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new-directionThis is all about choices, I think.   I really have no other direction to take here.

Look, when it happened, I only dwelled on the silly notion for a moment – when that moment suddenly arrived to encourage my thoughts of the future.

When my child was born, I chose to question what that new kid’s life would become. Will he become presidential material? A star athlete performing in the NBA Playoffs one day? A doctor or lawyer?

Well, it crossed my mind. For that one brief moment. Then I chose to simply adore the kid and adore the life he chose to deliver to his mom and me on that day.

The kid, my only child and son, made many choices growing up. Some weren’t all that good. But he was a kid and a guy. Those choices were expected, really.

And the good ones he has made for 31 years? Well, his mom’s family and mine have given the youngin’ some pretty decent blood lines, but his choices have been made by the kid himself. Well, with the guidance of thoughts directed to him mostly by God.

Look, the kid hasn’t yet chosen to be presidential material. At age 31, he’s probably too old to choose professional athletics. And, while he is still young enough to become a doctor or a lawyer one day, the kid proudly owns every choice he has ever made.

On a warm April Sunday morning, five years ago, my mother died in Jacksonville, Florida. Six days later, she was taken to Graham, North Carolina to dwell forever next to my deceased dad. She was with her husband again for only seven days when another warm April day and a wonderful sunlit Carolina path led to something else.

I don’t know. Maybe Mama talked to God about this. You know – to make sure things stayed on course and that the new something else would all happen the way it should. She didn’t need to, though. The choices had already been made before she left us.

But on that day, on that happier April afternoon, my world and those of so many others who witnessed what I did were blessed with the validation of choices made by the two most wonderful human beings I know.

On April 23, 2011, my son married the wonderful woman he chose. And my daughter-in-law married the wonderful man she chose.  Five years later, they both very proudly own those choices.

And right now, as happy for them as I am, I choose to believe that their four children are more happy than I will ever be about the choices their parents made.

I tell you what. Wishing those two a “happy anniversary” on this day is silly, too. Making “happy” wishes to them is kind of directionless.


Especially when compared to the beautiful path they both chose to take five years ago.

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weatheralertLook, some of my favorite people are local television weather anchors. So, don’t take this personally, y’all. I’m just establishing some facts here.

Lately, so many weather reporters, folks I do not know, have been irritating me. Instead of just telling me what the weather will be, they tell me what to do.  They say things like, “Wear a jacket tonight,” or “You will need to wear ‘layers’ today,” or “Wear your gloves at the football game.”

I don’t tune into weathercasts to hear my mother yell at me again!

Well, yesterday morning, the day before my son and his wife’s wedding anniversary, I was kind of excited about them. You know, about how happy they are and about their loving future together. My morning was joyful for a while.

uptownThen it happened. A local weather person said to me on the morning news, “It’s prom night in Charlotte, but you should take an umbrella.”

Okay, so the bumble shoot thing upset me some, but suddenly the mention of “prom night” really did a number on my joy. It brought back some terribly disturbing stuff.


Lynyrd-Skynyrd_890-First of all, when I was a junior in a Jacksonville, Florida high school, we got to vote on the band we wanted to play for the prom. What the hell? I didn’t care. I was a dweeb in high school. So I voted for Mouse And The Boys In Brass. My vote helped keep my classmates from hearing The Lynyrd Skynyrd Band. I think the entire Skynyrd band went to my school! That vote has always bothered me.

Look, as a senior, I wanted nothing to do with any prom. So, I refused to go. I said to my high school sweetheart, “Look, you’re only a junior. I don’t want to go to the prom without you!” She replied, “It’s a ‘junior-senior’ prom, Dave.”

Damn! I was nailed on that one! So I faulted back to the dweeb I was and simply told her that I had no interest in the prom. Even though she really wanted to go.

carol-burnett-shut up


So, on our prom night, we both ended up sitting on her sofa with her large Irish setter, watching “Carol Burnett” or something. Yet another prom bummer that I regret to this day!


But here’s my message to that weather person who created such an emotional stir-up for me: “Even if I were still young enough to go to a Charlotte prom, I don’t OWN a damned umbrella!”

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Maybe I am even more twisted than the guys who wrote and performed the song. Or maybe I finally get the lyrics they intended for us all to finally get.

Or maybe I am just the fool.

But I rolled up, made a reservation and a month or so ago allowed a sort of “Magical Mystery Tour” of my own to take me away.

