Sunday, November 30, 2014

Until Next Time...

By the end of the day, my house will be empty again. Although Pam and Lucy and I will still live here, all my kids will have gone back home. I’m not sure who will miss them more, Pam and me, or Lucy?

Last night I celebrated National Small Business Saturday by taking everyone to the Hanover Tavern for dinner and a show. Neil Simon’s ‘They’re Playing Our Song” was playing and it was delightful. When we got back home, we decorated the Christmas tree while Lucy tiptoed around in skittish terror at the presence of a tree in her house and boxes of ornaments strewn everywhere. It was quite hilarious.

So, today we will eat yet another huge breakfast together, then head off to church and lunch with friends. Kaitlin and Jon will hit the road soon after, then we will take Patrick to the airport. Once he’s in the air we will begin a three day fast to lose the ten pounds we have packed on over the past four days.
The good news is that they will all be back in three weeks for Christmas. The house will be full again…and so will we.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Success

Thanksgiving was great. There was enough food to feed an army and yet there were very few leftovers. There were all sixteen members of the White clan present which meant that Patrick got to try out his fancy new camera on a big family portrait in the front yard, (pictures to follow). Then it was time for football.

This morning my elbow is enflamed, my back is tight and my hamstrings have risen up in outraged protest. I imagine that when I struggled to get out of bed this morning, I was in good company. Millions of my mid-fifties countrymen struggled along with me, no doubt. The reason for this is unfathomable to millions of wives out there who watch their husbands diving on the ground attempting a miraculous catch. They are unimpressed with our tales of touchdowns and interceptions. They just stare at us, mouths agape, wondering what we possibly could have been thinking throwing ourselves onto the ground wearing a perfectly clean wool sweater. Just for the record, the three man team of Patrick, Jon and yours truly triumphed over the four man team of Mike, Mick, Isaac, and Randy…28-21.

We are quickly approaching the two month anniversary of the arrival of Lucy. In all that time she had only whined when we put her to bed one time and that was the first night she was here….until last night. Lucy has been in doggy heaven ever since meeting her new siblings. They have spent most of their time snuggling or playing in a pile on the floor. The kids are in love. Then, last night when it was finally bedtime, Lucy started to whine as if to say, “I can’t go to bed now, there are people upstairs to play with!!” I’m a little concerned that she will be bored with the two of us once the kids head back on Sunday.
Once again proud to report that none of my family has fallen prey to the hideous orgy of conspicuous consumption that is Black Friday. Today we will busy ourselves with getting up leaves and other traditional Thanksgiving activities. Actually, in the interest of full disclosure, Patrick did slip out last night at midnight to pick up a killer deal on a PS4 at Gamestop. But, he was first in line and nobody got trampled when the doors were opened, so I suppose that was a victory of sorts.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Ferguson Verdict

A friend of mine asked me what I thought of the verdict in the Ferguson case yesterday and I hesitated for a minute before answering, “It doesn’t matter what I think.” That was the best I could do. But it also happens to be true. What a mess.

Anytime a police officer pulls the trigger and a teenager ends up dead it’s a tragedy. No matter the mitigating circumstances, parents are not meant to bury their children. Therefore, I can and do have sympathy for any parent suffering so tragic a loss. I find myself giving them a lot of room for error, allowing them to say hurtful even stupid things in the pain of the moment. I try to imagine how coherent and sensible I would sound with a thousand microphones stuck in my face after losing a son. In this case Michael Brown’s parents get a pass.

As far as the police are concerned, there isn’t enough money in the world that would entice me to become a police officer. It is the worst job in America. Every day, you put your life on the line trying to protect law-abiding citizens from criminals, and most of the time it’s devilishly hard to tell the difference. On the rare occasion where you actually have to fire a weapon, you place yourself under a microscope and the glare of that spotlight can destroy you. No thanks.

So, 12 men and women just completed their three month long grand jury duty. They listened to more than 70 hours of testimony, read reports, listened to more evidence, re-read reports, all the while knowing that whatever their decision happened to be would set off a firestorm of criticism. They were screwed from the beginning. I’ve read just a fraction of the testimony, but enough to know that whatever the per diem is for jury duty in Missouri, it ain’t enough.

My opinion of the verdict doesn’t matter because whatever it happens to be will be wrong. If I believe that Officer Wilson acted in self-defense then I will be judged to be in support of a trigger happy bigot who epitomizes the excesses of the militarized police force in America. If I support the not-guilty verdict, then I will be judged as someone who doesn’t value black lives.

If I believe that Officer Wilson was guilty of murder and got away with it because of systemic racism in our judicial system, then I will be judged to be in support of lawlessness, rioting, looting and mayhem. Worse, I will be lumped in with the Al Sharpton’s of the world, soft on crime and in cahoots with the coddlers and excuse-makers of the left, more concerned with perpetuating grievance than with justice.

So, I’ll just watch the bonfires in the streets of Ferguson. I’ll listen to the protesters chant their slogans…you didn’t indict, we shall fight…f**k the police. I’ll watch them burn down their own town in a rage. Then I’ll wait for some politician to introduce legislation to finance the rebuilding of Ferguson with a new urban renewal plan funded by taxes on the law-abiding citizens of St. Louis.
But I won’t comment on the verdict. It doesn’t matter what I think. I’m wrong anyway.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Finally Finished, Finishing Well!

I’m extraordinarily jacked up about finally having completed and published Finishing Well. It was a labor of love but also an enormous amount of good, old-fashioned regular labor. I was aided immeasurably by both Denise Roy and my sister Paula Roop, who both scanned through the manuscript looking for errors and found many.  I’m sure there are still a few that escaped their scrutiny, but it’s done.

I hope that the book is enjoyable inasmuch as a book about death and dying can be. My sincere wish is that it will provide comfort to those who may be going through similar struggles and a bit of wisdom to those who might be facing the same experience down the road. The knowledge that you are not alone and that what you are suffering is not unique can be a powerful encouragement.

The book has not had pain, disappointment and anger sanitized out because I determined from the very beginning that if I was going to write a book about my parent’s final years, it would be an honest one. Besides, if I made a bunch of stuff up, my mother would come back from the grave and haunt me forever.

But for those of you who loved my parents, you will not be disappointed in this behind the curtains glimpse into their lives. They were consistent to the end. They never betrayed their faith. They indeed finished well.
Just a note to members of my family…Christmas is coming so give Santa a chance to do his thing!

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Rolling Stone and UVA

When I saw that Rolling Stone magazine had written a story about UVA I didn’t know what to think. There was a time when I read Rolling Stone, mostly back when P.J. O’Rourke wrote travel articles for them. But ever since I and Rolling Stone stopped caring about Rock and Roll, I stopped caring about Rolling Stone.

I saw it first on my nephew’s Facebook wall and then discovered that it was everywhere. It was a long and well written piece about a freshman who goes to a frat party, gets gang raped and then literally nothing happens. I won’t repeat all of the article here. I’ll just assume that you’ve read it. But if you haven’t, do yourself a favor and take the time to read the piece…now.

First of all, as someone who has attended a few frat parties back in the day, I should point out that UVA is certainly not unique when it comes to frat-boy debauchery. Although I never witnessed, let alone participated in, anything approaching the happenings at Phi Kappa Psi, there were stories. On one occasion there were photographs. Back then even as a fun-loving, thrill-seeking 20 year old, they were sickening. Today, as a father, I am enraged.

The part of the article that has done the enraging isn’t the actual crime as much as the reaction to the crime by the victims' three “friends.” After finding their friend, who had just been repeatedly raped for over 3 hours by a cowardly band of eight attackers, their biggest concern isn’t for her safety and protection. No, no. They stand there beside their shaking traumatized friend and contemplate what this might mean for future invitations to frat parties for them if they actually take her to the hospital and report this attack to the authorities! Later in the story, after our victim has spent weeks isolating herself from everyone in her dorm, a girl is quoted offering this terrifying opinion, “You’re still upset about that? Why didn’t you just have fun with it…all those hot Phi Kappa Psi guys?”

Civilization, culture, polite society, are words we use to describe what we like to think is a more enlightened existence than our forbearers in less advanced times had to endure. In truth, these words serve as a thin veneer with which we paint over the ugliness of our hearts. We flatter ourselves by thinking that human beings have evolved beyond paganism. What I read in that article was essentially describing the lawless, hedonistic pursuit of pleasure fancied up in pearls.

There exists nowhere in the mind of any rational person an excuse for this type of behavior. If I hear one more dissertation about how the girl should have known what she was getting herself into, or those boys were just acting out what they see in pornography, I’m going to throw up. Oh, the poor, confused young things! Bullshit. No one in that dark room at the Phi Kappa Psi frat house was confused about anything. They knew exactly what they were doing and also that they would get away with it. Virginia’s finest.

