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Old School… But School Is Out

28 Jun

An electrician recently informed us that one of our circuit breakers was produced by a company that went out of business in 1954. A landscaper said he hadn’t used railroad ties in more than a decade when I mentioned them as a project possibility. Our next door neighbor asked if we owned a cassette tape player.

Then our daughter admitted that she was the only one using poster board during a project presentation day at school. That was around the same time my godchild announced her college choice.

All of this happened in a matter of just a few days. I’d love to pass myself off as being old school, but lately I’m just feeling old.

At least I don’t watch Fox News! If you check presidential job approval polls broken down by generation, you can see that people are no longer getting wiser with age.

But maybe there still are some benefits that come with our advancing years. A national survey of 20,000 adults by health insurer Cigna found that the younger generation is lonelier than older generations. Based on something called the “UCLA Loneliness Scale” where a score of 43 or above is considered lonely, Generation Z, born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s, posted a 48.3, while Millennials came in at 45.3. By comparison, Baby Boomers scored 42.4, and The Greatest Generation, those 72 and above, led the way again with a score of 38.6 on the loneliness scale.

That had me feeling better, but then I remembered that my firstborn daughter turns 10 this year, my sister 40 and my parents hit their 50th wedding anniversary in a couple of months.

I’m feeling old.

human stages of life clipart


MARCH SADNESS: WF, WTF and the What-Ifs

23 Mar

Good Deacon hoops can sometimes feel like a vintage painting in a museum.

Put a ‘T’ between the W and F, it’s been said many a time during the current Wake Forest basketball depression. The saying is played, unlike the NCAA Tournament for the Deacs in seven of the past eight years.

Wake has posted only two winning seasons since 2010. In the two decades before that, the once-proud program of Tim Duncan and Chris Paul had only one losing season while eclipsing 20 wins 12 times.

Here in yet another missed March Madness, let us move past the WTFs, Deacon Nation… to the What-Ifs.

My top 10 (pre-depression):

10. What if referee Fred Hikel hadn’t ruled that Wake’s successful length-of-the-court inbound pass grazed the Greensboro Coliseum scoreboard with 33 seconds left in the 1975 ACC tourney game against North Carolina?

Just last month, long-time Greensboro New & Record sportswriter and columnist Ed Hardin said, “That pass from [Wake’s Jerry] Schellenberg never touched the scoreboard,” which showed a Deacon lead at the time. The “Scoreboard Call.” And one might wonder where the “Carolina Refs” legend came from. (Actually not here. Read on.)

9. What if the Deacs simply managed to get a shot up with 20 seconds left in a tied 1983 ACC Tournament first round game against N.C. State?

Instead a turnover led to a foul, which led to Wolfpack free throws and a 71-70 loss. That was how the Cardiac Pack started its unbelievable nine-game postseason run to a national title.

8. What if Rodney Rogers had stayed for his senior season, i.e., overlapped with the start of the Tim Duncan Era?

Wake still finished third in the conference the following season without the 1993 ACC Player of the Year.

7. What if instant replay was available for Tim Duncan’s senior year?

The January Maryland and February N.C. State buzzer beaters in Joel Coliseum wouldn’t have been beaters. Absent that really bad luck, the ’97 Deacs definitely finish the regular season better than 22-5, earning them a more advantageous postseason draw.

6. What if Wake hadn’t lost three star sophomores — Jeff Teague, James Johnson and Al-Farouq Aminu were all top 19 NBA draft picks — in 2009 and 2010?

Losing that type of talent will hurt any college basketball program, but Wake was especially in need of stability after unprecedented adversity in the years leading up to those departures.

5. What if Randolph Childress hadn’t been hit with the flu bug before the ’95 Sweet 16 matchup with Oklahoma State?

The ACC Champions’ Final Four hopes were fumbled away by our star guard on the last possession against the Cowboys.

4. What if referee Jim Mills calls a charge instead of a block in the 1957 ACC semifinal against undefeated UNC?

Wake was less than 50 seconds away from ending the historic season of its bitter rival, but instead the Heels’ Lennie Rosenbluth, who’d beat out somebody named Wilt Chamberlain for national player of the year, got the controversial blocking call, the basket and a free throw for a 61-59 win.

3. What if Chris Paul hadn’t left school after his sophomore year?

Instead of essentially no point guard the next year, the Deacs would’ve had the best PG in the nation to go with senior studs Justin Gray, Eric Williams and Trent Strickland, as well as impressive big men Kyle Visser and Chris Ellis.

