Gilley’s: Red Earth and a Possible Roanoke Connection

Red Earth from Gilley’s could easily be addicting.

If this dish–Red Earth from Gilley’s in Blacksburg–were addicting, I’d be looking to start a 12-step program. It is simply wonderful and every time I go to Blacksburg, I at least consider stopping and having a plate of it.

Today, Margie and I drove down to pick up a couple of pieces of furniture that she was selling and I suggested Gilley’s. Here’s a photo of what I ate. Red Earth is fried potatoes with scrambled eggs and salsa piled on top, and a fresh, homemade biscuit on the side.

We talked to the owner, Jan Gilley, who looks like a long-in-the-tooth merchant sailor on shore leave, and Jan said he’s considering putting down a Gilley’s in Roanoke. I encouraged him because, I said, “Roanoke gets up early and loves breakfast,” which it does.

Hope he moves puts another restaurant here (“I’m not really sure. Running one is enough of a job, but Roanoke is tempting”). Problem is the 12-step program I’d have to start.

A (Big) Gathering of Authors

Liz Long with some of her books.

Liz signs for a fan.

Liz Long’s Author Invasion at the Holiday in all day today was an impressive spectacle of at least 69 mostly young, mostly independent writers of mostly fiction in order to meet readers and sell books.

Liz is one of the best known indys in the region and is the director of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference, which I founded 11 years ago and remain involved with. She is also the editor of the Roanoker magazine (for which I frequently write).

Doloris Vest of Book No Further shows off Lynchburg’s Leah Weiss’ red hot “If the Creek Don’t Rise.”

Cheyenne Williams of Radford (right) pauses to study a book.

Author Nicole Zoltack struck me as a teenager. She is not. She swears it.

Danica and the Boys: Emoting Hope

Danica Rhoem with Joe Cobb, John Edwards and Sam Rasoul: “A Muslim, a gay guy, a transgender woman” and an old white guy.

Danica Roem: Blunt, salty and hopeful.

I don’t get wound up over politicians much any more because I’ve been far too disappointed far too often in the past, but this morning’s meeting of Danica Roem may have changed that.

Danica won a Virginia General Assembly seat this past fall from one of the worst of our legislators, a long-time bigot from Northern Virginia whose seat seemed destined to be his until his death. But Danica, a woman who is everything her opponent was not (including being Virginia’s first transgender House member) whipped his sorry ass good and became a national story.

This morning I saw how she did it. She is a former newspaper reporter, a blunt-spoken, salty, funny, earnest, warm and hopeful woman who seems to have leadership built into her genes.

Joe and Emma: a touching moment.

Danica was in Roanoke (driving four hours from home and getting up at 0:dark:30 to do it) to support the City Council candidacy of Joe Cobb, a candidate who is gay (and also a minister). Joe is a guy I like and support and like Danica, he is a person with seemingly limitless energy, hope and courage.

Also there supporting Joe were Senator John Edwards and Delegate Sam Rasoul. At one point, Danica mentioned the encouraging fact that she was standing with “a Muslim, a gay guy and a transgender person,” as well as an old white guy. As John said, “We look like Roanoke.”

Danica basically stole the show with her 10-minute talk, delving into the importance of the mundane in politics. When she moved into social issues, into helping the poor and giving hope to us all, she was at her very best. Joe followed her by stealing a lot of hearts when he asked his pregnant daughter, Emma, to join him so he could talk about what wonderful daughter–and family–he has. Left us all a bit misty.

Yesterday, I was pissed off, stressed and really in the dumps, mostly because of the jerk in the White House. Today, I’m floating with hope because of the elected (and to be elected) people in front of me this morning. Thanks guys (and gals).

Joe and Danica: Sharing a message of hope.

Roanoker Liza Mundy Talks ‘Code Girls’

Liza Mundy warms up the crowd at Book No Further this evening.

Doloris Vest helps Liza get ready.

Roanoke native Liza Mundy, a celebrated feature writer for the Washington Post for years and now an author of note, spoke this evening in downtown Roanoke about her new book Code Girls. This is the story of American women who served as code breakers for the military and contributed greatly to the Allied victory in World War II.

Liza, who graduated from North Cross (a classmate of my favorite ex-wife Christina) was speaking at Book No Further, which sits in the front portion of the old S&W Cafeteria, which she remembers fondly from her girlhood. She charmed the full house in what store owner Doloris Vest called “our biggest event yet.”

Old friend Robert Fries, a local journalist, stopped by to say “hello.”

A full house responded to Liza Mundy.

Remembering MLK in Downtown Roanoke

Crowd listens as Martin Luther King is honored downtown.

It was a busy evening in downtown Roanoke today with Tim Kaine kicking off his U.S. Senate campaign at the Virginia Museum of Transportation; Roanoke native Liza Mundy signing her new book Code Girls; and Roanokers remembering Martin Luther King on the 50th anniversary of his shooting death.

A crowd of about 150 gathered at the King Memorial Bridge to talk about togetherness, peace and love, honoring King, while just a block away, Kaine made the political rounds.

