Friday, July 29, 2005

Off to Atlanta

Brave's game tonight against the Pirates then it's the best band in the world, Reckless Kelly at Smith's Olde Bar Saturday night. Back Sunday with photos and stories. Have a great one.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Renee Zellwegger-What Were You Drinking?

Libbi Bosworth is an Austin, Texas singer-songwriter. Her website contains some personal rants that she labels as "hissy fits" on the link at the bottom of the site. I was scrolling down and found one regarding the Kenny Chesney-Renee Zellwegger nuptials that was worth sharing. I am lucky to be able to read music, know a good deal of music theory, play guitar at about a 3 handicap, have excellent "relative pitch" (in other words, if I know the key of a song, I can recognize the chords in my head), and have a keen ear for great tunes and lyrics. Let me hear 10 seconds of a band's work and I can tell you if they are the real deal or if they are phony, untalented poseurs. This post is guaranteed to offend those that feed from the "pig trough" that is big FM country radio. Most people buy their music because it is played repeatedly on these corporated controlled stations or because they think the singer('s) are hot looking. Do you think for a minute if Faith Hill or Shania Twain looked like Phyllis Diller, that they would sell a single CD? Here is my list of popular artists that make me want to throw a brick through my TV or take a 2x4 to the radio:

1. Kenny Chesney- It's not the fact that he looks like ET in a cowboy hat and wears "wife-beater" tank tops on stage to show off the biceps he has developed to cope with his "short man's" complex- He's a phony, Jimmy Buffett wannabee. The crowd that flocks to his stadium concerts and is "transported" by the crap coming out of the loudspeakers should be individually identified and denied the right to vote.

2. Montgomery Gentry- What's the deal with that moron in the trenchcoat that thinks the mic stand is a musical instrument. What's up with the other guy who's name is allegedly Troy but is called T-Roy. These aren't good ol' boys-they're a couple of no-talent idiots who unfortunately happen to be from the South.

3. Tim McGraw-How can you watch the Indian Outlaw video or listen to the song without concluding that the man has no shame. And seeing this slit-eyed moron walking around in the rain in the UK with his leather hat sends my blood pressure through the roof. I hope he and Faith end up where they belong-sitting on concrete block stoops outside their single-wide as their kids play in the old refrigerators and broke down cars littering their dirt backyard, the hounddog doubles over to lick his hotspots and the next door neighbor flings them a day old carp to grill on the hibachi for supper. Is there no God?

4. Rascal Flatts-Cutesy name, cute band-their "work" is the musical equivalent of a hate crime.

5. She-Daisy-See above comment. Can't wait to see them pack the stadium when their boobs hang to their knees. Pathetic Dixie Chicks "knockoff."

6. Shania Twain- When she starts to look like Kate Smith the fans will drop her like a hot skillet. A twirling fake indian in a push up bra-if that bra-clasp breaks it will fly off and kill someone.

7. Cledus T. Judd- This goober reinforces every negative southern stereotype that has ever existed. Yea, we all ride around on John Deere lawnmowers and jabber like a bunch of mush-mouthed magpies. He's not a tool, he's a complete toolbox. He actually convinced some record company to release his aptly titled, "Bi-polar and Proud." Hell, he doesn't have enough gray matter to be bi-polar.

Oh yeah, here's that Libbi Bosworth rant for your enjoyment:


I have been so bored with the lives of celebrities. No one’s really given me any good fodder since Britney married whozit. Brad and Jen—that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Brad and Angelina. If it’s not an affair yet it will be. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. Nice, sweet, couple, they seem right for each other. He probably counts his blessings everyday that things didn’t go the other way for him. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Creepy, for sure, but par for the course for Tom in my opinion. Beard.

Today, however, as I was ready to crawl back into bed, I booted up the computer just for a check on the comings and goings of celebrities and HOLY CRAP. Who needs coffee when your headlines are screaming at you. (Obviously I take gossip very personally). Let me borrow the phrase from George Bush: SHOCK AND AWE. Renee Zellweger marries…Kenny Chesney??!! Huh? Double take. How do you go from Jim Carrey to moody and cult-cool super talented Jack White to Irish Singer/looker Damien Rice to…Kenny Chesney??!!

3 beaus in 8 months no less. It takes six months alone to make sure you don’t shout out the wrong boyfriend’s name in bed. Maybe she has old boyfriends’ names alphabetized and categorized in such a way that she doesn’t have that problem. I guess that’s what makes the difference between us simple Texas gals and the ones that go to Hollywood and buy Carolina Herrera tampons and practice perfect pouting everyday.

