Doing good by doing nothing

One of my former students made me a meme last month. Who knew there were so many goofy photos of me out there? It was frightening and embarrassing at the same time. I had to unfollow the site because photos of me kept popping up on my own Instagram feed!

The Instagram site was created anonymously at first. Some people thought I created it, which shows they don’t really know the intense introvert that is me. Others correctly saw the merry prankster Caroline Bass behind it.

When Caroline saw the meme take off, she realized that she could use it to raise money for pandemic care. She asked for a donation of $1 to create a personalized meme from one of my photos with the donor’s name on it. She told me yesterday that some people contributed more than a dollar, and that others, who had gotten the meme before she began asking for donations, circled back and Venmo’d her money.

$100 later she sent a check to Healing Transitions, an organization that provides help to COVID-19 patients. Thank you, everyone, who gave money.

I love it when something good happens in my name and I don’t have to do a thing!

Sunday sampler

Greensboro: The Wyndham golf championship starts Thursday in Greensboro and will be played without fans lining the fairways. It is a strange time here in Tourney Town. The News & Record previews it, looking at its strong field. “As we all know and saw (in 2015), Tiger brings another level of stardom,” tournament director Mark Brazil said Saturday. “But I think this is probably our second-best field that we have seen in probably the past 20 years.”

New Bern: The New Bern police department is the proud owner of a bullet-proof, mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle. Mine-resistant. It was built for the military, of course, and originally cost between $500,000 and $1 million. When people talk about defunding police, they aren’t talking about getting rid of police departments; they are talking about this. “It is not an offensive weapon,” he said. “We’re not using it for that purpose at all. If they’re stranded in their car in a flood and see that vehicle coming, they’re going to be happy to see us.”

Wilmington: The Star-News (and a few other Gatehouse newspapers) asks, Did N.C. underestimate Hurricane Isaias? Pretty much, yeah. “Holden Beach was one of only a few communities along the coast — one of the others being the neighboring town of Ocean Isle Beach — to order a mandatory evacuation of non-residents as Isaias approached the Tar Heel State.”

Raleigh: Dennis Rogers was my friend. We weren’t close; we were work acquaintances. He was a bigshot columnist known around the state. I was a young beat reporter. But you couldn’t tell it by the way he welcomed me. His passing is on the front page of his home newspaper, the News & Observer, as it should be. “Jerry Allegood, a 35-year roving state desk reporter for the paper, often rolled into small towns on assignment, introduced himself as being from The N&O and was immediately asked, ‘Do you know Dennis Rogers?’”

The calm before the storm at UNC

I went to campus yesterday. It was six days before classes start, and the campus was virtually empty. The sky was clear, the campus green, and everything looked serene and, well, normal. I passed one or two students — all masked, as was I — and a few UNC yard crews, some without masks, which was unsettling.

I went into Carroll Hall, the building in which I teach. Signs tell me which door to use for entering and exiting, and that I must wear a mask. Inside each entrance is a pump bottle of disinfectant, and out of habit, I squirt some on my hands. Decals on the floor  show me which direction I’m supposed to walk. Seats and tables in the hallways where students used to work between classes have been removed; congregating is discouraged.

In the classrooms, decals are on the floor designate where students can sit; six-foot distancing is the rule.

It’s unsettling.

I didn’t encounter a single person but I walked around with a mask on to get the feel. I imagined myself in a classroom talking. My glasses fogged, and the mask was hot. I’m worried I won’t be able to understand students because the mask does muffle voices, mine included. And it takes more energy to speak up; I’m worried discussion will be blunted.

That’s unsettling, too.

Because some students chose to be taught remotely, my workload increases, effectively meaning that I will teach some students in person and some separately on Zoom. I’m worried that the additional time and work will get old quickly, though. (No, our pay didn’t increase even as the work has.)

Still, I left campus excited about the possibilities. It’s an interesting pedagogical challenge. How can I adapt to the pandemic and changing teaching and reporting modes and be effective? How can I keep nervous students (and myself) safe, and energized to learn? It’s been fun to think through new methods that will breakthrough the obstacles.

Then, I see this, posted last night:

I wonder how many students, staff and faculty will have to get sick before the Board of Governors decides to close the campus.




Sunday sampler

Raleigh: I have the feeling people will be outraged if they watch the videos of what led to the death of John Neville in Forsyth County jail. “Martin listened to her father cry out ‘over 20 times’ that he couldn’t breathe. A detention officer told him that if he could talk, he could breathe, she said. ‘I can’t breathe,’ Neville would repeat. Martin said at some points her father was gasping for air so much he could barely get the words out.”

McDowell: Given everything President Trump and Republicans are doing to hinder voting — can you imagine the president of the United States trying to undermine an election? — the McDowell News front page features a story on the need for more poll workers. “These local heroes will protect democracy, learn about the elections process, serve their communities and get paid in the process. …Election workers often consist of retirees and older members of a community – groups at higher risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release.”

