Basketball Couch Potato

Bulleit bourbon (photo credit: The Adventures of Sarah & Derrick)

(Photo Credit: The Adventures of Sarah and Derrick)

There are few advantages to having a cracked bone in your shoulder…but there is at least one: I can be a total couch potato during the weekend of the college basketball tournament championships.

Yes, I know that college basketball has lost its soul.  Yes, I despise the one-and-done culture that Kentucky has mastered so well, and for that I “hate” John Calapari almost as much as I hate Christian Laettner. (I don’t really hate either one, but you have to admit it is a great film title to kick off this season’s 30 for 30 on ESPN.)

But given all of that, I still enjoy the game.  Especially this weekend and next weekend, before the elite big boys take over.  On these two weekends, you can see teams that no one expects to go anywhere, suddenly get hot and destroy the best laid plans of the big boys.  You can see Albany hit its only three-pointer of the game to beat Stony Brook for a one-point win, in today’s first game.  My alma mater, Middle Tennessee, will play University Alabama-Birmingham later today.  No college elites there.

And even elite teams can be underdogs on this weekend.  UNC’s win over Virginia last evening – like Notre Dame’s over Duke – were both exciting games where the “underdog” won.

There are all sorts of key questions to be decided over this weekend.  Can Harvard beat Yale in a game that never should have happened, except that Yale blew its chance to get in the Big Dance last weekend?  Which part of the Atlantic coastline does Notre Dame’s home state of Indiana touch? Since when is Xavier and Cincinnati, Ohio located in the east? What will be Dick Vitale’s biggest outrage at the end of Selection Sunday?  How many times will Clark Kellogg call someone “The Big Fella?” Will we spend more time debating the number one seedings than we do as a country in debating to go to war?  (Okay, maybe that last one isn’t really fun.)

Next up, the SEC.  Only question here is can any team in the conference get within 20 points of Kentucky by the end of the game.  (Answer:  N0.)  I’ll probably drop Kentucky vs. Auburn to switch over and watch a bit of the MEAC Championship between Hampton and Delaware State.  I’d also check out the Atlantic 10 championship between VCU and Davidson…if I had a television package that carried it.  And since Purdue is now giving Wisconsin a run for its money, I’ll pay attention to the Big Ten semifinal.  (Motto for the 14-team conference:  “Don’t confuse us with institutions of higher learning that teach math.”)  I’ll go in and out of a number of games all the way through the UNC vs. Notre Dame ACC final that no one saw coming.

So bring it on…and maybe after five tonight I’ll have a little libation to go along with my wayward ways.

Oh, and by the way.  John Feinstein has the best idea of how to get rid of the one-and-done:  use the baseball model.

The baseball rule: Any player graduating from high school is eligible for the draft. Once he finds out where he’s drafted and what kind of money he can make to turn pro, he then decides whether to turn pro or go to college. None of this blind guessing. One of the reasons so many underclassmen put their names into the basketball draft each year is because they have agents telling them, “Don’t listen to your coach, don’t listen to any committee, I know general managers and you’ll go in the lottery. Or in the first round.”

Are they often lying? Of course they are. They can’t make any money off players who are still in college.

Remember, everyone selected in the first round of the NBA draft is guaranteed a contract. Second round and free agency? Nothing. So, if a player is drafted in the first round and the money’s guaranteed, he will probably want to sign. If not, he might want to go to college.

In baseball, if you go that route, you can’t go back in the draft for three years. That means you have to make some effort to go to class and to make academic progress. It means if you leave school after three years there’s a reasonable chance you might come back and graduate. It means that your coach isn’t recruiting your replacement before you play a single game. It means you don’t have to face the ‘are you going or not going?’ questions until your junior year. It means you might actually get to experience college. And it takes the predatory agents out of the process for two years.

Pretty simple.  For the sake of the college game, let’s do it.

More to come…


Lesson #61: You Never Know…

60th Birthday

An early 60th birthday celebration at Herbsaint in New Orleans.

Earlier this week, two colleagues and I were “stranded” in New Orleans because of multiple flight cancellations back to DC.  Monday evening they surprised me by taking me out for an early birthday dinner at a wonderful restaurant called Herbsaint – which just happens to be where the husband of the former executive assistant who made a cameo in my 60 Lessons From 60 Years (Lesson #18) now works.

