My Offer to Home College My Grandson

My Offer to Home College My Grandson

(Warning: Satire, not to be taken literally)

Marion D. Aldridge

My grandson, a junior in high school, recently began the formidable task of looking at colleges. He’s smart and makes good grades, and he’s also an all-area football kicker. Academics and Athletics: the Big Two in South Carolina—so he has a fine resume.

The elephant in the room is a price tag that can be as high as $60,000 per year. Sticker shock! Yikes! A quarter of a million dollars for four years.

So I made the offer to Home College my grandson. Why not? He would enjoy the ultimate small school. I’d sit him at my kitchen table every day for two percent of the fee. What a deal! I think I’ll recruit him. Bargain tuition of $1199.98 per year.

Here are excerpts of the curriculum I envision.

Physical Fitness: For starters, my grandson can sweep, mop, and vacuum inside the house, and plant a garden outside, weeding it weekly. This will also provide lessons in nutrition, especially if he prepares the meals.

Responsibility: After his morning chores, he can wake me from my morning nap for lunch.

Literature. My one promise is he will never be asked to read James Joyce’s Ulysses. He would, of course, read Chaucer, Agatha Christie, Shakespeare, and Maya Angelou. After those, I’m flexible.

Science. We’d take field trips to the Galapagos Islands, the Chattooga River, and NASA. He could hire out to intern at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and I could go along and chaperone. We could take in a Cubs or White Sox game and study velocity of pitches, the arc and distance of home runs.

History. The Revolutionary War happened in South Carolina. That’s simple enough. Trips to Camden, Cowpens, and Ninety Six. We could try to find and excavate one of Francis Marion’s camps among the Tupelo trees on Snow Island.

Ethics: I’d stick with the Golden Rule. (Bonus information: The Seven Deadly Sins do not specifically mention blueberry muffins.)

Math. He could tutor his grandmother since he is already way beyond her ability to tutor him. He went beyond my skills years ago, too. His aunt could teach him statistics. Baseball games at Fenway Park would be the place for geometric and statistical calculations.

Music: With a playlist of songs from the 1960s, the Beatles, Ray Charles, the Mamas and the Papas, the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, the Supremes, Buddy Holly, Etta James, and James Brown, his music education would be complete. Class dismissed.

Theology. I figure we could go to a cemetery and sit a spell. Walk around some. He could think about life and death. How many college kids take advantage of this opportunity?

Law. We could visit courtrooms for a few days. He would begin to wonder if these people were crazy or just mean. The criminals, not the lawyers.

Politics: I taught him everything I know about government before he was twelve. Government should benefit the governed, not the governors. That’s a hard lesson for politicians to learn.

Psychology: I will teach my grandson all the psychobabble I know, because I think most of it’s true. Life is a journey. One event or one decision will not make or break you. This too shall pass. One day at a time. Keep on keeping on. Hang in there. Every day is classwork, not the final exam. Mind your own business. The goal is progress, not perfection.

That’s my offer.

By the way, the kitchen table seats four. Do the math: four times $1199.98 equals $4,799.92. That’s enough to buy us all ice cream at the ball game. My treat.

Categories: Baseball, Diet, Faith/Spirituality, Family, Humor, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Competitive Childbearing as a Church Growth Strategy

Competitive Childbearing as a Church Growth Strategy

Marion D. Aldridge

(Note: I thought this was funny when I wrote it five years ago, but I never had it published. So, here it is, finally, as true as ever…)

The mantra of most American churches is “Grow, Grow, Grow.” This refrain springs from the wells of Wal-Mart, capitalism, and the American Way, not from the Bible.   The Jews of the Old Testament did not have a “growth strategy.” The words and life of Jesus repelled as many people as they attracted.

But, since enlargement is at the heart of American evangelicalism, I make a modest suggestion to ensure success.


I recommend competitive childbearing as a means of helping numerically declining congregations and denominations return to the robust and vigorous expansion of their former days—before birth control.

We all know families in which the adult siblings race to have the first grandchild, or the first grandson, or the brightest or most athletic children, or more kids than their brothers and sisters. The contest may never be acknowledged overtly, but it happens in millions of families all over the world.

Competitive childbearing plays itself out in a thousand ways: Who gets Grandpa’s name first? Who looks like Grandma? Who will inherit Mama’s china? Who will receive Dad’s blessing? Who gets the family fortune?

