A lawn. I forgot, ignored, dismissed the idea of a lawn …

My last slog around a lawn sweating behind a push mower was in 2005? 2006? Whenever. It’s just that when my base shifted south of the Mason-Dixon Line, there was never a moment’s thought given to cutting grass – and edging and weeding and fertilizing. I fell in love with Brevard but forgot about the bigger home maintenance picture. Now I’m living it. And to think I’m thinking about chickens, too. More on that foolishness next week.

March 5, 2018

Ellen/Reid: Well, it’s another Monday morning up in the hills and for a change there’s nothing falling from the skies. Until Wednesday according to the forecast. That means that, for the first time in all these years (12), there is a lawn to be mowed while relative dryness exists. Cutting grass was not in the vernacular; I thought mowing was sworn off forever. The neighbor across the street, Sonny, says it takes him 15 minutes to mow his small patch of green but he doesn’t have a back yard quite the size of mine so you can


This is why I moved to Brevard. To walk a couple of blocks to the Brevard College campus and another couple of blocks to the downtown.


Of course, this too is why I moved. There just happens to be a small lawn that comes with it.

tack on another 10 minutes to the chore. Still, this is about one-third the size of the acreage on South Shore Drive. My commitment is to an emissions-free electric mower (which I have yet to buy) so I’m borrowing one to see how it works. Last week the developer volunteered to fertilize (with an organic mixture) and the fescue grass (a derivative of blue grass) has just exploded with growth.

Next up is a raised bed garden. Several weeks ago I walked by a nice example of a well thought out bed that I hope to replicate. I’m really looking forward to small plot to tend to. Probably something in the six by 10 foot range. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, garlic, sugar snap peas, that sort of thing. Maybe some red raspberries and blueberries. Perhaps the size should be upped to eight by 12. The local extension service publishes a gardening how-to guide so that’s a must read. It’ll be fun to get my hands dirty in the good earth for once. That feeling has been missed since moving to the South and was a real drawback to the townhome in Charlotte.

Feeling good two weeks after the surgery. Feeling very good, actually. The doc called me the anomaly among his patients and after less than two minutes in the examination room he gave me the green light (short of doing something super stupid like heavy lifting). I was already performing contortions and gyrations while installing the shelves and came out none the worse for wear. Walked most of nine holes with Sondra and Jody over the weekend and came through that, too. So there’s full anticipation of being able to golf (50 percent swing effort) in roughly two weeks time. I have steered clear of lifting most things. It’s a hard sneeze that’s the killer. That rattles your timbers from top to bottom. You know precisely where the incision is, that’s for certain.

Reid, when is a good time to visit you? You’ve got some deciding to do in terms of Chicago, Oakland or New York. Nice to have some options, although personally Chicago would present the least amount of upheaval if you can parlay your Oakland experience to their Chicago base of operations. Your friends are there and you know the town. Take that for what it’s worth. But it all seems on the upswing for you.

Perhaps I could double dip with a one-trip visit to Chicago while en route up to St. Paul in May. Ellen, let me know when and where and what you want me to do in terms of assistance.

Got a full slate of friends penciled in for visits. That’s how it should be. Hopefully there can be a jaunt to Charleston with Miss Emma squeezed in sometime in the next three to four weeks. I’m very anxious to fish. It could also be that I’ll rent a kayak rather than tote her down as a way to avoid the lifting. We’ll see how the recovery goes. My shelving had to account for all the rods and gear but there’s still some stowage space that needs to be resolved. I’m not ready by any means to ditch the saltwater gear just yet. I will visit Dave H. in early April to pursue tarpon. If we hook into anything of appreciable size that’ll really test the scar.

Well, enough for today. Be good, please, please, please contact me every so often. Hope to see you all in short order. Give the girls a squeeze.

Love, Dad



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‘Operator error’ – again (and again)

Long ago when patriots were patriots in the truest sense, Thomas Paine wrote “These are the times that try men’s souls.” True then and true now. 

