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.


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”.








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





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.










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.





TV 6, HAPPY 70th

In April, i948, few Richmonders really knew what “television” meant. Dinah Shore’s Buttons and Bows; Art Mooney’s I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover, and Nat King Cole’s Nature Boy…led the pop charts – on radio.

Quietly dismounting, resembling a 78-rpm record, a jerky “test pattern” appeared on small television sets, appointing itself “Channel 6.” Used equipment from the 1941 World’s Fair was freighted to a former bus garage at 3300 West Broad Street, becoming a rudimentary TV studio.

WTVR, owned by Wilbur Havens, became “the South’s First Television Station” on April 22, 1948. Havens had experimented in – WMBG 1380 AM, (Magnetos, Batteries, and Generators) early radio, and WCOD-FM 98.1. Richmond’s TV 6 began televising limited hours daily – with pioneer covered wagon artwork as it first identity symbol.

Without local competition, Havens’ FCC application stood alone – his license prevailed – the last to be awarded before the Federal Communications Commission froze future station applications until 1955. Havens had a guaranteed competition-free Richmond market.

TV signals were transmitted at first by a small tower from Staples Mills Road at Broad where Anthem Blue Cross resides today. In 1953, I studied the “Big Tower” slow-motion construction of Channel 6’s ultimate tower; few men worked on the 1,069-feet-above-sea-level structure. When Hurricane Hazel passed over Richmond in October, 1954, it brought an interesting slight sway to Richmond’s new icon.

Our Westwood subdivision of fifty new homes included a dozen neighborhood TV owners. As pre-teens, we asked if we could come in….and view it. Most agreed. We learned what heightened excitement came from small round Zenith screens.

Those popular shows which were new to us, often landing in strange slots: I Love Lucy episodes rant at 10:30 p.m. Saturday nights, preceding Amos and Andy (sponsored by Blatz beer). What’s My Line (sponsored by Stopette) aired 2 p.m. Sundays. Name That Tune with Robert Q. Lewis, and Life Begin At 80 (which really intrigues me now) with Jack Barry, would follow – all kinescopes of live telecasts.

The Aldrich Family (Henry, Henry Aldrich!) was live Friday at 9:30 p.m. in New York, but televised Sundays at 5:30 – nine days later in Richmond.

There was no kinescoping of TODAY – with Dave Garroway and Jack Lescoulie presiding live. Rising early to view the first TODAY from the RCA Exhibition Hall on 49th Street seemed magical at 7 a.m.

With variety shows, NBC rejuvenated old vaudevillian and silent movie careers. Shows like Four Star Review with Ed Wynn, Jack Carson, Jimmy Durante (“Ha Cha, Cha, Chaaa”), and Danny Thomas; Your Show of Shows with Sid Caesar and Imogine Coca; Colgate Comedy Hour with Eddie Cantor, Abbott & Costello, Judy Canova, and Martin & Lewis, were so New York. Texaco Star Theater with Milton Berle, and The Bob Hope Show were separate institutions.

Kukla, Fran, & Ollie, Garroway At Large, and Don McNeil’s Breakfast Club with Aunt Fannie, plus singer Johnny Desmond, emanated from Chicago – as did Hawkins Falls, a high-end soap with Bernadine Flynn; and Super Circus, a children’s show with Mary Hartline.

We thrived on Howdy Doody, The Gabby Hayes Show (“Howdy, Buckaroos”), and Andy Devine in Wild Bill Hickok….and the Mexican Robin Hood – the Cisco Kid (‘Oh Poncho!…Oh Cisco!”).

WTVR’s local TV productions were modest. John Shand reported Eyes on The Times news. Joe Swartz’s Weather was elementary. Near a map outline of Virginia, referring to notes, he would mark current temperatures in six circled city locations. Sportlight with Jack Lewis was local TV Sports – later replaced by Tim Finnegan. Decades later, Finnegan recalled that his future colleagues were incredulous when they discovered he had NO competition.

Mavis Gibbs, home economist, ran The Cooking Show while John Shand, her side-kick, would do his soft shoe. Story Book Lady, Helen Langton, was always introduced by Bill Maust, A Miller and Rhoads representative. Grove Ave. Baptist Church, with Rev. Byron Wilkerson, was studio-live Sunday mornings.

Color TV emerged in late 1954. Advertised as “NBC’s first 90-minute color television spectacular,” the dreadful Satins and Spurs, with Betty Hutton was live. Channel 6 invited stand-in-line viewers to visit their studios and witness color TV – seemed half of Richmond attended.

