Thursday, November 22, 2012


With today being Thanksgiving and all, I have been seeing everyone's holiday greetings, their daily post on the 30 Days of Thanks, and other assorted Thankfulness stuff that was making me feel a little guilty about my lack of postings about this.

Don't get me wrong; I'm very thankful.  I feel like it is something that I try very hard to concentrate on - being Thankful. Blessed, fortunate, lucky - however you choose to interpret it. I am very thankful for my life and all of those who are close to me. But I haven't been posting about it because 

  1. I'm lazy
  2. I'm forgetful
  3. I already spend enough time on the computer, I don't really need to commit to anymore by doing a daily posting of something I'm thankful for.
  4. See #1
However, this afternoon as I was waiting for dessert to happen I was sitting at the table with Grand Dot (GDot). GDot is basically The Girls' Great Grandmother. We don't get to see her often, but when we do she is so excited to see us and is so very kind and gracious. So GDot and I are sitting talking at the table as other people were cleaning and preparing leftovers to take to my parents (Mom's sick on Thanksgiving; that sucks).  

We started talking about a clock that is hanging on the wall in GQ's mom's house. GDot tells me that the clock was in her home growing up. She grew up in Decatur, over on Avery Street near Agnes Scott College. My mom grew up in Decatur, Oakhurst really, on Feld Avenue; so we had some City of Decatur things to talk about. She told me about some other pieces of furniture in the room that had been in her grandfather's house. He had a dairy farm out on Cheshire Bridge Road apparently. "Oh it was so fun!" she said, "We would go out for the day. We called it 'Going to the country.'" We talked about how much DeKalb has changed, and how I can't imagine Cheshire Bridge as a dairy farm when I don't even know if I've seen a tree on the road over there lately. We talked more, and she told me about the clock again as well as the piece of furniture she had already mentioned. Each time both items had been in different places of her family's, but it didn't matter because we were having a very nice conversation.

Here's the odd thing: I don't really like old people.  I don't dislike them! I don't go out of my way to avoid them, but they aren't high on my list of Favorite Things. I don't know why, well that's not true. I do know why.

  • The stories
  • The ailments
  • The complaints of how things were better when...
  • The speed I have to slow down to
I know. That's a petty, shallow and horrible list, but it's true. At least to me.  However, this afternoon none of those came up in my head as a signal to Get Up and Get Away From the Old Person.  I don't know why. It could be because I had eaten too much and to get up and move somewhere would've required energy that I didn't feel like expending at the time.  Regardless, I am very, very glad that I stayed and very, very glad that I spent that time talking with GDot. It was a spontaneous incident, and I don't know if it could ever happen again, but it made me think about my grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, great aunts and great uncles that I have had the privilege to know over my life time. I cannot say that I have taken every opportunity to make the most of these relationships. I haven't. But I can look at my life and I can see things that I got from these people; tangible and intangible. GQ might prefer if I hadn't gotten my noise-making genes from Granddaddy Crouch, but I think it's kind of neat to think that some things that aren't THINGS are passed down the line as much as any heirloom.

I feel very fortunate to have been able to have good, loving and long relationships with both of my grandfathers. They were able to see me grow into a young man with a family. The time that I got to spend with them, I know, is so valuable. I also know that some people never get that, or got that. It is something that I am sure I have taken for granted over the years.  I feel this especially when I think back to sitting with them at a dinner table, or in their hot, stuffy living room kind of talking, but kind of not, wishing that I could be somewhere doing something else. But there are other times that I know we had good conversations, spent good quality time watching the Travel Channel or listening to country music on the radio. I think my earliest memory is being with Granddaddy Benefield in his corn field. My brother and I were visiting Grandmother and Granddaddy and we were in the corn field with Granddaddy when all of the sudden, BOOM!!!!!! Granddaddy was shooting crows. I don't know if I knew that going into the corn field or what, but man, I remember that sound, and I remember being there with my brother and Granddaddy.

As I get older family Family becomes more important. The Girls are getting to have some of the experiences I was able to with my grandparents. GQ's and my parents both live in town, and the Girls have very close relationships with them. They happily go to their houses and spend time with the grandparents. R got to know her great-grandfather a little before he passed away. She was young, so there is not a lot of memory there, but she clearly remembers him, and has heard me tell stories about him enough to Know.

Going back to my not liking lack of liking Old People I think is a fear, a knowledge, that God willing, I am going to be an Old Person some day. I'm going to be the old guy that people aren't taking the time to sit with and talk and listen. I think about it kind of often these days. I guess it's because the Girls are getting older,  my parents are getting older, so dammit I must be getting older too. I know, right? Ridiculous! However, it's true; Time is marching on, and like it or not, it is carrying me with it.

So, on Thanksgiving 2012, something that I am Thankful for is the generations of my family that have come before me, and I can only hope that some day, years down the road some person will be sitting with me at a dining room table following Thanksgiving dinner listen to me ramble on about Super Heroes and how much DeKalb County has changed since I was little. God willing, I'll be there waiting for my dessert.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Replacements Are Better Than You Know

I first heard of the Replacements in the pages of Rolling Stone. I hadn't heard their music, to the best of my knowledge it didn't get played on regular radio until Don't Tell A Soul, unless 96 Rock was doing Smash or Trash, which if so they would have probabaly gotten trashed - which is perhaps fitting.  What I read was here was a new album from this great band that so many people had never heard of. The article went on to talk about how they never really get into band practice and sometimes stop their shows in the middle of songs and other tales that to a 17 year old with Rock Star Dreams made it seem like, here's a band I can relate to. Also hearing that Tommy Stinson started at the age of 13 in the band was exciting and interesting. Apparently  I could not relate enough to engage myself to go out to Turtles Records & Tapes to get this new release though.

