Returning from Lynchburg, Va., on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional Wednesday revealed some beautiful countryside as I passed through the farms and fields of this majestic state. Here, a few stirring images of the autumn season.
In less than two weeks, my Poppy will turn 89 years old! One of the primary purposes for spending a week in hometown Lynchburg, Va., was to assist in his long-scheduled hip replacement surgery on Tuesday.
My dad has previously undergone the knife for two new knees and a spanking new hip… so now he’s four for four. And he’s still got his own teeth. I should be as lucky by the time I reach 60.
We arrived at the gigantic Centra Health Hospital Tuesday morning, where Poppy, mama Evelyn and I expeditiously rolled through the check-in cycle until his scheduled surgery at 12:30 p.m. I tell you, this joint (har har) is a model of efficiency. Everyone was cordial and professional, while the facility itself is laid out with ease: check-in, cafeteria, waiting area and recovery rooms are all within steps of each other: no complicated web of wings and corridors to navigate.
I’m happy to say that he sailed through the procedure. My brother Chris arrived in the early afternoon and by the time we left my dad Tuesday evening, he was ready to get to work on the day’s newspaper crossword puzzle.
Meanwhile, I noted at Centra Health that Lynchburg has gotten with the times… kinda sorta. In addition to “No Smoking” signs anywhere on the hospital premises (and get this melodramatic mandate: they won’t hire you if you’re a smoker), the facility also forbids firearms. Damn good to know, huh? *
On Monday, friend excursion 2.0, as I met Trix Moose, son Jack and sis Chris for the traditional Ruby Tuesday outing—always a highlight, since a kickin’ salad bar just ain’t to be had in NYC. Didn’t hurt a bit that our waiter Eric was a fetching fellow.
After din din, I was invited to join Trix and Jack—who has suddenly evolved into a high school senior and a handsome 17 year old (I remember when the critter was a roly-poly 9 year old) at their home to decorate the Christmas tree!
That was a spectacular event for meese, since I no longer fix up my apartment in Brooklyn Heights. Now that I’m a bachelor, it’s just not the same to decorate for the holidays for the sake of Abby & Spencer. They’d probably view the tree as a relief post, anyway.
A lovely family holiday celebration, as good as any of the seasonal Hallmark Channel flicks I watched over the past week with my mama. *
While my trips home to Virginia usually comprise staying putting with the parents, fortunately there’s time for a couple escapes from the Big House… On Sunday, I hooked up with Donna Mae Moose for supper at the parents’ complex, then a shopping excursion to Bed Bath & Beyond and Kohl’s… Once again, like Black Friday in Lynchburg, we sailed through the stores with no lines, no mobs, no madness… *
Ah, Black Friday, sweet Black Friday… There’s nothing quite as satisfying as waiting in a line for five hours at Best Buy to save a whole $15 on a $1,200 55-inch Plasma TV or to be one of the first in the nation to grab a talking Tickle Me Dumbass at Toys R Us.
But as anyone who has ever accessed the Worldwide Webbie knows, almost anything one wants or needs is likely to be available online at the same cost, often with free shipping. Why, oh, why does anyone think it’s fun or sporting to join such an absurd “tradition”? I just don’t get it.
Here in Lynchburg, where I spent Thanksgiving, I ventured out to Walmart on Black Friday at 3 p.m. Mind you, local Walmarts opened at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Thursday… so by the time I arrived, the joint was as empty as an average Monday morning.
Meanwhile, shopping is always a heavenly pursuit in Central Virginia, where bargains abound—and since I now travel by Amtrak, I can load up with cheap goods to take back to NYC without worrying about silly airline regs about liquid, weight and the rest of the bunk.
My stopovers: Kohl’s (fab new sleeper britches for $10, Walgreens, Ollie’s Emporium, Dollar General (more fab than the average low-rent “dollar store”) and Bed Bath & Beyond. That’s it… Over the course a week, I found all the practical items I could want at bargain prices. Oh, sweet heaven. In my world, you see, finding deodorant for half the price in NYC makes me mighty giddy.
