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Showing posts from 2018

Wouldst Thou Like To Live Deliciously?

I watched the movie “The Witch” on Netflix last week as part of my Halloween horror flick viewing. I had seen it a couple of years ago when it came out on DVD, but we were having trouble with the contrast on the TV back then and parts of the film, which is rather darkly shot to begin with, were just shadows moving across the screen, and it was difficult at times to understand the context of the dialog. Okay, now I get it. Thomasin was talking to a goat. Somehow that is significantly more frightening than just the disembodied voice of Satan. And the goat following her as she walks naked though the forest toward the caterwauling of the coven is even creepier. Sometimes the details make all the difference. I am frequently asked during my book readings and signings where I get my ideas. The truth is, I don’t really know. They just... happen. I am completely unable to draw, and think the talent to take what one sees and convey it into a two dimensional representation is noth

How The 2015 NFL Season May Have Ruined Sports

The factoid flashed across the bottom of the screen: “The last time the Red Sox won the World Series a loaf of bread was 7 cents.” It was a cool fall night in 1986 at my apartment in suburban Perrysburg, Ohio and the Mets were coming to bat in the bottom of the 10th. The Red Sox had scored two in the top of the frame for what appeared to be a comfortable lead. If you’ve read this far, you likely know what happened next, so I won’t dwell on the details. Let’s just say that the price of bread would go up by a few more cents before Boston would win a World Series. The thing that is often lost in the “Curse of the Bambino” discussion is that Boston did not put many good teams on the field between 1918 and 2004. The Red Sox teams that did manage to make it to the World Series during that period were fluky, not overly talented pennant winners who always seemed to go up against much better teams in the postseason; a Gibson-led Cardinals, the Big Red Machine, and the 108 win Mets. That Bos

Chappaquicick Will Leave You Frustrated, And That’s A Good Thing: Plus Three Conspiracy Theories

My father was an avid reader, but his choice of reading material often left something to be desired. He especilly enjoyed reading the “tabloids,” so there was always a Weekly World News or National Enquirer around the house for an “inquiring mind” like mine to leaf through. The stock-and-trade of those publications was reporting of semi-fictitious news stories, often with just a hint of truth to make their outlandish conspiracy theories seem plausible. It is no surprise, then, that I have a decent knowledge of Chappaquiddick and the various conspiracy theories surrounding it. That story dominated the tabloids for years, supplanted only half a decade later by the death (and possible resurrection?) of Elvis. The movie Chappaquiddick tackles the story of that warm summer night in 1969 head on, but leaves the viewer with as many, maybe more, questions at its conclusion than they likely had heading in to the theater. Rather than attach themselves to one theory or another about the tra

Cowboys or Saints; Who To Hate Most?

The NFL kicks off the 2018 season tonight in Philadelphia, and the Panthers play the Cowboys Sunday afternoon in Charlotte. I really, really don’t like the Cowboys, but, honestly, it’s been so long since they were relevant that they are no longer my most-hated team. That “honor” goes to the Saints. How I came to dislike those teams so intensely is the topic for today’s blog post. On October 3rd, 1988, I sat down in the living room of The Little House on the Highway to watch Monday Night Football. The game was between the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints. In previous years, that wouldn’t have been much of a matchup. The Cowboys had been good since the late 60’s, while the Saints had been horrible since they came into existence in 1967. The Saints had, in fact, posted their first winning season in franchise history the year before, and that was the weird strike-shortened, replacement player season. Still, there was a sense of a “changing of the guard” in the NFL that year and

Ancient Artifacts, Huntersville Edition

On Saturday, I replanted a flower bed near my garage. I have been trying to grow lavender and creeping jenny there for the past few years and the results have been underwhelming. I decided to pull everything out, double-dig the whole bed, add some peat to improve drainage and replant it. About halfway through the process, my shovel hit something metallic. Looking down, I was able to make out the remnants of some sort of cylindrical object. Believing that I might have stumbled onto a major archaeological find, I proceeded slowly, carefully removing the accumulated dirt and debris from around the object. Although it was now badly deformed and in two pieces, it was immediately clear to me that the artifact was originally a single tube-like structure, about five inches tall and two inches in diameter. It was made from a light, flexible metal and painted in bright red, green and white shapes. Although the condition of the object made it difficult to ascertain what the design might have

