Friday, December 09, 2011

When second base was but a distant dream

This is what I like to consider a motivational post.  Not really for you, but rather to hopefully motivate me to post something else soon so that this one doesn't remain at the top of the page.

Travel back with me if you will, to a simpler time: 1989.  Tone-Loc was in his prime.  I may or may not have still been tight-rolling my 550 Levis.  And I didn't know nearly as much about girls as I do now -- which, granted, still isn't... well, anyway.

I was teacher aide for Coach A's 8th grade social studies class.  I mean, come on -- a coach's class, 8th grade girls swooning (in my mind) over me, a junior -- I had it all.  Plus, I loved grading papers.  In fact, if I could go back and do it all over again, I'd have been a teacher.  Or a writer.  Or maybe a professional Scrabble player.

Anyway, for some reason, I had a rep as a good student, so Coach A would let me leave the classroom pretty much whenever I wanted.  It just so happens a girl I kinda liked was an office aide for the assistant principal at the same time.  (In fact, now that I think about it, it's possible the impetus for our entire "relationship" was that we were both aides during the same period.  Sigh.  Love was so simple then.)

So at some point during that year, we started sneaking out into the hall to make out.  To that point, it was the wildest thing I'd ever done.

There is but one caveat to this story:  we never used our tongues.

The first time was awkward, as you might imagine.  Subsequent make out sessions were downright uncomfortable.

Now some of you might be wondering, how is that even possible -- tongue-less making out?  Let me see if I can describe it.... You both have your mouths open.  Your lips are touching.  But nothing's crossing the border.

Now imagine doing that for what felt like... fifteen seconds.  Maybe thirty.  Each time.

It's kinda like non-invasive surgery.  Laparoscopic kissing!  That's what it was.

At this point it strikes me to ask the question, can it even be considered making out if you don't use your tongue?  I should create an urban dictionary term for a tongue-less make out session.  We could just called it a "bone."  Hmph, turns out that term is already in use.  Oh well.

Back to our story of young love, or... something.  As one might expect, with the absence of a papillae-and-taste bud-covered apparatus as part of our steamy 6th-period trysts, our romance fizzled within a few weeks.

I wonder if she ever told anyone about us.  What am I saying?  Of course she did.  Girls tell everything!  She probably told all the girls in our class, which might help explain why I only dated girls from other schools for the remainder of my high school career.  And suddenly I wonder if any of this had anything to do with my dating drought of '93!

It's good to reminisce, isn't it?

Today, anytime someone asks me to describe what it was like to be living in those days, to be, quote, "heading for the nineties, living in the wild, wild West," needless to say, this is not the story I tell.

(Editor's note: When I write the Revisionist History Of Me: Volume 4, I will have been thirteen years old when all this occurred, and she will have been sixteen.  And my babysitter.)

"Dancin' meant everything.  We were young and we were improvin'.  Laughin', laughin', with our friends.  Holdin' hands meant somethin', baby..."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

This could be you (if you weren't famous)

Sometimes I like to imagine celebrities are watching my life and thinking, "This would be me if I weren't famous."

After all, that's pretty much what this blog is -- a reality show in writing.  I remember back when we first began this, I did an interview with the local paper about blogging.  No, really, I did!  Why does no one ever believe me anymore when I tell that story?  I thought the girl who wrote the article might have had a crush on me.  Turns out it was more of a crush on my blog.  

Anyhow, about the only quote I can remember from that interview seven years ago is, "It's kinda like having your own Nick & Jessica show.  Except it's just Nick."  (You may remember Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica?  Even though that's been about one thousand, two hundred and eighty-seven reality shows ago.)

I like to think reading about my life gives celebrities that little extra motivation they need to stay famous.  Take yesterday for example, I came home from work and dozed off while watching General Hospital.  Then I woke up and had two bowls of Cocoa Pebbles.

But that was nothing compared to today.  Today was a big day for me.

First, it's Gordon Lightfoot's birthday.  I don't have to tell you how big a fan I am of Gordon Lightfoot.  And have been ever since I discovered his music, way back a couple of years ago.  I celebrated by tweeting him a birthday message, even though I found no evidence whatsoever that he's even on Twitter.

Secondly, today is also Guinness World Records Day.  I don't have to tell you how badly I want to make it into the Guinness Book Of World Records.  Because I have already told you.  Several times.  It's one of my two main life goals.

To me, 95% of getting into the Guinness Book is finding the perfect record to break.  The rest is easy.  That's why I spend such an enormous amount of time pondering it.  I believe life is best lived in the mind.

As I was reading about the various world record attempts that would be going on around the globe, one in particular jumped out at me: The largest gathering of ABBA impersonators.


I didn't even know there were any ABBA impersonators!  They must be like the Swedish Elvis! 

So I've spent the day sharing my ABBA love with friends, downloading some of their songs I didn't have, and searching (in vain) for a way to make that backwards B appear on the screen.

And lastly, completing the trifecta of my big day, I downloaded a new app for my Blackberry.  I kept hearing all about this game Angry Birds, therefore I decided I would see what all the fuss was about.  Except apparently Angry Birds isn't available for the Torch, at least not that I could find.  So instead, I get to play a game called Angry Farm. It's similar to Angry Birds, but... not quite.

It's kinda like when you were a kid and you wanted a Barbie, but your parents said they couldn't afford one, so you got a Cindy doll instead, for like $1.99.  Then when the other kids came over and brought their Barbies, they looked at your doll and were like, "Who is that?"  Hypothetically, I mean.

Thus concludes my big day.

Now, imagine with me if you will... Somewhere in sun-drenched Celebrityville tomorrow, in between filming another episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and the new season of Ice Loves Coco, Ice-T will take a break to check his Google reader on his iPad and see that I've posted a new blog entry. 

As he reads about my life, he can only shudder and shake his head while thinking, "If I weren't famous, this.... this would be me."  Look closer and you'll see Ice's newest ink is a tatt of my blog URL, underneath the words "Stay Famous."

Later in the day, he'll curse me a little when he realizes he's got "Dancing Queen" stuck in his head.

*pound pound peace*  You're welcome, Ice.

"You are the dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen.  Dancing queen, feel the beat from the tambourine..."

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Labor pains

In an uncertain world, isn't it comforting to know there are certain inalienable truths about guys you can always count on? 

For example, we prefer long hair.  (That doesn't mean we hate your short hair, it just means we like long hair better.)  We despise asking anyone for directions and consider getting lost a much more attractive option.  We forget things.  (Or sometimes just don't pay attention when we're told the thing in the first place.  Same diff.)  And we are unable to bear children.

But regarding the latter, I tell you this, friends: I came as close as any of my uterus-challenged counterparts ever has this past weekend.

I'm referring, of course, to the Alabama-LSU game.  #1 versus #2.  The so-called Game of the Century.

I've written before to some length as to the near-constant state of anxiety and stress I'm under while watching a Bama game.  But never had I heard it put so perfectly until discussing the game with a friend last week, when she said, "This game will be like birthing a child for you."

Yes!  Finally, someone who gets me.  That's it exactly.  And before anyone gets offended by me comparing childbirth to a football game, let's remember -- this is Alabama.  Also, the comment came from a girl who has a child.  So, I think she would know.  And I have email documentation.  So I will not allow these "birther" questions to derail my campaign for comedy.

I'd say the contractions probably started sometime on Thursday.  When the big day arrived on Saturday, I was beyond nervous, as I'm sure any woman in my situation would be.  I had chosen to do a home birth at LJ's with he and Wolfgang serving as my trusted, if primitive, midwives.  I also decided not to use any sedatives or other medication during the procedure.  That may have been a serious mistake.

As for the labor itself, it was even more painful than I expected.  Four hours of yelling, banging, whining, and possibly a little cursing.  Just before halftime, Wolfgang's wife took her two daughters and went home.  (What?  Was it something I said/threw/yelled?)  Take that as a lesson.  Childbirth is no place for women and children.  The irony of which doesn't escape me.

In the end, imagine my horror as a baby resembling Les Miles emerged wearing a god-awful white LSU cap, and I realized Nick Saban was not the father.  For days I lay listless.  Unfeeling.  In a haze.  Only now am I able to speak of it.

If all that wasn't enough, I gained a pound over the weekend.  Don't you just hate those guys who have kids and never gain an ounce?  Hussies!

And now I'm reading there's a slight chance there could be a rematch?!  Oy.  My now-hollow insides are hurting just thinking about it.  I don't know if I can handle a second one. 

I may have to take a Lamaze class.  Or do some Kegels.

"Who dat is?  That's just my baby daddy..."

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Wayfaring stranger

The prodigal blogger has returned.  He who was lost hath been restored to the ninety and nine.  So if you happen to be a shepherd, you should probably be rejoicing about now.  And if you're a father who has a son in his late thirties who's been missing for a few weeks, then by all means make a feast and kiss me.  On second thought, the feast will do just fine.

I sorely miss writing.  And hope to return to it on a much more frequent basis soon.  In the meantime, I have pictures!

October afforded me one more trip to the beach, where I kissed summer good-bye.  At least, I think that was her name. 

Isn't she beautiful?

