A Full day (1/16/17): Notes and Observations

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” Jim Valvano


Today is January 16, 2017, the 16th day of the year. It is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.


On this day in 1970, Curt Flood filed a civil lawsuit in New York Federal Court, which challenged baseball’s reserve clause. The reserve clause essentially restricted movement by baseball players from one team to another unless by a trade, or by the release of the team. Eventually, the reserve clause was struck down and the ruling paved the way for free agency in baseball.



Ok, it’s been awhile since I posted some driving stories . So, here we are: Notes and observations from the road.


1) I did some driving post-snowstorm. While there were a few slick spots, I made it through. There was one spot I did think I would wind up in the trees. it was on Poplar Tent Rd. just south of Hwy. 73 near the Cabarrus/ Mecklenburg Co. line. As a came around a curve at 5:30 a.m., there was a 50-feet stretch of melted snow that had refrozen. I quickly shifted down, stayed off the brake and eased through. An hour later, a traffic report on WBTV listed an accident at that spot. Really, so humbly blessed to make it through the icy conditions.


2) A street in Cornelius named “Lagoona”. It made me laugh anyway.


3) An honest question I had in my brain while driving a Muslim woman in a full burka, allowing only the eyes to be scene: She had a female toddler with her. At what age will this child have to wear the same attire?


4) Until last week, it never occurred to me that men can also get osteoporosis. Had an older couple that I drove home from the grocery store. The hunched-over man was now as round as he was tall. I honestly didn’t think he could get into my car. It was like seat belting a bowling ball with legs. Sharp mind, though.


5) For those reading this with kids now, or who have raised kids, think about the different things you did for birthday parties. Bowling, roller skating, laser tag, baseball game, etc., etc. Now in Charlotte, you can get…. Haircuts. Yep. There’s a place called “Snip Its” where the slogan is “Kids. Haircuts. Fun.”

I guess I’m out of touch with first-world life, but I know of no kid that wants the activity surrounding their birthday to be a haircut.  To each their own, though.


6) Picked up a man from Newton to bring into Hickory. At first, he was complaining about something related to his psychiatrist’s appointment. Suddenly the comment, “I was telling you about my prescription at CVS.”  In my head, I said, “Wait …… what? When? When did you mention this? What random straw did you grasp out of outer space.” At that point, I could see why the psychiatrist was needed.


7) Frederic Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 is called the “Funeral March”, because of the memorable third movement. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyFyAqLtHq8

So, I get a ping for a rider and as I arrive, I see the rider is an elderly woman. The music from Sirius’s classical music channel is playing in my car and she is walking in rhythm to the music slowly towards my car – unaware, of course the music is playing.  Such a macabre scene, but I’m chuckling at the juxtaposition of the two events taking place that only I know about. And then I think, “Do I keep the music playing while she enters the car?”

I decided against freaking the lady out and given her age, I switched to the Sinatra channel. Turns out, the woman lost her water heater that morning. I’m sure her hearing that music would’ve freaked her out.


8) I’m always amused at things that wind up in the medians of highways. On one trip up I-85 near Concord last week, someone obviously didn’t tie down what they were moving. Microwave… baby walker…. decorative earthen water jug…. couch cushion…  Would love to have been the fly on the wall when the folks went to unload.


9) Had the pleasure of a woman from Bulgaria visiting family in Charlotte. I was fascinated by, and she was nice enough to share in the limited time of the trip, her stories of the transition from communism to democracy. My hope, and I think I succeeded, was not to sound like the self-righteous American. She was exceedingly open about how little freedoms she had growing up – what they could say, where they could live or go to schools, etc. etc. I asked what was the most difficult part? Without hesitation, she said the isolation by the government from family members that chose to emigrate.

I asked, what freedoms do Americans take for granted? Voting. Sadly, she said the younger generations in Bulgaria do not vote either. Only about 50%.

We talked for 15 minutes. I could’ve listened to her for 15 hours.


10) I missed the full moon as we had cloudy skies in Charlotte on Friday the 13th. However, I was repaid with a full moon in Statesville this morning at about 4 a.m. I pulled up to a house and the guy suddenly waved out the window, then got up from where he was sitting to get dressed and…. That was not the impending crack of dawn I was expecting to see this morning.


11) And finally. I picked up a passenger near Uptown Charlotte this evening (Monday) after he had turned in his rental car at Enterprise. The gentleman – I soon learned he was from India – gets into the car and asked the question, “What city is this?”

