Monday, June 30, 2014

Gratitude: Irony and Sonya

Sonya, watching over me.
Today I am grateful for:

This one's two-fold.

1. Irony. My post yesterday was about the joys of health. I spent last night (and tonight) in the hospital making sure the health I enjoy remains healthy. I'm doing fine and now I'm grateful for all of you who have asked about me and sent good wishes. You mean a lot to me.

2. Sonya Chapellear (again). She's becoming an incredibly good friend, one who shows up, is concerned, is intelligent, who listens and who is like a little sister/mother all in one. Sonya got me to the hospital because she's smarter than I am.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Good Look at the Dirty Politics in Richmond

Bill Howell: God of the House.
Jeff Shapiro, a superb political columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, takes a look today (here) at the Republican dirty tricks in the General Assembly during the past two weeks.

What has happened--the bribing of a sitting senator to quit his seat and the break-in of the governor's offices--must be illegal and if it isn't something is seriously wrong in the state capitol.

Shapiro's primary point is that the Republicans know how to play the game, staying just inside the boundaries of legality--though morality and ethics have absolutely nothing to do with their actions. Speaker of the House Bill Howell "is a God-fearing man who can bully others with God-like powers." That means he plays the dirty game with a lot of mud and complete impunity.

I think it's time to take Bill Howell and his ilk out of their positions of power and put people of morality and ethical strength in their place. Howell and those like him to not serve the people of Virginia. They serve themselves and their money managers.

(Photo: Washington Post.)

Gratutide: Good Health Is a Fleeting Gift Unless Guarded

Today, I am grateful for:

Good health. After last night's little episode with dizziness, nausea and heavy sweating, I am especially cognitant that health is a gift and must be treated with a delicate hand. The stumble last night was likely a diabetic warning (though I don't know that for certain) and it came in the wake of me eating three ounces of banana bread--which had sugar and white flour in it, both forbidden. I know better than that and the bread should not have even been in the house. I have called my primary care doc to see what's up.
Today, I get to be ever more conscious of who and what I am. Twenty years ago, I had to learn to wake every morning and say out loud, "I am an alcoholic. What am I going to do today to keep the booze away?" That recognition has been of enormous value. So, this morning, I am an alocholic with a diabetes problem. Take that you scuz.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Photo of the Day, Too: Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder

Bridge over the Roanoke River where it merges with Tinker Creek.
There was a lot of beauty on the hike I took along Tinker Creek earlier today. There was a time when those newly-built rusty bridges all but offended me, but truth be told, they kind of grow on you, don't them. I think they're pretty in the right light and with the right mood.

Not as pretty as the wildflowers on the left, but, hey, not everybody can have a sunshine personnae.

Photo of the Day: The Old Swimmin' Hole

I ran into this scene while hiking along Tinker Creek earlier today. Three boys--about 12--dumped their stuff, shed shirts and shoes and headed to the water. I didn't see them, but could clearly hear them in the creek, splashing, laughing, yelling, having a wonderful summer day.

Gratitude: Accepting People for Who They Are

Today I am grateful for:

The growing acceptance in our culture of people for who they are. Polls are showing that approval of marriage contracts among non-traditional groups is more than 50 percent now, up dramatically in just a few years. Many are battling hard to avoid reversion to the discrimination of darker times in our history against women, people of color, gays.

I had a brisk discussion with a woman who termed herself a "Christian" very recently about what the Bible says about homosexuality. She was absolutely convinced that the book is filled condemnation of this "sin," but a little research reveals that the Bible has 31,173 verses and homosexuality is mentioned in but six (two in the same passage of Leviticus, which also finds it "an abomination" to cut your hair, plant more than one variety of grass, eat shellfish, play football--"touch the skin of a dead pig"). Jesus never mentioned it. He was more concerned with whom we should love than who to hate.

Consistently mentioned Biblically are themes I can adopt, though I am not a Christian:  "Clothe yourselves with compassion," "Love thy neighbor as thyself," "Judge not, lest ye be judged," "Take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

And there's this: "You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel." I like that we're slowly straining out the bigotry and embracing humanity.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Photos: Perfect Night at the Ballpark

This is one of the prettiest ball parks in the country.
TV's there to record it all.
It was simply a perfect night at Salem Municipal Field (or whatever it's being called to pay back sponsors these days) tonight with fluffy clouds, a lovely breeze and a big crowd for the game between the homestanding Red Sox and the visiting Carolina Mudcats.

