Thursday, May 9, 2024

Nanny Risby's House

Here we see me and Jeff, probably about 1973, in the kind of matching outfits that Mom often put us in back then, standing in Nanny Risby's front yard:

Nanny Risby was what we called her. It never occurred to us then that that was particularly funny, although I see now that it is. "Nanny Risby" – what a peculiar thing to call someone! Well, she was my great-grandmother and her name was Risby Taylor. It's fairly common, or at least it was back then, for part of a person's first name to be incorporated in their Grandparent Title: Grandpa Jack, Grandma Sue, etc. I don't know why we called her Nanny; it was easier to pronounce than Granny, I guess, and apparently one generation removed. I'm not sure who the first person to call her Nanny Risby was; possibly my cousin Sharon. Being the oldest, she tended to name people. Or maybe "Nanny Risby" was what Nanny Risby wanted to be called.

She was always old, as far as I can tell. I often forget this, but she outlived my grandfather, her son-in-law, by a full year. He died of a heart attack in 1978, and she lived until sometime in 1979, maybe even 1980.

Her house was just up the street from my grandmother's. They didn't live very far apart, both in the same neighborhood, Winchester Heights, in Tucker. I go to Tucker every week these days when I take Gabriel to therapy, and sometimes I drive by that old neighborhood; that area has changed a lot over the years, but, regardless of what it looks like now, or who lives there, it has been an important part of my life for more than half a century now.

Sharon once told me that Nanny Risby was a "mean old lady," and maybe she was, but she liked me and was always nice to me. Most of the time that I knew her she had what today we would call Alzheimer's disease or dementia and what then we just called senility. Mostly I remember this as a strange idea she had about her TV not being able to pick up a certain channel (there were only a few back then) that it definitely could. I'm sure her condition manifested itself in other ways, but that's the one that has stuck with me.

Nanny Risby had a boarder named Blanche, also an old lady, whom I always thought was some distant relative of ours. However, Mom told me a couple of years ago when the subject came up that Blanche was just some lady who rented a room in Nanny Risby's house and not a relative at all.

This is Nanny Risby, also standing in her front yard, a little down from where Jeff and I are standing in the picture above, but you can probably tell it's the same house:

This picture may have been made the same day the picture of Jeff and me was made; you can't tell from the pictures, and I don't remember.

That house is still there, of course, though it looks very different now, and Nanny Risby hasn't been there – or been alive anywhere – for about 45 years. I would really love to go inside it and see what it's like today, but even more than that I'd like to be able to revisit the house it was in the 1970s.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024


Tonight was Elyse's last Middle-School Band Concert:

(She does plan to continue band in high school, next year at Archer)

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary

Today Gabriel and I went to the Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary to walk around and look at the animals. Here are some of the pictures I took while we were there:

(I didn't intend for any of these pictures to serve as a political commentary about animals in captivity, but I see now that they could be interpreted that way. That's purely accidental, however.)

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Pictures from Molly's Visit

 Molly visited for a few days this week. She stayed with my parents; one day, some of us went for a picnic at Vines Park; another day, she and Anna met their cousin, Katie, at Stone Mountain Park. Here are a few pictures she took while she was here:

Friday, March 29, 2024

Clifford D. Simak and Grandpa Jones and Their Dogs

I wrote a few months ago about how much I like listening to Grandpa Jones sing about dogs, though I don't actually like dogs that much, or want a dog as a pet. I've been listening to Grandpa Jones fairly regularly for several months now, and thinking about why I like him so much, and I realized that one of the many reasons I love Grandpa Jones is that listening to him makes me think of one of my favorite science fiction writers, Clifford D. Simak.

The connection between Simak and Grandpa Jones? Well, several things -- a love of the land and nature, simple country characters, bucolic beauty, backwoods simplicity.

But mostly it's the dogs.

Dogs are one of Simak's characteristic story elements, along with aliens, which every SF writer of his generation wrote a lot about. And ghosts, which most SF writers of Simak's generation did not write about. But there are ghosts in a lot of Simak's stories. And robots. Lots of robots.

One of my first experiences reading Simak's work was more than 40 years ago, when he was still alive and writing. (He died in 1988, but published a novel that same year.) I checked out his then-current novel Special Deliverance from the Lilburn public library, along with Piers Anthony's then-most-recent book (Juxtaposition, I think, or else the book that came before it, Blue Adept) and I've been a fan ever since. (Special Deliverance is considered one of his minor novels, but I love it, probably because it was the first thing I read by him. It's got a great cover – there's a robot on it. However, the book doesn't have any dogs in it.)

