Saturday, June 20, 2009

Best Bud’s

Before I get started, let me stress that I’m fully aware of what’s going through your head. Between now and the last time I posted you and your wife conceived and had your second child. Between now and the last time I posted Evan “The Villain” Turner has had three different girlfriends and two different boos. I get it. It’s been awhile. But I’m not going to apologize for the delay, because while you were getting infuriated with my lack of production, I was busy studying for the finals that I ended up bombing. Then, I was busy enjoying my one week of summer vacation that I get due to my glamorous role as a benchwarmer/blogger of a Division I basketball program. Now that I’m back in Columbus for the rest of the summer, it should be business as usual, so please take my picture off your dart board and stop making voodoo dolls of my likeness.

I promised last post that this post would be the second version of a mailbag, but as you’ve probably figured out by now, everything about this blog is essentially one broken promise after another. If I keep this behavior up for another three years, two kids, and one messy settlement, I’ll basically be my first wife. And nobody wants that. Anyway, I was working on the second mailbag (new name to be revealed when I publish it) and I realized that I should push that aside to instead write about what I chose to use this post for.

I received an e-mail from Jacob Jackson, a kid that goes to the high school I graduated from (Brownsburg HS), that basically said I should write a post about my hometown and all it has to offer. My initial thought was, “Jacob, you sound like a great guy but giving myself an atomic wedgie is a better idea than what you just suggested.” Then I went home for a week and realized that seven days in Brownsburg, Indiana provides for a nice supply of blogging material. Jacob, I apologize for thinking your idea was garbage. I initially failed to understand your thought process, but have since realized you are a genius.

Brownsburg is a booming (read: not booming) suburb that rests in the heart of the Midwest, where a love for corn, auto racing, and Jimmy Chitwood intersect. If you don’t know how to get there, just drive around central Indiana until you come to a poorly planned town with two McDonald’s. If your cornfield to pick-up trucks with a confederate flag bumper sticker ratio exceeds 2:1, you’ve gone too far. It’s simple math, really.

There’s a joke that Keller and I always throw around that basically says the best thing to do in Brownsburg is go to Indianapolis, which is absolutely true. But in all honesty, Brownsburg wasn’t all that bad of a town to grow up in. It had everything I wanted in junior high and high school town—a bowling alley, way too many pizza places, and cops that knew me well enough to always just give me warnings. Now that I’m older, though, Brownsburg just isn’t getting the job done for me. Unfortunately, it took me around four days to realize this.

I spent the first few days of my summer vacation doing what any party animal of my stature would do—playing Scrabble and Boggle with my mom and sister. The games really weren’t all that fair, considering the fact that I have been an amateur writer for about six months and have thus augmented my lexicon with a myriad of new words and morphemes (see what I mean?). I flexed my Boggle muscles while playing my sister, as I ran away with the game and put the icing on the cake with a career-high seven letter word (soapbox). Scrabble wasn’t all that much harder, despite my mom’s best effort to bend the rules (if I call her a cheater, she won’t do my laundry anymore). She (accidentally) did the classic move of turning over a tile to pass it off as a blank, which would have worked if I were seven years old or The Villain. I eventually pulled the two real blank tiles from the bag and was confused (I guess you could say I drew a blank when I drew the blanks) until I checked my mom’s supposedly blank tile. I overcame her gaffe by using the blanks to make my first ever word in which I used every tile on my rack (secretes), giving me the coveted 50 point bonus. Writing does wonders for family board games.

After the board games got stale, which I personally thought could never happen, I decided to try out the night life in Indianapolis. Keller and I made our way to Bud’s Tavern on Lafayette Road and 30th street, which was smack dab in the middle of An Area That Would Make Me Feel Much Safer If It Was Better Lit. Basically my idea of experiencing Indy’s nightlife is going to a hole in the wall where I have to put my wallet in my front pocket and wear my hat straight.

Let me sidetrack real quick before I get back to the story. I have noticed something rather scary about myself that I’m not sure how to fix. I mock certain people so much (it’s what I do best) that over time I start acting like them without even realizing it. Here’s an example. If you have ever talked to anyone between the ages of 15 and 25 within the past two years, you have undoubtedly heard the phrase “I know, right?” (Maybe it’s just a Midwestern thing, in which case I apologize to the rest of the world reading this). I personally find this phrase to be one of the more annoying things that I have to put up with on a daily basis. To combat this, I decided to constantly mock people who use this phrase. Somehow, though, I mocked so much that for a period of about a week I began using the phrase without even realizing it.

