I was nine years old in the spring of 1967 when my father asked me if I wanted to tryout for Little League. I had no idea what Little League was but when he explained it was baseball, I quickly agreed. He had taken me to my first ballgame when I was six so any combination of my dad and baseball meant an instant yes. Back home a few hours later, he told me someone called to say I’d been picked to play for the Beachwood-Pine Beach (NJ) Little League Cardinals.
sucker for bugle calls
Have you noticed that if you listen to people, everybody has a story? Even people who don’t realize they have one.
I’m sure you have.
Recently, an older acquaintance and I were talking about my early teenage years when I was often called upon to put on my Boy Scout uniform and play the bugle call “Taps” for area military funerals. Somehow, the conversation drifted to the death of his favorite uncle…
the lessons I learned
While reading Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom years ago, I immediately thought of Mr. Randolph. He was my Morrie Schwartz—the most memorable teacher I ever had.
Grady Randolph frequently spoke about his rural, humble beginnings in Possum Trot, Alabama. Because of his intense love of learning, he read every book in the local library and started a journal in his early teens that he continued his entire life. This spirit led him to the University of Chicago, where he earned a law degree. He married, joined the Atlanta Bar in 1954, and practiced law in Atlanta with his wife. But he also taught history at Henry Grady High School.
Hardly anybody talks about Joey Miller anymore. His car was found three days after he had gone missing–in a vacant lot on some rural property he had planned to develop. The trunk was locked and his body was inside it. Somebody had shot him twice – in his upper back and in the back of his head.
The crime lab at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), sixty miles away in Tallahassee, even helped with some forensics…
I have a perennial burning urge to grow beans and lettuces, tomatoes and zucchini. I missed the season last year, moving house and garden, but I’m back on track. Although I garden on a modest scale, inadvertently I’ve embarked on a bid to grow the world’s most expensive vegetables.
A preference for growing vegetables over flowers is proof of my prosaic side, but also illustrates a romantic approach to harvesting and cooking produce straight from the soil…
Most Americans probably don’t realize how unique are their individual rights, compared to people living under other governments.
Our Founding Fathers, in all their inspired wisdom, gave early Americans more rights than previously had any government anywhere in the world. Those same rights, often multiplied in some ways, remain a cornerstone of living in the United States and go a long way in defining what it is to be an American.
They are easily identified in our Bill of Rights.
life was simple
Our house was only 10 yards from the railroad tracks and 50 yards from the end of the train station. It was a small rented cottage, one of five allocated to families of track workers. We had waited several years before the two bedroom cottage became available. The bedrooms were small and I was allocated a bed on the enclosed porch. There were no windows, only a wire screen to keep out the insects and a large canvas roller blind to keep out the light. It was cold and noisy.
God made the funny bone, but it atrophies with disuse. Those of us who closely follow the evening news are highly susceptible to morphing into a sourpuss.
An excellent remedy over the long haul is to give no more than 15 minutes a day to the headlines and redeem the rest of the day by reading good poetry aloud, fly-fishing alone in a huge state or federal park, changing diapers (of the very old or of the newborn), looking in a mirror while sticking out your tongue… Use your imagination. That’s why we have one.
a fairy tale
Nothing prepared me for the shock discovery after months in a writers’ group where I now live in Ireland, that several of our members firmly believe in fairies. Nobody dismissed them as figments of the imagination. I had to look into this.
Joining this group had opened a new window for me into a writer’s world. We meet weekly on Sunday afternoons in a village coffee and book shop serving excellent latte…
K.J. McElrath and Glen Greenwald appear disoriented. This is not the post 2016 election political struggle that they had anticipated. Or know how to fight. They were prepared to wage a virtuous virtual campaign against a President Hillary Clinton by continuing to expose the secrets of the military intelligence complex that spies on Americans and conducts a forever war to police the Middle East. Instead, the exposures of massive troves of mostly prosaic secrets via Wikileaks that they celebrated and propagated helped to shove history down a different path, leaving them stumbling and flailing.
