Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Duck Doughnuts vs. Klondike Bars

I have not been a good boy today.

My day began with a breakfast that consisted of two hot, fresh Duck Doughnuts, courtesy of my generous Assistant. Of course she didn't just drop by the place on a whim on her way in to work. I had sent her a text informing her that I might be a few minutes late and suggesting that she might want to consider using the extra time to go get me some doughnuts...so there's that. But, she made the Duck Doughnuts decision on her own, and what a fine decision it was. I had one lemon and raspberry glazed and one maple glaze covered with real bacon crumbles. Oh, baby!

To make matters worse, I have just topped off today's menu by gulping down a Klondike bar. But although the Klondike bar tasted alright, I was oddly annoyed by the experience. My annoyance stems from the fact somewhere down the line, the big shots at the Klondike factory have started making baby Klondike bars! I mean, seriously...have you seen how small these guys have gotten? What the heck? I remember when a Klondike bar was big enough to share with your wife. Now, it's like I take two decent bites and the thing is gone! I used to always eat them fast because if you dilly-dallied around with the thing it would end up a melting mess. Not anymore! I bet you we're paying more for these puny ones than we used to pay for the huge ones. And therein lies a life lesson.

What's the difference between Duck Doughnuts and a Klondike Bar? One of them is made by a local company, and one is slapped together by some multi-national conglomerate from God knows where. Actually God does know...they are made by Unilever, a company from the Netherlands. A bunch of Dutchmen make Klondike bars. The one I ate tonight could have been made months ago. It could have been stacked in a frozen warehouse somewhere outside of Amsterdam a year ago for all I know! But my Duck Doughnuts didn't even exist until 8:25 am this morning when the cheerful girl made them right in front of Kristin as she watched. They were still warm when we gobbled them down like fat kids on a piece of pie.

This is the difference between multinational conglomerates and a local business...you know exactly what you're getting when you buy local. And I don't have to worry that the next time I go in there they'll try to charge me twice as much for a doughnut half the size as the one I got last week!

Buy Local....and let the Dutch peddle their mini-bars somewhere else!

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Third Option

So, yesterday I discovered a new poll making the claim that 78% of white evangelical Christians supported Donald Trump for President. I posted the poll on my Facebook feed and asked the sincere question...Can someone explain this to me? The answer I got was a variation of the old adage, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. I learned that none of my evangelical friends were enthusiastically supporting Trump, but rather felt forced to do so to save the country from another Clinton presidency.
I suppose I should feel relief. Somebody on Twitter yesterday made this statement..."I can understand reluctant Clinton and Trump supporters, I cannot for the life of me understand enthusiastic Clinton and Trump supporters."

But, what if both of these candidates are our enemies? Suppose both of them would be disastrous for our Republic...Trump because of his dangerous naïveté and volatile big mouth, and Hillary because of her irredeemable, hard-wired corruption? Suppose neither of them are fit to be President?

Someone on the thread made the statement that "not voting is not an option." Well, actually it is an option. In a free society, not voting is as much of a right as voting, always has been. If Hitler were running against Stalin, you bet I wouldn't vote! But, I understand how some people would think that not voting is a cop out. So, for those folks, third party candidates would be an option. Depending on who you talk to, voting for Gary Johnson would be a de facto vote for either Hillary or Trump. Odd how everyone always rails against the corruption of the two party system, but nobody ever votes for a third party candidate! Lucky for us...there's a third option.

I'm old fashioned enough to think that voting is one of my jobs as a free citizen. I'm not an absolutist on the subject...sitting out an election here and there is no sin...but generally speaking, a well-informed, engaged citizen should exercise the franchise when given the opportunity. So, how about this? Go to the polls on Election Day. Enter the voting booth and cast your ballot for all of the races presented to you...congressman, sheriff, assemblyman, local initiatives, etc. Then simply abstain from casting your presidential ballot. You will have fulfilled your duty as a citizen, while passing on being asked to make a choice between two disastrous presidential candidates. 

Here's the thing. One day, I will face my creator and will be asked to give an account of my life on earth. Even scarier, one day I will have to face my own as yet unborn grandchildren and answer the question, "Pops, did you vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump back in 2016?" I am convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that I will not be able to intellectually or ethically defend either of those votes. However, this vote would be much easier to explain...

Sunday, August 28, 2016

To Stand or Not To Stand


Several years ago, I wrote the above blogpost about a young quarterback for the San Francisco Forty-Niners who had gotten himself into a bit of contoversy over his tattoos. I was sympathetic. Even though I generally hate tattoos, I came to his defense, taking the position that he shouldn't be judged solely on the amount of ink on his body, but rather by the overall quality of his character. Well, now he is once again in the news. During the playing of the national anthem before a recent pre-season game, Kaepernick refused to stand. After the game, he explained his decision to the press...

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder. This is not something that I am going to run by anybody, I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. ... If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right."

When Kaepernick first ran afoul of public opinion, he was a bright comet lighting up the NFL with his aggressive style of play and amazing athleticism. He took the Forty-Niners to the Super Bowl that year and seemed destined for greatness. But it's been a tough several years for the gifted quarterback since. In the NFL, defenses adjust to comets eventually, so the comet has to adjust accordingly. Kaepernick hasn't been able to do that and now finds himself in a pitched battle with the pedestrian Blaine Gabbert to be the backup quarterback for his team...quite a precipitous fall from stardom.

Reaction among other players has been mixed. Some applauded his decision, others disagreed but defended his right to protest, others objected, calling it disrespectful to all of the men and women who have given their lives to protect us and our freedom. More cynical voices accused him of being a malcontent who can't handle his reduced role, and is seeking attention. Still others chided him for spending too much time thinking about politics and not enough time studying the playbook. It's been a very mixed bag.

