Help My Pal Rod Help His Girl

My friend Rod Belcher, a nationally prominent author of science fiction works who lives in Roanoke, is in a fix. His daughter, Emily, has had problems for the past year or so and Rod has been working hard to help solve them.

Now, he needs your help. “Please help me help my little girl get a fresh start on her life. She’s a wonderful person and if anyone deserves a fresh start, it’s Emily. Anyone who knows her knows that’s true,” he says.

Here’s his request of you (and me):

Hi, guys! as many of you know, I’ve been raising money to get Emily out of Roanoke City when she comes home. So, as part of that ongoing effort, I’m selling paperback and hard cover books and graphic novels this Saturday at the Drag Yard Sale held by the Park Dance Club, to benefit Roanoke Pride.

I’ll also have some hardcover copies of my novel Six-Gun Tarot there for sale and I’ll even sign it for you ( Hell, I’ll sign anything if you come out and help me help my kid—checks, deeds of sale, bills of lading, arrest warrants, you name it!)

I’ve got thousands of books and graphic novels and I’ll be bringing whatever I can carry out.The event is at The Park Dance Club on Salem Ave. from 11 am ’till 2 pm. There’s a $2 charge to come shop. The proceeds support Roanoke Pride, which is a great organization.

Largest Virginia Newspaper Sold to Tronc

The Virginian-Pilot has been around for a while.

Tronc, a significant newspaper conglomerate, has purchased the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, a former sister publication at Landmark with The Roanoke Times. The Times and a number of other Virginia papers were sold a few years ago to BH (Berkshire Hathaway) Media. The V-P sold to Tronc for $34 million.

Tronc, formerly Tribune Publishing and based in Chicago, owns the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, Baltimore Sun, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, Hartford Courant and the Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. The Tronc-owned Daily Press Media Group also publishes the The Virginia Gazette and Williamsburg Magazine in Williamsburg, and Tidewater Review in West Point.

According to a story in the Daily Press, “The Virginian-Pilot is the largest daily newspaper in Virginia with a Sunday circulation of 132,000 … is visited by 1.9 million visitors each month. … Pilot Targeted Media, produces Inside Business, The Flagship and Style Weekly, as well as numerous other publications and associated websites.”

My friend Bill Kovarik, a college professor and former journalist, summed up the sale thusly: “Formerly Tribune, still owns LA Times, Chicago Tribune, also in VA the Daily Press and Williamsburg Gazette. Tribune had a leveraged buyout just before 2008, Chapter 11 bankruptcy, refused offers from community leaders to buy LA Times and convert to nonprofit. Fairly recently split profitable broadcast and web divisions off from unprofitable print divisions. So, failing company driving the news business into the ground and refusing to change.”


A New Mayo for the Gods

I love good mayonnaise. So much so that I took great pains to learn how to make it (and it’s really pretty simple). Mom made the best I ever tasted. My old friend Steve Hartman (who used to own On the Rise Bakery in Roanoke), was in second place.

I’m third, and leading the commercial group–until today–has been McCormick (yep, the spice people). Far better than Hellman’s and another world away from Duke’s. Let’s not even mention that god-awful stuff Southerners put on tomato sandwiches.

Today, I discovered a commercial mayo that bumps Hellman’s, McCormick’s, mine and Steve’s. It’s almost as good as Mom’s (but doesn’t have my mother’s love in the jar). It’s called Sir Kensington’s and it’s expensive. But, oh, that taste (the result of all-natural ingredients and “free range eggs,” grown by people who love our world). Found it at Kroger, of all places.

The potato salad I just made is to die for, but I think I’ll just have it on the side for dinner.

A Day of Absorbing Water, Color, Movement

Green, dark, wet and lovely was Falls Ridge yesterday.

Susan’s shot of mom and boy out for a hike.

The mass of rain of late has created some interesting situations both inside and outside nature. My friend Susan and I hiked Falls Ridge Sunday, then, on the way home with a second hike at Altamont in Montgomery County in mind, we decided to forego it and go inside. That would be Dixie Caverns.

What we found was a drenched trail at Falls Ridge and waterfalls that were unusually full. At the Caverns, we found something similar: saturated ground that wet the floors throughout the interwoven pathways and made for a lot of drip-drip-drip from the stalactites. Not to mention the constant threat of falling.

Still, both provided some interesting views and no lack of enthusiasm among the crowds they attracted. Here is some of what we experienced.

The limestone rocks along the way are filled with caves and images of impending doom (if you’re a 7-year-old kid).

Somebody saw the rocks this way.

Susan’s camera is at a constant “aim” position.

The dampness provided a few mushrooms.

This big rock (shot by Susan) was full of moss and mud.

A young hiker from the University of Wisconsin-Madison shot Susan and me at the falls.

Water is falling everywhere at this spot along the trail.

Interesting how some trees simply refuse to give up. Might be a lesson in that.

Susan loves stumps. Stumps love Susan.

I like this shot by Susan for the story it tells.

Dixie Caverns’ inside pools were full.

I was outside the cave, Susan was inside. Look who got the best shot.

This is precisely what it looked like inside Dixie Caverns (that’s me on the right). The little kid asked questions the entire time. He was great entertainment.

Susan’s shot of our guide on the wet steps.

