Cardboard Time Machine

Have you ever stopped to think about how memories work?  Of course, as I get older, the memories get fuzzier and harder to recount.  But there are some that remain vivid and when I stop and focus on them, I can almost place myself in the exact moment in time.  I think about this a lot because I have a 10 year old daughter that is starting to really enjoy a lot of new things.  She reminds me so much of me as a kid.  She loves watching those teen Nickelodeon shows, making slime, playing video games on her iPad and even collecting sports cards.  I was wondering just the other day how much from this age she would actually remember and it immediately took me back to my youth and what I remember.  She may not be able to retain it all but I certainly hope she remembers the role I played in trying to create them with her.

When we went to Disney in April, she rode Space Mountain for the first time and as we stood in the line, I could totally remember the feeling of wonderment I had going through that futuristic environment to ride an indoor roller coaster at 10.  When these moments arise, I always make sure she understands what’s going on around her. I point things out, I ask her what she thinks and I get her to recount the event to her mom or sister so she’ll take it all in and let it soak in.  In today’s fast paced world, it is hard to stop and focus on something that is really meaningful; we have phones in our face, Twitter spilling news everywhere and fidget spinners taking the world by storm.   We are constantly chasing the next exciting thing.  That’s sort of how modern day collecting has become.

Collecting sports cards doesn’t have to be that way.  I can sit down with a stack of cards and show my daughter various memorable players and share memories of my youth with her.  The cards are more to me than a value in Beckett or a dollar sign on eBay.  Do they have those meanings as well sometimes?  Sure, but it’s not why I do it now.   It’s why I did it in 1989 but I’ve evolved over the years into more of a collector than a cardboard entrepreneur.   Cards don’t just take me back to a specific player or baseball moment.  These old collectibles take me back to the year they are from and I remember the world around me at the time and what I had going on in my life.  Let me see if I can explain a little better with a few cards.

1987This time period was just before I started collecting but I have since gone back and bought tons and tons of ’87 cards for my collection.  Topps that year remains one of the most iconic designs in sports cards and I had more woodgrain in my collection than Ford did in the station wagon.  But when I look through these cards, it doesn’t take me back to actual sports cards memories.  At age 10, I was totally engulfed in baseball.  I was cutting my teeth in little league baseball at Centennial Stadium and watching it as much as possible.   I remember Jason Lee having the hardest fastball and always being thankful that my Uncle Speedy drafted him to be on our team.  I remember always wanting to hit a homerun into the O’San parking lot but never being able to.  I remember playing wiffle ball with the neighbors and watching my uncle Greg play with the big boys.

I also watched a lot of baseball on TV.  In 1987, I was blessed with two TV stations that played baseball every day.  We didn’t have MLB Season Pass “back in my day”; we had 2 channels.  One station was TBS, the home of the Atlanta Braves, America’s Team and my local guys.  We would watch Dale Murphy, Ken Oberkfell, Bob Horner and Gerald Perry every night even though they weren’t very good.  Skip Carey, Pete Van Wieren and Ernie Johnson were soothing to the ears and made me long for the baseball field.  The other station was WGN out of Chicago.  The great thing about Cubs baseball in 1987 was that most every game was played in the afternoon because Wrigley field didn’t have lights until late summer 1988.  I would get home from school around 3:30 and a Cubs game would be on and I would get to here Harry Carey and Steve Stone call the game.   The Cubs weren’t very good in ’87 either.  The Braves finished 20.5 games out of first and the Cubbies were 18.5 games out.  But at the age of 10, watching baseball was more important than watching the standings.   And the Cubs had Ryno, Andre Dawson and Shawon Dunston who were all fun to watch!

1988Believe it or not, the first thing I think of when I see 1988 baseball cards is pro wrestling.  That aforementioned TV station, TBS, had a show on Saturday nights called WCW Saturday Night!   I can’t get into today’s wrestling because it is so overproduced and the storylines are all so outlandish.  The storylines were probably the same in 1988 but I was 11 so I thought they were legit.  Also, WCW “rasslin” was way different than today’s WWE wrestling.   These guys got nasty in the ring and they would bleed and poke eyeballs and kick below the belt.  It was more about what happened inside the ring as opposed to the lead up and fall out after what happened in the ring.  And there is also no better ringside announcer for me than Tony Schiavone!

The wrestlers were so much better back then as well.  We had names like Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Arn and Ollie Anderson, Barry Windham, The Road Warriors and The Midnight Express.  There were hateable managers like Jim Cornett and Paul E. Dangerously.  There were vixens like Miss Elizabeth, Madusa, Missy Hyatt and Georgous George.  A new face had joined WCW with Sting and he is an all-time favorite, along with The Nature Boy.   So yeah, it may be odd but 1988 Score takes me back to Jim Cornette and his tennis racket and wanting Hawk and Animal to demolish the Midnight Express.  I didn’t realize until a recent Beckett podcast that Cornette is doing his own podcast now.  He was such a heel but is such a legend at the same time!

1989I have a lot of baseball card memories from 1989 but I also have other memories that are tied to when I started collecting.  One person I always think of when I am looking through my original ’89 Donruss and Bowman is my late friend, Josh Haire.  Josh and I became friends in Middle School and were best friends until late in high school when we had a falling out that I regrettably was never able to reconcile before he passed away far too soon.  But back in 1989, we were two peas in a pod.  We would spend the night at each other’s house on the weekend and watch movies, trade baseball cards and fish at his pond.  He had a ton of Bowman and I had a ton of Donruss so we would trade with each other to try and help build the sets.

There are some very vivid memories I have of my time with Josh and I will always hold on to them.  It was at his house on a scary Friday night that we played “Bloody Mary” for the first time.  His step dad was the “Voice of the Eagles”; our high school football team that won state in ’89 so we were at all the games and got to sit in the radio booth for many of them.   I learned how to play records at the radio station he DJ’d at on Saturdays.  I watched “The Lost Boys” behind my parents back at Josh’s in the attic bedroom he had.   I wasn’t supposed to watch horror movies at 12 but we watched that one!  He had a couple of Doberman’s that were as gentle as could be but still made me very nervous when I was alone with them.  Josh was a great friend during childhood and I will always remember the good times we spent together.  I also look back on the days we were immature and not so good friends to each other with regret and remorse.  But when I look at cards from ’89, it’s only good memories.

1990I was introduced to the second best video game ever in 1990, RBI Baseball 3.  It is close to Tecmo Super Bowl but nothing can ever top that sports classic.  I got my start in 1986 with RBI 1 at my Uncle Speedy’s house.  Unc was a great ball player and was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals but his quest to make it to the majors was derailed by Vietnam.  He even knew a couple of the players on RBI 1.  Our area baseball all-star teams were loaded in the mid 60’s from my understanding as my dad and Uncle Speedy both played on teams with Ray Knight and Harry Spielman.   And to hear the legend, my Uncle Speedy was the best player out of all of them.  He was a SS and I do remember seeing him play softball in his 30’s and he was as smooth as Ozzie Smith.   Who knows, the Cards may have never traded for Ozzie if Unc had stayed on the baseball path.  History as we know it could have been altered!

By 1990, we had moved on from kid games and RBI 3 was what you would routinely find us playing.  It had all of the major league teams at the time and even included the division champs from ’83-’89.  I liked playing with the ’87 Tigers and taking out the Twins but that was more for personal reasons.   My favorite two teams on the game were the ’89 A’s and the ’90 Reds.  I loved Eric Davis and Barry Larkin.  But I also loved Chris Sabo or “Beebo” as we called him for some strange reason.  We would even keep season long stats in a notebook and I drove one of my friends crazy because I would steal bases with Beebo.  He would famously remark one day, “I’ll outrun Beebo backwards!”   I remember that because we would record ourselves on cassette tape while playing the games and then go back and listen to the radio gold.  To this day, I strongly feel that Chris Sabo is one of the most underrated baseball players in major league history.

1991I was on my way to being a trading ace by 1991 and was moving all of my non-favorites for Frank Thomas and Robin Ventura and Ken Griffey Jr.  I was only 2 years away from pulling off the awesome (at the time) move of those Igor ’92 Bowman rookies for the Griffey Jr. forgery discussed Here.  But any reminder from 1991 takes me back to the Buffalo Bills.  I know what you’re thinking – Why does a South Ga 14 year old care about the Buffalo Bills?  Three words – Tecmo Super Bowl.  When this game came out, I latched on to the Bills and have really been a closet fan ever since.   I suffered through 4 Super Bowl loses as much as anybody could outside of the state of New York.   I loved Thurman Thomas, Jim Kelley, Andre Reed, Nate Odomes, Cornelius Bennett, Bruce Smith, Don Beebe, Daryl Talley and Steve Tasker.

