Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tribute to a Blogger: Wil Kyle, Paradise Driver

The genesis of this blog, 7 years ago, was a coffee-shop pact with 5 friends.We'd gather, read, and share, and on a local, nationwide, and worldwide basis, we began to "meet" other bloggers..

It's been interesting how circles naturally transpired. I have dined with three of a circle of women from Baltimore, Ohio, Michigan, and California. I have a set of friends from Texas and Canada. My own son has met two of my blogging friends, even though I have not!

One of those circles brought me to Wil Kyle, the author of Paradise Driver. A retired San Francisco cop turned Hawaiian cab driver, his late-night cabby stories were hilarious, while his reminiscence about his police career was often chilling.

Wil brought me to another high-spirited blog from a (now retired) meter reader in Australia: Dogbait. Tales of Australian spiders that ran out of meter housings and down his sleeve were enough to make you go lie down for the afternoon. I also met up with a New York City cabby, the King of New York Hacks. King is temporarily out of commission after a car accident that broke his arm, but his wonderful NYC photos on Facebook still keep me entertained on a daily basis. 

The Paradise Driver's cabby career ended in 2009 when his eyesight began to fail. He went through a rough time with finances, health, and near-homelessness, and when he was diagnosed with cancer, moved back to California. His blog stories began to dwindle, but he continued to post news and amusing anecdotes.

I received an email from Dogbait last Friday, informing me that Wil had little time left. An excerpt from a letter Wil sent him:
“Aloha Reg, here’s the most recent picture of me. I am currently in a local hospital and do not expect to leave. My friends and family will be communicating with you to give you regular updates about my condition. Right now it could be 4 days or 4 weeks...unknown. Please post the picture and it would be appreciated if you let everybody know what’s going on so that people don’t think I just disappeared and this is my one opportunity to let everybody know how much I appreciated their friendship and their love. And I hope you use your blog to pass all this to them, anticipate communications from my friends.  When I finally do pass, they will let you know, and hopefully you can pass the information on to the world.
G’day Mate, Wil”

Wil's phone number and his son's address was also included. Hoping it wasn't too late, I sent him a text and I emailed his son, asking him to give Wil a few messages from me.

Right after I left work that afternoon I received a phone call. The first time I'd ever heard him speak: "Lori, this is Wil Kyle."

He was lovely. His voice was so strong that except for a few pauses where he was clearly in pain and had to regroup, I would never known he was sick.

He told me he was thrilled to get my text message! He asked about Clint, and told me that he was amazed at how the house was coming along. He asked me about Brian, and spoke about how much he was wandering, before he enlisted, and what a strong young man he is now. He told me that he used to be a radio announcer, and he did a fun "bit" for me, so that I would hear his "real" voice. He explained to me that he was fine; he's "pragmatic," he said, and it was just his time to go. "You sound exactly as I imagined you would," he told me.

And I told him how much it meant to me to have him in the wings cheering me on when Brian went to boot camp, and when he deployed. How great it was for him to rally friends to send me notes of support, and how much I valued his friendship, and enjoyed his writing.

After 5 minutes, he was clearly exhausted, and I knew how much the conversation must have taken out of him. The radio bit alone must have been excruciating. He told me that had to get going. I was weeping by then, but I told him goodbye and that I loved him.

And he, jolly and stoic, said "I love you too, hon."

"Hello," "I love you," and "Goodbye," each spoken for the first and last time.

I got an email on Tuesday from his Grandson that he passed away Monday night.

I have been deeply saddened this week, but at the same time immensely thankful for this circle of friends that rallied for him, passing on email addresses and phone numbers, to get the word out. I'm thankful I got to hear his voice, and to hear him laugh.

I am thankful we got to tell him how much we loved him. And how much we'll miss him.

I'm so glad he got to know that.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Not Really a Story About Our New Pontoon Boat

Clint and I bought a used pontoon boat this week, a bit of a fixer-upper. She floats, and she runs, but she needs a little elbow grease and rewiring at the least. Clint is a stickler for detail and years of half-ass maintenance from the previous owners will not do. Combined with my homemaking tendencies we have bitten off a bit of a project.

We set out today to begin spiffing. After a quick soap & water wash, Clint began to deal with wiring issues and counting nuts and bolts that need to be replaced, while I began polishing stainless steel.While we worked, we stewed over a re-upholstering project that we're both confident we can do on our own.

After 4 hours, my wrists and shoulders had had enough, and Clint had pulled things apart and had a shopping list a mile long of items that must be purchased before the show can go on. 

