Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Special Agent Gregory W. Spinelli EOW March 15, 1973

One this day fifty years ago ( March 15, 1973), Special Agent Gregory W. Spinelli was shot and killed in a gun battle with a suspected bank robber on a street in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Special Agent Spinelli was one of several agents waiting in a motel room being used to stake out Arthur Tilmer Mankins and Bonnie Lou Logan, two suspects in a savings and loan robbery. When the suspects began to leave their room, Logan was arrested. Mankins ran to a wooded area behind the hotel and then to a nearby apartment building, which was under construction. While another agent went to the front of the building, Special Agent Spinelli ran to the rear, where he was shot and killed by Mankins. When Mankins attempted to flee, another agent succeeded in apprehending him. Mankins was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Special Agent Spinelli.

Special Agent Spinelli was born in March 1949 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He joined the FBI in 1970 as a Physical Science Technician and was assigned to the FBI Laboratory. In 1972 he became a special agent and transferred to the FBI field office in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Oscar 2023 The Winner is....

No I didn't watch the Oscars and there's a solid chance you didn't either. Still it is nice to have some knowledge of who won and who lost (Angela Bassett - Black Panther: Wakanda Forever) without having to listen to endless yapping from television news talking heads so in case you missed it here we go:

Best Picture

Everything Everywhere All at Once - WINNER

All Quiet on the Western Front

Avatar: The Way of Water

The Banshees of Inisherin


The Fabelmans


Top Gun: Maverick

Triangle of Sadness

Women Talking

Best Director

Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan - Everything Everywhere All at Once - WINNER

Martin McDonagh - The Banshees of Inisherin

Steven Spielberg - The Fabelmans

Todd Field - Tár

Ruben Ostlund - Triangle of Sadness

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Brendan Fraser - The Whale - WINNER

Austin Butler - Elvis

Colin Farrell - The Banshees of Inisherin

Paul Mescal - Aftersun

Bill Nighy - Living

Actress in a Leading Role

Michelle Yeoh - Everything Everywhere All at Once - WINNER

Cate Blanchett - Tár

Ana de Armas - Blonde

Andrea Riseborough - To Leslie

Michelle Williams - The Fabelmans

Actress in a Supporting Role

Jamie Lee Curtis - Everything Everywhere All at Once - WINNER

Angela Bassett - Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Hong Chau - The Whale

Kerry Condon - The Banshees of Inisherin

Stephanie Hsu - Everything Everywhere All at Once

Actor in a Supporting Role

Ke Huy Quan - Everything Everywhere All at Once - WINNER

Brendan Gleeson - The Banshees of Inisherin

Brian Tyree Henry - Causeway

Judd Hirsch - The Fabelmans

Barry Keoghan - The Banshees of Inisherin

Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan - Everything Everywhere All at Once

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Are your voices heard in Charlotte?

That’s hard to say, but probably not. 

We’ve all seen the contentious school board and city council meetings. From small towns with folding chairs and tables, to large cities showcasing a grand dais with marble floors, angry citizens are confronting elected officials in stunning spectacles of disorder.

I doubt anyone’s voice was heard during those meetings.

But why the outrage? 

I suspect that citizens and taxpayers are fed-up. It is not out of control crime, CRT or gender madness, or even mask mandates. It is the lack of response, simply stated the inability or unwillingness of elected officials to engage the public.

Countless Charlotte neighbors have sent emails to Charlotte City Council members in the past two weeks objecting to the Gillespie Property Rezoning in South Charlotte. Some received canned replies, most did not receive any reply at all.

My wife emailed Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles and promptly received a polite and considerate response which in part said. “Thank you for your email and for sharing your concerns.  I would encourage you to also share them with the City Council.” Which she did.

Ed Driggs did not respond, neither did LaWana Mayfield, Braxton Winston, Tariq Bokhari or James Mitchell.

Dimple Ajmera responded with a “I’ll continue working with the district 7 representative” not actually naming Ed Driggs but suggesting that the appropriate source of contact was the unnamed “District 7 Representative” and not an at large city council member.

So, my wife wrote back:

Council Member Ajmera,

Thank you so much for your reply.

I am grateful for your willingness to work with Mr. Driggs. However, as an “at-large" council member I would appreciate it if you wouldn't mind working with me directly on this petition.  In fact, what I'd like to do is invite you and your family to come out to Piper Glen and allow me to introduce you to our eagles, "Piper and Glen" one afternoon. (Informally of course.)

I think if you see firsthand their home, their recently hatched offspring, and the proximity to this proposed project you will be able to obtain a greater understanding of the area and why this project is a terrible idea.

Please let me know I'm happy to work around your busy schedule.

And as you might expect, nothing but crickets.

In the years past my experience with Charlotte’s politicians has been exceptional.

I knew Dan Ramirez and his wife CeCe and considered him a good friend. Andy Dulin was always happy to meet for coffee. Richard Vinroot for years had the seats in the row behind ours at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill.  We talked about football, we talked about crime and traffic, but mainly football. Go Heels!

My wife served on Sue Myrick’s small business advisory board. Roy Cooper, always recognizes me but can’t remember my name. Jim Martin thinks I’m my father. Harvey Gannt, Matthew Ridenhour, Parks Helms, Pat McCrory, Joel Ford just to name a few have always been engaged and ready to listen.

I’ve never not received a response from Erskine Bowles, even when he was White House Chief of Staff for Barack Obama. Always felt honored, until I learned that Bowles responds with handwritten notes to everyone! The man is pure class.

D. G. Martin was beyond a doubt, the most personal and gregarious Charlotte politician I’ve ever met. With a huge smile on his face, he’d thrust his hand out, and announce “Hi, I’m D. G. Martin”! Never mind you’ve just rear-ended his brand-new BMW. He too would personally answer any email or letter.

Last fall, my wife ran into a bureaucratic road block in Washington, and emailed Tom Tills' office for help. Within 2 hours she had a response and inside 72 hours a solution. And a week later a follow-up letter from Senator Tillis.

Sadly most of Charlotte’s politicians today are aloof, full of hubris, indignant when questioned, and self-serving.

Guess how we are going to change that?

