CLASSIC LUNAR – “SHOOTING” From June 3, 2014

uptownLook, I’m old. I know very well how grumpy old men like me sound when they speak of such things. And I know that this stuff is written and talked about almost daily these days. So – you younger readers, please forgive me for rehashing the same old complaints against such stuff and generalizing about you younger generations.

But, damn, y’all.

A generation of youngsters who care so little about the safety of their fellow humans, about the sanctity of one’s home and personal property and who care so damned much about gun play, danger and terrorizing their very friends with potentially deadly gun play?

Look, I recently moved from a very rural area in Orange County, North Carolina to a very urban one in our state’s largest city – Charlotte.   Every day on the newscasts in my new city, I see and hear stories of shootings – random shootings where bullets penetrate the walls of the homes where innocent residents and friends are merely gathering for a good time.   This is normal here these days.

I know how terrorizing this can be to the innocents.   I live in Charlotte now, but I lived through that very same terror – with an old friend and a sickly dog – in Orange County.

I met my friend, Kathy, one Saturday night at a place called, “The Trailer.”   A bunch of us had planned to gather at that party place.   It was sort of a Saturday ritual to meet there, but for a while that one night, it was just Kathy, me and Chuck’s mangy little mutt named Hazel, waiting for the others to arrive. It was Chuck’s trailer.  Kathy is a great friend, and I loved Hazel, too.  But, I swear, Hazel was so mangy.  Sweet, but hairless and odor-full.  If you sat down in “The Trailer,” Hazel would beg you to pet her.   So, Kathy and I mostly stood up and walked around while waiting for the others to arrive that night.

About and hour or so after sunset and after Kathy and I arrived to avoid Hazel, a car I had never before seen drove down the driveway and parked just in front of “The Trailer.”   I thought it was the next wave of friends showing up for a simple Saturday night get-together.

I peeled open the brown curtains from the window on the front wall of the single-wide to peak outside.   I didn’t recognize the car at all.   But I saw the figures of three men silhouetted against the light of the single street lamp next to the highway.   I opened the curtains wider and squinted my eyes, trying to make out who was getting out of that strange car.  Suddenly, one of the men knelt down and reached beneath the front seat of the car.   After he pulled out of that car what he did, they all three burst into laughter as they each wrestled for possession of the object.

I knew very well what was going on.

“Kathy!” I screamed. “Take Hazel to the back bedroom! Get on the floor!”

Kathy was startled and afraid.   But she did what I told her to do.   I dropped the curtains and ran after her and Hazel.   We all fell to the floor in that room, covering each other and just waiting for what was to happen next.

“BAM! BAM! BAM!”

Gunfire!   We could hear it penetrate the main living area, near the kitchen, where we had just moments before been standing.

“BAM! CLANK! BAM! CLANK!”

I gathered enough courage to raise myself from the Kathy-Hazel pile and to peak outside through the brown back bedroom window curtains.   There they were. The three men pointing the gun and shooting into “The Trailer!”

Kathy was afraid.   I was afraid!   And poor Hazel lost a chunk of hair she didn’t even have!

And those three guys just kept shooting – and laughing!

I rejoined Kathy and Hazel on the floor and we cowered together until after the gunfire ended.   A few moments later Mike, the other owner of “The Trailer,” walked in.   He was laughing.   So was the leader of a major gang from the coastal town of Elizabeth City – Mike’s friend, Tim, who walked in with him.   Bill, a strong and forceful guy who lived in a near-by town, walked in as well, laughing the entire time.   He owned the gun.

Kathy and I heaved dryly from the stress and from the stench of Hazel.   Hazel kind of loved the attention.   Kathy and I were just happy to be alive.

Those damned kids didn’t care at all about the safety of those inside “The Trailer.”   They didn’t even care about Mike’s own stuff!  They shot out his very own refrigerator!   All they cared about was the thrill of the gun play.   And the terror they caused.   And they laughed.   They each laughed.

What the hell is wrong with the kids of today?   In wonderful cities like Charlotte?   At friendly gathering places like “The Trailer?”   I mean, really?

But then again, how the hell could I know about today’s youngsters in this city?  I am old here on earth and new here in The Queen City.

And “The Trailer” shooting took place in Orange County on North Carolina Highway 54, about five miles west of the campus of the University Of North Carolina in Chapel Hill where Kathy, Mike, Tim and I were attending school, and where Bill, a cop from a nearby town, was dating Kathy’s roommate. The year was 1975!

What I mean to say here is, “Just be careful, children – children of all ages!   You mangy dogs, too.   With any luck, you will survive such nonsense.”

Kathy, Hazel and I did.

You know… Chuck never thanked Kathy and me for saving Hazel’s life that night.   What the hell do you suppose that means?

CLASSIC LUNAR – “PEOPLE LIKE YOU”

FROM MAY 6, 2014

I’ve never been much on lyrics.   I am more of a musical sound kind of guy.   I listen to tunes and beats and riffs that sound good.   If it sounds good, I really do not care what are the words being sung.

Easter Sunday morning, I woke up with an Elton John tune in my head.   It played there over and over as I readied myself for work.  It stayed with me while I drove in silent prayer that morning – my daily drive time ritual.   On those drives, once I say, “Amen,” that’s my cue to turn on the radio for the second half of my drive to work.

