Not Shying Away

A group of us are on the committee to plan our thirtieth reunion at a little school in Massachusetts

One of our committee suggested we have a band as entertainment on that Saturday night

Rockin’ those 80’s covers all night long

The Buggles

Duran Duran

R.E.M.

Run-D.M.C.

The Talking Heads

New Order

Bon Jovi

These are my people

The school assigns a rep from the Alumni Office to assist each class with planning

A Young Thing who knows not much about our class

We have these reunions every five years

This is our sixth time planning a reunion

We did such a good job with our 25th that now every class behind ours copies our playbook

Well, bless the heart of the Young Thing in the Alumni Office

It has taken three months and twice as many conference calls to move the ball on the band

The trick is that the school with the endowment of over a BILLION dollars will not pay for a band

But no band money

Not a dime

Billions for education, but not one cent for A-ha!

The reunion attendees can fund the cost either divided between all the attendees or a group can step forward and fund the band

On a recent Friday call, I volunteered to contact some classmates about funding the band

We hung up with each other at 3:49 p.m.

By 4:26 p.m., I had secured the funding for the band

Three text messages

One phone call

Two weeks later, we had all made our funding contributions

That’s how devoted we are to each other

That’s how we do it

The Young Thing assigned to help us could not believe how quickly and efficiently we were able to accomplish this feat, which was no feat at all

On another call, a friend called me The Closer

To paraphrase those lads from Oslo, we don’t shy away

My reply, “No, we’re just Gen X. We get [expletive] done”

If you know, you know

 

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Straight out of 1984

 

Rigged

The system is rigged

I’ve heard it for years

Now, I believe it

1000%

Totally rigged

Unfair

Biased

The college admissions system

That which was brought to the light by Aunt Becky’s schemes to get her children into schools in California, with that being the reductio ad absurdum 

Our eldest is in the thick of it.  She has been accepted by several schools. Truly competitive places. We are beyond proud of her. I take nothing from her accomplishments, which are many. A first choice. A second choice. A third choice

Amazing accomplishments

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Stock image of a certain school in Chapel Hill

 

But, she has had every educational advantage from the time of pre-K through her senior year of high school

She has had years of summer camps, travel, exposure, enrichment, jobs

She has had years of hard work

Lots of hard work

Her hard work would have been a lot harder had she had to worry about from whence cometh her next meal

Her hard work would have been a lot harder had we not been able to hire that standardized testing tutor who helped her scores move into the more competitive range

Her hard work would have been a lot harder had we not been able to go on extensive college visits

Her hard work would have been harder had we not had a network of friends all over the country who could fill us in on tidbits, advice about certain schools

Her hard work would have been a lot harder had we not encouraged her every idea

Her hard work would have been a lot harder had she not been read to every single night as a young child

None of that is to take away from her

She did it

Completely did it

It just helps to have some help

Because the system is rigged for children such as mine

 

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Stock image of a certain school in Charlottesville

They can afford tutors

They can afford technology

They can afford the latest clothes

They can game the system

They can figure out how to take tests

They can get better grades

They were read to constantly as babies and young children

They had the phonics of fourth graders in kindergarten

At or above grade level always

They always succeed

Just like their parents

Those same parents also benefited from a similarly rigged system some thirty years ago because their grandparents benefited from a similarly rigged system some sixty years ago….and on and on back until…well…who knows

Privileged

Completely privileged

However, the days of calling someone you know to get your child into a certain school because that family friend served on the Board, well, they are over

Doesn’t change the fact these children are in separate classes of competition

We all gawked in horror at Felicity Huffman and crew trying to buy their children’s way into colleges

Yet, who among us wouldn’t go to a Club Fed for two weeks if it ensured our child got into the school of his or her choice?

Don’t lie

We would all do it

My children have benefited from, and will continue to benefit from, their parents’ education, job choices, income levels

So many just cannot compete with that accident of birth

As I have read article after article about this very fact, I have been skeptical

I have poo-pooed such broad statements from these polemics

Now, I could not agree more with them

I have lived it

The whole system is rigged to ensure that certain students from certain socioeconomic groups remain in those socioeconomic groups

Education is the great affluence builder

For those with great affluence

It is not an equal playing field

In the 18th Century, a gift of land ensured entry into the right class

In the 21st, a gift of education ensures remaining in the right class

Those with more education statistically have higher incomes, better health, happier lives, more friends

Those without the disposable income cannot enlist the same resources

Those without the disposable income cannot enlist private college counselors to assist in the decision making process

Those without the disposable income cannot send a child on a weekend to stay with a friend

It’s a club, really, and, good luck getting into it if you’re not already in it by accident of birth

