Center stripe — outside Burlington, N.C., October 2013
Center stripe — outside Burlington, N.C., October 2013
Shadows and light — Boone, N.C., May 2017
Curtains drawn — Asheville, N.C., February 2017
Angel looks homeward — Asheville, N.C., February 2017
Bank vault — Durham, June 2015
Early morning — outside Boone, N.C., May 2017
Simpler times — Boone, N.C., May 2017
Broken bus — Meat Camp, N.C., May 2017
Murals and shadows — Boone, N.C., May 2017
The six Cook-McFarland cousins have not all been together in more than four years, so it was great to have everyone (including Conner, Nick's significant other) in the same place this past weekend in Boone for Jill's family reunion. These pics show they were quick to pick up where they left off...
To see more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
The Hodges-Love family reunion drew about 50 people to Oak Grove Baptist Church in Boone over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. It brought together family members from Jill's maternal grandparents, many of whom we haven't seen in years. Here are a few photos; the rest can be seen in my Facebook album here.
Meanwhile, as part of the event, I took a series of shots of old family photos to display in the room. Below is one; you can see the rest by going to this link in the VIsual Storytelling section of the website.
I've had the kids on the brain this morning, particularly thinking about the pyramid picture I took of the six first cousins in Boone over Memorial Day. I wanted to recreate the pyramids the kids did in their youth and (after much cajoling/negotiation) managed to get them to recreate this one from Memorial Day weekend nine years earlier.
Twilight on the Outer Banks — near Duck, N.C., October 2015
Ruling the roost on Chicken Alley — Asheville, N.C., February 2017
Black & White Week: Ready for a wedding — Goldsboro, N.C., May 2017
Granny's hats — from Boone, N.C., but shot in Lorton, Va., in March 2017
Stairwell at the Biltmore House — Asheville, N.C., February 2017
When my oldest son moved to North Carolina as a toddler, we lived less than a mile from the American Tobacco Company plant. Today, Nicholas still lives in North Carolina, just a mile from the place that was home to the cigarette maker’s primary headquarters.
But times have changed greatly over the last two decades for everyone involved, in oh so many ways.
For me, the move from my native Texas to Reidsville, N.C., in 1993 represented a huge personal and career risk. Over the eight years I lived there, life as I knew it took a series of seismic shifts. I got a divorce, met the love of my life, remarried, had three kids in a calendar year, bought a house, changed careers and found lifelong friends.
I also saw a town and region face a series of seismic shifts of its own, as its economic drivers — mainly textiles and tobacco — left either gradually or almost entirely during that time.
A few months after I took over as managing editor at The Reidsville Review, the town’s largest employer was sold by its parent company. More than 1,000 employees — almost 10 percent of Reidsville’s population — lost their jobs because the American Tobacco Company was no more. Today, the plant that once employed more than 1,500 people and dominated the northern part of the town is only a shell of itself, with only a handful of workers plying their trade for a company that sells cigarettes in foreign markets.
Several years earlier, in 1987, American Brands closed the American Tobacco factory on Blackwell Street in downtown Durham. This, combined with declines in the textile industry, was a huge blow to the town on many levels; the company had been founded by the Duke family after which the university nearby is named.
For more than a decade, the tobacco campus remained vacant, a gigantic hole in the center of town. But in 2004, the Capitol Broadcasting Company started a $200 million renovation effort that has led to both an economic and cultural renaissance in the city’s downtown area.
The American Tobacco Campus, as it is now known, is home to office space, restaurants, and entertainment venues. The Durham Bulls Athletic Park, one of the nicest minor league baseball stadiums in the country, is adjacent to the campus, as is the Durham Performing Arts Center, the largest of its kind in North or South Carolina. The area attracts more than 2 million visitors a year.
Today, small businesses form a strong restaurant and entertainment district throughout the downtown area, luring back 20-somethings like my oldest son and his girlfriend to Durham, where they live in a converted textile factory about a mile from the American Tobacco campus.
Durham is cool — not Kool — again.
The past two decades have not been as kind to Reidsville, located in a rural area just north of Greensboro about 60 miles from Durham. Like many former factory communities across the nation, Rockingham County has struggled economically, and is facing a population decline.
The tale is all too familiar. Within a decade after the Reidsville plant was sold, The Review was a shell of itself as well. Started in 1888, around the same time that American Tobacco came into being, it has been sold twice since 1997, consolidated with two other community newspapers, and seen its frequency cut from daily to twice a week.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve gone back through Reidsville during my trips to North Carolina. On one recent trip, I went past The Review building and the former American Tobacco plant and thought again of how their fates — caused by an almost simultaneous explosion of the Internet and the new global economy — seemed intertwined and in some ways interchangeable.
Say what you will about big tobacco, and there’s plenty to say about that, but there’s no denying that the collateral damage caused by any major industry going through rapid decline has generational impacts. I’ve seen this first hand in journalism, my chosen field, with overworked staffs in small and midsized newspapers being sliced to the bone as the institutions that served communities for decades consolidated or closed entirely. Too many of my colleagues, hard working people with an invested interest in their community’s future, present and past, have found themselves out of work and scrambling to make ends meet.
When I moved to North Carolina, I took some time to revisit You Can’t Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe, the state’s most famous author. I thought again of that book as I drove by the three houses and apartment where I lived, marveling at the snail’s pace in which small towns change, and recalling the tumultuous times that so dramatically changed my path.
It is a place, like my hometown, that will always be part of my history. And my son’s.
To see more photos from this essay, go to my Facebook album here.
Bar lights — Durham, N.C., February 2017
Model T. Ford — Asheville, N.C., February 2017
Covered bridge outside Hickory, N.C. — September 2016
Sun breaking through — Asheville, N.C., February 2017
Stone at the Grove Park Inn — Asheville, N.C., February 2017
Two more photographs that appear in "Road Show," my exhibit at the Workhouse Arts Center that ends with the Collector's Showcase fundraiser this Saturday. Both photos have appeared here before.
The first, taken in October in Paris, is what you see when you look up from the ground at the Eiffel Tower. The second, "Congregation of Bees," was taken during a visit to Durham, N.C., last summer.
I hope you'll consider going to the exhibit before it closes. If you're interested in the Collectors Showcase event, go towww.workhousearts.org.