That Easter drive was beautiful.   The air was clean and crisp.  The sun was bright, and it illuminated the promise of the day.   It was a Godly day.   A day to sow seeds.   A day for rose trees to grow on every corner of every city on earth.   When it came time on my drive to listen to tunes, I turned on my favorite Charlotte radio station.   Between “Amen” and hitting the “on” button, that Elton John tune played in my mind one more time.   Neither Elton nor Bernie Taupin had the musical or lyrical timing that I had on that morning.   The first sound from my radio speakers that day was a continuation of the last musical phrase that I hummed to myself before turning on and hearing in real time “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters.”

“And now I know, ‘Spanish Harlem’
Are not just pretty words to say
I thought I knew, but now I know
That rose trees never grow in New York City.”

“Wow,” I said to myself. “God, what the hell does that mean?” I asked.

I decided to listen to a few more lyrics, hopefully to get a clue about all of this.   Why on such a beautiful and thankful Easter day did those lyrics and that tune happen in such a way?

“Spanish Harlem?”

“New York City?”

“Rose trees?”

Then I heard the words.   And it all made perfect sense to me.

“Until you’ve seen this trash can dream come true
You stand at the edge, while people run you through
And I thank the Lord, there’s people out there like you
I thank the Lord, there’s people out there like you.”

Decades of trash can dreams have come true for me.   But I no longer stand at the edge.   That boundary is where I live my every moment. And I thank the Lord for the edge he gave me.   And for the answered dreams that led me here.

I have found some incredible people lately.   New people.   Folks with whom I work and share all that is within each of us.   Visitors to my new place of work – folks who seek out just some gentle friendliness and a smile or two.

Old and dear friends have found their ways back into my life suddenly.   With others who have always been with me, there seems to be these days a deepening of our mutual desires to continue the strength that kept us together for so long.

“And I thank the Lord there’s people out there like you.”

Yeah.   This shit makes sense.   Suddenly it does.

“While Mona Lisas and mad hatters, sons of bankers, sons of lawyers
Turn around and say good morning to the night
For unless they see the sky, but they can’t and that is why
They know not if it’s dark outside or light.”

I researched the song and the meaning of its lyrics.   The writers of the articles that explained the meaning of the song seemed to all agree that it is a harsh and accurate description of the cold reality of a dark city like New York.   That tone and direction were a bit of firsts for Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

But those writers were terribly wrong.   Those lyrics are about so much more than one city.

Easter Sunday, I got it.

I worked all day that day.   Every moment there at work were opportunities to worry and fret about not being with family, of toiling in self pity, and of breaking the back of this tired and feeble old man.   It was the perfect setup to not really know if it was dark outside or light.   To force me to turn around and say good morning to the night.

But with each moment I spent in that day’s sunshine, and with each new person I encountered, I lived.   And I loved.   Light was light, and darkness was but a distant and insignificant thought.

And damn.   People responded.   The people I found that day responded.   We said good morning to the day.   Each of us did.

And that day brought nothing but good mornings until well past the time the evening just had to conquer the light’s natural and normal fade.   And force upon us all the comfort and simple understanding of all things natural.

When I was around six or seven years old, we lived in Roanoke, Virginia.   My family and I attended the Airlee Court Baptist Church there.   Reverend Sinclair was our minister.   I very clearly remember wanting to be baptized by Reverend Sinclair in Roanoke.   I think because my mom knew we would soon be moving to Jacksonville, Florida, she decided it was best to wait until after the move for such a major religious commitment on her son’s part.   By the time we arrived in our new town and at our new church, the passion and urgency had left me.   My new hero was Reverend Harvey Duke at the St. John’s Baptist Church in Jacksonville.   And of course, Billy Graham.   But by that time, all I wanted was to be moved in a huge way  emotionally before giving myself to God.   I wanted that one big moment.   I wanted my own seeds to grow into blissful rose trees. And I waited for that moment.   For the rest of Mama’s life, I waited for that moment.

It never happened.

My love of God, and my devotion and faith simply evolved from those early days.   Never an earth-shattering revelation and declaration. I just moved on, understanding that for myself a demonstrative display of faith in such a public way would not at all alter my love, devotion and faith for and in God. I eventually found comfort in simply understanding what God expects of us.

But things were different for my mom.   As faithful as she was to God, the poor woman often said good morning to the night.   And when it came to my being baptized, Mama never could see the sky.   She chose instead to blame herself for my not being “saved.”   And that is why, in my eyes, she went to her grave not really knowing if it was dark outside or light.

I have one son – an endearing one.   The kid has an extraordinary wife, and she has a nephew.   My son has found some people, too.   His wife’s mom and her mom.   His wife’s sister and her two daughters and other son.   And his wife’s grand-nephew.   My kid has the sweetest, most beautiful step-daughter in his young life.   And three of the most endearing young sons himself.

Easter Sunday night, I left work early to join my son and all of his people at their church.   His wife’s grandmother lives in Texas.   She was there in spirit.   All of the others were at that church in full force.

“This Broadway’s got, it’s got a lot of songs to sing
If I knew the tunes I might join in
I go my way alone, grow my own
My own seeds shall be sown in New York City.”

