Thursday, April 1, 2010

An Epiphany: I've Been Wrong!

It was late Wednesday afternoon and something strange was happening to me. I was cutting the grass, running the lawnmower over a yard full of poa annua, a bluegrass that’s great on golf course greens primarily during the early morning immediately after being cut to 11 or 12 on the stimpmeter. It’s also a weed to some. As I moved the well-seasoned clipper in the same pattern I’ve followed for 13 years, something—I’m not sure what—caused me to steer off course, to take a different road traveled, to cut a new pattern. Different than usual, it was not erratic and had more of a calming influence.

At that moment, I realized I’ve been wrong. On a lot of things. More than my grass-cutting path. It was time to admit my past mistakes, to change my devilish approach, to stop my unjustified criticisms. As my cutting continued, my thoughts raced through my complex mind. I knew right then I had a lot to say, a lot of wrongs to make right. So here I am.

What I’m about to tell you may not make sense right away, but it will. The more you read, the more you’ll understand. Everything I have to say in this spot right now is important for me to write and more so for you to read. I’ve got to get these things off my chest, and you must be my sounding board.

First, I apologize to Chancellor James Woodward for being so unrealistically hard on him in recent weeks. He’s a lot smarter than I will ever be. He’s well-educated, been in the trenches of academia, working his way to not just one Chancellorship, but two. He’s done NC State very well, thank goodness. He probably had sound reasoning for firing Lennie Barton, who is my friend, as Executive Director of the Alumni Association, but why should Woodward go into the gruesome details, especially to me. He gave his reasons and that should be the end of that. No questions asked. All in all, praise Erskine Bowles for picking Woodward and placing him in Raleigh during the crisis at NC State University.

And, then there’s Nevin Kessler, a man who has worked very hard for NC State University. I’ve been especially tough on him and probably for all the wrong reasons. He’s just doing his job, trying to raise money during a terrible economy. His hands are strapped. Not enough resources and practically no support from the Alumni Association. Probably bad leadership over there, at least right up to late September when a change at the top started. His office systems are antiquated so he needs financial help from through the campus, from other donations, to bring his work up to speed so NC State can raise $2 billion and compete with its peers. I guess if I had taken the time to listen to him last fall, I would have backed off. I guess if I had looked deeper at his funding ideas, I would have agreed.

And, what am I thinking always pulling against the North Carolina Tar Heels basketball and football teams. Heck, my son went to that school. My mother actually took some summer school classes there. My brother-in-law and his father graduated from UNC, or, let’s get real, it’s Carolina. Who do those Chickens in South Carolina think they are using “our” beloved University’s proper name: Carolina? Fine institution of higher education Carolina is. I need to put my loyalty to NC State aside and root for Carolina for various reasons especially since they always have better teams than the Wolfpack. Go Tar Heels! Beat those Dayton Fliers tonight in the NIT! And, I’ll quite calling NC State the Flagship of the UNC System when I know, deep down in my heart, that Carolina is.

I also thought about the political front, and while I have for many years had a strong leaning to conservative ideas and voices, I think President Obama is good for the country. He has some really great ideas. He knows and I now believe that more government intervention is good for society as a whole. We need to lift the lower class and not the upper crust. I was not in favor of the Democrats health care insurance reforms, but after reading and studying a little more, I’m convinced it’ll all be good for the citizens of the United States and our alien brethren residing here. Immigration is a good thing, legal or not.

Speaking of the Democratic Party, I’m sure the next time a Democrat calls asking for a donation, not only will I write the check, but I’m going to volunteer to be a fund-raiser. Actually, I’ve always been registered with the Democratic Party but I strayed a little when it came to elections. No more. My mind is made up for me. Next time when I fill out the ballot, it will not take long. One mark for a straight ticket, and I’m out of there. With a smile on my face. And warmth in my heart.

And, this diversity thing in the Wake County School System. Who needs it? Kids need to grow up in neighborhoods, be looked after by neighbors, and attend neighborhood schools. And then, later in life, when it really means something, get to know the world outside the neighborhood. Even though it was Republicans who have made the change, terrific! It’ll all be good for everyone.

And, while I was cutting grass and studying the yard with Spring in the air, I also realized that I spend too much time away from the yard, playing golf for instance, when I could be edging, trimming, planting new shrubs and flowers, not to mention doing something about the poa annua that makes the yard appear as if it’s covered with weeds. Less golf, more yard work for me. But when I do play golf, I promise, no more gimmies. I’ll strike every putt and keep doing it until the ball hits the bottom of the cup. No do-overs; no mulligans. Post every score. Make sure the bets are slanted towards my opponents because it’s how they feel when leaving the course that’s important.

And, this writing every day. Think of the time I spend, trying to develop stories and then putting words to computer. It’s fun and relaxing, but I could be doing other stuff that’s a lot more productive. Another reason to walk away from the computer is to quit being so critical of The News & Observer. My parents taught me to do that, and while I loved my parents and respected their views, the more I read The N&O, the more I like and agree with it. Especially the editorial stances. My eyes have been opened to broader meanings.

It’s amazing what races through one’s mind when doing something mindless as cutting grass, but everything I’ve written for today and more came to me as I pushed that mower. The more I cut, the more I thought about all these things. From the start, from the first thing that came to me, I developed a smile on my face and a bit more energy in my step. I knew after just a couple of sacks of clippings of the poa annua flower had been dumped, this is what I would write about today.

Why? Because, today is April 1st. April Fools!


  1. Jim,
    that was mean!
    I was ready to call you to find out where you are getting the grass you are smoking and I knew it was not the same yuu are mowing.

  2. Love it Jim.. thanks.. and the picture at the top too!!!.. (no really.. I do.. no april fools about it)..

  3. Jim: You got me on that one! I was most worried about your turn to liberal....oh man....that really hit me. I imagined that Em tugged your heart too much about her hero!


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