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.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Good neibors

I love sidewalks.

They connect communities with one another. They connect neighbors. They connect the essentials. They connect what otherwise cannot be connected.

So imagine our surprise early Sunday morning when we saw the walkway to our house suddenly transformed into a community chalkboard.

"Uh-oh," said Kim, expecting the worst. But then, she was looking at the walk from our porch, and the presumed vandalism was upside down. So we stepped down to investigate.

There, in pink chalk and in a child's hand was written: "We (heart) u neibors. From — Mary Evann."

And right below that was written, in Carolina blue chalk: "Go tar heels (then the overlayered UNC logo). You are the best neibors ever. Love, Sarah T."

Here. See for yourself:

At first, I was taken aback.

And then I started smiling.

And then Kim started laughing.

This was great. Mary Evann and Sarah T. are incredibly precocious twin sisters who live directly across the street from us. They are the 9-year-old daughters of Kristi and Dave Thornhill, and it seems like we've been watching the twins grow up from the moment they were born.

Hmm. I hope that doesn't sound creepy.

But we've watched them cavort dressed up as salt and pepper shakers, or as M&Ms, at Halloween; we've seen them sell lemonade as junior entrepreneurs from their own sidewalk on brutally hot summer days; we've seen them build snowmen in the winter; we've seen them pedal their bicycles through the neighborhood and we've enjoyed their remarkably logical and confident perspectives during our neighborhood porch parties.

So when these heartfelt messages showed up on our sidewalk (I figure it had to be done early Sunday morning as daylight savings went into effect), it was genuinely a touching moment for Kim and me. In fact, the editor in me didn't even mind the typos in their misspelling of "neighbors," and the more I thought about it, the more perfect it all became.

They'll be 10 years old soon, and that notion quickly struck home, too. In the blink of an eye, the babies that Dave and Kristi brought home nearly a decade ago will be driving cars, dating, voting for presidents. I hadn't thought of this before right now, but suddenly, I want to be at their high school graduation; I want to be at their weddings.

And I want to tell them that they're the best neibors ever.

Lost, and found

The last thing we needed was another cat.

I mean, we already have a 1-year-old Ragdoll who stays with us free of charge. Her name is Halo, and she's a handful. Literally. She's 13 pounds of lean muscle and curiosity, and she's still growing. And because I'm 65 years old, she's probably going to be my last cat.

Plus, Kim and I have a lengthy history of catlodging: Pewter and Schmidt, Mosey and Do-Little, and now Halo. All together, our feline lineage covers more than 30 years of cat care.

But I was outside my house the other day, in the backyard, when I heard the ominous cries. Uh-oh. There, huddled next to my shed, was a frightened tortoiseshell kitten. I figured it was about six weeks old. Maybe younger. I didn't know if it was feral or abandoned, or if it had cleverly planned an escape from its litter.

But here it was. Uh-oh.

Kenda Strickland poses with her new friend...
 What now? I couldn't leave her in the wild: although we live within the city limits, dogs occasionally roam the neighborhood. There are also birds of prey, like hawks and owls, on combat air patrol above our house. I couldn't leave the kitten to deal with that. It at least deserved a chance. What to do?

So naturally, I went into panic mode. It's what I do best. And that meant there was, logically, only one place left for me to turn: I called Kim at work.

I explained to her about the kitten I'd found, and what are we going to do? Keep it? Take it to the vet? Take it to the shelter? What? What?

I could hear Kim take a breath. I figured she was counting to 10. "Take a picture of it and put it on Facebook," said Kim. Then she would ask around at work.

Well, that was easy. I did what she said, and within minutes, there was interest all over Facebook. Awww, it's so cute. Awww, it's adorable. Awww, it's yours.

 I had my doubts. It's never easy to find somebody to take a lost cat because, well, cats are everywhere (here's where I make my plea for spaying or neutering). But as the day turned out, one of Kim's co-workers, Kenda Strickland, offered to take the kitten home on a trial basis. That was Tuesday. It's now Sunday. Yes.

Kenda's young son, Seth, has really taken to the cat and even has given it the name of Melody. Apparently, he's become the kitten's primary caregiver while his sister, Kennedy, provides support. There's still work ahead, of course. Melody needs a complete physical to make sure she is indeed a healthy cat. Somebody is going to have to endure litter training. And she'll need to be spayed.

