Apr 24

Looking Both Ways

Quote of the Day:

I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.”     –Stephen Hawking

TB was walking around the neighborhood yesterday watching the Li’l Scamp jet about on her scooter. Scamp is seven years old and as you know, an amazing child, knowledgeable of and able to do many things far beyond what I could do at that age.

In some ways though, modern life and a fallible father have together, inadvertently failed her.

Case in point: I was walking around the neighborhood yesterday watching the Scamp jet about on her scooter. I realized she is terrible at remembering to look both ways. I’ve preached that to her since she was three years old, but at the same time I’ve done all the watching. Thus, she hasn’t really learned this earliest lesson of self preservation.

At seven, I was far more independent and mobile, so far as my bike could carry me. I don’t think I ever once had to be cajoled to “GET OUT OF THE HOUSE AND PLAY OUTSIDE!” To the contrary, I was constantly being yelled at to “BE HOME BY DARK!” or “IF YOU ARE GOING TO GET HOME AFTER DARK YOU NEED TO CALL AND LET US KNOW!” Bear in mind I was typically out of the house by 9 a.m. in the summer or on weekends. Call ONCE. That was the rule.

Scamp loves to play outside just like I did at her age. However the dynamics are different now. As parents we are more fearful and possibly overprotective than ours were–in some ways justifiably. Beyond that, neighborhoods are different–at least those I’ve known are. As a child I knew every family on my street of 30 houses or so. I knew at least half that many in the bordering neighborhoods. Now, I barely know the next door neighbors.

As a child I never knew the term “play date.” What I knew was that if I went outside and either walked across the street or rode my bike three houses down, there would be kids and either a ballgame, a can to kick, or an imminent world war. These days our neighbors would feel invaded if a child showed up in their backyard unannounced.

At seven I knew the phone numbers of several friends. If I rode my bike around and nobody was out, I got on the phone and called “7546″ or “6692″ and BR or Smily answered and within minutes we were knocking each other around one of our front yards. Now our household just uses cell phones and if I put one in Scamp’s hand she’s only gonna listen to “Let it Go.” Again.

From a different point of view though, at seven I committed the first of many self-destructive-but-for-the-grace-of-God acts in my life. I don’t remember the ARB who was with me, but for some reason I clearly recall that we decided to get our bikes up to top speed. I had a red and gold Huffy dirt bike, in case you were wondering, with a plastic plate embossed with the number “6″ attached to the handlebars. We headed straight for relatively busy Washington Avenue and shot across without looking. On purpose. We survived. It was a rush. Only after we made it safely across did I consider how F’in stupid I was. Then I stayed out past dark and I didn’t call to check in because there was no phone at Beach Park and for THAT, I got yelled at.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2014/04/looking-both-ways/

Apr 17

Time Heals or Do Holes Fill?

“Not a day goes by where I haven’t thought about that day and the people we lost.” In two weeks, on my May 1st, it will have been 22 years. I think about the above sentiment: every single day a fraction of it being spent on reflection of something so tragic and I wonder what part of me refuses to take part in it. Because multiple days, gaping oceans of days, stream by without a single thought of its occurrence. Caught up in life that has probably received more second chances than I can keep track of. Caught up in a life that I often times let slide by with little attention.

 The moments that I do find myself reflecting on that time that, I find myself in incredible awe of the ability to move on. How it just happens, how before you know it you’re 22 years away from something that ended lives so tragically short. I can’t help but wonder what those 22 years would have allotted them, who they could’ve been, and if they are watching over us (noting our lives) what would they have done differently? 

 Guilt takes hold of me thinking of their families, thinking of the surviving hostages, wondering of their capabilities of moving on, what are their limitations? My heart beats in morse code sending out prayers and love into the universe. Will a moment of calm rest upon their hearts or do their ears ring with recognition?

