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28th of February

This week: “Baptisms & Dogs” goes to Washington, D.C.


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A dear friend, U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Matt Smith, has had quite a run from military service to playing music at the White House with Willie Nelson, John Fogerty, Common, and other cast recently with his Smith Auer Band. I wanted to include a message he shared with me regarding Baptisms & Dogs: Stories and its placement somewhere very cool this week.

Here’s his message below:

At my current duty station (Marine Barracks, Washington) we have this historic officers club. Each member leaves a book for the club’s large library when they leave. They have thousands of books ranging from military focus to novels and the Bible! Well I am proud to say that I presented the club (famously referred to as ‘Center House’) with a copy of Baptism and Dogs! I told the story behind how I know you and already many officers are wanting to read it!

A guy took it home to read literally ten minutes after I presented it.

“Center House” is the officers club at Marine Barracks Washington DC. Each officer leaves a book when they depart the duty station. We also write a short note on the flap to all the Officers of the Center House Mess.

The room has a fireplace as well. Here are the pictures.

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I can’t say ‘Thank you’ enough to him sharing my book inside this cool, covert location. It gave me that James Bond, Ian Fleming feeling going into March. I wonder how many people have hung out in there over the course of our nation’s history. Cool stuff!

-Brian

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27th of February

Audible edition of “Baptisms & Dogs” book forthcoming.


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Hey readers, friends, and friends that are readers and friendly readers:

I wanted to give you the update, as soon as I found out that it was gaining some momentum. I have accepted a collaboration with Mr. Barry Newman to have a narration of “Baptisms & Dogs” available soon on Amazon!

Mr. Newman is a pro, and I’ve been able to sample a few of the first run-throughs he’s done on the collection. They sound good. Almost like hearing music played on a record for the first time.

He has a great accent and gets the sense of place just “right”. Here’s a sample of his work from a previous project: http://www.audible.com.au/pd/Biographies-Memoirs/Im-Ugly-and-Broke-Audiobook/B00HLM0F0U. Check him out. Again, his ability to keep the tone of a story serious, darkly comedic, and narrative all at once is quite impeccable.

I hope you’ll support us in this endeavor, as “Baptisms & Dogs” Audible edition will be up on Amazon in the coming weeks (March/April 2015). It adds a WHOLE new level to the Kindle/Print reading experience, and it makes each story come alive.

Hope you are as excited as I am about this opportunity!

Here’s to a great time reading.

– Brian

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26th of February

Underdogs Must Win.


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Saw McFarland, USA in theaters today.

Was reminded of the amazing story of the underdog.

Kevin Costner plays coach Jim White (based on a true story). He moves his family to a predominately Latino community of California and takes over within a P.E. teaching capacity, which, in turn, leads to him creating a track team. The local players we discover do so much more than just compete, as it’s shown how they wake up, work in the fields, run to and from school, and participate in practices after school.

Their work ethic is unparalleled to other athletes across California, and the movie showcases how the coach’s family becomes immersed in a community that embraces them, even when he is reluctant to plant deep roots.

Like many true stories, this one reveals its scope to be larger than the 2-hour film itself. It was uplifting and inspiring sure. But, this one had more than most sports classics. I’d put it in the elite category of sports film greats like–Rocky and Hoosiers.

The underdog story rang true with a lot of life lessons thrown in, and (as is often the case with good intentions) Jim White’s family gained more from the move to McFarland than those they lived alongside that first year.

It called to mind a formative, final year of high school basketball for me. I remember the 2002-2003 senior year at my alma mater (Monticello High School) and playing basketball, as if it were yesterday.

We had a small squad, only won 1 game all year, and that season was the hardest of my life. I remember losing a game and our record moving to 0-10, and I felt like the world had stopped turning at that tournament in northern Kentucky.

I remember our coach not taking it out on us; he knew it was just nearing the middle of a tumultuous storm that wouldn’t let up until mid-February. Going 1-25 was less than ideal…but he stayed with us.

The illnesses, wearing out 3 pairs of shoes, experiencing bad foot problems, broken bones, and broken hearts were just the beginning of what would be the longest year of our lives. But, I was thankful for the teammates I had.

I watched those 7 runners from McFarland High School, and their perseverance made me reflect (if you can believe it…I hardly can) fondly on my own torturous year. FONDLY. Yes. You read that right.

We lost and lost and lost some more. But, somehow our team learned something in the midst of all of those beatings: we were some tough sons of guns.

Some nights we were down 30 points by half-time and some games we lost by a last second 3-pointer that was partially blocked. But, lost we did until the last game of the regular season (and my last home game ever) at MHS (same initials as McFarland, too).

McFarland’s perseverance was in overcoming all of the negative opinions other districts had of them and balancing the hard livelihoods that their families expected of them.