I actually heard the band my freshman year of college. I really don't remember if I heard a song from Don't Tell A Soul first or heard one of their songs from a friend's mix tape. I want to say "I Don't Know" might have been the first listening experience. Holy crap. What a great introduction if it was. "One foot in the door, the other one in the gutter." That line really sums up their career. They were always there at the door of success, but I guess they felt the need to keep themselves away from the middle of the road.  It's like Neil Young said, you meet some nice people in the middle of the road, but you meet a lot more interesting ones off the side. I bought the cassette of Don't Tell A Soul and liked it. Later I bought the cassette of Tim. (I kind of cringe now thinking of all those cassettes I bought when records were still readily available) "Left of the Dial", "Kiss Me On The Bus", "Bastard of Young", and "Waitress in the Sky" are the songs that stand out most to me. I had forgotten about "Hold My Life". From there I went straight to Let It Be and Hootenanny.  "I Will Dare" off of Let It Be is such a great, great song, and at the time I loved to associate it to myself and GQ b/c she was so much younger than me. Westerberg said they were going to name the next album Let It Bleed just to show that nothing's sacred in rock 'n roll.

I didn't get into them in time to know the whole Bob Stinson story, so Slim Dunlap coming on with Don't Tell A Soul didn't mean much to me.  Listening now to the transition from Tim to Pleased to Meet Me to Don't Tell A Soul I definitely see the difference Stinson made in the band. In my opinion, he kept Westerberg not just grounded, but also tethered. It was Bob's foot that was 100% in the gutter. He didn't want to be in, or go through the door. Again, my opinion. Paul's songwriting and ability to create a melody was so strong, (and probably still is) but Bob's influence over him was so strong that that ability had to be tamped down. I've read several articles about how Paul would bring stuff in to the band only to have Bob tell him to "get out of here with that".  Westerberg must have had either extreme patience and durability or the elder Stinson had extreme charisma or or something to influence him so strongly. As I said, that transition of sound between those three albums is significant. Then to the almost acoustic All Shook Down, I'm surprised it wasn't put out as a Westerberg solo album.

Hearing that "I Will Dare" is the first song that Westerberg wrote on the acoustic guitar makes me question what took him so long to arrive at that spot.  I guess the idea of being a rock 'n roller was stronger than being a singer-songwriter. I wonder if he were just coming along today if he would have done it differently now that there are so many Jack Johnsons, Jon Mayers (regardless of your feelings about him, he is quite a gifted songwriter), and Jason Mrazs out there that are popular and accepted.  At the time he was coming up though it was a rock 'n roll world being injected with the punk rock ethic.  

Listening to the early Replacement recordings you definitely hear that punk rock influence. Loud, fast rules. That was an early name of Soul Asylum, one of The Replacements peer bands who have some great music of their own. A main difference between the two was that Westerberg had three other guys to present material to by himself while Soul Asylum had Dave Pirner and Dan Murphy as a team of songwriters that could play off each other.

After they kicked Bob out of the band and made Pleased to Meet Me and Don't Tell A Soul a lot of long time fans grew disenchanted with the group. Don't Tell A Soul was a polished, late 80s record. I don't remember who they had produce the album, but it was slick. Either they, or their record company was trying to get them on the radio and get the recognition that they deserved. I don't think it worked like they hoped it would. That article that I first read had a quote from Westerberg on his hopes of it getting picked up by the radio along the lines of, "Well, if this doesn't work we'll just go and do it again next year." I think that must have been how it was with each release for them.  That would have to get tiring.

With the addition of Dunlap, Westerberg finally had someone that would encourage his songwriting over his 'Mats image. A Spin article at the time had Dunlap and Tommy Stinson hanging out talking, and Tommy said something about how All Shook Down could be seen as Paul's solo album to which Dunlap replied, "He's put out six solo albums already." That didn't go over too well, as you may imagine.

I only saw the band one time, and it was to support Don't Tell A Soul.  I was really excited to see them, and was even more excited to see Paul Westerberg out in the audience watching the opening act, Tommy Keene.  I approached him, asked him to sign my ticket and told him that I really liked the new record. He thanked me awkwardly and then took off. I felt a little bad. I don't know if my bothering him while he was watching another band made him leave, or if he just thought he could blend into the crowd, or what. Regardless, I got my ticket signed and watched the band put on a great show as I was right up against the stage, and did more damage to my hearing.

I remember reading something that Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes say about the Replacements along the lines of they could have been the next Faces; Paul Westerberg had the hair, but not the balls to do it. I guess I see his point, but I don't think I could see the Replacements going that direction. The Faces were a great band, but so were The Replacements in a very different manner.

I'm sad that they fizzled out the way they did.  The deserved much more recognition and accolades from people than they ever received. They deserved more of a chance to prove what a great band they could be and less expectation for them to show up completely drunk and put on a sloppy show with unfinished songs, bad covers and verbal abuse to the audience. See that's what some people thought they were supposed to do live. To them I guess it was a comedy routine. That's sad to me. Someone with Westerberg's songwriting abilities deserved more respect from the audience and he should have given more to them as well.

I didn't keep up with his solo stuff other than the two songs that appeared on the Singles soundtrack, which I liked a lot; although they were very different. I have a funny memory of a roommate singing along loudly to "Dyslexic Heart" in the house when she thought no one was there. I heard a lot of disparaging remarks from friends about that song, but you know what, who cares?  I know that he put out several records, and as far as I know continues to release music and tour.

The other Replacements cotinued on their musical paths as well.  Tommy Stinson was part of a pretty good group called Bash and Pop and then went to play some bass with one incarnation of Guns 'n Roses. I think it must have been his hair that got him that gig. Chris Mars put out a number of solo albums after he left/was fired from the band. He was quite prolific. I don't know if it was a George Harrison type of thing where he had been writing all these songs and wasn't given the opportunity to put them out there, or was intimidated to put them up against Westerberg's songs, or what, but he he put out several releases all with his bizarre artwork on the covers.  He didn't have that great of a voice, but I admire that he put his stuff out there and didn't just bow out.

