The Evolution of A Man

I must admit it.  I believe in evolution.  To be honest, it’s pretty hard to deny if you really think about it.  If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll see things my way by the time you’re done reading this. If you don’t, you’re just not being honest with yourself.  To clarify, the evolution I am referring to is the second definition.  Did you think I was about to go on a diatribe about cavemen or Darwin?  Not quite.  The definition of evolution I’m on today explains it as “the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form.”  As in me, personally.  My growth over time.  My adaptation to the world around me as it changes every day.  

The difficulty is navigating the changes and adapting while remaining true to the person you are at your core.  It’s hard to keep up sometimes.  Sometimes the world is hard to live in.  Sometimes we can’t get it to make sense.  That’s when we start to evolve.  We have to make sense of it so we have to look at ourselves and see what adjustments we can make to our actions or surroundings.  I also think at certain times though, evolution can stop.  We can refuse to continue to learn and adapt.  Those are dangerous times.  That is when we risk losing ourselves.  It’s important to never forget key moments, key people and key struggles in our lives.

We are all born as this innocent little creature that knows nothing of the world that awaits them.  I’m looking at my baby G right now as she eats and thinking that she has no idea what is happening around her.  She can’t understand the lengths that I am willing to go to in order to keep her that way; healthy, innocent and just worried about whether she wants the hamburger or the cheese or the fry.  That’s her biggest decision right now.  Nothing more.  But as daddy, the decisions are nonstop and can sometimes be more difficult than I’ve ever imagined.  It makes me long for the days that I was a kid myself.  

I was a bit rambunctious when I was a wee lad.  The things that I did then make me weak in the knees and stomach when I think about having to experience it as a father.  My dad has always been a strong man to me but now that I am a father myself, I realize what strength it really took for him and my mom to make it.  Imagine, if you will, a young tot about 3 years old playing around the yard.  My dad was working on his big truck, which was a common experience growing up.  I was playing on an old race car that my Grandaddy had that used to race on the old version of the US 19 Dragstrip.  Back then, they would sometimes pull the car behind their truck without the need to use a trailer by using a metal tongue type system that would attach the truck and car.  This big piece of metal stayed hooked to the car while in the yard and would lay back over the hood.  That daring 3 year old climbed up that big hunk of metal and wound up pulling it over sending both kid and metal to the ground.  Kid landed first, metal smashed head against the ground.  I basically split my head wide open.  Getting woozy now.

It’s weird the things you remember from childhood.  I can honestly remember parts of this experience as a 3 year old.  I don’t know how other than the magnitude of trauma involved.  I remember my dad loading me into the pickup and laying across his and my moms lap as my Grandaddy sped to the hospital.  I remember not really crying.  I remember waking up and getting a truck from my uncle speedy that distracted me while I got a shot.  There are some things I don’t remember because I didn’t see them or know about them until later in life.  I later found out that I was painfully close to having to get a blood transfusion….in 1980.  Think about it.  I also found out that I was about a half an inch from the metal collapsing my eye sockets, which would have proven to be too much for me to overcome.  I was also told later that my grandmother, who was in the bath when it all happened, showed up after we had all gotten there and the first thing she saw was my dad covered in blood, sitting on the floor of the hospital hallway, bawling.  The father in me now almost collapses at the mental image.

I recovered over time.  It was hard from what I understand.  I had terrible nightmares for a while after that.  I would wake up screaming in the middle of the night.  I had debilitating headaches for many years.  I have a scar to this day that stretches clear across my head and goes to the back of my scalp.  As I think back to the things that I remember and things I’ve been told, it’s obvious that I am very lucky to have spent an extra 36 years on this earth.  So using that as a reference, every day is a gift.  Everything that happens positive in my life is something that may have never happened at all.  Alicia would have been around but Bailey and Georgia are direct results of my 39 year existence.