Posted before. Appropriate for today — Durham, July 2016
Bonus Photo: Saw this while on a Valentine's Day bar/restaurant/shopping crawl with my lovely wife, in Asheville, N.C., no less. Great way to continue the 20th anniversary tour!
Three "Daily Photos," all featured in Road Show, my exhibit now at the Workhouse Arts Center. Go see my show, now through March 4 on the second floor of Building 16.
Rest Stop — June 2016
Nottoway, Va., is about halfway between our home in Lorton and Greensboro, N.C., where my oldest son lived when he was a child. The Nottoway Motel, located just off Interstate 85, was a pickup/dropoff point for a number of years. Still heavily rural, the area now has a combination gas station/Subway/ Dunkin' Donuts just off the interstate, but the motel and a cafe remain open. Last June, while going to see Nicholas in Durham, I stopped by the motel and captured this picture.
Natural Geyser — Caribou County, Idaho
Last August, on a day trip from Salt Lake City to the Grand Tetons, I saw a sign pointing me to this natural geyser, which goes off every hour on the hour in Caribou County, Idaho. I stopped, waited until it fired up again, and snapped this photo.
Covered Bridge — Claremont, N.C.
Located just outside Hickory off Interstate 40, the 85-foot Bunker Hill Covered Bridge is one of only two remaining in North Carolina. Spanning Lyle's Creek, the bridge was designed by well-known Civil War engineer Herman Haupt. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This photo was taken in September 2016.
Distillery tour — Durham, N.C., December 2016
Photos of Ivy, taken in November during a workshop for dancers in Reidsville, N.C., are now up on my website at http://glenncook.virb.com/ivy. If you are interested in scheduling a combination of master classes in dance and headshots for your students, contact me to talk through the possibilities.
The Daily Photo is back, and it's 5 o'clock somewhere — Durham, N.C., December 2016
Recently, I've started uploading a series of headshots and photos taken this fall. Check out these of Lauren at http://glenncook.virb.com/lauren-nc, taken during a recent trip to Hickory, N.C.
Another set of headshots from a recent trip to Hickory, N.C., are now up on the website. Check out these pictures and others of Elizabeth at http://glenncook.virb.com/elizabeth.
A huge word of thanks to the students and staff at Academy of Dance in Reidsville, N.C., for bringing us in for a day of master classes, headshots and dance photography this past weekend.
My son, Ben, taught back-to-back classes and talked to students at the studio about his experiences as a working actor. I took headshots, did an "Art & Dance" session with several students, and talked to parents about challenges of raising a child in show business.
This is the second of these types of sessions we have done this fall. If you are interested in bringing us in for your studio, send an email to email@example.com.
Surprised the oldest on his birthday yesterday in Durham. It's the first birthday we've spent together since 2009.
We're having a quiet Thanksgiving at home, quite the contrast to years past. Feeling nostalgic with Ben, Emma, and Kate here together for the first time in months, I started going through old photos of past Thanksgivings.
A few things I noticed during our visual time travel:
• Over the last 20 years, we've had Thanksgiving dinner in at least 7 different cities in four states.
• Only two years (2001 and 2014) are not represented in this album. We were just moving into our home in Lorton in November 2001 and in 2014 we had just the girls here for a low-key Thanksgiving.
• After 2003, we didn't have Thanksgiving at home until 2013. Since then, we've been at home for three of the last four years.
• The last Thanksgiving all six McFarland/Cook first cousins were together was in 2012. They've only all been together a handful of times since. The last time all of the Cook/Ghirardi cousins were together was at my dad's funeral in 2007.
Going back through these photos was fun experience. Some years were easier than others — no surprise given that December is the month of birthdays. At times we were celebrating new opportunities; at others we were mourning those we had lost.
But all it takes is one quick look, and you can see why I give thanks every day for the life we have together.
Academy of Dance in Reidsville, N.C., holds a special place in my heart because it’s where our daughter Kate took her first dance lessons at the age of 2. Seventeen years later, Ben and I returned so he could teach two master classes and talk to students about being a performer.
Earlier in the day, I took headshots of the kids as well as this addition to the “Art & Dance” series. Later, while Ben was teaching, I spoke to parents about the work it takes to help an aspiring performer navigate the professional world.
It was a fun day, an opportunity to help others, and a chance to reminisce. It also produced some really good pictures…
Covered bridge — outside Hickory, N.C., September 2016
One love — Durham, N.C., July 2016
Congregation of bees — Durham, N.C., July 2016
Photos taken of three dancers and Ben that were part of a weekend of master classes and shoots earlier this month in Hickory, N.C. The girls are students at Sonya's Dance Academy. The photos were taken in downtown and at the Bunker Hill covered bridge.
We also held a Sunday morning shoot at a railroad yard featuring some, though not all of the teenage dancers from Sonya's Dance Academy. The shoot produced an interesting set of images, and a whole lot of fun for everyone involved.
Bunker Hill covered bridge — Claremont, N.C., September 2016
A huge thanks to the staff, students, and parents at Sonya's Dance Academy who took part in a weekend-long series of photo shoots, master classes, and workshops recently in Hickory, N.C.
My son, Ben, taught two hour-long dance classes and talked to the students about his evolution from child to adult actor/performer. Meanwhile, I scheduled a series of mini-sessions with students for headshots, and spent more than an hour with parents talking about raising a young professional in the performing arts. Finally, we did a series of "Art & Dance" shoots, for which the photos will be coming shortly.
If your studio or group is interested in putting together this type of package, please contact me via Facebook message or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Religious graffiti — Chapel Hill, N.C., May 2016
Glass figurines — Durham, N.C., August 2015
Tombstone at the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery — Chapel Hill, N.C., May 2016
Angry cloud — Durham, N.C., July 2016
Proof that irony isn't dead — Standstill traffic in Tally Ho, N.C., July 2016
A weekend with my oldest son, Nicholas, and his girlfriend Conner in Durham, N.C. led to a walk around downtown and a series of fun photos of a cute couple. To see more, go to my Facebook album here.