While I’m sure they are both VERY NICE PEOPLE (lawyer advised disclaimer here) I just absolutely cannot see the attraction between these two people. I mean, Kenny Chesney is touring with Uncle Kracker for chrissakes, a 20 something pudgy frat boy with tattoos who looks (and sounds) like he grew up no where near the ‘hood and wouldn’t know a carjacking if it bit him in the ass. And I am certain that while people are scratching their heads over Renee’s I Do’s, legions of Kenny Chesney fans are, at this very moment, bombarding Kenny’s website and sobbing over their keyboards. Sorry, gals, there is no plea bargaining here. Too late to get into his concerts and slip backstage: the dude is sold out all over. Could the same be said for Renee or did she just grow weary of 'complicated' men?

May 10, 2005

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Old Sheldon Church

Highway 21 out of Beaufort, SC to the Highway 17 intersection at Gardens Corner is amazing in and of itself. The town is so entertwined with saltwater rivers, creeks and marshes that it has taken me about 7 years to get my bearings. A twenty mile drive leaving Scott's house for home takes me over Albergotti Creek and Whale Branch, places we could have gotten to by boat in about 5 minutes from the dock. Spartina grass, black plough mud, huge banks of oysters are visible at low tide and at high tide the whole place is covered in an opaque nature soup where the crabs and shrimp and finger mullet take cover in the grass to avoid the hungry fish. At low tide they are flushed out and concentrated in the main flow where they school up and create huge "V" wakes coming downt he creeks. Fruit stands and tomato fields are numerous. A left at the Gardens Corner traffic circle spills you out on Highway 17 South and a quick right 500 yards down the road puts you on Sheldon Church Road headed toward Yemassee.
I have lived in the south virtually my whole life and I know that any church out in the country will 99 times out a 100 be named after the church on that road, so seeing a road by that name did not phase me. I turned right and headed toward Yemassee down the canopied two-land road passing lime green swamp on my right and a field of ghostly huge dead bleached-out trees on my left.
About two miles down the road, off to the right, out of the haze of the humid swamp, gnarled cypress trees and spanish moss rises majestically the ancient ruins of the Old Sheldon Church. I saw it for the first time last weekend and vowed this time to remember my camera and take some pics of this beauful relic. I'll post the pics then the story of the church.

Resurrection amid the ruins by Carolyn Click (The Sheldon Church Story)

The gracious old live oaks bow down as if in reverence, their aged, craggy limbs lined with resurrection ferns.

At the Old Sheldon Church Ruins, set among these ancient trees, thoughts turn easily toward the Resurrection.

The remains of this 18th- century church whisper of a bygone age, of plantations and prosperity, war and want. Twice burned in the great searing conflicts of America, the majestic brick ruins somehow still speak to the hope of the church in the future.

It is a sacred place, mostly visited by the solitary traveler who may come upon it by chance. Occasionally, weddings are held there.

But on the second Sunday after Easter, members of St. Helena's Episcopal Church in nearby Beaufort gather in the shadow of the ruins for a special church service, intoning the familiar lessons and prayers. Remembering the past, celebrating the future in the Resurrection of Christ.

Afterward, there are family picnics on the grounds and the lively sounds of children as they skip and play amid the ruins.

"It is such a joy to come out here and see this become a living church," said Ruth deTreville Spieler, a lifelong member of St. Helena's.

Spieler made the annual pilgrimage to Old Sheldon last Sunday, continuing a family tradition that began for her in 1927, when her mother carried her to the church ruins as a six-month-old baby.

Spieler's ancestors were among the first families of St. Helena's, which was built in 1724 in St. Helena's Parish, shortly after the city of Beaufort was first laid out.

St. Helena's, located in the heart of Beaufort 17 miles south of the Ruins, serves as the caretaker of the Old Sheldon Church Ruins. But once both churches were thriving examples of early 18th-century colonial life.

Two-and-a-half centuries ago, the ruins were known as Sheldon Church of Prince William's Parish. It was built between 1745 and 1755, said to be the first American attempt to imitate a Greek temple.

The church was situated between two sprawling agricultural holdings, Tomotley Barony and the plantation of Lt. Gov. William Bull. In 1698, Edmund Bellinger was granted the 12,000 acres of Tomotley Barony and 36,000 more acres. He specified in his will that 50 acres be given to create a church.

The church was named in honor of Bull's family. His nearby plantation and his ancestral home in Warwickshire, England, were known as Sheldon Hall.

Histories suggest the early years were prosperous for the white plantation owners and the church. Some 60 to 70 carriages full of parishioners would regularly pull up to the entrance of Sheldon Church on a Sunday morning.

A life-size bronze statue of Prince William, for whom the parish was named, sat over the portico of the church. A large font supported by bronze lion's claws stood just inside the front entrance. It was used to baptize the white communicants and the slaves who toiled on Tomotley and Sheldon plantations.

But the American Revolution altered the lives of South Carolinians and forever changed Sheldon Church. In 1779, British troops burned it. Earlier, Prince William's statue had been removed by parishioners, and some historians have suggested that if it had been left it up, Gen. Augustine Prevost's troops might have spared the church.

