Bonding in the Bayou

I think it is important for every dad to have a “thing” with his son.  You know, a “thing”.  A weekly golf outing, a favorite TV show, something.  For me and my son, who turned 4 today, it was Charlotte Hornets games.  We went to our last two games last week before he and Christy leave Charlotte for good tomorrow (I’m following soon.) LA Clippers last Tuesday and Chicago Bulls last Saturday.  And please, let me tell you about last Saturday.

61B892F7-B635-484E-AF69-B97621CA3490We had company in town, and the day was jam packed.  Volleyball games, swim lessons, lunch, a play, packing, naps, etc.  I asked Banks earlier that morning if he wanted to go to the game, and per usual, the answer changed about 11 times throughout the day.  Then, about 6:25pm, he said he definitely wanted to go.  Mind you, tipoff was at 7pm.  Indecision, nay, spontaneity at its best.

07A24D61-FAE0-4B09-8707-436266727977

How StubHub can still require paper tickets in 2019 is beyond me, but here is basically what the next hour looked like.  Order tickets, drive to office to print them, printer and laptop required a Saturday night update, Banks needed to go to the bathroom, finally got printer working, printed tickets, walked to game, sat down in seats, Banks immediately went to sleep.(If you really know me, can you see my reaction to all of this?)

B711588A-80FA-4803-A855-F7F0FD3D1630Well good.  That was $70 and a little bit of madness well spent.  Glad the young boy had a first class seat to take a nice, cozy nap.  It took me a second, but I finally said to myself, you know what, this is what life is about.  Relax and enjoy the night.

He took about an hour and a half nap, half in his seat and half in my arms.  I loved it, myself dozing in and out of consciousness to the game and thinking about how much I was going to miss this.  If you know anything about the NBA, you know I could have napped during the first 3 quarters too and not missed a thing.  But the 4th quarter is a different story.

Banks woke up, raring to go, hyped, needing a drink, and ready to cheer for the Hornets.  The packed arena livened up, and our man Kemba Walker (Banks’ “boy”) pulled the team through to a nice Saturday night W.  I had purposefully splurged on these tickets, knowing this wouldn’t happen again for a long time.  And after all that riff raff earlier, it became so worth it.  After the game, we were able to shimmy down a few rows to the Hornets tunnel and watch the players walk by as they left the floor.  I held Banks in my arms, pointed at Kemba, and told him to look.

52360823-BD6E-419E-9A33-E499483D5990

Some 10 feet away was All-Star Kemba Walker, and as Banks realized that, he turned to me with magic in his eyes.  I will never forget that.  He got giddy, waved, and told him good game, and then we talked about it the entire way home.

I welled up a little as I wrote this.  It was our thing for about a year, and it is no more.  But on the other hand, there is lots of adventure ahead, and we are sure to find our new thing.

DDD4B186-82B3-4654-84F9-FED1DDAA0F67

He spent exactly 4 years in Charlotte, he had a great birthday, and he leaves with mom tomorrow.

A66944D1-B3BA-47D8-87A3-77E2633BEE20But good news. Once I arrive in about 45 days, Hornets at Pelicans on April 3.  Won’t quite be the same, but that’s exactly the point. 

Have a great week.-Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and now @abkgolf.

If you enjoy these and would like to get the weekly piece via email, please follow on the website http://www.anythingbutkhakis.com .

Keep It Moving

In the past two years, roughly, these have been the destinations. LA and Destin. Kansas City and St. Louis. Mississippi and Miami. Atlanta and Nashville. Montana and Wyoming. Salt Lake City and Italy. NYC and Cleveland. New Orleans and Virginia. West Virginia and Kentucky.  Indiana and DC. Baltimore and Dallas. Orlando and Mexico City. Baton Rouge and Houston. South Carolina and Iceland. Vegas and back to Atlanta. Back to NYC, Cleveland, Mississippi, and New Orleans. And to every beach town, mountain town, and small town in North Carolina it seems. 

And in between, a house and a “regular” job in Charlotte, NC. This week, I am here to tell you that those two pieces, those two constants, effective very shortly, shall be no more. 

We will celebrate Banks’ 4th birthday next Sunday, February 10, and then the next day, Christy and he will head towards greener pastures, or shall I say bluer waters, where I will join them in some 45 days. 9BF86D68-2B81-4E5B-9FAB-92F6A3C5B5E9In the meantime, I will say farewell to clients, colleagues, family, friends, and the only state I have resided in for almost 37 years. 

