Sunday, June 30, 2013

Photos of the Day: The Colors of the Cove

Leah paddling through a break.
Leah getting a load of the view.
Here's Leah paddling away from the dam area at Carvins Cove.
This is Dan (left), Rhonda and Leah in a display of color.
Leah and Meah with a nice background.
Leah and I did a paddle with my good friend Rhonda and her buddy Dan at Carvins Cove today and the colors and textures were lovely. Here's some of what we saw on a calm, warm, humid day.

Another Wild and Crazy Ruling from a Federal Court

First, the Supreme Court rules that corporations are people and now a lower court, the 10th Circuit, has found that a corporation, Hobby Lobby, is a religious person and, therefore exempt from the Affordable Care Act's requirement of coverage for abortion insurance coverage. See story here.

This ruling is yet another great example of why it is necessary for President Obama to fill the open federal judgeships--in the face of strong Republican opposition to anybody he nominates--as soon as possible. These Republican judges that dominate both the Supreme Court and the Circuit Courts are murdering our system of laws by distorting them for profit and religious zealotry reasons.

This ruling is insane, but no more so than a number of other recent rulings.

By the way, there are no Hobby Lobby stores around here (there are more than 500 nationally) or I would ask that you not shop there.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

'The East' Makes a Balanced Statement and a Solid Point

"The East" drew me to the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke last night because Ellen Page is in it and I'd watch her read the Manhattan phone book, but as it turns out she is but a minor character. She's miner in terms of screen time, but still a significant presence in this espionage thriller from writer-director Zal Batmanglij and writer-actress Brit Marling.

 "East" is Marling's vehicle and she carries it with convincing strength as a spy working for a company that infiltrates eco-terrorist organizations for big business. She's quite an actress, though not well known at the moment, and her writing in this one is superb.

We get the immediate impression that Marling's Sarah Moss, a former FBI agent, is straight-laced, and very much a believer in the system. Then she runs into a rag-tag bunch of "you spy on us, we'll spy on you" protesters who are giving industrial polluters and bad drug manufacturers tastes of their own products--with disastrous results to them finds. She finds these "terrorists" to be intelligent, thoughtful ... and right.

It is her turnaround that gives the slow, thoughtful and meticulously fair story its appeal. If you're looking for a bang-bang shoot 'em up, go next door and see Superman. In fact, at the Grandin, Superman's constant explosions give "The East" a sub soundtrack that is not appealing. This is a quiet movie, one that tests the Grandin's poor sound system to its limits, but it is worth the effort because the script is intelligent, the directing superb, the cinematography crisp and thoughtful and the acting uniformally excellent.

I liked that the makers of "East" didn't do a Michael Moore and beat me over the head with how bad the industrialists are and how noble the cause of the protesters is. I know that and I like that Marling has humanity and weakness on both sides of her story. It's a fine movie with a thoughtful, satisfying and believable ending and I highly recommend it, but ask the Grandin management if it would be possible to move Superman into another theater.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Obama's Lack of Leadership Killing His Presidency

Obama: Time to do something besides fold.
In a remarkable column in The New York Times, Timothy Egan (here) lays out the case against Barack Obama for those of us who support him and his policies ... most of the time.

He has, of course, been an enormous disappointment to us, primarily because he has not forcefully represented us and the issues that the majority of Americans strongly favor. Instead, he has allowed midgets in the House (Goodlatte, Griffith and Hurt from our area alone), the Senate and the Supreme Court to bully and diminish him and his programs.

He has shown little skill and almost no nerve in pushing legislation that is needed--some of it desperately--past people living in the early 17th Century who will block anything he proposes if for no other reason than that he proposed it (think Bill Clinton). These people have gutted our voting rights and our rights as individuals, fouled our ecology, made war we have no business (or money) making, screwed with our food supply, bungled our health care system, sold our country to people like the Koch Brothers and pushed obnoxious, fundamentalist religion down our gullets.

Egan writes: "President Obama continues to give limp speeches and moan about how he can’t get anything done with a Congress of Neanderthals and talk-radio spawn. An activist court, a passive president and a feeble Congress — such is the current balance of power." Indeed, an imbalance if ever there was one.