Stephanie Klein Davis of The Roanoke Times photographing the proceedings (that’s my shadow on Steph).

Preacher, who described himself as “a really white guy” talks about King’s legacy.

Short, Lovely Hike as an Afterthought

Humbert Hill has a nice view of the mountains in the distance toward Roanoke.

After a pretty busy morning writing, mowing, digging, chopping, carrying and generally getting sweaty, I thought I’d take it easy this afternoon. But I had an itch to hike some place new, so I found a little trail in Botetourt County–Humbert Hill–that I’d never heard of.

I was surprised to discover that it’s part of the Appalachian Trail and it is a short distance from my house (about 15 miles) and a short hike (about two miles, the way I did it). Took about an hour and a half to walk and photograph it.

The hike, which is on both sides of U.S. 11 at the Welcome to Troutville sign (there’s a small parking lot), goes up Humbert Hill on one side of the highway and meanders through the woods, mostly paralleling I-81 on the other side. There’s a small stream on the 81 side and a high meadow–Humbert Hill, I’d assume–on the other. The hill has a lovely view after a steep climb of about half a mile and at its bottom, there is a small pond.

Here’s some of what it looked like today (without much spring vegetation peeking through yet.

Sign at the bottom of Humbert Hill.

In a few weeks, you won’t be able to see this distant meadow.

Humbert Hill in the distance.

The mountain in the middle (left of the tree) is Tinker Mountain.

Cows graze on Humbert Hill and leave “sign.”

This is the pond on the down side of Humbert Hill.

The information board to the left is for the Appalachian Trail.

There’s a small creek near the AT sign.

I like the delicate shade of green as spring comes to us.

That’s moi with Humbert Hill and Tinker Mountain behind me.


Closing in on Planting Time for Farmboy

I dig the tiller (so to speak).

Sometimes you just have to make do.

I was all pumped for my exercise class this morning, but when I showed up, there was a sign on the front door telling me there would be no class today. I had to think for a minute to guess why, but I suspect it’s an Easter delayed reaction (since Easter is Sunday and Sunday can’t be a holiday, I guess).

What to do? Hike? Nah. I’ve done that about six days in a row (working it in around some writing for money, which I have to do whether I want to or not). Nice day, so a little yard work looked appealing. A quick mow of the lawn, some trimming of the forsythia and setting up my tomato patch led to what I really wanted to do: plow.

I’m a big fan of plowing, especially with my suburban tiller, which weighs about as much as my lawn mower. I get a nice workout and accomplish something. Yay, tiller. In a month, I’ll put some tomatoes and herbs in this small spot just off the deck, but I’m scaling back my garden because last year the results were simply awful.

Love America, Hate Trump? Who’s Counting?

McDaniel and her pet pig.

A couple of days ago, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee Ronna Romney McDaniel said (on Fox News, of course), “Democrats hate our president more than they love our country.” That line is stolen from Democrats who were complaining about during the administrations of Clinton and Obama. It is a direct rip-off.

Beyond that, there is probably some truth to it, no matter who the speaker is. Those of us opposed to the president tend to hate him. Even Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, two men hardly capable of bringing out our savagery, did. I remember as a kid that people asked, “Why hate Eisenhower? He hasn’t done anything.” When I was a small child, the viciousness directed to Harry Truman was mean, unfair and accepted as normal. Roosevelt, a bit before me, was called “Roosenfeld” by those who hate Jews (he was not a Jew).

On back through the century, presidents were held in contempt by half the population, some deservedly so. Since Lyndon Johnson, the rhetoric has intensified against Nixon, Reagan, the two Bushes, Obama and Clinton. None has deserved our disrespect so thoroughly, however, as Donald Trump.

I love my country and I detest Donald Trump. It is not a competition and there won’t be a winner. I mostly love my country for what it has occasionally been and what it can be. I love the people’s generosity, warmth and goodness. Generally. I despise everything–all of it–about Donald Trump. I can see absolutely no saving grace to the man. I felt similarly about George Bush, but Trump is far, far worse.

But, do I hate Trump more than I love America? I don’t think it matters one wit. I will work to make my country better, beginning with getting rid of Trump and all he stands for. That’s what’s important.

(Note: McDaniel is the niece of Mitt Romney, who is not a fan of Trump. She is not related to Sarah Huckabee Sanders in spite of the rumors.)

(Washington Examiner photo.)


Oz Gets into Easter Tradition

Hiding Easter eggs ain’t what it used to be. This is Oz scooping them up by the hand full.

Madeline does her part.

For a six-year-old (gandboy Oz) whose impression of Easter has far more to do with fun than prayer and appreciation of any spiritual concept, the egg hunt is like Santa slipping down the chimney.

For his sister, Madeline, who just celebrated becoming a teenager, the role is more one of leadership, teaching and being “the boss of me!”

Here are my grandkids celebrating spring, eggs, color, competition and everything else Easter means to them.

Oz, the bunnyman.

First, arts and crafts.

Gentlemen (and ladies), start your engines.

Oz’s haul.