Thursday, September 30, 2010

Road Trips & Guitar Picks: Jason Aldean

While Clint and I were traveling to Fort Benning for Brian's Iraq homecoming a few weeks ago, I got an interesting e-mail, with a proposal from Country Financial, who is sponsoring country music star Jason Aldean's 2010 tour.
We’d like to make you an official Road Trips and Guitar Picks blogger.  In exchange for writing a few posts for us on your blog, we will give you and a companion backstage passes to see Jason up close when he plays the Assembly Hall October 21.  The passes also come with some great seats to the show.

Wow! Yes, I said, Yes, I will! I've never been backstage before! I will! I want!

Well, wait. I don't really listen to that much country music. At least, not today's country music. Funny, back in the 80s, while all of my high-school peers were listening to AC/DC and Aerosmith, my music collection consisted of Waylon, Willie, Hank, George, Loretta, Patsy, and Dolly.

Over time, my musical tastes shifted towards blues. My iPod is full of BB King, John Lee Hooker, Koko Taylor. Country? Still the oldies. Johnny Cash. Lyle Lovett. What I know about today's country music could fit on the head of a pin. I've picked up a few names as a result of a new set of country-lovin' friends, but for the most part, I'm as good with country singers as I am sports icons. Travis Tritt is either a singer or a quarterback. (Am I right?)

I felt it only fair to give Country Financial the opportunity to fire me before I got started.
I have to be completely honest, and let you know that when it comes to music, I've been more of a blues girl. My favorite country artists hail from "yesteryear," and for the sake of full disclosure, I have to admit that I know very little about Jason Aldean.

"Very little," I said. Heh. I completely omitted the fact that I know so little that for 3 days I referred to him as "Justin" Aldean. [Oh, God, why did I write that? They're going to fire me yet.]

Turns out they're open-minded about my lack of familiarity with this particular country star.
Actually your lack of knowledge about Jason makes you a great person to blog about the experience. While it's great to read fan blogs, it will be wonderfully refreshing to see a perspective from outside his circle.
Yay me! A virtual handshake, and the gig—and the adventure—was mine. I love my life!

Jason Aldean.
(When did country stars get so young?!)

I told Country Financial I'd get back in touch, and we continued on our way to Fort Benning, hitting the seek button on the radio as we moved from town to town. As luck would have it, we heard one DJ announce, "next up the latest from Jason—." and the radio then continued to auto-seek to the next station. I told Clint, "go back, go back, maybe that was Jason Aldean!!!" He was already on it, and sought back to the station that was playing "My Kinda Party."

The chorus, to My Kind of Party:

Oh baby, you can find me.
In the back of a jacked up tailgate.
Sittin' 'round watchin' all these pretty things.
I Get down in that Georgia clay.
And I'll find peace.
In the bottom of a real tall cold drink.
Chillin' with some Skynyrd and some old Hank.
Lets get this thing started.
It's my kind of party.

And I smile again, as I read the lyrics and go over photos from the evening.

Georgia clay

Feelin' peaceful

 Well, a really *short* cold drink, actually.

On the back of a tailgate (NOT a jacked-up tailgate, but a tailgate nonetheless)

Sittin' round watching all those pretty things...

I think me & Jason Aldean are going to get along juuuuust fine. I'll listen up and tell you more, soon, and I can't wait to hit that concert!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Iraq Homecoming Extravaganza: Papa Del's, and Hours 1-2

Back to My Boys' Homecoming! We had about 36 hours, all told, with my kid and his buddies before we had to hit the road back home, and I have approximately one story per hour.

The plane came in around 8 pm, and we had to wait 2 hours for all of the guys to be processed before they marched in. Since this is the 2nd homecoming, I knew what to expect, and have many similar photos from the first. The countdown screen, for instance, that informs us of our wait.

You wait and wait for that plane to roll in, and then come in for the countdown. I'd write it all, but I've written it before, and since everyone here reads every word I ever wrote since the beginning of time, I don't want to bore you. It was like this.

Except!! This time, while I looked for Brian, I took more photos of other families embracing theirs. In the interim, I could. not. find. my. son. A security guard had earlier indicated to me that there were 2 planes coming in that night, and I began to worry that we had been waiting at the wrong homecoming. I mean, the place had cleared OUT and I still could not find Brian.
While I began to fret, there was a young wife also fretting behind me, when she suddenly began screaming. She was clearly also anxious, and had finally spotted hers, who was standing near me. I turned to find her running across the auditorium, jumping into his arms with her legs wrapped around his waist.

