Thursday, December 31, 2015

Out with the Old, In with the New

I'm feeling like the most fortunate old man I know tonight as Margie I and chase out the old year and smile in the new one.

She has been a god-send, a woman of unlimited humor and cheer, intelligence, goodness, creativity and a heart the size of the Pyramids in 5-feet-2-inches. We have a lot to look forward to.

A Short Visit from a Budding Shooter

My young teen-aged friend, Emily, shoots a wild flamingo in my back yard.

My young friend Emily came over for a visit yesterday with her grand-aunt--and my friend--Leah Weiss and we went on a photo expedition to Roanoke City Market. That was after Emily went into my back yard and took advantage of some advice from a more seasoned photog: shoot what's around you.

Em zeroes in on a blooming forsythia.
Emily got a new camera for Christmas--something kids don't get much these days, I'm afraid--and she became attached and intensely interested immediately. Em, who is 15, has quite the artistic temperament and I could see that she already has an "eye."

Em and Leah in Alejandro's.
We went downtown in Roanoke to take advantage of the architecture and she said, almost immediately, "I want to live here." Em lives in South Carolina and is visiting Leah in Lynchburg.

Em asked this street musician if she could shoot him. He was delighted.
I shot this guy on the roof of Center in the Square.

We had a dandy time shooting (especially on the roof of Center in the Square) and eating at Alejandro's, the best Mexican restaurant in captivity. We didn't see any guns in there.
Here's the view from inside Alejandrops: black and white in color.

If You See a Gun, Report It to Me

As 2015 gives us its final breath, the issue of guns in the public square continues to plague our society and our valley.

Yesterday, a Facebook friend alerted me that she had seen a waiter carrying a gun at the Bent Mountain Bistro recently and her family had left the restaurant. After a number of tries from several people (including me), to reach the owners, they were finally reached and they vehemently denied any such thing, saying they "would not be comfortable with the idea nor would it be good for their customers."

An hour or so later, another FB friend weighed in, saying her family had seem the same gun totin' waiter at the same restaurant.

The posts generated a heated--but generally civil--debate for most of the day and we all went to bed with it on our minds. The arguments were familiar: self defense vs. public endangerment.

I went to bed having asked my FB friends to report to me gun sightings at any business in this region and it would appear on my page, or in my blog. I also said I would appreciate any photos they had in order to prove their assertion. You may take photos of people in public places without fear of breaking the law.

We don't want wild accusations because they could be harmful to business, but the simple act of telling the truth about open carrying of weapons in public places is enough to give business owners pause and to forbid guns on their premises. 


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Really Classy Comeback from a Gun Nut

Here is a Facebook post I got, responding to me writing about the dude with the gun in McDonald's Sunday. Several people have said I was being unfair to people who wear guns in public and that I was "calling them names." I'll let you judge for yourself. This is from the widely quoted Three Percenter who was in the Christmas parade. I have done no editing.
Daniel Terri Highberger has suggested that he and I have a debate. Read the following and see if he qualifies as a debate opponent who would follow the rules with elegance and grace. The debate, he says, would be "on gun control and refugee vs immigrants in America."
 Did that "pimply face kid" hurt, shoot, or draw his gun on anyone?


Shut the fuck up you pussy as piece of shit. 

If he did pull his firearm and proceeded to pistol whip the teeth out your fucking head before chambering a round to end your miserable existence what would of done about it?

Not shit because your too big a pussy ass twat waffle to learn to defend yourself and family.

Guns dont kill people.

Rocks dont smash peoples brains out.

Clubs dont break your bones.

Knives dont just up and stab people. But if they did i hear by solemnly swear not to protect you or yours from inanimate objects growing a life inside them and doing harm. Ill let you cry in the corner pissing your pants fumbling for your phone trying to remember the number for 911 to call a guy with a gun to save your life.

You are the biggest dumbass in the valley who got FIRED from the times because you cant report on shit. Facts. Balanced. Fair. Not your personal boohooing agenda because your scared of metal, brass, lead, and gunpowder.

Your just a scared lil bitch and lack the fortitude to stand up for yourself or your family. Im guessing bruce jenner is still your hero?!

Lol i could go on for days. I could debunk every fear you have about guns today.

If you are willing to participate i will gladly lock you in a box with as many loaded firearms that we can fit and see which one just shoots you out of nowhere all on its own.
Someone break this guys fingers to keep him from spreading is dumb shit on the web.

