Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Opining May Keep You up at Night

For several years now I have complained about the lack of coordination and organization there has been concerning the art department at the county fair. I have moaned and opined. This year they got someone new to handle the art exhibits. The fair brought in a young lady to check all of the pieces in, tag them, and make sure they were displayed in the correct place. She even extended the check in times from 1-4 one afternoon as they had been in previous years to include 9-5 on a Saturday and 1-4 on a Sunday. 

She was cheery and competent. I was more than pleased. Although the jury was out. I have seen train wrecks that start off as picnics. All in all I will give her her due - she had everything running smoothly. 

There was another lady sitting at the table with her, who got up and introduced herself to me when I was checking my pieces in. We chatted for a few minutes about an art series she was working and I promised to donate a picture for a silent auction.

Yesterday, Monday, when the fair was open for lunch, I rode out there out of curiosity to see the judging results. The doors for the art exhibit building were closed. I saw a gentleman open one of the large doors slightly and slip in. It was obvious it was not open to the public yet. Oh well, there was always Monday night.

We did not make it out to the fair Monday evening given the rainy weather. So I planned to ride out again on Tuesday at lunch. Obviously I was very curious. 

I am not a night owl. In fact you will find me in bed reading by 8:30 any night. Monday night being no exception. By 9:30 I was sound asleep. The phone rang at 10:30. This is never good. I answered it trying to think of where my girls were. This very excited voice said, without taking a breath, "Oh, my as I was dialing I looked at my clock, saw what time it was, and knew you would be in bed. But I had already started so I knew I had wakened you anyway. It would have been rude for me to have hung the phone up then." I was still waiting for her to breathe- she didn't. "Is this Ann?"

I told her she had reached the right person. She introduced herself (as the lady I had discussed the art series with at the fair, whom I did not know from Adam's house cat earlier). She continued, "I was so excited I would have called you earlier but I don't have a cell phone. I know I need to get one, but I just never have gotten around to getting one. Anyway, I was calling to tell you one of your photographs took first place in the photography competition."

I thanked her for thinking to call me and asked which one had won. She told me and we rung off. My DH asked, "What was that all about?" 

"Seems I won the blue ribbon at the fair and one of the ladies was so excited she just had to call me."

"At 10:30 at night?"

"Yep, she was so excited she would have called me this afternoon but she did not have a cell phone."

"Seriously, a lady just called you at 10:30 tonight to tell you that you have won a blue ribbon at the fair?"

"Guess I should be careful what I ask for. When I complained that they were not organized with the exhibitors, I wasn't expecting a personal phone call, I just wanted an well written web page and an organized registration day."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Insanity of it All

They are refurbishing our Wal-mart. This shows what an unsophisticated life I live - the most important (bricks and mortar) local shopping place is the Wal-mart. My DH says I should limit my comments about Wal-mart in the company of our friends. He constantly reminds me that most people we know have more sophisticated shopping choices and my constant comments about Wal-mart make it sound as if it were our retailer of choice rather than by lack of any other. But I digress.

On any normal day, shopping there is a sport given one needs to skirt around the mothers swatting at their children- you know the 4 little hellions that are beating each other up in the middle of the cereal aisle. Her comment, in a very loud voice (as she swats each on his or her leg),"Stop hitting your sister. You know you shouldn't do that. Anyhow, I don't know where you learned that from." Go figure, it doesn't take a rocket scientist. 

Then there is the older couple standing together in the aisle staring at the 15 varieties of jelly. "Mable just pick one," he says. She replies,"I'm looking. All I want is plain strawberry preserves. I see strawberry jelly, strawberry jam, unsweetened strawberry jelly, no-sugar added Strawberry jam. Wait, here it is, strawberry preserves. But it is made by Good Foods. Who is that? We always get Smuckers." She continues her search. In desperation, he says, "Mable maybe change is good. Let's give Good Foods a try." And it goes on....

On the cookie aisle I have run into (or rather almost been run over by) a fairly obese lady on one of those motorized shopping carts the store provides you. For some reason anyone who uses one of those assumes that staying in the middle of the aisle so no one can pass you is their God given right. Funny I never see anyone weighing less than 300 lbs on one of these and they tend to congregate on the cookie aisle and in the ice cream section. Is this the chicken and the egg syndrome?

So back to the refurbishing - everyday you go in the store they have moved and rearranged a section.Then the following day they have moved the section they rearranged the previous day to yet a third location and relocated even more aisles. To add to the complexity, when they do settle on where the aisle is to finally be put, you learn that they rearranged the items on the aisles so that products normally found in one section are no longer located there but have reassigned to another area.