And yet there were still hundreds of thousands of foolhardy grown-ups who bought into the hype that hitting the stores at dawn (or before) on Black Friday was a worthy pursuit. There were nearly 308 million store visits on Black Friday this year, a 3.5% increase from last year—but sales were down 1.8% to $11.2 billion, according to a ShopperTrak analysis.
Consider the following: A man in Massachusetts left his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son in the car while he went shopping for a new 51-inch TV. Store security saw the boy sleeping in the car, forced their way in, and took the tyke to the hospital as a precaution. When the dumbass returned to the car and saw the boy was gone, he panicked and called for another ride home. He’s now facing reckless endangerment to a child charges. But boy, that HDTV is going to be beautiful… once he’s out of jail.
Two men in San Antonio got into a fight at a Sears about line-cutting, as the alleged line-cutter punched another shopper. Someone then pulled a gun on the asswipe. Fortunately, the gun-toter had a concealed weapons license, so walked out free as a bird. Ain’t that America something to see?!
In Maryland, a 14-year-old boy was robbed as he was leaving Bed Bath & Beyond after shopping post-midnight in a mall. The Baltimore Sun: “The suspects, who the boy described as (five) 17 to 21 wearing black North Face jackets and jeans…” Sure enough, as I’ve stated time and again, the scariest human beings on this earth are teen-agers.
Then there’s the couple in Covington, Wash.,, who got run down by a 71-year old man in an SUV while heading into Walmart just after 8 p.m. The driver was arrested for vehicular assault, although it’s suspected that he was loaded during the incident. Let’s be honest: Getting drunk to shop on Black Friday sounds like a damn good idea to me. Lynchburg, Va.: Ain’t nothing going on here but the rent.
Thanksgiving at home… Those words sure sound nice together, huh? In hometown Lynchburg, Va., for the holiday, the parents and I headed to bro Chris & wife Judy’s in Forest, Bedford County, for the big feast. All nutritional requirements formidably serviced, with plentiful side dishes… and an awfully pretty day, to boot. *
Lord have mercy. Somehow enough time has passed that I am now three times the age of my Sweet 16 (surprise) birthday party, in September 1978. How the hell did this happen? Isn’t time just the damndest thing?
But let’s talk about what’s really important here: To this day, my orthodontist remains one of my greatest heroes. The day I got my braces at 15 (late bloomer, cool cats) was the beginning of a promising new life… No more big split dividing my blessedly bucky front teeth. Thank god for Dr. Pillis… and, uh, my parent’s good sense to know that without a set of straight choppers, I’d probably still be washing dishes in the back of a pizza joint… just as I was during the summer of my 16th year. *
As I prepare to renovate my apartment living room later this month, I’m clearing out the space, including dozens of old photo albums. Perfect time to scan some vintage memories…
Picture it: I’m 15 years old (and a pretty typical contrary teenage jackass), traveling with my family on a three-week journey across the United States… from Virginia through the Midwest, into Chicago, Las Vegas, Utah, Idaho, the Dakotas, tipping into Victoria, Canada, down to Portland and the West Coast through Washington and California, into New Mexico, across Texas and eventually back to Virginia.
It was truly the adventure of a lifetime, and though I whined and bitched a good bit of the time, I locked in on so many hundreds of memories about our nation. Hell, in San Francisco, I recall seeing my first gay couple ever, two men with mustaches and flannel shirts holding hands (it was vintage 1978 homo fashion, after all), which has stayed with me to this day…
I was never particularly comfortable with heights and I tell you, seeing the Grand Canyon that July was easily the most terrifying experience of my life: a vast, endless hole just waiting to suck me in, never to be seen again. In the faded pics below, you can actually make it out that I am clutching the rail with white knuckles, bearing a fake smile (with braces!), convinced the earth is going to lurch and I’m going down… down… down…
Fast forward 18 years, when I ventured back to the West Coast with my partner at the time, Pook… We made our way to the Grand Canyon and I tell you what, the same terror came rushing back… In fact, note my hands gripping the rails same as the first time. Yeah, it’s one of God’s great triumphs, but twice is enough for me to dare being sucked into the big black hole. Memories shall prevail. *