slept beside me. A daily routine took shape.

By the third day, I tried leaving him at home alone while I went to lunch. When I returned, he was extra happy to see me, but nothing in the house had been disturbed.

On the morning of day four, when I let him outside, he and a squirrel surprised each other. The squirrel quickly escaped up a tree. Trace appeared shocked.

He circled and paced in hound mode, looking up, seemingly fascinated that creatures ran freely in the treetops. Maybe he had no experience with squirrels. Are sheep pastures normal habitat for them? Beats me.

From then on, his first act when he went outside was to look skyward and check for movement in the canopy.

Having a dog around the house again felt right. Trace was good company.

But finally, reluctantly, I had to admit that he was not The One.

I came to that conclusion because Trace is all border collie — an exuberant, high-energy, dynamo of a dog. And the more comfortable he became, the more his border collie nature surfaced.

My neighborhood is secluded, but kids, dogs, cats, and squirrels are everywhere. Even deer are common.

It’s quiet here, but the silence is often broken by the sounds of children, passing cars, delivery vehicles, school buses, the mail truck, and more.

Trace was aware of every sight and sound, eyes ablaze, ears at attention. Sometimes he reacted silently, sometimes he barked or growled.

It’s fair, too, to call him high-maintenance. Briefly, he would be content to watch me do chores, putter around the house, or sit and read. Before long, however, he would appear with a tennis ball, ready to play.

Or he would bark to go outside, only to decide that nothing of interest was there, and he was ready to come back in.

The reality: Trace is a trained herding dog who would be out of a job in my world. Worse, considering my routine and habits, he would spend a fair amount of time at home alone. I couldn’t always take him with me. That was worrisome.

All in all, I was compelled to conclude that I wasn’t right for Trace, and he wasn’t right for me.

In retrospect, I had been fooling myself. My previous two border collies were mellow and low-key, but they were not typical of the breed. Finding another border collie like them would defy the odds. I simply made a mistake.

The decision made, I turned to the task of breaking the news to Trace’s owner. Composing the email wasn’t easy. I wasn’t sure I explained my reasons properly.

But it didn’t matter.

This is proof there is a God,” the owner replied. “I was trying to compose a letter that would convince you to let me have my dog back.”

Trace is gone now, back with his owner. After they left, I put away the food and water bowls, the treats, and the toys. The house is quiet again.

Dogwise, I am back in search mode. No telling what will happen next.

Hasta la vista, Trace. You’re a very good boy. I’m glad we crossed paths.

Trace-2

You have your dramas, I have mine.

 

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Wicked Week

I just got back from a road trip to Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Most of it was new territory for me, so I went slow, took my time. I had a wicked good week.

The only downside to the trip was getting there from Georgia, which meant two long days of miserable Interstate driving. But, once I arrived, rural New England was peaceful, pleasant, clean, and green.

The residents probably would take offense at this, but I saw little difference between the three states. Basically, the terrain, the weather, the architecture, and the accents were all the same.

Everything there has a decided Yankee vibe. An interesting change from back home.

In New England, I noted, Dunkin’ Donuts is like McDonald’s in the rest of the country.

Firewood is for sale everywhere.

And I had the feeling that the locals were enjoying the pleasant summer weather only guardedly and temporarily. They were poised, I sensed, to switch back to winter mode at any time. After stocking up on firewood, of course.

 

Wicked-1

Typical green scene in Vermont. Or maybe New Hampshire.

Having no special agenda, I drove a number of off-the-beaten-path routes (as recommended by my copy of National Geographic’s Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways) and ended up in some interesting places.

In Burlington, Vermont, for example, frivolity reigned.

Wicked-2

Burlington, I discovered, is a major haven for hipsters, hippies, and other free spirits. Back in the 80s, Bernie Sanders was Burlington’s mayor.

The highest peak in the region, Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, is the “home of the world’s worst weather.” The summit is accessible via a harrowing eight-mile auto road, which was extra scary the day I drove it due to dense fog. I took these photos at the top in a chilly rain.

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One of the most magnificent places in the area is Acadia National Park, which takes up most of an island on the coast of Maine. It combines lush greenery with the rocky and majestic Atlantic coast.

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Probably not so serene and idyllic in January during a nor’easter.

Weather wise, this is the most pleasant time of year in New England, so Acadia was maxed out with tourists. Even finding a place to stop and get photos was a challenge. In another month, the crowds of leaf-peepers will triple the traffic.