Which brings me back around to evolution.  That event was just one moment in my life.  There have been hundreds more.  Some good, some bad.  I would go on to have a couple more near death experiences, although none as close as the split head.  The collarbone and severed tongue come to mind.  Everything along the way has played a part, no matter how small or how significant.  I struggled in school, I’ve lost friends along the way to death, drugs, prison and plain stupidity.  I’ve gained friends through faith and trust.  I outperformed my own expectations in college.  I have struggled in sports and been to the top of the mountain at times.  I went from floundering between jobs at video stores and Pepsi and The Trading Post to having a successful career in a professional job.  I have questioned myself, trusted only myself, loved myself, hated myself, kicked myself, picked myself up, laughed alone, cried alone, been broke, been comfortable, felt alone and felt loved.

All of those experiences, feelings and emotions have built what I am and continues to mold me.  I have never been someone who was afraid of emotions.  I don’t have to be the baddest guy in the room.  I don’t have to be the bravest or the hardest.  I do want to be the realest.  The most transparent.  The most honest and open.  I want to be the man that you feel comfortable leaning on and talking to.  I want to be able to help, even if that help is just being there.  Ten years ago, I didn’t want to be that guy.  I didn’t care enough.  But I like to think that I’m evolving.  I like to think I can be a better person.  I want to be the dad that mine was and is.  I want to be a foundation and role model for my girls.  I want to know the I’ve done it the right way.  I want to help them evolve as they get older.  When G has more important decisions than the cheese, the burger or the fry, I want her to think about what Daddy would do.  

I hope I never have to endure what my dad (and mom) did with my health scares because I don’t know if I’ll ever be that strong.  But I think about the emotions and fear my dad must have experienced that day and it equates to a love that could never be matched.  I want that to be seen by my girls in me.  The feeling is there. I don’t know if I’ve learned how to properly show it yet but that is the kicker with evolving.  As long as I’m still learning, I can continue to adapt and grow.  I know that I have come a long way from where I was yesterday.  I’ve got to keep going though and be further along the road tomorrow.

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… 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.


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.”


I’m Not Dead Yet!  (Am I?)

As I awoke this morning, a lot of thoughts hit my mind.  I usually lie in bed for a bit and get myself mentally prepared to face what’s ahead of me.  It’s Monday – the zombie of weekdays.  It’s Bailey’s last week of school and there is a lot going on.  We’re getting closer to the end of the month, which is the busy time at work.  Alicia and I go on our 15 year anniversary cruise in 2 weeks so there is mental planning, physical planning and financial arrangements to be made.  Bailey has horse lessons this afternoon so I need to stagger supper for G and the rest of the family.  Just run of the mill thoughts as I prepare to rise.  

Then, as that moment to rise comes, it hits me.  I am getting freaking old.  My body has pain in places I didn’t think actually had feeling receptors.  Muscles that I didn’t know existed ache.  My body is starting to show all of the signs of disregard and abuse I’ve given it over the last 40 years.  And you’d better believe I have given it a fair share of nicks and bruises along the way.  I have never really regarded my body as a temple, unless you consider Buddha your religious go to.  In that case, it’s masterful.

I have constantly battled weight issues throughout my life.  Glimpses at photos from my high school annuals until now show a veritable hodgepodge of chubby, skinny, fat and even toned at one time.  Those were a sweet couple of weeks.  I was a svelt 165 at graduation and am now a deceptively striking 225.  I’m on a 60 pound per 20 year pace, or 3 lbs per year depending on how you look at it.  Here’s the conundrum.  I don’t really care about the weight itself.  I don’t have body issues and don’t really spend any time comparing myself to the next guy that may be 300 lbs or may be a jacked 195 cross fitter. That’s honestly not an issue with me and I am completely comfortable in my own skin.  The issue now is the slow breakdown of this shell that carries me around.

I’m positive it’s a combination of factors.  My number one suspect though is age.  I know that I’ll one day just be a heap of stretched muscles and tendons and cracked bones and worn down appendages.  I can accept that.  But I’m not quite ready for it.  I started being a walking trauma center at an early age.  By the age of 5, I had broken my collar bone, sliced my head open playing on a racecar that was a pile of metal, bit my tongue almost clean in two after a dive down a flight of stairs, broken my toes in a dresser climbing incident, swallowed various toys and almost OD’d on some Tylenol.  Oh and my loving auntie Ann smashed my hand in a car door at Penny Pinchers, oh the irony.  Now I know all kids go through various stages of illness and injury but I caused a 6 year gap between me and my brother because my parents just didn’t know if I would make it and didn’t want to have 2 wreckless nut jobs running around the house.I leveled off a bit when I hit my teen years.  With the exception of a busted up elbow from pitching, I limited my injuries to bruises from being hit by Jason Lee fireballs and sprained ankles from playing too much basketball.  But nothing hospital inducing…..until my infamous nose restructuring when I was 22.  That set me back a bit and gave me a whole new appreciation for rebounding.  As an adult, I’ve had the occasional meniscus tear, shin bruises from ground balls, a broken finger or two and a fouled up back from my periodic scorpions.  But again, I’ve avoided the hospital since the nose.

