Entertaining the Troops at Warm Hearth

Annie and the crew (Margie on the left as Mrs. Hannigan).

Margie turning the bottle up as Mrs. Hannigan.

Every year at Halloween, my Margie and her crew of nurses at Warm Hearth Village in Blacksburg put on the dog at Halloween, finding a theatrical showpiece and becoming the characters. This year, the show was Annie and Margie went far against type, portraying the tippling lush and orphanage head Mrs. Hannigan.

The old residents take great delight in the charade and Margie’s crew really does it up right. Here are some photos (some of them in very low resolution, I’m afraid) from the festivities.

I will note that Margie’s daughter, Meghann Garmany, a highly thought of actor in New York, has nothing on her mom.

Hallowristmas Is Coming

There are no flies on Tara Marciniak, who was shopping for candy today at chocolatepaper in downtown Roanoke, dressed as a, uh, Halloween elf, or maybe a Christmas goblin.

Tara is the Director of Institutional Advancement at Center in the Square and she’s obviously advancing a couple of institutions with this outfit, which was–by far–the best I saw downtown today.

Fall Colors Glorious on Tinker Mountain

This is me at the railroad, resting at the bottom of Tinker Mountain.

An apartment complex is being built right next to the trail that accessed the Appalachian Trail in Daleville. I am not happy.

This area floods and gets muddy, so the log trail is welcome.

When I catch up on story assignments, as I did yesterday, I often reward myself by taking the next day off to walk in the woods. Today’s hike was to Tinker Mountain where the fall’s colors are what one would expect for October 25: quite lovely.

Herewith a look at Tinker Mountain on a Friday during “leaf season.”

Nice reflections in the Tinker Mountain creek.


Getting Lost with a Map

This is Potts Creek and it’s pretty, but it ain’t a raptor observatory.

This is Margie making Potts Creek look better.

OK, so I don’t know how I do it, but it happened again yesterday. Margie and I were driving up to the Raptor Observatory near Waiteville, which is not near anything, unless you count Paint Bank.

Waiteville, I suspect, is the nearest post office to this former ranger station that is either in West Virginia or Virginia, Giles or Craig County. Just not sure because it’s so close to the line.

These old boys greeted us on Virginia 600 at a buffalo farm. I think we got mooned.

Anyway, it’s off Virginia 600, which is off Virginia 311, which goes from Salem to New Castle, to Paint Bank. Then you take a left at the bridge and drive 22 miles to a dirt road that takes you up to the observatory, a one-mile walk from the parking lot. Sounds pretty simple, except it isn’t.

That’s Margie and me getting photo-bombed at the Paint Bank General Store while awaiting lunch.

I looked this baby up on the ‘net, got directions and even pictures of key turn areas. I followed my map to the letter, but no turn off Va. 600. After about 27 miles from Paint Bank, the road simply ended. I never did see the turnoff to the observatory. Neither did Margie. We saw a lot of flat highway, a nice creek (Potts Creek), a rails-to-trails turnoff, but no raptor observatory. The damn thing is out there, I know. But where?

Dad and the Marble Knuckles

Look closely at Dad’s knuckles. Ignore the cowlick.

My friend Leah Weiss is finishing a new novel and got in touch with me recently asking if I knew anything about marble playing, say in the 1940s, or if I knew anybody who did. I found her a 1952 marbles national champion and told her this story:

When my dad was 10 in 1922, photo day at school was a big deal. Moms would dress their children in formal wear and pack them off to school with this instruction: “Don’t you dare get dirty before the photo or you’ll answer to your father’s belt.”

The lure of marbles was too much for dad. He smacked them around before school in the dirty of the school yard, like he was addicted to crack. The photo here is of dad during the photo session, looking like he knows what’s ahead when him mom sees the picture. Look, especially, at his knuckles.

My First–and Only–Autograph

Samantha Fox was not (un)dressed like this when we spoke. And I did not undress her with my eyes. Promise.

It was 1978 and I was working in the features department of Roanoke’s daily newspaper. Editor Sandra Kelly asked me if I wanted to do an interview with Samantha Fox, probably the best known porn actress in the country at the time. She would be making a personal appearance at the Lee Theater on Williamson, which had gone from showing all-Disney movies to all-porn in an effort to keep the doors open.

You can guess my reply. With a large grin. You can also guess how the other guys in the features department–Jeff DeBell, Chris Gladden and Joe Kennedy–reacted. Heh, heh, heh …

I found Sam to be intelligent, funny, forthright and open. She was also pretty in a way Barbie would not know. There was something about her that had nothing to do with sex that I liked a lot. I thought after the interview that she could be a friend. That’s when I asked her for an autograph, a totally unprofessional request from a journalist. It was the only autograph I ever requested, unless you consider book signings.

She wrote–in red pen, “Dear Dan, Thanks for the intelligent, mellow interview. Now what? Love, Samantha Fox.”

As you can see, I still have the photo. Thanks, Sam.

If the Deal Looks Too Good To Be True …

This is the Jeep in question.

I stumbled upon a 2005 Jeep Rubicon (a top of the line Jeep) on Facebook’s Marketplace a couple of days ago that listed for $1,700. I thought maybe it was a typo, leaving out a zero, so I contacted the seller saying, “I’m interested. Can we talk?”

