Thursday, June 30, 2016

Children's Theatre Moving to Jefferson Center

Jefferson Center
The venerable Roanoke Children's Theatre will move from the Dumas Center to the Jefferson Center in Roanoke, beginning with the 2016-2017 season. The RCT has been housed at the Taubman Museum of Art in the past, as well.

Says RCT founder and director Pat Wilhelms, “RCT will be able to provide a bigger and better experience at the Jefferson Center, with state of the art lighting, updated sound system, a gorgeous full size stage and luxury audience seating. Our audiences will be transported this upcoming season in more ways than one! RCT will be able to offer a wonderful experience from beginning to end.”

All RCT productions will take the stage at the Jefferson Center and offices will be located on the third floor. RCT will continue to provide acting, singing and dancing lessons year round in RCT’s Theatre Training Academy at Calvary Baptist Church (next door to the Jefferson Center).

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What Makes a Woman Beautiful?

This is Margie at 61 (and me at 200): Simple, elegant, straightforward, beautiful.
" ... women are bombarded with pressure and images from the media and the fashion industry that call into question self-image and prompt comparison to perceived norms. The worst offenders are magazines written and edited for women by women. Time for an injection of feminism and realism into the female run fashion media."

This quote is from a man who responded to a Facebook post--by a woman, Andrea Pflaumer, writing to an audience of older women. The article (here) explained how Maggie Smith and Judi Dench are "Two divine women. No wild outfits. No heavy make-up or plastic surgery. They simply inspire our admiration and grab our attention because of who they are."

I won't argue with that description at all. And I do believe it is not men who push women toward artificiality, but women's media, which has a huge stake in makeup, cosmetic surgery, clothes and do-dads that create perceptions that rarely border on anything real. It is about money--as is nearly everything. But money can't buy what the best women have, inner beauty.

(Photo: ourreinventiongeneration.com.)

Need Your Computer Fixed? Try Facebook

Complain about Facebook all you want, but when I need something--a house cleaner, a computer tech, a porch builder, a painter, a yard worker, a type of camera--I ask my FB friends for recommendations. And what I get works.

A couple of days ago, I asked for somebody to repair my computer because the boys who've been doing that for me for years have moved and the woman who spot-checked is gone, as well. I was flooded with strong recommendations, which I herewith share with you (with comments from the person suggesting when available):
  • *Vinton Computer Shop across from Famous Anthony's in Vinton.  Has a $50 guarantee.
  • *Jay Gills ... works from his home and has helped me with exactly the problem you have.  (540) 266-0394.
  •  Paul Wellons He does remote access repairs for me and lots of my friends. He's the best and lives in Roanoke.
  • Brambleton Computers. ... Ask for Andrew. (This one had seven recommendations and one caution.) 
  • Richard Blackwood, head geek.... yes he calls himself that. He will come to your house and fix it all very very reasonably. 7144047710. Richard@BlackwoodTech.com
  • Computer exchange at Roanoke Salem plaza or I'll be glad to do it for free. (My personal favorite.)
  • Take it to Office Max for FREE pc cleanup and ask for Joseph DiCarlo. (Town Square)
  • Tony Neuron. The best geek alive. He's on FB. Contact him.
  •  Rob Robert Underwood @ Two Robs.
  • PC web doc they fix it remotely and you don't have to leave your desk. Incubator graduate from Erie pa. Known them and used them for years.
  • Paul Wellons He does remote access repairs for me and lots of my friends. He's the best and lives in Roanoke.
 I also got some specific fix-it-yourself advice from some very knowledgeable people, but my response with doping my own tech work is, "God made other people specifically to do that for me."
Thank you all for your help. I do appreciate it.  

(Photo: www.a2bpcrepair.com.) 

Family's Home, and So's the Olive Oil

Maddie and Pampa at the airport. Welcome home.
Maddie, me and the olive oil.
My son's family made it home from two years in Spain tired but happy yesterday evening, packing the entire back of my pickup truck with their luggage.