Our perseverance, at Monticello, was similar in regards to the poverty aspects, because we were listed as being the 2nd poorest district in the nation. (Today, we are officially closed as a school system. Our school didn’t have a place to host our 10-year reunion in 2013.) Yet, we didn’t face the finality of not being able to go to college or work in places that we could largely pick on our own accord.

Our options were still fairly limitless.

I’m thankful for the underdog story of McFarland, USA, and it reminded me that my own Monticello, USA story is unique and apart of me, no matter where I go.

Now if I could just get Costner to lace up his Nikes and play Coach Shane Blevins on the big screen we’d be in-business. Does someone know where he can be reached?

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25th of February

Options.


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I have a hard time picking out anything. Just ask my lovely wife.

In a Kroger, I once took 45 mins. to pick out a Hot Pocket.

There were just too many options.

Netflix. Help me please. There are thousands of good, bad, and ugly options in every genre of film.

We bought a car last year, and well, you can imagine how that went. I was comparing makes, models within makes, and cross-referencing dealerships with Kelley Blue Book all at once. And making a decision on that… almost killed me.

Now, imagine my disdain when walking into the new building where I work and discovering that on the first floor there is a bathroom labeled ‘Women’ and one beside it labeled ‘Unisex’ with a man/woman shown on it.

Nature called one day, and I opened the door (cautiously) and walked into the Unisex.

Inside there was a big open space, 1 urinal, and 1 closed-door toilet.

I tried to lock the exterior restroom door–no dice.

I didn’t feel it appropriate to use option 1, and option 2 was the most nerve-wracking 30 seconds of my life.

Suffice it to say that a poor decision-making man shouldn’t tackle these fast-paced locales often.

Much to my chagrin, the world seems to be offering more options than ever before, and I know it sounds ungrateful (because we’ve been blessed with so much in this country), but the overwhelming gift of choice has almost brought my mind to a standstill in recent months.

Phone types, phone plans, Subway submarine sandwich toppings, single or combos, best meal deals, best deal for a cup of coffee, best fuel price, best fuel type 87, 89, 93, trustworthy places to get a car repaired, best neighborhoods to live in, and best and best and best. The options seem to be limitless, and while I love knowing pets can have chips implanted inside them to keep them safe from ever being lost, I can’t for the life of me answer questions like “Would I like to implant my pet?” on the spot when asked.

That is all. Have a great night and tomorrow!

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24th of February

Calamari in the Office.


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I bring some revolting (popular opinion, not mine) lunch items into the office:

-sardines in a can (oil, water, hot sauce, and mustard)

-sauteed onions (day old, reheat)

-hot dogs without a hot plate (for reheating, gets a little messy)

-week old chili (without a cover, again, can be messy)

-fried calamari (rings and tentacles)

And-

Today, was calamari in the office! I love calamari. Have you ever fried your own? I agree, reheating any of the above items can be less than pleasant. But, I get to enjoy the fruits of yesterday’s cooking labors. That has to count for something. Right?

I know…I know. “What about those poor souls that have to be around the reheated funk that you’ve created, inside the close quarters where you work?”

My excuse: I bring it all back to the necessity of assuaging hunger pains, not having the ability to drive to lunch, and being in a bind for time.

My reasoning: I planned my lunch a day in advance. It counts for something. I guess I could take it to another wing of the building. But, I mean c’mon, then I’m just some weirdo eating calamari by himself in a remote section of his workplace.

Let me take it all back to the best argument I can give you…it can always be worse than someone’s reheats. It can.

“What can?” you ask.

And my response is simply, “It can be worse than my calamari’s juicy reheated morsels.”

And I’ll paint the picture for you:

I once worked in an undisclosed location where there was little light, little talking amongst co-workers, and cameras on every corner of the building. This nondescript building (many moons ago, I might add) instilled a bit of fear in everyone that worked there. Even the security guards were rumored to look over their shoulders like they might be snatched away at a moment’s notice.

Wait…

That’s an exaggeration. But you get my drift. This was a bad place to spend your business hours working for the man (or woman). Anyways, there was a co-worker that NEVER and I mean NEVER packed her lunch. Didn’t do it. Didn’t plan to ever do it. Instead, she packed or “found” whatever tasteless morsels she had left (or someone else had) over the years and sampled these things to count as her meal-time options for Breakfast, Lunch, and if the day really got out-of-hand: Dinner.

So…she was a scavenger. Plain and simple. She scavenged for sustenance. Some days it was a simple Pop Tart twin pack she found hidden in a compartment of her briefcase or Twinkies hanging by a thread from a previous person’s failed attempt at using the coin-operated snack machine.

She could shake a snack machine like no one I’ve seen before or since.