I went to a post-church youth Super Bowl party every year being the guy that was pulling hard for the Bills.  Every one of those parties ended in disappointment.  The one I especially remember was the loss to the Cowboys because there were a ton of Cowboys fans at this shindig.  Buff was never able to get over the hump but I was consumed with Bills football in 1991.   Remember, the Falcons were not very good at the time.  I pulled for them as my home team but aside from Deion, Tuggle and Rison, there wasn’t much happening by means of stardom.  My heart was broken earlier this year when the Falcons lost in the SB but it really took me back to how I felt each time the Bills lost in the early 90’s.   I know that’s probably crazy to some of you but I can tell you that I will be cheering for Buffalo when they make it back to a Super Bowl, unless they are playing my Falcons.

You see, there are other reasons for me to continue to collect that outweigh trying to get rich.   Besides, I tried that with Gregg Jefferies, Eric Anthony and Kevin Maas and it didn’t pan out.  So when you see me post a review of 1988 Score, don’t think that I’ve lost my mind or that I’m trapped in the junk wax era.  Sometimes, I just want to take a trip down memory lane.  For me, the best (and most fun) way to do that is to go through old sports cards.  The images conjure up the old days for me.  They take me out of the here and now and sit me down in my old bedroom with the Jordan poster and the nerf hoop and the Nintendo.   My stress melts away, if only for a short time.  They are a time machine and I will cherish the junk wax as much as National Treasures for the rest of my days for these very reasons.  I hope that Bailey has something that she can use as a memory inducer when she’s 40 and I’m long gone.  Maybe it will be the cards.  She asks me regularly who is going to get my cards when I’m old and the answer is always, “You, Bailey.”

J-Dub

Meet The Collector – Kin Kinsley

This next installment of “Meet the Collector” is a special one for me.  He may not realize it but he’s the reason I’m on Twitter now with my blog and card collecting.  I have been on Twitter for 5 years or so with a personal account and just messed around with sports news and a couple of friends and never knew this hobby world existed on the site.  Then one day, my “Gems of the Junk Wax Era” was seen and he commented on it and I started following him.  The next thing I know, I was on his blog roll and he was helping me spread the word by sharing my posts.  It wasn’t long before I created a whole new Twitter feed strictly dedicated to blogging and my card collecting.  I still have my personal Twitter but most of my followers there aren’t exactly clamoring for my next Sports Card post.  I have about 250 followers in 5 years on my personal account and am nearing 1,000 on @dubmentality in less than 4 months.  And I wouldn’t be doing this if it hadn’t been for Kin Kinsley with @beansbcardblog!

The first thing that made me realize I was following the right person was the avatar of Bo Jackson with the shoulder pads and baseball bat.  I knew that this was my kind of guy.  I now kind of feel like we are actual friends and I’ve begun to learn more about him and his collection.  I knew some of his answers when they came back to me but there is still a lot about Kin that I learned from the short questionnaire.  I’m sure you have seen him on Twitter and if you have a blog, you may even be on his blog roll like me.  He is so good at spreading the word about the hobby and bloggers that you may not know that he has his own personal blog at ifeellikeacollectoragain.blogspot.com.  He does and you need to go check it out.  And package up some Gypsy Queen and send them his way.  I have a stack going now.Kin started collecting in 1987.  For Christmas, his uncle gave him a hand collated 1986 Topps set.  That must have been a sweet gift that Christmas.  That kick started his collecting and he was playing baseball and loving sports thereafter.  In an unfortunate turn of events, the set was lost in a house fire at his father’s house 3 years ago.  Nothing can replace items lost in a house fire but Kin did start hand collating another set and has compiled it through some boxes and help from fellow bloggers.  This community is pretty awesome and it’s because of people like Kin Kinsley.  While he is active on ePack (user ID kin.kinsley) trading hockey cards, he has otherwise turned away from modern card collecting.  He said he is “over the card lottery, buying boxes hoping for the latest shiny hit.”  He plans to get rid of his modern cards but will hang on to WVU related, Chicago Blackhawks and other random items.He has changed his collecting focus a few times in the last couple of years but he says he has settled in at this point.  He casually collects T206 cards and vintage Indy 500 related cards.  These include ex 1911 Auto Drivers (aka T36), 1954 Stark & Wetzel Indy Winners, 1960 Parkhurst Hawes Wax Indy and 1960’s Marhoefer sets.  The only vintage set he has ever owned is the 1960 Parkhurst /Indy 500 Winners set, making it one of his favorite sets.  He had planned for it to be a long term project that he would piece together.  But about a year ago, on eBay, he stumbled upon a set that had 10 minutes to go that was at an amazing price and he won it.  While he has seen another set listed at $600 a few times, he said he wound up buying this one A LOT cheaper.  He still looks for singles to upgrade the set and put additional sets together.  One Indy card he is still looking for is a 1962 Marhoefer A.J. Foyt.Other than the Parkhurst set, he has the 1987 Topps and Donruss sets listed as favorites because those were the first sets he put together.  Those are both classic sets and Topps is one of the most iconic of all time.  He is also partial to WVU items because he grew up in Morgantown and graduated from THE West Virginia University.  He doesn’t necessarily look for them in their pro uni’s but still likes to add them if they are wearing the blue and old gold of the Mountaineers.  He’s all about the Mountaineers!  He has also been a Blackhawks fan since he was a teen.  There is even a rumored senior photo floating around with Kin donning the Starter Blackhawks sweater.  I think this should be revealed to the world and let us take a long look at that gem.  Since moving to Fort Worth three years ago, he has also become a Stars fan.  He admits though that he has lost interest in pro baseball, football and basketball.  He’s down to following college football, hockey and IndyCar racing and he’s noticed interest waning in the first two lately.I asked Kin about what his favorite pieces were in his collection.  The 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken was one he pulled himself and a 1980 Rickey Henderson rookie was the first “big” card his parents bought him.  Those two have a lot of sentimental value in the collection.  Some others that he mentions are an Andrew Shawn Canvas Young Gun (pulled from a pack); a second one that he had signed, authenticated and graded; his Dale Murphy autographs and a 1955 Bowman Frank Gatskis.  There are four vintage cards that he would still love to add to his collection; a 1950 Topps Felt Back Pete Zinaich (both the yellow and the brown versions), a 1952 Bowman Large Joe Stydahar and the 1962 Foyt mentioned above.

I paid close attention to Kin’s answer to my question about what he liked most and disliked most about the hobby.  I respect Kin’s opinion on the hobby because he is a true collector in my eyes.  He doesn’t follow the trends or jump on the hot sets.  He collects for him!  What he likes most is the information and items available now because of the digital age.  While some of the things he collects (specifically the T36 cards) are still difficult to find, it’s a lot easier than it would have been in 1987.  As for his dislike, I’m right with him on this.  He is not a fan of the greedy collector.  He’s including Pack searchers, shady collectors and people who only care about the newest, shiniest, and highest priced hit.  While it rubs him the wrong way, he tries to ignore them as best as he can.

This leads perfectly to his advice for the young or new collector.  “Just have fun and collect what you want.  Don’t worry about what it’s worth.  Look at buying cards like buying anything else.  Once the money is spent, it’s gone.  Having an expectation of “getting money back” is setting you up for disappointment.”  I wish someone had given me that advice a few years ago.  I chased that rabbit down the hole at one time and it was crushing 98% of the time and fun 2% of the time.  There is a reason those “hits” are hard to pull.  I will echo Kin on this wholeheartedly.  Collect for you.  Collect ’88 Donruss if that is what you like.  Buy a box of ’91 Fleer like I did a few weeks ago.  Just have fun with it!

Thank you Kin!  Thank you for participating in this series.  Thank you for sharing my blog and promoting the hobby the way you do.  Thank you for being an old school collector of cardboard.  Thank you for introducing me to Marhoefer Cards.  Thank you for tanking next week in the Queue the Drake league.  But most importantly, thank you for pulling me into this world of Hobby Twittering!  I have enjoyed the last 4 months of sharing my passion for the hobby on this platform.  I have met a ton of great people.  I have opportunities I have never had before to reach like minded people.  And I really wouldn’t have found those opportunities if Bo Jackson with a baseball bat and shoulder pads hadn’t shared my blog one night!

J-Dub

Meet The Collector – Shane Salmonson

Welcome to a new weekly (sometimes twice a week) series on Dub Mentality that is going to showcase you, the collector.  I have met a ton of great people on Twitter that are very active in the hobby and share very similar backgrounds and stories with me.   I want to make sure you get a chance to meet these fine people as well.  This is also a way to try and help get some names out there for potential trades or PC searches.   Hopefully you enjoy this series as much as I will likely enjoy putting it together.  Let’s spread the word about these guys and build this network.  It’s time to meet our first collector.