By the mid 1950’s, competition arrived – Channels 8 in 1955, and 12 in 1956. Test pattern TV became distant – those pioneering pop hits too. We’re Gonna Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley & His Comets filled the music charts. The 40’s culture subsided. As did Richmond’s Confederate social obsession too – all became diminished.

Happy 70th Birthday, TV 6 !






I have learned over the years that most of us are neither sage nor scientist; but at the age of 80, I believe I am wise enough to know that life does not proceed by leaps and bounds. It simply unfolds. While our experiences accumulate, and our opinions evolve – if not glacially, then at least gradually anew.

For what matters in life is not whether we receive a round of applause, what matters is whether we have the courage to venture forth despite the uncertainty                                                                                                              

After all, authenticity of thyself matters.

Sadly this idea will not be ours…and frankly, should lead to a little unfamiliar humility on our part.

Whether it could be an Episcopal Diocese of Virginia project, or a St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church project….or the work of those we do not know, it really is spot on….in helping those REALLY in need.

A church in Texas raised money for a Debt Forgiveness Charity, ultimately eliminating over $10 million in medical debt for over 4,000 veterans and families. Covenant Church, under the leadership of Pastor Stephen Hayes, donated $100,000 to RIP MEDICAL DEBT.

The nonprofit is a former debt collection agency that is now a debt forgiveness charity.

Every dollar donated to the organization translates to $100 of debt they are able to cancel on someone else’s behalf. That church’s donation enabled RIP Medical Debt to payoff $10,551,618 in medical debt for 4,229 Dallas families.

Not only is the debt itself gone…and paid…. but also, any negative impact that debt has had on their credit history is wiped clean. It’s the easiest decision we’ve ever made,” Pastor Hayes said.

Hayes added that his family’s personal experience with medical debt inspired him to lead his church and their community in this way. “My family has known the crushing weight that can come with medical debt.”

Hayes further said that he wanted the community to know we care….if we show them what it means to be a Christian before they ever step foot in one of our churches, we believe that will have even a greater impact.

The church worked together with RIP Medical debt to locate every veteran saddled with medical debt in a 20 mile radius of the church’s four locations.

“Our prayer to God in the past has been ‘Give us our city.’ We recently have changed that prayer to ‘God, give us to our city,’” Hayes concluded.

I think the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, or St. Stephen’s Episcopal parish really needs to take a look at what we can do LOCALLY. Something serious to ponder, yes?










Lent can traumatize.

Predictably LENT began with Ash Wednesday – a first day of fasting in Western Christianity. It occurs 46 days (40 fasting days, if the six Sundays, which are not days of fast, are excluded) before Easter.

As most practicing Christians know, Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches blessed on the previous year’s Palm Sunday. The irony of this year was Ash Wednesday shared February 14th with non-other than St. Valentine’s Day, a highly commercialize, thinly surfaced, sweet affair.

Although the account AElfrie of Eynsham shows that on about the year 1000 the ashes were “strewn” on the head; the marking of the forehead is the method that now prevails in English-speaking countries. It is the only one envisaged in the Occasional Offices of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea Church of Papua, a publication described as “noticeably Anglo-Catholic in character”.

These some odd 40 days remind worshipers of their sinfulness; clearly, their mortality; and finally – their need to repent in time. Living life authentically connects…”as he breathed the chill night air, he was no longer afraid.”

Our Men’s group at St. Stephens Episcopal Church met these fasting days head on. Some began by positing that Lent was passé – no longer relevant in their personal lives. Others attempted to bring a twenty first century revision (spin) to this outdated period as well.

Some wanted to go directly to Bonnie Ware’s “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.” Ware, a palliative care professional, who helps terminal patients facing the last three to 12 weeks of their lives, wrote of their regrets: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me” (… when people clearly look back, they discover they have not honored even a half of their dreams)…and I wish I hadn’t worked so hard” (…they missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship). Unfulfillment haunts.

Lent in a way can be seen as a recovery period. The recovering addict is often counseled to take a “spiritual inventory,” which deals with one’s behavior toward another. What do I need to clear up in my personal life?

Alcoholics Anonymous, (AA), has its twelve steps composed in the early I930’s, with the aid of Catholic Nuns in Akron, Ohio; Christianity has its seven (7) sacraments: Baptism…..Eucharist…..Confirmation…..Reconciliation (Confession)…..Anointing of the Sick…..Marriage…..Holy Orders. It is not difficult to conclude that these spiritual steps have direct kindred to the Lenten Season. They make it matter.

