Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Reality TV: The apocalypse is nigh

Sorry, guys. This is another post stemming off another recent frustration. I promise I’m a fun-loving person that laughs a lot, but when something pisses me off, it’s just fun to write about.

I recently sat down to watch some TV, and after watching enough of Tosh.0 to dumb-down my intelligence, I came across host Joel McHale of The Soup on E!. I thought to myself, how talented he must be to use such lewd behavior and dim-witted humor to inflate his own ego by demeaning others. That’s true talent right there. On the other hand, it just is to him.

But just when I thought I've seen it all in terms of entertainment, something comes along that is so polluted and shockingly abysmal that it makes me plan for the arrival of the Mayan apocalypse, because seriously, we are going down faster than the Dallas Cowboys.

I’m talking about reality TV’s latest nightmare: “Bridalplasty.” The first preview has been unleashed to the public as, what I like to call it, the most insidious template for rat-bag behavior.

The quick pitch is "Bridezillas" meets "Extreme Makeover.” Throw in the host, Shanna Moakler, breast implants and bitches, and you have the worst piece of reality trash to hit the airwaves since “The Swan.”

I’ve read before that Moakler said "women will love it" for its inspiring stories, like brides who receive implants after breast cancer. The only implication I understand from this so far is that any show that promises to be, in the words of the producers, "the only competition in which the winner gets cut" is likely to be said in praise of Satan.

The show is executive produced by E! host Giuliana Rancic and production company 51 Minds, the folks who have to answer for such popular train wrecks as "The Surreal Life," "Rock of Love," and "Megan Wants a Millionaire."

Mind you, “Megan Wants a Millionaire” was a show best known for contestant Ryan Jenkins, a domestic abuser who went on to murder his ex-wife before committing suicide.

I do like Rancic, and I’ve even watched a couple of her cutesy, little episodes of her own reality show. The last episode I watched, she had a miscarriage at an early stage of pregnancy. She was questioning if God had punished her. All I will say is that maybe God wants you to focus on a child instead of creating a show based on the downfall of humanity.

Let’s take a reality check. A show like "Bridalplasty" does not exist to make young women's dreams come true, nor does it exist to celebrate the universal spirit of competition, like an Olympics of boob jobs. It exists because, people, like myself, are going to hate it.

If you don’t hate it, have fun assaulting your intelligence and being mesmerized by these D-grade wannabe-actors cavorting about fake boobs and a surgically-enhanced, symmetrical face.

Which part is sadder: The fact that there is an audience for this show, OR that there are women willing to participate? I don’t even think I’ll be able to sit and drink and point and laugh through this one.

Again, sorry for ranting and raving, but this show says something none too pretty about its creators that can toil up the most obnoxious elements of reality shows and spit them into a new format.

But hey, this is actually good news for those of us who despise trash like this. Why? With so many people committing themselves to this farcical garbage, it leaves a relatively small percentage who prefer to do something to improve their knowledge and intelligence.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

My Political Mini-Rant

People of Facebook/Twitter: save your breath and quit all this whining and bitching about elections not going your way. Politicians are all the same, regardless of what side they're on. Repubs and Dems are the same thing: lying, blindly loyal puppets who only care about the issues that lobbyists pay them to care about.

What you should bitch and whine about is the American political system, and how it is -- and has been for quite some time now -- completely and utterly BROKEN. The two party system is an archaic practice that only leads to name-calling and finger-pointing, and ultimately accomplishes very little, if anything at all. Thus the saying: talk is cheap.

Until the system is broken down and reformed, the Right will always complain about how we're losing our morals and going to hell and it's all the Left's fault; and the Left will always complain about... well, everything, and blame it on the Right.

Each side is only concerned with pushing their own policies and beliefs, and neither is concerned with what they should be: working together to do what is in the best interest of the United States of America.

Thank you, that'll be enough political talk for me until 2012. RMFT, beat LSU.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sorry, I got drunk.

