Thursday, August 25, 2011

Friday Funny: Please, Sir...I Want Some More

Family.  That word strikes a chord in everyone, doesn't it?  No two people will have the same things come to mind when they hear that word, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone that isn't profoundly affected by the word.  For some, it speaks of love, some hate.  For some, it brings on warm memories and a smile.  For others, it might bring forth pain and sorrow, or a sense of longing.  Every person's experience with their family is different from everyone else.  Here's my family...

For me, one of the things that always comes to mind is my parents, my sister, and I all gathering around the table for dinner.  Growing up, we were always busy with something.  I had countless baseball practices and games in the spring and summer, football practice in the fall, and basketball in the winter.  My sister played softball, ran track, was a cheerleader and in band.  With the changing seasons came changing obligations.  Not to mention the fact my dad often worked 12 hour days six or seven days a week to keep our family afloat.  But, regardless of how busy we were, my mom always seemed to find the time to cook a delicious meal, and gather her family around the table for dinner.  Sure, it didn't happen every single night.  And yes, we ate enough meat loaf and hamburger-potato casserole to last a lifetime.  But, despite all the great experiences I had with my family (and my family is fantastic), I remember dinner time above all else.  I surely didn't realize how profoundly that hour each evening would impact me now, and I'm sure I complained about the salisbury steak or taco salad on multiple occasions.  But, sitting around the table and sharing the goings-on in each of our lives is something I will cherish forever.

Family.  Has a nice ring to it, and it makes a lot of us think of home and smile.  If you add just one little word to it, though, it takes on a whole new meaning.

Family vacation.  Changes things a bit, doesn't it?  Now, I love my family and we've had some great vacations over the years.  But family vacations can be like the perfect storm.  Most families take them so they can get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  So they can spend some time together, getting to know one another better, making memories.  Then, seven days later, the family goes home together and cannot wait to get anywhere else.  It gets bothersome being cooped up together, always having to do what everyone else wants to do...No freedom at all except for a set of head phones.  And that's all before you cross the Alabama line.

Don't get me wrong...I love my family, and I loved going on vacation with them when I was a kid.  But you know just as well as I do, when you mix two teenagers (one in college, and one on the verge) with their parents, and throw in a 12-hour drive...Well, it can be a volatile mix.

It was early August, 2003.  I was just a few weeks away from starting my freshman year at UK, and to say I was ready to get out of the house would be a gross understatement.  I was so close to freedom I could taste it.  That whole summer, all I thought about was getting to Lexington.

My mom, on the other hand, had a totally different view.  To her, she was losing her baby boy and would be left with an empty nest for the first time in 20 years.  I can understand her anxiety now, and to an extent, I could then.  But, that didn't change how ready I was for the next chapter in my life.  But, anyway, Mom decided it would be a good idea to plan one last family vacation before I moved to Lexington.

So, we all piled in the car and headed for beautiful Gulf Shores, Alabama.  Mom had booked a great condo right on the beach...It really was a beautiful place.  But, this story isn't about the sparkling white sand, or the crystal clear water.  This story is about...You guessed it...Family dinner.

If you know my mom, you know how hilarious she is with all of her little quirks.  Just as some examples, my mom still wears a sun visor.  She can't pronounce "shrimp" (srimp), "milk" (milnk), or "Cracker Barrel" (Crackle Barrel) properly.  When describing the sound of something, regardless if she's talking about a car backfiring or a small pebble being dropped off of a bridge into a creek, her sound effect is the same.  It sounds something like "chi-comp!"  She eats ketchup on saltines and cheese, and has the most hilarious collection of night gowns this side of the 10:00 news.  She's a character.

When on vacation, though, my mother turns into Mr. Bumble from Oliver Twist.

For some reason, my mom feels it is necessary to skip lunch if one is to eat dinner that night.  This is especially true while on vacation.  We had stopped for breakfast around 5:00 AM, and by about noon, Lensey and I were starving.  Dad had to be, and why he didn't agree with us, I don't know.  But he didn't.

I begged Mom to let us go get some lunch.  She said, "Why?  We're going to dinner tonight, just eat then.  Besides, we've got crackers and Snickers you can have to tide you over."

By Snickers, she meant the mini Snickers that aren't even a whole bite.  Not even the Fun Size kind.  We hadn't even gone to the grocery yet, so there was no lunch meat or bread.  Snickers and crackers were it, and trust me...They can only hold you over so long.

So, finally that evening we got ready and went to eat an actual meal.  By the end of the 14 hours between meals, the hashbrowns and waffle were long gone.