Then this past weekend, we ventured over to the Little River Canyon area in northeast Alabama.  There we visited Little River Falls: 

The above picture is not Little River Falls.  Had it been, I probably would have been more than a bit disappointed after making that trek.  Also, if you look closely, I'm holding a cell phone in my hand as a point of reference, lest you think me a Philistine.

Fortunately, we did manage to locate Little River Falls a bit later.  I decided not to get as close to the edge of this one:

The afternoon consisted of lots of driving and a bit of hiking.  The trees, near the height of their autumn brilliance, combined with the waterfalls and sheer drops of the cliff walls provided a perfect backdrop for both.  Even though quite a few people were out, there were a couple of times when I could hear nothing but the rushing of the river below.  Absolute peace.

There was one sign which dubbed the area the Grand Canyon of the South.  And to think I'd never been there before, even though it's only a couple hours away.  Sometimes I think we tend to overlook the tourist attractions nearest to us.

I was hopeful of happening upon the remains of an old, abandoned theme park I'd read about which resided in the area many years ago, called Canyon Land.  You know my fascination with defunct theme parks.  It's even greater than my fascination with defunct relationships.  Unfortunately, Google can only get you so far -- in either endeavor --and I was unable to find it.  If I can get a bit more information on its exact location, it would definitely be worth another trip someday.

For now, it's just good to be back in the fold.

"Farewell, my summer love, farewell.  Girl, I won't forget you..."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More to love

What did you do this summer?  Travel?  Swim?  Tan?  Work?  Post four thousand Facebook statuses?  Nothing?

Well, that's all better than what I did. 

I, Bone, gained weight.  Between the months of April and September, I packed on not nine, not ten, but ELEVEN pounds.  Thus putting me at the heaviest weight of my life.  Which would be great if I were a boxer and trying to move up a weight class, but I'm not.  I thought briefly about boxing when I was younger, but I have a fear of getting punched.  So I stuck to Mike Tyson's Punch-Out on the Nintendo.  Don Flamenco, Bald Bull, Soda Popinski -- those were more my speed.  But anyway, I'm getting off track here.

Thus was the summer of my stomach's great content.  I did not exercise much.  Well, I played lots of Word Mole and online Scrabble, but apparently mental exercise doesn't count so much when it comes to weightier matters.  All the while imbibing carbonated beverages like they were about to make them available by prescription only.  What did I expect?

My abs have gone from not-quite-six-pack to she's-just-starting-to-show.  The taut pre-teen Swedish boy body is no more.

So where do I go from here?  I mean, Richard Simmons is not walking through my door.  Believe me, I've tried.  I've written him like three times.

It wasn't at all a surprise to me that I had gained weight over the summer.  I knew.  I was dreading and putting off stepping on the scales.  What has been a surprise, however, is how immensely difficult the pounds have been to shed.

I started eating (slightly) better and running (a lot) more.  I've been doing that for three or four weeks now.  Grand total weight loss in that time?  Three pounds.  Double-you-tee-eff?  Has gravity increased or something in the last few years?  They really should do some research on that.

I'm starting to think this may be the hardest thing I've ever done.  I'm not even kidding.  To understand that, you must understand something about me: I tend to shy away from anything that appears even slightly difficult. 

Oh, also, for years, I lived in a carefree world where things like calories and the future were something for other people to worry about.  I had a metabolism somewhere between an Olympic swimmer and a hummingbird.  As long as I ran two or three times a week, I could pretty much eat anything I wanted.  And indeed, I did.

But now it appears that era of my life has come to a close.  My hummingbird days are over.

Let us mourn the death of my metabolism.

"My next thirty years, I'm gonna watch my weight.  Eat a few more salads and not stay up so late..."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

This is really hard

I never thought I'd love that way again.

The year was 1993.  I wasn't long out of high school.  There were tears in my eyes when the burly bartender I'd been seeing for several years came to the door and said, "Cheers is closed." 

A part of me died that day.  A part of me that was young and innocent, idealistic and hopeful.  But somehow I managed to pick up the pieces and move on from my first real love.  I found a new guy.  Single, thin, neat, early thirties.  Well actually it was more of a group thing.  Him and his friends, and me.  A little different, but I wasn't complaining.

In fact, things were great for a few years.  Until he and his friends got into some legal trouble up in Massachusetts.  After they were all thrown in prison, I was back on my own.  Like a Whitesnake song.  But this time I was certain, that I'd never love again.

And then I met him.

When I first encountered him, he was a 40-year-old virgin.  I found him only tolerably amusing, and a bit over-the-top.  By the time we began our weekly Thursday night trysts, he was way over-the-top.  Never did I ever think I would soon come to love this man.

I'm speaking of course of Steve Carell, aka Michael Scott. 

The new season of The Office begins tonight.  And it will do so without its fearless leader, now former leader.  They say the show must go on.  But I, for one, don't see how it can.  Michael Scott was to The Office what Gene Frenkle was to Blue Oyster Cult, what Trapper John was to Trapper John M.D., and Bob Barker was to The Price Is Right.  That show hasn't been funny at all since Barker left.

If you watched The Office you already know what I'm talking about.  If you didn't watch The Office, if you've never seen Michael Scott in all his glory, I have to wonder, have you ever really loved at all? Did I say loved?  I meant laughed.

While I cannot enumerate all the ways Michael Scott was great -- for that would take far too much time and typing -- I would be remiss if I failed to mention his signature joke and crowning achievement: "That's what she said."

Michael Scott single-handedly brought "That's What She Said" and it's internet shorthand counterpart, TWSS, into the daily vernacular.  You'd be hard-pressed today to find a message board frequented by juvenile men (and women) that doesn't have a TWSS reference.  It's a timeless, if slightly immature, joke.  Brilliant both in its simplicity and versatility.  I try to fit it in wherever I can..........

So before we move on -- and some of us never will -- let us look back and remember, Michael Gary Scott.  A man I will miss.  A man who has ruined all other men for me.

Here are a few selected Michael Scott quotes for your enjoyment:

- "It’s how I like to do business, everybody joking around.  It’s like Friends.  I am Chandler, and Joey.  Pam is Rachel. And Dwight is Kramer."

- "I like Donna. Is it wrong to keep seeing her?  Depends on who you ask.  I mean, if you ask her husband, or you took a random poll, yeah, it's wrong."

- "You know what eats a large amount of the day are naps.  You go to sleep it's light out, you wake up it's dark.  That's the whole day.  Where did that day go?  I have no idea."

- "I am actually great with old women.  In fact, for the longest time my best friend was my grandmother.  And then she met Harriet.  And now she thinks she better than everybody."

- "A boss’s salary isn’t just about money.  It’s about perks.  For example, every year I get a $100 gas card.  Can’t put a price on that."

- "My philosophy is basically this.  And this is something that I live by, and I always have.  And I always will.  Don't ever, for any reason, do anything, to anyone, for any reason, ever, no matter what, no matter where, or who or who you are with, or or where you are going, or where you've been.  Ever.  For any reason.  Whatsoever."

- "Jim is like Big Bird.  He is tall and yellow and very nice.  But would I put him in charge?  No.  I don't think so.  Big Bird doesn't make the tough decisions.  If I was gonna put someone in charge, I would put Bert in charge.  Or I would put one of the real grown-ups in charge, like Maria or Gordon, maybe."

- "How do you tell somebody that you care about deeply, 'I told you so.'  Gently with a rose?  In a funny way, like it's a hilarious joke?  Or do you just let it go, because saying it would just make things worse? ... Probably the funny way."

- "I don't need to be friends with Pam.  I have plenty of female friends.  My mom.  Pam's mom.  My aunt... although she just blocked me on IM.  What's her face, from Quiznos?  I see her like four times a week."

- "A boss is like a teacher.  And I am like the cool teacher, like Mister Handell.  Mister Handell would hang out with us and he would tell us awesome jokes and he... actually hooked up with one of the students.  And then like twelve other kids came forward.  It was in all the papers.  Really ruined eighth grade for us."

Best of luck, Michael, in your new life with Holly in Colorado.  Oh who am I kidding?  This is going to suck!  It's going to be like when Bo and Luke left Dukes Of Hazzard and were replaced by Coy and Vance, times a hundred!

I'll miss your mispronunciations and your song parodies, your women's pants and your man-crush on Ryan (and possibly Jim), your Dundie Awards and Scott's Tots, Prison Mike and Date Mike, Lazy Scranton and the Golden Ticket idea, your fake suicide attempt and real George Foreman grill foot injury, the Michael Scott Paper Company and Threat Level Midnight, and perhaps most of all, your uncanny ability to always say the wrong thing and make even the most seemingly benign situation painfully uncomfortable.

I'll miss you, Michael.  In the immortal words of one James Halpert, "You always left me satisfied and smiling."

(sniff) That's what she said.

"I wish you the best.  And I wish you nothing less than everything you've ever dreamed of.  And I hope that you find love along the way.  But most of all, I wish you'd stay..."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Superfan & The Rooftop Caper

For some reason, the 8-month-long wait for college football seemed to drag on even longer than usual for me this year. Maybe it was the constant negative off-season news about college football -- which is kinda like having your friends bring up your ex-girlfriend every single time you're around them. It makes you think of her and miss her, all the while knowing you can't have her. Or maybe it was the complete dearth of anything interesting on TV this summer. I mean, how much keeping up with the Kardashians can one guy do? (I think I'm going for the record.)

