Houston, We Have Loads of Surprises

“My dream is to become local everywhere…The places I am part of, I try to be like a local. It’s just the most beautiful feeling.”-Jose Andres

The first father son sports trip of 2023 both started and ended in New Orleans, Louisiana, but the main event was in Houston, Texas. Per usual, my eight year old son was immune to the details, excited to just get in the car and go.

For simplicity’s sake, the general outline of the trip was as follows: Trailblazers and Dame Dolla Lillard at Pelicans last Sunday night, Celtics and my son’s hero Jayson Tatum at Rockets Monday night, and the Lebron-less Lakers at Pelicans Tuesday night.

Seemed simple enough.

As it neared game time last Sunday night in New Orleans, it became apparent that Dame Dolla, aka the electric Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers, was going to take the night off. Slightly annoyed, I pointed that out to my son and then tried to find a silver lining. The Pelicans rushed out to a huge lead thanks to shooting guard Trey Murphy III, and then all of a sudden it looked like he might have a career night. We hung on every three that he hit, over and over and over, until he closed in on forty points. Early in the fourth quarter, he made a back door cut and finished with a monster reverse jam as the crowd went bananas. 41 points, a new career high, and an electric performance to overshadow Dame’s absence was how we started our trip.

Then it was off to Baton Rouge.

At the hotel, I told my eight year old son Banks that there was a live tiger in front of LSU’s football stadium, and I couldn’t tell if he was excited or thought that I was an idiot. Regardless, our hotel was five minutes away from Mike the Tiger’s habitat, so off we went.

Mike was asleep when we arrived, but woke about ten minutes into our mulling about. What a beautiful creature and an unexpected detour to begin our jaunt over to Houston.

Banks knew that we were going to the Blazers game the night before, but he had no idea where we were headed Monday. He randomly guessed Cleveland, and I just giggled.

When we arrived in Houston, I had the hotel staff tell him where we were. Because he and I are serious NBA fans, he quickly realized that the Rockets had a game that night, they were hosting his beloved Celtics, and that’s why mom had sneakily packed all the green gear into his new suitcase. We hurried up to the room and he put on his gear from head to toe, excited about what might be in store for the next four hours before game time.

The next four hours before game time might possibly be some of the most memorable moments of any of our ever increasing father son sports trips. Guessing that the Celtics were staying about four blocks away at the Four Seasons, we walked over and voila! Banks got to see every single Celtic up close and personal, dapped up a few, and held a hilarious conversation with longtime Celtics ex-player and personality, Brian Scalabrine.

After about two hours of this, we walked back to the hotel and chilled for a few minutes before starting the brief walk over to The Toyota Center. As we made our way over, we had to walk through a beautiful park, and we both noticed a pickup soccer game going on. Banks looked at me like, Yo, we have to play. And so we did. After about twenty five minutes, I told him we needed to jet. When we arrived moments later out front of the arena, they had arcade basketball goals setup, and Banks looked at me like, Yo, we have to play. And so we did.

I was beginning to think that I had wasted a decent amount of money for damn good seats to the Rockets-Celtics game, but we eventually got in there. The Rockets wore their old school San Diego Rockets uniforms, which were spectacular. Jaylen Brown dropped 43 for the Celtics. The game went down to the final play, and the Celtics lost by two.

My son was pissed.

I awoke Tuesday morning to a sick son. My heart sank for him as he was in obvious discomfort. I wondered what was wrong, and in racking my brain, I quickly realized that we had eaten nothing but junk over the last 36 hours. I usually try to find great local joints everywhere we go, but due to our tiger, meet the team, soccer, and arcade basketball detours, we had only eaten nachos, popcorn, and ice cream, and it had torn my son’s stomach up.

I told him to just relax and that in a few hours, instead of tackling that day’s adventures, we would leisurely meander home. Prior to the sickness, we were going to tour Minute Maid Park, home of the World Champion Houston Astros, and then meet granddaddy in New Orleans for dinner and Lakers-Pelicans on the way home. Around 11am, we packed up and checked out, and as we rolled by the baseball stadium on the way out, a sports miracle occurred. He was healed!

