Category Archives: Personal

How many people do YOU know who have it?

David Beasley, marching with Joe Riley to get the Confederate flag down in 2000.

David Beasley, marching with Joe Riley to get the Confederate flag down in 2000.

There are still people out there who don’t see the pandemic as real, as anything other than an abstract concept. And they don’t get why we’re all staying at home and economic activity has largely ground to a halt.

Some of them are saying some phenomenally stupid things, and I don’t just mean the president.

Well, I don’t know about you, but to me this thing is not abstract. It’s real. It affects people I know:

  • I think the first victim I actually knew, personally, was former Gov. David Beasley. That news came last week. I won’t say we’re close, but I’ve known him since the early ’90s — maybe the late ’80s. When he came in for an endorsement interview in 1994, it was a milestone for me: the first gubernatorial candidate I had ever interviewed who was younger than I was.
  • About the same time, I heard about my second cousin, an Episcopal clergyman out in Texas. He had been horribly sick with pneumonia for three weeks before he was diagnosed with COVID-19. He is now recovering, I’m happy to say.
  • Just yesterday, I learned that my sister-in-law’s brother, who lives in New York, has it. He has had significant health problems in recent years; he didn’t need this, too.

Getting closer, members of my immediate family have been exposed to people with the virus — that we know of. Probably all of us have. So we’re just hoping and praying we all stay healthy.

Of course, we all know of famous people who have it, from Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson to Prince Charles (who I hope has not been close to Her Majesty lately).

Oh, by the way — Charles is, near as I can tell, my 16th cousin twice removed. I say that not to impress you — you’re probably more closely related to him than I am — or bore you with my genealogy mania. I say it as a reminder that we are ALL related in some way to someone who has this, however distant they may seem. Do not send to ask for whom the virus tolls.

Whom are you close to who has the virus? I think we should share notes, to help each other wrap our heads around this. You don’t have to provide names — you see I didn’t, above. I just thought I’d ask how close it’s getting to y’all, at this still early stage of the crisis….

 

How did your precinct vote? NYT has a cool interactive map

big map

I find that the most convenient place to find that hyperlocal information, right down to my neighborhood level, is…

The New York Times. I tried finding it at thestate.com, and maybe it’s there (in fact, I feel like it MUST be), but I couldn’t find it.

Anyway, they have an awesome interactive map. And I see that in my neighborhood, my man Joe cleaned up, with a higher percentage of the vote than he got overall in Lexington County.

Here are the numbers for my precinct:

Quail Hollow

 

To get your precinct, just go to the link, zoom in on your county, and roll the cursor around until you see your own polling station.

Oh, and here’s where I put my bumper sticker

truck Biden

Having shown you my yard signs, I figured I’d show you one of my bumper stickers… especially since I know y’all have been breathless with anticipation ever since I wrote this post.

(Hey, at least y’all took an interest in that one. It got more than 50 comments, and I can’t scare up an audience this week for love or money. Where’d y’all all go?)

As I wondered what to do several months ago, I wrote:

Anyway, now I have to figure out where to put my Biden sticker. My first thought is to put it right in the middle, but then my tailgate will be 2/3 Democratic. Which is not the effect I’m going for. But then, does that matter, since Joe is running in the Democratic Primary? I mean, what do I care what Republicans think in this context? Worrying about being perfectly bipartisan is more about worrying about what people think of ME, isn’t it? And that shouldn’t be a factor.

I could put it over the Smith sticker, since the campaign’s over and all, but I won’t do that. My experience last year is something I’m proud of, and I’m going to continue to wear it on my sleeve. Or tailgate.

Anyway, look how shiny and new it still is. It looks good. By contrast, Micah’s sticker has faded considerably…

I saw Micah this morning, and I guess I should have asked him for a fresh one to replace that one. You can’t see the red strip where it says, “Republican.”

You see that I did what I was thinking about back then — put Joe right in the middle.

I think it looks good there…

 

The Great Yard Sign War (or at least, a skirmish) begins

My two signs, well spaced, to promote the bandwagon effect.

My two signs, well spaced, to promote the bandwagon effect.

Girding for the primary that is finally about to occur, I went to Biden HQ and picked me up a couple of yard signs, and put them up over the weekend.

And in my Republican neighborhood, I felt very smug and secure in my belief that my message would dominate, because I had not yet seen a single other sign for a primary candidate in the whole subdivision. And we walk about the neighborhood a lot (still maintaining an average of more than 11,000 steps a day).

But then on Sunday, on a whim, I decided to take a different course — I proposed we cut through this little park we have that’s way down at the base of the dam for one of the neighborhood’s two lakes, then climb up the other side of the park to a street we haven’t walked on in years, on the opposite side of the other lake from where we normally walk.Warren sign

And there, I saw it. An enemy sign. So now, the battle has been joined. I’m using these war metaphors, of course, because this was an Elizabeth Warren sign, and you know how she’s all about fighting. Fight, fight, fight

But fear not! We’re still in the lead, because I’ve got two signs. I live on a huge lot on a corner, so I put one of them along the main drag in front of the house, and the other facing the side street. They’re far enough apart that even if you’re at an angle where you can see both (above), it’s kind of like they’re in two separate yards next to each other. (Were this Shandon, they’d seem to be at least two yards apart.)

This promotes the bandwagon effect: Dang, it looks like everybody around here’s for Joe! I’d better get on board! Sneaky, huh?

Of course, truth be told, you can’t tell all that much from signs in this neighborhood. Before the 2016 GOP primary, there was one Trump sign in the neighborhood. It was several blocks away, and every time I saw it, I thought something like, I guess there’s one in every neighborhood. (Kind of like what my Republican neighbors are thinking about me about now.)

