Sunday, December 21, 2008

down in the French Quarter

so despite Troy losing a game they had no business losing (which will be another blog entry all on its own), Misty and i are having a great time in New Orleans. we're actually staying in Slidell, just across Lake Ponchartrain from Nawlins. we checked in this afternoon despite an unhelpful hotel desk jockey, left our bags in the room and headed into the Big Easy.

it was nice just to have some time to drive around the city, find decent parking and then gawk around some of the French Quarter. we stayed mostly on Canal Street or Decatur ... probably will tackle Bourbon Street when we come back for New Year's Eve/Sugar Bowl. but i wanted to write about some of the stuff we did before i go to bed tonight, so that i won't forget it. we ducked into the Crescent City Brewhouse. we ducked in for a quick drink, and ended up dining there, too. the beer was ok, but the food was awesome, and we can definitely recommend the baked brie (it comes with apple chutney, grapes, roasted garlic and crusty French bread) and the cornbread dressing (with andouille sausage). the food was amazing and the service was really friendly too.

from there we ducked in a couple of stores, but my favorite place was undoubtedly The Cigar Factory, where you could see cigars being rolled by hand and tour the humidor where they were being aged. i bought one and smoked it as we wandered around and enjoyed the brisk December chill. we also stopped in at the Green Room, where we were served the worst vodka gimlets in the entire known world. they were -- as Charles Barkley would say -- turrible, just turrible. from there we finally headed to the Superdome (which lived up to its name ... it really was nice). we had great seats and were surrounded by cool people. no complaints on this end.

oh, and here's a fun thing: i ran into people i knew from Troy, who said they missed me and the sports section just wasn't the same without me. i really appreciated hearing that. Janice Blakeney (Coach's wife) saw me, hugged my neck and said she and Larry both missed having me in Troy. that meant a lot. the first time i ever met Janice, she was mad at something i'd written in the paper. by the time she left, she was laughing with me. when i left Troy, she hugged me and said I could come back anytime I wanted.

oh, and i have to say ... i spotted my former lackey Ben Stanfield at the game. Ben was rocking the sweater vest, and i wouldn't be doing my job as his friend if i didn't make fun of him for it. you are NOT Jim Tressel, my friend. let the sweater vest go.

anyway, it's time for bed. good night.

the Big Easy

so Misty and i are headed out later this morning to go to the New Orleans Bowl to watch Troy play Southern miss. should be a good game, but i think we're really just looking forward to having a little bit of time all to ourselves.

we'll be down in time to wander through the French Quarter a bit and relax before the bowl game. we'll be driving right through Hattiesburg, and i thought of seeing if my friend Ginny and her hubby might like to join us for a coffee, but i haven't seen her on FB in a few days. we'll be going back through there on Dec. 31 and Jan. 3, so maybe then?

like a lot of people, we're going to be traveling a lot over the next couple of weeks. heading to New Orleans (twice!), and also back down to the Wiregrass for Christmas. i'm hoping i get to see some of my old friends while i'm down there. i know i'll see Chris V. (and yeah, big guy, you know i'll try to pick up a shirt for Josh at the bowl game tonight) and Bobby R. while i'm down. i'd like to catch up with Chad and Jen, too (hint, hint, Jen!). and Blair and i keep meaning to catch up, but it hasn't worked out yet. but it will, i'm sure. and Rachel Benton better come by and see me at some point. lol

i'm kind of meandering around here (likely because it's very early in the morning). i just ... i dunno. i think about how lucky i am. i have a girl who loves me dearly and accepts me despite my (numerous) flaws. i have a great dog. materially, i have a ton of things. financially, i'm doing OK. i look back on my life just two short years ago, and things have changed so much for the better. i think the biggest changes have come in my relationships with people ... building trust and laying the foundation for real, long-term friendships. another huge change is not finding my identity in work anymore, but instead finding it in who i am emotionally and spiritually. i used to rush to the office in the mornings and work through the night a lot of times. these days i guard my time jealously. i'd rather spend it on Misty or my friends.