Shane Salmonson was one of the first mutual follows I had on Twitter and he’s been hanging around the blog ever since.   He also has his own blog at http://projectpedropc.blogspot.com.  That obviously gives away his PC player but we’ll talk about him a little more below.  Shane has an awesome weekly feature on his blog titled “Cheap Wax Wednesday” where he breaks a cheap wax box and shares the highlights.  I enjoy following that as the cheap wax hits close to home for me but it also brings back some sets I have not thought about in quite some time.  There also isn’t much overlap in our two blogs either because I am a little older than Shane and his wheelhouse appears to be 90’s while mine is 80’s and occasionally 90-92.  Shane is also very active on Twitter and can be found @ShaneSalmonson.

Shane started his collecting habit as a kid with hot wheels.  He would take the truckload of hot wheels he owned and line them up to organize them, much like most of us would do with our ’87 Topps back in the day.  Of course, this translated right into card collecting for him.  In his early collecting days, he collected everything, including baseball, basketball, football, hockey and racing.  His collecting has streamlined more into baseball and football today.  This is a similar story to mine today.   I started collecting everything I could get my hands on but it’s just not financially possible to keep up with all sports for me in today’s market.  It was a lot easier when there were 3-4 card brands.  He still has a ton of basketball, hockey, golf and racing if anyone is looking for these sports.  They are just sitting in boxes for now so give him a jingle on the Tweeter Box.Being from NH, he loves his home town squads; Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins.  He says that he has far too many PC’s to really break them all down but is always looking for Red Sox hits to add to his collection.  As for his largest PC, it’s Pedro Martinez, as indicated in his Blog address. Pedro was a workhorse for the Red Sox from 1998-2004.  I have never been to a game at Fenway but I remember the Yankees-Sox series very vividly in 2004.  I was a huge Red Sox fan for that series and wanted to see them finally break through.   Shane said that every single start from Pedro was an event and were always can’t-miss games.  He considers Pedro one of the most dominant pitchers ever and I would have to agree.  Pedro is the only PC he has an active checklist going on.  He currently owns over 1,700 different Pedro cards and 6,700+ total. That’s a large PC my friends.Shane also actively collects autographs.  He sticks mostly to baseballs but does have quite a bit of other memorabilia such as photos, posters, bats, hats, jerseys, etc.  Most of these are stored away and are awaiting a future Salmonson Man Cave.   From the sound of the Pedro PC, his Man Cave may only leave him a bedroom while the rest of the house will be a Pedro shrine!   I’ve included photos he sent of his Pedro PC throughout this post for your viewing pleasure.Shane’s favorite set of all time is 1989 Topps though he is not 100% committed to it.  The reason this set comes to mind when asked about that subject is that it’s the first real wax box he ever bought.  The design has not resonated with him over time and is not a favorite and he acknowledges that there is very little value to the set but like all of us, there is a draw to that first product we dove into.  My first full box was 1989 Donruss and much like Topps of that year, it was produced in massive quantities and simply holds nostalgic value at this point.  But I will buy a pack or box of ’89 Donruss every time I see it!  There is just something about busting cards from you’re youth that makes you feel young again.

One of the questions I am including in my interview with everyone is, “What do you like most about the hobby?  What do you like least?”   I think this is an interesting topic of discussion for all of us.  The hobby is changing all the time and I want to know how everyone perceives the changes.  As for what Shane likes most about the hobby, “it’s the interaction with other collectors. That is the most fun of anything.  I have had a blast interacting with fellow collectors on Twitter.  It has given me an outlet to share my hobby with others.”  He met up with several collectors that he is active with on Twitter at the National last year and the experience was heightened because of it.   I have not been to the National but I can say that my experience on Twitter has been the same!

On Shane’s don’t like list is the hot button issue of “exclusive licensing.”  I think that is a crowded boat he is on with that dislike.  I know I’m there.  We both agree that it isn’t good for the collectors in general.  Shane describes the current football card sector by saying, “Panini (though they do make some nice products) has almost killed my current football collecting.  The game-used vs event-used/player-worn relics are an absolute nightmare.  The exclusive licensing just doesn’t give collectors many options.  If you are not a fan of Panini, you are pretty much out of luck when it comes to Football.   And that is a shame to me.”   Well said and totally agreed Mr. Salmonson.Shane’s favorite piece in his collection is his Ernie Banks Rookie Card, a 1954 Topps.  He bought it raw on EBay, for what he thought was a solid price, but knew it was a gamble.   He sent it in to Beckett for grading last year and it came back as a 4.  He was very happy with the grade, but was also relieved that the card came back as authentic.  You never know on eBay when you find a great deal.  This would be a “Fireproof Card” at Hustle Headquarters but he adds, “That would be a very hard card to part with for me.”  Sorry Cubs fans, Ernie has a home in New Hampshire.  At some point, Shane is hoping to start checking some Vintage HOF Rookies off of his needs list but understands that it won’t be easy.  He is also looking to add some HOF Signed Baseballs.

Finally, Shane has some words of wisdom for fellow collectors.  Most of us started as kids and many of us just went into the hobby blind because there was no Twitter or other global tool to meet collectors and learn from.  While kids have a few more resources today to gain knowledge, there is also a much bigger card world than there used to be.  So with that in mind, Shane has some sound advice for all collectors.

“The best piece of advice I could give to any collector, young or old, would be to simply enjoy the hobby.  Every collector is different.  Enjoyment is the reason to have a hobby in the first place, is it not?”

Hopefully you’ve gained a little knowledge about a fellow collector of our community.   We are truly all here to help each other enjoy this great hobby of ours.  One way to do that is to meet great new people and share our thoughts, PC’s and experiences with each other.  Shane has been a great supporter of the blog and a fine source of outside reading for yours truly.  Shane is one of the good guys in this card community and if you don’t follow him already, I would recommend you do so now.  Thanks for reading.

J-Dub

 

 

Mail Day from Shane Katz

I received a fine mail day from Shane Katz (@shanekatz73 on twitter) and I have to share these additions to the PC.  Shane also has a blog that’s found at www.otwbbcards.wordpress.com  Shane is a Boston guy and collects Red Sox if you have any to deal.  He’s a great trade partner and responsible shipper.  Check him out!  My mail day was heavy on the Ron Gant cards, which is really the best kind of mail day.  Shane also tossed in some extras that are really cool that are worth sharing.  Shane sent 13 Gant’s and I needed 12 of them.  I am thin on Gant in the late 90’s-early 2000’s and that’s where he came through.  The stretch I received covered Gant in 6 uniforms.  I did not have any from his Rockies season so that was a nice addition.  I won’t discuss all of them but here are a few highlights.Of course, one for nostalgia was the 1989 Topps Glossy Rookies card #9.  Ronnie looks like they caught him right after BP.Then, representing the Reds, we have the 1996 Topps card #70.  He only played one full season with the Reds as he spent 1994 on the disabled list.  In ‘95, he hit .276 with 29 home runs and 23 stolen bases, good enough for his second National League Comeback Player of the Year award.  He looks a lot like Reggie Sanders in this picture.Next, he appeared twice in the 1999 Topps set.  Once in the base set in his St. Louis uniform and then in the traded set after his move to Philadelphia.  In St. Louis, he played 3 seasons with 73 total home runs and 35 stolen bases.  He endured a very tough stretch in batting average never topping .246 in that as a Cardinal.  He also had a career high 162 strikeouts in 1997.  In Philly, he rebounded a bit in the average department but the home runs dipped to 20 and 17.  Stolen bases had also reached a career low with 5 in ’99 and 1 in 2000.The next stop was Colorado for a partial season in 2001 as shown on the 2001 Topps here.  A forgettable stop in Colorado with a .257 average and 8 homeruns.  He would finish the season in Oakland, playing 34 games and compiling a .420 average and 2 home runs.Ronnie’s final full season in the majors was with San Diego in 2002.  The 2003 Topps would be his final of the set as an active player.  He would go on to appear in Archives and other products as a retired player.The last two cards are from the 2014 Topps Archives set and are a couple of my favorites.  The first is the ’69 Deckle Mini with the facsimile autograph.  There is a ’69 Deckle in the set with a true autograph and I have tried to snipe it from time to time on eBay.  The second card is the 1987 Topps Future Star and is hands down my favorite Gant.  First you have the 1987 Topps design and then you have the sweet Future Star logo that I have raved about in several blog posts.  You really can’t beat a card like this and it was the best card in the mail day!  Also, both in Braves uniforms.The extras included this sweet 1984 Ralston Purina Dan Quisenberry.  I have been eyeing this set for a future oddball set post.Next up are four awesome 1980-1981 Topps Basketball cards from Shane’s youth.  He even made sure they were all Atlanta Hawks.  I do not own enough early 80’s basketball.More oddballs with Steve Garvey and Don Mattingly from the 1987 Fleer Exciting Stars set.  Mattingly was exciting but Garvey was pretty bland for a set title like that.The final piece of the mail day was another oddball with the 1986 KayBee Young Superstars of Baseball, Alvin Davis. 

All of these cards are right up my alley and made for a very exciting early week mail day.  I need to get to work on another trade with Shane because he provides some sweet returns.  I will no doubt have to step up my game on the next mailing though.  Thanks Shane!