But Trump won my precinct, so…

Anyway, I can’t control all that. I can just do my bit for Joe, and let the chips fall…

Biden sign

Apparently, they decided against making my old elementary school into a shrine

Mrs. Crank's class, Meadowbrook School

Over the weekend, my Mom said she wished she had taken pictures of some of the gazillion places we lived when I was growing up.

I said I’d try to find Google Maps Street View images of the ones still standing.

I had a little trouble finding the place in Norfolk where we lived when I was in the 3rd grade, but eventually prevailed.

I had found it on a previous occasion, and remembered I did it this way: I found my school, and then traced the well-remembered route that I walked home every day. Yes, kids, we did that back in the Dark Ages. We also had more than 30 kids in a classroom, and didn’t know how deprived we were.

But I had trouble finding the school this time. And I couldn’t seem to recall the name of it, either.

But I remembered that my teacher was named “Mrs. Crank.” She was a strikingly beautiful lady — the kind of teacher the Beave would have a crush on in a ’50s sitcom — but had an unfortunate married name. I thought if I could find her, I could maybe find the school she taught at.

I recalled that I had saved my class picture to my Ancestry profile, and that her full name had been on the picture, so I went there, and bingo! Not only did it name her as “Mrs. Elsie Crank,” but named the school as well. Meadowbrook Elementary (talk about sounding like something right out of “Leave it to Beaver”…). I then found a Facebook page for the school, which included the address, and I was home free.

There’s the picture above. I’m the second kid from the left in the back, hiding behind a book and looking miserable while my classmates smiled. I remember it. I was sick with a fever. I’m pretty sure Mrs. Crank sent me home immediately after the picture was taken (but obviously I only missed a few minutes of school, since the clock says 2:20). The only good thing going on here is that, you’ll notice, I’m sitting right next to Mrs. Crank. Way to go, Beave!

So I’m patting myself on the back for having found it detective-style, and I enter the address in Google Maps.Meadowbrook Dog Park

But no school. It had been replaced by… wait for it… a dog park. Meadowbrook Elementary had become Meadowbrook Dog Park. Really.

I mean, I didn’t expect them to turn it into a shrine to my youth or anything, but still…

Anyway, I put that behind me and found the house, which you can see below. I vaguely remembered it. It was a duplex. We lived downstairs, and upstairs was a lady who had a piano located right over my parents’ bedroom. She liked to practice at 10:30 p.m. I don’t remember it, but my Mom does.

I continue to think Google Maps is one of history’s greatest inventions. What’s the most fun you’ve had with it lately?

There's the house -- a bit worse for wear perhaps, but still recognizable.

There’s the house — it’s been almost 60 years, but it’s still recognizable.

 

I have some sympathy for those poor wretches in Iowa. Some.

Screenshot 2020-02-04 at 11.33.09 AM

In 2000, there was “Palm Beach stupid.” Now, we have Iowa.

At least, I could swear there was such a (pre-social media) meme as “Palm Beach stupid,” a rather unkind reference to Floridians who lacked the ability to punch a hole in a card corresponding to the candidate of their choice. Yet I can’t find it by Googling, so maybe I dreamed it.

But we definitely have Iowa today, and similar scorn is being directed at it. Especially by Trump’s minions, such as his campaign manager:

Mind you, this is coming from a guy who can’t spell “Democratic.” But hey, Iowa sort of asked for it, right?

The good news is, all this scorn could have a salutary result: Maybe it will finally spell the end of the Iowa caucuses, at least as anything the rest of the nation pays attention to. That would be a good thing.

But while we’re slinging insults at them, and pondering a return to older, more legendary ways of picking leaders:

… I have to admit to a certain fellow-feeling for those poor losers up in Iowa. I’ve kinda been there.

I’ve been the guy in charge of election coverage at three newspapers in my career, in three states: Tennessee, Kansas and South Carolina. Pulling together results from a long ballot and publishing them accurately in the next days paper is — or at least, was in those days — an extremely complex affair that required a lot of different things to happen in different places simultaneously, and without a hitch.

My fellow editors would kindly surrender the resources of the newsroom to me — a hundred or so trained professional would be at my disposal — but it was always on me to figure out exactly who would do what at precisely what time, and how it would flow through the newspaper production process without things clogging up, so that the presses would roll on time and readers would actually receive their newspapers crammed with all that information.

One piece of that puzzle was getting the numbers and putting them into tables — candidate by candidate, county by county, and in the metro area, precinct by precinct. The numbers not only had to get into the charts, but to the reporters writing the stories, so our numbers would match. (We generally kept the use of numbers in the stories to a minimum, though, to simplify the coordination somewhat.)

In other words, a part of my job was doing what the people in Iowa have failed so spectacularly to do.

It usually went pretty well, but not always.

One of the lowest points of my professional life occurred in the early ’80s in Jackson, Tenn. The Jackson Sun was then an afternoon newspaper, which meant we had all night and part of the next morning to get things right before going to press, which meant our report needed to be more complete and accurate than what the morning papers had. And it generally was.

But one election, things went horribly wrong. After working all day on Election Day, and then all night pulling the results together, at mid-morning — about an hour before the presses were to roll — I realized the tables were wrong. Completely wrong. All the totals were wrong, and we couldn’t figure out why. We’re talking about full-page tables, densely packed with numbers.

I’d been up and going at full speed for more than 24 hours, and my brain just froze. What was I going to do? There was only one thing to do. Check every single number, and try to find a pattern that showed us what had gone wrong.

At that moment, my boss stepped in. Executive Editor Reid Ashe was and is a very smart guy, for whom I’ve always had the greatest respect. And he had a lot of respect for me, respect that I valued. For his part, he valued excellence. He had this art deco poster, a reproduction of one that had once hung in French train stations, that had this one word over the image of a locomotive: EXACTITUDE.