Since we were on vacation at the beach, it sort of goes without saying you would want to eat good, fresh seafood.  So, we stopped at a place that looked like a fun place to eat...Great atmosphere, sort of small, but obviously popular.  The hole in the wall places are always the best.  And it was.

For the people that were eating, at least.  The projected wait time was somewhere around an hour.  We waited for about fifteen minutes, hoping that things would be faster than expected before my dad, in his infinite wisdom, decided we should try another place.  I didn't want to wait, either, so I was happy to move on.  I didn't know how much I would regret that.

The next place, another seafood joint, looked amazing.  Had a similar feel to the first place, great nicknacks on the walls, and the smell from the kitchen was fantastic.  Wait time:  Hour and a half.  Dad, once again, said we're leaving.

Now, retelling this story doesn't really do it justice.  You have to take into account travel time, and my dad's driving pace.  If people drive slower when they get older, then my dad will soon be idling down the interstate.  He's definitely not known for his speed on the roadways.  So, although we had only been to two places that were relatively close to one another, it had already been about an hour since we left the hotel.

So, we started driving up and down the beach front road where there were literally countless seafood places.  But, just like the others, every place was packed to the gills with people waiting outside.  We passed at least five places where Dad wouldn't even stop, because you could tell there would be a long wait.  Some of the places we passed two and three times.  It was like rubbing salt in an open wound.

By this point, you can imagine the scene taking place inside our 2002 Ford Windstar.  The hunger had taken over, and we were bickering back and forth.

"Just pull it in somewhere, Dad!  God, we could've been done eating by now!" -Me
"Well!  You want to wait forever?" -Dad
"I don't even care at this point!  I just want some food!  We've passed this place seven times!"
"Seriously, hon, just pick somewhere." -Mom, always the peacemaker.
"We'll find a place in a minute!" -Dad

He didn't lie.  We finally found a place just before 9:00 PM.  About two hours after we had left the hotel, and about 16 hours since our last meal, we sat down at a beautiful Dairy Queen to dive into chicken strip baskets and cheeseburgers.  Isn't that what vacation is all about?  Exotic foods that you just can't experience at home.  Gotta love it.

I tell this story often, and have probably not seen anyone laugh as hard at it as Jackie did one night when I told it.  And, admittedly, without the pleasure of impersonating the bickering, the story loses some of it's luster.  But, despite how miserable it was to drive around for two hours finally to settle on Dairy Queen, it is a great story to tell.

As my mom always says, "Making memories."  Memories, indeed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I Don't Care...Just Tell Me

Developing a blog without a niche or direction is more difficult than you might think.  On the one hand, without an overall topic, there's literally countless possibilities for entries.  I could write about anything, and considering the fact I don't have a specific area of focus, it wouldn't matter.  But, I'm not totally convinced that the few that actually do read this would always be in tune to a bunch of rambling and pointlessness.

It's with that in mind that I ask you all to give me some ideas for topics you'd like to see.  It can literally be about anything...If there's something you would like to know about me, let me know.  If there's a particular story you want to hear, that would work.  Want to hear about my day?  Why not?  Literally anything you can think of, just post it in the comments section and I'll get a post up about it before too long.  This can be an ongoing thing, because my creativity is very limited.  I've got a few ideas for the next couple of days, but I want to hear from you.

If you like the blog, share it with your friends.  Encourage them to become followers.  The goal is to have 10 followers.  Then 20.  Then 30.  Then 20,000,000.  We can do it.

So, again, thanks to those of you that have been reading and I hope you continue to do so.  Take some ownership and post some ideas and I'll do my best.  Thanks again!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

By the Time We Got to Woodstock, We Were Half a Million Strong

Aren't concerts great?  Over the weekend, Adrienne and I went to Owensboro to see Chris Knight live.  It was my second time seeing him perform, the first coming in Lexington a few years ago.  For those that don't know of him, I'll give you a brief rundown, thanks to the greatest research tool on planet Earth...Wikipedia.  Knight is a native of Slaughters, Kentucky, and released his first full-length album in 1998.  He is more famous as a songwriter than a singer, having written songs for acts such as John Anderson, Randy Travis, Confederate Railroad, Travis Tritt, and others.  "She Couldn't Change Me" by Montgomery Gentry is probably his most famous work.  I, for one, appreciate the songs he actually performs...Here's an example of one of my favorites.  Give it a listen:

It was great to see him play live again.  It's funny, because just a few years ago, I wouldn't have been caught dead at a country show.  My taste in music has changed several times throughout my life...I remember being a huge country fan when I was little, then my dad turned me on to Motown and classic rock when I was a bit older.  He didn't like country music, so I decided I didn't either because I wanted to be like him.  In high school, I listened to emo rock almost exclusively and thought I was more mature and aware than anyone around me.  I wasn't.  While I still dabble in it from time to time, it's not something I'm proud of.  Then in college, I started listening to classic rock more in depth and got tuned back into country music as well.  I started using Pandora to find acts I had never heard of.  My friend, Eric, played a Chris Knight song for me once, and when I created a Chris Knight station on Pandora, it opened me up to a whole new world of acts that I fell in love with.  Knight, Micky and the Motorcars, Jason Boland and the Stragglers, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Ryan Bales, Tyler McCumber...Great Texas country acts that aren't well known in this part of the country, but are just amazing song-writers and performers.  Basically, my music collection is a microcosm of my life, and literally has something for every taste.  Hit shuffle and you might find Led Zeppelin, then some Frank Sinatra, followed up by Dr. Dre, and then the Temptations.  I know everybody says this, but my music collection is eclectic to say the least.

Most concerts you go to, the vast majority of the people are there to see the headlining act.  But, this was not one of those cases.  John Capps, a Burkesville native and the brother of Adrienne's best friend, was the biggest draw.  Most of the folks there were from Burkesville or the surrounding area, and were there to support John.  While on stage, John said Chris Knight was his inspiration to become a songwriter, and the similarities between the two are unavoidable.  But, if you want to be a songwriter in the country genre, there are few people better to emulate than Chris Knight.  Even without the personal and emotional ties that most of the audience there share with John and his music, I can recognize a great musical talent when I see one.  And, without a doubt, he's extremely talented.  It was a joy to watch and see his family and friends enjoying the moment with him.

While I was there listening to the music, drinking a cold beverage, and people watching...I got to thinking about a phenomenon that is as American as apple pie and baseball...The outdoor music concert.  Now, I know they occur in other countries; and despite the fact that I have yet to leave the borders of this great country, I think I can say with a strong amount of confidence that nowhere else in the world is the outdoor concert so engrained in the culture as it is here. 

You have the obvious huge festivals that dot the calendar every year in this country:  Lollapalooza, Lilith Fair, Bonnaroo.  Woodstock started it all in 1969, and is one of the most recognizable cultural events to ever take place in the U.S.  They have even tried to resurrect Woodstock in 1979, '89, '94, and '99, but none have even come close to matching the enormity of the original.  You've got live music at every state fair in the country, smaller festivals that often take place at huge amphitheaters or race tracks...Outdoor music is all over the place.

But mixing the outdoors with live music certainly doesn't stop there.  In fact, it probably hits closest to home for most people...At small, community or county-based festivals.  Every small town has one.  I've personally witnessed multiple Octoberfests, Court Days, the Persimmon Festival, Burkesville's Bicentennial, and my hometown's claim to fame: Tater Day in Benton, Kentucky.  Other than flea markets full of junk and cart vendors selling anything from stink bombs to funnel cakes, these all have one thing in common:  Music.

Outdoor concerts are fantastic places to hear great (or mediocre) music, to socialize with friends and family, or to just relax.  But my favorite thing to do is people watch.  Because, you will literally see people from EVERY walk of life...Even walks of life you didn't know existed.

As an example, let's look at last night.  For one, I'm fairly certain the stage was a flat-bed trailer.  Secondly, the venue was a small patch of grass on the grounds of a local distillery.  Third, you were instructed to bring your own lawn chair.  From my perch, just by moving your head 180 degrees you could see rednecks, good ol' boys, frat guys, slutty women, cowgirls, average joes...It was a cornucopia of people.  We saw couples holding hands, dancing, standing with their hands in each other's back pockets.  I really wish I had photographic evidence of this, because it's one of my biggest pet peeves when I see that.  There were at least three fights that we actually witnessed, probably over nothing of any importance whatsoever, and a guy sitting in a plastic chair that looked like it was about to explode.  Honestly, the people watching was worth the price of admission alone.  And it's like that every time, no matter the artist, no matter the venue.

You know what the bands are going to play before they even begin.  You can tell by just looking at the crowd.  There's a certain ratio of Nascar and wrestling shirts that must be present for a country show.  The same can be said for a has-been band from the 70s or 80s that's trying to hold onto glory.  When I was in high school, my friend Blake and I went to the Paducah riverfront one Friday night to see Skid Row live.  Why?  Because it was only $5 a ticket.  And it was SKID ROW!  I mean, a real band!  And what was even better?  The opening act called themselves Slut Magnet.

