Monday, April 28, 2014

Today's Photo: For Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave ...

I call this one "The Deception Tree" and I culled it from the shots taken along the Blackwater Trail yesterday because I like it a lot. Trees can be an enormous amount of fun to shoot, especially when we determine they're trying to make a statement, as this one seems to be.

A Day in the Woods, A Day on the Water

The editr poses on a spur trail off the Blackwater.
Leah Weiss trudges up a hill.
My photo buddy (and now kayak buddy) Anne Sampson takes to the water.
Pampa the editr gets his orange boat ready for the water.
Lovely late April day was Sunday, high temp near 80, sky clear and blue, breeze light, conditions perfect for a hike and a paddle. So I got in both (not to mention a little GWLtd. shopping, a trip to a Civil War cemetary--see previous philosophical post--and a soft ice cream break at lunch).

You can't fill 'em too full for my dollar.

The Meaning of War in Black and White and Color

This is the stark future that awaited Civil War soldiers in particular and many soldiers in general.
The flag they fought for.
There's rarely been a question about where I stand on war and here is a group of photos--taken in the Civil War section of Lynchburg City Cemetery yesterday--that will help explain why. The result of war is singular. There are no winners, only losers who wind up in lonely graves, often unmarked.

The Lynchburg cemetery has a place for Yankee soldiers and for African Americans, separate and unmarked, as well as for the Confederate dead. They're mostly kids, appropriated from the farms and small towns without education or purpose. They haven't had time for either, and now they're dead.

That, not the medals and monuments and marching songs and "thank you for your service," is what it's about. Dead people. Permanently dead people. Who keep piling up without reason.

It was sad then when we were a very young country. It is tragic now as we age and learn nothing.

Tree shadow shakes through headstones.
A boy, far from home, and dead.
Self-portrait in cobblestone.
Finally, death's happy face ... in color.
(Photoshop treatment on the color flag in the black and white pix is by Janeson Keeley. She promised to teach me how ... again. I used to know.)

You Like 'Swing!'? Here's a Freebie Preview

A few years ago, I got really tired of seeing musical after musical at Mill Mountain Theatre, but now here's one I soooooo want to see (and I have tickets): "Swing!"

I grew up watching my mother dance around the house (and that woman could dance) to swing tunes, so I love the music and the moves. "Swing!" plays May 7-18 on the Trinkle Main Stage at MMT and you can get your tickets (here) or by calling 540-342-5740.

If you want to get a glimpse of what is to come, the cast will do a lunchtime performance Tuesday (tomorrow), 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Roanoke City Market's newly-renovated plaza. It's free and you'll hear songs like "It Don't Mean a Thing", "I'll Be Seeing You", and "Hit Me With a Hot Note."

I love the marketing angle in this: free samples always hit the spot, especially with the energy in this kind of dance. Hope to see you there (and at the play).

A Public Admission; An Act of Courage, Conviction

Anne Giles
My friend Anne Giles announced on her blog today for all the world that she is an alcoholic. There are those people and organizations who strongly caution against going public with a disease that is often hidden for long periods, but I'm happy for Anne in this.

I stayed under cover--to the degree that any drunk can--for more than 22 years of trying to get sober and failing. Next month--if I make it that far--will mark 20 years of sobriety for me and at least a small part of that two decades came about, I think, because I have not been afraid to talk openly about this disease that forces us to deny we have it. When I was drinking, everybody knew it, I reason. With sobriety, I want to celebrate every day with everybody who wants to listen. Why hide success?

Anne explains her reasons and I won't attempt to interpret, only to present, but I will say mine was a good decision for me and I suspect hers will be good for her. By going public, she opens herself to stares and whispers from the ignorant and even criticism from hardliners in recovery, but she is also open to questions about a disease that officially affects more than 10 percent of our people (and I'd say a lot more than that unofficially) and untold numbers of families. Those people want answers and they're not always easy to find.

I have been consistently gratified that people, often strangers, talk in depth with me about alcohol (and not always with the "ism") in their families or in their own lives. It seems to help them and it always helps me. It keeps me cognizant of who I am and what is most important in my life: sobriety. Alcoholism is a primary disease, like cancer and heart disease, and must be treated first. Anne's step is encouraging for all of us and it takes a significant degree of courage to be this open. She will--I am confident--be rewarded for that courage. The rest of us already have received a reward from her.

Here's some of what Anne has to say:

So why have I decided to tell?

