Saturday, March 31, 2007

Hawaii dreamin'

Can't watch baseball every day. At least, not till Monday!

Spent most of the weekend indoors. Migraine. Really bad this time. Isn't going away.

I tend to seek escape when I get like this. Want nothing more than to lose myself in something. This weekend, my thoughts are riding the surf into shore on our 50th state.

Always loved Hawaii. First fell in love with it with "Five-0" re-runs. Then came Tom Selleck and "Magnum, p.i." Thanks to DVDs, I am enjoying both programs again.

The latter is the better show. Better acting, better writing.

Perhaps the best thing about "Magnum" was its sensitivity to Vietnam veterans. No show before or since better portrayed the lingering affects of that war on those who fought it.

But "Five-0" is fun. There's something appealing to Jack Lord's "I Am the Law" approach to Steve McGarrett. Oahu looked beautiful back in the late '60s, too. Wish I could have seen it then.

Looked around online for authentic Hawaiian literature. Found a few authors. If you happen upon this and can recommend some good island reading, shoot me an e-mail at I'm looking for something a little more engaging (and native) than James Michener.

Hoping to get to Hawaii next year just in time to celebrate my 30th birthday. Keep your fingers crossed.

OK, now it's back to the couch and the UCLA/Florida game. But don't be surprised if you don't hear an old Kui Lee tune emanating from Halls tonight. Probably the one about her sweet laughter, mornings after, and remembering her long after this, when the summer is gone.

Aloha, y'all.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

My kind of 'painkiller'

Maybe it's a disease.

Didn't make it to UT softball today. A summer-like squall was in full bloom about the time I headed up I-75 this afternoon.

But I had a HBO special waiting on the TiVO about John Wooden and the UCLA dynasty. Fell asleep somewhere between Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton.

Woke up an hour later and finished it. Great story. Balanced, too. They even brought up Sam Gilbert, the Bruins' infamous No. 1 fan during the Wooden era.

Still, I think Wooden is the sport's all-time No. 1 coach, both in championships and especially in philosophy. His ilk only comes along once in a lifetime. He's worthy of the praise. Especially since he had to put up with Bill Walton.

The rain finally went away, but I needed my baseball fix. Oh, yeah. Forgot about last night's Braves spring training game, also on the TiVO.

It's on in the background now. The Tigers are winning 6-2 in the bottom of the fifth. But that's OK because I love the Tigers, too.

Needed the game tonight. I'm working on another migraine. It's nice to veg out in front of the tube, listening to Sciambi and Simpson call the action, especially when you feel bad and want somebody to shoot you. Or at least make the headache go away.

What? You say taping spring training games is crazy?

Maybe so. Had to do something, though. Without painkillers or access to the shots, there isn't much else to do about a migraine.

Oh, well. At least it isn't another kidney stone.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Life is good

What strikes you about baseball after awhile is the little things. The ambiance. The rhythms. The girls in the stands.

Kiddin' about that last one (sort of). But you get my point.

There is a pace to baseball that does not exist in the other sports. Rarely does a game last the same length. But each one has its own time, as if a metronome is swaying back and forth on top of the dugout.

Tonight at Carter I marveled at the beauty of the evening. Gibbs High earned an impressive 6-2 win over the Hornets to remain unbeaten in district play.

You should have seen the sky, though.Was it ever something. Perfect night. Absolutely perfect. I don't know how we've managed to land smack dab in the middle of summer. Especially since it's not even April. But who's complaining?

The guys in the press box played "Sweet Home Alabama" and Aaron Tippin's "You've Got to Stand for Something." I laughed it up with John Hitt, Richie Beeler and Sammy "Barney Fife" Sawyer.

Gibbs coach Geff Davis met me at the dugout with a big grin.

"It's that time of year again. I bet you're ready?"

My farmer's tan and the scorebook in my right hand gave Geff the answer.

After awhile, here came Dean, all dressed up in his blue Gibbs uni.

"Hey, Skip," I yell. "Come sit with us."

Dean shakes hands and runs off. "Have to get my lineup filled out," he says.

Today was my third ball game in four days. Tomorrow afternoon, if nothing happens, I'll head over to Tyson Park to look in on the Tennessee softball team. More games loom this weekend, both at Halls High and at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Guess what? I'm happier than I've been in months. Totally content. No stress, no high blood pressure. Life is good.