Middle class and upper middle class families are simply not having a sufficient quantity of babies to keep our churches as populated and growing as they were through the 1960s.

I propose that churches not already using this natural sibling competitiveness as a strategy for swelling attendance and income are missing a grand opportunity. How can a congregation realistically expect to increase numerically if the following pattern is followed?

  • Four grandparents produce…
  • Two children who only manage to procreate…
  • One grandchild.

That is the definition of a downward demographic trend.

It is an ugly fact for increasingly wealthy denominations that the higher up the educational and social ladder parishioners go, the fewer newborns they produce. As Pentecostals become Baptists, as Baptists become Presbyterians, and as Presbyterians become Episcopalians, their capacity for and interest in breeding a new generation diminishes.

Any church paying attention to numbers (traditionally, budgets, butts and buildings are the important issues) should consider competitive childbearing as a growth strategy. Imagine these numbers:

  • Four grandparents (two sets) have…
  • Twelve children (six per couple), each of which in turn has their own half-dozen babies, totaling…
  • Seventy-two offspring.

That’s serious church growth.

Ask for advice from the Protestants and Roman Catholics of previous centuries when large families were the norm. More recently, since Roman Catholics outlawed birth control, their numbers continued to expand while Protestants, embracing all manner of contraception, watched their numbers shrink. The growth of the church in South America and Africa is less about dynamic preaching than about shunning birth control. Nor is the principle of competitive childbearing limited to the Christian religion. Muslims and Hindus have also practiced this strategy with success. Children having children is always a good thing for increasing religious population.

In the Baptist church of my childhood, we gave awards on Mother’s Day for the oldest mother, the youngest mother (sometimes age 15 or 16) and the mother with the most children. Forget Christmas and Easter! If your congregation will focus on Mother’s Day with the right rewards, competitive childbearing will happen naturally.

Ask for advice from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). They can’t build fast enough to house all their offspring/constituents. Their men are allowed to marry multiple wives. That helps the toddler totals even more. Maybe Plural Marriage is a Biblical idea that Protestants should consider. Let a 65-year old man marry 6 wives, ages 65, 55, 45, 35, 25 and 15, and I guarantee there will be a steady supply of fresh infants.

The answer to almost every church growth problem is “Just Have Babies.” By the way, you certainly don’t want non-productive, non-procreating homosexuals in a church committed to a strategy of competitive childbearing.

The wonderful thing about this approach to church growth is that it allows American Christians to continue to worship their three Great Gods:

  • Competition—We love to have winners and losers in our culture, especially if we are the winners. Forget this win-win stuff. We all want to be Winners. Losers are just losers.
  • Materialism—We love Stuff. We love the Money that buys Stuff.   I know that Jesus said some weird things about hoarding and greed, but Jesus was not an economist. So be careful about giving his opinions too much weight.
  • Size—Oh, how we worship Bigness. Big Houses. Big Box Stores. Big Churches. Big Cars. Big Stadiums. Big Guns. The Bigger the Better. There is no place in a True America for modesty in size. More than half of the pop-up ads on the computer are selling products to increase Size. Surely, if we understood him correctly, Jesus was more interested in growing the numbers of the local Synagogue than healing the sick, or feeding the hungry, or making peace, or any of that other humbug stuff. Right?

If competitive childbearing is the perfect solution for the problems of our church culture, then have lots of kids. By the way, I don’t know any pastor-search committee or any group of deacons that wants to grow their church with old people. Another mantra in our culture that will be resolved by a steady supply of children is “Youth, Youth, Youth.”

It will baffle me if congregations don’t leap to this policy of competitive childbearing to increase their size.

This would be an especially effective approach if we could retroactively get Jesus to be married.

If only Jesus had practiced what we preach…

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Humor | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Cold Day for Clemson Baseball in Rhode Island

A Cold Day for Clemson Baseball in Rhode Island (and an Excellent Day for Gamecock Basketball in New York City)

Yesterday, March 24, the fourth day of Spring, I drove to Kingston, Rhode Island, from New Canaan, Connecticut, to watch Clemson University play Boston College in baseball. Boston College’s home field was a mess, we were told, so the game was moved to the University of Rhode Island.

