And the Winner is…Vince Vaughn

     If I could be any man, I would without so much as a second thought, choose to be Vince Vaughn.    I like everything about him. I, of course, love the obvious things first. He’s very tall, amusing, surprisingly athletic, a master of wit and dry humor…he’s got everything.  However, lots a men have these qualities. I wouldn’t say they’re a dime a dozen, but I wouldn’t call them few and far between either.  Why then, in my mind does Vince Vaughn epitomize all these traits?  The answer….I don’t know…he’s just got it. Charisma can’t me learned, taught, or emulated.  Two men of a similar look and stature can utter the same words out of their mouths…let’s say they’re identical twins….no matter what, one will sell it better by nature.  These are the people who smell good with no cologne, and are surrounded by friends they didn’t try to make.  These are the people that could literally give a detailed account of the last time they really had a tough battle on the john, and have us all sitting like wide-eyed kindergarteners on the floor waiting for a full description of the product, including hue, scent, and buoyancy.  You can squirm or make funny faces now, but what I’m saying is true, and Vince Vaughn is the poster child for it.  His tall hair sticking up from behind his slightly receded hairline is art…and his gut wouldn’t be quite as right if it didn’t resemble the one the fake Santa Claus at the mall wears.  His speedy words, and lack of voice inflection make every line he delivers poignant and perfect….they’re just Vince.  He needs no introduction or salutation.  He blows in and out of scenes like a fall leaf in the air.  He’s subtle, colorful, crisp, and hard to wrap your hands around.  Yet, everyone stares at him and comes from afar to get a glimpse.  Now I ask….What Calvin Klein model, professional athlete, or action star has that level of charisma?  My guess is none.  Better bodies? Higher paycecks? More “smack-down” ability?  Maybe and probably.  More charisma?  Not a snowball’s chance in hell.  Vince Vaughn has made us all fall madly in love with a cheating husband, speaker salesman, shameless wedding crasher, dodge ball competitor, commitment-phobic redeck, and almost always an out of shape, morally questionable  and cripplingly quirky hastle of a man.  He charms us everytime, and he’s the guy every other man wants to see next to him on his couch, drinkin’ a cold beer every Monday night. He’s a guy’s guy, but the ladies love him, beer-gut and all.

      For the record, I love everything about being a woman.  I’m as disgustingly girly as they come.  Bring on the lipstick, high heels, pink cell phones, days at the spa, and designer purses.  I embrace it.  I’m simply saying, given the chance for a “gender bender”…Vince Vaughn is it…everytime.  I can almost feel his mojo from here….the force is strong in that one…

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A Note on Nostalgia

     I can’t decide if nostalgia is an emotion I like or not.  I mean, it’s an ambiguous little brat of an emotion after all.  It cannot fully be described, only felt.  The dictionary gave it its very best shot, but failed.  Whatever it is, though, I experience it frequently.  I don’t so much long for the past…I’m just a sucker for it.  I have hot buttons:  the smell of the old Enka football field in Fall, various Fuel songs, the smell of cheap teenage boy colognes, seeing road signs that have been knocked down, Soffe brand shorts, watching my little sister make blue and white shirts for spirit week, various Indie rock songs, the beginnings of new seasons in general, passing Katelynn Graeme’s old house, etc…There are many.  People usually reserve thinking about these things for times they feel particularly down, and if we aren’t down we let these seemingly good memories open up some sort of Pandora’s box.  We actively seek out summers past, and times never to be revisited again just to torture ourselves in some sort of ticklish way. I’ve been guilty of this myself.  If you think you haven’t you’re lying to yourself, by the way.  The question is:  Why do we do it?  More importantly, why do we like the way it hurts us just enough?  These are good memories, but we, being all humans, use them to poke at ourselves with a stick a little bit.  After a nostalgic mood strikes we may as well end the night sucking air into a cavity, pulling a paper cut back apart, and finishing off a carton of milk just to spite ourselves in the morning.  It doesn’t matter how happy our lives are, how sound our marriages are, how good business is, or what impossible dreams are coming true…nostalgia is nostalgia.  In my case, and I’d say in most adult’s cases, the now is better than the then, but maybe the then was just so intense we never forget it.  It still teases us, and when it pops up, reminds us what newness feels like…it’s a first kiss, the first time a boy gives you his jacket in the cold, the first time you sit with a friend while she cries all night over a boy who works in fast food, the first time you lie to your parents…if only anything could ever feel that new again…but then if that could happen, there’d be no nostalgia…what then, would we have to make ourselves squirm that way in which we all seem to be so addicted?

Moonshine and Memories

     For the past week or so I have been enamored with the famous moonshiner, Popcorn Sutton.  I came down with a terrible cough that nothing could fix except a yellowish colored substance that was handed to me in an old nyquil bottle with “last of Popcorn” written on the front.  Had I not had tremendous respect and trust for the person giving it to me, I woudn’t have touched it.  It looked like toxic waste.  As instructed, I took just “a little swaller” of the honey, liquor, and whatever else mixture.  Three hours later, when I woke up from my coma, whatever had set up shop in my chest, had been run out of there.  It was a Godsend.  Popcorn Sutton was a Godsend.

      Everytime I think about this iconic man, I feel myself drift off to a wet, sticky, southern summer night with the light of the full moon beaming off the metal stills.  I can almost feel the rain-soaked grass underneath my feet, and watch my body time warp into an era far gone, liberally decorated by mountain men in overalls.  Was Popcorn the last of these men, the last real moonshiner?  Was he the last man to brew his liquor in the name of pure obligaton to do so?  He had a respect for the people who bought his shine and an allegiance to his inherited craft.  He didn’t make his white lightning to be rebellious.  He was rebellious because he made it, for the people who loved it.  He paid the price to keep Appalachian heritage and good home grown alcohol alive. 