Egan asks that Obama find an inspiration where he can and follow it: "Out of nowhere (actually, Texas), this week came the mesmerizing spectacle of an underdog legislator, Wendy Davis, standing up to the bullies who run her state. ... At least he noticed. Now he can he follow the example." Following would be better than doing nothing, but leading would be so much better. Women seem to know how to do that lately. Men don't.

Newspapers' Failure Evident in Photo Firings

Photojournalism: The standard as we knew it.
There is an interesting piece on CNN (here) about the Chicago Sun-Times' recent elimination of its photography department, accompanied by photos of some of the people who were dismissed, taken by one of their own.

This is an all-too-common retelling of newspapers' failure on nearly every level in this country and you can blame it on any one of the many factors going into that failure or you can pick and choose. You can't, however, deny the utter lack of feeling in the executive ranks for the workers as people, as loyalists, as professionals, as a group that deserves far better treatment than simply to be run off unceremoniously (and in this case, off-property).

Photojournalism: The new standard.
I found it interesting that one of the fired photographers, a guy in his 50s, said he'd like to do some freelancing, but he doesn't have any equipment. I have no idea how unusual this is, but I know that the level of equipment used at an organization this big is expensive and out of reach of many in the salary range we're talking about here.

Still, a good photographer doesn't have to have a $10,000 camera in order to take good pictures and sell them. I know a lot of people selling their time and expertise for sufficient payment who have cameras and support equipment that cost less than $500. At any given time, I'm carrying around far less than $1,000 in equipment (sometimes less than $100) to get pretty damn good pictures. A good photographer can shoot a serviceable photo with a box with a hole in it (which, at its base, is a camera ).

The photos I took for the post preceding this one were shot on a Casio Exilm point and shoot that I carry in my pocket. It cost $114.

The pictured photogs in the CNN piece were mostly older, giving the impression of higher salaries. Newspapers hate older workers. Hate us. 

I don't know how anybody in the newspaper business can be surprised at losing his job. There is a level of denial in that industry that is astonishing. And the older you are, the closer you are to losing your job. I don't give a damn how many Pulitzers you have (and neither does management). 

The very worst thing about these firings is not their fact--they were inevitable--but the way they were handled. That is most common complaint among newsies, who are treated like non-entities who have not been professional, loyal and generous with the company, which returns none of that.

I really, really dislike the newspaper business these days. It used to be populated with my heroes, but they're becoming more and more difficult to find these days--especially in the executive ranks.

(Photos: for the camera phone; for photojournalist)  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Photo(s) of the Day: First Time Out for Pam

Pam Golden paddles in the sun at Carvins Cove Thursday evening.
Barefoot Pam looking content.
My friend Pam Golden went for her first kayak paddle today and was hooked from the first stroke.

We went out to Carvins Cove in Roanoke County with a storm threatening, but the sky and the air about as lovely as it gets. Pam noticed and fell in love with it all, I think.

She wants to buy a kayak and promises to take her sons out asap, if she can get them away from their computers.

That's me smiling with Pam in the background.

Rhonda Morgan Back in the Arts Driver's Seat

Rhonda Morgan
My dear friend Rhonda Morgan, former director of the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge (until it ran out of money a year or so ago) has landed solidly on her feet in Blacksburg. Rhonda is the new director of the Blacksburg Museum and Cultural Foundation. She's been interim director since February and her next challenge is a campaign to restore the Alexander Black House and Cultural Center.

She'll work on programming and events and my guess is Rhonda will give the Foundation a much beter regional profile. She's a winner and the Foundation made a good move in hiring her.

What the Bible Says About Gay Marriage and Other Absurdities

Our dear friends on the far right, the ones making such a fuss about gay people being granted the (limited) right to be married often point to Leviticus as the basis for their prejudice. And yes, it’s in there (18:22) as one of the “abominations”. But those crimes against humanity also include some laughably outrageous instructions on how to live.