Recent incidents involving forced removal of passengers from commercial flights have highlighted how far we have moved from the golden age of airline travel. I started flying in the 1950s and have experienced the significant changes in the airline business, not all for the benefit of travelers.
Flying home recently, on board a new Boeing 717 aircraft, I read an article (The History of Airline Classes and Cabins: The Travel Insider) about some of the changes in the airline industry over the years…
Despite the “never, ever, ever give up” language in Donald Trump’s recent disaster of a commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy it takes little imagination to picture him suddenly resigning from office. Although a majority of Americans would like to see him depart for his golf courses permanently as quickly as possible, an excruciating slow motion departure from office would be more beneficial. Beyond the raw entertainment value of watching a ridiculous narcissist get his comeuppance…
Well, tie me to an ant hill and slap jelly in ma ears … Vladimir Putin, former KGB chief, thug and Dictator in Chief of Russia has offered to vouch for Donald’s Trumps innocence and honesty during a high stakes classified information swap-meet in the oval office. Vlad says he can prove that Donald is telling the truth.
Well! Jeesh, that is a relief! Show of hands, who, republican or democrat, with even a smidge of common sense feels more secure and that Donald is trustworthy? …
In December of last year the Camden County Planning Commission considered an application for a “hardship variance” to allow a group of Cumberland Island property-owners and family members to use 87 acres on the island to create a 10-lot subdivision. That area, zoned “conservation- preservation,” is less than a quarter-mile from the Sea Camp ferry dock, where nearly all visitors arrive from the mainland. Even though the applicants failed to meet all five variance requirements, their request was granted by the county planning commission.
the slow lane
Beautiful wreckage along the back roads. It’s a chest of tarnished treasure. The key is that red, white, and blue shield you see in the photograph. Rather than speed from one destination to another, I follow old roads into the past. And it’s there that I ramble, detouring and losing track of time. It’s there that mysteries occur, something that never happens on a rough-surfaced interstate where road noise drowns out your thoughts.
smiling back at you
I built my first coffin as an eight-year-old, a time when dogs still trotted freely in the street. Sawdust and Timber, my two young beagles, had full reign of our neighborhood. One day Sawdust ran under a speeding Buick Roadmaster. Timber trailed a few steps behind and only heard the thump. My first encounter with death came the next morning when the vet called to tell my father that Sawdust had died.
misogynist in chief
It’s the second Sunday of May and we all know what that means: Mother’s Day. The one day a year when mother’s come close to receiving the respect, adoration, and thanks that they so deserve. This Mother’s Day, however, is special; Donald Trump is the President and “nobody that has more respect for women than [he does].” So let’s take some time to remember all the different ways that he’s honored not just mother’s, but all women, over the course of his life.
On lots of those days during school I would daydream about rambling the world; seeing and doing all the things I had learned about in books and movies. Trans-World Airways and Pan American went everywhere. Maybe I could afford to travel like that someday. I would need to learn some languages, of course. And I needed a plan. The routes Marco Polo took … I could start there. It was always in the back of my mind, to be dealt with when the time came. Maybe I could even get a job with an airline. Their employees get free passes to everywhere.
Something about old gas pumps pleases me. I think of them as elder statesmen, as senior citizens left behind by the rush of time itself. When I see a proud old pump, its dispensing days behind it, I feel a surge of pride tinged by sadness. Veterans of another era, they have been put out to pasture.
I have a long history with gas pumps, and I’m sure you do too. Ever wondered how many hours you’ve spent by a gas pump…
still debating science
On Monday, April 24th, Rick Santorum, the former Representative, Senator, and Presidential candidate, made an appearance at Unity Christian School in Rome, Georgia. He was there as a paid speaker for Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) to speak about what he described as traditional American values. Much of the content emphasized Judeo-Christian values and the place they should have in our society, a narrative constructed in large part from Santorum’s own Catholicism.
counterfactuals are free
Did the world need another biography of V.I. Lenin? That we have no need of new biographies of Napoleon Bonaparte, Abraham Lincoln, Adolf Hitler or Winston Churchill is obvious. Yet they will be published. In contrast the world might be rather richer for new biographies of Ranavalona I, Jósef Pilsudski, Pancho Villa and Trygve Lie. But another Lenin biography?
