Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Note On The Pillow To 2011

2011,

By the time you read this, I'll be gone. I know it must be a shock to wake up alone with just this letter lying beside you, but it had to be like this. I've seen out other years with one last hurrah. Dancing, champagne toasts, sparkly hats, and whatnot. But to be honest, our relationship was so dysfunctional I'm afraid of what you might have done once you realized I was taking 2012 home with me.

That's right, I'm with 2012 now. I get that this may make you feel abandoned and that you're probably wondering how I could make such a big commitment so quickly, but to be honest, you made it pretty easy. Sure, there were high points. You were with me when my best friends married one another in a beautiful wedding by the lake. You celebrated on my couch right beside me during Baylor's first superlative football season in years. And for a few delirious weeks in August I thought I might want to be with you forever in spite of the other things that came between us before. But there were other things...

If you're honest with yourself, you know what I'm talking about, but here are a few of the low points in case you're feeling wrongly done by.
  • I never should have leapt into your arms so aggressively. You wound up being a lot like 2010 and I should have recognized that immediately. By March we were already fighting and I essentially wasted three months on you because I forgot the lessons I had learned from 2010. 
  • You killed my grandfather. He's the best man I've ever known and I realize it was his time, but that's not something you just get over. 
  • You were terrible with finances. Seriously, I almost had to forgo my friends' wedding because of that. Money literally fell out of your pockets and it took a healthy dose of pride swallowing and some DEFCON 5 type action on my part to try to make it better.
  • The icing on the cake was that one awful, irresponsible decision you made in September that helped sink our Indian Summer together and has made this fall a living hell. I can't even begin to quantify the costs of that quagmire. I'm not sure I'll ever forgive you for that. Heartbreaking. 
You may never see things my way, but I'm OK with that. I'll turn 32 with 2012 and I can't handle the sort of roller coaster relationship you were addicted to. I have to do this for me and there's no going back. Don't call. Don't write. Don't ask our friends about me. The best thing I can say about you is that you taught me some excruciating, stone-cold, starkly unforgettable lessons.

You were a stop sign...a massive, blinking, fire-engine red stop sign. I'll be by to get my things at some point, but I'm bringing 2012 with me. Don't make a scene.

- Doug

Monday, December 19, 2011

Reality Bowls: Real Names to Make Sense of All Those Bowl Games

Well, it's Bowl Season again. For college football fans this is sort of like an extended and tedious Christmas. More than half of the teams in big time college football play in the "post season," and yet a playoff is deemed too cumbersome. I'm missing something.

And what of all those bowl games and their ridiculous names? The Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl? The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl? Call me old fashioned, but the rampant commercialism of every single bowl makes for a frustrating mouthful and tells me nothing about the game or where it ranks in the hierarchy of the college football post season. The bowl season has gotten so out of hand, ECU is selling tickets to their fans to a bowl that doesn't even exist.

I offer the following alternative names to demystify the 2011-2012 Bowl schedule.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl - Wyoming vs. Temple: The Watch Temple Rush the Ball 51 Times Bowl...or put up Christmas lights. Either way

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl - Ohio vs. Utah State: The Brian Griese Wonders How the Hell He Wound Up Broadcasting a Bowl Game Named After a Tuber Bowl

R & L Carriers New Orleans Bowl - San Diego State vs. Louisiana - Lafayette: The I Wonder How Many Ragin' Cajun Fans Spent the Night in New Orleans Jails/Gutters After the Game Bowl

Beef O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl - Florida International vs. Marshall: The Beef O' Brady's is Big Enough to Host a Bowl?! Bowl

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl - TCU vs. Louisiana Tech: The Fun Drinking Game: How Many Times Will Gary Patterson Lose His Shit Bowl

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas - Boise State vs. Arizona State: The Thank God We Don't Have to Listen to Boise State Plead Their National Championship Game Case Again Bowl


Sheraton Hawaii Bowl - Southern Mississippi vs. Nevada: The The Bowl System is So Screwed Up, Southern Miss Cost Themselves Millions of Dollars by Beating Houston But at Least They Get to Go to Hawaii Bowl

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl - North Carolina vs. Missouri: The Tar Heels and Tigers Players Will Be Pissing Bright Orange For Two Weeks After This Game From All of the V100 That is Foisted Upon Them Bowl

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl - Purdue vs. Western Michigan: The Is Anyone Really Going to Watch This And Also, Does Anyone Still Eat Little Caesars Pizza Bowl

Belk Bowl - North Carolina State vs. Louisville: The Can You Believe the Big East Gets an Automatic BCS Invitation Bowl

Military Bowl - Toledo vs. Air Force: The Military? Toledo Rockets? Close Enough. Bowl

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl - California vs. Texas: The This is Actually Worth Watching Bowl

Champs Sports Bowl - Florida State vs. Notre Dame: The Remember When This Might Have Been For the National Championship Bowl

Valero Alamo Bowl - Baylor vs. Washington: The 1,000 Yards of Offense...Maybe Just From RG3 Bowl

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl - BYU vs. Tulsa: The Name "Military Bowl" Was Already Taken Bowl

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Iowa State vs. Rutgers: The Meh Bowl

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl - Wake Forest vs. Mississippi State: The do We Have to Say the Sponsor's Full Name Every Time Bowl

Insight Bowl - Iowa vs. Oklahoma: The How the Hell Did Oklahoma Wind Up in the Insight Bowl Bowl

Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl - Northwestern vs. Texas A&M: The Remember When People Were Saying A&M Might Win the Big XII This Year Bowl

Hyundai Sun Bowl - Georgia Tech vs. Utah: The Congratulations You Were Decent Enough to Make it to a Bowl Game, Here Are Your Tickets to El Paso, TX, Don't Look Too Excited Bowl

AutoZone Liberty Bowl - Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt: The I Bet Jay Cutler is Such an Asshole He Doesn't Even Watch This Bowl

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl - Illinois vs. UCLA: The UCLA has Two Different Coaching Staffs Right Now, Everyone Watch This Train Wreck Bowl

Chick-fil-A Bowl - Virginia vs. Auburn: The Antebellum Bowl

TicketCity Bowl - Penn State vs. Houston: The Penn State is Going to Take Advantage...er...abuse...er...give it to...er...Penn State Should Win This Bowl Bowl

Outback Bowl - Michigan State vs. Georgia: The This Should Really Be a BCS Bowl Bowl

Capital One Bowl - Nebraska vs. South Carolina: The Those Damned 'What's In Your Wallet' Commercials Are Going to Get Stuck in Your Head Bowl

Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl - Ohio State vs. Florida: The Tebow and Pryor Eras Seem Like a Long Time Ago Bowl

Rose Bowl - Wisconsin vs. Oregon: The Admit it, You're Just Really Pumped to See What Ridiculous Uniforms Oregon Wears Bowl

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - Oklahoma State vs. Stanford: The Best Reason For At Least a Plus One Format Bowl

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Michigan vs. Virginia Tech: The It's a Tuesday. Decent Matchup. Guess I'll Watch it Bowl

Discover Orange Bowl - Clemson vs. West Virginia: The Reason Number 5,436 Why the BCS is Fucked Bowl

AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic - Kansas State vs. Arkansas: The Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Pump the Brakes, AT&T. Let's Not Call it a 'Classic' Just Yet Bowl

BBVA Compass Bowl - Pittsburgh vs. SMU: The There's a Bowl Game On?! My Christmas Decorations Are Already Put Away Bowl

GoDaddy.com Bowl - Northern Illinois vs. Arkansas State: The The Only People Watching This Are Pervs Who DVR'ed it to Get to the Commercials Bowl

Allstate BCS National Championship Game - LSU vs. Alabama: The For The Love of Christ, Please Score a Touchdown This Time and How Can You Play in the National Championship Game When You've Already Lost to the Team You're Playing and Why is the BCS Such a Perennial Cluster and We Get it, the SEC is a Really Good Football Conference, But This is Getting Ridiculous and ESPN Has Done All it Can to Fool You into Thinking This is Going to be a Great Game, I Hope They're Not Wrong and Can Someone Just Please Blow up the BCS Death Star so We Can Stop the Madness Bowl

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How I Met Your Mother


This is my favorite photograph ever. Compositionally, the photo follows the rule of thirds both in depth and width, foreground to background and right to left. All three thirds are occupied by compelling subject matter; the faceless and intimidating authority of the policeman in riot gear (one), the tender but hyper-passionate embrace of the main subjects (two), and the riot police in the background charging into the madness of the gaggle in the distance (many). Obviously, the incongruity of the image is what made it famous. Like a red flower in a monochromatic sea of concrete, the last thing one expects to see in the midst of a full blown riot is a still, peaceful space occupied by a focused expression of human sexuality.

