All posts by stacy

The Hierarchy of Heartbreak – Or Weekends Without College Football

We left the house in the third quarter, right after the Aggies took a 44-10 lead over UCLA.

It was our 17th wedding anniversary. We had reservations — and a gift card! — for Flemings. We arrived early and waited in the bar while our table was being prepared: 44-17. In the blink of an eye to start the fourth quarter, it was 44-24.

“Uh-oh.”

“They probably have the second team in by now. Nothing to worry about,” Pat said cheerfully, as the hostesss escorted us to our table.

They put little paper hearts on the table to honor our special day. Since it was a Sunday, I hadn’t checked the schedule to see whether football would conflict with our dining experience, but it was too late to reschedule. In literary circles, this is called foreshadowing.

To commemorate Baylor’s loss on Saturday, Pat ordered a bottle of Liberty School cabernet: Such delicious irony with bright notes of blackberry and undertones of toasted oak, without the rich self-righteousness and bitter hypocrisy of Jerry Falwell’s core curriculum.

Then my Apple Watch skipped a beat with a text from my old friend Jim (an LSU Tiger):

WTH happened? In boredom, I turned off the game an hour ago!!!

And we checked the score: 44-38 with less than 2 minutes left in the game.

“They can’t. There’s no way,” Pat said, with the confidence of an LSU Tiger who no longer fears the Mad Genius of Les Miles late-game decision-making.

WTH happened? We got out-coached. The glaring lack of discipline that has been the hallmark of the Sumlin era made its debut in September rather than waiting to crush us in November.

It was the second-biggest comeback in NCAA history. The Bruins scored five — 5!?! — touchdowns in a little over a quarter. Yes, our backup kicker missed a field goal that could have put it away. Yes, our starting quarterback was out with a foot injury. Yes, safety Donovan Wilson also injured his foot… but he wasn’t the only defensive player on the field. We missed FIVE chances to stop UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen’s ascendancy to the Downtown Athletic Club’s hallowed stage in December. We just had to stop him one time.

ONE TIME!

We ran roughshod over them throughout the first half — and in the second half, we decided to work on our passing game with an untested freshman? Our O-line looked like world beaters in the first half… and then they looked like Spaghetti-Os. Uh-oh. Roughly the same personnel were on the field, but the exact same coaches were on the sidelines: None of the running backs broke their ankles, and we knew we had issues at linebacker.

As we finished the bottle of Liberty School, my weekends suddenly unfurled like a flag of furious joy and well-deserved relief: Now that college football is no longer a part of my core being, I’ve got a lot of spare time on my hands… and a better outlook on life.

Learn to butcher a hog? Why not! It’s not like I’m gonna waste three hours watching us get  a participation ribbon against Nicholls State. Re-do our master bathroom? Hell yeah, especially since I don’t have to scour 600 channels in search of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette tilt: I’ll just zip on over to HGTV and binge watch The Property Brothers. Enter that mountain bike race? Of course! It’s better than destroying my manicure during another Arkansas debacle.

I can motherfucking macrame new curtains for the whole house if I want, because I’ve got all kinds of time, bitches. My Saturdays are now open.

I knew this day was coming: When we got our NFL Sunday Ticket renewal in July, we decided to cancel it after 20 years of loyal viewership. We didn’t watch it enough to justify the price tag, and autumn is prime mountain biking, hiking and general outdoor fun time in Arizona.

DirecTV played Let’s Make a Deal and by the end of Pat’s negotiations, they were paying us $5 a month to keep Sunday Ticket.

There’s a lot of good science out there investigating sports and traumatic brain injury (and the contents of this blog are mine alone and do not reflect the linguistic tenor or editorial bent of my nonprofit employer or its parent). There’s also a lot of great reporting on the football-overlords’ roles in obfuscating that science. There are professional athletes asking whether this game is worth the risk — and more importantly, there are moms asking the same questions.

There are also moms who think that their precious angels (and future Tiki-torchbearers) are deserving of full-ride scholarships just by virtue of having been enrolled in ridiculously expensive sports camps since the age of 5… which is another good reason that I’m no longer a sportswriter: Sport is rife with economic inequity, and it’s bottled at every level with a hypocrisy-by-volume ratio to rival Liberty University’s hiring of Baylor’s former rape-ignoring athletic director.

Don’t hate the players, hate the game: At least that’s what the young people say, and that’s a fair assessment of how I feel. I love Texas A&M and cherish my time there. I just don’t know that I care that much anymore about football, now that we have become the Vanderbilt of the SEC West… or worse, the Texas of the SEC (overrated, underperforming — and by the way, who were the Darrell Royal apologists that thought it was a good idea to give the Longhorns a preseason ranking?).

Sure, I love the trash-talking that floods my feeds every Saturday, and I enjoy the virtual pep rallies that ensue among my old friends. But I’d rather reunite with them around a cold beer at Duddley’s Draw than at a football game that could take three years off my life.

I’ll still have the Hierarchy to fall back on: It’s worth some good laughs and keeps my design skills up to speed, especially when I’m waiting on my pot of gumbo to finish. But you don’t have to reschedule your Saturday for the New Mexico tilt in order to play the Hierarchy of Hate: It’s like hitting a 16 when the house is showing a 10. Take your hit — you’ll win or lose — and you don’t have to agonize about the outcome.

We’re So Vain – An Anniversary Anthem

 

Departure on the 5:30 AM to Salt Lake City

Today, September 3, 2017 is our 17th wedding anniversary.

Having seen and survived the Great American Eclipse and subsequent Great Apocalyptic Traffic Jam, I am reminded anew why there’s no one else on earth that I’d rather spend my time with than Patrick Bertinelli.

So much so, that I was inspired to write a song about our recent adventure (see below).

But first, a recap: We decided at the last minute (37 days out) to witness the first total solar eclipse in the continental United States in 38 years. Based on factors ranging from our dog sitters being in Oregon for the eclipse to almost all airlines and routes being sold out (plus ridiculous hotel rates), we decided to take the path of adventure: First flight in, last flight out. Take the 5:30 AM to Salt Lake, arrive at 8:05 AM, grab our rental car, drive it like we stole it (which we did) for 217 miles to Idaho Falls, Idaho, and maybe, just maybe, arrive by the 11:33 totality. Then kill an afternoon in the Gem State and fly back to Phoenix on the 8:20 PM.

We agreed to pull off Interstate 15 wherever we could at 11:10, regardless of our bearing on the centerline. The threat of bottleneck traffic made it an adventure, and bonus round: I’d get to cross Idaho off the list of states I’ve visited.

At 11:10, a few miles north of Idaho Falls and well into the path of totality, we pulled onto a country road, drove about a mile, took a right and ended up in front of a freshly mown field, adjacent to three cows.

Moo.

Patrick set up his cameras. We prepared to conduct our scientific observations, and we monitored the moon’s progress across the sun with our special glasses… and then it happened: The moon blocked out the sun. The bucolic landscape descended into a dusky darkness. Stars sparkled the purple sky. Somewhere farmers and their families shouted and shot off firecrackers in the distance.

Photo credit, Patrick Bertinelli – because he is awesome.

Staring gobsmacked at the silvery corona sending its tendrils around the moon, we cheered and embraced and laughed, trying to burn the memory of that magic two minutes on our brains. It was your first kiss, your first glimpse of the Grand Canyon, the birth of your first child… the thrill of all of the magical things we want to cling to and never can quite describe again: Seeing Pat when I walked with my Dad into the chapel with all our friends gathered around to celebrate our union.

When it was over, we got back in the car with an empty afternoon before us. Three miles into our return, we hit traffic in Idaho Falls, spent an hour traversing four miles, and decided to wait out the rush by grabbing lunch. An hour later, we merged back into a six-hour line of bumper-to-bumper bound for Salt Lake City. The miles crawled by as did our hopes of making the return flight. Siri warned us of our dwindling estimated time of arrival — 6:18, 6:43, 7:12, 7:35, 8:02; 8:35. We canceled at 6 PM when we were still two-and-a-half-hours away.

The view never changed. Even when we were inside it.

At 8:35, we rolled into the Luv’s Travel Plaza to fill up. I bought two toothbrushes, a tube of Crest, two liters of water, and a six of Gooseneck IPA. Ten minutes later, we checked into the Mircotel at Salt Lake City International Airport. Exhausted from our seven-plus hour return trip, I didn’t even finish my beer, but we did make the flight at 6:30 the next morning. Thank you, Southwest Airlines app.

Room sweet room. There was a fridge and a microwave. Photo credit, Patrick Bertinelli

The state of Idaho has roughly 1.6 million people in it. Idaho Falls has about 64,000. The Idaho Division of Tourism Development estimated an additional 200,000 people traveled to Eastern Idaho for the eclipse… and they all decided to leave at one time.

The same thing happened to friends in South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Oregon. After the forced march back from Idaho, I have come to the conclusion that, in the event of an apocalypse (nuclear, zombie or otherwise), the majority of Americans will likely die in traffic because we are the worst drivers in the world (USE YOUR SIGNAL, BUDDY! TAKE YOUR FEET OFF THE GODDAM DASH, IDIOT! TAKE WATER WITH YOU WHENEVER YOU TRAVEL, MORON – oh, wait).

That said, there is no one that I’d rather be stuck in traffic with than Patrick Bertinelli.