As a Clemson fan and a baseball fan, this was close enough for me, a two-hour drive, each direction. I took the day off and headed up I-95 to watch a 1 p.m. game. We were having a warm spell, about 39 degrees with a wind chill making it 30ish. I wore long underwear, a beautiful orange and white checked Clemson Tiger Paw shirt nobody ever saw, a pullover Clemson jacket, an L. L. Bean outer coat, a Scottish wool scarf with some orange in it, a Clemson baseball hat, a Clemson stocking cap, and some New England rated winter gloves. It was not enough.

The University of Rhode Island has 16,000 students compared to Clemson’s 21,000. The town of Kingston is much smaller than Clemson, however. You must drive on a sorry two-lane road to get there. Intended ironically, considering the size of the state, the campus theme was BIG, as in “Think Big.”

My buddy Larry Abernathy, who was Mayor of Clemson for 28 years, went with Clemson City Council members to other small towns (with major Universities) around the US to compare town and gown experiences. I’m glad he never wasted time in Kingston. Clemson does town-and-gown about as well possible, thanks to a good mayor and fine Clemson Presidents, especially R. C. Edwards, Jim Barker and Jim Clements.

The baseball game was scheduled for one p.m. but was mysteriously postponed for an hour because of weather. So I walked around the hilly Rhode Island campus to get in a three-mile walk. Much smaller campus than Clemson, but with a very traditional quadrangle and granite buildings. A few modern buildings. Nothing very exciting. Not very Big.

The baseball “stadium” was a joke, not Big, so I can’t imagine how bad the Boston College field must be to have the game transferred to Kingston. The smallest high schools in South Carolina have more seating. The field was green and nice enough, but one small set of movable aluminum stands was all that existed for the fans. A few brought their own folding chairs and the rest of us stood and walked around to stay warm.

When the sleet finally started (yes, you read that correctly) at 2 p.m., the umpires said, “Play ball,” and the game was on. Clemson is the better team, ranked number six in the nation right now. The collegiate national player of the year, Seth Beer, is an outfielder for Clemson. I met his parents who were there in the cold to cheer their son and Clemson. We had two runs after four batters. After two innings we had five runs. Final score was 8-2. Attendance was announced as 107 but that may have included both teams.

After the game, I found a beautiful, old, local bookstore and bought a couple of John D. MacDonald novels, then drove to the coast, just a few miles away, for some seafood. The bookstore owner had called ahead for me to make sure her favorite restaurant was open: Champlin’s. It was. This is a fish-camp, picnic-table type establishment, and, since March is off-season, I had the entire place to myself. I watched the fish and lobster boats return to the Galilee Port in Narragansett. I ordered fried oysters and fried scallops, more grease than I’ve had in six months. I paid for it on the two-hour drive home with a tummy that was desperately unhappy.

When I retuned to my apartment, my day ended with watching the University of South Carolina Gamecocks obliterate the Baylor Bears. It was a nice ending to a cold winter New England day.

Categories: Baseball, Holiday, Humor, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments


2017-03-07 16.25.23.jpgAs much as I walk, I rarely go through cemeteries. No reason. They just aren’t convenient to my usual routines. Maybe I’ll change my habits.

In New Canaan, Connecticut, I’m only a few blocks from the town center, so that’s the direction I’ve been hiking, looking, of course, for the best pastries in town.

Today, I went the other direction, down the hill, and entered a cemetery. I was amused at the names on the monuments:


Grave, and my favorite,


I was also amused at the giant brouhaha Americans are having over immigration with the names—


Cheung and

Van Dusen

—all side by side. Probably, they weren’t from Ireland. Or, Native Americans.

I found the mausoleums with stained glass windows kinda interesting. Why would the residents of a cemetery need … oh well.

I think I’m gonna start walking through cemeteries. Who knows what I’ll find next?


Categories: Health, Humor | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Take My Breath Away

“The most completely lost of all days is that in which one has not laughed.” Nicolas Chamfort

Birthdays with a Zero in them are fine times for reflection. February 11, 2017, I turned 70.

I’ve enjoyed hundreds, thousands of moments that have taken my breath away. I’ve fallen in love and married. We’ve celebrated 44 anniversaries. I’ve watched the birth of two daughters. I baptized both of them.