The 31/2-foot thick colonnaded red brick walls still stood after the fire, as did the four portico columns. But the property remained deserted and overgrown until 1815, when planters drew up plans to rebuild the sanctuary.

The second Sheldon Church of Prince William's Parish was consecrated in 1826.

Four decades later, the flames of war once again devoured Sheldon Church, as Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman marched his federal troops from Savannah to Columbia and burned everything in his path.

Sheldon Church was never rebuilt.

For members and friends of St. Helena's, the annual church service at the ruins - begun in 1923 after a restoration of the grounds by then Rector R. Maynard Marshall and the junior choir - provides a time of remembrance and renewal. There were only a few years during World War II when the service was not held; last Sunday service was the 74th.

"It's a social event with spiritual meaning," said Charley Webb. His extended family has been coming to the service and picnic for decades.

"It's kind of a command performance for our family," said Webb, whose wife Martha Lynn and daughters Caroline, 13, and Charmian, 11, attended along with assorted cousins.

At the annual service, he can almost feel the presence of the 19th century parishioners.

"It's neat to imagine that it all has been put back together and you are worshipping with them together," he said.

But Webb took to heart the message from this year's guest speaker, the Rev. John Burwell, rector of the Church of the Holy Cross on Sullivans Island. Burwell reminded the congregation that memory and the past have their place. But simply remembering Jesus Christ does nothing, he said.

"If Jesus is just a memory, he cannot exert any power today," said Burwell. "The world is full of dead heroes, and not one of them can do a thing for me."

At the conclusion of the hour-long service, two trumpeters, one located beside the ruins, the other yards away at the south end of the property, played haunting, echoing Taps.

It seemed an odd and eerie ending to a post-Easter service, but Gerhard Spieler, St. Helena's historian, offered an explanation.

"It is a military salute usually playing at the end of the day or at a funeral," said Spieler, Ruth deTreville Spieler's husband.

"But I feel that in the case of Old Sheldon, it is not only in remembrance of the dead but, being so close to Easter, it is also a symbol of the Resurrection of the church.

"That church has been destroyed twice, its congregation has been scattered twice and yet each time it rose again - and hopefully there won't be a third time."

I Survived Waterfest

For the second straight weekend I made the trek to Beaufort, S.C., this time to fish but for a variety of reasons not much fishing got done and what did get done was a mixture of large skates, rays and sand sharks. We caught a boatload of bait and thoroughly trashed the boat with dead bait, mud and weeds and cans. A late night Friday in the adirondack chairs looking over the intracoastal turned into Saturday morning and a gaggle of folks gathered at Scott's house trying to bum a ride to the sand bar. The sand bar is located just outside the markers for the intracoastal waterway around the bend and under the bridge from downtown Beaufort, SC. The 8-9 foot diurnal tides fully expose the bar every 12 hours, then the tide turns and it is covered up again. Eight or nine feet of water moving in and out every six hours creates a terrific current and during the time the tide is high and you can't stand on the bottom, it is necessary to hand onto floats, tubes, lifejackets, etc. tied off to the back of the boats with lines and ropes. If you lose your grip you will be swept into the river and have to be "rescued" by folks in jon boats or jet skis.
A day in the sun and water- two-thousand boats or anything that can float and be propelled by engine or paddles tied up in a five acre area, coolers filled to the brim with drinks of all types, sandwich fixins, fried chicken, boiled peanuts and other goodies, improptu volleyball games played on a plough-mud moonscape, and girls wearing swimsuits they have no business wearing and men doing the same. It was fun to sit back and watch the spectacle. It was fun but I'm getting too old for more than one sandbar party per year. Some photos to follow.

High and Dry Posted by Picasa

Tide going out Posted by Picasa

High tide covering the sandbar Posted by Picasa

High tide-Hold on! Posted by Picasa

Boston Whaler sideways Posted by Picasa

Anything that floats! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 21, 2005

On Break till Sunday P.M.

I'll be "out of pocket" as they say but will be back with some stories and photos from the South Carolina lowcountry including one on the historic Sheldon Church near Yemassee. Imagine a Greek Temple off a winding road in the SC swamps. I caught a glimpse of it a week ago speeding by and wouldn't have been more shocked if it had been the Pyramids arising out of the cypress. Sorry for the light blogging recently but the fishing has been good here, the weather hot and the calendar full. Next weekend it's of to Atlanta for Brave's baseball Friday night and Reckless Kelly at Smith's Olde Bar on Saturday night.

If you're new here, look around and check the archives-See ya' Sunday!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Follow-up to Outhouse "Secret Peeper" Story

Proving that no one goes to Court without some defense.