Wipe that grin off your face. It's a great game.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Heading for home

The old man leaned back in his chair. A quick smile came to his face. He didn't have to think long about the reporter's question. He already knew the answer.

"Marichal," he said. "He was the best pitcher I ever caught."

I'll never forget that interview with Lonas Edgar "Ed" Bailey. You might not know the name, but back in his era, Ed Bailey was one heck of a catcher.

Marvin West can tell you about the time Ed was named to the All-Star Team. Something about Cincinnati Reds fans stuffing the ballot box. It's a good tale.

What I remember most from that interview is Ed's personality. He had this great gravelly voice. Upstairs in his West Knoxville home, he showed me a promotional photo of him and his wife Betty from back in the day. He was young and strapping; she was beautiful.

"The kid looked good, didn't he?" Ed said.

Ed Bailey died yesterday, a victim of throat cancer. He was 75.

Born in Strawberry Plains, Bailey played college ball at UT. He joined the Cincinnati Reds in 1953. A career .256 hitter, he once hit three home runs in one game and banged out 28 homers in 1956. He also once caught his brother, pitcher Jim "Hop" Bailey, making the Baileys one of the few brother batteries in the major leagues.

Traded to San Francisco in 1962, Bailey later played with the Giants in the World Series against the New York Yankees. He also had stints with the Milwaukee Braves, Chicago Cubs and California Angels.

After his baseball career ended in 1966, Bailey became an aide to the late John J. Duncan Sr. He later served on Knoxville City Council from 1983 to 1995. His son Joe is a current member of city council.

I always thought Ed would have made a great TV color commentator had he not had that raucous voice. As it was, he seemed content to be a storyteller. The two hours I spent with him in '03 remains my favorite Shopper interview.

When I heard the news about Ed this morning, I couldn't help but think back to something Ed's onetime Reds teammate, pitcher Joe Nuxhall, always said.

Cause today Ed Bailey has completed his journey. Now, he's rounding third and heading for home.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday night coming down

Here it is 6:30 on a Friday night, the Vols are playing Georgia tonight at Lindsey Nelson Stadium and I'm stuck in the office for another hour or three. Sigh.

Might as well pull up a chair. I'll take a five minute break and tell ya about my day while I'm waiting on Erinn to bring me more pages to edit.

So if you haven't gone to Quizno's in Halls, drop everything and go to Halls Shopping Center, in the space that used to hold the post office. Last night I got a prime rib cheesesteak sub. Today's lunch was a meatball sub (on wheat bread, thank ya very much). Former Halls High football coach Gary Shephard's oldest son Gary Jr. is the owner. It will make you forget all about Jared and Subway.

Had a good laugh a few minutes ago. Checked out Atlanta Journal-Constitution baseball beat writer David O'Brien's blog. He's down in Florida soaking up the sun and spring training.

Anyway, DOB posts this long piece about trade rumors, the latest goings-on, Chipper Jones apologizing to reporter, and so on. Suddenly at the end is the lyrics to George Jones' "If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will)." Had to chuckle. Yesterday, he concluded with Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic."

Dave is a man after my own heart.

My former boss Charles Davenport sent me a heads-up that a John Ford movie I've not seen before, "The Last Hurrah," starring Spencer Tracy, will be on TCM overnight. It doesn't have John Wayne in it, but, you know. Can't all be perfect I guess.

Guess I'd better run. Any minute now Erinn will bring me a handful of pages to look over. Plus I gotta find the AM/FM radio in time for the Vols game.

And you thought a reporter's life was exciting...

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Tennyson once said something about a young man's thoughts turning to love this time of year.

I don't buy that.

To prove the point, forgive me while I quote John Denver. Can't help it. This beautiful spring evening made me think of a line of his I like very much.

"If I had a day that I could give you. I'd give to you a day just like today..."

Driving down Emory Road this afternoon, I watched the sun set just over toward Karns somewhere. Deep red was turning into light pink. God, it was beautiful.

I feel more like myself in the spring. Sure, baseball is part of it. I won't lie.

But it's more than that. It's the warm afternoons, the ones that make you wish you could get lost at the lake. It's the sky, blue as the ocean, begging you to come take a swim.

It's the way the sun rises in the morning just before the world stirs. It's warm days and cool nights.

And, yep, it's 6-4-3, double play ends the inning, Red Devils lead 4-2.