They looked like four exhausted hobos sitting on their huge suitcases and multitude of carry-ons in front of the airport terminal as I pulled up the truck to load it. But the smiles were real.

My son, Evan, brought me a treasured can of ORO Spanish olive oil, which is like drinking platinum. This stuff is so good, it almost makes me cry. I guard it like the family jewels or very old brandy (which I can't drink), dolling it out in short snippets to worthy people.

We visited the ORO groves and bottling plant near Cordoba last year and I can tell you there is nothing in this can but olive oil, pure and simple, and so smooth, you will truly want to just turn up the can and drink it. Madeline, my 11-year-old grandgirl, can take an entire baguette, pour a bowl of olive oil and eat the whole thing.

We're not sure where Evan's family's next stop is, but they'll be here for a while and I'm going to enjoy it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Headline of the Day: Governor Who?

The poor copy editor who wrote this headline is probably hiding under something that has about two inches of ground clearance. I, of all people, will not criticize. Poor dude.

The Two Best Coaches Ever: Women

Pat Summitt.
I have been immersed in sports--athlete, sportswriter for 17 years, fan--all my life and I've known or met the two greatest coaches of my generation: Kay Wilkins and Pat Summitt. Both, of course, are women.

Kay died about a year ago in a Marion, N.C., nursing home; Pat died today of alzheimers complications in Tennessee, surrounded by her family.

These women excelled, generally at a time when notice of what they were doing escaped most of us. Summitt gained quite a bit of respect as her career waned in recent years by winning eight national basketball titles for the University of Tennessee.

The one phase where Summitt was most impressive, to my mind, was with her graduation rate: 100 percent over 38 years of college coaching. That's all of them, boys and girls. Every one of her basketball players graduated.

Miss Kay was a high school coach in a sport many don't even know is a sport: square dancing (she also coached basketball). But she was every bit the equal of Pat Summitt, the coach that I believe all coaches will be measured against for the foreseeable future.

Miss Kay is the basis for the lead character in my novel, CLOG!, and she is, without a doubt, my favorite. I watched her coach when I was a senior at Cranberry High School and cobble together teams, uniforms, schedules, transportation--all without pay. She won eight North Carolina championships and three national titles. She won more than 25 square dance trophies at the prestigious Mountain Youth Jamboree in Ashevillle.


Kay Wilkens.
She taught a hell of a lot more than square dancing to poor mountain kids who had little opportunity at Cranberry High  (later Avery County High), which had 375 students in grades 9-12 when I was there (1963-64). She had her teams on the national TV show "Hee! Haw!", took them overseas for exhibitions and made certain they visited big cities with their talent. She gave them culture, recognition and and a level of class that would not have been available to them otherwise. A number of her dancers were orphans from the Grandfather Home for Children.

I think Pat did pretty much the same thing, beginning as a 23-year-old head basketball coach at a big school (earning $250 a month and washing the team's uniforms). UT was huge, but the program was tiny for years (disbanded in 1926, returning in 1960), playing for AIAW championships, since the women were not part of the NCAA. She helped carve out a niche for women in general and women's basketball in particular that players and coaches take for granted now.

I think Gino Aurema of UConn is probably a better Xs and Os coach and certainly a better recruiter, but Auremma will never be confused with "beloved." Pat was that. She was all class.

There will be one Pat Summitt forever and I suspect most of us (exclude UConn fans if you'd like) know she deserves her spot on the top of the pedestal. Along with Miss Kay.

Monday, June 27, 2016

For Spouse Abusers, No More Guns

The old boys who've been beating the hell out of the old lady for years, getting slapped with a minor misdemeanor charge and maybe a fine will need to consider their behavior after today's Supreme Court ruling.

These half-drunk bullies will lose their right to own a gun if convicted, even of a misdemeanor. The were stripped of the gun ownership privilege in the past if the abuse was a felony, which is some pretty heavy-duty beating. Now, just smack her once and you lose your guns, boys. You willing to risk it?

