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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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Happy 100th Birthday Dad! One Day We'll Play Again...

Today would have been my Dad’s 100th birthday. He was quite a character, who taught me how to cook Italian food, a love of music, introduced me to golf, and oh yeah, he taught me to be cheap.

Right now in the background you can hear my wife saying “Well, at least you come by it honestly.”

I found myself thinking about the old man this morning (he passed away in 2006) because in his own way, he prepared me – like other fathers of my generation – for what’s going on now. He was 9 years old when the Great Depression arrived and it affected him the rest of his life.

Add in that his Dad had just arrived in Central Pennsylvania from Melfi, Italy only a decade earlier, and a decade later he would be in the Navy and end up in the Pacific during World War II, and you can understand some of his thrifty ways. He grew up with nothing and lived his young adult years on a ship during a World War wondering if he’d see the next sunrise.

Those conditions tend to make you a bit  cautious, causing you to constantly prepare for something bad that could happen. He passed that gene on to me, and it’s why on the spender-saver matrix, I’m so far over to the saver side that my wife has to force me to buy something she knows I really want. Otherwise, I go through a thought process that ends in “I don’t really need it” and I don’t buy it.

Lots of my friends have the same issue, and we talk about it all the time. We actually are envious of our children at times, who don’t appear to have such inhibitions. But it’s the way we’re hard-wired: work hard, pay off your debts, buy what you need and save the rest for a rainy day.

I even once said “Dad, there’s never going to be another Depression so you don’t need to do this” after he told me had put a couple hundred dollars in an old pretzel can filled with sand under the sink so in case anything happened to him, there’d be money to pay the electric bill and buy food for a month or two.

He’d be laughing at me right now if he were alive about that bit of wisdom I spouted off at him.

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It's Going To End One Day; Might As Well Have A To-Do List

At the end of last week, there seemed to be more and more reports about some states getting ready to open (although Virginia did not seem to be one of them). I don’t know when this day will come, but when it does, I’ve got a plan. These are the five things I’m going to do once the shutdown is over:

  1. Go buy 10 pounds of salted in the shell peanuts, park myself in a chair, and turn on the television and watch a live sporting event. I mean a real event, not some guys playing H-O-R-S-E and talking about themselves. Preferably involving the Washington Nationals, with multiple trash-talking conversations via text running concurrently with old friends.

  2. Go to a restaurant and order everything on the menu that does not duplicate anything I made at home over the last 6 weeks. This means no pizza, tacos, pasta, chicken, etc. because I’ve had my fill of it. I don’t care if it’s a fusion of Ethiopian cuisine mixed with Nordic whale blubber, if it’s different from what I’ve been eating at home and they bring it to you with fresh bread and a boatload of butter, I’m in.

  3. Go get a haircut. My head looks like an unkempt poodle. I look in the mirror and wonder why former New York Jets Coach Rex Ryan's twin brother Rob is looking back at me. I have seriously not had a haircut in the calendar year 2020 and it’s bothersome. I know I'm not alone, as I can foresee a problem when the shutdown ends: You will be presented with the choice of either waiting in line at a place that takes walk-ins (and I would guess the line is going to wrap around the building), or attempting to call and make an appointment. The lead times on those appointments will probably be similar to the ones quoted on Amazon when you try to buy toilet paper, so we could be seeing the 4th of July before scissors and trimmers intersect with my head.
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Appreciate Your Favorite Local Small Business...While You Still Can

A few weeks ago when Kenny Rogers passed away, people tweeted out some of their favorite videos involving him, and one of them was a moderately successful hit he had in the mid-80s called “20 Years Ago.”

As the title suggests, it’s a nostalgic look back at a simpler time, and it shows Rogers walking through an empty main street area in a small town. The Friday night pizza joint of his youth, the bowling alley, the hardware store…they were all gone. Life moved on.

I always liked that video because I can identify with it. It doesn’t mean those stores were the greatest thing since sliced bread; but they do bring back warm memories of a time where you could walk into a store and because it was a small business, the owner was in the store and you recognized many members of the staff even if you only came in there once a month. It gave you a feeling of being at home, much like the atmosphere of the fictional Cheers bar where everybody knew your name. You knew them and they knew you.

It’s one of the appeals of living in a small town. I spent 5 years living in Martinsville, VA back in the 80s, and while you may not have been able to partake of the latest and greatest in fashion and technology, there was that element of everyone knowing your name. You went to non-chain places like the Dutch Inn for their seafood buffet on a weekend night; or maybe Clarences out near Martinsville Speedway for their homemade cheeseburger and fries; there was even a little hole in the wall place on a tiny strip of asphalt called Wall Street that housed “Mike’s Hot Dogs” that I frequented quite a bit.