Don't let it go away. Let's just skip the dog days of summer this year. And fall. And certainly winter.

Let's stay here in an East Tennessee spring for about a year or so. Let the days be just like today. Let baseball always end just like it did Monday night. Let spring last forever.

Don't wake me till it's over.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The best laid plans...

Heard something amusing today.

The Yankees announcers were broadcasting tonight's spring training game on YES. One mentioned that the team is excited about tomorrow's day off.

"It's the only day off during all of spring training."

Day off? Who wants a day off from baseball in Tampa?

Oh, well. Didn't stay with the game long. The Yanks were playing the Phils. Wanted to catch some of Ryan Howard's at bats. But watching Yankees games are best after one of Sarah West's dinners, when Marvin dissects the starting pitcher's tendencies for me. Hope to get to do that soon.

So, I picked up "The Sun Also Rises." A rainy Tuesday night with Hemingway sounded good.

But, oops. Here's a Red Sox documentary on IFC. So that's another couple of hours down the drain.

Eat a quick dinner. Hamburger and chips. Yeah, yeah, I know. Terrible diet for a guy who just passed his fourth kidney stone. Sigh.

OK, time to read. Well, shoot. Here's Kevin Costner's last baseball movie. So, I'll just watch 10 minutes of it. Maybe 20.

Aww, heck. I give up.

I love this game.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Rest stop

Never underestimate the healing power of baseball.

I'm tired. Don't feel too well. Passed another kidney stone over the weekend. But I look at it like this: gave me an excuse to lie on the couch for two days and watch wall-to-wall basketball. And a couple of episodes of "Magnum, p.i."

Anyway. Wrapped up work this afternoon. Really wanted to go home. Needed a nap. But I also needed to get to my one weekly Halls High baseball game for work.

Naw, I didn't think I could drive by the ballpark and not stop, either.

Turned out to be the right move. Halls won a wild one, a 13-12, "let it all hang out" thriller. Saw an old friend from school. Ate a hot dog with chili smeared all over it. Watched the sun set.

They say life is a series of moments. For better or worse, these are mine.

I once tried to psychoanalyse why this game has such a magnetic hold. Still don't know the full answer.

One of them has to be because I can always count on it. Like clockwork, it shows up in the spring, stays until fall. Whatever the case, the boys in red made me forget about things for a couple of hours.

That's something, right?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The fishing trip


He sat in the shade of the tree as the sun began its dip toward night. He fumbled with the line, spooling it around and around, and up the shaft of the rod.

It was the first time he had been to the lake since the fall. It felt good. He became rejuvenated here, alone with his thoughts.

He hadn't seen her since just after Thanksgiving, and then it had been but a glimpse. He'd thought about those eyes throughout the winter. It kept him warm.

If he were honest with himself, he'd tell you he missed her, longed to hear her soothing words. As it were, he said nothing, content to thread his line.

After awhile, he rose and walked to the lake. He sat his tackle on the edge of the rock and took his place near the water. A squirrel jumped between trees. Off in the distance, a dog barked.

He grabbed a nightcrawler out of the Styrofoam bowl, tore it into and put half on the hook. He casted.

Three minutes later, he saw the bobber dance.

He jerked back on the line, felt the familiar tug. The fish struggled, but he held firm and began reeling.

As the line came closer to the bank, he saw the bluegill. Small, sleek, deceptively so. He relaxed; it was a mistake.

The fish twisted and thrashed. He felt the line break, knew he'd been bested. He watched the flash of blue jump, then disappear. When he reeled the last of the line in, only the hook remained.

He put the rod to the ground and watched the sun dip below the horizon. The pink sky faded to black.

Returning to the camp site, he threw a couple of logs on the fire and made supper. The night was cold.

He lit a cigar and stared at the darkness. Later, his thoughts turned to what had evaded his grasp.

It was not the fish.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

'Pretty to think so'

I'll never forget it.

Memorial Day, 1999. Spent three glorious days at the lake. But I was really hanging out in Paris and Pamplona with Papa.

"The Sun Also Rises" is Ernest Hemingway's first novel, and his best. Jake Barnes may be his best written and most developed character. Plus, you gotta love a guy named Jake. Right?

I can remember reading the book on the back porch. The tough, terse prose hit me in waves.

I won't say it was like a first kiss. Nope, more like your first taste of chocolate. I'd never read prose like that before, never been as aware of how the writer wrote as much as what he wrote.