Especially when it comes to basic carpentry for basic shelves. Attaching planks to brackets sounds simple enough but someone has to make a ham-handed mess of things and that might as well be me. Thanks to near-continual operator error, Mr. Paine, my soul has been tried enough. Measure twice, cut once? Never heard of it.

Since they’d seen such skill-less, expletive-laced home task bludgery before, Ellen and Reid had to know this was coming.

February 28, 2018

Ellen/Reid: My base of writing operations has shifted from the already cluttered desk to the less cluttered (but it’s getting there) kitchen counter. All the better to sit with my cup of coffee and watch it rain, again, outside. I’ll hand it to Brevard; it gets it’s share of moisture of which there has been a lot of as of late. But when it’s nice, it’s beautiful here.

Reid, Oakland sounds like one helluva tech gig, and your mom tells me they have a Chicago situation that you might be involved with, too? That would be really a great thing to slide right into that. You wouldn’t need to give up your Chicago life and friends. Of course, I could always use a little more first-hand information so keep me up to speed. What you’re doing in California is beyond my comprehension and you’ll need to to take any explanation slow and basic with me. But it all sounds good. Aren’t you excited?

I’m up to my eyeballs in shelving. Damn, that feels like all I’ve done is install tier after tier of shelving in each closet and, now, the attached shed at the back of the house. The 10’ x 5’ spare room was a catch-all/dumping spot for virtually everything that wasn’t allowed in the house or otherwise had no place to be put. Literally, the space was packed. You couldn’t walk into it.


Yeah, I suffer my share of goof ups around the house but I can always retreat to the back deck for scenes like this.

It’s really the last storage frontier. But yesterday the first inroads were made (my carpentry skills are sorely lacking and several boards had to be recut because of operator calculation errors) and even though it’s raining now I’ll be back at it as soon as this letter and the morning coffee are finished. It does feel good to get at least some things up off the concrete floor and into some semblance of storage and organization.

A shelving breaking point was reached about 5:30 last night and I honestly said, aloud, ‘The hell with this’ and drove off to a never-before-visited spot, Ecusta Brewing. It’s on the main drag on the east end of town and a scant few feet from the Davidson River. You could tell right off that it was frequented by locals. It’s a small scale brewer that does a really nice job with their darker beers and they’re not quite so IPA driven as the local big boys such as Oskar Blues and Sierra Nevada. But after one glass I hit the short road home. Everything is on the short road in Brevard. My Camry is still operating on the quarter tank of gas that was in it last weekend. It’s one mile to the store, one mile to downtown, 1.5 miles to the far side of town. That close proximity has taken a bit of getting used to. Now that there’s finally some free time, there’s finally time to explore.

My follow up appointment with the surgeon is Friday morning. Since there is no pain and no apparent complications (knock on wood), the full expectation is that he’ll give me my walking papers after just a couple of minutes of face-to-face time. He told me at the initial consultation that this operation would be a snap and that the recovery shouldn’t be as extended as the procedure last April. Of real interest is when I can hike and kayak and golf and work out again. I’m very anxious to get back down to Charleston since it’s been three months since Miss Emma has hit the water. I did fashion a custom spot for rods and fishing gear in the shed. A new friend up here, Billy, is prodding me to hit the trout streams. He’s quite the accomplished fly fisher and it’ll be good to be under his tutelage. Of course, right behind me is the French Broad River although walking access to it from the house is kind of sketchy.

Alright, that’s a wrap. Reid, please keep me posted. I’m so happy and anxious for you. Ellen, give the girls a squeeze – and Tim a pat on the back for putting up with you three. And let me know the dates in May that will require me in St. Paul. It’s a good human quality for you to host immigrants.

Love, Dad

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Old habits die hard – time to write again …

The move to Brevard forced my longest letter writing stoppage in 16 years: more than two full months. Yet what passes for a home office is now set up and operable. The sheet paper and #10 envelopes (and blue ink pens to sign ‘Love, Dad’) are within easy arms reach.