Lenin’s seeming unparalleled role in making history is Tariq Ali’s excuse…
The first time I heard of Branchville, South Carolina, I was a ticket agent at the bus station in Athens, Georgia. A passenger bought a one-way ticket to this hamlet and I ran the white-yellow-pink carbon-paper ticket through a machine like those that once processed credit card transactions. When the call to board the bus came, the passenger got on. Never saw him again. That was forty-four years ago.
eu could learn a lot
There has been some strong language from some European Union representatives about Great Britain’s planned exit from the EU. Great Britain’s politicians have responded with strong words as both sides position themselves for the “Brexit” negotiations. Some of the 751 European Parliament members will be happy when Great Britain departs the scene because “they were never one of us!” Others will be concerned about Brexit because the EU will become more of a “GEU” with the weaker economies…
“A man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” – Muhammad Ali
Sitting in Cafe Lafitte’s in Exile on a recent March morning, enjoying the best Bloody Mary in that foodie town, I wasn’t thinking about Ali. I was talking to Harvey, the guy on the next stool. But the words of The Greatest were appropriate.
Two years prior, Suzy and I had stumbled into Lafitte’s asking for directions to a voodoo shop…
5 decades of public service
Sculptor Rick Weaver captured the body language of Fritz Hollings just right in a new statue unveiled Monday as former colleagues heaped praises on the retired senator, now 95.
Three things stand out in the bronze figure – the warm, but determined, look on Hollings’ face; how his left hand is grasping a rolled-up document; and, most notably, an outstretched right hand, a familiar gesture to many of the senator’s former staffers and friends.
earth day message:
On this Earth Day, it’s fitting for coastal Georgians to reconsider the importance of strong ties between our economy and environmental health. Too often, outmoded, poorly-informed viewpoints unfairly portray environmental quality as being contrary to jobs and a robust economy.
Yet, coastal Georgia’s economic vitality thrives on the protection of marshes, fisheries, and waterways. According to estimates of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, at least 40,000 jobs and $2 billion a year in commerce depends …
release your tax returns
Once again, President Tweety has claimed that Americans who march in protest of his policies or of him personally are doing so for pay. His latest accusation came in a tweet on Easter Sunday, one day after citizens in cities as far flung as New York and Birmingham hit the streets to demand that he release his tax returns.
I am going to take him at his word that events like these are orchestrated and funded as part of a vast left-wing conspiracy. And I would like to ask a simple question: Where do I sign up?
locust and wild honey
I wish that I could find a way never to think in stereotypes, but I find that stereotypes often seem so matter-of-fact that I don’t even notice them as stereotypes. I have not found a way to abandon them en masse, but only one at a time. The process is usually more painful than it was this time. Ten years ago, on April 10, 2007, I flew to Memphis, rented a car and drove to Tupelo, Mississippi, base of Donald Wildmon‘s hostile American Family Association …
Bidding for public attention among Republican state legislators appears astonishingly intense. Consider Colorado State Representative Dave (not David) Williams. On first encounter, Williams appears to be just another standard issue ‘guns, fetuses and homophobia’ Republican. His issue page endorses the Second Amendment as defense against enemies “foreign and domestic.” How he squares appeals to Red Dawn wingnut fantasies with his national party leader being in the pocket of President Vladimir Putin is anyone’s guess…
bear on the square
Bear On The Square Mountain Festival in Dahlonega, Ga., has added a new special event, the Moonlight Jam, for its 2017 festival lineup.
