Southern Roots

beach
Florida, 1961. Father on left, me in middle, friend on right.*

MY FATHER was born in North Georgia on the edge of Atlanta during the First World War.

I was born in Atlanta during the Second World War. My father’s parents were born around 1890, which means I am just two family generations south of the Victorian Age.

My father’s parents’ parents were born shortly after the end of the Civil War. I’m not sure where, probably North Georgia. If they were not born there, they moved there.

My father was an arrowhead collector, a newspaperman, an excellent writer and poet, a boozer who shunned coffee and tobacco, and he wasn’t much of a father either.

For a while, he was a chicken farmer. He was drafted into the U.S. Army late in the Second World War and sent to Korea on a troop ship. He didn’t like that one little bit.

Yes, he was in Korea during the Second World War, not the Korean War, which came later. He never fired a shot at anyone, and nobody ever shot at him. He was a typist.

pop
1987

The war ended, and Uncle Sam shipped him back to Georgia. He never traveled anywhere again if he had anything to say about it.

He was not an adventurer.

As I said, he wasn’t much of a father. He had no interest, and it showed. About the only things that interested him were my mother, booze, writing and arrowheads.

He died in Atlanta of a heart attack in 1991. Coincidentally, he was lying in a hospital bed due to some unrelated issue, and was on the verge of being discharged.

He died just moments after brusquely hanging up the phone. He was talking to me. I had called.

He had not called me, of course. He never wrote me a letter in his entire life. He never wrote my sister either.

Those were pre-email days.

Minutes later, my sister phoned to say he was dead.  Age 75, three years older than I am now.

It was Mother’s Day.

I didn’t much like him, but I am just like him. I look like him. I think like him. I sound like him. I think I was a better father, but my daughter might tell you otherwise.

I did make an effort. He never made an effort.

He and I both stopped drinking in our early 50s, but for both of us the damage had already been done, irreparably.

My father was a lifelong leftist. He had witnessed Pinkertons shooting at strikers during the 1930s. For most of my life, I was a leftist too, as was all our family.

Unlike him and the others, I wised up late in life.

Will our many similarities include dying at 75? I hope not because I’m having way too much fun.

* * * *

(Note:  The inimitable Jennifer Rose recently noted the 20th anniversary of her mother’s death. This got me to thinking about my father, which led to the above. I wrote about my mother after she died at 90 in 2009.)

* The lad on the right in the photo is John Zimmerman. We were good friends. He went on to become a pilot in the Vietnam War and later a captain for a major airline. He sent me this photo a few years ago when we reconnected on Facebook.

The email safari

safari

WHAT’S MORE important than your email address?

Some people have stuck with the same email address since Al Gore invented the internet. I am not one of those people. There is quite a bit of difference between email services.

My first email service, in the late 1990s, was Hotmail. After moving to Mexico in 2000, I switched Excite, which still exists, but God knows who uses it. Then I migrated to Yahoo, where I still have an account.

(My first year in Mexico, I emailed from an internet café a few blocks from where I lived alone above a garage in the state capital. My email was almost entirely with my old mama, my daughter, a sweetie in Mexico City, and financial institutions. Yes, I checked financial balances on an unprotected public computer. You’d be nuts to do that today.)

Much later, before Gmail debuted, I put myself on the wait list and was one of the first with a Gmail address. I liked it and stuck with it for years. I still have Gmail on almost all registrations across cyberspace.

But it is far from perfect. First off, it’s grown to a Gorilla’s girth. If something goes haywire with your Gmail, try and find a person with whom you can communicate directly. Buena suerte with that, amigo.

When I bought my latest desktop, a Hewlitt-Packard All-in-One, about two years ago (Buck Rogers Zapata), I opened an email account with Outlook.com, what used to be called Hotmail.

At first, I liked it. I had my Gmail and Yahoo mail automatically routed to my Outlook.com inbox. Outlook.com and the older Outlook are different, you may know. But Outlook.com is not perfect. It has bugs and often freezes up. Phooey with that.

Yahoo seems too vulnerable to hackers, plus its revamp a couple of years ago left it worse, not better, in some ways. The only reason I hold onto the account is to read Yahoo forums focusing on my area of Mexico.