It’s time to turn the volume up. It’s time for a bona fide adventure. Not just every third or fourth week. Every. Single. Day. It’s time for a fresh start, a clean slate, armed with a clear understanding of self and with literally the entire world awaiting with open arms. 

I was raised rural. I went to college in the mountains. I have lived my adult life both suburban and very urban. All I have left is the water, so here we come. 

C7783B07-11B3-4E58-81BB-738743F28FEFWhen I ran my first marathon two years ago, my mate Vinny told me that most runners are either running towards something or away from something. That statement refused to leave my head. Was I traveling all over God’s green earth to get away from something, or was I just that interested in what the great big world had to offer? Well, great news, it was the latter. Full steam ahead. 

Is it gonna be scary? Meh. Different? Yeah. Exciting? Hell yes. But let’s not skip the next few weeks, okay? A farewell tour of sorts is building in my head. Really just to acknowledge and thank all of the wonderful people that helped mold the guy that finally, after almost 37 years, understands and accepts himself, though the journey is still just beginning. Maybe I’ll see you soon…

Have a great week.-Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and now @abkgolf.

If you enjoy these and would like to get the weekly piece via email, please follow on the website http://www.anythingbutkhakis.com .

Balls of Steel

As much as I like to be original, the above title is not my words.  Do you think that I would really use language like that (wink, wink)?  Nah, these were actually cut and pasted from a couple of messages I received this past week about some major, exciting changes I am making in my life.

As much as I hate it when people tell you what they are going to do instead of just doing it, I am about to become a massive hypocrite tonight and do just that.  Over the next 8 weeks, starting next Sunday, February 3, and culminating Friday, March 29, (with a brief intermission for my son’s birthday,  the NBA All-Star Game, and a trip to Cali) I am going to show and tell you about these changes.

At a minimum, it will seem unorthodox.  At a maximum, it may seem downright insane.  According to lots of folks this week, it is courageous…ballsy even.  From an outsider’s point of view, I can see it.  If you really know me, you know it ain’t no thang.  For me, yeah, it’s big, but it really ain’t no thang.

As I have been building out my vast library of golf photos for my new venture @abkgolf, I was reminded of a memory some 7 years ago that got me giggling.  It got me giggling because these major life changes don’t phase me, but on this day, I was nervous as hell.

26605bdd-200f-4e23-99b4-bc7fe78d6df2

The venue was Quail Hollow Club, site of the PGA Tour’s annual Wells Fargo Championship along with the 2017 PGA Championship.  It was Fall 2012, and I got the last minute text Sunday night to play in a corporate event the following morning.  No details, just are you available, and of course I was.  I have since played Quail some 5 or 6 times, but that morning was my first, and what an introduction.  I arrived at the valet, shell shocked that just months ago, some of the greatest players in the world were right here.  Immediately upon arrival, I learned who my playing partner would be, a kind, but intimidating presence that had me nervous throughout breakfast.  Soon after, we walked up to the tee box on hole number 1, and a short-ish but fit gentleman who I had not seen yet extended his hand.  “Good morning,” he said politely, “I am Charles Howell III.”

42010950-a33b-49fa-af78-95debdb05d09(For those of you who don’t know, Mr. Howell the third is a longtime PGA player with over $35MM in earnings.)  My stomach dropped.  I literally could not feel my arms.  I should have been excited, but the combination of Quail Hollow, the first tee box, and my playing partners had me rattled.  I think they could sense that, and they quickly offered some kind words about “relax, just a normal day, blah blah blah”.

To this day, I know this sounds absolutely absurd, I have never been more nervous in my entire life then when I grabbed my driver and approached my ball on that first tee.  I can still feel the feeling that I had in my arms during that moment as well as the thoughts racing through my head…”don’t embarrass yourself…don’t kill anyone”.  But as with most things in life, you handle your business.  I handled mine, a little right, but more than respectable.  (I didn’t lose my dignity until hole 14.)

And with these next life adventures, I expect to do the same.  Maybe a little left.  Maybe a little right.  Just not straight down the middle.

Because that would be boring.

Stay tuned, and have a great week.-Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and now @abkgolf.