For me, its not every day that goes by that I think of that day. But, on the ones that I do I am filled with a great sense of understanding of what I have been given. The picture being just a little bit clearer for me to take in, living life and appreciating the ability to do so and for that I am incredibly thankful.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2014/04/time-heals-or-do-holes-fill/

Apr 16

Tantalus Drinks

Quote of the Day:

Awake, awake, Zion, clothe yourself with strength! Put on your garments of splendor...”     –Isaiah 52:1

Editor’s Note: TB has spent the last 9 days in Utah poring over thousands of documents and pulling out relevant information. For the first five ten-hour-plus days, I worked with the knowledge that merely forty miles away was Zion National Park. Not much further were Bryce Canyon National Park and the Grand Canyon. Tantalus is a character in Greek mythology who was punished by the Gods by being placed in water up to his neck with a fruit tree above his head. When he bent to drink, the water receded, when he stretched for fruit, it bore away. Hence, the modern verb, “tantalize.” Tantalus was ever in my mind as I swam through box upon box upon box of mostly-meaningless paper. On Saturday (with boxes in my hotel waiting upon my return that night), I escaped the prison of that sea of paper and tasted the sweet sweet fruit of Zion.


It is 7 a.m. as I exit the Chick-fil-A drive-through with two chicken biscuits and a sweet tea at my side. The night chill of the desert air lingers. The area will heat up soon, but not where I am heading. Shooter Jennings comes on my XM radio as I accelerate onto the interstate. My rental car has a governor that caps my speed at 80 mph, and when I reach 75 some computer-chick warns me I am nearing top-speed. She repeats the warning every minute or so like some nightmare virtual back seat drivin’ sister-in-law (just a little joke, Cam). It is 7:14 a.m. now and the sun creeps over the mountains to my east, painting those to my west in vivid technicolor. Sister-in-law reminds me to ease up on the gas.

I stop in Springdale, the small pioneer town-cum-tourist village that is the gateway to Zion, and pick up my dry suit, neoprene footwear, and walking stick. Springdale is a great little Park town, with hearty diners advertising the local specialty “Bumbleberry Pie” on their marquees and art galleries and t-shirt stores and fudge shops. None of that is why I am here, for today I hike “The Narrows.”

The Narrows is one of Zion’s signature hikes. It follows the Virgin River upstream into the canyon until the trail is merely a dozen or so feet wide with 1000 foot walls rising straight up all around. The famed “Wall Street” section of the hike features these conditions for about a mile, with your only way to see direct sunlight being to look straight up. To hike The Narrows requires you to walk in the river, against the current in depths ranging from about shin to chest-high 75% of the time and upon rocks and boulders 100%. The distance to the best views requires a six mile round trip. If you want to see the modest waterfall at the end of the day hike, it’s 10.5 miles and a 6 hour investment. Some say it is one of the top ten hikes in all of North America–I’m psyched. For the shorter version, naturally. Because the water is really, really cold this time of year.


Entering a National Park for the first time is always special. You never know quite what to expect but you are excited to discover what lies around the next 142 bends. Zion doesn’t make you wait to reveal it’s splendor. Dramatic, imposing mountains surround you, a lively little river guides, and the lushness of the canyon floor astounds. This is the desert, after all, but not the desert either–an oasis. The first I’ve ever seen.


The pleasure in seeing Zion for the first time is tempered, however, by the fact that I am seeing it without RSR and the Li’l Scamp. They are back home in Mississippi. I feel almost guilty to be drinking in this masterpiece of the Divine without them. But I’ve been out here in Utah working hard, today is an off day (for the most part) and it would be a sin to squander the opportunity.

I park the car, ride the shuttle to the end of Zion Canyon where The Narrows is located and don the drysuit, ready for adventure. “Hey, Mississippi!” I hear. It’s a girl I met at the outfitter an hour ago. “You want a hiking partner?” She’s alone and so am I and though I am comfortable as a loner, I happily accept her companionship. Hey, a smallish, young, single and pretty 27 year old girl should not be left alone in such a wild and imposing place, right? “My name is TB,” I say reaching out with my hand in greeting.

“I’m Becky from Denver” she says, as my knuckles crack in her grip. “You ready?”

I think I am, so off we go.

At mile marker one, we enter the river and I’ll be damned but the neoprene socks and the dry suit keep me completely warm. I notice the large group of high school Boy Scouts who got their gear before us are just ahead. We pass them in short order.

Beginning of the hike

Beginning of the hike

TB, as the canyon begins closing in

TB, as the canyon begins closing in

The Subway section

The Subway section


Wall Street

Big Springs, turnaround point

Big Springs, turnaround point

Before the third mile we hit Wall Street and enter the narrowest part of the canyon. Just past there, almost everyone has turned for home, including those strapping young Scouts, but Becky leads me further upstream. “How far do you wanna go?” I ask. BfD replies that she doesn’t know. Further. She has FOMO, you see. Do I know what that is? “No.” It’s the Fear of Missing Out. “Oh. Ok. Yep. I have that.” And I do, it’s true. I just don’t mention to her that I also have FOFO. “Fear of Falling Out”. Then again, I also have FOLPIFOG. Which as you know means “Fear of Looking Pathetic In Front of Girls.”

Mostly though I am down with the FOMO and I want keep going because YOLO even though I might end up FUBAR if we go beyond my limits.

The hike is pretty strenuous even if I do see a few middle schoolers and their 40-something, similarly sedentary Dads navigating the river without too much complaining. The thing is, you are not just walking, but fighting the current, searching by sight and feel for solid footing and using that walking stick as a third leg almost constantly. My arms begin to tire before my legs.

But we power on and eventually make it just past the far end of the allowed limits for day hikers at mile five and a quarter. And then, somehow, all the way back. I take dozens of photos with my iPhone, but they don’t do the place justice. You have to walk it to believe it. And by God, I walked it. All of it, thanks to BfD.

TB and BfD

TB and BfD at the beginning of Wall Street

At long last we come back in sight of the shuttle stop and adjacent, much needed water station. BfD offers a farewell High Five and mustering all of the FOLPIFOG I can, I lift my arm to meet this final burden of the day. She is heading for the bar. Tantalus has tasted the waters of Zion and now I will stretch for that Bumbleberry Pie. We deserve our rewards, for today we are become, Canyoneers.

If you know TB at ALL, you know I can't resist such a siren song

If you know TB at ALL, you know I can’t resist such a siren song

Bumbleberry Pie, hell yeah.

Bumbleberry Pie, hell yeah.




Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2014/04/tantalus-drinks/

Apr 09

TB Braves the Wild Utah Desert

Quote of the Day:

“I think the American West really attracts me because its romantic. The desert, the empty space, the drama.”     –Ang Lee

TB is out in St. George, Utah, this week on a work project. It’s pretty monotonous work, poring through documents all day long. But all around me is the fantastical southern Utah desert landscape. It took two days, but I finally figure out how to get all my work finished and still find a couple of hours to go explorin’.

Now, an expedition into wild lands requires preparation. So, I prepared.

TB's first trip to the Western cultural landmark, In and Out Burger. It was ok.

TB’s first trip to the Western cultural landmark, In and Out Burger. It was ok.

Now that the provisioning was taken care of, I ventured forth, heedless of the danger warnings in my path.

IMG_5040It was lonely country, this wild land, but I would not be deterred from the trail. The trail….of…..of Destiny.

IMG_5044 IMG_5054At every moment of my perilous trek, danger lurked. There was no communication with the outside world. No other human was within sight (though I could hear a toddler playing gleefully in the sand dunes no far away). The sage rustled now and again as giant lizards scurried about (and bunnies too). Always the cacti directed their deadly harpoons at my shins. The sun. It had begun to set.