What all of this has done is taken a toll on me over the course of the last 25 years.  We played doubleheader kickball games yesterday and it hit me that I was the oldest player on the field.  I’m the oldest player on my Gordon city league team, 2nd oldest on my coed team, 3rd oldest in basketball and 4th oldest at SOTC (and won’t ever be the oldest thanks to Barry).  It really doesn’t seem like that long ago when I was the young buck on all of the squads.  But those days are gone.  And I am left with memories of what I once could do. My mind still tries to do those things but my body just laughs.  That’s when the scorpions attack.I took those days for granted.  I laughed at my elders for not being able to hold up over several hours of competition.  I recall an evening Petey and I stopped at Winn Dixie after softball so I could replinish my Little Debbie supply at home.  I was a solid 23 probably and Petey said, “You know, one day you aren’t going to be able to stuff those in your face this late at night.”  He’s a true wordsmith.  I have defied that warning and have been able to continue that hobby.  Which is one of the leading contributors to the 60 lbs in 20 years.  

But the fact that the statement was so unthinkable makes me realize just how old I’ve really become.  I eat as I please still because I believe that life isn’t worth living if you aren’t actually living while you’re here.  I’m going to croak one day.  I don’t want to look back on that day and say, “I wish I had one more cheesy bread from Harvest Moon.”  Of course, I still have to try to cut out eating late, cut out the 4th meal from Taco Bell as much as possible and limit the M&M’s.  If I didn’t, I’d be 3 bills by now and my athletic career (as questionable as it is) would be over now instead of having one foot in the ditch and another on a banana peel.

Which brings me to the real question of what happens when it is really over.  I keep thinking that by the time it’s over, I’ll need a walker.  Then I have mornings like today where I wonder if I’ll be able to walk from my desk to the printer.  That’s a treacherous 40 feet when your hips and knees don’t want to cooperate.  Hopefully, I’ll leave some impression on the younger guys, my teammates.  I have always tried to be a good teammate.  I try to keep everyone positive, I try to be dependable.  I try to avoid conflict when possible and (with the exception of kickball) try to let the umpires do their job without my input.  I’ve tried to do it the way Dewey taught me.  The right way.  

I know the day is coming.  I’m closer today than I was yesterday.  I’ll be even closer tomorrow.  But I’ll be at Sherwood ready to play 2 more softball games and will once again use my body as an object to slow down a softball.  I’ll wake up Wednesday and wonder why I keep putting myself through it.  I’ll have a few days to heal and I’ll be back on the kickball field.  That’s the only way I know to keep going. If I stop, it’s all over.  There are no layoffs anymore.  When this train stops, it’s parking in the station.  The only way to keep going is to never get rid of the aches.  If I ever get back to where my back doesn’t hurt while I sleep or my knees don’t hurt when I get out of bed or my hip doesn’t hurt when I pick up a toy off of the ground, I know I’ll never go back to the pain.  What kind of idiot would I be?  So, for now, I’ll enjoy the daily reminders of my physical failings and I’ll keep pushing myself to be the best elder statesman I can be.  I’ll never be remembered as a home run hitter or speedster or dunk machine.  But maybe when it’s all over, my old teammates will say, “that guy never stopped playing.  He never gave up and he was fun to be around.”  Because I can tell you, when my playing days are over and Alicia gets me 24/7, the compliments won’t be near as plausible.  As a matter of fact, she will probably finish the job and cripple me with a kayak paddle.  And I’ll probably deserve it.  Until then though, I’ll be on the field the very next chance I get.  See you there!


