Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Things I forgot to write this year

As I was preparing to write this, my final column of 2008, I pulled out my notes from the year and realized there were a few things I had intended to write about, but simply forgot.

Actually, I didn’t totally forget, because I’m thinking of them now. Let’s just say I didn’t forget… I simply ran out of weeks. There are only 52 weeks in a year, and if I have more than 52 topics, I’m out of luck. (Probably even fewer, because I use about half of the weeks dribbling about some nonsense that just happened to cross my mind, or reminiscing about the way things were when I was a kid.)

Anyway, I thought – this being the Christmas season and all, as my special Christmas gift to you – I would quickly run through some of the points I intended to write about, but didn’t get around to.

-- Absent-mindedness is not such a bad thing, I have learned. True, you occasionally forget something important… but you also forget a LOT of stuff that you’re better off not remembering!

-- Don’t you hate it when you call customer service, and you get a recording telling you that you’ll be on “hold” for five minutes until the next representative is available? Know what I do? After they answer, I always make a point to put THEM on hold a few times… you know, maybe to go warm up my coffee, or just to stretch my legs which have gotten stiff from sitting there waiting for them to answer!!!

-- There are an awful lot of people originally from Up North who have moved to the Pimento State. I think my favorite transplants are the ones from places like Michigan and Ohio in the Mid-West. They seem to blend in rather nicely. But, you can’t really say that about the ones from New York and Massachusetts. Seems like they’re always trying to change things to “the way we did it Up North.” (They can complain about us all they want to, but you don’t hear about anybody retiring and moving North!)

-- At my house, I have three different kinds of exercise machines in various rooms. I have found that no matter what part of the house they’re in, they all make excellent clothes racks.

-- The older I become, the more I forget the names of people… but the less embarrassed I am about it. When acquaintances challenge me on forgetting their names, I have a great comeback:
“I’m old!”

-- I have recently learned that there’s nothing less romantic than flossing in bed.

-- Paying for TV and buying water. These are concepts which I scoffed at when I first heard them predicted many years ago. Now I freely fork over hard-earned cash for both. What has happened to me?

-- And speaking of TV, the conversion from analog to digital is now only weeks away. I haven’t given it much thought until recently. I’m not an engineer or computer expert, so I really don’t fully understand the technological reasons for the required changeover. However, a couple of questions have arisen in my mind, which I’m hopeful have already been raised and answered before Congress mandated the change-over.

Here’s the most concerning question: If all of our TV communications are now digital – and analog no longer exists – wouldn’t our entire nationwide communications network be at risk of being “hacked”? Couldn’t technology-savvy enemies of our nation easily disrupt, or even hijack, our broadcasts via the Internet, which they cannot do with analog signals? Probably not. Probably I’m just wondering out loud, and the great minds in Washington have figured that problem out a long time ago. Anyway, I hope so.

-- Did I ever tell you that I keep one contact lens in, and one out, so I can see far away or close up? Of course, near or far, everything’s a little fuzzy this way. So, if you see me on the street, and I seem not to recognize you… you’ll know why!!!

“I’m old!”

-- Technology is taking over my life. There was a time when – if I had a question – I would look it up in the encyclopedia or almanac. Nowadays, I usually just google it. I’m now officially a Facebook user. (For the un-enlightened, that’s a “social network” website on the Internet.) And I currently have over 500 emails waiting to be read. (Actually, most of them have already been glanced at, but I’m waiting on some “spare time” to go back and read them thoroughly.)

-- Do you realize that – when the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve – we will officially be in the 10th year of the New Century and the New Millennium? Could it have been that long already? (I guess time flies when you’re fighting terrorism and heading into a global recession.)

I can tell it’s been a long time since we heralded in Y2K on January 1, 2000, because back then, I had learned how to spell “millennium”, and today, as I’m writing this column… I had to look it up!

On Dictionary.com, of course.

Suddenly, its coming back to me. I didn’t FORGET to write about these things… I skipped them on purpose! Oh well, too late now.

I am, however, currently forgetting to write my special 2008 Christmas Week Holiday Greetings column!

So let me just quickly leave you with a few of my original Christmas thoughts:

“Have a holly, jolly Christmas. May all your Christmases be bright. Santa Claus is coming to town. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. We wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Although it’s been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you. Jump in bed and cover your head ‘cause Santa Claus comes tonight. Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Feliz Navidad. Fa la la la la, la la la la!”


You’re always welcome to let me know you agree, disagree, can’t make sense of, or simply don’t care about anything I’ve written here… or about any other topic that happens to be on your mind. You can email me directly at: RodShealy@aol.com.

And, if reading it once just wasn’t enough for you, read it again online – along with previous columns -- at my modern-technology Electronic Internet blog: www.doingthefirst.blogspot.com (And, if you’d like to look at me while you’re reading… you can look me up on Facebook!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Gifts of Christmas Past

Every time I hear the opening line of Silver Bells – “City sidewalks, busy sidewalks” – my mind goes back to a time when there actually were busy sidewalks at Christmastime… back to The Time Before Malls!

I have vivid memories of family shopping excursions on the streets of Downtown Columbia during the holiday season. Looking back, it’s likely that they were not “family shopping excursions” at all… just the kids tagging along because the adults didn’t have anywhere else to park the kids.

Main Street in Columbia was dressed in holiday style every December. There were decorations strung across the streets, the giant State House tree shimmering at the end of the street, and, of course, the window displays in the stores. My favorite was always Belk. They had massive Christmas displays that still linger in my mind… like the manger scene up on the catwalk… or the actual working model trains in the window displays.

These days, it doesn’t seem possible that a 9 year-old kid could be left alone on Main Street of a major city, darting back and forth from store to store and block to block, with only the instructions to “meet at the Eckerd’s lunch counter in two hours”. If, after nearly 50 years, my memory is correct, there was Belk, Eckerd, J.C. Penny, Tapps, Berry on Main, Woolworth, Kresse, McCory, J.B. White, and about a hundred other shops and stores. (The official names were “Belk”, “J.C. Penny”, “J. B. White”, and “Eckerd”… but we for some reason always pluralized the names to “Belks, Pennys, Whites and Eckards”.)

Off we’d go, in various directions, into a sea of Christmas shoppers from throughout the Midlands who had all converged on the same six-block hub.

Of course, I usually wasn’t actually doing any SHOPPING on Main Street in Columbia. Mainly, I was just looking and wishing and dreaming. It was wonderful!

My personal holiday gift shopping would come later on Main Street in Lexington, my hometown, just 13 miles away from Columbia. Lexington’s Main Street was also quite a festive place, with Session’s and Harman’s Drugs and Taylors Hardware and the Western Auto all on the same block!!! Most of my actual purchases came from what I considered to be the epicenter of the Lexington shopping district: Dodd’s Dime Store! (And, usually, at a more appropriate time for Christmas shopping: Christmas Eve -- or maybe the day before -- a fine holiday tradition I continue to this day!!!)

I still recall what was likely the first time I went shopping at Dodd’s by myself with my own money. (It was bicycling distance from my home, only about a mile further down Main Street.)

At the age of probably eight years old, with my own money earned from chores during the Christmas vacation, I located what I was certain to be the perfect Christmas gift for my Mom: a 25-cent arrangement of plastic flowers which I was absolutely certain she would adore!

And, sure enough, I was right! When she opened my gift on Christmas morning, she couldn’t stop oohing and ahhing! She was thrilled with my gift! Completely overwhelmed, based on her reaction!

My gift-giving prowess continued through the years. By the time my kid brother Shawn came along, Mom and Dad were in the habit of showering us with goodies on Christmas. And since he was about a dozen years younger than the three older kids, he really racked up on the Santa loot. At about age three, he got a ton of gifts: Hot Wheels, Big Wheels, a drum-set, games and toys galore.

From his older brother, his gift was a roll of Scotch tape… which he proceeded to play with for the rest of the day while virtually ignoring all of his big Santa Claus gifts!!!

I recall that, when I was age 11 or 12, my older sister Sherry -- who was already old enough to have a real, part-time job -- gave my sister Cric and me each a transistor radio! Now THAT was a major gift! As far as I was concerned, it might as well have been a car or a yacht or a house. They all cost the same amount to me: LOTS! It was at that moment when I first began to really understand the value of having a job, and to develop the work ethic that would stick with me until… well, I guess last weekend!

Of course, the most unusual gift any of us received came on Christmas, 1967, when each of us three older kids received a note in the toe of our stockings announcing the Shealy family would soon be adding a fifth and final child: Lorri, the youngest, who sure enough came along a few months later! (I also recall getting new shoelaces in the stocking, which I badly needed. And, every year since I can recall, everybody’s stocking had a flashlight. At our house, Santa had a very practical side!)

At the Shealy home, Christmas was a happy time. We were blessed, and we knew it.
That’s why Dad, every Christmas, took it upon himself to try to make Christmas a little brighter for some other family. Long before there were Toy Drives or Adopt-a-Family programs, he would quietly find a family each year that was not financially able to provide gifts, and deliver a couple of packages for each of the kids. He did it without fanfare or acknowledgement. He never really even told us kids what he was doing. He was simply trying to share our blessings.

One year, though, on Christmas morning, he invited me to go along with him to deliver those gifts… and I suppose that is when I learned what Christmas is truly about. It’s one Christmas memory that I’ll never forget… and a gift that will stay with me forever.

Great parents and caring families, it turns out, are the very best gifts of all!

Here’s hoping your Christmas is filled with wonderful gifts for you and yours.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas in a simpler time

Invariably during the holiday season, my mind skitters back to Christmas celebrations from a much simpler time. (Everything seemed simpler when we were kids!)

Even before children are old enough to understand the hoopla, I suspect they are drawn to Christmas by the excitement in the air. I don’t really remember any Christmases from my pre-school years, although I THINK I remember them because of the home movies I saw over and over again.

My early school years are when the memories actually kick in. Back then, I liked Christmas mainly because there was no school for two whole weeks. They could have parked Ground Hog Day in the middle of two weeks vacation from school, and it would have been a big hit with me. I would have gladly decorated a tree and sung Ground Hog Carols if it resulted 14 in consecutive days with no school in the middle of winter.

Of course, getting TOYS was pretty cool, too.

As a lad of four, five, six, seven, or eight, during the late 50’s or early 60’s, my Christmas wants were pretty simple: anything in cowboy. A cap gun. A holster. A cowboy hat. Cowboy boots. Or a hobby horse, which, as you may recall, was a stick with an imitation horse-head on the end.

It’s not that we were so easy to please back then… It’s just that we didn’t know much else except Cowboys and Indians! There were no Transformers or action figures. There were no Ataris or X-Boxes. Just a back yard, and enough vivid imagination keep us occupied for hours playing Cowboys and Indians, sometimes all alone!

During the 60’s, the advertising industry teamed up with the Saturday Morning Cartoon industry to start TELLING kids what toys they wanted for Christmas: Mr. Potato Head, GI Joe, Easy Bake Oven, Rock’em Sock’em Robot, Etch-A-Sketch… they all looked better than simple plastics on TV. It never occurred to us that Super-ball, Twister, and Slinky were nothing more than a hard rubber ball, a printed piece of plastic, and a coil of wire.

And the games!!!! Candyland. Chutes and Ladders. Operation. Parchesi. Sorry. Mystery Date Game. And that old standard… Monopoly.

Another thing different about Christmas these days are the Holiday movies. Back then, there were only three: Rudolf, Frosty, and Charlie Brown, as I recall. That’s because we didn’t have cable TV, nor the multitude of channel selections that we have today. There was no such thing as a “movie channel”. So each of those movies was aired ONCE ONLY during the holiday season, along with the annual Bing Crosby show and a handful of other specials.

For some reason, the smells of the holidays during my childhood seem to linger in my memory banks. There was something special about coming in out of the cool, crisp winter air into a toasty den, with the smells of a cedar Christmas tree and firewood crackling blending with freshly baked cookies and pies. The grand finale for the olfactory senses was the Christmas dinner… all kinds of good things to eat at Grandmama’s house.

Here’s an interesting tidbit: At my house, we never once left milk and cookies for Santa, as tradition called for us to do. Even while maintaining the existence of Santa, Mom and Dad told us that the “cookies and milk” bit was a myth. (In truth, they were far too frugal in those days to let perfectly good milk and cookies sit out half the night and go to waste!)

The Shealy Family Christmas Tree was always something to behold. Shiny, shimmering ornaments that showed up year after year. Never-mind that they were mostly just painted plastic…. to us they were valuable antique heirlooms! (One I specifically remember was stuffed with Angel Hair!) Strands of garland. Silver and gold tinsel hanging from every branch. And string after string of colored lights.

There were only two kinds of Christmas lights to choose from: indoor and outdoor. Both consisted bright, multi-colored bulbs, but the outdoor variety was larger to withstand the elements.

I don’t recall ever going to a “Christmas tree lot” as a child. Why bother when there were acres and acres of woods all around? We simply walked into the woods and found a little cedar tree. (Sometimes they even grew in the highway right-of-ways!)

And if the tree was a little skimpy to start with, you would never know it after the decorating process was complete, with 4 strands of garland, 59 ornaments, 144 multi-colored lights, 2,918 individual pieces of tinsel… and one star splendidly adorning the top of the tree! By the time the Big Day arrived, the tree would be finished off with a mountain of colorfully wrapped gifts underneath – about a gazillion in all.

Then came the mid 60’s, and the carefully-decorated cedar tree was replaced by a silver, aluminum “tree”, with a spotlight and color-wheel which revolved to give the appearance of a different color tree every few seconds!

Some of my childhood Christmas memories are actual memories, but others have been propped up by the photographs which captured those moments. I’m sure I don’t remember Christmas morning when I was two years old… but I know about it because there were a few pictures. Not a lot of pictures, mind you. Back then, we were very selective about our picture-taking because film cost a lot of money, and developing the film cost even more.

Nowadays, with digital cameras and VCR recorders, we can capture image after image… but in those days, picture-taking was reserved for special occasions like Christmas, family-vacations, and the occasional dance or piano recital.

Of course, the most vivid of the Christmas almost-memories were the ones captured on home movies… 8mm filmstrips.

The lighting was bad, and the movies were usually just a collage of 15-second clips… the average length of time of a movie scene, due to the afore-mentioned costs of film and developing. But it only takes a few seconds of these old home movies to capture the simpler times of Christmases past. The freckle-faced two-year old with a blonde crewcut -- and the other people in those movies -- are long gone…. But the memories come back year after year during the holiday season.

Here’s hoping you create your own armload of happy memories this Christmas.

Friday, December 12, 2008

White Christmas

Let me say from the outset that I am not a Scrooge, or a Grinch. I like Christmas. At my office, in fact, I start playing Christmas music earlier than anyone else I know… usually September, occasionally even August.

But there is one traditional Holiday wish with which I disagree. (Try saying that three times real fast: “wish with which, wish with which, wish with which”!)

While the entire rest of the universe appears to be hoping in unison for a “White Christmas”… my preference is, as it always has been, a balmy, sunshiny, warm Palmetto State December day in the 70’s.

This was all brought painfully to my attention last weekend – Thanksgiving weekend to be exact – when we had a couple of days of cold, dreary, rainy almost winter weather… probably made drearier by my favorite team’s drubbing at the hands of arch-rival Clemson (which I am spelling correctly today out of respect for their victory).

Anywho, the cold wet weather during the first serious weekend of the Christmas shopping season made we stop and wonder what to expect weatherwise for the rest of the season, and I got to guessing whether we’ll have a White Christmas this year.

I guesses “No”… and I hope I’m right.

I’ve never actually seen a White Christmas, and probably never will. It’s one of those things like a total eclipse or Haley’s Comet. They only happen every so often, and even then, you have to be at the right place at the right time to see it.

Maybe in parts of Canada, Alaska, and Wisconsin it’s a regular occurrence. But I’ve never been any of those places on Christmas Day, and don’t expect I ever will be.

Growing up in the sunny south, I’m used to a different regular occurrence in December: wearing Bermuda shorts and flip-flops! And if it’s a truly special Christmas, I might even need to add sunglasses to keep the bright sun out of my eyes!!!

I know this puts me at odds with the rest of the world, but I’d rather have a Bright Christmas than a White Christmas!!!

Stop and think for a minute. Ask yourself this question: It’s the busiest travel day of the year, so what can we do to improve the holiday travelling experience? I know!!! Let’s cover all the roads and airports with a foot of snow!!! That’s a great idea!

Even as a kid, I was never in favor of a White Christmas. We didn’t get many snow days, and I didn’t want to use one up on a day when we were already out of school.

As a kid, a snow day was that rarest of special occasions when I could skip school without pretending to be sick! AND… unlike those “fake sick” days, it was perfectly okay to go out and play all day long!

Of course, snow days in the South were a lot different than snow days in the North. First of all, most of the time, it wasn’t really snow, but instead, was snow’s evil twin – “ice”.

And either way, we weren’t equipped for it. We didn’t have the right mittens and boots. Instead, I wore socks on my hands, which kept them warm for about three minutes, and sopping, soaking cold and wet for the rest of the hour until I went back in the house to change “mittens”.

In the South, we also never had the primary piece of snow-recreation equipment: a sled! So we improvised. My favorite improvisation was an old automobile hood turned upside down… which allowed about eleven kids to take a ride down a nice steep hill.

I also tried cross-country skiing once with a pair of waterskis instead of snowskis and a pair of old crutches instead of ski poles.

Yes, snow days are designed for interrupting the education of our children, not for disrupting my favorite holiday.

So let me go on record: I’m NOT dreaming of a White Christmas.

I like the song (although I sing it without the deep, heartfelt meaning that others give it.) I even tolerate the movie. (Though clearly, it’s a second tier holiday movie, not on the same level as Miracle on 34th Street or It’s a Wonderful Life… or even, in my opinion, Christmas Vacation, Elf, or Scrooged.)

But let’s save the actual snowfall for a more convenient time when there’s not so much going on. For no particular reason, I’m voting for January 15th.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Time for Thanksgiving 2008

This year, Thanksgiving has a deeper meaning for me… not only because I’m still here, but also because my many blessings seem richer and fuller. Regular readers know that, a few months ago, I survived brain surgery to remove a malignant tumor which had begun to affect my communication skills. For the time being, I’ve been given a clean bill of health.

While certainly I’m thankful for many of the same things as most other Americans – the price of gas is finally coming down; though the economy is struggling, we’ve still got plenty to eat; and we have just witnessed one of the greatest changes of regimes in American history, but its happening without bloodshed or violence, in an orderly way that would not be possible in most nations – I’m also thankful every day that somehow, I seem to have beaten the odds on cancer, not once, but twice.

As I was preparing to write my weekly column, I glanced back to my Thanksgiving message from a year ago, and I realized that I’m still thankful for the very same things… except perhaps more so. And those words from a year ago – before I had any idea of the challenges I would face this year – suddenly appeared more meaningful and poignant.