Here are a few that the early Israelites wanted their tribes to follow (the Liviticus verse in parenthesis; my comments bracketed):
  • Burning any yeast or honey in offerings to God (2:11) 
  • Eating fat and blood (3:17) [I can see the fat prohibition] 
  • Failing to testify against any wrongdoing you’ve been told about (5:1) [I can see this as license to pass along gossip) 
  • Letting your hair become unkempt (10:6) [This is the “bad hair day” rule] 
  • Tearing your clothes (10:6)  
  • Drinking alcohol in holy places (10:9) ["So much for communion] 
  • Touching the skin of an animal which doesn’t both chew cud and has a divided hoof (including pigs) (11:8) [This one outlaws football—the ball is made of pigskin] 
  • Eating or touching any seafood without fins or scales (11:10-12) [No more Bubba Gump shrimp] 
  • Going to church within 33 days after giving birth to a boy, 66 days for a girl (12:4-5) 
  • Having sex with a woman during her period (18:19) [One of many instructions on who you can boink and when] 
  • Giving your children to be sacrificed to Molek (18:21) [Thank god for that] 
  • Having sex with a man “as one does with a woman” (18:22) [Here’s the one that is the basis of all the trouble with gay marriage and gay love] 
  • Picking up grapes that have fallen in your vineyard (19:10)  
  • Lying and stealing (19:11) [Tell that to a politician] 
  • Holding back the wages of an employee overnight (19:13)  
  • Mixing fabrics in clothing (19:19) [No more 60/40 shirts, dangit!)
  •  Planting different seeds in the same field (19:19) [I'm wondering if this metaphoric]
  • Sleeping with another man’s slave (19:20) [This one assumes and condones slavery] 
  • Trimming your beard and cutting your hair at the sides (19:27)  
  • Not standing in the presence of the elderly (19:32) [Hey, I like this one] 
  • Mistreating foreigners (19:33-34) [Think “immigrant”] 
  • Selling land permanently (25:23) [Death knell to real estate business] 
  • Selling an Israelite as a slave (25:42) [But, hey, sell all the immigrants you want] 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Tiny Victory from a Radical Court

Before the Supreme Court gets entirely too much credit for its ruling today, please consider that it applies to 11 states, the ones that have legalized marriage between two people, regardless of gender. The other states have laws against gay marriage and most of those are not likely to change those laws. Virginia is one of them and our Attorney General (and candidate for governor) wants to outlaw oral sex, for god's sake.

We have a long way to go and at least one right-wing nutcase Supreme Court Justice to replace on this uber-political court before we start getting realistic judgements from these people, five of whom believe a corporation is a person and that they had the right to declare George Bush president. They have degraded the constitution in the past decade-plus of crazy-assed rulings and will continue doing so until the majority is flipped.

Problem is that Barack Obama has but three years left to replace at least one of those on the right and it looks like the only person who will retire during that time is Ruth Ginsburg. The Senate will be loathe to approve anybody as liberal as she in her place. If the vacancy comes in the last 18 months of the Obama presidency, my guess is the appointment will not be approved at all until a new president is sitting.

This is a small victory. A very, very small victory in a sea of utter defeat from this court.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What, Exactly, Does 'No' Mean?

Wonder Woman can say "no" to me without a modifier, but you can't.
Leah and I got into a brisk discussion over the weekend about the meaning of "no," one that has so many shades of gray, black and white that I can't count them all.

She tends to believe that the word alone is sufficient, that it is straightforward and answers the question without a lot of fuss. I say it's not. It needs a modifier, unless the blunt, "No!" is punctuated with an exclamation point. Then, there's no definition problem. The "!" gives the "no" a distinct "hell, no" property.

But what if I text her an invitation to a movie and she responds, "No." That's a straightforward, shortform answer in a shortform medium. But what is the result? I question what the "no" means. Is she angry? Does she hate this kind of movie? Is she tired of going to movies with me?

She could have said, "Not tonight", "No, thanks", "I don't want to see that movie", "I have to wash my hair." Those responses soften the blow. She could have called and said, "Thank you for the invitation, but I won't be able to go because ..."

I asked an old friend a couple of weeks ago to go kayaking in the late afternoon, maybe watch the sun go down over Carvins Cove. She's a long-time, close friend and I hadn't talked to her in a while, but all I got in a text response was, "No, thanks." I'd like to have heard more and I would have liked a call, rather than a text, unless the response was "Yes, what time?" With the affirmative response, we would have plenty of time to talk. With the "no" the conversation was at an end and I was left with questions.

Tell me what you think.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fat Is Now a Disease: What Will That Mean?

A disease-filled hot tub.
Some years ago when the American Medical Association recognized alcoholism as a disease, there were cheers from one side of the debate, derisive jeers from the other. You can still the same expressions from the same people today when those of afflicted with alcoholism say we are suffering from a disease.

