Rebel Neighbear

Well, to the best of my knowledge, Ole Miss can now claim to have the only athletic mascot that moonlights selling insurance.

Thankfully, he’s very clearly not also the Shoney Bear, and he keeps his shirt on when he’s not fighting forest fires.

Ackbar Postmortem

(Thanks, Bart)

Forward Rebels!

Me at last year's Ole Miss/UAB game

Football season is upon us.

That glorious time of year when I find myself making a special effort to pay attention to the sports section of the Sunday paper so I don’t look like an idiot when I go through the security gate at work.

See, on the front of my car, I have an Ole Miss license plate. I have this because I am an alumnus of the University of Mississippi. I spent four years there, and earned my degree there. I thus have some degree of fondness and loyalty for the university, from which I graduated.

As you probably know, the university from which I graduated, like many universities, has a football team. Granted, this is true more some years than others, but even so. However, the tag on the front of my car is there because of my connection with the academic institution from which I graduated, not for the athletic department thereof.

Thus far, I haven’t had the heart to explain this to this one guard who sometimes works at the security checkpoint at the gate I normally use to go to work. He is not an Ole Miss graduate or even fan, but is a fan of one of this state’s college football teams, and of SEC football in general. And thus has used my tag as the foundation for morning conversation when he catches me on my way to work. He occasionally ambushes me with questions during the off-season, but I do try to be prepared during the fall. Despite the fact that he has no particular connection to or interest in Ole Miss, he generally knows more about how we’re doing than I do.

I don’t follow sports in general, and Ole Miss football is pretty much the one exception to that. That said, “follow” is relative. I keep up with whether we win or lose, and that’s about it. In any given year, I might, possibly, maybe, be able to name as many as two players. When I had cable, I tried to watch as many of the televised games as I could. When I lived in Mississippi, I tried to listen to as many of the radio broadcasts as I could. I haven’t had cable in two years, and haven’t lived in Mississippi in eight.

I’ve attended games very sporadically, many years not making it to any at all. Last year I went to two games in the same season, which was possibly a record for me. One was planned well ahead of time; the other was a spur-of-the-moment thing when I was in Oxford with a friend on game day.

I will say, however, that I am a true Ole Miss fan in the sense that I am loyal through thick and thin. Many people became fans of the team during the most recent golden years with Eli Manning, and have been surprised and disappointed in years that didn’t live up to that standard. I became a fan during lean times, and over the years have learned that when it comes to Ole Miss football, the only constant is inconsistency. Even in consecutive weeks we can lose to Vanderbilt and beat Florida, and look just like ourselves doing either. Being a true Ole Miss fan is a great lesson in what it means to love unconditionally. (In a variety of different ways, even — like the current mascot selection process.)

This year, I’ll be attending at least, and probably only, one game. I find it horribly offensive that you can buy tickets online to a football game at my alma mater for five or six bucks, but I’m certainly not above buying at that price.

In the meantime, my iPhone is configured to send me push notifications when points are scored in Ole Miss games this season, and I’ll be reading the newspaper so I can talk about how we did.

Football season is upon us … Are. You. READY!?

Weekend Update

OK, been a while since I’ve done a Weekend Update, but also been a while since I’ve had a weekend sufficiently varied to merit it. I’ve had some good weekends lately, to be sure, but they’ve generally been single-topic, a la the improv update or the STS-130 trip, or none of your business, or both. 😉

I left work Friday and went for a quick hike, and then to Milton Frank Stadium, where I’d never been before. Ironically, the first time this Huntsville High School alum set foot in Milton Frank, it was to cheer for the Lee High School girls soccer team. A friend of mine from church is in her first year coaching the team, and so I stopped by to watch them. I picked a good game to go to — they won for the first time. I didn’t get to stay for the whole game, but I did get to see them score three times. A fun brief excursion, and it was great fun cheering for the Lee girls..

From there, I had a great dinner, getting to know a good friend better. God has brought many new characters into my life over the past year, and they’ve been a real blessing to me.

Saturday was largely lazy and unproductive, which was awesome. The highlight of the day was a concert that night. I knew of Michelle Malone from three songs she’d done with Garrison Starr, whom I like much, and knew she lived in the area and frequently did shows around here, but had never made it to one before. When I saw Friday that she was playing Flying Monkey Saturday night, I contacted some friends and made plans to go. The show was amazing. It was basically just her with a guitar and harmonica (and occassionally tamborine and percussion shaker back-up), but she filled the room. You could easily forget it wasn’t a full band; I very much want to go back for one of her full-band shows just to see what it would be like. The songs I knew were Tighten Up The Springs and Miss Miss’ippi, but there was plenty of other good stuff as well. Check her out.