Phase II of the day consisted of 4 more hours of shopping. Marine batteries and headlights and taillights and wiring and pins and buoys and anchors, and Oh. My. God: The shopping was more brutal than the elbow grease.


I recently referred to how much my life has changed in the last couple of years. A year ago a Sunday consisted of my rising early, driving to Mom's house to wake her, dispense meds, give her a shower, fix her breakfast, and start laundry or dishes.

I would have snuggled her down with some TV Land, promised to come back at lunch, and driven back home for a Sunday breakfast with Clint. After starting my own laundry and chores I would have gone back to her house to pick her up for the afternoon, and bring her home for lunch. She would stay on my heels while I tried to tend my own obligations

At 4 or 5 in the evening, I'd take her back home, where I'd fix her dinner and hand out p.m. meds. I'd brush her teeth, put her into her pajamas, make sure she could find her baby doll and her bible, set out a cup of hot tea and a snack in case she awoke. Lights were left on, the sheets pulled down, and I'd lock the doors and trust her to find her way from her chair to her bed before I'd return again the next morning.

After I left her house, I'd shop, pick up prescriptions and groceries, and swing by the post office to drop off bills, or whatever else needed doing before Monday morning came again.

That was Sunday—my LEISURE day. A day I could tend to all of that without a pesky 8-hour block of my own livelihood stuck in the middle.


And even that damned livelihood was questionable, having lost my job of 24 years, and picked up one after another to make ends meet. I was fortunate that I remained employed, but at $1K less a month when I was far from rich in the first place. Ramen noodles were my friend in 2011.  $1.20 for a week's worth of lunches in the office = Godsend.

I haven't touched on the fact that I began a fantastic new job in January. That I'm working in a field I know and love once again would have been enough for me. I have lost my sense of entitlement in a workplace after chugging along with a struggling company for years, then hopping from one mundane job to another. But, BONUS!! Not only am I doing work I love, it's for a company that has what is referred to as benefits, benefits so lovely that I almost burst into tears when they were ticked off to me in my initial interview. Oh please, I ached, don't even tell me about them if you don't intend to hire me.

A poor little waif, I have been, yes?!!


Kind of, yes.

I've met a lot of wonderful people in the last year, and for those of you new to this blog, (and to me), in the last 5 years I sent my son to Iraq twice, lost my sister to ovarian cancer, and cared for my mother, with Alzheimer's, as best I could until 1 year ago, when at the same time I lost my job of 24 years.

I hereby declare that this is the last time I will summarize all of these events in a manner that assumes that these situations consumed my entire identity.

Because the truth is, none of these factors are present in my life now.

... I have nothing to worry about.

While that does make my head spin a bit, by God, if I can live through all that stress, I think I'll manage to learn to also live without it.


Back to today, then...4 hours of shopping today almost did me in. We didn't find half of what we need to fix up the pontoon to our liking, but while we were out, I had Clint pull over to Office Depot so I could buy printer ink, and then to Michael's, where I was looking for ribbon, but instead ended up buying a canvas for a painting I'm going to do for our bedroom wall. It was 60% off $44, so I only paid $18.

By 6 p.m., I was so tired I announced that I was NOT cutting up pepper and onion and that 1 lone steak I pulled out of the freezer to make Dinner-Surprise, so we had better pull over somewhere and pick up a frozen pizza.

We did, and upon stepping inside the house, Clint turned on the oven and announced that he was fixing dinner tonight. I poured myself a glass of pinot grigio and announced that I'd be in charge of wine on the deck.

And this, my friends, is where I am in 2012.

Can I say it too many times?

I have nothing to worry about.

Weeks or months or years, I know it's only temporary.

Still, I am thankful.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Romantic Night in Jail

Clint celebrated his 20th Anniversary with the Fire Department on the 26th, and we decided to do something special to mark the occasion. A weekend getaway was in order, but we wanted to do something different. Something memorable.

We hit the road, and indeed, we had ourselves a weekend we'll never forget.


We spent the night in jail.

The Old Jail Inn in Rockville, Indiana, is a former jailhouse turned Bed & Breakfast, and we reserved the Bonnie & Clyde Suite, which was formerly the murderers row. Behind this door is a  narrow walkway, with walls on one side, and bars on the other.

 We were given a cable lock to secure our belongings behind the bars.

While we were provided with a few more items than the average prisoner was allowed between 1878 and the time it closed its doors in 1998, it was, without a doubt, still a jail cell. We were given the luxuries of  a warm bed, fluffy towels, and toilet paper. I'm sure past residents would have killed for any of the three. In fact, maybe some of them did.