Let me say that again.  Slut.  Magnet.  You simply cannot make this stuff up.

I don't even have to tell you about Slut Magnet.  I think you can picture their amazing talent for yourself.  But, even if you had never even heard of "18 and Life" or "Youth Gone Wild," you could have taken one look around at the crowd and known exactly what you were going to hear.  It's like that everywhere.

When I was younger, my family used to camp at Hillman Ferry Campground on Kentucky Lake every summer and on Saturday nights they always had bands come play.  Most of the time they played mediocre covers of popular country songs, but they always mixed in some surprises like "The Wall," "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," or "Hotel California."  Poorly equipped, and lacking in talent, they were never great performances, but, looking back on it, it's like an American social experiment laid out in front of you.  You see familial structures, social circles, expression through music, verbal and non-verbal communication, social rituals, food...Everything that defines us as a culture.  And one of the biggest aspects of our culture, music, is always at the forefront.

Perhaps the clashing of people from different backgrounds and lifestyles like there were last night isn't that odd after all.  This country was built on it.  Perhaps mixing different people, music, food and drink, and throwing them outdoors isn't totally unique to the United States.  Perhaps it is.  Perhaps I'm just being over-analytical.

But, no matter what they do elsewhere, to me, there's something inherently American about it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Funny: Please...Please Don't Eat That

As I stated in the first post, this blog has absolutely no direction whatsoever. It's going to be a hodgepodge of pretty much anything that comes to mind. That being said, as an ongoing series, I'm going to attempt to retell a funny story every Friday from the recesses of my memory. Now, I will go ahead and warn you ahead of time (especially Mom), some of these stories might be embarrassing. They might be teetering on the edge of innappropriate, but I will do my best to keep them as PG rated as possible, without losing the hilarious essence of the story. So, for those of you who haven't already heard these tales, don't think any less of me. And for those who have, just take them for what they're worth: a laugh at my, or my friends', expense. As Adrienne, my friends, and family know...I tend to retell the same stories quite a bit.

So, here's this week's Friday Funny...

Memorial Day weekend has always been one of my favorite times of the year. It's the unofficial start of summer, and with summer comes one of my favorite pasttimes...Boating. Throughout my college years, a group of friends and I would always try to put together a camping trip at Kentucky Lake to ring in the summer on the right note. We'd go to Wal-Mart and spend $100 on chips, bread, and lunch meat to feed us for three days, and we'd always pick up some hamburger meat and hot dogs so we could at least have one hot meal. You see, being a bunch of broke college kids, budget was a huge factor in our decision-making. Besides, we had to have enough left over for beer. Which, in some cases, was more important than food.

So, Memorial Day weekend 2009, myself, my friends DJ, Stan, Jason Harrington and his girlfriend met up with another group of friends to camp at King Creek Resort on Kentucky Lake. Now, don't let the word "resort" fool you. This was far from a resort. For a comparison...Let's say a "resort" is a gated community in the suburbs, and King Creek is a trailer park. That's what we're talking about here.

Our campsite wasn't even a campsite...It was a small patch of grass with nothing but an old oak tree standing over the top of us. No picnic table. No fire pit. Nothing. Our tents were just a few feet from the water, and unfortunately, just a few feet away from the biggest mosquito infestation this side of the Everglades I've ever seen. I mean, it was ridiculous. We went through about three cans of Off! Deep Woods...We needed something that was just pure deet. It was miserable. But, at least we only had to walk 400 yards to the bath house. Plus, we got it for a great price. Free. Beggars can't be choosers, I suppose. You get the idea of our location from this picture of my friend DJ and his lovely hat:

So, Saturday rolled around and we awoke to beautiful weather and a few hundred mosquito bites. We spent a great day on the water...Soaking up some rays, drinking beer, listening to music...Everything that embodies the spirit of summer.  It was a a great day on the water.

So that brings me to the real story.  For those of you that have had the privilege of meeting my friend Stan, you already know.  For those that haven't...Let me just say, you're missing out.  He's an interesting person because at one moment he can be the life of the party, and the other he can be sipping a glass of Metamucil and going to bed at 9:30.  We called him Dad because he acted twice his age much of the time.  But in the right environment...Like the lake on a holiday weekend with alcohol involved, he's always the life of the party...

The group of hotties he is yelling at off camera were a classy group of middle-aged women wearing bathing suits they outgrew in 1974.  Older women seem to flock to Stan...Or, Angus Young.