I accepted this man's Facebook friend request following the Christmas parade, so he could tell his side of the story to people who follow my blog and my Facebook posts. The above post has led me to unfriend him. My grandgirl, who is 10, reads my FB and blog and I don't want this man's raving to make its way to her ears.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Businesses Should Post 'No Guns' Signs

This is the type of sign businesses need to post to keep out the gun nuts.
I have had quite a few personal and private messages from people I know about the gun incident in McDonald's yesterday (see previous post) and one of them stood out. Here it is:

"A friend and I went to Athens Corner Grill, the new Greek place on Jefferson Street the other night. A table with two redneck couples was just across from us. The guys were both packing. Wearing T-shirts touting something about constitutional rights. We didn't quite know what to think. Very uncomfortable."

I'm afraid this is something of a trend among  a powerless lower class (and IQ) group of people who want to exercise some influence, even if it is negative, and put a spotlight on themselves. They are like petulant children and they tell us they are "just exercising my constitutional rights." 

I'm not sure the Supreme Court--even a Republican Supreme Court--meant for this to happen when it opened the Pandora's box of "gun rights" by essentially giving these poor, dumb bastards carte blanche to do anything they want with guns, anywhere and at any time they choose.

It is becoming evident that we are going to have to rely on individual business owners to bar these people from their premises. They can, but they shouldn't have to. These damn arrogant idiots should have enough self esteem to exercise a little judgement--even if "a little" is all they have.

We are a truly sick society, getting sicker by the moment.

Guns at Mickey D's: Are We Really That Nutty?

I was standing in a short line at Mickey D's in Vinton Sunday afternoon, waiting to buy a small frozen yogurt for my bud Janeson and me. There were two cash registers open, but one line filtering to the two clerks.

 I was directly behind this round-shouldered, pimply-faced, droopy-jeans kid and didn't notice that he was wearing a 9mm pistol on his belt until he stepped forward to order. I didn't know quite what to do.

I mean, obviously, this genius must have known something I didn't about just how safe the Vinton McDonald's is, else he would not have felt the need to come armed. I got our ice creams--nervously--and went to find a seat.

We had been in our booth for, like a minute, when this brave 'Merican pulled up in the next booth over with his posse. I looked at him, looked at Janeson and said, "Let's move." He heard me and glared at me.

I regretted my hasty retreat, but I wasn't about to stay there because I would almost certainly have said something about only cowards carrying guns into McDonalds' and would probably have been shot between the eyes--assuming the dude knew how to work the gun, which so many who wear them don't.

I survived, though, and am here to tell the tale.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Yeti Stalking Western Virginia?

That's Big Foot's big boot print. I wear size 10.
My buddy Janeson Keeley and I hiked today and found a disturbing natural sign that should terrify us more than ISIS and the gun-totin' 'Merican mob combined. It appeared to be the huge, boot-clad footprint of Sasquatch, the Yeti, Bigfoot or whatever else you might want to call this really big, furry dude that nobody can seem to get a good photo of.

Bigfoot's big foot.
Well, boys and girls, here's a photo (actually two photos) of the big boy's footprint in the fresh mud. I felt the track and it was warm, so he couldn't have been more than a couple of minutes ahead of us.

We discussed whether to pursue him, but I mentioned that I didn't have my good camera gear with me and Janeson agreed that a photo with her cell phone wouldn't pass muster ... mayonnaise ... among the skeptics. So we leave you with just a footprint and the promise of ... well ... nothing.

Sasquatch is out there though. I've seen the evidence.

Stability Was Beamer's Primary Trait

Frank Beamer celebrates victory.
I believe that the most important factor in Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer's longevity was ... well ... his longevity. 

Beamer ended one of the most successful coaching careers in the history of college football last night with a 55-52 victory over mid-level Tulsa, a program very much like Tech's was when Beamer took over and similar to what it has become: respected, but hardly feared.

I don't believe Beamer was ever an extraordinary college football coach because of his superior knowledge of Xs and Os or because he recruited at the highest levels, but he was a good one who kept his important people in place for a significant period of time. 

His coaches taught fair players to be good and good players to be much better. Most of them learned a lot more than football. Occasionally, Tech produced great players; almost always, it had good coaches, in the same way Kansas State has had good coaches (Bill Snider and staffs) in recent years. 

Stability means a lot in college football, but it can also become stale-bility and I think that happened to Tech. The loss of key assistants here and there (see: Bobby Bowden at Florida State; Phil Fulmer at Tennessee) can wreck havoc on a solid program. Those losses make recruiting more difficult and a consistent coaching philosophy harder to maintain. 

In recent years, Beamer has suffered all that and his records have been more average than exceptional. It happens to all of us as we age, I'm afraid. Beamer had a good run, a great run, by any measure. But the greatness--as recorded by wins and losses--ended several years ago. 