But alas, now that the happy season is finally upon us, and my September love has returned, I was able to make it over to Wolfgang's to watch the Bama/Penn State game this past Saturday. Events transpired that day to necessitate a blog entry. This is that entry.

Firstly, at halftime we meandered outside to toss the football around. Because this is what guys do. Deep down, most guys really believe that we're not that far away from athletic glory. A minor tweak here, a coupla better decisions there, a few less donuts and potato chips, and that could be us on TV. This is why we do things like throw football in the yard. We're not out there to have fun. We're working on our form, perfecting our spiral, so that if that call should come some day (I dunno, that they've started an over-40 flag-football league?), we'll be ready.

So anyway, after a few minutes, I decided to try punting one. I kicked it pretty good, but kinda forgot I was wearing flip-flops. Well, my right flip-flop went even higher than the ball. It landed on the roof of their house, and never came down.

My shoe is on top of the house!  This could ONLY happen to me.

Perhaps most disturbing of all was that I had inexplicably taken my trusty spare pair of flip-flops out of my car. So there I stood, helplessly one-shoed in the front yard, as everyone laughed.

Well naturally, Wolfgang didn't have a ladder. So LJ broke a rather large branch off a tree. Then I, standing on the rail of their front porch, used the branch to "sweep" my flip-flop off the roof.

Can we say redneck?

Important side note: Completely overlooked amid all the madness, that was probably the best punt I've ever done.

The other thing that struck me from the weekend is a bit more personal and difficult to talk about. Are you sitting down? Because I'm not sure you're ready for this. But I think I've become a bit of a sideshow for my friends while watching Bama games. I've sort of suspected this from the Darryls for awhile now. But Saturday when Mrs. Wolfgang said she could "sell tickets to watch Bone" pretty much confirmed it.

You might recall my constant-state-of-anxiety-with-small-moments-of-relief habitude of watching Bama games? So I yell. And sometimes call the players/referees/announcers names. The muscles in my neck and back become one gargantuan monkey's fist. And I may or may not have been hoarse by halftime.

I'm sorry, but it's true. Fourteen times a year, seemingly mild-mannered blogger Bone Kent suddenly turns into Superfan.  Poor play and lack of execution are my kryptonite.

I did come across an interesting poll (on a Bama website) that asked which emotion was stronger: the elation of victory, or the agony of defeat? Over 70% said the agony of defeat. Yes! And for me, it's not even close. So that made me feel some better. It gives me hope, that maybe there are more out there like me.

Back to Saturday, by the 3rd quarter -- once the game was pretty much decided -- I had settled down somewhat. This was when the girls thought it would be hilarious to make fun of me. So they started yelling after every play. Look, I don't mind people having a little fun at my expense. I can and do laugh at myself. Often I'm the only person laughing at myself -- usually right after I tell a joke. But I felt their attempt was lacking.

I tried to explain to them the reason their yelling wasn't rising to my level was that they weren't really feeling it. That they'd never cried over a game.  Deep down, it has to mean something to you. It has to hurt your soul when Bama makes a bad play. You have to suffer every single play for the Crimson Tide.  In the end, it's all worth it for those few brief seconds of relief, er, victory.

I'm just so happy it's back!

Is happy the right word?

"I may be disturbed, but won't you concede, even heroes have the right to dream.  And it's not easy to be me..."

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Somewhere between summer and fall

Fall came suddenly to Alabama this year. Not with its usual tap-on-the-shoulder, whisper-in-your-ear hint of a chill in the air. But rather much more pronounced. Thanks to Tropical Storm Lee, temps went from 97 to 60 in what seemed like a day.

I spent the Labor Day weekend as I believe it was intended: avoiding labor at all costs. Monday night, I put on a sweatshirt and watched the sun set over the lake. The sky was perfect. The wind coming off the water brought a bit of a chill. I lingered for awhile, not wanting the summer to be over.

Of course, it'll be back. Probably this weekend. But now only in shorter bursts and smaller and smaller pieces until it's gone for good.

And so I spend the week trying to both embrace the coming autumn and cling to the fading summer.

I watch all the football I can -- even those ESPN high school games-- unable to get my fill. But I'd love to get to the beach for one final summer fling.

I turn off the AC and roll down the windows to go out in the crisp evening air. I think of putting on a long-sleeved shirt for the drive, but opt for a plain white t-shirt and one more day of flip-flops instead.

And somehow it all seems to suit me.

There's an easiness to the days now. Memories abound in even the slightest autumn breeze. But that's OK. I like remembering. And though the days are noticeably shorter, and I know the winter won't be far, it doesn't worry my mind. For now, for today, it seems OK to just be.

I leave you today with this most disturbing poll.

Rolling Stone's Ten Worst Songs Of The '90s:

10. 4 Non Blondes - "What's Up?"
9. Right Said Fred - "I'm Too Sexy"
8. Baha Men - "Who Let The Dogs Out?"
7. Celine Dion - "My Heart Will Go On"
6. Hanson - "MMMBop"
5. Chumbawamba - "Tubthumping"
4. Vanilla Ice - "Ice Ice Baby"
3. Billy Ray Cyrus - "Achy Breaky Heart"
2. Los Del Rio - "Macarena"
1. Aqua - "Barbie Girl"

Umm, apparently we have very different definitions of the word "worst." As I have at least half those on my iTunes. And I'm pretty sure I had a couple of those cassette singles.

Also, I'd completely forgotten about 4 Non Blondes! Just went and downloaded it. Thanks, Rolling Stone.

"Lately I've learned how to listen, for a sound like the sun goin' down. In the magic the morning is bringin', there's a song for the life I have found..."

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Decemberists at the Ryman (8/6/11)

I was late to the Decemberists party. Then again, I'm late to a lot of things. Most times I'm just thankful (and slightly amazed) when I manage to arrive at all. When I saw they were playing at the Ryman -- quite possibly my favorite venue -- it seemed I was destined to go.

But then, I realized none of my friends around here like and/nor have even heard of the Decemberists. For crying out loud, a few weeks ago at a minor league baseball game, Wolfgang revealed he'd never heard of the group Chicago. Anyway, weeks turned to months and as the date approached I had resigned myself to skipping the concert. Until...

I was surprised with a pair of tickets!!!

And just like that I was on my way to see the Decemberists. In August. At the Ryman. I was more excited than Rob Schneider when a new Adam Sandler movie is announced. OK, maybe not more, but just as.

Any trip to the Music City for me frequently includes a stop at my absolute favorite barbecue place in the world -- Famous Dave's in Franklin. I know it may not seem very trendy to choose a chain restaurant as one's favorite, but this is different. Trust me. I'm from the South. If there's two things I know, it's barbecue and sweet tea. Also, fried pork skins. OK, three things.

I've made the two hour drive more than once just to eat at Famous Dave's. The food (and sweet tea) and service have been exceptional every single time. (If you're reading, Dave, I'm open to an endorsement deal.) The only -- and I do mean only -- problem I have is that their sweet water catfish may be even better than the barbecue. But then, Dave must have foreseen this would happen. That's why he gave us the combination plate.

They also have some pretty cool t-shirts for sale. I almost bought this one:

But then I tried to imagine wearing that out in a social setting, and, well, I figure I already have enough trouble trying to appear "normal" at kids' birthday parties.

On to the show, there was evidently a Keith Urban concert in town the same night, which made traffic a lovely exercise in hand gestures and honking. And there was no sign of Nicole Kidman.

The opening act was Caitlin Rose, whom I'd heard of but never heard. She was good, enough so that I made it a point to check her out on iTunes later. She played a short set, probably five or six songs. One of the songs she sang entirely with the mic turned off, enhancing the vulnerability in her voice, as it wafted over the pews, up to the ceiling and stained-glass windows of the old place.

The Decemberists came on stage after a quirky recorded introduction befitting them by the mayor of their hometown, Portland, Oregon. They opened the show with "Oceanside" and followed that up with my favorite song of theirs, "Down By The Water." That was extremely cool to hear live, though it did not quite ascend to the level of hearing Counting Crows do a "A Long December" live at the Ryman, which ranked as the #1 highlight of my life for the year 2009.

It's possible music affects me entirely too much.

One of the first things you notice about the Decemberists is that this is most definitely a live band. The show is high energy, the musicianship flawless, and the sound far exceeds what you hear on the CD.

I'm not sure what genre the Decemberists are considered. According to Wikipedia, they are "indie folk rock." There's definitely some folk there -- Colin Meloy's lyrics are almost more poet than songwriter. Whatever you label it, Meloy's voice sounds as if it were created for the sole purpose of singing it.

I don't remember the entire set list, but I know they did "We Both Go Down Together," "Rox In The Box," "Calamity Song," "This Is Why We Fight" and the most surprising song of the night, a cover of "Folsom Prison Blues."

They came out for two encores. The first of which included the crowd-participatory "Mariner's Revenge." They closed the evening with "June Hymn."

