Meeting Up with Roger and His Truck

Roger’s truck scoots up the side of a steep rock. He’s at the control.
Roger and his truck on the rock.

My pal Susan and I took a nice woodsy walk at Hanging Rock Battlefield early this evening and ran into Roger Wright and his toy truck.

Roger is a devotee of model trucks that run remotely and climb big rocks, among other things. The trucks may be toys, but they aren’t so much for little boys as for big boys. The truck he showed us this evening, he says, was worth about $1,100, only $300 or so of that for the basic vehicle. The rest is customizing it and getting it ready to compete with some of his buddies.

Roger talks about “a bunch of guys” he hangs out with who are as excited about the little trucks as he. Roger owns several of them, he says, and he can’t get his 10-year-old son interested, so he plays with bigger boys. His wife tolerates his hobby. It’s addictive, he insists.

Nice guy, this Roger.

This is Susan taking a photo of one of the big rocks along the creek.
Susan shoots the trail from a low angle. The colors were lovely.

Roanoke College Poll: Biden, Warner Big Leads

This was the Roanoke registrar’s office, where early voting takes place, on the first day we could vote.

While Joe Biden leads Donald Trump by 15 percentage points (53%-38%) in Virginia according to The Reconnect Research/Roanoke College Poll, confidence in the safety of the voting system is shaky.

According to the poll (and a Roanoke College press release:

Barely half (51%) of likely voters are very confident or somewhat confident that the votes across the country will be accurately counted in the election, while almost as many (46%) are not too confident or not all confident. Similarly, respondents are divided with 49% saying they are not too confident or not at all confident that the nation will accept the official outcome and winners of the election and 47% reporting that they are somewhat or very confident the results will be accepted.

Only 5% of voters are undecided, and 4% said they will vote for Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian candidate. Biden’s lead was 12 points in the May Roanoke College Poll and 14 points in August.

U.S. Senator Mark Warner leads Daniel Gade, his Republican opponent (55%-38%).

The Reconnect Research/Roanoke College Poll interviewed 602 likely Virginia voters between Sept. 30 and Oct. 12.

More than 90% of Democrats said they would vote for Biden, while just under 90% of Republicans said they would vote for Trump. Only 4% of Democrats said they would cross over to vote for Trump while 6% of Republicans said they plan to vote for Biden.

Trump’s favorable/unfavorable rating is 41%/56% while Biden is at 52%/44%.

A plurality of likely voters (23%) see the economy as the most important issue, but significant percentages view the COVID virus (17%), race relations (14%), Supreme Court appointments (12%), and civil unrest (10%) as most important.

Regarding the Supreme Court appointment, the majority of respondents (56%) think the appointment should be made by the winner of the election, but 41% think it should be made by the end of the year.

Nearly three-fourths (71%) of respondents think the country is on the wrong track, while only a quarter (24%) think it is headed in the right direction.


The Peaks at Their Peak

I was heading over to Niagra Dam for a hike today and–as I always do–took a wrong turn to get on the Blue Ridge Parkway and wound up at the Peaks of Otter. Karma, ’twas. I wanted gorgeous and got spectacular.

On the way back home, via Va. 43 down the mountain to Buchanan, I stopped and had a couple of hot dogs at a Stop-In where the ‘dogs are as good as the color on the Peaks.

Here’s what it looked like.


‘You’re Not a Diabetic Anymore’

My primary care physician, Dr. Jeri Lantz, sent me this message this morning after examining blood work yesterday: “Wow Dan – you aren’t a diabetic anymore! Great job!”

I had no idea we could just kick diabetes out of our lives, but I’m certainly grateful. The secret? I have no idea, though I’ve lost 35 pounds in the past few months and I continue to exercise an hour (minimum) a day. Frankly, I’m not as careful with my diet as I could be, though I keep my intake of carbs and sugars to a minimum.

For the record, my A1C is 4.5 percent with the standard being 5.7 percent or less.

Today, this is my reason for gratitude. And what a reason it is!


The Good Old Days Were Smelly

Here’s an underwear ad for Victorians. Note in the center explanation that “indorsing” is misspelled. Note the modest look on the woman’s face as she holds up the underwear.

The wonderful book The Devil in the White City opens with a scene in downtown Chicago in the late 19th Century, as the World’s Fair was underway, which put the reader there with the sites, sounds, and, perhaps most important, smells.

Women’s underwear was crotchless, as are these.

Personal hygiene is a fairly recent human phenomenon and my guess is that in times past, the smell of the city was all but overwhelming, given that people bathed seldom, changed underclothes infrequently, and that women often simply spread their legs and urinated wherever they stood. Horses and cattle (a base of Chicago’s economy at the time) pooped in the street.

A young archeologist named Jennifer Borrett wrote a response to a question on Quora Digest today that resonates from that standpoint. She writes that in the late 19th Century “women generally did not wear underwear (knickers/underpants) due to the problem of menstruation as well as toileting needs. Most women had given birth several times and therefore couldn’t hold urine in as easily as a man can.

“They generally bled into their skirts, or maybe used wool tampons. In busy mills, the floor was covered with straw to catch the menstrual blood and possibly urine as the crowds of women worked. Rather than be ashamed, the Victorian poor woman was proud of her menstrual blood, believing it made her sexually attractive to men.” Women of means would likely not have been quite so unhygienic.

Men, of course, wore union suits of various types (some one-piece, some two), but that didn’t mean they were cleaner since they rarely changed their underwear.

I guess they got used to each other’s smells, otherwise we wouldn’t be here.


