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Archive for the ‘Owensboro’ Category

Remember on Thanksgiving when I said we were thankful for our relative health?

I think it’s safe to say we are even more thankful now.

A stomach bug bent on mass proliferation claimed nearly my entire family over the weekend, rendering us beyond useless and zombie-like in a scene that probably resembled something out of the Middle Ages.  I’ll spare you with the details.  Use that imagination of yours.

Suzanne found a couple of silver linings in her misery:  she “lost every calorie [she] gained over the holiday” and she was able to finish an entire book in two days without feeling too guilty about it.

Me?  No silver lining.  Wish it never happened.  Nothing good came of it.  Suzanne is crazy to find anything positive in it.  Insane even.

But you don’t care about us.  “What about Finley? How did she cope?!?!”, you ask.

Well, she coped famously, thanks in large part to the new addition to the family, Macie, my parents’ 8-week old Peekapoo.

Finley wasn’t sure what to make of Macie at first.  Her confusion was blatant in every expression, every action.  I’m not sure if she even believed Macie was a living breathing mini-hound at first and was instead just another plush toy to lacerate, behead, and eventually dismember like her countless other victims.  After she figured this stuff out, she still had no idea how to actually interact with the puppy, let alone play with it (her ultimate goal in all endeavors in life).

Circumstances didn’t afford her much time to think.  Devoid of human interaction and spoiling due to what amounted to the bubonic plague, she had no choice but to decipher the temperament and behavior of her new family member.  She succeeded, of course, and now can add Macie to her contact list of friends.  And she has something more to look forward to at Christmas time.

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This guy never got much opportunity to seize the spotlight in our house.

At first, he was surrounded by a macabre group of vampires, tombstones, and spooky pumpkins.  Then the Santa Clauses arrived, followed swiftly by Christmas trees and assorted holiday season decorations.

But he never once complained, squawked, or gobbled about his plight.  He stood steadfastly amidst the schizophrenic seasonal homages.  For that, we are thankful and his perseverance has paid off in the form of his very own post.

Today, we are thankful for many things.

We are thankful for our families and the support and love they demonstrate to us each and every day.

We are thankful for our relative health (although I am trying to kick a wicked poopy cold right now).

In that vein, we are thankful to still possess all of our limbs and most of our epidermis despite being dragged down the street at breakneck speeds by an ogre dog.

We are thankful that the house has not been literally chewed off its foundation by an ogre dog.

We are thankful to have not been served with charges of involuntary manslaughter because our ogre dog jumped on someone and licked them to death.

And I guess, ultimately, we are thankful for that ogre dog, who alternates between the persona of Marmaduke’s protegé and the lovable sweet Finley, a now 10.5 month old golden retriever who has more than enriched our lives with her ridiculousness.

But she’s still not getting food from the table today.

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If the Big Dipper equates to the sort of stalwart nostalgia whose omnipresence creates a distinct layer of ritual to your personal history, Owensboro’s Apple Festival, held each fall at somewhat the oddly located idyllic farm of Reid’s Orchard, serves as that hallmark of recurring wistful memory that combine with similar annual events to define your recollection of a past era.

Its venue, the aforementioned farm of Reid’s Orchard, is a quintessential produce enterprise whose pastoral aesthetic and grittiness is unfortunately diminished by the looming monolithic sentinel of OMU’s coal-burning steam/smokestack.  As a kid, I loved trips to the orchard’s Apple Barn but, at the time, couldn’t tell you why, besides the opportunity to savor one of their flavored hard candy sticks.  It makes sense to me now in the same way that many childhood fixations do:  an early yet unidentified appreciation for the agrarian simplicity of “living off the land” and environmental conservation.  The orchard represented (and still represents) that simple tranquility of an ideal preoccupation that previously harkened back to an earlier American life and that more recently has returned more to the forefront once again.

And the centerpiece of that sentiment is the annual Apple Festival, held each October amidst the orange and yellow hue of fall.  A typical small town tradition.

After procuring a hard candy stick upon arrival (obviously), Sooz and I took a stroll through the grounds as vendors and mechanics worked diligently to erect carnival rides and prepare the funnel cakes, apple cider, and barbeque that would only a day later comprise the ultimate Apple Festival experience.

Having not attended the event for several years after working it throughout high school for various clubs, I was happy to recognize that many of the rides were the exact same I jubilantly clamored to jump on as a kid.  A little bit of rust and wear had made its arrival on several of the rides but the same recognizable identifying images, which now looked hilariously beaten down and awful when before they signified everything awesome, remained.  Superman looked like Jimmy Fallon after a car wreck and the Stay Puft Marshmallow man from Ghostbusters looked like a snowman drawn by the offspring of Charles Manson and Monet, if that was possible. Corn maze, that staple of all fall fests: check.  Somewhat crappy food to sustain your through Scrambler experiences:  sure thing.

The theme of tradition and familiarity has been prevalent in this blog lately.  I have found it important that as you reinvent yourself, or come to terms with the inevitable come-to-truth moment that slams into everyone with a conscience at around our age, you remember those places, those people, and those seemingly minute anecdotes in your history that have worked, unknowingly, to frame your perception of your world and your personal self.