Susan shot this defining waterfall photo.

We paused often to look at the beauty around us.

This waterfall detail is a burst of color and movement.


Gratitude Today: The Peacemakers

All that marching and yelling led to an end to the Vietnam War.

Today is Memorial Day, traditionally a time to remember soldiers who died during war. I prefer to celebrate those who spent their efforts averting war, protesting the stupidity of government and the greed of the oligarchs, who work together to give us wars we don’t want or need.

Those standing on the picket line, fighting Congress, or protesting in other ways have my deep respect, regard and appreciation. May their tribe grow.

Where’s the FESTIVAL in the Park?

They weren’t exactly packed in at the amphitheater.

Love this glasswork.

The 50th edition of Roanoke’s most identifiable annual celebration, Festival in the Park, might have broken records for participation today, but that’s not a good thing. The record would be on the low end because during the middle of the day it was more ghost town than Easter Parade.

The numbers of vendors and people wanting to enjoy the music, food and crafts was woefully down, something that has seemed to me to be a trend for the past few years. My guess is that it will pick up this evening (if the rain holds off, which it doesn’t appear to want to do) and next weekend when art is the feature.

Still, it was eerily quiet as a group of kids from the Southwest Virginia Ballet took the stage to perform some pretty dances and several individual acts played before either nobody or very few throughout the venue. The normally packed area in front of Roanoke’s downtown library had almost nothing going on.

Still, there’s plenty to see if you look. Here’s some of what I saw.

Dancers ruin their feet and entertain us.

More dancing without the toe destruction.

This young food worker must have enjoyed the sun yesterday.

In past years, this area was full of tents for craftspeople.

These people were prepared for the worst.

This face-paint artist seems to know her colors.

Yes, I wanted some. No, I didn’t give in.

The family that eats ice cream together doesn’t have to smile together.

What little activity existed today, was here, in front of the library on Jefferson Street.

This young woman was playing flute in a rock ‘n’ roll band. Sadly, almost nobody noticed. She was good.

Bus Didn’t Dent Karen’s Humor

Karen in a Nashville hospital.

My friend Karen Pryor, who was hit by a bus earlier this week in Nashville, posted this photo and her comment today on Facebook:

“One dear friend who visited today wanted to take a picture to commemorate my getting hit by a bus. So here I am in all my trauma center glory, with what Roy calls my “Albert Einstein hair.” He says he likes it, which is good because with seven staples in the back of my head it’s going to be a long time before I get a shampoo.”

She added this update: “My condition today is nothing short of miraculous. It was mostly pain free. Had visitors all day to cheer me on. I was able to sit up in bed and stand for a few minutes with a walker. Can’t walk yet and one lung is still a bit collapsed but your prayers have helped!”

I love that woman. Funny, brave, inspiring.

Gratitude Today: Liberal as Conservative

Today, I am grateful for George Will, whose notes on conservatism are always entertaining, even if most often wrong.

Will makes an interesting argument today in the Washington Post (here) that if you want to understand what a true conservative president is, you need to look at the 1912 election that gave us Woodrow Wilson and rejected Teddy Roosevelt and William H. Taft (the true conservative).

What’s fascinating about Will’s argument is that nearly all his arguments for Taft (who won eight electoral votes as a sitting president) describe his bonafides as a liberal: trust busting, creation of national parks, tariff revision, favoring limited authority in the presidency, strong belief in judicial independence.

The election of 1912 split the Republican Party until Reagan re-defined it with his brand of conservativism. Of course, the current Republican has nothing to do with anything that preceded it … at least in this country.


A Brief Diversion at The Run

Swift Roaring Run shot at 1/8 of a second, hand-held (by a 71-year-old dude).

Margie looking lovely in her hiking flip-flops.

I had a photo shoot out in Fincastle this morning (actually two of them) and Margie was in for a visit, so the two of us trucked out there and went on a few miles farther after the pictures were taken to Roaring Run.

This is a sweet little hike that suits Margie considerably, since she rarely remembers to bring shoes she can hike in when she visits. This time, she had flip-flops.

No matter, we hit the trail and here are some photos.

I love the bridges of Roaring Run.

That’s me trying to look cool while shooting photos.

This little box turtle walked with for a while.

Can anybody tell me what the white stuff is?

Margie shooting me while I shot her.

Whew! Margie found the bathroom just in time.

Looking for a photo (there’s plenty to shoot).

Gratitude: Karen and Trauma Care

Karen and me when I visited her Liberty literature class.

My friend Karen Swallow Prior, who teaches English at Liberty University and writes beautifully, survived a horrible incident Wednesday, being struck by a bus in Nashville.

Karen, who has a pelvic fracture and cracked ribs that hinder breathing, emerged from surgery yesterday and is on the way back to health, burning up social media with “thank you” notes to well-wishers. This brave woman is strong (a runner) and committed. Nothing ad dinky as a bus will overtake her.

My gratitude extends beyond Karen recovering to the medical team–and teams like it all over the country–that snapped to attention when she was brought in and reacted to her trauma with skilled professionalism.

We often complain about medical care in America–which is near the bottom for first world nations and is the most costly in the world–but trauma care is  unparalleled, thank god.

Be well soon, Karen. We need your wisdom, your humor and your kind compassion.