Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ashley Dunnevant 1980 - 2012

For the second time in 60 days a member of my family has passed away. Ashley Dunnevant, my niece, my brother Donnie's middle child died early this morning at MCV hospital. She was 32. She had developed pneumonia and died from complications. Ashley was born with Down's Syndrome and had survived leukemia as a child. While many with Down's live physically unhindered lives, Ashley's case was more debilitating. She required full time care and had to overcome many hurdles in her short life. Now she is with my Mother in heaven, experiencing a physical freedom that she never knew on earth. Try as I might, I can't comprehend what their reunion was like. It falls into the category of " eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him".

Ashley was the first person born into my extended family with a disability. I loved her, but I didn't know her like I know my other nieces and nephews. She didn't have the ability to communicate very well. She could talk, but I had trouble understanding her, and although she didn't say much, when she did speak, it was generally hilarious. My most vivid memories of her were at Christmas, when she would sit for hours with either a balloon or a comb in her hand watching us all unwrap presents.Although her vision wasn't very good, she knew us all by name. When she would open our gifts to her, she never failed to thank us.

When Ashley was born, I remember the fear and disappointment we felt. It was all so new and unknowable. We had no idea what her life would be like. We had no idea how heavy the burden of her care would be for Donnie and Janet. For days after her birth I questioned God in my heart. Why would he allow a child to be born into the world with the deck stacked so high against her? I still have no definitive answer to that question. But I do know this. Ashley added something to our lives. Because she was so vulnerable, we became more protective. Because she required so much care, we became more caring. Ashley made her sisters better people than they would otherwise be. Lauren and Becky both are more attentive, more sensitive, more generous human beings because of Ashley's life.

So, sometime this weekend, we will say goodbye to her. I will take comfort in the image of Mom and Ashley walking hand in hand somewhere in heaven, Mom trying to explain to Ashley why it took 6 hours to open all the presents every Christmas.... "Because we loved Christmas and we loved each other, and I guess we just didn't want it to end," Mom says.  Ashley looks up at Mom and with a clear, beautiful voice answers..." That makes sense Nanny."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Tale Of Two Armstrongs

It was very odd to hear of the death of Neil Armstrong. He died Saturday, when I was at home all day alone. It was dark and gloomy outside, when the man on the television said that the first man to ever walk on the moon had passed away at the age of 82. He was about my Mom's age. When I  heard the news it took me back to the parsonage in Elmont, Virginia, where we all gathered around that RCA black and white  with the tin foil wrapped around the tips of the rabbit ears. I remember it being a Sunday, and I remember it being terribly hot. Maybe our window air conditioner unit was broken or something, but it was hot and muggy, but there we all were staring dumbfounded at the snowy screen. A man was walking down the stairs of the space ship seemingly in slow motion. The hot crackle of the transmission from the moon shot through our living room. As an eleven year old boy I remember worrying that the surface of the place might reach up and grab his foot and drag him into the moon dust like so much quick sand. But there he was with both moon boots firmly planted as he said..."that's one small step for man...and one giant leap for mankind."

It was only much later that I learned that he had gotten his pilot's license at age 16, and that he had flown 20 combat missions in Korea. I found out that he had been one of those crazy test pilots and had nearly been killed a bunch of times flying experimental rocket planes with Chuck Yeager. Much later I discovered that although both political parties had approached him after his Apollo glory trying to get him to run for office, he had turned them both down. There was much to admire about him as a grown man, but for an eleven year old boy, he was just the bravest man in the world. And now, he too is gone. Just like my Mother, two months ago tomorrow morning.

That same Saturday there was another Armstrong in the news, Lance. Something about him dropping out of the arbitration battle with some Anti-Doping organization. It was being interpreted as a tacit admission of guilt that would result in all seven of his Tour De France titles being stripped from him. So the greatest cyclist in history may have been a cheat and a fraud. The guy survived cancer and has raised a ton of money to fight the disease. But now, he was walking away from the battle to clear his name. I don't know enough about the story to know what the truth is. All I do know is...if I were innocent and somebody was trying to ruin my life's work, I sure wouldn't quit and walk away. I'm positive that Neil Armstrong wouldn't either

Rest in peace, Mr. Armstrong.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Home Alone...Kinda Creepy

Saturday, the 25th of August 2012 may go down as the quietest day of my life. First of all, practically nothing happened, and second of all, no one but me was here to see nothing happening. See, Pam and Kaitlin left yesterday morning to drive down to Winston-Salem to get Kaitlin moved back into her rental house for her last year of Grad school. They thought it would be fun to bring Paula along and make it a girl's weekend since she has never seen the place. This left me alone in my house over night for the first time in I can't remember how long. Well, I wasn't really alone, since Molly was here, who decided that the rainiest Saturday of the year would be a great time to develop diarrhea.

So, amidst frequent heavy downpours, occasional thunder and ominous low lying black clouds, I spent the day constantly letting Molly outside for fear that she would have an accident on the new shag carpet. She would saunter out there in the pouring rain, oblivious to the elements, as if she were on a casual summer stroll. She would walk in one direction, sniffing the ground, then circle back over the same ground two or three times before deciding that this particular piece of real estate was not worthy of one of her bowel movements. No, perhaps she needed to circumvent the entire back yard and wind up at the exact same spot she had rejected 5 minutes earlier. After the deed was done she would suddenly realize that it was raining, and sprint back to the deck where I was waiting with a huge beach towel to dry her off. This I did maybe 10 times, which meant that Molly spent all day smelling like wet dog. Lovely.

The project of the day concerned cleaning out what has become the dumping ground for everything we don't know what to do with at our house, what used to be my study. A few months ago, when we bought new furniture for the downstairs, Pam had come up with the marvelous idea of removing the leaf from our old kitchen table, and putting it in the corner upstairs next to the palladian window. There, she reasoned, I could sit with a cup of coffee in the morning and look out over the neighborhood and write my blog posts. She bought a couple of handsome chairs, and before you knew it, I was hooked on my new perch, and my old, cramped and dark study was allowed to go to seed. Well, as often is the case in parenthood, sacrifices had to be made. Kaitlin needed a kitchen table to replace the one her old roommate took with her when she graduated. If I was to have a decent place to blog, I was going to have to tackle the daunting task of cleaning out the scariest room in the myself.

I do not throw the word "scary" out casually. See, even though when I look at the piles of junk in that room, I see junk in dire need of a master, Pam sees something else entirely. She sees a mountain of clutter that she may one day desperately need. She hates it when I clean up anything, accuses me of being a "bull in a china shop", throwing away the good along with the bad. So, if I'm going to clean this mess without her, I better be careful. I spent a couple of hours constructing several contingency for eventual transfer to the attic, another for possibly relocation to the movie room, yet another pile with no name and for no discernible purpose and finally a tiny little pile to at least consider for the trash. After two hours, and many bouts of indecision, it was finished. The place actually looks pretty nice. It's been polished and vacuumed and I'm actually proud of myself.

When evening finally came, I took dinner over to Dad's. I had been there maybe 15 minutes when I developed an allergy from his cat. When I got back home I took a Benedryl and settled in to watch the Nationals game. What a strange thing it is to feel like a stranger in your own house. I have lived here for 15 years but when there are no kids and my wife is away, it seems an abstract collection of barren, unfriendly rooms. I turned off the TV and decided to read Odd Thomas book by Dean Koontz. Quiet..deadly quiet. Koontz, clearly a bad idea. Maybe some Shakespeare., no way. Makes Koontz look like Doctor Seuse. Then, suddenly a peal of thunder, and I hear Molly at the bottom of the stairs whining. She can't stand the thunder. I let her upstairs and she immediately jumps up on the bed, as close to me as she can of the many reasons I love dogs. Instead of allergies, they give you...reassurance.

Pam will be back late this afternoon. She will bring back the "home" part of this house she took with her when she left.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Little Self Examination

I believe it was Socrates who said that the unexamined life is not worth living. As is often the case with stuff Socrates said, this one rings true. We instinctively understand that the road to discovery and personal growth starts with an honest self-appraisal. Of course, too much of this sort of thing leads to narcissistic navel-gazing, so, moderation in all things, right? I say all of this because I have recently thought a lot about one of my odd personality traits. I know what some of you are thinking.."Which one? There are so many." Fair enough. Here it is...I hate being part of organizations. More specifically, I prefer at least the ideal of being an outsider, removed from the commitments and conspiracies that come with membership in associations. This trait manifests itself in countless ways in my life.

I have always been repulsed by large things, big things. I despise big government, big business, large labor unions. I am intrinsically suspicious of political parties with their organizing committees, and caucuses. Although I love baseball, I can't stand Major League Baseball, the organization, and it's commissioner. Closer to home, I never want anything to do with the local or national branches of the outfit that lobbies Washington on behalf of my profession. Even within the Broker-Dealer that I clear through, don't even ask me to serve on some advisory board, to be part of some inside circle of gives me the creeps just thinking about it. On a spiritual level, although I am a devoted believer and admirer of Jesus Christ, I remain a reluctant church member. Although I have been a member of Grove Avenue for over 25 years and have benefited from that association, it is a shaky thing, at best. The worst church experience of my life were the two years that I served as chairman of the finance committee. Never, in all of Christendom has there been a more ill-conceived match than me and that committee. I escaped with my faith hanging by a thread.

I clearly understand the benefits that can come from being part of a group. There is power in numbers after all. Being part of an organization of like-minded people trying to accomplish something together that can not be accomplished apart is what civilization is all about. So, why do I prefer hovering above things, why do I prefer the isolation of being on the outside, looking in? Why am I so devoted to Independence? This instinct is at the heart of why I ended up in the business I'm in. I have no boss, no board of directors, and no one telling me what to do. However, along with that freedom comes the unavoidable fact that I also have no one to blame for mistakes and failures. They are always mine alone.

Maybe it's a pride issue. Maybe I like Independence because I'm too prideful to accept criticism or discipline, too prideful to acknowledge my need for others. Whatever it is, all I know is, I have always been this way. What's different now and the reason I've been thinking more about it is that as I get older, I see more clearly the need of association. I understand the benefits of belonging to things. But how do you transform yourself from an eccentric loner type to a gregarious committee man? Maybe it's a process. I'm not quite ready though. Every time I get an invitation in the mail to join AARP, I grit my teeth, let out a little "grrrrrr" and take great delight in ripping the envelope to shreds. No...not ready yet.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Date Night!! Restaurant and Movie Review.

Last night, my daughter hosted a last blowout of the summer sort of thing at my house for a couple dozen teenage girls. Pam and I took advantage of the chaos to have a Wednesday date night. It started at Yen Ching. We have been going there for dinner since the year we got married. It is one of the constants of our lives. We go there, without a reservation, and no matter what time of day or night, we get seated in never more than 5 minutes. Every night we order the same thing. I order orange beef and Pam gets crispy honey shrimp. We share the dishes over fried rice, with an egg role for an appetizer. It's always perfect, the most predictably reliable meal in the city of Richmond. The lighting is soft, no music blares from the ceiling, so conversation is easy. There's a cheesy little Chinese sculpture with a fountain in the middle of the dining room which provides soothing back ground noise. The waitresses all speak very broken English, but the service is efficient. Very poor selection of beer ( Heineken and Tsingtao ) is the only drawback to an otherwise wonderful and relaxing dining experience. The bill always comes out to $35 or so. We left full and content.

After dinner I suggested some truly mindless entertainment...the latest Will Ferrell movie, The Campaign. The presence of Ferrell on the marquee guarantees a level of raunchiness and crudity that I normally try to avoid. But tonight, I was in the mood for a laugh at the expense of our democratic process, and figured, who better than Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis to provide just that? I was not disappointed. It was very raunchy, very crude, and a rather even handed send up of both political parties. Imagine what a Congressional race in a rural North Carolina district between John Edwards and Jesse Helms would look like..and you've pretty much stumbled upon the plot of this picture! Throw in lots of bourbon, blonds and bad guys ( Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow play the scheming billionaire "Motch" brothers ), and you've got yourself a Ferrell vehicle extraordinaire. Silly, juvenile, and embarrassing...the same three emotions I grapple with when confronted with real campaigns. Perfect. I spent $20. I've spent more money on dumber, not too bad.

When the final credits ran it was still only 9:40. Kaitlin's party was scheduled to run until 11. We drove around aimlessly for awhile before deciding to throw caution to the wind and brave the great teen aged girl invasion. We walked in the house and found that nothing was on fire, no policemen had been called by irate neighbors, and Molly ignored our entry into the house, enthralled as she was being the center of attention of the roughly 10 girls in the family room. Actually the girls were well behaved, adorable, and amazingly neat. Kaitlin clearly adores them and the feeling seemed very mutual. It brought back lots of memories of the nights where there were 30 or so kids in our house, 10 years ago. Back then we didn't care so much about the furniture, since they had already destroyed it anyway. My kids were much louder, hungrier and more destructive. Wait..that's because half of them were boys! Walking in my house last night, I realized how much I miss the chaos and tumult of teenagers. Sounds crazy, but it's true


Sunday, August 19, 2012

An explanation of AIS

Six days, 1950 miles, and 31 hours behind the wheel later, we are home and the whole thing is finally over. Total cost came in at 8 dollars shy of $2000. Collapsed in bed around 10:30 last night...and naturally woke up at 1, wide awake. Nothing more to say about the trip. However, as a public service, I feel it necessary to address an issue that has arisen from a term I used in a previous blog...AIS. It has elicited several raised eyebrows, and even a response from my mother-in-law.."What's AIS??", she asked.

AIS is a term I first heard used on that most profound of all television shows dealing with the dynamic of family life..Everybody Loves Raymond. The patriarch of the Barone clan, Frank, used the term when describing how he organized and planned departure times for family vacations. When Frank declared that AIS time was 6 am, it was final, and nonnegotiable. AIS meant, crudely..ass in seat. Ever since then I have used it myself with great effect. The term communicates perfectly it's unambiguous meaning. What is the last thing one does before departing for a trip in a car?? Exactly.

My family has responded well to such clear and abrupt language. However, using the AIS concept with my extended family with our seven vehicle caravans to the Outer Banks would probably not go so well. Probably something like this.....

Me:  Paula, it's 6:03. What is Ron doing?

Paula:  Oh, he's adding one more of those stretchy things to the bike rack to make sure they are secure.

Me:  No, no, Paula. I clearly wrote in the last e-mail that AIS time was to be 6:00. Why is Ron BCB at 6:03?  ( bungee-cording bikes )


Me:  Linda...where is Bill? It's 6:13??

Linda:  Oh, he noticed that he only had 3 quarters of a tank of gas, so he's filling up. He'll only be a minute.

Me:  Wait, Bill is TOT at 6:13?? ( topping off tank ) Does anyone in this family read e-mails??!!

                                                                   even later

Me:  Paula, what in heaven's name is Ron doing now?

Paula:  Looks like he's adding some extra waterproofing to the car top carrier. You know, there's some rain on the radar down near Williamsburg.

Me:  But, one does not FWT at 6:17 when one's A should have been IS at 6:00! ( fiddle with tarp ). And by the way, I haven't seen Ryan.

Paula:  Oh, he's still inside trying to decide which hat to wear, the Nationals or the Yankees.

Me:  Do you mean to tell me that Ryan is OOALAG at 6:18?? I give up. This family is hopeless. ( obsessing over accessories like a girl ).

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Day Five & Six...Stereotypes and Reality

The much dreaded drive from Short Pump to Princeton lived up to it's billing. To the everlasting credit of my crew, everyone was AIS by 6 AM. Patrick drove the wheels off  his 1998 VW Jetta, keeping it glued on the tail of my Budget Battle Tank. The drive around our nation's capital was emblematic of the dysfunction so associated with that city. 5 lanes of insanely chaotic traffic careening around ill-conceived and poorly constructed beltways. It occurred to me that no metropolitan area in the entire country has been the beneficiary of more stimulus and infrastructure
spending than our capital, and yet to drive the roads built by all that largess is still the most frightening experience in all the world of travel. I almost sideswiped two cars, spent 30 minutes in a traffic jam, and was rewarded with not one hilarious road sign for my efforts. On a side note, and a large number of my extended family will LOVE this, I actually made the first and only bathroom- only stop of my driving career...not for Pam, or Caroline...but for ME. Perhaps it was the hour and a half of white knuckle clinching involved in the navigation around DC, perhaps it was the brutal pounding my kidney's took from the Grand Canyon sized potholes, or maybe it was being so close to a city where everything from money to state secrets flows so freely...after only 3 hours on the road, I truly had to go. Shameful.

Once we made it to Lawrenceville, I was pleasantly surprised at Patrick's apartment complex. In my mind's eye, I was picturing...New Jersey, apartment, near number 1 highway...let's face it, I was thinking public housing meets Jersey shore. Instead, the place was beautiful. The apartment itself was spacious and charming, and the grounds were gorgeous, complete with three pools, walking trails, tennis courts, and landscaped lawns and beautiful trees everywhere. Although the whole vibe of the place laid waste to my prejudiced, anti-yankee sensibilities, one image did serve as a reminder that one stereotype of Jersey is in fact justified. There, in the back of one of the clean parking lots was a late model Nissan Stanza propped up precariously on cinder blocks, with not a tire in sight!

The unpacking of the truck went swimmingly well compared to the Nashville version. All of his stuff was unloaded and his bedroom and music/computer center completely set up in less than two hours. We got to meet one of his roommates who was very nice. Pam finally got her chance to clean all of his "kitchen stuff". His closet is organized, bed made for the first ( and last ) time. By 5:30, Pam and I were checked in to our hotel. At 7:00 we met the kids at Palmer Square in the heart of Princeton for a lovely dinner at Winbergs, and an evening of sightseeing, a relaxing ending to a day that had begun at 4:30 AM.

Today, we finally rid ourselves of this wretched truck. Patrick is as I write this driving Matt to the Philadelphia airport. He will return by noon where we will meet him and Caroline back at the apartment for some final touches. Then we will leave him to his new life and make the drive back to Short Pump.....or....Pam will see tons of other stuff that needs to be done and we will end up staying another night in this Garden State. Who knows. Either way, it has been a long, nerve wracking week. Something like an adventure.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Day Two & Three. A Blur...

Tuesday was one of those days that you will remember forever. Like 9/11, the Rodney King riots, the Japanese Tsunami...days that you will always recall in crystal clear detail. For me, the detail I will always remember is..spaghetti.

