HOLDING ARTHUR CLOSE

 NOTE – This was a column written four years ago, which the RTD turned down at the time…..not long after my submission, the RTD published a Michael Paul Williams column they felt preferable. I continue to be proud of this column while watching the Ashe Blvd. become a reality. So it goes.

The expression, “a legacy of slavery”, often surfaces when America’s racial problem and injustice arise in social conversations. I suppose the fact that over 70 % of African American children are currently being raised without a dad present…feeds the social disaster.

Clearly, Arthur Ashe proved this wrong forty years ago. He won the tennis championships at Wimbledon.

Editorially, the Richmond Times Dispatch summarized this man-champion:   he earned eternal membership in the aristocracy of merit. Maybe it’s that merit-business that brings me back to Ashe – not the Confederate flag issue.

Rhapsodizing about my almost contempory Richmonder, the tennis champ conjures up exhausting appreciation – If we can bypass his tennis celebrity, Ashe was so much more… he empowered local student achievement by reconciling the irreconcilable. His model of pure integrity was important to struggling black and white youths alike.

“Days of Grace,” a life-reflecting autobiography, revealed the key. Growing up black and barred from playing tennis in segregated public parks, Ashe improvised. Receiving a UCLA tennis scholarship, after graduating from segregated Maggie Walker High School, this solemn-eyed student blended career with growing personal dignity.

He plunged into poised citizenship, catapulting into national celebrity with tennis achievements (818 wins – 260 losses) until exhaustion indicated a predisposition to heart disease in 1979. Richmond’s champion endured the early era of open-heart surgery – strength and faith abide. Thirty three years later it would be my turn.

A tainted blood transfusion intervened, passing on the AIDS virus; this would hound him into a death sentence…bitterness purged.

Ashe was five years my junior, so our connection was remote. As a public school teacher, I met him twice – for purpose of honoring top high school academic achievers, public and private – at Holiday Inn 3200 in Richmond. Obviously ill, ever resilient, Ashe buoyed by rapturous teen audiences, courageously, shaking hands, autographing automatically, enduring the energy of adolescent honorees…his mentoring reigned.

“Of all my possessions, my reputation means most to me,” he wrote. He tried to live up to rules set by his disciplinarian father, Arthur Ashe Sr. “Don’t do anything you couldn’t tell your mother about,” dad would chide. Amid the perceived quaintness, hamstrung with an ever coarsening culture, Ashe didn’t flinch – his behavioral code remained rock-strong.

As U.S. Davis Cup team captain, Ashe viewed personal conduct and behavior an ultimate responsibility. Lamenting Jimmy Connors’ refusal to participate in Cup rounds, and observing John McEnroe’s bratty exhibitionism sullying America’s reputation, Ashe was mortified.

Then – the honesty in “Days of Grace.” He expressed deep disappointment in basketball greats Earvin Johnson (Ashe thought it demeaning to call him “Magic”) and Wilt Chamberlain. When they publicly bragged of their sexual conquests, he ruminated: “What does this say to youth who idolize them?”

Political liberalism spoke to his personal values: activist government; endorsement of abortion rights; marching in protest movements against South African apartheid, and exhibiting near-worship of Nelson Mandela. He traced black American challenges to slavery and discrimination – then quickly would admonish: “this history of oppression not be used as excuse for anti-social behavior, black chauvinism, or bogus appeals to racial solidarity.”

I wondered what Ashe thought of Frederick Douglass’ quote in the 19th century concerning well-meaning whites. Thomas Sowell assures that Douglass said, “Everybody has asked the question, ‘What shall we do with the Negro?’ I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us.”

“Days of Grace” was required reading in my Advance Placement U.S. History classes at Mills Godwin High School. Frankly, it ought to be required reading in the company of To Kill a Mocking Bird, and The Great Gatsby. Standing alone, his work and citizenship dictate the movement to rename Richmond’s Boulevard: ASHE BOULEVARD.

Passing frequently by his Monument Avenue statue, Arthur Ashe was a god-send to Richmonders who took pride in his example. Abundantly bringing us qualities of soul-enhancing self-examination, the Ashe tradition may give us a Russell Wilson, who could emerge with similar qualities…our culture is desperate for them.

                                                                 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                              

 

 

 

 

 

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WHAT IN THE WORLD !

