Friday, December 29, 2017

Flashback Christmas Week Friday

Got 22 minutes?  A rather nice modern day Christmas fable.

This old pic has a lot of appeal for me.  It is a nighttime snowy scene with an old Texaco station with vintage cars.  It was probably taken in the early 50's.  I guess that explains the appeal:  night, old cars, snow, red in any night scene, and the Texaco sign is just like the one we had in Seaton.  I don't know where this is, but it could have been in any number of thousands places in mid-century America.

OK, so I threw in a pic each day and now onto the next year.  Woo hoo (I hope)! 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Flashback Friday

And this last picture was recently uncovered and never displayed on this blog before.  One of the very few pictures with all of the Blythe boys.  

It is Christmas around the Wombie and my senior year in high school.  Any later and our long hair as Freshman at IWC would have been more pronounced.  Bro Phil would have been a Junior at college and we would be entering in about 9 months.  

The folks, or rather Marj, was drawn toward the flocked tree look.  They would find a tree, hang it by a rope around one of the rafters in the garage and then it would be sprayed by cans with a kind of paint that turn green needles into white.  Perhaps that is why I prefer a flocked tree to this day, but have never had one.  Hmmm.  I'll have to kick that upstairs to see why.

As you have probably surmised, lounging around the home was a casual thing.  If you have ever noticed from past Flashbacks, shoes and socks were seldom worn.  They simply weren't required in hanging out.  Besides, spontaneous wrestling erupted constantly and shoes were a major detriment.

There were some Christmases better than others but we never had a bad one.  Somehow, we always seemed to revel in each others company; we appreciated our kinship and trusted each other.  Time has separated us for many years.  The folks are gone.  Phone calls with the boys on Christmas remain the only link.  And yet, the essence of it, the joy of brotherhood remains.  Merry Christmas, Mark and Phil.     

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Ghosts Of Christmas Past

I have moved from one place or another far too often in the past decade. It is what I signed up for, I guess, when I decided to come to Kitschland to join the family.  I have attempted to escape to Northlandia a couple times but I have been found and dragged back to the Scrub State. In a year or so I will be free from my babysitting commitment and hope to rejoin my heart, on a more or less semi-permanent basis, which resides somewhere north of Peoria and South of Moline.  But I digress.

All of that is to say that in various moves and the Great Flood of North Henderson I have lost many items that I collected whilst journeying through life.  I seem to have lost a wooden Seaton Wolves token that belonged to my father.  Most recently I noticed in going through my boxes that I have lost, or misplaced, my Master's Thesis.  Neighbor Tim wanted to read it a while back, the only person who ever asked, and darned if I can find it anywhere.  

Ultimately these things are only important to me - they represent milestones or at the very least historical markers.  The wooden token may be one of the last to exist to represent a school that no longer exists and graduates who may number in the teens at this point, if that.  The thesis is a document that I worked on for 9 months - it was the final hurdle to an education that allowed me to remain in the rarefied bubble for another couple years.  

In going through everything I own wasn't without some surprises.  One of them is this three-piece tree ornament that, no doubt represented us boys and most likely gave my mother great pleasure.  I don't know if I remember them from when they were newish and actually used or if I have simply come across them from time to time and they only seem like something I recall.  Either way, these little gems, so very 50's are today's Flashback remembrance for this next to last Friday before Christmas.

I seem to recall that they were not, actually, used on any of the trees we had, but decorations placed somewhere wither on a planter bookcase they had or maybe on the mantel.  Perhaps one of the other boys have some idea.  If so I will let you know on the next Tuesday Tidbit.   

We are the only creatures on earth who try to reconcile the past while navigating the future with our eyes on an unsure future.  Handling all three worlds makes us pretty damn unique.  We also tend to be curators for historical artifacts.  These artifacts are part of our familial museum and that comes with responsibility.  It is a responsibility that comes with age, as members depart.  

I have begun to take these artifacts and place them in baggies with as much information I can for the next curators after I am gone.  I still have a key to the front door of the Mary Davis Home.  It is bagged and explained.  I also have a tag that was attached to a high school biology frog that is explained.  Other items, small and large, easily explained and not, will be properly explained to my kids when they go through them.  And these little guys pictured above, after their seasonal appearance will be placed in a safe box and explained as well.  It is a duty, and a responsibility. 

