Tuesday, December 23, 2014


I didn’t leave much
of a footprint, but I did
touch a few people.

[Haiku that came to me in the middle of the night.]

Monday, December 22, 2014


E sent me this lovely photo of Imp, which I had to post.


I went over and visited Eve and her little son Imp, who was delighted to see me and then easily fell asleep in my arms. Apparently he had been run ragged by young family members and a puppy friend earlier in the day. Here are a couple of shots.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Why do I hope
there is a Hell,
while wishing
to escape its
clutches myself?
Because I want
there to be a
special Hell
for those who
kill children.

Friday, December 12, 2014


The boys and I said goodbye yesterday to a special friend. Lynn Turbeville was a wife, mother, and dancer, but we knew her best as a stalwart and tireless supporter of Scouting, especially as Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 324, although her participation was much broader and deeper than that. She was warm and engaging, and it was nigh impossible to turn her down for anything she requested. We served on several committees together, having dragooned me especially into serving on the cub scouts committee. She was the closest I have ever come to meeting someone who was a kindred spirit in almost every way to my dear mother; they most assuredly would have been fast friends and comrades in Scouting, as my Mom loved hiking and camping, and had served volunteer duty at many camps. I can imagine my Mom waiting this weekend for Lynn to arrive in Heaven and quickly beckoning her to join her troop. Lynn could be tough and focused, but you always felt welcome and appreciated in her presence. During camping trips and at meetings we would often chat about books; when she struggled against her coma, I came and read to her and was glad to share that little time. It is hard to imagine this world without her and she will truly be missed by everyone who knew her.


Friday, December 5, 2014


Last night I attended First Night in downtown Columbia, and I hoped to catch author Ron Rash (Serena, Saints by the River, Nothing Gold Can Stay), who was scheduled to be at a signing with a couple of other authors. I figured it would be jam packed, but when I got there it was quiet and he was gracious enough to talk with me for nearly a half hour. I also met for the first time USC First Lady Patricia Moore-Pastides, who is one of the nicest women I have ever chatted with, a real delight. Rash talked about his love for USC, even though he is a Clemson grad, and future plans for association with our school. He promised that his next collection of short stories would be all
original. Here is a picture he consented to take with me, and I will admit to a little fandom.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Sixteen years he’s graced this Earth,
many challenges, but also mirth,
so frigging smart, like off the charts,
I know he’ll capture many hearts,
but troubled still, with many pains,
hope he’ll shed those invisible chains,
and march out into this great world,
band a-playing and flags unfurled,
ready to take his place in line,
I love this eldest child of mine.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Bitter cold descends
on the lower states, and it’s
only November.

It has been too early for us to deal with snow and bitter temperatures!

Monday, November 17, 2014


My old cat Maude (who is now about fourteen and currently lives with my friend Phil) is a crotchety old gal, always has been (even when she was young). She would accept a little loving when she felt like it, but only up to a point, and then she would let you know it was time to knock it off. She didn't like other cats, at all. She is persnickety about her food. She got really sick her last year with me, and wobbled around like she was near death, and then she couldn't walk or make it to the litter box, and I thought she had some fatal neurological condition, but it turned out to be severe feline diabetes. I was about to put her down, when Phil swooped in and took care of her, and remarkably she recovered, although she still battles diabetes and some other ailments. But she hangs in there, stubborn to the last. I get to see her every once in a while. I am sure she hates living with all those dogs (and another cat), but she is also a trooper. Here are a couple recent pictures.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