I missed writing to Ellen and Reid. There was so much going on, so much to write about, with unpacking and re-storing possessions and tepid attempts at man style and man decor and situating myself in a new town and environment. If ever there would be a time to break the single page barrier, this was it.

But alas, last week’s letter was true to form; a single page. Relocation or not, some things never change.

February 19, 2018

Ellen/Reid: Well, I guess it’s back in the saddle with the letters after a two month hiatus. I don’t know if you’ve missed them but I’ve missed the writing. Reid, the email version will have to do until there’s an address for your new digs.

There’s finally time to inhale as the house is how livable and relatively visitor-friendly. (A couple weeks ago Jody was my first official guest and my friend Ted was the second just this past weekend. It’s nice that the guest room is nicely done for a change. Reid, I did bid adieu to your grandmother’s old red bed. It found a place at the ReStore.) I’m writing this note from the new chair at the new desk in the new office. Everything seems new.


The kitchen is 98 percent done – as is most of the rest of the house. If you can overlook the temporary paper blinds, you can kind of see it coming together.

What I wasn’t fully prepared for was the load of cash it took to bring the place up to speed. But it had to be done the right way, not with a load of cast-off furnishings as might have been done if left to my own devices. Robbie has been a big help in that regard, steering me toward this and that and her sense of design/decor has been beyond helpful. And she knows a lot of folks up this way so that’s made the integration into the local scene a lot, lot easier. It’s kind of odd though, waking up in new surroundings.

There’s been a few hiccups here and there. It never dawned on me to think to look for linen and coat closets – of which there are neither. It’s really a design oversight and I mentioned it to the builder in the event he’ll replicate this model on any of the three remaining vacant lots on my street. But in the grand scheme of things it’ll all work out;


I’ve installed several tiers of wire shelving in each of the very large closets. And a carpenter transplant from New Jersey (I think) named Brian will fashion a narrow and shallow (three feet wide by 19 inches deep) linen closet in a nook in the hallway. I also didn’t bargain that there would be no washer/dryer included in the purchase price. Every other house got a set but, in a complicated situation, mine didn’t. Unbeknownst to me there’d been a contract on the home before I came along and the woman had been the customer from hell for the developer, insisting on weird interior colors, etc. So once she bolted, for whatever reason, the builder had to spend a lot to tone down her weird decor scheme. Hence no washer and dryer. Plus the appliances are a bit chintzy; the dishwasher just doesn’t dry and the gas stove could use a few more bells and whistles. But hey, I’m in the place and will move on.

What I have learned is there are a ton of Atlantans here. Almost everyone I’ve met socially has been from that part of Georgia. Apparently Brevard is a popular weekend getaway place. Robbie and I had several of them over last night for wine/appetizers. They’re good folks and it’s nice to have met people so quickly.

What I do miss is the morning newspaper. The local rag only comes out twice a week. I went online this morning with the intent to subscribe to the Asheville paper but I thought ‘Why do I want to read about Asheville?’ and finally ditched that idea. USA Today has some appeal but it seems so hotel/motel giveaway to me. The New York Times won’t deliver so that’s a bust.

This time tomorrow morning the surgery will be done and then it’s a head-in-a-fog ride back to Brevard. Followed by another five to six weeks on the shelf. That’s partly behind the maniacal drive to get everything unpacked and done, knowing there’s be no lifting for the foreseeable future. But what the hell, better than going under the knife in June or July. Speaking of July, Tom and I will walk about Mont Blanc for a few weeks. He’s in charge of the logistics (as only he can carry out). So hopefully I’ll be in the gym before long to get ready for the trek. Of course, the gym is new, too.

Love, Dad


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Where there’s a will, there’s a way, even if it’s handwritten …

My HP printer is lodged somewhere in a box somewhere in the middle of a moving POD which sits somewhere in Charlotte before it is hoisted atop a flatbed truck for transport to my new home in Brevard, North Carolina.

Without the facility to print the weekly missives, my letters to Ellen and Reid somewhat ground to a halt the past couple of weeks. But last Monday while sitting in the toasty warm kitchen of my friend Robbie, I jotted off two quick handwritten notes (the first I’ve ever written in cursive in 16 years) and hastily plunked those in the mail. (My last attempt to type a letter was Jan. 1 – don’t ask why I pecked at the keyboard since there was no way to put them on paper.)

