What’s Up With the Fishburn Cottage?

Fishburn Cottage late last week.

I was in Roanoke’s Fishburn Park late last week, getting some exercise and as I was leaving, I noted the old Fishburn Cottage–which caused such a row a few months ago–sitting there getting older, grayer and less like an historic building.

As you might recall, architect Lora Katz offered to buy the cottage and renovate it, but a neighborhood group raised holy hell about the purchase, strongly objecting to it. Lora eventually backed out–more because she found the cost of renovation to be prohibitive than the protests. Nobody has stepped in, even though the neighborhood group said it wanted the house.

I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes (enlighten me, if you know), but the house is just sitting there, looking awfully lonely.

Croissant/Pizza: A Sunday Treat

I’m not sure this is much of an innovation in general, but it is for me, since I don’t generally care for pizza. Last night, I made some pizza rolls, using croissant dough and it was good.

I stretched out the croissants, using two individual pieces as one, and filled them with diced peppers (orange), onions, pizza sauce, mozzarella and mushrooms and cooked them for 22 minutes at 375. they were dang good. If I’d had room on the croissants, I would have added some spinach, but that was a right space and was filled.

The croissant gave the pizza a slightly sweet taste without a lot of sugar being used.

Americana at the Floyd Country Store

Margie and me at the Floyd Country Store (top right).

Violin unplugged.

Margie and I took advantage of a bright 70-degree day today to immerse ourselves in a little mountain culture, driving up to Floyd for music at the Country Store. This is a weekend tradition, when some good local bands occupy the stage and patrons get to listen for free and eat some of the interesting cafe offerings.

Today we saw a four-piece Americana band which, though not ready for the Grand Ole Opry, was entertaining enough.

(Forgive the quality of the photos. I forgot my camera and had to use my semi-intelligent phone.)

A Talk With My Best Girl in an Era of Hatred

I had a long, rich, deep, sad, funny, scary, soul-searching, proud talk with my grandgirl, Madeline, yesterday evening and came away with my belief that she will remain strong in this environment of hatred and lies.

Madeline will be 13 next month and she’s right smack in the middle of the national school malaise, one where the children are taking the lead to pull this country out of its self-dug hole–as they did in the 1960s with Vietnam. I mentioned to her how a large group of teenagers and people in their early 20s basically saved many thousands of soldiers from death in Vietnam by protesting–often violently and sometimes being tossed into jail–and finally getting those military kids, often in their teens, returned to their communities. Sometimes in pieces. But returned nonetheless.

I told her that the true American heroes are the ones who question, who protest, who change the country for the better.

Madeline talked about her small, tight group of friends (including a couple she still talks to almost daily in Spain) is pulling together, supporting each other, trying to figure out this mess and looking for answers. We talked about how community begins just that way–with those around us–and expands slowly to include the neighborhood, the city, the region, the state and finally the nation.

“We just want to be happy, to live in peace,” she said, echoing the mantra of people throughout the world, throughout history. It is a simple goal, one almost impossible to achieve in light of ambitious, greedy, power hungry white men who will stop at nothing to achieve their hateful goals. “I don’t know how we can stop war,” she said, “but I want it to stop.”

I mentioned that a Roanoke middle-school boy had been arrested for taking a gun to school this week and Maddie told me about an eighth-grader who had been jailed in her school near Memphis for raping and nearly killing a 5-year-old. She’s too young to be experiencing this level of violence, even indirectly (“I know the boy,” she said, “and I was shocked he would do something like that”) but so were the babies at Sandy Hook and the teens at Parkland. So are we all.

I thought a lot about our Facetime talk yesterday through the evening and my hope for my best girl was solidified. She’s going to be OK and she will help others in that, as well.

Feb. 22 and It’s Too Pretty To Be Inside

It’s Feb. 22 (Washington’s birthday, as I recall), 83 degrees and I’ve just finished my exercise class, so what’s next?

Well, hell! What else? A hike in the noble wood.

There aren’t any flowers yet (that I could see yesterday or today on hikes), but it’s just a wonder being out in shorts and T-shirt in the middle of the freakin’ winter.

Couldn’t find anything else interesting to shoot, so I fiddled with my self-timer and shot myself.



Students Can Help Stop the Killing, As They Did in the 1960s

The smattering of student demonstrations against the mass Florida AR15 murders don’t amount to much more than a single news cycle diversion right now, but I’m hoping that, like the Women’s March shortly after Trump was elected, they’ll grow to overwhelming numbers.

I’d love to see junior high and high school walkouts (small children are too small for that) with gatherings at the various city halls in the country, as well as at the offices of representatives at the city, state and national levels. Making their non-voting voices heard in Washington is important, but so is getting the attention of state delegates and even city council representatives. Cities can regulate guns much more effectively than we are led to believe and my guess is that local cops will be on the kids’ sides.

I can’t wait for my grandgirl Madeline to lead a contingent of junior high kids marching,  chanting and carrying signs like it was the 1960s again. Remember this: Students got us out of Vietnam. They can help stop the current killing of our young, as well.

(Photo: University of Iowa archive.)

News Employees Lose Jobs at Roanoke Times

Belinda Harris

Two of the Roanoke Times announced firings this week are news employees. They are Tiffany Stevens, a young reporter, and Belinda Harris, the long-time librarian who, as I recall, was actually let go during an earlier purge, but brought back.