Anyways…one day she had met the end of her scavenging prowess and came up empty (or, worse than empty in our collective co-worker minds). She found something I can’t believe constituted “Breakfast” to her at 8:45am. [A time when most people are ether making their real breakfasts or deciding to tough it out until the next appointed meal–lunch.] I was in the toughing it out until lunch crowd, when I smelled what she was making.

Popcorn. Act II Movie Theater Extra Butter popcorn.

The clock read 8:48am when the microwave door was opened, the noise of the bag shook over the tops of our cubicles, and the sound of her chair squeaking back into place.

The smell was overpowering. Many people started coughing (those, like me, that hadn’t been fortunate enough to have already consumed breakfast), and those that didn’t head for the bathroom straight away, tried to work on the other end of the floor until the smell subsided.

The problem with Extra Butter popcorn is that it doesn’t evade. As a smell in an enclosed space goes, it only intensifies. I stayed in the bathroom for a good while and kept looking out at the empty cubicles around Act II.

I say all of this (and relive the essence of Butter popcorn before breakfast) to simply state that calamari kept inside an enclosed jar and walked safely back to a fully enclosed office space isn’t so bad.

Right?

Remember this: it could always be worse. It could always be hydrogenated vegetable oil and artificial butter flavoring wafting through the air before 9am.

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23rd of February

Repairs


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From a misaligned spine to my car clunk-clunk-clunking, it is evident that things break down.

Never in my life did I think aches and pains would rear their ugly head at me so soon. 30 years old. Alas!

2015 has brought the Boom! (Thank you P.O.D.)

I twist my back to the left and pop. The temporary pain has been appeased. Now, if only it would stay that way…away.

“I got no time for you back pain and old man problems. I need to be running 8-10 miles today. Doing something heroic.”

Like my poorly made Jeep, I find 8-10 miles a long distance to cover in my current shape. Running on a treadmill might’ve been the instigator originally. Whatever the reason, I am sidelined until things are put back into place.

“Friends, I love you. But, I can’t go into that mosh pit and be jostled around. Or, sit in a theater for 3 hours and watch Michael Bay blow stuff up. As much as I might want to.”

I have a newfound respect for those with permanent injuries, and yet, tote them around without grumbling or complaining.

I learn an important lesson through their silence and perseverance. They are mastering their obstacles and blazing new trails, despite their afflictions.

It is amazing, and I want to be more like them.

‘Thank you’ to those fighting through it. I can see something worthwhile in your example everyday.

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22nd of February

When stones roll.


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The recent murders in Egypt and a Rolling Stones song came up in a conversation tonight.

We were sitting around a table, a friend said that the song “Gimme Shelter” by the Stones was referenced concerning war and the impact it had on both a physical and spiritual level.

The lyrics especially in the first 3 verses stating:

Yeah, a storm is threatening
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Lord, I’m gonna fade away

War, children, yeah, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children, yeah, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away, hey, yeah

Oh, see the fire is sweepin’
At our streets today
Burnin’ like a red coal carpet
A mad bull lost its way

These lyrics and words like “storm,” “shelter,” “children,” “shot,” and “fire” all create a stark contrast to the image of peace and love. The imagery of a storm threatening your health is probably something you can relate and maybe have even been subjected to in your life. Likewise, the notion of a fire burning wild like a wildfire in the western US might come to mind. Maybe you’ve lived out on the west coast, and this is something you’ve come to witness in your lifetime?

If you are like me, you can connect with most of the descriptions the song introduces, but the threat of losing your life might be too far-fetched. Do I realize that war is “just a shot away”? Yes. That makes sense. War is often started when the first bullet flies.

But the imagery of losing my life from this shot, war, and/or fire is almost other-worldly.

The 21 Christians that sacrificed their lives were all uttering prayers that echoed the lyrics above. Hana Aziz is quoted on CNN as saying that the men from his village were saying “God, have mercy on us,” even up to their last moments alive.

I haven’t seen the footage or watched many of the interviews that have taken place since the slaughter, but I can’t help but see the similarity in the song’s final words and the result of these men losing their lives. The lyrics “it’s just a kiss away” makes even more sense to me. The notion that if affection and love aren’t exhibited (and are replaced with hatred and malice) then, war looms on the horizon.

I pray for the village of Al Aour and those mourning the loss of these men. While these men weren’t able to celebrate this past Christmas and the holidays with their families, they are now at rest. May the mother that wasn’t able to prepare their favorite meals understand that their fate is sealed in a much better place. She need not worry about them, because they stood for the greatest cause.

They have been given permanent shelter.

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21st of February

Cheers, Monk’s Cafe, Central Perk…a place.


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The innate desire to belong somewhere (to something) is universal.

I love shows such as Cheers where there’s a sense of ownership in a place. The crew that hung out in that Boston pub had a real bond. It was a place where they all congregated and rehashed what happened in their daily lives.