New coach Justin Fuente has a nice resume (a much better one than Beamer had when he got the job), but hardly one that screams "The New Saban." He will have considerable difficulty replicating what Beamer was given time to do. He will not have those six years up front to fail, learn and succeed. He might get as many as three.

But that's part of what Beamer faced at the end: impatience in a game that has outgrown its britches.

Friday, December 25, 2015

It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like ... Spring

2015's poinsettia: forsythia.
I accompanied my buddy Janeson Keeley--who is recovering from major surgery--on a little walk today and we discovered pretty strong indications that December is early spring this year.

First, it was the 66-degree temperature. Then, the forsythia barged in. And, finally, the Roanoke River was pretty near flood stage with all this spring rain. Hardly looked like Christmas at all. Janeson suggested that the forsythia was this year's poinsettia.

Here's some of what the hour-long walk looked like.
Roanoke River jumps the low-water bridge on Wiley Drive.
Janeson photos the river from the bridge at the Ice House.
That's me taking a selfie while Janeson does the serious work of recording the flood-ette.

Humans of New York: It's What I Do

Margie gave me a wonderful book for Christmas: Brandon Stanton's Humans of New York: Stories (St. Martin's Press). It is not a book I would have bought for myself for a number of reasons.

I don't read a lot of non-fiction books (I get enough of it from the popular and not-so-popular press); it is a series of stories (I write them, but don't read them much) and it was expensive (about $30).

From the minute I opened Humans, though, I found myself turning the pages and saying over and over, "Oh, Jesus, I wish I had written this." And I have been writing something like it for years.

Those magazine stories I so often do, the ones where I interview a ton of people, photograph them and write brief, telling vignettes is very similar, except that mine are focused on a specific topic (rape, internet dating, owning a pet, taking care of aging parents, being a dude, and the like).

Author Brandon Stanton
In Stanton's collection, he roamed the streets of New York, armed only with his immense and intense curiosity, a good personality and a high-end Canon SLR camera.

This is a compilation from Stanton's blog (which he continues to write daily), posted over a period of five years, a period during which he interviewed about 10,000 people. He simply walked around, looked for interesting people, engaged them and recorded what he found. That's what a journalist does.

Stanton boiled down the interviews, sometimes to a single line, sometimes to a lengthy explanation, sometimes to a poem. All the time to something interesting.

This is a dandy book and, as I said, I wish I had written it. I don't say that about much that I read, but this is what I do and it's a hell of a lot of fun to write, to photograph and to absorb.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Bargain Day at Aldi's

This grocery haul cost $31.26 today at Aldi's in Roanoke. The ultra low price is the result of the Christmas holiday tomorrow and an expected slow Saturday, one of the cashiers told me. Much of the store's fresh fruit and veggies were absurdly priced.

For example, the Dole broccoli above cost 99 cents. The three-pound bags of naval oranges and gala apples were 99 cents each. Tuna was five cans for $3.26 (a little more than 60 cents each). A whole pineapple was $1.19. A pound of baby carrots cost 49 cents. Cukes were half a buck each. Chicken broth was 69 cents and organic chicken broth was $1.69. Banannas were 22 cents a pound. Mushrooms were 69 cents a package.

The prices were straight out of the 1980s and gas is sitting there, too. $1.69 a gallon at Kroger. We didn't get a Social Security increase this year because the cost of living didn't increase. It might actually be decreasing. Lovely if you're old. Like me.

I could eat like a king if food prices were at this level all year. Too bad I'm not eating white food or grain these days. I could really have cleaned up.

Gratitude on Christmas Eve

Today, I am grateful for Christmas.

This is always a good time for reflection for Christians and non-Christians, the religious and the atheist, the Democrat and the Republican, the Arab and the Jew, ISIS and the pacifist--everybody.

Christmas, at its core, is a religious holiday celebrating the birthday of the Prince of Peace. A lot of people forget that, especially those who want to appropriate it for their own cause. I am not a Christian, but I find a great deal of solace in a day reserved for celebrating peace, love and the best that humanity has to offer.

Fox News annually talks about the War on Christmas by people who prefer to say "Happy Holidays" during this season. Recently in Roanoke, two groups, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the III%ers, a pro-gun group, used the Christmas parade to advance their agenda of making the Confederate battle flag--a symbol of racism and slavery--and gun "rights" acceptable.

All of that is off base and contrary to the meaning of the season.

However you choose to celebrate this season of reflection and big-heartedness is acceptable and we should embrace the diversity, learn from others and understand that the world is comprised of good people who simply want to live in peace, worship in their own way (or not at all) and love their families. That's Christmas to me.