For a while anyway.

While on the tour, I met some new angels. I saw some old ones that have been with me for years. And then there were the two angels with whom I have shared decades of magical trips – they once again accepted the invitation to join me.

The new angels did not come as a surprise. I expected their smiles, their laughter, their encouragement and their joyful eyes when they finally saw me do what they expected me to do. But I never expected the genuine manners in which they led me down their dark and cold hallways to the incredible warmth that ultimately radiated from what they each taught me.

A few of the old angels, the ones who knew about the tour, gladly forgave things like missed work and late rent. One of the old angels graciously provided for the journey gifts and food and encouraging second-hand words from a few of the very youngest of my old angels.

And the two I have known for so long?

Well, distance between us was overcome by the spirit of one of them. That happens often with this angel. But never more so than it did on this journey.

And the other angel? Well, he did on this tour what he always does. He brought other angels with him.

This is my twisted and foolish way of telling you where I have been and why I disappeared for so long. For a while, I kept perfectly still and could only grin. And without my angles, I would have been totally alone. This is my way of finally completing this “mystery tour.”

I am looking for no compassion. I am asking for no prayers. My traveling angels took care of most of that. And you guys and God have taken care of the rest.

Look, I am okay. Once I post this, my latest “tour” will be over! But the reservation was made in mid-February. That’s when I thought it would only be a one-week mission to the worst flu village I had ever encountered. Instead, it led to an emergency room diagnosis of pneumonia that then led to a five-day hospital stay.

My new angels, the ones from the hospital, smiled and laughed with me every moment we encountered each other. The nurses, the doctors, the attendants – even other patients and their families. On my final day there, my nurse and the attendant who had been assigned to me on that day tested me. I had to do without manufactured oxygen for a while, then walk the halls on my own. I had to maintain, on my own, a “90-percent” on the oxygen measuring monitor while performing for the nurse and attendant.

I swear I saw tears in their eyes as I successfully completed my walk. I certainly encountered their support and cheers. My new angels succeeded. So did I. Because of them.

While I was doing what I was doing on my journey, my landlord and boss and others I have known for a while all did what they do – live angelic moments of compassion, understanding and generosity. I still have a home. I still have work. I still have a place to bring the balloons another of the old angels delivered during the trip. And I still have the words of her children and of my grandchildren she delivered to me one night. Well, the balloons never made it to my home. The joy from that angel and the words from the loving children I know – well, that joy took those colorful air-filled gifts on other, more child-like, tours in the hospital.

Last month, I needed very badly the support of all of my angels. Honestly, I didn’t know where that tour was taking me. It was a total mystery to me at the time. My weight was way down. So was my blood pressure. My body temperature was the total opposite. I was a bit delirious, too. I sort of remember that. I do remember trying my best to be funny while dealing with the very serious medical folks in the ER. And with my best angel.

world spinninggBut the mystery of it all kind of guided me, too. Where would all of this lead me? When the hell will this tour end? And how will it? Will I die? Will I end up in hospital room after hospital room like my mother did before struggling to take her last breath? Or will I survive, at least to a degree, within some altered quality of life?  That night, while I watched the world spinning ’round, the eyes in my head saw the sun going down.

I was afraid for awhile. Only a short while, though. I remember very clearly the moment on the first night of my hospital stay when I solved the mystery. When the world stopped spinning so fast. When I looked death and disorder squarely in the eyes, smiled and said, “I’m no fool. There’s nothing I can do about this. It’s in God’s hands. No matter what happens, this is an adventure I need. So, damn it, bring it on. And let me learn what I can learn.”

moonI then raised my head from the hospital bed, looked to my right where the sofa was placed beneath the massive window that lead my eyes to the heavenly night-time skies. Just beneath the glass-paned view was one of the angels who always encouraged me to think and to say and to believe such things. He was asleep. But he was there.  It was my son.

And when I saw him there, a vision of my sister who lives hundreds of miles away appeared.  It was only a vision.  She wasn’t physically there.  But I saw my sister who years before spent days and weeks and months and years doing for our mother some of the same physical things my own son did for his dad on that night. And just like my sister, he somehow subdued the emotional turmoil that’s always present when confronting a troubled parent. It wasn’t easy on him. I know. I have seen my sister and know how hard things were for her.