Precision.

It was, if I recall correctly, the only decoration in his office. His walls bore that one message for the world. This is what mattered to him. Therefore, we understood, it needed to matter to us.

With a rather grim look on his face, he sat down at a table in a conference room with a calculator, and started to crunch all the numbers.

While he did that, I sat on the floor against the wall with my face in my hands. I had tried to sort it out, but my brain was too fried at that point — those numbers were sort of dancing around before my eyes. I had to wait while Reid had his go at it, with — at least, I imagined — steam coming out of his ears.

He figured it out (hey, he had had some sleep!), and we got the paper out. Eventually, I went home  and crashed.

I don’t know if there’s ever been a moment in my life when I felt more like a failure.

So as I say, I have some sympathy for those people in Iowa.

But it would still be great if this was not the way we started presidential elections going forward…

He had this one poster in his office...

Reid had this one decoration in his office…

A busy MLK Day in Columbia

Joe MLK

Y’all, I’ve been too busy to post today, but as you know this was a busy day in Columbia for presidential candidates.

Of course, it was a lot more than that. It was MLK Day, which for me has generally been a rather busy holiday. It all started 20 years ago today, when the Columbia Urban League, under the leadership of J.T. McLawhorn and Dr. David Swinton, decided to do something BIG to show how much folks wanted the Confederate flag off the State House dome.

With the help of a coalition of like-minded groups, they succeeded. J.T. and I went on Cynthia Hardy’s show (Cynthia, by the way, was J.T.’s right-hand person at the Urban League at the time) on WACH over the weekend to talk about that event. Why have us old guys on TV to reminiscent about something so long ago? Because it was amazing. There’s been nothing like it before or since. Here’s a picture. The crowd was estimated at 60,000.

In the years since, the march at rally at the State House has become branded as more of an NAACP production (it was one of the organizations that helped with the first one), while the CUL has put its energies into a huge breakfast event at the Brookland Baptist convention facility. Both are magnets for Democrats with national ambitions. I was at the Urban League event this morning, with friends:

It was great to see and hear Joe, of course — and to a lesser extent Pete and Tom and Deval.

I didn’t get a chance to speak with Joe — and was jealous that my friend Samuel Tenenbaum got to sit next to Joe. For my part, I sat at one of the tables dedicated to the Biden contingent, and got to visit with Joe’s state political director and fellow Smith campaign alumnus Scott Harriford.

While I didn’t speak with Joe, I did shake hands with Pete. I didn’t set out to, but we sort of bumped into each other while trying to squeeze through the crowd back to our seats. So I did the civil, and stuck out my hand and said, “How’s it going, Mayor?” And he took it and nodded and moved on. (Yeah, I know. I just didn’t have anything pertinent in mind to say.)

Anyway.

I’m not going to try to report on what everybody said. I leave that to the reporters. Here’s The State’s story, and here’s the Post and Courier’s.

I just thought I’d share how I observed the holiday. How did you?

Cynthia shared this pic taken just before we went on her show. That's Jim Felder on the left, J.T. McLawhorn on the right, and some old white guy in the middle.

Cynthia shared this pic taken just before we went on her show. That’s Jim Felder on the left, J.T. McLawhorn on the right, and some old white guy in the middle.

I got elected to Congress last night. Is that a good dream, or a nightmare?

Our watch party on the night of Nov. 6, 2018. That one came out differently.

Our watch party on the night of Nov. 6, 2018. That one came out differently.

One time ago a crazy dream came to me
I dreamt I was walkin’ in World War Three
I went to the doctor the very next day
To see what kinda words he could say
He said it was a bad dream
I wouldn’t worry ’bout it none, though
Them old dreams are only in your head…

— Bob Dylan, “Talkin’ World War III Blues

I’m not sure where this dream last night started, but I know where it ended up.

Very close to the end, I found that I had just been elected to Congress. It was election night and results were still coming in, but my race had been called, and I’d won, and I was wandering about in a crowd of people at some sort of watch party — not my own, because people seemed just as interested in the races that were still up in the air as in mine. So I was generally being ignored by the crowd, which was fine, because I had a lot of thinking to do.

Mostly, what I was thinking was, How did this happen? and What happens now?

You ever see “The Candidate?” Not the recent Spanish-language series on Netflix, but the movie from 1972. In case you haven’t, here’s a SPOILER ALERT: Robert Redford plays the son of a former governor who is an environmental activist, but has no interest in electoral politics. A political operative played by Peter Boyle talks him into running for the U.S. Senate, promising him that he can say anything he wants, because he’s going to lose anyway. But then Redford, learning he is going to lose by a landslide, agrees to moderate his message somewhat, to avoid complete humiliation. In the end, he wins. He stands stunned in the middle of a crowd, and pulls Peter Boyle aside to ask, “What do we do now?” Boyle conveniently opens a door to let the excited crowd in, and affects not to have heard the question.

My dream was kind of like that ending, only maybe more so. I didn’t remember how I’d gotten there, even how I came to have my name on a ballot, and I was really stunned to have won. I didn’t have any particular interest in being a member of Congress, and I was feeling a sense of dread as to how this would affect my life. Evidently, it had not occurred to me previously to wonder about these things.

And there was no Peter Boyle to ask. But I kept running into random people. One of them was Lindsey Graham, who congratulated me warmly — he seemed quite sincere about it — which really made me wonder: Had I run as a Republican? What had been my platform?

I had no idea, and the situation was sort of like that college nightmare where it’s exam time and you don’t know where the class is located, and it’s WAY too late to ask anybody that.

I was lost and bewildered. I think the doc would say it was a bad dream…

Below is the ending of “The Candidate.” Don’t watch if you haven’t seen it before:

Baseball, the thread that runs through our lives and ties them together

win

I had a little “Field of Dreams” moment during the wonderful conclusion to the World Series last night. In the sentimental “Dad, you wanna have a catch?” sense.

