The Musicave

It all started with a rug. Alex found it online. We didn’t need a rug, but she wanted to soften up the concrete floor of our unfinished basement and this one appeared to be in good shape and basically free.

She had already hung white fabric walls and a mini-chandelier in the space to try to make it more like a room than a bunch of two by fours and some insulation.

The rug pulled it all together. Its boho-chicness brought to mind an intimate acoustic concert space with a barefoot musician singing amongst flickering candles. We decided then and there to create a music room.

A leather couch someone was giving away, a repurposed neo-classical fireplace mantel, an old upright piano, and we felt like we were channeling the Chateau Marmont in its rock-era heyday.

To cap it all off, we were at a Ballard’s Outlet and they had a bunch of random letters like X and Z that they never sold at the regular store. We spent a good half hour rummaging through these misfit letters.

There was no M, so we turned a W upside down. There were not enough identical sizes, colors, textures or fonts. But we came up with our sign. It read MUSICAVE (yes, with one C, and the E is a funky cheetah print- the most Rock & Roll of all the letters).

We proudly showed off the basement to the first friend who came over. He saw the sign and said “Music Avenue?”

“Sure, that too,” I replied.

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My Old Friend

It’s like an old friend’s voice when you hear it again after a long time apart. The vibrations warm and familiar. Melodic timing. Notes combining to make chords.

I took my acoustic guitar for granted until recently. It’s not an expensive Martin, or a Taylor or a Gibson- it’s a Yamaha FG, which I just learned stands for “First Guitar”. Well this “First Guitar” has been in my possession now for over 30 years, and still sounds better to me than many a fancy guitar I’ve played alongside.

This guitar has traveled from Atlanta to LA and back again over the course of many years. I used to play it just about every night. It’s got some dings and scratches, but nothing serious. On the head there’s a bird with wings spread, and one ding that resembles one of the bird’s wings on the body. I find that one kind of poetic.

The musical poet Jackson Browne was talking about guitars in a radio interview and he said one of his favorites is a guitar he found in a store window. He didn’t even know the make of the instrument but it had the name Cody Lee scratched into it, apparently the name of the previous owner, so that’s what he called it. Jackson then went on to play a haunting rendition of  “Something Fine”.

At first I learned only the intro to songs. I could play the heck out of the bassy first few notes of the Stones Under My Thumb. The hammer-ons and pull-offs of Zeppelin’s Black Dog. The three sweet acoustic intro chords of The Almond Brother’s Sweet Melissa.

I eventually learned complete songs and even wrote songs of my own, but unfortunately today my guitar gently weeps in the corner of the room from lack of attention. I’ve even lost the fingertip callouses I had built up proudly from regular playing.

Fortunately, my wife has always encouraged my playing- even when I was still in the song intro stage, and even while (still?) finding my voice- and she has been slowly redoing a room in our unfinished basement that we’re calling “The Musicave”.

We’ve got the requisite oriental rug, funky crystal chandelier, a cozy caramel leather couch, and an old fireplace mantle that she repurposed.

I don’t know if the FG will live down there, but I’m sure it will be a frequent guest. I kinda’ like it to be close by, like an old friend should be.

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Thanks Jimmy Connors

Jimmy Connors used the T3000 to win Wimbledon and the US Open. I use it to defend myself against wasps and bees while I grill, and volley a carpenter bee or two away from my wood soffits. I’m all for preserving the bee population, but not when they are literally eating my house.

This was a statement racket when it came out and still is today. The thing could be at home on the grass courts of Wimbledon, or in the hands of a villain in one of the Mad Max films. If you squint, it could be some kind of torture device.

I picked up the thing at a garage sale a few years back. It was sitting in the corner of the garage and probably hadn’t been used since Mel Gibson was considered sexy.

My wife thought I was crazy. “You’ve got a tennis racket,” she said. “But this is no ordinary racket,” I said, “this is the T3000.” She shook her head at me, but we kind of had an understanding that if it was cheap enough, you do you.

Cut to today, and we’re enjoying a nice cool spring afternoon on our front porch. Early cocktails after spending the day cleaning outdoor furniture and decks after an extremely dusty pollen season. I was starting to think our furniture was forever yellow.

I went in for more cocktails and when I came back out, Alex had been re-dusted; but not by pollen, by a carpenter bee. It was either tiny wood chips, or tiny bee poop, but either one was not good.

“Get the T3000!” she cried out in exasperation.