Now the AMA has said the same thing about obesity. (Here's the story.) It is a disease, not a condition or an affliction. It is likely to become eligible for federal treatment and study funds. The stigma of being fat could be reduced, much as the alcoholism stigma took a pretty serious hit.

I'm not sure how to feel about this ruling because most fat Americans are fat because they eat too much and exercise too little, not because of glands gone wild. It is a pretty simple cause/effect. But you can say the same about alcoholism: you drink too much, you get drunk, you can become a practicing alcoholic. For those of us in the category, there is the additional issue of our natural proclivity toward the disease. Maybe so for the obese, as well. I'm no doc, and I don't know.

If this ruling helps slim down the population, then it is a good ruling. If it works the other way, it is a bad one. My guess is that it won't do much of anything.


Private Companies Spying on Us: Worry About It

Here's where we are as a security-conscious nation right now, one that is putting security over freedom because we're terrified of anything that moves and says "Boo!".

Republicans have been so godawful since Nixon that we feel defensive about Democrats' transgressions, knowing we have little alternative. That basically gives the Dems carte blanche to do anything the Repubs would do with a level of impunity that is shocking. I'm more surprised that people are surprised by this than by the spying, which is completely unacceptable. Maybe, for once, our outrage will result in something positive. But probably not.

Most disturbing to many of us is the private companies taking over government functions without the regulation inherent in government programs (and they're generally over-regulated while private companies, when regulated at all are under-regulated). 

The notion that we should not be worried if we haven't done anything wrong is completely bogus because of the definition of what "anything wrong" is: broad and deep. If you've protested cigarette companies lying to us, you're likely in a datebase. If you're a member of a liberal or conservative group, you're in. If you've written a negative Facebook post, for example saying Mitch McConnell is as ugly as a 100-year-old turtle, you're likely being spied upon.

Worry about it. It's worth the effort.

(Drawing: Mad magazine's Spy vs. Spy)

Dad and Daughter: The Dream Alive

Love this shot. This is my son Evan and his favorite daughter Madeline at Fishburn Park yesterday. This is the way dads dream about their daughters.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

More Photo of the Day: The Family, Plus

My son's family earlier today.
Sometimes you get the picture, sometimes the picture gets you, but here are two from the family photo sessions today that I was pretty damn pleased with. Loved the kids (Madeline and her brother Oz) in the water. Almost couldn't get either of them out. Mads is a swimmer and Oz is a creek kinda guy.

Photo of the Day, Too: On Three, Let's Cry!

Oz got all bent out of shape earlier this evening when the family portrait session was winding down and Pampa gave up the camera so he could be in a shot or two. Oz was worn down from all the posing and fawning and started to fuss and cry so, shoot, Maddie and Pamps just joined him. We enjoyed the fussing, too, but Oz seemed a bit puzzled by our reaction.

Recipe of the Day: Avocado Vinaigrette

This one's easy and it's marvy. Avocado vinaigrette is what made Carlo's restaurant in Roanoke famous and you can whip up a pint in minutes. This salad dressing is more like a traditional French dressing: thick like mayonnaise.

Here's what you need:

Two medium, ripe avocados, peeled and sliced into bite sizes.
Half a red bell pepper, chopped.
1/4 cup cilantro stems, chopped.
1/2 cup virgin olive oil.
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar.
1/2 fresh lime.
1/2 teaspoon Stevia (or equivalent sweetener, 1 1/2 tsp sugar, for instance)

In a food processor, place the avocados, olive oil, vinegar, lime and sweetener. Mix until smooth. Sprinkle in the bell pepper and chop until slightly lumpy, but not smooth (you want to see the red of the peppers).

Serve it over a fresh green salad and say, "Mmmmmmmm," occasionally. That's allowed.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Dirty Politics from the Dems Does the Party No Good

Legendary political dirty trickster Donald Segretti of Nixon Administration.
According to this piece from Investors Weekly, California Democrats are using the nation's health care bill--the one that Republicans already hate--to recruit people to the party. The story has a strong ring of truth to it and, dammit, if it is true then the Dems are doing nobody any favors, especially those who correctly think the Republicans are the party of crooks.

People who already believe both parties are crooks will see that theory grow with this latest outrage. If it's true, then Dems will no longer be able to bitch about gerrymandering and stacking the courts with right-wing nutcases because "both parties do it." If both parties are crooked, then the alternative is ... well, what is it?

