Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The One with the Proposal

Today is a very, very special day.  15 years ago today I proposed to Kristi on the 50 yard line of my senior year Homecoming game, and she (eventually) said yes.  That's the story in a nutshell, but this is the whole story...

I'm not sure when it was that I decided to propose to Kristi.  I think it was late in the summer of 1997.  We had been dating for well over a year, and we were both heading into our last year of college.  I knew that I didn't want to be with anyone else, and so I set about trying to think of a truly legendary way to propose.    One of my friends had just proposed at the top of the Eiffel Tower, and so I also wanted to do something romantic and memorable.  But I was broke, and a trip to a foreign land just wasn't in the cards.  I wanted to be a lot less predictable than that, too.

And then it hit me - I had a golden opportunity that only a very few people ever get.  I was the mascot of the school, and so I had access to a lot of resources that most people don't.  At that time, I was doing skits at halftime of every home football game at mid-field, so I thought that would be the perfect opportunity.  But there was only one problem: I was supposed to be in the Sammy Bearkat suit, and it just wouldn't do to have Sammy propose.  I needed to be the one to do it.  But popping off Sammy's head in front of the entire stadium wasn't an option either.  In fact, it was the very last option.  I wanted to remain Sammy, after all.

So I devised a plan where Sammy and Samantha (Sammy's female counterpart at the time) Bearkat would go out to the 50 yard line and begin a dance skit, but at some point the skit would stop and my proposal would happen.  But I needed someone to be Sammy while I was busy proposing, and it would have to be someone who was good enough to perform as Sammy for an entire quarter and all of halftime while I was out of the suit.  It couldn't be just anyone.  Only another Sammy would do.

Two years earlier at Homecoming, I was fresh on the mascot scene and looking to establish myself and my version of Sammy's character.  That day a former Sammy named Chris Gill came to the game and asked me if he could suit up for a quarter, just for old time's sake.  And I told him no.  This guy was a Sammy LEGEND, and here I was telling him no.  Chris was suspended for three games after he repelled down the Bowers Stadium wall during a game a couple of years earlier.  Chris is big and built and in the army and could've wiped the floor with me and done the whole game unbeknownst to anyone else (until they found my mangled body a few weeks later).  But he was very gracious about it.  And looking back on it later, I felt absolutely horrible about what I had done.  So I figured I owed him.  So I called him up one afternoon after I had dreamed up my proposal and apologized for my immaturity and my stupidity two years before.  And I let him in on my plans and asked him if he would come back and be Sammy for half the game that day.  He graciously accepted my apology and agreed to help me out.  He was the first person to know of my plans.

The second person to know of my plans was a guy in the RTV department named Steve Carmack.  He and I had worked on my last couple of UCA competition videos together.  He videotaped Sammy's appearances as part of a class project and helped me edit the footage down into two minute videos.  He also helped me record the audio for my halftime skits.  I usually planned and recorded the music for my skits about two weeks in advance, but this time I put it off as long as I could.  I think we recorded the skit audio just one day before the skit.  The skit started out as Sammy and Samantha see each other from afar and slowly move toward each other and dance to "Strangers in the Night."  Then there was a record scratch and the music stopped and my voice came on.  I would say on the recording "Wait a minute, Sammy.  There's something I've got to say." And then my voice on tape asked Kristi to marry me.  I remember getting really short of breathe just recording the audio.  And I remember shaking as I stood on the sideline waiting to walk out on my cue. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

I tried to think out all the logistics.  How would I get off the field afterward? When would I get back in the suit? How could I get her and my parents there without tipping her off? How would I get her out on the field to begin with?

