Sunday, October 21, 2018

Another stellar class

I'm a little reluctant to say this, because I am on its board of directors as well as an officer (secretary) and I don't want to jinx anything, but the Davidson County Sports Hall of Fame seems to be running pretty much like a well-oiled machine these days.

The 17th annual induction ceremony was held last night at the J. Smith Young YMCA Third Avenue Event Center with yet another spectacular class of inductees: legendary North Davidson softball pitching coach Billy "Chief" Gerald; North Davidson softball standout pitcher Danielle Glosson; East Davidson girls' basketball star Anna (Freeman) Healy; Thomasville's five-time state champion basketball coach Woody Huneycutt; Lexington tennis standout Varner Sink, and sensational Central Davidson state champion swimmer Caroline Smith.

George Feezor, a benefactor of West Davidson athletics and the creator of Fab Masters, perhaps one of the most dominant slow-pitch softball programs in the state, was inducted posthumously, and Lexington's Tim Holt, one of the most humble and sincere human beings you're ever likely to meet, was inducted as the "Unsung Hero", primarily for his volunteer work with Little League football programs.

This year's class brings a total of 128 inductees into the Hall over the past 17 years, which means we're averaging 7.5 inductees per year. I don't know who claims the one-half fraction – maybe that person gets an extra yeast roll at the ceremony banquet.

One of the best moments of the night was Glosson explaining how she first learned several months ago about her pending induction. Board member Dale Odom, who coaches the American Legion softball team of which Glosson assisted, asked Glosson if she would do him a favor and call Chief Gerald to inform him of his induction. It seemed appropriate because Gerald was her pitching coach at North Davidson. Glosson said she'd be delighted.

At the moment Glosson was dialing Gerald, Gerald was dialing her. They simultaneously informed each other of each's soon-to-be induction. That was cool. Very cool.

The Hall of Fame has come a long way in 17 years. The first induction ceremonies were too long. The very first year, the Hall inducted 14 inaugural members, and each inductee had a presenter. Consequently, patrons were lucky to get home before midnight.

Over the course of time, the Hall has tweaked and polished its program. There are no longer wordy presenters. Most inductees take less than 10 minutes – and usually only about five minutes – to say thank you.

Consequently, I was home by 8:30 p.m., in time to watch Purdue dismantle Ohio State, and then watch the Dodgers win the National League pennant.

It's good to be part of a well-oiled machine.
•   •   •
You can access the Davidson County Sports Hall of Fame Web page to nominate future candidates and to read the biographies of the current inductees at:

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Eleanor's home run

After following Americana string band Underhill Rose for the past five or six years, I found it a bit unusual to look up at the stage and see a lead guitar, a bass guitar, a drum kit and ... a banjo.

That's not a combination you see very often, I think. Yet Asheville's Eleanor Underhill (banjoist of the aforementioned Underhill Rose) easily made it work to satisfying proportions.

She was in town Friday night, performing at High Rock Outfitters for the Lexington release of her first solo CD, "Navigate the Madness". Backing her up were three talented musicians in their own right – Silas Durocher (lead), Matt Lane (bass) and Chris Pyle (drums) – whom she calls Eleanor & Friends and who play fairly regularly at 5 Walnut Wine Bar in Asheville.

Eleanor played five or six songs off of her new album, several Underhill Rose songs, an unpublished tune or two that could eventually show up in the UR catalogue and a bunch of covers ranging from Steve Miller to Prince.

It was kind of a revealing evening. I'm used to seeing Eleanor as one half of Underhill Rose (with Molly Rose Reed the other half) singing beautiful harmonies.

Interestingly, last night really wasn't about seeing Eleanor come out of her musical comfort zone. In my world, it was more about me coming out of mine.

It became abundantly clear to me that musicians like Eleanor are probably filled to overflowing with their art and consequently utilize other avenues of expression to get their musical exploration out there.

I was also impressed with how easily all the talent on the stage glided from one genre to another and how they seemingly enjoyed (eyes closed, brows furrowed) each tune they performed. Their solo bridges, as usual, highlighted their talents, as well as their love for what they do.

I can't do anything musical except listen to it. But even that, as a member of the audience, requires a subtle talent to discern and appreciate what you are hearing. I think that's a revelation that came to me last night. We are the artist's sounding board. They need us and we need them.

