“Carolina in my mind” plus Mebane: Wedding site

Of course, it is impossible to think of North Carolina without hearing James Taylor singing: “Carolina in my mind.”


When I lived in New York City, the song lyric reverberating through the skyscrapers was, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”


North Carolina, as you can see from the photography on the You Tube video (linger at the end and watch the ocean)  is not New York, the City where I was born and graduated from college.


Many bumper stickers ago, I remember one that read pithier, but in essence:

“God created North Carolina first. That is why the sky is Carolina blue.


Our family moved to North Carolina in 1990 in time to celebrate Thanksgiving in corporate-paid luxury temporary housing while Northern Telecom waited to see whether it had to abide by its agreement to purchase our historic landmark house on Capitol Hill if Diana and I were unable to sell it.

Joanna and I would drive down the road to Chatham County–where I lingered in the country store (and gas station) counting the number of chewing tobacco brands on sale.

Not far from our home, knowledgeable equestrians had relocated from New Jersey and built lavish horse farms full of exquisite horses–horses Joanna came to love and ride, train to jump, and teach others how to ride.


Amelia was an infant when we visited and moved to Durham. Amelia had been born two months prematurely. On our first visit, Amelia was still attached to a heart monitor. In the premie ward, she had simply decided to stop breathing.

We had stopped for the night in Durham as a result of a last-minute telephone call to my friend Patric Mullen (formerly a DC lobbyist for the National Sharecroppers Fund). We had been en route to elsewhere.

Patric and Trina’s next door neighbor Kathleen Atwater came over to the Mullens’ kitchen to meet us and drink wine. She was a manager of documentation at Northern Telecom, a company that controlled nearly half the telephone switches in the U.S. and was making fistfuls of money selling telephone companies software to download in their switches. [The company is now bankrupt as a consequence of stupidity and greed at its Canadian corporate headquarters.]

Kathleen promptly hired me on the spot on first meeting to work for her as a senior technical writer. I had never even been a junior technical writer.

I was then working for the U.S. Postal Service. I had been hired by the previous postmaster general who loved my work, saved the organization from imminent destruction, and left to help his brother run CBS while I had remained behind to do public relations work. [I had become obsessed with bar code technology which, to the surprise of many, was a technology where the postal service led the world.]

None the less, I was indeed going postal.

Diana’s job had lost its luster.

Each of us had lived in D.C. for 17 years.

After my second cancer and Amelia’s birth, we were desperate to leave the nation’s capital, ticking off on our fingers the problems we had to solve, which included the decline of public education in DC– total destruction would be more accurate.

Diana and I had each attended private schools.

We were committed to educating our children in public schools. After three years in DC schools, it was clear that Joanna was not learning what children must learn to get ahead. The public college in D.C. was and still is dreadful.

We arrived in North Carolina just before the school system in Durham ran into decline. Nevertheless, through constant vigilance–primarily exemplary work on Diana’s part– both Joanna and Amelia received a decent education. It helped that school board members  , for example breakfasted at our home,

Joanna and Amelia were able to graduate with honors from the splendid University of North Carolina system the astonishingly brilliant visionary former-governor and candidate for President of the U.S. Terry Sanford had created as a true center of excellence for the people.

Simultaneously, Sanford was instrumental in  creating the Research Triangle Park (RTP) concept–an astonishingly effective alternative (at least for a while) to the Silicon Valley and Boston’s high-tech corridor. I worked as a technical writer at RTP for over four years.


As I write, I can hear Joanna wondering:

When will Dad stop writing about North Carolina and  makes sure he packs his bag to get down here?

When, indeed?

Time to get my bag out of the closet.


–Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.


Posted below is a section from the Wikipedia entry for Mebane North Carolina where Joanna will marry Jade in five days. Afterward, you may want to read the entire entry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mebane,_North_Carolina

“Mebane /ˈmɛbən/ is a city located mostly in Alamance County, North Carolina, United States, with a part of it in Orange County,North Carolina. It is part of the Burlington and Chapel Hill North Carolina Metropolitan Statistical Area. The town was named for General Alexander Mebane, Jr., a Revolutionary War general and member of the U.S. Congress. It was incorporated as Mebanesville in 1881 and in 1883 the name was changed to Mebane. In 1987, the official name became the City of Mebane. The population as of the 2010 census was 11,393.”