Shadows and sunlight — Durham, N.C., July 2016
License plate collection — Durham, N.C., July 2016
Post-game fireworks — Durham, N.C., July 2016
Hanging from the rafters — Chapel Hill, N.C., May 2016
Morning cup — Durham, N.C., June 2015
Congratulations to Nick for completing a 28.3 mile walk and raising more than $3,300 as part of the Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge. It took him 13 hours to finish the walk in what was "by far, the most exhilarating and rewarding (and exhausting) experience." Thanks to all who donated.
Hallway at the Carolina Inn — Chapel Hill, N.C., May 2016
Sun on the ocean — Corolla, N.C., October 2015
20 years. Where has the time gone? It has flown by so fast, and today, our last child finishes her last day of high school and goes to prom.
20 years of memories, travels, adventures, happy times and (a few) heartbreaks. Four young adults we've worked to raise.
20 years. Happy anniversary to the great love of my life. Here's to many more adventures together.
Graduation season began this past weekend with our niece, Elisabeth, receiving her bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We participated in Saturday's ceremony at the School of Journalism, followed by a lovely dinner at the Carolina Inn.
Elisabeth is the second in the McFarland/Cook clan to graduate from college this year, following on the heels of Nicholas. Margaret graduates from high school later this month, followed by Emma and Ben in June. Busy time of year...
Hometown mascot — Outer Banks, North Carolina, October 2015
Tobacco barn — Burlington, N.C., May 2015
As many of you know, my oldest son Nicholas has a younger sister, Bella, who lives in Greensboro and has Down’s Syndrome. Although she has since received a clean bill of health, Bella fought through a tough cancer battle several years ago. It was during that time that the Make-A-Wish Foundation gave his North Carolina family an opportunity to go to Disney World in 2013.
“It was a long, trying, and emotional two years,” Nick wrote in a Facebook post yesterday. “She pushed through it though and is one of the strongest, most resilient little fighters I know. I couldn’t be prouder and more honored to be the big brother of this little inspiration.”
Nick, kind and gentle soul that he is, has since been a supporter of the Make-A-Wish, including fundraisers with his college acapella group, Vital Signs. On June 3, he will hike 28.3 miles of the Foothills Trail in one day for the Make-A-Wish Central & Western North Carolina. He already has hit his $1,700 fundraising goal, but is still accepting donations to meet a personal goal of $2,500.
“No child should have to go through what Bella's gone through. But for those that do, having their wish granted gives them and the family a break from it all, enriching lives with strength, joy and hope, an opportunity to smile,” Nick wrote.
Our family has made a donation to Nick’s effort. I hope you will consider making one, too. To do so, go to his donation page here. Thank you for your support of our sweet and generous son.
It's difficult to believe it was just a week ago that I embarked on a 60-hour trip from New York to Tampa to Northern Virginia to move our daughter's stuff home. Now that our garage is sufficiently stuffed with stuff again, here is a summary of random thoughts from the long drive home.
Day 1: Monday
• Flying from New York to Tampa, I spent three hours on a packed airplane — window seat — with Edith Bunker and Sophia from The Golden Girls. Neither stopped talking the entire flight. One leaned over and raised my window while I was trying to take a nap, then explained three times in two minutes that she's "class-tro-phobic." I could resurrect the sitcom stereotype and run for five seasons on that material alone.
• The weather is nice in Florida, but reminds me of growing up on the Texas Gulf Coast. That’s the last time I remember seeing I saw a mosquito drive past in an Escalade.
• Not to make a political statement, but folks down here don’t seem to remember that the war ended 151 years ago. Of course, I know people in Texas who refuse to believe it ever joined the Union.
• I’m in a 12-foot moving van from Florida to Northern Virginia with no CD player or aux cord and spotty FM reception. The local AM conspiracy theorists are coming through loud and clear though.
I want to ask how it's possible to be so pessimistic and paranoid given their proximity to the happiest place on Earth, then realize I'd rather not know the answer and start searching for a sports talk channel. It’s gonna be a long trip...
• Cormac McCarthy won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Road,” his post-apocalyptic tale about a father and son traveling for months across land that has been destroyed by an unspecified cataclysmic event. Pretty much sounds like I-4 between Orlando and Jacksonville.
• Seeing a billboard for a heart specialist between ads for Cracker Barrel and Golden Corral seems sort of beside the point, doesn't it?
• In its next session, the Florida legislature sincerely should consider making an orange cone the state flag. That is, if Pennsylvania and Texas don’t beat them to it.
• Spotted on I-95 after crossing the Florida line: One F-150 towing another F-150. In many states you’d say that was someone helping out a friend. Given the political climate in Georgia these days, it feels like Ford is making a commercial for Brokeback Mountain.
• Speaking of I-95, it’s time to paraphrase Robert Earl Keen with, “The road goes on forever, but the party never begins.”
• Sometimes you just can’t make this stuff up, even if you’re working on next-to-nothing sleep at a Best Western off I-95 somewhere in the sticks of South Carolina... George Mason University received $30 million from the Charles Koch Foundation and an anonymous donor to rename the law school after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February. The name they came up with was The Antonin Scalia School of Law, which translates to ASSoL or ASS Law.
Needless to say, I’m sure the Kochs weren’t happy to hear this. The name was quickly changed to The Antonin Scalia Law School.
I needed that.
• I’ve stopped at a couple of places along the way to take pictures. Future stories/photo essays coming up, I’m sure.
• My grandmother rode her first horse in her mid 70s. I feel like I’ve been riding one for 800 miles.
• One stop was in Summerton, S.C., where I spent several months researching a story for the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. Almost 12 years after that story was published, not much has changed in this small town … sadly. (More on that later, too.)
• If Pedro from South of the Border ever becomes the billboard spokesperson for 1-800-Kars4Kids, I promise you I will hurt someone. Consider that a given.
• Post-Pedro billboard observation: North Carolina's internal conflicts are exposed in a 10-mile series of advertisements for Jesus and adult novelty stores that use the name Adam & Eve.
• Not much to report in Virginia. Thank goodness.
• Made it home around 9:30, about 60 hours after leaving New York. Now that all is said and done, I have driven more than 1,000 miles in 2+ days, loaded a small apartment, taken some pics and made it home alive to tell the tale.
Not that I haven’t been telling it all along.
Nicholas is featured in a short video promoting "Elon Day," the university's annual fundraising event. It's good to see he's putting his degree to use, and pretty clever, too...