Again, I take nothing from the dogged pursuit of excellence by my eldest and by her younger sister and all of these talented young folks

I just know that they have an easier time of it than so many

They and most of their friends

 

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Stock image of a certain school in Winston Salem

 

Affirmative action? I am now all for it provided it’s not setting up a child for failure

Because I have seen that, which is almost as depressing as the system itself

Which is totally rigged

In favor of children like mine

I don’t care what you say about that child you knew from the wrong side of the tracks whose father was (deceased)(making minimum wage)(in prison)(out of the picture)(in and out of rehab)  and whose mother was (deceased)(making minimum wage)(in prison)(out of the picture)(in and out of rehab) and who was raised (in foster care)(by his grandparents)(by an aunt) who did really well at (name the school) and went on to (medical)(law)(dental)(engineering) school

Outlier

Take a survey of any of the top boarding schools, the top private schools, the top public schools with a relatively affluent student population

Most, if not all, of those children are headed to college and got into competitive schools

That’s who the college admissions process favors

Flat out favors

I know

I’ve seen it in action over the past two years and will see it again in a few more

Thrilled to death that it does favor children like mine

Legacy admissions may be going the way of the Dodo

The current legacy of admissions is here to stay

At least for the foreseeable and my-family-benefiting-future

Winter Winter Chicken Dinner

We have not had much of a winter this year

See Before, supra

Anyway, in past years when nights have been colder, I have made this one dish “Lemon-Rosemary-Garlic Chicken and Potatoes” adapted from Southern Living

My family loves it

I’ve served it to guests, just by doubling and using a really big roasting pan

Trust me, you cannot mess this one up

Simply

Can

Not

One of the Southern Living editors calls it “Anytime Chicken”

I disagree

I think it’s best in the winter

It’s super easy

Combined with French bread, is a complete meal

For all the rest of you, here’s my version

If you don’t like any of the ingredients, don’t use them

I love capers, and I don’t drain the jar

Which reminds me………

Years and years ago a lady from Atlanta moved to Beaufort, South Carolina

She was in the Piggly Wiggly on Ribaut Road and was looking for capers. She could not find them anywhere in the store.  She went up to the manager and asked where she could find the capers.

He replied, “Which ones? I know all the Capers that stay out on the Seaside Road.”

The Atlanta lady stared in wonder, “Oh, no, not those Capers; the ones that come in a jar.”

“Oh, them? They stay on Aisle 3”

That lady told that story for years

 

Lemon Grapefruit Garlic Chicken and Potatoes

 

1/4 c. lemon juice -fresh or bottled – it matters not

1 3.5 oz jar capers

2 lemons  (if you use fresh lemon juice, you’ll need 4 lemons total)

1 small red grapefruit, sliced into pieces 

10 cloves garlic, smashed roughly

3 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

3 tbs. olive oil

6 chicken legs

4 chicken thighs – skin on – bone in

2 lbs. small red potatoes

Aforementioned French bread

Mix the  first 8 ingredients in a medium bowl.

Heat oven to 425 degrees

Place a roasting pan over two burners on the stove.  Add the oil to the pan and heat over medium high heat. Sprinkle chicken with desired amount of salt and pepper.  Place skin sides down in pan. Add potatoes . Cook 9 to 10 minutes or until chicken is browned. Don’t turn it until the end of this cooking time.  After, turn chicken, and pour lemon mixture over chicken and potatoes

Place in oven for 45 for 50 minutes or until chicken is brown.  Remove chicken and potatoes and pour over pan drippings as sauce, which we never do…this is one best served straight from the pan

The Arm of Flesh Will Fail You

“It shouldn’t be an act of courage to enter a place of worship,” said a survivor of the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue shooting

But it is

Every day

In churches

Most recently in synagogue after synagogue

In mosques

In 2020

In America

All over America

We understand

Ever since June, 2015, Charleston, the Holy City, the City known for her houses of worship, has placed police officers at all churches, synagogues, mosques

Really

The first place in the Western world to allow almost anyone to vote and hold office, if they were white, and male, and professed a faith, any faith, not just the faith of the monarch

Dissenters

Jews

Heathens

All allowed

Home to the second oldest synagogue in the United States

John Locke wrote our initial constitutions

The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina

1669

Praising our religious freedom, Voltaire himself said, “Cast your eyes over the other hemisphere, behold Carolina, of which wise Locke was the legislator.”

