Thursday, July 31, 2014

One of the good guys.......

A year or two after the CBS juggernaut 'N.C.I.S." began it's run, it still needed

a little help getting the word out. Hard to believe given that it's been the #1

scripted show on network television for the past few years.

Nevertheless, early on we landed a phone chat with it's star, Mark Harmon.

As was a my custom, I liked to establish a bit of rapport with any guest

before we actually rolled on the interview.  The call was scheduled for

9:30am our time, 6:30am his time. He was in the makeup trailer. I picked

up the phone to speak with him one on one.

After introducing myself, I set the wheels in motion...

"Mark, you and I are just a few years apart in age. I gotta ask you,

what's it like going into work everyday with Illya Kuryakin???"

"Illya Kuryakin" was a character played by actor David McCallum

on the 1960's series "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.". McCallum is Harmon's

co-star as "Ducky", the team's medical examiner.

Mark jumped on it. "That's the first thing I said to him when I met him!

And David said, 'My God, man. That was 40 years ago!!!'"

Rapport established.

He was funny and honest. 

He famously has a "No Jerks Clause" in his contracts. He wants to

work with good, talented and nice people. Just like he is.

I picked up no sense of an inflated ego.

What you see, and in my case, what you what you get.

I went onto Google to look for a picture to post here.

My wife Marianne asked if I just wanted her to email me one of her

photos of him.

"When did you take pictures of Mark Harmon?"

"I pause the DVR during "N.C.I.S."..."

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Beyond the "Act"...

Friends look at the photo and ask, "Is that...?!?!?!?"

Yes. Of course. It's Richard Simmons.

Who else could it be?

I've chatted with Richard a bunch of times on the phone,

and a couple times he came into the studio.

The first time he appeared in person, he burst through the

studio door, mouth on "full auto" and tried to hijack the show.

"Richard! Whoa!", said I.

He looked at me and asked, "Were you in the Marines? You

are so stern..." (Imagine how he would say this...)

He was a blast to have on the air, however we got him.

Larger than life. Wearing his little shorts and tank top.

I'll let you in on something I discovered about him.

Once you get past the "act" and get to the real guy,

you'll uncover one of the greatest "people persons"

you'll ever meet. The second time he came through town

he asked about my wife and daughter by name, and commented

that I was wearing new glasses.

He held a big "Sweatin' To The Oldies" program at the old

South Square Mall in Durham. Hundreds of women stood in line

to meet him. I watched him sit on the side of the stage and speak

quietly to each one. He laughed with them. He cried with them.

No act. Nothin' phony.

Oh, and don't try to eat a doughnut in front of him.

He'll perform the Heimlich Maneuver on you whether you're

choking or not...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Happy Birthday to me......

I turned 60 years old today. Some dear friends sent me a sweet birthday card

that reminded me that "It's just a number. It's a BIG number, but still just a


I typed "turning 60" into Google. In 34/100th of a second, it returned

209,000,000 results.

I know people who refuse to admit their age. Like somehow, if they don't

say it out loud, it isn't reality. I have embraced it. I like the sound of it.

Christie Brinkley, the supermodel who graced the cover of the Sports

Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in 1980 is 60.

Jackie Chan is 60.

Oprah is 60.

Jerry Seinfeld is 60.

And.......Ron Howard is 60.  Did you catch that? Opie is 60.

I'm in great company.

I read the other day that at a press conference with all of the ACC head

football coaches, Duke's David Cutcliffe was the only one who could

name all of the Beatles. He's 59. That's just plain sad.

I almost feel sorry for the younger folks.

I am 60.

What a wonderful number.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Farewell to the Fifties.....

Today marked my final foray in my fifties. The Big 6-0

looms large tomorrow.

Here's some things that happened on my final 50's day.

I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I snacked between each of them.

I fell asleep in my chair.

I mowed the lawn.

I drove to the bank to deposit a check for some work I had done.

I drove home and wrote checks to pay bills and depleted the money

I had just deposited.

Basically, the same kind of things I've done my entire semi-adult life.

When I was a kid, the 60's were a great time of making new friends,

learning new things, gaining in wisdom and experience.

