Monthly Archives: October 2015

Come Fly With Me

Dillon SC County Airport
Dillon SC County Airport

At the end of an I-95 exit ramp in South Carolina, just across from Missy’s One Stop, sits The Dillon County Airport. When my husband and I first saw it several years ago it was forlorn and forgotten.  Single runway rutted, runway lights broken, rusted tower with a battered old beacon light. There were a couple of old white trailer buildings with a faded “Airport Office” sign on one. And a dirt track winding through planted fields to the Dillon Motor Speedway. A relic of a past when much of America was tied together by tiny air strips and tinier flying machines.

I looked up the airport on the  FAA’s website. It was still an active airport as far as the FAA was concerned.  But I doubt a plane had landed there in a decade or more.

We came back a year later.  The airport looked even more abandoned. And the trailer buildings were gone.

Then – a small miracle. We came back in 6 months and the runway was newly tarred and striped. New runway lights were catching the sunlight.  And -OMG – an old Cessna 172 was sitting on the taxiway. It had a few rivets missing from the cowling and a paper map sitting on the passenger seat and looked pretty much unchanged from the 172 which I learned to fly (in case the pilot had a heart attack) when I did traffic reports in college.

3 months later – the 172 was still in the same place. It looked as if it hadn’t moved in years. And maybe never would.

Then this week we took our usual walk down the little road paralleling the runway. And there – high above us – was a brand new light with all the new electrical connections needed to make it a proper rotating airport beacon.

Cessna and Beechcraft
Cessna and Beechcraft

And even more amazing… a second small plane sat near the runway. An old Beechcraft. Looking slightly more as if it had actually flown there.  A brand new windsock soared bravely near the refurbished runway.

Our little county airport was alive! Never mind the reason (yes I know I’m a reporter and supposed to be pinning that down). It may have been simply, as one source suggested, that the FAA threatened to stop providing the county with maintenance money unless there really was some maintenance.  It doesn’t matter now.

So hop in your flying machine and fly in  – now that you won’t land in a rut. Walk across the road to Missy’s. Savor a good Southern, home-cooked meal.

Airport Cotton Field, Dillon
Airport Cotton Field, Dillon

Then walk it off in the cotton field just behind the airport- on the sandy path which still leads to the Dillon Speedway.

Update From I-95

On the Road Again
On the Road Again

On the road again. Cats quiet in their travel box behind us. Frank driving, me reading, sun finally up, cloudless blue sky. And oh yeah — I’ve been getting freeze warnings from NOAA in my iPhone for every town we hit in New Jersey!! With temps around 27! In a 2 day cold snap – I guess that’s not surprising.

In a few hours I’ll call the pet friendly hotel in Dillon where we always stay to make a reservation. Tomorrow we’ll have our favorite breakfast at Missy’s. Maybe doing these same things would be boring to others but to me there’s a reassurance in continuity. Every 3 or 4 months we touch the bases. You don’t get old if you follow your curiosity to new experiences. But you also don’t get old if nothing ever changes.

Road Trips

Mr. Bojangles and Stormy
Mr. Bojangles and Stormy

It’s a hallowed American custom — taking the kids and the dog, piling into the car and heading for the highway. Maybe it’s to visit Grandma, maybe to go camping, maybe a trip down memory lane on storied Route 66.

Well we’re taking the cats – Mr. Bojangles and Stormy – and heading south. I-95 all the way. Destination: St. Augustine FL, the oldest city in the US. But first we have to get to Dillon, SC. Home of the former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke (with an interchange sign to prove it). Home of the Dillon Speedway. And Missy’s.

Dillon is just south of the North Carolina border and we didn’t pick it to overnight because of the Bernanke connection. Actually it’s kind of the town the world left behind. A good 12 hour drive (with the usual comfort stops along the way). The cats just shut down in their fleece-floored, soft-sided carrier. Go to sleep. Occasionally Mr. Bojangles (Bo for short) gets up, looks through the mesh to be sure we’re still there, and goes back to sleep.  Stormy just sleeps.  Pretty much what he does all day at home anyhow.