Dinah Washington sings “TV is the thing this year” (1953)

Lyrics: TV is the thing this year

If you wanna have fun come home with me

You can stay all night and play with my TV

TV is the thing this year, this year
TV is the thing this year
Radio was great, now, it’s out of date
TV is the thing this year

Last night, I was watchin’ old Tom Nix
My TV broke, I was in a fix
I got on the phone and called my man
Said, get here daddy as fast as you can

TV is the thing this year, oh
TV is the thing this year
Radio was great but now it’s out of date
And TV is the thing this year

Now he turned my dial to channel one
I knew that this was gonna be fun
He turned my dial to channel two
That station thrilled me through and through

He moved one notch to channel three
I said, Oh, how I love what you’re doin’ to me
He said, Wait a minute, let’s try channel four
Just about that time someone knocked on the door

TV is the thing this year, oh yes
TV is the thing this year
Radio was great but now it’s out of date
TV is the thing this year

The way he eased into channel five
That man musta had fluid drive
He moved once more to channel six
Then he opened up his bag of tricks

On channel seven the show was late
But we got our kicks on channel eight
He turned my dial to channel nine
Said, Baby, your set is fine

He moved on up to channel ten
Then we started all over again
He finally hit channel eleven
I cried mama, he treats your daughter good

TV is the thing this year
Yes, radio was great but now it’s out of date
TV is the thing this year

Baby, my set will need fixin’
Just about this time every night



Thank you, You Tube and Metro Lyrics.

What I am wearing when I give away Joanna on October 5th

State College, PA, Sunday, September 29, 2013, 4:11 p.m. 

I have just returned from Harper’s Fine Clothing and Sportswear for men in downtown State College. Johnathan Preston, one of the store’s savvy salesmen, took the following photograph of me before I left the store:


In this posting, I begin to describe what I plan to wear when I give Joanna away on Saturday.


My sartorial choices follow a dress for success perspective that dominated the thinking of Washington, D. C. power brokers during the 1970’s and 1980’s when I lived on Capitol Hill and worked as a speechwriter (and did other kinds of writing) .

I also provided advice on what to wear when going on television including make up suggestions. While ABC’s Good Morning America has a make up artist, television stations in Atlanta, Miami, and Boston did not.

Even though I was in my 30’s when I began appearing on my television to “flog my book” (as one of my colleagues put it), self-application of makeup was helpful, I learned how to apply cosmetics from the late lamented Garfinckle’s Department Store.


Let me provide a Joanna-related perspective regarding my sartorial behavior.

Diana first experienced labor pains while she was involved in trade negotiations at a conference room at the State Department late in the afternoon. The following morning Joanna was born ON HER DUE DATE in 1984. Diana speculated the labor pains were induced by the Indonesian trade officials with whom she was negotiating on behalf of the U.S. Commerce Department, where her title was International Economist.

It was not the officials themselves who were to blame but the distinctly clove-scented cigarettes they smoked at a time when smoking in government office buildings was commonplace. Diana called from a land line–cells were a distant dream.

I picked Diana up from the State Department, made her comfortable at home, received the go-ahead from our obstetrician to bring her to the hospital, showered, shaved, put on a Brooks Brothers navy blue two-piece suit, a starched blue shirt, and black penny loafers.

That is the outfit I wore under my hospital gown when Joanna was born. Her birth was immediately followed by my cutting the umbilical cord–all by myself with enthusiastic rooting by the obstetrician and the nurses.


I will not comment here on what is clearly an atavistic and anti-feminist concept; viz. giving away the bride.

Joanna especially was never mine to give.

Jade, fine fellow that he is, will not treat her as chattel as the concept implies.

That said, I am delighted to participate in a meaningless ritual everyone involved regards as meaningless since it involves putting on a Brooks Brothers suit.

What Brooks Brothers suit?

All my Brooks suits have moth holes in the pants.


This may surprise you, but there are not a lot of dress for success adherents in State College or at Penn State’s Architectural Engineering Department where I work.

Fortuitously, my dear friend Kathy Forer helped me out. Kathy’s late father David Forer, a deft and witty cartoonist and illustrator,  had superb taste in clothing. The suit shown in the photograph above and which I am currently wearing was made in Brooks’ custom shop from material David chose himself.

It is the most beautiful, best-tailored suit I have ever worn. According to Keith Houseknecht at Harper’s, the color is medium gray with thin ivory pinstripes.


One feature I regret never having been able to incorporate into my wardrobe involves suspenders–more accurately described by the British term braces.


