Dreaming of the Show

There is an old saying that it’s better to be lucky than good. Add hard work and determination and you have William Lane Vest. Last week the Detroit Tigers drafted Will in the 12th round.

Will is a right handed middle inning reliever and set up man. According to the blog SB Nation, “Vest was originally an infielder who transitioned to the mound prior to the 2017 season. He fared quite well.”

Will’s introduction to baseball came at an early age. He and his two brothers, Clint and Drew, were throwing and handling a baseball by the time they could walk. Their dad, Matt (my brother) didn’t want to waste any time. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he sneaked a baseball into their cribs just to give them the feel of it right off.

Baseball is more than a tradition for the Vests; it’s a way of life. Clint and Drew have their own families now and are already passing it on to their new-born sons. I was there during draft week and saw a baby sitting up as a dad pushed a slow roller to him; the wee lad stopped it with one hand and sent it back with authority.

When Will was in kindergarten, Father Matt and Mother Melanie attended a function at his school and noticed that the kids had answered the question, “What do you want to do when you grow up.” Will said he would play major league baseball.

The poet Donald Hall wrote “Baseball is fathers and sons playing catch, lazy and murderous, wild and controlled, the profound archaic song of birth, growth, age and death. This diamond encloses what we are.”

The official line on Will is that he used to play shortstop, and became a pitcher just before the 2017 season. That’s true, but not the whole story.

Back in 2015 Will was pitching on scout day and felt a pop in his arm. One more pop and he knew something wasn’t right. He had torn the ligament in his elbow, and soon would have Tommy John surgery. Will knew he would have to be motivated to stay in the game. So he posted a daily reminder on his bedroom wall to help him stay focused:

“Rome wasn’t built in one day; you have to work for it. Don’t give up. Goal: Get healthy and get drafted !! What have you done today to get BETTER?

His determination and work ethic paid off. One and a half years later he was playing baseball again.  Will began facing live hitters just this past February. According to the Detroit News, “In Vest, the Tigers landed a pitcher who had collegiate success as a reliever. This season, in 31 games, all relief appearances, he posted a 1.38 ERA and struck out 46 in 45.2 innings. Interestingly, the 6-1, 190-pounder spent his first two seasons as a hitter, before making the transition to the mound.”

Will throws a 92 mph plus fastball and has a curve and change up.

I don’t know much about the percentage of young draftees who make it to the “Bigs.” But the Tigers drafted twenty-one pitchers, so it seems like some hefty competition to me. I’ll put my money on Will; he’s worked hard a long time for this moment.

http://www.sfajacks.com/sports/m-basebl/spec-rel/061417aac.htmlWill Vest Pitching (2)

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Oz Never Gave Nothin’ to the Tin Man That He Didn’t, Didn’t Already Have.

Just as I was getting used to the idea of being old it suddenly hit me; I have acute NLC, a major disorder affecting more and more baby boomers every day: No Longer Cool.

I have no scientific polling to back me up but it’s certain that at least 33% of my friends right now are saying, “Dude, you were never cool.”

At the dentist today I won a special teeth whitening gizmo because I was the only one in the office that could name who was singing on their Sirius feed. It was Billy Joel, “Don’t go changing.” This is uncool on so many levels.  Mainly that I admitted it because I wanted to get something for free.

I also recognized all the other songs that were playing and I realized that Sirius is today’s Muzak; nice and inoffensive tunes to help you pass the day. And I wanted to weep; these were all very popular hit songs, some considered progressive, now consigned to a digital graveyard; Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Lucky Man; Joni Mitchel’s Free man in Paris; even Gordon Lightfoot.

There are other signs of onset or total NLC; you pay for your groceries or have other interactions with cute young women who take your credit card and seem somehow not to see you; they don’t, as you crawl over 60 you become invisible to wide swaths of millennials and other young whippersnappers.

When you watch TV news the anchors and reporters all look to be roughly twelve years old. As a former TV news reporter I’m amazed at how talented reporters are in walking, up and back, over and around, even backwards. Of course I never really get what they’re saying I’m too focused on their agility.

I’m getting the chance to do some acting now that I’ve retired. Theaters abound in Wilmington, NC. In between rehearsing scenes I began to notice that sometimes I can’t understand the conversation of my younger counterparts. They talk too fast, with enormous youthful energy and discuss popular culture and digital fancies that completely elude me. It’s like being in an Aaron Sorkin play and I’ve forgotten my lines and lost my place. Wait. I am in Sorkin’s “A Few Good Men,” at the Red Barn, weekends May 6 to May 22.