My only minor disappointment in the show is that they performed neither "January Hymn" nor "O Valencia," even though some guy kept yelling for the latter at every opportunity. And no, it was not me. Although if I'd thought of it...

Did I mention I love going to concerts at the Ryman? The acoustics are outstanding. Plus, it is the quintessential not-a-bad-seat-in-the-house venue.

Though you should know before you go that the Ryman was originally a church -- the Union Gospel Tabernacle. I thought this was common knowledge, but apparently it is not. Therefore, the seats are literal church pews, unpadded. I'll admit, it has a way of inspiring you to stand up and get into the show a bit more.

Ah, but there's something sacrosanct about the old lady. Rising above Lower Broadway. Unchanging for all those years. Maybe that's one reason I like the Ryman so much. I hate change. I hate when old stores or buildings shut down or are torn down, and all that's left are reminders of what was, and worse, what isn't anymore.

Then again, there's probably an old codger somewhere, around 103-years-old, lamenting the days when the Ryman was still a church.

"But oh, if I could only get you oceanside, to lay your muscles wide, it'd be heavenly..."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I have experienced a year's worth of socialization in four days

The past few days brought a barrage of social activity to my life, the likes of which I have not seen quite possibly ever.

There were the annual toddler birthday rounds to make. You know, the cake and pull-up mixers. (We're 3 now, we've moved on from diapers.) But separate and apart from those, I managed to socialize with four different friends in three different settings. I had kinda forgotten I even had four friends.

A backyard bash for Nephew Bone kicked off the proceedings Thursday night. My sis rented one of those inflatable water slides. (The business is called Just Add Kidz, by the way. Love that name.)

Now inevitably, whenever you have that many kids together, someone starts trying to show out and go up the slide the wrong way.

And I almost made it once.

I actually think the adults may have enjoyed the slide even more than the kids -- for a little while. Hurling a 38-year-old body down a 20-foot water slide fifty times or so into a little catch net? You do the math. The next day I was sore in places that I'm not sure have ever been sore.

Sunday afternoon, I attended the godson's party. It was held at this place in the mall that has a bouncy castle and slides and other things for kids to play on. Well, I arrived six minutes early -- which is about eleven minutes earlier than I normally arrive -- and didn't recognize anyone.

So I proceeded to the counter where I had a bit of an awkward conversation with the girl there. I asked if this was the right place. She said yes but that they hadn't arrived yet. Then she asked if I had any kids with me, and I said no. But it felt more like, "No, I'm just an adult male with no offspring who enjoys attending kids' birthday parties. Now if you'll excuse me I'm gonna go sit by the wall and try not to look too creepy."

Betwixt and between all that fun, I managed to hang out with the Darryls on Saturday night. We played XBox 360 and shot pool at LJ's, because... that's what 38-year-olds with no offspring do? Or perhaps that's the reason for the no offspring? Hmm, who knows how our lives get to be how they are.

While I wish I had some great new Darryls stories to share, the sad truth is that I do not. Mostly, we spent the evening not making new memories so much as talking about all the old ones. I can easily see the three of us having the exact same conversations with one another in a retirement home in forty years. One can only hope, right?

Oh, before I forget! I would like to close with one final anecdote I thought you would enjoy.

I guess it's been a bit of a struggle for Nephew Bone to learn to say "Uncle Bone." So my sister called me on Friday to inform me that "Nephew Bone has a new name for you."

(Pause for effect.)


(Pause again to allow laughter to subside.)

Me? A Bubba?

I don't think so.

But it was at this point I realized that he could have pretty much called me anything and I would have loved it. And before you get any ideas, Nephew Bone is the ONLY person who shall be able to get away with calling me this.

So anyway, as we're getting off the phone, my sister says, "Say bye Uncle Bone."

And I hear, "Bye, Bub-ba."

I reiterate. The. Only. Person.

"All the wild nights and bar fights, the ditches and blue lights, are a million dark nights gone before..."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Rockin' Robin

From the get-go, Twitter sounded like a verb I may have tried doing to a girl once when I was nineteen mistakenly thinking she would enjoy it. I never really saw the point. Of Twittering, that is.

Who wants to read someone else's every waking thought of every single day? Well, apparently 2,687,219 people, if the someone else is Snooki.

Also, I have always been afraid of saying something in cyberspace that could come back to haunt me and any future political career I may have. Not that I'm pursuing one, but you never know. And so I continued to resist Twitter.

Besides, I'm not what you would call a social media socialite. I post a status update on Facebook maybe once a month -- albeit often an incredibly witty one, if only in my own mind.

Figuring that if I'm already a bad Facebooker, there's no way I would be a good Twitterer, I took the only logical next step: Throwing caution to the wind as it pertains to any future political aspirations, I joined Twitter.

That's right, I am now one who Twitters. Or as the kids say, Tweets. Whatever you call it, suffice it to say, I am in that Twitting arena.

While that may not seem like much to you, it's kind of a big deal to me. You see, if things continue to progress, I will soon become the first person in my family to use a hashtag. Sorry, sometimes I get choked up talking about it.

One of my first impressions of Twittering has been how difficult it is to keep Tweets to the predesignated limit of 140 characters or less. To date, I have Twitted eight times in five days. But I've probably typed at least that many others that were well over the limit. To somewhat remedy this, I've decided that any over-the-limit Tweets which cannot be shortened without losing the integrity of the original thought will be filed away under possible future Facebook statuses. Or stati, as I like to pretend the plural of status is.

Meanwhile, one of the unforeseen benefits of Twittering is that it really cuts down on the time you need to spend conversing with the other humans. I mean, if you Tweet the highlights of your day along with most every thought you have, what's left to say?

Answer? Not a lot.

You just wind up having lots of conversations like this:

Bone: "Hey, did I tell you I finally popped my enormous back pimple?"
Twitter friend: "Yeah, I saw you Tweeted about it."
Bone: "Oh.... well, I'll see you later then."

Needless to say, that's just an example of what a conversation might entail. I haven't had a back pimple in months! Still, there's an indescribable peace that comes when you realize you don't have anything left to say. Or maybe that's just me.

In closing, I would say that Twitting has been better than I anticipated. And while I'm just getting started, I fully expect that after this post my number of followers will at least double. From four to eight.

As for what comes next for me, it's hard to say. Perhaps I'll finally break down and get that DVR.

I feel like I'm rushing headlong into 2008.

"Even on a slow day, I could have a three way, chat with two women at one time. I'm so much cooler online..."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

NaBloSoFroDraWe 2011

It's that time of the year again. Time for the week you thought you'd forgotten about, but someone just won't let you. Time for the blogging project that has ruined you for all other blogging projects.

It's National Blog Something From Draft Week!

Begun in 2008, NaBloSoFroDraWe (also known as NaBloSoThaDraWe) encourages bloggers everywhere to select something they've written in the past, but for whatever reason never posted, and finally share it with the world.

It's kinda like getting back together with an ex. You completely ignore all the reasons things didn't work out in the first place, close your eyes, and hope for the best! And that always works out, right?

I like to think of NaBloSoFroDraWe like this: Less travel than BlogHer, less writing than NaNoWriMo.

NaBloSoFroDraWe is a mystery only in its inexplicable lack of popularity. I know I was baffled when reading over the list of obscure holidays for August 10th this morning and saw that Duran Duran Appreciation Day was cited, but not NaBloSoFroDraWe. And this from a guy who likely has more appreciation for Duran Duran than any other 38-year-old heterosexual male you know.

So come on, bloggers. Time to dig out that post you never quite finished, or thought was too personal, or just really wasn't very interesting, and let it see the light of day! And remember our slogan: "Some day we'll look back on this and cringe."

For now, here is my entry for NaBloSoFroDraWe '11. It's something I wrote in 2009, about a dream I had. I have fought and defeated every urge to edit it. And believe me, there were plenty.


I was on cloud nine that day. My mind, a glorious confusion of thoughts and emotions. The prevailing question was how did this happen.

I remembered very clearly and precisely when I first clasped your hand in mine -- both our hands shaking so slightly but the feeling of now that we'd gotten this far not wanting to let go. Then at some point we kissed. The rest was a blur. But it did not matter. For when one is on cloud nine, one does not question how one arrived there. One simply enjoys the all-too-brief stay.

Someone called my name from a bench on the sidewalk. I did not recognize the fellow, but he asked if I wanted to go into a nearby pub for a drink. Since I had just realized that although I was walking, I had no idea where I was going, I accepted.

We sat there for ten or twenty-five minutes, him rambling on like we were long lost friends, me pretending to know who he was but never figuring it out. Then he spilled his drink and got into a shouting match with some lady I had seen there before but did not know her name, and I left.

Back out on the street, I still had no idea where I was going. I was just walking, and thinking, and smiling. Wondering when I'd see you again.

"It gets worse once we get to her room. She stops and she sings, doot do doo do do doo do doo. I claim New Religion is my song. Ah, she doesn't get it. It's all before she was born..."

Saturday, August 06, 2011

"The summer swells anon..."

Summer swelters on, but I can already feel it leaving. It's nothing in the air, just the having been here before and knowing the shorter days always seem to be hurrying August away almost before it arrives.

