Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dolly and Bruce

Dolly and Bruce: A Love Story

When Dolly Parton asked me if I would like to buy Dollywood, the theme park she owns in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, I was flattered and a bit surprised. I could tell during the few minutes we had been conversing that it was important to her to find someone she could trust with her pride and joy

As intriguing as the opportunity was, I knew that I had neither the finances nor the desire to own and operate a multi-million-dollar business. I thanked Dolly for thinking me worthy of carrying on her legacy, and then I politely declined her offer. She was disappointed of course, but smiled bravely as she boarded her tour bus, waved goodbye, and disappeared into the ether.

This was an actual dream I had last weekend. As random and odd as the dream was, it felt very, very real. I remember waking up and thinking how pleasant Dolly Parton was to visit with and how sorry I was to see her go. A certain melancholy stayed with me for the rest of that morning.

In hindsight, I don’t think the dream was so random at all. In fact, I think it was a subconscious metaphor for a similar situation playing out right now in real life, here in Southern Boone County.

Last week, my good friend (and publisher of the Boone County Journal) Mr. Bruce Wallace, announced his intentions to retire from the newspaper business. Unlike Dream Dolly, Bruce hasnot explicitly asked me to buy his business, although a subliminal hint may have been dropped here or there in recent conversations. Nevertheless, this intriguing opportunity is much more realistic than acquiring Dollywood.

But just as it was in Dreamland, I have neither the finances nor the desire to own and operate a business in the real world. Money can be borrowed, but what it truly boils down to is that I do not possess the will to work even half as hard as Bruce Wallace has worked for the 16 years he has owned the Boone County Journal.

Since 2001, Bruce has attended pretty much every single city council and school board meeting, most high school football, soccer, basketball, softball, and volleyball games, track meets, concerts, musicals, and plays as well as countless middle school, elementary school, and primary school events. He reports on every local news story, writes editorials, sells advertisements and subscriptions, formats layouts, takes photographs, and arranges the printing and distribution of a weekly newspaper that readers hold to a high-standard of quality no matter if Bruce has a new grandbaby to visit half a continent away or an overwhelming urge to hide-out in the woods for a week or two.

Being the publisher of a small-market newspaper is a very demanding and very important job. Despite having the Internet and Facebook to help us stay in touch with one another, local newspapers are still the glue that holds small communities together. Southern Boone County is fortunate to have a locally owned and operated newspaper in this increasingly digital and impersonal age. And the word fortunate doesn’t even begin to express how lucky we are to have a man like Bruce Wallace as a member of our Southern Boone family.

Bruce’s contributions to our community are too numerous and invaluable to quantify. Over the last decade and a half, he has touched the lives of virtually every single person living among us—especially me. Bruce has been my friend and mentor for over six years. He has taught me a great deal about both the art of writing and the art of diplomacy. He has called me to the carpet when I’ve crossed the line of respectful discourse, and he has defended me against all of my critics without fail and without reservation.

Bruce Wallace is a kind and decent man who possesses a strong work ethic and a love for his community. No one will be able to fill his shoes when he retires, least of all me.
Maybe the news of Bruce’s impending retirement is really just another dream I had. The possibility of his stepping away doesn’t seem as real as my conversation with Dolly Parton did. If it turns out to be true, then I will be very sorry to see my friend go. And that melancholy feeling I’ll have will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

New Book Available Now!

Here's the link to the listing for my new book, 686 WORDS PER WEEK, on sale now at amazon.com.

New Book Update

Friends, my new book, 686 WORDS PER WEEK, a collection of my columns from the Boone County Journal will be available at amazon.com and in select local book stores very soon! Stay tuned for further announcements...


Thursday, July 06, 2017

Big plans (and accountability)

One reason I decided to go public with my decision to quit drinking (via my newspaper column and social media) was to hold myself accountable. That proved to be a good idea.

Now I have another goal for which accountability is vital: I have written enough weekly columns over the last four years to create two new compilations of material. (My previous book, "Love & Fried Chicken," featured columns from my first two years of writing for the Boone County Journal.)