I can only imagine the instructions from the editors (Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey) of State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America to their contributors: “Yeah, sure, do what you want!” And that is what they got, a lovely, often lively, compilation of essays (in many forms, including traditional, graphic, faux interview) that delve, at least in part and often selectively, into the cultures of states that comprise this wonderful country. Of course, they are a far cry from the books that inspired the effort (and I have read many of the WPA volumes), but there also remains a spirit there too, to open doors to the familiar to them to let outsiders get a peek within. Although there is a little criticism, what mostly shines through is a love of place, especially in essays from writers who spent significant or emotional periods in the states in question. Essentially most of them are impressionistic vignettes struggling to provide a mere taste of some corner of a larger whole. A common theme is memoir, and the best selections intertwine memory with history, geography, and culture. Even better are the narratives delivered with humor and wit, as many certainly are. Surely many are skewed snapshots of personal experiences, reflecting their own interests or backgrounds, but overall in most cases there is warmth, a fondness for the areas described (even if done by mere tourists), lives led---a stretch of road, a slice of nature, a remembrance of family or childhood. Common themes emerge, such as community resistance to outsiders (an insularity of sorts) that seems to eventually collapse and grudginlgy allow newcomers, opportunity (especially for immigrants), the importance of sports (recognized if not always loved), and weirdness as well. Some authors I hadn’t read before and I now am determined to try and have added to my to-read list (such as Joshua Ferris). Others are familiar and favorites. . .Erdrich, Horwitz, Lahiri, Vowell. Some excelled in focusing on the newcomer looking in and hoping to stake their claim or who were well treated: Mohammed Naseehu Ali, Dagoberto Gilb, Ha Jin. I loved the essays by Susan Choi, Paul Greenberg, Barry Hannah, John Hodgman, Heidi Julavits, Rick Moody, Tara Smith and others. Alison Bechdel’s graphic essay on Vermont was good. Of course, I enjoyed essays on the states that meant most to me---Florida, South Carolina, Hawaii. Really, for such a wide representation, you’d think I wouldn’t have liked as many as I did, but I enjoyed nearly all of them, which speaks well either of the choices the editors made or guidance they gave. I suspect many will just read the entries for which they are personally attached, but that would be a shame, because the others might induce people to spend time visiting other parts of the country, homogenized as it has become, to search out a taste of difference that still lurks.

Friday, November 14, 2014


Amazingly enough, at my advanced age, I went to my first karaoke this past Wednesday, although perhaps it is not that farfetched because I really don't drink and the past few years as single dad have limited my entertainment schedule. And, no, I did not get up on stage and sing. I went with my friend Evelyn, who does sing, and after a nice dinner beforehand at a local Mexican place, she did her favorite Amy Winehouse (although they switched up the lyrics on her and that caused a glitch). Sitting on the low couch, watching the performers, I nursed my cider (one bottle for about three hours, which was pretty good). There were a few pretty good performances, but most of the folk were just happy to get up there and belt one out. Some of course were better than others. I think it is best a person does a song they really know, however, because if you stumble on an unfamiliar tune, it can throw the whole thing off. I was really impressed with one guy, who went by the stage name "Utah," who changed the lyrics and it was pretty humorous (I am told this is his regular deal and he won performer of the year, and I can understand why). Overall, I had a nice time and enjoyed it, though I don't know if I will go back any time soon. Not that I won't though. Just glad to get out and enjoy a little nightlife, knowing the boys can now take care of themselves.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Here is Joey as he was lining up to march with the A. C. Flora JROTC unit in today's Veteran's Day Parade in Columbia.

Friday, November 7, 2014


Last night attended a talk by Southern Studies fellow Melissa Cooper, who used film clips from USC's Moving Image Research Collections (repository of the Fox Movietone News Collection) to look into how black Americans were portrayed in early newsreels. It was fascinating, and also made me wonder what kind of treasures might be available in my special areas of interest, the WPA. The bulk of her presentation concerned the 1928 vacation trip of Calvin Coolidge to Sapelo Island and the staged scenes of black residents marching and singing, or riding in ox carts. The real question was who was most responsible for the stages scenes and possibly pushed the choice of songs. I was curious as to who exactly manned the crew, and if there was any record they left of how they decided to set up the shots and if there was direct instruction, either from their bosses or from the wealthy owner of the island, or from Coolidge's staff. What a wonderful resource this could be to historian, just another advancement for the University of South Carolina in historical research. I do enjoy these lectures, a small link for me to my historian roots. There was quite a nice crowd, enthusiastic and interested, and I hope they keep these talks going.

