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But Dad, You Just Don't Understand....

At 7 AM this morning, there was something beautiful going on here in Ashburn, as snow continued to fall since starting some time during the night. It was peaceful too, as the falling snow acts as nature’s soundproof barrier and blocks off all the noise of the world.

Well, it was until a certain hound let out a blood-curdling scream of a bark that made people wonder if my backyard had become a crime scene.

My house is situated right off a bike path that runs along my backyard’s fence. On the other side is a protected nature reserve, where there is a big creek for rain to run off into, and as a result draws far more animals than you routinely see in a metro area. It’s not surprising to see groups of deer, frogs, snakes, hawks, squirrels, racoons and several other species just roaming the area as if it were their home.

This morning, a new type of animal made an appearance. Sauntering down the bike path like it was just wandering home after an all-night bender was a small red fox, occasionally looking up at the snow like it was annoyed by this white stuff falling in his eyes. Those eyes opened just a little wider when his presence was discovered by my dog Maggie.

I call Maggie a WonderBeagle because that’s what she looked like as a 7-pound puppy, but when her legs grew to the size of a giraffe, we realized she was a different breed: An American Foxhound. Maggie is the gentlest, sweetest dog I’ve ever owned, but the AKC web pages on the breed warn when it is in pursuit of something it wants – namely a fox – it genetically can’t control itself and won’t listen to commands.

The AKC wasn’t kidding, as I watched this domesticated hound that sits on the sofa and watches television like a teenager turn into the Tasmanian Devil. The fox – showing it may be a bit of a jerk in the animal world – calmly stared at Maggie as she’s trying to break down the backyard fence, almost giving it a wry smile before slowly trotting off into the snowy woods.

It was if it were saying “my work here is done.”

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Daniel P. Lundberg

Foxhounds Coonhounds

Sounds like the first time our Coonhound, well, found a raccoon that had sauntered into our backyard. Complete and utter chaos ens... Read More
Sunday, 31 January 2021 14:35
Dave Scarangella

We had thought after a few mon...

But then after the vet said she was a foxhound, and the AKC had the nerve to post a pic on its foxhound page that looked exactly l... Read More
Sunday, 31 January 2021 15:06
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Sun Is Shining A Little Brighter In Ashburn, Thanks To Riverboat Ron

It’s cold and gray outside this morning. It’s going to get colder. There’s even suppose to be a foot of snow on the ground by the end of the weekend.

Something, I thought, needs to happen to brighten the day.

That “something” turned out to be the Rivera family announcing the best news I think anyone could hear: “Thank you all for the love and prayers,” Washington Coach Ron Rivera’s daughter posted on social media. “Just got off the phone with mom and dad leaving the hospital and @RiverboatRonHC is officially cancer free.”

Two of the greatest words I think you can ever hear put together: Cancer free.

I doubt there are any diseases people think positively about, but when it comes to the most hated of them all, cancer is the one most deserving of burning in the fires of hell. It’s an awful disease that is not some theoretical condition that you read about involving others. It’s personal, and it seems like it ends up touching everyone in some way.

I’ve lost friends to it, I’ve watched my own father battle it, I’ve seen people who have made bad life decisions get it (like by smoking 3 packs of cigarettes a day) and I’ve seen perfectly healthy people who eat right, exercise every day and never touch any of the world’s vices get it.

It transforms the notion of the freedom to do whatever you want into a case where every sentence regarding the future starts with the word “if.” As if it weren’t evil enough in the first place, it also seems to have a nasty habit of taunting people through the ebbs and flows of its attack on the human body.

When my Dad was fighting it, some days we’d hear the cancer had aggressively grown, and he might not be around in a week. Then a few days later we’d hear the treatment had worked, and things looked good. It seemed like it was cancer’s way of saying “don’t take me for granted or I will have to show you who is running this show.”

Which is why I hate cancer so much. Cancer is a jerk. Cancer is perpetually invited to look at the mistletoe hanging from my back belt loop and kiss my backside. Cancer has robbed me of friends I hoped to tell juvenile jokes to and remember the old days with for many years to come.

Cancer sucks.

Because of this, I find myself rejoicing even when it’s a total stranger ringing the bell to tell the world you’ve finished your final treatment. It also signals that person is one tough individual, who has been to the mat with the 800-pound gorilla of medicine, and sent it away crying for it’s mom.

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Rest In Peace, Hank; The Spiral Notebook Has Finally Been Closed

I think for everyone, there comes a time when you are very young, and you first notice Major League baseball. Usually, you are nudged toward the game by a parent or a friend, and in the course of sampling it, you eventually find a favorite player you really like.

It is at that point, you truly become a baseball fan.

For me, that player was Hank Aaron.

They say heroes get remembered, legends never die, but today, the greatest baseball legend of my life passed away. Hank was 86.