While Joe Buck or someone was talking about how it had been 95 years since a team from Washington had won, a picture of Senators legend Walter Johnson came on the screen. The BIg Train.

And I was reminded of a story my Dad likes to tell of when he was just a little guy. He grew up in Kensington, Md., in a house his grandfather had built for his Dad. My great-grandfather had a construction business, and he did that for each of his kids when they got married. Consequently, several of them lived quite close together. My Dad’s Aunt Ethel lived behind my Dad, on the next street over.

Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson

Aunt Ethel’s daughter Jean married a guy named Walter Perry Johnson Jr. — the son of the Big Train. Occasionally, the great man was a guest in their home. When that happened, Aunt Ethel’s husband Carroll would call over and tell my Dad to come over, and bring his glove. Dad would go running, and then he would play catch with the great Walter Johnson.

Speaking of the Senators, there’s a story that my grandfather was invited to play for the Senators’ organization, but decided to go into the construction business with his father instead. It seems to me a surprising decision, since his life had revolved around baseball up to that point. Ancestry offers me scores of “hints” about his life, and most of them are clippings from The Washington Post telling about some ball club or other that he was forming, or pitching for, or the captain of.

He worked for the Post Office for awhile, for just one reason: So he could play on its baseball team.

Here’s how he and my grandmother met (which I think I’ve told before): She would see him walking past her house, in his suit and wearing a straw boater, with a satchel dangling from one hand, on his way to the Kensington train station. She decided he must be a traveling salesman, and the bag contained his wares. But when she finally spoke to him, she learned that the bag was filled with his uniform, glove and cleats. He wouldn’t have thought of going to work without them.

What's he doing in an Expos uniform?

What’s he doing in an Expos uniform?

I could go in all sorts of directions about baseball and how its threads run in and out of American life. I could reminisce about when we lived in Tampa, and in the spring we’d go over to St. Pete to watch the Cardinals play. I was an autograph fiend at the time, and in those days the players were easily accessible. (Once in Tampa, I went into the Reds’ locker room to get Pete Rose to sign my glove as he sat shirtless on a table during an interview with a sportswriter. Things were that informal then.) So I would chase Joe Torre, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Curt Flood. But I failed to get Tim McCarver’s. He was on the other side of a chain-link fence signing for some other kids, but I couldn’t get him to turn around, despite repeatedly calling, “Mr. McCarver! Mr. McCarver!”

Years later, when I was first dating my wife, I was over at her house and she was working on organizing her family’s photos. I asked why there was a publicity photo of McCarver in the box (in an Expos uniform, which is not the way I think of him). “He’s my first cousin,” she said. So, several years after that, we happened to be at the Red Sox training camp in Florida the one year Tim played for them. Carlton Fisk injured his wrist in the first inning and Tim went in for him. After the game, we went over to the house Tim was renting during spring training. As he drank a beer, guess what I chose to talk him about? That’s right: I complained that he wouldn’t turn around and give me an autograph when I was 14.

His answer? “Aw, I wasn’t playing when you were 14.”

Not long after that, his playing days ended. After that, he started his broadcast career. He would eventually be teamed up with Joe Buck, who I think was the one talking about the Senators in 1924 last night.

Which is where we came in.

(Oh, wait, something I forgot to mention: There’s meaning in the fact that Tim was, against all expectations, in an Expos uniform in that photo. The Expos are now the Nationals.)

Anyway, that’s a small taste of what baseball means to American life. My American life, anyway.

It runs through the years and the lives, tying everything together…

I’m very pleased for the Nationals today. And for Washington…

One of my grandfather's baseball teams. That's him squatting on the right.

One of my grandfather’s baseball teams. That’s him squatting on the right.

Candidates, please don’t promise to do anything for me.

Here's Bernie, seconds before he promised me my hearing aids...

Here’s Bernie, seconds before he promised me my hearing aids…

My family thought this was hilarious.

It was during the televised debate on the night of July 31. I was together with most of the fam down at the beach.

I had said something dismissive about Bernie Sanders, as I am wont to do. Then, I was busy writing a Tweet about something that had just been said, so my mind wandered from the next thing that was said (a hazard of real-time commentary).

My wife, who was sitting on the side of my bad ear, said, “See what Bernie’s going to do for you?” And I said, “What?” and she said, “Didn’t you hear? He wants Medicare to pay for your hearing aids!” And because she was on my bad side, I said, “He wants to WHAT?”

And everyone thought this was hilarious. They weren’t laughing AT me; they were really… Well, no, they were laughing at me. But fondly…

They all know that I have declined to look into getting hearing aids because a) conventional hearing aids wouldn’t solve the problem I have, and b) I discovered upon going on Medicare that it won’t pay for hearing aids. And personally, if I’m going to have to scrimp and save for something that expensive, I’d prefer it to be something like another trip abroad, like the one we took to Ireland earlier this year.

So now that I know Bernie wants to pay for them, I’ve gotta like Bernie a little better, right?

Wrong. In fact, I find it extremely off-putting, the idea that someone out there is making a campaign promise to do something that benefits me, personally. No, it’s not like Bernie called me on the phone and asked what Brad would most like to see changed in Medicare and then promised to do that in return for my vote, but it sort of feels like it to me.

And I don’t hold with that sort of thing.

In the universe of politics, there are few things that I find more offensive than the idea of voting for someone because you think it would benefit you personally, or “people like you” (another concept I find offensive, which is all tied up with my objections to identity politics, but that’s a whole other subject).

First, I don’t like campaign promises, period. We’ve discussed this. I vote for the person I trust most to do the job, and I’d like to see that person as unencumbered by promises as possible, so that he or she can simply do the right and smart thing with regard to any issue that arises.