I love this image for all of those reasons, but even more so because it touches on an ideal I believe is indispensable to a relationship and one I have yet to find. If someone asked me, "What are you looking for in a partner?" I would show them this photo. The world is literally burning down around this couple. Faced with the choice between brutal, joyless order and bacchanal, destructive chaos, they chose neither and instead found a still space in which the only thing that mattered to them was one another.

I realize that sounds like the idealization of an event, but I mean it as a critique of a composition. I don't know what they were doing previously. They very well could have been throwing bottles of Labatt through Vancouver shop windows or dropping MDMA and imploring anyone of the opposite sex to bang them, in which case my critique of the composition would be tainted by the back story. But what if I told you they're still together? True story. He was an Australian stand up comedian and she was a young Canadian college girl. They live in Melbourne, Australia now and are apparently still happy and very much in love (granted, it's only been six months). I'm guessing the move to Melbourne was precipitated by potential Canadian legal ramifications resulting from being party to the riots (read: deportation). Maple Leaf Law doesn't mess around when it comes to foreign nationals. Trust me.

Where they wound up geographically doesn't really matter. That they're there together enhances my appreciation and enjoyment of the photograph that much more and makes for an epic, "How I Met Your Mother" story. Seriously, can you imagine being asked by another couple, "How'd you two meet?" and answering with, "Well, remember the Vancouver riots?" Win.

My parents knew a husband and wife named Stanley and Theresa. They were raised in the same small town in west Texas as my mother and father, but were never much more than acquaintances until they crossed paths with my parents as adults when they were all living in Aberdeen, Scotland. One evening over dinner, my father asked how they met...

Stanley was sort of the James Dean bad boy of Snyder, Texas; cool, cultured (at least compared to the rest of Snyder), good looking and aloof. Theresa was the quintessential small town All-American high school girl; cute, smart, well-behaved, and dying inside for some kind of adventure.

This was back in the late 60s and Snyder was still a segregated town, in practice if not in law. There was a specific neighborhood called The Flats or colloquially, [insert something much worse], where the majority of the town's black citizens lived. The inhabitants of The Flats were largely left to their own devices and, provided no serious trouble got stirred up and/or the right amount of money found itself into the right person's pocket, even illegal enterprises were mostly overlooked. Until very recently, Snyder was the county seat of a dry county. In order to purchase any alcohol, Snyderites had to drive to either Lubbock or Abilene to buy their booze...or, they could risk scandalizing their good neighbors and potential legal entanglements to venture down to The Flats to have a drink at Freddy Ray's.

Freddy Ray and his wife Mozelle ran a speak-easy that was attached to the back of their house. I don't think they actually brewed/distilled anything, but instead drove to Lubbock or Abilene (like the 'good' white folks), bought booze, drove it back to Snyder, and then sold it at a mark up to the inhabitants of The Flats and any of the white citizens brave enough to shirk convention and belly up to the bar.

Stanley was home from college in the Big City - every city is "big" compared to Snyder, so it could have just been Lubbock, but I like to imagine it as New York or Chicago - so, Stanley's home from college in New York and, unconcerned with the provincial hang-ups of Scurry County, spends the better part of more than a few evenings having beers at Freddy Ray's and counting the days until he can get back to the city.

On one such evening, Theresa and a couple of her friends decided to finally indulge their sense of adventure and have a crack at good old fashioned rebellion. I imagine this idea coming to fruition in much the same way the three nerds decide to go to the party at the moon tower in Dazed and Confused. Freddy Ray's was their moon tower.

Innocent, white, Cute-as-a-button Theresa and her similarly attributed friends must have caused quite the stir when they walked into Freddy Ray's speak easy. I imagine all heads turning to stare and all noise, save for the blues music playing in the background, stopping as Theresa and her friends paused briefly just inside the door and tried to pretend that they weren't deeply, painfully out of their element.

Like any good businessman, Freddy Ray eventually offered the three awkward paying customers a drink and things settled into some sense of routine. Conversations resumed, beers were poured. If there was a pool table, and I like to think there was, the game started back up. However, and in stories like this there's always a "however," the Scurry County sheriff had decided that that night was a good night to raid Freddy Ray's speak easy. I don't know if this was because the sheriff had to keep up appearances and did so by periodically raiding Freddy Ray's, making some arrests, and doling out some fines, or if the sheriff was on the take and Freddy Ray hadn't paid his dues.
When I'm in a good mood, I like to imagine the sheriff raiding Freddy Ray's as Buford T. Justice


When I'm in a bad mood, it's Boss Godfrey from Cool Hand Luke











At any rate, the law was coming through the door and there were four white kids sitting at the bar who were about to be in a world of hurt and embarrassment...mostly embarrassment...and mostly for their families. Mozelle, realizing the stakes for Stanley and Theresa and her friends, herded them quickly into her and Freddy Ray's house and hid them, two by two, in coat closets.

Stanley and Theresa spent the evening getting to know one another in the coat closet of a bootlegger's house while it was being raided.

As if that wasn't epic enough, my parents tell me Stanley and Theresa were later divorced but then got remarried. At their second wedding, the pastor didn't show, they called around and found a backup pastor to preform the ceremony on short notice, and then spent the evening at a bar together regaling a drag queen with their story. Well played, Stanley and Theresa. Well played.

I think of their story as sort of the Saturday Night Live version of the Vancouver Riot Couple. Instead of riot cops, it's Buford T. Justice. Instead of a city street in the midst of chaos, it's a bootlegger's closet in the midst of a raid. Regardless, the story is essentially the same. Two unlikely people find one another in the eye of an equally unlikely storm and decide that being together is better than being alone and back in the storm...in Stanley and Theresa's case, twice.

I love that story.                       

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Inconsequential Reader Debate #1

Ages ago I had the idea of a recurring weekly feature in which I would share one of the seemingly hundreds of nicknames my friends and I have doled out over the years and the stories behind their creation. This "weekly" feature, cleverly titled "Nickname Friday," survived for exactly one Friday, dying in its infancy when I realized I had committed myself to weekly updates on a day that, quite frankly, I looked forward to for reasons other than sitting in front of my computer and forcing myself to try to be clever. Dance, monkey! Dance!

Maybe I'll bring it back one of these days (not a Friday), but for now I have an idea for another potentially recurring bit. Welcome to the first Inconsequential Reader Debate! For clarity's sake, the debate is the inconsequential part, not you the reader. As I noted yesterday, this blog needs (wants?) all the readership it can get so each and every one of you is decidedly consequential as far as I'm concerned. Feel good about yourselves. Go ahead, I'll wait.

On to the debate!

Of the following seminal 80s bands, which band is the King of the Seminal 80s Band Hill?

The Contenders:

Erasure

Scoff all you want, but Erasure was the balls. Depeche Mode castoff, Vince Clarke and flamboyantly gay lead singer, Andy Bell had 24 consecutive Top 20 hits in the UK. I remember listening to the radio as a kid and Erasure being sort of an also ran amidst songs by The Cure, Duran Duran, U2, Depeche Mode, and all that ridiculous hair metal, which, strictly speaking, was very much hair and very little metal. But every time I hear an 80s hits compilation, Erasure seems to have at least two or three songs in the mix. As a testament to how awesome Erasure must have been, can you imagine a lead male vocalist in the present day being as comfortably out as Andy Bell is/was and enjoying anything close to the popularity Erasure did? Maybe our country has become more intolerant (God, I hope not), but I have a hard time envisioning it. "Well, maybe he wasn't clearly gay at the time," you say.

"Have a look at this," I counter.




The Cure
Does the dude on the far right not look vaguely like Jared Leto?
If the hairspray industry had a say in this debate, The Cure would win hands down. I mean, Michael Jackson's activator once caught fire on stage because he stood just a touch too close to a tiny open flame. The Cure must have had a staunch "No pyrotechnics" policy at their shows. These guys would go up like flash paper.

Hairspray aside, of the four bands I've chosen for this Inconsequential Debate, The Cure is arguably still the most relevant. I challenge any of the 80s babies out there to produce a Cure free iPod or to not sing along to "Friday I'm in Love" when it comes on the radio during one of those throwback lunch hour shows. I fell in love with The Cure when my mother, in a bold child rearing move, allowed my sister and I to watch MTV (when it was just music videos) reasoning that we were being exposed to the arts and not gratuitous violence or mindless sitcoms. I haven't been the same since I saw Madonna's "Justify My Love" video. Hang on. I need a moment.

[Two minutes later]

Back to The Cure! Anyhow, "Lovesong" was the first video by The Cure I ever saw. Creepy, forlorn, and awesome. I was hooked. And apparently so were a lot of other future musicians my age. You can't read an interview about influences without someone, from Deftones to AFI to 311 to The Killers, mentioning The Cure.