When I walked alone into that sort of “mega church,” I was greeted with smiling lights from every human face I encountered.  They didn’t know me.   I was dirty and wearing work jeans and beaten up work boots.   Reverends Sinclair and Duke might have winced at the sight of me.   My son’s found people simply welcomed my presence, and encouraged me to sow my own seeds.

They had a lot of songs to sing at that service. Even had I known the tunes, I probably would not have joined in.   I hate my voice.  But I loved what I heard.   And saw.   And felt that evening.

When the indoor service ended Easter evening, things moved outside.   There, at a beautiful pond on a slight hill just outside the doors of the church, folks gathered as the fading Sunday light began drifting toward and behind the tree-lined backdrop of all the new people in my son’s life.   My son’s wife and her nephew visited that pond a few weeks ago.   Easter night the pond belonged to my son.  His step-daughter decided on her own that the pond belonged to her as well that evening.   So did my son’s two oldest sons.   The rest of us there knew that it belonged to us all.

My son was baptized in that pond on Easter night.   His step-daughter and two of his sons joined my boy and were baptized themselves that evening. The hugs and the tears and the love that night seemed to hold in unlimited suspension the light that allowed us to live in the sky for such a brief moment while they forced away that moment’s night for a good while.

“Subway’s no way for a good man to go down
Rich man can ride and the hobo he can drown
And I thank the Lord for the people I have found
I thank the Lord for the people I have found.”

I didn’t go into the pond.   I don’t need to.   The people I have found give me my big moment every day.   The people my son has found are sowing seeds that bring bliss and roses to everyone they encounter.   Certainly to me and to Mama.   Why would God expect anything more of us – than to simply know and love and understand the people we have found and with unlimited gratitude share with every new one we meet the simplicity and reality of the encounters?

I thank the Lord, there’s people out there like you.

All of you.   Each of you.   There is no darkness here.   Only daylight.

And I thank God for letting me find y’all.

Mama.   I see the sky.   And it’s always light outside.   All I have to do is look to all the people I have found.   And all the folks your only grandson found.

And each and every one of us thank the Lord there’s people out there like you.

You did good, Mama.

Good morning to your day, dear woman.

CLASSIC LUNAR – “CHRISTMAS” DEC 21, 2009

FROM DECEMBER 21, 2009

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.

CLASSIC LUNAR – “SO LONG, PAL” From December 14, 2009

From December 14, 2009

Today 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.

CLASSIC LUNAR – “MITCH ” From December 12, 2010

BOBBIE FROMBERG

 

 

(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.)

 

 

 

FROM DECEMBER 12, 2010

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.

bball8

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.

CLASSIC LUNAR – “BOBBY BOWDEN” DEC 8, 2009

FROM DECEMBER 8, 2009

bowden

Bobby Bowden hates me. And I don’t know why. I’ve always liked him. As a young guy, I hated the Gators. So I had to like him. My Mom says he reminds her of my Dad. How could I not like the guy? But he must hate me.

Now the man did help me a couple of times.

My brother is a pretty obnoxious Gator Hater, a fan who doesn’t like the University of Florida. My brother-in-law is a huge Gator fan. We had a Moon family Thanksgiving tradition. For a few years anyway. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my son and I would gather ’round the TV with my brother and brother-in-law to watch Florida State play Florida in football. One particular year, Florida was killing the entire first half. My brother-in-law was at the top of his game. If you could have Wiki-ed “obnoxious Florida fan” during the first half of that game that day, you would have found a description of Rick. In the second half of that game, Florida State killed. They came from way back to tie the score at the end of the game. Wiki my brother in the second half – you get “obnoxious Seminole.” Watching both those guys. It was a priceless event for my young son and I. Thanks for the comeback, Bobby.

uncI am a die-hard Tar Heel – a fan of the University of North Carolina. Until the fall of 2001, the closest we had ever come to beating Bobbie Bowden was a 10-10 tie in Tallahassee. I was at that game. The Florida State fans were crushed. But the best thing I can say about that hot and steamy Saturday afternoon is that I discovered Tallahassee is home to the most beautiful women in the world. Seriously. The tie wasn’t bad either.

Other than those tie games and those outrageously beautiful women, my Tar Heel experiences with FSU have pretty much stunk. For years. For decades. The man has created nothing but misery for me.

Just like he did with so many college football teams, Bobbie Bowden owned the Heels. And there were no signs whatsoever that the Bowden domination over my team would ever end. So, I wasn’t too upset that one year when I was invited to a good friend’s 50th birthday party at Ocean Isle Beach, NC the day before FSU came to Chapel Hill. I could go to the beach party and still make it back to Chapel Hill to attend the game with my son the next day. And even if I didn’t make it back, so what? Bowden would still, as usual, beat the crap out of us. Still – my plan was to be back for the game.