But if you’re going to try to sell me on a campaign promise anyway, you’d better come prepared to persuade me that it’s the best course for the country as a whole. Don’t insult me by saying how it would benefit me personally.

Yeah, I know, I’m sounding really self-righteous, priggish even. And I know that there are a lot of people out there who are NOT middle-class white guys who feel a need for the government to redress some wrong that hurts them personally, and/or “people like them.” And I’m not judging them. I can only speak for me.

And to me, it feels just a small step away from the days when candidates handed out free booze on Election Day. There’s just too much quid pro quo to it.

Don’t try to buy my vote. Not with free hearing aids, or lower taxes, or free drinks, or whatever other goodies you have in mind. I won’t take kindly to it.

I first became all high-and-mighty about this in 1976, when I was talking about the upcoming presidential contest with a colleague at the newspaper where I worked then, my first job out of college. I mentioned that I really liked Jimmy Carter, and she said she was going to vote for Gerald Ford. With real interest, I asked why. Not because I was demanding justification for a wrongheaded act. I liked Gerald Ford, and I could think of plenty of legitimate reasons that a person might chose him. I was curious which ones mattered to her.

I was completely unprepared for what she said, which went kind of like this:

Well, my husband and I studied the candidates’ positions on issues, and we sat down and did some math, and we figured out that if Carter were elected, we’d have to pay a thousand dollars more in taxes a year. So we’re both voting for Ford.

Not, I think Carter might raise taxes, and that might have a chilling effect on the economy, or even, I think Carter might raise taxes, and on people across the country who can ill afford it. No, she was talking about a very specific effect that she expected on her pocketbook. And on that basis, she was willing to choose the Leader of the Free World (we used to call the president that back during the Cold War, kids).

I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped, although I don’t think she noticed. I was shocked. I was scandalized. I couldn’t believe that anyone — much less a fellow journalist (people who love money that much generally don’t choose to become journalists, and if they do, they must have been seriously misled by somebody) could possibly sell his or her franchise in such a mercenary manner. I was even more shocked that she would tell someone that, and not show any sign of being ashamed of herself.

Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Didn’t I know people think like that? No, I didn’t. It had never occurred to me that people could. And even though I’ve seen a thousand times since then that her way of looking at things is WAY more common than mine, I’ve never ceased to be appalled at that point of view.

I would worry that by writing this I might insult a lot of folks out there, but I justify it by telling myself that those pragmatical souls are more likely to scoff at my utterly absurd, stuffy, priggish, and completely unrealistic notion of what politics is all about. They’ll see this post as embarrassing me, not them. And all the people whose opinions they value will agree with them on this point.

Anyway, it’s been preying on my mind that I should say something, because a lot of the Democratic candidates vying to go against Trump have a tendency to make the kinds of promises I don’t like to hear.

Meanwhile, all I hear Joe Biden promising is to save our country from Trumpism. Oh, he might have a few policy positions out there (because some people out there hound him into it), but I’m ignoring them, and that’s easy to do because his main message is the one I want to hear: He wants to restore the presidency, and the country, to something reasonable human beings can respect.

And if any of the other candidates want my vote (something I’m sure they sit up nights worrying about), I just want to let them know that I don’t want to hear any promises that would benefit me, Brad Warthen, in any way, shape or form. My conscience it just too delicate to put up with that, weird as you might think I am for saying it.

Don’t ever say I didn’t tell you that.

Yeah, I realize there may be more votes in a strategy of promising folks stuff than there is in a high-minded strategy of not offending Brad.

But I can only speak for myself…

If it were up to me, the windows would just STAY dirty

Whoa! And there he was...

Whoa! And there he was…

I kept trying to ignore the ropes while eating my breakfast. It wasn’t easy. I was in a window seat, 25 floors up, and they were dancing, jerking, vibrating and jumping around, about a foot away from my head.

I knew there was a fellow human being at the end of them, dangling far above the sidewalk, washing the windows. And I couldn’t help identifying with his precarious state…

My fear of heights is such that normally, I can sorta kinda ignore that I’m so high up if there’s a nice, solid window between me and Kingdom Come. Like on an airplane. I think some trick of the brain pretends that it’s just a video screen or something. As long as I can’t feel the wind, I’m good (I was definitely NOT good atop Blarney Castle, where I suffered unprecedented vertigo the instant the wind hit my ear, and I was doing well not to throw up, much less kiss some stupid rock… let’s not talk about Blarney Castle…).

But the ropes kept reminding me that it was real, and there was a person just dangling out there….

Then, when I got up to leave, a few tables away, there he was! And he was reaching out to clean this way and that as casually as though he were standing on the ground. I just barely got my phone out before he dropped out of sight.

There is no amount of money that would induce me to do such a job. I would starve first. My body would just betray me, my acrophobia is so bad.

If it depended on me, the windows would all have to just stay dirty…

And then before I could take a second shot, he was GONE...

And then before I could take a second shot, he was GONE…

Feeling kinda lumpy, and kinda ratty, too… but grateful to have figured out what’s wrong (I think)

lumpy

The swelling on my right side — your left — has flattened out some, but it’s still there.

About three weeks ago, I had a headache, in the sinus above my right eye. Then, it moved to my teeth on that side, both upper and lower. Then to my inner right ear. Then to my face, along a line running under my right cheekbone, from the teeth to the ear.

Then, it started getting intense. It was a particularly bad brain freeze, although it would surge for several minutes rather than seconds. It would ease off for awhile, then come back with a vengeance.

My regular doctor, I learned, was out of the country. So I went to an urgent care, where I was told it might be a number of things, including shingles. Yikes. I’d been meaning for years to get that vaccine — like 95 percent of adults, I had chicken pox as a kid — but had not gotten around to it.