ugh. sorry for the long ramble. i'm going to go dry some clothes and try to catch another couple hours of sleep.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


oh my goodness. in the battle between myself and the CrossFit program, CrossFit has won. easily. like Mike Tyson when he was in his prime, CrossFit came up and just whipped my ass today. if it were a boxing match, it would have been over in the first round. i would be that guy lying knocked out on the canvas with the little birdies circling his head.

in the past two days, i've done the following: wallball (all links in this post to video examples), which is a free squat while throwing a weighted medicine ball at a mark about 10 feet off the ground; burpees, which are harder than they look, especially after about the first five; kettlebell swings, which start out easy and get progressively harder ... the girl in the video there is insane; a squat/military press combo that i can't find a video to, and rowing (don't feel like i need to post a video of that).

i'm working muscles i didn't know i had ... and the ones i thought were in decent shape appear to ... well ... let's be kind and say they aren't anywhere as decent as i thought they were. these workouts only take 30-40 minutes, and at the end of them i'm so exhausted i have to force myself to get to my feet and go shower. but i think i did better today with the workout than i did the first day. here's what i'm really liking: the workout is challenging. it's different every day. and quite frankly, it's beating me into submission. in each of my workouts, i've had moments of "WTF??? why am i doing this?" but i've worked past that, and i'm glad. but honestly, the workouts are kicking my butt right now.

my goals are simple: to really be "in shape." and i define "in shape" as being physically able to do whatever i want. if that's run a 5K, great. if that means playing basketball or tennis or softball, that's what i want/need. i want to maintain that level of fitness. i can tell you that, while i'm sore, i feel better physically than i have in a long while. part of that is just knowing i'm doing something to get more fit. but i think part of it is the exercise itself.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday morning coming down

I'm still laughing about Gene Chizik being hired at Auburn. Sorry, but you're going to fire a guy with 85 wins -- including seven of 10 against your arch rival -- to hire a guy whose head coaching record is 5-19? At Iowa State? Really?

And don't tell me Tubs resigned. You don't pay a guy $5.1 million in buyout money when he quits.

On to more pleasant topics:

Misty and I joined Northridge Fitness yesterday. I went ahead and paid a year's membership in advance ... now we need to use it. Yes, I want to lose weight ... but the important thing for me is to be and feel healthier. Misty got to work out, but I had to work from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., so no weekend workout for me. I'm looking forward to getting in there Monday morning and banging out a good workout. I'm planning on doing the CrossFit stuff I mentioned in a previous entry. Northridge looks ... extensive. It's even got a boxing area so I can have a go at the heavy bag when I want to. And I will definitely want to. LOL

I'm also going to be concentrating on my diet, trying to work in more fresh veggies and unprocessed foods. This will help me control calories and make me more aware of the foods i'm putting in my body.

I look back on the last two years of my life and think about how far I've come ... from ending a horrible, self-damaging relationship with an abusive woman to building a good relationship. From being single-minded about finding my happiness in my career to finding out I can do other things and have a life -- a real life -- outside the office. Basically I've come from slogging mindlessly through the days to a point where I can see the joy in my life. And knowing the difference between those days and these makes all the difference.

"Oh, yesterdays over my shoulder
So I cant look back for too long
Theres just too much to see waiting in front of me
And I know that I just cant go wrong"

-- Jimmy Buffett, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Friday, December 12, 2008

weighty issues

i'm not happy with my weight. well, i take that back -- i'm okay with my weight. i don't mind being a fat guy ... until someone takes a picture. in the past year i've not felt like working out. i've had a lot of pain, which resulted in a diminished desire for nearly any physical activity. that results in depression, which makes me eat more. and the pounds pack on.

i've also been coping with injuries -- specifically to my left hand/wrist -- that have been excuses not to go to the gym or not work out as hard as i could. 

i've had three straight days here where there has been zero pain in my feet and legs, and now i'm itching to work out -- ready to go walk or run or DO something. i've been reading about a very challenging workout regimen: CrossFit. my local gym offers it (and boy, is it expensive!), and i hear it works wonders if you can keep up.