It has been pointed out to me by my wardrobe manger, (my wife Sue) that when it comes to clothing I have acute NLC with Catastrophic NAGL (Not a Good Look). I own several pairs of slacks that have pleats and I’m not afraid to wear them.

No point in discussing hair, not enough to warrant serious attention.

And finally I return to music. Mostly I love the blues and guitar bands; Widespread Panic, Los Lobos, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. I miss the Dead and always will.

But I have a confession to make I love “Fresh Radio,” Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Meghan Trainor and other pop stars that bring out my inner tween. I don’t know how this happened or why, it just is.

There is no cure for NLC; it’s a progressive disorder that plunges one ever downward until you’re left alone in a nice warm place somewhere singing Tay Tay’s songs in your addled mind.

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Pictures of Home

I laughed when Mitt Romney talked about the trees being the right height. Everybody did. He was home in Michigan feeling nostalgic and happy.

We just returned from a weekend in Maryland. It was my first time since moving to Wilmington. Driving around I saw a few tall Pine trees. They were a pale shadow of the majestic pines of Wilmington. Then I realized that Romney meant the trees were familiar, he was home.

We were visiting the old home town to celebrate Jeremy’s 30th birthday. At the party a former neighbor asked me if the new place felt like home. For some reason I couldn’t answer right away. It was easy for him, “Home is where you open the front door, put down your bag, and there you are.”

I couldn’t help but wonder what does home mean? Everyone knows what home is, it’s instinctual, natural. But it means something different to each of us.

I could still be in transition. We lived in the DC area for nearly 40 years, half that in the Kentlands. Now we’re six hours south in the lovely town of Wilmington. It’s where a church has posted a sign proclaiming “God’s peace to all who pass by here.” No crafty modern day allusions from the bible, just peace.

Maybe home is our new hometown newspaper with a banner headline on the front page declaring, “Snoop Dog to play Azalea festival.” It’s also recording more gunfire this year with that new-fangled shoot-o-meter. Is it time to move back to DC where it’s safer?

Home is memories. The house where I came of age in Houston and the party I had when the rest of my family was on vacation in Arkansas. Fearing our neighbors would catch on, everyone followed my explicit instructions to pull up at the end of the drive way and not to enter the house carrying booze. Only one of my pals ignored my request, brazenly parking in the street and walking up the sidewalk to the front door with a fifth that looked three times bigger than it was. I couldn’t drink enough that night to calm my panic.

Then there is the memory of my father pulling me into the living room and shutting the doors on my first day back home after running away. L. E. never showed much emotion and he was a rigid disciplinarian. That morning he said he had no idea why I felt I had to run away. He apologized, said he loved me and that if I felt that way again, come to him first and he’d take care of it.

Memories can sneak up on you. Enjoying our time with the folks who let us stay with them for the long weekend, I spotted Jesse in one of their photos on the refrigerator. It was from swim team many years ago, when they were still carefree kids. In the foreground were two of their sons, Jesse was in the background wearing his swim googles, looking straight into the camera with that smile, that heart crushing smile. He died four years ago but I miss that beguiling grin every day.

Home is waiting for the next amazing pronouncement from Jeremy, “I won’t be a swindler for the truth,” and “you don’t really get to know your parents until you’re born,”

Home is nowhere near where you live. It’s on top of the Shenandoah Mountains on our first and last camping trip. Easter time what could go wrong. An ice storm hit an hour before sundown. Dinner was dried macaroni and cheese we had to mix with boiling water. Ever boiled water on a barbeque grill? It made it but the mixture almost froze as we tried to stir it in. Sue and I looked at each other and laughed out loud. We couldn’t stop.

We have posted a picture on the wall by the front door of our new home. The friend who put us up last weekend took the shot of our house in the Kentlands during last year’s big snowstorm. Every time we step through the door we are reminded that we will never have snow like that in our new home.

So it is where you set down your bag, where churches wish you peace, with pine trees that are suitably tall and commanding, and trying to imagine Snoop Dog’s set list. Right now, home is in Wilmington, presenting us with new challenges and adventures that we will enjoy and think of fondly when we’re in another home far away.

