Meeting Mick Foley

To those who say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, I say you need to pick better heroes.

Before I jump into the opportunity I had to meet my childhood hero, I want to express my love for an often-maligned and looked-down-upon art form: professional wrestling.

Nervous, trying to be cool and I genuinely though I was smiling. I’m not good with a camera, not so much in front of one.Sure, it can be goofy as hell. Even embarrassing at times. But when done right, it is friggin Shakespearean storytelling clubbing our human emotions in the jaw like a stiff forearm.

I’m certain great pro wrestling had as much influence in me loving storytelling as any novel I read growing up. I’ve mentioned before how pro wrestling magazines played a big part in me pursuing a journalism degree.

Growing up as a socially-awkward small town boy (that will probably be the title of my memoirs), I fell in love with wrestling. It was big and colorful and crazy. This was the time of Sting versus Ric Flair, Big Van Vader crushing dudes and the Steiner Brothers rivaling only my other favorite brothers (Super Mario).

Then there was this crazy guy missing his front teeth who crash landed from some exotic town named Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

Even though Cactus Jack was a bad guy – a bad guy fighting my favorite at the time, Sting – I couldn’t help but become enamored. He was different than all the other guys on the television and seemed genuinely crazy.

It wasn’t too long after this I fell away from wrestling for a bit. It was in this time the Cactus Jack guy went off to Japan and became the King of the Death Match and a hardcore wrestling legend.

I returned to wrestling after renting a VHS tape of Wrestlemania that features an incredible match – Shakespearean, if you will – between Bret “Hitman” Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

The obsession reignited and burned through the late 1990s, reconnecting me with that crazy Cactus Jack guy but in a completely different way.

The other exciting rivalry at the time was the Undertaker versus a guy with an ugly leather mask and unflattering brown jumpsuit looking thing.

This was Mankind.

He didn’t fit the WWF mold of giant bronzed statues of men with 24-inch biceps (or pythons, brother). But he was real and emotional, if a bit deranged, and not at all concerned with being cool.

I had never related to a wrestling character the way I related to Mankind. An insecure teenager is not going to connect on an emotional level with the cocksure swagger of The Rock (who I hated as he was frequently seen beating Mankind) or the “undead” 7-foot-tall Undertaker. As much as any kid can love the Undertaker, it’s tough to relate to a phenom.

The true story of Mick Foley began to bleed (literally and figuratively) into the onscreen story of Mankind, including the publication of his biography.

As a wrestling fan and book nerd, this sent me over the top. Mick wrote his own story (sat down with a ballpoint pen and notebooks and etched out every word himself, no ghostwriter) with enthusiasm, humor and a fascinating storytelling voice.

The book is this unbelievable action-adventure about chasing your dreams, sleeping in the back of a car after driving six hours to make $15 wrestling in front of 100 people and overcoming personal limitations, self doubt and naysayers.

Then he makes it to the big leagues and things get weirder.

Mick’s story is the kind that inspires you to reach for something better and I really needed that as a young man. It’s a reminder that being kind and working your ass off can take you far in life, even if you don’t look the part or don’t quite fit in.

To beat a dead horse, I was fully invested in Mick Foley’s story. I am secure enough to say I shed a few tears when Mick lost a retirement match to Triple H. I’m not sure if any of my friends watching the pay-per-view in my grandma’s living room saw a tear slide down my cheek, but I know they saw me throw the remote control across the room.

Fast forward about 20 years and Mick Foley is on a tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of the infamous Hell in a Cell match with the Undertaker. My wife conspired with my mom and my mother-in-law to snag us tickets to the Phoenix show, including a meet and greet.

In the days leading up to it, I was starting to get nervous and had no idea what I would say to the man as he signed my weathered copy of Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks as well as copies of his children’s books signed for my kids (my daughter adores the Halloween and Christmas books, requesting frequent reads through the holiday season).

When I sat down next to him, I think I started with, “This is an opportunity to be genuinely cool, but I don’t think I’m capable of that.”

And I don’t remember what I said next, but Mick quickly picked up my rambling and started making sense for me. Then he said this:

“It can be tough, but I hope it got better for you.”

And I can honestly say that, hell yeah, it got better.

Mick Foley was gracious and kind. Then he got up on stage and crafted a masterful, funny and poignant story about the path to, through and the aftermath of Hell in a Cell.