I returned with the weapon, glistening in the afternoon sun. “Where is it?” I asked. “He was hovering up there near those two holes in our house.” I held the weapon at the ready, but alas, no sign of the intruder.

I leaned the racket next to us, and we enjoyed ten minutes or so with nary a carpenter bee in sight. In our minds, it was the mere sight of the T3000 that had these things at bay.

“That racket was well worth the dollar or two you spent on it,” Alex admitted. “I told you this was no ordinary racket,” I said as I raised my beer for an imaginary toast: “Thanks Jimmy Connors.”

Clean Sheets

We rolled around in the middle of a cool spring night. “Clean sheets,” I mumbled to Alex who offered a pleasurable sigh in response.

This was not what you may be thinking. It was simply the acknowledgement that there wasn’t a whole lot better than clean sheets in your own bed after being away for a while.

My mom used to clean the house before we went on family trips and I’d always get frustrated with her. I’d say something like “Mom, who are you cleaning for?! No one’s coming into the house while we’re gone.”

What I didn’t realize until later was that she was cleaning for herself. For the pleasure of walking barefoot on a clean floor, leaning into a dust-free couch pillow, running a hand across clean cold granite, wiggling feet in fresh clean sheets.

We woke up the next morning to the sound of rain on the roof. Gray light of dusk sifting through the sides of curtains. This was Ambien to Alex.

“You getting up?” I asked rhetorically. “Clean sheets,” she said as she rolled over for a few more winks.

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Farewell Tour

The Who Farewell Tour tickets were to go on sale soon, so all we had to do was come up with some money, get in line early to secure tickets, and convince my mom it was a good idea. That third one was going to be a doozy.

To my chagrin, my mom had been dubbed “Hitler” by my friends, as in “will Hitler let you out tonight, or will you have to scale the barbed wire fence?” Harsh, I know. And she was harsh. She loved us and all, but she was strict, and not just with her own kids- she would scold anyone: The mailman who gave her the neighbor’s mail by accident, the gas meter-reader who walked through her bushes instead of around, even the poor kid working at the mall store who had the music loud enough to actually hear it.

She was also the one who cooked all our meals, cleaned all our clothes, and kept us all on our different schedules like clockwork.

Dinners were mostly at home around the dinner table. She used to summon us with a train whistle when we were young kids running loose around the neighborhood. As we got older, we didn’t need a whistle, we’d just sit around waiting for the food to come out; our teenage bodies requiring constant fuel.

We gathered around the table that night as usual. The meal consisted of meat and my most and least favorite things: potatoes and Brussels sprouts. I guess I grabbed a bigger heaping of potatoes than normal since I got a smack on the backside of my hand from the wooden spatula my mom was holding. I held my temper and pushed around the gooey eyeball-shaped Brussels sprouts while I prepared my pitch for going to The Who in Birmingham.

About midway through the meal, my dad said something my mom laughed at, and I saw an opening. “Mom, who was your favorite band growing up?” “Well, we didn’t really have bands like you do, per se…. We liked types of music.” “Okay, then what was your favorite type of music?” “When I was young? I don’t know, maybe classical.” She was killing me, but I was determined. “Well, you like Tom Jones, right? I mean, you have the album.” My dad took this as a cue and he sang: “What’s new pussycat…” Then together they sang, “whoa, ooh whoa, ooh whoa oh!” I about gagged on my potatoes, but realized this was my opening.

“So, what if Tom Jones announced a retirement tour and he was coming to a town near here? You’d want to go right?” “Oh, is Tom Jones retiring?” “I don’t know mom, I was making a point.” “What’s your point then?”

I couldn’t hold it in any longer, so I just spit it out. “The Who is retiring and the closest concert to us is in Birmingham and Dave and I want to go.” She looked at my dad, who shrugged like he didn’t have anything to do with this, and didn’t really want to. “Eat your Brussels sprouts and we’ll see,” she said.

I spent the next ten minutes trying to finish those nasty things and prove to my mom I meant business.

I made a point of showing her my empty plate before offering to do the dishes. She stepped aside with a surprised look on her face. “So, when is this concert?” she asked as she eyed every plate I washed to make sure it was clean enough to put in the dishwasher, and then made sure every item was put in its rightful dishwasher place.

“It’s the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.” “A school night?” she asked rhetorically.

I realized I still had some work to do if I was ever going to see The Who live.

