Friday Flashback: The Proposal

68 days until June 9… That’s when we will mark 20 years of being married up. Thought about waiting until closer to time to post this story, but then I decided to not wait. 🙂 So.. I present the story of the day I proposed to Sarah:

Scene of the proposal in watercolor

We were in some classes together, Philosophy with Dr. Carscaddon for one. In that one we formed a ‘study’ group and she pretended to be wowed by my dizzying intellect. lol. So we had known each other some, but our first time ‘together’ was at Homecoming 1999 (?). After the dance thing we went to the Waffle House in Gaffney. I was relegated to the back of the Isuzu Trooper while the other crew rode up front, but I reckon she was glad I was back there.

So we did our thing for the next year. Playing spades and driving to the mountains and listening to Les Mis and going to India… you know, regular things like that. Fast forward to Homecoming 2000.

I billed it as a celebration of our anniversary. I was going to treat her to a day in the life of the last year together.

So I came to get her at Stroup, where I had grown quite skilled at throwing a piece of bark at her 3rd story window to alert her of my presence. “He’s a suitor!” GW had rules about guys going into girls’ dorms and such.

She came down and we sat in our swing in between Stroup and the music building. And I read to her. Poetry. I’m a romantic, what can I say? We did a good amount of falling in love on that swing over the past year, so it was the only place to begin.

Following my wooing on the swing, we drove up to pick up the Livermush, egg, and cheese sandwiches I had on order to go from the Snack Shop. We took those foil wrapped delicacies with us down the Greenway where we had a morning breakfast by the river.

Then we came back up to watch and follow the homecoming parade down Main St. and Stadium Drive on our way to watch the football game. We stayed til halftime or so before we went back to my apartment on campus.

I had the rooms decorated. One was set up like this place in Boone we used to go to. We had found this cave type situation with our friends Jeremy and Joy and we spent a good amount of time hiking up that way. On our way to and from Macadoo’s of course. So I had one room set up like ‘the hole’ from Boone.

The other room was set up like we were in India. Sarah lived in India for a year after she graduated high school. She worked at an orphanage with a man named Samuel Thomas (see oldest son’s name). During our year together I had the chance to go on a trip to the orphanage and surrounding areas. It was wonderful and awful. I’ll have to write about that another time–and I would also love to have Sarah write about her experiences there for some Thursday entries here at Co6…

But I was glad to be able to experience the place that had formed her so much, so I had a room set up with Chai and I had borrowed a punjabi suit from my friend and I rocked it while we sat together and had our tea.

By then it was time to head down to the Cracker Barrel. I like a good schedule. We went down and ordered our usual–split the 6 veggies and all the biscuits and apple butter you can handle. Cheap and delicious. It was great until we met some friends down there, and they got to talking, and were dangerously close to putting a kink in my schedule. Whew. Don’t worry guys… it all worked out 😉

After supper we landed at the Dover Theater to see our friends perform in Midsummer Night’s Dream. By this point, I’m getting very nervous–you see I’ve had this ring floating around with me all day in various places. Or at least the thought of the ring was floating around.

So at the play, I was fidgety to say the least, and Sarah began to worry that I was feeling sick. Nope just my natural reaction to the stress of proposing to live my life with you girl… I said to myself of course. Then probably gave her the “smoulder“.

Those who get vaccinated together stay together

On we went then to the homecoming dance, where it all started a year before. We did the tootsie roll probably, and assuredly the electric slide, ate all the meatballs and pigs in a blanket, and then we wandered on out to Lake Hollifield by the bell tower.

I took her down to the gazebo, opened up the Jansport, lit up a dozen or so tea candles around on the rails, pulled out the boom box (you know the kind that takes 47 D batteries, placed Wynton Marsalis Midnight Blues in the CD player, and we danced in the moonlight. And I said smooth things I’m sure. I love you girl… you make me who I am girl…. this has been the best year… who was I before you… you know smooth…

After that we walked back up to the bell tower. This was before the Tucker Center was built and my fancy Stella blue escort was parked up by the tower. Sarah, thinking this was the end of a lovely anniversary, was surprised when I suggested that instead of going to the car we keep on walking down to the legendary boiling spring.