One of those colleagues just sent the following message:

I was struck by the juxtaposition of the two images…of David’s celebrations. I think the takeaway is that you should always go ahead and have the deep fried lamb neck, dirty rice with sausage, fantastic pinot, and decadent dessert when you have the opportunity. You never know what comes next!

60th Birthday celebration

Celebrating my 60th birthday, along with my fractured shoulder and new sling

I think I’ve just discovered Lesson #61.

More to come…


Comments on 60 Lessons From 60 Years

60th Birthday celebration

Celebrating my 60th birthday, along with my fractured shoulder and new sling

My blog is not one of those that has thousands of followers and elicits nasty comments…or many comments at all.  100 views is an excellent day. Most of my readers are family and friends, and the comments I do receive tend to come to me on email or on Candice’s Facebook page (since I went off Facebook more than two years ago).

So I was overwhelmed by the response to my last post, 60 Lessons From 60  Years. As of March 5th (a snowy day with offices and schools closed), I only had three “official” comments on the blog. But I have received well over 100 via those other channels and more than 500 views.  I wanted to ensure the comments did not get lost in cyberspace and – more importantly – I wanted to share some of them with you.

But first, to understand the context, it helps to know a bit of the back-story:

Some people will do anything to avoid going to work on their birthday. My excuse? I was hit by an ambulance while helping a friend who had fallen on the ice. Yep, you read that right.

We made the local news. (A colleagues’ husband had seen it on one of those small screens they now have in cabs, so she wrote, “You’re famous in cabs!”)  A friend (Nancy) who was staying with us went out to dinner with a client, and she slipped and fell on the road behind our house when she returned. An angel of a neighbor found her and called us. We went out to help Nancy, and as she couldn’t get up we called 911. I was kneeling behind her as she sat where she had fallen, to keep her upright and to keep her alert. The ambulance arrived and couldn’t stop on the ice as it headed towards us. We couldn’t get out-of-the-way. I was hit first – my left shoulder against the front of the ambulance – and was tossed into a snow bank. Then the ambulance struck Nancy and pushed her down our hill. I could quickly tell I was okay except for shoulder pain but Nancy was obviously in a worse condition. They took her to the trauma unit at a local hospital and I was taken to ER at nearby Holy Cross.

To cut to the chase, I now have a fractured Humerus in my left shoulder. Nancy has some broken bones. According to our doctors at the moment, neither of us will require surgery. I have to keep my left arm immobile in a sling, which you see at the top of the post. Candice and I are so relieved that Nancy’s prognosis is positive at this point. Mutual friends were so good to Nancy, allowing Candice to focus on my injuries, but Candice did get to visit Nancy in the hospital on Wednesday before Thursday’s snow storm hit.

As a result, many of the comments are from friends and colleagues who found out about our little adventure. And don’t worry about all the typing required for this long post. I am becoming a master of the cut and paste.

I wanted others to see the thoughtfulness, love, and wisdom that came through in responses from friends. I thought you, dear readers, would like to see which lessons resonated.  Feel free to add further comments in the “Leave a comment” section below.

We’ll begin with a colleague who consults for us:

Three new things I just added to the hopefully more than 50 I’ve amassed in my 50 years:
1.   You really are your dad, you lucky devil.
2.   I am not one of those few who understand baseball, but I’d best attend more and try harder for something that merits this much praise from you.
3.   I like and admire you even more than I thought. Which was a lot.

Thank you for sharing. Happy Birthday!

The picture of my grandparents – that was tied to Lesson #23 to “Make yourself useful, as well as ornamental” – was a big favorite. Here’s a sampling of those comments:

I came over to get another gander at the ears to see if they align with what was in the picture but all I can say is here’s to hoping I can one day read your reflections when you hit 90!  Happy birthday!

Hope you’re having a Happy Birthday, ambulances aside! This was fun to read through—thanks for sharing. Gosh, you’re grandparents wedding photograph is wonderful—they are such a gorgeous and handsome couple! 29 cracked me up, and 45 is the bomb, as some say. And many more, including still having your dad with you. I hope I get as lucky.

Love them all, but especially #29, 35, and the photo of your grandparents.

The pastor who led the church where I was raised wrote to say:

In many ways you are your Father’s son.

Many commentators called out their favorite lessons:

Absolutely, completely beautiful. I’m fond of, and moved by, many of them. This morning’s favorite is #45.

Happy Birthday, David.  Your lessons have (mostly) all resonated with me – especially on first read Nos. 13 and 37.