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The tourist mecca of Bar Harbor is the gateway to Acadia. It’s a quaint harbor town and home to a sizable lobster fleet. Maine lobsters, they say, are more abundant today than ever before.

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Which brings me to another reason I made the trip: to enjoy an authentic New England lobster roll.

I succeeded. Three times.

FYI, lobster rolls come in two varieties: Connecticut style (served warm with melted butter) and Maine style (served chilled with mayo and a splash of lemon). Most locals prefer the Maine variety, and, in fact, I never came across a place that served them warm.

The first two times I had them, they were delicious, but somehow, a bit lacking. They were stingy on the meat, and the buns were lined with shredded lettuce, which diluted the taste.

Moreover, I had them in restaurant settings, which was all wrong. Too civilized. And the food was prepared out of sight and brought to my table like some ordinary meal.

I wanted genuine. I wanted rustic. I wanted the thing cooked where I could see it. I wanted it served outdoors, on a paper plate, as I assume all self-respecting Maineiacs prefer it.

And, fortunately, I stumbled upon a place that, in my mind, served lobster rolls in the proper manner.

It happened as I drove back to the mainland from Acadia. Up ahead was a small trailer in a gravel parking lot. A large, hand-lettered plywood sign out front read LOBSTERS.

The trailer was surrounded by tables and chairs under awnings, and a dozen people were queued up in a line that disappeared into the trailer. I pulled into the parking lot.

Behind the trailer, teams of people were carrying baskets of lobsters from several pickup trucks to a table behind a row of steaming pots.

Under a canopy, two men handled the cooking. Under another canopy, teams of pickers deftly collected the meat.

After a few minutes in line, I was inside the trailer. A stern, matronly woman with forearms like Popeye took my order: lobster roll, chips, a pickle, and a beer of my choice from the display case. The bill was $14. She took my money and sent me outside to find a table.

While I waited, I wandered around and observed the proceedings.

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Then, dinner was served.

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And wicked good it was. Ample meat, lightly seasoned, nicely chilled, no extraneous filling, and sublime taste.

My beverage, by the way, was from Sea Dog, a brewery in Bangor. I chose Wild Blueberry in honor of the small, sweet New England variety of blueberries currently in season.

I savored the meal slowly and deemed the trip a success.

———

Finally, what road trip would be complete without souvenir t-shirts?

Wicked-14

For the return to Georgia, I decided to follow the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway through Virginia and North Carolina. This would take longer, but it would spare me a lot of Interstate driving.

I was rewarded with an early-morning bear encounter on the Skyline Drive. That story in my next post.

 

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In the 1970s, American singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson owned a small apartment in the Mayfair district of London. 12 Curzon Place, Flat 9 was a swanky address in a fashionable part of town.

According to Nilsson, the two-bedroom apartment was just a typical London flat, “but it was in a great neighborhood. It was across from the Playboy Club, diagonally. From one balcony, you could read the time from Big Ben, and from the other balcony, you could watch the bunnies go up and down.”

Being popular and connected, Nilsson had plenty of famous friends. When he was out of town, he often allowed one pal or the other to use the apartment. Typically, Harry was gone for half the year. Flat 9 was rarely empty.

Mama Cass

One of the pals who stayed at Flat 9 was singer Cass Elliot, formerly of the Mamas and the Papas, who was in London for a series of live solo performances in July 1974.

Even before the Mamas and the Papas broke up in 1971, Elliot had begun a solo career, and she was doing well. By 1974, she had released five albums on her own. That July at the London Palladium, she appeared before sold-out crowds.

On July 29, after a successful evening performance, Elliot returned to Nilsson’s Mayfair apartment and retired for the night. The next morning, she was found dead in bed. She was 32.

Elliot, if you recall, had a weight problem. She was 5′ 5″ tall, and her weight sometimes reached 300 pounds. Although the notoriety factor probably helped her career, she battled the condition constantly.

Elliot regularly shed pounds with crash diets and week-long fasts. Each time, the weight rapidly returned.

Back in 1968, she had dieted for six months and lost 100 pounds in preparation for her live debut performance in Las Vegas. But she became so weak and ill that the performance closed after one night.

Ultimately, the constant cycle of gain-loss-gain was too much for Elliot’s constitution. Her death in 1974 was ruled a heart attack from “fatty myocardial degeneration due to obesity,” exacerbated by her severe dieting and, of course, celebrity lifestyle.

When Elliot’s body was found, the first doctor who examined her unintentionally triggered a rumor about how she died.