He had no idea that over three hundred and fifty years later that freedom of religion would be curtailed

As I ushered in church, at a parish organized in 1680, I spoke to the police officer assigned to us

That’s right

A police officer

Assigned to us

Weekly

A man came in with a backpack

She asked him to please return it to his car

He did

A tourist with a fanny pack, oh law, also came into the church

She asked him to please return it to his car

Really

He said he was on foot and let her search it

That same man wrote a note and placed it in the collection plate on the visitors’ card

Counting the money after church, I saw the note

“Thank you for including me. Lovely service. Please pray for ________”

I wish I could have written him back

“Dear Sir, I am sorry that your fanny pack had to be searched, but we live in a sinful and broken world.”

This is America

This is worship in America

We really are soldiers

Worship as an act of war

Ye soldiers of the Cross

But I can’t help but think that Jesus would have wept

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Put on the Gospel armor. Literally.

Na-na-na-na-nineteen

 

Some of you will get that reference

Some of you won’t

Na-na-na-na-nineteen

Na-na-nineteen

Na-na-na-na-nineteen

Na-na-nineteen

’19

What a doozie

So many highs

So many lows

So many funerals

Only one wedding

However, there were great events, parties, premiers, expansions

Podcasts and productions

Births, christenings, confirmations

Fabulous trips

Writing and more writing

Law practice thriving in spite of the miserable loss of my dear law partner Gray Taylor

Our work team coming together in a way we could have never imagined

Since May, there’s been at least one funeral at month

My maternal grandmother always said, “Dying’s part of living”

Damnit

Really, 2019?

That’s all you got?

In spite of our national discord, problems at every turn, divisions at home and abroad, a non-stop and impossible land war in Asia, as a whole, we humans are doing better than ever in spite of daily existential crises

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be

As I prepare to bid 2019 adieu, I am more and more grateful to God for my friends and family

I treasure those whom I love and those who love me

As I age, I have decided that I have no time for stupid and no time for people who have no time for me

To paraphrase one of my favorite songs, people whom I’d much rather kick in the eye

Another reason why I may not be sad to see 2019 go

I lost people who loved me and whom I loved

We didn’t get enough time together

None of us ever do

I’m limiting the time I spend with those whom I don’t like, don’t respect, don’t need in 2020

That’s my Resolution

I’ll be perfectly pleasant and polite to everyone

I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings

That’s just manners

But, inside my head, I will be saying to them what I want to say to 2019

One word begins with an F

The other beings with an O

You can take your auld lang syne

See y’all in 2020

If you’re reading this, then you’re not in the eff off crowd

In fact, you’re some of the folks I wish to see more of in 2020

Love to each of you

Happy New Year

father time
Father Time…that old SOB

Muchly Bedecked

Smilax smallii

This time of year, back in the day, mothers dispatched their sons to woods all over South Carolina to cut, pull, and shoot smilax out of thickets to decorate for Christmas

Smilax smallii

Native of the South

Virginia to Texas

Used at weddings, parties, and other events, formerly ubiquitous at Christmas in this part of the world

Smilax

Lanceleaf greenbriar

Jackson vine

Old timey

High climber

With the loss of woodlands and the influx of folks from off, this tradition dies a little every year

I doubt the next generation will have to do like mine

Good times some thirty years ago heading into the woods with friends armed with clippers, shotguns, gloves, a couple packs of cigs, and may be a six pack of Lite Beer from Miller

Don’t judge

The 1980s were another country

My pal Thomas Boulware and I call each other around the 22nd or 23rd of December and compare notes as to where we have harvested smilax for Christmas around Charleston County

He and I tell each other from where we pull

In situ

Smilax in situ

We tell no one else

We don’t reveal our sources

All so we can muchly smilax bedeck our houses

(That’s a reference to a wedding write up from a small town paper in Georgia where society pages author described the bridal party as being muchly orchid bedecked – thanks SNMF, VDM, LNM, CEMIII for that one)

Ages ago, my mother asked a Beaufort lady where she obtained her smilax while they were decorating the John Mark Verdier House for a party for the Historic Beaufort Foundation

Her reply, “Oh, dahlin, I don’t tell anyone from whence cometh my smilax”

That green, delicate, graceful vine covers mantels, transoms, doors, mirrors

Well, it used to do so

Garland is everywhere now

Growing up in these parts, garland did not exist

The matrons of my home town headed into their secret wooded spots and cut down smilax to go over their front doors, over mirrors, on mantels, over portraits

Or they made their husbands and sons do it for them

I had a great aunt and uncle who trained smilax to grown on their side piazza in the small town of Ridgeway, South Carolina

I should have asked Aunt Laura how she did it

As we aged, my mother would send us out to find smilax all over Beaufort

When I came home from boarding school and college, it was my task to ride around Beaufort to spot smilax and bring it home

Often, I would find a huge stash and deliver extra to good friends, saving my pals the task of going into the woods

