Category Archives: Personal

I’m glad I voted yesterday. Can we count the votes now?

I went with the bandanna rather than a surgical mask, in order to cover my beard. I'm going to mount that cotton swap on a plaque or something...

I went with the bandanna rather than a surgical mask, in order to cover my beard. I’m going to mount that cotton swap on a plaque or something…

I mean, come on, people — if you haven’t voted, that’s just too bad! I can’t wait now…

But seriously, folks… As I mentioned in comments on a previous post yesterday, I cast aside my firm preference for voting on actual Election Day — and I still prefer it — for a number of reasons:

  • I kept hearing things that made me worry that instead of taking the pressure off Election Day, the waves of people voting early (62 million as of the time I was standing in line waiting to vote) be a harbinger of a complete mess on that day. I stood in long, long lines in 2008. Those same lines would be much, much longer with social distancing, and I didn’t fancy standing in the heat or rain or whatever (it rained during the hour and forty minutes I was in line in 2008) with a mask on my face that long.
  • I didn’t feel great when I went to bed the night before. Probably just weariness from staying up half the night before, for the convenience of the West Coast, watching the World Series. But I thought, “What if this is COVID? What if I get sick and can’t vote?” I couldn’t take that chance.
  • When I found out about this satellite location — and found out about it in a way that made me hope not many people would know about it — I decided to run out and do it, suddenly and without warning.

And it worked. I got it done in less than an hour. I congratulated myself on a brilliantly successful coup de main operation. Trump and Lindsey never saw it coming. Not from me, anyway. Just BANG, and I had voted.

By the way, I voted as I reported I would — for Joe, Jaime, Adair and Nikki Setzler. Which should have taken only seconds, but I assure you I was more obsessive than usual about double- and triple-checking ever vote at ever stage — on the screen, and on the paper printout. I made sure there was zero chance of an error on my part.

Now, about the fact that the availability of this convenient polling place (about half the distance, for me, compared to the election office in Lexington) was kept such a secret…

That morning, thinking about getting out and voting, I had tried to find out what my options were. But when I had Googled “where to vote early near me” and entered my address, I was told that I had to go to Lexington. Other options weren’t offered. (Also, I could have sworn there was no info on the county election office website when I looked before, although it’s there now.)

I found out about it completely inadvertently. A friend sent me a flyer that she had gotten from a Facebook post that someone else had sent her. It was not from the Lexington Election office. It was from the page of the West Columbia Community Center, the place where I ended up voting. I went looking for that post later and couldn’t find it, but I did find a link to a WIS story about these places being opened. If The State, my main local source of news, posted it at any time, I missed it. (A search of thestate.com shows that the last time the full phrase “West Columbia Community Center” appeared in The State was 2015 — but that’s a notoriously bad search engine, so I don’t know.)

So, I can’t really say the county officials hid the information from the public. I’m just not terribly impressed by how well they got the information out. I think maybe it spread by word of mouth during the day yesterday. I voted pretty quickly, but the line grew substantially while I was there, and Bud says he saw something about it on WIS (thank you, WIS, for making the effort to help us know about this) that said people were waiting as long as 90 minutes. Although I don’t know when that was.

Then there’s the fact that the place where I voted — the only place anywhere near me — was only open yesterday, today and tomorrow. And only from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., rather than full voting hours like on Election Day.

Look, I’m grateful for the opportunity I had yesterday. I want to thank the folks who manned this temporary site — including one of the folks I’m used to seeing at my own precinct on Election Days. I appreciate WIS trying to get the word out. Mostly, I appreciate the chain of people passing around the information that eventually got to me.

But you know, the folks in charge of elections in my county could have gotten the word out better. And they could have had these locations open the whole time, rather than these small snatches of time.

If they had, it would have helped more to keep the madness down on Election Day. I still worry there will be problems (although probably fewer in this county than in Richland — at least ours is an actual county office, rather than one of those notorious Special Purpose Districts).

But I’m glad I got the opportunity, and I’m glad I’m done…

ElWtKvUWoAYavaO

It was pretty exciting when I actually got INSIDE the building, and could see the little voting booths…

I can’t vote for a single Republican this year. I just can’t.

sample ballot

I don’t when this has happened before. Or if it’s happened.

I know it didn’t happen during my years as a guy who made endorsements and shared them with the world (or in the years since). I know that because I kept records. And with one or two exceptions, I pretty much voted a straight editorial-board ticket. If we endorsed them, I almost always voted for them. So, I know that at no time between 1994 and 2008 was there a year when I couldn’t support anybody of one party. Or the other.

Oh, there were those awkward years at the paper in which we supported — for that one year — mostly Democrats or mostly Republicans. For instance, in 2006 we endorsed 12 Democrats and only 5 Republicans. That was the most lopsided ever, exceeding even 2000, when we backed 10 Republicans and only 7 Democrats.

But I didn’t really worry about those lopsided years, because I knew — and reminded everybody — of what the mix had been the time before. And that it would likely be balanced to some extent in the next election. For instance, the election year after the one when we went with 12 Democrats was 2008, when we supported eight Republicans and only five Democrats.

It worked out. And anyone with a halfway fair mind could see that what we said was true — that we didn’t consider party. Not even to make it work out evenly in a given year — which we could have done, had we chosen to stack things. We just made determinations as to who was the better candidate in each contest, and let the chips fall.

