Recently my inexorable journey to geezerhood took on an unexpected and unwelcomed hastening. After enjoying a wine tasting dinner with friends at the Capital Grille, we were standing on a curb awaiting our ride. Two attractive youngish ladies were also waiting, so we chatted. Then a giant of a man approached, presumably the husband or boyfriend of one of the women and said rudely, "Say goodbye to the old-timer. Let's get out of here." Ouch! If his intent was to wound, it worked. When I think of old-timers I'm thinking Marjorie Main, not me.
My 73-year-old barber is a chatty fellow and is appropriately named Windy. He is also a gifted musician and performer, and he has encouraged me in my banjo pursuits. I sought his counsel on how to counter my stage fright problems, and he shared this comforting story: "I was 15 when I first performed in front of a fairly large audience. I was playing lead guitar on a slow blues tune, and you can't hide from your mistakes on a slow blues tune. I got off a beat and panicked and couldn't get back in sync with the rest of the band. I stopped, started over, but it was too late. When it was time to exit I noticed a pretty woman in her 20's waiting to come onstage to perform. She smiled sympathetically at me, and I thought, 'maybe it wasn't as bad as I thought.' But she put her arm around me and said, 'I really felt for you out there.' I was crushed by her kindness."
It was a warm, windy spring morning, and I headed out to the land we own near Eudora, KS for a day of pretend farming. I hooked up a 6' brush cutter to my John Deere 5075E and began mowing on a patch of high ground that happens to be the second highest elevation in Douglas County. The added height of the tractor enhanced the already pleasing views of the Kansas River valley to the north, Blue Mound to the west, and the greening, rolling farms and fields to the south. As an added treat I watched a thunderstorm form in the southwest and felt the fringe of the nearby squall. Majestic cumulonimbus clouds were unleashing gray sheets of rain on my neighbors' fields. It was clear that the contained storm was going to pass by to the south and west leaving me sitting in the sun. It was morel season, and a quick downpour would most likely have brought out a burst of the flavorful fungi. Still the sweet smell of the spring rain wafted my way. We are fortunate to live in such a beautiful part of the world.
One of my favorite pretend farming pastimes is problem solving. Virtually all the problems I solve are those I create, so I shouldn't be running out of challenges anytime soon. On one occasion I backed my mower into a concealed stump bending the heavy-duty steel housing inward thus impeding the 1/4" thick swinging blade revolving at 540 rpm. The clanging of metal on metal made it clear that I had done some serious damage. After uttering a few bad words and thinking to myself, 'I wish I hadn't a done that', I shut everything down and proceeded to address the problem. After a bit of pondering, I returned to the barn, drilled a 1/2" hole in the dented area, and inserted an eye bolt. Then I positioned the mower, still attached to the tractor, at an appropriate angle near a large tree. I hooked a come-along to the eye bolt at one end and to a heavy chain wrapped around the tree. For added leverage I placed a 3' iron pipe over the handle of the come-along and started ratcheting. As everything tightened up I prayed to the farm gods that nothing snapped, and amazingly, little by little the metal housing returned to its former shape.
I quickly forgot that it was my own boneheaded action that caused the incident and instead reveled in the solution and moved on to more pretending.
More recently, my farm day involved a trip into Lawrence to pick up a few necessities. I was dressed in my customary attire, blue jeans, long-sleeved work shirt, and a day-glo ball cap. I was also sporting my tick avoidance gear featuring jeans tucked into my socks then sealed with duct tape. This achieves the desired intent of keeping ticks off of my person, and, as a bonus, presents a natty look.
Immediately upon entering the super Wal-Mart in Lawrence I encountered a well-dressed, pretty woman pushing a shopping cart. We exchanged smiles, and I watched her gaze move from my face down to my socks. Then she motioned her head to guide her companion's eyes to my obvious fashion faux pas. They both hustled on making little effort to hide their snickers. This pleased me greatly, as I like to spread a little mirth each day. I'm not aware of anyone taking my picture to add to those one sees in emails of oddly attired Wal-Martians, but be on the lookout.
Landing on Lily Pads
Judy and I had dinner recently with Bob and Susan, friends who have spent the last decade of winters in San Miguel de Allende, a mountainous region located 170 miles north of Mexico City. We are told it is a charming 17th century town noted for its Spanish colonial architecture and cobblestone lanes. It is home to many artists and wealthy expats. Bob told us several intriguing stories about their friends, Howard and Bill, that formerly lived in Kansas City, but now reside full time in San Miguel.
While in KC they were major benefactors of the mid 1970's renovation of the Folly Theatre. Sally Rand, once famous for feathered fans covering her naked body, appeared at a fundraising event. Afterwards, Howard went into Sally's dressing room and observed she was crying. When asked why she sobbed, "Kansas City is my home town, and I've got to fly back to LA tomorrow."
He offered, "Why not change your flight and be our guest." And she did, and she stayed for five years.
Her new hosts owned a large and beautiful home in the Hyde Park neighborhood. It was staffed with a cook, cook's helper, maid, laundress, and gardener. When the host returned after an out-of-town trip he was approached by his cook, "Mr. Howard, we have a problem." And she proceeded to explain. "Every morning at precisely the same time, Miss Sally comes down the stairs for her tea and breakfast. But she is stark naked. The gardener just happens to be looking in the windows every morning at the appointed hour and then joins us for coffee. It's a bit unsettling."
Howard said he would speak to her, and he did. The next morning 70+ year old Sally came down in a sheer negligee.
I told my friend, Bob, "I'd love to meet these guys and put some of their stories on paper. They would be a veritable treasure trove of material.
At 8:30 am the next morning, Bob called and said, "It's all set. They will be glad to host us at their home and spend a few days telling stories. I will accompany you and show you around town, maybe we can spend some time in Mexico City also." We settled on a date that coincides with the Festival of the Dead. Hopefully more stories will follow from Mexico.
I later told this account to a friend, and he said, "You land on more lily pads than anyone I know." And I'm hopeful it lasts.
Sales of NNAOPP have now crept up to 1,408 copies. Thanks to all.