On the bilingual tour at the stadium, he was like Dennis the Menace, clowning around with the tour guide like he hadn’t been vomiting just three hours before. We got to go down to the field and sit in the dugout, and I of course got an on field fitted cap to add to my collection.

We ate and drank blandly on the drive home, touch and go about whether dinner and Lakers would actually happen. As the day wore on, everyone decided we were a go. Everyone except rush hour Baton Rouge traffic. What a cluster.

We made it to Blue Oak BBQ in New Orleans in time for me to scarf down their incredible spicy chicken sandwich, and we got into our seats with one minute to spare. The Lakers whipped the Pelicans. Anthony Davis dropped 35. And my son inexplicably asked for more arena food.

So we had our first ever smoothie from Smoothie King at The Smoothie King Center. Strawberries and bananas instead of a hot dog.

As I mentioned, when we arrived in Houston, the valet out front of our hotel opened my door as is customary. I asked him to tell my son where we were. He looked confused, like why doesn’t your son know where he is. I told him that today was a surprise, and that he needed to know what city he was in and what kind of game might be going on down the street in a few hours.

I kid you not, the valet started tearing up. He mentioned to me that he and has dad had taken some memorable father son sports trips. He asked if we did this often, and I said as often as humanly possible. He asked if we would do more of these, and I told him absolutely.

So he told Banks that he was in Houston, home of the Houston Rockets. Without missing a beat, my son then told him that the Rockets were statistically the worst team in the NBA.

And the valet’s tears turned to laughter.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Golf: Doing Something Different

For my first three winters in Coastal Mississippi, I just grinded on through. I did nothing different from what I did during the summer. I practiced. I played. I did wear more clothes. But otherwise, I did what I thought was best which was just keep playing.

There was only one problem: winter golf and summer golf might as well be Japanese and German. The ball doesn’t travel as far. The grass is super thin. It’s often wet and muddy. And most importantly, my body doesn’t really work in cold weather. Mind you, it’s not Minnesota cold, but at this point, my forty year old body is looking for conditions where it has a chance to operate as best as it can.

So this past winter, my fourth down south, outside of a handful of outings, I knocked it on the head. After three previous winter seasons of grinding, I had found those couple of months to be confidence killers more so than anything due to the less than desirable conditions. And if you know anything about high level golf, confidence is everything.

It was brilliant, actually. I enjoyed real time with family, nights in New Orleans, had an actual holiday season, ate lots of great food, watched the kids grow, and took a few trips.

I basically got to enjoy my other interests, and I absolutely loved it. But I’d be lying if I said golf wasn’t always in the back of my mind. Should I be playing? Should I be practicing? Will I forget how to play? I’ve spent nearly four years building something really cool, and now I just take two months off? It was a slippery slope.

In roughly three and a half years, I’m very proud to have gone from a 14 handicap to finishing 7th in the PGA Gulf States Section Assistant Player of the Year race. (I missed 4th place by a mere eight points, but who’s counting.) But if you know anything about me, you know I have about as much interest in finishing 7th in something as I do having a hole in my head.

I know what it took to get here. Hard work. Sacrifice. Lunacy, at times. I know what it’s going to take to get to that next level. I also know that none of this is possible if my body is broken, my mind is fried, or my confidence is low. So right or wrong, it was time to make an adjustment.

I signed up for my first tournament of 2023 with absolutely no expectations. I had really enjoyed my offseason and played very little golf. But if you think that I wasn’t thinking and tinkering and prepping mentally for 2023, you obviously haven’t grasped the concept of abk yet. A couple of days before last Monday’s first tournament, something kind of clicked, but there were still no expectations.

And then just like that, it was game on. I fired three birdies on my front nine for a best ever tournament nine hole score of 33 before I got tired and lost a little luster. But if you want to talk about something that will boost the confidence of a still relative newcomer to tournament golf, have no expectations and shoot a front nine 33. I couldn’t wait to get to the course the next day. The offseason was over.

I played three more times last week, and I couldn’t have been happier. I’m a full month ahead of where I thought I’d be. On the one side, I’m behind the eight ball in terms of golf endurance and fitness. But on the other, my confidence is in midseason form already.