                                                                                                                  MORE Than MORE the  Kindness of Strangers.: ABOUT 400 college graduates in Georgia will have their student loan debt paid off, thanks to philanthropist, Robert Smith. Smith gave the keynote commencement address at Morehouse College in Atlanta, announcing that his family is creating a grant to eliminate the class of 2019’s student loans…about $14,000,000.00 payout.  “I know my class will make sure they pay this forward and I want my class to look at the alumnus, these beautiful Morehouse brothers, and let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward.” Oprah Winfree spoke at Colorado College….and gave all a copy of her new book.

Believe It Or Not Department   IT was late October, 1993, in a fancy private club setting – a  political gathering for Michael P. Farris, Republican candidate for Lt. Governor. It would be the year that George Allen and Jim Gilmore would go on to a big political victory in Virginia.                             A group of us stood in the back area. Former Attorney General, William Barr, had been brought in to introduce Mike Farris….then; he came to the back of the room to listen to Farris’s speech. The former G.H.W. Bush’s AG was right next to me, and we chatted about 12 minutes or so. We both were much younger, but it occurred to me that this guy had a first rate mind, and expertise beyond my depth. He was the real professional….and so he is today.

Governor Ralph Northam: Where are Jeff Schapiro and Patrick Wilson, RT-D political reporters, on the Northam’s nickname at VMI: “coon-man”? I swear we have a right to know.

Duck & Cover Department    “WE really need to have a CONVERSATION” – about anything – this or that. Painfully, what they really intend is they want you to concede your committed position….er, you’re in error, and a complete change of your position is expected on any given issue.

Episcopal Church Of The United States (ECUSA) – Diocese of Virginia:  ONE of the largest diocese in ECUSA (nearly 80,000 members) currently has a “substitute” bishop, er – a “temp.” The Rt Revd Susan E. Goff was not formally elected, nor has she been ordained. Alas, decisions continue to be made, particularly those of an ideological nature, preaching the predictable, while not directly addressing the ‘born alive” bill. Another “new norm” forced on the congregations of this denomination? Purple hair, anyone?

Historians”…Gone bonkers:  POOR Douglas Brinkley, Rice University’s embarrassment, fawns over ‘Master’ and ‘Historic Speaker, Nancy Pelosi. Rather than remaining an objective historian, Brinkley couldn’t help but drool over Speaker Pelosi as a partisan mouthpiece for her tiffs with the hated President Donald J. Trump. Where’s the man’s professionalism?                                                                                                 Historian Jon Meacham, presidential biographer, former Editor-in-Chief of Newsweek – which he ran into the ground – has embarrassed himself further; Meacham was on television, constantly uplifting, and praising Michael Avenatti, the creepy porn lawyer. Meacham joined such luminaries as Joe Scarborough, Soledad O’Brien, and Brian Stelter during, and after, the Brett Cavanaugh hearings for the Supreme Court nominee. Talk about crass judgment and bush-league analysis.

Department of “SCARY”: THE New York Times admits Democratic-run cities are unlivable. Dr. Drew predicts a major epidemic in filthy Los Angeles this summer. On May 22, 2019, the New York Times published and op/Ed, “America’s Cities Are Unlivable, Blame Wealthy Liberals.” By the papers opinion columnist Fared Manjoo, calling “progressives” hypocrites for abandoning “progressive values in their own backyards”.

VIRGINIA’s 7th Congressional District – Rep .Abigale Spanberger.      * Our ‘Abby’ won with 50.4% of the vote in November, 2018.       * Abby spends every moment of representation – distancing herself from her party’s radicals. * Abby did not vote for Pelosi as Speaker.  * Abby was only one of 7 Dems to visit the White House in January, working with the detested Trump.  * Abby voted with Republicans FOR – an amendment that would have required the background system to notify immigration authorities when illegal aliens attempt to buy firearms. * Oh, and Abby has not made “a determination” on impeachment – flipping her interview with Kim Strassel to her “bipartisan credentials.”  QUESTION for the 7th district citizens – where does Abby stand on   a) the open-border crisis;   b) the “born alive” bill to stop infanticide;  c)  the new trade proposals concerning Mexico, and Canada, which must get done.                    HUH?

CONCLUSION:                                                                                        Sadly, men are less free than they imagine. The perceived freest are probably the less free. It has come to me that men are free when they are obeying some deeper inward voice of purpose religion – not following some socially accepted ideology, but facing

 

 

 

 

 

UNACCEPTABLE DIVISIVENESS

                        UNACCEPTABLE DIVISIVENESS

Political polarization – the vast and growing gap between liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats – has become a defining feature of American politics. It has tragic implications – probably bringing us all totally down.

