Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Staying Manly; or, Do as Chuck

Fellas, tell me, do you ever look at your life – the naked Barbies strewn about the living room, the festive flower bed, the box of tampons that falls out of the bathroom cabinet every time you open it – and feel emasculated? Me, too.

Fear not, macho dude. Here are 10 small ways you can retain your sense of manliness every day.

1. Don't shave. I only shave about twice a week, and nothing says macho like a scruffy face. And when you do shave, for Pete's sake, no aftershave, you pansy!
2. Get sweaty. In my case, I work out about five days a week, but some days I'm too busy for that. Solution: Think about how close your 11-year-old daughter is to hitting puberty.
3. Listen to Brad Paisley's "I'm Still a Guy." He's a wise man.
4. Wear a baseball cap backwards. It's like you're in college again, even if you don't realize how big a goober you look like.
5. Get a dog. I like cats, but overexposure will decrease your hormone levels.
6. Watch ESPN. The trick is finding the time between helping with your kid's school project and cleaning up the dog's poop.
7. Slap your wife on her rear. Be sure you have your running shoes on.
8. Read and memorize Chuck Norris facts. A sampling: "The quickest way to a man's heart is with Chuck Norris' fist." "Chuck Norris CAN believe it's not butter." "The grass is always greener on the other side. Unless Chuck Norris has been there. In that case the grass is most likely soaked in blood and tears."
9. Watch "Walker: Texas Ranger."
10. Eat gristle. Chuck Norris does.

Today's Redneck Moment: I overheard a conversation about mullet-tossing, and I thought they were talking about chucking long man hair.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Race Day; or, Dega-bound

I was slow coming around to NASCAR. My two best buddies in high school were into it, though, and they soon had me hooked. Now I love it.

I love going to races, too, when I can. Tupelo isn't really close to any tracks, but it's only three hours from Talladega. I've gone to the last five races there, I believe, and I've gotten to where I don't get lost once I make it on the property. One time I missed the credential office, and when you miss a turn, there's no going back. Seriously. One-way traffic in there. I had to park with the general public – as opposed to the infield; yeah, poor me – and hoofed it halfway around the track to get in. Wore me out.

I've seen some good races there, but Sunday's was the best thus far. There were 52 lead changes among 20 drivers, and during a couple of stretches guys were trading the lead nearly every lap. Then a rookie, Michael McDowell, spins on the white flag lap, and Kyle Busch (gag!) wins under caution.

I was in the press box, of course, which I feel sort of guilty about. Real NASCAR fans get a seat, a set of headphones, and scream their lungs out. Well, I did find myself standing up on several occasions, so exciting was it. But hey, I had a job to do (some "job").

I've never really had the full Talladega experience: the Saturday Nationwide race, the Saturday night parties, camping out at the track. Not that I feel I'm missing much. I'm all about the racing. And Sunday, it was good.

Today's Redneck Moment: Actually occurred Sunday. Sooo many choices. But I'll have to go with the guys sitting in front of the press box. One was drinking his beer through a funnel, while the other was wearing a giant checkered flag like a cape. Both hung around long after the race ended, with funnel boy screaming "Whooo!" at no one in particular.

Friday, April 25, 2008

My New Best Friend; or, Stupid Cute Puppy

Behind every good Southern man is a good woman … and a good dog. Right? Well, I've had the good wife. Now I've got the dog. I'm withholding the positive adjective for now.

Said wife brought home a puppy yesterday. We'd been threatening for years to get a dog, and now we're having to back up the talk, or something. We named him Rascal, in honor of a dog my family had when I was a kid.

The first night was kind of like having a new baby. He kept us up all night whining (we're keeping him in our bathroom). Of course, he's impossible to stay mad at, even though we've nicknamed him ID (Idiot Dog). Anyway, lacking a picture, I'll try to describe his cuteness.

He's very fuzzy, and his fur is a subtle black-and-brown mix, with white streaks down and around his snout and around the bottom of his neck. He has white paws. His rather short tail curls up over his back.