I made the decision to do something different over the winter because it was needed, and the early results look promising. But now I’m going to have to continue doing things differently as my life priorities and golf goals evolve, align, and oftentimes even clash.

My whole journey is about doing things differently, so I don’t even know why I think twice anymore.

abk = do things differently. Do things differently = keep getting better.

Have a great week.-Benj

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The Video, The Moment, or Both?

“Literally, anything could happen.”-abk

When I embarked on this journey just under six years ago, I had no idea what was going to happen. Literally, no idea. As I worked with my good friend, Junior, on the early stages of the idea that is now anything but khakis®️, we always came back to this one thought: document the journey. Take pictures, make videos, and write blogs about your thoughts, feelings, and interests. You just never know.

Early on, I wrote a piece that garnered 35,000 reads and was my introduction to both internet trolls and adulation. As time went on, I developed the skill where I could document the moment, still enjoy the moment, and then enjoy the moment again when I watched what I had documented. It’s a skill that I’m glad I’ve developed and one that I use every single day.

As such, I now have an immense library of pictures and videos of awesome moments from the journey. I have the day I shot 67 on video. I have my albatross on video. I have my best nature photographs on display @anythingbutkhakisphotography. I have pictures of rainbows in Iceland, bananas sunsets, meaningful family photos, all of my travels, and then pictures that just turned out cool. When I look at each of those photos, I am immediately transported to that moment or day.

I only share about 5% of what I snap, mostly the things that I find interesting. Sometimes no one sees it. Sometimes a few hundred people see it. Sometimes a whole hell of a lot of people see it. You just never know.

This past Christmas Day, I made a video of my son getting a new soccer goal and then the subsequent crossbar challenge/penalty shootout that he and I had. I was 100% in the moment…I just had the video rolling. It turned out to be a really cool video, one that I sent to my family and then posted on my Instagram page.

As with everything I post, I looked at it for a minute and then got on with life, so I didn’t think twice about anything. But then it started to get a little more interaction than my usual videos. Then I got a new follower here and there. Then it just kind of blew up. As of this writing, it’s been watched 103,400 times. A Christmas Day father/son soccer practice in rural Mississippi. You just never know.

Last Tuesday night, the Denver Nuggets were in town to play the New Orleans Pelicans. The Nuggets’ stars were questionable as to whether they were going to play, the Pelicans were on a big losing streak, it was Tuesday night, and there was a huge storm about to blow in. Due to this combination, tickets were much more inexpensive than usual. After keeping my eye on them all day, I finally pulled the trigger on two seats in row 3 near the Pelicans tunnel and bench.

My son and I made the drive over, had an incredible dinner (not the point), and then settled in for the game. As we got down to our seats, there was a policeman right there, which I explained to my son was because we were so close to the players. I told the policeman good evening, and he immediately saw that I had a very excited almost eight year old with me.

Fast forward to halftime, and the policeman, nearby usher, and one other fan invited my son to stand directly in the line of the players walking out of the tunnel. I can’t remember who fist bumped him first, but then came his favorite player Jaxson Hayes. Then came Valunciunas. Then came Alvarado. Then Jones. Then Murphy. A whole lot of fist bumps. Then halftime was over.

My son was literally shaking he was so excited, but he had no idea. He sat back down in his seat, but immediately the nearby usher waved him back over. Quick, quick. Zion is coming.

That would be Zion Williamson. Main man. Best player. 2023 All Star starter even though he is injured. Carolina boy. Former Duke player. Dad, aka me, has his jersey.

He strutted right up to my son, smiled that billion dollar smile, then gave my son the best fist bump ever. Zion was grinning ear to ear. Banks was grinning ear to ear. I was grinning ear to ear.

And my phone was in my back pocket. You just never know.

This coming Saturday, Lebron and the Lakers just so happen to be in New Orleans. He is currently 117 points away from being the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, and depending on what happens this week, Saturday night could be the night it happens.

I’ve got my eye on tickets, but as of right now they are exorbitantly priced. I told my son I would keep my eye on them, but even if we do go, don’t expect to fist bump Lebron James.

