Trail Saddle Sore

“Keep playing them… it adds to our retirement fund” is how four members of my family responded to Rob and me during two different dinners this weekend. The Retirement Systems of Alabama owns the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in the state of Alabama. Rob and I gave over a $1000 to the Retirement Systems of Alabama this past weekend and all we have to show for it are sore golfing muscles (arms, hands, back, and legs) and golfer sunburns… oh, and a lost credit card… which the Hampton Cove golf course (Huntsville, Alabama) grill is supposedly mailing me. Never be in such a hurry to run from a golf course that you forget your credit card on the bar.

Rob and I attempt to go on golf weekends a couple of times a year. Rob is a good golfer. I am Rob’s entertainment… my golf game is highly humorous and Rob likes to laugh. As with all our golf trips, this was a whirlwind event that was planned to be golf first and everything else second… including visiting my parents and other family members. When it is a whirlwind of golf first weekend… my game becomes a whirlwind of comical shots and a running commentary of the assholeness of golf course architecture. Rob plays whirlwind golf, I play his funny bone.1

The weekend started on Thursday night with me flying out of Reagan National in DC and Rob out of Houston Hobby. We were both to arrive approximately 9:30/10:00pm in Birmingham, Alabama. I arrived on time, Rob was 30 minutes late. We flew home at 6pm on Sunday. Like all of our golf weekends, the weekend was a mix of pain and fun… but even the pain was entertaining. The following is the observations that I made during our trip, some of them are universal to Rob’s and my golfing, some of them are specific to the courses we played, and some of them have nothing to do with golf… but still interesting.

Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is the largest golf course construction project ever attempted. The Trail is a collection of 468 holes of championship golf on 11 different” courses. Rob and I, on two different trips, have played 99 of those holes. The Wall Street Journal states that the Trail “may be the biggest bargain in the country” and The New York Times called the Trail “some of the best public golf on Earth.” If you can get supposed conservative and liberal media to fawn about it… then it must really be a good thing. We, however, don’t suggest trying to play 81 of the 468 in one weekend though.

Upon arrival to the Birmingham airport, I was amazed to see so many smokers. Outside baggage claim was a haze of cigarette smoke. I commented on this observation on Facebook… but had to caveat it with the “pot meet kettle” because I was standing out there with all the smokers with a giant dip of Skoal in my lip. Seems I am not the only one who wonders “aloud” about cigarette smoking and socioeconomic groups. I got to enjoy this haze of smoke while I waited on Rob to arrive… his last text prior to taking off from Houston was “20 min delay… fucking Houston.”

Finally, I was tired of waiting in the smoker fog and wandered over to the rental car counter… we had a reservation for a standard SUV. Rob and I like to ride in style when we go on golf trips, plus you need a big ride for two sets of golf clubs. Honestly, we both like looking like old white golfers who have nothing better to do than rent big rides. We are practicing for the day when we are really old and demand others get out of our way as we slowly move down the highway to our next tee time. Our ride ended up being more pimp that old white golfer.2 The keys to a tricked out 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee was what I was handed. As I meandered down the rental lot I spied our ride. It was white with silver trim. The interior was leather, it had GPS and satellite radio… we were either going to look like old white golfers or two guys on the prowl for hookers and blow. The front dash resembled the control panel on a Lear jet… thankfully Rob was copiloting, so I didn’t have to attempt to figure anything out while driving. One complaint though… whomever rented this vehicle prior to me had a serious case of the “coolness.” The previous driver seemed to think that the driver’s seat needed to be programmed for a 60% backwards tilt and they must have had legs the length of a giraffe… it was way back from the pedals. Every damn time I cut the engine and exited the vehicle, the seat would move to this pimp posture. It was so laid back that it took almost a full minute for the seat to get in a proper position for my tiny ass frame. Needless to say, we were definitely more pimp that old white golfer.

Rob stumbled from his plane around 11pm and I picked him up at the terminal in the pimpmobile. He gazed in amazement when I punched the automatic back door opener, and we giggled as the Jeep made a space shuttle hatch “swish” sound as the door opened and closed. 21st Century golf weekend meet 24th Century Buck Rogers. Golf clubs and bags were stored… Rob worked the GPS and we rolled into the quiet Birmingham night in search of our hotel. Thankfully, IHOP was along our route and we kicked the weekend off right by scarfing blueberry pancakes at 11:45…. eating food bad for your body is the traditional golf weekend fare. By 12:30am we were settled into our hotel room… no we didn’t share a bed, but we did fall asleep with ESPNU playing women’s SEC softball tournament games. I had visions of thick legged college women soft tossing me pitches as I stood in the batter’s box in helmet and sans clothes… the weekend was starting nicely.

We were loaded and on the road by 7:30am… golf weekends are about golf and sleep (and everything else) is secondary. The first course for the weekend was Oxmoor Valley’s Ridge and followed by an afternoon round on the Valley course. “Roller coaster fairways, heavy tree cover and precipitous 150-foot elevation changes” doesn’t accurately describe this hell-of-a-ride golf course. No even lies… the golf ball was either above our feet or below them. Tee shots gracefully arched into blind fairways… ground cover obscured errant balls. Uneven greens caused balls to roll at odd angles as we stumbled from cart3 anticipating another 3 putt. We were fortunate though, we were joined by Steve and Lisa. This couple was awesomely entertaining… they were our age and not fat or angry. Lisa was playing her first round of full 18 holes and I asked Steve if he was purposely punishing his wife… he said no, but I’m not so sure. For the record, Steve ended up buying all the drinks (bourbon) on the course because he ended up shooting his best game ever… 74 on the par 72 course. At the end of the round, Rob and I thanked Steve and Lisa and moved on to the Valley course.

We were paired with Steve (son-in-law) and Jim (father-in-law) on the Valley course. The Valley was less hilly than the Ridge course… but was marked with a lot of water and bunkers. Numerous lateral streams caused me consternation… hitting “good”4 tee shots resulted in me having to fetch a number of wet balls. Unfortunately we were only able to play 9 holes on this course… so we aren’t sure how well we would have scored… but we did leave totally amazed by Jim who was a 76 year-old beast of a long ball hitter. He was a tiny gnarled old man who swung a 1980s women’s driver… and whacked the ball a good 300 yards. His swing was one of those golfer’s attributes that is the result of decades of swinging a club and realizing you don’t have to swing hard to swing long. We marveled at his drive… we also had to watch his ball for him… 76 year-old men have really bad eye sight.