So, that evening after we had gotten back to the campsite, we all decided to grill hamburgers.  For some reason, we waited until it was dark to even light the charcoal, and considering it was around 8:30 or 9 by this time, we were all starving.  Adding hunger to the level of Stan's drunkenness was a dangerous combination.  The exchange went something like this:

"How does everybody want their burgers cooked?" -Random guy who's name escapes me.
"I want mine as soon as possible, I'm about to eat my arm off." -Stan
"Medium rare work?" -Random guy.
"Sure, whatever." -Stan.

Roughly one minute and forty seconds later...

"Ok, put it on a bun." -Stan
"Dude, it's not even close to being done.  I haven't even flipped it yet." -Random guy
"Well flip it, then give it to me.  I'm starving." -Stan
"Whatever you want, man." -Random guy

Now, we weren't all heartless friends watching this take place.  We tried to convince Stan it was a bad idea, but in his state, he was refusing to listen.  So, he consumed an entire burger that wasn't even brown on the OUTSIDE.  I'm not sure how he even got it down.

"Oh my God, this is delicious," he exclaimed over and over.  So, then it was the waiting game.

DJ, Stan, and I were all asleep in the tent and at around 3:00 in the morning, I woke up to the worst sounds of pain and agony I have ever heard...Coming from Stan's side of the tent.

"Ooooohhhhh.....Ahhhhhhhh.....Oh God, oh God....Oh God...."-Stan
"Dude, what is the matter with you?" -Me
"Ahhhhh....I don't know.....My stomach is killing me..." -Stan
"Are you gonna puke?" -Me
"Uhhhhhhhhh....I don't know....I don't know." -Stan
"Well...Get the hell out of here if you do." -Me
"You're a good friend, Zach." -DJ

After another minute or two, Stan got up and left the tent.  The next morning we asked him what happened, and he said he walked around vomiting every ten feet or so for a while.  Then, he sat in the boat to get some air before getting up to vomit some more.  In between the hysterical fits of laughter by DJ and I, Stan only had one thing to say.  As he so eloquently put it:

"Eating that burger was probably a bad idea."

Yeah...It was.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sometimes I'm Redundantly Repetitive

I must admit that often in the past I have attempted to keep a journal, and in one or two cases, a blog like this. But, typically what happens is I write two or three entries for a few days, and then a year goes by before I go back. And by that point, the whole purpose of the journal or blog has sort of lost it's luster. Hopefully, this time around, I can change that. I'll start with a response to Liza's post about the 6-word memoir:

-Tomorrow seems distant, but getting closer.
-I'm glad I don't laugh less.
-True love sure does change things.
-But in the greatest possible way.
-Ice cold beer is simple perfection.
-I'm pretty terrible at making plans.
-What is better than the lake?
-I stress about stupid, meaningless crap.
-April 20th is not a holiday.
-My mom makes life really fun.
-My dad puts things in perspective.
-My sister is just too nice.
-I wish I could cook more.
-Contradiction is a part of life.
-I'm pretty simple, yet extraordinarily complex.

There is no deeply inspirational reason for this blog...In fact, there's really no reason at all. I read Liza's blog, Pillow Book, from time to time and in a recent post she made a list of "Awesome" things in life. One of those was feeling inspired to write...One that I definitely have to agree with. I feel inspired to write a lot, but my problem is I don't always know exactly what it is that I feel inspired to write about. Which, now that I think about, isn't really inspiration at all. It might simply be boredom. But, in any respect, I've decided to start this blog as a place to record my thoughts on life, to recount funny stories and interactions that I encounter on a daily basis (trust me, there's a ton of these), give my commentary on the goings-on in the sports world (Adrienne will likely skip those), and, if you are lucky, I may give advice, a la "Dear Abby." Because, according to Adrienne, I'm a know-it-all. I disagree...Although my knowledge of airline color-schemes and flight schedules is extremely impressive.

I have an idea for a short story I may serialize as well. Okay, I lied...I don't really have an idea for a short story. But it is something I've always wanted to do. Besides, as I already said, I tend to begin writing without inspiration and without an idea...I tend to discover a writing while simultaneously creating. Probably why my writing is typically shallow and chock full of repetition or discrepancies. If you had seen any of the term papers or book reviews I wrote in college, my world-class BS'ing skills would have been on full display. I am not bragging when I say it's truly impressive.

So basically, this blog will simply be a place for you to come and waste 5 or 10 minutes of your day on reading nonsensical and pointless balderdash. I've always wanted to use the word "balderdash" in a sentence.

I hope you enjoy reading...Any comments, suggestions, or heartless criticisms are welcomed.