I recently re-read one of Simak's most famous stories, the 1958 novella "The Big Front Yard," and in that story the main character, Hiram Taine, has a dog named Towser. There's a Grandpa Jones song called "Old Towzer." Sure, Grandpa Jones (or whoever actually wrote the song; I'm not sure if it was him or not) spells it differently – and Simak always spells it the same; lots of his stories have a character kind of like Hiram Taine, and they always have a much-loved dog, who is, it seems, always name Towser – but Grandpa Jones and Clifford D. Simak show a similar affection for their old dogs. Even those that aren't named Towser.

If only Grandpa Jones had some songs about robots!

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Depot District

This afternoon I stopped at Lawrenceville's Depot District and took some pictures:

The side of that thing in in the third picture above, that Little Library-looking thing, which is more like a soup kitchen, says Give What You Can, Take What You Need. It's a great idea, but I suspect that in that location it doesn't really reach the people who need it the most.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Elyse at the Sneaker Ball

Tonight, Elyse went to her school's "Sneaker Ball" (or as I call it, the shoe dance) at Archer High School, the high school she will be attending when she finishes up with middle school. Here's a picture Anna texted to me after she dropped her off:

Saturday, March 2, 2024

The Kids at Michaels

Today the kids and I went to lunch at Stevi B's, where Elyse met a friend of hers, and then we went next door to Michaels (a store whose name sounds possessive, but doesn't seem to have an apostrophe in it; in other news, yes, I know that nobody but me cares if I get these details right or not), where Gabriel took this picture:

After we left Michaels, we went to KPop Nation Duluth, where Elyse looked around for a while and bought some stuff:

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Traveling Misanthrope

I do a lot of driving. It always brings out the misanthrope in me.

I go on a lot of recreational drives, like into the mountains of north Georgia or up U.S. 441 toward the Great Smokey Mountains National Park (one of my favorite drives in the world) or on various backroads that seem like they might be interesting. The roads on these drives tend to be twisty and turny and I don't always know them that well, plus I'm trying to enjoy the scenery, and I'm on the lookout for any thing or place worth stopping at to visit or to take a picture of.

So I don't drive especially fast.

Oh, most of the time I'm driving the speed limit, sometimes a tiny bit faster – I may go 50 in a 45 MPH zone, but that's usually as fast as I'm willing to go. But that never seems fast enough for most of the cars that end up behind me. When I'm out there driving, trying to enjoy the scenery while also keeping my eyes both on the road and on the car's mirrors, it seems like all the other cars want me to drive faster than I am, and they sure as heck don't like it when I slow down to look at something that I might find interesting enough to take a picture of. I get passed or tailgated by just about everybody. The only scenery the other drivers care about, it seems, is the trees and mountains whizzing by in a blur as they speed off towards…wherever it is exactly those other drivers are going.

And it makes me hate them, every one of them. Stupid tailgating cars! I drive like I have a sense of self preservation. The other drivers seem to think they're immortal. They drive as though when they're around, all laws, including those of driving, the road, and physics, are suspended. My driving is informed by the knowledge, like Mr. Flood's gentle handling of the whisky jug in that Edwin Arlington Robinson poem, that "most things break." And that includes people who drive like idiots, or who drive too fast on twisty, turny roads they aren't familiar with.

It's pretty much the same on the roads I travel regularly, the roads I am familiar with. Even when I'm just heading to work, I still drive like someone who knows you should exercise caution when piloting a ton of metal down the road -- which is to say, I don't drive fast enough for everyone else.

I don't really know what the people in the cars behind me are thinking. Probably I spend a lot more time thinking about them than they spend thinking about me. There's probably nothing personal when they zip by me at 100 miles an hour. I doubt they really think, "Oh no! It's that Chris Burdett guy who always drives so slow," when they see the hind end of my Hyundai Elantra on the road ahead of them.

I doubt they enjoy passing me.

Do they?

Friday, February 9, 2024

Vines Park

Today I went for a walk at Vines Park. Here's a picture of the Whimsical Garden:

Shortly after I took the picture above, half a dozen Canada geese flew noisily in and landed on the lake: