Sunday, May 1, 2016

Family tree

The other day I went on Facebook to see what's going on in the world: Underhill Rose, my favorite band, is touring the United Kingdom; one of my friends posted a picture of a cake she baked; another friend posted a picture of a cake he ate.

Big stuff.

Then I scrolled down and saw a fuzzy color picture of me. Actually, it was of me, my brothers and my parents, and in the "what's on your mind?" box, my youngest brother, Scott (the poster), had written "This might be the last photo of all of us together, c.1982."

Long ago and far away...

Because Scott had shared it on my Facebook wall (as well as on our brother David's, who lives in Alaska), the photo was collecting "likes" as fast as the city collects parking tickets.

The photo was snapped by my wife, Kim, in Sister Bay, Wisconsin, where Dad was the pastor of the Moravian church there.

Five years later, he was dead from the prostate cancer that had found its way to his bones. He was only 58. Mom passed away four years after that from breast cancer. That simple family picture is now worth more than gold bars to me.

Anyway, within a half hour of posting the family photo, Scott went on a genealogy jag, posting picture after picture of not only the Wehrles, but of the Kesslers, too. The Kesslers were my mom's side of the family, and suddenly, aunts, uncles and cousins were showing up on Facebook as fast as Scott could post them.

And I mean real cousins, not just pictures. Cousins Deb and Char started leaving comments under the pictures, and so were their children. Scott, David and myself responded to questions with questions of our own.

Uncle Eugene, holding Scott, with Deb and Char. Dave is too cool to touch.
Suddenly, we were having a cyberspace reunion. Oooing and ahhing all over the place. The conversation went on all morning, and into the next day. All that was missing were the hot dogs and beer.

It's kind of amusing to think I haven't touched base with Deb and Char in decades — probably not since we were kids ourselves — and now suddenly we were having extended and informative Facebook conversations.

I always thought Char, incidentally, had an interesting name: Charmayne (Shar-maine). It would be the best name in the family tree, if not for her mother, Adelaide.

 At any rate, there is some discussion about having a what's-left-of-the-family reunion. That would be cool. We think it should be in Bethlehem, PA., where both the Wehrles and the Kesslers originally germinated (or, if your prefer, German-ated, what with last names like those).

It's been a tasty couple of days. It's even been better than cake.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Shag lessons

A couple of weeks ago Kim had the bright idea that we needed to take some shag lessons.

She gets this idea every 15 years or so. This time, she learned that lessons were going to be given by Mark Tuttle at the Davidson County Recreation Department and wouldn't it be fun if we got our neighborhood friends together to take lessons with us?

Yeah, sure. Whatever.

I mean, we'd taken shag lessons twice previously in our married life together. The first time was about 20 years ago, and the second time was about 10 years after that. We'd learn a couple of nice moves, practice them, and then promptly forget them.

Don't get me wrong. I like to shag. It's a beautiful dance when it's done correctly and the music is spectacular: Miss Grace. Carolina Girls. Myrtle Beach Days. Stay. The list goes on and on.

Kim sent out an email to our friends about the lessons, but most were busy raising their own families (most are considerably younger than us wrinkled old codgers) and one by one had to decline the invite. Oh, well.

Anyway, I said, sure, let's go, it'll be fun.

Except about three days before the one-hour weekly lessons were to begin, I pulled a muscle in my left gluteus maximus while working out at the gym. I had a bum bum, and it was killing me. But I soldiered on.

The one thing that I'm not nuts about when taking shag lessons is that I quickly lose my intended partner. I feel most secure when I'm learning my steps with Kim, but every instructor we've had insists that we change partners halfway through learning the step. I'm not quite sure why this is because I'm pretty sure when I do learn the dance, Kim's pretty much going to be my permanent partner anyway.

So, whenever Mark shouted, "Men, to the right," I'd hobble over to my new date, grimacing the whole time. I hoped that my new partner didn't think I was grimacing at her, but how do you tell a woman — a total stranger at that — that your butt hurts?

Then the music would start and I'd soldier on.