Not telling the truth is becoming another sickness. I value honesty, openness, and candor. And I have not been those. I have withheld the hardest struggle of my life from the people closest to me.  I was recently hired as an addictions counselor and shared with colleagues and clients, complete strangers, that I was in recovery. Yet I haven’t told my own family members, my own friends? I treasure speaking and writing openly with others about my life – all of it.

The risks of telling seem weighty. Although my father and sister know that I am sharing my story publicly, I am most sorry if it brings shame to them. The same for my business partners. They know. If this openness compromises them in any way, oh, I regret that. And then if my story brings shame to my family members, my friends, my former students, my colleagues, my clients – I am very, very sorry about that, too.

And practically speaking, my business could lose business. Who wants to risk doing business with an alcoholic? What if she relapses? What happens then?

But. Integrity, wholeness, values – they call me to tell the truth.

Acknowledging the truth is a political act as well. I probably knew when I listened to Ann Dowsett Johnston, author of  Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol, that I would need to tell sooner rather than later. She says alcoholics and addicts are killing people with their silence. Okay. For the sake of those who think they’re all alone, I share my story. But it is not a unique one. I am but one of an increasing number of women who are turning to drink.

So, now that’s out. Come what may, I can live an open life again.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Delightful Young Artist for Your Consideration

I bought this one and you can't have it.
If you're going to Roanoke City Market today, stop in Birdy's Loft (the left corner of Center in the Square) and talk to a young artist who works there named Heather Mills. Some of her work is for sale and it's extraordinary (I bought the oil above and love it).

Heather is recently out of college and will be working for Deborah Goglia for the summer, from what I understand. The shop has weathered the severe construction disruptions and Deborah has re-arranged, added stock and generally created a marvelous atmosphere for those of you loving antiques, collectibles and vintage women's clothing. Fun store just for a visit.

Friday, April 25, 2014

This Just In: Compact Cinema Is Baaaaaaaack

Ben Bristoll at Compact Cinema
Those of you closely following the continuing evolution of Compact Cienma, the little theater that could, then couldn't, then could again will be pleased to know that the latter iteration is current: it can.

Ben Bristoll, the entrepreneur who is driving this buggy and who saw his baby sink a month ago--just a month into its life--says there have been changes in the plan, but the basic concept is still there: a tiny movie theater whose goal is to educate and shake things up a bit.

Let me mention that the website is still operative, but as of this morning, it had not been updated with the news of the re-awakening.

Here's Ben:

"Compact Cinema has been spared the axe, but it will continue in a different form. It will no longer be a full-time movie theater (with daily screenings). Instead, I (and perhaps others) will show films there occasionally, as special events.

"For example, we recently had a very successful one-night screening of local singer-songwriter Joy Truskowski's documentary 'Seeking the Good Life in America,' about her visits to three intentional communities here in Virginia. We had a packed house and had to add a second screening that night, and had amazing hour-long group discussions after each screening.

"Compact Cinema will probably get used more often as a meeting space for community activist groups and as a special events space for the 16 West Marketplace, and it will host the TED Talks every Wednesday at noon from now on. [These] are always thought-provoking and followed by vibrant audience discussion.

"We will see how it goes in this form, and if it builds an audience gradually over time. If the audience grows, then we'll add more screenings and events."

So, if you lean left politically, have concerns about the food you eat or the medications you ingest or just want to mingle with some pretty dang interesting people, head on over. If you're a right-winger who wants to get baptized in the real blood of the lamb, you might show up with an open mind.

Word of the Day: Gobsmacking

Gobsmacked Bill Gates: Even him?
My friend Doug Cumming, a journalism assistant prof at Washington & Lee University, used a word in his blog this morning that turned my head and stopped me right there: "Gobsmacking."

Here's the sentence, referring to a handout I gave his students during a talk yesterday th help with their efforts to start their own magazine: "When one or two of you actually do this in a few years, you’ll pull out the notes he handed out and see how gobsmacking on point [they] were, and are."

Lovely word, gobsmacking. explains it thusly: "Gobsmacked combines the northern English and Scottish slang term "gob," mouth, with the verb "smack." It suggests the speaker is utterly astonished or astounded. It’s much stronger than just being surprised; it’s used for something that leaves you speechless, or otherwise stops you dead in your tracks. It suggests that something is as surprising as being suddenly hit in the face." Kind of a Brit head butt, I'd say. (My ancestry is distinctly Scottish; clans Buchanan and Macquarrie, or the Americanized McCourry.)

