Eyes Opened

“Be careful what you ask for.”-Lots of people

I will be the first to tell you that I love a fancy hotel, a good wine, a nice suit, beautiful golf courses, and fruity umbrella drinks.

I am well aware that I am on this journey that, at times, appears to be this fantasy life, a vision for freedom and happiness that unfolds a little more in my head and real life every single day.

But my passion, my deep down punch me in the gut passion, couldn’t be further from all of that.

I have always wanted a voice, not for fame or fortune, but because I’m interested in those that don’t have one. I’m interested in those that are invisible or a little unique. Maybe they are lonely or a tad bit lost. Maybe they need a second or third chance.  Maybe they are in pain, physical or otherwise. Maybe they’ve never been introduced to anything other than their current circumstance. Though on the surface you’d never know, deep down, I can certainly relate.

In a roundabout way, I got hooked when I would go to New York City as a teenager with my dad, exploring the city all day while he was in meetings. I was fascinated by the unglamorous neighborhoods and even the grimy areas. Who were these people that were never “seen”? I loved the sights, sounds, and smells of the subway. Out to Queens. Out to the Bronx. Who were these people?

In my early twenties, I read a ton, including this book called Gang Leader for a Day that further stoked my interest in human behavior and interaction.

At 23, my buddy Vinny and I walked down the “wrong” street in Baltimore one night, changing course just in the nick of time to avoid potential disaster.

In my mid-twenties, after making a literal wrong turn on my way to a Hawks game, I watched a man in Atlanta get shot and killed right in front of me.

In my late twenties, I participated in a poverty simulation, walking in someone else’s shoes for a month having to make tough decision after tough decision on extremely limited resources. It stressed me out beyond measure, and it wasn’t even real (for me).

Over the past two years, I have seen and felt deeply on my travels. The forgotten in Evansville, Indiana. The angry in New Orleans. The miscategorized in Tijuana and Mexico City.

About a year ago in rural Mississippi, I drove by this area of decrepit, old wooden shacks that looked like a swift breeze might blow them over. Some lacked roofs.  Some lacked four walls. Surely no human being lived there.

But yes. Yes they did. Entire families. An entire community.

And then, just this week, a sweet, docile black lab showed up on the porch at Christy’s family farm.

“Who is this?” I asked anyone that would listen.

“Just another dog that was likely discarded by their owner. Happens all the time.”

Discarded. Like a piece of trash.

I know. This is what I asked for. To go see the world. The real world. To feel it. To, at an absolute minimum, truly acknowledge it exists.

Because if I drink the fine wine, I best be able to scrap in the dirt.

And maybe, just maybe, finding my own true freedom will finally convince me to go get dirty.  To go help out those whose circumstances may be totally different, but knowing deep down, we are exactly the same.

Have a great week.-Benj

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(If you would like a sweet black lab, please message me.)

The Mississippi Chronicles: Been There, Done That

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It was Wednesday morning around 10:30am, and I was eating spicy ribs and watching the late Anthony Bourdain traipse through Montana. It was the two year anniversary of anything but khakis, and I was thinking about where I had been and where I was going.

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For the first time in my life, I was not in any hurry. I was in no hurry to finish my meal, finish this episode, find a house, or even find a “job”. I had found out who I was and what made me tick, and that was all that mattered.

Previously, I could have written the book on wolfing down lunch, closing the next deal, and speeding through life.  I could proudly email you back before you even hit send.  But now, I am pleased to say, I have completely lost interest in all of that. Which is good, because in Mississippi, nothing moves fast.

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Somewhere in that two year period, after I broke through that extremely uncomfortable stage of growth, it clicked. Flying through life wasn’t nearly as glamorous or enjoyable as it was portrayed, nor was it necessary if I could simply minimize my monthly monetary outflows (secret sauce!).

So I made a short list of things that I really wanted in my life and then set off to make them happen. Not arbitrary things like make more money, get promoted next year, or be happy. No, super specific things like play outside in the sunshine each day, spend quality time with everyone I encounter, have big dinners every night, and so on.

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What didn’t I need? To make this simple…most things. I didn’t need a big paycheck (refer to secret sauce). I didn’t need $2,000 suits. I didn’t need other people’s opinions. I didn’t need a big house. I didn’t need so many creature comforts, although I still have a few.

