Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ask the Paperboy, Chapter 46: ‘World Cup Edition’

From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR

(Paperboy has been on extended leave getting a dangling participle repaired. He returns today, eager to answer a few in a backlog of queries…)

Dear Ask the Paperboy,
How do you feel about soccer and the World Cup? Please try to type the answer without using your hands.
Bobby in Blanchard
Dear Bobby,
;ld9;a.,meo*%…Wait…no hands didn’t work so well. Don’t know how those soccer dudes do it. I tried typing with my chest; that didn’t cut it either. Maybe I’m not giving these people their due.
The best line I’ve ever heard about soccer being un-American and not for heavy consumption was from a friend who said that no one wants to bet on a sport where you can’t fall on a loose ball.
While I don’t have anything against soccer, I can make my point best by sharing a tiny bit of a long list I continue to compile of “Ways I Will Not Die”:
No. 3 on the list is “Choking on a Brussels Sprout.”
No. 2 is “In Any Kind of Hot Air Balloon Mishap (Unless One Falls on Me).”
And No. 1 is and always will be “In A Soccer Riot.” That is what my friend Bummer wants on his tombstone: “Dead, But Not From A Soccer Riot. See? He Wasn’t ALL Bad!”
If you see Bummer or Paperboy (alive) at any sort of soccer event, it is because they have been offered a lot of free stuff, including golf balls and cable for life. And all of Florida – without the snakes.
So if you were going to offer, no thanks: I don’t need tickets.

Dear Ask the Paperboy,
What is the hardest thing you’ve ever tried to do? I ask with the knowledge that you have done many things, including climb Driskill Mountain, Louisiana’s highest point, all 535 feet, single-handedly on your feet and with no rope, pick, oxygen tank or even a power bar.
Archie in Arcadia
Dear Arch,
Wow. That’s taking Paperboy back. That was an impressive day. Well, an impressive half-hour. Thanks for remembering. (I did have to stop for a refreshing Mountain Dew. I mean, I don’t run on batteries, you know.)
Now, while that was tough (as you can only imagine), it is nothing like trying to fold a fitted sheet. Einstein and his smarter brother together couldn’t fold a fitted sheet.

Dear Ask the Paperboy,
If you write something and it's wrong, you might have to re-do it. If you lay some concrete and you mess up a spot, you might have to re-do it. Why is it when someone does something to you, you feel you have to retaliate. Have you been "taliated" to begin with? What is a "taliate" anyway?
Pig Shelton in Re-no
Dear Pig,

“Taliate” in a strict sense means the same thing as “retaliate,” honest to goodness, although it is seldom used because of the simple fact that it sounds so stupid. I’m sure a poet’s behind that, somehow. But in slang – as you are asking so you can come to understand it and be able to move on with your life and worry about other things -- taliate is what one does (pokes me in the eye) that causes another to retaliate (threatens to maim him unless he properly folds your fitted sheet, just for instance. Or – the ultimate indignity -- you make him go to a soccer game.) Unlike love, it is not better to have taliated and lost than never to have taliated at all. If you don’t want to be “retaliated on,” the initial taliation situation better get the job done.
For funsies, you can start your own language with what English whizzes call “unpaired” words, which “retaliate” is close to being. The list includes dejected (is “jected” elated?) and disgruntled (a personal favorite), incognito, nonchalant, invert and the always funny sounding debunk – not to be confused, as our resident Cajuns would say, with desink or destove. Language is a beautiful thing.

Email teddy at

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Celebrating 25 years of a special Light

From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR

At our best, we serve “the least of these.”

Such a belief and a hope has been the power behind a quarter-century of sweet illumination from LightHouse.

The short word for what LightHouse is would be a “program,” but programs are run by people, this one by people who believe that by shining a light on children in gloomy places, a full life is both given and received.

LightHouse lists as its goals “educational achievement, economic self-sufficiency and productive citizenship,” and its aim is the hundreds of families in some of Shreveport and Bossier City’s poorest neighborhoods. Education, LightHouse believes, is the way out of poverty. So with tutors and volunteers and coordinators to organize and encourage, LightHouse has suddenly turned 25 years old, a silver anniversary worth celebrating as it’s been an underrated gold mine for the area.

Plans are ongoing for a “formal” September celebration to mark when LightHouse, which had its beginnings in 1986, became a part of Volunteers of America in 1989. When the schedule is finalized and publicized, be aware: this might be your chance to investigate LightHouse and, if you haven’t already, help light the way for another of the more than 600 children and families it’s touched.

