Tag Archives: Charlotte

A father’s moralism in two pages …


In all the years of writing weekly letters, this is the first two pager in memory. It flies in the face of my one-page-is-plenty approach.

And it’s not often I overly moralize – and not usually on a single topic – since Ellen and Reid are old enough to make up their own minds and form their own decisions and adopt their own beliefs. Yet I have my beliefs, too, and they both need to know where and why I stand on certain issues.

So what went on in Charlotte in recent days deserved two pages – and maybe three.


September 25, 2016

Ellen/Reid: I scribbled some notes earlier last week about thoughts for today’s letter, and then the police shooting and subsequent unrest in Charlotte went down and my earlier ideas went out the window.

The rest of the nation saw and condemned the violence, yet to me it speaks to something much larger, and far darker, about how we tend to grapple – but not really – with racism and bigotry and economics and guns and public education as underlying factors. I think to view this only in the context of a shooting is very short sighted and disingenuous to the black community, and in some ways, to law enforcement, too.

I know, the victim here likely had a gun and yes, the police are in a predicament with only seconds to pass judgment and take action. I get that. But that judgment tends to fall against the black person in virtually 100 percent of cases. Obviously I’m no authority on how to disarm/disable someone, but part of me wonders if the kill shot is always a necessity of first resort. Our military in the Middle East has rules of engagement in equally, if not far more dangerous, in circumstances where the foe is trying to kill our forces. Still, the mandate is not always shoot to kill first. I don’t know what the answer is but we have to find it. I do feel the black community is seen with a different set of eyes than whites. I do.

What bothers me much more is what I perceive as a greater undercurrent of racism that still exists. I know because I brought some with me to the South. I wrestle with my own sense of racism and bigotry. Anyone who tells you we’ve mostly got it licked is just not dealing in reality. It exists and it is real here and I see it and I feel it inside and outside of Charlotte. The other night I went to a post-shooting discussion at Caldwell (I’m telling you, John is just one hell of a reverend/leader because that man and that little church and its mixed race congregation forced me to face my own very real prejudices) and as people spoke it occurred to me that any perceived national racial gains trumpeted in the past 50 years really haven’t been because the hearts and minds of the people have been swayed, but largely because we’ve legislated and regulated – rightly so, I think – removal of overt race situations as best we could. Still, the war for the hearts and minds has yet to be won and may not be even close to being won. I told the group of my pessimism on that score.

Sure, there’s no way to rationally condone violence yet it seems to me the first reaction of the white community is to condemn the violence as a way regain a peaceful status quo that reflects what whites so desire. We – whites, that is – don’t follow up, however, with real solutions, plausible solutions, that underlie racism in the first place. We tell blacks to calm down but we don’t get at, let alone identify with or talk about for however long it takes, what can make us a truly integrated nation. We have not won over the hearts and minds of the people. It’s not just a faith based answer, it’s not a legislative or regulatory answer, it is some other societal and cultural answer whereby people accept all others – blacks, hispanics, Middle Easterners – on equal footing. Victory is not ours and likely won’t be in my lifetime until the hearts and minds of people change at a basel level. Instead, we blast or label people as niggers or Mexis or lazy bastards or takers or entitled or dirty immigrants. Or worse. Enough with the labels already. What about the good people we haughtily tell to ‘just try harder’ when the playing field isn’t just not level, it’s tilted beyond repair?

The three of us can’t really put ourselves in the life that blacks endure. I do believe that America has quietly and perpetually instituted a permanent black Continue reading

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Goodbye Charlotte, hello Des Moines …


If you’re good at reading between the lines – and plenty of hints have been dropped in the letters the last month or so – it will come as little surprise to you that I will move from Charlotte to Des Moines as soon as the house sells.

Ellen and Reid have both endorsed the switcheroo. You have only to look at photos of Emma and Georgia to understand how I arrived at this decision that is at once easy yet difficult. Charlotte has been my home for more than a decade, and I’ve come to like, and possibly love, the quirks of the city and the friends I’ve made. Indeed, a handful of friends deserved to be told in person.

But the time has come. Time once again to pull up stakes, stuff everything into the Camry and moving van for the drive north, reinvent my life and simply move on to whatever the next chapter is.

And it will be in Iowa rather than North Carolina.