I fully expect the next version of the 60's to provide the same.

Why shouldn't they?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Motorcycles, movies and memories.....

Perhaps I'm too boring to have had a mid-life crisis.

I tend to be a bit thrifty as well.

Years ago Marianne told me that if I ever felt the need

to choose between a Mustang convertible and a blonde,

to choose the blonde, because "you're such a cheap date,

you'll save us money!!!"

Over the past few years a good number of my friends have

acquired motorcycles. Big Harleys. The kinds that give your insides a sonic

massage when they start 'em up. I'm happy for 'em. I really am.

But for me, every time I see my friends on their bikes, I see

myself...50 years ago.

My friends and I had all seen the movie classic "The Great Escape".

We all had bicycles. We all had baseball cards.

All our Moms had clothes pins.

Simply affix a couple baseball cards to the frame of your bike with

the clothes pins and insert them into the spokes.


I. Became. Steve. McQueen.

It's a wonder I survived.

Too bad the baseball cards didn't.

Considering what they'd be worth today,

I could be hoppin' on a Harley myself.

Never mind the blonde.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The best medicine....

Laughter. Legitimate laughter. Hard to beat.

Shared laughter. Can't be beaten.

Marianne and I have shared a bazillion laughs

in our 34 years together.  We have been known to

have original conversations, but due to the fact that we often

speak in movie lines, our daughter Jessica has declared that

we have no personalities of our own. To which we laugh.

We both know that if we were to just have met, and one were to

introduce the other to "Young Frankenstein" or "The Princess

Bride", or "Best In Show", and the newbie didn't get it....then we would be doomed.

But we both do get them. They are our "Litmus Test Movies".

You probably have a couple yourself. Perhaps "Austin Powers"

or  "The Hangover".

I'm not sure it works with dramas. Maybe it does, but it's much

more fun with comedies.

Laughter is the sticky stuff for us.

Remember: You can't spell laughter without the letters g-l-u-e...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Family reunion......

Marianne and I returned home late last night from a four day trip

to Tennessee.

Last Thursday was spent in Knoxville visiting Barbara, one of

Marianne's cousins on her Mother's side of the family.

The rest of the weekend was in Springfield and Murfreesboro.

Her Father's side of things met at Bob's place.

Four generations under the same roof, and although the Robertson

County Sheriff's Department and Tennessee State Police were placed

on high alert, there was no need for their services.

Chattin', laughin' and eatin'....Not necessarily in that order, and

generally in unison.

There were tears as well. Not everyone at a family reunion

is physically present.

It had been a while since everyone had been together, and so

some "reintroductions" were in order. The kids had grown taller

than their parents. And the kids had had kids of their own.

Somewhere along the way of this family getting bigger,

they accepted me into their fold.

What's the old saying? "You don't just marry the person,

you marry the family..."

I'm glad they said, "I do."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Halloween in July......

"Hey Honey Mama....would you mind fixing me a cup of your trail mix?"

We were on I40 motoring through the mountains and seeing the

signs for Transylvania County and Bat Cave, NC.

Marianne never buys the pre-packaged stuff. Makes her own.

Almonds. Cashews. Sunflower seeds. Raisins.

Healthy stuff.

Ok, and Goldfish. The cracker thingies. Not the swimming thingies. Musketeers. Ways.

And.....full sized M&M's.

And.....she made a lot. was incredible.

To call it Trail Mix is grossly misleading.

I think I'll go with Treat Or Treat Mix.

I think I'm on to $omethin'....  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tooth Fairy....

The Tooth Fairy has it relatively easy.

No elves to manage. No toys to build.  No lists to make

and check twice. No vet bills for reindeer.

The Tooth Fairy needs two things.

A lotta cash.  And the ability to be super sneaky.

The cash is a bit tricky because there are a lot of

international currencies that have to be carried.

And the ability to swap out a tooth that's under the pillow

that's under the head of a hyper-vigalant kid is beyond

a superpower.

Granted, the Tooth Fairy probably has to travel the globe

every night, but doesn't have to visit every kid.

Our grandson Mason lost his second tooth earlier today.