After 27 holes we piled back into the pimpmobile and rolled north to my parent’s farm in Fayetteville, Tennessee which was 2.5 hours away. Once we saw the giant “penis”5 at the Alabama-Tennessee line we knew we were close. To get to my parent’s farm, you turn off of I-65 when you see the “Boobie Bungalow” sign… yep it’s a strip club that sits in the middle of nowhere. Rob didn’t like my suggestion of stopping because he feared that the outside of the BB reflected the “beauty” of the dancers. The BB looks really shitty and sad… no one wants to see shitty and sad strippers. He is probably right, and as I stated earlier, our golf weekends are about golf and never include strip clubs.

Once we arrived at my parent’s farm, we quickly sat down to a dinner of grilled chicken, green beans (from my dad’s garden), grilled radishes (from the garden), corn bread, and my mom’s loose-bowl-inducing but delicious mac-n-cheese. Over dinner we discussed my parent’s impending 50th wedding anniversary (June) and I asked my dad what was the secret to such a long marriage. He smiled and replied with “give me another piece of your mother’s corn bread.” He was either avoiding the question or implying that to his heart was truly through his stomach… regardless, my mother laughed and the subject was dropped. After dinner we sat by a fire… one that my dad just built in the front yard.6 Between sips of bourbon,7 Rob and I laughed at my dad’s subscription to Barnyard Poultry… old issues were used to start the fire. The best article we could tell was “What does all those feathers mean?” Not sure if this was referring to your poultry loosing their feathers, or that certain feather configurations mean different things… who knows… but the article sounded interesting. Following this we stumbled off to bed… Hampton Cove in Huntsville, Alabama was calling our name at 8:30 the next morning.

Saturday morning around 5am, Rob and I were awakened by the movements of my old parents… old people rise early after falling asleep at 7pm. My dad is incapable of watching the morning news without the volume jacked to ear-splitting level, and my mother is incapable of not yelling at him about the volume. We chuckled at them as we drove to our next tee time in a morning drizzle.

Rain or not, we were going to golf… fortunately the drizzle stopped and the sun came through to properly sun burn us. Lightening is the only thing that will drive us from the golf course. Hampton Cove has two courses, one is the River course and the other is the Highlands. We played the River course and it is completely devoid of sand bunkers, instead it has water hazards on 16 of the 18 holes. If I thought I was tired of getting a ball wet the day before… Saturday morning was spent with me feeding the big bass of Huntsville golf ball after golf ball. We were joined by Eric and Eric, two local guys who enjoyed watching Rob and I consume bourbon after bourbon. Here is what a golfer looks like after consuming a lot of bourbon and attempting to hit his ball from a muddy water hole:









Rob showed a little more style by at least attempting to do it pro golfer style:



Fortunately, the Highlands course didn’t have a lot of water (nor did we have anyone else join us… so no one watched us consume a little more bourbon), and we finished 36 holes for the day a little mud covered and slightly sunburned… even though the day had started with a drizzle. The golf weekend was in full swing and we were showing the wear and tear that made us smile.

At the end of Saturday, we once again piled back into the pimpmobile and headed back to Birmingham… we had our last round waiting for us the next morning. We rushed back down I-65 and did the traditional Cracker Barrel stop and gaped at the amount of people who patronizes CB no matter the time of day. Who doesn’t want old style ‘cool’ drinks and peppermint candy sticks after eating a pound of fried meat?

The front desk clerk at our Birmingham hotel smiled oddly at us. I was covered in dried mud and carrying the next day’s clothes in my arms… my golf travel bag seconds as my suitcase and I didn’t feel the need to carry the big thing in. If we hadn’t been dressed in golf clothes and staying at a hotel that serves Trail golfers, she probably would have thought I was some ugly male prostitute with his sunburned John. Once in the hotel room we showered off the day’s mud and grime and then quickly headed out to the Fish Market to meet a cousin and her husband for a late dinner. My cousin and I talked over each other about how our family talks over each other. Rob and her husband just looked at us… we, as a family, are entertaining that way. After a beer and dinner we stumbled back to our hotel looking less like a hooker and his John and more like tired golfers. Once again we fell asleep with college women’s softball playing in the background… don’t ask.

Sunday morning was cool but clear. Ross Bridge is a resort and community… it wants to be the crown jewel of the trail… instead it is a giant pain in the ass. From the tips it is 8100 yards… the fourth longest golf course in the world. The greens are slick and uneven. Robert Trent Jones truly wanted a bitch of a course and got one. It is manicured, it is beautiful, waterfalls and majestic trees are sprinkled across the course… all of this is used to suck you in and then you are bent over and taught a lesson in prison rape. This course may have been pretty… but she was mean and angry in her soul. Up and down, round and round it went… slick as glass greens were elevated and dog leg fairways beat us down. We had to stop from hurting and made ourselves enjoy the views. We weren’t playing golf… we were participating in a train wreck. We were joined by Derek and Kent… whose wives later joined them in a cart. These two ladies were nice enough to golf clap for the four of us golfers when one of us randomly made a decent shot. These claps seemed more sarcastic than the ladies meant. The four of them were there to celebrate a birthday and college graduation… the ladies’ mother had given them a trip to the resort and the round of golf for the guys as a gift… some fucking gift.

At 2pm on Sunday, we crawled away following the beat down and looked back at 53 hours of golf and smiled. It had been cold, hot, wet, muddy, bourbonly hazy, and dreamy with women’s collegiate softball. We parted Sunday evening at the airport stunned and tired… but happy. We had done 18 Trail holes a few years ago at Cambrian Ridge, now we had knocked out 81 more. “Only 369 more to go” I stated to Rob as he headed to his plane. He grimaced at me.

1. Stop it… it is a bromance, but it is not consummated.

2. While looking for a restaurant Saturday night, we got lost in a less than safe-looking Birmingham neighborhood, Rob and I started fearing that the two of us in golf shirts would be confused for guys looking to score hookers and blow instead of guys looking for a restuarant that my cousin was incapable of giving good directions to.

3. Carts are mandatory… even though Rob and I can walk and carry our bags faster than fat old golfers (in a cart) can move around golf courses… but golf course owners believe that walking is slower… thus we were forced to ride.

4. Fairly straight and fairly long.

5. A large Saturn rocket that harkens to Alabama’s connection to the space race.

6. When you live in the country on a farm you can start a campfire anywhere you want… regardless of the fire hazard. Freedom is burning shit without anyone caring.

7. This bourbon had to be at least 5 or 6 years old and was from a bottle I had stashed in my mom’s kitchen a long time ago. It had been a faithful companion for years… every visit I get a glass or two while sitting around one of my dad’s fires. Sadly, this old and faithful friend was finished off by Rob and myself.


