I’m so tired. Aching everywhere.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

And it’s not from COVID-19. It’s from GARDENING-20! Sorry. I hope that the title didn’t make you worry. 

Like most of America, we’re staying home. We’ve got time. I’m retired. We can’t travel, shop or hike in the parks. We’re staying home. Fighting this war alone. Together. As the commercial goes. Actually, like almost every commercial goes. Every brand is running its own version of saluting the front lines in healthcare. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. But it certainly is not the norm. And, when you see a legit, straight up ad, that feels weird too by comparison, as if the message and messenger doesn’t understand the time in which it’s airing. It feels out of step. 

Julie doing her part repotting the front yard pot.

Sorry. Left turn. Back to gardening. I thought that the hardest part was going to be buying the plants. Our local garden supplier, Pikes, was open, but you had to select your plants online. It was difficult and frustrating trying to pick without actually selecting with your own eyes on the plant. Julie eventually got on the phone with a “dig in the dirt” assistant at Pike’s and talked through the order. She paid for it online and we drove over to pick it up. They had set up an outside pick up. Julie opened the tailgate and they loaded the flats and dirt and bark in and off we went. Easy as pie. 

Then, we dug and planted. Dug some more. Planted some more. Mixed up soil. Dug some more. Dug up daisies, separated them and moved them to a new spot. Same with some grasses. All of this was Sunday. 

We took Monday off to clean the house, or as they say in PIttsburgh, “Red up the place.” 

This morning, we were back at it again. Grape tomato plant. Lavender. More pots.

Frankly, this staying home, fighting the virus with a spade, is killing my back, my elbow, my neck. You name it. It’s sore. 


Blinded by the light. Julie, Me and The Boss. 

Have you seen the movie, “Blinded by the Light”? It’s strange, kind of sweet, coming of age and enlightenment film. With a twist. Growing up a Pakistani in Luton, England in 1987, a friend introduced 16 year old Javed to The Boss’s music and changed his life. And, this was set 13 years or so after Bruce became “The Boss.” Local radio considered Springsteen a has-been. Over the hill. Irrelevant. Which gives the movie a real interesting perspective. Bruce’s work was standing the test of time with a new generation of fans. 

Javed was drowning caught between his family’s Pakistani traditions holding him back, highly evident racism swirling around him that made him feel like he didn’t deserve to be an Englishman, and the hope for more than this. In short, he was looking for a home. For an identity. For someone who felt the way that he did. Trapped. Stuck in the middle. Writing poetry was the only thing that gave him solace. That, and a few friends. 

And that is where he was when Bruce’s songs found him. They spoke to him. Showed him he wasn’t alone. Inspired him. Gave him hope. Instilled confidence. With girls.

The movie introduced the lyrics on screen in a visually interlacing way that brought them to life so you, the movie-goer, could read them along with the song. Unusual for a film, don’t you agree? Unlike soundtrack music meant to build an emotion, establish anticipation or a theme, but not necessarily really heard, and certainly not read, the words of the songs were front and center necessary parts of the storyline.

So, that’s the movie. It is definitely worth watching. But that’s not really why I’m writing about it. 

Bruce’s first album released in 1973.

It inspired Julie and me. More than anything, it reminded us of just how much we used to listen to his music. And how little we do so now. We wondered why. We know it’s waiting for us in the cabinet of albums and CDs. From the very beginning with “Greetings from Asbury Park.” Over the years we’ve played “The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle” more than any Springsteen album. And it’s wonderful. A mix of beauty, raucousness, joy, energy and yearning. But why did we ween Bruce out of our listening choices ? Too loud? Too much? Not the right time? Almost the right time, but maybe later? Make room for new music? All of the above?

The truth is, and I know we were just part of a big army of fans from all over the globe, we were big time Bruce fans. As were most of our friends and family. So much of our lives were to the soundtrack of Bruce. 

The first time I remember hearing him was on a late night road trip from Durham to West Virginia. I was traveling by myself in my Ford Econoline 100 van. All I had onboard was a really nice stereo radio unit so I was constantly drifting and searching between stations as they came into and out of reception. As I brought a station into full reception and the stereo green light came on showing a strong signal, a song was already in progress. It was weird because I knew the song and yet it didn’t sound like the song that I knew. It was “Spirit in the Night,” a hit song by Manfred Mann. But this wasn’t Manfred Mann. And it was so different. So open. So joyful. Whereas the MM version was highly synthesized and spatial.

I loved it. But who was it? I was so thankful that at the end the announcer actually talked about what he had just played. Remember those days? That’s when I The Boss found me and I left Manfred Mann in the dust.

Julie remembers seeing his photo on both the covers of TIME and NEWSWEEK published the very same week right as “Born to Run” was coming out in 1975. She had not yet heard his music. All the hype made her wonder if anyone could be that good. She bought the album, brought it home, put on headphones and that was that. He was that good. Actually, better.

Julie saw him in 1976 in the gym at Appalachian State Teachers College before we met. Later, we went together to see him for my first time at the Charlotte Coliseum. We saw him many times after that, most while we lived in Pittsburgh, both at Three Rivers Stadium and the Igloo (Civic Arena).

He also played a role in our wedding. We had a post wedding party at our house in Charlotte. I heard “Born to Run” playing in the living room, full blast, and came in to find Julie, with a candle for a microphone, singing hard and loud, knowing every one of the many words packed into the song. Bending over, crouched like The Boss, working the candle mic, smiling, then rising up and flipping her hair back with a joyful look on her face. Yep, baby, she was born to run! 

And now, Julie and I have started playing all of his albums that we have in chronological order. And we’re finding that they actually do hit the spot, no matter what time of day, no matter if it’s dinner time or Sunday morning. It’s always a good time for Bruce. 



LIke you, we have hardly gone anywhere and when we have, we’ve driven Julie’s car. The other day, after weeks of my 2001 sitting in the garage, we got into it to take a ride. I turned the key in the ignition. Click click click click. I looked at Julie with a smirk. Sat there for a minute and hit it again. Same thing. Car battery died after just sitting around in the garage. Julie pushed me out of the garage and I tried to jump it rolling backwards down the driveway by popping the clutch. No go. It stopped partially into the street at a point where I couldn’t push it either way. 

I moved Julie’s car into place and jumped it off of her battery. We drove it on our errand, never shutting it off and backing it into the garage when we came back. It has cranked ever since. I crank it every day now. I think it was a cry for love. We’ll see if it gets more serious. It’s actually a brand new battery. 


Soap and Water in Order

COVID-19 Recipe: A Dawn and warm water wipe down of all packages

I’ve only been inside a grocery store once in the last month. We’ve ordered everything online and either used curbside pickup or home delivery. Even so, after reading about the question of whether the virus travels on packages or not, I’m taking precautions recommended by one expert. I now process all food from the car into the house, giving packages and the fruits and veggies a soapy wipe down before they enter the house and are put away. 

One article said that the refrigerator offers the perfect climate for the virus to live: cool and low humidity. Prior to reading that I hoped the opposite, that refrigeration would stymie the virus. Not so fast. So, we really should be cleaning everything that goes in the fridge. 


New developments that will stand the test of time

A friend of mine told me about how restaurants are prepping for waiting on people. They are developing a system that eliminates physical menus that get passed around. They will have a QR code that opens your phone to the menu. Your phone. No printing. No handling. No passing COVID19 or common cold. Brilliant. And everyone can read the craft beer and wine menu at the same time.  


Losses in the time of COVID-19

Two people in my orbit died in the last two weeks from heart attacks. One was close to 70. The other, a young 59. I first met my sister-in-law’s brother around 1977. During our Charlotte years we’d see him when Julie’s family would get together for holidays and the like. I never really knew him that well. We sat together at the wedding reception of our niece. He was a writer who published a novel. Last week we learned that he died quietly and quickly, sitting in his chair after becoming uncomfortable in bed.