Friday, February 17, 2023

Daytona (redux)

Living in the South you don't need to go too far to find racing's roots. If you headed south from Charlotte back in the day (pre I-77) you might have started with a trip down 521 towards Lancaster.

Even today with the high priced homes of Ballantyne behind you, once you cross the South Carolina state line, it doesn't take long before you notice you have traveled back in time.

A few miles before Lancaster's city limits you'll see the old rusty sign for the Lancaster Motor Speedway.

Lancaster Speedway is truly the "Grand Daddy" of local tracks. It's one of the oldest surviving dirt tracks in the South. It was built by a group of Lancaster business men headed by the late Herman "Hump" Poovey. The first race was held there in 1954 with a huge crowd on hand. 

The track hosted two NASCAR races in 1957, which were won by Paul Goldsmith and Speedy Thompson.

As much as I enjoy the glitz and glamour of NASCAR there's just something special about Saturday night racing where driver and crew chief are often the same. Where watching a driver win a race and give a fist pumping jump for joy while being handed a check for only $300 dollars and a two foot high gold coated plastic trophy, kind of makes you smile.

Every Saturday night all summer long the boys tear up the dirt track at the Lancaster Motor Speedway.

It's cheap entertainment. Seats are only $12.00, but most of the time after the races start you can just walk in.

It's a family atmosphere well kind of; a quick look at the rules for the drivers and you'll get the idea:

Fighting is strictly prohibited. Anyone caught fighting will be taken care of by the officials and Law Enforcement as needed.

Any person other than Law Enforcement found with any weapon (CONCEALED OR OTHERWISE) on him/her or in his/her vehicle is subject to fine, loss of weapon and arrest.

Drinking while racing is not allowed. The track reserves the right to require drivers to submit to a breathalyzer test at anytime.

Drivers must remain in their cars during the race, except in the case of fire.

No disorderly conduct will be allowed at the payoff window.

They've been racing at Lancaster ever since time began or at least 1954. Even on a Sunday afternoon in February with no one around you can still hear the sounds of racing. As the wind blows through the bare trees, grandstand and the chain link fence, you can almost hear an announcer calling out the next race over the loudspeakers, the crowd and revving of engines with open pipes and unrestrained horsepower.

The Carolina red clay track shines in the mid winter sun. Shuttered concession stands await another season, the parking lot is empty and the only sounds now are the wind, and gravel that crunches under your feet.

Dirt track is not NASCAR by any stretch of the imagination. But, the food is normally pretty good and the beer always cold. It's not pricey, there are never any lines, no national sponsors, and there's a lot of available billboard ad space at turns two and three. Hand over $50.00 and most drivers will put your name on their car all season long.

In the shadows of Charlotte some would laugh at calling this racin, but this is racin just the same. After all the motto drive fast turn left applies here too even the track is just a whole lot shorter.

In the fading warmth of a Saturday afternoon you can sense the hopes and dreams of making the big time. Ask any driver at this track why they race and the answer will always be summed up in one word.....


Wednesday, February 8, 2023

GOP 30% National Sales Tax Plan is DOA (Should It Be?)

You can't argue that the current system to fund the US Federal Government is nuts. Unyielding, Unmanageable Bureaucratic nightmare that has the efficiency of a blind dealer at a blackjack table in Las Vegas.

But 30%? Seriously?

Lets think this through. Yes we need a national sales tax. As Joe Biden often says in a creepy whispering voice "the rich need to pay their fair share".

But if you taxed Elon Musk 50% on his annual income it still wouldn't put a dent in the annual federal budget and then lets say you also taxed the next 1000 richest Americans also at 50% and still you would have less than .01% of the national budget.

Do you know who doesn't pay their fair share? Millions of everyday Americans.


Drug Dealers



Skilled Contractors



Waiters and Waitress


Restaurant Owners

Car Dealers

Auto Repair Shops


Illegal Immigrants

People who earn a little cash doing as a side jig

Uber Drivers

and Blind Blackjack Dealers

Our nation operaterates on a sub economic culture of people who are paid in cash.

Cash that they also spend.

The GOP needs to start with a 5% national sales tax and limit it to everything except food and Child and Medical care.

Then begin the phase out of the IRS with the goal of elimination of the personal income tax by 2035. That means ten years to retire or repurpose 2/3rds of the current 70,000 IRS employees and the 200,000 people employed in the tax return preparation business. 

This will cut nearly $10 Billion from the annual federal budget and save Americans $32,000,000,000.00 in tax preparation fees. 

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Throwback Thursday "Quotes"

I have several 

This from the 1971 film Patton the final lines, perfectly spoken by actor George C. Scott and he walked into the distance.

George Patton -

For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.

Warren Miller -

"If you don't do it this year, you will just be one year older when you do." 

Miller through his films convinced me to ski Vail / Beaver Creek in 1991 I haven't skied Beech Mountain since.

DEA Agent -

"We spent most the money on strippers, hookers and booze, the rest we wasted".

I'll add more as time permits but go ahead add yours:

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Throwback Thursday - Tin Foil

In a kitchen drawer under a white plastic rubbermaid silverware tray is a small folded piece of what my grandmother called "Tin Foil". It is the product most call "Aluminum Foil" or by some it is also known as Reynolds Wrap. 

The origins of these names are interesting. At one time it really was very thin sheet of tin, long since replaced by aluminum. Once the largest maker of Aluminum Foil, the Reynolds Metals Company which was founded in 1919 as U.S. Foil Company of Louisville Kentucky by the nephew of R. J. Reynolds a name most often associated with tobacco. Now privately owned by Pactiv Evergreen Reynolds Consumer Products of New Zealand. Oddly no one calls it just foil.

The reason for the folded tin foil is simple, it is a small reminder of my grandmother's frugalness. When I was young she would wash tin foil and fold it just so, and place it in a drawer for use again and again until it was no longer serviceable. Typically she would have maybe a dozen or so folded sheets in a drawer.

She was the ultimate saver, Jelly and peanut butter jars, became drinking glasses. Much of the food scraps went to the compost pile and newspapers were saved for some purpose I never discovered.

A small helping of green peas leftover from dinner would reappear the following night. When the peas dwindled to just a small spoonful she would threaten that if we didn't "eat em up" we'd see those same peas at breakfast.