School Picture Day

Some things happen in your morning routine that shakes your confidence. Things happen that make you wonder what kind of shitty day is in store for you. It can be simple things like your favorite workplace restroom being out of toilet paper or the stranger you nod to every morning on your way to work is missing. Did your nodding “friend” get sick, was there a family emergency, or did they change jobs… hopefully they are just on vacation, but you missing this little morning ritual can really set a bad precedent for the day. This morning it was the non-decider at the coffee shop. First she wanted a morning-glory muffin and couldn’t figure out if her friends had gotten her an Earl Grey tea or not. Then it was the consternation of trying to figure out which salad she wanted to purchase for lunch. Finally, she added another muffin… chocolate chip this time. For the love of all things holy!!!! Make a decision prior to getting to the register. I wasn’t pissed… I quit getting pissed at clueless people ages ago, but I am befuddled by people who wait until they get to the register to figure out what they want to buy… coffee shop lines are long in the morning and full of caffeine addicts… we don’t need Ms. Which Muffin Should I Get? keeping us from our fix.

Fortunately, today is school picture day… no way can it be a bad day when you get to have your picture taken that shows that you belong to something. I’m not really in school, but today is the day that my employer has blocked a period of time for me and my coworkers to head to the basement and get our ID badge pictures taken. Matt suggested wearing a plastic parrot (Doctor Peepers) on my shoulder… like who would question a man with a parrot on his shoulder. This was the last one I had taken about 5 years ago:

This is pre-running days, or better yet… the period of time when I was between running a lot in the Army and running a lot as a civilian. I am 20 lbs lighter now and I have a lot less hair. It truly amazes me on how quickly the hair disappears. For the record, I still have that smart ass smile… smart assness doesn’t disappear and my smart ass smile wrinkles have grown. This picture says I know some stupid shit that is rolling around in my head and cracking me up… this is the type of thinking that gets me through the day. Today’s picture shows a thinner 41 year-old man in a white golf shirt who is significantly more bald and whose glasses are significantly more hipster… but the shit-eating grin is still there.1

ID badge pictures are the staple of a lot of employers today, especially if your employer also uses metal detectors and x-ray machines at the entrances. Every day for me is a trip through the airport security line.2 Instead of TSA “Don’t touch my junk!” agents, I have the pleasure of having police officers scowl at me and eyeing my Skoal can (in my bag).3 Having an ID badge says I am employed and represents my worth in the economic world of work… I have an official badge that says you can trust me… I’m from Washington, DC, and I am here to help.

“Picture Day” is how we were all officially reminded of today’s importance. This oft-repeated line has been a staple of our whole lives… we came home from school with flyers announcing the upcoming picture day event. I’m not in school anymore, but my boss, in true 3rd grade teacher fashion, ensured we were all appropriately informed of today’s importance by email. Fortunately, I don’t have to attempt to slick down the cow lick that used to grace my head.

That cow lick, that half an inch thick group of hair right at the front of my head would shoot straight up. From kindergarten until the 8th grade, that crazy gravity defying group of hair was a staple of my school picture. The last time I had a school picture that was glorified with this cow lick was the 7th grade… that picture was so horrible that I, at the age of 13, knew that there should be no record of it. Somewhere there is a box with all my year books, and in that box is my Frankfurt American Junior High year book… and in the 7th grade section (on the page with the “R’s”) is a complete inked out picture me… I hated that picture. Unfortunately, there is probably around 3000 other copies of this year book sitting in boxes in the homes of my former classmates that reveal the horrible Sublimemonkey cow lick that personifies my 7th grade goofiness. Today, where that cow lick was, is a complete bald patch… there is no identifiable mark where this cow lick once sprouted. In its place is baby bottom smooth patch of head.

After seeing that horrible 7th grade picture, I graduated into my “butt cut” era. You know what the butt cut is… it was that standard hair style for 1980s boys and future lesbians. It was the perfectly parted hair that started at the forehead and went backwards to just past the crown of the head. It looked like a crack of hair, thus the “butt cut” moniker. Some of the boys attempted to feather the bangs back… this only looked good on the true metal heads. The girls… the straight girls… didn’t have butt cuts, instead they rocked the Farrah Fawcett look that included a magnificent feathering of bangs that started at the front and swept back in gorgeous angel wings.4 No would dare say Elizabeth E. had a butt cut.5

My horrible 7th grade picture wasn’t my first nor last bad school picture day event. Once I got into my butt cut era, I started rocking this ass crack look with the addition of a slight mullet. This mullet never got long, my Dad was a retired Army sergeant and no son of his was going to have girlie hair. My butt cut mullet look made for some horrible school pictures. Fortunately, I moved from the mulleted butt cut to the bitchin’ flow6 my senior year of high school. Prior to the butt cut era, I just rocked the standard little boy bowl cut with a cow lick. But I was never one to rock school pictures at any age. Not only was my hair cow licked, but my fashion sense was lacking.

I distinctly remembering wearing the same shirt for both the 3rd and 4th grade school pictures. It was a tan flannel shirt with awesome pearl snap buttons. My parents love me, and they loved me then regardless of my horrible cow lick and the inability to take a decent school picture. My parents bought the standard 8×10 school picture. They framed these pictures and hung them on the wall… my parents still have one of my sister’s high school pictures hanging on their wall. Her thick and long red hair is feathered, her giant 1970s glasses have her initials (in gold) in the corner of the left lense, and her eye shadow is fantastically green… red-headed girls can rock green. In our childhood, our parents religiously placed these school pictures on the wall of the different Army quarters we lived in. The reason this is an important fact is because I know my parents placed my 3rd grade picture on the wall… so how in the Hell did they let me walk out the door in last year’s shirt for my 4th grade school picture? My parents now have two school pictures of me wearing the same shirt and you can’t tell which year is which.7 I may have worked the grunge look… but unfortunately I worked it two years straight. Obviously I didn’t grow in that year if I was able to wear the shirt two years running. I have always been small of stature… and these 3rd and 4th grade pictures prove it.

I got to take a school picture last year. I spent the year at the National War College and you take a school picture when attending NWC. Most of the students were O-5s (lieutenant colonels) and O-6s (colonels) military officers, so they had to wear their uniforms. Civilians like myself were in suits and ties (typical school day uniform for us). No one told us civilians what our suit or tie had to look like… basically no one gave a shit, which is a bad mistake when dealing with me… if I know you don’t give a shit… then I am going to do what I want. Here is my last school picture:















This is a damn good picture, and I fantasize that there is a giant group of hairs standing up in a cow lick under that ball cap. Please also note the smart ass grin… somethings never change with age. This is the best school picture I have ever taken and it took me 36 years to perfect it… the shit eating grin was something I was born with.