I can’t tell you why I was drawn to Hank, other than it was a completely different dynamic when I was growing up in the 1960s. You got to watch baseball only once every week on NBC’s Saturday Game Of The Week, and your view of the majors was filtered by whatever team was good at the time. In the mid to late 1960s, that meant you saw a lot of the St. Louis Cardinals, as they made the World Series in 1967 and 1968, so you got to watch them and listen to Curt Gowdy drone on about something during the contest.

They became my favorite team, but in the course of following them, I became aware of this outfielder playing for the newly-minted Atlanta Braves in 1967. The team had just moved a year or two ago from Milwaukee, and as a sophisticated 11-year-old, I’d roll my eyes every time my Dad referred to them as the Milwaukee Braves.

”C’mon Dad,” I would say. “Nobody calls them that any more.”

Hank Aaron just looked cool. He’d come to the plate, look loose and relaxed, and then launch a pitch 400 feet over an outfield fence. He wasn’t just a slugger either, as he batted for average and got on base a lot. But it was the home runs that became a magnet for me with Hank.

A few years later, MLB would have a promotion that said “Chicks dig the long ball.” In the 60s, us 11-year-olds thought they were really cool too.

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Is It Worth It? To Some, The Answer Depends...

My young friend Ricky LaBlue just posted this story, where he looks at the all-day circus going on at the University of Tennessee, and asks the age-old question “is it worth it to cheat the system?”

I’ll let Rick tackle the Tennessee angle. I'll answer from the perspective of my lifetime, and how the answer to that question has changed quite a bit.

As a young man, the answer was easy: Of course it’s not. It’s wrong. That’s why they call it cheating. We were raised at a time when you lived by rules similar to those of golf. Know the rules, abide by them, and if you violate them, call them on yourself and accept the penalty associated with that transgression.

Obviously as you grow older, you discover life isn’t that simple. You find for some, the answer morphs into responses that qualify the answer with “it depends on if you get caught,” something I think of frequently when someone says they are sorry after being found guilty of cheating.

“You’re not sorry you cheated,” I think. “You’re sorry you got caught.”

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In The Blink Of An Eye...

I suppose this morning I could write about Virginia Tech’s still improving basketball team. Or the NFL playoffs. Or even the Washington Capitals running out of gas in a shootout with the always hated Penguins.

But I can’t get the text I received during halftime of the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest game off my mind. It was from my old friend Rick, who I’ve known since junior high in Norfolk, played dozens of rounds of golf with, and text back and forth snide remarks about local sports teams with when the Hokies or a Washington team is playing.

“Since you are not on Facebook you probably don't know I had a heart attack Thursday,” the text starts out, with all the matter-of-fact tone as if he was going to finish the text with “and then I drove to the store and got a gallon of milk.”

Um, what?

Rick is one of those friends I’ve known just about all my life that I was mentioning yesterday in this story, and to say it was a shock is an understatement. He’s a golf superintendent, so he logs more miles walking before 9 AM than I will all week. He has no family history of heart issues, and while he still eats like a college kid at times, he’s in relatively good shape for a guy whose age starts with a “6.”

We were just texting during the national championship college football game Monday. When the weather is decent, we have a standing appointment to play golf at his course as often as possible. Rick calls it “cheaper than a shrink,” because when you’ve known a person for that long, a 4-hour conversation in a golf cart can be a rich oil capable of soothing the soul no matter what life’s current situation.

You start the round exchanging pleasantries, go back in time to remembering being on the Stumpy Lake Golf Course out in Virginia Beach as 16-year-olds, then talk about sports, marriages, raising kids, even how our classmate Wendy Rieger on Channel 4 is the same age as both of us, yet still looks younger. Lies are told, triumphs re-lived, current life situations are vented.

Many a time the expression “I don’t remember it quite that way” is said, (there’s also a phrase similar to bovine waste products used) and attacks are made on each other’s memory, manhood and ability to play. By the end of the round, you’ve solved nothing, but you feel better because you’ve talked about things, you realize you’re not the only person in the world to struggle with an issue, and you go on until next week’s discussion of a brand new set of problems.

This is what old guys with old friends do.

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We Dug Coal Together, And I'm Glad We Did

I know I’ve been hammering this “small world” theme the last couple of days, but I experienced something yesterday morning that is on my mind, and makes me want to talk about it one more day.

I had dropped by a bulletin board for a website called Techsideline.com. I used to be a regular there for a couple of years, but lost interest two years ago. I had written this story Thursday, and since Cindy and Jean Farmer were probably well known to many there, I thought I would post the story for all to see.

There were replies to the story, which brought back more memories, which sparked more replies from me, which brought back more memories. After an hour or two, I realized I was having conversations with 15 to 20 people who I’d never met, whose real names I’ll never know, yet people who shared mutual friends with people I’ve known all my life. They even shared memories of some of the very things I remember warmly, and even one mentioned I was the Resident Advisor in his dorm.