Sunday morning, I got up early to go to church. I was kind of excited about it; actually gettting to go to the service at Sojourn has been the exception this year, between working with kids on Sunday mornings and being out of town. I got there early to help set up beforehand. While we were setting up, someone commented on how great a day it was supposed to be; I lamented that my plans involved me being indoors the entire time. After we finished setting up, a guy who has recently started coming to our Wednesday night Bible study Journey Group asked if I would want to go with him to get a biscuit before church. On the way, we started talking about some stuff he’s dealing with, and started talking about some of my story, and the conversation continued after we got back. And continued, and continued. Finally, it became obvious that we weren’t going to the service, and so we decided to migrate the conversation to the hiking trail. And, wow. So very cool sharing a literal walk with someone with whom I kind of share a spiritual walk. Great time of sharing stories and ministering to each other. Definitely a feeling of being where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be. At the end of it, we prayed together, and I prayed for him that God do something that day to reassure Him about where he’s supposed to be. Considered praying the same for me, but realized that He just had.

So, amazing church that morning. Someday I hope to actually make it to a service again.

After that, I got an e-mail from my pastor (different congregation) asking if I would want to play disc golf. And so I did. So after bemoaning the fact that I was going to have to spend the day indoors, I got to both hike and play disc golf, so not bad at all.

From there to a housewarming/birthday party for a good friend; it was an honor to be able to be a part of celebrating the occassion.

Weekend concluded with Alice In Wonderland, which was entertaining. It was probably about what I expected in the Depp/Burton weirdness department, but it was a fun romp nonetheless, and pretty visually spectacular in 3D. That said, I am SO looking forward to Tron Legacy. I mean, like, inordinately so.

Latest Weekend Update

Stretch of highway taken from inside car

Coming home from Tupelo on New Year's Day. Picture taken just east of Red Bay, Ala.

OK, so this update isn’t technically about a weekend, but I’m posting it during a weekend, so the name still works, right?

— The picture at the top is one I posted on my 365project page. 365project is a Web site where you post a picture every day, with the idea that it sort of tells the story of your year. That picture, for example, was taken on New Year’s Day as I was driving back from Mississippi. If you start your own 365project, be sure to let me know!

— The billboard that I should have gotten a picture of was earlier in the trip, except that I was so disappointed with it that I had no interest in photographing it. Early last year, a friend told me about seeing a billboard near Jackson, Miss. that said “Our children can’t read, Mississippi. We are all losers.” I saw one of the billboards myself this summer, near Batesville. Since then, they’ve gradually stepped back some. I saw one later that still said the children couldn’t read, but refrained from calling anyone a loser. On the way back Friday, the billboard I saw was even kinder, saying “Our dropouts can’t read.” Alas. (Upon further research, the Web site shows an archive of billboards, with a notable exception.)

— As mentioned, I celebrated New Year’s Eve with friends in Mississippi. We had a great dinner, and watched Sherlock Holmes, which I enjoyed very much. That ended not long before midnight, so we counted in the New Year and then played some Wii. Good times. As I wrote the other day, I’ve been really blessed with good friends.

— Speaking of which, my friends Lain and Richie are coming over from Mississippi this weekend. I’m looking forward to it.

— I’m also looking forward to the B.B. King concert this week. Have I mentioned that yet? I’ll have to go back and check. If not, I’ll tell more of that story as the concert approaches.

— And speaking of things that are approaching, I’ve got about a week remaining before I leave for my Las Vegas trip. It’s a bit daunting that it’s almost here. I booked the flight the Friday before Christmas, but have done very little since. I figured I could wait until after Christmas was over before shifting my focus, and then this past week was just shot for various reasons. And now, it’s almost time to go.

— My former improv troupemate Amber Farmer was here this week, and it was great getting to visit with her. A group of us had dinner and dessert on Wednesday, and then hung out at Target, which was a lot of fun. There’s an interesting dynamic that comes into play when enough troupemembers get together in the wild, and that definitely was the case at times Wednesday. Afterwards, we watched Did You Hear About the Morgans, which was cute, and better than I’d feared. My watching of movies has a tendency to be influenced by my emotional landscape at the time, and that was the case with several lately, but I enjoyed it.