Of course, the partisans on both sides accused us of being partisans for the others side — because like Donald Trump, they didn’t let facts get in their way.

But now, I’m out here alone, and people are going, “Let’s see what Brad really is, when he’s not speaking for an institution.”

I haven’t really kept track of every vote since 2008, the way I did at the paper. But I know I’ve voted for Republicans as well as Democrats, mainly because I usually have voted in Republican primaries. (If you live in Lexington County and don’t vote in the GOP primary, you don’t get any choices.)

Since leaving the paper, of course, I actually worked in a campaign — for a Democrat. Which didn’t mean I was a Democrat. The Democrats understood that. Some of them are still ticked at James for hiring me when I obviously wasn’t a member of the tribe. I don’t know if he still hears about it — probably not — but I do. It was my fault he lost, you see. That’s what I occasionally hear, anyway. Because I wasn’t the real deal.

Of course, I’m just talking about serious Democrats. And just some of them. Republicans, and other people who are not partisan Democrats, think, “You worked for a Democrat, so you’re a Democrat. You ever work for a Republican? No? OK, then you’re a Democrat.” Because, you see, we (including the media, or course) have trained people to think you can only be one of two things. So if you’re not one, you’re the other. Even when you’re not.

So anyway, it would have been great — now that I’m a guy who puts signs in his yard — if I could have put a Republican or two out there this year, the way I did the first time I had signs, in 2018. It might not persuade anybody, but to quote Tippi Turtle, it would “bother those hammerheads.” Anything I can do to get partisans to scratch their heads is in theory good, because the stimulation might lead to thought.

But Donald Trump made that impossible. I cannot possibly support someone who actively and regularly supports him, so there go all the Republicans I used to support in the past on the national level. My hero John McCain stood up to him, but he’s gone. And I wouldn’t have had a chance to vote for McCain again anyway, after I did in 2008 (and back in the 2000 primary — which is one of those times I didn’t vote a straight editorial-board ticket, since I lost that endorsement debate).

Let’s look at the Republicans on my ballot.

Did Joe Wilson vote to impeach Trump? No, he did not. There are plenty of other problems with Joe, but that would be enough. He’s my representative, and I couldn’t trust him to do something that really shouldn’t have taken any thought, for anyone who believed there should be standards for the office of president. I have no problem applying that as the bare minimum for my vote. We didn’t even need an impeachment investigation, after Trump put out the official White House summary of that phone call. That, without anything else, would have caused you to vote for impeachment if you were someone I would have represent me in Congress.

Is that an unfair standard to apply to a poor ol’ Republican? No, it is not. Yes, it sounds absurd for me to expect that of a South Carolina Republican. Of course it does. And that fully explains why I can’t vote for any Republicans now. None of them will consider for even a second doing the right thing.

So I’m voting for Adair. I’m not crazy about everything she runs on — too populist for me — but I think she’ll do a better job than Joe, if we give her a chance. If she’d say, “I would have voted to impeach Trump,” I’d put up a sign for her in a second.

Then, of course, there’s Lindsey Graham. I don’t think I’ve ever been let down to this extent by anyone, especially someone I used to respect as much as I did him — as a stand-up guy, a guy who actually took political risks to try to address the worst excesses of partisanship (such as the insanity over confirming judges), and even the worst impulses within his own party (think “immigration”). We could respect and admire Lindsey as recently as 2016, when he was such a no-holds-barred critic of Trump that he was fun to have around. No more. That’s all gone, and he’s the guy who threw it all away — with extreme prejudice.

And we know, because we knew him in 2016 and all those years before, that he knows better.

He’s got to go. He’s disgraced himself, and the rest of us, enough. And fortunately, his opponent is someone I’ve liked for years. And he actually seems to have a chance. Which is something of a miracle, and if that miracle happens, I’m going to be part of it. You go, Jaime.

And of course, of course, I’ll be voting for my senator, Nikki Setzler. I even have a sign for him in the yard, too.

So that just left my own incumbent state House representative, Micah Caskey, as the one Republican I’d be happy to vote for. I had a sign for him in my yard in 2018, along with the one for James. Ditto with bumper stickers. So imagine my dismay when I realized, just before the primary, that Micah had no opposition. Meaning he wasn’t going to be spending money on yard signs and bumper stickers this year.

Oh, I could vote for him anyway, or one of the many other Republicans on my ballot who are unopposed. But it doesn’t really mean anything unless unless you’re choosing somebody over somebody else.

So I’m still going to be voting for just Democrats on the 3rd. Which is weird, and uncomfortable, if you’re me.

Why do I care? Why does it matter whether people think I’m a Democrat, or a Republican, or whatever?

Because, on one level, I absolutely cannot stand to be misunderstood. I want people to place some value in the precise reasons I give for voting the way I do in a given race. Otherwise, I wouldn’t offer them. And frankly, if I always vote for the Democrat, or always vote for a Republican, my reasons don’t matter. They only matter if I go into it fairly, and judge based on the relative merits of each candidate in the race. At least, that’s the way it was before now, before the Republicans I had supported for years suddenly make it impossible to keep doing so.

That’s the selfish reason.

But it’s not just an ego thing. What I’m trying to say, in this instance, matters. It actually matters that a guy like me is telling you this: That we have reached a moment in which there is not a single Republican out there in a contested race that a guy like me, with my track record, can vote for. So you should pay attention. This is serious.

But if I’m not what I say I am, then never mind. Just ignore the partisan. (That’s what I do with partisans.)