It is simply about loving each other as well as we possibly can.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Happy First Day of Winter

Winter, 2015, had some dandy snows and helped keep me in shoveling shape.
It's difficult to walk outside and understand the full impact of the meaning of today: the winter solstice, Winter I.

The next few days, with temperatures hovering around 70, might be even more difficult for those of us who expect winter to be cold. But take comfort in the simple fact that it is coming. Creeping along, but coming.

'Mad Men' Is Done; What Have I Gained?

Don Draper and the Mad Men gang.
Last night, I watched the 83rd episode (and final available via Netflix) of "Mad Men" and I'm more than slightly embarrassed that I stuck it out.

It is a dazzlingly produced series with a fine understanding of culture, music, personal appearance and stunningly inappropriate gender and racial attitudes of the period (1950s and 1960s). It is acted by professionals and directed and written by people who seem to fully understand Madison Avenue's sick culture of the time.

It is, frankly, addictive.

But why is it addictive? I tend to like happy endings, characters with a good bit to recommend them or, in lieu of that, redemption. "Mad Men" has little to none of any of that. Its characters range from bad to worse to unacceptable, beginning with its lead adman, Don Draper, a guy who winds up in bed with a different woman--rarely his wives--with stunning frequency. He is not alone in his lapses of good sense. Nearly all the men in the series are hitting on one woman or another constantly.

Deadwood: Have a drink.
The women who make it in the agency "make it" in the agency. Their sexual mores are, at best, lax. If they can't earn it, they lie down for it. And they get "it," but "it" comes with even more disdain, more sexual discrimination, more dismissive language.

I still watched and looked forward to "Mad Men." Margie and I made it an early evening ritual. She gets up at 3:30 a.m. to go to work, so she can't last much past 8 p.m., but she was as confirmed a "Mad Men" addict as I was.

"Mad Men" is not the first negative-character TV series I've binge-watched. There was "Justified," where the cops were as bad as the robbers, and "Deadwood" (maybe the best TV series of any kind ever), where bad guys didn't just kill people, they shot them and fed them to the hogs. Almost all the women in the show were prostitutes and the one significant non-prostitute gave the pros a run for their money.

Drinking and smoking? Oh, my god, yes. I used to drink and smoke heavily, but on my worst day ever, I could never touch these people and they're lighting up and gulping down during the work day. I recall my amazement at how much people drank in "Deadwood." Pikers. And they lived and worked in a saloon.

There is no redemption what-so-ever in any of these cynical looks at America past and present. But they are enormously entertaining and I would recommend any of them to fairly sophisticated adults.

Now, as to my relatively recent addiction to binge watching TV series, I am really mortified. I used to read seven books a month. Now I'm reading about three a year. The writing in the series I've chosen has been so good that books don't improve upon it and the stories are captivating. Maybe that argument is best left for another time.

Meanwhile, I'm considering my next binge. Hmmm. How about "Downton Abbey"? I understand it has a lot of losers in it.

Just Exactly Who Supports Trump and Why

Trump: Why is this man smiling?

"Half of Trump’s supporters within the GOP had stopped their education at or before high-school graduation, according to the polling firm YouGov. Only 19 percent had a college or post-college degree. Thirty-eight percent earned less than $50,000. Only 11 percent earned more than $100,000. ...

"Trump Republicans were not ideologically militant. Just 13 percent said they were very conservative; 19 percent described themselves as moderate. Nor were they highly religious by Republican standards. ...

"Only 21 percent acknowledged that the president was born in the United States, according to an August survey by the Democratic-oriented polling firm PPP. Sixty-six percent believed the president was a Muslim."

--David Frum in the Atlantic 


Mainstream GOP Getting Even

"This year, [mainstream Republicans] are counting for more. Their rebellion against the power of organized money has upended American politics in ways that may reverberate for a long time."

--David Frum in the February issue of the Atlantic

Monday, December 21, 2015

Janeson in Good Shape Following Surgery

My buddy Janeson Keeley, who had a grapefruit-sized lump removed from her mid-section about three days ago, was up for a walk yesterday, so we did a one-mile loop in Wasena Park.

She was in good spirits and, as I suspected, the mile didn't do her in. Janeson is strong and in good shape, so her rapid recovery isn't a surprise, even considering what she just gave up. The growth weighed a pound.

This photo is of her coming down her front steps--after having negotiated a long, steep stairway up to her second-floor apartment. More today.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Guess What's in the Rearview Mirror

Yep, that's exactly what it is, the one thing we don't want in our rearview mirror: a cop car with his lights flashing.