Depeche Mode


Of the bands in the debate, Depeche Mode is easily the most overtly sexual. Andy Bell was heartbroken most of the time but in a Gloria Gaynor "I Will survive" kind of way and wanted you to know all about it. Robert Smith was heartbroken then in love then heartbroken then in love then just really missed someone then was in love again then was back to being heartbroken. Dave Gahan just wanted to fuck you.

Even today, 25-30 years on, Depeche Mode's songs sound like sex.

Let me take you on a trip
Around the world and back
And you won't have to move
You just sit still


Now let your mind do the walking
And let my body do the talking
Let me show you the world in my eyes

Gahan's baritone, the mischievous and hyper-sexual synth melodies, and driving bass lines were a formula for some massive hits in the 80s and early 90s and, like The Cure, a huge number of present day artists from diverse backgrounds reference Depeche Mode when naming their most prominent influences. Check out this list of acts from "For The Masses," a Depeche Mode tribute album:

Smashing Pumpkins
God Lives Underwater
The Cure
Hooverphonic (I had ever heard of them either, but their cover of "Shake the Disease" is awesome)
Deftones
Monster Magnet
Veruca Salt
Meat Beat Manifesto
Rammstein (Can we get a mulligan on Rammstein?)


Tears For Fears

For me, Tears For Fears is the dark horse in this debate. They were big a little before the other three bands and their decided lack of hairspray and black clothing in favor of Cosby sweaters and mullets can't be ignored, can it? Maybe I should have thrown INXS in here instead, but I'm really curious to see who can make a case for Tears For Fears. "Shout" and "Everybody Wants to Rule The World" were huge songs and deservedly so, but they were both from the "Songs From the Big Chair" album and "The Seeds of Love" may be just a touch too saccharine for my taste. But what do I know? Earlier in this post Andy Bell was dancing around in heels and a he-corset and it rocked.

Essentially, Tears For Fears was two dudes who wrote pretty good songs. They're certainly the least processed of the four bands in the debate and are arguably the most cerebral. Admittedly, I know little about them compared to Erasure, The Cure, and Depeche Mode, but I had to have four choices for the reader. Why? I don't know. Three just seemed a little totalitarian.



So there are the contenders. Have at it, small but hopefully growing readership. Leave your comments below. It's OK to be anonymous, just have a reason for choosing whichever band you choose. No one ever won a debate without supporting his/her position. Well, Lloyd Bentsen did own Dan Quayle with that, "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy," but you, Reader, are no Lloyd Bentsen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Milestone?

This week Drinking Stories welcomed its 20,000th visitor. 20,000. That's like the population of Hammond, Louisiana. I didn't mean that to sound impressive. Much like the population of Hammond, Louisiana, I'm pretty sure many of my visitors are related. My parents, my sister, and ex girlfriends wondering if I'm venting their dirty laundry into cyberspace almost certainly account for a hefty percentage of my readership. Still though, 20,000 feels like a milestone.

Wilt's 20,000 was a bigger deal...both times. Hey-O!

It's been a big week for the blog. Delusions of grandeur danced in my head as "Heisman Eve or Why Baylor Fans Can Wait For Tomorrow," fueled by a number of much appreciated links on Facebook and Twitter, found a niche readership (let's be honest, anything associated with Baylor is likely prefaced with the word 'niche') and attracted close to 200 visitors the first day it was posted.

I was on the cusp of something. My article just needed to find its way to the right email account or Twitter account or Facebook account and someone with the authority to do so would offer to publish it. I'd reach a mass audience! Drinking Stories would blow up! Muahahahahahaha!

None of this happened.

After RG3 hoisted the Heisman (Do work, Son!), time sensitive articles written in the perishable space between him being named a finalist and him winning the award lost much of their relevance. Who knew? Over 200 visits became under 20 visits in 24 hours.

It was during this time that Drinking Stories welcomed its 20,000th visitor. Rather than the cosmos and some strange synergy conspiring to make said 20,000th visitor the literary benefactor I had previously imagined, reality and karma conspired to make said 20,000th visitor some unsuspecting high school kid in Medford, Oregon. This is sort of like a Victoria's Secret store all geared up and ready to roll out the red carpet for its millionth customer and Hugh from the bowling league sheepishly saunters in looking for edible panties.

"Y'all got cherry flavored?"

And for what, you ask, was my milestone searching?

"storys on drinking"

Jesus.

Well, it is what it is.

*Ahem* Here's to you, Oregon High School Kid! Congratulations on being the 20,000th visitor to Drinkingstories.blogspot.com. Although I'm fairly sure you didn't find what you were looking for, I hope you at least learned the proper way to spell "stories." If I ever do make any money as a writer, no matter how much, I will be sure to send a portion of the proceeds, in the form of a ceremonial, oversized check, to your school's English department in recognition of your boredom driven, unintentional accomplishment. Thanks for keeping me firmly grounded in reality.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Heisman Eve or Why Baylor Fans Can Wait For Tomorrow


Robert Griffin III may win the Heisman Memorial Trophy tomorrow evening. As a proud Baylor University Alum, I'm over the moon about this and I almost can't decide whether I want the award ceremony to happen tomorrow at all. Everything is perfectly poised, ready to tip in the most unlikely, unexpected, and spectacular way imaginable for a Baylor football fan. It's our own little Christmas Eve and the excitement of the "what if" is too great a dream to even contemplate what it would be like if grandmother actually got us socks.

Baylor fans don't want this to just hurry up and happen. We can wait. Right now is just too delicious, too difficult to wrap our minds around, too much milk and honey after too much time in the wilderness. We kind of just want to sit here for a minute and take it all in. For the last few weeks, sports writers have been taking notice of Baylor football and RG3 and referencing this season as a shocking bolt from the blue engineered at the hands (and feet) of a once-in-a-program quarterback who quietly exploded onto the national stage. While that makes for a compelling lede, it ignores so much of what came before and on which this season was built.

I spent six years at Baylor as an undergraduate and graduate student beginning in 1998. During that time, Baylor went a combined 14 - 54 and were outscored 1,069 to 2,442. I was raised in the Austin, TX area and, although my father also went to Baylor, we were both University of Texas fans. I freely admit that the highlight of my 1998 college football season, as a Baylor freshman, was watching Ricky Williams break the NCAA rushing record en route to winning a Heisman Trophy for The University of Texas. I wasn't alone in this kind of traitorous allegiance. One of my friends on the soccer team was a huge Oklahoma fan. I had cheered for the Longhorns since I was a little kid. Why immediately switch allegiance when my new suitor gave me so little to be excited about? Plus, being a freshman on any university campus in your first semester is a little overwhelming. Not to mention one that was seemingly so antithetically suited to what I was all about at the time. I spent most of my days playing soccer, wondering why I couldn't get a girl to even throw a rock at me, and being generally antagonistic to all things Christian. And at Baylor, there are a lot of all things Christian. In short, I didn't feel plugged in. Baylor is just where I went to school.

But by the second semester I'd found an outlet. Maybe not the most traditional outlet, but a dyed in the wool, uniquely Baylor outlet, and an outlet nonetheless. There's an organization at Baylor called The NoZe Brotherhood. One of the central tenets of being a member in this group is that you remain anonymous and under no circumstance do you reveal your membership therein to anyone. This "central tenet" is adhered to on a sliding scale inversely proportional to the relative attractiveness of any/all members of the opposite sex who might be impressed by your membership in said group. Since I'm well outside Baylor's sphere of influence in both age and distance these days and I have no plans to run for public office, I'm not terribly concerned about revealing this bit of information.

I'm the naked one in the middle of the photo. 
                          

The thing about The NoZe is, they love Baylor. They don't always show it in a way the administration finds palatable, but the pranks, and the articles, and the criticisms (and there are plenty, see: Marc Ellis) are all done because The NoZe Brotherhood genuinely cares about the university, couldn't exist without it, and, as students committed to getting an education there, want the university to be as good as it can be, both academically and on the playing field. These people are not the fringes of the Baylor student body. In fact, as much as the university would cringe to hear it, some of the students Baylor markets as its best and brightest - actors, lawyers, politicians, doctors, judges, musicians, scholars - were all NoZe Brothers. How I got in is still a mystery. No one voted for me.

To be a good NoZe Brother, you have to be plugged in to the university. You have to care enough about what's going on with the university athletically, socially, academically, and politically to write articles that are relevant and plan and execute pranks that are memorable. With so much time invested in caring about what was going on on campus, representing the university on the soccer field, and just settling in, it didn't take long before I felt a sense of ownership toward Baylor. This was my university. I stopped cheering for the Longhorns.

