Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pomp and Circumstance

It was a big weekend for this pater familias. My son, Ben, graduated from Georgia Southern University (lyric from the Alma Mater: "I'm gonna aim my headlights into your bedroom window, throw beer cans at both of your shadows") this past Friday with his Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Marketing.

Of course, we are very happy that he graduated and he made fantastic grades in 2013. It was just years 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 that had us worried. A lot of  his classes were like the NCAA Basketball Tournament: Survive and Move One.

He survived and now he has all of the rights and privileges that come with being a college graduate, mainly paying off his student loans.

Georgia Southern University is located in Statesboro, Georgia, the birth place of Blind Willie McTell. Nobody could sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell. However, if Blind Willie had his eyesight and could see what Statesboro looked like, he probably would have been an even better blues singer. The town is a combination of Old South, New South, Dirty South, and a few other Souths that you probably don't want to know about.

Statesboro is about 3 1/2 to 4 hours from the Atlanta area. It is probably the worst drive in the United States.

From Marietta, where I live, you have to drive through downtown Atlanta, which is always a nightmare due to various expanding and contracting lanes and traffic going 120 mph bumper to bumper or you can go around Atlanta on I-285, which could make General Patton have a nervous breakdown.

After you make it through Atlanta, you'll stop in the Eagle's Landing/McDonough area for about 30 minutes due to various fatal traffic accidents that occur about every 15 minutes in that part of  Metro Atlanta. Then it's on to Macon!

In Macon, you'll get on Interstate 16, which is known as "the most boring Interstate in America". Fortunately, due to your 1200 near death experiences just getting to Interstate 16, you are wide awake for your trip into Statesboro. 

We made it into Statesboro and met up with our son. We discovered he had another accomplishment besides graduation: a haircut. His apartment was decorated in what I call "Young Adult Male".  It had several sports teams posters on the wall and a Christmas Tree that could even cause Charlie Brown to shake his head. We went and picked up his girlfriend, had dinner and then went to the school for a "Latern Walk". We joined her parents and sisters for this walk. No one in the girlfriend's family is under 5'11". My wife and I looked like Hobbits searching  for the ring.

The "Latern Walk" is a Georgia Southern tradition. The graduating seniors walk around campus with a latern and talk about all of the good times they had at Georgia Southern. You can imagine that with some students, this might be a very R rated conversation. However, my son just pointed at the College of Business building and said, "I hate that place".

When the walk finished, my wife and I retired to our motel. Our room was nice. The room next door to us, however, had a family that argued all night long. At least one person in that family argued. This person was apparently telling the other person what he thought and why he shouldn't think that. That's what I got out of the seven hour discussion. Guess the gender of who was doing the most talking.

The big day came and my son's girlfriend graduated first. It was then I realized that something I started years ago at Louisiana College came back to haunt me.

During my roommate's graduation in 1980, I was seated in the back of the auditorium in the balcony. When they called his name, I yelled "YAY BILL!" to much laughter. Afterwards, I went up to this very attractive Cajun co-ed (jet black hair with deep blue eyes and is a grandmother now) and said, "Did you hear me?". She said, "Yes, Alan Manis, everybody could hear you".

Back then, graduations were solemn occasions and my rebel yell must have punctured the seriousness of the ceremony because graduations now are sort of like WWE wrestling matches. The audience is begged and pleaded not to shout, holler, dance, sing, applaud, or speak in tongues by various high ranking members of the University's faculty. These appeals for an hour of decorum flew through the air and enter the ears of  the audience as "Shout as loud and long as you want".

Thus, the awarding of the degrees sounds like this: Bob Smith ("WOOOOOOOOOO BOBBY, MY MAN! DRIVE 'EM REDNECK CRAZY"); Jane Smith, Summa Cum Laude (no appaluse); Jerry Smith ("WOO-WEE, YOU WENT AND BROKE THE WRONG HEART BABY") and on and on. This is funny the first two hundred times you hear it, but then you start fearing for the future of your country.

Of course, when they said, "Benjamin William Manis", I stood up and did "The Wobble". We met one of his professors after the service who saw my little display of joy and said I was the happiest man in the building.   She was right.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Caught In The Act

One thing Evangelical Christianity does, which it does not get any credit for, are the programs which gets the yard ape kids out of the house for an evening or two to learn about a holy and disciplined life. This also enables the Evangelical parents time to get "reacquainted" (wink, wink).