IMG_5056 IMG_5059 IMG_5061 IMG_5067 IMG_5070 IMG_5073


That’s volcanic rock right there my friends and a fall could’ve skinned my knees up something terrible. My trail grew ever more dark and dangerous as I approached the bat-infested lava tubes, but I dared not turn back.

IMG_5071 IMG_5078


Not even the threat of molten hot lava could keep me from my goal, and finally, after miles and miles and miles (3, probably, in quarter mile shifts, mainly) of walking, clambering, and occasionally, very slowly, spinning my entire body 360 degrees I arrived at what I was looking for. The ability to say, for the remainder of my days, that once:



Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2014/04/tb-braves-the-wild-utah-desert/

Apr 08


The first time that I met her she embraced him, brushing her arm against my hair as she pulled him close. I couldn’t help but notice how comfortable he felt with the exchange, perhaps more noticeably that she didn’t even offer me a hand to shake. She was the new girlfriend of his childhood buddy; an arrogant self-medicating type that he never really knew how to let go of.  You know the type of friend, who is never a constant but somehow manages to wiggle back into your life and just when you think you can’t handle one more day of their self-praising ways, they’re gone? That’s him, the childhood friend. He cycled through girls on a constant, so much so that before her, I had given up remembering names and simply inquired about them by using identifiers.  Most of the girls he dated were in deep, just like him, the few that were as close to normal as he could get had something broken inside of them. A piece that so desperately needed fixing that they projected it onto the wreck of a man that he is, their new project, save him and save the world.

She soon became an occasional fixture in our lives. Parties, family get-together(s), she was there and through all the ruckus and commotion that comes with those things they, eventually, gravitated towards one another. A pull that would land them, countless times, on a sofa sitting side by side. She folded herself into him, crossing her legs towards him, oftentimes looping her arm through his. I could see the bubble form around them that separated them from the rest of us, as they floated off into a world of their own.

She spoke to him on a level that reached into him and pulled at his true inner-self. When he smiled in her presence, it was his true smile. The type of smile that you can’t hide, even if you think it’s too toothy. The one that I watched radiate his face and caused his eyes to shine bright with green. I love that smile; I loved watching it unfold across his face, even if the cost was a bitter taste of jealousy.

As quickly as she entered our lives, she left. At some point she realized the magnitude of the situation at hand with childhood buddy and moved on. I often wonder if that broken piece inside of her had found repair and if so, if my husband had anything to do with it. 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2014/04/michelle/

Apr 01

Soul Survivin’

Quote of the Day:

“For every moment of triumph, for every instance of beauty, many souls must be trampled.”    –Hunter S. Thompson

Over the last couple of weeks, TB has been on an Oscar movie binge. RSR and I have seen 12 Years a Slave, Dallas Buyers Club and Wolf of Wall Street, all in short succession. The word that has been flashing in bold, neon box-office lettering with floodlights crossing hither and yon in the forefront of my mind is “DISILLUSIONMENT. ”

Hell, it’s not that I went into these movies “illusioned.” I “know” slavery was horrible, that AIDS is heartbreaking, that Wall Street is lawbreaking. It’s just that seeing these stories, all based upon the truth if heavily fictionalized, told in such a brutally honest and artistic way somehow shined a light anew on my preexisting knowledge of what are examples of the worst of America, past and present, and in some ways helped me see the horror of it all in a way I never had before.

Leo DiCaprio’s character’s excess and unflinching, profane greed is enough to drive you to the Home Depot for a pitchfork to use on your local Merrill Lynch soccer Dad.

Matthew McConnaughey, who also turned in an Oscar-worthy supporting role in Wolf, earned his leading man hardware in Buyer’s Club. Diagnosed with AIDS and let down by his doctors, he then faced down the might of the Federal Government as directed by a pharmaceutical giant to travel the world obtaining life extending drugs for himself and others and smuggling them back to Dallas. Dying people. Life saving possibilities. Corporate-government interference. Geezus, some things never change.