All had their own unique flavors, the people who worked there recognized you as a regular, and you enjoyed the experience. Some times you didn’t even need to order, as someone would say “you want what you usually get?” It was a stark contrast to the national chains that viewed labor as a disposable entity, with workers on a retail floor turning over every 80 to 90 days, and as a result, no one particularly cared if you felt special or not.  

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Anybody Else Hear These Questions/Comments On A Regular Basis?

I have a theory about all of us. We live in the same house. We just have different addresses and last names.

Otherwise, we all seem to share the same common experiences in dealing with life, raising a family, etc. And with us all under house arrest, those similarities are probably now magnified. I’m guessing you may even see a few things on this list of the five most common questions/comments said in my house during the shutdown and think “been there, done that.”

Here’s the list:

  1. Am I mad at you about anything you did yesterday?” Yes, this gets asked about every morning by ONE of us. Being in close proximity for such a long period of time does lead to some petty skirmishes over monumental issues like “why didn’t you put that spoon in the dishwasher?” or “would it kill you to close the silverware drawer?” But usually the dispute is quickly forgotten (although if you reply with a particularly curt, witty and sarcastic answer, that WILL be brought up again in a conversation seven years from now). So each morning my wife will ask this to make sure the wronged party knows to start off the day feeling wronged.

  2. I don’t like your attitude.” This is a crowd favorite for both of us because it communicates an annoyance without specifically saying anything bad about the other. Tone, I’m discovering, is very important when under lengthy house arrest, and something as simple as saying “good morning” can sometimes elicit a “I don’t like your attitude” if presented in a less than robust way. Other questions including “where is the remote control”, “can you pass the butter” and “when was the last time the dog went out in the backyard” can also result in “I don’t like your attitude.” After this is all over, apparently I’m going to have to work on my presentation skills.
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While You're At Home, Be Careful To Avoid These 3 Dangerous Traps

OK, young bucks, class is in session. I see you from afar….you’ve been in quarantine, you feel relaxed, and you think you can just say whatever is on your mind because we’re all in this together. Right?

Wrong. That’s why today’s class is about the three traps to avoid while under house arrest. Fall into any of them and the next thing you know, you’ll be feeling the cold stare of two eyes belonging to your wife or significant other, arms crossed, shaking her head at you.

I MIGHT, ahem, be speaking from personal experience on this.

So trust me. Put down the phone, stop trying to decide which three free fast food items out of 9 you’d rather eat, or choose which house full of famous people you’ll never meet in real life that you’d like to stay at.

This is important.

TRAP NO. 1: By now, your Dad should have taught you to never answer any question that sounds like “does this dress make me look fat?” This is a ticket straight to Cold as Iceland, and the only correct answer is “no dear, you’re perfect in every way.”

But now there is a far more dangerous strain of this kind of question bought on by the extended house arrest. Beauty shops and barber shops are closed all over the land, and in some cases, the lengthy inability to see a hair specialist is resulting literally in us seeing some people’s “true colors.”

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From Kill Shelter To "Scrambled Egg, Please" In Only 5 Months...

There are just some things I don’t think I’ll ever stop marveling at, and many include the canine that lives in my house.

This morning, for example, we were having a late breakfast. Eggs, sausage, biscuits and hash browns. My wife and I each sat in a chair at the breakfast table. Sitting in the third chair - like a human - was our Wonderbeagle, Maggie.

She knows the rules. No paws on the table. You can’t lay your head on it either. But if you sit there peacefully and quietly, nobody’s going to say anything.

She won’t, because when eggs are served, she knows Mom will make them. Mom believes no one can make a scrambled egg as well as her, and while she cooks them, she asks “you know what the secret is to a good scrambled egg?” Maggie once said “letting you make them?” but I corrected her to the proper answer of “cooking them on low heat.”

Maggie also knows Mom is the great enabler who can’t say no, so when the scrambled eggs are separated into portions, there miraculously always ends up being one extra. It also miraculously ends up on a plate, cut into smaller portions, and the plate ends up right in front of Maggie.

Maggie’s a smart dog. She won’t do anything to jeopardize this happening.

But that’s not the part I marvel at. Five months ago today, we brought her home from a rescue event. She had spent two weeks traveling around to all the events that were set up to adopt dogs like her. Before that, she was in a cage in a kill shelter in a small town in South Carolina.