“Take Me Home” – TomWaits

 

 

 

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TED’S A HOSER

When are news organizations and political experts going to gas up the Ted Cruz was not “natural born” movement.

Article II, Section 1, Clause 5

“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; ”

President Obama had to suffer through his birther nonsense. He still does. So why does Ted Cruz, born in Canada, get a pass. Cruz supporters claim that the constitutional birth requirement is satisfied if a candidate is foreign born, as long as his/her parents were US citizens.

But was Momma Cruz a US citizen prior to baby Teddies’ birth?

Busted!

It now appears that both of Cruz’s parents may have been Canadian at the time of the blessed event.

Questions are raised in a documented timeline of public records and legal experts published by the Examiner online.

The Examiner also notes that a recent FOIA request for Cruz’s US naturalization papers, “if they exist,” was denied. An FOIA would have to be requested by Cruz himself.

So Senator Cruz: Quit the cover up, and release your birth records so the American people can know if you are violating the United States Constitution, a document you have professed to revere on many occasions.

Even if Cruz can prove his citizenship, he is still in hot water.

When President Obama was subjected to questions about his birthright he was in exactly the same position Cruz maintains he is in today; born of a mother born in the USA.

That is the identical status Trump and others have claimed rendered Obama ineligible to serve as President:

Obama born in Kenya; mother born in the USA.
Cruz born in Canada; mother born in the USA

By the way, Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 has never been legally tested. A lawsuit was filed against Obama in 2008 but it was thrown out because the claimant didn’t have standing. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Finally, before the Trump bullshit on this begins, Hillary had nothing to do with the birther movement as Donald and his tragic hair have repeatedly claimed.

What are we waiting for? A GOP presidential candidate is out there violating the Constitution. Let’s giddy-up and bring him to justice.

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Treading Water; an Interview with God

“Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.”
–William Shakespeare

Life Its Ownself caught up with God as he was enjoying a Partagas #1 in a back room at the Palm in downtown DC. Dressed in his ethereal best, with a gauzy look like Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca,” the big Guy said he only liked the Palm when the lobbyists weren’t around. “If I had created them first wouldn’t have needed snakes.”

The last time we spoke to God we were seeking an opinion on the film Noah. With this week’s global meeting on climate change we felt it was time to have another chat.

Life Its Ownself:

Thanks for joining us. How have you been?

God:

All right I suppose. I know you want to talk about climate change and we will, but first: Really! Another mass shooting? When I gave you humans the ability to be self-aware to think and to create I never had automatic weapons in mind. I also never expected you idiots to allow your fellow humans to kill wantonly, abundantly. Fuck the second amendment and the Supreme Court too; get rid of the guns for Christ’s sake (Sorry Son).
Where were we?

Life Its Ownself:

Climate change. I imagine you have a message for the world leaders who will be talking about global warming in Paris.

God:

Right. Here’s the deal. You’ve been talking about doing something to stop global warming for twenty years. Time is running out.

Life Its Ownself:

I don’t want to be disrespectful but there are still a lot of people who don’t believe it’s real. There are even those who are convinced “global warming,” is a hoax. What do you say to them?

God:

Most of you humans think I’ve got it easy being all powerful and all. But I gotta tell you I get weary sometimes. You folks make me tired. Climate change is one of those problems that should have been solved a long time ago. I mean this meeting has set a goal to stop increases in warming above 2 degrees Celsius. Why does it take a week?*

*Editors note: God is not a scientist he has people that take care of that. That means real scientists with advanced degrees who have conducted major research, and have published dozens of peer reviewed papers in scientific journals; not hacks bought and paid for by the oil & gas industry; or random dudes who post climate change denial nonsense and try to claim there is nothing to worry about.

Life Its Ownself:

Got it. So what does the science say?

God:

It’s getting hotter for Christ’s sake! (Sorry again Son). Corrected for errors temperatures have gone up about 0.3 to 0.6 Celsius during the last 150 years. Since 1975 temperatures are shooting up faster than for any previous period of the same length of time.

Life Its Ownself:

And this is melting glaciers and ice sheets?

God:

Even if the goal of 2C is met, sea levels may still rise rise at least 6 meters (20 feet) above their current heights. Now that I’ve retired to the east coast of North Carolina I’m going to see to it that world governments get it in gear. If you haven’t seen it yet check out glaciers collapsing into the sea for yourself.

