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Thanks for joining us! We write about sports, food, life and anything else interesting here in Ashburn and Loudoun County, all while cramming as many features into the site as possible.

Our staff consists of one old man and a dog named Maggie The WonderBeagle. Want to know more? Click on the icon below:

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There Are Some Hokie Memories That Just Last Forever

I have to admit, I’m getting tired of all the negative Virginia Tech stories. I understand they need to be written, and I’ve written several myself. But it’s a rainy Wednesday that’s probably going to turn into a rainy Thursday, so I’m ready to read something positive.

As noted in a previous post, I was digging through the basement for some old newspaper clips involving Wichita State Coach Gregg Marshall last night. Having found what I was looking for, I returned to the basement this morning to put them away. In the box I was returning these artifacts to was the program you see to the right.

Which sparked one of the greatest Hokie memories I’ll ever have.

That game back in 1995 wasn’t one filled with joy and anticipation. My wife and I had sat out in the rain the previous week against Cincinnati, a miserable contest where Virginia Tech didn’t even score. They were 0-2 after losing to Boston College in the opener, and there were even grumbles in the car driving to Lane Stadium that we may have wasted a bunch of money for these season tickets if they were going to continue playing like this.

As history will note, the Hokies bounced back in this game, beat Miami, and would not lose the rest of the season, winning 10 straight and culminating in a program-defining win over Texas in the Sugar Bowl.

But that’s not what made the day special.

As I noted in a different story the other day, the world was not only given the likes of Chase Elliot in 1995, but also received a beautiful baby girl born to a single mother in Eastern North Carolina. She would later become our daughter, but it was not without some legal issues that made for more than a few sleepless nights for my wife and I. We had hired a lawyer to help us get through all these issues, and as we were driving from High Point, NC to Blacksburg, my Leroy Jethro Gibbs-style Motorola Startac flip phone rang.

We were on I-77 closing in on the North Carolina/Virginia line, and it was the attorney. She had good news, explaining that the last of the paperwork had been completed Friday, and everything was in order so that Monday morning, we could go get our new daughter and bring her home with us.

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Never Give Up, Because You Never Know How The Story Will End

I have to admit, my interest in auto racing has dimmed with each passing year to the point that I rarely watch it unless it’s a major event. Even then, it’s more background noise or an option on the second or third television for something to check on when the main event is on a commercial break.

But yesterday’s race where Chase Elliott won the championship was pretty cool.

I say this for reasons that have nothing to do with racing. When Chase opened his visor on the cool-down lap and you could see the look in his eyes, it reminded me of a conversation with his father 35 years ago, and echos a story I tell all my young friends when they tell me it's too late in life for them to keep pursuing their dreams.

It was a hot August day in 1985 when I was sitting on the inside retaining wall of the pits at Martinsville Speedway, waiting for a fairly grumpy Bill Elliott to come talk to me. I was the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin, and it should be noted that Elliott had previously always been one of the nicest guys in stock car racing. The next year, in fact, he would return to being the nicest guy on the circuit, and even mentioned when I was doing an interview with him in 1986 that he was sorry how he’d been the previous year.

That’s because in 1985, Bill Elliott transitioned from genuine nice guy to the face of NASCAR for the season. He won 11 races and 11 poles. Winston sponsored the series and had developed a promotion called the Winston Million for winning three races, and Bill would go from being “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” to “Million Dollar Bill” after eventually winning the third at Darlington. But that day, Bill was testing in Martinsville, trying to get every point possible in his pursuit of the season’s championship.

It was on that day, I got to see firsthand what fame can do to you. It’s not like Bill was an unknown by any means, and before the season, he was like just about all the drivers on the circuit: Friendly, down to earth, a straight shooter.

He was not a Darrell Waltrip with a gift of gab that would go on forever, and given the choice of being in front of a camera or having an iced cold Coke in the Dawsonville pool room, would always choose the pool room. He never, however, made you feel like you were bothering him. It was one of the great appeals of the sport, and I consider myself lucky to have had the chance to cover racing back then when the people around it were so real.

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If There Ever Was A Year To Put Up The Tree Early, This Is The One

I will admit, it was not a great idea at first.

My wife and I had decided to put up the Christmas tree on Nov. 1 way back in August. Obviously that’s like a month too soon, but we decided we were tired of the pandemic blues, and any chance to get out of that funk was well worth the effort. Plus, it’s just my wife and I in this big house, so who was going to scoff at us? Maggie the WonderBeagle?

I mean, give her a few treats and she’ll agree with anything you want.

So last Sunday, the materials needed were lugged up from the basement. We build a rather elaborate village under the tree, including trains, miniature buildings, even a ceramic McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme, so the first thing always put down is a piece of fiberboard I had cut many years ago to accommodate all this. The board was put down right after lunch, and by 8 PM, the tree was up.