Watched the 1957 movie tonight. The newly-released restored DVD was a birthday gift from my aunt. Good flick; great cast. Makes me want to take Senor Bright up on his offer to go to Pamplona one summer for the big Fiesta. Who knows? I might even run with the bulls.

It's hard not to like Hemingway's stoic, troubled Jake Barnes. Wounded during the Great War, unable to consummate his feelings for Lady Brett, Barnes is a sympathetic, almost familiar, figure. One can figuratively relate to his inner struggle.

I tell ya, though, it's that last part that gets me. Gets me every time.

"Oh, Jake," Brett said, "we could have had such a damned good time together."

"Yes," I said. "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

Now that's mighty fine. Mighty fine indeed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


My goodness. Twenty-nine! Whaddya ya say?

Guess I'd start this birthday blog by saying what a great day it is. Just beautiful outside here in East Tennessee -- one of those days you want to stretch on forever. Great day to dance a bobber across the water, I tell ya. Too bad I'm spending March 13 behind a desk.

But, heck you know that's a lie. Cause I've got the greatest job in the world. Was thinking on the way in today how much I love this work and these people. They allow me to live my dream every day. They put up with my insanity. They're the greatest.

And my family. What can you say? They've been my backbone. Whatever I am today started with them.

I've told you about my friends before. But let me say again how blessed I am to have them. I take none of them for granted and love them all very much.

You know, it's funny. I told somebody earlier this week that life hasn't worked out like I thought it would. And to some degree that's true.

But as I sit here typing up a baseball story, doing what I love and loving what I do here in the greatest community on earth, I know with all my heart that life has surpassed any dreams I ever could have dreamed. I truly am the luckiest guy.

Good family. Good friends. Good work. Good health. Good times and good music. I don't need much else.

Things are good, y'all. Here's to the next 29.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Nothing else like it

There is nothing like it.

Oh, one or two things. The love of a good woman. The prettiest eyes you've ever seen. Twinkies.

But tonight, when the Big Red Machine (sorry, Cincinnati) scored five runs in the top half of the 7th, then held on to beat the West Runnin' Rebels to open the year, well, I felt like a boy, as wild and free as the western wind.

It happened yesterday, too. When Cody Brown smashed the 2-0 pitch to left field, and the realization hit that the Volunteers had just nailed a walk-off grand slam to cap a come-from-behind win over Siena, I leapt for joy, giving high fives and hugs to strangers, awash in the pure unadulterated bliss of the moment.

Baseball is like that.

And such moments happen best in our national pastime. They come out of nowhere, surprise you, hit you smack dab in the chest and scream "Yep, I'm the greatest game of them all!"

You will get no argument here.

I told Trina Polston tonight that I try to remember what the heck I do the rest of the year away from my mistress. When she returns in the spring, a time of renewal, my body, too, awakens from winter slumber, ready to conquer the world again.

When you catch it on a night like tonight, almost perfect, you love it that much more. They call it a kids game, and I suppose it is, 'cause tonight I caught back up with that little blue-eyed boy from Brickey Elementary School, full of wonder and wanderlust. I was glad to see him. Been too long.

It hit me driving home that such moments make life what it is. Suddenly the disappointments, the low ebbs and twists and turns don't matter much. Not when your favorite team gives you the best possible early birthday present. Not when it's so beautiful outside. Not when it's baseball.

No, friends, try as you might, you'll never convince me otherwise. There's simply nothing else like it.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Throw 'Borat' down the well

I am nonplussed at the thought of writing a review about "Borat." I guess the thing to do is to get some choice words out of the way.

Vile, sophomoric, lewd, disgusting, soporific, pathetic, lowbrow, worthless and unbelievable.
Whew. That feels better.

My friend Dean brought Sacha Baron Cohen's "documentary" over to other buddy Drew's house in Maryville for us to screen this weekend. The film was released on DVD last Tuesday. I objected at first. Really wanted to watch "True Grit," given that next Tuesday is my birthday.

Dean insists and I relent. That may go down as the biggest mistake I've made since the time I went out with that girl named --- OK, better not get into anymore trouble than I'm about to with this review.

I mildly laughed at the film a couple of times early on. Dean belly-laughed at scenes that were anything but funny. I knew we were in for a long night when Borat and tag-a-long buddy Azamat stopped at a bed and breakfast ran by two sweet Jewish folks. Later, when Azamat began overtly admiring a "Baywatch" book (I'm cleaning up the scene because this is a family blog), I walked out of the room.

