Sunday, June 28, 2009
Well, Coyote Joe's wasn't quite as mobbed on Saturday night as it was on Thursday, but it was still enough to be called a complete success. The absence of the Honda Hoot did definitely affect things, as they didn't have the out-of-town crowd that was evident last year, but once again, plenty of locals showed up. There wasn't any milling and dancing around the parking lot, as there was Thursday; around 10 P.M. most of the milling about and dancing was being done inside, when the main attraction band, Sellers & Wray, began their performance. You needed a shoehorn to pry the knots of people apart in order to get to the bathrooms. Standing room only in there and you practically had to make an appointment in order to rid your system of excess beer.
I elected to stay on the deck outside, while a friend I was sitting with went in to hear the headline act. It was cooler out there and much less crowded, not to mention the fact that the kick-ass blues/rock band from Thursday was back on the patio, performing again. I had grown steadily fonder and fonder of that group, as I love good blues music and this little trio was smoking hot once again. A simple setup of a solo guitar, bass and drums, but with an enormous sound. The band is called LA3, and though I never caught the name of their guitarist/vocalist, let me say that the guy was fantastic!!! Smoking hot, sometimes raunchy, sometimes smooth as silk blues chords and riffs poured off the strings of his Telecaster, through the amplifier and into the ears of those like myself, who can listen intently and appreciate enormous talent when it's so evident.
And vocally?? The guy can sing the blues as well as any white man I've ever heard. He's paid his dues in full, whoever he is. Another little-known singer/guitarist, who could upstage some of the biggest names in the world, probably, if he ever had the chance. I've witnessed that many, many times before in my life -- some of the best musicians around are people you've never even heard of before. I was completely mesmerized -- couldn't have left while they were playing, even if I'd wanted to.
Foodwise, it wasn't free this time around. Too much to expect that Bubba could afford to give away food all four days of the Blowout. But, for five bucks you could get a plate with burgers, BBQ (sliced pork), or barbecued chicken leg quarters that were absolutely perfect, with the meat "falling off the bone" tender. Baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw -- all the usual cookout trimmings -- rounded it all out. Top that off with a cold brew and you're in Hawg Heaven, or at least I was. I paid seven bucks and got a burger and a chicken leg quarter, as well as potato salad and beans. Yummy. Now I'm going back next week, to have some of Bubba's famous pork barbeque -- his own recipe, and it's very good. I know there'll be plenty left over. There always is. Eat well and eat cheap, for as long as it lasts!
When the LA3 finally finished their set and began packing up, I caught up with the guitarist, told him how I loved his playing, wished him the best, then went inside, briefly, to catch a little of Sellers & Wray's act. Very briefly, I must emphasize. By then they were packed in there like sardines. The band sounded good, as usual, but that was too much crowd for me, so I went back outside to "my" table and sat back down there again. No more bands would be performing on the patio. A local ordinance forbids loud performances outdoors past 10 P.M., so it was over out there for the night. Which is why, of course, that the headline act had set up inside, because they would be performing up into the wee hours.
Business slowed down out on the deck after the band stopped playing. Some of the crowd moved inside and others just departed. One of the newer servers Bubba hired, obviously tired, came over and began talking to me and I invited her to sit down for awhile, which she did. We talked for maybe thirty minutes and I began to get a positive feeling about her. She seemed to like older men, from what I could gather. Hmmmmmmmm. I asked her if she would be working Sunday and she wasn't sure. Told her I would be back and we'd talk some more then, the next time I saw her and she said "okay" with an certain eagerness. Double-hmmmmmmmm. Well, we'll just have to see what, if anything, comes of that. I won't reveal her name in these public pages, for privacy reasons, but that eagerness is worth exploring further, I do think!! [Wink-wink!]
Sorry I got no pictures, but I plain forgot to take my camera with me and even forgot my cellphone!! I had been out riding around Saturday and when I decided to head on over to Coyote Joe's, I didn't go back home first. Maybe next time I won't forget!!