September 19, 2016

Ellen/Reid: Ten years ago today I moved into the house, and here we are trying to sell the darn thing. Actually, I might have screwed the pooch a little; there’s already one offer that was perilously close and now I’m thinking I should have jumped on it. In my defense, the young couple were the first people to go through and I thought perhaps this is just the tip of the iceberg. Surely others would come through and perhaps ignite something. Only two visitors stopped by at the open house yesterday and while both professed to liking it, no offers have come through. My attorney told me that technically speaking, offers must be made in writing so that’s what I was expecting the young couple to do – send something in an email or a letter.

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Here are two primary reasons for my relocation: 4-year-old Emma (assuring her apprehensive little sister Georgia that things will be okay on the first day of pre-school). I don’t want to miss out on any more of their early years than I already have. Des Moines puts me an easy drive from Reid in Chicago, too.

Alas, neither has been forthcoming but I did make a call to the couple this morning but the call has not yet been returned. Perhaps the old saying, ‘Good things happen to those who wait’ will come true. I’m still not sold on the idea of a Realtor since the time-on-market here is in relatively short order. Comp-wise, I seem to be in the ballpark (upper end of the ballpark) although the price reflects a good location with a great view and privacy. Hopefully, someone else will see those benefits to the house and agree with me. Zillow.com seems a valid way to go about the sale and I’m in no way ready to give up on that approach. My friends Sherry and Richard told me about Redfin.com and that’s sort of a discount Realtor approach and is worth looking into. I don’t think five days into the process without a sale is necessarily anything to get uptight or fidgety about. It’ll happen and I’ll be on my way.

If it does sell, perhaps I can apply some of the proceeds toward golf lessons. My favorite game is completely in the tank. It could be that the house and all the other things tied to the sale are messing with my head (which wouldn’t take much) but there is a complete lack of concentration and focus. You need those to even play adequately. It could be that my money would be better spent laying on a couch spilling my guts out to a shrink. That’s what is really needed. The one saving grace to teeing it up at all is the social aspect of it. My Golf for One group had a really fun time after our Saturday round at a place called Nellie’s and it was a riot. The wait staff take turns singing with the band and it’s a hoot. The food was pretty good and there was a big crowd.

The basil is on its last legs. It’s been so hot here that the basil, which loves hot temperatures, has continued to stick it out. I’ll whip up another batch of pesto sometime today.

Marge the labradoodle was fun to have around with this weekend. This is the fifth time I’ve sat for her for all or part of a weekend and she adds a new dynamic to owning a home. She’s got so much pep that she literally begs to go outside for a walk. She doesn’t just amble outside, she sprints at a dead run. She’s not so good with other dogs but now that I know that, it makes it easier for me to manage her around other dogs. We go for the obligatory four mile walks on both weekend mornings and she is just dead to the world when she’s done. Since I don’t lug around water for her, if I find a cup somewhere along the way I’ll dip it into a fountain at the midway point and that seems to hold her over until we saunter in the front door.

One of the post-move dilemmas is how to handle my classes at Central Piedmont Community College. It seems like enough students are registering that both my classes will be held starting the week of Oct. 8. Since classes go for seven weeks, there may be something of a time crunch if/when the house sells and I’ve got to get my ass out of here. But we’ll cross that bridge if/when the time comes. And let’s hope it comes sooner than later.

Love, Dad

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A trail of tears and softened edges after 10 years …


Time flies when you’re having fun.

Somehow, Ellen and Reid have never read even an abbreviated version of my move to Charlotte; but here I am, 10 years later and my head is still above water. In a lot of ways, the move to the South marked a wholesale overhaul of the tone and tenor of the letters.

What was a light heartened effort to occupy their time in college and in their early 20’s made an abrupt 180 degree turn. It was now about overcoming distance between me and them, and describing the mixed feelings/emotions as their dad muddled along with unfamiliar environs, the complete lack of friends, a stifling work culture, and a jury rigged life below the Mason Dixon line.


August 29, 2016

Ellen/Reid: It’s hard to believe but earlier this month my 10 year anniversary in Charlotte quietly came and went. I’ve tried hard to make heads and tails about the how and why I got down here at all for nearly one sixth of my entire life. It really has been a mostly surreal decade, what with reinventing virtually everything in my life from work to friends to living arrangements to adapting to Southern life to you name it. As I drove around on that recent day, August 15, I tried to assign my tenure a grade on the 1-to-10 scale. Of course, assigning grades is an exercise in the moment and reflects one’s mood at the time. I dunno, but since it was mostly a melancholy day, I gave it a 6. Any other day it might have been a point higher or lower. It’s kind of like opinion polls where the margin of error is a point or two.