Even though I was bound for frigid St. Paul, Minnesota two days later the short letters went out anyway. The letter to Ellen arrived while I was at her home; why the letter bore a ‘Greenville, SC’ postage mark rather than Brevard was a bit of a mystery. And by the weekend Ellen hadn’t opened it and there’s no knowing if it remains sealed. That’s just the way it goes in busy households with you children; letters are opened there is time in the day.








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Hasta la vista, 4838 … and a final glass of red wine

This was the last letter penned to Ellen and Reid from my home in Charlotte. This post is fashioned as I sit on the bare wood floor on the now-empty main level. The furnishings are all gone. The POD was hoisted by some fancy contraption onto a sturdy flatbed truck a couple of hours ago, my belongings headed for a storage place in the industrial part of town.

So now I’ll be a vagabond for a couple of weeks until the close on the house in Brevard is complete. Parting may be sweet sorrow since I’ve loved this townhouse dearly but there is a new reality for me roughly 137 miles to the West.

December 17, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Reid, I hope this lands in your mailbox before Liz and you jet to Sri Lanka. It sounds like such an adventure. Your dad would be the last person to consult on travels to Asia, let alone Sri Lankan weddings; can’t wait to see all the photos and hear about it. Keep me posted if you need anything while you’re traipsing about, although I’m not sure what can be done from afar.

Honestly, Ellen, the FaceTimes with you and the girls are liking viewing the Blair Witch Project. That camera isn’t still for one second. And someone is always saying or yelling something. It’s just utter chaos. When we hang up I’m just grinning and shaking my head. Half the fun of the calls is watching those two little goons run and jump about. They are just too cute for their own good. They were on Santa watch pure and simple last night. And yes, I’ll ship the three canisters in relatively short order.

The packing is going much, much slower than ever envisioned. My God, the kitchen has taken three full days and there’s still more pans to stow. Literally this morning I sat down in a disgruntled heap and said, almost aloud, that I didn’t know what to pack next. All I could see from wall to wall was a mound of stuff. There was so much of it of a disparate nature. It’s Monday night as I write this and I’m sipping a glass of wine while trying to think of what room comes next.


My stuff is stowed and the POD is ready to ship out to parts unknown. Last stop: Brevard.

But the kitchen has to be shut down first once and for all. I’ve gone back and forth about a POD vs. a moving company and the deal is this: the POD makes the most sense since the close on both houses is still in a state of flux; Dec. 28 for mine, the first week in January for the new house in Brevard. The POD can sit; movers expect to act on a certain day. Some muscle will have to be recruited once the container reaches the mountains. The thought is to post a note somewhere at nearby Brevard College for a couple of college hunks to pull lifting duty for a few hours. I dunno, maybe $75 each. It all just makes my head spin. It’s time for another drink of wine.

There’s been a bit of turmoil about the closing of my place. The buyers sort of held me hostage for new HVAC and water heater systems. Yeah, both were aging but still worked. They wanted to eat up all of the $6,000 over list price they paid in terms of a credit toward the new systems. My Realtor and I had a heart-to-heart and it was agreed that if we allowed the sale to fold, those systems would still be issues for the next buyer who wouldn’t likely go $6,000 over list price. That put me in something of a bind so I did the next best thing. I caved. At what point does it become only money? That point was likely at hand. In a way, it’s an acceptable thing because a bridge loan would’ve been more costly than the HVAC/water heater systems themselves. What the hell. It’s time to move onward and upward. I need another sip of cabernet to go with a couple of those avocado/arugula and fried egg sandwiches.

I’ve been sleeping quite soundly, an apparent sign that things are getting to me. It is all so tiring do all this by oneself. Hopefully I can recruit some friends to help me heft the big stuff like the sofas and chairs and the breakfast table. The boxes and stuff can be handled by my lonesome. Honest to God, I simply can’t wait to put down roots in Brevard and to get the house situated and decorated (me, a decorator?) and just get moving on with a local life.

