Ross Paule teaches young athletes to play for a higher power

Faith in Memphis feature for The Commercial Appeal

Sept. 29, 2012

Having spent years in professional soccer as a player and a coach, National Soccer Hall of Famer Kyle Rote Jr. understands that professional athletes don’t work on the field forever. Rote also understands that human beings have interests and passions beyond their jobs and that, to be happy and fulfilled, some sort of activity and calling post-competition — a second half, if you will — needs to be in place.

Rote coached the Memphis Americans of the Major Indoor Soccer League, founded the sports agency Athletic Resource Management Inc., and is the current chairman of the national Fellowship of Christian Athletes soccer ministry board. As a way to bring the Christian organization and soccer closer together, a first-ever soccer-specific ministry has been developed for the FCA with Memphian and Houston High School graduate Ross Paule tapped as executive director.

Paule grew up in a Catholic household and began playing soccer at age 4. He was drafted by the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer out of Creighton College in 1997, and went on to play professionally for nine years for Colorado, the New York/New Jersey MetroStars and Columbus Crew.

His retirement from the pitch was precipitated by health reasons after a number of concussions in his last few years of playing. His dedication to soccer, however, didn’t dissipate with his retirement, and he stayed active in his career’s second half with coaching for MLS, as youth director of the Memphis Futbol Club, owner of Realpro Soccer Programs, executive director of the Arlington Soccer Academy and with his concentration in FCA … (read more)


Grade-school lunchtime a real eye-opener for dad

Because I Said So column for The Commercial Appeal

Sept. 27, 2012

Grade-school lunchtime a real eye-opener for dad

I had a lunch date with my youngest child at her school last week. She was Star of the Week for her first-grade class, an exalted position that affords her, along with acting as emcee of her own daily show-and-tell, the honor of eating in front of me.

It’s an interesting thing, sitting with a table full of 6-year-olds. I recommend you all try it at least once. One time should just about do it.

Walking into an elementary school lunchroom, for me, is like walking through a portal back to my youth, such is the power of the sense of smell to memory. It’s that mixture of food smell with feet smell; that oddly comforting yet nauseating scent that is anything but appetizing. Lack of appetite was not a problem as it was only 10:15 a.m., lunchtime for Memphis City Schools.

Also not a problem because these kids were not sharing. The lunch box buffet laid out in front of me offered a tempting, yet off-limits feast of lunch meats, tubes of yogurt, grapes, cookies, cheese sticks, potato chips, mayonnaise, apple slices, crackers and juice boxes; I provided my own hand sanitizer.

The first-grade students were required to eat in total silence for the first half of the allotted lunch period, a policy I’m not on board with. Lunch should be the one place, after recess, when kids are allowed to socialize and laugh and cut up with each other. I understand the need for control of small children; I have four of my own. Without control there is chaos and possible mutiny, but I found the apron-clad wardens walking the line to be a bit much.

The kids I ate with last week were a chatty bunch, too. When, at the halfway point they were released from their shackles of shushes, we discussed summer vacation plans, loose teeth, tofurkey, big sisters, throwing up and middle names.

I asked the kids around me if they ever trade lunches the way I used to.

“We’re not allowed to,” my daughter said. “We’ll get moved to another table.”

What we have in the lunchrooms of local elementary schools is a failure to communicate, and solitary confinement is the preferred deterrent. It seems that a lunch spent in the box for these tiny Cool Hand Lukes is what keeps the room quiet.

“But only if we’re caught,” piped up one of her friends who shall remain nameless, but who will surely be at my table for our next lunch date.

Such hushed hegemony isn’t exclusive to Richland Elementary, where I dined last week. It was the same scene when our kids were at Downtown Elementary several years ago. I’m not sure whether it’s a Memphis City Schools policy or a practice the principals share at their regular district meetings. I picture them sitting around an enormous conference table, bottles of ibuprofen in front of them, popping them like Chiclets and sharing trade secrets for ways to infuse their schools with sweet, sweet silence.

Can we blame them? I just described the post-bedtime ritual at my house, and possibly yours, assuming you’re also washing down the Advil with a glass of wine and soaking in a bath of antibacterial soap.

Permanent link to The Commercial Appeal



Back in time

Centerpiece feature for The Memphis Daily News

Sept. 25, 2012

Railroad museum teaches visitors about city’s transportation origins

When local model railroaders first got together with the idea two years ago, there was little more than a dream and a dark tunnel.

Today, the light at the end of that tunnel is the 2,500-square-foot Memphis Railroad & Trolley Museum at 545 S. Main St. in Downtown.

According to the Downtown Memphis Commission’s website,, the area currently has 18 museums such as the Metal Museum, the National Civil Rights Museum, the Fire Museum of Memphis, the Center for Southern Folklore and the Memphis Rock ’n’ Soul Museum.