Reid, what I do recall, vividly, is walking out of the Bridger Wilderness with you on Saturday, August 12, 2006, driving back to Des Moines, loading my BMW with literally all my worldly possessions Sunday night and Monday morning, and then – bingo – pulling into Charlotte at 10 p.m. in a driving rainstorm as I wiped away tears (wondering just what the hell I’d gotten myself into) and setting up temporary residence in a bland all-white condo owned by the bank. My memory as a rule is spotty but I remember that entire sequence as if it were yesterday. But time tends to soften the hard edges and I’ve inured myself to things here. Yet I’ll never really be considered a local by my or anybody else’s standards.

And to think all of this is about to come tumbling down. Even though the 10 years has gone by in a flash, it’s just another blip on the life scale. I’d like to think of myself as somewhat resilient but reinvention of self is just another way to say ‘go with the flow.’ And I’m about to do that.

Ellen, you guys are also the rolling stones that gather no moss. I didn’t realize the re-hab gymnastics you and Tim are doing before you move into your new place. You need to send me a few photos since I can’t visualize what you’re getting yourself into, and I say that in a positive vein. Tim’s photo of you vacuuming in Des Moines was just a scream. Sometimes you just have to let things go.

The house is slowing but surely coming around. Sealed the deck and worked on the mundane living room over the weekend but I irresponsibly jilted my pressing responsibilities on Sunday afternoon to go play golf with my friends Sondra and Jody. She is one hell of a cook so after golf I got to eat her pasta and all it cost me was a bottle of Malbec. I’ve got to get cracking on the garage and the infernal spare bedroom/office. While the garage should be manageable, the bedroom is going to be a frigging nightmare. Hope to sell both twin beds and the wooden desk on Craig’s List, but if my results are no better than the non-response generated for the Harley,

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For sale: A Road King Classic. I’d of thought someone would snap it up by now; ‘… or best offer’ doesn’t sound too bad right about now.

then I’m really going to be pissed. It is so disheartening for the bike not to have sold. Ellen, your suggestion to take it to the Harley dealer is one I’d hoped to avoid but it looks like that will be the action of last resort. But I want to be rid of the thing. You don’t know how many times I’ve rued that purchase and wished I had the old Heritage Softail back. It was one hell of a ride. Stupid is as stupid does.

I see the doctor this afternoon about my left knee. It continues to be sore all the time. Perhaps any surgery can be put off for a few months. If I can limp through several weeks in Wyoming on a bum leg, I can sure as hell gimp around getting a house ready to sell. Ellen, I’ll head out today to get the succulents you and Liz recommended for the copper tray in the kitchen. It’ll lend a little class and dress up the windows. I’ll tell you what: you send photos of your new abode, and I’ll send you pics of the new flower arrangements. Deal?

Love, Dad

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Staying the hell out of the way…


I don’t get the kids down here to Charlotte all that much, what with their lives and goings on. That’s what the experts probably advise: prepare them as best you can then stay the hell out of the way. So I go to them and that works just fine. It makes when we do manage to get together all that much better. The brood is in good order. I saw that first-hand last week in St. Paul, MN.

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May 12, 2014

Ellen/Reid: What I do know after this past weekend is that I will return – today – to the semi-vegan diet that was totally abandoned while around you guys. But it was the sort of weekend you wouldn’t have any other way. It was totally fun and now we can put a wrap on three consecutive weekends of Emma’s birthday celebrations. She had to be on complete sensory overload what with all the people and all the stuff. Her grandfather met his sugar quota for at least the next year. Geez. That was a lot of sweets, much of it admittedly self induced. But a few days in a row isn’t that bad. Here’s to hoping we can all return to a dietary routine.

Ellen and Reid above the St. Croix River just across from  Minnesota. This is what they've become - good adults and good people.

Ellen and Reid above the St. Croix River just across from Minnesota. This is what they’ve become – good adults and even better people.

One thing is for certain, the steaks that Donna and Tom grilled to perfection are not the sort you can find in the South. Those were incredible. Nothing like Midwestern beef. Saturday night was just great fun, and their cabin was beyond belief. This morning I’ll call the wine shop that’s close to them and send them some sort of gift certificate on our joint behalf for whatever wines they normally consume, which would seem to be pinot noir. It was so gracious of them to let me crash at their house. About the only time I had to talk to them, and that was with Tom because he nearly rivaled me in getting up at the crack of dawn, was in the morning since I was hitting the sack so early.