My pal Sonya Chappelear accompanied me and said this was her first game since moving to Roanoke some years ago. She enjoyed it because she didn't have to watch. She brought along a travel guide for one of her upcoming trips ... which are awfully hard to keep up with, since there are so many.

Good time for both of us, though. Very good time.

Sonya shows off her travel book for an upcoming trip.
Pampa and Sonya do a selfie. Hi, y'all.

Add Breaking-Entering to Republican Indiscretions

Bill Howell: Why is this man smiling?
So now we get to add breaking and entering of the governor's office--at the behest of House of Delegates Speaker Bill Howell--to the Virginia Republican Party's efforts to deprive 400,000 Virginians of Medicaid (paid for with federal money whether or not we accept it).

This in addition to bribing a sitting senator to resign his seat in order to ensure a Republican majority in that body, which is also patently illegal. Story here.Will anybody go to jail? Stay tuned.

See story here in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, whose political reporters are excellent.

Gratitude: The Jim Lindsey Battles

Ex-Business Journal GM John Montgomery with Jim Lindsey and me.
Today I am grateful for:

Jim Lindsey, the former publisher of the Blue Ridge Business Journal and one of the finest and most intelligent and generous people I've ever known.

Jim and I were at each other's throats for several years about how to put the publication together, what stories to write, how to write them, how to photograph them, how to design the pages, how to proofread, when to do the work, whom to interview, how strict we needed to be in separation of news/advertising. Jim nitpicked it to death, slaved over it, sweated blood, taught me a lot about fairness, accuracy and going the extra 43 miles to get it exactly right.

He was responsible for the final one percent of putting out the product* and nearly drove me crazy with it, but he made the publication what it was: excellent. I had a sign on my door of Clint Eastwood pointing a gun directly in the face of the person looking at it with the legend saying, "Go Ahead, Make One More Change." Jim knew who that was for.

We argued and fought and cussed and spit, but never, ever, ever held those battles past the point of making a decision and going ahead. The publication was better for the conflict and the readers benefitted with a magazine they could read because it was informative and entertaining. Not many newsrooms at any level allow that kind of creative conflict these days, preferring the inverted pyramid power structure because of a level of job insecurity that has become common and self-defeating.

I was an employee at the Business Journal and Jim was the sole (I first typed "soul owner," which may have been more appropriate) owner, but when he sold to The Roanoke Times, he cut me in on the profit, something he didn't have to do. That gift permanently got me out of debt and for that I am also grateful.

The greatest gift, though, is that Jim Lindsey is my friend. Not much better than that could possibly have come from our relationship or any relationship between two flawed human beings.

* That's not all he was responsible for, but when I finished with editorial and he started making adjustments, the magazine was about 99 percent done.

(Photo: Christina Koomen at the 2010 Virginia Communications Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Richmond.)

Photo of the Day: Squeals of Delight at the Amphitheater

Children discover the magic of water.
I ran into these little sweethearts Wednesday evening on Roanoke City Market, playing in the new amphitheater's lighted waterspouts in front of the huge stage.

The little girls delighted in the brief spurts from each of the outlets, playing something of a game of water wack-a-mole in chasing down the brief spouts.

It was squeals and laughter, delight that can only come in this form from children. And it was infectious.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

New Posts: Gratitude, a Daily Effort

I've been posting my daily gratitude observation on Facebook for a little over a week now and thought I'd move it to my blog. Here's what's been presented so far, beginning with this morning's post. You'll see one a day--I hope--from now on.

June 25, 2014 Today I am grateful for:

A growing ability to find the value in what is presented daily, whether or not it appears to be a threat. My experience is telling me consistently that situations, attitudes, actions and perceptions are mine to interpret and I want to choose an interpretation that has lasting value. That requires full attention in most circumstances, something I'm not good at (ADD has delayed me on many, many occasions), but the effort required is most often of great benefit to me and those around me. It also requires forgiveness (beginning with myself), relaxing of the ego intrusion and an effort to understand why and how situations and circumstances develop. Sounds like a lot of effort and it is. But the result is often worth the work.