People today roll their eyes whenever anyone starts talking about morality and virtue, as if these things no longer have a place in our newly liberated, values-free culture whose only surviving virtue seems to be tolerance. But perhaps it might be time to revisit centuries old virtues like honor and respect. Maybe it’s a mistake to cast the word judgmental on the scrap heap of history. I make no apologies for being judgmental. I have looked at the behavior of these frat boys and I am ready to declare my judgment that they are worthless pagans who should all be sentenced to life in prison for what used to be called “rape” in this country.

We need to stop kidding ourselves. Our advanced civilization…is neither advanced, nor civil.

Friday, November 21, 2014

What Would a White Riot Look Like?

My kids are coming home for Thanksgiving. Kaitlin and Jon will be on the highways and Patrick will be on an airplane. All of them will arrive in Short Pump near midnight. We will enjoy a few days together. It will be wonderful but will seem rushed. Then they will leave us as abruptly as they arrived. It is the new normal.

We should be thankful that they come home at all, and we are. I was talking with a friend recently whose kids live in Texas and Oregon, so South Carolina and Tennessee seem like a blessing. Then there are those friends whose kids have settled in foreign lands from Dubai to Thailand. In other words, we have no right to complain. But that doesn’t mean we don’t.

A few thoughts before the weekend:

One of my favorite commentators, Kevin Williamson, has suggested that the IRS needs a slogan and has offered up a couple of suggestions…
We have what it takes, to take what you have!

Somebody’s gotta do it!

To which I might suggest…We harass more people by 6am than other agencies do all day!

This weekend will probably bring an announcement by the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri. Most observers seem to believe that Officer Darren Wilson will be acquitted, unleashing God knows what in that beleaguered community. I think it’s interesting that I haven’t been able to find one story, one opinion that suggests what might happen if Officer Wilson is found guilty. Will the pro-Wilson forces take to the streets torching businesses and stocking up on big screen TVs and Bud Lite? Will the white citizens of Ferguson unleash their pent up rage by destroying private businesses? Why is rioting and looting only an understandable response to perceived injustice for the black community?
Of course, if white people were to riot and loot it would most likely look a bit different. Instead of big screen TV’s and lite beer, we would see pot-bellied white guys with crock pots and espresso machines balanced on their shoulders. White church ladies would be caught by cell phone cameras with twenty pound bags of flour and sugar under their arms and purloined copies of Good Housekeeping and Southern Living magazines stuffed in the apron pockets. There wouldn’t be one single piece of Duck Dynasty memorabilia left on the shelves in Ferguson, and good luck trying to find any Reba McEntire CDs!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The President vs. The President

Tonight, President Obama will give a prime time address to the American people on the subject of his decision to grant amnesty to up to 5 million immigrants presently in our country illegally. In doing so, he will be tasked with the difficult assignment of overcoming powerful arguments that have been made claiming that executive action without Congressional approval would be illegal and unconstitutional, claims made by…President Obama.

"America is a nation of laws, which means I, as the President, am obligated to enforce the law. I don't have a choice about that. That's part of my job. But I can advocate for changes in the law so that we have a country that is both respectful of the law but also continues to be a great nation of immigrants. … With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed …. [W]e’ve got three branches of government. Congress passes the law. The executive branch’s job is to enforce and implement those laws. And then the judiciary has to interpret the laws. There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as President.” 

“I swore an oath to uphold the laws on the books …. Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own. Believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. I promise you. Not just on immigration reform. But that's not how our system works. That’s not how our democracy functions. That's not how our Constitution is written.”

“I’m not a king. My job as the head of the executive branch ultimately is to carry out the law,” Obama told Telemundo. “When it comes to enforcement of our immigration laws, we’ve got some discretion. We can prioritize what we do. But we can’t simply ignore the law.”

“I can’t do these things just by myself.” He reiterated that sentiment in a February 2013 interview with Telemundo. “I’m not a king,” he said.

Of course, maybe the President is counting on the famous stupidity of the American voter to not be able to do a Goggle search and find these statements. Or, maybe since he never has to face the voters again, he's just concluded, what the heck?! Or, maybe the role of "King" has evolved.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Welcome to Al's World

He’s the one in the $5,000 Italian suits expertly tailored around his newly trimmed down 60 year old body. He’s the one who scowls angrily at the cameras one minute, then flashes a mouth full of oversized teeth at you the next.
He’s the man who recently bragged, “I’ve been able to reach from the streets to the suites!” And because he is who he is, it hasn’t cost him a dime. Welcome to Al’s World.