And now, I have commemorated our adventure in song. Please enjoy:

We’re So Vain (with mad respect and due apologies to Carly Simon)

We walked in to the airport
Like we were hunting a big eclipse.
Our map zeroed in on the centerline.
Our time, it was an ellipse…
We had one eye on the stopwatch, as
We watched the miles tick by
And all the while schemed
That we’d be there on time
We’d be there on time, and…

We’re so vain.
Why did we think that we could just do it?
We’re so vain.
We really thought that we could just see it.
Did we?
Did we?

Oh y’all made plans several years ago,
And we waited until too late.
Well, you booked your rooms and got your flights set,
While we dragged ass to the gate.
But we still forgot that traffic sucks,
And now we’re all stuck here.

I had a dream there were clouds in the eclipse,
Clouds in the eclipse and

We’re so vain.
We didn’t think that gridlock could stop us.
We’re so vain. (We’re so vain!)
We sat all day in terrible traffic.
We did.
We did.

We wanted to take a short vacation,
Just out and back for some fun.
So we flew on Southwest and drove to Idaho Falls
To see the total eclipse of the sun
Well, we made it to the path on time
And when we left, we paused… on Highway 15
in stop-and-go traffic
stop-and-go traffic…

And… missed that plane
‘Cause we were stuck in post-eclipse traffic
Missed that plane (that plane!)
And then we got to stay in a Salt Lake
No-Tell
Motel
No-Tell
Motel!

We’re so vain.
Why did we think that we could just do it?
We’re so vain.
We really thought that we could just see it.
Did we?
Did we?

This is the after photo. Still married.

Too Soon – Hate Bowl

This is not happening. Not today. Not now. It’s September 2, forfuckssake, not January 2.

The football gods are asking me to be in postseason form, when I just discovered that hockey season has finally ended.

I’m talking about Alabama-Florida State. Tonight at 5 PM MST.

It’s a HATE BOWL, and it’s opening day! I haven’t even updated my chart! Are you kidding me?

“Hey, don’t sweat it,” my sweet husband Pat said. “You’re like Larry Fitzgerald. You don’t need to practice. You can go right out and hate like a pro. You got this.”

I don’t think Larry Fitzgerald stumbles out of the gate with his pants this far down around his ankles. A week ago, I made reservations for our anniversary dinner tomorrow night … and I didn’t even bother to check and see that my alma mater, Texas A&M would be playing UCLA on FOX right while I’d be gazing lovingly into Pat’s eyes and throwing back my second glass of cabernet sauvignon.

I changed the reservation, so I can lovingly throw the remote at the TV when Sumlin calls yet another unproductive off-tackle run on first and 10. All I can say is thank the old gods and the new that Game of Thrones ended last week — that would have been a tough call for me.

These are the times that try my hate, and for that, I invented the Hierarchy of Hate: I don’t have to make decisions, I just have to react: Drink heavily, hold my nose and root for Bama, because…

  1. We root for the SEC against nonconference foes (helps in the power-rankings)
  2. We hate all teams from Florida against any non-Floridian team, regardless of the opponent
  3. Nick Satan may be the coach of Alabama, but the Florida State Criminoles are the dingleberries on Lucifer’s buttcheeks: Remember that.

How do I hate thee Florida State? Let me count the ways…

Serial apologists for accused rapist Jameis Winston (FSU settled with the victim for $950,000 — the price of innocence has gone up)… Just since 2010, 28 F-Ass-U football, baseball and softball players have been arrested according to Arrest Nation, the sports criminal database, though to be fair, Alabama has 29 on the tote board… But the good news is that ESPN reported that two-thirds of FSU players arrested never face criminal prosecution!

Crab legs for everyone!

My hatred for Florida State goes back to the early 1990s and their taint-licking succubus of a former head coach / parole officer Bobby Bowden (the Supreme Allied Commander Emeritus of Assholes) And let’s not forget, FSU brought us Lee Corso…

Fucking Lee Corso.

If these aren’t enough reasons to sway your hate, well, you’ll be a lost cause come ESPN’s Samsung Rivalry Week, aka Thanksgiving, and the Capital One Bowl Fortnight, aka Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years.

At least we don’t have Brett Musberger to kick around anymore.

Roll Tide.

Coolidge, May 5, 2003 – January 16, 2017

Coolidge.

 

When we got home, he did not greet us at the door with the crusty honey badger toy in his mouth. He didn’t report on the Mongol hordes he chased from the back fence. He didn’t open the pantry door with his smart nose, nudging us with his old-man mutterings toward the Milk Bones.

When we got home, he wasn’t there.

We have a 113-pound hole in our house and our hearts where Coolidge used to live.

Last night when I woke up at 1:40 in the morning, I walked unimpeded in darkness to the bathroom. This morning, when I made coffee, I traversed a hallway free of the old-man turdlettes and tinkles that didn’t quite make it out the dog door. These are now conveniences, but not comforts.