I borrowed a friend’s car to drive to Ocean Isle. I knew the tags, registration, and insurance on the car were all out of date, but it was the only car I had to drive at the time. And what did I really have to fear? If I got stopped by law enforcement, the worst that would happen would be a citation, right?

ocean isle policeI made it to the intersection of US Highway 17 and NC Highway 904. You turn left off 17 and onto 904. In 5 minutes you hit ocean. The law enforcement officers, who were in patrol cars several lanes away and facing an opposite direction spotted my illegal transportation anyway. I don’t know how the hell they spotted the tags. My friend had a few hundred, it seemed, rather radical bumper stickers all over the car. Maybe those cops were Republicans – I don’t know. I tried to explain that it wasn’t even my car. Maybe I should have told them that the driver of the car does not necessarily agree with opinions of the back bumper. This did happen on September 20, 2001 – 9 days after the terrorist attack on our nation. I tried my best. I guess a beat up red Hyundai with “Bush Stole The Election” written all over it maybe drew a bit of attention.

Even so, the officers were actually very kind when they impounded my borrowed terrorist buggy. They even drove me to the party. On the way to the party, my travel alarm clock in my luggage in the back of the Ocean Isle Police Department SUV went off for some reason. That alarm had an awful sound to it. It kind of sounded like a bomb getting ready to explode. Thankfully, the officers found the humor in all that. But I did make it to the party. Thanks officers.

So, the night of the party, I lobbied very hard for an early ride back to the Chapel Hill area so I could witness with my son another Florida State massacre of my team. The kick-off was at noon. No go. I was at a party. At the beach. On a Friday night. No one there expected to be physically able to drive even a legal car by 7am the next day. The best I could arrange was a ride back with a freakin’ Dook fan late on Saturday. Actually, when I realized the only ride home would be with a Dookie, I felt there was some higher power at work. Maybe not God. But still some higher force who had it in for me somehow. I missed the game. Carolina won. Something like 45 to 7. Thanks again, Bobbie. I missed my team’s only win against FSU. A Carolina massacre at that.

Now missing such a huge upset by my team of Bobbie Bowden’s FSU team was only one disappointment I’ve suffered at the hands of Bobbie. Every year, it seemed for such a long time, we just couldn’t beat the man. One year, Carolina had the game won until a hundred yard interception return for a touchdown by one of Bobbie’s boys late in the 4th quarter put another loss to FSU on UNC’s resume. I really hate to see him retire. (Did I mention that I actually like the guy?) Even so, after he announced his retirement, I couldn’t help but think that finally, he won’t ever be able to screw me and my team again. It’s over. I – we – can move on with our lives. I can finally like Bobbie Bowden without stressing over his hatred for me.

In a few weeks, Carolina will play in the Muffler Bowl in Charlotte. I guess that’s a good thing. A better thing, though, would have been watching my team play in my hometown over the holidays. The Gator Bowl in Jacksonville wanted Carolina. Carolina wanted the Gator Bowl. My family is there. We would have gone to the game. It would have been a real gift to me and my family to see our team in our hometown bowl. Many sports analysts believe UNC would have made it to the Gator. Except for one small thing. Bobbie Bowden retired.

Now Bobbie’s a respected man. I appreciate that. I do respect him, too. (Did I mention he reminds my Mom of my Dad?) Remember the scene in “We Are Marshall” where the head coach of West Virginia gives the new coach at Marshall game tapes or uniforms or something? Whatever it was, I did shed a tear over that scene. That West Virginia coach, in real life, was Bobby Bowden. What a guy. It was touching. Seriously. I cried, for God’s sake, over a portrayal of Bobby Bowden. Doesn’t Bobby owe me some consideration after that?

So Bowden retires. It’s not over for me. Bowden requests a Florida State match-up with his former team, West Virginia, in the Gator Bowl. I’m glad I like such a respected man. I hate that folks respect him enough to keep my team out of my hometown holiday bowl game. They did as Bobby asked. Bobbie screwed me again.

Look. Florida fans and Miami fans have every reason to hate Bobbie Bowden. They are in-state rivals. I’m just an old country boy in sort of rural North Carolina whose deceased Dad looks like the coach of Florida State. What did I ever do to Bobbie Bowden?

bowden 2Look, Bobbie. I love ya, man. I hope you enjoy your retirement. But for the love of God, man. Get off my back.

All the misery. All these years. The man just hates me. There’s no other explanation.

 

CLASSIC LUNAR – “BLACK FRIDAY” From December 2, 2009

From December 2, 2009

 

And… They’re off!  The Christmas season has begun!  Black Friday was a huge success.  Or a huge failure.  Depending on whether or not you actually found what you wanted.

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A couple of years ago, I was with my son, Matt, and his first-born, Sy.  We were in Jacksonville, Florida for Thanksgiving, visiting my family.  We could only stay through Thanksgiving Day because Matt had to work Friday afternoon.  So we left for North Carolina early on Black Friday.

Now, keep in mind, my kid had to be back home on FRIDAY.  And it’s about a 450 mile trip.  Still, we had to make a stop at a WalMart on our way out of town.  We made it to the WalMart on the northside by 5am.  FIVE AM!  I stayed in the car with my grandson, Sy.  That child knew what to do and did what all of us know and didn’t do – he SLEPT at 5am on the Friday after Thanksgiving!  I easily volunteered to sit with the child while he slept.  I figured I could get in a few extra winks myself.

