Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Welcome Home

Everyone has a place they recognize in a very hallowed, very sacred manner. To some it’s Mecca, others Jerusalem, to a screwy bunch of nutcases it’s Salt Lake City. To me though, it’s Columbus, Ohio.

For full effect, download “Carmen Ohio” by absolutely anyone and play at maximum volume throughout the duration of this post.

If you have known me for more than three sentences, you know without question what team I’m rooting for 366 days out of the year. In fact, I think the first three things that come to a person’s mind when they hear the name “Brock Bybee” are “seizures”, “jerk” and “die-hard Ohio State Buckeyes fan”, in that order. Correct me if I’m wrong on that assumption. I have cheered for this team through highs and lows, through championships and corruption, my fandom being ingrained into my character by some Jewish looking guy who took my Mom to the altar back in the 90’s.   

Dad: “Look son, I know I’ve only been your Father for a few weeks, but in this house we cheer for Ohio State. If I catch you cheering for anyone else, well, I’ll just have to kill ya. Do you understand?”

5-Year Old Me: “Uh…sure. What’s your name again?”

From that point on I was a Buckeye. Cheering on a team for the sake of being part of a family that had pulled me into the fold, a family I was unsure I even belonged in at that stage of my life. And so I rooted right along with the rest of them to fit in, and was adopted by the hallowed fanbase that praised to the heavens of “how firm thy friendship”. For nearly 25 years I have been a Buckeye junkie owning nearly every piece of paraphernalia possible. I have yelled and cried, broken shoulders and pantry doors, applauding a team I had never before been privy to witness in person.

Until this weekend.

Up until this point of my life Columbus was just a mirage to me. A place that I knew existed on paper, but never had the time or the money to experience in person. This is a place my adoptive family claims as their roots, where all of their heritage can be traced back to. It’s a place that helped create their characters, a place I glorify with a fervor but had never set a single foot upon. And so I packed three days of my life into a duffle bag, boarded a plane, and flew four hours across the country in the middle of the night to experience the land I had worshipped but never witnessed, the place I deem nearly as sacred as the church I revere. My expectations could never have been higher to finally see the holy O-H-I-O.

And they sure didn’t let me down.

Columbus is fanatical. I mean that by the fact that the entire city of 787,000 people shut down on Saturday in devotion to THE Ohio State University. We’re talking miles of drunks, decked out RV’s, and games of cornhole. There were planes with 100-foot banners circling in the sky, legions of fans packing themselves into an arena to watch The Best Damn Band In The Land perform their skull session. 80-foot projections of The Team Up North getting pummeled by the Minnesota Golden Gophers, and everyone screaming in elation when they saw Brady Hoke shaking his head. It was organized, intoxicated pandemonium. And I loved every second of it.

On Saturday I walked around Columbus all day and took it in. I absorbed the drunks, the fraternity parties, the random shouts of “O-H!” followed by a random reply of “I-O!” by any number of the Jack Daniels sipping bystanders in scarlet and gray. For the first time in my life I wasn’t a minority when it came to the team I was cheering for. Back home in Utah you’ll find Ohio State fans every few hundred miles. But here, on the corner of Tuttle Park and Woody Hayes Drive, I was absorbed into the hundreds, nay, thousands of lunatic Buckeyes getting ready to scream their faces off at gametime in The Shoe.

For one of the first times in my life, I kind of felt like I was home.

We all screamed, and cheered, and threw high fives around to complete strangers with O’s on their chest when J.T. Barrett would gain another first down with his feet, or when Anthony Schlegel body slammed a random fan who thought it would be a good idea to run on to the field mid-second quarter. Yeah, I witnessed that in person. And I’ll never forget it. 108,364 fans in euphoria clapping their hands and singing “Hang On Sloopy” in between quarters, and uniformly spelling out their team’s letters in order to cheer on the Bucks. It’s the closest thing to heaven I think I’ll ever experience.

