Bound for the Rock

Posted in Family, Movies, TV with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2019 by macmystery
alcatraz-map
Tomorrow (later this morning, actually), I’m lucky enough to be heading to tour Alcatraz with friends, the Winston family and part of the Rothschild family. (Thank you, Will.)
 
I’ve seen the Rock from afar, but will actually get a close-up view for the first time, and it brings up a strange but treasured memory from when I was young.
 
There was a classic movie from 1962 called The Birdman of Alcatraz starring Burt Lancaster. It’s an old black-and-white picture about an inmate who worked with birds. But when I was a kid, maybe 7 or 8, I had no idea.
 
I’m sure we saw a promo for a re-run of the old movie on TBS or something. And somehow, my sister, then 5 or 6, and I crafted this character, the Birdman of Alcatraz. And we would take turns wearing a blanket around our neck as a cape and swooping around the den trying to get the other. Michele would say, “I’m a jail bird,” without any idea what that really meant. Just the things that kids do.
 
It’s goofy. But for whatever reason, all these years later, it has stuck in my head, like so many other seemingly meaningless things that, in all actuality, are the things you remember. And tomorrow when I’m seeing a famous prison for the first time, an unhappy place for a lot of people, I won’t be able to help but think about happy memories.

Memorial Day … why just one day?

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on June 1, 2019 by macmystery
MikeMug

I look like a disgruntled something or other.

 

In my relatively new gig as the editor of The Island News, I wrote a column last week about the way we celebrate Memorial Day and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we might be free.

I figured I might as well start sharing my columns here. And this is the first one.

The premise is this … why do we celebrate our fallen patriots only one day a year? Shouldn’t we do better to honor them?

I make that argument here …

Henry Damn Kissinger!

Posted in History, Humor, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2019 by macmystery
HenryKissinger

Henry Kissinger once dated Murphy Brown.

I took the Jeopardy online test tonight. This marks the third year in a row I’ve taken the test in an effort to compete on the show.

I wish I could say I felt like I was progressing. The first time I took it was a disaster. Last year was better, but obviously not good enough to move on to the second step in the process.

This time, I feel like I may have gotten half of the questions. I just can’t see that being good enough.

Each year, there have been questions I knew the answer to that I have failed to get the correct response typed in the 15 seconds provided for each of the 50 questions. And I know I have just dropped the ball on questions.

Tonight, I simply could not remember Henry Kissinger’s name. I knew he was the answer. I could see his face. But the name was a blank.

So as a response, as I often do when I miss a question at trivia or don’t know something for some reason, I spent some time reading about Mr. Kissinger.

Most of it is and was old hat for me.

He was a German-born Jewish refugee who fled to the United States with his family when Hitler took power. Harvard educated. Advisor to Lyndon B. Johnson. Secretary of State for both Richard M. Nixon and Gerald Ford. Crafted détente with China. Supported coup in Chile. Supported Pakistan in Bangladesh war despite genocide. Won 1973 Nobel Prize for peace  process in Vietnam. Still alive.

But as I was reading about Kissinger on the wonderful World Wide Web, there were three facts I had never known that I found quite interesting.

  1. In his younger years, Kissinger was quite a ladies man before marrying. Among his celebrity girlfriends was Candice Bergen. That’s right, … Henry Kissinger dated Murphy Brown.
  2. After being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943, Kissinger completed his basic military training at Camp Croft in Spartanburg, S.C. This fact may not be stunning for most, but I lived in Spartanburg for 15 years. Camp Croft was an important U.S. Army training post in World War II that has not existed for decades. It is gone. There are no remains. It’s a state park, and if you’ve been there, you’d be hard-pressed to prove thee was a military base there. I’m always a little surprised anytime I find out someone did their basic training there.
  3. And last but not least, in 1976, Kissinger became the first honorary member of the Harlem Globetrotters. An obvious choice, I think. If you had Kissinger in the pool, enjoy the spoils.

And that’s all I’ve got. I mean, it’s Henry Kissinger.

Back in the game

Posted in Family, Journalism with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2019 by macmystery

My first issue as editor of The Island News.

I posted something akin to this on Facebook a little more than a week ago, I guess, but I’m just getting around to posting it here.

The name of my blog is Raising Two Americans, a reference to my two kids. The subhead of sorts initially read “Tackling life as a husband, a father and a journalist.”

Funny thing is that in the almost 10 years since I started, everything about those headers has been shaken up.

