Monthly Archives: December 2011

A First Sip

I have to preface all of this with the fact that I am a slow person. There is a section of my favorite book, Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, in which a tale is told that there was once a beautiful city. It was made of glass and colors and unimaginable inspirational wonders. Its citizens knew it to be the most beautiful place there was. One day one of the citizens looked down at his feet while he walked to work, and upon arriving, he realized he had gotten there seemingly much faster than normal. He became very excited and began to spread the word. Slowly, other men and women in the city decided to stare at their shoes while going about their affairs, and they felt that this saved them much time. As more and more citizens began looking at their shoes, the city started to fade away, like a film slowly closing to black before the credits roll. Eventually every person in the city hurried to work in this fashion, and the city, the most glorious place imaginable, faded from existence, without anyone ever realizing it. They still went about their affairs. I hate hurrying.

This was a long disclaimer covering my ass for being lazy.

I started this blog two weeks ago knowing a piece about my experience running the Tough Mudder would be an ideal thing to write about, and yet it’s still empty. Sorry, especially to a few people who have actually told me they’ve been checking here to no avail. I am slowly getting to write that Mudder piece but I’m grateful I’ve dwelled on it; I think the content will be better for it. What I thought would be best instead was something of a kick-off post, an introduction, and I’ve had the content for six months. Let me explain. Hopefully it’s coherent.

It is easy to tell someone what you like to read. My dad loves war history; this is the store section I immediately seek out to locate him once I’ve realized what I’m shopping for at Barnes & Noble is cheaper on Amazon. It is less simple to explain what you like to write because most people have no godforsaken idea; they don’t do it, so how could they? And I don’t either though I suppose I’ll find out. However, over the years I’ve gravitated to particular writers covering various genres and tenets of American culture that got ever more specific in their content. I found particular adoration for stories of sport, redemption and nature, especially when the latter has a hand to play in the tales of the formers. If I was really lucky, the story may slip ever so slightly into the mystical or mysterious qualities of all above the above. I truly love pieces on the arcane, that unluckily slip through the cracks of people’s collective consciousness. Those might be the most fun to read learn.

And so something interesting happened. I found an ESPN writer named Wright Thompson. He writes long-form, sometimes for the magazine but oftentimes published only online due to the length of his features. He just recently wrote a tremendous take on the state of a post-Jerry Sandusky Happy Valley, Pennsylvania. He has written about an incredibly rare whiskey for Grantland and covered a Carolina coast golf resort island that seems to have been fighting back against its owners for hundreds of years. They were cool. They were really engrossing and made you feel like you’d experienced what he or the subjects had, though he was there asking questions and telling tales. And then he was assigned a topic I had found very interesting, that of Alabama fan Harvey Updyke. Auburn beat Alabama in the 2010 edition of the annual Iron Bowl in dramatic comeback fashion, and Updyke had exacted his revenge on the University by channeling his vitriol into the soil surrounding the campus landmark Toomer’s Corner oak trees with government-grade herbicides. It now seems almost assured the trees will die; you can track their progress on the University’s website. Thompson decided to write a feature on the subject. Unexpectedly, however, he decided to marginalize Harvey Updyke and the football aspect in general and instead focused on why losing two trees actually meant so much to so many. He intertwined his story with an appraisal of the dying culture of the American South, a way of life I love despite not being raised a part of (coastal Florida and Florida itself is not the South). It was wonderful. It was a different take on a story being beaten to death. It was very moving. So much so that when a friend of mine visited the trees in late November after a game, presumably on the final time they will have been “rolled,” and sent me a photograph, it felt emotional.

I saved the link to that article in my Twitter favorites (more on Twitter some other time) that day and I’ve left it there ever since. I’ve read it a few additional times but I really left it there as a middle finger to myself, a reminder and a personal challenge to even try to write something half a tenth as good as that piece, or any of his pieces. I’ve always wanted to write, and he made me feel guilty for having not. So (950 introductory words later), here is the link to that article. People may read it, some may already have, many won’t. That’s fine. But I want it to be the reason for my first post, as a thank you to Wright, and I can’t think of a stronger foundation for what I hope will be an interesting adventure on this site.

More will come, I promise it will, and I’ll find a way to notify the interested few when I do. I’m just a slow guy. I like it that way. I prefer to take it all in. Hopefully with this site you all can share it with me.

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