But I was told it would only be that if my face broke out in a rash along that same lateral line under my cheekbone. I was given a prescription for an antiviral med to fill and start taking if that happened. In the meantime, I was given a prescription for prednisone to start taking right away, to reduce the inflammation that was apparently pressing on that facial nerve.

I headed for my pharmacy, thinking “Shingles! How absurd!” But worried about it nonetheless. When I handed the prescription to the pharmacist and explained what it was for, drawing my finger across the line of pain, he said, “Shingles?” Which really worried me.

But it wasn’t shingles, and the prednisone helped almost right away. For the next three weeks, I’d have an occasional twinge, but that was it. But being on the alert for that caused me to be more conscious of chronic sensitivity to cold in some of my teeth on that side. My wife, upon learning that I’d been ignoring warnings from the dentist that I needed three crowns, told me to get started on that.

Then, night before last, when I was going in for a crown the next morning at 8, I was awakened by the facial pain — not terrible, but enough to keep me awake.

Which I mentioned at the dentist, as they were shooting preliminary x-rays. And the dentist pointed out something on one of the x-rays, and told me I didn’t need a crown at the moment; I needed a root canal. I had an abscess, right in the part of the mouth where my pain sometimes resided. And that, he said, was probably what had been causing the whole problem.

On my way to the pharmacy yet again, I felt something that made me unconsciously touch my right cheek, and it was all swollen and sore. That had not been the case when I got up that morning. So things were getting rapidly worse, all of a sudden.

Miraculously, I was able to get an endodontist appointment for the root canal at 1:45 that afternoon. I think it helped that I went there in person to make the appointment, and the receptionist could see how swollen my face was.

It took at least six shots of novacaine before I was numb enough — the endodontist said infection can interfere with the effectiveness of the local anesthetic. But eventually, I was comfortably numb, and we got it done.

I’m feeling better today, although the diminished lump is still palpable and sore, so I decided not to shave this morning, as you can see above. So I’m feeling sort of ratty. But grateful to all who helped figure this out, and acted so quickly to help.

Oh, and that’s why I didn’t post anything yesterday. Which is my point…

I’m no privacy freak, but yeah — that’s a little creepy

door

Actually, the headline sort of said it all.

Today, I got a notification that something my wife had ordered from Amazon had been delivered to my home.

Wondering what it was (apparently, some frozen treats for grandchildren), I clicked, and got the above page.

Yeah, that’s my red front door in the picture.

I can see a practical reason to do this. For instance, Amazon delivery folks tend to put our packages in different places (inside the garage if that door is open, the mailbox, etc.) and sometimes we have to hunt around to confirm that yes, Alexa is right — something has arrived.

But this still bothers me a little bit. Not much, but a bit. Mainly because I wasn’t expecting it. It’s like having some stranger say, “Look, here’s you on a surveillance camera…”

It doesn’t do me any harm that I can tell, but it’s weird…

The weather app on my phone is torturing me

In the foreground the old boards, in the background the new ones. In the far background, you can see some new ones that we've stained.

In the foreground the old boards, in the background the new ones. In the far background, you can see some new ones that we’ve stained.

For the last few weekends, we’ve been engaged in a project.Dublin

The deck on the back of our house has two layers of boards, running perpendicular to each other. I don’t know whether this is standard deck construction, but that is what we have. I suspect the top layer is newer than the other. When we bought the house 21 years ago, the deck was a roofed, screened-in porch. Since the roof was removed, the top layer of deck boards haven’t weathered well. So we’re replacing them with new, treated boards. We’re also spacing them a bit so we don’t get standing water on the deck any more.

We’re doing it in stages. We’ll tear up a section — a tedious process that involves various implements of destruction (hammers, flat bar, crow bar, my old cat’s paw I’ve had since I worked construction while in college, and occasionally my reciprocating saw). Then we clean and repaint the boards underneath. Then we buy enough lumber to do about ten rows. Then we repeat. We’re a little bit past halfway done now.

Of course, the last couple of weekends have been brutal, thanks to the weather. What, I must ask, will August be like if May is like this?here

But it’s made worse by the way the weather app on my iPhone keeps taunting me. I keep consulting it with the thought, “Let’s see whether the heat is going to try to kill me again today.”

For some reason, when I tap to call it up, it does not default to the weather where I am. Oh, no. The first thing I see is the weather in Dublin. So on Saturday, I was told the high would be 67, and the next day it would be 63, and the day after that 58, with a fine sprinkling of God’s generous rain. I could almost hear it add, “And would ye be after havin’ a Guinness after yer toil today, me lad?”

When we were in Ireland, the difference between the weather here and there was not that huge. A little cooler, and I was glad most days to have taken my water-resistant winter coat, although some days I took it off for a short while. Decent weather for the end of winter and start of spring.

But now, it’s like being on different planets. Ireland is the sane, normal, temperate planet. And West Columbia is on the one ruined by greenhouse gases. I’m reminded of the line from “The Matrix” to the effect that “It was us that scorched the sky.”

Last week was absurd for May. This coming week will be more so. Why must we live like this?

boards close

Don’t let today’s earworm bring you down

Perhaps this should be a regular feature, even daily. It would be a gift to my readers, a helpful explanation. They could say, No wonder he says all this stupid stuff; look what he’s got running through his head.

The reason this was lodged there is stupider than most. I was playing a video game that involves blowing up castles. Really. I’ve got a blog post I want to write that will explain. My time-wasting pursuits are growing dumber and dumber.