* * * *

LOADED AND LOCKED

So, last week, I went on safari, a hunting expedition. Here is what I bagged, most of which I skinned and left lying on the plains for buzzards to enjoy. But, at last, I found my prize, something to hang on the wall.

Let’s look first at the carrion:

  1. AOL. It has what many say is a good email service. I opened an account. It worked for a few hours till this happened: Every time I opened  email, a pop-up box told me I had to sign in again. On clicking OK, which was the only option, it immediately started signing me off so I could sign in again. When I tried to contact someone at AOL, I found that was possible only with a paid account. Adiós.
  2. GMX. According to reviews, this is a good one. I opened an account. Within an hour, the account had been locked down due to “suspicious activity.” I opened “a ticket,” hoping for a simple solution. Three days later, I received an email from them, announcing that the problem had been resolved. But it had not. Adiós.
  3. Lycos. Again, good reviews. I opened an account, and it started well. Two days later, I could get my email, but its Account Page would recognize neither my Lycos email address nor my password. I emailed Lycos. A day later, they told me to clear my cache and try again. My cache is cleared automatically daily, but I cleared it again, and problem was solved, but I doubt it was the cache. I was left with an uneasy feeling. Plus, I could not get the Calendar to work right. More on that later. Lycos ain’t bad, but it ain’t a keeper either.
  4. Yandex. More great reviews. I opened an account and immediately noticed two problems. One, no calendar. Two, Yandex is in Russia! Do you want Vladimir Putin handling your email? Me either. Adiós.
  5. Zoho. Now this one is pretty sweet. Zoho is primarily for businesses, but there’s a personal-email arm too. I liked it, but I couldn’t get the Calendar to send reminders correctly, a serious flaw. And I didn’t much like the look of the main page. Kinda boring.

Let’s consider calendars. Online calendars are a Godsend. They keep life running smoothly. I read recently on a Yahoo forum about a woman who came to visit Mexico and, while here, noticed that her U.S. passport had expired. Oops! You kinda need a passport to go home these days .

If only she had noted that on an online calendar, she would not have been blindsided. Everything important is on my calendar — and lots of trivial stuff too. I currently use Google’s and Outlook’s.  Calendars email reminders, so I never forget anything, especially passports.

calendarAnd I consider two calendars essential in case one goes haywire.

I want to dump Outlook completely, so my new email provider must have a good calendar. And this brings us to the end of my hunt.

But first, let’s remember the old saying that you get what you pay for. All of the above email options are free. Some have paid arms that give you more, but all are available for nothing.

“You get what you pay for” is usually true. I had discovered the above outfits by doing an online search for freebies. Disappointed with my catch, I turned to paid services, expanding my safari.

That’s when I blasted the beast I’ve hung on my wall.

* * * *

IN THE CROSSHAIRS

After what seemed like weeks walking in the searing sun, shooting at hyenas and other critters, my dream prey suddenly charged out of the high grass, straight at me, so I raised the .300 Winchester Magnum and squeezed (not pulled) the trigger. It fell at my feet with a smile.

It was well-organized. Everything made sense. It was easy to use. It was good-looking. The calendar was simple enough. My email from Yahoo, Outlook and Gmail could be sucked into it easily, and responses could be sent out with the original addresses to fool folks.

It was not free, but the prices were excellent. The cheapest program, “Lite,” was just $10 a year. The next is $20, then $40 and lastly $120 a year. Each level includes more stuff, of course, mostly storage, domains and mobile sync, whatever that all means.

I’m buying the $40 package because it includes “priority tech support.” The first month is a free trial with the $40 plan. I’ve already sent two questions to HQ, and got responses immediately.

Try that with Gmail or any free plan.

This service does what Outlook did to attract me away from Gmail in the first place, but it does it far better. So what is this thing I discovered, you likely are wondering. What did I lug home from safari aside from a sunburn? Drum roll, please: Not Cecil the Lion but Fastmail.

It’s stuffed and mounted on my screen.

It is fast, faster than gmail, Yahoo and Outlook where I also have accounts. It is spectacularly well-designed on a number of fronts. You can access your calendar, contacts and inbox, switching from one to the other, in an instant. It beats the competition hands down.