Nominee for "Lowlife" of the Year

Back tonight with some stuff

Once, maybe twice a month the tides here get high enough to flood the marsh and allow you to stalk redfish in the grass. I have described that a month or so ago. Yesterday was the first time I saw a redfish tail calling to me in the shallows and I caught him in about 18 inches of water. I have pics of that and in addition I now have "the fever," so I will be up to my knees in saltwater, marsh grass, water snails, finger mullet, shrimp and fiddler crabs till dark. See ya then.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Scott's new puppy Sadie getting well deserved attention-Welcome to the fold, girl! You're in for a great life.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Perspective-the 25 Word Challenge

It was quite enlightening to see the responses to the 25-word challenge. I was out of town and without a computer, so I didn't see the responses until last night. I'm always intrigued by communication between individuals-the chasm between the message we wish to convey and that which is received. It's mind-boggling to imagine all the misunderstandings and hurt feelings that result daily from just innocent and innate differences in perception. I had been giving the first 25 words considerable thought-I didn't want to just flop something up and let it run. I intended to convey a scene from an inmate's execution. To me the words "gurney" and "curtain" and "fluid" connote a condemned man looking for the last time at his family and his victim's family in the last seconds of his life. I did not for the life of me imagine anyone envisioning a hospital scene, but now looking back I see that is not only a rational conclusion to draw must probably the most rational. A powerful lesson in perspective re-learned by a simple word challenge.

Thanks to all who visited and commented on a busy summer weekend.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Welcome-The 25 Word Challenge

I'm off for the weekend so I thought I would start the challenge early. I'll cut it off Sunday night.
For those of you unfamiliar to the challenge, it was originated by Christina at Feisty Repartee and I'm proud to host it this week. The rules are simple:

a) each comment has to be precisely 25 words and
b) no back to back comments, but commenters can come back as often as they like.

While you're here, take a look around-it's a hodgepodge.

Here goes:

The curtains opened and from the gurney he saw his past staring back at him. As the fluid began to drip, he thought, "My God........

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Snake in the Grass

I've been working on a new fishing rod-It is for my friend Jeff Purdy's birthday. I call it Purdy's Prairie Rattler Rod. The skin used is from a western prairie rattlesnake. Here are some pictures of it-see what you think! Click on photo to enlarge.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Bullies and playing the "Psycho Card"

I have a visceral hatred of bullies-people who take advantage of not only size but rank and position and use it as a weapon with which to harass or intimidate those weaker or of lesser position. Most bullies are usually incredible wimps when they don't hold an unfair advantage and will back down if confronted properly. I learned this important lesson early on in my career. A local nutjob, who to spite his nextdoor neighbors and drive their property value into the ground, took to mowing his lawn wearing only a jock strap. After receiving pressure from the affected neighbor, the district attorney charged him with indecent exposure. I don't recall how the case played out but the events transformed this regular nutjob into an uber-nutjob. He took to penning threatening letters( all in bold colors with almost every word underlined) to all government officials and anyone that he imagined had any remote (and I do mean remote) connections with his case. His letters were initially laughable, such as the one asserting a dastardly coalition of Presbyterians and Mall Merchants to be in on the plot against him, but later they became increasingly more threatening and reckless. He wrote one that threatened the life of a local college basketball player and was convicted of that. After that he shifted his wrath and letter writing to the District Attorney and would frequent the courthouse ranting about his persecution. One day he made the mistake of actually confronting the DA. It was then that I learned how to deal with these folks. The DA took the jackass into his office, looked him right in the eye and told him that if he got one more letter or heard one more peep from him, he would beat the shit out of him. That is the mild version of their "conversation." And that was the last time I ever heard of the guy again. The DA played what I call the "psycho card."
The "psycho card" is a useful tool to make your way easier in this world if used sparingly, justifiably and in the appropriate circumstances. My theory is that most people will refrain from bugging, harassing or bothering a person who they suspect has the "psycho card" in his or her arsenal. It's simply deterrence. Let's say that you are the neighborhood prick-you spend your retirement taking pleasure in taking other neighbors to task for failing to rigidly abide by the Nazi-regime covenants of the subdivision such as the color of a mailbox or the planting of a tree without prior written approval in triplicate. You have three scofflaws who, in your scouring of the covenants, have committed heinous violations such as the ones cited above and you cogitate about confronting them. Let's further suppose that you know by experience or reputation that one of these folks has been known to play the "psycho card," and if you come to their door with your complaint you are likely to be roundly "dogcussed" and run out of the yard. Who do you think will not be bothered? You got it.
I was once aware of a loner who lived out in the country. He preferred not being bothered by door-to-door salesmen, Mormon missionaries or any other uninvited guests. Every day at a random time, he would go out on his porch and fire off his shotgun. For some reason, no one ever bothered him.
Inspiration for this rant came from catching a brief glimpse on the tube of some Senate Sub-Committee hearings on some unknown subject. Regardless of political stripe-the members of these committees are inveterate bullies. They subpoena some poor shmuck to appear before them, and he or she sits there while the venerable senators take turns going off on them. The "victims" aren't allowed to interrupt or be speak until they've been fully dressed down in public by this group of blowhards, then when they do respond they are expected to show respect for the esteemed committee members. This serves to further embolden and inflate the supersized egos of these megalomaniacs and these hearings get worse and worse. I would love to see one of these "captive" witnesses play the "psycho card"-just once I would pay to see one of them charge the dais and get in the face of these windbags, just as Earl Weaver did with umpires, Bobby Knight does with officials and John McEnroe did with referrees. Maybe even throw a chair. Please, just once!