Because it will be hard to fist bump Lebron from the seats up in the rafters, although you just never know.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Pure Joy in The QC

“That’s why you go to the game.”-abk

For those not familiar with anything but khakis ®️, two of my favorite past times are sports and travel. I love each of these independent of each other, but when I can combine the two, my juices really get going.

When I lived in North Carolina, I had season tickets for the Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets for years. Through work, I went to nearly every single Carolina Panthers game. Now that I’m down in the Deep South and have taken a liking to the New Orleans Pelicans, I am pondering my options there.

But I’ve always thought that following my team around on the road would be the absolute coolest. To be a fan of the Hornets, Panthers, or Pelicans and go watch them in Oklahoma City, Las Vegas, or New York.

I’ve done plenty of this. I’ve flown to Cleveland to see my Panthers play the Browns. I’ve driven to West Lafayette, Indiana, to see my Penn State Nittany Lions play Purdue University in football. I’ve bought great seats when my Hornets came to New Orleans.

But as my wife kindly reminds me quite often, it’s not always about me. Enter my son. Enter his Boston Celtics and his favorite player Jayson Tatum. Enter what I can only imagine is going to be an incredible next ten to fifteen years of family, sports, and travel.

I neither told my son nor my parents that we were going to Charlotte. (That’s the abk way.) My sister, her husband, and I cooked this entire surprise visit up.

With the move to coastal Mississippi and the lifestyle that I have designed, I don’t see my parents nearly enough. And since I hadn’t seen them over the holidays, I needed to go hug their necks. I looked at this date. I looked at that date. But MLK Day weekend kept jumping out.

The way my brain works, I wondered if the Hornets were home. Visit my family, eat some NC grub, see the city, catch a game. Makes sense to me. When I opened the schedule and saw that they were indeed home, I was sold. When I saw WHO they were playing, I did the damn thing.

Hornets vs Celtics. Uptown Charlotte. MLK Day 2023.

I needed two last minute plane tickets. $900 a piece from Gulfport. Only $400 a piece from Mobile. Done. We needed 8 tickets to the game. $300 a piece down low. $67 a piece up high. Done. I needed to get Banks out of school on Tuesday, a skill I have become quite adept at after our recent visit to Harvard lol. Done.

My son thought he was going for an afternoon drive and barely kissed his mom goodbye. Over the phone, my mom was going on and on about how she and dad were going to lunch and a game on Monday in Charlotte. I just nodded over the phone as I drove to the airport, all of the parties clueless as to what was about to happen.

As the icing on the cake, I texted Miss Tina, my son’s favorite teacher/babysitter/nanny/everything for the first few years of his life. I asked her to make a surprise appearance at lunch. She rearranged some things and made it work. By the way, no one knows I’m coming. No one knows you’re coming. It’s going to be great.

When my sister jumped out of the “Uber” to pick us up at the Charlotte airport, my son’s reaction was priceless. His cousins’ reactions were equally as priceless. When I told the big man on game day that he should probably wear his Celtics gear that his mom had sneakily packed into his suitcase, he lost it. When my parents were looking for a parking spot prior to Monday lunch and I peered around the corner, my mom’s reaction was priceless. When she saw Banks with me, she got Grandma Giddy. When Miss Tina saw my son and my son saw Miss Tina, I started crying.

The visit was too short, but great. We talked, laughed, and ate. I was curious if my son would actually watch the game or, since he was with his cousins who he loves, would they have his attention?

It didn’t take long to get my answer. As we walked toward the arena, he started hollering at other Boston fans on the street. When we got to our seats and he spotted Tatum warming up, he got dialed in. When we went to the Fan Shop at halftime that lingered into the start of the third quarter, he got quite annoyed at me. And when Tatum hit that final three pointer with roughly fifteen seconds left to give him 51 points for the game, my son started high fiving anyone nearby wearing green. As this all went down, I thought to myself, I know pure joy when I see it. This kid loves the Boston Celtics.