Monday, November 3, 2014


How can path, concrete and steel,
be more than stairway up a hill?
It can be mural of startling parts,
complex vision of mystical arts;
tiled artwork, colors fantastic,
one hundred sixty steps majestic.
Myriad fishes, seaside delight,
swim beneath crescent moonlight;
gorgeous flowers, many flying thing,
as if Van Gogh made ceramic sing!
Each glazed panel is wondrous,
no trip up steps too ponderous.
Every tourist should gladly go,
to this sight in San Francisco.



In honor of Charles Bronson's birthday, I will review the Keanu Reaves (who I think did a credible job as a retired hitman forced back into service on a personal mission of revenge)vehicle, John Wick, which though a violent killfest, was slick and fast paced, and pretty darn enjoyable. Sure, bodies are blown to bits, and there are plenty of UFC-style tussles, and character development loses out to action. Still, I can easily see this character returning. Michael Nyqvist was excellent as the Russian mob boss. I really didn't love Alfie Allen in his role, probably because he sounded too British to me, and his character was a punk. I have always enjoyed Willem Dafoe, and he does not disappoint; likewise, John Leguizamo is good in a small cameo. Really, there were some powerful actors. I like Dean Winters, but he seemed a tad miscast in his role; I would have liked better had the guy who really challenged Wick had done this part. It seems like Lance Reddick gets typecast in similar roles, but he is so unique, and I have much liked his performances. I was certain that David Patrick Kelly, of The Warriors fame, played the "Cleaner", but I had to check, and I was right. I must applaud the many stunt guys, as I really thought many of them were wonderful in their short appearances. I was fascinated by the hotel safe grounds, and the use of the coins. Overall, I thought this was pretty darn entertaining, and can easily see several avenues for possibly expanding this into a franchise.

Friday, October 31, 2014


If you like really good photography you should check out the work of Pei Ketron on Instagram (Penelope's Loom). Her nature and architectural shots are particularly good, as she is a master at capturing beautiful patterns. I met her online in Goodreads many years ago, before she took off as a photographer, but have happily followed her career through her website. I am amazed National Geographic or some other big outfit hasn't snapped her up (although in this update, she has made a splash in an American Express advertising campaign and has been getting more corporate clients), although she may prefer being independent. Her background is quite interesting, as have been her travels. I think anyone who appreciates photography would enjoy her stuff. You can see some of it at: http://instagram.com/pketron

I composed this little ditty in her honor.


Words are captured with the light,
she’s one of those with frozen sight
who grabs a view and holds it still
with perfect angle, superb skill;
she masters most the curved line,
interior sight photographed fine,
whether by nature or human hand,
some sublime wall or misted land,
rays bent through a forest patch,
myriad waters those lens do catch,
sometimes her shots are whimsical,
but always fresh . . . and beautiful.

I also have another friend, Rebecca Teagan, who takes nice nature shots, though not as prolific as Pei. She has a blog on this network. See my friends. She writes good poetry, too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


A short review of George Saunders' Congratulations, By The Way:

"George," his publisher asked, "We need something for the pipeline. Got anything?" Came the reply, "Well, I did a little convocation speech that has been getting attention online, what about that?" "Hmmmm, I bet we could produce it cheaply and sell it for fourteen dollars, and your name alone would compel people to buy it. At least the libraries." And so, there you are. . . a new book. Does it really contribute anything groundbreaking, uniquely delivered, worthy of the expenditure? No. But it is a nice, quick read and the message is worthwhile. I have enjoyed his work and am likely to read anything that he puts forth---kind of like when I picked up Pat Conroy's cookbook and was pleasantly surprised---so I say, "Go ahead, spend a few minutes with this," even if I feel somewhat offended that it is a bit of a sham that put a few bucks in Saunders' pocket and a lot more in Random House's. Kind of like hearing your favorite musician is coming to town and you scrape up the money and even though their set was wonderful, they only stayed on the stage for fifteen minutes and three old standards. I even felt a little cheated by the illustrations.