Clinton Rossiter, then a Cornell historian in 1960, referred to this general subject in his piece, “Parties and Politics in America”; it attempted to address the overall subject.

Political parties have been the peacemakers of the American community…the unwitting but forceful suppressors of the “civil-war potential” we carry always in the bowels of our diverse nation. “Blessed are the peacemakers, I am tempted to conclude”, he wrote.

But here is where we find ourselves in 2019….in a deep political ditch.

It is now difficult in these days for Republicans to have solid Democrat friends…as it is for Democrats to have solid Republican friends. That is the truth.

So we must begin somewhere – probably not a balance approach….but a start. Thus, I am obligated, as a conservative person, to inquire of my remaining Democrat friends the following, without accusation.

Do you support, or believe:

  • The Green New Deal.
  • Reparations for slavery, and how that would work.
  • Modern abortion, redefined as permissible Infanticide.
  • Open borders.
  • Packing SCOTUS with additional, preferably liberal judges.
  • Abolition of the Electoral College.
  • Abolition of ICE.
  • Totally free college tuition.
  • Elimination of student debt TOTALLY.
  • Medicare for ALL.
  • A Wealth tax.
  • A 70 % top marginal income tax rate.
  • A 16 year old voting age.
  • Automatic voting rights for ex-felons.

 

There is no lying down of the gauntlet here. It could certainly be said that our current political unrest has nothing on the 1960’s, when Clinton Rossiter observed the above.

All I’m DOING is inquiring.

It seems to me that we are all obligated to address what we are asked to endure – and simply, attempt to resolve issues which divide us – almost totally.

 

OF BLACK FACE & POST BIRTH ABORTION

Infanticide should not be a partisan issue. Every Senator should agree – regardless of party – that a living child should be cared for, not disposed of like medical waste no matter the circumstances of his or her birth….Sen. James Lankford@Senator Lankford.

Yes, Virginians have good reason to be embarrassed – certainly mortified at the Democrat leadership we encounter in this Commonwealth and United States Senate. Most of us never dreamed that we would come to this dreaded political pass.

Our Senators, Mark R. Warner and Timothy M. Kaine, simply piled on to block the “born alive” bill providing medical care to infants who survived failed abortions. Worst of all, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), while touting his pro-life belief, simply dodged a question about supporting legislation that would protect those infants. The Senator’s mendacity is discouraging.

This is how Virginia Democrats feel about “born-alive” legislation to protect the new born?

Then, there is the metastasizing crisis unfolding at the top of Virginia’s state government, particularly in light of their racist campaigning against Republican Ed W. Gillespie in 2017. Remember, Republicans and Gillespie were racists – and sexists; Candidate Ralph Northam lambasted and screamed the charges in advertisements that fall; he led the pack, in large part by excoriating his opponent as a racist for raising the specter of immigrants as source of violent crime, and for leaving Confederate statues in place.

If that wasn’t enough, the current Virginia governor went on later to describe how the procedures for basic infanticide could be accomplished – on a Washington D.C. radio station, WTOP. Finally, the black face and moon dancing episodes splashed his career over the brim.

Then, seemingly clean Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring released a statement saying Northam should stepdown for his black face history. One problem. The hypocritical Herring had a black face history of his own….really!

Finally, there appears Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax with a new twist: two very professional Democrat women accused him of sexual assault over a period of approximately four years; Fairfax happens to be black, aiming for Virginia’s second black governorship in just two years. Talk about political and race complications!

Fairfax’s tactics turned out to be a tad more creative. He now compares his own case – in which these two women accuse him of sexual assault – to a “modern-day lynching” of a black man if the legislature may wish to hold a public hearing on the matter. Where is the shame, truth, or honor?

So in the last two months, the Democrats have left our scarred Commonwealth with disgrace, mortification, plus unwillingness to take responsibility, and helping to resolve the crisis.

Instead they have given us the following:

  • Total non-cooperation of dealing with the “Fairfax difficulty” by being uncooperative in a proposed 50/50 two-party committee to investigate this disaster of public service.
  • Democrats tried to make INFANTICIDE legal in the Commonwealth of Virginia…no doubt about this.
  • The Democratic Governor and Attorney General both admitted to black-facing. They sit in office untouched by their party leadership. What if the Republican had done this?
  • The Fairfax matter seems to slide on despite charges of sexual assault from two different Democrat female professionals. Even the national Democratic leadership is embarrassed by this tragedy.
  • To make the scenario even more scandalous, the Democrats picked an anti-Semitic candidate in a deep blue Northern Virginia district – then elected him to the General Assembly of Virginia.

