One Voice

… because one voice, armed with the truth, can help begin to heal the world.

Being there isn’t actually good enough anymore

I don’t want to argue the politics of religion, or the goods and bads of the Roman Catholic Church. Several people very close to me would proudly refer to themselves as lapsed Catholics. In fact, I’m not sure there is any other thing that more people seem to brag about no longer being, which seems truly odd to me.

I was raised Protestant, but converted 20 years or so ago when I married into a Catholic family. I enjoy what I see as the majesty of the Mass, and I suppose I am guilty of downplaying the bad and concentrating on the good the church does. Yes, the pedophilia scandals are horrible, but there are few groups standing up for the poor as strongly as the Catholic bishops in this country. I admire the fact that my church — unlike many of the fundamentalist Protestants in this country — doesn’t treat the poor as if their problems are their own fault.

Times change.

But what fascinates me right now is the selection of Pope Francis, the first pope from the Western Hemisphere. Choosing a South American pope seems brilliant to me, since Latin America is where the church remains strongest in terms of its membership. It’s the one part of the world where radical Islam doesn’t seem to have made any serious inroads.

I’m not sure how long Jorge Bergoglio will serve — he is already 76 years old — but it is still a good move.

A look at the photo showing the scenes when the last two popes — Francis this year and Benedict in 2005 — were announced is at least a little bit humorous. In 2006, the people who were there were there, doing their best so see whatever they could see with their own eyes. This year hundreds if not thousands of people who were in attendance were watching on tablets or smart phones.

Apparently being there isn’t the best thing.

Actually, it reminds me of the old days at Dodger Stadium, when hundreds of fans attending baseball games came equipped with transistor radios so that they could hear what legendary broadcaster Vin Scully describe the game.

Sure, you can be there.

But why not enhance the experience if you can?

It isn’t 1950 anymore.



posted by Mike in baseball,Happiness,in God's name and have No Comments

Wonderful Lexington brings a little cheer to Georgia

I don’t know if the last 2 1/2 months have been the toughest time of my life — I certainly remember a few times when I was younger when I felt a lot more hopeless — but when the person you love the most in the world is already on long-term disability for other problems and then breaks a bone in her back, that’s pretty rough.

Five weeks ago, my wife had surgery to repair the fracture. She is recuperating slowly, but has yet to have a single day without pain only a few levels below shark bite.

No fun at all.

The little guy

Until this weekend.

Our daughter Pauline came to visit from Jamaica, and she brought along a bundle of fun — our 16-month-old grandson Lexington Wesley Kastner.

Lex is at an age when he seems truly to be enjoying himself. as often as not, he has a big smile on his face. His vocabulary — at least the words we can identify as meaning something — is still in single digits, but this kid is constantly chirping. He enjoys so many things, too. Pauline says what he seems to have the most fun with at all is carrying the broom around their house, and we saw some of that this weekend.

We didn’t do all that much this weekend. Nicole is going through a rough period and we were pretty much tied to the house and the area around it. We do have a “grandchildren’s park” in our community and Pauline took Lex there a few times so he could play.

I haven’t been around babies much. I never fathered a child myself and I didn’t become a dad until Pauline was 12 and Virgile was 7. I really think my closest exposure as an adult came when I vacationed in Los Angeles in May 1986 and stayed with my friend Mick Curran. His daughter Kelsey — my unofficial niece — was just seven months old then. They lived in a small apartment and Kelsey was suffering from colic at the time. She was wailing pretty much nonstop for most of the night.

People who have — or have had — babies love to tell those who haven’t that that’s the way life is, and if that small amount of crying bothers you, it’s a good thing you never had to care for a baby. Maybe that’s true, but I also figure that if it’s your own kid, and you’re young, you manage it.

Nicole and Lexington

So he shrieked a little having his hair washed. He was still wonderful.

And if you look at the second picture, having him around was good for Nicole’s spirits too.

Her pain is starting to improve, very slowly but measurably. If we can get past that and get her back on her feet regularly, we can start working on the other stuff.

It’s too bad Lex won’t be around every day to cheer up his grandparents, but spending time with him this weekend did a lot for me.

Winter is nearly over.

I’m hoping for a good spring.


posted by Mike in Family,Happiness,Health,Home,love and have No Comments

Was it Puppi Love or just a business proposition?

