Parent of the South

As a child of the South: born in Georgia and resident of South Caorlina for the last 30+ years, and now a parent in the South, I’ve determined Five values all Southern Parents must instill into their children:

  1. Manners, Manners, Manners
    Above all else, and before all else, you must be polite and show proper respect to all people. This includes proper use (meaning everyone, young and old) of “Ma’am” and “Sir” and continual use of “May I” (even if it’s already yours) and “Thank You” even if you were wronged.

  2. Love of college football
    You must find a team and make them your own. You must love them through thick and thin and you must hate their rivals (I have some ideas of teams you can cheer for, if you need some).

    And most importantly, you must not celebrate special events on fall Saturday’s – especially weddings. No daughter of the South shall ever schedule a wedding between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.

  3. Exposure to Beach Music
    You must learn to shag and to make sure your children do as well. And shagging can only be done to Beach Music. While most people are familiar with the Drifters, the Temptations, and the Four Tops, you must also be conversant with groups like Chairman of the Board, the Catalinas, the Embers, and the Tymes.

    If not, how else do you propose to have a Southern wedding?

  4. Wardrobe of seersucker and flip flops
    To not only be Southern, but to also look Southern, your children must have a collection of seersucker suits/dresses and flip flops. Both of these materials breathe the best, which is a necessity in the hot and dirty south.

    There is some leeway here for girls as a good sandal can take the place of flip flops. Should typically be white, or other light color, and be adorned with flowers or fun insects.

    However, please note there are some exceptions to this rule. For guys, no sandals. None. For girls, the following brands are off limits to be considered Southern: Tevas, Birchenstocks, and Crocs – even they make flip flops.

    This should go without saying, but socks with either seersucker or flip flops is explicitly outlawed. In general, socks in the South are optional – even for work.

  5. A few great expressions
    What makes Paula Dean so lovable, besides the butter, are the expressions, and every Southerner must have a few in their staple. They do not need to make sense, but they need to be understood – know what I’m saying? Southern expressions are generally silly, confusing, and grammatically incorrect, when read outside of a Southern conversation – kind of like athletes’ tweets outside of a sporting event. But you must have them.

    Generally, 5-10 will get you through most every situation in life – and you’ll never be at a loss for words.

As you try to raise Southern children, please note, Southern reality tv is not your barometer. You may not use any of the sayings, dress, or tricks shown on Duck Dynasty, Honey Boo Boo, Swamp Loggers, or any other “Southern” reality show to increase your Southern standing. It must be legit and from you, the parent, not some terd on tv.

So – how are you parents of the South doing in raising our next great Southern generation? Any other necessities I missed? Am I wrong on any?

Even if I were, would your Southern hospitality and manners be allowed to tell me?

Advertisements

I Vow to Never…

What makes the summer Olympics so relatable is the sense that with proper training, dedication, & diet, we too could become a gold medalist. We feel like we could be the best swimmer or diver or speed-walker or marksman.

I get the same feeling every July 4th watching the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest. When I look at Joey Chestnut, or any other competitor, I don’t see any God-given talent: he doesn’t have to run fast or jump high. He just has to eat.

And as the title character in Antwone Fisher said, “I could eat”.

And not only can I eat, I love to eat. I enjoy and appreciate food – it is more than sustenance to me.

But eating for the joy of it and eating competitively are two different things.

I know, because a few years ago I got my shot to go “All in” with a large cheese pizza. But for me, there was no championship belt, prize money, or live tv crew. There were no fancy introductions, special costumes, or announcers.

My shot at the world of competitive eating wasn’t the main attraction; it was only another cheap crowd pleaser at a minor league baseball game. And most people weren’t even paying attention; they were trying to convince the sun to set so the main act could begin: fireworks. Apparently it takes 15-20 minutes to get fireworks ready, and there is no better space filler than people stuffing their faces with Papa Johns.

And I was only selected when I asked the head of entertainment a question about a totally different topic. She kept ignoring my questions, never even looking up from her clipboard. When she was fully exasperated, she glanced up. And what she saw turned her mourning into dancing. Just to make sure, she took a second glance. Looked me up and down, smiled, and told me I was contest #5.

Contestant #5 in tonight’s eating challenge. And that I should meet her after the game to go on the field and participate.