Anyway, I’m not sure what the song is supposed to mean.  Without having really thought about it, I’ve assumed subconsciously that it was a sort of leveling, sixtiesish nod to social equality: Who cares if castles are burning? Most of us don’t live in castles, and those who do deserve to be burned out. Anyone who lives in a castle is The Man.:

Don’t let it bring you down,
It’s only castles burning
Find someone who’s turning
And you will come around…

But maybe that’s not right. The song contains a number of alarming or at least dark images, things I don’t think people would shrug off easily — the dead man lying by the side of the road, the red lights flashing through the window in the rain. Are we not supposed to be brought down by any of that?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just meaningless rhymes. Maybe it’s like “I am the Walrus,” which Lennon composed from random lines he would write down and stick in a drawer to use later. One day, he just pulled them out and jammed them together.

Anyway, that’s today’s earworm…

neil young

I’m deeply shocked to learn of the death of Burl Burlingame

After our tour of Ford Island in 2015, we dropped by our Alma Mater to pay respects.

After our tour of Ford Island in 2015, we dropped by our Alma Mater to pay respects.

Y’all know I’m not a big Facebook user. So I had to return to America to learn that my high school friend and blog regular Burl Burlingame had died suddenly on the Ides of March — just two days after we left for Ireland.

I had just gotten into the office this morning, and Lora said she had been looking for Ireland pictures on my Facebook (there were none — I was putting them all on Twitter), and she noticed that my friend had died. That’s how I learned about it.

His most recent FB profile photo, from 2018.

His most recent FB profile photo, from 2018.

WHAT?!?!?

“Sudden” was the way his passing was described. It was certainly that from my perspective.

Wow. The world has lost an extraordinary person. Even in high school, Burl was a Renaissance Man — writer, photographer, cartoonist, musician, actor. Wherever you looked, Burl was there and playing a major role. Larger than life. Before I had even done so much as work on a school paper, he wrote, illustrated and published his own underground newspaper in which he regularly referred to our principal, Mr. Yamamoto — who was seldom seen by students — as the Ghost Who Walks. He used to carry around a briefcase with multiple harmonicas in it, which he could really, really play. When he portrayed the secret policeman in the senior class production of Woody Allen’s “Don’t Drink the Water,” his was easily the most memorable performance.

Burl in 1971.

Burl in 1971.

As an adult, he just expanded on all of that. Like me, he spent 35 years as a newspaperman, but while I was concentrating on that one thing, Burl was making his mark in other spheres — writing books on military history, becoming a master modeler (of course, like most of us, he had taken up that hobby as a kid, but then turned pro), and establishing himself as probably the leading expert in the world on Japanese minisubs. So it was perfectly natural when he left the paper to become staff historian at the Pacific Aviation Museum.

I feel privileged that I got to reconnect with Burl, through this blog, almost 40 years after we graduated from Radford High School together. And I’m glad I got to see him twice in recent years, first when he gave my wife and me a personal tour of his museum and Ford Island, and again when he came to Columbia for an international modelers convention.

And I’m having trouble absorbing the fact that I’ll never see him again in this life.

On Ford Island in 2015.

On Ford Island in 2015. Note the rainbow.

128 gigabytes? 128 GIGABYTES?!?!?!?!

My new iPad came yesterday, and I’m as excited as Doc Brown finding out that his flux capacitor actually works!

Perhaps the best part is that, after years of having to constantly dump stuff to keep my old 32 GB model from getting too full, I now have 128 GB to work with! Last night, the new one automatically went to the cloud and downloaded every app that was on the old one (which I didn’t necessarily need it to do, because I can do without some of them), and when it was done it took up only 14 gigs!

I’ve got 114 gigs of completely clean, virgin, unexplored space lying before me! I’m like one of the English settlers at Jamestown with the whole continent to my west! (Yeah, not a particularly pleasant analogy if you’re a Native American, but it was the first one that came to mind. Race memory stored in the collective unconscious, or something.)

But when I left the house this morning, I suddenly chickened out and brought my old beat-up iPad with me instead. Because if I left the house with the new one it could get wrecked, stolen, scratched, breathed on wrong!

I think I’ll just go home to it tonight and rub it with a diaper.

OK, I’ll stop with the silly movie references now. But I’m kind of giddy about this thing. I’m a heavy tablet user, and having one that’s new and fast and doesn’t freeze up and has more space than I (currently) need is actually going to make my day-to-day life easier…

This reminds me -- I really need to get a haircut...

This reminds me — I really need to get a haircut…

 

‘Dooanld the Ready’

Vm3rI_8P

I’ve called your attention before to the hilarious Twitter feed Donaeld The Unready, the chronicles of a king from the era of “The Last Kingdom” and “Vikings” who goes about blustering and promising to “Make Mercia Great Again!”

Sample recent Tweet:

As you probably know, my first name is Donald. My first name comes in handy because I can always tell when I’m being addressed by people who don’t know me or anything about me — they call me “Donald.”

But I was really confused this morning. My wife and I are planning a trip to Ireland in a few months. We signed up for a package deal that my brother-in-law and his wife are also planning to go on, out of Memphis.

Today, I got an email from one of the organizers telling us that… well, I’m still trying to sort out what it’s telling us. Something about our flight to Heathrow and from there to Dublin, I think.

Anyway, it addressed me as “Dooanld.”

Is that an ancient Irish version of “Donald?” No, that would be “Domhnall.” (The name is of Gaelic origin, by the way.  It means “world ruler,” which tells you I have yet to come into my birthright, and I’m kind of getting impatient about that. I mean, don’t names mean anything anymore?)

Also, how is one to pronounce “Dooanld?”

Whatever. I’m looking forward to the trip. Call me Dooanld the Ready…

Actual photograph of Dooanld the Ready. OK, so technically it's an actor portraying my ancestor Ragnar Lothbrok. Best I could do...

Actual photograph of Dooanld the Ready. OK, so technically it’s an actor portraying my ancestor Ragnar Lothbrok. Best I could do…

So much for my best-selling diet book

When I first joined the Smith campaign, Doug Ross suggested I take good notes so I could write a book about it when it was over.

