Bargaining in Tijuana

7F28E959-FE8B-49E6-99FA-9F6D83DD8AE9This past Monday, smack in the middle of a five day trip to California, I walked in to Tijuana, Mexico. Yes, you read that correctly. I walked in to Mexico. Through a turnstile, like I was entering a minor league baseball game in the 1990s. I spent thirty seconds with the customs guy, told him why I was there, and off I went. A guest for the day. 

Why was I there?  Why am I anywhere really? Well, on this day, it was to golf. No shenanigans. Not to eat what I heard was quite delicious food. Not to be a tourist. Golf. 

Only one problem. I am not a member at Club Campestre de Tijuana (Tijuana Country Club). Shocking, I know. I also had no tee time. No clubs. No balls. Just blind ambition. 

3AE59A64-DFF2-44BA-8055-81F08CDA97B1But I did have passion, a kind smile, and I knew just enough Spanish to convince them to let me play. 

Everywhere I go, I want to play. The more off the beaten path, the better. The more challenging, the better.

E249F01D-2776-43BF-8196-42F35ED91691065C5EE2-6209-4978-AD31-0E514C92F7F6I played 36 holes at world renowned Torrey Pines on Tuesday (which was awesome), but CC de Tijuana is a much better story. 

I bargained for everything along the way. The first cab driver wanted $12. We settled on $10 (converted to pesos of course). He wanted to, how shall I say, interest me in other services. We settled on golf. 

The security guard at the club looked at me skeptically as I entered the premises, but my dark skin and dark beard seemed to appease him. After getting the okay to proceed, the golf shop first wanted $100, then $130, so we settled right in the middle. 

They had a set of left handed clubs to offer me, but I am not left handed. The right handed clubs were too nice, so they needed some collateral until I returned them. My drivers license seemed to please them. 

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Once we were all settled, I basically had this lush, green paradise in the heart of urban Tijuana to myself. I didn’t catch another golfer until hole 16, at which time I was parched. I wanted a Mexican Coca Cola (real sugar cane), but opted instead for a Tecate Roja from the cart guy. I carefully wiped off all water droplets from the bottle and insisted on a fresh solo cup to avoid a repeat of the great Mexico City Blowout of 2018.

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I finished a pleasant round, thanked my gracious hosts, got my drivers license back, and then headed for the exit gate. 

I guess random Americans don’t walk into their club every day, as even the exit guard asked me what the hell I was doing. 

“Golf” I said smiling. I mimicked a swing. “Golf. Y muchas gracias por tu hospitalidad.”

That seemed to please him, and before I knew it, I was back on the streets of Tijuana looking for a cab. 

I found one close by at a Tijuana hotel which I managed to secure even though I was not a guest there. The driver  was a friendly 70 year old man, as much a tour guide as simply a taxi driver. He wanted $8. I insisted on $10. 

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We spoke of the enchanting land that is Tijuana. Part Mexican border city. Part haven for nutty American tourists.  At every random wall that we passed along the drive, he would point and say “wall”, and we would giggle together.  

He finally asked me why I was here, and I told him “to golf and to just explore.” He looked at me quizzically and said “Why here?”  I shrugged my shoulders and simply said, “Because this is what I love to do.”

Have a great week.-Benj

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It Ain’t About Pants

It’s been an interesting two weeks around these parts. I officially became houseless. I slept in my childhood home for a few nights, using a bed and shower that was made for 10 year old me, not 36 year old me. I haven’t seen my son in person in 14 days, though we FaceTime about every 12 seconds. And I am sitting here now with Christy, in California, mulling over walking into Tijuana on Monday and then definitely playing 36 holes at Torrey Pines on Tuesday. 

4941FA75-1BD6-42C7-8503-175DF4437577It’s unusual, isn’t it? Weird? Against the grain? Risky? Outside the box? And yet, no one has ever been happier. Christy is living her childhood dream, spending ever more hours with our son, eating dinner with her parents, and generally feeling free. Banks is thriving at his new school, happy, loved, curious, and missing his dad I hear (30 more days, son. Like he is reading this?). And me, well, I’m on fire. 

May 2017- After weeks of excruciating thought some almost two years ago, the name “anything but khakis” came to me like a meteor crashing into Earth. It described my take on fashion perfectly, but little did I know that it would also be the perfect phrase for how I believe life should be lived. Intentional. Passionate. A little weird. A little wild. anything but khakis ®️. 

It was aspirational.  Lots of people talk a big game. Could it be done? Could the vision and the subsequent work really make dreams come true? What exactly were the dreams? How could everyone be included? How could everyone become free?

Back to today. If you ask me my address, I don’t have one to give you. If you ask me what I do for a living in 30 days, the answer will be nothing. If you ask me if I am happy and if you ask the people around me if they are happy, you will just get a big smile. 