June 24, 2014

Today I am grateful for:

The unexpected. The truly unexpected, that which comes out of nowhere, grabs us by whatever's handy and leads us to places we never anticipated or even knew we wanted to visit. It happens in my life frequently because, I think, I am open to it. If I close down, it passes by like a car thief looking for a 'Vette with the keys in the ignition. I became a writer because of serendipity. I learned hiking and paddling and other physical outlets when my days of playing ball were over because I was open to them. I've found fulfilling relationships because I didn't block them. I founded a writers conference because the opportunity presented itself. Examples abound and I can't wait for the next one. Maybe tonight on City Market where I'm dining with somebody intriguing and totally unexpected. The unexpected keeps the level of hope, excitement, enthusiasm and joy at a high level.

 June 24, 2014

Today I am grateful for:

Opportunity. When I sold my half interest in FRONT magazine about a year ago to finish writing my novel CLOG!, I had no idea what I would do for income. I am not wealthy and must work if I am to bring home enough to be comfy. But the work has consistently been there and the projects have been great fun, the editors demanding and competent and the pay generous considering this economy. There has been so much work of late, in fact, that I haven't written a word on my next novel NEWS! in a couple of months. It is a good problem to have and I feel extremely fortunate to be a 67-year-old writer, edging toward 50 years in the business (Aug. 22) whose work is still appreciated and wanted.

June 23, 2014

Today, I am grateful for:
People who disagree with me and don't hesitate to express that disagreement--even those with whom the disagreement is sharp and irreconcilable. Much of what I learn comes from those who show/tell me what I don't know or show me where/how to find that information. These brisk conversations can be inspiring and invigorating, even when my own ignorance is the primary target. That gives me an opportunity to adjust my ego's demands, as well.

June 22, 201

Today I am grateful for:

People who return phone calls in a timely manner. People who don't over-text (more than two in succession requires a phone call). Class acts who write thank-you notes ... by hand ... on paper ... with stamps. People who write letters (Kitty Koomen, you are a dear). People who listen without concentrating on what their response will be and those who explain without missing key steps. There's more (like writing without destroying the language in the process), but the basic of this gratitude list is communication. I adore people who communicate well.

June 20, 2014

Today I am grateful for:

The high levels of integrity I find among my friends. They inspire me with their involvement, honesty, energy, kindness, generosity and intelligence. I'm also inspired by my summer tomatoes, about 60 of them at the moment, that are getting to be bright red summer tomatoes. Yay, 'mater sammiches!

June 19, 2014

Today I am grateful for:

 A rich cultural community in the Roanoke Valley, one where art and music, theater and the written word are as important as football and stock car racing. We have a broad and deep cultural heritage here and in my small version of the world, it is deeply appreciated and supported.

June 18, 2014

Today, I'm thankful for:

These two (left). I miss them, but I know they're safe, healthy, happy and living an experience in Southern Spain they'll cherish for their lives.

June 17, 2014

Today, I am grateful for:

 A clean house, thanks to my pal Ashley Mullen (who owns Keep it Simple Cleaning Services). She will clean my castle this a.m. I'm not a dirty or messy guy--like so many unmarried men--but Ash steps this up several notches and makes the house not only shine, but smell bright and new. Love the stuff she puts on the floors. And she's such a delight to be around, even when I'm working.
June 16, 2014

Today, I am grateful for:

Social Security and Medicare. I benefit from both. My knee replacement was a gift from Medicare and the new knee has changed my life--given it back, actually. Social Security allows me to work as I want, when I want, how I want, in the field I want. I have been working daily for more than 50 years and have no intention of stopping unless there is some unexpected medical problem, but the government programs give me the security to continue working if I want or stopping if I must. When my father died, leaving us nothing, we were able to eat because of a small Social Security check. This is America at its best.

June 15, 2014

Today I am grateful for:

Some of the perks of being a journalist, like the train excursion to Lynchburg I'm taking this morning. I've met six Virginia governors (know three of them fairly well), top-end entertainers, international figures like Pakinstan martyr and hero Benazir Bhuto and Nobel winner Lech Walesa, Pulitzer winners A.O. Wilson and Doris Kerns Goodwin, and some of the most fascinating lesser-known people god put on earth. Journalism has afforded the opportunity to be a clown for a day with a big circus (I rode in on an elephant named Mollie, sweet girl she was), to write about people who make a difference and people who inspire. It has helped educate me in areas where I normally would have had little interest or reason to learn. This career has been a blessing beyond measure and in August I'll have been doing it for 50 years.