My sister was the angle he shared with me that night. And the message they both delivered in their own angelic ways? The message of love is always there with those two. But on that night I heard them say, through my own twisted interpretation of things, “Get off your ass and take care of yourself and those you love! Don’t become a helpless victim here. Engage in the adventure, but damn it – don’t ever stop trying to live!.”

“Don’t be the fool,” I thought to myself in my own words.

Look, I started writing this weeks ago. It took so long because I wanted each word to be the perfect one. But getting a written verbal grip on what I went through, what I learned, and what I now expect has been a difficult thing to do. So here is what I will tell you. Perfect or not, these next words are ones you can believe.

One day I will see the sun going down for the last time, and the tour will take me away forever. The final tour may be a long one. It might be a short one. But as we all can expect one day, it will be a certain one.

And that’s all okay. As long as we fight like hell until it’s time to be taken away. And as long as we, when the journey begins for sure, take with us in our dying hearts every angel who has ever graced our living ones, well – that’s more than okay.

Maybe I am twisted. But that last paragraph, for me anyway, rolls up my mystery trip. Keeps me perfectly still.

FOOL-ON-THE-HILL-2-484x198It makes this foolish man grin.

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COPD smoke

Look. The Lunacy is where I try to be funny. And let’s face it, COPD is not funny. COPD stands for “Cardio – something – something – Disorder.” It’s a heart-lung thing. And COPD is what I’ve got!

That picture’s not me, by the way. But it pretty much paints the right picture.


Now the docs are giving me prescriptions for inhalers. I’m not filling them, though. Why should I? The purpose of each of the inhalers is to relieve symptoms I have yet to encounter! And I am over the pneumonia!


Instead, I am treating this disease by gorging on protein and calorie filled foods to gain weight, lifting weights at the Y and learning how to shoot a basketball and to run again! So far, I have been successful in all but the running thing.

ymcaYou know, when I shoot a basketball these days, I miss sometimes. It’s actually very seldom that I do. I am getting pretty good again! But I do miss from time to time. And when I do, I instinctively change the direction of my body and try to run to gather in the rebound. About 60% of the time, I trip and fall. But that’s okay. It used to be 75%!

And I will say that this pneumonia thing was tough to go through. You know, the hospital, the fevers, the angels, the sunsets, the fears…. the mystery! But all of that crap was a breeze when compared to the real problems this has created for me.

ACC-Notre-Dame-North-Carolina-BasketballLook, when I was in the hospital, my favorite college basketball team, UNC played some team on TV. Actually, I think it was Dook! I watched it, but man, my head was so pneumoniaed at the time, I don’t recall who the hell they played. But I do recall, after leaving the hospital, watching the final Carolina- Dook game of the year and the entire ACC Tournament WITHOUT a cocktail OR a smoke! That was brutal enough!

But here is the main problem. I have never written anything without the aid of tobacco smoking and alcohol drinking while writing. Evan Williams Green Label Whiskey 1.75LSo writing this and “Magical Tour” on The Lunar Report is damned difficult for me right now!


I have looked for alternatives – you know, stuff to get the creative juices flowing again. I tried coffee. I love coffee. But doing that without a smoke while writing? Nah, man! Can’t be done.

Then I thought to myself, “Oooh… glue or paint sniffing… hmmmm….” I consulted my doc. Well, you know he nixed them both!

So look, gang. My writing ability is going to suck even more than my lung function for a while. But only for a while. I am 62 years old. I promise you that, if I am still alive at age 75, I WILL begin drinking and smoking again!

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I mean – at that age – why the hell not?!?!?!

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cam smilingI saw something tonight. It was something I hadn’t seen in a while. And what I saw brought back something else.  Something that has driven my innermost feelings for several years now. Something I really haven’t even felt in a while.

I guess as a kid, I always wanted to eventually become a professional athlete. Since I was a University of North Carolina basketball fan, naturally the NBA was sort of my crazy childhood goal. And I do not recall who asked me this question way back then. It very well could have been me who made the inquiry.

“Why on earth would you want to be a professional athlete?” I was asked.

While trying to formulate an appropriate answer, I reheard other questions and answers to which I had become accustomed during my youth.

“Mama, can I go outside and play?”

“No! I don’t want you to get dirty again,” she would say.

“Mama, can I play now?”

“It’s too close to supper time,” she would say.

“Now can I play, Mama?”