I've noticed the idea of drinking seems to hit a sharp nerve in some people lately. It can be a lightning rod for various acrid feelings they have towards their peers, certain social groups, and even the mainstream. The idea of getting drunk seems to represent everything that's wrong with other people and their priorities, and how they're just different from them. I call this bullshit.

I’m a socially-inclined 23-year-old and a recent graduate of the University of Alabama. When I’m out at a social event, there is likely a drink in my hand, if not in the other as well. It perplexes me that at such a young age, people actually tell me to stop drinking like I’m in college, and that it’s time to settle down.

What the hell?

In America, they tell us we’re too immature to drink until we’re 21 years old, and then these same imprudent people tell us a few years later that we’re too immature if we continue drinking.

Where did people get the idea that at certain points in our lives we should measure ourselves for our burial shrouds, and then quail down and wait for the Grim Reaper to come rapping at our door? Relax, people, and have a drink.

The problem with society today are these overly negative people with uptight attitudes towards drinking, who claim that alcohol is detrimental to our bodies. These people also like to claim that these people, like myself, will probably be less successful in life than those who don’t drink.

No doubt, drinking has negative aspects to it, and I don’t necessarily condone excessive drinking. There are plenty of people in this world who abuse alcohol and let it control their lives. You may undoubtedly find the drunks staggering down the road with a bottle of Early Times in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Who cares, really? As long as they aren’t putting anyone else in danger.

But I’m not speaking of this category of people. That’s steering away from my point. I’m speaking of the people who like to enjoy an alcoholic beverage after a grueling day of work, a glass of scotch while relaxing in the evening, or even sitting amongst friends at a bar enjoying each others company.

In addition, being the social drinker that I am, I have developed an appreciation for alcohol, such as wine and beer. These two beverages are so diverse and complex, that producing and brewing them is like a form of art. Learning to love a good wine or hand-crafted beer is like looking at a piece of art for the first time -- you might not understand it at first, but you will grow to treasure its beauty.

It’s an obvious point – there’s nothing wrong with just consuming alcohol. There’s nothing all that bad about it by default. It’s more about how you use it. You can even call it evolutionary novel behavior.

Archeological evidence dates the production of beer and wine to Mesopotamia at about 6,000 BC. The origin of distilled spirits is traced back to the Middle East or China at about 700 AD. Is historical evidence not enough for alcohol appreciation?

A study done in the 1960s reckoned that, without alcohol, civilization would have probably collapsed into anarchy following the horrors of WWI.

And wasn’t it an alcohol-emboldened Winston Churchill who possessed the guts to stand up to the tidal wave of tyranny that threatened to engulf the entire planet?

Call my examples implausible, obscure, or dubious – I honestly don’t care. I’m sticking to my belief that consuming alcohol is not bad. And it doesn't require brainwashing to enjoy it. It’s just an interest in a new experience, or simply wanting to drink something that tastes damn good.

I will leave a quote to all the acerbic people who think I drink too much: “The trouble with the world is that everybody is three drinks behind.” - Humphrey Bogart

Cheers, and see you at the kegger.

The Lost Art of Drinking

Whatever happened to drinking?

I’m not talking about this amateur act filled with J├Ąger Bombs and dollar Natty Light night. I want to know why the after-work whiskey has disappeared. Why is it no longer acceptable to have a nice bottle of scotch in your office? And when exactly did it stop being alright to carry a flask?

The drink was inspiration for Ernest Hemingway and Don Draper, yet it’s not good enough for us? Fuck that. What is this, the moral prohibition era?

Here’s a story for you: Last January, I had the honor of being a groomsman in a close friend’s wedding (mentioned here). At the rehearsal dinner, I ordered an Old Fashioned. The bridesmaid sitting beside me turned and remarked, “What are you, 70 years old?” Knowing she was a veteran of the service industry, I asked her if this was an uncommon order. She told me that in her experience, no man under the age of 50 orders that kind of drink.