Monday, July 11, 2005

German Madness

An Obituary to be Proud Of!

This was in the Raleigh paper. What a great way to be remembered.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Fourth of July 2005

If you give it any thought whatsoever, spending the Independence Day weekend with friends, sleeping late, boating, clamming, swimming, eating great meals and listening to live music, all in a constant alcohol induced haze is completely decadent. Revolutionary patriots supported by ill-clad, ill-housed and ill-nourished, musket wielding frozen troops risked their lives and limbs to free us from British oppression. I'm sure in their arduous struggle they could never imagine that they not only conveyed us freedom from tyranny but also a long, paid, government holiday weekend which would allow us the freedom to indulge our excesses. Well, the preamble to the Declaration, before launching into the laundry list of grievances against the crown, did specifically mention "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," and although it is a political document rather than a legal one conferring specific rights, I choose to overlook such semantics and pursue my happiness. So there.
The specific pursuit of happiness began on Friday, July 1 and continued till mid-afternoon on the 4th. Jane and I were joined by friends, Vin, Brad and Katherine, the same fun crowd as last year. I can't believe it's been a year since they've been here together with us. Vin is a former colleague of mine from my days in the DA's office in Winston-Salem, N.C. who has through a series of twists and turns, landed a cushy corporate job in the Raleigh area. Brad is a teacher and soccer coach and his wife Katherine works at a large bank in Winston-Salem. We met them through Vin-Vin and Katherine are soccer buddies. They got here a little after 6 P.M., the car loaded down with the three of them, lugggage, gifts and Vin's dog Josey who has become great friends with our two mutts. I had given some thought to cooking out Friday but the closer the day got I figured the easiest thing was to just catch a bite at the Dockhouse-music by our friends, Dicky and Jack started at 8:00 and we wanted to get their early enough to say hi to them, throw some cash in the tip jar to "prime the pump," and talk to our other boardwalk buddies. Brad found us a table off to the side that seated about 8 people that we used as a base. One or two could hold out there while the others roamed the boardwalk. We also had our own waitress who supplied us with beer all evening long. I stayed sober enough to play one song with the band, then repaired to the dock railing for the last set. I remembered people drinking a pink rum drink at my birthday party and during one trip to the bar, I asked Trish to make me one. Rum and two or three other unidentified liquors filled the plastic cup to within 1/8 inches of the top, then something non-alcoholic was used to top it off. "What is that called," I inquired. "A Rumfuc$#%r," she replied. I got one for Brad too. Damn it was tasty. Lethal too. Always sober Katherine drove us all home. Brad and I were like a couple of bobblehead dolls in the car.
We had intentions of going clamming at the low tide which was noon Saturday but that plan was scuttled when I bounded out of the rack at 1:15 P. M. The combination of a lingering cold and the deadly Rumfuc$#%r had knocked me for a loop. The weather was iffy also- a thunderstorm was passing just north of the prime clamming area. We waited till about 3:00 and went out for a challenge-clamming on a mid to high tide.
When we jumped out of the boat, we were surprised that the water was already waist deep. Because the shoal I use for locating my usual spot was underwater, I had trouble finding it. I don't know if we were on it or not but we did eventually scrape up about 80 clams between the five of us. We had one rake and ten feet doing the job. The problem was that the water was so deep that you couldn't just reach down and pluck it out of the mud-you had to locate the thing with feet or rake, then dive down headfirst and wrestle it out of it's lair. Usually the clam was located someone else would go under for it. A big clam can put up a lot of resistance and several times Vin would stay under tor 30 seconds, her legs kicking wildly and splashing water while she did battle with the mollusk. After the harvest, it was back to the dock. The girls went to the store to get some fish to grill-the clams were for appetizers. The dinner was great-shrimp and scallops were marinated in a zip lock bag with pineapple chunks and juice, soy sauce, garlic and lemon juice and were cooked on charred cedar planks. Large pieces of yellowfin tuna were grilled and basted with lime butter. Soft-shell crabs were fried in a skillet. It was only after we were finished that we realized that we had forgotten to get the clams out of the boat. The evening was a reprise of Friday night-live music, beer and a couple rounds of Rumf@#%rs for good measure.
Sunday started out lazily again-drinking coffee and reading papers on the porch while we planned our day. We went by boat to Front Street Grill and had lunch on the outdoor deck-not very crowded but we couldn't take our eyes off of the couple in the corner nearest the water. He looked like an unkempt Joe Lieberman and she was ghastly-black and gray stringy hair and makeup that look as if it was put on with a spackling knife. She wore a colorful orange dress, low cut, revealing a pale back with a large brown splotch. She had haphazardly tried to apply some self-tanner to bronze herself up on that area and it ended up looking as if someone had used a mop to swab her back with Kiwi shoe polish. It was smeared-dark brown with swirls of light brown, surrounded by her natural alabaster color. Everytime we would look over at their table we would crack up and it was the frequent topic of conversation at dinner. We gave them imaginary names and lives and as usual took a funny observation and beat it to death all night long. A great dinner, another night on the boardwalk, a late night at home and the next day they were off. Another Fourth to remember-Ya'll come back again soon!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Tagged-Or rather volunteered to help out my New Jersey blog friend

