Today, I’d Take It Seriously

The young editor (me), having a giggle.

I’ve been toiling in the news business for half a century and during that time, I have occasionally received threats–some of them ominous (“I’m going to kill your lying ass!”). I never paid much attention to them and didn’t even report them to execs where I was working at the time. It didn’t seem serious.

If I got a threat today, I would call the FBI immediately. This is a far, far different world and the people who are threatening us are bat-shit crazy, following a madman.

A Reminder That with Old Age Comes Caution

That’s me munching a sandwich with my beaker of tea awaiting my attention … in hospital.

My old pal Sonya sent a photo of me in a hospital bed on this date four years ago, mentioning that she was happy to see I had just gotten a clean bill of health from my family physician. I did not recall exactly the circumstances of the “emergency” until a few minutes later when it occurred to me that my transient ischemic attack (TIA) had been in 2014.

A TIA is, as much as anything else, a warning that you’re on the verge of a stroke. Some actually are strokes. Mine wasn’t. I spent two or three days in the hospital (you can have your head replaced and you don’t get three days “in hospital,” as the Brits say). I left with absolutely no damage done and two days later–just to show them that I wasn’t sick–climbed McAfee’s Knob … alone. I know how stupid that was, but, hey …

I’m trying to set up my annual carotid artery scan–as we speak–to see if the blockage that caused the TIA has progressed. It hasn’t for the past two years, but I’m old and I have all the old man conditions, so a TIA, a polyp on my colon, skin discolorations or small cuts, dizziness, vomiting and on and on can be significant. As we age, we have to be vigilant.

Thank you, Sonya, for reminding me. (Let me also thank Sonya for being there four years ago. She’s a great care-taker.)

A Platform to Drive the GOP Nuts

Sean Hannity, the knuckle-dragging Cro-Magnon who has a large TV microphone, had a graphic drawn following Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in the congressional Democratic Primary in Brooklyn yesterday. She beat a long-time incumbent and Democratic Party leader.

Take a look at what she stands for. You might wonder what the objection is, but Republicans favor none of this and oppose it all. Remember that in November.

Come to the Red Hen’s Rescue

The Red Hen restaurant in Lexington.

Stephanie Wilkinson

Since Stephanie Wilkinson politely asked presidential mouthpiece Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave her restaurant, the Red Hen in Lexington, last week, the far right shock troops have been especially active.

Among their reported activities have been physical threats to Ms. Wilkinson. Lexington police officers are reported to be guarding her home. The restaurant has been closed until July 9.

What follows here comes from a closed Facebook group that supports Ms. Wilkinson and offers you the opportunity to do so, as well, with simple emails to Lexington officials.

The brown-shirt strutting Prussian thugs are threatening Lexington’s tourist economy with boycotts. You can balance that by going to Lexington and having lunch, buying from the downtown merchants’ shops, going to a horse show or a play, visiting the VMI Museum (it’s lovely) or generally just hanging out and telling anybody who asks, “I support the Red Hen and Lexington in general.”

Here’s the list of officials and their email addresses:

* Frank Friedman:
* Noah Simon:
* Marylin Alexander:
* Leslie Straughan:
* Michele Hentz:
* J. Patrick Rhamey:
* David Sigler:
* Chuck Smith:
* Tracy Lyons, Lexington-Rockbridge Chamber of Commerce:
* Jean Clark, director, Lexington and the Rockbridge Area Tourism:

Pampa’s Precious Pickles Preserved

Mother Smith’s World Famous Home Made Sugar-Free Bread and Butter Pickles.

Yesterday, I picked my first cucumbers of the season. Today, I ate my first home made sugar-free bread and butter pickle on a tuna sandwich (the pickle and the bagle were roughly the same diameter).

That was quick, you might say, but I work fast. Simple recipe (with Stevia instead of sugar) and an overnight soak in a sealed jar and, presto! It’s pickles. Pretty dang good, too.

Gratitude Today: Journalists Under Seige

Journalism has been my chosen career for more than 50 years and I’ve always felt almost magically blessed that I am in a profession I so treasure. I got in with no education and actually couldn’t even type when I began as a copy boy in 1964, just out of high school.