In my time at Baylor, The NoZe definitely lampooned the football team. We couldn't not do it. If you don't laugh, you'll cry...and there was plenty to laugh/cry about. In 1999, we went 1-10 and endured Kevin Steele's signature college football coaching moment when we tried to rush for a touchdown from UNLV's eight yard line up 24-21 with five seconds left on the clock. We fumbled in the end zone and a UNLV defensive back returned the ball 101 yards for a touchdown. We lost 27-24.

In 2000, we went 2-9 and endured three straight shutouts losing to Texas Tech 28-0, Texas A&M 24-0, and Nebraska 59-0.

In 2001, we lost to Southern Illinois 56-12 to cap off a 3-8 season...that's Southern Illinois!

In 2002, we were shut out four times. New Mexico 23-0, Texas A&M 41-0, Colorado 34-0, and Texas 41-0.

In 2003, Guy Morriss took over as head coach, finally putting Baylor out of  Kevin Steele's misery. Morriss seemed destined to be a perfect fit as Baylor's coach after the Kentucky/LSU premature Gatorade bath of 2002. It was Kevin Steelesque and the kind of thing that couldn't help but be associated with Baylor football. Morriss is a genuine football guy with all the bonafides to make a good coach, but recruiting in Texas against the likes of Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and any other college program licking its chops to mine the most talented football state in the country was just a bridge too far. Texas A&M beat us 73-10. And if that wasn't bad enough, The University of North Texas beat us 52-14. Find UNT on a map. I'll wait.

Still, there were just enough "if only" moments to keep a Baylor fan's sad, flickering flame of hope alight. In 2001, myself and the rest of the soccer team listened intently to the radio in one of our team vans as Greg Cicero put in a gutsy performance on a windy day against the Aggies at Kyle Field. We lost 16-10, but it was respectable. Hell, even before that game, Greg Cicero, a one time University of Texas recruit, filled Baylor fans' hearts with expectation when he transferred from UT to be our quarterback. He was a solid guy and his roommate Guy Tomchek, another Baylor quarterback, was a solid guy too (See what I did there?),  but being a solid guy and being a solid quarterback are not necessarily mutually inclusive.

Gary Baxter was a standout defensive back who shut down Roy Williams in Austin one Saturday and was a second round draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens. Unfortunately, there are ten other defensive positions on the field and Gary Baxter couldn't play all of them, although The NoZe Brotherhood suggested it. Reggie Newhouse, in spite of having God-knows-who at quarterback for his entire Baylor career had over 1,000 yards receiving in 2002 and had six 100 yard receiving games that season.

In 2002, we beat Kansas to open Big XII play...but then lost all of our remaining games. In 2003, we beat Colorado to open Big XII play...but then lost all of our remaining games. Rashad Armstrong rushed for 1,074 yards and six touchdowns that season though. That's something, right?

I left Baylor just before the fall semester of 2004 to move on to the adult phase of my life (i.e. not running around a university campus drinking beer and wearing Groucho Marx glasses and a wig), but I still followed Baylor football, returned for Homecoming, and found myself more than willing to defend Baylor and Baylor football when confronted by the Red Raiders, Aggies, Longhorns, Sooners, and Cowboys who run feral across Texas outside of the Baylor Bubble. And for a brief flash, I was armed with a few more weapons to defend myself.

Players like Shawn Bell, Dominique Zeigler, Trent Shelton, Joe Pawelek, Daniel Sepulveda, C.J. Wilson and Colin Allred were the kinds of hardworking, under-recruited players Grant Teaff had coached up to make Baylor a solid and respected football program (Side note: if this new stadium gets built and it doesn't somehow bear Grant Teaff's name, someone is going to have a lot of explaining to do). There was the double overtime win against the #16 Aggies in 2004 and a five win 2005 season in which we lost to Oklahoma in double overtime in Norman. Dominique Zeigler went off in that game and made a catch on a deep ball that I'm still trying to wrap my mind around. We were making strides. Bears were getting drafted and signing NFL contracts. Daniel Sepulveda won the Ray Guy award...twice! I didn't care that our punter was our most hyped player and neither did any other Baylor fan. He was a Bear, dammit! And he could do this.

Then in 2007 the wheels fell off, we went 3-9, and didn't win a Big XII game. Let's be honest, we were already driving on rims.

Exit Guy Morriss.

Enter Art Briles.

I can't not like Art Briles. He coached some relative of mine (I'm not sure of the cousin rules...twice removed...second...distant...whatever) at Stephenville, coached at my high school (waaaaaay before my time), and sounds just about as Texan as you can get without sounding unauthentic. Those appear to be inconsequential qualities when you're tasked with rebuilding a program that has violently resisted being rebuilt, Baylor in 2008 was sort of the Afghanistan of college football, but those are precisely the qualities that have allowed him to attract, improve, and retain players like RG3, Kendall Wright, Terrance Ganaway, Terrance Williams, Danny Watkins, Phil Taylor, Ahmad Dixon, Lache Seastrunk, David Gettis, Jason Smith, Elliot Coffey, Philip Blake, and J.D. Walton.

There's just something about Briles that makes you want to play for him, and not because you're scared of him *cough* Gary Patterson *cough*, but because you believe in what he says and you don't want to let him down. I remember listening to Grant Teaff speak at a luncheon I was invited to as a grad student. One of my buddies from the soccer team was there with me and when Teaff finished his speech, we both  stood to applaud but did so hopping from foot to foot because we were ready to go run through a brick wall for the guy. Briles has that quality and instills belief where others see only reasons to doubt. I remember Briles, in his first season at Baylor, saying something along the lines of, "Baylor fans will get behind Baylor football when we give them a reason to." It was an honest assessment of Baylor football in recent years, but it also pointed a way forward for a program that had been adrift and searching for excuses. Everything will take care of itself when we start winning. Let's start winning. Vintage Briles. He brought in guys like RG3 who are supremely confident, march to a slightly different beat, exude positivity, and wanted to be the start of something.

That start was not without its bumps as Baylor won only four games in each of Art Briles' first two seasons at the helm and RG3 missed an entire season with an ACL tear. But then there was a 7-6 season and Baylor's first bowl bid since I was in junior high. I sat in a bar in Washington, DC the night before my first marathon and sacrificed my finishing time goal to watch the Bears beat the University of Texas in Austin. I yelled and high-fived strangers. The week before, I was at Homecoming in Waco with my dad watching a Baylor football game together live for the first time since I was in elementary school. We beat Kansas State to become bowl eligible and my dad rediscovered his affinity for Baylor football for the first time since Grant Teaff was fired. For the New Year I drove from Indianapolis to Houston to share a suite in Reliant Stadium with a bunch of other NoZe Brothers and watch Baylor play Illinois in the Texas Bowl. Remember, just a few years earlier we had lost to Southern Illinois in the last game of the season to go 3-8. This was quite a change, the start of hope growing into anticipation and excitement.    

The college football public is just sitting up and taking notice of that start, but for my money, it's four years late. RG3 has looked like a thoroughbred class act since he stepped on campus, won the Big XII 400m hurdles, and did that little stutter step juke move on the sideline of the Wake Forest game in 2008. Add to that humility, humor, academic excellence, and the quiet confidence that comes from knowing there's a world out there beyond football. Watching Robert Griffin III win the Davey O'Brien award last night was telling. It's not that he was nonplussed or expected to win it, but that he didn't seem awed by the moment or affected in the way one might expect of superstar 21 year old athletes. It's a prestigious award and he was clearly appreciative, but there's a quality of aloof confidence about him that showed in  his acceptance of the trophy and that he's shown throughout his Baylor career. For the last few seasons, gliding into the huddle with the game on the line, Griffin might as well have been wearing a sign that says, "I got this."

Briles and RG3 have been the college football version of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker ("Return of the Jedi" Luke Skywalker, not "A New Hope" Luke Skywalker) and if Griffin wins the Heisman tomorrow night it'll be sort of like that last scene in "Return of the Jedi" when The Death Star blows up and all the Ewoks absolutely lose their shit. They're a type of bear, right? For now though, the anticipation is just too perfect. For Baylor fans who love and are proud of their university, this has been a long time coming. This isn't the Griffin to Williams touchdown pass to beat Oklahoma on national television. It's the 21 point, untelevised comeback against Kansas as described by the insufferable, obnoxious, glad-handing, clueless, water-boy-all-grown-up, Voice of the Bears, John Morris. It's the culmination of everything that came before it. It's the work of the players who did what they could in the lean years between Teaff and Briles. It's the Baylor fans who sat in Floyd Casey Stadium at games against Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M when it seemed like there was more maroon, burnt orange, and crimson in the stands than there was green and gold. Rather than a bolt from the blue, Baylor's recent success, RG3's ascendency, and Briles' stewardship of the program are the opening pages in a chapter of what has, until this point, been a very cumbersome book to read, but one that had to be read to get where we are now.

