Honored to call Fayetteville home

13Ice skating With a nod to local natives, I want to say I’m honored to call Fayetteville home. I visited a time or two while serving in the Army in the 1980s, but my wife and three children didn’t make the trip, and we didn’t start calling ourselves North Carolinians, until 1992. At the time, we were not completely thrilled with the city — which we thought was more like a town after some of the other stops on our journey — but we’d learned to be content and look for the best wherever we landed by that point, so we did. We looked for the best.

Navigation was difficult here in the ’90s. The town seemed more like a group of small subdivisions loosely connected by a few winding two-lane roads. In fact, that’s what it was.

Looking back, I guess I miss that a little bit. We’d say things like “going to town” because it felt like we were living somewhere near the edge, and the ride itself was part of the appeal of the area back then. We were usually headed somewhere near Cross Creek Mall, which was, at that time, the center of Fayetteville’s retail universe.

Anyone here before the turn of the century can easily recall memories of a sketchy downtown area. By the time we arrived to stay, even the dives that were popular enough to be off limits to neighboring Fort Bragg soldiers were beginning to close or move elsewhere, leaving little but dilapidation and decay in their wake.

That has all been improving steadily, more rapidly so in the last 10 years. We’ve come a long way since the controversial “Hurley Pots,” which appeared in downtown Fayetteville shortly before I did. We’ve watched as the old buildings became coffee shops and quaint restaurants. We’ve seen a wide range of small retail businesses open in or relocate to the area between Haymount Hill and the Cape Fear River.

It’s hard to remember the time before the 14-acre Festival Park was the hub of Fayetteville’s downtown entertainment scene, which is now home to festivals, concerts and celebrations of all kinds.

Why say something about this now? On a recent Sunday, my wife and I found ourselves drawn to the area around the Market House. We heard the laughter of children and saw smiles on faces of all ages. They had come downtown to spend a few minutes gliding across a synthetic ice skating rink. We visited a classic vinyl record shop, stopped in some quaint retail locations that represent dozens of local artisans and craftspeople and watched countless people take selfies and other well-framed shots along the brick-paved Hay Street. It felt good.

Fayetteville. We’re still trying. I say “we” because Fayetteville is now my home, too. I came here on orders and stayed here by choice. Get involved as we get better. In fact, the more we get involved, the better we all will become.

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Dollars and sense

12motorcycle A new year has come, and soon the call for the road will hit bikers everywhere. With gas prices down and employment up, more people will be positioned to buy a new bike, too. Upfront, I will tell you I am the worst customer to ever walk through a showroom door. To buy simple things, I make multiple trips and do exhaustive research before sealing the deal. Even at the cash register or sitting down with the finance guy, my stomach is in knots. Somehow I get through it, but I always worry — did I buy too much of something? Can I afford it?

People often talk about how a motorcycle is going to save them money. It doesn’t, but it is a good pitch to get your significate other or co-signer to go along with it.

Most of us don’t like to talk about the actual cost of things, but here we are, and we are going to get into it. If you already own a bike, the cheapest bike you will ever get is the one you already have.

If you already own a bike and want a new one, it is best to sell the one you have yourself. As spring approaches, your best bet is to start advertising now. Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and forums are the best ways to get the word out. If you meet someone for the sale process, always meet in a safe place. People will drive states away if you have a bike they want.

Be sure to know the laws for selling a motorcycle, too. Be careful with the title and don’t screw it up or sign it in the wrong place. Each state has different rules and requirements. You can usually find specific information on the state’s DMV website.

If you must, a trade-in is usually a quick way to move up to a new bike. Dealerships are generally picky about trade-ins. They look for maximum returns and the fastest sale.

When it is time to buy a bike, cash is best. If you must finance a bike, think about the 20/4/10 rule. The rule means put 20 percent down, finance for no more than four years of payments, and do not exceed more than 10 percent of your gross income — including principal,interest and insurance.

Let’s do some rough math. If you finance a new bike at $26,000, you should have $5,200 for the down payment. You would finance $20,800. For four years (48 months) at an interest rate of 3.95 percent and a sales tax of 4.75 percent of your payment, that would be $497.04 a month. It would cost $1,822.86 in interest and $1,235 in taxes. Add an additional $60 (estimate) for insurance. You would pay $557 a month. Using the 10 percent rule for not exceeding your income, you should be making more than $66,840 a year.