It’s not self-reflection; it has just always been there.  Realizing a rusted ferris wheel is actually a part of you can be strangely reassuring.

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The Big Dipper in Owensboro, KY is one of those holes in the wall you always hear people bragging about in a “if you go to [insert town here], you have to eat here” kind of way.

Then you show up one day for lunch and are immediately confronted with a dual emotion of “this place looks like a dump” and “since this place looks like a dump, odds are in its favor to be awesome.”

The Big Dipper is Owensboro to me.  A mere mention of its name, even if you are actually talking about the constellation, brings back memories of tee ball games, soccer games, trips to Evansville to go shopping, high school dates, frequent trips during college with my friend Jenny where we made fun of the pizza-faced disjointed mouth on the next-door restaurant’s sign, and the like.  Any type of childhood nostalgia you can think of, this tiny little burger stand on W. Parrish Avenue epitomizes it to me.

Part of the Big Dipper’s appeal is that it has negligibly changed since I was a kid and probably since my father was a kid.  The food has remained consistently greasy-good, the fries are always somehow immaculately prepared and crispy without one slip up I can note (and being a Dipper connoisseur, I could if I needed to), the ingress/egress on the site still stresses me out with its looming probability of a car wreck, and the sign nearly always is missing the letter G in the second word of the phrase “Big Grape”, which has elicited more than a few laughs over the years.

Changes to the restaurant have been small, as I noted above, but seemed earth shattering at the time. You mean they actually installed new wheel stops after the old yellow ones had eroded to mush?  They actually placed some foundation plantings over near the drive-thru?  Both were shocking developments.  None so shocking, however, as when I realized this tiny little burger stand actually has a website.

The Big Dipper, in essence, is comfort food.  It’s the first place I think of to eat in my hometown and no matter how many times I end up feasting on its unwavering-through-generations goodness, I consistently ponder this question prior to my departure from Owensboro:  should I go one more time before I leave?

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Beginnings

I found out my father was going to remarry at a time in the not-so-distant future two days after I lost my mother.

The two events were completely unrelated and although the timing of this relevation was inopportune, I encountered a strange sense of not only acceptance but also happiness, even relief, in the announcement.

The sensation was almost alarmingly bizarre and quite frankly, didn’t feel correct. Only two suns had risen since the death of my mother in a culminating event from three years of insurmountable frustration and sadness and here I was, facing the probability of having a new mother figure and family to accept. And I was happy about it. I remember sitting on a couch, engulfed in despair, yet my opinion on the matter was serene. I could not pinpoint why. It didn’t seem like anything to ponder at a time of intense pondering. I didn’t even give it really any thought. Everything about it made sense.

Fast-forward a little over a year from the revelation. That same sense of ease, of happiness, has been exponentially increased. In a year filled with periods of recessed darkness, my (at the time) father’s fiance’s family, newcomers to my life, served as one of two lighthouses to guide my path through the gloom (Suzanne and her family being the second) and without whom I cannot fathom to imagine this tumultuous year.

In this year, I have gained a true motherly figure in Donna, whose compassion and kindness pervades her every action. She somehow puts up with my father’s sometimes embarrassing (but mostly endearing) antics.

There has never been an odd moment between us, never a lack of respect for one another. Our relationship is natural, nothing forced and nothing peculiar. There are no eggshells to be tread. She has accepted my phobia of phone calls (in general…ask my friends about it as they are just as annoyed by it probably) and lifestyle at a faraway locale yet still I feel as if we haven’t missed a beat. For that, I am extremely thankful.

I have gained a sister in Rheonna. Technically, a step-sister, but our relationship doesn’t feel a step away from the real thing. Both being only children, the way our bond was immediately forged and strengthened has been beyond anything articulated in this blog or by my typical over-verbose, over-detailed vocal style can begin to describe adequately. I think to myself daily, “I have a sister.” And it’s amazing.

I have gained a brother-in-law in Matt, whose tendencies to be overly polite to strangers at the risk of an argument with his family and desire to not ruffle feathers very eerily match my own in a way that I wonder how we are not actually brothers ourselves.

I have gained a niece in Brooke who I absolutely adore and respect for her maturity and confidence, a niece in Ava who at 3 years of age refers to me as her “boyfriend” and is also subsequently too young to understand a worn out and probably misplaced “Well, this is Kentucky after all…” joke, a nephew in 9 year Parker who is the spitting image of his brilliant father in terms of the understanding of science, and a nephew in 2-year-old Brayden, who has no idea who I am but insists on slapping my leg in enthusiasm. I have also gained several other members of the White and Johnson families who have welcomed me with open arms.

My father is the happiest I can remember seeing him in my entire life. He needed this. I needed this. I have a penchant for hyperbole, I know that well, but I honestly cannot believe the attachment I have to my new family after only a year. I can’t even separate within my own memories times before this family entered my life a whole year ago. It’s as if they have always been there.

That initial acceptance that I could not pinpoint was a destiny of a mantra: everything in its right place.

*The wedding was not held within the structure in the accompanying church photo but the sentiment endures and, honestly, the leaves on the trees were just amazingly picturesque.*

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