My guess is that this will ensure more domestic tranquility than all the education and shaming we can muster. Good for you, Supremes. All Hail Antonin Scalia and his timely departure.

A Look Behind the GOP Dirt Curtain

Here is a fascinating--if disturbing--look inside presidential politics that tells you a lot (that you probably already know, or certainly suspect) about fair play. It is from an internal GOP memo (story here):

"The goals, the memo says, are to 'drive wedges between these top contenders [for vice president] and either Clinton and/or traditional Democrat constituencies, such as labor, environmentalists, and gun control advocates, and other traditional left-wing constituencies;' and '[w]here applicable, frame the choice as an insult to the large, deep base of Bernie Sanders supporters who are struggling with the notion of supporting Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Democrat nominee.'"

As we know, Sanders supporters (and I am one) tend to be touchy, arrogant and filled with righteous indignation. They will be easy to offend, if not to convert. My guess is that the RNC's best case scenario in this instance will be to keep the Sanders supporters at home (along with people of color, young people, minorities, legal immigrants, ex-prisoners and anybody else they believe might vote for Dems). 

Virginia Senator and former Governor Tim Kaine will be painted as a "career politician whose positions on trade and  abortion makes him unpalatable for supporters of Sanders. (Without irony, the RNC’s memo also says they will portray a Clinton/Kaine ticket as too liberal for the electorate because of Kaine’s support for Obamacare and his time as a lawyer for the ACLU)."

"Career politicians" are often identified when the opposition has nothing of substance against an opponent. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, another VP candidate who is serving the first term of her first elective office, is often called a "career politician" by the GOP. She is a former educator of considerable reputation nationally. 

(Graphic: twitter.com)

Ken Starr: Grudging Admiration for Bill Clinton

Oh, sweet irony. Ken Starr, the disgraced (former?) president of Baylor University and the central figure of a sex scandal there, says this (here) about Bill Clinton, the president he tried to impeach in a ... sex scandal:

“His genuine empathy for human beings is absolutely clear. It is powerful, it is palpable and the folks of Arkansas really understood that about him — that he genuinely cared. The ‘I feel your pain’ is absolutely genuine.”

Starr, who headed the special prosecution of Clinton during Clinton's administration, has been the president of the country's largest Baptist university, Baylor, for the past six years and is something of the paper prince of "family values." His reaction to the sizzling rape scandal at Baylor--involving eight football players and other students--may have led to his firing this past week. The Baylor honchos won't reveal that, but a couple of pretty good sources (WaPo and the NYTimes) say it's so.

Starr, whose ruthless pursuit of Clinton basically tortured a young woman (Monica Lewinsky, who was caught in the middle of the power game), is now the disgraced party. Clinton was never convicted by a non-political body of anything of substance. (I am not sure a partisan political body convicted him, either. He was not convicted in his impeachment trial, otherwise he would have been cast from office.) Starr is effectively getting what he tried to hand Clinton: trial by popular opinion and marketing. And he's being fried ... and fired.

Starr has apparently had something of a grudging admiration for Clinton all along. He has called Clinton "the most gifted politician of the baby boomer generation." He also says that Clinton has redeemed himself since his presidency: "We have certainly seen [redemption] powerfully.”

(Graphic: americangallery21st.wordpress.com)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

When a Man Loves a Woman (and She Ditches Him)

" ... Most women in the U.S. who are murdered are killed by men they are familiar with, usually boyfriends, husbands or exes, but also coworkers, neighbors and friends. In 2013, more than 1,600 U.S. women were murdered by men. Of them, 94 percent were killed by someone they knew. Let that number sink in. 
 
"And often these tragic crimes are committed in the wake of a breakup — specifically breakups where the woman has chosen to end the relationship. Experts believe this pattern exists because, in cases of abusive relationships, men escalate the use of violence when they feel like they’re losing control."