Also, there are so many Democrats out there I would never vote for — and I don’t want anyone thinking I would. (The clash between those Democrats and the ones like Joe and Jaime is probably going to be a huge issue after the election. But we can’t worry about that now. The house is on fire, and we have to put it out. We can worry about how it’s decorated later.)

That’s why I care. But I can’t help it. The Republicans in contested races on my ballot have made it impossible even to consider voting for them.

And that’s on them…

 

Now I’m giving money. Not much, but technically money

filthy lucre

I mention this because to a lot of people, giving money is a big deal.

It’s not so much to me, because I don’t find money very interesting. Which is a big reason why I don’t have much of it. I’m less interested in lucre than I am in football.

It was a bigger deal to me to actually start choosing and endorsing candidates back in 1994, my first year in the editorial department. That took some serious rewiring of my head. And then getting the point of putting out yard signs for candidates, as I started doing in 2018. And when I went to work for James and Mandy that same year.

To me, saying “I support you” is a bigger thing than “Here’s some money.”

But I know that makes me kind of weird, so I’m telling y’all — so you can make of it what you will — that one night last month, I actually, deliberately made a financial contribution to a candidate, in response to this appeal:

So I went to the ActBlue link and gave.

Yeah, I know. Twenty dollars and twenty cents ain’t much. I wish I could give Mandy a lot more. But still, it was technically money, and therefore kind of a step for me.

And as long as we’re talking technically, I guess it wasn’t my first. Several days earlier, my wife had made a contribution to Jaime Harrison. She mentioned it so I’d know, because my name’s on the account. So I was on the books as a donor. Which I thought was great — I’d been thinking about making a contribution to Jaime, but as I tend to do with money, I had repeatedly forgotten about it. So I was a donor, and I didn’t even have to do anything (like fill out a form or something, which I hate with a passion). Which is awesome.

But technically… I had made a contribution earlier in the year, to Joe Biden. I had reached out to folks I knew on his campaign, back before the primary, to ask if they’d like a free ad on the blog. They said yes, so I filled out an in-kind form (see how much I love you, Joe?), and put up the ad. I liked seeing it there that I left it up for several awhile after the primary was over, but finally made myself remove it.

So I guess that was my first “financial contribution.”

I did it again a week or so ago. And reached out to Jaime Harrison’s campaign and did the same for him.  You can see both ads in the rail at right. (And I’d put one up for free for Mandy if I thought it would help her up in her district — I don’t know how many actual readers I have there.)

So I’ve just been giving like crazy to these campaigns. Sort of. And now you know…

 

Should I go ahead and vote? Have you?

A friend who voted today took this picture while waiting in the queue.

A friend who voted today took this picture while waiting in the queue.

I’m starting to feel doubts. They may not affect my behavior, but I’m having them.

Y’all know how strongly I feel about the importance of turning out and voting with one’s neighbors (which is way communitarian), in person, on actual Election Day. It is to me a major, deeply meaningful ritual of life in America.

But… this is an extraordinary situation, is it not?

First, we have the most important election in my lifetime, one in which we will either save our republic by electing a normal, decent human being as our highest elected official, or drag the country — and the rest of the world, which has been holding its breath for four years waiting for us to fix this — down further and deeper into the mire, the utter degradation.

So, you know, I need to vote, and it needs to count.

Second, we’re in the strangest situation of my life, in which so much about normality has gone out the window. For instance, I may never again go to work at an office, or anywhere other than my home — which overthrows thousands of years of human social and economic behavior. And that’s just one piece of it. I mean, 220,000 Americans are dead from this thing, and it’s far, far from over.

So… maybe I should make an exception in this instance.

Up to now, I’ve held to my resolve to wait until Nov. 3. But each day, more friends and family members go out and vote early — or technically, vote “in-person absentee.”

Which on the one hand supports my plan, by taking pressure off and reducing crowds on the day of. But what if that day is still even more insane, and things break down? I’m pretty sure I’ll get to vote anyway, but what sort of societal breakdown will occur while we’re waiting for all the votes to be counted, and a clear winner to emerge and be accepted?

I dunno. What do y’all think?

For that matter, what do y’all do? What have you done already? Some of you have reported in, but what about everybody else? Who’s voted by mail? Who’s done the “in-person absentee” thing? Who’s waiting for Election Day?

And why?

I would find it helpful to know…

He thought I’d be interested, and he was right…

without

I was doing one of my walks around the neighborhood yesterday, and a guy in a white pickup truck stopped beside me. I figured he wanted to ask directions or something, but that wasn’t it.

A selfie I shot on the same walk. How could he tell I'd be interested?

A selfie I shot on the same walk. What made him think I’d be interested?

He said that looking at me, he thought I might be interested in seeing something his wife had made for him.

I said “Sure,” and he put it on.

Above you see him without it. Below you see him with it.

Pretty amazing, huh? When I got home and showed my wife, on the small screen of my phone, she couldn’t even tell at first that it was a face mask. I had to point it out.

Don’t know how his wife did it. Maybe took a picture of him, and sent it off to be printed on cloth? I should have asked.

In any case, I was suitably impressed…

with

 

Anybody having intense stress dreams lately?

This is dream expert Sigmund Freud, whom you may recall from "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure"

This is dream expert Sigmund Freud, whom you may recall from “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”

I ask because someone told me that a lot of people were having these during the pandemic. Apparently, this is a thing. Although the explanations I’ve seen don’t really work for me. I know a lot of people have been stressed by quarantining and all, but as I’ve said, I haven’t.