My question is why the hell not? Have we as a society damned drinking? Have we left it for the drunks and college students? Where along the line did we forget how to drink like adults? For that matter, whatever happened to the toast?

This may be a rather strange example, but bear with me for a moment. Watch the dinner scene in Anchorman, the one right before Ron Burgandy goes crazy on the jazz flute. Listen to Christina Applegate’s character order her drink – that is how you order a damn drink.

People don’t do that anymore, at least not that I'm aware of. Maybe we just weren’t taught how to drink the right way, I don’t know. What I do know is that if I go up to the bar – my regular bar excluded – and order a shot, the bartender doesn’t bring me back Jack Daniels, Jim Bean or the like, but rather some brightly-colored, fruity mixed shot. What the hell is that all about?

I'm not saying that everyone should go on a bender, I am fully aware of the problems of excess. But I see no harm in throwing back the occasional drink or two. Grown men and women alike should know how to handle their alcohol, and how to drink without making a fool of themselves.

Years ago, I went to visit my father, who at the time was living with his friend. After being introduced, the man known as “Senator” – for his look and deep, growling Southern voice – offered me a drink. I accepted, expecting a sweet tea, or maybe even a beer. Senator brought me back a Crown Royal, two ice cubes, in a whiskey glass. My dad remarked, “Brooks, what in the hell are you giving him?” To which the Senator replied, “Scott, I offered the boy a drink, and I'm giving him a proper drink.”

A proper drink. That’s all it was. It wasn’t about getting wasted, or proving how much liquor you could hold. It was a whiskey on the rocks, simple as that.

So when did we lose our hold on the proper drink? When did we start ordering a Bud Light with our t-bone? When did the cocktail stop being cool? For that matter, when did we stop having a drink to call our own?

My grandfather was a martini man. That doesn’t mean he was an alcoholic, or that he couldn’t get by without his booze. It meant that the martini was his drink. It meant that when we had dinner, he would make himself one or two. It meant that when we went out, he knew how to order his drink – gin martini, straight up with a twist, rocks on the side. That was it; that was Gramps’ drink. Over the 25 years I knew him it never changed, save for a switch from Tanqueray to Boodles in his later years.

That is what we lack today – that confidence in ordering, that familiarity with our drink of choice. That acceptance of a man or woman knowing what exactly it is they want, and nobody else having a damn problem with it.

Remember that whole deal with President Obama’s smoking habit? Bad habit, yeah, but who cares? The man is the elected leader of the most powerful country in the world, if a cigarette every now and then helps him get by, so be it. My point is this: the man had something he liked, and did it because it made him feel better, but because of his position he had to abandon this pleasure.

Maybe that’s where we went awry with drinking. Everybody is so damn concerned these days with social status and public image that we just plain forgot how to enjoy ourselves. As far as I'm concerned, President Obama could address the nation from the Oval Office, top shirt button undone, Marlboro Red in one hand and a Manhattan in the other – and I would be damn proud to call him my president.

Why? Because I wouldn’t view him as a man with bad habits, but rather as a man who was comfortable with himself. A man that is confident, and knows that his habits and tendencies are part of what makes him who he is.

There is no shame in having a drink. There is no shame in being a drinker. But somewhere along the line we lost our grasp on how to drink and what it means to have a drink, and THAT is what we need to recapture.

So, here’s to rediscovering the drink in all of its misunderstood glory. Bottom’s up.

Hi there...

So, it's been awhile. Sorry about that... again. Look, I know every few months I come here and promise to stay, only to leave again. But I've changed, baby, I swear.

But seriously, I'm here to write again, and I've brought a friend. Born over a Friday night Twitter/Text conversation, my friend Jessica -- a fellow University of Alabama journalism grad -- has inspired me to pick up my metaphorical pen and start updating this site again; and lucky for you she's decided to join me.

In terms of what you'll be getting, this is still about life and all the craziness within. That may entail pieces about culture, society, personal experiences, or whatever.