Who knows when I will return to Columbus? It could be next fall as a grad student, ten years from now as an assistant professor, or even never. I have no idea. It’s a beautiful place that any college football fan would ogle over if they had the chance to be a participant. This can easily be classified as one of the greatest moments of my adult life, without question. For 72 hours I roamed the streets of Columbus, Ohio like an inebriated five-year old and reveled in the memories my Dad fed to me as a child. Except this time the memories weren’t his.

This time, they were mine.

  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

O-H-I-O!

Round trip red-eye flight from Las Vegas, Nevada to Columbus, Ohio discounted after Skymiles reimbursement: $11

Rental car, hotel reservations, and lunch at a Waffle House: $472.83

Ticket for Section 12B, Row 3, Seat 5, purchased through Stubhub: $107.44

Standing in The Shoe for the first time in my life, screaming my face off with 108,364 other fans of the team I have worshipped since the womb: Priceless

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why?!?!?!

I know I've said in the past that when I decide to pass on I would like to have my remains donated to science, or to a museum, or to the back shelves in the frozen closet of a mediocre community college that doesn't have the budget to pay for the development of their Anatomy program. So let it be written, so let it be done. When my time on this Earth runs out, whether that is next week, in six months, or in the year 2050, I have always stated that I wish to donate this fine physical specimen of mine to science, rather than take out a $13,000 loan just to have my body shoveled six feet under.

I supplement that statement with the topic that for the past few years the nickname I have been anointed with has been "Bear". Not a unique or flamboyant, or peculiar nickname by any means, just Bear. Don't ask where this epithet came from because no, there is not some hilarious story about that one time at band camp where it originated, and please don't ask Keith Tronic or The Rhinestone Cowboy of its creation. I'm just Bear. Plain and simple.

With that being said, I think my postmortem plans have now been altered since a friend e-mailed me this photograph. And so, from here on out I would like the world to remember that when I pass on, to please find this 12-foot tall statue of a Grizzly and lay my remains upon his arms. At that point, I believe I will finally be able to rest in peace. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I'm With Stupid

When I was 16 years old a pretty girl in my choir class named Sara Stevenson picked me up for an afternoon of snowmobiling on her family ranch. In the midst of our winter festivities/semi-flirtatious extravaganza, I saw a pair of kids who were sledding down the hill on her property. “Let’s go give them a drive-by snowballing.” I said as we packed our gloves for a winter version of violence. Staring down the ten-year olds holding toboggans, we threw our snowballs at them, and then I revved the engine of our Polaris stallion a little too much, which in turn bucked us both off the back. From that point the snowmobile made its trek down the slopes at a breakneck speed, only to hit a jump at the base of the hill and launch itself into a 15-foot pine tree. Needless to say, Sara Stevenson and I never had a second date.

Flash forward four years to when I was ripping holes down the buttseam of my pants and gorging my belly on deep-fried southern Twinkies, which in turn had me a solid 50 pounds chunkier than any of my clothes would fit. I walked into a Wal-Mart in Mechanicsville, Virginia and laid my eyes on a tummy tucker belt buddy wrap that was basically a custom cut piece of saran wrap that would package the belly blubber around your midsection and automatically make you lose/hide those pesky pounds. I saw, I ogled, and I forked over $39.99 for essentially the absolute worst purchase of my young adult life.

Lets move ahead two years in this story to when I was in college and I once caught myself trying to reenact some type of funky gyrations with my body in sync to a one-hit wonder. I tried, I danced, and I looked like Elaine Benes at a Christmas party. Part of me wonders if the fact that I was male, Caucasian, taller than six feet in height, and that I preferred heterosexual relationships had something to do with the fact that I could not get my body movement to match up with the musical beats of “Crank That” by Soulja Boy (which you can play at maximum volume throughout the duration of this post if you want to have a more dramatic effect). I was a dancing fool, I imagined myself as an above average imitation of Patrick Swayze. I felt like the king of the campus as I jiggled my body around that night. And I looked like an absolute dumbass.