To go from a cage in a kill shelter to sitting at a table silently barking “scrambled egg, please” in only 5 months is quite a contrast. And how, I also ask myself, could such a sweet little angel end up in a kill shelter in the first place?

I’ve asked Maggie this several times, but she just wags her tail, licks my face and gives me her normal “I don’t know, I’m just a dog” look. Then she buries her head into my lap for a few moments of snuggling and playful biting on my arm before giving me a look that says “however it happened, I’m just glad I’m here.”

Me too, little sweets. Every single day. To infinity and beyond…

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No, I'm Not Going To Knock Off The 5:15 Stagecoach To Ashburn

Back in the 1970s, Elton John released an album called “Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The Piano Player.”

These days when I head out to the grocery store, I almost feel like saying “Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Just Trying To Get Some Coffee Creamer,” because I almost look like some desperado about to knock off the 5:15 stagecoach to Ashburn.

All of us have certainly seen an evolution in our appearances as the state-mandated days of house arrest continue. It was only a month ago when I started to wear gloves to the grocery store, and even felt self-conscious about it since it appeared I was the only one at the time who was wearing them. Within a week, more were doing so, and a week later, the masks became part of my regular attire.

That apparently wasn’t enough, because more layers have now been added to my routine. It’s not because I’m an overly cautious person, but more due to the fact I live with a germaphobe, and have several friends who are also that way. I mean, how many other people get packages from friends that end up to be a box of “powder free vinyl multi-purpose gloves?”

That friend, it should be noted, is in the medical profession. After sending them to me, he then made me sit through a call where he lectured me on how nurses and doctors take off these gloves so as to avoid contamination. I think if I would have let him, he’d have launched right into a seminar on how to wash my hands, but I told him I had that covered.

That’s because in my house, I have the WIFE2020 operating system, which for the past 40 years has been specifically designed to question me about washing my hands, hanging up my clothes, or visiting the pantry when no one is looking to seek out a snack. It is an evolving operating system, as in its latest update, it is now programmed to say “we don’t need anything from the grocery store so you’re not leaving the house” whenever I talk about exotic far-away places like Harris-Teeter and Giant.

My wife loves it when she can go into the pantry or our spare refrigerator in the basement and find exactly what she’s looking for. But she just doesn’t think I should leave the house to make that happen because if I go out and grocery shop, she believes I will somehow encounter the virus, bring it home and we will both meet our demise.

So much like a teenager breaking curfew, I have to sneak out of my own house to get stuff.

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I've Put It Off Long Enough, But Now It's Time To Start Writing Again

Well, we’ve reached the point in the continuing saga of us all being under house arrest where I’m so bored, I’m going to start writing again.

Since I have told younger writers for decades that “writers write,” meaning that whether you’re working or not you need to write something regularly, it certainly makes me a bit of a hypocrite. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say; it’s just the “Groundhog Day” similarity of the days has left me in a “why bother?” mood.

The irony in all this is that for many years I was a road warrior, traveling the country as a sales executive. I used to have two daydreams I’d employ to make the time on a flight from one side of the country to the other go faster: One was what I’d do if I won the lottery, and the other was what I’d do if I could have an entire month to be able to just stay home with my wife, daughter and dogs and not go anywhere.

I’m now living the second one, although it’s a little different when you add into the equation you CAN’T go anywhere. But the lack of a sense of urgency does change things. Want to wait another hour and sip on another cup of coffee? Heck, wait the whole day and drink an entire pot of coffee.

The evenings may be the worst part of it, as with no live sports, I really find myself wondering why I’m paying Comcast $267.18 per month. I buy everything they offer in addition to Netflix and Amazon Prime, and aside from an occasional movie and a rerun or two of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, nothing interests me.

This all ends up pushing me onto Twitter, where people completely capable of being nice, civil and respectful, explode into toxic hurricanes of rage when the subject of politics arise. I try to avoid it if I can, but I’ve ended up instituting two rules during the shutdown: I respect your right to an opinion on anything, but if more than 50 percent of your posts in a given day are about politics, I temporarily unfollow you. If you take it up a notch, however, and consistently post things that indicate anyone who doesn’t see things the way you do is an idiot or worse, you earn the privilege of being blocked.

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It Would Appear Dog People Are Just Happier People...

Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here.

Five weeks ago, a beautiful little beagle named Maggie, who clearly has parts of other breeds somewhere in her DNA, came to live in our house. As long-time dog people, my wife and I had been hurting after losing our other two dogs in the last year to old age, and this little pooch has been a wonderful blessing that has healed the hole in our hearts.

