My Attempt at the Broadcast Booth

I kid you not this is my actual application to be the Radio Football Analyst for Wake Forest Football games for the 2017 season.  Needless to say I did not get the job, nor an interview, but Mr. Wellman the A.D. did write me an nice letter “thanking me for my interest.”  He was a pretty good sport about it.  To show you how much of a longshot I was for this job, they hired a guy with no football playing experience (and my Mom and wife wonder why I yell at the announcers so much.  My brother however gets it).

Well, here ya go! Some parts have been edited to protect the innocent, namely me.

Director of Athletics

Wake Forest University

I am writing you to apply for the vacant position of radio color commentator for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons Football Games.

Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first, and just as a heads up, this is probably not going to be your normal application.  I haven’t enclosed a resume but my bona fides are easily researched.  Bottom line though is, if you’re looking for football knowledgeable and entertaining I’m your guy.  I do have college football experience.  I played for Bill Dooley at Virginia Tech for 4 years and started every year, either on special teams as a freshman or for 3 years as center on one of the nation’s highest ranked running games.  I made numerous all-star and all-America teams, so, whoop dee do for me.

I also have Wake Forest connections.  I grew up right across the street from campus.  Both of my parents, and my brother, went to Wake Forest, and my Father taught math in the 60’s.  I would have gone to Wake Forest but you guys didn’t offer me a scholarship, so I went to Virginia Tech, who did offer me a scholarship.  I mean what are you going to do?  One place wants to pay you to come there and the other wants you to pay to go there, I’m not crazy.  I know, because my mother had me tested.  But since I didn’t go to undergrad at Wake, I stopped by a couple of years later for my MBA and ran the athletic dormitory for Bill Dooley when he was head coach. I almost got half the team suspended for a game.  Oops!

Here’s what I bring to the table and, more importantly, what I won’t bring to the table.  I grew up listening to the late, great Gene Overby, probably the greatest play by play man in the history of sports.  If he had been alive when the Greeks invented the Olympics, he would have been their play by play guy.  When I was growing up in the late 60’s and 70’s, Wake Forest didn’t win squat in football except for 1 year, under Coach Cal Stoll (I was a member of Cal’s Club) when they went 6-5 and somehow won the ACC.  But we listened to Gene Overby call every game.  Why?  Because he was entertaining and didn’t blather on about coverages and “keys to success.”  I’ll never forget his signature line, in basketball not football, “Skip Brown, from downtown…BOTTOM!!”

My biggest asset, you ask?  I’m also an offensive lineman.  Don’t you think everyone is pretty tired of listening to the “pretty boy” quarterbacks?  They want to hear from us regular people.  You know, from the fellas that do the real work.  We’re the ones with the real stories.  We’re the funny, entertaining ones.  We had to be.  Since we were big, mostly ugly with a face for radio, don’t get in the papers unless we screw up guys, in order to get girls we had to be funny.  Otherwise, let’s face it; we would be pretty scary, and lonely, guys.  You’ve been around sports a long time, so you know.  Who would you rather hang around with, an offensive lineman, of which there are always at least 2 or 3 of us together, or a quarterback?  If you don’t believe me, when Spring Practice rolls around this year, go down to the locker room, or film room, after practice one day and just listen in.   Now that we’ve established that offensive lineman rule all, let’s move on to what I will or won’t do.

When you hire me, here is what I won’t do.

I will never say:

The word “trickeration”

The word “physicality”

“Shaken up on the play”

“Quarterback keeper”

Unlike Clemson’s play by play guy, I will never say, “Ball spotted on the 53 yard line”

Every time I hear those phrases on the radio or TV I’m embarrassed for whomever said them.  I’m not sure who invented the word physicality, but it was probably the same color man that just said “the receiver did a great job getting open”, when the defensive back fell down.  And as far as “trickeration” goes, well that word is just stupid and I don’t know a fan who is tired of hearing it.  Nobody is “shaken up”; it sounds like a James Bond martini.  Son, this is Football, the real kind, it’s not played with a round ball and it’s not played at tea time in the Queen’s court.  Maybe in the 70’s they got “shaken up,” but in today’s “grown up” football, “you get lit up like grandma on Christmas Eve.”  Quarterback Keeper?  I have never been in a huddle where the quarterback came in and called, “quarterback keeper on 1.”  Do I even need to go further about the 53 yard line?  If so, you guys really are in dire need of my services.

Here’s what I will do:

I will be entertaining, if you’ve gotten this far in the letter, it goes without saying.

I will not ask Coach Clawson probing questions on air, because he won’t answer them anyway. What I will ask is, “Okay Coach, what do you want us to know?”  I don’t know about you, but I get tired of hearing sportscasters try to ask probing questions in order to sound informed and the coach gives them that perplexed look of “are you serious?” then never answers the question.  The coach usually just says what’s on his mind anyway so I guess we might just as well ask the correct question in the first place.  Saves more time for commercials and revenue, because that’s what we need in College Football, MORE COMMERCIALS!!

  1. I will however, initiate the caveat that if you want me to ask the opposing coach a probing question, then stick it to him for not answering the question and make him look bad, I will be more than happy to oblige. You know, ‘cause, “Go Deacs!”

I will make it fun to listen to Wake Forest games, so people will turn off the boneheads on ESPN and listen to the radio when the game is on TV.

I won’t make stuff up just to fill air time and sound informed. Unless of course it’s one of those interminable “under review” timeouts where it’s obvious what the call is, but the refs are talking on the head phones trying to figure out where they’re going to go eat after the game.

I will embarrass the Wake Forest student body so they’ll start attending the games. I mean for crying out loud, you’re in college, you go to home football games.  If you won’t go to watch the games, at least go to meet girls and tailgate.  What kind of college kid doesn’t go to football games?  I know, the one who’s school doesn’t have an interesting color commentator.

When asked the obligatory, broadcast journalism, ridiculously irrelevant question, on air at the beginning of the game, “Mark, what does Wake Forest need to do to be successful today?” an example of my answer will be, “Well Stan, on offense they need to score more points than the other team. On defense they need to hold the other team to fewer points than the offense scores, or they need to make up the difference.”  I mean seriously, do any of the “keys to success” ever pan out, or does anyone ever pay attention?  I guarantee if I say “score more points than the other guys,” more people will pay attention.  When more people pay attention to the “Pepsi keys to success,” Pepsi pays more.  It’s my “more is more,” principle.

But finally, yes we are almost to the end, the biggest reason I am applying is that my mother says that I do a better job than any other color commentator she’s ever heard on Wake Forest radio, or anywhere else for that matter, and that I need to apply.  Everybody knows, you do what Mamma says.  My wife would say the same thing, but she doesn’t know anything about football.  Just that they have great hot dogs at the stadium.

In case you get a wild hair, here is my contact information:

Mark R. Johnson

503 Not Main St.

Greenville, USA

Blog:   Markj52.wordpress.com

Thank you for your time and attention and I won’t be holding my breath in anticipation of a response, but believe it or not, I am dead serious about this application.  I just don’t think I have a serious shot.  There are just too many pretty, ex-quarterbacks out there looking for work.  But if you’re still reading, you must, at minimum, be intrigued. I am in Winston, quite regularly visiting Mom, so if you don’t have anything better to do, I am available whenever you like.  You don’t even have to pay travel expenses.  I already have a place to stay.

Sincerely,

Mark R. Johnson

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What Does It Really Feel Like Outside and Are There Baptists in Italy?

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so when the first cold snap of the season came upon us today I was listening, and reading the local weather pundits.

“The first cold snap of the season is upon us.”  According to the local meteorologists/hairdo’s/suits, an “arctic” front was “barreling down” from the frozen north.  It could be the coming of the Apocalypse!  The temperature might just dip below 30 degrees!  I think that if there had been the slightest chance of snow, the local weather hairdo giving the forecast, just might have had an accident.  I watch all the Alaska shows, so that just in case there is a grizzly attack here in Greenville, SC I’ll know what to do. You know the shows I’m talking about.  They have to cut their own firewood, not for ambiance, but to actually heat their homes that are the size of our breakfast nooks, or they might actually die.  Now I don’t know where you’re from, but to me that’s cold.  30 degrees ain’t cold.  Cutting firewood so you don’t freeze to death is cold.  But what struck me was all the uproar about what it really feels like, or what most of us know as “the wind chill factor.”

Now the goal posts in my head might be further apart than most people’s, so I figured I better look up what the formula is for the wind chill factor before I make too big a fool out of myself.  Yeah, I know, too late right?  One organization touts itself as using more than 2 factors, and they have “patented” their work, so I am afraid to ridicule them by name.  I don’t want to get sued.  Not that there is anything to sue for in the first place, but it means I’ll have to open more mail than usual, and there will be phone calls.  I hate phone calls. Thank goodness someone invented texting.   Here is the link to their website that tells you they use more than 2 factors, but because it’s “patented” they can’t tell you how they do it.  I think the more factors you use the more ridiculous you look.  First here is the actual formula for the wind chill factor from weather.gov. Basically it means, if the wind is X and the temperature is Y, it really “feels” like Z.

WindChill = 35.74 + (0.6215 × T) − (35.75 × Wind) + (0.4275 × T × Wind)

Because the user might need the Wind Chill in Watts per meter squared ( W , it can be m2 ) calculated using an air temperature in degrees Celsius (°C) and a wind speed in meters per second ( : s m )

WindChill = (12.1452 + 11.6222 x sfc − 11.622 × Windsfc) × (33 – T)

 

Okay, everybody got that?  Real easy right?  But here’s my question, and we’ll just stick with wind chill factor and forget about the “other guys patented formula with more variables.”  How do they figure that out?  I mean at some point someone had to go outside and say, “You know it really doesn’t feel like 20°F out there with the wind blowing at 15mph, it really feels like -10°F.”  They had to have some Goober stand outside with a thermometer and an anemometer (I had to look it up.  I thought about putting in just windometer, but we need to learn at least something once a day, right?) and shout, “Hey Barney. The wind is 15 mph and it’s 20°F, but what does it really feel like?”  Then Barney had to shout back something like, “I don’t know Otis, but I’ll guess 6.2°F.” (I actually keyed in the numbers into the weather.gov windchill conversion chart to get the actual number.  We’re just being all kinds of sciency today aren’t we?)  Barney had to have stayed outside long enough to get enough readings for the math types to have been able to come up with a formula. Now you know why I think using more factors makes you look more ridiculous.  “Okay Barney, the wind is blowing, the temperature is X, but now you’re wearing a coat, the sun is out, but you’re standing in the shade, in the driveway wearing Birkenstocks and socks, and it’s snowing, what does it feel like now?”  Barney had to reply, “yeah, it doesn’t feel like 6.2°F anymore, it really feels like 7.2°F.”  Having gone through all those machinations, they came up with the formula I gave you above.

If they didn’t have a guy standing outside, then don’t give me the wind chill factor.  Wear your suit, poof your hair and tell me what the weather is going to be like tomorrow.

How would you have liked to have been that guy standing outside?  I know it had to be a guy because a woman wouldn’t have been that dumb.

