Monthly Archives: September 2015

Art and Transformation

A dedicated group of artists and visionaries are transforming the lower level of the Tacketts Mill Shopping Center into a premier center for the arts.

The effort began a year ago when the team that oversees Tacketts Mill Center, LLC, formed an informal partnership with The Clearbrook Foundation to create a comfortable and stimulating Main Street environment which will encourage artists and creativity and provide a venue for music, visual arts, photography, literature, dance, theater and culinary arts.

So far the Foundation has funded the Poets Laureate positions in conjunction with local writers group Write by the Rails and the Prince William Council for the Arts, as well as hosting the ceremony that crowned the laureates.

Clearbrook has also sponsored an innovative “bench project.” After Eagle Scout candidate Sean Zylich of Troop 295 created a number of benches on which to display art, the Lake Ridge Rotary Club stepped in and took the project on as a fund raiser. Each bench features a visual artist from among other places, the Northern Virginia Community College Woodbridge Campus art department. These artists worked with a local business or individual to develop a design for the business. While bench sponsors do not own the bench, they do have a say in the design and will have their names listed on the bench along with that of the artist.

Here are some of the benches produced by various artists, four on the upper level and five down at the Lakeside.

Clearbrook Center of the Arts's photo.

This photo and those below by John Wooten.

Clearbrook Center of the Arts's photo.
Clearbrook Center of the Arts's photo.

Clearbrook Center of the Arts's photo.

The Center also hosts resident artists, including Nick Zimbro, who paints and creates collages in the Community Garden space using the entire wall space to transform the structure itself into a walk-in work of art.

Here are nine out of 10,000 square feet of artwork created by Zimbro and other artists a one of a kind installation housed within the Clearbrook Center.

Clearbrook Center of the Arts's photo.

Photos by Nick Zimbro.

 In addition, renowned sculptor Ken Faraoni, known for his larger than life bronze sculptures, recently relocated to Tackett’s Mill to create commissioned works and to contribute to the project. Most recently, Faraoni re-created Lynchburg’s Water Bearer, a zinc statue which stood atop the city reservoir for 134 years, deteriorating in the elements. Working in his Lake Ridge studio, Faraoni,took two years to remake the seven foot tall statue in bronze.
Here is a picture of Faroni and the statue during its restoration:
Ken with Lady
Thanks to Clearbrook Foundation, local artists and arts-minded residents, the Clearbrook Center of the Arts is well on its way to becoming a mecca for local lovers of the arts.


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Unheeded Warnings

Source: Unheeded Warnings

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Unheeded Warnings


Have you ever noticed how many people ignore warnings? Some of these warn of real danger such as “Bridge Out Ahead” or “Extreme Radiation: Do Not Enter.” These we ignore at great peril to ourselves and our health. But there are other warnings with less serious consequences which many of us habitually ignore.

Have you ever been in a restaurant (generally Mexican, but in others as well) and the server brings your order wearing oven gloves to hold the plate that is so hot it’s almost glowing? Now, the gloves could probably be used to catch red-hot rivets, but you know what the server says as he or she sets down the plate. That’s right: “Be careful: this plate is very very hot.”

And what do many of us (myself included) do, almost as an impulse? Yep, although the server has probably handled thousands of these dishes and can certainly feel the heat through layers of insulation and we can feel the warmth radiating off our order of tacos and beans, we just have to find out for ourselves. So, we put a finger on the plate and guess what? It’s hot! We almost raise a blister on our fingertip before we jerk it away and look around the table quickly to see if anyone noticed. Then we say something like, “Wow, that’s hot.” Surprise, surprise, surprise, and as my daughters used to say, “No duh, Daddy.”

I suppose we just don’t believe the poor overworked (but knowledgeable) server. Shame on us! Give them a big tip to compensate for your inattention or whatever. Just don’t hang out with blacksmiths.There’s a story told that a fellow visited the blacksmith one day. He was known for being a know-it-all, and when the blacksmith heated and pounded a horseshoe and then quenched it and put it, still extremely hot, on a rack to cool, his visitor wandered over and, although he had seen the piece of iron heated to a red-hot state, picked it up.

He dropped it instantly. “What’s the matter? Burn you?” the blacksmith asked.

“Naw,” said the man, sidling over to the tub of water so he could surreptitiously treat the second-degree burns on his fingers, “It don’t take me all day to look at a horseshoe.”

Another warning I habitually ignore with fewer consequences than-handling white hot objects are the couple of lines that pop up when the printer thinks I have exceeded the margins in a document, you know the ones that say, “Your Margins Are pretty small, some of the content you print may be cut off. Are you sure you want to print?” When I first saw this, I thought, that’s darned rude of you. Of course I’m sure I want to print. Why do you think I clicked on the big old icon that says “Print”? Initially I bustled around and changed my margins and printed away, but I found that my printer spoke with forked tongue. (Printers are, as far as I’m concerned, the spawn of Satan. You may have your own opinion about them, but I hope you agree with me.) The matter on the page does not exceed the area available for printing, thank you, so now I ignore the “warning.” Apparently this little notice is courtesy of our printer, not our word processing program, so if you have a problem with that, invite your printer to step outside where you’ll either change the settings or take an ax to it (pace, Office Space). Your choice. I don’t fool with it since installing the silly thing was hard enough. That’s what needs the warning label, something like “Caution: Installing this printer will cause you to lose your temper, your religion and your mind (in that order). Think about taking your documents to a friend or office store to have them printed.”