My first new post will be up shortly, I hope you enjoy.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Diary of an American Dreamer

About a month or so ago, I quit my job of over two and a half years. I didn’t have another lined up, I wasn’t moving, and I didn’t really have any sort of safety net (beyond a few months worth of preemptive saving). What I had was a broken spirit and a depleted sense of self-worth.

I was worn out. Mentally, physically and emotionally drained from over 30 months of a near thankless job not even remotely related to my degree or my dreams, I just had to get out before I went over the edge. I needed to reset, to get a fresh start, to get a handle on just what exactly it was I was chasing when I put in my two-week’s notice.

So I packed my bag, loaded up in a car with three friends, and hit the open road.

I've long been a fan of road trips, and really of traveling in general. I don’t know if it’s the discovery of new places and things, the sense of freedom being away from home, or just the expectation of the unexpected; but whatever it is, it soothes me. I really wouldn’t mind working on the road for awhile. I have nothing to tie me down anywhere, why not just get out and see what else there is?

I have a friend that often bitches to me about the high price of traveling in the States. She went to Europe, traveled all over the continent and fell in love with it. But yet, she can’t even get a decently priced trip to travel the southeastern U.S. She’s completely justified in her complaints; it’s incredibly too expensive to travel within our own country. It shouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for someone my age (25) to just get out and (affordably) see our nation without having to couch surf and scrounge by. You can spend a summer backpacking in Europe for the same cost of a weekend in New Orleans. So if I could nab a job that paid me to get out there, that’d be a pretty sweet deal.

My fondness of road trips has a kink or two in it. One, I really only like driving long distances – anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours and it just annoys me; but give me a drive longer than three hours and I'm golden. To steal a line from myself: Happiness is a sunny afternoon, the open road, windows down, with an autumn breeze. Two, for the past several years I've started every drive of over an hour with one simple “meal” found at every gas station: Slim Jim, peanuts and a Mountain Dew. Don’t know where, why or how this started, but it did.

There’s nothing wrong with road tripping by yourself; it can be very satisfying. I did it numerous times in college, making the trek from Alabama to Maryland and vice versa. But, a truly great road trip involves at least one good buddy. Besides the simple fact that sharing with a friend makes most things better, it also helps to have someone to keep you sane whilst driving through the unimaginably boring terrain of I-20. Between Mississippi, northern Louisiana, and the vast nothingness of East Texas, a man could go insane within 12 short hours.
For this trip, my main man was my buddy Caleb, aka C.R. Not to discredit Meghan (who has said that if she ever gets super-rich she will start a pro wrestling organization and tab me to run it) or Beth (who I saw drink a beer bigger than her), but C.R. is my partner in crime. This is a man who not even ten minutes into the trip randomly said “I should be a truck driver,” and warned “alright now, be on the lookout for Smokey.” He was also there to confirm to me that, yes, I did see a sign for a town called Chunky (coincidentally the place of our first Smokey sighting). Only in Mississippi, folks.

About the time that I confirmed that Tom Petty’s “Running Down a Dream” is still the best driving song ever made, it hit me that the pair of jeans I was wearing might have been the only one I packed. A short while later I confirmed this. For a lesser man this would’ve been a problem. For me, it only added to the adventure.

Our first night was spent at the Diamond Jacks Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana. About the only thing that could’ve made this night better would’ve been massive winnings from gambling. But after I quickly lost $10 to a slot machine (the devil’s creation), I decided to settle in with a fried catfish po’ boy, a six-pack of Miller High Life tall boys, WWE Raw, and the Jacuzzi conveniently located inside of our hotel room. It’s the little things, folks.

Shortly into our second day of driving, C.R. informed us that our theme song of the trip was “If You Wanna Get to Heaven (You Gotta Raise a Little Hell)” by The Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Not exactly a hard concept for someone like myself to embrace.

There are two key things you learn while driving through Texas. The first is that they are damn proud of Willie Nelson (as they should be). The man’s face is EVERYWHERE. The second is that if there is a stormy sky in Texas, it looks like pure, unholy death. I wasn’t sure if we were driving into Austin or the gates of hell.