i keep thinking about this, and i think the gym is definitely something i need to do for myself. i also need to get control of my nutrition (stop eating out so much, cut out so much sugar and starch, etc.) ... i know i'll feel and look better. i'll probably end up getting Misty a membership too -- but only if she'll USE it. right now we don't use the resources we have, and we really need to do that.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


a couple of weeks ago — maybe a little more — i turned to Misty and said, "i just want one pain-free day. just one more."

the story: i have gout, which is an excess of uric acid in your blood. as i understand it, the acid crystallizes, and the crystals are heavier than blood, so they follow the path of gravity downward. most gout sufferers get an attack in the big toe. but because i've had so much damage over the years to my ankles and knees, that's where the crystals often settle. left unchecked, gout can cause bone damage and weakness — and it's painful as hell, to boot. during an acute attack, it's nearly unbearable. with no hyperbole, an acute attack can be worse than a broken bone. my legs and feet have been bothering me, off and on, for nearly all of this past year. i have probably limped more this year than ever before. it's been nagging like an overachieving mother-in-law. i've been concerned that it's basically getting worse, because the pain and inflammation has lingered so long. i've stopped playing tennis and basketball. i could still get out on the court, but it would take me days — perhaps even a week — to recover from just a little effort.

it last attacked my right knee, and i could barely walk. it was bad enough that i went to the doctor. for me, a trip to the ER or doctor really means i think i'm in bad shape. i thought they'd have to drain my knee, but instead it was the usual cocktail of painkillers, muscle relaxers, steroids ... and now i'm taking a daily dose of allopurinol, which should regulate some of the excess uric acid.

today was the day: pain-free. no limping. no swelling in my ankles or knees. no trouble navigating the stairs at Misty's place. this is what being pain-free is like. i want it to continue.

Monday, December 8, 2008

say cheese!

so, i'm a softie.

does this surprise anybody, really? i got Misty a gift she's been wanting forever — a digital SLR camera. in fact, i got her this one: ... a pretty darn good "starter" DSLR. it was also on sale (and thank goodness). i was totally trying not to give it to her until Christmas, but that didn't work out so well.

the softie part comes in this: she's known i was getting her this camera ... and she knows me well enough to know that if she shows me she really, REALLY wants something, i can't deny her. so, the package came from Amazon today, and Misty has spent most of the evening taking random pictures of Ranger, Nom Nom and some goofy fat guy. she's been, well, like a kid at Christmas. and i think i feel a little like my parents did when i was little, and got a present i really liked.

making her happy makes me happy. that's one of the ways you know it's love, i guess. her happiness doesn't come before my happiness — my happiness is increased because of hers. in the six years i've known Misty, that's always been true. we've only been together romantically for a year and a half now, but she enriches my life in countless ways. i was (and am) glad i could return the favor (though, frankly, what i did for her pales in comparison for what she does for me on a daily basis).

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

watching the world go by

Misty, my roommate Chris and I met up with a group going to "Dickens Downtown" in Northport last night and ended up having a pretty good time.

It was a bit of a walk into town, since traffic was blocked off. It was cold, but not cold enough to see our breath as we marched toward the festivities. there were carolers in 19th century regalia, a cordon of bagpipers, a "snow" machine, free bags of roasted peanuts, apple cider, hot chocolate. it was really too cold to hang around outside too long, so we went into The Globe, an upscale restaurant/pub, and were seated in front of a large picture window where we could watch the goings-on outside. we had Irish coffee and split a chocolate torte. oh, and i had a Guinness, which Misty helped me drink. heh. it was fun to sit there, warm and secure, and just watch the world go by.

we did go visit a local artist of some renown, Danny Roundtree, who is incredibly talented. I loved some of his work, and liked a good bit more. i think i respect him not only for his talent (which is sizeable), but also for the fact he actually WORKS at being an artist. it's not a plaything or a sometime thing for him. It's not a dalliance. This is his work, and he loves what he's doing. You can tell. It made me think about what *I* am doing with my life. I'm working as a studio photographer and sometimes enjoying it, but it's not what I want to do. I want to write novels. But sadly I'm lacking the discipline to finish what I've started, apparently. Maybe I can use Danny's success -- and in this instance I define success as being able to use your passion to make a living -- to motivate myself.