If you enjoy these and would like to get the weekly piece via email, please follow on the website http://www.anythingbutkhakis.com .

No Room at the Inn

If you got a text from me on Friday night and it was a little snippy, please accept my apologies. But at approximately 9:45pm, I had been all over the mountains of NC, and now I was standing in a Bojangles parking lot with 4 adults, 2 kids, 2 dogs, hungry and cold, with no place to stay. 

c33adb0b-e27d-4c4e-923b-bf6debe7d2e6The M.O. of this adventure was to chill. Relax. Unplug. Visit with friends. Let the kids play. The cabin had no WiFi. No cable. But unfortunately, upon arrival after dark on Friday night, it also had a curiously placed, broken water pipe. Did I mention it was cold? Dark? Wet? Muddy? Secluded? I brought my knife and how to fight a bear book…would that help?47db82e0-f9dc-473a-9a58-9bb8d8e17d57

Getting a hotel room, VrBO, or Airbnb night of, Friday night, in peak ski season is almost impossible. So here we were, excited to unplug, yet all 4 adults were glued to our phones sending emails, texts, and making phone calls like it was NFL Draft Day. But shortly after 10pm, we got one. It would do. It was 30 minutes away, reasonably priced, and had a roof (we found a teepee for rent, no joke). Sold. Book it. And pray. 84258896-d191-4b1b-a304-84fea65f27ff

I categorize out of town adventures into 2 categories these days: “sexy”and “not sexy”. It has nothing to do with romanticism and everything to do with the energy and attitude. (It really boils down to whether I have to shower and change clothes during the trip.) This trip? Well, any trip with 2 kids in tow is by definition not sexy. But once we finally arrived, after both SUVs had slid on the ice, after a few Deliverance moments, I’ll be damned if the place wasn’t semi-sexy. bced894b-b2c6-4492-9690-0624dd1accc9

Exposed wood, hot tub, side of a mountain, in the woods, overlooking a river. It was ridiculously dark when we arrived, so the exploring would have to wait.  I wanted to see this river that I could vaguely hear. Where exactly was it? Where exactly were we?475fc9b2-599e-4217-bb39-002e11be571c

By design, there was no agenda. Other than laugh, which we did lots of. I would certainly have to find a few things to get into to wear off my boyish energy, but that turned out to be no problem. 06c9cc37-6a49-4a75-925e-8bec92fe4834

Per usual, the question was what was unique to the area that we needed to see and do? Check out Ashe County Cheese, a unique paradise of wine, cheese, fudge, and candy that made everyone happy.

23242e65-25cf-41f2-a7d6-2b1b62bff40cEat and drink at Boondocks Brewing, where the beer and food were good, but the highlight was watching my pal Caveman introduce himself to our waitress Mona Lisa.  Like a cartoon.  Caveman. Mona Lisa. Mona Lisa. Caveman. It’s stuff like that that gets you giggling, and that will be retold 10/20/30 years down the road. Do you remember…8ee06ed9-b8a5-4e86-8309-de666be6701d

It is important now and again to just stop. For me, I try to do it daily, really process it weekly when I write, and then occasionally, on long weekends like this, actually stop. I need to understand what it all means. That’s why I woke up and in 20 degree weather took my beloved Becks down to the river and as long as my fingers could take it, just stopped. Looked at the sunrise. Felt the light snow. Listened to the water flowing. 6ba50f9d-028f-493b-b0e3-99ecbcac5ccd

What does friendship mean? What does family mean? What about self? What does travel and exploration do and mean?  Is small town USA dying, thriving, or just surviving?9fdc5bb3-1ce4-42c0-9535-5f010837e478

Speaking of surviving, for now, I guess I’m just glad we found a place to stay. Because staying in that teepee with 6 people and 2 dogs, well…And if you are wondering? The trip lasted roughly 3 days. The temperature ranged from 6 to 40 degrees. And, nope, I took not one shower and never changed clothes. How’s that for adventure?

79d243a7-20e9-4593-97af-4f95ebf764d3

Have a great week.-Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and now @abkgolf.

If you enjoy these and would like to get the weekly piece via email, please follow on the website http://www.anythingbutkhakis.com .