We finally arrived after battling traffic, and immediately hit the bars. Upon texting my mother alerting her of my safe arrival, she replied “Have fun! Be safe! Do a shot of tequila for Mommy!” Just another reason I love that woman.

After downing said tequila (always obey your mother, kids), I noticed that the very first Texas bar I set foot in had paintings of guns on the wall. Fitting. I also noticed way too many guys with their pants tucked into their boots (read: at least one). Not so fitting.

Later, I learned my first lesson (the hard way, naturally) about attending South by Southwest: be prepared, or else you’re gonna miss some shit. Sadly, I was too late in learning that both Motorhead and Hank Williams III were playing that night. Unfortunate that I missed a chance to see either rock gods or one of my favorite musicians, but I now I know that if you’re gonna go to SXSW, you better study up and find out every damn show that’s playing – even if the trip was a last minute thing.

However, the night was definitely not a loss. After leaving the first bar, we scarfed down some incredible pizza at a joint called East Side Pies. After some roaming around, we ended up at Club De Ville, seemingly just because it was close to closing time. Upon entering, we found out there was a mechanical bull setup for all the drunks to enjoy. Now, none of us had any intentions of partaking until our friend Ryan proclaimed “hell yeah I'm riding it, we all are. Get in line.”

So we rode, and I can safely say that it was the first time in my life I had ever regretted not having chaps. The bull destroyed me (thankfully my pants survived). Worse yet, C.R. lasted two seconds longer than me. Defeated by the bull was tough enough, but now I was just humiliated.

We savored our final few minutes by hitting the dance floor and boogieing down. And we were doing a damn good job of it on our own… and then the DJ put on Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” and a man in a red jump suit raced out to us, started running circles around us and motioned for us to join. So we did. What ensued was three minutes of circular-running, fist-pumping joy. Now I'm told someone all professional-looking took pictures of this. My hope is that somewhere, these pictures brought a smile to someone.

Buy the ticket, take the ride. The Man said that, and I don’t disagree.

Perhaps my favorite thing about Austin is the fact that in all of my walking downtown, I didn’t once notice a chain restaurant. Not a single one. No McDonald’s on any street corners. I'm sure they’re there, but we sure as hell didn’t eat at any. Instead we enjoyed some of the finest, greasiest, loveliest food I've ever eaten. I indulged in Mexican and Ethiopian, pizza and bratwurst, BBQ and breakfast. I didn’t have a single complaint about anything.

The best aspect of SXSW is that there are an inordinate amount of free activities to enjoy. And let me tell you, friends, there are few things better than walking up to a bar, money in hand, and having the bartender crack open a beer and say “free, enjoy.” That folks, is amazing. What’s more amazing is that on the next go round, he hands you a mixed drink, and again nods and says “free.”

(Going along with this free theme, I would once again like to extend a thank you to my new friend Marion, who for whatever crazy reason decided that she would host mine and C.R.'s rowdy asses. She survived, sanity in tact.)

Come August, I'm leaving Tuscaloosa, for better or worse. As much as I love this town, I need to get out and see what else there is, and if it holds anything for me. I can guarantee you that Austin is on my short list. I can also tell you with a certainty that if I do become a resident, a little place called Lovejoy’s will become my favorite watering hole. It’s a hole-in-the-wall, dark and dirty bar that brews their own beer. In other words, my kind of fucking place.

While enjoying their homemade stout, The Dirty Charlie Band played a set of that kick-ass rebel-rousing honky tonk music that I love so much. Any band that has a dreadlocked bassist, and a denim-vested lead singer that belts a line like “ladies ain’t good for nothing but another heartache song” is alright by me.

I'm not exactly one for falling in to routines, but I won’t exactly argue against the once I developed during SXSW: Wake up, eat amazing breakfast/lunch. Find venue with good music and free beer. Get sauced. Eat more amazing food. Find rock & roll show, drink whiskey, dance the night away. If that’s wrong, to hell with whatever is right.