We're finally to the good part. Let us enjoy it for a few moments.




       

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Top 25 Redux

When you've not written in a while or are in a slump, sometimes it's a good idea to just ride the coattails of something you've written before and ease on back into the groove. Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, John Grisham, and, most obviously, Dan Brown have all made a career out of this. I mean really, The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons are EXACTLY the same book. Yes, this means I read both of them...Damn you, Dan Brown! Damn youuuuuuuu!

Clearly, I'm not in the same boat as these guys. For one, I'm terrible at writing fiction. For two (Can you say 'for two'?), half of my posts are about people crapping their pants and my most popular writing to date is a reading of The Dukes of Hazzard as the Gospel of Christ. I guess that's a sort of hillbilly Da Vinci Code, right?

Anyhow, I'm going to pull a Dan Brown here and revisit a post from about a year ago. A lot has happened in the last year. Heartbreak, a best friend's wedding, two moves, personal crises, heartbreak again...let's see how this has been reflected in my iPod's Top 25 Most Played songs! I know, you're on the edge of your seat in anticipation. Cut me some slack.

1. This Modern Love by Bloc Party - Admittedly, this live version is not as good as the album version, but who cares? If you're going to schlep a song title from David Bowie, you'd better bring the business. Lyrically, I love this song, especially the last lyrics. "Do you wanna come over and kill some time? Throw your arms around me." Is there such a thing as a love song that isn't in some way part of everyone's autobiography? Methinks not.

2. No Love by Eminem - Only Eminem could sample a song by a guy who looks like this and still sound hard as fuck. This may be the greatest breakup song of all time. Thank God Eminem cleaned up and got his shit in one sock. Offended by his lyrics or not, the guy is absolutely the most clever, intense, and skilled rapper out there.

3. Kill Everybody by Skrillex - I probably never would have gotten turned on to Skrillex were it not for a certain young lady with an eclectic and discerning taste in really, really cool music, but I'm glad I did. A lot of dubstep producers cringe that he's brought their genre to the masses, but I have to chalk that up to sour grapes. In another universe, where I'm a mixed martial arts fighter (laughable as I've never been in a fight and have no intention of starting that habit now), this is my entry music. Pretty sure I win the fight before I even get to the ring.

4. Almost Easy by Avenged Sevenfold - I don't know what it is about these guys that I like because they're essentially a meat head band, but I have to admit to a weak spot for really aggressive music. And if there is a redeeming value to Avenged Sevenfold it's, as I've mentioned before, the musicianship is pretty unbelievable. Additionally, as I've also said before, there's something delicious about unabashed heavy metal. This song reminds me of an ex girlfriend from ages ago. We played the back and forth game for way too long; sort of a fucked up, emotionally disturbing version of the Mango skits from Saturday Night Live. If she were self aware enough to have any sort of introspective thought, I think the lyrics to this song would have been a pretty accurate inner monologue.

5. Too Shy To Scream by AFI - Full disclosure: I LOVE AFI. If I have a critique, it's that lyrically Davey Havoc (great stage name) can be a touch too earnest. Having said that, what's wrong with being a little over the top from time to time? Androgynous? Effeminate even? The fact is, I'm not sure there's a lead singer out there who has more fun being a lead singer than Mr. Havoc. Also, if you get the chance, brave the Hot Topix kids and go to an AFI show. Awesome live. Fact.

6. Veronica Sawyer Smokes by AFI - Clearly, I don't skip over these two songs as they're ordered back to back on the Crash Love Album. Ditto my thoughts above. "Oh, I saw you every time I closed my eyes in the Hughes film I had scored, produced, and starred in in my mind. I could recite you, well, I'd written every line but you strayed far from my flawless script on which I'd spent a lifetime."

7. Tell Me What it Is by Rodney Parker and the 50 Peso Reward - Again, the album version is better, but a songwriter and his guitar are tough to beat. What do we have so far? Rap, dubstep, heavy metal, Indy, Emo, and now country? Sounds like a day in my life. I have a weakness for good Texas country and this is right up my alley. I'm pretty sure Rodney Parker is going to appear somewhere else on this list...maybe a couple of times. Lyrically, Parker doesn't pander to the conventions of modern country music and I could kiss him for it. He also does a great cover of Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen. Who wouldn't love that? Communists, that's who.

8. Just Like Heaven by The Cure - My best friend and I were both raised in separate football nuts regions of the area south of the Mason-Dixon line and constantly argue about Big XII offenses and SEC defenses. He also occasionally sends me comedic picture messages of himself in his underwear, I've told him I love him on more than one occasion (his wife too), and we both adore The Cure. If his parents are reading this, they're probably praying and mainlining Fox News shows just to stay alive. The Cure are easily the best band of the 80s and in my top five all time.

9. Smile Like You Mean It by The Killers - Can you be wildly successful and still be underrated? Great, great song writing. Wonderful lyrics. Morrisseyesque vocals. More often than not, a perfect soundtrack to my life.

10. We've Had Enough by Alkaline Trio - The aesthetic of this band is addictive and tailor made for some really great tattoos...if getting album jacket art as a tattoo wasn't itself tailor made for instant regret. I remember when Good Mourning came out. It was pretty much all I listened to and I still love the album. I'd say most of their lyrics are haunting and disturbing, but also tongue-in-cheek and playful. That's a tough combination to nail, but they do it.

11. Fast Lane by Bad Meets Evil - Highly inappropriate lyrics, expertly delivered. Best rap song of the last two years.

12. Wish by Paper Route - This band just lost the singer and songwriter that I loved them for, but hopefully it's not a death sentence. "All my decisions were just second guesses, looking for love like a bride looks for dresses." I spent the majority of a 16 hour drive back to Texas listening to this album and sang along most of the time. People in Arkansas stared.

13. Jenny Don't Be Hasty by Paolo Nutini - Where is Paolo Nutini from, you ask? Paisley, Scotland. When I was a little, little kid, I used to think it was odd to hear a black man speak with a UK accent, but now it seems completely normal. A guy named Paolo speaking with a Scottish accent still doesn't seem right. Great song. Fuck age differences. Like R. Kelly said, "Age ain't nothin' but a number." And that officially marks the first time R. Kelly and Paolo Nutini will ever be referenced in the same literary space. You're welcome.

14. Why Are You Here by MeTalkPretty - I'm beginning to wonder why I have a weak spot for overwrought female break up songs. Yeah, I'm not going down that rabbit hole. This chick has PIPES.

15. American Slang by The Gaslight Anthem - Working class band from New Jersey. Fender Telecasters. Heartfelt. I've seen this formula before.

16. Cautioners by Jimmy Eat World - Bleed American is a killer album from beginning to end and the ultimate "F you!" to the record label that dropped them. Yes, they can be a little too pop prone for my taste, but what a lovely song...and yes, it's breakup apropos.

17. 11 Hours by Rodney Parker and the 50 Peso Reward - God, this is a beautiful song. Do yourself a favor and listen to the album version (iTunes). If I cried, I never do...and I never lie either...seriously, this song would get me like a baby every time I hear it.

18. Silver Wings by Thrice -

From tender years you took me for granted
But Still I deign to wander through your lungs
While you were sleeping soundly in your bed,
Your drapes were silver wings, your shutters flung

I drew the poison from the summer's sting,
And eased the fire out of your fevered skin.
I moved in you and stirred your soul to sing;
And if you'd let me I would move again.

I've danced 'tween sunlit strands of lover's hair;
Helped form the final words before your death.
I've pitied you and plied your sails with air;
Gave blessing when you rose upon my breath.

And after all of this I am amazed,
That I am cursed far more than I am praised
.

If you're going to sing about God, by God, do it like this.

19. International Players Anthem by UGK - You have to love southern rap. Seriously, you have to. UGK and Outkast may be the best ever. Pour one out for Pimp C. Also, does Andre 3000 remind anyone else of RG3? Makes RG3 even more Heisman worthy as far as I'm concerned. Andrew Luck's got no drip in his hip.

20. Just Say Yes by Snow Patrol - Apparently, this was played at my request at my best friend's rehearsal dinner. I say "apparently" because, even though I was the best man, I was in a plane somewhere over the Deep South when said rehearsal dinner was taking place. Halfway to the airport early that morning, I realized I had forgotten my suit. Faced with the decision between upsetting the groom by missing our tee time and upsetting the bride because I forgot my suit, I immediately told the cab driver to turn around and head back to my house to retrieve the suit. Not exactly Sophie's Choice.