Friday, June 26, 2009
The 9th Annual Big Twin Blowout at Coyote Joe's began last night and I was there for the beginning of this four-day party. I was almost a fixture there, in fact, as I went over there early and stayed much later than I had intended to originally. The thought of free burgers, hot dogs, and all the trimmings enticed me to stay well into the night. Yes, you heard that right. I said "free," as in free food, no charge for the meal, etc. Now how many places do you know that offer that, in this day and age?? So, I carefully controlled my beer intake (I was on Velvet, after all, not in my cage) and stayed for the grub-fest.
And everybody showed up!! I guess the free "lunch" that owner Richard "Bubba" Hilliard came up with worked like a charm, because it looked like a motorcycle convention around the place last night. A steady stream of bikes of every make (though Harleys dominated) slowly rolled into the lot, seeking an open parking slot. `They had to thread their way through a crowd that was busy partying in the lot and listening to a quite good blues/rock band, which was playing on the outdoor patio. Inside, there was the usual Thursday night karaoke contest, with the usual people performing their "hits," and there was pretty much standing room only in there, too. It had cooled off a little in there after nightfall, after being like an oven inside around 5 P.M. I had headed for the outdoor deck as soon as they opened the bar up out there and that's where I stayed the rest of the evening. It was at least ten degrees cooler out there.
The place was really jam-packed, for a weeknight, and I think everyone was a little surprised by the large turnout, on the very first night of the Blowout. If that was any indication of things to come, then Saturday night's going to be totally insane, and I plan to be there again. I'll have another entry on that excursion and probably some photos of the goings-on there, which I'll post later on. So far, it's looking like the absence of the annual Honda Hoot, which was always happening at the same time as the Blowout, isn't going to affect things that much this year. It's also looking like Honda made a gigantic blunder in calling off their annual rally in K-Town this year. I'll have more about that in the next entry, after I size up the crowd tomorrow night.
If it wasn't free food that enticed me to stay later than I meant to, it was the cash giveaway by the Harley dealer down the street. They've been doing that every Bike Night (Thursday) for the past three weeks and they'll be doing it all summer long. This time, I was there late enough, on the right night, and I signed up for a ticket. My number wasn't ever called, but they did give away $25 to one lucky gal. They give away a different amount, randomly, every week and they never reveal how much the prize is until right before the drawing. Prize amounts range from $25, to $50, to $75. Oh, well -- maybe next time . . .
I finally hit the road home around 10:30 P.M. I didn't want to be there as late as midnight, because that's when the local cops like to spring nasty little surprises on partiers -- like sobriety checkpoints a block or two down the street. I wasn't drunk when I left, but I wasn't exactly stone-sober, either, so I'll avoid those "witching hours," if at all possible. Setting up roadblocks a block from a bar, where they know people are drinking is entrapment, plain and simple, and is probably unconstitutional as well, but they put their "public safety" justification on their actions and turn that document on its ear. So, what can you do?? Avoid departing in the wee hours, when they like to set those things up. And so I did.
Velvet roared into life and the rumbling sound of her pipes, when I twisted the throttle, parted the crowd like Moses parting the Red Sea in the Good Book. In gear, I cautiously "power-walked" her out of her parking space and around the crowd. Finally, I could put my feet on the pegs and ride past the barricade, to the street. Look twice, to be sure, then ease the clutch out and wheel her onto the road. One block, turn onto a side street, and I was headed home again. Got here a little before eleven, then went upstairs and turned in. So much for that first night.
But things will resume Saturday night. Stay tuned.
Friday, June 19, 2009
You can't go home again.
When Thomas Wolfe penned those words, years ago, referring to his native Asheville, North Carolina, he must have been gone for many, many years. Longer than the eleven years I was absent from Knoxville, which has been my home for as long as I've been celebrating anniversaries of my birthday. In my case, I have come home again, so all I can figure is that you'd have to be away much longer than I was in order for those words to be true.
Knoxville's still my home and it still feels like home. That's probably because I spent most of my life here B.T. (Before Trucking) and my roots were buried so deeply that not even all my traveling could pull them out of the ground. And maybe also because I didn't leave at a young and tender age, being in my mid-to-late forties when I climbed in my first assigned tractor, picked up my first load, and started my recently-ended series of eighteen-wheeled adventures. Not a kid, for sure, but a mature adult, with a strong sense of his roots.