I was told about this when I mentioned some super-weird ones I had back after my stroke. They weren’t so much stress dreams as obsessive dreams. I found myself in different universes in which it was necessary that certain things be done a certain, specific way or else, I don’t know — the universe in question would stop operating properly.

I figured I was having them due to a change in medication. I described one or two of them to one of my kids, and was told lots of people were having stressful dreams that were being chalked up to the coronavirus.

I’m not going to describe any of them to you because they’re so weird, just explaining one would be too much trouble.

I’m just asking whether y’all are having any. If so and you want to share, and what you share is interesting, maybe I’ll try to share one, too.

If I can remember. I’ve actually sort of stopped having the unique obsessive ones — the ones that were a new experience. Lately I have had a stressful dream or two, but of the ordinary sort — the kind that are closely related to the common “it’s the last day of the semester and you’ve supposed to take an exam but you’ve never been to the class and are afraid to ask where it is” dream that everyone who’s been to college has. (For me, those particular dreams are not really symbolic, but sort of based on literal experience.)

Anyway, share if you feel like it. I’m curious…

I’m really enjoying rereading this — and no wonder, I now see

Rose 1

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve had this fatigue thing going on since my stroke. So maybe once a day — twice on a bad day — I’ve left the desk here in my home office to go lie back in the recliner in the same room and take a snooze. Which usually, but not always, refreshes me wonderfully and enables me to get back to work.

On one of these days, I looked across at the bookshelf several feet from the chair, and noticed a book I’d read several times, but not in quite a few years — Rose, by Martin Cruz Smith.

Ever read it? You should. If you don’t read another novel, read this. It’s not what Smith is best known for, but as much as I love his Arkady Renko novels — especially the first three — this may be my favorite.

And I’m rereading it now, and loving it.

No wonder.

I discovered how long it had been since I’d read it when I looked at the quote from a review on the back. See it below? When I saw it, it kind of blew me away: It’s from Patrick O’Brian, author of the Aubrey/Maturin novels, or the “Master and Commander” books, as some might call them. I had never noticed the review before. Why? Because apparently, it’s been so long since I’d read this book that the last time I saw it I had never heard of O’Brian — who now may be my favorite novelist. Y’all know how much I read and reread his novels.

I think I started reading about Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin more than 15 years ago. So it’s been awhile, Rose.

Of course O’Brian loved this book. Because in their own, very different and individualized ways, he and Smith were both masters of the same thing: They were capable, to an extent I’ve never seen anywhere else, to take their readers to an alien place and time and make them feel like they are really there.

That’s how Mike Fitts first told me I would enjoy O’Brian’s novels (something for which I will always be grateful). It’s a little hard to explain to the uninitiated why these books are so wonderful, but Mike got there by telling me that these books were about a Royal Navy captain during the Napoleonic Wars, and they recreated that world with such living, breathing detail that you feel like you’re really there.

This is absolutely true. And it’s also what Martin Cruz Smith is famous for. He earned this reputation with his breakthrough, landmark novel Gorky Park. It was stunning, and if you haven’t read it, go do so right now. It was a story about a Moscow murder detective, written in the middle of the Cold War, told from that man’s perspective, and it magically makes the reader think he is actually in that world. I was stunned, years later, when I read that Smith had never been to Russia before writing the book. (Did I dream that? I had trouble confirming it on the Web just now.) It seemed impossible.

That’s his famous one, but Smith has done it time and again, particularly with his other Arkady Renko books.

But with Rose, he takes the reader to a very different place and time from any Renko ever visited. Specifically, the dark and dirty coal-mining and manufacturing town of Wigan in Lancashire in 1872.

Here’s how Wikipedia summarizes the premise:

Jonathan Blair, a mining engineer, returns from Africa’s Gold Coast and, on finding his native England utterly depressing, falls into melancholy and alcoholism. Blair wishes desperately to return to Africa, so, in exchange, he agrees to investigate the disappearance of a local curate engaged to marry the daughter of Blair’s patron….

Which doesn’t even begin to tell you anything about Blair, or what he finds in Wigan. But I assure you, you feel that you are really in the place and time among people who are of the place time. And these people are worth getting to know.

I won’t say anything more, except to note that when O’Brian mentions “the last, most satisfying page,” he knows what he’s on about. I can’t wait to get back to it myself. And I know that in the days I get to it, I’ll go back and read that page several more time, to experience the satisfaction.

It’s pretty great…

Rose 2

Answer the readers’ questions, please! Or mine, anyway…

As a cranky old editor, I often have a problem reading news stories. It’s not the poor writing I sometimes encounter, or occasional typos, or the “bias” so many laypeople think they see. It’s this:

Too often, they fail to answer the most basic questions.

This started bugging me big-time shortly after I made the move from news to editorial, at the start of 1994. Time and again, there would be ONE QUESTION that I had when approaching a news item, a question that was essential to my forming an opinion on the matter. And not only would that one question not be answered in the story, but too often there would be no evidence that it even occurred to the reporter to ask the question. Worse, it didn’t occur to his or her editor to insist that it be asked. There would be no, “answer was unavailable,” or “so-and-so did not respond to questions” or anything like that.

