Saturday, April 30, 2016

Words Have Meaning

I just watched some footage of a riot that happened outside the venue of a Donald Trump event in California. There were hundreds of Mexican flags in the air, police cruisers rocking back and forth, and wild eyed young men perched on the top of street lights. A man wearing a Donald Trump t-shirt had a face covered in blood.


 Oddly, the term "riot" was nowhere to be found in the LATimes story. No, these were demonstrators, and what I was looking at was a protest. Later, on Twitter I found a photograph of the same intersection, hours later after everything was over, not a soul in sight. A reporter from the LATimes made this comment..."Looks like the Donald Trump storm has passed."

If at some point in the long, hot summer which we are facing, a picture emerges of a woman wearing a Hillary Clinton t-shirt with blood all over her face, I will be watching carefully for the word demonstrators, and the description of events as a protest. What I am much more likely to see are the words violence, and the more apt descriptor, riot.

See, I'm a word guy. Language has power, and the words chosen in a news story mean everything. When largely white college students celebrating their football team winning the Sugar Bowl destroy public property, they will most likely be described as revelers. But if the unhinged crowd is mostly black, the word thug will probably find its way into the story. On the other hand, if a young black man murders a white kid, the New York Times will go to great links not to mention either's race...if they report the story at all. But, if the victim is black and the shooter white, every reporter in the building is scrambling to trumpet the headline, because there's a Pulitzer to be won. 

When it comes to political protests, it matters very much who's ox is being gored. Let's not kid ourselves, the number of members of the mainstream media in this country who would ever be caught dead voting for a Republican are about the same as the number of Episcopalians who attend monster truck shows! For the media, covering a protest at a Donald Trump event is the journalistic equivalent of nirvana...something close to heaven. But something tells me that later this summer, when the temperatures and the rhetoric have both gotten much hotter, the media's objectivity, or lack thereof will be sorely tested. I'll be paying close attention to their language. You should too.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Tiny House Craze

My son has been for some time now enthralled with that most millennial of obsessions...the tiny house. 

It's all a part of the sustainable living craze among the young. They see 50-something couples with no kids left at home building McMansions and are rightly appalled at the status hungry waste. They also look at their college debt load and reason,(incorrectly), that their future prospects for traditionally sized homes are non-existent. Tiny homes also fit in quite nicely with their generational regard for the environment. Since the planet is doomed because of global warming, carbon footprints must be greatly reduced. It has become a perfect storm where aspirations go to die. But, I digress.

I have looked at all the pictures he has sent me of these tiny houses and must admit that they are about the cutest things ever. The architectural prowess necessary for the sort of space utilization required to make these things work is quite impressive. And I'm sure that it would be a very cool place to live....if you were SINGLE. Among the host of practical problems I see with tiny houses, two predominate. First, all the pictures I see of the interiors of these places show houses that havn't been lived in. They are all like model homes, complete with tiny little flower arrangements on their tiny little tables. Let a particular millennial I know walk in to one of these places and throw his jacket, briefcase and shoes on the floor and the place would look a bit different. The only way these places can work is if those who live in them are pathological neat-freaks.

But my biggest concern is with the alarming number of young, newly married couples who are actually considering this arrangement. The hardest part about being newly married is learning how to actually share the same space with another human being. If that space is no bigger than the room that 
holds Hillary Clinton's pantsuit collection, you've got big trouble in River City, my friend. Then, there's this...

Ok, this is a delicate subject and much care must be taken when writing about it. However, I feel certain that every man reading this will understand....

Let's say it's a Friday night. You and the wife have made it through a long stressful week and are ready to kick back with a couple of adult beverages and a fine meal. About two hours after a feast of bratwurst and cabbage, nature calls. In the regular world of traditionally sized living spaces, I would have the ability to find an available toilet in the farthest reaches of the apartment or house, shielding my beloved from what is sure to be epic unpleasantness. But with tiny house living the only available toilet is some sort of cutting edge composting contraption and worse, it's only four feet from the sofa! Let's just say that Netflix is going to have to wait at least twenty minutes until this storm passes!

But, maybe this is the sort of price that must be paid for sustainable living. Maybe you would get used to it after a while. Or, maybe the divorce rate among millenials will skyrocket!!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mz. Linda

MZ Linda and the Praise Kidz rehearsing for Big Shot!

The exuberant woman holding the strange pink my sister, Mz. Linda. This is the latest iteration of a children's choir of her creation called Praise Kidz. I'm not sure how many years she has been directing this choir, but I would guess close to 30 years. That's 30 years of helping elementary school kids fall in love with singing, 30 years of having way too much fun, and 30 years of musicals that never fail to choke me up.

I'm not exactly sure what inspired her to start this all those years ago. She teaches piano and she loves kids, so maybe that's it, but's a lot of work. Over the years she has been aided by an army of volunteers, most of them grateful parents. And every year there's a musical. When my two kids were in the choir it was "The Secret to my Success." There were elaborate sets, crazy costumes and some memorable performances along the way, incredible solos sung by tiny little versions of what are now grown men and women. Little Andrew Hemby, now a hot shot millennial lawyer, singing his little heart out in a Christmas concert, Brittany Chapel's adorable turned up face looking for all the world like an angel. These are memories that everyone who attended Grove Avenue Baptist church for any length of time have been treated to by my sister's choirs.

This Sunday there will be another musical. Linda is putting in a wretched amount of hours getting it all together. She is frantic and exhausted. Yet, she still does it every year. It's part of her heart and her love of music and kids are in her blood. Although my church attendance has been spotty of late, you can bet that I'll be there. I have grown disturbingly cynical about church as I've gotten older, but there are two things that still have the power to break down that cynicism...a baptism, and a Praise Kidz concert. One because it serves as evidence that God is still in the business of changing lives, and the other because of the unbridled joy on the faces of children who sing not out of obligation but out of love for their Heavenly Father...and Mz. Linda.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What Americans Want

I am an observer of trends. It's sort of what I do for a living. What I mostly observe is my country and its culture. I'm not as smart as De Tocqueville or as witty as O'Rourke, and my conclusions may be vastly different than yours...but I have a blog and you don't.