So why do we head for Dillon?  Missy’s One Stop. It’s like stepping into the 40’s or 50’s with a home-cooked Southern breakfast, a crew of bearded, retired regulars and a steady stream of locals stopping in to fortify themselves for the work day. When I was a child I went to summer camp in Maine. Near a town with a general store. With penny candy. That’s Missy’s. A bit of old America you can still find off the blue highways.  If you take a road trip and let your curiosity be your guide.

Oh – sorry about the penny candy.  Missy’s has it but it’s more like dime candy now.


Ode to the Front Page

NY Times Front Page, courtesy Poynter Institute archives

I miss the front page.  Oh I know — I can see a digital front page on my New York Times iPad app. But social media editors are always adjusting the stories to encourage more clicks. Which often has little to do with late-breaking news.  I want what today would be called, I guess, a “sticky” front page.

I’m one of those half and half people.  I read almost all my news from all sources on my iPhone and iPad. Mostly iPhone. Seldom even on a legit website.  But I still get the print version of a few newspapers.  Like the New York Times. Daily and Sunday. I like to look at that front page in the morning — already outdated in our 24/7 world – and get a sense of what is or was important.

Most days I put the paper in the recycle pile without opening it.  Mondays and Tuesdays I save the Business and Science sections for the media and health stories I can read later.  On the apps — those stories are often moved to the bottom of the stack — or even dropped — before I have time to get to them.

But the front page — that’s the heart of any newspaper. The world at a glance. You just can’t get that from a stacked-up news app on the iPhone. It’s kind of like the legacy networks’ evening news broadcasts.  We know the news already, mostly. But that half hour neatly sums up the newsday.  Front page in the morning. Newscast at night. (Although I could certainly do without all the drug commercials with their ridiculously scary side effects). With so much information out there – true and false – most people don’t have the journalistic skills to sort it all out. Prioritize.

That’s what editors do.  The 3 who are left.

Well I suppose I’ll give in soon enough. Dump my print delivery with its front page of record. But before I go — one more thought.  When you’re reading and eating fried chicken or a sloppy tuna-in-a-pita sandwich –the real newspaper doesn’t care that your fingers are all greasy.  It neatly absorbs whatever your fingers slop on its pages.  Try that with the gorilla glass screens of the iDevices.

Spotify and Starbucks = Muzak

Starbucks Coffee

Now I know what happened.  And why.  I came back home from my summer university teaching in Prague, went to my local Starbucks, held up my iPhone with its Starbucks app to the scanner and settled down happily to enjoy my coffee in what I expected would be the usual warm, comfortable atmosphere. Then I realized something had changed. Where was the mood-setting music mix of new and old, jazz and rock? Manager’s choice music which varied from store to store to fit the customer mix?  Background music which – like that of a lounge pianist – created a sense of belonging, of social interaction in an otherwise sterile, masculine-colored brown and tan, oblong strip mall space.   What I heard now was more like the old Muzak. Boring, genre-less, insipid elevator music.  It was like an Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Or maybe the Stepford Wives.

I asked the baristas. We hate it too, they said. I emailed the regional manager. I’ll tell my boss, she emailed back. I even filled out a customer complaint form on the Starbucks website.  We’ll pass on your comments, came the stock reply.

Today I found out the truth.  What really happened.  In a way it was an Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Spotify and Starbucks had partnered to create what they called “a next generation music ecosystem”. In all 7000 company owned US stores.  I must have missed the announcement last May.  Had I known I might have stayed in Prague.  Where the body snatchers haven’t ventured yet. And Starbucks is still Starbucks.

There’s nothing in my local New Jersey store saying something like “Music by Spotify. Plunk down your 10 monthly bucks to subscribe.” There’s just nothing. Musical nothingness.

I wonder if it’s because most of Starbucks’ employees are just too young to remember Muzak. Or all the jokes.  Or maybe out in Seattle  – where corporate Starbucks lives – they never had elevator music.  It’s the West Coast after all. And the living is —- different.


