Sunday, April 15, 2012

Personal

Tim -- pleasant surprise. We would love to know more about your mom's place but I cannot figure out how to email you. If you see this, shoot me an email at gphenix38@gmail.com

everybody else, please excuse this note. i'm a luddite and this is the only way i know how to contact the guy.

apologies all around.

george

The front porch is officially open

Listen. Can you hear it, the rain on the porch roof? I was napping on the wicker couch when the shower rolled in. Nice way to wake up.

We took a chance and put the porch up yesterday. Just a few days earlier than usual. And -- right on schedule – snow flurries are predicted overnight in the Twin Cities. We exist to amuse the weather gods.

Putting Up The Porch is an important marker. Neighbors know they can always get a glass of wine and a little opera on our side of the screen. It means the cold winter is over and we can wear shorts on white legs.

This time, the porch takes on a new meaning. Our Minnesota house is for sale and the porch adds good vibrations to the deal. Not to mention a little more three-season square footage.

One look and you know this is an old fashioned place where cares melt away. Pull up a chair. Feel the tug that takes you back to lightning bugs and chilled watermelon. It’s easy on the porch. Just let go.

For us, letting go is the hard part. Knowing this will be the last spring, the last summer we’ll get to enjoy this little space that has been such a sweet spot in our lives up here.

We may let go of the space, but the memories … never.

North Carolina. Hendersonville area. Where the Blue Ridge meet the Smokie Mountains. That's where we might move. I've already advised the realtor of our priorities: we want a porch with a house attached.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Coming round the mountain -- soon

Whump.

That’s the sound of my body landing on the couch. For the 12th time in six years, we’ve made the trek between Austin and Minneapolis. Driving north this time of years gives us a second look at spring. Mighty nice.

At first, we took the straight shot – I-35 up and down the middle of America.

Then, we began to meander like the true second graders we are. To Durango in the west, to Asheville in the east. We’re nearly bicoastal.

And we’re not alone. This trip we had chance meetings with six other couples who enjoy the Texas/Minnesota weather reverses.

Most of the trips, we’ve been DWG (driving while grinning.) Amazing. More than 15,000 miles and two dogs later, we’re about to hang up our cleats. Once we sell the Minneapolis home, the wanderlust will take us where the Blue Ridge mountains meet the Smokies. There, midst a different kind of BBQ, we hope to settle down. Maybe learn a craft. And watch repeats of “Sergeant York.”

Grinning all the while. From the porch.

Come see us.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

We know who we are

This guy walks up to me at the urinal and says, “Minnesota, huh. You coming or going?”

“Beg pardon,” says I. “And it’s Texas.”

He saw my license plates at the gas pump and was just being Minnesota Nice. His van has Minnesota plates, too. And he just wanted to wish us safe travels. Admittedly, he could have picked a better spot.

Such are the rigors of the road for those of us tough enough to proudly call ourselves “Snowbirds.” We, who risk hip replacements by driving all day long in the confines of the damned old car, salute ourselves. For this is the time of year we trek to the north once again, leaving behind the good food and high humidity.

No joke, at the little motel in Cameron, MO., we ran into two more couples who go both north and south twice a year. It’s spring. That’s when we roll.

Somehow, without saying a word, we recognize one another in the cafeterias and the econo-lodges. Some say it the aura of adventure.

Others say it is the plaid shirts.

Monday, April 9, 2012

I invented The Facebook

Seriously, I think I may have invented The Facebook.

Light up something and drift back with me. It’s 1957 (year of the Chevy), my first year at Texas Tech, when freshmen still wore beanies. Men and women.

Adding weight to this solemn passage, the Greeks decreed that women who wanted to pledge a sorority were sentenced to two weeks of silence. No talking with the guys. Except me.

As luck would have it, I worked at one of the two downtown department stores where the frosh beanies were sold. Hemphill Wells was the Neiman Marcus of the south plains.

And all those young lovelies were coming to downtown Lubbock just to see me. It was heaven; I was the only male they could talk to without risking social ruin. Besides, I had to measure them for a hat size (I never told anyone the beanies were made in but one size).

I had convinced my bosses to let me sell the beanies – and sign up the coeds in my own personal, private, double secret log book. For later use in a direct mail campaign, or so I told my bosses. Thus, as I logged each young thing into my notebook, I also entered a “hotness” code beside each name.

And hat measurements.

Next, I set out to sell my logbook to the fraternity studs. Ten bucks a book.

Think about it. It’s The Facebook Point One. Hell, I may be Zuckerberg’s daddy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Westphalia -- geezervagen?

The incoming email caught me by surprise. But the short note touched my deepest yearnings. It was from Cousin Libby in Atlanta. She wants a VW vanagon.

Libby is from the Mystery Woman’s side of the family.

I admire her even more now that she has revealed she want a Westphalia – I want a vanagon, too. I’ve been whining to get one for five years. What are the odds? Synchronicity. Or Synchromesh transmission (lame car joke).

The Mystery Woman demurs. Over and over again. In her past, and that was a long time ago, she drove a regular VW van. Until the sliding door fell off into a snow bank. She sure holds a grudge.

The Westys are still around because they are hard to kill. Owners are adamant their vans will run forever. I have a friend in Palm Springs who claims 245,000 miles on hers. Of course, it's sitting on blocks. Your mileage may vary.

You want one? Check Craigslist to get a feel for what's out there. Notice how many ads feature "extra spare parts."

They ain't cheap. But any big city probably has a reputable VW restoration shop. Expect to pay anywhere from $9,000 to $16,000 or more. If you’re lucky. Go for a Subaru engine with a matched transmission.

Most are stick shift but you can find automatic transmissions -- both go from zero to 60 in eleven minutes flat.

Buy a gun and get a concealed carry license. You'll wish you had one even at the best camping sites. And I hate guns.

The main thing is to have fun looking. Don't buy the first one you see although you will be tempted. Take your time. There are Westphalia sites online, clubs, vacation exchanges with Europeans, a whole culture built up around a fun little bread loaf.

And every damn one of them has a name! That says a lot.

If I ever get a Westy, mine will have a last name, too. I’ll name her Sylvia Plath.

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