Bad Shark Movies and Rumors of Bad Shark Movies

I went to see THE MEG on Saturday afternoon. The wife was out of town and I needed a break from work around the homestead, so mid-afternoon I showered up, put on a clean tee and headed north to Our Town Cinemas in Davidson for the $8 matinee showing. I had every reason to believe the movie was going to be stupid, but that was okay; Our Town has a wide selection of craft beers, the A/C works just fine and the pretzels are soft and salty.  The movie was predictably bad, so much so that I’m not even going to attempt to review it. Instead, I’m going to take a trip down memory lane to the last time I purposely saw a bad shark movie in a theater (Sharknados on TV don’t count). It was the summer of 1983, my second summer working as a busboy at the Catawba Island Club. I was between colleges at the time, having left Ohio U the previous spring and enrolled at Bowling Green for the upcoming semester. My high school buddy Carl also worked at the club, so our schedules were often in synch a

Refrigerate Me, Please

Over the Memorial Day weekend, I traveled to Ohio to visit with friends and family. Memorial Day is an interesting holiday in that part of the country weather-wise. It is generally considered the kick-off of the summer season, and more often than not the temperatures are vaguely summer-like, with highs in the upper 60's to lower 70's. Every now and then, though, there will be a Memorial Day that is more reminiscent of winter than summer. I recall my last year of working my way through college at a country club, we had to cancel just about all of our planned outdoor guest activities because the highs couldn't find their way out of the 40's. This past weekend was exactly the opposite. It hit 90 every day we were there. Honestly, I don't ever recall it being so warm in May in the 30-plus years I lived up that way. It brought home the fact that folks in Ohio have a different relationship with their air conditioners than we have in the south. Here, our relationship r

Conspiracy Theories

Recently, a Charlotte city councilwoman tweeted that she did not believe the World Trade Center was destroyed by hijacked planes and suggested that 9/11 was an "inside job." When pressed on the issue, she apologized if anyone was offended by her tweet -- many Charlotteans had personal and business connections to people killed or injured in the attack -- but stopped short of retracting her comments. Conspiracy theories are nothing new, but the ability to produce and promote disinformation is far greater today than it was even twenty years ago. I recall receiving a letter in the mail a year or so after moving to North Carolina in 1995. It was written in pencil on a sheet of yellow legal paper and offered the author's rambling account of how the weights he was using in his physical therapy were causing his cancer. I felt bad for the obviously disturbed individual and considered the amount of time, effort and money it cost him to send out those letters to random individua

The Outlaw Josie Marek

Folks who follow my writing sometimes comment that while I often tell stories about my father, I rarely mention my mother. The simple reason is that by nature of his outsized personality, stories about my father tend to be more interesting. Mom was quieter, more introspective and less prone to the sorts of grand gestures that make for good anecdotes. In honor of Mothers' Day, though, I thought I would share a few stories about "The Outlaw," which is what my high school buddy Jeff St. Clair called her because, although her name was Josephine, everyone called her Josie, and the movie, "The Outlaw Josie Wales" was popular at the time. My mother was born in Lakeside, Ohio in 1921, the youngest (10th) child of Peter and Mary Kokinda. She grew up on a small homestead just outside of town during the Depression. Although times were tough, the family had a cow and chickens and were able to eek out a moderate existence on their small plot of land. She married my fathe

