Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Cousins Come For Vacation

This picture was taken eight years ago. You see my twins (that's Griffin with his eyes closed and Miles holding his arm up) and my brother Kirk's daughter, Sweet Tatum.

When Kirk worked in Tampa he said our kids should get to know each other and also said he was determined to make that happen. So he and his family would make the trek to Orlando a lot and that's how it began.

Over the years a couple of things have happened. Even though they now live in Maryland they still come here in June for a week of McEwen Time plus his family has gotten bigger.

Ladies and gentlemen meet Cauley.

He's my brother's first son and Tatum's first brother.

Cauley is now six. He's a big boy who loves Spider Man and hamburgers with nothing on them among other things. The other cousins are teenagers now who like rap and cool sneakers among other things.

It's funny, they look like they all could be in the same family.

When they get here the first thing are the hugs and the kisses and the second is the planning on what to do.

My brother and I had done some head bonking earlier and we had come up with a few ideas.

I say proudly that I've seen the movie The Incredibles 2 twice. That was one of the adventures we had planned. At the theater Cauley had his popcorn, Griffin had his, and off we went.

Cauley was great, loved the movie, and if you're playing at home, a cartoon feature about super heroes is a good way to go for him.

Can I say something as a proud Dad? Miles was cute and kinda chubby as a kid. He's become this tall handsome dude. I had to say that.

Okay back to the show.

The hot tub.

Full disclosure, the whole hot tub thing escapes me. The sitting in hot, chlorinated, bubbling water, is not my cup of tea. Ours is a gift from a friend and I've never been in it.


The cousins had a ball. They went from our pool to the hot tub and back. A good time was had by all.

When they weren't wet or on the go they hung out around the house. Dinner one night was pizza, New York style. I warned them to watch out for our, looking like she isn't paying attention but always is, dog Lola. She's sweet as can be and happy to snatch your food if she can.

I'm happy to note we had no incidents the whole time.
One of my twins, Griffin, makes videos. He has his own Youtube channel and has over 3000 fans. Guess who was enthralled by them?

If you said Cauley you would be right.

Watching them watching his videos touched my heart. Plus Griffin turned into an A plus babysitter. Who knew?

These are things they'll tell their children.

Go Kart racing, Boing (a place where kids bounce on trampolines and play bouncing dodge ball) were a couple of stops on Cauley's itinerary.

And then the beach.

Yet another thing I've been banned from.

After about an hour of the sweating and the sand and the heat I'm ready to go home.

My wife on the other hand?

Nolo problemo.

Did I mention Tatum likes the beach, too? I told my brother, "danger straight ahead with her," she's that pretty. "I know, I know," he said. He also says she looks like the new Duchess, Meghan Markle.

That she does.

Back to my wife.

She is more than happy to tan and be at the beach for hours. She elected to to take them there and I was more than happy to oblige.

So early one morning she filled up the cooler with ice and drinks and snacks. The trunk was full of beach chairs and towels and boogie boards. The gas tank was full and the cousins came down the stairs with their bathing suits on.

They also had sunblock but they came home hours later burnt anyway.

They had a great time.

Yet another adventure.

There were more fun filled activities but that's pretty much how the week went.

Stopping to get ice cream and eating it sitting at their patio picnic tables. The kids going to the mall to just walk around and see other kids.

The last day was spent hanging by the pool. And dinner was Dad's famous (or not so famous) spaghetti which they lapped up.

I drove them to the airport for the flight home.

Another Cousin Vacation in the books.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

My Lola

There are cat people and there are dog people. Me? I'm a dog guy.

Miles, Griffin, Lola, and Jenna
In my life there's been seven of them. Mister Buster, Pax, Donnegan, Casey, Fairchild, Marley, and now Lola.

What, you say? It seems everyone has a dog and everyone has written about their dog? I answer back with, "there's just one thing, mine is special."

I say to Lola every day, "Of all the dogs there ever were, you're the best dog ever." She just wags her tail and licks my face.

She has a great life.

She sleeps on our bed and she goes on long walks (FYI you have to spell walk when talking about one or she starts barking). She sometimes gets ground beef or chicken mixed in with her dog food and she gets asked all the time by one of my twins as he's petting her, "Who's a good girl?"

The correct answer is Lola is.
Griffin, Lola on one of her beds, and Miles

She does so many things well, one of them is she keeps the world safe from squirrels.

Lola is very fast and after my brother saw her run he said, "She has closing speed." I take her to a nearby park and let her off her leash. That park has a big soccer field and if a squirrel dares to venture onto that field and Lola's there? Well let's just say they've been warned.

She's a Goldendoodle.

I had never heard of them before I had one. This is how she came to be--I wanted a dog and I didn't want a small one. I wanted a bigger dog, so I suggested a Golden Retriever but my wife said no because they shed. She talked about hair being everywhere and said in no uncertain terms that she wasn't going to vacuum it up.

She suggested a Poodle.

