Monthly Archives: November 2016

Of letters, black drum, shared bounty and the Trump effect …

I like to write letters for a lot of reasons. (If you want a one page note, tell me. I’ll send you one. As for subject matter, that’s TBA.)

There is something to the tensile strength of paper in your hands. It’s tangible and real, not some ethereal thing floating loosely out somewhere in cyber space. 

Letters are also a thought process – even if my missives seem to lack coherent thought many weeks. But, hey, it’s the best that is available at that moment, at that instant even if I yammer on about fish caught/missed, a house that hasn’t sold, a disappointing election, leafs from a tree or any of a number of other minor goings on in daily life. But that’s why there’s a letter this week and another next week and the week after that. There’s always a shot at literary redemption.

November 21, 2016

Ellen/Reid: Our first frost arrived yesterday; the grass was stiff and white as I walked out for the morning newspaper. The upshot of it is it will make the Bermuda grass go dormant in an instant which will make golf that much tougher. Actually, the golf has been somewhat improved as of late so all is not lost.

Since there were no invitations – save one, but it involved golf – to a Thanksgiving meal, Miss Emma and I will make the trek to Charleston on T-Day to see if we can replicate the success we had last week. Reid, I wish you’d of been there. The rods really got a workout on Harris Teeter frozen shrimp and mud minnows. Never had to open the package of finger mullet. It’s as many fish as I’ve caught in a single day but by far the uniformly biggest fish ever. All were in the slot.


Miss Emma and her sometimes inept handler/fisherperson have made weekly forays of late down to Bowens Island, South Carolina while the fishing is good.

Those big black drum can fight like nobody’s business. They set their flat side against you and dare you to pull them in and are just so much fun to haul in. And the two big sea trout – ‘specks’ they call them – hit in an instant. No guessing if they are there or not. You know right away. And the first red in a long while was boated. That felt good. I kept the red, the trout and four black drum. The aim was to give some to the black fisherman who don’t have boats but fish off the dock right by the put-in spot. One guy was lugging his gear back to the his car empty handed, but he was grateful for a drum and a trout. An oysterman I’ve come to know got a black drum, too. It’s appropriate to share the bounty. I caught so many fish so quickly that I was able to leave early to beat, sort of, the Charleston traffic. We pulled into the garage at 7:30 p.m., a full four hours earlier than usual. That felt good for a change.

Here are a couple of leafs plucked from a eucalyptus tree that overhangs the sidewalk along the route of my weekend morning walks. I crumple the leaves in my fingers to release the sweet scent; Ellen, I bet Emma Continue reading



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With the presidential race over and done, it’s time to move on to other things … sort of

The political pendulum has swung way, way right.

But now as the dust begins to settle (and hopefully calmer political minds will begin to emerge), it’s time to take stock of where we are. I’ve told Ellen and Reid – in the letters and on the phone – that our anger/dismay/shock aside, we have to move on with things. 

Like a makeover of kitchen cabinets.

November 14, 2016

Ellen/Reid: The shock of last week is going to take some time to wear off. What will bother me are the likely constant reminders of the ‘upset’; right tilting Supreme Court decisions, religious-socio-engineered legislation, and anti-environment actions by the Republican goofs who don’t have a civil bone in their bodies. I’d hate to be a gay, a black, a Latino, a poor person or someone with health issues. I do think it’s important to note that Hillary won the popular vote (as did Al Gore in 2000) but that is to no avail. I suppose the crying has to stop and we have to give Trump his due and hope he reverts to his more centrist past. If he doesn’t, then Heaven help us. The voters in outlying towns and ‘burgs hard pressed for real jobs and education who voted for him should prepare to get what they deserve. It really boiled down to a vote between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ – the ‘have been educated’ vs. ‘have not been educated’ who wolfed down the single issue red meat tossed to them by Trump. At least the Cubbies were winners.

A lot of people have tried to put into words their dismay, likely as a way to help themselves make sense of a nonsensical outcome. A friend, Andrea, who has read the letter blog for a good while and later became one of my writers for the Mint Hill Times, posted something on FaceBook that I thought summed things up in a pretty good manner in the early hours on Wednesday:

Today. I’m giving myself today. I’m putting it in a box, wrapping it in gorgeous, shiny paper and topping it with a bright silver bow. And I’m handing it to my inner 4-year old. So that she can basically have a big ole messy tantrum. So that she can whine (check), cry (uh, double check), yell, stomp her feet, throw things, and eat cheeseburgers if she wants to (hello, 5 Guys). I’m giving her this gift of 12 hours to let it all out. To gorge on ice cream if necessary (I think it might be) and to wonder in desperate confusion where the hell it all went wrong. Then tomorrow I’m going to get up, pray for my new president, congratulate everyone who chose the person I didn’t, and do my damndest to move this country in the right direction with whomever it takes. Because tomorrow I go back to adulting. Which is far less satisfying but it’s what I signed up for the day I became old enough to vote. Continue reading

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Sandburg’s thoughts on an election lost … note to Dave: sausage is a prime ingredient in low country boil

The election has come and gone. 