He rode in my car with me today. Propped his head up on my e-brake and dozed as I drove. After that, I'm afraid there's no getting rid of him.

Today's Redneck Moment: I thoroughly enjoyed having my – um, our – new dog ride in my car.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Finding Culinary Common Ground; or, My Kids Hate Grits

As I wrote the other day, I'm trying to cut back on some of the fattier, greasier foods I've so long enjoyed. Southern cuisine is not always the healthiest, but it's what I love.

I want my kids to learn to love it, too. This morning my youngest daughter, Trinity, volunteered to try grits. She didn't take to them, but I think that's because I prepared them a tad too soupy and without enough butter. This is the same daughter who liked sweet tea as a baby – her great-Aunt Marie would dip Trinity's pacifier in it – but she no longer drinks it.

Only one of my children likes sweet tea – my 3-year-old son, Drew. Loves it. And we have it quite often because my wife makes it. She'd never had sweet tea until we got married, and now she has to have it more than I do.

For the most part, though, my kids aren't big on Southern cooking. They don't appreciate black-eyed peas, or unsweet cornbread, or sweet potato casserole. Now, my wife is a great cook, but she didn't grow up on my kind of food, so our suppers are more a mixed bag (she has learned to make a few of my favorites, like the sweet potato casserole). My kids tend to be choosy of her menu, too, because they're a bit spoiled. Curse McDonald's!

So much of today's food is over-processed and, well, fake. Take Pop-Tarts. Can't stand them. Refined sugar oughta be illegal. I'd rather my kids eat a pound of grits than that junk.

Today's Redneck Thought: "Anybody who puts sugar in the cornbread is a heathen who doesn't love the Lord, not to mention Southeastern Conference football." – Lewis Grizzard

Monday, April 21, 2008

Off the Beaten Path; or, Backroadin'

Like most men, I like to make good time when I drive somewhere. "I went from Tupelo to Oxford in 45 minutes! Yes!" I'm often in a hurry because of my job or my kids or whatever. It's times like that when I'm glad we have four-lane roads and interstates.

Down deep, though, I'm a backroad guy. I love driving them, but only when I have the time to enjoy them. Because driving a backroad should be savored. Every twist and turn, every rise and drop of the road, the towering pines or oaks overlooking the winding narrow path of asphalt.

When I was a teenager in Ruston, La., I knew the backroads of Lincoln Parish – and some of the other parishes – like the back of my hand. I could get to Monroe in 30 minutes on I-20, but it was more fun to hit Highway 80 for a few miles and then wind my way through the countryside on roads with more than two numbers.

I've already found my favorite backroad around here. It's actually between the Natchez Trace – a beautiful route in its own right – and the tiny town of Houlka. It's called Devil's Tail Road, and that should be all the description you need. It's even more fun to drive at night, when my headlights will catch a thick group of white oaks straight ahead, meaning another sharp curve is fast approaching.

I love backroads because they're lonely, uncrowded. You can escape the real world for a while, where people speed past you, unless you're caught in a construction zone. And the rougher the backroad, the better. I'm all for those substandard roadways. I can identify with them, because they're scarred, uneven and honest.

Too bad they're either disappearing or getting paved over. There's always a quicker way, and while I will often take the faster route, I won't enjoy it that much.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Redneck of the Day

Here I am slacking off again on this blog. Hey, my sinuses knocked me on my rear this weekend. Anyway, we had a garage sale Saturday, and this guy pulls up in a Lexus. With a trailer hitch. Sad thing is, I know the guy.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Redneck of the Day

Sorry this is all I can post today. Feeling a bit under the weather. At least I didn't wake up with a knife in my back, like this guy. Just goes to show, redneckedness knows no particular nationality.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Warm the Globe; or, Thaw Yourself Out

It's early in the morning as I type this, and there's frost on the roofs of our vehicles. In mid-April. In Mississippi. Where's global warming when you need it?

Actually, I say, Bring on global warming! This country, along with other parts of the world, could use a more subtropical climate. It's good for the body and soul. Why do you think so many Yankees keep moving down here?