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A Short Full Life

Walking around Charleston, south of Broad, we came upon a plaque commemorating a man with my last name: Smith. This fellow, Thomas Smith, was a planter, merchant, surgeon and Governor of Carolina all before his death at the age of 46 in the late 1600’s.

Now, I’ve planted my share of things, and I’m a salesman. My father was a surgeon- which doesn’t do much for my plaque- and as for politician… well I used to think I had too many skeletons in the closet, but these days that doesn’t seem to matter much.

I joked to Alex that we should introduce ourselves around town as The Smiths of Charleston. Maybe get invited to a soiree of some sort. She joked back that we might find out he was a hated man, who only got the plaque due to his money and power, and we’d get blackballed by Charleston’s high society.

As we ambled down brick paths amongst houses that hadn’t changed much since the late 1600’s, we took in curved stairs covered in green creeping fig, broad porches accented by red, pink and purple window box flowers, freshly painted front doors decorated with gas lanterns and brass doorknockers, the pride of ownership and attention to detail palpable.

But I couldn’t get Thomas Smith out of my mind. How can someone do so much in so short a period of time, I thought.

Well I’d guess the governorship was granted, and I’m not certain, but I’d bet there were a few less steps to becoming a surgeon back then. I mean, I read somewhere that around that time they used to irrigate wounds with syringes filled with wine. Now, I’ve irrigated many-a-wound with wine, but not through a syringe. I’d even guess that some of the tools to be a surgeon then could be used to be a planter and vice-versa, so maybe it was a natural transition. And of course there were no Kardashians to keep up with, or to waste your precious time watching….

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Just Another Saturday Night in 1980’s Atlanta

We pulled up in my Alfa Romeo wearing Dave’s dad’s suits to try to get into one of the trendiest clubs in Atlanta at the time: Elan.

I gave my keys to the valet, and we approached the bouncer who’d seen us get out of the car. I tried to go first hoping he wouldn’t notice Dave, who almost looked like the kid at the end of the movie Big, swimming in his adult-sized suit. The seersucker I picked out might not have been the most chic-looking, but at least it fit.

“Just act like you own the place,” Dave muttered to me as we made our way to the entrance. What Dave lacked in height, he made up in confidence.

Getting in turned out to be the easy part, socializing with this crowd was a bit more challenging. We got a few drinks and Dave tried unsuccessfully talking to any girl that came within a six-foot radius.

On the surface, this group seemed a bit more polished than at some of the other places we could get ourselves into with our young faces and hodge-podge of fake ID’s: The biker bar that probably figured if we were ballsy enough to enter, then have at it; Confetti’s which was the after-work dance club for all of Atlanta’s bar and restaurant crews, so we could have been bar-backs or busboys paying it sideways; then there were any number of bar & grills that would serve you if you knew the waitress or could smooth talk them; and there was always Clarence Fosters, which was so packed every Thursday to Saturday they couldn’t keep track of what day it was, much less what year you were born.

I went to the bathroom at Elan and was greeted by an attendant. There were empty urinals, but I was never able to go with someone peeing right next to me. The attendant noticed I was eyeing the stalls, so he pushed one open for me and stood aside to let me in.

“Thank you,” I muttered while wondering what kind of tip I was supposed to leave for this experience.

When I finished peeing, I came out and washed my hands, while eyeing all of the different impulse items the attendant had out on the counter. There was mouthwash, cologne, combs, mints, even condoms.

I really wanted a mint, but I didn’t want to have to tip the guy so I held back. When I finished washing my hands I looked for a paper towel, but the attendant beat me to the punch. He offered me the towel he was holding.

Flustered, I just wiped my hands on my seersucker suit and walked out.

While I was navigating the bathroom, Dave had surprisingly lured two women to our table. I nodded as I walked up.

“There’s the dentist,” Dave said.

“Huh?” I asked.

“Marla here, has a question for you.”

Marla suddenly got real close. “I’m a little self-conscious about it,” said Marla.

“Oh, just ask him,” said Dave.

“Okay then,” she looked me right in the eyes. “Do I need braces?” she asked as she smiled at me, a mosh-pit of teeth two inches from my face.

“Uh, ya’ know, I’m a dentist, not an orthodontist, so…”

“Give her your opinion,” Dave said.

“Okay,” I acted like I was studying her teeth, “no, I think they’re fine,” I lied.

When the girls went to the powder room, I looked at Dave. “Dentist? And what are you?”

“Architect.”

“Of course, you get the cool job.”

