Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Moore's Knob Anyone?

Hey, a bunch of folks are leaving after church Sunday to head up to Hanging Rock State Park to hike the trail up to Moore's Knob. It's a dandy trail, and the view is to die for. If you'd like to come along I promise we won't sing "Just As I Am" all the way up, try to give you Bibles, or generally act like the Church Lady in any way. We're just folks out for a good walk on a pretty day. We'll leave Bur-Mil about 1:30 or so, get to the very top parking lot by the lake about 2:30, and take the longer trail up. If we're lucky we might see some Ravens, Hawks, and Buzzards. Oh, and we'll have folks of all ages heading up. Kids like it up there. The picture above is a view of Moore's Knob from an adjacent outcropping.

Click on any of these links to get a feel for what you see from Moore's Knob...

Cute Little Farm

Hanging Rock Proper

Pilot Mountain

And, at the risk of scaring you off completely, Me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Developers, Perkins and Our Shared Environment

I moved to Greensboro in 1989 to become Associate Pastor of Christ Community Church. At the time Christ Community met in a building at the corner of Lake Brandt Road and Lawndale Drive. Christ Community was a lively and growing community of Christians with a charismatic pastor with unusual gifts of relating well to ordinary folks.

During my time at Christ Community the membership and attendance grew consistently. There were two identical worship services and both were full. There was not adequate space for educational ministries. So a committee was looking hard at either expanding the facility or perhaps building elsewhere.

Around that same period of time – from about 1989 to 1992 – the city and state were formulating guidelines for protection of the local watersheds from which we get our drinking
water. If my memory serves me correctly there was much debate with pressure coming from developers to minimize the watershed regulations. Eventually a compromise set of rules was
established. These rules involved progressive tiers of protection for land at certain distances from the waterfront.

At the same time, and much to my own personal consternation, Lake Jeanette was excluded from such regulations because the lake itself and the land around the lake were privately
owned. As everyone knows Lake Jeanette feeds into Lake Townsend from which we get much of our water. The logic of excluding Lake Jeanette from the same watershed restrictions
as the other lakes which provided our drinking water baffled me. The difference had “developer” written all over it.

Christ Community’s property was included in the Lake Brandt watershed. It was in the farthest out “tier” but the regulations impacted what Christ Community could do with its property. Only a certain percentage of the average could be covered by building or asphalt for example. All this hindered greatly the prospect of expanding on the existing property.

I was of the opinion at the time that the Christ Community sanctuary had a unique warmth and charm that fit the personality both of the congregation and the pastor. I definitely wanted to see the expansion take place on site, and even proposed various ways of doing that within the boundaries of the restrictions. But it was going to be awkward and more expensive due to the regulations (which I supported).

Robbie Perkins was a member of Christ Community then, and was involved in the building matter in some way. I think he was a deacon but I am not sure. I do however remember clearly
a conversation we had about the watershed restrictions. We were sitting at the end of a table after a meeting. The meeting had had to do in part with the whole facility/watershed issue. So I was talking with Robbie about this. I do not consider that conversation privileged as pastor to parishioner conversations are. Nor was it part of any official meeting. It was small talk after a meeting with others around.

Despite my desire to see Christ Community stay in its facility and find a way to expand on that property, I was also an avid proponent of the watershed regulations. There was movement by some to appeal to the city or state for an exemption of some kind. I was not for that. I wanted to see us stay in that facility but not if it meant seeking exemption from the rules. To me churches of all places should be cooperative with such regulations and be good citizens in so doing.

I could be wrong but I think that the property got moved to the Lake Jeanette watershed since it was into Lake Jeanette that runoff from the property eventually flowed.

So I was talking to Robbie and he said to me something pretty close to “There is no proof that water runoff into a lake is harmful.”

I remember being quite taken back. My first thought was “I don’t think he really said that.” My second was “This guy went to Duke?” And the third was, “This sounds like a tobacco executive talking.” I knew at that point that further conversation was pointless.

It was not that much longer after that, as I remember, that Mr. Perkins made the local news for his opposition to tree ordinances in residential neighborhoods. He said they would raise the cost of the property and house and diminish demand and in effect depress the housing market. I personally have never met anyone that said they preferred that their new property have no trees, or that they wouldn’t be willing to pay a little more to keep the trees. And tree cover has such an overwhelming benefit to everyone it seemed only a developer could be against a reasonable tree ordinance.

