Heard on the way to school

My daughter and I agreed – this was the best song we heard on the radio this morning.


Caption this pic!

I took this picture last week when our cats thought they weren’t being observed. They look to me like they’ve been taken over by some sort of malevolent overlord whose desire for world domination knows no bounds, but that’s all I’ve got.

For the life of me, I can’t think of a clever caption, so I thought I’d put it to you. Let me know what YOU’VE got in the comments.

I’m too cheap to offer a cash prize for the best one. But if you insist on some sort of reward, you can always subscribe to my FREE newsletter. Take a look at the latest one here.



Winter is Back

While I was out walking our big dog Rodney last week, one of our neighbors emerged from her house, spread her arms wide, turned a broad smile to the heavens and happily proclaimed, “We’re having a heat wave!”

She was exaggerating, of course. With temperatures in the 40s, it was still fairly cool outside, but I wasn’t going to quibble with her. The East Coast was just coming off a deep freeze that saw iguanas go catatonic in Florida and sent wind chills well below zero in parts of New England. It was so cold where we live in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, taking Rodney for his customary spin around the neighborhood was daunting. My wife bundled up so much, you could only see the whites of her eyes. So yes, it was noticeably warmer – a heat wave, even, by comparison.

By Thursday, it was even more balmy. Highs topped 60 degrees in my neighborhood and rose even higher on Friday – a fact that did not go unremarked upon. While I was taking our daughter to school Friday morning, she said “it feels like springtime in January!” She was not wrong. I half-expected to see confused daffodils begin poking out of the ground.

The oddball weather gave the guys in sturdy leather work boots (the kind I wear for show) renewed vigor. They shut down the road in the lower part of the neighborhood and had the backhoes and shovels out, again – cleaning up from the New Year’s Day water main break and making some upgrades on the water line aimed at keeping another break at bay, or at least making the next one not quite as bad.

The break that left us without water for a while was just one of a slew that kept crews busy from the Midwest to the Eastern Seaboard. Run a search for “water main break” and dozens of articles turn up – from Chicago to Baltimore to Cape Canaveral and New York City.

For a few days, at least, the fixit crews called upon to deal with all that carnage didn’t have to risk frostbite while they worked outside, but “Springtime in January” didn’t last long. Temperatures plunged back below freezing over the weekend and now a little bit of snow is in the forecast.

Looks like the daffodils are just going to have to wait. Winter has returned to form and there are plenty of water mains to break before it sleeps.

Rainn Wilson made my day

Woke up this morning to this tweet from actor Rainn Wilson, known most recently for his portrayal of the iconic character Harry Mudd on “Star Trek: Discovery.”  In this case, however, he reaches back to his days as Dwight on “The Office.”

I found it hilarious because the story he linked to is from a familiar TV station, the NBC affiliate that serves Huntington and Charleston, West Virginia.

I grew up in Charleston, went to college in Huntington, then came back to Charleston to work as a radio journalist for years before moving to West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle to take my current gig at NPR in Washington, D.C.

Thanks, Rainn Wilson, for making my morning.

On frigid weather and water mains

Technically, this is NOT my first post of 2018. It IS, however, the first one that I’ve put some effort into, so do me a favor and read it through to the end. And if it’s not too much to ask, you could also praise its virtues in the comments and share it widely across all of your social networks. WIDELY!

My ego knows no bounds, and apparently, this current cold snap doesn’t, either. Morning lows have been in the single digits for days now, with daytime highs struggling to make it into the 20s. Throw in an icy wind like the one about to blow in my front door as I write this and it’s suck-it-up bracing outside. It’s almost noon and the weather app on my phone says it feels like six degrees above zero. #Brrrr.

To be honest with you, though, I’m one of those weirdos who is happiest when it’s frigid. Winter coat weather makes for a much brisker and refreshing walk around the neighborhood with our big dog Rodney – and more rewarding, too, especially if there is chili simmering in the kitchen crock pot. It also makes it easier to shirk outside chores, but don’t tell my wife I said that.

In short, what I’m saying is this – I’d much rather shiver than sweat through the humidity of a West Virginia summer. But there are limits. And I reached mine on New Year’s Day.

My wife was the first to sound the alarm. Wrapped in only a towel after taking a shower, she cracked open our bedroom door and shouted down the hall, “What’s going on with the water?” When I asked what she meant, she shouted back that she barely had enough to get wet. The pressure was low.