They didn’t even know my name – never asked. I was just one of six guys selected from the crowd. Four of the guys were part of a bachelor party and were too libated to know better. One was a high school athlete with a daily caloric intake similar to Michael Phelps. And there was me.

They gave each of us a leftover Papa John’s pizza from the concession stand and a small cup of water. We were to have 10 minutes to eat the entire pizza. First one finishes, wins. Crust must be eaten to count.

The countdown begins and away we go. The high school kid jumps out to an early lead, followed by the most drunk of the soon to be groomsmen. I am somewhere in the middle.

After the first few minutes, the high school kid begins to fade as do two members of the bachelor party. They ate the crust first and it killed their buzz. They began to realize what they were doing. I am holding steady, tied for second with the third member of the bachelor party. We both trail the fourth member of the bachelor party, who has somehow snuck a beer into the competition.

At the halfway point, it’s down to the beer drinkin’ groomsmen and myself. He has the lead, three friends prodding him on, and a continual buzz. It’s not looking good for me.

Entering the fourth quarter, I’m still trailing. My jaw is wearing out and it hurts to chew. I look over and this guy is still going strong. And he’s washing it down with more beer.

I give it my all, but in the end, I am no match for beer and a bachelor party. Neither one of us finishes the pizza, but he ate more than I did. I make a comment about beer, crust, and rules to the event coordinator, but she doesn’t care. The natives want fireworks and she doesn’t have the stomach to watch anyone else eat more food, so she brushes me off and declares him the winner. He smiles and shouts his dominance. His friends feed him another beer and secretly take his photo.

I head back to the crowd and find my party. They pat me on the back and give me well-wishes. The pats hurt. So do the metal seats. The pain of eating begins to set in and it forces me to lay across the bleachers.

I vow to never eat again.

Then I think of all the foods I could never eat again. That won’t work.

I vow to never eat pizza again. Then I think of the wood fire grilled pizzas and Mellow Mushroom and dessert pizza. That won’t work.

I vow to never eat too much again. Then I think of Thanksgiving and Christmas and buffets and homemade desserts. That won’t work.

I vow to never compete in an eating contest again. Then I think of Man vs Food and how awesome some of the challenges would be. That won’t work.

I vow to never compete in an eating contest against a drunk bachelor party again.

Now that will work.

Ali is NOT the Greatest

When you’re 17, you don’t pay much attention to anything beyond school, money, and the fairer sex. And when the Olympics cruised through Atlanta the summer of my 17th year, nothing else was on the mind, especially during the Opening Ceremonies.

So when Muhammad Ali was tasked with lighting the Olympic Torch, I thought nothing of it. Because that’s not what 17 years old are worried about.

Fast forward four Olympiads and this time I am watching. And somewhere between David Beckham and the actual lighting of the torch, Ali makes another appearance. This time at the behest of the Brits – for his humanitarian work.

And as I saw Ali the question began to brew – at what point did Ali become the face of America? And what exactly did he do to earn that status? And how did I miss the vote?

And am I okay with that?

And what happens to the past?

Some look at Ali and see a hero, a man who fought the regime and stood up for himself and his race. A man who not only talked the talk, but walked the walk. A man who built himself to the highest of highs and captured the hearts of Americans everywhere, black and white.

And some look at Ali and see the humanitarian work he has performed since finishing his boxing career. And others see a tragic figure, slowed now by his mind and Parkinson’s.

And I see those things, for they can’t be missed or ignored. But neither can the remainder of Ali’s past.

You can’t ignore the association with Elijah Muhammad and his radical sect of Islam called the Nation of Islam. If today’s most prominent athlete were to align himself with a radical form of Islam, it would not be lauded, it would be loathed. He would not be celebrated, he would be criticized. And while Ali was criticized for his faith in the 1960’s, it falls far short of the anger he’d face today.

Ali, to his credit, stood up for the black community, especially those in the south. But in actuality, integration was not was he was after. The Nation of Islam taught segregationism, that the races are different, and should not be mixed, just under a different order.

You can’t ignore the defiance of dodging the draft, regardless of your feelings for the war. When your country asks you to go, you go. You may not like it. You may not want to go, but you were asked. And when you’re asked, you respond yes – not no.

And in addition to dodging the draft, his public stance swayed the public opinion of the war, to the tune of those serving being treated with hatred and contempt. It was no longer a civil discourse, but a physical one.