He’s seen the Celtics in Boston. He’s seen the Celtics three times in New Orleans, including the day Kobe Bryant died. He’s now seen them in Charlotte. His birthday is in three weeks. As his present, he specifically requested to go to Milwaukee to see the Bucks play the Celtics. I had a look, but I’m not even abk enough to pull this one off. Midweek, Valentine’s Day. I told him no, but that I’d figure something out.

I figure Houston is only a six hour drive away, and I hear the Rockets host the Celtics some Monday in the near future. So stay tuned, and stay abk.

Have a great week.-Benj

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2023: Leaving Room for Surprises

In abk World, Mondays during the day are holy. I don’t schedule anything, I don’t commit to anything, and quite honestly, I often don’t do anything. With the amount of interests that I have and the somewhat rigorous schedule that I keep, Mondays from 9-4 are MINE.

So when I got a text from one of our members on Monday morning to play golf around noon, my initial thought was no, not on my Mondays. Not to mention I hadn’t played serious golf in almost five weeks due to a back injury, and this match would be with three excellent players.

But it was a picture perfect day, and it was as good of a day as any to get back into the groove. So with very little expectation of myself, I reluctantly texted back yes.

In matches like this, there is usually some semblance of two man match play, switching partners every six holes, and a skins game. But on this day, for whatever reason, we played a four ball, the professionals versus the (very good) amateurs for all 18 holes. My partner, a man who has been a professional for as long as I have been alive, was also celebrating a milestone birthday. It had all the makings of an electric day, I just didn’t know it yet.

Since my partner wasted no time getting the party started, I’m not going to waste anymore of your time. He birdied the first hole and nearly birdied the second. I then birdied three AND four. We both narrowly missed on five, he birdied six, we both narrowly missed on seven, he birdied eight, and we both narrowly missed on nine for a resounding five under par on the front nine that was six inches away from being nine under par.

Hole ten was kind of ho hum, but then he birdied eleven, I birdied twelve, and he eagled thirteen. I literally left it overhanging the lip for birdie on fourteen, misread a short one on fifteen, watched my partner birdie sixteen, then let out a massive fist pump when both of us birdied seventeen. Hole eighteen was very anticlimactic as the match was long over, leaving us all just laughing and joking about what a fun day that had been. My partner and I smirked and fist bumped back in the cart, knowing the performance was good, but not realizing yet just how good it really was.

Sixty one. We shot 61 on the day. Eleven under par on the four ball. Bananas! Ten birdies, one eagle, and only one duplicate birdie. That, my friends, was one of the most fun days I have had out on the course in a long time. The sun was shining, the birdies were flowing, and my back felt like my back again.

And to think I almost stayed home and did nothing.

Have a great week.-Benj

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2022: abk Thoughts and Musings

“You CAN have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.”- Oprah Winfrey

-The most effective way for me to sit down, relax, and reflect is to be forced to.

-I felt my lower back getting fatigued, and then last Tuesday I bent over, and that was that.

-It’s going to be about 20 degrees this week for Christmas (which I love), so I’ll just chill, recover, and be ready to go in January.

-Alright, let’s get to it: reflections from 2022.

-For almost four years now, I haven’t sat in a meeting, in person or virtual. It’s glorious.

-99.9% of the time, I wear dad shoes, golf shoes, or slides.

-Boston, Detroit, Memphis, New Orleans, Atlanta, Charlotte. My son loved Boston the most, but that Detroit trip was pretty incredible.

-Big cities provide me endless inspiration.

-I would jet ski out in The Gulf every week if it weren’t such a pain in the ass to prep before and clean after the ride.

-Creativity cannot be forced. Nor should it be stifled.

-Variety and action are two of my favorite words. Routine and tradition are two of my least favorite.

-It really just comes down to how much risk you are willing to take and how much you believe in yourself.

-My son and I try to play chess at least every other night.

-He loves soccer, but I think he could care less about golf.

-Be the first one to step up and take the penalty kick, and just put it in the damn corner. If you miss, make the next one.

-The food in New Orleans is incredible. I’ve been going there a lot more recently.

-Attending Coach K’s final game at The Final Four against UNC on a Saturday night in The Big Easy was absolutely fire.