As a side note today, I would like your opinion.  We were watching a tribute to the 3 tenors, by 3 of the youngest, littlest, skinniest, purtiest guys, with the biggest voices, and hairdos, you have ever heard, on PBS Saturday night.  In my uncultured opinion if you’re going to sing like that, you need to be big, fat, bald, and with a plate of spaghetti next to you.  In other words you need to look like me and/or Pavarotti. They were performing in Florence outside of the big Cathedral.  My Mom asked, “What is the name of that church?”  Instead of saying “The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore” which is the actual name of the Cathedral, I deadpanned, “1st Baptist of Florence.” Nobody laughed, and one person remarked, “Do they have Baptists in Italy?”  Somebody tell me, how is that not funny?

Don’t Kick My Chair During the Scary Part, Dude!

The play, I’ll Be Back Before Midnight,” almost scared a little bit of pee out of me.  It was great.  I generally like going to plays, always have, but I saw one this summer that just bored me to tears, so I haven’t been too motivated lately. I think you are always more disappointed in something when your hopes regarding that something are up unnecessarily high.  Needless to say I have been tentative about going to another one.  Unfortunately, I had a birthday a couple of weeks ago, so the missus wanted to take me to a play and dinner, so I said “okay.”

Kim made the reservations or at least she tried to.  My wife, as sweet as she is, tends to have issues with technology. When she is using her phone, kindle, or laptop, and something doesn’t work the way she wants it to, the conversation usually goes like this:

“Here, fix it.”

“Fix what sweetie?”

“Fix this!”  She is now shaking the device at me.

“What’s wrong with it?”

“It won’t work.”

“Well honey, I kinda figured that one out on my own.”  For some odd reason or another, that response never goes over too well.

“Is there anything in particular it’s doing or not doing?”

“It won’t work.  Fix it.” Still shaking, or wagging, said device.

Someday I’m going to learn to just take the device and make it work without asking questions.  But seeing as how I fell out of the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down, it ain’t gonna happen.  This is the same guy who asked his, not even close to being 68 year old wife, after she told him that the recent super moon hasn’t been this close to the earth in 68 years, if she remembered it looking like this. So, I take the device, which, this time, happens to be the laptop.

Tap, tap, tap, fiddle, fiddle, fiddle, adjust, adjust, adjust.

“Okay sweetie, here ya go.”

“What did you do?”

“I keyed in the password.”

“Thank yooooooooo!”

A short time later she says to me, she says, “there are no good seats until the 12th.”

Now my birthday is on the 3rd, and we had already planned to meet my mother and brother at Biltmore in Asheville, NC on the 2nd for lunch and a tour. Then on the 3rd, Kim had planned to take me to dinner at our favorite steak place (which means our favorite restaurant), the Peddler, in Greenville. Plus, she bought me a new electronic device.  So I’m not feeling slighted on the birthday celebrations. She could have stopped at the electronic device, but I’m not going to tell her that.  I’m good with my haul.  Dinner and a show is just a bonus, and it’s a play anyway, so like I said, I’m not too keen on going. But what are you going to do?

“That’s okay honey.  We’re doing enough for my birthday, don’t worry about it.”  I think I’m home free.

“Well there are good seats available on the 12th.”

“That’s okay.  We don’t have to go.”

“Okay, good.  We’re booked on the 12th.”

“But I said you didn’t have to do that.  You’re doing enough already.”

“We’re booked, we’re going.”

“So basically, this has got nothing to do with my birthday.  You just want to go to dinner and a play?”

“Not basically.  Yes!”

So we’re booked for a play, disguised as my birthday present.  It’s a comedy thriller, “I’ll Be Back Before Midnight”.  I’m not sure how they’re going to do that.  The best thriller I ever saw was the movie “When a Stranger Calls” and there wasn’t anything funny about that.  Except for the time they thought they had finally caught the guy. The mood was peaceful, everybody was breathing a sigh of relief, and then the heroine hears coming from the bedroom closet, “Have you checked the children?”  She rolls over to wake her husband and it turns out it’s not her husband lying next to her, it’s the killer.  That part of the movie wasn’t funny.  What was funny, were the 4 girls sitting 5 rows in front of me, screaming, jumping up, climbing over the people sitting between them and the escape route that was the aisle, and running out of the theater.  That was funny.  So naturally I’m a little skeptical about a “comedy thriller”.

We don’t attend the theater often, but I’ve seen movies where people go to the theater.  In my opinion we look the part of theater goers.  I’m wearing khakis and a sweater and the missus is wearing a nice outfit that I can’t even begin to describe other than, “She looked good,” which for my wife is pretty much all the time.  The only thing missing was me wearing a tweed jacket with elbow patches, and Birkenstocks with white socks.  Isn’t that how most men attire themselves when attending the theater?  Elbow patches and Birkenstocks?  That’s the way they do it in the movies.

Before the performance we attempt sophistication by ordering a glass of wine at the concession stand. We don’t do this often and we want to fit in.   2 problems.  #1 the wine comes in small plastic cups.  If they wanted to be any more southern they should have just used Red Solo cups.  #2 the love of my life, when asked by the “bartender” what she would like, responded by saying she wanted something sweet.  We’re not exactly at a wine tasting, so the guy looks at her like I usually do when she asks me, “Are you paying attention to me?”  For all of you keeping score at home, it’s not a pleasant look.  All you husbands out there know what I am talking about.

“We have Cabernet, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio.”

She looks at him like I look at her when she says, “Are you paying attention to me?”  All you wives out there know what I am talking about.  My wife enjoys wine, but is not exactly a Sommelier.  I’m not either.  Needless to say I had to look up the word that means “wine expert.”

I told her to try the Pinot Grigio, I ordered the Cabernet, and we stood there “fashion policing” the other theater patrons. There was not an elbow patch, or pair of Birkenstocks to be seen.  We crumpled up our “glasses” dumped them in the trash and found our seats.

Some guy walked out on the stage, turned out it was the Executive Director Allen McCalla, to make announcements, pitch a couple of the sponsors, and tell us a little bit about the play.  For some reason everyone applauded when he came out.  I’ve met Allen, and he’s a nice guy, but he really didn’t do anything except walk out on the stage, so I’m not real sure why everyone was clapping.  They clapped when he left the stage too.  I asked around, but nobody else could tell me why they were clapping either.  Turns out he also directed the play, so, what do I know?

The lights came down and the play started.  And you know what?  It is pretty funny.  I still don’t see the thriller part of it yet.  I should have known better.  The play is set in kind of a stereotypical thriller setting, farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, with city people, the wife played by Emily Grove, and the husband played by Sam McCalla, who have never been in the country before, renting for the next few months.  The colorful farmer, played by Evan Harris, who is leasing them the house, is pretty funny.  He tells the standard ghost story of a hermit who, years before, had murdered someone in that house and had never been caught.  Previous guests have claimed to have seen ghosts in the house.  The sightings are always mysteriously preceded by the sound of an unearthly heartbeat.  The stage is set.  You know someone, or some people, ain’t a gonna make it to the end of this play.

The play continues and the wife, who has mental issues, decides to stay up late reading. And then it happens. The lights flicker, and you start to hear a heartbeat.  The lights flicker again, and she starts freaking out a little, screaming for her husband.  The lights go out and she’s still screaming.  I didn’t know a theater could get this dark.  I’m sure they were there, I’m really not looking, but you can’t even see the glow of the exit signs.  We have now moved from comedy to “full tilt boogie” thriller.

Now back to our story.  The wife is still screaming for her husband, it’s still pitch dark, the heartbeat has gotten louder and faster, a light shines just outside a window that has mysteriously opened, and then, all of a sudden, the wife shines a flashlight around the room, and it lands on the hermit, a hideous figure holding a bloody knife ready to stab her.  She screams again, and all the lights go out again.

The lights come up, the husband rushes into the empty room with the wife still holding the flashlight screaming about the hermit with the knife.  Everybody calms down, except the wife of course, and the play continues, jokes are told, the audience laughs and the husband goes back to bed, having searched the house and not found the first hermit.  The wife, she’s still pretty worked up, kind of like me at this point, so she decides to stay up.

A little background about me, at this juncture in our story, would be appropriate.  I’ve never liked blood and guts horror movies.  However, when I was a teenager I used to love the non gory thrillers like the first “Halloween” movie, which was, surprisingly, not that gory, and the aforementioned “When a Stranger Calls.”  They were pretty fun, and let me tell you why.  My first car date, or the first date I had after I got my drivers license and didn’t need my Mom or somebody else’s Mom to drive us, was the first “Halloween” movie.  The first time the creepy music started playing, and the killer jumped out of the shadows with the knife, my date jumped straight up out of her chair and landed in my lap, where she remained for the rest of the movie.  Yes sir, I had me a good thing going.  Scary movies?  Who knew?  So, I saw all the scary movies through High School. Let’s face it, being startled is fun, and more importantly your date being startled is even better.

So when the wife in the play decides to stay up, I know this isn’t such a hot idea.  Sure enough here we go.  The heartbeat.  The flickering lights.  She runs over and closes and locks the window.  The heart beat gets louder. She grabs the shotgun off the wall. The heart beat gets louder and louder.  The window, that she has just locked, flies open, the drapes billow with the wind, and suddenly the lights go out.  The theater is pitch dark, again.  The sound of footsteps is audible.  The wife screams and I’m about to come out of my skin. And then it happens.  The guy behind me decides to cross his legs, and he kicks the back of my chair.  He couldn’t have picked a worse time to try and get comfortable. I mean for crying out loud you can’t do that sort of thing, at that point in the play!  I thought I had been had.  The jig was up.  They had caught up to me.  It was in that moment I thought Freddy Krueger himself was banging on my chair.  If I hadn’t used the rest room before we sat down I might have had a bigger problem.  I kid you not, I’m not making this up, I literally came up out of my chair, and hollered “Oh s#*t.”  Thank goodness at that very moment, back on stage, the wife decides to fire the shotgun, so my expletive isn’t heard by the rest of the audience.  It is, however, heard by those within my immediate vicinity, rows O and P.  The lights come back up, and I won’t tell you what happens because it is a good play and you need to see it someday, but jokes are told, everyone laughs and we break for intermission.

I am really hoping this guy is wearing elbow patches and Birkenstocks.  I turn around, and sitting there, not wearing elbow patches or Birkenstocks, is just a regular guy wearing jeans, sneakers, a Clemson sweatshirt, with a big grin on his face. He is sitting with; I am assuming, his wife and another couple.  I want to break bad on this guy so much, but he is just sitting there smiling, kinda knowing what he did, and trying his best not to laugh.  I’m 6’4 about 310 lbs., depending on what I had for dinner (we hadn’t eaten yet so it was probably close to 305), so when I turn around, and you don’t know me, after having my kicked my chair, you probably would be just a tad worried.  This guy is just grinning.

It’s kinda hard to break bad on a guy when, #1 he is not wearing elbow patches and Birkenstocks, #2. Clemson has just lost to Pittsburgh on a last second field goal, and #3. your wife is sitting next to you, with her hands over her face, shaking uncontrollably, doing her absolute level best not to fall down in the floor in hysterics.  The best I could do was look the guy in the eye, point my finger at him, and say “DUDE!!”

This was one of the times when “sir”, “hey you”, or “excuse me”, just wouldn’t work.  This was a “DUDE!!” moment if there ever was one.

“DUDE!! You kicked my chair at absolutely the worst time, ever!”