“A” for Effort

“It’s a miracle of humanity, the way people’s paths intersect…and one in which the real answers almost always remain(ed) a mystery. “- Dylan Dethier, 18 in America 

I have had an immense amount of fun over the past 87 weeks. I mean, at some points, absurd.  I have also had some very low points during that same period.  But in that timeframe, 87 weeks, 609 days to be exact, there has been one constant.

8b7d89d2-72f6-4d28-83cb-d36c3e8881a9Every one of those 609 days, I got out of bed and worked on this fledgling idea I had called anything but khakis®️.  And every one of those 87 weeks, usually on Sunday, I published a piece on the website. I was about to take this week off to focus on @abkgolf amongst other stuff, but then I reminded myself, “you love doing this, and someone out there may need this.”

As you know, I firmly believe that to give the world you, you must take care of yourself first and foremost. So I started doing that and still do that every day. But then, I decided to just do things and write about them, making public the process and my journey as opposed to whatever eventually comes at the finish line (which is unknown for everyone, don’t fool yourself).  At this point, I don’t care about any result, because the journey has gotten so, so interesting. A smattering of people wanted hats designed, so I helped. A handful of folks wanted help with their wardrobe, so I helped. Some people wanted to golf together, so we did. Some people wanted to travel together, so we did. Some people wanted travel tips. Some people wanted food tips. Lots of people wanted ideas about improving their lifestyle, and I was glad to assist. 

I enjoy helping, I really do. But it got me thinking, do I have something that truly helps others? Well, I dream wildly large and I think quite differently, but really, I just act. I just do, and that is what you have seen and read for the past 609 days. I think the action (good, bad, or ugly) has more value than anything else. Waking up every day. Trying. Doing. Not complaining. 

We have an opportunity to impact every person we come in contact with using one simple trait. Effort. When I was inducted into my university’s sports hall of fame in 2016, a former teammate kindly said, “The amount of hard work he put into practice every day really reflected how hard he played in a game. Benj really pushed you in practice to be a better player and wanted you to work just as hard as he did.”  Those words hit me then and still do now, as a reminder that though we all get older and more complicated and more comfortable and more whatever, we still have to try. Not just at the basic level. At a level that can positively impact every single person we encounter. 

So needless to say, I didn’t take the week off. Screw that. Maybe some other time. 

Have a great week.- Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and now @abkgolf.

If you enjoy these and would like to get the weekly piece via email, please follow on the website http://www.anythingbutkhakis.com .

The Last Supper: Southern Style

It’s quite interesting how people’s tastes evolve, isn’t it? In the people they enjoy being around, the activities they enjoy, and even their actual tastes. 

Maybe I was brainwashed. Maybe I was showing out. Or maybe I actually did enjoy it. But things have changed. 

I still do love a good fancy meal now and again, but it doesn’t do to me what it once did.  It’s not the food.  The food is usually quite nice.  I just don’t know that I need the pretension or exclusivity in my life any more.  I don’t really know what that provides.

The food still has to be good.  That is a must.  But otherwise, let the experience be interesting.  Inclusive.  Comfortable.  A place where a long beard and long hair and a cowboy hat will not turn heads, but be welcomed with open arms.

So I must introduce you to four meals over a 36 hour span recently that, quite honestly, would rival anywhere in the world.

b712dc18-f728-4a35-bd02-e78359c0603fThe region is the Deep South, USA, and the first place is called Donanelle’s.  Or is it Don and Nellie’s?  Or does it matter?  It has no website.  No nothing really.  Except cold beer and absurdly good ribeyes and ribs that come covered with a raw onion and jalapeño pepper.  The walls are covered in dollar bills, it seats fifty-ish, and if you don’t know it is there, you will never find it.

ce615354-fe94-4867-8ace-c5d2f41549d9Moving south, the next stop was along the bayous that spit into the Gulf of Mexico.  Called The Tiki, you could imagine it in Key West or Hawaii.  Again, no frills, just fresh seafood served while you might be able to see the boats that actually caught them.  The daily special was the royal reds, shrimp that are a little bigger and sweeter than the norm, that melt in your mouth along with the warm butter they are served with.