474541_104432139762863_178842274_oRobbie Pope had just celebrated 40 years at WSB-TV. In the 20 years that I worked there, I came to know Robbie very well. Robbie was an engineer at the TV station. He became a manager of the on-air operation unit. But he was in the middle of so many other projects because of his talent and ability to solve complex technical problems. I remember working with him to begin streaming our live newscasts on our website, and then replay them in full until the next live newscast aired. Sounds simple. But it was very complicated. We wanted to insert commercials in the replays. Robbie took over that project, researching different devices that would be needed, getting prices, ordering and installing them and then setting up the system, record, playback and insert the commercials. Every now and then I’d look up from my desk and Robbie would be standing in the doorway. Once he got my attention he would give me an update on the advances forward and the steps backwards in the project. He was always truthful. Never oversold the progress. Never gave up on figuring a path forward. And sometimes tickled by what he had discovered in the process. Finally, he got it up and running. We celebrated with high fives in the hallway and continued to fine tune the operation. 

Robbie had a great laugh, unique to him. He loved the people he worked with and for. He loved Channel 2 and felt a part of its mission. He played key roles in so many important technical feats that you, the audience, could see, like our new set, and countless other advances you don’t see.  

Robbie died this past Saturday. The whole station mourns, those working there now, and those of us retirees like Tim McVay, Debbie Denechaud, Jocelyn Dorsey and David Lamothe, who knew, respected and loved Robbie. 

All of us now know that strange experience of grieving during social distancing and how much greater the distance feels when we cannot come together, mourn together and celebrate wonderful people in our lives taken from us. 

My heart goes out to my sister-in-law and her family, and to our collective Channel 2 family, both past and present. 

Videos I wanted to share that were shared with me.

An absolutely beautiful song sung by David Crosby and Gram Nash, written by Crosby’s son, James Reymond. It may be the most beautiful song you’ve never heard.

On isolation: Astronaut Scott Kelly knows a thing or two

Funny interviews on the campaign trail for Trevor Noah show by Jordan Klepper

Brad Pitt portrays Dr. Anthony Fouci cold opening for SNL This link is the NBC report on Fauci’s critique of Pitt’s performance. And, if you haven’t seen it yet, there is a link in the article to the actual SNL open.

A great interview 1992 with John Prine that really gets into his creative approach and who influenced him the most. 

Stay home. Stay safe. Don’t rush out for a tattoo, manicure or hair cut. I mean, who can see you anyway, unless you go to the bowling alley. 

Tequila Friday, Already!!!

I cannot believe that the week flew by so fast and here it is, Tequila Friday, once again. Maybe too many other days of tequila blur them together. Just kidding.

Yes, you too can make a Centipede

If you like to make cocktails, here’s a great tequila recipe called The Centipede. We first had this with Clark in the Portland OR bar/restaurant called The Conservatory. We loved it so much we hit the bartender up for the recipe and we’ve been making it ever since – for our best of friends.

The only tricky part, and it’s not that tricky, is to infuse your tequila with cumin. Here’s how we do it. Julie infuses eight ounces of tequila at a time, which is enough for four drinks. Trust me, you only need one of these per sitting so you’re set up for two nights if there are just two of you. We use one teaspoon of cumin per four ounces of tequila blanco. Take a tea bag apart, dump the tea leaves and replace with cumin. Julie uses a staple to close it up and drops it into the jar with of  tequila. You only have to let it infuse for a few hours. FYI, we recommend Don Julio or Casamigos Blanco. 

Here’s the recipe, doubled, because you should never drink this alone:

  • Muddle together 1T each of cilantro leaves, red and yellow bell peppers and cucumber in a shaker. Then add:
  • 4 ozs of infused tequila
  • 2 ozs of Cointreau
  • 2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 dashes Agave syrup (you can taste test and add more if it’s too tart)

Add ice and shake until chilled, strain into a freezer chilled martini or coupe glass. It’s okay for the cilantro to invade the pour. In fact, you want it too. Then, garnish with a cross cut a slice of pepper and float it on top and serve. 

There you have your Tequila Friday Centipede. A great way to celebrate staying at home. 

If you don’t have any cumin in the house, you can still make the drink. It’s like a jazzed up margarita. Want to flare it up more, add a teaspoon of diced jalapeno.

Cuomo on McConnell’s comment to let states go bankrupt

“When it comes to fairness, New York puts in to Federal pot $116B more than it takes out. Kentucky takes out $148B more than they put in.

He’s a federal legislator…distributing the federal pot of money. New York puts in more into the Federal pot then it takes out. His state takes out more than it puts in. Senator McConnell, who’s getting bailed out here? It’s your state that is living on the money we generate. Your State is getting bailed out.” And that’s how it was before COVID19.

Facts of the day

In the good old USA, one in four doctors and one in three nurses are immigrants in the U.S. 

The head of the CDC voiced his fears that a Winter wave of coronavirus teamed with influenza will be even worse than what we’ve experienced so far. 

The President, on the other hand, said in his daily press briefing, that it might not even happen. Not to mention, his query of whether injecting disinfectant or using internal UV light could, might could, maybe could, just saying, cure the infection like that.

I don’t believe for a second that he was being sarcastic as he said today. I watched it as it happened. He was riffing and thought he might be on to something. Dr. Birx’s reaction was more than telling.

From the Hill

The House of Representatives passed a new $484 billion coronavirus relief bill by a vote of 388-5. The Senate passed it Tuesday. $381 billion is for small businesses left out in the cold when the money from the previous coronavirus relief package quickly ran dry. 

Republicans wanted to stop there, but Democrats demanded, and got, $75 billion for hospitals, and $25 billion for coronavirus testing, as well as a requirement that the administration figure out a strategy to get tests to states.

A number of Republicans refused to wear masks during the vote, while Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, and all Democrats but one chose to wear a mask to protect their fellow legislators. 

And on a lighter note, it’s hard to know what to do. Right is left. Up is down.

I’m going to end on a light note with this video. It puts it all into perspective.

I hope that you’re staying home, staying safe and staying well. Have a good weekend. Many are not. 


Thursday, April 23, 2020 A rainy dreary Thursday in Atlanta

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Opening up a state that doesn’t want to open…yet

I am sure that you’ve heard the news. Brian Kemp, the governor of the great state of Georgia, one of the last to call for a statewide stay at home order, is now one of the very first to open up selected businesses to operation. And his selection is bizarre and telling. Specifically identified in his order: Massage and tattoo parlors, hair and nail salons, bowling alleys, and, starting Monday, movie theaters and restaurants. I can’t tell you how happy I am. I’ve been dying to get a tattoo, a haircut, polished nails and my muscles rubbed into jello. Actually, I wouldn’t mind a massage, but I don’t see the reward good enough for the risk right now. 

You would expect that the governor would confer with his very own handpicked task force of medical, governmental and civic leaders to get feedback on his plan, listen to their insights into the readiness for opening of businesses across the state and set target dates for such. 

He did not do that. He caught mayors from Atlanta to Savannah to Albany by surprise. His lack of communication shows that he determined his best path forward was to do what he wanted to do was to announce first, confer later. It was a surprise attack. That way cleared the way so that no other opinion or person could thwart his plan to move ahead. 

His plan does not adhere to the federal guidelines which call for a demonstrated two week decline in the rates of infection proven by abundant testing. The head of GA’s Department of Public Health, Kathleen Toomey, suggests that data will show a two week of continuing decline in our state’s case rate of infection by the end of the month. She’s reading data tea leaves projecting the future, not proving the present. And that was good enough for Kemp. 

The guidelines also call for a show of readiness to conduct proper testing of the citizenry to stay on top of the virus’s movement. As of Sunday, GA ranked 42nd in the number of test administered per capita. Forty-second!! It more than begs the question: How can we possibly know how we are doing? 