2. What if Tony Rutland hadn’t wrecked his knee in the 1996 ACC Tournament Championship Game?

Some were comparing the sophomore guard to Ga. Tech’s Stephon Marbury on a team that, despite the injury, still managed to reach an NCAA regional final. Long-time Winston-Salem Journal beat reporter Dan Collins called it “one of the saddest coincidences ever in Wake Forest history,” the backcourt misfortune when the Deacs had the best big man in the land.

1. What if Skip Prosser hadn’t passed away?


To Have and Have Not

31 Jan

Tweet_have:have not blog

A house divided against itself cannot stand. So too a soul?

The holidays, for the most part, have been times of joy and relaxation – I’ve been quite lucky – but the divide in my greater family and my country over the last couple of years has pushed Christmas toward the dark side of the moon.

I used to wonder when I heard people talk about holiday stress (other than shopping and traffic). Now I realize that the “most wonderful time of the year” can serve up very harsh reminders. Every holiday season, there are people doing anything they can to avoid dwelling on division or tragedy, such as the anniversary of divorce or a father’s suicide. Loves and lives can be long lost, but the memories of those can be painfully refreshed every year.

When the commercial, social and traditional impetus of the Christmas season says you should be happy or shows you other people’s joy, the pain can feel larger by contrast. Facebook, which for years has been the focus of studies on depression, makes it easier for us to see the seemingly Christmas card perfection of others while also reminding us we’re not there.

I think of Hans Christian Andersen’s holiday tale of “the poor little [match] girl, bareheaded, and with naked feet… From all the windows the candles were gleaming, and it smelt so deliciously of roast goose…” but her sad fate was the terminal cold, not comfort.

After each of my two lovely daughters’ births I’d walk through the hospital to pick up coffee and couldn’t help but remember that many, probably most, people were there not for happy reasons like me. Last month, it was my turn to visit the hospital – labor & delivery, in fact – for the unhappiest of reasons.


You Belong Among the Wildflowers

29 Nov

Tom Petty makes me think of Alaska.

I was 3,500 miles away from my family, working in Skagway the summer after the release of the “Wildflowers” album and the summer before my senior year of college. The excitement of far-away adventure and the uniqueness of the former gold rush port town were giving way to loneliness as I walked along the harbor. The coolness of the breeze coming off the water and the towering terrain surrounding me seemed to constantly remind that I was a long way from home.

You belong among the wildflowers

You belong in a boat out at sea

Sail away, kill off the hours

You belong somewhere you feel free

Tom Petty reminds me of the importance of finding your voice. And I don’t mean singing. It’s an author’s or songwriter’s unique style and way of communicating things. Petty’s tone changes significantly from “Breakdown” to “I Won’t Back Down” to “Only a Broken Heart” and “It’s Good to Be King,” but that authentic, engaging approach always holds true. Petty’s direct, relatable, even simple lyrics increased his connection with the audience and then the music elevated that meeting place into the stratosphere.

It’s good to be king and have your own way

Get a feeling of peace at the end of the day

When your bulldog barks and your canary sings

You’re out there with winners, it’s good to be king

Tom Petty reminds me of the things I have taken for granted. An artist and performer so good for so long – I used to marvel that his debut hit is older than my sister – perhaps becomes a victim of his own success. Both familiar and unique, his songs earned easy access to my heart and soul. Something so close and comfortable was taken for granted and now the legend is gone. Even his death last month was sadly overshadowed.

Some things are over

Some things go on

Part of me you carry

Part of me is gone


Skagway, Alaska: Among Tom Petty’s many powers, he made a very memorable place even more so. 


Holding History & The Attention of Millions

11 Oct

Nick Curry on “A Prairie Home Companion”

To celebrate National Arts & Humanities Month, BLeeve Blog is proud to bring you unique tales from artists who entertain, educate and inspire.

My friend and classmate Nick Curry, Associate Professor of Cello at the University of North Florida, shares the story of the time he played a multi-million-dollar instrument before an audience of millions…

“I played on Garrison Keillor’s ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ back in April 2006. The show was a live broadcast in the Dakota Dome in South Dakota for about 4,000 people and an estimated four million on the radio.

Craziest performance of my life. It was super-high pressure.