The Rev. Al Sharpton was recently celebrated at a lavish Manhattan restaurant birthday party attended by every prominent New York State politician the other day where everyone took turns praising the great man. Even the President sent an aide with a message to read, extoling the Reverend’s many virtues. Apparently, thrift isn’t one of them.

It would seem that the good Reverend owes the Internal Revenue Service some $4,500,000 in unpaid State and Federal taxes, a figure that has been growing each year. Sharpton’s non-profit organization, National Action Network has been kept afloat for years by failing to pay Federal payroll taxes on its employees.(Now that’s some Action I could get on board with!) Neither Al nor his non-profit organization have bothered to pay travel agencies, hotels or a long list of landlords for years. Despite this penchant for welching on his debts, the lavish birthday bash at the Four Seasons was paid for by a long list of corporations that for reasons unknown are not troubled by his history of serial freeloading.

I bring this up because in just a few days the grand jury down in Ferguson will render their verdict, and if it doesn’t contain a conviction, that luckless town will go up in flames. Then Al will show up, a gaggle of cameras in his face recording the rhyming rage coming forth from his mouth. The Reverend will no doubt be in high dudgeon about how poorly African-Americans are treated, about how the system is out to get them and how the burning buildings in Ferguson are a just and understandable reaction to years of ill-treatment at the hands of the privileged white establishment.

When speaking this way, he will be referring of course to the great unwashed African-American population, not the Al Sharptons of the world. I’m almost positive that if Doug Dunnevant had somehow managed to amass a 4.5 million dollar bill for back taxes, my white skin wouldn’t stand a chance of saving my ass from the heavy hand of the IRS legal team. My prison cell would be the last on the left, right across from Hannibal Lecter. I mean, Al Capone got away with murder, extortion, bribery, and racketeering, but couldn’t fight the taxman. How does Sharpton manage it?
Becoming a race hustler and poverty pimp was obviously an astute career move for Al Sharpton. It’s Al’s world. The rest of us are just living in it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

2014 Christmas List

We have now officially reached the middle of November. This can only mean one thing—the unholy alliance between Christmas and Capitalism is upon us. For the next 38 days we will be bombarded by land, air and sea with relentless marketing extoling the virtues of conspicuous consumption. From the ubiquitous sales fliers crammed into our mailboxes to the carpet bombing Walmart television ad campaigns, there will be no escape from the Gekkoesque message, “greed is good!”

Pam needled me the other day about my Christmas list. She does this every year. I am always the last one in the family to attach my list to Dunnevant Christmas Central, our famous family Christmas website. Secretly, this is my form of silent protest, but partly it’s because I have a hard time coming up with a list of things that I want. Listen, I’m 56 years old. Most of the things that I still “want” cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I mean, I suppose I could put, “a lake house in Maine” on my list but what good would that do? So, each year I sit at my computer trying to come up with a Christmas list and each year it gets snarkier and snarkier. Who could forget 2011’s request for a Santa PEZ dispenser followed by “a capital gains tax cut?” Or how about 2012’s plaintive plea for “better spelling skills?” I can report that I did in fact receive the new fingernail clippers that I so daringly asked for in 2013.

This year, my list will be even harder to write what with all of the turmoil in the world today. It’s hard to prioritize a wish list while watching Bill Cosby implode right before your eyes.  Asking for a year’s supply of beef jerky seems rather petty while the country is poised a heartbeat away from a Joe Biden Presidency. But, it’s November the 17th and I either do this now or face the wrath of Pam for the next month. Sigh….

So, without any further delay, here is my 2014 Christmas List:

1.     A new coffee maker
2.     Overnight success as a published author
3.     New exotic coffee beans from Central America, Jamaica, or South America
4.     New set of golf clubs
5.     Lake house in Maine
6.     A man or women of raw intelligence, common sense and actual accomplishment to run for President in 2016
7.     Gift certificate to Men’s Warehouse
8.     Gift certificate to Patient First
9.     A grandchild
10.   A less cynical outlook on life
11.     A new stylish suit
12.     A cool hat. (third year in a row for this)
13.    A really nice modern looking but not too ostentatious…watch
14.      Underwear
15.  Dress socks

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Old and Stupid

The arrival of my new cell phone has unleashed a flurry of glitches that make the Obamacare website debacle look like a miracle of innovation. It’s so complicated I can’t even find the words to describe the trouble. It has something to do with my failure to back up my old phone to the cloud, the fact that I have too many pictures and videos, and maybe something to do with not having enough storage capability. Whatever it is, we are now on our third setup regime and I am temporarily phone-less.

