The Style of Madeline Smith

A touch of the 1950s

My shirt adds a touch.

My daughter-in-law, Kara, explained the photos this way: “This is Madeline’s first week of school fashion… I really love that she is finding her own style and experimenting.”

Maddie’s mom has always had a nice sense of stylish flair and my grandgirl has been the beneficiary. Add to that the two years they lived in Spain and the notion that elegance is cool, and you get Maddie at 14, a young woman who has developed her own look and is comfortable with it.

Lose the backpack, Mads.

USO dance, 1944.

She has combined Goodwill (the outdoor shirt I bought for her) with the yellow lounging outfit, long sweaters, 1940s frocks, combat boots, Goth darkness, a haircut that looks like an accident and those ever-present and alluring dimples to become Madeline, Viking Warrior, which she has been since she was about 8. Now she has the clothes for it.

Here’s Madeline’s fashion as she enters high school in Memphis. She will take it with her to stir up Texas when the family moves to Waco at the end of September.

One tip: Straighten the shoulders, sweetie.

Maddie wore this on a theatre date with me (minus the jacket) when she was here this summer.

The Value of People Who Want To Live Here

Coochanelli wants only those with money.

The Trump Administration, with former Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken “Cooch” Coochanelli at the point, wants to rewrite the inscription on the Statue of Liberty so that America becomes a welcoming country only for well-to-do white people only.

The plaque was attached to the statue after it was constructed, but its intent has always been a part of our country’s reason for being: We want those looking for an opportunity, regardless of their culture, their circumstances, their religion.

Here are a few people we have welcomed, that were poor when they got here, but aren’t any longer. A lot of Americans benefitted from that largesse.

In 2016 “42 slots on The Forbes 400 belong to naturalized citizens who immigrated to America. That’s 10.5% of the list, a huge overperformance considering that naturalized citizens make up only 6% of the U.S. population,” according to Forges.

Here are a few success stories (not necessarily on the Forbes list) that the Trumpsters may want to consider before banning people because of the color of their skin or their religion.

  • Yahoo founder Jerry Yang (Taiwan)
  • Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi (India)
  • Andrew Ly Sugar Bowl Bakery (Vietnam)
  • Vinod Dham CEO of Silicon Spice (India)
  • Rijat Gupta ex-managing director McKinsey & Co. (India)
  • Elie Weisel author and Jewish activist (Transylvania)
  • Mel Martinez former U.S. Senator, chairman Chase Bank of Florida (Cuba)
  • Andy Grove co-founder Intel (Hungary)
  • Lowell Hawthorne founder Golden Crust Caribbean Bakery & Grill (Jamaica)
  • Gene Simmons (Chaim Witz) musician with KISS (Hungary)
  • Ahmad Meradji Booklogix CEO (Iran)
  • Felix Sanchez de la Vega Guzman Puebla Foods founder (Mexico)
  • Sergey Brin co-founder Google (Russia)
  • Shahid Khan Jacksonville Jaguars owner (Pakistan)

I’m writing a story for early next year that will feature some of our more successful immigrants and you will know some of them. Imagine what we’d be without them.




Subtle Changes Mark the Seasons

Celebrate good times, come on!

Virginia creeper showing its red.

Sometimes, the outside is so glorious I can’t contain myself and this past weekend presented two days’ worth of that glory. I was outside, hiking, paddling and thoroughly enjoying the sun, the breeze, the clarity of the air, the smells and the soaking of all five senses at the same time.

The colors in the woods are beginning to ease toward fall, giving hints with the subtle changes of color in poison ivy, the Virginia creeper and a wide variety of other flora and fauna. It is a time to take notice.

Faux muscle boy.

A flower all his own.

I’m not sure what this is, but it’s lovely.

This says “fall” in a loud voice.

I think these are poison sumac berries.

Not sure what spun this web, but it’s striking and a little spooky.


Renewing a Good Friendship on the Cove

Pam paddles toward me as fog clings to the mountain in the distance. The fog was lovely.

Pam has that great up-from-the-feet, full-throated laugh, even as Pampa tries to shoot a selfie.

It’s always odd to me how when I don’t see a good friend for a while, little gets lost in the intervening time. My pal Pam Golden and I have been promising to put the boats in the water for nearly two years and did it today, breaking away from schedules that sometimes confine us.

We hadn’t missed a beat, chattering about all manner of important and unimportant matters for a good while as we paddled the bumpy waters of Carvin’s Cove. It was a perfect day and the company could not have been better. Pam, who owns Glazed Bisque-It and helps people make some special ceramics, was full of good stories and great humor. So good to see her again.