Games of Skill and Chance

In the town of Wadesboro, where my economic development practice is located, a couple of new "adult arcades" have opened along the US 74 strip. It seems as though every few years the proprietors of these businesses find some loophole in the law that they can exploit until the state legislature figures out a way to close it. In the early 2000's it was video poker, which was originally categorized as a game of skill and, hence, not considered gambling. Then it was Internet sweepstakes, which originally fell under online privacy protections. The current iterations of these casino-lites are back to the "game of skill" angle. Anson County is not alone in this current gaming boom. Multiple locations have popped up all over the Charlotte region, including Albemarle and Monroe. I am not certain about the types of games offered at places such as Hot Spot or Skill Fish, but an article about an Albemarle location mentions "shooting games." What is fairly obvi

Chicken Math

I was pondering the menu at a local restaurant the other day when a strange thought entered my head; the chicken math just doesn’t add up. Think about it, when you go to your favorite wing place, how many do you order... 6, 8, a dozen? Where are all those wings coming from. The last time I looked, chickens only had two wings, so it would take six full chickens to produce a dozen wings. No wonder the Internet was recently abuzz with Photo-shopped images purporting to show a genetically-modified chicken sporting multiple wings, an idea also explored in Margaret Atwood's novel Oryx and Crake in which a company has patented the ChickieNob, a headless bird with multiple wings and legs growing from a central stem. I'm not entirely certain about this, but I suspect the concept of chicken wings as bar food was originally designed to even out the math the other way around. Back in the day, people ate breasts and legs and thighs but nobody wanted those scrawny wings that barely ha

The Chicken, the Egg and the Farmers' Market

In a previous life,* the first Evening farmers' Market of the season was much anticipated. My office was located directly across the parking lot from the small park where a dozen or more vendors regularly set up under the sprawling pecan trees, selling everything from homemade soap to cookies to cut flowers. The first few weeks were, understandably, a little light on produce, as the market opened in April and the growing season doesn't really kick into gear until June, but the lack of tomatoes and peppers was more than made up for by the aforementioned craft and baked goods along with cold-hardy vegetables like spinach, lettuce and kale. Recalling that experience, I was excited for the first Uptown Wadesboro Farmers' Market last June. To say it was a bit of a letdown would be an understatement. That's not to criticize Uptown Wadesboro or the vendors who participated--they did the best they could with limited resources and some difficult weather--but the lack of bo

Where's the Stripes?

Special edition of FIELD NOTES today because I want to comment on the new Jaguars uniforms while they are still newsworthy. Jacksonville unveiled its new uniforms yesterday. The good news is that they are definitely better than the ones they replaced. The bad news is that's akin to saying I'd rather be kicked in the shin than in the groin. The Jags went from cartoonish monstrosities to uniforms devoid of any sort of character or identity. The ironic thing is they are touting these as a "return to tradition," but neither the Jaguars nor any other team in the NFL has traditionally sported uniforms this plain and characterless. In fact the Jaguars original uniform, the one they wore as an expansion team in 1995, was an excellent, traditional look. It's difficult to understand why they don't simply revert to a slightly updated version of that. Like many young boys, I enjoyed drawing pictures of football players when I was 10 or 11. I would make up entire lea

Stop Throwing Money at Homestead Problems

When Janet and I started our first homestead -- The Little House on the Highway (LHOTH) -- outside Bowing Green, Ohio in 1987, we were just a couple of years removed from college and had very limited financial resources. Although we both had good jobs, we had spent every penny of our meager savings on the down payment and were, like many couples just getting started, cash poor. There were some anxious moments those first few years as repair bills on the aging farmhouse mounted (I think we put the plumber's kid through college) and the stark realities of rural living began to wear on us. Fortunately, both of us had been raised by parents who were a little financially challenged themselves and we understood how to stretch a dollar. Ultimately, that initial homesteading experience did not work out, but we were able to sell the farm for a small profit and learned some valuable lessons along the way. Fast-forward thirty years and we find ourselves in a different place, literally and