I'm not a Democrat, but I lean more toward the left side of the aisle than the right and this little game of one-upmanship really pisses me off. It comes on top of a number of other recent Democratic outrages, mostly having to do with privacy, war crimes and Monsanto, at a time when the Dems should be poised to simply flatten the crazies of the Republican Party, where even old-timers have had enough.

If you're pissed, say so. I don't know if it'll do any good because nothing seems to impact politics except large sums of money, but it feels good to get it out in the open.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

How Much Blogging Is Too Much?

Here's your favorite editr hard at work.
I'm trying to determine how much is too much in the blog world. Last night during Karen Chase's "Blog to Book" class, she talked about the number of hits her blog receives each month and I was taken aback at the figure because I thought it low.

Karen has a good blog (here) and her first book is selling well, at least partly because of her following. But she's measuring hits in the hundreds per month. She blogs weekly. I don't get it.

I blog as much as seven or eight times a day, rarely miss a day with a post and have been doing that since October 2008, when I posted my first blog. I have written something north of 3,400 posts in that time on three blogs (Valley Business FRONT, Roanoke Regional Writers Conference and this one). You can look at the number on the left of this page and see how many visits I had in the last 30 days (updated daily). That number has been as high as 29,000, but averages about 17,000. As I told Karen, the more I write, the more people visit.

But what is a high number? Nobody seems to know. My friend Dan Casey at the local daily here has very large numbers by my reckoning, but Dan is supported by large institutional platform and my blog is strictly independent. It doesn't even allow advertising. I tried that and found myself unintentionally writing for the advertisers, so I quit after a couple of months. There is a blogger in Christiansburg with a national following for her food posts whose numbers are in six figures monthly. She built her following slowly, but is now courted by advertisers because her following is so significant.

It strikes me as odd that this blog comes up first when I search "Dan Smith's blog," even though there is a young novelist named Dan Smith (here) who writes a blog about his books, something that I hope to do as soon as CLOG! is in stores. I have four books to my credit, but have not built a blog for any of them. Burning the Furniture and Saving Homer have Facebook pages, but selling large numbers of those books has never been a specific goal of mine. The other Dan has the site name and I'll have to figure something else out in the meantime (maybe CLOG!bydan smith).

So, tell me this: Am I writing too often, too long, about too wide a variety of topics to capture significant numbers. I'd love to know what you think.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Photo of the Day: An Evening With Karen Chase

This is your favorite editor with Karen Chase, the writer of Bonjour 40, and a woman I have come to admire a great deal in a short time. Karen was the guest teacher tonight at our Writers Series class at Community High School and her talk was superb. A natural teacher along with her many other talents. You'll have a chance to see her again Jan. 24-25 at Hollins University during the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference. Tonight, she taught "Blog to Book."

Irony: Cheney Screams About Leaking Secrets

Valerie Plame: Victim of Cheney's CIA leak.
"The irony of people like Dick Cheney or Karl Rove whining and bemoaning the fact of the leak of intelligence, given my history and certainly Dick Cheney's intimate involvement with the betrayal of my CIA identity is really something."

--Valerie Plame, former CIA agent outed by Dick Cheney to columnist Robert Novak (story here)


Praying When You're Told: Not a Good Thing

"But teacher, I don't want to pray right now."
From a new survey:

"According to a Pew Research Center poll conducted last year, 65 percent of Americans said 'liberals have gone too far' in attempting to keep religion out of schools and government. A smaller number of Americans, around 48 percent of those surveyed, told Pew that conservative Christians have gone too far in trying to 'impose religious values on the country.'"

I don't quite understand why it is that the religious right--and even people who aren't with that group, but think forced prayer in school or anywhere else is okay--doesn't quite get that prayer is optional for individuals no matter where they are. I pray under all kinds of circumstances, in many different places and sometimes even during a conversation. Nothing and nobody stops me. It's my choice.

Forcing people to pray in a manner that is foreign to their belief, however, is as bad as forcing a person to eat horse meat if that is repulsive to him or to have sex with an animal. It is not natural, not pleasant and results either in total capitulation to a notion he doesn't believe or rebellion. Neither of those is good.