Dave just shrugged. “Look, my Dad and Carine are at my house tonight, so let’s take these two to Carine’s.”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Dude,” he answered with his multi-purpose word. Depending on inflection, it could mean many things including: “come on, let’s do it”; “don’t even think about it”; “awesome”; or the definitive “you fuckin’ kiddin’ me?” This one was a “come on, be my wingman” type of utterance.

The Alfa was only a two-seater, so the girls had to follow us. I’d never been to Dave’s Dad’s girlfriend’s house so Dave navigated.

Carine’s place was in a Brady Bunch style Dunwoody neighborhood. The house had a For Sale sign in the yard and lockbox hanging from the front door. We pulled up the driveway and Dave hopped out.

“Keep them busy for a minute,” he said as he ran around the back.

“You don’t have a key?” I called out.

“Dude,” Dave answered over his shoulder with the “you fuckin’ kiddin’ me” inflection.

I kept the girls busy by showing off my new car until Dave opened the front door of the house from inside. The girls and I entered, taking in all that this single mom’s house had to offer: flowery wallpaper here, pink pillows there, a family portrait of Carine and her kids over the fireplace.

Dave’s girl spoke first. “You married?”

“No, no. Divorced,” Dave said, as he took the picture off the wall and turned it away from us.

“You build this place?” the girl asked, still believing Dave was an architect.

“You like it?” he threw out.

She looked around again. “I do,” she blurted.

“I did,” Dave lied, “let me give you a tour.”

 

A half hour and several discussions about teeth later, Marla must have thought I was either gay or not that into her and she gave up. She went to look for her friend and they both left shortly thereafter.

Later that night Dave and I recounted our evening over scattered, smothered and covered omelets at Waffle House. Dave had the time of his life. I, on the other hand, did not.

“Dude,” I said to him in his own language. He just laughed. I took a bite of my omelet and shook my head, “next time- you’re the dentist, and I’m the architect!”

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The Kids Are Alright

We were at Dave’s cousin’s place, who was out of town with her parents. We walked around to a side gate which was locked. “You don’t have a key?” Dave shook his head, “we’ll climb the fence” he said in his usual matter-of-fact way. So much for belonging. In a matter of minutes, we’d scaled the fence and were basically breaking-and-entering. But not to steal anything. We were just there for the pool.

After a quick dip, we settled into a couple of lounge chairs to soak up some of what we considered healthy 1980’s sunshine. I shut my eyes and felt the warmth down to my bones. The bright sun created psychedelic images through my closed eyelids. I still had the Baba O’Riley synth going through my head, and I was just about to doze off, when I sensed a giant shadow above me like a bird, but bigger. I felt a whoosh of air and heard a loud splash. This would be Conor who had jumped off the roof, instead of climbing the fence.

Conor was known for grand entrances. This was a guy who created dress-up Fridays at school; not as a school-sponsored thing mind you, just something he did for kicks. One Friday he’d be Steve Martin from the Jerk, carrying a broken chair, the next he’d be dressed as our principal, Mr. Whaley, down to the tan leisure suit with wide lapels and fat tie and even a walkie-talkie on his hip. “Go for Whaley,” he’d say into his walkie-talkie, totally in character, “we’ve got a smoker outside the designated smoking area, code 10, code 10!.”

But the ultimate Conor entrance would be later the next year at senior prom, when he’d take a mannequin as his date. He named her Monica, dressed her in a silky sequin-belted sea-green number, even bought her a corsage. The photographer asked him why the mannequin, and he said “the girls here are all plastic anyway.”

In all fairness, there were some great girls at our school. Better than us really. We weren’t bad guys, we just wanted to have some fun, and since the girls in our grade seemed to be all sincerity and seriousness, we hung out more with the girls in the grade below. They were dubbed the Smurfs. The nickname came from the girls in our grade who saw this gaggle of younger, one-year-more naïve girls as an annoyance, and the name just stuck. Dave’s cousin, who’s pool we were borrowing, happened to be a Smurf.

Conor dried himself off and popped a beer from a cooler that appeared out of nowhere. I say out of nowhere, because that’s how it always seemed. I mean, we were teenagers who probably should have been drinking Gatorade but we always had beer at the ready. “You hear about The Who retiring?” Conor asked. “Dude,” Dave said with an inflection that meant “what a shame.” “Any Smurfs coming today?” Conor asked. “Nah,” Dave said, “just us.” Dave didn’t really get our infatuation with the Smurfs, maybe since his cousin was one, or maybe it was that feeling of not wanting to go backwards. Dave and I were always looking ahead, trying to do things that we hadn’t yet done.