June 14, 2014

Today, I am thankful for:

My renewed ability to hike our rare and precious mountains where some of the most beautiful vistas in the world are found. This is the result of the miracles (and I use that word advisedly, since joint replacement is relatively new and jaw-droppingly effective) of medical science and a whole lot of sweat, aching muscles and determination to damn well not be a cripple any more. Good hiking partners and a lot of encouragement also figure into the equation. (Yep,  down below that's Editr Pampa at McAfee's Knob.)

June 13, 2014

Today I am grateful for: 

So much. So very much. But let's just pick one. My formal education is quite limited, about an hour at UNCAsheville. Never passed a course at the college level. That has not mattered. I have worked nearly 50 years (Aug. 22) as a journalist and have taught at the college level because of mentors along the way like Al Geremonte, the old Army platoon sargeant who fought at Guadalcanal and became a sports writer. He taught me "everything you know, but not everything I know." I was hired as a copy boy (something that doesn't exist now) in the sports department of the Asheville Citizen, applying on a lark and beginning work that day in 1964.The mentors keep coming and they are every age, every profession, both genders, every economic level, and of wildly varied backgrounds and interests. Every day of my life since 1964, I have looked forward to working and learning. Not many of us get to do that. 

June 12, 2014

Today I am grateful for:

A mother, Opal Dane McCourry Smith, whose sense of humor often put joy into the most difficult situations. She laughed, whistled and sang through tragedy and disappointment and passed her irreverence and eye-poke to reality on to her eight kids (I'm 6th and there's a good story with that). We've all lived flawed lives, but we've been able to laugh through every bump and bruise. Thanks, Mom.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Photo of the Day: Madeline's Two Loves

This is my grandgirl Madeline providing herself as a pillow for sleeping little brother, Oz, as she holds "Kittycat" ("Keycat" is how she pronounces it) in her right hand. That dang stuffed cat has been with her (in one of several iterations, since she keeps losing them) since she was a baby. Her mother has been a wizard about finding replacements before Mads even knows they're missing when she loses them.

They are on the train here from Cordoba to Savilla, Spain, for a weekend excursion.

Photo of the Day: Happy Anniversary Evan and Kara

Kara, Madeline, Oz, Evan: A happy family with good parents and great kids.
It was 13 years ago today that I went over to one of Kara's gorgeous bridesmaids and, shortly before the ceremony started, instructed her thusly, "Go into the fire station and get one of the firemen to ring the bell when Evan kisses Kara and they're married. Just bat those beautiful eyes and they'll fall all over each other to accommodate." I was right: I thought we were going to have a fireman riot to get it done.

Ev and Kara were in the plaza across from Fire Station No. 1 in Roanoke, getting married among the ginko trees. It was a pretty setting and a good wedding. Later that evening, at the reception, I got a photo of Ev and all his groomsguys standing at urinals in the men's bathroom peeing. It was a classic shot with all those tuxedos.

Ev and Kara met in high school, he a lacrosse player, she the team manager. They didn't think much of it then, but after college, they met again and there were sparks. Time does that.

I've been delighted that they are so well paired and that they are extraordinary parents. Kara's parents taught her; Evan's mother apparently taught him 'cause I didn't.

I'm proud of them both, making such a good home in such a difficult world.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Photo of the Day: A Healthy Leah

Drove over to Lynchburg today to see Leah and carted a couple of bikes along just to see if she was ready for a ride. She was. Three months after major abdominal surgery, she looked hale and hearty and she rode that way. I'm impressed. Good for Leah.

Photo of the Day: I'm Ready for Kickoff Now

The start of the college football season is still 70 days away for my Tennessee Vols, but as you can see, I'm ready. Picked up a new home jersey with gray trim and numbers on my travels today and I really like this baby. Been looking for gray trim on the UT uniforms for many years because it makes sense. Looks good, I think.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Photo of the Day: And Later, Cucumber Soup

Here's this morning's pre-8 o'clock harvest from Garden du Smith. These babies hang from a vine growing up along the lattice fence in the back yard and they're big. The knife is an eight-inch (blade) chef's knife. We'll see if they're good, too. Tonight, we'll feature cold cuke soup on the menu from Mother Smith's World Famous Kitchen and Yoga Salon.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Critters on the Hike; Take the Right Camera

Sonya zeroes in on her new buddy.
Sonya's turtle.
As I walked out the door for a hike this morning, the last thing that occurred to me was, "Should Itake my big camera?" And I concluded, "Nah. What would I shoot on this trail that hasn't been shot?"

