Dirt Roads & Cobblestones

A Southerner's Perspective on Life and Lifestyle
I realized the other day that I have not tied my blog’s name into many of my posts.  I am going to start trying to post photos of the dirt roads and the cobblestones I encounter in my daily life.  To start, I snapped this photo with my phone about a week ago. To the left is “Ms. Scott’s Alley,” where I park everyday for work.  Richmond has plenty of cobblestone roads and side streets that have been around for hundreds of years, and this is just one of the many we travel on everyday. 

I realized the other day that I have not tied my blog’s name into many of my posts.  I am going to start trying to post photos of the dirt roads and the cobblestones I encounter in my daily life.  To start, I snapped this photo with my phone about a week ago. To the left is “Ms. Scott’s Alley,” where I park everyday for work.  Richmond has plenty of cobblestone roads and side streets that have been around for hundreds of years, and this is just one of the many we travel on everyday. 

Four Top Fours’ for the Fourth

Before the Fourth of July, I got to thinking about some of my favorite things about the Fourth.  Grilling out, spending time with family and friends, and, of course, fireworks, spring to mind.  I decided to rank my four favorite things in food, places, and fireworks, as well as one bonus. 

Places:

4.      Parade – There’s nothing like a parade to celebrate America and the Fourth.

3.      Water – Here in Richmond we would call it the “Rivah,” but whether it is a lake, a beach, or a pool, being by the water for the Fourth is a classic.

2.      Ballpark – Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, Mom, and America are best combined on this day – actually where I will be tomorrow.  

1.      Backyard – The best place of all, where friends, family, and neighbors all gather for good food, good drink, and good times.

Food:

4.      Corn on the cob – When I was little, I once wrote that corn was my least favorite food.  I can’t believe how misguided I was.

3.      Hot dogs and hamburgers – Must-haves for any backyard cookout.  I enjoy playing grill-master some myself.

2.      Broccoli salad – The first time my mom makes this means warm weather has arrived.

1.      Homemade ice cream – We always make our first batch on Memorial Day, but anytime during the summer is OK by me.

Fireworks:  (Disclaimer: My family has never been big on Roman candles and the like, preferring smaller fireworks that wouldn’t scare the animals too much or land in a tree.  My dad’s side of the family has two cannons that we set off in the morning of the Fourth, but that’s another story).

4.      Firecrackers – The old standby, ready to scare moms, dogs, and horses alike.

3.      Snakes – For some reason these were my dad’s favorite when he was little and he passed the love of them on to me.  My record is five stacked on top of each other – what’s yours?

2.      Poppers – For lack of a better name, the things that you throw on the driveway and make a “POP” when they hit the ground.  My brother and our friends loved these when we were little – sweeping off the driveway the next day was not as fun, but worth it.

1.      Sparklers – I guess that it is something of the little kid in me that still loves running around with fire.

American Flags:

4.      Great Star Flag – Variants of it were used over many years, but the first was in the early 1800’s.

Great Star Flag

3.      Bennington Flag – Although it is not believed that it flew at the namesake battle during the Revolutionary War, it is a distinctive looking flag that is perfect for the Fourth of July.

Bennington Flag

2.      Modern Flag – Perhaps it is just from growing up with it, but I think that our flag as it is today looks clean, simple, and elegant. 

Modern Flag

1.      Betsy Ross Flag – The original “throwback” flag, I think that the classic circle of the original thirteen colonies evokes proud memories of the history of our nation.

Betsy Ross Flag

So there you have it.  This Fourth I will be both at the ballpark and grilling on the porch, flying our flag, eating all of the above foods and enjoying the above fireworks.  Whatever you are doing and wherever you are, have a wonderful Fourth of July!

Facebook Etiquette

Facebook has become a part of our lives.  At home, on our phones, and in the news, it surrounds us.  With all of this interaction, I (and others I am sure) have come to a realization - many people on Facebook do not act in a becoming manner.  I wanted to pass along a few things that I try to remember when using Facebook.  These guidelines are nothing official, just some things I have thought of over time.  Hopefully they will be of interest to you as well.

 1) Constant updates - This is what Twitter is for, please don’t bombard our newsfeeds with your dinner plans.  

 2) Birthday wishes - When someone texts you Happy Birthday, do you respond?  What if they call you?  Or send you a note?  In all of these cases, it is proper to express your thanks, even if it is just a short note.  And most people do.  But how often do you see someone send a thank you to someone who posted on their wall?  Why should Facebook be any different?  Whether you have two friends or two thousand, if someone sends you a message over Facebook, respond.  A quick “Thank you!” in the comment section only takes five seconds.

 2a) Posts/Messages in general - Please respond.  Again, something short will suffice.