And so it was that a child of the depression, who later in life became one of Rosie's Riveters during the Second World War would chart a life that was a course in fugruality. In other words growing up during the depression and raising a family during the war she knew how to stretch a dollar.

As a young boy a visit to grandma's house in the county was a joy, except when it came to showers.

Farm life called for a bath when you were dirty, showers were not offered to children and when I complained that the tub was only 1/3 full of water I was told it was enough for a bath. My complaints regarding that lack of a shower were met with "it costs money" to just run water down the drain. My plea that the water comes from a well and is free was countered with "it takes electricity to pump the water and propane to heat the water". And then in a moment of clarity I abandoned my negotiations when I realized that my younger brother was only offered my used bathwater with a hearty splash of hot water to rise the temperature to just slightly below bearable. 

Today as I have done for decades I'll let the shower run longer than necessary, just to hear her Alabama Southern voice admonish me with "Stop wasting the water or I'll snatch ya bald headed". 

Saturday, December 31, 2022

The Things I've Seen

Some things you just have to be there:

Lined up for your landing approach looking out of the left side window while holding a wing down with the control yoke hard over.

A1A doing in an Audi A8 with a crazy Norwegian driving twice the legal speed limit.

The Old Candlestick Park where they served hot chocolate in May.

Summer Twilight in Alaska at Sea. The first time I woke up in Alaska up saw it was getting light rolled out of my rack went up on deck to watch the sunrise. I waited, and waited and waited.... 

Being the last skier off the mountain in Vail or Beaver Creek Colorado.

Running 20 knots on the ICW at night with a full moon in a 70' Hatteras Motor Yacht. 

Northern Lights in Maine.

The "Flo" for Breakfast on any Sunday.

Waking up to six inches of unexpected snow in October while tent camping on the AT in North Carolina.

Dog watch on any ship at sea, first or second. 

Outer Banks in January.

Sunset at Mallory Square Key West, Florida

Watching the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, Maine.

Crossing the Gulfstream in anything smaller than 40 feet.

The view looking towards Alma and Fairplay Colorado from the Lake George Lookout on Highway 24. You can see Elbert, Grays and Lincoln Peaks 60 miles away and just past those Vail and Beaver Creek and then Aspen.

Fenway Park when the Yankees are in town. 

The Fairmount New Orleans pre Katrina.

Mr. Mosley at the Greenbrier Resort, White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia.

Surfin down waves in a 80 foot Lazzara Yacht heading north after a long season in the Bahamas.

The Saint Regis in Aspen for the daily Champagne toast.

Breakfast at The Chester Grosvenor UK. The Coffee like motor oil the eggs runny and the Sunday Times.

Anchored on Grand Bahama Island on New Year's Eve so close to Miami you can see the lights yet so far there's only silence and a lone lobster boat heading toward "Memory Rock"

So make it your New Year's resolution to get out there see the world. I you don't do it this year you'll only be a year older when you do! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Christmas Birds

I'm burdened with a very Audubon fascination with birds. Blessed with an abundance of feathered song birds that flutter across my yard all year long. Nuthatch, Chickadee, Bluebird, and Jay. There's even a Mockingbird who has mastered both the sound of a golf cart backing up and the Apple Air Tag attached to my Labrador Retrievers.

There are Woodpeckers of all sizes and Mourning Doves, Cardinal and Carolina Wrens.

Beyond the property line and into the 16 acres of wetlands that follow along Four Mile Creek there are Redtail and Cooper's hawks, Great Horned Owls and Barred Owls. Black and Turkey Vultures and should I brave the cold today a nesting pair of Bald Eagles just 300 yards from a four lane that drivers race along at better than 60 miles an hour.

Perhaps my fascination is that of Wilbur and Orville Wright watching Osprey soar along the dunes at North Carolina's Outer Banks. I've even spent a weekend hang gliding off Jockey's Ridge when I was young foolish and believed that I was bullet proof. 

But today a long winter walk will have to suffice and my wife is a willing companion and a an excellent Eagle spotter. We follow the creek and encounter a Great Blue Heron, and a Kingfisher as a Hawk soars overhead.  

The Hawk banks right then to the left and circles, having found warmth in the afternoon sun and a strong thermal lift. Within a minute he's more than 800 above us. 

Robert Redford's line from the film Jeremiah Johnson: "Hawk. Goin' for the Musselshell. Take me a week's ridin', and he'll be there in... hell, he's there already." reminds me of my earth bound status.

I'm envious of Redford and of the Hawk.

It's Christmas and usually cold so cold the main pond in our golf course community is mostly frozen over and the Eagles are nowhere to be seen. But we are rewarded with a dozen sea gulls and more than 70 Double Crested Cormorants who have taken refuge in the smaller pond behind my neighbor's house. This pond is spring fed and enjoys a wide southern exposure and the combination of underground water and sunlight heats the pond just enough,

While the Canada Geese will brave the larger near frozen pond the warmth of the smaller pond seems to have attracted the normally solitary Cormorants. 

The afternoon winds down, and our Labs have internal clocks that know it's "time for food" so they give up exploring for a more purposeful trot towards the house. They need no encouragement as the sun begins a rapid descent into darkness.

The Bald Eagles with have to wait for another day, and then as if on some clue from God himself a reminder that it is indeed Christmas appears overhead.

A White Dove winging its way towards the heavens? I think so and a fitting reward for a Christmas walk in the woods. 

100 Years ago perhaps on a day like this Robert Frost penned the words to "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"

The final lines are:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.

and those words are not lost on me. 

Monday, December 19, 2022

A Trailer Palace Christmas (It's Been a While)

I admit it; at one time I actually dated a girl who lived in what she loved to call her "trailer palace". 

Since my idea of dating has always been a total head first, all in commitment, that means I lived in a mobile home for a time. 

This is not something I'm particularly proud of, but over the years it has given me perspective and a profound sense of what Christmas means to so many who have so little.


Christmas Eve and on this cold star filled night the temperatures are hovering just below freezing. Aside from a tent, you can't get more outside while living inside, than in a mobile home.