I am not a husband. My wife informed me almost 5 years ago that she was no longer interested in being married. Of course, that’s no longer mentioned on the masthead above this post.

I am still a father, of course. How good of one I am, some people may call into question. But nonetheless, my children reside with their mother.

And, practically, I ceased being a journalist on Feb. 22, 2016 when I was laid off at my McClatchy newspaper. Though, in spirit, I have remained a journalist, even if I was not being paid as such.

(Working or not, I will gladly embrace the Donald Trump title “enemy of the people.” Opposing Trump is a badge of honor I will wear proudly until the day I leave this life.)

Currently, the top of the page reads “and former journalist.” It’s safe to say that’s no longer accurate.

I am now the editor of The Island News, a weekly newspaper that covers northern Beaufort County in South Carolina.

It pays but won’t pay the bills. It’s not a full-time gig. I’m still employed at Randel’s Lawnmowers Equipment Sales and Service to make ends meet. But it’s a nice bump.

And I’m back in the game.

The Island News is a typical small-town weekly. At the small end of the small-town spectrum.

There are a lot of community event pictures and rewritten press releases. But the new owners have goals of something bigger — filling the void left when the local paper, The Beaufort Gazette, basically abandoned its hometown.

And there is a lot of potential. But there is little staff.

Also, I’ll admit I like the job. Almost too much. While I needed a break after getting laid off, I will admit I may not have realized how much I missed the grind. It was time to get back.

Given the landscape, I’ll never get back into newspapers. Not in the big sense. But this job gives me the opportunity to play a constructive role in the community I have chosen to make my own.

And maybe one day, it’ll be more than a part-time gig.

But right now, it’s a positive. And given the way 2019 has gone for me personally, I needed it. It’s given me a little hope I have been lacking.

And a reason to change “former journalist” back to “journalist.”

Gaining even more respect for my father

Posted in Family with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2019 by macmystery

A week or so ago, after picking my kids up for the weekend on Friday evening in Columbia, we stopped for dinner at Lizard’s Thicket near the airport.

For the unfamiliar, Lizard’s Thicket is a small chain of meat-and-three style restaurants in the Columbia area. Like Cracker Barrel, Dylan and Ella are fond of their food.

As we entered, I noticed and elderly man and his wife – I assumed – sitting opposite one another in a booth near the front of the restaurant. There was a walker stationed at the end of the table, and the woman looked quite frail, leading me to believe it was her walker rather than his.

I took notice because he looked tired, like a caregiver. I recognize this from watching my father descend over the years as he cared for my mother. By the time my mother passed in 2012, my father was a shell of the man I knew growing up. He had aged 50 years in 15.

Though he tried, the smile wasn’t the same. He dealt with blood pressure issues and depression, and my mother’s situation, and stubborn streak born out of fear, contributed to the accelerated demise of my father’s professional and military careers.

But he soldiered on. I heard my grandmother tell my mother once that she was lucky. Most men would have left and my father did not.

Statistically speaking, she was right. Noted and bloated TV psychologist/talking head Dr. Phil says 100 percent of relationships where one partner is a caregiver end in failure. I don’t think that’s 100 percent accurate, but I’ve no doubt it’s close.

As I watched my father, the best man I’ve ever known, struggle, I was not much help. I just hoped the strain and stress wouldn’t win. Once when my mother was being particularly difficult about something, I told her that if she killed him before she lost her battle to the myriad illnesses that were slowly taking her, I would never forgive her.

I haven’t endured what my father did, but my divorce several years ago and, more recently, the end of a serious relationship have hit me hard. I deal with anxiety, struggle to sleep, and quite frankly, I’m admittedly depressed.

Almost seven years ago, a freak occurrence – my mother banged her leg on the pole under a table at a restaurant – led to a heart attack and, eventually, my mother’s passing.

In the seven years since, my father is again the man I knew when I – and he – was younger. He smiles more, talks more, and his wonderful, dry, sometimes dark sense of humor is back. Despite a knee replacement several years ago, he is more active than he was 10 years ago.

He was lucky. My sister and I are lucky. If my mother had lived another 5 years, there is no doubt in my mind that my father would not have. I’m not sure if that would make him among Dr. Phil’s 100 percent or not.

Back to the couple at the Lizard’s Thicket. Though their interactions went unnoticed to my kids, I watched. I do this often in public.

The woman was lost. She could barely feed herself and appeared on the verge of tears the entire meal.

