The Golden Age of Chewing Gum

Do you realize we have let the golden age of chewing gum slip away right under our noses? On your and my watch too! How did this happen?

I remember as a kid, gum was sold in packs five sticks for 5 cents. That was it. Easy package and the pack fit right in your pocket.

The flavors were good like spearmint, peppermint, juicy fruit, and my dad chewed Dentine which was cinnamon. Once in a while I'd step out and get Tberry. It made me feel like a bad boy.

Gum was a simple, cheap and tasty treat. It all came with sugar sweetener.

Then gum actually got better. It was softer, sugarless and the flavor lasted a long time. Then they introduced the 15 stick pack and this was good. New flavors like Polar Ice and gum with liquid centers were introduced.

The gum was softer, full of flavor and honestly I could chew a piece for hours and recognize the flavor.

Then something happened a few years ago. Gum's flavor changed universally for the worse. The flavor could be chewed out in minutes. The portions were smaller and the packaging became a nightmare.

Lately I have been drifting from brand to brand, flavor to flavor and yet I get no satisfaction.

A few weeks ago I found an old pack of gum from the golden age in my RV. It was sticky and breaking down but I chewed it and it was good. It was as I remembered.

The Scorpion!

Years ago...maybe 1990 I was in my kitchen one fine May morning. It was Sunday I recall.

Gigi was out of town and I was wrapping up whatever I was doing geting ready for church.

Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw a strange looking insect. It wasn't a spider and it wasn't a bug. I bent down to have a closer look and it rared back bore it's claws at me. It was a scorpion.

We don't normally have scorpions in North Carolina. This creature was bright red and very aggressive. His tail was curled over his body and his claw were ready for confrontation.

I squirted him with Windex and stomped him and tossed him in the garbage.

I called my Friend Dusty who might know if it was possible that I saw a scorpion. He called a friend who happened to be a bug expert and he confirmed I saw a scorpion and a very rare one at that. Further he wanted to know if I could recover the specimen. I told him it was crushed but I would be glad to send him a rendering of what I saw.

Dusty saved the drawing all these years and emailed a copy to me. Didn't know I was an artist did you?

Good Monday To You

I think I can lay down and die now. My life is complete.

I closed on my loan Friday and I now have an assumable 15 year loan at 4.5%.

I was just shown an iPhone app called Trapster that allows for users to report speed traps live. Then this information is pushed to my phone from other users and it warns me if I am about to enter the trap. I can verify the trap too and it adds credibility to the sighting.

Today I plan to end my boycott of Kurt Schindler. Kurt is a very talented local musician in St Croix. Kurt pissed me off last February by missing two dates while I was on St Croix. I listened to some of his music this past weekend and figured he had suffered enough from my shun. Plus he has a float in the St Patrick's Day parade called the Feral Cruzans and I thought that was about as cool of term as I have heard in a while. So I'm back Kurt. I hope you will take me back as a fan.

How A Fart Brought Down The Banking System

This is a true story that I have heard many times. Way back in the 1950's American Commercial Bank in Charlotte, North Carolina was formed from two smaller banks. In the 1960's American Commercial Bank changed it's name to North Carolina National Bank. In 1991 North Carolina National Bank acquired C&S/Sovran Corp. and took the new name, NationsBank Corp. In 1998 NationsBank Corp. acquired BankAmerica Corp. and took the name Bank of America which now operates in all 50 states and most foreign countries.

Bank of America is a big player and we are proud of the accomplishments of BofA.

A very good friend of mine worked for Bank of America back in the NCNB/NationsBank era in the computer room. Back then the bank ran on big mainframe computers that centrally tied together all the tellers and ATM's. In those days the computers were so big that employees worked among the machinery to keep the bank going 24/7.

The rooms housing the computers were serviced constantly by folks like my friend.

Late night shifts would get mighty boring.

One night a guy working along side opened the shield protecting the large memory platters. The shield mechanilally opened like something on 2001 a Space Odyssey. Then the guy rares back and farts on the platters holding the contents of the bank and pushes the lid closed.

All the guys are dying laughing at the stunt when suddenly they realize the entire system is going offline and an entire reboot will be required to bring the system back up. No small task back then.

Cruzan Is A Commin'

(hallelujah chorus playing in background)

Today is Friday and I am glad for that. Today I close on my loan and I am ecstatic yet resentful at the bastards. 4.5% baby!

Margaret called last night. As you recall Margaret was our housekeeper back in 2003 at the first villa we stayed in St Croix. She and Gigi hit it off and have remained good friends ever since.

Her son joined the national Guard to help with his college education. His basic training is in Columbia about 80 south of us. Long story short, Margaret is coming up from St Croix to visit us and her son.

Now I will have a real Cruzan (actually she is from St Kitts) in my house and she can teach me how to make all the Caribbean dishes I crave.... johnnie cakes, smoked herring and rice with spinach, and goat water.