He also called me a "raconteur." Not sure what to think about that. Fancy-schmantzy for "storyteller." But then, you gotta remember Doug's an academic, a journalist/academic if you're looking for today's oxymoron.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Conclusion: 'It Isn't All About Gender'

Gayla D'Gaia
Gayla D'Gaia is a Facebook friend who is rapidly becoming a real friend. This morning I reposted a graphic of a woman punching herself in the face with the comment that she must be Republican. The post was about a bill that would require an accounting of all miscarriages. A perceptive and insightful Gayla followed that up with a couple of thoughtful short essays. 

Gayla says, "I am the founder of The Sacred Beauty Project - which began in 2008. It's been my passion to observe and notice what people feel connects them to the sacred in their everyday lives as well as to what people do to honor and preserve or create in order to live in accordance with what they value as sacred."

She also said this: "As you might notice from my BF posts, I value what is sacred and the reason that it comes across to me to use that word so often is because I generally feel that we've forgotten many aspects of what life really is - a sacred experience. 

" It shocked me to read the article to learn that a woman was the one behind the idea of twisting things by twisting the move to help parents heal from a miscarriage - which was a sacred gesture on the part of the Republican man who introduced it - so I reflected on why a woman being that cruel shocked me more than had it been a man.

"Here's what I learned: men are not to be trusted less or counted upon more to be heartless jerks when it comes to cruelty and political control over women because it isn't at all about gender. That whole concept that it is wacko mean spirited men who are out to dominate women is an illusion. The truth is that there is a virus that is like a terrorist within our own government and within our world. 

"This 'virus' affects the thinking of both genders and causes insane thinking that is inhumane, cruel, and void of sacred compassion, kindness, humanity, dignity, and respect. 

"That is how it appears to me - and what I am not sure of is whether there is, if I were to enter deeply enough into the reasoning behind how some of these decisions get made, if there is ultimately something I would be able to understand enough to feel true compassion for. 

"So, all I can do when I read a story about people who constitute a large enough group to gain a voice and power in politics [and] who seem so obviously cruel and vile to me, is to realize I truly do not understand ... I hold compassion for them for the simple fact that there must be some form of suffering going on inside of them that allows them to defile something as vulnerable for most people as loosing a pregnancy can be. 

"My hope is that people around them will soon come to into their greatest clarity about a way to effectively turn down the noise from people like this person and her clans."

A Lunch of Comparing Journalism Notes

That's student Andrea Siso of Houston and moi and the W&L group at lunch.
Grizzled editr pontificates.
Lunch today was a marvelous opportunity for me to chat with a group of about 15 communications students from Washington & Lee University about starting a magazine, which is one of their class assignments. The professor is my old friend Doug Cumming, who was with his attractive-on-every-level wife Libby today.

I took a look at what goes into starting a magazine business, being as realistic as possible with it, and strongly suggesting that they forego the printed version (though I don't know if the class assignment allows that). If you're interested, the text of the talk is posted on the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference blog (here). There's some good information in that talk, accumulated from a lot of years in the business.

Delightful and delicious (Nora's Cafe at the Taubman Museum of Art is one of my favorites) afternoon spent with some good friends and some very bright students. I love being around their enthusiasm and curiosity. It renews an old man.

Washington & Lee students get ready for a talking-to.

Throwback Thursday, Too: It's a Security Issue

That's your basic 26-year-old sportswriter, recently hired and ID'd by Roanoke's daily paper, long hair and all. The earring came later--if only briefly.

This is the same year I was awarded the Marshall Johnson AP Award for career achievement, which gave everybody I knew a fall-down, howling moment of levity.  Marshall gave me the first one because we were buds, not because I was exemplary at anything, save for goldbricking.

The card was interesting because it was issued in the first place. Apparently, the powers that were within our building were concerned that somebody might want to enter the building and knock a few of us off, so it instituted some policies having to do with security. I'm not sure I ever carried my ID and, frankly, this may be the first time I've seen it since it was issued.

Throwback Thursday: For a Shining Moment

That's me and my favorite ex-wife Christina relaxing on the porch of the Main Building at Hollins University, housing the Green Drawing Room where our wedding reception had just been held, August 19, 2000. We were tired and taking a moment to reflect before flying off to Oregon and our honeymoon. From the look on Christina's face, I'd say marital indigestion was on the way.