Cut to three years later and see me just pulling in to my girlfriend’s house from a four-and-a-half hour, 335-mile drive from St. George to Ogden to break up with someone who I had shared my life with for the previous six months. I prayed, I wept, and I debated in my head and with God if this was the right decision to make. As I sat in my car and waited for her to get home from church I responded to a text message my buddy sent me asking what I was up to that afternoon. “Just sitting here waiting to break up with Jo.” I replied. “You sent that text to the wrong person.” Jo, my soon to be ex-girlfriend, said in return. In retrospect I never thought I would have looked worse than trying to impersonate Soulja Boy on the dance floor. This social media malfunctioning moment of my life certainly proved that to be wrong.

Flash forward four years from that mishap to one summer night in Seattle where I paid $14.75 to watch Michael Bay’s fourth installment of the Transformers franchise. I don’t think I have ever sunk lower in stupidity.

The list can go on and on and I can probably dissect a dozen moronic things that I have done in the last 48 hours at least, but those five I have recounted are some of the most foolish bloopers that catch me shaking my head over through the years. Yes, I wanted to impress a pretty girl on a snowmobile, and I wanted to lose weight by being a lazy saran-wrapped, deep-fried bum, and I wanted to electrify the ladies with my uncoordinated dance moves, and I wanted to have a meaningful breakup with a girl that couldn't be confused as a plotline for a sitcom, and yes sad to say, I wanted to be entertained by Michael Bay that night in Seattle. But none of those things went according to my plan, and because of my miscalculations, some of the biggest blunders of my human existence were forged.

But those blunders, like every single other idiotic decision we all make in our histories, will go down in hysterical infamy and be heralded as some of the best stories we ever have the privilege of telling.   

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Who Knows?

There are moments in our life that will shape our character and alter the road we will take. I know that sounds like single Mother poetry in a Starbucks or some kind of Ray Bradbury/Robert Frost concoction doused in brandy, but I don't care. We have moments in life that change who we are, moments that mold the role we have undertaken for this crazy existence we all checked ourselves in to playing. 

In some of those moments we feel great. Marriages, births, Junior Prom doorstep scenes with our pretty dates in lacy yellow dresses. Walking on stages wearing a cap and gown and hearing an audience cheer on the announcement of our name while we're handed a paper symbol of our education. Those are the moments we L-word. That we adore. That make us feel great about what lies ahead.  

Some of the moments we hate. Divorces, deaths, breakups over text messages. Going to meet up with an old college chum and finding out about his addiction to pornography and meth. These are the moments that scare us in to changing our ways, hashing out old habits, and adjusting our character so we can hopefully learn from the woes that have befallen us. 

And then there are moments that we just don't know. New jobs, new homes, new relationships with people we are unsure about. These are the moments that leave us tortured for days. That provoke us to keep our eyes open at three in the morning wondering if the choices that we did or did not make were the correct ones. These are the moments that haunt us, that intimidate us, that make us question the validity and certainty of the role we have previously undertaken. These are the moments where we can't help but wonder about for days on end. 

Today I had one of those moments. 

And who knows where it will take me.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Confessions On A Plane

747 flights to Seattle are held in the same category as a confessional booth in a Catholic church. We tell anything and everything to total and complete strangers in the dark.

For full effect, download “Leaving On A Jet Plane” by John Denver and play at maximum volume throughout the duration of this post.

I sit back in my chair and stare out the window watching what could be Idaho, or Wyoming, or some place in Eastern Canada for all I know. This pilot could be hijacking us to some random facility in Nebraska and no one has a clue.
                 
“She’s from Bellevue, at least that’s where her family is from.” The Gunslinger in the seat behind me says.
                 
“Oh, okay. Bellevue is nice. I’ve had a couple of conferences over there. It’s got a beautiful view of Lake Washington.” His female co-stranger suffering from minor obesity says.
                 
“I’ve never been there.” He says.
                 
“To Bellevue?”
                 
“Anywhere up there. This is my first time traveling to the Pacific Northwest.”
                 