Pat Conroy’s death last week brought back a tide of strong memories. The first was when I read the “Lords of Discipline” in high school, and the second was when I saw Conroy at a talk/book signing in Greensboro almost two decades later.
Like “The Great Santini,” perhaps the book he is best known for along with “The Prince of Tides,” Conroy’s “Lords of Discipline” draws upon the author’s struggles with the military’s hardness, born of traditions that encouraged prejudice and misogyny in the Vietnam-era South.
Published in 1980, the book was being made into a film a couple of years after “Taps,” another fictionalized drama about a military school. As I’ve often done, hearing about a movie based on a novel makes me want to read the book before seeing the film, so I picked it up.
What “Lords of Discipline” taught me was how hard it must be to do a novel justice on the big screen. Even though the film was OK, there was no way it could capture the depth of Conroy’s work, or the (occasional) pulp of his prose. The book captured a South I had long heard of, but never wanted to be part of, in such a way that I became determined never to experience it.
This has been a terrible winter for artists, and the world of classic rock-era music has been particularly hard hit. Add to that list author Harper Lee and actor Alan Richman, and it has been seemingly a never-ending roll call.
In the first three months of 2016, we’ve lost Beatles producer George Martin, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Dan Hicks, Vanity, Keith Emerson of Emerson Lake and Palmer, Maurice White of Earth Wind & Fire, Paul Kantner and Signe Anderson of Jefferson Airplane.
In some ways, the deaths of most of those who passed away should not come as a shock, given the hard living that many of those musicians lived during the substance-fueled 1960s, 70s and 80s. Bowie, still working until right before his death, was the exception, even though he had been battling (quietly except to those closest to him) cancer for 18 months.
The reason, I think, that the long list of deaths surprises and gives me pause is because each of these artists was popular during my childhood. And with each passing, that childhood recedes further into my life’s rear view.
One singer’s illness, in the midst of everything, caught my attention. Joey Feek of the country duo Joey+Rory, whose public battle with cervical cancer was chronicled every step of the way by her husband, died this month at the young age of 40.
I didn’t know much about the couple or their music. In fact, I’ve heard only a few of their songs, which are pretty enough (especially their cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You”), but not cutting edge or truly memorable. What caught my attention was their openness about the illness, the way Rory Feek wrote about and cared for his wife and young daughter as Joey moved into hospice care.
There is something wrong about a person having to suffer in such a way, especially just a couple of years after having a child with Down’s Syndrome. But the grace and dignity they showed throughout is both commendable and memorable, and will outlive the songs they leave behind.
Pat Conroy wrote about life, death, family, dysfunction, mental illness and life as a military brat in the South. He too was open about all of his family’s foibles, so much so that many of his relatives would no longer speak to him.
He joked about this at the speech and book signing I saw him at in Greensboro, when he was promoting “Beach Music.” I had the chance to see him when Sarah Bullock, one of Jill’s co-workers and a second mother to her in many ways, invited me to come along.
Conroy’s sense of humor, always bubbling under the surface despite his lifelong struggles with depression, was in fine form as he told stories about his father meeting Barbra Streisand, and writing. When I mentioned, during the book signing, that I had worked as a newspaper editor before moving into communications, he complemented me on “escaping my career choice.” He then signed my copy of The Lords of Discipline — a hardback I bought that day, with the phrase, “For the love of words and books.”
Seeing Conroy was a highlight of my seven-plus years in North Carolina, and it’s rare that Sarah or I fail to mention it when we see or speak to each other. I still have the book, and last Christmas, Sarah sent me Conroy’s last work — “The Death of Santini.”
May he — and the others — rest in peace.
Morning latte — Durham, N.C., February 2016
Morning latte — Durham, N.C., February 2016
Peace and relaxation — Duck, N.C., October 2015
Goodnight sun — Corolla, N.C., October 2015
It's December (aka "birthday month") at our house, so here's a flashback to one of my favorite photos of the four kids holding hands in a brief moment of solidarity. By year's end, these four will be 18, 19, and 23, respectively. Sigh...
Four kids in a row — Wentworth, N.C., August 2000
Lone memorial — Alamance County, N.C., October 2013
Sun setting behind the trees — Corolla, N.C., September 2015
Given that we had three kids in a year and somehow survived that. And given that all of them now are age 18 (for the next 16 days at least), I think it's time to give a shout out to Jill, who has unfailingly given all of them her love, support (in times good and bad), and ultimately, their gentle and kind souls...
Six years ago tonight, the boy made his Broadway debut. Amazing how time flies, how much our lives have changed over that time, and how much all of my children have grown up.
Congrats to Nick and the fellow members of his Vital Signs group on the release of their second EP. Especially check out my oldest singing "In Your Arms" with Marty Lucero. You can get the EP on iTunes by clicking here.
Yep, I know I'm saying it again, but I'm a proud dad...
Christmas memories from over the years. Happy holidays to all...
Our oldest daughter. Our last December birthday. Our beautiful Kate is 19 today (December 27), having developed into a woman who combines childlike wonder and increasing adult maturity with a touch of old soul. We love you, sweetheart!
Earlier this year, I was fortunate to write a profile on Guilford County Schools' Mo Green, the superintendent who moved into education after working as a corporate attorney. Green's story — we talked for almost two hours — is fascinating reading.
You can find the story — "Head of the Class" — in the Minority Corporate Counsel Association's magazine, Diversity & the Bar. Or take a minute and read it on my website at http://glenncook.virb.com/nonprofit-association.
New life, old tree — Yanceyville, N.C., May 2015
Twilight in the Outer Banks — Duck, N.C., October 2015
Nicholas' first month at Elon University ended with a weekend for parents and family members. Elisabeth came down with me from Chapel Hill for the lunch, and then, later in the afternoon, I had a chance to see Nick's acapella group (Vital Signs) perform.
In what has become an annual tradition, the Cooks and McFarlands were together again on Memorial Day. This year, the location was Boone, where we saw Jill's dad, walked around Appalachian (one of Nicholas' possible college choices), visited Jill's Uncle Glenn, and ate a nice dinner with cousins Glenda, John, and Teresa Eggers and James McGhee.