He told reporters, “From what I saw when I got to the flat, she appeared to have been eating a ham sandwich and drinking a Coca-Cola while lying down — a very dangerous thing to do. She seemed to have choked on a ham sandwich.”

In spite of medical findings about the condition of her heart, and the absence of food in her windpipe, an urban legend has persisted over the decades that Elliot choked on the ham sandwich.

Moon the Loon

Four years later, in 1978, a second entertainer died in Flat 9 in the same bed. It was Keith Moon — Moon the Loon — the hard-partying drummer of The Who. Ironically, Moon also was 32 when he died.

Keith Moon was legendary for both his drumming — he was voted the 2nd-greatest rock drummer of all time in a 2011 Rolling Stone reader’s poll — and his appetite for booze, drugs, and full-throttle, self-destructive behavior.

In addition to non-stop partying, he was famous for smashing his drums and equipment after performances, passing out on stage, and trashing hotel rooms. He also liked to drop cherry bombs into toilets.

Moon once described a typical day to his doctor:

I always get up about six in the morning. I have my bangers and eggs, and I drink a bottle of Dom Perignon and half a bottle of brandy. Then I take a couple of downers. Then it’s about 10, and I’ll have a nice nap until five.

I get up, have a couple of black beauties [used by truck drivers to stay awake], some brandy, a little champagne, and go out on the town. Then we boogie. We’ll wrap it up about four.

On the evening of September 6, 1978, Moon and some friends went to see an advance screening of The Buddy Holly Story, then embarked on a night of the usual revelry.

At 4:30 a.m., he returned to Flat 9, swallowed a large number of Heminevrin tablets, which had been prescribed for alcohol withdrawal, and went to bed.

At 7:30 a.m., Moon awoke and asked his girlfriend to cook him a steak. She complained about being asked so often to cook for him.

Moon cursed at her (undoubtedly his last words) and cooked the steak himself. He ate it while drinking Champagne and watching the movie The Abominable Dr. Phibes. He then took more Heminevrin tablets and went back to bed.

Hours later, his girlfriend discovered his body and called the police. According to the autopsy, he died of an accidental overdose, having taken at least 32 Heminevrin tablets.

Apparently, a second death in Flat 9 was too much for Harry Nilsson. He never entered the apartment again. He sold it to Pete Townsend, Moon’s band mate, and moved to Los Angeles.

Nilsson’s reaction to the loss of his two friends had little to do with disapproval of their lifestyle. His own appetite for drugs and alcohol was second to none.

Fellow musician and friend Marianne Faithfull once said of Harry, “We used to do drugs together. And when I say drugs, I don’t mean those airy-fairy drugs they do nowadays. I’m talking about narcotics.”

Nonetheless, Nilsson managed to live longer than many of his contemporaries. He survived a heart attack in 1993, but died of a second attack in 1994, at the relatively ripe old age of 52.

During his funeral in Los Angeles, those in attendance felt several aftershocks from the Northridge earthquake. They joked that the rumbling was caused by Harry, when he discovered there are no bars in Heaven.

Originally, Flat 9 was one of three apartments on the top floor of 12 Curzon Place. They were furnished by ROR, a trendy design company owned by Nilsson’s friend Ringo Starr and designer Robin Cruikshank. (ROR meant Ringo Or Robin.)

The three apartments survived until 2001, when a developer renovated the fourth floor into two luxury flats. The next year, They went on the market for $1 million pounds each, with a lease of 125 years.

Back in those days, when I would read about the drug and alcohol excesses of assorted rock stars, I at first suspected the stories were exaggerated. After all, in that business, to appear daring and brash and death-defying was good press.

But when so many of them began dying early — Jim Morrison of The Doors died at 27 — I had to concede that the over-the-top behavior was for real.

I guess my brain isn’t wired to understand.

Cass Elliot (1941-1974)

Cass Elliot (1941-1974)

Keith Moon (1946-1978) with his girlfriend Annette Walter-Lax.

Keith Moon (1946-1978) with his girlfriend Annette Walter-Lax.

Harry Nilsson (1941-1994)

Harry Nilsson (1941-1994)

12 Curzon Place, Mayfair.

12 Curzon Place, Mayfair.

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My previous post was about a boat tour I took earlier this month into the beautiful and fascinating Atchafalaya Basin, a sprawling wetland in southern Louisiana. The trip was a mere two hours long, but it was enough to give me the flavor of the place and make me resolve to go back another time and explore further.

My tour guide that day was Captain Don, a jovial Cajun fellow who regaled us passengers with (1) fascinating facts about the history and inhabitants of the Atchafalaya and (2) Cajun jokes.