Pam took this shot of Pampa, heading for her, wearing his hemp hat.

Only in the Family …

Becky, Paul, me and Paula’s damn dog, Bubby. Talk about the Energizer Bunny.

I spent the weekend in Asheville visiting family and telling stories only we would enjoy and fully appreciate. We grew up poor and about as disjointed as a family can be, often hungry, sometimes hurt, always laughing out loud.

We seemed to remember that last part best when Becky, Paul and I got together with my Margie and Paul’s daughter, Paula. I think Paula was probably taken aback by the blunt honesty of some of the revelations and I was, frankly, surprised at how much new information can come out when siblings–all well over 60–get together and start swapping stories.

Some of the revelations were dubious, some enlightening, a couple shocking, but all fully entertaining, giving us something to chew on when we got back to our normal lives. I had a hell of a time.

My brother and I swap political barbs frequently online (Paul’s a long-time Republican who does not try to defend Trump’s behavior, though he agrees with some of his policies and I am of the view that the devil has taken second place in the awfulness sweepstakes), but we keep it civilized and nobody gets mad. I guess that’s family. I wish it was everybody’s family. Becky, by the way, proved to be the absolute queen of gossip, especially family gossip. I had to say, several times, “Oh, you’re not real!” She insists she was.

A Side Trip to Mayberry

Pampa with Andy and Opie Taylor in front of the Andy Griffith Museum.

Margie got to pose, too.

Margie and I hadn’t planned on making a stop on the way home from Asheville today, but she mentioned that Mt. Airy, N.C., which I’ve always knows was the basis for Mayberry of the Andy Griffith Show had a whole street dedicated to the show.

So we went. And we found the real Mayberry. Cool as a summer watermelon, it was. Here’s a bit of what we found, including Snappy’s cafe where the atmosphere was reminiscent and the food probably authentic, given the fact that it left a lot to be desired.

We had a good time in Mayberry.

Margie found Snappy Lunch and we ate there.

Margie got a BLT and I stuffed with the pork chop sandwich, which was curious, but it’s the “North Carolina State Sandwich,” according to lore.

This is the first view inside Snappy’s.

The decor is, well, authentic.

Here’s the downtown icon of icons.

Opie would love this.

Pampa found the ice cream parlor.

The Mt. Airy News covers the real stuff: BBQs.

Mayberry, the real one.

A Brief Visit to Lake Lure, Chimney Rock

The view from just above the rock of Lake Lure and the entire valley.

You can see the rock from a lot of angles.

Margie and I trouped down to Lake Lure and Chimney Rock from our little excursion to Asheville Saturday and found a Gatlinburg-style village with so many people it was hard to turn around without cramming an elbow into a rib. But it is a beautiful little town and Lake Lure is all I remember (except for the crowds): beautiful beaches, plenty of boats and a lot to do on a summer afternoon.

Our trip up Chimney Rock was my first (though I am a native of Asheville and had been down that way plenty of times). We took an adventurous bus trip up and back down the winding road (where the Chimney Rock Hill Climb is/was held) and it was a comic nail-biter. The nice driver assured us he hadn’t had a serious wreck in a week or two after telling us it was his first day on the job (“Just kidding, hahahahaha!”).

I like Chimney Rock, but I’d like to visit when I can get up there without having to move people out of the way. Gorgeous view, as you can see.

Margie enjoyed the balcony above the rock after climbing up.

Two old people on an adventure.

Lake Lure goes on for a bit.

This is the final climb to the top of the rock.

Lake Lure is a charming village.

The crowds had just begun to gather when I shot this. It got worse.

Loud (obnoxiously so) Harleys were all over the place and were often welcome.

Harleys are noisy and annoying as hell, but they make good pictures.

I found a kayak I wouldn’t want to paddle.

Who could forget?

Your choice: Cheerwine, RC, Nehi orange. I’ll do the Cheerwine.

Margie found a checkerboard, the game for old men … 

… and I found a roadster (like the one my dad had when he was courting Mom).

The beach at Lake Lure is beautiful.

Mom and the little dudes on the lake.

This guy gave us our hairy ride.

Margie and I had fun on the bus.

A final view for you and, yes, it’s phallic as hell.

Not So Lost in the ’50s Tonight

Paul and I at the side of the gorgeous ’50 Merc.

Margie and my sister, Becky, in the back seat. They love the car.

This Mercury Custom is one of several my younger brother, Paul, has owned and it’s one of the best. Paul buys and sells collectible cars, some quite valuable, others more aesthetically pleasing than expensive and still others simply head-turning in every respect.