The Fear of Me

Fear has many definitions.  It can be a noun or a verb.  It can be a feeling or an emotion.  It can be concious or subconscious.  I think the best definition for me is, “the feeling of anxiety concerning the outcome of something or the safety and well being of someone.”  In this definition, it plainly reads as a feeling.  In any case, we all have them.  Some more prevalent than others.  Some more willing to admit or talk about them than others.  But they are there, make no mistake.  They change as we get older.  Fear is almost like a resistant illness that mutates over time as we fight it.  

That mutation runs parallel with our understanding or knowledge of the world and what’s real.  When we’re young, it’s things like the boogeyman, the dark and strangers.  As teens, we fear school or grades or being accepted or asking someone out.  Some fears are not age discriminate and can affect you over your whole life.  These are usually phobias of some sort like acrophobia (heights), arachnophobia (spiders) or coulrophobia (clowns).  There is a website, Phobia List, dedicated to hundreds of actual named phobias that are pretty unbelievable.  There is even a fear of phobias, phobophobia, no joke.  

As adults however, our fears have typically grown to “drug resistant” status and can be difficult to cope with.  Maybe it’s because we know mom or dad aren’t coming into the room to turn the light on.  We generally have a fear of even talking about our fears as adults because it can make us appear vulnerable.  You got it, a fear of being vulnerable.  This can be more prevalent in the male species as we don’t like admitting to being afraid of anything.  I’m going to break that man code with this post because I think fear is a basic human emotion (or feeling) that pushes me every day to be a better person.  I don’t mind discussing it.  I guess you could say that over time, I have conquered my gelotophobia, or fear of being laughed at or made fun of.

I generally don’t have any tradition phobias, with the exception of a case of germophobia.  Heights are exhilarating to me.  I think spiders are part of natures balance, just like snakes and alligators, so long as it’s not a black widow or brown recluse.  And clowns aren’t really even on my radar.  I think I have even reached a point in my life where I am no longer afraid of death itself.  It is going to happen, whether it be tomorrow in my softball game (line drive to the face would be an awful way to go, unless we won) or 40 years from now on the golf course while playing for the course record at Bushwood (Caddyshack?).  Do I want it to be tomorrow?  Not preferably, as I think I have more to learn and experience on this earth.  But I’ve come to realize that I am, by and large, not in control and that uncertainty and lack of control actually takes the fear out of it for me.

That actually brings me to my first and most pressing fear – the safety and well being of my family and friends.  These are the people that need to be here longer than me.  I spend much of my day to day life trying to make sure that I am doing my part to keep the scales tilted in that direction.  I think that is a generally accepted practice with any married individual or parent.  Not necessarily ground breaking but it is my greatest fear in life.  So much so that I don’t really want to spend any more time on this one.  

After that, a major fear I have is that of letting people down.  This is one that I have battled for many years.  I need to do better and better and better every day because stagnation or a step back is not acceptable.  Every day, the personal bar gets higher and the fear grows.  I am fortunate to have a comfortable, steady job that takes care of my family and our needs.  We have a home, food, transportation, pets, toys and anything else we need to live a stable life.  The fear attached with maintaining that is overwhelming.  I have certain expectations of myself and so do others.  A lapse in judgment or blurring of the lines would be devastating for me and could put all of that in jeopardy.  As a husband and father, what kind of pressure matches that?  

Beyond the professional aspect, there is the personal or social aspect of that fear.  I have two daughters that watch every move I make.  As dad, I can’t really do anything wrong in their eyes but that’s where the pressure comes from.  They think that what I do is the right thing or the right way to something.  Every night consists of a mental inventory of the day’s actions and self approval or self regret.  The funny thing about self regret is that there isn’t much you can do about it.  It’s a sinking feeling that makes you understand how to process in the future but it doesn’t do much in the present.  

I am entrusted by many people for many different things.  My wife trusts that I am going to take care of her and our children.  I work in the financial industry so there’s fiscal trust.  I manage employees so they trust my leadership.  My friends trust me with their confidence or for advice.  To be honest, I am a very fortunate man to have that trust from people.  But with that sometimes comes a delusional internal expectation of perfection.  Therein lies the fear.  Perfection is 100% elusive.  I haven’t met perfection and am certain it does not exist on earth.  But where in that list do I have the latitude to slip up?  I know it’s not realistic but fear is often irrational.

