Difficult women.

I’m pretty much done caring about the Jill Abramson story, but in looking at various photos of her today, I think I recognize something in her — the late-middle-age don’t-give-a-fuck woman. She has three tattoos, she rides in the back of pickup trucks. She’s “brusque.” She obviously hasn’t had any face work done, or seems to pay a great deal of attention to her hair and makeup. She went riding with the Knight-Wallace Fellows, in Argentina. The gauchos take you galloping across the pampas on unreliable horses. It’s a hot, sweaty, dusty experience that leaves you all three of those things, and it’s pretty glorious.

A woman after my own heart.

I’m recognizing this period looming in my life. My daughter is ready to fly the coop; in a year she’ll be a legal adult and she already acts like one. I told people that if the bankruptcy judge allowed a single piece of art to be sold from the Detroit Institute of Art, I would get a detail from “Detroit Industry” tattooed on my back, and dammit, I might do it. I’ve considered, in the last few months: Taking a hip-hop/ballroom/belly dance class, buying a Cadillac or maybe an El Camino, selling the house and getting a loft in a shitty neighborhood, selling my great-aunt’s silver because what the fuck am I doing with it. I’ve stopped trying to perfect the pomegranate martini in favor of two fingers of Bulleit rye, neat. In other words, this may be the last period of my life that resembles youth before old age arrives, so why not? Sooner or later the grave will take us all; do you really want to die never having owned a $170 bra made in France?

The day the bus broke down, I was drawing near my office on my bike and thought, somewhat sheepishly, Dorthea Nall would never, ever do this. On the other hand, Dorthea Nall held a full-time job when the other mothers stayed home. Most of her friends were years younger than she was and even when she was old, she was never old, if you get my meaning. So she may well have ridden a bike to work in Detroit, too. She just didn’t get the chance.

In more other words, I have to say, there’s a lot to recommend being a difficult woman. Abramson will land on her feet, and in the meantime, she can say she never curbed her brusqueness to satisfy a Sulzberger.

And with that, I’m drawing this curtain. Story’s already played.

I just registered Kate for the ACT, her second try. Her first try gave her a very good score, excellent even, but we must try again, because one or two more points might open a magical door to a money source. All I can think, as I hand my credit card over, is this: Education in this country is effed. Totally.

But this is a good problem to have. As we go into the weekend, I leave you with this amusing commencement speech that no one actually gave:

There are so many terrible pop songs out there now that babble on about being true to yourself and loving you for you. And because young people are stupid, they buy into that shit and distort it and come to the misguided notion that having high self-esteem means never acknowledging that you have a shitload to work on. Take it from me. Whenever I get pissed, I usually kick the wall or throw something. And when my wife says that I shouldn’t have to do that, you know what my excuse is? That’s just who I am. That is the shittiest excuse in history, and people use it all the time. Oh hey, I’ll be three hours late to your wedding. SORRY THAT’S JUST WHO I AM. Not only does that mean you suck, it actually romanticizes your sucking. You actually expect people to be charmed by your suckage. That’s a cool trick!

Happy weekend, all. It won’t crack 70 degrees here.

Posted at 12:30 am in Media |

37 responses to “Difficult women.”

  1. Danny said on May 16, 2014 at 1:12 am

    Nice commencement speech. That guy is my new life coach.

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  2. Deborah said on May 16, 2014 at 3:01 am

    If I ever get a tattoo it would be an image of a bee or wasp, actual size. I don’t think I will ever get one though, I’m kind of a chicken.

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  3. Dexter said on May 16, 2014 at 3:40 am

    Good call on the Diego Rivera works tatted onto your back, nance.
    I spent thirty years reading and romanticizing the origins of the United Auto Workers Union that I paid dues to. I never rose any higher in the union than local trustee and I was a local shop/floor steward for many years. In 1987 I read in the Free Press about the 50th anniversary of the Great Sitdown Strike of 1937 and the parade and celebration in Flint, so on my own dime I took my family there to see it. There were still a few surviving strikers left then, and they were in convertibles. Governor Jim Blanchard waved to us from a convertible as well. Flint had recently opened a “festival marketplace” downtown, there were hundreds of uniformed cops, 2 X 2, everywhere, so it was safe, nice day.
    Near the old Flint Autoworld museum, a mural of working people on the job was being finished. It was a mosaic , it was small and beautiful, and I have no idea what happened to it. Seeing those old Sitdowners in the present was an emotional touchstone in my life, I suppose as big as when I saw Mickey Mantle when I was a kid, or when I saw the Stanley Cup being paraded up Woodward in 1997…just stuff that makes memories that give you a warm feeling on a cold May night many years later.
    Here’s my future tattoo…maybe…

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  4. beb said on May 16, 2014 at 8:25 am

    …do you really want to die never having owned a $170 bra made in France?