Monday, December 1, 2008

doing a little good

i guess at some point we should talk about faith. not religion, per se, but faith. and by that, i don't necessarily even mean faith in God. as Shepherd Book tells Mal in Serenity, "Why, when I talk about faith, do you always assume I'm talking about God? I don't care what you believe in, just believe in it."

for me, i use "faith" in this instance as the code by which we live our lives. your code may be different from mine, and that's fine. but hey, it's my blog. so let's talk about my faith. it's weak, and it crumbles. as i get older, it gets harder for me to know what to do with it. but i'm proud of it, just the same. one of the key elements of my adult faith -- i almost said my "new" faith -- is that it should help others. i like to think that good Christianity should have an active side, that it shouldn't mean church on Sundays and the occasional sawbuck in the collection plate. my faith should mean helping other people.

our church (meaning Misty's and mine) has a food pantry, which helps several families every week. the church is pretty good about giving patrons staples: canned veggies, soups, maybe some rice, some beans, pasta. Misty and i have volunteered there occasionally, but i'll tell you this: it's hard. it's hard to see that need in people and not be moved. our friends Ashley and Benji run the place pretty much every weekend. i don't know how they do it. food pantries run on marginal budgets at best, and they need help. (sloppy, intrusive editor's note: I can't figure out how to write this next part without sounding like I'm patting myself on the back. I'm not trying to do that at all, I swear. So if I come off like a jerk, I'm sorry.) last night, Misty and i hit wal-mart, and i don't really know what came over me. i went in to get a new wallet (mine is worn slap out). but i scooped up canned hams and chopped chicken ... cleared a couple of shelves, as a matter of fact. and wished i could do more. it looked like a lot, sitting in the buggy. but the reality is that there are people in Tuscaloosa who are hungry and homeless -- people who will go without food or shelter this holiday season. the reality is that $60 in canned meats might last a couple of weeks at the food pantry, since it's open only one day a week. after that, they'll need more.

i didn't do much, and that aggravates me. i start thinking about it -- about the state of poverty in Tuscaloosa, in Alabama, in our nation and our world -- and it gets overwhelming. i'm a fat guy. i like to eat. and i feel bad for those who don't have enough money to do that. or to clothe their children. and that's where my faith is stretched to its thinnest point, i think: what can i do, realistically, to help? how do you battle something as global as poverty or hunger? people who are smarter, more globally aware, more conscientious, than me can't even answer that question.

on a global scale? there's not much i can do. nor at a national or state level. but i can help someone have meat to go with their meal. i can help right here, right now. how do you tell someone about God's love when all they can think of is their empty belly? love is a word that's come easily to me in the past. it's an easy word for most people to say. but it's not an easy thing to do, not an easy thing to live up to. but i'm trying.

and i guess that's where my faith is today.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I stayed up far too late last night. It was worth the lost sleep, though. And now as I can smell the good smells of roasting turkey and cornbread dressing, I think last night will still be the highlight of this little trip to Enterprise.

There was jazz to our conversation and laughter last night. Let me explain what I mean. It was like listening to John Coltrane play sax ... notes built to more notes, high flutters that you think can't go any higher or farther -- and then, suddenly there's more, unexpected bursts of music that take you even higher. Fun, fun. At some point, Chad said, "I wonder who is going to be the first person to write a book about what we did." And then someone chimed in with "Well, one of us would have to learn how to write first." There probably IS a book lurking back there in all the crazy stuff we did. And sometimes I think I should start putting those stories down on paper before we start forgetting them. But the temptation is too great to look back on my former self and whitewash a lot of the things I did or said. While I'm comfortable with myself now, I still cringe at some of the goofy stuff I said and did back then.

But on to the reason for this post: I'm thankful for a lot this year, and I've got some specific things in mind. So bear with me while I make a list.

-Misty. I know you read this, babe. Thank you for everything, especially for sticking by me when things got so hard earlier this year. I love you, and I will do my best to honor the faith you show in me on a daily basis.

-Family. My mom, dad, sister, brother, aunts and uncles mean the world to me. I probably don't tell them often enough.