The Cooks and McFarlands continued the tradition of being together for Thanksgiving despite some logistical hurdles. This year had a couple of twists: No Nicholas this year (sadly), and a one-day trip from New York to Boone for Ben and Dad in between two show days for "Billy Elliot." In addition to a family reunion covered in the next photo album, this year's highlight was football, gymnastics, and family time conversation in the front yard of the house where Jill grew up.
Thanksgiving also served as a Hodges family reunion in Boone for Jill's first cousins. Dinner was held at First Baptist Church with multiple generations in attendance. The event included great food, play time for the kids, and a chance for some nice family fellowship.
Big week/weekend/month for the Cook/McFarland families. To wit: One high school graduation (Elisabeth), one church confirmation (Katharine), two 8th graders moving onto high school (Margaret and Emma), one college freshman (Nicholas) ending his first year, and one 50th birthday (Jennifer). So, of course, we had to celebrate...
We celebrated Thanksgiving with the McFarlands this year in Chapel Hill, where Jill's father is staying due to illness. Nicholas was able to come up on Wednesday night, so we celebrated with him, then the five first cousins continued the activities into the next day. A lot of fun...
For the first time in a long time, I had a passenger on my semi-annual vigil to Elon to see one of Nicholas' shows, and Kate and I decided to hang around overnight to spend time with the oldest child and walk around campus. Here are photos from the extremely fun trip; check out the remarkable scenic design project that Nicholas completed on "The Grapes of Wrath" (bottom left). I wish you could have seen it. Really, really impressive work.
Six weeks after the death of Jill's father, we attended another funeral, this time for her Uncle Glenn, the patriarch of the Hodges family. A somber occasion made better by wonderful music, pearls of wisdom, and fond memories. I was a pallbearer at the service and was reminded throughout the day that Glenn Hodges never allowed his personal morals and value system to impede his ability to be kind, compassionate, and giving toward others.
The McFarland/Cook/Hodges clan reunited for the funeral of Jill's father, giving cousins a chance to reminisce and say goodbye.
Nicholas performed a solo at his spring Vital Signs concert at Elon University last night, covering "The Cave" by Mumford & Sons. Video is below.
Check out this short film — 4 ½ minutes — that Nicholas appears in with Molly Dougherty. The movie, “Ever After,” looks at whether a couple that has been broken up for three months should try to get back together. Congrats, Nick!
A series of Instagram images taken while cleaning out Jill's childhood home in Boone this past weekend.
Jill's father, Bob McFarland, died yesterday morning in Chapel Hill, N.C. Thanks to everyone who has sent kind thoughts, words, and prayers.
I'm so blessed to have these five people in my life. It's truly fills my heart. Happy Valentine's Day!
Just off a state highway in rural North Carolina, a school that educated elementary-age children for almost 70 years sits vacant more than a decade after its doors were closed for the last time.
At the recent rate of travel, I can’t help but think I’ll be one of those people who wakes up in his own bed and doesn’t know where he is. It is nice, though, to be back in my bed after a whirlwind 2+ weeks.
For the past couple of months, Jill and I have pointed to this 17-day period as the one we had to “just survive.” To recap:
• June 19: Kate graduates from high school with my mom in from Texas and the McFarlands and Nicholas here from North Carolina.
• June 20: The McFarlands leave for a 25th anniversary weeklong trip to Maine.
• June 21: “Newsies” ends its two-week run in D.C. on Father’s Day. Nicholas returns to his new job and new apartment. My mom leaves, too.
• June 22: Ben leaves for Boston; Emma and Jeremiah start tech week for MSA’s “Toy Stories.”
• June 23: I leave to shoot the Graduate Management Admissions Council’s annual conference in Denver.
• June 25: Jill leaves for the ASCA conference in Phoenix.
• June 26: I get home from the GMAC conference.
• June 27: Ben catches a 6 a.m. flight from Boston to come home to see “Toy Stories.” I pick up the McFarlands in D.C. and take them to the matinee, the first of four shows scheduled this weekend. Emma packs for her three-week dance intensive in New York City.
• June 28: “Toy Stories” ends. Jeremiah returns to New York with his mom. After the tearful farewells to MSA’s seniors, Emma, Ben and I leave at 11:30 p.m. for Lower Manhattan, arriving just after 4 a.m. so she can start the dance intensive.
• June 29: Bleary eyed, I walk around the Lower East Side with my camera as Emma starts her camp. Afterward, Ben, Ginno and I meet her for a grocery/drug store run, then we leave for Boston.
• June 30: I have a business meeting in Boston, then Ginno and I watch Ben perform as Crutchie for the first time in “Newsies.” Harvey Fierstein (book), Jack Feldman (lyrics), and Jeff Calhoun (director) are in attendance. Ben nails it.
• July 1: Ginno and I head south in the early morning. I drop him off in Midtown and then head for Virginia.
• July 2: After a brief sleepover stop at home to check on Kate, who is child sitting for a family this summer, I did a quick photo shoot before leaving for North Carolina to see Nicholas and take him furniture for his new apartment. The trip takes almost seven hours, three of that to Fredericksburg 30 miles from our home.
• July 3: Nicholas and I embark on a memorable IKEA run to Charlotte, then drive back to Northern Virginia to see Jill, who returned that morning from her Phoenix conference. At the end of the evening, I drive into D.C. to pick up Emma, who is coming home for the weekend.
• July 4: Nationals game with Emma, her boyfriend James, Jill and Nicholas, followed by fireworks in D.C. with Kate. Great nap outside the National Theatre between the two events.
• July 5: Nicholas and Emma return to New York and North Carolina, respectively. I have another photo shoot with a client. Life returns to “normal,” if you can call it that.
Over those 17 days, I went to or through nine states and the District of Columbia, eight of them (plus DC) in a new car that has 2,600 miles on it after only 21 days of ownership.
To use a phrase Nicholas likes, “That, folks, is how we roll…”
Flag of plastic soldiers — Durham, N.C. June 2015
Nick's nirvana or the final scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark? You decide...
The things you do for your first-born child…
After four years at Elon University, my oldest son, Nicholas, recently moved into his first post-college apartment. He started work just after graduation at his alma mater in the admissions office, and found a place only a few miles from campus.
I got my first apartment, too, when I was 21, starting an itinerant stretch of life that saw me move 13 times in 12 years. I became so proficient at finding the best deal (a necessity, given the starving journalist’s pay grade) that I started looking at new places almost as soon as I moved into the new one.