We walked down that way and I had her sit down on a bench beside the leaning tree (which was just recently removed), and I whipped out the ring, dropped down to both knees…. listen y’all I was way to nervous and unsteady to balance on one knee. I said some more romantic things and then asked her to marry me…

And she said…

“Nuh uh!!!!!”

And I was like…

But, of course, it was a totally shocked and surprised and elated “nuh uh”… which was quickly followed by a yes and probably some solid making out.

I had taken the risk of informing many of our friends, and when we walked back to my apartment they were all waiting for us to celebrate–with sparkling grape juice of course–because Gardner Webb.

It was a good day.

Friday Flashback: Shining Light Series–Ansel Harmon

He worked at Timken. It was my understanding that whatever he did with ball bearings, he was one of a very few people who could do it. I know he worked so hard, and that all that shaved metal etc took a toll on him. I know he worked, but when… because it seemed like he had all of the time for us.

Hours and hours and hours… he would take us over to the cages at GWU and throw us hundreds of pitches. We would stand out in front of his welding shop at home and hit pea gravel with a broom handle for hours or forever.

One of the things that made a huge impact on me, on all of us, was the way he calculated batting averages in Little League. He was our coach of course! But the way he averaged us out was based on contact. If we put the ball in play it went down as a hit in the book. He encouraged us to take our swings and make contact! So I think I “hit” like .950 or so my 6th grade year.

Don’t misunderstand, this wasn’t just a tactic to make us feel good about ourselves. We were dang good. Maybe we rigged the draft a few years, but hey, what are you gonna do? But we kicked tail. Like 42-2 kind of stuff in Little League. We only lost a few games in my last couple of years with the mighty RED SOX. Champs!

Ansel, coaching 3rd and giving us the delay steal sign almost every time we got on. Aggressive. And he’d wave us around 3rd to score, windmilling that arm of his, with that eager and ecstatic look on his face, side stepping all the way down the line with us on many occasions. Hand over his mouth 🙂

He was an encourager! He was my first second dad. I’ve had many second dads along the way, but he was the first as we grew up neighbors. He was our advocate!

Ansel Harmon. A shining Light for sure. Not a perfect man, but damn, we gotta get off of this trend thinking that those humans exist. But even after his passing from this age, the ripples that he created in my life, and the lives of many of my teammates and others, are still fanning out through our own journeys and being shared with our kids. Ripples created by pea gravel hit with broom handles.

Thank you for all you meant to me Ansel. Rest easy my friend and mentor! And I’ll see you waving me around 3rd into glory one of these days.

Friday Flashback: Pierced.

My oldest boy just found out that he will get to serve as the chief Junior Marshal for this year’s graduation. That took me back to the day that me and my peeps were junior marshals for the Class of 1995.

It was on that day… that I and a few others of the vaunted Nine Six went and got our ears pierced. If memory serves I got mine done at Arnold’s Jewelry–though it is quite possible that it happened at Claire’s at the mall. I certainly have been there for more than one piercing.

It started with just the left lobe. Now… I don’t know how long it took, but soon after, I came home to find that my dad had gotten his pierced as well. His thinking being that I wouldn’t want to wear an earring if my dad also had one.

Of course, if you know me, I have a bit of a rebellious streak. So instead of taking mine out, I just went and got more. Before it was all said and done, I think I had 2 in the left lobe, 1 in the right lobe, and even 1 in the upper left cartilage. Baller! ;). The cartilage one didn’t last very long because I had to take it in and out for soccer practice and that junk got infected like Theo after he got his done by Cockroach’s sister Tootsie.

That may have also been the summer that Josh Howell trained me how to be a goalkeeper in the 400 degree summer heat while he kicked balls at my stomach from like 6 inches away and had me diving over a cooler and landing on the ground back and forth. The dang ol glory days! To steal a line from the Little King: Still after all these years, my favorite band, the Nine Six!

Oh by the way. My dad still wears his earring to this day. I’ve been thinking about getting mine back to stand with him.

Y’all throw some energy, thoughts, and prayers up for my old man. He got another round of treatments (radiation this time) on his liver yesterday, and has to go back for a round of a chemo shot in a month or so.

Happy Friday y’all! Grace and Peace.

