<![CDATA[Art Wheeler Music - Blog]]>Thu, 16 Feb 2017 18:05:40 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[IHOP Revisited]]>Fri, 17 Feb 2017 00:58:52 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/ihop-revisited
​We showed up at the IHOP after church expecting nothing different from any other visit to IHOP. We arrived a little later than normal so we had to wait to be seated. I went to the hostess station and she asked how many.  I said two.  Then she asked my name and I told her. Then she asked me to spell it.   
Then she asked how many and I said two again. Later when she called our name, she mispronounced it.  She didn’t seem that excited to be at work but still managed to walk way ahead of us as she took us to our booth. Before my wife sat down, she noticed a brown, wet spot in her seat.  She said, “I can’t sit here!” I told her to sit on my side.  I was going to run to the restroom and someone could wipe down my seat while I was gone.  She was ok with that and I flagged down someone and asked them to clean my seat while I went to the restroom.
​I entered the restroom and noticed water on the floor before I rounded the corner to the sink area. It wasn’t so much water that it was in puddles but just a lot of spots.  It looked like kids had been playing at the sink and got water everywhere.  There was an employee at the sink washing his hands. Based on the way he was dressed he looked more like part of the kitchen staff that a waiter.  Next to the sink area was a urinal, a regular stall and a handicapped stall.  I noticed that there were two signs on the urinal indicating that it was not working.  Both signs appeared to have been made from a cardboard box that was ripped apart. The smaller sign was taped above the urinal. The letters were written with a bright neon green marker.  The larger sign had letters written with what appeared to be the same marker, was about the same size as the urinal and was just sitting inside of it. Junior Samples’ BR-549 sign looked more professional than these. I decided to by-pass the regular stall and go back to the handicapped one because I found the regular one to be a little tight from previous experience. When I entered the handicapped stall, I found that it had not been flushed by the previous user. Whoever had used this restroom previously had only urinated but it looked like they had lined the seat with toilet paper. It could have been one of those disposable toilet seat covers, but it had more of the appearance of toilet paper.  Whatever it was, it looked wet.  I didn’t really care, I just got out. As I was coming out of that stall, the guy from the kitchen staff said, “Don’t go in there!”  I was thinking, “Too late!” He said he was going to get someone to clean it up. As I completed my restroom activities, I was thinking that maybe the IHOP was a bad idea today. If they can’t get the restrooms right, can I expect the kitchen to be any better?
                                                                                                                              
When I returned to our table, my wife said that at least 3 people came by to clean my seat. The first person cleaned it but when they saw it said, “Oh! It’s just coffee!”  The way my wife said they reacted gave the impression that it would have been ok to sit on a wet spot.  Why would we object to sitting in coffee?  In retrospect, maybe they were expecting something much worse.  After we ordered, we sat speculating on the virtues of sitting in coffee and reviewed my experiences in the restroom. We noticed that there were straw wrappers and crumbs in the floor in the dining area. Soon, my wife said that one of the waitresses appeared to be quitting.  She had been crying, had her purse with her and was heading toward the door.  I saw her stop at the cashier’s counter.  It appeared that she was talking to someone there. My wife said there was a group of people huddled in the kitchen and they appeared to be talking about whatever was going on. Our table was right next to one of the doors to the kitchen area. My back was to this door but it stayed opened most of the time.  I could hear a lot of what was going on and my wife had a front row seat to any drama that played out. Soon my wife said the waitress was back and was talking to the guy she thought was the manager.  I overheard him telling her to go home and settle down. Since my back was turned to the kitchen, I had no idea how this lady was reacting.  If some bad action was going down in the kitchen and it spilled out into the dining area, I didn’t want to be in the line of fire, literally or figuratively. 
 
