The parking lot attendant is a sage


It was a long day of traveling. Lisa and I had started the day in far western Kentucky (Wickliffe, to be precise), drove to Nashville and flew to Baltimore-Washington International Airport. We were now in the car for the ride home.

The weather was cooperating for the hour-long drive. For us, yesterday was the third day of nice weather. The sun was shining and the air was pleasant. It felt like spring was finally here. A week ago the weather was chilly when we left BWI, and it rained for much of the time in Paducah.

Before we could head home, we needed to exit the long-term parking lot.

The light was green above the attendant’s booth. I pulled up and handed the attendant our ticket. I tend to be an introvert and have to push myself to talk with people. I try to practice whenever I can.

“It’s a pretty day to watch the world go by,” I said to the booth attendant. Her name tag read Ernestine.

“Everyday is a pretty day when you wake up,” Ernestine said. “You know, 26 years ago I had ovarian cancer — stage 3 — and Jesus Christ healed me. Everyday is a pretty day.”

Amen…can’t argue with Ernestine’s outlook.

Makes me reflect on how fortunate and blessed I am. What about you?

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The sights, sites and sounds of Paducah


Finkel's Fair Store

Paducah is an old river town with character stemming from its buildings and people.

This western Kentucky city sits on the Ohio River. Much of its downtown dates to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Old paint advertisements — some long faded – add to the city’s unique appeal. It’s not uncommon to see old Mail Pouch Tobacco signs, but they generally are on barns. Not so in Paducah. One of those ubiquitous signs

Mail Pouch Tobacco sign

adorns a building at 129 S. Water St. The sign is faded; that adds to picture.

From the same vantage point as the Mail Pouch photo is the red sign for Finkel’s Fair Stores. The clothing and shoe store used to occupy this store until 1989. As the sign advertises, Finkel’s had a couple of stores in surrounding small towns. The stores are gone, but the sign proudly and brightly isn’t. I remember as a boy going with my great grandfather Papa and grandmother Mom to get a pair of Wrangler jeans.

Not far from Finkel’s is the downtown band gazebo. On this day, Captain Freddy and the Rivercats played

Captain Freddy

Dixieland jazz. Captain Freddy sang and strummed his banjo to an accompaniment of bass, trombone and trumpet filled the bright sunny day…a welcome change to the endless days of rain and threats of flooding.

It felt good to have a sunny day and the opportunity to seek out photos. Seeing unique pictures of shapes and texture is my challenge. At one location, I stayed outside while Lisa went into a downtown quilting store. I passed the time looking for an interesting shot. Above my head was this single insulator surrounded by the textures of the bricks, rusted iron and concrete. I love this kind of photo.

Insulator and texture

I imagine the women sitting outside the store thought I was nuts for taking pictures of the side of a building (“Mabel, that boy ain’t right. What’s he taking a picture of?”).

That’s OK, I take photographs for the same reason I write…for myself.

(Click here for more photos of Paducah and Captain Freddy and the Rivercats.)

Barbecue and quilts in Paducah


Starnes BBQ in Paducah, Ky.

It was lunchtime. For me, lunchtime in Paducah, Ky., means only one thing.

Pork sandwiches at Starnes BBQ.

I was in Paducah with my wife Lisa and mother Phyllis. Lisa is an avid quilter and eagerly waited for six months to attend the largest quilt show in America. Paducah and the American Quilt Society Show is to quilters as Daytona is for NASCAR fans. For the past two days, I earned “sweetie” points by taking Lisa to various venues around Paducah to buy fabric, and quilting books and tools. It’s always nice to see someone so passionate about a hobby.

We found three stools at the Starnes lunch counter on the other side of the aqua-colored building and sat down. The waitress came by to take our order. Four pork sandwiches. Didn’t know if I was hungry enough for two but thought best to be safe than sorry.

“Y’all visiting?” the man sitting to my right at the counter asked.

“Well, my mother lives here in Wickliffe,” I said. “My wife and I live in Washington, D.C.”

“Here for the quilt show?”

I told him we were. We proceeded to talk about about a wide range of topics — from Washington’s famed cherry blossoms to quilts to the justification for the Iraq war — while waiting for and eating my sandwiches and drinking my Sun Drop soda.

Starnes’ barbecue is well-known in Paducah. They serve pork, beef and turkey sandwiches. They chop up the meat, put a generous portion between two pieces of white bread, add the vinegar-based sauce and toast it in a sandwich press. If Starnes was pretentious, it probably would call their barbecue sandwiches Paducah paninis. It’s not pretentious. How can it be? Its building is aqua and has pictures of grandchildren on the wall. The center includes shelves of chips, candy bars, moon pies and bottle of extra sauce. The sandwiches come individually wrapped in white butcher paper.

Never got to know the name of the man to my right. Since we were here for the quilt show, he recommended we not miss the antique quilt display across the street.

“That’s where we’re headed,” I said. “We stopped here to get something to eat first.”

He told me about the time he and his wife visited Washington two years ago to see the cherry blossoms. We agreed the blossoms are very beautiful.

“I didn’t get a chance to see them two years ago,” I said. “I had the pleasure of living in southern Iraq two years ago.”

“You were in the service?” asked. I told him I retired from the Air Force.

“Well, thank you for all you did,” he said. “Certainly a lot different welcome than what I got coming back from Vietnam.”

I asked about his service. He was a legal assistant. He was exposed to Agent Orange which he claims caused his health problems. He’s on disability.

“You probably don’t hear this much but thank you for your service in Vietnam,” I said to him.

He quietly chuckled and smiled, and said thank you.

After finishing my two sandwiches and our conversation, he excused himself so a waiting customer could have his counter seat. I finished my sandwich and Sun Drop, and headed off to see the antique quilts.