He just keeps smiling, I look down the row, and his party is basically mirroring Kim, hands over their noses and mouths, not looking directly at me, and shaking hysterically.  It is at this point Kim loses it, and everybody else blows up.  There was no hiding it.  “Mr. bad ass, 6’4” 305 lbs., scared of the dark, jumps at a shoe bump,” is now the hit of The Greenville Little Theater’s row O and P.  I shake hands with “Clemson,” watch Kim hand out tissues to everyone on our two rows so they can wipe the tears of laughter from their eyes, check my shorts, and sit down to watch the rest of the play.  It is just as good as the first part, and I still have a couple of expletives left in me for the rest of the scary parts.  Kim never fully regains control.  In fact at one point she pokes me at the wrong time, just to see what I would do.  I don’t disappoint.  I am still worked up. One week later I might still be.  I can’t say as I blame her though.  I would do the same thing if the shoes were reversed.  Dadgum play should have been called “Don’t Kick My Chair During the Scary Part, Dude!”

We still had dinner left to attend.  But since nobody else wore elbow patches and Birkenstocks, we didn’t bother with Chateaubriand and a good Cabernet.  We went to Waffle House.

 

 

 

 

My Mary Poppins audition. Need I say more?

So this is what happens when my big butt decides that it wants to try out for a musical. First off I have to say I was coerced.  I was told that my size, I’m HUUUGGGE, to quote one of my friends’ art students, would be an advantage, and my big booming, I think LOUD was the exact term used, voice, would be ideal for the stage.  Well with ego adequately ballooned, I went on the website of the Greenville Little Theatre just to see what was what.  Turns out, that in two weeks they were auditioning for the musical “Mary Poppins”.  Now I just love the movie, and even am a fan of “Saving Mr. Banks” which told the history of the Disney® movie, how it was made, and why, P.K. Travers, the author, wrote the “Mary Poppins” books.  But since I had no training in singing, or dancing, I didn’t think it was something worth giving a shot.  But I scrolled down the list of the characters and then I saw it.  Admiral Boom.

The description was for a large man, between the age of 40 and 70, with a loud booming voice.  I instantly did my Meerkat imitation, and sat up and took notice.  I’m a big guy, 6’4”, 310 lbs., right age, and have a booming voice?  If they had asked for bald I just might have picked up the phone and hired The William Morris agency, so big loud Mark could get paid for this gig.  I’ve seen the movie about 100 times and Admiral Boom does absolutely zero singing and dancing.  All this guy does is stand there, be big and loud, and order his lackey to shoot off a cannon.  Right in my wheel house.  I am a world champion at being big and loud and giving orders.  Not so much on having people obey those orders, but what are you gonna do?  Just ask my wife and anyone in my Sunday morning bible study, Wednesday bible study, anyone that has ever known me, and pretty much anyone that has come within 30 feet of me.  I read further in the character description, and it seemed as if Admiral Boom might have a little singing part at the end of the play with the ensemble; still no big deal. Okay, what do I have to do to audition?

Oops.  It said be prepared to sing a song from the play or the same genre, and come dressed to dance a short routine.  Keep the phrase “short routine” in mind because you will need it later on. I’m now getting a little nervous, maybe this isn’t such a good idea.  But I did some further research and Admiral Boom really does not do any of that stuff.  So I try and pick a song.  I settled on “Spanish Ladies”.  Robert Shaw sings it in Jaws.  It’s a good sailing tune, Admiral Boom is a sailor, so what the heck I’ll give it a go. I’ve got two weeks.  I loaded the song in my phone, listened while I worked out, and rehearsed while driving and folding clothes.  Annoyed the dog to no end.  Usually she just plops on the floor while I fold.  Needless to say she spent a lot of those two weeks outside.  After you read about what happened at the audition, you won’t blame her.

Before I get into the disaster that was my audition, let me be clear that the people of the Greenville Little Theater were just plain and simply, great people.  No matter what happened they were very encouraging, helpful, and complimentary.  No matter how bad things are going to seem in these later passages, it was still a lot of fun and it was because of the staff of the Greenville Little Theater.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.  So I arrive at the audition about 15 minutes early, mistake number one.  A very nice young lady, Emily, who is the marketing assistant/associate artist, handed me a form to fill out.  Emily, as it turns out was auditioning too and she did a lot better than I did, she was really good, more about her later.  Anyways back to the form; part interested in playing? “Admiral Boom”.  Parts you will not consider playing?  “Mary Poppins, and Jane, but will consider Mrs. Banks if the price is right.”  Experience?  Please use the back if necessary. I crack up at this one.  It’s been 38 years since I did a high school church play.  So down went, “Zero, nada, zip.  1st timer.  Last play I did was 38 years ago in a high school church play.“ Look, there is no way I’m getting a call back, let alone the part, so I might as well have a little fun while I’m here.

Allen, the Executive Artistic Director, announces, “Auditions will be performed in the order that you arrived.”  Not a good sign.  I was really hoping to be able to observe and see how things are done before I have to get up there and embarrass myself.  He continued, “Additionally, Kimberlee, our choreographer, will be taking you through a short dance routine (remember I said you will need the phrase “short dance routine” later on, well it’s almost, but not quite, later on). We will be taking you in groups of 10.  The first 10 will sing a short verse of song, and then as a group you will go through the short dance routine.  Then we will take the next 10, and so on.”  A little pee came out of me because I was definitely one of the first 10 to show up.

My first move after that terrifying announcement was to stand up and give my chair to a lady who had just come in and had no place to sit.  Being the gentleman that I am, of course it was the right thing to do.  Unfortunately the room had gotten deathly quiet after Allen’s announcement, and when I stood up I dropped my iPad on my big toe.  Not flat on my big toe, but the corner landed perpendicular to my big toe.  In other words it hurt.  Fortunately the bad word that I wanted to say did not come out of my mouth, but I also dropped all my music and nice folders that contained my music when I leaned down to pick up the stupid iPad.  Then I had to lean down and pick up all that mess, and then I dropped my iPad again.  The lady looked at me and almost gave me back the seat.  I however beat a hasty retreat to the back corner of the audition room to await my name being called.

Turns out I was number 6.  The first guy got up there and sang his song acapella, and even did a few lines from the play.  Fortunately it was not Admiral Boom, but he was good.  The next few went and then it’s my turn.  I forgot to tell you that I changed my song to “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” the day before. I had practiced and practiced, and I knew it cold, and I really sounded good…in the car.  Not so much in the audition room.  Anyway, my name is called and I walk up to the piano player who is off in the corner.  I pull out my professional binder, the one that I had previously dropped and that my wife Kim insisted that I take to keep my music in, and I attempted to pull out the sheet music for “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.”  I brought two copies, 3 pages per copy, and the papers stuck together.  I could not get the music out of the damn folder.  As I am fumbling with the pages, I failed to notice the wires on the floor and my big feet got all tangled up, and I launched.

Fortunately I caught myself on the piano; unfortunately I landed with a loud thud.  Not that my tone deafness would ever have noticed but I probably knocked the thing out of tune.  I gathered up what was left of my dignity, and proceeded to trip over the speaker to which the previously mentioned wires happened to be connected. This time my lift off was interrupted not by the piano, but by the piano player himself, Tim, the Music and Educational Director.

OK. Now I’m vertical and passed all tripping obstacles. However I still can’t get the damn music out of the folder. Tim was trying to help me, but his fingers couldn’t seem to separate the pages either, so I finally pulled out all the sheets, handed them to him and said, “Just pull out the top 3”.  Which he did.  I must say he was really cool and nice about it, and we were ready to go.  Well, he was ready to go, I’m not sure I was, but off I went anyway.

I walked to the center of the room, nimbly and deftly dodging the evil wires and speaker, very confident, and dignified, just way Admiral Boom would be.  I tucked my thumbs behind the lapel of my blue blazer and announced, in the requested loud and booming voice, “I will be singing Let’s Go Fly a Kite…I hope.”  I got a polite, courtesy giggle from the audience.  By the way you aren’t just auditioning in front of the directors and producers.  You are singing in front of everybody that is auditioning, so no pressure right?  I made my announcement, the piano player started playing, and I started “singing” (notice the quotes), got through the first 6 words, and forgot the rest of the words.  I promise you, what I said, verbatim, was, “Oh Crap, I forgot the words!!”  Seriously.  I forgot what the next word was and said so, in the requested loud and booming voice.  I stopped, Tim stopped playing, and the director said ,as I was walking back to pick up my sheet music, “you are allowed to look over Tim’s shoulder and read the words if you want.”  Thanks for the tip.  As I was going back to the piano player, guess what, I tripped over the same dadgum wires, and caught myself on the piano, again.  As I was walking behind Tim, in order to see my music, guess what again?  I tripped over the same speaker, caught myself, again, landed on Tim, again, but before recovering, tripped on the wires, again.  So far so good.  My dignity has left the room and is pulling out of the parking lot.  I could not have scripted it to be this bad.  The audition, while not technically over, is over for all intents and purposes, but at least I have something to write about, right?

Anyone with a smidge of dignity would have just bailed right then and there, but dignity has never been one of my strong suits and I’m pretty sure it’s not one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), so I kept going.  We started over.  No I am not kidding, I kept going and I got through it.  Was completely off with the piano, and sounded like a screech owl.  I definitely sounded better in the car and should have said so, but I was sweating like Donald Trump being questioned by Meghan Kelly, so I got off stage and went back to my seat.  People actually applauded though, and the ones I passed on the way back to my seat, including Emily, were nice enough to say I did a good job.  That’s what I like about theater people; they are very supportive and nice.  Not very truthful, but truth is not what I wanted at that particular time.  A good stiff, brown liquor drink, maybe, but the truth, I could have done without at that particular point in my theater career.

You would think that would be the end of my nightmare, but oh no.  We have to take this all the way.  As Kimberlee, the choreographer said, “it’s a very dancy play.”  Dance time.  Oh crap…again, but this time not in a loud booming voice.  I thought I might be able to get out of this one.  I thought putting non-dancing Admiral Boom on my character preference would get me out of it, but what the heck, I’ve gone this far, might as well go whole hog.  I take my jacket off, kept my eye out for rogue wires and speakers, and headed out to the dance floor with the other 9, who almost all, by the way, are wearing dance shoes and tights.  I thought about wearing something I could move better in than my khakis, but figured if I needed to move more than my khakis allowed then I was in even bigger trouble.  I did have on my slick dancing shoes, or to put it another way, shoes I could dance in.  All 10 of us go out on the floor, and Kimberlee proceeds to show us the “short dance routine” we are going to do.  For those who haven’t kept up, it’s now later on.

My wife and I both have taken dance lessons before and we were both awful at it.  Don’t get me wrong we “got moves”, but we couldn’t remember the dance steps.  And for me to successfully execute something like I was about to do, I have to practice, and I mean practice a lot.

Before I describe this dance routine, I need to say, for a big, loud guy, I’m in pretty good shape.  I swim a mile 2-3 times a week, lift weights, and cycle the other 2-3 times a week, either on the trainer for an hour, or outside for a couple of hours.  I’m not out of shape.  I am however out of dancing shape as you are about to find out.  I think if I gave all the other stuff up and took up dancing I would be in better shape.  Doing 15 minutes of what I am about to describe instead of all that other junk that takes a lot of expensive equipment, and at least a couple of hours a day, might be the ticket.  Someday I’ll have to write about the time my friend in High School, Lisa Leathers, now Lisa Blanton, talked me into being her partner for her dance class’ recital.  Now that’s a story.

