So I crawled out from under my rock yesterday and took my wife to a fancy restaurant. Okay, so we had sandwiches at Tumbleweed. Anyway, I heard Brad Paisley's "Old Alabama" on the radio and remembered the good ol' days when I was just a country boy at heart, but in mind already a stranger in my own country. I just watched the video, but Jeff Gordon ruined it for me. Seriously? I grew up in the land of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, among many others. Jeff Gordon...country boy? Wow. Anyway...just reminiscing...enjoy...or don't:
I know, I know...they look alike, and it was kinda funny, but still...why doesn't Paisley look more like Little E?
In the mid '80s I spent a day working on Dale Earnhardt's neighbor's water system. He was a taxidermist who often went hunting with Earnhardt. Freakiest basement EVER! Nothing like being stared down by dead critters at every turn. Beautiful place on Lake Norman, though.
I wasn't a fan of Earnhardt, actually, but he was a driver you had to respect...like the Steelers in the Chuck Noll era. Never pulled for them, but you had to respect them.
My brother was a great driver back in the day, but then again, a lot of those boys were. My ear was accustomed to the roar of big-block Dodge engines. I mean, those kids really knew how to drive...not just fast, but how to race on their own terms. Tim's bad wrecks were due to equipment failure, not driver error.
Me? I dreamed of being the next Bart Starr...the clean-cut, precise field general. Yeah, that dream died a painful death. No amount of work was going to make a professional athlete out of this body. Sigh.
It took me a long time to reconcile my dreams with my realities, to understand that I could be an accomplished egghead, with the rewards that being a teacher and scholar can bring. But those rewards have come with a price: estrangement from my culture and people, along with distance, despite my efforts to get a job closer to them, from my family.
And so I know something of pining for the good ol' days, even though they weren't all that good...something of longing for simplicity, even though life for me has always been far from simple. I understand loss, hopelessness, indeed, death and resurrection. I have risen from my own ashes before, and I will do so again, but I am no phoenix.
Along with being the next Bart Starr, I also wanted to be a writer. I am pretty good at it, and yet I have struggled for many months now to find my voice, to create...heck, even to edit and revise that which I've already written. This is not the year I saw unfolding before me. Nonetheless, in a few short weeks it will be the year that was, and I will be very thankful to have survived it.
And so I wish you all a Very Happy Thanksgiving! May this be a time of reflection, renewal, indeed, rebirth. There will be empty chairs at the table, hard goodbyes, but also new faces, new hope. May we all see many bright tomorrows! Phoenixes we may not be, but, each in our own way, we can soar, can we not? I think we can...