A Windy, Beautiful Day at the Cove

That’s me in my sexy pink T-shirt, taking a break on a Cove island.

Today is such a perfect day to paddle on Carvin’s Cove that I thought I’d do it twice. Went this morning and I’m planning a return trip with a friend or two at 4 p.m. It’s just gorgeous out there. Here is some of what it looked like this morning.

The water is high today and the colors glorious.

These guys settled in for a picnic on one of the Cove islands.

this is the parking lot, which was nearly full this morning.

Blue and green and blue and …

See you at the Cove at 4.

Today’s Magic Number: 23

Worshiping at the porcelain throne required instructions when I was bombed.

If I get through today without a drink–and one presumes that will happen–I’ll have 23 consecutive years of sobriety. Add that to 23 years (and a few months) without a cigarette and I’m looking like a healthy fool.

The 23 years off booze has, quite frankly, been easy. It was not easy making the decision to turn my failed life around, though. I first entered AA in 1971 and it wasn’t until 1994 that I took what I hope is my final drink. That’s–ta dum!–23 years.

Reversing–or arresting–an addiction is difficult. During those 23 years between recognizing my alcoholism and kicking it out the door, I built a little clean time here and there–once up to a year–but I was not committed. The day I made the real commitment, I felt it, and that feeling was one of safety in the decision, not the uncertainty that had plagued me for years.

It was the same experience I had putting cigarettes away, but the physical addiction there was more powerful. From what I’ve read, nicotine is as addictive as cocaine (with which I have no experience). I used the nicotine patch to help reduce the craving and it helped a great deal. But I would still be smoking, patch or no patch, if I hadn’t committed to being cigarette free. I mean really, truly committed.

The truth is that putting aside the drink–after having moved away from cigarettes–was relatively easy. I don’t recall once during the past 23 years when I seriously considered drinking. It is repulsive to me now. Cigarettes are even more so, almost to the point of projectile vomiting when I smell them.

Still, as I have noted before, addiction is a bad man waiting around the corner with a baseball bat, waiting to smack me between the eyes. And I must be aware of that every day.

(Graphic: http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com)


‘Moonlight and Magnolias’ Is for Laughs

From the moment you enter the auditorium for Mill Mountain Theatre’s production of “Moonlight and Magnolias” it is obvious that this glitzy art deco set is going to play a big part in your evening. And it does.

Jimmy Ray Ward’s set, the office of movie studio head David O. Selznick, is as much a character in this play–based upon the writing of the screenplay  for “Gone with the Wind”–as are Selznick, Ben Hecht and Victor Fleming. Those three men spend the two hours of the play sequestered in the office trying to come up with a script for the big, expensive production of one of America’s most popular books.

I will mention here that I googled the various sets used throughout the regional theaters in the country producing “Moonlight and Magnolias” and couldn’t find one nearly so spectacular as that at MMT. The details, which include old movie posters (one with Jean Arthur, my favorite actress) and studio publicity head shots of actors, are as interesting as the margins of Mad Magazine.

Through the course of the five days of Hect writing (actually it took two weeks) and Selznick and Fleming acting out the play, the office becomes thoroughly trashed, as do the principal characters, played by Sid Solomon, J. Richey Nash and Patrick Halley, all New York-based equity actors. That these actors are pros is obvious from the opening lines through the closing bows.

“Moonlight” is genuinely funny with peals of laughter flowing throughout and each of the three male leads taking turns in the spotlight. That spotlight is occasionally turned on Amanda Sox,(who works at MMT), Selznick’s beleaguered secretary Mrs. Poppenghul (the only character not based on a real person). She doesn’t have a lot to do, but she’s very funny doing it. Ms. Sox’s husband, Jay Briggs, is the director, pulling the pieces together nicely.

