Sunday, January 28, 2018

Fly, Eagles, Fly

I barely had time to enjoy Philadelphia's resounding (and unlikely) 38-7 victory over Minnesota in the NFC championship game a week ago than, presto, there it was: Eagles quarterback Nick Foles calling signals on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

You know. As in cover jinx. A week before the Super Bowl. Thanks.

Let me take a step back. Although I've lived in Lexington for more than 40 years, I am an unapologetic Philadelphian at heart. I grew up in the Lehigh Valley (for most of my formative years, anyway), which is located just an hour north of Philly. That in itself probably explains why the corpuscles in my bloodstream run either Phillies Red or Eagles Green (It probably also explains why I have this unchecked hankering for cheese steaks, hoagies and Tastykakes). I can't help myself.

Almost immediately after it became clear that the Eagles and New England Patriots were going to the Super Bowl, a huge sigh of ennui seemingly escaped from fans who still care about the NFL. One reason for that is because nearly everybody is tired of seeing the Patriots return to their 15 hundredth consecutive Super Bowl (actually, this will be their eighth in the last 17 seasons). Another reason is because Philadelphia, I think, has mostly a regional following. We didn't see much of the Eagles on TV here in Lexington. And, by God, they have the worst fans ever (Hmmm).

And the worst fight song ever:

Thanks to Facebook, I also discovered some people still resent the Eagles for hiring dog abuser Michael Vick to quarterback the team, even though that was nearly a decade ago. While I was never thrilled with that original hire, my Green corpuscles are asking what this still has to do with anything today.

There are some good stories coming out of Philly. Foles took over the offense when second-year starter Carson Wentz, who was having a spectacular year, tore his left ACL against the Rams in Game 13. Up to that point, Wentz had passed for nearly 3,300 yards and 33 TDs and an 11-2 record. Whoa.

Panic erupted in Eagles-world, of course, but then came Foles, who has performed adequately, if not always consistently, in his back-up role. He was 2-1 to close out the regular season and 2-0 in the postseason. That's a pretty good story right there.

Also, defensive end Chris Long will donate his entire season's salary to educational charities.

Foles will be going up against New England's Tom Brady, already a Super Bowl legend. While I, too, am tired of seeing the Patriots win all the time, I've acknowledged to myself that Brady probably really is the greatest quarterback of all time. I guess we (the Eagles, that is) should want to play against the best. It'll either make victory spectacular or defeat expected. The Eagles are already underdogs, as they have been through the entire postseason.

In the meantime, I'm trying not to jinx my team. I'm not talking to my friends much about the Eagles. I hem and haw when I'm asked about their chances. I remained subdued in their big win over Minnesota, and stayed quietly pleased when Foles rose to the challenge.

I'll be a mess on Super Bowl Sunday. I'll have the TV on, but I'll be pacing around the room. Or channel surfing through the rough patches. Or going to my laptop in the other room to check Facebook or play a computer game. I might even tell Kim she can watch the Home and Garden Network as long as I can do some live check-ins on the game between flipping houses.

Where's my cheese steak?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Wedding Song

Two of our wine-tasting, porch partying, High Rock Outfittin' friends, Raeann Shaak Biesecker and Chris Allred, got married yesterday.

That in itself is not news. Anybody who knows them could see this coming.

What knocked me off my balance was the wedding itself.

Wait, wait. Before I type another word, let me preface this by saying the ceremony was beautiful, particularly in the vast, soaring sanctuary of First Reformed United Church of Christ. It just seemed somehow proper.

The happy couple...
But I knew right off something was a little different when we were ushered to our pew by Stacy Sosebee West. I'd never been ushered to my pew by a woman before, and it sort of gave new definition to the #MeToo moment ("Hey, I was ushered by a woman. Yeah, me too"). I came to learn that Raeann wanted to include as many of her friends as possible in the ceremony, even if it meant assuming nontraditional roles. "It was progressive," said another of her friends, Kristi Thornhill — who also happened to be an usher.

I no sooner took my seat and opened the program when one of the first things I saw was that Chris was going to sing a solo at his own wedding.

And that happened shortly after he escorted his mother to her seat. Chris was a busy guy. I turned to Kim and said, 37 years after the fact, "I never thought about escorting my mom to her seat. That was nice."