Thank you for sharing your blog with us, that was a gift, even if it had to reach me via your not so great news. I hope you are comfy and warm in your hospital and plan to take it very easy these next days. I shared your blog with my husband, we both greatly enjoyed it and live by many of your numbers -14 and 15 and more. We appreciate advice. A friend of my husband who is in the special forces in the UK, (my husband is a former British army officer at Sandhurst) told him once: you won’t succeed if you have to make all your own mistakes, you have to learn from other people’s mistakes. The same lesson can be applied about many things in life. Thank you for your wonderful blog, and I guess I need to give baseball another chance.  Take it easy and Happy Birthday.

Such a delightful read – and full of sage advice I needed to hear after a long day! Also so excited to see I made a cameo. 🙂  (Editor’s Note:  See Rule #18.)  So great seeing you this past weekend. Happy birthday, David! 

Thanks for including me on this – what a great read! I think it’s funny you mention “becoming your father” – I sometimes fear that though I look just like my dad, in personality I’m becoming my mother! 54 and 55 both resonated with me too. I seem to find that life often has something better in store for me than I could have thought up myself.  Hope you’re recuperating well. Everyone keeps stopping by and passing along their good thoughts!

Happy Birthday David! Hope the shoulder is better. I heard.  Can’t wait to read this and best of all listen to some of this music. My eye did catch your mention of…. The Bitter Southerner. (Editor’s Note: See #28) It is my #1 self treat after a nice long run. Makes me smile to have something in common with you even if you are 60 YEARS OLD.  To Your Day!

Happy belated birthday, David! I’m particularly fond of #’s 13, 15, 7, 28.

I’m so glad to hear you are ok and that your humor remains intact. I was glad to follow this link and read your 60 lessons. It was a great read. Re: #17 – I would say Amtrak is the very best place to think and write. Icing on the cake for me would be the train from NYC to Albany, Hudson River side. #40 made me cry. I especially like #59. In the time I’ve been here, you’ve always been the one to thank me for things or say good job. I’ve mentioned it to many people how important those gestures are, just how far they go….but never thanked you directly. Thank you for taking the time to do that. Hope you feel better soon. Happy birthday!

I also received some suggestions for new lessons to add to the list:

From the ripe old age of 61, I agree with most of your observations. I would also add, “Do something that challenges you every day. It won’t hurt.” I am working on a retirement plan that would allow me to be a “senior nomad,” although I’ll have to change it to something like “Still Crazy Nomad.” I think that’s what I want to be when I grow up, since being Janis Joplin seems out of the question.  Sorry to hear about your run-in with an ambulance. A classic “life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” Have a happy birthday in spite of it.

Happy birthday.  Enjoyed your 60 vignettes, and now on your birthday, you’ve learned another: bad things happen to good people – and good may come of that.

Here’s one from a colleague who has a serious case of Guitar Acquisition Syndrome (G.A.S.) and has helped me research past acquisitions.

Happy B-Day David!

• Birthday prediction: I think there’s an Gibson Advanced Jumbo in tobacco sunburst in your future …

• Lesson #61: You can never have too many guitars …

• Don’t forget the 12-step program I’ve been advocating: Step 1: submit to a higher power (i.e., the Guitar Gods) …

P.S. Don’t even think about it … just reach for the credit card and everything will be just fine…

Gibson Jumbo

Carl’s next acquisition…a Gibson sunburst Jumbo

Then, of course, the ambulance accident generated a great deal of commentary.

You are rocking the sling my friend! Take it easy…

Can’t want to see what you come up with for 65.

So sorry David. One helluva way to ring in your birthday. I’m so over this snow and ice. I bet you are too.

Heard you’re the subject of the news story I read last night about an ambulance striking the folks it was coming to help. Glad to hear you’ll be OK, but such an unfortunate (and painful!) thing to happen. I hope you feel better soon – and that you get to spend your recovery time watching spring training games from less-icy places!

I understand that you’ve injured your arm in the cause of helping a friend. I am sorry for your troubles and wish you a speedy, easy recovery. I will say, on the other hand, that your accident led me to read your blog post, “60 Lessons from 60 Years.” There’s a lot of love in your writing as well as good humor, wisdom, and links to fine music. Thanks for sharing the lessons you’ve learned.

Inconceivable! (one of the better lines from the Princess Bride) First of all, Happy Birthday!, but secondly stay inside, drink warm cocoa with a little schnapps for the pain and recover! Hope at least the drugs are good.