Here are my top Replacement songs. Some rocking, some not, but all with great songwriting - regardless of the seriousness of the subject, or lack thereof.

Within Your Reach
Kiss Me On The Bus
Anywhere Is Better Than Here
Color Me Impressed
I Will Dare
Left of The Dial
Waitress In The Sky
Can't Hardly Wait
I Don't Know
My Favorite Thing

Do yourself a favor and go check the band out if you haven't already.  If you already know them go back and listen to  some of those tracks and see what memories it brings back for you.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fleeting Magic

R came into GQ's room last night and threw a question out there.  Not only did she throw the question out, she threw it out with the stipulation that GQ had "to tell [her] the truth."
"Is the Tooth Fairy real?" she asked.

I don't know how much time was between the question and the answer, but if you know GQ you know she's a straight shooter. Especially when given a directive like that.

So she told her that no, the Tooth Fairy isn't real.  Then asked why she asked.  Turns out she overheard some girls in her class saying, "I got $5 from the Tooth Fairy, and my mom's the Tooth Fairy."

This confirmed what she had already thought.  Well, maybe not thought, but there was a nagging bit of doubt in her mind already because while she was looking through GQ's jewelry box she came across her old teeth. 

The Tooth Fairy didn't start off taking her teeth.  The first time he (more on that in a minute) came to visit he didn't take the tooth with him.  R was pretty puzzled by that, but we just told her that our fairy seems to not take the teeth with him.

"Why is your Tooth Fairy a guy?" I hear you. Valid question.

Last year R wrote the Tooth Fairy a note.  She asked for a name. I came up with Reginald, but you can call me Reggie. I can't remember what else Reggie put in his note, but there was some good info that made a then 8 year old R and 5 year old Coco feel pretty good.

So some doubt was already there when she discovered the teeth in the box.  Luckily GQ is a quick thinker and instead of just crumbling right there and confessing she claimed absolute ignorance to the teeth's presence. It was truthful ignorance too because I'm the one that placed the teeth in there. In hindsight I see that a mother's jewelry box isn't the best place for a secret hiding place, but, well, no buts just bad hiding spot.

Some of you may be asking what is a 10 year old doing believing in the Tooth Fairy to begin with?  If so it's because I believe that a strong imagination is a necessary component to a life well lived.  There's enough garbage that we have to deal with on a daily basis and I want my girls to be able to be able to have that escape.  GQ agrees, but perhaps not quite as strongly as me.  I have spent a good bit of time building up this foundation of all things fantasy derived. Answers to questions of "Do _____________ exist?" are usually met with "Well, I've never seen one, but that doesn't mean they don't exist." or "I sure think so."  If your parents aren't going to believe in something I would think it would make it awfully hard to believe in it yourself. Therefore I have always taken it as my responsibility to make sure that childhood magic is there for the Girls.

So with R's discovery that the Tooth Fairy is just something parents do to make losing a tooth a little less scary (GQ's explanation) another little piece of her youthful innoncence is gone. And not in exactly the same way, but in a similar way as when they hear a cuss word for the first time - it can't be undone.  She can't and won't go back to believing in the Tooth Fairy.  That part of her youth is gone.  She's that much closer to being OLDER.

Just like when a child turns 5 she is no longer a baby, she's a kid; the passing of belief to disbelief - ack - even metaphorically eating from the tree of knowledge - you can't go back. And I realize that part of this is the acceptance of not only is R getting older, but so am I.  

This whole Life thing. It fascinates me how most of the time the big changes that we experience come gradually, but at the same time seem to fly past. A teacher I work with summed it up best; The days crawl by and the years fly.

R has handled this very maturely after her initial shock and disappointment. Part of that may be from the fact that GQ and I are going to let her help us with Coco's Tooth Fairy experience from now on. She thinks that's kind of cool.

Ironically, the day after she found out The Truth her Safety Patrol post in the Library she was confronted with a book about the Tooth Fairy. "I just had to sit there and look at it all morning.  Finally, I couldn't take it anymore so I went and put it back on the shelf where it belongs."

Acceptance and knowledge are bittersweet pills that we all take at one time or another.

Friday, August 17, 2012

These Things. THESE THINGS!!!!

So this guy, this cyclist, goes whizzing between two lanes of cars today as I'm on my way to the doctor and it made me kind of mad  really pissed me off.  I wanted to yell, "You're the reason so many of us motorists hate cyclists!" but he was gone, and I'm trying to keep my fits of rage down to one a month, and there's still a whole half of August left. So I have decided to do a Grumpy Man Post and give you a Top Ten Some Things Currently Annoying Me. 
[On a positive note, I couldn't even come up with 10, so that's good, right?]

1. Cyclists who think that the road is for their sole use.  I have friends who bike and I understand their desire/need to have space on the road.  There have been countless biking tragedies, and I don't want that to happen to anyone else, but inevitably it will. I've written already about the thing cyclists do when they go through stop signs ("can't break our momentum!"), but then there's the move this ass did today: biking through two lanes of traffic.  Honestly, when they pass me on the right it kind of frustrates me because they're moving and I'm sitting still, but it really comes down to the school rule of "No Cutting!" Of course after this guy goes between the cars, and we're on Ponce de Leon heading toward Decatur by the way! After he goes between the cars he totally slows traffic down having to pedal up a hill.  The driver behind him was much more patient than many people would have been. Again, I will restate my claim that cyclists wearing their Cyclists Outfits are closer to Super Villains than Logo Sporting Bike Enthusiasts.

2. Imbecilic higher ups that are in charge of running things that are incapable of doing an even slightly good job because, well, because they're imbeciles. Gah! I'd go on about this, but I don't want to bring any trouble.

3. Puppy Pee & Poop.  We got a puppy recently. No, not Marley who made my good Top 10 list this Spring, but a puppy.  Padfoot is her name, and she is not on my bad list. Her waste; however, is.  Dammit, man, I don't like cleaning up pee and poop in the house and apparently this is going to go on for 9 more months.  9 MORE MONTHS!!!!!