My personal experience of conversations, along with the subsequent issue of the tree ordinance, combined with the more recent obvious conflict of interest regarding the incentives package has led me to think that most developers like Mr. Perkins, though otherwise fine people in every respect, bring a deeply ingrained set of values into these discussions that are formed by their work as developers. In other words, they see the world through a developer’s lens.

I think it is just a very bad idea that developers have such influence upon our local governments. But they do.

Government has certain key responsibilities. One is to provide protection to its citizens against aggression from outside and crime within. A second role is to help provide an infrastructure that allows its citizens the ability to work and move around in an equitable and effective manner. A third is to provide and promote the general health and safety of its citizens. The provision of a clean and safe water supply would be one of its primary obligations.

I think our watershed restrictions are way too lax. Not only that, but downriver from Lake Townsend the restrictions diminish greatly. We seem to forget that what we put into our water up here impacts everyone downstream, all the way to Lake Jordan and to the Cape Fear River. I think we owe it to our neighbors downstream to be watchful of the quality of the water we send their way.

How we get developers who serve on our town and county councils to support reasoned planning, ordinances which protect the health and safety of our citizens and the beauty of our shared environment is a question I wonder about all the time.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Remembering My Irish Friend Clancey

I dreamed about Clancey last night and thought I'd post a different picture of him.

Clancey was my dog from the time I was about 14 in 1971 until he died of cancer of the heart cavity in February of 1981 when I was 23. He was, of course an Irish Setter, a male, and was a great companion and friend. We lived in an area of Columbia SC with lots of ponds and great roads for long walks. He was a little high strung as setters can be, but he was just such a loyal and cheerful fellow. He never failed to greet my homecoming - whether from high school, from being away at Clemson, from working at the store - with joy and enthusiasm. He could hear my VW Rabbit driving down the road (catalytic converter rattling) and would be running out to greet me with sheer exuberance as I pulled up in front of the house

We would go on the longest walks - no leashes required then - and he would run all around, swim in lakes, chase squirrels, whatever he felt like. In this picture he had just been in the water. All I had to say was "walk" and he would be grabbing my shoes in his mouth for me to put them on. He was not the sharpest tool in the shed dog wise, but for an Irish Setter he was pretty smart. I can just feel and imagine our familiar forehead nuzzles right now. I would get down on the floor, on my hands and knees, and we would rub foreheads, pushing a little, like two friendly big horn sheep!

We had some really fun games we would play, especially tackle the man (or dog) with the tennis ball. I would throw the ball up and across the yard and we would both race for it. He would generally win. Then I would try to get the ball from him, usually trying to corner him and tackling him if he made a dash for it. I would lunge and try to knock his back legs out from under him. He knew the rules - no leaving the yard for example. We would run and chase until we were both worn out and would just fall into a heap on the grass together. I miss him terribly.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dancing Queen

My little sister, Mary Adeline Gillespie (Now Mary Gillespie Johnson), about age five, app. 1964. I came across this yesterday buried deep in my Flickr site. I actually remember this event..."do I have to go..."

The Flickr comment is perfect...

"...a family treasure ! I like the way she holds her hands, baby's grace, and love the detail of her knees that show she might have been rowdy, and doing some other things apart from dancing!"

Mary, you can never escape your rowdy past :-)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

South Elm Rocks

I don't mean any disrespect for all you good folks north of Market Street, but having had my office down here on South Elm for almost nine months now, I can definitely say that South Elm is cool.

There seems to be more and more people about, more shops being renovated, and more places to eat every month. There is cool urban vibe - a little Greenwich Village like - art, food, music, theater, quirky and interesting people everywhere (my favorite kind).

I'm thinking of riding my bike to work. Thanks to my good friend Kay at the city who gave me the newest copy of the Trails of Greensboro (which included a great bicycle map of greater Greensboro) I figured out that I could ride all the way from my home out near Greensboro Day School to downtown and not be on a major road except for a few blocks downtown. I just have to figure out how to "clean up" after. Does anybody out there know of a "wipe down" product that would approximate the benefits of a shower?

I'm also thinking of getting a scooter - no, not the little Razor but the Vespa type. It would be such a blast to "scooter" around down town with camera in tow.