I’ve been blessed to participate in the spiritual growth of many folks. I’ve helped alcoholics get sober. I’ve seen people whose lives were pure chaos find order, salvation and peace. I’ve watched rigid, self-righteous people discover grace. More importantly, I discovered grace for myself and for others.

In Mauritania, I got stuck in the Sahara Desert in a four-wheel drive vehicle. That might have taken my breath away but I found a small tent village and took a nap. You must have priorities!

I’ve watched Clemson win two National Championships in football. Exhilarating!

It’s a rush to hold a book you wrote that’s been published. I’ve had that privilege four times.

I survived two serious car wrecks, one with a fully loaded logging truck.

Sally and I were on a transatlantic flight when one of the plane’s engines blew. We heard it. No doubt about what had happened. Potentially breathtaking experience. Literally. When we landed, two dozen emergency vehicles followed our plane down the runway.

My two best friends died. Soul-crushing experiences. Even at their memorial services, we found ways to laugh.

I’ve listened to Ella Fitzgerald in concert. Magnificent.

I’ve seen Greg Maddux pitch. Incredible.

In Kenya, I’ve seen elephants, lions, giraffes, zebras, and ostriches in their natural habitat. Wow!

On Folly Beach, South Carolina, I watched loggerhead turtles bursting from their brittle eggshells and clawing their way across the sandy beach into the Atlantic Ocean. Awe-inspiring.

With my grandson, Lake, we peered over the edge of the Grand Canyon, then rafted on the Colorado River.

With my daughter, Julie, we watched whales and caught lobsters off the coast of Massachusetts. Incredible.

With my daughter, Jenna, my grandson Lake, and my wife Sally, we climbed to the top of Machu Picchu. Then, we hiked in the Amazon Rain Forest. Mindboggling experiences.

Two pieces of advice I got from Jerry and Jane Howington when I was a teenager: “Keep on keeping on” and “Hang in there.”

“I’m so excited. I’m about to lose control and I think I like it.” The Pointer Sisters

Categories: Baseball, Faith/Spirituality, Family, Football, Humor, South Carolina, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

I Don’t Need To Repeat My White Christmas Experience!


Last week, the snow fell in Connecticut, lots of snow. This part of the world, the rural landscape, can be stunningly beautiful. It was 27 degrees. I fixed bacon, eggs and grits for breakfast. Nothing was planned for the day. I washed clothes and cleaned the house. The snow is still on the ground and it is 10 degrees today. (I took this picture from the house where I am living.)

Life is good. God is good.

Last winter, in New Hampshire, when it was – (minus) 17 degrees, one of my South Carolina friends said we needed to call church off in that kind of weather. If you close church, school or businesses in bad weather up here, you’ll never go to church, school or work.

Have I ever had a White Christmas? Yes, and it was half magical and half not-so-much.

At age 24, I visited my girlfriend and her parents in Westchester County, New York, an area very similar to where I’m staying this year in Connecticut—hilly, rocky, rural, woodsy, no leaves on the trees, magnificent homes, a beautiful Currier and Ives setting. On Christmas morning, we ice-skated on the pond near her house. A fairy tale. Perfection.

Then, Christmas afternoon, it was time to leave fantasyland. Her dad was to drive us to the airport in New York City where my girlfriend and I were to catch a plane back to the Carolinas. I was in charge of a Young Life Camp beginning the next day, December 26. As we drove into the city, the snow was furious. After driving for a while, her dad asked which airport we were using. Turns out, he was taking us in the wrong direction to the wrong airport, and he was not a happy father-of-the-girlfriend. He had to backtrack to get us to LaGuardia. After he dropped us off, we discovered all planes had been grounded. Fourteen hours later, we managed to secure seats on a jet leaving LaGuardia. We arrived in plenty of time for our camping experience.

Though guilt comes easily to me, I never felt the trip to the wrong airport was my responsibility. He was the New Yorker. I kinda think it would have been smart of him to ask “Which airport?” when we left his house. Enchanting morning. The afternoon was less charming.

I’m pleased to say that relationship never worked out. I’d already met Sally Craig, and the next year, she applied her own charms and we married on December 22, 1972.   On Thursday of this week, she’ll fly into Connecticut for our anniversary. She’ll stay through Christmas. Snow or no snow? Who cares? I’ll have my love to keep me warm.