1. Today’s picture is not available for download yet… but I’m looking forward to writing another blog in the future that shows today’s smart ass grin.

2. No, I don’t work at an airport.

3. Fortunately, a number of the police officers are dippers… these guys know immediately what it is they see in the x-ray machine.

4. Even at 41, I am made weak in the knees by women with feathered hair.

5. EE was my 7th grade homecoming dance “date”… I don’t think we danced and definitely know we never kissed. But her feathered blonde hair was made of the purest silk, smelled of the purest honey, and glistened in a golden hue that made me desire a pillow made of it. I can imagine running my fingers through this gossamer gold as I light sniffed its purity.

6. The bitchin’ flow was the one-sided long bangs that hung over one of your eyes. The owner of a bitchin’ flow also developed a head jerk that would physically remove the bangs from your eyes for a brief moment. The bitchin’ flow was the staple of skaters and surfers… I was neither but I still rocked the bitchin’ flow. This wonderful hair disappeared when I joined the Army in 1990 and then started falling out. My shampoo and hair cut costs have dropped dramatically over the years. 

7. Even though they hung the pictures, my parents have never been one to date pictures, so you can’t look on the back and figure out when the picture was taken.

The Kids Are Alright…worthless lessons that got me this far

The Kids Are Alright is a 1979 rockumentary about The Who. It is a film that attempted to portray the band as the rocking group The Who was and the personalities that made up the band. One of the best scenes is when Keith Moon allows himself to be whipped by a female dominatrix in an L.A. S&M club. The film is not linear, but instead a historical rampage of footage that combines concert footage, interaction with television interviewers, and discarded footage. The Kids Are Alright was an attempt by The Who to show what they were, what they had done, and how they viewed themselves. Laying down your acquired wisdom from the rock-n-roll life seems like rollicking good time. Unfortunately, I have no life stories or wisdom gleamed from playing before tens of thousands of fans, or even a single trip to an S&M club… being whipped doesn’t sound that interesting to me, but I’m willing to beat your ass for your pleasure.

My life’s wisdom has been more simply learned. Trial and error, like most people, is how I have navigated life. No matter what your parents tell you, you learn about life by living it and making mistakes. Sometimes that trial and error was erroneously learned like the saying of “liquor before beer, no fear”… or maybe it is the other way around. Regardless, the real saying should be “consume a lot of alcohol and you will get sick.” Doesn’t matter if it is 8 bottles of Boone Farm or a case of Victoria Bitter… you drink a lot of it and you will be emptying your stomach violently. After 41 years, I have garnered some inconsequential truths and wisdom that I use to guide my daily travails. If I had kids I would inform them of the following:

– Being in a position of authority doesn’t give you a right to be an asshole: My 8th grade English teacher chucked a roll of toilet paper at me. I have no idea why she kept a roll of toilet paper on her desk, maybe she had a runny nose, maybe the school’s bathrooms didn’t keep a big enough supply… who knows, but I know she had a roll and she liked to chuck it at students. I was talking in class… when was I not talking in class? She had issue with this and full-arm threw it at my head. It was quick, but poorly aimed. I wasn’t quick enough to duck, but fortunately she was a shitty shot and the roll sailed over my head… with a long white trail fluttering behind it. I’m not sure, but this may have quieted me for a bit. If and when you are put in a position of authority, don’t assume that gives you the right to be an asshole. The mantel of leadership is heavy and can result in a stressful life… just be sure not to abuse that position. Chucking toilet paper at your charges is an abuse… and damn funny.

– Learn science because it is real: In college I kept pints of vodka in the freezer. I am not sure what was the purpose of this, it wasn’t like I was buying expensive vodka or drinking it straight. This was nasty cheap vodka that would be cut with some citrus beverage… which was probably something like SunDrop or Mountain Dew. Actually making Screwdrivers with real orange juice wasn’t part of my drinking repertoire. One gloriously hot summer evening I was headed to a fraternity party. On the way out the door I grabbed a glass pint bottle of SchittyTast vodka out of the freezer. The only other freezer contents would have been an overflowing ice maker and frost covered meat patties (of unknown origin). Time from apartment to Escort (’84 diesel) would have been about a minute. Escort interior was probably 90something degrees. This was the sort of interior heat that makes you immediately pop sweat as soon as you sit down. ’84 diesel Escorts are not known for the quickly cooling air conditioning abilities. I lowered the windows, cranked the AC, and tossed the freezer cold vodka pint onto the passenger seat and pulled out of the apartment complex. Within the time it took me to realize that it wasn’t shower moistness collecting in my groin, I heard a loud pop. I ignored the pop sound, I had a party to attend and ladies to woo. Upon arrival to the Beta House, I reached across and the vodka bottle crumbled in my hands. The rapid temperature change from freezer to Sahara heat of the Escort had shattered the pint bottle, cool clear vodka had immediately soaked the passenger seat. Unfortunately, vodka doesn’t have a major alcohol smell so the Escort still reeked of farts and stale beer. Nothing masks a liquor smell like stale beer and farts. If I had paid attention in high school science (I can’t remember any science class I have ever taken) I would have known the danger of rapid heating of glass and avoided this mishap. Later this Escort caught fire and burned when my aunt was driving it… she escaped unscathed but to this day I wonder if the vodka soaked passenger seat assisted in this conflagration. Pay attention in science class and avoid alcohol spills… that may lead to car fires.

– Pressure and volume affect the transfer of liquid: Brandon and I were poor college students, Mac-n-Cheese was a cheap, but delicious college meal. Southern Comfort was a cheap and nasty drink, whether you are in college or not. Combine the two and you have a deadly combination. After consuming the Mac-n-Cheese… and then consuming a fifth of Southern Comfort, Brandon and I didn’t feel so great. While sitting in my apartment (and having a bathroom 12 feet away) Brandon started not looking so well. Quickly, Brandon figured the Southern Comfort and Mac-n-Cheese needed to be released from his stomach. Now, since he was a quick thinker, Brandon figured that vomiting while remaining seated was a better idea than rushing to the bathroom, which is the usual place people go to vomit… unless you are outside on your parent’s farm which allows you to use pasture land and woods as your personal throw-up place. So in a stellar moment of crystal clear thinking, Brandon grabbed the now empty fifth of Southern Comfort and attempted to deposit 325 ml (his half of the fifth) of whiskey and two bowls (standard American soup bowl sized) of Mac-n-Cheese back into the bottle. It is needless to ponder the results… it is physically impossible to reinsert whiskey into a whiskey bottle from your mouth unless you are able to control the flow. When vomiting, no one is able to control the flow. Large volume at a high pressure is not the preferred method of inserting liquid into a small neck of a bottle.