Praying when you want to is good, legal and ethical. Praying when you're told is none of that.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Small Conicidence and It's Irresistible

Sometimes the coincidences are just absurd to even try to figure out. What we have here is a six ounce jar of Pampa Marinated Artichoke Hearts I just bought at Big Lots, precisely because they are the Pampa brand. I could have bought three times the volume for the same price, but it's the Pampa--my grandgirl's name for me--that was the selling point.

I bought five jars. They'll be in Christmas stockings. The four I didn't eat, anyway. Had this one on my lunch salad.

Fixing Women's Basketball: Solutions Are Simple

UT vs. UConn used to be the face of the women's game. No more.
For years, I've been a fan of women's basketball--and not just at the college level, where it is the most entertaining. That's beginning to flag, however, for a lot of reasons, many of them highlighted by former USABasketball and WNBA President Val Ackerman. She conducted a recent study (story here) on how to reinvigorate the women's game and has reached some reasonable conclusions that I suspect will be ignored for the reason most of these studies are ignored: officials want to protect their fiefdoms.

I came to the women's game in the late 1970s when, as a sportswriter, the women's game(s) offered a change of pace, a freshness, a look at a kind of purity in sport the men had lost long ago. I covered women's basketball, tennis, volleyball and a couple other sports (softball was not one of them then) with enthusiasm because of the new perspective.

Then came the University of Tennessee's basketball success and I was a semi-regular in Knoxville to see those great women's teams.

These days, though, UT is not on the top tier and the game in general has lost its appeal to me. I think a change began (for men and women) with the big, baggy uniforms and the shot clock, which I've always disliked. The women's basketball shrunk to four-fifths the size of the men's ball and that made sense, but the basket remains at 10 feet where almost no women can dunk. That is silly. It needs to be lowered, allowing one of the most exciting plays in the game to be more than a rare curiosity engaged in by Candice Parker and that monster from Baylor. I'd like to see it at nine feet.

Attendence is often dismal. From the story: "Only one team, Tennessee, averaged more than 10,000 fans last season. Of the 343 women’s teams in Division I, 205 averaged fewer than 1,000 spectators and 90 averaged fewer than 500." Some averaged fewer than 100 spectators. Almost all needed financial help from their schools or football programs.Tennessee's attendance (at a 24,000-seat arena) has declined in recent years.

Good shooting was always a hallmark in women's basketball, but shooting percentages at the top levels of college basketball last year were in the 30s (the three-point show was a flat 30) and the game is, frankly, too slow, the scores too low, the players boring and their uniforms far too large. This is the only sport where the athletes don't wear uniforms that fit (men and women). Track and volleyball uniforms are form-fitting--almost too much so.

Finally, the officiating in women's basketball, even in the Final 4, is just about the worst in organized sport from my perspective. I have no idea why these officials can't be consistent and predictable, but their lack of same creates confusion among the players and coaches and anger among the fans. Better training is an absolute necessity.

I still enjoy the women's game and will continue to for a while. Unless they don't change it.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day: A Brief Rememberance

Mom and Dad about 1957 or so. He was old for 47.
Dad at the barbecue grill about 1958.
It's Fathers Day again and I never quite know what to say. Dad died when I was 13 and I didn't know him all that well. When he was alive, he worked seven days a week, 364 days a year (365 on Leap Year) and when he was home, he was usually reading one of the seven or so books he read each week.

The only time I remember him playing with me, I caught a pop fly in the middle of my forehead (he'd nearly bounced it off the moon and I was only about 10) and knocked me cold. The one phrase I remember from that was Mom standing over me--supine--and saying, "George, he's just a little boy. You can't play ball with him like he's in the Major Leagues." Dad was an old college baseball (and football) player and he was just doing what he did, I guess.

Dad cooked for a living (hence the shot at the left), but he never cooked at home. Mom wouldn't let him near the kitchen ("You're too much of a mess") and he didn't mind, I'd say, any more than the cobbler wanted to make his kids shoes on his off-days.

For many years after Dad died, I had vivid dreams of him visiting me. They were so real that when I'd awaken, I'd fully expect to see him standing there, baseball bat in hand, motioning me to follow him outside.

He was the father of eight children and most of us have done alright with our lives (some--like me--had a hard time getting to "alright," but we got there) and I think we all retain his sense of justice, of integrity and of treating people the way we want to be treated--with respect, especially. Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Photos for Grandpa's Day: Hat Night at the Ballpark

Pampa's hat is really--like, REALLY--nasty.
Grandaddy's hat fits just exactly right.
It was Oz Hat Night at the Salem Red Sox-Lynchburg Hillcats baseball game last night at LewisGale Centerfield (who's on first?) last night and his two grandfathers (one of whom is moi) provided the gear.