Shoppers wheel their purchases out of aBut have any of you ever hung out in a Jacksonville shopping center parking lot before dawn?  It’s freaky, man.  I was sitting in the New Yorker, feeling that I had to stay awake to protect that precious child from parking lot people.  And – just the day before all of this – I was thankful for living a SAFE life!  Of course, many possible ironic resolutions to these circumstances were with me the entire time.  One’s imagination sort of goes on steroids at 5 o’clock in the morning.  Nothing happened.  Matt found the bargains he was seeking.  And I got to hang out with a beautiful grandchild for a while. We were on the road again by 6.  Still.

My son is 24.  I really don’t know what’s hot this year.  If I had written this 20 years ago, I would have all kinds of material.  About Cabbage Patch dolls, Power Ranger action figures, you name it.  Now – I’m stumped.

wrestling buddiesI remember one Christmas when my son was young.  He wanted a couple of “Wrestling Buddies,” stuffed dolls that looked like real WWF wrestlers.  He had seen them in a commercial.  The dolls were big enough that kids his age could throw them around, fall on them, etc.  You know – “rastle” with them.  But in the commercial there were a few props.  One such prop, to give the impression that a kid could actually feel like a wrestler if he had one of these dolls, was a wrestling ring around a kid’s bed.  It was a prop.  Pure and simple.  But my kid wanted, not only the “Wrestling Buddies.”  He wanted the freakin’ wrestling RING as well.

wwf-wrestling-buddies BEDI called TYCO, Mattel, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, JC Freakin’ Penney.  I even called Remco! Nothing!  Santa couldn’t even pull this one off.  There simply was no such thing as a “Wrestling Buddy ‘Rastling’ Ring.”  It did not exist.  Santa told me that he tried to create one, but with such short notice and lack of supplies, it was impossible.  And all his skilled elves were working on larger projects.

How the heck can a toy manufacturer use a prop like that without actually offering it for sale?  Or, maybe my child was just too odd and different to understand it was just a prop.  Nevertheless, I feel for all you folks who are scrambling around right now – those of you who had hoped to score big on Black Friday only to find that you really do not have the stamina for such nonsense.  I feel your pain.

But never fear y’all.  You will have your day in the sun.  You will get revenge.  Well, at least, I did.  My child now works in retail.  He has had to work the last five Black Fridays.  I love you son, but after all you have put me through these years, you deserve it.  Just don’t make me wait in a pre-dawn parking lot before taking you to work again, ok?

CLASSIC LUNAR – “YOU CAN CALL ME ‘AL'” NOV 24, 2009

FROM NOVEMBER 24, 2009

Many of us are embarrassed by our middle names.   Well, my “middle” name happens to be my first.   It’s what people call me.   But my given first name is Alvis.   All official documents show one’s first name.   Those documents have just never seemed to understand that I go by my middle name, David.

It was not easy growing up with a first name like Alvis.   Every year on the first day of school when the teacher would read off her seating chart, “Alvis,” all the snotty little kids in my class would laugh.

Number 25. ELVIS Moon

Number 25. ELVIS Moon

One morning, the day after I was the lead scorer on my high school basketball team, the daily newspaper printed the following:  “Elvis Moon led all scorers with 16 points.”   Yeah, you can imagine what happened to me at school that day.   “YOU ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog!”   “Shake those hips, ELVIS!”   Not to mention the ribbing from my older brother.   It was brutal for a young, shy, insecure teen.

 

This is Thanksgiving week.   Thanksgiving is such a wonderfully simple holiday.   It’s a day to just give thanks.   Of course, I’ve never actually prepared a full Thanksgiving meal.   Still, I am thankful for many things.   I guess we all are really.   Right now, I’m kind of thankful for my first name.   My Mom always told me that she thought about naming me David Alvis Moon instead of Alvis David.   That might have made my adolescence go a bit smoother if she had.   She didn’t want my initials to spell “DAM.”   But, you know, if I had Alvis as my middle name, I may have, over time, forgotten about that name altogether.   That just wouldn’t have worked for me.

I love that name.   I love it because Alvis is also the name of my grandfather.   He is the greatest man I have ever known.   Today, November 24, is his birthday.   He would have been 105.

The man never even used a cuss word – well sort of.   great maleo and wahooHe did yell at his favorite “rastler” on TV one Saturday evening.   “Kick him in the nuts!”

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I asked him to loan me a hundred dollars one time when I was in college.   He said, “Okay.   Do you want cash or a check?”   I was just so happy that he was going to do it, that I said, “Granddaddy, it really doesn’t matter to me.”   He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You don’t want to fuck with a CHECK, do you?”   I don’t remember what I said after that.   I think I blacked out!   I didn’t even know that he KNEW that word.

Okay, so saying “nuts” is acceptable, and using that other word that one time is not a bad thing.   But it’s the closest thing to a bad thing the man ever did – in my eyes anyway.

perform-easy-trick-with-toothpicks.300x140He was a thrifty guy.   He could go all week and use only one toothpick.   When he finished picking his teeth for the day, he would break off the end of the toothpick and store it in the cuff of his trousers to use again after his next meal. toliet

 

 

 

He once figured out how much it cost to flush the toilet, and would allow my grandmother to flush only once a day.

 

 

 

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My son and two of his sons.

 

Look, I could go on and on about this man.   How strong he was.   What a tireless worker he was.   How he never spoke badly about anyone.   How he is the only true “Christian” I have ever known.   “We’re all God’s children,” he would say often.   And, he was a great pool player.