Just in time for new year resolutions.    

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Marj's Original Christmas Cards - Part 2

The original Christmas cards my mother made every year growing up continues today.  Again, like I said a couple days ago, I can remember the assembly line-like process of of making the patterns, cutting the felt, gluing, drawing and putting a recent posed picture of the boys and dog.   The dining room table would be full of these boxes, stacks of reindeer, sprinkles, ink bottles for quite a while.

I can remember, too, one unfortunate incident involving a particular year's picture taking.  Presumably I was responsible for the destruction of the pictures when I opened the camera while the folks were gone, thus exposing the film.  Needless to say, Marj was very upset and I recall the dread that ensued from that event.  I thought Christmas was going to be ruined and that Santa would never find me, or even worse, that I would be placed on Santa's "Naughty List."  I think it is safe to say, Santa did find me.  

I also recall using George Washington's line when interrogated by Marj, thinking it would save me from harm, "I cannot tell a lie, it was me."  I thought she would applaud my honesty, when in fact, this only escalated my problems.  Only later did I learn that old Georgie was a liar.  I should have blamed the Wombie.  And just where was the supervision, anyway?

Archie still participating in the pictures.  Great old dog. 

Damn long-haired hippies.  Looks, sadly like Archie has passed away by this time.   I remember the morning - It was summer and I was heading out to Uncle Ed's for work and noticed Archie on the front sidewalk in obvious discomfort.  Marj called Doc Kingry and he came over to administer a shot.  Sometime before I had built a wooden box to put her in, and Doc, good guy he was, dug a hole and placed her remains by a tree int he back yard.  Mind you, she was the only dog we had as kids, so it was a tough time for us.  Excellent, pooch, she never ran away when outside and I recall she would be waiting in Arminta's yard waiting for us when we got off the bus every day from school.   

Unfortunately I do not have these cards in chronological order and, there she is, Archie, reappearing.  Phil broke his foot either playing basketball or in an auto accident, I'm not sure.  

My other brothers, no doubt, have more cards preserved and maybe someday, I'll get a glimpse.  I only have these, so it'll have to do.  As usual, you can click on the picture to enlarge.  These cards are a lasting tribute to her creativity. 

People don't do things like this anymore.  Cards have become a thing of the past, and although I still get some every year, the number is no where like it was in the 70's.  Perhaps it's a generational thing, maybe the cost, maybe people have just moved on to other forms of media.  There is no denying the personal touch of a handmade card with this year's newest picture of the kids, that made what Marj did stand out amongst all the other cards, which makes a blanket Facebook "Merry Christmas" seem so impersonal.  Progress isn't always enchanting.    

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tuesday Tidbits

Dear:  Papa  I'm sorry that Ayla was being bad today and Ayla threw brown paper on the floor (sic) and the markers

happy holiday!

Alfred isn't the easiest kid in the world to babysit.  Norah was.  All she wanted to do was cuddle up and watch cartoons with me,  We would go exploring and wanted to please me, so she was very receptive to directives.  Alfred, however, is blazing a different path - she isn't interested in Toy Story, feels cuddling is for losers, and is hellbent on exploring, but not so sure about following orders.  Its why I'm ditching this gig at my earliest opportunity.  But I digress. 

After a somewhat contentious day of sitting, that didn't entail much of that, Norah, bless her huge heart, wrote this note for me.   I was amused at her little note on the back.


The Sinkhole Estates is blessed with one of those heated pools, so Norah and I went swimming on Friday morning.  The joy of it all a week from Christmas was somewhat muted by the rather extensive list of rules hanging up 2 places.  Also hanging on the wall, in case you weren't sure, was another sign saying these rules are enforced.  Another sign next to it said something like follow the rules on all the signs.  These people take their rules seriously.  Too seriously.  Thirteen rules (14 if you include the no diving or jumping rule) are about 10 more than necessary, don't you think?  My three would be:  Have fun, Be safe and Come back.


This was my first Tesla sighting.  Good looking car, but still a derivative of today's styling template.  Go to the Tesla website and you will discover that the Model S, like this one, is roughly $120,000.    