4. These damn mosquitoes! I can't step outside with the puppy to keep number three from happening without coming away with three or more bites.  We pay a monthly service for our yard to be sprayed.  I can't imagine what it would be like if we weren't getting the yard sprayed.  Stinking blood sucking parasitic nuisances is what they are.

5. Presidential Election Politics.  Both parties are in the pockets of special interest groups that don't have the best interests of the Country. Regardless of your political bent, the presidential election typically brings out people's inner asshole, and quite frankly, it's an inner thing because it's not supposed to see the light of day.
Cartoon Credit

6. Dave FM changing its format from whatever it's classified as to a Sports Talk station. Great. Less options in the already crappy ATL radio market. Here's another plug for WMLB 1690 AM.  I wish the DJs would completely abandon their format and just spend their remaining time on the air playing what they want to hear, perhaps with a good healthy dose of listener requests.  I guess they can't because they want to make sure that another Corporate Radio Station hires them to be the mouthpiece for the crappy format that they take on.

7. That I'm thinking about going off Facebook for a time so that I can get some art done.  I think I've already mentioned my robot painting.  Well, it's still there with no new progress yet, and I can't think of another way, other than greatly reducing the amount of time I spend on FB.  Some people don't get why I'm on there as much as I am anyway, and that's all right. When it's On, it's really a whole bunch of fun, but when it's just Meh, then it's just a time sucker.  So, I'm annoyed on two counts: 1. That I'm going to have to limit myself to get something done that I should want to do. 2. That FB's been more Meh than On lately.

So, there you go.  These things are pissing me off recently. Now, on a scale of 1 - 10, none of them are really even a 10; although that cyclist came awfully close to scoring an 8.  What's eating you these days?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sometimes You Need A Horn (or Two)

Free digital image from  FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

Let's just jump into this. I recommend you start off by listening to this first song.

I'm not sure if I've always loved songs with horns, or even more so, bands that have horns in them.  I didn't grow up listening to jazz or even classical, so they were not necessarily part of my musical upbringing.  I can't think of one record in my dad's extensive collection that is jazz or classical. Well, that's not true.  There's the Willie Nelson jazz album, Stardust, that he tried to get me to listen to when I was younger.  I never did.  Willie was all good and fine, but the first few seconds of whatever starts that album off wasn't for me at the time.

I can't remember when it really hit me that songs with horns were just, much more than a song without. Several of the 50s bands that I grew up listening to had saxophonist on the songs.  The guy from "Yakety Yak" really stands out in my mind. King Curtis is his name.  He played on that song as well as on a Buddy Holly song, "Reminiscing". I guess, thinking about it, probably either Earth, Wind & Fire or KC & the Sunshine Band were probably my first real introduction to several horns in a band.  

I've heard all my life "Disco sucks!", but you know what? When it's a full-on band like those two then no it didn't.  It rocked as hard as whatever rock 'n roll songs were playing at the same time.

Earth, Wind  & Fire - "September"
KC & the Sunshine Band - "Boogie Shoes"

So, yeah. Those songs, those take me back to my young days.  When I'd ask my dad if we could pause a song on the radio so that it would start back up when we got back in the car from McDonald's.

Paul McCartney always had some great horns in his music with Wings. A lot of people put down that music. A LOT OF PEOPLE. But I have to say it was such a huge part of my childhood that to me it's just gold.

Paul, of course, had some good input in The Beatles. This is one of my favorite tracks of theirs. 

As I moved into my teens I discovered Madness.  I could easily write a whole entry about them.  They were such a great addition to my expanding musical palate.  I got the cassette of One Step Beyond and played it so much.  Then I got a double sided cassette of that with Absolutely on the back.  Whoa! I mean seriously. I could put so many songs of theirs on here, but I'll stick with one obvious and one of my all time favorites.

Because I could literally go on and on and on I'm just going to list some of my favorite songs with horns in them.  I'm a little embarrassed by how 80s Adam Ant's video is, but well, it was the 80s and he was one of the people making actually entertaining videos.  I was introduced to Benny Goodman through the Chips Ahoy commercial and then again in the movie, "Swing Kids".   I heard Louis Jordan's "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby?" on Tom & Jerry when I was a kid.  Then I heard it again through Joe Jackson's fantastic album Jumpin Jive. More late 80s, early 90s Fishbone and Cake came along and kept the horns going. Just recently through my Madness Pandora station I was introduced to this amazing Australian band, The Cat Empire.  Wow.  Amazing.

Benny Goodman Orchestra - "Sing, Sing, Sing"
The Cat Empire "Hello" & "Chariot"

So, below are some of the bands/artists that really hit home with their use of horns.  Most of course are not being played on the radio except for during the Retro hour, or on a station that plays jazz, real jazz.   I don't think anyone plays Neil's This Note's For You album. This was his first release for Reprise after being on Geffen for most of the 80s.  His time with them ended with the company suing him for not being "Neil Young enough". As if you can fit Neil into a box and expect him to stay there.  Sheesh.

I would find YouTube clip for them, but there's only so much time that I'm going to spend on this.  I hope you go find some though.

Louis Armstrong
Dizzy Gillespie
Miles Davis
The English Beat - "Tears of a Clown"
Haircut 100 - "Fantastic Day"
Neil Young & the Blue Notes
Elvis Costello on Spike (he used the Dirty Dozen Brass Band for some tracks) "Miss MacBeth" & "Chewing Gum"
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy "Go Daddy-O!"
Brian Setzer Orchestra "Jump, Jive & Wail"

I'll leave off with Van Morrison and a song off of His Street Choir

Friday, August 3, 2012

6 Flags & White Water

A rare event happened the Benefield Household this summer.  We took trips to both 6 Flags and White Water (6 Flags White Water if you want to get technical).  I will point out that it might not totally  count as two trips financially because we had free tickets for 6 Flags due to the 600 Minute Reading Program.  It totally counts in Karmic Redemption Points though. 