In Patrick's defense, he had been forced by circumstances to move all of his worldly belongings twice in the last 3 months, and then once again from a bedroom to what was a dining room in his current apartment. It's a long story involving leases and whatnot that I won't bore you with except to say that there were extenuating circumstances behind the fate that awaited us at his apartment Tuesday. We arrived around 1 o'clock in the afternoon with the rental truck for what we supposed would be a rather simple job of loading all of his stuff and then going out to dinner. Wrong. What we found was the most bizarrely conceived collection of boxes you could possibly imagine. In one half empty box there would be two books, some sheet music, one sock, a necktie, and a box of flour. On the top of the box, it would be labeled.."eclectic randomness". No, we would have loved any label. There were no labels. How do you label a box with one pair of long john underwear, a screwdriver, a box of staples, and a can opener? For Pam, this was the moral equivalent of cruel and unusual punishment. Her eyes were wide with the horror of it all. She began making furious plans to organize it all, starting with cleaning everything she could get her hands on. But soon she realized the futility of her efforts. The turning point for her brings me to my spaghetti moment. Up on the top shelf of his closet was a box that he assured us contained only "kitchen stuff". He was right. Inside was a teaming mass of things associated in most people's minds with kitchens. There were two or three glasses, some plastic measuring spoons, and no less than 8 frying pans of every size imaginable. Where did he get so many frying pans? We could only recall buying him two. From the looks of it, maybe he thought that once a frying pan was used once, then a new one was needed. Digging through the box, I half expected some hostile living thing to jump out at me. Then I saw it. The one thing that served as a cold water in the face moment for Pam and I, the clarifying event of the day that screamed out, "Forget organization..that way leads to madness. Just throw it all in the truck and deal with it later." We pulled out the last frying pan in the box and found that it still had the remains of a spaghetti dinner from June encrusted to the Teflon coating.

By late afternoon, it was all packed. Then I happen to notice that the right rear tire on the truck was flat. You would think that this would have sent me over the edge, but I was strangely serene. I calmly called the "roadside assistance 800 number" given me by the strange smelling woman at the Budget Truck Rental office earlier in the day. In less than an hour, Leon showed up and replaced the valve stem. The next thing I knew, Pam and I were sitting at Puckett's Boat House across the table from Patrick and Caroline having a lovely dinner in the most charming small town in America...Franklin, Tennessee.

Yesterday was just a long hard slog of a trip. 10 hours of holding on for dear life in the loudest truck cab I've ever heard, sitting in a seat designed for transferring all of the impact of even the smallest pot hole directly to your kidneys, with the added bonus of an engine that got 8 miles to the gallon. The driving downpours and high winds we encountered along the way actually helped me by diverting my attention from the cramps in my legs brought on by restricted blood flow to my extremities, courtesy of my tortuous drivers seat.

Last but not least, I did notice two hilarious roadsigns along the way, one that caused much ponderous thought and the other, well, it just struck me as funny. The first one was a large sign advertising an ADULT SUPERSTORE and CONSIGNMENT SHOP. The mind reels at the possibilities. The second was actually plastered on the side of a building. There was a ginormous picture of an AK-47 machine gun and then the name of the gun store. Right under that was a sign in huge red letters....JESUS IS LORD.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Day One of Moving Week

Day one of our nomadic adventure went quite well, thank you. We left Short Pump at 7:40 in the morning and stopped for the first time at 11:45 at our favorite lunch spot in Abingdon, Va. Then we drove for roughly another 4 hours until a gas/bathroom break near Cookeville,Tn. After another hour we arrived at our east-end hotel near the airport in Nashville, 8 hours and 55 minutes after leaving Short Pump. Upon posting our progress on Facebook, I was met with incredulous accusations of being a relentless slave driver by not allowing more bathroom breaks for Pam. Actually, on our second stop in Cookeville, Pam didn't even get to use the bathroom because it was being monopolized by a desperate women with "kidney issues". So, in fact Pam went over 5 hours without a bathroom break, no surprise to me since, in a family of iron bladders, she is the Queen. My family has made over fifteen 13 hour road trips to Maine. Most of those trips were made through the night, straight through with two stops. So starting at an early age my children learned how to "conquer the trip" in fine fashion. Of course, I'm fully aware that most people hear these stories and recoil in honor at the prospect of having to be in a car for more than 45 minutes without going to the bathroom. When I am part of the Dunnevant family convoy of 7 cars headed to the beach every other year, it is an agonizing experience. My dear extended family have the combined bladder strength of a freshman pledge at Delta Tau Chi. We turn a 3 and a half hour ride into a 7 hour tour of the finest bathroom facilities from Richmond to Nags Head. I feel like we should be filming a public service announcement for the American Urological Association. I've come up with lots of names for these trips to help me deal with the frustrating pace with humor and not hostility....The Bladder Battle...The Wee-Wee Wars...The Trickle-Down Trip....When Will We Get There? DEPENDS...