I was coming back from Tazewell around lunch, hurtling through space, running from the snow and saw the lights in the mirror. I thought they were for somebody else, but when the dude didn't go around me, I figured it out. He said I was going 69 mph in a 55 mph zone and I guess I was. Wanted to get home to take care of some other business.

I contacted the Mercer County, WV, magistrate's office, found out the fine was about $200 and wrote the check. Pretty much cancelled a good bit of the money I made running down to Tazewell. But it was a pretty drive and I liked the snow.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Margie the Elf: Entertaining the Old Folks

Margie gets to be Santa's elf tomorrow as Warm Hearth Village in Blacksburg--where she works--celebrates Christmas for its elderly residents.

She makes a dandy elf, complete with pointy ears, which are made of tape and which have a hard time staying on.

Cute, huh? Wish I could go (as Santa), but I gotta be in Tazewell for work. Dammit. I love to watch her perform. She's a natural.

Good News for a Couple of Our Best Writers

Roland Lazenby (left) and Neil Sagebiel
My friends Roland Lazenby and Neil Sagebiel have good news for the holiday season.

Roland's blockbuster book Michael Jordan, The Life (here) has gone into its fifth paperback printing in English. Add nine hardcover printings and a bunch of foreign editions (including Polish and Japanese) and you have quite a success.

His new biography on Kobe Bryant--as yet untitled, so far as I know--is due out next year.

Ro will give the opening address for the 9th Roanoke Regional Writers Conference Jan. 23 at Hollins University. He will talk about "The Future of the Book." You won't want to miss this one. You can register here.

Neil, who will teach a class at the upcoming writers conference. as we;;. has just released the e-book Ho! Ho! Ho! The Life and Legend of the Jolly Green Giant (here). The accompanying press material describes the book thusly:

"First appearing in 1928, the Jolly Green Giant went from a vegetable mascot to a company brand to a cultural icon. ... The Jolly Green Giant was the face of what would become the Green Giant Company, makers of canned vegetables ─ first peas, then corn and much more. This giant went on to tower over much of the 20th century as the invention of a legendary ad man, the subject of a hit song, the partner of a TV star, the promotional stunt of a radio station owner and the tourist attraction of a small Midwestern town.

"Ho! Ho! Ho! is the full amusing account of how the Jolly Green Giant came into being, and how, over time, he became nearly as appealing and wholesome as a helping of sweet niblet corn."

Neil is best known as a golf blogger with a huge national following and the writer of two notable golf histories:  The Longest Shot and Draw in the Dunes. The former was one of the Top 10 sports books of the year in 2012.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Calling Me Names Won't Help or Offend, but Be Real

Is this an effort to recruit black Confederate babies?
This is from a Daily Kos post that I found interesting. It is about Donald Trump and his views that many Americans seem to adopt in order to make their views legitimate--when they are not:

"It's not that a certain segment of Americans weren't already complete misogynists and bigots. They are. They have just been too ashamed to be public about it because the rest of us would pile on the minute they tried to air their offensive views. Trump and the bigots and misogynists who adore him sneeringly call this 'political correctness.' The rest of us call it 'not being a complete and utter dick.'

"Trump has managed to erase much of that by 'saying what people are really thinking.' It doesn't matter that it's not what most people are thinking. All that matters is that enough Americans hold these disgusting views and opinions that, once they are unleashed, it looks remarkably like this is what America is."

This all comes up as I'm fielding a lot of criticism (which I don't mind at all) from people who say they don't believe the Confederate battle flag is racist and that their actions in flying it are anything but racist. They call me a racist, a crybaby, prejudicial and uncharitable, immature, intolerant, idiotic, a 'fucking whiner,' an ignorant fool, 'right childish,' a damn hypocritical Yankee (I was born and reared in the South and have never lived outside it), elitist, disgusting, perverse and stupid.

They complain that my "observations ... parade as journalism." This is a blog; it is not a newspaper and you are told forthrightly and bluntly in the right-hand column that this is not to be confused with journalism.

I am told to "get my facts straight" (about a man being in the NAACP, which I stated) and about the history of the Confederacy and the flag, without hinting where I made a mistake. They tell me to get educated without saying where the hole in my education is. I have studied this topic far, far more than I have wanted to and feel pretty comfortable with it.

To their credit, most have signed their complaints. I respect that. Many have spelled and punctuated correctly and have written eloquent defenses of indefensible positions. I appreciate the effort to be respectful of our mutual language.

Still, I am confused by the term "politically correct," which the right seems to use any time one of us on the left makes a statement about anything with which they disagree. We are being "politically correct," which I suspect means we are playing to the crowd with no real argument. I would suggest the contrary and the reverse are true.

