Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Little South Georgia Delicacy

This is my pre- and post-dinner tonight: boiled peanuts, a South Georgia specialty. Which is addicting.

We're smack in the middle of peanut (and Vidalia onion) country and these babies sell like potato chips in Tybee Island.

Margie, who grew up eating these babies says they are simple to make (boil and salt), but you need to watch them closely and taste them occasionally. My mother used to boil a big pot of peanuts when Dad went out to see the Augusta Crackers, a Southern Association baseball team in the 1950s. We lived in Augusta at the time and even then, it was the armpit of civilization.

A Quick Look at Tybee Island

This Tybee Island home was made from the remains of a military battery on the island.
Tybee lighthouse not far from downtown.
Tybee Island, Ga., where Margie and I are spending a few day, is part of the barrier chain of islands off the coast and is the easternmost point of Georgia. It is probably the most popular tourist destination on the state's coast, but it has 2,900 permanent residents and is deceptively stable in that respect. It is no Myrtle Beach.

Margie,who grew up in Savannah and has spent a great deal of time on Tybee over the years, gave me the grand tour today and I was impressed with the independence of the residents, who have maintained their lifestyle even as heavy tourism swirls around them. They have renovated old buildings and even turned parts of an old fort--Scriven's Civil War era batteries--into a tourist attraction and even some homes.

Margie says that when developers come in and want to change the nature of the island for residents, they meet with stiff resistance. An independent lot, these people.

Tybee also has an odd circumstance in its history--almost laughable, though considering the circumstances and the
This is typical of the residences.
possibilities, maybe not so much. In 1958 the U.S. Military (which is in considerable evidence in this part of the country) dropped an atomic bomb on Tybee. It didn't go off.

The 94-foot lighthouse (more than 60 feet of it dating from 1773 and the rest from 1867. It is one of a few light houses in the U.S. dating from the 18th century that is still in use.

Tybee was not connected to the mainland by road until the 1920s and it wasn't until the 1940s that it became a beach recreation destination. It is a fascinating place, hotter than hell, but it is South Georgia and you would expect nothing else, I suspect.

Part of the historic battery (the light house is across the street.)
One of the island's neat, older homes.
This house belonged to one of Margie's relatives at one point.

Watching the Sun Come Up at Tybee

This guy was watching the sunset and enjoying it.
This horseshoe crab had just washed up.
The sun rose this morning at 6:16 a.m. and I was there at the Tybee Island pier waiting for it. So were quite a few others. It was a pretty dawn with clouds, dolphins, a Man o' War stranded on the beach, abandoned towels and beach toys, lots of plastic and foam contianers and a general glop of civilization's leavings.

Still, the beach at dawn is a special place, a quiet place even amid the people soaking up the scene. And there's the breakfast at the legendary (and expensive) Breakfast Club.

Here is some of what it looked like.
Soaking up a good book onthe beach just after sunrise.
Sunrise, Tybee Island,Ga.
Pelicans looking for food in the surf.
The pier at Tybee Island.
A kid's flip-flop in the sand.
Pelicans ready to dive.
A broken shovel abandoned.
Lovers in the surf at dawn.
Get your fishing tackle here on the pier.
Taking a little break from life to enjoy the sea.
Scanning for metal in the ruins of a sand fort.
A small city in the sand. Some kid had a good time with this.
The pier at the break of dawn, Tybee Island, Ga.
Eggs and coffee at the Breakfast Club.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Finally: A Day at the Beach

Margie and me looking tanner than we are (thank you, PhotoShop).
Heading for the beach.
We pulled into Savannah and Tybee Island about 1:30 today, delayed again and again by missed turns, detours, trips to the bathroom (at our ages, that's figured into travel time) and little stops and sidetracks that all added up.

In all, it was about 10 hours for a seven hour drive. But hey, we had each other.

We were on the beach about 10 minutes after loading our luggage into the condo and Tybee struck me for its beauty instantly, so I pulled out the Leica and started shooting.

We're down here with Margie's bright, lovely actor daughter Meghann Garmony and ballerina Allison Beiler, who simply lights up a room with the biggest, brightest smile I know. It is kind of an extended family thing (with a bunch more people who I am finding to be warm and inviting).

Here is some of our day.

Wood in the dunes is always there for the photo.
The fences are a photographic cliche for a good reason.
My daughter once said, "When your dad's girlfriend looks better in a bathing suit than you do, it sucks."
Margie's clan with the sky, sand and surf.
Margie's daughter, Meghann (right) and dear Allison.
Laying it in the Social Club.
Bathing my feet in the surf.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Little Paddle for a Big Break

Susan and I do what we do: photograph each other.
My sweetie (Margie) and I are heading out to South Georgia for a few days of beaching this afternoon, but I figured I'd get in a quick paddle with my friend Susan this morning while Margie was working.