What a terrific milestone, David! I hope you have a wonderful, grateful, celebratory – and ambulance-free – birthday. (I hear cake can help …)

I am so sorry to hear about your accident and the injuries you and your guest sustained. Hope that you both heal soon and get back to 100%. I can’t imagine how shocked and helpless you must have felt as that ambulance was bearing down on you. Amazing that, so soon afterwards, you are able to reflect on it with such calm. Again, glad that you are on the road to recovery.  Thank you too, for sharing your insights on life, love, and family on your blog.

I truly enjoyed your blog entry and savored the lessons therein. Had it not been for Rob visiting here yesterday…I would have written you with birthday greetings and a question about Glacier. However, Rob shared the news of Tuesday evening and the accident.  Now this email has turned from Happy Birthday to Get Well Soon. One never knows what is around the corner. Some advice on the breaking of bones—Almost 4 years ago, I broke my leg. The things I learned—1) Listen to the doctor and stay ahead of the pain. Even if you don’t like medication, a healing bone is very painful; 2) Ice! 3)Let people do for you—at least at first; 4) Don’t write emails while taking the pain meds. You think you make sense between naps, but you don’t; 5) Take the time you need—easier said than done, but it will make a difference in the recovery and 6) Do the physical therapy and then some. It makes a tremendous difference! I hope that you and your houseguest will be on the mend shortly. Please know you will be in my thoughts and prayers. And may the year bring you much joy, preservation victories, baseball, music and family!

Finally, I received a long email from a friend, Ed. I met Ed and his wife Ruth on a National Trust tour of the Black Sea. They were representing Andover. We bonded over many things, but especially baseball.  His son works for the Red Sox, and I have had the pleasure of visiting Ed and Ruth in their house outside Boston. We keep planning a trip to Nationals Stadium. They are both so very thoughtful, and I thought I’d end this post with excerpts from Ed’s reflections. Enjoy.

Just spent a fascinating evening with your 60 for 60, and Happy Birthday!

Delighted many times over…All 60 had something for me. Can’t think of them all now, but: Staunton [wasn’t Wilson born there?]. Old buildings which several generations have struggled to keep standing. Small towns. Your western travels. Your twins, beloved. [We have identicals as 6-year-old granddaughters in Lexington MA]. The Bitter Southerner’s reassuring message. Your thinking on church, on Southern Baptists, on the Christian Right, who get in their own way. And too much more to remember at the moment.

We differ on a few points, but I appreciate your perspective which would say, Vive la difference!

1. Belichick is far from perfect, but I’ve met him, as a fellow Andover alum. He loved Andover. He was charming, and he has a good side. A mutual friend heard from a guy that Bill once stopped along a highway to help this poor anonymous soul change his tire in a pouring rain. At the end, the guy said, hey, aren’t you . . . ? And Bill said, Please don’t say any more–to me or anyone else. You wouldda done the same thing for me. And he drove off. Kinda like Dean Smith. Maybe great coaches`figure out, sooner than the rest of us, not to be proud of doing the right thing, but just doing it.

The NFL is my guilty pleasure, and I feel like taking a shower after getting its evils splashed on me. But I must confess that it seemed right that Richard Sherman needed to learn more about Kipling’s point that victory and defeat are Two Great Imposters – and he did so with a grace that he had not shown me before. Ditto Pete Carroll, who had left USC just before his misdeeds there came crashing down on the folks he left behind. I was pleasantly surprised that Coach Carroll bravely took the blame for that play call. And Marshawn Lynch said he wasn’t surprised not to get the ball, because “football is a team game.” Not bad for a guy who hasn’t shown a lot of respect in other moments. As your 90-year-old Dad, and your beautiful Grandmother and daughter would doubtless agree, humans are complex and should not be written off.

2. Blue-grass, Blue Highways hymns, and mandolins, have not been to my taste. But I admire them more now, after seeing your appreciation for them.

The three best YouTubes of music I saw this year I will share with you, hoping to add to your eclectic appreciation.

A. So many surprises in this first one: As college kids in 1963-4, we skipped right over this song, to get to “Fun Fun Fun” or “Little Deuce Coop.” Brian Wilson, for a while a hopeless self-absorbed mess, wrote this relatively obscure tune–but not the equally beautiful lyrics–when he was barely 21. His cousin and Hawthorne, CA, neighbor–Mike Love–widely known as a jerk in most circumstances, this time created the words, that make the discerning tear up. And who knew that Mike Love of all people would admit his mistake, in trying to change Willie Nelson’s delivery?

