Sunday, December 9, 2018

Anticipation

Well, here we are. It's 6:30 Sunday morning and already we have three or four inches of overnight snow on the ground.

And more is coming.

I guess the weather forecasters were right. While the predictions for the snowfall amount were all over the place – anywhere from one to four inches for those located south of I-40 to eight to 12 inches for the Piedmont – I wasn't sure what to expect.

The wind is whipping snow all over the place...
 It was all about the anticipation, a word (and impatient expectation) which makes me think about Carly Simon's great song about ketchup. The early forecasts rolled in about a week ago. Since then, it's been all about the waiting... waiting... waiting.

And now it's here.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I mean, I spent my childhood winters in snow, frolicking in the stuff in years spent in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Connecticut, all before I was old enough to drive a car.

Back then, I thought it was great.

A part of me really enjoys it and I actually do appreciate the gentle fall of flakes as it shrouds everything in pure white. It salves the soul.

But I'm not a kid anymore. I dislike driving in the stuff. I don't want to walk in it. I've long ago given up building snowmen or sliding down soft slopes on a sled. I don't want to be left stir crazy in my house because everything is closed and there's nowhere to go.

And this morning, to make things a little different, the wind is blowing. Flakes sometimes are falling in a diagonal direction. Hmm. And Fido needs to go out. Enjoy.

I suppose this will likely be our version of a White Christmas, unless we actually do get snow on Christmas Eve. Yeah, we still have more than two weeks to go for that to happen, but we are in Christmas mode, and the decorations on the houses somehow make the season seem more, umm, more... seasonal.

I guess I should just sit back and enjoy it.

But, man, I just got done raking leaves. And now I have to shovel snow? Sheesh.


Sunday, December 2, 2018

Earthquake

Normally, I don't get too excited when news breaks across my television screen about a 7.0 earthquake somewhere on the planet.

I guess that's because it seems most of those high intensity earthquakes are in Italy, or Ecuador, or Japan. Places like that.

Except this time, the Big One that broke late Friday night was in Anchorage, Alaska.

Where my brother Dave lives.

Seven point oh.

That got my attention.

As soon as I collected my thoughts, I tried reaching him on my cell phone using the only number I have for him. That didn't work, because, as it turned out, Anchorage had lost its power and there was no cell phone service. I got a recorded message to try my call again at a later time.

Hmmm. Iconic Alaska.
 I couldn't wait. So I private messaged him on Facebook. Yeah, I know. No power. But at least the message was there for him.

Early the next morning, I saw that he had marked himself as "Safe" on Facebook, proving that Facebook actually is good for some things. I don't know how he had access to Facebook, or what device he was using to relay his message, but I was grateful for the update. It corroborated what I'd been hearing on the news that there were no known casualties from the episode.

Dave actually lives in a suburb of Anchorage called Wasilla, and from what I can gather from previous pictures of his on Facebook, he lives in a rather remote area that favors moose and other wildlife as opposed to tall buildings that can tremble and fall on you.

Dave did post a picture of a knee he skinned when the earthquake came, causing him to lose his balance. He might be the only known casualty in Anchorage, if he reports it.

And there are the aftershocks. The news this morning said there have been more than 650 of them. Whoa.

Dave actually responded to a friend on Facebook that so far, "What is unnerving are these 'aftershocks'. You feel them coming on and you're ready to ride the mechanical bull again."

I can't imagine. 

I tried calling him again later, and while service was back up, a woman's voice answered and told me that I had the wrong number. Curiouser and curiouser. But Dave has never been one for following the norms. Geez, he lives in Alaska, for crying out loud, and he has (off and on) for more than 40 years.

We actually visited him once, back in July 1992, where he took us to Earthquake Park in Anchorage. It's a jumble of rugged upturned rocks left over from the Great Earthquake of 1964. It was midnight, and we sat there talking and drinking wine coolers and waited for the sun to set, which, of course, it never did.

I myself have never been in an earthquake – not even a slight tremor – although Kim does make the Earth move for me. But I can't imagine solid ground letting loose like that. Earthquake Park is the closest I've ever been to earthquake damage.

All this got me to thinking, though. The three Wehrle boys are pretty much spread out across the country, and so far, we seem to be handling our natural disasters as well as can be expected (I know. Kiss of death right there).

I live in North Carolina, where we have hurricanes. Or at least tumbling trees when the tropical storms blow hard enough. It's still unsettling when the wind gusts reach 40 or 50 miles per hour, even here in Lexington.

Our youngest brother, Scott, lives in Oklahoma, where they have tornadoes. Okay, so do we on occasion, but ours are mostly F-1's. Out in Oklahoma City, the Fujita Scale tends to break higher than in North Carolina. I'm not sure if Scott has actually even seen a tornado, but I figure his odds are better than mine of seeing one. I hope he never does.

And then there's Dave in Alaska.

I guess we'll take our disasters one at a time, just like everyone else does. It's all we can do.






Sunday, November 25, 2018

Monticello

The last time we'd been to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's self-designed masterpiece located just outside of Charlottesville, VA., was probably about 30 years ago.

We enjoyed it so much that Kim had been bugging me to go back for the past 29 1/2 years or so.

We finally gave ourselves the opportunity to return last weekend when we made our annual pilgrimage to Richmond to attend a Civil War artifacts show with another couple.

So we went. There were some changes from what I last remembered about our previous visit to Monticello. Imagine that.

First off, there is now a visitors' center. It's where you purchase your ticket ($23) and catch the shuttle to the premises. Then, as the visitors assemble, they are segmented into manageable tour groups of 20-25 people. Each tour group is separated by about 10 minutes from the other.

I'm never sure if this is the front or the back of Monticello...
 Considering that this was a cold, blustery Sunday morning in November, I was shocked by how many visitors were on hand. It was remarkable. Tour groups were everywhere.