The door to the kitchen closed before they brought out our food.  Like most meals at IHOP mine came with pancakes.  My normal ritual with a meal that includes pancakes is to start preparing the pancakes to eat before I touch any of the other food.  I will spread the butter and put syrup on them to let it soak in while I’m eating the rest of my food. They usually have several flavors of syrup at the table already but will bring hot maple syrup from the kitchen. This time, the maple syrup was already a selection at the table and they didn’t offer anything else. I was ok with that until I picked up the syrup dispenser and it was gooey on the outside. Old syrup was dripping off the bottom that you wouldn’t notice until you picked up the bottle because the syrup bottle holder hid the bottoms of the containers. I decided that I didn’t want pancakes that day.  I had plenty of other food and don’t always eat my pancakes. Occasionally, the kitchen door would open and my wife would give me updates on the status of the kitchen drama.  Early on, the waitress was still talking to the manager.  Later, the staff was still bunched together talking about what happened.  Our waiter came by and asked if everything was ok.  I said it was but my wife said I needed some syrup.  He pointed to the containers on the table.  My wife lifted the maple syrup container. He quickly saw the problem and said “I’ll get you some syrup.”
 
When we were done with our meal, I considered going to get the car while she settled the bill. Considering all the things that had gone on that day, I decided that it might be best if we stuck together.  If something bad went down, we could go down together.
 
The following day, I received this notification on my Facebook account:
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<![CDATA[Eating With My Family After The Show]]>Fri, 03 Feb 2017 19:43:39 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/eating-with-my-family-after-the-show
​In my previous post, I talked about a recent trip to see Gilbert Gottfried in Nashville. I didn’t mention that my wife and kids went with me to this show.  Because my youngest daughter was traveling back to school after the show, we were staying in Nashville for the evening.  We decided to grab a bite to 
eat after the show. I had seen a Shoney’s restaurant near our hotel and we decided to eat there. 
​My son was on a diet where he was eating almost all meat and was hungry.  The restaurant had a buffet so my son decided that would work for him. He didn’t take a good look at the buffet before he had ordered. He thought there was breakfast foods but it turned out to be seafood night. This is more of a family style restaurant whose clientele tends to be older. Because they are older, they tend to eat earlier in the evening. We had expected more of a 24-hour diner than the close early family restaurant. The seafood that was on the buffet at that time had probably been there since about 7:30 or 8 at the latest.  It probably didn’t help that we arrived at 9:45 and the restaurant closed at 10.  The seafood looked marginal at best but my son gave it a shot. After he decided that it was a bad idea, he returned to the buffet to get some meatloaf. While not great, meatloaf that has been out all day is a little better idea than seafood that has been out for the same amount of time.  While he wasn’t happy with his food, it seemed to be enough to take care of him.
My wife wasn’t hungry and just ordered coffee.  My girls had ordered 2 desserts which were brought out separately with time between.  They shared with each other so the delay for the second one didn’t bother them. I had placed an order for onion rings. It was when our waitress brought my onion rings that I noticed her name was Marti. I also noticed a big knot on her forehead that wasn’t there when she had taken our orders. I asked her if she was alright and what had happened. She told us that the freezer door hit her in the head when she was in the kitchen. She appeared to be a little shaken from the blow to head. She didn’t look like she was going to fall but I thought it might be a good idea for her to sit down soon. It also looked like her right eye, just below the knot on her head, wasn’t tracking like it should. She wasn’t completely cross-eyed but her eye wasn’t moving like it should. When she went back to the kitchen, my son wondered out loud if the door to their refrigerator was made of cast iron. After a couple of minutes, we heard a crash from the kitchen.  Almost immediately after the crash, we heard a voice declaring “IT WASN’T MARTI!” When she came back with the second dessert, I told her that we were concerned that the crash was her passing out. She started talking about her youngest son being clumsy. She talked at length about all her kids including her young adult son and her youngest son from her second marriage. Then she told us that she had been pregnant 3 times but she had a miscarriage in the doctor’s office. Details like the amount of blood everywhere and the fact that they wouldn’t allow her to change her pants made eating onion rings dipped in ketchup a little less appetizing for a little while.
We observed wallpaper peeling off the wall and water damage to the carpet. While it was a franchise restaurant, it appears to be a restaurant on its last legs. The times are changing and leaving places like this behind. It makes them entertaining places to visit but I’m afraid it may be a little dangerous to actually consume food there.
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<![CDATA[Meeting Gilbert Gottfried]]>Fri, 03 Feb 2017 19:36:20 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/meeting-gilbert-gottfried
​For several years now I have listened to podcasts. Late in 2015, I started listening to Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast. I would highly recommend this show to anyone interested in old show business stories but isn’t offended by off-color language and humor.  Any of my travel time in 
2016 that I usually devote to listening to podcasts was devoted to going back and checking out every episode that has been released. I started out by listening to the first episode and continued in chronological order. I have become a big Gilbert Gottfried fan and as soon as I found out he would be playing at a club in Nashville in January of 2107, I knew I would have to go. 
​In the weeks leading up to the show, I was listening to more recent episodes of the podcast.  One of the features he has on mini-episodes of the show is a “listener mailbag” where they review questions and comments from social media sites that have been made by listeners. While I would be more likely to comment on Facebook, I haven’t made any comments about shows because I have been so behind the actual release date. I listened to the most recent mailbag episode less than a week before the show in Nashville. During this episode, Gilbert talked about the fact that he prefers what he calls “incidental nudity” in movies nudity that is supposed to be sexy.  He said his ideal type of nudity would be a naked woman sitting around doing her taxes.  Another example was a naked woman on a ladder changing a lightbulb.  In the process of talking about this, he mentioned an Elvis movie where a girl trips and you see her white panties.  Gilbert didn’t know the name of this movie and threw out the question to the listeners to find out which one it is.
 