“We feel this is really going to put us on the map,” said Jerry LaChapelle, secretary for the museum’s board. “Where else can you go to see something like that? We don’t know of any other place you can go to step back in time to see something as it existed a hundred years ago.”

Paul Morris, who is president of DMC, lives within walking distance of Downtown’s newest museum and has a 3-year-old son who is “very familiar with it.” … (read more)



In the world of cyberspace communication, it still pays to mind your manners

Feature story for The Commercial Appeal

Sept. 20, 2012

In the early 20th century, those needing to call a friend across the city might have been discouraged, when lifting the receiver of the phone to their ear, to hear someone else speaking on the line. That someone else could have been next door or a neighbor down the block. This was the party line, and it was the predominant way residential phone service worked before World War II.

There was one simple rule if you wanted to maintain privacy: Stay off the line.

In today’s world of e-mail, Twitter, private messages, blogging and texting, the expectation of privacy may not be as simple or as guaranteed as it was 80 years ago. How many of us have been the recipients of unwanted information — or inflammatory remarks — because someone clicked “Reply all” instead of the safer, solitary “Reply?” Clicking “Reply all” to an e-mail may be our century’s party line, and there is very little option to stay off the line.

Memphis-based Accredo Health Group felt the sting of a missent e-mail last month when a private note regarding possible job cuts — and meant for executives’ eyes only — went public to a larger number of employees … (read more)


Change of seasons tests fashion sensibilities of father/daughter

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

Sept. 13, 2012

Change of seasons tests fashion sensibilities of father/daughter

I just returned home from walking a few of my kids up to school, and there was something in the air this morning. It wasn’t the apprehension of a looming quiz or the incomplete homework stuffed into backpacks, not this time. I walked on one side of my daughter, holding her hand, while the crispness of autumn touched the other. The sun was lower in the sky at that early hour, and we all remarked on the temperature difference from the previous day’s walk.

It isn’t cold, not by any stretch, but the thermometer does herald cooler days, days when we’ll be donning coats and hats and gloves for the two-block walk each morning.

For now, though, it’s simply cooler out, a refreshing respite. Perhaps a light jacket or sweater will suffice; a pair of long pants, certainly. Not for my daughter, though, not yet. For a 6-year-old, these are the days (weeks?) of transition. This is the end of the shorts and short sleeves, the end of sandals and skirts, but it’s going to take some time to get used to such a sartorial shift.

Genevieve refused leggings worn beneath a skirt this morning, based solely on color. Navy blue? Not school sanctioned, according to her. The same jacket she wore every day last winter, in and out of school, is suddenly not a proper uniform cover-up. Not that sweater, no, not ever. “But they actually call it ‘sweater weather,'” I pleaded.

Her parents, of course, don’t know what they’re talking about when they assure her that she can wear blue pants, that she can wear that very same jacket she wore only six months ago, that the sweater looks cute on her. But how could we possibly know anything?

This fight doesn’t apply to the boys. To be fair, though, my sons have been wearing fleece jackets to school all school year — a year made up mostly of the month of August — as if their first class of the day is Intro to Igloos. It burns me up, literally, to see my son walk in at the end of a school day wearing an admittedly school-appropriate jacket, when the heat index is 103.

I’ve asked my sons not to wear jackets when it’s still so hot outside, but they say their classrooms are cold. I tell my daughter she should wear one because it’s cold in the morning, but she says it will be hot at dismissal. I stop talking. I need to have faith that somewhere, maybe in the pockets of that coat, they carry with them the common sense to stay warm or dry, to not succumb to heat stroke in the name of — or the profound lack of — fashion.

When we got to school this morning, we met up with Genevieve’s friend, a little girl wearing navy blue pants who seemed comfortable in the morning air. I saw the opportunity to make a point. “See those pants, Genevieve? What color are those?”

The look she returned was chilling.

Permanent link to The Commercial Appeal


City with burgeoning movie industry has history of censorship in the past

“Hidden Memphis” feature for The Commercial Appeal

Sept. 9, 2012

“Brazen.” “Rowdy … unlawful … raw.” “Salacious and risqué.”

All adjectives that might be used to sell a movie to today’s viewing audiences. You can just imagine such adjectives in big, bold letters plastered beneath the title or across the screen of a coming attraction. From 1928 until 1956, however, these were scathing words used by Lloyd Tilgham Binford as he edited films or banned them outright from being shown in Memphis.

Recently retired from the company he founded, Columbian Mutual Life Insurance Co., Binford wasn’t looking for work in 1928 when he was appointed chairman of the Memphis Board of Censors. He awoke one morning to learn from the newspaper that he’d received the appointment from newly elected Mayor Watkins Overton. Binford accepted the position on a temporary basis for only 90 days “as a favor to the mayor,” his obituary reads.