To quote the late, great Lewis Grizzard: "I certainly understand why somebody from the land of freeze and squeeze would want to seek asylum here." As can I. How anyone can stand to live in a place like New York or Maine or Chicago – Grizzard lived in the latter city for a short while, and hated it – where you have to thaw out your car and your brain each morning? Who wants to run up their heating bill in May? I was in St. Louis on July 4 one year for a night baseball game – my first date with the woman who's now my wife – and I had to borrow a sweatshirt to keep from freezing my grits off.

Sure, the summers down here can be tough, if you're not used to them. That's why God gave us air conditioning and cold water. And how many places up North can you play golf in February?

I could go on, but the biscuits are almost done. To quote Grizzard once more: "I'm American by birth, but I'm Southern by the grace of God."

Today's Redneck Moment: I believe quoting Grizzard qualifies, thank you.

Monday, April 14, 2008

My Bloggin' Wife

My wife has finally, if tentatively, joined the blogosphere. So please visit Sweettea Mom. She said the name was inspired by her two greatest passions: sweet tea and motherhood.

My lovely bride is 29 years old (and having a hard time coping with her impending 30th birthday in August) and the mother of our four young'uns. She works a couple of days a week at a church preschool, where two of our kids attend, but is otherwise a stay-at-home momma. We've been married almost 10 years (come July), and I can't begin to tell you how much she means to me. I doubt those dating services would have matched us up, but God did, thank goodness.

Anyway, she's a little nervous about this whole blogging thing. I'm glad she's doing it, and I hope y'all find it enjoyable. Please leave her a kind word of encouragement.

Redneck of the Day

It seems Hillary can't let Bill out-do her in anything. The possible First Gentleman – *snrkk* – was honored in this space the other day. Now the former First Lady gets it for her un-ladylike night in an Indiana bar. She's from Chicago, but obviously all those years in Arkansas had some affect on her. At least it wasn't moonshine.

Cutting Back; or, No More Grits, Thank You

I have managed to drop 11 pounds since December, and I'll tell you a big reason why: Cutting back on rich desserts, grease-soaked fast food and sodas. And it's also meant eating some of my favorite Southern dishes in moderation.

That goes totally against my nature. I grew up on fine Southern cooking – my mother, her mother, church dinners – and I often helped myself to seconds and thirds (and sometimes fourths). When it comes to cornbread or sweet potato casserole or grits or chocolate meringue pie, how could I not? An empty plate seemed an insult.

With my lovely wife being from St. Louis, she doesn't specialize in Southern cooking, which is OK (though she does make a mean sweet potato casserole, with nuts mixed in and a marshmallow topping … mmm … oh, sorry). She makes good food, and I've had to discipline myself to decline that extra helping, or lay off the brownies.

This is not easy for me. Southerners have a passion for food, which is why we're the fattest state in the country. I guess we all could stand to have a little less of a good thing. Much as I miss those second helpings of flank steak – actually, I did have seconds the other night; naughty boy! – I don't miss my fast-vanishing gut.

Today's non-Redneck Moment: I had shredded wheat cereal and Vitamin Water for breakfast. I admit, I'm addicted to the latter.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Redneck of the Day

Actually, this occurred yesterday. I was sitting in the office at my daughters' school when a boy came in. He was about 20 minutes late. The reason: His dad had gone turkey hunting that morning. Hey, gotta have priorities.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Earthy Days; or, Gettin' Dirty

I felt kind of manly today. Redneck-ish, if you will. I mean, all I did was mow and weed the yard, but I got really dirty doing it. Grass-stains-on-my-skin dirty.

I admit I'm a bit of a neat freak. If I come into contact with something that might have germs on it, I'll wash my hands. Even the smallest stain on a shirt or pants drives me crazy. (So you'd think I'd wash my car more often.)

Today reminded me how much fun it is to be dirty. I've had several Great Dirty Moments in my lifetime, mostly as a child.

There was the time when, as a 4- or 5-year-old, I kept getting this streak of dirt on my face, in the same spot, every single day for like a week.