Kimberlee begins by stating something I will never forget, “this is real easy, nothing complicated so just watch me”.  Well she does about 5 dance steps to begin with that I don’t really follow, but figure with a couple tries I could get it down.  One of the steps is the box step.  I learned that one in 6th grade so I get excited.  My excitement didn’t last.  The box step she did, didn’t look like no box step I ever done.

So we try the first 5 steps and as expected I screw it up, including the box step, but it’s just once so I’ll get it the next time or two.  No next time or two.  She adds another 5 dance steps to what we just learned.  Yep, you got it, “Oh Crap!”  This goes on for what seemed to me about a thousand dance steps, but what turned out to be about 20.  But after 5 it might as well have been a thousand, because there was no way I was getting this today.  Give me a couple of days and 8 hours a day of practice and I could have pulled it off, like I said I got grooves, but not in 15 minutes.  So we go twirling around to “It’s a Jolly Holiday with Mary”, that’s the song with the penguins, and all I’m doing is watching the girl in front of me, who just happens to be Emily, the nice person who told me I did a good job singing and handed me my form, and trying to keep up, of which I am doing a lousy job.  There was one step where we twirl twice to the right then twirl twice to the left, and we stick our arms out like we’re playing airplane.  So not only am I trying to keep up, I’m trying not to clock the guy to my right and Emily in front.  However, I could only get in one twirl at a time so the odds of decking someone with an errant spin were reduced by half.

We do the whole thing through once, and I think we’re done?  I hope so because I have worked up a sweat, I’m breathing hard, and I think I have dehydrated.  I’m completely gassed.  All these other young girls in the front line are smiling, not sweating, and looking very refreshed, I just wanted to smack ‘em.  Emily is not seeming as nice as I thought she was.  In Emily’s defense things were getting kind of fuzzy, and if Santa Clause himself had shown up I might have thought him to be not so nice too.  But we’re done.  Yay!! I’m outta here and I got to hide in the back the whole time!!

But guess what happens?  Kimberlee, says, “Ok, back line to the front, front line to the back.”  I have to do this whole routine over again, and not only that, but I don’t have Emily to watch in front of me anymore.  The odds of me hammering someone with the airplane spins are now pretty good, I’m hosed.  The music goes off and I just start making it up.  I’ve blown it, but you know what, who cares?  I ain’t getting paid.  Let’s have some fun.  So I go through the whole routine and actually get all the moves wrong up until the final 5 which I get completely right.  Who knew?

We all stand around telling each other how well we all did and once that was over I beeline for the water fountain, tank down a couple of gallons, grab my jacket, music, iPad, pause to make sure I’m not being followed by the demonic wires and speaker, and Houston we are go for launch.   I’m out the door.

Next time, IFFF, I get a call back, (I didn’t get a call back, what a shock); I’m bringing my cycling shorts, Under Armour® workout shirt, two towels, doo rag, and about a gallon of Gatorade®.  I might also ask if they can come out to my car so I can audition there.

All Admiral Boom does is stand there and be big and loud.  Why couldn’t we have auditioned that?

My own personal St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

I think it’s fairly well accepted assumptions that the worst thing a husband can do is NOT get his wife a gift on Valentine’s Day.  That particular assumption would be WRONG, and I am here to tell you about that “something even worse”.  I am here to tell you that not only did I not have a gift for my wife on Valentine’s Day, I did that aforementioned, “something even worse.”  Have you ever heard of the sin of omission and the sin of commission?  I managed to pull them both off on one very bad Valentine’s Day.

I think it has to be just about the experience of every guy, who is truly in love with the woman of his dreams, that inevitably, disaster will strike on the worst day of the year that it can happen to him.  Yes gentlemen, and ladies, I am talking about the day of the year that most guys, who are truly in love, try and make the most special for the lady with whom they are in love.  And though we men may get it right most years, every one of us has a Valentine’s Day disaster that makes them cringe every time New Year’s ends, and the Hallmark Channel starts playing Valentine’s Holiday movies.  This is just such a story.  Except, that it was not one disaster on the same day, it was two.  And out of the two disasters that did happen, one of them was not, my wife having the flu.  That’s how bad it was.  My wife having the flu on Valentine’s Day did not even make the top two of things that went wrong.  So instead of this being the story of my St. Valentine’s Day Disaster, this is the story of my St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.  And it was all self-inflicted.

The date February 14, 2007.  Valentine’s Day.

We had just moved to Wilmington, NC from Greenville, SC where I had taken a job as Director of Operations for a large kitchen and bathroom cabinet distributor.  Kim, my wife, had not yet found employment, so she had planned an elaborate dinner at home for Valentine’s Day.  Now let me tell you this much.  My wife cannot cook.  She will be the first one to tell you this, so I am not doing any wife bashing here.  This story is completely about my bashing.  So for Kim to prepare an elaborate Valentine’s Day dinner was very special, and a real effort on her part.

A brief history to illustrate my point.  6 years earlier, on the first birthday of mine that I “celebrated” with Kim, I came home to find our dog, Doolie, greeting me at the door, as always, but this time covered in cake batter.  Her curly cue tail was its typical wagging machine, and her tongue was hanging out like nothing had happened.  Daddy was home and it was time to party.  Kim was standing at the door in a red plaid apron with tears in her eyes.  After glancing at the disaster, that was our kitchen, cake batter on the dog was not the only place it landed, and being the eloquent lunk that I am, I asked her a probing and unexpected question, “what happened?”

Lower lip trembling and with eyes moistening, and in the understatement of the year, she said “I tried to make you a cake for your birthday and it didn’t work out.”

“Sweet bean,” I stumbled, “How many dishes did you use?  Was this going to be an 8 layer cake?”

“No,” Her voice quivered, “I tried 3 times to make a cake and burned all 3 of them.  After the second one burned I thought I would play it safe and start making a third cake, you know, just in case.  That’s when I started to smell smoke coming from the oven, turned, and knocked over the bowl with the batter in it.  Doolie, as always, when there was a chance at a snack, was right next to the bowl as it hit the floor, bounced once, and that’s how she got covered.  I knew you would be home soon, sniff, sniff, sniff, and I wanted to get the cake ready, which is why Doolie has not yet been de-battered.”

This was all told to emphasize how much of a cook my wife was not, and how special, and burdensome, it was that she was trying to make a nice dinner for Valentine’s Day.  Unfortunately, for me, or her, you’ll have to be the judge, it gets worse.  She also had the flu.

The flu had been coming on for a couple of days and it was not yet in full debilitating flower, so that morning I told her not to do anything special for Valentine’s Day since she felt so bad.  When she got better we would go do something.  I even asked her, knowing what the answer was ahead of time, “would you like to just go out?”  We never go out for dinner on Valentine’s Day. I mean why would you? The crowds are too big, and of course the prices are jacked up 2-3 times the norm because of the “special” menu the chef only prepares for Valentine’s Day.  Well I got a big negatory on that suggestion.

So, at the end of the day I bebop on home half expecting to have to cook/grill something, which is cool, because I know I have steaks in the freezer.  Pop those bad boys on the grill, a little caramelized onion, baked potato, a little chocolate wine that I found earlier that week, and we’re in business.  Little did I suspect I was about to be out of business.

When I got home I found out I didn’t have steaks in the freezer.  Those steaks had been thawed and cooked and were on the table set with our wedding china and a special red rose plant that she had bought especially for the table setting.  Let me tell you what, Kim had made that table look good, food, place setting and all.  She had made Steak Dianne, what looked like fresh asparagus, and strawberry short cake for desert.  I was a little upset with Kim for cooking when she felt as bad as she did, but instead of saying so I said, “Yeah boy, looks good, let’s eat!.”  Take notice, that was the only thing I did right that night.  It goes downhill from here, and fast.

So we sat ourselves down, lights dimmed, candles lit, basking in the glow of our love, but not for long. So, against my better judgement, (remember the cake) I went ahead and took a bite.  I went for the asparagus first because I love asparagus.  Big time, slap me on the fanny and call me Alice, love asparagus.  And this from a guy that usually won’t eat anything that at one point didn’t have a face on it.  Well, not only did the asparagus taste bad, it tasted like feet, no worse, it tasted like feet with fungus.  I don’t mean to intentionally gross anyone out, but the point needs to be made that what happened next was a reflex and not intentional.  I mean what kind of dork spits out food that his wife cooked on Valentine’s Day, despite having the flu, on to their nice wedding china that may have been used maybe 4 times in the last 5 years, unless it was pure reflex?  I need to point out that there was something wrong with the asparagus, and that it was not Kim’s fault, though later on I found out that it actually was her fault. (The asparagus turned out to have come out of the can.)  It did not just taste bad.  It was not just cooked incorrectly.  There was something technically, clinically, and morbidly wrong with the asparagus.  Anyway, in my mouth it went and out of my mouth it came, splat, right on the plate, and right on top of my Steak Dianne.  OOPS!

There are moments in your life when everything just stops.  I am reminded of Clement Clark Moore’s poem, “Twas the night before Christmas.”  Santa is coming, the narrator has jumped out of bed, he’s looking out the window, and sees St. Nick and his reindeer, flying for crying out loud, in bound, things are happening, it’s getting exciting, and then Moore comes in with the line, “As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky…”  I have always felt like that line just stopped everything.  I mean think about it, there’s been a serious clatter, sashes have been thrown open, he sees a fat guy wearing a red suit, in a sleigh, not on the ground, but flying, and being pulled by eight flying reindeer, and all of a sudden dry leaves are flying?  What’s up with that?  In this day and age if something like that happens, particularly in the South, pistols are being pulled, shotguns are being locked and loaded, and serious gunplay is about to take place.  Either that or the jug is passed around one more time because that’s some good hooch!!  But what Moore does is completely slow down time, and the moment is painted in suspension eagerly waiting the next move.

That’s how I felt at that particular moment.  Events were happening, the world was about to crash down, and then right before the dam broke and all hell was about to break loose, time stopped, and dry leaves began flying. I was given time to reflect on the stupid thing that I just did.  Whether intentional or not, it was just stupid.  And I knew that stupid thing was going to have consequences, and the consequences were going to begin just as soon as time decided to reengage itself.  I also knew that there was absolutely nothing I could do about what was coming.  I may not have known specifically what was about to happen, but there was one thing I was sure of, it was going to be bad.  No amount of artillery can be called in to stave off the storm of remuneration that was about to come my way.  No form of conciliatory gesture could protect me from the flood gates that were about to open, and there was nowhere I could run, and no where I could hide, to avoid the world of hurt that was about to come down.