So here are some stats from a 2015 article on The Motley Fool. Twenty-four percent of motorcycle owner households earned between $50,000 and $74,999 in 2014. The median household income was $62,200. Motorcyclists are pretty educated. Seventy-two percent of motorcycle owners in 2014 had at least some college or post-graduate education, and almost as many (71 percent) were employed. Some 15 percent were retired. The median age of the typical motorcycle owner was 47 in 2014, up from 32 in 1990 and 40 in 2009. Married riders comprised 61 percent of motorcycle owners, up from 57 percent in 1990.

If you are getting your first bike, be sure to budget for safety equipment. Your gear should include a good Department of Transportationapproved helmet, armor jacket and good boots. If you have a friend or loved one who will be riding with you, show them the same respect and love and buy them the same safety gear you wear. As a starter, I would budget at least $1,000 for safety expenses.

Count on spending a few hundred dollars or more each year on tires and maintenance. These are variables that depend on your riding habits and miles. 

When you talk to your insurance representative, ask them about additional medical coverage — particularly motorcycle bodily injury liability insurance. Depending on the state in which you are insured, the minimum personal injury medical coverage is not enough for a motorcycle accident. A motorcycle accident can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $1.5 million in hospital bills, lost income and property damage.

These dollars and numbers can be scary, but riding is a fun and liberating experience. Each mile can bring you new friends and adventures.

If there is a topic you would like to discuss, contact me at RIDE SAFE!

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They’re back!

03N1608P65039C The North Carolina General Assembly convened its 2019 long session last week, with its Constitutional responsibility and main task being to craft our state’s budget for the next two fiscal years. Other work, much of it critical to millions of North Carolinians, is also on legislators’ desks.

And, there is always some legislative mischief to look forward to. This often occurs in the dead of night and without public accountability so we find out about it after it is a done deal.

The real work includes a possible $2 billion in public school funding, favored by both Gov. Roy Cooper and the Republican legislative leadership. Also up for consideration is Medicaid expansion, favored by most Democrats and a growing handful of Republicans.

At least two bills calling for gerrymandering reform are expected to be introduced with large percentages of the public favoring voters choosing their legislators instead of legislators choosing their voters.

But there is a huge fly in the ointment when it comes to finding out what the General Assembly is up to and what it means for us. With the advent of the internet, traditional news organizations, specifically newspapers, have struggled for advertising revenue,m and most have cut staffing to the bone. Gone are most investigative reporters who worked on stories for months, and gone are most capitol reporters whose job it has been to tell us what our legislators are doing — or not doing.

In other words, precious few eyes are watching the General Assembly, and even fewer are there to tell us about it. Some internet sources are reliable, but even more are simply promoting their own points of view and preaching to their own choirs. Persuasion is their goal, not objectivity.

The Journal of Communication reported recently that the slow deaths of local newspapers and the loss of traditional journalists is polarizing Americans in ways we are only beginning to understand. We know a great deal about national political figures — think Nancy and Chuck — and next to nothing about our local and state leaders.

It is imperative that we look to the remaining traditional outlets we do have and to the journalists who strive daily to inform us about our elected officials and the decisions they make.

This situation is no one’s fault. It is simply a fact in our rapidly evolving media environment. It is a fact nonetheless, and the General Assembly leadership has taken a step to make it harder on the few remaining reporters who do cover our state’s elected legislators.

So, what are the elected Republican leaders in charge of the General Assembly doing to promote the flow of information to the people of North Carolina?

Nothing. Zip. Nada.

In fact, the leadership moved the journalists from their long-time office on the ground floor of the legislative building to a smaller room on the basement level off a dark and dim lower level parking garage. The move makes it less convenient for reporters to cover the General Assembly and let us know what is happening. One news account described the new press room as being “in the bowels” of the legislative building.

And why should we care if reporters have to run up and down extra flights of stairs and work in a cramped basement room?

We should care because government is always better when it is operated transparently for all to see. Those in power do not always agree with that because transparency can be messy for them when they have to explain questionable actions. But transparency is always better for those of us in the tax-paying, nonelected public.

Name-calling of these efforts — think “fake news” and “enemy of the people” — and making life difficult for a free press are hallmarks of autocratic governments who prefer the public to know less and to participate less, not more.

Just what was important enough to dislodge the capitol press corps from its long-time Spartan space at the General Assembly? Would you believe a room full of vending machines in case someone wants a stale sandwich or a pack of Nabs?