I was never one of the "gypsies" out there on the road -- the ones I always referred to as "Truckstop Drivers," because their homes were seemingly in whatever one of those vital establishments they choose to hang their hat in today. Not for me. When I passed through my town, on the way to somewhere else, I always thought of it as home and that I'd be back, whenever. And I was, through all those years. I had weekends here at the Dawg House (although not for very long, quite often) and I had vacation time every year except my first one.
But it's not the same. Nowhere nearly like living here day in and day out, as I am again now. For all those long years I became a virtual occasional visitor in my own home town, only hanging around long enough to get somewhat reacquainted on two occasions when I was on medical leave for two on-the-job injuries I suffered. During even those times, I still packed my clothes in my duffel bag and lived out of it, not bothering to put my things in the drawers because I knew I'd be moving on again as soon as I was healed up. Now I'm back to stay and my duffle bag is packed away. My clothes are back in the drawers, after some minor rearranging. And in the past month or so, since I got back, I've been all over town at one time or another, getting to know my native city once again.
There have been quite a few changes in those eleven years. Some of them I knew, or was told about, and other things that are brand-new. I've kept up with my own neighborhood and the part of town it's in pretty well, because this is where I live and do most of my shopping, etc. Like the new street, Hall Of Fame Drive, which now makes a direct link between Broadway, in my own area, and downtown, about five miles distant from my house. That street used to be the old North Fifth Avenue, as well as two other streets. Now they've been combined, revamped, widened and improved into a new thoroughfare that will whiz you right into the heart of the city. The old Fourth and Gill neighborhood, home to some beautifully restored Victorian-Era houses, doesn't even look the same now. Those houses are all still there, but the new street cutting through their midst gives everything a different look.
They just reopened the one-mile stretch of I-40 through the downtown area that had been closed for the past 14 months while they rebuilt the old, tired roadway through there and I had (or made) a chance to check it out on that same trip downtown. I made that trip to our City Court, next to the Cop Shop, to take care of a little traffic ticket I got back in March and had forgotten all about. I've had -- uh -- other things on my mind the past month, mostly medical matters, as I've already talked about in past entries, so is it any wonder that fell through the cracks?? Cerebral Data Overflow again. How 'bout that for a fancy way of saying "brain fart?"
Well, I had one, but got the ticket fixed and then kissed and made up with the State Department of Safety. The end result? Now my license ain't in jeopardy anymore and everyone's happy. The City of Knoxville didn't even fine me, saying it was "understandable" how I could forget, what with all the other crap that's been going on in my life lately. Now I feel like I've been welcomed back home, officially.
Anyway, on the way back into town from the Driver's License Station I went through town to scope out the new section of freeway that us local taxpayers spent millions on the past two years. Now the last piece of the old and infamous "Malfuction Junction" is gone for good, replaced by a modern freeway link, complete with a Jersey barrier in the middle. And it gives the downtown area a new look, because it's cut a little differently than the old, elevated stretch it replaced. Three lanes in each direction, all the way through now. No bottlenecking three lanes down into two and backing up traffic at peak hours like a cheap toilet with government-regulated water levels in it. No clusterf*** here anymore!!! It's about time!!!
And, as usual, I hardly even recognized the west end when I went that way yesterday. But that's to be expected in that area and was getting like that even before I began my trucking career. West Knoxville contains the heaviest population in the city (and has all the traffic headaches that go along with that distinction.) It might be a nice place to live and work out there, if they ever get through building it! West Knoxville is kind of like our weather here in East Tennessee -- if you don't like the way things look in the west end, just wait ten minutes -- it'll change! Even the Bearden area, where I used to cruise around back in the 70's and 80's, looks different now. Bearden Hill has grown into a mile-long office complex, seemingly. The old service station where I worked for four years is completely gone now, as in "vacant lot" gone. But by next month, something will probably build on that lot, the way it's going around there. And I've never seen so many banks in one place! Across-the-street competition. I guess they want to keep their friends close and their enemies closer, as the Godfather was fond of saying.