Worst of all, and by worst, I mean most deserving of Best Picture, most illuminating and most soul crushing, was 12 Years a Slave, the story of a free man kidnapped in Washington D.C. and sold south into servitude. Living where I do, I’ve heard all the excuses, mitigating circumstances, shared blame and of course the minimization of slavery in the interest of glorifying Southern traditions and history. Intellectually I’ve always understood how none of that excused the South and my own ancestors for slavery. In my heart though, I always “knew” that those people, not so unlike myself and my friends by genetics, could not have been all bad. And maybe they weren’t.

But after watching 12 Years I was made to understand in ways that have never been so clear how all-pervasive the brutality of slavery was. Even the (ostensibly) “kind” or “practical” slaveowner who kept his people well-fed and clothed was complicit in the torture, rapes, and murders of his neighbors–in addition to his own, almost illogically forgivable by comparison, life-stealing crimes.

I watched 12 Years in an uncrowded theater. Behind us were maybe a half dozen black folks. The movie made me so damn angry, it just kept getting worse and worse, and I thought if I were sitting where they were I’d be tempted to knock the shit out of the nearest white person I could find, so I could not help but stay aware of them and their reaction to the movie. Other than a few gasps, there was none. When the movie ended, we all filed out in silence. An older gentleman went into the bathroom ahead of me. Our eyes met and without words we communicated–I sort of mentally apologized to he and his race and he sort of said it wasn’t my fault–all that was in the past. Aloud we both said, “how ya doin?” and moved on with life.

I’m only now coming out of the mental tailspin these stories sent me through and I don’t recommend watching them all back to back to back. But if you choose to live with your eyes wide open, regardless of the emotional and intellectual consequences, you’ll want to see them all at some point.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2014/04/soul-survivin/

Mar 29


For the 5 or 6 people that have been paying attention, I think about death a lot. It comes out in almost every short story that I write. I guess I have a phobia of dying. Although I don’t really worry about it constantly because I am not “old” yet. What is “old”? I once said an Uncle of mine was no longer cool because he turned 30 years old. I am sorry, for the record, Uncle Maurice. You are still pretty damn cool. Plus I passed that little bump in the road more than a decade ago and am barreling towards 50 like an out of control locomotive. And I am as cool as the other side of the pillow. 

I do think about age and dying a lot though. I used to think (when I was a child) that really old people were probably content knowing they were going to die soon. A blissful existence knowing you gave it your all and had a good run!

That’s utter and complete bullshit. I know this because I am now 41 and can tell you at no point whatsoever, am I going to be all right with turning out the lights. I also know it because PIMA still brushes her teeth. PIMA is my wife’s grandma who lives with us for anyone who has forgotten. The woman is a very spry 86 years of age. And she still has her real teeth. Although they are the gnarliest things you would ever hope to not look at in your life, they are real. Which is a testament to the womans lifelong dental hygiene. But you would think, at 86, you might be willing to say “You know what…fuck my teeth.” But no, that is not the case. She brushes em regular and is proud to show you if you wanna look at em (I am not partial to the viewing).

I think everyone fears death. It is the main motivator behind religion. An innate human quality. One can only hope we have a little more time.

Link to something interesting by Mac fixed by TB

Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2014/03/death/

Mar 27


The other day I found myself in the middle of a stern talk with Austin.  I watched him diligently, his every movement, the look in his eyes, the way his mouth formed his words into excuses or recognition of understanding.  To an onlooker, I suppose, it would appear that I was staring him down. I sensed that he felt the same, as his chest began to rise and fall with vigor, as he began to stream out this biggest line of bullshit his mind could muster to pull himself from the situation at hand. 

I listened, knowing that he was lying, but allowed him the time to process it all into fruition. Time warped and I found myself before my mother, her cold-steel stare looking through me.  Past any part of me that existed before her and into the core of who I was, reaching into me and saying “listen you little shit, you better man up and get to the truth quick!”  The accusation alone was jarring; the truth behind it was revolting. Yet as a child, I knew I would push in any direction to get the situation at hand over with. 