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My Generation

Atlanta in the 1980’s was an ever-evolving tapestry. Like a 16-year-old boy, it was full of ideas, hope, and testosterone. For years, the little brother to older and bigger cities. But after all the hand-me-downs and noogies, Atlanta had finally gotten its driver’s license. As had I, and looking for a car of my own.

From the candy-apple red, to the curves, to the easily removal top, she exuded sex appeal. Her name rolled off the tongue like foreplay: Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce. This was an R-rated car and I was a PG-17 kid… in the eyes of my father anyway. Unfortunately, he was the one person I had to convince to buy the car for me: and for that I would need detailed information.

My dad was a stickler for details. He would read a manual before even touching a new device. I, on the other hand, had to touch, feel, maybe break something before I could really understand it.

This was the pre-internet early-1980’s, so I couldn’t just Google the information. I had to go out of my way. I had to go to the dreaded library. I borrowed my dad’s brown-turd-of-a-car, with a name that stuck to your tongue as you tried to spit it out: Chevy Citation.

My dad had bought the Chevy after Car & Driver magazine had given it a front page with the headline: “Outperforms a Ferrari Boxer.” As I drove down Heards Ferry- one of Atlanta’s many hilly and winding roads named after ferrymen- I jammed the sticky gearbox into 3rdgear, I wondered in what category this rattlebox could have surpassed a Ferrari. To me, this turd on wheels felt more like driving a covered wagon to the ferry, than a Ferrari to the library.

The library was not the most user-friendly experience back then. I’m not even sure “user-friendly” was in the lexicon of the day. Once past the judgy-looking lady at the front desk, who glared at me over her reading glasses just waiting to shush me, I tried flipping through the giant filing system. This behemoth held thousands of 3×5 notecards, which meticulously catalogued everything in the place. This was Google’s Lucy. After a good ten minutes of dead-ends and frustrated noises on my part, I noticed the judgy-lady coming my way. Oh, crap, do I just walk away so I don’t catch the wraith of this woman?Too late, she was quicker than she looked.

“May I help you?” she asked icily. “Uh, I’m looking for information on cars?” “Have you tried a car dealer?” she said, apparently wanting me gone as much as I wanted to be gone at that moment. But my quest was too important to abandon. “I, uh, I’m trying to talk my dad into buying me a used Alfa Romeo, and I need some stuff to convince him.” The lady took the reading glasses off her nose and put them back in her hair. “Convertible?” she almost cooed. Wow, if I get this kind of reaction from just a mention, imagine what driving it would be like? 

About an hour later, I had all the documents I needed, and the librarian’s phone number. She slipped it to me on my way out. Her name was Liz and she insisted I take her for a ride one day… with the top down.

The first piece of evidence I presented to my dad was a Car & Driver magazine article that Liz helped me track down on micro-fiche and even Xeroxed for me. For some reason my dad still trusted the magazine. I think he was in denial that his Citation was anything short of what he had been sold. “Look dad, Car & Driver calls it ‘a dream’.” “Yeah, you’re dreaming alright,” was his response. He then grabbed the Xerox copy and said “where’d you get this anyway?” “The library…. Look, a friend of mine’s dad, who’s loaded, is willing to give this car to me for cheap.” I figured this would make my dad listen. After-all, he was the most frugal man with money I knew. Probably the only heart surgeon driving a Chevy Citation anyway. “You went to the library?” was all he said, in a surprised tone, as he left the room.

I waited until the first olive from his martini glass was in his mouth before I hit him up again. From years of observation, this was my window when all was good. By the second olive, everything was an argument.

“Here is a current Kelly Blue Book,” I said as I handed him the book. “I’ve earmarked a page I want you to see.” He smiled at my unwillingness to cave as he looked over the details. “$12,000 dollars?” he snorted. “My brand new Chevy Citation was only $6,500, and it outperforms the Ferrari Boxer.” But does it. Really?I thought about saying, but I held my tongue and pulled out more evidence. “Current used car ads. Notice your Chevy tends to lose value rather quickly. The Alfa Romeo does not.”

He was already into his second olive. That was fast, I thought, I’d better wrap this up. “He’s willing to sell it to me, as a friend of his son’s, for $7,000.” He shook his head, but he didn’t say no.