I decided something about the news trade from that. I decided that the problem with news is the opposite of the one that people who complain about “bias” think they see. The problem was that, since the reporter and editor are so dedicated to not having an opinion on the matter, the questions that immediately occur to a person who is trying to make up his or her mind don’t even occur to them. Their brains just don’t go there. They’re like, “I got who, what, where, when and how, so I’m done.”

Too often, there’d be no attempt to determine who was responsible for a thing, or what the law required, or why a certain thing came up at a certain time.

This was maddening to me, and not just because it meant I’d have to do the work they’d failed to do. It was maddening because, well, why do we have a First Amendment? We have it so that we’ll have an informed electorate. And they’re not going to be very informed if they don’t know what to think about a news development because basic questions aren’t answered.

I knew news writers couldn’t care less whether people up in editorial didn’t have enough information. But it seemed they could care, at least a little, about arming readers with sufficient information before they went to vote.

(And I would, after a moment’s irritation, dismiss the whole thing from my mind — which is why I don’t recall a single specific example illustrating all this. I just remember my frustration. There was nothing to be done, because it would have been uncool to raise hell with news about it. Believe me, I tried once or twice, and it didn’t go well.)

Of course, sometimes my irritation isn’t so high-minded. Sometimes, I’m just ticked because my basic curiosity isn’t being satisfied. It’s more like, here’s a matter of something that didn’t matter to me at all as a voter, but I just wanted to know, and didn’t understand why I wasn’t being told…

Y’all know I don’t read sports news, unless something just grabs me. The other day, something in The Washington Post grabbed me. I saw that a professional baseball player’s wife had died of a heart attack. First, I thought, That poor woman! Her poor husband and family!… And I was about to keep scrolling down to the National and World parts of my iPad app (which for some reason the Post positions below sports), when I had a question, which I clicked on the story to answer.

What do you think it was? What would it be naturally? Well, of course, I wondered, How old — or rather how young — was she? Professional baseball players’ wives don’t die of heart attacks normally, and why? Because they’re young! As a 66-year-old who recently had a stroke, I was more curious than I would normally be, thinking, Even people that young are having heart attacks? And it was natural to wonder, well, how young?

But the story didn’t tell me. And I suppose that’s understandable under the circumstances, since the news broke on Instagram, rather than coming from a press briefing where there was the opportunity to ask questions. But still. For me, it was a case of, Here we go again…

Yes, I know. A decent human being would only care about the human tragedy, and wouldn’t get bugged about the details. But I am a longtime newspaper editor, so don’t expect normal behavior.

And I have this tendency, as an old guy, to think, These lazy reporters today… After all, beyond this one incident, I’ve noticed a trend in recent years to not bother with people’s ages even in hard news stories. That used to be an inviolable rule that, at least in hard news, you always gave a person’s age right away. The very first reference to a significant figure in a story would say something like, “John Smith, 25, was being sought by police for…”

But I’m not being fair to the kids. I’m just hypercritical. I was hypercritical back when I supervised reporters, and got worse when I moved to editorial, because I naturally wanted to know even more, so that I could opine. And then I just wanted to know because I wanted to know.

And sometimes I find evidence that I’m wrong to think reporters of yore were more thorough.

Lately, I’ve been looking at some fairly old journalism, from way before my time. Ancestry has started uploading newspaper stories as “hints” attached to certain individuals, particularly if they lived in the right markets. For instance, I recently received about 50 or so hints about my paternal grandparents from The Washington Post because they lived in the Washington suburb of Kensington, Md. Most of the items about my grandmother were social, such as an item noting that she had recently returned from a trip to South Carolina and was staying with friends until her mother returned and opened the house (because, of course, a young lady would not go stay at the house alone).

Most of the items mentioning my grandfather, who was once recruited by the Senators organization, were about baseball. They would usually mention that he had been captain of his team at Washington and Lee. And every time he turned around, he was attending a meeting to form a new team, and there’d be a news item about it, naming who was there and sometimes disclosing what positions they would play (he would usually pitch or play infield).

Of course, we know people back then were really into baseball, but still… you’ve got to be impressed by such depth of coverage — reporters digging up such hyperlocal minutiae going on in their communities (these guys weren’t even playing — they were just talking about starting a team!), and publishing it in those extremely dense, gray pages. I always have been. I mean, wow. This is driven home by the fact that Ancestry posts the entire page, which includes several times as many words as a typical newspaper page today, and you have to sift through the whole page to find the mention of your ancestor (which is why I still haven’t gone through most of the hints about my grandparents).

But sometimes they don’t seem so thorough.

For instance, I recently added an item about my great-grandfather Alfred Crittenton Warthen, father of the baseball player. It’s from the Frederick, Maryland, Evening Post on July 3, 1911. It’s way down on a page topped by a picture from the coronation of King George V (you see him and Queen Mary in their carriage), which contains news about a Boston rector who had traced the royal family to the lineage of David in Judea (which I suppose explains the picture). The page includes stories revealing that immigrants in quarantine in New York eat with their fingers rather than knives and forks, and one about an Englishwoman who was “Relieved from Hysteria Very Speedily” by visiting Coney Island. No, really. It was in the paper.

But eventually, I found this:

bells

And while it was a small item, I found it very interesting. Editorially, of course, I was ambivalent. As someone who hates noise, I’m obliged to feel some sympathy for Mr. Potts. At the same time, I have to think he’s a bit of a nutter.

I didn’t let myself be bothered by the fact that there should be a period after the second mention of Kensington, or a comma in the next line between “Town Council” and “Potts.” Such things happen.