It’s doubtful that Nicholas will follow my path, at least in this case, and yet I recall vividly what he’s going through as he makes this transition into adulthood, budgeting and planning for the first round of the never-ending monthly bills and trying to get everything in place. He won’t feel settled until he’s literally settled in.
When he was in Northern Virginia for Kate’s graduation, my mom and Jill took him to IKEA to get him set up in his first home. They both were very generous in making sure he has the basics necessary, but left with him wanting a couch that he saw on the showroom floor.
We agreed to split the cost of the couch between us and my mom, and tried to figure out how to get it to him. That would prove to be no easy task, as the closest IKEAs are 120 and 250 miles away, respectively.
In the middle of a crazy — even by our standards — two-week stretch that saw me driving from Virginia to New York to Boston to Burlington, N.C., I agreed in a moment of temporary insanity to take Nicholas to the location just outside Charlotte to see what we could do. Charlotte, of course, is almost two hours from Nicholas’ new apartment, in the opposite direction of where we would be heading later in the day.
I'm not sure which is worse: I-95 South traffic that takes 3 hours to go 30 miles, or an 8 a.m., drive with my caffeinated 22-year-old and an IKEA catalogue. And I experienced both within 24 hours of each other.
Grumpy and butt-lagged from the drive from Boston to Virginia two days earlier, and the seven-hour journey to Burlington that should have taken no more than five hours the day before, we left for Charlotte in the middle of a seemingly never-ending rainstorm that has saturated the Mid-Atlantic. Nicholas, catalogue in hand, was excited about the opportunities to accessorize his new place, but I never thought I’d hear him say, “I really wish I could get curtains..." at 8:30 a.m. on a Friday.
Still, we marched on, and had a nice conversation about life stuff that you rarely have with your children during their teen years. (Added bonus: Given that I was doing him a favor, I had control over the radio for once.)
We made it to Charlotte, and after determining that there was no way the couch would fit in the CR-V, decided to have the three gigantic boxes it came in delivered. Nicholas kept the accessory purchases to a minimum, given that he’s now on a budget, and we soon were on our way back to Burlington and then to Northern Virginia.
In the meantime, I jotted down a few observations that I think are worth sharing. Here are six from the day:
• All IKEA furniture has to be built at home, giving credence to my theory that the three dirtiest words in the English language are “Some Assembly Required.”
• We had brunch in the IKEA cafeteria because the store takes off your food/drink purchase if you spend more than $100. That, I have to admit, is a nice perk.
• Given the way people zip around the store, the Charlotte location apparently doubles as a NASCAR training facility.
• IKEA really stands for “I Know Every Accessory” available to man.
• I heard more Abba music in an hour than I did during all of “Mamma Mia.” I get the connection, but do they really have to be so obvious?
• The chain really should bill itself as the "thinking man's Home Depot." And anyone who knows me knows what I think of Home Depot.
Nicholas was happy to get the couch, even though it won’t be delivered until next week, and I was happy to finally be heading home after the never-ending road trip. Despite some heavy rain, we made it back to Virginia successfully, and Nicholas stayed for two nights to celebrate the Fourth of July with us before heading back to work and his new place.
Ultimately, when it comes down to it, his decision to voluntarily come see us was the nicest perk of all. Because, even as they move out on their own, it’s nice to know your place still feels like home.
Nick is in North Carolina. My mom is in Texas. Kate is at work. Ben is in Boston. Emma and Jeremiah are continuing their tech week for Toy Stories. Jill is prepping for her conference in Phoenix and I leave for Denver tomorrow.
Did yesterday happen?
Window dressing — Durham, N.C., June 2015
I've been fortunate to travel quite a bit over the past few months with Ben on the "Newsies" tour. Every once in a while, I get to mix business with pleasure. Above are new headshots I took of the boy during a break between shows last weekend in Durham. For more, go to http://glenncook.virb.com/ben2015.
Josh Burrage is one of Ben's closest friends on the tour. He hired me to take new headshots during the tour's stop in San Antonio last month. For more photos, go to http://glenncook.virb.com/josh.
Fading barn — Gibsonville, N.C., September 2014
More random thoughts of late:
• Summer is not even here yet and I’m searching for a 12-step program to survive the humidity.
• Parents stuck in cars waiting in the North Carolina heat came up with a fill-in-the-blank cheer when their school’s administration of the SAT ran more than an hour late. The cheer? "You say Cluster! I say ----! You say Cluster! I say ----!"
• Obviously the outdoors editor didn't write that headline. (But after you laugh, remember, it happens to everyone at some point.)
• 2 a.m. wakeup call: How am I going to get all of my work done when all I want to do is sleep? It’s tough to do it when you’re in high school, let alone at age 50.
• Helping Emma edit a paper this evening, I realized she's as adverse to punctuation as Ben is to vegetables.
• Few things are worse than being stuck in a bar with shitty soft rock music.
• Just curious: What have others said to you in tough times that have either helped, or made you want to scratch someone's eyes out?
• As if the fear mongering we are bombarded with daily wasn't enough, the number of unsolicited calls I get advertising home security systems would drive anyone up a tree.
• Thank you for the kind words after I noted that Jill and I had "survived" 19 years of marriage (mostly her tolerating me). We had a low-key celebration with a late afternoon happy hour and a nice dinner in Alexandria. Here's to a great 20th year together and to many more after that.
"Newsies" in Durham gave Jill an opportunity to reunite with childhood and college friends this past weekend. It was the first reunion of 20+ alumni from UNC-Chapel Hill's Tri-Sigma sorority and she also spent time with childhood friends Annette and Jan as well as Jan's family.
We've also been fortunate to see a number of North Carolina friends from our time in Reidsville over the past few days. It's been great to spend a little time together and to catch up. Thank you for your support and kindness!
Now it's off to a very entertaining two weeks in DC!
Congratulations to Nicholas, who has been hired as an admissions counselor serving South Carolina, Tennessee and western North Carolina at his beloved alma mater days after graduating. He has wanted to work in admissions since he started as a tour guide at Elon in 2012. Very proud of you, son!
So very freaking proud of this young man, covering Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars." Part of a weekly series of videos that Elon University's Vital Signs group is posting to promote its Member Highlight Monday series.