    I think I speak for all men when I say “No.”

    Actually, I suppose there are some men who would want to. In any case who am I to judge.

    How does one afford college these days. When I was growing up it was possible to work your way through college. Not any more. Is it because the pay for temporary summer work has gotten so bad, or have colledges become so much more expensive? I would be interesting to see a breakdown of expenses to operate a college in 1970 and in 2010. Are administrator being paid too much? Are there too many administrators? Are professors paid too much or are they getting paid while TA’s do all the real work?

    I read this morning that Jill Abramson was paid 80,000+ dollars less than her predecessor. I don’t know how that compares in tems of percentages, but as someone who makes less than that each year, I see that as a B-I-G pay cut.

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  5. Joe Kobiela said on May 16, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Shouldn’t that be yes?
    Just curious if she was paid less than her predecessor in respect to her seniority.
    Pilot Joe

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  6. Heather said on May 16, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Unsurprising to me, but emblematic of the attitude toward older women in power, were the inevitable comments about Abramson’s appearance. She failed in our gender’s primary task: looking f*ckable. I personally think she kind of looks like Jenny Agutter, who is currently starring in “Call the Midwife”:https://www.google.com/search?q=jenny+agutter&client=firefox-a&hs=3QK&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=Xhp2U_7KLMyCqgbJxYCABw&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAQ&biw=1280&bih=636

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  7. Suzanne said on May 16, 2014 at 10:24 am

    Interesting to note the comments about Abramson’s appearance but no similar comments that I’ve seen about Donald Sterling’s likeness to a dried apple wearing a rust tinted wig.

    College is like healthcare in that it’s becoming too expensive for most people to access. It kills me that one of my kids will have several tens of thousands of debt racked up and now can’t find a job. I worked retail, factory, and library during various summers and could basically pay my way. My one child worked at GM one summer making $20+ per hour and overtime, and that paid for one semester tuition at a state school. I’m not sure what the answer is, but the system right now is unsustainable.

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  8. coozledad said on May 16, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Sulzberger’s newspaper has systemic problems that would take actual justifiable firings to fix. The fact that Bill Keller was paid more than Abramson is a big problem, certainly, because in retrospect his wages should have been garnished for journalistic malfeasance. He was a fucking tool, working for Dick Cheney whether he knew it or not. Judith Miller knew exactly who was cutting all of her paychecks.

    Sulzberger likes tools and voices of conventional wisdom so much he’s loaded the paper down with them. Firing Douthat, Friedman, Modo and Brooks would have freed up some real money to pay Abramson, and made for a better paper.

    At this point I’m surprised they haven’t picked up Ron Fournier so they can commence sucking Jeb Bush’s squat bluish pud, stat. Quick fellas! Git on that little soldier!

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  9. Mark P said on May 16, 2014 at 10:42 am

    Beb — you beat me to it. I don’t really want a $170 bra, made in France or elsewhere. But, as you say, who am I to judge?

    Being old is so freeing. You can do all sorts of things and not care what anybody else thinks. The only problem is that sometimes you really don’t feel up to doing all those sorts of things any more.

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  10. Charlotte said on May 16, 2014 at 11:26 am

    I feel really lucky to have been raised by those formidable older horse-show ladies. Talk about not giving a f*ck. They were physically brave, emotionally reserved (sometimes to the detriment of their children), and believed that as long as they were clad in appropriate attire made from nice material, it was all good. My favorite was Mrs. Potter, who wore the same black velvet sheath dress to so many parties over the years that the nap was famously worn off in the bum. She was richer than god and couldn’t give a flying fig. My models …

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  11. alex said on May 16, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Interesting to note the comments about Abramson’s appearance but no similar comments that I’ve seen about Donald Sterling’s likeness to a dried apple wearing a rust tinted wig.

    Suzanne for the win.

    My favorite was Mrs. Potter, who wore the same black velvet sheath dress to so many parties over the years that the nap was famously worn off in the bum.

    I had a velvet smoking jacket when I was fresh out of college and the same thing happened to it, except that I didn’t have a clue until I wore it once in front of a houseful of company buck nekkid underneath.