So I decided to dust off my Thanksgiving column for 2007 and make it my Thanksgiving column for 2008… with a little touching up.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Let me tell you about a few of the things for which I am personally thankful:

First, I’m thankful that – this holiday season – I’m not in the middle of one of my months-long Weight Loss Contests. True, I’m currently a big fat giant hippo-pig-whale, but Thanksgiving is just a really inconvenient time for a diet.

I’m thankful for my Mom & Dad. I was blessed with good ones. To paraphrase Lincoln, all that I am, I owe to my mom and dad. Dad’s no longer with us, and that leaves Mom to shoulder the blame alone. But she never complains.

I’m thankful for my wife and kids. Again, I’m blessed with good ones. Two sons and a daughter who make me proud, and a wonderful wife who puts up with me… which surprises me! And I’m thankful for the rest of my family. Altogether, they not only provide me with comfort and joy, but also with a high degree of entertainment value. (It’s actually better than TV – somewhere between Reality TV, Day of Our Lives, Dr. Phil, and The Beverly Hillbillies.)

I’m thankful for our Democracy. Even though my personal choice didn’t win, I’m thankful that the process of electing our president worked. And I’m really, really thankful that politics is over for the year, and for another few months or so before it cranks up again.

I’m thankful for my friends. I have a lot of ‘em, and I know they’re true friends. Sometimes, you’re not sure if a person is a true friend… or just interested in your money. Fortunately for me, I never have to question whether my friends or genuine or not.

Which reminds me…

I’m thankful to be free of the burdens and responsibilities of great financial wealth. (That’s what is sometimes referred to as “taking lemons and making lemonade”.)

I’m thankful to be 54 years old. There are those who didn’t think I’d last this long. By all rights, I probably shouldn’t have.

I’m thankful to live in South Carolina. It’s a great place to live. Now, I know we’re ranked last in the nation in education, health care, income, and lots of other things… and I suppose that should make me less happy to live here. But, somehow, it’s still a great place to live. Statistics or not… I wouldn’t live anywhere else!

I’m thankful for the people I work with: co-workers, associates, clients, employees, suppliers. Lots of good people -- better than I deserve -- hard workers who care about their performance, and generally try to do the right things. They make me look good… at least for a while, until I come along and do something to mess things up.

I’m thankful for my health. Looking at me from a distance, you wouldn’t think I’d be that thankful, given the condition I’m in (and from up close, you’d be even more surprised.) But, in the big picture, as old and out-of-shape as I might be, I’m healthy. I can see and hear, I can walk and talk… and there are lots of people in the world who can’t do those things. So, yes, I’m thankful for my health, as feeble as that may be.

I’m thankful Steve Spurrier is our Head Ball Coach. He’s a great coach. It really gives me hope for next year, even while our Gamecocks are tumbling like drunken sailor down a flight of stairs in a snowstorm. I believe in Steve. Things will get better.

I’m thankful for my readers… especially those of you who have made it this far into my column. You’ve probably already had to jump from the front page to a page somewhere near the back of the newspaper, and it may have taken a lot of time and effort to find the right page. To top that off, if you’re a regular reader, you probably know that my columns tend to run a little long, and sometimes start to fade near the end. Plus, you undoubtedly know that they are usually just random thoughts hastily strung together a few minutes before weekly my deadline, typically with not much rhyme or reason, and very little literary, entertainment, or informational value… and yet, YOU are still here reading…. and for that, I am thankful… and surprised.

I’m thankful for electricity. I think electricity is a good thing, and it’s taken for granted. I take it for granted, too. And I’m not really that passionate about being thankful for it, but I was thinking… there will be thousands of columns like this written this week about “Things I’m Thankful For” … and nobody else will mention electricity. So I thought I would.

I’m thankful for Random Thought Patterns. Without them, I would not have been able to write this column every week for almost a year.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and a Joyous Holiday Season.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thankful for Clemson

It’s that time of year again: late November… that time we set aside each year for counting our many blessings, and wishing utter disaster and despair upon our instate college football rival, Clemson (or Carolina, depending on which way your bread is buttered).

This year -- as a Carolina fan -- I am especially thankful that we only have to play Clemson next week, instead of facing the likes of the Florida Gators again, after they were so inhospitable as to hang half-a-hundred on us last week.

During this time of year, one of the favorite pastimes in the Pimento State becomes the telling of Carolina and Clemson jokes. We love ‘em.

I actually consider myself somewhat of an expert in the art of telling Clemson jokes, since I once published a special newspaper – Gamecock Fever – which was pretty-much dedicated to printing good-natured Clemson jokes. To be fair, we also printed an occasional Carolina joke – which all too often was the score of the previous week’s game… sorta like this week!

Needless to say, we collected a lot of Clemson jokes – and originated a good many, too – during the 15 years we published Gamecock Fever (except for one year when we forgot).

I figure it’s time to dust off some of those jokes this week because, frankly, we USC fans would like to quickly change the subject from the drubbing we took in The Swamp last Saturday.

Thank goodness for Clempson jokes!
Q: How do you get a Clempson graduate off your front porch?
A: Pay him for the pizza.
Q: What is a Clempson P.H.D.?
A: A Post Hole Digger.
Q: What's a Clempson CPA?
A: Cow Pasture Alumni
Q: How does a Clempson girl break up with her boyfriend?
A: She sends him a John Deere letter?
Q: Why did the Lowcountry end up with Hurricane Hugo, and the Upstate end up with Clempson?
A: Because the Lowcountry got first choice.
Q: What's the best thing ever to come out of Clempson?
A: I-85.
Q: What do you call a Clempson girl hitch-hiking?
A: Stranded!
Q: What's the National Pastime of Poland?
A: Telling Clempson jokes!
Q: Did you hear about the Clempson javelin thrower?
A: He elected to receive!
Q: Where can you find most Clempson fans between 8 and 11?
A: The third grade!
Q: What is the best birth control for a Clempson girl?
A: Her looks.
Q: Why do Clempson fans stare at containers of orange juice?
A: Because the label says "concentrate".
Q: Did you hear about the Clempson fans carpool?
A: They meet at the game.
Q: What does an average Clempson football player get on his S.A.T. test?
A: Drool.
Q: What do you call a Clempson graduate who lives in a $450,000 house?
A: A butler.
Q: How do you address a Clempson student wearing a three-piece suit?
A: "Will the defendant please rise."
Q: How many Clempson fans does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Ten. One to screw in the bulb, & nine to stand around talking about how good the old bulb was.
Q: How many Clempson residents does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Seven. One to screw in the bulb, and six to wire the house for electricity.
Q: What do you get for the Clempson girl who has everything?
A: Penicillin
Clempson is Expected To Win 6 Games Next Year...
Two in Football, and Four in Basketball!
Q: Where was the toothbrush invented?
A: Clempson. If it was invented anywhere else it would have been called a teethbrush.

(Note: Also a perfectly good Tennessee joke. We used it here a month ago!)

If this collection of jokes seem a little one-sided… that’s because it is! All Clempson and no Carolina.

But here’s the good news: They’ll never know it, unless somebody reads it to ‘em!!!

However, if you ARE a Clempson fan, and you DO find somebody to read this to you, we’ll try to be fair about it. You can send your Carolina jokes to our website, and we’ll post’em for the world to see. Just to be fair. (If, of course, you can find somebody else to WRITE them for you.)

Send them to me via electric email: RodShealy@aol.com.

Or, for the Internet savvy, just post’em to my internet blog: www.doingthefirst.blogspot.com

Go Cocks! (We’re thankful for Clempson!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Halfway through Autumn

In addition to being the week of Veterans Day, the week after Election Day, and two weeks til Turkey Day, this week also marks the Half-way Point of Autumn (HPA), an occasion very often overlooked. Frankly, it’s an occasion which has been universally, completely, entirely overlooked… until now! As far as I can tell, this is the very first time anybody has actually tried to pinpoint the halfway mark of any of the four seasons as an “occasion”. It just seemed to me like a pretty good idea… to pause and review… to examine how it’s going so far, in case we need to make any mid-autumn adjustments.

First, let’s take a look at the big election that captivated our attention for nearly two years.
It’s over!

Lots of times, in a presidential election year, there’s an October Surprise which occurs very late in the process, right before the election, and alters the outcome.

This year’s October Surprise was that there wasn’t any surprise!

We have a new Commander in Chief. GWB 43 is being replaced by BHO 44.

At first, I was thinking the gas prices dropping was a device by “Big Oil” to influence the election, but then they kept dropping AFTER the election, so I guess that was just my delusional paranoid conspiracy-theory imagination at work. Unless, of course, “they” kept dropping the prices after the election on purpose, just to throw us off!!! Wow! Visions of black helicopters!

Now let’s talk about the weather.

So far, so good.

In Minnesota, Montana and the Dakota’s, they’re probably having snow storms on a regular basis. But here in sunny South Carolina, I’m still wearing short sleeves most days. Knock on wood.

We’re well into the new TV season – and I have seen enough of the current prime time line-up to know that I’m going to be spending most of my R&R surfing the net instead of watching the tube. (How could they let Cloris Leachman get voted off the island?)

Speaking of TV, Monday marks the three month countdown until television becomes “digital only” on February 17th, just in case you really DO live in a cave and haven’t heard the news. (I’ll reiterate here my concern for the advertising decision-making geniuses who thought it would be a good idea to run those ads urging viewers to switch to cable TV… on cable TV channels.)