That reminds me. Happy goat water Friday everyone!

Jesus and Golf

Whether you think Jesus is your Lord and Saviour or just a nice man in sandals from history I can't help but laugh when I am confronted with his sense of humor. This statement in the Bible makes me laugh:

"Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye."

I had a one sided conversation recently and this verse kept coming up in my mind. I sat silent and listened knowing that he had a long in his own eye.....or was it a speck in his and a log in mine?

Golf was fun yesterday but the heat was exhausting. Note to self...wait until the back nine to pop a beer.

My Wedding...Oh Wow!

My wedding November 1979. We came in peace for all mankind. Thanks Judy.

Stay of Execution

As you recall today my rate lock on my refinance expired today and I had to close today to get 4.5%.

First thing this morning I emailed to share my willingness and availability to close. They said they were working on it. A few more calls to get payoffs and things seemed promising.

By mid afternoon I asked for an extension so I could keep my rate.

At 4 PM I suggested I start flying west until I got until tomorrow to give me a few more hours. Heck I could close in Hawaii just fine.

The folks (assholes) I am dealing with are in central time. 5 PM passes eastern time.

5:45 PM I'm strapped tightly in a big wooden chair. A metal cuff is attached to my right ankle. A wet sponge and metal skullcap is tightened under my chin. The leather hood is draped over my head.

"Bastards", I thought. "The're going to let me go."

I begin counting the last few minutes when the phone rang.

"Mr. Wreggie.... this is Ass wipe and Crooked Loans. We have just gotten final approval and we can extend your rate until the 4th."

Why oh why do they put me through this. I'll believe it when the ink is dry.

Two Things on My Mind

I have been experimenting with wing sauce of late. My goal (like I need the calories) is to come up with a good all around sauce that everyone likes. Not hot, but traditional appearance with hints of good flavors.

It's easy to make hot wings hotter than hell and send people screaming for a cold beer. Most people don't like spicy hot wings. Personally I've never me a wind I didn't like.

So what seems to work with the approval of my wing master nephew is mixture of Frank's mild sauce, butter, diced garlic, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce. Gigi liked it so much that she took the leftover sauce and put it on some barbecue we had last night.

Now with football season just around the corner I'll be able to make fresh and delicious wings at the tailgate events. As you may recall I have a spiffy fryer and 2000 watt quiet generator that will make their appearance this fall in Downtown Charlotte.

I am constantly amazed what our government will give someone if you just take the time to do nothing and get in line.

My father in law is in a nice assisted living place that provides 3 meals and two snacks a day, a room with bath, cable TV, daily events, AC and Heat and medications. There is a library, fitness room, hot tub Jacuzzi, hair dresser, and well decorated common areas. The staff is friendly and nice. The dining room has table clothes and each meal there is a menu to choose from. Oh and they pick up his laundry and clean his room and change the sheets.

All this costs him zero. You pay for it. He didn't save a nickle for this....nothing yet he lives a good life.

But that's not all. What is missing in this picture? A phone. Not to worry. I just found out if you are dead broke and can prove it that the government will give you a cell phone free! Free phone and free minutes. I signed him up last night.

I wonder why I bust my ass and worry so much.

Building Vacations

One of my favorite pastimes is building vacations. Flying vacations are entirely different from RVing vacations. I like them both and both are designed around my entertainment and comfort.

The past few days I have been trading airline miles for trips to St Croix. I have all of our September trip covered with air miles and have booked Gigi on the nonstop for February. I have enough credits for me I think to cover me too. Hell I'll hitch hike down if I have to.

Gigi and I plan to renew our vows while we are down in September. It will be 30 years in November. I'd like to do it where Terry and Michael got married if Peter will do the ceremony and Michael will give me away. Something like that.

I figured in 30 years I have been asleep for 10 years, at work for 10 years, sitting in the other room for 5 years, pissed off at her for 2 years, and madly in love for the remaining 3 years. That's worth a celebration.

One friend suggested we do the vows in front of the web cam so everyone could watch.

Anyway I am looking forward to the September trip like you wouldn't believe. We need some R and R and hopefully celebration with good friends.

On My Soapbox (Condensed Version)

Back in March I started refinancing my home with Quicken Loans and I got to tell you that the experience has been much like chemotherapy. Even If I do close by Monday the process is just about to kill me.

I started with a conventional loan and we were on a fast track until the appraiser insisted on giving us nothing for our eight acres, improvements, and oh by the way an 1,100 square foot guest home with a kitchen and bathroom.

"Mr. Wreggie, your credit is good but the debt to equity ratio makes it impossible for a conventional loan."

I responded, "No shit Sherlock....give me equity for the stuff standing that you ignore and we can do the deal."