“It’s too late. Go brush your teeth!”

So, my answer to the question, “Why would you want to be a professional athlete?”

“Because I’d be paid millions to do something I now have to beg my mother to let me do. PLAY! Just play!”

Look, she was a good mom. Just a little protective of her babies from time to time.

But as time passed, I grew to realize that even if I was good enough for the NBA, making millions doing nothing but playing might have easily led to an ego that would one day become my downfall. You know, living in hotel rooms with plenty of money to burn. Showing off in late-night clubs. Buying late-night friendships, drugs and other things. Absolutely allowing the self-induced destruction of the heart and soul Mama built for me. We all know how common that is with young players in the pros.

Well, what I saw again tonight put my adult realization to rest. The timing of once again seeing what I did is kind of incredible. All I was doing was searching for a picture of my friend’s dog. I thought I had saved it on my computer.

What I found instead was a simple picture I hadn’t seen in while. I think I last saw it in September, shortly after it was taken. It’s a picture of this year’s likely choice of the NFL Player Of The Year. I saw it again today – the day after his team earned a birth in this year’s Super Bowl. He wasn’t in a hotel room. He wasn’t in a nightclub. There were no late-night friendships around. Nor were there drugs or other such things present in that picture.  There were just two young guys there who needed someone like him to make a difference in that short moment.

The picture showed, in that man’s face, the determined heart of Mama. And it showed the joy he brought to two of my mom’s great-grandsons. They did not get a football from the man. But the joy they will always remember, I am sure, will be from the kindness and genuine fun and important time he gave those two grandsons of mine on that day last fall. It’s the very same joy felt by all of those kids at the games who do get “touchdown balls” from him.

cam and the boysThis guy gets it. He recently said that once he leaves the NFL, he wants to be remembered for bringing fun to the game.

Well, sorry, Cam, but you will be remembered for much more than that. You are making a difference. It has very little, really, to do with football. It has everything to do with seizing every opportunity to make whatever differences you can in the lives you touch. The fortunate thing about your career is that you are able to make so damned many of them.

I never found the dog picture. Once I saw, on the day after that genuine man led his team to the championship, a picture of Cam with two of my grand babies, I ended my search.  I chose to vigorously grab onto only the lost feelings that picture gave back to me.  The ones I had lost a while ago. Immediately I felt again what I need to feel. It’s been too damned long since I experienced anything like this.

That picture. That man. Those beautiful young guys.  Seen once again on the night after such an important game to folks around here.

They each and all brought back into my innermost self the overwhelming desire to make myself just stop whatever the hell I am doing and, instead, write what the hell I am feeling.

Tonight my mom made a difference. So did Cam. So do my grandchildren. Again.

And I am loving this.


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A few notes about the Carolina Panthers.



A good friend of mine from Chapel Hill has a daughter who is dating a guy who lives in uptown Charlotte. When the Panthers play at home, you can hear the stadium crowd noise from his apartment balcony. The daughter also lives in Chapel Hill.


My friend told me weeks ago that if the Panthers made it to the Super Bowl, she and her daughter would be coming to Charlotte to watch the game at his place. Knowing that, I pulled hard for the Cats! But after they won, I learned that the boyfriend is going to Chapel Hill to watch the game instead.

That led me to say the following: “Well, hell! If I had known you weren’t coming to visit Charlotte, I would have pulled for the damned Cards!”

walmartI do a lot of work these days in Charlotte area Walmarts. One of my stores has, for a while now, been playing loudly over their PA system, the Panthers’ fight song. The song never ended on the Monday after the playoff victory.

I told them that if they didn’t turn that damned music down, I would pull for the Broncos!

At a few of the other Walmarts I visited the day after the Panthers won, they were breaking out boxes of Panther T-shirts and madly selling them from tables set up near the front doors of the stores. When I arrived at each of the stores I visited that day, I asked the same thing.

“So – where do you keep your Arizona shirts?”

Yeah, I am a wise ass. That comes from my fondness of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team that competed with Charlotte during an NFL franchise expansion years ago.

But I am loving this Panther team right now.

I have never seen a team more engaging and real.


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Click the picture for a great story!

The coach…Panthers-Coach

 Sam Mills, Jr.

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And all the others.

So maybe I will pound my own stuff next year.

For now, I will shut the hell up.

And be only a Panther pounder for a while.