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Been there, done that, and I was heading down a path towards comfort that I didn’t want to go.  So I scrapped nearly all of it.

It’s not that it was wrong. Certainly not. It just wasn’t right any more. Things do change.

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Now, almost 60 days into Mississippi and two years into abk, all of this, every last bit, is progress. And when the time comes that something out there truly aligns with my vision for the world, I cannot wait to jump on it.

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In the meantime, it’s progress every single day, and man, what a ride.

Have a great week. -Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and @abkgolf.

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

Who Believes in Magic?

When something good happens to someone else, are you happy for them?  Or deep down, do you feel a tinge of jealousy?

When something good continuously happens to someone else, are you happy for them? Or deep down, do you wonder how they get all the luck?

When someone goes on a cool vacation, are you happy for them? Or deep down, do you wish you were there?

Last week was Wells Fargo Championship week back in Charlotte, my former favorite week of the year. Years ago, I would have HAD to be there. My buddies were sending me all sorts of crazy pictures and stories from the course, telling me about the great time they were having. Was I missing out this year? Well, that is one way to look at it. Or, nah. I was on the golf course myself in Mississippi, working on my game, strolling through nature, and enjoying life.

As fun as that week is/was in Charlotte, I’m not there anymore. Life has moved on. I have other fish to fry now and magic I want to create, magic that is right in front of me. (But I was happy that they were having such a good time!)

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Speaking of magic, last Wednesday night, I stood on the tee box of the par 3 17th hole at my new home course, Shell Landing. My playing partner, a complete stranger just hours ago, stepped up to the tee with his 7 iron and proceeded to make his first ever hole in one. It was wild, we went nuts, and to think, I almost didn’t accept he and his buddy’s invitation to play with them that day.

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I’ve never personally suffered from FOMO, but I know a lot of people do. I’ve never been the jealous type, but I know a lot of people are. My problem was that I viewed everything as a competition, and that is something I have worked very hard to undo. Because that attitude served me extremely well in business and sports, but it was a huge detriment to happiness in life.

Now…

I love seeing cool things happen to other people. I love seeing people do what they love and thrive at what they do, and I love being a small part of a really cool experience.

So what changed?

I implemented some simple, yet not so easy behaviors. I put myself out there. I tried tons of new things. I met new people. I offered something to the world in exchange for nothing. I started consistently doing things that I enjoyed.

When I started genuinely doing these things, something changed. Magic started to happen.

Am I saying that focusing on bettering myself opened up my relationship to the world?

It felt weird and scary at first, but it really was just that simple. When I started just doing things and trying things and paying attention, my world really freaking changed. When I just told myself I was going to write and take pictures and golf and make hats and give style advice and just constantly grind and not worry about money and followers and likes and comments and other people’s opinions and what anyone else was doing and all sorts of weird bullshit, my world COMPLETELY changed.

I started to understand happiness. And that opened my heart up to celebrate everyone else.

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Magic.

Have a great week.-Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and @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 Mississippi Chronicles: Substance Over Style

“Enough already. Let’s do this.”- Me

From mid-February to mid-March, I played golf in 6 states plus Mexico. It was a part of this fantasy farewell tour I had dreamed up, like I was the second coming of Dwyane Wade or something. I played my regular local spots, multiple PGA Tour stops, multiple US Open hosts, and even the site of the PGA Tour Championship. Twice.

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Man, it was fun. Super fun. I have memories and stories and conversations for a lifetime. But I wasn’t getting any better at golf. In fact, an argument could be made that I was actually getting worse.

Then, from mid-March to mid-April, I moved from North Carolina to Mississippi.  I experienced my fair share of adventures; some new, some familiar, and some quite outlandish.

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But on the flip side, I also encountered severe back and hip pain for roughly ten days that rendered me useless. It rained buckets for a handful of days.

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I helped babysit a farm for a week.

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I am currently babysitting a farm and a child and 3 dogs and a cat and who knows what else as we speak. And I may be getting guilted into adopting a little kitty for my son in the very near future (what?!).

So needless to say, after introducing you to this fantastical, minimalist, freeing, mobile, brand new way of life, some kinks still need to be worked out.

But now, it’s almost go time.

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Last weekend, I joined Shell Landing Golf Club, a beautiful Davis Love III signature course just minutes off of the Gulf of Mexico.