The number of Americans who identify themselves as religious is declining, as is church attendance. As a result, many churches are casting about in desperation to curb the exit of members by recasting church doctrine to emphasize inclusiveness. Church music has become more hip, church teachings have become more chill, and yet the exodus continues. What Americans seem to want is religion that makes no demands of us, churches that require no changes in our behavior. Of course, this puts churches in a tough spot since religion is sort of in the behavior-changing business. But in a country where more than anything people want their lifestyles validated and celebrated, any organization that claims to be in possession of universal truth in the form of sacred texts or the Son of God, is in big trouble.


There has been much to observe in the politics arena over the past 9 months, much of it depressing. But I think our politics can be summarized thusly. Republicans seem to want someone, anyone who isn't a politician. The less experienced and more unmoored from reality the better. So fed up with conventional politicians are they that they seem determined to throw their support to a man with orange hair, bleached teeth and a tanning bed addiction. Democrats seem to want someone who promises to find a way to give them everything they want while finding a way to make someone else pay for it. The someone else always seems to be what for Democrats is that boundless fount of all grand entitlements...the 1%. In their hearts they wish it were Bernie, but in their heads they vote Hillary.


Food has taken over television. It's like Hollywood has finally run out of stories and has now decided to make the preparation of food the new national pastime. It's worked! My wife watches practically all of them. My favorite is the Pioneer Woman, but there are a thousand of them, these new kitchen gods and goddesses. Now, they've dragged kids into the ubiquitous cooking competition shows, eight year old kids plotting and scheming to win at any cost a knock down drag out battle over which adolescent can whip up the fluffiest soufflé. New shows proliferate like the nika virus on the Food Network. One of them, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, has ellevated the greasy spoon to cult-like status. At the other end of the universe, Ina Garten serves up haute cuisine for her 1% buddies in the Hamptons as the Barefoot Contessa. And we wonder why there's an obesity epidemic?


Soccer may be the world's game, but here in America it's the NFL...and everybody else. Professional football hangs over the sports world like a giant Zeppelin, blocking out the sun for months at a time. When we aren't obsessed with the actually games, we obsess over the draft, the combines, the commissioner, and the off season legal troubles of its biggest stars. My sport, baseball, is a footnote on Sports Center just after the ten minute report on Johnny Manziel's latest rehab stint. We Americans want...violence... in our pastimes. So what does Major League Baseball do? We eliminate the home plate collision. It's like football is run by Donald Trump and baseball is run by Bernie Sanders. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Box of Memories

In the top right hand drawer of my library desk is a faded wooden box which in its first life held an English Leather gift set. After that it served as the first aid kit for my post-high school multi-week trip out west with my best friend Al. Now it holds all of the yellowing photographs from that trip. For some reason I felt compelled to look at them this morning. That's when I stumbled upon...this:

This is exactly why we take pictures, so that one day while drinking coffee you can look at them and be astonished. That's my friend Al Thomason to the left. Back in 1976 neither one of us were particularly anxious to go to college just yet. He was 19, I was 18, and we were both idiots. We worked all summer after graduating high school at Lowe's hardware on Broad Street in Richmond, saved every dime we made, then pooled our resources, loaded up his Vega GT and hit the road. 

As you can imagine, this scheme of mine didn't go over particularly well with the folks. It didn't help that I sprung my plan on Dad in the midst of a 5 hour drive to visit Bluefield College. "So Dad, I fully intend to do the college thing and all, but first I've decided to blow all my money and six weeks of my life roaming around the great northwest." It was the first time I had ever seen my father at a loss for words. But, there we were, posing for a picture in the back yard in August of '76:

Fortunately, Al is blocking the now embarrassing Jimmy Carter for President bumper sticker that we proudly paraded around Montana and Wyoming. Youthful exuberance, indeed! But, getting back to 
that first picture. We were about to launch out on our first three day, two night hike in the Grand Tetons. We had boarded the ferry boat that would take us across Jenny Lake to the trail head, and the captain of the boat was kind enough to take the picture...probably because he sensed that at some point someone would need help identifying the bodies. We were about as green as green could be. Sure, we had a fair amount of experience hiking the Blue Ridge mountains in Virginia, but the Blue Ridge is to the Rockies what a Volkswagon is to a Lamborghini. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Just look at us! Al, with his red bandana, which would come in real handy 48 hours later when it was SNOWING. Me, with my "Nothing is better for thee than me" Quaker t-shirt, the perfect shirt choice for a hike to 10,000 feet of altitude. I only wish someone had taken an after picture. Oh, and don't even ask about the hair...chicks loved it.

I often wonder what I would have done if either of my children had announced plans to do something so manifestly reckless as my 1976 voyage of discovery. The only thing my Mom said was that we had to call home every Sunday that we were gone at 1:00 eastern time. We did...from pay phones since cell phones hadn't been invented yet. When Dad asked me when we were expecting to come back home, I had answered, "when our money runs out." He had let out a resigned sigh then added this nugget.."When you get back, you're going to have to pay for your first semester at University if Richmond with your own money, understand?" That was it, his only protest.

The thing is, I blew $1,000 in 1976 dollars on that trip, and if I had it to do over again, I would. Yes, it was foolish, dangerous and irresponsible, but I had a blast. I needed to get it out of my system and I think my Dad knew that. Most of what happened out there will go unsaid. This is a family-friendly blog, after all. But, an 18 year old kid can learn an awful lot about the world roaming around the Rockies with a horrible perm. For one thing, Olympia Beer was a truly vile brew and leads to this type of decision making:

Monday, April 25, 2016

"You ok with this?"


Something tells me that my wife will not be happy when she sees this picture. Yes, that's one of our expensive new recliners in our expensive new library...and yes, that's Lucy acting like she owns the place. I was sitting at my desk quietly reading the box scores when suddenly my dog pounced up on the chair, then turned towards me with this curious expression on her face, as if to say, "You're ok with this, right?"

