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Rented Mule

To the lady sitting behind me at the theatre festival:

I love High School Musical probably more than a 47-year old straight man should, but you, ma’am, have set the bar higher than I thought possible.

First, I want to compliment you on your lung capacity and power. The shrillness of your screams at the end of every song inspired me to duck for cover instead of applaud. I enjoy exercising my 2nd amendment rights and, although I wear hearing protection, it’s inevitable that I fire off a round or two without my ear plugs in. It’s pretty loud. Ma’am, you are infinitely louder than a 9 mm round being fired from my Sig Sauer. Kudos to your lungs. 

But as impressive as that is, it doesn’t hold a candle to your arm strength. When I saw a pom-pom in your hand prior to the show beginning, I didn’t realize you were holding the object of my future nightmares.

You worked that cheer accessory with passion unseen in modern history. The repeated pummeling to the back of my head quickly accelerated my hair loss. I stopped by Marshall Medical on my way home to ensure my pom-pom inflicted concussion won’t have lasting effects.

Lady, you beat me like a rented mule, like the proverbial red-headed step-child, like a drum, like wholesale carpet, like…  I’ll stop.  You get the idea.
I don’t know who your trainer is, but they deserve a medal!

You are truly a fan among fans!

We’re all in this together!

Go Wildcats!

Chris

 

Admit One

Friday nights were magical.  Around the age of eight, my mom would drop me off at our town square with $5 and a promise to pick me up in 2 hours. It was not the age of child abductions to be sure.

I would walk to the window and buy my ticket, sometimes with a cousin or two, but more often without. The posters would tell of next weeks feature but the future held none of my interest, only that moment.

Walking into the Martin Theater, my ticket would be torn and the stub handed back to me, stuffed into my pocket.  There were no names or coupons on the tickets in the mid-seventies, only the generic Admit One.  I would walk to the concession counter, ask for a large suicide and box of Raisinets.

Having only one screen, the only choices were to see the movie or not. I begged my mom’s younger brother to come to accompany me to see Rattlers because I was  afraid to watch it by myself.  Lucky for me, he wanted to see it too. A few minutes into the movie, my feet propped themselves up against the seat in front of me, #becausesnakes.  The usher came by and warned me put my feet down.  A few minutes later, he told me he would remove me from the theater if it happened a third time.  The snakes slithered around my ankles the rest of the movie and I was miserable and it was AWESOME…my first horror movie!

Several months later, Grizzly was playing, and once again, I called upon my uncle to accompany me. I don’t remember much of the plot line, but when the giant bear slapped the horses head clean off, the memory permanently fused some of my neurons together, only to be further imbedded in my mind the following, because it was played a second run.

In May of 1977, a movie called Star Wars (you may have heard of it) was playing. I had not seen anything about it, but that was normally the case.  You rolled the dice every Friday and sometimes ended up with Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.  Not that week.

Even watching Star Wars now, with its antiquated special effects, I’m instantly sitting back in that cool theater with the golden “prop-not-your-feet-upon-these-treasured-seats” watching two hours of science fiction heaven.

Four times I watched it.  It played for a month and I saw it every Friday and almost cried the week it was replaced. That 28-day run was the longest of any movie at the original, one-screen theater before it closed and the Martin Triple opened a few miles away.

Jaws kept me out of the ocean for 2 years and after a legitimate shark bite 3 years ago, I’m retiring my swim fins and goggles. Superman inspired me to save the world, even if I had to make the planet spin backwards. Halloween taught me it’s possible to watch a movie with my eyes shut. George Burns demonstrated God’s sense of humor.

Before it was the Martin, it was the Ritz, and it has since reopened as a music venue, taking on it’s historic Ritz name. But sadly, the Martin Triple is closed, leaving the people of my hometown without a place to hatch their own movie memories.

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The Pier

The memory of the wooden pier has grown dim.  The gray planks that I walked across almost daily for 5 years of my life could tell hundreds of stories of teenage joy and angst. My mind gets older and the details are fading.