He did things for her. But he was not kind. It troubled him. It was like he had somewhere else to be, something else to do and she was keeping him from it. He was annoyed. He once yelled at her that the potatoes were not hot.

Then, when it came time to leave, he stood and waited for her to get up, while holding her walker at the ready. When it took more time than he anticipated, he banged her walker on the floor repeatedly in frustration.

I wanted to cry.

As bad as a look as it was for him, I don’t blame him. I don’t know that he’s a bad person. It’s quite possible that he’s just tired. Beyond all human limits. He’s at his end, and the fact that’s he’s still going is in itself an accomplishment.

That didn’t make it better for her. You could tell she was struggling emotionally, not just physically. She just couldn’t “do” anymore. And like most people in this country, they likely don’t have the means to make things any better for themselves, to get care for her above what he can provide himself.

All of this makes me even more grateful for my father. I’ve never told him that enough.

He never bailed on my mother, though at this point in my life, I can’t say I would blame him if he had. He could have tried to make his life better. He instead tried to make my mother’s better. And is still trying to do the same for my sister and me.

If I live to be half the man my father has been, it will be an accomplishment.

An anthem and a beating: The irony of a shared date

Posted in History, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2019 by macmystery

I watched no TV today so I have no idea if I missed anyone else making this connection. I didn’t see it on social media. Maybe I’m the only one who finds it ironic.

On this day, March 3, in 1931, President Herbert Hoover officially made Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner the national anthem of the United States.

Sixty years later in 1991, George Holliday’s 89-second video captured Rodney King’s brutal beating at the hands of four Los Angeles Police Department officers on the side of California State Route 210.

Thanks to Colin Kaepernick, these two totally unrelated moments in American history will be forever linked.

The first viral video somehow wasn’t enough to convict the four LAPD officers, at least initially, of excessive force. (2 of the 4 were later convicted on federal charges.)

And the King beating wasn’t the first time a black citizen (I am making no statement about King’s innocence or guilt.) has been mistreated by police, to put it lightly. But it was one of the few times, thanks to the video, the whole world could witness it.

It was also the moment when I realized the people I’d been taught all my life were the good guys, the people you could always trust, … well, they weren’t always what we were led to believe.

I never feared the police. If I passed an officer on the road, if I wasn’t speeding, I thought nothing of it. My friend Tyrone Walker once told me, though, that anytime a cop was even behind him on the road, he was afraid. And it took me a while to comprehend where Tyrone, a black man, was coming from. But I did. If I hadn’t, I would have gained some insight two summers ago.

I was pulled over by a white Beaufort police officer driving my boss’ truck for work. I was going 45 in a 35, and as it turns out, had an expired tag and no current registration or proof of insurance. And a truck full of equipment I couldn’t prove was mine.

No ticket.

Not even for the speeding. A warning.

I’ve no doubt if I were black, I’d have spent some time face down on the pavement in cuffs. I know why.

There’s a bullshit double standard in this country.

The King video obviously didn’t stop bad behavior by law enforcement. It was just the first in a long line of videos and accounts of police misconduct when it comes to black citizens and motorists. Often they end up shot dead. And usually, no one is held accountable.

Just this week, the Sacramento police officers who killed a black man in his grandmother’s yard for talking on a cell phone found out they would not be charged with a crime.

Meanwhile, in Florida, a white mayor opened fire on police but was taken into custody without any violence.

I honestly had no intention of being this long winded, just pointing out the connection between two events, 60 years apart, on the same date. But thinking about it, I’ve found it’s one more thing about our society that seems upside down to me.

The decision by Kaepernick and others to kneel during the anthem to protest this continued mistreatment of black American citizens offended some people. Despite a clear definition of what they were protesting and a clear right to do so, some insist on seeing it as a slight on the military. (Never mind the issue some of these folks have with color.)

Fine. Have it your way. Be offended.

I’m offended more supposedly good people don’t give a damn about American citizens being beaten or shot to death by the very people paid to serve and protect them, simply for the color of their skin.

At the finish line at last, R.I.P Silver Fox

Posted in Journalism, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2018 by macmystery

 

David Pearson

David Pearson

Born and raised in Georgia, I reside now in Beaufort, S.C., in the Lowcountry of the Palmetto State. But for roughly 15 years, Spartanburg County in the state’s upcountry was my home. My two children were born there.

Working for the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, I immersed myself in the area’s sports history, if not its history in general. And that included learning all about David Pearson.