Big mistake. By the end of our little journey up and down Tinker Mountain, my pal Sonya Chappelear and I had seen--and photo'd some of--the following:

Bugs don't count.
Coon up a tree.
A bear
A deer
Two turtles
A chipmonk
A rabbit
A raccoon
Two ticks

The 'coon was a baby and it looked like the bear was either a cub or a small female. We got about 100 yards from the bear. The turtles were on the path and the chipmonk and rabbit were close. The deer was probably 30 yards away. The ticks were on us and we had enough good sense to check.

Fun hike. Here are some of what we were able to shoot with my little point and shoot. Damn, I wish I'd taken the Canon.

This tree is almost a critter.
Flowers equal sunshine.
Last--and least--are the spiders (unless you count the ticks).

Photo of the Day: Make Room for Oz

Sometimes a boy's gotta squeeze in where he fits and in Oz's bed, there aren't a lot of choices. You'll note that a couple of my grandboy's pals got plopped out to the floor.

Journalism's Future? I'm Not Discouraged

Citizen journalists could play a significant role in the future.
"I’m wary of this brave new world of digital publishers and readers. As recently as the 1980s and ’90s, writers like me could reasonably aspire to a career and a living wage. I was dispatched to costly and difficult places like Iraq, to work for months on a single story. Later, as a full-time book author, I received advances large enough to fund years of research.

"How many young writers can realistically dream of that now? Online journalism pays little or nothing and demands round-the-clock feeds. Very few writers or outlets can chase long investigative stories. I also question whether there’s an audience large enough to sustain long-form digital nonfiction, in a world where we’re drowning in bite-size content that’s mostly free and easy to consume."

--Tony Horowitz on his new e-book, Boom (from a piece in the NYTimes today)

Last night my facebook friend Ernie Bentley asked if I agreed with my pal Michael Abraham's online assessment that journalism is dead. I said, "He's wrong. Journalism is alive and thriving. There's a lot of faux journalism out there, but there is some good stuff in some new formats and it will grow. Don't confuse dying publications with dying journalism. They're just a delivery system. More are being developed."

Apparently Tony Horowitz, a successful journalist and author of several books (including the new one mentioned above, which is an e-book), is not as certain as I about journalism's future. 

Frankly, there's a good chance I'm wrong, but I don't think so. I do agree with Horowitz that e-books have a way to go before they catch on and before sales make writers more comfortable. I have two e-books out there as we speak--you can see them on the sides of this page--and their sales have not exactly set Amazon afire (which might not be a bad idea, considering how Amazon is treating my writing friends). But that reference is not about journalism; it's about e-books.

I talk to college journalism classes frequently and my message consistently is that they should not confuse journalism with journals. A newspaper is not journalism. It is a delivery system, like a French fry for catsup. Same with magazines, radio, TV, the net. They all deliver news. Journalists gather it and write it, regardless of the form.

Cable TV and television in general have hurt the image of news, though they have not yet destroyed it. The purchase of major--and some minor--outlets by large conglomerates (see Roanoke Times/Berkshire Hathaway; Jeff Bezos/Washington Post; Rupert Murdoch/whatever he wants; etc.) have done little to bolster the view of journalism as the savior of our Republic. 

Once upon a time, when I was a young journalist, papers were owned by local families or, at worst, pretty good journalistic institutions. Even TV stations were often owned by the papers in their town and had some decent journalism going on. That's more the exception than the rule now.

So where would solid journalism come from in the future (especially with Bezos fiddling around the edges of the NYTimes)? The net. Independent reporters in groups selling "content" to individuals or larger organizations. They're already there and they're winning Pulitzer Prizes. Not many of them are local, but a few are and their numbers are growing. The "citizen journalists" papers like our local daily depend upon so heavily because they work free or cheap are getting better as their ranks grow. Some of these CJs are pretty good: Valerie Garner in Roanoke is a good example. But Val's not making a living at it.

Maybe she will in the future. I certainly hope so because it is these people, a combination of citizens and real journalists, who stand between us and the oligarcy we so fear and dread--and which is on every congressional corner these days.



Thursday, June 19, 2014

Smoking Me Out of the House and It's 92 Degrees

Some days, dammit, it just don't pay.