Cohen's "Borat" (subtitled "Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan") is a ruse. Cohen made up the Borat character on a cable TV show. (In one scene, he shows up at a redneck bar and leads the crowd in a rendition of a song called "Throw the Jew Down the Well.") In the film, he pretends to be a Kazakhstan native wandering America, exploiting cultural differences.

"Waterworld" and "Joe Vs. The Volcano" can rest easy. This is the worst movie I have ever seen.

The gag is that Cohen, who is Jewish, is attempting to show that racism, and anti-Semites, are still prevalent in America, particularly --- wait for it --- down South. I'm refraining from calling this train wreck satire because satire is an artistic term and "Borat" is nowhere near worth calling art.

Thirty-five years ago, Norman Lear's "All in the Family" accomplished what this film can't by using sophistication, wit and good writing. Imagine that.

This worthless pile of celluloid is intended to shock. If you like unspeakably bad jokes, humor that wouldn't do in a frat house, full-frontal male nudity and content that should make anyone with a brain blush, by all means this film is for you. I sincerely hope I never hear of Cohen again.

At their best, movies have the power to raise us up, to comment on the human condition and make us better people. Less lofty films at least can entertain and offer 90 minutes of mindless humor. ("Wild Hogs" appears to do just that.)

"Borat" is none of this. It is an amazingly unfunny, poorly done, offensive, worthless piece of garbage. And all those other adjectives I used at the beginning of this piece.

That's it. I'm done. Can't believe I wasted this much of my life.

Pardon me while I grab the remote. "True Grit" is coming on...

Friday, March 09, 2007

A regular guy

He stands at the edge of the lake, casting his line out into the water. He's wearing a red Valvoline short-sleeved t-shirt and a pair of pants.

If you didn't know any better, you'd swear he was the guy down the street. He reminded you of somebody you've fished with, or the guy you chatted with at Wal-Mart on a Saturday afternoon. If you judged the book by its cover, you'd never think he was worshipped by millions.

That's the way it was with Dale Earnhardt.

I'm not a No. 3 fanatic. At best, I'm a casual NASCAR fan. I watch several races a year, usually with my dad or my longtime friend Matt Shelton.

But I always loved to watch the guy with the big mustache race.

You could relate to Dale in a way, appreciate the fact he wasn't a pretty boy or a privileged son. He came up the hard way, worked for everything he earned and became a hero to a lot of folks.

It's that Dale Earnhardt, the blue collar champion, that is celebrated in "Dale," the engaging new documentary from NASCAR Images and CMT Films. My buddy Shelton called up and asked me to go to a private showing of the film tonight at Regal Pinnacle Theater out west. It was well worth it.

The film flashed between interviews with the late Earnhardt, archival race footage and new interviews with the Intimidator's friends, family and co-workers. It was a working fan's show from the moment CCR's "Fortunate Son" blared over the opening credits.

Watching his gold and blue (and especially his later black-clad) machine come flying up behind a driver, you could almost feel the lump form in the throat of those in his way.

Dale was no saint. He knocked guys out of the way. He fought with friends, especially Darrell Waltrip. He played to win. He himself said his career took him away from his family.

But the "badass" was respected. When he finally notched the elusive Daytona 500 win in 1998, every crew member from every team lined pit road as his black Chevy took its victory lap. You may never see that again.

America has always loved a rags-to-riches story. Think of all the presidents who won the White House on such an image. It explains why a film as unassuming as "Rocky" could win Best Picture.

Dale became that kind of hero to his fans. He was the guy who'd win races on Sunday afternoon and be up at 4:30 a.m. Monday morning feeding chickens and shoveling hay on the farm. The guys who dug ditches could relate.

"Dale" will be appreciated most by those type of folks. But in its way the film is more than that, more even than a NASCAR biography. It taps into something uniquely American, this notion that a regular guy can become a star.

That, perhaps more than anything else, is why you'll forever see somebody at a NASCAR track sporting the No. 3.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A crazy idea

What a day.

Driving to Union County this morning, I developed an overwhelming urge to pull the car to the side of the road, get out and stay there for the remainder of the day.

The sky stretched forever, so blue you could swim it. Serving as the backdrop to the beautiful Union County countryside, never save the day I saw such a scene with the prettiest woman I've ever known has it looked more beautiful.