My friends Christie and Doug from Myrtle Beach stayed the weekend since they were in town for the Carolina Panthers game. It was a good interlude to have them. Sondra and Jody and our friend Dave came over Saturday night for pizza and just to get together. That was fun too, although I was just flat-out exhausted. Well, it’s time to sign off. Just in time, too, since the bottle of red is empty.

Love, Dad


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If it’s not one thing, it’s another …

No one ever said ‘this (move) will be easy’ and, true to the adage, nothing about it has been. Trap doors everywhere. A missed deadline here, another buyer demand there. But in the grand scheme of things, things ought to work out. At least that’s the assurance from my Realtor. Ellen and Reid have been kept up to speed on the varying travails of the process.

Meanwhile, Brevard continues to call. Let’s hope I can answer.

December 10, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Friday’s deal-or-no-deal witching hour approaches; we’ll know for sure if the sale is indeed done. The inspection was last Wednesday but still no word as to the results. At first blush that appears a good thing but you never, ever know for sure. It will be a crusher if it doesn’t go through. I was in Brevard yesterday, as much to just be around the town as anything, and to give the home yet another in a string of walk-throughs. It’s a swell place, the town and the home. There was nearly a foot of snow on the ground as I stood on the back deck and looked south to the mountains, wondering what the yard will look like if and when I’m there and spring comes. A garden sure seems to be a reality – again if the sale is indeed done.

There is something quaint and bucolic about Brevard. If I opt to walk the roughly one-half mile bee line to the corners of Main and Broad streets in the funky little downtown, the shortest path cuts right through the Brevard College campus. Then it’s up a small hill to the hot spots – a couple of breweries, some great little restaurants and nice shops – and it’s all so self-contained within a few square block radius. The plan is to buy a bike (the pedal type; no more Harleys for your old man) to tool all over town.


With any luck, I’ll be able to use the little back deck off my bedroom, with its expansive views of the mountains, sometime in mid-January. 

The mantra up there in Transylvania County is to ‘buy local’ and that’s what I’ll do. But just how one gets to Hendersonville and Asheville is still a bit up in the air for me. The local newspaper immediately struck me as the NC version of the Sundance (WY) Times and Crook County News your grandfather used to edit; front page coverage of the Christmas parade, social comings and goings, plugs for local businesses, et al. Just plain mountain news that if it’s not covered by the local rag, then no one will cover it. It’s all so darling.

The round up of spare boxes is ongoing; the packing will start in ernest on Friday, again, if the sale is indeed done. It appears there is no place to go, other than on Craig’s List, with the leather sofa and side chair, a winged leather chair and the solid-cherry tables, the three tall bar stools, the heavy maple desk in my office and assorted other stuff. None of that will make the trip west to Brevard. The faux-decorator in me will put the current main floor furniture ensemble in front of the fireplace, with your great-grandmother’s old bed, Reid, in one of the guest rooms along with a cherrywood dresser. Not quite sure about the third room; maybe a pull-out couch. The 12 golf course photos from my past life now on the north wall will be divvied up and given away. If for no other reason than nostalgia I’ll keep a few larger giclee pieces for the new home but am not sure where those will be placed. A friend nudged me about reproducing a few Camino photos for their value as conversation starters. She has a good point. That will be done.

Jeez, there was still straight hell to pay to download nearly 300 Camino photos from my aging iPhone 5 to my MacBook Air. Just couldn’t get a straight answer from Apple as to how to do that; they weren’t automatically downloaded to the Cloud so I set a Genius Bar appointment last night where some geek spoke Greek to me as he solved the problem. Still, the shots have to be downloaded one-by-one from the Cloud to my computer. At least that solves the crisis. Up on my office desk still sits, in the box, the iPhone 8 Tim helped me order over Thanksgiving. I’ll open it today and get moving on coming into the New Age of technology. It puts the fear of God into me a little bit. That won’t come as much surprise to you.

