December 9, 2018

Dateline: Birmingham, Alabama-

The temperature on top of our mountain in Sevierville dropped last night, but fortunately, the cabin came with a hot tub which took off the chill. This led to some decent sleep and then, an awakening to a fairly significant snowfall. Valerie Lemmons did her damndest to attract a bear up to the cabin with some baloney and a portable cooler but, alas, her efforts were not successful so we all settled into breakfast.

I was initially unsure if I would be able to make it down the mountain in the snow, but the flakes stopped around noon and the roads were passable so while the rest of the gang headed back to Gatlinburg, I turned the opposite direction and headed back towards Birmingham. I have patients scheduled in the morning and I have a huge dose of that physician ‘thou shalt not stand up a patient appointment unless it is a dire emergency’ in my system. The drive took a bit longer than usual due to rain and fog and slow traffic through Knoxville but was relatively uneventful.

It was a quick weekend away to a cabin paneled in knotty pine with bad taxidermy on the walls and more kitschy bear themed decor than one would find at Beef Dip in Puerto Vallarta but it was what I needed. Forty eight hours of love and laughter from a bunch of old theater friends who all go back nearly twenty years together. I hope we do more such weekends in the future but I’m going to suggest the beach perhaps for the next outing.

The drive seems to have given me a bit of a headache so I’m not going to write long tonight. It’s a route I’m intimately familiar with. From 1999-2016, I made about three trips a year from Birmingham, up through Chattanooga, Knoxville, the tri -Cities and into West Virginia to provide support services for the United Mine Workers Funds Geriatric Care Management program in Southern West Virginia, later expanding into Eastern Kentucky. I think I made somewhere between somewhere between fifty and sixty trips all told, in all weathers. Suffice it to say, I know every exit on the interstate between Birmingham and Beckley by heart and it was interesting to retravel part of that route after an absence of some years. A jumble of memories: time spent with case management nurses – site visits to homes off in the hollers – preparing educational programs and lectures – and above all, spending time with Ellen Peach, my long term partner in crime with the program.

Early on in my tenure with the program, Steve was sick and I had to minimize my time away from home. I would drive up to West Virginia on Sunday afternoon/evening, get some sleep, have meetings all day on Monday until about four or five and then drive back to Birmingham getting in about 2 AM. I was in my 30s then and could do that. There’s no way in hell I could accomplish that now. Once I got together with Tommy and we added the Kentucky site, I set the whole thing up to make sure I did not drive and have meetings on the same day. My aging brain just couldn’t do it and I had no real interest in ending up in the ditch trying to get home. Today’s snow reminded me of a couple of times when I had to go in January in the midst of the WV mountain snows. There was one time when a semi nearly ran me off the road coming down from Beckley and it slid on some ice but I was alert enough to prevent anything to untoward from happening. I’ve slid on the ice before in a car. Once that starts, nothing you can do but hang on. I once did a couple of 360 spins in Seattle after sliding off a hill. Fortunately it was 2 in the morning and there was no one else around and the intersection was large enough for me to pirouette without anything getting in the way.

I’m rambling now. Going to shut up. Travelogue will pick up again this weekend. In the meantime, I have three rehearsals and a performance of the Messiah with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra to get through. And the usual work stuff.

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