-Insurance checks. Thanks, Allstate, for finally coming through. It took you long enough.

-Chris V., BR, Chad B. ... thanks for a night I'll remember for a long time, guys. In the process of talking about old memories, we also made some new ones. Who can forget BR's first experience with the Great Muta? Or the panicked run by three grown men through a deserted church hallway? Was that the last trace of a lingering legend? Probably not. Ha!

-A good roommate, and a nice house in which to live. Thanks, Chris Sims.

-New friends. Alana Nichols holds a special place in my heart. How could she not? The girl won a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. She's badass. And Katie Lewis can't lose. There are few people in the world who make you smile every time you talk to them, and Katie is one of those people.

-Reconnecting. Karel Shirel and Rachael Benton, I love you guys. It's meant so much to me to get to know you two as adults.

-Growth. I think I've grown more emotionally and spiritually in the past year than I have in a long time. And that growth hasn't always been easy, as I struggled to put some things in the past -- where they deserved to be -- and move on with my life.

That's where I am today. More thankful than I can say.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

laughter, the best medicine

I don't even know where to begin -- I can't remember the last time I had as much fun as I did tonight. Chris V., BR and Chad B. met me for dinner at Ruby Tuesday's here in Enterprise. BR and I got there first, and we just made general conversation. Chad joined us after a few minutes, and Chris came lagging in last.

We sat and talked for at least a couple of hours. We got a little rowdy -- well, a little rowdy for south Alabama, anyway. We told various stories about ourselves (some of them highly embarrassing), nearly all of them humorous. Our laughter filled the place up, and we barely had time to breathe between the reminiscing and the eating and the giggles. With all the stuff we did when we were younger, we're all four probably lucky to be alive today. Seriously.

Hearing all the old stories again -- and telling some of them, too -- made me happy. When BR said something incredibly funny, I was taking a sip of tea ... which I promptly spewed out. A cloud of fine mist blew all over BR. It made us laugh even harder. I had to go to the bathroom to keep from choking. I thought I was going to throw up at one point. BR headed to the bathroom right behind me, pretty much. He had to clean up. I feel bad about that part, but I'm also still giggling about it.

I think there were two key parts of the evening for me. I saw how Chad had changed a good bit. When he was younger, his humor was (or seemed) much more mean-spirited. But tonight I saw a better side of him -- a side that wasn't trying as hard. He seemed more comfortable, more of a fully realized person, than I remembered him. I think time away from Enterprise has certainly helped both of us mature.

The other part was talking with Chris V. afterward. Chris and I are the two single guys from our group. Of course, that changes for me on March 21. But we've both grown up a great deal ... in many ways, Chris and I each have our own reputations that we have to live down. But there's new maturity there on both sides. I can see it when he talks about his new church family, and how much those folks mean to him. I can see a boy I knew, really growing into his manhood.

I wrote earlier about the ties that bind a lot of us guys from that time period in my life. BR, Chris and I missed Elmo tonight. Some of the stories we told would not have been possible without him. Heck, most of the funniest ones are something Elmo said or did. He was the one among us who was born without any kind of filter whatsoever, who would say or do nearly anything you dared him to. He was with us in spirit and in our memories, though.

And I don't think any of us wanted it to end. As men, we shoulder so much of our lives on our own ... we don't want to burden others. We want to be able to handle our own business. But we also crave strong relationships with one another. We want friends we can count on. And that's one reason guys like us gather 'round a table or two whenever we get a chance. The bonds of our friendships were forged long ago. We've been through the fires, and we know we can count on one another.

I hope we do it again soon.

horsemen, forever

There are people who stay with you, in your heart and soul, no matter the space of miles or years you've been apart. As Thanksgiving weekend approaches, I think about those people. Good ol' BR, Elmo, Chris V., and me ... we were inseperable there for three or four years. And the bonds of friendship we forged still bind us together in many ways.

BR and Chris V. don't exactly always get along these days -- they've grown up and grown apart, guys who have chosen their own paths in life. Personally, I think they probably disapprove a bit of one another's choices ... and maybe in some sense they're jealous of one another, too. I'd bet Chris V. envies some of BR's stability (career, wife & kids, etc.), while I know BR envies Chris's freedom. Elmo and I both moved away -- he moved first, but I moved farther. We lead our own lives, deal with our own drama, create our own networks of friends and extended family. But sometimes we come back together, too.