– Guns and ammo hurt: Seems having shit thrown at my head is the preferred method my superiors like to use when getting my attention. As a young Army field artillery battery (company) commander, I was beckoned to my battalion commander’s humvee for a meeting while we were deployed on a training mission. I had just days before taken command of my artillery battery (6 Paladin howitzers and 100 soldiers) and was on my first training deployment as the commander. It also had a been a day when a radio had gone missing in the battalion, so the battalion commander called all his battery commanders (there are 4 batteries in a field artillery battalion) together to discuss this supposed missing radio (it was later found in a vehicle). While standing around the hood of his humvee he began cursing us. The military is the only job I have ever had where your boss can get away with calling you a “stupid motherfucker” without the ability to complain to human resources… in the Army you just suck up the verbal beat downs. However, before the radio was found and with his young captains assembled around him, the battalion commander ( a lieutenant colonel) got more and more agitated. Being the newest commander and not knowing the level of crazy the battalion commander could reach, I made the suggestion that we conduct another search of vehicles before we got all draconian. The battalion commander did not like my suggestion and berated me as being a “too new of son of a bitch (my parents are married) to know my asshole from my elbow” and then pulled a M9 Beretta ammo clip from his belt and chucked it at my head. My Kevlar helmet was tucked under my arm, thus I was not protected from the metal pistol magazine headed for my head… but I learned my lesson from 8th grade and ducked… the magazine flew harmlessly right of my head and landed hard on the Fort Hood, Texas dirt. Upon realizing his poor aim, the battalion commander proceeded to remove his M9 Beretta pistol from his holster and then wrist flipped it at me… unable to duck a second time… I reach forth with Jerry Rice reflexes and caught the pistol in mid-flight before it cracked my melon.  All of us “young” captains were amazed at this display of crazy anger. I had no idea on how to react… so I calmly walked over to the ammo magazine on the ground, picked it up, and handed it and the pistol back with my typical smartass smile. The battalion commander, having released his anger at our piss poor ability to account for radios, turned on his heel and walked away. No matter how pissed you get… never throw shit at people… it not only makes you an asshole, but if you throw big heavy shit that can hurt… it makes you crazy.

I could go on and on about shit I have learned in life… they would all be related to alcohol or stupid Army stories. Basically, I follow the simple advice my Dad told me which was “take responsibility for your actions” and hold the Crash Davis truth about dads for people in general: “he’s just your father, man – he’s as full of shit as anybody.” Take responsibility for your actions, realize people are full of shit, and you will make it okay through life.

Keeping my head down… Golf season is upon me

My Cleveland brass wedges have been wiped clean. The muted brass gives off a dim sheen. Last year’s failed attempts at bunker saves and chips have been removed with a wipe of a warm moist cloth. The short and long irons have been inspected… grips squeezed and twisted to ensure they still provide a firm hold within my hands. Golf bag contents have been emptied and inventoried. Like a soldier preparing for a long patrol, the gear is laid out before me in an orderly manner. Rank by rank, needed and necessary equipment is inspected. Bags of wooden tees are opened and poured into a bag pocket, last year’s chipped and broken tees are discarded just like last year’s slicing and hooking drives are forgotten.

Dirty, scuffed, and discolored balls are wiped and eyed. A hacker can’t afford to trash a less than stellar ball. Used and new balls are the hoarded currency of a hacker. If there is no clear split in the golf ball’s shell, it is rolled from my palm back into the bag. New boxes of balls are opened and follow their older companions into the bag. 2012-2013 USGA rule book is quickly thumbed… rarely checked while on the course. After nearly 20 years of golfing and rare changes to USGA rules, my memory is a better guide than a book. Rule books are guides for challenging when money is on the line. I rarely bet on my golf game, thus I rarely open the book.

New shiny cans of sunscreen and bug spray are placed in the bag. Nature is one of the adversaries on the golf course… the roll of the land, the cut of the rough, the strength of the wind, the slope of the green, the slick of wet rain, the heat and burn of the sun, and the swarm of mosquitos. Golf is not a game played within a climate controlled environment. Golf is played in the elements and golfers like myself have to be armed in a manner that allows us to not worry about a sunburn as we stand on the 11th tee box squinting in the summer sun.

By September my left hand will be a ghostly pale white, it will have been gloved all summer. My right hand will be a bronzed hue. This mismatched hand coloring will identify me to other golfers as a compatriot… we will nod to each other at bars, restaurants, stores, and work hallways when we notice each others’ hands. Golfers have no secret handshake or code word, but we do have a visible identification to mark our presence among our peers.

Finally, the small pieces of my weekly golfing life is softly touched. I go through my ball markers and divet repair tools. Golf gloves and repair tools have markers attached to them… I discard them immediately upon purchase. I mark my ball on the green with coins. American currency is at the bottom of my preferred markers. Pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters are for the occasional golfer. Average pocket change is used when no other marker is available, a real golfer ensures he has his favorite markers prior to teeing off. I don’t use average pocket change, I am always prepared. There is a newly minted dollar coin showing the face of Sacagawea, a 5 Peso, a single Russian Ruble, and a Kazakh Tenge. Globalization meets golf.

The bag, its contents, and my clubs are ready. My Adidas golf shoes are inspected, cleaned. Laces are checked for frays, plastic spikes are tightened… metal spikes being banned about the time I started playing golf. Older golf courses, that can’t afford remodeling, still show metal spike marks on wooden stairs and floors. The day of metal spikes has ended. At last I eye my golf gloves, both are checked for rips, tears, and loose threads. The soft white leather is a dirty blackish grey on the palm. Gloves last a season or two, summer sweat and sun turn them stiff following a winter of non-use. As a right-handed golfer, I wear a glove on my left hand and this the point where I connect to the club. This single point sweat stained glove is where the ball’s flight begins and travels up the shaft to grip, grip to hands, hands to arms, arms to body. Golf swings are not necessarily pretty, but it is better for it to look smooth than jerky… I unfortunately am a jerky golfer. As I finish checking the gloves, I check my mind for rips, tears, and loose threads… like any game or sport, the mind is the piece of equipment that is most important and most likely to be damaged. Mental check complete… I calmly wait for the season to begin.