 

mangum girls

Sisters – Jerry, Alice Blue, Barbara, Gladys and my mom, Marie.

He had 5 daughters and 16 grand children.   He never spanked his children.   And he lived during a time when spanking kids was never even questioned.   He once saw one of his daughters spank one of his grandchildren in his home, and he laid down the law.   There would be no spanking of children in his house.

When one of us youngins’ would cry at his house, for whatever reason, usually our moms or grandmother would deal with us.  That was, after all, “women’s work” back then.   All my granddad did at those times, all he could do really, was cover his ears, look toward the ground, and walk away, shaking his head the whole time.   He hated to see one of his youngins’ in pain.   And when there were no “women folk” around, he would somehow make each of his grandchildren feel so special.   He always did for me, anyway.

Last weekend, I was with my son and my grandchildren.   I was helping Matt and his family move, but my main job was to watch the kids while he dealt with moving issues.

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Grandson Sy and me.

Being around kids has, for the most part, always come naturally to me.   I don’t know what it is really, but it seems that I have a knack of sorts for knowing when a kid needs attention.   And, for the most part, I know how to turn a kid’s sour mood into a smiling face.   I also just seem to know when a child needs to brood, and needs to be left alone.   When a child is in pain, it’s almost like I am in pain, too.   When a child has something to brood about, it’s almost like I do as well.   Somehow I know how to deal with that pain and brooding.   There were a few times I had to deal with hurt and upset children while helping Matt.   It was a piece of cake really.

Driving back from my son’s last week, I was reflecting on how good it was to hang out with that family.   My thoughts wandered in and out of every moment, issue, engagement, wisecrack, laugh, kid’s tear, fear and hurt – everything that went on during those two days.   At some point I started to ask myself some questions.   Where the hell did I get this “knack?”   Why is it that I am so comfortable comforting a hurt child?   Where did this come from?

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Aunt Barbara, my son and “Sweet P”

As a child, I had plenty of adult role models. My mom and her sisters were all pretty good with kids.   I have one special aunt who was extraordinary with not only us nephews and nieces, but with kids in general.   Driving home, I at first thought I got my knack and comfort from Aunt Barbara.   My mom and her other sisters are wonderful, but come on – none of them are Aunt Barbara.  So where did Aunt Barbara get her extraordinary stuff?

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My grandmother was a loving and comforting lady to us grandchildren.   But there is something special about Aunt Barbara – something my grandmother didn’t have.   And there is something special about the way I feel about kids.   Where? How?

 

My thoughts last weekend then turned toward my granddad.   Unlike my grandfather, I can cuss with the best of them.   I am not a thrifty guy.   I’m not a strong man, and I have a major lazy streak.   I have spoken badly about many people through the years.   I’m a long way from being a “good Christian,” and I am a terrible pool player.   But on the ride home from my son’s place, I realized where I got my love of kids – that knack – from the same place as Aunt Barbara.   I got it from Granddaddy Mangum.   And that’s the same place I got my name.

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Grandsons Sy and Seth, and granddaughter, Rachel, with Aunt Barbara.

Matt, Zach, Sammie, Jessica, Brian Waters, David, Drew, T-Bone, Harrison, Sharod, James, G-Man, Carter, Justin, Dustin, Brian Whitfield, my little basketballers on the Aggies, Tigers, Blue Devils and others, and all the young ones who entered my life from time to time – well, they have been my life, y’all.   Now young Rachel, Sy and Seth, my grand youngins’ – they are my life.   Without all those little ones, I would be a terribly bitter and sad old man.   Without that knack I got from my granddad, I would never have known the real joy of being around youngins’.   My Aunt Barbara understands.

 

I am thankful this week and always.   Simply for my name.

grandaddy

My brother with Grandaddy Mangum.

Happy birthday, Granddaddy.   And Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

Alvis Moon.

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Matt, Joe and Alvis.

(Since I wrote this in 2009, I have come to feel with all my heart that one of the most wonderful kids I have ever known is also my grandson.   His name is Jovan.   I call him Joe.   He is my granddaughter’s cousin.

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Sweet P!

Also – my youngest grandchild was born after I wrote this.  His parents call him Princeton or “PJ.”   To me he is simply “Sweet-P!”)

CLASSIC LUNAR – “THANKSGIVING”

FROM NOVEMBER 17, 2009

The subject matter of next week’s Lunar Report, a date sensitive thing, forces me to do the Thanksgiving report this week. I haven’t lost my mind. Well, as far as reading a calendar goes.

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful time to reflect on all that we have and all that we are thankful for. It’s the perfect time for a little more “Moon Sap.” Not this time. Everybody does the sap thing this time of year. Not me. I’m pulling a Costanza – doing the opposite!

No, this time I will reflect on what’s wrong with Thanksgiving and some major regrets in my life. Firts of all, there is no work the week of Thanksgiving. None. Used to be, kids would leave school around 3 o’clock the day before Thanksgiving. Their parents and other working adults would leave work at 5. You drive all night to get to Grandma’s house. Not anymore. Schools are closed on Wednesday. Workers call in sick or take Wednesday as vacation time. That leaves Monday and Tuesday to learn or work. No one hires people like me on those two days. So the whole week is shot. Yeh, I’m thankful for that.