Through the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, ’00s and ’10s I worked at various levels, various types and styles and with print and electronic outlets, daily, weekly, monthly, slick and newsprint. Always, it was about good reporting and good writing and ultimately photography was mixed in. I love it all.

In the past few years, though, journalism as I knew it has been under siege from every side: technology, corporate ownership, shrinking revenues, the Trump Administration, print costs and a number of other variables. Our local daily here has undergone a number of changes that have affected its quality pretty severely and now its management has been taken over by a company whose goals are not clear to me, but I’m certain it is not improved journalism.

The one constant in all this, despite the slow crumbling of the empire, has been that a solid core of journalists has remained true to the inspiration that led them into the profession. The local daily–despite a corporate policy against giving raises without promotions–has a number of solid professionals and they push against the tide constantly to turn out stories that mean something, though their resources have dwindled steadily.

I admire these professionals and am grateful for their commitment. Some of the names in Roanoke are Laurence Hammack, Dan Casey, Luanne Rife, Brian Kelly, Matt Chittum, Neil Harvey, Todd Jackson, Tonia Moxley, Jeff Sturgeon, Neil Harvey, Mike Allen, Ralph Berrier, Doug Doughty, Matt Gentry, Stephanie Klein-Davis and Dwayne Yancey. That’s not all of them, just the ones with whom I’m most familiar.

I don’t know if the end is near for newspapers, but it is not for journalists. As long as people care about truth–and most people still do, despite appearances–they’ll have jobs. Thank god for that.

Roanoke Times Under New Management

MarketWatch’s Ciara Linnane reports the following, which could have a direct effect on you:

“Lee Enterprises Inc. shares LEE, +15.63% surged 56% in pre-market trade Tuesday, after the company said it is teaming up with BH Media Group Inc. to manage Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s newspaper and digital operations in 30 markets, effective July 2. [One of those newspapers Lee will manage is The Roanoke Times.]

“Under the terms of the deal, Berkshire will remain owner of BH Media, but Lee will be able to implement revenue initiatives and other strategies that are in line with how it manages its own papers.

“Davenport, Iowa-based Lee has nearly 300 weekly and specialty publications serving 49 markets in 21 states. BH Media owns 30 daily newspaper and digital operations, as well as 47 paid weekly newspapers and websites and 32 other print products, including the Winston-Salem Journal, the Richmond Times Dispatch and Tulsa World.

“Berkshire Chief Executive and Chairman Warren Buffett said Lee’s growth in digital market share and revenue has outstripped the industry. ‘Our missions and goals match exactly, our markets are similar, and we both have excellent managers,’ he said. ‘Operating together will strengthen both of us, and Lee is logical to lead the process.’ Shares have gained 2.1% in 2018 through Monday, while the S&P 500 SPX, +0.08% has gained 1.6%.”

I have no idea what this means in the long run, but BH Media has not been good for the Roanoke market and my guess is that Lee will intensify the disconnect.

Gratitude Today: Great Salsa

Mrs. Wagner’s Create Salsa is responsible for this yummy combo.

No doubt about it: I’m a salsa guy. I make my own, but will eat just about any salsa that calls itself that. Quite simply, “salsa” is Spanish for “sauce.” It has, however, taken on a meaning that is a bit more specific than that.

Salsa is what we use to dip our corn chips in and serve on top of our Mexican food. If you’re me, you serve it on a hell of a lot more than Mexican food. Try it on a baked potato for lunch or on a garden salad, for example. It’s great over noodles or decorating a steak or a batch of grilled shrimp.

The salsa above is made with canned tomatoes and Mrs. Wagner’s Create Salsa, which I fell into almost accidentally at Kroger recently. It was on the Manager’s Special table, which meant it was half price and I thought, “Hell, I’ll try that.” It was just a buck fifty. From the minute I opened the package, I knew I had a winner.

What’s even more special with this mixture is that you don’t need to use much and you don’t need anything else except tomatoes. I chop cilantro, onions and peppers, squirt a bit of lime juice in and occasionally add corn and black beans, but that’s gilding the lily. Doesn’t need any of that with Mrs. Wagner’s.

So, my gratitude today is not so much for salsa (though I love the stuff), but for Mrs. Wagner for making it easier and better.

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

… It’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.