Now I am not just competing with the screaming mothers, confused elders, and the entitled handicapped everyone in the store is going around in circles, up and down each aisle with looks of total despair on their faces. You can hear comments like, "Well it was here yesterday."  "He said it was on this aisle but all I see is breakfast cereal not laundry detergent." Carts are moving like a ill rehearsed synchronized shopping buggy exhibition. Looks of desperation, confusion, and frustration are on everyone's faces. 

But, in all this commotion humanity steps up to the plate. You begin to see folks stopping to offer their fellow shoppers help and comfort. After going up and down every aisle with no success, strangers are willing to ask a fellow shopper who just happens to be near them,  "Pardon me, but have you seen the Grey Poupon?" (Not really, this is Orangeburg, are you kidding me, but it made good copy.)

Yesterday I felt as if I could deal with the situation. They were simply moving one or two aisles a day and replacing them. With some patience I could find what I needed. Then today I walked in the front door and found that every aisle of over-the-counter medication, vitamin, bandage, etc had vanished - all 5 or 6 of them. Not relocated but taken to the great warehouse in the sky. What remained was a huge empty space of white floor. As I stood there trying to figure this one out, a woman behind me let out a primal scream, "Nooooooooooo! I can't take this any more." When I asked someone how long this would all take, his answer was, "Oh, until November."

As was the title of the great Liam Neeson and Daniel Day-Lewis film - There will be blood. We are but simple people down here and we do not do change very well. 150 years later many are still recovering from what they describe as the "war of northern aggression". Look in any parking lot and there is a good chance you will find not one, but numerous vehicles  with license tags and/or decals still mourning the death of Dale Earnhardt and he died 13 years ago. There are folks still looking for Elvis. Don't mention the loss of "Old" Math or debacle  "New Coca Cola". How do you think we are going to handle fruit cups being moved from aisle 15 to aisle 10 - not very well my friend, not very well. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Send in the Clowns

I have not left, I have just tried to run away with the clowns - quite literally. Actually it has been more like joining the circus. I have been preparing for a Photography Show that opens this week at the local Fine Arts Center on the circus entitled - "Here Comes the Circus". A very talented photographer emailed me last year when he saw some photos I had taken of a small circus and asked if I would like to do a Circus Show. Naturally it seemed like a great idea at the time.

Then when I started selecting my pieces from my files, my computer crashed and I lost most of my photography work that I had stored on my external hard drive. By that time, the Circus was beside the point. After having a company come in and salvage my laptop, it was determined that the external hard drive was indeed fried - to a crisp. Nothing was left, nada, not one file could be retrieved. 

Before I climbed inside a bottle of gin and planned never to emerge, I remembered that I did have an on line cloud backup service. When I checked, there they were, there was a God - 2 terabytes of my files. Of course then it was a matter of reconstructing the files on a new external hard drive (with a redundant backup drive). Since it was going to take a while (as in days) to download the backup from the cloud, I just found the Circus files and left the rest to finish on its own.

So long story short, I have spent many hours over the past week when I was not in the woods communing with nature, selecting, editing, cropping, printing, matting, and framing Circus prints. As of this afternoon, they are done. I just have a few "little" details to finish. We "hang" the show on Wednesday and the opening reception is on Thursday evening. 

Here are a few selections from the exhibit. I will have 20 something pieces. If you get a chance, drop by. The show runs the month of October and is open to the public - no charge.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rainy Trails, Wild Boars, and Flying Reptiles

Ah the woods, and camping in the woods. My DH had planned a backpacking/camping trip in Congaree National Park for a week or two. Nothing was going to keep him from it. Especially a forecast of only 20% rain. 

So yesterday we started getting our ducks in a row. Given the morning started off cloudy, I was not optimistic. My DH was not deterred in the least. NOAA weather (the forecast of the gods) had said only a 20% chance of rain. Well, that is fine as long as you are in the 80%, however given it was over cast all morning and sprinkling precipitation from above, I felt sure we were in the "lucky" 20% range. But far be it for me to point that out.

Our gear was gathered in the middle of the floor in the den. The first clue you have too much is when it will not fit in two very large backpacks. That calls for a culling of the gear. What can we absolutely do without? Decisions were made, gear was divided, and backpacks were packed.