Robert Dilday, managing editor of the Religious Herald, fellow parishioner, with his weekly meditation for the Second Sunday in Lent, edged nicely in to Lenten thought. Quoting Parker Palmer about a life led in God’s image, Dilday envisions the task of becoming truly human, is to listen carefully to our deepest self and nurture an environment in which it can flourish. Bringing it to what it was meant to be takes deep commitment and serious work.

Historian Shelby Foote wrote to novelist Walker Percy about life distances from one place to another: “As if across a valley, a valley that I suppose would be called Unbelief – or Belief.” Questions of faith abide. It always comes to THAT.

Easter Day is April 1. Much is to be done in seeking and finding that growing humility, which opens doors for new possibilities. Giving up something for Lent is traditional, and easier. Opening spiritual doors is not for the faint of heart.

Dilday rightly concludes that answering these personal challenges takes patience – probably a lifetime of it. Lent isn’t nearly long enough to see it through. It offers plenty of space to begin …we’ll have to settle for that.









As one ages, even in the Christmas season – with a tendency to exhibit a prickly demeanor – he stands awed by the rapidity of the period. The pace picks up year after year.

When I attempt to adjust to this reality, the old Marx Brothers film, Animal Crackers (1936), comes to mind. There, Groucho Marks sings his famous in-and-out ditty: ”Hello, I must be going, I cannot stay, I’m glad I came, but just the same, I must be going.” Another Christmas passes.

This 2017 holiday season is so different, with its tawdry headlines, when compared to one remembered in 1943. This could have been the year when Christmas music (most of a religious, classical nature) was complicated and inundated with new pop creations.

Christmas, 1943 was complicated for little guys like me. There was Spike Jones & His City Slickers hit, “Der Fueher’s Face”….it was a parody of the Nazi anthem, accompanied with real Bronx cheers. The other pop hit was “White Christmas” sung by the groaner, Bing Crosby – otherwise known as Der Bingle – a nickname created by the Germans. So we had the City Slickers vs Der Bingle that 1943 Christmas time. Not surprisingly Crosby prevailed.

In those early years of mine, my grandparents owned the Customs House overlooking the Rappahannock River and high above the Riverside Hotel across Prince Street, Tappahannock, VA. In those days the Hotel was a beehive of seasonal activity; it was frantic with planned Christmas parties and dinner gatherings – all sharing the festive new contemporary Christmas music. No O come, all ye faithful; Joyful and triumphant there. That was when we were introduced to one Irving Berlin (Israel Baline) and his “White Christmas – a runaway smash hit for World War II holidays, becoming the best-selling record of all time.

Remember, American families were separated by war, distant work, and worried to death about the war’s end. Irving Berlin shared: “Songs make history, and history make songs.” In our river-world we did not long for Christmas snowfalls – we knew them as “snowstorms.” But those careful lyrics were particularly influential on Northeasterner, now uprooted to the non-seasonal, snowless West Coast.

Philip Furia brought huge insight to what was a seamlessly sentimental song – verging on melancholy Christmas celebrations; with vast separations Furia points out how different the structure the song became: “I’m”…with a whole note, then racing over the other syllables before the next whole note “w-h-i-t-e”, Christmas. Simultaneously, lecturer Rob Kapilow notes that the minor chords for “listen” and “glisten” border on simple heart break, and sadness.

I remember thinking exactly that as we sang it in the Douglas Freeman HS Glee Club so long ago. It has been reported that Berlin got his inspiration in his Brooklyn Jewish youth experience, as that of an outsider. Others surmise that loss of an infant son, Irving, Jr., on Christmas Eve, 1928, brought an edge to his sadness. We lost an infant son in 1966; it remains with us until this day.

“White Christmas”, the song benefited with the invention of the “disc jockey” allowing the 78 record to be played endlessly both on radio, and jukeboxes. So it was.

*                             *                             *                               *

Christmas at my grandparents’ home passed nicely. Big fireplace fires brought security and warmth from the cold winds off the Rappahannock River. The tree was decorated with dancing lights – if one blew, all lights failed. It was testimony of one’s limitations when figuring out which festive bulb bummed out. Chasing dead Christmas lights sometimes consumed hours, becoming part of our holiday ritual. That year, we added “White Christmas” to our holiday inventory.

