A night at the Bradfordville Blues Club

MOSES LANE IS CUT from Georgia red clay like all streets in Leon County, Florida, once were. The road narrows in places so cars cannot pass, but they don’t need to anyway because this is an old blues road and it has a rhythm of its own — cars enter early, cars leave late, all together now. A quarter mile up the lane from the hard ball is a small cinderblock building set within a curtain of Spanish moss sprouting some oak trees. There are just a few small holes in the concrete for windows, several of which are plugged with air conditioning units. The blue vinyl tunnel leading to the front door is the foyer of the concrete structure, the lone welcoming detail that announces this is the Bradfordville Blues Club and not a meth lab. Continue Reading

It’s different for everyone (a message for new and soon-to-be parents)

“Do you love him yet?” my dearest of friends Vance (not his real name) asked me over the phone. If you’ve ever had a friend who knows your secrets and actually prefers your dark side, then you have an Vance in your life. I have no reason to fear being honest with him. I was a month ahead of Vance into fatherhood and he was home only a few days from the hospital with twin boys. He was referring to my first-born Zander. “No,” I answered without hesitation.

There was a long pause during which I imagined Vance looking around to make sure no one could hear him. “What a relief,” he sighed. Continue Reading

Where there are no teens (or, the Generation Gap Explained)

The 7-11 was a five-minute walk from home and a good place to get eggnog at Christmas, candy the rest of the year.  In middle school I figured out I could buy cigarettes for friends at school after the Chi Chi’s on Dale Mabry took out the cigarette vending machine (it was a different time) and in high school I could buy beer if the right guy was working the counter.  Embarrassingly, this convenience store was also a good place to hang out.  They had a Tron video game but it was pricey, 50¢ a play, and I rarely had the money for that and candy.  The Rosewood Center, a strip mall built right next door had a sidewalk that abruptly ended with a four-foot drop to the concrete property of the 7-11, no stairs, no switchbacks, not even a safety rail.  It really was a different time.  The Rosewood Center sidewalk was an ideal place to drink a soda, eat a Zero bar (a white chocolate Snickers, if you’ve never seen one), and watch people come and go, such were the entertainment options on Greentree Drive in the late 1980s. Continue Reading

Maren’s Flat

Maren is a complicated person.  Let’s see where she lived when the world was whole

The truck entered the shadow of an elevated road running parallel to the Potomac River. Not for the first time Captain Stakan muttered, “It’s so weird.”

“Yes,” Maren agreed.

“The cars are all still parked nice and neat, not as many as I would expect during the week, but still. If it wasn’t for all the overgrowth this would look like a normal Sunday.”

Maren turned left on Wisconsin Ave and immediately parked against the curb under the elevated road. “Here we are,” she said looking out the windows all around them for threats.

[This is an excerpt from Ciphers: Departure Day Book III]

“Seriously? You lived here?”

“Yes,” she replied looking at him in confusion. “Why?” Continue Reading

Through the Looking Glass

It looks like transit, sounds like money, and smells like politics. It must be Philly’s Girard Streetcar Line.

Philadelphia is home to over 118 miles of bona fide, in-the-asphalt, exposed streetcar rails, the greatest quantity in the country. Many are not in regular use but they are left in place and uncovered and, like a strip tease, leave open the titillating possibility that regular streetcar service will return. On route 15, the Girard Street Line, it has. The green, silver and cream PCC cars hit the rails September 4, 2005 after a 13-year absence. Ridership is high, the city is happy to finally have these rolling museums back in service, and the area around Girard is slowly revitalizing. But for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) that operates the route things could not be much worse. Continue Reading

Palaces without Windows

In 2003 I visited all 170-odd stations of the Moscow Metro and wrote this for the 70th Anniversary of the system

To say that Park Pobedy (Victory Park) station is deep is to say the Moscow Metropolitan Underground Railway is just a good way to get around. Mounting the escalator, one immediately recalls the posters in the metro showing a station attendant, young, blonde, and cute in her blue uniform. She smiles beguilingly and the text reads: “Yest’ Vykhod.” There is an exit.

This is reassuring. The escalators, among the fastest in the world, whisk passengers along at almost a meter per second. So quick are they that, in 2003, six German tourists were hospitalized when the speed of the steps tripped one, who knocked over the other five. Speed notwithstanding, it still takes exactly three minutes to ride from the top to the bottom of the Park Pobedy escalator. If you begin listening to an average pop song as you mount this monster the tune will end right as its teeth spit you out the other end.

This station serves its namesake, once the grounds where Napoleon and his army staged before entering Moscow, and is now home to a complex of museums, memorials and parks. As a trainload of passengers arrives, there is a collective gasp, a buzz that runs throughout the car. Park Pobedy gleams. The walls and floors are orange, gray, and white, representing the colors of Russian’s first military order. The marble has been smoothed and polished to a metallic luster.

On the occasion of Victory Day most of Moscow seems to be heading to Victory Park to watch the fireworks. As the train empties into the hall, there is the rarest of sights: thousands of Muscovites, mouths agape, staring in wonderment at a metro station. A foreigner turns to his Russian companion to ask why Russians are acting this way. Continue Reading

That time Schotzie had a Tick

Schotzie sam twins

Sam and Schotzie in matching Ts in Zander’s room a few months after the tick.

As tick-borne diseases are back in the news these days I’m reminded of a Schotzie story.  Afflicted with youth and vitality my long-suffering bride Aimee and I bought an 1890 farmhouse Victorian house in Thomasville, Ga, a town Harper’s Magazine  once called “the best winter resort on three continents,” which is funny since Thomasville is located only in North America.  The house had been gutted and Aimee and I set out completely rebuilding the thing, a four-month project that felt like 8 years mostly because it took 8 years.

The work was exhausting but apparently not too much because a few months into the project Aimee wound up pregnant.  What would be our master bedroom was full of power tools and materials so we were sleeping in our son’s future room, the walls still covered in dust from refinishing the floor.  We had moved in in a hurry.  I was sitting on a carpet outside the bedroom petting Schotzie’s belly so she wouldn’t destroy something and Aimee was ready for bed.  Then I noticed the tick. Continue Reading