Golf is a game of habit and routine. I cannot golf without a hat, I cannot putt with my glove on, I cannot mark my ball with average pocket change, and I have to put a fat lip of Skoal in before teeing off. Rob, my best friend, doesn’t dip but says that the smell of Skoal in the morning means golf. I don’t like other golfers talking to my ball. My shot, my ball, my encouragement. I won’t encourage your ball because it is a backwards compliment that actually says “hey dude, your shot kinda sucked so I am going to pretend I can talk your ball into doing something you couldn’t make it do.” Leave my ball out of your conversations. These habits and routines are the ritual of my game.

Golf is a game of consistency. Unfortunately, consistently I suck. Golfers, when upon hitting a straight drive or perfect iron, wonder aloud on why that can’t do that all the time. They also allow themselves the selfish thought of thinking that perfect shot is actually what their golf game is. It isn’t, their golf game is the slice, hook, stub, topping, worm burner, and all the other horrible shots that consist of the majority of their game. I no longer tell myself that my inner and true golfer is a straight drive hitting and long putt sinker scratch golfer. I am hacker, I am average, and I revel in it.

Golf is my escape, golf is my hobby, golf is my fun. I am not playing against you. I don’t care how you score and I won’t correct you when you purposely or accidentally shave a stroke or two. If you want to lie to yourself that is your business. I play against myself. I used to viciously compete against myself. Every bad shot and missed putt was followed by an internal argument and cursing. Now an easy peace has settled upon my soul. I am happy with who I am on the golf course and like the golfer I am. Acceptance is the first step, I accept who I am as a golfer.

Spring is here, and even though I have golfed a few times this warm winter, golf season has officially begun. For the next 7 months or so, I will spend at least one day a week chasing a little white ball around a grassy terrain. Like life, perfection is unattainable. The pursuit of the perfection… the journey is what is thrilling. I intend to keep my swing thoughts simple (“Keep your head down”) and my grip loose. It is hard to imagine something better than the possibility of a well-placed drive followed by a buoyant walk down the fairway with thoughts of that perfect second shot.

Balkan Apparitions and Syrian Mirages

Richard Cohen1 at the Washington Post has one point in his latest Op-Ed2: the United States, NATO, and UN should intervene in every civil war on the globe. His reason is that we didn’t learn our lesson from Bosnia and now we are a making a mistake by not intervening in Syria to assist the rebels. Essentially, Cohen states that NATO was able to stop the violence in Bosnia by bombing Serbian military positions and NATO could do the same in Syria. Pure unadulterated simplistic bullshit. Oh, he also admits that he was wrong in the early 90s when he first thought the US and NATO should not intervene in the Balkans.

Cohen loosely ties the idea of how the splintered ethnic and religious make-up of Bosnia is similar to the tribal and clan issues in Syria. Finally, Cohen argues that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should see the comparison and lessons because, as the First Lady, she had traveled to Bosnia.

This type of argument was heavily discussed in the post-Cold War 90s. The rise of nationalism when communism fell in numerous places caused consternation among policymakers. What sort of conflicts should the US and NATO intervene in was a standard question. UN forces had attempted relief efforts in Somali (disaster), Rwanda (disaster), and Bosnia (disaster). The US attempted to intervene on a very limited scope in Somali (disaster), and it wasn’t until December 1995 that the US and NATO truly committed to enforcing a poorly established peace in Bosnia following the Dayton Peace Accords.

Comparing Bosnia to Syria, however, is a bit too much.

– Syria is in the midst of civil war… Bosnia was not a just a civil war. First, unlike Syria in which no region has claimed independence, Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence in 1992 following the break-up (or the “Balkanization”) of the former Yugoslavia. The other nations to separate were Croatia and Slovenia. Serbia did in fact assist, aid, and supply troops to the Serbian nationalist forces in Bosnia. The conflict in Bosnia was more than a simple civil war, it was actually a real aggressive war fought between three nominally independent nations (Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia) and the individual minority groups within those nations. The conflict in Syria is not one about break away republics or nation-on-nation conflict, it is a true civil war.

Using the Bosnia example seems dated. I cannot fathom why Cohen feels determined to use Bosnia as an example of why the international community, and the US specifically, should intervene. NATO and European actions (bombing and aid) recently in Libya seems more applicable. Regionally, geographically, ethnically, and historically, Libya and Syria are far more related than Syria and Bosnia (regardless of the Islamic connection… Bosnian Muslims are as Islamic as I am). One might believe that the Libyan comparison is overused and Cohen feels a need to harken back over 15 years to identify a possible similarity. Yet this connection rings hollow considering the limited similarities.

– Syria has/had acquaintances, nobody loved Bosnia. Nobody, and I mean nobody gave a shit about Bosnia until CNN decided to invade every living room with “concentration camp” videos. Unfortunately, for Rwanda and the Tutsis… CNN ignored them. It wasn’t until the moral drum had been beat on to a deafening roar that NATO and the US decided to act. Russia objected on a limited level and eventually assisted with the NATO Implementation Force (IFOR) by providing a brigade of airborne troops. Consequences of intervening in Bosnia was limited to having to include the Russians in the peace enforcement operations and NATO establishing a reputation of intervening in murky and messy conflicts in a nation that was not a NATO member nation. Syria, on the other hand, is not a new break away nation, instead Syria is a nation with actual international relations and connections to other nations, such as Iran. Additionally, Syrian President Assad (the younger) actually had begun limited cooperation with the US and it’s war on terrorism. It wasn’t until the beginning of the Syrian uprising that the US began to examine its relationship with Syria.

Finally, there is a slippery slope in the world of conflict intervention. What conflict is worthy of US taxpayer’s attention and the potential loss of life of US military members? Is Cohen truly advocating a foreign policy that is reminiscent of the 90s when playing police officer was the biggest challenge the US faced? Other than mentioning bombing Syrian government forces, Cohen doesn’t provide a true course of action. Cohen just warns of making mistakes that resulted in the West dragging its feet in Balkans. That is an easy argument and could be used for any conflict on the planet. What nation or international organization is capable of intervening in every civil war? Today there are numerous civil wars being fought such as the Sa’dah Insurgency in Yemen, Somaili (fuck! still?), and Uganda. Libya yesterday, Syria tomorrow, Uganda next week?