I kept thinking it was October yesterday. I even typed "October 5th" on something. Not sure why I was confused. Perhaps it was the nasty freak (not to be confused with Freak Nasty) storm that passed through early Thursday morning, knocked out power, and kept temperatures at an almost-autumn-like lower 80's. Or it could be I was getting Blogust and Blogtober confused. Any explanation is better than admitting my mind isn't as sharp as it once was.

It's twenty-eight days until the first Saturday of college football. I've been counting down since about day one hundred.

I was on the phone with my sister yesterday. She's been looking online for season tickets for us. Before long, she drifted to other topics, such as how she's taken up buying and repainting old furniture, and how much she loves her new iPad. Then I hear Nephew Bone start to cry in the background. As she says, "Let me go," there's the slightest hint of exasperation in her voice. But I'm smiling as I hang up the phone, thinking that's the good stuff in life.

For now, I'm off. In the midst of a three-concerts-in-eight-days span, which is just blowing the mind of my inner hermit. Tonight, it's the Decemberists in Nashville. And just a reminder: Next week is the 4th annual NaBloSoFroDraWe.

In the meantime, the summer swelters on. But that's OK. I could always stand the heat more than the cold.

"You're gonna miss this. You're gonna want this back. You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast..."

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Closing the book on deforestation

I have come to a decision.

And you should know decisions often do not come easy for me. In fact, I may take anywhere from six months up to five years or more deciding on such life-altering matters as whether to buy a new phone, whether to get a DVR, or whether to attend a concert. In the case of the latter, sometimes the concert will pass before I decide, and I wind up not even having to make a decision at all. So, win-win.

But the decision I want reveal today is one I have been ruminating over for probably about six years now. And that is, whether or not to shave one's chest. More specifically, mine.

Let me begin by stating that while I do have hair on my chest and stomach area, I really have no idea if it is excessive. I mean, no one's ever gotten their fingers stuck. At least, not for more than a couple seconds. It's not Austin Powers-esque or anything. And thankfully, I don't have any hair on my back.

When I grew up, having hair on one's chest was normal, or so I thought. Tom Selleck, Alan Thicke, the Duke boys, my Dad -- these were my chest role models, the people I looked up to. But anymore? I'm not so sure.

More and more, it seems I and my Church Of The Unshorn Bosom brothers are an ever-shrinking minority. Is shaving the norm now? When did this all start? And where does it end? What's next, shaving our legs? Wearing skinny jeans?

I'm sorry, but I have to take a stand. I'm sick of noticing guys on the beach or at the pool and wondering if they shave or are naturally hairless. Don't you see how wrong that is? I'm noticing guys at the pool! I'm tired of Google-imaging "Alan Thicke shirtless." Even with SafeSearch on moderate, it's still just... too much.

It has to stop.

Maybe I'm lazy. Or maybe I've just gotten old. But shaving seems like way too much maintenance to me at this point. And I imagine much itchiness. Perhaps this is just where I finally hop off the fashion train. I think I've done a remarkably fair job of trying to keep up. Over the years, I've put away the tightie-whities for boxers, traded in the tapered-leg jeans, and even welcomed plaid shorts with open arms and willing legs.

But it's time to admit that I'm not from Jersey Beach or Laguna Hills. I'm not The Situation, or Spooki. I'm Bone. And I'm bringing manly back.

I hereby declare that I will not be shaving my chest. I might even start unbuttoning the second button on my shirt, proudly let the man-meadow sway in the breeze a bit.

Of course, should Tom Selleck do a new movie with a topless scene in which he is clearly rocking the bare-breasted look, at that point I may be forced to revisit my decision.

"I'm so obsessed. My heart is bound to beat right out my untrimmed chest..."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dashboard confessional

The Jeep hit a milestone Thursday. And apparently, I thought no one would believe me if I just told them? Why else would I take a picture?

What? I had to slow down to take the picture. Because while texting and driving is now against the law in our increasingly totalitarianistic state, as far as I know taking pictures while driving is not.

One hundred thousand miles. Or by my rudimentary calculations, somewhere between $12,000 and $18,000 in gasoline. I started thinking what if gas were half the price it is now, how much money could be poured back into the economy. So let's say $7,000, multiplied by a guesstimated 200 million licensed drivers, where each abacus bead represents $100 billion dollars, carry the one, the total comes to roughly $1.4 trillion. Per one hundred thousand miles driven, of course.

Thursday was also my Dad's 61st birthday. I'm not sure how many miles that equates to, but fortunately Dad has always been pretty low maintenance.

Once again ignoring his requests for socks, I got him a gift card to one of his favorite restaurants and a fairly lame card. That's because I'm pretty sure the only decent card they had was the exact card I got him last year. And I looked in three different stores! The selection of greeting cards in this country is beyond atrocious.

We had a small gathering at my sister's. Dad was there, as you might imagine, since it was his birthday. But Nephew Bone was the star of the show, as he has been since making his debut almost three years ago. He has progressed from saying "Bama" to now saying "Amabama," which we unanimously agree is the cutest thing ever. Of course, I had to joke that Mom and Dad didn't think it was all that cute when my sister started saying "Amabama." Then again, she was nine.

After supper, Nephew Bone took me by the finger (unknowingly causing my heart to instantly melt), and led me back to the hayfield. He had me put him on top of a hay bale. Then my sister's dog, Pepper, jumped up on one, presumably to protect Nephew Bone? I dunno.

Anyway, there were eight or ten bales lined up with small enough spaces in between so that you could step from one to the next. Suddenly, Pepper started racing back and forth on top of them. She looked like a greyhound at the track. Well, Nephew Bone just thought this was the funniest thing ever. He nearly fell off the hay bale he was laughing so hard. I reached to steady him. He could barely stand. It was one of those can't-catch-his-breath laughs, and it was just perfect.

Mostly, the miles rush by in a blur, by the hundreds and thousands. But a few are worth slowing down for, if only to take a mental picture.

"If we had an hourglass to watch each one go by, or a bell to mark each one to pass, we'd see just how they fly..."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale..."

Sherwood Schwartz passed away this week, to not a lot of fanfare. A simple mention on the CNN scroll and a blurb on Google news mentioning his two greatest accomplishments: that's exactly how I hope to go.

And while we could spend hours, yea, weeks debating what my two greatest accomplishments are, or even if "accomplishment" is the right word, for now let's stay focused.

Sherwood Schwartz. I never knew the man, but he created two of the iconic sitcoms of our time: Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch.

And while I was always more of a Gilligan man, what young American boy didn't have at least a tiny crush on Marcia Brady? Not to mention, the episode where Marcia's bracelet nearly knocks over the house of cards is still quite possibly the most tense moment in American sitcom history.

Neither show did great in the ratings and were mostly panned by critics. But there must have been something appealing about them, as both lived on for years in syndicated reruns. That's how I and so many in my generation were introduced to them growing up.

I used to know every single episode of Gilligan's Island. I remember one night between the ages of 12 and 15, my friend Archie and I must have discussed half of them while waiting outside the gymnasium/aquatic center for his parents to finish their square dancing class. It was ninety minutes of "Remember the one where..."

For some reason, I loved that show. I wanted to be on that island. The little huts, the lagoon, Mary Ann... What's not to love? And don't get me started on the professor, aka the original MacGyver.

I've always been drawn to shows with an attractive central setting. Some place better than where I am currently. Classic example: Mister Rogers and the neighborhood of make-believe.

Not that I'm slicing bread for the first time here or anything. I think most shows have that, sitcoms anyway. Maybe that's why I never liked Roseanne or MASH. I never desired to be in the Conner house. Or the Korean War.

I haven't seen reruns of The Brady Bunch or Gilligan's Island for years now. And that makes me a little sad. Sure they may have been a little corny. But you could do a lot worse than corny. There was a certain innocence to those shows that I'm not sure exists anymore. The passing of Sherwood Schwartz is a reminder of that.

So here's to critical unacclaim, three-hour tours, and old TV shows.

"The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost..."

Friday, June 24, 2011

On hype, potential, and lawn sports

He was the golden boy of American tennis when he burst onto the scene around the turn of the century. He came along right around the time the careers of Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras were reaching their twilight years. And it seemed he would assume his rightful place as the heir of American tennis hopes. For a little while.

I'm speaking, of course, of Andy Roddick. The Nebraska kid with the rocket serve and a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model for a wife.

I'll be honest: I was never Roddick's biggest fan. Mostly because I tend to root for the old guys to hang on for as long as they can. Same reason I was never a huge Pete Sampras fan. After Sampras ended John McEnroe's magical run at age 41 in the semis of the '90 U.S. Open, I've kinda held a grudge... for these past twenty years.

I was an Agassi fan, and wept openly after his farewell match. But you had to respect Sampras' game. He played the serve and volley as well as anyone since, well, no one.

When Roddick won the '03 Open at the age of 21, then became the first American man since Agassi to end the year as the ATP's #1 ranked player, I figured his inevitable ascension to and reign at the top was upon us.