Last night we attended a concert at the First Presbyterian Church of Patrick's choir, the Wedgewood Summer Chorale. This was a choir that he recruited and directed all summer for this one concert..just because he couldn't imagine going 3 months without some sort of musical project to work on. One of the songs they sang was a premiere of one of his works called..In Sorrow. Speaking as a parent with no training in the fine art of choral music, it was a stunningly beautiful piece. After the concert, one of Patrick's favorite professor's at Belmont came up to Pam and I to say of that song.."I hate your son! When I was his age, I couldn't possibly have written something as solemn and intelligent as that. Most kids his age have to work through the anger and bitterness in their lives when they write music, but what comes out of Patrick is beauty and joy." He went on to praise us for fine parenting to produce a man capable of such work. It was all quite dizzying...and uncomfortable. We pointed out to him that we had lots of help along the way. Honestly, although musical talent is evident throughout my extended family, I hesitate to credit his gifts as merely a function of genetics. What Patrick has is closer to a freakish, sixth sense of a thing, a divine gift given out at random by an unpredictable God who blesses whom he wishes to bless, and curses whom he wishes to curse. So endowed, it's up to Patrick to make something of it, to God's glory. He is well on his way.

Just about the time Patrick might be expected to get all puffed up with pride with himself, he gets pulled over on his way back to his apartment for having expired decals and a defective headlight!! Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Great Campaign Commercials in History...sorta

Now that Paul Ryan is on the Republican ticket, I'm sure that the Democratic Party will revise that classic commercial they ran back during the 2010 congressional elections featuring a Paul Ryan lookalike literally pushing a wheelchair bound senior citizen over a cliff. Paul Ryan's crime? He had offered a plan to reform Medicare, an actuarially doomed social program that is on a path to destroy itself absent changes. For his efforts, he was made the center piece of the Democratic Party's effort to demonize Republicans as anti-old people...the now famous Mediscare strategy. Watch it for's awesome!!

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Classic stuff. But, it has gotten me to thinking. How would modern campaign strategists have handled previous presidential campaigns? If there were television commercials, political consultants and Hollywood production capabilities, along with today's standards of decency back, say, 100 years ago, what kinds of commercials would they have produced? Hmmmm...

Vote for Wendell Willkie!! ...Isn't it about time we had a President who will STAND UP for America?

Seriously? Must we elect the ugliest man in America as our next President?  Vote Breckinridge '60

If he's so smart, how come he has a slave-girlfriend?  John Adams is the only man running for President in 1800 with all white children...John Adams, the pure choice for President.

William Howard animal hating, tub of lard! The last thing America needs is another FAT CAT in the white house. Vote William Jennings Bryan in 1908!!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Time For A Little Bragging

So, this morning I was planning on vacuuming the down stairs, as is usually my lot on Saturdays. But while I was sitting at this desk catching up on the overnight news I hear the Dyson roaring. Pam then told me that I am not to do anything that might throw out my back between now and Monday morning when we depart for Nashville. Long car rides followed by moving furniture and boxes has been a toxic mixture for me in the past so, she's probably right. But I hate being told I can't do something because I might get hurt. Even when I was a kid I hated it. Mom would say.."Douglas!! Put some shoes on before you walk through the smoldering embers of the trash fire from last night!!" Of course, hearing that was like a green light challenge for me so I boldly plowed ahead, Tony Robbins-like into the smokey pile, whereupon my bare left foot immediately came down on the jagged edge of a broken coke bottle. The inch long scar is still there as a monument to my foolishness. True story.

Speaking of overnight news, Romney picked Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as his VP. I don't like to brag, but to some of us, this is not really news. I now call your attention to these words written by your humble blogger on January 2, 2012 as part of my "Predictions" blog...

8. Mitt Romney will win the Republican party nomination, becoming the first Mormon to be so honored. He names Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate. In a bold move designed to prove that he does, in fact, have a sense of humor, they arrive at the Republican convention center in Tampa riding two bicycles, wearing white shirts with skinny black ties.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Moving My Boy To New Jersey

Next week is going to be a beauty. My son will be moving from Nashville, Tennessee to Princeton, New Jersey to attend grad school. Here's how the itinerary looks on paper.

# Pam and I leave Richmond at 8 AM Monday morning headed for Nashville. It's 600 miles and will take 9 hours. Somewhere around Knoxville we gain an hour, crossing into the central time zone.

# Monday evening, we will attend Patrick's final choral concert in Nashville. This time it's a choir he created from scratch at the beginning of the summer. They have been rehearsing for nearly 3 months just for this one and only performance. It would seem that my son cannot go a single season without hatching some musical project, and spending a fortune on sheet music. ( BLAST you Sherri Matthews!!)

# Tuesday morning I pick up the Budget Rental truck and head over to Patrick's apartment. He is currently sleeping in the dining room of a place he has lived for only 2 months. The guy who is replacing him in this place decided to move in two weeks early, so all of Patrick's worldly possessions are stacked in what was once a dining room. He sleeps somewhere in the pile. When  he Skyped us the other night the only part of this chaos that looked even vaguely organized was the wall that contained his keyboard/computer combo. Oh..and the new guy has a puppy. So, here's hoping the mutt doesn't have flees. We will spend this day sorting through the mountains of stuff, organizing, discarding and boxing it all up. All the while we will be meeting Patrick's girlfriend of these past 4 months who we have heard about but never actually met..Caroline. Tuesday night we will all have dinner at Puckett's Boat House, Patrick's employer since graduation in December.