Well, no...I'm not alright with it. Miss Lucy is allowed on only one piece of furniture in the down stairs of our house...her, er, I mean OUR sofa. But, I know how this works. See, Lucy has never liked this library business, especially when Pam and I both are in here, because there's no chair big enough for her to sit with us. So, she paces back and forth nervously and frustrated until one of us gets up and heads back into the living room. So, plotting and scheming dog that she is, she saw her opportunity and she took it. Mom was in the living room, and it was just her and me in here. She pops up with no warning and shoots me that pitiful face of hers. 

After taking her picture, I tell her that if she doesn't get down, I'm gonna tell Mom that she's up on the recliner in the library and if she doesn't get down, there will be hell to pay. She gazes down forlornly at the floor, then back at me. I say, "Down, Lucy." She harrumphs down with all the drama she can muster, then throws herself down on the floor, letting out a heavy sigh.

Dogs rock.

My Allergic Weekends

I love Virginia. I love its sweeping mountain views, its beaches, its rich history, its violent felons voting. My state is a wonderful place. But for a few weeks in late April, early doesn't love me. For two consecutive weekends, I have been freight-trained by allergy attacks that have reduced me to fits of sneezing, and nose-wiping, runny-eyed misery. Both weekends, the attacks came on Saturday evening, and carried over into Sunday, turning me into a zombie. Despite a daily Allegra pill, and copious amounts of Benadryl, nothing works...and nothing will until the pollen starts to clear out. This past weekend I even wore a mask while I was doing yard work, and took two showers to rinse off the yellow plague during the no avail.

There's a car parked on a street in my neighborhood which has been sitting in the same spot for the past two weeks. It is covered with a gooey, sticky yellow film of pollen a quarter inch thick. Every time I drive past it I want to take a giant fire hose to the thing. It's disgusting. The owner has no idea what a provocation his car is to my sensibilities. Just driving by this seasonal eyesore makes me sneeze. If he doesn't wash the thing soon, I'm going to stop and write a message across the rear window through the goo...something like..."For the love of God, man! Wash this car!!" Or, "Move to Arizona!" 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day, Prince, and Harriet Tubman

I will be celebrating Earth Day by playing golf, digging up large swaths of it with my clubs. I will be doing so alongside my recently retired brother, the first such opportunity we've had to play together in several years. I'm sure that the greens-keeper at Mattaponi Springs is praying for rain to save him from the assault of the Dunnevant Brothers, but that's between him and God.

Prince is dead. David Bowie and Prince in the same year. Icons seem to dropping like flies. I wasn't a huge fanboy or anything. I always found Prince to be a weirdo, the quintessential flaky artist. But, the dude could flat out shred a guitar, and had phenomenal rock and roll instincts. When he stepped out of the shadows at the 2004 George Harrison tribute with a solo on While My Guitar Gently Weeps, it was pure magic, like all of the other big stars on that stage were looking at each other saying, "what just happened?" Of course, this morning the headlines are suggesting drug problems, the usual suspect whenever an entertainer passes. Regardless, we have lost someone important, a man of transcendent talent.

Harriet Tubman will soon replace Andrew Jackson on the twenty dollar bill. This is a good thing, not because Jackson was a bad guy, but because this is what happens to our currency from time to time. Before Jackson was on the twenty, it was Grover Cleveland. Jackson's been there since 1928. He had a good run. It's time for someone new. Tubman is a terrific choice. Here is a woman who not only escorted over 300 slaves to freedom through her Underground Railroad, but also served as a Union spy during the Civil War. More impressively, and much less known, she was the first woman in American history to lead a military which freed 700 slaves near Combahee, South Carolina. This was one tough, brave woman. She will also be the first African-American to grace our currency, something long overdue, and the first woman since Pocahontas made an appearance on the back of the twenty back in 1865. Anyone you hear complaining about this change and labeling it as political correctness run an ignorant schmuck. Listen, somebody tries to take George off the dollar and replace him with Gloria Freaking Steinem, then you've got a case. But the removal of the white, Indian-killing, slave-owning founder of the Democratic Party, and his replacement by a bible-believing, gun-toting black Republican woman is fine in my book!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Who Is Hillary Clinton's Tailor??


Bad night for Bernie. But, what in the Sam Hill was that hideous thing that Hillary was wearing at her victory speech??

It's like she has the same tailor as Chairman Mao.


It's April 20th and Bryce Harper already has 7 homers and 20 RBI's. Apparently, last year was no fluke.


When I was a college student, I was forced to go to an allergist and be tested. It was determined that I was allergic to a lot of things which fly through the air this time of year. Consequently, I embarked on a year long regimen of weekly allergy shots administered with something close to maniacal glee by my nurse-sister, Linda. Since then, the number of allergy episodes I have had has dropped dramatically from one every two or three days, to one every six months or so. Until this year. 

For the past week or so I have felt on the edge of a full blown, 100 sneeze, tissue eating, nose blowing extravaganza. Every morning my nose starts to run. My eyes start feeling itchy. I pop a preemptive Benadryl. The attack is staved off by the little pink miracle. But, by bedtime, the sniffles are back, only, I can't take another pink pill before going to bed because while Benadryl makes most people drowsy, it amps me up. So I contort myself into an uncomfotable pretzel-like position that keeps mucus from gushing from my nose and pray for sleep. Needless to say, I can't engage my sleep apnea machine under these conditions, so, I wake up tired. Then the process starts all over again. Stupid pollen.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Eleven Burning Questions.

Today the State of New York holds a Presidential primary. I'm told that Hillary Clinton will win comfortably and Donald Trump will win in a landslide. Further, the smart people all say that this will be some sort of turning point in this interminable ordeal, a crossing the rubicon moment whereby all prospects for a Bernie Sanders presidency will be dashed, and Donald Trump regains his stranglehold on the momentum lost in the past few week's hive of Republican Party insider hijinks. Color me skeptical.