Categories: Family, Holiday, Humor, Travel | 3 Comments

Turkey Strut (or is it a Turkey Dance?) in New Hampshire

Once winter subsided, the wildlife in New England went, well, wild!

Outside the window that takes up half a wall at the back of the house where I live is a huge field, several acres, surrounded on three sides by New Hampshire woods. I looked all winter for deer or moose back there and saw nothing. Except snow. Lots and lots of snow. Pretty snow. Deep snow.

This morning I saw three deer in the meadow. A couple of days ago, I watched a fox teasing a snake for a half hour.

The best treat this spring was a big ol’ Tom Turkey strutting around for half a day, on Tuesday, May 24, trying to entice his lady love in the direction of romance. I had my journal in front of me. Here are my notes, begun at 7:15 a.m.:

The hen is one-third the size of the tom, and is being shy. My iPhone camera’s not good enough to capture this. His feathers are at full mast, flamboyant. She walked right past him, ignoring him. His plumage wilted. Twenty yards away, she turned, so he strutted some more. She acts as if she’s looking for food, but I’m not sure what food would be in this field of grass and dandelions. Back and forth she goes. His plumage erection goes up when she’s looking, then down. He’s not moving much, but she’s pacing past him, back and forth. Now he’s approaching her and she’s scooting away. Now she moves toward him, now away. This is a dance. Nothing on my schedule today. I can sit here. I was thinking of going to a wildlife center today. I have it in my own backyard.

 Courtship. Now she’s fifty yards from him. They’ve swapped sides of the field. Hopkins wrote of the Hound of Heaven. Maybe sometimes God’s pursuit is more of a dance than a relentless chase. Maybe some people need the hound and some the dance. God gives us space. We move away. God lets us go farther and farther.

 The tom is still there, steadfast, and she’s strutting past him. As an observer, I’m thinking, “Get on with it. Quit this teasing. Do it.”

 Now they appear to be nuzzling each other, but again she backs away. I’ve been watching about thirty minutes, but how long have they been at this? When I first saw them outside this huge window, I went out the front door and tried to sneak around closer for a better look, but even 200-300 yards away, they saw me and retreated into the woods. This was none of my business. This is about them, not about me. Get out of the way, you meddling moron. This is their business, their dance, not yours.

 Tom turkey is patient, more so than I. Is this the turkey trot? I don’t think so, but maybe. The hen’s moved back across the field from him—thirty yards distant. She’s not forgotten he’s there and he’s not forgotten her. He’s mostly still. Sometimes his plumage goes down. When it’s up, he’s tall, the size of a deer or a small man. When she turns in his direction, he puts on the complete show. His tail feathers fashion a sunrise, a massive display of his might: “I’m here when you’re ready.” Now she returns to him. She doesn’t look as small as she did. Has she fluffed out? Now she’s walked past him in the other direction to the edge of the woods. This is a big field. She’s off the grid. Is he concerned? He’s holding his ground. He rotates, watching her.

 I’m watching them, curious. Life is not always, as Tennyson says, “red in tooth and claw.” Sometimes it’s majestic, brown and pink, white and black. Ah, here she comes again. Patience. No hurry. Now, he’s fully erect and struts a few steps toward her, then backs off. She ambles past him again.

 I’ve been here an hour, drinking coffee. How long, O Lord?

 She’s now 150 yards in the other direction, west, my left. They are north of me. The temperature outside is a mild 55 degrees. Now Tom’s moved to the center of the field. I believe she’s ruffled out, enlarged over the course of this courtship. But he’s Big when he displays at full capacity.

 She’s now entered the far left of the field and, for the first time, he’s followed her in that direction.

 I took and made some phone calls. I did some work on my computer.

At an hour and a half, the turkeys are off the field and into the woods to the east, my right. I guess they’re in God’s hands, as if they weren’t all along.

 Back at 1 p.m. after walking. Two toms and one hen now in the field. It’s raining. Nobody is shaking his tail-feathers. What happened in the woods?

 Back at 2:30 p.m. after my nap. Two toms and a hen are still out there.

 4 p.m. A fox came out of the woods and stalked the hen, but he didn’t pounce when he should have, and she flew away. What a day of watching wildlife, and it’s not over.

 5 p.m. The three turkeys are back in the field.

 6:20 p.m. The hen is in the field alone.

