The Rhythm of a Year

“Somehow, in the structure, there’s a lot of flexibility.”- Hildur Gudnadottir

Moving to a new locale. Starting a new career. Having another child. Pursuing a PhD in golf. Pursuing countless interests. Individually, these are all things that would require finding a new flow to life. How about doing all of them at once? It’s taken roughly four years of adapting and trial and error, but the rhythm of a year, though I’m sure it will morph again, has been found.

From Valentine’s Day to my birthday in mid May, I feel like an accountant during tax season. It’s madness. (I worked roughly twelve hours on my birthday.) It’s golf all the time. Our beautiful course has become insanely popular. I run a robust PGA Jr league in addition to my normal lessons. I practice and play as much as my energy levels allow. As a result, I’ve learned to schedule nothing else.

From my birthday to early August aka now, it’s jet ski season. It’s boating and fishing season. It’s island time. It’s hot. We live a lob wedge from The Gulf of Mexico.

It’s also summer vacation and championship golf time. Two of the biggest tournaments I play in are in June and July, respectively, and the heat combined with a slowdown at the golf course allow for me to really dial in my game. Chicago with the family and a work trip to the Dallas area highlight this year’s summer break.

From mid August to the holidays, it is the absolute best time of the year. Where do I even begin? Football, so many sports going on, sports betting at the casinos. Did I mention football? The autumn vibe, fall golf, another PGA Jr League. The fall is busy at the course, but not all day long busy. I live in SEC country. Fall mornings are for golf. After noon it’s all football.

And how about the 2nd Annual Opening College Football Weekend with my son? Last year’s Indy/Purdue/Notre Dame/Ann Arbor/Detroit trip was awesome but is likely to be outdone by this year in Los Angeles. Talk about starting your own traditions.

Last year, we had a late fall extended family trip to Paradise Pointe. The plan this year is New York City.

I enjoy the holidays, but then from the holidays to Valentine’s Day, it’s the NBA, Pelicans basketball, and nights in New Orleans. I was concerned when we left Charlotte that Hornets games with my son couldn’t be replaced. Boy, was I wrong.

Spring, summer, fall, winter. School year, summer break. The local community, flavor, and traditions.

All of these things guide life’s rhythm, but remember to make that rhythm your own.

Own your life story. Even if that means delaying your birthday celebration for ten days so that you don’t fall asleep in your food.

Have a great week.-Benj

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The abk Journey Within the abk Golf Journey

“…unintended consequences are frequently the way we catch a real glimpse of ourselves in the mirror.” -Wright Thompson

Six years ago yesterday and unbeknownst to me at the time, I formally launched a journey of self-mastery, masked as a fashion blog called anything but khakis ®️.

Fast forward six years (and one day), and I am still on that journey of self-mastery, only the fashion blog is long gone, and the real journey is now masked by the green grass and hot sun of a golf course in coastal Mississippi.

If I wanted to live a complete life to my maximum potential, I had to go all in. I had to try things I had never even thought about trying. I had to try difficult things where the risk of failure was sky high. If I wanted to ever find my true potential, I had to test myself. I figured that the best chance I had of helping someone find THEIR true potential was to be able to sit with him or her and honestly say, Been there, done that.

I would like to think that I chose golf, but there is an ever so slight chance that golf actually chose me. The parallels between the game and my life are eerily similar. I mean, it’s just a game, but is it?

In my current teaching business, I conduct mostly individual one hour golf lessons , primarily to adults. I don’t know the exact percentage, but I’d say at least 40% of every lesson has nothing to do with golf. 60% golf, 40% humanity. I get as much out of the session as they do sometimes.

You may not know it, but so much of golf revolves around self-belief, trust, commitment, and physical, mental, and emotional stamina. Are we talking about golf here, or are we in a counseling session?

On my just over four year golf journey, as a microcosm within my six year life journey, I’ve had to tackle all of these human issues. I think that’s why I’ve gotten so much better at golf.

Early in the journey, I snapped my seven iron on a tree out of aggravation. A day or two later, I realized that not only was that immature, but it was also a terrible example for the growing number of folks that were beginning to look at me as a positive influence. Folks that I have the opportunity to help realize their own potential, both inside the game and elsewhere.