Specifically, Captain Don introduced us to Boudreaux and Thibodeaux, the central characters of much Cajun humor. Boudreaux and Thibodeaux are a disreputable, but lovable duo whose antics get them into constant trouble.

The jokes, of course, are universal. But, when told by a Cajun about Cajuns, they have an undeniable panache.

Every time Captain Don reeled off a joke, I quietly made a note, so I could reconstruct the tale later. As it turned out, he told quite a few. That’s why I felt obliged to make this report a two-parter.

Here are the jokes Captain Don told us…

AB-6

Boudreau is drivin’ in da city one day, all in a sweat. He got a very important meetin’, and he can’t find a parking place.

Lookin’ up to Heaven he says, “Lord, take pity on me! If you find me a parkin’ place, ah will go to Mass every Sunday for the rest of ma life, and ah’ll never take another drink as long as ah live!”

Like a miracle, a parkin’ place appears around de next corner.

Boudreau looks up at Heaven again and says, “Never mind, Lord, ah found one.”

AB-7

Thibodeaux is layin’ on his deathbed with only a few days to live. He calls his wife Clotile to his side and says, “Make me a promise, Clotile. Swear to me dat after ah’m dead and gone, you will marry Boudreaux.”

“Boudreaux?” she exclaims. “You always say you hate Boudreaux, ’cause he’s low down and no good, and you wish nuttin’ but BAD on him!”

Thibodeaux says, “Yeah, ah do.”

AB-8

One day, Boudreaux and Thibodeaux fly north to Yankee country on vacation. As dey come in for a landin’, Boudreaux yells at Thibodeaux, “Pull up! Pull up! We’re at de end of de runway!”

So Thibodeaux pulls up and goes around for another try. As he attempts another landin’, Boudreaux yells at him again. “Pull up! Pull up! We’re at de end of de runway already!”

Thibodeaux pulls back on da stick and goes around again. As he comes in for a third try, he says to Boudreaux, “You know, dese Yankees is pretty stupid! Dey made dis runway way too short, but look at how wide it is!”

AB-9

Pierre is drinkin’ at de bar, when Thibodeaux comes in. “Pierre, you heard the news?” says Thibodeaux. “Boudreaux is dead!”

“That’s terrible!” says Pierre. “What happened to him?”

“Well, Boudreaux was on his way over to my house the other day, and when he arrived, his foot missed da brake pedal, and BOOM — he hit da curb! He crash troo da windshield, go flying troo de air, and smash troo my upstairs bedroom window!”

“What a horrible way to die!” says Pierre.

“No no, dat didn’t kill him! He survived dat!

“So, he’s lyin’ on the floor, all covered in broken glass, and he tries to pull hisself up on dat big old antique chifferrobe we got, and BANG — da chifferrobe comes crashing down on top of him!”

“Mais, that’s terrible!”

“No no, dat didn’t kill him! He survived dat!

“So, he gets de chifferrobe off him, and he crawls out onto da landin’, and he tries to pull hisself up on de han’rail! But de han’rail breaks, and BAM — Boudreaux fall down da stairs to da first floor!”

“Dat’s sure an awful way to go!”

“No no, dat didn’t kill him! Boudreaux, he even survived dat!

“So, he’s downstairs, and he crawls into de kitchen and tries to pull hisself up on de stove! But he tips over a big pot of hot gumbo, and whoosh — da whole thing come down on him and burn him real bad!”

“Thibodeaux, dat’s an awful way to die!”

“No no, he survived dat too!”

“Wait — hold on now! Just how did Boudreaux die?”

“Ah shot him!”

“You shot him? Why you shoot him?”

“Mais, he was wreckin’ mah house!”

AB-10

Boudreaux is workin’ on his cabane, which is what we call a cabin in dese parts, when his little grandson runs in.

“Papaw,” says da boy, “How far away is California? How far is California, Papaw?”

Boudreaux answers, “Boy, ah don’t know! Go away, now, ’cause ah’m busy!”

A few minutes later, here comes de boy again. “Papaw! Make a noise like a frog! Make a noise like a frog, Papaw!”

Boudreaux yells, “Boy can’t you see ah’m workin’? Get on outta here, like ah tol‘ ya!”

Da boy goes outside, but he stays near de door, lookin’ in at Boudreaux.

Finally, Boudreaux stops what he’s doin’ and says, “Boy, why you wanna know all dat?”

Da boy says, “‘Cause Mamaw told us — when Papaw finally croaks, we goin’ to California!”