Anyhow, an explanation of the socks is forthcoming. Christina's mom, Kitty Koomen, whom I adore then and now, is a stickler for form. When she found out I was wearing a tuxedo for an 11 a.m. wedding, she nearly had a mild heart attack. So, I thought, "Let's make this good." My son, who was my best man, and I went to a soccer store and bought the brightest orange socks we could find and as I walked down the aisle, I hiked my pants as I passed Kitty. She nearly knocked me over by laughing. Didn't expect that.

It was a great wedding. The marriage not so much. But Christina remains a valued friend and that's something to celebrate.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Flea Market Finds and More: Floral Artwork

Sometimes flea market finds are irresistible. Spring cleaning trash heaps at friends' houses are equally inviting. Here are two, pulled in during the past and
awaiting an assignment. They're now planters.

The first is a copper coffeepot, from my friend Leah's tossings, vintage unknown but it looks like an oldie that has been used a good bit. The lovely flowers top it off perfectly.

At the right is a big chicken (I'm a sucker for chickens) that has had flowers in it before after landing here from god knows where (probably a flea market). Now, it's back to work for the spring.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Photo Eassy: Happy Birthday Leah Weiss

Leah shows off her cake and her age.
Get ready, get set ...
... blow!
And the family approves.
Leah/Bea whack birthday pinata.
Went over to near Lynchburg this afternoon for my friend Leah Weiss' birthday and it was a grand day for her and everybody else.

A sizeable family gathering celebrated Easter with an egg hunt and Leah's 67th birthday celebration with a lovely cake, a one-whack pinata (with daughter-in-law Bea's help) and an equally wondrous meal (take a look for yourself).

And I'll say, "Happy birthday, Leah. May you have many more and may they all be this happy for you."

Here's The Real Meaning of Easter (If I May)

Here's the bunny and me yesterday at Green Hill Park during the Kite Festival sharing the love.
So today, one where Fox News finds boogiemen under the bushes executing their "War on Easter," I would like to forward a word to you from my friend Jesus, who would like for you to--in his words--"love one another."

And, of course, there's this from Romans: "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law."

This is not the Second Amendment, either. It is not open to any interpretation beyond the simple stated words. We must love each other. All else is bullshit. So sayeth the lord. And me.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Photo Eassy: A Grand Day for Flying a Kite

Kite-ettes buzz around the giant kite at the festival at Green Hill Park.
It's a bird; it's a plane; it's a KITE!
Tangles happen, especially at kite festivals.
And sometimes they get hung in trees.
Some even come as kites.
Stacked kites.
Dragon Kite and Pegasus Kite.
She'd be a kite fancier.
Flags of all sorts lined the field.
TV journalist Kimberly McBroom and her young'un.
Dad photographs daughter.
Old guys can play, too.
Blanche Williams thanks Bunny for her Easter basket.
Kites obscured nearly everything else.
The Roanoke County Kite Festival at Green Hill Park west of Salem drew a surprisingly large crowd today and those taking part were greeted with brisk kite-sailing winds throughout. The temperature was moderate, the clouds keeping it from getting too hot and it looked like a lot of people were having a grand time. Here's some of what it looked like.
There was even a little 4th of July mixed in for fun.

Birthday Greeting: Madeline Goes Flamenco

Maddie strikes the pose.
Mads knows the importance of the well-turned ankle ...
... and the well-turned flamenco move.
Seems today was my daughter-in-law, Cara's, birthday and grandgirl Madeline benefitted from the celebrating. That's her with her new flamenco dress and, as you might imagine, this young clothes horse is whinnying up a storm. Looks cool, huh? Spain seems to be agreeing.

Not Much of a Threat to City Farmers Market

Veggies are gorgeous, seasonal, expensive.
Crow was a nice size this morning.
Blanche Williams talks to one of the bakers.
Healthy Stuff is a Market regular.
Because I'd heard so much about the threat being posed by a new farmer's market at the Greenbrier Nursery in the Cave Spring section of Roanoke County (near Penn Forest Elementary School), I thought it would be worth a Saturday morning trip over to see what was up.

I found a pleasant, though small, market with quite a bit of fresh produce and some wondrous baked goods. It was expensive. It was quite busy. Looked successful. One table in the tent was vacant. And, of course, Greenbrier is one of the best large nurseries in these parts.

So, I went down to City Market to see what the damage was. Didn't seem to be any. It was busy, full of vendors and the atmosphere was upbeat. Seems there is plenty of room for two, three, four or more markets in the Valley.