There are simply too many media companies making too much money for either of these nominations to get wrapped up anytime soon. Politics has become America's most popular spectator sport. Politics has also become America's favorite soap opera. Consider these burning questions:

1. Will Hillary become America's first female president, once and for all time shattering the ultimate glass ceiling?

2. Is Bill Clinton suffering from the early stages of dementia?

3. Will Hillary ever be indicted by the Justice Department over her emails?

4. Are Hillary and Huma a thing?

5. What's up with Hillary's annoying cough?

6. How did a perpetually disheveled curmudgeon like Bernie Sanders score such a wonderful wife?

7. If Donald Trump becomes President, what will be the over/under on how long his current marriage survives?

8. When John Kascich finally releases his delegates, will they wind up supporting Ted Cruz or Hillary Clinton?

9. Will Hillary Clinton go all in on gender by nominating a woman as her Vice President? Someone like Elizabeth Warren or John Kerry?

10. Will Bernie Sanders counter by going all in on Commuism by nominating Van Jones as his running mate?

11. Will Ted Cruz become our first friendless President?

I don't know about you, but I'll be tuned in!

Monday, April 18, 2016

What Happens Next.

In the summer no one thinks about the snow. Sitting at a feast table no one recalls the famine. In the season of peace no one listens for the drums of war. No one except me. I am always moved on to the next thing. And the next thing is always different. It is tiresome to receive a gift of new shoes and only being able to imagine them with holes. But, my gift has benefits. A run of bad luck or ill health is always about to end. It's always on to the next thing. If life seems bright and grand, it's about to turn wicked and dark. But a sick child is about to recover, the long miserable winter is about to give way to spring, crushing grief is about to melt into tender memory. It's what happens next that matters. Always... what happens next.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Gardening in Suburbia

There's nothing I enjoy quite so much as getting dirty working in a garden. I have my Dad to blame. By the time he lived in a place large enough to accommodate a garden, I was the only male child still living at home, so I became his garden slave at the ripe old age of 10. Even though I whined about my servitude and begged for emancipation, over time I grew to enjoy it. Now, I live in a lovely suburban neighborhood in Short Pump, Virginia...not exactly 40 acres and a mule I must content myself with faux-gardening. That's when you head over to Strange's, pick out your tomatoe plants, herbs, and other flowering plants, then throw 3 or 4 big bags of garden soil in the back of your Pacifica. What follows is a wonderful day of planting cucumbers, peppers, and squash, digging your hands deep into a bag of soil, crumbling out the clods and inhaling that marvelous moldy aroma of dirt. It was a great day for it, sunny and clear with a refreshing breeze. We did well:

However, as it is with most good things in life, there's a downside to all of this communing with nature business. Inhaling all of that moldy earth, and spending nearly 5 hours sucking in lungfulls of airborne allergens began collecting their fee from me yesterday around 4 o'clock in the afternoon. It started with a few innocent sneezes. Then the corners of my eyes began to itch. I pulled my first tissue from the box of Kleenex around 4:15.

Two Pepto-Bismol pink Benadryl pills were popped around 4:30. This had the unfortunate effect of making me feel drowsy while I sneezed while doing nothing to prevent me from sneezing. The eyes were still running and I was going through tissues faster than a room full of women watching Fried Green Tomatoes. At 9:30 then, for no apparent reason, I popped two more pink pills and headed upstairs. Now I felt drowsy and nervous. My legs started feeling jumpy. But the best part was just getting started.

Those of you out there who suffer from seasonal allergies will understand and perhaps sympathize with what follows. Those of you who do not...might want to skip the rest of this paragraph. As I laid my head on the pillow, my nose began to run. I'm talking Niagra Falls scale running. This wasn't simply post nasal drip, this was Old Faithful putting on a show for a gang of Japanese tourists with Canon's buzzing. So, I began casting about for just how I was to lay my head on the pillow to minimize the flow. I tried laying on my left side. No luck. Laying on my right side was a soon as I did I sneezed so hard it flapped the curtains 6 feet away! I finally settled on an uncomfortable pose that featured laying on my back with the crown of my head making contact with the pillow, my hose and mouth pointing to the sky. If my mouth were opened wide I would have looked like one of those baby birds in the nest when Momma bird flies back to the nest with a worm. As uncomfortable as it was, I benefitted greatly from the gravitational impact. Now all I had to do was fall asleep. That's when the sleepy twitches both legs. There I was, clutching tissues in both hands, my nose thrust skyward like Thurston Howell III, with leg spasms. Of course Lucy thought the twitching movements of my legs from under the covers was a fun new game I had invented whereby whenever I twitched her job was to find my toes and playfully chew on them. I thought about getting up and kicking her out of the bedroom, but I didn't dare move.  I feared that if I did, all of the built up mucus in my nose would be released. God knows what that cleanup would have been like. So, I just lay there, hoping I would at some point wake up and it would all be over. 

I did wake up. But, it's not over. I'm practically typing this one handed, my left hand is occupied with drip-control. If Trump wants to build a wall somewhere, he should build one inside my nostrils!

So, that's been my last 24 hours. At some point today, the waterworks will shut down and things will get back to normal. The good news 70 days we will have a bumper crop of tomatoes!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

THIS Is Why I Have This Blog.

A word about my last post entitled, Bryan Adams. Hypocrite Extraordinaire...

Wow! Yesterday, I spent the day in Charlottesville playing golf with three really good guys. As is my custom when playing this stupid game, I turned my cellphone off and placed it in a pouch of my golf bag at 8:00am. I retreived it at roughly 3:00 in the afternoon and saw that it was lit up with messages informing me of a spirited debate occurring on Facebook concerning the above post. I nervously began reading through the thread, nervous because I feared that the discussion might have gotten nasty. To my great relief, it had not. Kudos to each participant. There are things I could post in response to some of the points made, but I will not, primarily because I feel that since my blog reflects my opinion, anyone who goes to the trouble of posting their respectful disagreement should be allowed to do so without my interference. Perhaps the strongest criticism came from my cousin Danny, who informed me that Bryan Adams is not in any way "a washed up rocker." Leave it to the one legit rock and roller in the family to set me straight! 