We called ourselves "the Four Horsemen" -- and if you mention that name to us, it would bring a smile to our collective faces. It brings back, for us, good memories of good (and often crazy) times. We were all there for one another. We backed one another up. We argued. Yes, we had our own personal, petty jealousies and faults. But we were also golden, in a way you can only be in your late teens and early 20s.

I'll see Chris V. sometime this weekend. We'll talk, we'll laugh. And neither of us will want the reminiscing to end. Hopefully BR will hang out with us. But we understand he's got other responsibilities and obligations. The ties that hold us as Horsemen bind loosely these days -- as life gets in the way, those bonds have stretched, but never broken.

It will do my heart good to see the men I still consider brothers.

Friday, November 21, 2008

i shake my little tush ... on the catwalk

i have an odd life. i'm a short, overweight, bald guy who has a dent in his head from a bad wreck about a year ago. and yet Wednesday i made my professional modeling debut.

no, i'm being serious. stop laughing, dang it.

okay, here's the story: Misty asked if i would model for her magazine, a national publication geared toward long-haul truckers. yes, truckers. so i of course said yes. i go to the shoot, where i'm wearing jeans, a black t-shirt ... and a life-alert bracelet. not only am i a trucker -- i'm a sick trucker. wonderful. here's the weird part ... i really did look like a trucker, especially once i put on the cap that read "B&J Trucking" ... please, no sophomoric jokes. i've made them already. :-P

the shoot progressed from the cab of a truck to a "hospital room" (really the foyer of the magazine's offices), where i had to take off my shirt to be examined by another model posing as a doctor. that's right ... i'm appearing topless in a magazine near you. the funniest part of all of this is that i've been annoying Misty with the lyrics to Right Said Fred's "I'm a Model" incessantly for the past two days.

how's that for a disturbing image? ha! at least she's being a good sport about it.

the best part about this will be my brother's aggravation when he sees these photos in the magazine. see, my brother IS a long-haul trucker. and he knows i have no clue what the heck i'm doing up in that big rig. and if i know him, that will irk the snot out of him.

i'll post pics from the shoot on facebook when i can.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


so Misty and i had planned a fairly simple honeymoon ... a trip to Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C. ... it would have been a fun, easy trip. we would have walked River Street and shopped at the many boutiques. we would have looked at the beautiful squares and the mansions that showcase the city's unique life.

but why do that when you can go to Paris?

France, not Texas.

we've been sort of sitting quiet on this for the last couple of weeks when Paris became a possibility. the insurance finally settled from my wreck last year, and the amount was substantial, to say the least. so Misty and i started looking at other destinations for the honeymoon. we both love New York, so that was a possibility. but it seemed pretty expensive, so just for a lark i said "let's look at Paris."

Paris and New York were nearly identical in price. we were shocked. and now we've officially booked a week in Paris.

holy crap. i'm excited.

Friday, November 14, 2008

falling down, falling down

It's a great feeling to see gas prices falling. Last night, on my way home, I saw regular gasoline on sale for $1.98 a gallon. My friend Katie apparently saw it for $1.97 somewhere over near Hillcrest. I guess it's one of the few good things about the current crappy economy -- at least oil (and by extension, gasoline) prices are dropping, too.

This will show how old I am, but when I started driving, gas was way below a dollar a gallon. Eighty cents, maybe? Who knows. I remember that the gas crunch of the very late 1970s was far in the past ... enough in the past that no one really thought about it. Of course, we've all thought about it over the past several years, as gas has climbed to more than $4 a gallon. It was an artificially inflated price, for sure, as speculators pumped the price of oil in excess of $160 a gallon. With the oil market ... um ... "correcting itself" ... we're finally getting some relief at the pump.

It also goes to prove that no one really knows anything when it comes to predicting commodities. We were told we'd never see gas below $2 a gallon again. And in reality, it just felt like we were never going to see it again.