On a crumbling paved road in Talladega County, my mom and step-dad built a house on Logan-Martin Lake when I was twelve years old. To help contain my excitement, I refused to go see the progress until we were only weeks from moving in. It was worth the wait.

Like most boys teetering between child and man, I loved swimming and fishing. With my “help” (I use that term loosely), my step-dad built a pier that stretched twenty feet into the water. The creosote from the support posts left 2nd degree burns on my skin, but the pain faded with time.  Even though the water was down to it’s winter level, I walked out on the pier every morning before leaving for school, willing the water level to rise.

And rise it did.  After the spring rains, the water level submerged MY pier 2 feet under water.  I’m sure I understood what Noah felt like as I would daily walk to the water’s edge, praying to catch a glimpse of dry wood.

By early May, the waters would recede and I would grab my fishing gear and make the 30 yard walk with my Irish Setter, Zeke.  He would sit with coiled enthusiasm until I’d pull out a catfish or bream. It was his greatest joy to dance around with my freshly caught prize in his mouth.  More than once, I had to remove a hook from his lip as well as the fish’s.

I buried Zeke as close to the pier as I could when he died my senior year of high school.

One spring Saturday, after the water had gone down, we noticed a foul stench in the air. My step-dad and I went to investigate and as we got closer to the end of the slough, the smell became almost overpowering.  Then we saw it.

A very dead, very bloated cow.

As I was emptying my breakfast on the ground, he yelled for me to get back.  I looked over to where he was running from and saw several Water Moccasins coming out of the carcass.  Dry heaving and running are NOT a good combination.  That’s the one memory I would be fine with losing.

We returned with lighter fluid and matches.  He was able to stand at a safe distance and squirt almost the entire container over the body, forming a liquid trail to his perch.  He lit a match and I watched as flames slowly consumed the dead bovine.  I thought it might smell like a cookout.  My thinking was flawed.  He returned a few more times over the next week to continue the process.  I didn’t have the stomach to accompany him.

My love of the night sky was born on that pier.  At sunset, I would grab a sleeping bag and lay on top of it and watch the sky fade as the stars and planets would gradually come into view. I’d tell myself I wouldn’t go inside until I saw a shooting star, and then just more.  And another two more.  Without the lights of the city or close neighbors, it was almost too easy some nights.  And covered with dew, I’d reluctantly make my way back inside.

The house was sold shortly after I graduated high-school.

I drove by the house after my mom passed and the memories were so thick I couldn’t see the road to drive.  There were new houses but none of the names I remember on the mailboxes. As much as I wanted to knock on the door and ask if I could walk down to MY pier (it’s still there), I couldn’t muster the same courage that Miranda Lambert has in her song The House That Build Me.

“And I bet you didn’t know under that live oak
my favorite dog is buried in the yard.”

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Return of the Awkward

It was decided, through the process of my own apathy, to let my other blog page expire, losing 2 years of writing in the process.  Some of my older, less refined thoughts are still captured, like a box of memories stuffed in a closet that you look through every two years.  I’m leaving them for you to shuffle through (if you dare).

I’ve missed writing. Not the daily “Notes” I post, but the REAL writing where I can explore the creative valleys and peaks that I can see from a distance, but never dared traverse for fear of what I might find.

At least a dozen times daily, that internal alarm sounds, reminding me that this life is temporary and I’d best get off my ass and do something to express myself with the moments that remain. If not, the consequences are liable to become dangerous.

Failure is temporary, but regret is down-right ugly.

Welcome back, Chris.

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Who Made Who?