Because of last week's Trump Administration FCC rejection of "net neutrality" rules, the end of Existing In BFE may have been sealed.  The new rules, if the courts allow, will allow the big moneyed guys to determine what sites stay on the web, get the fast or slow lanes for viewers, and are bough out or wither on the vine.  My understanding is it now creates 2 internets - with the big corporations determining what other fish get to swim in the sea.  Once again the small guys get screwed.  If the Blogger sites get turned into a second-class, or if Blogger is squeezed out, or if they raise my monthly rates, I will terminate the site.  


If you were wondering about my review of Birdie's Tap something came up and will be postponed until this week. 


The Cabin in the Woods has the generator fired up and we are doing our part to bring the warmth of Christmas to the forest.  We have a winter's worth of wood piled up and the pot-bellied stove is is about to play its part in holiday baking.  Of course, this is all in my head, since I am in the worst possible place for Christmas.  Kitschland engenders nothing traditional about the Holidays.  Lighted palm fronds, my ass.   

But fear not.  Even now I am plotting my escape.  Once Alfred starts pre-school...

The plan is being polished.   


Noticed I haven't done anything political in a while?  I'm either fatigued or simply overcome by the incessant inanity.  I do feel sorry for what was once America, or at least the America I had in my head.



Mercedes Benz has four "e's" that all sound different.  Same with the three "a's" in Australia.


Adventures In Babysitting



The Christmas program at Norah's school last week.  She is up there somewhere.  Thought it was all OK till the singing teacher got up to do a solo.  (Take the B,N, and E away from BEGONE.)    


This is the schedule for the next couple weeks.  We will be taking next Monday through Friday off because of Christmas.  However, so as not to leave you totally high and dry, I'll post a couple of Holiday related pictures I have come across that I find appealing.  We'll also take Monday off because of New Year's, and then fire back into it again on Tuesday the 2nd.  


You all know I love my Pathfinder.  Yeah, its old.  Yeah, its high miles, but in the 14 months I've had the thing I have only put on 2800 miles.  Those miles have been generally fun, thus the Fun Bus!, hauling the kinfolk around, which was its purpose.   However, it needed a new "cam sensor" and for about $XXX.  Then I took it in to get a flat tire plugged, but found out all 4 tires had dry rot and both brakes needed replaced for $XXXX.  OK, shouldn't that 85 point safety check for all used vehicles have found something when I first bought it?  

After placing a not-so-pleasant review in the dealership comment area, I received a phone call from a customer service rep.  She told me they don't want to lose me as a "family member" and might be able to help me out.  She said she'd talk to whoever, and get back.  Stay tuned.


Is it just me or are others a bit perplexed about the future of autonomous driving autos?  How will motorcycles and old show cars fit into the equation?  I fear it is going to happen sooner rather than later.  I'm sure I won't be around when they implement it all but it is closer than you think. 


Sunday morning I had breakfast at Sunset Grill in St. Pete.  My coffee ended up being this.  I think I should start everyday this way. 


The tax bill is disliked by a 2-1 margin.  Isn't that taxation without representation?


In the "Woe Is Me" department, I saw on the early morning news that every square inch of the U.S. is chilly or downright freezing.  Everyone except Florida.  It's going to be 82 today.  Reason #2,037 why I hate Kitschland. 

Oh, well, I always have Yule Logs on Netflix.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Marjie's Original Christmas Cards - Part 1

This series was first displayed about six years ago.  All of this week's posts will be Christmas related.  Most are reposts except for Tomorrow and Thursday, I think.  I'm not sure what is going up on Friday yet.


As I have mentioned before my Mother made her own Christmas cards. I can still see her at the dining room table cutting, pasting, sprinkling and drawing her creations from scratch. I do not have all of the cards she made but I do have some of them and I will be featuring them the next couple of days.

Simple, colorful designs were her forte.  This early one was all pastel paint and a bit of sprinkle.

Another simple design that was painted.

Pictures were included every year to show the growth of the kids.  This first card must have been one of the first after Herb and Marj married, and that is Sandy, their cocker spaniel.

The second one here is when Phil was a newborn. 

I don't recall how many she would make from year to year, but I do remember seeing all of the materials lines up on the dining room table.  It was always quite a production.

Phil when he was perhaps 2 1/2?

A bit more involved with actual ribbon built into the card.

Three of us before we got Archie, our boxer mix that was a part of he family for pretty close to 18 years.  Mark, ever the trooper, displaying a small amount of boredom with the picture-taking.  Suck-up Phil is smiling nicely, and me, well, looking confused which would become a life-long natural pose. 