I was devious and cunning.  I laid the foundation weeks in advance.  I began dropping little hints here and there that I was really concerned - and later unhappy - with the job Steve had been doing taping Sammy.  In reality, he was doing an amazing job, but I was setting the stage.  Finally, the week before Homecoming, I told Kristi that I had asked Steve not to tape and if she would tape the skit for my Nationals tape.  Being the best ever, she agreed readily, and played right into my trap.  I was specific - I wanted her on the field about a quarter of the way out on the 50 yard line so that she could make sure to get all the action.  Using the zoom on the camera would cause too much shake, so I needed her close.  I even cleared that with the appropriate people at the stadium (and let them in on my plans.)  They were very gracious and accommodating.

Luckily, it was the last Homecoming for both of us, so asking our families to be in attendance wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Kristi's mom and dad and brothers were there, as well as my mom and stepfather, Luke, and my dad and stepmother, Mary.  My sisters and my brother were both there, as well. I was, however, devastated, when I found out that morning when I got a call from my grandfather, who's health would prohibit him from making it.  He had called to wish me well, and I let him in on my plan.  He was very happy for us and supportive. That really helped me make it through that day.

I knew that I would need to get off the field quickly, and I didn't just want to walk off.  That's a bit boring.  I considered hiring a limo to pick us up and drive us out of the stadium, but I did mention that I was a poor college kid, right?  So instead I added a pre-game skit that incorporated a Gator 4x4 vehicle that the trainers use to cart players off the field when necessary.  At the time, there was a very popular Volkswagon commercial that had been parodied quite a bit, and I thought that would be a great way to get my getaway vehicle onto the field in an inconspicuous manner.  I asked my pal, Mark Barry (who ended up succeeding me as Sammy) to drive the Gator both for the pre-game skit and for the getaway.

Cris Gill drove in early that day and met me at the stadium so I could show him how to walk and move as my version of Sammy.  He proved why he's a Sammy legend.  He picked up my walk and mannerisms in less than a half hour and we went over the plan for the switch.  At the beginning of the second quarter, he would meet me in the "Kat Kave" where I changed and he would perform the second quarter and halftime while I went home and showered.  We went over the skit several times, not because he needed to, but because going over the plans in and the skit were helping to calm me down a little.

Later, when the game started everything went according to plan.  Our families were there.  The pre-game skit went well.  Kristi was walking around taping me for Nationals.  Perfect.  Then the second quarter came and time for the switch.  Chris got into the Sammy suit and ran out to perform and I left to shower.  Unbeknownst to me, Kristi had seen Sammy come out and went down and followed him for awhile and even asked him some questions about where she was supposed to be at halftime.  Chris played the whole thing perfectly and Kristi never had a clue that it wasn't me in the suit.  I told you Chris is a legend, right?

Finally - the big moment.  Kristi is out on the field, her back to the stands and laser focused on her task. I had returned to the stadium and had snuck down to the sideline, where I waited for my cue. Finally - my cue came and I walked out onto the field, walked around Kristi between Sammy and her and dropped to my knee.  I opened a ring box just as my proposal came over the loudspeaker.  It took her several seconds before she realized what was going on and that I was kneeling in front of her and not in the Sammy suit.  She lowered the camera, put her hand over her mouth and began crying.  The crowd roared.  I later found out that Tim, her father, had wandered over to the end zone under the scoreboard and was talking to someone.  Whoever was talking to stopped and said, "hey, check that out, somebody's getting engaged."  "Yeah," he said with a laugh, "that's my daughter!"

Our boss, Linda Gorski, ran out from the sideline and grabbed the video camera just as the Gator cart pulled up to drive us away. Kristi was crying, and I was still waiting for an answer. We got in the Gator and made a victory lap around the track of the stadium.  The whole time I was asking, "well?" Kristi was still crying and I was starting to feel pretty stupid.

Finally, as we rounded the stadium and neared the Kave, I asked her again, "will you marry me?" and she nodded (still crying) and sobbed, "yes."


Everything else is pretty much a blur after that.  About the only thing I remember is that I had forgotten to bring my usual shorts and T-shirt back with me and had to perform the last quarter and a half in my underwear and how scratchy that was.

