Category Archives: Friends

Kim Says Goodbye to His Dogness

On a couple of occassions I've had the chance to sit down and have a cup of coffee with Winston-Salem Journal reporter Kim Underwood.  He's a great guy and it's always a fun conversation.  I also happen to think he's one of Winston-Salem's crown jewels and his piece on "His Dogness" goes a long way to explaining why.  Great stuff Kim.

Coach Cavanaugh Rocks Lewisville on the Fourth

I was catching up on some items in Google Reader when I came across this post on Lewisville Photos and recognized the guy playing the bass in the top photo.  That would be Steve Cavanaugh, a teammate on our over-40 soccer team and a co-coach in the TCYSA girls challenge program for the past couple of years, playing in the band at the Lewisville Fourth of July celebration.  I had no idea Steve plays in a band and I'm sorry I didn't get to see them perform on the fourth, but I'll try and make sure to make it to one of their gigs in the future.

Williamsburg Weekend

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Celeste and I spent the weekend in Williamsburg, VA with our very good friends the Figuracions.  It was their 14th wedding anniversary and they asked us to spend it with them, which we were honored to do.  We had lots of fun and it really came at a good time since we really seemed to need the break from our routine.  On the left, the four of us in the condo we stayed in over the weekend. Bobby and I were roommates in college and the fact that he would remain my friend after that says all you need to know about the man.

We spent a lot of time this weekend talking about our kids, or should I say commiserating with each other about living with kids, and it occurred to me at some point that we are very lucky to have friends who have literally been there through everything: wedding, kids, moves, job changes, etc.  Hard to believe they've already been married 14 years or that it's been over 20 years since Bobby and I roomed together at George Mason U.

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We spent the majority of the weekend puttering around the Pottery Factory, browsing the aisles of the Christmas Mouse and picking through the selections at the General Store.  To the left is a pic from the Pottery Factory; only there would you find a 'Hardware, Wine & Cheese' store.

Much thanks to our friends the Campbells for letting the kids stay with them for the weekend and shuttling them back and forth to take care of the pets.  That's some serious duty that we really appreciate.  Then they topped it off by feeding us dinner last night when we came over to pick up the kids.  We had a couple of hours to sit around and catch up and honestly that's about as good as it gets. A great weekend all the way around.

Mets! Mets! Mets!

This post is for two of my closest friends in particular, and they know who they are.  They’re Mets fans.  I’m a Cubs fan.  They’ve abused me (with ample reason) over this for years.  Now it’s time for a little retribution.  Below is a 10 minute video of a drunk fan at Shea Stadium who passes out and has fellow fans stack cups on his head while taking pics and video of the whole thing.  But what makes this a unique Mets thing is that some of the fans get their 10 year old kids involved. They start training their reprobates early up there at Shea don’t they?

Morning People

One of the unfortunate things about summer coming to an end is the fact that we’ll be back to using alarm clocks in this house in a couple of weeks.  Esbee’s written about weening her boys off of the summer sleep-in schedule and slowly working them into their normal school wake up routine.  We’ll probably try to do that soon as well, but with our two oldest going to high school this year and with high school being the latest start in this county (middle school is earliest, followed by elementary school) we’ll only have one that has to get up pre-dawn this year.  Normally I’d say that’s a good thing except he’s also the only one we can absolutely depend on to sleep through his alarm and to not make the bus, and since his uber-responsible sister won’t be up to roust him that means Mom or Dad will have to do it.  That’s truly unfortunate since no one in this family is truly a morning person. Now, we’re not the grumpy types. We don’t wake up surly and stay that way for an hour, rather we are just slow to wake up and we kind of ease our way into the day.  In other words we don’t pop out of bed ready to conquer the day.

I was thinking about this and also thinking about our vacation last week and it occurred to me that we were very fortunate that our travel companions (my brother and his family, my Mom and Bert) weren’t conquer the world types either.  All week we just kind of eased into the day, not having to rush around because someone just HAD to be at the beach by 9 a.m. because the day was awastin’.  In fact if I ever write a travel guide I’m going to spend an entire chapter on choosing appropriate travel companions, and the first point I’ll make in that chapter is that morning people should not travel with those who are not because the nots invariably end up hating the morning people within 24 hours of the trip’s start, or whenever the first morning happens to fall.

And it’s not just travel.  Working with a morning person is a royal pain in the butt for me.  I need my half hour to catch up on reading, cull my email, drink my coffee, etc.  Having a co-worker who insists on a 7:30 meeting or who starts the day with a perfectly neat desk and a bullet point to-do list perfectly centered in the middle is, to me, comparable to working with Attila the Hun.

My neighbor keeps trying to get me to go to the Y on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:45 a.m. to play basketball.  That’s when the "mature" people such as myself play, and as much as I’m sure I’d enjoy it and as much as I miss my regular game of hoops, the idea of playing an hour and a half of hoops before sunrise is just too repulsive.  Why can’t they find a gym that stays open until midnight and play from 9-11 p.m.?  I’d be their most dedicated player!

