“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”

Introspective thoughts late at night after too much coffee.

I was recently speaking with a friend about our fathers. Like most conversations worth a damn, it was early in the morning and fueled by a couple pints of beer. My friend brought up a really solid point about my father that I’ve been thinking about ever since.

During the course of our conversation I mentioned how when growing up we had a lot of books in our house. We had multiple built in book shelves, and the room I slept in we had 3 more large free standing bookshelves. My parents also took us quite often to the library and let us check out stacks of books. I’m pretty sure my parents were aware that I was sneaking in extra reading under my covers at night growing up. I also mentioned that my parents had saved a few of their college text books which came in handy for school projects growing up. I always thought that was a great resource and had saved quite a number of my books from college for the same reason. My friend then asked me what my father read.

It took me a minute to think about the question. I have very vivid memories of reading as a child with him. One of my most clear memories from growing up is reading “The Swiss Family Robinson” with him. But reading for himself? The only publications I could remember him reading were ENR (Engineering News Record, a trade magazine that my sisters and I had zero interest in), the newspaper, and college textbooks. I went on to tell my friend that both of my parents took classes at the local community college throughout my years growing up. I can to this day remember my mother bringing me into her computer labs while she learned auto cad and my father studying Spanish at the dining room table.

 

my father, my little sister, and me around 1986

 
My friend was quiet for a moment and then said something I had never thought of. He said “wow that’s really cool. I’m sure you and your sisters watching your parents continue their education as adults really instilled a sense of the importance of education into you at an early age”. 

This was my first thought that rushed to my head; how do I make sure that I instill this value into my child? How do I make sure to show her that education is really important and one of the keys to a better life?  

I examined myself. I know I can do better to learn more. I have been coasting for a couple of years now outside of the classroom. I still read a decent amount but not as much as I’d like. But I do have many interests that I could go to the local community college and explore more (auto mechanics, graphic design, computer programming, culinary arts, etc). I’ve also thought about going back to school and getting a certificate or masters in therapy. So these are now my 5 year goals. To make sure that I’ve spent some time learning new skills over this time. My wife, who works full time, and still takes time to help me out a ton with parenting and housework can make time to read both for pleasure and continuing education. If she can do it so can I. And hopefully our child sees that with education, the world is there for you to explore.  

  

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Fight the Horde, Sing and Cry, Valhalla, I am Coming

A couple years ago one of my closest friends died over the Martin Luther King Day weekend. It was quite the shock to me and his death still brings me to tears as I write this, I miss him so.

Just a month or so before his death I had made the trip with my new wife to the Washington DC area. We had seen our friend at our wedding but it had been quite some time since we were able to sit down and hang out with him. My parents also were living there at the time and we were excited to see them, the museums, my sister, and some of the local culture and history of the area.

As much as I loved doing all of those other activities it was really my time with my friend that stood out. My friend was one of those people that everyone liked. He was smart, funny, and kind. I had met him while working at the King’s Courtyard Inn here in Charleston. He was a senior in college, finishing up a degree in Marine Biology. We instantly hit it off. My other best friend also worked with us and there was never a dull moment around the two of them. We would take turns saying the absolute grossest things we could think of to one another, laugh about it, and promise to get a beer after work together.

After I moved to Memphis, my friend got a job working for the EPA. He was from Annapolis and he was excited to be working in DC and living back in his hometown in a job he loved. He was doing really well for himself and we’d stay in touch over email.

My other best friend, the guy mentioned earlier, called me up one morning. I was really excited to get the call as his wife was pregnant. Mike had some really great news for me, and two bits of terrible news. First off, his wife had had the baby. But it was very early at this point in the pregnancy, and on top of that they were visiting her family in Pennsylvania at the time. It was going to be a rough couple of weeks for them while the first born was in the ICU, in a different state.

The second part of the bad news is that our other best friend had been found dead that morning.

Every Martin Luther King Day weekend I try to remember my friend in some special way. I also try to be around my friends and loved ones. This year I went with a group to the mountains in North Carolina. There my friend’s parents let us use their cabin. We went on hikes, played in the snow, cooked a mess of food, played board and card games, and took shots in remembrance of my friend. The man, that while I cry because I miss him, I cry with a smile on my face because I knew him.

I love you, Pat.

  

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In My Mind I’m Going To Carolina

Jump Around: I’m Excited About Basketball

So far this has been a really exciting year for many reasons. One of them for me is the fact that UNC has been playing basketball at a high rate.

I’ve mentioned in posts past that I’m a big UNC fan. The fact that we’re ranked as highly as we are is really exciting. I try to watch all of their games, but sometimes life and work can get in the middle of that. The TV personalities all think that UNC has a good shot at making a deep run in the NCAA tournament. I’m always a little skeptical of that as I’ve seen it happen before and have placed too much faith in the talking heads. Still, the team seems to be more balanced than teams recently have for UNC.
  

I’m also a huge NBA fan. And while my allegiance to UNC has been unwavering through the years, I’ve cheered for multiple NBA teams. Growing up my mom got me Michael Jordan’s autograph at a fund raiser she helped work on. I was instantly hooked on the Chicago Bulls, as Michael Jordan was not only the most exciting player I had ever seen (and still is), but also had played for my beloved Tar Heels. I was living in Charlotte at the time but the Hornets had yet to form. My father would go on to work for a company that helped build the Charlotte Coliseum and would eventually get free tickets to UNCC and Hornet games through his job later and he’d take me to watch them. Still, I was through and through a Bulls fan (even going as far as writing an Op-Ed to the Charlotte Observer when I was in about the sixth grade about how much better the Bulls were than the Hornets that somehow got published). Over time my allegiances would shift on the basketball front however. I moved out of Charlotte, MJ retired, came back, retired, and came back as a Wizard.  