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God, save us from ourselves

04karl There is concern in America that our security is threatened by terrorists, Russia, Iran, China, North Korea and other forces. It occurs to me that these forces we view as enemies need not make any effort to destroy us. That is because we are destroying ourselves. If our enemies will be patient, we will reduce our national condition to one of being incapable of defending against the physical and economic aggression of others. This is because we have become a nation in darkness and consumed by hate.

From, “If light symbolizes God, darkness connotes everything that is anti- God.” Combine our general state of darkness with the overwhelming hate that pervades our society, and the truth of the paragraph above is apparent.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Given that we are in great darkness, with little or no light in sight, and consumed by hate, with societal love only a figment of our imagination, our future is bleak.

This American condition of darkness and hate was openly on display in the events of Jan. 18 after the March for Life in Washington, D.C. A group of students from the all-male Covington Catholic High School in Frankfort, Kentucky, attended the march. Afterward, the students, some wearing bright red “Make America Great Again” baseball caps, gathered near the Lincoln Memorial to wait for their bus.

There was interaction between these students and a small group of Native Americans who were singing in the area. What proved to be a highly edited video of this interaction appeared to show the students chanting and mocking the Native Americans. This was especially true of one student, later identified as Nick Sandmann, who is shown in the video standing motionless and face-to-face with Nathan Phillips, a Native American who was beating a drum and singing.

In several interviews, Phillips repeated the following, which appears in an article by Chris Francescani and Bill Hutchinson titled “Viral video of Catholic school teens in ‘MAGA’ caps taunting Native Americans draws widespread condemnation; prompts a school investigation.”

The article states, “In an interview following the confrontation on Friday that was posted to Instagram, Phillips said he wished the throng of teens would put their energy into helping feed the poor.”

Phillips added, “I heard them say, ‘Build that wall, build that wall,’ you know?”

The article continues, “In a separate interview with The Washington Post, Phillips said that the dozens of teens began to swarm around his group as they concluded their march and were getting ready to leave.

“‘It was getting ugly,’ he told the newspaper.

“‘I started going that way, and that guy in the hat stood in my way and we were at an impasse. He just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.’”

Across the nation, the video and Phillips’ interviews inspired outrage because many viewers concluded that the students were tremendously disrespectful to Phillips and his group.

Here are some comments reported in the Francescani and Hutchinson article referenced above:

“‘This Veteran put his life on the line for our country. The students’ display of blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance is a signal of how common decency has decayed under this administration,’ Rep. Deb Haaland, D-New Mexico, who is part Native American, tweeted Saturday. ‘Heartbreaking.’”

“Then, in a blistering statement posted to her verified Facebook account shortly after 3 p.m. Saturday, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes called the viral videos ‘horrific.’

‘In spite of these horrific scenes, I refuse to shame and solely blame these children for this type of behavior. Instead, I turn to the adults and administration that are charged with teaching them, and to those who are silently letting others promote this behavior.’”

Further, from an article by Shaan Joshi titled “Patton Oswalt, Ava DuVernay, Kathy Griffin, and Other Celebs React to Teens in MAGA Hats,” come the following tweets:

“Comedian and actor Patton Oswalt: ‘I liked intimidating elderly Native Americans. I STILL like intimidating elderly Native Americans.’ — this kid, at his confirmation hearing, before being appointed to the Supreme Court.”

“Comedian Kathy Griffin was similarly outraged by the disrespectful teenagers, and she condemned ‘MAGA’ hats on Twitter. ‘MAGA hats. Donald Trump has brought the worst out in our country,’ Griffin wrote.”

The comments above were mild compared to some others. The following is from an article by Jon Levine titled “National Review Pulls Article Saying Covington Students ‘Might as Well Have Just Spit on the Cross’”:

The National Review pulled down an article on Sunday attacking the students at Covington Catholic High School, which said their behavior toward Native American elder Nathan Phillips was comparable to spitting on the cross.

“They mock a serious, frail-looking older man and gloat in their momentary role as Roman soldiers to his Christ. ‘Bullying is a worn-out word and doesn’t convey the full extent of the evil on display here,’ National Review Deputy Managing Editor Nicholas Frankovich said in the original piece. ‘As for the putatively Catholic students from Covington, they might as well have just spit on the cross and got it over with.’”

