Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Bachelor Ben Final Episode: Jamaican a Big Mistake

Wow.  Brutal.  Hello, Readers.  It's South by Southwest time here in Austin.  For those of you unfamiliar with that little festival, it's an event where hundreds of thousands of hipsters who have managed to save $500 from their barista tip jars and by cutting down from two to one and half packs of cigarettes a day travel to Austin, listen to some Ukrainian speed metal band with a good agent, smoke in the streets, don't tip the waitstaff, and generally wander around drunk and stoned while the rest of us try to go about our lives.  

The up side is that every industry in Austin reaps the benefits of their spending.  Well, every industry except the razor and the deodorant industries, but that's neither here nor there.  Welcome to Austin, hipsters.  Spend your money, enjoy the festival, and don't forget to leave.  

And welcome back to all of you for the final installment of my semi-timely recap of Bachelor Ben’s Love Fest.  I think we’d all agree that we should all feel at least a little bit sorry for poor JoJo.  Granted, her alpha-male, testosterone-filled, step brothers didn’t exactly help the situation, but she put up a good fight.   However, I think it’s fair to say that when compared to Lauren B., JoJo clearly earned the Booby Prize. 

Ben loves you both.

Get it? Booby prize.  You’re welcome.  I’ll be here all week. 

This week’s episode—clearly the most (insert provocative adjective here) conclusion of The Bachelor ever—featured a lot of wandering around in sharkskin suits and a lot of Neil Lane’s noticeably more svelte appearance.  Perhaps he and Harrison took advantage of the complimentary pre-dawn Zumba classes over there at the Jamaica Sandals Resort.  Neil Lane certainly took advantage of the beach.  If he were any more tan, he’d be a belt. 

As much as I’d love to recap the episode we’ve all grown accustomed to seeing in the tenth slot during every single season of The Bachelor, I think this post will be more reflective than narrative.  After all, there are only so many helicopter rides, catamarans, and teal blue water shots you can see before it all runs together.  Throw a sweat mustache on Ben and a yellow dress on Lauren and you’d have the Roberto and Ali final episode.

Poor brooding Ben must have walked every inch of the island whining about being in love with two women and equivocating about his choice right up until the moment he chose the ring for the soon-to-be almost Mrs. Ben Higgins.  By the way, d*ck move telling both women you loved them, Ben.  Good luck not getting that thrown in your face and shoved down your throat come the first big argument with Lauren.   

As I write this many of you are watching After the Final Rose.  As is my custom, I refuse to watch it.  I am, however, curious as to who will be the next Bachelorette and I’ll probably fast forward to see if Ben’s Bible-searching preacher was forced to perform a sham wedding or if ABC mercilessly let him off the hook by inventing some excuse for not immediately joining the two lovebirds in holy matrimony mere days after the groom slept with two other women after meeting their families and telling the loser that he loved her 20 minutes before the bride-to-be arrived via helicopter to collect her free giant engagement ring. 

You could literally see that guy sweating as he paged nervously through the Bible looking for a passage that applied to that situation and praying that lightening from above didn’t race through the secret filming location into his skull.  God knows where you are preacher guy.  God knows where you are.  

How about this passage? 

Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness.” Leviticus 19:29. 

Or this one?

Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.” Proverbs 7:10

Or this one?

Two women of loose moral character shall appear shabbily dressed in denim garments yet only one will bear the false ring of diamonds generously, albeit self-servingly, donated by Neil Lane.  Harrison 3:16

Oh, and what about JoJo’s poor family?  I prayed that the walls of the Green Room were padded because we all know that Mr. JoJo went berserk after watching his little girl get rolled off the truck like bale of hay at cattle feeding time before being shoved into a limo in her pretty pink dress to cry mercilessly into the camera. 

I suppose Mrs. JoJo probably freaked out too but in light of the fact that she can no longer move her botox-riddled face, her reaction would have been difficult to measure.  She was problaby too busy chugging the free champale on the Green Room buffet out of the bottle to care. 