--Melissa Jeltsen, senior reporter (here

Guns, of course play a big part in this carnage. According to Smartguns.org (here), "Domestic violence assaults involving a firearm are 12 times more likely to result in death than those involving other weapons or bodily force. Abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm." According to one study, guns "were used to kill more than two-thirds of spouse and ex-spouse homicide victims between 1990 and 2005."

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence says that 117,000 Americans are shot every year. That is more people than live in Roanoke (by 20,000), more people than fit into the largest college football stadium in the country.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (here) tells it this way:
  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. 
  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of ... physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent.
  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime.
  • Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.
  • 19 percent of domestic violence involves a weapon.
  • Only 34 percent of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries.
(Graphic: wagv.org)


Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Crackerjack New Book from Darrell Laurant


Darrell Laurant teaching at the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference.

My old friend Darrell Laurant has been busy in his retirement, mostly trying to help other writers make a living; directing his efforts from his new home in New York (his home state). Darrell was the metro columnist for the Lynchburg News & Advance for a quarter century and was the founder of the Sedalia Writers Conference, which inspired the founding (by me) of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference more than nine years ago. 

Here is a review of Darrell's fourth book and, I think, his best--certainly his most important. You can order it from Amazon here and it's worth every penny you will spend.

Inspiration Street, a review

 There are plenty of famous streets in America, made notable by a wide variety of circumstances. Pierce Street in Lynchburg, named for an ignoble 19th Century president, is not one of them. It should be.
 
Darrell Laurant has focused his most important book, Inspiration Street: Two City Blocks That Helped Change America (Blackwell Press), on a locally historic portion of Pierce Street, one where African luminaries of the most recently completed century lived, visited, learned and taught. It is the street where Anne Spencer, the notable Lynchburg poet, lived and entertained. It is a street paved with athletic luminaries, educators, military innovators, and even the outrageous and tragic story of a Congo pygmy.

Pierce Street is the center of innovation, two blocks that made a huge difference in the perception of and state of black America. It has most recently been recognized with more historic plaques than any other street in Virginia, but it remains a quiet, placid section in the center of Old Lynchburg, housing older residents.

Laurent’s book does not dwell in sentiment. He is long enough in the tooth and veteran enough in his profession to avoid that, sticking with the story, letting the good ones tell themselves. And this is a good one, an important one, one you should read.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The News Media's Massive Failure

" ...There is little happening in the mainstream news that has any real connection to news integrity today. Maybe it’s time to consider that it’s gone from watchdog to lapdog." --Penn State professor Sophia McClennen in Salon (here

This is a growing complaint from all sides of the political spectrum and it has increasing validity. Corporate news is a failure, a complete and utter failure. The news business has always depended on advertising revenue to survive and that is still true, but it is true on steroids today. Corporate ownership of our major outlets (six corporations own more than 90 percent of them) has bent the game, distorted the news, created new truths and discarded legitimate neutral reporting.

It is a failure at every level. Would you, for example, expect the Berkshire-Hathaway-owned Roanoke Times to give you more and better news than the old Fishburn family-owned Roanoke Times & World News?

The Fishburns lived here, played a crucial role in the development of Western Virginia and cared about us. Berkshire Hathaway, which has a policy of not giving raises (at least in the Roanoke Valley, though I believe it is corporate) is not in the business of going to the Lion's Club, coaching Little League, holding a chili festival or supporting our community in any way that doesn't result in company profits. It is not unusual among latter-day news outlets. Profit first, last and always.

The Times and its corporate brothers and sisters across Virginia share news stories, rather than having their own representatives in, say Richmond or Charlottesville. It's cheaper. OK, so it's more like Clear Channel radio than it is responsible journalism, but, hey, Clear Channel pays.

Nationally, as Ms. McClennen strongly points out, the media has influenced this primary election season in ways that are new. It created Donald Trump and clearly dismissed Bernie Sanders, until it couldn't. It crowned Hillary Clinton long before she won and probably influenced the voting in doing so.

My thought is that locally, newspapers (and The Times is but one of a host of local papers, most weekly) don't cover politics except on the surface. We have two highly controversial House members in this region (Goodlatte and Griffith) who receive almost no coverage that they don't want or don't generate. Neither belongs in congress, but neither is regularly covered as to why that is the case.

Like so many of you, I am fed up. I don't watch TV news and I don't subscribe to the local paper. I would do both or either if there were a reason to. But there is not.

(Graphic: nsmb.com)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Why Elizabeth Warren Won't Be VP

Elizabeth Warren: VP? Nope.
I suggested earlier today that Elizabeth Warren appears to be running pretty hard to become Hillary Clinton's vice presidential candidate and that brought some pretty good argument to the fore--most of which I agree with.

Warren--to many of us--is a much more attractive presidential candidate than either Clinton or Sanders (forget Trump; an orangutan is a more attractive candidate than he), but she does not yet have the resume. You will argue that her resume is about what Obama's was when he was elected initially, but Obama was not a woman. Obama did not follow a black person or a woman in office.

Some years ago, Mary Sue Terry stepped up to take her turn as Virginia's Democratic governor. She would follow Doug Wilder, the first black governor in the commonwealth since Reconstruction (maybe ever). Terry began the campaign against young backbench Republican House member George Allen with a huge lead, something like 21 points. He was thought not to have a chance against an insider who had paid her dues.

But then the second thoughts began to slide in and Allen's people planted the "lesbian" seed. She sunk like a rock. White men were dying for a reason not to vote for her and there they had it.

James Glass responded to my post this morning with the following, which makes a lot of sense: "The patriarchy won't allow two women in the most powerful office[es] just yet. The dying patriarchy will accept this woman[Clinton] because she's a Republican Lite and because a man is in the back up position [Bill Clinton]. Clinton is no fool--she's savvy, clever, and fully aware that her VP pick must be male to appease the unwashed masses."

All that leads me to reconsider. Clinton is probably closer to appointing a former Virginia governor, Tim Kaine, in a lively irony, than appointing Warren. Glass suggested Warren would be a good Secretary of State. I think she makes a better senator than VP or Secretary of State. Let's just leave where she is doing a world of good. 

Maybe a Supreme Court spot would be best, eventually.

Think Jocks Get Special Treatment? Check This Out

Alabama football: Prosecution proof. Smoke on, boys.


“I want to emphasize once again that the main reason I’m [dropping charges against two football players] is that I refuse to ruin the lives of two young men who have spent their adolescence and teenage years, working and sweating, while we were all in the air conditioning,”--Ouachita Parish, La., District Attorney Jerry Jones (story here)

OK, there it is in black and white and stupid. A local DA has said what we all know: elite athletes--these University of Alabama football players--don't face the criminal scrutiny the rest of us would because ... well ... they are elite athletes and they work hard. The rest of us aren't and we don't. Case closed.

Two 'Bama players were busted for possession of marijuana and an illegal handgun, which isn't exactly mass murder, but it isn't a parking violation, either. It represents two different crimes that at least need to go to trial. We might discover there that the kids are completely innocent of any wrong-doing, that the grass and the gun were planted by Islamic terrorists who want to do in the 'Bama program.

But probably not.

The DA has done us all a favor and the next time charges are dropped against a high-level athlete, just point to the 'Bama boys.

(Photo: bleacherreport.com)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Where Are All the Good Guys With Guns?

A lot of gun owners see themselves this way.
The Violence Policy Center accumulated some stats from 2012--the last year for which they are available, but little has changed since then--that tell us there were a meager 259 justifiable gun-related killings (homicides, it calls them) ruled as self-defense.

That year, there were  1.2 million violent crimes, "defined as murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault."  According to my handy-dandy calculator, that's .0025 percent or two and a half self-defense killings per 10,000 incidents where people are killed by guns.

