Rest in peace, my Facebook friend

BernaDeane South and I never met.


BernaDeane South

We never met.

But her words, so carefully chosen, inspired me to not punish myself for living.

We never met. But she always urged me in the gentlest of ways to keep going.

We never met. But somehow, someway it felt like she had always known me.

We never met. But I swear I could hear her voice whenever I read her words.

We never met … we never met.

And that is the one thing — the one thing — I will surely regret.


What one person said about her book, a copy of which she sent to me:

Berna Deane South’s Among the Feathered Warriors should carry a warning label. The stories and poems in this collection seduce you with their honest and elegant language and then, without warning, they go for the throat and refuse to let you go. Joyful or full of fury, wise and forgiving, or trapped in mazes of ignorance and hate, the stubborn survivors who populate South’s pages always ring true.
They are as American as gooseberry pie and cockfights.
In the tradition of revolutionary Southern writers like Flannery O’Connor and transformative poets like Anne Sexton, Berna Deane South’s work vibrates with impatient life.
And like no one else, South’s voice opens your heart to a world we recognize as the honest shadow of our own, a world where everything is treasured but nothing is safe.


Family Beach Vacation

My parents started taking us to the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina when we were toddlers. Until I was 15, we lived maybe an hour away in Eastern North Carolina, so it was a relatively easy trip.

Well, as easy as any car trip with four young kids can be.

We later moved to Delaware when Pops accepted at  transfer with DuPont. Though we were now 8-9 hours away, the Southern Outer Banks, specifically Emerald Isle, N.C., remained our choice for a beach vacation.

We’ve continued the family tradition through various girlfriends, wives, births of children, divorces and the death of our mom in November 2015. Today, as we all pack for this year’s version, I thought it would be good to take a look back.


Back from the grave

Not every column I wrote for the newspaper was published. One in particular, written when the Delaware Art Museum first announced it was considering selling some works to get out of heavy debt, was killed about 15 minutes after it had been posted online. My opinion a coupon may get some “regular” folks interested in going to the museum did not sit well with someone at the newspaper. Neither did my opinion the museum, if it had to sell a couple pieces of art to survive, should go ahead and do so.

That is apparently a no-no-no-no — did I say no-no? — in the museum world. But guess what. I’d rather have an art museum still around because it sold some art so it could pay off debts it incurred than a shuttered museum. 

Anyway….. Here is that column. It was online for few minutes on March 27, 2014, and also was posted on a friend’s Facebook. By the way …. The museum did sell some art and is still around today.


Sell it if you must

The Delaware Art Museum wants to sell at least three, possibly four, works of art from its collection to pay off debt and boost its endowment.

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 7.22.44 PMTsk. Tsk. That’s a real no-no in the museum world.
But not in my world.
I say go for it … IF – notice the screaming caps – IF other options have been exhausted and selling a couple of pieces of art is the only way to stay afloat.
Admittedly, I know nothing about museum ethics and the “rules” about what should and shouldn’t be done with museum collections. I won’t even pretend to.
But what good is a shuttered museum to anyone? Sell a couple of pieces, pay your bills and figure out a way to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Which brings me to another point. A museum many people don’t seem to even know exists isn’t much better than one that is shuttered.
I’ll be the first to admit the Delaware Art Museum is not high on my list of priorities. Check that. It’s not anywhere on my list of priorities, be it high or low.
It appears there are many others who feel the same, even people with money. Real money. The kind that could help. Not my kind. The kind that usually needs a coupon with it to get the big box of cat litter.
It’s not that I don’t like the museum. I’ve been to it.
But I bet my once is once more than many of you.
That’s not a criticism, just an educated guess.
After all, who am I to criticize. If someone were to ask me how to get to the Delaware Art Museum – not that I can imagine that ever happening – but if someone were, I wouldn’t be able to tell them.
That is sad, and frankly, quite embarrassing. On my part as well as the museum’s part.
On my part because I don’t really know enough or care enough about something I really should care about.
And on the museum’s part because its leadership hasn’t done enough to help me (and you) see why we should care.
So sell that art. Pay your bills. And make a fresh go of it. It’s important.
I promise I’ll bring my money – with a coupon if I can find one – and pay you another visit.

My topless days have long been over


My brother Stephen (left) and I play with water in the yard of our home in Grifton, N.C.,  during the summer of 1969. I was 3 here. Within 10 years, my topless days would be over.

Inside my ruggedly handsome shell of a body, beneath the hairy (insert body area here) and the layers of thick protection from the winter cold, a.k.a. fuel for that time I can’t get to the store for months, a.k.a. more bounce to the ounce, a.k.a. more Jeffrey to go around … Inside and beneath it all is a mind that has always been embarrassed by his weight and a heart that feels it.

I stopped swimming at public pools before my teens.  I rarely went in the ocean. Mainly because I would make such a great meal for a family of sharks, but there was also the taking off the shirt in public thing. I hate even the thought of using open public showers or locker rooms. Shirts and skins basketball game. Don’t even …

Describing it as anxiety may be putting it mildly.

I’ve told you before how it started with me. Now at 50 years old and looking for work, I feel it even more. Is a potential employer going to look at me and see a hard worker? A smart man who can set his mind to something and get it done? A person who can meet deadlines and work with others to do it?

Or are they going to see a lazy, overweight man who doesn’t even have it in him to maintain his own fitness to any kind of reasonable degree?

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When comfort becomes uncomfortable


I stepped on the scales this morning.

I had dreaded doing it and had actually pushed the scales off to the side at an angle so I could not just step on them. I’d have to drag them out away from the wall and dresser to be able to weigh myself. That was enough extra effort to have to go through to keep me from doing it for the past few weeks.

But after struggling to get the button on my largest pair of jeans through the slot yesterday, pinching my finger in the process,  I knew it was time.

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Dumped and discarded


The call came on the last day of my vacation.

“Hi Jeff. It’s ….. I guess you know why we’re calling.”

Hmmm. To tell me you’ve missed me?

To say take another couple of days off. You’ve earned it after all those years of working the night shift, extra hours and no sick days.

Just to be nice and say hi?

“No. Not really,” I answered. But I knew it couldn’t be good. In 16 years I had never received a good call. Same as most of my peers.

“Well, we’ve had to make some moves and we’re letting you go. We appreciate everything you’ve done for us, trying to keep us whole and ……”

I didn’t really hear much more. The rest was less about my new circumstances and more about his. Something which I really didn’t care about at the time.

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