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August 2011 Archives


I guess we've sort of crossed a rubicon here at Cashwell World Headquarters. As of yesterday, Kelly and I have two kids away at college, leaving us, the lunkheaded hound dog, and whatever Asian stinkbugs haven't yet gone belly up as the only permanent residents of the house.

We dropped Thing Two off at his dorm in Richmond just before two yesterday, learning once again that VCU has its move-in process down to a precision science: scores of helpful students, all wearing bright yellow t-shirts, all smiling and positive and organized. (It's also a nice thing that a significant plurality of them are neither white nor male; when you work where I do, it's good to be reminded on occasion that the rest of the world comes with varying skin tones and chromosomes.) We didn't get to meet his roommate, alas, but we got him into his second-floor space in the Artists Colony (his roomie is a voice major) and were able to escape without too many tears flowing. I'm really excited for him, and I can't wait to hear some of his stories about the theatre department.

In the meantime, I'm trying to get some work done on the upcoming first issue of the school newspaper, and I'll probably turn to working on the book at some point.

But I did have to note one thing I won't miss about having kids living in the basement: finding weeks' worth of dirty dishes and towels downstairs. If the nest is going to be empty, at least now we've got a shot at getting it clean.

5:27 PM

"Freedom Isn't Free"

It's a slogan that's been around a long while, and it's usually heard when people are discussing the sacrifices made by America's soldiers. It's even the name of a song, co-written by country singer Randy Travis and pastors John and Matthew Hagee, which discusses that theme of sacrifice. Questions of musical value aside, I think the song and its theme are well worth considering in the light of our nation's political life.

For example: Texas governor Rick Perry, who officially joined the presidential race only yesterday, has already garnered the cooperation and support of the above-mentioned pastor John Hagee, whom you may remember from the 2008 campaign; he's the preacher whose anti-Catholic views were seen as so poisonous that John McCain had to repudiate him publicly. It's interesting to me that Perry doesn't view anti-Catholicism as such a problem. Hagee, for his part, has appeared at Perry's mass prayer rally, "The Response," and compared his new buddy to Abraham Lincoln.

Meanwhile, Michele Bachmann, whose crazy-eyed image on the cover of Newsweek has garnered almost as much attention as any of her political statements, has acquired the support North Carolina's own Travis. He was performing at the same gathering where the Ames Straw Poll gave Bachmann the victory with 29% of the vote.

What got me thinking about the issue raised by these songwriters? Well, it was a moment during last week's Republican debate, one in which Perry did not participate. (One debater, Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, has already dropped out of the race in the light of a poor showing in Ames.) The Atlantic called it "the defining moment" of the debate, and I think that's probably accurate.

The most noteworthy and damning moment of the GOP debate in Iowa Thursday was when the moderators asked the candidates to raise their hands if they would walk away from a deal that cut ten dollars from the deficit for every one dollar in tax increases. Every last person on stage said they'd reject that deal.

That, in a nutshell, shows what today's GOP is all about: lower taxes, period. Not deficit reduction, not economic health, not jobs, not trade policy or anything else--just lower taxes, no matter how hypocritical the position may be.

Perry and Bachmann, for example, have both been quite insistent on receiving money from the federal government--Perry for his state's economic stimulus projects and emergency wildfire protection, Bachmann for everything from funding for her husband's "gay-curing" clinic and her family farm's subsidies--but both are completely opposed to raising taxes. (Perry has gone so far as to argue that it was the 1913 passage of the 16th Amendment, which authorized income taxes, that began our nation's long decline.) No matter what they say, for these people cutting spending is not important, even with taxes at a historic low, and balancing the budget is a goal worth amending the Constitution, but only if it's done without raising taxes. If it requires the country to raise money from its citizens, even the richest of the rich, even by a minimal amount, they're against it.

And that makes me wonder: if you and your party already acknowledge that freedom isn't free, what does it say about you that you'd rather ask American soldiers to pay for it in blood than ask millionaires to pay for it with their pocket money?

11:21 AM

Touching Base: August

Dear August,

How's it going with you? Yeah, I know, you're busy. You're the only month without a federal holiday--that whole Puritan Work Ethic thing looks good on you, I guess--but you're also packed with all kinds of last-minute vacations and desperate preparations for the school year. As a result, if you don't mind my saying so, you come off as kind of frantic, but not exactly productive. Oh, and the whole blazing heat/high humidity thing? Hate to tell you, but it's been done. July has pretty much claimed it. If I were you, I'd cool off now and throw everybody a curve.

Me? Oh, I've been busy. I've done a couple of interviews for the new book, discussing everything from the twelve-to-six curve ball to the chromosomal cause of Turner's Syndrom, just as you'd expect for a book on birding, and I'll be talking to some other bright minds about subjects like Euclidean geometry and political redistricting in the next couple of weeks. I'm hoping to have at least a raw manuscript together by Labor Day, but this may be optimistic.

One reason I may be optimistic: there's been a lot of college prep. Ian has successfully gotten his damage deposit back from his landlord, but to get it, there was a fair amount of packing and planning and driving and moving and loading and unloading to do. I'm proud of him and his roommate for getting it together and doing the lion's share of the work themselves, though; I just helped out, primarily with driving and money and a few organizational suggestions. Still, I think we can all take pride in having accomplished a move from apartment to storage facility in under two hours from the time we got the truck to the time we closed the storage locker.

Now, of course, we have to move him into the NEW apartment next week. So think about what I said concerning the weather, okay, August?

The wife and I celebrated our 25th anniversary with a trip that involved Getting Away From It All (yay!) but did not involve much in the way of Driving. On the afternoon of the 12th, we headed over the Blue Ridge to Staunton, VA, where we had a terrific Italian meal at Emilio's before ducking around the corner to see The Importance of Being Earnest at the Blackfriars Theater, home of the American Shakespeare Center. The show was, as ASC shows usually are, highly energetic, filled with delightful music (played and sung by the actors), and totally engaging. (I hope I won't spoil anything for you by telling you we took a special delight in experiencing a performance of the B-52s' "Love Shack" with Lady Bracknell taking the Fred Schneider parts.) Afterwards, it was still early enough (and we had digested enough) that we felt compelled to head back to Emilio's for dessert. (Kel got tiramisu and I had a lemon gelato. Yum.) We then returned to our room at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel, right next door to the theater, and caught the end of a rebroadcast of the USA/Brazil Women's World Cup game before retiring.

The next morning, we wandered Staunton, noshing on everything from enchiladas verdes to cheesecake to coffee, poking our noses into tiny shops, chatting with cashiers, and settling down to watch the USA/Japan final. (Dammit.) On the way home, we took a swing through Charlottesville to pick up the new George R.R. Martin book (Staunton having sold out already), and arrived home just in time to start driving the kids to their various social engagements.

Luckily, a week or two later, Thing Two became the owner of a Virginia driver's license, which was finally accomplished with an intense week of behind-the-wheel training, and it has freed up our driving options somewhat. Now he can get himself to his job--an irregular but well-paying dishwashing gig at a local B&B/restaurant--and not have to rely on his parents or his brother, the latter of whom is 99% of the way toward nailing down a position at a Richmond eatery close to his new apartment. If that actually comes through, he'll be able to have a steady supply of cash for the school year. We approve.

In short, August, we've had a plenty to do lately, and since you're going to be seeing us to take BOTH kids to college, as well as starting up my faculty meetings, we'd appreciate it if you'd be calm and comfortable and inexpensive. Okay?

Talk to you soon,


P.S. Do NOT try to arrange a federal holiday for yourself by having the government default. Just don't. Got me?

11:06 AM


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