But beyond those things, I had all sorts of questions, and no way to answer them:

  • I see Potts is “a resident of Kensington,” but is he a member of council? Or could mere residents present an ordinance in a way that council was required to spend time taking it up? I could see if he, as an observer, brought it up in a Q and A session, but an actual ordinance?
  • Why were Dr. Eugene Jones and my great-grandfather present? Had the fact that such an “ordinance” would come up been publicized, or even passed on first reading? Or did they attend meetings all the time, and just happened to be there? My great-grandfather was in the construction business. Did that bring him there? Was he there to get a permit or a code variance or something?
  • If they were there just because of this item, were they representing someone? Had the local ministerial alliance or someone like that asked them to be there? And was my ancestor someone who was often asked to speak out on local issues — or often did so, whether asked or not?
  • Did they object “so vigorously” on religious grounds — how dare this heathen seek to silence church bells? — or were they just irritated by the fact that the council was spending time on something so frivolous? Or somewhere in between? (I’m hampered by not knowing much about A.C. He died when my father — the last living member of his generation — was very young, and Dad only recalls seeing him once.)
  • The writer possibly didn’t bother to dig further into the matter because it was “said” that public sentiment was very much against it, and it was going nowhere. He was just reporting a local curiosity.
  • Was there a crowd at the meeting, given that public sentiment? Was there drama, and noise (which would have been hard on Potts, poor fella)? Or did the folks who opposed it trust A.C. and Dr. Jones to deal with the matter?

Today, of course, this item might have gone viral on the Web. Our president would probably have, at the very least, put out a Tweet defending church bells, and QAnon would say Potts was an agent for Hillary Clinton.

But as things are, I am just left to wonder…

One of only four pictures I have of A.C. Warthen. He's shown with my grandfather and my Dad's much-older brother Gerald.

One of only four pictures I have of A.C. Warthen. He’s shown with my grandfather and my Dad’s much-older brother Gerald — A.C.’s first grandchild.

Turn the danged lights down!

dilated

Had an appointment with an ophthalmologist today to check my eyes out after the weird thing they did when I had that stroke.

Not to go through all the details again, but basically, for two days, I could not look down. Yeah, I told you it was weird. But I’ve been mostly fine since then.

I checked out OK, but of course we had to do the dilate-your-eyes thing. So today has been sort of unreal. Good thing it was cloudy.

By the way, I cropped that selfie above (sorry about the poor quality) to zero in on the eyes.

Uncropped, you can see that after these months of working from home and not getting haircuts, I’ve got a little bit of a Gandalf thing going on.

You shall not pass!

uncropped

You anxious to ‘get back out there?’ I ask because I’m not.

Maybe I'm kind of like the guy in the Hardy novel...

Maybe I’m kind of like the guy in the Hardy novel…

Sounds like a stupid question, doesn’t it? It seems like everything I read and hear is based on the assumption that we’re all anxious as all get-out to, well, get out again.

Even the sensible folk who tell us it’s too early — and it is — seem to assume that we all want to get back to our usual routines as soon as possible. Hence all the news stories and features about folks who want to get back to their gym, or get sports started back up, get the kids back to school or see our streets busy again, or whatever.

Not because they’re worried about the economy or people’s jobs — although they may be concerned about those things as well, and understandably — but because they and other normal people want to be normal again.

I don’t claim that I was ever normal, of course, but I thought I’d speak up as a guy who’s in no hurry at all, just to see if anyone else is as messed up as I am.

I’m anxious to do one thing — be able to see and hug and spend time with my grandchildren. I miss that a great deal, and only a return to normal will fix it. But the rest? I can wait.

I realize that several factors contribute to making me this way, and some of them are what some might call privilege-related. Not from being a white guy or anything obvious like that, but from the fact that due to what I do in my post-newspaper career, my ability to bring in the same amount of income as before the pandemic is more or less unaffected. It would be way different if I were, say, a waiter. Or, for that matter, if I had any of those newspaper-editor jobs I had over the years, especially given the technology we had then.

That’s huge. But there are other factors as well, and here are a few of them:

