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Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2005
I’m feeling every one of my forty-sixish years today.

More normal enlightened fellows who are infected with the carpenter virus will typically have chucked the slogging on the ground floor / hands on stuff by the time they reach my age. Taken a supervisory position. Ride around in a Tahoe with heavy A/C and a six speaker sound system. Make a plethora of cell phone calls.

Hell, I was doing that when I was in my twenties. Prehistoric cell phone and all. Workin’ for the man, you see, and the man liked what I did.

But I decided that I wouldn’t be entirely happy until I was dragging out the entire contents of a large pickup truck full of tools, humping them 165 yards in pre-dawn Swampland heat, setting them up, making clouds of sawdust all day, and then returning them to the fold (neatly, too) at 4 pm.

I had a deranged thought today, as I carted the last of the power tools into the truck bed. That perhaps I should nab a bathroom scale and weigh some of these items. The air compressor, for example. It’s such a little fellow, it can’t possibly weigh a hundred pounds. Yet it does. Probably more. It isn’t the sort of thing I’ll be bench pressing overhead any time soon.

Everybody pays a price for their own personal freedom. Mine just shows up with splinters and aching bones.

In the aftermath of this months horror story from the Gulf Coast, the one thing that struck with me as a lesson to be learned was - I’m not any more prepared for disaster laden events than most of those people were. Even living in an area which is prone to hurricane damage (Isabel worked us over pretty good last year) I’ve not really taken steps to be ready for something like that.

Oh I’m greatly set up for fighting back afterwards. Chainsaws, generators, that sort of thing. So long as I don’t need to eat or (perish the thought) drink. But what if the call came to bug out, and right the hell now?

I’ve made a commitment to outfit my truck and Ally’s too, with some emergency stuff. Couple dozen bottles of water. Some non-perishable foods. Propane camp stove, flashlights, maybe some sleeping bags. That sort of stuff. Fill up two of those big plastic storage boxes, find a place for ‘em in the back and try to forget what they’re in there for.

Something tells me this won’t be the last time this happens.

Then yesterday, when I should have been out buying bottled water and a pop-up camping trailer, I happened to wander into Circuitous City and picked up one of these:

Because, after all. I’m going on a cruise on Friday, and if a hurricane hits the big boat, you all can count on me to get a terrific close up shot as we keel over and slide into the Caribbean.

I spent way less pre-cruise money on this camera than Ally has on clothes and sundries, I can tell you that. The woman has gone completely out of control.

On Sunday, she looked up from her morning paper and remarked, “Oh, we need to go shopping. Need some luggage and stuff.”

“Luggage? What about our two suitcases under the bed?”

“Please. Do you really think those two old things will hold what we need for a week? You’ve got to be kidding me. Besides, I need sunblock and . . .”

Trust me, she had a list. Ally always has a list. I try hard not to call it an agenda.

Now here’s the thing. Just before we left on this shopping safari, I was in the bedroom donning shoes and just happened to have a thought. Peeked under the bed. Lo and behold, there wasn’t a suitcase to be found. Checked the closet, the garage. Nada.

A younger man might well have dashed to his wife, concerned, with a query about what could possibly have happened to two large suitcases which have always, and I do mean since forever, been stashed under the bed. But I am not that younger man. Oh no. I have learned to bide my time, and let truth come stumbling my way.

We arrived at the Target and I volunteered to be the luggage coordinator, which suited Ally just fine, as she was firmly entrenched in Women’s Wear. I don’t know that Target is exactly the first choice I would have made for procuring suitcases, but I’m all for a one stop shopping gala, particularly when my wife is along. I picked out a stunning ensemble, a roll around case roughly the size of my pickup truck, with several matching siblings stuffed inside of it, a popular outdoor outfitter’s crest emblazoned in faux bronze on the side. It was understated, if something of that sort can be so. I mean, there was this purple affair that I completely passed over.

I rolled the beast back to Ally’s burgeoning shopping cart. “Check this out. And it has more just like it inside! Six pieces! Two of ‘em roll!”

It passed muster, and I had a toy to play with and roll around while my wife strolled leisurely through the entire store, plucking goods from the shelves. Were you ever the kid in the grocery store who ate a whole box of animal cookies, with the handy string handle and the circus style graphics, while Mom did the heavy work? That’s me, with my wife, on shopping expeditions. If I get something to occupy my time while she peruses every retail item in stock, I’m just fine. Otherwise she’d be better off leaving me home. I tend to whine.

After a checkout process where I fully expected the manager to vigorously pump my hand in gratitude for increasing his Target stock value, we loaded the truck for the ride home. My wife, flush with the postpartum of Target, took another look at the luggage tags.

“You did a good job on that. Why, it even has a clothes hanger, and a notions bag, and there’s one that ought to fit your laptop, we could use that as a carry on bag . . .”

“Yep. Got to admit, it beats hell outta those two old bags.” I gave her a glance out of the corner of my eye. “Wonder what ever happened to them?”

“Oh Beth has the red one, she took it when she was in Richmond a few weeks ago, and I told her just to use it for the cruise, and I think Maggie has the other . . . Wait! What to you mean, what happened to them?”

“’Cause I checked under the bed, and they weren’t there, and figured that this was all just a set-up so that you could get rid of old baggage for new stuff. Did I figure right?”

She was silent, but I could feel her looking at me, studying. If a cartoon cloud had formed over her head at that exact moment, I’m pretty sure it would have read: “He’s on to me. That’s rare. Wonder what else he knows?”

I know our bank account just took a licking. I do know that.

But this time next week, I’ll be poolside on a large boat, with several comely wenches fetching fruited drink for me while I study a camera instruction manual, possibly for the 100th time. It is entirely possible that I will be well fed, and rested.

And if the camera is a tool I have to hump around, well, I’ll just have to deal with that, won’t I now?

See you on the flip side. Thanks for reading.

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