-My dad and I walked up the 18th hole together on Pinehurst # 2, and then I almost made the birdie putt in front of the gallery. Moment of the year candidate.

-Making real progress on my PGA work while simultaneously raising a one year old is almost impossible.

-The atmosphere for a Charlotte FC game is so much better than a Panthers game. With half the crowd.

-When I play in a tournament, I only wear golf shoes that I have custom designed.

-Paradise Pointe. Fall foliage. Sweetens Cove. Family. Football. We needed one more day, though.

-I finished 7th in my PGA Section’s Assistant Player of the Year race. That’s a great start for my first full year competing.

-My average score in tournament play this year was mid-70s. That’s a good start, but it needs to get better.

-My worst score I shot the entire year was 81. I shot it three times: Pinehurst # 2 from the back tees, The Preserve with two triple bogies, and a round at Shell Landing in insane conditions.

-I turned forty this year and abk turned five. Am I getting wiser? Who knows?

-I had to put my beloved Becks down this year. She was almost seventeen. She lived one hell of a life.

-I love to write. Including this one, I published 36 written pieces this year. I just love to make creative content, whether anyone sees it or not.

-I was trying to go see Penn State in The Rose Bowl for New Years, but there is just too much going on that week. Not to mention it would be very uncomfortable being on a plane with my sore back.

-But a return trip to Los Angeles is on the list.

-An NBA game is the absolute best sporting event to go to with your kid. It’s entertainment x sport x fashion x pop culture.

-I probably taught 350-400 adult lessons, two Jr. League seasons, and one kids camp this year.

-I don’t care if you have any talent, but you have to try. And you have to want to be there.

-It makes me very happy to watch people get better at anything.

-I really, really enjoy sports betting. In a nerdy research way, not a renegade gambler way.

-My son has my curiosity. My daughter has my fire.

-You have to learn to enjoy the process of doing whatever it is you are doing. Enjoy the failures. Enjoy the mistakes. Enjoy the pain. Enjoy it all, and life gets really good.

-I’ve got a lot I want to say, but I’m not a fan of blabbing. That’s why I write and dress the way I do.

-The unwritten rule in this household is that you cannot be boring. You just can’t.

-In direct contrast, I’m trying to get my tournament golf mindset to be as boring as possible.

-I’m excited for Christy to experience an entire summer off without having a newborn attached to her.

-So what’s up for 2023? More golf. More travel. More nature. More sports. More learning. Watch the kids grow.

-abk living is being completely engaged at all times with things that interest you.

-Happy Holidays, and see you next year!

More Than a Pizza

For roughly three and a half years now, I’ve been searching for a really great pizza down here. There’s a local joint with good pizza, a couple of places with decent pizza, but nothing close by is really exceptional.

When I travel to other cities, especially cities known for their pizza like Chicago, Detroit, and New York, it’s must see TV. And don’t forget about that time when I was in Bologna, Italy, and instead of ordering two slices of pizza, I accidentally ordered two entire pies. (Oops.)

Long story short, I love my pizza, and it was time to do something about it.

Monday night in New Orleans, Pelicans versus the Thunder is about 75% less expensive than Friday night in New Orleans, Pelicans versus the Celtics. I had a free day, my son was dying to go, and I had a hankering for some pizza.

Once I saw that tickets to the game were only a nickel and a dime, I decided we would bebop over to The Big Easy, enjoy the evening, and splurge on dinner. A big pizza dinner. And NOT an arena pizza dinner.

Deciding where to eat in one of the greatest food cities in the world is both very easy and deceptively tricky. So, so many incredible options.

I took out my phone and Googled best pizza slices in New Orleans, and then I let the games begin. Read the descriptions, look at the pictures, get a feel for the vibe. Make sure the neighborhood is safe (very important in The Crescent City) and that the place is kid friendly, although Banks has been eating at nice restaurants since he was a baby.

After perusing about ten spots, I made a firm decision. It was off to New Orleans for pizza and Monday Night Basketball.

From the moment I laid my eyes on the menu, I knew what we were having. Banks would enjoy the place’s take on a cheese pizza, and I would sample the pork meatball pizza.