So, I'm going to start at White Water. The Girls and I went to help celebrate one of R's friend's b'day.  Buying tickets for White Water = gouging your wallet. I won't tell you how much it cost me to get three tickets, three meals and two Sport Refillable Drink cups because I'm still in a little bit of denial about spending that much.

The parents of the Birthday Girl sprung for one of the Cabanas that White Water offers, and let me tell you something, if you can afford to get a Cabana at White Water you should definitely do this. If that means that you go with several families to split the cost then do that. It is expensive in addition to the tickets. Please understand I did not pay for it, and was very graciously included in the using of it.  I will say; however, that it made my day at White Water MUCH more pleasant than it would have been otherwise.

Not only did we have the Cabana, but we also had the Flash Pass.  White Water does a cool thing with these - they are little watches that sync up with a machine that tells you how much time you have before the ride you're Flash Passing.  We felt like Rock Stars going in the Flash Pass short lines.

So, seriously, this was a full-on, no holds barred White Water Super Trip. One of which I doubt the Benefield Girls will partake of again.  With me at least. If they're invited by friends then by all means I will send them off with plenty of sunscreen and goggles.

If you've ever been to White Water then you know it's no exaggeration to say that there's some  a good bit A LOT of flesh that is exposed that should not be.  

Besides the FLESH there were lots of tattoos. Scores of tattoos. Legions of tattoos. I bet at least 75% of the adults had tattoos there, including myself. Unlike the majority of other tattooed patrons mine are in discreet locations.  I am honestly a little afraid for my generation, the two prior and two after mine due to the number of heavily tattooed people there are.  When we're old, saggy and wrinkly it's not going to be an attractive site.

So, it was a good, fun time. The Little Chattahoochee, or "Lazy River" as Coco liked to call it was one of the biggest hit of the day. We found ourselves in it fairly often.

The week after White Water we decided to go to 6 Flags with a teacher friend and her daughter.  This was kind of a polar opposite experience to the White Water one.  The  tickets were free. To help keep in-park costs down we ate lunch before we left.  The big splurge I did spend on was the valet parking, and again, this is something that I encourage you to do if you're going to go to 6 Flags. You're going to pay $20 for parking anyway. Spending $15 more for the ability to get out of the car, walk in the gate right there, and then at the end of the day walk right out to the car, in my opinion is totally worth it.  Now, again, my tickets were free, so I had not just spent three weeks of grocery money on getting into the park, so I'll put the valet thing out there as something for your consideration.

It was the first day of August when we went, and people, let me tell you what, IT WAS HOT. Hot like you're standing in line and sweat is literally running down all parts of your body.  Who knew your eyelids could sweat? They can, and they keep up with the more well known sweaty parts like a champ. This is what the place where the Girls and I were standing in line looked like when we moved up - puddleOkay, that's a little bit of an exaggeration, but just a little bit.

I grew up here in Atlanta, so I have always gone to 6 Flags, and it's funny how some things do not change.  The names of some of the rides change.  Some rides are gone replaced by new ones, but the overall feel of the park is the same. I won't go as far as to say "dirty", but it's not completely clean either.  It's gotten MUCH better than it was when I was going there as a pre-teen, and even more recently pre-kids adult.  So, that's a good thing.

Despite me not really loving roller coasters that much we started off on the Mind Bender.  Coco was all in favor of that until we were strapped in and starting to move.  I'm sure she was flashing back to GQ and I taking her on Space Mountain at Disney World a couple of years ago.

"I don't know about this..." she said hesitantly. "Is this going to be scary?"

How do you answer that to a 7 year old?  I told her we were on it and just hang on tightly.

"When are we going to go down?"
"I don't think I like this."
"Is this going to be scary?"

That was while we were climbing the first hill.

Once we started down the hill and the ride was in full effect Coco decided that this was not for her.  She put her head down close to her lap and whimperscreamed for the remainder of the ride.  That is, until we approached the end of the ride.  The jolting part where they slow you down from SUPERFAST to entryway slow.

"That wasn't that bad," she said as a nervous grin crept across her face.

I didn't think so either.  But that's probably because I was busy looking after her and wondering if the rest of the day was going to be one long day of HORROR. She was all good the rest of the day.  Now, we didn't ride any more big rides, but we rode several other ones and had a blast.

The lines were long that day.  Very long.  No Flash Passes for this trip.  As I said, this was an opposite kind of trip from White Water. Besides, the Flash Pass for 6 Flags made the ones from White Water seem downright affordable.  So we waited in lines.  Waited and sweated.

R and her buddy, MW, were on a try-and-see-if-it-works leash of freedom.  They'd go to ride a ride and then have to meet back up with me.  They did every time. It helped tremendously that they were in line the majority of the time since a ride only takes 2 minutes at most from start to finish.

Have I mentioned that it was hot? But here's the thing. There were people there that didn't look like my friend and me.  We looked H.O.T. hot (not the good, attractive kind) and sweaty. Glistening would be a kind way to describe us. But those other people, we couldn't tell that they were hot.  We were dripping sweat. Our faces were probably flushed.  Our sunglasses were slipping down our noses because we were sweating so severely.

Not these people. They had a pleasant smile on their faces. We kind of hated them as much as we envied them.  We speculated all day as to what the difference was between them and us. We finally concluded that these must be ultra-wealthy people that have the kind of income that allows you to be dipped in a vat of antiperspirant instead of just applying it to your armpits like the rest of us.

A very pleasantly surprising thing I learned on this trip. 6 Flags will give you free cups of ice water at the concession stands. Not big cups, mind you, but mid-sized Solo cups of water with ice.  

Finally, after riding some more rides, sharing a basket of chicken fingers and fries with four people we decided to head to Skull Island. If you're not familiar with it, it is a giant, on-site water park that 6 Flags put in some years ago. It has several levels, multiple small water slides, water pumps and the obligatory enormous water bucket that periodically spills over releasing enough water to keep several acres of farmland irrigated.  Of course this water is mixed with enough chlorine that it could kill double the acreage of said farmland.