I fall into the mixed category. My view on the national anthem is that when it is played at public events, respect needs to be shown. I always remove my hat, face the flag, put my hand over my heart, and sing along. Doing so does not mean that I am thrilled to the gills with every single thing going on in the country at that particular time. Neither does it mean that I support every action taken by my government, now or in the past. For me, it's an acknowledgment of gratitude that I was born here. It's a tip of the hat to all of the men and women who have sacrificed everything for the preservation of this Republic. And yes, to a certain extent, it's about...love of country...despite its many sins...love.

But, this isn't the 1970's Soviet Union. Love of country isn't coerced by gunpoint. One of the truly great things about America is that we make room for dissent. No... we don't love dissent, we don't celebrate it, but we make room for unpopular opinions. If Colin Kaepernick feels that his country is oppressing blacks and doesn't feel that he in good conscience can stand with his teammates while the national anthem is played...so what? The only thing worse than no patriotism is forced patriotism. So, I say once more....give the guy a break.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Dog Memory


Yesterday was National Dog Day. I ran across the above preview of a new movie called A Dog's Purpose, and made the mistake of clicking on the link. There's no way I could sit through this film. Yes, yes...it's terribly heartwarming and in spots potentially hilarious. But one scene was just too painful to endure. It's the one where the kid is laying on the floor at the vet where he has to put his faithful dog to sleep. There's a scene that shows the beautiful dog's sweet eyes beginning to shut. When I watched it, I was immediately transported back to that bitterly cold Christmas Eve 17 years ago when It was me laying on that floor staring into the dying eyes of my first Golden Retreiver...Murphy. 17 years, and I still remember it like it happened yesterday.

Murph was 14 years old and on his last legs, but when we returned from Granny Till's Christmas Eve dinner that night and opened the garage door, I knew something was wrong when she didn't rise up from her bed in the corner to greet us. Since I had two young children in the car, I shuttled them past her on the way inside to shield their eyes from her condition. Once they were safely inside, I rushed back out into the garage and found him, back legs paralyzed laying in a pool of urine, but eyes bright with delight at seeing me. I was heart broken at the sight of my once mighty dog reduced to such a state. To add insult to injury, we were in the midst of a sleet storm, and it was 9:00 at night...on Christmas Eve. I dialed up our vet hoping against hope that he would be opened at such an unlikely hour. He was. I bundled Murphy up in a blanket and soon was on the floor of Gayton Animal Hospital saying goodbye to my beautiful dog. I held him tight while the injection began it's work. It was an excruciating experience.

Once I recovered, a new problem presented itself. Murphy was cremated, but I was not looking forward to explaining that to my children on Christmas morning. It was going to be horrible enough breaking the news of his death to them. I realized that I was going to have to come up with an alternative narrative. So, there I was, driving out to my parent's house in Montpelier, in a sleet storm, to prepare a fake burial site. We would all be gathering at their place on Christmas Day, so I thought we could have a little funeral service. But first I had to dig a grave and clear off the sleet from the place so it would look legit. What a night!

One of the things I remember the most about that Christmas morning was taking the kids out into the garage to tell them that Murphy had passed away in the night. Neither one of them cried. They were just silent and still. Then suddenly, either Patrick or Kaitlin...I can't remember which...walked over to the the garage door, where the windows were frosted over and wrote with their fingers...goodbye, Murphy. We love you.

Yeah, so I will not be going to see A Dog's Purpose, because I already know what a dog's purpose is...they exist to make us better people. They teach us how to love each other with abandon and without reservation. And when they leave us they break our hearts.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Project Update #1

I have no idea what time she came to bed last night. She was in the midst of this...on a mission. Despite being stiff and sore, she did take a break from her labor to go to her normal Wednesday night yoga class. I provided Q barbecue takeout for dinner and made sure she got some onion rings. She will be back at it today while I'm at work.

My wife...doing the jobs that most Americans won't do.

Lucy is not amused. She seems particularly annoyed by the presence in the foyer of these two wing backed chairs which were formerly in the corners of our dining room...

Consequently, she spent most of yesterday upstairs, unwilling or unable to deal with the new, modernistic feng shui of the foyer. Lucy doesn't do well with avant guard decorating concepts. And don't even get her started on the gigantic plastic bag that's covering the bookcase!!

Tune in again tomorrow for the latest on....the project!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Wondrous Example of Harry Truman

Here's a question for your consideration this morning...How do career politicians become insanely rich? 

In America, we don't pay our politicians a ton of money. A United States senator, for example earns $174,000 a year...not exactly slave wages, but compared to most CEOs, professional athletes and entertainers, it amounts to a rounding error. The Secretary of State earns $186,600. The President of the United States gets paid $400,000. Yes, I know that the benefits are quite nice what with an otherworldly pension plan etc... But still, compared to the private sector, the owner of a reasonably successful small business in this country can earn more than the President of the United States. This is as it should be. So, the question remains...how is it that a guy like Harry Reid comes to Congress in 1982 as a man of modest means, never earns more than $194,000 a year, but now is worth over 10 million dollars? Savvy investing, I guess. But let's not pick on Harry. He's got a lot of company on the rags to riches gravy train that is public service. Even short timers who come to Washington, serve a couple of terms as a Congressman, then land of job as a lobbyist with some consulting firm, end up as millionaires. I'm not talking about the guys and gals who were already rich before they went into the politics racket because there are plenty of them on both sides of the aisle. No, no...I'm asking about the relatively normal folks who go to Washington and suddenly develope the Midas touch when it comes to their personal fortunes. It's uncanny.