Some who disagreed with some of my assertions made good points, viewpoints that I had not fully considered. I must now think the issue through again in light of these new arguments. It may change my mind, it may not. But I must consider the possibility that I am wrong, right? If I don't, if I dismiss those who disagree with me out of hand I have become an ideologue. If my mind gets changed every five minutes, I am nothing more than a weather vane. My opinions, therefore, must come from my education, guided by my experience, constantly seasoned by new information. I like to think that I am right more often than I am wrong. This blog has often helped me to discover the difference between truth and dogma, transcendence and my biases, largely from enlightened disagreement. For this, I have all of you to thank.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Bryan Adams. Hypocrite Extraordinaire.

One of the most famous scenes in cinema for men of my generation comes from Cool Hand Luke, possibly the hottest, sweatiest movie in history... when the Captain tells the inmates of his prison, "What we have here is failure to communicate!" No line in all of film describes modern American culture as well as this one.

The great divides in America feature entrenched camps of absolutists who either cannot or will not listen to those on the other side of the barricades. Any negotiation feels impossible and reeks of weakness, any accommodation seems like a betrayal. The biblical exhortation, Come, let us reason together has gone the way of the land line phone. A couple of examples...

Washed up 1980's Canadian rocker, Bryan Adams recently made news for the first time in over a decade by cancelling a show in Biloxi, Mississippi over that state's anti-LGBT law. While, I'm sure the fifteen people who had purchased tickets were devastated, Mr. Adams earned rave reviews for his courage from the social justice warriors of the left. 

“I cannot in good conscience perform in a state where certain people are being denied their civil rights due to their sexual orientation,” Adams wrote on his website.

The luminaries of the social justice warrior class immediately began singing Adams' praises...despite the fact that Mr. Adams' latest gig was a concert in that great bastion of tolerance for all things gay...Egypt. Apparently Mr. Adams' finely tuned "good conscience" had no problem whatsoever performing in a state that has recently taken to rounding up gay people in mass arrests. Pot, meet kettle.

But, it's not just washed up has-beens who have jumped on the boycott bandwagon. The very much not washed up Bruce Springsteen is now in the news for cancelling a sold out concert in Charlotte, North Carolina in protest of that state's new transgender bathroom law. So...Mr. Springsteen is refusing to provide his services to customers in North Carolina based on his sincerely held beliefs about sexuality and human rights. It is my view that The Boss is perfectly within his rights to boycott North Carolina. He is a free man and a businessman and can withhold his services from people willing to pay for them if he sees fit, right? Once again, his refusal has gained him wide praise from all of the beautiful people. 

But, what about the Indiana baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding? She refused to provide her services from a willing customer based on her sincerely held beliefs about sexuality. For doing so, the indignant wrath of the entire progressive movement was rained down upon her, despite the fact that there were plenty of other bakers available to do the job. For concert goers in Charlotte...there's only One Boss!!

I have written in this space of my view of the Indiana case, my opinion being that just because one might not approve of gay marriage should not preclude one from baking a stinking cake. I'm just not a boycott kind of guy. However, the way the Indiana baker was treated by those who disagreed with her amounted to nothing more than bullying. Where on earth has the art of getting along gone? Why can't people agree to disagree in the arena of baked goods and 80's Rock and Roll? Why couldn't the baker have said, "Hey, thanks for choosing us to bake your cake!" Why couldn't Bruce have said, "Hey, I think your governor is a jerk for passing that bathroom law and all, but thanks for making my concert a sell out! Baby, I was born to run!" In other words, why must every encounter between people with different views have to be such a drama-queen s**t show?

Seriously Bruce? A guy from New Jersey wants to lecture the people of North Carolina about their discriminatory laws? New Jersey...home of possibly the most bribed legislature in all of the western 
world, where the number one export is New want to lecture North Carolinians about good government and human rights? Please. 

"Come, let us reason together..."

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Golf is Stupid

So, a couple of days ago I ventured out onto a public golf course for the first time since last July. I picked Royal Virginia out in Hadensville since I knew nobody would be there. I have my first round scheduled this coming Friday, so I thought I should at least play 9 somewhere first, right? I pulled up into the nearly empty parking lot, rented a cart and headed to the first tee without considering a trip to the practice tee. A more prudent person would have loosened up first, but I have always detested trips to the driving range. There would be no prudence within a country mile of me today.

When I stepped onto the first tee, the wind was blowing a gale in my face. At least it wasn't raining. My first swing produced a rather severe hook. My next attempt was a topped five iron. By the time I arrived at the green I was putting for a double bogey from twenty feet. Of course...I drained it.

The next two holes featured more of the same. Brutal, ugly swings. Giant pieces of rust flying around everywhere. Then, like a scene from a terrible sports movie, I stepped onto the tee of my fourth hole, took a deep, cleansing, what-the-hell breath, and proceeded to stripe a long drive down the middle of the fairway of a very long par four. My four iron approach shot landed neatly on the green after a gorgeous right to left ball flight which I seldom see. Two putts later, I had a par on the hardest hole on the course. 

Walking back to my cart, I scanned the horizon for camera crews. Maybe this was some sort of trick ball that had been placed in my bag, maybe somebody was getting back at me for all my April Fool's tricks. The following four holes were more of the same. Out of nowhere, my hack-attack performance on the first two holes had been replaced by some strange game that featured long, straight drives, beautiful arching iron shots and stellar putting. By the time I walked off the eighth hole I had started to believe that maybe my long layoff from the game had allowed my natural innate abilities to rise through the clutter of horrible golf memories. Maybe this was the real me! Maybe I had to walk away from the game in order to shed the thousand small bad habits that had crept into my game. For a moment I imagined a future on the senior tour.

Then, the last hole of my day presented itself in front of me, a reasonably straight forward par four, which if I could get home in par would give me a nine hole score of 40, quite amazing after a eight month layoff. 