Jon Levine reported the following regarding Erik Abriss in an article titled “Vulture Writer Who Wished Death on Covington Students Fired from Job at INE Entertainment.”

“Abriss wrote: ‘I don’t know what it says about me, but I’ve truly lost the ability to articulate the hysterical rage, nausea, and heartache this makes me feel. I just want these people to die. Simple as that. Every single one of them. And their parents.’” Then there is this joint statement from the school and Covington Diocese as quoted in an article by Max Londberg titled “‘Blatant racism’: Ky. high school apologizes following backlash after video shows students surrounding indigenous marchers”:

“We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general, Jan. 18, after the March for Life, in Washington, D.C. We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person,” the statement read.

What is presented to this point hardly scratches the surface in describing the condemnation that was heaped on this group of young boys. Beyond the condemnation from others, their school and diocese immediately joined the chorus of condemnation. In the midst of these young lives being led to the slaughter, a video of longer length surfaced. It showed that a group called the Black Hebrew Israelites incessantly yelled racist, homophobic, bigoted epithets at the boys, calling them “children of incest,” “crackers” and so forth.

The longer video contradicts much of what Phillips reported. It shows that he approached the boys; they did not surround him. He made no effort to walk past Nick Sandmann, but stood face-to-face with him while beating a drum and singing. There is no indication that the students were chanting, “Build that wall.”

In view of this longer video, some people who had made harsh comments withdrew them; some even apologized. However, others continued the verbal assaults and threats to the point that Covington Catholic High School was, at the suggestion of law enforcement, closed Jan. 22. Students returned the next day with heavy police presence.

At best, Nathan Phillips lied. While the behavior of the Black Hebrew Israelites was abhorrent, hardly any outrage is directed toward Phillips or the Black Hebrew Israelites. However, these young boys, who clearly did nothing deserving of condemnation, are condemned, threatened and vilified.

I agree with those who say these students are the recipients of this horrible treatment because they are white, male, Catholic and because they appear to be Trump supporters.

What is described here is the result of our being in darkness and consumed by hate. Russia, China and all who would destroy us, just be patient. However, maybe — because of his mercy — God will save us from ourselves.

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No ‘Doubt’ about it

02Doubt Gilbert Theater’s newest production, “Doubt,” opened this past weekend to a small audience who undoubtedly enjoyed a huge show. Directed by Matthew Overturf, this thoughtprovoking drama written by John Patrick Shanley could be the Gilbert’s best show of this season.

Even though the play was written in the 1960s, it is relevant to the crazy realities we face today. Shanley’s piece centers around Sister Aloysius, a tenacious nun who is the principal of a Catholic school in the Bronx in New York. She is convinced the parish priest, Father Flynn, is having an inappropriate relationship with a young male student.

Was he? Wasn’t he? That is where this drama draws an eerie correlation to what we are experiencing in this politically charged 21st century. The shameful acts and subsequent cover-up of bad behavior by Catholic priests is not new news. However, viewing the show in relationship to what we are experiencing as a nation gives this play its gut-wrenching impact. Even back in the ’60s, there was a hint of a lack of presumption of innocence.

Now, with the prominence of the internet and social media — and a political climate that has adopted a slanderous, no holds barred, anything goes, search-and-destroy campaign strategy — this play parallels our country’s deteriorating respect for humanity.

If you are a well-informed American of any race, religion or political affiliation, you will recognize the parallels in this story to Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation; the confirmation fiasco of Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh; the accusations lodged against two Covington, Kentucky, students accused of disrespecting Native Americans; the politically charged border security issues, which result in the deplorable treatment and exploitation of humanity; and more recently, the explosive issue of legalizing full-term abortions.

All of these present-day issues fill plenty of us with plenty of doubt. Go and see the play and ponder on the similarities for yourself. You will not be disappointed. The show runs through Feb. 17.

I would be remiss to not mention the talented cast of “Doubt,” who gave stellar performances. Kay Cole plays Sister Aloysius. Evie King is Sister James. Deannah Robinson plays Mrs. Muller, and Cole Vecchio is Father Flynn. All four of these actors performed flawlessly to create a tour-deforce theater production.

Fayetteville is certainly the theatrical mecca of North Carolina. No doubt you will be impressed.

Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

Photo: Robert Mueller (top right), Brett Kavanaugh (center right) and Nick Sandmann (bottom right).

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