I suppose that since JoJo is the next Bachelorette (I peeked), it will ease the pain a bit.  Well, until they have to watch their little angel take three more guys to the Fantasy Suite on national television, but we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.  

She has a shot at beating Kaitlyn’s promiscuity record if she mixes in a surreptitous mid-season bang with one of the dudes.  Maybe Nick Viall is available.  If not, we can guarantee Chris Bukowski is free (#chach).  You think her step-brothers will sign up to date her?  Just a thought. 

Let’s talk about what I’ll refer to as “Ben’s Dilemma”.  First, telling two women he loved them—regardless if he felt that way—was an incredibly stupid move.  It was selfish too.  First, it cheapens it for both girls.  Second, I think we’d all agree that it gave JoJo a false sense of security and caused her to let her guard down on the eve of the big decision.  

Recall the “don’t blindside me” chat he had with Becca before he blindsided her?  History repeated itself with JoJo and I suspect Ben has a penchant for causing that kind of pain because he’s afraid to hurt people’s feelings.  Character flaw or not, he should have kept his mouth shut to both women.  

He’s lucky both of them didn’t hit the road when they found out.  Granted, it’s harder to hit the road with a giant Neil Lane creation weighing down your left ring finger and an impending stint on Dancing with the Stars staring you in the face, but still.  

And what’s more is that he told each woman he loved her at least 100 times on each date.  Also selfish.  “I love you” was definitely this season’s “amazing.”  Saying it once in a moment of alcohol-induced poor judgment is one thing but doubling down on it again and again was not a good idea.   

The look on his mother’s face when he told her he was in love with two women was priceless.  His dad looked as if he was teetering between laughter, jealously, and tears.  Then again, that’s how most middle aged married guys go through life, but I think it was especially pronounced upon hearing the big news from Ben.  Also, I need help.  What do you think about the parents’ feedback?  I thought they favored JoJo but friends of mine swear they wanted Lauren. 

So what do I think about the big engagement?  I’m actually cautiously optimistic about this one.  Both of them have a clear path to the requisite number of delegates going into the convention and it doesn’t appear that either one of them is going to go Pavelka and forsake their current lives for a temporary run in a Vegas revue or a shot at a guest appearance on The Bold and the Beautiful.  

Boring translates to Normal here and I think Ben is all in on this one.  She appeared happy too.  We’ll see if they can survive the media maelstrom and transition back into real life when it’s over.  Props to Ben for shutting down his preacher.  Not only did he save himself a lot of embarrassment, he probably saved that guy from eternal damnation.  Can you imagine explaining that one to St. Peter at the Pearly Gates? 

As always, thank you all for reading this season.  My life is hectic and often stressful and simply knowing you’re all out there getting a breather by reading during your own hectic and stressful lives is a real source of joy for me.  Your comments and tweets always bring a smile to my face.  I’ll post in the off season and try and tweet as well.  Send me suggestions, questions, or just drop me a note say hello.  Take care of yourselves and if you get a chance come to Austin for a visit.  It’s wildflower season, the lakes are full, and spring is in the air.  Drop me a line and I’ll try and meet you for a Lone Star. 

In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be contemplating life’s mysteries while wandering around the lakeshore in my shark skin suit.  DP 

Bluebonnets near the Pennybacker Bridge near SGIA's house.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What Episode It?

Well hello, Readers.  I hope you’re chugging along swimmingly today.  I have to confess to those of you expecting my usual side-splitting recap of the Women Tell All Episode that I didn’t watch the show.  As in season’s past, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  No amount of Lone Star is capable of easing my discomfort as I sit and watch that parade of pathetic prognostication and pettiness.  

Granted, it would have been nice to see Olivia attempt to rationalize the irrational or to see Caila transparently deny sleeping with Ben; however, I opted for getting down some of the thoughts in my own head instead of “investing” two hours into The Bachelor this week.  I hope you all caucused or voted in your respective primaries.   

Humor me if you wish.  If not, I’ll try and hit it out of the park next week when we get to the big finale.  My money is still on Lauren B.   Then again, I bet on Carolina to win the Superbowl. 

I woke up a few days ago and began my usual routine of rolling over, turning the alarm off on my iPhone, and hitting the icon on my favorite news app in order to catch up on the events between midnight and seven AM before getting in the shower and getting ready for work.  

We can compare and contrast the pros and cons of the 24 hour news cycle, but I will say that it’s nice to have something new to read every time I look at my phone.  The following headline caught my attention.  

Pat Conroy, Author of ‘The Prince of Tides’ and ‘The Great Santini,’ Dies at 70

It’s difficult to say exactly what I felt when I read that. I suppose those of you old enough to remember the Kennedy assassination, for instance, have an idea what I’m about to say.  I remember seeing hundreds of people on television crying in Central Park the day John Lennon was shot in 1980 and the same scene 24 years later when Kurt Cobain shot himself after injecting a speedball of cocaine and heroin into his arm.  I remember my aunt being inconsolable for days after she heard that Mickey Mantle died in 1995.  While I sympathized with those people at the time, I did not empathize.   

We all have things or people in our lives who profoundly affect who we are and how we approach the world in front of us, yet they hardly cross our minds.  We all have people in our lives who influence the way we think, act, love, hate, feel, and view the world without us being actively aware that they are doing it.  

They seep in to our souls and remain there like water in soil feeding us at our roots without us appreciating what they add to our existence.  Entertainers, artists, celebrities, musicians, and other seemingly subconsciously omnipresent people top this list because we don’t know them like we do our families or close friends.  It is not until we get news that one of them has been taken away that we realize the void their absence brings in our own lives. 

Pat Conroy, as the headline says above, wrote The Prince of Tides.  A friend of mine gave me a copy of that book for my birthday at a time in my life when I was at a crossroads emotionally, professionally, and every other “-tionally” I’m failing to recall here.  

I’d spent the better part of the three years prior to that writing my own story for no one to see but the ceiling fan and me trying to reassemble my own life and to make sense of all of the scrambled puzzle pieces of my life and why it was where it was.  What I was left with was 400 single-spaced typewritten pages in need of a cogent theme and an editor.  It was depressing stuff, but cathartic nonetheless.  

How cathartic?  Around the same time, I began a much lighter publication called Think-It, which I publish(ed) under the pseudonym Some Guy in Austin.

I subsequently read all of Pat Conroy's books.  

Pat Conroy once wrote, “Writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself.”  I suppose that’s true for me too. 

I love his writing.  His words seem to be his thoughts effortlessly thrown onto the page in perfect order rather than chiseled and polished sculptures gleaned from hours of assembling notes scribbled on scraps of disheveled spiral pages ripped hastily from notebooks.  He writes as if he is speaking to himself because he was, in fact, speaking to himself.  There is no pretense, no hidden message, no paternalistic ulterior motive, and no reticence.  He is about as honest as a writer can ever be. 

He was a man of contradictions painfully aware of the love/hate relationship he had with every formative thing in his life.  His father, mother, family, Roman Catholicism, sports, and women, were all things that he loved greatly, yet he was acutely aware of how all of them immeasurably wrecked and scarred him throughout his life, save his beloved South Carolina, the state he considered more than home.   

He was a masculine man.  Athletic and hardened by a military father who brutally beat him—mentally and physically--well into his own adulthood, yet he was inexplicably in touch with his own feminine side and embraced it without apology.  He understood that his own difficulty with women stemmed from a distant and unforgiving mother while simultaneously believing her to be the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

His writing artfully captured (and admitted) the contradictions of "self" that most of us attempt (unsuccessfully) to reconcile throughout our adulthood rather than admitting that they cannot be "fixed," rather only managed.  

Pat Conroy wrote the following books:    

            1970: The Boo
            1972: The Water Is Wide
            1975: A False Spring
            1976: The Great Santini
            1980: The Lords of Discipline
            1986: The Prince of Tides
            1995: Beach Music
            1999: The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life
            2002: My Losing Season
            2009: South of Broad
            2010: My Reading Life
            2013: The Death of Santini       

During college I earned my tuition (and the rest of my living) waiting tables, bartending, and working in the pool grill and in golf shacks.  My studying was often done in 15 minute power reading sessions with a paperback book in one hand and a highlighter in the other so I could go back later (usually in the middle of the night) and see what I had found important during my shift.  From undergrad, through law school, and into the present day, I never read anything without a pen or a highlighter in hand. 

As a result, every book on my shelf is stained with the bright yellow or pink highlights I choose to put over phrases, paragraphs, or passages in books that catch my attention.  I highlight funny things, sad things, pretty language, or anything I find interesting.  Upon hearing about Pat Conroy’s death, I went through some of my highlights in my favorite books of his.  I’ve pasted the shorter passages below in the interest of brevity and recognition of the fact that putting in the long ones for you to read is an exercise in presumption and narcism on my part.  Perhaps these will interest you to find longer passages of your own. 

Pat Conroy was not a great man.  Far from it.  He was immeasurably scarred by his childhood, his parents, and his own faults were manifestations of the most horrible aspects of those scars.  He articulated his pain, fear, confusion, and weaknesses in a way that most writers—especially male writers—have no capacity to capture.   I believe that why his readers identified with him.  He was human and he wrote about what it meant to be human.  He was not a great man.  But he was a great writer.

Rest in Peace, Pat.

Thanks for humoring me.  Enjoy the quotes and we’ll talk Bachelor next week.  DP

“My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call.”
 The Prince of Tides

“American men are allotted just as many tears as American women. But because we are forbidden to shed them, we die long before women do, with our hearts exploding or our blood pressure rising or our livers eaten away by alcohol because that lake of grief inside us has no outlet. We, men, die because our faces were not watered enough.”
 Beach Music

“A story untold could be the one that kills you.”
Pat Conroy

“I do not have any other way of saying it. I think it happens but once and only to the very young when it feels like your skin could ignite at the mere touch of another person. You get to love like that but once.”
 Beach Music

“Fantasy is one of the soul's brighter porcelains.”
 Beach Music

“There is such a thing as too much beauty in a woman and it is often a burden as crippling as homeliness and far more dangerous. It takes much luck and integrity to survive the gift of perfect beauty, and its impermanence is its most cunning betrayal.”
 The Prince of Tides

“Anyone who knows me well must understand and be sympathetic to my genuine need to be my own greatest hero. It is not a flaw of character; it is a catastrophe.”
 The Lords of Discipline

“There is no teacher more discriminating or transforming than loss.”
 My Losing Season: A Memoir

“When men talk about the agony of being men, they can never quite get away from the recurrent theme of self-pity. And when women talk about being women, they can never quite get away from the recurrent theme of blaming men.”
 The Prince of Tides

“In family matters you can get over anything. That's one thing you'll learn as an adult. There's a lot you have to learn which is a lot worse than that. You'd never think of forgiving a friend for some of the things your parents did to you. But with friends it's different. Friends aren't the roll of the dice.”
 South of Broad

“I lived with the terrible knowledge that one day I would be an old man still waiting for my real life to start. Already, I pitied that old man.”
 The Prince of Tides

“One can learn anything, anything at all, I thought, if provided by a gifted and passionate teacher.”
 Beach Music

“You do not learn how to write novels in a writing program. You learn how by leading an interesting life. Open yourself up to all experience. Let life pour through you the way light pours through leaves.”
 My Losing Season: A Memoir

“Hurt is a great teacher, maybe the greatest of all.”
 My Reading Life

“Always believe in things and people that bring you pleasure. What good does it do to throw those things out the window?”
 The Great Santini

“Love has no weapons; it has no fists. Love does not bruise, nor does it draw blood.”
 The Prince of Tides

“If your parents disapprove of you and are cunning with their disapproval, there will never come a new dawn when you can become convinced of your own value. There is no fixing a damaged childhood.”
 The Prince of Tides


“The most powerful words in English are, "Tell me a story.”
 My Reading Life

Pat Conroy 1946-2016