Well, Hello There Bear!

The bear in the tree looked a lot like this, but I missed my shot with my Nikon. Just got the tree.

My hike this morning was pleasant and cool for the most part, but running from a bear at my age will get the body temp up and open the sweat glands.

I was trudging up the Hollins Greenway trail toward Tinker Mountain when I heard a commotion about 20-25 yards off to the side in the thick undergrowth. I thought it was a doe and a couple of fawns, but then I heard a huffing, like a dog trying to growl. “Ain’t no deer,” I thought. Then I saw a black image move among the bushes and another following it.

The rattling of leaves and branches grew louder and so did the huffing. “Bear,” I thought. “Oh, shit!” My first reflex was to set my Nikon for a photo. If this guy was going to kill me, I was at least going to get a photo of him and maybe his brother.

The lead bear jumped on a tree and scampered up 12 to 15 feet to a relatively open spot, looking around. I stood still, moving my camera into position and I fired off a shot. Then I took off, the second bear clamoring up the tree. I figured I had a brief window to get the hell out before the bears got curious. They appeared to be young and Mom might be around, as well.

I cleared the area and finished my hike on tip-toes, hoping not to stir up any more interest from the wildlife.

An Arts Celebration at the Kendigs

Hollins Theatre professor Ernie Zulia and our good pal Kurt Navratil were in fine fettle. (That’s Jere Lee Hodgin, former artistic director at Mill Mountain Theatre in the background.

Last night’s Perry F. Kendig Awards ceremony at Roanoke College brought together prominent members of the Roanoke Valley’s arts community to tell us who’s been a shining star over the past year. Three of those stars took home hardware: Jimmy Ray Ward as an individual artist (he’s a theatrical set designer); Susan Jennings as Arts Supporter (a leader in the city’s arts initiatives); and the Studio School (a school for visual art).

Hollins interim president Nancy Gray (left) chats with Jay and Daphne Turner.

The Kendigs are the region’s most prestigious arts awards.

The room, as usual, was packed with representatives of arts organizations in the Valley and former winners of Kendigs (including me, who was part of the Blue Ridge Business Journal’s award in 2004; and an individual winner in 2009).

Kendig brothers John (left) and Bill.

It was a great place for me to hang with my posse and catch up on stories, see old friends (like construction magnate Jay Turner and his wife Daphne and Perry Kendig’s sons John and Bill, as well as to meet interesting new people like Tara Marciniak of Center in the Square and Teri Maxey, Roanoke College President Mike Maxey’s wife.

Herewith a photo look at the proceedings.

Jimmy Ray Ward accepts his plaque.

Susan Jennings says “thank you.”

Vera Dickerson accepts for the Studio School.

Brook Dickson of Hollins and Christina Koomen of The Roanoke Times chat.

Olin Hall’s arts hall was full for the Kendigs.

Mike Maxey at the podium.

Maxey looking artistic.

Hollins’ Nancy Gray introducing the nominees.

Gray and Maxey with Susan Jennings.

Tara Marciniak of Center in the Square and John Kendig chat.

Teri and Mike Maxey enjoy a moment.

Avoiding the Massacre: A Lovely Saturday in Lexington

Margie and me on the way to the game. She looks like a Southern planter.

It seems that every year at this time–late September–I’m trying to find a way to avoid watching the University of Tennessee’s football team being massacred by Florida and generally I turn to Washington & Lee’s football team to bail me out.

Yesterday was the annual event: a trip to Lexington to watch W&L play a Division III game against an entertaining opponent, lunch at one of Lexington’s several good restaurants, a walk downtown to the wonderful Artists in Cahoots shop and a stop at one of the best GWLtd stores (Goodwill) in Western Virginia.

We got all that done yesterday with the added benefit (not a first) of buying a lovely piece of jewelry at Artists in Cahoots for my grandgirl’s Christmas (wrapped in a Tiffany box) and meeting an artist named Karen Pannabecker whose work I adore. Another Christmas present, I suspect, this one for my daughter.

We found a burger for Margie.

Tennessee was, of course, clobbered I discovered once I got home and flipped on ESPN, but by then, I’d had so much fun I didn’t care. The W&L game against Guilford (a Quaker school plays football?) was thoroughly entertaining for a half, though the Generals ran away in the second half, winning 54-14. The sun was hot, the grass green, the obnoxious cowbells clanged and a young woman (about 45, so young to me) sitting in front of me was so fetching that she competed with the game for my eyes. Margie didn’t notice my occasional–harmless–glances.

W&L doesn’t offer football scholarships and doesn’t charge admittance for its games. Its concession stand is minimal, but the 1930s atmosphere is a real lure for me, even when the crowd is small, as it was yesterday (maybe 600 people, counting the teams).

Lunch at the Palms in downtown Lexington.

Margie and I stopped at the Palms Restaurant, opened in 1975 and featuring some of the thickest, tastiest hamburgers around–making Margie very, very happy.

In the evening, I managed to turn on the University of Virginia’s game against Old Dominion, joining the game in the second half with UVa trailing 17-7. That was a shocker, so I stuck it out until the end with the Cavs coming back to win 28-17 and salvage some dignity (which Virginia Tech did not do last year against ODU).

Good day all around. Margie liked it, too.

I shot this just before the game began at 1 p.m. Almost nobody was there yet. W&L’s crowds show up late.

Margie and I found seats on the 50, looking like old alumni, which we aren’t.

The W&L shuttle parked in the garage offered this license plate.

The reason we were in Lexington.

Presidential Age Limit? Let the Voters Decide

Elizabeth Warren is ageless. (CNN photo.)

Former President Jimmy Carter, a man of considerable wisdom, has suggested that we put a cap on the age Americans are eligible to run for president. There is, of course, a Constitutional minimum age of 35, but there is no maximum, so any age questions about Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders are left to the individual voters.

As they should be.

I see age showing itself–or not–in obvious ways and each of the above-mentioned presidential contenders either has or doesn’t have obvious issues. At one end is Warren, who seems as bright and energetic as a Gen-Z candidate. At the other end are Biden, who has classic problems in speaking coherently, remembering, saying what he means without being out of line; and Trump, whose problems probably include some issues with age.

Voters can see that. And they can vote.

Age problems are not easy to hide, though political operatives will give it their best shot. We all knew Ronald Reagan was exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s in his second term (which turned out to be the case) and we could watch George H.W. Bush fall asleep in his dinner with the Chinese while in his late 70s. We knew Eisenhower’s heart had outlived his body and it finally did him in, but by then he was a past president.

I’m 73 and much to my occasional horror, I show signs of being an old man. I pull out of my driveway on an errand and briefly forget where I’m going; the simplest words escape me when I am talking or writing; I forget people’s names–and not just casual acquaintances, but people I’m close to. My body aches after exercise, no matter how much exercise I get. Sometimes I can’t type well, and I’ve been typing for 55 years. If it weren’t for SpellCheck or GrammarCheck, I would be in big trouble professionally. I have made errors in stories that are directly connected with aging.

These shortcomings are hard to admit because they threaten me as a freelance writer of value. I’m still working regularly as a freelancer, but it is easy for editors to fire freelancers without ever saying a word. They can simply reject story ideas without explanation. I get that and my guess is that in the past–when I was younger–I’ve done it.

But the question of a too-old president is, and will be, pressing in every election. However, I don’t think drawing an artificial line at, say 70 or 75, is smart. I know people who are nearly feeble at 45 and others who are bright as an airplane landing light at 85. Elizabeth Warren will be presidential at 80, but Biden probably won’t. Trump never has been. How do we know that, though? We watch, as voters, and we vote.