We’re also well into the other annual highlight of autumn – the 2008 Football Season. This year’s regular football season is a) over; b) at the end; c) winding down; or, d) who cares; depending on whether you’re referring to a) high school; b) college; c) professional; or d) soccer, rugby, European, arena, or any of those other foreign versions of so-called football.

Back to TV for a minute: The Christmas ads have already started, earlier than ever, continuing the trend of the last few decades. This year, I think they slid right in to take the place of the political ads.

But, seeing the Christmas ads, and hearing the news of continuing economic downturn, brings to mind the local shops and retailers who are counting on the coming holiday season for their businesses to survive. So, let me again urge you to SHOP LOCAL.

The internet is gaining an ever-increasing share of shopping business, and the corporate-giant chain stores always manage to find a way to prosper. But the handful of mom-and-pop shops and stores which still exist NEED our support… and we should give it to them.

After all, the smaller, locally-owned businesses are the ones who sponsor our local Little League teams. They are the ones who support our festivals and community events. They are the businesses who make up our Chamber of Commerce, and give generously to the Band Boosters, the cheerleaders, the high school yearbooks, the scouts, and our schools.

And, more importantly, they are the businesses who keep our dollars here in our own community, providing local jobs, and spending their profits with other local businesses, instead of shipping our dollars to some corporate headquarters a gazillion miles away.

So, this year, let’s try our best to support those local businesses with our shopping dollars, to help keep our own local economy strong.

Okay, what else do we have for our Mid-Autumn Check-Up?

Daylight Savings time: We fell back a week ago with no major injuries, other than bruised egos of those who missed it and showed up an hour early.

Holiday Weight Loss Contest: Who are we kidding? Not gonna happen.

State Fair and Halloween: Long-gone, ancient history, and I missed them both.

So there’s one last item: Veterans Day.

If you haven’t already done so, thank a veteran this week. They are they ones who make all this possible. (Including allowing me to write whatever is on my mind, and allowing you to read whatever you choose.)

And in case nobody else does, I’m offering a giant Thank You to each and every man and woman who donned a uniform and fought to keep America free and to allow all of us to enjoy our lives full of football weekends, hundreds of cable TV channels, Christmas shopping, State Fairs and Halloweens, and a food supply so plentiful that most of us need to LOSE weight. Thank you for protecting the light of the world… a homeland so blessed that truly there are no limits to what any man, woman or child in America can accomplish. To every veteran, we thank you.

See you next week.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Time for a Change

As I sit down at my keyboard to write this, I still don’t know who has won the election. There’s still a day-and-a-half until it’s all over.

By the time you read this, however, the contest will already have been decided, history will have been made – one way or the other – and you will know the identity of the next leader of the free world.

Unless, of course, Obama happened to have won the states of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia, and McCain coincidentally prevailed in the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and both of the Carolinas– in which case, we have a tie on our hands, 269 to 269, and we won’t know for sure until the U.S. House of Representatives breaks the tie.

But I’m going out on a limb and predicting that didn’t happen. I’m guessing we have chosen a new president, and things are going to change.

Note: As a consolation prize, the loser still gets to be in the United States Senate.

The Presidential election isn’t the only Big Change to come along recently. This weekend was also time for a visit from my old pal: Daylight Savings Time (DST) – The World’s Longest Running April Fools Gag!

I heard something interesting about Daylight Savings Time recently. Did you know that the Sunday after we “fall-back” and get an extra hour of sleep each year holds the record as the day with the fewest heart attacks? Apparently, Ms. Carter wasn’t kidding in my third grade health class when she told us it’s good for us to get enough sleep each night. “Fall Back” Sunday is the one day that most of us get extra sleep, and, as a result, we’re healthier that day!

Here’s another observation I made about DST this weekend: An increasing number of gadgets change the time for you! My cell phone and my computer automatically adjusted the time overnight, so that when I woke up, I was more confused than ever.

The alarm clock said 9am, but the computer said 8! The watch said 9, but the phone said 8. The wall clock said 9, but the Weather Channel said 8.

It was confusing. (And I really felt sorry for those folks who may have spent Saturday evening imbibing after the ball game.)

There’s another big change that’s needs to happen soon: I’ve got to seriously lose some poundage. I really hafta drop a few lbs. (Can anyone tell me how “lb.” can be the abbreviation for “pound”?) Pounds, lbs… whatever… I’ve got WAYYYY too many of them these days.

The last time I tried dieting, back in July, I got distracted in the middle of my weight loss competition, and ended up not losing much at all. Now I’m a big fat giant hippo-pig-whale again, and that’s definitely got to change!

Coincidentally, the winner of that Summertime Weight Loss Challenge – Big Don Gawrys – seems to still be keeping the 40 pounds he lost off, and is apparently ready to go for another round. He issued a challenge last week to our gang of 17 – suggesting another weight loss competition, this time right smack dab through the middle of the Holiday Season! Wow! He’s gutsy… and so are the other sixteen of us, but not in a good way.

Anywho, it appears that about half of the guys have accepted the challenge, so I guess “The Largest Loser Holiday Edition” will be cranking up soon. As always, we’re issuing an open invitation for anyone who would like to participate. In the past, we’ve each kicked in $100 smackeroos, with the winner taking it all after a six or eight week contest period. Since we’re just pulling it together, I can’t say for sure when we’ll start… but I would guess it will be in a couple more weeks.

So, if you think you might want to be a part of this contest – and apparently make the rules for us, since we’re all to fat and lazy to do it ourselves – shoot me an email via your Electronic Internet Email Machine, to: RodShealy@aol.com

One last change I want to suggest: It’s time to change your socks! You know who you are… Don’t make me call you out! Just go change them. NOW!

That’s all for this time. See you next week… unless I change my mind.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Prayer for our Nation

This year, 2008, I’ve gotten closer to the Lord. A lot closer, it turns out.

It probably started during my friend Jerry Fowler’s year-long battle with cancer, which he shared each week with readers of this newspaper. In the final stages of that battle, when the doctors knew the end was near, I used this column to offer a prayer for Jerry.

I had never really seen a prayer like that in a newspaper column, but it was something I felt strongly about, so I did it.

A few months later, as it turned out, I was saying much the same prayer for myself as I discovered a cancerous brain tumor and underwent surgery to remove it. A lot of other people, including countless people I didn’t really even know, helped me out with prayers of their own, for which I am deeply appreciative.

That was nearly three months ago, and the prayers seemed to have worked. Just a week or so ago, I went to Charleston for my first regular MRI to check for any recurrence, and the doctors at MUSC announced that I’m still 100% A-OK. (Of course, they’re only referring to my medical condition… not my personality, my looks, or my sense of humor!)

Through these two events, I have learned that, yes, it is ALWAYS okay to turn to the Lord in prayer, especially in a time of need or crisis. And that includes right here in my weekly newspaper column, if I so choose.

Which brings me to the coming election: I am deeply concerned for our nation, and -- just like being faced with cancer -- believe we might do well to pray about it.

I am truly concerned that our nation seems prepared to enter into an election – maybe the biggest in history, probably an election that will change our world forever, while the messages of 9/11 should still be weighing heavy upon us every minute of every day – without truly seeking the guidance of our Lord.

The next four years will see many changes in our world, and the leader we elect will help determine the world we will all live in for the rest of our lives, and the world we will leave to our children and grandchildren.

So, today, I am offering a prayer of guidance for the coming election, in hopes that, perhaps, we as Americans will look to a higher power to make these important decisions.

This is not a Republican prayer or a Democrat prayer. It is simply a short prayer to seek the Lord’s will before we cast our ballots.

Of course, you may well have your own words, which is even better, because, as I’ve mentioned here before, this is not really my strong suit.

But, one way or they other, I hope you’ll join me in praying about it before you vote… and maybe even encourage others to join you.

A Prayer for Our Nation
November 4th, 2008

As we go into this most important day of decision for Your world, grant us the understanding to know your will, and the courage to act upon it.

Place your spirit within our hearts to guide us in this decision, and in every decision for our nation, and for Your world.

Make each of us an instrument of Your will, and our nation a tribute to Your goodness, that we might be ever in your grace and protection to fulfill your Divine Purpose on this earth.

Make us ever mindful that with God, we cannot fail; without Him, we cannot succeed. Guide us to once again be a nation which proudly declares, "In God We Trust."

Bless these candidates with the faith and wisdom to ask that You might use them according to Your will and purpose, and to restore and protect our nation as Your light for the world. May our new President be graced with the power, wisdom, discernment and enlightenment that can come only from You.

And bless this election that it might strengthen our nation to prosper and endure in the service of Your Holy Name.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Electronic Internet

As much as I resist change, I have now come to terms with the fact that the new-fangled electronic Internet is a useful invention.

The Internet has changed history, and improved the lives of millions – maybe billions – of people around the globe. It has created a wealth of knowledge and information never before thought possible. It has fueled economies, transformed cultures, and fostered globalization to a degree not heretofore seen. It has caused international borders to change. The Internet has created advantages for humankind in the fields of healthcare, finance, commerce, government and education. In short, the Internet has altered the world we live in.

I personally like it for the jokes.

Almost every day, friends and acquaintances send me jokes via email. I don’t even have to go looking for them. I just open my email account, and there they are.

They’re usually good for a few giggles during my workday, unless I’m too busy, in which case I save them ‘til night or the weekend to read.

Most of the time, these “E-Jokes” – a word I just made up – are forwarded by a friend who received it from a friend who received it from a friend, etcetera, and on and on and on. I figure, the more people who have forwarded it, the funnier it must be.