Life Its Ownself:

But, how do you account for all those on the other side who argue that global warming is being exaggerated and is the result of a worldwide conspiracy?

God:

Do I really have to respond to that? Do you have any idea what it would take to mount such a conspiracy? Please.

Life Its Own Self

Any final thoughts?

God:

I mean how many meetings do you people need to have before you get the message.

5717242910_d99a1f5dc7_z water

 

 

 

 

Visit photographer Gary Braasch’s web site to see additional visual proof of climate change.

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Down Home

“The morning star always gets wonderful bright the minute before it has to go doesn’t it.”
“Our Town” – Thornton Wilder

We’ve been in Wilmington long enough to get a pretty good feeling about our new town. Still aren’t accustomed to how close everything is. We always show up at least ten minutes early. Having lived in Casper, Wyoming which is farther away from everything than anywhere else, it’s nice to be in a small town, especially one so close to the beach and the Cape Fear River.

Wilmington (1)But I have to admit, driving around it strikes me that Wilmington can’t quite make up its mind what it wants to be; beach town with all the kitsch and strip malls you would expect to find; hipster paradise where college students and the cool kids can hang out downtown “where stars sit at bars and decide what they’re drinking,” stirring jealousy in the hearts of old farts like me; a vibrant and burgeoning artistic community embracing painters, sculptors, screen writers, playwrights, novelists, actors and filmmakers; and an elegant past standing proudly on guard slowing down the pace of time.

The pine trees here, the ones the money grubbers haven’t gotten to yet, stand tall and majestic in the older parts of the Forest Hills suburb, developed after automobiles became more common. The tall pines were, and remain, an important part of the North Carolina economy. (These are loblolly, I think.) Not the wood so much but the tree’s by products of tar, pitch and rosin, hence the Tar Heel State.

003007As you pass by the stately mansions you know you’re in the south. And folks are friendly. As I was taking these pictures one of the owners pulled up, gave me its history and invited me in to come in and take a look at the crown moldings.

We don’t live far away, but definitely on the other side of the tracks. What did Rosanne say, “We’re your worst nightmare, white trash with money.”

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Thing is, less than a mile away, as the crow flies, there are used car lots, pawn shops, tattoo parlors, fast food, a whole bunch of ambulance chasing trial lawyers, and one law firm calling themselves proctors of Admiralty, and of course the local Hooters. It is a college town. There are also war fighters here, and pilots whose jets appear out of no where skimming the tops of the pine trees as they do their hook-and-runs then blast away.

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It doesn’t take long to read the local newspaper the Star News. The newspaper is perfect for a small town, the weather and high school football are more important than the daily pitch and pull we left behind in Washington. Although we’re not used to the extremely conservative state politics. Probably never will be.

The Star News includes family life tributes to the dearly departed on page four of the main section. Families pay for  final words from the stories they want to be remembered. Never saw that before. Port City is that kind of place, young and vigorous, side by side with folks living their final chapter. So I guess it makes sense that funeral parlors and crematoriums advertise on local TV.

No reason to go into local TV news, featuring crime and crime and more crime and murders. I think it makes a lot of white people nervous. And that’s because unless you live in one of the gated communities you are likely in a house rather close to folks living in economic distress, where the crime is. You don’t have to be an anthropologist to figure that out.

It is worth noting that Wilmington was the scene of unspeakable crimes against African Americans after the Civil War. In the “Wilmington Insurrection of 1898,” white supremacists, called the Red Shirts, used violence and intimidation to suppress black voting. What a novel idea. Thank God nothing like that happens anymore in America.

They burned down a black owned newspaper and ran off duly elected local officials at gun point, replacing them with members of the Red Shirts. After a few days of upheaval they spurred riots killing as many as 100 African Americans. The subject of a new documentary entitled, “Wilmington on Fire,” the white supremacist’s riot has been called the only successful coup d’ etat in American history.*

Wow. That sure puts a damper on the old beach party.

History is always there. You can try to ignore it, like a dim shadow on a cloudy day, but it never goes away.

That was a long time ago. The Red Shirts are gone and I think this is a peaceful town where people do their best to get along in life and with each other.

And since we can all use a little help and support in life, I encourage my fellow residents to drive south on 17th street and look to the left just as you approach Market street. Do it at least once a day.