Jerry Buss (1933-2013)

I haven’t written for a while, and this is certainly nothing new. But Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss died this weekend at the age of 80, and it reminded me of something I wrote about Buss in July 1987 when I was sports editor of the Greeley Tribune in Colorado. Buss probably would have laughed at this column, which poked gentle fun at his reputation as a swinger.

There’s an old saying in the newspaper business:

“Dog bites man isn’t news. Man bites dog is news.”

That’s why when the story about Puppi Buss came across the wire datelined Los Angeles,, I had my doubts. It looked like a clear case of dog bites man.

The Los Angeles Times story, which we ran in Thursday’s Tribune, started something like this:

“A woman who claims she met Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss in the elevator of a West Hollywood hotel in 1969, and lived with him on and off for the next 15 years, filed a $25 million palimony suit against the millionaire businessman Wednesday, charging that he lied when he pledged he would take care of her for the rest of her life.”

Following were the sad details of the story of Puppi Buss, nee Marsha Lee Osborne, who lived with Jeffy Buss at various times between 1969 and 1984. She reportedly changed her name from Marsha to Puppi because Buss used the name as a “term of affection” when referring to her.

That’s easy to understand. I know I always refer to the people I care about with animal designations. Just ask my brother “Hamster” and my cousin “Warthog.”

Why Puppi, though? Why not “Kitten” or “Bunny,” certainly more traditional animal nicknames for women? Could it be that “Puppi” became something a little darker when Buss was mad at her?

Read more…

posted by Mike in Uncategorized and have No Comments

A short explanation …

I feel an obligation to post this, because it has never happened to me before.

I don’t seem to be able to finish anything. In the last month I have started a dozen different posts, but I haven’t been able to finish any of them.

Please bear with me.


posted by Mike in Uncategorized and have No Comments

Getting on the record with some (gulp!) resolutions

New Year’s Eve is a holiday for the young, although even when I was young, I can’t really recall many memorable times I had. The last New Year’s I remember standing out was 1987, when I left Sioux Falls, S.D., in a morning when the wind-chill factor was nearly 50 below zero. I had been there for four days covering a college basketball tournament — my only time ever in the Dakotas — and I was leaving for two weeks of vacation at home in Virginia.

Not mine, but same model same color.

I had it figured as a 2-3 day drive in my two-seat Pontiac Fiero — the only new car I ever bought for myself — but I wanted to get as far as I could the first day. When 1987 turned to 1988, I was circling Indianapolis on I-465 and looking for a motel to get some sleep.

I loved that car and I drove it till an 18-wheeler crushed it in December 1990 on I-5 in Los Angeles. But I never put as many miles on it as quickly as Colorado to South Dakota to Virginia and back to Colorado that winter. Nearly 4,000 miles in a little more than two weeks.

Anyway, I digress. I think the last date I had on a New Year’s Eve was in 1981, the second of two New Year’s dates with the lovely Lisa McGrady.

Tonight is the 21st New Year’s Eve of my second marriage, and there haven’t been more than a couple when Nicole and I were even awake when 11:59 p.m. became midnight. The only reason I’m still up with 90 minutes or so to go is that I really wanted to be productive and put down some resolutions for 2013.

I don’t usually do resolutions. I know how easy it is to break them, but 2012 has been a disappointing year in many ways and I want to go on record that 2013 will be better.

So, a few resolutions:

1. BE NICER — The best compliment I ever heard about anyone was when my son’s freshman roommate in college said to me, “Virgile is the nicest person I have ever known in my life.” Nobody’s ever going to say that about me, but I have a very fragile wife who I love with all my heart. I want to be gentler — and nicer — this year.

2013 is here.

2. GET HEALTHY AGAIN — I established wonderful habits for myself in 2010. I’ve got to get them back. Eat right and exercise. Every day.

3. GET PURPOSEFUL AGAIN — I need to finish my book. That means writing at least a little bit every day. No more screwing around.

4. RIDE MY BIKE — Part of the exercise thing, and I have to learn a whole new way of riding to do it, but I bought myself a thousand-dollar road bike and it’s time to hit the road.

5. BE THOUGHTFUL, NOT THOUGHTLESS — Don’t take anybody for granted.

6. DON’T PROCRASTINATE — Just because we have two phone lines, it doesn’t mean I should ignore the one that isn’t working. Call and get it fixed.

7. FOLLOW THE RULES — Love God, let go of regrets and treat other people the way I would want them to treat me. Three rules for a great life.