Second of all, I am tired of misspelling “first.” I always do that. Should I nevertheless be “thankful” that I have a keyboard?

I always travel from North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida for Thanksgiving. It’s tradition. I enjoy it. But have any of you ever been on Interstate 95 near Santee, SC after noon on the Sunday AFTER Thanksgiving? It’s hell, man. Should I be thankful that I have a car? Even if it is stuck in some major bumper-to-bumper action, over-heating for hours?

Okay. Enough of the “thankful” crap. I like to use this holiday to ponder regrets in my life. Somehow it seems appropriate. Yeh, I regret not winning an Oscar by age 30. I regret not making it to the NBA. I regret never watching a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. And, as stupid as this sounds, I regret never owning a new Pontiac.

But my biggest regret? Look, I am almost 56 years old. I’m not a wealthy man. I have always said that an old man with money can have any woman he wants – and I am halfway there!

But let’s face facts here. Unless I win the lottery, I will never have a meaningful sexual relationship with a young Asian woman. This is my major regret. The wasted money, the cigarettes, the beer, the laziness – I can live with all that. But the young Asian woman thing – I don’t know.

Anyway, this is my take on the Thanksgiving holiday.

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Actually, y’all, the paragraphs above do not reflect what’s in my heart. I mean, I do tire of misspelling “firts,” uh – “FIRST.” And Sunday Santee traffic is no joy. But I have no regrets. Even if I did, this is no time for such selfish reflection. I guess it’s just that I am so thankful for so much and to so many, that it seems easier to resort to lies and a few cheap laughs.

I have a lot of heart-warming and sincere Thanksgiving stories. I have some that are pretty pathetic as well. But everyone reading this has the same kinds of stories. Let’s just be thankful for whatever we each have. If you have a huge bird to share with others, be thankful you have food, friends and family. If you only have a can of tuna for you and your child, be thankful that God has provided. If you are alone this holiday, be thankful that you don’t have to listen to a drunken Uncle Charlie go on and on about eating spam during the war – or whatever.

Look, as hard as we all try, there really are very few of us who can actually recreate a “Walton’s Mountain Thanksgiving.” So, let’s go easy on ourselves. This is a holiday to just be thankful. For whatever we have.

And pray for me, will ya? Next Thanksgiving, I’d really like to thank God for that young Asian woman.

(NOTE TO THOSE OF YOU WHO THINK I AM SOUNDING A BIT RACIST:
In the words of Jerry Seinfeld who, himself, appreciated Asian women
in a “Seinfeld” episode: “If you LIKE the race, it isn’t RACIST!”)

CLASSIC LUNAR – “THE MANGUM REPORT”

SPECIAL “BEAT DOOK” EDITION OF THE LUNAR REPORT.  FROM NOVEMBER 6, 2009

It seems I have had a request from a friend of mine, Robin, to post a special “Beat Dook Lunar Report.” I feel like a disc jockey! (I was going to say, “face jockey,” but that’s just not right.)So – Here ya go, Robin! Some Dook stuff with a personal touch.

Note to my Florida friends: This weekend will not compare with a drunken Gator-Bulldog affair, but Dook is the major rival of the University of North Carolina. The game is tomorrow.

Just a couple of side bars here. When my brother was a toddler, he lived with my parents in Victory Village, the married student housing on the UNC campus at the time. Word has it that his first words were, “Beat Dook.”

Two days after my son was born, the wife and I drove him through the UNC campus and told him that if he decided to attend NC State, we would disown him. If he chose Dook, we would shoot him.

Now to the meat of all this. The UNC-Dook rivalry actually began way before either school had a football team. It began with a major dispute that involved land and bastard children between the Duke family and my family, the Mangums. (My Mom is a Mangum.) There are details in an article written in the Raleigh News and Observer about 15 years ago. The enire article is below. At any rate, the Duke family money went to Trinity College (now Duke University), and the Mangum money went to UNC. And the rivalry began. And it all started with MY family and that miserable Duke family.

So, in a way, I am special here. When my college buds arrive for our annual reunion tomorrow, I expect to be treated in a special way. No more shaking of the beer can before giving it to me to open. No more throwing ice on strangers at the game and then pointing to me as if I threw it. No more peanut shells tossed into my drink at the game. And for the love of God, no more telling the gate security that I’m carrying 10 mini-bottles! No – tomorrow I shall require special treatment. In fact, I shall require that, tomorrow, my buds refer to me as “Mr. Mangum.”

One more thing. As they say around here, “Go to hell, Dook!”

The News & Observer (includes Chapel Hill News) (Raleigh, NC)

The News & ObserverMarch 5, 1994

The UNC-Duke rivalry’s hidden side.  Leading families feuded for years
Author: CRAIG WHITLOCK; STAFF WRITER
Edition: FINALSection: NEWSPage: B1Index
Terms:UNC-CH; Duke;

Washington Duke, Willie P. Mangum HISTORY

Article Text:

It happened long ago, in the year 1794, but just as lustful folks are prone to do these days, Taylor Duke ignored the risks and seduced a local gal by the name of Chaney Mangum.  Duke, a weather-beaten Orange County farmer, figured nobody would learn about the indiscretion, least of all his wife. But when Mangum bore his bastard son nine months later, it blew his cover.

