(belated) mother’s day post

Recently I drove through Grafton, WV where Mother’s Day began in a small Methodist Church. (The town is also the resting place of my paternal grandparents).  This isn’t so much a post about mothers in general, as much as it is a brief note about my mother in particular, and why she’d probably get my vote were she to run for public office.

Mom’s Foreign Policy:

Growing up, my older brother and I fought…a lot.  My mom’s rule was twofold, but simple; the first person to throw a punch was guilty and should be prepared for fraternal retaliation, and not to call her unless there was blood.  Simple, effective, and fair.  I think there’s a host of foreign policy applications here.

Mom’s Department of Education:

I was never very interested in education while in public school.  I had a few interests, mainly music (later receiving a music performance degree) and reading books that were over my head.  Mom went to bat for me with high school administrators who insisted I take advanced math and science courses.  Her response was basically, “Why? He’s not good at it and he doesn’t like it”.  Exactly.  Education is not one-size-fits all.  We don’t all need to study physics just like we don’t all need to study Baroque counterpoint.

Mom’s Domestic Policy:

Mom has been a piano teacher for as long as I can remember.  Every year she gives a need-based scholarship of sorts for X amount of free piano lessons.  Sometimes folks are down on their luck through no fault of their own.  Sure, I’ll pay taxes for a responsibly managed public account to keep other Americans from homelessness, let’s just weed out the scammers…I know Mom could.  No one can BS that woman.


kid’s books are the best, or, nothing new under the sun

Last week I read Lois Lowry’s “The Giver”.  I read it once before, about 17 or 18 years ago, soon after it was published.  It’s a quick read for an adult.  A quick read, but a lot to chew on.  She probably read Plato’s “Republic” at one point and perhaps consciously riffed off his work to create her dystopian vision.  So what.  It’s a great read.  At 31 years old it still made me feel anger, pity, and compassion for most of the characters.  So, Ms. Lowry did her job; she reminded me of what makes us human, warts and all.

More recently I finished the 2nd book in the series: “Gathering Blue”.  Again, a great book.  Perhaps a bit predictable for some readers, but, who cares?  Great music often ends with a predictable cadence but we still listen to it.  And M. Night Shyamalan may have lifted ideas from this book for his movie “The Village”.  So what.  The good ones borrow but the great ones steal.

In the end, nothing is new under the sun.  I say, if you like children’s books, then read them.  If you like music with a familiar ending, then listen to it.  I’m looking forward to “The Giver” movie that’s coming out this summer, even though I know how it ends.

Happy Reading.

pot and the petting zoo

There’s a city-run petting zoo/park near my house in Hampton, VA.  They have a horse, some cows, pigs, etc. They’re basically trying to re-create the American family farm for suburbanites.  I like to volunteer there when I get the chance; it’s a worthy cause and working with the animals is cheaper than therapy.  Sometimes there are non-violent “criminals” who work off their community service at the park.  I met one of them today.  It was obvious he had never worked a farm before; he showed up in basketball sneakers, a nice Chicago Bulls ball cap and leather jacket.  But, the young man worked hard and was very nice to talk with.  We took a short break from cleaning out the barn and got to talking.  He has a full-time job at a local college, and is curious about joining the military.  He owes 100 hours of community service.  That’s right, 100 hours on top of his full-time job.  His crime?  Pot.  Yep, marijuana.  Not selling it, not stealing or killing for it.  Just using it.  Pot.  100 hours of community service because he was caught getting high.

Pot lands you in community service, but coke lands you in the White House.  God Bless ‘Merica.

poems and taxes

So it seems that April is National Poetry Month.  Perhaps the hope is that we’ll all be in such a reading frenzy over Frost, Dickinson, and Collins that we’ll forget about tax day on the 15th.  Doubtful.  Either way, please feel free to share your refunds and poems with me.  Here’s some of mine (poems…not my refund).

Best Laid

Love kindled

Question asked

Vow spoken

Seed planted


Not necessarily in that order

Lunch With Carl

By the time I made it home for lunch

they were already applying steady direct pressure to your arms.

I knew you had been home;

pinkish fingerprint on the 9 and 1

empty bottle of cooking wine

bath water brackish with sacrifice to some hellish god

still coagulating blood like shredded jellyfish on white sheets



tampa bay: “the good, the bad, the (far from) ugly

My family and I just returned to Virginia from a week in Tampa.  Here’s a brief snapshot and some recommendations.

Clearwater Beach: Beautiful sugar white sound. Parking wasn’t an issue. Life-size statues of Hulk Hogan–what else do you need?

Dunedin: Just north of Clearwater.  Extensive bike trail through the heart of town.  Casa de Tina-boozey $4 happy hour margaritas. Walkable downtown.  Middle-aged librarian with beautiful hummingbird tattoo on forearm…my kind of town.

Safety Harbor: Quiet, artsy town. Beautiful, centuries old live oaks near the library. Leafy, shady, walkable. Good pizza at Safety Harbor Pizzeria.

Ybor City: It was raining and we had our kids with us.  Looks like a lot of fun for singles or couples without kids.  Cuban heritage, cigar shops.

Apollo Beach: Didn’t see any manitees, but hey, it was free.

Fort de Soto Park:  Great Beach (like the rest of them).  Worth the $5.  Quiet (at least when we were there in April, though I’ve heard it gets busier).  Drove north up the coast to Clearwater through the beach towns, shopped, had pizza. Nothing too much to report…just a bunch of beach towns-is what it is.

Historic Kenwood: Neighborhood in St. Petersburg. Looks like an interesting neighborhood to live in, but not much of a tourist destination.

Lettuce Leaf Park:  Great playground for kids-shady, picturesque. Nice nature trail boardwalk with 2-3 story observation tower.  A few dollars.




“on the road”…with toddlers

In the tradition of our middle class mid-Atlantic fore-bearers, my wife and I are taking our family on a road trip to sunny Tampa, Florida for the week.  This rite of passage involves copious amounts of coffee and the pursuit of a Zen-like state that prevents the parents from running off into the woods at the next rest stop, never to be seen again, with the sounds of “how much longer?”, and “she touched me first” still ringing in their ears.

It’s a long haul from Virginia, especially with two very active young children.  My resourceful and clever wife had a great idea to help prevent too much rioting from the backseat; she bought trinkets at the local dollar store and is going to give them to the kids every hour, or just use them as some good old fashioned bribery for good behavior.  She also made two maps for our oldest child to color: one for each state we’ll drive through and one for state license plates we’ll come across.  So, there’s our–well, my wife’s–road trip with kids tricks.  Perhaps you can get some use out of them and leave some ideas of your own in the comments.  Wish us luck…we’ll need it.

kindness of strangers

About 10 years ago my wife and I travelled around Europe for three weeks.  We had only been married for a year, so of course we still had a lot to learn about each other.  When we were dating I didn’t think to ask her “so, how do you feel about traveling to foreign countries with only one backpack per person?”, “any objections to hitchhiking?”, or “what are your feelings about washing your underwear and socks in shared bathroom sinks in Italian hostels?”.  But, I lucked out, and married an adventurous woman.

We used hospitalityclub.org to stay for free with a host in Munich, Germany.  There were no scams, no fine print, and no fees-just the kindness of a stranger.  It’s good to know that the web-site is still alive and kicking (thriving, really).  And it warms my heart to see that the site hasn’t been updated in a decade; it’s long on substance and short on style.  Come to think of it that’s how I could describe the people and things that matter most to me: long on substance, short on style.