Paul says this car used to be known as “Solid Gold” on the antique car circuit and was well regarded nationally. At this moment it is pretty much pristine but does not sell for as much as some other equivalent collectibles. “At a car show [recently], I got out of the car and talked to people for two hours about it, but nobody wanted to buy. They really seem to love it, but when it comes time to put up money, it’s, “Oh, no!’:

It’s about the details.

The Merc is chopped and channeled, meaning the top has been lowered abut five inches from its original height. I was surprised at how good the views from inside. Margie actually flipped over the car.

It will probably sell for around $30,000 or so I, about a tenth of what the best have sold for. Its original price was about $2,500.

This custom car has automatic transmission (a C4 transmission, and a nine-inch Ford rear end–Paul explains to me, who has no clue what he’s talking about). It would have come equipped with a flathead engine. It has power steering, windows and brakes, air conditioning and electric doors, none of that original. At night, you can turn on the neon lights around the bottom of the frame and “wow all the downtown drug addicts,” says Paul.

Paul giving a seminar on collectibles.

Me, pretending the Merc is mine. (For 35Gs, it could be.)

‘Not a Good Day for Old Men’

This is the photo that set me off. God, those shorts!

There are days when age simply shows up and shocks those of us on the outer limits of life expectancy. Yesterday it happened to me at an unexpected moment. I was posting a photo of my friend Karen Chase and me just after we finished eating a couple of fish tacos at Alejandro’s in downtown  Roanoke.

There stood Karen looking sleek, fresh and pretty beside an old man I simply didn’t recognize. It was me, I know, because I was there, but it bore no resemblance to how I normally picture myself and how the camera often treats me–with kindness.

The face was gaunt, the body limp and sagging, the shorts simply awful (they were in the trash moments after I put the photo on my computer screen) and the whole demeanor as tired as Robert Mueller’s testimony yesterday.

Maybe it was an aberration: not a good day for old men.

I have always fessed up to my age and never tried to deceive anybody about it. I’m 72, 73 next Wednesday and, truth be told, I’m healthy and in pretty good physical shape. My memory is as good as that of most of my friends in the 30-40 range. I eat right, get a lot of mental and physical exercise and tend to the parts of life that are important. My energy level surprises a lot of people. But there I was yesterday, looking like those other people I see when I attend a class reunion (“Who the hell are all these old people?”).

I won’t lose a lot of sleep about it even though vanity (thanks, Mom) is part of my fabric. The other half of the equation is recognition of the truth. And the truth is that I am old and that ain’t changing in the next few days.


A Memorial to Salem: Sports Town

Salem has been known as the premier sports town of Western Virginia since long before I moved here in 1971 and that’s finally going to get its own slice of the Salem Museum.

According to a press release from the Salem Museum, there are plans for a new gallery focusing on team and individual champions in many fields: athletics, academics, the arts, and civic and professional life. “This permanent installation will feature both traditional exhibits and a hands-on, interactive kiosk that will preserve the stories of Salem’s champions for years to come. Opening Day is planned for September 21, 2019.”

I’m happy to see this because I was editor of the Salem newspaper for several years and I know how important sports teams are to the natives. When I was a sportswriter for The Roanoke Times, I covered the Andrew Lewis High School football team that played T.C. Williams (“Remember the Titans”) in Roanoke’s Victory Stadium for the state championship, drawing about 20,000 people. Lewis was not represented in the movie and actually had a better story of integration than did T.C. Williams.

Mark O’Connell wrote a book about that team called The Team the Titans Remember (available here.)

In addition to the permanent exhibit, a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution called “Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America” will be in Salem Sept. 21 through Jan. 4. The Museum’s Fran Ferguson is “reaching out to what is for us a whole new audience.”

The release says, “The gallery will permanently showcase Salem’s champions, those who have been recognized with a first-place win at the state level or above. The Champions Celebration Gallery will include both traditional exhibits and a touch-screen kiosk that will enable visitors to search a rich database of stories about Salem’s many champions. The gallery will include the student state champions from Carver School, Andrew Lewis High School, Salem High School, Glenvar High School, and Roanoke College. The winners of national championships held in Salem will be recognized, as well as Salem’s high achieving professional athletes.”

The museum is looking for individuals, teams and stories to feature and it is 2/3 of the way toward its financial goal of funding the gallery. Donations can be mailed to the Salem Museum at 801 E. Main St., Salem, VA 24153, or made securely online at

Contact Fran Ferguson ( or Alex Burke ( at the Salem Museum if you have questions or information, or call 540-389-6760. More information is also available on the museum’s website,