No doubt he'll wake up tomorrow a bit richer.

Another advantage of youth. Lose something and get paid for it.

If only there were a Hair Fairy...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Popcorn paws...

There have been seven in our married life.

Missy. Sheena. Schatzie. Fizz. Madchen. Roxy. Sophie.

A Spitz mix. A Golden Retriever. A Golden/Black Lab mix.

A Rat Terrier. A German Shepherd.

A Pit/Chocolate Lab mix. A Goldendoodle.

Each with a personality all their own.

They also shared the traits that are the reasons we love them.

Devotion. Playfulness. Unconditional love.

And the fact that they understand everything that we say.

Scientists tell us that this is not true, but who are you gonna

believe? Some guy in a lab coat or your dog when she goes

nuts because you forgot to spell "walking"???...

All of that and one more thing.

Popcorn Paws.

The pads of their feet smell like popcorn.

Or Fritos. Frito Feet.

Regardless, I love the scent.

You do too.

Maybe you just don't realize it yet.

Go ahead. Smell 'em.

I'll wait...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pint sized perspective......

I had a very full day today. Jetted up to Philadelphia, then drove to

Wilmington, Delaware to assist in a training seminar for an eight

station radio group, Delmarva Broadcasting. The training involved how

to conduct their radiothon to benefit the Nemours/DuPont Children's

Hospital there.

A great team of professionals who "get" it, and it felt so good to

feel like a member of a team like that again...

I met a Mom with a nineteen year old daughter who has degenerative

liver disease.

I met a Mom with two sons, a one year old and a seven year old.

Both kids have Muscular Dystrophy.

You wanna feel better about your bad hair day, or how hot

it is, or you're bummed because the girl at Starbucks messed up your order?

Take a walk through a children's hospital sometime.

We all need to fill a prescription of perspective...


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sanctity of the sea......

I learned this week of a little habit that my bride has.

And it's because of a little habit that I have.

Whenever we go to the beach, I strike a particular pose.

I lace my fingers together and place my hands on top of my head.

And I stare at the ocean.

And she takes a photo of me.  Many photos of me.

I see the ocean as all powerful. Infinite.

I see God's presence in it.

I don't know exactly why I stand like this on the shore.

But, in looking at the photos of myself, I'm struck by the

similarity of my pose with that of someone who is


When you surrender, you quit fighting.

When you surrender, you turn yourself over to someone else.

When you surrender, you rely on the provisions of another.

I think I just gave myself a sermon...

Saturday, July 12, 2014

File this one under "Fiction"....

Well, finally...the yard is mowed...Marianne did a pretty good job. Since it was kinda

hot out there, I figured I'd be sweet and turned on the hose for her...That way she

could catch some water now and again without having to come into the house.

No sense trackin' in dirt and grass clippings....She had already vacuumed , swept

and mopped this morning, so I reasoned I was just savin' her from more work....

She seemed real appreciative when I pointed out a few places in the lawn that she 

had missed, and I even offered to tend to them myself next week if need be, but......

she told me not to worry myself about it, and went out and took care of the errors with

a pair of scissors. When she came back into the house, she said that she was probably

just gonna go upstairs and wash off...."No rest for the weary, Sweetie!!!..." I replied. 

"While you were out front fixin' those errors, I was thoughtful enough to light the 

charcoal in the grill...The coals should be perfect right about now!!!...Hope you picked

up a coupla steaks when you went to the grocery store earlier!!!..." She gazed at me

with an expression that could only project how much she loves me...."While you tend

to those steaks, I'll go grab a shower....And, maybe, if you're lucky...I just might shave

as well!!!..."

And then I woke up.....

Friday, July 11, 2014


My first thought we I see those numbers is of the convenience store chain.

I grew up where a visit to the corner 7-11 was a daily occurrence.  I would

count out 25 pennies that I had liberated from my brother Terry's stash,

and make my way three blocks to count out an equal number of Fireballs.

The clerk then had to count to 50.  He dreaded my arrival.

Good times.

But on this 7-11, July 11th, a couple of events in my family's

history are top of mind for me.