Ellen and Tim are the best of couples - and parents.

Ellen and Tim are the best of couples – and parents.

Emma has just grown and progressed so much even since Thanksgiving. It was such a contrast from then to now. Sure, she’s just two but she’s putting away her toys and being responsible, mostly, much of the time. She’s just a good little girl. It was marv to see Kristin and Jeff. It hadn’t been since the wedding. Kristin seems happy with Delsin, who seems like a really good guy, and Jeff seems relieved to have graduate school over and done with. He seems to like the Twin Cities and I hope he finds the right sort of job.

Boy, you guys sure have good dirt up there. Thanks for letting me plow asunder some of the garden and do a little planting. Other than the weekend Emma was born, that’s really the first time my hands have gotten dirty by handling soil. If only I had a small garden plot to tend to. That would be complete nirvana. A few seeds here and there, plus pulling a few weeds, would be a total joy. A space smaller than the one you have would suit me just fine. Nice to see the raspberries coming up again. That’s the one perennial I wish could be grown down here.

Emma wasn't all that sold on a tram ride down to the St. Croix. Tim's arms seemed to take care of any qualms she had.

Emma wasn’t all that sold on a tram ride down to the St. Croix. Tim’s arms seemed to take care of any qualms she had.

The flight home was pretty uneventful. I hit a jackpot of sorts in that there was a vacant center seat between me and the adjacent passenger. That really was a bonus in today’s age of jam-packed, sardine-ish seating and flights. Got home early and was immediately greeted by heat in the upper 80s. Not that it was oppressive but it was just warm compared to Minnesota. My intent was to walk but I ended up on the couch and closed the evening with Game of Thrones. I don’t think this season is quite as gripping as the others before it.

There was a crush of emails when I logged on this morning about 6:00. But those are all sorted or disposed of by now and it’s back to the work routine. Thanks again for this past weekend. The one thing it bolsters is that there aren’t enough of those long weekends. I’ll continue in my quest to get you guys down here at some point yet this year, so keep me in mind if you have a few spare days.

Love, Dad

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Charlotte’s entry to the Big Leagues?


I’m no politician nor do I want to be. But as a Democrat, last week was a week of shame courtesy of our dear mayor – with his pockets apparently stuffed with illicit cash.

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March 31, 2014

Ellen/Reid: All that job news from last week really threw a scare into me. It makes me realize there’s only one person who’ll look out for me and that’s me. You’re only as good as your most recent good day and that’s unnerving. I’ll keep you posted on things and for the the time being I’ll keep on doing the job and will keep my nose to the grindstone. But at least one eye will be on the lookout.

Charlotte took a big slap on the kisser last week when our mayor was caught with his hand – make that both hands – in the cookie jar of graft and corruption. What a complete idiot. He was shaking people down, only he didn’t realize a lot of the shakees were G-men posing as folks trying to buy influence with briefcases and fists full – literally – of cash. The mayor’s only good move was to resign. This either knocks CLT out of the Big Leagues or, in a morbid way, gives us entry. We’re now big enough for this to happen. Not quite Chicago politics, Reid, but we’re gaining on you. It will set North Carolina Democratic politicians back for who knows how long.

Your uncle has browbeat me enough on switching to almond milk from skim that I finally relented if for no other reason than to get him off my back. But I must admit it’s better than I thought it would be. My skim went sour over the weekend so I thought I’d give the substitute a trial Continue reading

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My golf and our better weather…


It’s been tough sledding weather-wise for Ellen and Reid all winter long. I have to rub in our somewhat milder winters at every opportunity even though the 24 hour forecast calls for 5-10″ of snow in Charlotte. But that’s another story for next week because the locals are all loony about the impending storm.

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Feb. 3, 2014

Ellen/Reid: Reid, you really know how to make my day. I mean, taking that birthday call yesterday on the golf course just made me laugh out loud. Listening to your short voicemail was so fun. My playing companions thought you were just a scream. It’s the thought that counts – even if the best wishes were a week early. In your defense I always had a tough time with your grandparent’s birthdays. Never could get those quite right so you and I share that same bond. At least you had the right month.

Yesterday was as I’ve hit the ball since I’ve been down here – nearly 8 years. My swing was shorter and that just brings me so much happiness so hopefully there won’t be a return of the too-tense swing. I’ve just got to relax and let it happen. I’m tired of my game going to hell in a handbasket.