Every dog is good in its own way. Every dog is the best there ever was to their own humans. We have had great dogs before. We still have one by our side, but there will never be another Coolidge.

I will remember him thundering down the stretch of side yard to unleash his fearsome fury on those insidious parents pulling their toddlers in red wagons, threatening our very existence with their need to walk on the sidewalk. I will miss the jowl-flapping relish with which he destroyed his kibble… and his Milk Bones… and Winslow’s Milk Bones. I won’t be able to open a bag of baby carrots without remembering that curious nose at my hip and the necklaces of drool descending to the floor with covetous love. I will always smile at how he ran laps around the dog park, unconcerned about the butt-sniffing and back-biting of the others: He just loved to run.

He was a Viking of a dog, pillaging and plundering every nook of our yard and every treat in our hands. He lived his life big.

I loved him rubbing his face between the couch cushions; studying the front-yard litter of mesquite beans to find just the right afternoon snack; unleashing great, satisfied burps at the conclusion of his epic bone-chewing adventures, and sighing his great contentment at being the G.O.A.T. of dogs.

His list of accomplishments was many: Catching a quail on the wing at the tender age of 2. Snatching a squirrel from the yard at the august age of 13.Recreating a crime scene in our own backyard. Putting all sorts of baby rabbits, turds, dead birds, shoes and sticks in his mouth, and offering this frankincense and myrrh to us as grateful gifts for the rich life he lived.

He jumped on top of tables, terrified Jehovah’s Witnesses, bodysurfed in Malibu, outran a dirt bike, chewed the step off our deck and loved us and Winslow completely.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a life expectancy of 10 or 11. At 13-and-a-half, Coolidge well outlived his warranty. We are grateful for the time he gave us, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Coolidge.

 

A Modesty Proposal

imagesNorth Carolina now requires schools and public agencies to have gender-segregated bathrooms. Importantly, the state is requiring said agencies to police their own potties to prevent people from visiting bathrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex. This presents a few problems:

  • Will people with gonadal mosaicism have to report to the supervisor at the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles to ask which potty to use?
  • What happens to desperate women at crowded Tar Heels games? (Admit it, you’ve thought about it, even if you haven’t done it.)
  • What about Dads whose daughters really need to go pee-pee while they are waiting in line at the Department of Revenue – and there is no family loo?
  • What about small state offices that have only one restroom, where employees have managed for years to go about their business without getting in each other’s business?

Besides being yet another GOP-run state that seems to believe the concept of “Small Government” is one that is defined as being small enough to fit in your bedroom and my vagina, North Carolina is just plain mean. Let’s be honest: This law targets transgender people for no other reason than the fact that they were born differently from what certain North Carolinian legislators (and their out-of-state legislation sponsors) believe is normal. A couple hundred years ago, these same legislators likely would have burned disabled people at the stake for witchcraft or tried to exorcise their epilepsy. Oh wait, they still do that.

Many thoughtful corporate leaders and elected officials – shout-out to PayPal and the state of New York – are leading economic protests to punish North Carolina for its transgender toileting transgressions. Money talks, assholes walk.

I believe we private citizens can also let our voices be heard through peaceful protest:

A Modest(y) Proposal: The Shit-In

  1. Eat a hearty meal of broccoli, bananas, sugar free Jelly Bellies (don’t ask how I know this), prunes, more bananas, bran, rice, pinto beans and oranges. Wash down with a hot tankard of coffee.
  2. Fill up on gas (the kind you put in your car).
  3. Drive to the North Carolina Legislative Building from Virginia (~90 miles via South Hill), South Carolina (~120 miles via Cheraw) or Georgia (You’re gonna need a hybrid vehicle and extra cans of gas ~340 miles via Lavonia – and you may want to stop for your pre-game meal in South Carolina) but not do not drive from Tennessee: They are considering a similar bill. Remember, you do not want to leave any economic residue in North Carolina, only organic material.
  4. Go to your non-biologically assigned toilet. Enter a stall. Do that thing that you doo-doo so well. Wipe. FLUSH. (Remember, we are punishing the legislature, not the innocent janitors who probably don’t earn a living wage – keep it tidy)
  5. Wash your hands.
  6. Snap a selfie outside the non-biologically assigned bathroom. Post to the social media account of your choosing. #shitin #modestyproposal #giveashit
  7. Drive back to your state of origin.
  8. Feel happy (and 10 pounds lighter) because you have taken a nonviolent stand, or in this case, sit, against hate, intolerance and intrusive legislators inflicting their own small-minded personal beliefs on science. You have given a shit about your fellow transman/transwoman/transgender person.
  9. Oh, and to the assholes at Alliance for Defending Freedom who craft this “model” legislation and shop it to small-minded elected officials near you: If you really believe in small government, stay out of my bathroom and I’ll stay out of yours.

Now pardon me, I gotta go eat some kale.