The chlorine is necessary because Skull Island invites EVERYONE regardless of age or ability to hold your waste inside you until you get to an appropriate location. Of course, when it's 18 steps away you can't expect for everyone to do the right thing.

Similar to White Water, Skull Island encourages its participants to shed their clothes and show their skin, and good Lord Almighty do the people show their skin.

The little ones had a blast for almost two hours. R & MW went back across the park to ride Batman.  We had chosen earlier not to ride that one due to the length of the line.  Apparently it had shortened by approximately half, but it still took them over an hour to get on the ride.

Another park closing day. Tired, soaked to the bone in sweat and ready to hit the air conditioning of the car we exit the park.  I do not regret for a second the extra $15 for the valet parking.

Good grief this was a long post. If you made it through the whole thing congratulate yourself.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Truth Must Be Told

As you all know I'm a Captain America fan.  I always have been a Captain America fan back from when I was a kid. Cap, Batman and Spider-Man were my main guys.

I also had another hero that I really liked.  Captain Marvel.  Now, you may or may not know but there are two Captain Marvels: one on Marvel comics and one on DC comics.  The one in DC is better known as Shazam.

So, I really liked Marvel's Captain Marvel (the strange history of this character is the link there). I liked him a lot.  So much so that I wanted my hair to look like his. Of course I have brown hair and not blonde, and wavy as it may have been it wasn't going to be like his.

At the tender age of seven I took my Captain Marvel comic to Denmark's Barber Shop.  Denmark's was the old style barber shop with the barber shop pole spinning  outside and the mounted Jackalope head on the wall.

Anyway, I took my comic, showed it to Denmark and said, "Give me a haircut like that!"  He proceeded to cut all my hair off, basically giving me a buzz cut.  I was, needless to say, devastated. So much so that my mom felt the need to get him to call and apologize to me.

So what does this have to do with the Truth mentioned in the title? Somewhere along the way Captain Marvel got mixed up with Captain America in the story.  People started giving me all this Captain America stuff. It was kind of weird at first, and I tried to tell someone that it wasn't Captain AMERICA, it was Captain MARVEL, but not a lot of people know who Captain Marvel is and everyone knows who Captain America is, so I went with it.  I'm not going to complain that I suddenly had all this Captain America merchandise, and as I said, I've always liked Cap. It was all good, and continues to be so today.

The article about Captain Marvel's origins though made me stop and think about my early childhood experience, and I felt the need to put the story out there. Exciting? No. Informative? Perhaps. Cathartic? Not really.

I've kind of petered out here, so I'm just going to leave you with Cap's theme song from the cartoon and bid you Good Day.

I said, "Good Day!"

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Working on a Novel

No, no, silly. I'm not working on a novel. My attention span is nowhere long enough for that. Haven't we met? I used the title as a way to grab your attention.

I have been working on a book this summer with GQ though.  Her second novel, FanGirl! Her second one! It hasn't even been a year since she put her first one out. She's quite prolific.

Ever since GQ came up with the idea for FanGirl! she has wanted to get me involved.  The first idea she came up with was to have  scenes from the graphic novel that is a main part of the story mixed in with the chapter titles.

GQ asked me if I thought that I could do these illustrations.  I thought about this, and decided that yes, I could do this.  I love comics. I love drawing, but I don't do it very often. This will give me something to focus on and what a great opportunity.

We talked about the fact that I would have to really be focused (I may have some focusing issues I have focusing issues) and stay on schedule.  She had a timeline for getting the book out by a certain date.  

After thinking about what the drawings I wanted to were I started thinking about the fact that although I love drawing, I'm not the greatest artist.  I have problems with perspective and things looking very flat and 2D. I decided that I was not going to take the responsibility of giving her crappy looking drawings to go with her story. 

I told her this, and she tried to convince me otherwise, but I stuck to my guns. We agreed that we would look around and ask some of the artist friends we have if they'd be willing. No one had time, and several people just told GQ or me that they thought I should do it.  I was very flattered, a little disappointed in myself, but still no closer to having a solution.

Flash forward to illustration issues being solved. See above for pics from the book.  For whatever reason GQ still wanted me to be involved.  I was very willing to help, but not sure what I could do.  

We agreed that I could do some of the "fixing" of the document after her editors had finished their jobs.  I can do that.  I did that. Then we go to the point of needing to converting the format from a Word file to what is needed to upload for an ebook.  

I downloaded a couple of books from Amazon about this. I read up on it, and it seemed like something that would be pretty easy. I was going to learn to use HTML (a computer code that makes the words on a Site look like actual words instead of lots of symbols with words interspersed between them. I was going to learn to use new programs to make all this flow seamlessly from one format to another. 

Well, it wasn't hard, but there were definitely more steps involved than what I gathered from reading those books.

Not to be thwarted I continued and was successful! Now the easy part - inserting the images into the document. Wait. Did I say easy? I meant the part that made the converting the document seem like child's play.

The steps in the books that talked about adding images were easy enough, but making that transfer from page to my fingers was not so easy.  Time and time I would try and think that it would be successful. Time and time again I would go to preview the page and be greeted with this - 

I HATED seeing that, but I saw it again and again and again.

Luckily, GQ has a computer genius(AG) bff and she was able to step in and make it work. On her computer. ARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!

This goes on for a couple of days.  Back and forth with AG.  Now I know a good bit about computers. I can do all kinds of things that a good number of people can't do.  However, there's a wall that I come up against, and I was staring at that wall.  That. Damn. Wall.

I am staying up late trying to get this done. I had more than 20 files saved with some sort of variation of the word "fangirl" in my download folder.  I was not going to give up, but I was frustrated to say the least. We have Comic Con coming up in a few days and GQ wanted it DONE before we left.  (insert angsty "arrgh" from above here X 3)

One morning I woke up and GQ told me that AG had it fixed. For real. For good. Come to find out that we needed an Adobe program, InDesign, to get it done, and when AG put it in there it literally took 8 seconds.  Big sigh of relief.