It was a title he would hold for 28 years, retiring at age 88 in 1956.

Born in Duck Hill, Miss., where he would eventually have a high school named after him, Binford had a simple, religious upbringing that would one day help to inform his decisions when it came to film censorship. He

quit school at 16 and went to work as a railway mail clerk for the Illinois Central Railroad. As a clerk, his train was once held up by the famous train bandit Rube Burrow; as a film censor, he would outlaw films depicting train robberies and the like, including “The Outlaw,” the serial “Jesse James Rides Again” and “Destry Rides Again.” Though opposed to violence of any sort in films, he did allow that “if we stopped every movie with a murder in it, there wouldn’t be any left.”

He went to work for various insurance companies, eventually starting his own in 1917. That company was moved over the course of a weekend from Atlanta to Memphis, where Binford would build a new headquarters, an iconic monument on the Downtown skyline, the Columbian Mutual Tower on the northern edge of Court Square. It was one of the first skyscrapers in Memphis; Binford ran his insurance and censorship empires from a top-floor office. The building would be sold years later and renamed the Lincoln American Tower, but the visages of Binford’s children can still be found carved into the building’s facade.

A millionaire when he retired from insurance, he accepted the chairman position for $200 a month. As a civil servant, he upheld the standards of the state, the city and the Hays Code, a set of guidelines used to govern studio film releases from 1930 to 1968, and named for Will Hays, a Presbyterian elder enlisted by Hollywood to improve the image of its studios. The Hays Code, also known as the Motion Picture Production Code, was used until 1968 when the Motion Picture Association of America adopted the rating code in use today.

As chairman of the Memphis Censor Board, Binford enjoyed free rein to edit films — known as having been “Binfordized” by Hollywood — or ban them outright. A moral gyroscope in the Crump political machine, he passed judgment on pictures that were “immoral or inimical to public safety, health, morals or welfare.” … (read more)

Learn more on Binford and my story here.


People at heart of Patterson’s dominance in 3PL industry

Small Business Spotlight for The Memphis Daily News

Sept. 10, 2012

Special emphasis: Logistics

Founded in 1856, Patterson Warehouses Inc. is one of the leaders and most respected players in Memphis’ robust third-party logistics (3PL) industry.

Yet even with the advances in technology, and acres and acres of warehouse space that Patterson Warehouses operates in Memphis and Horn Lake, vice president of sales and marketing Buzz Fly said it’s the company’s employees that drive its success.

“We’ve got a very experienced management team, a lot of veteran logistics guys, and we’ve just tried to keep our head down and take care of our customers,” Fly said.

Patterson’s main niche is importing goods going to retailers. Many of these goods arrive via container ship from Long Beach, Calif., where the cargo is loaded on trains headed to Memphis. Patterson employees move those containers from local rail yards to their facilities, unload them and inventory the product.

It’s a service that is becoming ever more specialized as technology advances. Far different than the 19th century when Patterson boasted the fastest delivery time from Nashville to Memphis (52 hours), these days there are such offerings as 24-hour Web tracking of inventories and the ability to re-supply, not just full pallets to a warehouse, but product at the case level for retailer shelves … (read more)


Dinner table conversation a test of dad’s knowledge

Because I Said So column for The Commercial Appeal

Aug. 30, 2012

Dinner table conversation a test of dad’s knowledge

Suppertime conversations around our table often jump back and forth in topic like a poorly edited film. Non-sequiturs are served as a side dish to fried chicken and pot roast. Talk of school and television, upcoming plans and the gossip of friends are revealed like the striated layers of a casserole.

The other night the subject of superhero powers came up. Specifically the question was “What two superpowers would you want if you could pick?” It’s the sort of palaver a palate might appreciate with a Southern staple of meat and two.

The kids bandied about the obvious choices — flying, invisibility, being really small or really fast. Me, I told them my superpowers, if it were up to me, would be a tolerance for lactose and to shape shift into a morning person. Such is the secret identity of Middle-Aged Man.

Kids, on the other gloved hand, consider themselves immortal and dream to flaunt that immortality with an ability to fly or jump or to be unseen as they lurk from room to room.

I flew to the kitchen mid-meal to refill a wineglass and returned to suggest, “X-ray vision!” not realizing the talk had advanced with a new question: “What country, other than this one, would you want to live in?” My superpower exclamation was met with super sighs and eye-rolling, you have to be quicker than Flash to keep up with the plot points around this table.

Italy, France, Brazil, England and Greece were all mentioned in this category. I’m pretty sure someone suggested Florida. The conversation devolved into a stereotypical discussion of accents, informed more, I’m afraid, by years of viewing “The Simpsons” and “House Hunters International” than anything learned in school. The kids are conversational lightweights at best.