That didn’t really appeal to me, but I did think for a moment that maybe I was onto an idea for a best-selling diet book.160.7

That’s because I lost several pounds in the first month of the campaign, even though I was eating like a horse.

I had already been steadily losing weight in the months before, what with my walking/elliptical regimen. I had dropped down from 177.6 on the last day of December to 166.7 on June 26, a few days before joining the campaign on July 1 — which had taken a lot of work.

I felt good about that progress, but as you know, it took a lot of hard work. I was a walking demon, averaging more than 16,000 steps a day in some months.

But once I joined the campaign, my workout regimen was severely curtailed (like a dog watch) — I’d do the elliptical in the morning — maybe — and make no particular effort to walk further during the day.

But as I said, I ate as much as I wanted. Yet on the last day of July, I had dropped to 160.7 pounds. I appeared to be on track to weigh less than 150 by Election Day, easily.

And all it took was stress like I had never experienced in a job before! Pressure all day and into the night! Going from 0 to 60 by 6:30 a.m. each day, and it never letting up!

A small price to pay for eating all you want, exercising only moderately, and still losing weight.

I was onto a best-seller, called “The Campaign Diet:” All you had to do is get someone to hire you as the most visible staff person on a statewide political campaign, doing a job you had never done before in your life! No problem!

But then, my premise started to fall apart. My weight hit its low point on Aug. 23 — 160.6.

Then, it started climbing back. Inexorably.172.2

It hit 165.7 on Sept. 25, and then 168.7 on Oct. 22. Then, during that week on the RV, my workout regimen fell completely apart, and despite the fact that I was missing meals, it kept climbing. And as stressful as that week was, it didn’t do the trick any more.

This morning, at my lowest point in the day — after a short workout, and before breakfast — I hit 172.2.

I think the problem is, you get used to stress. Your body adjusts. It ceases to be a magic potion for weight loss. And then there’s the fact that eventually, the stress itself goes away. You get used to a new routine. You might even enjoy it.

So I’m back to long walks and watching what I eat, if I want to get back down into the 160s.

So much for the best-seller…

Congratulations to Samuel Tenenbaum (on a milestone I’ll never achieve)!

Samuel

Last week, my good friend Samuel Tenenbaum shared the above photo with me.

I’m proud to share it with y’all. And proud to know Samuel. He’s been giving platelets at the Red Cross for more than a decade, and on the day this was taken (eight days ago) he had officially given 250 units! He gets up and does it sometimes at the crack of dawn, and has been known to bring donuts for the Red Cross workers. So they love the guy. On the day he passed his milestone, he brought pizza.

Of course, to Samuel the milestone is already a thing of the past. That day, he reached 251. This past weekend, he gave two more units to reach 253. (They generally take two units at a time, and sometimes three.)

He’s the one who inspired me to start giving platelets on a regular basis myself. I had hesitated. Although I’d been giving blood for years, overcoming a lifelong horror of such things in order to do so (something I bragged about a lot), I had balked at this.

Why? Because of the inconvenience factor. Once you get good at it, you can give whole blood in little over 5 minutes, from the moment the needle goes in. Giving red cells only, which I did for awhile, takes a little longer — maybe 40 minutes or so — since they have to separate the red cells from your blood and pump what’s left back into you.

Whereas giving a couple of units of platelets can take as much as three hours from the time you walk into the place until you walk out, stiff from lying there so long. Not only that, but while you have to wait 8 weeks to give whole blood again and 16 weeks to give red cells, you can give platelets weekly! And as soon as that week is up, you’ll start hearing from the Red Cross again. Not because they’re greedy, but because they’re desperate: There are few platelet donors, and many urgent needs for platelets.

But, inspired by Samuel, I gave in and started giving platelets. And I compromised on the weekly thing, setting up a standing appointment every two weeks (I found I felt really tired for a couple of days after each donation, and figured I needed the recovery time).

So I built that standing appointment into my gmail calendar… which tells me I’m supposed to be there right now, as I type this! But I’m not.

That’s because I’ve been banned from giving, for good. It happened several months back — at the end of last summer, in fact. I just haven’t had the heart to take it off my calendar. I miss giving. It was my thing, you know. I can’t afford to give money, and my stupid asthma and allergies kept me from military service, but at least I could do this for my community!

But no more.

Here’s what happened: I got a call from the Red Cross one day. Thinking it was someone reminding me of my appointment, I was about to say, “I know; I know!” when I was told something unexpected. Someone, somewhere, had had a problematic reaction to my platelets. They wanted me to come in for a special blood test, just in an abundance of caution.

So I went in, and had the test done, and figured I’d be going to my next appointment as usual, and then… I got another call. I was told that because I had some unusual antibody in my blood, they could no longer accept my donations, according to FDA guidelines.

I was told I was perfectly healthy — that this condition was no threat to me. But the existence of that factor in my blood could be harmful, under certain rare conditions, to someone else. Again, the abundance-of-caution thing.

I got a letter in the mail with a couple of charts from my test with mysterious notations about a1 cells and a2 cells and b cells, and it made no sense to me.

All I know is, I can’t give any more. Ever, apparently. I just made the list, buddy.

Which means some of y’all need to do so. Samuel can’t do it all. And the need is constant: Platelets are only good for five days.

Why does he do it? For a number of reasons, starting with the selfish: It tells him he’s healthy, and each time you give, you get a mini-physical — blood pressure, iron levels, pulse, and so forth. But ultimately, as usual with Samuel, it’s because somebody needs to do it. “Each time I walk out of there, I know that I have changed the world,” if only a little bit.

More briefly: “It’s called, ‘Love thy neighbor.'”