# Wednesday morning three vehicles will depart Nashville around 8 in the morning. I will be driving the truck, Pam will be driving our car, and Patrick will be driving his car with Caroline and his best friend Matt as passengers. We will all have walkie-talkies just in case Patrick's 14 year old VW Jetta dies on the way. On this leg of the journey, we lose that hour we gained on Monday, arriving back in Richmond hopefully around 7 o'clock in the evening.

# Thursday will be a day of Patrick showing his girlfriend the sights of his home town, while Pam frantically prepares for the last leg of the trip, and I go into the office and try to get some work done.

# Friday morning early, which for me would be 6 but will probably end up being 7:30, the same three vehicle convoy will depart Short Pump and make the most dangerous road trip in America...up 95 thru D.C., around Baltimore, across the Delaware bridge and onto the New Jersey turnpike. Mapquest says 5 and a half hours, but with the traffic, multiple accidents( hopefully not involving US) it could be 7 hours. Once we arrive in Princeton, we get to meet Patrick's new roommates who have already moved in. These are two kids he has never met, since he only knows them from Facebook.  Awesome.

# By mid afternoon Saturday, the move complete, and amidst much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth from my wife we will drop off the rental truck in Lawrenceville, and make the death-drive back to Richmond, arriving sometime before midnight. Total miles driven since Monday...2000. Total cost of truck, gas, meals and hotels..$1800.

Why do we do this as parents? Our son is 23 years old. He works, pays his own bills, he is a fully functioning adult. If left to his own devices he could move himself from Nashville to Princeton. Why spend all this money, blow and entire week of production to oversee the event? He didn't ask us to help. So, why do we do it? Part of me thinks we shouldn't insert ourselves into this thing. But another huge part of me thinks.."What, are you NUTS????" He's our little boy. Sure, maybe 15 years have passed since he has actually been our little boy, but it's hard to see him as a grownup. When we moved Kaitlin into her rental house at Wake Forest when she was starting grad school, I remember thinking to myself.." How is she going to make it here by herself, since she is only 6 years old?" We parents are weird that way. Time may march on, but not in our imaginations. These smart, engaging, ambitious adults staring back at us can't possibly be our children...can they? What happened??

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"When Did You Stop Beating Your Wife?"

My inbred, free born, suspicion of government comes as no shock to regular readers of this space. I'm sure it annoys those of you on the left who can't understand why I could possibly distrust something as wonderfully benevolent as our government since it is the guarantor of our freedoms. Many of you on the right I'm sure are equally annoyed that I lack sufficient enthusiasm for the Republican party's grand plans for constraining that government. Fair enough. But never before have my feelings of isolation and alienation from the political process been more powerful than they are today. A Presidential election campaign will do that to you. But it's more than that. Consider just this one example from last week.

The Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, goes on the floor of the senate and proclaims to the world that he had gotten a call from an unnamed former Bain Capital investor who claimed that Mitt Romney hadn't paid taxes in ten years. Reid then called on Romney to come forward and prove that this accusation was untrue by releasing his tax returns. Well, there you have it...the new evidentiary standard of our justice system...any anonymous accusation is the truth until you prove that it isn't. This giant step forward in our criminal justice system brought to you by the highest ranking Democrat in Congress, a political party who won 30 years worth of elections demonizing Joe McCarthy.

Lest you think that this "when did you stop beating your wife" style of accusation is strictly a democratic party affair, think again. President Obama has never released his academic records from his time at Columbia University. Right wing political web sites have been ablaze with accusations that this "proves" that his grades were awful and that he probably got in to Columbia via affirmative action,or even worse, because he entered as a foreign exchange student, buttressing the foreign born accusations of past years. "Come clean, Mr. President", these sites demand,"and prove that these accusations aren't true. Release your records!"

Make a charge, with the flimsiest of evidence, then demand that the candidate disprove a negative, and if he doesn't, that's ironclad evidence of his guilt.

You lovers of government, you devotees of the grandness of the political process, answer me this...why would anyone of superior intelligence, great accomplishment, demonstrated leadership skills, knowledge of history, and a patriotic desire to serve this Republic ever subject himself and his family to such an unholy degradation? This system of ours which was founded on the notion that after a long and fruitful life of great accomplishment, our best citizens would then feel compelled to serve the country as it's political leaders, has now morphed into a grubby, cess-pool of professional politicians, effete con-men and shakedown artists, who jockey for position and power at the public trough. How else to explain the likes of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Eric Cantor trodding the ground once occupied by James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and Henry Clay?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Political Adds During The Olympics?