Because of this, I talk about her on Twitter all the time. Facebook and Instagram too. Apparently it’s to the point, my wife says, that I should just take my name off all the accounts and rename them after Maggie. As a result, Thursday night - more or less as a joke - I created an account for Maggie The WonderBeagle, which is what I call her from time to time.

The reason I did this was I had taken a picture the night before of her sitting in my lap, something I apparently do way too much according to my wife (yes, she’s the same one who acted as the GM on the Nationals in October; now she’s spending the offseason monitoring my social media habits) and in the background there was a picture and post about Maggie.

The expression on Maggie’s face seemed to be one of surprise and annoyance that her likeness was on my Twitter account, and that she was not being adequately compensated for it. So the picture became her first post, and her bio even says “Will tweet for treats.” Truth is, she will do anything for treats except sit still while you’re opening the bag of treats.

Because you can only have 15 characters in a username and the name “WonderBeagle” was taken, she became @MTWonderBeagle, and you can see her Twitter feed here. My thought was I’d post pictures on her timeline, and maybe 50 or 60 other dog lovers I know would follow along and we’d have fun with it.

Sunday morning, not even three days from when the account was started, she already has close to 360 followers. They are all, as you would expect, dog people. I follow back everyone who follows Maggie, and if someone likes a post of Maggie’s and it has a dog in the profile or cover picture, they get automatically followed too.

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The Wheels On The Hokie Bus Are Going Round and Round....

Back in my corporate days, there was an expression about getting the right people in the right seats on the bus that was used repeatedly when an organizational problem needed to be fixed.

It never really worked because the people who needed to be moved out of their seats on the bus were the very people making the decisions and leading the meetings. As a result we would end up spending a lot of time in meetings to essentially rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

If you look at Virginia Tech’s resurgent football season, however, I strongly suspect that plan was successfully executed a month or so ago.

Or, to be precise, about the time Jerry Kill joined the staff.

I don’t know for a fact if he is the impetus for the change. But something clearly has changed in Blacksburg, and the Hokies have managed to turn the ship around without burning down the house and starting all over again. This generally comes about when someone with an outside eye comes into a situation, points out the tools are there to accomplish the goals set, but that the talent may not be being used optimally.

In other words, getting the right people in the right seats on the bus.

Virginia Tech’s 45-0 thrashing of Georgia Tech Saturday seemed to be one more data point in Blacksburg that the bus is now correctly organized and heading down the right road. Yes, Georgia Tech is not a very good football team, so the win in and of itself is not a great surprise.

But the Hokies have played other teams not considered good football teams this season – Old Dominion and Rhode Island come to mind – and they struggled. Over the last two years, I can’t really recall a game where Virginia Tech came out, executed well, and dominated a team they were supposed to beat. There have been times the Hokies have looked like they would have struggled even if you put a high school team out on the grass of Lane Stadium.

They have in the past been a collection of football players. But not necessarily a team.

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Wake Up Maggie, I Think I've Got Something To Say To You....

Back in early September, it seemed like some magic was starting to happen to the Washington Nationals.

Turns out that magic went a little farther than baseball, at least for me.

The Nationals, as everyone knows by now, caught fire, went on a run through the playoffs and won the World Series. At the same time, it turns out, there was a tiny beagle puppy born somewhere in rural South Carolina.

If you’ve never spent any time out in the country, this can sometimes not be the best of things for a puppy. Out in the country, not all dogs are spayed or neutered. A litter of puppies can be born, and with not many people living nearby, nobody may want them.

In the case of this little pup, it wandered off and ended up in a shelter. A place, it turns out, that was considered a high-kill shelter. It was only 8 weeks old, but it needed to be wanted soon or it may not get to celebrate a birthday.

Meanwhile here in Ashburn, we had lost our two dogs of 15-plus years over the previous 9 months. My wife and I were crushed by all this, but we agreed we should wait some before thinking about a new dog. I thought we had agreed we’d at least wait until next spring.

Apparently “let’s wait until next spring” to my wife meant “start looking now.” For the last two months she’s been sending me emails daily with suggestions of dogs to be adopted. Not just one a day, either. At times there would be 4 or 5 emails, with links to 4 or 5 more dogs in each email.

We were having, as a famous line in a movie once conveyed, a failure to communicate.

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Ricky LaBlue

Ricky LaBlue

A longtime sports fanatic, Ricky is now channeling that passion into the world of sports media. Meet Ricky LaBlue.

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Stephen Newman

The only things he loves more than following Virginia Tech and Washington sports teams are dogs. Meet Stephen Newman.

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