Friday, September 30, 2011


Five years. Five people. I attribute all of our success to you, Doc. I would say that our wedding seems like it was just yesterday, but the truth is that we have managed to squeeze so much life into the last five years. And every new day brings the best of the best.

Call it kismet, or just the brilliance of Pandora - I heard this song on the radio this morning on the way to work, and I realized that it is exactly about us. Or, rather, it is about me, and how hopeless my life would be without you in it.

I'd rather sleep in a box like a bum on the street
Than a fine feather bed without your little ol' cold feet
And I'd rather be deaf, dumb, and stone blind
Than to know that your mornings will never be mine 
And I'd rather die young than to live without you
I'd rather go hungry than eat lonesome stew
You know it's once in a lifetime and it won't come again
It's here and it's gone on a magnolia wind 
I'd rather not walk through the garden again
If I can't catch your scent on a magnolia wind 
Well if it ever comes time that it comes time to go
Sis' pack up your fiddle, Sis' pack up your bow
If I can't dance with you then I won't dance at all
I'll just sit this one out with my back to the wall 
I'd rather not hear pretty music again
If I can't hear your fiddle on a magnolia wind 
If I can't catch your scent on a magnolia wind
If he's not on your radar, Guy Clark writes some fantastic songs, banging them out one at a time on his workbench, putting on the shine and moving on to the next work of art.

Thank you for being my fiddler, baby - I'm having the time of my life with you, Jack, Caroline, and whoever this new person is going to be.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lessons Learned

    mortified is a form of:
    verb /ˈmôrtəˌfī/ 
    mortified, past participle; mortified, past tense; mortifies, 3rd person singular present; mortifying, present participle

    1. Cause (someone) to feel embarrassed, ashamed, or humiliated\
      • - she was mortified to see her wrinkles in the mirror
      • - she refused to accept this mortifying disgrace
    2. Subdue (the body or its needs and desires) by self-denial or discipline
      • - return to heaven by mortifying the flesh
    3. (of flesh) Be affected by gangrene or necrosis
      • - the cut in Henry's arm had mortified
    4. Stephen F. Shaw, Greensboro, NC at 7:32am on September 28, 2011
      • - "Stephen's facial expression was the very definition of mortified"

    It was just like any other normal day, when I strolled into the Moses Cone Hospital daycare Wednesday morning to drop the kids off. This week in Jack's class, the theme is "camping" - which is good for several reasons, chief among them being that we are already planning to go camping this weekend and Jack can't stop talking about it form the time he gets out of bed in the morning to the time we read his "Camping Book 17 times before he goes to bed each night. So when the school calendar came home last week with Camping penciled in for this week, I knew we were in for a treat. 

Monday, the whiteboard outside his class requested that if any parent had a tent at home, would they please bring it to school so that the kids could more realistically conduct their camping play. Being the wonderful father that I am, I quickly recognized that this was a unique opportunity to participate and perhaps to make up for never really having brought a prop or other show and tell item to school despite frequent requests. Delinquent Dad, I am sure you are thinking - but this was my chance to really redeem myself in the eyes of Miss Joy and Miss Angela.

When I picked Jack up yesterday, he was talk talk talk about camping and the tent and we napped inside daddy - in the tent! Miss Angela sweetly handed him off and thanked me so much for bringing the tent, that the teachers got it set up just fine and the kids really enjoyed it. I was worried after I dropped it off that morning that maybe I should have set it up for them, and that perhaps they wouldn't be able to get it pitched and Jack would be disappointed and ridiculed for having the dumb father who brought a tent but didn't have the good graces to set it up for the poor children, so it languished in a cubby until 5 o'clock. However, this was not the case, and the kids had fun.

So much fun, in fact, that I decided to leave the tent at school on Tuesday night so they could play with it again on Wednesday. When I walked in this morning and dropped Jack off at his classroom, I mentioned to Miss Joy that I had left the tent in place and they were welcome to use it again if they wanted. In retrospect, the big grin that lit up her face at that point must have been hard for her to contain, but she walked over and in a somewhat softened tone asked if Angela had told me about the tent. Yes, I said, she said you got it set up all right and the kids enjoyed it. The grinning was even more pronounced at this point and I started to get nervous. No, she said, did she tell you what she found in it? And then I just squeaked out a pitiful What do you mean?

Joy continued: Well, when she got it set up, Angela crawled inside before we let the kids in to check out the inside. And when she came out she had a funny look on her face, and had stuffed something into her pocket, and she said Good thing the kids didn't find that first.