— Also along the improv lines, our videographer, Caleb McPherson, presented me this week with a very cool Christmas gift — a DVD of some of my work, mostly from some 2009 rehearsals. Two or three scenes were ones I’d asked him if he could make copies of, but there were some other great little gems on there as well.

— I got some Silly Bands Tuesday, and saw part of a TV movie that hasn’t been aired yet. Because I’m just that cool.

— Ole Miss won the Cotton Bowl. Hotty Toddy!!

The Blind Side

The Blind Side

The Blind Side

From when it first came out, long before I saw it, and even while I was still living in Mississippi, I liked even just the idea of the movie October Sky.

I liked the idea that there was a movie in which, in the end, the hero’s victory, his happily-ever-after, is that he gets to move to Huntsville, Ala. Luke Skywalker defeats the Empire and restores peace to the galaxy. Frodo destroys the ring and saves Middle Earth. Homer Hickam moves to Huntsville.

So as of this weekend, you can add The Blind Side to the list of movies I like.

After Saturday’s Egg Bowl, I was hoping that there would be more of his college career in the movie, so that I could watch Ole Miss and have it be a bit less depressing than this year’s State game. As it is, I was nonetheless happy with the movie ending where it did, right as he’s starting college —

Getting to go to Ole Miss isn’t a bad happily-ever-after ending, either.

Since It’s Been A Little While …

… it’s time for a Weekend Update.

–Friday night, I played in my last improv show of the year. (Well, kinda, I’ll be in a corporate gig next month, but this was my last official public F2F show of the year.) In fact, it was my last show until February, which is sort of sad.

That said, the show went really well. We had the biggest crowd I’ve played to in a long time, and all the players really brought some good energy. As the final improv note of the year for me, I was pretty well pleased with it.

–Saturday morning, I got up early and drove to Oxford. The last week or two, by the way, has pointed out to me just how much I’m getting old. I’ve been trying to wake up earlier in the mornings and take in a hike before work, and it’s really started to take a toll on me. I’m not as young as I once was. Already a bit worn from that, this weekend pushed me to the point of exhaustion. I still have a bit of a headache.

It was fun once again to visit Oxford. Before July, I went over two years without being over there, which was very unusual for me. Since July, this is the third time I’ve been. The first time, it was a litlte strange being back. This time, it was just home again. I spent way too much money at Square Books, an old favorite, and the Chocolate Bar, a new one, and had lunch at one of the new restaurants off the Square. (I also did some shopping the next day in Tupelo at the Indianola Pecan House, started in and named for the city in which I spent the bulk of my time as a Mississippian. As a result, I’ve made a small dent in my Christmas shopping. Very small.)

–It was cool while on campus to see fliers for NASA education programs. I very much like things that combine multiple Dave themes.

–The Ole Miss-LSU game was amazing. Very probably the best football game I’ve ever been to. Hard-fought, and constant excitement. The first punt of the game didn’t come until there was 1:39 left in the first half; until then, basically, somebody scored every time the ball was kicked. After that, for a little over a quarter, the defense took over, and nobody scored. As long as one team was scoring, so was the other. When one stopped, so did the other. The fourth quarter was just wacky, and literally came down to the very last second. Over the course of the game, the ball was in or almost in the endzone at least four times that didn’t count as touchdowns. Suffice to say, the stadium was still packed when the game finally ended. I would hope that I would still think it was one of the best games I’d seen even if it had turned out the other way, but I certainly have no complaints with the way it did end up.

–I went up to Memphis afterwards, and had dinner with some friends downtown and then walked down Beale Street. It had been about two and a half years since I had last been, when I watched Spamalot at the Orpheum. It seemed even longer than that. I’ve got a lot of memories of Beale Street, going back a long way, and it was nice to discover that I could still just enjoy it for what it is.

–I found myself Sunday morning entertaining an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old in the wee hours of the morning. My toenails are still Christmas-y from when they colored my entire foot with magic markers. It wasn’t quite the same as being Uncle David, but it was the next best thing.

–I went to church Sunday morning somewhere other than Sojourn for the first time since, I believe, August, and that was a good experience. I shan’t go into my observations on the church I went to, but will note that the focus of the sermon was on perserverance. I find that when circumstances cause me to be at a church I normally wouldn’t, I should probably pay particular attention, since there’s likely a reason I’m at that place at that time for that message.