Certainly, opening restaurants affects a lot of people who have been out of work. We love to eat out. The question is, are you going to rush out to eat right now just because the governor has allowed them to open? He’s essentially put it in the businesses’ hands to determine if they are safe enough and if their workers are trained in safety measures and disciplined in their adhering to them. And, interestingly, many restaurateurs have come out and said they are NOT ready to open. They will have to invest in safety gear, training of staff to new procedures and cutting back on how many people they can serve.

I question how many people those targeted businesses really put back to work? And are those the key businesses that fuel GA’s economy? I tried Googling the tattoo business to see how many parlors there are, how many they employ and how many customers they turn a week but I have not found that info yet.  

Yet again, Governor Kemp makes national headlines for Georgia, the kind that continue to cement the backwardness, shortsightedness and generally dumb acts of governing that already pop into most of Americans’ minds when thinking of Georgia. First in the worst of things like health and healthcare. Among the last in the state rankings for important needs like Education…and, now, testing for COVID-19. 

The AJC wrote an editorial to this end titled, “To Gov. Kemp: Don’t add to risk.” Insightful. 

And, Mike Luckovich, the paper’s editorial cartoonist hit the nail on the head with his characterization of the snake from the “Don’t tread on me” flag now on respirator. Freedom at all costs can cost us freedom.

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Lessons learned from abroad

A report in ProPublica, a not-for-profit dedicated to investigative journalism, published this piece on what the US Governors can learn from other countries. It interviewed experts and frontline officials from Italy, Germany, Spain, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea. While they differ on the details, their views formed a startlingly united consensus of what’s needed. The number one and two items on their list:. 

  • Massive, ongoing testing to detect where the disease is spreading
  • a real-time ability to trace contacts of those infected and isolate them

Not everything is bad news

This very interesting hack: One very positive outcome of this is how local whiskey distillers have turned to producing hand sanitizer. After all, one thing they do have on hand is alcohol. With bars and restaurants closed, so has a lot of consumption. Old Fourth Distillery (we buy their gin) is making and bottling the sanitizers at its own expense and giving to the homeless in Atlanta. 

Masked up and anonymous

We don’t get out much, but when we do, we go to our local butcher. The good news is that it has always been a very personal and low traffic shop. Three customers at one time was almost unheard of. In today’s precautionary time, we felt comfortable that it wouldn’t be crowded and certainly, as a food processing spot, it has always been as clean as a whistle. (Which is a weird saying now that I think about it. Since you blow through it. Hmmm.)

The guys at Heywoods Provisions know Julie by name. They know me by Julie’s name too. I am the quiet guy on the standby while Julie does the ordering. Then I do the carrying to the car. 

Last week the new info on wearing masks came out with the advice now being…wear the mask if you have one. You’re doing it for everyone else in the room. When it came time to hit the butcher shop, and with the new mask recommendation in place, Julie and I flipped a coin for who would go in. I won.

I put on the N95 mask from a packet that I bought last year for yard work and in I went. “Hello, sir,” said Kurt, being polite but with more formality than the normal familiarity. In other words, all masked up, he didn’t put my eyes to the face. Same with Patrick. I know these guys. Call them by name. Generally, they know me, if by greeting me with “How’s Miss Julie doing,” familiarity if I go there alone. 

My point is this. Faces matter in the world. And on this day, I was as good as anonymous. Kind of sad, the humanity of it all. 

Stay safe. Stay well. Stay out of tattoo, massage and beauty parlors, or anything that has “parlor” in its name. Keep reading the titles of the books that appear on the bookshelves behind the people on the news as they report from home. It’s fun. I will miss that when this is over.

OMG Breaking News last night: Trump asked Kemp to hold off opening up Georgia!! Kemp holds firm.

Tequila Monday, April 20, 2020

Right, I know that I’m taking the tequila thing over the top. But, doesn’t it feel like a great way to get the week going after a dreary cold Sunday? Or, go the other way – alcohol free for the week. Hmmm. 

My very first job I said thank you and please, even scrubbed the parking lot down on my knees. 

Then I got fired for being scared of bees, and they only paid me fifty cents an hour. 

Father forgive us for what we must do. You forgive us and we’ll forgive you. 

We’ll forgive each other til we both turn blue and we’ll whistle and go fishin’ in heaven. John Prine

Tracking the Virus backwards to understand where it’s going forward

My niece shared an article published by The New Yorker about the research going on to understand this infectious attack. Peyton’s childhood friend and BFF, Katherine Xue, wrote the article. She grew up with Peyton and turned into an evolutionary biologist. This link will open your eyes up to the science, technology and smart people dedicated to solving the mystery of infectious diseases. 

 It reads like a sci-fi detective story because, well, it is. It’s a true story of genome sequencing, viral replication, tree branches and mutations, amazing technology and the incredible sharing of data by the global scientific field. And it’s one that is continuing to unfold from how it came into Washington State…

[EXCERPT] The viral genomes showed that after the coronavirus reached Washington State, in late January, it grew into its own branch of the tree, spreading silently through the city for weeks. Based on the cryptic transmission evident from the evolutionary tree, researchers estimated that the virus might have infected five hundred to six hundred people in Washington State by early March, far more than the eighteen cases reported at the time.

…to how it infected New York City…

[EXCERPT] Most cases sequenced from the massive New York City outbreak belong to a single branch whose closest relatives are in Europe, not China, suggesting that the virus crossed the Atlantic rather than the Pacific Ocean to arrive on the East Coast.  

Please give it a read and dig deeper by clicking on the links to other resources inside the story. You’ll come out knowing a lot more. 

Our local paper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, continues to provide excellent reporting on the COVID-19 story and how it is affecting Atlanta and the State of Georgia. I’d like to point out two articles in Sunday’s paper:

The first “Seeing through the Silence” is a special section showcasing the photographic images of the COVID-19 story and the staffers who took the photos. 

The second uses stories, headlines and images from the The Atlanta Constitution’s pages from October 1918! to compare the Spanish flu pandemic with the novel coronavirus in a “Now” and “Then” context. Frankly, it’s remarkable that the paper can dig back into its archives to do such a comparison.  

Also, in the AJC, I found this story fascinating. It was titled, “It’s not exactly the Depression”  How The Great Depression and COVID-19 each resulted in massive unemployment shows how one outcome, joblessness, can be caused by very different events. It’s important to understand that context as these two events rise up for comparison due to the unemployment data. It’s also really helpful to understand the positive things that eventually came from the Depression, tools to help the country fight challenges to our economy that creates crippling unemployment.

Scottish dreams lost in the virus

On a personal note, Julie and I were set to board a plane bound for Edinburgh, Scotland, today at 5:20 p.m. We’d planned the trip to the home of golf for almost a year. We finalized everything over four months ago. Then, we started out 2020 playing more winter golf here than ever before with a goal of preparing for what Spring in St. Andrews could be like, ie, windy and wet. We were ready: Warm weather layers, rain gear and new walking golf shoes. Obviously, if we hadn’t cancelled some piece, it would have cancelled on us. Edinburgh airport is closed! We have put the plans on the shelf for now and hope to go in 2021. All for the best. Just checked the weather over there. It’s 50 degrees and sunny. Perfect. 

I wonder what we’ll find while we’re here instead of there.

Stay safe. Stay well. And remember, cut your TP use in half and “Stay the F**k home!”

It’s another Tequila Friday

Tequila Friday, April 17, 2020

Ain’t it funny how an old broken bottle,
Looks just like a diamond ring.
And it’s far, far from me. John Prine

It’s Tequila Friday all over again! Thank goodness for that. So, today is a potpourri blending of topics for you to chew on starting with…

What I’ve found in this lost year…so far. 

I’ve found time. Time to listen more. Time to read more. Time to think, consider, reflect and share. 

I have been retired for over a year and you’d think I would have found plenty of time to do those things, but, let me tell you, we’ve been so busy being retired I still couldn’t find, couldn’t make time for those things because of all the other things that we were doing. The biggest consumption of time, energy and money was travel and the virus put an end to that and almost everything else that we had going. The slowdown gave me the inspiration to dig in.