Okay, enough already. The Y workout is over with and the coffee has come and gone. Speaking of that, your bags of buy two, get three free Harris Teeter beans will be there before you get this note. And Ellen, I need to talk with you stat about the letters you have, or might have, squirreled away.

Love, Dad


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Mr. Chicken Little bites his nails as he picks flooring …

As the three of us spend less and less time on the phone with each other, our typical very short calls are largely for items that are mostly quick updates (“I arrive at the Minneapolis airport at 4:30. Goodbye.”). We’re just not chatters and FaceTimers so the letters step in to partially fill informational voids.

December 5, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Now’s the time for a bit of nail biting as the buyers have until Dec. 15 to pull the plug. To be able to keep their $2,500 won’t be of much solace should the deal head south. My Realtor tried to keep Mister Chicken-Little-The-Sky-Is-Falling calm yesterday; he cautioned that there’s always a ‘list.’ The only bugaboos to me are the water heater and a periodic small drip from the freezer, which I have already disclosed. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

All it’s done is solidify the desire to relocate in Brevard. You know the reasons. There is also something about reinvention of self with a little adventure and the unknown tossed in for good measure. What I do know is that picking flooring is not my cup of tea. Ellen, the lighter shade just seemed right so I’m sorry to have vetoed your choice. The hardwood goes down this week. You will have more opportunity to serve as my decorator; what would you think about plantation shutters? Those are what’s in the current home and I like them very much.

The final nail in the Head West coffin was poking along at seven miles an hour yesterday on I-77. One hour to drive the final seven miles to home. That’s just a deal killer. Three lanes of white lights and red taillights for as far as the eye can see. That’s no way to live, no way to drive. I’m going to do better. Already, I’m Googling things to do in Brevard and Asheville and Hendersonville.


The kitchen is in the final stages of completion. I’m finding the hard way that decor and interior design is not necessarily my cup of tea.

To reiterate, the reason for three bedrooms is so that you and friends from Charlotte and Iowa have a place to stay on the doorstep of the mountains. There will be a definite open door policy for those sorts of visitors. And be sure to tell Tim, Ellen, that I will hold him to his oath for you four to spend next Thanksgiving at my new pad. Reid, you and Liz are welcome, too, although your T-Days seem locked in at St. Paul.

It was a good decision at the last possible moment to head early a.m. to Charleston. The fishing was unbelievable for species I seldom catch, trout and sheepshead. I mean, for a long time it was nice fish after nice fish. Bang. Bang. Bang. It didn’t appear that way at first. The tide was by far the highest I’d ever seen it owning to the Super Moon effect. It pulled the water almost to the top of the docks. It was cold and windy, too. The thought was ‘Here we go again – no fish’. Reid, I tried a new Z-Man plastic lure slipped over a jig that has a big ‘eye’ where the lead weight usually is. The trout went bonkers over it. As per usual, a black man who fishes from the dock at the put in point was the beneficiary of my good fortune. He got a hefty 18 inch black drum and a nice 20 inch trout. After all the gear was stowed at home and the fish cleaned, I dropped some off to my friends Jill and Troy. Nice to share the bounty with folks who will know what to do with it. Troy is one helluva chef. I was wrong, too, about Bowens Island as only marginally further from Brevard. It will add about 60 miles each way. Perhaps it’s time to junk the down-and-back mentality and just stay overnight and fish for two days rather than one.

As for the new hernia, jeez. The doctor cautioned me against too-harsh floor workouts which he attributed, in part, to the new bulge. But since there are no restrictions between now and the surgery date (which has yet to be set) then all will be good in terms of preparation for the move. Ideally, it would be nice to stave it off until after all is said and done with the new house in Brevard. Ellen, let Tim know I appreciate his offer to fly down and help with the packing (and heavy lifting). I may well take him up on it. Reid, I don’t know your schedule beyond Sri Lanka but don’t feel by any means that your presence here is required.

So keep your fingers crossed that the 15th will yield a set-in-stone contract. Toes crossed, too.

Love, Dad


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