 She’s returned to this field almost every day since, and I’ve returned to this window every day since. Maybe it’s enough that this story about turkeys strutting and dancing ends in mystery. What happens next?

What a wonderful world!

Categories: Humor | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Fairy Tale Retold: the Blue Collar Kid and the Cantaloupe

Do you remember the Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tale about the Princess and the Pea? The bottom line was that the Princess was so sensitive that even though 20 mattresses were placed between her and the Pea, she still felt the discomfort caused by that tiny little Pea. That proved she was a real Princess, fit to marry the Prince.

After I had been married several years, I realized that I had married a Princess. My wife Sally and I would be in a room and she would complain of being cold when I felt comfortable. That made sense. Some people are cold-natured. They should keep a sweater handy. But, later, in another time and place, Sally would complain of being hot, and I still felt comfortable. You can’t be both cold-natured and hot-natured, can you? Eventually I remembered this story of the Princess and the Pea and concluded that this doctor’s daughter from Greenville, South Carolina, is ultra-sensitive. She is delicate! Nowadays, we might say she is “high maintenance.” She has very elevated expectations regarding her own personal comfort. She knows—even though 20 mattresses may separate her from that Proverbial Pea—that the Pea is there, and she feels it. And she lets me know she feels it! And she wants me to do something about that blasted Pea, no matter how many mattresses have to be removed and replaced.

So far, this sounds like a complaint about the Princess’ super-sensitivity, but it’s not. Here’s another Fairy Tale. This one is about the Blue Collar Kid and the Cantaloupe. This Fairy Tale is about me. Instead of being extra sensitive, I tend to be less sensitive, even insensate, numb, not sensitive at all, anesthetized, and utterly unaware of the cantaloupe beneath my own thin mattress.

Sally and I would come home from somewhere and she would ask, “Do you smell that?”

I would answer honestly, “No.” I sensed nothing.

Over time, too many of these “Do you smell that?” or “Did you hear that?” episodes occurred when something was actually overheating or burning in the oven or making a noise that needed our attention. It wasn’t just that I married a person whose perception was extra keen; it was also that she married someone whose senses were apparently exceedingly dull. As I have tried to analyze candidly what was going on, I have concluded that there were a couple reasons for my insensitivity, my lack of awareness.

  • In the instance of “Do you smell/hear/etc.?” at least one aspect of the situation was my not wanting there to be a difficulty! If there were a problem, the commode overflowing, an electrical short in the light fixture, a noise in the ceiling fan, the smell of dog urine, twenty mattresses that needed to be unpiled and restacked, I suspected I would be the one whose task it would be to ameliorate the crisis. I didn’t want there to be a problem so I didn’t want to see, hear, smell, taste, or feel one.
  • The more basic issue was that I had rarely ever listened, smelled, tasted, touched, saw, or felt with much consciousness or comprehension, and that insensitivity predated my relationship with Sally. Call it clueless. Call it naïve. Call it stupid. Call it immaturity. In the movie “Clueless,” the teenage protagonist was hilarious. A 50-year old naïf is sad and frustrating, not humorous.

Listening or paying attention was actually a third-tier challenge for me. Not listening went hand in hand with an addiction I have, the need to talk incessantly, the secondary difficulty. The prior issue to that, however, my primary demon, has to do with fear, the fear of not being liked. I have heard it called “Approval Addiction.”

Categories: addiction, Book Review, Faith/Spirituality, Family, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Five Star Dining in South Carolina

Having the opportunity to spend two weeks in South Carolina in May, 2016, after wintering in New Hampshire, I decided to do some research about food in the Palmetto State.

My first night home, Sally fixed a huge meal of roast beef, rice and gravy, green beans and salad. That was a good start—a classic.

The culinary centerpieces of my sojourn to the South were two weddings at which I officiated. One was on the coast, or as we say in South Carolina, at the beach: the Wild Dunes Resort on the Isle of Palms. The setting was magnificent, the food was elegant, the wedding successful. The second wedding was also typically Southern—barbeque (mustard based, vinegar based, catsup based, and hot), cole slaw, rice and hash, served in a cabin beside a lake in the woods near where I grew up, the Horse Creek Valley. Sweet tea. Perfection.

But, three meals a day must be eaten, so I did what I could to enjoy the weekdays as well as the weekends.