Oh my god. I am sure I am beet red at this point, although I am trying to stay calm. I am positive by now that she did not find the wrapper to a Clif Bar, or a book of matches, some other innocuous piece of trash. Joy is almost laughing so hard now that she can't even pronounce the word, although I am sure it started with a hard C. I am mumbling through apologies and remarks like Gosh, its been 4 years since I used that tent, how could that have happened. I mean, we have two kids, so how they came to be is somewhat obvious. I just wish the ancillary activities didn't have to be rehashed in quite this detail.

Joy is similarly beside herself right now, although more from the entertaining enjoyment that must characterize a revealing moment like this, and the irony that is present in the knowledge that this morsel of parent news has probably already spread among the entire daycare staff.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Little Rameses

Last weekend, despite the rain and the risk of harm posed by obnoxious Wahoowa fans in their pinpoint oxfords and striped bowties, the Big Ram and I brave the elements to take Jack to his first Tarheel Football game. While the girls were enjoying a relaxing a recharging weekend of rest at the beach, the big boys were bach-ing it Carolina-style.

I was amazed at how well he did - with the noise and the crowds and the lights and fireworks - nothing seemed to faze young Jack. Except for a brief halftime walk around the stadium and a chance to pet Rameses XVII , Jack stayed in his seat (and my seat, and Bud's seat, and Don's seat) and the three of four stairs adjacent to the seats, for the whole four quarters. A few sips of coke, a bag of graham crackers and some nachos, along with about 7 pom-poms, and he was in heaven.

Tarheels over the 'Hoos, I think he had a great time, judging by how many times since we got home that he has asked when we are going to the football game again. Trust me, I'm looking forward to many more seasons.

Tarheels over the 'Hoos, 28-17
Bernard - 12 carries, 103 yards

Monday, September 12, 2011

September 12th

As I wrote yesterday, awakening to the bright blue skies of early Fall on September 12, 2001 was like entering an America reborn, if only for a few weeks or months. No agenda, no politics - just sympathy, sorrow, patriotism and pride, and thousands of American flags everywhere you looked.

I remember that most sports were cancelled that weekend but roared back in the weeks that followed in a moving tribute to those gone and those serving, as if the physical excellence and metaphorical combat on the football pitch and baseball diamond portended of righteous victory and redemption for our country. Remember when the Patriots won the Super Bowl that winter? Almost as if it was an omen of our enduring success.

Of course we have come far since those first heady days of 21st century America, and while our ideals still prevail as perhaps the highest and the very best of humankind across the reaches of the earth, we cannot gloss over serious and substantial underlying fissures within our society. Right and left, rich and poor, native and immigrant - we all share in some part of the conflict spectrum that threatens our collective and continued success.

I've flipped through various commemorative essays today, and a few choice pieces have caught my eye:

Michael Roth, the President of Wesleyan University writes about a lack of partisanship and its importance in making tribute: Ten Years After: Commemoration Without Agenda
[O]n this 10th anniversary of 9/11 let us also simply acknowledge the claim that our painful memories still have on us. Let us recognize with piety that we still carry the traces of those traumatic events with us, and that we acknowledge their importance to us without trying to use them. Let us commemorate, if only for a few moments, without agenda.
I think that is a very appropriate tone to strike, and one that perhaps an older version of the popular media would have worked to protect a generation or two ago. If only there were more folks that were able to articulate things as well as Mr. Roth.

And this, from Gotham Gal, wife of VC investor / tech blogger Fred Wilson:
Going on the subway the day after the towers came down because I thought it was important that we didn't let this event change the way we live in our city. There were tons of cops down there. Josh went up to one of them and asked if they caught the bad guys yet. He answered, not yet son but we will, we will
A year later to the day Josh woke up that morning and the first thing he said when his eyes opened up was, did they ever catch that Osama Bin Laden guy?
There's stuff like this all over, as everyone reflects in their own way. What strikes me is the similarities among the many, several key themes that are repeated again and again - grief, normalcy, solidarity.

As much as I spent yesterday remembering September 11th, I want to remind myself to spend today - and the weeks the follow - remembering the sense of community and the sense of country we felt on September 12th and for much of the rest of that fall. People just seemed better that year, more in tune with the niceties of common life, reflective on the importance of enjoying and savoring the life of the living.