With fresh regurgitation on my plate, and the gods of chronology, having come back from a smoke break, I slowly turned and looked at my wife.  And that’s when it happened.  The eyes started moistening up.  The lower lip started to quiver, remember the cake?  I hastily looked towards her hands and then directly at the steak knife that was easily within her reach, and was temporarily relieved that no movement in the direction of the steak knife was detected.  Later that evening I would regret that she had not made a move towards the knife and then successfully put me out of my misery, but for now, the hands were still and not moving in the general direction of that knife.  Before I could get out, “but honey…” the chair was shoved back, she stood straight up, wiped her mouth like the lady that she is, and stomped out of the dining room, down the hall, into the bedroom, and, what a shock, slammed the door.  And then in a twinkling I heard on the floor (apologies to Clement Moore), click, click, click, tap, tap, tap, trot, trot, trot, and the bedroom door opens.  Click, click, click, tap, tap, tap, trot, trot, trot, and the bedroom door closes.  Instead of reindeer on the roof, the dogs, as soon as Kim had headed down the hallway, jumped up and retreated as well, and unlike my sorry self, were allowed into the bedroom and on to the bedroom carpet. I need to add that the bedroom door was re-slammed with added emphasis that said “Don’t even think about it”.  We had two dogs at the time, one half Australian Shepherd and half Great Dane, and the other, the older one, who had experienced the cake batter, was a mix of Rottweiler, Lab, Doberman, and probably some kind of hound.  I think they both knew I was damaged goods, and figured the safest place to be was somewhere that was not in my vicinity.

So now I am stuck with a dilemma.  It’s every man’s conundrum.  I’ve pretty much screwed the pooch, so what do I do now?  I’ve blown Valentine’s Day. I know the one thing I don’t do, is turn on the TV.  So what do I do?  I look down at my plate, at this fabulous meal my wonderful wife has made, and I ate the rest of it, by myself.  Candles still a glow, plates reflecting in the candle light, lights still dimmed, and me tucking in to steak and strawberry shortcake, solo. Minus the asparagus of course.

You would think that would be the end of the massacre. But regurgitation was only the beginning.  What happened next is more the punch in the gut after the slap/shotgun in the face.  Kim finally emerged from the bedroom about 2 hours later.  I was reading, no TV for me.  I had self-sanctioned.  (Of course I cleaned the table and the kitchen.  I might be stupid but it’s not intentional.  That kitchen was scoured.)  The problem was she emerged 2 hours later with my Valentine’s Day present.  Nothing fancy, but she knows I like movies, we both do, and she had bought me “The Lord of the Rings” DVD extended edition, by Director Peter Jackson.  I’m a big fan.  She had calmed down and was actually okay.  I tried to explain that it was not her fault.  The asparagus had to have something clinically wrong with it, but I only tried that once.  Yes, that is correct, once was once too many.  (I should have just left it alone.  I haven’t taken 9 years to write this story for no good reason.)  But this brings us to where I had done something smart only to have it back fire in my face.

This should have been the point where I produced Kim’s well thought out and planned Valentine’s Day present.  Turns out, an historic blizzard in the Ohio Valley and New England put the cherry on top of this, just most fabulous of all, Cupid Day.  Since Kim was staying at home in those days, and since I had just started my new job, I could not order anything and have it shipped to the house or the office.  I wasn’t yet clear on what the office policy was on getting personal mail, and I didn’t want Kim getting the delivery before Valentine’s Day.  So what I did was order it the day before, and had it overnighted via FedEx, so that it would arrive on Valentine’s Day. Or at least I thought I did.  It was a really nice pair of warm, brown velvet, pajamas.  It was a very good present for Kim.  However this was not to be my day.  The aforementioned blizzard shut down The UPS terminal in Louisville, KY and nothing could get in or out for 2 days.  If I had just Fedexed it, like I thought I had, it would have been routed through Memphis and missed the storm, but NOOOOOO!  It had to be UPS’d.  Not that I have anything against the United Parcel Service, it’s a wonderful company and I am on great terms with our UPS driver.  But I had just hurled up Kim’s meticulously planned and executed Valentine’s dinner, and not only had she not killed me instantly or inflicted some sort of painful bodily injury, but she had just presented me with a really nice gift.  This was the time when I really needed to produce a nice gift.  So what did I have to give to her?  I was the classic wordsmith, “Ummm, honey, you’re not going to believe this, but your gift is sitting on the tarmac in Louisville and won’t get here for a few days because of a snow storm.  But HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!!” This is the point where I longed for the steak knife, and wished Kim had put me out of my misery a couple of hours prior.  I just wanted to go somewhere and hide.

But dead people can’t go hide, particularly ones like me who have just been massacred.  I never thought that I could do something worse to my wife than not having a gift for her on Valentine’s Day.

To wrap it up, I’m still married 10 years later.  And you know what Kim actually did believe me when I told her; her present was hung up by a snow storm.  Things went so bad that day, it was actually funny and we still laugh about it.  At least I think she laughs about it.  She hasn’t stabbed me with a steak knife yet.  I think that might be because the pajamas did actually show up a few days later.

Take away lessons:

  1. When your wife cooks you something, eat it and keep it down, then tell her you loved it with extraordinary enthusiasm.
  2. Always have your Valentine’s Day present in hand the day BEFORE Valentine’s Day.
  3. Always have a dog(s) around so that when you royally screw up, I mean the screw ups that are actually your fault, not just the ones your wife says are your fault, they can make your wife feel better while you are banished to some other place she is not.
  4. If you see a fat guy dressed in red, flying in a sleigh pulled by 8 reindeer, don’t shoot, just pass the jug.

Fishing has nothing to do with catching fish

I wrote this story specifically for my Dad on Father’s Day.  I told him that it was not meant to be posted, but if he wanted it posted I would.  He told me that it would be fine to post it, but before I did to make some corrections such as put in some commas where they were needed, and some words that were left out.  Like the dutiful son I am, I ignored his advice, and posted it as is.

My Dad and I have this history of fishing.  It’s called not catching fish.  Well that is not entirely true.  There are lots of times we have caught fish, but most of the time we don’t.  We used to catch all kinds of grief about it.  “Why do you guys keep going fishing?  You never catch anything,” was the whine of my Dad’s second wife.  If I was her I wouldn’t have whined so much.  Let’s look at this way.  If it’s hot, sticky, smelly, and the fish aren’t biting, and yet we are still going, what does that say about how much fun it would be to stay here you?   That’s what I thought.  Keep it moving nothing to see here.  It’s a good thing we never paid any attention to her when it came to fishing, because we generally enjoyed going fishing, and still do, no matter how hot, sticky and smelly it might be.  However these days if it’s hot, sticky, and smelly we don’t stick around as long as we used to.  But since it’s Father’s Day, 2015, I thought I would relate a “fishing” anecdote about me and my Dad.

Our history of “fishing” really goes back to my grandfather, my Dad’s Dad, Pop, and the times we went fishing on the Potomac River somewhere in the backwater of Virginia.  To this day I could not tell you where it is.  All I know is we drove from Richmond, over the Rappahannock River, what I used to call “big water” when I was little, and then we turned left and drove for about an hour down roads that were barely paved.  But when we went fishing we caught fish.  I can remember the boats being filled with Blue Fish, Rock Fish and Perch.  Just slap full.  I can never remember going fishing then, and not catching a lot of fish.  But something happened when I got older.  The fishing never stopped, but the catching fish did.

The first thing you have to know about “fishing” with me and my Dad is there are certain hors-d’oeuvres that must be taken or it just ain’t “fishing”.  The staples are as follows, beer, sardines, mustard and regular flavored, but preferably mustard, sometimes hot and spicy,  Van Camp’s Pork and Beans, Oreos and Club Crackers.  It has to be Club Crackers, and the ones in the green box, because if you use saltines the sardines just hang down over the sides.  There is an art to this stuff.  Oh sure you can take, sodas, water, sandwiches, and whatever else some “hangers on” might want to take, but if you don’t have the proper hors-d’oeuvres you might as well just not go.  Because after all, when you get home you want to be able to share the experience with the whole family.  Why should you be the only ones to put up with sticky and smelly?  Dad is sticky, I’m smelly.

My best story of me and Dad “fishing” is the time we packed up about lunch time in the fall of 1989 and headed out to the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  We headed to Nags Head and then dropped down to Hatteras and Ocracoke Inlet.  The Outer Banks are just gorgeous, and if you have never been you need to go.  However, if you go, I suggest you get a hotel room.  Dad and I were going to rough it.  That’s right, stay up all night on the beach fishing.  Never stop.  Just being men and “fishing”.  We’d sleep in the Jeep if we had to.

I had just bought a Jeep Cherokee after finishing my MBA at Wake Forest.  4 Wheel Drive baby!  That’s the big 4WD.  I had me a Jeep!  4 wheeling and never going to get stuck.  How could you get stuck driving 4WD?  So let’s go to the Outer Banks where they let you take the Jeep out on the beach! You never know when we would get a chance to go “fishing” again.  (We’ve been a thousand times since then). That was unheard of on the other North Carolina Beaches, South Carolina too for that matter, taking your vehicle, excuse me 4WD, right on the beach.  But we could on the Outer Banks if we wanted.  We could take all the gear we could and more, all the coolers, all the rods, all the reels, plenty of clothes, food, drinks, ice, chairs, the works.  And the best part was we didn’t have to walk it all over hot sand, or cold sand, or deep sand, or for ½ a mile, then forget something and have to walk back to the parking lot to get it.  We could just drive right up to our fishing spot and park.  And if it started raining or got too cold we could just sit in the big 4WD and not have to run for cover, because we drove the cover.

We started out on a Thursday right after lunch.  Figured to get there about dark and set up shop, get the bait in the water, rods in the sand and just snooze until dawn.  We hit I-40 and headed East.  I love cruise control.  I have never been one to speed, Dad either for that matter.  Other than the fact it’s illegal, and dangerous, I hate worrying about getting pulled over and then the subsequent expense of a ticket and inevitable insurance hike.  If the speed limit is 65 I set the needle to between 65 and 70 and hit the button and don’t sweat the troopers.  I did just that.  About the time we hit Raleigh Dad made the comment that when he drives, if the speed limit is 65 he’ll set the cruise to between 70 and 75 because the “fuzz” will only pull you over if you are going 10 mph over the speed limit.  I told him when it was his turn to drive he was welcome to it.

About 4 hours into it, it was Dad’s turn to drive.  He took over, the speed limit on Highway 64 between Raleigh and Nags Head is 55, so dutifully he set the cruise to between 60 and 65.  Guess what?  Turns out the “State Fuzz” will pull you over for going 8 mph over the speed limit and Mr. Smoky Bear did just that.  I’m sitting in the passenger seat trying not to laugh because how often do you get to be proven right about something when your old man has told you different. Hardly ever, am I right?

“Can I see your license, registration and proof of insurance please sir?”

I pulled out the registration and insurance card from the glove compartment, handed it to Dad who handed it to the State Trooper.

“Would you step back to my cruiser with me please sir?”

“Sure officer.  But how fast did you show that I was going?”  I know Dad was trying to angle for my speedometer being inaccurate.

“63 in a 55 mph zone sir.”

I thought I was going to wet myself right then and there.

Dad went back to the cruiser and came back 10 minutes later without a ticket.  To this day I don’t know why he didn’t get a ticket, but what I do remember is that when he came back he said that he almost got a ticket for having an expired insurance card.  Oops.  I had forgotten to take the old one out when it expired and had handed my Dad the wrong insurance card.

We proceeded onwards.  Dad still driving but cruise control set to 55 mph.  None of this in between stuff anymore.