I think it would be safe to say that my biggest fear is myself.  That’s right, I am most afraid of me.  I’m afraid I’ll let my guard down at work and let something bury me.  I’m afraid I will take someone close to me for granted.  I’m afraid I’ll forget one day that my kids are watching.  I’m afraid I’ll let go for a minute and say something my friends have trusted me with.  I’m afraid I won’t be there when Alicia  needs me the most.  I’m afraid I’ll let the past control my future.  I’m afraid I’ll let you down.  It’s all me.  It’s J-Dubophobia.  

There is a silver lining and it’s all that keeps me from crumbling in a heap on certain days.  That fear of myself pushes me every day to improve.  When you embrace a fear you have, you live it every minute and it makes you fight.  When you look your fear in the eyes, acknowledge its existence and give it an identity, it can’t hide from you.  That seems to be the first step in conquering a fear, you have to recognize and understand it.  The only way to understand the dark is to walk right into it.  It took me a while but I think I finally get it.  I’m going to let myself down.  But I can’t let the periodic failures define me as a man.  Ultimately, you are defined by your heart, your intentions, your growth.  Maybe this fear is a part of that growth.  Maybe it’s just one of the demons I’ll have to live with.  Either way, the most certain way I have learned to cope with fear is to talk about it.  So, I won’t hide from that.


Fright Fest

They don’t make em like they used to.  This phrase could be used for a million different things.  The saudade in all of us can appreciate its meaning.  Movies are one of those million things but are one of my favorite things.  Horror movies to be specific, as evidenced in previous posts.  Hollywood has increasingly resorted to remaking the good ones and they still can’t get it right.  The fact is that they have run out of original ideas, so they rehash the old ones and add more gore and shock value.  This usually makes for a worse adaptation and comes off as trying too hard.  Scary for me has typically come in the form of being led down a dark tunnel and fearing what you can’t see as opposed to what you can.  So for me, the gore does nothing.  

As I was compiling my top album list, the thought hit me that I needed to put this one together too.  I have compiled the top 10 horror movies of my personal collection that would outperform anything being put out today.  As I put this list together, I tried to follow a general formula that included the scare factor, level of rewatchability (may or may not be a word) and quotable value.  I wound up with some classics, some mainstream favorites and some cheese as well.  I think they are all representative of my tastes in the genre.  While they may not be widely accepted as top 10’s, they are in mine and that’s the perks of having a blog.  I think I’ve even successfully put them in order.  So, let’s go to the movies!

10.  From Dusk Til Dawn (1996) – This Quentin Tarantino vampire classic blew me away the first time I saw it.  A group of us rented it not really knowing the plot other than it being about a couple of criminals on the run.  Yeah, that’s a minor subplot.  It’s loaded with a who’s who list of performers; Clooney, Tarantino, Harvey Keitel, Tom Savini, Cheech Marin, Juliette Lewis and a personal favorite of mine, Danny Trejo.  It also introduced me to an actress by the name of Salma Hayek, who played the lovely Santanico Pandemonium…..whew!  The more I thought about this one, the more I wanted to move it up the list but I can’t justify it.  It’s largely entertaining and has plenty of scare value as well but also goes off script a little too much to maintain some level of believability to keep the tension.  It teeters back and forth between horror, action and comedy, which helps it maintain its top 10 spot but also keeps it from threatening the top 5.

9.  Fright Night (1985) – This one to me was legit scary.  The effects in this movie were ahead of their time.  For a movie made in 1985, the vampires made me nervous to walk down a dark hallway.  Another level of fear for me at the time was the thought of knowing something and not being able to have anyone believe me.  That’s a kids worst nightmare.  This movie plays on the notion that there are monsters all around us but we can’t prove it.  I haven’t like Chris Sarandon since I saw that movie and can only envision him as a bad guy whenever I see him in other movies.  This is one that was remade in the 2000’s and fell way short in my opinion.  Could’ve been Colin Farrell or the lack of Roddy McDowell or a combination of both.  If you haven’t seen this, be sure to watch the ’85 version first.