The world has a way of making us point fingers at everyone but ourselves. The world has a way of making us feel selfish for taking the risk to have a dream and follow through with it instead of being bound by societal norms. The world has a way of making us feel weird if we don’t conform to exactly what everyone else is doing. 

I have felt this way for many years, but to avoid being just another talking head and to avoid feeling stuck for the rest of my life, I finally sought out to do it. 

Step 1 is almost complete. What WAS step 1? Completely change my life, obvi. If someone now asks me my credentials, I can look them in the eyes and say I have done it. No theories. No hypotheses. I have completely transformed my life. Took 21.5 months.  Been there. Done that. Documented it every step of the way. 

Friends, we are roughly a month away from abk taking an exciting new turn. In the meantime, I will offer my final thoughts and takeaways of quite an extraordinary journey that I hope will help you in yours. 

But today, I simply want to say one thing. It’s been killing me for months now. So here goes. I don’t give a shit if you wear khaki pants. Like, not one iota. No one does. Some are actually quite nice. 

But they are safe, and completely changing my life was the complete opposite of being safe, so the name fits perfectly. 

What I do want is for you to know that an intentional, purposeful life is out there for you. Even if it looks weird as hell. Especially if it looks weird as hell. I’m doing it, come Hell or high water, and I’ve never felt more alive. 

anything but khakis ®️- Benj

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Valentine’s Day with Dave Chappelle

Well. Week 1 of couch surfing and living out of my car was an exciting, if not inconvenient, success. If you exclude formal travel, I bet you I drove more this week than I did during the entire past 2 years. And what a week it was for the city of Charlotte, one that no matter where I was sleeping, I was not going to miss. 

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NBA All Star 2019 was here, an event that combined sports, fashion, diversity, current issues, celebrities and immense excitement. Ever since I was a kid, All Star Saturday Night was must see TV. There are lots of people in NC that poo poo the NBA, but for me, I absolutely love it. 

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It started 2 Saturdays ago at noon, as I called the Belk Theater box office 33 times and refreshed the website over 50 times to somehow snag 2 tickets to Dave Chappelle’s last minute show on Valentine’s Day. Since my Valentine was 1000 miles away, Mr. Chappelle would have to do. Decent way to start the festivities, having dinner with my pal Jim, watching Dave kill it, and then feeling the excitement start to build as we walked around uptown after the show. 

DE9835DD-B289-4747-B867-73A64532CEC1I spent Friday night with my brother in law Jonathan, as the uptown Charlotte atmosphere intensified. He humored my shoe fetish as we were able to sneak into the House of Hoops pop up, where amongst other cool things, we were able to see Nike’s new shoes that you digitally tie via your phone. Mind blown. 

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We could have meandered all night, but instead chose to go ahead into the arena and catch our seats for Friday night’s Rising Stars game, where the top 19 and 20 year old NBA stars faced off against each other in what essentially was a pickup game dunk contest. Some hate that style, but I love it. It’s just loose, chill, and a ton of fun. 

The NBA is one of the great contributors to the global fashion scene right now, and so there were fashion pop ups and events everywhere across town. There were 2, specifically, that I wanted to hit. 

Saturday, it was the Meshika Hats All Star Pregame event at Tabor. And Sunday, it was the NBA Style Forum at the Tissot Style Lounge. I’ve made some friends over at Tabor, so I popped in, had a chat, and looked over the hats. It was time to raise the hat game even higher, and this paint splattered navy one was the ticket. Absolutely no doubt. 

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I wasn’t initially going to rock it Sunday, but well, I did. And I’m glad I did, because it started a conversation with Houston Rockets player and reigning NBA Style God PJ Tucker. 

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I had grabbed my pal Junior to join me, and after an hour long wait in the cold, we got into the Style Forum event. Featured were a top NBA stylist, PJ Tucker, music producer and professor 9th Wonder, and a prominent sneaker blogger. I love this stuff. It is its own culture. Its own world. PJ rocks a new pair of shoes one night, throws it on Instagram, and it literally moves the needle worldwide. Cool freaking panel though. Smart. Friendly. Articulate. Awesome way to end the weekend. 

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As I reflected on a weekend that mesmerized me via television every year, how was it in person?  Even though this weekend was about mindless entertainment, fun, and other shenanigans, I just can’t turn off the curiosity and learning button in my head. Being around one of the greatest comedians in the world, the greatest NBA stars in the world, one of the most stylish players on the planet, the newest technologies, the best rappers, and wild hats galore. It just never gets old to immerse yourself within the best. To just soak it in. Observe. Listen. You never know if that is the world you may eventually find yourself in. 

And just like that, it was over. Charlotte, back to normal. Well, other than the fact I don’t live there any more. 

Have a great week.-Benj

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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?

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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 .