The Bonnie Nobody Knew

This was my young friend Bonnie Pivacek about 20 or so years ago.

Bonnie, who’d be about 40 now, was a baker at my pal Steve Hartman’s On the Rise Bakery on Roanoke City Market and was looked upon as something of a wafish ragamuffin.

After these photos, people tended to see her differently with the classic East European profile and elegant neck. A real beauty. And an excellent photographer in her own right, as well (she took the shot of me for the cover of one of my books).

These were taken in an old junk yard–one with four steam engines–across the street from where Virginia Tech Carilion now sits. They are part of an album I rediscovered last weekend.

Plan B: A Photo Walk Along the River

I don’t like to fish, but I love photographing it, especially fly fishermen, as this guy is.

The idea today was to troop down to the River’s Edge Greenway in Roanoke and take some photos of the big rubber duckie festival (wherein thousands of duckies are dumped into the Roanoke River and boaters retrieve them), but guess what? Must have been yesterday.

My favorite ex-wife once called me “the most calendar-challenged man I’ve ever known.” It’s still working.

I had to punt the duckies and make the best of the situation, so I went walking (wound up with 10,000 steps) and photoing. Got some interesting shots that you get to see here.

This Presbyterian church youth group seemed to be having a good time.

These Hispanic kids play soccer every day in Riverside Park. They have a pretty good following and they can damn well play the game.

This is a father-daughter duo, discussing running as they passed me.

Mimosa is one of my favorite flowering trees, but I can never get it to grow.

Shells–mussel, I think–along the bank of the Roanoke River.

Pink and blue, boy and girl flowers.

One more of the fisherman, this one with another sharp reflection.

Happy Father’s Day to My Boy

Evan, Oz and me about seven years ago.

Ev loved the snow as a little boy.

I went searching for photos of my son yesterday, so I could post a Happy Father’s Day card this morning and I came up with some pretty good ones.

Here you go and Happy Father’s Day to the best Dad I know: my son Evan.

Ev getting one of his first haircuts. He had curly ringlettes that disappeared.

Ev with his mom, Chris, and sister, Jenniffer.

Ev did some theatrical stuff pre-middle school.

Evan has always liked to cook.

What is it with little boys and tractors?

Evan adored his sister, Jenniffer, as a little boy.

Ev, Emmitt Smith (the boxer, named after Emmitt Kelly, the clown, not the football player Emmitt Smith) and me at McAfee’s Knob. He was about 14.

Evan, Emmitt and me out in the woods.

I have no words.

The Baseball Draft: Dashing Dreams

The Salem Red Sox of the Class A Carolina League play in an often idyllic setting, but how many of its players go on to baseball fame and fortune? Not many. (I shot this photo about 10 years ago.)

Writer Jim Collins’ 2004 book The Last Best League is a look at low minor league baseball that opened my eyes to what I believe to be feeding false hopes among amateur baseball players, often teenagers.

Just last week, major league baseball teams drafted more than 1,000 amateur baseball players to fill the rosters of all their levels, from Rookie Leagues to AAA. Some players–a very few–get huge bonuses in the multi-million dollar range. Most of those players will sign for very little money, will earn less than enough to live on as their summer jobs and will see their dreams of big money and fame wither as they age beyond their teen or early 20s years.

There are 30 big league teams and they carry 25 players each until Sept. 1 of each year. That’s 750 players. After Sept. 1, as the playoffs approach, rosters expend to 40 players, 1,200 total. Some of those additional players are brought up from the minor leagues, mostly players who have been there for a while and are having good seasons.

There are 6,500 minor league players spread among 244 clubs (including teams in Salem, Lynchburg and Pulaski in this area). That’s a lot of hope and most of it will be dashed eventually. (The Pulaski rookie league team plays in a 1930s-era atmospheric stadium, Calfee Park, which is a delight to visit, by the way.)

Collins’ book is about a quasi-amateur collegiate rookie league on Cape Cod and he looks closely at the recent college players banking on getting a break. The league features teams from small towns in a remote location.

Time was when baseball teams from small towns–playing in leagues that went all the way from A to D–were popular representatives of the towns, playing in rivalry games against neighbors. Playing in the low minors was something kids happily did. Now it’s all about stepping stones in a sport where a 25-year-old in the low minors is done.

It is the very definition of false hope, given to youngsters in their formative when they could be concentrating on their educations and their careers afterward. Just how many of these kids are dispatched to lives of unrealized potential is not known. But I’d bet it’s a bunch.


Looking for a Flea Market; No Success

This display tells you all you need to know about the “new Happy’s.”

Wanna slice somebody up? Here’s how.

Yesterday, Margie and I spent a good part of a beautiful Saturday looking for a flea market where I could sell some stuff and we had–at best–marginal success. We found two and discovered a third no longer operates, or at least didn’t yesterday and showed no signs of recent activity.

The ones we actually found were hardly worth the effort. There’s an old one in Buchanan (just before you hit town, coming off I81) that was recommended by a colleague who lives in Botetourt County. We got there a little late to really make a determination about its quality, but the vendors who were left didn’t inspire. They told me the crowds had not been big, nor those selling impressive during the course of the day. I asked an antique dealer in town about the flea market and she said it had wildly varying quality.

These old boys were talking Trump and tools.

What I found unacceptable, though, had little to do with the flea market itself. It was the bugs. I could not see standing in that grass being eaten alive by tiny bugs while selling my goods.

We drove out to Montvale to try to find a flea market I’ve seen on occasion while driving to Bedford or Lynchburg. It was closed and the big field where it rested didn’t appear to have been used lately.

Then there’s the flea market that has sprung up next door to where the old Happy’s once pulled in thousands of people and many vendors (some of them professional, a large number weekenders) on a typical weekend. This was the flea market I liked because it had such variety and a lot of amateurs simply cleaning out their basements, offering a wide assortment of good, bad and indifferent offerings. I always enjoyed engaging the people and taking pictures at Happy’s.

This man and his small child seemed out of place at the cosmetics counter.

The latest incarnation is the worst of Happy’s, mostly professional flea market vendors selling cheap new goods, rather than good used junk and collectibles. I noted two different vendors selling Trump paraphernalia and the cigarette smoke was often heavy. There were a number of chances to buy implements of destruction and cheap clothing (Wrangler jeans for $12, about the same as what I pay at Northwest Hardware). Nobody seemed happy, so to speak. I always detected a level of joy at Happy’s, even on bad days.

So, my conclusion: Move along, nothing to see here.

Vendors wearing their Trump gear. I wasn’t buying.

Hmmm. Who goes to a flea market to buy cosmetics?

Cheap jewelry on display.

No, these are not real, illegal guns. They shoot some kind of plastic slug. I asked the guy selling them if I could get a real one. He frowned at me, thinking I was a narc, I guess.