AB-11

One mornin’, Boudreaux goes fishin’, and he’s doin’ real fine until da game warden pops up. Da game warden been watchin’ from the bushes, and he waits ’till Boudreaux catches a mess of fish. Den he steps out and says, “Ok, boy, lemme see dat fishin’ license!”

Well, Boudreaux, he ain’t GOT no fishin’ license, so da game warden arrest him and take him to court.

Da judge looks at da charges, and says, “Boudreaux, you got a clean record, son. You ain’t never been in dis court before.”

“Das right, Judge,” Boudreaux says. “Ah ain’t never been caught till now.”

“How ’bout dis?” says the judge. “If you promise to get a fishin’ license and not break the law no more, ah’ll let you go.”

Da game warden lets out a howl of protest. “Dat ain’t fair, Judge!” he yells. “Boudreaux, he do dis all da time, but he always get away! I finally catch him, and you lettin’ him go?”

“Well,” says da judge, “Maybe he done learned his lesson. Have ya, Boudreaux?”

“You bet ah have, Judge,” says Boudreaux.

So da judge slams down his gavel and tells Boudreaux he’s free to go. Da game warden turns to de judge and says, “Judge, what about dis? One time, ah came up on Boudreaux in de swamp, and he done cooked and eat a brown pelican, da Louisiana state bird!”

“Is dat true, Boudreaux?” says da judge.

Boudreaux stops at de courtroom door and turns back and says, “Yes, Judge, ah done what he said, but de bird was already dead, and ah hated to see de meat go to waste!”

Da judge thought for a minute and den says, “Ah’m curious, Boudreaux. What do brown pelican taste like?”

“Funny thing, Judge,” says Boudreaux. “It taste a lot like bald eagle!”

AB-12

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How to Man Up

The Art of Manliness is an informative and enjoyable blog dedicated to helping ordinary dudes become better men. Created by the husband and wife team of Brett and Kate McKay, the website has been imparting useful manly advice since 2008.

AOM

What sort of advice? Barnes & Noble had a good summary of that when it reviewed the McKays’ spin-off book, “The Art of Manliness: Classic Skills and Manners for the Modern Man.” The review says this:

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Taking lessons from classic gentlemen such as Benjamin Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt, authors Brett and Kate McKay have created a collection of the most useful advice every man needs to know to live life to its full potential.

This book contains a wealth of information that ranges from survival skills to social skills to advice on how to improve your character.

Whether you are braving the wilds with your friends, courting your girlfriend or raising a family, inside you’ll find practical information and inspiration for every area of life. You’ll learn the basics all modern men should know, including how to:

Shave like your grandpa
Be a perfect houseguest
Fight like a gentleman using the art of bartitsu
Help a friend with a problem
Give a man hug
Perform a fireman’s carry
Ask for a woman’s hand in marriage
Raise resilient kids
Predict the weather like a frontiersman
Start a fire without matches
Give a dynamic speech
Live a well-balanced life

So jump in today and gain the skills and knowledge you need to be a real man in the 21st Century.

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Note to self: look into this “bartitsu” thing.

The McKays frequently look to the past for their material, and the appearance of the blog is decidedly old-timey — lots of vintage photos, sepia line drawings, top hats, and mustaches. The approach works very well. The stories invariably are enjoyable and worthwhile.

Typical of the stories featured on AOM is “37 Conversation Rules for Gentlemen from 1875.” The 37 rules were excerpted from “The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness” published in 1875 by Cecil B. Hartley.

The subtitle of Hartley’s book explains further:

“Being a Complete Guide for a Gentleman’s Conduct in All His Relations Toward Society, Containing Rules for the Etiquette to be Observed in the Street, at Table, in the Ball Room, Evening Party, and Morning Call, With Full Directions for Polite Correspondence, Dress, Conversation, Manly Exercises, and Accomplishments From the Best French, English, and American Authorities.”

Here are the 37 rules.

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1. Even if convinced that your opponent is utterly wrong, yield gracefully, decline further discussion, or dexterously turn the conversation, but do not obstinately defend your own opinion until you become angry… Many there are who, giving their opinion, not as an opinion but as a law, will defend their position by such phrases, as: “Well, if I were president, or governor, I would,” — and while by the warmth of their argument they prove that they are utterly unable to govern their own temper, they will endeavor to persuade you that they are perfectly competent to take charge of the government of the nation.