–I watched New Moon in Tupelo on the way back, fulfilling a promise I’d made back in September, against what, at times, seemed like unlikely odds. The movie was enjoyable, if about what I was expecting. I’ve not really invested in the whole Team Jacob versus Team Edward thing, since I’ve read spoilers online and know how the whole thing turns out. That said, when someone asked me which team I was on after I finished the movie, and said knowing wasn’t an excuse for not picking, I decided that I’m firmly on Team Mike Newton. Edward and Jacob both lie to Bella, both intentionally hurt her, and both decide that they know what’s best without talking to her. Is there an option that’s not a controlling, hurtful, liar? Is it too much to ask for honesty in a relationship? OK, so maybe he’s too much of a “marshmellow” to handle an action movie, but Mike’s the one guy that’s fairly decent.

–Then I came home. The End.

The University of _________________

I wrote this entry once. WordPress ate it. I’m writing it again. But am too frustrated to make it nearly as good as it was the first time. Sorry.

Ah, Ole Miss. For those that haven’t heard, the university administration has removed “From Dixie With Love” from the band’s playlist

This is the latest round in a war that’s been going on since I was in school there, which has seen the Confederate flag (and, really, all flags, after an ill-fated attempt to introduce a new flag with an M) banned from the football stadium and the Colonel Reb mascot barred from the football field. There was even another battle of Dixie when I was in school there, but I forget exactly what happened or who won.

And the annoying thing is, the university administration is at least mostly right. The Confederate flag decision was the right one. They’re arguments about the current Dixie situation are probably right. Colonel Reb I’m less sold on, but I respect the logic. I do think, in the two decades this has been going on, they administration does have the moral high ground.

Which doesn’t make them any less wrong. They may be right in their ideals, but they’re wrong in their approach.

Twenty years ago, right or wrong, Ole Miss had a very distinctive and unique personality. And that character is being gradually stripped away. We play the same music during the game as other schools. We don’t have a mascot on the field. Heck, I’m at the point where I’m even jealous of State’s cowbells. At least that’s something that’s theirs.

If these changes need to me made, they should be just that — changes, not an erosion. Change the things that make Ole Miss distinctive; don’t eliminate its distinctiveness.

This is a university and town associated with Faulkner, with Gresham, with Willie Morris and Larry Brown (and Jesse Holland and David Hitt and Claudia Gray). This is a university that presents itself as one of the South’s premier liberal arts colleges. And yet it lacks the creativity to craft a new identity for itself? I mean, Delta State’s student-created Fighting Okra is a perfect example of capturing the spirit of the New South in an unoffensive way. And we really want to admit that the combined resources available to Ole Miss are no match for a DSU student?

The university is respected. But Ole Miss is loved. The nation will respect the changes. But give Ole Miss alumni something they can love.

Any Given Saturday

So Thursday morning I had no plans for the weekend at all.

By that evening, there was at least the prospect that I was going to the Chili Festival in Tupelo, Miss., the next day though I didn’t know that for sure until Friday morning.

The Chili Festival was, in fact, fun, even if the Unitarian chili I sampled was very possibily the nastiest thing I have ever eaten. I mean, wow.

Saturday morning arrived still without plans for the day. Driving to Oxford seemed like a good way to take advantage of the day — it was cold, but, after weeks of rain and general drabness, the sky was blue and the sun made an appearance. Being in the car allowed us to stay warm, while cranking up the music and enjoying the day.

Ah, Oxford. It was only the second time I’ve been back in over two years, which is quite the rarity for me over the past 18 years since I first went there. It was good being back. It was the first time in quite a while that I really walked around town and campus, and it was … right. We also got to visit another old college friend and his family, which was cool. And I had a pumpkin truffle at a shop off the square — The Chocolate Bar — run by an old friend of Shannon’s that was possibly the single best truffle I’ve ever had. I mean, seriously, this was good stuff.

The plan was to go, see the Thompsons, hang out in Oxford, wander through The Grove, and then be back in Tupelo in time for dinner. The plan was not to go to the game. (The fact that none of this was planned is further evidenced by the fact that I was not only wearing red or blue, but the other team’s green.) But then we passed by a guy who asked if we needed tickets. And, you know what? After walking through The Grove, after seeing the team head over to the stadium, after hearing the band play Dixie, after taking in the whole ambience, yeah, we really kinda did.

It’d been too long since I’d been to a football game, and it was great. Especially when Ole Miss scored with only 13 seconds gone from the clock.