Anyone who has played this game for more than five minutes knows what happened next. I don't even have to write it down for you, right? As quickly as the game had come to me so miraculously five holes ago, it left in a huff. Big duck hook drive, shanked second, fat third, pedestrian fourth, then three putts from twenty feet for a triple bogey.

Still, 43 was about seven shots better than I had expected. Only, which golfer was I? The guy who was hacking the ball all over the place, or that dream-like guy on the middle five holes who could do no wrong? Neither. Golf is too stupid to analyze. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Big Wait

Now comes...bad April. The Masters is over, April Fool's a distant memory. Now comes the Big Wait.

Every morning, first thing, I open my iPad and search for...the email. When I get to the office and see the orange light pulsing on my phone, I listen for...the message. At some point over the next four days it will come. No, it's not results from blood work, or an MRI. This message will come from a guy named Carl, and like the last 35 such messages, it will be to inform me of just how much the privilege of my American citizenship will cost me this year.

Carl's a good guy. He's good at what he does. It's just that his annual bad news comes with his bill for professional services, adding salt to the wound. It's what he does. I will open the email when it comes with stoic resignation. My hands used to shake. My palms used to get clammy with sweat. Not anymore. Carl has gotten fancy. There's a password embedded in the email which unlocks my tax return from its cloud-based home. I go there and see the number just to the right of those bitter three words...amount you owe. I sign electronically. Very modern and impressive.

Usually, at some point in the thirty days leading up to April 15, I have one dream where my tax return gets delivered by a gleaming white flying unicorn. When I break the elaborate burgundy wax seal, I read the beautifully calligraphic words...amount overpaid, applied to your 2016 return! Then I bolt upright in bed, and the glorious fantasy evaporates.

While what I owe may not be my fair share, thanks to Carl, it's my legal share. No legitimate deduction will have been missed, no justifiable tax reduction scheme unused. No matter what the number is, it will be paid by the 15th. No extensions, no payment plan. I will stroke a check and be done with it. Because I have used honest numbers, there will be no anger or resentment. April 15th isn't a day for debates about fairness, it's a day when my obligation as a citizen of the greatest Republic on the face of the earth must be fulfilled. Besides, what does fairness have to do with taxes? The only people who think taxes are wonderful are those for whom money is theoretical, or those filthy rich enough to afford $50,000 a plate Hillary Clinton fundraiser dinners. For the rest of us, taxes are a necessary evil. Roads need to be paved, teachers need to be paid, and it takes a lot of expensive jet fuel to keep an F-15 aloft. So, we pay. Then we suffer silently when we hear politicians refer to us as "greedy."

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Box Score

Every April begins sublimely for me because of April Fool's Day. Then two days later, my birthday arrives. Usually the very next day, the blessed trifecta is achieved with the opening day of Major League Baseball. The fact that The Masters starts in the same week is just an embarrassment of riches. All of these happy things conspire to remove every dark cloud from my horizon. It's as if, for ten days in April I live in a world where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton don't exist.

But, the very best part is the return of that most hallowed and glorious literary form in the universe, a form of communication which is part ledger, part story telling device. In my 58 years of life, I have probably read at least 100,000 of them. I'm talking, of course, about...the box score.

Here, in one tightly compressed space, lies literally every possible detail of a game that I didn't watch, and yet a skillful reading can tell you everything that happened in this game because of this information packed record of names, abbreviations and numbers. From this one I see that former National, Drew Storen is having a rough time with his new team, having given up two runs on only five pitches, ballooning his ERA to a grotesque 13.50. Meanwhile David Ortiz, despite being at least 50 years old by now, is uncharacteristically off to a good start for this young season, hitting a robust .385. ( Ortiz' steroid provider must get some sort of shout out when he is enshrined in Cooperstown).  I also learn that 48,000 people were in attendance for the Blue Jays home the Canadians love their baseball. Also, Jose Bautista went 0 for 4, making me very happy...he's a show-boating, me-first bum. 

Over the next six months I will study over 2,500 of these beauties. They will do for me what other forms of journalism fail to do...tell the truth. There's no spin in a box score. If you went 0 for 5 with 4 strikeouts, and committed an error, the box score will faithfully disclose every gory detail to me. My box scores have no liberal bias, there's no faux fair and balanced hokum to deal with. It's just the facts. Every pitch, every hit, every error, with no editorializing disguised as news. There are no moral victories, no momentum, no winning the expectations game. Just a winner and a loser, clean and clear. There's no escaping your record. You are who the numbers say you are. Excuses don't work as explanations. If a starting pitcher gets raked for 7 runs in 2 and 2/3rds innings, then there's going to be a big L  beside his name, not some dog and pony presentation about how he was distracted by the death of his favorite childhood dog the night before. There's no crying in baseball, and no hiding from the box score either. You are what you do...and what you do is all there in the box score. Deal with it.

There's a life lesson in there somewhere.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Snakes In My Head

Yesterday at the Masters, Ernie Els, four time major winner and Hall of Famer, six-putted the first hole from inside three feet. I've never seen anything like it. I've never even seen an amateur take six putts to get it in the hole from three feet. Occasionally professional golfers miss tap in putts, mostly because out of frustration they foolishly try to back hand the ball into the hole. But this...this was something else all together. I watched the video with a sick feeling in my stomach. Ernie Els is one of the nicest gentlemen in all of sport, one of the good guys. It was hard to watch.

After his round, instead of blowing off the press, he sat down and answered their questions. What happened? "It's hard to putt when you've got snakes inside your head," was his perfect answer. He described how it felt to stand over that first three footer and simply not be able to take the putter back. Snakes inside your head is a much more descriptive expression than the yips, but it's the same thing. At some point in every golfer's life, the prospect of making short putts becomes the equivalent of walking across hot coals in bare feet. It's inexplicable. Ernie Els, a man who can routinely launch a golf ball 300 yards down the middle of a fairway, then curve a five iron beautifully onto the green, freezes up standing over a shot that even old ladies can make...a three foot putt. The most confounding game in history. An example from my much less storied career:

I was playing out at Independance one day. On a 520 yard par five, I hit a beautiful wind-aided drive right down the middle of the fairway, over the hill and out of view. When I crested the hill, the ball was only 140 yards away from the green! (Later, I discovered that my drive had landed on a sprinkler head, propelling it down the fairway). I then hit an 8 iron to within 10 feet. I was going to have a 10 foot eagle putt!! Four miserable attempts later the stupid ball finally dropped into the bottom of the stupid hole. I walked off the green with a bogey. @$&!' game!!!