But that was eight years ago. And it's still Roddick's only Grand Slam title. And even that, if you're nitpicking, wasn't the most difficult road to a Grand Slam title in tennis history. Roddick beat David Nalbandian in the semis and Juan Carlos Ferrero in the finals of the '03 Open. Not exactly Federer and Nadal. In fact, Roddick's title came right around the same time that Federer was about to take over the tennis world -- Fed won his first Grand Slam that same year, at Wimbledon.

Since then, Federer and Nadal -- not Roddick -- have established themselves as this generation's Agassi and Sampras. So who's to blame? Them? Or him?

It's impossible to say for sure, but I'm willing to give Roddick the benefit of the doubt. He has made four other Grand Slam Finals, losing three of them to Federer. Maybe Roddick just came along at the wrong time? Or maybe he was never quite that good? Top ten talent, but not top three?

Whatever it is, all I'm saying is can we please stop hyping the guy. Roddick has won as many Grand Slams in the last seven years as I have. He's only made one Grand Slam final since 2006. And hasn't even made it to the quarterfinals in five of the past six majors. He's no longer the highest-ranked American. That honor now goes to Mardy Fish. Heck, he's not even the highest ranked guy named Andy anymore.

For a long time, I rooted against Andy Roddick. It was kinda like rooting against the Cubs. They're supposed to lose. Anything else and the Earth might begin to wobble and spin out of its orbit. But something happened on the way to Flushing Meadows. And lately I've come to take a more sympathetic view. Of Roddick. Not the Cubs.

I mean, God knows I know a thing or two about unfulfilled potential. What is potential anyway? If what is thought to be potential is never realized, was it ever really possible in the first place? Perhaps Andy and I aren't all that different after all. Save for the swimsuit wife, 150 mph serve, and the $19 million in career earnings.

Roddick plays his third round match today at Wimbledon -- site of 3 of his 5 career Grand Slam Finals appearances. For an Agassi or Sampras, Federer or Nadal, a third round exit would be a huge upset. But if Roddick loses today, will anybody really be surprised?

Unless perhaps you have Andy Roddick posters plastered all over your bedroom wall, the answer is no.

Will it have been a choke job?

The answer to that is a bit more nebulous.

"This is a list of what I should have been, but I'm not. This is a list of the things that I should have seen, but I'm not seeing..."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I can't tell you why

(My Les Paul/Google effort. It was either that, Jingle Bells or Three Blind Mice.)

Spring is the new summer here. Although I'm not sure what that makes summer. And because I spend way too much time looking at the weather almanac online, I know that today was our eighteenth day in a row over 90 degrees. I have managed to golf a couple of times during the oppression. Nearly shot the temperature one day, so... I guess that's something.

I missed my 20-year high school reunion Saturday. Is missed the right word, if you skip it intentionally?

You know how these things can be. I just didn't want it to turn into the 20-year Bone love fest, celebrating my wit and all my accomplishments in.... blogging and, uh, other as-yet-to-be-determined areas.

There was a picnic in the park for lunch, then dinner at a tavern in the evening. One of my classmates called in between the two -- the girl who once nominated me for Best Dressed, which I always found ironic as on the day she did I was wearing a shirt Mom had bought at a yard sale, which was where I got probably half my clothes then.

"We missed you at the picnic. A couple of people asked about you."
"So what have you done today?"
"Not much." (Translation: Woke up about 9:30, ate some Cap'n Crunch, a couple of hours just disappeared, fixed a frozen pizza for lunch.)

Wow. Even for me, that was a complete cringe moment. I didn't have a good reason for not going. I didn't even have a bad reason for not going. I'm not one of these people who had a horrible high school experience. Au contraire, I ruled the school, in my own mind.

The best reason I can come up with is that I despise those two-minute conversations where you "catch up" with people you haven't seen in years and may never see again by asking where do you live, what do you do, and how many kids do you have.

But that's weak. The bottom line is it was just easier not to. Story of my life. Or at least a few chapters.

Maybe I'll go to my 25th. Or 30th. Or whatever comes next. I could do some impromptu stand-up so hilarious people will pee their pants and kick themselves because they didn't vote for me for Wittiest in 12th grade. It's quite easy to say that now and have it seem like a very real possibility. The attending, I mean, not the peeing.

So it's not that I regret not going, to this one, or my five-year, or my ten-year. It's just that I'm really not sure what it is that makes me not do these things.

And all this to say nothing of the light-speed at which the time has moved. Realizing I have been out of school for twenty years, hearing that kids who graduated high school this year were born in 1993 -- it's almost incomprehensible.

Years are funny things. When you stand them up next to hours, minutes, or seconds, they appear to be much longer than they really are. But it's just an illusion. Anyone who has ever stopped to look back on ten, twenty, thirty or more can attest to that.

"And there's the old movie house, they finally closed it down. You could find me there every Friday night, twenty years ago..."

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

There is no joy in Port Charles

We now interrupt what I had originally planned to post for today, which was nothing, to bring you a matter both of extreme importance and immense sadness.

The news came yesterday, in an email from a trusted friend. Her words: "I wanted you to hear it from me first." I clicked the link. My heart sank when I saw the headline:

Curtain To Fall On GH

I wanted to believe it wasn't true. That somehow there had been a mistake. But deep down -- in that part of the heart reserved for secret hopes, dreams, and fond memories of Luke & Laura and Frisco & Felicia -- I knew. You can't fight Katie Couric.

I just like to come home from work, take off my pants, get a snack, lie on the couch and watch my stories. It's one of the few simple pleasures of this workaday life. And now even that has been stolen from me.

By Katie Couric. Seriously? How many shows does one person need?!?!

It's been a rough past decade-and-a-half for me. First Opryland closes, and now this. I have watched General Hospital, sporadically, for the majority of my life. Tony Geary is on my mental top ten list of people to meet. (I say mental because I haven't gotten around to writing it down yet. Also, I've only come up with eight people so far.) And some might assume my rugged, stoic, somewhat emotionless facade was heavily influenced by Jason Morgan. And I cannot say for sure that they would be wrong.

Several concerned friends have asked if I'm going to be OK. And honestly, I don't know this time. Maybe this is the end of the road for me. I mean, let's face it, I never really figured out this whole, quote, "life" thing anyway.

Eh, who am I kidding? I don't even have a will. And I can't risk having my most prized possessions -- namely my Milli Vanilli CD and my Welcome Back Kotter DVDs -- falling into the wrong hands.

Besides, according to the article, it's not happening until the fall of 2012. So that leaves a little over a year. Those will be good times. Assuming, of course, that by some small chance the Mayans were wrong.

Maybe we can fight this. Boycott ABC daytime. Take it to the streets. Bring back our soaps! Are you with me, ladies... and, uh... guys?

"Now I'm sittin' here, I'm wastin' my time. I just don't know what I should do. It's a tragedy for me to see the dream is over..."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gone coastal

I'm back from my soul's vacation, my at-least-annual experiment in latitude reduction resulting in a slight, if mostly imperceptible, clearing of mind and refreshing of body. I have returned from my paradisical pilgrimage to the world's largest sandbox, where I enjoyed the never-ending symphony of Crashing Waves, an aging nature surf band -- it's an obscure genre.

In other words, I'm home from the beach.

This year's Destin getaway had a couple of marked differences from years past. In a cost-cutting measure suggested by my financial advisor, which is me, and concurred with by my travel agency, which is Yahoo Local, we stayed at a less-expensive place.

It was a quaint little motel with only four units and a gravel driveway. Surrounded on all sides by huge condos and three-and-four-story beach houses, it hearkened to an earlier time. A piece of old Destin preserved as it must have looked thirty years ago or more.

The owner has beach chairs and umbrellas that she lets you borrow. The rooms don't have phones -- not that everybody doesn't have a cell phone these days -- but each night, she sets a phone outside the office window for tenants to use. She's an older lady who seemed to appear out of nowhere at times, to recommend eating places and remind me to "Hon, make sure you rinse off the beach chairs when you're done using them, the sand is what causes them to rust." It was charming. Also, I made sure to rinse them off diligently from then on as I was a little terrified of getting in trouble.

The other departure from the norm on this trip was that we took a stroll through Harborwalk Village on Saturday afternoon. I'd eaten there before, but much like my feminine side, had never really explored it at all.

This is where I discovered that one of the boats which docked there was named The Bone Collector! Really? They're collecting me? Do you think it's possible there are more me's out there? Phew, I'm blowing my own mind right now. It's all too overwhelming to think about. The Bone Collector was out of port while we were there, which is a shame for the owners, as I'm sure they would have loved to take a picture with me.

Oh, I also wrote a poem. Nothing inspires me like the beach. Just put me in the sand and wait for the magic to happen. It was a little tough as I wrote in my head while lying on the beach then had to try and remember it so I could type it into my Torch when I got back to the room. At the time, I was sure it was going to be my first published piece of poetry and that Jimmy Buffett was going to turn it into a song and I would never have to work again. But that must have been the immense heat affecting my brain. Because as I read over it now, I can't even bring myself to post it here. (And I once posted this!)

You're welcome.