In college, I was working on a grounds maintenance crew, and we had to dig a trench during a monsoon. I took an odd pleasure in that.

My high school buddies and I went mud-hogging on several occasions, either in their trucks or on four-wheelers. There are few things more beautiful than a pickup coated in mud. But getting one unstuck ain't much fun.

The all-time dirty moment came in high school, when my youth group played a game of mud football. I got spectacularly filthy.

Earthiness can be a virtue. It reminds us where we came from, for one. It also keeps us grounded, pardon the pun. I mean, how many ditch-diggers and miners have big egos? Getting dirty is often humbling; just watch Mike Rowe's "Dirty Jobs" show. Scraping out the inside of a concrete mixer or cleaning up toxic bird poop will remind a man of where he stands (and to watch his step).

I'm not going to give up my cushy writing job, mind you, but I need to make a point to get dirty more often. It cleanses the soul.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Redneck of the Day

I won't disclose his name, but I was doing a quick interview today with a kid who'd won a state championship in powerlifting. First I asked him what enabled him to set a state record: "Hard work." OK. So then I asked how it made him feel to do that: "Very happy."

A man of few words. But I wasn't going to push him – he weighs 322 pounds.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sticking Together; or, Go, Memphis!

Let's see: Its coach is a certified Yankee; only three of its players hail from Tennessee; and its best player is from Chicago.

And yet I found myself pulling hard for Memphis during Monday's NCAA Championship game against Kansas. I also found myself hurting for coach John Calipari and his Tigers, who blew a nine-point lead in the final two minutes and fell to the Jayhawks in overtime. Calipari is from Pennsylvania and previously coached at UMass, and when he came to Memphis, the cynics saw it as a perfect marriage of giant egos.

Well, for the record, both coach and team handled themselves with class after the crushing defeat. That's what you'd expect of a team from the South, right? That only made me more sympathetic toward them.

That's kind of how it is down here. We sports fans may have our big rivalries – and Memphis has always been a hated Ole Miss foe – but when one of those rivals steps on the national stage, we tend to pull for them. It's why I quietly rooted for Mississippi State's basketball team when it reached the Final Four in 1996. It's why I pulled for LSU to beat Ohio State in this year's BCS title game.

Southerners stick together, even if the main characters aren't actually from here. That's what keeps us connected in a society that's become increasingly fractured by crumbling morality, wrecked homes and technological distractions. Let's be honest: If the North had wanted to secede back in 1861, do you really think everybody up there would have gotten on board? I don't know if there would have been a Yankee version of Robert E. Lee, whose allegiance to Virginia superseded all other allegiances, and who could so galvanize a large group of people.

As far as I'm concerned, Calipari and the rest of the Tigers were Southerners on Monday night. They represented us well.

Today's Redneck Moment: I ran to town to buy my wife a sweet tea for supper. This happens often, and it's further proof that she's turning into a redneck.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Playing Nice; or, Just Go Already!

It happened again the other day. I pulled up to a four-way stop about the same time as an older gentleman, and I waved him on through. Then he waved me through. I huffily heeded his prompting.

This happens quite often, although sometimes the other driver and I keep waving at each other, back and forth, until we've both got carpal tunnel. I just want to yell, "Go, you idiot! You beat me to the intersection by a full second! I'm being nice here!" Usually, I'm the first to crack, and I'm pretty sure the other driver snickers as I pass him or her.

It's like there's a competition to see who's nicest, which is so typical of the South. Up north, it's every man for himself. Stick your nose out there and claim that piece of asphalt. I lived in St. Louis for five months, and good luck making a left turn up there. And that's just St. Louis, not New York or L.A. I swear I'll never drive myself if I have to go to a place that big.

Down here, we're nice to a fault. We want to give charity, but we want no part in receiving it. How many times have you heard an exchange like the following: "I'll pick up the check." "Oh, no, allow me." "That's quite all right, I owe you for last time." "No, that was nothing. This one's on me." "See, I've already got my wallet out, so …" "I said I'll pay, dangit! I am the morally superior one here!"