I said no way and might have said something about them being trimmed like hedges. So there we were at an impasse. One day we went to a restaurant to have breakfast with our kids and on our way out we saw this cute as a button brown dog. We asked the owner what kind of dog he was.

"A Goldendoodle," he answered.

Licking My Maya.
She named Lola Lola.
"They're great with kids, extremely smart, extremely sweet. And get this," he continued, "they don't shed."

A compromise had been reached.

Next thing I knew I was in our car with my wife and her mother heading towards a puppy to be named Lola. After we picked her up and as we were leaving to go home my wife wanted to sit in the back seat with her while I drove. There's just one thing, I wanted to sit in the back with her sitting on my lap and bonding with me on the way home.

Well after threatening to hold my breath until I turned blue I won out. But. They say don't mess with karma. Lola threw up on me three times on the way home. The sound I heard was my wife and mother-in-law laughing all the way to our house.

She had a crate to sleep in and that night we made the mistake of leaving her in the playroom. After much howling we brought Lola into the bedroom and everything after that, as they say, was Jake.

Lola left Griffin right
Did someone say smart?

If she's out front running free and a neighbor comes by with their dog of course she runs toward them. But if you say, "Lola, come here," she turns around and comes right back.

That, my friends, is gold.

What's so funny is she wouldn't hurt a fly and has never bitten anyone but if the doorbell rings she barks, sounding like she's ten feet tall. Plus when the garbage truck rumbles by or the kids are playing in the street she's also been known to bark.

File that second one under,"I thought I heard something."

Like most dogs she loves to go for a ride in the car with me. Lola sits in the passenger seat and more than one person at a stop light has laughed when they see her. When we had a Jeep she would put her head out of the top of it.
Lola and the sun roof

One time the house was full of fleas and ticks because of you know who. Since she's been known to sleep on the bed with us I was a scratchin' and a kickin'. It seems funny now but wasn't so funny then.

Because she's half Golden and half Poodle sometimes when she get's groomed she looks like a Retriever and sometimes like a full blown Poodle.

But always dear and always sweet.

I say her full name is Lola The Dog and whether I'm up or down, happy or sad, she's always the same loving Lola.

One of the best friends I've ever had.

Miles, Lola and Griffin

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Long Hot Summer

This was printed in the Orlando Sentinel June 12, 2018.

Summer break is upon us and I have a house full of kids.  Home from school.
Griffin and Miles
Well, not a house full but I have twins and they can make it seem like there are many, many, more of them.

I think I speak for most parents when I say summer break seemed long as a kid and seems even longer as a parent.

What to do?

Swim team was fun for them when they were younger.  For about an hour. We live next door to a country club that has a pool and my wife was determined that they would have something to do for the summer. So swim raised its head for them. They had two swim practices every day. One in the morning and one in the early evening.

First, morning practice. At 8. Ayem. Can you say, "Yeesh?" I think you can. Getting your sons up that early when they've been up half the night playing video games was no easy task. It's like waking a bear up in the middle of hibernation.

Second, there were evening practices which began at 5. Every day at 4:30 one of my twins would say, "Looks like rain."

Every day.

The meets were fun.
Watching them in races was fun. Watching them get better and better was fun and then... they got older and the first thing that went bye bye was swimming.

One of the fun things about being a parent and getting older in general is your memory gets a bit fuzzy. I couldn’t tell you what they did in summers after that if my life depended on it.

Okay, they're 14 now and money has become extremely popular with them. This I know. They figured out you can buy 'things' with it and go 'places' with it as well. Things tend to be more video games and places tend towards movies like The Avengers and The Black Panther.  So off we went to Publix to fill out applications to work there bagging groceries.

One was like, “I have a very busy schedule and I’m only available to work on Saturday afternoons.” Sounds like he has a lot to do, right? Actually most of it is bupkis, nada, whatever you want to call it.

The other one was like, “If I work every day I’ll bring home $150 a week! Cool!”

Turns out the kids working there are in high school and since mine go to ninth grade next semester it was a no go.

Close but no cigar.

We did go to the Y together today. That’s something, right?
Miles and Griffin
In younger days

It’s barely June.

Like I said, “Looong.”

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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Old School

Here's a bit of sunshine.

When I was a younger and music that wasn't Ella or Frank came out a lot of moms and dads everywhere just about lost their minds. They didn't like it and they didn't care who knew.

Now it's my turn to be dissatisfied.

Music today, not all of it but a lot of it, doesn't move me like the songs did in yesteryear. Here are some old songs that still move me today.

I promised sunshine.

First up-Anita Baker.

Sweet Love is the song and it's a great one.

When I first heard it my first thought was, "Who is that?" The video was all over MTV and Anita dancing, Anita sexily dancing, got me every time. And don't get me going on all the candles. You know what else got me every time? When she sings, "You're my man, I'm your girl."

You had me at hello.

Once I was at the luggage carousel at the San Francisco airport waiting for my bag. Who do I see? Michael McDonald.  What a Fool Believes anyone? I slide up to him, we're talking, and I tell him that I think he should do a version of this song. He nods politely, our bags come and he leaves.