The Moonlight Jam, sponsored by Jekyll Brewing Company of Alpharetta, Ga., will take place on Saturday evening, April 22, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. in the festival’s MainStage festival tent. The tent will open at 7 p.m., and the jam will start at 7:30 p.m. and will continue until around 9:30 p.m. Like other Bear on the Square events, there will be no charge for admission.
start without me
I haven’t read Uecker’s book but did see him catch Warren Spahn when the Braves lived in Milwaukee. The regular catcher was injured, tired or given a day off and Uecker, usually a reliable knuckle ball catcher, started the game. Uecker went on to become an excellent baseball commentator, actor and a funny guy…
robber barons on a trump scale
The release by the White House of the financial worth of President Trump’s top advisors, in a Friday night dump timed for underplaying bad news (an April Fool’s joke on us?), was a face punch that we needed. While we were all staggering to understand Trump and his election – baffled, as Steve Bannon told us we were – this knocks us upright, a clarifying blow. These guys, Steve Bannon, son-in-law Jered Kushner, Gary Cohn, Kellyanne Conway and all, are worth hundreds of millions. Added to the billionaires on the cabinet, the West Wing cocktail party guests are worth a total of $12 billion, according to Bloomberg.
the knife of tax-greed
“Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed.”-Wallace Stegner
Cumberland Island National Seashore and United Nations Biosphere Reserve is the largest of the southern United States’ sea islands. It is a paradise of eco-diversity and incomparable beauty. Visitors can only access the island by a private boat or the ferry from St. Marys, Georgia, and when they arrive, they find that they have been transported to a realm that is beyond all expectations.
President Donald Trump kept his campaign vow to put more Americans back to work by signing an executive order Wednesday that will ease government regulations against the surgical removal of testicles and revive the long-languishing castrato industry in this country.
“C’mon, fellas, you know what this is, you know what this says,” Trump said during a signing ceremony at the White House where he was flanked on stage by unemployed males with low-pitched vocal ranges…
Returning from South Georgia after attending a funeral this week, we got off the Interstates for a while, and enjoyed the less stressful driving on the back roads. All in all, it‘s much more enjoyable, too, as you see how the crops are doing (the Vidalias are green topped and ready for harvest), check out the small communities, and see Georgia in a way as it was in the past.
This time one particular element struck me: in much of rural Georgia, there are many, many homes, barns, and other outbuildings that are no longer in service, abandoned, deteriorating, and wasting away…
Consistent with the well-considered advice from Columbia University economist, Geoffrey Heal, Georgians need to get savvier about how state policies are being used to support business ventures and job creation. According to Professor Heal, “If we don’t make some changes in the way we organize our economic systems… we will see catastrophic environmental change in our lifetimes.” (Catalyst, Winter 2017.) He stresses that neglecting nature in economic decisions seriously threatens our prosperity.
It was winter and Canada was in recession when I arrived as a new immigrant. Finding work when many Canadians were unemployed was a challenge because employers were looking for Canadians, not immigrants who may move on to someplace else. I was unemployed for five months, living in a boarding house, and had no money when I finally found work. There were no government unemployment benefits.
because poverty is the same
Funny how one thing can lead to another. In a recent column about Lewis Grizzard, the famous Southern author and humorist, I mentioned that he was from Moreland, Ga., a town in Coweta County about 40 miles southwest of Atlanta. Moreland is a community of fewer than 500 souls, but this tiny town has produced two of Georgia’s most famous sons. The other was Erskine Caldwell, born in 1903, who became one of the world’s best-selling authors.
Having written and published a book about public transportation that is a novel wrapped in political satire, I have been lately asking myself, “What possessed you to embark on this journey in the first place?
Coincidentally, I need look no further than a piece I wrote called “Book Spotting,” that appeared in Like the Dew in 2011. The article mentions a fictitious book club on the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) whose basic membership requirement was to read something while riding public transportation…
Hitler and drugs are such an obvious formula for successful popular history that it is a wunder someone hadn’t already published something similar to Norman Ohler’s 2016 Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany. Likely to please readers interested in social history and drug policy, the book is certain to perturb serious political and military historians with what appear almost uni-causal explanations for phenomena such as Adolf Hitler’s erratic decision making and the success of the blitzkrieg as a strategy…
remembering the king
During the spring of 2001, a few months before America changed for the worse, Shane and I were working on a dream trip. We were going to Wrigley, and taking my grandson with us. The feeling reminded me of Christmas the year I got my first 26” bicycle.