Or if we do accept niceness from another, we feel obligated to decline. I suppose that's just good manners, but if I wave you through an intersection, just go already. I'm probably in a hurry.

Today's Redneck Moment: I reviewed my 3-year-old son on his college allegiance. Me: "What do you think of the Bulldogs?" Drew: "Phbbbt." Me: "What do you think of the Rebels?" Drew: "Yay!"

Saturday, April 5, 2008

What Not To Do; or, "I'm Still a Guy"

You can call me old-fashioned or say I'm promoting stereotypes, but I'm sorry, there are just some things a good God-fearin' Southern man should not do. It's like the great Brad Paisley sings in "I'm Still a Guy": With deep spray-on tans and creamy lotiony hands/You can't grip a tackle box.

Now, I'll lotion up my knuckles when the skin starts flaking off, and I've even filed my heels at my wife's behest. But the following 10 things you will never, ever see me do. Ever. I'd rather watch "The View." ~shudder~

2. Freak out when my dress socks don't match my slacks.
3. Go to a tanning bed.
4. Watch Lifetime.
5. Believe anything Oprah says.
6. Wear black socks – any socks – with sandals.
7. Point my thumbs forward when placing my hands on my hips.
8. Drive a Saab.
9. Wear a pink button-down shirt (I don't care if it's in style).
10. Eat yogurt.

There are so many more, but that'll do for now.

Today's Redneck Moment: I laughed, once again, at the Bud Light "dude" commercial.

Lewis Grizzard Wisdom

If you ain't the lead dog, the scenery never changes.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Shunning Transience; or, Stayin' Put

That ladder keeps getting shorter. That career ladder I started climbing a few years ago seemed to stretch beyond the clouds and into the stratosphere. Maybe I'd be a college beat writer, then a pro baseball beat writer, and then a features/columnist guy, or Sports Illustrated's next hot writer.

We were in North Carolina for two years, miles from family but as close to the real world as we've ever been. Now we've been here in Tupelo for five-plus years, and I'm not really sure we'll ever leave. Sure, much of it has to do with how much I love working at the Daily Journal, but a lot of it is wanting to give my kids something that a lot of kids don't have: a place they can truly call home.

It seems few people spend their entire childhood in one place, and even fewer come back there to settle down. This area being my home, I feel a strong pull that I loathe to resist. I want my children to have friends they've known ever since they could remember – that's assuming those friends don't move away. I think a homegrown romance is awesome.

Now couples hook up via online dating services, which often means that special someone lives in another city. Real romantic. Your best friend, not a computer, is supposed to set you up with a date.

I guess we think life beyond the town limits is that much better, and maybe it is sometimes. Like that Brooks & Dunn song says, "There's life at both ends of that red dirt road." I believe I like this end of it.

Today's Redneck Moment: My 3-year-old son, Drew, and I watched NASCAR wrecks on YouTube.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Redneck of the Day

Just another "woman bites dog" story. I don't care if she's from Minneapolis, this woman has some redneck blood running through her veins. By the way, redneck blood is a mixture of sweet tea and motor oil.

Letting Go; or, "Not My Beloved Jerseys!"

She doesn't understand it, but my lovely wife has given up on junking the baseball jerseys. See, I have about 15 old jerseys – well, glorified T-shirts is all they are – from my Dixie Youth League days. Only a few still actually fit; I haven't worn one in years. I'd blame it on my packrat nature, but it's much more complicated than that.

Some of the fine companies I represented on the diamond include Milwaukee Tools, Gelston's Chevron, Wal-Mart and Lakewood Cemetery. Which reminds me of a story. During a game with the Lakewood team, our coach looked over to the dugout and urged us to make some noise. "Y'all are as quiet as a cemetery," he said, and after a moment he realized what he'd just said.

OK, so it wasn't that funny a story, but it's representative of why I treasure my wrinkled old jerseys. Those were my best times as a child, smacking singles and diving in the dirt. Baseball was an obsession with me growing up (still is, really). I actually used to dream of the day when I could buy a little – OK, big – display case for my jerseys and trophies. Most of those trophies are now broken and dusty, and I probably should chuck them.