Friday, October 17, 2014


Short-story writer, novelist, and poet Ron Rash came down to speak at the University of South Carolina at Thomas Cooper last night, and I was happily in attendance. I have much enjoyed his stories, especially Serena and Saints by the River, as well as his story collections, and it was nice to see and listen to him in person. He seemed like a professor of writing that I would enjoy taking, someone who would likely instruct firmly but kindly, encouragingly. He decried his image as a "downer" writer, though in truth there is a lot of sadness in his tales. He read two of his stories, “Three A.M. and the Stars Were Out” from Nothing Gold Can Last. It covers the meeting of old friends, one a veterinarian and the other a rancher, as they try to save a breached calf. Both men served in Korea at the same time and each have dealt with loss, but they have a long-lasting friendship that is the kind that allows long silences and few words. He started his talk with sections from his funny "Waiting for the End of the World" from Burning Bright. I had read and enjoyed both stories before last night, but it is a wholly different experience listening to the author read it in person. Wonderful.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Four members of the occasional Kraken crew (there are others too) who meet at the pub on third Fridays. This taken from group BCL shot.

Phil Dematteis, George Anderson, myself, and Dickson Monk


It may just be me, getting old and crotchety, but I feel the South Carolina State Fair, especially its entertainment value, has fallen off immensely over the past few years. As I sat with a group of workers on a row of rocking chairs, we chatted. One had worked the fair for 52 years and had also been a school teacher. I noted that it seemed awfully quiet for a fair, and she agreed: quietest ever. There were very few music groups. Couldn't the fair managers bring in local talent and pay them a little to play at various corners of the grounds? The tented entertainment was not much better last night, although the illusionist was pretty good. Even the company displays seemed stripped down and less interesting. I did have a nice chat with the woman watching the ETV booth, hawking an oral history collection on dvd of participants in World War II. Even the political booths seemed quiet. No one visited the Haley/REP booth while I was standing nearby. The sand sculpture had moved from its normal sport, but there was nothing pretty around it, and the presentation was not as spectacular as in the past. Food, as always, was expensive. So I avoided it. The boys got their wrist bands and attacked the rides, but even they did not seem as enthralled as in years past. Luckily they met up with some schoolmates and walked around unsupervised for most of the time we were there, so I am sure they enjoyed that. Me, well, I watched people. One of my favorite things. I did enjoy the art, though only one painting this year really blew me away. I perused the student art. Watched pigs run. I didn't even ride the ferris wheel this year. The crowd was moderate, but seemed to be enjoying themselves. I love watching the little kids, some perhaps experiencing their first midway rides. That is what the fair is really all about. I kind of miss watching my boys on those rides. I was impressed by how clean it was this year.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

EMPTY (haiku)

One unnerving sight,
bare and uninviting, is
an empty bookshelf.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


They live on like ghosts,
like memories of favorite things,
their last message months, even years
in the past, yet still tethered;
you wish they’d respond to a note,
or a tweet, or a vanished email,
and you wonder what has happened
to make your blog follower

Friday, October 3, 2014


What a really pleasant evening for the arts in downtown Columbia last night, temperate breezes under clear skies. Accompanied by my youngest, I wandered about Main Street in search of beauty and fun. Popped in to a poetry reading/musical performances ala Mind Gravy at Free Times. Chilled with two different djs at their respective posts. Enjoyed a little sorbet (although I thought the mango flavor a bit week, almost wondering if they hadn't scooped some sort of melon). Really liked the young rock band performing near COWBOY. Saw lots of friends and others I know, and that is always nice. My son looked up at me and asked, "You know all these people?" Had a lovely chat with one of the Flannigan twins, Pat. Got to meet Imp's brother (owned by Desirae). Several coworkers were in attendance. It seemed like there was a good crowd, and the restaurants seemed full for the most part, while many folks I talked to said they went to nearby places and walked over.