I hardly ever forward E-Jokes. Instead, I save them in a “special place” so that, someday, I can share them with the readers of this column. Sooner or later, I figure, there will come a week when I have just enough time to WRITE a column, but not enough time to include anything CLEVER or WITTY… unless, of course, I have a stash of E-Jokes just waiting in the “special place” to be transformed into a newspaper column.

That week is now! So you’re in luck. Instead of me trying to dream up something clever or witty – which usually has about a 2% success rate – this week, I have some E-Jokes which are 100% guaranteed, because they were forwarded over and over and over!

So, without further delay, I am pleased to present, direct from the Electronic Internet:
You can say what you want about the South,
but you never hear of anyone retiring and moving North...
1) No matter how hard you try, you can't baptize cats.
2) When your mom is mad at your dad, don't let her brush your hair.
3) If your sister hits you, don't hit her back. They always catch the second person.
4) Never ask your 3-year old brother to hold a tomato.
5) You can't trust dogs to watch your food.
6) Don't sneeze when someone is cutting your hair.
7) Never hold a dust-buster and a cat at the same time.
8) You can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.
9) Don't wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts.
10) The best place to be when you're sad is Grandpa's lap.
The young man from Tennessee came running into the store and said to his buddy, "Bubba, somebody just stole your pickup truck from the parking lot!"
Bubba replied, "Did you see who it was?
"The young man answered, "I couldn't tell, but I got the license number."
1 -- You believe in Santa Claus.
2 -- You don't believe in Santa Claus.
3 -- You are Santa Claus.
4 -- You look like Santa Claus.
Did you hear about the Tennessee man who passed away and left his entire estate in trust for his beloved widow?
She can't touch it til she's fourteen.

Where was the toothbrush invented?
Tennessee. If it was invented anywhere else it would have been called a teethbrush.

A new law recently passed in Tennessee:
When a couple gets divorced, they're still brother and sister.
At age 4 success is . . . not peeing in your pants.
At age 12 success is . . . having friends.
At age 17 success is . . having a driver's license.
At age 35 success is . . having money.
At age 50 success is . . . having money.
At age 70 success is . .. . having a drivers license.
At age 75 success is . . . having friends.
At age 80 success is . . . not peeing in your pants.

1) Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.
2) Forget the health food. I need all the preservatives I can get.
3) When you fall down, you wonder what else you can do while you're down there.
4) You're getting old when you get the same sensation from a rocking chair that you once got from a roller coaster.
5) It's frustrating when you know all the answers but nobody bothers to ask you the questions.
6) Time may be a great healer, but it's a lousy beautician.
7) Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
While working at a pizza parlor I observed a man ordering a small pizza
to go. He appeared to be alone and the cook asked him if he would like
it cut into 4 pieces or 6. He thought about it for some time before
responding. “Just cut it into 4 pieces; I don't think I'm hungry enough
to eat 6.”

And he gets to vote!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Choosing our President – McCain and Obama

In just a few weeks, America will vote. This will be an historic election: a barrier will be broken in 2008. We will either elect an African-American or a female to one of the top-two offices, President and Vice-President.

So as promised, I am writing this week about politics, which I mostly do NOT write about in this column, because it’s sort of my job, and who wants to write about their job?!

When I DO write about politics, I always start with a disclaimer: I am a sometimes-Republican. Today, however, I am trying to wear a non-partisan hat. I’m not endorsing either candidate, but I’m trying to present my own unbiased analysis of both.

Back in January, before the South Carolina Presidential Primaries, I wrote about the process of choosing our next President when there were still more than a dozen candidates – six or eight for each party. I took an unusual approach: I didn’t endorse any candidate, but tried to give good, solid reasons to vote for each -- reasons that each might make a good President. (Frankly, I wanted to try a positive approach in contrast to the negativity which the news media usually injects into political campaigns.)

Here are my comments about John McCain and Barack Obama from eight months ago, long before we knew either once would secure their party’s nomination:

John McCain: I believe John McCain is a good and decent man, proven in the service of his country as a POW during the Vietnam War. He has solid and successful experience in government, and has shown himself to be a consensus builder. He’s battle-tested, and we probably know everything there is to know about him, so we’re unlikely to run into any surprises. McCain would be a solid President during a time of war, and one who truly understands the sacrifices faced by our military families.

Barack Obama: Barack Obama appears to be a very nice guy who is smart, capable and likeable. At a time that most Americans appear to be ready for a major change in their government, Obama represents that attitude - not only because he speaks of change, but also because his election as the first African-American president would embody the most significant change in many, many decades. Obama is perhaps uniquely qualified to be the individual who pioneers this final frontier toward unifying a nation divided by race since its inception.

Eight months later, I stand by my comments about both candidates. I believe they’re both good people who mean well.

Both candidates also espouse notions of change and reform, and both appear to be agents of change. For better or worse, change would seem to be coming in the next four years.

There are, however, differences between the two. Their philosophies of government and positions on key issues are different, reflective of the American population as a whole. And perhaps this is the year that the American population will make some major decisions about the direction our nation will move for the future. Perhaps, our majority will decide, that after 232 years, some of the ideas on which the nation was founded are obsolete. Perhaps the majority will redefine America.

So I would like to offer four thought-provoking issues, to help guide the decision-making processes of anyone who may be undecided about his or her choice of our next President. These, as I see it, are the major issues which we currently face as a nation:

1. The Economy. The recently exposed financial crisis, along with last week’s government bailout, has many Americans concerned for their futures. While both candidates voted for the bailout, their approaches to long-term solutions differ. McCain is more likely to offer the type of tax cuts seen during the Reagan years as a means of stimulating the economy, and is not likely to constrain the freedom of businesses to prosper. Obama is more likely to offer continuing governmental solutions and tighter regulation of the corporations currently blamed for the crisis. He is more likely to quickly offer needed assistance to those families suffering from the crisis.

Neither of these approaches is right or wrong. Some Americans prefer one approach, and some prefer the other. Traditionally, our nation has embraced free enterprise… but tradition is the past. The future may, indeed, hold something else for us.

2. The War on Terror. Homeland defense continues to be a concern for all Americans. John McCain’s military background suggests he will be a capable Commander-in-Chief, and his support of the surge in Iraq is now hailed as the right approach. Barack Obama’s election might signal to the rest of the world that America is changing, perhaps lessening the hatred they seem to have for our nation and our ideals. Perhaps Obama’s strength would be in diplomacy, turning former enemies into future allies.

3. Energy. Gas prices anger millions of Americans every day. If he were on the ballot, I’m pretty sure T. Boone Pickens would be elected. He’s not, but he has alerted most Americans of the need to stop shipping oil profits overseas to nations which are not necessarily friendly to us. Both McCain and Obama have shifted their positions toward expanding America’s energy sources, with McCain now favoring off-shore drilling, and Obama having recently joined him. It is my guess that Obama would be somewhat more deferential to the environmental lobby, therefore slower to fully explore all new energy options. Again, the degree of deference given to environmental protection when we are facing an energy crisis is a matter on which many, many Americans simply disagree.

4. Globalization. To me, this emerging issue is the most important one facing us as we choose the next leader of the free world. It is clear that the world is changing. We now have a global economy, and live in an age of instant global information. The next four years will see the world moving increasingly toward globalization, which will impact virtually every other issue facing our nation. The person we elect as our next President will help determine how America fits into a new global society… indeed, whether we try to exist inside walls, or lay down a welcome mat for all. Both McCain and Obama have wide ranges of experiences on the world-wide stage. We would do well to examine those experiences, and to look within ourselves to determine the course we want for our nation.

I cannot predict the outcome, but I am predicting an all-time record-breaking voter turn-out for the November 4th Presidential Election: more people going to the polls to vote than ever before. I’m just trying to do my small part to make sure they know what they’re doing when they get there.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me! (sort of)

WOW! I almost let this momentous occasion slip by me!

Today, October 7th, 2008, it turns out, is an important anniversary date for me: It's my 20,000th day!

You know... of being alive! Since I was borned!

Don't believe me? Okay. You do the math. I was born Dec. 22, 1953... which was pre-zactly 20,000 days ago!!!

How do I know this?

If you're thinking to yourself, "Wow! Rod really has too much time on his hands!"... well, no, that's not it at all. Somebody sent me a website a which back that calculates the number of days, minutes, or seconds -- as well as weeks or months -- from any day in history to any other day. I discovered that I had been alive for 19,900-plus days, so I looked ahead to see when I would cross the 20,000 mark. October 7th was the lucky day.

And I don't feel a day over 15,000!!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Where Did the Test Pattern Go?

I stayed up late a few nights ago… well past my bedtime. It was a weekend night, and I knew I could sleep late. So I was puttering around, doing a little work, checking the fridge every 30 minutes in search of something else to snack on, and watching a little TV. Mostly channel surfing.

Shortly after 2:00 am, I noticed that I was still watching TV, and a question occurred to me: Whatever happened to the National Anthem and that always preceded the Test Pattern when stations signed off for the night?

It didn’t take me long to realize what happened to the song about Jose Canusi and the Full Color Electronic Test Pattern: Stations don’t sign off any more!!! They stay on all night long!

It bummed me out a little. In my younger days, I took great satisfaction in being up for “the end of our broadcast day!” It meant I had outlasted most of the rest of the world. Also, it was a good feeling to get a dose of patriotism before heading off to bed. Seeing the jets flying in formation gave me the feeling that the nation was secure for the night. (And, if that didn’t do it, hearing the John Wayne narration over “America” in the background definitely sent you off to bed feeling secure.)

But things change. The Star Spangled Banner and the Test Pattern have faded into the past, I realized, which set me to wondering what other little tidbits of life have simply faded away.