As Virginians, we have every right to be humiliated and chagrined. How do we get out of this…overcome the stench? Democrats, what gives?

 

      

 

SCARY RELIANCE

“No border, no wall, no USA at all”….Colleges and Universities are adjusting their academic campuses to seemingly hate machines.

Many think our American community is now separated beyond repair. The political party’s hold disdain and malice for each other. Additionally, television journalism, printed media journalist, who used to fight fake or miss-guided news, now simply pretends it doesn’t exist.

Graduating from college in 1960, national politics was deeply divided, yet there was the nonideological party system used as the route to a peculiarly American kind of consensus politics. It seemed to work.

Clinton Rossiter, then a Cornell historian, referenced this in his Parties and Politics in America: “the parties have been the peacemakers of the American community…the unwitting but forceful suppressors of the ‘civil-war potential’ we carry always in the bowels of our diverse nation. Blessed are the peace makers, I am tempted to conclude.”

Television was certainly around, without color, but we did not suffer an electronic media bent on celebrating daily false news, creating crisis hourly.

Recently, FNC (Fox News Channel) had a median viewer age of 68, compared to MSNBC’s of 63, and CNN’s 59. Changing demographics always rule – demanding obvious shifts. Joe Concha, The Hill’s trustworthy journalist, writes on media, consistently expressing disenchantment on how the cable propaganda seems never-ending. Their professional obligations to the American public for fact based reporting borders on empty. For me, it border on repulsive.

“Catch me on #Kimmel TONIGHT @JimmyKimmelLive@JimmyKimmel#ABC”, Bret Baier excitedly tweets. How absolutely sad! If one network attempts a balanced, yet controversial news report, their competitors morph into Chesapeake crabs. You know: the crab who manages to climb out of the basket causes other crabs to pull him back down. That’s what crabs do. It is also what cable news networks do. To the sophisticated news view, it becomes a repulsive dynamic.

All three networks had their strategies: Fox came available in the late 1990’s as a needed conservative antidote – simply offering a choice, and keeping the others honest. CNN came to Richmond in 1980 symbolizing balanced coverage. MSNBC appeared in an almost schizophrenic state where there was little consistency – just flopping around from ideology to ideology.

Today’s treacherous business is simply blocking reports that are unsuitable for the ideology of said cable channel: the Rep. Keith Ellison (house member and vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee) alleged relationship abuse charges; Antifa’ s physical attack on a NBC reporter, and camera man – then unreported by NBC News; the heart-breaking return of human remains from North Korea as a result of the Trump – North Korea agreement –totally unreported except for FNC; non coverage of FISA court applications; even Trump’s positive economic accomplishments. Conclusion the news seems “fixed’.

FNC (Fox News) finds its brand unsettling. Dropping talents like fly’s for the last several years – some no doubt for behavior transgressions – does not denote stability. Others suspect the network’s repositioning to an ideological center-left, which will join the others. Fox News Sunday has been particularly provoking. Once commandeered by the wonderful Tony Snow – then Brit Hume, FNC finds itself in the lap of snarly, interruptive, Chris Wallace – the balance disappears.                                                                                        

Yes, Fox & Friends IS averaging 1/5 million against the unwatchable Joe Scarborough. Unbelievably, Juan Williams shows up a half dozen times daily – one would think his jaded history at the Washington Post would have kept him off the set entirely. Google it if you must.

CNN’s current status is hard, sad, bewildering to its veteran viewers. The once-crown jewel of Cable News Network does not even get the ratings of HGTV. CNN reporter, Jim Acosta, with his recent melt downs at both the Trump rally in Florida, and his remarkable bad behavior at the White House brings disgust. This network is saturated Hate Trump 24 hours daily.

This was the network of the wonderful Kathleen Sullivan; John Holliman, Bernard Shaw, and Peter Arnett, who transmitted for CNN from a Baghdad hotel as the first bombs dropped in Operation Desert Storm, Jan. 20, 1991. Alas, the network of Robert Novak, Nick Charles, Stuart Varney, Sharyl Attkisson, Mona Charen…..what happened?

