The Reset Button Lives (at a Cabin in the Woods)

Looking back, I think that the purpose of the running stage of the abk journey was to test both my physical and mental limits. (I hate running, so I know it wasn’t for enjoyment.) After running a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and 2 full marathons in various stages of illness and injury, my biggest learning was that when I think I am at my limit of what I can accomplish, I am nowhere anywhere close. But having said that, the stretch limit can only be stretched so far.

Starting over and designing a new life never felt like a daunting task to me. If anything, it felt exciting. Freeing. Not knowing a soul in Coastal Mississippi, I figured the blank slate would be amazing for all of the things I wanted to do with my life, and at worst, it would be a little lonely to start. But in time, I knew I would figure it out.

What I did NOT anticipate was that, along with having another child, all of the things I had been slowly, patiently building towards would ignite at exactly the same time. I love juggling so many exciting opportunities, but…

After working a full day last Sunday, practicing, and then trick or treating for what felt like 26.2 miles, I crashed. Four and a half years of abk ideas and actions came to a head about 8pm. For someone who wakes up every day between 4:30am and 6am, I went to sleep Sunday night hoping there would be a PM behind when I finally woke up.

I crawled out of bed around 10am Monday, satisfied but still sore and mentally groggy. I slowly took the dogs down the stairs, wondering whose idea it was to build a house 23 feet in the air. As they wandered through the palm trees and plants, I sat down on the bottom stair and took a deep breath.

Business at the course is booming, and I have two jobs. Make sure every person that walks through the door has a memorable experience, and make sure we are always getting better.

I can’t believe how many people want lessons. I’m completely booked. With a waiting list. And now I’m turning people down.

I’ve got to take the week off from playing. My feet, elbows, knees, and back are so sore. I’m physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. I’m so close to my next milestone, but I really need to rest.

What am I going to write about this week? Well, this, probably. Writing a journal entry about being fried seems like a great idea.

Man, I’m really enjoying messing around with the SportsBook on Saturdays in CasinoTown. I’m decent at it, too. My previous side hustle has now turned into more than full-time, so I need a new side hustle.

It’s been a minute since I’ve gone jet skiing. I’d love to go ride a few more times before it gets too chilly.

What about all of my other creative ideas? I’ve got a million things I want to do. And travel?

So I did what any reasonable dad would do. Mama! Get the kids! Let’s go rent a cabin in the woods next weekend. Fall leaves, good food, crisp air. Time to chill and recharge.

(Oh, and no golf clubs or wi-fi. It’s time for some new inspiration.)

Have a great week.-Benj

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Failing and Succeeding the abk Way

“You’re ready.”- one of my coaches

You had a big day last week, didn’t you?

Every day is a big day, but yes, last Tuesday was especially big.

Catch everyone up to speed.

In a nutshell, I took a nine hour, 36 hole playing test in New Orleans where I had to shoot a target score. I missed fully passing by 0.6 of a stroke. I did partially pass, so I am currently in the process of registering so that I can play in my first professional tournament in early December.

0.6? Wow, that’s brutal.

I choked, with my only double bogey of the day on my 36th hole. It happens.

It happens?

I was a 14 handicap golfer two and a half years ago. I didn’t know how to hold the club correctly. What I have done is wildly improbable. My lack of experience still wins out sometimes. It happens.

How do you overcome lack of experience?

Get in the game and jump in the fire. I’ve said it and done it virtually every day for four and a half years. If you are afraid of something, look it in the eyes and overcome it. Or you will never be free.

You talk about freedom a lot?

That’s what human beings crave, I think. We just camouflage it with other words. This whole abk journey is based on freedom.

Have you found it?

85%.

Care to elaborate?

There’s always more work to be done.

Sounds like the opposite of freedom.

Not if you enjoy what you are doing every single day and keep getting better and better and better.

What does freedom have to do with last Tuesday?

Nerves still own me in pressure-packed situations on the course. I was as cool as a cucumber for 7+ hours. Then my heart started beating and my hands started sweating.

How do you fix that?

Jump back in the fire. With enough reps, I’ll get it under control. I mean, where I am today vs where I started is absolutely absurd. Like I said, wildly improbable.

Do you consider Tuesday a failure or a success?