The photo I've attached is of my Mom and Dad, taken on this date

in 1969, on the occasion of my oldest brother Terry's wedding.

Dad was 51 1/2 and my Mom would turn 50 in November.

He would serve as the "Best Man" for each of his three boys,

because he was.

25 years to the day prior to that event, Dad came ashore on Utah Beach

in Normandy, as part of Patton's 4th Armored Division.

Mom and Dad are no longer with us physically. but through the 

power of a picture I can hold them again.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Close calls......

It was the mid 90's, and we had left Marianne's parents' place on

Hilton Head after a week of free vacation. (I love free vacations.)

We always joked about driving through thunderstorms, and without a

doubt, the biggest "frog stranglers" I've ever encountered have been

in the Palmetto State.

We were northbound on 95 when the skies turned black and the monsoon

began. The wind was pushing hard from the left.  Visibility was


I heard a loud bang, and I was aware of wind and water in my face.

It took me a few seconds to gather my senses.

My driver's side window was gone. It had exploded into the cabin

of our minivan.

Yours truly had some cuts on my arms and hands.

Marianne, Jessica and I were all covered in bits of glass.

I kept driving until we reached an exit with a gas station.

I was OK until we saw the damage. I remember shaking.

The grease monkeys there and a State Trooper surveyed our van.

No one had any idea what hit us. We had seen nothing.

We took a plastic garbage bag, and, you guessed it, duct taped

it in place of the window.

The drive home was a blur.

 We arrived and were greeted by my parents who were

housesitting for us. My Dad looked at the van, and became visibly

upset. He knew, as did I, that the outcome could have been

devastating. Had I been driving a bit faster...or slower...or in a

different lane...

These things happen to us. They happened to our ancestors.

Those blinks of time that determine a hit or miss.

When you think about it, it's an absolute miracle that any of

us have made this far.

But that's what life is, isn't it?

A miracle...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Random thoughts from the day......

Just a few things I wanted to pass along today. Just observations.

First, I will never understand people who don't seem happy unless

they are telling me how unhappy they are. I am convinced they

are why God gave us texting.

J. Crew has taken some flak this week for introducing a new size

in their clothing. Size "000". That's like saying "XXXS".

Some are considering it "vanity sizing" run amok.  Vanity

sizing is a marketing ploy whereby stores/brands label clothing

"smaller" than it's standard measure. A size 10 might be labeled

an 8, for example.  I can't imagine anyone feeling good about

claiming to fit into a "000".  That's like having a waist size the

circumference of an Oreo cookie.....which they can't eat.

My wife came in today and asked, "Did you hear me scream?"

I had not.

"That's because I didn't, and I almost stepped on a big snake!!!"

"Well where is it???"

"It crawled under the porch."

That's when "I " screamed...

And finally, I learned today that the estate of John Wayne and

Duke University are in a legal battle over the use of the word

"Duke".  "Duke" as you know, was the actor's nickname. His

estate wants to use it to market bourbon and the University

has a problem with that.

It seems to me that some sort of compromise can be reached,

because, Lord knows, as an avid Blue Devils basketball fan,

those crazy ACC finishes can drive me to drink...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Our K9 kids.....

"Wanna go ridin'?!?!?..."

Her answer is never "No."

"Wanna go see Rin-Tin-Tin?!?!?..."

I didn't have the heart to tell her that we were goin' to

the V-E-T.

Routine stuff.

Her was scared. Really scared. Yes her was.

Roxy was sweet though, per usual.

That was this morning.

This afternoon saw me going through it all again with

Sophie. Not routine stuff, but nothing serious, and it

needed to be taken care of.

They love the ride. They hate the arrival.

They don't understand. Our hearts break for them.

They trust us. They curl up under us and the chair in the

exam room. Their tails tucked so tightly as if superglued

to their bellies.

Two trips to the vet today tallied right at $400.

There needs to be an Affordable Healthcare Act for our pets.

Our fur kids.

Indeed, I am Roxy and Sophie's Dad, and Marianne is Mom.

That $400 hurt a bit today, but............

It's a small price to pay for an alarm system, bodyguards,

clowns, ball fetchers, bed warmers, swim buddies, tug of war

opponents, therapists and devoted companions.