Leave it to our poorest President, Harry Truman, to explain this phenomenon. Old Harry entered the White House without two nickels to rub together and left it the same way. As an Ex-President, he received not one dime of pension except for his $112.56 monthly army pension. He was given no secretarial allowance, no expense money of any kind and was forced to move back into his not very elegant family home. He refused to cash in on his status as a former President in any way: 

"I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable," Truman later wrote, "that would commercialize on the prestige and dignity of the office of the presidency." 

Luxuriate over the simple, decent goodness of that statement for a minute, and notice how exotic it sounds to 21st century ears. 

" An honest public servant cannot become rich in politics."

...oh, but Harry, the dishonest ones sure can!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Project Begins....

The stage is set here at the Dunnevant house. The wife has cleared out the paint store. Bed Bath and Beyond on Broad street threw a party for its employees after she cleaned them out. Now it's time for the work to begin. 

Upstairs, in the hallway in front of the Palladian window, there is a staging area where she has unloaded all of the painting gear. Downstairs, all of the decorating finery is piled on the dining room table, new curtain rods stacked in the corner. For the next couple of days my library will be off limits. I can't wait to see how Lucy reacts to all of this mayhem. Ordinarily she isn't keen on anything that disturbs the status quo. We'll see.

I will provide you with pictures of the progress she makes. Yes, I said she. I'm sure you have noticed that I have not used words like...us or we when describing this project. That's because for my wife, this sort of thing isn't something that she feels she can risk by offering me any significant roll. She subscribes to the theory that if you want something done right, you do it yourself. My painting skills fall into the category of a ....not worth it sort of risk. I remember once when she let me use the roller on the ceiling of some room she was painting, after her arms gave out. I'm absolutely positive that as soon as I left the room she went back and touched everything up. It's not that she's a diva when it comes to painting. Let's just say that for Pam there are two ways to paint properly...her way and the wrong way! The thing is...when she's finished and you see the place, you realize that she's right!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Winston Churchill and Donald Trump.

Jerry Falwell Jr., President of Liberty University has written an Op-Ed for the Washington Post that touts Donald Trump as the "Churchillian Leader that we need"....

"We are at a crossroads where our first priority must be saving our nation. We need a leader with qualities that resemble those of Winston Churchill, and I believe that leader is Donald Trump. As Churchill did, Trump possesses the resolve to put his country first and to never give up in a world that is increasingly hostile to our values."


Stuff they have in common...

1. They both had five children. Although, I think it's fair to say that since Trump is only 70 and currently on only his third wife, chances are very good that he will pass Mr. Churchill in this department. Winston's marriage to Clementine lasted 57 years. Donald Trump's second marriage lasted almost 57 months.

2. They both had rich Dad's.

3. They were both best selling authors. Winston Churchill won the Nobel Prize for literature for the first volume of his history of World War II, The Gathering Storm. The Nobel letter states that he won the prize not only for his seminal history, but also for "brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values." Donald Trump hired a ghost writer to write The Art of the Deal, for which somehow he failed to win the Nobel Prize for Economics.

Stuff they kind of have in common...

1. Winston Churchill served in the military from 1895-1924, serving in places as far flung as India, Cuba and South Africa. Once, while serving as a war correspondent for the South Africa Morning Post, he was captured by the enemy. He somehow managed to escape their custody, return to London as a hero and write a best selling book about his experiences.

Donald Trump attended high school at New York Military Academy where he got to get his picture taken in this cool uniform...

Unfortunately for the country, a chronic case of shin splints prohibited him from fighting in Vietnam.

2. Winston Churchill was first elected to the House of Commons at age 26, serving in that body continuously for 64 years. In his time as a public servant he held numerous Ministerial positions, including but not limited to the following...

President of the Board of Trade
Home Secretary
First Lord of the Admiralty
Secretary of State for War
Chancellor of the Exchequer 
First Lord of the Treasury
Prime Minister 1940-1945, 1951-1955

Donald Trump built this...

Donald Trump has his own cologne...

And his own collection of neckwear...

In Churchill's spare time, he was an accomplished painter...

Donald Trump starred in a reality television show.

So, as you can see, Winston Churchill and Donald Trump are indeed a lot alike. They are practically brothers. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

My First Seven Jobs

Remember a couple of months ago when this social media meme started going around where people were listing their first seven jobs? Yeah...me neither. That's not entirely true. I do remember seeing a few of them, but I didn't give it much thought...like those insipid things that pop up that say...If you love your sister, cut and paste this onto your wall. If you don't a hundred people in Kenya will die. Well, this morning, out of nowhere some woman on my Twitter feed yelled at the world..."Stop posting your first seven jobs! It just serves to illustrate your privilege!!"

Ok, this is where the social justice warriors lose me. What in the Sam Hill is she talking about? Is employment a privilege? Is the fact that someone may have actually had seven jobs evidence of their whiteness? Would she rather we were all on the public dole? Well, because it so upsets social justice warriors...I think it's time that I published my first seven jobs.

1. 1973. Age 15. I got my first summer job working for A.A. Walsh, a residential construction company which built single family homes in Hanover County. My job was to pick up trash on the job site and carry armfuls of lumber to the carpenters. I made the minimum wage of 1973...$1.60 an hour. The first paycheck I ever earned in my life was like $58. I felt like Thurston Howell III.

2. 1974. Age 16. With the help of my brother-in-law Bill Schwartz, (family privilege), I got a summer job with the State Fair of Virginia. Amoung other things, my job was to clean out horse stalls. Since the removal of dump truck loads of horse crap by the shovelfull was a more refined skill, my pay jumped to $2.75 an hour. I was well on my way to being part of the oppressor class!

3. 1975. Age 17. I can't for the life of me remember the name of the company, but I worked the summer as a construction laborer building the Southern States store on Broad Street just down from Parham Road. That was the summer where we had like five days in a row of temperatures above 100 degrees. Two of my buddies passed out from the heat while digging a footer. Good times.