We got to Nags Head, turned right and headed down the Outer Banks looking for an access road to the beach.  It was kinda dark and hard to see the access roads seeing as how it was after sunset and they don’t exactly put up street lights in National Parks.  This is where most writers would say this should have been our first clue.  Well it was our first clue but we didn’t think anything of it.  We found an access road, put it in 4WD and headed in.  Man was it dark.  Good thing we had headlights.  Cruised right up on to the beach which literally was about 100 yards wide, I made a left and we started looking for a place to park and set up for the night.  It was so dark we finally just stopped because, why not?

We got out of the 4WD and began to set up.  Man, not only was it dark but it was windy.  Really windy.  We got out the chairs, the gear, the bait, the rods, the reels, the coolers, all the stuff we hauled in and began “rigging up”.  We each got one rod ready, walked out to the front of the 4WD and cast out into the surf.  We assumed we were casting into the surf, because the direction we were casting sure was making noise like it was the ocean.  That was how dark it was.

We set the rods in the sand sticks and went back to where we had our other rods and began rigging those also.  You need to have two lines in the water at all times, and cast at different distances.  So we set those up, cast those out and set down and turned off the lights.  I don’t know how many of you have been to the beach before, and at night, but I have.  However, the beaches I have been to have been pretty will lit with the houses that line the beaches, and also the boardwalks, arcades and piers that inhabit the beaches that I frequented.   I had never been to a beach that didn’t have those things at night.  I now had.  When we turned off the lights of the car and the flashlights you would have thought someone had dropped a bag over our heads and were taking us to a fraternity hazing.  Man you could not, literally see the hand in front of your face.  And the wind.  The wind was something else.  Probably 20 mph, in the dark, in the fall, on the Outer Banks.  It was cold.  And we were going to be here for the next 48 hours roughing it?

To our credit we did stay for probably an hour, but when it came time to check the bait, we both kind of looked at each other and said, “You know, I can’t even tell if the lines are in the water.  They could be behind us for all we know.  And we were serious.  We were not exaggerating.  It was literally that dark, and so windy we couldn’t tell where the lines were.  “Let’s head up to the pier we saw a few miles back.”  Not much point in fishing, if you can’t tell if your lines are in the water, you can’t see the coolers to get at the food, and it’s so windy and cold you can’t get at the hors-d’oeuvres.  So we reeled in and in the dark, wind, and cold, packed up and headed for the access road.

Remember when I said we had trouble finding the access road from the highway because it was so dark?  Try finding it from a beach with absolutely no ambient lighting.  We must have driven up and down the beach for an hour looking for the road between the bazillion or so dunes that were flanking our escape route.  Dad was hanging out the passenger side window with his flashlight, this was before you could buy a spotting scope that could shame a light house for $20 at your nearest Lowes, trying to find the outlet.  I thought we were going to have to camp it on the beach and wait for “sunup”.  Wasn’t that the plan to begin with?

We finally found the outlet, which by the way was not the original one.  I think we ended up 5 miles further down the road than where we originally entered.  We landed on Highway 12, which is the main road on the Outer Banks, and headed back North to Nags Head and the “Outer Banks Fishing Pier”.  We fished on the pier for a couple of hours and talked about our camping fiasco.

“You know what we need to do?” I said.  “We need to go down to Ocracoke Inlet and see my buddy Mike Waters who has a condo on the Inlet! We can stay with him.  He’ll go fishing with us and we won’t have to put up with all this darkness!”  Problem solved.

So after fishing for a couple of hours, not catching anything, again (which goes without saying), we retired to the 4WD, reclined the rich Corinthian cloth upholstery and conked out for 3 hours.

We woke up about dawn and headed to Ocracoke.  The rest of the trip is memorable but not as interesting.  We met Mike at the Ferry that morning, and headed to his condo.  We set out the fishing nets in the Inlet, in the hopes that if we didn’t catch anything that day, we would at least have supper in the nets when we got back.  This is where fishing has nothing to do with catching fish.  We sat out there all day, at least 10 hours, and didn’t even get a bite.  And this was the Outer Banks, in the fall, which is some of the best fishing in the country.  But the weather was nice, the sun was out, it was cool, but not cold, and we just sat in the chairs, changed the bait every now and then, ate sardines and pork and beans and thanked the good Lord above that fishing was an outdoor sport.

We got back to Mike’s condo about sunset, but in time to go check the nets.  Smelling blue fish in the pan before we pulled the nets, my mouth was watering.  We pulled the nets.  No fish.  The streak continues.  Guess what was for supper.  Pork and Beans and Sardines.  Umm boy!!

Dad got the couch, I got the floor and I don’t think I have ever slept better than I did that night, in or out of a bed.  We got up the next morning, had some cereal, took Mike back to the Ferry, and headed back up to Nags Head and the bridge.  The option was to either take the Ferry or drive and since it took the same amount of time either way we decided to drive and see the scenery.  And man did we see some scenery.   You have to go to the Outer Banks someday.  I am just not a good enough writer to do the Banks justice.  Go yourself.

We caught the Hatteras Ferry and I saw my first Mazda Miata.  How I remember that I don’t know, but the car wasn’t much bigger than me.  We hit the Washington Baum Bridge over to Roanoke Island, then the Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge to the mainland, and we were off for home.

We didn’t catch fish.  We hardly ever catch fish.  Catching fish is not the point.  Fishing with your Dad on the Outer Banks in the fall with a 4WD and a cooler full of Sardines and Pork and Beans is the point.

Bet you thought when I said “you never get stuck with a 4WD”, that we were going to get stuck”.  We did but not this time.  That’s another story.

I need to learn to see

Before I get into this week’s blunder, otherwise known as the Not the Smartest Thing I have ever done (I really ought to trademark that phrase), I need to explain something.  For those of you who have been keeping up, I am 52 years old and weigh 305 lbs., and have for some time.  I currently (currently meaning for the last 25 years) have back issues, something not to be gotten in to here, because let’s face it, these stories run too long any way. Since October I have really been hitting the exercises hard.  I swim 4-5 times a week, and I bike 3-4 times a week, which means on some days I have two a day workouts.  Here’s the problem, today I weighed 305, back in October I weighed 310.  So for all that exercise and training I have dropped 5 lbs.  I have done the calorie counting thing, I have even tried Nutrisystem.  Nutrisystem, by the way, is great for people who aren’t doing the amount of training I was doing.  There just was not enough food to keep me going.  I lost weight but was really weak and listless.  In other words I haven’t lost weight for lack of trying.  My fitness right now is phenomenal.  Blood pressure, 120/80, resting pulse 52, I can swim a mile or more without stopping, and have done some 45 mile bike rides in the mountains so far this Spring.  Fitness really is not an issue.  Weight is.  It really bothers my back.

One of the guys I swim with at the YMCA, near downtown Greenville, SC, Lukas, suggested I try this guy Rick Kattouf who he had been using since September.  Long story short, Lukas is a pretty fit guy, and did his first triathlon last weekend and placed 2nd in his category.  Needless to say this is the kind of results I look for in a trainer before I drop any money.  So I call Rick, he seems like he knows what he’s doing, and I sign up and send the check.  Rick sends me his nutrition plan and workout plan for the 1st week of 12 that I signed up for.  You know what he’s got me doing?  I am exercising less, with less intensity, and eating more!!  I know!!  Sign me up for another 12 weeks!!  Brother this is something I was born for.  More eating and less exercise!!  That’s how I roll!!  YEE HAWWW!!

My guess however is that this won’t last for long.  You see, last week was my first week on Rick’s plan, and being on Team Kattouf.  At the end of my first week I did my first sprint triathlon, well at least the first two legs.  300 yard swim, and 9 mile bike.  Doesn’t sound too hard, but when I was finished I was fried, and wondering who in the world would turn around and run a 5K after that!  I’ll save the triathlon story for another time, and I’ll include how in the pool I ran over a 12 year old girl.  Yeah, I know.  I feel bad.  What’s worse, on the way to the bike transition area I dropped my swimming goggles and since she was behind me she picked them up and handed them to me. “Here mister, you dropped your goggles.”  I cringe as I write.  That’s a whole other story.  Moving on.

The reason I doubt this “easy” workout probably won’t last long, is that I met a bunch of other people from Team Kattouf, after the triathlon while we were waiting for the award ceremony. There pretty much was not a category where there was not a member of Team Kattouf getting an award.  I even got one.  I finished 3rd in the aqua bike category.  My first event and I finished 3rd!  Got a medal, got to stand on the podium, people took my picture, the works!  Did I mention there were only 3 people entered in my category?  Fortunately I am really not into awards, which is why I wore the medal the rest of the day.  To me it’s all about the weight.  Because when I lose the weight hopefully I won’t have to walk with a cane if I need to go somewhere for more than 5 minutes.  Sounds weird right?  I can swim forever and bike all day, but I can barely walk to the mailbox.  Anyway with all these Team Kattoufers that I met, you couldn’t have put them all together in a pot, boiled them down and had enough fat rendered to deep fry a Paula Deen’s peanut butter and banana sandwich.  And that’s what I’m talking about.  Please remember all of this because you will need it later on.

So I am looking at today’s workout.  1 hour real easy.  Rick explains that real easy in the zone 2 heart rate column burns fat.  I am down with that.  Let’s do easy for 4 or 5 hours and burn more fat!!  Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way, but hey, I get to go easy. This is Rick’s plan and from what I saw last weekend the people that work his plan have achieved some remarkable results, so who am I to deviate.  I liken it to reading the Bible.  God wrote the thing so who am I to pick and choose which pieces I am going to believe and follow.  I’ve seen people who do that, pick and choose, and they are usually a mess.  The only guy that was able to follow all of it, He didn’t pick and choose what He was going to follow, He just did it.  He turned out pretty good and is now sitting at the right hand of God, and His name in case you haven’t guessed, is Jesus.  So when I meet people that know more than I do, like Rick Kattouf, I follow their plans.  So that’s what I’m doing.  Rick’s and God’s in case you needed further clarification of my pontification.

Meanwhile I am all a tingle with excitement.  I have got my Garmin bike computer that tracks enough of my workout information to make the NSA jealous.  I am ready to do some “easy” exercising.  What I need to do is ride a flat surface, no significant hills, for 60 minutes and to keep my heart rate between 105 and 115 and by no means go higher than 115.

We have a great place in Greenville to do just that.  They call it the Swamp Rabbit Trail it’s an abandoned railroad track.  It runs for 33 miles from downtown Greenville, up to Traveler’s Rest, and almost to Marietta. It’s flatter than a quarter that’s been run over by a train.  So I’m all set up.  Computer programmed and recording.  Got my supplement drink I’m supposed to drink during the ride.  Got on the Lycra, helmet, cool shades, air in the tires, I’m a happening dude.  I even did my prescribed stretching beforehand, which I hate.  I would gladly take on a harder workout if I could cut out the stretching.  But as I have explained, the plan is the plan, and we you have a plan, we do the plan.