This is always how it is with me and new stuff. There is always a glitch, usually multiple glitches. I am always left feeling old and stupid by the process. Once it all gets fixed I am happy with the new thing. But while my wife is at her happiest upon being presented with a new technological devise, I feel nothing except apprehension, a great disturbance in my sense of well-being.

One of the first strategies we employed yesterday to try to fix the phone was to go through all my videos and erase the ones I could live without. As it turned out I found that I could live without almost all of them, one in particular.
Most of the videos were of Lucy doing something puppyish that I thought was adorable at the time, but now that she has done the same thing a thousand times…not so much. There were videos of Nationals Park and Camden Yards, scenic vistas of the Shenandoah Valley, that sort of thing. Then I stumbled upon a video I took of my dad maybe a week before he passed away. I had gone over to the nursing home one night and was feeding him some ice cream. At the time I thought he was having a very good day and I wanted to take a video to send to Linda to encourage her. When I pushed “play” I was shocked at how weak and feeble he looked. Why on Earth had I thought that he was having a “good” day? I suppose that near the end this was good. I immediately deleted the thing and fought back a wave of tears suddenly welling up inside me. That’s not the way I want to remember him.

So, thanks Apple for forcing me to stumble upon such a depressing memory!

Stupid technology!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Password Hell

Now that I have that new cell phone I have entered that most cursed state of modern consciousness… password hell. Yes, all of my old phone data was magically rescued from The Cloud and safely deposited onto my new shiny phone, saving me the heartbreak of losing all of my pictures and other valuable stuff. The only problem is that now every time I want to actually use an app, I must reenter my username and password. The usernames were all saved, but all of the passwords were not.

Ok, here’s the thing. I haven’t been called upon to enter these passwords in nearly three years. My chances of remembering them all are roughly equivalent to the chances that any national democrat will admit to ever having heard of Jonathan Gruber.
I have two choices. First I could consult my dog-eared page of usernames and passwords that I keep deep in the bowels of my briefcase. Its reliability isn’t absolute since it is so old that the ink has begun to fade and several coffee stains have rendered it unreadable in places. My second choice is the painstaking process of trying to answer the safety questions that I apparently set up years ago to test my knowledge of my own past. For example:

What was your first girlfriend’s middle name?

What was your Grandmother’s favorite pudding?

If you were one of the Beatles, which Beatle would you be?


So, having failed my own tests, I must then plead ignorance and beg the various companies to e-mail me a new password, or at least allow me to start the entire identification process all over again, always great fun.

Now before any of you technogeeks out there(and you know who you are) start sending me messages about some new gadget that I can get that will store all of my usernames and passwords in the Fort Knox neighborhood of The Cloud…save yourself the trouble. The last thing I need in my life is another gadget, because that would require me to come up with yet another username and password. My powers of creativity are tapped out in that area. Since I’m constantly warned not to use things like street names, pet names, middle names, birth dates, anniversary dates, in other words anything that I might actually be able to recall under pressure, I must conjure up weird things like…PuKeVTHokiessuckooii%43320{…to which I get the reply…Sorry, your password is insufficiently complex and must contain at least three punctuation marks and two mathematical formulas. Please try again.

Isn’t technology great?

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Almost three years ago I wrote a blog entitled, “Ignorant and Helpless…yes, I got a new cell phone.” It was my first smart phone and the thing wore me out. I felt like a third grader being introduced to calculus. My wife was very patient, and my two smarty-pants kids tried mightily to keep the snickering to a minimum, but I managed to learn how to use the thing in something quite less than record time. Well, this morning I got the following text from Apple:

Good news!! Today’s the day! Items in order W246******* should be delivered today.”

My new phone is ready. Pam bought it so I don’t know much about the details except that it’s the newest model, but not the ginormous one. Hopefully the learning curve won’t be as severe. It should be pointed out that this order was placed a month ago because every retail outlet in America was sold out of the things, which reassures me that those 100 shares of Apple I bought four years ago on a whim might very well prove to be the best investment I have ever made in my life.

I suffer from major league ambivalence with these iPhones. On the one hand I love them. I love the convenience, the amazing power, and the functionality. On the other hand I hate how dependent I have become on their existence. When I see some hapless millennial walking down the street, nose six inches from the screen, fingers frantically typing away, I used to roll my eyes in disgust, fairly dripping with condescension. “Look at that moron,” I would sneer. “Dude probably can’t go to the bathroom without that contraption!”