To be honest about it, I feel it is a populace gone awry. Already, Pres.-elect Trump is moving to scale back climate change – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg for the new administration. The kids will hear more about my disappointment – and hope – in this week’s letter (note: letters are delayed here one week so Ellen and Reid can read them first).

I wonder what Pulitzer winner Carl Sandburg would think of us now? How would he view his single issue, racist and (in my view) uneducated common man and the collective betterment of America? Taken aback, perhaps? I think, too, it’s important for Ellen and Reid to know that there is a communal good at stake.

But how we fare in the coming four years is for historians to decide, rather then common men like me.

November 7, 2016

Ellen/Reid: So this is it, the final 24 hours until the election madness/chaos is at last over. That is, until the next election cycle begins next year when 2020 candidates start to jockey for position. By the time this reaches you, the results will be old news. Hopefully not of the shocking variety. That Trump reached this far says something about us, none of which is good. Suffice to say, this election stuff, national and local, is completely off the edge and out of control. The process is contrived and way too long. And it’s all mud slinging and posturing and ‘I’m louder than you’ and single issue mentality and mean-spirited partisanship.

I wonder where all of this will end up taking us, and at what speed. Yesterday I took another drive to check out Hendersonville, North Carolina and one of my stops was Carl Sandburg’s house in neighboring Flat Rock. Sandburg was a Pulitzer winner and his writing often dwelled on his hope for, and confidence in, the collective resolve and unifying spirit of the common man who could push the country forward as one entity. I wonder what Sandburg would think of us now as we devolve to pettiness and single issues with no attempt at civility or discourse or considered thought. Already, Republican senators dismiss the idea of any notion of action on the Supreme Court vacancy if Trump isn’t in. They’ve institutionalized, and thus made okay, the idea of petty politicization. Where are leaders who can set that aside? But that horse has long since left the barn.


This photo doesn’t match any topic in this post. It was during my Monday walk at Renaissance Golf Course. The Carolina blue sky reminded me of hope in the light of a new day. That may be the best we have with our new administration.

There’s too much money, too much super-PAC and super-organizational control already in play, and too many puppet masters pulling our strings; the Koch Bros., et al. I told a friend in the midst of the Sandburg tour that in some ways we have too much freedom of expression if we can’t find a common ground on literally anything. I know this sounds naive, but I think the demise is in part informational since too many people are told what to think rather than how to think. We have too much loose ‘information’ Continue reading

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Two letters for the price of one … coming next week: would we have disappointed Carl Sandburg?

The letters to Ellen and Reid went out week by week in October but I’ve been AWOL in posting the single pages. Chalk it up to ennui of the nation-altering election season, moping over a house and Harley that haven’t sold or any of a number of nit-picky pain points.

But here are two letters from mid-month. My final pre-election note will be sent today and a heads up for next week: it will deal with the late Pulitzer winner Carl Sandburg, who’s faith in the innate humanity and shared resolve of the common man would surely have been sorely tested these past few months.

October 11, 2016

Ellen/Reid: This keeping the house neat and tidy is getting old. It’s never been more spotless and organized. The cynic would say ‘why wasn’t it this way the last 10 years?’ and there’s not really a good answer for that. But hey, if it helps to sell the house, so be it. People keep telling me how hot the local real estate market is and if that’s so, we’re about to find out. There’s a showing this morning and another one tomorrow. My new Realtor, Laura, has priced the place even higher than I did, and if it sells close to her projections my net will be even higher than if I’d sold it myself. You were right, Ellen, to prod me toward using a pro. But I’ve got to hop in the shower and also vacuum so this letter had better be out the door in a hurry.

Well, about this time next week we’ll be in Des Moines for Kristin’s wedding. It was so good to see Emma’s reaction last night at the news we’ll get to see each other. And little Georgia is just so cute and expressive. The plan is to shove off on Tuesday, probably overnight near Indy and then make the final leg into DSM on Wednesday. A Realtor friend will show me around town on Thursday. I’m not too wild about living out in the ‘burbs but we’ll see what’s in the realm of affordability. It could be that a town home or even a house are all options on the table. I imposed on Valerie and Bob for a place to stay, then will tastefully bow out of town on Sunday for the drive home. With any luck, there should be some movement on the home. I’m at my wits end about the Harley. Tim is likely right – suck it up and get over to the Harley dealer even if they give me a low ball price for it. Part of me wants to keep riding but not on that bike. I’m not sure why I’ve had a burr under my saddle about it.