The wind blows and with each gust, the wood and steel frame home groans and creaks. The trailer shudders with each shift in direction of the wind. The cold doesn't just creep in when the wind blows, is barrels through the walls, pushing the furnace into overdrive on frigid nights like this.

When you are young, certain things don't matter, like the thickness of the walls or the sturdiness of a home's foundation. The quality of the accommodations were the last thing on my mind, all I knew was that sex on a water bed was amazingly fun. Though I have to say that I often questioned the ability of the small single wide mobile home to support the weight of the water and our combined sexual enthusiasm.

Somewhere south of Charlotte, off a wandering ribbon of asphalt called Potter Road, there is a trailer park that I remember like it was yesterday:

Pine trees looming overhead, their fallen needles carpeting the gravel drive that circles around the small group of aluminum clad flat roofed homes, all set at odd angles from the rut filled road.

The layout is simple, garbage cans to the right, parking to the left. A clothes line along the front and junk in the back. The unmistakable sound of Carolina Pines standing against the winter wind echoes across the cold expanse of Carolina red clay. The trees bend and flex in the frozen air as they rain pine needles that fall gently like snowflakes across the ground. The sound of the wind on this winter's night whistling through the trees is amazing.

Not long after midnight the rumble of diesel engines steady in the night, reminds me that the CSX railroad tracks run behind the property. The low and steady distant sound is a warning that all hell is about to engulf her small trailer palace.

There's a large "W" on a creosote soaked post that sits less than 50 yards behind the trailer. When Angela moved into the "new to her" mobile home she failed to notice the proximity of the railroad tracks or understand the significance of the "W".

But to railroad enthusiasts and train engineers the W is as common as mile posts on an interstate highway. The W marks the approach to the "grade crossing" just down the tracks from the trailer park. The W is for whistle and its placement requires sounding of the massive three tone air horn on the diesel engine, regardless of time of day or night whenever passed.

We lay in her bed, listening to the ever increasing pulsing sounds as the four diesel electric engines grow closer. When the trailer begins to vibrate, we know the horn is about to open up. The sound so deafening that it isn't something you sleep through. It is so loud and so close that it has startled many a drunk, passed out on her couch.

A minute later the fading sound of the last freight car passes and the sound of the winter wind returns. The cold echoes of steel wheels chasing the last freight car down the tracks south towards Monroe, a reminder that the night is clear, and crisp.

In order to save money Angela turns down the heat at midnight and fights the temptation to nudge the pointer past 50 on the analog thermostat until at least 6am. Her ability to stretch out her tank of LP gas I find a little concerning, since one of her ideas is to run her laundry in the dryer during the coldest hours and unhook the gas dryer exhaust so that it vents directly to the inside of her trailer. During the winter this provides additional heat. I offer my advice that it’s not safe, but even so it’s still money, she says. On this night she accepts my advice and so a couple of frozen bath towels hang outside in the winter moon light.

The back window of her minivan is covered in plastic. A sad reminder of a mistake made only a week before. It was a brief lapse in thinking, for an otherwise crazy smart young single mother of two.

The trip to Target by herself was a success. She had had arranged for the kids to spend the night with their Nana and PawPaw, She spent nearly all of her $300 bonus from the trucking company where she works, on toys and stocking suffers for her children. The two for one coupon offer on the family size lasagna at the grocery store was all she needed to complete her Christmas shopping list. She hadn't planned to be in the store for more than a few minutes. But that was all the time the thieves needed.

In the parking lot outside of the BiLo, she didn't give a second thought to the two women nearby loading a car full of groceries She didn't notice that they spotted the stash of toys in the back of her minivan as she closed the rear door. But they watched their mark enter the grocery store and it took them less than a minute to brazenly smash the rear window and empty all but the smallest of gifts from inside Angela’s Honda Odyssey and vanish into the night.

There were no tears shed, she didn't even bother to call the police. She knew there would be nothing more than a report filed, the insurance deductible she knew was higher than the cost of the stolen presents. Thinking about it, she noted she could either be angry at herself or go on, and go on is what she did.

I imagine it was a cold lonely drive home by herself with that back window busted out, but she never complained. Living in a trailer palace, tempers your emotions, she has told me on more than one occasion.

Its around 3 am when she quietly moves the carefully wrapped packages out of hiding an into place around the small Christmas tree. It is too cold to linger and inspect her handy work. She stops only briefly to admire the one Christmas decoration that means the most to her. A baby's first Christmas ornament purchased for her son. The math surprises her, could it really be four years? The thought comes and goes and as it does she smiles. She glances in the mirror at the scar on her forehead, faded over time and it makes her laugh out loud and shake her head in disbelief.

She had bought the Hallmark ornament with the last 15 dollars she had in her checking account or so she thought. But she had forgotten the bank service charge and the debit left her account with only a $1.50, the NSF charge of 35 dollars then caused two other checks to bounce even after her paycheck was deposited. The end result was that the ornament cost her more than 100 dollars. The scar on her forehead was a gift from her then (now ex) husband after he opened the mail somewhere between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The following year was a blur of police, and courts. The fights were just a haze of screaming rage directed her way not just from her ex but from his family as well.

The name calling and sworn testimony by her ex mother in law about her infidelity and drug use hurt the most, those lies and fabricated documents were the last straw. Thankfully the judge saw though that, and gave Angela full custody of her son and 18 month old daughter.

Now two years later she seldom receives the monthly child support payments. The father hasn’t been heard from in over a year. She checks the second bedroom out of habit, both little angels are sound asleep. Neither child stirs as she gently lays another blanket on each twin bed.

It took me four stops and three hours to replace the stolen toys. 

I distracted her kids with popcorn and a DVD of A Charlie Brown Christmas while she carefully wrapped the gifts in the back of her minivan outside.

Now nearly 30 minutes after she whispered "Its time for Santa to come down the chimney", she returns to bed, her warmth is overwhelming and welcomed. Her soft voice, a quiet but breathy "Thank You" are the only words spoken during the next two hours.....

More years have passed than I can count. Angela long ago remarried, her kids have grown into young adults and even though the years have gone by we still talk from time to time. The trailer palace a distant place in her past as well.