Gripes? Yeah, I got those too. I really did not like anything about the Tapps art show this night. I kept thinking. . ."Are they celebrating homeless eight-year-old artists this week?" Very underwhelmed was I. Even Chimo said he hated it. But hey, different tastes, right? I also was a little bummed by the close proximity of musical performers, their sounds bleeding into one another, in some cases becoming almost co0mpeting duets. I often had to maneuver so I could block out one group so I could concentrate on another. They really need to spread them out; I felt crowded. Maybe move the jewelry and other items venders to the middle of the street, or shut off the street and push people to walk more down the center of the street. And prettier lighting would be nice.

Friday, September 26, 2014


On his way to his morning culinary class, which he seems to be enjoying thus far.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Dec 17th 1913

Dear Cousin:

I received your letter and was very pleased to hear from you. You will be Uncle Bobs daughter I never heard very much about you but we used to correspond with your Brother Roberts family they were nice you might give them my kind regards. You have had your own brothers too losing your Husband so soon but we must submit to Gods will. I am sorry to have to tell you your Aunt Christina my Mother died on the 1st of August of this year she was 83 years of age but she was prepared to go she said she was just going Home Father died 11 years ago. my Sister Mary Mrs McGregor has two sons and one daughter living then John comes next he has four sons and four daughters he has four of them Married and another one named Bob gets married this month

James comes next he died in London on May 22d 1912 he was twice married and left one littler girl of 6 years the older ones are all able for themselves then Bob and I come next neither of us are married we looked after Mother and we do miss her dreadfully then Lizzie Mrs MacMillan she is the youngest she has not any family she lives in Neilston a small village about 2 miles from Barrhead that is the lot of our family. I got the other letters also Aunt Kate died 10 years ago her Husband and Son are dead too then Aunt Mary Sellers lives in Paisley she is 76 years and getting very frail but she was able to come to Mother's Funeral I will give her your letter and she can write herself the Aunt Jeanie died 5 or 6 years ago she was the youngest of your Fathers family Mother has 16 Grand Children living and 13 Great Grand Children now I think this is plenty for the first time I will close now write soon again

Your Affectionate Cousin
Deena Douglas

PS. do you know anything of Aunt Lizzie of St. Louis if she is dead Aunt Mary will be the last of the Generation

Miss D Douglas
13 Paisley Road

[Most likely written too Cecelia Longmore of New Jersey]

Friday, September 19, 2014


We were discussing our favorite actresses yesterday, and although I love many, my favorite will have to be Sonia Braga. This is she in her mid-thirties. So beautiful.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Here are the seven other movie lobby cards I scored at the auction. I like them all, but especially the Bob Hope, Jane Russell, and Mauldin; plus the Hunchback.


Been going to auctions for years, and usually do not buy much, let alone making a big score, but last night I might have. I bought a group of movie lobby cards from the 1950s, most relatively common, but I got them for a ridiculously low price. Then I found this one in the bunch, and from all I can see online, this one has value. Especially because of the picture (center top) of the then-fairly-unknown Marilyn Monroe in one of her early pictures (as Angela Phinlay).

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Here he comes afresh
red arrow across his chest,
I'm so proud of him.