Helping out Jim on this meme:

What I was doing ten years ago: Recovering from trying two capital murder cases in a row by doing a lot of flyfishing in mountain streams. Living in Clemmons, N.C.

5 years ago: Contracting for and putting down a deposit on a custom designed skiff that would be finished in early November of 2000. Living in Beaufort, N.C.

1 year ago: Recovering from July Fourth visit from Vin, Brad and Katherine-same as this year- we were all overserved by an apprentice bartender.

Yesterday: All set to try a case at 9:30 A.M.-One problem, the defendant didn't show up until 10:45, had his bond revoked and was placed in custody. The trial was postponed till Friday.

5 snacks I enjoy:
1. Potato Chips-regular or Utz's Crab chips made with Chesapeake Bay Crab seasoning
2. Stoned Wheat thin crackers with cheese
3. Nachos
4. Tortilla chips with melted Jack cheese or salsa
5. Cheese-It's

5 songs I know all the words to: Everything by Reckless Kelly, Robert Earl Keen, Todd Snider, John Prine and Scearce and Ketner

5 Things I would do with $100 million:
1. Build a state of the art "no-kill" animal shelter
2. Retire
3. Build a house on the water in Beaufort, N.C. with floating dock for boat
4. Share it generously with friends
5. Buy a home in the Grand Tetons

5 locations I would like to run away to:
1. Beaufort, S.C.
2. Austin, Texas
3. Snake River in Idaho
4. Islamorada, Florida
5. Yellowstone National Park

5 bad habits I have:
1. Cursing too much
2. Drinking too much coffee
3. Drinking too much bourbon
4. Procrastination
5. Saying exactly what I think, the consequences be damned

5 things I like doing:
1. Flyfishing in saltwater or fresh
2. Designing and building fishing rods
3. Going anywhere in a motorboat
4. Fishing and drinking with friends
5. Playing the guitar

5 things I would never wear:
1. Bolo tie
2. Nipple ring
3. Speedo
4. Black socks and sandals
5. Fur

5 TV shows I like:
1. Cold Case Files
2. American Justice
3. Blind Date
4. MXC-(Most Extreme Elimination Challenge)
5. Austin City Limits

5 Biggest joys of the moment:
1. Fishing after work until dark
2. Lazy weekends at Cape Lookout
3. Getting to play guitar alongside friend Dicky Scearce at the Dockhouse when he does a solo gig
4. Seeing my friend Scott and his girlfriend Cristina so happy together
5. Good health of me, my wife and our animals

5 Favorite toys:
1. James Goodall custom acoustic guitar
2. Intruder Skiff
3. Jet Wood Lathe
4. Toshiba Digital camera
5. Clam Rake

Stand strong with the United Kingdom!

When regular curse words are not sufficient

You dumb shitheads! You could not have chosen worse targets.
The U.S. and Britain will hunt down and kill every one of you bloodthirsty savages and the more painful your deaths, the better. May all your 72 virgins look like this:

A Great Download-Google Earth

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

New Cops

Tonight is the graduation for the rookie policemen and women I had the pleasure to teach back when they began back in January 2005. I teach a 52 hour block over 13 nights on Constitutional Law; Arrest, Search and Seizure and North Carolina Elements of Criminal Offenses. I have been doing this stint twice a year since the fall of 2000, so this is my tenth class I have seen graduate. This is a grueling six month process to obtain a Basic Law Enforcement Certificate and I am always proud of the graduates who complete it and pass a four hour state exam for the privilege of working long hours for short pay at a job where none of your "clients" are ever happy to see you. I have been a fan of police officers since I first realized the demands of the job after I became a prosecutor. Before then I had no idea of the long hours, the weird, everchanging shifts, the low pay and the stress of maintaining the peace in a volatile and hostile environment. They are essentially the sole buffer between civil society and anarchy. I have close friends who are police officers, sheriff's deputies and state troopers and as a whole, you won't find a finer bunch. Sure there are bad apples in the bunch but generally they don't last long-once a cop loses his or her credibility with the court or the prosecutors who carry the case forward-they might as well turn in the badge and move on. To my thinking, there is nothing worse or more dangerous than a crooked cop (unless it's a crooked prosecutor). The plenary power to deprive a person of liberty is profound and the impulse to abuse that power is more than some can resist.