4. 1976 Age 18. I got my first post-high school job as a warehouseman at Lowe's hardware on Broad Street, downtown Richmond. I worked every overtime hour they would give me and saved every dime so I could finance a cross country back-packing trip with my best friend, Al Thomason. I can't remember what the pay was...probably $3.00 an hour...$4.50 for overtime.

5. 1977-1981. All of my college years were made possible by the job I got with a material handling company at the Hanover Industrial Airpark called Trefz and Steenburgh. I worked 30 hours a week in the warehouse, mostly building wooden pallets and installing shelving and pallet racks. I started at the minimum wage and by the time I graduated, they were paying me a salary of $18,000 to be a territory salesman for them. Couldn't have made it through University of Richmond without that job. After graduating from college I learned my first lesson in the downside risks inherent in capitalism. T&S declared bankruptcy, leaving me jobless and out $5000 in unpaid commission that I never recovered.

6. 1981- 2000. I went to work for Life of Virginia in life insurance sales. I took a cut in pay to $16,000, and only took the job in desperation after the humiliation of having to collect my first and last unemployment check of $358. I figured I would work for Life of Virginia while I looked for something else. To my astonishment, I found that I actually liked the work, despite the fact that after three years, my $16000 salary went away and I was totally on my own. Don't produce? Don't eat.

7. 2001- present. Got tired of working for someone else. I determined to work for myself and see if I could make it on my own. Most terrifying decision I've ever made...but one of the best, although honestly, my boss can sometimes be a real jerk. How much do I make now? None of your business.

So, it turns out that I've had exactly seven jobs. How about that? Was I privileged to have those seven jobs? You bet I was. Any job is a privilege. Did the fact that I got those jobs as opposed to some equally deserving minority mean that I should feel guilty about my life's work? You're kidding me, right? My job history is certainly nothing to shout from the rooftops...kinda hard to feel superior to anybody while shoveling horse manure in 95 degree heat...but neither is it something to be ashamed of. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Watch Out!!! My Wife Has a Plan...

It's that time of year again. Vacations are over, it's too hot and sticky outside to do anything fun...so it's time for my wife to turn her attention to home decor. A couple of summers ago it was painting the family room and kitchen. This year she is more ambitious than ever. She has determined that she must paint my library and the dining room, and completely redo our bedroom. Actually, that's the wrong choice of words...since our bedroom has never been done in the first place. The paint on the walls in there came with the house 17 years ago. Nevertheless, I was greeted yesterday afternoon by my wife lugging in armful after armful of decorating stuff from the car. She had hit the mother load at both Khol's and Bed, Bath and Beyond. It was an impressive haul. There were curtains, curtain rods, throw pillow covers for the chairs in the library, and the Holy Grail of bedroom decoration...the coveted comforter set. Today she is off to buy the paint and painting supplies.

You guys should see her when she gets on one of these decorating binges. Honestly, it's adorable. There is a gleam in her eye, a bounce in her step. She's transformed into the Energizer bunny! Then she starts peppering me with the questions...

Pam: I was thinking that we could hang these panels in here. The shiny grey color really brings out the design of the pillow covers, and once I paint, the rooms will flow together much better, don't you think?

Me: Yes.

Pam: But, now that I look at it in this light I'm not sure it's the right shade of blue. Of course, we just have to get rid of the wing back chairs in the dining room, or we could always have them recovered. I wonder how much Cathy paid to have those chairs at your office redone? Could you ask her tomorrow?

Me: Yes.

Pam: Our bedroom is going to be a monster to paint. But, I just love the new comforter! The colors are perfect, although I worry that they might be too bright in the daylight. What do you think?

Me: Yes.

Pam: I think if I can buy the paint tomorrow, I might be able to paint the library and the dining room this weekend and be finished by Sunday evening. Of course, the bedroom and bathroom upstairs will take forever to finish. Oh, and we will need to buy new light fixtures for our bedroom. I will be so glad to be rid of that hideous ceiling fan, and won't it be awesome to have more light in that room?

Me: Yes. Awesome.

Pam: Oh, did I show you the rugs and towels I found at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for the bathroom? They match the comforter perfectly! But I hate the way they make you use a different coupon for each item you buy! So frustrating!! 

Me: The nerve of those people...

Pam: I do worry about what Lucy's paws are going to do to this new comforter. You know, I've half a mind to use my 30% off coupon and just buy a second comforter as a back up in case her paws eventually wear this one out. What do you think?

Me. Yes. Just in case...

You will notice a pattern in our discourse on the topic of home decor. My job is to say as little as possible. I don't want to do anything that might sow seeds of doubt into her mind. Once she makes a decision about this sort of stuff she is a dynamo of determined and focused energy, the enemy of which is self doubt. This system works perfectly because I truly have no opinion on matters of style around my house...except for my library, which I was allowed to pick out. The truth is, if she came home with lime green paisley-print throw pillows I would probably go along with it....

Pam: I've decided that what our foyer needs is a velvet Elvis portrait where that hideous Thomas Kinkaid is hanging. What do you think?

Me: Yes.

See, if it was up to me, our family room would probably feature a sofa-sized painting of Dogs Playing Poker, so having Pam in charge of all things aesthetic is the right move. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Black Lives Matter vs. Elvis

AP-Memphis, Tenn.

As Elvis Week draws to a close, this city lets loose a giant sigh of relief that no violence broke out despite the promises from the Black Lives Matter organization to, "shut down Graceland." Several news media outlets had hyped the possible confrontation between the fledgling civil rights organization and the tens of thousands of Elvis Presley fans who gather here each year to commemorate the singer's death. Instead, a few hundred protesters gathered outside the entrance to Graceland and peacefully spoke to this reporter about how Elvis is the perfect symbol of what is wrong with white America.