That devotion. That unconditional love. That connection.

I need to be the kind of person my dogs think I am...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Well, that WOULD explain it........

Needed to run some errands this morning, so I left home wearin'

my "Errand Running" clothes. (Note: Nike needs to market this idea.)

Pretty much what I wear everyday.

Cargo shorts, T shirt and a ball cap. Marianne calls it my "uniform".

 While out, I figured I wanted to get a haircut. The guys I usually go

to were closed. Vacation time. I like their place because it's an

old school hangout, with Sports Illustrated magazines goin'

back to 1997, and while they offer a shampoo, no one has

ever requested one.

I was hesitant at first about the notion of trying out a new place,

but I'd just read an article recently about not being a "neophobe",

someone who hates/fears trying new things.

It was a place especially for guys, with an all girl staff.

They offered me peanuts and coffee. I declined.

Didn't want the peanuts and really didn't want little tiny

gray hairs floatin' in my coffee, even if they were my own.

"Well, what can you do with this?", I asked, pointing to

my dome.

"Uh, shorten it???", came the reply.

Good strategy. I took a seat in the swivel chair.

When she was finished, she spun me around so I could see

her handiwork. This always cracks me up because, what am

I gonna say?  "Put some back!!!"

She did a fine job given that she didn't have much to work with.

Then. Came. The. Encore.

She pressed an electric massager into my shoulders and neck.


She draped a hot, damp cloth over my face.

She reclined my chair until my head descended into a sink.

I can't really say she gave me a shampoo, but washin' my

head was pretty fan-stinkin'-tastic.

When she was finished, she returned me to my full and upright


And that was when I noticed it.  And I laughed out most loudly.

A big bottle of American Crew labeled "Style Remover"...

I'm sure Marianne thinks I fell into a vat of that stuff about

30 years ago.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A patchwork of pictures......

Marianne did the coolest thing a few years ago... She got a piece of

heavy plywood cut to fit our table in the kitchen area, along with a

heavy piece of glass as well.

She then went to work with old photos and new scissors, cutting them

in jigsaw puzzle fashion until the table top was covered.

The glass seals the deal.

Photos of people and places in our lives.

Moments and memories frozen in time.

The triggering of every emotion.

If you're the least bit OCD, the table will drive you wacky because

the photos are set at all kinds of angles.

The beauty of her design is that where ever you stand or sit, you'll

see something that is perfectly aligned to your perspective.

It's time for an update now. More events to chronicle and new friends and

family members to honor.

Every picture tells a story...

The story of us...

Saturday, July 5, 2014

It's supposed to be easier.......

Technology is amazing. No doubt about it. No contest.

Most of the time.

But not when you're a guy.

Grocery shoppin'.

By yourself.

I'll go out to run some errands and I'll offer to stop

by the grocery store. We'll need milk and peanut butter.

By the time I get to the store, 17 new items will have

been texted to me.

Stuff we need, but not how much we need.

Stuff we need, but not what kind we need.

Stuff we need, but not what brand we need.

I craft a reply.

12 or 18 eggs?

Regular ground beef, lean ground beef, or extra lean

ground beef?

Duke's or Hellman's?

I'll hit "Send" on my text.  Then I wait.

By the time I get a response, I've gotten impatient

and am at the farthest point from the item in question.

Every. Single. Time.

I do follow one rule with every trip to the grocery store

whether it is on the list or not.

Always buy bacon...

Friday, July 4, 2014

July 4, 1826....

56 Congressional delegates signed the Declaration of Independence.

The bulk of it's crafting fell to three of our Founding Fathers.

Ben Franklin was 70 years old at the time. He was also the oldest signer.

John Adams was 40.

It's principal author, Thomas Jefferson was only 33.

They all mutually pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes

and their sacred honor.

Adams and Jefferson later became bitter political enemies.

Time passed.

It was not lost on them what they had been a part of.

They rekindled their relationship and exchanged many letters.

According to accounts, John Adams' last words were,

"Thomas Jefferson survives..."

But he was wrong.