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christmasActually – I really don’t care too much for Christmas.  I guess I did as a kid. In fact, I’m sure I did. You know.  Running to the living room to see if Santa brought what I had asked for.  He always did.

I got older.  The magic kind of left and the dread invaded.  When I was a teenager, just as she does to this day, my Mom would ask, “So, what do you want for Christmas?”  Since the age of 16, I think, I have given her the very same reply. “A Carolina Blue Bonneville.”  I guess the branches of the tree were never quite long enough to hide a Bonneville. And now they don’t even make Pontiacs.  I guess my Mom can breath easy this Christmas.

My mom always knew I was kidding about the car.  She would, all those years, kind of fluctuate between, “Oh, ok… do you just want one car?” and “I really wish I could get you that car.”  If she could, I do believe she would.

But, see, here’s one thing I hate about Christmas.  My Mom has three kids.  Each year, she did her best to sort of even out the gifts for each of us.  I know other Moms and Dads who do the very same thing.  I guess it seems fair.  But the problem is, how does one determine a fair system of evening things out?  Is money spent the guiding measure?  Or is it number of gifts?  Value versus quantity.  Which is it?  If it’s value, and if my Mom had given me a Bonneville for Christmas, then my brother and sister would have each had dozens, maybe hundreds of gifts under the tree to make up for the cost of the car.  If it’s quantity, then, not only would I have had a new car, but my brother, sister and I would have each had the very same number of Fruit of the Looms or whatever my sister wore.  So they get underwear and a wallet.  I get underwear and a car.  We each get two gifts.  What normal parent can deal with this kind of Christmas math?

Even Mama couldn’t decide between the “value vs. quantity” options.  I cannot tell you the number of times on Christmas Eve my Mom would worry that one of us had more or better gifts than the others.  She would see the three stacks of gifts for her children and ultimately determine that Richard needed one more gift, or that Marilyn needed 3 more gifts, or that since she couldn’t find the “big gift” she wanted for me, that maybe I needed 5 more gifts.  It’s an awful, out of control spiral.

Now, my Mom is notorious for waiting until the last minute on Christmas prep.  I remember, one Christmas Eve, the day she began Christmas shopping that year.  She was freaking out with panic.  I don’t think she had ever started that late.  I was a teenager at the time.  She gave my Dad a list of things to buy, and she gave me a list and a credit card.  She didn’t even go shopping.  Speed shopping was vital that day.  My Mom is also notorious for what we call, “piddling.”  Most of us could decorate an entire tree by the time she can change a pair of shoes.  She knows this.  I love her, and she knows that, too, so I’m not being cruel here – just honest.

So my Dad is on one side of town with the credit card.  I’m at one of those catalogue showrooms on the other side of town.  Also with the credit card.  I complete my list at that one location and get in the checkout line at 4:45, just 15 minutes before closing on Christmas Eve.  Perfect.  I am relieved.  Had my Mom been with me, she would have been relieved as well.  It’s one or two minutes shy of 5 o’clock when I get to the check out. Beautiful. The clerk who must be dead tired and ready to get the hell out of there is very nice.  She rings up all my gifts and runs the credit card.  Back then, retailers had to call the credit card company for available credit verification.  There were no electronic credit card scanners back then.  She hangs up the phone and tells me that I am over the spending limit.  Apparently my Dad, using the same credit card, had completed his shopping on the other side of town.  The problem – he beat me to the check out line.

So while all those people in line are waiting to make their last minute purchases, I’m at the check out, removing gifts, one by one, and asking the clerk to see if I am yet under the limit.  I did a fast prioritization of gifts on the list, and each time I removed something from the counter, the poor clerk would have to call Master Card again.  After taking away about half of the merchandise in my cart, the credit charge cleared!  The gifts weren’t quite evenly distributed that year.

Now, I know I said that I don’t much care for Christmas.  The religious aspect of the holiday – you know, the reason we even call it a holiday – is important and beautiful.  And my Mom is a very religious woman.  But growing up, we never had time to even recognize, let alone celebrate, the real meaning and origin of Christmas.  It was always, at best, secondary to the holiday.  In this regard, I think my family is normal.  Not many families do have the time.  How the hell could they?