One of the reasons I love to teach so much is I love to understand what someone really wants and help them get there. One reason that I think my early exploits into teaching golf have been so successful is because of my unique path. I wasn’t a childhood golf prodigy. I thought the game was stupid. But from the ages of 36 to now 40, when either I chose golf or golf chose me, I grinded my ass off. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. I did the work. I needed to do the work. I will continue to do the work. It’s the game of a lifetime.

We are all on some kind of journey here. Many journeys are similar. Some are not. Some involve trying to be a better person. Some involve trying to get good at golf. Some involve trying to be a better person under the facade of trying to get good at golf.

So as I tell anyone that is a potential student, I don’t care if you are looking to break 70, 80, 90, or 100. Makes no difference to me. If you are willing to put in the effort, real effort, to get better, we are going to get along just fine.

Have a great week.-Benj

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The Process and Patience Required to do Something Big

“You can choose a life of ease and comfort, or you can choose a life of service and adventure.”-Jeff Bezos

In fairness, I was informed from the jump that becoming a PGA member, or as I like to call it getting a PhD in golf, would be an enormous task. There would be no shortcuts. It would take a ton of time and effort. I would have to earn every inch.

Every now and again, someone interested in the program asks me how much work is involved. A lot, I say. A lot.

On Tuesday, my son had surgery on his toe, I had a dental appointment, and I took two PGA exams. Who would have ever thought going to the dentist would be the easiest, most pleasant part of the day?

The two PGA exams were the culmination of 17 months of grinding, and passing them would get me through Level 1 and on to Level 2. (It goes Qualifying Level, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Full PGA Member.) 215 questions over the span of three hours, my eyes were blurry and my brain was fried by the end.

But I passed.

When I started the golf journey just over four years ago, I had no idea where it might take me. I had no idea what was even available, quite frankly. But I knew one thing early on that I’ve repeated over and over. I had to learn how to play high level golf first, and then the golf world might open up.

For the first two years of the journey, while the perception may have been that I was horsing around playing golf, I was grinding my ass off to become a more than credible golfer. For the last two years of the journey, I have been grinding my ass off in additional ways: practicing, playing, learning how to run a golf course, teaching, coaching, and doing a boatload of outside work primarily on Mondays and Tuesdays, my days off.

I must say that the patience and discipline required is quite high. It’s both a simple and absurdly complex game that requires physical, mental, and emotional stamina moreso than any other sport I’ve ever played. I constantly debate whether raising kids, running marathons, or progressing along the golf journey is more difficult.

Level 1 is basically like your freshman and sophomore years in college. You have to show you are smart and well-rounded, so you take Marketing, Meteorology, and Badminton. For the past 17 months, I feel like I have taken every Intro To Golf class ever invented: teaching, coaching, business planning, and my favorite, growing grass. I kid, but seriously.

Now that I’ve passed Level 1, I get to specialize in my passion in Level 2, teaching and coaching. I formally signed up last night, but I plan to take a few week breather before I start back up. I know I’ll enjoy the learning, and I know I’ll enjoy my jaunt to Frisco, Texas, for a summer seminar. Most importantly, I know I’ll enjoy taking all of the things I’ll learn and applying it to all of my students’ games, as well as mine.

For all of the spiciness that I enjoy in my life, it has come down to boring words like process and patience to get to here and now. I want to be done with this by end of year 2024. Going from a 14 handicap golfer that didn’t know anything to a full PGA member in five and a half years would be pretty damn cool. It’s been an incredible journey. I anticipate it to continue to be an incredible journey.

But I’m over the bookwork on Mondays and Tuesdays. I’d rather write. I’d rather jet ski. I’d rather go to the dentist.

Have a great week.-Benj

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The Essence of abk

“Don’t let anyone talk you out of your vision just because they can’t see it.” – T.I.

Any time someone discovers anything but khakis®️ for the first time, there inevitably is a conversation about pants. Some get it. Some don’t. But there is always at least a brief conversation about beige colored pants.

abk formally came into existence roughly six years ago, but the essence of abk has been brewing for probably three decades now. I just didn’t know it.

I remember being a teenager, and all I wanted was freedom. Freedom to make my own decisions. Freedom to pursue my interests. I didn’t want to be constrained by society’s prescribed pathway to a successful life.

I wanted to do my thing. I wanted to be me.