But greatest of all, savor Brian Wilson’s facial expressions at about 4:49. It’s as if this astounding songwriter and harmonist is the RCA dog, listening to his master’s voice on the phonograph. HE tears up–not as a demi-god, but as a human being. All these guys, Willie included, are just regular people, creating some pretty good art, and shaking hands over it. If there is a God, She would smile here. Life can be beautiful, in the South, in the West.

(Editor’s note:  Ed sent along a bonus Beach Boys video)

B. Tammy Wynette and some promoter named Billy Sherrill wrote this song in 15 minutes. We’ve all heard it, but few of us knew what real-life marital and bodily pain Wynette lived through–like Brian Wilson. Her voice haunts:

I’m gonna tell Ruth, and you can tell Candice, that even our selective hearing lets this song come through, loud and clear. [Wynette’s last recording session, before an early death, was singing Brian Wilson’s “In My Room,” which he wrote c. 1961 after yet another beating from his Dad. You can find a different YouTube showing Brian and Tammy together, recording, just weeks before she died. They moved each other, two screwed-up lives intersecting, like ships in the night.]

C. The U.S. Library of Congress selected this 1964 T.A.M.I. Show for preservation in the National Film Registry. The Rolling Stones later said that following James Brown at the end of this show was the biggest mistake they ever made in their careers–and yet they too performed memorably. [Didn’t get what they wanted, but maybe what they needed?] Check out this portion of James Brown’s 20-minute set:

Best to you, and now your remarkable family,
Ed Q.

Candice came out when the Beach Boys tune was playing, as she was a big fan during high school. I had seen the James Brown clip before, and remain amazed.  You gotta love friends who quote Kipling, Bill Belichick, Brian Wilson, Tammy Wynette, and the Godfather of Soul all in the same message.  To each and every one of you who reached out with your love, concerns, thoughts, stories, and humor, my deepest and sincere thanks.

With much love and affection, and with More to Come…


60 Lessons From 60 Years

Here are 60 things I’ve learned in my (now) 60 years of life:

1.  Discipline is remembering what you really want.

2.  The graveyard is full of folks who thought the world couldn’t get along without them. (Mary Dixie Bearden Brown and others)

3.  Baseball is (much) better than football.

4.  I have been lucky in love.

5.  Few things sound better than a solo acoustic guitar played by Doc Watson (Deep River Blues), Tony Rice, (Shenandoah), or Norman Blake (Church Street Blues). Or, if you want to go next generation, Bryan Sutton (Texas Gales).

6.  Good things can come from bad situations, if you’ll stop wallowing in your sorrow and seek out the good.

Tom Brown 1948

Tom Brown, 1948

7.  I have become my father.  I repeat many of the same stories. (Did you know that I paid more for my last car than for my first house?)  I read funny articles from the newspaper out loud at the dining room table, sometimes to the consternation of my wife and children. I cackle when I laugh. I am a dyed-in-the-wool Southern liberal who believes that government can make our life better, and I have TVA to prove it. I have good-looking legs, even at age 60. I can’t see worth a damn without my glasses and – if you ask Candice – my hearing is suspect. I think Molly Ivins (God rest her soul) and Gail Collins tell more truth in one short newspaper column than any politician tells in a book-length campaign bio. I love to read. Body and Soul and the St. Louis Blues – the only two songs my father could play on the piano – are still among my top 10 favorite songs of all time.  I wish I had more of my father’s faith and compassion, but I still have 30 years to work on that and catch up with him.  I think it is pretty neat, at age 60, to have a father who turns 90 this year – especially when that father is Tom Brown.

8.  I will cry at the movies, so I need to bring a handkerchief.

9.  Neckties are a highly overrated – and in my case an increasingly irrelevant – piece of clothing.

10.  All things considered, I’d rather live in a community full of old buildings.

Downtown Staunton

Downtown Staunton, VA

11.  The movie Selma was not – in my opinion – the “Best Picture” of the year in 2015, but it was the most important.  Everyone (and especially Southerners) should see it. We forget too quickly how difficult it was to attain rights for all, and how much pressure there is, even today, to restrict or even take away those rights.  We are nowhere near a post-racial society.  I grew up in the South in the 1960s. I remember those images on the television. I saw how blacks were treated then.  It was terrible. In some ways, it is still terrible. After seeing Selma, Southerners should also visit the High Church of Doing the Right Thing – otherwise known as the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.  We can do better.