Want to know my all time favorite gift?  My 40th birthday came and went with no fanfare at all.  And that’s okay, really, because I never really enjoyed being the center of attention on that one day of every year.  Still, it was my 40th – a milestone.  Early evening on my birthday that year, while the wife was at work, I was fixing dinner.  My 9-year-old son found out it was my birthday.  The poor kid didn’t even know.  There were no cards or gifts or cake for me from his Mom or from him.  How would he have known?  When he found out, he bolted upstairs to his room.  I think he said, “I’ll be right back,” as he ran as fast as he could.  About 10 minutes later he came downstairs, holding something behind his back.  He sheepishly walked into the kitchen, smiling in a way that is hard to describe – kind of devilish, kind of mischievous, kind of hopeful, but very much full of love.  He slowly pulled from behind his back one of those miniature Lane Cedar chests.  My Dad sold furniture and had given that little cedar chest to me years ago.  He handed me the chest and said, “Happy Birthday, Dad.”  Inside the cedar chest was one of those rubber Coke bottles that uses batteries to wriggle around on a tabletop.  I’m sure you’ve seen them.  There was also a loose deck of playing cards and a letter opener with a Dalmatian on top.  That cedar chest and its contents.  That’s my favorite all time gift.  It came from my guy’s heart.  My 40th birthday is my favorite birthday as well. That gift still sits in plain view of my easy chair in my home.  It always will.

My son didn’t wait in long lines for that gift.  He didn’t have to juggle credit cards and finances to purchase it.  He didn’t have to keep a receipt in case it didn’t fit.  He didn’t have to look all over town for it.  No coupons, no circulars, no Black Friday bargain hunting.  He shopped in just one place – his heart.

Now I cherish all my childhood Christmas experiences – even the stressful one at the catalogue showroom.  But wouldn’t it be a wonderful Christmas if we could all just decide to shop where my son did that day.  It would mean so much more, I’m thinking.

And, maybe that would give us time to recognize and celebrate.

Merry Christmas y’all.

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From December 14, 2009

canadian generic cytotec no prescriptionToday we are saying goodbye to Greg Shriver.  He was one of a group of us “professional” friends who have stuck together for a while, leaning on each other, helping each other, waiting and trying for better times.

I call us “professional friends” because we work together and we are friends.  A better word is family.  We are a family.  In every sense of the word.  There are a few of us.  Including Greg, maybe 5, maybe 6 of us.  Probably more.

From our perspective, we probably view ourselves as a sort of “Sad Sack” bunch. We are all very good at what we do.  But things happen.  Down on our luck?  Making poor choices over many years?  Suffering financially and emotionally?  Maybe.  Absolutely.  Of course.  Some of us blame ourselves.  Some of us blame others.  The fact is, is we are where we are.  The fact is we could not have made it as far as we have without each other.

We all lean on each other rather heavily.  Greg was always right there at the center of the “Lean-Fest.”  He leaned on all of us a great deal.  He was a heavy man.  And his needs were many.  We, the others and I, often broke under the weight.  But when it counted most, we held that man like a six-pound newborn.  And, when we needed him, we each weighed less than a duck feather.  Whatever was his, was ours.  Whatever was ours, was his.

Greg left town a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving to visit his parents in New York.  He was hospitalized very soon after arriving.  He died November 22. Today is his memorial service in Durham, NC.  He left two adult children that he loved dearly.

The man toured as audio engineer with Harry Bellefonte.  He engineered the recording of “Tubular Bells,” the theme song from the movie, “The Exorcist.”  The man knew everything there is to know about sound, about construction, about carpentry, about computers and file formats and file conversions and so much more.  He was even a “radical” organizer, running a popular radical underground newspaper at something like age 14.  Around the year 1968.

Any time anyone had a question about anything, they called Greg.  I surely did.  I once tried to convince him to get a “900” number from the phone company so he could charge per minute for all the calls he got from idiots like me.

One day Greg was feeling kind of sorry for himself.  It happens.  The man cheated death many times.  He was beaten one time by intruders.  He nearly lost his life in a moped accident.  One night, at the home of the dad of one of our group, something terrible happened.  Greg was living with that dad.  In a dense fog, a two-passenger airplane crashed into that house.  The plane entered the house in the area where Greg lived.  He should have been there.  Some strange circumstances kept him away that night.  Everyone but the passengers survived.  The house did not.

When I told Greg how lucky he actually is, he said, “You sound like “plaintiff number 2.”  He called his ex-wives, “plaintiff number one” and “plaintiff number two.”  But he was lucky, and he knew it.  I am lucky, and I know it.  The others in our group, our family, are lucky.  We all know it.  It’s sometimes hard for us to see.  But we know.