Friday Flashback: My shot at glory

It’s safe to say that my basketball career peaked in elementary school. As the floor general of the pee wee Chargers we went undefeated and beat Elizabeth 50-24 in the championship game. In 6th grade we dropped one to Number 3 in a hard fought game, but went on to victory in the championship later with a 9-1 overall record.

To be fair all I had to do was dribble up the court and pass it to Wiyle or Brandon and then run back and play defense and we were on our way to victory. But hey… I was pretty good at that job and we collected the trophies.

But my shot at glory came in JV basketball when I was a 9th grader at what now is called the Ed Peeler gym at Crest. Me and my friend Josh Lowery (a member of that Number 3 team) were the guys at the end of the bench who rarely got in.

In fact we would do our own color commentary of the game on the bench because we didn’t have to worry too much about significant playing time. We only got in for a few seconds to make sure the main players didn’t pick up a cheap foul before halftime.

Now I played in middle school as well. I suppose I had some good games. What I mostly remember is getting all the floor burns. I wasn’t fast and I couldn’t jump very high and shooting—well let’s just say I was streaky. Yeah we’ll go with that. So the hustle was my game. I would sacrifice my body to win the loose ball.

And we had this drill in practice. And I got the ball a lot. And the floor burns. And in that old dim gym where the mighty Dragons played, my floor burns caught me the staff infection. And that didn’t mix well with the 8th grade acne. 8th graders can be mean. And maybe it was mostly in my head. I may have even resorted to using my mom’s makeup some to hide the jacked up, staff infected zits on my chin and forehead. Insecurities were real in 8th grade. Glad I don’t have any of those any more 😉

But like I said. It was JV ball that brought me face to face with glory. Sonny Bristol, one of the best I ever played with, fouled out with 2.3 seconds left and we were down 1 to West Meck. Coach Bird, who to my dismay always called me Danny, looked down the bench and signaled me in.

We had to go the full court. I took the in bounds pass, dribbled a few times, and heaved a half court shot…. annnddd… I missed it.

But… I. Got. Fouled.

Three free throws. Down one point.

Now… I think it should not be legal for all the yelling and banging on the bleachers while I’m trying to make such pressure packed free throws. Regardless, I took a deep breath. Dribbled three times alternating my heels like Angie Black used to do for GWC. Then I spun the basketball looked up and released the ball…

And I missed. Missed em all. All three shots. All I needed was one. I could’ve sent us to overtime or even sealed the win right then.

Come on, Danny! Oh well in a way my oldest boy redeemed our family basketball 9th grade legacy when he drained a half courter to win a prize during a pep rally. Enjoy that clip below. Ima go practice my free throws.

Friday Flashback: Fam Ford Escort

Indeed we were! We were a Ford Escort family. I remember the old light blue wagon that you could hear from a mile away because of the loud muffler–or lack thereof–that my dad drove. Later on we had a white one that was pretty snazzy, and I had the dark blue one in college. Stella Blue I called her. Had some great times in that thing! Me and Toph drove up to Salem, VA for a Panic show in 1999 and drove home afterward! On like a Tuesday. Wild. I also drove it to Knoxville and back for Panic in Chilowhee Park in Knoxville.

But it’s the dark gray late 1980s? model that I want to focus on today. This was the first car I drove when I was 16. I inherited it from my brother. I also inherited his tapes that would play in the cassette player–Harry Connick Jr. 20, Shenandoah, and… that’s all I remember. Probably had some Jimmy Buffett in the mix back then.

This fine automobile had the automatic seatbelts that when the door was shut would move on the track and close in on ya. Better watch out because it isn’t stopping. Of course, though the intention was good, it didn’t do much good, because it gave the appearance of having a seatbelt on, but you still had to manually attach the lap belt, and well, I was 16 and you can’t tell me what to do… 🙂

It was this car as well, that featured in the 7th grade science project video that my friend JC (happy birthday today) and I created! It’s a classic and will surely find its way into a Friday Flashback episode at some point. But… 2 confessions about the ol gray escort:

One time I drove over to our friend’s house near the country club. We were going to, you know, have some times of fellowship… and such. I’m sure Aladdin or Lion King or something was slated, and then the few of us would discuss the literary merits of the films. That’s what 16 year old guys do when they’re with their girlfriends, right?