Me: Excuse me?

Man: What city is this?

Me (thinking, it’s a little early to be drunk, but I’ll play along): Charlotte.

Man: This isn’t Seattle?

Me (facing ahead, but shifting my eyes to the right corner): Noooooo.

Man: I got on the wrong flight. Where is Seattle from here?

Me: About 3500 miles away.

Man: I’ve been driving around for two hours thinking this was Seattle.

A little later…..

Man: Is Canada nearby?…. Is it a state?

At this point, I’m literally scanning the guy to see if he has a Candid Camera hidden somewhere and someone in a truck is recording my reactions.

Apparently, he booked the wrong flight from Chicago. Turns out, he’s having an American adventure, as he had already been to New York and Chicago. Later stops including San Francisco, from where he is supposedly is going to drive to Vegas to play Blackjack. Then go to Dallas and fly home.

As we travel to his destination, he has to repeat his questions because I can’t understand his English very well because of his accent.

Man: I notice you have a hard time understanding me. Do I not sound like I have an American accent?

(Again, where is the camera?)



Everyone who is successful at anything holds themselves accountable to someone else. I can’t help but wonder if our new president Donald Trump has anyone he will listen to that will hold him accountable.

The tweeting thing is getting disturbing.



One more story: I’m driving home Saturday night (Sunday morning) after working in Asheville. My hope is to get to bed by 4 a.m., get a few hours, wake up, be at Hudson UMC by 8:15 a.m. No biggie. Play two services, go home, take a nap, I’m good.

Since Uber and Lyft are now both in Hickory, I make it a habit to leave my app open for pings at home. So, as I approach Morganton, “Ping”. Pick up is at the IHOP on Hwy 70. “Super” I think to myself. I’ll take someone home and get home myself.

Now, it’s at this point the reader must understand that drivers do not know where they are taking people to until the trip starts.

I arrive, begin the trip…. It’s a trip to Charlotte! I got to bed at 7 a.m. and slept 45 minutes.


A Full Day (1/5/17): Remembering Liz, a Marriage Joke, and a Pioneer Governor

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” Jim Valvano


Today is January 5, 2017, the fifth day of the year.


On this day in 1925, Nellie Tayloe Ross became the first governor of a state in the U.S. when she was sworn in to lead Wyoming. Ross won a special election after her husband William died from complications during an appendectomy.

The democrat held office for two years before losing a re-election bid. Ross was appointed the Director of the United States Mint by President Franklin Roosevelt and went on to serve 20 years at the position.




They were an older couple sitting at dinner. The husband and wife were having a quiet meal – a meal in which both were content to just enjoy each other’s company. Nothing needed to be said.

But, while sipping a glass of wine, the wife suddenly found a tender place in her heart and spoke.

“I’m still crazy about you after all these years,” she said. “I know I just couldn’t live without you.”

“Do you really mean it,” the husband replied excitedly. “Is it you talking or the bottle of wine?”

The wife responded, “It is me taking to the wine.”



How does one become combobulated?



Today, I want to write about my friend, Liz Helms.

Each year, I cover the local high school basketball holiday tournament for the Hickory (N.C.) Daily Record. It was on the first day of that tournament in 2010 that I found out that she had died. I remember watching the basketball games that were playing out in front of me and I honestly could’ve cared less what was happening and what I would write about. A giant of a lady had passed to her eternal reward.

I first knew Liz from my time working at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Hickory, starting in 2002. We both loved baseball, so we had conversations about the game and what we thought about this player and that.

I soon found out that she was on staff with the Hickory Crawdads baseball team, working in the press box. She got me and my family hooked up with tickets at times over the 2003 and 2004 seasons, just because she could. I remember at one game – a slow, midweek game – she made sure that I “won” something that the Crawdads were giving away that night. (I hadn’t entered anything.)

Perhaps the most special game I attended at Hickory was on my 20th wedding anniversary. I had lost my job at St. Luke’s the spring of 2004 and had a hard time finding work. There was the ensuing stress of paying of the bills and dealing with depression, as well. Not a great scenario during which to plan a special anniversary. My wife wound up planning the special night, and with Liz’s help, we had a nice dinner at the Crawdads Café’, great seats behind home plate… and a signed baseball. I’m not sure how much she knew her kindness provided needed therapy for me at the time.