MSNBC has long been the problem child and dumping ground for NBC News demotions. For example, once near- greats like Willie Geist, Chris Jansing, Chris Matthews (can one believe Matthews use to sub for Rush Limbaugh?); Brian Williams, Joe Scarborough, and Mika; Joy Ann Reid, who seems apologetic on a monthly basis for some earlier writings…..and a seemingly successful Rachael Maddow.

Conclusion: Good night, David….Good night Chet….and good night…for nbc news.

 

 

IN RICHMOND…ARTHUR ASHE BLVD.

ARTHUR ASHE BOULEVARD….it’s time.

Richmond Times Dispatch’s LIVING, Section D: Commemorating Tennis Legend…reunited my attention to the idea of renaming Richmond’s Boulevard.

There was far more to this Richmonder that the fact that over 40 years ago, he won the tennis championship at Wimbledon.

Some years back the Richmond Times Dispatch described Arthur Ashe editorially: “He earned eternal membership in the aristocracy of merit”. For me, it’s the “merit” business that marks his place of honor in Richmond culture. He carried wisdom with “capacity of judging rightly in matters relating to life and conduct”.

One can find it in “Days of Grace”, a life-reflecting autobiography, revealing this man for who he was – what he became. Bypassing his tennis celebrity, I witnessed, in later life, his empowerment of local student achievement by reconciling the almost irreconcilable. His behavioral model: pure integrity, and self-worth.

“Of all my possessions, my reputation means the most to me,” he wrote.

He attempted to live up to rules set by his disciplinarian father, Arthur Ashe, Sr. “Don’t do anything you couldn’t tell your mother about,” dad would chide. Amid the perceived quaintness, hamstrung with an ever coarsening culture, Ashe didn’t flinch – his behavioral code remained rock-strong.

He was forthright about his liberalism….the activist endorsement of abortion rights; his marching in protest movements against South African apartheid, and near-worship of Nelson Mandela. Ashe readily traced black American challenges to slavery and discrimination – but then quickly admonishes: “this history of oppression not be used as excuse for antisocial behavior, black chauvinism or bogus appeals to racial solidarity.”

“Days of Grace” revealed the key. Growing up black in Jim Crow Virginia, barred from playing tennis in segregated public parks, Ashe improvised. Learning to play from Ron Charity at age seven, and then from Dr. Robert “Whirlwind” Johnson at tennis camp in Lynchburg, he plunged into poised citizenship.

Receiving a UCLA tennis scholarship, after graduating from the segregated Maggie Walker, this solemn-eyed adolescent blended his career with a growing personal dignity. Ashe catapulted into national celebrity with tennis achievements (818 wins, 260 losses) until exhaustion indicated a pre-disposition to heart disease in 1979. This Richmond champion endured the early era of open-heart surgery, with abiding strength and faith.

Thirty-three years later it would be my turn.

For Ashe, a tainted blood transfusion intervened, passing on the AIDS virus; this would hound him into an early death sentence, with bitterness purged. Ashe was five years my junior, so any connection was remote.

As a public classroom teacher, I met him twice – for purposes of honoring top high school academic achievers, public and private – at Holiday Inn, 3200 on Broad Street. Obviously ill, ever resilient, Ashe was buoyed by rapturous teen audiences; courageously, shaking hands, autographing automatically, and enduring the energy of adolescent honorees – his mentoring reigned.

Personally, I forced myself to think about an old Frederick Douglass’ quote in the 19th century concerning “well-meaning “whites. Columnist Thomas Sowell assures that Douglass said, “Everybody has asked me the question, ‘what shall we do with the Negro?’ I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us.” That was over a century before the “Great Society”.

“Days of Grace” was required reading in my Advanced Placement U.S. History classes at Mills Godwin High School. Frankly, it ought to be required reading in the company of “To Kill a Mocking Bird,” and The Great Gatsby; this work alone dictates the validity to rename Richmond’s Boulevard: ARTHUR ASHE BOULEVARD.

Passing frequently by his Monument Ave. statue, I am reminded that Ashe was a godsend to Richmonders. His qualities for soul-enhancement and self-examination continue to be essential for his home community. Our culture is desperately hungry for them.

THE FREEMANS NEVER DISAPPOINT

I write of James Douglas Freeman, devoted friend, counselor, and, yes – sponsor, during some dark days in my life.

Doug died August 11, 2018 at 94 years, with a memorial funeral August 16th at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church; he was the son of Dr. Douglas S. Freeman, Civil War historian; Editor, Richmond News Leader; radio commentator on WRNL-AM.

