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living the past
From the lieutenant’s cap I had drawn a “4.” So they killed me about forty yards shy of the wall. Hoke, my neighbor’s son, was in his first fight and also had a “4”; he got a little further but inevitably, he too, was mown down. Jackson, a clever Florida boy, is also at his first reenactment: He had drawn a highly coveted “5.” He could go all the way to the wall or choose to surrender –– his call. Our captain, Matthew, a veteran of many battles, also drew a “5.” He had died here on this very ground back in 2008 and on many other fields since, but he had never before made it to the wall … he never surrenders.
forgo any stumbling
Finding an old friend after all these years, sitting down for coffee with an ex-lover after an accidental meeting on the street, reconciling with a family member after a period of silence so long that neither of you can remember why your worlds went quiet, how lovely to know there are second chances.
The overlapping of love and laughter is perhaps all I really want from this life. I recently read the words of the poet W. S. Merwin who said,
“One is trying to say everything that can be said for the things that one loves while there’s still time.”
beatles by the book
By the end of 1963, new sounds of elation — beyond what was generally heard in popular music — made their way across the Atlantic and resounded across America in the new year. Americans made way for the Beatles. The several years leading to the grand emergence of ’64, and the lives of the people behind the vibrant new sounds are chronicled in Larry Kane’s fine new book, When They Were Boys. It’s an insightful and revealing study of the act we’ve known for all these years.
During the Mid-sixties, a regional band called the James Gang had one local hit that everyone I knew loved beyond reason. The song was called “Georgia Pines.” It was a ballad about regret and the South. Every boy in my orbit could handle sensitivities like that without being called inappropriate slurs. A few years later while browsing in a record store (remember those?) I found an album by the James Gang and my heart pounded like the pile drivers just starting to proliferate on the Alabama Gulf Coast.
In a surprise garden event, the groundhog had bypassed all the ripening vegetables to get to the lamb’s quarters, an edible but common invasive weed. In his book More Scenes From The Rural Life, Verlyn Klinkenborg stands unnoticed for a few seconds watching the voracious eater who has made the effort to break into the garden only to nibble on a weed. He likens the surprising incident to discovering a burglar in your house intent on shampooing the carpets rather than stealing the valuables.
I had heard such places existed but had never seen one. Now I was just two miles from seeing one. Just off I-26 near Ridgeville, South Carolina, I began to see signs. I followed them, took a side road, and the place came into view. Time for a deep breath. Old photographs of Nazi concentration camps came to mind. It was an illusion, of course, created by the way the old cabins sit shoulder to shoulder. Dark clapboards, rusty tin roofs, and stark chimneys strengthened the impression.
stone poneys no more
Linda Ronstadt recently shared the sad news that she has Parkinson’s disease and can no longer sing. The syndrome cheats her and her audience from taking in more of her musical offerings, when many listeners, even those who long ago stashed her albums in forgotten corners, are thinking anew of her vivid and vibrant artistry.
down the drain
Half dozen of the other. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.
Creatures of habit have an advantage. When they repeat what’s failed in the past, it comes as a surprise. Add to that the cliché and the euphemism as instruments of deception and you’ve got the essential ingredients of clandestine enterprise. John McCain has been running his own foreign policy shop at the International Republican Institute (set up by Congress in 1983) for so long that it has probably become a cliché.
reflect on this
One day in 1979 I was on a plane between Los Angeles and San Diego after a transatlantic flight from London, my first solo trip. I’d saved the fare while working in a friend’s restaurant. Three passengers, one of them me, were invited by the crew to enter the cockpit and chat with the pilot. He scrutinized me and asked “What do you do?” “I’m a housewife,” I answered, unused to brash social intercourse and overlooking my part-time catering partnership as cook and book keeper. His eyes glazed over as he turned to the next passenger.
One recent evening, I was cleaning up the kitchen after dinner and feeling very happy. Yes, the activity was mundane, but I was where I’d chosen to be, doing what I’d chosen to do. And my surroundings were so pleasant–my inviting kitchen opening onto a colorful living room adorned with plants, and the summer night sounds coming in through the open window. All of this suddenly felt SO precious to me, SO different from the day before, which I’d spent mostly in jail.
Mr. Peabody, the erudite dog in the Bullwinkle cartoons, had his WABAC (“way back”) machine for visiting the past. George Foster Peabody, no relation, has his own version of the WABAC, though it’s more time capsule than time machine. A very large time capsule.
It’s called the Peabody Awards Collection. Just about every radio, TV and web entry in the University of Georgia’s Peabody Awards competition has been filed and preserved in the collection since the awards program was launched some 72 years ago.
idea of place
What was in the closet in Virginia Woolf’s room of her own? What kind of high-collared blouses were hanging there? Was there a hat box to hold some of the wide brims she liked to sport? What did her sense of place give her?
The idea of place has always been on my mind. I have a firm spot in my recollections of the places I have lived, where I have planted gardens, where I have enjoyed good times and bad with loved ones, and where I have buried pets and memories.
Charleston’s sweetgrass basket weavers are legendary. They are as much a part of the Lowcountry as she crab soup, Spanish moss, sea oats, and a crashing surf line. Their baskets please the eye with their symmetrical lines and khaki and tan patterns. A princely sum will buy you a basket but if you think spending $1,195 for a hand-woven basket is too much, hold on for a bit. There’s much to know about that basket and all that goes into it. For starters a rich history attends sweetgrass baskets.
Is bigger better?