I have a feeling that I come across as a hardcore redneck on this blog. Some of it is justified, seeing as how I do have many redneck characteristics, but I’ve never shot a gun in my life and don’t have a favorite beer (two of the most taboo things imaginable in the redneck community). Nonetheless, I turn my redneck-ness on full blast as a way to mock what I could have turned out to be. Only I’ve done it for so long that I actually feel myself becoming exactly what I make fun of. In the same way that I made fun of Sarah from Kappa Trappa Keepa for saying “I know, right?” and in turn began saying it myself, I am starting to wear novelty tank tops not because I am making fun, but rather because I think they are comfortable and I (*gulp*) like the look. The difference is that the “I know, right?” thing is only a phrase that I said, which was a small thing that was easy to change. The redneck thing is an entire lifestyle and could take countless hours of interventions from my friends for me to change my ways. I guess I’ve got the first step of admitting I have a problem out of the way. Just know that I really am sorry that most of the stories I share involve me either acting like or associating with a redneck in some way.

I tell you that as a preface to the story about my experience at Bud’s Tavern. Bud’s is, for the most part, exactly as trashy of a bar as it sounds. With the exception of Keller and I, nobody was younger than 40 years old and everybody had either an American flag or a bald eagle on their clothing. Simply put, it was the type of bar that someone like myself, who is battling a redneck/non-redneck identity crisis, should not have gone to. To make matters worse/much, much better, it was karaoke night on this particular evening.

I could go on and on about how awesome it was to watch a 45 year old woman, who earlier in the day had decided that putting on a bra was too much trouble, down her Budweiser and take a long drag of one her Marlboros before singing “Baby Got Back.” I could also go on about the old man with a mustache that I could write a book about who brilliantly used “Ain’t No Sunshine” as a vehicle to release all of his pain and sorrow. But I’d much rather talk about how I got the entire bar drunk with a little concoction I like to call “Courtesy of The Red, White, & Blue.”

After watching no more than three people do their thing with the karaoke machine, I immediately knew that I would be remiss if I didn’t give it a try. The only thing that stood in my way was deciding what direction I wanted to go with my song selection. I initially thought singing something like 2pac’s “Life Goes On” would have made for an awesome reaction from everyone else in the bar. I also thought about singing Journey, for one rather obvious reason, but the chick that sang a few spots ahead of me chose to completely ruin “Open Arms” and I didn’t want to be associated with her mediocrity. I instead decided that I should pick a song that would breathe some life into the bar. I’ve said it many times that Midwestern rednecks are some of the most patriotic people anywhere, which is why I knew I had to tug on the patriotic strings of these people’s hearts. The obvious first choice was to go with Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The USA”, but I had to instead go with Toby Keith for one very awesome reason.

For those who don’t know, the Keller I keep referencing to is my best friend, who goes to the University of Arizona and usually has his clock set three hours behind mine. On one particular night a year ago, Keller had a few too many alcoholic beverages and found it necessary to call me at 4 a.m. (it was only 1 in AZ) when I had workouts just two hours later. For whatever reason, I chose to answer the phone and I heard a drunk Keller belting out “Courtesy of The Red, White, & Blue.” I was understandably upset with him waking me and forcing me to have an even worse than normal workout and thus decided that a little payback should be in store. After a few days passed, I called him in the middle of the night and sang the same song at the same volume level. From there a ritual was born. We now call each other whenever we hear the song and have even included a few of our friends in the experience (Kyle Madsen and Danny Peters being two of them). It makes for some really awkward situations when the song comes on while I’m around people I don’t know that well, because the rules clearly state that whenever either of us hears the song, a call must be made. If you want to be added to the “Courtesy of Red, White, & Blue” list, e-mail me your number and expect a call from yours truly somewhere down the line.

As you can see, even though Lee Greenwood is probably considered more patriotic, Toby Keith occupies a special place in my heart and provided me an opportunity to call Kyle and Danny at two in the morning. When it was finally my turn to sing, I walked to the karaoke stage with a smile that could be classified as a little bit too big. As soon as I grabbed the mic, I decided to gauge the enthusiasm of the audience by throwing that “How’s everyone feeling tonight?” line at them. Based on their collective reaction, the audience insinuated that they just got diagnosed with measles or they just found out they are related to The Villain in some way. In other words, they weren’t initially vibing me and my antics. That would soon change.

Despite the hesitancy from the crowd (which was about seven people) at the onset, after they heard me and my soothing baritone voice effortlessly hit the first few notes, they immediately knew the situation. I wasn’t on that karaoke stage to have a good time. I was there to put on a show and to express my love for this country through the art of singing and, at times, creative dancing. Unfortunately, for the crowd and me both, I severely underestimated how exhausting karaoke can be. By the time I got to the line “My daddy served in the army…” (which I’m pretty sure is less thirty seconds into the song), I was so tired from singing so loudly that I basically yelled that line in as angry of a tone as possible. I continued yelling for as long as I could and then basically just ended up speaking the lyrics by the end of the song.