12.  A colleague gave me this big, 1950s-style ashtray for my office with a quote attributed to Amelia Earhart that says, “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” He thought it sounded like me, and I couldn’t agree more.

13.  Stephen Carter, in his book Civility, captured much that is wrong in America today when he said, “The language of the marketplace, the language of wanting, of winning, of simply taking – the language of self – (has supplanted) the language of community, of sharing, of fairness, of riding politely alongside our fellow citizens.”  The best description I’ve read of Libertarians – who epitomize the language of self – is that they’ve politicized the protests of children who scream through tears, “You’re not the boss of me.”

14. “Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them.”  (Jane Jacobs)  I love old buildings.  I always have.  We grew up in an early 20th century house on Main Street in Murfreesboro, and I loved visiting my Grandmother’s Victorian-era house on Second Avenue in Franklin. Candice and I renovated two old houses in Staunton, where we spent the first half of our married life.  Old houses are especially nice for putting you in a physical and spiritual continuum – there were people in that house before you, and you realize you are just a steward of this place for the next generation.  You can connect with the joys and hardships of those who came before, and you can prepare the house for those who come after.  The best places I’ve been in life have a real connection to the past, and yet feel remarkably livable for the modern world.

WWJJD T-shirt

Andrew’s WWJJD (What Would Jane Jacobs Do?) t-shirt

15.  Education, experiences, and travel trump “things” hands down. When you have a limited amount of money to spend, go for the things that feed the soul and widen your perspective, not the things that will collect dust in your house or take up more space in your garage (or, God forbid, a storage bin).

16.  “Baseball is like church; many attend but few understand.”  (Wes Westrum)

17.  Take the train whenever possible.  It is civilized and, short of walking and riding a bike, it is the most environmentally friendly way to travel. I am writing this right now on a train home from New York City.  In a few minutes I’ll wander back to the cafe car. I ride a train to work every day.  Even with Amtrak working as a second-class citizen when it comes to transportation systems and the Washington Metro suffering breakdowns from lack of funding and maintenance, train travel still beats the alternatives.  Unfortunately, American mass transit is dying. Imagine how well our transportation system could run if people demanded, and politicians funded, train travel.

18. Try to see yourself as others see you.  In more than half of my career, I’ve worked with an executive assistant.  The good ones – who are perceptive and honest – see you in a myriad of situations and understand you in ways that few people do.  One of the best I had the privilege of working with wrote what I took to calling a “Users Guide to DJB” when she left.  It was rather eye-opening to read.

19.  When you buy something you plan to keep for a while (shoes, cars, a home), buy the best quality (not necessarily quantity) you can afford, without overextending your budget.  This approach is why Candice and I tend to keep our (one) car for a decade or more, and why we raised two children in a house with about 1800 square feet. Oh, and you need much less “stuff” than you have.

20.  Those who accept life and their own limitations are likely to find more in life.

21.  The 9th inning of the 5th game of the 2012 NLDS never happened.

22.  If YouTube had existed when I was young, I don’t know if I would be a better guitar player, but I know I would have saved myself a lot of trouble picking up the needle and putting it back (and back, and back) in the grove to try to learn that special lick.

23.  “Make yourself useful, as well as ornamental” is good advice I learned from my Grandmother.  (Mary Dixie Bearden Brown.)  My Grandmother worked hard her entire life, but as you can see in the picture below, my Grandmother was very pretty as a young bride.  Naturally, I inherited my big ears from the Brown side of the family.

Grandmother and Granddaddy Brown

Mary Dixie Bearden Brown and George Alma Brown – my Grandmother and Grandfather

24.  Fear isn’t a solid foundation for any healthy relationship.  So why is so much right-wing fundamentalism based on a fear of God’s wrath?  In my experience, She cares for all her children, not just the ones who have drunk the Kool-Aid.

25.  Speaking of fear, Kris Kristofferson hit the nail on the head about hatred of things we don’t understand in Jesus Was a Capricorn. Truer words than “Reckon we’d just nail him up if he came down again” were never spoken. Thanks to Darrell Scott for resurrecting this song (pun intended) on his wonderful Modern Hymns CD.