2. Retain, if you will, a fixed political opinion, yet do not parade it upon all occasions, and, above all, do not endeavor to force others to agree with you. Listen calmly to their ideas upon the same subjects, and if you cannot agree, differ politely, and while your opponent may set you down as a bad politician, let him be obliged to admit that you are a gentleman.

3. Never interrupt anyone who is speaking; it is quite rude to officiously supply a name or date about which another hesitates, unless you are asked to do so. Another gross breach of etiquette is to anticipate the point of a story which another person is reciting, or to take it from his lips to finish it in your own language. Some persons plead as an excuse for this breach of etiquette, that the reciter was spoiling a good story by a bad manner, but this does not mend the matter. It is surely rude to give a man to understand that you do not consider him capable of finishing an anecdote that he has commenced.

4. It is ill-bred to put on an air of weariness during a long speech from another person, and quite as rude to look at a watch, read a letter, flirt the leaves of a book, or in any other action show that you are tired of the speaker or his subject.

5. In a general conversation, never speak when another person is speaking, and never try by raising your own voice to drown that of another. Never assume an air of haughtiness, or speak in a dictatorial manner; let your conversation be always amiable and frank, free from every affectation.

6. Never, unless you are requested to do so, speak of your own business or profession in society; to confine your conversation entirely to the subject or pursuit which is your own specialty is low-bred and vulgar. Make the subject for conversation suit the company in which you are placed. Joyous, light conversation will be at times as much out of place as a sermon would be at a dancing party. Let your conversation be grave or gay as suits the time or place.

7. In a dispute, if you cannot reconcile the parties, withdraw from them. You will surely make one enemy, perhaps two, by taking either side, in an argument when the speakers have lost their temper.

8. Never, during a general conversation, endeavor to concentrate the attention wholly upon yourself. It is quite as rude to enter into conversation with one of a group, and endeavor to draw him out of the circle of general conversation to talk with you alone.

9. A man of real intelligence and cultivated mind is generally modest. He may feel when in everyday society, that in intellectual acquirements he is above those around him; but he will not seek to make his companions feel their inferiority, nor try to display this advantage over them. He will discuss with frank simplicity the topics started by others, and endeavor to avoid starting such as they will not feel inclined to discuss. All that he says will be marked by politeness and deference to the feelings and opinions of others.

10. It is as great an accomplishment to listen with an air of interest and attention, as it is to speak well. To be a good listener is as indispensable as to be a good talker, and it is in the character of listener that you can most readily detect the man who is accustomed to good society.

11. Never listen to the conversation of two persons who have thus withdrawn from a group. If they are so near you that you cannot avoid hearing them, you may, with perfect propriety, change your seat.

12. Make your own share in conversation as modest and brief as is consistent with the subject under consideration, and avoid long speeches and tedious stories. If, however, another, particularly an old man, tells a long story, or one that is not new to you, listen respectfully until he has finished, before you speak again.

13. Speak of yourself but little. Your friends will find out your virtues without forcing you to tell them, and you may feel confident that it is equally unnecessary to expose your faults yourself.

14. If you submit to flattery, you must also submit to the imputation of folly and self-conceit.

15. In speaking of your friends, do not compare them, one with another. Speak of the merits of each one, but do not try to heighten the virtues of one by contrasting them with the vices of another.

16. Avoid, in conversation all subjects which can injure the absent. A gentleman will never calumniate or listen to calumny.

17. The wittiest man becomes tedious and ill-bred when he endeavors to engross entirely the attention of the company in which he should take a more modest part.

18. Avoid set phrases, and use quotations but rarely. They sometimes make a very piquant addition to conversation, but when they become a constant habit, they are exceedingly tedious, and in bad taste.

19. Avoid pedantry; it is a mark, not of intelligence, but stupidity.

20. Speak your own language correctly; at the same time do not be too great a stickler for formal correctness of phrases.

21. Never notice it if others make mistakes in language. To notice by word or look such errors in those around you is excessively ill-bred.

22. If you are a professional or scientific man, avoid the use of technical terms. They are in bad taste, because many will not understand them. If, however, you unconsciously use such a term or phrase, do not then commit the still greater error of explaining its meaning. No one will thank you for thus implying their ignorance.

23. In conversing with a foreigner who speaks imperfect English, listen with strict attention, yet do not supply a word, or phrase, if he hesitates. Above all, do not by a word or gesture show impatience if he makes pauses or blunders. If you understand his language, say so when you first speak to him; this is not making a display of your own knowledge, but is a kindness, as a foreigner will be pleased to hear and speak his own language when in a strange country.