As Hecht, who has not even read Margaret Mitchell’s soap opera of a book, taps the new screenplay (on an old metal portable typewriter), Fleming and Selznick act it out and therein lies the comedy. GWTW has run into a huge glitch, including a screenplay that doesn’t work. Selznick shuts down the production to get a new script and pulls in the former newspaperman (Hecht) and chauffeur (Fleming) to rework it. Fleming, in fact, is stolen from the set of “The Wizard of Oz.”

It is a lively evening with good performances, lots of bananas and peanuts (their diet for the five days) and many, many laughs.

The play runs through May 7. Tickets are $20 to $40 and can be ordered at 540-342-5740 or online (here).

Robyn Schon and Sarabeth’s (Continued) Influence

Robyn Schon and her book, Portrait of the Wind.

As I’ve been saying about once a week since my young friend Sarabeth Hammond died in an automobile accident in December, “She hasn’t gone anywhere.”

Another example of her immediate influence roared into my book case today when my dear friend Robyn Schon summoned me to the Berglund Center, which she manages, because, “I have something for you.”

“Something” turned out to be Robyn’s first book, a lovely little volume titled Portrait of the Wind, which features her poetry, written over the years, and her artwork, similarly accumulated. Robyn said that a year ago, I gave her one of the pen and inkwell pins I gave those teaching at the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference, telling her that she was now officially a writer. She took that to heart.

Then, she met Sarabeth at a Civic Center event Sarabeth’s mother, Caroline Hammond, was putting on and  Robyn was quite taken with  the teenager. She and Sarabeth talked–both incessantly, I’d imagine, since neither knows what a period is–and finally, Robyn asked how old Sarabeth was at the time. Sixteen, said Sarabeth.

“It was amazing how much she had accomplished in those 16 years,” said Robyn. She thought of the boxes of her collected poetry, prose and artwork sitting ignored in her home and decided it was time to publish. The result is this lovely little book, which I will treasure.

You can get your copy ($19.99 hardback; $3.99 Kindle) at Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com.

Preparing Boston Butt Whole

Read the label. Carefully. Still don’t believe me?

People eat strange things. Hog brains, beef tongues, scrapple, chitterlings, pickled pig’s feet (my dad loved those and cooked the chitterlings), road kill, ground hog, bats and all kinds of other crap.

My favorite, though–and maybe yours, too–is Boston Butt Whole, from which we get great barbecue. It’s part of the back end of the pig and, as we all know, we eat everything on the pig but the oink. This is good stuff, though and if you haven’t had pork BBQ made with the Whole, you ain’t lived, baby.

As proof this exists, I offer you the Kroger label that came on the Whole that’s in my oven right now, making the house smell like a Lion’s Club convention.

A Visit With a Good, Old Friend

Pete and me at Panera.

Just had lunch with one of my best friends–ever–Pete Krull. Pete’s in town to work personally with some of his investment clients (I’m one, but my “estate” is so small that it  gives us both a good laugh) through his Earth Equity Advisers.

Pete and I share a lot of values and the reason he has invested my money is because he does it the right way, considering who’s getting the investment and whether that company shares my priorities. His company’s motto is, “Helping you align your investments with your values.”

You might imagine that means less return on your buck, but it doesn’t. Not at all. He’s happy to tell you precisely how it equates, and I can tell you that when people were losing a lot of money during the Bush financial travesty, I was not.

Anyhow, catching up with a valued old friend is worth its weight in gold. Pete has moved from Sapelo Island, Ga., where his wife, Melissa Boothe, was a marine biologist with the University of Georgia, to my hometown of Asheville. They love it there–at least partly, I think because of the “values” thingy. Asheville is a liberal city in a sea of Trump-like government. It is also gorgeous.

Pete and Melissa have spent a bit of time in Costa Rica in the past couple of years and Pete is quite taken with the country, hoping at some point to invest there–with Melissa’s approval. There was a lot to catch up on, but what I always come away with from these reunions is just how much I miss people like Pete.

One of the issues I remember that attracted Pete and me to each other is that we were in businesses where people assumed us to be conservative–Pete investments, me as editor of a business publication at the time we met. We both had fun with that.