Liz had a lot to do with my employment with the Crawdads. In fact, it was she that lined up an interview for me with the general manager at the time. (After 5 seasons of tarp pulls, I’m still not sure if I should’ve kissed her, or slugged her… don’t worry, she’d laugh and get the joke.)

For games, I was put in the press box and for five seasons, she was my colleague. She ran the scoreboard, inputted stuff I needed for the videoboard. Basically, she was my right arm in running the press box during the four years I ran it.

It’s probably here that I should mention – for those that don’t know Liz – that she spent her life in a wheelchair. She dealt with an arm’s-length list of physical ailments with which no one should have to deal. The fact that she lived for 30 years was, in and of itself, a miracle.

A story I heard about Liz after she had passed had to do with her no longer needed a wheelchair in heaven. It is said that Liz didn’t care so much about that. For, in heaven, no one would care that she would be in a wheelchair. There’s a part of me that thinks Liz would be okay with a reality of eternity in her wheelchair, because she embraced life being in it.

Liz wanted no pity… no! None of that! Liz wanted to be treated like everyone else. One of the genuine joys of my life was when Liz allowed me to pop wheelies with her in the chair down the hall in the Crawdads front office. I laugh even now as I type this.

Part of that “being treated like everyone else” included the occasional argument, as will happen during a five-month, minor-league season. It’d be hot in that press box in the summer, she’d mess up and I’d get on her, and she’d give it back. She’d get mad at something I did and I yelled back. That’s what she wanted – nothing special, just treat her like everyone else. She fiercely defended her independence.

I remember with fondness a bet I had to pay off, when my alma mater – Cal State Fullerton – lost to North Carolina in the College World Series. Here was Liz, driving in her van and parking at Ham’s, maneuvering into the lot and the restaurant, ready to be paid off handsomely with whatever her heart desired to eat that afternoon. I loved paying off the bet, because I know she would’ve hated to pay it off if she had lost. But pay it off she would have.

Liz went on to a position at St. Luke’s as the Director of Lay Ministry. It was a job she was made for. It was there she worked when she passed.

A testament to Liz was a full sanctuary of easily 700-800 people, all dressed in Carolina blue. Even the diehard NC State fans donned the hated blue. That’s the type of person she was.

When I think of people who have inspired me to be better in life, Liz Helms is at the top of my list. It is not because of what she overcame; it is because she lived life on her own terms. Isn’t that what we should all do?

I miss you Liz.



A Full Day (1/4/17): It’s a Good Life… a Really Good Life… It’s Good You Have a Good Life…. Bacon crime, and the Lowest of the Low


“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” Jim Valvano


Today is January 4, 2017, the fourth day of the year

On this day in 1853, Solomon Northup, born a free man in New York, was freed after being kidnapped and spending 12 years as a slave in Louisiana.

Northup went on to write his memoirs of that time, called simply Twelve Years a Slave



I can see why she’d be afraid of admitting such a thing.


One of the New Year’s traditions in our house has been to watch the Twilight Zone marathon on SyFy Channel. We all have our favorites (I wrote of Talky Tina yesterday) and one of mine is “It’s a Good Life”. The episode is centered around six-year-old Anthony Fremont – played by Billy Mumy – who has mental powers that allows him to read minds and control pretty much anything he wants.

Little Anthony amuses himself by making such horrid creatures and three-headed gophers, which he kills on the spot after he tires of playing with it. The children of the town are not allowed to play with him, as he had wished other kids into the cornfield.

Anthony also makes television once a week, a gory scene in which dinosaurs fight to the death, much to the horror of his family and their guests. His father (played by John Larch) and mother (Cloris Leachman) are both afraid of him, as are the rest of the town. So, all of them smile, think happy thoughts (Anthony hates unhappy thoughts) and tell him how good everything is.

The episode comes to a climax when one of the house guests, Dan Hollis, is celebrating a birthday. He gets a bottle of brandy and a Perry Como record. While he has a few nips of the brandy, the entire household thinks it’s probably not a good idea to play the record, because Anthony hates singing. In fact, he turned Aunt Amy into a vacant, smiling shadow of herself because she started singing.

As the brandy kicks in, Hollis tries to get someone to sing Happy Birthday to him. No one does. Thoroughly frustrated – and to the horror of his wife – Hollis begins accusing his parents of having him, and in a sense, letting him get away with so much. Hollis then tries to get someone to get a bottle or a lamp and konk Anthony on the head. Aunt Amy reaches briefly for a fireplace poker, but doesn’t go through with anything.