24. Be careful in society never to play the part of buffoon, for you will soon become known as the “funny” man of the party, and no character is so perilous to your dignity as a gentleman. You lay yourself open to both censure and bad ridicule, and you may feel sure that, for every person who laughs with you, two are laughing at you, and for one who admires you, two will watch your antics with secret contempt.

25. Avoid boasting. To speak of your money, connections, or the luxuries at your command is in very bad taste. It is quite as ill-bred to boast of your intimacy with distinguished people. If their names occur naturally in the course of conversation, it is very well; but to be constantly quoting, “my friend, Gov. C,” or, “my intimate friend, the president,” is pompous and in bad taste.

26. While refusing the part of jester yourself, do not, by stiff manners, or cold, contemptuous looks, endeavor to check the innocent mirth of others. It is in excessively bad taste to drag in a grave subject of conversation when pleasant, bantering talk is going on around you. Join in pleasantly and forget your graver thoughts for the time, and you will win more popularity than if you chill the merry circle or turn their innocent gayety to grave discussions.

27. When thrown into the society of literary people, do not question them about their works. To speak in terms of admiration of any work to the author is in bad taste; but you may give pleasure, if, by a quotation from their writings, or a happy reference to them, you prove that you have read and appreciated them.

28. It is extremely rude and pedantic, when engaged in general conversation, to make quotations in a foreign language.

29. To use phrases which admit of a double meaning, is ungentlemanly.

30. If you find you are becoming angry in a conversation, either turn to another subject or keep silence. You may utter, in the heat of passion, words which you would never use in a calmer moment, and which you would bitterly repent when they were once said.

31. “Never talk of ropes to a man whose father was hanged” is a vulgar but popular proverb. Avoid carefully subjects which may be construed into personalities, and keep a strict reserve upon family matters. Avoid, if you can, seeing the skeleton in your friend’s closet, but if it is paraded for your special benefit, regard it as a sacred confidence, and never betray your knowledge to a third party.

32. If you have traveled, although you will endeavor to improve your mind in such travel, do not be constantly speaking of your journeyings. Nothing is more tiresome than a man who commences every phrase with, “When I was in Paris,” or, “In Italy I saw…”

33. When asking questions about persons who are not known to you, in a drawing-room, avoid using adjectives; or you may enquire of a mother, “Who is that awkward, ugly girl?” and be answered, “Sir, that is my daughter.”

34. Avoid gossip; in a woman it is detestable, but in a man it is utterly despicable.

35. Do not officiously offer assistance or advice in general society. Nobody will thank you for it.

36. Avoid flattery. A delicate compliment is permissible in conversation, but flattery is broad, coarse, and to sensible people, disgusting. If you flatter your superiors, they will distrust you, thinking you have some selfish end; if you flatter ladies, they will despise you, thinking you have no other conversation.

37. A lady of sense will feel more complimented if you converse with her upon instructive, high subjects, than if you address to her only the language of compliment. In the latter case she will conclude that you consider her incapable of discussing higher subjects, and you cannot expect her to be pleased at being considered merely a silly, vain person, who must be flattered into good humor.

————

So, there you have it — words of wisdom for every man with the sense to listen, still valid after 188 years.

All y’all — ladies as well as gentlemen — should check out The Art of Manliness.

Gentlemen

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Tune o’ the Day

“Hotel California” by the Eagles was one of the most popular rock songs of its era. It tells the story of a weary traveler who stops at an inviting, but spooky hotel, only to be trapped there forever amid some serious weirdness.  

According to band members, the song is an allegory about “hedonism, self-destruction, and greed” in the late 1970s.

In 2007, lead singer Don Henley said on 60 Minutes, “We were all middle-class kids from the Midwest. Hotel California was our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles.”

Guitarist Glenn Frey said the song is about materialism, excess, and “the darker side of Paradise.”

Despite these straightforward explanations, wacky theories abound — that the song secretly is about a mental hospital, or Satanism, or cocaine addiction. Apparently, some people just dig conspiracy theories.

One often-misinterpreted detail in the song is the reference to the “warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air.”  Most people assume that colitas is some kind of aromatic desert flower. At first, I did.

Nope. “Colitas” is Spanish for “little tails” and is a reference to marijuana buds. The word was translated for the band by their Mexican-American road manager.

More trivia: the hotel on the album cover is the Beverly Hills Hotel, a grand old place built in 1912, long popular with the Hollywood crowd. The photo was taken from a cherry-picker 60 feet above Sunset Boulevard during rush-hour traffic.