Of course, Jenna and Lake came by the house for breakfast one morning before school. I fixed bacon and banana/blueberry waffles, a simple breakfast, but a favorite. Speaking of breakfast, at the Charleston/Isle of Palms wedding, son-in-law Tom fixed) blueberry muffins. Tom has not fed a teenage boy (his nephew Lake) blueberry muffins in a while so he had to prepare a second batch so the adults would have something to eat.

Ted and Marcia Godfrey took me out to eat at Cola’s one night, one of Columbia’s restaurants for fine dining. I had the crispy flounder (scored and flash fried) with apricot shallot sauce and jasmine rice. Nice. Very nice. Very very nice. This is a Charleston specialty but I’m glad it made its way to Columbia.

Speaking of seafood, tonight, Sunday, I’m making shrimp and salmon and grits for my family. Since shrimp and grits are not particularly common in New England, it seemed the right thing to do before heading back (Monday morning) to the frozen Northland.

The best part of many of my meals has been the location—our back porch. Whether I’m eating French toast for breakfast or a pimento cheese sandwich for lunch, it’s hard to improve on the ambiance. Birds at the bird feeder. Flowers of a dozen colors. Butterflies. The cat at my feet. Squirrels chasing each other. Tea with mint from our garden while I sit and read. The weather was straight out of Southern mythology: perfect, mild, pleasant.

Based on two weeks of research, I’d like to recommend the victuals of South Carolina to all my friends. Five stars.

Categories: Diet, Family, Holiday, Humor, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reading in New Hampshire

With cold weather and free time, I may have been reading even more than usual. Of course, I have recommendations.

Fiction I’ve enjoyed:

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, a World War II story about a blind girl as she experiences the war. Very fine New York Times bestseller and deserving winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, another World War II story, usually ranked in the top 100 novels of all time. I’d never read it. I try to catch up every year by reading some of the classics I’ve missed.

Three Spenser novels, all of which take place in the Boston area and all of which I’m re-reading for the second time. Since I’m visiting my daughter Julie and her husband Tom in the Boston area nearly every other week, more or less, it’s fun to read these for local color. Robert Parker does not write Great Literature but he is fun and easy to read. Spenser’s sidekick Hawk is one of the three best in all of literature, along with Sherlock Holmes’ Dr. Watson and Travis McGee’s Meyer.

Non-Fiction I’ve enjoyed:

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi, is the autobiography of a neurosurgeon who dies from cancer as he is writing his story. A Number 1 New York Times bestseller.

The Class of ’65, by Jim Aychmutey, is the story of a boy my age who grew up at Koinonia Farms in Americus, Georgia (where Habitat for Humanity was founded), in a radical, pacifist, integrated commune founded by Clarence Jordan. For anyone raised in the segregated schools of the Deep South, this is a fascinating and painful read. Stories of apologies that came to the author before his fiftieth class reunion are particularly poignant.

The Pine Barrens, by John McPhee. I’m taking a course on nature writing here at Dartmouth and have been introduced to the clear prose of McPhee. I’ve also read Encounters with the Archdruid by McPhee. I like his writing. I also enjoyed Henry Beston writing about Cape Cod in The Outermost House. I’m less impressed with E. O. Wilson, In Search of Nature.

Bill Bryson has written books I didn’t enjoy, but I liked most, including his latest, The Road to Little Dribbling, his latest walk across England, Scotland, and Wales, with amusing anecdotes of his travels.

Bob Gibson’s Pitch by Pitch gave me a baseball fix in the dead of a New Hampshire winter. This is his account of the first game of the 1968 World Series.

I was already reading The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh when I arrived in New Hampshire, but I finished it and I’m glad I did. It’s a religious classic that can help a Baptist from the South understand a faith system practiced by millions.

A Sense of Style by Steven Pinker was recommended as a good book about writing. It’s not as good as I thought it might be. It goes back on the shelf.

That’s some of what I’ve read. I’ve just purchased Kill ‘em and Leave ‘em, a biography of James Brown by James McBride. Since Brown and I grew up near each other, I’m anxious to read that. And I’ve purchased The Legends Club by John Feinstein, about the Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano world of college basketball in North Carolina. Looking forward to that.

And I’m always open to good suggestions.

Categories: Baseball, Book Review, Faith/Spirituality, Humor, Race, South Carolina, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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