Sometimes Just Go With What You Know

Sometimes, I swear, I just make it hard on myself, going around my ass to get to my elbow, when I very well know the proper way.

Latest example is the purchase of a small, 4V household electric screwdriver. I use these for photo framing and it makes putting the frames together so much easier–when you have a good drill.

I went to Lowes–knowing Lowes does carry Craftsman, the tool I have preferred all my adult life–and bought a Black and Decker model for $31. Took it home, charged it for nine hours (after having to use dynamite to get inside the hard plastic, shrink-wrap plastic) and then turned it on for use. Nothing. Didn’t charge. Tried it again. Nada.

Took it back and traded for another, getting the explanation that “sometimes you just get a dud.” Today I took the second one back and said I didn’t want another. The damn things won’t take a charge.

So I drove the extra two miles over to Sears, bought a Craftsman ($21, saving $10 for a better drill) and it’s already working. Didn’t have to charge it. Didn’t have to use dynamite to get into the nice box with the drill wrapped in light, easy-to open plastic. Sears came through again. I hope to god Sears doesn’t close before I die, leaving me at the mercy of Lowes or Home Depot.

A New Tea Room for Salem

Lynchburg has its British tea room downtown and it has done land office business for years. I love the place.

Now, Salem will get a tea room of its own–the White Oak Tea Tavern–and I suspect I will be an occasional visitor. Glad this is happening, especially with this tea room, which is branching off from the tea tavern you have passed for some years on U.S. 220 in Botetourt County, but never stopped at because you were going somewhere else.

Memorable Personal Moments in Sports

Madeline stranded in the middle of the pool, heartbroken because she couldn’t finish the race.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked Facebook friends to tell me about their best moment in sports, whether from a personal, team or fan standpoint. Below is some of what I got in return.

Mine, I think, was when my grandgirl, Madeline, who began the season not a swimmer, bolted off the blocks in the 50m freestyle in the City-County meet and roared to a win, looking like she had a motor. My son asked, wide-eyed and jaw dropped, “Is that Madeline?!?”

I’ve been involved in organized, unorganized, disorganized, individual and team sports since I could walk, but nothing beat that, especially considering that Madeline had failed to finish a 50mm freestyle three weeks earlier and was left weeping alone in the middle of the pool. It was redemption at its best and it showed me that the little girl I love so is tough as hell.

Madeline with her motor on full throttle.

Anne Sampson Not a moment but a process. I was not an athletic little kid and I got tired of being picked last. Asked my parents for a softball bat and ball, and went up and down my dad’s 2 acres, throwing the ball up and trying to hit it. Became a pretty good hitter, no more last on the team. I still have the bat.

 Scott Martin Personal? Looking at the New River Gorge from a raft and thinking there was no way I could ever kayak something that big. Then, getting good enough to kayak it. Team: Being at the fiesta bowl where Boise State upset Oklahoma.

Fred Sachs Personal: Telling the coach, who wanted to punt on 4th down in our territory, that we could get that first down. I got the ball and the first down. Powerful memory.Observed: Tiger getting three birdies on his last three holes at the Greenbrier Classic. Tough creative shots, tough putts, incredible display of what made him the greatest in his prime. It felt like a gift to get to see that.

Jana Joyce I love a great football story! Loving football came natural growing up with Coach Eddie Joyce, and Eddie Jr. (Note: The Joyces were Salem icons in the 1960s and 1970s.)

Jeanne Fishwick Personal: As my oldest son approached the 18th green in the High School district tournament, it was clear he wasn’t going to qualify for States. As he trudged up the long green, players from four different high schools gathered at the flag, chanted his name and celebrated his high school golf career. He was never a star, but always a soldier and a gentleman. So proud!
David Simpkins Personal: Being a two-year starter and a tri-captain of the very first State Champion football team in Radford High School history in 1971-72. (Note from Dan: I covered that team for The Roanoke Times.)
Diana Christopulos Making a diving catch for the last out and 8th grade intramural championship as pitcher for my homeroom softball team at Aliamanu Intermediate School in Honolulu. Our opponents were big, tough kids – one girl carried razor blades in her bouffant hairdo. From that day on they respected us and were our friends. Ooh, and successfully running a Class III/IV monster in a solo boat in Desolation/Grey Canyon section of Green River in Utah. Ruined me for life!