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  12. beb said on May 16, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    alex, I didn’t know smoking jackets extended that far down. At least they won’t forget you.

    And the latest foot in the mouth about Abramson is that she was fired in part becausse she brought a lawyer with her to talk about her underpayment. Another “pushy” action that only women get blamed for.

    Pilot Joe, you’re probably right that the correct answer is “yes” but I think most people get that, too, what I said “no.”

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  13. Dexter said on May 16, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Don’t forget to scrub out the taint!

    The Spirit of Detroit

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  14. BigHank53 said on May 16, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Beb, college cost inflation can be traced to several causes. There are a lot more administrators now. (In their defense, there are a lot more things to keep track of nowaday, but there do seem to be a great deal of administrative chicks crowding the nest.) There’s amenity bloat, where campuses try to lure undergraduates with climbing walls and dorms with room service. By far the biggest driver of cost increases has been the various states defunding their public universities because you-know-which political party spends every waking hour screaming about taxes.

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  15. Basset said on May 16, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Back to yesterday’s music links for a minute – I was impressed, reminds me of the Stooges and in one place Uriah Heep, which in turn led to about a twenty-minute sidetrack into Heep history. And I was never even a fan.

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  16. Alan Stamm said on May 16, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    I slip past the drawn curtain to relay a young journalist’s experience that echoes yours during the 2003-04 fellowship:

    “I was a fellow at the Women in Journalism Symposium last fall in Essex, Vermont. Jill was our conference’s keynote speaker. She stayed the whole weekend, made herself available to everyone and gave some incredible (and completely candid) advice. She talked about Snowden, critiques of her editing style, and how she approaches breaking news now.

    “I was an editor at the time, only 24 years old. Abramson’s advice and honesty impressed everyone. It was a big deal for the young women in the audience.” — Arielle Stevenson of St. Petersburg, Fla., quoted by Jim Romenesko [http://bit.ly/1qJeFiM]

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  17. brian stouder said on May 16, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    I shall task our 15 year old with the download of the tunes from the squad of assassins of vipers which are deadly.

    Meanwhile, the end-of-school-year is upon us, and we have a number of graduation parties to attend, including our own 18 year old’s…and really, it IS wonderful stuff.

    Grant had had a time with the ACT test; the kid has all A’s, and this with several AP courses, and his ACT scores are good – but not what he was wanting.

    Meanwhile, our 9 year old is finishing with her Montessori cluster (a 3-year deal) and will be in a new one next year (and for the next 3 years), and today was VIP day, wherein the students invite one person to come to their class. She bestowed that honor upon me this year, which was very nice. They put on a play, and then we visited the book fair (buy one, get one free), and then an exhibit of upper-class projects on various graphic artists and designers.

    I learned that Vera Wang was a tennis player, and came to clothes/accessories design later in life; and there was a very nice display on Frank Lloyd Wright and on Stan Lee and on John James Audobon – and many others…all in all, quite engrossing.

    Yup; I was ‘that guy’ who had to be dragged out of there by my exasperated daughter….but it was good stuff, indeed.

    And aside from Dorothea Nall, I sometimes wonder how Herb Stouder (my grandpa) or Aunt Ethel (who rode the interurban into town and back to their Roanoke/Aboite farm each day, to work at “the GE” (all through the second world war, and beyond) would react to some of the silly stuff that bothers me.

    Maybe one o’ these days, they’ll tell me

    Life really is funny, in many respects.

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  18. alex said on May 16, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Tonight rubbed shoulders with the rabble, quite literally, on a barstool at an Italian eatery on the suburban northeast side. Had I just made snap judgments of those around me I might have left the place feeling more enchanted and content with the world. To my immediate right were a man and woman whom I took at first blush to be a flaming theater queen and a fag hag. It was well into their conversation with the people to their immediate right, a fat old guy with a silver mullet and his botoxed brunette-colored spouse, that it became obvious that mister sissy and his dumpy dinner partner were man and wife, and all four were right-wing freaks talking the worst sort of gibberish. (I guess the theater hullabaloo that first caught my attention was really about some church role-playing stuff at CHRP, a Catholic retreat thing where people play-act confession instead of talking through a glory hole like the old days.) Mr. Mullet-head made some snide remark about our country’s failed leadership under you-know-who and Mr. Sissy-ho chimed in, with a big smile, “Well, that makes you a racist, you know.” So Mr. Mullet responded that he pleads guilty as charged if hating that %$@!!! makes one a racist. His spouse with the discount face-job mentioned that she was a social worker — a hospital social worker — and the conversation of course turned to the takers versus the makers. After Mullet and Botox checked out, I ended up being engaged in conversation with Miss-ter Thang and Wife. Wifey works for the company from which my dad retired, and she’s actually not half stupid — business degree, anyway — but her nitsy husband was so full of Fox News talking points it was hard to have a real conversation about anything and I could see that even she was embarrassed. They were bitching about the high cost of college, especially for their daughter who insisted on going to a high-price liberal arts school in Ohio (out of state), then deciding she wanted to be a nurse after getting her ridiculous liberal arts degree.

    Home now with a sick headache.

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  19. Dexter said on May 17, 2014 at 1:54 am

    Fun stuff to read, Alex.
    We had a take-out chicken dinner , because I fucked-up the little restaurant dinner we had planned when I got tangled up in my own cut-off sweat pants and old work boots I was wearing when mowing, came in for a lemonade, left with the dogs, and fell down two concrete steps and crashed hard into the driveway. My old instincts from high school football and basketball kicked in so I fell the best way I could, and all I got was a skinned knee and a left side bruised ribcage, which hurts like hell. Last time I did anything like that I was drunk as hell on boilermakers and I fell down a flight of stairs, just like a bad movie scene. I figure that must have been about 1983. Sheesh, sometimes accidents happen. I seem to be OK, no peeing blood , no headaches, just these bruised ribs.

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  20. Deborah said on May 17, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Ouch, Dexter, sounds painful. Rest easy.

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  21. Charlotte said on May 17, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Thoughtful take on the Abramson thing, from a friend of Natalie Nougayrède who was also booted as editor of Le Monde last week — http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/editing-while-female-jill-abramson-106782.html

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  22. Dexter said on May 17, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Thanks, Deborah…slept well, not so bad with the pain today, I guess I’m OK.

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  23. LAMary said on May 17, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    I have never owned a bra that cost 170 dollars. I have owned bras that ranged from very cheap to fairly expensive and I will tell you without hesitation the expensive ones are so much nicer. In every way.

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  24. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 18, 2014 at 7:21 am

    Charlotte, I greatly appreciate the Politico article by Susan Glasser. Not to skip past the sexism part of the problem, which is clearly the lead element, but I related to a great deal of what Glasser was saying about her own situation, and the particular ways an entrenched system pushes back against leadership even when they’re called in explicitly to promote and implement change. I know a number of both female and male younger clergy who have said they have no interest in trying to help the institutional church navigate these waters of transformation, because they see all too clearly what your own leaders will do to you after you start doing what they asked you to do. So they, like Glasser, say they’d rather invent than reinvent, and believe that their time and energy is better spent starting fresh and with no organizational protocols to renegotiate, even though there are hazards enough in going out beyond support AND accountability structures. But two years into a turnaround congregation, I understand why. You get attacked quietly, whisperingly, and personally, because they can’t argue the specific merits of what you’re doing (bringing in new people, streamlining processes, updating technology and communications and personnel practices) since it’s exactly what they told you to do. And I’m certain a female 52 year old pastor who had done exactly what I’ve done to date here would be struggling today with more crippling wounds internally than I am, only because there’s a certain (but not entire) reticence to attacking a 6’5″ white male with a loud voice and lack of deference.

    And I suspect that at the NYT or Glasser’s Post it was also the case that most of the tsouris and kvetching was a small, previously privileged, nearly out-to-pasture clot of folks who are acting out from a largely unconscious, purely personal reaction to seeing how they’ve always done business get changed, plus the sad inevitability of one or two people joining them who should support the change agent, but are getting snippy largely because they tried to accomplish the same things and failed, and it’s eats at them that they couldn’t get it done themselves. But never let the whispering gallery convince you they are the “many people say” that they want to convince you they are. And shame on media reporters who get sucked into believing it and repeating that it is indeed “many people” when it’s just a flailing rear guard who are going to pull the house down around their own ears should they get their own clueless way.

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  25. Deborah said on May 18, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Charlotte, that was an excellent Politico link. I would add Design Directing as female to the list. That is design directing as female in an architecture firm. Architecture is very much an old man’s game. It’s changing, but very, very slowly.