So it got done on GQ's schedule.  She kept her faith in me and was very understanding the whole time most of the time of the limits of my technical know-how. I am very grateful to her for including me in this process.  Her writing is a HUGE part of her, and for a while I had a hard time understanding that, but I do now, and for her to include me means a whole bunch.

Now the novel is out in both Kindle format as well as paperback. Links to both sites are up above at the beginning of this entry.  If you're a Nook user you'll have to wait a couple more months to get it on that reader, but it will be worth the wait. FanGirl! is a good, fun read.  Of course I have a huge bias toward the author, but I think I would enjoy the story even if it wasn't written by my best girl.

Do yourself a favor and go get it. Well, I suppose you'd be doing GQ (and me) a favor, but it will be worth your time, money and effort.  And if you want to do another favor you could write a review on either the Amazon page or the CreateSpace page of the book.  When books have reviews more people are willing to take a chance on it. 

I'll leave you with this.  I am currently looking into getting InDesign so that I will be able to continue to help GQ on her author's journey.  She's well into a new story that she got inspiration from earlier this summer when we were on a boat ride, as well as a continuation of an earlier novel.  She amazes me.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Things That I Used To Do

Take it Stevie

I woke up last night as I do sometimes and couldn't get back to sleep.  Instead of rolling around trying to get back to sleep and wake up GQ I got up to read a little, despite knowing the research says spending time in front of artificial light reduces the chance of going back to sleep.  Actually I think that that research doesn't take into account that people who spend so much time in front of artificial light aren't effected the same way as normal people.  Call it evolution of the species.  Anyhoo. 

The book I was reading was the Tucker Max outtakes book. If you haven't read Tucker Max and you're not easily offended and/or if you're highly amused by someone acting like a complete sociopath then maybe you should check him out. If you fall into one or both of those categories you should maybe check him out.  I'm not going to say that I recommended reading him to you b/c I don't want that responsibility. He's definitely not for everyone.  I digress yet again.

One of the stories in the book is about him getting arrested for doing something stupid. That got me thinking about things I did in the time of my youth.  Stupid, stupid things.  Things that could have gotten me arrested. I cannot even begin to imagine how my life would have turned out differently if I would gotten arrested. It literally caused me to have a little panic attack last night. I was thinking about a particular incident more than 20 years ago that I will not discuss.  Those files are sealed.

So my tagline in the Introduction section of the blog - I'm just trying to do some good to balance out the bad I've done  took on a whole new meaning to me last night.

On a somewhat related train of thought last week an incident happened that has made me rethink my idea of being YerLifeguard.

The Girls and I were heading home from somewhere and I noticed a youngish looking man seemingly passed out on the road. If you've known me for awhile then you know that this kind of thing causes me to assume LifeGuard Role.  It always has. Whatever it is inside of me that makes me do this just does. It's like breathing.  Anyway, this guy was dressed like a regular person, clearly not a homeless guy, or if you're under the age of 15 a Hobo (which is a whole other entry). 

So I turn the car around to go check on it. As soon as I slowed down R immediately says, "Please tell me you're not going to go back for that man."  I told her that I cannot just leave someone laying on the side of the road.  I promise that I'm not going to offer him a ride or anything, but I have to check on him.

I park a bit away from him, get out of the car and call out to him, "Hey. You all right?" He stirred and sat up looking very much out of it.  "Do you need anything?" I asked. "No, no I don't need anything..." he muttered. I sat there and looked at him for a minute and then noticed that can he had been holding was not a beer can but some kind of compressed air can.  Huffing.  I get back in the car, turn it around and head home.

R asks what happened and I talked about what he had probably been doing and how it is really bad for you. Coco and her asked a few more questions and I told them how people do stupid stuff for different reasons.

I dropped the Girls at home to go get R some food b/c she hadn't had dinner. As I was sitting in the drive through line I started thinking that I was not doing my job as YerLifeguard to the most important people when I did things like checking on passed out people on the side of the road.  So many things could have happened to me getting out of the car with an unknown situation like that, and in turn so many things could have happened to the Girls.

When I got home GQ was waiting for me.  She turned to R and said, "Come tell Daddy what you told me."  R told me that it really scared her when I did things like that and that she really, really wished that I would stop.  I felt like a total failure of a father.  I was not thinking of the safety of my two girls. I was thinking of someone I don't know that could have very easily hurt me and possibly hurt them.  

I weakly tried to explain myself, but GQ in her infinite wisdom told me that I could always call 911 and give the police or EMTs a chance to do their job. I felt like such a failure. I can't explain how realizing that I could have jeopardized the Girls in any possible way because I was doing what I had always done caused me to have an internal crisis.

I accepted this pretty quickly though.  I mean, seriously, what kind of idiot would I be if I tried to rationalize to myself that I can keep doing what I had been doing instead of taking the safer, rational route while still helping out.

I actually just talked to R and Coco about this. I apologized for not being the father that I need to be to keep them safe. I promised her that I would not engage people like that anymore, but call for help instead.  She got it.  Coco was just wondering what I was talking about and why I was keeping her from playing with Padfoot.

Sigh. Things change. Times change. You change with them or you risk  getting hurt or hurting those that mean the most to you. I am okay with this. I can still be YerLifeguard. I am still YerLifeguard, and I always will be. I'll just be doing it a little differently than I have in the past.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Comic Con Recap

GQ and I went to the San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) this past weekend. It's something I've been looking forward to for two years; ever since the last time I was there.  There are so many things I love about it and so many things that get me all crazyexcited.  Everything from the airplane ride out there - look, those people are from Cartoon Network - look, that guy has a Green Lantern shirt like yours - I wonder how many of these people are Cos-Players - to getting the pass & my swag bag to actually getting to go into the Exhibit Hall and see the cornucopia of things I love; comic books, super heroes, TV shows, movies, art, toys, t-shirts, movie props, and more.