For some astonishing reason, that second generation of Freemans crossed my path from my adolescent years until recently. Doug and I came together in those early Ronald Reagan 1980’s – as I wallowed in my miserable mid-forties, trapped with addiction and partnerships in business, which were seemly problematic. He was my strength all the way.

Douglas Freeman High School opened its door, mid-summer 1954, under W. Howard Mears. The school’s name sake, Dr. Douglas S. Freeman – “The Doc” – had died several years earlier; his roles as commentator, major historian, author of R.E. LEE, carried deep creds. As Doug often said, “my father used every moment of every day to be productive.” And so it began.

Mary Tyler Freeman Cheek (McClenahan) was the eldest of the Freeman second generation; she was deeply involved in Richmond community projects; she was responsible for bringing CBS’ Ed Bradley to Richmond for a forum, and earlier, in the 1950’s, hosted a youth-issues radio show on WRNL-AM. It was an honor for me to be a weekly guest representing Douglas Freeman High School. We’d arrive Thursday afternoon; tape the hour long presentation for broadcast on that Saturday morning. It enabled me to meet and get to know Roger Mudd – yep, that CBS’ Roger Mudd; the talented Bill Morrison, who went on the VMFA; and Ray Schreiner – a favorite disc jockey of Richmond teens. Decades later, Mary Tyler would play a significant role in publishing the book, Douglas Southall FREEMAN by David E. Johnson – then a senior counsel to the attorney general of Virginia.

Anne Freeman Adler Turpin, the second sister, became very special to me; Gladly, I shared this experience with both son and daughter at Doug’s funeral reception. In her final years, she had been director of special learning at St. Bernard’s School in Manhattan. Anne Freeman was a graduate of Vassar College, 1945, with a master’s degree from Columbia  University.                               Babs Stettheimer Adler, her mother in law, shared her concern for this sensitive young lady, who became her son’s wife. “I’m worried about this marriage, because she is such an intelligent girl”, she told several friends. After reading this from The Private and Powerful Family behind the New Your Times, THE TRUST, I understood my positive personal experience with her.                                      In 1956, Anne F. Adler brought her mother, Inez, to the new Douglas Freeman H.S. for a visit. As a student, it was my assignment to show them around. Her graciousness to me was so unforgettable on that morning school tour, I’ve never forgotten it – in my mind she was a gem.

Then the youngest, James Douglas (Doug)….the son.

Closely observing Doug Freeman’s funeral service at St. Stephen’s Church, I realized how many AA program people filled the pews. Doug’s last third of life was devoted to hundreds of others in addiction trouble. Once his own decades-long personal fog lifted, “recovery” became his mission. He returned to the classroom becoming an alcohol rehab counselor at St. John’s Hospital – then at Tucker Pavilion. Freeman went on to serve on the Governor’s Committee on Alcohol and Substance Abuse, and assuming his board membership at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College as a privilege. This addiction business was the fight of his life, finally losing his son, James Douglas Freeman, Jr. (Jamie), to the dreaded disease…but helping along the way those thousands of souls who’d simply lost hope.                                                                                       Doug had served in the Pacific Theater in World War II as a coxswain or helmsman aboard the USS Audubon; he would often put those regimens and challenges to lead others on a path to sobriety. The Rev. William L. Sachs picked up on this in his homily. Doug always kept it simple…90 AA meetings in 90 days – one hour at a time.                                                                                      The measure of Doug’s life reflected well on this second generation Freeman clan. Many walk the streets of Richmond healthier today. Clearly, he was passionately a “Friend of Bill”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DICK TRACY and ME

Regretfully, the comic book industry deep state has been overly aggressive with demands for diversity, political correctness, and expressing horror at “toxic masculinity.” Comics are now in the persuasion business and calculated to create agendas.

It would seem current comic book editors, writers, etc. has completely bought into the Alinsky-driven leftist agenda. If one is not alert…and carefully discriminate, the irony is huge – these days the far left has become the religious right.

This brings me to my “funny papers”– comic book relationships of decades long ago. Growing up with the comic page, there was “LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE”; “The PHANTOM”; “TERRY & the PIRATES”; “BLONDIE”; “SMILING JACK” (with Jungle Jolly);” Li’l ABNER” (in Dogpatch, USA); and later “POGO”, and “PEANUTS. All were great.

But, still not in the “DICK TRACY” league, according to Wallace’s meter.