So, I guess I’ll file this and …

Oh Lord, here comes 2013!


posted by Mike in Family,Friends,Happiness,Health,Holidays,love and have No Comments

I’ve always been good at remembering silly trivia

For the life of me, there have been subjects involving a great deal of memorization — like foreign languages — that I have never been able to learn.

Maybe that’s because an incredible amount of the space in my brain has been devoted to remembering things I never wanted to remember, like titles, artists and even lyrics to nearly every song I heard of the radio between about 1965 and 1975.

Around 1972 or ’73, my friends and I used to go to the Campus Club, a basement beer joint at George Washington University. They rarely had a band, usually just a soundtrack of oldies. One of the games we played was seeing who could identify a new song first. I usually won, and my most shining moment — I can name that tune in one note — came when I got “Light My Fire” by the doors just as it started.

It’s funny how we remember the tiniest of triumphs when we don’t have major ones to remember. It sort of reminds me of the person who said the reason faculty politics are so vicious is that there is so little at stake.

I haven’t played that game it at least 30 years, other than listening to the radio when I’m in the car alone by myself and I have an oldies station on. It might surprise some people who know me, but I listen to Sixties music a lot less than I once did. I almost always still know the song, but there are more times than there once were that the name of the group doesn’t come to mind at all.

The other afternoon I was in the car, and a song with a fairly extensive instrumental lead-in started playing. It didn’t register at first. It certainly wasn’t a major hit by a major group. But all of a sudden, I found myself thinking … “Alice Long,” by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, from ’68 or ’69?

That’s exactly what it was. A song that only got to No. 27 on the Billboard survey in the summer of 1968. A song I never really liked, a song I never really thought much about.


I’ve still got it.

And I still speak only one language.


posted by Mike in baby boom,Happiness,memories,Music and have No Comments

We all have memories of a few Christmases past

I was trying to remember my first Christmas as an adult, the first one I didn’t celebrate at my parents’ house or my grandparents’ house.

It was 1975, although you could argue 1971 on a technicality. I was still living at home in 1971, but the rest of my family went to Russia with a tour group. I got together with three other friends — my closest friends — whose families were also away. We worked together and did a Christmas dinner at my friend Mick’s house. Mick and my two Chris friends — one Christine and one Christopher — filled out the group. I think I can safely say without fear of excessive chauvinism that we were fortunate to have a female in our group.

My first apartment -- 35 years later.

That was really just Christmas dinner, though. My first real Christmas in my own place, with decorations and everything, came in 1975.

We had moved into a new development outside Herndon, Va. The apartments in Stuart Woods were brand new. A one-bedroom unit was $230. It was the only apartment I ever had with its own washer and dryer. We moved there in February, we got married in April and we lived there till May 1976. She commuted to Langley and I commuted to the Ballston neighborhood in Arlington.

I don’t know if we had any problem-free years in our marriage. We were together for less than five years; we probably married too young. It’s as good an excuse for failure as any. It’s funny how 37 years later, I have little memory of where in our living room we put our Christmas tree. Maybe we didn’t. Ironically, it was the only Christmas we celebrated together in the United States. In 1976 we were in Austria and in 1977 we were in London for Christmas week.

She spent Christmas of ’78 on temporary duty in Beijing and she went to Nevada to spend the ’79 holidays with her parents. In January 1980 we split for good.

Regrets? Yes and no. I doubt that a thoughtful person could fail to regret a marriage that didn’t work, but on the other hand, I have spent the last 21 Christmases married to the real love of my life.

Lex this Christmas.

If there is a sadness at all, it comes when I see my two grandchildren celebrating their first Christmases, Madison in 2009 (at 15 months) and Lexington this year (at 13 1/2 months). My first Christmas with my wonderful children came when Pauline was already 12 and Virgile was nearly 8.

Seeing pictures of the grandkids with the gifts we gave them is so wonderful. In the picture here, Lex is pushing a cart we gave him for Christmas and wearing a Georgia Tech football jersey we gave him for his first birthday in November.

Christmas is pretty wonderful when you have children or grandchildren, but it was also pretty special when I was first on my own and never dreaming that a marriage could end in the most excruciating pain. I don’t think of her all that much, but there are times I wonder what it would have been like to hold a baby in my arms and know that it was my child, not my grandchild.

I am a very fortunate man. I have two wonderful children who look at me and see a father, not a stepfather. I could never love a child more than I love Pauline and Virgile, and I could never love a grandchild more than I love Maddie or Lex.