“Fill’er up” is a phrase that comes to mind. That’s what we used to say when we pulled in to a “filling station” or “service station”, which are what we called the places we went to get gasoline.

There are three reasons we don’t hear “fill’er up” any more: (1) Most folks can’t afford to fill up their car with gas; (2) If you can afford it, there probably isn’t enough gas available; and (3) There isn’t anybody to say “fill’er up” to! We’ve been pumping our own gas for 20 or 30 years now!

Interestingly, we still use the term “crank the car”, although we haven’t actually used “cranks” for six or eight decades!

We also use the term “dial the phone”, but I haven’t seen a phone with a dial in long time.

All sort of dials seem to pretty much be a thing of the past. Once upon a time, a dial controlled your phone, your radio and your TV. But dials seem to have been replaced by buttons and all sorts of “digital” paraphernalia.

We once heard an excited “Don’t touch that dial!” before most every commercial break on TV. Now it would be “Don’t push that remote button!”…. if they even tried, which they don’t, because they know we’re all going to be channel surfing during the break, just because we can!

Here’s something I haven’t seen in a long time: using your arm to make a turn signal, instead of the blinker. The last time I saw it was 20 years ago when I had to roll down my window to turn because my blinker was on the blink.

And another thing: When I was a kid, we were taught to “roll’ the toothpaste tube when it was near empty to get all the toothpaste out. I think the tubes are made out of a different material now, because you can’t roll them up like we used to.

Antennas up on the roof are over, and I’m sure nobody misses them. Still, they dominated our skyline for half a century, and it’s another piece of Americana that you’ll have to go to India to see.

Nobody misses party lines, either. Or the old-style, operator-assisted long-distance phone calls: station-to-station, person-to-person, or collect. (Long distance was a forbidden word in the 1960’s Shealy household. It was WAY expensive… strictly for emergencies… because what if you accidentally talked too long?!!!)

I do, however, miss the “nicknames” which were assigned to telephone exchanges. I grew up in the “Elgin” exchange, which was Lexington -- Elgin 9-9553, to be exact -- but could also make calls to the “Alpine” exchange, which was Columbia, without it being – “ohhh, no-o-o-o – the dreaded LONG DISTANCE!!!!

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Polaroid “instant” camera. I guess they’ve been replaced by digital cameras. But they ruled for about half a century. Instant photos. The wonder of it… almost like magic!

Don’t even get me started on record players. Or records, for that matter: LPs and 45 RPMs. You remember… Vinyl! (If you asked a kid today if he has any 45’s, he might say “yes”… but he would be referring to pistols.)

We all know that records gave way to eight-tracks, which bit the dust when cassette tapes came along, which fell by the wayside when CDs showed up… which is about when I lost track.

It’s a shame today’s youngsters will never know the utter joy of playing a 45 on the wrong speed. Play it slow, on 33, and the singing was low, slow, and almost monster-like. Play it on 78, and every singer became one of the chipmunks. What a hoot!!!

Yes, the times they are a changing… and a lot of “stuff” changing along with it.

I could go on and on if I had time… but I need to wrap up now. (I want to try churn some ice cream to drop by the dime store before I go to the drive-in movies tonight.)

I’ll be back next week. Don’t touch that dial!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Nine Years Old

As I was nostalging about “the old days” recently, I decided that nine-years-old is the absolutely most perfect age of all.

When you’re nine years old, you can already read. When you’re nine, you can ride a bike. When you’re nine, you can play ball, and be a cub scout, and even try to build a tree house.

But you’re too young to have any real responsibilities.You haven’t reached “double-digits” yet. You’re not a teen-ager… not an adolescent. When you’re nine, you’re just a kid… but you’re the oldest kid you can be. (That’s not really true. I know some people who are, like, 54-years old, and they’re still pretty much kids… but that’s another story.)

I was dusting off the cobwebs the other day, and thinking back to when I turned nine years old. The year was 1962. (If you do the math, that means I’m now 54-years old.)

There was school… but it was not complicated. I got up every morning at 7:15, ate cereal, and walked out to catch the bus. Since I was one of the last stops on the bus route, all the seats were usually taken by the time I got on… so I stood up during the 10 minute ride to Lexington Elementary School… and it never occurred to me that I should have a seat.

When I arrived at school, I found my assigned desk, put my books onto the little shelf under the seat, pulled out some paper and started drawing pictures or doodling. I pretty much kept drawing all day long, unless we were told to do something that required writing.

I listened to whatever the teacher was saying most of the day, because ADD hadn’t been invented yet.

Although I was perfectly content half-listening to the teacher and drawing or doodling all day, there were two very bright spots in the school day: lunch and recess… especially recess!!!

At lunchtime we marched in line through the sandy parking lot to the lunch room… unless it was raining, in which case we marched in line through the entire building to reach the lunchroom… including walking by the sixth, seventh, and eighth grader’s classrooms, which was both thrilling and intimidating for a third grader.

At recess, the world opened up. Hundreds of kids descended on the out-of-doors. The younger kids stayed in the area of the sand-filled bus parking lot; but the older kids went down the hill to the playground bounded by the branch. When you’re nine, you can fit well into either group… the young kids or the old kids.

The highlight of recess, nearly every day, was seeing someone walking back into school soaking wet from trying to jump across the branch. Someone always tried. After all, we were admonished daily to “stay away from the branch” by our teachers, so how could we resist.

At the end of the day, the announcement came on the school loudspeaker: “Town children are now excused!”… and I knew there were only 10 or 15 more minutes before the bus-riders would be excused, too.

After another bus ride home – sometimes seated, sometimes not – I arrived at home and my real life began.

First, I would always help myself to another bowl of cereal. (You may have noticed that the highlight of lunch in elementary school is the march to the lunchroom, not the delicacies served when you got there.)

With my cereal prepared, I would find myself a seat on the floor in front of our one-channel, black and white TV and settle in for an hour or two of slapstick comedy: The Little Rascals, The Three Stooges, and lots and lots of cartoons. When you’re nine, you really enjoy cartoons.

The one channel our TV picked up was WIS-TV in Columbia, which means I tuned in to watch Jolly Jim and Chief Silly Horse, or later, Mr. Knozit. Once, my cub scout troop even made a trip to visit the studio, and we were ON the show!!!

After the cartoons were over, I headed outside…. either to my bike, to ride the neighborhood… or else to the woods at the edge of the backyard, to continue the construction of my fort. Some days it was both….the bike ride and the fort… just because that’s where my buddies and I ended up after riding bikes aimlessly for an hour.

About dark-thirty, it was always time to come in for supper. When you’re nine, you don’t think about where the food for that supper came from, you just enjoy it. Similarly, after supper was the bath – not a shower, a bath – once again with no thought of where the water for the bath came from.

Actually, when you’re nine, you don’t really think much about where anything comes from. Or about what the future holds, beyond maybe the next day… as in, “what are the consequences if I don’t do my homework?”

When you’re nine, you mostly don’t have a worry in the world. It’s the best age to be.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Just a Few More Weeks to E-Day!

As promised, I’m going to break from the non-political tradition I try to maintain in this column to write a few words about the coming presidential election.

Normally, I stay away from politics here, in order to avoid any conflicts of interest, since I am occasionally involved in ongoing state and local political campaigns. (Also, it’s boring to me. I would much rather write about weight-loss contests; or new words I’ve invented; or my plan to have football, Frisbee, “horse”, and NASCAR added as events in the Olympics to make it fair for the American team; or how, as a youngster, I learned to water-ski behind a Buick because we didn’t own a boat.)

From time to time, however, I do weigh in politically, but always try to offer a disclaimer to let readers know of any potential conflicts which might exist.

Back in January, prior to our state’s presidential primaries, I spent a couple of weeks writing only positive things about each of the Democratic and Republican candidates running. I took the position that each of the candidates had certain merits, but those merits were often overshadowed by the mainstream media’s fixation on covering the controversial, the negative, and the process itself.

I am going to take the same approach to writing about Obama and McCain: putting on my bi-partisan hat to attempt to find good, solid reasons voters might have for choosing either of these gentlemen.

This week, however, I want to spend a few paragraphs simply making sure YOU and your neighbors participate, regardless of whom you might prefer.

While interest in the 2008 election seems to be at an all-time high – fueled largely by the fact that this WILL be an historic election, with either the election of an African-American President or a female Vice-President – there will still be MILLIONS of people eligible to participate who will not vote.

The first step is making sure you are registered to vote.

In order to vote, you must be registered at least 30 days in advance. That means by Saturday, October 4th.

If you have moved recently, you should re-register at your new address. If you have moved to from one county to another, you will not be able to vote unless you have re-registered. If you have moved INSIDE the same county but not re-registered, you should be allowed to vote for president, but it will be a hassle, and you will not be allowed to vote for local offices. So… even if you have just moved a few blocks, you should play it safe and re-register. And... make sure everyone else in your household has registered.

Anyone who will be 18 years old by Nov. 4th can register NOW in order to vote in the 2008 election.

You can register to vote by visiting your county voter registration board and completing an application, or by visiting the S.C. State Election Commission website – www.scvotes.org -- and downloading the mail-in voter registration application, completing it, and mailing it to your county board of voter registration. (The registration form can also be used to update your address and make other changes to your voter registration information.) If you mail an application, your local registration board will mail you a voter registration card before Election Day.

The second step is…. actually voting!!!

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: you don’t have to wait until Nov. 4th to cast your vote.