I have a lot of knowledge about Elvis related things but beyond a handful of movies, can’t tell you much about them. But Turner Classic movies had run a handful of Elvis movies one day while I was off around the Christmas holiday and I thought I remembered seeing this scene. I was able to go back and find a scene that I thought might be the one he was looking for in the 1969 film, “The Trouble With Girls”. I even found a YouTube video with the trailer for the movie that included the scene. I follow Gilbert on the page for his podcast on Facebook and I sent them a message telling them that I thought the scene was in “The Trouble With Girls” and sent them a link to the YouTube clip. I also mentioned that I was looking forward to seeing Gilbert in Nashville on Saturday. The co-host of the podcast, Frank Santopadre, sent me a message thanking me for the clip.  He said he would forward it to Gilbert. He also said that when I am at the show to tell Gilbert that I’m the guy that sent the Elvis clip.  After the show, Gilbert was at the door to sign autographs, pose for pictures and sell merchandise.  While they were taking our picture, I told him that I was the guy that sent the Elvis video.  He looked at me excitedly and shouted “THE TROUBLE WITH GIRLS!”  I had made an impression on Gilbert. 
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<![CDATA[Country Fried Steak]]>Fri, 20 Jan 2017 03:00:00 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/country-fried-steak
​Over the years, my family and I have occasionally eaten at IHOP on Sundays after church.  IHOP isn’t the only restaurant like this where we eat on Sundays. Most of the time, we eat at home on Sundays. But this story takes place at a time when we were eating at IHOP more often.  
One Sunday, I was a little more hungry than usual and decided that I would order the country fried steak meal. We placed our order and in a short while our waitress came back and told me said “We are out of CFS”. I was confused so I replied “What?” Then she told me, “We are out of CFS, country fried steak.” Since it’s not listed as CFS in the menu and I have never heard it referred to as CFS, I was surprised when she told me this and didn’t really understand what she was talking about until I got the explanation. I quickly ordered something else from the menu and didn’t really think anything about it. There was nothing else noteworthy about that trip.
A couple of weeks later, our family was back at the same IHOP and my family joked with me that I should order country fried steak. They even referred to it as CFS. I decided to give it another try. Again, the waitress came back and told me that they were out of “CFS”, referring to it by the initials. This was not the same waitress from the first time but at least I knew what she was talking about.  And again, I ordered something else.
 
