(Originally published August 4, 2011; edited and republished August 27, 2020)
It all started because the highfalutin Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Clayton, Missouri, a well-heeled inner-ring suburb of St. Louis, didn’t have any Diet Coke in the house.
Hard to believe, I know, but true. All they had was Pepsi. I’m a Southern man, and I don’t cotton well to Yankee pop (HQ in NY), its North Carolina roots notwithstanding. I blame my mama. She filled my baby bottle with original Coke so she could get some precious sleep (pretty sure she didn’t read Dr. Spock).
It worked. She caught some Zs, and I caught an addiction and a mouthful of cavities.… Read the rest
Another May Day has come and gone without dancing around a Maypole. But there was a day. Oh yes, there was a day. . . .
It was May 1st, 1971, and I was in 3rd grade at Burnt Chimney Elementary School in Wirtz, Virginia, site of many an early childhood nightmare memory. We were all gussied up in our spring best for the school’s annual May Day celebration. My teacher Mrs. English, a dour schoolmarm with wrinkled skin who believed that Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was an elaborate NASA hoax, paced and frowned from the sideline.
All our parents were there, too, not just the stay-at-home moms, but also the dads who somehow got the day off from their jobs even though it was the middle of the week and were now standing there with their space-age Bell & Howell 8mm home movie cameras ready to capture the moment.… Read the rest
i’ve been in guatemala. i saw around 100 patients and my partner did about 50 eye surgeries. our ortho guy who went with us did a lot of great stuff too. “the lame walked and the blind saw.” it was a great week, until. . . .
we finished up and went for an expedition in the rainforest. it was very primeval, just like avatar, only the people were coffee-brown, not blue, and they didn’t have those long, braid thingies hanging down.
the little children wore loincloths and performed perfect-10 swan dives into the river off a large rock of ages.… Read the rest
Today is February 29, Leap Year 2012. This is also the week that pro football wannabes are showing off their physical skills in the NFL Combine. Put the two together, and you come up with a traumatic, cringe-inducing, early childhood memory.
It was the spring of 1972, another Leap Year, and I was in Ms. Traylor’s 4th grade class at Burnt Chimney Elementary School in Wirtz, Virginia. We were on the playground finishing up the last event of our biannual physical fitness tests–the broad jump. I was on the line, waiting my turn.
“Go ahead, jump!” Ms. Traylor called out. I swung my arms in rhythm–one, two, three–and then crouched low, like a panther set to pounce…
The previous fall, I had failed every one of my physical fitness tests.… Read the rest
A former college professor of mine at Harding, Dr. Joe Pryor, was famous for his bow ties and his nerdy (and charming) way of saying things.
Whenever it snowed or iced in Searcy, Arkansas and the sidewalks around campus grew slick, he would stand behind the podium during chapel and declare, in his best Ben Stein “Ferris Beuller” economics teacher monotone, “Be careful walking around campus today; the coefficient of friction is extremely low.”
I thought of him last Sunday when the coefficient of friction on the roads near my birthplace in southwest Virginia suddenly dropped to near zero. It started snowing that morning, not hard, but enough to capture the attention of my sister’s two curious cats, Twinky and Zinger, who sat on their haunches and stared out the patio window watching the flakes fall.… Read the rest
I bought my first bottle of cheap wine in the fall of 1984 at a small convenience store near my apartment in Blacksburg, Virginia. By then I had graduated from Harding and moved on to Virginia Tech, so I didn’t run the risk of having two bullet-less Barney Fifes in a golf cart accosting me and frog-marching me to the Dean’s office for immediate expulsion.
I knew they often nabbed Harding students out celebrating their 21st birthdays at restaurants in Little Rock, but alumni in Blacksburg? Surely, purity had its mileage limits. The peace of mind and freedom were more intoxicating than the wine would ever be.… Read the rest
My wife often substitutes at a local private school, one of the area’s finest. It is where many of Huntsville’s professional elite send their children to be prepped and to gain that special leg-up that only money can buy.
Sometimes, she comes home and tells me stories.
Yesterday, she read her 5th graders the short story, “Thank You, Ma’am” by the noted 20th-century African-American writer Langston Hughes. In it a young boy with a hankering for a pair of “blue suede shoes” decides to steal the purse of Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, a hairdresser who is walking home one evening after leaving her shift at a local hotel.… Read the rest
“Mulder and Scully came right out of my head. A dichotomy. They are the equal parts of my desire to believe in something and my inability to believe in something. My skepticism and my faith.”
–Chris Carter, creator of “The X-Files”
A friend of mine told me recently that I was “altogether too polite” and that I didn’t ask enough “tough questions.” This came as news to my family, especially my sons who, on more than one occasion, have felt the probing, white heat of one of my infamous, late-night interrogation sessions following one of their nights on the town (“Vee have vays of making you talk!”).… Read the rest
Fortunately, nobody had rescinded my diploma. Neither had I landed in one of those fish-out-of-water, “impotence” dreams where the hapless, middle-age man, who has long since forgotten the difference between a sine and cosine, is thrown into an advanced geometry class full of National Merit Scholars.
Loved it; as in it was a steamy Friday evening following another day of triple digit temps in Alabama and we just wanted to be in the AC and not have to think too hard and just sit back and lose ourselves in a fast-paced action story. In this case, one resonating with the early-60s James Bond, “Mad Men” period vibe that scratches my nostalgic itch these days. That kind of “loved it.”
You won’t see this movie among the list of finalists in next year’s Academy Awards, but it fit the bill for such Friday night circumstances and was another enjoyable installment in the X-Men movies series which started in 2000.… Read the rest
I was an immaculately-groomed half-pint in September 1968 as I stood by the road in front of our brick rural rancher waiting for Bus #18 to usher me into the next 12 years of mandatory public school education. A book bag in one hand, a G.I. Joe lunchbox in the other, I was escorted by my older sister, a worldly-wise 5th grader who was under orders to watch my back.
I heard the bus before I could see it. It had another stop about a quarter mile down the road, at the foot of a low-grade hill. I listened as its diesel engine geared down, brakes squealing, and then there was a pause that seemed to last forever as my neighbors boarded.… Read the rest
I close my eyes
Only for a moment and the moment’s gone
All my dreams
Pass before my eyes a curiosity
Dust in the wind
All they are is dust in the wind.
“Dust in the Wind,” Kansas, 1977
Ash Wednesday always makes me think of dust (that’s the point, after all). And I can’t think of dust without thinking of Bobby.
Bobby was one of my best friends at church growing up. He, David and I were either The Three Musketeers or The Three Stooges, depending on who you asked. We often hung out on the elevated front porch of the Roanoke Church of Christ overlooking Brandon Avenue near the “Established in 33 AD” sign.… Read the rest
And now that I have your attention, allow me to explain (you bunch of sickos!).
I’m not talking about Sigmund Freud’s infamous Oedipus complex. I’m talking about that annual rite of passage known as theSports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue which has landed in mailboxes across this great land of opportunity each February for decades, about the time pitchers and catchers report, and the ensuing tug-of-war between those great sentinels of chastity and virtue, Moms, and those eager students of human anatomy, their sons.
I received my first Sports Illustrated subscription in 1974 in sixth grade–for the articles, of course. Talk about perfect timing!… Read the rest