   In 2009 Popcorn, recently diagnosed with cancer, commited suicide to escape spending his final days rotting in a federal prison jail cell.  I’m not so sure I blame him.  It breaks my heart that he had to end this way, but his was a legacy that couldn’t die.  Here in Carolina there are still whisperings of how to get some of Popcorn’s original shine in the secret places it has been tucked away.  I feel priviledged that I carry a little inside me, paying homage to both his journey and my own heritage as a fellow “Appalachianite”.  There’s something magic about the southern sky, the sky that lit the way for the “real stuff.”  Everytime I look up I remember what I carry with me, and it is rebellious, gritty, and real.  It’s what Popcorn bequeathed to us, a sense of pride, loyalty, and gall.  He lived his passion, and I for one, respect the hell out of it.

Once Upon a Time in Florence

     Once upon a time in Florence, Italy there was young high-school girl travelling out of the country for the first time.  This girl looked more like she belonged in Florence, South Carolina, travelling back home , painted with a fresh Myrtle Beach tan.  However, this was not the case.  Despite her appearance, this girl fancied herself to be much like the city she was touring: slightly in shambles, rich in a history most people didn’t know about, and artistic to a fault.  I would say comparing one’s self to the birthplace of the Renaissancee is, well, slightly self-indulgent.

     On her second day in the city, this young girl, who by the way, was clothed in a whimsical cloth skirt, stumbled upon a beautiful leather journal at an outdoor flea market.  She was enamored.  She had to have it so she could write angry poetry, stories of love affairs she was secretly too shy to ignite, and tales of how every bad event from her life was woven with the others, cloaking her in a jaded quilt (rolling my eyes).  This journal was the inanimate symbol of everything she stood for.  It was distressed, rugged, and made of tough, indestructible, raw leather.  It also slightly resembled the journal Sebastian in Cruel Intentions carried, which the girl would deny as a reason for purchase, but I digress.  The girl finally had something to carry around with her and write in everyday where everyone could see how pensive, unique, and untouchable she was.  She needed everyone to wonder. 

     About two years ago I found this journal and threw it in the trash.  Some might gasp at that.  We were all teenagers in our phases at one time or another.  I should have kept it, right?  No.  It wasn’t true.  The journal was leather by nature, but I was leather by choice.  I spent a lot of time painting a picture of myself I found charming and thought that others would too.  The truth is my early life wasn’t easy at times.  It was actually an uphill battle a lot of the time, but much to my dismay, I’m more resilient than I wanted to be.  Did the hard times make me a better writer, sure, but not by making me somehow “artistically mad” like I found amusing so long.  I learned empathy, sympathy, love, hate, loss, and gain.  Those are just rites of passage.  My waters run deep, but they aren’t so dark anymore.  I find sunrise more appealing than sunset.  I no longer crave playing the part of the cynic and proclaim I’m a realist for recognizing a half-empty glass.  The hell of it is, a lot of times the glass is just half-full, and life is a beautiful gift that doesn’t have to know darkness every second of the day to charm us all.  I’m not made of leather.  I’m just made of human skin like everyone else.  Sometimes it’s calloused, but sometimes it’s soft.  The best part is sometimes it bleeds, pure, mortal, warm, mammal blood and I feel it now because I’m strong enough not to be so tough.

To Dream, or Not to Dream…That is the Question.

    I’ve come to a recent conclusion that having a dream, and I mean a real, bona fide, can’t eat, can’t sleep, border-line insane, dream is one of the most painful delights imaginable.  I should stamp the words “dissatisfaction” onto my forehead.  With my home life I’m one person.  I’m completely happy with my wonderful husband Kimsey, and couldn’t sleep without the two sets of dog paws that dig into my back each night.  However, in that gnawing place in my stomach,and the dark corners of my mind, it is like Fitzgerald said, “3 a.m. day after day.” I’m another person, constantly reeling and examining my life, wondering if the pen in my hand will ever put an end to the torture.  It’s always “gut-check” time in my world and I never let it rest.  I want to be a writer.  I want to see my name written on the covers when I walk into Borders or Barnes and Noble.  Frankly, sometimes I avoid these places because I’m still not paying their bills.  I have openly cursed the names of authors I love, because I want to feel just an inkling of that feeling they felt when they knew they’d made it.  I cry when I watch people accept their first oscars, or hit home runs in Yankee Stadium.  Recently when Djokovic beat Nadal in the U.S. Open chills ran down my spine.  What does it feel like when that moment is upon a person?  Sometimes I think I’m so close to my dream I can smell it, and other times I consider flushing my manuscript down the toilet.  There are days I’m content and think I would be okay doing something else I like and am good at, but then it gets dark outside, and the gremlins that live deep inside me whisper again.     I often envy people who do things the correct way, and I  don’t mean this in any self-righteous or pretentious manner….it’s just the truth.  I haven’t the time for bullshit.   Many times I have asked myself why I couldn’t be happy just finishing college one of the four times I have gone back, or why I can’t be 100% satisfied with the job I really do adore.  The answer is, I just can’t.  I can’t everytime I try because I have “a thing” I can’t stop doing. When one day I left an Evironmental Science class with no recollection of having been there, and found a completed short story in my notebook I knew I was just in the wrong place.  Even in literature classes, though I loved discussing other author’s work, I couldn’t pull myself away from needing to write my own…immediately.  Maybe if I had fiished I would already have more contacts in the literary world.  Maybe my thesis would have been published.  There are a million arguments for it, but it just didn’t make me tick.  Apparenly, the thing that does is the uncertain, grueling excitement that a closet-nerd, a once-upon-a-time cheerleader from the speck sized town of Candler, NC might just make a very big mark on the literary world…her way.