I finished school and moved to Detroit (in with the parents) who had since moved there. This was in the middle of those early 2000’s Larry Brown Pistons. They were very entertaining to watch. They had everything I loved in a team. They were tough, they had players with big personalities, and they always seemed like the underdogs, even when they won a championship (playing against a Lakers team full of future Hall of Fame players).  

Later, I’d move back to Charleston from Detroit. The insurance business I had tried to start didn’t really pan out. I was pretty lonely living with my parents (even though they were great). Coming back to Charleston I watched a lot less NBA games in that time. I didn’t have cable and was working sometimes 3 or 4 different jobs to make ends meet. I still watched my beloved Heels though. I would end up meeting a lady who took me to Memphis TN.

In Memphis I was able to find a job managing a Blockbuster Video. It was the worst job I think I’ve ever had. The pay was terrible and the customers were difficult. The job itself wasn’t physically demanding, as previous jobs had been, but it was in no way intellectually stimulating. Still, it did give me one thing, a chance to talk basketball with one of my coworkers. So when I drew his name in our “Secret Santa” drawing I picked us up a couple of tickets to see the Grizzlies in action. And then the fire burned brightly again. The Grizzlies always seemed like the franchise that was going to be mired in mediocrity. And this season was no different. But once the season ended a couple of things happened. I decided that I should go back to school and I got a new job.  

Going back to school at the University of Memphis allowed me to attend their sporting events. I used that to watch a lot of their basketball games (although I’d sit in the stands looking on disapprovingly at their head coach, John Calipari). The new job paid much better than the previous one and I was able to afford tickets to the occasional Grizzlies game as well. But now the Grizzlies had made some trades and really seemed to be coming along. By the time I left Memphis they had earned a playoff spot but as an 8 seed. In the first round they would go up against a Spurs team that was really tough. I was able to get tickets to all the home games in Memphis, and saw a really exciting series that the Grizzlies would go on to win. My friends and I would sit in the nose bleed section and yell as loud as we could. We were all hooked.

Today I still cheer for the Grizzlies despite only being able to watch a handful of games. A mid market team doesn’t have the national appeal of the Knicks, Bulls, or Lakers and watching them on TV is a treat. My friends who I went to those playoff games with still text almost daily about them. My wife gave birth to my daughter just after we spent our time watching the Grizzlies win a playoff game last year in the hospital.  

I really enjoy basketball. I try not to expose my kid to tv but I do have a soft spot for letting her watch games with me. I hope she’ll find something in life that is so meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but that makes her as happy as basketball makes me. I hope she finds her own NBA team(s). I hope she cheers for the Tar Heels.  

  

Remember to please vote for my blog at Best of 2016 for my chance to win something.

  

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Into My Arms

“I don’t believe in an interventionist God / But I know, darling, that you do / But if I did I would kneel down and ask him / Not to intervene when it came to you.”



Today marks the 10 year anniversary of my wife and my first date.  

My friends Cullen and Molly were getting married.  I was tentatively supposed to bring the maid of honor as my date but she and I weren’t speaking to each other very much.  My wife was, at the time, coming around to all the shifts I was working at the bar.  She would come and talk to me about music or books, as I would either pass my time working the door reading or listening to my iPod.  She liked the fact that I listened to Cat Power and would introduce her to other artists that I like.  I was impressed when she asked me what my favorite book was and when I answered “The Autobiorgraphy of Malcom X” that she seemed genuinely interested in reading it.  

 

When we were young

 
So about a week before the wedding I asked her to come to the wedding with me.  She said yes.  I also had planned a bit of a cookout at my house before the wedding.  I lived a block or two from the venue at the time and had just come into possession of a large grill.  I know how much booze that me and my friends would be consuming that night and thought that having a good base of food in our stomachs was a good idea.  So I had invited her to that also.  

In the meantime my friend Cullen had asked me to pick up his mother’s mini van and deliver it to the rehearsal site so the caterers would have it.  The cookout wasn’t the success I had planned and mostly everyone had left by the time I was to leave and get the van.  Also she hadn’t shown up and I figured she wasn’t coming at this point.  

Meanwhile she was nervously getting ready for the wedding.  Even having three sisters I hadn’t anticipated that someone would take a little more time than my shower, shave, and throw on my suit that it takes me to get ready.  She finally was ready to leave and got a ride over to my house to find it empty, minus my roommate playing video games on the couch.  I had told him what I was doing but apparently didn’t listen as he was involved in his game.  

 

Typical wedding dress

 
I was returning from dropping off the liquor when I saw her on the front porch, with her best friend.  She looked like she was about to be in tears.  I felt like the biggest idiot for not leaving a note or something.  But she was just happy that I had returned and we made our way over to the ceremony.  

We proceeded to laugh, dance, drink, and eat.  It was a good time.  She got to meet many of my friends for the first time.  We headed to Vickeries after the reception with a group of people.  She had a cell phone and we called her parents to say congratulations about Tennesse’s basketball victory over Kentucky earlier that day (luckily they were still out).  

10 years later the lessons from that day still stand.  Clear communication with each other makes the relationship work so much better.  We’ve had our good times and bad times over the years.  There have been times when I thought my life would be better without her as part of it.  I’m glad there was always something that made me just want to give it a little more, talk things out a little better, and maybe just wait to see what came next.  I’m glad she’s been kind enough to keep me around after all this time as well.  Here’s to another decade together, and in the words of that wedding reception, Mazel Tov!

 
(PS – feel free to vote for my blog in the “Best of Charleston” competition at Charleston City Paper). Thanks y’all!

  
 

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