8.  Return of The Living Dead (1985) – Ok, before you say it, I know this is one of the cheesiest zombie movies ever made but it was supposed to be and it was made obvious.  On the quotable level, this would probably be #2 as it is packed with 80’s goodness.  I also liked the fact that this movie actually revealed the origin of the pandemic as opposed to leaving it in the background.  It was even a plausible story as zombie apocalypses go.  A zombie (along with its gasses) is released in a single building but the dumb responses by the employees in the building lead to the widespread infection.  Oh, and the government is behind the whole thing.  Sounds reasonable.  This is a classic that will make you laugh more than anything but is still a horror by definition and is firmly in my top 10.

7.  The Shining (1980) – I believe this is Stephen King’s second best story, as you’ll see when I get to number 2.  It is more psychological than gory and keeps you thinking that it could legitimately happen.  This movie introduced viewers to “Redrum” and me to Scatman Carruthers.  Take a kid who sees dead people and talks to imaginary friends and put him in a haunted hotel and you’ll likely scare me every time.  Of course, this also included a performance by Jack Nicholson that is likely unmatched in his catalog, with the possible exception of Cuckoo’s Nest.  I catch myself to this day being a little anxious walking down a long hotel hallway thanks to those creepy twins.  It probably didn’t help that I saw this for the first time when I was about 6 thanks to a babysitter not caring what we watched.  

6.  Day of The Dead (1978) – This classic zombie flick made the list for one prominent reason.  Along with being a very entertaining film to begin with, it introduced us to the idea that a zombie could be domesticated if given the proper attention and teachings.  Bub was a lovable walker that enjoyed listening to his headphones just as much as I do.  Of course, the villains in the film, which weren’t the zombies for once, couldn’t understand or accept this so they eventually pushed him to be the monster he was.  There was a certain realism that was scary in this film that was unrelated to the zombies and has been taken to all new levels with The Walking Dead.  Sometimes, it’s the living that you have to be more afraid of than the dead.  

5.  Evil Dead (1981) – For the most part, I’ve never been a big fan of demonic or paranormal movies.  This is the glaring exception.  I don’t know if it was the setting I first saw this movie in or if it was the movie itself but it really creeped me out.  The first time I saw it was when I spent the night with a friend who lived out in the country.  Just down the road from his house was an old church and graveyard.  We would go to the graveyard as a group and see who was bravest among us to walk through it in the dark.  After watching Evil Dead, I don’t think we ever did that again.  Another film that was remade in the 2000’s and taken to a whole new level of shock value, the better version remains the original.  The disappointing issue with the film is that it spawned a couple of sequels that were purely spoof comedy and totally went off the rails.  If it had started that way, I could understand it but by the time we got to Army of Darkness, I was lost.

4.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – The only movie on this list that has decent remakes is Chainsaw Massacre.  None beat the original though.  I think there is even another one coming out this summer.  I’m pretty sure me and Zibby are going to see that one as no one else will watch them with me.  The last Chainsaw Massacre I saw in the theater ended up with Alicia going to Wal Mart about 20 minutes in and not talking to me for a week.  This movie produced many imitations over the years but remains one of the original “creepy family kidnaps teenagers and tortures them” films.  It could probably be #1 on this list and many others but I have personal reasons for my top 3.  Still, Leatherface will go down as the scariest monster in my book.  An actual crazy person that has a taste for blood and enjoys wearing skin as a mask.  No thanks!

3.  Halloween II (1981) – The Halloween series and Michael Myers is probably my favorite collection of all time.  The only movie I didn’t like was III and it was an oddball movie about masks that went way off script from the general story.  While the original Halloween is considered the classic of the series, part 2 was the most entertaining to me.  This was partly due to the setting, a hospital.  Hospitals have always been one of the scariest settings for a horror movie to me.  I’m not entirely sure why but they make the hairs on my neck stand up.  Add Michael Myers to the setting and you’ve got a real creepfest.  Now would be the time to say that while I enjoyed Rob Zombie’s Halloween films, I would have been much happier had he just created his own movies instead of using Halloween, which should have remained as it was created.  If not for Malcolm McDowell playing Dr. Loomis, I’d be totally out on the new Halloween.  Which leads to my last point.  Sam Loomis may be the best character in a horror movie ever, aside from the killers themselves.  I love Donald Pleasance!