Uh yes Miss, I’ll have a ginger ale on the rocks, with a slight dose of amphetamines please. And don’t take your time, this will be a long flight.
                 
“Well that’s nice of you to fly up and see her like this. Has she been down to see you in Texas before?”
                 
“Nope.” He says.
                 
“No?”
                 
“Nope. Not at all.”
                 
On any given flight there are a number of secrets that are unraveled from our hidden selves and tossed out in the open to total and complete strangers. We trust people that we have never met. We expose our lives to them about the innermost workings of our heart and our soul. We tell them things we normally wouldn’t tell anyone else in the entire world. And we do it because we will never see them again. They will vanish. Disappear. Dissolve into nothing with our shadows in their grips, and they will never be able to hold us accountable.
                 
This is a judge-free zone you senile hand puppet on a pilgrimage to meet your one and only. Please, don’t hold back.
                 
“So did you just meet at like a conference or something and then stayed in touch?” The falafel asks.
                 
He laughs, “No, we met online. We’ve just kept in touch via Skype.”
                 
No, it’s okay Miss, you can cancel my $5 purchase of already broken headphones to enrich myself on the in-flight entertainment of Mr. Popper's Penguins. I’ve got this retired swan song to keep me laughing the remainder of the trip.
                 
“I know it sounds crazy, but we just connected with Skype.” He says.
                 
“Skype?”
                 
“Yes, when I would get home from work at five, I would run some errands, eat my dinner, and then Skype her at 8, which would be 6:00 her time. From there we would talk for hours, anywhere from one, to two, to four, sometimes all night. I could never stop talking to her. And she couldn’t stop talking to me. That was the connection we had.”
                 
“That’s so pretty.” The falafel says. 
                 
Excuse me, I might need an extra bag to hold my inner projectile vomit, I can feel this coming up fast.
                 
“Technology is amazing. You can just sit there and talk all night long, almost as if they’re sitting right in front of you.” The cowboy says.
                 
“I know, isn’t it crazy what we can do these days?”
                 
“In the time that we talked I was able to see a side of her I never would have seen anywhere else.”
                 
Give me rubbish.
                 
Give me naivety.
                 
Give me a foolish old bastard on cloud nine getting stood up by a catfish.
                 
“So you’re going up to meet her then for the first time?”
                 
“Yep, the first time.”
                 
“That’s so beautiful.” The falafel says. “See, these are the stories that make people realize that love can happen anytime, anywhere, to absolutely anyone.”
                 
“They really are.”
                 
These are the stories that are the birth of the acronym SMH.
                 
“So how long are you going to be up here for, just the weekend?”
                 
I hear the old man smile. “Well, I don’t know how long I’m going to be up here.” He says.
                 
“You don’t know?”
                 
“Well, we talked about it plenty of times. All my family is gone. I have no kids, my family is all back east. She has three kids with their families all around the Bellevue area. I’ve got a real estate agent I’m going to be meeting with tomorrow to see what is available up there. And I think I’m in the early stages of moving up there for her.”
                 
Yes, I’ll take a cold towel that I can use to slap this geriatric has-been upside the head and bring him back to real life. Please, get it here as soon as you can.
                 
They say love makes you do crazy things. Lunatic things. Things that pull your hair out and cement feelings of regret for decades to come. Love is the instigator of suicidal teenagers longing to be with one another in an uncharted afterlife condemned by a family’s uniform hatred.
                 
Love is madness.
                 
Love is lunacy.
                 
Love is a 68-year old farmer selling his legacy in Texas and moving up to be with a woman that he physically has not witnessed.
                 
“Well I wish you both the best of luck. And I hope that things work out for the two of you.” The falafel says.
                 
“Thank you. I really think this woman, I think she is the one.”
                 
“The one?”
                 
“Yep, the one. I’ve had many women in my life. But I think after 68 years of living on God’s green Earth, I’ve finally found the one I’m supposed to be with. And it’s all thanks to Skype.”
                 
Where the curse word is that barf bag?