A Nation of Couch Potatoes

couch potato

i don’t have much patience with couch potatoes.  Personally, I don’t sit well.  I fidget a lot.  At work I’m always jumping up and down — walking to the printer, the coffee station, the bathroom.  Walking fast because there is always so little time.  I wouldn’t go so far as to work at a standing desk but it’s far too easy when you’re working hard, concentrating on a PC screen, to become an immovable object.  Something health experts say is the very antithesis of healthy. AKA couch potato.

Before I blew out my knee I ran (and finished) 28 marathons. Not necessarily well and certainly not fast but — I finished. This past Sunday my husband Frank finished his umpteenth marathon (we’ve lost count and who has time to add up his medals).  Today’s New York Times contained a timely article on the gold standard for all runners known as the runner’s high. This was a somewhat windy article about how that high may not be caused by endorphins after all but by a marijuana-like chemical in our bodies. Doesn’t really matter.  What matters is how serious exercise makes you feel.  I can still get a runner’s high from my current short 2 to 5 mile runs.  Whatever its chemical cause, a runner’s high is simply a feeling of well-being when your run is done.  I imagine people who bike a lot get the same lifting of the spirit. In fact probably any sustained exercise makes you feel good.  Aerobic classes.  A long, fast-paced walk in the fall-colored woods.

I see out of shape people sashaying hopefully into my gym every day.  No doubt sent there by their doctors, their children, their loved ones who’d like them to stick around for a lot more healthy years.  A few of them stick it out.  Work on the weight machines with a trainer, huff and puff on the treadmill or a bike, struggle through a zumba class.  After a few hard-fought months or maybe even a year –those few even become gym rats like me –determined to keep their thinner, more muscled, healthier, happier and – actually – younger selves.  But the majority waste their year’s membership.  Drop out in a month or less after their determined start.  I don’t really know why. For most it’s wasted money they worked hard to make. Or someone in their families did.

What makes some of us not just able to keep our daily date with exercise but more than willing to do it?  And what makes others seemingly unable to stick to a workout plan which could save their lives and will certainly make those lives a lot better? I’m just a reporter not a psychologist. I haven’t a clue. But the psychological rewards of regular exercise — those runners’ highs — would certainly change the equation.  Overcome couch potato-ness.  If only more sitters would just stand up — and move.

Another Opening of Another Show

cropped-SS-Blog-Short-Hair.jpgI don’t suppose I’m unique these days but I feel like I’m always re-inventing myself professionally. So here I go again — to paraphrase a President named Reagan whose 1980 presidential campaign was my political reporting trial-by-fire.

I’ve blogged before and eventually, when I get the technical stuff in hand, you’ll see a link to Global Perspectives as I so grandly called it.  Long, carefully crafted columns. Not really so global as it turned out.

I travel a fair amount and love exploring other cities, other landscapes, other countries, other cultures and above all — other people’s lives.

I’m a health and fitness nut.  A gym rat who ran 30 marathons and now runs only occasional 5ks.  On a 6 year old knee replacement. Yes – I learned a lot about the power of the mind and the frailty of the body as I ran my knee into the ground. Always sure I could will my body to do my bidding, injury or no, 14 hour work days or no. Sleep? Ha! A half hour of running at 5AM was worth more than a half hour more of sleep I figured. Especially when the time allotted for sleep averaged just 4 -5 hours a night!  Hey dummy — you can’t run marathons on so little sleep. Or on injuries. But I’m a control freak and I didn’t believe it.  Believe me, I do now.

So look for some stuff about health and working out here. And eating right of course. Nothing about cooking. Never had the time. But thankfully my husband cooks.  And we have a microwave. Or I’d probably live on salads and cold cereal.

And again – as soon as I get the hang of it – look for some videos, some photos, some infographics with audio — whatever I can do to make my point.  If I find news during my travels – I’ll post it here.  And probably a little here and there about the absurdities of life.  I’ll try to keep things reasonably short. And I don’t want to hear from grammarians.  It’s my voice. As I have always phrased my radio and TV newscasts and reports. Fragmented like me. I hope it’s the beginning of a beautiful and interesting relationship.