Small world, indeed.

It kind of reminded me of the television show “Justified” (no, we didn’t shoot each other) that was based on a short story by Elmore Leonard two decades ago called “Fire In The Hole.” If you haven’t watched the series, it went on for years and was very enjoyable. It chronicled the exploits of Raylan Givens (the good guy) and Boyd Crowder (the bad guy).

The short story’s first sentence is “they had dug coal together as young men…” and the book launches into a fast-paced adventure where each tries to kill the other. Despite that, they still sort of remained friends, something that boggled the minds of every other character in the story and television show.

On the book’s last page, one character asks Raylan why that is. He answers with the final words of the story: “I thought I explained it to you. Boyd and I dug coal together.”

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Bob Martin

Another Coal Digger

We shared the same employer, attended VT at the same time although I lived further upstream in O'Shag, lived in SW VA specifically... Read More
Thursday, 21 January 2021 16:01
Dave Scarangella

Couldn't Have Said It Better, ...

Not to mention you seemed to be sitting right next to me in the Superdome on an early January night back in 2000... ... Read More
Thursday, 21 January 2021 16:11
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Meet The Dennis Rodman of Canines In The Kitchen...

Rebounding in basketball isn't so much about jumping. It's about position. Knowing where the ball is going to end up landing. Being ready for the opportunity.

Based on those qualifications, if my dog Schnoodle had played basketball, the old girl would have made the hall of fame. No dog can read the kitchen, come up with a plan, and be where the odds are best that a mistake will be made. She doesn't look for food scraps. Food scraps fall in front of her. She is the Dennis Rodman of kitchen canines.

Today is a rainy day in Ashburn, and neither my wife nor daughter will eat leftovers (or even something twice in the same week). So since it is so dreary outside, I'm cleaning out the refrigerator and freezer of older foods coming up on an expiration date. I've turned three chicken breasts into chicken salad for sandwiches for the next few days; I have taken 1.5 pounds of ground beef and made it into a chili/taco meat mixture to go on hot dogs, baked potatoes or other assorted options over the weekend; yesterday I found this beautiful pork shoulder minding its own business in the back of the freezer. It has been appropriately bathed in a dry rub, had garlic inserted into it, and is peacefully resting until tomorrow.

Making these three dishes so there's plenty to warm up and eat on a moment's notice over the weekend involved doing a lot of chopping and mixing in various places in the kitchen. Schnoodle moved when I moved and always found the right spot. Making this more amazing is she lost her sight several years ago. But that does not hinder the pooch, as she has a nose with abilities the CIA would envy.

She's 15 years old and she unfortunately never got to play basketball. She could have been a contender. Instead, she roams the kitchen like a BOSS. And when it comes to kitchen scraps, she's the real MVP 😃

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The Little Trash Can Who Could, Actually Did....

One of my many flaws over the years involves becoming sentimental about inanimate objects. If something I’ve had for many years stops working, my first instinct is to figure out how to fix it so it can remain a part of the family.

The fact that my skill set does not even remotely involve using tools or fixing anything poses a significant obstacle to this, and more than likely, ends up with the item in question being dumped down in the basement. It is then my strategy turns to finding a friend who does know how to fix things and getting them to pay me a visit.

When all else fails, I then admit defeat and go buy a new one.

Such was the case with this trash can you see in the picture to the right. It’s a trash can with an automatic lid that opens when your hand goes over the sensor, then goes back down a few seconds later. We’ve had both it and its little brother – which resides in an upstairs bathroom – for nearly 20 years.

But three weeks ago, the lid stopped opening. My first inclination was it was time to change the batteries, so I put in 4 fresh “C” batteries. Nothing changed. I tried manually lifting the lid and closing it rapidly several times. Nothing. I even got out some paper towels and cleaner and scrubbed all of it, thinking maybe the area over the sensor had gotten dirty, or perhaps something had built up in the hinges, stopping everything from working.

Nothing.

Immediately my wife – who is known as Dr. Death by all our appliances – started searching for a new one. She ignored my resolution to repair the trash can much the same way a person might raise their eyebrows when you told them you had ordered a unicorn on Amazon. In her mind, the trash can had failed at its duties and now must be replaced. Immediately.

She quickly found one at Home Depot that seemed an exact replica of what we had, although it seemed a little pricey. I vaguely remember buying both the big and little trash can for $59 at Costco, and this one was close to $100. This brought on comments about it’s not 20 years ago, they don’t sell cell phones for $200 anymore, your hair isn’t black any more, and other rather mean statements to indicate the world might have changed since we last made such a purchase.

All also ended in “and I’m buying a new one.”

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Here's To Great Things In 2021...

Well, it’s that day again.