But looking back I don't think you can really appreciate life or fully embrace the wonder of Christmas Eve until you have spent at least one in a “Trailer Palace”.

Note: Time changes us, it changes our perception and our memory. Somethings however are as vivid today as they were during the time it happened. Some things build others tear down. This I can say was a little of both. Time changes us, it is though time that we understand. And every couple of Christmas weeks I post this story to understand.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Home Alone (Christmas Triva)

Most fans of Home Alone have no idea that the grainy 1930's style gangster movie that Kevin uses again and again during his weekend home alone is not a real movie:

Angels With Filthy Souls may not be an actual flick, but the faux film noir is as iconic as the 1990 movie in which it appears.

Giving Home Alone one of its most popular lines — “Keep the change, you filthy animal” — the gangster picture that helped Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) pull off a few ruses paid homage to an actual film, Angels With Dirty Faces, which was released Nov. 26, 1938.

To celebrate the probable anniversary of the faux classic, Home Alone cinematographer Julio Macat details how Angels With Filthy Souls was created — a job so well done, even stars noted they believed the gangster picture was the real deal (“My entire childhood, I thought the old-timey movie that Kevin watches in Home Alone … was actually an old movie,” Seth Rogen previously said via Twitter).

We really wanted to do an homage to the movie [Angels With Dirty Faces], but we really didn’t watch it a lot,” Macat explains. “We just wanted the feel of a classic gangster film.”

Warner Bros.’ Angels With Dirty Faces was packed with legendary star power the likes of James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan and George Bancroft. It was nominated for three Oscars: best actor (Cagney), best director (Michael Curtiz) and the category then known as best story (Rowland Brown).

“What really helped was being in Chicago and having those theater actors,” Macat says of re-creating that bygone era. The late Ralph Foody played the hard-nosed Johnny, whose Thompson “Tommy” submachine gun was only overpowered by his maniacal laughter. Michael Guido played Snakes, who while seeking his “dough” met an untimely end via a countdown cut short. Foody died in 1999 at the age of 71.

“I could tell that [Foody] came from the theater because he was larger than life,” says Macat, who notes Home Alone was his first feature as a cinematographer and Angels was filmed on the last day of preparation before production.


“We shot that whole thing in one day. We did it quickly.”

It was Macat’s idea to shoot the faux film in the style of the late ’30s — which means it fell on him to make it happen. “I got some very slow ASA black-and-white film from Kodak, which means you have strong lights to get exposure. You need three or four times more light than normal to expose the film,” he recalls. “Then there was the strong backlighting, smoking up the room and having the shutters with the classic noir style. I used double fog filters, and I tried to match the camera lenses. I used a little netting material in front of the lenses to blow out the highlights even more.”

Angels With Filthy Souls was shot inside a little library in Lincoln Park. And Macat says it was a particularly cold day and the building did not have a heater. “I was thinking, ‘Thank God for the hot lights,'” he says.

The seasoned cinematographer — who has 40 films to his credit, but Home Alone remains his favorite — recalls the submachine gun being intimidating, at least to everyone but Foody. “The way that he handled the gun, he just went full force with it,” Macat says, chuckling. “I don’t remember having to add any fire flashes in front of the gun. And it was super loud, which made everything better because it was scary. We were safe, but it was scary.”

Macat returned as cinematographer for Home Alone 2, which included another installment of the gangster series: Angels With Even Filthier Souls, again starring Foody. “I once said jokingly to Chris, ‘Dude, write the script for Angels With Filthy Souls. I want to shoot that movie!'”

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Never Assume Always Ask (Throwback Thursday Pilot Humor)

His request approved, the local newspaper photographer quickly used
his cellphone to call the local airport to charter a flight.

He was told a single-engine plane would be waiting for him at the airport. 

Arriving at the airfield, he spotted a plane with the door open just outside a hanger. 

He jumped in with his bag, slammed the door shut, and shouted, 'Let's go'.

The pilot taxied out, swung the plane into the wind and took off. 
Once in the air, the photographer instructed the pilot, 'Fly over Mount Stuart and make some low passes so I can take pictures of the fires on the hillside.'

'Why?' asked the pilot. 

'Because I'm a photographer for the Newspaper he responded,' and I need to get some close up shots.' 

The pilot was strangely silent for a moment, finally he stammered, 'So, what you're telling me, is . . ..

You're NOT my flight instructor?' 

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Throwback Thursday Yacht Life Wedding

The beautiful bride Baxter and John. Matthew on the dock CP watching the weather radar just to the right of the groom's elbow (I am watching a massive squall line closing in fast) and Andy on deck with the bridesmaids.

October 2019. The charter biz is unique, I know a lot of good boat drivers, super capable but to be a yacht captain and work the professional charter biz you really have to know your crew.

We were hired as the wedding party transportation for Baxter and John taking them from downtown Georgetown, South Carolina to the Hobcaw Barony a trip of just 30 mins. 

Everything that could go wrong did. I had been watching the weather (Yacht Captains are obsessed with weather) their limo died (which delayed our departure by an hour), then thunderstorms started closing in and we had a 1 hour tide window. 

Matthew, Andy and the crew totally cool under fire we eased a 70 foot boat up to a 20 foot dock with 6 feet of water and a 5.5 draft (In other words only 6 inches between floating and being stuck). Unloaded the bride and groom plus 30 others, then slipped back across the bar plowing mud. (meaning just an inch or two of float and clouds of muddy water trailing in our wake).

Andy never broke a sweat. Matthew worked us off the dock with a spring line and we headed back to Charleston. The crew quickly broke down the upper bar secured all the deck chairs, stowed the china and glassware as lightening flashed overhead. 

We then watched from the ICW (Intra Coastal Waterway) as the thunderstorms over took the wedding party as they escaped just in time to the safety of a massive tent.

(Props to the bride who took the time to personally thank every crew member before leaving the boat. Pure class move.)

Friday, December 2, 2022

Scott Weiland STP October 27, 1967 - December 3, 2015

Every once and awhile, I get to stand watch at dawn, and in the morning's half light and waning darkness with sounds of the ocean surrounding me, my head fills with the music of Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters. The sounds of my much younger self. 

