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Dan Smith is an award-winning journalist in Roanoke, Va., and a member of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame. He is an author, photographer, essayist, father and grandfather. Co-founder of Valley Business FRONT magazine and founder of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference.

Gratitude Today: The Musical Smiths

That’s Maddie on keyboards (right).

Madeline (left) in 2012, playing in the basement.

My son’s family is musical. In fact, Evan and Kara are so musical that I had them sing a duet at one of my (many) weddings, this one in 2000. They sang Tim Hardin’s “If I Were a Carpenter” and it was lovely. Ev played the bass and Kara the guitar, as I recall.

They’re passing that on to the next generation. Madeline is playing a variety of instruments (drums, guitar, keyboards) and Oz, who’s just 6, is banging around on a cardboard guitar (I bought him a real guitar-like instrument a couple of years ago, but he can’t find it).

Last night, Madeline had her first public performance as a rock singer/musician in at the Memphis School of Rock. I will spare you the video, since these kids, as Mads’ mom tells it, are involved in their first public performance.

I remember some years ago when Evan played a recital in the big hall at the Roanoke City Market Building, picking out the obligatory “Stairway to Heaven,” several of us stood at the back with cigarette lighters lit and raised high, yelling, “Play ‘Freebird.'” Ev was not amused. Everybody else was.

I had some photos of Evan’s bands over the years, but can’t seem to find any of them. I even took publicity photos (on the railroad trestle in downtown Roanoke) for one of his bands. Anyhow, he’s still playing as a hobby and Maddie and Oz are just beginning (though Maddie actually goes back a few years, playing one of her dad’s oversized guitars).

Evan singing in a church play at about 8 or so.

 

Gratitude Today: Clouds Real and Imagined

“I really don’t know clouds at all”

Joni Mitchell gave us the definitive look, with this:

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

…┬áIt’s cloud’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

It is the child within us that recalls the illusions. To this day.

I was standing on top of a mountain a little while ago, looking at the stacked cumulus thunder clouds, wondering not so much if I was going to get caught in a frog-strangling thunderstorm, but why the clouds looked like a tall sailing ship.

They were mesmerizing, helping transport me to a far-away land and another reality. If only for a bit.

To feel 10 again is a blessing at any age. At my age, it may even border on a miracle. A little miracle. Life is full of them and I’m grateful.

The Colorful Smiths

Grandgirl Madeline colored her hair blue yesterday and I mentioned that mine was red when I was a kid and then again a few years ago, one natural, one not. Her blue hair turned out more navy than sky blue and it’s hard for me to tell it’s blue, but, hey …

Low Tech Air Conditioning Is Still AC

People often become quite creative when temperatures reach the extreme. I pulled up alongside this guy today at a traffic light on Hershberger Road in Roanoke. He took the doors off his truck. Great air conditioning. It was about 95 degrees at that moment.

A Hot Day’s Walk by the Numbers

My car’s thermometer measures the heat outside. That’s at 12:31 p.m. today.

The temperature was OK in the shade. Not much of the walk was in the shade.

By the numbers:

Age: 71

Goal. 1.5-hour walk

Temperature: 101 degrees (at the end)

Humidity: 75 percent

Sun: 90 degrees (straight up, no clouds)

Body temperature: 101 degrees

Heart rate: 110 bpm

Result: Priceless

Boxes of free burlap coffee sacks.

That was my mid-day walk on the Roanoke Valley Greenway, which was hot, sometimes dizzying and occasionally revealing.

For example, as I began in Vic Thomas Park, I noticed that the sign honoring Vic (a good man and a state senator for a long time) was wearing out. It should be replaced and I recommend my old buddies at Sign Design in Cloverdale. Great work, affordable prices.

Another item of interest that I found on the walk: Black Dog Salvage, which borders Thomas Park, has two boxes (nearly full) of burlap coffee bags, free to the public. I filled the trunk of Daisy (my VW bug) and will spread them over my garden to keep down the weeds and to retain moisture.

The signs in Vic Thomas Park need repairs (both sides).

Happy Pampa’s Day on the Cove

Margie with the mountains in the background.

Margie and I spent a lovely morning today paddling around a slightly breezy, pretty hot Carvin’s Cove. The sun was direct and the colors vivid, as you can see here. Beautiful way to spend Father’s Dan.

Paddling together, smiling all the while.

Margie at water level.

Casual dude on Pampa’s Dan.

Margie knows how to lift a sexy knee.

Gratitude Today: Having Good Kids

Jennie and Evan (curls a-flowing) in 1976.

I just proofread my Roanoker magazine piece for July/August titled “Raising Good Kids.” It would be an appropriate read for today, Father’s Day, or for Mother’s Day. The seven families I talked to are raising good children because of good parents.

I’ve never considered myself to be a good father (I’m a good grandfather), but somehow my two kids, Jenniffer and Evan, turned out in such a way that I’m proud of them. Evan is one of the best fathers I know and, though Jennie has no children, she spends her paternal skills toward rescuing dogs and loving horses.

Kids are going to be what they’re going to be. I’ve seen people I know to be good parents with stinking lousy children and people who all but ignored their kids wind up with sparkling results. That, of course, is not the norm, but it happens, showing that sometimes the exception is the rule.

My late father was never hands-on because he worked seven days a week, 364 days a year and when he was home, he was generally exhausted. Mom did the raising. But I remember small influences from Dad, as children do. He was a good man, sentenced to a life of struggle because of alcoholism (which he tried ever so hard to overcome). I share that addiction (sober 24 years) and it contributed to my failure as a dad, but some of us get a second chance, an opportunity to compensate.