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  26. Bill said on May 18, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Nice warm (71) sunny day in Chicago. I’m waiting for Nancy’s boat in the water pictures.

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  27. MarkH said on May 18, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Deborah, looked for you on CBS Sunday Morning today. They were based out of Santa Fe and did a few features on the area.

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  28. Deborah said on May 18, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Mark H, I’m in Chicago, have been here since the end of april. I will be going back to Santa Fe in June. Today is a lovely day in Chicago as Bill said, I just got back from a long walk. There are starting to be boats on the lake, so pleasant to see the white sails against the blue, blue water.

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  29. Jolene said on May 18, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    Can any of you (current or former) newspaper types explain the difference between an executive editor and a managing editor. I understand the difference in rank, but am curious about the difference in responsibilities. Am also curious about whether these roles exist at smaller newspapers.

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  30. beb said on May 18, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Went to see the Samurai exhibit at the DIA then drove around Belle Isle looking for changes since becoming a state park. So far the only thing I’ve seem is a proliferation of trash cans along the roads to make it easier for people to keep the island clean. The western half of the island is currently fenced off for the Grande Prix.

    There were a lot of bikers on the island and along Jefferson St. heading up to the Grosse Pointes. It was a nice day for biking, mid-sixties with a lot of sun.

    And since it wasn’t raining I mowed the yard.

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  31. basset said on May 18, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Yardwork today. Hung a planter off the deck, ripped out some English ivy along my fenceline, that stuff is evil… transplanted a few tomatoes then got cleaned up and pulled out the mandolin to practice with one of my buds for our annual appearance at the church picnic.

    Actually it’s a pretty big event, been going since 1854… they cook up ten and a half tons of barbecue and 4200 chicken halves, worth the trip just to eat:


    I have always been able to speak in public but music is a different situation, a few years ago I decided to conquer it and got us a place on the program as a duet, guitar, mandolin, and both of us singing. had played there with a bluegrass band a few times but with just two of you there’s nowhere to hide, either man up and go for it or stay home. as Brendan Behan used to say, “die dog or shite the licence.”

    It went over, last couple of years we have been a trio and they ask us back every year so I guess it’s not too bad.

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  32. Dexter said on May 18, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Dual dog walks for me, one by the Tiffin River banks and one in my regular spot, a county-owned field, full of clover and gone-to-seed dandelions.
    I casually monitored the sports on the TV, Pacers beat Heat, Black Hawks beat Kings, Reds were slaughtered by Phillies, and I listened to the Giants beat the Marlins on the XM radio. Now for a sunset bicycle ride…got to get my butt crackin’!

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  33. Jolene said on May 18, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    Congratulations on finding your musical courage, Basset.

    Ten and a half tons of barbecue! Very impressive.

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  34. nancy said on May 18, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    Jolene, in general the executive editor is the suit at the top, and the managing editor is the shirtsleeves just below him or her. An exec editor deals with the publisher, speaks to the rotary club, sometimes writes a column on Sunday. The managing editor runs the news meetings and wrangles with the metro editor about what he has coming for Tuesday.

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  35. Jolene said on May 18, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    But it seems to be, at least in part, her interactions with staff that led to Abramson’s dismissal. Perhaps, in addition to planning to hire a co-managing editor and thus undermining Baquet, she was getting in his way in other ways as well. Also, it’s been reported that Sulzberger was frustrated by the amount of limelight-seeking she was doing; perhaps her Rotary speeches were a bit too much for the glory of Jill rather than the glory of the NYT.

    I am, actually, fascinated by the fact that she went as far as she did given what you very kindly described as her voice for print. As least part of being an effective reporter and editor must involve being someone that people find appealing to speak to. Although it may seem mean to say so, I wouldn’t have lasted five minutes in a room with that voice coming out of the person asking the questions or chairing the meeting.

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  36. Joe Kobiela said on May 18, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    Slept in till 8, went out for a 6 mile run, ate breakfast and read the paper, mowed grass, then road my bike up town and met the wife and oldest daughter at the discover downtown Auburn fest, daughter is the director of the geniolagy center, so we helped hand out flyers, got home and road the bike some more with the wife, then watched the hawks beat the kings, currently sitting at Dulles int waiting on some mechanics to fix a jet and haul them back to Dayton.
    Pilot Joe

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  37. Basset said on May 18, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    Thanks, Jolene… quite good pork barbecue too, we generally buy enough sauce to last us till the next picnic. Never had the chicken, it sells out Friday night.

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