I stopped to take this picture, when Brian tapped my shoulder. "Uh, hi, Mom."

Dang! It totally looked like I was just wandering around NOT looking for him!!! I was so relieved that he was there, and that I hadn't missed his plane, that I didn't even fall apart! Yay! Yay, yay, yay, you're here, there you are, sorry I was busy photographing strangers, yay!

Moving on then, to the story that matches the title of this post.

I racked my brain, before Brian came home, over what I could take to him for a proper Welcome Home. It didn't take long for me to remember that when he was home on leave, he didn't come straight home, but he had us meet him at his favorite pizza place in this berg, Papa Del's. I shall forever remind him that he had to get to Papa Del's before he had to get to his mama. Laugh if you will, but I'll get expensive vodka out of this, people. He WILL make up for it.

Anyway, I DECIDED that there was going to be Papa Del's pizza waiting for that kid the night he got home. (I can't for the life of me find a website for Papa Del's, so here's this).

I just couldn't decide how that was going to happen, for sure. Townies know the logistics. It's a thick, stuffed pizza; if you dine in, expect to order and get comfy, baking time takes 1 hour. Facebook friends encouraged me to call Papa Del's themselves (ingenius). The guy I got on the phone went over all of my options: "Buy cooked, cool, freeze, thaw, and microwave?" I asked him. "It's not going to be as good."

In the end, we picked up a frozen pie on Monday, kept it in a cooler, and on ice, and then....

Shut it, germophobes. The hotel sink made a GREAT freezer.

And I By God packed my toaster oven (there on the left)...

Lo and behold, 1/2 a pizza fit exactly into the pan that comes with it. I had cut it into quarters before I discovered that fact. And for the record, toaster ovens aren't allowed in hotel rooms, but my baby was home, and they'd have to pry mine from my cold dead hands.

And guess what, it turned out GREAT!!! Yayyyy, all of the pizza orchestration was a huge success, and Brian and his got to have his favorite Papa Del's pepperoni pizza upon landing. Woot!!!

Photo totally staged, he'd already eaten 1/2 pizza before
I remembered to get a pic. Someone else ended up eating that piece.

It was midnight by the time this picture was taken, 3 more hours before we were all asleep, and 2 or 3 more posts on those 3 hours. We had 36, before we had to leave, and but for a few sleeping, there's a tale for every one.

The first two hours of my kid's homecoming, in the end, were stupid wonderful, and pulling off the traveling Papa Del's pizza was a huge coup for me. He was ecstatic, his buddies got a taste of the CU pizza he'd been talking about in Iraq, and I got huge brownie points.

If you can't deliver homemade mashed potatoes, Papa Del's is the next best thing.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A (Much Needed) Drive-By (Windshield) Hugging

Friday night. I'm tired, it's been a long week. I haven't had time to blog more Tales of the Homecoming, but The Kid(s) are still in Georgia, reintegrating to a peaceful society. Brian will be home in November, I would have had a heart attack if I'd have had to wait that long to see him home.

I am "deep cleaning" in the midst of the still-existing construction, trying to create a bit more order in the house, while Clint is helping a neighboring farmer with his harvesting, working from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. You know how it is when you decide to "clean house" have to "undo" the place first. There is general disarray.

Mom is "slipping" a bit more these days, yet still generally happy. The latest trend in her Alzheimer's progression is that her emotions are magnified, responses are stronger. Discomfort translates into agony. Did I say agony? I mean aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagonyyyyyyyyyyyyy!! I took her to the grocery store tonight and turned around to find her writhing in the aisle, clutching at her ribs. Irritated with her bra, she began to pull her t-shirt off to show me the problem. I stood in the aisle trying to "lovingly hiss" at her that that she could not pull her shirt up in the store.

After getting her settled, I arrived home this evening, on my own. Paperwork and bills to tend to, and what I don't work on tonight will just need done tomorrow. I ran to Walmart to get a few organizing bins for a corner in the house.

I returned to my car, tossed all of the baskets and bins in the back seat, put the cart in the return, and jumped into the drivers seat, only to feel immediately disoriented.

What in the he....?




How did I miss this?