Every four years the Olympics invades my house, dominates my television and captivates my imagination. I find myself mesmerized by the sheer size of the thing, the spectacle. There I sit, night after night, totally consumed by breastless women and gangly men swimmers in their hideous techno head wraps, as they slice and dice through the water. They bob, they whirl, they flail and then they lunge for the wall, where some body's heart gets broken. Then there's the gymnastics, those, steel-spined dynamos with the garish makeup, and hands always encased in tape and flowered with chalk. They bounce across the floor, they swing from ridiculous bars, they fly through the air with murderous intent and stick the landings with their size two velcroed feet. All the while, you know that catastrophe is one slip away. These girls live one inch removed from failure. After a successful routine, they stick out their tiny torsos, thrust their arms wide in the air and a triumphant smile replaces what were the faces of cold-blooded killers. The athleticism, the gracefulness, the jaw-dropping brilliance of their practised skills executed in a crucible of pressure with video cameras capturing their every emotion is edge of your seat entertainment. Then, after being plunged and lifted from the agony to the ecstasy of this ultimate competition, NBC breaks for commercials, and all of America is forced to watch paid political propaganda from Obama and Romney.

Ordinarily, during Presidential campaigns, Americans of all political persuasions grow weary of having our intelligence insulted by these 30 second assaults, but we understand that it's an unavoidable fact of our democratic life. After a month or two we all tune them out, or hit mute, or mostly, we go to the bathroom. But during the Olympics, campaign commercials seem especially galling, especially obscene, and if it were possible, even more shameful. On the one hand the Games show us how high and lofty our aspirations can be, politics shows us how low and despicable. If Olympians were like politicians, they wouldn't be showing us what hard work and dedication can do when applied to sports, they would be giving interviews explaining why they needed to win simply because their opponent was an idiot.....

BOB COSTAS: So, Michael Phelps, you're about to compete in the 200 IM final against your long time foe Ryan Lochte. What are your feelings about the race?

MICHAEL PHELPS: Well Bob, I don't know if you know this, but, Ryan is a real jerk. Not only is he a  notorious womanizer, I have irrefutable evidence that he hasn't paid taxes in five years. Is America really ready for a 200 IM gold medal winner who is a womanizing tax cheat?

Both political parties should do themselves and the rest of us a HUGE favor by agreeing to not run adds during the Olympics. The juxtaposition is just too stark, too embarrassing for them..and us.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cheating At Badminton? Say It Ain't So.

Just about the time I'm really starting to enjoy the Olympics, a cheating scandal rocks the games. No, I'm not referring to the 16 year old Chinese swimmer, Ye Shiwen, who has raised more than a few eyebrows with her man-beating times in the pool. And, no, I'm not talking about some roided up weightlifter from Kyrgyzstan. No, this cheating scandal  is disturbing on an even more visceral level. I, for one, will always remember where I was when I got the news that eight Olympians were kicked out of London for cheating at....Badminton.

Yes, that lovely game we all grew up playing at picnics in the summer has now arrived at the place where people care enough to cheat at it. And the people doing the cheating aren't your Uncle Ted, with a racket in one hand and an Old Milwaukee in the other. No, these cheaters are the best of the best, and in every article I could find about this story, they are described as "athletes". Apparently, the desire to reach the pinnacle of the Badminton universe so corrupted eight "athletes" from China, South Korea, and Indonesia, that they conspired to throw their matches in order to obtain a more favorable opponent in the elimination rounds to come. As you can imagine, this lackluster effort did not go over well with the thousands who had paid good bribes to get their hands on tickets to see first rate badminton. Kang Young Joong, current President of something called the Badminton World Federation, wasn't happy. "Not giving one's best effort in a match does not reflect well on our sport." So, the eight offending Asians are now ex-Olympians, but clearly, the damage has been done. So what is an Olympics fan to do? What am I to think when I watch the long anticipated Croquet finals between Great Britain and Liechtenstein next week? Will I have to wonder whether that handsome man with the silky mallet is doping? And what about the Horse-Shoe Pitching finals this weekend? Are those guys playing with magnetized shoes?

Now, I'm aware that what I'm about to say isn't politically correct, however, I can't help but notice the preponderance of Asian athletes involved in nefarious conduct at these games. What's the deal with the Chicoms anyway? In the 1990's over 60 athletes from all sports tested positive for banned substances. Of that total, 28 just happened to be Chinese...swimmers. So, pardon me for being just a bit suspicious of Ye Shiwen. And when I see any North Korean athlete winning anything, a red flag ( pardon the pun ) starts to fly in my head. Although I guess I shouldn't be surprised by amazing athletic feats by North Koreans, since their supreme leader carded a 38, including an amazing 11 hole in ones in his very first attempt at golf. Since this otherworldly accomplishment was reported by the Official News Service of the North Korean Communist Party, it had to be true. Even though there is presently no evidence of cheating, I will still keep a sharp eye out for any irregularities in what I'm sure will be an all-Chicom ping pong final later this week.