So that, kids, is the story of how Kristi and I got engaged 15 years ago today. And given the opportunity, I would do it all over again.

I love you, Girl.  Happy engagment anniversary!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

On Tax Cuts

I don't get it. In one answer, the president says that Bush's tax cuts caused the economic collapse, but in the very next answer, he touts that he's cut taxes and that has strengthened the economy and created jobs. So which is it?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Crazy Uncle

Everybody's got a crazy uncle.  Everybody loves their crazy uncle.  He's fun.  He loves to joke. He's rude.  He's inappropriate. He speaks his mind.  He's, well... crazy.

Having a crazy uncle is awesome.

You just don't want him to be Vice President.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fair Share

Dear Liberals,

Please, if you would, define in certain terms the phrase that you so love to use- "fair share." As in "all we're asking is for the wealthy to pay their fair share."

What's fair? 20 percent? 30 percent? 50 percent?

Please, please just come out and tell us in exact figures or percentages instead of these crap generalities.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Mascot Style

I know I'm late to the Gangnam Style party, but I finally broke down this morning and watched the Gangnam Style video by Psy, a South Korean rapper.

I'm not sure what to say, other than that it's a really catchy song.  But what I love even more is the video.  Without the video, the song is just another mediocre song.  But the video...

It's vibrant.  It's creative.  It's funny.  And there's just something about this little guy in sunglasses dancing around all crazy that's kinda... endearing.

But what I like the most is that the dance that he's doing is how I've been dancing for fifteen years.  I call it mascot dancing, and I simply can't dance any other way anymore (with the exception of County Western dancing...). It's not the same exact dance, but rather the style of dancing. Called it "controlled flailing" if you like, but it's how a mascot dances.  Look forward to lots and lots of parodies of this song this year at nationals competition and next year at summer camps and pep rallies everywhere.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why Not, Mr. President?

One more thought that kept occurring to me last night watching the debate...

Every time President Obama said "we need to do" this or "I'm going to do" that, I thought, "well, sir, what's been stopping you?  Why haven't you done that, if it's the obvious fix? If these are all things that are within your power to do, then why haven't you already done it?

Incumbents should not get too campaign on the things they want to do or should do.  They should be held accountable for the things they have (or haven't) done.

The Framework

Watching the debate last night, there were many key moments that I thought  shone a very bright light on the differences in philosophies of Governor Romney and President Obama.  And some of them were particularly telling.  This is one of them (read a transcript of the debate here):

OBAMA: The first role of the federal government is to keep the American people safe. That's its most basic function. And as commander-in-chief, that is something that I've worked on and thought about every single day that I've been in the Oval Office. 
But I also believe that government has the capacity, the federal government has the capacity to help open up opportunity and create ladders of opportunity and to create frameworks where the American people can succeed. 
Look, the genius of America is the free enterprise system and freedom and the fact that people can go out there and start a business, work on an idea, make their own decisions.

What struck me about this particular quote was the president's belief that it's the government's job to "build ladders of opportunity and create frameworks" for the American people.

I have a huge problem with that.

When the government creates the frameworks, then opportunity takes the shape that the government thinks it should and the people, largely, are beholden to that.

However, when left unencumbered by government, those frameworks are created by the American people anyway - if there is a need for them - and it takes the shape of things in which people are interested and will spend their money collectively. Those frameworks are stronger and more durable in the long run.

Take a look at "green energy," for example.  When the government builds frameworks, it does so by regulation and coercion by tax code.  You get products such as $10 light bulbs that are far more toxic and dangerous than incandescent bulbs and the Chevy Volt that loses more than $40,000 per vehicle sold.  You get products that no one really wants and that are inferior to products that are already on the market, but that the government has chosen to push.

But when the private sector - the public - builds the frameworks, you get companies founded specifically to compete competitively to create energy cleanly. You get the Prius and the Insight from companies competing against each other to make a better, more efficient product so they can make money doing it.

So it boils down to this:

Do you trust the government to run your life and decide what products you should buy and what job need to be created, or do you trust yourself and the American public to decide what's best for ourselves?

President Obama said many times last night that we need to "work together" to create more jobs and to get things done.  But by that, he clearly means "work together and do what the government thinks is best."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Magnolia... What???

Yesterday I was sent reeling. I was introduced to something that I just can't seem to wrap my mind around: Magnolia Pearl.*

I was shooting video for my buddy, Clover Carroll, out at Marburger Farm at Round Top yesterday for a web show he's putting together when we stumbled across a booth that was just buzzing with activity - Magnolia Pearl. There were women in what I would describe as various states of undress and disheveldness pouring through racks and shelves of what I thought were feed sacks.  It turns out the feed sacks were clothes.  And they were seriously lapping them up with gusto.
The interior design blogger we were filming, Holly Mathis, was well familiar with the brand, as was Rachel, Clover's wife (and co-host of the show).  They both loved Magnolia Pearl.

To me, Clover and our sound guy, it looked like... well, just old tattered crap.  As we were sitting around at lunch talking about it, Clover summed it up pretty well.  He said it looked like they should've broken out in a chorus of "It's a Hard Knock Life" at any moment.   My thoughts were a little more raw and less poetic, as usual.  I thought the clothes looked like what old west hookers would wear when they were hanging around the whorehouse during the day.

I've been thinking about it some more.  If I had to describe Magnolia Pearl I would say it's "Sharecropper Shabby Chic."  I happen to like the Shabby Chic look (I got to meet Rachel Ashwell while we were there, too... and couldn't help but wonder if she hangs around in Magnolia Pearl - I doubt it, but who knows?)

When I got home and mentioned Magnolia Pearl to Kristi, she, too, said she loooooved their stuff.

Say what??!!?

How could I not know that the woman that I love - the mother of my children - has a secret desire to dress like she's straight out of the Industrial Revolution? It's bad enough that we're poor enough to BE sharecroppers, but does she really want to look like one, too?

I was truly shocked.  How is it that all these ladies not only were totally in tune with this brand, but also looooooved them some Magnolia Pearl, and none of us guys had ever even heard of such a thing?

Shocked.  Just shocked.  I'm not shocked that something like Magnolia Pearl exists - I'm floored that ladies absolutely love it.

I get the irony of it all - it looks old and tattered and cheap, but it's actually new and expensive ($250 for a pair of bloomers).  I guess I can't see people actually wearing this stuff out anywhere - to the mall or to church or to the movies.  The ladies I saw walking around Round Top looked, well, ridiculous to my eye.  Maybe it's just a "working around the house (or around the farm?) kinda thing.  I guess that's one thing.  Maybe that's Magnolia Pearl's niche - "what to wear around the house to be comfortable when your furs are out being cleaned..." People would think I was nuts if I bought a pair of $250 ripped up and worn out sweat pants.

I make fun because I still just can't understand it. But then, I'm a jeans and t-shirt kinda guy.  I've never claimed to understand women's high fashion.

*Note: if anyone from Magnolia Pearl ever actually reads this, three notes about your website:
1. it's buggy in Chrome and Safari and scrolls very, very quickly by itself so that you can't actually see the images.  Could've been a Flash player error, but that's actually worse because your low-bandwidth site gives a 400 bad request error. In fact, almost every page other than the front page on your store gave me a 404 error.  You might want to look in to getting that fixed.
3. Try as I might (in three different browsers) I couldn't seem to add white bloomers or a white dress to a shopping cart.  Rose bloomers?  No problems there. But I had loooots of problems with your shopping cart. Seems like a kind of important thing to have working properly, no?  
3. Please, for the love of all this holy, make it easier to turn off the music on your site.  Sites that begin playing music by themselves are the worst things.  Ever.  Sites that play music and have no easy way to turn it off are even worse and are on par with those websites you go to where there are fifteen animated ads all flashing at you at the same time.