Otherwise, it was a pretty typical Destin trip. No schools of stingrays to run from. No heroic-in-my-own-mind underwater sunglasses rescue. Just a perfect, but all-too-brief escape to my favorite place in the world: the edge of the ocean. A place that feels even more like home than home some days.

The pull of the tide on my heart is strong. Each trip is never long enough. And it's always much too long until the next one. Maybe one day I won't have to come back. If that ever happens, you'll know that I am completely happy.

But you might want to check the hull of The Bone Collector. Just to be safe.

"Catch a marlin, catch a tan, catch a local cover band. Hey, you gotta watch that man. He'll go coastal on ya..."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

One fish, two one fish

Thursday afternoon, I went fishing at Dad's. As I think back on it, I'm reminded of some grand old country song lyrics from yesteryear. To paraphrase slightly, Bone's daddy was takin' him fishin' when he was (thirty-)eight years old...

It's the first time I'd been fishing in 15 or 20 years. The last, and only, time I fished with any regularity was back in high school. A group of us guys used to fish in a creek just below a dam by an old grist mill. I was pretty good at it. And by "it," I mean, getting my line hung up on the dam, having to cut it and losing the lure. They started calling me "Bait."

And since I don't believe in these fancy-schmancy technological fishing advances such as depth finders, or tackle boxes, I never had my own lures. Therefore, the many lures I lost belonged to someone else. So they started calling me other names, as well.

Anyway, back to Thursday. Allow me to preface this by saying I was never told what we would be fishing for, which I do believe is a pretty important component in determining what kind of bait or lure to use. Am I right? So drawing on all my previously forgotten fishing experience, I opted to go with the green lure. Everyone else was using live worms.

Well, by the time everyone else had caught multiple catfish before I had even caught one, it was clear that worms were the way to go. But I wasn't swayed. Because a great fisherman can catch fish even without the perfect bait. OK, I just made that up, but it sounded good.

Let me also proffer some advice to the ladies here. If a guy takes you fishing, you shouldn't catch a fish before he does. But if that can't be helped, then you really, really shouldn't catch three fish before he has even caught a single one. That could really put him in a sour mood the rest of the day, you know, if he's not as secure in his masculinity and fishing prowess as, say, me or Bill Dance.

Alright, back to my fish tale. Finally my persistence paid off as I hauled in about a half-pounder. Shortly after that, I decided to switch over to the white lure, but they just weren't hitting that at all. (Clearly, my instinct to go with the green over the white in the first place had been spot on.)

For me, fishing has never been just about how many fish you catch anyway. It's more about the atmosphere, the camaraderie, and of course, the snacking. Being outdoors, legs hanging off the pier, drinking a Sun Drop and munching on some barbecue fried pork skins--that's all I really need.

Besides, I've always been more of a caster than a quote, "fisher." I mean, anyone can drop a worm in a pond and catch a fish. But a perfect cast? The whir of the thingy unwinding, the unmistakable plop as the sinker hits the water, then the click of the other thingy. Sigh. There's nothing like it.

So all told for the day, I only lost one lure. Which I kind of equate with only losing one ball during a round of golf. Which I consider to be an excellent day. I only caught one fish, and threw it back. But again, that's perfectly fine with me. I think I speak for most fishermen when I say I don't really like having to touch the fish when I catch them.

It's kinda gross.

"You and me goin' fishin' in the dark. Lyin' on our backs and countin' the stars, where the cool grass grows..."

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Still my favorite Mother's Day video ever

For somewhat obvious reasons, even though it's not technically a Mother's Day video:

As I get older, Mother's Day, like so much else in life, comes to mean a lot more. Thanks, Mom, for the skinned knees (that is, bandaging them, not causing them); pushing me to succeed and loving me even if I failed; for being the loudest parent in the stands at every single little league baseball game I ever played (as well as one softball game when I was twenty-seven); obviously for the monthly allowance well into my thirties; and for the many times there was one piece of cake, chicken, or one helping of potatoes left, and suddenly you weren't hungry anymore.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms. I can't imagine a more important job.

"Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleading I denied. That leaves only me to blame 'cause Mama tried..."

Thursday, May 05, 2011

April 27, 2011

For me, that Wednesday began with a 5:20 wake-up call from Dad. Unexpected, but not surprising.

"You awake?"
"Uh, yeah."
"You need to watch this weather. They say it's gonna get bad today."

It was only ten minutes until I'd normally get up, so I turned on the TV and saw there were already warnings out west of us. Five minutes later while I was in the shower, my phone rang again. Turned out to be my sister. I had asked her the night before to call if her weather radio went off during the night.

The warnings started before 6 AM and were virtually continuous for the next fifteen-plus hours. My sister, who had a storm shelter installed a few years ago after a tornado passed within two miles of their house, was calling throughout the day asking if it was safe to come out. Her power was out and her weather radio had stopped working. Every time, the answer was either "no" or "maybe for a few minutes, but there's another storm coming."

I left work about 3 that afternoon, came home and continued to watch the weather. I guess it was around 4 that my power went out, which seemed a bit odd as it wasn't real stormy here at that time, just extremely windy. Later I would learn that TVA, which supplies electricity to most of north Alabama, had suffered severe damage to their main transmission lines and power wouldn't be restored for days.

After about fifteen minutes with no power and knowing the storms had been coming one right after another, I decided to go back to work. At least there we had a generator and could watch UHF channels. I stayed at work for the better part of the rest of the night, except for one foolhardy period when I decided to drive around to look for signs of storm damage.

Driving home that night was eerie, with no traffic lights, no store lights, and only the dim glow of candlelight coming from a few homes. I lit a few candles, found a couple of flashlights, and made a sandwich. The power was out, internet was down, and my cell service had been out since early afternoon, so I decided to go to bed. I'd heard reports of tornadoes on the ground, homes damaged, but had no idea of the kind of devastation and loss of life I would hear about and see over the coming days.

The stories came in first -- stories of the damage, loss of life, and heroism. Stories like a grandmother who laid on top of a baby to protect it. The baby survived while the grandmother lost her life. Then came the numbers, the fatalities. They started high and they climbed hour by hour. Then the pictures and the video began to come in -- footage as bad as anything I've ever seen and yet once you see the damage in person you realize the pictures can't begin to do it justice.

I drove to Dad's one evening -- I think Friday or Saturday, the days run together -- to help him set up a generator. I'm pretty sure he didn't need any help, but just wanted to see me. On my way there, I got my first look at some of the damage. When I got to Dad's, he showed me all the debris that had fallen in their front yard. Among it was a pair of kids blue jeans, size 4, and an 8x10 photograph of a little girl. They had no idea who she was. I could only hope she had survived.

An EF5 tornado -- the highest-rating given, for storms with winds over 200 mph -- passed within 3-4 miles of Dad's house, and within a mile of where Wolfgang lives. Minutes later, the same tornado destroyed my first cousin's house. She and her husband hid in a closet. All that remains of their house is that closet and part of one wall. They survived. Hundreds across Alabama didn't.

That particular tornado stayed on the ground continuously for over 100 miles. I drove through some more of the damage on my way to church Sunday. My eyes started to water. Every image, every location, breaks your heart all over again. The destruction is so massive that eventually words fail.

Another somewhat unique aspect to this disaster was the widespread and lengthy power outage. At one point, we heard over 600,000 were without power. Obviously, that is secondary to the tornado destruction, but still significant in that it no doubt prevented some people from being forewarned. The local TV stations were doing a great job covering things, but probably over 90 percent of north Alabamians weren't able to watch TV.

TVA was originally giving estimates that power could be out five to seven days. Some areas were on sooner. Some still don't have power today, eight days later.

People were unprepared for an extended power outage. Most lost everything in their fridge and freezer. Gasoline became a premium commodity. The few stations that had generators and were able to pump it had lines half an hour to an hour long the first day or two.

I had no cell phone service, no internet, and no home phone service for a couple of days, as both my landline phones are cordless and therefore need electricity. I am beyond embarrassed to admit that it crossed my mind Thursday to maybe go and stay overnight with friends in Nashville on Friday, just so I would be able to use my cell phone and text and call people back who had tried to check on me. It feels incredibly selfish now that the thought even crossed my mind.

Because as I began to see the damage and the relief efforts that were underway, I quickly realized this was not the time to skip town, this was the time to help your neighbor. I managed to find an old corded phone at work which I borrowed, just so I wouldn't feel completely disconnected from the outside world.

At work, management decided we would work through the weekend due to the situation. I had thought of griping for half a second, but in hindsight I'm so glad we did. It felt like people needed us there. Our generator began to run low on gas on Thursday or Friday -- again I forget the day. A frantic search for fuel paid off. We remained on generator power until sometime yesterday.

The relief effort has been amazing. It has risen to match and begun to overcome the devastation. There were reports of some areas even turning away volunteers or having no more room to store the supplies that had been donated. The outpouring of love and people's faith in the face of death and total loss has been incredible.

It makes me proud to be from this area and to call Alabama home. And hearing stories about people from all over the country showing up to help give me hope and make me proud of America. Race, religion, politics -- none of that mattered. People simply helped. And they continue helping. As I've witnessed this tragedy bring out the best in so many, it makes me wonder why we can't treat each other this way all the time.