An honest and reflective self-assessment might also reveal that Bosnians looked like Europeans (because they are) and Syrians look… well foreign. One could easily argue that this one of the reasons no one in the West really gave a shit about Rwanda… isn’t there always some sort of civil war or genocide going on somewhere in Africa? This last question actually might be a lot closer to the truth than a lot of us are willing to admit. Maybe the West has gotten tired of the whole Arab Spring thing. Libyan and Egyptian awakening aftermaths haven’t exactly turned out rosy (in Western democratic eyes). Single strong-man governments are now military juntas with limited elections… elections that have resulted in zealot Islamic parties winning big such as in Egypt. Public perception is important, and now the public may have bored of the Arab Spring… isn’t there always some great “democratic” awakening going on in the Middle East? Ultimately, US, NATO, and Western intervention is not determined in a vacuum, and biases do play a part in foreign policy.

I understand Cohen’s desire to do what he feels is right… is he going to admit he is wrong now in 15 years? Righting global wrongs are worth discussing. Lazy journalism with weak historical comparisons, however, do not assist in that discussion, instead they pollute the conversation with needless words. But, again I understand the feeling of righteousness when conflict is stopped and stabilization operations begin. I deployed to a Croatian muddy field on Christmas Day 1995 as an US Army 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Armored Division. I crossed over the Sava River into Bosnia on January 2nd, 1996. I returned home to my military base in Germany on Thanksgiving Day 1996… to return to Bosnia in October 1997 and finally returning in March 1998. I understand the desire to something “right” but I also know that weak historical comparisons isn’t going to sway anyone, especially policymakers.

1. A journalist of questionable ethics, Google “Richard Cohen, Washington Post, sexual harassment.”

2. Richard Cohen, “From Sarajevo to Homs,” The Washington Post, April 3, 2012, p. A21.

Music and Female Affections

I did it all for the nookie” is a common refrain for a lot of guys. I too have done things for the nookie. Once I started noticing girls in junior high, just about everything I did from then on out was an attempt to impress and hopefully bed young ladies. I have worn what I considered high fashion such as brown leather deck shoes with no socks and Member’s Only jackets to get noticed by the fairer sex… it wasn’t a good look then and it is not a good look now. I have purchased gallons upon gallons of alcohol and then consumed by me to get my “courage” up. I have used horrible lines that wouldn’t even pass as decent in the worst pick-up bar in the country… one of my most memorable being “don’t I know you from somewhere?”  I have begged, borrowed, and stolen just see some panties drop to the floor. These weren’t always my proudest moments, but they are moments that most guys experience. Men and women have roles to play in this friendly game of “the hunt.” Don’t hate me, hate the game.

A wise man once told me “nothing in life is free, especially the affections of a young woman.” By affections, I assume he meant nookie. Whether it is actual spending of money or sacrificing of dignity… everything has a price. In the end, one has to conduct a cost-benefit analysis and determine if the nookie is worth it. With great trepidation, I am now going to admit to what I have done musically for the nookie. Music is near and dear to me, and I have an extensive musical palette. Some of the following examples are embarrassing, and some resulted in me becoming a fan of said musicians. In the end, I have to admit to myself that I am was willing to listen to anything if I thought it would get me laid. Naturally, this sacrifice was reliant upon the young lady in question being a music lover. I once (willing) dated a young lady that had no musical tastes whatsoever… which in retrospect is probably the most damning thing I have ever done. How I had any sort of relationship with a woman who was incapable of musical taste is completely unfathomable to me today… I was young and the young do stupid shit.

– The Cure: She wore black before Goth was an actual style. She worked in the language lab and smoked herbal cigarettes. She was petite and she wore glasses. Her graceful manner, as she flitted around the lab, had me enamored. How I was supposed to focus on the Russian language program I was listening to is beyond me. “Friday I’m In Love” was her favorite song, and even though I didn’t have language lab on Fridays (Tuesdays and Thursdays only), I felt this song was made just for us. I wasn’t a Cure fan, I had heard them before…but I owned nothing from the Cure and didn’t see myself wearing anything black. I now own a black suit… but black shirt and black jeans isn’t my fashion. Johnny Cash had that market cornered and there is now way that I am going to attempt to hone in on JC. My language lab lover would listen to nothing but the Cure. When we were alone, and doing things that college students of the opposite sex do when they are alone, the Cure had to be playing. I was still a metal listener who had branched into Nirvana… yet for this multilingual woman I was willing to give this make-up’d weirdness a try. The Cure is still a little too emotional for me, but I do appreciate them and will listen to them now and then. Unfortunately, these days the Cure reminds me more of attempting to learn Russian than the Goth girl.

– Milli Vanilli. Yes, as I have stated before, I went to a Milli Vanille concert. My girl friend at the time was a fan. Said girl friend meant the world to me and I couldn’t imagine not buying tickets to Milli Vanilli concert. This willingness to sacrifice all my musical self-esteem is one of the reasons that I know, in my heart, that I desire to be a giver and pleaser. I’m such a giver, I sat through a “live” version of this song. I knew they sucked, and on some level, I think she knew they sucked, but she liked the bee and the bop of this lip-syncing duo. For the record, this is before the massive pop culture bomb that informed all of us that Milli Vanilli did NOT, in fact, sing their own songs. This is before we were all crushed at the realization that some music is nothing more that bogus shit. So… in total ignorance and total lack of pride I purchased Milli Vanilli concert tickets. A week prior to the concert… wait for it… wait for it… she DUMPED me. Ah the heartache and pain. The week preceding the concert I was a jumble of conflicted emotions and wondering which was the more horrible truth: A) my love of my life had dumped me, or B) I had two fucking tickets to a Milli Vanilli concert and the nookie that I had bought it for had dumped me. Fortunately, a good friend (Melana there is a special place in Heaven for you) went with me… and amazingly we were completely entertained for the whole concert. I have never bought tickets to a concert for a woman ever again.

– Whitney Houston. It may be bad manners to speak ill of the dead, but this was one of those moments that I realized that I would be willing to do anything for a little leg (emphasis on a “little” because this relationship wasn’t consummated). It was high school and my sweetheart wanted to see Whitney Houston. Fortunately, this sweetheart wasn’t so into Whitney that I had to listen to her any other time other than this concert. Yes Whitney had some range and put on a show, but a 17 year-old red-blooded American boy cannot enjoy Whitney on any level. Whitney didn’t sing to or for me. This song is definitely not for me or any other male on the whole planet. High school is bad enough, but couple the awkwardness of teen years with a girl friend who “loved” those sappy Whitney ballads is enough to shame anyone. I willingly bought the tickets, and fortunately the girl friend didn’t dump me prior to the concert… however I do believe that did happen a few weeks later. When I heard about Whitney’s death, I was glad to know I was more bothered by her sad demise than my own personal shame of having seen her in concert. Sometimes my getting-nookie memories are less important than real life sadness.