Of course, in just over a month off the road, I haven't had the opportunity to go everywhere in town as yet, but I will, in time, and I'll doubtless discover more changes. Eleven years is a long time to be away and it will take awhile to catch up with everything around here. There may be future reports like this if I spot something interesting.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I slept in a bedroom above a busy factory last night. At least that's how it sounded to me, as I lay down and waited for sleep to come my way. The respiratory supply company which provided my CPAP machine and all its supplies delivered my oxygen equipment that my doctor and now the Sleep Disorders Center at a local hospital had ordered. I wore a oxygen monitor awhile back, all night long, and the results from that showed that my oxy saturation level was approaching a critically low state while I slept -- something that's not uncommon at all, I was told. That low saturation level was, in fact, what triggered that vicious attack of the gasps that sent me to an ER in West Virginia a month or so ago and ultimately led to my current state of unemployment, they now believe. Low oxygen in the blood, coupled with sleep apnea, is not a good thing at all. Trust me on that one.
So, I signed for some equipment I can't possibly pay for, with my healthcare insurance on the verge of lapsing forever. The insurance company had to pre-authorize it before they delivered it, so I'm covered for now. But when it does lapse (and it will,) I have nothing to pay for COBRA with until the check for the partial distribution of my 401K money arrives and/or I find some kind of employment that I can do without losing my breath and passing out. As is typical in these cases, the more you need that money the longer it will take to get it. Never fails!!! I'm already collecting 'past due' notices all over the place. Should I frame them?? Maybe submit this to Guinness? I may be setting some kind of record here.
A tech delivered my new gear and explained its usage to me in a long session yesterday afternoon. The equipment consists of a little green oxygen cylinder on a wheeled cart that is still sitting in a corner of my living room, where it will remain until and unless I need it. That's just for emergency use -- in case the power conks out. Only good for about three hours. The main machine is another wheeled device that looks like one of the portable A/C recharging stations that you see in car repair shops. It's called an Oxygen Concentrator and it takes up a whole corner of my bedroom.
[Now I can see carrying that thing out with me on a truck every week, can't you?? Yeah. Right. Where would I sleep? It would consume half my sleeper space. So, yet another reason why my departure from my former occupation was well-justified, even though my doctor still stubbornly clings to her belief that I can still drive a truck. Well, yeah, I could drive one, true enough. But to put up with all the other crap that the treatment of my ailment entails??!!! I think not, doc. I strongly disagree. Maybe I can physically drive, but it's the other baggage that now goes with it that screws the pooch.]
Anyway, my oxgen constipator -- uh, I mean, oxygen concentrator sucks. Literally. It sucks in air on one side, separates the oxygen from it, dumps the other stuff back into the atmosphere, then pipes the oxy through a plastic hose out the other side and into the output fitting on my CPAP. What this all means is that the air my CPAP compresses and pumps out into my mask now has pure oxygen mixed in with it. This keeps my oxygen level up during the night when I'm asleep (and unable to take a nebulizer treatment) and allows me to sleep much better, as well as preventing another attack of the gaspies. And it works quite well, if the first night was any indication, because I awoke feeling much more refreshed this morning and breathing quite easily. I went about my early morning business casually, not rushing headlong into the kitchen and grabbing for my nebulizer cup, as had been my habit since I got that machine, two weeks ago. A large improvement.
So what I now have in my bedroom amounts to a neat little oxygen factory. Ain't technology amazing?? It's also expensive -- and noisy. It puts out a steady throbbing beat that's punctuated at regular intervals by sighing noises, not unlike a low-volume version of the air 'dump valve' opening on a truck that's idling in traffic. It also makes a sort of groaning noise from time to time. In short, it's a little "symphony" on wheels, located about four feet from my bed. I chuckled to myself last night, amused by the thought that my bedroom was somewhere on an upper floor, with an operational manufacturing plant of some kind below me. I could swear I heard a metallic 'clang' down there, at one point, mixed in with the other sounds. Midnight at the foundry, and I'm the night watchman, trying to steal a little shut-eye on the job!!
But I went out like a light and slept well. I'll get used to it quickly. Heck, if I can get so used to a diesel truck engine idling all night long that I never notice it, this will be a piece of cake!! It's worth it for a good night's sleep, for the first time in nearly two months, ever since my latest personal journey began. A welcome relief.