Still more trivia: Frey said the line about stabbing the beast with “steely knives” alluded to Steely Dan, with whom The Eagles shared a manager. The girlfriend of Steely Dan guitarist Walter Becker was said to be a major Eagles fan. (Frey said the “beast” in the song is addiction.)

To me, “Hotel California” is most notable for its killer guitar work, especially in the finale. The ending guitar duet by Don Felder and Joe Walsh is as brilliant today as it was 35 years ago.

I’m sure the high life in Los Angeles hasn’t changed much over the years, either.

Hotel California

By The Eagles, 1977
Written by Don Felder, Glenn Frey, and Don Henley

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair,
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air,
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light.
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim.
I had to stop for the night.

There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell.
And I was thinking to myself,
“This could be Heaven or this could be Hell.”

Then she lit up a candle, and she showed me the way.
There were voices down the corridor;
I thought I heard them say…

“Welcome to the Hotel California.
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place),
Such a lovely face.
Plenty of room at the Hotel California.
Any time of year (Any time of year),
You can find it here.”

Her mind is Tiffany-twisted. She got the Mercedes Bends.
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys she calls friends.
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget.

So I called up the Captain.
“Please bring me my wine.”
He said, “We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969.”
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night,
Just to hear them say…

“Welcome to the Hotel California.
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place),
Such a lovely face.
They’re livin’ it up at the Hotel California.
What a nice surprise (what a nice surprise).
Bring your alibis.”

Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice,
And she said “We are all just prisoners here of our own device.”

And in the master’s chambers,
They gathered for the feast.
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can’t kill the beast.

Last thing I remember,
I was running for the door.
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before.

“Relax, ” said the night man,
“We are programmed to receive.
You can check out any time you like,
But you can never leave.”

 

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Emily

One of my sons is a police detective in nearby Athens, Georgia. His job is to deal with the dregs of humanity and the seediest parts of town. He isn’t as fond of Athens as I am.

Me, I like Athens a lot. If you’re free to choose your company and where to go, Athens is fun, funky, and fascinating. A case in point…

I was in downtown Athens a few days ago to pick up some poster prints — enlargements of the latest grandkid photos, to be precise. As I was exiting my car in the parking lot at the print shop, two guys, white and college-age, passed by on the sidewalk.

They were riding unicycles.

Both sported Mohawk haircuts. One blond, one brown.

Each was preceded by a dog on a leash — the brown-haired guy by a serene Australian shepherd, the blond guy by an energetic Yorkie.

As this party of four reached the corner, the traffic light changed, and they were obliged to stop for the cross traffic.

The dogs took a rest break. The unicyclists avoided dismounting by rocking back and forth — half a revolution forward, half a revolution back, half forward, half back.

I stood there a few feet away, observing the odd procession because, well, how could I not?

Before long, the blond rider noticed me. “Hey, man” he said congenially.

“Hey,” I replied. “I had a Yorkie once. With those little legs, he had a hard time keeping up.”

“Oh, Willie is tough,” he said. “He has more stamina than the rest of us put together.”

The two guys continued to rock back and forth, back and forth, remaining balanced with supreme ease. It looked like fun. Made me want to take up unicycling.

“We do a loop of the downtown with the dogs just about every day,” said the brown-haired guy. “Downtown and out Prince.” By Prince, he meant Prince Avenue, the street in front of us.

“Yeah,” said Blondie sarcastically, “Out Prince to see if Emily is at work! Ooh, ooh, Emily!”

“You know what?” said his friend, “Take a vacation, you jerk — to Jerk-maica!”

“Is Emily there? Will she see me?”

“Loser. Idiot.”

“Ooh, Emily!”

“You are so lame.”

“You’re the one who’s lame, lame-o! You and Emily live on different planets, man! It ain’t gonna happen! “

“Dude, you are such a loser.”

Blondie beamed smugly. The brown-haired guy, clearly embarrassed, gave me a sheepish look.

“Emily is really great, man,” he said wistfully. “And she’s such a babe! She’s, like… almost painful to look at.”

“Wow,” I said. “That’s impressive. You’re a lucky guy.”

“Lucky. Yeah, right.”

The traffic light changed. The party of four prepared to cross Prince Avenue and continue down the other side.

“Later, man,” said Blondie.

“Yeah, later,” said the brown-haired guy.

“Have a good day, guys,” I said. “If you see Emily, tell her I said hey.” That got a laugh.

As I opened the door of the print shop, I turned and looked back. The four of them were advancing down the Prince Avenue sidewalk at a leisurely pace, single file. Willie was leading the way.

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