I just took this photograph to show you one of the suit’s many suspender buttons sewn into the inside of the pants. A friend who grew up wearing Brooks clothing said the truly affected have the tailor remove the belt loops on the outside waistband so one can not wear a belt.

David Forer was not an affected dresser.

I have bad tendencies in that regard.

I have to honor the man who designed his own suit with such good taste.


More sartorial details to come here at www.joelsolkoff.com.

Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.


My thanks to Harper’s www.harpersshopformen.com  At Harper’s, my thanks to Anna, who did an excellent job of tailoring. My thanks also to Keith, Jonathan, and Judd Williams for their impressive knowledge of the nuances of dress for success clothing, nuances little followed today but which helped pay the mortgage when Joanna was growing up.











Father-of-the-bride theme song


Joanna's pre-wedding aggression which is getting calmer, maybe.
Joanna’s pre-wedding aggression which is getting calmer, maybe.

Save the date card for Joanna and Jade’s wedding


Converting the price of every house into Big Macs—A book that reviews itself

“A problem faced by any book discussing affordable residential construction is the international comparability of costs. Due to the different constructional requirements, it was not possible to precisely calculate the costs within the scope of this book. Yet a universal indicator of whether one was able to afford the house in one’s home country had to be found. One option would have been the per capita income (before / after taxes), but the respective disparity of incomes would have distorted this figure. The conversion of national prices into a currency such as the US Dollar would have been too imprecise—overvaluation and undervaluation of currencies would have favored individual countries, while the relationship of the costs to the income of the buyers would have been lost. Thus a currency was sought and found that is internationally available and comparable, while being largely independent of political and fiscal models—the Big Mac.

Introductory page to chapter one: Houses that cost up to 300 Big Macs for a square meter
Introductory page to chapter one: Houses that cost up to 300 Big Macs for a square meter

“Based on a survey of the British periodical ‘The Economist,’ the average cost of the burger in many countries around the globe is known since 1986. The index was conceived by Pam Woodall and serves the purpose of facilitating the understanding of exchange and purchasing power parity rates, as well as overvaluation and undervaluation of individual currencies. The surveys of Van Spronsen & Partners were used to determine the price of Big Macs in the individual countries of the euro area, which ‘The Economist’ lists as a compound item. Since the Big Mac is a standardized product, its price is internationally comparable. It is largely produced with local raw materials and local manpower, just like a house.

“What’s more, it is not a luxury product but can be afforded by practically anyone—just like a low price house. This is why behind the price of every house the conversion of the amount into Big Macs according to the index of 2009 is also listed. The upper range of a low price house was set at 42,000 burgers, which results in a rounded price ceiling of 272,000 SFR for Switzerland, of 150,000 USD for the United States, and 14,000,000 YEN for Japan. While a house in Norway could cost up to 204,000 Euro, the limit in the Czech Republic was 102,000 Euro (and in Slovakia only 100,000 Euro). This price ceiling applies to the house alone without interior finishing and land costs.

“The number of burgers also dictates the chapter divisions, this time in relation to the square meters—the categorization of up to 300, 300-600 and more than 600 burgers / square meter divides the buildings into categories ranging from affordable space saving miracles to precious little gems. The absolute number of burgers was then used to additionally subdivide the chapters.”

–from Low Price Houses by Chris van Uffelen, published by Braun Publishing AG, www.braun-publishig.ch, 2011

Rodeo has enhanced my life—a cancer therapy digression

I swear out there ain`t where you ought to be / So catch a ride, catch a cab / Don`t you know I miss you bad / But don`t you walk to me / Baby run…. 

–George Strait

This is Taylor Swift singing her favorite George Strait song: Run

Consider the performance a teaser not on the importance of country music. Personally I love Mozart (five instruments or fewer).  I love country; I love what is happening to country music.

Here and now, I am trying to prepare you for my appreciation of the influence rodeo–yes rodeo–has had on my life.


Consider the following first two paragraphs from a column I published February, 2011:

“The handler applies the fully charged cattle prod to the rear of a bull bred for ferocity. The cowboy—Slim really is his name—holds onto his hat with his left hand. In his right hand are the reigns, two strips of leather held on tightly at first, but capable of falling apart to help the rider jump away from the bucking bull to safety after the regulation eight second ride is complete.