He still hasn't done it.

I still think he should.

Next-Sly and the Family Stone. Old song. We all know Dance to the Music how could you not?

When it comes on in my car I still turn it up.  Every.time. Here's the thing, it's not a 'song' song as we know it. It has no repeating chorus. No words of love. No hook. It's a rave up. Simple as that.

And a straight out first rate jam.

I was 14 when it first came out and it slays me to this day.

Listen to the voices...

How about Madonna? The song is Angel. The album is Like A Virgin.

I'm not a huge Madonna fan but this one has been one of my favorites forever. It came out in 1985 and has gotten under my skin ever since. Produced by the great Nile Rogers who was brought to us by the band Chic. He sure knows his stuff.

Listen to the break in the middle.

Listen to the back ground music.

Listen to the ending.

All totally hot.

Here's one I bet you didn't see coming...Set Adrift On Memory Bliss by PM Dawn.

When it comes on there's no mistaking it which is another way of saying it doesn't sound like anything else. Spandau Ballet's song True is the skeleton on which this is built. It's dreamy. It has a great beat. PM Dawn look like hippies from outer space. Who are they? Where are they from? Where did they go?

No answers. Just enjoy.

Last but not least if I were to say House of Pain, Jump Around? What would you say?

First of all, this video is busy. Pure mayhem. Second of all, the song is choice. This has been on my iPod and now my iPhone for a long, long, time. Ask rappers today about it, they know it. How many people have danced and sweat to this in the clubs?

I'm betting a lot.

One of my forever favorites.

And that's a taste of some of my Old School.

And a bit of sunshine.

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Monday, June 4, 2018

Cathy Black

My dear friend and former entertainment producer's father passed away.

His name is Reverend Charles A. Black Senior. He was a wonderful man. And he helped bring into this world his wonderful daughter.

Let me tell you a bit about Cathy.

When we first met she was answering phones for the anchor of our show, CBS This Morning, Harry Smith. I stopped by to see him and introduced myself. She smiled and said, "I'm Cathy," and it was on. By the way, she had a mouthful of braces, that's how long ago it was.

In subsequent chats I found out she wanted to produce pieces, and since I didn't have a producer, fate kind of brought us together.

One of the best decisions fate has ever made.

At first I produced the pieces and after two or three I said, "Okay, your turn. You do the next one by yourself." The look on her face was priceless. She did and it was very good. 

In fact Cathy became one of the best producers at CBS.

We covered the Grammys, the Oscars, the Golden Globes, the Country Music Awards plus every junket with every star imaginable.

For those who don't know, a junket is when all of us reporters see a movie and interview stars from that movie. Whoopi, Tom Hanks, Madonna, Harrison Ford, Will Smith, and on and on.

We became so simpatico that I would never have to micro manage.  I would just say this or that should be in the piece and the rest, "is up to you."

"Just make it look good," I would add.

She did and they always were as shiny as a new diamond. Thank you, Miss Cathy.

She was my daughter Maya's first baby sitter. After Maya's mom and I had our very first free night, we came home to a quiet Cathy Black. I wondered what was up and went upstairs to check on my Maya. As I got closer and closer the air smelled more pungent. Maya's diaper was full of you know what.

Turns out Cathy had never changed a diaper before! Too funny!

Cathy and I saw everything and went everywhere and the pieces were always a joint effort. Me and her. Watch this interview with a young Alicia Keys. It's a bit washed out because it's over 15 years old but you'll see what I'm talking about. Cathy produced this and especially watch when it goes from Alicia playing Fallin' live to the video of Fallin'.

That's all her.

People in the control room about fell off their chairs.

After I left CBS and suffered my stroke she was right there.
As I was recuperating Cathy was behind the effort to get me back on the network. I returned to fill in and do the weather.

After my book came out and was nominated for 'Books For A Better Life', Cathy was with me that night. There was a dinner after my TED Talk and Cathy was my dinner date.

It's hard to forget things like that.

Now the Reverend Charles A. Black Senior, her father.

When your closeasthis friend is from Kentucky you hardly ever meet their family. I met her father once.

Strange enough it was after the fireworks of the network and it was here in Florida after my stroke. Cathy brought her family to my house and her father was charming, nice and sweet.

I may have met him just one time but that memory is seared, in a great way, into my brain.
Standing l-r Charles Black Jr., son-in-law Ray Rivera, Scotty, Daughter Bonita,
Mother and Wife Juanita, Leland and Cathy.
Front-Reverend Charles Black, Sr.

He went to Fayetteville Teacher's College where he had a full ride for football and he's in their Hall of Fame. As you can guess he taught and has PHDs, as in plural.

He was a minister at many congregations and raised monies for a lot of charities.  He and Mrs. Black served lunch daily at the Salvation Army in Lexington for many years.

And he could sing. Very well.

Wears me out just writing that. And that's just some of what he did. All in all a special man.

Rest In Peace, Kind Sir, Rest In Peace.

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