Brand New Sheets; 60 Years Old

These are the sheets, brand new, and 60 years old.

Two years ago, I bought two sets of brand new JC Penney sheets for a double bed at Goodwill. They were brand new, still in the package. They were made in 1960.

Here’s the original price tag.

Today, it happened again. Two white bottom sheets still in their original 60-year-old package (with the original price tag of $2.69 still on the package).

Goodwill charged $4.99 for each fitted sheet. The 1960 price equates to $23.62 in 2020 dollars, so it’s still quite a bargain at Goodwill.

The sheets are the best I’ve ever owned from the standpoint of comfort and natural fit. They are the kind of sheets my mother would have put on my bed when I was a young teenager.

But this purchase brings up a problem: Should I keep the sheets as historical artifacts or put them on my bed? For the first two sets, I broke them out immediately and put them on the bed. I kept the packaging and still have it with those lovely mid-century graphics.

In any case, I love the sheets and I especially appreciate the “find.”


Boys Talking: A Rare Treat These Days

Roland Lazenby (right) and me shooting the bull.

Among the regular activities I’ve sorely missed in recent months is getting together with some of the guys to just sit and shoot the bull. It is a real treat to have solid, uninterrupted guy time and one of my favorite people to share that with is my old friend Roland Lazenby.

Ro is a writer of some significance who always makes me feel like I’m a better writer than I am. He’s great for my ego and he always has ideas: “Man, you really should look for a major publisher for [my novel] ‘Clog!’ It’s the kind of book that has a big audience …” and so forth.

We also just talked, sharing the kind of information reporters share as we sat outside Panera Bread at Valley View Mall, a great place to chat and distance socially at the same time.

I met Ro with the idea that he would sign a Christmas gift copy of his blockbuster Michael Jordan: The Life, now in its 10th printing and which is available in 20 different languages. Roland knows as much about book publishing as anybody I know and he talks about it enthusiastically. I love hearing it.

We also talked about our newspaper days and how the entire profession has changed, some for the better, some not.

In the end, though, it was about a couple of guys feeling really relaxed, interested and without the interferences we are facing daily these days. It was a real joy.


A Little (Chamber) Music, Please

Cara Modisett and Benedict Goodfriend play chamber music in a divine setting.
Cara looks intently at the music as she plays.

If I’ve missed anything as much as a good hug in the past seven or eight months, it is the performing arts. I ran into my old blues bud Carey Hurley downtown this week and he talked enthusiastically about just having visited New Orleans. He had me on the edge of my seat talking about the food and the music.

Yesterday evening my pal Susan and I went to the Six Feet Apart Recital Festival at a private home in Hollins and it was the first event of real cultural significance I’ve been to since I first heard the words COVID 19. And it was delightful, even though I’m not a fan of either solo violin or chamber music, mostly because I don’t understand either. I am a fan of being outside among people who appreciate the arts.

Susan gets ready for the music.

There was no real crowd to speak of, just five or six people who wanted to sit and listen, two musicians and a guy who turned pages for my friend Cara Modisett as she played the piano. She accompanied renowned violinist Benedict Goodfriend of the Kandinsky Trio as they played selections by Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Paganini, Sibelius, and others for about 45 minutes. Goodfriend played his 1908 Scarampella violin.

That’s me doing what I do as Mr. Goodfriend tells us about what he’s getting ready to play.

It was not a crowded hall with all the excitement that brings, but it was certainly a delightful experience and I got to see my good friend Cara, which has been a rare treat lately. Cara is the original master of all trades and now she is seeking yet another master’s degree, this one a theological effort toward becoming an Episcopal Priest. She is already an accomplished writer, musician, editor and heaven knows (so to speak) what else.

Cara and Mr. Goodfriend will be back on the pitch today at 2:30 and 4 p.m. at 7025 Ardmore Drive in Roanoke. A contribution of $10 is optional.

Cara greets Susan before the concert.
A friendly and a smile (I’m guessing) from Cara.
Pages turned for my pal Cara.
Benedict Goodfriend: Virtuoso.
Mr. Goodfriend is intent despite the dang mask.
A lovely sight during a pandemic.




Trump Wants Another Mini-Me on the Court

Trump (left) and Trump (right).

It is being widely reported that Donald Trump wants Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court. That’s just not true. Donald Trump wants Donald Trump on the Supreme Court and his three picks–people vowing eternal fealty to him–are proof positive.

Barrett is ostensibly pro-life, but she is anti-abortion, which is not to be confused with pro-life. One has little to do with the other. Hard-core anti-abortionists are likely to be pro-death penalty, anti-child health care and opposed to government nutrition programs for poor kids, pro-gun, pro-war, and opposed to Obamacare which covers 135 million Americans with health insurance.

They care deeply about fetuses, but not at all about poor and unwanted children, many of whom would starve to death without government help, many of whom have little or no care from a responsible adult, many of whom get no education, many of whom get into drugs and crime. They start out with 2 1/2 strikes against them and all too often that third strike comes the moment they are outside the womb.

I don’t blame Amy Barrett for what she is. Her whole life has been spent absorbing right-wing propaganda and she has little choice but to be what she is about to become: Donald Trump on the Supreme Court.


A Cool Fall Morn With the Warm Sun

A walk with my pal Susan on Mill Mountain’s Chestnut Trail resulted in some early-morning fall temperatures, light and foliage that I found beautiful, soothing and invigorating all at the same time.

That’s me taking full advantage of the morning sun.
Susan in silhouette.