I don’t have anything against morning people, especially when I don’t see them until lunch time.  It irks me when they say things like "I don’t understand how anyone sleeps past 6:00.  I find those hours before 9 to be the most productive of the day" and look at me like I’m somehow deficient or immoral.  My retort is usually, "I don’t understand how anyone falls asleep before midnight.  I find those hours after 9 to be the most peaceful and enjoyable.  Maybe it’s because all those priggish morning people are asleep."  Mind you, I don’t break out that last sentence unless they’ve really lorded their morning superiority over me.  Live and let live I say, but if you’re gonna bring your air of morning superiority into my life then I’m gonna treat you like the puckered-butt you probably are.

For the most part I don’t get that condescension from morning people so we usually all get along.  And honestly I find that they are valuable members of our community, even if I don’t understand them.  Sure there’s the occasional problem, like mowing the lawn at 8 a.m., but for the most part I think they’re good people.  I do resent that they get preferential treatment from certain organizations, for instance the YMCA opening at 5-whatever yet closing at the entirely too early hour of 10 p.m. during the week and 7 p.m. on the weekends.  What’s up with that?  Of course we night owls get it back at the movie theaters and certain fine watering holes, but like most people I prefer to resent what the other folks have and focus only on what I’m denied.

Now where’s that coffee?

Over 20 Years of Bad Golf and Good Times

Recently I got to go golfing with my old college roommate Robert Figuracion (Bobby or Fig to me and other old friends, Robert to those who met him after age 22).  We roomed together for many years while we were at George Mason, were in each others weddings along with our other roommate Tony Walsh, and Bobby and his wife Beth are largely responsible for Celeste and I finally deciding to move to Winston-Salem.  We’d always visited my family here, but when Bobby and Beth moved here from Northern Virginia and started telling us how much they loved it we finally started seriously contemplating the big move.

I’ve lived here for over three years and had only played golf once, at the soon to be demised Grandview course with my cousin Chris who affectionately called it "Goatview."  So Bobby took me out to Tanglewood and for $37 we got to play as many holes as we wanted to all day.  Actually the $37 got us an all day pass for the Championship course, but if we’d wanted to we could have just played the Reynolds course all day for $25. They’d just aerated the Reynolds course so we opted for the Championship course instead.  Whether you’re talking $37 or $25 you don’t see greens fees like that, with the cart included, at courses in the DC area.  We played the Championship in the morning, had some lunch, and then figured we might as well play Reynolds in the afternoon because I kind of wanted to see it and bumpy greens were something we could live with.  To be honest I thought the Reynolds course was more attractive, and it was definitely a damned-sight easier to play.  Real golfers would definitely prefer the Championship but to a duffer who’s there as much for the scenery as the golf the Reynolds course offers a lot.

At some point we got to reminiscing about the first time we’d golfed together.  It was in the spring the first year we were roommates and it was my first time golf outing ever.  We played on the Par 3 at Burke Lake Park and Bobby, who thinks I’m the luckiest human being alive, remembers clearly our first hole.  I hit my tee shot about 30 yards wide of the green and then crushed my second shot with a pitching wedge and it was going to fly the green by another 30 yards except the ball hit the flag stick and dropped six feet from the hole.  I think he was ready to walk off the course then and there.

Throughout our early and mid-20s Bobby and I played lots of the public courses in Northern Virginia, and at least once at Bryce Resort when my mom had a place there. We played enough that Bobby’s Christmas gift to me one year was a set of re-built clubs that he bought from a guy who rehabbed clubs in his basement.  They were honest-to-God wood drivers and I remember distinctly how blown away I was by the gift.  I also remember being pretty embarrassed about whatever lame gift I got him, but hopefully that’s water under the bridge.

Eventually kids and real jobs happened and we rarely got to play in the subsequent 12-15 years.  That made our Tanglewood outing a real joy to behold.  Bobby’s gotten a lot better in the years since we last played and I still hammer out the 120+ rounds with abandon.  Of course it really didn’t matter since the true purpose was just hanging out, shooting the breeze and trying not to lose more than half a dozen balls or kill any wildlife.  I’ve killed two geese with errant drives in the past.

We’ve promised to go out more often and Bobby mentioned Pudding Ridge.  To me it doesn’t matter where we play, but I’d like to go out soon so I can try and get in some practice before October 13.  That’s when my cousin Adam gets married and as part of the festivities I get to go golfing with my uncles and cousins who all somehow manage to shoot scores without triple digits.  However I don’t need an excuse to get out there again with Bobby; days like we had at Tanglewood are priceless and will be even more so if I can manage to shoot sub-100.  Of course that’ll be the day I’m ice skating in hell too.

Tee it up dude.