Fast forward twenty to twenty five years, and I finally got the courage and sense to actually do it. At thirty six (now forty) years old, I set out to rediscover (or discover for the first time) all of those things that I enjoyed doing, and then decided I would spend all of my time and energy actually doing them. I might even wear khakis while doing them if I liked.

So I did two things. First, I literally made a list of things that interested me or that I enjoyed. Second, I embarked on a pretty magical journey of DOING in an effort to discover even more interests and add to that list. I figured I might enjoy something at forty that I didn’t at twenty, and vice versa. My mom continues to be fascinated by all of the foods that I eat now that I never would have touched as a kid.

As I mentioned in my last piece, my list of interests is now getting out of control. On paper, I’m fighting whether to play golf or jet ski. I’m fighting whether to teach another lesson or have dinner with my family. I’m fighting being fit as a fiddle or enjoying those delicious shrimp and grits. I’m fighting whether to go explore new places or spend those vacation days visiting my parents.

Enter the essence of abk.

Because I like one of a kind excursions and limited edition fashion, I used to think abk was based on exclusivity. But I think now, more than ever, it’s actually based on inclusion. Involving as many activities, people, and places as I can in an effort to live a full and complete life. It has been awesome to find how all of these interests intertwine and overlap.

I try to make everything an immersive experience. When we make the quick ride over to New Orleans, it usually involves some member of the family, basketball, music, unique food, culture, and style. Every day of the golf journey involves learning, teaching, competing, nature, style, and lots and lots of people.

Hell, Christy and the kids even come eat lunch with me at the golf course now.

Hell, every now and then I even wear a pair of khakis.

Have a great week.-Benj

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The Next Phase of the Journey

Every now and then, a problem comes along that, first of all, is not really a problem, and second of all, fits the phrase a good problem to have. For the past few months, I have found myself in this conundrum, and unfortunately, I am now at the point where I have to do something about it.

What’s the problem, you may be wondering?

I legitimately have too many interests.

Working to become a full PGA Member, or as I like to call it, getting a Ph.D. in Golf, is no walk in the park at any age. The sheer amount of work required is astronomical. I estimate that each week I help run a golf course for 40 hours, teach for 10 hours more, practice for 5-10 hours more, and play for 5-10 hours more. These are just the necessary bare minimums, and since I am doing this as a second career as a forty year old, don’t forget about the roughly 830 hours of outside portfolio work at night or on my days off. Or the 3 weeklong seminars, the 8-12 tournaments I play all over God’s Green Earth each year, the 2-3 quarterly junior camps, and a partridge in a pear tree.

This is enough to keep a twenty five year old with nothing but freedom busy, much less a forty year old with a young family and oodles of outside interests. I love it all immensely and sleep like a baby at night, but something has to give.

Family dinners, experiencing all 50 states (I’m at 44), sports trips with Banks, all of the aforementioned golf stuff, even mildly supporting Christy’s interests, jet skiing, keeping my body and mind fit, Banks’ soccer, mornings with Charli, nights in New Orleans, not frequent enough visits back to North Carolina, and maybe, just maybe, the occasional spicy date night.

The list could go on and on. On the plus side, I am never, ever bored. On the minus side, the jet ski is collecting dust.

For the better part of six years now, I have written a blog, article, or whatever you want to call it virtually every single week. Including this piece, that is 272 articles. I find the writing to be an incredible experience, but it does require a clear mind or the creative juices won’t flow. Most of my days now, my mind is concerned with wrist angles in the golf swing, the development of my children, where the best shrimp and grits on the coast is, when said date night might occur, and cleaning the cobwebs off of the jet ski. I sought to build a very robust life, which I have, and unfortunately, there is not much brain space left for creating a coherent weekly piece that I am proud of anymore.

Here’s what I am going to do. I love writing. I really do. But I’m not going to give up the actions that I write about so that I can write more. That makes no sense. So I’m going to keep taking notes, taking pictures, and taking videos. When I feel inspired and have a clear mind, I will write. An arbitrary goal is once or twice per month instead of weekly, but who knows.

As I said from the jump, the journey is about doing. About living a complete life fulfilling wants and needs, pursuing hopes and dreams, and limiting regrets when it comes to things I never got around to.

When the kids are grown and the golf swing has deteriorated, I will write more. I still have a lot to say, but for now, I have even more I want to do.

Have a great week.-Benj

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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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