The plans had been made; tickets for game and plane confirmed; hotel rooms reserved. About to bust from anticipation, I looked up activities for that weekend just to occupy my time. The Chicago Blues Festival, long on my bucket list, was happening the same weekend we’d be there…
for our ultimate audience
Talk about writer’s block: What about having to write an epitaph for your mother’s gravestone? The idea of an epitaph, of course, is that it’s written for the ages, even those short simple annals of the poor on weed-lost tombstones.
I write, and teach writing. I teach that it starts with your audience. If you’ve been writing only for your teacher, you haven’t really started to learn writing. Writing well for a mass of strangers – that’s more like it.
I am looking for new friends to replace those who have fallen off the perch already and to increase my personal wealth. The new friends will need to share my values of honest hard work, democracy, freedom of speech, equality, love of the great outdoors, baseball, football and a passion for fine red wine.
For a long time I thought great wealth was the secret to friendship because the few millionaires I met had a lot of friends…
A fine Southern mansion complete with its own bowling alley? ’Tis true. A glimpse of the wealth and majesty that came with the era of Carolina Gold rice? True. Sumptuous grounds and landscaping directed by a man from my hometown? Lincolnton, Georgia. True, indeed.
“Stately, gorgeous and unspoiled, Arcadia is set between Pawley’s Island and Georgetown, encompassing all the property on both sides of the highway with the exception of DeBordieu Colony, Prince George and Hobcaw Barony.”
harder than it has to be
It occurs to me that the other people who live at my house have an absolute unholy fascination with time. These people HAVE to know EXACTLY what time it is – at all times. It’s an obsession. Sometimes I think the rest of them were related to Galileo, Pope Gregory or that our last name was not ‘Cantrell’ but rather, Bulova.
There is a clock of some kind in every room of our house. In a couple of rooms there’s more than one…
author, friend, family man
Not quite a year ago thunderstorms shook the South Carolina Midlands. For those who mark calendars, they rumbled through April Fool’s Day around 4 a.m. Later that morning my friend, Dianne, sent me a text. “We lost Sam last night.” Rains had come to wash away a man’s last earthly footprints. Said his loving wife, Myra, “a renaissance man left us.” I knew what she meant. Samuel Steven Morton and I traveled a bit of road. I first met Sam …
There Is a Season
To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born, a time to die.
We never thought Sophie would be our last cat standing. Our almost eighteen-year-old aging feline, still a debutante in her own mind, has now bid us farewell…
on lewis grizzard
My wife and I drove last week to Marietta, Ga., for a wedding party. Imagine my surprise when on a stretch of I-85 in Coweta County, about 40 miles southwest of Atlanta, I saw a sign that read: Lewis Grizzard Memorial Highway.
It warmed my heart, for I knew the late Lewis Grizzard when years ago I was a writer/editor for The Atlanta Constitution, where his incredible rise to fame began.
caines family, genuine folk artists
As I turned off Highway 17 onto West Virginia Road, snowy mountains and the blue-green Kanawha River came to mind, but neither snow nor mountains waited in Carolina Rice Country. Legendary folk artists waited—The Caines Boys. Now right here let’s get clear on names. The Caines Brothers are dead and gone. The Caines Boys, Jerry and Roy, live on. The first time I heard of Caines decoys, it was a reference to the Caines Brothers who came to fame in Georgetown in the first half of the last century…
no ice, no skates, no puck
“I’m open,” I realized as I sped down the cold gray parking lot surface. “But does he see it?”
Growing up a boy on the Jersey Shore in the early 1970’s, baseball was our summer passion. We’d play all day long on a sandlot and then go home and put our uniforms on for that night’s Little League game. In the fall, it was football, of course. No helmets, no pads, barely any rules. However, in the winter, we played street hockey.