I could probably list example after example of what I consider musical sacrifice on my part. I could tell you how I have suffered through endless playing of John Denver, the Carpenters, Barry Manilow, Till Tuesday, Suzanne Vega, Cindi Lauper, Seal, Sarah Brighten, Debbie Gibson, Rick Astley, Bobby Brown, Fine Young Cannibals,  New Kids on the Block, ABC, Janet Jackson… yes I can go on and on and on. Conversely, I can regale you with the numerous times I forced Metalica on tender ears and, for some odd reason, how the body (and head) connected to those ears put up with it. I’m sure my attempts at romancing to Metalica is just as embarrassing as my willingness to sacrifice musical pride (such as listening to Maroon 5) for a shot of leg. BUT… I will not listen to Lionel Richie for any woman… Period.

Why I can’t vote Republican

I should be a Republican. Studies show that kids tend to vote like their parents. My parents are Republican, conservative Southern Republicans. My dad block votes Republican, one party, one lever, one vote.  I was raised in a Southern protestant church (Church of Christ). My dad was in the military; I was in the military. I have lived a significant portion of my life in the South: Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas. I have adopted some culture attitudes and personal habits that are a direct result of living in the South.1 I come from poor Southern rural stock, and since the Civil Rights era, poor Southern rural voters have been Republican.

Poor Southerners used to vote Democratic. This was before the GOP’s Southern Strategy. The Southern Strategy is the name for the GOP’s plan to winning in the Southern States. This winning of the South was based on fanning the fears of anti-black racism and supposed anarchy that would happen if African-Americans were given the same voting rights as their white Southern neighbors. My grandfathers were Democrats. One was a sharecropper and the other was a coal miner. Neither was moneyed or empowered in a political sense. My mother’s dad, the coal miner, was also a union organizer due to the coal mining industry’s exploitation of workers in the 1940s-1960s. Supposedly, my dad’s dad (an uneducated sharecropper) was paid to vote Democratic. Regardless of reasons for their voting, neither man would have voted Republican until the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

Today is not the late 60s, nor do I not vote Republican because of the Southern Strategy, I don’t vote Republican for a number of reasons that are both visceral (like being disgusted by the GOP’s Southern Strategy), and (what I believe to be) rational reasons. Any reader, and especially any Republican voter, could provide counterpoints to my issues with the GOP; feel free to comment.

– Evangelical Minority Even though I raised a Southern protestant,2 I do not attend any church or religious service. I do not pretend to have a personal relationship with any god. My view on religion is pretty narrowly focused on the idea of privacy. Individual religious practices and beliefs are things that are confined to one’s life. The idea that someone would push their religious views into the political realm seems abhorrent to me. In a nation of over 300 million, it is hard to imagine a single set of religious views and rules as being the only “right” way to govern both personal and public life of the nation. Governmental attempts to run a middle, secular, course is not a trumping of religious beliefs, but an attempt at ensuring that not only allowing the religious to privately practice their beliefs, but it also ensures that individuals like myself are protected from theocratic rule. The very vocal evangelical minority within the GOP is a barrier. Libertarians would agree whole heartedly with my view on religion. Unfortunately, the GOP cannot ignore this minority because of its clout within the party and its ability to garner votes. I cannot associate myself with an organization that denounces the idea of other nations being ruled as theocracies, yet is willing to be influenced by a minority that seems to desire a similar style of governing.

– “Free Market” As much as I see the theoretical idea of allowing the market to govern itself, I also know that man is not a creature to encourage and ask for a fair playing field. What men want is to gain power, money, and influence at any cost. Exploitation of workers is not just a problem of modern China, it is a problem that America has encountered time and time again in its past. As stated earlier, my two grandfathers were men who were exploited by an economic system. Viscerally, I can’t support an economic ideal espoused by the GOP when I understand that market failure is possible. Supply and demand is the cornerstone of the free market ideal, and supply and demand doesn’t take into account externalities which may lead to monopolies. Deregulation, or industries prior to regulation, does not lead to market equilibrium, it leads to exploitation.

– Historical Racism As stated earlier, the GOP’s Southern Strategy was racism. Today, there is still a tinge of racism within the GOP. Ken Mehlman, George W. Bush’s campaign manager and Chairman of the Republican National Committee stated in 2005:

“Republican candidates often have prospered by ignoring black voters and even by exploiting racial tensions,” and, “by the ’70s and into the ’80s and ’90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African-American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out. Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.”3

It has even been argued that the GOP has become, by default, a Southern party… or overall appealing to the South while alienating other voters in other regions.4 Eradicating this racist history and attempting to mend fences would go far within the political arena for the GOP.

– GOP Rhetoric Mix an evangelical voice (and prayer), utopian belief in free market, and racial epithets, you get a brand of politics that is more divisive than inclusive. Social conservatism is not known for friendly politicking. Opposition to same-sex marriage, “cold dead fingers” hold on the right to bear arms, yet a total disbelief in other decisions such as the constitutional right to an abortion causes the GOP to sound angry, white, and selfish. Sounding like this doesn’t mean that every Republican is angry, white, and selfish, it just portrays a certain world view that doesn’t match mine.

Overall, I know that it truly comes down to a personal philosophy on governing and personal views on societal responsibilities. I do not believe in allowing personal religious views to trump other views and beliefs. I do not believe that corporations, industries, and moneyed individual will protect individual workers and the environment. I do not trust a political party that has a past that included exploitation of white Southern voters’ racist fears. In the end, I don’t trust a party that claims the moral high ground when that “high” ground is narrowly defined by the party itself. I view my role as a citizen (and as a voter) in a manner that lends itself more to the idea of pursuing my own personal happiness while ensuring that others who are less fortunate are provided some sort of opportunity to better themselves.

*for the record I don’t consider myself a Democrat either and, yes, I will be writing a piece on why I can’t vote Democratic.

1. However, as I have gotten older and experienced the world, I have discovered that a lot of the things I attribute to the South are also present in other parts of the country and world.

2. Even as a child and living overseas, my mother ensured we went to church and “broke bread” with other Southern protestants.

3. Mike Allen, “RNC Chief to Say It Was ‘Wrong’ to Exploit Racial Conflict for Votes,” The Washington Post, July 14, 2005. Richard Benedetto, “GOP: ‘We were wrong’ to play racial politics,” USA Today, July 14, 2005.

4. Adam Nossiter, “For South, a Waning Hold on National Politics,” The New York Times, November 10, 2008.