 3) Photos - In whatever you do, go by the old rule - “Would my mother be proud of me if she saw this?”  That means no drunken photos or obscene posts on Facebook.  No photos of you, no posting photos of your friends.  Oh, and photo-shopping a kitten over your beer, albeit a cute kitten, only draws attention what you are covering up.

 4) Compulsive “Friending” - This may just be me, but before I friend someone, I ask myself - “Would I want to know what this person is doing in five years?”  If the answer is yes, then I friend them.  If not, I don’t.  Cut down on the people you met once and never talked to again, or the people you don’t even know, and those stories on your newsfeed will mean much more to you.

 5) Compulsive “Liking” - For me, the adage “Less is more” stands true here.  I have liked some brands, a few web-pages and blogs, and my favorite sports teams and athletes (16 in all), because these are of the most interest to me.  Do you really love “Trying to balance the light switch between the on and off position” and 593 other things so much that you want everyone to know that you like them?

 6) Controversial posts - As a rule, a gentleman does not discuss money, politics, or religion.  In today’s wired world, this holds more true than ever on Facebook.  Keep the political opinions and price-tags to yourself.  

 Just some food for thought.  Post it to Facebook if you like… just kidding.

Summer & Networking

Hopefully by now you are all on summer break.  Well, I guess that applies to just those of you who are in college; apologies if I made any of you in the working world jealous.  I wanted to pass along some advice to my fellow undergrads (and everyone) as the summer gets started. 

            If your college is anything like mine, the importance of networking has been drilled through your brain, once, twice, three times, and ten more for good measure.  And summer is the perfect time for building a network.  I don’t know if you have a summer job, an internship, both, or neither.  But something you should do regardless is build your network.  A network can be anyone: your parents and siblings, friends’ parents and siblings, teachers, and family friends.  Whoever they are, they are a means of getting yourself in line for an internship during school and that all important job once you graduate. 

            So how do you develop a network?  Use normal social events to begin.  Talk to people you don’t know at barbeques.  Speak to your friends’ parents while you are catching up over the summer.  If you play golf, play with people you have only made the acquaintance of and get to know them.  Ask them about their job, if they travel, what their path to their current position was.  People love to talk about themselves and will be more than happy to tell you.  Get their business card or an email address.  And send the all-important follow up note, preferably hand-written.  Increasingly, I have seen people send a note via LinkedIn (if you don’t have an account, make one now).  Before you know it, voilà, you have added someone to your network!  You will be able to call on them in the future with the benefit of having an established relationship.  I will leave it to you to decide when this time comes.

            Once you have a connection made, be sure to maintain it.  I personally keep an Excel file with the names of my connections, their contact information, where we met, something of interest about the person, and the last date I spoke with them.  You can also note this information on LinkedIn as a backup.  Staying in touch can be something as simple as sending a note or email once a year just to say hello and to ask about fishing, a trip they told you about, or whatever you spoke about.  For those people you want to get to know even better or learn more about, ask them to have lunch or coffee.  This is a great way to strengthen your relationship with this person, while at the same time developing valuable skills for a future in business.  Last summer I set a goal of trying to meet with someone at least once a week to develop my network in Richmond.  If you are interested in their career field, ask if you can shadow them or someone else at their office.  Since I did not have a job last summer, I was able to do this with several people and had the wonderful experience of learning firsthand about a number of careers.

            I hope that these pointers have taught you something about networking.  Please feel free to let me know if there is something you think I missed.  With this in mind, go forth this Memorial Day weekend, enjoy family and friends, and don’t forget to network!

Rules for Air Travel

I enjoyed getting to travel to Alabama two weekends ago for my grandmother’s birthday.  Being able to fly to Atlanta and then drive into Alabama allowed me to be able to make the trip; if I was driving, I would have missed classes just as finals were beginning.  However, I was struck by a few things as I walked through the airport.  Flying used to be a luxury, and in a way, it still is.  It is expensive, and more importantly, it is a faster, more efficient way than other travel.  Unfortunately, most people do not treat air travel as a luxury.  Although in the past airlines such as Pan Am made air travel an experience to remember, it is no longer treated as such.  I want to focus on a few areas where I believe that individuals can make air travel a better experience for themselves, and hopefully inspire others to follow suit.

Warning: The following will apply mainly to men.  Ladies, please feel free to pass this along to those men you think need some encouragement.

Dress

One of the first things we notice about people is how they dress.  Both in the airport and on the plane, “just rolled out of bed” seemed to be the style of choice.  Athletic shorts, sandals, old T-shirts, unshaven with crazy hair.  Now I understand that getting on a plane is not equivalent to having dinner at the White House, but still, try to show some respect for yourself and other passengers.  You (hopefully) wouldn’t wear any of the above to work or to a presentation for class, so you shouldn’t wear it in public.  I know people say that you should travel comfortably, but my rule is that when flying, I dress at least like I would on a normal day of class.  For me, that was a button-down with shorts on the way down, polo shirt and khakis on the way home.  Nothing too dressy, but when sitting next to a 50-year old man in jeans and a T-shirt, it looks pretty nice.  (Not to mention the old rule that you will usually get better service when you are dressed better than those around you.) 