Jefferson had passed mere hours before him, with his final

words reportedly, "This is the Fourth..."

These two men.....Allies. Enemies. Friends.

Died 50 years to the day after the signing.

I don't believe in coincidence.

"Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous..."

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Things that go BOOM!!!...

Marianne and I just got home from the Town of Fuquay Varina's Fourth

Of July Fireworks Show. On July 3rd. Before dark.

It was fun, but got me to thinkin' back to my first firecrackers.

It was July 1969, and my brother Terry had gotten married in

South Carolina. On the drive back to Virginia, my Dad decided that we'd

stop at that little ole tourist trap, South Of The Border.

Dad let me buy a string of 200 firecrackers.

They were meant to be lit and then explode all in

a row. I had other ideas.

I untangled them so that I'd have 200 separate explosives.

I would patiently build and paint a model of a tank, a plane

or ship.....and then blow it up.

Note: Every guy I grew up with did this.

I have no explanation for it. Just a "boy thing".

Guys like to blow stuff up.  Guys like watching stuff get

blown up.

But I realized tonight while watching' the fireworks, that I'd

enjoy it just as much if I were blindfolded.

The ones I enjoy the most are the big, deep ones that I

feel in my chest. The vibration. The concussion of the

sound wave. They make me giddy.

Maybe it's a guy thing, I don't know.

But I do know...

You can't spell testosterone without using T-N-T...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


I tease women about their shoes. I like to ask how many pairs they own.

That's when the rationalization starts.

"Well, not counting sandals..."

"Well, not counting workout shoes..."

"Well, not counting the ones that are comfortable..."

I have a confession to make.

As women are with shoes, I am with watches.

I own, uh.........let's say.......under 20.

I know that many people don't wear them anymore.

After all, your cell phone accurately gives you the time.

But for me, some of my watches aren't about time.

I still have my stainless steel Seiko automatic. It was my first

Christmas bonus from my first boss at the first radio station

I worked at in Petersburg, Va. The year was 1973.

Another is a Swiss Army commemorating the 25th Duke Children's

Classic, and reminds me of the kids there and the special place

they hold in my heart.

A Victorinox Swiss Army watch was a gift from Marianne just

six days before Christmas in 2008.  The significance is personal.

Trust me, it's a biggie. And the watch itself is a tank. It's the

"500M" Model, meaning it'll work at depths up to 500 meters.

I can work up to 2 meters.

I have a Fossil watch with the NCAA Championship logo on the

face of it.  Marianne and I were given "his and hers" models on

the occasion of my leaving radio. I'm not gonna drop names

here, but the guy who gave them to us noted that "Now you

two can be on the same time..."  The watch reminds me of the

very special friends I've made along the way.

And finally, a leather strapped Rolex that was presented to me

at my farewell brunch when I left Capitol Broadcasting in

March 2013.  It reminds me of that almost 40 year roller coaster

ride in radio and the immensely talented people that I had the honor

to learn from.

So for me, my watches tell me more than the time.

They tell me of my times...

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Time shrinks things......

This past Saturday, my friend Dan and I were recollecting about how

times have changed. I'm sure every generation has the near same dialogue.

Not just technology, but the size of things has changed.

I'm not talking about the fact that our homes, salaries and waistlines

are bigger.

I talking about the things that are smaller.

Not smaller in reality.

Smaller in my mind.

I drove by the house where I learned to ride a bike.

I had hopped on my friend Gary's bicycle at the top of his driveway.

I lifted my feet, and the sheer slope of it propelled me into the

street. I wrecked.  I pushed the bike back up the loooonnnngggg

driveway and repeated the process until I was pedaling and steering.

That's how I remembered it.

Reality was different. There was barely any slope to the driveway.

And it was all of fifteen feet long.

My school's playground fooled me as well.

As a boy it seemed to be the size of two football fields.

But instead, maybe four tennis courts.

Even my old home, which seemed huge to me then,

appeared dinky to me now.  And the thought occurred to me,

"How did it take me an hour to mow that postage stamp?"

So the stuff that I remembered as being big as a kid,

turned out to be small.

And the stuff that I thought was small as a kid.....

Well, I think you know...