First place!Dale Allen 1961 Paul Coffey League Champions Roanoke City Little League. South East Lions Club.

Shelley Luke Winning a NYC Open Karate Championship in the center ring of Felt Forum in Madison Square Garden. Glory days.
Jim Hammerstrom I guess my personal sports accomplishment would be starting on the varsity as a freshman at center of the Howard University football team in 1969. After that it would be as the coach of the South City Knights (SE Roanoke) sandlot football team to the city wide championship three years in a row. And we won two out of those three. One other would be the honor of coaching future NBA star George Lynch in Little League football.
Carter Turner August 29, 2000, the Rockies are playing the Braves. The game went to extra innings and the Rockies actually ran out of pitchers. In the 12th, they put catcher Brent Mayne on the mound – a guy who had never pitched in his life – ever, at any level. But somehow he got the ball over the plate and got the win. And the best part – asshole John Rocker got the loss for the Braves. Best game I ever saw!
Joe Cobb Three consecutive 3-point shots in Jr. High intramural basketball.
Lana Whited My son Brandon’s first soccer goal, because by the time he scored it (at five), he had already cried through about half the game because he was afraid to go in. (In the end, he scored four times, and his team won, 5-1.)

A happy little girl who overcame adversity.

Jennifer Grover Winning the Team gold medal at the National Pony Club eventing rally while riding with the Highlands Pony Club team from Radford in Middleburg, VA. In 1972.

We beat teams from all over the country and kids who were on or later made our US Olympic Team. Silver medal at Nationals the following two years at Omaha, Neb. And Columbus, OH. We had our “B” ratings and competed in dressage, cross-country jumping, stadium jumping, written test and stable management scores. The medals were for the total combo for four riders in all those divisions, jumps 3 feet, 6 inches.

Then achieving my “A” rating, an internationally recognized standard including all the above categories plus veterinary, teaching and training standards, given by national examiners over a four day testing on horses they chose and provided. Pretty exciting for a pack of hard working dedicated kids and instructors from Radford and Blacksburg riding inexpensive local horses we begged borrowed and trained ourselves! And hauled to rallies in an old cabbage truck.

Mountaintop View of the Blue Ridge Marathon

Sunrise on Roanoke Mountain.

A runner with a great backdrop.

Saturday’s Blue Ridge Marathon–a 26.2-mile mountain run–drew a crowd of more than 2,000 participants, a near flood, some sore feet and a trove of medals, many of them firsts.

The winners were among the firsts. Sarah Glenn, of Roanoke, a five-time half-marathon winner, won the women’s marathon, a first for her, in 3 hours, 28 minutes, 43 seconds, and Tim Gruber of Richmond won the men’s race, his first marathon, in  3:00:53.

All of that is well and good, but it isn’t the point here. This one is about my friend Susan’s photos from the top of Roanoke Mountain where she was a volunteer, arriving just after dawn and watching a spectacular, cloud-heavy sunrise and then working with tired runners for nearly four hours.

Some of Susan’s photos are simply records of what happened, others are watercolor aesthetics of what it looked like through her artist’s eye. Hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

The sun is trying to slip through. It didn’t. The rain came in a bit.

Women’s winner Sarah Glenn of Roanoke atop Roanoke Mountain.

The view was breathtaking.

Winner Tim Gruber running by the hydration station.

Father and son pausing to enjoy the morning.

Runners run up the steep incline six miles into the race.

Offering encouragement for a competitor.

My friend Susan (left) and her friend Susan represented Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway as volunteers.