That's also why I wasn't sure what to expect from Eleanor last night when we walked into HRO, but when she was done with her show, we came away impressed and satisfied.

Well done, Eleanor.
•   •   •
On a side note, Eleanor's performance was highlighted by the arrival of her parents, Roy and Jane, who were on hand to celebrate Jane's birthday.

Roy, of course, is the host of the long running PBS program, The Woodwright's Shop. It was evident for all to see the obvious pride both Roy and Jane have for their daughter's accomplishments.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Eleanor's bold move

A couple of years ago, during a set break at an Underhill Rose performance in a small venue near Hickory, singer Eleanor Underhill and I sat at a table and had a casual little chitchat about writing – she about her music, and myself about the direction of my blogs.

We compared notes. The gist of our discussion centered around becoming a little more edgier. She confided then that she'd gotten some criticism for being "too light" or "too sunny" in her craft, although I'm not sure how edgy you can be while playing smile-inducing instruments like the banjo or the harmonica, both of which I think she is a virtuoso performer.

Eleanor Underhill makes her solo debut at High Rock Outfitters on Friday.*
 Eleanor is also a prolific songwriter and there's no way I could have known then that her unpub-lished catalogue no doubt included tunes that I didn't know about and that would never show up in an Underhill Rose concert, where she performs in the Americana genre with co-founder and friend Molly Rose Reed.

But a door has opened. Molly is in the final trimester of her and her husband Tyler's first child, due in November, and Underhill Rose currently is taking a break from touring.

So the timing is perfect for Eleanor to release her first solo CD, "Navigate the Madness." It's a collection of 12 tunes that she's birthed, tweaked, nourished and refined over time. Some of the songs were written years ago; others are of more current inspiration.

She will be performing Friday night at High Rock Outfitters, starting at 9 p.m., in the Lexington release show of her CD. She had her Asheville (where she lives) release show a couple of weeks ago, featuring five backup musicians. At HRO, she'll have three musicians behind her: Matt Lane on bass; Silas Durocher on guitar, and Chris Pyle on drums.

"I will structure the show a little differently than I did the Asheville show," Eleanor wrote in an email. "We play around here all the time so I felt compelled to do something that was a bit different. At High Rock, we won't be playing the album front to back but instead we'll play about 75 per cent of the songs mixed in with some unpublished originals, Underhill Rose songs that I penned, and fun covers."

This will be a different Eleanor than we know from the harmonies of Underhill Rose. She provided me digital access to her album for review and you can immediately see the artist in her exploring eclectic new avenues of thought and curiosity. The email came with hashtags marked #haunting, #psychedelic, #folksy, #fusion, #baroque-pop, #jazzy. It's all of that, and more.

The email did not come with lyrics or liner notes, so I don't know which musician contributed what, and I'm not always sure of what I heard in the voice tracks, so my review is, admittedly, incomplete. But some of the tunes I liked included "Never Meant to Say Goodbye," "Before I Head West Again," "Captured in Arms," and "You Know I Would." Pay attention.

It's good to see Eleanor step out like this. I don't know if she feels like she's out of her Americana comfort zone or not, but artists are often compelled to follow their muse and take us with them on the journey. Heck, I didn't know the banjo could sound like that. It's bold. It's fun. And, yes, it's edgy.

*Photo by Donnie Roberts

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Crossfire hurricanes

Before I write another word, let me make it clear that I understand the hurricane damage suffered by millions of people in this country in the past month or so is next to unbearable and that the loss of life is horrifying.

Even today, as I write this, isolated portions of Davidson County, located at least 200 miles inland from any hurricane landfall, are still without the incredible convenience offered by power, and there has been enough property damage to keep contractors busy for months.

But in point of fact, this area has been hit by the tropical storm residue of two hurricanes within four weeks: Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael.

We were literally in a hurricane crossfire. Florence came inland from the Atlantic coast in mid September, making landfall near New Bern and giving us here in the Piedmont plenty of rain and wind gusts close to 40 miles per hour as she made a crazy westward track against the jet stream before looping northeast.

We parked our cars in the treeless parking lots of nearby businesses.