21. Motivation by Kelly Rowland - Not exactly my go to genre, but I'm pretty sure people get pregnant just by listening to this song. Hot.

22. First of the Year by Skrillex - The drop in this song melts my face. Creepy video though. Seems sort of like a, "Well, we have to make a video, any ideas?" kind of video. Whatever. I have a friend who works for a concert promotions company who I'm pretty sure thinks I only contact her when I'm looking to score free tickets to good shows. I texted her to say hey right about the time Skrillex came to town. She responded with something along the lines of, "You just want Skrillex tickets, don't you." I really was just saying hey...but once it was mentioned...

23 and 24 Wax and Wire by Loch Lomond and A Little Piece by The Jezabels (respectively) - I heard both of these songs for the first time on this video of Danny MacAskill doing absolutely insane things on a mountain bike. I watch this video at least once a week. Part of it is the music, part of it is the ludicrous shit this guy is doing on a bike, and the other part of it is a little bit of Scottish pride. I claim Texas, but I was born in Scotland. That's a pretty badass combination if I do say so myself. Barbecue and haggis. Kilts and cowboy boots. Six shooters and headbutts. William Wallace and Sam Houston. Battle of Stirling and The Alamo. #winning.

25. Rosa Parks by Outkast - The mock phone conversation at the beginning of this video is what Outkast is all about, and God bless them for it. I can't hear this song and not dance. I sent a text to a girl I was dating referencing lyrics to this song. She responded with question marks. I educated her. Don't say I never did anything of value. Hush that fuss.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

A week or so ago a study was released that suggested Fox News viewers were actually less informed than people who watch no news at all. Fox News viewers were probably shocked and offended by this - well might have been, but I'm guessing Fox News didn't even put this on its ticker and it's doubtful Halloween Mask Nancy Grace reads anything but her own teleprompter so she probably never got offended by the report in the first place - but it did stir up quite the tit for tat on various Facebook walls on which it was posted.

One such Facebook debate, a debate I regrettably got involved in, led off with a tired saying by a self-proclaimed Fox News fan that there were, "Lies, damn lies, and statistics," suggesting that any survey can be tweaked and spun so that it supports a certain bias. While I somewhat agree with this, I often find that this argument is used by people who don't want to even contemplate that the survey in question has any validity to it. It did however get me to thinking about statistics and emboldened me to click on the "stats" tab at the top of my Blogger home page for the first time to see, statistically anyway, who it is that reads this blog. Here are the results from the last month:

699 page views - Apparently I'm not the people's first choice in blogging entertainment. I've not written much recently...that must be the issue.

Blogger's Choice Awards, Google, Twitter, and Facebook lead the referring URLs, but there are some notable referrals from other bloggers that are greatly appreciated! Specifically, Nomad With Glassware, Life As We Make It, and Petite Pasteque (sorry, I can't do the accent on this keyboard).

There's also a significant number of referrals from a particularly odious and parasitic crap bag of a website called Nasty Banners that takes other people's work and tries to pass it off as its own. More on them later. I don't have the energy right now.

Breakdown by country:

USA - 492
UK - 38
Canada - 34 (Thanks, Canada!)
Australia - 21
Germany - 17
South Korea - 8
India - 6
Poland - 5
Russia - 5
Latvia - 4 (WTF?)

So far, everything makes sense. Statistics seem pretty solid. Fox News viewers must really be morons. But for what, you ask, are these readers searching?

Well, in the last month, Boss Hogg beat out Uncle Jesse with 54 searches to 35. Also, given that The Gospel According to Duke is far and away my most popular post, statistics say there are a lot more "Dukes of Hazzard" fans out there than I thought possible.

"Genie" led 25 online searches to my blog.

"Drinking Stories" appropriately accounted for 21 hits.

"Frogdog" comes in at 12.

"Mordecai" Children of the Corn gets a respectable 9.

Still, I get it. All of these are things I've posted about and form a logical pathway through the intertubes to my humble cyber affectation...but then there's this:

"Dad son masturbation stories." 1 search.

Fuck statistics. I'm watching Fox News.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happiness

There's a kid who plays for Texas Tech's football team named Happiness Osunde. Unfortunately, he suffered a horrific injury against Baylor last night so his name is more than a little ironic at the moment. I was watching last night's game (Sic 'em Bears!) and I started to think about Happiness, the player initially and then the idea, while the television announcers were showing images of Happiness' knee folding gruesomely in the wrong direction.

How can you not be struck by a name like Happiness? I know nothing of his background, but my initial reaction, although I'm not sure I'd name one of my own children Happiness, is that it's a wonderful name. How many times do you say your child's name from the time he is born to the time you never say anything again? Even calling him to dinner is, although I'm sure at some point it becomes routine, a subliminal reminder of the joy his birth has brought into your life. Happiness the person, just like happiness the idea, is something that requires(d) nurturing and patience and practice. Maybe you didn't get it right on Monday, but there's always Tuesday. Maybe you didn't get it right in January, but there's always February. Maybe you didn't get it right in 2011, but there's always 2012.

I'm coming to grips with this after some recent and spectacular personal failures. Without getting into details, I've spent the better part of the last 10 years waiting for happiness. When this debt gets paid off....When I meet the right woman...When I find the right job...When I find the right city...When I lead a healthier lifestyle...When...

The tricky thing is, none of those things happen unless you commit to making them happen. The trickier thing is that none of those things happen unless you create a context in which they can happen. You can't commit to meeting your soulmate. What is that? You may as well commit to walking to the moon. A commitment to something as massive and intangible as that fails almost as soon as you've articulated it and then where are you left? You're left in the same spot you were right before you committed to it. Stuck. Waiting. Finally, after some alarming and painful wake up calls, "when" has become right now. Failures have become starting points from which I can commit to the thousand little things that eventually, after time and practice, add up to the idea of happiness. That's the hope anyway.

On a long run this morning in a cold rain I found myself smiling at nothing in particular. The run, in and of itself, wasn't that gratifying. I had stepped in a few too many puddles and the rain was picking up as the temperature was dropping. If I hadn't been running regularly for the last month or so, I would have been cold, wet, tired, and miserable. As it was, the work I'd put in on sunny days in the early fall had accumulated in the form a ludicrous, beaming smile on my face. I must have looked ridiculous to anyone who drove past me. It occurred to me that gratification and happiness are not the same thing and things I've been doing for the last 10 years that I have found gratifying have not gotten me one step closer to being happy. In fact, in many ways they've kept me waiting. Gratification is what you feel while you're doing something, but it stops as soon as that something stops.

I started to form a list in my mind of things that over time and with practice create a context in which I can nurture happiness. I'll spare you the details because I'm sure the list makes for boring reading. Promiscuous, booze fueled sex didn't make the cut. I'm not upset about that. This is going to take time and it's going to be hard, but finally, finally, finally.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

When You Find Yourself the Villain in the Story You Have Written

I have this pan I love. I use it for almost everything. It's Calphalon, non-stick, very sturdily built. A while ago, I pan fried something and burned an acrid layer of gunk into it that seemed impossible to scrub out. I washed it on every conceivable setting in the dishwasher. I scrubbed the bejesus out of it with the coarsest scrubber I could find that wouldn't ruin its surface. I even put it on the stove, heated it until it was almost glowing, set off every smoke detector in my house, and tried to burn off the offending black residue. No dice.

Eventually, I just decided to continue to cook with it until it worked itself out. Great plan, right? This just made the residue worse and every meal I cooked, meals I used to love, began to taste charred, caustic, and poisonous.

As this is one big metaphor (yes, it is), I can't just toss it and get a new one, that would ruin the metaphor. There's only one thing for it. Stop ignoring it. Scrub the hell out of it. Keep scrubbing the hell out of it. Scrub it until every last bit of burnt shit is gone. Scrub it and don't use it until I'm confident I can enjoy a meal again without feeling like I licked the inside of a chimney.

Consider this a hiatus.

Until I'm the Good Guy again,

Doug

Monday, July 11, 2011

Warning: Genies Are Bastards

Genies, leprechauns, and the like are sneaky, devious little bastards. I learned this from a Twilight Zone episode I saw when I was a little kid. Who says TV isn't edifying?

These three teenaged friends caught a leprechaun (what he was doing out of Ireland is anyone's guess) and made him grant them each a wish. The first kid wished for what I would probably have wished for when I was 13, x-ray vision. Why did he want x-ray vision? To check out girls' underwear, of course. What were you thinking? Well, at first the x-ray vision works swimmingly, but then as he focuses, panties give way to skin and then skin gives way to internal organs. The little perv gets sick and faints (also what probably would have happened to me at 13).