Belinda, who has always been immensely popular among the newsies, was at The Times when I was in the late 1970s, so she’s a valued veteran and a woman reporters have relied on for research over the years.

Two others among the seven people laid off, from what I’m told, are advertising employees Tyler Hardin and longtime employee Tammy Burdick. The other layoffs are also from advertising, according to my source, but I don’t know who they are. I’m told the position of retiring sports writer Randy King (who began at the paper as a high school kid when I worked there) will not be filled.

Randy King

According to The Times, the layoffs were “spurred by a decline in advertising revenue from national retailers.” Across BH’s dozens of newspapers (31 of them dailies, including a number in Virginia) there were 148 positions eliminated and another 101 cut. There was no explanation of what constituted a “cut” position vs. an “eliminated” position.

Online shopping is apparently crippling newspapers across the country, which comes as no surprise to anybody.

Tiffany Stevens

Company Chairman/CEO Terry Kroeger is quoted as saying, “The data suggest our industry is changing, not dying” and hinted that BH is confronting those issues. He emphasized that “our news content has never been more important than it is right now and we will continue to deliver news to our customers the way they choose to receive it.”




The owner of The Times is based in Omaha.

(Roanoke Times photos.)

Hillary Lost and So Did Gun Sales

Mass murderers prefer this killing machine which has a single purpose: killing people.

My son just sent me a link (here) to a story in the Financial Times of London about how American gun manufacturers were betting on a Hillary Clinton win over Donald Trump to drive sales through the roof. The result of the Trump win has been all but devastating to an industry whose sales were down substantially under Barack Obama.

The Times reports: “Shares in Sturm Ruger & Co, the largest US gunmaker, have fallen more than 20 per cent since the president took office, while American Outdoor Brands, the owner of Smith & Wesson, is down 60 per cent. America’s oldest gun manufacturer, Remington Outdoor, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this month.”

Clinton, the reasoning goes, would have scared hell out of gun owners, sending them on an orgy of buying to avoid legislation that would make guns harder to get. Gun sales traditionally have gone up when there have been mass shootings or Democrats elected to office, even though those Democrats are doing absolutely nothing to stem the tide of sales. Sales are inspired by fear. A Gallup Poll concluded recently that “About 42 per cent of households owned a gun in 2017, down from 51 per cent in 1993,” according to the FT story. That’s a hell of a lot of guns in a country where 300 million guns are owned.

The FT reported that “Remington, for one, had prepared for a boom in sales, including of its Bushmaster AR-15 style assault rifle,” the one most used in school killings, which “has been a target of gun control advocates.” An Aegis Capital financial analyst is reported to have concluded, “Before the election, everyone thought Hillary was going to win and she had promised to tighten gun control. Companies like Remington expected people to stock up. But that didn’t happen.”

Gun critics have for years talked about how the National Rifle Association is little more than a marketing agent for gun manufacturers and this report is a clear indication of that. The worse the news on the gun front, the more guns are sold, which leaves manufacturers in the embarrassing (if not frightening) position of supporting mass murder–whether intentionally or not.



Roaring Run in Black and White and Color

This is where Roaring Run gets its name.

The 1840s-era furnace.

Yesterday was a Plan B day because of the wintry precipitation mess, but today was dang-near perfect for the originally planned hike. So, today, it was off to Botetourt County and Roaring Run Furnace with its always-lovely waterfall.

It didn’t disappoint, as you can see in these photos.

I’ve been to Roaring Run many times, but saw this bridge for the first time today.

The bridge creates its own artwork.

Tiny native rainbow trout haunt the waters and tempt fishermen.

I went up the mountain to get to the falls, instead of taking the usual trail.

The blues and browns of the winter woods.

The winter colors can be bright as neon.

The falls in black and white are striking.

The little stream has its own whitewater rapids after heavy rain.

I’m Giving Up My Pro Bowling Career

Come back here, ball!

Getting prettied up.

This is to officially announce that I have decided not to ditch my 50-plus year career as a writer to join the professional bowling tour. I made the decision earlier today and it is firm. No more bowling for this old boy.

My friend Susan and I had scheduled a mid-winter hike today, hoping Feb. 17 would feel more like April 17. It didn’t. General nastiness prevailed, so we went with Plan B, which we didn’t have immediately at hand. Susan suggested bowling. “Bowling!?!” I said. “Who goes bowling.” She suggested bowlers probably were not my demographic and if we went, I probably would have to avoid talking politics.

So we went to Lee-Hi Lanes in Salem, a 2-star rated complex near Salem Valley 8 Cinema, which has been in place since well before I moved to Roanoke in 1971. It looks about that age, but is perfectly acceptable for what we had in mind: bowling.

Susan and I as fashionistas.

I will admit that my game did not come up to my expectations. It did not even come up to Susan’s game. She pounded on me three straight games, in none of which did I break 100, quite an accomplishment in itself, I’d say.

At one point, I was rolling so many gutter balls (as she rolled strikes) that I pulled out the kiddie cart–the little thingy that helps 5-year-olds avoid the gutter. I rolled a gutter ball. Another one.

Susan was a good sport, winning with considerable grace and excuses for my performance. She seemed relieved when I told her of my decision to remain an amateur. So am I.

Susan has style …

… and panache …

… in her bowling form.

A gutter ball led to this, which led to a gutter ball.

This is … like, a dance. A bowling dance.

Man vs. bowling pin: the stare.

Susan and me: We’re happy to remain amateurs.