{Joey was elected into the Order of the Arrow, and completed his ordeal this weekend.}

Friday, September 12, 2014

KEEP ON (haiku)

What I wish to hear
is “I read it, and liked it”
and “keep on writing.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Been a few years now since he left us, my troubled long-time friend, but with the passing of Robin Williams, it reminded me a bit of my old senior patrol leader and crazy person. He was a fixture at our Keystone home, and was friends with my sister Beth (who also cared for his mother in her old age). They lived a few houses apart. Here are a couple of shots of Billy Barfield, when he accompanied my sister and my two boys about seven years back to a spring down in Florida.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


We heard her before we ever saw her, the grind of small lizard bones ground by a hungry wild cat, who soon emerged from the shrubbery and into our home on Sylvan. She was a sweet calico, friendly, calm. She eventually went to live with my exgf when we split (and would be, if still living, about 16 to 20), and I don't know what became of her. But when she became ours, she could only have one name: Crunch.

Here is a small pic of her eating in Chris's garden on Sylvan.


Already out of date, with Joey wearing new glasses and several more inches, but I like it.


One of my favorite photographs of Chimo and Joey, from when they were about 6 & 8.


Joey spent the summer working with my sister Beth and her husband Brad. Here is a picture they took when they weren't working.


Soon my bro will be heading to his latest overseas posting, back to Cuba. Might be the last of his overseas assignments.

Friday, September 5, 2014


Back when Joey was fascinated with dinosaurs, even to the point of mimicking one during half of a soccer game, I found him the perfect outfit, and he loved it. Here are the boys enjoying some of their booty.


Herewith my two boys as they appeared in 2006. Joey is around 7 and Chimo around 5.


Here is a picture of my aunt and godmother, Marijka Chmilewska (Ulanowicz), as a teenager, probably late 1950s and in Baltimore. What is sadly missing in this picture is just how beautiful and colorful the embroidery is on her shirt, the pillow behind, and the items on the table. Marijka looks like she really didn't want the picture taken.


Some family photos. I may have posted these before, but what the heck.

My grandfather, Jaroslav Chmilewsky, with his wife and daughters. My mother, Lydia, is on the right next to her father, and my aunt, Marijka, is on the left. Picture probably taken in Baltimore around 1950.

Undated photo, likely mid 1950s. My mom is in right hand corner; my aunt in shift in front between her mom and a little girl who I don't know. I also do not remember the woman or boy standing in front of the Christmas tree. It might be Andrei Chornodolsky, but my family will have to write me about it.

The next two pictures are part of my family that I really didn't get to know, my mother's cousin George (I think) and his wife Oxana.


Going out on a limb with this interpretation. These shots were taken in 1946, which leads me to believe that they are probably in a Displaced Persons camp, most likely in Germany, just after the end of World War II. I am fairly confident that it shows a group of Ukrainian Scouts, my mother most likely participating,as they march to and then participate in a memorial service. There is some Ukrainian writing on the back of one of the photos and if I get more infor, I will add it later.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


There were lots of social events, especially as you advanced in the years, at the Naval Academy. Here we have my Mom and Dad at some function (most probably the Ring Dance, because if you could see closely, each woman seems to be wearing a tiny class ring around her neck), though there is no marking or information on the photograph to identify when, where, and who was in the scene. Clearly we have midshipmen with their dates, I would guess about 1958, maybe 1959. Dad is sitting on the far left, next to Mom is the white floral dress.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


Sometime in the late 1960s, early 1970s, my parents met Ray Phillips, who (according to my sister) may have lived down the road from us, but I don't recall. I do know that he was from Lewistown, Illinois at some point, perhaps even retiring down in Florida, but I just don't know. But, he was a painter, mostly folk style, on bells, cans, pottery, and really lovely Christmas cards. He sent several to my family. They usually consisted of two paintings, one cut out to overlap and reveal another scene beneath. One of these cards, the first I will post, shows our home on Keystone Lake in Odessa, Florida, the place where I grew up from 1970 to 1979. For us it was the homestead, the place the Tidds resided the longest (1970 to 2004).

Here are some other cards, not sure the locations depicted in most of them:

This one I do know, it is a painting of Bernadotte Bridge, a metal highway bridge in Fulton County, Illinois; I have seen a full painting of it by the same artist.