“We’re always in need of daily tutors who want to help with homework or reading,” said Tricia Jowell, LightHouse community development director. “We especially need male mentors; a lot of our children are being raised by single-parent moms.”

“Each volunteer represents ‘attention’ that can be given to students,” said program coordinator Bailee Winterrowd. “It’s simply awesome to watch a student enjoy the presence of a volunteer or mentor.”

What’s in it for you? Winterrowd thinks you’ll be surprised. She was. She found out why she was involved when she heard an interview on National Public Radio. An interviewee explained how his profession as a judge gave him “the opportunity to exercise compassion and patience,” the judge said, “something I may not be fabulous at, but I get the chance to practice every day.”

“My position at the LightHouse requires I practice such qualities – I need patience!” Winterrowd said. “I am confident I am here only because God is being gracious with me.”

She’s been with LightHouse only a year. In her first six months, she’d already seen newer LightHouse students pull multiple grades of F in school up to B’s in just one grading period. She’s seen drastic changes for the better in behavior. “I’ve seen fifth-grade boys really take pride in their writing and in finishing a long book,” she said, and illustration of little things that become big things, like diplomas.

Coming back for the “reunion” in September will be many college graduates, “gobs of them!’ said Sondra Dixon, who’s worked with the LightHouse for 23 years. Excitement seems to be the default tone of anyone who has invested in “the LightHouse kids.”

Don Webb is a former interim pastor at First United Methodist of Shreveport, where the program began. He’s wondered at times what might happen if Jesus came back to town today. Would he see the homeless sheltered, the distraught comforted, the hurting healed?   

“I believe He would come to the LightHouse, and find Himself at home there,” Webb said. “For He’d know what’s going on. He’d see faith at work, and feel the care; and He’d know the blessings in the faces of the children.

“What happens in the LightHouse is a win-win-win situation,” Webb said. “Christ’s heart is made glad that this work of active love makes so many whole and happy; the servant-leaders are made glad, in doing what they were born for and are finding joy in; and best of all, the children are made glad, as they are loved, and lifted to new levels of life.”

If that sounds over-the-top, you’ve never been either to a LightHouse graduation or to any of LightHouse’s six sites. Try it, or try to make one of the anniversary-week get-togethers. As it does for children, LightHouse will brighten your life.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A memory gift-wrapped beneath a bleacher seat

From Sunday's TIMES and NEWS-STAR

Father’s Day is today but is traditionally celebrated around Tuesday morning when one of the kids says, “Hey, wait…wasn’t Father’s Day Sunday? Happy day, Dad! Hey, can I borrow 20 dollars?”

Mom’s Day gets the pub, which is right since moms do the heavy lifting. But we dads have feelings (sort of) too. And memories. Usually we can’t take a lot of credit for the memories; it’s just that Fate puts us and our kids in the same place at the right time.

Most of us dads are sort of family misfits, fretting over the next oil change or dying shrub or promotion or mortgage payment. So just to be included in the occasional family fun and then to actually recognize it while it’s happening is a blessing that makes us the luckiest people on the planet.

My friend Scooter took his son, Hadley, age 6, to his first big-league game a few Saturdays ago. Wise dad. Put himself in position to make a play. Headed to Arlington for a Texas Rangers-Boston Red Sox game.

“All Hadley has been talking about for weeks is that he wanted to get ‘a real baseball’ from ‘a real stadium.’” Scooter said. “We were in section 249 in right field, so I knew Prince Fielder or David Ortiz would be about the only two in the game who get one out there to us. But Hadley and I went to our seats while the rest of our gang went to get food and when Hadley got to his seat, right at his feet was an official Major League baseball. Some might tell you it was a batting practice home run that no one found or picked up before we arrived. I would say it was gift from God to thrill a 6-year-old boy's heart.”

(A metaphorical home run and the game hadn’t even started. Thank you, baseball gods!)

They dined on mini-helmets filled with ice cream. Nice.

“There was a group of folks sitting in front of us from West Texas,” Scooter said. “Three of them -- Cami, Dustin and Blake -- befriended Hadley over the course of the game. They chatted with him, high-fived him, laughed with him. They bought him cotton candy and a giant foam cowboy hat. When he went to give them a hug in the top of the ninth, I thought Cami was going to cry. It all warmed my heart as his dad.”

My son Casey was 5 when we went to his first game, in that same ballpark but a hard-to-believe 20 years ago. It went into extra innings when a fading Casey said he would stay if they’d let him bat. I think Eddie Murray won it for the Orioles with a hit in the 11th, but I remember the most important part: Casey slept in the hotel bed while I watched that part on TV. Casey slept a winner’s sleep. A post-mini-helmet ice-cream sleep.