I can't wait until the Mellow Mushroom opens. Meanwhile on days when I don't have a lunch appointment somewhere I tend to hang out at Jimmy Johns for a late lunch. Good sandwiches, good prices, and totally rocking music after the lunch crowd leaves. And I don't need to eat dinner.

I'd love to live down here. Maybe someday.

My Grand Slam

I was born in 1957. Growing up in the early sixties I was an avid baseball fan just like pretty much everyone else, collecting baseball cards, following the teams and the stats, watching probably every World Series starting in about 1962 or 1963, and when they came to Atlanta, watching the Braves home games on TV.

Back then kids learned how to play sports in the neighborhood. I had older brothers and there were older kids all up and down the street. We played baseball in the street, in the backyard, in a field near the church, pretty much anywhere we could. I had baseball in my veins.

There was no travel ball then, no tee ball, no coaches pitch. There was no place to play baseball except Little League. So that’s where everyone, good and bad, played baseball.

I was a scrappy and competitive kid and simply loved – loved – playing baseball. The field was on the same property as my grammar school (Satchel Ford Elementary), about a mile from my house, and I generally rode my bike to and from practice.

Our little league was for kids 10-12 more or less. I played for “Custom Cleaners.” They had won the championship the year before I started, and did again my first year. We had cool green uniforms with the old fashioned baseball pants and striped baseball socks.

We played six inning games, one during the week and one on Saturday, with no time clock, so sometimes we would be at the field a long time.

Our best player was Larry Chavis, probably the best all around athlete I knew growing up. Larry was our # 1 pitcher and best hitter, and I was the #2 pitcher. When Larry pitched I usually played short stop and when I pitched he played first. Larry was also a buddy of mine. His dad was the coach. I know people who have bad memories of coaches, but Mr. Chavis was as good a coach as I can imagine ever having. He was a very kind and decent man, yet was committed to our being a good team, and he played to win. When I think back, the image I have of him merges a little with that of Andy Griffith. Imagine someone with Andy Griffith’s demeanor hitting ground balls and pop flies, running double plays and such until the team got it perfect, or until it got too dark to play. In those days the parents waited, period.

Our second year we weren’t terribly good. We had lost a ton of players and were “rebuilding.” I did manage to throw a no hitter that year against one of the best teams (check out the box score). That was cool.

I was young for my grade so my third year of Little League I was in seventh grade as was Larry. The owner of Custom Cleaners, Mr. Allday, assisted as coach, and his son Greg was the catcher and some time pitcher. I think five people from our team made all-stars my third year, Larry, Greg, Bob Dreher, Clint Freeman, and myself.

You can see a team picture here. That’s Mr. Chavis back right, Mr. Allday back left, Clint Freeman back middle, Larry between Clint and Mr. Chavis, me between Clint and Mr. Allday. Debbie Carawan was the bat girl.

One very cool aside: our primary umpire was Kirby Higby. Most of the adults just called him “Higby.” He had been a major league pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He even won a World Series game, I think in the 1948 World Series. He wrote a book called “A High Hard One” that is still in print. I have an autographed copy of the first edition. Sometimes, since Mr. Higby had been a pitcher, he would call a game from behind the pitcher’s mound. He talked to the pitcher the whole game, giving advice or just talking turkey. It was super. He was really opposed to young pitchers throwing junk and was ahead of his time in that regard. I couldn’t throw a decent curveball to save my life, but I did have a screwball that I would use on occasion and he would razz me about it. This was also back in the day when parents felt free to express their opinions about umpire calls. It made the games, well, colorful!

The way things worked in our league the season was divided into two halves of nine games each. The winner of the first half would play the winner of the second half in a two out of three game playoff for the league championship. As I remember we won the second half and Garber’s Shoes won the first half, so we met in the playoff.

My third year a kid named Clint Freeman moved into town. He ended up on our team and became the catcher. Clint was a stud. In those days you could run over the catcher, but few people wanted to try to run over Clint. One time, in going after a little pop foul, he ran headfirst with his head into the 2 by 6 cross beam of the dugout - and he broke the beam. Yes, he kept playing. Clint was a lefty. He could smoke the ball. He threw it back to me faster than I pitched it to him!

Toward the end of the season, Larry and Greg and I starting talking to the coach about trying out Clint at pitcher. I mean, nobody could have hit his heat. He pitched in a couple of games and did OK.

Anyway, we won the first game of the playoffs, with Larry pitching. I don’t remember the details of that game. I do remember the second.