I know, I know. It was a show. Much like Seinfeld, Friends, The Office, How I Met Your Mother, the list goes on and on. But, the premise was always the same in each show. Friends doing life together and enjoying the accompaniment along the way. It was never solely focused on the work the characters did or the successes they experienced professionally. Instead, it was always focused on the relationships they held and the memories they formed.

Real life requires authenticity.

But, like the shows, people want to feel as if they have places where they can truly belong. I find myself searching for awesome places to hang with friends even now. Whether it’s driving to The Growler in Chattanooga and watching a game with a buddy, or, making a pit-stop downtown at Burn’s on a Thursday. I’m learning that loving people and having a strong sense of place is important. Is there a favorite spot where life seems to slow down (or, speed up) and provide some amazing memories for you?

Here’s to a nice 2015 of finding “the spot” where you and some buddies can meet up and take in the scenery. If you are in the Scenic City sometime, give me a call and we’ll drop by The Terminal or something. Life is too short to not have camaraderie.

 

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20th of February

God made Dr. James Naismith, and Naismith begat basketball.


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Every March, basketball reigns supreme for many across the US. You won’t see much else on TV from now until mid-April.

It rains 3-pointers most of the year in my home state of Kentucky. In-season, out-of-season, and summer league all seem to run together. We played the game even when we didn’t have a proper ball growing up. (I remember using volleyballs, soccer balls, and even kick balls to throw through hoops during the years of grade school.)

Nowhere will you see such ravenous basketball fans than those that support BBN! Many of us have to remind ourselves that it is (truly…painfully) just a game. Not an idol or any such business to be adored more than it should.

But…it sure is fun to watch.

I see it as a gift.

Glad that God made James Naismith who, in turn, made the game of basketball. Sure he was from Canada, founded another program we don’t speak of too much in the bluegrass state *ahem* KU, and held a less than impressive 55-60 head coaching record in his time, but Naismith got this invention right.

Sure, stress levels are through the roof and the work productivity from Monticello to Covington to Paducah to Pikeville slows to a crawl each year, but the game is amazing to behold.

Questions we find ourselves asking: Will the sophomores step up like they did last year? Can Booker shoot 50% from 3-pt range? Does Cauley-Stein have enough mean bones in his body to be a dominant big man in March? All valid questions and equal to asking things such as: “Should we call off school today because of bad weather or not?” and “How’s your mom doing?”

I love the stress. It is something akin to the fear one has before taking off in an airplane. It’s unsettling and fun all at once.

To quote Mr. David Bowie, “Let’s dance!”

 

 

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19th of February

When Modest Mouse tickets sell out.


Modest Mouse is a funny name for a band, but they are good. Remember that song “Float on”? That one got them international acclaim, but they’ve somehow been able to remain largely popular and quirky, despite all of the competing notions that come with being a well-known rock outfit.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are a household name like the Stones or anything. But…their Good News for People who Love Bad News album was a top hit on mainstream pop/rock charts. But this notoriety came in 2004 (11 years after their formation in 1993), and it was their fourth album. Other hits like “Dashboard” followed this album, but none recast them in the same popular sphere that the GNFPWLBN album did.

Fast forward to today, Feb. 19th, 2015. It’s been eight years since the band really created any new music, and here they are showing up in Chattanooga on March 10th.

Yes!! They are playing in my backyard. Well, not my backyard but a place called Track 29. It’s a cool locale. Kinda like Bogart’s in Cincinnati. Tons of floor space and lots of room to wiggle around to jams like “Cowboy Dan”.

So, here’s my dilemma. Apparently Modest Mouse stock has gone waaaay up since the last time I checked them out on Spotify.

How did I know they were playing in our town? Gmail. When did the email arrive? The day after Valentine’s day. When did I click on it? 2/15. What did I see when I went to Track 29’s website that same day? SOLD OUT. That’s right. The little band that made it big, but kept the quirkiness has come to town for the first time in about a decade.

And…in the time it took me to receive the email and check the venue page, the concert has sold out. Of course, my other options are to visit Florida or Winnipeg or someplace uniquely their own. (What was Hooter’s slogan? “Delightfully tacky yet unrefined”?) But maybe that’s what I need to do.

They’re an eclectic band. Maybe I need to go to Canada (or somewhere I’m not used to going) to get the full experience. Wait…hold on. I clicked on a link just now advertising remaining Track 29 tix for MM and guess what? Some joker online is upselling them for $200 a pop. They were originally 45-50/each.

Maybe I just need to take the bait and buy 2 tix. here in town. (Maybe, like a lot of things in life, the lesson learned is that sometimes I don’t need the things that I think are so essential?)

Or, maybe…just maybe I will find some options in Winnipeg. Either way, I need the rock music. ASAP.

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