After I finished singing/yelling/talking/rocking out with an air guitar, I looked over at the crowd and noticed that they were just as dead as they were when I started. Clearly my singing talent wasn’t nearly as impressive as it was in 8th grade when I was partly responsible (there were almost 200 of us) for one of the greatest junior high renditions of “Proud Mary” ever. That’s why I reached into my bag of tricks and pulled out the go to move (some call it a desperation move, I just call it being smart) when dealing with a crowd of rednecks—the “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chant. Keller saw that this was my last chance at getting the crowd’s attention, which prompted him to join in and magnify my chant. Soon, everyone at the bar was looking up to see what the fuss was all about. I can’t say for sure if anyone else chanted with us, but a guy in a Harley-Davidson tank top did come over and give me a high five, so clearly I did something right. (For the record, my attempt at converting the high five into a one-armed embrace was swiftly shot down.)

When I woke up the next morning, I immediately knew that no day in Brownsburg could ever top a night at Bud’s Tavern and I was definitely right with that assumption. My usual routine of laying around the house all day and watching TV was put to an abrupt end when my dad came home and made me turn off Maury so he could watch the news. If there’s one thing my dad does better than anyone I know, it’s sit in front of a newscast and be genuinely entertained. A typical day for him consists of waking up, turning on a morning news show, going to work, coming home, watching every segment of the news from 5-7, eating dinner, and going to bed at 11 so he can watch the evening news and fall asleep. Despite the fact that important events in the world really don’t change all that much from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., my dad still finds it necessary to watch at night, just in case. Even so, my dad’s love for the news is still only the second most head-scratching thing that he does, slightly behind his decision to eat cheese puffs with a fork (you don’t get the cheesy residue on your hands that way, he’ll tell you). HAPPY FATHER’S DAY, DAD!

Left with nothing to do, I foolishly decided to go to a 7th grade girls’ basketball game because two of my good friends, Courtney Neil and Kristin Houck (there are your shout-outs, now stop bugging me about it), were coaching. Because I showed up alone and because I have a beard that I haven’t cut in a month in a half, I’m pretty sure my actions almost exactly fit the mold of a pedophile. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn a trench coat with nothing on underneath it. You live and you learn I guess.

The easy thing to do would be to make jokes about how watching girls’ basketball is as exciting as watching Michigan football, but I’m not going to bite on that bait. Even though girls’ basketball players slap hands up by their shoulders when going through the post-game handshake line, I respect their brand of basketball for the wholesome entertainment it provides (did that sound believable? Kinda? Meh, good enough). The only reason I even brought up that I went to a 7th grade girls’ game is to point out an observation I made about a longstanding tradition in the youth basketball world.

Undoubtedly, my favorite part of any basketball game (boys or girls) that involves players younger than 9th grade is halftime and any timeout. If you go to any junior high or elementary level basketball game anywhere in the world, you are guaranteed to see at least two or three stray kids sitting on the sideline with a basketball in hand, waiting on a break in the action so they can throw up NBA range threes from their hip. These are the same kids who the refs have to tell over and over again to stop bouncing their ball during the game, to which the kids respond by holding the ball until the game action goes down to the other end of the court and they then dribble even louder than they were before. These kids are simultaneously ruining youth basketball for the people who have to put up with them on a consistent basis and are saving youth basketball for casual fans like me who enjoy watching pissant kids try to drop kick a ball into the basket from half-court during a 30 second timeout. With that being said, thank you to the four 1st graders who were seemingly playing dodgeball at halftime of this game I was at. Without your help, there was no way I was making it through that second half.

Maybe I didn’t exactly paint the picture of Brownsburg that Jacob was hoping I would, but I did give you a look at a typical Brownsburg experience for me. Sure I left out things like going to a local breakfast place who still has “Freedom Toast” and “Freedom Fries” on the menu, six years removed from France opposing the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Sure I left out things like going to one of several carnivals held in Brownsburg each and every summer. Sure I left out things like how the student section at baseball games grills out just behind the left field fence so they don’t have to pay the lofty $4 admission to get into the actual bleachers. I instead chose to give you a look into what my life is like when I make the three hour drive back to beautiful Brownsburg, Indiana. Playing board games, singing karaoke, and watching junior high girls’ basketball may not seem like all that much fun, but the harsh reality is that Brownsburg isn’t all that much fun. Just don’t tell the Brownsburg cops how I feel about my hometown. Other than the opportunity to annoy The Villain on a daily basis, getting nothing but warnings from the Brownsburg police force is the nicest luxury I have going for me.


Streak for the Cash Group Leader: R. Huff, for the second entry in a row (streak of 16 wins)

Streak for the Cash Group Loser: B. Truslow, for the fifth entry in a row (streak of 15 losses). In the words of Lloyd Christmas, “You are one pathetic loser.”

Your awesome YouTube was sent in to me by Swetha S. There’s your shout-out, Swetha. And here's your video.

Your Friend and My Favorite,

Mark Titus

Club Trillion Founder