This must have been a reject or a prototype.  The deer has not been fleshed out via felt paper.   

The toothless twins.  Was Herb the fellow to the left of us we were supposed to focus on?  Even Archie seems mesmerized. 

Christmas time was a festive time in our house, as they are everywhere.  Marj really did it up well, coloring the front picture window in yuletide themes.  She usually flocked her trees  with white spray which was a fun and different artistic touch.  She also made life-size carolers out of pressed wood panels and placed outside with a spotlight.  Those carolers still are in my possession and during the later years at Chambers were displayed proudly with no touch ups or restoration.  They are at Mark's place now, awaiting my return.  Somehow the decades old patina added to the Spirit.  

Friday, December 15, 2017

Flashback Friday

This is a re-post from a Flashback Friday from 2013.    

This is a Christmas photo showing us Blythe boys in our natural habitat.   I just want to point a few things out.  That is my grandfather Dick (Leonard Westlake) sitting on the couch.  He was the cool one who was full of fun and mischief.  He would egg us guys on then claim innocence when Marj would have to intervene.  He worked for Sinclair Oil Company and after leaving Ponema was transferred to Quincy.  This picture was taken a couple of years after he lost his wife and our grandmother, Mona.  He drove Mercedes because he admired their engineering, and would eventually come up and live with us until he went to the Aledo Nursing Home.  He would live another 17 years after this picture was taken.  

Next, look at that tree.  You don't find those in your corner tree lot.  I'm not sure where they found this one, but it is huge, wide and took up all of that corner of the living room.  This tree was also flocked, spray painted in the garage and left to hang from the rafter for a few days.  Marj was an artist at heart and decorated her trees with simplicity and color coordination.  None of that all color stuff for her.  A white flocked tree could take on more beauty with only blue balls, or green.  Same with the lights.  And no artificial trees, either.  The house had to smell of pine.  She didn't flock her trees every year, and I suppose the decorating trends made it either too much work or out of vogue.  But it was nice while it lasted, and it was different, and it was impressive enough that I still admire the white trees I see in at target every year.  I'm going to get me a white flocked tree one of these years, but it'll be artificial and already lit.

Behind the tree was a closet that was a kind of mini-library.  A full set of an encyclopedia as well as the recurring yearbooks that showed up annually were in there.  When that Yearbook arrived it was a special day.  I'd pour through it from cover to cover. Placed on shelves were also novels and other reading material.  It was also storage, for our clandestine fireworks, too.  Pop bottle rockets mostly, but some Black Cat's too.      

We boys had a couple of mandatory traditional things to do during the holidays, too.  The Levine's usually had a small egg nog and finger food get-together with the neighbors, and we'd trundle, and sometimes bundle on over there.  It was just a couple houses down, so no problem.  For awhile there, we were forced to be in a church play - one year bro Phil kept his eyes closed throughout so no one would see him.  Dork.  Then on  Christmas Eve night, when the parents were asleep, we boys would wake each other up and head out to where the tree and presents were.  We would sit or lay next to the presents, the room lit by the street light.  We would just chat, mostly about what we thought were in the presents.  Some were obvious, others harder to figure out, and sometimes, just sometimes, we would think that maybe others were placed somewhere else, hidden from frantic fingers and too eager imaginations.  Marj was a trickster sometimes, and very often this was the case.  A momentary hush and emotional electricity when all the presents had finally been opened, wondering if there wasn't a second wave waiting to be unearthed from the bowels of a closet somewhere.   

We would also have "Unofficial Counts".  On the days preceding Christmas and especially on Christmas Day itself several counting of packages was required.  Lists of total presents for each family member would be made.  It was important to be in the lead, or at least close to the lead in number of presents.  Why, I don't know.  Later on, the Unofficial Counts would be made with caveats that more would be coming when other family members would arrive.  My own solo tradition once I left the house was to return on Christmas early in the day, have a big breakfast with the folks, and lounge in anticipation of the other brothers and their families arriving.              

Another tradition took root when I started working in Galesburg.  Herb and the brothers would come over about a week before Christmas to shop.  This was the hurried final crusade to get everything in order.  It was always a bit desperate, ideas exchanged,  approved or not, and then the act of purchasing.  After this dance had been performed, always with great mirth, we would head over to the Pizza Hut on Henderson St. to have some beer, pizza and congratulate ourselves on our brilliance.