I am not exaggerating when I say both 12” pizzas were completely gone in under ten minutes. I don’t think we breathed. After Banks proclaimed that this was the best pizza he had ever eaten, he and I swapped slices (he wasn’t lying).

The cherry on top was that we still had room for dessert, and much to my surprise, Banks ordered the in-house made olive oil and black pepper ice cream. It was smooth as silk, with a little burn in the throat.

As we drove from the restaurant to the game, he asked me if we could get popcorn at the game. I giggled while thinking to myself that this kid’s appetite is going to bankrupt me.

The game was fun. We got to see Zion Williamson bounce around. The Pelicans won. I won my Under 232/Thunder +5.5 parlay.

But as I drove home, as I recapped the night to my family, friends, and colleagues, I found myself thinking about the pizza. A simple cheese pizza on a Monday night in New Orleans.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Journey: The End of an Era

“I like being exhausted. I like to exhaust myself. I want to be totally…used up, you know, by the end.”- Christian Bale

When Becks Bostic became my companion almost seventeen years ago, her energy level was on another level. Wild and crazy was an understatement. When we went on walks, she walked me. When we went on runs, she stayed step for step. When I asked her to be still, she couldn’t.

Fast forward almost seventeen years, that energy was completely depleted. She couldn’t see. She couldn’t hear. She could barely stand. Her bladder had a mind of its own. It broke my heart to think it was the same dog, but it was.

So on Tuesday morning, through a heavy onslaught of my tears, an absolutely incredible life came to an end.

She had as many, if not more, negative attributes than positive ones. She didn’t listen. She couldn’t sit still. She ignored invisible fences, even while they shocked her. She ate everyone’s food. She fought everyone else’s dog. She exploded pillows. She destroyed toys.

But she loved fiercely. For sixteen years, nine months, and eleven days, we were together. We probably spent about six thousand days with each other. Walking, running, watching TV, snacking, wrestling, and playing. I talked to her like she was a human. She knew everything about me!

She and Christy had a love/hate relationship. She nuzzled both kids protectively. She messed with Tucker, fought Sarah, snuggled with Happy, and largely ignored Flash.

She was one of a kind. That’s just how she was wired.

For roughly fourteen years, regardless of what shenanigan she had pulled that day, she hopped into my bed at night, and we snuggled ourselves to sleep. That all changed about three years ago when she started having trouble with her bladder, so she couldn’t sleep in bed. She was still as lively as the day was long, but instead of a good snuggle to end the day, it became a mere pat on the head.

About a year ago, she really started going downhill. She was still a menace, but only a partial menace. She laid down a lot, but I don’t think she ever got comfortable. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched someone or something so full of life lose that zest, but I can assure you, for me, it was torture.

She was with me for my entire adult life. Monroe, Wingate, Charlotte x 2, The Farm, The Fishing Camp, and Ocean Springs, MS. Every day when I came home, she barked like a maniac then kissed me on the nose when I walked through the door and bent down.

I can’t fathom that she is gone. I literally thought that she would live forever, but it was time.

Her legacy will live with my children. I am able to care for and dote on them almost solely because of the relationship Becks and I had. We went through the entire life cycle together: newborn to elder. She taught me how to take care of someone other than myself.

I have more stories of her than you can imagine. Almost seventeen years of them. She dressed up for Halloween. She got bitten by snakes. She picked fights with dogs five times her size. Much to my chagrin sometimes, she never wavered on who she was.

She lived a very abk life a good decade before abk was ever invented. I love her. I miss her. My baby girl. May she rest in peace.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Traditions: The First Weekend in November

For the past 73 years, on the first Friday in November at Unionville Elementary in Unionville, NC, barbecue and brunswick stew have taken center stage. As a child, my parents would drive the twenty minutes from our house on an often cool and overcast autumn day so that we could pig out that evening. The barbecue was great, but the brunswick stew was phenomenal, so much so that I’ve still not found a version that is better.