By the time we went to IHOP on our next visit, ordering CFS had become a thing. There was no way around it for my family. I had to order CFS. I told them that this time I was going to try and order CFS instead of country fried steak and see if that helped. Our waitress was different from the ones that had taken care of us on the first two trips. When she took my order, I told her that I wanted CFS.  She didn’t blink an eye and wrote it down. And that week, they had CFS. My family speculated that the first two times, they didn’t take my order because I didn’t know the correct thing to call CFS. I now had inside information that could get me in good with the wait staff. I ordered CFS at other restaurants where I usually get breakfast food and they knew exactly what I wanted too. Now more than ever, ordering CFS is a thing for my whole family. Not everyone orders it, but everyone expects someone to order CFS when we go to one of these places.  They always know what we are talking about. And now you do too.
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<![CDATA[Writing Every Other Day]]>Thu, 19 Jan 2017 03:08:10 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/writing-every-other-day
When I wrote Every Other Day, I started with the idea of doing a blues tune that would be similar to B. B. King’s “Every Day I Have the Blues”.  I was playing around with the idea that white people can’t have the blues. Or at least that white people can’t play or sing the blues.  
I know plenty of white guys that do a great job of playing the blues. Singing the blues is harder for white people without just trying to sound black. People who know me well know that I enjoy listening to entertainer who don’t really have the chops to perform the type of music they are trying to perform.  I came up with the idea that maybe a white guy like me might be able to play the blues right at least some of the time. If B. B. King has the blues every day, maybe I could at least try to have the blues every other day. I also considered that on the days that I don’t have the blues, things would be going pretty good for me. This is the basic idea behind the chorus of the song and established what I would describe in the verses.
​In the verses, the lines alternate between positive experiences (like good and happy) and negative ones (bad and sad). The song pretty much wrote itself. In contrast to a classic blues tradition of talking about how bad things are going, I would complain and then contrast it with how good life is. The swings between the mood of the song are so drastic, that I considered using “The Bi-Polar Blues” as a title. 
When I recorded the song, I made no attempt at singing in a blues style. I wanted to sound as white as possible. I also consider my guitar ability to be extremely limited. It’s probably noticeable in most of the songs I’ve recorded but I thought it really fit this song well. 
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<![CDATA[Statement of Faith]]>Fri, 13 Jan 2017 02:10:49 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/statement-of-faith
​My wife, children and I lived in middle Tennessee for three years in a small town called Livingston. My youngest daughter was born while we lived there. We attended the First Methodist Church in the middle of town. Early in our time there, I joined their choir. 
I quickly became of their go to people for solos and small ensembles.  During our time there, I was regularly tapped for solos and duets during Christmas and Easter cantatas.  In addition to having a music program filled with talented musicians, the church was at a point in its life where it had gone through a time spiritual awakening. It was special time in the life of that church. I had some specific spiritual needs at the time and the people of that congregation ministered to me in a way that I needed to be treated. It was a special place and a special time for that place. The people in that community still hold a special place in my heart.
We had been at this church for a couple of years when the choir director decided to retire. He wanted to do one last cantata before he left. This musical program was called “Statement of Faith”. I was honored that the director felt I was worthy of singing the solo in the title song of the program.  This was not the typical cantata in that it wasn’t specifically a Christmas or Easter program.  We were performing this at a time unrelated to any specific time in Christian calendar.  It was more related to when our director was retiring and seemed like the perfect piece of music for that purpose.

We did a special performance of the cantata on a Sunday night. A couple of weeks later was the last Sunday morning that our director would be there and he wanted to have us do the song “Statement of Faith” again.  I was honored again that he would ask me to have this very visible role in his last Sunday at our church.

That Sunday morning, I stepped up to the podium to sing the solo. I was confident enough that I didn’t have my music with me. As the song started, I suddenly went blank. I couldn’t remember any of the words to the song. Members of the choir quickly realized what was going on and they started singing my solo part. Soon I recovered and was able to remember lyrics until I got to the middle section of the song. It has a spoken part before the last chorus that included a creed or actual statement of faith. I looked up the lyrics to the song and found the following:

“I believe there is one true God, and Jesus Christ is His holy Son, that He is the living Word, and that by Him and through Him all things were made. 
I believe He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind and brought the dead back to life. 
I believe in the cross, that Jesus, God's sacrificial Lamb, shedding His blood was crucified as an atonement for the sins of all the world, and whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. 
I believe in the resurrection, that on the third day He rose from the tomb, conquering death, hell and the grave; 
And I believe that today He sits at the right hand of the Father, and because He lives, we shall live also. 
I believe in the church, a harbor for souls, where God is glorified, saints are edified, grace is multiplied and mercy is magnified. 
I believe in the Holy Spirit Who lives within all who are saved by grace through faith; He is our comforter, our friend and our guide. 
I believe one day Jesus will come again to claim His own and prove once and for all that He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.”