But now, thanks to Ernie, I have a new explanation for all embarrassing things that will ever happen to me on a golf course, and in life in general...there were snakes in my head!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Lucy Wins

Most of our friends who have come to our house have been greeted by the wild, maniacally neurotic version of our dog, Lucy. She wags her tail, runs around in circles, and generally loses what's left of her fragile mind when confronted with the unbridled thrill of visitors! What none of our friends get to see is this Lucy:

Every night, after Pam and I finish dinner, and after Pam has fed Lucy half of her paper napkin,(don't ask), our dog becomes the world's greatest snuggler. She jumps up on the sofa between Pam and I, horses around with me for a minute or so, then calms down and scoots over as close to Pam as possible and sleeps. She never does this with me, or seldom does. It's almost always Pam. There is a reason for this. When we first got her, I was 100% all in for getting another Golden, Pam probably only 75%. Dogs pick up on these things. They instantly know when someone is committed and when one isn't! So, they set about to win you's what dogs do. From day one, Lucy has been showering Pam with love and attention, overboard and overloaded, desperate to win her affections. It's worked. Dogs just won't take no for an answer, but what they really, truly can't abide is ambivalence. Cats might crave it and they certainly dish it out by the truckload, but not dogs. Nothing short of unlimited love and adoration will do.

Pam never stood a chance!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Tired of This Campaign

Perhaps you have noticed that I haven't written much about the election lately. Last night there was a primary in Wisconsin and I should probably have an opinion about the Cruz and Sanders victories. I should, but I don't. I'm tired.

It has been mentally exhausting watching this primary season. While some of it has been entertaining, much of it has been an embarrassment. The further we get along in the process, the more it becomes clear that some sort of fix is either already in or is being currently devised, especially on the Democratic side of things. Poor Bernie Sanders is out there firing kids up and hustling his a** off, but Hillary just plods along with that knowing, maniacal laugh of hers, secure in the knowledge that she has bought everyone who matters off. Over at the GOP, the grand poobahs are spending money like its going out of style trying and finally succeeding in destroying Donald Trump. The current beneficiary is Ted Cruz, but those same poobahs hate him almost as much as they hate The Donald. A brokered convention seems a sure bet at this point, and the chances are high that neither Cruz nor Trump will be the nominee. So, all those rallies, all those speeches, all those debates will count for...nothing. This isn't how my 12th grade government teacher described the democratic process, but that was a long time ago. So...I'm tired.

Yesterday, my daughter asked my opinion of this meme type thing that came from the Bernie Sanders website describing how he planned to pay for all of his policy presents to the American people. First thing I thought was, least he is admitting that it's gonna take a boat load of money to pull off. Kudos to him. It was an enlightening list of tax increases, all of which assumes that the targets of these higher taxes will never change their behavior to avoid paying them, a classic mistake of tax increasers. Most of the items listed would raise chump change. But the two biggies were both enormous new levels of taxation on income which would effect almost every demographic in America. That's fine and all. I mean, if you want a government to provide stuff to you, you've got to be willing to pay for it at some point. But then my daughter asked me why it is that most of Europe has governments that do these things? Why are most of them so into the welfare state and we are mostly not? I explained that most of Europe moved quickly to the left after WWII, having lost so many of their men in that horrible conflict, and with many of their cities in ruins, a strong and paternalistic government was for them a necessity. We, on the other hand, lost a fraction of our men, and none of our infrastructure was destroyed. And by the end of the war, Americans had grown weary of the overbearing excesses of much of the New Deal. We went the other was time to make some money. The next two decades saw America grow into an economic juggernaut that left Europe and the rest of the world in the dust, despite the fact that we helped rebuild Europe through the Marshall Plan, and our defense budget became the defense budget for all of Europe essentially, since NATO was basically the United States Army.

But, that was then. This is now. Maybe my country has changed to the point where we don't want to be the world's street cop any more. Maybe we want a much smaller defense budget. Maybe we have changed to the point where we no longer desire the freedom to create and innovate if it carries with it the freedom to fail. Maybe we are ready for a large benevolent state that provides cradle to grave care for its citizens. Surely, such a state would always be benevolent, right?

So, I suppose I've grown  weary of always being the guy who defends free enterprise and extols the virtues of limited government to a world that is increasingly not interested in either. My quaint views seem to have gone the way of the ideas of our founding fathers, curiosities in the Museum of Antiquities.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What a Weekend!

I had a great weekend. First, I pulled off my April Fool's prank perfectly. Then I celebrated my birthday with a couple of meals out with family and friends. Finally, my son sent me an amazing music video of his own creation, which I have played over and over for the past two days. Now, for the details...

Several years ago, I introduced the bright orange ping pong ball to my work mates. I bought hundreds of them and boobie-trapped all sorts of things with them on the big day. One of my buddies at work is particularly susceptible to attack. A few years back I got him three different times. I perched a container of ping pong balls precariously on the top of his office door. When he entered that morning, obliviously on his cell phone, he was showered from above by 100 of them. Later, I had deliberately removed all the paper from the copier, making it necessary to get a fresh ream from the cabinet above the machine. Only, I had filled the cabinet guessed it...100 more. As fate would have it, it was Lynwood who got hit. Finally, later on in the day, I was able to place 100 more in the cabinet above the coffee maker. Knowing that Lynwood enjoys an afternoon cup, I emptied the coffee jar of its contents, forcing him to open the cabinet to get more. Bam!! The trifecta!!!

