Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Weather Wimp

I stepped out of my apartment this morning to head into work walking out into the warm sunshine and thinking to myself, winter in Fort Myers.  Then I began to wonder, how did I turn into such a weather wimp?  I lived through three Fargo winters and two more in Minneapolis.  I know what cold, miserable weather is.

But this winter in Northern California has been tough.  Since the end of November until the end of last week we rarely saw the sun.  I felt like I was living in a cold, slimy basement.  It never got super cold this winter.  Temperatures hung around the 50's most every day.  But it's been so discouraging that I haven't even summoned up the courage to make the 90 minute drive up Highway 50 to see the snow in the Sierra.  I just don't want to deal with it.

Did I spend too many years in Fort Myers?  Winter there is spectacular, just like the weather was here today.  It was 80 degrees, beautiful sunshine, without a hint of humidity.  By April in Fort Myers the humidity begins to return and by May it can be downright oppressive.  But then I realize, heat and humidity I can take, cold and humidity I can't.  That's the problem with Sacramento.

You see a cold, snowy winter in Fargo or Minneapolis is a dry, bitter, cold.  But the cold here is different.  It sinks into your bones.  Half the time by the middle of my work days my socks were drenched.  The moisture would just seep into my shoes.  I felt like I was walking around in two damp washrags.  A couple of times I came home for dinner just so I could change my socks.

Thank goodness spring has sprung.  I don't need anymore dank, dark 50 degree days.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Uncle Bob

Robert Lincoln Walters was the youngest child born to Frank and May Walters. His arrival on January 22, 1938 probably raised more than a few eyebrows considering he was 17 years younger than his next sibling, my mother Frances. He had an even older sister Virginia. I suspect he was pretty spoiled, much like his nephew John.

Four years ago this week Uncle Bob passed away at age 69, robbed of what should have been his golden years by a brain tumor, that shattered his life in 1999.  He left behind his wonderful wife Anne and his three sons, Drew, Chris and Mike.  He also left behind a nephew who had grown to admire him as a role model and stabilizing influence on his life. 

If I could have a man crush it would have been on Bob Walters.  My goodness he was handsome.  It was pretty clear to me even as a very young child that he enjoyed life and everything it had to offer.  But he was a man driven by goals, one of which I suspect was living up to the Walters name.  His father Frank and his Uncle Ray had been successful farmers in the Lawrence area.  Unfortunately Frank Walters never lived long enough to see the success that his son would become.

For years he ran the Space Technology building at the University of Kansas, now called Nichols Hall.  During that time he found time to purchase and build a moving business that reached across Kansas. As Bob grew older he tried his hand at politics, eventually serving a term as the mayor of Lawrence.  He loved his community but he hated politics.  It's a shame he didn't have the stomach for it because I believe his political future could have gone to bigger and better things.

Just days prior to my own mother's diagnosis of lung cancer in June 1998, my Uncle Bob had part a lung removed and some repairs done to his heart.  The years of smoking had caught up to him.  He rebounded while first my mother in November and then my Aunt Virginia in December, would both die because of cancer.  Bob lost his two sisters and then almost immediately had to face another surgery to remove cancer, this time in his brain.  He was never the same.

I held a deep admiration for him and all the things that he accomplished that go well beyond the brief things I outlined here.  I loved him because despite my many human failings, I never felt that he was judging me.  I think he understood them better than anyone in my family and Uncle Bob would offer his best counsel and wisdom when dealing with life's pitfalls.  I can't begin to explain how important it was to me.  Just like my mom, I miss him.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sweet 16

Let's get this straight, this isn't a great Kansas team.  It's not even one of the ten best in the last 40 years.  But this ball club has a lot of things going for it as it slides into the Sweet 16.  The obvious are the Morris twins.  If you look back at my first blog on the prospects for the Jayhawks I wrote this team will only go as far the twins can take them.
The wild card in this years tournament run is Tyshawn Taylor.  Anyone with half a brain knows that it takes great guard play to win the NCAA tournament.  It took everything Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, Sherron Collins and Russell Robinson had to lift K.U. to the 2008 title.
Taylor has no such supporting cast. 

The much hyped freshman Josh Selby has been a shadow of himself since his foot injury.  Tyrell Reed and Brady Morningstar are role players at best, much like Robinson in 2008.

Taylor has played remarkably well since his short suspension, reportedly for an unauthorized romantic rendezvous with a member of the women's team at Allen Field House.  The short time out handed down by Coach Bill Self apparently turned on some sort of switch with the New Jersey junior.  His decision making and shooting seems to be improving game by game.

Now add in some bracket busting magic and the Jayhawks appear to be in the drivers seat on its quest to make it to the Final 4.  I can't imagine that Richmond will be any tougher than Illinois for K.U.  The team that can play a physical style to could give Kansas problems is Florida State.  If K.U. gets to the Elite 8 and should they face the Seminoles, I think K.U. has too much depth and offense for Leonard Hamilton's team to overcome.  But that's the magic of this tournament, we won't know for sure until the games are played.  And as long as Tyshawn comes to play, Kansas will be a force to reckon with.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sick and Tired of being Sick and Tired

What should have been a brief respite from California and work turned into something quite unexpected.  I think the combination of a six week grind at work with only two days off and a red-eye flight Friday to Fort Myers was more than my poor body could handle.  The idea was to spend four days in Florida with my wife and recharge the batteries and catch up on the yard work that goes undone in my extended absences.