Anthony finally has enough and turns Dan Hollis into a Jack-in-the-box before Anthony heeds his dad’s request to wish him into the cornfield.

In the final scene, Anthony makes it snow in the middle of summer. Mr. Fremont complains that it will kill the crops, but upon seeing Anthony’s face, and thinking better of it, Mr. Fremont smiles and with a combination of laughter and horror says”…But it’s good you’re making it snow. A real good thing. And tomorrow… tomorrow’s gonna be a… real good day!”

This episode to me is a masterpiece of social commentary. Sadly, our history is filled with eras in which evil people are allowed to rise up and bully the population into submission. When the opportunity rises to confront the evil ones, and to take a proverbial bottle or a lamp to end it, the chance to end it goes away and life continues into a deeper hell. Sadly, in those times, no one has the nerve to stand up and everyone lives in fear.

Could this be another moment in time in which this is happening again? Could this be another time in which evil is allowed to fester and grow into something monstrous? Only time will tell. If it is, I hope is surgically removed. If not, I fear for what we have at hand.

As we’ve learned throughout history, it is far easier to confront evil early than to have to wage war against it later.



It takes a special kind of dirtbag to desecrate a burial site. I mean, to try to cause harm to a family for no other reason than hatred is about the lowest of the low, in my opinion.

I hope they find the persons who did it and lock them up with other bad people for a long time.







A Full Day (1/3/17): Talky Tina, a Dora Cup and Puppies

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” Jim Valvano


Today is January 3, 2017, the third day of the year.


On this day in 1973, George Steinbrenner purchased the New York Yankees from CBS for $12 million. He owned the team until his death in 2010. The team was then worth $1.2 billion.







Watching some of the Twilight Zone episodes, including a favorite, Talky Tina.  In the episode, the doll (Talky Tina) – voiced by June Foray, who also was the voice of Rocky the squirrel – catches the ire of the stepfather Erich Streator, played by Telly Savalas. Streator turns out to be infertile and takes his anger at the situation on Christie, the stepdaughter, as well as the new doll.


Tina is no pushover and in due time, she makes it known that she will have Streator killed and she’ll do it herself. Streator tries to harm the doll – a blow torch, vice grips, a saw – all to no effect. Eventually the doll makes good on the promise, tripping Streator as he walks down the steps.

The narration closes with this: “Of course, we all know dolls can’t really talk, and they certainly can’t commit murder. But to a child caught in the middle of turmoil and conflict, a doll can become many things: friend, defender, guardian. Especially a doll like Talky Tina, who did talk and did commit murder—in the misty region of the Twilight Zone.”

I’ve wondered if the doll’s owner, Christie, had this fantasy of the doll taking out the mean, old stepfather. When the wife, Annabelle, discovers what happened to her husband, Talky Tina, in turn, threatens Annabelle, who had thought her husband was going mad surrounding the doll.

The quote reminds me that often in their own stressful worlds, kids do turn to their toys or pets to bring some normalcy to their lives and provide comfort and to defend them against a world that is hostile. I think Talky Tina would defend Christie with all her inanimate life


It was just a Dora cup I found underneath a laundry table. However, it sent me into tears on the spot. It was Grace’s cup and a sad reminder that she is no longer a little girl.


Grace is my youngest and her growing up (she’s a ninth grader now!) is another reminder that I am growing old. She no longer needs me to fill that purple four-ounce cup and she needs me less and less for a lot of things.

I had those same, mournful moments with my older two kids. With my daughter, Joy, it was the time I disassembled her doll house, as our family prepared to move to Hickory, N.C. from Columbus, GA. She was 12 years old and I knew I would never reassemble the house. She was about to enter seventh grade at the time and she had no interest in child’s toys any longer.

With my son, Andrew, that tearful moment came when I say some pictures of him as a younger kid and I realized I could no longer hear his unchanged voice. That one hurt a lot.

Those who are parents understand that pain more than we want to describe. We come across memories of our kids that we’ll never have again. I know with each of them I wonder – and I still do – did I do enough with them. I look back I have moments of regrets. A time they wanted me to swing them… to play a game… to build a snowman. A moment of their childhood I let slip away that I’ll never have back because I was tired, or sadly, I just didn’t want to at the time. I realize we can’t do it all, but that realization doesn’t east the pain.