Over the course of the course of four days, I bore witness to some of the loudest, rowdiest rock shows I've ever seen. Whether it was a bunch of girls rocking my face off (The Coathangers, Those Darlins), seeing one of my favorite bands for free (Drive-By Truckers), discovering a new favorite (Glossary) in a bar fashioned out of a doublewide trailer, seeing a concert I've long wanted to see (The Black Angels, Justin Townes Earle), supporting local bands making the trip (Birmingham showcase featuring 13Ghosts, Taylor Hollingsworth, Through the Sparks, Vulture Whale), or freezing my ass off but still enjoying some good music (Dawes, Deer Tick, Lucero), I rocked out and had a blast.

I suppose this where I'm supposed to embark some wisdom about some lesson I learned from this trip. I don’t if there’s something there that we don’t already know – get out there and experience things while you can.

Don’t worry about finding some deeper meaning in everything, just live in the moment. Bask in the sun, savor the cold beer, and let the wind blow through your hair. Meet new friends and catch up with those from your past. Put your fist up and rock the fuck out. Ride a bull without chaps… just be prepared for the bruising.

Pictures! (Woo for visual aides!)

Tall boys in a Jacuzzi... now that's the High Life.

No mini-fridge, no problem.

What's on that slice? Awesomeness, that's what.

This is legal on the streets of Austin. I approve.

Of course this was in the bathroom of a bar inside a doublewide trailer.

Mmmmmmmm...

Drive-By Truckers. Free. Let there be rock.

Mess with the bull...

... you get the battle wounds.

Free as a feelin' in the wind.

That beer was free. Along with many others.

C.R. starts some bull mess, so I put him in his place.

Marion, our gracious host. Somehow she tolerated us, even when I made faces like that.

Lesson learned. 

Monday, March 08, 2010

Life Lessons

It has been awhile since I've imparted my infinite wisdom upon you, my loyal reader. So, it's time for more life lessons.
  • Elton John > Billy Joel
  • Yes, I go to a professional hair salon. Why? Because getting a hair cut is akin to getting your car worked on. Once you find a good mechanic, you keep him. Maybe you pay a little bit more, but that's because you know you're getting damn good work done. 
  • Don't be afraid to take off your shirt and start some bull mess every now and then. I just wouldn't advise you start it with a biker -- they usually travel in packs. 
  • TD's hangover cure: Gatorade, greasy food, Law & Order, and preferably someone to share your pain with.
  • A hot shower cures what ails you. Always.
  • If you ain't happy with the path you're on, find a new fucking path.
One last note here, two friends and I have started an entertainment blog, so go read it, love it, bookmark it, worship it: The Alabama Take

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Crossroads

I am sitting at a crossroads. No, not those Crossroads -- although the prospect of selling one's soul for Blues glory seems mighty tempting right now -- but more of a personal intersection.

January was an exciting month. I saw two of my oldest, closest friends get married; and was even lucky enough to participate in both ceremonies. I learned that one of them is expecting a child come May, and was asked to be the Godfather. I also said goodbye to my grandfather, someone who I loved and will miss dearly.

Somewhere in there, there's a meaning to it all. Something about life & death, love & maturity. And, maybe one day, I'll see it. But I don't think it's meant to be fully understood right now. It's one of those things that I should put in my memory and pull out down the line.

But as for the now, therein lie my crossroads.

Now, I've never been one to think life is passing me by. I take it as it comes, at my own pace, as slow or as fast as I damn well please. But lately... there's this feeling that's creeping in, and it's weird. The words coming from my pen are sad, but I'm still having good times. I work a job that I used to enjoy, and now loathe. It's grown increasingly frustrating, and no longer does high stress yield a sense of accomplishment. I mean, I have a God-given gift and a college degree. Why not use them before it does get too late?