26. Don’t you just love it that 2015’s Super Bowl (#49) was hailed by many (I’m looking at you Sally Jenkins) as the “best Super Bowl ever.”  What did it feature?  One confirmed concussion, and one probable concussion that the Patriots covered up.  (The Onion had a telling headline:  “Super Bowl Confetti Made Entirely From Shredded Concussion Studies.”) A horrendous arm injury by one player.  Oh, and a fight in the end zone on the next to last play.  Yep, that about sums up the NFL these days.

27.  I think Wondrous Love is just about the best hymn ever – in either version (traditional as heard below from Blue Highway, or reworked for the Episcopal hymnal).  I hope my family remembers – when I’ve gone to my reward – that I want it sung at any service/celebration in my memory.  And remember to sing the last verse (in the Episcopal hymnal) a cappella“And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on” sounds incredible when unaccompanied.

28.  The intelligent mind is able to live with paradox.  Such as the paradox of why I’m proud to be a Southerner. (Read this piece from The Bitter Southerner, as it sums up my views on the subject pretty well.) Yes, we have this awful racial history that continues to this day, which I wish our region could overcome. And yes, we have bourbon.

Bulleit bourbon (photo credit: The Adventures of Sarah & Derrick)

(Photo Credit: The Adventures of Sarah and Derrick)

29.  Women who seek to be equal to men lack ambition.

30.  When you are paying the bill at a restaurant out of your own pocket, tip at the high-end of the scale – 20% – unless the service is awful and the server is rude.  If the service is great, consider giving a bit more.  This is especially true at breakfast.  Many people don’t understand this idea, and it is generally because they have never waited tables.  Waiting tables is very hard work, when done right.  I did it for a year almost 40 years ago, and I still remember the long hours on my feet, the late nights, the times when you do a terrific job and the diners still stiff you.  It never hurts to thank someone, and tipping a bit more than expected is a way of saying thanks.  (The tip up to the norm is payment for service.)  This lesson doesn’t apply in places like Copenhagen, where they pay service staff a living wage. But I think I’ll go to my grave in the U.S. with service staff just scraping by.  Many waiters and waitresses are working two jobs (or more) just to cover basic costs of living.  Tipping at the high-end of the scale is one way I can help them out.  (And while it is a little different, I also recommend tipping street musicians – or buskers – when they are good.)

NOLA Street Musicians

A New Orleans Jazz Trio

31.  If you are going to share a car with someone for more than two weeks, it would be hard to beat Claire as a traveling companion.

Claire and DJB at Glacier

Hiking in Glacier National Park with Claire as part of our two-week cross-country trip in 2014

32.  “I believe that ignorance is the root of all evil. And that no one knows the truth.” (Molly Ivins)

33.  Chris Thile is from another world.  There is no other explanation.

Chris Thile at Merlefest 2012

Chris Thile with the Punch Brothers at Merlefest 2012

34.  The Christian Right is neither.

35.  I definitely “married up.” Candice is very intentional about our life together, as a couple and as a family.  I would probably miss half (or more) of the wonders of our time together, but she has helped me see the little grace notes that make up our life.  Almost thirty-three years later, I would do it all again.

Candice and David celebrate their 32nd anniversary in Copenhagen, March 20, 2014

With Candice, on our 32nd anniversary, in Copenhagen (March 2014)

36.  Visiting all the Major League Baseball stadiums is a worthy bucket list goal for any red-blooded American.  I’m proud  to say I am more than halfway there.

37.  Everyone should have the chance to be surrounded by – and learn from – passionate and talented people at least once in their lifetime. My entire work career has been one when I’ve been surrounded by such individuals.  However, on the personal side, I was lucky in my “earlier life” to sing as part of the Shenandoah Valley musical group Canticum Novum.  I’ve seldom heard such a pure soprano as Custer LaRue, who was one of our eight-to-twelve singers (depending on the gig).  Among other highlights in her career, Custer was the “singing voice” of Reese Witherspoon in the movie Vanity Fair. (I should probably add that she sang a solo at Claire and Andrew’s baptismal service!) I count myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to sing with Custer, and with Debbie, Lucy, Kay, Peter, John, and Dick, (plus others) under Carol Taylor’s direction.

38.  We have an “almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance.”  (Daniel Kahneman)

39.  “Bad trades are part of baseball – now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God’s sake?” You should watch the movie Bull Durham twice a year – in February/March, to get your juices going, and in November, to put the season you’ve just lived through in perspective.  Best. Baseball. Movie. Ever.