I know they’ll need me less and less as they become adults and I can do less and less physically and mentally. And that is, perhaps, how it should be. From the time we first hold them in our arms, we seek to give them the tools to help them grow up and fend for themselves. A bottle, a spoon, a cup, a walker, a book, a crayon, a pencil, a bike, a calculator, a phone, a car, etc, etc,. Each one and more designed to fold them into the world. And then the time comes we encounter an item that takes us back to a simpler time when they were young – and we were young as parents – and we so wish we were there again.

At times, it seems they’ll be two or six or ten forever. Then you turn around, and they’re 14 and 22 and 26. If you are a young parent reading this, cherish the moments with your kids; It really does go fast.


A Full Day (1/2/17): Notes and Observations from the road, Prayers requests, and an NHL dream realized

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” Jim Valvano

Today is January 2, 2017, the second day of the year.

On this day in 1906, William Carrier receives a patent in the U.S. for the world’s first air conditioner.


News and Observations from the road:
1) A few weeks ago, I’m in Winston-Salem just north of the Wake Forest campus to do a pickup. It’s pitch-black dark and as I wait, I turn my head to my left towards the house. I lowered my head to look over my glasses and I suddenly see this person run towards my door. I barely have enough time to say “Geez!” before this person runs into my car. Or, so I think. I then realize it was the reflection of my head moving in the window as I lowered my head to look over my glasses.
2) Have been enjoying the jazz stations on Sirius XM. Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Pearl Bailey were all fine jazz singers,but for me, the sweet voice of Billie Holiday is at the top all day and every way.
2a) glad to see the Christmas music is gone, because nothing conjures up the magic of the holiday like Perry Como singing the word “Mommy” in “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus”
3) We’ve all seen businesses – especially restaurants – come up with a beautiful, flowery foreign name, so as to lend a extra touch of class to the place.

With that in mind, if you were to hear of a restaurant called “BABES”, what would be your sight-unseen impression of the place be? I asked this of my wife and her response was, “Kind of like a Hooters.”

“Exactly”, was my response.

But, call it “I Bambini” and we have an classy, Italian restaurant in Mooresville.

4) Once in a while I’ll see the “How am I driving?” bumper stickers. Now, when you see these bumper stickers, you don’t get the tone of voice with it.

I KNOW what the bumper sticker is supposed to mean, but inflect the words differently. Example: with a quizzical tone, say, “HOW am I DRIVE-ing?” When you watch some people drive, you really do ask the question, “How ARE they driving?”

5) Seen during the pregame traffic at the Belk Bowl – a game between the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Arkansas Razorbacks: A Virginia license plate with “ARK HOG”

6) As seen in an Asheville shop on Friday: Do these beads make my butt look big?

7) If you drive up to a Waffle House for a meal during a slow time, and your cook is not outside smoking a cigarette, you don’t want it.

8) Friday night at a Waffle House in Asheville, I hear the mid-80s song “Take on Me” by a-ha. In the booth next to me, I see an old woman who is singing along. I think, “It’s cool this old woman knows this song from when I was growing up”….. pause….. Oh yeah.

9) I’m taking a person traveling home Friday night from Asheville at 2:15 a.m. and he chooses to sit in the back, passenger side seat. It’s clear he’s had a tough night and he just wants to get home.

If you’re not familiar with Asheville, as I get onto I-240 West from Broadway traveling north from downtown, the on ramp is about a 270 degree loop to the right. As I take the loop, I see in my rear view mirror a body that had gone limp and is now falling like a tower to his left and crashes into the seat. This cat was out cold.

10) Nothing says tacky Christmas decoration like Santa riding an large inflatable Elephant wearing an Alabama cap. #Rolltide

11) New Year’s Eve night: Two girls in their mid-20s get into the back seat. We begin making small talk and I ask the question, “Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?”

“No”, they both answer.

“How about you,” one asks.

“To gossip less about my passengers,” I responded.



“God accepts our desires as though they were of great value. He longs ardently for us to desire and love him. He accepts our petitions for benefits as though we were doing him a favor. His joy in giving is greater than ours in receiving. So let us not be apathetic in our asking, nor set too narrow bounds to our requests; nor ask for frivolous things unworthy of God’s greatness.” – St. Gregory Nazianzen


Through unfortunate circumstances, Jorge Alves, an equipment manager with the Carolina Hurricanes hockey club, got to live out a dream – to play in an NHL game.