We just completed our four hours of beginner classes and Kim signed us up for four more intermediate sessions. So far, we've learned the lead in, the basic steps, the Female Underarm Turn, the Belt Loop, the Chase, the She-He Turn (which has nothing to do with HB2) and the Cuddle. Coming up next are steps like the Sugar Foot, the Sugar Push, the Belly Roll (sounds like a bakery run) and Swagger.

I'm still not sure how proficient I want to become at this. I don't want to end up wearing gold necklaces and bracelets, but being a passable shagger would be good.

The video below is of Charlie Womble and Jackie McGee, legends in the World of Shag. If there's a Shag Hall of Fame, I think they're charter members in it. They look like they're dancing on ice. What they do is ridiculous to us normal humans, but it gives us novices something to aspire to. Sit back and enjoy:

Sunday, April 10, 2016


I love watching The Masters on television.

Part of that is because as a (horrible) golfer myself, I can empathize with some of the story lines falling over themselves this week at Augusta National. I mean, what duffer can't relate to Ernie Els penciling in a 9 on his scorecard after the first hole on Thursday? Heck, I do that at Lexington Golf Course all the time.

Another reason I like watching The Masters is because I've actually been to Augusta National. Twice. And not as a member of the media, either.

The first time happened about 25 years ago. That's when Gene Klump, then the athletic director at West Davidson High School, organized annual bus trips to Augusta to watch a Masters practice round. So I hitched a ride. Bucket list.

My prized Masters souvenir key fob
That was awesome. What sticks with me about that trip is that as we approached the golf course, we drove through one commercial district after another. Restaurant Row. Belly Boulevard. Sidewalk vendors. Parking, $50. Then we made a left-hand turn, went through a gate, and suddenly, in the midst of all this... this... stuff, we had entered a patch of heaven.

Voices became hushed. The rowdy bus riders had become reverential. I almost crossed myself, and I'm not even Catholic.

We were pretty much allowed to go wherever we wanted on the course (within bounds), just meet back at the bus at 3 p.m. So enjoy yourselves. And I did. I walked hither and yon, taking in sights I'd only seen on television before this, not quite believing where I was.

I needed something to remember this by, so I bought a key fob with The Masters logo on it. It's the only thing I could afford. To this day, it's a cherished possession. It's been restitched twice by a leather craftsman and it may need another visit soon.

My next visit to Augusta happened about eight years ago. My friend Chris had gotten hold of a pair of practice round tickets, and he'd give me one if I did the driving. Well, let me think about that for a min... OK, I'll drive.

Standing on the 11th fairway at Augusta National.
 So off we went. The weather was a little cooler this time, but the azaleas were in bloom and the course was in immaculate condition.

The commercialism still surrounds the course — at one point, we saw John Daly's RV parked just off Washington Road, selling golf stuff within sight of Magnolia Lane. I wondered if it was his personal golf stuff.

Nevertheless, once we got on the course, Chris and I walked everywhere. Even though this was my second visit, I was surprised by how hilly the course was. You don't really see the hills on TV, except, perhaps, for the 18th fairway.

So there it is. Somehow, I managed to get to Augusta National twice in my life. I don't know if that's a common thing, or not. I suppose the farther you live from Augusta, the more difficult the journey becomes.

But whenever I watch The Masters on television, I just kind of sit back and smile because, you know, I've seen heaven.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

It happens every spring

When I was a preteen, back in the early 1960s, I remember watching a Ray Milland movie titled "It Happens Every Spring."

It was a baseball movie, made in 1949, that was usually broadcast on our reliable black-and-white Motorola in time to herald in each new baseball season. It seems "It Happens Every Spring" actually happened every spring (for a few years, at least).

It was a fantasy flick about a college professor (Milland) who accidentally discovers a formula that makes objects repel wood. What you could actually use such a formula for in real life — even in 1949 — is beyond me. But Milland soon discovers that baseballs coated in this stuff will hop over wooden bats. So he becomes a baseball pitcher.

See It Happens Every Spring trailer here

It makes for an amusing little movie. The special effects used to make a baseball-like object jump over a swinging bat and then continue its trajectory straight into the catcher's glove were astounding for a 10-year-old like myself. It's CGI before there was CGI.