Last Call for Flannel

To be honest, I had planned to put my flannel shirts away for the summer last weekend, but ran out of time; and good thing, as temperatures this weekend struggled to make it out of the 40's and my flannel got in one last fling. I really don't feel like I got my money's worth out of those shirts this year. We had a warm spell right after Thanksgiving, and just about the time the mercury started to drop, we had planned a Christmas beach trip. After the first of the year, I got a case of the crud and didn't fully shake it until near the end of January. That was six weeks of prime flannel season down the drain. By the time I felt good enough to resume my normal outdoor routines, the area was in an extended warm-up, what I like to call the January Bump, and by the time temperatures fell back into a more seasonal pattern winter was all but over. Barring the start of another ice age, however, the flannels will go back in storage next weekend and the shorts and tee shirts wil

The Woods Are Lovely, But Also Dark and Deep

The majority of us who spend time in nature do so to at least some extent for its physically and mentally regenerative qualities. It's hard to be depressed, bored, tired or anxious on a clear mountain peak at daybreak or along a secluded river bank building a fire to cook the day's catch. Hard, but not impossible. Stress, failure, depression; they find us all, whether we live in an uptown condo, a suburban enclave or a cabin deep in the woods. Steelhead Joe Randolph was a well-respected fishing guide on the Deschutes River, A lean and youthful 48 years old, he had the windblown good looks of a 70's cigarette ad model. I would guess that when he walked into a bar, any unattached female over the age of 40 -- and likely a few younger and/or attached ones -- took notice. His fellow guides generally respected him as someone with unorthodox, but highly effective skills, and even those who criticized some of his methods grudgingly had to admit he was great with the paying cust

Safety First for Early Season Paddling

As the weather warms up this spring, paddlers across the Piedmont will be getting their boats out of storage and heading back out onto the water. While spring is a great time for kayak and canoe fishing, photography and sightseeing, it also offers some specific challenges. The first of these challenges has nothing to do with your boat. Even the most experienced kayaker may not be in shape physically for extended trips after a long winter indoors, so you may want to take advantage of cold or rainy days to hit the gym before heading out, and build back up to longer excursions with a shorter trip or two early in the season. Of course, you also need to make sure your boat is "in shape" too. Today's rotomolded hulls typically require very little maintenance, but should still be looked over thoroughly before the first trip of the season. Inspect the hull for cracks, deep gashes and weak spots caused by friction or impact. If there is any question about the integrity of your

Book Review: Crazy Mountain Kiss by Keith McCafferty

Crazy Mountain Kiss, the 4th book in Keith McCafferty's eclectic western mystery series, starts with the protagonist, Sean Stranahan... nowhere to be found. In an interesting literary choice, the Montana private investigator, artist and fly fishing guide doesn't appear until 30 pages into the story, by which time the central mystery has been investigated by series regulars Martha Ettinger and Harold Little Feather. While Sean is helping friend, cohort and fellow guide Sam Meslik start a winter fly fishing service in Florida, the body of a young girl is found lodged in the chimney of a Forest Service cabin in the Crazy Mountains. The mystery deepens upon his return when the body is identified as Cinderella "Cindy" Huntington, missing daughter of a local woman famous as the spokesperson for a fictional brand of trucks, and it is determined that she was 5 months pregnant at the time of her disappearance. The investigation takes an even oddER turn when Martha and Sean l

The Square Foot Evangelist

This article was written about me for a June 2014 edition of a now-defunct local newspaper. While some of of the information is obviously dated (has it really been four years!?!) I thought I would re-post it this week as I start another season of Square Foot Gardening Talks and Demonstrations with my appearance Thursday at H.W. Little Hardware in Wadesboro.  At the call of “Adventure!,” Laika, a two-year-old white and black terrier mix bounds enthusiastically from the adjoining room where she had been stretched out on the sofa. It’s Saturday morning in the Wynfield Creek home of Square Foot Gardening guru John Marek, and I’m here to talk with him about his latest community development project, Square Foot Gardening-Lake Norman, but it’s apparent that this isn’t going to be the typical “views and snooze” interview. “You’re wearing hiking boots… good,” he says as he motions me through the garage door and toward his vintage Jeep Wrangler, Laika wagging happily along beside. “Last brand-