Well…I may not require my phone in the can, but with every passing week I am growing increasingly tethered to this miracle machine, and it is a source of great shame and embarrassment. At least I have created phone-free zones for myself…the golf course for one, and…and…well, the golf course. I don’t even bring a bible to church anymore. There’s an app for that.
Whatever…it’s too late to turn back now. I’m hooked. Maybe one day they will discover that cell phones give us all cancer or that after 15 years of sustained use our ears suddenly fall off of our heads. Then we will all look back and wonder what the hell we were all thinking. Maybe then we will all stop walking into light posts. Maybe then we will rediscover the bliss of ignorance.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Thanks Eminem!

There was a huge concert last night on the Mall in Washington DC celebrating veterans. Hundreds of thousands of people were there and the event was live-streamed by HBO. Lots of famous singers and entertainers donated their time and talents. There was no charge for the concert. What’s not to like?

Unfortunately the only thing I see about the “Concert for Valor” this morning in my news feed involves the F-bomb laced performance by rapper Eminem, who opened his set with this classy gem, “Happy Mother-F***ing Veterans Day!”

A few observations…

This rapper has first amendment rights to free speech, rights that Veterans know a thing or two about defending. Veterans themselves are quite famous for their liberal use of profanity, the F-bomb in particular being a staple of boot camp and the battle field. I am no Puritan when it comes to colorful language, although I do think that excessive use of the profane in literature or music lyrics is mostly a linguistic crutch for the inarticulate. However, having said all of this, I feel a bit silly having to point out the fact that just because you have a first amendment right to use foul language doesn’t mean that you should. There’s a little thing called decorum, and well-mannered people for millennia have had enough of it to know the difference between language appropriate for a poker game, and a public concert to honor Veterans.
Increasingly, public manners seem to be going the way of the rotary phone. My opinion of rap music and rappers in general is well known to readers of this space, and this Eminem business does nothing to change my opinion of this wretched, cesspool of racists and misogynists. But it’s not just rappers who have poisoned the public well. Freedom doesn’t work without discipline. Free speech isn’t a license for brutishness. Thanks Eminem for making that so glaringly obvious.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Veterans Day Tribute

Tomorrow is Veterans Day. I will do nothing special to commemorate the day. I never do. Neither will most of you. It’s not really that we don’t appreciate the men and women who have served their country, it’s more like we are too busy enjoying the freedoms that their service purchased for us. Tomorrow, I will spend most of the morning engaged in free enterprise, and the afternoon on the golf course. One of the reasons my life turned out so well was the fact that 70 years ago there were hundreds of thousands of men barely 20 years old who dedicated themselves to the annihilation of the Nazis. One of them was my Uncle, John Henry Dixon.

A few days ago I went to see The Fury, a film about a Sherman tank crew in the waning days of World War II in Germany. The film took place in April of 1945. One month prior to this imaginary tale, a real flesh and blood battle was raging near the town of Pruem deep inside the crumbling Third Reich. Lt. John Dixon, in the early morning hours of March the sixth was about to be given a set of extraordinarily ill-conceived orders from his commanding officer. Behind the scenes, other senior officers had tried to talk the commander out of such a dangerous move but to no avail. In the book written about the 70th tank battalion and its amazing combat history, Marvin Jenson describes what happened this way:

“The next morning I told Lt. John Dixon that his platoon would lead. They had only four tanks left, and I figured if they got hit it was better to lose fewer rather than more. I was very apprehensive about the whole setup. I told John to get his tanks going full speed and to head for a clump of trees, maybe 200 yards ahead and left at about a forty-five degree angle. The idea was for Dixon to get that far, which would give us firepower for the main attack.”

There was good reason for apprehension. Sending four Sherman tanks across an open field with German guns trained on every inch of that field was the sort of thing that contributed greatly to the short life span of tank crews in WWII. There is no indication that my Uncle questioned his orders although he surely must have known what was about to happen.

“An infantry major radioed Dixon and ordered him to move out…Dixon got his tanks going full speed, but about half way down, all hell broke loose. Tanks 1,2,3, and 4, all four were hit. We couldn’t see where the fire was coming from on the ridge, but it was a hell of a display of gunnery, and they had excellent guns, probably 88’s…Lieutenant Raiford Blackstone was a witness to the attack and reports that he and Lieutenant McCaffrey went down to the tanks to aid the stricken crewman, “I wrote with white enamel on a tank:6 killed,14 survivors, March 6, 1945”

Uncle John survived the battle and the war. According to my mother, he was never the same man after he returned from Europe. He settled down and lived his life in an unremarkable way. I knew him only when I was a child. For me he was the kind man with the very sad eyes. He, along with hundreds of thousands of others, did their duty, then came home and mostly never talked about it again.

