Archive for February, 2015

Dumpsters at Dawn

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

We decided to spend Valentine’s weekend in a very chilly Chattanooga. You may well ask when did they drop the Saint from Valentine? Was he defrocked? Did he do something wrong to be removed from Sainthood? Anyway, onto the main event:

We stayed at the Bluff View Inn in the Bluff Art District. The Bluff View Inn is a bed and breakfast establishment located in three turn-of-the-century houses overlooking the Tennessee River. However, that is not strictly true; only the Maclellan House and The Martin House overlook the river, while the Thompson House is nearer to the underpass. But more of that later.

On the subject of “bed and breakfast”, they only provide breakfast on weekends which is situated in the Mother Ship, The Maclellan House. Between Monday and Friday guests are given vouchers which they exchange for breakfast at the neighboring coffee shop, Rembrandt’s . Orders are taken at the counter which works very well if there are any tables available. We managed to find a table for two adjacent to the front door,  but experienced an arctic blast each time another customer walked in.

Chattanooga is a charming town and the main attractions are the “fresh water”acquarium, Lookout Mountain incorporating Ruby Falls, and the Hunter Art Museum. We had visited all three in the last few years, so we wanted to enjoy the river walk and the magnificent spectacle of the River Tennessee untainted by commercialism and pollution. Unfortunately, the temperature was a balmy 18 degrees faranheit  when we embarked on our Sunday morning constitution. Luckily we stumbled across the Chattanooga Choo Choo made famous by Glenn Miller, and managed to escape the frigid conditions for a few minutes. You’re possibly wondering who is Glenn Miller? Suffice to say I am a big fan of Glenn Miller’s big  band music from the 1940s.

A unique attraction for visitors is the Walnut Street Bridge. Built in 1890, and spanning 2,376 feet, it was the first highway bridge to connect downtown with the North Shore. The bridge closed to motor vehicles in 1978 and sat in disuse and disrepair for nearly a decade. it reopened in 1990 as a pedestrian walkway and is one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world.

Returning to our accommodation we were given a very spacious room in the Thompson House. It was tastefully furnished with a collection of period pieces which enhanced the ambience of the room. Unfortunately the bed’s mattress felt like a rock which may have been specifically designed for previous guests, the Flinstones’ while the pillows had the texture of cement bags.

Nevertheless, a couple of bottles of bubbly intermixed with some fine chardonnays and pinot noirs helped dull the pain. That is until the early hours of Monday morning when I was unceremoniously awoken at 3.45 am by an horrendous beeping noise followed by yellow flashing lights. I opened my eyes and exclaimed “What the dickens!” Editorial intervention has censored the actual wording of the exclamation used. I momentarily thought I was in the middle of  a remake of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

I looked out through the curtains and saw a dumpster maneouvring  back and forth in the parking lot. Leroy was barking out orders to his co-pilot: “up bit, down a bit, drop it! Do it again man, you didn’t make enough noise….crash, bang wallop.”


(Definition: a dumpster is a large waste container for garbage, trash, rubbish whatever your origins, designed to brought and taken away by a special truck or to be emptied into a garbage truck.)

Note to self: do not book a Sunday night at the Bluff Inn again.

It’s All Greek to Me.

Friday, February 13th, 2015

I drive part-time for a well known car and truck leasing company, and we comprise a band of twelve  just men; most of whom are retired from their real jobs and engage in this driving lark for comaradrie and  some pocket money. I should say we used to be men because I don’t remember discussing shows like “Downton Abbey” and exchanging recipes with other males when I was young and handsome.

Well, one of the stalwarts of the group, Nick the Greek, retired recently through ill health. It was a mixed blessing because he was the on the wrong side of 80 and the speed and volume of traffic on state roads (expressways, motorways ) was beginning to make him nervous. So much so that a few years ago he convinced an unsuspecting driving associate to take side roads from Atlanta to Savannah when they delivered a car to a customer. Normally, its a 275 mile route one way and a round trip normally takes 8 hours. On this occasion they clocked up over 14 hours by taking what Nick called a short cut!

Nick is a second generation Greek and is extremely proud of his heritage. He could have been a consultant on the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” He was adamant that his children should only marry fellow Greeks, but apparently he’s having a battle convincing his grandchildren to follow suit.

Nick was a banker by profession, and to say he was  careful with him money would be like referring to Shylock and Fagin as benevolent benefactors. We usually grab lunch in fast food restaurants, but Nick would bring his own lunch, lovingly prepared by his wife, and sit at the table with us. However, one time, we had lunch in a burger bar which had waiter service. When the waiter asked him what he would like to order he replied: “I’m on a special diet (the cheap skate diet.”) The waiter asked him if he would  like a glass of water, and without batting an eyelid Nick replied: “yes please, but could I have some ice and a slice lemon  with the water please?”

Nick is a deeply religious man and is heavily involved in the Greek Orthodox Church. A couple of years ago he became an Archon which is the highest honor that can be bestowed on a civilian in the GOC. One of the uninitiated amongst the drivers asked him: “How did you get the part of Archon in the forthcoming Star Wars movie?” Nick gave him a withered look and bit into the remainder of his homemade sandwich.

Nick is not at all  demonstrative or given to theatrical outbursts like some of the other diverse characters on the team, but equally does not take himself too seriously and occasionally has a twinkle in his eye with a sense of the ridiculous.

One of the funniest moments of his driving career involved retrieving an old box truck from one of the customers. The customer informed us that the truck was tucked at the back of the warehouse and could only exit the building in reverse.

Unfortunately the reverse gear was not working and the truck would have to pushed manually outside. Nick was instructed to sit behind the wheel while two burly drivers and myself  attempted to push the vehicle to its destination. We were making little progress until Shrek (one of the burly drivers  weighing in at over 300 pounds packed into a 6′ 7″ frame) becoming quite crimson in the face screeched: ” Nick has got the effing brake on!”

Nick, get well soon.