This price drop is definitely good news since I'm going back home (a four-hour drive) for Thanksgiving. Hopefully prices will remain static (or fall even more!) in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

365 days ... and counting

One year.

That's how long it's been since the wreck. Sometimes I can still feel the spinning, the impact. I can hear the crunch of metal and the crash of broken glass. I can hear my own voice -- not yet even knowing it was my own voice -- whispering, "Oh God, oh God. Help me. Someone help me." I can remember fumbling with my phone (how in the world i didn't lose it during the accident, I don't know) and calling 911. I remember a woman pulling over to help me, and I remember being trapped in the SUV. I can feel the blood flowing down my face and the oddly disconnected, swollen sensation in my left arm. I was driving down McFarland in Tuscaloosa yesterday, and there it was -- almost like a flashback. Everything. Or nearly so.

It was enough to make me pull over for a minute.

I remember going into shock and shivering uncontrollably. I remember the steam rising from the radiator against the velvety black November sky. It could have been beautiful under other circumstances. I remember being strapped to a backboard and being lifted bodily out of the SUV. I can remember people telling me to hold on, just hold on.

I held on.

I don't remember much about my time in the hospital, or the days after. I know Misty came, and I was glad to see her. But I don't really remember calling her. I know she was there every time I woke up. I remember being semi-conscious while x-rays of my head and arm were taken, and I vaguely have the sense that I tried to fight one of the techs. But I could be making that up. I'm not really sure.

The wreck shook me like nothing else really has. Every time I think about it, I wonder how -- and why -- I walked away from it. Well, I guess 'walked' isn't quite the right term. But I saw the vehicle afterward. Believe me when I tell you that I shouldn't have lived. I rolled over as many as four times, then hit a tree. My scalp was ripped open (and in some places, nearly off). There's still a furrow -- or a dent or divot, if you prefer those terms -- in my head that won't grow back. Probably not noticeable to anyone but me. At least not at first glance. I still have scars on my head and arm -- and an odd bend in my left forearm.

I'm not 100 percent. Not even a year later. But I'm not bad, either. And I'm working on getting even better.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

now we're cooking

Last night I made dinner for Misty and our friend Chris ... I was going to do a pork tenderloin en croute, but the crust I made ended up not working out. Ever have that moment in the kitchen when something's failing and you have to make the decision whether to stay the course or go with plan B?

I went with plan B. Screw it. Sometimes you've gotta improvise.

I like to cook ... it's another way I feel I can be creative. So I ended up doing the pork with some Dale's steak sauce, Marsala wine and dill, and then combining some heavy cream, the wine, mushrooms and onions for a nice sauce (which boiled over once when I turned up the heat to cook the alcohol off).

It turned out great ... probably the best thing I've ever cooked. The meat was medium-well, and tender enough to cut with a fork. And if I do say so, the sauce was amazing ... it's something I'll definitely have to remember to use later on. Misty and I have talked about one day opening a restaurant ... and I think the tenderloin is something that would be restaurant-quality. If nothing else, I'll do it again for company (and not really worry about the en croute part this time).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

do i miss it?

For one of the only times in my adult life, I am not working for a newspaper. It's odd ... almost like there's a part of me missing. I'm not pushing to beat a deadline. I'm not out trying to get someone to talk to me (who will probably lie anyway).

For most of my life I have loved newspapers like I've loved women: often too much, and just as often not well. In the past year, though, I've become so disenchanted with the shrinking world of newspapers (and the idiots who run them) that I did something I never expected to do: I quit. Walked away. Said the hell with it.

I had to. I'd been pushed and prodded and pressed until I simply didn't care anymore. To do the work at a daily newspaper -- to do it well, I mean -- you have to have a passion for it. For a long time I had that, but the last eight months or so simply wore me down to the point where I didn't have anything left to give.

I hate it. I made some decisions I shouldn't have. But I also met some really good people with whom I was pleased to work (and one tremendous, egotistical pain in the ass). I miss some of those people, but I made a decision that's made my life better.