I’ve found my pen and a reason to put it to use. I do hope that my writing has found you. Somewhere, wherever you are. And that you’ve been finding more of yourself in the meantime. I’ve seen your posts on Facebook and Instagram sharing of your experience. So far I’m seeing just how resilient you are and what we can all do together by staying apart.

My sister-in-law loves to hike. She lost her favorite hiking trail when so many new folks looking to get out of their homes hit her favorite trail. It was too close for comfort. So, she did some quick research and found new trails nearby that were empty. It’s brought a new perspective to her hikes. 

Let me know what you’re finding…about you, your family, friends, the country and the world. 

In losing the great John Prine, I’ve found myself lost in his work, his life and all the many tributes paid to them both. My friend Brad said that it is amazing that we had him as long as we did with all of the health issues he had struggled through. And he’s right. We should be happy about that. Happy to have his final album, “Tree of Forgiveness.” 

Zoom – Surprise! 

Just like you, I’ve found Zoom. Until a few weeks ago I had never heard of Zoom. We were pulling together a video chat with our son, Clark, and daughter, Blair and their partners, Sarah and Rob. Blair volunteered to schedule a Zoom meeting, saying that they used it for work. Ever since then, you can’t get out of the way of Zoom. When I saw this story pop in my daily newsfeed I had to check it out. 

This is a great article by Bloomberg News on the video platform, from who started the company, his and its history and mission and the surprise explosion of use rate during the Stay at Home order. If you’ve heard about the security issues and hacking, stalking and malware attacks, this explains where simplicity confronts security. 

Two firsts: Riding in a Saturn and hearing the word, “internet.” 

This article on How the internet started popped up…in the newspaper. The real printed paper to which we still subscribe. I found the web version for the link for you. It’s well worth the read about the guy who actually was involved in the very beginnings, the part that the Bell Telephone folks played and then didn’t play, and his work for the Pentagon to launch it. 

The read reminded me of the first time that I heard the word, “internet.” I was riding in the back seat of a Saturn in Pittsburgh. Why do I remember? Well, let’s just say that it’s the confluence of something new and something else that was so new at the time that it was mostly not known, nor could you Google it because it predated Google. 

The “new,” was the Saturn my friend had just bought. GM had just launched the Saturn brand. It was once billed as “a different kind of car company.” So, it was a big deal. My TV station’s research director was the first person that I knew to own one and this was my first ride. He drove our sales director and me to a luncheon downtown when he dropped the word “internet” into our conversation. Being in the back seat where it can be difficult to hear and understand the driver, I had to ask him to repeat that word: inter-what? “Internet,” he said. I repeated the word to confirm that I was saying it correctly, it sounded so foreign. I asked him what it was, as in, “What IS the internet?” He was a PhD in something like statistics and was pretty ahead of most of us. I remember him explaining how universities were linking together for the purposes of sharing research over communication lines that were not connected to phone lines. He said that  many were forecasting the day we would all be connected. I asked, “Connected to what?” “Everything. Each other. To books and history,” he answered as we arrived at lunch.    

At that time he turned out to be the connection that readied and opened me to what would become the future in our business, and in our lives.  

Imagine how this worldwide viral infection would be without the internet. 

For the time being we’re seeing all of the in-home shots of news reporters/anchors and all of the people that they are interviewing, all in their homes. Most are positioning themselves with bookshelves behind them. Others, their kitchen, others just the ceiling with phone or computer screen below them and aiming up. That, that makes me scream “Look at what you’re doing! It is not, not, not flattering to you or anybody. 

If it’s their bookshelves behind them I find myself trying to read the titles of the books in their library and cross-reference with the topic and experience they are bringing to the report. 

If they’re in their kitchen, I’m checking on how it is designed. In other words, I’m surfing how they live by what they show and what it says about who they are, how well off they are based.  

I’m not saying that I’m really proud about this but I cannot help myself. Can you?

A couple of notes:

I’m a native North Carolinian with family there so I pay attention to what is going on in my home state. I heard this sad news last night on The Rachel Maddow Show about a  Salisbury nursing home reporting  96 positive COVID19 residents according to the Salisbury Post. 

And, reports are coming from my dear state of Pennsylvania on the growing concern for Western PA becoming a major hotspot for deaths in nursing home facilities. This link is jaw dropping stat in the fight against the virus.

And finally, with tequila already poured and waiting…

If I wrote a book of fiction basing the main character on The Real Donald Trump, using the language that he uses, the statements that he makes whether riffing in his press conferences or his late night Tweets, the way he “runs” the show, his boorish bullying remarks about people and countries, all of that that appears to capture America, my high school Creative Writing teacher would write on my draft in red ink draft, “Overblown. Unbelievable. Too elementary. Just too much. YOU CAN DO BETTER! Try again.”  

Well, sometime it is very hard to handle the truth. And, yes, we can do better. Way better.

Stay safe. Stay away. Stay home. And stay tuned. 

Happy Tequila Friday!!

Coronavirus Diary: Lung Scans

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Tax Day…but not. The virus moved it.

“Everybody has it”

Those were the words a New York City radiologist told me based on reading chest scans over the last month. Virtually everyone has the virus. These were chest scans of people who came into the hospital for reasons other than the virus: car accidents, heart attacks, whatever normal non COVID-19 reasons that require a chest scan. In a way, this provides something like a random sample of folks with the very discernible footprint of COVID-19 in their lungs.

Also, the number of people dying at home every day in NYC went from averaging 20/day pre-COVID-19 to 200/day. Officials are not testing the dead for the virus so there is no tracking accountability for cause of death. 

Hospitals have suspended all efforts to establish cause of death because one doctor contracted COVID-19 after conducting an autopsy. We may never know the extent of the deaths caused by novel coronavirus. 

What’s next? Hopefully, nothing.

Back in the early 90s we finally capitulated and bought a phone answering machine after getting ribbed by friends who had called us but couldn’t leave a message. We figured we must be really missing a lot of calls. Then, we installed the machine – I still have the little cassette upon which our kids recorded the, “Hi! You’ve reached the Rileys. We can’t come to the phone right now, but leave a message and we’ll call you back. In the meantime, have a great day.” 

I can’t tell you how empty I felt when, low and behold, we hardly ever had a message waiting for us. Even when we returned home from a week away. Sometimes you’re better off just not knowing.

IMG_3637 I thought about that memory this morning as I looked at my Apple Watch first thing and it said what it has said every day for the last three weeks. “No more events today.” It really drove the emptiness home, especially thinking that this will go on for at least a few more weeks if not months. 

I swiped the watch face to the right until the graphic image of the globe came up. Pure and simple. The world and my time of day. Right now, nothing else matters. 

Tributes to John Prine

Here are some very good  tributes to John Prine

Now this late breaking news

President Trump puts his name on the Stimulus Checks, an unprecedented and unpresidential action. 

Masters 2010 Inside the Ropes

On this most unusual of Masters Sundays on which we’ll be watching Tiger win the 2019 Masters instead of history in the making, let me share with you the remainder of our Masters 2010 story. 

Let me start out by saying, thank you, for even considering to read these postings and I hope that while we’re all living in an anxious time for our families, our neighbors, our towns, cities, country and the world at large, we can all stay at home. Nothing protects us, the personal and immediate “us” and the greater “us” of the global community, more than that. 

With that said, here’s the rest of the Masters 2010 inside scoop. 

The Masters is the Disney of golf. I mean the very best of Disney. Everything is curated to perfection of look, feel and flawless operation from the parking lot, the handling of patrons through the entrance, and of course, the manicuring of every single blade of grass. I have this image of the grounds crews out there with tweezers, small sharp scissors and white paint, the clean contrast to the exorbitant amounts of deep green that engulfs you as you enter.