We hit the cove on a lovely, still, overcast Sunday. It was almost eerily quiet, but we had time to chat, paddle and simply relax. Here are a couple of photos from the short run.

My view from behind Susan, heading back to the base.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

And a Graduation for Everything

Me, the graduate.
I guess it's harmless enough, these little graduation-ette celebrations that I'm seeing all over the internet. In the past few days, I've seen photos from graduations from college, high school--traditional stuff--junior high, middle school, 7th, 6th, 5th and 1st grades, kindergarten and pre-kindergarten.*

That's a lot of graduating and I'm wondering if this is cap and gown industry-driven, or if we are so in need of a celebration that we'll take just about anything.

I'm not complaining here, just observing. It's a lot like competitive sports, which these days presents "certificates of participation" to everybody in lieu of trophies for the winners. Recognize them all for everything, lest they should develop serious emotional problems.

Hmmmmm. Go figure.

(*I have graduated from sailing school and survival school, but not from college.)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Working Hard for Those Who Have Little

Tom Gerdy and the convict book.
When the late Roanoke delegate Vic Thomas left the General Assembly some years ago, his term and his patience at an end, he left a piece of wisdom that should be emblazoned on the Capital Building.

"Don't forget them that don't have nothin'," he said in that unforgettable Virginia twang. Whether or not Vic was grammatically correct, he certainly was morally impeccable.

Tom Gerdy of Lynchburg, the owner of his own construction company and by any measure a notable citizen of the Hill City, has laid claim to that same moral high ground. Tom has been one of the most active members of Habitat for Humanity for years. He once helped build six houses in Roanoke over a weekend.

These homes, as you know, go to people who would never have even dreamed of having a home of their own before Tom and Habitat came along. They aren't given the new homes--built with volunteer labor and mostly contributed materials. They work for them, putting in a lot of hours, which--the philosophy goes--makes them appreciate what they are getting a lot more.

Tom's wife has taken note of his volunteerism to the point of occasionally goading him--in good nature, one assumes--that his volunteering has become his job. But his construction company--which builds custom homes (one, ironically, at the moment is 11,000 square feet for "some very good people") and renovates spaces for businesses--has been quite successful of late. "After several down years," he points out, smiling.

Tom has several new volunteer projects going on at the moment, one of them a book written by convicts that is directed at troubled high school kids. It is titled Insights from Inside. The book has been entirely self-financed and is making its way into the hands of those who need to read its warnings from people who know what consequence is.

Tom wants to save the world. He says so. He plans to do it, one house and one wrecked life at a time. And the fact that he believes he can is why I admire the hell out of him.

Baylor Rape Culture Symptomanic of College Football

Baylor coach Art Briles.
The Baylor University football program is in the process of getting its teeth kicked in for failures to protect women students from athletes, a situation that is nightmarish, but all too common in college football.

Baylor has suspended its coach (one of the nation's best at putting entertaining and successful teams on the field), Art Briles, and is considering just who else to punish for its all but incomprehensible--even for Texas--atmosphere of football first, crime somewhere down the list.

Baylor's own fact-finding committee, which has brought a number of charges, discovered that, "Administrators engaged in conduct that could be perceived as victim-blaming, focusing on the complainant's choices and actions, rather than robustly investigating the allegations, including the actions of the respondent."

The awful fact is that 68 percent of all sexual assaults are not reported to police and 98 percent of all rapists--that's damn near all of them--never spend a day in jail.

And how about this: Baylor "football staff conducted [its] own untrained internal inquiries, outside of policy, which improperly discredited complainants and denied them the right to a fair, impartial and informed investigation, interim measures or processes promised under University policy." The criminal investigated the crime. How convenient.

How serious is Baylor about punishing the guilty? Briles has not yet been fired, let alone drawn and quartered. Assistants, who are often the point guards in these atrocities, don't seem to be in the line of fire at the moment. President Ken Starr--Bill Clinton's nemesis as special prosecutor and a man who is familiar with stomping on people's rights, has been "reassigned" and is now in charge of external fund-raising and "religious liberty," whatever the hell that is. (Baylor is a Baptist school.) He remains chairman of the law school, in the midst of a criminal investigation. Athletic Director Ian McCaw has been sanctioned and put on probation.

This is a huge Baylor problem, much as the child molestation case was a Penn State problem a few years ago. But the truth is that it is a college athletics--especially football--problem. I closely follow the Southeastern Conference in football and its football players are regulars in rape court. Even an academic university like Vanderbilt has been scarred by rape scandal (six players accused).

It has been said over and over that there is no excuse for rape, but young women (and little boys) keep getting raped by football players and coaches. I suggest that the NCAA show how serious it is about this problem and kill Baylor's football program. Just kill the damn thing. I realize this is often about huge amounts of money, but there is morality involved here and Texas is a state that claims (but rarely reaches) moral high ground.