Regrettably, I have not partaken in the Unionville BBQ in a long, long time. First, I no longer live in North Carolina, and second, for whatever reason, the first weekend in November has become my jam. Five years ago this weekend, I ran my first New York City Marathon. Four years ago, I did it again. Three years ago, I vacationed just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee at this beautiful place called Paradise Pointe with my family. Two years ago, I played golf throughout Arkansas and Missouri en route to Kansas City for the Panthers-Chiefs game with my friend Jay. Last year, with a seven week old in tow, we rented this little cabin in the woods, did a little leaf peeping, but in retrospect, it was a bust. (Why does anyone travel with a newborn?)

So we had to come back this year with a bang!

As much as I love going to new places and experiencing new things, there really is SOMETHING about this place. My sister randomly found it online a few years ago, and after a wonderful experience there almost exactly three years ago, we all made our return to Paradise Pointe. However, I did have one special request.

Just over a month ago, I sent my sister and brother in law this text.

Very important stuff here. Load up on the goods and let’s have a big Saturday night dinner once we arrive. Let’s eat, let’s watch football, and let’s check out the incredible view.

Then let’s get back to doing exactly the same things we did three years ago.

It was the exact same weekend. We stayed in the exact same house, in the exact same rooms. We ate at two of the exact same restaurants. We played golf at the exact same golf course. It is very un-abk behavior to do things exactly the same, but the place is just so damn cool.

What are the odds that we find this place halfway in the middle of both families that is crazy affordable, has bananas views, has a massive swimming pool on site, is close to both a nice sit down restaurant and tasty hole in the wall, overlooks fall foliage, and is fifteen minutes away from a Top 50 Modern golf course in America? Sprinkle in some Unionville barbecue and brunswick stew, and what is there to change?

(It could have been colder because I love sweater weather and we were about a week past peak leaf season, but I digress.)

Throughout the entire four days, I was just constantly fulfilled. Every little piece of the puzzle brought me joy. I got my family fix, my football fix, my food fix, and my fall foliage fix.

If we can do this every three years, that would be incredible. But in the meantime, I wonder if the Unionville BBQ would just ship to Mississippi?

Have a great week.-Benj

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Finding a Way: Volume 73

Without traffic, it is exactly three hours from my house on the coast of Mississippi to The Refuge golf course just outside of Jackson. This is important because at the eleventh hour on Monday night, I found out that my early morning childcare option for Tuesday had fizzled out. Therefore, I had to take my daughter to day care as I typically do, but the earliest they would take her was 6:50am. My tee time for my tournament that Tuesday, yes the one exactly three hours away, was 10am sharp. I had no time for traffic, no time for restroom breaks, no time for warmups.

As I pulled into the golf course parking lot around 9:45am, it started pouring. On the positive side, my tee time was delayed one hour and I could relax for a second. On the negative side, the course would be soggy shortly.

My group teed off at roughly 11am, and to say it was windy is the understatement of the year. I do not like playing in the wind, but for the first time, the tricks that the stiff breeze played caused me to focus more.

My body felt great and my mind was clear, and I started playing some great golf. After back to back birdies on my fifth and sixth holes, I was under par and feeling as confident as ever, which is hilarious given my struggles over the last six weeks. After four more pars, I was cruising.

But on my 11th hole, I reached down to move a leaf and something stung the middle of my right hand. I cursed, pulled the stinger out, then got on with it, but not before giving back a couple of strokes on my next few holes. I birdied my 14th hole, threw in a few more pars, then limped in on the last. But not before playing the vast majority of my round under par and quite honestly playing the best tournament round of my very brief tournament playing life.

Not to mention I got to spend about five hours joking with some of my buddies. Their golf was a little bit rusty, but we laughed and horsed around like we were playing golf on a random autumn Tuesday, which we were.

Except that it was more than just golf on a random autumn Tuesday for me.

With two events remaining in my first full tournament playing year, I’m fifth in the Assistant Player of the Year rankings for all of Mississippi and Louisiana. It’s only a metric and it’s certainly not the end all be all, but it sure is a great start. It makes the 4am wake up call, the six hour round trip drive, the rain, the wind, and my hand being stung worthwhile. It means that the process is working.

The process of patience, practice, patience, participation, patience, and performance.

Just rinse and repeat.

Have a great week.-Benj

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