I have trouble letting go of other things: my baseball cards, my many media passes, every Sports Illustrated I've received over the last 10 years. Sure, laugh, but you know you've got your grubby little fingers wrapped around something. We Southerners are sentimental to a fault, I suppose, which in part explains all the Civil War re-enactments and the mullet. That's OK, because it keeps us in touch with our past, which keeps us in touch with reality.

So there. Those ratty old jerseys do have some real value. And I still want that display case.

Today's Redneck Moment: I was completely fascinated by a story about fossilized poo.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Redneck of the Day

Bill Richardson should've known better than to tick off an Arkansan. Bill Clinton's redneck rage was directed at the man who left the Hillary Rodham Clinton camp to support Barack Obama. Watch your back, Richardson. Slick Willie's got people. And other people.

Hidden Roots; or, Suburbanized

Do you ever have days where you just don't feel Southern? When you're tooling along in your Accord or Villager, texting on the celly, with a song by some chick named Pink coming through the speakers? Then you pull into your white concrete driveway and look out over your little patch of well-manicured real estate (actually, mine isn't that well-manicured). Then you get on the laptop and catch up on the news, or check the radar. At bedtime, you switch off your brain as you watch some Yankee crack smarmy jokes.

Yeah, I feel that way a lot. Our neighborhood was built upon some ancient farmland, but that doesn't help me much. Urbanization is closing in on us, and there's no stopping it. So how can I – you – stay in touch with the inner redneck?

Listening to country music – the authentic kind, and I'm sorry, but Taylor Swift ain't – helps. I recommend Craig Morgan's "International Harvester," but if you think he's talking about his tractor's global appeal, your redneckedness might be hopelessly lost. You could also pop in a Jeff Foxworthy or Bill Engvall CD to remind you of just how big a hick you can be. Or, you could call up that cousin who still has a giant satellite dish in his back yard.

This has me pondering what Southerners used to do with their leisure time, if they had any. They probably read books, or walked through the woods, or whittled. What a great activity, whittling. I need to do it more often. I've no use for a sharp stick, but it's the act that's important and, I think, therapeutic.

Me, I've got that aforementioned non-redneck wife to remind me how redneck I am. Like every time I gnaw on a toothpick long after my teeth have been picked. Or whenever I drive like an angry Dale Jr. Or any time I take off my shirt and she mocks my farmer's tan.

Alas, I must go. Gotta log on to and watch baseball highlights.

Today's Redneck Moment: I got rather excited this morning when I got to interview the "other" Waltrip brother, Bobby.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Redneck of the Day

It's the mighty Oprah Winfrey. You can take the girl out of Mississippi … I'm sorry, but dedicating anything to your dead dog is pure redneck. But I still don't care for the woman.

Introduction; or, Whaddup, Dawg?

Don't you hate it when white folk like me throw out the urban lingo? Almost as annoying as a buck-toothed teenaged boy with a line of dirt on his upper lip wearing his flat-billed baseball cap askew. But hey, even I've been known to crank up Fort Minor in my car. Must be all that collective guilt built up over the centuries. (Wait; their frontman is part Japanese.)

I mean, I don't see many black people going around in North Face jackets and Birkenstocks saying, "I'm so stoked about my new shark-tooth necklace!" I'm just sayin'.

Anywho, this blog will serve as an outlet for my redneckedness (that's a word in the South), which I must largely subdue on a daily basis, especially in my job as a sports writer. Hafta enunciate and stuff. I'm a torn man, indeed – I treasure my Southern roots, yet I'm a stickler for proper grammar and love big words. (Why is the word "big" not big? Not even as big as "small" or "tiny.")

FYI, I have a non-redneck wife (from St. Louis) and four children who I'm doing my best to indoctrinate. I'm a native of Oxford, Miss., but left a big chunk of my heart in Ruston, La. I love Jesus, and unlike a lot of Southerners, I'm not just saying that.

And now for a regular feature. Today's Redneck Moment: I bought a pound of potato salad at Sweet Pepper's. Nothing else.