So after 6 weeks or so we decided to go FHA and I locked in a great rate at 4.5% for 15 years. The lock would expire on July 20th. That date was so far in the future that I was confident that nothing could stand in my way.

FHA is different. The federal government assumes I am a damn liar and my home is a rotting piece of shit and I have to prove otherwise. The process has been slow and humiliating.

Quicken discovers a new hurtle about every two weeks. About the time I was changing tires on my exploding RV I discover via a phone call that I must repair some rotten wood around a window and go to the IRS to prove that my business taxes were in fact filed.

I sat in the IRS on three occasions and made on visit out of town to my CPA all because the IRS had yet to put my taxes in electronically. Good that was done and now the rot.

The whole reason I stared this loan was based on the fact I needed to repair the front of my house. I thought I would lock in a low rate and pull some money out to fix this rot. Foolish me.

Today...A contractor is supposed to be here at 8 AM and have this fixed and the paint dry by tomorrow for a liars inspection.

But when Quicken called the home inspector to set a time to verify the repairs the inspector said, "I have company coming to town and will be busy the next few weeks."

I told them I would be happy with a Jew or Muslim that would inspect and close on Sunday if that was more convenient.

Today I wait for a contractor and pray an inspector will come tomorrow afternoon with a closing looming on Monday. If I put any more effort in this it's gonna kill me.

In My Own Back Yard

Very strange dream last night. Terry C appeared from St Croix at my home. She wanted to buy a used bread truck in North Wilksboro for Michael that she had seen on Craig's list.

I thought this to be strange. Terry doesn't like to travel back to the states much. Plus she had some new hair cut that just wasn't Terry.

She asked to see my garage as if she doubted it had been cleaned out. I turned on the light and there were four saddled horses in there that weren't mine. In addition the lights to my Jeep were on.

She then suggested we snorkel in my creek that runs along my property. Peter was waiting in a small boat. We proceeded on a fantastic fresh water snorkel in my creek.

Peter taught me several way to discretely pee out the back of the boat while a lady was present and Terry had bright ankle lights that illuminated the stream to see all creatures that lived in the creek clearly.

Meanwhile we kept missing phone calls from Michael about his whereabouts.

I can tell you now that this dream makes some sense to me now as I am awake. My business and personal life is a flutter now with things out of my control due to the recession but I am struggling to maintain some control.

I spent time yesterday planning my next two trips to the island. Gigi and I will be there in September. I just booked a villa for our February trip. I really want to be there.

Yet I feel that Terry revealed greatness in my own back yard that I have overlooked.

And Peter? Well he was Peter and funny as hell.

So True!

Here I Am

Wow it has been a while.

I'm in San Francisco at a business conference. Last night I ate chicken wings at a gay sports bar. They didn't have gay sports on the TV just regular sports but all the wing eaters were gay except me. It was culturally interesting to watch. They absolutely love major league baseball out here.

Most of the guys in this city resemble the nerd on the cover of "For Dummies" books. Dark hair sticking up with bold frame glasses. It looks like an Apple commercial everywhere.

Most of the local women talk and end their sentences on a high note. That gets annoying after a while but they all do it.

I like the new styles in hair. I now wash my hair, drive the jeep to work top off, splash some diet Pepsi on my head and I am stylish and good to go for the rest of the day. I think that is how most of the young folks must be getting that "unique" look.

Everything is so expensive out here. I don't know how people afford to live here.

I expected this place to be a nerd Nirvana but I am paying $12 a day for Internet and can't seem to fine a sustainable mobile signal to complete a call.

It is cold here, really cold. It is like a premature autumn here. The temps are in the lows 60's with a strong breeze and no humidity.

I have always liked this place. It is so different from my usual haunts.


I had about a two hour fire to stomp out this afternoon and I found the conflict exhilarating.

You see I have prided my self over my career to be able to compartmentalize my work and personal life. I developed a way in the late 1990's to work less than 30 hours a week but yield the effort of a person working overtime. It worked most of the time and allowed me to make a nice living and enjoy life to the fullest now.

Sadly in recent years and months this system has eroded to where I am beginning to be a stressed out person. I don't take stress well even though I have a stressful job. I can't be fired because I am self employed but I can fail. I have avoided stress and conflicts that are sometimes necessary.

This vacation has been relaxing and enjoyable. Yes I had two blow outs on the way down and yes my back was strained picking up a snagged crab trap caught on my anchor.

I have slept well and have napped every afternoon. I have riiden my bike, rode in the boat and taken several long Jeep rides. I am relaxed.

So I got this call this afternoon where I suspected a client had been defrauded out of a lot of money. I had only hours to reverse a potential problem that could involve hundreds of thousands of dollars.

My assistant is very capable and I am fortunate to have her. I gave her instructions and she made phone calls and I made phone calls from my Jeep. Within a few hours the deal was undone and everything was alright.

I am relaxed again. The vacation is working.