A tree in our neighborhood fell and took out the power for a few hours.
 Then, this past Wednesday morning, Michael came up through the Florida Gulf coast, still a Category 2 hurricane when he hit Georgia.

By the time Michael reached Davidson County on Thursday, he was a tropical storm. And for one hour, at least, he was packing wind gusts of 55 miles per hour right outside my house. He was going from west to northeast, urged along by the jet stream. Go figure.

I was a little nervous. I can't remember the last time I saw rain come in horizontally. Does rain ever hit the ground if it falls sideways?

A tree in our neighborhood fell over, blocking a road and taking some power lines with it. I could tell that my neighbors across the street were suddenly powerless. No lights. They had nothing to do except go to their front porch. That's how you can tell the neighbors have no power. They come out and stand on their porch.

Strangely enough, I saw this event happen in real time from my dining room window. I saw the sparks fly as the wires broke free from the pole. I called the utilities department, got a live voice, and within 10 minutes a fire truck was on the scene, barricading the road. An hour later, an utilities crew was working in the storm, which had abated significantly. And less than three hours from my call, power was restored.

That was amazing.

Natural disasters and their impact are relative, of course. The damage in Lexington is nothing compared to what happened in Mexico Beach, Fla., which has been virtually obliterated. And yet, there's been flooding and ponding in the streets of Denton. Hampton Road, the shortcut between Davidson County and Clemmons, was under Muddy Creek.

All we can do is cope and make our way the best we can.

Until the next disaster.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

My first food recall

The voicemail was a little disheartening.

And a little late.

The phone rang the other day while I was watching TV, and the caller ID that pops up on my TV screen gave me a number that I didn't recognize. So I didn't jump to answer the land line phone located two rooms away. If I don't know the number, I'm not answering. So there.

But whomever called left a message. I eventually listened to the message a couple hours later, after Kim got home from work. It was from Harris Teeter, where we do our grocery shopping. We usually do our shopping on Sundays. The voicemail arrived late Monday afternoon.

A pleasant sounding feminine voice, recorded and without showing any sense of alarm or urgency, politely informed me that their records indicated that we had recently purchased the store brand Low Fat Cookies and Cream Frozen Yogurt. They were calling to tell me that the product was being recalled.

"Recalled" was the only word I think I heard, if I recall. That rattles your cage a little bit, especially when it's about a food product. I thought they only recalled cars. I started thinking in terms of e coli or salmonella and started wondering if I'd live to see the next sunset.

And to think I was worried about my AFib.

So we listened to the message again. The voice ticked off the numbers on the yogurt's bar code: 7, 2, 0, 3, 6, 9, 8, 1...

Yep. That's me. Every number matched. Wouldn't you know it? This is the only lottery I've ever won.

Then it hit me – I'd already eaten half of the yogurt. I'm a goner.

The message continued. The product was being recalled because apparently it might contain some peanut agent. If anyone in our house had a peanut allergy, I should return the product ASAP.

Whew. That was close. Kim and I eat peanuts (and peanut butter) like it's the last food on earth. No allergy here. We had dodged a peanut.

But all of this got me to wondering. How did Harris Teeter know I'd purchased their yogurt? How did they know my home phone number? How'd they get peanuts in their cookies and cream yogurt?

I guess all the information is located in the store's nerve center, which for us is the check-out lane. The cash registers are basically computers, just like everything else we own: our cars, our TVs (our TVs are watching us, you know), everything.

I actually took comfort in that knowledge, realizing the store's cash register had the potential to save my life. Knowing that, I happily finished off the rest of my cookies and cream frozen yogurt.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Bug off

Not too long ago I wrote a blog piece about the marvels of WD-40, an industrial lubricant which apparently can be used for everything from removing chewing gum from your hair to acting as a primer to start jet engines (I'm making that last one up right there. But you get the point.)

So the other day, as I was getting ready to mow the lawn, I was wondering what I could do to reduce my chances of getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, which seem to be in overabundance this year.

No, I didn't cover myself in WD-40.

But I was getting a little leery of spraying myself with Off! or Repel or anything else that contained deet. You know. Because of the chemicals.