The second kid wishes that his parents will do only what he commands them to do. Not a bad wish, I suppose. His wish quickly goes awry when he has to tell them how to do everything. To make a pizza, he has to tell them in excruciating detail to first open the freezer then remove the pizza then unwrap the pizza then turn on the oven then put the pizza in the oven...you get the point.

The last kid wishes for a hot car and a kick ass limo pulls up complete with a driver. They go tear assing around town and soon get pulled over. The driver disappears and the three kids are arrested for driving a stolen car. Get it? "Hot car?" And that's the problem with genies and/or leprechauns. They're always trying to teach you some moral lesson about greed or self-centeredness.

My buddy Barrett reminded me of this on a six hour drive back from a casino in Shreveport, LA (that's another story altogether) after we had listened to R. Kelly's Ignition remix twelve too many times and needed something else to occupy our time.

"If you got one wish from a genie, what would it be?" He asked.

"Hmmm...not sure. You?" I replied.

"I'd wish for the ability to throw a 100mph fastball. That would take care of the money, fame, and women thing. I mean, if you're throwing that kind of smoke, you're gonna play in The Bigs."

He'd clearly wrestled with this important question many times before.

"Good wish," I responded.

There was a long pause while I was thinking of my wish and then Barrett broke the silence.

"Fucking genies. I take that back. I'd wish for the ability to throw a controlled, left-handed, 100mph fastball in a healthy, pain free way for at least ten years. Genies are always trying to teach you some ridiculous lesson and if I just wish for the fastball I'm not gonna be able to hit the broad side of a barn and I'll need Tommy Johns surgery after one pitch."

So true. Damned genies.

A couple of days ago another buddy of mine said he'd wish for a ludicrously wealthy wife so he could be a kept man and coach high school football for fun. I may have saved him a good deal of future misery when I cautioned him about genies and their mischievous lesson teaching.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," I said. "Seriously, you've gotta be careful jumping the gun like that. It's a good wish, but no genie is going to pass up the opportunity to make your wealthy wife hideously ugly and/or annoying, dumb as a stump, self-centered, unfaithful, abusive, prone to divorce you immediately, or all about a pre-nup. You've gotta think these things through."

"You're right," he said. "Fucking genies."

So let this be a lesson. Genies and leprechauns are wily and dastardly moral pedants. Take caution and really think through any wishes you might be tempted to make right out of the shoot. You've got time. Don't waste that wish.

You're welcome.

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Kind of Thuggish

I have a deep and abiding love for rap music. I've written about this before, but I'm still no closer to being able to explain this affinity. UGK, Do or Die, Maino, Outkast, Three Six Mafia, Eminem, NWA, Tupac, Jay-Z, Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def Lil Wayne...the list goes on and on.

This seems to be pretty much par for the course for white guys my age and all I can say is that maybe we listen to and enjoy it in the same way and for the same reason that our parents listened to the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Namely, our/their parents hated it. I've never been arrested or destructively rebellious and I definitely pull the Office Space roll-up-the-window-and-turn-down-the-hardcore-rap maneuver when I pull up to an intersection in a predominantly black neighborhood. Essentially, I have no street cred.

The next video is a case study in my kind of thuggish.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

General Tso's Revenge

I always wanted to be good at a particular type of writing. When I was in college I had this fantasy of being the next young, edgy, insightful, sensitive, and humorous author who could break hearts with a few soul cleaving paragraphs and touch human truths with an artistically wry wit that seemed to playfully ambush my fantasized about troves of loyal readers (mostly swooning females).

Turns out I'm good at telling stories in which people shit their pants.

I know this because every time I post something that lays my soul bare my dad calls and says something like, "Hey, I read your blog the other day. I thought it was well written." When I post a poo story, I hear similar comments, but said comments need to be deciphered among periodic peals of laughter and child-like giggling. Typically, these stories also receive the most Facebook comments, often from people I've not heard from in years, and also get the most hits on the blog. I guess as a writer it's good to have a wheelhouse, I just never thought mine would involve human excrement.

Oh well. Know thyself, right?

In college my sister dated a miserable asshole we'll call Zack, mostly because Zack is his real name and I have absolutely no love loss for the guy. Zack was an odious hipster at a time when Austin was just becoming overwhelmed with odious hipsters. He had that heroin chic look, multiple awful tattoos, and and an artist's affect that was less genuinely artistic and more exhaustingly practiced. He was sort of like Bug from Uncle Buck but minus some weight and plus some disapproval from my family. The disapproval I speak of came not from Zack's appearance, my parents have always been very accepting, sometimes to a fault, of the people my sister and I have chosen to date, but from his complete disregard for my sister's needs and the sense of entitlement he felt he had to date her. Aside: I love my sister dearly and although I am anti death penalty, I know that were anyone to ever do anything terrible to her I would want to murder the bejesus out of him. Clear enough?


Anyhow, Zack and my sister were on the rocks and Zack, thinking he would show some vulnerability and the ability to communicate intimately, decided to share a particularly awful story involving his unfortunately exploding bowels in an effort to win her back. It didn't work, but he unknowingly created a magnificent parable for their relationship.

Being college students and particularly strained in the pocketbook (Sound familiar?), Zack and his buddy decided to do work at an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet before attending a cookout at another friend's house. Apparently, the General Tso's Chicken was of particularly tasty quality that day and Zack consumed literally all he could eat. He and his friend were politely asked to leave by the restaurant's proprietors who afterwards undoubtedly rethought their business model so close to a university campus.

Stuffed to the gills on General Tso's delicious chicken, Zack and company made their way to the aforementioned cookout and immediately began to chase their affordable and delicious feast with multiple bottles of Shiner Bock. I was shocked later to learn that a rousing game of volleyball was also played at the party (who knew hipsters played volleyball?!), and about an hour or so in, General Tso, Shiner Bock, bumping, setting, and spiking collectively served as the impetus for some low grade intestinal cramping.

As I've said before, as with any good I Shit My Pants story, or Greek tragedy for that matter, impending doom could always have been avoided were it not for the hero's hubris. Zack could have left the party at the onset of his intestinal distress and violently evacuated his bowels in the privacy of his own home and Odysseus could have elected not to tell Polyphemus his real name and avoided being cursed by Poseidon, but arrogance is a powerful intoxicant and shit happens. Literally.

Zack instead elected to down another few beers thinking, foolishly so, that his discomfort would pass and a party marked by his early exit wasn't a party at all. Another hour or so passed and Zack finally felt the steel fisted squeezing of his lower abdomen that marks the beginning of an uncontrollable and immediate expulsion of the contents of one's bowels. It was go time.

Zack sprinted to the only bathroom in the house and found it occupied by another partygoer. Affecting his coolest I'm-just-waiting-calmly-for-my-turn-in-the-restroom-nothing-to-see-here stance, he tried to flex just the right muscles to avoid unleashing hell in the middle of the living room and managed to do just that long enough for the bathroom to become vacant.

Once inside, he hurriedly locked the door, sprang to the toilet, and began to struggle with his belt. At that time in Austin, proper hipster aesthetic necessitated the wearing of a scout belt with a completely unnecessary amount of slack in it. This required the wearer to cinch the belt tightly and prevented the smooth release of the sliding bar in the buckle. In normal situations involving waste elimination this is a minor inconvenience. In waste elimination situations involving General Tso, Shiner Bock, and volleyball, this is what we refer to as a "perfect storm".

Zack managed to get his pants (he was wearing no underwear, another hipster habit) to half mast or, for the more graphically inclined, half moon, before General Tso exacted his revenge. Without getting into too much detail, Zack's pants, legs, shoes, the toilet, and a generous percentage of the floor were covered in a fetid fecal eruption.

After a good few minutes collecting himself, surveying the damage, and trying, as calmly as possible, to convince the multiple partygoers impatiently waiting at the restroom door that he would be out momentarily, Zack hopped in the shower pantsless and washed himself from the waist down. He also had to wash his shoes. Seriously.

Aside: My Brother-in-law, the man lucky enough to eventually marry my sister and one of the best guys I've ever known (he's been a great buddy since 6th grade), is a naval fighter pilot. Pilots have a phrase for people who manage to stay cool and collected in awful situations that made perfect sense to me the first time I heard it because of this story. *Ahem* He's really got his shit in one sock. Zack had it in both shoes, his pants, and all over the floor.

After toweling off, he used the same towel to clean the toilet and the bathroom floor. He then disposed of the irretrievably soiled towel and his socks in the waste basket under the sink. At this point, those waiting for the bathroom had given up and returned to the party. Zack cracked the door and waited for his buddy to pass by and then, in a panicked voice, demanded that his buddy find him pants and quickly. Not knowing why Zack needed pants, his buddy leaned closer to the door and started to ask for clarification but was then assaulted by the caustic stench escaping from the cracked bathroom door. Without further question, he wheeled around and went searching the host's bedroom for some trousers.