Something else I've observed: Events like this divide people into basically two categories. There are those who help, as instinctively and as automatically as they breathe. It's as if there isn't even a choice. It's just what they do. And then there are those who seem completely oblivious to everything going on around them, whose only concern seems to be themselves, and everyone else can go screw themselves. And you don't have to ask which category someone falls into. You don't have to dig very hard at all. Just observe, and it becomes quite obvious.

I'm proud to say almost everyone I know was doing something to help. My sister and her husband went to try and help my first cousin. Dad, who was still without power at the time, called two different days saying they were getting supplies to take to volunteers and victims. Axl went out with search and rescue teams. Even LJ went out at least three days that I know of to help in the clean-up effort.

Several other things struck me during all this. Forgive me for jumping around here but I just want to get all my thoughts down.

People in one area that was devastated often had no idea there was just as much devastation in countless other areas, in some cases for days due in large part to the power outage. I realized this talking to Axl one night. He had been out with search and rescue but still had no power or internet and was stunned as I told him of the devastation I'd heard of in other counties and areas.

It also struck me during this time that you, people outside of Alabama, probably had a lot better idea of what was going on than most anyone here. Again because of the lack of power and communications.

And finally, having watched Japan, and Katrina, and numerous other disasters play out on TV, I have realized something I really knew deep down but just chose to forget or ignore most times. Just because a few days pass and the national media moves on to something else and suddenly you've become day-before-yesterday's news doesn't mean the disaster is over or things are normal.

Things won't be normal for months and months. And when they finally are, normal will be different from whatever it was before. We will never forget the images, the stories, the victims, the loss, the damage. Nor will we forget the heroes, the survivors, the rescuers, the volunteers, the love and the kindness. And if we ever think we might, we will drive past a place where a store or a school or a neighborhood used to be, or maybe a spot where the trees suddenly aren't quite as tall or dense as they are just down the road. And we will remember.

I write all this realizing I am incredibly blessed. Not only am I alive and well, but so are my family and loved ones. I suffered absolutely zero property damage. My town was one of the most very fortunate. Time and again Wednesday and Wednesday night, tornadoes would track a few miles north or a few miles south of us. And we were one of the first areas to get power restored. So yes, I feel blessed. And guilty. Why them? Why not me? I know that feeling well.

The tornado outbreak of 1974 had always been the stuff of legend around here. Someone wrote a book about it and I remember looking through it a few times and reading some of it. There were personal accounts of survivors and stories and sometimes pictures of those who died. I still remember this one family -- a man, his wife, and their kids -- who were all killed in the '74 tornadoes. I can still remember their first and last names. I can still see that picture. And I haven't looked at that book in at least twenty years.

When I asked Dad if he thought this was worse than '74, he didn't hesitate to say yes. The numbers -- of injuries, damage, and loss of life -- say it isn't even that close. At least in Alabama. The last I saw there were around 250 killed in the state and over 3000 injured. That's roughly triple the 1974 numbers of 86 fatalities and 949 injuries.

I grew up with what probably was an unhealthy fear of tornadoes. I hated the word, hated to see it in print, hated to hear anyone say it. Anytime there was a tornado warning for our county, Dad would make us get out and drive around, or sit under an overpass or go to the courthouse basement. As I got older, I started staying home when my family would get out. And after I moved out, the fear gradually dissipated and I'm sure I became too lax when it came to storms.

Today, I have a new-found respect, for a word and a monster I still hate.

"My home's in Alabama, no matter where I lay my head. My home's in Alabama, southern born and southern bred..."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I'm not sure I remember how to do this

It's been awhile. I'd like to tell you I have a great reason for being absent, like I quit my job and have been under the tutelage of David Gibson in preparation for this year's World Scrabble Championships. But I have no grand reason. No excuse.

Although my hours at work changed a few weeks ago. I now have to be in at Brandt-Leland each morning by 6 AM. It's kinda thrown my whole routine off. OK, so one excuse.

My first week working the new hours, I woke up one morning at 5:52. I shot out of bed and rushed into the bathroom in a panic. As I brushed my teeth, my mind raced. Why hadn't my alarm gone off? Or had it, and I turned in off in a semi-conscious haze? And what about my phone? I never turn my phone alarm off.... except for weekends... which must make this a... Saturday! It's moments like these that never allow me to think too highly of myself.

I've always been a night owl and I'm not sure I'll ever be fully transformed into one of those early worms. But there is one good thing about the new hours: I'm off in time to catch General Hospital most days now.

Speaking of, I'm pretty sure I had a small coronary when I read the headline "ABC To Cancel Two Of Its Long-Running Soaps" a couple weeks ago. Thankfully, GH survived. And so did I. Did you know we may experience hundreds of tiny heart attacks and never even realize it? On second thought, maybe that was hundreds of tiny earthquakes...

Spring was nice this year. It arrived on a Wednesday and was gone by the following Sunday. Like a girl you go out with a couple of times and she's not your favorite but then when she's gone you start thinking she must have something going for her if she's not waiting around on you. It would have been nice if spring had stayed a little longer. Not that I would ever complain about summer. Or girls.

I earned my first sunburn of the season last weekend at the Alabama A-Day game. You might recall that's where ninety-thousand-plus fans show up to basically watch the team practice. Yeah, there's not a whole lot to do around here.

Nephew Bone went to the game. He's learned to put his hand over his heart for the national anthem. So on over in the game a bit as the band was playing the Alabama fight song, I looked down and Nephew Bone was standing with his hand over his heart until they were done. My heart melted a little.

Otherwise, I've been golfing a bit, running a bit, and going to bed earlier than I ever dreamed possible. (Not that I have ever actually had a dream about going to bed early.) And even though I would think about blogging, it became easier and easier to let it go for another day.

It's kinda like a relationship where you stop communicating and walls start to form. And you know you need to talk but with each passing day it's just easier to watch TV or read. And so you let the distance continue to grow until finally... You know, actually these relationship analogies are starting to hit a little too close to home.

So anyway, I'm back. For better or for worse.

And if there should ever be another prolonged hiatus, just assume the Scrabble thing.

"A good muse is hard to find. Living one word to the next, one line at a time. There's more to life than whiskey. There's more to words than rhyme. Sometimes nothing works, sometimes nothing shines, like Hemingway's whiskey..."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

It's all in the name?

I was three days with no Internet last week. It was rough, I'm not gonna lie. I know men have probably overcome more, but few if any have worked harder in relation to their normal productivity output. I spent about fifteen hours trying to diagnose and fix the problem with my router, which is quite possibly the most time I've spent on any one thing ever, by about fourteen hours.

During this ordeal, I became familiar with terms and ideas previously foreign to me. Things like "Ethernet bridging," "MAC cloning" and "reading instruction manuals."

It was largely an exercise in frustration, often verbally disparaging myself because I couldn't figure the thing out. But alas, sometime around 8 o'clock Friday night, everything seemed to be working as normal again. It's a good thing, too, because my fantasy baseball draft was this afternoon.

Ah yes, it's that time of the year again: the smell of freshly cut grass, the crack of the bat, grown men adjusting their cups on national TV. And Bone spending an inordinate amount of time trying to come up with the perfect name for his fantasy baseball team.

With finishes of 4th, 3rd, and 4th by my fantasy team the past three seasons, it occurs to me that I may be better at naming a team than actually drafting and managing a team. For example, last year's team, Rolen On The River, finished a disappointing 4th place. However, during last year's draft, I did receive a couple of compliments on my team name.

But this is a new year. Rolen On The River has been retired to the Bone Hall Of Names. I now hereby do present to you the six finalists for this year's team name. First, we'll look at the five runners-up.

Everybody Loves Ramón - This was one of the first ideas I came up with, but eventually decided it was kinda lame. Besides, I never really liked that show.

Dusty's Spring Field - Admittedly a bit of a reach. Even though baseball technically starts in spring, it's considered more the sport of summer.

Going Going Gomes - Not bad, but kind of obvious.

This Is How Aroldis - I like this one a lot. Plus, I have a Bama shirt that says "This Is How I Roll." Maybe next year.

Edinson's Many Interventions - I really like this one, too. Though it refers to a player who served a 50-game suspension for a banned substance last year, which seems a bit edgy for me. Also, like Between Bill Buckner's Legs a year ago, it exceeds Yahoo's 20-character limit, so it was a no-go anyway.

A quick reminder: Runners-up this year are eligible to be considered again the following season. For while I would like to come up with five creative new names each season, I'm fast running out of Reds players. So your input is welcome.

And now it's time to present this year's winner. After several days of pondering, and having consulted with my email and instant messaging inner circle, I have reached a decision. With a tip of the cap to The Godfather, I give you your 2011 Bone fantasy baseball team name:

Votto Bing!

(pause for applause)

Will this inspire my typically under-achieving team to a first-place finish? Well, if history tells us anything, the answer is no. But if just one of the other nine managers in my league looks with envy at my team name and says to himself, "I wish I'd thought of that," then this will have been a successful season.

"We got a great pitcher, what's his name, well we can't even spell it. We don't worry about the pennant much., we just like to see the boys hit it deep. There's nothing like the view from the cheap seats..."