Luggage

One of the things which annoys me the most when flying are those four-wheeled suitcases.  I still don’t understand how they are supposed to be easier to use than regular suitcases or the regular rolling kind that you pull behind you.  But that is neither here nor there. 

I believe in is slimming down what you carry on the plane to just one carry-on.  Make it a backpack, briefcase, messenger bag, what have you, but maneuvering an aisle and an airport is much easier with one bag.  The fewer people knocked in the head as you put a 60 pound suitcase into an overhead compartment the better.  I understand that it can be difficult to pack everything you need into one bag, and expensive to bring more than one, but it can be done, and it makes traveling much easier with just one carry-on and one suitcase.  For those of you who are still skeptical, do what I always do when I need a solution – search the Art of Manliness.  See this link.

If this inspires one person, my goal will be achieved.  I hope that the next time you are flying you dress up in the clothes department and slim down with the luggage.  It will make your experience much more enjoyable.  

I was able to make it out to the Merle Haggard concert in Greensboro this Saturday.  The photo quality from my phone wasn’t great, but you can see Merle in the center.  It was a great experience and awesome to see the man who, as he said, “wrote most of these songs in my 20’s and is still singing them in my 40’s.”  (He’s 75, if your’re counting).  Although the friend I went with and I were some of the youngest people there, I am confident that his music will live on for years.    

I was able to make it out to the Merle Haggard concert in Greensboro this Saturday.  The photo quality from my phone wasn’t great, but you can see Merle in the center.  It was a great experience and awesome to see the man who, as he said, “wrote most of these songs in my 20’s and is still singing them in my 40’s.”  (He’s 75, if your’re counting).  Although the friend I went with and I were some of the youngest people there, I am confident that his music will live on for years.    

Civic Responsibility

This past week I had the honor to work at a youth legislature event I had enjoyed participating in during high school.  As a member of the staff, I was not able to debate bills or participate in the legislative process.  I felt frustrated every time I watched discussion, because I wanted to be back on the floor, arguing my point.  And this got me to thinking.  How blessed are we to be able to live in a nation where we have the ability to take part in our government’s decision-making process?  We should strive to remember the rights which our Founding Fathers gave to us, along with the others who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. 

This summer I will be interning with a campaign.  Political beliefs aside, I want to encourage all of you to use this coming election to become more engaged in government.  Now, I don’t mean traveling the country following a campaign or quitting your job to put up yard signs (that’s my job as an intern!).  Volunteer on weekends, attend a rally, watch the news, research candidates, and most importantly, vote.  The most basic right we have is to vote, and it is one which not enough of us exercise.  Please, please, please take a few minutes each day to exercise your civic rights.  Don’t say you don’t have time – make time.  It’s a blessing we all need to take advantage of.

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Spring Break Reminders

With spring break coming up (or maybe already here for some of you), I thought that it would be a good time to offer some advice for upcoming trips.

  • Be safe – First and foremost, try not to get hurt or sick while on spring break.  Not only might you be somewhere without good medical service nearby, but having your parents get a call from the police or emergency room at 4 AM (or any time) is not a good idea. And on that note, give them a call occasionally to let them that know you are OK – they’ll appreciate it.
  • Be responsible (with yourself and your money) – No drunk driving, no late night calls home asking for more money.
  • Be a good guest – Some of you might be traveling with friends while on break.An invitation to someone’s beach house is completely different from going to a hotel in Mexico, even though you should treat both with respect.Offer to buy food, help to keep the house clean, and be sure to leave things the way you found them.If you are going to be staying with your friend’s parents, bring a housewarming gift.This can be something as simple as bringing flowers for the house (which the mom will love).If you are 21, a nice bottle of wine is a great gesture; if you are underage, I would suggest maybe a book or a gift card to a restaurant.If you don’t feel comfortable giving it to them when you first meet, leave it in the guest room when you leave.And don’t forget to write a thank you note!
  • Be a good son – For those of you going home or traveling with family this spring break, don’t forget how to live with your parents.Language is a little freer at college, so watch what you say.If your parents don’t want you to drink at home, don’t drink; if they are just getting used to the idea of you drinking, have ONE glass of wine with them at dinner or A beer in the afternoon.Just because they accept that you drink doesn’t mean that your house becomes a smaller version of fraternity row.And don’t just run off with your friends, take the time you are at home to enjoy your family.

As my mom always says: “Before doing something you aren’t sure about, ask yourself: ‘Would this make your momma proud?’”

Last but not least – enjoy your time off.  Wherever you are going, have a great time! 

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