Headed to an interview, I thought about all the days like this that I miss. Rushing from appointment to appointment, struggling against the constant deadline, locked away in front a computer -- well, you get the idea.

I have this crazy idea that things happen to you right when you need them. Who knows why it took you 21 years to read Hemingway? But once you did you never quite looked at the world the same way.

Funny, isn't it, how that song came on the radio. You were in a bad mood; now you could fly to the moon.

Strange how that friend you haven't seen in 10 years sent you an e-mail that afternoon. Next thing you know, you're laughing together over drinks, trying to remember why on earth you spent time apart.

I'm tired. I missed my conference. I'm going to be devoting time I don't have to perform my civic duty. Less time to write. No chance to take off and watch baseball next month.

A good friend has broken my heart. The kid who makes my soul fill with joy won't be staying with us after this month. I spent $400 on brakes last week and found out I have to pay the IRS this year.

But today, for about five minutes, me and the sun and the fowl enjoyed the prettiest azure sky you've ever seen.

Turns out there might be something to that crazy idea after all.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

More than gods and generals

As he lay dying just beyond the stone wall at Gettysburg, Confederate Gen. Lewis "Lo" Armistead thought not about his wounds. It mattered not that he was slipping into the great unknown.

All Armistead wanted was to see his friend, Union Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock.

The two had been friends before the war. They were quartermasters together in California. Armistead once said "May God strike me dead" before he would raise a gun against Hancock.

Armistead asked about his friend that July day in Pennsylvania. Told that Hancock, too, had been wounded, Armistead reportedly cried, "No! Not us both!"

He died two days later.

The scene is portrayed in Ron Maxwell's 1993 film "Gettysburg." The original source was Michael Shaara's prize-winning novel "The Killer Angels." Read that scene and fail to be moved and you have my vote as the modern day Ebenezer.

I thought about that moment this morning in the quiet hours just after dawn. A few hours later, I called Dean, spent the evening with Drew and J.M., talked to Dewayne on the phone, made plans to meet with Mr. D and Mr. H later today for brunch and thought a few minutes about all the friends who have made this journey so much fun.

Not all of them come around anymore. That's OK. Life takes its twists and turns.

I've been blessed beyond what I deserve. When the skies above my head were darkest, in 2003 and twice last year, they were there.

The kindness came in small ways, through telephone calls, visits for the hell of it, messages on MySpace and silly songs sung at all hours. It showed up in a thousand ways --- unexpected invitations, a joke told in the afternoon, Thursday get togethers, sharing laughter cause it hurt too much to cry.

Thomas Magnum says that when a person is gone, the only thing that remains to show his worth is his friends. That's the only measurement by which I will ever be considered wealthy.

And it's the one of which I am most proud.

Pardon me if my eyes well up at thoughts of Armistead dying in the grass at Gettysburg. But you don't have to look away or be embarrassed.

The tears are for much more than gods and generals.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Sticking up for the sentimental

Here's today's $64,000 question: Who decided sentimentality is bad?

Surfing the Web before bed last night, I came across a Washington Post review of author Charles Frazier's latest novel, "Thirteen Moons." The critic called the Asheville, N.C. native's books (which includes his debut novel "Cold Mountain") "long-winded, sentimental, soporific."

Huh? The only thing that put me to sleep was the review. But back to the point.

I've yet to meet a human who isn't sentimental about something. Songs, lost loves, football, Twinkies --- you know, all the usual suspects.

Critics say sentimentality is cheap, the easy way out. Grab the audience by hooking them in the heartstrings. Reel them in and watch the tears (and profits) flow.

I beg to differ.

Frazier's first novel was the best American novel published in the 1990s. Period. Dot. Paragraph.

And why wouldn't it be sentimental? "Cold Mountain" was in many ways an ode to Frazier's home --- the beautiful southern Appalachian region of western North Carolina.

I haven't read "Thirteen Moons." My good friend Bridget Trogden, former Halls guy Dewayne Lawson's much better half, borrowed it last time I was in Macon. But I'd bet the house that novel is anything but dull.

And what's so wrong with sentimentality anyway? My writing is awash in it, especially my meager attempts at fiction. You can call it cheap, and it may be. But, whatever it is or isn't, it comes from the heart.

Call me crazy, but sometimes I think certain things should be affected by tender feelings.