Low Kung Fu!
I was talking with a friend of mine last night and about how much things cost these days, and I jokingly said I’m going to start wearing English Leather or Clubman Pinaud rather than continue shelling out close to $100 for a bottle fancy-schmancy, froo-froo smelling “mens” cologne. She replied by telling me after her father passed away her family found a few unopen bottles of the old aftershave and cologne Hai Karate, the classic 1960s and 1970s product for men.
Discontinued in the early 1980s, Hai Karate was one of those beginner colognes on the same level as Brut and Old Spice, but had one the coolest advertising campaigns of the era. As you see in this television commercial, Hai Karate caused women to go so crazy, that each bottle came with a set of detailed self-defense instructions. Proof that the marketers of Axe know that there is no reason to reinvent the wheel, Hai Karate’s tag line was a good one: “Be careful how you use it.”
Since Hai Karate has disappeared from drug store shelves and, also, since the world is in a constant state of retro fever, bottles of Hai Karate are a collector’s item, going for some good money on ebay. It might be worth rummaging through your father’s - or grandfather’s - old boxes in the attic.
March has been a good month for me in terms of freelance writing, with four pieces in three different magazines. This one for Birmingham Magazine titled Birmingham Sportsville, U.S.A., is, without a doubt, the most comprehensive. A story I began working almost a year ago, I wanted to learn how, over the last decade and a half my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, has become a go-to city for an array of special sporting events. Since the mid-1990s Birmingham has successfully the following:
The city is also preparing to open the new downtown baseball complex, Regions Field in the middle of downtown Birmingham. The stadium will be home to the AA Birmingham Barons, marking the first time the minor league club has been in the downtown area since it left Rickwood Field back in the mid 1980s. All of this is happening in a city that has called itself the Football Capital of the South for almost a century.
That phrase can still be seen painted on the side of Legion Field, an aging football stadium known around football circles as the Old Gray Lady - old being the operative term. The stadium which hosted decades of epic University of Alabama football games while Bear Bryant roamed the sidelines hasn’t hosted a Crimson Tide game in almost ten years. These days, Legion Field hosts UAB Blazers home games to tepid crowds, and lost the state high school championships which left for to Auburn and Tuscaloosa (alternating years). Meanwhile, Birmingham struggles to gain support for a multipurpose domed facility that city leaders have wanted to build for close to 20 years.
I had a chance to attend a some cool events, including the 2012 Honda IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama, and I was able to interview some of great drivers including Charlie Kimball and Joao Barbosa for the story. Take a few minutes to read the story and drop me a line to let me know your thoughts.
Ye Ole Tailgater!
If you’ve ever thought that all Englishmen were soccer fans first and foremost, then you’ve obviously never met or heard of Adam Goldstein. A native of London, Goldstein is a lifelong fan of American football, specifically the Chicago Bears. However, it wasn’t until a recent trip to see his beloved Bears play the Arizona Cardinals that he learned of the uniquely American tradition of tailgating. Wanting to learn, and experience, as much as he could about tailgating, Goldstein spent a year traveling the United States to see every NFL team in action. He documented his experiences in a new book, Tailgate To Heaven, published by Potomac Books.
In an article I wrote for the October issue of Tailgater Monthly, I had a chance to interview Goldstein and talk to him about his travels, the people he met, and his thoughts on American football. Take a few minutes to check out my story and drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you think.
Blast from the Past!
I’m currently working on an idea for a magazine article I want to pitch about the more bizarre instances in the history of soccer in America. This video is a short highlight reel from the United Soccer Association championship match way back in 1967. The final matched the Los Angeles Wolves against the Washington Whips in an incredibly high-scoring affair with Los Angeles winning 6-5, scoring the winning goal after over 30 minutes of overtime.
The United Soccer Association (USA) is interesting for another rather odd reason, however. The league was originally scheduled to begin play in 1968 but after another star- up league - the National Professional Soccer League - planned to begin play in 1967, USA officials made the decision to move their start up date a year earlier. In order to get teams on the field, league officials imported entire teams from Europe and South America to represent teams in various cities. For instance, the aforementioned L.A. Wolves were actually the Wolverhampton Wanderers from the English Premiere League and the Washington Whips were represented by Aberdeen F.C. from Scotland.
It may come as no surprise that the USA only lasted for one season - as did the NPSL. The rival leagues morphed into the North American Soccer League (NASL), which was America’s only true professional soccer league from 1968 until the league folded in 1984.
Small School, Big Heart
I have a couple of big stories in the current issue of Tailgater Monthly, including one on a topic that I’ve been interested in writing about for a while - small college football. I became interested in football at smaller universities after getting a chance to see my brother-in-law kick at The University of the South, a Division III school in Sewanee, Tennessee. While nothing can compare to seeing the Crimson Tide take the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium, watching a football game at an historic institution like Sewanee isn’t a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
As I got into this story, I was surprised by just how crazy the people in North Dakota are about football. I wrote about two of the state’s universities in this piece, the University of North Dakota and Dickinson State University. They are as friendly as can be, as well. Scott Karsky, an alum from DSU I interviewed for the story sent me a bottle of sauce he and a buddy have concocted, Brenarsky’s Bloody Mary & Caesar Seasoning. Created especially for a Bloody Mary or a Bloody Caesar - essentially a Bloody Mary that uses Clamato Juice instead of Tomato Juice - a little of this stuff actually makes great hamburgers or a spicy marinade for steak or pork chop. De-friggin’-licious.