J-Dub

Who We Are Is Elementary

A lot of factors shape who we are and who we become.  As a parent, it’s easier to recognize those factors sometimes because we focus on how to give our kids the experiences and support and guidance to become the people we want or think they should be.  But kids, we just spent our formative years living in and soaking up those moments.  They were our experiences, for better or worse, and they’ve no doubt had an impact on who we’ve become.  Maybe it all went well and we used those experiences to solidify what we had been taught.  Or maybe things didn’t go as planned and we used the experiences to guide us away from the path we didn’t want to go down.  They generally fill us with love or hate, good or bad morals or sometimes, unfortunately, just emptiness.  Either way, that’s just how it works most of the time.  We are given the path and we make it better or worse with the decisions we make.

That path starts for the most part at birth.  But as for memories and events we use years later, that starts for most of us somewhere around 5 years old, I would guess.  I have some memories of before 5 but they are random and not very vivid. I remember when I cracked my head open when I was about 3-4 and a couple of the moments surrounding that but it’s been kept alive in stories since.  We remember the really good and the really bad but a lot of the in-between is lost from our lives before 5 unless they remain in some story form that has been manipulated over the years by our own interpretations.  But, I am talking about legitimate “I remember when” moments in time. 

At 5 for me, I began my long and winding, and often disastrous, educational journey.  The year was 1982.  I would not finish that journey until 2011, some 29 years later.  Yeah, I took the long road.  I don’t know if I’m even finished but I am counting on that being the case at this point.  But in 1982, I didn’t have a choice in the matter.  It was time to get started with that big part of life and I did just that at Mitchell County Elementary School.  I have much more vivid memories of middle school and high school but when I really sit and think about those early years, some really nostalgic and character forming memories are there.  With some of the things that stick out, it makes a little sense why I am paranoid of getting in trouble or doing the wrong things sometimes.  And for me, a big part of this writing process is figuring out how I got where I am today.  These old thoughts of elementary school have given me some insight, although my interpretations are in control.

Elementary school for me was good overall.  I had a pretty good time making friends and was received well by my peers.  That is so often out of our control and left to the ability of other 5 years old to be accepting.  I was lucky that I had a fairly reasonable set of peers, for the most part.  It could be because of the town I grew up in or the school itself.  A lot of people in Camilla had similar backgrounds; similar income levels and we faced the normal social issues burdened on society.  But as a 5 year old, that stuff didn’t really matter.  The car Michael’s mom drove didn’t faze me.  The house that Bryan lived in didn’t matter to me whatsoever.  Joe and I even had different skin color and that meant absolutely nothing.  We were all friends.  It’s a novel concept isn’t it?  We had the same goals, we had the same needs, and we had the same affinity for Transformers and G.I. Joe.  And none of us liked girls at that point in our lives, except maybe Jason.  I think he was a lady’s man from birth.

Friends come and go at that age too as people grow up, move to other schools, take different paths or just seemingly disappear into thin air.  But sometimes, those kids stick with you from Kindergarten through Graduation and you have a bond for the rest of your life, whether realized or not.  I can still go back to my hometown and run into people I grew up with and we remember each other as the person we last saw before growing up.  Most of us have put on some weight and aren’t as athletic as we used to be but you can often see that young person in them and yourself when you have those interactions.  I now live in Lee County and when my alma mater played here a couple of years ago, I ambled over to the visitors sideline to see old friends.  One of my Lee County friends went with me and remarked after the excursion that I should go back to Camilla and run for mayor.  I’m not a political fellow but that said a lot to me about the old bridges I had been able to keep intact and it made me feel proud.That all started at a little school in the back of a part of town that some people never visited.  But as division has taken more of a stronghold on society, that is probably truer now than it was then.  I ride by there on occasion though just to see the old building.  It usually makes me smile.  Life was simpler.  The school was your standard, run of the mill, elementary school.  Classes were K-3, we had a couple of playgrounds, a gym, library and a lunchroom/theater combo.  Nothing spectacular but certain locations of the school still stand out in my memory.  I remember the track.  It was an all dirt/grass track and surrounded a make shift football field.  Behind that was our kickball/softball field.  My grandmother, Pearl, worked in the lunchroom.  She cooked a lot better at home than she did at school.  The gym was where I learned that gymnastics was not going to be my specialty, although I tried.  There were some outdoor basketball courts where I started to develop my very slow, but deadly, jump shot.  Near those were the music rooms, where my Aunt Carolyn was a teacher.  I had an in with her of course but she was one of the most genuine and enthusiastic teachers I ever had.  And, of course, her son Corey was my best friend in elementary school.  There was also a walk up store at the entrance of the school that was open before and after to stock up on snacks.  The only snack area I remember on campus was on the third grade hall.  That’s where I was introduced to the Bomb Pop.  I remember the teachers too.  Mrs. Fears was my Kindergarten teacher.  I don’t have any specific memories of her class because I think my memory maker was still forming.  Then, I had Mrs. Williams in 1st Grade, Mrs. Wingate in 2nd and Mrs. Parker in 3rd.  I’ve had an indirect relationship with Mrs. Williams for many years since 1st grade.  Two of her sons, Travis and Tori were right around my age and I knew them throughout school.  Then I played basketball with her husband, Mr. Charlie James, for a few years in high school on Tuesday and Thursday nights.  And not to be outdone, I worked for about 10 years with another of her sons, Trent, in adulthood.  They could never really get away from me, I guess.  Mrs. Wingate was my first, “Wow, she’s pretty!” teacher.  And Mrs. Parker got most of my deviant side as I pushed the limits before moving on to middle school.  Of course, Mr. Inman was a memorable principal.  He was tall and intimidating and had a habit of carrying around a paddle with holes in it to cut down on resistance.  Do schools even have paddles anymore?  The staff I probably got to know best was Mrs. Ward, the school nurse.  I began honing my Ferris Bueller moments early. 

We were introduced to fire and tornado drills in Elementary school.  The fire drill never scared me but the tornado drill was horrifying.  There wasn’t a safe place in my mind to escape such an event.  Thankfully, we practiced it and never had to put it into real use.  I do remember bad weather in school though and I always had that drill bell sound in my head, thinking it would go off at any time.  It’s the first time I remember thinking something dangerous could happen and my parents wouldn’t be around.  It probably seems insignificant but looking back on it, it prepared me for something I was very afraid of while giving me the idea that my parents wouldn’t always be standing right beside me when something went wrong.  That was the first realization I had of that.  In the long run, it was for the best but it’s one of those small moments that I have carried with me.

Another bad memory was that smell of the “oil dry” they put down when students vomited in the hallway.  There is no real profound meaning or moment here but I remember it had the potential to set off a mass vomit fest much like that in the “Stand by Me” film.  If I wasn’t sick, I could see that in the hall floor and would immediately get queasy.  I was also a little scared of it.  It was almost like the stuff they put down made it a biohazard.  So maybe there is a meaning behind it.  I am a bit of a hypochondriac so maybe that can be traced back to my fear of a vomit induced outbreak at elementary school thanks to the horrible smelling biohazard they put down in the halls.  Maybe, maybe not.

Ok, I am about to say something that may surprise some of you.  It hurts to say but it’s true.  I have not always been the innocent, good boy that I am now as an adult.  I know, take a minute to collect yourself.  There are three specific instances from elementary school that stick out to me where I pushed the boundaries of truth.  I got busted all three times.  I have no doubt there were more than three, but three stick out still today.  My dad has always told me that he would find out anything I ever did because that’s what parents do.  I could think I was getting away with something but they would know.  Well, he was either right or I was really bad at it.  There is another story for another time that fits this narrative from when I was a teenager.  I carried that one around for several years trying to figure out how my dad found out, but I digress.The first one was in 2nd grade.  I remember getting sent out into the hallway for being disruptive.  I called it being humorous but the teacher called it disruptive.  Tomato/Tomahto if you ask me.  If you will recall, Mr. Inman has already been mentioned as having a habit of carrying around the “widow maker” paddle.  He would walk up and down the main hall sometimes and if you were in the hall for being in trouble, you were getting a lick or two.  It was the first time I had been sent into the hallway so I was in a panic.  I looked down the long 2nd grade hall and waited for Mr. Inman to appear.  In a moment of clarity, I devised a plan.  I’ll walk a short distance down the hall, approximately the length of the classroom, then switch to the other side of the hall and walk back.  I would do this until I was called back into class so if Mr. Inman walked past that hall, he would think I was going to the restroom or coming back.  Fool proof isn’t it?  Well, my stay in the hall was longer than expected and while it did work the first time he walked by, it did not the second time a couple minutes later when I was walking in the same general area he had seen me before.  Busted.  He came down the hall, the plan was foiled and I got my licks.  I made it worse by not taking my punishment the right way.  I got it at home too.Then came the 2nd incident in 3rd grade.  I was older and wiser by this point and I had caught up with Mr. Inman’s tactics.  This one was worse though and I don’t even know how I came up with this one.  Parents could pick up students around 2:30 and then the pick-up area closed for the buses around 2:45.  I rode the bus over to the middle school where I would get off there and walk to the Methodist Church where my mom worked.  In an extreme lapse in judgment, I told Mrs. Parker that my mom was picking me up.  The kids getting picked up went out to the playground until their parents picked them up.  My plan was to get in some swing time and then hop on the bus unnoticed to head to the middle school.  Would you believe that it worked the first time?  But I got greedy.  Mr. Inman went out to the 3rd grade hall and saw me swinging.  “Don’t panic!” I said to myself.  “He thinks you are getting picked up, don’t worry.”  He disappeared onto the 3rd grade hall.  He would not reappear until the buses were pulling up and I was headed to my assigned bus.  Again, solid plan but poor execution.  You know what happened next.