Spent a big part of yesterday walking the golf course with my friend Dave. It was a cathartic round for him with the golf utterly secondary to the running dialogue we had the entire way. He lost his son to a drug overdose just about two weeks ago up in Ohio and it’s just an awful tale. Literally a good kid gone wrong. Drugs are just so nefarious. Those have never appealed to me in any way and the tragedy here is a child who’s gone well before his time. He was only 28. Dave also lost his job this year and just discovered his elderly mother has turned down attempts to treat a form of cancer, so 2016 is going to turn out to be one helluva year for him. We had dinner after the round with some others from our golf group, Sondra, Jody and Christie and it was good to show Dave that support. He could really use some right about now, and later, too.

My ER and Urgent Care bill for my tepid little gall bladder episode totaled nearly $34,000. No need to wonder what’s wrong with the American medical system – there it is in a nutshell. I walked in and out under my own power. I can’t imagine how much a real serious medical issue would cost. I mean, really, our health care system is just a disaster. How can an ultrasound and EKG plus 10 minutes – tops – with a doctor amount to $34,000 (and all this through a so-called ‘non-profit’ health care provider)? It is utterly bizarre to me. I’ve got inquiries in as to how much I’m on the hook for. It’s maddening in a lot of ways.

Reid, let’s plan on Saturday morning breakfast to talk about the job thing. I know your mom is anxious about it, too, and we can help (where are you staying?) Your resume did look quite good and that’s a big first step. When I’m closer to Chicago, we can spend that much more time together. Or is that a frightening thought?

Love, Dad

October 25, 2016

Ellen/Reid: Kristin’s wedding was just a great deal. She, and Nancy, looked so happy amid all the chaos. Really fun to see you guys, Liz and Tim. The one thing I’ve kicked myself for more than once is moving off the aisle as a courtesy to make room for another couple. It wasn’t until Emma and Georgia were making their way down the red carpet that I mildly cursed myself for that mistake. It would’ve been a highlight photo.


Flower girls Georgia and Emma waltzed down the aisle ahead of their aunt Kristin.

Even though it didn’t turn out, there were still plenty of other great moments. Everything seemed to go off without a hitch. It was a smaller affair than I thought it would be. It was nice of Kristin to ask me to take photos at the rehearsal dinner even though I probably overdid the paparazzi thing a little too much. But that’s what uncles are for at weddings, isn’t it – to go overboard? At least I wasn’t disco dancing or chugging another glass of whiskey. I sent the photos of Kristin and Gordie and Delsin and his mom dancing to Kristin this morning and got a nice note in return.


The drive home was pretty routine (2,224 miles overall). A traffic jam here and there but nothing too bad. Made a several hour stopover in lovely Hendersonville, North Carolina and it really is quite the chic-chic little mountain town. An unbelievable Main Street lined with shops and restaurants and bars. The housing is quite affordable there. Went up to Jump Off Rock


The view at sunset at Jump Off Rock was spectacular. I’ve squandered 10 years of chances to visit these nearby mountains.

just west of town to view an incredible sunset over the Carolina mountains to the west. It reminded me of more than 10 years of squandered mountain experiences – and now it’s nearly too late. But jumped back in the car and zoomed back to Charlotte in about two hours. Slept until 7:30 then went to the Y after coffee and the newspaper. Speaking of newspapers, the Des Moines Register ain’t the paper it used to be. Highly disappointing, but that is the way of the printed page. Newspapers, except for small town ones, are going away, and quickly. In 10 years most metro papers will be long gone or online only. It’s a shame. I’m sure your late grandfather hates this development. Personally, wouldn’t that be a great Christmas present for the two of you: The St. Paul Pioneer Press and Chicago Tribune delivered to your doorsteps? Don’t put it past your old man.

Went up to the library to early vote this morning. I was prepared to see Trump’s voluntary anti-voter fraud team but there were none to be found. Only took about 20 minutes from start to finish. It was a fairly healthy line of 60 – 70 people so it will no doubt be a mob on election day. I’m tired of all the Democratic emails I get that raise another warning flag de jour – while asking for yet another donation. I don’t know who to trust in terms of the polls. The suspicion is Hillary will win handily but the Senate looks to remain in obstructionist Republican hands. In a weird way that’s okay because the public needs to see what a bunch of narrow minded zealots/nitwits the GOP really is. As the supposed party of business they sure obsess over social and religious and gun issues. I hope Hillary can man up – pun intended – to challenge some portions of the Almighty Second Amendment. Sandy Hook Elementary and the cold-blooded murder of Ralph’s law partner Todd remain very fresh for me.

The carpet stretchers came this morning to tone up the raggedy carpet in the master bedroom. I knew it looked kind of rumply and my Realtor was right to correct it. I keep waiting for that magic call(s) that announce another bid. Alas, there have been none as of yet. The optimist in me keeps thinking this is the right way to do it, that the real estate cartel and their MLS will come through with a flood of showings. It hasn’t happened yet, but as they say, all it takes is one good one.

Love, Dad

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