Kareem Lewis, local BLM spokesman, explained that although he owned a couple of Elvis records himself and actually "kinda liked his sound," Elvis still was nothing more than an "appropriating rich white cracker."

Reporter: But why Graceland? Why come to Memphis?

Lewis: Well, one, for the money...two, for the show.

Reporter: Money? I don't understand.

Lewis: Read the paper, son! Didn't you hear that we just scored 100 million in cash from guilty white liberals up north? For that kind of money, we gotta put on a show! You know..a little less conversation, a little more action, dog.

Reporter: I have noticed that this demonstration has been remarkably peaceful...

Lewis: That was our theme for the week...don't be cruel.

While the Black Lives Matters protesters were on their best behavior, part of the peace was insured by a massive police presence in the area surrounding the Graceland compound. This reporter has never seen so many policemen in one place in all of my time in Memphis. Police seemed to outnumber the protesters by at least two to one. I asked Captain Goudol Beau about the overwhelming police presence...

Reporter: Captain Beau, for such a small demonstration, this sure seems like a lot of cops...

Captain Beau: This ain't all of them neither, we've got another 100 officers positioned in case there's trouble.

Reporter: Where?

Captain Beau: ...in the ghetto.

Reporter: What would you say to people who might call this a provocative overreaction?

Captain Beau: I would say that they have...suspicious minds. You know, the people of Memphis are an easy going bunch. We can put up with a lot. You can burn our house, steal our car. Hell, you can even drink our liquor from an old fruit jar! I mean, you can do anything you want to do to us...just don't mess with Elvis.

Reporter: Well Captain Beau, I must congratulate you and your men for the tremendous restraint you have shown today.

Captain Beau: A very wise man once said...only fools rush in.

I thought that Kareem Lewis might have a different perspective on police behavior so I asked him whether his people had been treated well.

Lewis: You know, I've got to admit that these Memphis pigs have been alright. I mean, we were expecting them to knock us down, stomp on our face...slander our name all over the place. We all figured by now we would be all shook up. But it's like we've got a good luck charm or something.

So, after a very long, hot and violent summer, the nation finally experiences a peaceful civil rights demonstration in the Deep South. In Memphis there were no burning grocery stores, just burning love.
Perhaps there's hope that race relations will thaw. Perhaps there won't be a blue Christmas after all. 

My Heat-Wave To-Do List

Things to do today, August 17, 2016

1. Make "shave" decision

2. Iron thinnest shirt in closet...curse the fact that nobody makes business shorts.

3. Liberally apply baby powder all over despite the fact that I hate baby powder.

4. To guard against dehydration, drink copious amounts of water.

5. Try to break yesterday's record of 16 trips to the bathroom.

6. Encourage ladies in the office to bring blankets if they don't like the thermostat set at 69.

7. Spend an hour staring at my weather widget showing the 75 and sunny forecast for Camden.

8. Shame myself for my weakness by looking at pictures of Teddy Roosevelt wearing a wool suit, signing a treaty in an unairconditioned train car in Panama....in freaking August!!!

9. Suffer raging bouts of guilt when Lucy comes up to me, frisbee in her mouth, begging me to go outside.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Why Go To Church?

Every now and then as a writer, something pops into your head that you want to write about even though it's not at all exciting. This is one of those times. It's the answer to the question, Why do you go to church, and it hit me this past Sunday.

Now, I know what the Sunday School answer to the question is, I know what I'm supposed to say. It's some combination of, "I go to worship God" or "I go to fellowship with other Christians." But after attending church for a lifetime, what keeps me going back besides habit and tradition? For me I have recently discovered the answer...I go to church to be confronted by and comforted by...the truth.

I can sit through the most insipid, juvenile music. I can tolerate poor acoustics, boring announcements and ugly buildings. I can put up with modern translations of the Bible which strip it of its lyrical beauty. But if I hear the truth, communicated by an honest, authentic voice, I'll always come back. I'm not interested in book reviews, politics, social commentary, or bad poetry. But if a man...or women...of God stands up and delivers the unsanitized truth to me, then I've been to church. I don't want to be told how great I am. I'm not interested in learning all about how much God wants me to be insanely rich. I want to be confronted with the reality of my condition as a flawed man and the incredible miracle that is grace and forgiveness. I want someone to challenge me to be better, to live better. I want someone to expose my selfishness, to challenge me to care for the least of these. I want to hear about the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son because even after 50 years as a Christian, I'm still bad at the former and too often feel like the latter. I don't want some phony poseur telling me about how persecuted I am for my beliefs. I'm not interested in some self promoter whose only goals are building monuments to his own vanity. I want a preacher who isn't afraid to look me in the eye and tell me the truth, even if he knows it might make me angry or uncomfortable. 

So, I'll sit through 7/11 lyrics, somber, minor key ballads which drone on and on about nothing. I'll tolerate all the corny church stuff for the chance to hear an authentic presentation of God's Word. If church doesn't offer that...I'd rather sleep late and go for a drive in the country.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Look on the bright side!

Ok. At this point in the Presidential campaign it has become clear that Donald Trump isn't going to become President, and that outcome seems like a huge relief to...Donald Trump. Never in my lifetime have I seen a major party candidate so expertly self-sabotage his own campaign. Never. So, I feel like it's my patriotic duty to try to buck up all of you out there who truly despise Hillary Clinton. I include myself in this group. But, I have always preferred to look at the glass as half full rather than half empty. So, let's all look on the bright side, shall we?

1. At least our new President won't spend half her time on the golf course.

2. Having chosen Tim Kaine as her running mate, the nation will be spared the humiliation of watching Hillary throw out the first pitch at the World Series.

