For the new year: a list of some of the things that are making life awesome right now.
The Bitter Southerner: Every Tuesday this glorious publication comes out with another story about the cool things people are doing in the south. You can read about their mission of bringing great stories about the modern south and it's inhabitants here.
Two of my favorites are Acadian Azaleas, about southerners predilection to taking photos in front of azalea bushes, and the story of Atlanta rapper/barbershop owner Killer Mike.
Podcasts and Audio Books: I'm kind of obsessed with both of these things right now. Favorite podcasts are The Dawgcast, a very entertaining look at Georgia football by two fans. Serial, which of course everyone is obsessed with nowadays and Gravy, a podcast by the Southern Foodways Alliance which focuses on stories of the south through the food we eat.
I'm also completely obsessed with the Audible app. Mostly because it allows me to "read" like 4 books at a time while driving, washing dishes, folding laundry, and writing blog posts.
Cheers and Happy New Year!!
One of my Alma Maters has a very "to the point" motto: For God, For Country and for Yale. While I can totally get behind this, every fall I'm reminded of the south's unofficial motto of "God, Country, Family and Football, but not necessarily in that order." It's football season y'all and once again, I'm all in. . . and completely alone out here on the west coast when it comes to understanding the need to schedule my life around Georgia games.
While I love living in California, have an amazing job, amazing friends, and no plans to leave this enchanted place in which I live; every fall I would give anything to be able to see some live southern college football. How did I get this way you ask? Well, when you consider my past, it's really no wonder. I'm mean really, when you're in marching band from 9th grade to your senior year of college, how can you not become a fan of football?
My parents were never big college football fans. I don't come from a long line of worshipers at the alters of Danny Ford or Vince Dooley as many of my friends do. But from about the age of 5 to age 22, my life centered around high school and college football every fall. I grew up in Clemson, SC from the mid 70's until I went to college in 1991. Many of the fond memories of my childhood center around Clemson football. They won a national championship when I was 7. I remember (I'm not sure where) sitting in William "Refrigerator" Perry's lap at age 7, diligently trying to explain the difference between treble clef and bass clef to him. (He was in my dad's music appreciation class at the time.) I remember getting tempura paint from Mr. Knickerbocker's or Judge Keller's and roaming the tailgates at home games, painting tiger paws on peoples faces to earn enough money to by a ticket to go the the game. In high school/college my dad helped me get a job as a tutor in the athletic department where I tutored Clemson football and basketball players in music appreciation. I remember attending the 1990 Georgia vs. Clemson game my senior year of high school, standing at the top of the upper deck when Clemson beat Georgia and feeling the entire stadium rock, not knowing at the time that I would end up attending the University of Georgia the next fall and swiftly changing allegiances.
In 1991 I went to the University of Georgia for undergrad, and promptly joined the Redcoat Marching Band. This university quickly became "home", the people very quickly became "family", and the primal belief (fact) that all things Georgia are Godly and good, and all things Florida are evil incarnate quickly became "religion". These aspects of southern college football are a real and palatable thing. I can't tell you how many times I've been in a random airport, or even another country wearing a Georgia shirt and someone came up to me, shook my hand, and greeted me with a hearty "Go Dawgs!" I've even had fans of rival teams come up to me in airports, or the streets of San Francisco, shake my hand and respond with "Roll Tide", "Hoddy Toddy", and in one delusional fan's case - "Anchor Down". These greetings are the football fans way of saying "Howdy, fellow football fan, I acknowledge your passion, but hope we will beat your ass to the ground in our next meeting on the battlefield."
So with a couple of weeks behind us, the two teams I have rooted for for most of my life have both had a glorious win, and a heartbreaking loss. And so it goes. . . Go Tigers! (except when you play Georgia) and most of all Go Dawgs!!
It’s when I left the south that I realized how naïve people are about it, sometimes exposing in themselves their own prejudices. It’s not uncommon for someone to make the following comments after I tell them where I am from: “I bet you are really glad you got out of there”, or “what the hell is wrong with everybody down there?” – this is usually in reference to some crazy politician. Just remember San Francisco, South Carolina may have Nikki Haley, but we have Leeland Yee. I even had a well-educated Californian ask me how it is that I got into Yale being from there.
(An aside: I just attended my nieces high school graduation - the same high school I graduated from. Her senior class of barely 200 students has over $9.8 million in college scholarships.)
At any rate, I just spent a week back home and it has prompted me to set a few things straight. I live in California and I love it, but I also love the south. I am not naïve about its history, nor am I naïve about the fact that some people in the south still need to get their heads out of their collective asses, but it is a beautiful place, with great people and amazing traditions.
Here are just a few things that I love. . .
That’s all for now.
Oh, and "It's great to be a Gator Hater"
Every family has it's triumphs and tragedies. Mine, in my opinion, has had more than its fair share of the latter. But there is also plenty to be thankful for, and that is where the choice lies: the age old question about the glass and the level of its contents.
With graduation season in full swing there are a lot of posts featuring inspirational speeches by one dignitary or another. I watched a YouTube video of Naval Admiral William H. McRaven giving the commencement speech at the University of Texas. He offers the graduates a list of life lessons he learned while in Basic Seal Training. While all of it is fantastic advice it's the last bit of advice that stuck with me.
You see, in the last several years me and my siblings have lost a father and another set of "second parents", all to fairly horrible medical issues and all of them a long road to the end. Then, over the last year I have probably spent a total of two months helping my mother go through the process of getting a lung transplant. (More on this later as it may take up multiple blog posts) That's just my immediate family, and just the last several years. If I include my extended family, the list is both spectacular and daunting:
At the end of Admiral McRaven's speech he references "the bell". A brass bell that stands in the center of the compound at navy seal training camp. You may remember this bell from the movie G. I. Jane. The bell is placed there as a way out, a way to end all the suffering and get you out of there. In short, it's there for those that want to quit. His advice to graduates is "If you want to change the world, don't ever ever ring the bell."
Now, my family is not out to change the world or anything, but we have certainly been blessed with a stand up and fight attitude when it comes to dealing with the crap that gets thrown our way. I can proudly say that I can't think of a single person in my family that has "wrung the bell". It's not who we are. Not because we haven't thought about it, but because we have made the choice to keep going, to fight the battle until the bitter end, to walk past the proverbial bell and not even recognize its presence.
I'm proud of us, the ones who've been diagnosed, and the ones who have cared for them. It's not something everyone does well.
All that said, we could seriously use a break . . .
I am a musician, teacher, non-profit program director, transplanted southerner, cancer survivor and college football fan. And will probably write about all of it.