Mr. Jenson was gracious enough to sign my copy of his book. I told him that John was my Uncle and he went on and on about what a great man he was. On the inside cover he wrote this:

To Douglas,

Your Uncle John Henry Dixon was one of the men who made the 70th an outstanding unit in the long struggle against the tyranny of the Nazis.

Marvin Jensen
So tomorrow, I will think of my Uncle and say a prayer of thanks for the men and women just like him who have answered the call throughout our country’s history.  

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Lucy's Six Week Report Card

We have had Lucy for six weeks now. If she were in school it would be about time for a report card. Hmmm. Let’s see now, I wonder what that report card would look like?

Gets along well with others.  A

Follows instructions. B+

Exercises self-control. C-

Respects the furniture of others. A

Bathroom etiquette. A-

Table manners. A+

Respects landscaping in the backyard when left to roam freely. F-

Exudes self-confidence upon introduction to new things. F-

Yes, this amazing puppy only seems to have three flaws. The first involves her reaction upon meeting guests in our home. It’s as if she has been transported to the world headquarters of Dog Ecstasy Inc. She becomes overjoyed to the point of hysteria. It takes her a full five minuets to calm down from death-com level five to mere annoyance level two.

Lucy’s second flaw is her world class skittishness. I’ve spoken about this before and it has gotten better. Just the other day an acorn fell and she did NOT jump a foot in the air in response. But she still flees in terror at the introduction of anything larger than a breadbox into the room. Poor thing has a particular problem with the color black, so I suppose I now own my second consecutive racist retriever.

 The last flaw with  Lucy is a new one for us. None of our two previous Goldens suffered with the predilection for…digging. Yes, Lucy enjoys nothing quite so much as a vigorous digging session in the back yard. This is especially lovely when it has recently rained and she presents herself at the backdoor to be let back in, her front paws covered in mud. Of course the problem is catching her in the act. When we are with her she doesn’t dig. So, I open the floor to anyone who has dealt with an excavating dog before for any suggestions for how we can break her of this habit. My only idea is to pick her favorite dig spot and place a pressure sensitive, spring loaded boxing glove down in the hole and let her have at it! I figure that getting unexpectedly punched in the nose by a BLACK boxing glove might do the trick, but I’m sure that modern dog behavior theory would be appalled at such brutality. So, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Lucy isn’t perfect, but she’s awfully close. We love her to pieces.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Bad Weekend to be in the Military

The Mayor of Ferguson, Missouri is warning his constituents to “prepare for the worst” ahead of the impending release of the grand jury report into the death of Michael Brown. That State’s National Guard is on high alert.

Late Friday afternoon, a column of 32 Russian tanks, 16 howitzers, supply trucks and troops were spotted pouring across the Ukrainian border.

Also late Friday afternoon, President Obama made the decision to send 1,500 additional troops into Iraq, a doubling of our presence there dedicated to our war with ISIS. You remember the ISIS war, right?

Decorated Navy Seal, Rob O’Neill has abandoned the ethos of that famously private fighting fraternity by going public with the account of his exploits in killing Bin Laden. This “cashing in” and shameless self-promotion has resulted in the Seal community turning their backs on one of their most decorated alumni.

It’s not a good weekend to be in the military.

Actually, it’s probably never a good weekend to be in the military. God knows what the idiot politicians are going to ask them to do next. Imagine how the poor soldiers stuck in Liberia feel. I’m pretty sure that trying to prevent a health pandemic from breaking out…in another country… wasn’t what they had in mind when they signed up with Uncle Sam. But hey, this is the 21st century, and soldiers must now multi-task.
Here’s my prayer for them today…May we produce civilian leaders who are worthy to lead such honorable men and women.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Fury

Pam had a “ladies night” with the White girls last night. They do this every couple of months or so. This time it was to celebrate Lori’s birthday. It’s the sort of thing that sounds dreadful to me, going out to some restaurant and talking for three hours. But they always have a great time together and it keeps the sisters close making it a worthwhile endeavor.