I was coerced - forced, really - to have my photo taken with some of the women in my golf group. We have an incredibly strong group of women golfers.

I was coerced – forced, really – to have my photo taken with some of the women in my Golf for One  group on Meetup.com. We have an incredibly strong core of very, very good women golfers.

Emma looks adorable – and stylish – in her new swimsuit. Let’s hope the temps cooperate so she can romp in the surf with her dad. Ellen, I likely won’t get the answers you seek until he returns sometime later this week. Even if we don’t we can always go with the flow – buy what we need and go from there. I wouldn’t sweat that small stuff. Just being down there will be good enough. If gramps has to sleep on the floor, gramps will sleep on the floor. I’ve got a shirttail friend down there and will ask her for restaurant recommendations and other spots worth seeing. I’d like to get over to the Everglades to maybe see a gator or two. But you and Tim can call the shots. I’m just along for the ride. Maybe Emma and I can hand out one night while you and TP head out.

We had snow paralysis earlier last week. We got all of a half inch. Right after making coffee I went into the garage, dusted off the plastic shovel and it took all of 10 minutes to clear the back driveway and the front walk so the newspaper woman would beat a path to my door. It reminded me of the countless times Continue reading

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All the socialization I need…


“All the news that’s fit to print” says the New York Times. So it is that Ellen and Reid see the good with the not-so-good.

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January 21, 2014

Ellen/Reid: About all I’m sure of this week is that our weather is better than your weather. And that’s probably not saying a whole hell of a lot given that tonight we may get some freezing precip. We played golf yesterday in the sunny 60s so whatever we get later on today may be a bit of payback by the Almighty. It would serve to test our collective mettle. The lot of us down here are a bunch of weather wimps.

I guess there’s this new reality TV show Party Down South in which the only reality is it’s more ‘necks getting drunk. I haven’t seen it – I won’t see it – but it must offer up quite the image the South wants to project as a backwater region. Maybe it’s in keeping with us as multi-state populace that is hell bent on snubbing public education and all that learnin’ that goes with it. Good God, we deserve everything we get. It’s morbidly hilarious. When I was in Journalism School at Nebraska, we had a j-professor named Dr. Walklin (really a humorless and hard but inspiringly great teacher) who called this sort of programming the lowest common denominator, that is, it would appeal to the largest swath of audience. Man, they hit that right. Don’t start me on those Duck morons. I haven’t seen that either but having shot my share of ducks back in the day, it occurs to me ‘How many ducks can one family eat?’ Trust me, a little duck goes a long way. That show has gotta be more of that denominator stuff.

I’m dating a little bit and it’s not turning out so well. There was one where I said “Hello” and that was almost literally the last thing I got to say. There was no way to shoehorn in another word, let alone a full sentence. I was trying very hard not to look at my watch. That is things in a nutshell. To be sure there have been a couple of nice people. My intent was to just get out but now I just want to stay in. That has its merits. My golf group is perhaps all the socialization I need.

Here's a few participants in my social group: golfers. It's probably all I need.

Here’s a few participants in my social group: golfers. It’s probably all I need.

Every Saturday morning very early I see an older gentleman out walking his dog. His name is Tom Philips and years ago he sold developers a chunk of land that now bears his name: Philips Place, that upscale eatery/shops place where you guys and I would eat. Tom is a good guy and we talk sports a few minutes before parting. He lives on the parcel directly behind my house, and now he’s sold that too for development. In a week or so he and his wife move out to head up the way to posh Lake Norman. I’ll miss seeing him. He called me a ‘good man’ last week for doing what I do, which is to pick up junk.

My old awful Acer laptop finally gave up the ghost and trying to transition my Caldwell church newsletter to Pages on the MacBook Air has been a complete and utter disaster. It’s nearly incomprehensible for me to understand the instructions and nuances. I went up to the Apple store last week for guidance and the young people armed with iPhones and iPads working the floor looked at me like I was an idiot, which I may well be. They keep telling me how ‘intuitive’ these Apple products are, but if indeed my Mac and Pages are thusly so, I’ve yet to feel the vibes.

Reid, seriously, let me know when you and Liz can come down there or me up there. Send me some dates that work for you guys. Ellen, I’ll keep working for a warm weather thing. Based on our FaceTimes, it looks like you guys could use it. Couldn’t we all.

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