Why should I worry about chemicals now, you may ask. After all, back in the 1950s, I was part of the neighborhood band of kids that frolicked behind the city DDT truck as it slowly drove down the street spraying clouds of carcinogenic chemicals into the air. It was almost as much fun as chasing after the Mister Softee ice cream truck.

We also did Duck and Cover exercises in school in case of nuclear attack. Ahhh, the 1950s.

Anyway, I recently tried this one organic spray called Repel Natural, which does not contain deet. It was more of a liquid than an aerosol, and as far as I was concerned, it didn't work for me. The 32 mosquitoes that landed on me after my application showed me that.

Then Kim remembered something.

"I think I read once that if you take a fabric softener sheet and put it in your pocket, it keeps the mosquitoes away," she said.

"Yeah, right," I thought, and tried it anyway.

I took a sheet of fabric softener, rubbed it on my exposed arms and legs, stuck the sheet in my pocket and happily went to mow the yard.

I only got bit once.

Wow. This stuff really works.

I told Kim about it, and she tried it when she went out to water her garden. She came back into the house a half hour later complaining about all the mosquitoes that bit her.

I don't know what happened. The only difference between us is that I'm male and she's female. I hate to think that there's a gender bias involved, but maybe fabric softeners don't work well when mingled with estrogen. I don't know.

It got me to thinking what chemicals were hidden in the fabric softener. So I looked at the ingredients and it told me a sheet "contains fabric softening agents (cationic types)..."

Uh-oh. What does "cationic" mean? It's not a word that comes up in sports writing very often.

I googled it: "An ion or group of ions having a positive charge and characteristically moving toward the negative electrode in electrolysis."

Well, that certainly cleared that up. I could see mosquitoes dying by the millions. Probably of laughter.

I told Kim. Her backup plan is to spray herself with Avon's Skin So Soft, which she also heard is a good mosquito repellent.

Hmm, maybe. I wonder how it mingles with testosterone?

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Slo-mo Flo

Hurricane Florence just might be one of the strangest storms that I can remember.

What I do remember is Hugo.

Hugo was back in 1989. I was a sports writer for The Dispatch and a 13-year resident of Lexington by that time. Having originally moved in from Pennsylvania, I'd never really been in a hurricane before.

But Hugo scared the bejeezus out of me. Kim and I lived in a wooded parcel at the south end of town with tall trees looming everywhere. It's amazing how much bigger 100-foot tall trees get when they're swaying over your house.

Hugo, if I recall, made landfall near Charleston, then traveled inland up through Charlotte. I don't know if it was still technically a hurricane at that point, or downgraded to a tropical storm, but it brought fierce winds and wind gusts as it skirted through Lexington.

Trees toppled. Power was lost. We still put out a paper, but it had to be printed at The Salisbury Post.

Florence, by comparison, looked to be a similar threat. It was huge. And it was tracking straight for our house.

But not before hitting our beach house in Cherry Grove, SC, first. Man, a double whammy.

Then strange stuff started happening. Further north, Wrightsville Beach became ground zero. New Bern took a horrible hit. Wilmington was in the cross hairs.

Our beach house is on the left. Did we dodge a bullet?
And then Florence curiously went from a wind event (100+ mph winds to 70 mph) to a rain event. It's traveling velocity slowed to three miles per hour, indicating this hurricane perhaps really was in no hurry at all. It headed south along the coast before going inland. Huh? Against the grain? Against the gulf stream? Against the jet stream? How does that happen?

For some reason, Cherry Grove seems to have dodged a bullet, if not an artillery shell. A random photographic image taken by the City of North Myrtle Beach and posted on Facebook Saturday shows our beach house with water perhaps ankle deep in the streets, but not much debris floating around. It's not raining. Lucky?

The rain is supposed to continue today as the storm, now a tropical depression, heads northwest around Charlotte before looping northeast into Pennsylvania. Around here, the winds have abated somewhat, although I don't think they were ever Hugo-like in the first place. We never lost power at our house. We even went out to eat Saturday evening.

According to the forecast, rain will fall all day today as Florence continues her slow trek through the Piedmont. Maybe I should have seeded my lawn?

Anyway, those tall trees in my neighborhood seem to be looming less as the storm passes through. Let's hope so. There's still a lot of rain to come.