Unfortunately for Zack, who stood well over six feet tall and weighed all of 140 pounds soaking wet, the party's host was a short, portly fellow. Any normal person would have cut his losses at this point, cinched the ridiculously fitting pants, and beat a path home. Zack decided to return to the party. Questions like Why did you change pants? Where have you been? Why are you barefoot? and Why are you carrying your shoes? were not enough for Zack to deprive the party of his company. What finally shamed him enough to leave was a question that was asked only after the central air kicked on in the house. I remember when I was a kid hanging out in my room and my mother was cooking chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen. I would have no knowledge of her cookie baking until the air conditioning would turn on and the vents in my room would gently emit the aroma of freshly baked deliciousness. This was the opposite of that. The question in question? What the fuck is that God awful stench?

Zack grabbed his buddy and told him it was time to leave. Now.

Like I said, a perfect parable. Take advantage of a good thing. Create a stinking mess. White wash your fuck up. Pretend nothing happened. Leave. Zack never got his shit in one sock.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Airport Bars: A Case Study in Story Value

I was flying home the other day - Arms sure are tired! (forgive me, I had to) - and had a couple of hours to kill before my flight departed so I sidled up to a bar (the only bar) in the Lubbock airport and ordered a beer.

Frequent travelers who enjoy people watching as much as I do LOVE airport bars. The transience of the other personalities is so palatable and that I'm-never-going-to-see-you-again voice in the back of many of their heads is so strong that they will air the dirtiest of secrets, release the most reprehensible inner beliefs, and sometimes completely fabricate a life to an absolute stranger just because they can. And the great thing is that one (assuming one is more of the listening ilk than of the confessing ilk) has to do almost nothing to coax this out of them. They WANT to do it. Sitting at a bar, ordering a beer, and looking approachable is often enough to attract a talker. They're like moths to flames. Granted, you can never quite be sure what is going to be said and you run the risk of hearing something that upsets you and/or causes you to lose your faith in marriage, government, the arts, religion, schools, men, women, family, the military, big business, the entertainment industry, dogs, sports, Halloween, or the decency of all humankind, but regular readers of this blog will realize that this is a small price to pay for story value. Put in simple terms:

Personal Discomfort (what is said + what is done) - Disbelief < Story Value

or

PD (ws + wd) - D < SV

It's science.


Anyhow, I'm sitting in this bar in the airport in Lubbock watching these three soggy, middle-aged salesmen chug boxed wine and literally dry hump a young, svelte blonde thing who is headed to New Orleans for a bachelorette party and chuckling to myself when Rick sits down right next to me.

Rick looked normal enough. Rick turned out not to be normal. If Rick were a character in a screenplay, he would be introduced thusly:


[Rick enters from the left side of the bar. He briefly surveys the patrons, then walks confidently, but with a slight chip on his shoulder and seats himself next to the young(ish) man at the bar who is drinking alone. Rick wears cowboy cut jeans with work boots and a denim shirt tucked in to reveal a healthy paunch. Rick's collar is open to the third button and a gold chain dangles there ensnared by his graying chest hair. The sleeves of the shirt are rolled to 3/4 length to reveal a faded, indecipherable tattoo on the back of his right forearm. Rick's salt and pepper hair is styled in a tight crew cut. He wears aviator shaped yellow lensed glasses. Rick orders a double Jack and Coke in a pint glass. Rick taps his drink with his large, gold pinky ring before speaking.]

And speak, Rick did. In thirty minutes, I learned the following:

Rick's son's best buddy was slated to be the high school valedictorian but one day got stoned to the Bejesus Belt and decided to rob the small town Sonic...at 3pm...maskless. His son's buddy made it two blocks with the $63.00 haul before he was apprehended. Oh, and Rick's son was with him. Rick made his son spend the night in jail to teach him a lesson.

Said lesson didn't work. Rick's son, years later, is currently in the clink.

Rick's daughter is a softball player and can throw smoke in fast pitch soft ball. Rick cannot comprehend how anyone can throw a ball that fast underhanded.

Rick is a construction supervisor and his current project is "seven ways of fucked up." It's not his fault though.

Rick met his wife while living as a foster child in her parents' house.

Rick's parents and parents-in-law are the same people.

Rick's current neighborhood has a large number of Vietnamese families moving in.

Rick believes this is why the family cat has gone missing. "You know they eat cats," Rick questions me and the bar in general after double Jack and Coke #2.

Rick wishes "The Whites" would stop getting forced out of their neighborhoods by people like "The Cat Eaters."

Rick is trying to get his card for the Senior PGA Tour. Qualifying rules have thus far prevented him from qualifying, but he's got sponsors lined up to foot the bill now and will be on tour in no time.

Rick has to ride in a golf cart when he plays on account of his disability.

Rick has chronic back pain.

Rick's chronic back pain stems from the second time he was struck by lightning.

Rick's gonna have one more Jack and Coke and then go catch his plane.

Rick was "Damned glad to meet [me]!"

PD(ws + wd) - D < SV

Like I said, it's science.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Damn you, poison ivy! Damn Youuuuuuuuuuu!

I'm getting over my second epic struggle with poison ivy this week. Although I wish I could write that as "Poison Ivy" and therefore, through the blogosphere, confess to you all that I am actually Batman and have recently vanquished for the second time the sexy and salacious villain of same name, I cannot. Alas, my poison ivy is a virulent little bitch of a vine/shrub/weed that has been the bane of my existence since I first encountered it as a child tromping around in the undergrowth of the creek that ran by my home pretending I was GI Joe.

My first youthful encounters with this spawn of Satan were more inconveniences than actual death matches, but since moving to Indianapolis four years ago, I have, on two occasions, been exposed to the urushiol that spews from its every surface and thereafter been subjected to the seeping misery that accompanies it.

How, you ask, has this happened? Well, my dog has A.D.D. and is too curious for her own good. Any overgrown area that smells faintly of chipmunk, squirrel, rabbit, or other woodland creature is immediately a target for her reckless tromping, sniffing, and digging. The urushiol gets on her fur, her fur gets on me, and voila! Horrible seeping rash.

The first time this happened, the rash that eventually appeared on my leg was bothersome, but no worries. A seeping leg rash can be easily covered with a bandage, jeans, and a little modesty. Plus, the scar that eventually formed there blended nicely with the multitude of other scars on my shins and knees that have been the consequence of what my fellow soccer playing friends call a "sometimes overzealous style of play." When they don't use that euphemism they just say "dirty." I'll argue that until I'm blue in the face, but I digress.

The second time this happened, just last week, I had finished doing a little yard work and was playing with the aforementioned A.D.D. canine and wound up with a disgusting, oozing swath of broken skin that extended from my shoulder to the top of my right ear. There's no hiding this. I was literally under house arrest for three days save for my mandatory trips to work (although I did take one sick day). Shaving was not and still is not an option. This is bad for someone who has to appear respectable on a daily basis. To boot, I am challenged in the facial hair department. Were I able to grow a Paul Bunyanesque man mask, things might not have appeared so bad. Unfortunately, my beard is what can best be described as "weedy" and is starting to get a little too much salt mixed in with the pepper. I also may wind up with a neck/facial scar from the whole ordeal. Scarface is a seriously cool nickname, but you want to get that nickname as a result of a knife fight in a Cuban prison, not a canoodling session with your beloved dog.

Which leaves me where? Well, I have a pretty serious poison ivy infestation in the backyard. I need to get rid of this poison ivy. Poison ivy is notoriously difficult to eradicate and I'm allergic as hell to the stuff. If you've got any suggestions, please throw a guy a bone. How far am I willing to go? Well, here's a list of things I would rather do than EVER be exposed to poison ivy again:

Go on an 8 hour road trip with Sarah Palin.

Masturbate with Tiger Balm.

Let a tiger masturbate me with no balm.

Cheer for the Mexican Men's National Soccer Team over the US Men's Team.

Paper cut my ass hundreds of times and then sit in a lemon juice bath.

Have a blistering sunburn on my business.

Wax my head.

Roll in stinging nettles.

Be stung on the tongue by bees.

Give a two hour PowerPoint presentation naked.

Watch my parents have sex (maybe not).

Get tipped over in a full Port-O-Potty...door down.

Go to a Justin Bieber concert.

Let David Beckham kick me in the crotch. Maybe just left footed, but the crotch nonetheless.

Eat a light bulb.

Kiss a hot stove.

Drink water wrung from camel shit in the Sahara with Bear Grylls.

The list goes on and on. Please leave your poison ivy eradication suggestions in the comments and any other things you would rather do than be subjected to rashes from this particularly onerous and evil flora. Help!