What I remember from 30 years ago (It's amazing the things I remember that I don't remember. It's a real conundrum) is that we drove to the actual Monticello property, parked the car, purchased our tickets on site, then met a tour guide at the front door, where we waited patiently for 15 people to show up to form a tour group.

Anyway, our assigned tour guide was an African American gentleman who also happened to be a sophomore at nearby University of Virginia, where he was majoring, curiously enough, in poetry.

I mention our tour guide's ancestry because Monticello was designed as a working plantation that utilized the labor of about 150 slaves toiling for the author of the Declaration of Independence, a man who famously wrote that all men are created equal. Talk about conundrums.

Jamal was great. He pointed out things like the weathervane and cannonball clock that Jefferson designed, as well as elk antlers from the Lewis and Clark expedition that occurred during Jefferson's presidency. He showed us the bed in which Jefferson died, Jefferson's library, and Jefferson's self-taught architecture flourishes. All the while, he would insert African American history tidbits regarding Monticello that added fascinating perspective to the tour.

Monticello (correctly pronounced Mon-tee-CHEL-lo) is not part of the federal National Park Service, but rather sustained by donations, admission fees and probably the occasional grants. The place is a working archeological site where they are constantly discovering slave graves or peeling back the wallpaper to find the true color of paint on the walls. Neat stuff.

At one point on the tour Jamal mentioned that Jefferson thought the Constitution should be rewritten every 20 years to keep pace with changing times. When the tour was over I privately asked Jamal if amendments weren't the tools for changing the Constitution. I mean, what did Jefferson know? He was off in France when the Constitution was still in draft form. Jamal agreed that rewriting the Constitution now probably would never work, especially in these partisan times. But back in the nation's formative years, it might have been a workable concept.

I asked him if he thought writing the Constitution every 20 years might have brought an earlier end to slavery, and perhaps without a Civil War at that. He thought it over for a minute and agreed it could have been a possibility.

Our trip to Monticello was fruitful and enlightening. We're planning to go back again, perhaps in the spring when the weather is warmer and the gardens are in bloom.

I can't wait. Jefferson's an interesting guy, full of the arts, science, political theory, curiosity, and contradictions. I'll never look at a nickel the same way again.






Sunday, November 4, 2018

Meme this

Whenever I surf Facebook to see what my friends are eating that day, or who's mad at the Eagles for not signing the next franchise running back, or to just smartass with my buds, I also find myself slogging through a quagmire of memes.

I generally don't pay much attention to memes. Most of them are well-meaning and usually reflect the sincerity of the sender, and that's OK. I'm just going to scroll past them because I am who I am and a meme isn't likely to make me a better person, even though the sincere sender might wish otherwise.

I'm approaching septaugenarism and pretty much set in my ways anyhow, I guess, so it's unlikely a meme is going to make much difference to me regardless.

But I also like clever stuff and a good meme should make you stop scrolling for a minute while you ponder the "Aha!" moment. I generally give each meme I see about two seconds to try and work its magic on me before I scroll on. Wordy memes especially get a quick pass.

But this past week, I came across two memes that really did the trick for me.

Here's the first one:

I think I've seen this one before, but given the perceived raised level of national bias against nearly everybody these days, I thought it was particularly effective.

And clever.

And irrefutable.

At this point I'm tempted to give my two cents worth, because it's my blog and I can say what I want (First Amendment, which I don't think can be cancelled by executive order). But I don't want this to become a sermon. I think the meme can speak for itself. That's the beauty of a good meme when it makes you think.

The second meme was this:

The current branch of Wehrle boys are fifth generation Germans. If Franz hadn't left Wilhelmshaven for Pennsylvania in 1862, it's likely I'd never have had a barbecue sandwich from the Barbecue Center.

I'd never have met Kim.

I might never have been me.

There's currently a rapidly shrinking caravan of Hondurans and Guatamalans approaching the southern U.S, border seeking asylum from oppressive governments and they've been turned into a political tool just in time for the U.S. midterm elections.

But it's not surprising.

Immigration has been a difficult and complicated issue in this country, well, almost forever. There's the forced immigration that was slavery, starting in the 1600s. The Great Migration followed shortly thereafter, bringing Germans, Irish and Italians, which didn't sit particularly well with the established xenophobes. During the Civil War, for example, non-English speaking Union German soldiers were reviled as "Flying Dutchmen" after Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. Irish "need not apply." Italians were criminals.

Chinese immigration didn't go particularly well on the west coast in the mid-1800s, even though the Chinese helped build a transcontinental railroad. During the Civil War. Let that one sink in. Fight a war, and meanwhile use immigrant labor to build infrastructure.

As late as 1939, a boat loaded with 900 Jewish asylum seekers fleeing Nazi persecution, the MS St. Louis, was refused entry to this country.

We like to think we're better than this. There's a statue in New York Harbor that says we are. Maybe we aren't.

Damn. I preached a sermon anyway.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Pittsburgh

What? Again?

Has the word "massacre" become our middle name?
It sounds insane.

The headlines of hate spew hotly, freely from a semiautomatic clip;
a spiral trip.

A bomber today, a bullet tomorrow
adds to the men of constant sorrow.

Our skin color, our God, our political bent no longer free;
we are all targets of opportunity.

All of us.

Our point of reference remains ourselves, to reach the roof,
both capable – and incapable – of peace.
And truth.

We share the same blood, our global humanity,
and yet, we can't seem to find
common identity.

Keep striving, the burning fever must break soon.
Soon.
Soon.



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:

www.davidsoncountysportshalloffame.com


Saturday, October 20, 2018

Eleanor's home run

After following Americana string band Underhill Rose for the past six or seven 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.