I thought about and did write a post about how it wasn't what I really thought it was supposed to be.  I titled it, "The Dream Is Over". (Sheesh, talk about melodramatic). It didn't turn out like it did the first time GQ and I went, but you know, almost nothing is the second time around. I couldn't even really bring myself to take 1,548 pictures of all the people dressed up in their Cos-Play. I LOVE SEEING PEOPLE IN THEIR COS-PLAY OUTFITS!!!!So what's the deal?

I forgot about one very important aspect.  There are also 100,000+ others that are just as, if not more, excited as me. And we're all together in a space that, truth be told, isn't that big.  I mean the San Diego Convention Center is big. Don't get me wrong. Actually it's huge.  The problem is that Hall H, which holds approximately 7,000 people, has 15,000 - 25,000 people that want to get in it.  Ballroom 20, which holds 2,000 has 5,000 people that want to get in it. Clearly A LOT of people are not getting into those rooms.  Not only are they not getting in, they're standing in line waiting to get in for hours. HOURS. GQ stood in line for more hours than I'm willing to put down here.  It was not such a great experience for her, but going to SDCC you know you're going to wait in lines. As I've said, there are over 100,000 people there, and out of those 100,000 bunches and bunches want to see the same thing you want to see. So, a lot of people were probably disappointed that they didn't see what they wanted to see.

Personally, I went to several much smaller panels. Panels about comic books. That's a decision I made earlier this year when we bought our tickets.  Last time we went I stood in those lines and saw some great movie and TV previews, and got to see some cool, and not so cool, Hollywood stars and it was fun. It was more than fun actually because it was a new experience.  However, I wasn't ready to have that particular experience again. I saw some artists, writers, editors, and big-wigs from both Marvel and DC comics, and that was awesome for me. I was really happy with the panels I attended.  I got to go onstage during one of the Marvel events that I attended and preview an Infinite Comic. Infinite Comics are Marvel's next step in digital comics. I used to have a subscription to Marvel Digital Comics, and it was a huge collection of old comics that Marvel had gotten scanned into digital form. Infinite Comics are comics actually made for the digital format. They're very, very cool.  My only complaint about my panels is that sometimes there were two going on at the same time, and I had a hard time deciding which one to go see. Not a  bad complaint, I know.

The guy with the beard is Ultimate Spider-Man artist David Marquez.

The big guy there is the Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Comics (WHAT A GREAT JOB!!!)
Coming in October, Avengers Babies vs. X-Men Babies

The exhibit hall is my favorite part of the SDCC experience.  It has everything that I really love. It's the saying, "a kid in a candy store" except that I'm not a kid, and the candy store is more like a giant toy store. It's a world made for me.  The only thing lacking is good pizza, good coffee and drinks served with ice. Now, realistically, this year it was really overwhelming for me.  There were just too many people, and I don't know if there were more vendors or exhibitors or what, but it was full-on nuts in there. The pic above is GQ and me going into the exhibition hall after waiting for 3 hours with a young woman who was there for the SDCC exclusive toys. ESPECIALLY THE MY LITTLE PONY, and that's just one of them.

American Dream - Huzza Huzza!

These two folks are OMG DJ Judy and Agent M. They also get to work in super-awesome positions at Marvel Comics. You should look them up on Tumblr.

Do you know who that guy up there is?  If you said Gene Simmons of KISS you'd be right because that's exactly who it is! He was signing autographs for the Archie Meets KISS comic books. I asked the guy next to the guy with the glasses if I bought a comic could I get an autograph, and he gave me a look like one of Santa's Elves gives Ralphie in A Christmas Story when they're in the mall visiting Santa and said, "Yeah, if you go get in that line. Way. Back. There."

One of the other comic book panels that I sat in on was DC writer, Scott Snyder.  He is the current writer of Batman and American Vampire.  He's co-writing American Vampire with Stephen King.  Yes, that Stephen King. He writes comic books, too.  Scott Snyder just finished Batman - Court of Owls and is getting ready to reintroduce The Joker to DC after a 10 year absence. His plan is to make the Joker so severe and so crazy that no one will want to write another Joker story line for 20 years.

The last panel I will talk about is the Marvel Television panel.  I heard about how The Avengers - Earth's Mightiest Heroes is being transitioned into Avengers Assemble! which will be closer in spirit to the Avengers movie.  Head of Marvel TV, Jeph Loeb, asked the audience no less than three times if they had seen The Avengers. He's clearly very pleased with its success, as is the rest of Marvel. I heard about Ultimate Spider-Man cartoons that are on Disney XD tv and got to see a special screening of a not-to-be-seen until September episode where Loki turns Spider-Man into a pig - Spider-Ham.

The guy in the picture below is Bryan Lee O'Malley. He's the author of the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series, Lost at Sea and his new one coming in 2013, Seasons. I got an autographed copy of the Evil Edition of Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life as well as a signed print from Seasons, of which there were only 200 copies.

So what's my overall take? Well, when it was all going on I wasn't sure that it was so great, but having just reread this post I think I had a pretty great experience.  I do wish GQ had had better luck with what she was going to see. I think the problem is that this thing is just getting biggerer and biggerer and biggerer, and that's not necessarily a good thing.  This is only my second time going. GQ's been three times, and in that time period it's gone from 'Wow! This is kind of nuts.' to 'Holy crap! This is INSANE!' 

Will I go back? I'm not sure.  GQ and I discussed trying out NYCC and seeing what that's like because it's put on by the same people, but it's either September or October in New York, so... Of course Marvel did announce the sequel titles to both Thor and Captain America which I would really be interested in seeing those panels, but I am really not interested in getting in line at 3 in the morning so I have a chance to see them 12 - 14 hours later.  I don't think I am willing to make that sacrifice. Of course, to quote Chuck Berry, "you never can tell."

Here are more pics from the trip -