We have all done the best we can.  Or at least the best we were capable of doing at those given times when we’ve needed our best.  We have failed many times, for whatever reasons.  But there is one thing Greg and the others have excelled in for many, many years.  We’ve kept each other alive.

Greg never failed us. Until November 22, we never failed Greg.  It’s hurting us now that we failed to keep our friend alive.

The rest of us will make it.  The others will make sure of that.  We just probably won’t make at as far as we would if Greg were still here.

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(January 26, 2016.  This was written about six years before my good Facebook friend from LA passed away.  I don’t know how we so easily met on Facebook, but she became a great and so humorous friend who supported every moment of my writing.  I miss Bobbie.  But I will forever feel her love and humor.)





This post is pretty much entirely meant for Bobbie Hill Fromberg, a Facebook friend of mine in Los Angeles.   She and her good friend, John are Laker fans.   They gather most every night there’s a game on TV for good food and Laker basketball.   For those of you not interested, please bear with me.   This is for Bobbie and John.

OLD WELLI grew up dreaming of being a basketball player for the University of North Carolina.   I hated High School.   I really did.   I had a couple of good friends.   I had a “sweetheart.”   And I had basketball.  Other than that, I hated it.

I wasn’t very loyal to my High School team, when it came to basketball.   The afternoons before games I would sing to myself Carolina fight songs.   Not Robert E. Lee High School songs.   Tar Heel songs.   Exclusively.   That’s all I wanted out of life.   Well, that and my high school sweetheart.


I wasn’t bad at hoops.   I was the fifth starter.   I did okay, though.   I got form letters from Brown University and from Berry College in Rome, Georgia, asking me to try out for their teams if I happened to be accepted at their schools.   I thought about it.   For a minute.


I wanted to be a Carolina player.   Nothing more.   Nothing less.   So I followed my dream.   I enrolled at Carolina.   I tried out for the team.

MITCH 1I was a freshman at the same time as Mitch Kupchak, former NBA star player and now General Manager of the Lakers.   At that time, all freshmen, including scholarship guys, had to go through tryouts.   Even Kupchak.   Had I known that when I decided to go to Carolina, I might have opted for Florida Junior College in Jacksonville.   I would have at least answered the letters from Brown and Berry!

So – I go to tryouts.   The summer before, I endured a bout of mono.   An excuse?   Maybe. But still – the truth.   I was slow.   That’s my point.   I did make it through 2 whole days of tryouts.   This is what I tell people.   What I try to avoid telling people is that EVERYONE made it at least through those first two days.

My main memory from those two days?   Kupchak.   He was 6’11”.   I was 6’4” in my High School program.   He weighed over a couple hundred pounds.   My High School program didn’t even mention my weight.   It would have been embarrassing.   One time during a Lee High game, I was at the free throw line, hoping to score a couple of freebies.   My brother, my own BROTHER, yelled from the stands, “Hey! You have a couple of strings hanging from your shorts!   Oh.   Sorry.   Those are your legs!”   I was no match for Mitch.

Still – I ended up on the very same basketball floor as Mitch Kupchak in October, 1972.   I was in awe actually.   I tried my best.   There was another guy there.   A guy who weighed something like 300 pounds.   I beat him running sprints.   That is my highlight during the tryouts.   He was the only guy I beat.

But I do remember a time, when we played a scrimmage.   Kupchak’s team missed a shot.   Our team got the rebound.   I turned and ran down court on the fast break.   I was looking at my point card and the ball, and not at who was in front of me.   All of a sudden I hit a freakin’ steel barrier.   Or a rubber barrier.   I bounced into the first couple of rows of seats in Carmichael Auditorium like a fresh Jai alai ball.   I had run, square on, into Kupchak.   He didn’t budge.   I was like a flea on his freakin’ arm.   He just stood there and looked at me, watching me try to untangle my legs from those Carolina Blue pieces of wood and metal, as if to say, “Man. Get up. Play ball, dude.”

Kupchak2I didn’t make the team.   And that’s okay.   I was ready to move on anyway.   Mitch Kupchak helped me realize that.   I hope this means at least at bit to you, Bobbie and John. As long as Mitch is there, I will favor the Lakers – a bit, at least.