Soooo… I parked up at the top of the driveway, which was on a significant hill. I got out and was walking in aaaannnnnd… holy *(&%…. the escort was rolling back down the hill. Dowwwwnnnn the hillllll. Across the road. And into the trees across the way. I ran down, probably at first trying to stop it, but when I got down to the bottom I looked into the car. Confession time: I quickly and secretly shifted the gear into P from R. It seems I had left it in Reverse when I got out. I, of course, told everyone that it was in P, and I didn’t know how it happened. Come on Escort… don’t let me take my key out if it isn’t in P. Embarrassing! I don’t remember how we got the car out or if I even stayed for the date…. but what are you gonna do?

And then… me and Gabe one time were on a double date with two Shelby High girls. We were headed to the movie theater to see I don’t know what movie. We were driving around Peach St. in Shelby and there’s this pretty big hill that drops off on a side road. And we got the great idea to see if we could jump the hill in the… Escort. In the Escort. Ridiculous. But I was a sucker for peer pressure. And the girls were egging me on. First run I hesitated and didn’t get enough speed and so we just barely felt anything. Do it again they said. They said. I blame them ;).

So we took a second run at it. MORE SPEED. We got airborne! I froze up in the air and hit the brakes… I mean we were probably like 2 inches off the ground is all… but in my mind it was an action movie scene. You know, in the Escort. And being the dumbasses we were, we were doing this over a hill that takes a sharp hairpin turn to the left shortly after the hill.

So… we landed, and skidded off the side of the road into some trees. Swiped the side of the car and knocked the side view mirror off. And my tire went flat. At the time, being 16 and stupid, I hadn’t had any experience with changing a tire yet. And we now had a flat. Thankfully my big brother was home from college that weekend, so I called him up and he came out like a faithful big brother can, and helped me change my tire.

I told my parents that an animal ran out in front of us and I had to swerve. Terrible. HAHA… in fact, a few years ago around my folks’ supper table I was confessing this story to them, and my mom just made me stop. She wanted to maintain the image of me being good and smart and not stupid and dumb.

We did make it to the movie. But that may have been the last date with those two Shelby girls.

Ahhh… the Ford Escort. After the Escort I inherited Melba T. A beat up 1986 mustang. Have to work that in some Friday as well.

Happy weekend y’all!

Friday Flashback: Davidson College

I can’t explain how stoked I was to be accepted. I applied early admission, and I still remember opening the letter in the parking lot of my mom’s office and jumping about 3 feet in the air. Ok, ok. More like 4 inches in the air, but still. My brother and sister-in-law and her whole family pretty much are Davidson alums, so I was proud of myself for being one of the 400 or so applicants to get accepted. But… well. It didn’t quite work out.

My defense mechanisms have surely blocked out a lot of the experience from my conscious recall… you know in combination with some other things. But here’s a choppy summary of my time as a Davidson Wildcat.

First, I should track down my roommate John and apologize. We didn’t run in the same circles on campus, but he was a fabulous person! I, on the other hand, was a slob and likely an inconsiderate roomy. Davidson, at the time, still had a laundry service for the students. I would put my number, it was 435, on the tags of my clothes, take them to the laundry, and in a day or two I could pick them up in a brown paper bag all folded and nice.

My problem was that I would put the wrapped sack of clothes on the couch, tear open the top and then just grab clothes out when I needed. Or maybe I at least put them on my bed. Either way, I did a lot of sleeping on that couch and in that bed. I don’t think I was overly messy or rude otherwise, but yeah, sorry John.

I wish I could remember more about the classes I took. I got in on the Humanities track and I do remember a bit about my humanities prof who picked Genesis and other books of the bible apart. Growing up in the CleveCo bubble, that was quite a shock to the mental system–good for me in so many ways, but still took me for a spin out of the gate. I know I had a history class, but can’t remember much about it. I do remember Dr. Henke who I had for German and for a class called Nazi Culture. Those classes were fascinating. My crowning achievement was in Freshman Comp in which I earned a B+. That was the most rewarding grade I’ve ever gotten in all my years. Overall, in the first semester I ended up with a 2.5 GPA, which was around average at Davidson College. All night study sesh’s were not uncommon on campus. Rigor is a real thing at DC.

I did get in on the fraternity scene. Sigma Phi Epsilon to be precise. There were a couple of guys on the hall that pledged with me, Ryan the water polo player from La Jolla was one of them. That dude used to always get 10 packets of ketchup to go with his fries. And one of our RA’s, Tripp, was a Sig Epper, so I’m sure that played an influence. I was actually chosen to be the Pledge Class President. We had some good times down at the house. Some too good. And Papa D was the chef for the house, which is primarily the reason I think I picked SPE in the first place. Those quesadillas he made late night were on point. I still remember the chant for the fraternity, but I never did make it to the end and full membership.

The sports scene was pretty cool. Basketball was really fun. I had a friend who was the point guard for the women’s team. Jen was from New Jersey, I think. And a friend named Lisa who played field hockey, so I went to see that too. I remember Landry Kosmalski for the Hoop Cats.

But yeah… I wasn’t ready. Or something. I was lonely and felt out of place. Most of the folks there called me Dan. Dan? Nah. I had a 2.5GPA first semester, but second semester I turned in a stellar 0.0. I’m not sure how many classes I actually went to in the second semester, but it wasn’t many. I didn’t show up much at my work study job either–even though those folks were so gracious to me. I would spend a lot of time driving my old raggedy ’86 mustang, Melba T, to Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Wilmington, spending long weekends or more on my old boys’ couches or floors. Not a good recipe for success at any college. And then one night I called my mom and cried and pleaded for help. She didn’t bat an eye, and I was enrolled at Gardner-Webb the next fall. I still had some growing up to do there as well, but eventually I was saved by a former BRIO girl named Sarah.

I tell this story to my students. Well I tell them part of it. If I would’ve done what I was supposed to do, and attended classes, my life would’ve turned out completely different. That is not to say I am proud or glad that I failed. Flunked out. It took me a long time to be able to use those words to myself, much less to others. But I figured a way to get myself back up after it all, and now 25 years later I have my Sarah and Sam and Sydney and Isaac. I have a career I love and a pretty solid role in the community. I don’t advocate for failing. I don’t encourage wasting all the money and going through that darkness and fog that I went through.

But I learned from it. I am still learning from it. And I am where I am because of it. And that’s a real thing.

Postscript. I have been back to campus a few times in the last couple years for AP Government and Politics weeklong workshops. Each time I set foot on the grounds at Davidson I feel the magic. The history. The tradition. The excellence. The charm. The mystique. I love that place. I wonder how I would’ve measured up to it all. Either way, I am honored to have had even a short and not so productive time there. And I look forward to every time I get to visit.

Friday Flashback: Crest Crazies

We’d meet up before the game and paint up. Welcome to the Jungle or Sweet Child of Mine usually blaring at some point or another. Back in the day there weren’t as many restrictions, so we got to run out with the team, we got to stand on the sidelines outside the player box. We were almost always on Friday Night Football, and we were definitely glad about that.

The cheerleaders would get mad at us sometimes, because we’d lead the crowd in De-Fense cheers! And man it got loud. Thousands of fans who at that point weren’t yet spoiled by persistent success. It was awesome. I will say that senior year we served as the base for a cheerleader pyramid though. I held up Ryan in a liberty 🙂

The junior year season was tragic in that we lost our friend Donnie Lewis. But it turned magical as we would all kneel on the 30 yard line each game–30 was his number. His memory was held high through the season, as we battled West Charlotte and defeated them, then Mt. Tabor with the punt return by Jarod and the bouncy play to Chris. The bouncy play!!!

Then we destroyed Jacksonville in the ‘ship at Chapel Hill. That Chapel Hill hotel experience though!

Senior year was a blast! We didn’t win the whole thing that year, but we had a great season, and of course the ’96 was large and in charge. Haha. Good days.

Friday Flashback: West L.A. Fadeaway

For our 10th anniversary Sarah and I flew out to Cali. We rented our car when we got to LAX and drove up our favorite Highway 1 to our fancy resort in Malibu. Baller.

Our resort was an Embassy Suites type deal, and so they had free drinks for happy hour from 5-7pm. At first we thought you could only go to the bar one time and so we both ordered two–trying to be sneaky and saying that we were getting one for our partner. LOL. Turned out you could go back more than once. So we were feeling lovely when it was time to go out to watch the sunset. Of course, the beach lemonades combined with the jet lag led us to go to sleep in our fancy hotel pretty much as soon as we watched the sun set. 🙂

The next day we lounged at the pool and talked openly of our multi-million dollar real estate deals. We were trying to play the role of someone who would normally be at a swanky resort in Malibu. Though in retrospect those folks probably aren’t at the Embassy Suites.

We also, took a trip to the Reagan Library. That was very cool, especially for the political history nerd that I am. I got to take pictures at the Presidential podium, and one riding horses with the Gipper, we saw a replica of Air Force One, the Oval Office, and a piece of the Berlin Wall among other things.

Then it happened. We hopped on a boat to ride about an hour out into the ocean to see a rock formation and some seals or something. The guy said that if you were gonna get sea sick that sitting on top of the boat would be the worst, but that’s where Sarah went. I didn’t last long up there. As you can see below I ended up sitting on the back of the boat holding on to the rails trying to steady myself, and be in good position in case I needed to hurl. There was some British kid named Peter running around crazy back there too… Come on Peter! Help me out here. Whew. That was rough, and maybe was the beginning of the vertigo I’ve dealt with ever since. Man. That unsteadiness combined with my anxiety as you will read in just a few lines down led to some questionable decision making.

We left Malibu and drove into L.A.’s Little Korea and saw Widespread Panic perform at the Wiltern Theater. Oh yeah! It’s one of the coolest theaters I’ve ever been to–even though it took us 50 minutes and $80 for a cab ride to go 8 miles. But we were only about 7 rows back, and the show was, as is always the case with Panic, it was a smoker!

But Panic did play a song called Shut Up and Drive which sealed the deal for me. I hate flying. I mean I like getting there quickly, but the prospect of crashing is one I don’t like. And I couldn’t shake the notion that if we were both on the plane then well… that wouldn’t be too good for the kids. So, I made an extremely irrational decision to sell our night 2 Panic tickets and trade in our flight back for a rental car.

So we took off from LA and saw the sign on 40 in Barstow that says how many miles to Wilmington NC. We drove all day and saw the most beautiful sunset and fullish moon in New Mexico. Then into the night approaching Albuquerque we hit something in the middle of the interstate that, to this day, I’m not sure wasn’t a body rolled up in a carpet. We kept on driving to Albuquerque and got out to see our front bumper was damaged–but we had the insurance so the rental folks said no problem. So we kept on driving through the night. Taking turns sleeping and stopping for gas and fast food and that’s all.

In the morning we called and found out we’d save a bunch of money getting back early, so we kept on driving. Didn’t stop once. It became the amazing race! Hit traffic in Nashville, rain in Knoxville, but powered on into the NC mountains. Y’all know what kudzu is? Well when I was driving on 40 through the NC mountains I saw a giant gopher. Not ‘hey there’s a tree covered in kudzu that looks like a gopher’. No, I thought it was a giant gopher. Sarah politely suggested I pull over and let her drive.

And we drove. And had to drive past our town on 74 and go all the way to Charlotte to pick up our van. Because as normal people we flew out of CLT and if I was normal we would’ve flown back in there. But… 36 hours. We drove from LA to CLT; two thousand four hundred and twenty one miles. We DROVE from LA to CLT in 36 hours. Obviously so much safer than flying LOL. And that definitely took some years off my life. But it’s one of my favorite memories.

Happy Friday!

07/13/11 Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles, CA
1: Protein Drink > Sewing Machine, Can’t Get High > Greta > Better Off, None of Us Are Free, Little Lilly > St. Louis > Shut Up And Drive > Holden Oversoul
2: Imitation Leather Shoes > Love Tractor, Tickle the Truth, Pickin’ Up The Pieces, Chainsaw City* > Jam* > Drums** > Papa Legba** > Bear’s Gone Fishin’, Tie Your Shoes > Walk On, Conrad
E: Her Dance Needs No Body, Big Wooly Mammoth
* with Jerry Joseph on guitar/vocals, Wally Ingram on percussion
** with Wally Ingram on percussion