My point, I guess, is that these crossroads are not some inner debate trying to decide whether to take action or not. No, it's more about what action to take. And I think that's part of the lesson I can take from January. Life isn't about deciding to take action or not, it's about seizing opportunities and situations. Even if they don't turn out like I hope they will, at least I did something, right?

As former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said, "Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action."

I know I'm being oddly vague here, forgive me. But with all of this action surrounding me -- friends getting married and having kids, friends working dream jobs, friends moving, friends going to law/grad school -- it's high time I took Andy Dufresne's advice: get busy living, or get busy dying.

I mentioned earlier I was lucky enough to take part in a wedding. Specifically, my good friends Tim and Katie got hitched on January 23rd, and they asked me to give the speech at the reception. I just wanted to share it on here, because it got me a lot of handshakes and hugs at the wedding, and I'm just happy I did right by them and added something to their wonderful wedding.

First of all, let me begin by introducing myself to those of you who don’t know me. I’m T.D., or Tom to those here that know me.

I’ve known Tim since he was yay high, wore big glasses and had a mullet. At the time, I was yay high, wore big glasses and had a rat tail – so we were friends instantly.

To those that do know me, it’s great to see y’all again. And, I know what you’re thinking: you’re sitting there, you see me with a drink in one hand and a microphone in the other and you’re saying to yourself, “Well, this could get interesting.”

Katie, we first met, what? Maybe 5 years ago? Since then I've come to know you to be a beautiful, sweet, caring, immensely intelligent and wonderfully creative person. I wouldn’t have anything else for Tim, you really are what he’s been looking for all along, and I’m so pleased that you see just as much in Tim as he sees in you. And – to use a line Elliot wanted me to use – just know that with Tim, you have a man who will wake up every morning and have one goal: to make you happy.

I have known Tim virtually all of my life, and he’s one of my brothers. Tim, Ben, Elliot and I have shared a ton of great memories (Wafflez!), and we’ve seen him in both good times and bad. And I think I can safely speak for Elliot and Ben, as well as others here today, when I say that, Tim, we’re all just as excited and happy to be here as you are, and we couldn’t be prouder.

I think that the purpose of one of these speeches is to try and put love into words somehow. I'm not sure that’s completely possible or even fair. But, man has tried forever to do it, and I guess I will too. And since I found out I had to give this speech, I’ve had a pretty solid idea of what I wanted to say. But, I needed something to tie it all together, you know?

Unfortunately, being the perennial bachelor I am, I can’t really draw from my own experiences. So I looked to my influences as a writer and person for some guidance. Naturally, I first looked at my favorites authors.

Hunter S. Thompson: love is a weekend trip to Vegas with a trunk full of drugs… Eh, maybe not.

Hemingway: OK… let’s try an author who didn’t have a fondness for guns and booze.

Let’s try someone more modern. Chuck Klosterman: Well, what has he done? He wrote a book titled “Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs” – alright, maybe my favorite authors ain’t the best place to look.

How about movies? Dazed & Confused: love is a bunch of high school kids whoopin’ each other with paddles and having a keg party in the middle of woods. Not so much.

OK, music, it’s gotta be there, there’s a ton of songs about love. What’s my favorite type of music? Country music. You know… let’s just skip that.

Recently, I buried my grandfather, and at his service I was sitting there, trying to make sense of it all. I found myself thinking about my grandmother and him, and how they had this beautiful marriage that lasted well over 50 years, to a number I can’t even remember.

And that is where my inspiration struck me. There has been the best example of love in my personal life. And as I sit and think of my memories of them, I see a lot of them in Tim and Katie. I see the same loving looks, the same comfortableness with each other, the same strength in their relationship.

There it is, that’s it. If one day, I am blessed enough to have kids, that day will come when they ask me: “Daddy, what’s love?” And I won’t need to play them a John Lennon song, recite them a Shakespeare poem, or show them a John Hughes movie.

I’ll say, “look at your Uncle Tim and Aunt Katie, and you’ll know. That right there, that’s love.”