Looking into Austin’s eyes, I can see the pleading behind them. I recognize that pleading, my childhood rested on the hopes of it working.  I pressed my memory for the age of 13, as Austin rides on the ebbing tides of it. Whirlwinds of thoughts flew through my brain, which led me to the realization that who I was and who he is now are not one in the same.  I ponder the resulting difference. Upbringing? Gender? Individuality?  Everything combined, with heaping helpings of the mysterious?  While I searched for understanding the gaping difference between us, I do realize the role that must be played at hand.

Life of raising children throws you into a world of intriguing dualities, a better understanding of ones own childhood (and the efforts put into it) and the parenting role that one plays in hopes that understanding will one day become apparent.  History repeating itself, in one-way or another, until it is realized that enlightenment is met with no age in mind, but in sporadic bursts to keep us moving forward.  But I digress…

In the end he lied. Oh, the tale that he weaved. I sometimes don’t know what is more pressing of an issue, that he lies so horribly or his undeniable need to lie to get out of a situation.  I’m hoping that I am able to show him that the latter is the one that needs work.  Looking at him, I can see through him and to the person that he is meant to be and I can’t help but wonder if all those years ago that my mother was looking into the eyes of the woman I was meant to be.  That cold-steel stare might have something to it after all…if anything, it gets the truth out.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2014/03/thirteen/

Mar 22

Black Spring Break in South MS

Black Spring Break is some bullshit.

I live in South Mississippi. It is difficult to have honest conversations about racism anywhere in America but you instantly lose credibility if you are a honky from Mississippi. Which I be. We have made some giant strides over the years here but I will be the first to tell you, racism is still alive and well in the land of cotton. But, in all fairness, it’s pretty alive and well in a lot of other places too.

I need to steer this boat back on course because I could write the most meandering thesis you ever tried to ingest if I tackled all of my thoughts on racism. It’s a subject that has intrigued me for a long, long time. Suffice it to say that I think we are all a little racist and it is a trait that you should do your best not to water and fertilize.

Which brings us back to Black Spring Break. An event that was loosely organized a few years back in Biloxi MS and has grown in numbers every year since. It is exactly what it sounds like. A shit-ton of black people (mostly youngins) partying in Biloxi for a week. I have no more of a problem with this event itself as I do with Spring Breaks anywhere. My problem comes in with calling it “Black”. Consider for just a second how idiotic “Asian Spring Break” sounds. Silly, right? And “White Spring Break” would, of course, just be blatantly racist and a covert name for a KKK rally.

I think black people do themselves a disservice with “black pride”. I think it is the antithesis of what you are wanting to accomplish. Racism will never truly whither and die until folks start looking at other folks as simply people.

No color designations necessary.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2014/03/black-spring-break-in-south-ms/

Mar 21

Hitting the Daily Double

Quote of the Day:

Don’t minimize the importance of luck in determining life’s course.”     –Alex Trebek

TB recalls hearing about the good old days from my Dad’s childhood. His Mom would drive them to Vicksburg to shop on Saturdays. She’d drop him off downtown with a dime and come back for him after several hours. With the loot, he’d go to the movies, buy a Coke and a popcorn, and watch cowboy double features before heading back out to the sticks. I always thought it sounded like fun.

Until today, in my 43rd year, I’d never been to two movies in one day.

So what, you may be wondering, were the two movies so good I could not space out their viewing over multiples dates?

The Muppets.


I enjoyed them both, but I would never have gone to see either of those movies, much less both in the same day, if the entertainment was just for me. Not in a thousand years. Strange that my first double feature turned out that way. Not war movies. No car chases. Nary a light saber nor a wizard, not even a solitary drunken sophomore.

Just puppets and a theater full lovesick tweenagers (aged 9-49).

Who would’ve ever guessed?

Sometimes, I suppose, you just get lucky.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.missingtheground.com/2014/03/hitting-the-daily-double/

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