Saturday, July 30, 2016

Florida Rain

It just rained.

That's a good thing. But sometimes it's not. Let's start with the good.

Living in Florida it's a given it's hot. The winters are delightful. The summers? Not so much.

You put up with (and complain about) the oppressive heat in the summer to enjoy shorts and t-shirts in the winter.

With the heat, when it's dry, you learn about brown lawns. Ask your neighbors, they have the same worries that you have. And those lines on their forehead when it's hot and dry? Those are concern lines.

So when the rain comes they're happy.

But, not so fast.

Up north when you have a thunderstorm it's just a thunderstorm. Down here? Thunderstorms will scare you half to death. It's still just rain but oh, the black clouds, oh, the thunder and lightning, and oh, the skies opening up. It's quite a show.

What rain means to most people has a different meaning for me.

It means green lawns for many, but for me it means I don't have to water my wife's plants and flowers. That may not sound like a big deal to you but it's a big deal to me.

Now bad rain.

Never forget Florida is the land of the hurricane. The University of Miami football team is called The Hurricanes for cryin' out loud.

So you get the picture.

I've never been anywhere where the weather on television has so many attentive viewers.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard my guy, weatherman Tom Sorrells, say, "And in the tropics the weather is..." That's a big deal here and everyone, including me, leans forward when he says that.

Hurricanes begin in the tropics. I didn't know that before I moved here. I do now. People here know when hurricane season begins and breathe a sigh of relief when it ends.

That's bad rain.

So, I'm always happy when it rains, it brings the heat down as well as the humidity. It makes the grass green and the foliage lush.

But, there's always a bit of a feeling in the back of your mind that maybe not this time but...

Living in Florida.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Things Women Say To Women That Guys Don't Say To Guys

My wife Denise, says things to her friends that I never say to mine.

Here are a few examples.

"Nice Top."

They actually say that to each other.

My wife and her friends put on a fashion show for each other showing off new clothes. She does that for me and I have to admit I like it but the nice top thing...

"I don't leave the house without lipstick or makeup."

Granted there are women who don't do all that but there are many who preach to some section of that choir. My sister said when she was younger, she stopped by Denise's apartment and found her vacuuming in full makeup. That's my glamour girl. Guys I know don't think that way. And they definitely don't say things like that to each other.

Next time you go out take a close look at the guys. Unshaven, goofy shoes, goofier clothes. Women are cats, men are dogs. My sister has always said, "Dogs will be dogs and men will be dogs." But I think she was talking about something else.

"You smell good."

I've heard this, as well, said by my wife to one of her friends. On the one hand it's an innocent way to find a new scent. If a guy says that to another guy you might get the look. Gotta be honest I have said that to a fella, it's how you say it that counts. But as a rule it's not in my everyday conversation.

"Love your hair."

Women say this all the time. I guess since they go to the hair dresser, use curlers, curling irons, it's okay to say things like this. Guys go to barbershops. The most you'll hear is, "You got a haircut." That's pretty much it.

"I used to wear a nine in an open toed sandal."

Truth is I don't know where to go with this. Once again, I heard my wife say this to a friend. I don't know if it falls under the category of things women say that guys don't. OR. The 'I shouldn't have heard that' category.

Okay, up I go on my soap box.

I'm married, have been for awhile. You've heard the saying, "Happy wife happy life."  Also to quote Kenny Rogers, "You've got to know when to hold 'em know when to fold 'em."

And when to keep your thoughts to yourself.

Pick your spots my friend.

And when you hear your Lady say things like these?

Nod your head and keep moving.

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

My Mother In Law

This was printed in the Orlando Sentinel on July 23, 2016.

My mother in law lives with us.

Margaret Hall. That's her given name, she goes by Peggy.

My kids know her just as Grandma. She has made a big difference in our lives and in a good way.

First of all, Peggy cooks, and our fridge is full of leftovers in Tupperware containers. Can you say, "Ain't the beer cold?" I think you can. What does she cook? All kinds of things...yummy meat loaf, tasty baked ziti, chili to die for, scrumptious potatoes, and she is a whiz with the Crock-pot. Breakfast is now omelets, bacon, and toast. She loves tomatoes, so now they're in salads as well as in the omelets.

Our house went from smelling like dog to smelling like heaven.

And she bakes, too.

Cakes, pies, brownies. She once made a "mistake" with a chocolate-pudding pie that we thought was dee-lish. We've been calling for that mistake ever since.

Here's an even better thing.

My kids used to eat dinner on our long kitchen counter while watching "Sponge Bob" or "Kipper the Dog." Dinner was a kind of mishmash with people eating at different times. We now have dinner, together, at the dining room table. That may sound like it's nothing but that wouldn't be true.

When my kids talk to their kids about this time, it'll be gold. Guess who loves it the most? Me. Peggy and I have great conversations after the meal and I do mean great. We talk about everything which reminds me of my grandmother, Nana.

Hazel Francis, my mother's mother.

She lived in New York, but when I got older, still a young man, she came to Maryland to live with us. As a gift and a taste of home, I got her a subscription to the New York paper, The Daily News. One day I asked her if she read them. "Every one. You know why?" she asked. "Because, I like to talk and to do that you have to know what you're talking about."

I've never forgotten that.

Well, Peggy likes to talk, I do too, and really knows what she's talking about.

Interesting conversations.

I'll tell you another thing.