“The maximum score is 100 points; 50 for the rider and 50 for the bull. A mean angry bull is the most desirable because he gives the rider the opportunity to make the most money. This bull is mean. When the bull jumps higher after the cattle prod, Slim smiles with optimism. The gate leading to the ring fails to open. Historically, when the gate sticks, a confined maddened bull has been known to break both legs of a rider. Slim, who attended rodeo schools, is aware of the danger.As a reporter at the World Series of Rodeo at Oklahoma City (before it moved to Los Vegas), I am sitting next to the handlers on the inside wooden planks of the chute. It took considerable effort to get permission to be this close to Slim—close enough to watch his pupils dilate into huge ovals displaying a fear he cannot disguise. The lead handler asks Slim if he would like to wait 20 minutes before beginning the ride. Slim nods him off. The gate opens.

“Sometimes it is prudent to know when to give up.”


Later in this posting I will explain how I came to be sitting on the edge of the bull shoot watching the electric prod holder pressing his instrument against the mean bull’s huge hide and watching the fear in the bull riders eyes when he realized he was trapped with a maddened bull with the door to escape locked? What did I learn from that?


Orientation note: I know I am missing something here. It feels as if I lost my car keys and am frantically rummaging through my stuff looking for the keys. Of course, what I am looking for here is some context.

Why is Joel [I am now going back and forth first to third person in describing myself clearly split in some way] writing about rodeo?

He just had cancer.

Doesn’t Joel have better things to do but type away words and words and words about the time he covered the World Series of Rodeo for a solid week of

  • Bull riding
  • Bronco riding
  • Roping
  • Barrel racing
  • Fervid pro-rodeo rhetoric
  • Groupies up from Dallas just waiting
  • a near-fight in the Gusher Club when the World Series Champion of Rodeo five years in a row nearly punched me for lifting the Champion’s $560 hat off the chair I wanted to sit on. It was a close call. “Never, ever touch my hat,” he said convincingly.


Here is the Prologue Joel [that’s me] failed to provide on his way of introducing his rodeo theme.


I have been thinking about my life. Next month I will be 66:

  • What have I accomplished?

  • What is left to be done?

For me the key to surviving cancer was the knowledge that I could not die because there was work to be done. The first cancer would not let me die because I had a book to finish under contract and my publisher would kill me if I defaulted. Nor would I have been alive to conceive my elder daughter Joanna.

If I died after the second cancer, I would not have had the opportunity to watch Joanna grow until next month when she will marry.

I am especially delighted that she is marrying Jade.

If I had died from the second cancer, I would not have been alive to conceive my younger daughter Amelia Altalena.

Amelia and I will see each other at the wedding after the cancer awfulness became successful surgery to remove the death threat of kidney cancer–an operation less than a month ago from which I am slowly getting better. Slowly.

Certainly, expert medical treatment and good odds were essential. I had the best medical care available during a period when advances were occurring rapidly and I was as close to those advances as possible.


It is late during a very long day during which I made arrangements to attend Joanna’s wedding outside a horse barn in Mebane, North Carolina. I have been writing this posting automatically in the middle of serious stuff I am dealing with. For example, I have not yet recovered fully from major surgery and my mind does not have the attention span it once had. I find I am writing several things at the same time, saving the document, going away for a while.

When I went away for a while this morning, I saw George Strait play Amerilla.

I thought of the rodeo and what it meant to me. Sadly, I cannot leave you with more lessons learned and appreciation of rodeo, not to mention my life. I will return to rodeo. Do not you worry. I have a bad reputation for straying from the beaten path.

You can depend on it.


Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

Here  is the first stanza from George Strait song Amarillo, the best cowboy song ever written.

Amarillo By Mornin’ / Up from San Antone / Everything that I got / Is just what I’ve got on ./ When that sun is high in that Texas sky, /  I’ll be buckin’ at the county fair.”

My first YouTube on architecture two days before my operation

From the YouTube about section:

Published on Aug 29, 2013

Here is Joel Solkoff’s video in which he visited the Gagosian Gallery.

The Gallery’s Sarah Duzyk kindly arranged for him to visit the Renzo Piano exhibit after it had closed and indeed during de-installation.

Each desk represents a different Piano site.

The extensive array of desks displays Piano’s life’s work. Each desk has a summary of the creative approach beautifully illustrated. There are several volumes at each desk of published books about Piano.

Giorgio G. Bianchi, partner at Renzo Piano Workshop and lead architect on the Morgan, provided a fascinating lecture during the Gagosian Exhibition.

An article about the Morgan Library Museum Disability Architecture written by Joel can be found at: http://www.e-architect.co.uk/articles…

Video by Kathy Forer.

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  • License

    Standard YouTube License