3. All of us who disagree with the President's policies will no longer be called "racists." Sexist has a less sinister ring to it.

4. Feminists will no longer be able to harangue us with the charge that we live in a country led by a fascist, patriarchal government.

5. Hillary isn't cool enough to be asked to appear on late night talk shows, saving all of us that perpetual annoyance.

6. Can you imagine how perfectly horrifying the inside of the White House would have looked at Christmas under the Trump Administration? The giant, black lighted velvet manger scene alone might have permanently scarred us.

7. Once Hillary becomes President, money will finally become available for other private charities and foundations once The Clinton Foundation is taken off the market.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Not a Good Night For Angels

Pam and I took our first ever Uber ride earlier today. By doing so, we gained valuable street cred from our two Millennial kids who are constantly extolling the virtues of this new transportation system. Pam downloaded the app, and before we knew it, there was our driver picking us up in front of the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Chicago. He drove a shiny Toyota Camry with the cleanest interior you ever saw. He introduced himself...Thomas.

I will now try to faithfully recreate the conversation which took place between us during the thirty minute drive to O'Hare airport. I want to do this now while it's still fresh in my mind. I never want to forget it and think it's fascinating enough to share with you for reasons that should become clear enough.

When we entered Thomas' car, Jamaican music was playing softly in the background. He spoke English with a beautiful African accent delivered in a lyrical cadence that was calming. We soon discovered that Thomas was an immigrant from Ghana who had landed in Chicago six years ago. His "real job" was with a competitor hotel across town which he assured us was far superior to the Sheraton Grand! He had been an Uber driver just on the weekends for the past year. After the basics, I asked him to tell me his honest impressions of America.

Thomas: I have only ever been in two countries, Ghana and America, so I don't know about other places, but my feeling is...and the feeling of many people I know is...that there is no place like America.

Pam: Yes, America isn't perfect by any means...

Thomas:(interrupting)...certainly not, but compared to so much of the rest of the world...no place like America.

Me: How and why did you choose Chicago?

Thomas: It is beautiful and so clean.

Me: This is my third visit here and I can tell you that compared to most other big cities, you are right, it is beautiful and clean. 

Then he asked us what we had done and seen during our stay. He politely approved of our choices. Then I took a chance. I wanted to find out what a Chicagoan thought of the horrific amount of violence that has plagued this city for the past decade. Just in the four short days of our stay, 22 people were murdered, 16 of which were African-American. So far in 2016 according to the Chicago police department's numbers, 428 homicides have been committed in Chicago, the vast majority of the victims, African-American.

Me: Thomas, what's the deal with all of the murders here? In what part of the city is this happening? What is the reason for it all?

Thomas: Not in the beautiful parts, but all over really, much of it on the south side. It is so horrible. I ask myself and I ask other people, "Why are they doing this to each other? It is crazy. Much of it is turf wars over drugs. One gang sees that one neighborhood buys many drugs, so they move in to that neighborhood because they want the business, so a war breaks about between the gangs. So they continue to kill each other!! It's crazy! Then we hear about black lives matter, black lives matter...what is that?? It means nothing in Chicago because black lives don't even matter to them!! The worse is the little children, six so far this year. The other day a man pulls over to the side of the road to rest. Another man comes out of the trees and shoots him in the head for no reason, just gun play macho...it is crazy.

The more he talked the more animated he became, desperate to make us understand how crazy and meaningless it all seemed to him. 

Thomas: I come from Ghana to this place where the economy is so much better, more opportunity, and this is the way people behave?

When our ride was over I wanted to hug the guy and thank him for coming to America, for working two jobs. Instead, I shook his hand and thanked him for the ride. Thomas and his shiny Camry disappeared . I will never see him again. I wondered if he lives on the south side. I wondered if he too might become one of the nameless victims of the war raging just four miles from my luxury hotel on the magnificent mile. It occurs to me that Chicago has suffered more casualties so far this year than the United States has lost in Afghanistan in the last four years combined. 

On the night that Pam and I gathered with 40,000 joyous Cubs fans at Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs beat the Angels, less than ten miles away, no less than seven African-American males were gunned down in the streets. 

It was not a good night for angels.

Friday, August 12, 2016


This is my third trip to Chicago, the first for Pam. Every time I come here I am stunned at how beautiful the place is. Sure, recently they set a record with 100 shootings in one week. Sure, they are on pace to shatter the record for homicides in 2016, with over 600 souls expected to get whacked by year's end. But the killing fields are a long way from Michigan Avenue, and we didn't see a single cop on our walk from the hotel to the dock on the Chicago River yesterday afternoon for our boat tour of the city. Our "Architecture Tour" snaked its way down the green water where the towering buildings of Chicago loomed overhead. Our guide was a native Chicagoan who lived up to its reputation as the "Windy City."
Dude was a living, breathing encyclopedia. Here are some of the sights...

Each magnificent building came with a story, including but not limited to the egos of the architects. It was fascinating and worth every penny....except for one thing, it was 90 degrees out, humid with only rare whispy breezes. We sat on the top deck in the blazing sun. Pam was a trooper. There is nothing on earth more intolerable to my wife than being hot..nothing! Yet, she never complained, and paid rapt attention to our guide throughout. I thought that at any moment she might suddenly scream out and cast herself overboard in a fit of rage, but she held it together like a champ. Of course, I kept disappearing below deck so I could keep her placated with lemonade and diet cokes. I've learned something  in 32 years of marriage!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sunday, August 7, 2016


Pam and I went to the grand opening of Short Pump's new Wegmans today. We should have known better. This may have been the most eagerly anticipated, most over-hyped store opening in the history of Henrico County, and since our county is over 400 years old, that's saying something. We knew it might be a madhouse when we saw this guy at the corner of Broad Street and Wegmans Way...