As you walk into the Kingdom of Golf, you pass the merchandise building and come upon the scoreboard and then the first hole. I asked an official looking fellow for directions to the Butler Cabin. He directed us by the clubhouse to the left, up over the rise and then down a slight hill. There was the white brick cabin with a paved cart path that arced around the front from which a long sidewalk curved to the front stoop. As we headed for the sidewalk a security officer met us at the sidewalk with a friendly yet official greeting. “We’re here to visit with Cliff Kirtland,” I said. “Well, he’s right down at the front door visiting with guests. We’ll let them finish and then you can go down to see him.”

I wasn’t surprised by this level of security or that Mr. Kirtland was receiving others. Afterall, I remembered the  large book of tickets to which he referred when we first met. 

So, we stood there, Julie and I, and marked our time discussing our strategy for the day. We attended a Tuesday practice round about eight years before thanks to my good friend and business associate, John Slosar. We walked the course in the order of play, #1 through #18, to get the feel from a player’s perspective. 

Going on a Wednesday this time gave us a chance to see some of the Par 3 tournament. We were discussing how much of that we would want to see when a cart with two men in green jackets drove up and parked near us. I stole a look and said to Julie, “There’s Hootie Johnson.” Hootie had just “retired” from chairing the tournament committee. So, in the lore of the Masters, he’s a very important figure during very critical moments in history. Google Martha Burk and you’ll see what I mean. 

Shortly, our security guard motioned to us and said that we could make our way down.

Mr. Kirtland’s smile welcomed us onto the small entrance patio where he had a single chair from which to enjoy the morning warmth of the sunshine, and welcome people like us. I introduced Julie, we chatted for a minute and then he asked if we would you like to see inside. Never imagining that he would offer we almost tripped over our tongues saying, “Inside the Butler Cabin, ah, you bet!”

He gestured to a door to the left of the front door and asked us to follow him to the second floor. We climbed up a narrow staircase to the second floor and walked into a common room with sofas and chairs. It was very comfortable yet plain, dated but well-kept. He walked us to the back and out on the porch overlooking the Par 3 course where people were beginning to gather and mill around. He was explaining things along the way and then he asked if we had plans for lunch.

“Well, we were just thinking of getting a pimento cheese sandwich.”

“Would you like to eat at the clubhouse?”

“That would be wonderful,” I replied, thinking that he was asking us to join him.

“Come with me,” he said as he walked into a bedroom. It had two queen sized beds and an old 4X3 tv on top of a chest of drawers. He pulled out the top drawer of the chest and it was full of name badges. Mr. Kirtland rummaged through them and pulled one out and handed it to Julie. 

“Here Julie, use this one. It was my wife’s,” he said, as he continued digging. “She passed away last year.

“Ah, here we go. Steve, you can use this one.” He smiled at me as he thrust it my way. “Now you’re all set.” And like that I was christened Mackie Horton. 

“These will get us into the dining area?” I asked.

“Oh my, yes. Those will get you into anywhere that you want to go.” 

I almost fainted. It was like being named, if not king, then prince for a day. 

We put on our badges, chatted a little more before he walked us back down the stairs. We left him on the front porch with a promise to stop by and return the badges. We passed a couple in the queue waiting to meet up with Mr. Kirtland, the most popular man on campus. As we walked by the security guard he smiled and said, “You don’t need both your day badges and the name badges at the same time.”  

We walked back up to the clubhouse, feeling a little like Cinderella going to the ball. Excited but not yet comfortable nor familiar with our new found all-access pass. 

We checked in at the hostess area for a table to sit outside. If you’ve been to the Masters before, you probably saw the outside dining area with green and white umbrella tables outside the clubhouse. We were seated with another couple already eating. We talked a little with them while looking at the menu, ordered and sat back for a second. Then a man in a green jacket walking by us caught my eye and I pulled up my camera and caught a few photos while whispering to Julie, “Honey, be cool, but it’s Arnold Palmer.” 

Mr. Palmer made his way to a table just inside the ropes separating the dining area from the public. He and his wife, they were fairly new newlyweds, sat down and got comfortable. I saw a few folks outside the ropes beginning to take notice. I took a photo of Julie with the Palmer table behind her and then I felt eyes turning to my right. I looked over and there, dressed in a bright yellow golfing shirt, was Jack Nicklaus, again walking right by us making a beeline to Arnold. 

The King in his Green Jacket
The Golden Bear

Jack went over and greeted his old competitor and longtime friend and his wife. They talked for about five minutes, laughing, cajoling and talking like the two legends that they were. During all of that, the rope line became a wall of admirers, getting a taste of history themselves. 

We ate and luxuriated in our good fortune. Then we paid and started walking around that area right outside of the pro shop. Over here was Sir Nick Faldo holding court. Over there was Paul Casey being interviewed. And then, people parted and there was Tom Watson! 

Oh my. Golfing legends everywhere. 

DSC_0170Meeting Tom. I was completely tongue-tied. I mentioned his work at Greenbrier and he lit up  copyWe walked around a little bit more, talked about going into the pro shop and seeing what we could see, but something in between shyness, humility, and a weird feeling of invasion of privacy prevented us from going in. I don’t know whether it was lack of bravery or just a feeling of maybe overstepping the boundaries of civility, but whatever the case may be, we did not go in. Given another opportunity, you betcha we’d go in. But on this day, we worked our way down to the Par 3 Course to see what we could see.

It is truly amazing as the nine hole course worked its way around two ponds. The sea of people rimming the pond reflected all around in a pointillist picture of human colorful dots. We walked the nine hole course, saw Rory and Adam Scott teeing off with Johnny Miller. We saw Steve Stricker whose daughter was caddying for him. 


Looking down the shoot of magnolias gracing the edges of the the water at The Par 3 Course

When we headed to the main course it was like swimming upstream as the majority of people were heading into the Par 3 Course. But, we made it and walked down #9 and around Amen Corner. At this time of afternoon, hardly anyone was on the main course. It felt like a park. It was so approachable, serene, like we had it almost to ourselves. 

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Then, we walked back by the Butler cabin where we found Mr. Kirtland at his station. We thanked him and thanked him and got a picture with him, and gave back the keys to the castle. With two hours plus of a drive home, it was time to close the lid on the day. But, not before taking a left into the store and buying bags of merch. 

Our host, Cliff Kirtland, in front of the Butler Cabin

And with that, our glass slippers turned back into tennis shoes, and we found our car and our way back home. We weren’t to go back again until nine years later. The year Tiger took it all. 

The haul from the Merch shop.

2010 Masters – Photographic Memories

With the postponement of The 2020 Masters, I want to share my top twenty photos that I took on a special visit to August National on a Masters Practice Wednesday, one of the three practice days on which the public is allowed to take cameras onto the protected ground.

But first, I have to share the story of how it came to be that, on Wednesday, April 7, 2010, Julie and I ended up in the Butler Cabin.

DSC_0279We received the tickets in a two-step process of kindness of a friend and connections of  a stranger. My friend was Greg Stone, my former boss at Channel 2 WSB-TV. It was Greg who brought me to Channel 2 in 1999.

The stranger and ultimately our sponsor, was Cliff Kirtland. Mister Kirtland to me. He was a retired COX Broadcasting executive who joined the company in its early days in the mid-sixties. During his career with COX he played a central role in expanding and diversifying the company’s businesses into cable and auto auctions, which are now the two biggest slices of CEI’s pie of businesses.

And, importantly, Mr. Kirtland was also a longtime member of Augusta National Golf Club and had played a role on the committee that put on the tournament. In other words, he had his own green jacket.

Mr. Kirtland and Greg had known each other for years and it was Mr. Kirtland who sponsored Greg for some time with tickets. In 2010, four years after Greg had retired, he called me in early 2010 with a question. “If I could get two tickets to The Masters this year for you and Julie, would you like to go?”

YES YES YES YES!!!! My brain was shouting, but my calmer but excited self said, “We would love to go! Are you going?”

Well, it turns out that Greg was not able to go this year, which is why he wanted to know if I could. Before he called Mr. Kirtland to tell him that he couldn’t attend, he wanted to confirm with me that we were available and willing to go. Now that we had that straight, he would call Mr. Kirtland, inform him of his inability to attend but offer Julie and me up as suspects for the tickets.

Enough time went by from Greg’s exploratory offer that I started to doubt that it was going to happen, until the phone rang at work and it was Greg. He said that he told Mr. Kirtland of his unavailability but he would love to volunteer a long-time career COX employee to utilize the tickets. Greg told him my story at COX and my love of golf. I waited patiently through Greg’s explanation of the process for the punchline: “And Cliff is thrilled that you want to go and has two tickets for Wednesday’s practice round set aside for you and Julie.” He went on to explain that I was to call Mr. Kirtland and arrange for a time to meet him at his office off of Mt. Paran Road to pick up the tickets.

Oh how I enjoyed making the call to Julie that we were once again driving to August seven years after our first experience.

I was so nervous and excited to call Mr. Kirtland and set up the meeting. It turns out that he was just a year younger than my mom. He had been retired for years but still maintained an office and influence with an investment firm and it was there that I met him. He welcomed me into his office, we sat down at his desk and he said, “Steve, tell me about yourself and your years with Cox and Channel 2.”

Well, a couple of hours later and after a few naps by both of us, I finished my story.

Okay, I’m exaggerating, but not by much. He was such an interested man in so many things, particularly about the TV business and his beloved COX.

Then, he opened up this thick book of tickets and a long list of names. He had our tickets already in an envelope and I could see he was an organized man with lots of friends and connections in line for the opportunity to go to the Masters.

I asked him if he would be there on Wednesday and said that I wanted Julie to meet him. He smiled and said, “Oh yes, I’ll be there. I generally go over the weekend before and stay the week of the tournament. I still have a few things that they let me do to stay involved in the operation.”

“Great. Well, how do we find you?”

“Well, I stay in the Butler Cabin. Stop by, just tell them you’re my guest and you’re here to see me.”

Tomorrow: Part 2 – Inside the Butler Cabin and the inside the ropes







“John Prine 😢” – Please Don’t Bury Me

Prine albums

“John Prine 😢” 

That’s the text that popped up on my phone last night while Julie and I were watching tv. It came from our daughter Blair. It was a message I was expecting to get from somewhere all too soon. Too much time had passed without any good word from Prine’s wife, Fiona, posted on her Facebook page. And every day was another day on the ventilator. The last gasp hope when the lungs are failing from this disease. 

We paused the show and I went online and there it was everywhere. 

Julie and I hugged each other tight. And then hugged even tighter. Squeezing out the loss. 

I sent a text to my guitar playing buddy, Brad. He replied with a Prine line, saying he’s kissing “a pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl.”

It was late, even in Retirementville. We gave up what we were watching. Julie went upstairs. I found my guitar, sat down and played the songs I’ve been playing for years without even thinking of order or what’s next. Just a stream that started with the first song of his that I learned from Brad, “A Good Time,” then “Angel From Montgomery,” “Sweet Revenge” and finally, “Fish & Whistle.” I sang ‘em soft when they were soft. Gruff when called for and revolting when necessary before ending on playful. 

We’ve got three lamps on timers downstairs cause we’re lazy and to make the place look lived in when we’re living somewhere else. One lamp after the other cut off during the last song. I finished in the dark. Apropos. A thematic occurrence. A cosmic cue.  

Goodnight John. Too soon to say goodbye but the lights are out and it’s time to go. 

That was last night.

This morning I woke up to John’s voice, singing to me in my head. And, I’m not making this up, the first words were the chorus to his song, “Please don’t bury me down in the cold cold ground. No, I’d rather have them cut me up and pass me all around. Throw my brain in a hurricane and the blind can have my eyes. And the deaf can have both of my ears if they don’t mind the size.” 

The chorus took me to the beginning of the story.  

“Woke up the morning, put on my slippers, walked in the kitchen and died. And oh what a feeling when my soul went through the ceiling and on up into heaven I did rise. When I got there they did say, John, it happened this a way, you slipped upon the floor and hit your head. And all the angels say, just before you passed away, these were the very last words that you said…” 

CHORUS…Please don’t bury me…


And so it goes. And so he’s gone. I never met him in person, but more than almost any writer out there, I knew much about him from his songs, from interviews and from a 2015 biography written by Eddie Huffman. It’s called, “John Prine In Spite of Himself,” a riff off of Prine’s song, “In Spite of Ourselves.” 

It reveals the birthplace of his quirkiness to fit just the right turn of a phrase, to recognize the mundane in all of our lives, while speaking to the meaning mundane occurrences add to our living. 

Sometimes spoofing who we are, who he is and what we all seem to do at one time or the other. Sometimes playfully underscoring his self-deprecating humor. And, often, he speaks to the sadness and loneliness of living through the people you meet in his stories, like Donald and Lydia, and, Sam Stone to name a few.  

That really nails the man that I know. He was the least driven man to “make it” but his ability to play, write and sing in such a touching, fun loving mixture of emotions grabbed the attention of Kris Kristofferson and Paul Anka and made him an overnight success. For years, he never even considered himself a songwriter. According to Huffman, “He just thought he was a MidWestern kid who loved to make up songs.” And make them up he did, but many of them were based on truth, things that had happened that he had heard about or seen for himself that turned into a lyric. Something like an accident he discovered on his way to shovel snow off the church house sidewalks in “Bruised Orange Chain of Sorrow”:

I heard sirens on the train track howl naked gettin’ nuder, An altar boy’s been hit by a local commuter, Just from walking with his back turned To the train that was coming so slow.

Or, words of wisdom from a level-headed (topless) dancer in “Spanish Pipedream”: 

Blow up your tv, throw away your paper, move to the country, build you a home. Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches, Try and find Jesus on your own.”

The amount of words and songs written about and for him over the last few weeks has been a virtual love-in. Social media has harbored and spread the love in the blink of an eye, originally to push that love somehow through to him on his dying bed and encourage him to get well, get up and get going. 

His passing amplified the amount in a quantum leap of intensity as people touched by him release their moments, connections and sadness. 

Clark shared Rolling Stone’s version of Prine’s top 25 songs. It is more than worth checking out. The article contains links to all 25 of the songs, a feat only made possible by the wired world in which we live. And through it all, I’m hearing more songs of his than I knew before. It opened up his catalogue in a bolt of lightning. My personal collection was frozen in time that stopped with “Bruised Orange” until last year when I picked up his latest, “The Tree of Forgiveness.” 

Hearing old songs off of un-bought albums for the first time is like hearing something new. And, I think that that will go far in getting through this. 

It goes without saying that John was an old soul as a 20 year old. But, at 73, he was far too young to leave us so soon. He had rekindled his writing muse with “Tree.” He was set to tour again. He had life ahead of him, until he didn’t. Until a pandemic unleashed and struck him at his most vulnerable. As I hear the numbers reported in each newscast of the infected and dead, I now know the owner of one of those numbers.

And to end with his own words off of “Summer’s End” on Tree of Forgiveness:

“Summer’s end came faster than we wanted. Come on home. Just come on home.” 

The most fitting way to close out is with this from his mortality romp on Tree:

When I get to heaven, I’m gonna take that wristwatch off my arm. What are you gonna do with time/After you’ve bought the farm?

“I’m gonna have cocktail, vodka and ginger ale, gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long. I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl, on the tilt-a-whirl, yeah, this ole man is going to town.”


Coronavirus Dairy

Monday April 6, 2020

April: Month of Coronavirus Birthdays, Hoorays and Horses’ Asses

Screenshot 2020-04-06 15.36.43April is the birthday month of Rileys. Eight birthdays in all of the family by a combination of three of the five kids (including me), my sister-in-law, second and third gen children of the family, and one significant other. It’s a month that requires a lot of card buying and mailing – we all live all over the place. 

It will be a month of birthdays upon which I hope we all look back with our healthy selves on our coronavirus birthday celebrations, held alone but alone together. 

Today is my big sister Marti’s day…all day. Here’s to you, Marti. We’re all singing “Happy Birthday” to you, followed by our traditional family “Hooray”  chant. If you’re not in the inner circle of Rileys, you most likely have not heard about this version of the “Hooray” chant.  

It’s an endearing chant born of a moment of serendipity during a Riley family gathering in Beech Mountain, NC for Labor Day 2008. While we were all together, Julie and I orchestrated a little cocktail hour celebration for our daughter’s recent college graduation. With champagne in hand, we all circled around on the deck, I made a short toast to Blair and then Dad started a rhythmic celebratory clap setting rhythm and we all quickly picked up on it not knowing exactly where it was going. Dad started chanting, “Hooray for Blair! Hooray for Blair!” in time with the claps. We picked up his queue and joined in unison as we hit the third “Hooray for Blair!” at which point Dad took an unexpected and startling turn to finish with, “Hooray for Blair, she’s a horse’s ass!” Bam.

We all gasped. What? Did Granddaddy just say that about Blair? Our sweet daughter? His granddaughter? A horse’s ass? We were all stunned and just looked at Dad. He seemed a little shocked himself but managed to downplay it all. He said, “What? You’ve never heard that before?” This was classic Homer, acting as if it was nothing. Then he held up his glass and said as sweet and grandfatherly as you could imagine. “Congratulations Blair. We’re very proud of you.” 

That started the tradition which has lasted 12 years because, true to Riley form, we don’t let things go. It also brings us into a closer circle of memory of Dad’s sense of humor and timing.

By now, everyone has borne the indignity of the coda to be counted a true Riley. We added that to all “Happy Birthday” songs within the family and, occasionally, with folks we trust would understand and even appreciate being included after the initial shock followed by explanation. 

So, “Hooray for Marti! Hooray for Marti! Hooray for Marti! She’s a horse’s ass!”

Happy birthday Big Sister. You…were the first born of the horse’s ass crowd. Enjoy.


As we continue to stay apart from each other in physical distance…Take care. Stay Safe. Call family and friends. And, continue to “Stay the F**k Home!

Coronavirus vs Tequila Friday

Friday, April 3, 2020

Don Julio BrothersFinally, it’s Tequila Friday – even during the virus

We enjoy a longstanding ritual in our house of celebrating and memorialization of Finally it’s Friday with tequila. Good tequila. Sipping, savoring, lingering tequila. Not that you can’t enjoy tequila on any other day, but, what better way to set the tone that the weekend is here? And, for all of you folks reading this that are still working, yes, the weekends mean something even to retirees. It’s those two days when all our working friends are available to play with us. The approach of Friday still creates a building feeling of excitement.

Maintaining rituals that give you joy during this time of coronavirus is very important. So, whatever might bring you joy that Friday has, indeed, arrived, is cause for celebration. In this time of the virus, finding small reasons for celebration is really important to give us a bit of a release valve.  

We may not wait as late in the day to crack the bottle as per usual, but crack it we will.

Cheers to you and your joy. But first…

Finally, our Governor learned what the world knew for weeks, if not months. 

Governor Brian Kemp announced on Wednesday that he was going to sign an order on Thursday that would put the whole state of Georgia on a “Stay at Home” order on Friday because, well, he just learned in the last 24 hours (that would have been on Tuesday) that, uh, people who don’t even know that they have been infected with the virus can actually spread the virus. I mean, he’s in charge of the whole of Georgia. He has people to advise him. He could watch the news and see that all of the scientists in the land have been warning us about that fact. Not only could some person we don’t know have and spread the virus before they even knew they had it, but, actually, each of us could be infected, not know it, and spread it to people we know and love…and to people we’ll never know.

Sorry to go political on you here for a moment, but there’s a direct connection between Kemp and Trump. And Kemp fell in line with Trump’s position of denial as did many other Republican governors across America. That includes the dolt in Florida who allowed the beaches to remain open for Spring Break. Yes, the mayors and county managers played a role in that, but the governor could have used his power to protect the citizens of Florida, and those crazy citizens from out of state who flocked to what they turned into an incubation site. 

I am left without words to describe this stupidity. 

The Virus and Senior Citizens Communities

My mom lives in a pretty large retirement community in Durham that opened 20 years ago. They have been on lockdown for over a week, and had put social distancing practices into place prior to that. And, get this, they went into lockdown without one case of COVID-19! They chose a preemptive measure to protect these highly social and highly vulnerable charges. 

With the lockdown, no one passes through except for employees, all of whose temperatures are checked before they can pass. Even relatives are not admitted.

All deliveries are intercepted at the gate, taken in by the “command center,” then delivered to the residents. 

Almost all residents are on some kind of meal plan which generally is served in the dining hall. Now, residents order all meals a day in advance which are delivered to their home or apartment  the following day. Residents cannot gather or visit one another. Weekly housekeeping has ceased for fear that the cleaning crew could inadvertently spread the virus from home to home while they were, ironically, cleaning. 

This isn’t the Home’s first rodeo. They went into lockdown in 2010 when they were hit by the Norovirus. The management team has institutional knowledge built by experience and best practices. 

When news of the novel coronavirus began to service in January and February, the team started making preparations. I know because I personally spoke with the executive director. They had calls with the CDC and members of the Durham board of health along with advisors in the medical community at large. And what they learned was that this virus was coming and it was time to get ready.

They began ordering supplies in advance, reviewing with their associated medical staff from Duke University Hospital. They trained their staff, preparing them for the safety practices necessary. And, they prepared to handle the anxiety, fear and occasional anger and frustration from residents that could come with any kind of quarantining restrictions.  

Beginning in mid-March, the executive director began holding a closed circuit talk every day which is transcribed and emailed out to all residents. He has different members of his staff join him on days, sometimes to review the health side, sometimes reviewing the meals system, sometimes their director of physical fitness…you get the picture. And I receive it every day and forward to our family. 

The team has been working, adapting and improving their plan along the way.

This is how our federal and state government should have been acting on our behalf. Organizing, communicating and leading us through a planned response based on the best science supported by a prepared medical system and using military precision. 

Happily (so far) for my mother’s community, that has been the case. And, to date, not one case of coronavirus or the flu has been reported. Zero. Now that can and probably will change. But early action gives them more of a fighting chance for the most vulnerable among us.

Sadly for our country, that has not been the case. And the results have been fatal. Need I say more? 


Cherry blossomThe irony of this the Spring of Coronavirus

My goodness, the weather couldn’t be more beautiful. To quote my former boss, “It’s why we live in Atlanta.” Yes, every place enjoys Spring in its own way. I know that my friends in Pittsburgh do. They just have to wait another month or so for it to creep up there. Here, it just explodes. Sometimes, a little ahead of the last frost and we lose our pear and cherry blossoms, and maybe the japanese maples get stung and have to rebud. But not this year. The daffodils popped in late January and foretold a beautiful embarking into Spring. 

Beautiful until…something else blew in with it. Something else the likes of which we had never experienced, the results of which we’d never seen.

And now it’s upon us. But unlike the signs of Spring, we cannot see it. We have to avoid it “like the plague with an abundance of caution which means we are highly restricted in our outward enjoyment of the great weather. Parks are closed. Beltlines and trails are out of bounds.

If you have a yard, enjoy it to the max. Make it your private park. Julie and I have planted bulbs this year for the first time in a long time. We’re digging a little bit almost every day. Seeds are next. Flats of flowers for some of our beds are in the queue too. Only this year, we won’t be wandering through Pikes, our local garden shop. We’ll call in an order, have them put it together, and we’ll go pick it up. Not as much fun but the results are the same. Blooms that bring us joy and beauty. 

Update on playing games

Well, I told you a few updates ago that Julie and I had dusted off the Backgammon game, reviewed the rules, and now we’re playing the best out of three. Here’s the problem. It’s only taking two games each night for Julie to defeat me. She’s won four straight. Not that I’m counting. A couple have come down to her being just one roll ahead of me. Last night she emptied her board leaving me with one checker left right at the off rail. 

I’ve got to improve my strategy. 

Clark and Blair joined with their cousins, Peyton and Russell, are playing board games online. Clark is in Portland, Russell in Raleigh, Peyton in Knoxville and Blair in Atlanta. They are all big time board gamers. 

Playing video games online certainly isn’t new, but playing board games online is. They played 7 Wonders. 


Screenshot 2020-04-03 08.21.38

Stay the f**k home!

If you are lonely, and many of us are. Do something about it. Call someone you haven’t talked with in far too long. Take advantage of the extra time you may have – since you don’t have to commute to work. The info on the myriad number of things that you can do with this time on our hands – which may feel like not doing anything but is actually doing the MOST IMPORTANT action we can each take. In the words of Samuel L. Jackson, “Stay the F**K home!” It’s hilariously serious. Here’s the full interview of Jimmy Kimmell with SLJ. The poem is six minutes in if you need to get to the meat of it. 

Stay healthy. Stay informed. Stay out of the parks! And stay the f**k home! 

Love ya

Opining on John Prine

“I’ve been thinking lately ‘bout the people I meet. The car wash on the corner and the hole in the street. The way my ankles hurt with no shoes on my feet…and I wonder if I’m gonna see tomorrow.”   Fish & Whistle by J Prine, who else?

John Prine2I can’t stop thinking and writing and talking about John Prine. So much so that I decided not to put this under the Coronavirus Diary string post. I’m breaking it out on its own. It deserves that. 

As far as John’s health and recovery go, I haven’t seen an update since his wife said that he was critical, but stable. I’m hoping that no news is good news. I’m hoping that he gets off the ventilator soon. 

After publishing yesterday’s post, I called my buddy Brad to make sure that he knew I was thinking and writing about him. He answered in that soft voice tinged with maybe some excitement that my name popped up on his phone. It had been a while since last we spoke. He’s working still at his stained glass shop in Winston-Salem, but in a reduced level. Only one other guy is working with him. They keep their distance. People stop in still to talk about making an order. He promised me that he “practices social distance. I suggested that he talk louder than his normal soft tones so they would stay at least six feet away. Otherwise, his voice draws people in too close for safety. 

One important thing that we got straightened out was that he had changed his email address and rarely checked the old one. Hence, he had not seen any of the new blog posts. 

That fixed, we moved on to talking about Prine, which took us to Seattle and our trip out there over 45 years ago. He said he didn’t remember turning me on to John’s music but he did remember how much we played Prine’s songs together. I said, that’s the way life is a lot of times. People share things with us, like dropping seeds. They don’t remember doing it or that it had that much influence on another. But those who receive the insight never forget from whom it came. At least when it made a difference in their lives that lived on. John Prine was one of the many seeds Brad dropped into my life that have grown and stayed with me ever since. And I’m grateful.

We talked about some of our other great memories, sort of polished them up again like restoring old photographs. We promised to keep in touch and then hung up. 

If anything positive has come out of John’s  illness, it’s the outpouring of love for him and his music. 

When I got up this morning and started brewing coffee, I opened up my phone and there was Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick, Kevin playing a mandolin and Kyra strumming a ukulele, singing “In Spite of Ourselves” for John. It’s very good. Give it a look.

Bob Umberger, another great friend dating back to junior high, wrote to me after yesterday’s post. Bob told me about a Facebook page devoted to John. Check it out. Right now, it’s post after post after post of ordinary folks playing their instruments, guitars mostly, and singing their favorite Prine song. It’s crazy. Even if the musicianship and vocals won’t launch their careers, it’s not about that. It’s actually in spite of that that they play. Alone with their guitars, fathers and sons, Husbands and wives, young and old, boys and girls, long hair, no hair, sitting in living rooms, garages, dens or kitchens, going on the record and playing for John, playing for his recovery. I spent the morning before Julie was up strumming through the posts.

Bob also told me a story about his John Prine sighting. Bob lives and works in Nashville.

On Christmas Eve (1:45 pm ish) John came into the liquor store where I work. (And hopefully be able to go back to if this rona will ever leave). He was buying for a party: bought handles of Smirnoff and Tito’s, a fifth of Capt Morgan and a six pack of Yazoo Gerst Amber Ale. I helped him find his items and chatted a bit. I told him I loved his work.

You never know when or where you’ll run into someone. Hopefully, John will make it through this and come visit Bob at the liquor store once again.

Searching for one thing often discovers something else.

Last night, I searched to find the photo I had saved of John to use in yesterday’s post. The search under “Prine” pulled up the photo plus a Word doc with “Prine” in the title dated April 15, 2005. I opened it up and there was a review I had written about a John Prine concert. Fifteen years ago! That might be the last time that we saw John here in Atlanta. I had forgotten that I had written it to be honest. And, back then, I didn’t have a blog. I guess I was just writing about stuff for myself and waiting for the interweb to get going so I could one day start self-publishing in a blog.

I don’t think anyone has ever read this piece except for Julie. I’m sure I shared it with her. After all, she’s a major part of it. Unfortunately, I didn’t mention the venue in the review nor the actual date of the concert. We can’t remember those details but it most certainly occurred around my birthday in April of 2005 Here it is…

John Prine In His Prime

This won’t be your regular review. It will be about the music and the musician, but we don’t love music solely because of those reasons. We love our music because of what it does to “us.” So, even though we talk about “them,” the musicians, we mostly talk about us; how their music affected (affects) us. When you engage in a discussion with others it boils down to how and when “you” discovered them – and this can get very competitive in the “who heard who first.” And this review will have a little comment on that. But I just felt like I needed to set the record straight on what kind of review this is. It’s personal.

I didn’t go to the concert intending to write about it so I didn’t observe it like a journalist, noting the song list in their actual order. Julie bought the tickets as a birthday gift, just like she did some 25 years ago.

I could not wait but I also couldn’t prepare. You know what I am talking about. You build your anticipation for a live concert by listening to the music of the artist that you have in your collection. It’s a weird ritual but one that many of us go through.

But in this case, I’m stuck in between technologies. When it comes to John Prine’s music, I’m stuck in the album world – not that there’s anything wrong with that except that I don’t have a working turntable hooked up. I have a turntable that works – bought it with my new fancy digital dolby system. But I don’t have the cabinet space for it. But that’s my issue. It all goes to say that, well, John Prine has been around much longer than digital audio formats. Okay, so I’ve established that I didn’t do my homework and refresh my memory of all of his songs and the lyrics etc. What I found out was that it really wasn’t necessary.

I think of Prine a lot living around Atlanta with its many four-way stops. One of his songs, “the accident” is about “a four-way stop dilemma. We all arrived at the same time. I yielded to the man to right of me and he yielded right back to mine. Well, the yield went around and around until Pamela finally tried. Just then the man in the light blue sedan hit Pamela’s passenger side.”

From the moment John stepped out on the stage and started plunking I was home. Home with the melodies and the lyrics which just flowed out of my head to the constant rhythm of his alternating bass note guitar picking style. My wife and I can not agree on the first song of the night, mostly because after a night of song after song the memory of the order fades. However, his last song, “Paradise,” was a beautiful rendition that brought Keb Mo back on stage for a duet.

 So, the first song, we think, was “Fish and Whistle” but we’re not sure. And it doesn’t matter the order. All that mattered was how the night and being in the same room with John, mattered to us. 

That’s right. It’s personal.

One more video: Stephen Colbert had John on the show in 2016. They sang a song together. “That’s the way that the world goes round.”