That same year, there were "8,342 criminal homicides using guns, 20,666 suicides with guns, and 548 fatal unintentional [accidental] shootings," according to the story in the L.A. Times (here) a year ago. Half of all suicides are committed with guns (70 percent among men). I repeat this information because it is jaw-dropping and should not be forgotten.

I think most of us on the anti-gun side know that use of guns for bad far, far outweighs employing guns for what some would call good (shooting criminals), but a ratio of 38-1 is absurd. "Good guys with guns" aren't quite on every corner every day even though there are 300 million guns in the U.S. (owned by a third of our citizens).

As the article concludes, it is time to concentrate on the part of the 2nd Amendment that talks about a "well-regulated" group of gun owners, since we have almost none and gun killings have been completely out of hand for some time.

(Photo: www.thedailysheeple.com)



Press Responsibility: Interview Representative People on Both Sides

Not everybody loves Wayne LaPierre.
I have been reading complaints in the last couple of days from people who believe national news organizations should consciously and intentionally avoid interviews with people like NRA president Wayne LaPierre (who, by the way, is from Roanoke).

I detest everything LaPierre stands for, but I don't agree with censoring coverage of him. Respectable news outlets (a few remain) have a responsibility to tell the legitimate sides of a story and LaPierre has several million American followers. However, he is not representative of the bulk of gun owners.

The NRA membership among gun owners is 5-7 percent, so it would seem to me that somebody other than the NRA would need to be consulted as representative of the overwhelming majority of owners, whose opinions are most often ignored. The NRA has a lot of money and has made itself a spokesman for what it considers to be the "prevailing opinion" among gun owners. Money again.

It is up to legit news outlets to question who the NRA represents and to seek out other opinions. The NRA represents the extreme conservative opinion, just as I would represent the extreme liberal position (ban all guns everywhere and melt the damn things). I would not expect CBS to talk to me and I think it could easily find an organization that makes sense--most gun owners share the opinion that we don't need AR15s, for example, and that background checks are just fine--to represent gun owners. 

A lazy reporter and editor, though, will take the easy way out. That is not good for the reporter, the reader or our country. And the editor needs to do his damn job.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Plans A, B and C for a Pop's Day Lunch

Sam Snead's Tavern in Hot Springs: No lunch here.
Late yesterday afternoon, noting, I suppose, that neither of my kids was around to help recognize Father's Day, Margie said, "I'd like to take you to lunch tomorrow. Is that OK with you? Anywhere you want to go. It's for Father's day."

The proof.
It took me one second. "Sam Snead's Tavern in Hot Springs," I said, grinning. "The spinach salad with bacon vinaigrette dressing will make you weep."

We were on.

So, today, we took off at about 10:30 a.m., hoping to make it to Hot Springs, about 100 miles north of here, by noon. We did. Right on time. We discovered, however, that Sam Snead's is no longer open for lunch.

Plan B. Lindsay's Roost, just down the street. Doesn't take credit cards. Plan C. Couldn't find a suitable alternative (because we didn't know about the wonderful outdoor cafe at the Homestead), but a lady in one of the boutiques said there was an ATM at the bank next door. That worked.

We ate at the Roost. Good Philly cheese steak and BBQ sandwiches. Noisy kids sounded like they were playing camp games.

Lindsay's Roost: Oh, honey, sit down.
Next up: see if we could get a piece of legendary key lime pie at the Homestead, across the street. I had told Margie about it. She was pumped. And I thought, "That should be easy."

Nope. Seems French Chef Michel Finel has retired and been replaced by an Italian chef. Italian chefs don't make key lime pie. Plan B. We went down to the outdoor cafe on the lawn and asked the Jamaican waitress if we could get some dessert. Earlier, she had said she didn't think the hotel had key lime pie any longer, but directed us to the main dining room to check. It, of course, was closed, but a menu suggested no pie and a maid told us the story.

Back at the small bistro, we were being seated when I noticed my old friend Nancy Agee at a table with her lovely husband Steve, and Mary Ellen Goodlatte with her Republican husband, Bob. We chatted amiably, studiously avoiding politics, and they suggested the pie at a restaurant called the Country Inn about two miles away. We said that would work.

Except it didn't. I left Hot Springs by the wrong road and we wound up on Virginia 39, heading somewhere unknown, until I saw a sign that said, basically, "Turn here and you can go to Douthat State Park," which Margie had never seen. I used to spend a lot of time there.

Curvy road with high sun creating a strobe light effect until we got to the lake and then it was all gorgeous, and Margie said, "We have to come back here when we can spend some time on the water." I said that'd work. Kayaks came to mind. My grandgirl will be home in 10 days and that sharpens the possibilities.

On the way up to the Homestead, just on the other side of Covington, we had stopped briefly at Falling Springs, a lovely waterfall and took a few photos.The drive was gorgeous, both ways, but the afternoon was facing and so was I, so we drove on home. Another small adventure with surprise after surprise.

Margie and me at the spa pool, where you can bathe in the Homestead's hot spring.
Another selfie, this one of the Homestead's tower.
Margie at Falling Springs.
Pampa and his Father's Day Philly Cheese Steak lunch.

Watching My Son Grow a Little

Evan and me at Nantahala Gorge, N.C. (note the raft in the background).
I have never considered myself to be much of a father, but when I look back on the fun my son and I had when he was a kid--and so was I--I think I made a very good friend.

During Evan's formative years--up until about his senior year in college, in fact--I was an active drunk. But I had days of clarity and times when I could be attentive, instructive and loving. I suspect most drunks fall into that category: good intentions.

There are a few adventures Ev and I shared that I recall now, years later in great detail. We did whitewater rafting trips down the Nantahala River (falling in together in a Class 3 waterfall at one point), rode the bumper boats in Greensboro (he nearly drowned me; at 70 pounds, he was an expert at throwing water), rode the skyride near Cherokee, attended sold-out University of Tennessee football games, went to plays (he never much liked theater unless he was acting) and argued about music.

One Saturday, Ev and I were walking down on City Market in Roanoke. He was about 12 and had been playing piano and violin since he was probably 5 or so. His mother wanted that for him. "Dad," he said, turning to me, "I don't think I want to play music any more."

"Why? I thought you loved music."

"I do, but I don't like the violin."

"If you had a choice, what would you play?"

He thought for a minute. The ball was in his court, where it was unfamiliar. "Guitar, I guess," he said, tentatively.

As good fortune would have it, we were walking by the front door of the Fret Mill, Roanoke's best music shop, at the moment. "Let's see what we can do about that," said I. About 30 minutes later, we walked out of the Fret Mill and Evan was carrying a big guitar case, filled with all he needed, and wearing a huge smile. A few years later, Ken Rattenberry, owner of the Fret Mill, proclaimed Evan "the best young musician in Roanoke."

He became quite good on the bass and now plays probably seven instruments and sings pretty well. I always felt good about that hour or two on City Market.

One other good Dad moment came when Evan was about 15 and was trying out for the brand new lacrosse team at Patrick Henry High. The kids didn't know the game and all of them were struggling with the fundamentals. I was showing up at practice taking pictures and--in my mind--showing support. One Thursday, I was there, but Evan wasn't. The coach didn't know where he was. I went to his mom's house looking for him. I found him in the living room watching TV.

"I'm not any good," he explained to me.

"Evan," I said, "when I was in high school, I once quit the football team because I had taken a nasty beating the day before and didn't want any more. My friend Jerry Turbyfill called me the next morning telling me he'd meet me at practice. I told him I wasn't going back. He said, 'Oh, yes you are. The two of us have some getting even to do and I ain't doin' it without you.' We showed up, kicked ass and stuck it out."

Evan stayed with the team, enjoyed and learned and grew up a lot. I was happy about that.