40.  I still miss my mother every day.

41.  Barbecue is a gift from the gods.  One of the wonderful things about my job is that I get to travel to cities all across the U.S.  When I can, I eat at great barbecue places, such as Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City and The Rendezvous in Memphis.

42.  My father (as he nears age 90) likes to say that growing old is not for wimps.  I’m beginning to worry that I understand what he means.

43.  Nineteen years out of twenty, the lowliest man on a World Series-winning baseball team can give better quotes than the Super Bowl-winning coach.  Baseball players and managers speak with eloquence and  intelligence (even if it is Yogi Berra-type eloquence).  Football players and coaches either talk gibberish (“We used the cover 2 and flex”) or just grunt.

44.  One thing I have not figured out in life is how I happened to have such wonderful, talented, and thoughtful children. It is a mystery. Andrew and Claire taught me so much before they turned 21, and I continue to learn life lessons from them.  I feel blessed and humbled every day.

Andrew and Claire's 21st Birthday

Andrew and Claire’s 21st Birthday

45.  There are many things said in churches that I find hard to believe.  What I do believe is that love is more important than doctrine.

46.  World War II was shorter than the NBA playoffs.

47.  I was fortunate to grow up in a town where I could walk or bike to school, church, the grocery store, and my job.  It was a great way to live as a child.  I have since lived in three towns that were compact, walkable (or had great transit), and human-scaled. My children can get around major cities all over the world because they learned to walk, bike or take the bus and train here in Washington. I feel we have given them a great perspective on how to live in community.

48. When someone needs help – a word, a card, a lift, a meal, a changed tire – try to be there for them. I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of each of these things, and I can tell you how much they mean to both the giver and the receiver.

49.  “Cowardice is easy. Courage is hard.” (Ron Johnson, Missouri Highway Patrol, after his work in Ferguson)

50.  “There is no substitute for excellence – not even success.”  (Thomas Boswell)

51.  There is no crying in baseball.  Oh, and there should never be a pitch clock.

52.  It is wonderful when your children take up your interests.  I have always loved photography and music.  So I was thrilled when Claire showed a real talent for photography (especially black and white) and Andrew likewise showed a talent for music.  We do our job as parents when we open up the world’s possibilities to our children.  I simply count myself lucky that among their many talents are two that I can understand and appreciate.

Lake at Mohonk Mountain House by Claire

The Lake at Mohonk Mountain House (Photo credit: Claire Brown)

53.  I have been loved by some wonderful people. All I can say is thank you.

54.  Never underestimate the impact one person can have on the world. Dean Smith, the famous basketball coach for the North Carolina Tarheels, died last month. One of the most amazing things I heard about Coach Smith through the many tributes that poured out in early February is that the Baptist Church where he worshiped and that shaped his advocacy for minorities was booted out of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1992 for licensing a gay man to minister.  (Being booted out of today’s SBC wins “bonus points” from me, and I grew up a Southern Baptist.) His former pastor said of Smith, “He was willing to take controversial stands on a number of things as a member of our church – being against the death penalty, affirming gays and lesbians, protesting nuclear proliferation.”  I also read a great appreciation in the Washington Post by John Feinstein.  After asking Smith to provide more details about his helping to desegregate lunch counters in North Carolina in the 1950s, Feinstein recounted that Smith asked him who told him the story.  Told that it was his pastor, Smith responded that he “wished he hadn’t done that.”  Feinstein replied that Smith should be proud of that work. And here was the kicker: Feinstein wrote, “He looked me in the eye and said, ‘John, you should never be proud of doing the right thing. You should just do the right thing.’” 

55.  There have been times when I did not get something I thought I really wanted.  But in most cases, I found something better.  (Or, in the immortal words of Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, “You can’t always get what you want…but you just might find, you get what you need.”)

56.  I have always enjoyed a wide variety of music.  I’ve been privileged to play bluegrass and to sing Josquin des Prez…and lots of things in-between.  I subscribe to the words of the immortal Duke Ellington: “There are two kinds of music.  Good music and the other kind.”

57.  I am fine with the fact that not everyone wants to hear my opinion and is eager to know what’s on my mind. Opinions are like noses…everyone has them.

58.  I believe in the Church of Baseball.

59.  A  few years ago I became intentional about saying “thank you” to someone every day.  It is one of the smartest things I ever did. Thank you.

60.  Savor every moment. It passes faster than you can ever imagine.

(With hopefully much) More to come…