Both. I didn’t fully pass, but damn if I didn’t surprise myself and my coaches. I played incredibly for 7+ straight hours in the howling wind. Just didn’t finish the job. But I will soon enough.

You started with a quote above, “You’re ready.”

I’ve been grinding for two and a half years now at the game of golf, and though I have gotten miles better, I haven’t really achieved anything. In fact, I’ve lost and failed a ton. That messes with your head a little. Tuesday, even though I limped in, I proved something big to myself. The best players have confidence and belief in droves, and I’ve started to turn a corner there.

Self-confidence and self-belief?

Two of the most important things in golf and life.

And freedom?

Probably 1A. And not the freedom to play golf every day, the freedom to travel, or whatever you want to do with your life. I’m talking about the freedom to play golf every day, the freedom to travel, or whatever you want to do with your life having successfully battled your fears, insecurities, and anxieties. Simply playing in the event Tuesday was my 85%. The double bogey on the 36th hole just proves there’s more work to be done.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Golf: So Close, Yet So Far Away

“Every single shot matters.”- abk Golf

We must begin to normalize personal failure as a part of the process. At a minimum, accept it. At a maximum, applaud it. Fear of failure and fear of judgment in regards to failing are preventing so many people from discovering what they are truly capable of. I’ve been there. I know.

But a few years ago, I reversed course and decided I was going to find out who and what I could really be. 100% Benj. Not 30%. Not 85%. No cruise control. A journey way outside the comfort zone.

One of my biggest learnings along the way is that to get to my 100%, embracing failure is mandatory. Yes, embracing failure is mandatory because it means that I am pushing my limits, pursuing my curiosity, and experiencing new things.

One of the things that I have chosen to do is ridiculously hard, and I failed again, for the umpteenth time, on Tuesday in New Orleans. I was sick to my stomach with how it all went down. But after a couple of conversations and an adequate night’s rest, I understood the day’s importance in becoming 100% Benj.

It wasn’t a failure. It was a massive, massive moment. I just came up a little short.

It wasn’t lost on me that on Tuesday, October 19, 2021, I had the opportunity to pass the most difficult piece of the puzzle in transitioning from an amateur to a professional. Less than 20% of people who take the PGA Player Ability Test pass, it takes many good golfers multiple times, and many never actually pass.

It was my first attempt at taking the 36 hole playing test, a grind that would last roughly nine straight hours in the Louisiana sun. It would test playing ability, grit, patience, nerves, and mental prowess. The test doesn’t demand that you shoot lights out. It ensures you are a damn good, consistent golfer that possesses all of the tangibles and intangibles to be called a professional.

It was a gorgeous, albeit windy, day in The Big Easy. I was ready. Not hyped. Not too excited. Ready. Focused. After a practice round, a little tomfoolery, and a good meal in the city on Monday, I had a job to do Tuesday. I did the job for the first nine holes, carding a ho-hum 38. I did the job for the second nine holes, carding another ho-hum 38. I did the job for the third nine holes, carding yet another ho-hum 38.

A fourth ho-hum 38 would have done the trick with four strokes to spare, but competitive golf is never that straightforward, I am learning. After good pars on my 28th and 29th holes of the day, the drama began. I missed a two footer for par on my 30th hole, but followed it up with a great par on one of the hardest holes on the course. And then, inexplicably, I bogied four straight holes. Inexperience. Let me repeat, inexperience.

I headed to the par 5 18th hole for the second time needing only a bogey to pass the exam. Over the past nearly nine hours and 35 holes, I had not made anything close to a double bogey. And then, like an absolute clown, I choked and made a double bogey. I wanted to vomit.

Interestingly, with five holes left to play, I heard my subconscious say Don’t make a mistake. Instead of playing smart offense as I had all day, I started playing defense.

It’s against everything I believe and the complete opposite of abk, and it cost me. I needed to shoot 156.4, and I shot 157. By playing it too safe.

0.6 of a stroke after two and a half years of grinding. It’s a tough pill to swallow but a great lesson learned. Failure, redefined.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Own Your Life Story: The 2036 Edition

“There is no passion to be found playing small and settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”-Nelson Mandela

I am by no means an expert on parenting, but I do know that my son watches me like a hawk. Every word that I say, every action that I do, every tattoo that I get. He sees it all. We were lying in bed last Thursday night, and out of nowhere he said to me, Dad, you are one unique dad. I started giggling and beaming with pride, and asked, What do you mean?

You just do things differently. You do things that other dads don’t do. I mean, other dads don’t have tattoos on their chest, do they?

It is no secret that I love to travel. It’s how and where I reimagined, reinvented, and rediscovered my zest for life. It is no secret that I have done a fair amount of traveling, particularly in the past five years. It is also no secret that every time I travel, if my son is not with me, I am giving up precious time that I could be spending with him. I am well aware of this as I’m sure he is also, but as I told him in that same Unique Dad conversation, Son, traveling is the best way to see what’s out there, discover yourself, and uncover what it is you want to do with your life. Start early, and never stop. It’s a huge world with endless possibilities.

The conversation continued. Dad, when I turn 21, we are going to see the world. All 50 states. Every country. I started buzzing. You have a date.

At six years old, he has a great start. We’ve taken memorable trips to the DC area, New Orleans, Atlanta, Miami, Nashville, Dallas, and New York City. He’s lived in North Carolina and Mississippi. He’s been to all of the Deep South, all of the Southeast, and much of the East Coast. He also thinks that because I have visited and enjoyed 43 of our nation’s great states that I’ve seen everything, but I remind him, there’s always more to discover. My soul craves it every day.

If I needed any further proof that he watches me like a hawk, I got it a few minutes later. Dad, here’s what we are going to do on the trip. First, we are going to a game in every place. Front row. We’ll make a pattern and just rotate. Baseball, soccer, football, so on. We’ll see the things that we want to see. Maybe meet some cool people?

I love it, son. How about food and drink? That’s so important.

Yeah, yeah. When we are in Los Angeles, we need to eat and drink Los Angeles things and meet Los Angeles people. Same for Miami and even Arkansas.

Yep! You don’t want to be eating chicken tenders every meal for the rest of your life, although I do love a good chicken tender.

These are all great ideas, son, but can I offer a few thoughts?

Sure.

Let the trip unfold naturally. A rigid trip misses a ton of hidden gems. Allow for the unplanned. The world is like a puzzle. An unsolveable maze. With every adventure you get two answers, but four more questions. It’s beautiful. A great number of people are looking for the answers, but the beauty is in the questions, in the process, in the exploration, in the left turns, and in the doing.

The first time I went to New York City, I fell in love. I had so many questions, and I still do. That’s why I keep going back and always will. You’ve been. Do you have any questions?

Yes. Lots.

Dad, one final thing, can mom and Charli come with us?

Absolutely, buddy. Let’s send them an invitation for 2036 right now.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Mom’s Home Cooking

“When I played soccer, I always enjoyed winning a game 5-4 versus winning a game 1-0. It was typically much more exciting.”-abk

I love to eat good food, and I love to play sports. The more I play, the more I need to eat. The more I eat, the more I need to play. Otherwise, it doesn’t work.

My mom knows better than most what it takes to be good and stay good at something. For the better part of fifty years now, she has been a professional pianist. She and my dad came to visit last week, and over lunch one day, I asked her about her practice habits. At seventy some odd years old, this is what she said. Every day. For an hour or two.

After playing eighteen holes with my dad on Thursday, my mom joined me for nine holes on a beautiful Friday afternoon. (My mom loves to watch me play. Always has. Always will.) I introduced her to two of my friends, and off we went.

I hadn’t warmed up due to time constraints, and when that happens, my first tee ball could literally go anywhere. On this occasion, it went straight down the middle en route to an easy opening par. After a great up and down par on 2, I smoked my drive on the Par 5 3rd hole, which forced me to make a decision. 230 yards into the wind over water, should I be smart or should I put on a show for my mom? I pulled my 3 wood, choked down, and smashed it, but pulled it slightly left into a tree branch, the ball eventually landing the water. That led to a tap in bogey, but the energy was building. On 4, I hit wedge to two feet, leading to an easy birdie. On 5, I had a great birdie look, but watched the ball slide just past the left edge for another tap in par.

Even through five. The vibe was good.

I tugged my tee ball just slightly on the swampy 6th hole. It was playable, but I’ve seen alligators down where my ball was, so I decided to take a drop. Fast forward about five minutes, and I had to make a five footer to save double bogey, which I did. I smoked my drive on the Par 5 7th, leaving a 6 iron into the green. I hit it a little wonky, and I left myself an awkward 20 yard flop shot from thick rough. No worries. I struck it perfectly, it bounced once, hit the stick, and went in for eagle. We all screamed.

Even through seven. The vibe was back.

On 8, I always hit the ball left, which makes for a difficult par. I made a lazy bogey, annoyed at myself for letting the gas off. On 9, I pulled it left also, leaving 154 yards from a fairway bunker with a lip and some limbs serving as minor distractions. I turned to my mom and told her I was making birdie, and then I took my pitching wedge and stuffed it to about 8 feet. As we approached the green, I told her again that I was making birdie, then calmly rolled it in for a rollicking even par 36.

My mom hasn’t watched me play much golf, and the couple of times she has, my 9 hole score would have been anywhere from the low 40s on a good day to the mid 50s. So an even par 36?

That’s what you get when you practice for a few hours every day for two and a half years, I said.

I know, she quipped. It’s no different than playing the piano.

As if the afternoon wasn’t exciting enough, we returned home to the smells of a roast that had been cooking in the crockpot for hours. My parents had brought THEIR crockpot and THEIR ingredients from North Carolina. THEY were cooking.

So after a day of playing, it was a night of eating. Two birdies, an eagle, and mom’s home cooking.

Have a great week.-Benj

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The Seasons of abk

“Identity is a funny thing. Just when you think you’ve defined yourself or that life has defined you, there’s always another chapter, another challenge. It’s all about getting outside of your comfort zone. Until you do, you’ll never know what you’re capable of.”- Spencer Strasmore, Ballers

I remember when I told my parents I was going to be a father for the first time over seven years ago. They were ecstatic, but later mentioned to me that they had been unsure if kids were ever going to be in my future due to my ever-growing, free-flowing, limit-pushing lifestyle (accurate assessment). That very specific topic has been at the center of the abk journey: how to prioritize the vitally important aspects of family and children, yet still tend passionately to the endless amount of adventurous or exotic things I want to do with my life.

If you had told me five years ago that, at the age of almost 40 now, I would be an assistant golf professional in coastal Mississippi who just welcomed a daughter into this wild and wacky world, I would have slapped you. No chance. No way. No how.

But I’ve learned, so if you tell me now that in five more years time, I am going to do something or be something equally as ridiculous, I might actually believe you. After almost five years on the journey, I now know how this works. Focus each day on actively living, and living will actually happen. No limits.

I knew early on in my life that my world was going to have to be huge and ever-changing, but I didn’t fully understand how to accomplish this until I decided to take myself on a little journey, a journey to uncover all I was capable of.

For a period, I was a fervent traveler, exploring anywhere and everywhere. The fields of Iowa to the back streets of Mexico City. Plain Jane and a little danger.

For a period, I did some logistically improbable and downright unnecessary things. My favorite is the day I went to two Italian Serie A soccer games in different northern Italian cities in the same day. My home base was Venice. I hit the lunchtime kickoff in Milan. I hit the 8pm kickoff in Bologna. I had hotel rooms all over Italy. It was unnecessary. It was logistically improbable. It was a day I will never forget.

For a period, I went running like Forrest Gump, pushing every limit that I could. Funny thing is, I hate running. Charlotte, Nashville, Salt Lake City, New York City. In Utah, I ran a blazing-ass fast half marathon down the mountain in the early morning, wanted to die, got sick, rallied, then enjoyed a professional soccer game that my buddy was playing in that evening. All in a 12 hour span. Unbelievable day.

For a period, I got to be daddy daycare for my young son. Man, was that beautiful. For almost a year, I think. Maybe more. That rolled into being my son’s soccer coach for two years, which, unfortunately, I have to take a break from this year.

For a period, I was a banker. For a period, I didn’t do any traditional work. For a period, I worked some. Now, I work all the bloody time.

For a period, during a global pandemic, I lived in about 750 square feet, which I loved. Previous to that, I lived in an urban jungle, which I loved. Now, I live outside in nature, which I love most. Instead of going to the movies, Christy and I sometimes ride with the dolphins.

For the (current) period, I’ve grinded at golf essentially every day for two and a half years. It has turned into a job, a new career, a lifestyle, an opportunity to teach, an opportunity to be outside, an opportunity to be with my son, an opportunity that can take me anywhere I want to go.

For this entire period, I’ve written over 200 journal entries on my website that have been read over 25,000 times. Mind blown.

I’ve now entered a very distinct new period, one with no wandering allowed for the next year or so. But with a beautiful new daughter in my life and my PGA Player Ability Test, the next baby step towards becoming a golf professional, on the horizon, I need to tend to my business. I’ll miss the traveling, but I’m hoping some family and friends have the abk bug and meander down here.

First up, a tee time with my dad this Friday. It’s supposed to be gorgeous.

Have a great week.-Benj

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When One Win is Better Than the Others

Friday, September 17, 2021, 12:16pm CST, Pascagoula, Mississippi

Charli Win

And just like that, life changed for the better.

Roughly an hour earlier, Christy knew it was go time, and she switched into beast mode. I kept asking her, Should we get the nurses?, but she just powered through the discomfort, squeezing my hand. At this point, through tears in my eyes, my admiration for moms went sky high. When the nurses finally came in, it wasn’t five seconds until they said, We need to get the doctor. From there it went quickly, only ten to twelve minutes until Charli Win was born. When she arrived, through tears in my eyes, I felt myself soften. I lost a little edge, in a good way. In real time, I felt it go away, replaced with love.

Saturday, September 18, 2021, 6:30pm CST, State College, Pennsylvania

Penn State Win(s)

As we bebopped around the hospital room on Saturday morning, I received a text from a fellow Big 10 fan asking if I was at GameDay in State College, PA right now. I laughed out loud, and then let him know that Christy had just delivered a baby. He quipped back, Well you better not be at GameDay then!

We spent the better part of Saturday convincing the nurses and doctors that, assuming mom and baby were all good, we didn’t need to stay in the medical cave for another 24 hours. As the caregivers did their jobs almost too well, explaining breastfeeding to Christy in painstaking detail, I wanted to tell them that Christy wrote the damn breastfeeding brochure with our first child.

Home at 3:30pm and greeted by all of the other pieces of my heart, we settled in, kickoff for Penn State-Auburn a mere hours away. It was a great game and a great win for the boys, but one that will forever be completely overshadowed by smells, purrs, facial expressions, and all of the love in the room.

Sunday, September 19, 2021, 12pm CST, Charlotte, North Carolina

Panthers Win

I told the fellas at the golf course that they better be glad I wasn’t working on Sunday because I would be chirping like a bird, the sole Panthers fan surrounded by a Saints army. After the Saints’ Week 1 dismantling of Green Bay, their fans thought Jameis Winston was the second coming of Christ. Turns out, against the Panthers, he was actually the second coming of Jameis Winston.

Carolina completely dominated. Charlotte looked beautiful. I allowed my brain to wander briefly, a past life and a new life intertwined beautifully for the first time.

As a new week starts, the moon glistening over The Gulf, it’s only a couple more days before it happens again. Thursday Night Football. Panthers at Texans. Charli Win on my lap. There’s magic in the air.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Lifestyle: Adjusting on the Fly

“We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” – Dolly Parton

Complete strangers before October 2015, Birmingham Ben, Iowa Jay, and Wyoming Chad started becoming good friends of mine over an exquisite day of golf at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, MN. (You may have heard of Hazeltine. It hosted the Ryder Cup shortly after our visit.)

Though geographically separated by thousands of miles, we decided we should stay in touch. Not some high school yearbook fake stay in touch, an actual I think we should be active friends.

In July 2017, the four of us embarked on a golf week in Wyoming and Montana, the Wild West taking center stage and igniting my newfound love with that part of the country.

In August 2018, missing one member of the crew, we converged on my old stomping grounds in Charlotte, NC, a side trip down the road to golf mecca Pinehurst also on the agenda.

In September 2019, Birmingham and Auburn, AL (and 18 hours in New Orleans) took the reigns, hosting the four of us for what turned out to be a wonderful surprise, our expectations surpassed at seemingly every turn.

We were on a roll. Let’s do this every year. Shouldn’t be any issue. But then the wind changed direction, and 2020 hit.

2020 was full of twists and turns, and unfortunately, our annual golf trip got sidelined. Could we make it to Iowa? Could I host down on the Gulf Coast? Or should we just punt and resume in 2021? The latter won out, and visions of Iowa 2021 centered around Saturday’s Iowa-Iowa State football game danced around in our minds. This is going to be epic, maybe better than Alabama.

Then I started a new career and Baby Girl decided that September 2021 sounded ideal for an arrival, so the wind changed direction again.

Birmingham Ben actually made the trip to Iowa this past week, visiting with Jay and having a brilliant time, I’m sure. As we all texted back and forth, it became apparent that even though our full group trip took 2020 and 2021 off, a smattering of memorable side trips (one I had totally forgotten) continued popping up to keep the friendships rocking and rolling.

Ben and I in Destin, FL May 2017 and at East Lake Golf Club March 2019.

Jay and I in Iowa/Minnesota/South Dakota June 2019.

Jay and I in Kansas City November 2020.

Ben and I in Pinehurst February 2021.

Chad and I in New Orleans April 2021.

Ben and Chad in Wyoming/Montana May 2021.

Ben and Jay in Iowa last week.

The trips with all four of us are still the best, never a dull moment to be had. (We are each genuinely fascinated with where and how the other three live.) But until the wind blows us all back together, maybe in 2022, we will just keep adjusting the sails. The unique friendships we made that gorgeous autumn day at Hazeltine are too valuable to let slip away.

Speaking of adjusting the sails, Baby Girl is coming in less than 72 hours. So when we talk next time, whenever that may be, overlook the misspellings.

There’s going to be less sleep, but more love.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Lifestyle: Variety is the Routine

“Most days are abk now. That’s the whole point. One life. No days wasted. No days exactly the same. Be exactly who you want to be. But some days are more abk than others.”-anything but khakis®️

For the abk lifestyle to fully blossom, two things have to occur. First, every day must be tended to fully, intentionally, and passionately. Second, no sleepwalking is allowed. No arbitrary daily routine can exist just because of comfort or habit.

Over the past almost 4.5 years, I’m 99.9% sure no two days have looked remotely similar, unless that was my intent. No morning coffee just because. No tacos just because it’s Tuesday. No I’m going to be creative at 8am every Thursday, because living cannot be planned. What do I want out of each day? Hell, I couldn’t have a routine in my life now if I tried. Some days I go to work at 6am. Some days 10am. Some days not at all. Some days I play golf at 2pm. Some days 6pm. Occasionally not at all. Some days I teach. Some days I don’t. Some days I teach adults. Some days I teach kids. Some days I want tacos. Some days pizza. Some days a salad. Some days I sleep on the couch. Some days in the bed. Some days I write. Some days I take pictures.

The variety is my routine. The variety is my consistency. With my bigger picture in mind, I tend to that specific day’s wants and needs, wants and needs that absolutely vary from day to day. Why we confine ourselves to a predetermined regimen versus daily conscious living baffles me. I mean, what if I’m feeling Asian food on Taco Tuesday?

The first thing I told my sister at the airport after she and her family arrived last week was this: down here, rules are merely suggestions. There are no arbitrary, rigid rules down here. That’s the whole point. We work when we need to work. We play when we need to play. We eat when we are hungry. We sleep when we are tired.

We need to be cognizant of the impending birth of a child and mom’s needs, but otherwise we can do whatever y’all want. Want to go to the beach? Let’s walk to the beach. Want to jet ski? Let’s ride. Want to play golf? Let’s play. Want to just chill, watch the kids play, and have pizza delivered? Beautiful. (Half jokingly)- Want to bet on the Notre Dame-Florida State game? Actually, yes. Let’s do something different!

Alright Suz, here’s how betting works. This means that. That means this. Bet with your head. Bet with your heart. I don’t care. Just don’t bet too much that if you lose it will ruin your night…says the guy who got slightly agitated when Notre Dame decided to take their foot of the gas.

$38.10, she won. I know who’s buying the pizza next time.

Life is full of questions, questions I’ve been exploring for the past 4.5 years. Life is full of exceptions, as I wrote about last week. And life is full of contradictions, example 1A being my disdain for routine in life while simultaneously embarking on a golf journey where having a methodical regimen is the way to get really good.

On the one hand, I love variety, creativity, artistry, freedom and the spice of life. On the other hand, I now work, teach, and play something that requires a rigid routine.

On the one hand, I can’t explain it. It’s just another question. On the other hand, I guess I just discovered a difference between anything but khakis®️ and abk Golf 💡.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Lifestyle: ‘Tis the Season

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”- popular Christmas song

If you’ve followed along for any period of time now, you know that I find many traditions to be tired. Played out. Not relevant anymore. When someone says to me because it has always been done that way, it takes everything in my being not to scream.

However, exceptions exist everywhere, and college football season and all of its magical pageantry, beautiful autumn scenery, and yes, even its long-standing traditions, get my heart racing.

Along my travels, I’ve been on a Super Duper Top Secret Mission that, honestly, I didn’t even mean to be on: visit all of the SEC college campuses and stadiums and take in each one’s unique experience and culture. To date, I’ve done 12 of the 14 schools. Some were as a teenager. Some were very recent. Some were brief. Some lasted a few days. All of them offered something.

The two towns I have yet to visit are College Station, TX and Fayetteville, AR. I’ve been near both of them along my travels, but for whatever reason I did not take the plunge.

My trips to Athens, GA, Gainesville, FL, and Columbia, SC were essentially non-events as I recall. I remember the hedges in Athens, the blonde hair in Gainesville, and that Columbia is the hottest place on Planet Earth.

The remaining nine, however, all have a place in the scrapbook, memories emblazoned in my brain for a lifetime.

I took a brief tour recently in Tuscaloosa, AL, but with school not yet in session, I had to rely on the history oozing out of the campus to paint the picture for me.

It was a fun time to be in Starkville, MS two months ago, with Mississippi State’s baseball team winning the College World Series. The town was buzzing, though half of its residents were in Omaha with the team. I highly recommend the gulf shrimp tacos from Two Brothers Smoked Meats and the grilled cheese and baked beans from The Little Dooey. If you golf, 25 minutes away are Mossy Oak and Old Waverly, a sublime pairing basically right across the street from each other.

I bebopped around Knoxville, TN a couple of years ago, a town completely covered in orange. As the sun set, I found a spot perched high above the Tennessee River and Neyland Stadium and snapped a couple of pics, imagining the throngs tailgating in their boats on game day.

I drank my first frosty barrel-aged bourbon beer (delicious) in Lexington, KY a few years ago, sharing some laughs with my friend Gazza, who was randomly in town, at a local hotel bar adjacent to Rupp Arena.

I sat through a vicious storm in Columbia, MO, my first real experience with a Midwestern pop-up tornado. Real talk, I pulled over at a gas station, uncertain of what to do and scared to freaking death.

I ate some incredible red beans and rice in Baton Rouge while visiting the campus. I had no idea a live, full-grown tiger prowled outside of the stadium, so that was interesting. But the most intriguing thing to me about Baton Rouge is how you can look inside Tiger Stadium from the bridge high above the Mississippi River as you leave or enter town. Every time I cross it, I peer in, fascinated.

I loved the hot chicken at Hattie B’s in Nashville, TN, which is hilarious because I was there to run a July 4th 10k. I made a side trip to the super cool store Imogene + Willie, a place that provides excellent clothing, but even better life quotes.

My day in Auburn was every man’s fantasy. Golf at 7am. Birdiefest with your buddies. Shower. Change. Tailgate. Eat. Drink. SEC football clash. War Eagle.

And last but certainly not least, The Grove in Oxford, the swankiest, most dressed up tailgate experience in America. I’ve done it twice, I believe, preceded both times by steaks at nearby Como Steakhouse the night before. I’m not sure anyone actually cares about the game, but the fashion, the pomp, the circumstance…

Since we are sharing secrets today, I’ll tell you one more: even though I live in SEC country now, I’m indifferent towards any specific team down here. I’ve had fun everywhere. I’m a Penn State football fan, and I love watching the Big Ten. The northern cities and the fall leaves make me feel in love.

Want to know something even crazier? When I get home from the golf course on Saturday (or Thursday) night, I love watching the Mountain West and the PAC 10. I could give two shits about the actual games, but when the camera pans out on the Colorado State at Utah game, I look out at nature and remember my abk journey, my being right there.

And I smile and think to myself, ‘Tis the season.

Have a great week.-Benj

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