I don’t want to give away any more of the story, so click here to read the story for yourself. Also, if you like what you read in the magazine, spend a few bucks and get yourself a subscription.
Big Accordion Solo!
I have a coworker here in the office at the full-time gig who isn’t much of a morning person. At least twice a week I’ll find her in the break room getting a cup of coffee or making copies and the first words out of her mouth will be ‘just shut up’ or something like that. It’s not meant to be anything mean or nasty. It’s just sort of her morning thang, if you know what I’m talking about. My usual response is to say right back “shaddup you face.”
I didn’t realize until recently she hadn’t heard of the old novelty song “Shaddaup You Face” by Joe Dolce. I remember hearing this song once in a while on the radio along with other novelty songs like Weird Al’s Another One Rides The Bus and the Barnes and Barnes tune Fish Heads. To my knowledge, we didn’t get the Dr. Demento Show in Birmingham (at least not at an hour a seven-year-old would be up listening to the radio), so the local DJs might slip it in among the Billy Squire and Matin Briely songs. However, until I decided to look up Joe Dolce on Wikipedia this morning, I had no idea that he is actually a very accomplished writer and poet, and has been living in Australia for almost 35 years.
Dolce has sold sold millions of copies of “Shaddup You Face” worldwide and the song is still the top selling Australian-produced song in the country’s history, 32 years after it was recorded. For those pop-culture smart alecks out there who are, in unison, saying “duh”, I have one thing to say to you.
Shaddup You Face!
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am working on a story about new barbecue traditions and joints near my hometown for a neat little local magazine called Discover St. Clair. I started my tour of small town barbecue in the tiny city of Springville, Alabama at a mighty fine hole-in-the-wall called The Shack Barbecue and Burgers.
While the place was fabulous -best ribs I’ve ever had - I was still hungry. So, I got back in the pick-‘em-up truck and set out for the small town of Leeds, Alabama, the hometown of NBA legend Charles Barkley and where barbecue enthusiasts will find this neat joint, . -Q
Housed in what used to be a Jack’s Hamburgers, Jonathan “Rusty” Tucker opened up his namesake barbecue joint in 2009 - at the age of 24! While that may make many of us feel like lazy sacks of garbage, talking to Rusty will make you feel much better about yourself. The dude is so low-key you’d swear he was a recovering narcoleptic.
Regardless, the dude can cook some ‘cue. If you’re looking for beef, however, you’re out of luck. This is Alabama and the main items are strictly pork. However, you will find one interesting item on his menu - smoked turkey. Rusty smokes these birds on the pit out back and recommends slathering on a little of his white barbecue sauce, one of five varieties he makes from scratch.
The place also reflects his personality in a big way. While he has a few pieces of memorabilia from Alabama and Auburn on the walls, he admits he’s not a huge sports fan. He does have a handful of old guitars hung on the walls as well as a bunch of old rock and blues posters for artists such as Led Zeppelin, The Doors and the Allman Brothers. My favorite is an enormous poster of Stevie Ray Vaughn located in the alcove outside the restrooms. I was tempted to steal it but thought better of it.
If you ever find yourself in Leeds, Alabama, and are hungry for some barbecue, you can’t go wrong with Rusty’s. Otherwise, you can read the full story in Discover St. Clair in February.
After The Storm
I know the college football season is almost over, but take a minute to check out my newest feature story in Tailgater Monthly magazine entitled After The Storm. For this piece I went down to Tusclaloosa for the Crimson Tide’s season opener against Kent State, the first football game at the University of Alabama since an F5 tornado killed 47 people (63 people died state-wide), and injured over 1000 back on April 27.
I took my camera and my tape recorder, and spent the morning interviewing and taking photos of fans, tailgaters, and students five months after the devastating storms. Everyone I talked to was ready for the season to kickoff, but remained reflective and somber about the events of April.
I also spent some time shooting scenes around campus and the city in general. It really is striking how practically all of the devastation happened away from campus, but tore a big chunk out of the city within walking distance of Bryant-Denny Stadium. Most people who know me know that I am a junk-food freak, so to see the empty space that used to be the Krispy Kreme doughnut shop on McFarland Boulevard was difficult to get used to.
Due to length restrictions, some of the people I interviewed didn’t make it into the final piece, including a chat with a senior originally from Texas named Tyler Maskew. Here is a portion of what he had to say about April 27 and the positive vibes that come with Alabama football.
“We heard there was a tornado warning and so we walked outside and saw one go across the river, and then heard there was a larger tornado that had touched down and was coming toward Tuscaloosa. So, we came up to the Fraternity House - we still had cable on here - so we turned on the Weather Chanel and actually watched it live. It came here right over the stadium, actually almost fell right on top of the stadium, then hopped up and went across on 15th Street.
“It was scary. I’ve never seen anything like it. I actually didn’t see it as close as some people did, but it was scary. I have a totally new respect for tornadoes after that.
“It doesn’t feel like an F5 tornado ripped through this town at all. I guess that’s one of the cool things about this city. Everybody came together and did what had to be done to clean it up. Now here we are, first game day 2011 and you would never know a tornado came through here.”
Click here to see my complete photo album from my day in Tuscaloosa. While a lot of progress has been made since the storms, as you’ll be able to see, signs of the devastation are still all around the city. Finally, one last note: I would like to thank my good friend, Corey Clark, for scoring such great tickets, for the great conversation while driving to the game, and for agreeing to be part of the story.
Truth In Reporting
A lot has been said about the disparities between the reports on the Tea Party movement of 2009-10 and these Occupy Wall Street scumbags this year, but I think this photo just about sums it up.