Greensboro: The News & Record introduces us to some of the 147 people who have died of coronavirus in Guilford County. “The faces attached to those numbers include a 70-year-old former secretary for a Board of Education, a 48-year-old supervisor at a lumber company and a 66-year-old city of Greensboro maintenance worker, along with more familiar ones, like Frederick Brown Starr, who died early in the pandemic on April 1, at the age of 87. The former president and CEO of Thomasville Furniture Industries had most recently spearheaded an unsuccessful effort to bring a major league baseball team to the Triad. And Ronald “Gene” Petty, a cousin to NASCAR great Richard Petty, who grew up in Guilford County.”

Sunday sampler

Raleigh: The N&O reveals the lengths some will go to avoid accountability and scrutiny. “But Neville, 56, of Greensboro, was still alive after being rushed to the hospital. And in the two days he laid unconscious, the jail persuaded prosecutors to release him from custody. That made it an out-of-custody death that did not need to be reported to the state agency that oversees safety and supervision in county jails.”

Morganton and Jacksonville: Different sides of the state, but I’m glad the News Herald and the Daily News are keeping the debate about Confederate monuments on the front pages.

Charlotte: The Observer takes a step back to look at the PPP program in N.C. and how its reporting problems are, well, problems. “Several businesses said although they were listed in the database, they did not actually receive funds through the program. Others said the number of jobs the database says they retained by receiving the loan was either too large or too small. Over 2,100 businesses in North Carolina retained zero jobs as a result of the loans, according to the database.”

Look, Mom! I’m a meme!


This is what happens on Instagram when one of your former students is bored. It goes on and on as you see below. (I have a lot of photos out in social medialand.)

It’s flattering as hell. And it gives me just the energy I need going into the challenge of the fall semester! Thank you, anonymous Instagrammer!

Being cool in high school; it’s the music

In high school in Tulsa in the late 60’s, football was king. Players at my school, Edison, were the coolest. Or it seemed that way to a 15-year-old boy. One classmate, Mike Fanning, played for Notre Dame and then went in the first round of the NFL draft to the L.A. Rams. But…

Musicians were on the rise. They were still on the outside, kind of nerdy, but in the time of rock ‘n’ rock’s adolescence, in which the Beatles, the Stones and the Who ruled the radio airwaves I listened to (KAKC), high school musicians were their own caliber of cool.

And when David Chatenever introduced a sitar, a la George Harrison, into the Screaming Eagles, Edison’s stage band, music became the coolest thing ever.

I didn’t play football; I played baseball. I played music, but it was the lamest instrument ever — the clarinet. I would wander into the music store at Southland shopping center and look at the guitars hanging on the wall, fantacizing which I’d buy. Of course, I was 15. I didn’t have the money for one of those monsters. (They cost more than Bruce Springsteen’s $18 “junkie” model from Western Auto.)

This all came back when I read that Jamie Oldaker died last week. He was a drummer, an A-list drummer who played with Clapton, Frampton, Russell and Seger. He was also in my class at Edison. We knew each other, but only in a passing, nod-in-the-hall kind of way. He was cool, but not in the football player swaggering way. He was cool because he had that cool vibe.

This is how cool: “Rowan said Oldaker talked about how, during teen years, he and other young musicians would play local gigs then head to north Tulsa to listen to (and play with) blues and jazz performers late into the night. Rowan said Oldaker picked up on the groove in Black clubs and was made to feel at home.

“Oldaker received this advice when sharing late-night barbecue with a performer at one of those clubs: ‘Son, you got to ease off on the potato salad and bear down on the meat!'” (From a wonderful appreciation in the Tulsa World.)

This is how cool, from Eric Clapton: “he is as solid as rock and I could listen to him talk all night long, many times I have, his knowledge is a wink and a sparkle in his eye, which says everything…

“I listen to ‘Slowhand’ now and then to try and remember what it is I’m supposed to be doing. and I end up listening to Jamie and saying to my wife “did you hear that ?”

“What more can I say…”

That time at Edison was pretty special for developing and nurturing musicians. Maybe it began in the early 1960’s with the Tulsa Sound. Maybe it was nurtured, at least at Edison, by the band director, Ashley Alexander. I mean, Leon Russell had a studio there for god’s sake.

I don’t know, but Dwight Twilley had a single that peaked at 16 on the Billboard charts. He was a year ahead of me in school, and I actually remember him as the artist who drew the cover of the Edison High School student directory. (It was in the Peter Max style.)

And there are others in my class: Tuck Andress, now playing jazz with Tuck & Patti. Scott Musick who played with The Call and later, with Kris Kristofferson. And I’m likely leaving several out because, it’s been 50 years.

But you know the thing about being cool in high school? I remember all of these guys; I couldn’t tell you anything about any of the football players other than Mike Fanning.

Sunday sampler

The North Carolina News Collaborative is at it again. The coalition of 22 N.C. newspapers has published a story about finding child care in the midst of Covid-19. Written by Brian Gordon of the Asheville Citizen-Times, it is featured on the front pages of Burlington, Fayetteville, Kinston, Jacksonville and Hendersonville. Greensboro, Raleigh, Winston-Salem and Hickory published the story with local anecdotes.