As I look forward to their graduation, I worry about what they face on the street. I still remember getting chills when a highway patrolman told me how he carefully touches the side or rear of every car he stops and approaches, as a way of leaving evidence should something go horribly wrong during the traffic stop. The fingerprints are a way of saying "I was Officer _____, and before I was killed, I was right here at this car." Blood on the badge is intolerable-no one is there to protect the protectors. Save for each other, they are on their own. Too many have given their lives to protect us and I have known some of these fallen heroes. I have told their stories to my classes, hoping like hell I would never have to attend a funeral for one of them. The three I tell them about made the ultimate sacrifice while trying to keep us safe-I knew all of them and worked with them and their deaths seemed almost surreal to me. Nothing is more sad or somber than laying to rest an officer felled in the line of duty.
Robert Buitraigo was fresh out of rookie school in 1994. A native of Cali, Columbia, he struggled through rookie school because his command of the English was stll marginal. He was tutored by a good ol' boy in his class whose King's English was also marginal but whose southern dialect was more than sufficient to help his friend through. He had recently been sworn in and was still being trained by another officer while on duty. The story of his struggle through rookie school and his bond with his fellow officer was picked up by the local paper and the TV news. I remember him at his graduation and his mock trial exercise because he was good looking, polite and stood ramrod straight-his military background clear just from observing him. One night after his shift ended, he left his one-bedroom apartment to by a bottle of screw-top wine for he and his girlfriend to drink while they watched a movie. He never came back. In line at the grocery store, wine bottle in hand, he was third in line when a four-time convicted armed robber stuck-up the clerk and loped out of the store with a money bag. Robert identified himself as a police officer, pushed ahead of the others in line and followed the robber into the parking lot, sneaking up on him. Raising the bottle of wine as a club, Robert swung at the robber and missed, the force of the swing carried him over the robber's back and onto the ground. He struggle with the robber who took out his cheap Lorcin handgun and managed to shoot Robert in the heart, killing him.
I sat in the church at his service. I had not been prosecuting very long at that point but had a gut feeling that I might have some role in it's prosecution. The case was actually assigned to a seasoned prosecutor but before the trial he took a job in the federal system and I took over his caseload, including this case. It was my first capital case and I sat "second-chair," handling half the case after my partner handled the jury selection and the pre-trial motions. The defendant was sentenced to die by lethal injection. That was 1995. He still roams his cell at Central prison. Nothing is left of Robert Buitraigo save a framed portrait, a bag of bloody clothes, a "dog-tag" and yes, his badge-Number 541. He was 23 years old.

Steve Amos was my friend-he was everyone's friend. He was good 'ol boy from northeast Forsyth County who loved being a cop. He had no airs or pretense and his word was as good as gold. If he told you he would do something or track down something for you on a case, you could be assured it would be done and done well. Steve and his partner were traveling to a training session when they heard a call for shots fired in a nearby apartment complex. Steve drove their patrol car onto the street when they encountered sniper fire. He positioned the patrol car to block traffic and got out to take cover. As Steve exited the patrol car, the sniper fired and the round went through the car and struck him. Other officers were able to move Officer Amos out of the line of fire and transport him to a local hospital where he succumbed from his wounds the next day. The suspect was sentenced to death and remains on death row. Badge 481 left behind a young wife and his parents. Rest in Peace buddy.

Sgt. Bobby Beane was a big, lovable teddy bear and a great cop. His squad absolutely adored him. I remember vividly watching the young, black, female officer with whom you would think he would have had nothing in common but the badge, literally weep uncontrollably as she testified about how he took a bullet in the head during a drug search warrant execution. She loved him as if he was family. He was the second person through the door that day-the first had seen the perpetrator with a gun and ducked. The bullet hit Bobby between the eyes. He died instantly, never knowing what hit him or who did it. He had served for 15 years. His memorial service was completely draining-this man had affected so many people of all ages and colors in a positive way and their stories of his service left not a dry eye in the house. He had no enemies, not even among those he had arrested. Big, gentle and beloved-the "end of watch" for Badge 21 came on April 23, 1993.
All heroes, all victims of fate's cruel hand. 18 more heroes graduate tonight-I wish them all happiness and safe careers.

Optical Illusion Site to Keep You Busy for Hours

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

"Mythbuster" Tests from the Discovery Channel

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy Fourth!