The group has worked on the project since January to highlight the individual talents of current members and alumni. Each group member covered a song of his/her choice and filmed a video to go with it. The videos will be released each Monday for the next 15 weeks.
To check out more videos, go to Vital Signs' Facebook page here and give them a like!
Old glories — Stokesdale, N.C., April 2015
Last week, I went down to Greensboro, N.C., to — among other things — take pictures at the STEM Early College at North Carolina A&T University. The photos are for a story I wrote on early colleges for an upcoming issue of American School Board Journal. Not all will be used, but I thought this made for a nice photo essay on some of the work that is being done at the school.
The STEM Early College opened in the fall of 2012 as a joint project between Guilford County Schools and A&T. It is the second early college the district has on the A&T campus. The school opened with 50 ninth-grade students and has added 50 each year (maximum enrollment 200). Students finish their state-mandated high school credits in two years and spend the next two years on college coursework. By the time they graduate — and almost 100% are on track to do so — they will have a high school diploma and up to 60 hours of college credit.
Given the high cost of college tuition, the move toward early colleges is taking off. Guilford County, the third largest district in North Carolina, has the most early colleges in the nation.
For more photos, go to my Facebook page here.
Jill with her four babies — Duck, N.C., july 2006
Note: After more than 600 consecutive "Daily Photos," this feature will be on hiatus for two weeks while I am in Texas. Expect frequent posts from the road...
Easter 2000: One of my all-time favorites of the trio (Nicholas wasn't with us that year), plus a PSA on the dangers of eating too much Easter candy in the morning.
Nicholas had a big weekend as his Vital Signs acapella group celebrated its fourth anniversary and performed at the Total Vocal concert Sunday afternoon at Carnegie Hall. Family members from across the country joined Elon students for an impromptu reception at the Marriott Marquis on Saturday, then braved the early spring cold for a late night concert in Times Square, where most of these pics were taken.
Cameras were not allowed in Carnegie Hall, although all bets were off at the end, and I managed to sneak an iPhone picture of Nicholas being recognized along with the directors from the other groups. Congrats to my oldest son as his senior year in college (!) comes to a close.
For more photos from this, go to my Facebook photo page here.
Living in rural North Carolina, I was always fascinated by the old barns and buildings you see while driving down the two-lane state highways. Recently, on a trip back to the state where I lived from 1993 to 2001, I decided to take pictures of some of them along NC 87 between Reidsville and Burlington and in Rockingham County as well. Here is an example, and you can see more by going to my Facebook photo page here.
Our oldest, Nicholas, graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor of fine arts degree Saturday from Elon University. He completed his program in four years while juggling the a capella group Vital Signs, membership in a fraternity, up to three part-time jobs, a long-term girlfriend and two full-time families, who joined with him in the celebration.
The past week has been so busy that the random thoughts have floated by fast and furious. With the holiday weekend, trip to Texas and Nicholas’ graduation all in the past 14 days, thought I’d share a few…
• Perhaps this seems odd, but one of my favorite songs in "Billy Elliot" is "Solidarity." Given our history with the show, it's not the go to piece you might expect. But as a parent with a family I care deeply about, it's one that resonates, especially now.
I try to let my wife and kids know at every opportunity, in some form or fashion, that nothing matters more than family. Solidarity — despite our inclinations to disagree about the most mundane of things — is most important of all. Take the statement for what it is.
• Speaking of “Billy Elliot,” I think I was the only person who didn’t post something marking the show’s 10th anniversary last week. Great show, great story, and one that will be part of our lives forever. It’s definitely a musical for the ages…
• I-95 on a holiday weekend is a transportation TBT: You are reminded quickly of what travel was like on the cattle trail.
• I was catching up on some reading while Jill drove for a bit on the trip down to North Carolina and saw a tweet that captured perfectly my opinion on the Josh Duggar situation. It read: “@OMGkee: Josh Duggar = Hypocrite. ‘Don’t judge me’ is the 1st thing judgmental people say when they're exposed. You want the mercy you refused others.”
All I can add to that is, “Amen, sister.”
• It’s no surprise that another TLC show is biting the dust — the network mercifully pulled the plug on “19 Kids and Counting” repeats over the weekend. What was surprising is that they didn’t announce a reality celebrity death match between the Duggar clan and Honey Boo-Boo’s mother after she threatened to sue TLC. Of course, there’s always the next sweeps period.
• One last bad joke: Has anyone noticed that Jim Bob Duggar looks suspiciously like he could be the older brother of Jack McBrayer, who played Kenneth the Page on “30 Rock”? If McBrayer is looking for another role and the Lifetime biography of John Edwards doesn’t work out, he should give it a shot.
• I have no love for the Atlanta airport. I don’t know anyone who does. So it came as no surprise that I had to go from C50 to T02 in 20 minutes to catch my connection, or that the connecting flight then showed up 20 minutes late. That at least gave me some time to stop sweating.
• Which leads me to the official Memorial Day/start of summer statement: Humidity is my body’s self-irrigation system.
Art and man — Charlotte, N.C., January 2015
Restaurant waterfall — Burlington, N.C., October 2014
Inside the lighthouse — Currituck, N.C., April 2014
Ben, my son, and his friend Josh went out on a photo excursion last week in cold, frigid Charlotte. I managed to capture several nice images of two outstanding teen dancers.
Wren is the adorable and beautiful 2-year-old daughter of Steve and Meredith Blanchard, who have taken her on the road with the first national tour of "Newsies." Earlier this week, I was asked to take a few pictures when the tour stopped in Charlotte, N.C. Unfortunately, frigid temperatures made it impossible to take photos outside, so we improvised in the hotel lobby.
To see more photos, go to my Facebook page here.
Same space, same day — Charlotte, N.C., January 2015
Fall on the lake — Greensboro, N.C., October 2012
Broken scales — Reidsville, N.C., October 2014
Here are some candid photos I have taken while walking the streets of New York and other cities this year. If you'd like to see more, visit my Facebook album here.