He first tried on Pampa's nasty as an outhouse cleaning brush Superman ("No, that's the family crest!") hat, then Grandaddy Wayne Dickerson's Parrothead lid.

Don't know which he liked best. Maybe the hotdog.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Photos of the Day: A 'Nice Haul' from Happy's

A dramatically slimming Ariel Clark with my pretty German tablecloth.
Didn't buy this Red Ryder lead toy set (with Hopalong Cassidy pix included).
This morning's Happy's Flea Market run was a pretty good one, thanks in part to my pal Ariel Clark, who furnished a lovely German tablecloth (new) and a Captain America T-shirt for $3 total. I didn't buy her dad's Red Ryder cigar box full of lead toys, a poster and a Hopalong Cassidy photo inside because it was $50. It's probably worth $250, but I didn't have with me, either.

Also scored three (3!) old-style fountain pens (with two ballpoint pens) for $7, all of them new. Now I must find ink and an inkwell for the pens. Picked up a 1946 Argus flash unit for one of my cameras ($1), a new-in-package electronic mouse for my laptop ($1), a new pair of very sharp hair-thinning sheers ($1, Leah cuts my hair), a lighthouse wire sculpture ($1), three Women's Heart Awareness Month pins (25 cents), a red ribbon (25 cents) which I gave Ariel, and two pairs of pretty nice earrings (new) for $1 each. Leah gets those.

Nice haul, I'd say.

Oh, and on the way out, I got to see a near fist-fight between one of the ticket-takers and a guy who kept abusing the rules. The Happy's guy told him he was banned from ever coming back. The rule-breaker swore, "I'll be back." Hope I'm there when he is.

Fathers Day 2013: And Now for a Good Father

My son Evan with wife Kara and kids Oz and Madeline yesterday on their front steps.
Ev with the kids and Oz's leftover pizza.
Kara and my favorite kid in the entire universe.
Maddie, her buddy Gracie and a delighted Oz.
Now that we have discussed (in the previous post) what a crappy dad I was, let us assure you that it is not a genetic condition. My son, Evan, is one of the best fathers I've ever known. Here he is two days before Fathers Day, 2013, with his brood. He won't get to spend the celebratory day with them, though, because he's heading to Europe for a few days of work beginning today. They're moving to Spain at the end of the summer and this is his introduction to his new workplace.

Father's Day: Even Drunks Get It Right Some of the Time

Jennie and me shortly after we moved to Roanoke in 1972. This is on the Parkway.
Toddler Evan and me in 1975, Summit Hills, Roanoke.
Evan and Jennie playing in 1975. She's 8, he's 1 or so.
Jennie leans on her dad during a mid-'70s softball game.
One of my favorite photos of the kids (and their dog Daisy, center distance).
The responsible Miss Jennie cradles her little brother.
Evan's learning to walk; Jennie's his cheerleader.
Me with newbie Evan and his mother, Chris.
Evan and me on the front steps.
My contention has always been that I was never much of a dad, but it wasn't for lack of wanting to. I'm a recovering drunk--19 years this past May--and when the kids were growing, I was at my worst.

That does not mean every minute they were kids and I was Dad was a bad minute. There were times when I was lucid, attentive, caring and, well, a pretty good guy. But they rarely lasted before I lapsed. They both grew through it, Jennie probably getting the worst of it. I got sober when Evan was in high school and have been trying to compensate for years.

It took Jennie a while to come around ("You'll pardon me if I'm skeptical," she once said at my announcement of impending sobriety), but now we're close, like I always wanted. I've always adored that girl (woman, now) and the firstborn is always special in a way that nobody else can be. In the last eight years, Evan and his wife Kara, have presented me with two grandkids. I remember telling both of my kids that if they had children before I was 50, they weren't mine. I just wasn't ready. The grands came when I was fully ready and I've thoroughly enjoyed every minute of being part of their lives, especially Madeline's (as you probably know, if you've been paying attention).

So, I will thank god, my teammates, my coaches, my kids and everybody else who had anything to do with me finally growing up, ditching the booze and getting to the rewarding part of life: loving my good kids and good grandkids.