You can’t ignore the infidelity. Ali is currently married to his fourth wife and has nine children: seven to his four wives and two from extra-marital relationships. His third, and potentially fourth wife, were the result of affairs, as were two of his children. And while this has no bearing on his ability to do a job, it doesn’t speak to the image America should be promoting.

You can’t ignore his treatment of his opponents. To be honest, trash talking is a major component of today’s sporting events. You see it at every level and there is little that can, or will, be done to curb it. But during Ali’s time, very little talking was done between teams or opponents.

But Ali’s talking would not be considered trash, but abuse. He vilified his opponents and made statements they were never able to overcome. He characterized Ernie Terrell and Jim Frazier as Uncle Tom’s, monikers they could never chase. In addition to the Uncle Tom comments, he also berated Frazier with racial and physical insults, including rounds of “Ugly” jokes and calling him a gorilla and white man’s champion. He did the same to George Foreman when he implemented the “Rope-a-Dope” as part of the Rumble in the Jungle.

See 2:25 mark:

And most people consider his brash behavior and personality to be what makes him so great, and he did back it up, but the way he carried himself should not be the example we set for ourselves or the world. And just because Parkinson’s has reduced him to a caricature of himself does not make him a hero or deity – and he needs to quit being treated as such.

He should be remembered for his boxing prowess in the ring and controversy out of it. For together they paint the full picture of “The Greatest” boxer of all time. But to forget the controversy and paint him as the symbol of American sports and culture is to gloss over and stuff aside a large part of his past – and the people he hurt along the way.

I, along with many others, am willing to forgive Ali the sins of his past, but I’m not willing to forget them.

And I’m not willing to have him serve as my ambassador to the rest of the world. To me, he is only the greatest boxer, not the greatest American.

Checking in on 40 Before 40

It’s been nearly two months since I’ve mentioned 40 Before 40 and nearly 5 months since I finished the list. And while it may appear not much is happening in the dreams department, nothing could be further from the truth.

I currently own a Ford Explorer, which is still in production, although my version is a few body styles removed from the current vehicle. Does this count? Not really what I was expecting when the dream came about, so it currently stands as no.

And with that said, I still can’t lay claim to completing any of my 40B40 list (like my shortened version?), but I can feel myself getting close. The Tiger Swag is slowly making progress. At its current level, I don’t think it counts as being published, but it may lead to other opportunities. Opportunities like going viral (Tiger Swag was called out on a Gamecock message board), being on radio or tv or podcast (I would consider that a win), or even taking a road trip (press passes, right?).

In better news, I expect to accomplish a few goals this fall. October will be our annual Clemson road trip, which will take us to Winston-Salem, home of Krispy Kreme (emails have already been exchanged). Fall break may contain a trip to DC with the fam, which will certainly include a stop by Busch Gardens. And November will be renamed “No Shave November”, which will be followed by a Floyd the Barber shave.

Other work includes multiple offers for road trips – just need to find the time (and money), minor opportunities to cater an event, negotiations of a hot air balloon ride, research into using my engineering skills to solve problems, and inquiries into hosting a concert.

But more importantly, my list must change. Since I joined Facebook in support of The Tiger Swag, I have actually forever denied myself to accomplish one of my goals. So, rather than rename the list 39 Before 40, I’ve decided to replace Facebook with a new dream.

My new dream – invent something.

I don’t need to be a Di Vinci or Edison or Franklin. I don’t even need to be an Otis (elevator), de Mestral (Velcro), or Judson (zipper). I’d be honored to be like another Powell I know.

Terry Powell – aka Dad. He took used clothes hangers from department stores, sawed off the connector pieces to create his own version of chip clips. I’ve also seen solve many a problem without using the proper tools. Just gettin’ it done any way he can.

Honestly, I’d even settle for an idea. An idea like online police scanners (been done), putting all known leaves in an app so you can recognize vegetation (been done), or packaging crayons based on schools and conferences. Would you want your kids coloring with a Crimson crayon for Harvard or Blue for Yale? I know I would. Heck! I’d have seconds and then polish it off (see the 2:15 mark)…

Unfortunately, Home Depot upped the ante by selling official paint colors of the NCAA.

So, it shall still be called 40 Before 40: 40 goals before turning 40.