Not much has happened since. But it has had a pretty significant effect: It has allowed me to get my bearings on what time of year it is.

I’m big on traditions and associate other events with certain holidays. By November, it should be cold. College football should be coming to an end and college basketball should be on its way. The NBA and NHL should be into their new seasons. Things like Black Friday sales should be weeks away.

Heck, by Nov. 6, we should know who won the Nov. 3 election.

But none of that is true. Some conferences in college football just started their seasons. It’s 70 degrees outside right now and my air conditioning is running. The NBA and NHL probably won’t start until 2021. Black Friday sales have become multi-week events that started on Halloween.

The year has felt like one long, continuous, house arrest with all of us trapped in a fog. The traditional seasonal markers – Labor Day picnics, pulling out that sweatshirt for the first time for an early October Hokie football game, seeing adorable kids knock on your door saying “twick or tweet” – none of it happened.

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Another Old Geezer Tale Of Back In The Day....

Since we all have a lot of spare time on our hands, I find myself thinking a lot. Like of all my 64 years, what was the best year of my life.

I’m not talking about the year that had the best events happen in your life. I mean, the year I got married was a great one. The year my daughter was born is another. Last year around November when the Nats won the World Series AND an adorable beagle/hound mix came home with me one Saturday was pretty sweet.

But best year? Probably 1974.

I started that year as a high school senior. I finished the year after one quarter as a freshman at Virginia Tech.

What made it so great? Well, those last months of being a senior in high school were very cool. Long-lasting friendships were made. We walked around the halls of Lake Taylor High School like we owned the place. There was the prom. Graduation. A summer like no other as we prepared ourselves to finally be free of the shackles our parents had placed on us. It was going to be great.

Once there, I would say those first couple of months shaped who I became as an adult. Curfews? We didn’t have any stinkin’ curfews. If we wanted to stay out until 5 AM, so be it. We were free.

But a funny thing happened on the way to all this freedom. One Saturday night, after several Fridays and Saturdays where it seemed we were staying out until 4 AM just for the sake of staying out until 4 AM, I decided I wanted to go to bed at midnight. I was scoffed at as being a lightweight, but I soon learned freedom involved the freedom to do what I wanted to do. And, I decided, I like to sleep.

As any college student encounters, there was no longer a parent waiting at the door when you came in 30 seconds before curfew to ask “have you been drinking?” So we drank. A lot. As the musical group Big & Rich once sang, we “drank enough to drown.” But after a couple of weeks of this, I tired of waking up with a bad headache due to a few calls to Ralph on the big white porcelain phone in the middle of the night.

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Time Flies When You're Having Fun...

According to the good people of Twitter, I have now been back posting on Twitter for 28 days. Which is kind of interesting, because I was gone for three weeks and swore I was never coming back.

It’s probably because I noticed something during those three weeks. And I encourage everyone who reads this that posts on social media to notice the same.

It wasn’t that I missed it. I just changed my routine so during the day I was reading something different – about a dozen books to be exact – and that sufficed.

But to be honest, my biggest concern during the shutdown hasn’t been COVID-19 or the economy. It is the mental health of a lot of people. I’m a pretty positive person, but during these months there have been days even I have felt like “what’s the point of getting out of bed?” I’m usually snapped out of that mood by a big brown and white dog poking its nose in my face, or my wife saying something snarky that makes me smile.

That’s all it takes. Which makes me lucky to have those two influencing my life.

But others aren’t so lucky. It starts with waking up with a case of the blues, and then turns into a vicious cycle that jumps to “am I going to lose my job?”, “how are we going to pay the bills?” and on and on. Some of my friends who are single/divorced and live alone have told me of days they never get out of bed because they’ve just become depressed wondering “am I going to be alone for the rest of my life?” in addition to everything else going on in the world.

I’m probably overly sensitive to this because twice in my life, people who were friends of mine took their own life. One was a good friend I had worked with for years; the second one involved someone who I was extremely close to. We had spent all day at a Nationals game only a few days before, and I had no clue anything was wrong.

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Recent comment in this post
Johnny Hurst

Good

I enjoy the Maggie pics of course but I like the cooking ideas too.
Sunday, 19 July 2020 12:06
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It's Time To Stop Looking The Other Way...

I retired from serious, full-time work about 2 years ago. Because I morphed into being a consultant in the autumn of my career, I now take on projects as they become available, but the days of taking on 4 clients at the same time and working 80 hours a week are over for good.

Most people, when they transition to a slower pace, struggle with finding something to do. In my case, I was blessed that “something” came looking for me. And it opened my eyes to something we’re all talking about right now.