I will again self-publish these books and offer them for purchase on Amazon.com, and I will also order plenty to have on hand to sign and sell locally. I may even set up a booth at this year's Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival where I would offer all three volumes.

Although I am a substitute teacher, a public address announcer, a guitar builder, a minister, a husband, and a father, I am at my core a writer. In addition to publishing my books of columns, I also plan on writing another novel. My first effort, "Naked Snow Angels," was really just a collection of essays and short stories which I packaged as a fictional memoir. Next time I hope to write a pure, original work of fiction that I can convince a publisher to take a chance on.

Well, that's the plan. Now that it's public knowledge, I will have you and myself to hold me accountable. I'll keep you posted on my progress of course. I'd better get to work!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Struggle and the Feels

Struggle and the Feels

I just can’t today. Normally, I try to write something that will inspire you or make you laugh out loud. Not today. Sometimes I write about local heroes in our community or our stellar schools. Nope and nope. Today is not one of those days.

Today, my friends, I must confess that I am struggling. As I write this column, on a cold Sunday afternoon in mid-March, I have one thing and one thing only on my mind: alcohol. Today is the 71st day of sobriety for yours truly, and at this exact moment in time, I am jonesing pretty hard for a drink.

The best way I can think of to describe how I feel right now is that it’s like having an itch that you just can’t scratch. Imagine that itch is located somewhere deep inside your brain, and you simply cannot ignore it. There is only one way to make it go away, yet you dare not do it because you know it will feel so good once you start that you will never, ever be able to stop.

Luckily, I don’t feel the itch most days. Sure, there was that one time when I was watching an episode of “Family Guy” and Brian Griffin (an animated dog) was enjoying his go-to drink: a martini. Oh, how I wanted a sip or three of that canine’s cartoon cocktail. And the other day when I had just used some hand sanitizer that smelled a bit like vodka and suddenly I really wanted a shot or three of vodka. Then there was yesterday when a friend was recalling how his Yeti tumbler kept his gin and tonic ice-cold last summer while he sat beside the swimming pool as he basked in the hot sun, and I thought, as I watched snowflakes falling outside, that sipping an ice-cold gin and tonic while lounging beside a pool on a hot summer day sounded an awful lot like heaven to me.

Today is one of those days when feel the itch and really resent the hell out of being an alcoholic. I’m upset that I haven’t been able to have a beer with my buddies in over two months. I don’t feel like hanging out in my shop/man cave, the space that I decorated to resemble a rustic tavern that I could enjoy with my friends, because it now reminds me of a sad old bar that has gone out of business.

I’ve been restless all day and I know that some fresh air would do me good, but it’s too cold and windy to do anything outside. I could run on the treadmill, but the calf muscle I injured two weeks ago still isn’t healing properly and I don’t want to make it any worse.
I’ve wasted most of the day scrolling through my Facebook feed out of sheer boredom. I don’t feel like reading a book, and there’s nothing good on TV. It was all I could do to force myself to write this column. Right now I feel like I’m losing my mind just sitting in this house, staring at these walls, stone-cold soberI feel that itch. And I feel like scratching that itch.

Of course I know better than to give in to temptation. But just because I can think rationally doesn’t mean that I can just put the urge to drink out of my mind whenever I want. Some days I can, but this is not one of those days. Today, the struggle feels very, very real.

But tomorrow is a new day. I’m going to sit around and continue feeling sorry for myself today, but I’m determined to feel good about the direction my life is going tomorrow. I’ll go to work, teach some great kids, visit with some amazing and supportive co-workers, and then I’ll go home to a family that loves me for who I am and who I’m trying to become.

Tomorrow I’ll remind myself that in the ten weeks since I quit drinking, started eating right, and began exercising regularly, I have lost over 20 pounds. And in addition to feeling as healthy as I have in decades, I’ll also recall that this 45 year-old man has been told, by no less than three people recently, that he looks like a teenager. Tomorrow will be a good day, my friends. I’m sure of it.

But not today.

Today is not that day.