A hug bandit!!! I stood suddenly laughing in the parking lot, looking around, and laughing more. Whuh? Was someone watching, or did they ditch and run? Either way, my cheeks hurt already from smiling. I have to admit the hug works, I feel giggly and light, this is the perfect end-of-the-week wrap-up. Or, beginning of the weekend.

What's a girl to do, then....

But to leave her own drive-by hugging, and hit the road.

I have had the perfect start to my weekend.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Homecoming No. 2: A Brief Pictorial and Video Summary

Just past the front gate.

Here they come.

There they are. We got to see them 2 hours after this photo was taken.

I have a tough time holding it together when they finally march in. And this video still undoes me. They just keep coming and coming. You can figure out the rest.

Stories and more pictures to come. Of course.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pre-Homecoming Post: Mama, (de)Composed.

We are still driving, driving, splitting our 12-hour drive into 2 legs this time; we stopped at a no-frills Red Roof Inn to sleep after the first 6 hours last night. Clint's parents have loaned us their luxurious cadillac; when my muscles get stiff, I just turn on the sauna, aka heated seats. Ahhhhh.

In our trunk is our a military footlocker full of I-don't-know-what, a cooler with 12-inch frozen Papa Del's stuffed pepperoni pizza, and the toaster oven right out of my kitchen.

It is 1:23 p.m. right now. That's 13:23 in Brian-land.

Brian-land happens to be exactly where we're headed. My son's plane flies in tonight, and I have every intention of arriving hours early and parking my butt on the tarmac to watch that puppy fly in. I have my own special line to Fort Benning, and was just informed by a serious voice on the other end that the ceremony will begin at 18:30, and the plane flies in at 20:10.

I fret, having had the impression that the plane was to fly in at 18:30, and a plan to arrive 2 hours before that. At...(18:30 minus 2 hours, ummmm) 16:30. Do we wait now, run the risk of either being 4 hours early, which is a lot of hours early...or, god forbid, showing up late and missing something! ::faint::

I know what, I'll call them again after we check into our hotel. I am pretty sure that I won't be the first Mom in history to ask again, what time her kid is flying in to an army base.

I've been reflecting a lot, in the last couple weeks, on this second homecoming, and on his second tour. I think about my reactions to Brian's first tour, and occasionally being introduced to other, more-stoic-than-I mothers. Mothers that had done this twice or thrice already. Mothers that could say "My son is in Iraq," without bursting into tears like little girls. Mothers that were so damned collected.

What in the hell was wrong with them? Screw composure! Screw grace!

I much preferred the company of Rookie Soldier mothers; those that still found the experience raw. Those that would just "get" that if you found yourself having the most wonderful time on any beautiful day, you check yourself on the spot, and remember where your kid is and wonder what he's doing, and you kind of want to go home now.

There have been moments. Some time after Brian returned from his first tour, Clint and I were driving home from a festival, and on a whim, turned into a divy little bar for a beverage. The clientele on that day consisted of several men, and 1 woman, cutting up and keeping them infinitely amused with her raucous humor. While we sat, Brian called me from his base, honestly, to ask how he should go about cooking a cornish hen. When we got off the phone, I somehow mentioned to the fellow next to me that my kid was calling from an army base, that he'd recently returned from his first tour.

Minutes later I turned around to find the fun rowdy lady standing in front of me, looking directly into my eyes. She seemed suddenly shy, and she looked at me seriously and said,

"My boy's in Iraq."

I looked back into her eyes for a few seconds, and then asked her, "how you doin, Mama?" We both teared up and laughed, and talked for a few minutes, and left each other with a hug and wishes and assurances: It's all gonna be ok.

It is certainly not lost on me that I've been in a different state of mind, on this, my second rodeo. I have been much more the mother that I couldn't wrap my head around before. I pulled off that smiling and nodding routine, and resisted the urge to shake you by the lapels. Part of it was that I've been here, and done this, and as a friend pointed out, we acclimate.

But this time around, I had more access to communication with Brian. Neither of us used Facebook before, and even if we had his access was infrequent. I had email and gmail and gchat and Facebook, and Skpe, and oh, the occasional phone call.

I have also come to know many more of his friends on this tour, through Facebook. We banter online, and occasionally talk, sometimes seriously, and sometimes just pure b.s. I know who works with my son, who has his back, and who he'd give his life to protect. I am quite simply, more in the loop this time around. While that gives me more people to worry about, it also leaves many more comforting me, whether they mean to or not.