What made it an even bigger challenge was that I was chosen to play the Andrea Amati ‘King’ cello made in 1538 for King Charles IX of France. This is one of the great cellos left on this earth. It has beautiful drawings and Latin text on the actual instrument. If you had to put a price tag on the instrument, it would be worth between $5 million and $10 million.

I practiced the cello for one hour a day for a week. The cello had gut strings, which was very different from the steel strings that I usually play. It took every minute I had to try to get used to that. The museum that owns the cello did not want extra tension on the instrument, thus the gut strings instead of steel.

Every time I picked up that cello I was nervous given its history. I was also like the first person to play the cello for that many people in the history of the instrument and I think the third person in 20 years to have the honor of playing it.

After the concert I received fan mail for months. I got a standing ovation at the pizza place in town when I walked in. Later, my university made billboards of me playing the cello.

I am very, very far from being famous, but it was definitely nice to have my moment!”


Healthcare Debate: It’s Time for Caring Credibility

26 Sep

It’s a big world after all.

Experiences, abilities, needs and struggles exist outside of the daily sphere of you and me. Empathy brings diversity and unity together. All too often though, we’re content to count our pieces of silver and forget about the Golden Rule.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” an Atlantan named Martin once said.

It’s time in America not to narrow our focus and concern, but to open our hearts and minds. As economic, humanitarian and media forces and factors irrevocably expand, we cannot retreat back to the 1950s. We must not turn a cold shoulder to the world abroad, nor our disadvantaged and struggling neighbors at home.

And parents should not go bankrupt trying to care for a sick child.

When not disgusting former Republicans like myself with outright lies and other outrages, the new ruling forces in Washington, D.C., have set an unprecedentedly harsh and uncaring tone with their healthcare repeal efforts and proposed budget cuts.

Why would GOP senators rush to pass legislation that will so consequentially affect millions and millions of Americans? Debate on the Affordable Care Act in 2009 went for months, including through three House committees and two Senate committees. Joe Scarborough, former Republican Congressman and, as of July, former Republican altogether, said, “If you vote to reorder one-sixth of the U.S. economy without a CBO score, never call yourself conservative again. You are a dangerous radical.”

And how can Republicans raise funding concerns about Obamacare, then vote last week for a 13 percent budget increase for the military while lining up tax cuts for the super-wealthy later this year?

The deepest impact is personal, however, not budget numbers and legislative processes. We all have a story about a loved one fighting a difficult health battle or an unlucky friend in an accident. I’ve been very lucky in my life, but I still know the feeling of extended hospital stays as a child, leg braces and body casts, as well as the panic of that middle-of-the-night moment when my sick daughter was struggling to breathe.

The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute reports that nearly 2 million Georgia children, seniors, veterans and people with disabilities receive health coverage through Medicaid. The Graham-Cassidy bill would cap and cut federal Medicaid funding to states. Also, the bill would once again make vulnerable the nearly 1.8 million Georgians (29 percent of the state’s population) that carry a pre-existing condition not covered under pre-ACA insurance underwriting practices.

Let’s put people and facts first. And let us lend an ear to those leaders with caring credibility – those who have moral authority, not just formal – and a hand to their just causes, like defending the critically important right to affordable healthcare.

Pope Francis challenged the world to “ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it.” What good is the wealthiest country in the world if it loses its soul?


[NOTE: I will gladly take today’s good news of the scrapping of the GOP’s latest healthcare repeal bill even though it likely means this opinion piece will not make it out of the queue at the Marietta Daily Journal/Neighbor Newspapers!]


Prayers for Houston

31 Aug

Almost exactly six months after I wrote a blog post titled “Houston, We Have a Problem” about my sports teams’ struggles there, Hurricane Harvey and the resulting floods have devastated the Texas city.

As easy as sports can be a distraction from reality, the latter can quickly and mightily enforce perspective on the former.

The losses in Houston are unfathomable. Perhaps the only comfort comes from the thoughts and images of people helping people: a man extricating a woman from her flooded house via jet ski, a group of citizens forming a human chain to save an elderly man from a strong current and a black man carrying two white children above the rising water to safety.

Sending prayers to the city of my childhood!

[PLEASE consider sending a donation to help those working so valiantly on the front lines for rescue and recovery in Houston.]

Houston Flood_map

Our old house on Cloud Swept Lane in northwest Houston appears to be one of the lucky ones.