So, here’s to y’all. Here’s to a lifetime and beyond of bliss. Congratulations, I love you both.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Vindication

So I got tears in my eyes, sue me.

But don't blame me, don't you dare blame me. Not after 17 years. Not after seven coaches. Not after seven straight losses to Tennessee, six straight to Auburn. Not after two different stints on probation. Not after all of that.

I was born into it, didn't have a choice. My daddy is an Alabama fan, born and raised in the Heart of Dixie. Therefore, when I came into this world, I was to be a fan of the prestigious Crimson Tide. Didn't matter that Momma pulled for Notre Dame. Hell, didn't matter that her entire half of the family was from New England. Daddy grew up rooting for The Bear. Son was gonna cheer for the boys in Crimson, too.

I was raised on bedtime stories about Paul W. Bryant and his legendary championship teams. Tales of Goal-Line Stands and guys named Snake and Broadway Joe. Tales of national titles and regional dominance.

But I wasn't privy to that. Bear died a little over a year before I was born. I was about five when I really started to understand the game. I was eight when Gene Stallings brought home Bama's 12th National Championship. Watched the game in my mom's living room. Even wrote a "what I did on Winter Vacation" essay for my 3rd grade class about the Tide's Sugar Bowl whuppin' of Miami.

But I was eight. It was fun, but I didn't know what it really meant to me. Coach Stallings left in 1996, I was 12. Then came Mike DuBose -- and with him came the black clouds of hell. Losing seasons, off-the-field scandals, probation, coaching catastrophes, public mockery and humiliation. Being a Bama fan, it was mighty painful.

Growing up in Maryland, it was hard to explain my love of the Crimson Tide to my peers. To them, it was a scary prospect to go to a college 800 miles from where we grew up. To me... I was going home.

I came home in 2002, got a 10-win season right off the bat -- even broke that nasty losing streak to the hated Vols of Tennessee. But it came crashing down, and came down heavy. We lost in embarrassing fashion to Auburn, and before we could figure out what hit us our coach had taken a red-eye to Texas A & M, leaving us without a coach and on probation to boot.

Mike Price didn't even last a game. Mike Shula was in way over his head. Auburn took advantage, so did everyone else. I was there for the loss to Northern Illinois. I was there for the five-overtime loss to the Vols. I had tickets to every home game for the 4-9 season. I made two solemn, silent, 180-mile drives back from Auburn.

I watched Auburn go undefeated. I watched LSU and Florida win two national titles each. I even partied on Bourbon Street before some little, upstart, mid-major team kicked our ass good in the Sugar Bowl.

So you understand why I got queasy when a true freshman started throwing touchdowns last Thursday in Pasadena. When visions of blown leads came flooding back into my head. When memories of heartbreak after heartbreak just wouldn't go away. When it seemed like a goddamned Hollywood movie was being played out in front of my eyes. The star gets hurt, in comes the kid that no one knows, scared shitless -- then boom, he transforms into the hero and brings home the title.

Yeah, there was a Hollywood ending alright. But it wasn't Rudy, it was more like The Empire Strikes Back.

The Evil Empire in the blood-tinted crimson jerseys dashed the hopes of the bright-eyed kid. Ol' Nick "Satan" -- Darth Vader incarnate -- left the folks in white searching for answers to all of their "what if?" questions.

When Saban lifted that crystal ball high into the Southern California night, a generation of desolation vanished with the Pacific breeze.

Then, with that crystal ball glimmering in the moonlight, "Slick" Nick smiled. Smiled a smile that vindicated every member of the Alabama family. Freed us from all those losses, from all the mockery, from all the pain.

On January 7th, 2010, "The Process" paid off. We were finally back. Back to where we were in all of Daddy's stories. Back on top. Back where we belong.

As it all sunk in, I raised my hands to sky. I hugged my friends, friends who'd gone through it all by my side. I celebrated deep into the Tuscaloosa night. I painted the town crimson.

And yeah, I got tears in my eyes. Who can blame me?