I am constantly impressed with the Confederate battle flag devotees' absolute fealty to their position, regardless of what history tells us. They totally ignore, for example, that one of the foremost Civil War experts in existence, James Robertson of Virginia Tech, said on a Public TV show he hosted that anybody who said in his class that the Civil War was not fought over slavery would get an immediate F in his class (this is confirmed by Jim Hammerstrom, who produced the award-winning show).

I would suggest that if the Confederate battle flag ever stood for anything but slavery--and it did in the beginning, when it simply identified an army--that it does now, especially since it has been used since 1948 by those who see nothing at all wrong with racism. Most Americans who have any thought at all about the flag believe it to be a symbol of racism. That being the case, I think it would do those supporting it as a symbol back up a bit and fold that flag. They can easily unfurl one of several others that haven't been tainted.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Gratitude: Being Involved

Today, I am grateful for being involved.

I have had a busy few weeks with various involvements that include political (Confederate flag protests and gun protests), professional (meeting a number of deadlines representing a ton of work), personal (Margie), family (some good, some challenging) and sometimes difficult (you don't want to know).

They are all in play, keeping me alert, interested and very busy. I love every minute of it, even the minutes I don't love.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Three Percenter Asked for Armed Support at Xmas Parade

Highberger from his Facebook page.
A man named Daniel Terri Highberger asked his fellow guns rights advocates to join him at the Roanoke Christmas parade Friday and to "carry your weapons. Put 'em on your hip."

Highberger was soliciting support for the alleged heritage group the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which marched in the parade and carried Confederate battle flags, amid significant protest.

Highberger posted a video on Facebook with the request for support (here).

He asked his fellow gun advocates to "support our Second Amendment rights" at the parade and he called the NAACP, which called for the SCV to march without their battle flags, "the biggest racist group I can think of."

He said the video was "a call to arms. Get off your keyboards; get off your asses" and support the SCV. He instructed those attending to shout "your rebel yells" when the battle flag passes.

This casts an entirely different light on the SCV's claim that it is simply an historical organization which counsels "history not hate."

There Was More to the Parade Than Flags and Guns

The Regional Water Authority's pirate ship entry.
Father-daughter in costume.
If you've been following this blog for the past couple of days, you probably have the idea that the Roanoke Christmas parade for 2015 was about nothing but the Confederate battle flag. That, of course, is not true, although the flag was the elephant in the room.

There was a lot of traditional Christmas parade music, marching and floating going on that was lost in the controversy. Some of it was good (like the always great float entry from the Regional Water Authority and Haley Toyota's downsizing of its 15-car entry in 2014 to a banner amid Dickens of a Christmas traditional dress) and some that was not so good (the young girls in snow costumes twerking).

Overall, though, if you remove the flags (and their advocates, many of whom wore no costume), it was a normal parade, one that can certainly be improved, but not overpoweringly offensive.

Here is some of what it looked like.

Parade sponsor Haley Toyota showed a lot of class with this simple banner amid Dickens marchers.
This was a group of random people sans costume (right) and twerkers (left)
These children were twerking, a lewd dance many thought inappropriate for their age or for a Christmas parade.

III%ers Militia Marches with SCV Parade Entry

About half of those marching with the Sons of Confederate Veterans were dressed like this.
Friday night, during Roanoke's Christmas parade, a young African-American reporter for WSLS TV 10 in Roanoke named Duke Carter interviewed a man named Tim Boone, who wore a T-shirt emblazoned "III 1776." That is a Three Percenters T-shirt. He had been marching with the Sons of Confederate Veterans group, which flew a number of Confederate battle flags and drew protests from several groups.

This is a white militia and a gun advocacy group.

The list of complaints against this year's Christmas parade in Roanoke is growing:
  • too long at nearly two hours and more than 100 entries (the wonderful predecessor--the Dickens of a Christmas parade was about 30 minutes, just right for children), 
  • too racist (say what you will about the Rebel flag, but many consider it a symbol of slavery), 
  • too commercial, 
  • features a Vape entry (Vape is a vapor cigarette--heavy nicotine delivery--and the marketing here is to teenagers), 
  • has young teens and pre-teens twerking (that's a semi-lewd dance, made famous by Miley Cyrus at her most outrageous) 
  • and now a threatening militia group. 
This parade, which ostensibly celebrates Christmas, has become a PR nightmare for the city and for DRI, whose board chairman is head of one of the most effective advertising/pr agencies west of Richmond. He's also a good guy who does not deserve this crap. (The list of the membership of the board of directors for DRI is here. If you object to what is happening to the parade, let them know.)