In Tappahannock, In 1943, I can still hear the melodies stream from the Riverside Hotel, across Prince Street, up the bank to that grandparent’s home of long ago – intuitively knowing it was special then….and probably forever.

Is it really Christmas, 2017?




                           CAVALCADE OF CREEPS

Schadenfreude (SHaden, froide): the German noun….defined as a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people – particular those you may dislike – even for total legitimate reasons.

If you have been on the receiving end of such schadenfreude (as I have), one thinks twice before he thrusts such energy in the direction of his worse of enemies – political or otherwise. I am totally watching my schadenfreude as I write this.

Jim Geraghty, The Morning Jolt, has labeled this cultural episode as the “cavalcade of creeps”. The list below, while probably out dated by the time you read this, is going to run its course, and it’ll get worse every day. Revelations in the articles in Variety and the New York Times about former Today host Matt Lauer could make you sick. Lauer confessed that he was “embarrassed” by his actions. Poor baby.

As nasty as Lauer’s story is, he still stands in the shadow of one Harvey Weinstein, chief producer, and deep pockets contributor to the Democratic Party. This film producer is accused by dozens of women of sexual harassment or sexual assaults, including rape. Weinstein denies all allegation of non-consensual sex, but he has apologized for causing “a lot of pain.”

It is hard not to forget the merrymaking of the FNC-haters at the professional demise of Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, even Eric Bolling. Their delight was immeasurable, and all so political. Many on the list below could not celebrate enough over it. Particularly, the Matt Lauer intrusive interview of O’Reilly comes to mind, on the TODAY show only months ago. Talk about karma.

The current Rogues Gallery includes:

Garrison Keillor ( A Prairie Home Companion);  Matt Lauer (TODAY);  Charlie Rose (CBS Morning) ; Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit); Bill O’Reilly (Fox News);  Glenn Thrush (NY Times);  Jeffre Tambor (‘Transparent’); Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.); Russell Simmons, (prolific music and TV producer); Matt Zimmerman, Sr. (VP –NBC News);  Rep. Joe Barton (R – TX);  Andrew Kreisberg, (producer of the CW shows “Arrow,” “Supergirl” Warner Bros.);  Louis C.K. (comedian/public masturbator); Steven Seagal, actor; Ed Westwick, actor; Brett Ratner, Director; Dustin Hoffman, Academy Award actor; Jeremy Piven, actor; Michael Oreskes, (NPR News chief);   Kevin Spacey, actor;  William J. Clinton, perjurer, former president;   Mark Halpern, (NBC, MSNBC); George H.W. Bush, former president; Terry Richardson, celebrity photographer; Leon Wieseltier, (The Atlantic and New Republic); James Toback, veteran Hollywood writer/director; John Besh, Chef (Bread Basket); Bob Weinstein, brother of the granddaddy of harassment: Harvey Weinstein; Oliver Stone, writer/director;  Roy Price, (Director of Amazon Studios); Ben Affleck, actor; Teddy Davis, CNN Producer; John Hockenberry, public radio Icon; Rep. Blake Farenhold (R-TX).

Careful counting yields about 4, maybe 5 Republicans – out of the 35 people listed.

As the solid Brent Bozell recently posted in Townhall: “nowhere is the hypocrisy more notable (and deeper) than at PBS and NPR. These were the entities that made sexual harassment the boiling feminist issue when Anita Hill testified during Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing in 1991. Here’s an easy question: Why didn’t this sudden spirit of self-discovery and investigation happen back then? Or in any year since?”

It could have happened when the President Bill Clinton settled with Paula Jones in 1998…or even last year as these networks enjoyed reporting on sexual harassment scandals inside Fox News. One must pose the question: in what way, then, is “public” broadcasting morally superior to corporate broadcasting?  The answer is both PBS and NPR are NOT….and never have been.

The “no snitch” culture is evaporating. Sadly, the allegiances of the media, late-night television, Hollywood, stand-up comedy, professional sports, and universities, continue their leftward homilies. Politically correct vulgarity among celebrities is nothing more than a poor substitute for talent – tied in a knot by sexual harassment scandals and other perversion. Yet, with this nasty cultural cloud, there are positive signs.

The economy is growing. Unemployment is dropping and inflation remains low. Middle class incomes are finally heading up….with expansion of energy production, and a growing security on our southern borders.

For those of us who remain deeply concerned, we must simply hang in there – sans schadenfreude.