We also had a somewhat unusual protocol that evolved at some point.   Rather than the free-for-all opening and ripping of paper and presents, we created the spotlight unwrapping method.  Gifts were delivered to the recipients and then one by one we would go clockwise around the room and watch as each person opened their gifts.  This was deemed appropriate so everyone could see what people got and the giftor/giftee could properly exchange thanks and any other comments worth noting.  It also prolonged the ceremony to a point where several breaks in the festivities were given for stretching ones legs, bathroom breaks,  going outside for fresh air or to confer with others on whatever was important at the moment.  

Back to the picture, behind Phil is the fireplace that the folks would start using more regularly when they converted it to gas.  To this day I long for a fireplace.  Had one in the old Victorian in G-Burg and by God, hope to have another one again.  Nothing like it on a cold snowy night.  That and an electric blanket.

But laying next to that darkened tree in the middle of the night, after Santa had arrived, surrounded by the bliss that is presents and by the smells of great food having been prepared,  there was a kind of magic, a wonderment of childhood.   We three...quietly walking down the hall in a darkened home,  talking quietly about tomorrow's possibilities, silently gazing on this bounty, and this tradition would continue until we were no longer living in the house.  I remember thinking as I crawled back into bed to await the morning, this was the greatest of days and praying it would be OK one more year, that everyone would be safe from harm,  that we, and this, would last forever.   

Christmas At the Blythe's

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Happy B-Day

Birthdays.  Everyone's got one.  Dead or alive.  That date remains as the start of it all.  What we write after that date depends on a lot of things, mostly us.  But there it is and will remain forever.  I've come full circle - as a kid I wanted them, and now as an old guy I do again.  As many as I can get.  There were a couple decades that I wasn't so hot for them.  

But I generally like 'em quiet.  And most are - forgettable.  But not so the last one, thanks to Mrs. Wombie who, on the way to Emerald City from the airport threw out a throw away line like "sandwiches  and finger food on Sunday at beer Bellies".  She and I had not compared social calendars so there was a conflict - I needed a soul-warming session at the North Henderson Community Center.   I was expected at the bar.   

Not to worry, I did both.  After a bit of time at the NHCC I loaded up the proprietor, barkeep and greeter without equal, Neighbor Tim, and headed back to Emerald City.  There I met up with the Wombie and a much celebration ensued.     

I can't thank Neighbor Tim enough for leaving his comfy environs to accompany me to this party.


This man, Brian, did a bad thing.  He started buying shots.  

This is a rather nice picture of drunken debauchery in progress.  Money to buy things like shots and beer.

Ryan, a good man, helping behind the bar while the board in the background announces the agenda for tonight.  Terri also had a birthday around the same time, so she shares equal billing.  

The Wombie, Terri and I while a very Geneta looking person is snapping a picture.

I have never deluded myself - it's the Wombie's town, not mine.  But everyone is very nice and welcoming whenever I fly up for a stay at the Cabin.  My thanks again to Neighbor Tim for making me feel more at ease in a very social setting.  Having him at one arm and the Wombie ont he other made for a fun night.  Thanks also to Brian for those nasty shots, Danny for being there, Dave for that abstract, Stan for the yardstick, Terri for brightening any room, Karen for poking your head in a bar for us, and for all the other folks who came out.  My thanks also to Brad and Sharon who solicited folks for beer chips that were placed in a card I opened the next day.

Speaking of the next day - when I woke up I noticed my shoes and socks in the kitchen, my shirt in the living room, and my pants in the hallway.  I recall only falling twice.      

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Burgess Party

While in Northlandia and the weekend the kids were up, we were invited to the Barton's in Burgess for a good old fashioned summer cookout.  

Chef Richard manned the dogs and the amount of food brought in by participants was a declaration that no one would go home hungry.

Because my kidlings were there my presence in the pool was mandatory.  Besides having them here from Kitschland making it a rare and valued visit, but to see them having fun was even better.

Naturally Alfred was beguiled by the doggies. 

And she seemed to have invented new ways to win at bag toss.

A big thanks to Andrea and Richard who extended the invite and who always host such fun-filled get-togethers.