Three Percenters (III%ers) are radical advocates for gun "rights" and a loose militia.

Here is a statement from the III%ers' website: "The Three Percenters' ...  mission is give our members the capabilities and resources necessary to execute Military Strategies to defend against foreign and domestic enemies. 

TTPC forces provide the capability to combat any threat, force, or occupation who's purpose is to gain, sustain, and exploit comprehensive control over [the U.S. The capability compliments the other militias and resistance groups' capabilities. 

[It] is charged with providing Tactical, Logistical and other functions to enable other Militias and Resistance groups to accomplish their missions and to provide support during local and national emergencies by assisting civil authorities in maintaining emergency preparedness. ..."

They say further (here), "We are the people that the collectivists [liberals] who now control the government should leave alone if they wish to continue unfettered oxygen consumption. We are the Three Percent. Attempt to further oppress us at your peril."That is a pretty raw death threat, I'd say.

I suspect this development is not one Downtown Roanoke Inc. and the City of Roanoke, which sponsor the parade, had foreseen, but it most certainly is one some of us of expected because of the presence of the SCV, a group that celebrates war, guns and a divisive flag.

It is going to be interesting to see how this unfolds.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Respite on a Late Fall Day

My buddy Janeson Keeley and I took a break from our over-the-top schedules today to get back to the reality of a hike on a beautiful day. And it was, indeed, a beauty: 75 degrees, clear and bright on December 12.

Suggestion: Get the City Out of Parade Business

The "hate" is obvious; where's the "heritage"?
Bill Carder, a thoughtful former member of Roanoke City Council (and a Republican, if you can believe it) lives in "paradise" Central America, but keeps a close eye on his hometown from a distance. He was on Council when it created Eventzone and Dickens of a Christmas was formatted as a Downtown Roanoke Inc. event.

The current Christmas parade was moved into that purview, with oversight by the city, and thus public rules. That is what prevents DRI and the city at this point--according to their conservative lawyers--from barring the Confederate battle flag, an undeniable embarrassment for the city and DRI. And Roanoke in general.

Carder has watched with concern the devolution of this parade into the right-wing circus it became last night, with the Sons of Confederate Veterans abandoning all pretense of "heritage over hate" and smacking us all in the face with its flags.

Carder--always an idea man--has a suggestion, a serious one that could work without a lawsuit, which so terrified the city and DRI. Here it is:

The city "should separate out the parade and make it fall under the Dickens of a Christmas. Let Dickens be a stand-alone event without specific city funding. Set it up as its own LLC. 

"The monies raised for Dickens through sponsorship and [other income] should be more than adequate to do it all and take the city out of this mess. But the total amount of funding events stays the same for the city."

With the city out of the equation, the parade becomes a private event and DRI can pick and choose its entrants without fear of lawsuit. And it can honor the birth of Christ without hate-mongers drowning out the Christmas carols.

Roanoke's Chance Hall All-SEC Freshman

Roanoke's Chance Hall (76): Injuries led the way for him.
Roanoke's Chance Hall, a university of Tennessee offensive tackle, has been named to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman team.

Hall, a three-star prospect who was injured his senior year in high school and was mostly overlooked as a blue-chipper, won a starting role at right tackle after UT's line suffered a number of injuries and was seriously depleted.

He played in nine of Tennessee's 12 games and started the last six, including a 19-14 loss to the University of Alabama, where he was outstanding against one of the best defensive lines in the country. He also accounted himself well against stiff defenses from Missouri and Vanderbilt.

Hall was an all-star at Northside High School in Roanoke.


Confederate War on Christmas: Roanoke's Image Takes Another Hit

The Confederate battle flag overwhelmed the message of the birth of the Prince of Peace.
When the Confederate battle flag first appeared in the Roanoke Christmas parade last night, there were cheers from the crowd, from the reports I've seen. I was at another point in the parade (corner of Campbell and Jefferson in downtown Roanoke). These people were not cheering the confederate heritage, they were cheering the arrogant, in-your-face display of a symbol of hate, a symbol of humans owning each other. A symbol that is the very antithesis of the celebration of Christmas, the birth of a man who taught only peace and love.

Downtown Roanoke Inc., the City of Roanoke and the Sons of Confederate Veterans and their minions should be equally ashamed that they have converted one of the sweetest, most thoughtful Christmas parades I've ever seen into a rally for racism. The Sons have preached all along that their message is "heritage not hate," but you couldn't prove it by last night's obscene display, where celebration of the lost cause was not confined to Confederate role-playing among men-boys.