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I paid all of the dues and fees for a year upfront, and I ordered a pull cart online. So now I have unlimited golf for one year with nothing further to pay outside of balls, tees, etc.

That’s big time for two reasons. First, daily golf is expensive, and that ship has sailed. I needed something where I could pay a fixed lump sum and in return get unlimited use. Knowing me, when I get into something, I really get into it.

Second, I was introduced to some of the other members last week during one of their (our) weekly shootouts. I was introduced as the new member. The new hotshot from the big city. The young gun wearing his fancy shoes.  On the first hole, I bombed a drive right down the middle, and then my three playing partners proceeded to whoop my ass (not literally, though they probably could have).

That’s when I realized that it was time to get to work. One of my favorite things already about the people down here is that they don’t care much about riff-raff. They don’t care what cool courses you’ve played recently. And they sure as hell don’t care what shoes you’re wearing. They care if you know your stuff, or in this case, if you can play, and that is a quality I, too, have always valued.

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One of my personal dreams is to get really good at golf, and that is one thing I am down here to do. Because as much as I love style and flair and pizzazz and limited edition golf shoes, it means jack if there is no substance behind it.

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And last Monday, I got a much needed reminder that I am simply not good enough right now. And for that reason, it is time to get to work.

Have a great week.-Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and @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 Fruity Drink Chronicles: New Orleans Style

The scene: Ace Hotel, New Orleans, LA, Josephine Estelle Bar, 3:30pm, Tuesday

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The players: an artsy-fartsy, young, white bartender from DC; a no-nonsense, middle-aged, African-American local named Frank; and me

Frank: What you drinking over there, boss?

Me:  No idea. I think it’s called a mystery, snazzy cocktail. Regardless, it’s delicious.

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Frank (to bartender):  I’ll have what he’s having.

Me: What’s your name, my man?

Frank: Frank. You?

Me:  Benj. Pleasure. What’s your story, Frank?

(Frank tells me his story, which includes just returning from the Masters.)

Frank:  What’s yours?

Me: You want the long version or the short version?

Frank: Depends on how interesting it is.

Me: Well, I just quit my corporate job in Charlotte, NC and sold most everything and moved to Mississippi and moved my family down here and we are kinda in limbo but it is quite exciting and very interesting and I just explore and the rest of the family is wildly happy living out on a farm and it is a complete 180 and totally unique but we all kinda do whatever we want now hence why I am sitting at the bar at the Ace Hotel in New Orleans at 3:30pm on a Tuesday drinking fruity drinks and talking to you.

Bartender: Wow. I think we might want the long version.

Me: Thought you might.

Me (to no-nonsense Frank): How’s the drink?

Frank: Fantastic!  You know, I’ve got a buddy in the mountains of Colorado that kind of did the same thing. Invests in real estate now, so really doesn’t DO much.

Me:  Yeah, I don’t think people realize there are a million unique ways to make money. It doesn’t have to be the key focus in life. Happiness and doing what you want with your time should be up there at the top too.

(some “dream big” chit chat)

Frank: So I told you I travel a lot, but you know what? I just got rid of my car. It’s cheaper, and it’s less of a nuisance.

Bartender: Yep. Me too.

Me:  Tell me more. I am in the process of removing as many nuisances from my life as possible.

Frank: I just don’t need it.

Me:  I’ve learned that there are a lot of things in life that we really don’t need.

Bartender: And, car insurance in Louisiana is ridiculously expensive!

Me: I was on a swamp ride this morning, and that’s what everyone was talking about. Must really be expensive.

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Bartender: It’s insane.

(chit chat)

Frank: So why here man? Why New Orleans? Why the Ace Hotel?

Me: I love this place, Frank. It’s like my centering place down here. It’s weird and unique. It’s extremely diverse. And I always feel welcome.

 

Have a great week.-Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and @abkgolf.

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

Where Exactly is Home?

“It’s not even about golf, per se.  It’s about something that is not like anything else.”-Chef David Chang on the Masters 

I put myself on the 15 day disabled list last week. After almost 2 years of sleeping in weird beds, showering in tiny showers, ubering in Ford Festivas, and flying in seats meant for my son, my back had had it. So I shut it down. To follow my dreams, I need my body functioning at full capacity. 