Sour Girl was Heather's theme song (yes, she was a teenage girl when I met her) and within days Big Empty would set the mood and the night would go as such.

And while Dave Matthews was more my preference her choice was Destiny's Child, Green Day and Linkin Park and so it goes.

The relationship would crash and burn, but the memories are still vivid thanks to STP and my Spotify never ending nostalgic play list.

So, today I'm noting Scott Weiland's passing seven years ago tomorrow and his career that spanned three decades, 

Scott Weiland died of an accidental overdose of cocaine, ethanol, and MDA. 

The singer was found dead on December 3, 2015 after passing away in his sleep on a tour stop in Bloomington, Minnesota. He had been on the road with his new backing band the Wildabouts and was scheduled to play the Medina Entertainment Center in Medina, Minnesota.

Weiland had had a long, public problem with addiction. But his music still gives me pause and joy and the ease that comes with the passage of time.


Driving faster in my car
Falling farther from just what we are
Smoke a cigarette and lie some more
These conversations kill
Falling faster in my car

Time to take her home
Her dizzy head is conscience laden
Time to take a ride, it leaves today
No conversation
Time to take her home
Her dizzy head is conscience laden
Time to wait too long, to wait too long
To wait too long

Too much walking, shoes worn thin
Too much trippin' and my soul's worn thin
Time to catch a ride, it leaves today
Her name is what it means
Too much walking, shoes worn thin

Time to take her home
Her dizzy head is conscience laden
Time to take a ride, it leaves today
No conversation

Time to take her home
Her dizzy head is conscience laden
Time to wait too long, to wait too long
To wait too long

Conversations kill
Conversations kill
Conversations kill

Time to take her home
Her dizzy head is conscience laden
Time to take a ride, it leaves today
No conversation

Time to take her home
Her dizzy head is conscience laden
Time to wait too long, to wait too long
To wait too long

Conversations kill
Conversations kill
Conversations kill

Yeah I still think about "H" now and then.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

The Things I've Heard

And then there are things you have to hear to understand:

I think often of the sound of frogs and crickets when they return to my backyard. Well, really they are about a 1/4 mile away down at the creek. But the open expanse of golf course fairway allows the soothing sound of clicks and chirps to travel to my bedroom window effortlessly.

I never remember when they stop, sometime around the first frost I'd guess, but their return is a wonderful reminder that spring is nearly here.

Which makes me think about all the other sounds I think are awesome.

Rain at Augusta National during Masters Week.

The North Beach on Green Turtle Cay on any day. You just got to be there.

Blue Sky Basin Vail, CO at 4 PM in January. The wind against the spruce and fur trees and the snow under your skis.

LAX at Midnight the silence.

Times Square on New Year's Eve, the calliope of mankind's drunkenness.

Turn 4 at Lowes Motor Speedyway during the final lap of the 600 it's hard to say whether the crowd or the cars are louder.

The Freight Apron at Atlanta's Hartsfield International during the 2AM push. The rise and fall of jet engines on departing flights There is something symbolic about that sound. I don't what but symbolic just the same.

Breakfast at the Fairmont in New Orleans during an early morning thunderstorm in July. It's the sound, the feeling of the big easy, linen and china, a slower pace that's even slower when there no reason to hurry.

The arches at Union Station St. Louis at Mid Day Christmas week. If you don't know I'm not sure I can explain. If you do know I'll let you whisper it to me.

Sea Buoy at Bar Harbor Maine on a foggy night in October.

A 800 foot container ship passing under you while standing on the Ravenel Bridge Charleston at high tide.

That cat that moans and groans on the roof above my bedroom before an approaching storm.

Friday, November 25, 2022

A Christmas Manger

My wife is a Christmas addict, the 12 step program and the long road to recovery, at least so far has failed. 

Experts say to correct any disorder you must first determine the cause. Last year, I accidentally discovered the source of my wife’s lifelong obsession with all things Christmas.  

She is a person with Christmas boxes. Ornaments and lights, Santas and nativities, angels and stars, teddy bears and stockings all reside in boxes during the off season. One rather large box has been around since our first Christmas together. 

Over the years the box had become what my grandmother would call “dog eared” meaning the flaps to the box were so worn that they were no longer stiff but floppy like the ears on my Labrador Retrievers. 

So last year well into January and with much discussion we agreed to replace the worn out box with a couple of plastic tubs. It was my task to make the orderly transition, out of the old box and into the new tubs. Deep Inside, at the very bottom of the old and tattered box, among crumpled old newspapers was a small wad of tissue. 

So small, that it was almost thrown away.

In a split second of clarity my hand quickly backed away from the trash bag. The paper had just enough weight to cause suspicion. I carefully unwrapped the tissue to reveal a tiny paper box, no larger than an inch wide and two inches across. 

A price of 10 Cents was stamped in ink on the top of the box with that symbol of a “C” with a line through it that somehow vanished during the transition of typewriter keyboard to computer keyboard decades ago. 

The drawing on the outside of the box, depicted a manger scene complete with 3 lambs and a shepherd, a donkey, a cow, three wise men, Joseph and Mary and baby Jesus with an angel overhead. Inside a plastic full color replica of the western world’s perception of the birth of Jesus. 

The micro sized nativity scene complete with a manger was my wife’s first Christmas decoration purchase and the first hint of a life long love of all things involving her favorite winter holiday. 

Her explanation was simple. In elementary school they had a bake and toy sale twice a year. Donated items were laid out on a table for students to peruse all morning, then during the 45 minute lunch break students would buy things that ranged from ten cents to a dollar. Comic books, and silly putty are things she remembers, in addition to cookies and cupcakes. It seems the manger was a one of a kind. 

The only one offered and during lunch while boys jostled for airplane models and the girls turned the pages of Nancy Drew story books my wife scored the tiny manger scene for 10 Cents. 

 Now nearly four decades later it is dwarfed by all that we possess, yet it is indeed one of the most valuable items in the home we share. 

It is a part of her past, and finding it has allowed me to touch a part of her childhood and in the process to begin to understand her love of all things Christmas, and perhaps the cause of her addiction.

Friday, November 18, 2022


More accurately known as “motor-mouth carl” was my “training manager” at my first job. 