That’s a question we’ve been thinking about for years. What originally got us thinking about this was the question the nation faced during the initial part of the recent economic turndown, when there was talk that some major banks were “too big to fail.”
grace of god
Religious experiences came few and far between after my little brother saved his mortal soul from Hell at the age of eight. Most of the truly moving experiences in my life since have either involved my family, sports, or music; maybe a combination of all those.
writing one's memoirs
Unless you’re a public figure or an exceptionally talented writer, start with the premise that you’re unlikely to produce a best seller (There are exceptions of course, like Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, but he didn’t need to do-it-himself). It’s a lot of effort, but costs are modest, so you will probably break even through sales to friends.
saving a species
In 1980 I wrote a fifteen-minute film script about a subject most people give little thought to: sand dunes. The stars of this natural history documentary were sea oats, pelicans, shorebirds, and loggerhead sea turtles. The goal? Show people how important sand dunes are to wildlife and man. Because of scheduling issues and bad weather, however, a vital part of the film never got shot. Sand Dunes: Guardian of the Coast hit the screen without its true stars, child prodigies you could say.
Why don’t Cumming city officials use e-mail?
A bunch of old white men run Cumming, the Forsyth County seat. Last year, Mayor H. Ford Gravitt created a controversy by ejecting a citizen who was videotaping a City Council meeting–in clear violation of Georgia’s open meetings act. Politifact even weighed in on the case.
Fortunately, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens has gotten involved to enforce the law, but old ways die hard up in the hills…
the real work of rosa parks
Black women stand at the intersection of two well-developed ideologies in America, one about women and one about Black people. In 1944, a Black woman organized others in her community to protect and defend Black women and girls against violations of sexual assault in the Jim Crow South.
change change change
Name most cities in the Deep South and you will find a First Baptist Church there. But there is one city we know of in the South which has no First Baptist Church. Can you guess where that town is? It’s Norcross.
remembering elmore leonard
“I got one question. How you gonna get down that hill?” the hero Paul Newman asked Richard Boone, the classic villain, in the film adaptation of the 1967 film Hombre, based on the Western by Elmore Leonard. The story is of John Russell, played by Newman, a white man raised by Apaches and forced by circumstances to be responsible for the lives of a group of people who despise him.
in good we trust
I have been completely unable to write since July 20. OK, really July 16 because July 20 was just me moping because Helen Thomas died. That’s more than a month. I’ve taken a vacation since that time. Spent a week at the beach, watching birds. Sun, sand, salt water and seafood. Driving with the top down. Friends. Still, nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. I look inside, and I am completely empty. I see something outrageous and the best I can muster is a decidedly un-outrageous “Meh.”
the best days
May 30, 1973: Supposedly the most important day of the year for the graduating class at Forest Park Senior High. Get that diploma. Get on with life and the world will be your oyster. A magical day. Still, to scores of students at FPSH, along with thousands of young people throughout the Atlanta area, the most important day that year was May 4. The day Led Zeppelin played Atlanta Stadium.
a kind of magic
As I fast approach a birthday that will be my last one in this decade, I think of my granddaughter Lia who is not quite seven. Right now I’m ten times older than she. When she was here this week, she learned that my birthday is coming up in just a few weeks. She was somewhat curious about how old I would be but the mention of birthdays excited her into count-down mode and to talk the rest of the time about her own birthday in November and what kind of party she wanted.
It’s been a couple of weeks since NPR host Scott Simon sat at his mother’s death bed and tweeted her final jou… from the ICU of a Chicago hospital to the great beyond. Yet there continues to be much discussion about the wisdom, respect, privacy, taste of those dozens of updates with his 1.3 million followers knowing her last and intimate life details – and Simon’s expressions of gratitude for her life, grief for her death.
pit cooked over hickory
One day when you’re starving for traditional pit-cooked BBQ make the drive to Jackie Hite’s Barbecue just off Highway 23 in Leesville, South Carolina. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you park by the tracks and smell the delicious aroma emanating from hogs sizzling over hickory coals. Look for plumes of smoke back of Hite’s wide white restaurant. Inside look for the patriarch of pork, Jackie Hite
seventy years ago
There was a tiny green and gold metal box with a hinged lid, less than half the size of a box of matches. It contained many brass gramophone needles, each of which could only be used once, held in place by a screw adjustment. The turntable was housed inside a polished mahogany box with beveled lid, and a handle protruded from the side with which to wind it. Every record required winding in advance…
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
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"If you ever get the chance to go to Dallas, take it from me, pass it by," so sang Jimmy Buffett. "People do you wrong down in Dallas," the song pointed out. "Dallas," written by Roger Bartlett in 1974, had nothing to do with the pain we associate with "Big D." Yet the tragedy and heartache still comes to mind whenever the song is played -- at least 'round here. Some of John F. Kennedy's advisers wished the president would pass Dallas by. His personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln told JFK of premonitions about a Dallas trip. Kennedy revealed a sense of Read on →
Pope Francis' recent encyclical is sending shock waves around the world. In addition to exhortations to the faithful, Evangelii Gaudium ("The Joy of the Gospel") packs a scathing critique of "unbridled" capitalism and consumerism. Here's the flavor of the Pope's message: Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. A new Read on →
Way back in 1988, I sat across from Strom Thurmond in his Capitol Hill office in Washington, D.C., and listened as he explained his opposition to federal anti-lynching laws and any other federal encroachment on states’ rights during his long career. “I felt it was dangerous to shift it all to Washington,” the then-85-year-old U.S. senator and former Dixiecrat presidential candidate from South Carolina told me. “Lynching was nothing but murder. All states had laws against murder. … I’ve never had any feelings against minorities.” Never mind that Thurmond, who died at 101 in 2003, led the Dixiecrat revolt out of the Democratic Par Read on →