And it's still astounding, now that I think about it. Especially with Milland's throw-it-like-a-girl pitching delivery.

I guess this flick actually helped promote my love for baseball, and I often wondered why some genius somewhere couldn't actually invent a formula to make baseballs leap over bats — as if sliders, curves, knuckleballs, cutters, splitters, changeups and screwballs weren't enough to confound hitters.

So here we are: Opening Day. Upper case. The two best words in the English language. You can smell the optimism mingled with the newly mown grass. Yeah. Optimism. That's what baseball is. It's a hot dog with mustard and relish and the crack of the bat as a ball sails to the gap in deep left center — is it out of here?

Sports Illustrated delivered its baseball preview issue this week and the magazine that has gotten only one world champion prediction correct in the last 20 years (hey, I'll take those odds) is predicting Houston and Chicago (Cubs) in the World Series, with the Astros (who used to be in the National League) as the eventual champs.

Hmm. I like the Cubbies and I think their time has come. The Astros might be more of a stretch, but we'll see.

The team that I've pulled for my entire teenage-to-now life is the Philadelphia Phillies. They seem to be in a franchise-long rebuilding process (despite World Series titles in 1980 and 2008) and are coming off a 99-loss season a year ago.

Some nice draft picks, farm development and trades do offer some optimism, but a no-name pitching staff is still cause for concern.

I think they're still looking for a guy with a little hop in his pitches.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Glute-n free

I keep forgetting that I'm 65 years old.

On either my second or third day enjoying my Silver Sneakers membership at the J. Smith Young YMCA, I ambled over to the ab crunch machine. I figured this was a good place to start working on those love handles.

So I started crunching, thinking that five sets of 10 crunches every other day would be doable. Especially at 30 pounds of resistance.

Two sets in, I laughed at 30 pounds. "This is too easy," I thought, setting the weight at 40 pounds.


Two more sets later, I felt a tremble go through my left 65-year-old gluteus maximus. I didn't think much of it at the time, but later in the day, an annoying dull pain settled in where I sit. I compensated by walking awkwardly.

That was three weeks ago.

Since then, there's been a persistent reminder in my left glute that 30 pounds was exactly the right weight setting.

I've tried various remedies that have come from both friends and Google: apply cold. Apply heat. Take Ibuprofen. Don't take Ibuprofen. Keep working the muscle. Stay out of the gym.

Well, here's what I've been doing. I take two Advil in the morning. I go to the Y and continue my calorie-burning workouts (I've lost about 10 pounds since my birthday back in February), which actually makes me feel good.

And I discovered the Y's sauna and the whirlpool. Ten minutes in the whirlpool with my gluteus maximus in front of a strategically aimed jet is nearly as effective as a massage, I guess. I just hope I'm not sitting there in the pool with a dopey grin on my face as the glute gets worked over.

I then sit in the sauna for about 10 minutes, where it's about 170 degrees. I'm not sure if it's doing anything for my glute, but I do feel cleansed. Then, in the early evening, I take two more Advil.

I'm guessing the healing is in progress. While I'm not ready to run any 5Ks just yet (or probably ever), the annoying pain seems to be diminishing.

And to remember that there's absolutely nothing wrong with crunching 30 pounds. Especially at this age.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Dispatch reunion

I'd been anticipating this moment for a while, not quite sure that it was actually going to happen.

For several years, there'd been some talk — a lot of it from former publisher Joe Sink — of getting a Dispatch reunion put together. But that was it — mostly talk.

What a great turnout for the reunion.*
 Then, this past summer, while on a mini-vacation to Oak Island, former Dispatchers Neill Caldwell, my wife Kim (she'd worked there part-time) and myself (I'd worked there full-time) got together and, in the course of general conversation, resurrected the concept.

We made plans. We mentioned who we'd like to see again. Where do we have it? How do we contact people? Who pays for it? And, most importantly, who's going to organize it?

Memory falters, but I think Neill and Kim came up with the idea almost simultaneously: get Michelle to do it!