I figured the extreme cold had something to do with it and said as much. But rather than stir myself from the warmth of my favorite chair to see if we had a broken pipe, I reached for my phone.

I almost never use Nextdoor, the app that links you to your neighbors. It generally just takes up space and I had been considering getting rid of it. On New Year’s Day, however, I thought I’d give it a shot.

I posted a message aimed at my neighbors asking if anyone else was having water pressure problems and got an almost immediate reply. A couple of others popped up within minutes, someone called the city’s Public Works Department and in short order word came back that a water main had burst.

One my neighbors pinpointed the break’s location for us. She wrote that it was right behind her house in the lower section of the neighborhood, near the wide open field where the neighborhood deer meet in warmer weather to plan their attacks on our gardens. She said her neighbor’s yard was flooded and that water was starting to inundate hers.

I found all this out never once having to stir from the warm embrace of my chair. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I had to get up when I misplaced the television remote control. Other than that, though, I remained in my comfort zone.

I did feel for the guys who had to work late into the night on a holiday, however. They worked for hours in frigid conditions better suited for polar bears. But they found the break and they fixed it. They should all get pay raises, or at least free hot chocolate for the rest of the winter.

Anyway, the water was back on at my house sometime before 3am. I know because I had to go to the bathroom right about that time.

To be on the safe side, my neighborhood remained under a boil water advisory for a while. And yes, it was inconvenient. But I figure if a water main break is all we have to contend with as a consequence of the arctic blast that has us in its grip, we’re doing fine.

Just try not to punch me in the face the next time I start going on about how I’m living my best life when it’s cold outside.

Heard on the way to school

A few times a week, it’s my responsibility to see to it that my daughter and her friend next door make it to school on time.

In the car this morning, I asked them their favorite of three songs we heard on the radio – Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,” Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up,” or the B-52’s “Love Shack.”

They chose “Love Shack.”

Leave your preference among the three in the comments.

The neighborhood made it through Thanksgiving

Despite the dire warnings against talking politics at the Thanksgiving table, my neighborhood seems to have emerged from the holiday without any serious injuries.

But while I haven’t heard of any lurid arguments breaking out, that doesn’t mean there weren’t any shouting matches. It just means I wasn’t around to overhear them.

My family and I spent the holiday at my in-laws place in Pennsylvania. It was peaceful. And since we’ve been back home for more than a week and there’s been no word of holiday animosity turning up on the neighborhood grapevine, I can only assume that the carving knives were kept to their original purpose.

However, if all the stories in the media were to be believed, you would have been better off bolting the Thanksgiving door rather than face the prospect of dinner with extended family members. My own employer, NPR, published the results of a poll suggesting that most Americans, 58 percent, were dreading being dragged into a discussion of politics during Thanksgiving. Among those polled, 47 percent said President Trump was the main source of their anxiety, with Democrats less likely to want to talk about Trump with someone who views him differently.

You can find the NPR story here. It includes a link to the raw data upon which the poll’s conclusions are based.

But before you get too far into the weeds, Thanksgiving tension is old news around my neighborhood. Christmas is more on our minds now.

The season got underway in earnest over the weekend. My hometown’s Christmas tree was plugged in during the annual downtown lighting ceremony Friday night. And the Christmas parade stepped off on Saturday.

In preparation for the holiday festivities, city workers placed two giant nutcrackers in the town square across the street from the public library. They will likely remain there through the new year to greet drivers as they pass through the major intersection downtown. Also, wreaths hang from lamp posts and business owners have decorated their storefronts with garlands, big red bows and twinkling strings of holiday lights.

Back in the neighborhood, doorways and shrubs have been lit up, outdoor silver and gold ornaments have been placed with great care on trees and a colorful reindeer stands on the stoop of the house next door to mine. Frankly, I’m not sure that’s such a good idea. The neighborhood deer might take that as a sign of their acceptance and begin congregating over there.

Earlier in the week, I was out walking Big Dog Rodney when I came upon one of my neighbors on the roof of his house. He appeared to be thinking twice about coming down the ladder after hanging holiday lights from his gutters. He acknowledged as much and nervously allowed that middle-aged fat guys should probably not be scurrying around on rooftops. Being a middle-aged fat guy myself, I readily agreed and helpfully told him that I had my phone in my pocket and would be happy to stick around in case he lost his balance and needed someone to call an ambulance.

We shared a laugh, but it’s the Christmas season and looking out for the neighbors is the least I can do. The last thing we need around here is someone getting hurt after an injury-free Thanksgiving,