The “something” is helping younger people trying to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives. When you are a consultant, you work with a group of people at a company for a short period of time, then move on to the next assignment. During that short period of time, you work with a lot of people, make friends, and at times become someone worthy of trust to people you may never see again.

One day, a few weeks after I had completed working with one company, I got an email from one of the people I had met. She was a 30-something single mother, and she was fed up with her working environment. She asked if I could help her find another job, and I guess she was expecting me to say I’d call around. But instead, I did what I have done with others: asked her to print out her current resume, and we met at a nearby coffee shop so I could read her reactions to my suggestions.

It is very common in my experience that young people are very good at documenting what they have done, but overlook positive skills regarding what they are capable of doing. So after reviewing her resume, I started telling her some things I had witnessed her doing at her current job that were very positive and would be a real asset to any company.

She started to cry.

It turned out she had worked for 10 years for a boss who was very good at telling her what she was doing wrong. She had rarely, if ever, been told what she did well. Hearing such positive things kind of momentarily overwhelmed her.

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Celebrating On The 4th Of July...

I realize these are strange and unusual times, where some people are actually urging others NOT to celebrate today’s 4th of July Independence Day.

But don’t waste your breath trying to convince anyone at my house.

We celebrate it big. Every year. I’ve got two refrigerators and two freezers and I’ve been filling them up with stuff all week. I’ve got seafood. I’ve got hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken. I’ve got enough potato salad to build a small fort. I’ve got pies, cakes and enough other things to put you in a sugar coma.

I’ve also got the memories of a father serving on a destroyer in the Pacific in World War II, as well as a father-in-law being told “GO!” as his troop carrier came to a stop in the shallow waters in front of Normandy Beach on Dec. 6, 1944.

For many, many months, those two – as well as hundreds of thousands like them – did not spend their time doing Google searches and performing linguistical gymnastics in search of a phrase or statement that could be judged and condemned by today’s modern woke standards.

Instead, they picked up a gun, manned a post, and fought for our freedom, spending many a night wondering if they would be alive the next morning to face another day.

They weren’t scholars, societal experts, or even college graduates. They were scared high school kids called to serve, and they did so without reservation. They watched friends and fellow soldiers give the ultimate sacrifice, while they spent the rest of their lives doing the same bit by bit as they tried to forget all the awful things they saw. I asked them both in their final years to talk to me about what happened back then, and they still wouldn’t. It both changed - and haunted - them forever.

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When I Say It Sometimes Seems Like A Zoo Around Here....

I suppose if there is an upside to all this quarantine nonsense, it’s that it has allowed me to spend a lot more time outside in the backyard.

Which has revealed to me that I must live in some kind of nature sanctuary.

I suppose it’s always been this way, but I’m not an outside person. I can’t stand heat, so once the temps start becoming 90 on a regular basis, I hunker down inside with the AC blasting. I have an old friend who I play golf with weekly and he knows once the forecast has highs in the high 80s with humidity, he won’t see me again until September.

This summer has been different. For one, I now have Maggie the WonderBeagle, who would stay outside all day if I let her. As she is still a pup, we started with the idea she’d always be supervised in the backyard and as time went on, maybe she could have more time without Dad standing with his arms crossed watching.

But then Einstein decided to go running with a big stick in her mouth and disaster almost struck. She had it by the very end of the stick, the end broke off in her mouth, and since she was running with it, she breathed in and got the stick end stuck in her wind pipe. She immediately threw herself on the ground coughing and choking, and fortunately I was only seconds away.

I stuck my hand deep in her mouth, got my fingers on the end of the stick and was able to pull it out. Maggie of course then stares at me like “what’s the big deal?” but that little incident all but assured she’ll NEVER be outside without supervision in our fenced in backyard.

Because our back yard is a very wide pie shape, Maggie can run from one corner to the other and get a very good workout. So I started setting up a chair, an outdoor table and bringing a cup of coffee outside to give her all the time she wants 6 or 7 times a day. It is during these times I’ve noticed things I hadn’t previously been aware of.

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Thanks To My Daughter, It WAS A Happy Father's Day

Yesterday was Father’s Day, and the holiday proved once again (to me at least) that if you’re going to have children, at least one of them needs to be a daughter.

The story actually begins on Friday. My wife has been complaining for some time about the furniture we have in the kitchen nook area of our home. When acquired back in 1993, it was a stylish contemporary table with a 60-inch round thick glass top with a nice beveled edge to it. The four chairs were made of whitewashed rattan to match the base and were on casters.

For years, they were comfortable and functional.

But some time shortly after the furniture celebrated its 25th birthday, my wife started to suggest it was time for a change. The chairs were looking dated, and she wanted something new. Because of the neutral nature of the table and the way it seemed to fit perfectly into the particular area of the house, it could stay. But the chairs needed to be replaced with something more modern and stylish, she said.