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Peace

Wilmington on Fire will be featured at next week’s Cucalorus Festival, a noted film festival “supporting innovative artists and encouraging creative exchange. The festival features screenings of 150 films around the world.”

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Bang for the Bucks

As long as the debate over gun safety is centered on policy and the 2nd amendment the NRA will win and gun safety and sanity will continue to lose.

We have to shift the debate to profits over people. The NRA fights every policy idea, backed by members of Congress who want their money and fear that it may be used against them.

The NRA has a simple mission and strategy. Any changes to make guns safer no matter how small may slow down gun sales and depress gun profits. Mass killings don’t matter. Gun profits do.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, so far this year the NRA has spent nearly $1.8 million lobbying the US Congress. That’s a drop from the last two years: $3.3 million in 2014 and $3.4 in 2013.

During the 2012 – 2014 election cycle the NRA spent $11,745, 92 on direct political contributions. The gun lobby’s outside spending, independent expenditures or electioneering communications, totaled $47,979,761.

You can check to see how much your Member of Congress received from the NRA at Open Secrets.org. The NRA has pretty much given up on Democrats. But the GOP is doing just fine.

According to a Washington Post report in 2012, “This year the industry is expected to rack up a steady $11.7 billion in sales and $993 million in profit.” According to the National Sports Shooting Foundation, in the same year guns had a $38.1 billion impact on the American economy, including jobs, and new sales taxes. That’s up from $27.8 billion in 2009.

Here are some key facts from the Washington Post story:

Obama has been good for the gun industry due to fears of new restrictions
Handguns make up half of the guns produced in the US
Ammunition is a major factor in gun industry revenues consisting almost 30% of sales
Wall-Mart is the largest gun seller in the US

The NRA even fights the gun companies when they stray; Smith and Wesson wanted to limit the size of magazines, and avoid dealers who sold guns later used in crimes. The NRA led a boycott against the company. Its sales fell 44% and it was nearly killed. The company eventually returned to the NRA’s good graces.

With the NRA in charge, no gun-control has passed Congress since 1999. So the next time you get into an argument with that friend who is a gun nut and he starts to carry on about the 2nd amendment, using it as a shield against doing anything that makes sense, stop him cold and say, Bullshit, it’s about the money.

The NRA and its gun manufacturing patrons will protect their profits at all costs, no matter how many innocent people have to die.

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Trumped

Donald Trump almost makes me want to come out of retirement and get back into the crisis communications business. He makes it seem so easy.

When I worked with corporations and individuals there was a simple three part formula that worked to solve most every communications crisis:

React with concern:

“We are shocked and troubled that the engines on our latest SUV explode when drivers turn on the ignition.”

(Notice the spokesman would seem to regret this horror but would not take responsibility. Assuming responsibility makes the hearts of trial lawyer’s race like NASCAR. That is if they have hearts.)

“We had no idea this was an extensive problem in our new line of SUVs”:

This is the hardest part you have to look like a carless idiot, but it sets up number three.

We’re fixing the problem:

‘We are already investigating the cause of this terrible tragedy and will take immediate steps to ensure it never happens again.”

(Notice this doesn’t say you’re promising it won’t happen again, just creating a program to make sure it doesn’t happen again.)

This is what you say in public. Privately you say to the lawyers who are suing you for every last dime, “who do we pay and how much is the check.” Corporations want this matter settled; uncertainty is bad for the stock value. And also because, in discovery lawyers will find some email or memo or something written down that someone in your employ was aware of the problem. So you either did know or should have known that adding a small part at a cost of a nickel would have prevented the whole deal. You want to settle.

Along the way the CEO or spokesman will have to do dozens of painful interviews where they follow the formula above. There will be hidden video showing you had to know about this, so you’re either stupid or lying or both. Self-righteous TV and print reporters will go out of their way to make you look heartless and venal.

No sweat, media training will help the corporate shill get through the public beating, with the help of a set of ironclad rules I used to call: Keys to Control.

Deliver your message and stop talking
Bridge to the positive
Be affirmative
Avoid “No comment”
Correct rumor and misinformation
Anticipate negative questions
Maintain eye contact
Be upbeat and positive
Smile and keep your sense of humor; be animated and energetic

Donald Trump has reduced crisis communications and everything I’ve just laid out, down to two simple words “Bite Me.” And he tops it off with attacking the reporter and the media outlet, relentlessly.