Dick Tracy, detective, was aided by Chef Brandon, side-kick Pat Patton, Tess Trueheart (later his wife), and his adopted son, Junior. Sam Catchem would replace Pat Patton in 1948. The strip was totally creative in its rogue’s gallery of characters.

The “Tracy” comic strip was recognized from Police Associations across the country: Associated Police Communication Officers, Inc.; National Police Officers Association; The Honor Legion of the Police Department of the City of New York; Illinois Crime Prevention Officers Association, and multitudes of others.

“Dick Tracy” first appeared in the Detroit Mirror (October 4, 1931) – then one of the Tribune owned papers, then the New York Daily News, then the Chicago Tribune, taking the country by storm. So popular was the comic strip that it appeared on the front page of the New York Daily News for 45 consecutive years; it was seen in 27 foreign newspapers.

The cultural necessity was to fight against a growing criminal class; many historians hark back to Prohibition as causing America’s growing big-time crime rate – increased criminal behavior. The wonderful Richmond News Leader carried the comic strip on weekday afternoons, and the Times Dispatch published it on Sundays. The News Leader won me over forever….with this one gesture.

Chester Gould’s classic criminal characters were a rough crowd of crooks: Little FaceThe Mole (digging in the earth has made the Mole’s hands very strong) – B-B EyesPruneface (Anesthetic, YOUR EYE – you set the leg. I’ll take it with my eyes open)88 Keys….and one of the worse: Flattop.

Near the end of World War II, we were introduced to Vitamin Flintheart (Ah, my little dove) – reminiscent of the exaggerated actor, John Barrymore. Who could forget The Brow – Gravel Gertie (ah! A man) – ~Shakey~ and his daughter, Breathless Mahoney……plus B.O. Plenty? Then there was Itchy (How fortunate! I think I have just the thing for you. Won’t you come up?)…and millionaire industrialist, Diet Smith (your call is waiting, sir).

Themesong was obnoxious (I’ll stand on my constitutional rights! I want a mouthpiece); Mandolin–playing Sparkle Plenty (daughter of Gertie & B.O.) was not obnoxious. Mumbles continued to be difficult to understand.

Measles was my favorite. His mother was a prison matron, accidently killed in the “pump machinery” by our Gravel Gertie, a current inmate. Along the way Measles would introduce us to a waitress, Paprika, (Always you are playing the radio and dancing. That is no good. Come, get busy). I studied this girl before I knew what her name meant.

Sketch Paree (I am sorry to frighten you, baby); Canhead; Pouch (snap), and George Ozone (You wouldn’t believe I was 84 years old) would round out my adolescent years.

Finally, The Two-Way Wrist Radio developed by Brilliant – more than 50 years before the iPod and iPhone, was the precursor to all miniature and hand-held electronic gadgets….(It contains tiny tubes, battery, microphone, and speaker. Look, by pressing the other button, it receives). Brilliant’s invention financed by Diet Smith was difficult to accept.

After completing my paper route for the Times Dispatch, I would later visit Milton’s Westhampton Inn (much later Smokey’s – at Libbie & Grove). The magnet was it dalliance-ridden, sketchy newsstand. Curious pre-teens consumed the chance to peek at nefarious tabloids as Police Gazette, Variety, Confidential, Billboard, and of course the New York Daily News.

The Daily News was where you could get Dick Tracy’s comic strip a week AHEAD of Richmond’s publications. It’s always gratifying to know how events turned out before you’re supposed to

 

 

 

I’M CERTAINLY CONSIDERING IT

Death remains mysterious.

At my age, there is not a day that passes that the cessation of one’s life does pass through my thoughts for consideration. I have realized that for the last four decades; my life had passed its half-way point if it remains healthy.

That is what makes the comparison between Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Charles Krauthammer, columnist, fascinating, yet distressing, even disastrous.

In his diminishing days of life, the Senator from Arizona has issued a number of angry, almost petulant, statements regarding his deep dislike for President Trump. He has never forgiven Trump for comments in the 2015-16 Republican nominating campaign. He certainly has that right.

In a recent statement the Senator indirectly blamed Trump for the chemical weapons attack in Syria, suggesting that Trump’s recent comments about U.S. troops leaving Syria “very soon” would embolden Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. McCain has questioned Trump’s worldview, and mocks his receiving Vietnam War deferments for….bone spurs.

He thoroughly and theatrically enjoyed gigging Trump in his late-night defeating vote on Obamacare. On his death bed, his anger seems marginally worse. Rightly or Wrongly.