Here I was runnin' from the kitchen to the phone in my office to catch a final interview for a story I was doing, leaving meatballs on the stove at high-ish heat. I really do know better than to leave a heating pan alone, but I thought, "This'll just be a minute."

Five minutes later, I'd finished the interview and that wonderful copper frypan was smoking like a building afire. I ran to it, took a hot pad and grabbed the brass handle, which is always hot when it's cooking. The sink is right there, so I poured water into the smoking pan, which amplified the smoke problem, filling the kitchen with acrid and thick smoke. I spilled liquid all over the area (a bitch to clean up), ran outside with the pan and sat it on top of the grill.

I did not take a photo, but wish I had because the pix here ain't anywhere near what I'm talking about. Magnify this one by about seven.

Now I'm airing out the house. It's 92 degrees outside and I have all the doors and windows open. Lovely.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mother Smith in the Kitchen: Gazpacho

Got some pals coming over for din-din tonight. Here's the soup portion of the meal: gazpacho. That tomato is from my garden. Picked a big cucumber for the gaz, as well. Rest of the stuff is commercial, I'm afraid, but it's damn good.

So, here's how you do it:
  • In a Cuisinart (or similar chopper), shred about 2/3 cup each of celery, carrots, onions, cucumber, cilantro.
  • Dice two tomatoes (or use diced, canned).
  • Add all that together with a small can of tomato sauce, a quart of vegetable juice (I like spicy), 1/4 cup of worchester sauce and 1/4 cup of lime juice. You can add your own spicy heat, as you prefer, up to and including hot peppers that have been chopped.
  • Stir, refrigerate. It's best presented (and one does not simply serve this stuff) a day later.

Another Partnership from RRWC

Alice de Sturler teaching at RRWC
The Roanoke Regional Writers Conference continues to produce partnerships between and among writers, some of which are actually producing income.

The most notable pairing has been that of Beth Macy and Roland Lazenby, both of whom have huge books out now from Little Brown (and Jugg). They sat down between classes two years ago, Beth has told me, and Roland grilled Beth about what she was working on. She told the story of an industrialist in Martinsville who was working to keep jobs in the U.S. "You ought to write a book about that," Roland said and then proceeded to give her chapter and verse of "how to." Roland is great that way.

Now we have more partnerships (among the many). The following is from Alice de Sturler, whose true crime blog has won national awards in the last year or so and who teamed with Terri Leidich a few months ago (both have taught at RRWC):

"I have joined Terri Leidich's BQB as client and function as their freelance blog manager. Also, the lovely Sarah Beth Jones and I will put our heads together for some fall workshops.
"My latest project is this: This blog will feature writers and artists from the greater NRV area. I wish to highlight the hidden gems we have here. If you know of writers/artists who should be on this blog, please let me know. If you can, could you post about this project on yours and invite people to suggest local gems to me?"
My latest project is this:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Photo of the Day: Spirit Leaving a Live Body? Uh, No, But ...

I was at Roanoke Children's Theatre today shooting photos of Director Pat Wilhelms for a magazine piece I'm doing, when this happened.

There was a young woman (14 year old pageant contestant) practicing fiddle in the theater and I placed Pat to make use of that action in the background. As I snapped the shutter, somebody brushed by me, shaking the lens, and this is what we came up with. Looks like a spirit leaving Pat's body.

Pretty cool, huh?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Photo of the Day: My Daughter the Photographer

I have never given my daughter, Jennie, a photo lesson, but from the looks of this glorious photo, she might need to give me one soon. This is her new horse in her new pasture in Georgia. It's not her Georgia. It is, however, her photo. I'm proud of her.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hiking Bottom Creek: It's Easy and It's Pretty

The waterfall at the end of the hike is 200 feet up.
This is the view from the overlook.
The hiking trail is lush and wide.
Took in the Bottom Creek hike today with my hiking bud Janeson Keeley and found it to be relatively easy, pretty along the way and featuring a fine payoff at the end.

The hike leads to a 200-foot high waterfall that you can see from the top of the falls, across the way. Those wanting to see it from the bottom--one of the people working for the Nature Conservancy who was hiking today told me--is to go down the side of the mountain from the overlook and "cut your way through the brush. It's worth every step and the river is beautiful." I took his word for it.