Mrs. Tarmey at Bookmarks 2007

Danielle Tarmey was one of my daughter Erin’s 5th grade teachers the year we moved to Lewisville and she was one of our son Justin’s 5th grade teachers this last year.  She and her husband, Joseph Mills, co-authored A Guide to North Carolina Wineries and they will be appearing at the Bookmarks 2007 festival this Saturday (Sep. 8) at Historic Bethabara Park.  Unfortunately Justin will be out of town, but Erin’s soccer game is in that neck of the woods on Saturday so we should get the chance to swing by and check out the festival and say hi to Mrs. Tarmey.

Tell Us What You Think Rick

An old friend (and boss) of mine, Rick Biehl, recently had a letter printed in the Washington Post sports section.  Let’s just say he doesn’t think highly of the team the Nationals is putting on the field this year:

It’s unfortunate that, with the weak attendance the Nationals are about
to have this season, you already raise the issue of whether the D.C.
area deserves a Major League Baseball team, noting [last Sunday], "the
game is here now."

The 2007 Nationals are not a Major League Baseball team, and no city in
the country would support the kind of game this crew is about to play.
The Nationals are not only the worst team in baseball, they could be
the worst team since the 1962 New York Mets. It’s unfair to judge the
Washington region if it fails to go crazy for this team, which in
addition to being horrid, also plays in fan-unfriendly RFK. The test of
whether D.C. is worthy of a Major League Baseball team should await the
day when it actually has one.

Rick really needs a blog.

Orni…,uh, Ornithol…, Aw Heck, Just Call it Birdshit

One of my lasting memories of childhood is my mother freaking out around birds.  Any birds, big or small, caused her to melt into a stuttering, jittery mess if they got within arms length of her.  Her condition resulted from a childhood run-in she had with a rabid chicken on some family member’s farm (I think that’s the story) and she’d never been able stand them after that.

When I was in college I was living in an apartment with a couple of guys, including my longtime roommate Fig (cool story: Fig moved to Winston-Salem two years before I did and we now see him and his family more than we ever used to in DC).  He worked at a pet store and then at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter and would often bring home the animals that were considered hopelessly ill and try to nurse them back to health.  One of those animals was a large, white thing that I think was a cockatoo. Whatever it was it had a condition that caused it to lose its feathers over time, resulting in a constantly decaying state of plumage and an attitude more surly than a 13 year old girl deprived of a cell phone (I know where of I speak).  It lived on a pedestal placed on our only table which was located at the central most point in our apartment. That meant you couldn’t go anywhere in the apartment without the thing hissing or trying to fling poop at you.  Thankfully it couldn’t go anywhere due to its bald state and you were safe if you stayed about a foot outside the perimeter of the table.

Needless to say once the bird from hell moved in Mom stopped visiting, but not until she’d stopped by before I could warn her about our new roommate.  She walked in, was hissed at, let out a kind of cry/whelp, blanched whiter than our bald bird, turned around and didn’t come back until it moved out. Note: "moved out" is a euphemism for "croaked".

All this is a long preface to the true topic of this post which is the amazing change Mom made a couple of years ago when she met her leading man, the estimable Dr. Bert Dickas, retired professor of geology and avid bird watcher.  In the years since they met she’s joined him on numerous birding expeditions and can now tell a pigeon from an emu.  She’s gone so far as to fly to a Caribbean destination with the express purpose of tromping through the jungle looking for exotic birds rather than basking on a beach.  Even more impressive is that he’s talked her into driving to destinations not on either of the coasts, heretofore known as "the other America", to watch migrating birds.  Never underestimate the power of love.

I thought of this after reading about the website of Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology. I’m sure Bert will find it interesting and maybe Mom might even take a look at it.  Me?  I’m going to see if they have anything on surly, balding cockatoos.

You Gotta Smell This Stench

One of my favorite bloggers and a guy that I wish I could get together with more for lunch is Jeff Martin, aka Fecund Stench.  His Christmas wish list is a perfect example of why I love his writing.  Here’s the link and here’s the list:

To the following, I wish anything but the Joys of the Season:

  • Telemarketers – I’m sorry that you are poor and this is the best job you could get.  It’s still no excuse.
  • Banks – There may be a good one out there. If so,
    I apologize. But the conditions that bank employees and customers
    endure is inhuman.
  • Politicians – I could put all the good ones in a small closet with Howard Coble.
  • Rabid Liberals – You’re just not helping.
  • Rabid Conservatives – You’re just not helping.
  • Rabid Libertarians – You just want to legalize pot.  We get it.
  • Food Lion – Again, inhuman conditions for employees and patrons.
  • News & Record – One day when you are retired,
    I want someone to explain the editorial gestalt. I don’t get it. See,
    when I make a booboo, I apologize and get on with it. I don’t stand
    there quietly looking at the 800 Pound Gorilla in the room.
  • New Car Dealers – I pray there is a special place in Hell for you.
  • Property Developers – My hands ache to get a hold of you.
  • Jesus Freaks – Why is Jesus such a babe?  Would you not have fallen for an ugly man?  Or God forbid, a woman.  Wake up and smell the coffee.