OK, I know you can’t compare politics to corporations who have to worry about their stock and pissing off their customers. Trump’s voters don’t care about policy or that most of what he says he’ll do is an uninformed lie that sounds wonderful. Customers can be a lot pickier.

But today’s media landscape is fragmented and there are more sources than ever to get your message out. So go with “Bite Me.”

Years ago, I wrote a short how-to manual on media relations called, “The Zen of Spin.”

I think I’ll start working on a new one in this era of Trump: “Screw your customers, pollute the river and lie your ass off.”

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Port City

Wilmington North Carolina is a nice place to dream. Where you dream is important because place matters.

I used to work at the Metropolitan Policy Project at the Brookings Institution. One of the projects main themes was that “metros” – cities and urban areas – matter. In a way it’s an outgrowth of what we used to know as urban renewal in the 70s. But that movement was accompanied by gentrification so urban renewal became known as “negro removal,” and it faded away.

Metro’s matter is a concept and research topic focused on restoring economic prosperity to cities and towns. Where you do business and live your life matters. That may be hard to accept these days when you can be the CEO of a billion dollar company and run it from your lap top on top of a mountain, say Denali.

We conducted focus groups to test the idea of “Metro’s matter,” and found that what you give up on that mountain are the economic clusters in metropolitan communities that spur innovation. The exchange of ideas and information and the proximity of companies, university and medical centers or –in the think tank world “Eds & Meds—the idea of logistics and that supplies and support are important to business so it makes sense they’re all close together.

The focus group got what it meant but didn’t think of it as particularly important, including a glass blower who moved to Pittsburgh for a very important reason. She retired from the computer business and moved to Pittsburgh because she wanted to perfect her art and the city has a thriving community of glass artists. She spoke quite eloquently about how inspirational and important to her work it is to be among so many gifted artists. But when asked why Pittsburgh and why in that particular spot she said that the main reason was that the equipment and the raw materials were available.

I’ve lived in Wilmington, NC for about three weeks now. And as I make my way around town and learn about its special qualities; place matters has been on my mind. On a recent Friday night we had dinner at an outside table –USA Today has rated Wilmington as the “Best Al Fresco Dinning Neighborhood.”

(A cynical friend noted that it simply meant more folks from Wilmington called in than other towns in the competition.)

Maybe, but it was a pleasant place to dine as we watched the Friday night revelers wander down Front street and gazed at the mighty Caper Fear River rolling on.

Earlier we took part in “Fourth Friday” a walking tour of art galleries and some amazing local artists. I’m certain they thrive here because of support from galleries, art lovers who live here and their fellow artists.

We came back down to earth on the way home as we passed through a crowd caught up in the wonder of a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band (great drum solo). I couldn’t tell them apart although I was stunned that no one was yelling “Free Bird!”

I’m told they used to have local and state musicians play but now show only tribute bands. We need to start a campaign about that.

It’s not my intention to write a travelogue, but to note that the Port City has art, theater and commerce that continues to organically grow here.

(The Thalian Community Theater is one of the oldest in the nation. There are a handful of community theaters mounting excellent productions year round.)

There is much to do and take part in here. And like the Pittsburgh artist it’s inspiring and the tools are here to help you create art or even start a new business. By the way, Wilmington is also rated as one of the top cities to start a new business.

Now if we can only get the parsimonious state legislature to restore the tax incentives to the major Hollywood studios we can bring film jobs back to the city.

Oh and by the way they have a radio station here called the Penguin. They play a wide mix of what we used to call “progressive” music including the Grateful Dead. Where else but Wilmington. After all, it’s a nice place to dream.

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You’ll Never leak in this Town Again

This old porch is just a long time of waiting and forgetting
Remembering the coming back, not crying about the leaving
And remembering the falling down and the laughter of the curse of luck
From all those son’s of bitches who said, “We’d never get back up” ‘
-Robert Earl Keen

 

I’m a late bloomer. Here I am about to move away from DC and I finally realize the cause of all my problems over the years. The secret is that I gave a fuck to many times.

Not giving a fuck doesn’t mean you don’t care. It just means that you don’t let things like ideology and purpose dominate and overwhelm you. In other words, only give a fuck when it’s truly needed.