So this past Friday, I played it very low key. Lynwood was wary all morning, as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs, but when lunch time came and nothing had happened, he began to relax. However, earlier, during his morning trip to the bathroom, I knew I had a ten minute window to swipe his keys from his desk and fill the cab of his truck with hundreds of strategically placed orange ping pong balls. The resulting hilarity was filmed by two different cameras and was posted on Facebook on Friday. The best part is, it's not even over!! I can safely share this because my man Lynwood isn't on Facebook. In maybe a couple of months, he will find cause to open his glove compartment, maybe when he gets pulled over by a cop for speeding. When he does, 100 beautiful orange ping pong balls will rain down, providing comic relief for the cop, and for me something close to a Christmas in July moment. 

Despite the fact that I paid an insane amount of money to educate him, my son's musical training never gets used for my benefit. Asking him to perform a song for his family usually nets me...nothing. Since he started dating Sarah, a vocal performance major in college, I have been pestering the two of them to sing a duet for me. Thanks, no doubt, to Sarah's insistence, I finally got my wish on the morning of my birthday. The two of them recorded a duet of that classic song from the Movie, The Jerk..You Belong To Me. Patrick played the keyboard, and the two of them sang beautifully. But then, just like in the movie, Bernedette Peters' trumpet solo was performed by Patrick's roommate, Elias, who burst through the door at the perfect moment. Then, some guy I didn't know strolls in playing a green ukulele at the end. As of this morning the video has 4,000 views. Maybe 25 of them are mine!

So, a wonderful weekend. It was still strange not seeing either of my kids on my birthday. But, you can't have everything, right?

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Ten Best Beatle Songs...(show your work)

I blame my brother. He was ten years older and ten times cooler than me in 1964, and so I wanted to be just like him, which meant I had to become a huge Beatle fan. There we were on the living room floor, huddled in front of our RCA Victor black and white tv with the tin foil wrapped around the antenna watching Ed Sullivan. Our parents were on the sofa, arms crossed, looking throughly disgusted. Then..."close your eyes and I'll kiss you, tomorrow I'll miss you..." It was all over but the shouting.

So, today I submit for your consideration...the ten best Beatle songs of all time, along with my rationale for each. If you disagree and think you can do better, by all means, have at it. Just to clarify, this is a list of the ten best, however, the order in which they appear is random, since it would be a metaphysical impossibility to pick one over the other as the all time greatest. Here we go...

1. Revolution
    That mesmerizing electric guitar that gets more and more distorted as the song progresses, and the fantastic keyboard by Nicky Hopkins.

2. If I Fell
    Beautiful harmony

3. I Saw Her Standing There
    A rollicking, toe-tapping blast. About the most fun song of all time.

4. Norwegian Wood
    Evocative lyrics and haunting melody..always a wicked combination.

5. You Can't Do That
    Unlike another famous song, this one has the perfect amount of cowbell.

6. Oh! Darling
    The best vocals of Paul McCartney's long and storied career, especially the pitch perfect shoutout to Little Richard.

7. Here, There, and Everywhere
    Beautiful melody, touching lyrics, and stirring harmony.

8. In My Life
    Might be John Lennon's finest composition, and George Martin's piano solo was perfect.

9. Don't Let Me Down
    Brooding Lennon at his best, and Billy Preston's keyboard is magical.

10. A Day In The Life
     Probably the most creative and original recording in their library of brilliance. Masterpiece material.

What a foolish exercise this was! What could I possibly have been thinking?? How is it possible to construct a list of the best Beatle songs and leave off Let It Be, Hey Jude, the She Came In Through The Bathroom Window/Polethene Pam/Golden Slumbers compilation, and Here Comes The Sun?? Oh well, what's done is done.

Things I Never Thought I Would Live To See

My Dad used to start conversations with the line, "I never thought I'd live to see the day when..." Since tomorrow is my birthday, it's my turn to give it a try.

I never thought I'd live to see the day when...

1. The Cubs were the consensus preseason pick to win the World Series.

2. I would type the word genderqueer on my blog.

3. A witless, bloviating, filthy rich, congenital liar would be poised to win the Presidential nomination of both American political parties.

4.  A police force of a modern democratic state would threaten it's people with a home visit if they were caught saying something unnecessary* and unkind on social media.

5. Dodgeball would be something that adults cared about.

6. I would be handed a six page beer menu at a restaurant.

7. That said menu would contain not one beer that I had ever heard of.

8. The wisdom of the world, all four thousand years of recorded history and the accumulated scientific knowledge of all of civilization could be accessed from a device that fits in my pants pocket.

9. One of the most valuable companies in the world got so by convincing millions of people to pay $4.50 for bitter, acidic coffee.

10. Tattoos would become such a thing for people not in the Navy or members of a motorcycle gang.

Well, that's a decent start. Even though I will turn only 58, another line I heard my Dad say once bears repeating..."If I knew I was gonna live this long I would have taken better care of myself!"

*- note to Scotland policemen...all of social media is unnecessary.

Friday, April 1, 2016

A Morning Thunderstorm

The rain is coming down and soft rolls of thunder are drifting in from the west, making this a wistful morning. Lucy isn't a fan of wistful. She slinks around, lower to the ground than is necessary, alert for the next peal of thunder, like a battle-fatigued GI waiting for another incoming mortar round. I try to reassure her that everything is fine, but she isn't buying it. She trembles from head to toe, hunkering down in our closet for the duration of hostilities. It gets darker suddenly, a large storm cloud loaded with rain hovers overhead, blocking the sun, then empties its payload in a mighty rush of wind and fury.  Somewhere up there a wave of thunder is born and becomes an adolescent ten seconds later, and by the time it shakes the windows of my house it has transformed into an angry old man. The raindrops get larger and more determined, splatting on my sidewalk like tiny Kamikaze pilots onto the deck of the Intrepid. By this afternoon it will be sunny, and the rain brought by this storm will begin doing its life giving work. Why we are not amazed by this is anybody's guess.