One Christmas, my father and I were riding somewhere when we spotted a lady we knew directing her son across a ditch to go ahead and pull a mess of smilax growing up a utility pole

We honked

The lady waived

Her son gave his middle finger

Dad and I howled laughing

Shooting smilax and mistletoe out of trees is an old Southern tradition

One must wait until the right time to hang it; otherwise one will have to replace it

It dries out really fast

The 22nd or 23rd is really the best time to wander into the woods and gather the sacred vine

If the smilax has berries on it, well, then, I mean

My pal Anna Pinckney and I always joke about shooting greenery out the woods

We also joke about how it wouldn’t be Christmas without trespassing onto someone’s land just to decorate a mantel

Because it’s all trespassing

One friend, who shall remain nameless, had to run to his car a couple years ago with green leaves trailing behind him way out on Johns Island as a property owner happened upon him pulling the tendrils of green out his trees

“Get the hell off my property! ” yelled the man “Imma shoot you!”

Probably would have, too

That’s part of the fun

The chase

The risk

I have an absolutely perfect spot to pull smilax

I will never tell where it is

I will decamp to that sacred grove whence grows this vine

I will cut a ton of it

I will leave a ton of it

I will bring it home and drape my front lights, every mirror in the house, and may be even the chandelier in the dining room

Those of you who don’t know the pleasures of a smilax hunt or its graceful beauty, well, bless your hearts

Those of you who do, happy hunting

I hope your hearths and homes are muchly bedecked this Christmas

Love and joy unto each and every one of you

Merry Christmas

 

Cutting the Mustard

I love homemade Christmas presents

Especially from someone’s kitchen

It’s what I knew growing up in a small town without access to store bought gifts

Fabulous cooks abounded

May be the dearth of restaurants in my hometown created all the fabulous cooks

Not having many places to go, it seems that everyone I knew grew up in a family that cooked

Burned

Men and women both

It being an earlier age, so many cooks put their talents to good use every Christmas

May be the dearth of stores and gift shops in my hometown created all the homemade Christmas treats

Wrapped in tins, boxes, tissue paper

Peanut brittle

Cream Cheese Braid Bread

Venison sausage

Russian Tea mixes

Mocha mixes

Homemade Kahlua

Biscuits

Breakfast casseroles

Preserves

Chutneys

And, the most elegant of condiments

Champagne Mustard

Each year, our dear dear friend Mary Patrick would darken our door with her impeccably tied pint jar of her champagne mustard in hand

She didn’t give it to a lot of people, but we always received

“Mom,” one of us would yell as we saw Mary on the 23rd or 24th, “here comes Mary with her mustard!”

Gifts exchanged

Hugs

Laughs

So much love

Just like clockwork

I don’t have Mary Patrick’s receipt for Champagne Mustard, but I do have another friend’s

Mary Martha Greene

Mary Martha’s family were super talented cooks, too

Anyone else remember her aunt’s cheese biscuits? Miss Dobson? Anyone?

I cannot wait for Mary Martha’s cookbook to come out soon

Mary Martha used to babysit for us wild boys when were little

Forty plus years of friendship

She’s a love

A dahlin

Last year, she shared her Champagne Mustard receipt with me just because I asked her for it since I didn’t have Mary Patrick’s version

Three emails later, and I had the keys to the mustard kingdom

I made a batch last Christmas

I recently made a batch for this Christmas

It’s a game changer

Sweet and spicy at the same time

Set your sinuses free with a full spoonful if you’re stopped up in any way

It’s amazing with roast beast, ham, turkey, in deviled eggs, as a substitute for Dijon mustard in a vinaigrette

I have not one lick of participation in the creation of this amazing condiment

My girls love it

I hope I’m not going to get in trouble with our dear Mary Martha by giving this away

My former babysitter did tell me that NOT sharing receipts is the height of bad manners

We Southerners are known for our manners

With Christmas fast approaching, it’s time to polish our manners

It’s also time to polish the mustard spoon and put this mustard in the fridge

Yup

Polish the mustard spoon

You probably have one and don’t even know it

Or you could ask for one for Christmas as this mustard deserves its own piece of silverware

Mary Martha Greene’s Champagne Mustard

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup dry powdered mustard – I use Coleman’s English – it packs a punch

4 eggs

1/2 cup champagne or Prosecco vinegar

1/4 cup sherry

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend for five minutes. Pour into a Pyrex bowl that can sit over simmering water. Do not cook in a metal double boiler. Place bowl over simmering water and cook until thick. Mary Martha says it takes 10 minutes, but, mine always takes a little longer.

Take off the heat and let come to room temperature before putting in containers and leaving in the fridge. It lasts indefinitely, but, it never lasts that long