I’ll use this word one more time: Shakespearean. Shakespearean as hell. And I loved every minute of it.

Thank you, Mick! It was a beautiful night.

And thank you to my beautiful wife, Burgess, who made it happen. It’s because of her everything got better. Because of her it’s been pretty dang amazing.

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Holbrook students tour West Phoenix Power Plant

It was a fun opportunity to help make some connections that got a group of 8th graders out of the classroom and into a power plant. And then I followed them around for a video we published for our employees and via the company’s social media channels.

My little cousin was one of the dudes sweating it out at the West Phoenix Power Plant. For years he has wanted to become a magician. Maybe now he might think about something in the utility industry – like electricity magician.

[Poem] God knows my heart

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Two brothers
hum, spit and squeeze trigger fingers,
shrapnel rattles round a bank of broken
bottles, cans, empty shells of countless
kids killing
bored Saturday mornings.

They’re 13 and 15 hoisting 22s
like mules loaded with
the impatience of youth.

Each steel plink another drop of grain in the hourglass.
Each puff the pop of sand unearthed,
evaporated in the breeze, just another
miss in a long line.

Brother One pulls a sleek case from his backpack,
with reverent fingers lifts,
unlatches the clasps with a swift grind
and click.

Dad said the jewel in this treasure chest
ain’t worth nothing but killing a man. 

Brother One eases the stainless
machine from its case, caresses
the gleam, so careful not to touch
with his soiled fingertips.

With eyes locked on the cracked
empty bottle of cheap vodka,
he exhales deep,
squeezes with tenderness
as if stroking the cheek of an infant.

Two brothers
inhale the echo of thunder
rattling down the dirt road.

Dad said this ain’t worth nothing but killing a man 

With thump and circumstance
befitting a Morricone film score,
Brother Two toes the line,
steadies his fingers,
raises the machine
a precise 90 degrees,

Eviscerated beer cans, twisted aluminum
splayed like a suckling pig prepped for a flaming
hole in the ground. Heart pounding,
lungs sucking,

Brother Two imagines
himself on the other end of the smoke,
chest fileted,
bloodless and black,
another pig dropped in the pit.

Are you going to church tomorrow? 
Brother Two asks Brother One.

No, God knows my heart.

That’s what I’m afraid of.

[Poem] Life on a mad model train set

This is dedicated to the memory of Steamboat Willie
he muttered into a rusted tin-can mic. A wayfaring stranger of unlimited
promise broken by the machine.

High and loud or deep and low, his voice
rumbled the walls and fled from the boxcar
doorway where I sat with my legs
swaying above the grinding steel.

I imagine this rattling railcar as a café in New Orleans
with an unusual collection of derelicts,
loners, lovers and boozers. Instead I look out over
the fading moon, crumbling stars, swirling
trees and an impotent volcano, each anticipating
a song from the giant swaying in the playground swing
installed at the end of the boxcar, candlelight failing
to rise above his shoulders.

Back in my Louisiana imagination, I see a coiffed singer,
dapper in slacks, playing a pawn shop banjo, tuned and tight.
Not the naked giant slathered in hair, scraping a bathtub
washboard with newspapers stolen from bird cages.

Before his next song begins, impulse urges
me to let my heavy legs pull me from the train.
Another man overboard, off the train he didn’t have
a ticket to board.

I fumble my daydreams into the wheels,
the boxcar occupants swell into the song like rats
seduced by the pied piper and I see them come alive.

The trees and stars dance, the moon kisses the volcano;
the moment bursts in infinite space and unbridled joy
and I peer out the boxcar door as the weight of 100 earths
crumbles from my shoulders, and see no engine, no caboose,
no conductor, no tracks beyond the cliff where the volcano’s runaway fire
licks its lips in delight as our train makes its descent into hell.

[Poem] Our little baby starkiller

Baby Eloise took a hammer to the sky,
giggled a two-teeth
grin and watched the torrent of fireworks
howl from the star’s wounds.

Mom, a wreck, watched from Earth;
Dad, a bumbled mess, said
How can we fix this?

Baby tumbled in atmosphere,
squeeled in delight as comets burned..