The key: “By April, more than 40% of child-care centers — deemed essential businesses by the governor — shut down. Despite millions of dollars in public relief to child care centers, more than 1,500 North Carolina programs — one in four — remain closed, according to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services. Others now operate at reduced capacity. The shortage arrives at a moment when many parents return to work as their unemployment benefits run out and desperately search for placements.”

More Covid news: Both Morganton and McDowell feature stories about the number of people who have died in their communities. And they report it directly: “Another Burke County resident has died due to COVID-19, and the county added new positive cases to its virus count.” And: “The McDowell County Health Department said Friday a third person in McDowellas died due to COVID-19.”

And not to be underplayed in this blog post or in newspapers, most of the front pages had at least a mention of the death of John Lewis.

Allie Clifton: ‘You can’t fake who you are’

My post-grad class had a wonderful time with Allie Clifton, who is the Spectrum TV pre-game host for the L.A. Lakers telecasts. She played college ball at Toledo, work for the ABC affiliate doing sports there, caught on with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ broadcast team, and has been with the Lakers for a couple of years. She talked with us for nearly an hour, and was open and smart and helpful. I’ve pulled a few of the gems she passed on.

On her professional path

“I’m 32 and I still wake up and wonder if I’m heading in the right direction. If I’m doing what’s right. If I’m putting myself in the best position to succeed.

“You have to have that inner drive because it’s competitive just as much as it was competitive for me between the lines on the court. It is that much competitive or even more so competitive in the profession I am in now. You can have a goal. You can have an idol. You can look to so many others in particularly this business and say you want to be that person.

“But the one thing I’ve learned is you can’t fake who you are. You have to be true to who you are. And along the way, there are those doubts and there are those failures and as an athlete. I learned without failure. There is no success.

What she wishes she had known at 22

I think the one constant is I wish I would have known is that preparation and hard work will forever be necessary and important. I’ve had moments where I’ve gone into a broadcast and I’ve walked away on a high and I felt real confident and I felt great. And there’s ultimately  moments of just like wanting to relax and just kind of relish in the moment and take it all in.

“I think of Cleveland and those six years I traveled with the team. And I covered every single game. I went to every single practice and in six seasons. I probably missed five, five to seven practices. It gets exhausting. And so there’s moments where you do have those great broadcast and you want to just go back to your hotel room on the road and go to sleep or you want to get on that airplane, as you guys catch that flight to the next city. Get in at 2:30 in the morning and you have a back to back, and a broadcast.

“That’s just like the one thing that I didn’t understand — how much hard work and preparation goes into being successful in this business and really anything in life.”

On hearing “no”

I don’t know how many no’s and in as many ways that I received. I know, while getting my master’s, that I received that there would never become a yes. And lo and behold, it did it happen. And that was my opportunity in Cleveland. But you have to be persistent through all of those no’s. You know I played college basketball, Division One, at the University of Toledo, Mid-American Conference, and I was told at one point that I couldn’t work at a specific network because I didn’t play in their conference. And I mean, you talk about giving everything you have for four years to the university and sacrificing time with your family and friends …to get that kind of no was hard. And so I think just understanding that, one’s no could be another person’s yes.”


“It’s like the biggest key in this game is you can never be connected enough because those people could ultimately be a mentor of yours. That can ultimately be that foot in the door to your next opportunity that you didn’t see coming. And so I think: stay persistent and know that there is an opportunity out there for you. You just have to keep going for it. It’s important. And it takes again a lot of work. But it’s worth it. It is worth it.”

Sunday sampler

N.C. newspapers continue to feature racial justice-related stories on their front pages, including these from Statesville, High Point, and Wilmington, which includes a story about the 1898 coup that I can’t find on the Star-News website. (Has anyone told Gatehouse that the search function at its websites doesn’t work?)

Other good stories:

Hickory: Wait. What? That’s me!!!! “People aged 65 and older represent only 12 percent of the total confirmed cases in North Carolina but 79 percent of all deaths.” The Daily Record talks with senior citizens about how they’re dealing.

Jacksonville: The number of child abuses cases is down in Onslow County since the virus hit, but it’s complicated. “She explained during the stay-at-home order, the CAC was only able to serve children under emergencies,” which include if medical intervention is needed or sexual assault is indicated.

Raleigh: The N&O has a good piece on why the PPP program has been so problematic for all small businesses, but especially Black-owned ones. “The process for applying was incredibly complicated, and a lot of businesses are feeling like they will have to hire an accountant to help them figure out how to apply,” Ward said. “It adds cost and a huge amount of time that was never intended … so that’s a real challenge for smaller businesses.”

Raleigh: The N&O has a stunning story about how the coronavirus spread at Butner prison and ineffectual efforts were to stop it. “Butner is emblematic in other ways. Prison officials were slow to test for the disease, enabling infected men to spread the virus to their neighbors in cramped dorms where social distancing is impossible. In sworn affidavits, prisoners reported they went untested for six weeks or more even as their dorm mates fell ill, were taken to hospital and died. Officials moved infected men among the complex’s five units.”