Another tombstone — Forest City, N.C., February 2013
Angel's wings — Forest City, N.C., February 2013
The former Reidsville Laundry Co. — Reidsville, N.C., August 2010
Clouds over the Blue Ridge Parkway — near Boone, N.C., September 2011
The Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., is the place where Wilbur and Orville Wright conducted the tests that led to the first successful, sustained, powered air flights on Dec. 17, 1903. For almost four years, the brothers went to North Carolina from Dayton, Ohio, to take advantage of the area’s winds and remote location.
On that day, the brothers made four flights from level ground near the base of the hill in what was described as “a heavier-than-air machine.” They had spent the previous three years conducing experiments from a 90-foot hill where a memorial was dedicated to the brothers in 1932. The massive, shifting dune was later stabilized and named Kill Devil Hill.
The memorial includes a visitor’s center that features models and tools used by the brothers during their experiments. You also can see a life-size replica of the 1903 Flyer that was the first powered aircraft to achieve controlled flight.
The site also has replicas of two wooden sheds that represent the world’s first airplane hangar and living quarters for the brothers. You also can walk along the actual routes of the four flights, and stop at small monuments marking their starts and finishes.
The spectacular monument cost more than $200,000. It includes 1,200 tons of granite, 2,000 tons of gravel, 800 tons of sand, and 400 tons of cement.
For more photos, got to my Facebook album here.
If you ever visit North Carolina’s Outer Banks, be sure to check out the lighthouses that are still being used to aid navigation through the barrier islands that dot the East Coast. One of the best is the Currituck Beach Light in Corolla, N.C., where you can climb the 214 steps to a gorgeous view of the area.
Currituck Beach Light has been in constant operation since construction on the 1 million brick structure was completed in 1875. It still uses the first order lens that comes on every evening at dusk and shines from 158 feet in the air at 20-second intervals.
The lighthouse has been completely automated since 1939. Unlike others in the area, it was not painted, and the brick façade remains visible. The walls are five feet thick at the base and three foot thick at the top.
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
Middle of the road — Gibsonville, N.C., October 2013
Every time I see them all together, usually only two to three times a year, I wonder where the time has gone.
“Them,” in this case, are the six Cook/McFarland first cousins — two boys bookending four girls in the middle. Nicholas, who I brought with me into the McFarland family, is the oldest at 21, followed by Elisabeth, the daughter of Michael and Jennifer who is 14 months younger.
The remaining four — Kate, Margaret, Emma, and Ben — were born within a 11½-month period from December 1996 to December 1997, a fact that still boggles the mind and no doubt caused their grandparents a great deal of heartburn.
Both of Jill’s parents have passed away — Betty in May 2005 and Bob last January. My dad died in 2007, and Elisabeth and Margaret also have lost their maternal grandfather. The links to generations past rest with my mom and the McFarland girls’ grandmother, who lives near the family.
The kids are lucky that they have grown up relatively close to each other. My sister, Julie, and her five children live close to my mom in Texas, and proximity/time/resources have meant the cousins have seen each other only a handful of times growing up.
In many ways, the last part of that statement mirrors my childhood. I only had two first cousins and saw them only on the odd occasions. It’s only since my dad’s death that I’ve reconnected with one of them, Melissa, and that remains sporadic. In many ways, both because of choice and circumstance, I feel like I’ve missed out on something.
And that’s never more apparent than when I see our kids and their cousins together.
As the family’s de facto photographer through the years, I’ve tried to gather all of the cousins together for pictures. Group photos are a bear under the best of circumstances because — depending on the group’s size — you literally have to take 20 or 30 shots to get one or two in all eyes are open and everyone is looking at you in a pleasant manner.
Last weekend, we drove down to Elon to hear Nicholas perform with his a cappella group, Vital Signs. Usually, because of the other kids’ obligations and timing, I make the 580-mile round trip by myself or perhaps with one child in tow. But this time, we all made the commitment to see the oldest perform.
We haven’t seen the McFarlands since Christmas — no surprise given the horrid winter and the coordination it requires to get 10 people together under the best circumstances — and my four sibs had not seen each other since February. But on this night, we were all there to cheer Nick on.
After the show, we all went to eat dinner. Nicholas brought his girlfriend, Katherine, and Margaret’s boyfriend came along as well. The kids and adults caught up, visited, and slid back into the familiar familial rhythms. It was if no time had passed at all.
One of my great regrets is that I was never able to get a strong posed shot of the six first cousins while Jill’s mom, Betty, was alive. Lord knows Betty and I tried, but I ultimately did not get a good group picture of the six until the Thanksgiving following her death. (Fortunately, after my dad died, my mom recognized how tough it would be to get all nine of her grandkids together, and had a formal family portrait taken that hangs in her house today.)
Now with the kids in their teens and early 20s, the Cook/McFarland cousins understand that the opportunities for these photos are rare. So even though they occasionally grumble, or make an ill-timed run for the bathroom to primp, they largely comply with my requests.
After the dinner, we rushed outside to the underlit parking lot. I put on the flash, focused with my fingers crossed and fired several times. Fortunately, of the five shots I took, one came out perfectly.
I posted the most recent group shot and was struck by how lovely these kids — now teens and young adults — have turned out. Unable to sleep, I went back through photos of the kids through the years and watched them grow up again.
Today, Ben and Emma are high school sophomores, as is Margaret. Kate is a junior. Nicholas is a junior in college, and Elisabeth is a sophomore. Sooner rather than later, the kids will no longer be part of our day-to-day lives, even though they never will be far from us.
That’s something every parent must confront, and with so much of our identities wrapped up in being parents/professional schleppers of our all-too-special foursome, it can be scary to think of what the transition may bring. But in many respects, I’m looking forward to it, both for us and for them.
In reality, it’s already occurring. Kate has driven for more than a year; Emma got her license in March and hasn’t looked back. We are now a three-car family with four drivers and another on the way, something that I haven’t had to deal with since I was a teenager myself.
The freedom afforded you when your children drive is amazing, and an odd way to prepare you for the next chapter. It’s much like first-time parents experience in the latter stages of pregnancy’s third trimester, when no one can sleep and everyone is overjoyed, scared, and persistently nervous at the same time.
Jill and I are fortunate, and I know it. Our kids are largely studious, respectful, and want to be the best they can at what they do. They spend too much time staring into the depths of their iPhones and questioning most (or at least many) decisions we make. But they truly are good kids, and I’ll miss having them around when that time comes.
And it will be all too soon.