I’m proud to say my first job was as a gas station attendant at Starmount Gulf Oil and Service on the corner of Archdale Drive and South Boulevard in Charlotte. 

Hubert Blanton the owner said he'd hire me if I got a haircut. So, I rode my bike across and down the street to a barbershop in the Starmount Shopping Center and went from hippy kid with hair nearly to my shoulders to grease monkey in about ten minutes. Even the barber asked "are you sure?" 

When I returned to the service station cut high and tight I got a “well damn, ok you can start now”. 

That summer I learned about perverts, racists, college girls, stealing from your employer, how to mount a set of tires and pretty much fell in love with cars of all makes and models. 

It wasn't a great job; the pay was not even minimum wage and I worked ten hours a day from 11 a.m. until the 9 p.m. closing. Six days a week. I had 2 15-minute breaks and 30 minutes for lunch. None of which I was paid for, even though I seldom took neither, and I had Sundays and Holidays off because we were closed Sundays and Holidays. 

My first experience with a handgun happened behind the station. Motor-mouth Carl the station's 6-3 uniformed attendant asked me if I could shoot a gun, pointing to the chrome 38 revolver under the cash register. 

We took the gun out back and he put a bottle on the fence, stepped back a dozen feet and put six holes in the fence, leaving the bottle standing. Laughing at his poor aim he took a bullet from his pocket and loaded it into the gun handed it to me. I took aim, then lowered the gun and took aim again, I took me nearly a minute to steady myself when I lightly squeezed the trigger and recycled the bottle into a hundred pieces. 

I don’t recall exactly what Carl's instructions were, but I'm sure it included the "N" word and some encouragement for not taking so long to aim. Maybe something along the lines of you don’t need to shoot the nigger exactly between the eyes just point it and shoot the SUM  BITCH but make sure you drag his body into the station before the cops come.

I suspect Hubert and Motor-mouth Carl, Shemp the mechanic, and Jim who cleaned the bathrooms are all gone now. But they live on in the echoes of gas station bells of long ago.

One afternoon with the Carolina sun high overhead and the humidity somewhere near crazy, Carl filled his Pepsi with Lance peanuts and gave his bottle a good hard shake with his thumb over the opening.

Then he folded the Charlotte News afternoon paper over his knee and slapped that back of the paper with his hand.

Says right hear it’s gonna be illegal to call a nigger a nigger how the hell is that possible?

I mean a nigger is a nigger but starting right now and here in the present we are supposed to call them folks Blacks? 

How on God’s Green Earth is that possible. I swear the world is going to hell!

It was soon thereafter a “nigger” and his car limped into the service station parking lot with a flat tire. He didn’t pull up to the pumps, rather he just pulled into the station lot at the far end.

The Pontiac was clean and shiny with wide white wall tires, the left front tire however was ripped to shreds. 

The black man about 40 exited the car was surveying the damage as Carl risking possible heat stroke walked across the hot pavement over to the man and firmly says “How can I help you?”

The Black man looked around and replies “I was hoping to put in enough air in to get home”.

Carl looked the South Carolina tag and then at the tire. He then give the tire a couple of pokes with his foot. “That tire ain’t gonna even hold a prayer on Sunday, you got a spare?”

Nope the man shakes his head with a combination of embarrassment and acknowledgement.

Carl mutters to himself “what kind of fool drives to Charlotte without a spare?”

The man and the ladies in the car were dressed for church but it is Thursday, now this concerns Carl. He mutters something about being all dressed up like it was Sunday seems suspicious.

Carl tells the man I can sell you a tire, but I can’t fix that one.

The man explained he only had 15 dollars. Carl tells him that ain’t even enough for a down payment. Plus, we don’t carry those fancy pimp tires.

“Can I use the payphone?” the man politely asks

Now this also presents a problem. The payphone is basically a public phone supplied by BellSouth, but it’s also the gas station business telephone. The owner is tight as dick’s hat band and figured one phone was enough. So, to use the payphone you had to go behind the counter and Carl was having nothing of that since that’s where the gun is in plain sight once you’re behind the counter.

“Sorry the phone’s broke hasn’t worked in weeks.” Says Carl. The man nods. But I know the man understands what is really being said, and that is that the phone is for white folk only.

Carl sends me back behind the station telling me bring out a fifteen-inch tire, “get a bias ply not a damn radial” Then he adds “but make sure it will hold air and has some tread on it”.

I do as I’m told and hunt through the stacks of discarded tires waiting for pick up behind the station. Most are well worn, toe and camber issues I’ve learned, and grab the best that I can find. 

Carl has already dragged a floor jack some chocks out of the garage bay and is telling the ladies they might want to wait next door at the Burger King they have a/c he points out. Again the air-conditioned gas station office is off limits.

We pull the wheel and within a minute it’s on the tire machine. Carl lets me do the work. 

"You know what Pontiac stands for?" askes Carl.

"No sir" knowing full well that I'm about to find out.

"Poor Old Nigger Thinks Its A Cadillac" laughs Carl.

The old tire is removed and the new one inspected by Carl he’s of the opinion that it’s too nice of a tire but given the heat of the summer day, he doesn’t want to go around back and have a look for himself.

“Dang son, what you couldn’t find a new one?” He jokes. 

The used tire is back on the rim, filled with air and Carl runs a soapy rag across the tire, seeing that there are no leaks, he gives in a hard bounce on the garage floor and it starts roll towards the street. He motions for me to follow along and make sure it rolls toward the Pontiac and not into traffic or to the Kmart across the street.

Not long after wheel is back on the car with five quick bursts of the air wrench.

Carl drops the car as if he’s at Dayton and swings the floor jack into an empty bay.

The man opens his wallet, but carl waives him off tells the man no charge.

The man is overwhelmed and very apperceive as the ladies return and without another word the Pontic is gone.

A few minutes later in the comfort of the air-conditioned office I look at Carl and ask: "Why did you did do that?"

Carl says what? I press him further: “Help that man out? Carl looks at me says "oh you think I’m soft? A push over? Shit son, I don’t put up with no niggers in my gas station. I did what I needed to do to get him off the property and on his way."