For me these ladies nights mean that I must feed and occupy myself for the evening. Most of the time I eat dinner at Big Al’s and watch a game. Last night, I decided to go see a movie that I’ve wanted to see but that I know that Pam would hate…The Fury. Best decision I’ve ever made. Pam would have spent the entire time in the fetal position.

As a History major, I have always had a certain obsession with World War II. Everything about that conflict and that time fascinates me. The dominant personalities, the ideologies, the grand sweep of the thing captivates me. Add to that the fact that my mother’s oldest brother John drove a tank for Patton’s army, and you can understand perhaps my desire to see this movie about one Sherman tank crew in the final days of the war, despite the presence of the talentless Brad Pitt.

The film was gut-wrenching. Five men inside a Sherman tank is the stuff of claustrophobic nightmares. This particular crew, having survived together all the way from North Africa to the waning days inside Nazi Germany, is as grizzled a group of men as I have ever seen depicted on film. The horrors of the war have transformed them all, almost completely taking away their humanity. They have come to the dark place of rabid hatred for the enemy, a natural disposition I suppose for one’s lucky enough to survive more than the average 26 combat days lifespan for tank crews. Although their souls have been hollowed out by their experiences, they summon the courage required to make a heroic stand at the end. Their sacrifice wasn’t simply for each other, but for something that they all sensed was bigger than themselves. Knowing that they were all doomed, one of the characters says, “This is a righteous thing we’re about to do,” then quotes from scripture, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send and who shall go for us? And I said, here am I. Send me.” It’s the most moving scene in the film.

As I watched, I couldn’t help but think of my Uncle John. My mother used to always tell us that John was a different person when he returned from the war, totally transformed in personality and disposition. No freaking kidding! The fact that John came home at all was nothing short of a miracle, the fact that he didn’t end up in an insane asylum, a tribute to mental toughness on a scale with which I am not familiar. Instead of being declared a victim of PTSD, he came home, got a job, got married and raised a family, all the while harboring private, unspeakable nightmares that must have plagued him for the rest of his life.

There is a line in this film that sticks with me this morning. Pitt’s character takes his new 18 year old replacement gunner into the living room of a wealthy German family in a freshly liberated town. All four aristocratically dressed Nazi party members had shot themselves in the head rather than be taken by the Americans. The kid asks WarDaddy, “Why are you showing me this?” WarDaddy answers, “Because ideology is peaceful, history is violent.”
It is the conceit of many in this generation to believe that we as a species have somehow evolved away from brutality. Some politicians are fond of saying that war is a remnant of a bygone, less enlightened era, so twentieth century. My understanding of history tells me otherwise. The vast majority of man’s story is one of violence, and conquest. Our experiment with representative democracy is but a mist in the wind of human history. War and warriors will always be with us. To think otherwise is vanity. But, to pursue war, to glory in it is an abomination.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Book News and a Lucy Story

My first excursion into self-publishing is nearing the finishing line and I’m getting rather jacked about the prospect. Several months ago I shared with you my plans for a book about the last two years of caring for my Dad after Mom passed away. Since then I have put the finishing touches on the thing and am now in the process of designing the cover and getting it printed. It has been at turns frustrating and invigorating. The writing was easy, reliving it all wasn’t, but everything else about the process has taken me out of my comfort zone. The editing, proofreading, and formatting have seemed interminable, but I possess the patience of a gnat about the details of life.

 The plan is to have a couple hundred paperbacks printed for those who prefer the dead tree version, while simultaneously offering an e-Book version for sale on Amazon. If I sell enough of either to recoup my investment I will be deliriously happy. If not, I will still be happy because I will have done the thing. I will have produced something worthy of my parents as a tribute to not only them, but the amazing family who cared for them so long and so well.

The name of the book is Finishing Well.

On a completely unrelated note, Lucy has discovered something new to add to the list of things that freak her out. A lawn sprinkler. Yesterday, the folks from Virginia Green showed up and laid down some fertilizer with instructions to water the lawn for thirty minutes before the end of the day. I broke out the sprinkler, set it first in the back yard and turned it on as I was instructed. After dark I let Lucy into the back yard for her evening constitutional, forgetting that the sprinkler was in the yard. She bounded down the steps in her usual spastic, wildly expectant way only to practically jump out of her little puppy skin upon discovery of the sprinkler beast attached to the horrible hose-monster! Oh. My. Word. The poor dog was convinced that this devise was of the devil and meant her great harm. Needless to say, there would be no peeing or pooping going on until this beast was dispatched. It was quite hilarious.

I love this dog!