I could not remember any of these words. While my mind searched for these words, the only thing that I could think of were the words of a Steve Martin routine. In his bit called “What I Believe”, he does a talk like the spoken part in “Statement of Faith”. The only line in his routine with any religious overtones was the main one that stuck in my mind where he says, “And I believe in eight of the ten commandments.” Of course I couldn’t say that, but it was the first thing I told our pastor after the performance was done.
I hate that I blew it for such a special performance. I learned my lesson.  Take the lyrics with you.
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<![CDATA[´╗┐My First Year of Band]]>Sat, 07 Jan 2017 14:23:30 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/my-first-year-of-band
​I have always been musically inclined. My mom was a piano teacher when I was born and continued to teach music throughout much of my childhood. Naturally, we had a piano in the house. I learned to play piano by listening to my mother teaching her students. While I can read music, I play primarily by ear. My parents always encouraged my interest in music, providing me with a variety of instruments.  I started playing trombone in fifth grade but for reasons I cannot recall, I stopped playing after one year. 
I didn’t pick up another band instrument until the year between seventh and eighth grade. One of my cousins had played alto saxophone a few years earlier and they were no longer in band. My mom wanted me to get involved in band. She was teaching special education at the city school, which had grades K through 12 on one campus. Her classroom was next door to the band room and she knew the band director well. She arranged for me to take saxophone lessons during the summer before I entered the eighth grade. The next fall, I was in the school band which because our school was so small, included both junior high and high school students.
​While I do have a great aptitude for all things musical, I really wasn’t ready for the big time.  While I had mastered typical starter songs like “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” and “Hot Cross Buns”, I was still struggling with scales and hadn’t gotten comfortable with reading music yet.  And I was also learning how to march and play. Learning to march and a band show took away from time to learn the music. Those first few weeks of school in eighth grade were a musical struggle. I was learning fast but not fast enough to build much confidence. Football season would start early that fall which meant we would be playing for games and pep rallies soon. My first pep rally was a disaster. The band gathered in the gymnasium with the cheerleaders early. We would play music and the cheerleaders would do dance routines as the students entered. With my limited playing skills, I was hoping to blend in with the rest of the band. Unfortunately, I was sitting on the edge of the band section of the bleachers next to some non-band students that were older than me.  I had very little confidence or musical skill. I was only playing about half of the notes I was supposed to be playing. One of the girls in the student section pointed at me and told her friend, “Look at him! He doesn’t know what he’s doing!” She was right.
I’m sure many of the people that have known me for a long time probably think I can do almost anything related to music.  They probably think it comes natural and easy.  Eighth grade was a hard year for me. I didn’t really learn how to read music until that year. I also learned how to surround myself with more skilled and confident musicians until I learned how to play the music.
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<![CDATA[More Dirty Santa]]>Sat, 24 Dec 2016 16:00:00 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/more-dirty-santa
​In a previous post, I’ve talked about playing Dirty Santa at a Christmas party.  I suggest that you look at this previous post if you don’t know the rules of the game. The Dirty Santa game became a staple of our department Christmas parties. Each year we would push the limits even more on what kind of gift was acceptable. One of the last years of this party, my wife and I set up a prank as part of the game and it worked perfectly.
​We brought two gifts and they were wrapped identically. They were approximately the same size and shape. Relatively early in the gift swap, someone selected one of our packages. Opening it, they found a bottle of Jack Daniels in holiday packaging. This was a popular gift and immediately stolen until it could be taken no more. One of the next people to select a gift had keenly observed the wrapping paper on our first gift and went directly for our other one. When they opened it, they were disappointed to find a Shake Weight.  It goes without saying they were stuck with the Shake Weight.
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<![CDATA[Dirty Santa]]>Tue, 20 Dec 2016 16:00:00 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/dirty-santa
​In previous posts, I have talked about Christmas gifts at work. “Dirty Santa” gift swaps became a staple of the department Christmas parties we had several years back. For those of you unfamiliar with how these swaps work, the rules are simple. Each person brings a wrapped gift. There is usually a targeted dollar amount for the gifts. Slips of numbered paper are drawn by each person. The person with number 1 choses one of the gifts. 
The person with number 2 can either select a new gift or steal the gift from the first person selected. When both people have a gift, the next person takes a turn until everyone has a gift.  There are usually rules about how many times a gift can be stolen before it’s taken out of circulation. And you usually cannot take back a gift that was just taken from you.
​Some people would bring practical gifts like towels or tools. Things to decorate the house were also popular. Gag gifts of a sexual nature became popular over the years. My wife and I would often bring alcohol gifts. At the same time, we would try and find something interesting or different at the liquor store.  One year, we found some novelty shots with interesting names. When these were opened at the party and were quickly stolen several times. Our other gift that year was a bottle of wine. The wine was named “Bitch”. While most of the people at the party were drinkers, few of them drank wine. The person who selected it as a gift, was not a drinker. To make matters worse, her husband was a pastor. He was not at the party but we had met him before. So everyone knew that he was the type of pastor that wouldn’t welcome a bottle of wine in his house much less a product with the word “bitch” on the label. Everyone got a big kid out of the fact that she got the gift. And no one was going to steal it from her. Her adult son was at the party with her and ended up taking the bottle home. 
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<![CDATA[I'll Be Home For Christmas]]>Thu, 15 Dec 2016 16:00:00 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/ill-be-home-for-christmas
In my previous blog post, I talked about Christmas traditions. I mentioned going to my grandfather’s house on Christmas Eve.  I didn’t make it to his house for this event the last year he was alive. It wasn’t for lack of trying.
​My family and I lived in middle Tennessee at the time. My grandfather and the rest of my family lived 4 hours away in West Tennessee. My wife and kids had traveled ahead to be with family before I got there. I worked an hour west of where we lived. On my last day I was scheduled to work before Christmas, I had packed my truck so I could travel on to be with my family. That morning, it rained on me on the way to work with the rain turning to ice and snow later. On the stretch of Interstate 40 I traveled on the way to work, there was a big hill I would come down transitioning off of the Cumberland Plateau. Just as I made it to this hill, I had my first experience with significant black ice. The road curves as you come down this hill. I lost control for what seemed like miles coming down the hill. I remember sliding one way and then the other, regaining control for small moments. As I arrived at the Buffalo Valley exit, I slid by it, but lost all control at the point where the on-ramp meets back up with the interstate. I slid off the road and into a ditch. Luckily I missed the van in the ditch next to me that was lying on its side. A lady was crawling out of the door which was facing up. There was a look of terror on her face as my truck approached the ditch. As I sat in the ditch, I could hear the sound of vehicles on the highway behind me bouncing into each other.  I found out later that a big truck and done a 180 degree spin just ahead of where I lost control. Later that morning, I did see this truck coming up the emergency lane back to the exit where I was to exit on the on-ramp. 
 
There was a convenience store at this exit that was also a restaurant and hotel. Many of the people stuck on the road walked down to this place to make calls and get food. I walked down to this store with the family from the van. When we got to this store, I noticed that most of the people there were white. The family from the van was black. I also noticed that there was a variety of rebel flag banners, posters and license plates in this store. No one said anything inappropriate to this family but there was definitely a negative vibe. The family was arranging to spend the night at the hotel. I thought it was a bad idea. I imagined that they might never be heard from again.
 
Eventually, I went back to my truck and a wrecker service showed up pulling everyone out. When I asked the driver about the conditions on the road, he suggested that I go back home and stay there. That’s exactly what I did. I never made it to my grandfather’s house that year. My wife and kids were able to make a brief stop with him that year before they came home.  I’m happy that someone from my immediate family was able to be at my grandfather’s house that last Christmas of that tradition. I’m also happy that my kids were able to spend their last Christmas morning in middle Tennessee in their own house.
Picture
The hotel
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