The last incident was not related to Mr. Inman as I believe I had by then conceded to his principal super abilities.  This time, I decided to try my hand at deception with my parents and Mrs. Parker.  This one stung the most.  I was never the best student when it came to homework.  However, I was pretty good at scraping it together at the last minute.  I would carry that skill over to High School where homeroom the day of was homework time.  But in elementary school, I would usually piece it together over the course of the day and somehow pull it off right before it was due to be turned in.  I was not prepared for the scenario that unfolded that day.  My dad arrived at the school shortly after lunch, while we were on the playground.  He had come to check me out of school to go fishing with him and my grandfather.  Mrs. Parker said I was good to go, I just needed to turn in the homework we would be going over in the afternoon.  I left the playground confused about how to get out of this one.  Of course, I’d rather be fishing with dad and granddaddy than sitting in school.  As I approached the classroom, another stroke of genius hit.  Dad was with me and he had no clue what my homework was so I went and took out the homework from the day before and put it on Mrs. Parker’s desk.  As we were about to walk out, Mrs. Parker walked in to look at the homework and said, “This was yesterday.  I need the one for today.”  Are you kidding me?  No homework, no fishing.  And, I got it when I got home.

So, yeah, I tried some stunts in elementary school and got busted.  And that getting busted probably saved me from worse trouble later on because I have carried around that fear of getting caught to this day.  Nothing goes unnoticed or unpunished forever.  That is the lesson in my deviance in 3rd grade.  It will come back to you.  It may not be the first time or the second time but it will come back.  I guess I’m glad I caught back then but I would’ve loved that fishing trip.  There is one more moment from elementary school that probably had some effect on me.  It’s rather embarrassing and probably affected my approach to girls during school for a couple of years but that all worked out in the long run.  I don’t even know if I’ve ever told this story but it is quite funny to look back on, even though it was a rough prank on me.  There was a girl in my class that I liked, Shelley.  Every boy liked her and even at 8, I pretty much knew she was out of my league.  It didn’t stop me from sending her the “check yes or no” letter.  I prepared the letter and gave it to my confidant Robbie, MY OWN COUSIN.  I knew he could take care of the delivery.  Not long after, he brought it back to me and it was checked “yes”.  Cha-Ching!  Or so I thought.  My own blood deceived me.  He took the note, checked yes and brought it back to me.  I thought for an afternoon she was my girlfriend.  Only she never knew about it.  His laughter with Corey and a couple of others gave him away and I knew I had been had.  That was a good one no doubt.  It’s probably where I got my pranking ability from because I spent many years trying to avenge that one.

So while these stories may be funny or cringe-worthy, I have no doubt they have had some sort of lasting impact on my personality.  Its weird some of the things we remember while other things just vanish from our minds.  Some of that is by design and choice I’m sure.  But I have vague memories of death trap monkey bars, a curb store in front of the school and the occasional back flip I couldn’t land.  The real distinct memories I have are events that have stayed tucked away in my mind almost as vivid as the day they happened.  I can see Mr. Inman and his paddle.  I remember the specific swing on the swing set I would use when “waiting for my mom to pick me up.”  I remember the look on my dad’s face when the homework scam failed.  I remember the look on Robbie’s face when the “Yes or No” scam succeeded. 

I can see those things as clear as day.  They aren’t painful and they aren’t traumatic but they are meaningful to me and have shaped part of my path.  Sometimes we say, “If I had it to do all over again, I would do it differently.”  And while that can certainly be true in worst case scenarios, I believe we have to experience these smaller bumps in the road so we will know there are bumps.  The participation trophy and the “everybody wins” mantra have its place but I think it also robs our kids of needed disappointment at times.  Bailey was recently not chosen for a play for her school.  As a parent, I was bothered because I want my daughter to pursue every opportunity she has and I want her to succeed.  But there is also a part of me that knew it was a teaching moment.  It was an opportunity to tell her that she needed to work a little harder or practice a little more to get the part next time.  We will all succeed and fail over the course of our lives.  Sometimes the failures make us change the way we do things.  Sometimes they make us try harder.  Either way, they make us do something.  Standing pat is not the way to flourish.  It’s not the way to improve.  Take the events that happen and make them work for you in some way.  A bunch of silly stories results in me still trying to do the right thing one month away from my 40th birthday.  You can’t understate the personal importance of seemingly insignificant events in your life.

J-Dub

The Birthday Float

June 24 is a day I must remember every year.  I don’t want to be that husband that remembers the morning of, that its the wife’s birthday.  So far, so good – if memory serves.  I consider myself a good gift guy and always try to put in a lot of thought when deciding on that perfect bday present.  I’ve had some winners and I’ve have some humdingers.  That’s right, I just busted out the word “humdingers”!  After 15 years of marriage and a handful more of dating, the ideas have gotten a lot tougher.  There’s only so many pieces of jewelry you can buy before it gets stale.  And as adults, your wish list becomes a lot more expensive or you can just go out and buy it yourself.  So I’ve run the gambit on the birthday surprise over the years.

Last year was kind of a big one.  I was finally able to score some Dave Matthews tickets, which was a bucket list item for Alicia.  One year, we went to Atlanta and classed it up at some fancy club named “Opera”.  There was Def Leppard one year.  There was the Buckhead birthday where we went wining and dining. This year, we’ll be going to see a Fleetwood Mac tribute band at an old landmark bar in Little Five Points.  While the gift ideas are constantly evolving and I’m having to start earlier and earlier on my thought process, one constant is present every June around this date.  That would be “The Birthday Float”. 

The float consists of a group of friends, that also love the outdoors and the creek, kayaking or tubing or boating down the Kinchafoonee Creek in Lee County.  The trip usually starts at the Highway 32 bridge in Leesgurg and twists and turns down to an area behind our neighborhood just north of the Dougherty County line.  The cast changes slightly from year to year but the general core remains the same.  The Normans, Duvall’s and Shivers.  The Lambs are usually in tow but a new baby this year will put them on the shelf.  My constant compadre on the trip is Clemmy Johnny, Mi Hermano de Otra Madre.  We usually lag back a bit to oversee what’s happening and carry on our immature conversations without eye rolls from the women folk.  We also bring our favorite adult beverage mixers to help keep cool if the sun is too hot….or something like that. We also lag back from time to time to avoid the alcohol police who think maybe we’re moving too quickly through the cooler.  There is no such thing I say.  And CJ surely agrees with me.   

We also like to spend some time out of the kayak along the trip.  There is a lot to see and do along the Kinchafoonee besides kayak.  There are numerous jumping spots, from the old rope swing at the Century Rd bridge to the 30 foot cliff just before we get to our takeout point.  I still don’t know how deep it is there but I’ve tried to touch a couple of times to no avail.  There are a couple other jumping spots but the climbing is a little tougher and our coherence plays a part in whether we attempt those or not.  I do remember Michael doing a sweet flip out of a tree once that made me think for a split second that we were going to be headed to the ER.  We’ve talked many people into taking the leap from the large cliff but have never gotten Alicia to take the plunge.  Maybe this year is the year.  Shaina even did it after about 45 minutes of coaxing.  And this was after she flipped her float and lost all of her important items like her drivers license.  Sorry Shaina.

There are also some cool natural wonders to see along the trip.  There is a nice cave that leads from the creek up to the top of a small cliff that the ladies won’t let us jump from because they think it’s too shallow.  There is also a pair of Oakleys in the water somewhere near the mouth of the cave.  There is a waterfall near the end of the trip that is always a nice photo op. Depending on the water level there is also a little area of tiny rapids that are a fun change of pace from the usual slow current.  But the highlight is always the blue hole.  It’s a pretty decent sized pool of clear, cold spring water that invigorates the body and makes everyone a little nervous of being pushed in.  It’s a hotspot on the creek and usually the most populated area as everyone stops to enjoy the cool water.  It’s usually where we stop to get a bite to eat and stretch the legs. 


Of course, we typically aren’t the only species of creature on the creek, enjoying the water and sun. The most common sighting is the Kinchafoonee Creek Monster, pictured above.  He’s known to perform daring acts from any height and also occasionally shows off feats of strength by crushing tree branches in the gathering of firewood.  There are also a variety of snakes and gators.  The gators are usually less visible during the day but the snakes are more than ready to come out and dangle off of a tree limb.  You must remain vigilant when around the trees.  The quicker CJ and I get through those coolers, the less alert we are.  There have probably been lots of times where I was only a few feet from a snake and never even knew it.  It’s just the normal law of probabilities.  It’s their habitat, it’s the south and it’s summertime.  

The trip typically takes about 4-6 hours depending on the water level, how much time we spend at different stopping points and our overall pace.  By the end of the float, we are all tired, sunburned and waterlogged.  But we are also happy and relaxed.  I always sleep really well the night after a float on the creek.  The combination of physical exertion and heat will wear your body out and leave you just plain beat.  It might be why we only do it a few times a year.  There are people that do it every weekend or twice a month.  But when we take our group to the creek, we are all in and push it to the limit.  Some of us party pretty hard!  But it’s such a great time.

Alicia loves being on the water and I can understand why when I go out there.  I am typically more of a fisherman or swimmer but floating and taking in all of the surroundings is peaceful and a heavy reminder that we are living in a beautiful world.  Getting on the creek on a hot summer day with cold drinks and good friends can make all of your problems go away for a while.  And who doesn’t need that.  We usually take 2-3 big group trips a year but the one on Alicia’s birthday is always a given. I’m thankful she kept poking me to me change my stubborn attitude about getting out on the creek from time to time.  I still enjoy my cool air downtime but our trips on the Birthday Float always create memories and I’m sure this year will be the same.  So we will once again be launching tomorrow to take this excursion with our group of misfits and I am looking forward to it.  Our goals are to have fun, stay safe, enjoy the outdoors, leave nature as we find it (or better off) and see if we can find the bottom of the cooler by the end of the day.  We’ll be enjoying a nice band, good food and companionship soon for the official birthday present.  But tomorrow, we float….and dive….and swim….and love life and each other.  Happy Birthday again Alicia and I’m looking forward to enjoying another float with you!

J-Dub

The Finnicum Family

I’m going to take a little detour from the usual post about what’s happening in my tangled mind or the warm and fuzzies of yesteryear.  I want to recap the days events and share how fortunate Alicia and I are to be a part of our work families.  This is really about her work family which I am a part of by extension but we both are pretty lucky.  We’ll talk about my stuff another day but today, it’s about FMC.  

Today was the second quarter family event, which was a picnic/fish fry/sporting event held at Timber Green Farms.  I know what you’re thinking.  A “work” gathering?  Fun?  Truth is, yeah!  I am one who normally dreads the required event, whether it’s my work, Alicia’s work or school functions or whatever.  Especially on my weekend.  I work all week, take care of kids, get little to no sleep, beat my body up on the softball field…..Sunday is my day to do absolutely nothing and be happy about it.  Not the case with this one today.  

I guess I should start with a little history.  Alicia started working at FMC about 12 years ago when it was Darrel, another salesman and her.  Yeah, 3-4 employees at any given time during the first year she was there.  There were 40 people at the picnic today, including family members of course,  but I think “growth” is a bit of an understatement.  What started as a leap of faith on the part of Darrel Finnicum has turned into one of the most successful and most liked car dealerships in our area.  I’m not just saying that because my wife works there.  Check out the “Best of the Best” voting over the last several years.  Check out the size of the lot now vs 10 years ago. Look at the staff size.  Look at the testimonials.  I was raised with a certain image of used car lots thanks to Grover and Dewey Shiver.  FMC has broken down all of those stereotypes.

The success and growth of the company, in my eyes, has been the knowledge that Darrel has about auto dealing, the dedication (blood, sweat and tears, let me tell you) Alicia has had over the last decade to Darrel and the company and the tenacity of Mike McVey.  Even though he is an Auburn Tiger, Mike is more like a bulldog to me.  The twist with them is that there is also a dedication to integrity and honesty, which is something hard enough to find in any sales or service provider, let alone an automobile dealer.  The continued success is thanks to the construction of a team that works hard, believes in the business and understands the right way to treat customers.  This really isn’t a commercial.  I know these people and I know what they’re about.  I think of some of them as family.  Anthony has called me his “big bruh” for 5 years and I have the same feeling about him.  We’ve been friends with Lindsay and Dale for years.  Kala and Corey are a blast to hang around.  I could go through each employee and interactions I have had but that would be a looooong read.  


Back to today’s event.  First, the venue was awesome.  I first visited this plantation/farm for Darrel and Ashley’s wedding.  There is a nice pond, covered pavilion and open space for all types of enjoyment.  Today there was Cornhole, fishing, a bouncy house and playground action.  The fishing started slow with a few folks picking up the stray bream or bass.  It was the heat of the day, which is generally when the fish turn down.  However, Bailey and I jumped back out there as it began to cool and we stacked up double digit bream and even a turtle.  There are few things in life that beat sitting on the edge of a dock catching fish with your daughter.  She can catch em like her old man but I still get to take them off.  Alicia added a couple herself but went to take care of Baby G and left me and Bailey to the fishing.  We caught fish and we also tangled our lines quite a bit.  I guess that’s the risk of fishing 3 rods for bream with a 9 year old.  Great times though, without a doubt.

Between the fishing sessions, the Cornhole boards were brought in for some friendly competition.  Things quickly became touchy as I worked Alicia’s competitive nerve as only I know how.  Her and Kala came close to taking down the guys (Mike May and Landon Henry).  I say “her and Kala” loosely…..no offense Kala.  The next battle was me and Anthony against Corey and Lindsay.  Me and Lindsay on the same end of Cornhole boards facing off is a recipe for disaster and hilarity.  Despite the fact that Ant and I dominated 22-8, Corey and Lindsay had their moments.  Dale is a strong man to have survived the quick wit and competitiveness he surely has endured over the years.

Last but not least was the food portion of the event.  Riverfront BBQ provided fried fish, side winder fries, cheese grits and hush puppies for the adults and the classic corn dog for the kids.  G ate most of my cheese grits but she also walked around for a solid 30 minutes gnawing on a corn dog and visiting the other tables.  She finished it though and I know she stuffed her tummy.  Bailey even ate good and that is an accomplishment in itself these days.  The spread also included brownies and watermelon so I was pretty stuffed myself.  

Overall, it was a really great event and the employees put in a lot of effort to make it that.  But beyond that, the family atmosphere has always been the big draw.  The events I attend with FMC have always been welcoming and laid back.  No pretense and nobody is out of place.  The kids all jump in and get along, parents take care of others like they are their own and a sense of comfort is abundant.  That is what makes FMC successful above all else, I believe. If they treat their customers anywhere close to the way they’ve treated me over the years, the reputation is well deserved.  Success is just a byproduct of the overall structure of the company and its attitude toward the treatment of others.  Alicia and I are lucky to be able to call ourselves members of the family.  I love them all like they ARE family and I appreciate the efforts they have made to make me feel like a part of their group.  I enjoyed today.  My family enjoyed today.  We enjoyed the outdoors, spent time with one another and friends, stuffed our faces and wore ourselves out.  That is a great day.  I look forward to the next one.

J-Dub

No Do-Over’s

We’ve been down this road before but I think about it often I suppose.  Today, it was brought to my attention in a FaceBook post.  There was an article in The New York Times about a Tumblr blog called “The Last Message Received.”  It’s a feed created by a 16 year old girl that has hundreds of people submit entries containing the last text or voice mail or actual words spoken to them by someone that meant a lot to them.  It’s quite gripping at times.  It’s not all about people who have passed away either.  There are some best friend fallouts, breakups and parent/child scuffles among others.  Along with the text is usually a brief description to give some backstory to the text.  As with anything in today’s social media world, authenticity can come in to question but assuming that most are accurate, some of them can really put you in your feelings.

It got me thinking about some of my own last moments with people over the years.  We didn’t have text messaging when I was in high school.  (We barely had telephones, right Z?).  But I still have some pretty vivid memories of the last time I spent time with or talked with someone that meant something to me and then they were just gone.  Some of the last moments were written on the wall and some of them hit me out of the blue.  In either case, it really puts some of our daily interactions and conversations that we take for granted in perspective.  We don’t go through our daily routine thinking we might be having our last encounter with someone but it can happen in an instant.

I was fortunate to have many friends from many walks of life in high school.  But there is one friend that spent life from 5th grade through 12th grade with me. We spent weekends at each other’s houses.  We would hang out after school.  Of course, we also had plenty of classes together.  I remember some cool times with him.  His step dad was a DJ for a radio station and one Saturday we got to “spin some records” on air, which was awesome.  We went fishing, collected baseball cards and rode his motorcycle around his big yard.  In fact, we used to time each other to see who could make the fastest lap.  I didn’t have a motorcycle so he was more experienced.  When I would shift the wrong way, I’d want to try and start over and it was always, “No Do-Over’s”.  He once convinced me to watch “Lost Boys” when my mom had explicitly instructed me to avoid the horror movies.  It was his house where I first tried the “Bloody Mary” in the bathroom mirror gag.  It didn’t work.

Some time late in our senior year though, things took a turn.  We both were headed in different directions and had separate sets of friends.  Even our mutual friends had chosen to go with one of us or the other.  At times we were pretty nasty with each other.  The last real conversation I remember having with him was out in front of my house.  Pretty sure we didn’t hold anything back that day.  I think we both still liked each other but didn’t like that we weren’t the same people we were when we were friends.  We both dispised that other people were now considered our best friends and being teenagers made us overly sensitive and emotional I suppose.  After that conversation, that was it.  I don’t remember seeing him much after that.  I’m positive we didn’t talk after that.  Like really talk, something more than a nod or hello.  

A couple of years shy of our 10 year class reunion, he lost his life.  He was actually in the hospital at the same time a family member was in the hospital.  That was how I found out.  I was flushed with emotions and thoughts about how our lives wound up.  I was remorseful about the way our friendship ended.  I kicked myself for being an 18 year old toolbag.  I cried for a lost friend that hadn’t been a friend for 8 years.  I’ve thought often about what I could have done differently or how I could have made amends.  I even remember thinking that one day we would fix it when we both grew up and matured.  I never got that chance and I regret it.  I think about him more than I ever imagined I would the day he left my house, our friendship in ashes.  Truth now – I miss him.  I miss the fun we had and the things we had in common.  I’ll never know if we would’ve patched things up and become friends again.  But it hurts knowing that it’s impossible now. And it hurts that I never got to apologize to him for my part in the demise of our friendship.

In life, sometimes, there are no do-over’s.  You make a decision, you say something, you walk away and that’s it.  There’s no going back later and making amends.  Sometimes it because you’re stubborn or prideful.  Sometimes it’s because the person you walk away from doesn’t want to talk to you again.  Sometimes, in a worst case scenario, that person isn’t around anymore for you to patch it up with.  All you are left with is memories and regret.  Regret can eat you up inside.  It can make you question your own character and you’re own intentions.  But when you can’t discuss matters later when you have cooled off or grown up, it’s what you’re left with.  And it stings at times.

You’d think that this is a grand lesson to learn and grow from.  It is and it enters my mind at the strangest times.  But I still say things I regret.  I still write people off.  I still try to end an argument with a zinger.  We all do.  It’s human nature to try and get the last word in an argument.  You just never plan on it actually being the LAST word.  But in reality, every word we say could be our last.  We are not in control.  We don’t get to decide when it’s over for us or for anybody else.  In that, we don’t get to end a conversation or a visit with the assumption that it’ll all be ok tomorrow when we get some time apart.  

I am probably perceived in a lot of different ways by peers, co-workers, Facebook friends and even followers of this blog.  Some of that is my own doing and some of that is just perception.  I’m probably seen by some as a little emotional or sensitive at times.  I won’t run from that.  Part of it comes from this life lesson.  I got to sit down with my Grandaddy and tell him that I loved him and I would miss him.  He was gravely ill and his time was up.  We knew it.  I didn’t leave anything unresolved.  But that’s rarer than we think.  We probably picture ourselves on our death bed at an old age saying our goodbyes and clearing the air one more time.  Odds are, it’s not going to happen that way.  Although I have a long way to go, I’d prefer and am trying to avoid leaving things unresolved.  That’s where the emotion and sensitivity comes from.  Because in real life, there is no courtesy foul, no erasure, no cut and retake.  So if I enjoy hanging out or talking or playing softball or Cornhole with you or beating you in bowling, I’m going to let you know.  It might seem overbearing at times too. But I feel like I better tell you when I’m thinking it because as my old friend would say, “No Do-Over’s.”

J-Dub

Hermano de Otra Madre

  About 14 years ago, I met someone that has turned into one of my best friends.  A co-worker’s husband is usually one of those forced hang outs.  That first time might have been one of those but I honestly don’t remember.  That’s because there are so many other things to remember since that first meeting.  I do remember us playing basketball in my drive way while our wives immediately clicked inside.  We had to sort of size each other up, as men typically do.  A lot of time has passed since that day and a lot of water has gone over and under the bridge.  We’ve each had our own struggles.  We’ve each watched our families grow in numbers.  But one thing has remained constant.  No matter which way our paths have twisted, I’ve never had to question the loyalty or allegiance of Clem John Norman, CJ.

CJ is the adult equivalent to my high school pal in Old Friends.  An adult friend is different a few ways:

  • Adult friends don’t necessarily have to be with each other 24/7.  
  • There is a shared understanding of spousal and fatherhood responsibilities that are always ahead of all else.  
  • There is a reasonable expectation of confidentiality rarely found in immaturity.
  • Advice is sought after and accepted.
  • The best ones will fight to the death with you.  

Most of that simply comes from maturity, generally considered growing up.  But when you find that awesome friend, being grown up doesn’t always have to be the standard.  That’s one of the biggest differences in my normal friends and my best friends.  I am able to be my 17 year old self with my best friends and they know that it’s just who I am.  At the same time, they know I can be professional, respectful and well mannered, just as you would expect and old fuddy-dud approaching 40 to be.  It’s the best of both worlds; being your normal age but not being afraid to fall back into adolescence at a moments notice.  A recent text conversation CJ and I had about our upcoming kickball season perfectly sums all of that up.  But back to that confidentiality thing, you’ll just have to take my word for it.  But at one point I actually texted the fact that our even having the discussion was pretty surreal.  And yes, I did say kickball. 

 We have played many organized sports together; predominantly softball but also basketball, flag football, golf and the aforementioned kickball.  Throw in Cornhole, horseshoes, cards and video games and we have covered the competitive sector of friendship.  I’ll save kickball for last because it is the most impressive highlight on our resume.  But first, softball was our sport.  We played for some really good teams but some atrocious squads as well.  Our start was with Life Christian and we made a solid run for a few years and really enjoyed playing.  We hit a rough patch after that with Historymakers II (I wasn’t good enough for the original HM squad), Simon Sez, Bounty Hunters and Thunder Stix.  But the enjoyment remained and we have memories from those teams that we still laugh about today.  The tag line for Historymakers was “We aim to make history.”  We did if 0-10 was a first at Gordon.  Simon Sez gave us the great “run like you stole something” line.  And that’s really about it.  Bounty Hunters gave us Boot Straps.

 One of my most vivid softball memories before the Sticks came from Thunder Stix.  Never mind that the name and jerseys were equally atrocious.  One evening, we were having a particularly grueling night as we were playing neck and neck with the league’s #1 team.  One of our players decided that our half of the inning would be a fine time to take a bathroom break.  What he didn’t realize was that he was actually the 2nd batter up in the inning.  CJ was the 3rd.  After waiting awkwardly for our teammate to emerge from the can, CJ had enough and stepped up to the plate, resulting in the player being out.  This did not sit well with said player as he sprinted from the bathroom.  He was alone in his anger though.  The game remained tight and we lost by a thin margin.  A margin thin enough to cause said player to deduce an ill conceived notion that his non at bat made the difference.  He and CJ had a stare down in the handshake line and I stepped between them to bring CJ to the dugout.  I’m not sure what would’ve happened had they actually gone at it because they were both bigger than me but in that moment, my instinct was to get CJ out of the situation before that happened.  It’s the sort of moment that makes you think about how you react in the moment vs your usual nature, which hammered home our friendship.  It could’ve ended very poorly for me. 

 We spent a couple of seasons playing city league basketball as well.  We played with a great group of guys and I was in a lot better shape then.  We usually wound up guarding each other in scrimmages and had very similar game.  CJ had more of an itchy finger from beyond the arc but our percentages probably evened out.  One basketball memory I have is actually a regret.  I had always heard about CJ and Tabb playing basketball on Doles Road.  There was a basketball court on the side of the road and was home to where both of them spent some of their childhood.  I finally took a trip with CJ to Doles and about 5 minutes into the first game, fell victim to one of the home court advantages, the 5 inch curb used as a baseline.  I’m pretty sure I had, at minimum, a hairline fracture and still think of that day when my ankle bothers me.  My ankle had swollen up and forced me to take off my shoe before we hit the end of Doles.  After hearing all the talk, I spent a total of 5 minutes playing ball.  Never went back. 

 Although the other sports have been filled with ups and downs, nobody has been able to touch us in kickball so far.  We played 3 seasons in city league and recently played an exhibition against a current league team and we sit at a pristine 31-0 with 3 championships and a Ric Flair Quoted T Shirt to prove it.  We have made more enemies on the kickball field than we ever made playing softball.  Not because of attitude or anything but losing at a kids game tends to bring out the worst in competition.  To be clear, we are about to embark on another season and we may very well go 0-10, you never know.  It’s part of the reason we’ve waited so long to come out of retirement.  But right now, as I type this, we have not been beaten on the kickball field.  Out most recent game was a scrimmage against a league team to see if we “still had it” and to test out our new roster.  We traveled across town, to their home field and beat them 8-4.  They had jersey’s and a Pregame warmup.  We spent Pregame joking about Ashley’s dill pickle and bacon sunflower seeds.  Kickball, legends I tell you. 

 Besides sports, we have tons of other memories and common interests.  We spend time on the creek in the summer, we both like Dr Pepper and bourbon, we enjoy the grill and we both have all women in our houses.  We have a Halloween tradition of trick or treating, we spend Alicia’s birthday kayaking and camping and enjoy immature, crass movies.  “I don’t want a large Farva, I want a _______ liter of cola.”  We have a lot in common and are a lot alike but also have our differences.  We’ve spent considerable stretches of time not talking to each other, not because of those differences but because of life.  We both have demanding jobs and family responsibilities.  But the thing about our friendship is that I always know that he is only a call or text away. I’ve spoken before about my small circle.  There’s no doubt that he is well entrenched and I know he would be there at the drop of a hat if I needed him.  The same goes for me.   

 CJ loves his family, takes care of his girls, works hard, plays hard and enjoys time with his friends.  That’s what I try to do and that’s what has made our friendship stand up over time.  We don’t get wrapped up in petty differences or one up each other or get our feelings hurt when other important things are going on in our lives.  What more could you ask for in a friend, a brother?  It should go without saying that I love Michele, Cass, Annah and Eden too.  But that is all made possible by the respect and admiration I have for the man of their house, Clemmie Johnny.  Much love bro! 

 Nacho: “Chancho! I need to borrow some sweats.”

Chancho: “Are you leaving us?”

Nacho: “No, Chancho, I would never leave you. I just need to borrow some sweats.”
Joey

Friendly Conversation

  After our softball tourney Saturday, me and The Zib had some deep conversation over nachos at El Maya.  Chicken for Z and Texas Fajita for Dub – no veggies for either.  That’s not the point but I thought it might be of interest.  We talked about the lack of veggies, banana peppers, math, biology teachers, uncomfortable moments and basic human psychology.  The conversation eventually led to what we look for in friends, what we expect from a friendship and what generally leads us to know when someone is real or not.  It was really quite thought provoking but I found myself just talking without needing to think.  I knew what those things were to me but I was verbalizing them and listening to someone else with the same overall thought process.  It did make me realize some things though.  1) I look at friendship completely different than I did 20 years ago.  2) Maybe we are all looking for generally the same things in a friend.  3) My friend list shrinks as I grow older.  4) Zibby has a better understanding of people than I did at almost 17.

When I was 17, friendship to me was consumed by pranks, one upsmanship (it’s a word I think) and generally shitty behavior towards each other.  Seriously, my best friends were the target of some of my worst behavior.  I took the old saying “I kid because I care” waaaay too seriously.  It’s a little embarrassing to look back on but the feelings were quite mutual.  I am going to assume that the statute of limitations (“It’s statue” ~ Kramer) is up on all of this as I type it but in the event it’s not, let’s just say this piece is for entertainment purposes and I admit to nothing.  A few examples of my appreciation for my friends may be in order to properly convey how my thoughts on friendship have changed over the years.

I guess we should start with sleepovers.  We had lots of these.  My parents went to Fort Gaines almost every weekend so I had the boys over for video games and movies on the regular.  We always tried to stay up all night.  To honor the tradition, we had a special punishment for the first one to fall asleep.  We would create a “concoction” who’s ingredients would vary from time to time but always became generally the same finished product.  We would take a plastic cup and combine everything we could find – ketchup, mustard, pickle juice, dog food, jelly, smashed vegetables, you name it.  If it was in the house, it went in the cup.  Those contents usually got poured on top of the lucky sleeper.  If they were REALLY lucky, we would hold them down and try to make them drink it.  Good times!  Can you imagine doing that as a grown up? We do live in quite the litigious society after all.  I’m pretty sure a hodie wedgie by definition falls under assault.  Second time hodie wedgie has made an appearance.  I’m still not sure the statute of limitations even protects me from defining it so we’ll move on again and leave you wondering.

I don’t know what made us do those things to each other.  Maybe we were taking out our frustrations on each other because we knew we couldn’t get away with it with the general public.  It actually made us closer too, which is pretty twisted.  I even cost (partially) one of my best friends his jobs one time.  Let me state clearly that he hated it and was looking for a reason to quit.  The infamous golf cart incident.  Russ was employed at the local golf course and had the responsibility of pulling the pins after dark.  After a shift at the Video Superstore, I decided I’d pitch in.  I couldn’t turn down riding around in a golf cart at night.  We turned the event into a race after only two holes and as we careened toward the third hole, I decided on a short cut.  Unbeknownst to me, the area around the third green was under repair and roped off.  Russ claims he called out to me but I heard nothing.  I hit a rope, head high, at full speed, in the dark.  My face smashed into the steering wheel and the roof of the cart was ripped clean off.  I bled all over the green as I tried to figure out what happened.  I came too on the putting green near the cart garage as Jim and Russ tried to put the roof back on, in vain.  We went back to his house, covered my face in ice and never breathed a word of it to anyone…..until now.  Surely 22 years is long enough right?  The next day, as he tried to explain the destroyed cart and blood on the 3rd green, he threw in the towel.  At that time, I didn’t care that he was without income.  The only real regret I had was that I didn’t get to see people’s reactions as they tried to figure out the blood trail on the green grass.  That is a moment that would have easily written right into Caddyshack.

I’ve obviously grown up over the last couple of decades.  I’ve also naturally gravitated away from those people and towards people that are more like minded to my 39 year old persona. I wouldn’t trade those days for anything and will forever consider those friends a part of who I am but I guess I’ve moved on.  I still like a good prank but they are much more good natured now.  They are usually followed with a pat on the back or a hug as I offer an apology and assure them it was a joke.  The laughs are good but what I really want in friendship is trust and respect.  I want to be able to talk with my closest friends about my darkest secrets and not be judged or wonder when they are going to pull out the info in public for the giggles.  Some things really are sacred and are only shared when we need to get things off our chest or when we need some assurance.  That’s where trust is important.  I talk to my friends when others don’t need to know what’s going on.  I’ve tried to walk around with things bottled up but that’s not healthy – see my thoughts on overthinking.  You slowly learn who you can trust and generally find yourself talking more and more to those people.  It’s natural because they give you a sense of security that you can’t find in most people you meet.  Gossip is a way of life now and some like to be the first person to share “new info”.  Those people thrive on your vulnerabilities and it gives them power in the relationship.  When I learn who these people are, the circle closes with them on the outside.

Respect is the other major component I look for.  This can be very broad.  Respect can be understanding when I need time alone or when I need someone to prop me up.  The best friends in life have a knack for knowing when to be there.  They’re just there.  They’re not overbearing but you can feel them there.  In turn, you find yourself being drawn to them when they are in a time of need.  You just feel it and know that you should make yourself available.  It’s a feel thing; natural.  When you have to try too hard, it’s not there.  When you find yourself always giving or being the one that always sacrifices, it’s not there.  At this point in my life, plastic friendships have a way of weeding themselves out over time.  That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of nice people who I call pals or buds out there.  But true friendship has a feeling all its own.  It’s so much more than it used to be.

That’s also part of the reason the numbers dwindle over time.  Friendship takes a commitment.  It’s not about you or me.  It’s about y’all or us.  It’s about caring more about the other person in the relationship than we care about ourselves.  Again, that comes naturally when the feeling is mutual.  It’s easier to care for someone you know cares about you, right?  While I feel like we did, I can’t swear that my friends and I in high school cared as much about each other as what we might could do for each other.  Number one red flag in my opinion is basing your friendship off of what that person can do for you.  It’s not always easy to see when you are doing that but eventually those thoughts or feelings become prevalent when given the chance.  Those relationships ALWAYS end in dissapointment because they’re not mutually beneficial.  In life, you get what you put in.  Friendship is no different.  But “putting in” with a real friendship is not work.  It’s an organic give and take that is expected but not something that you have to focus on.  It’s just comfortable.  A friend is comfort to me.  

  

So I found myself sitting there with a true friend, talking about other true friends and what made them special to me.  I realized how far I had come and how that understanding of friendship has made me so much more comfortable in life.  I know who I can depend on.  I know who can depend on me.  And that’s really all I need.  Life is going to throw some pretty rough stuff at you.  You can’t handle it alone either.  But you don’t have to have a contact list busting with friends to conquer it.  As long as you have the right friends, you don’t have to have a lot of friends.