Tougher than the Rest: A Song, a Story, a Wedding

I do not want to get married again.

Yes, that sounds harsh, but before everyone cancels their RSVPs and returns their gift cards, perhaps I should clarify. The statement “I do not want to get married again” is a true statement, with the key word being “again.” That word, those two little syllables, imply Marriage the Reboot, which, simply isn’t the case.

I had accepted, even encouraged, the thinking that I would be alone the rest of my life. I’d become a hollowed out person, unable to allow anyone to come close enough to hurt me, let alone love me. Sure, I’d date, perhaps even attach a label to it, but I wanted that distance, needed it to survive, even though it was killing me.

In almost exactly one week from this moment, I will be huddled in a hallway with the woman who changed all that, and our small gathering of guests will be listening to a song that captures us. It is not a shock to anyone that it will be a Bruce Springsteen song, but what might escape everyone is just how on the dot the lyrics to “Tougher than the Rest” are.
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A touch of magic: “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible”

Many of you, particularly my social media friends, have already seen this story, but I’m sharing it here to reach a wider audience to celebrate the love that has been showered on my friends. To those who are familiar with my friend Kellee, her battle with cancer and her journey to Disney, I ask you to continue spreading this type of joy. To those who are just now discovering this tale, I realize what follows is lengthy, but the payoff is worth it as, at least for me, it has helped reaffirm my faith in humanity.


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For Gabbard: A Briefcase History of Time

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Anthony Gabbard never won our fantasy football league. Never came close, really, despite often being armed with more picks in the first seven rounds than the rest of us had in the full draft. He would methodically fill slots based on need, meaning he always – ALWAYS – ended up taking a kicker not just too early but entirely too early. Like ridiculously early. Like seventh or eighth round early, having already rounded out a roster and ready to go worry about other things, usually poker.

Unlike others in the league, Gabbard didn’t study charts or meticulously pore over fantasy gurus in the days leading up to the draft. He preferred to print out a couple of sheets, then let the numbers be the guide while the team fell into place.

This is not to say, however, that he didn’t come prepared. Continue reading

This is Important (but I Know You’re Not Listening): 2016 PCHS Commencement Speech

IMG_1627The following is the commencement speech I  gave this afternoon at Powell County High School in my hometown of Stanton, Ky. I was a member of the Class of 1993.

The first words my mother said upon being told I’d been asked to speak today were “Please don’t embarrass me.”

Not “I’m proud” or “good luck” or even “they should’ve asked your sister instead.” Nope. Just “don’t embarrass me.”

So, to honor my mom’s wishes, I’ve made a list of topics to avoid: meth, Donald Trump, asking where the after-parties are, stories about my mom, stories about my dad and more meth.

To the person who invited me here today, I’m afraid you’ve made a huge mistake. To Superintendent Michael Tate and Principal Kendall Kearns it’s an honor to be here, but you should know Martina Skidmore is responsible for what’s to follow. To be fair, she’s been a friend since kindergarten, and I thank her for having faith in me. I hope to make my mother proud. I cannot, however, promise I won’t embarrass her. Continue reading

Nathan, in Summation: A Salute to Another Graduating Nephew

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Nathan Brooks was born to be a middle child.

Even as a baby, he was never The Baby, long before Jon came along and assumed that still-standing title. Almost from the beginning, Nathan has been a peacemaker, a mediator, a negotiator, a giver.

This, incidentally, makes him more of a Brooks than a Hall. Granted, my knowledge of the Brooks family is pretty much limited to Troy, while my Hall history has a whole host from which to choose, but even among that sample, I’m confident in my statement.
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Charles Farmer was a blessing to many

Charles Farmer liked my dad.

Sure, many people (I think) love Doc Hall, but to like him can be something a bit more challenging. He can be any one (or combination) of the following: loud, goofy, obnoxious, stubborn and in unnamed-2.jpgthe interest of any potential inheritance someday I’m going to stop listing them
(although to be fair, I’m really just naming things about myself since the apple and tree find themselves in close geographic proximity). Continue reading

The Weird Little Kid from Bowen Elementary

This scrawny kid seemed to always be reading, and while I have been a reader for as long as I can possibly remember, his nose always seemed to be in stories far outside my usual realm of comfort. In sixth grade, I still found myself on a stea68348_478560403658_1891280_ndy diet of The Three Investigators, but this guy feasted in a different world, one populated by monsters and demons, killers and ghosts.

Oh, sure, I knew about monsters – I was a huge fan of the classic Universal movies like Frankenstein, The Wolf Man and Creature from the Black Lagoon. His tastes, though, ran a bit bloodier.

So when I saw Aaron Saylor flipping through Fangoria, a magazine devoted to the scariest and, well, goriest, movies and entertainment of that era (the mid-1980s), I instantly knew two things: 1) This was one weird little dude; and 2) we needed to be friends.

Almost 30 years later, both are still true.
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