Journalist Don Peterson with Edgerton.
It included a bunch of marchers in T-shirts, camo and baseball caps, hardly Rebel uniforms. There was even an outrageous short black man named H.K. Edgerton from my hometown of Asheville, N.C. (giving me two homes to be ashamed of) who pranced around, waving a Rebel flag as he often does in various localities, said reports. This guy needs a different hobby.

This atrocity comes on the heels of our mayor making us an international curiosity with his pronouncement that we should put Muslims in holding cells. We're getting clobbered by the forces of ignorance.

My friend Bill Carder, a former Republican vice mayor of Roanoke, who now lives in Central America (a place he calls "paradise") was crestfallen when he was told what happened last night. "I was chairman of the City Special Events Committee at the time we brought this parade to Dickens of a Christmas. We insisted on Christmas-themed and specifically Dickens era entries [and] we brought in specialty Christmas entertainers. ... [The parade] was smaller, but all Christmas in theme. We did not allow the Sons to march [because] it was not in theme.

"[The current city] council had a choice: [it] could have made a statement by not allowing this to happen. Let the Sons sue; they lose more cases than they win. Unstead of being afraid of a suit [council] should have stood up for what is right. [It] did not and that is sad. The money spent on defending a law suit is nothing compared to the negative publicity and feeling this generated."

The fact is that if this is the city of Pearl Fu, the city of Local Colors and of a welcoming attitude to minorities and immigrants, it must stop these displays, especially during the Christmas parade when people should be sharing reasons to celebrate, not reasons to hate. 

I am shocked that the Christian community--of which I am not a member--which is so ready to pronounce anybody who says "Happy Holidays" as waging war on Christmas and on their religion don't see the damage being done by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and their allies. It would be appropriate for these Christians to raise their voice in protest. 

The Confederate battle flag is winning right now and it is winning the same way these causes often win: because most people are passive and thoughtless. 

It really pisses me off. 

This is the mixture of SCV and civilian flag-wavers.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Roanoke Confederate Christmas Parade: Perpetuating a Fraud

This will be my lasting memory of tonight's parade: a black man carrying a racist symbol to "honor Christ."
(UPDATE: Apparently there were far more people like me at the Christmas parade last night--people opposed to the appearance of the Confederate battle flag--than I saw. They were gathered in significant numbers at another spot, much nearer the judging stand. Thank you all for being there. I don't feel so isolated in this now.)

Simple truth: we lost this round. Lost by a mile. The Confederate battle flag supporters are organized and they turned out like Donald Trump's hairstylists.

H.K. Edgerton was an embarrassment.
I don't know how well our protest of the flying of the Rebel battle flag went, frankly, because the NAACP's protest call was ambiguous (it instructed its people not to turn their backs) and my gang, which I wanted to show up in black and turn their backs when the flag passed, had a crowd of one: me. That was what I could see from my stationary perch, in any case.

Authentic confederate soldier
So, I will concede in much the same way Al Gore conceded to George Bush in 2000.

I won't concede with a great deal of grace, however, because, as you can see from these photos, the flying of the Confederate battle flag had only marginally to do with honoring Confederate veterans by accurately portraying them (as the Sons of Confederate Veterans consistently insists) and more with sticking that damn flag up people's noses.

Authentic confederate soldier II.
The most outrageous little trick was to have H.K. Edgerton, an African-American from my hometown of Asheville, N.C. (and former president of its NAACP), carrying a battle flag and running into the crowd, playing to the children--who should be protected from these people. He apparently travels around to various localities doing this.

I kept waiting for one of the white boys to give him an instruction and for him to reply, "Yas, massa." It was really that bad.

You see here that many of the flag wavers made absolutely no attempt to portray Civil War soldiers. They simply wanted to wave the flag.

Mark Craig, one of the SCV commanders, was quoted on WDBJ7 tonight as saying, "It's not about racism. We're not here to upset anybody or hurt anybody's feelings. We're here to honor our ancestors and our culture."  It would seem to me that honoring ancestors would have looked a good bit different than these people looked--and acted--tonight. It is a sad Roanoke chapter, following closely on the international embarrassment caused by our mayor, David Bowers, who suggested putting Muslim immigrants into concentration camps.

I left what was shaping up to be a good parade after these people passed, sick to my stomach for the second straight year.

The parade--up to the point when I left--was better organized, less commercialized and more Christmasy than I can remember it--except for the obscene display of the battle flag in a parade honoring the Prince of Peace.

Authentic Confederate vehicle.
Authentic confederate general's uniform in every detail.
The SCV spared no expense to be authentic.