It was perfect. Michelle Moore, who was the former paginator at The Dispatch, could do anything. She'd designed the paper's pages. She's social. She knows people. She makes her own jewelry, for crying out loud. Most importantly, she wasn't with us on Oak Island to object. Neill immediately messaged her on his iPhone, and just as quickly, she agreed to do it. I guess that's serendipity.

Within days, Michelle had created a Facebook page for The Dispatch Reunion, and the wheels were suddenly in motion. Former and current employees were getting the word: meet at Yarborough's on March 19, pay for your own food and drinks from a special limited menu, and bring your memories.

Plus, we'd be able to celebrate Joe's 79th birthday.

A pretty good looking table right there... **
 Holy moley. Saturday arrived, and so did the guests. I think we had somewhere around 50 or 60 former employees show up, and with spouses, nearly 100 people filled the second-floor banquet hall.

At least six decades of Dispatch employees were represented (I personally spanned four of those decades).

Most of the evening was aimed at Joe. Several people rose to pay tribute, including former comptroller Wayne Brady, former ad representative Ron Wyatt and former sports editor/editor Larry Lyon. It was evident, by acclamation, that nobody ever had a better boss than The Dispatch employees who worked for Joe Sink.

I know we had five former sports guys on hand; there were also four former and current photographers; a bunch of newsroom reporter types, and a bushel of advertising and circulation folks.

So thanks to Neill and my wife for dreaming this up. And thanks to Michelle for putting it all together.

And thanks to Joe for being the reason to reunite in the first place. It was special.

 Joe Sink (left) with Anne Jackson Bullard and her husband.**

* Photo by Melissa Egelnick.
** Photo by Michelle Moore.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sarah Sue

The email came as a shock, as these type of emails heavy with lament often do.

This one told me that Sarah Sue Ingram, a former sportswriter for The Dispatch and a former editor of The Thomasville Times, had died of cancer early Monday morning. She was only 64.

Consequently, I couldn't believe my own eyes as they passed over her obituary.

 You see, when Sarah Sue left The Dispatch in the fall of 1976 to take a similar position with The High Point Enterprise, I was a wet-behind-the-ears rookie sportswriter that The Dispatch hired to replace her.

Sarah Sue Ingram
I say "to replace her" in the most generous of terms. I had no way of knowing back then that Sarah Sue had become something of a local legend in the three previous years that she worked at the paper. But, after reading some of her work, I sensed even then that I had some tough sneakers to fill.

She was a talented award-winning writer who loved to turn a clever phrase. She was quite knowledgeable about the games people play because she was a pretty good athlete herself. And she was beloved by many of her readers and colleagues, no doubt in part because of the inner light that sparkled behind her constantly smiling eyes.

Although we worked for competing newspapers, we became pretty good friends. In my first year at the The Dispatch, we found ourselves covering many of the same events. She had a degree in journalism (from the University of Georgia), while I barely knew what journalism was. So, whenever she could, she showed me the local ropes: a nuance here, some background there. It was much appreciated.

Back in the 1970s, it was a rare thing to have a female sportswriter on the scene. But as far as I know, she never suffered any indignity or discrimination. She always got the story. Athletes of both genders clearly trusted her and her instincts. That's all a journalist can ask.

Although I believe she was her own person, I think a part of her liked to model herself after pioneer female sportswriter Mary Garber, who worked for The Winston-Salem Journal. I know the two women were good friends who no doubt shared a common bond. Once, while covering an event together, Sarah Sue eagerly took me by the hand and introduced me to Ms. Garber. I couldn't help but feel as though I was somehow standing humbled in the middle of journalistic excellence — and transcendence.

Time came and went. Sarah Sue migrated to other jobs, including a stint in the N.C. State sports information office, where she had the opportunity to author the book "Pack Attack!: The 1983 Championship Season." But slowly, over time, we drifted apart as friends sometimes do. The last I had heard, she was on the North Carolina coast, doing what she loved best — writing for a newspaper.

Then came Monday's shocking email and a void suddenly bubbled up inside me. I didn't even know she had been ill, much less that she was in a High Point hospice. So while my sense of loss is agonizing, my admiration for her remains authentic. And always will.

Fare thee well, my friend. Fare thee well.