 He was the first of at least a dozen of Henrico County's finest we saw patrolling the area, some in cars, some on foot and even a couple on bikes. Once we finally found a place to park we entered this monstrosity of a store...

Once inside I was astonished to see this...

If you squint you will see...yes, count them all...27 Checkout lanes, all manned( and womanned )by eager, smiling cashiers. Matter of fact, this store seemed to have an abundance of employees, handing out everything from glossy maps of the place to free beer samples. Speaking of adult beverages, if you're into that sort of thing, an entire wing of the building is dedicated to you...

...and that's only half of it. The rest contains three two story high shelving aisles full of wine from every corner of the globe. As awesome as the place was, it didn't take us long to decide that today probably wasn't the best day to be taking a tour. We only made it through roughly a third of the store, but what we saw can be summed up neatly this way...if you need something, anything really...you will find it at this store. 

"But, how are the prices?" you might ask. I have no idea. Probably not the cheapest in town. If I want the cheapest prices, I can drive down the road five minutes and buy my groceries at Walmart. If that's too embarrassing, I could always drop by Food Lion, the home of the perpetually sticky floor. Or, if I want to have my guilt assuaged for being part of the evil west, be-fouler of the planet, I can go drop truckloads of cash at Whole Foods, the world wide headquarters of self-flagulating white people. The point is, Wegmans is just another choice that a free market gives me.

My children, and many others their age don't have the same image of Socialism that I do. For them, Socialism is gorgeous Danes and Swedes eating ice cream while on one of their 12 weeks of paid vacation, courtesy of the State. For me and many of my age, Socialism looks like this...

This is the line forming outside a grocery store in Venezuela. The lines sometimes take ten hours to get through only to be told that there isn't any more milk.

This one is from Cuba, where the lines are a bit quicker, but the goods are limited. The Venezualians and the Cubans learned all of this from the pre-Gorbachev Soviet Union, which featured this sort of scene practically every day...

I can hardly visit Facebook without seeing some article written my some Millenial about the horrors of Capitalism, and honestly...Capitalism does have a few horrors. But whenever I hear this sort of argument, I always come back to the Wegmans of the world. Only a free market can deliver this sort of abundance. Do we have a free market in every segment of our economy? Not even close, and in the places where we don't like cable television, service and quality suffers. But Doug, but Doug...if capitalism is so great at allocating resources, how come we have 17 different brands of deodorant? Isn't that a waste of effort??? Well, I would rather let the marketplace decide the answer to that question. Apparently, there is currently enough profit in the deodorant game to compensate 17 different companies for making the stuff. Turn that decision over to a command economy government committee and we would eventually end up with one brand of deodorant which made us all smell like cat pee and nobody could find anyway since there would always be a shortage!

So, yeah. I'll take my Wegmans huge crowds and all, and be thankful that I live in a country where Wegmans is even possible.

A Scary Dream

I haven't had a decent night's sleep since Maine. I fall asleep alright but after that it's a mess...lots of tossing and turning, waking up at 2 in the morning for no apparent reason, and dreaming like a character in a Dostoyevsky novel.
A couple of nights ago I dreamed that my family was living in the parsonage across from Winn's, not so much of a stretch since I grew up in that house. In my dream, I walked out the front door and noticed that there was a small crack in the foundation of the house where the brick exterior wall had separated from the foundation by maybe a half inch. But, as I stood and watched, the gap began to widen, slowly at first, but with increasing speed until it looked like the entire structure was about to break free from its moorings and fly away! Of course, since this was a dream, there had to be some excruciating frustration associated with it, and for me it was...trying to alert my family to get out of the house. They just couldn't be bothered. There was something far too fascinating on television. I would run in the house screaming out warnings, then back outside to check on the house. Each time I did, the scene became more exotic and terrifying. Soon there was a giant abyss of a gouge in the earth stretching from the corner of the house's foundation all the way into infinity in both directions. Before long, the house was teetering on the precarious edge of this mighty gulf. Panicked, I ran back into the swaying house, desperately trying to rouse them from their collective disinterest. Suddenly, I woke up. Two o'clock.

Dream analysis is a dicey thing, even for the experts. For amateurs like me, it amounts to pure speculation. At this point, I would like to invite you the reader to participate. What, on earth, was the meaning of this dream? I'll start...

Possibility #1

The parsonage represents the efforts I have made to protect myself from the dangers of this world. The earthquake that destroys it represents the schemes of evil aligned against me. My family's preoccupation with television represents the powerfully insidious influence of evil that is so strong, it leaves us defenseless, unable to save ourselves.

Possibility # 2

Since I was a kid when I lived in the Winn's church parsonage, it represents my past. The earthquake represents the lies I tell myself about my past, glossing over the bad times and glorifying the good. The fact that my family doesn't heed my dire warnings is a reminder that nobody really cares about my past except me.

Possibility # 3

Never eat tiramisu after 8 at night...

So, which is it? Does my dream have some deeper meaning it is trying to convey to me through my subconscious....or was it something I ate?

Saturday, August 6, 2016

My Olympic Fashion Commentary

I am so psyched. I get to do something today I haven't done in over a month...yard work!! That's right, I love yard work, cutting the grass, trimming the lawn, gathering up sticks and debris, and ridding the back yard of Lucy's bowel movements. Oh...and the fact that it's going to be hot and humid out today makes it even better because it means I will be a smelly, sweating mess after I'm done, virtually guaranteeing that I will have shed at least two pounds. Win, win.

But before I get at it, a word about the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics. I watched maybe fifteen minutes of the thing. Pam, my Olympics-loving wife, sat firmly ensconced on the sofa, fully intending to watch from start to finish. I discovered this morning that she didn't even make it to the D's of the parade of nations before falling into a coma, meaning that she missed this...