My next move was a little more subtle. At the advice of Liz the librarian, I’d rented “The Graduate”. After the argumentative stage of martini drinking, my dad would sometimes get a case of melancholy. Bring on the melancholy, I thought.

I stayed quiet throughout the film, even when the red Alfa Romeo made its appearance. I’m still not sure if it registered with him that this was the car, in an older version. He cleared his throat at the end of the film, and I looked over to see him wipe his eye. Was that a tear or just an eye rub? I’ll never know, but the next day he bought me the car.

Car & Driver got this one right: driving around Atlanta in the Alfa Romeo was a dream. You know when you hug someone and everything fits just right?  Well the leather seats in this thing were like that kind of hug, and the smooth burled wood steering wheel and stick-shift handle felt like they were made for my hands. I took the top down and cranked up the aftermarket Blaupunkt 6-speaker stereo. It sounded like a symphony in that small space, but this was no classical score. No, this was The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” aka “Teenage Wasteland.”

We listened to a lot of music, me and my friends, from Springsteen to Zeppelin, from Jimmy Buffet, to Soft Cell. (Yeah, Soft Cell. Tainted Love. You know the song even if you won’t admit to liking it). The Who, however, was a constant. I’d say the soundtrack of our lives. They had a sweeping powerful operatic vibe and a little of that snarly young rock attitude that we connected with at our age.

“Baba O’Riley” started off with a pulsing synthesizer that built into a pounding piano, and a crescendo of deep thumping drums… And that was just the intro! By the time Roger Daltry’s voice took off with “Out here in the fields”, I was rocketing down Jett Road in my convertible with the top down. Jett Road was somewhat unique for Atlanta: relatively straight, long, and traffic-free. Being Atlanta, there were hills, but they were of the rolling kind, which made it all the more fun to speed on.

Off of Jett Rd. there was an appropriately named Tanglewood Trail. Oh, the tangled webs it weaved. This area of Buckhead was an enclave of old and new money. There were the houses with tennis courts and swimming pools of course, and then the one on Tanglewood with the basement disco: professional sound-system, professional lighting, even a disco ball hanging from the ceiling. The son and daughter went to our school. Rumor was that the father was in the music business and owned the rights to some Beatles songs, among others.

I always felt a little out-of-place in this area, even as a doctor’s son. You remember the car he drove, right? Well today I felt like these were my people as I turned my bright red Alfa Romeo onto Tanglewood Trail. I pulled into a driveway across the street from the disco house just as Baba O’Riley was reaching its final verse and Roger Daltry screamed “they’re all wasted!”

My friend Dave was sitting, shirtless, on his old dark-orange Camaro. The color was more like rust. I don’t believe this was a Camaro approved and applied color. Dave directed me where to park. I was just about to turn off the car when the DJ made an announcement that would change both of our lives forever: “Okay Who fans. Dates have been set for the farewell tour. Yes, I said farewell. Now if you haven’t seen them live, you’d better do everything and anything to get there because this is your last chance! Unfortunately, the closest to Atlanta they’ll be is Birmingham, Alabama…”

“Dude!” was all Dave said, but I could tell by the inflection that he meant “this is a once in a generation event and we have got to get tickets!”

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Marking My Territory

In Los Angeles, we’d see a duck land in our black-bottom pool or a raccoon in our water feature. There were even coyotes on our streets from time-to-time. They’d come down from the hills of the Santa Monica Mountain range probably looking for small pets, disappointedly I’m sure, since most of the small pets in LA are safely carried by their owners in handbags or strollers.

Here in Atlanta’s outer suburbs now, we get coyotes and many other kinds of wildlife: from the hawks constantly catching thermals as they circle above, to the wild turkey, snakes, and even bears. But the ones that seem to affect our lives most are the deer- especially when they eat the things we plant.

A co-worker who lives nearby told me he pees around his garden to mark his territory, and claims it works. Now I’m all for a good old outdoor pee at the right place and time, but I think my neighborhood association would frown upon it around my house.

So I’ve armed myself… with deer spray. It smells kind of like pee and rotten eggs, so maybe my co-worker was onto something after all. I sprayed the stuff on every hosta, azalea, gardenia, camellia, and any other plant ending in “a” that I saw out there.

And it’s worked so far! We have lush hostas now that we’ve not seen since we planted them years ago, and azaleas that could be on the 13thhole at Augusta National.

Unfortunately, the deer spray is expensive. So, if I lose my job or something, don’t be surprised if I’m out there marking my territory the natural way.

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