I'm still writing. I'm working on a novel, plus doing some freelance work for magazines. I can at least tell myself that I'm keeping my hand in the world of journalism. I'm also working a job with regular hours. I know when I go in. I know when I take lunch. I know when I get off. It's definitely a change of pace, especially when a short day at my last position was 12 hours. I guess it really hit me on election night: It was the first time I can remember when I wasn't up late, waiting on ballot reports from the Associated Press, waiting to make a call to the winners and losers. It wasn't my responsibility anymore. And that felt good. I went to bed early that night -- simply because I could.

And man, it was worth it. I still miss reporting and editing. I miss it like an amputee misses a limb. Once journalism is in your blood, it's there. It simply doesn't come out. But I wouldn't trade where I am now for where I was back then.

Not by a long shot.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

redistribution of wealth

As far as I know, the most disturbing thing any candidate has ever said (that I've heard) is the phrase "redistribution of wealth." It is a phrase that, for better or worse, reinforces the idea of socialism in the U.S. Personally, I don't want any government entity "redistributing" my wealth.

If I had any.

I've been well-off, and I've been poor. I know the difference in the two. I prefer being well off. I don't like being taxed to death. In fact, I resent every nickel the government takes from me now. It's one of the main reasons I'm in favor of less government.

On the flip side, I believe in social justice. I believe people are called to give money (and time, and aid) to help the needy. There are people out there who are hungry, who are homeless, who are helpless. And we're called -- by faith, by conscience, by basic human decency -- to help. But that help, in most cases, shouldn't be mandated.

Obama will likely win this election -- by a landslide. We're about to get the president we deserve, and I'm not so sure that's a good thing.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

roll Tide, roll

I just thought I'd mention Alabama is No. 1 in the AP poll, the ESPN/USA Today poll, the Harris poll, and most importantly, the BCS standings.

I don't know how long we'll be up there, but for right now, the view looks good from atop the college football world. It's a little crazy in Tuscaloosa right now. A lot of folks are nervous about the No. 1 ranking -- and they should be. Alabama has a recent history of not living up to its hype. We'll find out a lot about the Tide when they travel to Baton Rouge Saturday to face LSU.

Alabama could dominate. Or they could fall flat on their face against a very good LSU team. It really depends on whether the cycle of losing has really been broken by Nick Saban and his staff. I'm interested to see how it turns out, for sure.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

will this election ever be over?

I'm truly tired of what our country does to itself every four years. The people who are most fit to lead (I'm looking at you, Colin Powell) won't run. That leaves us with less-than-ideal choices. I know Barack Obama is supposed to be the easy choice in this election. But when I look at his resume, I see a guy who has never held executive office -- a guy who has never had to bear the heavy cloak of leadership on his own.

For the people who complain about GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's lack of experience, I find their support of a pretty inexperienced Obama very hypocritical. Looking at his resume, Barack Obama's chief experience seems to be bettering Barack Obama. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't make me want to vote for the guy. And his ideas of "sharing the wealth" really smack of socialism. If Obama is into sharing the wealth, why not give the McCain camp a share of his $600 million war chest?

John McCain, on the other hand, has come off very bitter and afraid during this run. I can understand that. At heart, his own political party doesn't even want him. But you have to respect McCain's experience as a senator, a soldier and prisoner of war. If I had to vote for either of the two clowns running for president, I would have to vote for McCain. I have a great deal more respect for McCain, who has turned his image from one of the Keating Five into one of Congress's most ethical members.

And, if we're being frank here, I would not vote for Obama for a shallow reason. And yes, it has to do with the color of his skin. I do not want to contribute to the assassination of a president. Sorry, but I think it's true: If Obama is elected, I think there is a good chance he wouldn't make it to a second term. Racism, and the violence it begets, sadly still exists in our country. And there are people out there who simply won't take having a black president.

But thankfully, I don't have to vote for either of these guys. I will likely vote Libertarian (that'd be Bob Barr, for those of you who don't know) in the upcoming election. I am dissatisfied with the GOP and the Democrats, who are at core two sides of the same coin, no matter what they say. I am far more interested in how to get the government out of my daily life -- something that used to be a fixture in the Republican party's beliefs. Sadly, now everyone seems to expect government to fix your life for you.

That shouldn't be the way it works.