I get going and my heart rate is at 75.  I pedal for another 3 minutes thinking that the old heart rate is going to go up soon.  3 minutes later and the heart rate is now at 72.  Okay, not a surprise, there aren’t any hills here and that is what usually jacks up my heart rate and gets it going.  So, I just start pedaling faster and the heart rate goes up to 80.  Okay here we go.  Once the heart gets going I can just set it on cruise and do this “easy” workout.   A couple minutes later we’re still stuck on 78 and I’m pedaling pretty good, so I kick up to a bigger gear, with more resistance, and step up the cadence.  Okay heart rate at 80 to 85 now, but I’m pedaling pretty hard and starting to get winded.  The last time I checked “easy” does not mean winded. But I don’t panic…yet; I just kick up to a lot bigger gear and maintain my cadence.  By now I am flying down the Trail.  Fortunately at that time of day there weren’t many people so I’m not running over any little 12 year old girls.  But the heart rate is not moving out of the 75-80 range.  I’m starting to pour sweat, which is not really saying much since I sweat when I get up out of a chair.  My legs are tightening up, I’m sucking air, and I’m only 10 minutes into this “easy” 60 minute workout.  Still 75-80 heart rate.

I’m now on a mission.  Legs are pedaling furiously.  I feel like the hamster on the wheel that thinks if he just runs faster he’ll catch that cheese dangling in front of him.  Or, I’m Wile Coyote chasing the Road Runner as he runs off the cliff, and just before he drops you see him spinning his legs real fast and going nowhere.  Pedal faster, get the heart rate up.  Pedal harder and faster, get the heart rate up so you can enjoy this “easy” ride, but make sure you don’t pass out.  That just won’t do.  15 minutes gone and heart rate is still 75-80.  Cadence is still consistent and gears are getting harder and now heart rate has dropped to 72.  Omigosh!!  Rick is able to get all this data that my computer downloads, what is he going to think?  The scenario that now begins to ooze through my mind is that Rick is going to drop me as a client and recommend that I go see a Cardiologist.  My dreams of being a skinny, fit member of Team Kattouf are gone!   Because if I am this tired with a heart rate of only 75-80 there is a major issue going on.  Forget about the back and the weight, we now have a cardiac emergency on our hands!  Thoughts of angiograms and stints are dancing in my head.

Then I started getting really worried.  With this amount of exertion my heart rate is usually in the 140’s to 160’s.  For crying out loud, I am going 25 mph on a flat surface and this is supposed to be “easy”!!  What’s going on?  Do I stop and call 911?  I look down to see what my cadence is, and it’s 165.  165!!  Nobody rides a cadence at 165!!  Not even Lance Armstrong at his peak when he was on the juice!

Oops.  Instead of the heart rate display I was looking at the cadence display.  My cadence was 75-80 and the heart rate was 165.  Needless to say I slowed down. Maybe nobody was paying attention, so shhhh.  Don’t tell anyone.

That was the hardest “easy” workout I have ever had.

Maybe I need to learn to see.

Not the smartest thing I have ever done or…Don’t touch that!

I think if I ever write a book I will entitle it, “Not the smartest thing I have ever done, or…Don’t touch that”.  That’s the way all my stories seem to start off.  And this one is not an exception.  All it looked like was a badminton racquet, although it did have a notice warning, where the racquet met the handle, that said “don’t touch the racquet when the red light is on”.

The worst part about the whole thing was I was at a weekend cookout and poker party with the Christian men’s group that meets every Wednesday morning at 6:45am at the Poinsett Club in Greenville, SC.  Don’t get all high falutin on me.  Yes we play poker.  It’s nickel, dime, quarter, with a quarter maximum raise, two raise maximum, so the most anyone loses in one night is $6.  It’s just fun.  Well most of the time, until you either meet a racquet that says “don’t touch if the red light is on”, or you don’t understand how to play “high low” and you keep losing and everyone makes fun of you.

You see what makes this really embarrassing is that this Wednesday morning meeting has been going on for nigh on 30 years now and you know what I have to do?  I have to send an email out every week to remind everyone that we have a meeting Wednesday morning at 6:45am at the Poinsett Club.  You know what happens if I don’t send out this reminder?  These men, who are all very successful individuals, spiritually, economically, and intellectually, who have been coming to this meeting for the last 30 years, at the same time, will forget to come if they don’t get an email.  So keep in mind that out of all these men I’m with on Friday night, I turn out to be the dumb one, and I’m the one who remembers to send out the email without an email reminder.

So we’re playing cards, shooting the breeze, eating peanut M&M’s, and any other junk style food we brought, and we brought a lot, and we are playing out on Chet’s porch.  Chet has a “farm” out in Marietta, SC about 15 miles north of Greenville.  He has 17 acres, with a nice fish pond, good garden, sweet work shed, and you can go up in the woods and target shoot all you want without bothering, or more importantly hitting, anybody.  More importantly he has a tractor and ATV, which is why I think he bought all that property.  It’s why any guy would.  We all go up twice a year, once in the fall and once in the Spring.  Well this time we were up in the Spring and as it happens, in all wooded areas in South Carolina in the Spring, it was buggy.

So good ole’ Chet roles out these two yellow badminton racquets.  “Hey Chet!  What are the badminton racquets for?”  Good ole’ Chet replies, “they are not badminton racquets they are bug zappers.”  The look of incredulity among the fellas was unanimous.

Chet has a daughter and she and her husband were missionaries in Cambodia.  They have just recently returned to the States.  They “adopted” 3 Cambodian street children who were part of the vast population of orphan Cambodian children Hiatt and her husband had gone over to minister to.  I put adopted in quotes because Americans cannot adopt Cambodian children.  When Hiatt and her husband returned they placed them in a good school that will look out for them, so they weren’t abandoned. ( If you want to hear more about them, leave me a comment and I’ll shoot you some more info.)  While Chet and his wife Beth were over there visiting last year, they were given these badminton racquets doubling as bug zappers.  My first clue should have been the fact that when Chet came home he got busted by TSA for having 2 of them in his suit case.  The kids had put them in there without him knowing about it.  But instead of me making the connection that these might be lethal weapons capable of hijacking a Boeing 747, I thought, “they must not be too bad, since Hiatt had them around their kids and the kids used them constantly.”  Keep that in mind because you will need it later on.

So we’re on the porch getting “bugged” and Chet whips these babies out, plugs in the batteries and turns them on, and asks, wait for it, “anyone want to touch these things to see if they work?”  And one hand shoots up before anyone else’s.  No it wasn’t Lee, Lou, Lindsay, Paul, Lou, or John, or even Chet for that matter.  Yep, thanks for keeping up, it was me.

I’ve always been the one that volunteers for stupid stuff like this.  When I was on the rescue squad at Virginiat Tech as an undergrad, I used to let the paramedics use me for practice in starting IV’s.  It went okay until the 5th poke with a needle one evening, one of the practicing paramedics looked at me and asked, “Mark are you okay”.  Evidently all the blood had just rushed out of my face and I felt the need to “lay down for a spell.”  Good thing we didn’t get a call that night.  And yet…up goes my hand again for volunteer duty to test out something else.  P.S. Virginia Tech just called and they want me to turn my diploma in.

Have you ever gotten an electric shock?  I don’t mean one of the ones where you touch the 3rd rail of the Chicago L.  I mean when you touch two electric wires and you get a little vibration that scares you more than it hurts you?  It’s just a little zzzzztttttt.  You jump because you know it’s an electrical shock, not because it really hurts.  So I’m thinking, kids play with these so it couldn’t be too bad.  So Chet leans the death stick towards me, I hesitantly reach out my right index finger, and I touch it…nothing.  He pulls it back stares at it at a while, opens up the battery compartment, says “Oh yeah” flips the batteries around, and says, “Ok let’s try it again.” In hindsight that’s funny,” let’s”, as in let us.  There was no “us” it was just numb nuts me.  I reach out with my right index finger, I’m right handed, you would think I would be smart enough to use my left hand.  By the way, I have three numb fingers on my left hand from a neck injury sustained playing football in college that has just recently caught up with me.  If I’m going to be stupid I go all out, no room for smarts at all.  The phone is ringing again.  Caller ID says it’s my high school.  I wonder what they want?  I think I’ll let it go to voicemail.

I touch the racquet and…..I find out why the TSA was so concerned about Chet taking those scepters of power on the plane.  There was no tickle just a big…….KERRRR POWWWWW!!! If it had been a comic book there would have been lightning bolts coming out of my hand, above my head and the big KERRR POWWWWW written all over the cartoon panel.  I even said a bad word, or I should say yelled out a bad word.  It was kind of like Ralphie in the movie  “A Christmas Story.”  Though it wasn’t the big one.  It wasn’t the mother of all dirty words.  It wasn’t the F dash, dash, dash word, but it was the S dash, dash, dash, word.  I yanked my finger back so fast you would think a badger had tried to bite it and shook my hand up and down like I had just put it on a hot stove.  But that wasn’t the worst part.

The worst part was the howling that began to take place at the table.  I thought Lindsay was going to pee his pants, and he probably did because he had to mysteriously excuse himself 20 minutes later.  I look over at Chet and Lee, Chet a straight laced real estate agent and Lee a banker, need I say more, Chet had his head on the table sobbing with laughter.  Lee leaning back in his chair about to fall over and not caring about it, he is laughing so hard.  I couldn’t see Paul, our resident thinker, but I could hear him right next to me.  Lou was almost in pain, and I don’t think John knew what I had done since he wasn’t paying attention, but everyone was laughing so hard it was infectious that it didn’t take long for him to lose it either.  This went on for at least 15 minutes.  We couldn’t play cards, have a conversation, anything, because everyone was laughing so hard including me.  It got Lindsay the most, I don’t think he has stopped laughing yet.  All I have to do now is to point at Lindsay with my right index finger to get him started and it will be 5 minutes before he calms down.  This was 3 weeks ago by the way and I can still get him going.  I look at my finger and I am experiencing what Buddy the Elf was when they took blood.  My finger had a heartbeat.

The worst part is that I can’t give these guys any grief any more about being dumb enough to have to be reminded weekly about a meeting that has been happening every week at the same time for 30 years.

All it looked like was a badminton racquet, but when I turned it over it said “don’t touch when the red light is on.”  But I’m the dumb one who touched it when the red light was on.  What are you gonna do?

It’s on the schedule

What can I say?  It was on the schedule.  That is the excuse I give everyone for doing probably one of the dumbest things I have done in a while.  Truth is I just wanted to do it, so I did.  45 mile bike ride for Meals on Wheels Saturday morning and it started while it was pouring down rain.  Yep, not the smartest thing I have ever done and just confirms that I am probably at least one socket wrench short of a full tool kit.

There are a couple of things you need to understand about riding in the rain.  One is that it really messes up your bike, and if you don’t clean and lube it well after a ride in the rain, you are going to have issues and believe me, I have enough issues to go around without getting my bike wet.  The second thing is that when you ride in the rain you have brake problems.  The brakes on a road bike are simply two rubber pads squeezing up against an aluminum wheel rim.  Unless you are squeezing your brake handles really hard you probably are not going to stop when it’s wet.  Let me rephrase.  You probably won’t stop when you want to when it’s wet.  You’ll stop all right, but it might be when you hit the thing you were trying to stop for.  There are a bunch of other reasons to not ride in the rain, such as it’s cold, miserable and just plain not fun, but I think those first two should be enough for our purposes.

I was really looking forward to this ride, and it was for a good cause, though whether or not anyone rode didn’t make a difference as far as fundraising was concerned.  I wanted to do it, and it was on the schedule.  I had been training for it by riding the route a couple of times in the preceding weeks.  However I did not ride the complete route.  We missed one of the turns in the training rides and it came back to haunt me, but more on that fiasco later.  There were several options one of which really was not an option.  There were 5 choices for routes.  A 100, 63, 45, 25, or 10 mile fun ride! Guess which one was not an option?  As stated earlier I did the 45 miler.  Fortunately we could do the 25 miler if it got really bad and we knew where the turn off was so there was always the thought when we started that I could turn back with no shame if it came to it.