Elon alumnus Jason Boone '05, whose father Col. Canfield Boone was killed in the Pentagon on his day off, during the first month of Jason's freshman year, writes about the community that rose from those ashes, much like a phoenix, for the betterment of everyone involved:
I have to remind myself that 10 years is a significant chunk of time. Current freshmen would have been in third grade at the time of the attacks. For young people who may have been old enough to see the events, but too young to fully comprehend, I hope they believe people like me when we say, “Yes, that one day in September, we were very afraid.” But the next day, we feared a little less. Eventually, we even had hope. Laughter and happiness would return – much sooner than I dared to guess. The way people of vastly divergent backgrounds united was a truly stunning event to witness. The cliché of united resolve was not simply a unit of political currency. It was palpable in every gathering.
Well said, all.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


There was a lot of talk today, really all week long and going back well into the summer, about the process and importance of remembering September 11th. I share and cherish this process, for while my life was not directly changed by that day it certainly cast a new light and meaning on a future that was already well in motion for me at the time. Serving in a wartime Marine Corps was a decidedly different and more fulfilling venture for me than the stateside alternative, and that worldview and those experiences and relationships are things that I will carry with me for a long time.

We all have different ways of remembering things, different rituals we follow. Each of us in our own way, for this anniversary and many others both positive and negative in light, takes a time apart to memorialize certain things in our past. A few days after 9/11, I found online an MP3 audio file that was a full recording of the Howard Stern show from that morning (WTC coverage starts around 2h10m). Odd, you might think, that this would be my choice. But for September 11th, that is what I listen to each year to mark that memory. Some years, just a few minutes are enough to do the trick, and other times I sit up late in the night listening for hours on end as the bright blue morning unfolds and ages into afternoon, a lifetime or more crammed into a few hours.

For me, what I want to remember is the uncertainty, the unknowing dimension of the early morning - as it unfolded - that can never be fully recaptured. Forever more, the news coverage or documentary or TV special on 9/11 will not develop separate from what eventually came to pass on that day. Listening to Stern and the rest of the crew of his live studio show learn of the first impact, and the second, listening to someone sent up to the roof with binoculars and a radio, relaying what they can see. Listening to fans call in, not to comment on the early dialogue of Pamela Anderson but each bringing weighty, if fragmented news. The speculation and insight and the unknown. Remarkably quickly, someone says terrorism, and war, and pegs it - certainly sooner that I remember making that same realization.

If you watch any news commentary of the day, even if it is the unedited audio of the very beginning, it is populated with video clips from the street and a variety of angles that did not come to light for days and weeks following. But in my memory at least, I was watching hours of live continuous coverage where nobody knew what the hell was going on, whether it was a big plane or small, intentional or accidental, 5000 or 50000 souls. Even flipping from one station to another, it was all the same camera angles, one or two at the most, mainly from across the river. I remember it taking 5 minutes just to figure out if the first tower had come down or not, because all we could see was smoke and dust. We just didn't know.

Listening to this tape of the Howard Stern show brings me back to the immediacy and the uncertainty of that morning, when everything was still news and nothing was editorialized. That's what I want to feel. I feel like almost everything else is post-production work.

And then, when I have had my fill of memories from that morning, what I really want to remember the most, beyond the smoke and fire and shock, was how America felt in the week that followed that terrible Tuesday. Like somewhere between Peal Harbor and V-J Day's ticker tape parade, all crammed into one outpouring of sympathy, humanity, patriotism, pride, vengeance, magnanimity and understanding. Flags on cars, on the street, on houses. People speaking to one another, strangers and neighbors and family, with a new measure of perspective and civility and a sense that, hey, we're all in this together and we're gonna have to be a team about it. And that was an America that I was insanely proud to be a part of, a country brought together, united through the character of the people that are her foundation and her purpose.

Friday, September 9, 2011


People have different ways of remembering things. Important life moments, heart-breaking experiences, bright flashes of joy. We have rituals and rights of remembrance, and the hanging on and remembering begins to gain its own importance, separate and distinct from the memory itself.

I am one of those folks that drags memories along, collecting them as I go like a little boy putting rocks in his pockets  on a walk. Does all that gravel weigh me down, keep me from "living in the moment"? I don't know - I don't think so. You can have a big pack and still make the summit, and you might even enjoy the taste of sweat and pride more at the top because of it.

I heard this song on the radio Pandora today, and it made me think about someone I knew, and the rituals that will be held across america this weekend:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Carolina Blue

I got a notice in the mail about the Carolina '01 reunion next month at Homecoming. Hard to believe its been ten years...