Every Sunday, off we go to church. The boys have been, Denise has been too, but it's usually just me and Peggy. What began as just driving her to church has turned into this wonderful thing. We see people that have become friends, the minister's sermons are great, and Peggy knows all the hymns and sings along.

Those are just a few of the good things that Peggy brought to us.

Did I mention she's 87?

We should all be so cool at 87.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016


My twins belong to a swim team, the Tiger Sharks.

The Tiger Sharks have been league champions since 2000. That led to my brother's famous declaration, "Break up the Tiger Sharks!"

Their mother is behind their involvement. Summer break is short for kids but long for parents. So in that vein Mom said, "They're not sitting around playing video games all summer!"

That sitting around playing video games thing runs rampant with kids. I know, I've talked to their parents. Plus Mom decided it would be good exercise for our boys, so off they went kicking and screaming.

The boys began this whole thing five years ago. At first when Griffin dove into the pool off of the blocks to start a race the vision of a man falling out of a window from a burning building came to mind.

I used to call it synchronized drowning.

They have morning swim practice as well as evening.  Evening practice begins at 5, morning practice begins at 8. Have you ever tried to get your kids up at 7:30? In summer break? After they've been up all night? When they really don't want to get up?

Difficult is a good word.

Over the years times have changed.

Oh, it's still a hassle getting them out of bed and for five years I've heard Miles say, right around four thirty in the afternoon, "It looks like rain."

But, they've gone from novices to torpedoes.
Griffin and Miles

The ribbons have gone from fifth place to third place to first place ribbons. Miles tears it up in freestyle and butterfly. Griffin is amazing in breast stroke and they both are major forces in the relays.

I grew up in Maryland.

There wasn't an outdoor pool all year round. We had a pool season. Memorial Day to Labor Day. If you were looking for a pool in November? It was indoors and it had a vague smell of feet.

What it didn't have was a vague smell of me because I never went there.

So when we moved to Florida we found out there are pools all over the place. We even swim on Christmas. I have. Water polo and swim team make big sense here.

As for my sons, the tummies are gone, the baby fat is gone, and what is coming to the forefront are lean mean fighting machines.

They're twelve now, they've expressed interest in other sports, baseball, soccer, basketball. I think those sports are on the horizon.

But for now?


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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Dallas, Louisiana, Minnesota

Let me be clear.

You should never shoot a police officer. Ever. They are the ones who protect us, they are the ones who we look for when things go wrong. They are the ones who run towards the inferno when all of us are running away from it. They are the good guys.

Never do it.


My heart and prayers go out to the families in Dallas that are left behind. Children who will never truly know their father. Wives who are now widows. Families who now will have one less setting at dinner.

It's a cliche to say it's been a terrible week. Heck, it's been a terrible year.

I'm black.

Have been my whole life.

I'm not here to talk about vengeance I'm here to talk about justice.

When I was younger this is what my father told me to do if I was ever pulled over by the police: put your hands on the steering wheel where he could see them. Hands at 10 and 2. Be cordial and polite, "Yes, officer," and "No, officer."

And don't forget to smile.

To avoid appearing to be a threat.

But there seems to be a difference if you're white.

One day, at CBS, my boss was a bit late getting to work and was hot under the collar when he arrived. Turns out he got pulled over because he was going too fast. He then said the words I couldn't believe, "I gave the officer a piece of my mind." Incredulous, I thought, "You can't do that." That quickly turned into I can't do that.

He did get the ticket and was soon on his way.

If I did what he had done I'd probably have been taken downtown.

Or worse.

You all know the reason why people were protesting in Dallas in the first place. You know the news out of Louisiana, out of Minnesota.

The news out of too many more places.

I'm the father now. I have sons. What do I tell them? Do I tell them I worry every time they go out? Do I tell them to not appear to be a threat? Do I tell them to always be on guard?

How does one do that?

My boys are good boys. Innocent boys. Polite boys. Smart boys. Kind and decent boys.

The world is a dangerous place.

If something ever happened to them I'd be devastated.

I'm not here to talk about vengeance I'm here to talk about justice.

And kindness.

And love.

And to tell you I'm worried.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Thoughts, Thoughts, Thoughts

Have you been watching drug ads on television lately?

I have and I wait for the part that starts, "Side effects include..." And then they're off and running. Those 'side effects include' take up waaay too much of the commercial. Sometimes they're worse than what brought you there in the first place.

I don't know about you but I'm sitting at home thinking, "I hope I never have to take that."

And what is Restless Leg Syndrome?

I've lived a long life and I've never heard of anyone having it.

It used to be, you drank coffee, the caffeine caused you to tap your foot or talk too fast or bounce your leg.

We used to call that having too much coffee.

It's now called Restless Leg Syndrome.

Can I interest you in some Decaf?


It seems more and more I find out I suffer from things I've never heard of.

Talk to your doctor.

And, since we're talking, when did television shows go from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to The Walking Dead? Yeah, yeah, I get gritty and good writing and all that. I'm just saying it's hard to watch shows like the latter without thinking someone or something is coming to your house to get you.

In fact there are vampires and monsters and things that go bump in the night all over screens, big and small.

All out to get you.

I've been saying, "Yet another movie I won't see," for like forever.

I'm funny in that things that make me stay up at night or get me jumpy as all get out, I avoid. I also  try to avoid things that would like to eat me.

Have you been seeing the trailer for this new Purge movie? You can go see it if you want to but when you're there look around the movie theater.

You won't see me.

Call me a wuss if you want to but I'll pop the corn and watch Bull Durham.


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