how to ban muslims: ask mississippi
In The Promise of the New South, Edward Ayers tells of James Z. George, a U.S. senator from Mississippi who predicted that, in 1890 (just a year away), the number of African American in the state would exceed that of whites by half a million. George was worried about what this meant for the state’s political future. Democrats had controlled Mississippi since the end of Reconstruction, but now, the black population was growing so ominously and Republicans …
wouldn’t be and never was
We gotta get out of this place
If it’s the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place
Girl, there’s a better life for me and you
Somewhere baby, somehow I know it
My Aunt Dolly seldom went to the movies, but my sisters and I sat down with her in 1978 to watch the TV mini-series “The Awakening Land,” a fictionalized account of a family who moved into the Ohio wilderness toward the end of the eighteenth century …
stay vigilant but
We’re all exercised by recent events in America, even to the extent of disturbed sleep. I dreamed of America being violated, helpless to resist. This is not just America’s problem; it has the capacity to rock the world. Facebook is crammed with shared misgivings. My American friends, all Democrats, exchange tens of emails daily. Several attended the Women’s March in Washington. We are all in danger of burn-out, so I seek to restore peace of mind.
Atlantans are preparing for what many believe is an impossibility: ascending I-75 during rush hour in time to make it to a Braves’ game in Cobb County.
For weeks fans have been stockpiling food and fuel and consulting guides – one Buckhead man has hired six Sherpas – for the treacherous trek to the top of the city’s peak traffic nightmare where breathing can require oxygen and one slip can be fatal.
“My wife doesn’t want me to go,” said Billy Waldrop. “You know, we’ve got three kids, and if I don’t make it…”
slow death roll shot
“Go find Lester.”
We were typical college kids in the late 70’s. Brief moments of intense studying, staying up way too late, eating the wrong foods, smoking and drinking too much, partying like there was no tomorrow, falling in and out of lust disguised as love, rooting for our school and wasting time. Wasting lots of time.
will it stay airborne?
“Allowing a monkey to drive a race car sounds like an amusing idea, but only to those who have never tried it.” – The Bard of Affliction
The great Airship of State had been flying for 241 years now. It wasn’t always an airliner, of course. Back when it began to function, a hot-air balloon was sufficient to hoist its machinery. As the years flew by, however, and new technologies became available, it eventually transferred itself into ever more efficient aerial transports, the better to float high above the hostile environment below …
whatever it takes
There are many ways that young kids grow with their college experience. If you go away to school, when you’re a freshman, you can’t wait to get back home. Fall break, Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break, summer vacation … They all mean the same thing. Home. If you don’t have a car, you try to arrange a ride or you check the bus and train schedules. Whatever it takes …
hurts our hearts
I imagine what happens next to that march from protozoa to ape to man – just a poof of dust from the increasing implosion of facts-to-lies-to-violence based on nothing but a madman’s brain, and his cunning associate (perhaps with an “s” – just in case there’s somebody else in the room with Bannon?). I wonder, daily, about how much of the planet will still be here …
right to bear cars
Running down pedestrians with your car is wrong. Whether the act is intentional or negligent, running down pedestrians is absolutely wrong. That ethical absolute extends to encouraging others to commit such an act. Unfortunately a couple of Republican lawmakers in Tennessee want their state courts to take a much more permissive approach to vehicular murder and assault. Tennessee State Representative Matthew Hill and State Senator Bill Ketron have introduced…
In 1998 my husband Wilton and I decided to take a trip to Kenya, which fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams of being able to see wild animals in their natural habitats. I had read so many books about life in the jungle and loved Isak Dinesen’s book and the movie Out of Africa. I enjoyed trips to the zoo to see elephants, lions, and giraffes, but always longed to see them in Africa as they were in Born Free.
Remember how Donald Trump spent much of the 2016 election campaign touting his ability to negotiate better deals for the United States? For all the bombast about trade with China and nukes in Iran, and cheering from supporters who probably couldn’t find either country on a world map, it turns out that the international agreements he intended to renegotiate and perhaps junk altogether were with our allies and not our rivals. That’s why Vice President Mike Pence was …
Southerners are said to be obsessed with their own history. It’s true, belying that old dictum that history is always written by the winners. Even now, well into the 21st century, I find myself wading into the murky waters of that Southern obsession with the past, which invariably goes back to slavery and the War.
This obsession animates the 2016 book I have just finished reading, The Making of a Racist: A Southerner Reflects on Family, History, and the Slave Trade, by historian Charles B. Dew …