I know it all worked out for the best.

No question at all.

That doesn’t keep the “what ifs” from popping into my mind once in a while. In the end, I guess I’m only human.

posted by Mike in Christmas,Family,Friends,Happiness,Holidays,love,memories and have No Comments

Yes, our problems are more than just gun problems

In Friday’s Washington Post, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) writes of the comprehensive approach that must be taken to solve the problems that we as Americans have with gun violence. He suggests that any approach that only targets guns and gun owners and ignores mental health and our violence-soaked culture is doomed to fail.

I tend to agree, but I think the problem lies much deeper — and is much more difficult to solve — than anyone is saying.

Let me illustrate what I want to discuss with an anecdote. Back about 1998, when a lot of people with home computers were switching first to DSL and then to cable modems, my wife and I were still using dial-up Internet at home. Our modem was pretty good for the time — 57,600 baud — especially considering the fact that the first modem I ever used as a journalist was 300 baud. My 500-word stories to five minutes to send to my newsroom. Of course, that was 1980. Still, it made me appreciate 57,600.

My son didn’t have that experience, so all I heard from him was how deathly slow our modem was.

And that is the root of our problem. Most of us know that Marshall McLuhan said “the medium is the message,” but how many people understand what McLuhan meant by that? McLuhan wasn’t much concerned with whether people chose to watch “Masterpiece Theatre” or “Gilligan’s Island.” He knew that within reason, it didn’t matter what you watched. What mattered is that watching did to your brain.

In his wonderful book “The Shallows” (we’ll get to it in a minute), Nicholas Carr wrote that McLuhan understood media aren’t just channels of information. “They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought.” Numerous studies have shown that watching large amounts of television affects our brains in a way almost nothing else does — it makes us more passive. We sit in the dark and absorb information without having to think about it at all.

“The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains”┬áis an expansion of an Atlantic Monthly cover story titled “Is Google Making Us Stupid,” and it’s pretty obvious what Carr’s take on it is. He has interviewed numerous people who say — as he says for himself — that it has become much more difficult to read for any length of time. “Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles,” Carr writes. “Once I was a scuba diver in a sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

Read more…

posted by Mike in Politics,Ranting,Technology,Tragedy and have No Comments

So beautiful to find wonderful old songs on iTunes

My grandmother was born in 1895, and we used to talk about all the amazing changes that had occurred during her life.

There is no way my own life — even if I do live to be 94 — will have the same level of changes hers did. When she was born, most Americans lived on farms without electricity or indoor plumbing. They used horses and buggies for short trips and coal-powered trains for long trips. No one yet flew, and there was no penicillin for infections. There were no motion pictures, television or even radio.

What didn’t we have when I was born in 1949? I don’t need to go into most of them, but I will mention one thing.


We didn’t have iTunes.

That might not sound like a big deal, but there are several ways in which it is just huge for people who love music. In the late 1970s, when the size of my record collection peaked, I had about 600 record albums. If you figure an average of about 11 songs per album, that means I had about 6,600 songs.

As I started moving around the country in the ’80s, my collection got smaller and music became something to be listened to on the radio.

I had switched first to cassettes and later to CDs, but they took up space too. A few years back, I noticed that my daughter and my son had both started saving their music on their computer hard drives.

Read more…

posted by Mike in Christmas,Family,Holidays,Home,love,memories,Music and have No Comments

Problems not simple, but they’re not insoluble either

The truth isn’t always simple, especially when people look for answers as to why something terrible happened.

When the news came from Newtown, Conn., that a shooter had murdered 26 people — 20 of them small children — and then had taken his own life, people had lots of answers. Depending on their own personal agendas, the answers ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said it happened because we had taken God out of our schools, but he backed off some from that when people started asking him if he meant God had been responsible for the death of 20 6- and 7-year-olds.

Liberals are blaming guns, conservatives are blaming everything except guns and some folks are even blaming the mental health system.

I love the ones who try to blow off responsibility completely by running some ancient quote from Ronald Reagan that when a crime is committed, it is the fault of the individual who committed it and not society overall. The irony there is that it was during Reagan’s administration that the mental health system got decimated.

That was also the period when the National Rifle Association became one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, and when the culture seemed to fall off a cliff.

Read more…

posted by Mike in in God's name,Politics,Ranting,Tragedy and have No Comments
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