Coach Chavis decided to start Clint pitching. We were home team so Garber’s batted first. Clint didn’t have any control that day and walked the first four or five batters. Mr. Chavis eventually pulled him and put me in.

Now in those days Little League was a big deal, and there were a couple of hundred people at the game, all around the field, even up in the trees past the outfield.

Well, they ended up scoring five runs in the bottom of the first. It was kind of deflating to say the least. Then we came up to bat.

They were pitching George Lee that day. George was a big guy, and a lefty, and he wasn’t my best friend. I was not a really great hitter and had spent half the season in a slump, but I had been hitting well the last five or six games. And for some reason I could see George’s pitches better than I could see most.

I batted fifth. When I came up to bat the bases were loaded and there was one out. I dug in and really wanted to get a hit or a walk. Now, it is pertinent to this story to know that at no time in my life, in practice, in a game, hitting around for fun, whatever, at no time had I ever hit any ball over the fence. Ever. I could throw it over the fence but I couldn’t hit it over the fence! I was a singles hitter and a really good base runner and loved to steal. But I had no power.

So I came up. I suspect George was glad to see me and not Larry or any of three or four other of our other batters right then with the bases loaded. "Easy out” I heard from their dugout. I can’t remember the count for sure, maybe 2-1. George had a big looping windup. In came the ball. Now the ball just seemed big to me that day. I swung hard and I hit it hard, but definitely got under the ball too much. From the feel of the ball off the wooden bat, it seemed like a high pop fly to me, so my first reaction was frustration. Still, I was well coached and started running. That ball went as high as any ball I had ever hit and it just seemed to drift deeper and deeper into left center. The left fielder and right fielder were converging on the ball as I was rounding first. Even in these short periods of time a lot of things happen. I could hear my mother screaming “go ball go” and other people yelling at the ball. Both of their outfielders had reached the fence and were reaching out with their gloves for the ball when it fell just out of their reach, over the fence.

I had hit a home run! No, a grand slam! I will never ever forget the feeling of running those bases. Fans of our team were screaming and my mom was going nuts. I was smiling ear to ear. I touched home plate and got the congrats of all my teammates, and when I went into the dugout Mr. Chavis kissed me right on the cheek. He was so happy, not just for me, but also because he wanted to win the game. We all did.

We scored nine runs that inning and won the game like 29 to 9 or something outrageous like that. I went 3 for 5, had a grand slam, and was the winning pitcher. It was my best sports moment ever. I close my eyes and I can still hear the noise and see the ball dropping over the fence.

My dad was a nut. He knew pretty much all the families and kids, and at one point one of their batters, Cam Creps, was in the on deck circle and he and my dad were talking trash to each other. Cam said he bet he would hit a home run. My dad never saw a bet he didn’t want to make, so right on the spot he bet Cam five dollars that he would not hit a homerun. Cam was pretty motivated. He hit the first pitch over the fence! Thanks Dad!

It was a great day.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ahhhhh - Looking Glass Falls Frozen Over

It's a beautiful summer day today but I still have winter on my mind. It's hard to imagine Looking Glass Falls this frozen, but that was one cold week back in January 1977.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Custom Cleaners Spring 1970 Columbia SC

This picture is of my little league team Custom Cleaners spring 1970. That's me top row 3rd from left - League Champs of Satchel Ford Little League 1970. Head Coach Mr. Chavis, top right. Asst. Mr. coach Mr. Allday top left.The guy in the middle is Clint Freeman. He was a stud and played catcher. To the right of him is Larry Chavis, one of the best athletes you could ever see, and league MVP. Larry and I pitched mostly, and when he pitched I played shortstop. Greg Allday is in front of Larry Chavis, third from right kneeling. Bob Dreher is in front of Mr. Allday, and Tom Lancaster third from left kneeling. Debbie Carawan was the bat girl. Mr. Chavis was a great coach, a great mentor, and a fine man.

I wrote a story about our very last game as a team on my site today. OK, it's mostly about my grand slam!

Looking Down from Shining Rock

I've been thinking of winter this week. Ahh, even the thought of a cold day is refreshing! Rummaging through some old pictures this one jumped out. Taken from Shining Rock in western NC. So who is up for a winter backpack in Shining Rock, say in January? We could have a "meet up" at the peak!

From my Flickr photostream.