Also, there was a lot less violence to be dealt with on this tour, if everything Brian told me was to be believed. "Fine, fine, everything's fine, nothing happening here." He said that last time, too, and I found out differently when he got home, it was hell over there on his 1st tour. If the filtered-for-mother reports are to be believed, things really were slower there this time, and he was appreciative. When he was home on leave he told me that the "young guys were wishing for an IED," and he'd correct them, "no, you really do NOT want to get hit." I liked hearing that life was boring there, I liked it very much.

So, yes. I am calm and cool and full of grace this time around.

Oh, and by the way....I am full of shit; I have been spontaneously bursting into tears for the last 2 weeks, and watching websites and asking for days off that I'm not sure, of,  PEOPLE, MY KID IS COMING HOME FROM FUCKING IRAQ IN 0600  HOURS OR 0400 HOURS OR 0800 HOURS, WHAT FUCKING TIME IS IT, I AM SICK TO DEATH OF THIS WAR SHIT, OH, HOW I WISH I COULD DO A CARTWHEEL.

Get your shotglasses ready, people. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Long Drive and Olfactory Contemplations

Clint and I are traveling, tonight. He is driving, and I am surfing the net and eating a handful of "Good 'n Plenty" that I bought at our dinner stop at Cracker Barrell. Black licorice, I love it, and offered Clint some. He doesn't like black licorice, he doesn't like licorice at all, he tells me. I think I knew that.

Well more for me, I pop another and think about my Dad. He hated the smell of licorice. He probably hated it because it made him vomit. When we were little, my sister once tried to sneak a piece into the car. She could just keep it in her mouth, and he'd never know.

We made it to the end of the driveway, where he stopped the car, opened the door, and vomited. His mother was the same way, we knew better than to take black licorice into my Grandma Stewart's house.

I have a long ride ahead of me, so I sit and contemplate which smells that I have a violent reaction to. Certainly there's nothing that makes me vomit. Oh, wait, I take that back. Years ago, there was a party in my house in which someone left venison steaks in a mini freezer, meant for another guest to take home. Said guest forgot, and the freezer was unplugged, post party. It was brought to my attention 3 weeks later, and since I was the only one home, the responsibility of moving them out of the freezer fell to me.

I threw up, and had to throw the freezer away.

But that doesn't count, that's too obvious. Plus I think I blogged that story already once before, so forget it.

Which smells make me nauseous? Wintergreen comes to mind first and foremost. Mom would spoon wintergreen-flavored pepto bismol down my throat when I had the flu as a kid, and I'd just throw back stinky wintergreen vomit.

A side-story! One time when Brian was a little kid, he asked me what a bismol was. I told him it was a game played with a bismol glove and a bismol bat. He was only 6, but had long since figured out that I could be full of crap, and he just gave me the stinkeye. If nothing else, I taught that kid how to deliver total b.s. with a deadpan face.

Paybacks really are hell. Two years ago when he was on leave he called me over to show me his new tattoo. "Its a swastika," he said. This was then me, moving across the living room:

He finally broke a smile when he realized I was seconds away from grabbing a melon baller and relieving him from any such tattoo. There was no new tattoo, he was just jacking with me. Hilaaaaarious.

Not. I digress. Wintergreen, don't care for it, and I obviously wouldn't touch pepto bismol with a 10-foot pole. I don't like the smell of watermelon gum. Or grape gum. Or strawberry "flavoring."

My father was a UPS mechanic, and someone once dropped a case of embalming fluid in the building, leaving the building smelling like roses. For years I had an aversion to the scent of roses, just for the neurological association to embalming fluid.

For some reason not too many more come to mind, I can think of more things that I like the smell of that most people do not: bleu and other strong cheeses, fish, strong curries, gasoline, solvent, ink. Maybe my fondness for strong smells makes me more tolerant of odors that offend others.


What about you? Which odors turn you green in the face? Which do you love, common and uncommon?  Why?

Keep us entertained with your comments; we have a looonnnggg drive ahead of us.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

My Boys

They'e all mine, but that one second from left in front row is mine-mine.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Emotional Day

Today is the 1-year anniversary of my sister's death. Raise your glass to Teri Pittman.

As I write this, it has been one hour since my son just finished his last combat mission in Iraq. "Time to turn in my bullets and get outta here," he writes.

What a day. I don't know whether to cry or to cry.