2.  Silver Bullet (1985) – This might not be a popular pick among most horror buffs but this one holds the #2 spot on my list. This is likely because it’s one of the first horror movies I watched from beginning to end.  I was probably 8 or 9 when I first saw it and some friends over at Fort Gaines had it on Beta, for those of you who remember that.  I can still plug that movie in today and watch it all the way through, fully entertained.  Corey Haim was pre Corey Feldman and Gary Busey was pre Gary Busey.  This is Stephen Kings greatest accomplishment in my opinion.  The effects were a bit corny and don’t hold up at all today but the story continues to be a haunting twist among many werewolf plots. It’s also very quotable.  So much so that I could probably act out the movie, playing each part, and only miss a line or two.  The movie is worth watching, if for no other reason, just to see Gary Busey tell his “jackass” joke.  When I decide it’s time for Bailey to start watching horror movies, this will be the first one she sees.  I may even watch it tomorrow night myself.

1.  Night of The Living Dead (1990) – I’ve already told the story behind this movie.  You can read all about it here, Old Friends.  This is the movie that got me hooked on zombie films for life.  The downside of the film was that I later could not enjoy the Candyman series due to my appreciation for Tony Todd and my dislike of his portrayal of a killer. My horror collection begins and ends with this film and it will forever be #1.

I couldn’t list just 10 movies so I listed a few more as potential list crackers but, for various reasons, didn’t make it.  

Honorable Mention:  

Aliens – Classic movie but just not quite a top 10 film.  It’s actually been a while since I’ve seen it.  I hope it still holds up.

28 Days Later – Great premise, great visual style, great effects.  The execution was just a little off and it lost me the closer I got to the end.  Great movie but not a list buster.

Shaun of The Dead – No doubt in my top 10 comedy list.  I just can’t bring myself to classify this as a horror.  That is the only reason it’s not in the top 10.

Friday the 13th – The series absolutely deserves to have a film in the top 10.  I will not argue that point and I’m disappointed in myself that it’s not there. I just couldn’t pick one out of all of them.  That’s it.

The Devil’s Rejects – This is what a Rob Zombie film is.  It’s really not a film I would go around recommending to just anyone either because you have to have a pretty strong tolerance for explicit scenes because it really pushes the envelope with its themes.  Great movie but really not for everybody.

So this is my list and I stand by it but feel free to tell me where I screwed up and what I left off.  If you haven’t seen all of these films, I’d recommend checking them out but keep an open mind as it relates to time periods.  I have these on DVD so come over and we’ll watch them together.  I’ll try not to quote them as we watch.


What Do We Know?

“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered by me.” ~~ Sir Isaac Newton

We go through life learning more and more as we age and mature.  At 39, I am a much different person than I was at 20.  As a kid, I just needed to know how to get along with my buds and play video games.  In my teens, it was important to know how to manage a relationship with the buds and a significant other, what movies were coming out, what music was hitting, where my next $20 was coming from and whether or not we would have enough guys to play basketball on Saturdays.  Eventually, those focuses shifted to managing a career, living with a spouse and managing a household.  Now, the household has grown to 4 and I have to use all the knowledge I’ve attained over the years to simply survive the day.  

We are all self centered by nature.  I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way.  Rather, it’s easy to get caught up in what’s going on in our own lives and walking obliviously through the rest of society as it faces its own struggles.  A lot of people live that way on purpose and I do from time to time.  There is tremendous value in focusing on yourself and your family and friends as I have talked about many times in this blog.  But in moments of solitude and quiet, my mind turns to what else may be out there.  Don’t worry, I’m not about to go on some paranormal or sci-fi trip.  I’ll keep it reasonable.  What I am doing though is trying to constantly challenge my way of thinking which I believe helps me adapt and continue learning.