My wife believes that I am very talented when it comes to making money and have proven this repeatedly throughout my life. She also believes I have great difficulty actually spending this money, and will be more than happy to provide proof of this should anyone ask.

So at dinner that night, in a weak moment when one of the casters on my particular chair broke, I may have softly said “maybe it’s time to replace all these chairs.”

Immediately the bat signal went out. Surprised I even said this, she took no chances on me having second thoughts. My daughter, who was going to visit for Father’s Day, was immediately called and texted. She was at the house Saturday morning at 9 AM. Those two were going to find four new chairs.

It’s interesting to note that in the previous three months, my wife had been so concerned about COVID-19, she did not leave the house. I did all the grocery shopping and took care of all chores that involved putting on a mask and leaving the house. I have been instructed by her to wash my hands so many times the skin on them looks like lobster claws. If I go outside, check the mailbox and return with nothing in my hands, I am still greeted with “go wash your hands.”

But new casual dining chairs are apparently kryptonite for COVID-19. They shopped all afternoon, yet returned disappointed and defeated. They could not find what they wanted.

At least on that day.

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Happy Father's Day! Man, Does Time Go By Fast....

Since today is Father’s Day, I find myself remembering the past. And just how fast time flies.

My first Father’s Day was in 1996. My daughter and I were both wearing Virginia Tech shirts, which was kind of our thing for most of our lives since she seemed to live a charmed life with regards to the Hokies. Two days before she came home with us, Virginia Tech had played Miami in football, were 0-2 at the time, and life didn’t look too good for Frank Beamer, Jim Druckenmiller and company. But somehow the Hokies won, and my daughter never experienced a loss that first year.

Later on New Year’s Eve, she was wearing a tiny Virginia Tech sweatshirt and slept on my chest as I watched the Hokies stun Texas in the Sugar Bowl. Several times I whispered to her that one day she too would graduate from Virginia Tech. She replied by snoring.

I also called my Dad that day to wish him a happy Father’s Day and his response was “welcome to the club!” and wished me a happy Father’s Day in return for the first time. Which was very cool.

Fast forward 10 years. It’s June 18, 2006 and my neighbor has a problem. He has two tickets for the Nats-Yankees game at RFK. The person he was going to go with bailed on him. Upon hearing this, my wife said “go and have a good time.” So my neighbor and I went, the stadium was packed, and it was a nice sunny day.

The only problem was the three fans seated in front of us. They were highly obnoxious Yankee fans, they never stopped talking the entire game, and they weren’t a lot of fun to be around. They talked trash every waking moment of the game until there was one out in the bottom of the ninth and the Yankees were ahead 2-1.

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Recent Comments
Charles Gordon

Great article

Great article, enjoyed reading and glad to see you are back in twitter.
Sunday, 21 June 2020 08:57
Dave Scarangella

Happy Father's Day, Charles

Give my best to your Dad too. He did, after all, introduce us both to the world of cigars ... Read More
Sunday, 21 June 2020 09:40
Charles Gordon

Thanks and Happy Father’s Day

Will do, I’ll let him know. Speaking of cigars, I’m planning on enjoying one tonight.
Sunday, 21 June 2020 09:52
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After Six Months, This Sheep Finally Got Sheared

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve hated haircuts.

Part of it was growing up in the 60s, when long hair was seen as a positive act of rebellion. I was the son of a Navy Chief Petty Officer who insisted on taking me to the barbershop every two weeks whether I wanted to or not at the Amphibious base in Norfolk, and I hated it.

Navy barbers, I’ve learned, know only one way to cut hair: as much as possible. I once made the bold decision to ask the barber not to cut very much of my hair, and was greeted at the car by a parent who sent me right back in. Telling a Navy barber your Mom said “you didn’t cut enough the first time” is like saying “just shave my head.”

Then you’d go to school, and as is the male adolescent tradition, you would be needled unmercifully by your classmates.

As a result, I’ve never been a fan of haircuts. When the barber asks how I want my hair cut, I always say “make it look like you HAVEN’T cut my hair.” If my wife says “I think you need a haircut” I always wait another two weeks. I may be in my 60s, but when it comes to haircuts, I’m still an 11-year-old with post traumatic haircut syndrome from my days at Little Creek Elementary.

But not today.

Turns out when I wished everybody at the Royal Barber Shop on Tuesday, December 10, 2019 a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, I had no idea I would not be seeing them again until the last day of May, 2020. I had been thinking the last week of February it was time for another haircut, but postponed going for a couple of weeks.

Then everything was shut down from the pandemic.

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Guest — Tony Banks

Art?...

my phone isn't magnetic like the games used to be to drag the metal filings to a hairstyle, but if I could -
Sunday, 31 May 2020 13:44

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