9b9a8c62-b7d3-4c4b-8b05-dd3607abbfffWould I even need to eat again that day?  Well, if dinner was at The World Famous Shed, you damn right I would.  4477a59d-9a83-4185-9a74-c5ba3652762aNestled in the shadows of I-10 is a place that is indescribable.   It is multiple buildings pieced together over the years, a gravel parking lot, and a confusion over whether you are sitting inside, outside, or some combination of the two.  09ba9d75-f9ff-4dda-9d35-7d72d77cc082Where there is no confusion is in the taste of the BBQ and its accompanying sauce, so good it has won numerous awards and likely sits in a grocery store near you.

98d4bf8d-057b-47fb-915d-a85f35178527(One of the interesting byproducts of owning your time and doing more of exactly what you want to do is that mundane things go away, exciting things can become normal, and it takes something special to really move the needle.  The Shed is special.  I truly love that place.  I felt my heart flutter as the car pulled onto that gravel lot.)

c30f5f50-78a0-427c-9568-f9f551d43804I thought I was done, but I wasn’t.  New Orleans, one of my homes away from home, was on the horizon, and I had a hankering for a po’boy.  4fcdea3b-9155-43c1-bd76-b98ce8885922Enter Domilise’s, 100 years old and literally sitting smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  Apparently, everyone and their brother has been there, but not me.  (I’m not sure about my brother.)  Fried oysters get me in some kind of mood, so that would be my base.  But I would need to drop the mayonnaise (gross) in favor of what…gravy, hot sauce, spicy mustard, and pickles!  I was in love!

ed6c4ee6-465c-4092-865f-1bcc644ab209One of my most desired traits in anything is that it must be interesting.  People, places, art, clothes…and of course, food.  So many things these days just aren’t.  So I seek it out. The different, the unique, the original.  It will do something to you.  Entertain you at a minimum.  Teach you something.  Maybe more.  I just know that on the occasion that I feel my heart flutter, it must be good.

Have a great week.-Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and now @abkgolf.

If you enjoy these and would like to get the weekly piece via email, please follow on the website http://www.anythingbutkhakis.com .

Introducing @abkgolf

Roughly one and a half years ago, I started a journey, both literally and figuratively. Something was awry. For whatever reason, I didn’t seem to understand myself or the world I was living in any more. So I set off across the pond, to our neighbors down south, and all over the US to see what was going on. 

That is how anything but khakis™️ (I am very proud of the ™️ lol) came about, and I simply thought I would share my journey with the world in case anyone out there felt similarly. 

My studies and travels were guided by one simple yet ridiculously complicated question, “Why don’t more people, myself included, do exactly what they want with their time, when they want, with whom they want, and where they want.” And though I have way more questions now then when I started (a sign of growth, yet still annoying), I drew one major conclusion. I think, as silly as this sounds, that most people have never been introduced to this question as something that is truly possible. 

Personally, here is what I found. I am happiest when I am outside playing golf (did it really take traveling 100,000 miles to figure that out?). Also, other than what I wear on my body to express myself, I found myself becoming disinterested in material things. I’ve lost interest in a paycheck, a big house, popularity, title, status, and anything related to any of that nonsense.  I wondered, “Could money simply be used as a tool?”  What if all of that could be replaced with happiness, truth, open mindedness, love, helping others, and purpose?

And that is how @abkgolf came about. My unique passion is to constantly travel and golf, and my purpose is to show and tell you all about it hoping that, if you too are lost, you might explore this exercise yourself. That’s what I’ve kinda been doing already. But now, it’s full steam ahead. 

The premise is quite simple. I am on a personal journey to get really, really good at golf, and I am on a wanderer’s journey to play championship golf in all 50 states. 

If you are interested in golf, travel, golf travel, beautiful pictures, or just generally what I am up to, go follow on Instagram @abkgolf. The page is one day old, and for now, that is where this lifestyle will live. 

So what’s changing here?  Both nothing and everything! I will still be writing about who knows what, so don’t go anywhere. Hell, I may even write more. 

To the roughly 12,500 folks who have stopped by the website so far, I hope it has had some impact on your life. The fact that you have any interest in what I have to say means a lot to me, and for that I will be forever grateful. 

9DDB8210-DEFA-4A1D-A105-58A34E38ED92

Alright. On we go.  If it would just stop raining for one bloody second, I’ll be headed back out to the course. 

Have a great week.-Benj 

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and now @abkgolf. 

If you enjoy these and would like to get the weekly piece via email, please follow on the website http://www.anythingbutkhakis.com .