An e-mail showed up in my box from one Judith Mcalister giving me the details: The car “has been extremely well maintained with a full-service history, it has the 4.0 liter engine, only 98,741 miles, transmission is automatic. Has all of its original floor mats, all books, complete set of tools and keys. Everything works: lights, radio, windows, locks etc. It has no leaks or drips and does not smoke at all, slightly used in 100% working and looking conditions with a clear title free of liens. The price is $1,700 non-negotiable.”

I emailed her back asking where she lives and where we could meet so I could look at and drive the car. I left my phone number. She replied the next morning via email: “I am selling this vehicle because my husband passed away 5 months ago and I need to sell the vehicle before the 2th [sic] of the next month, when I will be leaving on military duty with my medical team out of the country for a year and do not want to store my vehicle. It’s not worth keeping insurance and paying storage fees for a year. I can send you pictures and more details too, just let me know if you are still interested.

” … I am in Logan UT in the military base getting ready for Japan. The vehicle is already at the shipping company sealed and ready for the shipping. I prearranged the deal with eBay. The deal includes free delivery and it will arrive at your address in 2-3 days. You will have 5 days to try out prior to making any purchase and if by any reason you find something you don’t like about it you can send it back at my expense.

“If you are interested in knowing more info about how it works, I can ask eBay to send you an email with more information on how to purchase it. Please send me your full name, shipping address and phone number so I can register the transaction with eBay. They will contact you with more details and information about this transaction.”

I sent her another email: “I’ll pass.”

Au Revoir, Pearl Fu, the Best of Us

Pearlie Mae Fu with my friend Susan and me yesterday. So long, Pearlie. We will all miss you.

Pearl Fu is moving to Philadelphia this week and I have mixed emotions about it. Pearlie Mae (as I prefer to call Roanoke’s First Citizen) needs to be near her family as her Parkinson’s Disease progresses, but she has been and remains such a force for good in Roanoke that her loss will be felt for a long time. I don’t know that we can replace her in any sense. Philly lucked out.

Pearl in 2010.

My friend Susan and I visited Pearlie at her fast-emptying-out Avenham Avenue home yesterday and found ourselves part of a procession of people sharing stories about her and giving her hugs and kisses that would have to last.

We got there just after a City Council duo of Vice Mayor Joe Cobb and Councilman Bill Bestpitch presented her with a gold star of thanks for being who she is and what she has meant to Roanoke.

For 25 years, Pearlie was the heart and soul of Local Colors, Roanoke’s best festival, the one that put a face of tolerance and understanding on the old railroad town. When the festival started, it had representatives from four countries showing off their culture (cooking, entertaining, chatting, etc.) and just a few years ago, at its peak, Local Colors’ Parade of Nations featured 126 flags, all from immigrants living in Roanoke now. Pearlie did that. She has a way of presenting a plea for help that leaves no room for a “no” answer. Ask anybody.

(Here is a feature story I wrote about Pearlie dealing with Parkinson’s early this year.)

Pearl, Maddie and me.

Pearl has shown us how good we could be and pulled us in that direction. She expects that of us and god knows we don’t want to disappoint the woman Barbara Durek called “the Queen of Roanoke.”

Pearlie has had not only a direct effect on me and how I view the world, but she had a strong influence on my grandgirl, Madeline, who rode with Pearl in several different Roanoke parades, including Local Colors. Maddie was fascinated with Pearl and vice versa. Pearl has three brilliant and delightful daughters, foremost among them the internationally famous Colette, who is at the top of the pop-up-books world.

I love this woman and what she has done for us. Let us hope her influence remains strong long after she is gone. We desperately need it.

‘A French Village’ One of Many Top-Notch Series

I agreed with a friend some months ago when he said, “This is the golden age of television.” It may get worse, but I’m not sure it can get much better, at least for those who like to stream fictional series.

My latest example of this abundance of quality is the spectacular World War II French series “A French Village,” telling the story of a small town in Southern France and how its people were affected by German occupation. We often get the mistaken impression that nearly all French citizens were members of the Resistance during the war. That is wildly wrong. Most simply tried to survive, to buy food and coal, to protect their children. They cooperated with the Nazis and many collaborated with them, especially those among the wealthier French citizens. They sold out the Jews, even as they learned the Nazis weren’t sending them to happy little camps in the Alps.

“A French Village” reflects the stories of those ordinary people who faced challenges daily from an oppressive, often violent and cruel government, often led by their own people, especially the French police who were as close as you can get to Nazis without wearing the armband.

The series has “great movie” written all over it from the period look to the wonderful ensemble cast, to precise direction, lighting and sound. The subtitles are not only legible but easy to follow, a rarity among TV series, which most often use small type that flashes quickly.

This ranks with series like “Deadwood,” “Madmen,” “Fringe,” “The Amazing Mrs. Maizel,” “Justified,” “Olive Kitteridge,” “Rectify,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Queen,” “Hinterlands,” “The Bletchley Circle,” “Endeavour,” “The Killing,” “Babylon Berlin,” “Black Earth Rising,” “Cable Girls,” “Broadchurch,” “Keeping Faith,” “A Place To Call Home,” “Rake,” “Renoir,” “Wallander” (either the Swedish or British versions), “Happy Valley,” and a whole bunch more.

The problem with streaming TV shows is that it will definitely cut into reading time. I went from two books a month to six a year just like that. But the simple fact is that some of these series are so long that they can capture the details of a good novel in a way movies never could. It’s a good choice to have.