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.