It also ignited one of the most enduring blood feuds ever seen in these parts.  The Dukes, for whom the university is named, and the Mangums, some of the University of North Carolina’s biggest benefactors, have been at loggerheads ever since, with the vendetta spreading to the worlds of business and politics.  And more recently, basketball.  

Tonight, the feud resumes in all its glory when the UNC Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils take the court in Durham.  The winner not only will claim basketball supremacy, but will momentarily gain the upper hand in a family feud that has boiled for 200 years.  

Both clans are rooted in the rural villages of Red Mountain and Bahama, in what is now northern Durham County.  On the surface, the backgrounds are similar.  Both families grew tobacco.  Both thrived in business and influenced politics.But family members, particularly during the 19th century, shuddered at the thought that the Dukes or Mangums had anything in common.   Over the years, they’ve battled over politics, competed for higher social standing and, on occasion, lusted after one another.  

William Preston Mangum II, a family historian, says the two sides don’t fuss as viciously as, say, the gunslinging Hatfields and McCoys.   But they don’t exactly get together for Sunday dinner either.”  I don’t want to say hatred, but underlying these two families is a desire to get the better of each other,” he said in a recent interview at, appropriately, the Washington Duke Inn in Durham.   “There definitely are ill feelings.”

Especially noteworthy is how the families took their rivalry to the rarefied arena of higher education.  The Dukes nurtured fledgling Trinity College in Durham, pumping so much tobacco money into the school that its trustees renamed it Duke University in 1929.  Less publicized is how the Mangums directed their generosity to the state university nine miles away in Chapel Hill.  The Mangums were crucial in helping the university survive its first century.   Willie P. Mangum served on the board of trustees for 43 years.   Adolphus Mangum, a professor, helped reopen the school after the Civil War.   Charles Staples Mangum founded the UNC School of Public Health.   Countless other Mangums graduated from UNC.   A dormitory and several academic awards are named after the family.

The campus connection is where the basketball game fits in.  Both teams have jockeyed all season for the country’s top ranking.   Between them, they’ve won the last three national championships and are two of the most successful programs of all time.  All told, it’s one of the most deep-seated and unforgiving rivalries in the nation.

Taylor Duke couldn’t have known at the time that his amorous urges would cause such a long-lasting fuss.   All he knew was that a comely maiden, Chaney Mangum, had caught his eye.  As can happen when such desires manifest themselves, Chaney Mangum bore a son.   At first, the father’s identity was kept quiet and the adulterous Duke was spared any public shame.   But the secret didn’t last long.  The couple had difficulty containing their affection.   One thing led to another, and the still-unmarried Chaney Mangum had another child.  This time, the Mangums identified Duke as the suspected father in both cases.  Angered by his cavalier attitude, they took him to court and forced him to pay $5 a year in child support.   The judgment was no small debt for the prolific Duke, who had 10 other children.

In the 1800s, the feud extended beyond the bedroom and into the! politic al realm.   For a time, the Mangums reigned supreme, although the Dukes did their best to discredit their neighbors.  Willie P. Mangum was the most famous of the bunch.   An 1815 UNC graduate, he served 23 years in Congress.   He was also a founder of the Whig party and ran for president in 1836.   He carried South Carolina in the election, but not his home state — thanks to opposition from people like the Dukes.  The Dukes were fervent Democratic Republicans and were vocal about it, something that caused Willie Mangum no small amount of consternation.

In the 1830s, a supporter wrote Mangum in Washington to report on the political troublemakers back home.   The writer singled out the Dukes, calling them, with uncanny foresight, part of “a Devilish clan.”  The Mangums weren’t above making fun of the Dukes, either.   One 19th century Mangum noted in his will that he owned a horse named Duke.

After the Civil War, the families’ fortunes changed. The Mangums, part of the Old South’s aristocracy, lost virtually everything. The Dukes, on the other hand, made the most of Reconstruction, thanks to tobacco.  Washington Duke, a legitimate son of Taylor Duke, raised bright leaf tobacco and entered the manufacturing side of the business.   Soon he and his three sons had created a fabulously profitable enterprise.  

Suddenly flush with money, the Dukes didn’t hesitate to throw their weight around.  In 1881, for example, residents of eastern Orange County wanted to split off and form a new county.   The leading proposal was to name it after Willie P. Mangum, the former lawmaker.  But Washington Duke nixed the idea.   He vowed to yank the Dukes’ considerable assets from the area if he had to live in Mangum County.   The threat worked: The jurisdiction became known as Durham County.  

The mostly forgotten conflict is detailed in Willie Mangum’s papers, stored at the Southern Histo! rical Collection in Chapel Hill.  “A lot of people have never heard that before,” says William Preston Mangum, the family historian. “But it’s a true story.”

After two centuries, the feud has cooled somewhat, no longer colored by nasty court battles or political fights.   But the two families remain ever loyal to their respective schools.   The Duke kids still go to their university.   And virtually all the Mangums go to UNC.  The bumper sticker on William P. Mangum’s Oldsmobile reveals as much: “Tar Heel by birth, Carolinian by the grace of God.”

Copyright 1994 by The News & Observer Pub. Co.Record Number: RNOB172307