  • I’m an introvert. Like seriously, extremely. I’ve been tested. I’ve never felt that deprived by a lack of physical contact with most of the human race. Being alone in the company of words feels fine to me. Occasional quick Facetime meetings, with phone and text and email, more than meet the need for the interactions that are needed to get work done. I spend essentially zero time getting to work and getting home — since I do all my work at home. This is more than awesome to me. The time I spend, for instance, not shaving is greatly appreciated.
  • I had a stroke, right in the middle of all this. I told you about that. I tell everybody, in case someone missed it. It’s helpful. I say “I had a stroke,” and people are willing to tolerate all sorts of things, maybe even my lack of interest in getting back out there. I recovered from the overt symptom (my strange inability to look down) almost immediately, but I do have days when I’m weirdly tired — actually, sort of every day, but some days are worse than others. Everyone has been enormously patient with me as I deal with this, but it would be harder for them to do that, and life would be a LOT harder for me, if we all felt the expectation to get up early and shower and shave and drive through the traffic and get breakfast and figure out lunch and meet with people and stop at the store on the way home … I get really tired just thinking about it. I found the PERFECT time to have a stroke, I figure. I’ve never been known as a great time manager, but sometimes I’m smart like that.
  • All of that last bullet said, you should go back to the first one and remember that stroke or no stroke, I like almost everything about working like this better than doing it the usual way. Things get boiled down to essentials and you just do the work. The stroke thing has just heightened that. (I’m not doing quite as much as I was, due to the stroke, but I’m building back up and I think I’ll soon be there. And doing it this way helps enormously in meeting that goal.)
  • There’s just my wife and me, and other than my stroke, we’re both doing pretty well, and we get along great. Like the guy in the Thomas Hardy novel said, I like knowing that whenever I look up, she’ll be there, and vice versa. I’d honestly rather be stuck on a desert island with her than with anyone else, and this is a reasonable rehearsal for that. (Don’t ask her if she feels the same; I’ll be happier assuming that she does. But not shocked if she doesn’t. The fact is that she is very tolerant of me, so hanging with her remains very pleasant — for me. And for her, I very much hope.) Having to spend all my time with her is a huge plus. If we could get back to normal with our kids and grandkids, things would be perfect.
  • Maybe this, and all the rest, boils down to that first bullet, but I have never, at any point in life, been someone who is looking for the world to entertain him. (As a newspaper editor, I was always flummoxed by conversations about the Weekend section and when it should be published and what it should contain — I could not imagine being a person who needed a published guide to tell me what to go do. My life was full.) As you know, I can take sports or leave them alone. Yes, if I’m going to miss a sport it’s baseball, but I figure it will get rolling again at some point, and whenever it does will be soon enough. I’ve always found books, TV and movies to be more diversion than I have time for in my life. I would have to have the rest of my life off from all work and spend 18 hours a day reading (which would be awesome) to make even a significant dent in the books I want to read and have not yet — even if I denied myself the pleasure of rereading the books I already love, which to me is one of life’s best things. Why, if I had enough time, maybe I’d even write a book myself in addition to reading them — but I’d need much more time than this pandemic is thus far giving me.
  • I live at a perfect time for all this. Not only is the kind of work I do easier with today’s technology, but the ways I like to spend any free time I have — books, movies, etc. — are all easily within reach. Ebooks, streaming and whatnot. This would not have been the case, to this extent, even a very few years ago.

I could go on, but that’s probably enough to give you the idea.

Do I feel guilty not being in a hurry to get back to “normal?” Yes, if you talk about the pain suffered by people who really, truly hurting financially or otherwise. I am extremely mindful of how lucky I am in this regard. And if we need to get back to it in order to help those folks, then let’s do it.

But I thought I’d be honest about the fact that from my perspective, I’m enjoying this while it lasts. I figured I ought to admit it. The Bobs will understand, won’t they?

I’ve got something. Don’t know what it is. The virus? Don’t know.

WIN_20200410_16_59_05_Pro

Hey, look! The camera on my laptop works. Never tried it before.

Something’s wrong. I’ve got something. I don’t know what it is.

Could it be the coronavirus? Maybe. I don’t know. Probably nothing. I’ll laugh about this tomorrow.

I woke up just after eight this morning. I realized I had turned off the 7:30 alarm yesterday when we went to Food Lion at 7.

I got up and felt very dizzy. OK, I thought. It’s that thing I’ve had for several weeks. I seem to have developed the other form of Ménière’s syndrome.

Look! My phone knew how to spell that. I don’t feel like I can type. So I’m dictating to my phone. It’s working.

Anyway, I’ve had vertigo when I first stand up when I wake up. After a moment, it goes away. Feels worse today, though.

I got up. I was way too dizzy to walk around. Decided to take a hot bath sitting down, instead of a shower. Next thing I knew, my wife was calling me from far away. I looked, and it was a little after nine. I closed my eyes. She called again.

I forced my eyes open and said OK, and flipped open the water with my foot. I closed my eyes…

I woke up again. It was after 9:30. I knew something was wrong.

I managed to get up. Very dizzy. I dried off, got dressed. I went to the front door, because I saw out the window that my wife was outside.

There was something wrong with my eyes. This had not been the case before I got in the tub. I could not focus on anything lower than eye level. I realized this meant I couldn’t write at the computer. I couldn’t read a book. I couldn’t even watch TV. If I wanted to look at something, I had to hold it up above my eyes.

I wouldn’t be able to work. I had so much to do. After about 20 minutes, my eyes got better. I was so relieved. I went to get a package of coconutmilk yogurt. For a smoothie. When I came back, my eyes were messed up again.

I made the smoothie anyway, feeling my way, my wife standing next to me.

It didn’t taste right. The coffee my wife had made for me didn’t taste right, either. This was the first thing that seemed to be a virus indication. There was nothing else. No fever.

I called Lora from ADCO and told her I could not work today. She was very understanding. I was not. I had so much to do today. But I couldn’t. About this time my eyes got better again. I was able to glance down at my phone.

A few minutes later, my vision was messed up again.

I tried sitting in the TV room in my recliner for a while. It was all right, but I wanted to go back to sleep. I went back to bed a right at noon. Got up to use the bathroom at three.

My eyes were still messed up. Very dizzy. Went back to bed. Fell back to sleep immediately.

At four, my wife called me awake. She was sitting on the bed. Gradually I got up and got dressed.

It’s 4:39 PM as I dictate this. I’m upstairs in front of my computer. My wife told me not to come up here, because I would try to do something with my eyes. But I came in anyway, holding onto the rails with both hands.

Is this coronavirus? I have no idea. My eyes were messed up when I woke up, but right now I can look at this,. Good.