The quote at the beginning of this post is spoken eloquently but speaks simply to me.  I don’t know how the world sees me.  Some see me as smart, some see me as a country bumpkin.  Some see kindness and some see selfishness.  Some see success and some see failure.  I don’t know what the overwhelming opinion is.  To me, I’m just floating along here in my bubble with my own goals, victories and discoveries.  Outside of my bubble though is a vast world that I will never fully see or understand.  Newton was likely referencing the vastness of space in comparison to what were important laws and theories he developed.  I find the underlying subject meaningful in another vein.  At the risk of sounding bleak, I’m pretty insignificant.  That is not the point of this post though.  No amount of success or good deeds will change the fact that is outlined in this premise.  The point of this post is to acknowledge and accept that there are in fact things I’ll never know and understand.  I’m ok with that.  Everybody should be.  What can hold people back from accepting it though is the quest to be the smartest person in the room and always be right.

Our lives are consumed with debate and being on the right side of issues.  It’s almost become comical watching the news channel side shows bring their commentators from both sides of an issue to argue for 5 minutes about which side is right.  They argue as if they are going to change each other’s minds or ours.  People share articles on Facebook that back up their side of arguments, whether they have done their own due diligence on what they are sharing or not.  I’ve been a victim before and it’s embarrassing but the vast majority of Facebook users have yet to realize that there are fake news sites that were created to provide stories for sharing and support of various issues.  Either the articles are vague, half-truths or fabricated altogether.  

At the risk of getting off on a whole other topic about our slacktivist society and our penchant for social media outrage, take a look at the current Target bathroom issue.  I’m not about to preach to one side or the other or even discuss my stance as I’m sure it won’t change anyone’s mind and will certainly be bigoted or unchristian to whoever I’ve aligned myself against.  What I’m going to share is what I see.  I have friends that are scattered all over the spectrum of race, religion and sexual preference.  What that means is I get to see examples of both sides of the issue.  I have seen logical and absurd support of the decision and I’ve seen logical and absurd opposition.  But what I don’t ever see is reasonable discussion between sides……on any issue.  That’s because we can’t see (or at least understand) life outside of our bubble.  The line is clear – if I’m ok with the decision, I’m obviously a left wing nutjob who longs for communism.  If I’m opposed, I’m obviously a lunatic, southern tea partier that hates all people not like me.  

My point?  Have your beliefs and convictions.  Practice what you preach.  But know that you are living in your little world inside a big one.  I don’t know what’s right outside of my belief system.  Even inside it, I struggle from time to time because I accept that society is changing and I wonder if my opinions should too.  When I was young, I remember thinking how nutty it was for older people to have their weird opinions on the race issue.  The fact is that they were raised during a time where the issue was prevalent.  Guess what?  Young people are looking at the older generation now and saying, “how can you possibly not accept me as different than you?”  The older generation says, “Easy, it’s not how I was raised and it’s not right.”  I can’t imagine what the next generational clash will be but history will repeat itself and the same people calling others close minded or bigots will be on the receiving end.  

I did get off on a tangent.  Think about the vastness of your city or county.  I go to stores in town (yes, Target too) and about 75% of the people I see are people I’ve never seen before.  Have you ever stopped to wonder how that is even possible?  Publix is less than a mile from my home and I see new people in their daily.  And yes, I’m there daily.  We could never comprehend the number of people and opinions that are floating around out there beyond our reach.  So why do we think ours is so important that it must be right?  Think about how self centered that really is.  We should all have our opinions, beliefs, convictions but they aren’t going to be molded for everybody else.  Hell, we can’t even agree on whether Pepsi or Coke is better.  I’m supposed to follow your lead on what people should and shouldn’t do with their own physiology?  Pass.  This is seriously not about the specific bathroom issue.  That is the current hot topic.  This is about our inability to accept that we are living within the confinement of our own existence which is unable to truly see beyond itself.  

We can’t change being unable to see beyond our barriers.  But we can accept that there is life outside of those barriers.  Real life.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Believe what you want or what is best for your conscience/spirit.  Want to vote for Trump?  Want to be a woman dude?  Want to boycott Target?  Want to boycott Bruce Springsteen?  Want to be a Florida Gator fan?  Knock yourself out!!  I may not understand it but that’s not an overly unique position for me.  I don’t know what it’s like to live life in your shoes.  I don’t know what’s going on in your mind or heart.  I don’t know what keeps you up at night.  I can only try to deal with my own insomnia.  I’m learning everyday about my own seashore.  There are tons or rocks and seashells for me to explore and understand that keeps me busy.  Oh look, a sea turtle…..