I smile at Carl and tell him, “I suspect you did it because beyond being a redneck you also have a big heart."

Carl now swearing like a sailor tells me to go to hell and if I tell anyone he’ll cut tongue off. I’ll not say a word I promise. 

The air conditioner mounted over the gas station door hums and cold air blows nonstop which keeps the small room “Kool Inside” and the Carolina heat and humidity outside. Carl now sitting in Hubert Blanton’s desk chair leans back puts his feet up on the desk then mutters something about not being soft or a push over and takes a swig of his Pepsi and Lance Peanuts.

Another customer runs over the gas station airbell hose.

Now all these years later I’m still smiling at Carl.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Throwback Thursday

 Just a shout out to anyone who has stood watch and seen this view. My TBT is for you!

In fact here or any port around the world. 

I still have my Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club Jacket and Coffee Cup.

Oh the stories.....

Monday, November 14, 2022

Texas Raiders B-17 Flying Fortress Loss - So Close To Home

Two World War II-era airplanes collided in midair at an air show in Dallas on Saturday killing six in the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board said on Sunday.

The planes — the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress "Texas Raiders" and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra — crashed at about 1:20 p.m. local time, the Federal Aviation Administration said. The crash happened at the Wings Over Dallas air show at Dallas Executive Airport, which is about 10 miles south of downtown Dallas.

Videos posted online show the P-63 slamming into the B-17 during a pre planned low pass.

Michael Graham, a member of the N.T.S.B., said that the five crew members of the B-17 and the sole pilot of the Kingcobra were killed.

This really hurts. Those who know CP understand the life long love of the B-17 and even years after my first flight the sound of radial engines starting gets my heart rate up.

Prayers for all those lost, their families, the fellow aviators who understand the risks and all those fans of these old birds who feel this loss.

The Cedar Kid, a few years back in the best "Right Seat" ever while making a run to Asheville aboard the B-17G "Aluminum Overcast". 

Friday, November 11, 2022

Unknown Soldier Veterans Day 2022

The 11th Month on the 11th Day at the 11th Hour. Today is our Veterans Day and while often confused with Memorial Day, this holiday has a far different meaning. And so this is my contribution and acknowledgment to those who served and all those we never knew that they served.

Unknown Soldier

I’ve watched him from a distance, in passing and close up. 

I’ve stood behind him in line at the post office, sat across the aisle from him at church and our paths have crossed at the gas station and the grocery store as well. Yet I don’t know him... 

Over many years I’ve noticed the two flags that fly from the large flag pole in his backyard. And because of those two flags and the regularity they fly, I know a little something about him just the same, for he flies our country’s flag daily and below it the Marine Corps Standard.  

He is punctual I’ve discovered, and if I time my morning run just right I’ll pass by his home as he raises those flags. So, this morning I make the effort to rise early and Madison my five-year-old Lab and I head out the door before the sun warms the pavement beneath our feet. 

The air is brisk, and our pace is easy, down the long street around the corner and up to the top of the hill. It is a mile or so from my home where we finally stop and it is from this vantage point I can peer down the hill into his back yard. The cold brushed aluminum flag pole now bare will soon spring to life, and right on time with purposeful steps the unknown soldier walks out the door. 

He is a man of some age, and so his walk is not as steady as I suspect it once was. On this morning as he’s done so many mornings before his hand reaches for halyard and he takes the brass clips in hand, then in one fluid movement the flag of our country is quickly hoisted to the top of the pole and unfurls in the chilly fall breeze. 

He steps back and offers a proud salute and seconds later the Marine Corps Colors unfurl as well and with it another salute. I watch as he turns heel smartly and walks towards the house but just before he disappears behind the door, he turns for one last look at the red, white, and blue that he proudly flies each day. 

And while he pauses, all time stands still. 

Perhaps it is in this moment he reflects on his life, the friends and fellow Marines he left behind in some far away place and his war. 

His war is unknown to me, but Korea I’d guess given his age, too young for World War II and too old for Viet Nam. 

Korea, with names like Chosin, Inchon, and Hwachon with the 1st Marine Division or with the 5th Marines at outposts, nicknamed "Reno," "Vegas" and "Carson" where the marines held their ground despite heavy losses after Reno fell to the enemy. 

I don’t know him and Korea remains the often, forgotten war.  

Korean War Veterans Memorial Washington, DC 

The leaves rustle in the wind, they depart in droves from the trees, and then scatter about the ground. Madison sitting politely next to me nudges my hand with her cold, wet black nose. She's ready to go, but we stay just a little longer and watch the flags. 

In my heart the gratefulness is palatable, and I wonder aloud who is this veteran, what battles did he fight for my freedom, what stories does he tell, and what stories he does not? 

He is an unknown soldier, who is always a Marine, yet there are so many unknown soldiers who live their lives in quiet contemplation next to ours and I am so truly thankful for their service and sacrifices they have made for our country. 

The flags of the United States of America and the United States Marine Corps snap smartly in the stiff autumn wind, for Corps and Country, these unknown soldiers are Semper Fi.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Throwback Thursday Bernie Sanders Arrested

1963 and Frank Sinatra is looking on as nutbird protester Bernie Sanders age 21 is dragged away by Chicago Police Officers. 

Yes it's true and the follow-up story is here.

As you can see Sander's over the top reaction to small things hasn't changed in the years since. Always overly dramatic. 

Happy Thursday Y'all!

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Charlotte Douglas International Airport - Devonte Tisdale Death Redux

It's been more than a decade since a young Charlotte teenager jumped a fence at Charlotte Douglas International Airport climbed into a US Airways 737 wheel well and would later fall to his death. 

As with so many news stories this one died at the hands of an ABC News Editor and Senior Management who shit canned the story before it aired. 

But for a brief moment on January 8th of 2014 the story had a chance at seeing daylight. 

I had the pleasure and meeting Juju Chang who seemed genuinely interested in the story. Two days and a number of interviews later the 20/20 story went sideways. 

Finally citing security concerns and story was killed. But the CP hypothetical lives on here

Sunday, November 6, 2022

What Was Wrong With Twitter?

It's pretty simple. 

This was the reply to my complaint about a tweet with a photo of then acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse: