Saturday, January 28, 2012

Johnny Van Zant - American Hero

Now that I'm back online, I've been catching up a little.  I've been watching a lot of music, including one of my favorites, Lynyrd Skynyrd.

I don't know that anyone on earth could have possibly taken the place of Ronnie Van Zant, who died in a plane crash in 1977, but his younger brother took on the task, and has done an excellent job.  Johnny has a presense on stage that almost rivals his brother's.

The amazing thing about Ronnie Van Zant was his presence.  He walked out on every stage like he owned it, the joint they were playing in, and the city where the venue was located.  In person, he was rather soft spoken, almost shy.  Johnny has been doing that pretty well since his first appearance with the band.

Lynyrd Skynyrd is iconic in southern culture.  If you're under the age of 80 and live in my part of the country, you've heard them.  If you haven't heard "Sweet Home Alabama", "Tuesday's Gone", "Simple Man", or "Free Bird", you're missing a lot of American culture, especially the southern part of it.

Kudos to Johnny Van Zant, carrying on in the tradition of his big brother and keeping the music alive.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I Noticed Something Today

This piece is not in the least way NASCAR related, so if you surfed in here to read it, I'm sorry.  I would like to share with you a personal reflection though.

Today, I arrived back at work after my lunch break. I didn't eat lunch, but I got some stuff accomplished.  I don't have a key to my part of the building so I had to wait until the guy that did have the key got back.  I parked in front of a chain link fence looking down the side of the steel warehouse that I work in.  From where I sat I could see the truck docks that supplied and relieved the building that I worked in.  Close to me, there was a small patch of grass beside the building, leading up to the heat pump that supplied cold and hot air to the section of the building in which I work.

When I stopped watching the activity of the truck currently parked in our dock, my attention shifted to the small patch of grass directly in front of me.  I noticed there were some small birds, gray on the back and wings, with white bellies.  They were pecking around on the grass.  Apparently they were finding something worth their time, because there were several of them pecking around.

I have to admit that I became lost in that moment.  These tiny birds were finding some sort of sustenance right here on our little patch of lawn here in early January.  Even here in this part of the south, winters can be cold and brutal, at least by our standards.  This morning it was 19 F. when I left home. Sunny south?  Sure.

It occurred to me that I didn't know what kind of birds these were.  When I was a child, my father taught me a lot about birds.  My father was not an expert, but he knew a lot about birds.  He taught me a lot about the birds that he had seen around where ever he was, which included Europe in the early 1940s.  He always liked birds and studied them.  Around his house there are probably a handful of bird guides.

These birds were surrounded by a chain link fence topped with barbed wire.  Not razor wire, just barbed wire.  We really don't have that much to steal here.  There is only one gate, which is open during the day, as it was today.  The gate provides access for trucks going in and out of our modest facility.  At my particular location, only 5 people work full time, including me.

While I watched the birds today, the gate was open.  After I had watched them for about 5 minutes, the heat pump near them kicked on, and the birds scattered with that sudden noise.  It wasn't that harsh of a noise, but it was sudden.  The birds flew up, over the fence, into a nearby group of pine trees.

What struck me was that the birds could have exited the property by the gate, but they didn't have to.  The fence that would have kept most people behind it was no problem for them.  The fence was simply an obstacle to be overcome.

Sometimes I wonder how many of us live inside fences, circumstances from which we feel that we can never escape, and don't know that it's really as simple as spreading our wings and flying over. 

I once knew a man who owned a dog, a big, healthy dog.  I noticed that the dog would never jump over or climb under a hassock that the man set out in a doorway.  I asked the man why the dog stayed behind that hassock.  The man told me that the dog stays behind the hassock because he does not know that he could easily jump over or climb under it.  The dog could easily do either but he never knew he could.

Are we this way?  I sometimes wonder.  Are we like the little birds out there just looking for a scrap of food to keep us going?  I know that I am sometimes.

I still don't know what kind of birds I saw today, but I'm going to pick out one of my Dad's guide books and try to identify them.  I want to find a way to fly over that fence that I can't seem to get out of.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

We're Back!

At least I hope so.  I've been trying to get back to this for quite a while, and it has been a while, as you can see.

I'm hoping to make more changes to the site over the coming weeks and get back into the full swing of the season as the month of January goes along.  I want to wish Tony Stewart and the entire 14 team, as well as all the good folks at Stewart-Haas Racing heartfelt congratulations over their NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in 2011.  I also want to congratulate Ricky Stenhouse and Austin Dillon for their championships in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series.

I was very impressed by how Tony Stewart and Darien Grubb overcame an obviously uncomfortable situation in the Chase.  To have been told that your services will no longer be needed after the year and still manage to get your driver the championship took quite a lot of doing.

I can't wait until Daytona.  This is a time of year full of anticipation for not only the fans, but also the drivers, teams and sponsors.  It is a time for rebuilding and recharging the old batteries.  It is a time for reflecting and reforming.

I wish everyone the best new year ever, and look forward to bringing you my perspective on the 2012 NASCAR season as it unfolds.

I'm looking forward to getting this party started!  I hope you are too.