It occurs to me now that I probably should have visited my own wish list for powers upon this nascent Jobless League of America. What would I imbue them with were I to inject a Super-Soldier Serum similar to Captain America’s into their meatloaf? Invisibility is a possibility, though super silence might be better.

I leapt to the kitchen to slice more bread (and to top off the wine) only to return and hear my son talking about Middle-earth. “That’s not even a real place!” I scoffed, imagining him applying for a passport and visa. But they’d moved on without me to a discussion of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings,” something I know even less about than gamma rays or the value of the euro.

There are many times I’m left out of the main course of discourse altogether; times when the incongruity of subjects leaves me standing still and unable to keep up, like a Hobbit attempting to walk up a mountainside of mashed potatoes.

Eating with kids is not a dinner party of high society talk, but a whirlwind of issues and debates that require a superhuman attention span. Stan Lee tells us that “with great power comes great responsibility.” I tell you that with a great big family comes great suppertime confusion.

Permanent link to The Commercial Appeal


Making their own wine more than a hobby, it’s a passion

Food feature for The Commercial Appeal

Aug. 22, 2012

In vino veritas. In wine there is truth. And the truth is, Bill Sharpe says, making wine is pretty easy.

He should know, as he and wife, Carol, have been making and bottling their own wine at home since 2004. In that time, the Oakland, Tenn., couple have produced about 1,000 gallons — or 5,000 bottles — of wine.

It began as an appreciation for wine itself, and a hobby of visiting vineyards while traveling. A brief flirtation with buying a winery (until the prospect of so many acres and so much cleaning and maintenance became overwhelming) became a passion for these oenophiles to produce their own blends at home.

Of course, such an interest begins with the wine itself. “We’ve enjoyed wine all of our adult life,” Bill said.

“Because I never did drink very much, I started out with the boxed wines,” Carol added. “And then as we started going to different functions, mainly with his company, I started branching out to the rieslings, the sweeter wines, and then I got into the drier wines, the chardonnays, the pinot grigios and the sauvignon blancs. The chardonnay is my favorite.”

“I’ll put our white wines up against anybody’s,” Bill says.

Bill, an engineer with the Pickering Firm, and Carol, who is recently retired (“She does most of the work now, the bottling,” Bill says) from Mercury Print Co., not only make the wine for themselves and to give away to friends, but it’s also an enterprise that has afforded them much fun and much low-cost wine to drink … (read more)


Launching youngest daughter in first grade has its hurdles

“Because I Said So” column from The Commercial Appeal

Aug. 16, 2012

Last week, I scattered my four kids like comet tails and left them with their various teachers at their various schools. For the older kids, this is old hat, they’re pros who have been at this for years. They may not like it — in fact they don’t — but they understand the routine and joined the countdown to the launch of another Memphis City Schools academic year.

But then there’s Genevieve. She’s the youngest and the most spirited, some will say. A challenge, her parents say. Things did not go well that first morning of first grade. There was a lot of clinging and tears, and even some desperate pleas for her sentence to first grade to be commuted. Alas, I left her there in the capable hands of Mrs. Armstrong and the whole Richland Elementary crew.

I came home, walked the couple of blocks back, and turned on the Internet to see that NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity had landed safely the night before. Space exploration fascinates me, and I was enthralled watching video images from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, as the rover touched down and the scientists went crazy with exultation.

That celebration was rightly deserved. Those people landed a buggy on a planet 35 million miles away with more ease and less drama than I had landed my daughter in a first-grade classroom two blocks away. Granted, they’re rocket scientists and I’m only a parent, and parenting isn’t rocket science. Or is it? Maybe when scientists come upon a complex theorem that becomes easily proven, they say, “Well, it isn’t parenting.”

Adam Steltzner, a mechanical engineer with the laboratory, said the rover’s landing “is the result of reasoned engineering thought.” Reasoned thought is as unnatural to a 6-year-old as space travel. When told that school can be fun or that it won’t last so long or that her friends will be right there with her, all she can imagine is an endless expanse of black sky, a vacuum of loneliness.

Upon re-entry into the school’s atmosphere, while dodging other children and supply-laden parents, my daughter began to break apart, the heat from

the classroom too much to bear; the promise of another school year built up until not even her protective khaki jumper could withstand the pressure and she exploded in a barrage of tears. And what could I do? I’m helpless. I’m a parent. I’m ground control, yet I failed to keep her grounded in any sense of safety and serenity, while floating there among her friends and siblings.

They call it the “seven minutes of terror.” That’s how long scientists had to wait upon Curiosity’s entry into the Mars atmosphere before they found out whether their rover was intact on the surface of the planet. It takes us about seven minutes to walk to school in the morning, but I had to wait seven hours to find out that Genevieve did eventually compose herself, that she acclimated to the foreign surroundings of first grade and that her own curiosity about it all proved to be stronger than her home’s gravitational pull.

Permanent link to The Commercial Appeal