I have a photograph on my wall right now of my son only a few years after that game; it’s of him and then-Shreveport Captain Jason Grilli at Fair Grounds Field. Now the park is closed and Casey is in Chicago waiting tables and acting/performing and Grilli is in Chicago when the Pittsburgh Pirates he pitches for play the Cubs. Funny: in my photo, Grilli has braces.

Things change. Photos and memories don’t. My boy moved to Chicago in August and sometimes I miss him so badly my chest hurts. I think that’s normal; parenting, after all, ain’t for sissies. I’m happy for Grilli, who caught a dream, and for Casey and others like him, who are chasing one. And I’m happy for the dreams these boys fulfilled for dads just by being sons.

Every boy’s age is a good age, but when boys are little, pre-car-keys-borrowing age, there lives a kind of father-son magic that can never quite be recaptured. If it could, it wouldn’t be so special. The Scooters of the world are finding that out. I hope they keep showing up for as many memories as they can.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

After nearly 50 years, at least one of the Reggies retires

From Sunday's TIMES and NEWS-STAR

At every workplace, if the people who work there are lucky, there’s That One Person who sort of knows everything that’s going on, who appears as if by magic to straighten the wrinkles, who always seems to be the calm in the daily storm.

At Louisiana Tech, that person has been Reggie Hanchey, a friend of thousands and “just Reggie” or “Mr. Reggie” to everyone. After a half-century of working, 40 of those at Tech, he retired last week to spend more time with Mary Celia, his wife since the spring of 1971, and their four children and many grandchildren.

This came as a surprise to some people because, while there’s only one Reggie, both literally and figuratively, there always seemed to be eight or nine. He’s one of those people with perfect speed, always in the right place at the right time.

Reggie came to Tech from DeRidder as a freshman in 1961 and graduated in May of 1965. After earning a degree in religious education from seminary in 1967 and serving in Ruston as a full-time minister from then until 1974, Reggie answered Tech’s call and returned to his alma mater to serve. A Reggie-less Tech campus for the past four decades is hard to imagine.

If you think about it, the most often asked question on campus since at least 1980 has been, without exaggeration, “Have you asked Reggie?,” or something close to that. Along the same lines, the most common statement has been, “Better ask Reggie.” Because Reggie would either know or know how to find out. Quickly. Reggie was what was inside the flare gun on every faculty and staff member’s hip.

If you know anything about human nature and can imagine anything about Reggie’s main job – first with the alumni relations staff and then as special assistant to three University presidents since 1980 – you know that very few people have the mix of organizational skill, temperament, intelligence and all-around nature to effectively serve as Reggie has. The job calls for one to be part Martha Stewart, part Joe Aillet, part Billy Graham, part first-grade teacher and part – or at least some people expected – God Himself.

“Well, somebody better go get Reggie.”

“Have you asked Reggie? Well, you better ask Reggie. WHERE’S REGGIE?!” And usually, there he’d be, like sunshine breaking through a cloud, only as if he’d been right there, all along. Think Radar on “M*A*S*H.”

Remarkable that Reggie could be so dependable for his school while still faithfully serving his church family as well as his own, plus his adopted family of student workers. Although he spent most of his time around top brass, Reggie was and is maybe most importantly a stealthy teacher of the great unwashed. He once saw a kid crying on a Tech sidewalk and stopped to introduce himself and to help. He didn’t take the boy to the infirmary or to the school psychologist or to his academic advisor: he made the kid his student worker. Trained him. Helped him. Loved him. That young man today says he owes his present job to “Mr. Reggie.”

Bossier businessman Doug Rogers was such a student worker, from 1983 to 1987. At a mid-May Sunday afternoon reception for Reggie, organized by Reggie’s family to celebrate his May 31 retirement, Rogers spoke of the steadiness of his friend: “The student Reggie was the same Reggie we know today: involved, funny, but serious about this endeavors, and surrounded by friends.”

Not a bad way to spend one’s career. Or life.

And finally, Rogers spoke for all Reggie’s friends when he told his old boss this: “You give without expecting anything in return; you put your heart into your work including the young people entrusted to you; you are cheerful in all circumstances; you lend a helping hand to anyone anytime; you have a smile ready even on a tough day; you always have an encouraging word; and the love of Christ shines brightly in your eyes.  You are a very special man, Reggie Hanchey, and we are all much richer because of your devoted service.”