But Kenda says that Melody is a treasure, affectionate and complete with a very loud motor for a kitten so small. Melody, by turn, is probably grateful she doesn't have to cower and hide and wonder from where her next meal is coming.

Everybody got lucky on this one. I really like the way this is turning out.

Friday, March 11, 2016

My ACC Tourney rant

While watching Wednesday's ACC Tournament quarterfinal game between Georgia Tech and Clemson, it occurred to me that I was seeing a lot of empty seats in the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, where the tournament is being played.

I wondered why. I mean, it's the ACC Tournament, for crying out loud. It was a 7 p.m. prime time  game, and yet from what I could see on TV, the 18,000-plus area was peppered with vacant seats.

Even press row looked sparsely populated.

So I did what any rational person would do when looking for an answer and I went to Facebook. I typed in "Under no circumstances should the ACC Tournament be played at any venue other than the Greensboro Coliseum. All those empty seats at the Verizon Center are an embarrassment," expecting maybe to collect a like or two.

I got a can of worms instead. Sort of.

Most of the handful of commenters agreed with me. The Greensboro Coliseum was always a great venue for the tournament. For one thing, Greensboro represents the historic headquarters of the ACC. It's also the geographic center for the conference. And it's intrinsically Southern, with all the hospitality that implies. It's just a natural fit.

The primary debate came from my friend, Dave Goren, the former sports director for WXII. Dave made some valid points, noting that there have been empty seats when the tourney was in Greensboro, and I suggested that the four Tobacco Road teams (North Carolina, Duke, N.C. State and Wake Forest) almost always drew the biggest crowds, no matter who they played.

I also suggested that expansion watered down the tournament, and when the tourney site moved away from Greensboro, it was moving away from its roots. It's hard for me to imagine New Yorkers or Bostonians or South Benders to feel the same kind passion for the tourney as the ACC's charter members. Plus, moving the tourney site from its center increases travel distances and accommodations for somebody.

Expansion and moving the tourney to large population centers is all motivated by money, of course. Television. High rollers. Consequently, the tourney feels a little unwieldy right now. Too many teams. Overkill. One suggestion, from Facebook friend John Strickland, suggested only the top eight teams in the league should play in the tourney. And you know what? That's not a half bad idea. It puts a greater premium on the regular season. And it brings back a tourney format most of us are used to.

The trouble is, Pandora is already out of her box. The league will never shrink because the money is too great.

All that's left is to pine for the good ol' days.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Infrastructure redo

While the rest of the American infrastructure seems to be crumbling beneath our very feet (witness Flint, MI), little ol' Lexington suddenly seems to be a national leader in infrastructure renewal.

Three years ago we saw the Center Street bridges over Abbott's Creek at the south end of town and the one over Business I-85 at the north end of town undergo major face lifts. Both at the same time (see here). That was fun, wasn't it?

Prior to that, the Center Street bridge spanning the Southern Railway line was brought into the 21st century.

And now, another Center Street bridge, the one crossing over Talbert Boulevard, is currently getting its makeover. It wasn't too long ago that the bridge was plagued by a sink hole, so undoubtedly the new span was needed. I'm pretty sure nobody wanted to cross Talbert by driving through a sink hole to get under the bridge.

Waiting patiently for a new bridge to appear...
And, before too long, the Highway 8 bridge over Business I-85 will not only be rebuilt, but a whole new interchange will take its place.

Every time you turn around, it seems, a new bridge is replacing an old one. All this improvement has to make Lexington one of the most progressive places on the planet. A model of small town infrastructure reform.

The detours are tedious, of course. My wife works at an office, near the old hospital, that is within sight of the bridge construction. But this also requires rerouting traffic, and what used to be a simple five-minute drive from our house to her workplace parking lot has doubled in time.

With all the bridge work that's already been done in town, we should be used to it by now. Besides, we're running out of bridges to fix.

The detours do seem to be a small price to pay for the improvement that is coming. The projected completion date for the bridge is sometime in August — before winter —  so we seem to be moving right along.

Kinda feels neat to be a national leader, doesn't it?