“Video games she play me
Face it on the level but it take you every time on a one on one
Feel it runnin’ down your spine
Nothin’ gonna save your one last dime
’cause it own you
Through and through”

In 1986, Stephen King adapted his short story, Trucks, into a B grade movie called Maximum Overdrive. It only rated 2 1/2 out of 5 star and it was one of the 7,000 movies Emilio Estevez starred in during the great 80’s.  Although it didn’t get great ratings, I loved it.  SPOILER ALERT:  How cool would it be to fight all our motorized and electric appliances that had been possessed by aliens?  It would make the zombie apocalypse look like a day at the spa.  What was even better than the movie was the hard rockin’ sound of AC/DC belting out a killer soundtrack.  Ahhh…the ’80s!  (I do NOT miss them…maybe the hair…)

IMDB labels the movie as American action-disaster-horror-science fiction film.  Note the word “FICTION”

“The data bank know my number
Says I gotta pay
’cause I made the grade last year
Feel it when I turn the screw
Kick you round the world
There ain’t a thing that it can’t do
Do to you, yeah”

I was at lunch yesterday with my step-son (after church boys day out), and was in the middle of sending a text to my daughter when our food arrived.  I said “just a sec” and kept on pecking away.  He cleared his throat, once, twice, then asked me politely to look at him.  He was waiting to say the blessing.  WOW…did I feel like a horses behind!  So I put my phone on airplane mode (easier that cycling off and on), and we prayed.  I spent the rest of lunch fully engaged with him and we laughed and cut up.  All my kids are AWESOME!

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As we left the restaurant, I really looked around.  It amazed me at the number of people with their heads down, completely absorbed in their smart phones.  Entire families were heads down stumbling through the shopping plaza.  

“Who made who, who made you
Who made who
Ain’t nobody told you
Who made who, who made you
If you made them and they made you
Who pick up the bill and who made who
Who made who
Who turned the screw
Yeah”

 

It’s not fiction, people.  Technology now OWNS us.  We really have built our own “prisons of the mind”.  Technology is a fabulous thing that was suppose to make our lives better. (I’m still waiting on the hover car).  Instead we’ve become a slave to convenience.  I’m the first one to admit I’m guilty of this.  Saturday night, I’m watching a movie with my wife, and I keep refreshing ESPN.com on my phone to get the latest score.  I “sacrificed” football to watch a movie with her, but did I really sacrifice?  

I’m carrying my phone in my hand 18 hours a day to make sure I don’t miss an email from my boss.  I can’t even have lunch with a 10 year old, uninterrupted by the call of instant access to everyone and EVERYTHING!

The question is, what do we do about it?

“Satellite send me picture
Get it in the eye
Take it to the wire
Spinnin’ like a dynamo
Feel it goin’ round and round
Runnin’ outta chips
You got no line in an eight bit town
So don’t look down, no”

It’s easy to say, just unplug!  It’s like telling an overweight person, just eat less, or an alcoholic, don’t drink any more.  It’s not simple.  The demon was insidious, slowly creeping on us over the last few years.  Invasion of the Body Snatchers has NOTHING on iOS!   If I even forget my phone, even for a quick run to the store to get gas for the mower, I get twitchy and start feeling phantom vibrations on my hip.  When I do a training run, I do it with my phone in my hand.  It’s flat out an addiction.  

“Who made who, who made you
Who made who
Ain’t nobody told you
Who made who, who made you
If you made them and they made you
Who pick up the bill and who made who
Ain’t nobody told you
Who made who
Who made you
Who made who
Who made who
Yeah
Nobody told you”

Getting emails 24/7 was suppose to HELP us, not dominate us.   And it’s getting worse.  Now we have smart glasses and smart watches.  Pretty soon I’ll be getting a pair of smart underwear with 25 distinctive notification sounds.  

My generation remembers a life without “smart” technology.  I got my first computer as a senior in high school…TRASH 80.  (who remembers that one?).  But my kids have never known a life without being connected to the information grid.  They’ve never touched an encyclopedia.  

But I have hope.

I asked my lunch partner yesterday, who has more than his share of gadgets, how he is able to avoid the temptation of his games while we are out.

He said he loves spending time with me more than playing Minecraft.  Ouch!

I think I’ll just take a(nother) lesson from a 10 year old.  

 

*Lyrics from AC/DC “Who Made Who” – Writer(s): Brian Johnson, Malcolm Mitchell Young, Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Angus Mckinnon Young

Copyright: J Albert And Son Pty Ltd.