Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye Weird, Wacky 2010

Weatherwise, and largely otherwise, the year 2010 is going out in a familiar pattern. Meaning no pattern at all. A couple of weeks ago we had snow and 7 degrees. Today it's been up almost to 70. Before the ball drops (or, in Nashville, the guitar) at midnight, storms will arrive, and the thermometer will begin its descent after daylight, ending up below freezing.

The TV folks spent most of their time this evening looking back at the wild and woolly year. Floods and tornadoes and earthquakes vied for attention with terrorists, spies who were never out in the cold but came in anyway, and, oh yes, Obamacare. Nashville had its share of water problems with a 1000-year flood in May. The other most-talked-about event was the election that considerably altered the landscape. For us in Tennessee, it brought a Republican governor, a Republican majority in the U.S. Congress (we already had two Republican senators), and a State Legislature with the largest Republican membership in history.

Personally, I'm not sure I can compete with any of the weirdness that marked the Year 2010. One of the more interesting experiences was attending the 60th anniversary reunion of my old Air National Guard unit that provided me the opportunity for a year's adventure in Korea during the war that hasn't officially ended yet. My fifth Greg McKenzie mystery, A Sporting Murder, came out from Night Shadows Press in September. I had a nice launch party, complete with cake, at Mysteries & More Bookstore in Nashville.

The weather curse caught me the following month, however, when I was invited to talk about my new book to the Nashville City Club Book Club. The threat of nasty weather kept the members at home while I had a nice dinner with the club president and his son.

I suppose the most significant event for me this year was turning 85 in November. I don't bemoan old age the way a lot of my contemporaries do, plus many of those not as long in the tooth as me. I think it's pretty cool to still be sailing along singing a song. Actually, I don't do much singing anymore. My one problem is a cough that has left my voice sounding like somebody with terminal laryngitis.

My most shocking accomplishment, maybe weird would work here, came earlier this week. In A Sporting Murder, one of the characters talks about gambling a few times with the murder victim at Harrah's casino on the Ohio River at Metropolis, IL. Greg McKenzie thinks:

"Jill and I made that trek up I-24 to the Illinois side of the river occasionally. We looked on it as a recreational thing and set a fairly modest limit for what we’d spend. Sometimes we came back winners. Most of the time we didn’t."

That was wife Sarah and my personal experience. This time we took our usual $400, realizing we might come back empty handed, but hoping otherwise. We had two free nights in the hotel and coupons for free meals. After day one, Sarah was about ready to pack it in, but I assured her I would win it all back (did I mention I'm an incurable optimist?).

The last day she suggested we play a small cluster of new Blazing 7's slots near the entrance. They were quarter progressive machines, meaning the jackpots constantly increased, though only a penny at a time, staring with a few hundred dollars. After playing a bit on my $20 bill, winning a few small rounds, watching Flaming 777's popping up above and below the payoff line, suddenly I looked and there were three of them lined up in the middle. The machine lit up with JACKPOT.

The guy who came to pay me off and reset the machine said it hadn't increased much since the last jackpot. We went and played some other slots, feeling much better though not winning a lot. Later, as we made our way back to the entrance, Sarah said, "Let's play these Blazing 7's again." Having never hit a jackpot before, I was sure my luck had been depleted. But I sat beside her at the same machine.

Before I had hardly spun the reels 10 times, up came three Blazing 777's and the JACKPOT sign flashed again. It was still paltry compared to what you'd get on a dollar machine, but to a guy whose luck had always been lousy at best, it was quite a thrill.

So I'm looking forward to 2011 with a new lease on luck. Meanwhile, I'll keep writing mysteries and plugging along as usual, weird or no.


jrlindermuth said...

Best regards for a wonderful, healthy and prosperous new year, Chester.

Chester Campbell said...

Thanks, John. The same for you, with lots of book sales.