I remember one program in which our son, who was then 15, was going to be away from the house for the entire weekend. Of course, we were interested in what deep spiritual insight he might acquire from this weekend retreat. That and how many times we could get "reacquainted" (wink, wink), yeah come on.

When we dropped our son off at the church, I knew this was going to be a magical weekend, because we went to dinner at Captain D's, which is a great seafood place.

Let me admit this: I love Captain D's. I could probably eat a meal there at least once a day. I love fried fish, hush puppies, the fries and the tartar sauce. I know it is bad for you, but I have an excuse. I am not very smart and I like food that is not good for me.

The problem with Captain D's is that my wife, Lori, does not share my enthusiasm. It was not her fault.

When she was pregnant with our son, we had dinner at Captain D's one evening and we were going somewhere in East Cobb, just tooling down Old Sewell Mill Road. Out of the blue, my wife looked at me, all green in the gills and said "ALAN! I AM GOING TO THROW UP! NOW!"

Well, we had a new car and I didn't want that to happen in the car, so I went on two wheels and whipped into the Weatherstone subdivision like Starsky and Hutch. The car was still moving when Lori jumped out and blessed somebody's yard. I always wondered if the home owners saw this and what they might have thought. I also wonder if grass can grow there even after all these years.

                  I'm not saying this was the house, but......

During the rest of her pregnancy, I could hum the Captain D's jingle and she would get sick, so for years, we didn't go to Captain D's together. But, time had passed and I was able to take my beloved to my favorite fried fish place for a romantic fish dinner.

With our bellies full of fish, we headed to our usual Friday night place, which I called "The Temple": The Target on Dallas Highway. Mentally, I was planning that after we went to Target, we would go home and have our "quiet time" (wink, wink).

At the front of this store was an area called "The Dollar Spot", which had merchandise that cost only a dollar! It was great economics lessons because there was a lot of supply in terms of products but there was very little demand, so Target did everything except give you this plastic cheap stuff just to get rid of it.

My precious wife could not walk past "The Dollar Spot" without stopping. However, this time she really had a reason to browse because it was near Easter time and and "The Dollar Spot" had all of your Easter needs as long as it was cheap. They had a bag of plastic Easter eggs for a dollar. At that time, we still had younger nieces and nephews that hunted Easter eggs and Lori and her sister would fill these plastic eggs up with treats. Then they would make me and my other brother in law Bill "hide" the Easter eggs in my in-laws backyard. (Hide as in "putting it on the ground while talking about work".)

While Lori was doing a cost analysis on the bag of $1 plastic eggs, I began to look around myself and saw something, for once, that I would think about buying: a set of bunny ears that a person could place on their head and resemble a person who bought bunny ears for dollar. Yes, I am that guy.

One thing about Lori and me: our "love language" (you have to be an Evangelical to understand this) is laughter. We spend a lot of time trying to make each other laugh. My wife can do imitations and I have all of these witty asides; we're like a morning drive time radio show.

I decided to put on the bunny ears  and I know this is shocking and if you have young children you might want to escort them out of the room, because I wanted to FLIRT WITH MY WIFE. There, I said it.

I stood there for a while wearing the bunny ears, hoping she would look up and laugh and then we would go home for vespers (wink, wink). Finally, she looked up and gave me "that smile" that I knew meant I hit a home run.

Exactly at the same time I look over her shoulder to the front door of Target and in walks a friend from church, Kelly, and her lovely 12 year old daughter Kimberly.  Kelly saw me and grinned, hurrying Kimberly along. I could only imagine the conversation. It was either like this:

 Kimberly:  "Mommy, why does Mr. Manis have bunny ears on?"
 Kelly:  "Well, honey, when mommies and daddies love each other, sometimes daddies put on bunny ears."

 Or it was something like this:

 Kimberly:  "Mommy, why does Mr. Manis have bunny ears on?" 
 Kelly: "Well, honey, Mr. Manis is insane."

We bought the eggs and went home. I know what you sick people want to know and you should be ashamed of yourselves. (Wink,Wink)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

God Rest Ye Hairy Gentlemen

The Christmas Season is a reflective time of year and I like to reflect upon my spiritual roots.

There is a misconception that I was raised as a Southern Baptist. I was not. I was raised a Christian, ha, ha.

Here’s the story. My Uncle was raised in Texas and through a series of jobs found himself in Mississippi and met my Aunt. The next job took him to Marietta, Georgia. World War II came and went. Soon, my Uncle and Aunt had twins. My mother, who was trying to escape Mississippi and a horn dog boyfriend, moved to Georgia to help my Aunt with the twins.  My Uncle was a member of The Christian Church and when mom moved Georgia, she joined that church because “Baptists vote on you”.

Once in Georgia, my mother met my father, who was a Methodist. So, once they married, they went to The Christian Church too, whose minister was a gentleman named Jack Daniels. I am not making that up. 
The Christian Church, for you church history buffs out there, is a denomination that doesn’t claim to be a denomination but for the sake of not going crazy when writing about it you call it a denomination. It was part of “The Restoration Movement”, which began in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s and their mission was to “restore” Christianity to back to its First Century roots.

However, like most things Church related, “The Restoration Movement” split into three factions. One was The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). These were the liberal guys. The preachers wore robes (you would not believe how controversial that is) and you heard some really great book reviews as sermons. The most famous member of this branch was Lyndon Baines Johnson. The church with the Jack Daniels pastor was a Disciples church.

Of course, if there is a liberal side, there has to be a conservative side. This faction is The Church of Christ. They do not use musical instruments in these churches. I would advise you not to ask.

Well, in the mid-60’s, Mom and Dad had all of their stair-step kids and moved from our two bedroom house in East Cobb, to a four bedroom house in East Cobb, that was next door to the junior high school and across the street from Wheeler High School. Next door to Wheeler  was built the third kind of “Restoration Movement” church: The Christian Church. It was different from The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) mainly because it was more conservative than that branch but it wasn’t as Conservative as The Church of Christ. Mom decided, in a moment of deep spiritual consideration, that we should go to the church that was closest to us. Thus began my decades long affiliation with The Christian Church that wasn’t The Disciples of Christ.

It was difficult to explain your church to others. When someone asked me what I was and I said “Christian”, they would press further by saying they were a Methodist, Baptist, etc, Christian, and I just said I was a “Christian,Christian”.

It was really a neat a little church and I have life long friends (and a wife) that I met there. Probably, though, when I think back to my childhood days at that church, I think about The Christmas plays that were performed.

Every year, the church allowed the children to put on a Christmas play that would retell the birth of Christ. The year I got my glasses was probably the most memorable.

It was 1967 and I had been alive for eight years. No one ever noticed that I was near sighted. It didn’t make an impression that I sat close to the TV or that I held the book close to my face. Or that I couldn’t catch a ball. That’s just Alan.

But, late that fall there was an eye exam given at school and lo and behold, I was as blind as a bat. I was prescribed a pair of glasses known in the optometry world as “Coke Bottles”. The fuzzy world became clear.

I had my glasses only a few weeks when The Christmas play practice began. I had the part of a Shepherd. We were to watch over our flocks by night. The head shepherd was an adult named Ned and he had the shepherd lines in the play. The problem was he couldn’t remember his lines. I remember being on stage and Ned not remembering to say “Behold, let us go to Bethlehem and find this baby” without another eight year old shepherd boy (Gary) who had memorized the lines repeating it to him.

The director of the play was a rather rotund women who insisted on historical accuracy in this production. So, all us shepherd boys, the oldest was probably eleven, were placed in make up and given beards. I had a white beard. I looked like the abdominal snow man in “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer”.  She also insisted that I should not wear my glasses because they didn’t have glasses back in Biblical times.

I told my mom about that and she hit the ceiling. I remember her coming to the dressing room and telling the director that I had to wear my glasses because I couldn’t see. I also remember her telling the director that “this ain’t Broadway”.

I sit back and I think about this a lot. It didn’t bother the director that an eight boy has a beard, but wearing glasses was just such an historical error. But, it is still a pleasant memory, when I found out what I would look like with a beard and that my mother would stick up for me and my glasses.