Of course they don’t say that, but they should. I spent six hours on the phone with the support guys from Canon to get my printer to connect via wi fi. When it stopped connecting about six months later, I got a big old CAT cable and wired it up. Easy, simple, and reliable. Sometimes old school is the only one to attend, in spite of what the Millennials say. Hand me that flip phone, will you?

My other nominee for an ignored or useless warning is the bit engraved into the right-hand side mirror of cars in the U.S., Canada and India (make up your own joke about an American, Canadian and Indian walking into a bar. As for me, I got nothin’. I’m too busy changing the world with this writing.) You know what it says: “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” Well, duh again. Anyone who has been around a car for five minutes could figure this one out without a warning. Some safety group (I suspect OSHA) apparently thinks we have the intelligence of a lug nut and has taken it on itself to save us from ourselves. Well, thanks but no thanks, people. We got this one. We look in the mirror and say “Dang!” (if we are from the South),”Those cars look itty-bitty to me. They must be driven by Barbie or one of her friends. Lookit that, will you?” Then the car pulls alongside and we see that neither is the car a microminiature and nor does the driver look like Barbie but bears a disturbing resemblance to the Wicked Witch of Your Favorite Locale. Ewwwww!

We’re disappointed by this, but we’ve learned a lesson: don’t believe everything the government has written on your car except maybe for the warnings about hot coolant and the potential of receiving a massive shock from the battery. Those can sting you. Ask me how I know. I blew up a battery in my face once, which accounts for the way I look. But the burns faded after about a week, but I still have nightmares about being chased by a big AC-Delco three-year replacement. It’s horrible. I don’t want to write about it any more.

So, remember, it’s a jungle out there, but there are plenty of warning signs. The trick is figuring out which ones to take seriously. Good luck, and remember to call when you get there.

Oh–before I go, here’s a joke without a punch line. Put your punch line in the comments section here or on Facebook and I’ll think of something nice to give you that’s not too expensive. I’m not your rich uncle after all. Thanks for playing!

A Canadian, an Indian and an American walked into a bar. They each ordered a drink, and the bartender said, “What do you want to watch, fellas?”

The Canadian said, “I would like to watch du ‘ockey!”

The American said, “A little baseball would be nice.”

And the Indians said, “How about some cricket?”

And the bartender said, => Your punchline here! Win a not-so-fabulous prize! You can do it!

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I just did something I swore I would never do

Source: I just did something I swore I would never do

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I just did something I swore I would never do

Colleen shows exceptional courage and insight as she shares the details of what can only be described as a horrible nightmare. She is an exceptional writer and incredible human being.

A Change of Heart

I applied for unemployment benefits in the state of Virginia. I told myself I  had little choice. I did not want to admit to myself that I felt ashamed, and that going through some of the documents my former principal filed against me brought back the helplessness, hopelessness and stark fear of mid-March to mid-April 2015. Those were the weeks she attacked me in some fashion every day, in ways large and small that would be comical if the stakes were not so high.Virginia Employment Commission

I am blogging this,  deeply personal and painful as it is, because otherwise I am providing only a selective picture of my life as a teacher. The consequences of those 15 or so business days during which my ex-principal worked very hard to rid herself of me will likely take a toll on my professional life for a while. I am not ready to think about how long…

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Three Small Poems for an Early Autumn Evening

Early Autumn Landscape
He* said of a carnival, “There were tents within tents,”
And an exotic bazaar swam into my field of vision,
Monkeys in one tent,
Bright tropical birds in the next,
And jewels of untold worth in another,
And line after line of tents within tents,
Receding one after another after another
Like the multiplied reflections of
Facing mirrors.


She* wrote, “The falcon bullets the sky at 200 mph,”
And my thoughts cry with the falcon, “Paradox! Paradox!
A bullet travels about 1500 mph
Reality says that a falcon is not a bullet
(That much is obvious).
But Metaphor floats to the surface
And rejoices in this truth about the raptor:
That falcon is fast.


He* wrote, “Some XXL customer broke through a 5/4″ deck board,”
And I am pleased by the term “XXL”
And the use of a clothing size to describe a large person.
I have a quick video play in my head of an XXL, drink in hand,
Standing on the deck
And suddenly breaking through,
Gone as if that tremendous bulk
Never existed.
I also like the appearance of “5/4.”
Because it is an improper fraction,
It engages my sympathy,
A charming but naughty boy among numbers,
Standing fast with his sister
The irrational number.

Dan Verner

September 6, 2015

1.* My son-in-law and GMU librarian Chris Magee.
2.* My friend and writer Colleen LaMay.
3.* My brother and retired Delta Airlines pilot Ron Verner.

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