Not bad. The guy holding the flag is a dead ringer for Michael Phelps...no wait...

But for 2016 the winner of the sharpest look goes to the Aussies hands down. 


...and I don't even like seer sucker that much, but somehow the Austrailians looked awesome in it.

Ok, that's my first and last fashion commentary. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

My Immigrant Encounter

Yesterday it was time for a haircut. Unlike my wife, I'm not very particular who cuts my hair. I usually go to one of those "guys only" places and roll the dice. It's a different girl every month practically, but they all seem capable so what the heck, right? Well, yesterday I got a new stylist...Anna.

Anna shook my hand and introduced herself with a timid, whispering voice. Her smile seemed forced and cautious. She was Hispanic. Her English was fine but she spoke with a thick accent. Making small talk, I observed that she must be new since I had never seen her before. "Yes...I am new. Would you like the MVP?" 

Anna stood out like a sore thumb. Unlike the usual loud, flirtatious banter common at a where guys get their hair cut, her attempts at conversation were whispered, polite and careful. Mostly she went about her business with single-minded concentration. There was an odd sadness about her. Still, she practiced her craft with great gentleness and care. It was a great haircut.

When I went to pay, I entered a more generous than usual tip in the gratuity line of the ticket. When I gave it to her and she saw it, she actually lifted a hand to her mouth in astonishment, looked at me with tears in her eyes and whispered the word...gracias.

The subject of immigration is a lightning rod issue nowadays, although for millions of people like me the issue isn't immigration itself, but rather...illegal immigration, which is no mere distinction without a difference. I have no idea whether Anna is an immigrant or an illegal immigrant. I would assume that since she has a job and speaks English, she is probably here legally. If not, then my first instinct would be to find the owner  and throw the book at him/her! In my opinion, the real villains in the illegal immigration saga are the employers who hire them. As for Anna, well that's where I get mushy. Even if she is here illegally, I have a hard time working up any indignation towards her. When I met her, she was in hour seven of a ten hour shift. She looked exhausted and lost, and yet she smiled and did her job with great care and skill. It's very hard not to root for someone like Anna. 

Of course, the cynical reader might point out that perhaps I would feel differently about the Anna's of the world if they were all trained investment advisors, competing in my business, willing to work for half the fee. True. But, to compete in my line of work, Anna would have to be here legally. There are just too many federal paperwork requirements in the investment world to overcome without proper documentation. Still, it's a valid point. But, as a human being with a beating heart, I suppose I have a gigantic weak spot for anyone willing to leave hearth and home to come to America seeking a better life. I want Anna to make it, and I'm not interested in throwing her on a bus and sending her back where she came from arbitrarily. But, while my heart beats, it doesn't bleed. We are a nation of laws and we must enforce them. Opening the borders to all comers, no questions asked is national suicide...hence the problem.

The solution has to contain elements of both the rule of law and enlightened compassion. Crafting that solution will require people of good will, intelligence and imagination in the halls of power.

Good luck with that.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

What to Watch For on Inauguration Day

With every passing day it becomes more clear that on Inauguration Day 2017, Hillary Clinton will be taking the oath of office. I take no delight in pointing out the fact that I have been writing this for over a year now. But, it didn't take superhuman powers of observation to see how this all was going to work out, just a healthy level of skepticism. Still, the most disturbing part of her victory will be the fact that it will, for her, validate a lifetime of lying. When she places her hand on the Bible in John Robert's hand on that cold Janurary morning she will be smiling inside, secure in the knowledge that all of her machinations, all of the deceit, disingenuous maneuvering, and influence peddling was all worth it, that in fact, honesty, transparency and fair dealing are for chumps. She will have ridden a life long wave of lawless narcissism straight to the top of Mt. Olympus and from her perch she will look down upon all of the little people with freshly energized contempt. She will gloat over all of those who questioned her ethics, all of those who warned of her soulless appetite for power, of her complete lack of defining principles other than self preservation. She will think about all of those who made fun of her appearance back in college. She will think about the Lewinski humiliation, the humiliation of having to work for Barack Obama. She will think about those insufferable Benghazi parents, she will picture the faces all of those Bernie Sanders kids with their self righteous anger and contempt. Now where are they, she will think as she says, "I, Hillary Rodham Clinton, do solemnly swear," I'll tell you where they are, she will think, they are back to their miserable pedestrian lives, and I am where I deserve to be...President of the United States. 

Hillary Clinton is about to be exultant over all of her enemies, real and imagined, forever driving a nail in the coffin of the concept of personal integrity.

....and the most horrifying part of it all is, it will probably beat the alternative.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Favorite Photographs From Maine

I have complied my favorite pictures from Maine. It was difficult to sort through the hundreds of them taken while we were there, but these are the best...

When you tell people that the lakes in Maine are clear...this is what you're talking about.

How much is this memory worth?

A full moon rising over the lake at nightfall.

Just me and the ducks...

The view from Mt. Battie. That's the gorgeous town of Camden and Camden Harbor.

Patrick and Sarah kayaking on Hobbs Pond.

The whole gang after an Eco-cruise of Penobscot bay where we saw scenes like this...

And this...

Perhaps the most beautiful small town library in the country...

Made even more beautiful with these people standing in front of it.

A two minute drive from Camden and a mere twenty minutes from Hobbs Pond...the Atlantic Ocean.

Meanwhile, back at the lake, I couldn't possibly fish without Lucy...

I had just jumped into the lake and there was Lucy getting more air than I did, coming in after me.

My kids, enjoying River Ducks ice cream. What could I do? They had been good that day!

My two best girls on the float...

Perfect shot of Lucy. What in the world was she thinking, looking at such a place for the first time?