Take care of business and put on your sailing shoes and glide away. Don’t give away too many fucks and the rest will take care of itself. *

I had it half right. I was never a true believer. Of course when I was a TV journalist devotion to a set of ideals was never a factor. I just got the story done as soon as possible, infused as many negatives and pissed of as many people as I could. Mark Twain once had this to say about journalism, “Gather the facts as fast as you can and distort them at your leisure.”

The idea of being a true believer in TV news is laughable. Journalism is just about dead, it’s barely breathing. That’s true especially in local TV news. In the immortal words of genius photographer and all around wise man Mike “Pierre’ Plews, who was once forced to butcher a pretty nice spot. He shrugged his shoulders and said in resignation, “When you work for the pound you have to gas a few puppies.”

In the second half of my career I worked in advocacy communications and PR. Ardor is required for most organizations involved in lobbying and advocacy. Not me. Oh sure there are a lot of things I care about: the federal government should confiscate weapons from everyone who is not a member of the military or in law enforcement; Healthcare for all; Immediate and enforced reductions in carbon emissions; and re-training camps for all those who still don’t understand that the Rebel flag and Confederacy were about slavery, and slavery alone.

I once worked for a Washington, D.C. association representing litigious professionals nationwide. In one of the weekly lobby meetings a Republican proposal was being discussed. The measure would have granted immunity to volunteers who help their communities and people in need, but had caused or were negligent in mishaps causing injury or death. The head lobbyist cut off discussion immediately saying, “No immunity. Never. Nuns driving crippled children in a bus off a bridge into a muddy flooding river below. Never.”

 

Overall I had a successful career in communications and PR. I was a solid media trainer, excellent on message and OK on strategury. I probably should have marketed myself as a “big brain,” more strategy and less actual work.

I was once working with a friend who was and is a total big brain. He would often have to tell me that I should get up out of the trench once in a while and wipe the shit of my goggles, so I could make sure I was on the right track. Oh well.

I’ve lived and worked in the Washington, DC area since the early 1970s. Now Sue, Jeremy and I are packing up to move to Wilmington, NC. There are a lot of people I will miss, but not the town.

One thing I won’t miss is how when you meet someone in DC the first thing they want to know is where you work. In other words what is your connection to power and what can you do for me. I went to a party once when I was out of work. I had just finished my one and only political campaign and was job hunting. When I would introduce myself to someone the conversation lasted about 30 seconds, right after I said I was unemployed.

Then I remembered some writing I had done, and had also posed for a photographer friend who was working on a cover for a local magazine. So then when asked where I worked I said, oh I do a little writing and a bit of modeling. That got me at least another 45 seconds.

The rhythms of life and the city used to be calmer. People worked hard but they were nicer in those days. It didn’t matter what your politics were, if you were talented there was a job for you in government, politics or advocacy. It used to be fun to work here. Everyone worked like crazy you won some and lost some and couldn’t wait to get back to it tomorrow.

And as for Washington’s main enterprise and obligation, working to solve today’s problems and creating new solutions for a rapidly changing world, the town is an abysmal failure. It’s just a nasty place to be. Why else would House of Cards be so popular?

It’s hard to say when it began to go so sour. Joe Klein wrote about it in the New Yorker in a piece called, “The Town that Ate Itself.” He wrote the turning point came when Tip O’Neill lost his temper and slammed Newt Gingrich on the House floor by name. You don’t do that. House rules. But the worst part was he elevated Gingrich, gave him power within his own caucus. It was the political equivalent of giving him a flame thrower which he used to burn down the house. Pyrrhic victories are just fine with Mr. G.

Klein attributes the beginning of the endless campaign to Democrats killing John Tower’s nomination to be Secretary of Defense under Daddy Bush. Then the Republicans took Speaker Jim Wright’s scalp and the war was on. In the coverage back then one source said Tower lost because he was a prick and didn’t have any friends. I get that. Friends are hard to come by in Washington.

 

My family and I are heading to a small and wonderful town, just 15 minutes from the ocean. Thankfully the sharks are in the water and not wearing a suits sitting across the table from me in a meeting. Sharks in the ocean are easier to spot and you know what they’re up to.

I’ll write and hope that I can land a few acting roles. But mainly we’ll work as absolutely hard as we can to feel good every day.

 

*http://markmanson.net/not-giving-a-fuck

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