This is a Nature Conservancy preserve and what we did today is about a four-mile hike that I'd rate easy to moderate. It's a rolling trail with a lot to see, but there's no climbing, no rocks and no difficulty.

The payoff view is a bit far from the falls to be as spectacular as it could be (from the bottom, say), but it's still quite lovely. Let me caution you that we ran into a large church youth group as we got back to the truck. Had they been there at the beginning, my guess is we would have gone somewhere else. They were noisy and busy, not what I seek on a hike far from Roanoke (about 35 miles up U.S. 220 to Bent Mountain).

Good hike today, though. I liked it a lot. Took a total of about 2.5 hours. Here are the details.

Janeson at the overlook rail.
Group taking photos across from the falls.
Pampa pushing Janeson over the edge.
Nature's stairway.
Janeson hugs a tree.
Crowded parking lot at the end of the trail (no thank you, boys and girls).

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Photos of the Day: Pampa and the Yak Posse at the Cove

Editr Pampa and the yak posse spreads across the lake.
Janeson (left) and Sonya paddle and talk.
My pals Sonya Chappalear, Buffy Lyon and Janeson Keeley took advantage of just about a perfect
spring afternoon today to put the kayaks into the cove at Carvins and paddle hard through some wonderfully bouncy water.

As I listened to Sonya's and Janeson's non-stop banter, I got an idea where the term "yak" comes from. Neither used a period today.

Buffy and Janeson haul butt, racing with one of the paddle boats. They won.

Roland Lazenby at Tanglewood Signing 'Michael Jordan'

Two aging writers (Roland and moi) at Ro's signing today.
Roland Lazenby is at Barnes & Noble at Tanglewood Mall in Roanoke as we speak, signing copies of his new blockbuster Michael Jordan: The Life. Roland is selling in tandem with Marshall Harris and Nelson Harris, whose new book is part of the Images of Aviation series from Arcadia Books, Aviation in Roanoke.

While Roland's book will sell at least in the high five figures (we'll all hope), Images will likely sell in three figures. That's the nature of the business and it's to everyone's advantage to have big and small books.

Go buy one of each. They'll sign them for a pittance.

(Photo by Janeson Keeley.)

A Pre-Father's Day Confession

This is on the Blue Ridge Parkway, 1980. Evan would be 6. I would be thin.
Father's Day is tomorrow and I don't quite know how to react to it, so I most often write a little remembrance about my dad, nothing about being a father myself.

That's because I wasn't good at it. My kids--Evan and Jennie--will say I was, but they're just being nice. I simply wasn't. I was drunk for most of their growing up years and you can't be passed out on the couch and attentive to the young 'uns at the same time.

I did some good things when I wasn't drinking. I read Poe to them with my best Richard Burton inflection. I cooked mac and cheese. I took Evan camping, hiking and fishing. I told Jennie she was gorgeous. But I left the heavy lifting to Chris, their very good mother, one who was always there, who handled the discipline, who paid for things, who went to school functions.

Jennie at about 16, 1983 or so. Still looks the same.
When Jennie asked me to be her date for the Patrick Henry High honors banquet I nearly fell over for two reasons: first, that she asked me, and second that she was an honor student. I didn't know that. I hadn't paid attention.

When Evan joined the lacrosse team at PH, I was a supporter, a fan, I think, and at one point even sat down with him and talked him out of quitting "because I'm not any good." That was my best dad moment, but I'm not sure it was all about Evan. I wanted to see him play, to take photos of him. That's actually pretty selfish, something that marked my fatherhood.

So I quit drinking and went to Jennie and asked forgiveness. "You'll understand if I'm a bit skeptical," she said. I deserved that. Several years later, she forgave me, accepted that I'd really changed and we began developing a relationship that I'm in love with today. She and I are a lot alike, so there is natural tension, but I love and respect that girl (who is 46 and not so much a girl now, but still an Ingrid Bergman look-alike).

Evan's always been quiet, accepting and never seemed to be bothered by my outrageous behavior. I think he's almost always liked me. I can't explain that and won't try, but I do enjoy having him as my son and I enjoy that he has given me a couple of grandkids that I adore: Madeline and Oz.

I am a good granddad, I think, a Pampa, which is Madeline's official title for me. Her friends even call me Pampa. I'm not as good as Wayne, Ev's father-in-law, but we're not in a competition and I have to be what I am. I'm happy with that.