I was told that we needed to be at the park no later than 2pm. The prime location my DH had in mind was a good several hours hike in and we needed to get to the spot and make camp before dark. By noon, an adjustment had been made to the time, we were now "aiming" to leave the house at 2pm (the park is an hour from our house.) 2pm became 3pm. We were pulling out of the driveway at 4pm.

15 minutes or so along the way, I commented, "I know one thing we forgot."


"Food for supper."

"I cannot believe you did not pack food for supper."

"Well I have plenty of breakfast food (we use the dehydrated camp food) so it isn't like we are going to starve. And you never assigned the food to me any way."

Yes, this was an error on my part, and a fairly major one (although not earth shattering) and I owned up to it early on. The conversation digressed then into what else we did and did not bring.

Finally we reached the park with about an hour and forty minutes of day light left. We pulled into the lot, filled out the form telling when we expected to come out of the park (so they would know when to start getting concerned),  information about our next of kin (who they would need to notify), our blood types (should there be nothing recognizable left), and any other pertinent information the federal government would want on a three part form. We moved to the main parking lot, parked the car, and got our back packs.

This is where the fun began. Given I am 5'2" and my pack is about 4' tall (weighing 20 lbs) when I put it on I have to lean forward. Should I lean back I fear I would tip over not unlike some SNL skit. Whatever - we make our way into the park. As we passed the visitor's center all the rangers were getting in their cars and driving off. Our car was the only one in the lot. The sky was gray and ominous and there was a threat of rain in the air. So we did what would come natural to same people - we headed into the dark woods.

We were familiar with the trails so I knew where I was going. But at dusk, the animals were restless. Everything was different. The silence was deafening. Off to the side I could hear the ferrell pigs rooting and oinking. They stopped when they heard us. My DH said, "They are not going to bother us. They are smarter than that." In my mind I did not picture wild versions of our domesticated pigs (which is what they are.) No, I pictured European Wild Boar with gruesome tusks, pawing at the ground as if they were bulls ready to charge.

We moved along. Loud birds made noises in the distance. My DH, with his sick sense of humor, stopped and said, "Do you hear that? Those are pterosaurs [as in  prehistoric flying reptiles with 35 foot wing spans]." My common sense told me he was spouting nonsense. However that late in the afternoon, when I was tired with a huge pack on my back and knowing the fun was just beginning, my mind was pretty much mush.

As we walked along, the mosquitoes buzzed around my face. Suddenly I could handle mosquitoes - they were small, easily shooed away, and a mere bother as opposed to imaginary flying reptiles and European Wild Boar. By 7:15 we had either reached our destination or decided where we were was our destination. Either way we were there and it was time to pitch the tent. All went well, as did supper (or breakfast) with the sounds of  pigs and birds or, in my mind, boars and pterosaurs in the background from time to time.

I was beat and crawling into my sleeping bag came none too early. The evening air was chilly and made for a nice sleep with the sounds of a train in the distant. Soon I awoke to the pitter patter of rain. Ah, once again to be in the "lucky" 20%. I knew that meant the morning would be met with packing wet gear and hiking out in mud and/or rain. 

This morning it was not raining hard. By the time we got up and moving about it had quit, but everything was wet. My DH pulled out his weather radio - always the optimist. "Let's see what the forecast is. Maybe it has changed." Always the pessimist, I continued putting gear in my pack. The announcer plainly said that the forecast had changed. There was now a 60% chance of rain.

On our way back along the trail, he commented, "I guess this would have been more enjoyable if we could have stayed longer. And, we had come earlier. And, the packs were lighter. And it wasn't raining."

Damn that 40%. So we spent 20 hours packing, riding, hiking, unpacking, sleeping, packing, hiking, and riding for 3 hours of hiking and 8 hours in a tent. And we came home with wet gear that has to be put up again in the back yard to dry out before it can be properly stored. I am sure one day I will get the hang of this. My father was seen as a wise man. I can remember him saying that his idea of roughing it was a black and white TV in a Holiday Inn. At the very least he had to be referring to rainy days.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fall, Foliage, and the Fair

It is Fall and with it comes cool air - hopefully- eventually- or at least we can wish. The leaves begin to turn brilliant red, yellow, and orange. We can find colorful pumpkins and gourds in the markets. All of this comes to mind. One thing that most likely doesn't come to your mind is that this is the time of the State and County fairs and with that art exhibits. Yes, I realize this is a reach but stay with me here.

Each year I enter pieces of my photography in both the SC State Fair and the local county fair. As one would expect the State Fair is well run and organized. They have a web site that is updated throughout the year. Past exhibitors are emailed reminders in the spring that it is time to start thinking about entries and giving entry deadlines. Then a month before the deadline another reminder is sent.