Pearson died Monday (David Pearson’s New York Times obituary). He was to the Hub City what Hank Aaron is to Atlanta. Or, in an even better analogy, what Rocky Balboa is to Philadelphia.

What he is to stock car racing is the greatest driver to ever slide behind the wheel.

I am no longer a NASCAR fan for myriad reasons, too many to count or run down here. But I respect it. And there was a time the sport mattered more to me.

My parents, particularly my mother’s family, had roots in rural South Carolina, and there was a knowledge of stock car racing passed down. I heard tales of Fireball Roberts. There was disdain, but respect, for Richard Petty and the Petty clan. Cale Yarborough was a good ole South Carolina boy I heard good things about.

But there was nary a mention of Pearson, born in Whitney, a textile mill village in Spartanburg. And in a lot of ways, that is symbolic of Pearson’s career.

I have never fallen for the fool’s gold that is the Cup, be it the Winston, Sprint or Monster Energy. Auto racing championships are misleading. They are disingenuous. They lie to you.

There is one thing and one thing only that matters in racing. Winning. At the end of the day, you either won or your didn’t.

Richard Petty, a winner 200 times over, is nicknamed The King. Rightfully so. He is the all-time NASCAR leader in wins, and his mark will never be broken.

Richard Petty’s statement on the death of David Pearson

And if you care about such things, he won seven championships, tied with Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson for the all-time record.

If Richard Petty was NASCAR’s Joe DiMaggio, David Pearson was almost certainly its Ted Williams.

And like Williams, Pearson was better.

He won 105 times, 95 times fewer than Petty. Also a number no other driver has sniffed. But Pearson did it in less than half as many races than King Richard.

Contemporaries, Petty and Pearson clashed often, finishing 1-2 in a race 63 times. Pearson won 33 of those.

Essentially a part-time driver, Pearson picked and chose the races he ran, rarely ever coming even close to a full schedule. In fact, the only years Pearson competed in close to a full slate — 1966, 1968 and 1969 — he won NASCAR’s top championship.

From 1972 to 1978, Pearson raced in just 143 races. Roughly 20 races a season over seven years. He won 43 times, averaging six wins a year. That number alone is only one fewer than Bill Elliott, one of the sport’s all-time greats, won in his entire career.

Petty was big. He was brash. He was public.

Pearson was quiet. Friendly. But he was private.

The Silver Fox, as he was nicknamed for his driving acumen, was overshadowed while he was still winning. And he was somewhat, though not in Spartanburg, forgotten when he retired.

Until 1999.

As so many publications did for so many sports when the new millennium approached, Sports Illustrated named its driver of the century.

This time, Richard Petty didn’t win. It was David Pearson.

A panel of 40 of the greatest drivers, owners, executives and crew chiefs in the sports history gave Pearson the narrow victory. (Actually over Earnhardt. Petty was third.)

It happened again in 2011. This time the accolade came from the Sporting News.

Pearson’s peers knew.

Despite my long tenure in Spartanburg, I didn’t get to know Pearson. I was a copy editor and a page designer, rarely getting out to cover, report or write. I met him only a couple of times.

(It was my pleasure, however, on several occasions early in my tenure at the SHJ to pull a fax off the machine in the sports department in the wee early hours of a Saturday morning to find Pearson’s name in that Friday night’s results for one of the handful of dirt tracks in the area. He was in his 60s at the time.)

Two of my friends and co-workers got to know Pearson a little better. I am jealous of them both.

Chris Winston and Todd Shanesy have both spent time as the keeper of the stock car racing flame on the SHJ staff.

Winston, like me, no longer working for a newspaper, put together a book on stock car racing in South Carolina that included an entire chapter dedicated to Pearson.

I expect him, in the near future, to put his thoughts about Pearson together. When he does, I’ll share a link.

Shanesy still works for the Herald-Journal and wrote Pearson’s hometown obit on Monday night.

For Shanesy’s 1999 story on Pearson’s Sports Illustrated honor, he talked to Cotton Owens. Owens, whose given name was Everett, is a NASCAR Hall of Famer for his time as both a driver and a team owner.

Also a Spartanburg native, Owens owned the Dodge team that Pearson drove to the 1966 Grand National Championship and voted him No. 1 in that Sports Illustrated poll.

Owens wrapped Pearson up best.

“He was just the best ever. It didn’t matter what kind of track it was. Short track, speedway, dirt track, whatever. Pearson could win anywhere, any time.”

“There’s never been anybody like him.”