Contrastingly, Charles Krauthammer, who has only weeks to live, writes in his heartbreaking message:                                                                                   I leave this life with no regrets…It was a wonderful life – full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.

The comparison is not only rich….but simply opportune.

Both men face the deep mystery – seemingly quite soon, but very differently. Possibly some are more humbled by the death-thing than others; the majority do not have the luxury or benefit of preparation.

Malcomb Forbes wrote a little book years back, They Went That-A- Way: How the Famous, the Infamous, and the Great Died. Tabloid-bordering in its approach, it does reveal differences in the death of the swells of the western world.

I am comforted by an old Matthew Arnold quote about leaving the building:   “In each class, there are born a certain number of natures with a curiosity about their best self, with a bent for seeing things as they are, for disentangling themselves from machinery, for simply concerning themselves with reason and the will of God, and doing their best to make these prevail…and this bent always tends to take them out of their class and to make their distinguishing characteristics their “humanity.’”

In my mind that might be a preferable exit strategy. I’m certainly considering it. Charles Krauthammer clearly showed me how.

                      

                                                                                                   

 

                     

 

 

I

 

PROFOUND CULTURAL OBSERVER

Tom Wolfe, Richmonder.

The Wall Street Journal designated author Tom Wolfe as one of America’s losses – one of its greatest men of letters – a journalist, novelist and profound cultural observer.

Maria Spalding Hadlow, daughter of Henry and Kaye Spalding, wrote a superb master’s thesis at James Madison University on Virginia author, William Hoffman, including his relationship with Wolfe. Hoffman’s work often referenced the lure of trees (mountains); the water…. that is where his characters and literature struggled.

It is striking how Tom Wolfe’s and William Hoffman’s work harks back to my friend, Don Gehring’s observation: “There’s a whole bunch of us…in us.

While Tom Wolfe was a Richmond native attending St. Christopher’s – then on to Lexington and Washing & Lee; William Hoffman hailed from Charleston, West Virginia, attended public school, graduating from Hampden-Sydney College.

Hoffman’s character-development included depravation of place – grasping justifications – unexpected virtues of simple resilience – desperately searching for an elusive integrity. Tom Wolf stirred the internals of American culture, never once avoiding “balloon puncturing” always spotting the grim modernist…and instructing all the way. Hoffman was serious: Wolfe was simply delicious in his words.

As a 1950’s Hampden-Sydney College student, I witnessed the “early Hoffman” in that special place – cool, understated, wise-for-his-time, war-scarred young novelist, journeying to where his creativity would beach. We shared our membership installation to O D K Honorary Fraternity.

Students affectionately called him “shaky” with his occasional World War II shell- shock spasms. All took deep pride in having a novelist-in-residence. His stories reminded us that there’s a little bit of ostrich in all of us – never to abate.

Daniel M. Hawks, Assistant Curator for Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, recalled his Hoffman Creative Writing Class: one morning each student in the class was required to read the opening paragraph of the “piece” he had been assigned to write. One of the men near the front of the class (whose name I cannot remember) began by saying, “The air was filled with excitement”. Hoffman immediately jumped out of his chair pointed his arms into the air as if he had a hunting rifle and yelled “Bang, bang, bang! I just killed excitement!”

Tom Wolfe and Bill Hoffman were old friends. A wonderful reunion of the young old friends, Wolfe and Hoffman, happened at Washington & Lee University; it was recorded. They discussed a year in Virginia letters – their year – in Lexington, now six decades ago.

Taking creative writing classes, Hoffman and Wolfe helped launch W & L’s prestigious literary magazine: Shenandoah. Fascinating exchanges between these old friends brought published intricate insights. Each of them remembered the title, plot, even character names of the first story the other published.

Tom Wolfe observed that fictional characters had their ways. “I think clothes often are a give-away of who a person thinks they are…a kind of a little window that opens.” Hoffman laughingly agreed.

Richmonder, Elizabeth Seydel Morgan, publisher of poetry, directed this awareness to Hoffman readers. “There they were, two Virginia gentlemen talking about the writing life, double-breasted suits, and their halcyon days at Washington & Lee.”

Hoffman often dressed conventionally, while Tom Wolfe was noted for his white (my mother called the Panama) suits. The one time I had a short opportunity to speak with Wolfe, I reminded him that he reminded me of Senior Senator Harry F. Byrd and his white outfits. Wolfe told me he would take it advisedly.

I suspect Maria Hadlow is warmly comforted by this.