One Stop Shopping for Everything Kingsport
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Fess Parker - King of the Wild Frontier
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Vanishing Appalachia - Now Playing at Knoxville Museum of East Tennessee History
Two of my college friends, photographer Don Dudenbostel and writer Tom Jester, have collaborated on an exhibit of traditional East Tennessee culture, including moonshiners (Popcorn Sutton, above in overalls and beard) and serpent handlers (above, Reverend Jimmy Morrow). The show runs through June 20, 2010.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Rod Irvin 1947-2010 RIP friend
Rod Irvin, first row, second from right. (I'm on the back row, fourth from left.)
Rod and Vince in D.C. Sept. 23, 2008
Here is the eulogy that I delivered at Rod's funeral:
When (Rod’s son-in-law) Paul called and asked me to deliver this eulogy, he told me it would be in a church but because of my longtime friendship with Rod, he said anything I want to say will be appropriate.
So if I should say something that you find inappropriate…Paul is sitting right over there. Go complain to him.
Rod and I have been best friends since 1958.
Rod and I met in the hall outside Miss Larkin’s sixth grade classroom. We were waiting while the class voted on class president. We began talking, discovered we were both baseball fans, both loved the Yankees, both loved playing football and basketball and we were both fans of the Leave It to Beaver TV show.
Our newfound friendship was tested immediately. Rod won that election.
That began half a century of joking, teasing, and doing everything together.
What Rod and I discovered pretty quickly was that we could make each other laugh.
That’s not something you find often in life and when you do, you should cherish it.
I’m going to tell you some of the things we did to make each other laugh. Because Rod doesn’t want you crying tonight.
In high school we often double dated. And because I had the only car in our group, sometimes triple dated. If one of us didn’t have a date we might half double date, with the stag in the back seat. Or if another friend didn’t have a date either we might do one of those Three Stooges dates, you know, where the Three Stooges all went out with one girl.
After high school, as Rod used to say, we went to different schools together.
Children, this was in the days before unlimited long distance, before email and texting. We actually wrote letters back and forth.
Rod lived in an apartment at 710 Hill Avenue, which he dubbed the 710 Club. He also renamed himself, Rod the Surf Irvin. In later years his kids would be perplexed when I would call and ask for The Surf. Eventually they learned and I could hear them, Dad, Vince is on the phone.
I’m happy to say I don’t think we ever wrote a serious letter. I’ve saved many of those letters. In one Rod created an intricate psychedelic checkerboard that if you held it back you could read Rod the Surf.
Another time he wrote a letter, tore it up into little pieces, and mailed them. I spent about half an hour taping those little pieces together. Only to discover…well the missing piece arrived a couple of days later.
In another letter he asked how my girlfriend at Earlham College was doing. “Tell her I said hello. If I had her address, I might write her, ah forget it. I haven’t written my grandmother yet.”
In the summer of 1968, Rod, Tom and I had nothing better to do so we made a movie. It starred Bruce Haney. Actually it was supposed to star Bruce Haney but he had to go with his family to Michigan the week we were to start filming and production deadlines being what they were, we started without him. And I starred. It was a comedy. Or at least it was at the time. We had the world premiere at the Downtowner Motor Inn because one of the cast members worked at the front desk. Someone, okay, Rod, called the Kingsport Times News and told them something was going on at the Downtowner. They send a reporter over and the next day there was a story about us and our movie at the top of the front page. Newspapers didn’t have anything to write about then either.
It was about this time that Rod met a girl named Ann Hill. The best thing a best friend can do is know when to recede into the background. That didn’t mean we weren’t still best friends or that we didn’t double date.
Or keep making each other laugh.
In fact one night at the beach, Rod and Ann wanted a little together time and Rod asked if I would distract Ann’s 15-year-old sister Sue while they took a walk on the beach. I was 20. Today that would get both Rod and I indicted.
It wasn’t long till wedding bells rang. Rod asked me to be his best man. I remember as we stood in the atrium at the side of the church, I told Rod, “It’s not too late. My car is out front. Here are the keys. You can be in Mexico before anyone notices.”
But Rod made the right decision.
I was a columnist at the student newspaper at UT then and I wrote a column about Rod’s wedding.
A few years later when it was my turn to marry, I asked Rod if he would conduct the ceremony. By then Rod was working in public relations at Eastman and he was also an ordained minister. As we stood before Reverend Rod, I heard some familiar words: “If you find someone you really love, that you want to spend the rest of your life with, in Leave it to Beaver terms, someone you think is really neat, why would you want to spoil it all and get married. Rod was quoting back to me from the column I had written about his wedding.
Later when my mother told my cousin Lois that I had been married by a p.r. man from Eastman, Lois, who had worked at Eastman in the fifties and knew the sway the company held over Kingsport, said, “You mean p.r. men at Eastman can now marry people?”
Now we were both married, both raising families, living several hundred miles apart.
We still occasionally wrote and talked on the phone. I could go six months without talking to Rod but when we got together on the phone, we picked right back up.
In 2002 I moved back to Kingsport to take care of my mother who had suffered a stroke and was exhibiting unusual behavior.
I called Rod to tell him I was back and explaining why. I remember asking “Is your mother going crazy yet?” Rod said, “How could I tell?”
It was at this time that Rod was promoted to his Washington job. So I’m back in Kingsport and he is in Washington most of the time.
I spent three days there with him in the fall of 2006 and he told me it was the best job he’d ever had. Two months later Rod had his first seizure.
He called to tell me about it. He thought he had had one seizure in his office, come to, and gone down to the washroom, where he had a second seizure. He told me he remembers coming to, blood rolling down his cheek and looking up. There had been another man in the restroom at the time. Rod said, “This guy steps across me to get out and I remember thinking, Hey, you didn’t wash your hands!”
Only Rod could find humor in a tumor.
It was a difficult three and a half years as Rod fought against his cancer.
He told me after one of his surgeries the doctor was testing his consciousness and asked, Can you count backwards from 25? Rod said he told the doctor, “Can you?”
A year ago I started telling him what a fighter he was. “You are now in the two percent survival category.” I’d tell him, “Rod, for the first time in your life, you are in the top two percent of your class.”
He always loved that and would laugh loudly.
When I read Rod’s obituary, I had to chuckle. I knew he would. It says that I will be officiating. I know Rod would tell me I would have to wear a black and white striped shirt and bring a whistle if I were going to officiate.
I know that Rod doesn’t want anyone crying for him. He wants you to laugh.
I know that from now on anytime I think of Rod, I’ll laugh.
I’ll remember this story he told me not long ago.
He was in speech therapy the last few months. One day he handed a sheet to his daughter Emily and asked her to fill it out for him. She thought it was because he was having vision problems that day and dutifully filled it out for him. It wasn't until she handed it back to him that she realized: she had just done his speech therapy homework for him.
Same old Rod, to the very end.