The entire evening was a paean to spontaniety. First, we kicked their butt. Yeah, we were playing UAB, and without question should have won. And, yeah, we probably struggled more than we should have before the offense finally showed up. (Our first touchdown of the game was courtesy of special teams, the first first down was courtesy of the defense. We spent quite a bit of the first quarter hoping the offense could just move the ball enough that either special teams or defense could score for us.) But, you know, in my opinion, that’s part of the experience of being a true Ole Miss fan. It’s like watching preschoolers play soccer — you don’t expect too much out of them, but get really excited when they actually do something right.

It was cool sharing the experience with a friend who enjoyed it properly. As best as I could recall, Shannon and I hadn’t been to an Ole Miss game together in 16 years, when we watched Gene Stallings, who had just won the national championship the year before, beat the Rebels. As a couple of native Alabamians, Shannon and I were less disappointed than the rest of the group we went with. Saturday, though, it was all about our Rebels. We yelled Hotty Toddy until I was a bit hoarse. Sure, we’ve been out of the student section for a couple of years now, but you wouldn’t have known it watching us.

And, then, there was the moment where I was eating Corky’s barbecue nachos while they announced the Alumni Hall of Fame inductees, which included former shuttle program manager and current Kennedy Space Center director Bill Parsons. The combination of tasty barbecue, Ole Miss and NASA made Dave a happy man.

All in all, not a bad weekend, really.

If I Could Turn Back Time

Earlier in the year, I was leafing through The Book of Questions with someone, and got to the one about what you would change if you could change something in your life.

For the longest time, I didn’t have an answer to that question. I was sufficiently content that where I was at that moment was the ideal culmination of everything I had walked — good, bad and ugly — over the years that changing anything would only run the risk of ruining that ideal. Today, I’m less confident in that.

But, at the same time, the typical answers don’t appeal to me. The other person’s answer that particular day was that she would have gone to grad school right after college. For someone else, the question is whether they still would have married the person they did, knowing how it turned out. I’ve always wondered, purely academically, what would have happened if I’d taken a particular job offer a decade and change ago.

That, for me, is the heart of the issue, though — I can only wonder. I don’t know. Even if I were given the opportunity to make the changes, I don’t know whether any of those would make my life better today. Would I be better off if I’d taken that job? If I’d majored in something else? If I’d made a different decision about marriage or buying a house? Maybe. Maybe not.

Last night, though, for the first time, I decided that if I had it all to do over again, I just might do it. Knowing, for the first time, what I would do differently.

I would listen to different radio stations. I would borrow more CDs. I would go to more concerts, and pop into more bars to hear more musicians I knew nothing about. I would have danced. Badly, of course, because I couldn’t do otherwise, but unselfconsciously. I would have danced with her at that wedding, many many years ago. I would have danced at mine.

I would have spent more time outside. I would have gone for more walks. I would have done more things outside. I would have taken better care of myself. I would have let myself be bad at outdoor activities, until I wasn’t as bad at them.

I would have talked to God more. I would have listened to God a lot more. I would have prayed properly a lot less. I would have taken church groups more seriously. I would have taken church services less seriously. I would have read more things about God I disagreed with passionately, to see if I knew why.

I would have read more books and watched more movies I thought were mindless mainstream pablum, to see if I was right. I would have learned what people liked about them. I would have learned what I didn’t.

I would have learned to identify more than one constellation. I would have appreciated that the heavens are a testament to the magnitude of the Father. I would have appreciated the same about the thunderstorms and the brilliant summer sky and the dreary fall day that seems utterly unappreciable. I would have spent more time in the rain. I would have danced in the rain.

I would have watched even less television.

I would have dared more for love. I would have risked more for attraction. I would have been rejected more. I would have been hurt more. I would have cried more, but I would have cried tears that were worth their price.

I would have smiled more. I would have laughed a whole heck of a lot more.

I would have paid more attention to which of my acquaintances were really my friends. I would have valued family a whole lot more. I would have talked to strangers. I would have accepted a lot more invitations.

I would have eaten foods that were utterly unappealing to me, at least once. I would have gone to a lot more restaurants instead of falling into patterns.

I would have bought more Apple stock, even when I couldn’t afford it.

I would have valued the random.

I would have been more open-minded. I would have had the courage of my convictions. I would have been less of a snob. I would have been more confident.

I would have tried to figure out who David Hitt was, instead of letting him be who the situation called for him to be. I would have been me, and I would have believed in me. I would have tried to figure out what it means to be the beloved handiwork of the author of the universe.

And, you know, I think if I had done those things, the little details — what should I study? where should I live? who should I marry? — would probably have taken care of themselves.

“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” — Carl Bard