I think my grands–especially Madeline who is older–will testify that Pampa loves them and enjoys their company. I love my kids, too, and I genuinely enjoy being around them, which I didn’t always express well. They’re doing fine, though.

Gratitude Today: Thank You, Jim Lindsey

That’s Jim Lindsey (right) and John Montgomery (another great guy) with me at my induction into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame in Richmond. Always supportive. Always.

I thank Jim Lindsey frequently in the confines of my mind for being my friend, one of the best I’ve ever had in practical, real-life terms.

Jim helped me get sober, financially stable and more professional as a journalist. He taught me to thicken my skin when attacked and to be more gentle and gentile when returning fire (that one doesn’t always work to this day). He showed me that being a little crazy and a lot eccentric bring out the humanity in all of us. Jim demonstrated a rare level of kindness that touches me still on a visceral level.

Jim bought the Blue Ridge Business Journal from my old friend Thurmond Horne, who founded it, after I’d been editor for a few years. I was still drinking. Jim tolerated my addiction (he was less tolerant of my smoking) until I was ready to quit and then he was all-in. He said, in effect, “Do what you need to do. I’m here for you.” And he was, allowing me the freedom to go to AA meetings, sometimes three times in a day, two of those during work hours. He understood that I was falling apart, but that I needed to in order to get well. At least partly because of Jim, I put the cigarettes down. That was before I stopped drinking and may have been the nail in that particular coffin. Smoking is more addictive.

When the Journal was sold to the local daily, Jim shared the profit of the sale with me, something he absolutely did not have to do. I didn’t expect it, hadn’t even imagined it as a possibility. The money got me out of debt and I haven’t been back, which actually makes everything else a hell of a lot easier.

While we worked together, Jim taught me–a 25-30-year veteran of journalism–to be a journalist, both as a writer and as an editor. He taught me to ask the extra question, to seek the extra contact, to do one more thing, always one more thing. I had a poster of Clint Eastwood holding a gun on visitors tacked to my office door, saying, “Go ahead, make one more change!” That was for Jim and his obsession with perfection. I used to say, “Perfect is the enemy of the good.” Jim never agreed with that and I think it benefited both us and the Journal.

Jim enjoys–always has–people living on the bottom end of the spectrum, and he taught me a deep appreciation of the reality that exists in those valuable lives. He always saw their benefit to him, not the fact that they didn’t live the way middle class people live. All they really have is themselves and often those “selves” are rich in ways many of us don’t understand. Jim sees that.

Jim Lindsey is and always has been a good guy, one I admire, trust and love. Thank you, sir, for all you’ve done to make my life one that appreciates the good things and the good people.

AARP Faces Threat from Far Right

Got two pieces of mail today that could seriously mess with my serenity if I’d let it, but I won’t. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll do a little ridiculing in order to salvage my peace and quiet.

First, Appalachian Power, which has been assaulting me with mail for more than two years threatening me with thousands of dollars in charges because my electrical connection is all but certain to fail, in which case … well … you know. APCo wants me to pay for insurance against an event that my insurance agent (whom I consulted) said “is a virtual certainty not to happen.” Saying he’s never had a client who faced that scenario, he compared it to getting insurance against falling off the Matterhorn. Once again, I placed the letter in the circular file.

The other piece of junk mail comes from something called Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) the most recent counter to the trusted, solid, dependable American Association of Retired People (AARP), which has been lobbying for old people since I can remember.

AARP at times feels like the only thing between some of us and homelessness, especially in light of the Republican Party’s goal of shutting down Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. AMAC says right out of the box that it is a pro-Trump outfit and it is pissed at AARP because it wants to sue Trump (for myriad reasons). It calls AARP “a radical left-wing group.” I will take issue with that, noting that the biggest reason I initially balked at joining AARP was because it was too damn conservative.

” … liberals who run the AARP are betraying you and millions of other conservative retirees,” says AMAC’s literature. That’s just bullshit. I will simply say that if you oppose Social Security, Medicare, etc., then by all means join this group of very wealthy retirees who don’t give a damn about you and others whose retirement is not in seven figures.

For me, I’ll stick with AARP, liberal or conservative. Makes no dif to me. It is effective and stands for my safety and security.

My Pal’s Investment Team Wins Again

Pete (center) and his team: Neill Yelverton, Leesa Sluder, Kerry Keihn and Kelsey Rosen

My good friend Pete Krull has won more major national and international investment investment honors.

Pete, who lives in Asheville, but has clients in the Roanoke/Blcksburg area (where he and his wife, Melissa, used to live), owns Earth Equity (officially, founder, CEO and Director of Investments), was just named one of the 100 Most Influential Financial Advisors in the country by the investment source Investopedia, which has 30 million users.

Those selected “stand out for their contributions to critical conversations about financial literacy, investing strategies, life-stage planning and wealth management,” according to David Siegel, CEO of Investopedia.

Also Earth Equity has been named a Best for the World B Corporation for the third straight year. That honor goes to the top 10 percent of Certified B Corporations in the world.

Says Pete, “I’m especially happy that our award is specifically focused on customers. Our loyal clients intentionally choose to work with Earth Equity Advisors to help them align their investments with their values. This opportunity that we have to empower our clients to magnify their impact through responsible investing is so very important to the world today.

“It’s responsible investors who are leading the movement to make corporations more accountable, push for climate change solutions, divesting from fossil fuels and weapons manufacturers, and making the workplace safer for employees.”