Our county fair - not so much. For years I have complained about the one page of "information" for Art Exhibitors. Perhaps I should say "lack of information". Earlier I had learned that there was a new person assigned to handle the Art Exhibitors so I was encouraged. But my hopes were dashed when I went on the site and could not find the date and time entries needed to be delivered. After reading through the same garbled text I could not find the date or time anywhere. (Unlike the State Fair where you register your pieces on line by a deadline a month or so before the fair and are given three dates they can be delivered to the fairgrounds along with the hours each day.)

I went back to the home page. If it is there, I cannot find it. Perhaps it is a game, you know - "Find the date and time" like some of the games and raffles they have going at the fair itself. If so, I am SOL.

There is a name and phone number of a contact on top of the Art Competition page. The name is different from the one that had been listed in years earlier - the one I would call continuously, get a voice mail, leave a message, and have yet to get a call back. I am encouraged - always the optimist. 

So, last year the plight was finding my photography after the fair. This year I am trying to learn the date the entries are due. The fun just continues. Stay tuned - the game is afoot. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Flowers and Vases

My DH is very thoughtful. He got that from his mother. This past weekend was a prime example.

We were going to visit a dear friend of ours who had been moved to a hospice in the upstate to be closer to her family during her final days as she lost her valiant fight with cancer way too soon. My DH wanted to take her some flowers. He had checked to make sure that would be appropriate and would not cause any issues. Since we were stopping by Greenville to take our new granddaughter to the Zoo - you can never start too early, even at the age of 5 weeks, we planned to buy the flowers after our visit with our daughter.

Knowing he could always count on his main floral supplier, we stopped by Costco for the flowers - no surprise there. A lovely, very large, bouquet of fall flowers was selected and we were on our way. Not so fast, he wanted an appropriate vase for the flowers.Naturally I had a very large box of flower vases of all sizes, shapes, descriptions at home - not that was doing us any good then.

That did not sound very difficult. I spotted a Target store just across the street, got my DH to drop me off. I ran in the store and bought the largest flower vase they had. When I opened the bag in the car, my DH said, "That is not nearly large enough. Look at the size of the bouquet." Point well taken.

We were going to be traveling through several small towns, we would find one on our way. Soon I spotted a Trader Joes. Knowing they had a very large cut flower department, I felt sure I could get a simple (large) glass vase. So we pulled into the lot. No luck - yes, they have flowers, but no flowers vases. By this time my DH is not happy with my vase procurement ability. 

We motored on. I spotted a K-Mart coming up on the left. My DH suggested we wait until we found a Walmart. I argued against it and got him to stop. I was most impressed with this K-Mart. It was clean and well stocked. After walking from one end of the "well stocked" store to the other, I finally a asked one of the very friendly and helpful clerks if they had vases. No vases, she suggested the Walmart down the road.

I returned to the car, no vase in hand. We moved on to the Walmart. Now by this time, we had made three stops to buy a simple flower vase with no luck. Naturally I found one at Walmart. Let me, revise that. I found more than one, I found quite the selection.  I purchased two just to ensure I had one that was appropriate.

When I got to the check out, I found the lines were long and slow. Naturally I found myself in one behind an older lady who must have not realized that they were going to require payment because after the clerk had checked all her items and bagged them, the lady acted surprised and a little flustered because only the did she start going through her extra large pocket book to find her wallet. And naturally she wanted to write a check.

The lady behind her wanted to price check four different pieces of clothing she found on the clearance rack. Then she had to decide whether or not she was going to purchase any of the pieces. Next was this very nicely dressed short older man. As he started carefully putting the items from his full cart on the counter he turned and looked at me. I must have been quite the sight standing there trying to balance two very large glass vases and two large bottles of water (for the flowers). He immediately said, "Please go before me." And, before I could say anything, relieved me of one of the large vases.

I thanked him profusely and briefly explained what we had gone through to find the vases. (All the while we were still waiting for the lady to make up her mind about the clearance items.) He smiled and said, "You know I always find it safer to buy the flowers with the vase." Brilliant I thought.

I was able to pay for the vases and water, thank the gentleman again, and head to the car. Naturally the flowers fit in the more expensive vase. Yes, my DH is most thoughtful. And his thought this time involved five stores, threes vases, two bottles of water, and one bouquet of flowers. Of course, most of all, I hope someone learned a lesson from the kind gentleman, "It is safer to buy the flowers with the vase."