Under current state law, almost anyone can vote in advance by absentee ballot. You can go to your voter registration office, where you will be allowed to complete and return an application and then vote on the spot… or you can request an application by mail, and never have to leave your home.

The law allows you to vote in advance if you: 1) will be working on election day; or, 2) are over 65; or, 3) will be out of the county on election day. (NOTE: You don’t need to be out of the county ALL DAY; nor do you need to be working all day… just any part of the day.) If you will be working, and simply prefer not to leave work in order to vote, you’re eligible to vote by absentee ballot.

Here’s a little piece of trivia: Do you know who changed the law to allow all working people and senior citizens the right to vote by absentee ballot?

If you said Lt. Governor Andre Bauer, you were right! But long before he became Lt. Governor. When he was first elected to the House of Representatives in Nov., 1996, he observed people standing in line to vote, sometimes for several hours, and others who went back to work without voting because they could not afford to miss that much work. The following day, as his first legislative action – even before he was sworn in to office – he drafted the proposal that would eventually become law, and arranged to have it filed as his first piece of legislation. Since that time, the number of people voting by absentee ballot has increased in every election cycle. (BOLD DISCLAIMER: I should mention, by the way, that the Lt. Governor is one of those candidates in whose campaign I am occasionally involved… just like I was mentioning at the beginning of the column!)

Anyway, I encourage you to take advantage of your right to vote by absentee ballot so you will not end up in a long line on Election Day… unless, of course, you enjoy long lines. They do tend to remind us of Disney World, don’t they? And I always end up seeing lots of people I haven’t seen in a while!

So, in review: Step One, make sure you’re registered; and, Step Two, make sure you vote… in advance if it makes a difference.

I’ll be back soon to talk about Step Three: Making Your Choice!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Housecleaning Hodge-podge

House-Cleaning Hodge-podge

As promised last week, I will be writing about the Presidential candidates later this month… putting on my non-partisan hat, and trying to give good, solid reasons for voting for either of the two, just as I did back when there were a dozen candidates in January before the primaries.

This week, however, before I turn my attention to the weighty business of choosing the next leader of the free world, I have a little housecleaning

to attend to

to take care of

to deal with.

(I was trying to get rid of the dangling participle… but I’m giving up. You’ll have to just deal with it.)

Just a few things on my mind I want to mention…

First, I want to pause to acknowledge the anniversary we observe this week: It’s been seven years since the 9/11 attacks changed our world.

Most of us lived through that dark day by watching news reports that left deep and lasting impressions… impressions that inflamed our patriot spirit.

On that day, President Bush said, “Terrorists attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”

Passage of time dampens those memories. But it’s important that we all maintain the knowledge that the battle started on that day continues, and will continue for many years to come. We cannot allow ourselves to be lulled into false complacency. America is engaged in a war we didn’t start, but must finish. And, that’s why -- in addition to honoring the heroes of 9/11 – it’s good that we observe the occasion each year and refresh our memory of that dark day.

Now on to a less weighty matter – or more, depending on your point of view…

The Weight Loss Olympics is over: We have a winner… and it is not ME.

Regular readers of this column know that 15 Fat Guys started a competition back in July – a seven week weight-loss competition. We each put $100 American dollars into a pot with the winner taking all.

And the winner was Northeast Columbia resident Don Gowrys, Store Manager of Michaels Arts and Crafts on Harbison Boulevard. Don initially weighed-in at 381.2 pounds, but lost a whopping 40 pounds in seven weeks!!! He says he did it with a simple balanced diet and exercise… but I’m suspicious. (Incidentally, he beat Yours Truly by 29 pounds!)

Honorable mention in the weight loss extravaganza went to Robert Wessinger and Rod Lorick, each of whom lost 25 pounds during the 49 day contest period.

The rest of us were mostly in the teens. We didn’t set any records, but we still ended up 10 or 15 pounds lighter than we started.

Next item –

This newspaper is planning to bring back an old feature: community columnists – the locals who contribute a few paragraphs each week or so about goings-on in your own neighborhoods or social circles.

We’re currently looking for the folks to fill those slots, and you might be one of them. If you’re interested in a new hobby – writing your own short column about the people you know every week or so – shoot me an email, and I’ll pass it on. My personal email is: RodShealy@aol.com

As promised a few weeks ago, I want to update you on my own medical condition.

In July, you may know, I was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor, which turned out to be a recurrence of melanoma from 25 years earlier. Surgery in early August was successful in removing the tumor, leaving no further indications of the cancer. While there is a very real possibility of a future recurrence, my doctors have now advised against any therapy -- chemo or radiation -- at this time, opting instead for a program of monitoring, with an MRI scheduled every two months. This way, the doctors believe they will be able to catch any future growths early and “zap” them at that time. So, the bottom line is this: I’m doing GREAT! I’m back at work – although only 8 to 10 hours a day – and feeling stronger every day. And, once again, I am deeply appreciative of all the cards, letters, calls and emails of support, and the many, many prayers that, I am certain, resulted in this very good news. I thank you.

One last thing, which I found recently on the Electronic Internet:

Can you read this?

fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too. Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can. i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

Taht’s all fro nwo. I’ll be bcak nxet weke!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Choosing our President – Part Two

This week, I’m writing about politics, which I normally do NOT write about in this column. So let me start with a disclaimer: I am a sometimes-Republican.

Being a sometimes-Republican is very convenient. It’s a win-win. Because I am a sometimes-Republican --as opposed to an all-the-time Republican -- they (the Republicans) don’t have to always accept responsibility for anything I may say or do… which they appreciate, I’m sure… and I don’t have to own-up to everything THEY do… which is increasingly convenient for ME!

When I last wrote about the process of choosing our next President, it was way back in January, in the weeks before the South Carolina Presidential Primaries.

At that time, you may recall, there were still more than a dozen candidates – six or eight for each party – and I took an unusual approach to writing about them. I tried to give good, solid reasons to vote for each -- reasons that each might make a good President -- as opposed to the negativity which most media-types tend to inject into political campaigns. (If you missed those columns in January, you can, of course, still find them on my blog: www.doingthefirst.blogspot.com)

Now it’s time to take another look at the 2008 Presidential Election.

We are now two months away from the November 4th election. The next nine weeks will be an exciting time in American history.
The primaries have come and gone, we’ve made it to the National Conventions, and both parties have officially chosen their slates.

We now know for sure that 2008 will be an historic election: a barrier will be broken. America will either elect an African-American or a female to one of the top-two offices, President and Vice-President.

Both campaigns kick off their dash to the finish line with their National Conventions: week-long TV productions which allow them to say anything they want to about themselves or their opponents.

National conventions weren’t always just big shows. Just three decades ago, they were actually un-scripted events, designed to choose the party nominee. Delegates were free to vote for the candidate of their choice, and we actually did not know who the nominee would be until the votes were cast at the convention.

During the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, however, most states started holding primary elections, to let voters give delegates instructions on casting their votes at the conventions. Nowadays, thanks to that string of primaries, the nominee has been decided long before the convention gets here, and the entire event is used to promote the nominee, rather than to determine the nominee.

Twice, I served as one of those delegates. The second time, in 1988, I was there with instructions from the voters to cast my vote for George H. W. Bush. The first time, in 1984, we were there to nominate Ronald Reagan for a second term, so there was no other Republican candidate. “There”, incidentally, was Dallas in 1984, and New Orleans in 1988.

(At the 1984 convention, I also served as a member of the national Rules Committee, a position I used to stop a rules change which would have decreased the voting strength of all Southern states… but that’s a whole ‘nother story. I also, those days, was the chairman of the STATE rules committee of the GOP, a position I used to create our state’s Presidential Primary as a permanent fixture. But that’s a ‘nother ‘nother story. And, it was back before I became a sometimes-Republican.)

My biggest and best memory from those two conventions was this: On the final night of the Reagan convention, Ray Charles closed the evening with his version of “America”… with about 20,000 Republicans singing back-up…to this day, one of the highlight moments of my life. It was a great show. Even back in 1988, the National Parties had already started turning the conventions into Bigtime TV Productions.

There were other great memories, also. The conventions were always week-long opportunities to develop lasting friendships with a hundred or so fellow Palmetto-Staters… which is always a good thing. But, at the end of the day, they are mostly just well-produced shows: a four-night TV commercial.

Still, they’re probably a better source of information about the candidates, the parties, and the issues than our other leading sources of information: paid 30-second ads, the nightly news, and the internet.

I’m not sure many voters care about the two candidates’ records or real positions on the issues. Also, I suspect most voters have already determined how they will vote this year.

Still, during the next few weeks, I’m going through the same exercise I tried back in January. I’m going to try to give you good solid reasons to vote for BOTH tickets. I’m going to try to say good things about both candidates and their running mates, just as I did when there were more than a dozen candidates in the race.

I am predicting an all-time record-breaking voter turn-out for the November 4th Presidential Election: more people going to the polls to vote than ever before. I just want to do my small part to make sure they know what they’re doing when they get there. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Weight Loss Olympics

Just when you thought you were going to have withdrawals from having NO Olympics after watching the competitions on TV for seventeen straight days, we’ve got a little surprise for you: The Weight Loss Olympics are still going strong. And the Closing Ceremonies are set for Tuesday, Sept. 2nd!!

When we last checked in on the Weight Loss Olympics, we actually were calling it by a completely different name -- The Next Great Almost Annual Weight Loss Challenge Invitational Competition – which is awkward and hard to remember, so, being swept up in Olympics Fever like everyone else, we changed the name.

Actually, we’re just 14 fat guys – plus our mascot – trying to win the pot of $1,500 by losing more weight than any other competitors.