The first two days went pretty well but Sunday night/Monday morning the throat became sore and I woke up in a pool of sweat at four a.m. knowing it was going to be a tough 24 hours.  I stayed in bed almost the entire day hoping the infection would be fleeting.  But night two was more of the same, full of sweat and fitful sleep.  At that point I should have waived the white flag, re-booked the return flight and made an appointment to see the doctor.  Instead I headed to the airport at 5 a.m. to fly back to Sacramento.

The return trip was going okay until about halfway through the hop between Houston and Sacramento.  My sinuses were going crazy and I was going through tissues like crazy.  Then as the slow descent began an annoying pain began to grow in my right ear.  It didn't take long for it to feel like someone was shoving a needle through my eardrum and this went on for a good 30 minutes.  It left me whimpering in my seat curled up in a ball.  Landing was a relief but I realized my hearing was shot in my right ear and I was sicker than ever.

I headed straight to bed and stayed there for the next 15 hours waking at 8 a.m. to make a doctor's appointment.  One was available in 35 minutes and I didn't waste anytime.  The doctor prescribed a Z-pack and told me that both ears were pretty inflamed and that my hearing should return in a few days, maybe a week.  I hadn't had a sick day in two years and I burned three to finish the week.

It wasn't a good week for me to be away either.  Getting onto the early morning flight last Friday I realized that chaos was at hand in Japan and that the California coast was facing a tsunami warning.  I had learned the hard way in the past that canceling travel plans for an employer never goes unpunished.  I ate a thousand dollar plan ticket once that way and wasn't about to eat another one to join the troops for what was sure to be an interesting day at work.

The only positive is that I've gotten to watch a lot of basketball stretched out on my couch the last two days.  Although I spent a lot my viewing actually sleeping on Thursday, the illness finally loosened its grip on Friday just in time for me to enjoy the Kansas game.  Still I have no hearing in my right ear.  It's disconcerting to say the least. Hopefully a weekend of rest will leave me ready for what lies ahead at work

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Louisiana Street

Technology is a grand thing.  This is a street level view of the house in the 800 block of Louisiana Street in Lawrence, Kansas that my grandparents Frank and May Walters called home after their move from the farm.  Unfortunately, for my grandfather, the stay would be a short one.  He became more than grandma could handle and would live out his days in a nursing home until his death in 1967.

By the time they had moved into town my mother, a widow, had remarried and my family had moved to Abilene.  Still, I had plenty of chances to visit my grandmother in this quaint three bedroom house.  I can remember taking bus and train trips to see her, not to mention the numerous family travels to Lawrence.

The house had its quirks which I liked.  It started with the large screened in porch at the front entry.  You entered from there into a living room which directly connected to a dining area.  To the left was a bedroom which connected with a walk between closet to another bedroom which was my grandma's.  The living room featured a fire place and an awful green hide-a-bed couch.  I hated sleeping on that thing but when the entire family was on hand that's where I usually ended up.  From the dining room was a narrow kitchen was connected to a breakfast room.  Next to it was a back bedroom which was my favorite sleeping quarters.

I loved spending time with my grandma.  We'd watch TV together, she loved crazy Joe Pine. She'd even let me listen to rock and roll records on her nice stereo.  I even enjoyed doing yard work pushing an old grass cutter or pulling bag worms from the evergreens.  She'd give me money to walk up 9th street to go bowling at a nearby alley.  Of course, there were still Uncle Bob's Playboys to sneak off with, she always seemed to know, despite her blindness, what I was up to.

Grandma loved sports too, especially K.U. basketball.  She would ask me to describe the players, their attributes.  And remarkably, just across the street from her house lived the icon of all icons of K.U. hoops, one Dr. Forrest C. Allen.  I would venture across the street and sit on the front porch with Phog and listen intently to his stories about basketball.  I know he went to his grave bitter about the fact that he was forced to retire before he could coach Wilt Chamberlain as a varsity player.

I related to my oldest sister that of all the things that I dreamed about in my sleep, I've had more dreams about the house on Louisiana Street than any place I've ever been.  I never dream about the farm or our home in Abilene, but I dream of my wonderful grandmother and our cozy home in Lawrence.  That's where I remember grandma best, in her rocking chair, sitting in her lap, asking me to pluck hairs from her face with tweezers, full of life, and full of love.

This an addition to the original post.  My sister Dianne wanted me to know that 824 Louisiana had recently undergone a major renovation.  This is how it looks now.  The screened in porch is gone and there is a huge addition to the back of the house.  But my sister really wanted me to know that this quaint home in Old West Lawrence that my grandparent's purchased for about $12,000 is now valued at $500,000.  All I can saw is wow!