Aug 012014

There is nothing in the world like getting kicked in the balls.

It’s not just the pain, though that is certainly memorable. The defining characteristic is that it’s reliably delayed. When you get a solid shot to the crotch, it doesn’t hurt right away. But you know it’s going to be excruciating in three seconds. I think that anticipation supercharges the misery.

In what must have been December 1984, at the end of the school day, I went out to get on my bus. I looked through the south door of the main building and saw my Algebra I teacher, my principal, my father, and my mother walking slowly and talking.


Mom and Dad had divorced nearly three years earlier and basically couldn’t stand each other. For them to be behaving civilly and discussing something with two school authority figures was not a good sign.

The sight kicked me in the balls, and I knew the pain was coming.

My Algebra I teacher was an intelligent, no-nonsense woman named Duska Brickhouse. She was a capable teacher who believed in rote learning. She consistently assigned 20 to 30 problems every night. She was also a “show your work” person, which I didn’t like, because a lot of the time I could just look at the problem and tell you the answer. “(Showing) my work” was slowing and unnecessary.

So I decided I’d had enough. I didn’t see the point in doing all of the problems. That I could do five or ten of them demonstrated my grasp of the material, and grasping the material was the point. So the hell with the rest of it. I’m not doing all of this extraneous homework.

Hoo, boy.

Oxford City Schools were on four nine-week periods, instead of six six-week periods. And the second nine-weeks of my freshman year in high school, I made a 55 in Algebra I.

That’s an F. It’s the only one I ever made.

The evening that followed me seeing my divorced parents, my teacher, and my principal walking and talking, my dad asked me how I had managed to fail algebra. As Dad and my new stepmother Martha stood over mine and my stepbrother Chris’s report cards, I remember her calmly saying “I don’t think Bo’s is that bad.”

My father replied, at significant volume: “Well, I think it sucks!

I tearfully told him the story. Dad, I just shouldn’t have to do this. It’s unnecessary. You know how smart I am. She knows it too, that witch.

In one of the defining moments of my upbringing, he gently grasped my shoulders, and about six inches from my face, calmly, quietly, and furiously said “Bo, you’re trying to have a power struggle, but you don’t have any power.”

Is that an important life lesson, do you think? Contextually, doesn’t that go something like “pick your battles”? Or “if you keep the small rules, you can break the big ones“?

Then he said that for the third nine-weeks of my freshman year in high school, I would follow a meticulous routine. For each school day, I would keep a form, with sections for each class. In each section, I would write my understanding of the assigned homework, and my teacher would initial it. Then, upon completing said homework, my father would initial it.

Every class. Every day. For more than two months.

I did it. Good thing, too. Because the other thing Dad said was “if you do not complete these objectives, then for the next term I will take a leave of absence from work and sit behind you in every one of your classes to make sure you are taking care of your responsibilities.”

I laughed at this thought, and looked away dismissively.

And in another defining moment of my upbringing, Dad grabbed my shirt collar—the only time in my life he’s ever done so—and pulled me to less than an inch from his face.

I’m serious.

I did put it back together, and I was never in significant academic trouble again.

Lots of times, right or wrong is thoroughly irrelevant.

Who has the power?

 Posted by at 6:30 am
Jul 302014

The way I end up back at Madison Square Mall is that I start wondering how much worse it’s gotten since my last check-in. Then, I start thinking about how easy it would be to get some steps there, and a month or so after my initial wondering, I rip the Band-Aid off and show back up.

The vacancy count has climbed to 57, which puts Madison Square closer to half-empty than a third empty. There were another five or six places that looked occupied, but were closed. GNC was one of these, as was a dress shop bizarrely closed Monday through Wednesday. I doubt that’s allowed in the lease agreement, but it’s not like Madison Square has any weight to throw around. The same four food court eateries are hanging tough.

I’ve previously dismissed comparisons to The Mall as ridiculous. They are no longer so. Sparseness is yielding to unambiguous desolation. There is so little activity now that at times, you feel like you have it to yourself.

CBL, please chime in just anytime with your plans for this property, which is so full of good memories for so many of us. Whether you’re going to redevelop or sell, be about it. This painfully slow descent is absurd.


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There are now several occurrences of four or more vacancies in a row. This is approaching where the Castner Knott men’s store was on the upper level.


Looks about right.


Old Huntsville people, that’s where Coffee Tea & Thee was to my immediate right. The old Disney store location is over my right shoulder. There is nothing from this location all the way around the end by the escalators to this same spot on the other side. It’s either seven or eight vacancies in a row, depending on how you count them.


 Posted by at 2:57 pm
Jul 272014

The Fitbit Zip is a pretty nifty pedometer that uses Bluetooth to sync your progress to the Fitbit site whenever you’re in range. Unfortunately, even with normal use, the silicone clip with which it ships eventually wears out. This exposes the uncomfortable and potentially damaging metal end of the clip. Now the Zip retails for [...]

 Posted by at 11:49 am
Jul 212014

Citing ongoing crises in the Middle East and Ukraine, as well as the continued fragility of the U.S. economy, President Obama today announced that he and his family would vacation for one week at Camp David next month, rather than more than two weeks at Martha’s Vineyard. “After much reflection, I have concluded that I’m [...]

 Posted by at 7:21 am
Jul 162014

You may have read of a kerfuffle involving a parade float that included an outhouse labeled Obama Presidential Library and a scared zombie. Obama’s Justice Department has deemed this worthy of its attention. This is absolutely outrageous. In the first place, Mr. Obama and Mr. Holder have been all but idle in investigating Fast and [...]

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