It was way back on July 15th that our Band of Big Bellied Brothers kicked off our seven week contest with an official weigh-in, and a lot of boasting and self-promotion. We heard more bragging from this group of Fat Guys BEFORE the competition than we’ve heard from Michael Phelps AFTER winning eight gold medals. If you could believe all the hype we heard that day, you would expect that the group, by now, had collectively lost enough weight to shift the equilibrium of the earth, and slightly knock the equator off its course.

But it probably hasn’t happened that way.

For my part, I have a doctor’s excuse. Plus, being on steroids for three weeks in the middle of the Weight Loss Olympics does not help you drop poundage.

But the other 14 contestants… well, that’s a different story. Actually, it’s fourteen different stories… most of them with great excuses at the end.

While we won’t know for sure until the final weigh-in on Sept. 2nd – the highlight of the Closing Ceremonies – here are some of my personal predictions of the “Leastest Losers”!

Jim Miles – Former S.C. Secretary of State, weighed in at 234.2 at the Opening Ceremonies. Jim has great intentions, but no will-power. Five minutes after the initial weigh-in, he was into the ice cream, setting a new Olympic speed record for quickest “fall off the wagon” start. No chance.

Barry Walker – Irmo Councilman, better known as “Fat Back”, the proprietor of Mac’s on Main, registered a 327.2 at the initial weigh-in. Theoretically, Fat Back should be a contender to Medal in the weigh loss event. But he switched coaches in the middle of the games, and now the Gold appears to be out of his reach.

Bruce Holland – the only lawyer in the group, and therefore the one holding the cash -- weighed in at 238.2. He started off strong in the competition, but let’s just say he “dropped the baton” along the ways. Chance of winning: Nill. Still, he’s the guy holding the cash, so please keep your eyes on him for us.

Lewis Gossett weighed in at a hefty 247.6. The former director of SC LLR, and now director of some sort of hifalutin’ big deal business group, Lewis was considered to be a possible medalist… until the game actually started. That’s when we realized he could never “stick his landing”. He’s out.

Kirk Luther – The defending goal medalist weighing in at 236.2. The reigning champ is the Business Manager and partner in this very newspaper, but was Not Necessarily Expected to Win Again. Still, real champions know how to rise to the occasion even when they appear to be out of the running. Plus, Kirk knows how to drink a bottle of Mineral Oil the night before the final weigh-in. Prediction: Not Necessarily out of the running.

Terry Campbell is an Insurance Executive Extraordinaire who should have been able to calculate his 0% odds of winning. He weighed in at 241.6. Could he have been a contender? Doubtful. But all hope flew out the window when he blew his strategy by confusing MORE EXERCISE with MORE FOOD. It’s a lot like being in the diving competition, and leading off with a “cannonball”.

John Wentzell’s initial weigh-in was a measly 209.4. He has as much business in this contest as Saudi Arabia has entering the Winter Olympics. No chance.

Joe Kennedy started out at 217.8, because he was already down 20 pounds from an earlier weight loss effort. That’s a lot like entering the swimming competition wearing Army Boots. Not gonna happen!

Rod Shealy, Jr. weighed in at 217.6 to start. Junior has joined his dad – me -- in this contest for the third year in row. Like Joe, RJ he seems to have trouble when it comes to calculating the math in a weight-loss contest. If this were a Marathon, RJ would have given out of steam after the first mile of the 26 mile race.

Robert Wessinger started at 251.0, and should have been a contender. But, let’s just he “tripped over several of the hurdles” along the way. When the final weigh-in comes, this current Real Estate guy will still have a little bit of DoNut belly left over from his career as a Lexington County Deputy.

Rod Lorick , of the Cayce-West Columbia News, weighed in at 312.2 to start. He’s a well known golfer who asserts himself to be the Greatest Living Athlete in Cayce-West Columbia. But he also asserts himself to be the winner of this contest. I don’t think so! In fact, Rod’s routine during the Weight-Loss Olympics have inspired a whole new event: Synchronized Buffet Line!

Shirley Towne – Our Mascot, who the guys all fell in love with. As the only female in the contest, we’re withholding the information we share on the others. Let’s just call her healthy… and BY FAR the prettiest person in this contest. But… not a medalist! A lot like the archery contestant who shot the wrong target!

Mike Andrews, the Tune-Up King from Bob Andrews Motors, tipped the scales at 282.4, making him one of the statistical favorites for this competition. But, once again, Andrews got off to a false start. Plus, he splashed his dive entry, swam into the wrong lane, got a little trigger happy on the shooting range, sank his kayak, and tipped the pole vault bar as he was going under it! Additionally, Andrews is known to have the will-power of a gnat, and suffers from the delusion that he still looks like he looked 20 years ago, which -- face it -- wasn’t that great even then, unless there was lots of alcohol involved. Best guess: Mike is well-prepared to start his NEXT weight-loss contest… after actually GAINING weight during this one!!!

Which brings us to the odds-on favorite for the Gold -- Northeast Columbia resident Don Gowrys, better known as the Store Manager of Michaels Arts and Crafts, who initially weighed-in at a whopping 381.2, and has reportedly stuck to a rigorous training schedule during the games. Can he do it? Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint… so watch out for leg-cramps in the last few miles! Our prediction: Going for the Gold.

We’ll let you know how it turns out.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I have some other things to write about

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve written here about my medical condition. But I’ve decided I have some other things I want to write about.

Every four years, at about this time of year, we witness some major events: the Olympics, and the National Conventions leading to the November presidential election.

All year long, I’ve been looking forward so writing about these events, and sharing my personal, insider’s look as a former participant.

Okay, I was never actually IN the Olympics – mostly just watched it on TV, like everybody else… (Note: If they had ever added “horse” as one basketball events, as they rightfully should have, I’m certain I could have been a contender.) -- but I wanted to write about it anyway. Also, I actually WAS a delegate to a couple of National Conventions.

Anyway, I plan to get back to writing about these things starting next week, because we can wrap up the medical stuff today.

So let me start by bringing you up to date my recent surgery.

Two weeks ago, I told you that I had been diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. Last week, when I wrote this column, I was preparing for surgery, but had no real indication of the outcome.

Well, that’s not totally true. I did have SOME indication, because of the sheer number of friends, acquaintances and total strangers who were praying for me.

The prayers worked, along with the skilled hands of Dr. Sunil Patel, Chief of Neurosurgery at MUSC. The news during and since the surgery has been very, very good.

During the surgery, Dr. Patel was able to extract the tumor without any damage to surrounding tissue, and was able to remove all indications of cancer. The tumor revealed that the cancer was metastasic melanoma, likely a recurrence of an earlier melanoma 25 years ago. Normally, this would be bad news, but a post-op MRI revealed no sign of additional cancer… which is good news. Moreover, the team at MUSC has offered even better news: that the recommended therapy to prevent further recurrence can be limited to a very targeted, “mild” therapy, rather than the harsher, unpleasant therapies that had been predicted.

Of course, it’s still cancer, and anything can happen. It is in the hands of the Lord. But as for now, it appears that the Lord wants me on this earth a while longer. The surgery, and every indication since then, has been very good news.

So, that’s the brief report from my surgery and the week since.

However, I know that’s not the stuff you readers really want to know. So I’m going to give you the answers to YOUR questions now, too.

A reader asked me this question: “Did you lose all your hair?”

The answer is “no” I did not lose all my hair. In fact, I didn’t lose any hair during the surgery that I can tell.

(A reader didn’t really ask that. I’m pretending somebody asked these questions, like all columnists do… even “Dear Abby”.)

Another reader asks: Will you lose your hair during your therapy?

The answer is “yes”… but it really won’t make a big difference, cause there's not a lot of hair to lose.

A smart-aleck reader asks: “Have you ever done this therapy before, because you sure are missing a lot of hair?”

I will not dignify that fake question with a response.

Next reader: “Do you have a scar where the surgery was?”

Yes, with metal staples. Gnarly!

Reader: “Are you on drugs?”

I was, but I kicked the habit. They were very good drugs, starting with steroids before the surgery, and some very impressive painkillers afterwards. But, there were side effects… like waking up at 3:30 am and phoning total strangers in Bangladesh. So, I decided I really wasn’t in pain any more.

Yet another reader: “How’s your brain? Can you spell and do numbers now?”

The original symptoms, which led to the discovery of the cancer, were that I was getting numbers and letters confused. Those symptoms are completely gone… although the “over 50” thing has been steadily taking its toll on my spelling, numbers, remembering, etc. for a few years now.

A reader’s question: “Did you retain your same level of comedic wittiness?”

Unfortunately, yes.

Another reader, another question: “How does this effect your weight loss competition?”

Apparently, it made the other contestants virtually give up... based on the reports I have gotten that they’ve basically quit losing weight altogether… but with two weeks to go, anything can happen.

Reader: “Does your head hurt?”

Actually, no. Strangely, no pain at all. But, of course, the first few days, I was medicated.

Reader: “Are you back at work yet?”

No. Doctor’s orders. No work until Thursday. However, he did clear me to use my cell-phone and laptop… which is pretty much what I do if I’m “at work”.

Reader: “Anybody you want to thank?”

Everybody I want to thank! We don’t have that kind of time or space. But “thanks” to everybody who wrote, called, cared, and most of all prayed.

Now that I’ve answered all the questions you really wanted to know, next week I’m going to get back to writing some of the other stuff I want to write. I’ll still keep you posted on any medical developments which might occur on my blog: doingthefirst.blogspot.com

Enjoy the rest of the Olympics, albeit without my expert, inside commentary. See you next week.