And I only have 40 more to go…

It Could Be Worse

At some point each of us must face some pretty harsh truths: Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy – and most adults don’t get summer vacation.

But just because we don’t get the summer off from work doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun. A few years ago, Tanger was in the process of being redeveloped. And with the redevelopment came three new restaurants.

Unfortunately, one of the restaurants (to remain nameless) was forced to have the majority of the construction occur in the heat of the summer.

On one Al Gore type summer day, the foreman, who I’d gotten to know quite well, called to ask a few questions. It was just after lunch and the heat was clearly taking a toll. He was short of breath and I could hear him wiping his brow.

When I answered, he started with “Holy S%#^, it’s hot out here!” Followed by further gasps for air and the sounds of him chugging water.

My response: “Really? It’s a lovely 74 degrees here, with a slight breeze. Matter of fact, I was a little chilly earlier and had to put on a sweater.”

His response: “Willy – F%#^ YOU!”

Once I stopped laughing, I helped him out and we both went our merry ways.

The moral of the story is this – just because you don’t get a vacation, doesn’t mean you should pity yourself. It could be worse: you could be laboring in the summer sun only to have some smartass in an air conditioned office giving you some lip.

The Hottest I’ve Ever Been – Part III

Occasionally, a group of us guys get together, sans wife and kids, to have a chance to hang out, unwind, and do manly things. These “Guys Nights”, or “Sausage Fests”, include such manly things as drinking beer and playing pool, or playing high stakes putt-putt where the loser buys dinner, or eating wings and catching a non-chick flick.

One time, and one time only, we headed south to Savannah to do one of the manliest things a bunch of married guys can do – go dirt track racing.

The night was started by stuffing our faces with fried chicken and pre-hydrating on Coke. We arrived at Oglethorpe Speedway around 7:00, giving us an hour or so to pick out which cars we were going to claim – and to bake in the evening sun.

After about 45 minutes of pre-race strategy, the massive combination of greasy food and Coke decided it didn’t appreciate the sun and heat. Having spent some time at race tracks growing up, I realized this was a problem I did not want to “address” here. If I could just outlast the sun, I would be good.

Unfortunately, the sun still had a good 30 minutes left before it parted ways with us for the night. I wasn’t going to make it 30 minutes.

Now I was sweating for two reasons, the latter almost like cold chills.

This wasn’t getting any better – and we hadn’t even started racing yet. And we are an hour from home. And I’m not the first stop.

It was time to man up, and as they say in Men at Work, “Do the nasty”:

At this point, I refer you to Shakespeare:

“The better part of valor is discretion” from Henry the Fourth

Continue reading at your own peril… Continue reading

The Hottest I’ve Ever Been – Part II

August 30, 2003, Clemson, South Carolina

Clemson was opening the 2003 football season by hosting Georgia for a noon game. The previous year, Clemson took UGA down to the wire in Athens, and expectations were high.

The first football game is always the most exciting. We were pumped as we headed from Waterloo to the Promised Land. Everything was going just as planned until we hit Anderson. At that point, 20,000 Clemson fans met 20,000 UGA fans.

Traffic stopped. Temperatures were high. Tempers were higher.

We finally made our parking space 15 minutes before kickoff. We literally ran from the car to the stadium. We were then stuck in the concourse waiting to get to our seat. It’s hot. It’s sticky. It’s smelly.

We finally make our seats just as the Tigers are coming down the hill. They were pumped. We were pumped. The crowd was pumped.

All 80,000+ fans were jumping up and down. It was downright sweltering in there.

But we didn’t care. Football was back and we were playing the silver britches.

Then the second most beautiful play-action pass I’ve ever seen occurred (see Chris Weinke vs Clemson). David Green faked, Justin Miller bit, Fred Gibson scored.

UGA 7 – Clemson 0

Unfortunately, the temperatures continued to climb. So did Georgia’s side of the scoreboard.

The afternoon sun never relented. Neither did Georgia’s defense.

Final score: UGA 30 – Clemson 0

At the end of the day, we were sweat soaked and sun burnt. And humiliated.

That day will not set any temperature records as there were many days as hot or even hotter, but to me, that was the most miserable football game I’ve ever been to. Add in the traffic before the game, the shut out, and the fact that’s it at home to your rival, and it all points to the hottest I’ve ever been.