Our "suite" was one of two in the entire jail that had its own bathroom, which was mandatory for me before agreeing to incarcerate myself for the weekend. If you're thinking about renting this room that will sleep up to 5, I'd recommend you choose cellmates that you are very comfortable with. Pictured below, you see, is the bathroom "door."

There is a narrow iron table, with a chilly iron bench, built right into the bars and floor. Here I am, writing a letter asking for a cake with a file baked in. You can kind of see the bed behind me.

The two original beds are placed over the guest bed, bunk-bed style. A past guest who apparently cracked his head left this kind warning.

Graffiti is encouraged. A few Sharpies are left in the room and around the entire jailhouse. The fine print on this note in the bathroom cracked me up:

Despite a certain lack of luxury, owners Deborah and Tony treated everyone like royalty. A tour of the entire jail reveals which rooms were interrogation rooms, and fingerprinting rooms, and booking rooms. This is  Deborah, in what used to be the former drunk tank, where the Rowdy Residents of Rockville past were thrown to sober up for the evening. That room is now—Genius!—a wine bar! It is named—what else—The Drunk Tank.

Deborah is fun, and loving and vivacious, and she and Tony both make you feel like you are simply the best guests that have ever entered the place, ever. They are full of information about where to find a good meal or some evening entertainment, but if you want to stick around, you're welcome to hang out with them. She took our picture, showing us how to hold the camera up high so that no one would end up with a double chin. 

 Who are those young thin people?!

Clint and I sampled a few wines,  then settled on a bottle to share. We decided to head out to dinner, recorked what was left, and Deborah wrapped it up all special to take with us:


Earlier in the day, before the wine, I swear, I had been up in the room while Clint ran downstairs. As I moved about, I saw someone in the room, and, thinking Clint had returned, began to speak to him. A figment of my imagination, apparently: No one was there. I had a brief "yeesh, I'm losing my mind" moment before dismissing it.

Later, while were sitting at the Drunk Tank, who should walk over at quittin' time to say hello, but the town undertaker. Yes, the funeral home is directly across the street from the jail. Clint struck up a conversation with him about trucks and weather that I'll admit I was only half listening to until I heard the words "This place is haunted, you know." I was all ears as Clint admitted he'd read a bit about that somewhere, and The Undertaker went on to say that several people had claimed to see a ghost or ghosts in the jail.

So What Was It Like to Sleep in a Haunted Jail, You Ask?

Quiet. There is no television, and we didn't didn't take our laptops. After dinner, we had a drink while we flopped around the room, talking about everything under the sun, including about how we don't quite know what to do with ourselves when we settle down without TV, DVDs, internet. We finally turned the radio on my iPhone, and listened to stand up comedy and talking some more. Talking. How novel.

Chilly. The floors are still concrete, and the walls are brick, and there's a certain nip in the room when you crawl out from under the covers. Bring your slippers!

A little scary. I'll admit that the idea of seeing the ghost again in the middle of the night scared me a teensy bit, so I hatched a master plan: "Don't open my eyes." What I couldn't see wouldn't scare the bejeezus out of me. Ignorance was bliss, at least until I had to pee so bad that I didn't care who I saw, dead or alive.

Thought-provoking. It was interesting to lie in bed, behind bars, and imagine what it must be like not to be able to open that gate and leave on your own accord. Not to have the towels, or the bathroom curtain-door, or a book to read to while away the time, for months, or years.

Fun! Although some of the things I listed above might seem to be out of one's comfort zone, Clint and I had a blast at the Old Jail Inn. Our evening was quiet and eerie, historical and educational, thrilling and hysterical, and exactly what we were after for the weekend: Memorable.

On Sunday morning, breakfast, which was included in the price of the stay, was made-to-order by the owners, at their Old Jail Coffee House right next door. A fresh, hot, egg & cheese croissant with bacon (Clint ordered sausage), a bowl of fruit cocktail, and a bottomless cup of coffee was served up.

Condiments for breakfast could be found at the Piano Bar:

We were on our way by noon to scout out another adventure before the weekend was out...but not, of course, before signing our room. 

 Clint signed the bunk bed over ours:

I drew romantic caricatures on the door:

And one more time for good measure, on a light housing outside of our cell bars:

If you're up for an adventure, a change of pace, a fun place for either a romantic getaway or a fun family weekend, then get yourself to The Old Jail Inn, in Rockville, Indiana. Tell Deborah & Tony that Clint & Lori sent you. 

The Old Jail Inn
127 South Jefferson Street
Rockville, IN 47872

P.S. Here's a frying pan for you. There are 5 of them placed upside down in the floor when the concrete was poured. We don't know why. A Google search didn't shed any light on this mystery for me, but if you know something, let me know!