You know, the one where some think everyone is getting a fresh start, all the previous problems have been washed away with the old year, and now on Day 1 of 2021, we take that first step of a new journey as we mentally hum “we’re off to see the wizard.”

Even though it doesn’t work that way.

You can certainly do some planning today, although I have found the old proverb of “we plan, God laughs” more often than not to be true during my 64 New Year’s Days. In hindsight, the greatest years were the ones where I had low expectations, and some of the more disappointing ones were when I thought I had what was going to happen planned out quite nicely.

Turns out life doesn’t work that way either.

But I do start each New Year with hope, which forces me at some point during the day in between football games and big meals to take a moment and think about what could make me happy. Which in and of itself isn’t all that easy to determine.

That’s because, as the commercial says, life comes at you fast. As a young buck, the things I wanted meant better jobs, more money and more stuff, which I aggressively went after. Then I found myself sitting at LAX one night at 11 PM awaiting a red-eye back to Dulles, tired out of mind, asking myself “what are you doing?”

The things I wanted, I discovered, made me successful. But not necessarily happy.

Today, happiness is walking into the kitchen on a cold gray New Year's Day and seeing a full pot of good coffee (which I had just made) while my dog Maggie is wagging her tail, munching on a full bowl of her favorite food. Tomorrow it could be news that my daughter will be coming for a visit and wants me to make some of her favorite food. Sunday it could be something altogether different.

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Doug Johnson

Though I struggled with Calcul...

As you smirked in another post, this was your 65th New Year's Day, Jethro.
Sunday, 03 January 2021 15:56
Dave Scarangella

Thank you, Mr. Drysdale

I guess I overlooked that...
Sunday, 03 January 2021 16:02
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Happy "The Most Overrated Holiday Of The Year"

Tonight is New Year’s Eve, which means today I will be fielding texts from my single friends complaining about how they’re going to be sitting alone, all by themselves, on New Year’s Eve.

I already received one today before it was even 8:30 AM.

I understand the sentiment, much like how bad it is being alone and not having someone to buy extremely overpriced flowers for on Valentine’s Day. It makes you feel like you’re not only by yourself, but you also have to deal with the burden of being able to do whatever you want, be able to spend your money on everything only you enjoy, be in a big den with several big screen televisions where nobody questions your decision to watch sports all the time…oh wait, we’re not writing THAT story.

My point – whatever it was supposed to be – is that New Year’s Eve is the single most overrated holiday on the calendar. My single friends think they’re missing either wild parties or this incredible atmosphere of love and togetherness; instead, it’s more a survival contest to see if everyone in the family can stay awake until midnight and yell “Happy New Year.”

In my house, the routine has been pretty similar for decades. Everybody thinks we should have special food to celebrate the New Year, but nobody wants to cook it. So I put out a bunch of crackers, cheese, chips etc. so family can graze when they walk through the kitchen. I’ll usually make a pizza, or set up a crock pot or two with stuff for nachos, but it’s nothing elaborate.

Once it turns 7, I usually go back to my office/man cave and watch sports. My wife will say something like “I have three Hallmark Christmas movies left on DVR so I’m going to watch them tonight” and my daughter – when she was living here – stared at her phone and pretended we didn’t exist.

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Here's Something You Can Do To Make A Difference

If there was ever a text emblematic of 2020, it’s the one I’m looking at right now on my phone.

It’s from my oldest friend. He’s sitting in a waiting room in a hospital somewhere miles from his home. A friend of his has encountered medical issues that could be very serious, or could be nothing at all. But knowing how tense such things could be, he said “I’ll come along.”

I told him it’s as if God knew at this moment she could use a friend to lean on, and opened the door for you to be that rock. It’s a door I’m familiar with, because I have found myself in that same situation probably a dozen times this year.

It’s what I will remember about 2020 the most.

Let’s face it, this year has had a human cost to it I’ve never seen before. I’m not talking about the financial cost of not working – although for many that’s a huge issue in and of itself. But the aspect of loneliness and not being able to have daily human interaction with a variety of others, I fear, is on the verge of seriously hurting people.

I see it in my own house. My wife had to visit a hospital three times this fall over a knee injury, and the worry over COVID, getting to the hospital, etc. was real. Each time she’d get worried, I’d talk her through all the dangers she perceived, was able to drive her to the hospital, take care of all the details, and assure her everything would be OK, which it turned out to be.

But it made me wonder “what if you don’t have anyone?”

It’s not just old people and hospitals. I’ve been blessed to be able to mentor half a dozen people this year who are just having a hard time with this rut we all find ourselves in. Human nature for even the most competitive person is to decide when things are not good in your life, you try changing things. In my younger days, that meant finding a different job, maybe going back to school for more or a different education, or going to new places to meet new friends. There was no guarantee any of that would work, but you at least felt in control of things by pushing buttons trying to change the arc of your existence.

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