Death to Baylor football would be a warning shot fired with a bazooka.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Health Care: An Interesting Twist

Sarabeth looking professional in her interview with Sheila Lambert.
On the way, we stopped for a selfie.
My pal Sarabeth Hammond, about whom you already know a bunch if you've been keeping up, went over to Carilion 's Children's Hospital today for an important interview.

This time, it was not about Sarabeth's health; it was about how she could help others. As many of you know, she has had an epic struggle the past few years with Lyme disease (and all its affiliated conditions).

Sarabeth's magnificent spirit remains intact and Carilion CEO Nancy Agee wanted to see if some of what Sarabeth knows might be transferred to staff. So, she arranged with my faux grandgirl to meet with Children's Hospital guru Sheila Lambert, a delightful woman who sat with Sarabeth looking for answers.

Sarabeth and her other buddy, the robot.
The conversation will continue, Sheila promises, and they will try to figure out how to use all this experience, knowledge and outlook to benefit Carilion patients in the future. Sarabelle (which is my preferred pronunciation, more Southern) looked like a seasoned professional sitting at the table with Sheila, exchanging business cards. It was a moment I'll remember with a smile.

This is a wonderful example of my old friend Nancy's management style at its best: ask questions of people who know the answers--and not necessarily people in authority or people with a string of impressive degrees. It is one of the reasons I consider Nancy the best executive in this region.

(Incidentally, it is never all business with Miss Sarabelle. On the way out--following a pretty demanding interview for a 16-year-old--she managed to find a robot on the children's ward. A serious woman and a playful little girl. Great combo.)

Sarabeth at Work: Paddling in Paint

My young pal Sarabeth Hammond painted the above (at 2 a.m. today) from the below, celebrating our paddle on Carvins Cove yesterday. Sarabelle calls it "impressionistic." I think she's spot-on. The painting will hang in my office shortly. Yay.

Dump the DNC Head or Lose the Election

Wasserman Schultz: Dem nut jobbie?
Debbie Wasserman Schultz' name is known to political junkies and voters in a small district of Florida which elected her to the House of Representatives. Fact is, though, that she may hold the keys to the White House in her dirty-dealing little hands. (Story in The Hill here.)

Wasserman Schultz is a Clintonista, who was appointed head of the Democratic National Committee by Barack Obama (Schultz endorsed Hillary Clinton in her primary contest against Obama) and she has shown just how one-sided and out of balance that committee can be during this primary. She is an avid opponent of Bernie Sanders and has consistently worked to put his campaign at a disadvantage. (Meanwhile, he has endorsed her primary opponent in Florida.)

Sanders supporters know who she is and they can't say her name without spitting. The demand at this point is to replace her as chairwoman of the DNC, but Democratic members of congress, inexplicably saying she has done a good job pulling Democrats together, seem to favor keeping her in her position. That is the very definition of "tone deaf," and it would almost certainly mean the loss of the Sanders supporters who are open to supporting Clinton should she win the nomination.

This likely will be a close election and the Democratic Party simply cannot take a chance on losing any block of voters at all. The GOP does not have nearly the number of backers during this cycle that the Dems would theoretically have, but the Republican backers will vote. The Dems might not. Wasserman Schultz' future might determine a lot of those votes not being cast (Sanders supporters will not vote for Trump. That's pretty much a given.)

I support Sanders (we're peas in a pod philosophically), but if he loses, I will back Clinton because the thought of a Trump presidency is beyond my comprehension. I will also back Clinton because the stronger her support, the more likely it is that Dems can win the House and Senate. With the Supreme Court appointment to come, that would give them two years of total control of the government, enough time to begin to set a few wildly out of whack policies back on the path of the public good.

The Dems almost certainly will lose the House in 2018, regardless of who is elected, so two years is what they get with all that success. Which is not even a 50-50 possibility right now.

Before any of that can happen, though, the Sanders supporters must be courted and convinced that the Democratic Party has something for them, despite evidence to the contrary. That would begin well if Wasserman Schultz were to be led away from the DNC chair ... preferably in handcuffs.

(Photo: www.freerepublic.com)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Sarabeth Conquers the Cove

Sarabeth with a smile as big as the cove took to the water like a Canada goose.
Sarabeth greets the day.
My young pal Sarabeth Hammond and I took a paddle at Carvins Cove this afternoon, her first, and I'm telling you the kid was born to the water. It was minutes before she was paddling circles around the old man and talking about how all this exercise and fresh air was just the cure of all she's had to bear--with Lyme disease--for the last number months.

Sarabeth is one of the bravest and most likeable--and most admirable--people I know and the water was the perfect place for her today. It was lovely just watching her shine. Here is some of what it looked like.
My favorite teenager against a perfect sky and our grand mountains.
Sarabeth takes her first few strokes with authority.
My buddy and me, doing what we do.
The great white hunter on her island.
Sarabeth photographs the shallows.
Sarabeth negotiates the flooded trees.
A fine day to celebrate.