Ban cell phone use while driving…now!

It’s time for Virginia to join other states in banning cell phone use while driving. At least a half dozen times in the last two weeks, I have almost been taken out by inattentive drivers who run stop signs, stray over the yellow line and change lanes without signaling.

Last week, I locked up all four wheels on my Wrangler to avoid hitting a Honda Prelude driven by a teenager who was texting on her cell phone and drove through a stop sign and onto U.S. 221 without even looking.  I’ve had to take emergency action in both the Jeep and on my Harley to avoid oncoming cars that crossed the center line because the drivers were more involved in talking on the cell phone than on concentrating on the road ahead.

When I’m driving the Jeep or riding the Harley, my cell phone can ring until the cows come home. I don’t use the phone while on the road. I’ll return the call when I stop. I’m not going to risk my life or the lives of others just to talk on the phone. Others, unfortunately, don’t seem to care about their life or safety. In Christiansburg the other day, I had to swerve to avoid a town police officer who swerved into my lane while talking on a cell phone.

It’s time for the General Assembly to ban cell phone use by drivers of any motorized vehicle while that vehicle is on the road (or moving in a parking lot).

Cowardly cretins

A cowardly cretin (or cretins) vandalized Floyd’s new public restroom this week, removing a urinal from the wall and allowing hundreds of gallons of water to spill out onto the floor and flow out of the building.

It was the kind of despicable act that makes your blood boil. Whether it was the act of someone with a philosophical difference with the changes that are coming to our town or just a mindless vandal who inflicts damage for the hell of it is less important than the viciousness of the act itself — a wanton destruction of public property that brings disgrace upon our town and raises questions about the character of our community.

A sad day for Floyd.

Guess we’re all just a bunch of hicks

Dave "Mudcat" Saunders, the legendary Democratic political consultant who lives on Bent Mountain, brought a columnist and photographer from Denver’s Rocky Mountain News to Floyd recently to write about our "culture" and how it might play out in the upcoming Presidential election.

What we got was stereotyped trash that failed to capture Floyd’s culture, our heritage or the Friday Night Jamboree.

An example of columnist Mike Littwin’s brand of "journalism":

We’re taking "The Crooked Road" music trail – an aptly named back road that, I’m told, will lead us directly to music heaven, which is apparently located on a stage in the back of the Floyd Country Store. Every Friday night, when they hold their gospel and bluegrass and old-timey-music jamboree, this town of 432 turns into a festival of banjo-pickin’ and flat-footin’ – a mini-bluegrass Woodstock, except with no nudity in evidence but, as compensation, some mighty nice-looking store-bought coveralls.

The pickers and the flat-footers and the whoopers and the hollerers spill out from the store and onto the streets and over to the ice cream store (it’s a dry county) and onto the benches and wherever else they can grab a seat or, even better, grab a partner – no age requirement, but it seems to help if you’re on the, uh, north side of 60.

The pickers who drive out of the mountains to jam here in the streets set the beat, and while I’m not sure exactly where they invented toe-tapping and knee-slapping, it couldn’t have been far from here.

If that’s not culture, well, gah-dayem, what is?

Frankly, I expected more from Mudcat, the man who built much of his political consultant reputation on Mark Warner’s ride to the governor’s mansion. Apparently he and Littwin worked together at a newspaper once and that’s why he brought the Denver reporter here.

Memo to Mike Littwin: The "ice cream store" is in the Floyd County Store, not across the street. Floyd County is far from "dry." We have nationally-acclaimed wineries here. They serve beer and wine at most restaurants and you can even get a mixed drink down at Ray’s on U.S. 221.  The Crooked Road runs for a spell along U.S. 221, a well-maintained federal highway that is not much of a "back road." On any Friday night, you can find as many kids and teenagers in the Jamboree as older folks.

Sorry you missed all that Mike. But since you’re into stereotypes, let me ask this: Were you, perhaps, on a Rocky Mountain high when you came to Floyd?

Living vs. making a living

New joke making the rounds:

Q: Why are there so many hippies in Floyd County?

A: They heard there’s no work here.

God, you know times are bad when hippie jokes make a comeback.

Hear an increasing amount of talk lately about the lack of work and/or the lack of income. The problem, of course, is nationwide. Local artists who travel to out-of-town shows say crowds and sales are down. Local businesses report more lookers than buyers. Musicians say paying gigs are fewer.

We’ve seen a shift in Floyd: Less talk about living and more about making a living.

Let’s have a show of hands: How many came here to make money?

How many came here because of the lifestyle?

Lifestyle still wins but he margin is shrinking.

Had a salesman walk into the studio the other day and open the conversation with "let me maximize your income potential."

Looked up from my magazine and answered: "Let me maximize your life expectancy. Leave before I get up out of this chair."

We see more and more emphasis on turning Floyd into a mini-mecca for "business opportunity." We’re overrun with those who want to "network." They hand out business cards to everyone they meet and they talk about marketing and business plans and "maximizing your potential" until you want to toss your cookies all over their designer tennis shoes.

Floyd doesn’t need more seminars on "turning your business into a success." Discussions on organic gardening or alternative engery would better serve foks around here. Most who come here are not the "hippies" who show up more in jokes than on the town streets. Most are those who made their lives an economic success somewhere else and came to Floyd to enjoy the benefits of those labors. They came here to escape the business cards, the "networking" socials, the sales pitches and the eternal chase for the almighty dollar.

Don’t let the magic that is Floyd get lost under the onslaught of those who measure success in financial terms and confuse making a living with just living your life and making the most of it.

Memo to racists: Stay the hell away from me

Somebody left an unsigned, multi-page racist screed taped to the front window of Blue Ridge Muse last night.

I only got through the first-page of the hate-filled diatribe aimed at Democratic Presidential contender Barack Obama before starting to retch. I ripped the pages into shreds and dumped them into the nearest trashcan.

Let’s get something straight up front: I despise racism and those who practice it. I have no patience with bigots, homophobes, racists and anti-Semites.

So stay the hell away from me. Don’t waste my time with your ignorance, your hate or your intolerance.

Lies, damn lies and Ramada Inn

The Ramada Inn web site clearly stated that their hotel on Eastridge in Richmond’s West End has high-speed Internet access in the rooms so I booked a room for Friday night . The plan was to stay in Richmond for the state championship game if the Floyd girls’ team won or stay over and drive back home early Saturday if they lost.

The Lady Buffs won, of course, and I left the Siegel Center for the 15 minute drive to the city’s West End.

Found the hotel without any problm (thanks to the in-car GPS) and asked as I checked in:

"Is your Internet access wireless or hard-wired."

"We don’t have Internet access," the clerk behind the counter said.

"You don’t."

"Nope. Never had."

"The Ramada web site says you do."

"Sorry sir, we don’t."

Internet access is a requirement for any hotel when I’m traveling so I cancelled the reservation and started looking for anoher hotel, a difficult enough task on a state high school championship weekend but even more difficult when Richmond is also hosting a big crafts fair.

After 11 phone calls, I found a room at a Motel 8 on West Broad Street — their last one. I grabbed it after confirming that they did, in fact, have wireless broadband in the rooms.

That room was a smoking room and reeked of cigarette smoke but the Internet worked and the bed was soft. I settled in, posted a game update on Blue Ridge Muse, sent a strongly-worded email to Ramada Inn (along with a promise for a strong letter to follow) and headed downtown to meet Jonathan and Jeri Rogers for dinner.

Turned out to be the only glitch of the weekend.