It’s one thing to get caught out in the rain while riding.  It’s inevitable that one day that will happen, if you ride regularly, and I have been caught out in some monsoons.  However, it’s a completely other fun time to start out while it’s raining.  AND, it’s just on the other side of crazy when you wake up 30 minutes earlier than you had planned and it’s already pouring down rain.  I mean it was a frog strangler.  But, it was on the schedule, so I had breakfast found everything I had that I could wear that was waterproof, and set out.  I think one of God’s greatest inventions is the Ziploc.  The wife, Kim, did give me a look, and suggested that she give me a ride to the start point at Furman which is only about 2 miles from my house.  Can anyone guess what that look meant?  For those playing at home, it meant, “Why don’t I give you a ride to the start, because it’s pouring down rain, and there is no way you are going to ride in this mess, so you may as well get there, and then get back in the car and come home before you embarrass me by riding in the rain and then writing about it.”  I replied to the look in the following manner, “That’s okay honey.  This way if it’s too bad I’ll know it before the start and I won’t have ridden very far and can come on home.  But be on standby this afternoon because I might need a ride home. Love you.”  Just to relieve the suspense I’ll go ahead and say she did come and pick me up afters.

I do want to state categorically that this was a wonderfully presented event, and me pointing out a couple of things humorously, in no way should diminish the hard work, preparation, enthusiasm, and execution the volunteers and the good people at Meals on Wheels exhibited.  Okay, everybody clear?  Good people, wonderful event, fantastic execution, will do it again, etc. etc…?  However…when you send out an email telling people to be there 30 minutes early, 8 am, for specific instructions because of the weather, you need to give out those specific instructions 30 minutes before the ride starts.  Guess what time Mark showed up?  That’s right 8 am, already soaking wet I might add.  Why?  Because it was on the schedule.  So big, ole, wet, ziplocked up Mark, waits around in the rain waiting for instructions, while everyone else waits, yes wait for it, in their cars with their spouses.  I refer you back to the “Look” referenced in the previous paragraph.  I did find an overhang to stand under with about 10 other people.  Guess what time instructions started?  8:28 am.  Guess what the instructions were?  No change to the 45 or 25 mile route.  1 change to the 63.  GO!!!!

Still pouring down rain by the way.  Lots of comments being made about how it has just been decided we are doing the 25 and not the 45.  By the way if you are ever riding in the rain don’t ride directly behind anyone.  Bikes tend to not have mud flaps, particularly the one in front of you.

Surprisingly the ride itself was fairly uneventful.  It rained for the first hour and a half, but stopped after that.  Conveniently it stopped when we got to the first rest stop which was placed strategically at the turn off for the 25 and the 45 mile routes.  I had worn enough layers and Ziplocs so that after the first 15 minutes I was no longer cold, just wet and when we pulled into the rest stop for fuel.  I mean, am I going to pass up snacks?  Not a chance.  I met a nice guy named Robert with whom I was riding the first leg (had to look up the grammar on that one, don’t expect it to be a reoccurrence).  I was feeling pretty good so, hey, let’s do the 45!  So instead of turning right we turned left and went up the first wall, notice I did not say hill.  This one I was expecting as I had ridden this part of the route before.  15 minutes later my heart was out of my nose and back in my chest and we were cruising along in the Scenic Highway 11 area.  No issues, it was a nice ride, the rain had stopped, the weather was cool, and I was feeling good.  I was riding my ride without worrying about keeping up with a crowd.  The course was really well marked so there was no worry about getting lost.  The next stop was at the 24 mile mark and it was on top of a looonnnngggg hill.  But it was manageable.  Stopped again for “free” food and realized that the new position of standing up vertically was a little more of a challenge than I had anticipated.  But I still felt pretty good, so we continued on.  Got to a turn off at about the 30 mile mark and interestingly enough there were two people at the intersection and neither one of them was pointing in the same direction.  As you can imagine I was a bit disconcerted, but my fears were quickly alieved when one said “turn right for the 45, left for the 63.”  Now I have never been the sharpest sword in a fight, but this was one of the smartest decisions I have ever made.

I was feeling good.  No cramps, no fatigue, not overheating, butt not sore for sitting on a seat made for skinny people, so I thought about turning left and doing the 63.  I turned right.  And to quote Martha Stewart, “It was a good thing”.  Remember, good people, wonderful event, fantastic execution, will do it again, etc. etc… I don’t know who the sadistic bastard was that came up with this route but at mile 32 everything went to hell and the route decided to go straight the frack up.  I still have 13 miles to go.  I was no longer feeling good.  I was now going straight the frack up, straight the frack down, straight the frack up!!!  The slow rolling inclinations and declinations of the Carolina Foothills were no more.  For those of you know Paris Mountain, I ride that probably once a week, and these inclines, while not as long, were steeper than anything Paris Mountain has to offer.  To top it all off, now we now had the SAG car behind us, the car that brings up the rear of the group with its lights flashing, so that no one gets lost and so that everyone knows where the back of the group is.  I sort of expected it, since the crowd was light and I ain’t exactly what you would call Speedy Gonzales on a bike, particularly when the route goes straight the frack up, straight the frack down, straight the frack up!!!  But it’s always kind of embarrassing to know you are the last one.  But dignity has never been one of my strong suits anyway.  For crying out loud, I’m 6’4”, weigh 300 lbs., wearing lycra, a stupid looking helmet, soaking wet, wearing a bright yellow jacket so everyone can see me looking like this and I am sitting on a device that I have been hit by a car, not once, but twice while riding.  Plus the seat I am sitting on is not much wider than a stick.  Needless to say I am not bothered too much by the SAG vehicle right behind me.

My understanding was the route was changed to avoid a hill, that to be honest, is a bad one.  I think they replaced 1 really bad hill, with 73,412 bad ones.  I prefer my pain all at once not spread out.

We made it back.  I was completely gassed.  There was beer and one of the trainers at the Y, Sharon, had suggested beer was a good recovery drink.  Who was I to argue?  There was great food from Table 301.  Fabulous Mexican chicken, pork and fixin’s.   I texted the wife to come pick me up.  I could feel the “Look” through her texted reply and she came right down.  She’s real good about that.  She knew I was hurting.  But I got a different “look” when I got in her car.  Someday I will write about how my wife likes to keep her car clean.  I mean, “throw someone in the back, take out their appendix, and never worry about MRSA” clean.  The hospitals in town should take pointers from my wife.  I got in the car and got the new “look”.  I really couldn’t figure it out til we got down the road a little and I caught a whiff of myself.  Whew!! Sweat, and road rain ain’t exactly a Yankee Candle kind of fragrance.  It also explained why my dog, who is normally so excited to see me, she will climb all 82 lbs. of her ½ Great Dane self into my lap, was hiding in the back of the van.

I told Kim that despite the rain, and the hills, it was a great time.  She replied that she was still trying to figure out why I did it.  I told her, “It was on the schedule.”

Morning workouts are not energizing!!

What I don’t understand about working out are all these people who say that working out makes them feel better.  After a workout they are more energized, awake, alert, and have a better outlook on the day.  Would somebody explain to me that why, after I work out, I’m tired, I’m not more energized, and as far as being alert, what I really need is a nap?  My energy is gone.  You know where it went?  It went into my workout, that’s where.  This issue has perplexed me for a long time.  But I think I finally figured it out.

I used to never workout in the mornings, for the reasons I have just stated.  When I worked out in the mornings and then went to work, I was tired for the rest of the day.  I used to work out at the end of the day.  And at the end of the day I was tired and got to go to bed.  I didn’t have to worry about having enough juice in the tank to be able to perform well at work.  Well now that I have issues and don’t go to work every day, I work out in the mornings.  You know, I might as well get it over with as soon as possible.  And now that I am going in the mornings I have figured out all the hype about how people who exercise in the mornings are more energized, alert, awake, and have a better outlook on the day.  You know how they are doing it?  THEY AREN’T WORKING OUT!!!  THEY ARE PARTYING!!

I discovered it the other day while I was in spin class.  I think I have explained this one before.  Spin class is a bunch of people on stationary bikes in one room with an instructor telling you to go faster all the time.  Most of the time the music is cranked up really loud, which is good for me because it hides the sound of my heart beating really fast, and keeps down the worry about whether or not the big one is coming.  I don’t know about you guys, but it always makes me nervous when I can hear my own heart beating.  I also always get a bike down front.  Nobody else likes to ride in the front so I get more room and I am also out range of the fans.  There are four big fans to keep everyone cool.  I don’t understand that one either.  I sweat a lot, I mean a lot.  When I was growing up, no one wanted to guard me playing basketball because they were afraid of getting slimed.  And when the air is blowing from the fans, and I’m soaking wet, I start freezing.  Plus why are you working out if you don’t want to sweat in the first place?  Anyhow, I sit down front so I don’t freeze and so that no one bothers me.  It’s a fairly efficient arrangement.

Before class started the other day, I noticed a lot of chatter, people talking, and laughing, making plans for the upcoming weekend.  The instructor, Sharon, started the music, but not too loudly, which is unusual for her because she likes to crank the funk.  Sharon doesn’t mess around with a bunch of warmups either.  She might call it a warm up, but I call it full speed.  She warms up for a minute out of a 60 minute class and then you’re into it.  Her theory is you paid for 60 minutes, you get 60 minutes.  Sharon is really good.  So about 10 minutes into it, I start hearing my heartbeat, and noticing I am about at max heart rate.  You notice your max in two ways.  The first is you are wearing a heart monitor, and the instrument panel gives you a read out,  and the second is there is this pounding in your chest and throat and you feel like you are going to explode.  I’m still trying to figure out why I paid for heart monitor.  I’m pretty good at knowing when I am about to explode.  But what I also noticed was the chatter had not stopped.  People were still yakking away like nothing had happened.  Sharon was in full force, I was breathing like an asthmatic and there were still 50 minutes to go.  She finally cranked the tunes, because I think she was tired of hearing everyone yak, yak, yak also, and the class continued.

When class was over, as usual I fell off my bike and laid on the floor for 10 minutes while these yakkers came up to Sharon, no sweat on them at all, and thanked her for the wonderful class.  I’m soaking wet, have drained a 32 oz. water bottle over the course of 60 minutes and would beg someone for a defibrillator hit if I could speak.  Wonderful class my fat patootie.  Good class, effective class, great workout, yes.  But wonderful?  Nope.  Wonderful is what you save for a fine dinner, a marvelous party, a 2005 Bordeaux, and a good rendition of Beethoven’s 9th.  Not the brutality of what that class should be.  The indication of a good spin class is how many people are lying on the floor flipping off the instructor once the class is over.

What I am getting at is all these people who say working out energizes them for the rest of the day, AREN’T WORKING OUT!!  THEY ARE SOCIALIZING!  No wonder they have so much energy.  They haven’t used any!!

I took a dyslexic class last week.  I’m cured.  Either that or when I last fell off my bike in spin class I must have hit my head and jarred something loose.