If I can, I’ll keep you posted. Probably nothing. i’ll try to watch the TV now. We’ll see how that goes.

This is probably nothing. Tomorrow, I’ll feel ridiculous. I’ll set it to post later, and stop it if I feel better…

How do you define ‘stay-at-home?’ What are you doing and not doing?

Sunday's dance recital in my parents' backyard.

Sunday’s dance recital in my parents’ backyard.

What does Henry McMaster’s sorta, kinda stay-at-home order really mean? The P&C has a fairly helpful explainer on that. When I read it, it seems like mostly stuff I thought everyone had quit doing weeks ago.

I have my own interpretations of what I should be doing, of what is socially responsible. I suspect each of you do, too.

So what does that mean in your daily routine? Here are a few glimpses of what it means to me:

  • Early this morning, I went to Lowe’s while my wife went to Aldi. I did so anticipating that when Henry’s order went into effect today, I wouldn’t be able to go to Lowe’s. I was wrong. Anyway, I put on a mask and rubber gloves. Of course, of course, of course I was the only male in the place doing so. Several women had on masks, but none of those contractors did. I kept expecting some of the guys to give me the business (to use the “Leave it to Beaver” expression), but no one did (in my hearing). I just shrugged it off because I’m determined not to give this to my parents. Why did I feel I needed to go there? Well, you know that deck project I’ve been working on for much of the past year? Well, I finally tore down the old wooden steps a couple of weeks back, and I’m anxious to build the new ones. So I got everything I still needed to do that (mostly additional lumber). Then I picked up some seeds and pepper plants for my wife the gardener, since Park Seed was out of what she needed! I also got several bags of raised bed soil for my own okra bed I wrote about earlier. I thought it might be too late to plant by the next time I could go there. This was, to my shock, a $150 trip.alert
  • When I got home, I stripped off everything and left my clothes in front of the washing machine to await the next load, then showered. I do that whenever I go someplace like that.
  • My wife and I still take a long walk in our neighborhood every day. Others are doing the same. We veer away from people we encounter to maintain at least the six feet of distance. We don’t wear masks or gloves. We see WAY more people than we’re used to seeing. Speaking of Leave it to Beaver, in one respect I’m seeing the neighborhood revert to my own childhood. LOTS of kids are riding their bikes all over the neighborhood, and I didn’t realize how relatively rare that is now until they started doing so in numbers that rival the days when Boomers were kids. No really cool bikes like Pee-Wee’s, though. We’re watching spring progress. We’re wondering why the rabbits aren’t out yet. We are seeing LOTS of squished turtles and frogs in the streets. It’s good there are so many, but bad that they’re squished. We did find one live baby turtle a couple of days ago. See below.
  • What are these churches that Henry’s talking about that are having Easter services? Are you kidding me? Our masses have been streamed and we “participate” from home. Our bishop called off all in-person masses weeks ago. And seriously — a First Amendment issue? The freedoms of speech and the press aren’t absolute, and neither is the religion clause. There are considerations that override. This is a political exemption, not a constitutional one.

    We've been doing Mass from home for weeks.

    We’ve been doing Mass from home for weeks.

  • Of course I’m working from home. I think it will have been three weeks on Thursday. I’ve been extremely busy, or I’d blog more. Still expecting that to slow down, but it hasn’t yet. By the way, I like it. I find I’m getting more done. It will be hard to go back to working at the office — if I ever do. If we need to meet, we do Facetime. Seems to me like we’re getting everything done fine.
  • The one hard thing for me is I can’t hug my grandchildren. But we see them, at a distance. On Sunday, the twins went over to my parents’ (their great-grandparents’) house to perform some of the choreography they did during a recent recital my folks had missed (before all such things were canceled). They did so without music, but it was still great. They wore face masks they had made themselves. They are wonderfully smart, talented, capable girls.
  • My other two in-town grandchildren came over yesterday to stand in the front yard and say “hey.” As I say, it’s hard not to hug them. They brought their several-month-old puppy, Lucy. Lucy went straight for my wife, who was sitting on our front steps, and enthusiastically licked her face. This made me worry, and I urged her to wash her face after they left. Don’t know if she did or not. Good thing Lucy’s not a tiger. My granddaughter and grandson were very grownup about keeping their distance while we chatted. Sort of wished they hadn’t been, but I was proud of them.
  • My elder son’s band, The Useful Fiction, was supposed to have had a gig Friday night. So since that was out, he streamed a solo acoustic set from his front porch on Facebook. He did a mix of his own original songs, which I think are great, and some covers — Dylan and such. Everyone who reacted enjoyed it. Hope he’ll do it more.
  • I feel guilty that except for the occasional delivery of groceries or takeout (or to watch the girls dancing), I’m not visiting my parents. But I’d probably feel worse if I thought I was endangering them. I check on them by phone daily, but formerly I used to go every day and do little things around the house, and stand by to be a lifeguard while my Dad took a shower, in case he fell. They’re getting by OK without all that so far, I think.
  • I haven’t seen my in-town son and daughter who don’t have kids in a week or two, although we talk. I miss them, too. And of course, we watch the coronavirus situation closely in Dominica, where my youngest lives.

Those are sort of random, but I suppose they kind of give the flavor.

How about y’all? What are you doing and not doing?

My wife holds up the one live baby turtle we encountered.

My wife holds up the one live baby turtle we encountered.

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: