Monday, May 25, 2009

Southern Living

(Sorry for the low-quality photos. I used my cell phone.)




A Gleason family outing to the mall was on the agenda today. The plan was to go to a mall that was nearly an hour away and then go to Steak n Shake for lunch. After leaving the house at 10 in the morning, I was quickly regretting my neglect to grab my iPod from out of my room. My father had control over the radio, meaning he hooked up an iPod to the stereo and began playing his heavy metal playlist. Typically, I would not have had such a problem with this, but I had had a craving for Death Cab for Cutie and humming "I Will Follow You into the Dark" was not satisfying my hunger for the unique Alternative sound. And the fact that we managed to pass every nose-picker imaginable--man, woman, and child--on the road did not make the excursion more enjoyable. But it turned to humor shortly after my father spotted a Bass Pro Shop located off the interstate. We should have known that even a holiday could not keep away the rednecks--sorry, sportsmen. Ol' Clark Griswald was just so eager to get to Wally World that we had to make the turn. I have to admit, though, this place was pretty amazing.

My father and brother ran around the store looking at hunting equipment while Shanna and I roamed. From afar, the woman's apparel looked pleasing to the eye, until one actually made their way to the section. All of the clothes proved even more that some southern women do not know how to dress. Everything was either more of what I would expect on my grandmother, or what I would hope to never find on anyone. But, it should be made note that their sundresses are actually cute, so if your father/brother/uncle/cousin/husband/friend drags you into the Bass Pro Shop against your will, you can bet to find something there that is worth it.

The other areas of the store were full of interesting odds and ends, junk food, Under Armour merchandise, and tools for the perfect barbecue. From shoes to boats, everything one sportsman or "normie" could ever imagine in one place was at the Bass Pro Shop and all within reach. Aside from the clueless salesclerk assigned to stand behind the watch counter, all the workers were lively, involved, and clearly happy to be there. My favorite area was in the middle where two large aquariums sat full of gar, large-mouth bass, and catfish.

And by keeping to the status quo, the Gleasons left the Bass Pro Shop with no merchandise, but managed to snag 2-for-1 Moon Pies by the cash register. (I got strawberry.)



Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day



Thanks to a meager two hours of sleep, I still cannot line both of my eyes, causing me to put too much sugar in my coffee, which in turn has not only made me feel a little queasy but restless. Sure, it was only one too many spoonfuls, but it was enough for my body to notice, and my taste buds to curdle upon contact with the steaming liquid flowing from my mug this morning. It is possible that, because of all these drawbacks, I have been rendered an emotional wreck. And those that know me are probably saying, under their breath, with forked tongue, how unusual this is for me, but I actually have been moderately inward about my emotions. Despite my usual inability to understand whether wearing your heart on our sleeve is admirable or if being numb is better for everyone involved, I believe that, given the circumstance, hormones had almost nothing to do with how I feel this time.

Today, I went to church with Katie and although I know the church pretty well, it is always weird for me to visit other churches, all the while knowing that my home is in the opposite direction. No matter the companion, I am always wishing I was at my own church than somewhere else. However the pastor at this church played an interesting clip before the worship was over and his sermon began. It was in dedication to the upcoming holiday: Memorial Day.

Fading in and out of images and people, the words, "One day..." stretched across the projected screen, and people began speaking on the idea that, for one day, they were going to set aside any silly complaints they have about their work, traffic, and neighbors, and devote their time to realizing all that soldiers--fallen and survived--have done for America and her people. They are planning, for at least one day, to move past petty differences and reflect on how much God has blessed this great nation. When I saw the video, I had to hold back real tears. Either the video was just that touching that it pierced my soft heart, or I was extremely exhausted and willing to fall, hook, line, and sinker, for anyone's emotionally manipulative material today. Regardless, it spoke to me.

God has blessed America! We have the freedom to believe whatever we want to believe. We have the freedom to do whatever we want to do. We have the freedom to live our dreams. We have the freedom to be ourselves. Here in America, we are free. There are debates that always spur from such declarative statements, but sticking to the idealism of the video, I am pushing all cynicism that I have been taught aside and actually am planning on taking time tomorrow to reflect and thank God for what I have had in the past, what I have now, and what I can have in the future.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, and we all know or have known people that have fought for our country. It is their day tomorrow. Show them you care.

To all my soldiers, past soldiers, future soldiers, and fallen soldiers, I thank you for all you have done. I have a future because you were willing to do more for me and the ones you love. My prayers go out to you all.

Friday, May 22, 2009

High School is a Roller Coaster: A reflection of the four year ride



(As previously published in Ola High School's, The Stang.)

I am going to miss the loud voices reverberating off of the walls, the people clogging the hallways and keeping me from my second period class, couples coupling at convenient corners and then at separate corners with their new partners a week later, and the food that always kept me bloated leaving my self-esteem at a record low when I had to move up a dress size for prom. If only I had gotten more than one year here, I could have experienced everything that my friends still reminisce about at lunch—just once I would like to grimace about past teachers and students that made their lives a living hell. And despite all of these negative aspects to high school, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here.

Coming from Henry County High, I expected the dynamic to be different. By the end of my junior year, the rising seniors at HCHS rounded off to maybe 250 students, and the school was hardly funded enough for any of the extracurricular activities that they wished to house—even our school newspaper was some copier paper stapled together. Despite all of this, that place was my home, and newspaper class was the best time of the day, thanks to our great sponsor, editor, and writers that made up one twisted family.

However, school did not always feel like home when my friends were sent to Ola after freshman year. And when my mother passed in tenth grade, I was beside myself. Many of my friends that remained at HCHS had seen me go through an emotional rollercoaster, and knowing that I had embarrassed myself in front of those people on more than one occasion made me feel insecure. Apparently, losing a parent does not always bring out the best in people. I found myself breaking down at random moments in class, and my peers and I were unsure of what to do to make the outbreaks stop or comfort me. But my friends from Ola reassured me that they were still around if I needed them, and made me feel more secure even with the distance between us. So, in the spring of my junior year, when my father remarried to a teacher, I knew that the best way to spend my senior year would to be with those friends that I have had for years.

I have definitely enjoyed spending my final year of high school as a Mustang, and making more memories with the small group of friends that I know will be with me beyond graduation. I appreciate everyone who has befriended me, even if for a small amount of time this year. You all have made the countdown to graduation easier.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Infomercials



I love those infomercials that depict human beings as either savages that cannot bathe without a proper soap dispenser, or incompetent twits that cannot handle something as simple as the daily routine of squeezing toothpaste from a tube without destroying a bathroom or lighting fire to a toilet. And to make up for the shame that all of humanity carries with them due to their inability to function as a stable individual, they have given man products that improve their lifestyles, such as: dispensers that not only dispense the correct amount of soap into your hand, but can spot all bacteria on your body and attack it with full force, all the while channeling in high-definition stations on a flat-screen television for your entertainment; and toothpaste dispensers that dispense the perfect amount of toothpaste every time, and can stop UFOs before they get within a fifty-mile radius of your home. Forget the fact that these products, cost four "easy" payments of $19.95, plus one very complicated payment in shipping and handling, and the cost of batteries and replacement soap and toothpaste that you will have to pay for because the company just cannot be bothered with offering anymore than one or two extra packages of the hygienic product. Besides that, this deal is perfect!

My most favorite illustration has to be from comedian Brian Regan. Though he does not speak directly about infomercials, he does give mention to how defamatory products and their advertisements can be between the lines:

I’m lookin’ at the Pop-Tarts box and I notice they have directions on there. I give up on this species… They have toaster directions, which, I’m not makin’ this up, the toaster directions are longer than one step. I don’t know how that’s possible that the directions are longer than one. You think it would be, “Step one: Toast the Pop-Tarts. Go ahead, toast ‘em. It’s okay...”

I have read novels such as George Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty Four that make you contemplate, not only society, but the malleability of mankind. It is all too easy for men to throw away their common sense, knowing that due to their lack of real thought, they can sue any company and any individual for something that is otherwise avoidable. Because of these people, it is now a necessity to put warnings and even more elementary directions on labels and in commercials. I thank the procrastinators of my generation and yours for their sense of humor. Only true comedians, clearly wittier than the Brian Regans and Dane Cooks of the world, can giggle as they get over a quarter of a million dollars from a dispute over a coffee cup not clearly stating that in fact, the coffee was going to be hot. (Does steam rising from the lid not tip people off anymore?) It is because of this reason, that novels of dystopia and their warnings to society have been written. Those that run our world (i.e. the government, CEOs, etc.) have come to find that people are not willing to use their brains anymore, and so now they take advantage of such. Sometimes, I just want to throw my hands up in the air and, like Brian Regan, say, "I give up on this species."

Case and point: infomercials are not only annoying, but insulting. I hate them all. Unless, that is, the person that is supposed to show off the inane product comes across as incompetent themselves. Then I can find humor in it and mock it as I eat my cereal in the morning.

(And of course, other thoughts are running through my mind as I write, of how insane it is to me that some men think they are in their right to try to rule over all other men--kudos to Orwell for that--but I decided it is better to stay within my topic tonight... You are welcome.)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I Love My Town





Picking flowers. Twirling in sun-dresses. Blowing bubbles. Chasing balloons. Passing out Jesus pamphlets. Ah, the festivities! How I do love them! I find the depictions of small towns like Mayberry and Stars Hollow to be not only humorous, but quite accurate. The best time to go out and revel in all that McDonough has to offer is during three very specific times of the year: Christmas when the shops in the square are decorated and lit up, during the spring time when the air is cool and the flowers are beginning to bloom, and during the summer time when all the events occur.

Saturday, May 16 was the glorious Geranium Festival. I go every year. Even if you are not an elderly man or woman, a soccer mom, a little kid, or a grandmother addicted to mom jeans, you can still enjoy everything that this festival has to offer. Booths are setup throughout the entire square, some stretching out into the roads--anything from arts and crafts to food.

Parking by the nearest t-ball field, Shanna and I made our way up to the square and noticed some of the early-risers retreating back to their vehicles with arms full of pointless possessions. Women, and their babies, performing a balancing act between whatever may be in their arms and the stroller they are attempting to push down the sidewalk. They carry anything from flowers--which I never understood due to its availability in any local Wal-Mart--to jams, and even handmade crafts like wind chimes and birdhouses. In a town where the cheesy, the trendy, the eccentric, and the classy clash on a regular basis, it is fun to watch this small town live up to its refutable reputation that many already have with them upon entering its city limits.

Though the clouds blanketed the sky and the rain trickled down ever so often, I still managed to accumulate a worse sunburn than I had already gotten from field day Friday at school. On one end of the square, there was a booth with free lemonade--and why they did not charge, I am unsure, they would have made a killing. Excited, I reached for some and a nice man commenting on my Canon Powershot handed me a pamphlet that read "A Love Story." If only I had known the humor was already about to commence. Opening the pamphlet, I had to stifle a laugh before I was back in the center of the square. It was the story of Jesus and how I should be ashamed of my sins and go to church. (Thank you, lemonade man, for your words of wisdom. I shall go home and repent tonight. I already attend a church, but I love the Mrs. Kim enthusiasm! Really.) At least I was refreshed.

Turning corners there were people with their dogs--all small, all yapping at the wind--and little kids running around freely because people have clearly forgotten what it means to take care of their children. I found myself playing babysitter yet again Saturday as I picked up small children that had fallen and were crying, and picked up many bottles and toys that were thrown out of strollers while their mothers and grandmothers remained blissfully unaware as they gazed at the wooden coat hangers with the Little Mermaid illustrations. And my how time flies as you are doing all of this. Nearly an hour had gone by before the real excitement happened. On the corner where one church sits, a band setup and sang some songs of worship with their bass just a tad louder than the rest of the band making it sound like a one-man show from far away. And on the other end of the square was some band that was playing music right next to the bulk of the booths that had food. If you were hungry during that long day of walking, you would have not found much escape from the insanity.

Later on, a karaoke machine came out, and to my relief, found that no one actually volunteered to sing while I was around. But the host did find himself enough time to loosen his sweatpants, recline in his lawn chair and start humming obnoxiously into the microphone until someone stepped up to the plate. I was at least twelve feet away before the good lady did blow.

Through all the chaos and the wonderful smells of perfume, cigarette smoke, funnel cakes, and body odor, I found myself enjoying almost every minute of the Geranium Festival. (And yes I got funnel cake, and boiled peanuts that day.) I even managed to get a glimpse of some women from the Red Hat Society trotting through the square together, smiling and pointing at the precious butterfly-shaped stained glass decorations, and cutting up together. They were actually one of the cuter things I saw that day. It is nice to see older women with their friends doing something fun like putting on a lavish red and purple hat and going out on the town. My grandmother would never do that. But I bet it is a lot of fun.

It is a shame that I will be nearly three hours away from all of this excitement when I go to college. I plan on trying to come back as often as I can. No matter how big McDonough gets, this town just never changes. I guess you can thank the people that run our "historical society," and other leaders for that. Though I find many reasons to laugh at others in town or just laugh at the corny events that happen during the summer, I would not want it any other way. This place in my home. I love my town.