Anyway, I'd often heard that Chris had a beautiful singing voice, although I myself had never heard him sing, even after extended wine tastings. So I was eager to hear — and then was stunned — when he broke into the opening strains of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

After singing the familiar first lines of the tune, Chris (who has a beautiful baritenor voice) sang a version of the song adapted for weddings, and personalized it by adding Raeann's name to a verse or two. I was a quivering mass of jello by the time he was done. Kim was dabbing her eyes; I'm thinking she was probably grateful that I didn't sing at our wedding. I know I was.

Well done, Chris. Very well done.

Then came the processional. This was an exquisite moment, especially after Chris's solo. Raeann's mother, Dawn, passed away a little more than a year ago, and somewhere in the depths of all of our souls, her memory surely resonated within us. But Raeann had the great good fortune to be escorted down the aisle arm in arm not only by her father, Bob, but also by her son, Holt. And she was beaming. Absolutely beaming. That did my heart good.

And it occurred to me that when she reached the altar, she was safe in the arms of the three men that mean the most to her. Wow. What a wedding.

The rest of the ceremony was fairly traditional. Chris momentarily went blank during his portion of the responsive reading, giving us all a timely chuckle when we probably needed one the most, but the remainder of the ceremony was beautiful. They tied the knot.

There was a reception immediately afterwards, and then a party at the antebellum Homestead later that night featuring a low country boil and some honest hellraising the place probably hadn't seen since those damn Yankees took over back in 1865.

I don't know what it is about the weddings of my friends. I think the vows somehow take on a deeper, truer meaning when you actually know the people getting married, when they are your friends and not merely acquaintances. I covered Chris for The Dispatch when he was an athlete at Lexington; I wrote a piece about Raeann for the paper's Women's Section probably 20 years ago. And there were all those wine tastings and porch parties thrown into the mix.

So when they took their vows, it accented the vows my wife and I took 37 years ago, only now we have the perspective of time, experience and, yes, memory. We see what we've done right. We see where there is still room for growth. But it's pretty much come naturally for us, I think.

So, Godspeed to the rest of your lives together, Raeann and Chris.

Huzza, Hooray and, yes, Hallelujah.

Sunday, January 7, 2018


A couple days ago, I got an email from my brother, David, who lives in Washington state. He used to live in Anchorage, Alaska.

He emailed me wanting to know if I needed any advice about surviving cold weather. You know: how to keep my pipes unfrozen, etc. (not sure if he meant my house water pipes or my body's biological pipes), but I assured him that we'd had weather like this before in North Carolina – just not for such an extended period of time.

And it has been ridiculous. During this nation-wide cold snap, surface temperatures reached -30 or -40 in some areas, meaning it's actually been warmer in Anchorage than in some places in the continental United States. Hells' Bells, I've been told it's been warmer in some regions on the planet Mars, which on average is only 50-60 million miles farther from the sun than we are.

I have a cousin who lives in Vermont and she posts running commentary about how cold it is up there. This came just days after I saw a story trending on Facebook about the lava dome percolating under New England that could pose a significant problem sometime in the next several million years.

I suspect those frozen Yankees would welcome a small eruption about now – "just enough to keep our feet warm," replied my cousin. I think she was serious.

In fact, this morning, as I write this, it's 5 degrees here in Lexington. No, wait a minute: it just fell to 4 degrees. Of course. The sun is coming up.

Anyway, we've been doing our best to cope. Even though we keep the thermostat hovering around 70 degrees in our drafty 100-year-old house, Kim broke out an extra fleece-line afghan last night to add to our two other comforters, and it certainly didn't hurt when our 16-pound Ragdoll cat joined us at the foot of the bed.

Yet, I still can't seem to get warm enough. We have a couple of strategically placed space heaters in the house (one in our den, which has French doors and we can close off the room to make it reasonably toasty) and one in the bathroom, which really does keep our toes warm.

I've been drinking hot chocolate and shoveling down lots of Kim's chicken stew in an effort to maintain my body heat.

But relief could be on the way. The weather forecast tells me that we should be in the 50s by midweek, and maybe even in the 60s by the weekend. I may have to cut grass, I don't know.

But maybe we're about to turn a corner. In just a few more months, we can complain about how hot it is...