Val Prieto, blogger, Cuban emigree and proud American citizen shares with us the reason for the day. What could be a simpler wish than freedom from oppression?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Bottle Rockets

I spent my "formative" years, from age 8 to 17 in Charlotte, N.C., specifically the southern part of said city. I lived on a street that intersected with Highway 21 about a mile down the road. A left turn on Highway 21 South and a ten minute drive would take you across the South Carolina border. Back in those days the state of South Carolina meant only two things to us-1) Myrtle Beach- where everyone went on a week's vacation in the summer to play skee-ball, Putt-Putt golf, visit the Gay Dolphin gift shop (no the dolphin was not gay) and throw up after riding the Wild Mouse, the world's scariest rollercoaster; and 2) and buttloads of fireworks-the real stuff, not the little snake matches, sparklers and whistlers that you could possess legally in North Carolina-I'm talking about everything short of pipe bombs. Just over the border were at least 10 stores that sold nothing but fireworks, mainly to North Carolinians who flocked there to purchase the contraband. One thing I've noticed is that every state's worst "vices"- poker machines, cathouses, lottery outlets, fireworks, etc., migrate to the borders of that state so they can be quickly accessed by those living in adjoining states where the same is illegal. People in South Carolina don't give a damn about fireworks-they can buy them anytime they want, but Highway 21 North leading out of South Carolina was constantly clogged with cars full of grinning teenagers hauling dangerous pyrotechnics back into the Tar Heel State.
Those stores "pulled" at us like the moon does the tide. It was a combination of the sweet smell of gunpowder, the colorful packages and mostly the illicit nature of the venture. We were a bunch of restless kids, bored to death in the summer. When we had played all the whiffle ball we could stomach and our skin was raw from the Slip and Slides, our thoughts turned to firecrackers and bottle rockets to snap us out of our funk. We'd take our lawn mowing money, find a ride and return home toting scads of Black Cat products so we could blow some shit up.
I was particularly fond of the thousand-pack of firecrackers and the cheap bottle rockets that came in the twelve-dozen packs. I never went in for the hard stuff like the M-80's or the huge missles and artillery shells-I wanted much quantity for as little money as possible.
All this stuff was from China or some part of Asia, and the manufacturing process was not too strong on quality control. This merely enhanced the thrill for us. There was no telling what would happen when the fuse was lit. No firecracker "behaved" normally-the fuse would light, then appear to go out, then suddenly start to burn again when we snuck up to get a look at it-or the fuse would burn down in a nanosecond-or it would go out three times until you were left trying to light a stub and get the hell out of the way before it went off in your face. No firecracker would ever be deemed unsalvagable-we were gonna blow them all up, no matter what. If all else failed, we would just start a small fire and throw the "defects" into it or just light the whole package at once. Once on a trip to the lake on July 4th, I lit one, reared back to throw it and it went off in my hand. I expected to looked down and see a bloody stump for an arm but that was not the case. My hand was just a little swollen but felt like the size of a catcher's mitt and it throbbed as if stung by a hundred bees. I stuck it in the water trying to cool it down but it was about a week before it stopped hurting. It was never enough just to light the things and listen to the pop-we had to find things to blow up with them or put them in places like drainpipes that would amplify the noise. Throwing them in pools or flushing them down toilets was also popular.
Bottle rockets also were not meant for just lighting and looking. We messed with the sticks-bending them, breaking them off or removing them completely. Used normally, with the stick attached, there was no assurance the thing would go up in the air as opposed to sideways or backwards, but altering it in anyway insured erratic flight and hence increased the danger which increased the fun. We were constantly ducking or running from rogue bottle rockets. We would also shoot them at each other out of tubes.
I spent my senior year in New Jersey, where fireworks are not only illegal but also scarce as hen's teeth. I would impress my friends by supplying them with these treats from the South everytime I made a trip back to Charlotte. In New Jersey, there was this bully who lived several houses away. His pride and joy was a '68 Camaro that was the "cat's ass." It had racing stripes and Thrush mufflers that made it sound as loud as a roadgrader. He was cocky and mean as a snake and intimidating to me and my geeky cohorts. I remember clearly watching as a bottle rocket that I lit streaked through the sky, went out of control and landed directly under his car. I just knew that any second the thing would explode, his car would blow up and he would come over and throttle my ass. The rocket blew up but nothing else happened and an hour later he drove off, unaware of the spent bottle rocket beneath his car's chassis.
Seeing the fireworks going off over the bridge and on the beaches on Sunday night will bring back those memories of heading down Highway 21 South with five bucks and a sly grin on my face. Have a great Fourth!

Friday Morning Rant

My last chance this week to get a full night's sleep was interrupted by some hammerhead mowing the grass next door at 6:30 A.M. I know it gets hot in the summer, but damn-give it a rest. I'm not a morning person so I won't be engaging in any morning revenge mowing although I might be out there at 2:00 A.M. with my 1,000,000 candlepower spotlight strapped to the Lawn Boy and I'll be sure to hit a patch or two of pea gravel, some tree stumps and an iron pipe for good measure.