NASA called, alarmed at the carnage
committed by a baby with a hammer.
Engineers tittered with solutions
such as Let’s send a monkey in a rocket
or Maybe she likes Tang.

The smallest spoke up. Everybody!
Start chewing gum!

With two teeth, Baby Eloise
gnawed on a comet
all the way back home.

Sparklers lit her way as mom’s cries
beaconed her home. Dad lined
up for the catch as astronauts
prepped for launch, a mound of chewed
gum in cargo, to patch bleeding stars.

On poetry submissions like a cow skull drying in the desert

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My best intentions are like a cow skull drying in the desert. Not much happens, but you might pick it up and do something interesting with it for a moment.

Also like a cow skull in the desert, I submitted a poem to a literary journal for the first time. The auto-reply email informed me they might get to it in 8 months or so.

I recently finished a poetry class and have a handful of poems in my back pocket now. Two of them might be good.

I say might as the workshopping process was uncomfortable but not unpleasant. My classmates were nice and supportive. Nobody came right out and said, “this sucks, bro.”

I can use, “this sucks, bro.” It’s harder to use, “Nice job.”

I lean towards self-critical and rarely feel great about a finished project – regardless if it’s writing, photography, video or whatever. I can’t even judge food I cook without thinking, “eh, it’s missing something.”

But I keep working at it. Whatever it might be.

Uncomfortable and not very good can be very good

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“Dude, Suckin’ at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.” – Jake the Dog, Adventure Time

The unintentional hiatus of this blog isn’t from a lack of working. I’ve been working my tail off, including projects completely outside of my comfort zone or skill level.

This includes launching an employee communications podcast at work (as co-host and audio editor, of which I have zero experience at both), another poetry class that required a heavy amount of reading my work in public (awkwardly) and a whole lot of life.

Not all of these learning experiences were enjoyable. An Adobe Animate class was endless drudgery.

You can’t win them all.

I’ve loved being able to work on projects and poems and in areas where I have no idea what I’m doing. There is freedom in being terrible at something, but also seeing the growth over time.

I grow more comfortable with each podcast episode, more unafraid to write a bad poem, more willing to say yes to what scares me.

My poetry class ends in two weeks. In the meantime I am editing and plan to submit a few poems to publications. Hearing a no or hearing nothing at all is the worst that could happen, and then I’ll share them here on the blog. And I will keep making up stuff.

I’m might start getting sorta good at it.

A Juice Box Arrival

IMG_1787This has been the kind of weird and wonderful year where so much has happened that you absolutely have to talk about it yet it all kept happening so fast you never had a moment to soak it in, consider it and present a rational thought about it.

There was Memphis, Tokyo, almost moving to Mississippi, buying our first house, school, work, family, photography, pregnancy… and most definitely, our favorite, a sweet little baby arrived in the middle of it all.

Big sister calls her “juice box” because she drools so much. For our baby’s sake, I hope that doesn’t stick like how my sister’s nickname stuck. She’s almost 30 and I still call her Louie.

Amidst the madness, I’m not great at enjoying moments. I’m typically more concerned with “let’s get everyone through this” than I am with “let’s stop and appreciate this.”

A Sunday or two ago, I was able to bless our baby in church. It was the first time in a while I had a chance to stop, consider and appreciate the moment and all the little moments that built to it.

A beautiful, sweet and oddly attentive baby girl. Her crazy big sister who makes us laugh every day. The Star Wars-obsessed big brother who keeps everyone in line. And my warrior of a wife who has the worst deliveries but best babies, and holds us all together with bottomless love and a willingness to spend everyday at Disneyland.

It’s not all sunshine and daisies, of course, but I’d rather not whine about what went wrong.

There was a lot of great stuff in 2017, and my four weirdos are my favorite.

Now let’s cap it off with baby’s first Christmas in the first home of our own.

100 Years of the TAPCO Power Plant

TAPCO Celebration w Tim Coons from APS Employee Communications on Vimeo.

Tim Coons is an APS retiree who has become an unofficial historian for the town of Clarkdale, Arizona and specifically the TAPCO Power Plant that was built there 100 years ago. To celebrate the anniversary of the plant, which has long been decommissioned, he gathered friends and community members for a presentation and exhibit about the plant.

I was able to attend and snag a few details from Tim and his motivation behind keeping the power plant’s story alive.