As such, I had some time last week to think, and two questions I have been asked recently cropped up: “Do you miss North Carolina?” and “Is Mississippi now home?”  The answer to both of these is “no” because for me, home is not a specific place, it is a feeling. 

For years, I have been fascinated with the east coast vs west coast debate.  NYC vs LA. His happy place vs her happy place. The north vs the south. Rural vs urban. And so on. 

You should know by now that it is not enough for me to just hear about it. I want to experience it myself. Feel it myself. See what all the fuss is about. And so I did. And I wrote this article a few months ago about trying to find my happy place and subsequently didn’t think too much more about it. 

But since I am laying low for a couple of weeks to rehab my back, I re-explored the topic. And by God, I think I have found some happy places. Places that make me emotional. Places that make me feel alive. Places that if you invited me right now, I would ask how soon I could meet you there. 

So, here they are. My top 15 over the past few years, in order, with a few tidbits for you to savor. 

St. Augustine, FL, springtime. Have an ice cream or some fudge and just walk around. Take pictures of yourself with the palm trees, obviously. 

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The Open Kitchen, Charlotte, NC, $1 beer night. Go back in time and order old school Italian classics washed down with yes, $1 beer.  

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The Ace Hotel, New Orleans, LA, happy hour. Grab a drink and a couch, and maybe the poet in residence will find you. Seriously, last time she wrote me an impromptu haiku. 

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St. Elmo’s Steakhouse, Indianapolis, IN, Pacers game night. Grab a seat at the bar, get the world famous shrimp cocktail and filet, and make some new friends. 

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Fulmer’s General Store, Richton, MS, lunchtime M-F. $8.99 for meat and 3 sides, dessert, and sweet tea. Shop for candy, fresh vegetables, or cowboy boots afterwards. The world needs more of these places. 

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Beverly Hills Hotel, Los Angeles, CA. Nostalgia, nostalgia, nostalgia. Ooh, I felt it. And I ate lunch two seats down from Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan (that almost ruined it for me). 

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Torrey Pines Golf Course, La Jolla, CA, sunrise. This was the view I saw as soon as I hopped out of the uber, and I am pretty sure I cursed out loud I was so smitten. Daaammmmnnn…

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First Energy Stadium, Cleveland, OH, winter. Want to feel alive? Maybe the Browns will play your team on a cold December day. Go.  Make a weekend of it. Explore a wonderful city, but please, bring an extremely warm jacket. 

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Wells Fargo Championship, Charlotte, NC, first week of May. Best week of the year in Charlotte. Check out the celebs in the pro-am on Wednesday, and then party with everyone else in the city Friday and Saturday. FYI, no one works that week. 

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Hazeltine National Golf Club, Chaska, MN, autumn. Indulge the Minnesota hospitality, the beautiful leaves, Lake Hazeltine, a walk with your friends, and dinner afterwards. Oh yeah, the golf is also really good. 

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Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, NC, pregame. Get there an hour early and savor the pregame shenanigans. My personal fave is when the students sing “Every Time We Touch” and then go nuts!  I just got chills writing that. This is a must do!

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Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland, not winter. Likely the most unique place I have ever gone and might ever go. Spectacular. For the full recap, read here .

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Pride Park, Wingate, NC, fall game night. This truly is home for me, both literally and figuratively. Prove it? Three years ago, I flew home early from an NYC vacation to watch an important soccer game.

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Random park, Venice, Italy, peak season. The picture may not look like much, but just adjacent to this park, there are stunning views of the following: canal, sea, mountains, soccer stadium, high school, prison, and church. I remember feeling my heart fill up as I did the 360. I also may have cursed out loud in amazement. Daaammmnnnnn…

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Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, NC, spring or fall, sunset. Walking up 18 or enjoying some time on the veranda at sunset with the local church bells chiming is hard to put into words. You literally feel the ghosts of legends past all around you. If I ever feel that I need to join some big time club, this is 1A. 

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Happy places and “homes” are everywhere. Just remember, you don’t have to feel boxed in by the normal definition, aka where your residence is or where your parents went or what anyone else is doing. I personally get my rocks off finding people, places, and things that, like David Chang said, are unlike anything else.  

So just get out there. Explore. I never would have found most of these if I didn’t do just that. 

Have a great week, and take care of your back.-Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and @abkgolf.

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