Oct 26, 2008

The Brandon File: The Zenith, Orange Shoes and Buddy Gore

From the beginning of September to the end of November, you would always find us in the back bedroom of our 4 room house next to an old and often unreliable Zenith radio. Fall Saturdays meant one thing in the Durham household: Clemson Tiger Football. Game in and game out we were right there next to the old Zenith; in the throes of depression one minute, relieved and confident the next. You could literally feel the dread permeating from Bill Goodrich’s voice as the Tigers faced what always seemed insurmountable odds; and likewise, old Bill couldn't hide the elation when fortunes turned promising and the Tigers were on the march. In a Rockwellian pose, there we were; dad sitting nervously on the edge of a kitchen chair he had brought next to the radio; and me and brother Mike on the bed, wrestling one minute and cheering the next as the game unfolded.

Once upon a time, in the postage stamp sized yard of our mill house at 30 Baldwin Street, I participated in a monumental football game seen by no one and remembered by only me. In my Clemson jersey (No. 44 for my favorite player, Buddy Gore), I received a well thrown pass from Tony Durham. I then plowed over the helpless, hapless Tommy Smith for the winning touchdown as time expired, defeating the hated South Carolina Gamecocks and delivering Clemson yet another ACC crown.

Well, I did plow over Tommy Smith. That much is true.

It was 1967 and N.C. State was the hot shot team in the Atlantic Coast Conference. By virtue of their pesky defense they had climbed as high as number 10 in the national rankings and they were enjoying further notoriety by brashly wearing white cleats instead of black; unheard of in those days. Now here they were coming to Clemson in November, undefeated, cocky and in their prissy white shoes. The Tiger's season so far had been a little up and down. Daddy was rarely profane, but he actually swore under his breath a few times that season as games against long time rivals Georgia, Georgia Tech, Auburn and Alabama slipped away. The Alabama game was especially draining. We moaned in tortured unison as the Tiger field goal kicker missed two short field goals that day in a 13-10 loss to Bear and the boys. Every loss was agonizingly close but the Tigers headed into the NC State game, like the Pack, undefeated in conference play. “It ain’t gonna be easy”, dad said of the upcoming game with a team that had the unmitigated audacity to allow it’s defensive players to wear white shoes.

It was cold that November day in 1967. Our house hadn’t yet been equipped with the insulating power of aluminum siding. That capital improvement would occur early the next year and was the prime source of one of mama and daddy‘s most vocal disagreements. Mama wanted it, daddy didn't; mama won, case closed. But on this cold, windy November day, the back room was a smidgen on the cool side; but that problem was peripheral. The Wolfpack was in town and we had football business to take our mind off the chill. Daddy made himself a pot of coffee and hot chocolate for Mike and me. We turned on the Zenith and finally the excited voice of the Tigers, Bill Goodrich, bellowed the incredible news: “The Tigers have run down the hill in ORANGE SHOES! Goodrich almost sounded emotional; and mixed with the static of the Zenith, the sheer pandemonium of the 49,000 thousand fans there sounded like 89,000. Take that you STATE pansies in your girly white shoes!

It was a tough game. State took the lead on two wind aided field goals and lead at the half 6-0. But Buddy Gore scored a touchdown on a 3rd an 11 pass from the State 27 early in the third quarter. Later , midway through the 4th quarter, Gore scored on a run that elicited Goodrich to exclaim in near religious ecstasy “woo hoo mercy!” As I jumped up and down on the bed, daddy leaned back in the kitchen chair and relaxed at last.

Later that evening as the late autumn sun began to fade, I took a well timed pitch from Tony, viciously stiffed armed Macks Carlton to the ground and once again bowled over Tommy Smith at the goal line, implanting number 44 on his face as I scored on a miracle third down play. As Tony and I celebrated, mama called me in to supper. I went inside triumphant; my number 44 jersey stained with grass, blood and the pitiful remains of the white shoe wearing, football impostors that had the nerve to challenge Buddy Gore and the Tigers on that November afternoon in 1967.

  • The Tigers went on to whip South Carolina and win the the 1967 Atlantic Coast Conference championship.

  • Buddy Gore established a conference record for most yards in a season, and was named ACC player of the year.

  • 1967 was the first year that the Tigers rubbed Howard's rock before running down the hill.

  • Bill Goodrich was fired later that year and was replaced with Jim Phillips. Jim became the voice of the Tigers for 36 years. Beloved by Tiger fans, he died unexpectedly in September of 2003, 2 games into the season.

Oct 17, 2008

RIP Levi Stubbs

I see a house, a house of stone
(seven rooms)
A lonely house 'cause now you've gone
(filled with gloom)

Tony R. Durham and your humble narrator caught Levi and the Tops at the very first River Place Festival in 1985. This was long before the West End Boom. Actually, those early attempts by the city to bolster the arts in Greenville lead to the building of The Peace Center for the Performing Arts, which in turn ignited the incredible development of the West End. But that particular evening, we dared not venture much past the intersection of Augusta Street and Pendleton Street (now Main) unless we were looking for prostitutes, drugs or a butt whuppin'. Neither of which was on the agenda.

Instead we were treated to a great show starring an amalgamation called The Temptations and The Four Tops. I call The Temps an amalgamation because of the various combination of singers that comprised the group over the years; only Otis Williams weathered the variation. But the Tops were the Tops; Levi, Opie, Duke and Lawrence. Levi Stubbs was one of the best. Even in 1985, well advanced of the salad days of Motown, Levi still belted it out.

Levi's passing further depletes the dwindling supply of great pop and soul singers. In the current musical landscape there aren't many that have his ability. Regretably, the greats of harmony and melody are passing away, and we are rapidly accelerating towards a time when one hip hopper turns to another in the din of the electronic thump and says, "is that early Tupac"? To him, Bernadette is just some ho and The Four Tops are not even a faint memory.

Rest in peace Sugar Pie Honey Bunch. You know that we loved you.

Oct 13, 2008

Work Study

Work Study

Just a few words about jobs.
Of jobs I've had a few. Jack of all trades and master of none, they say. You gotta taste life, I believe. And a big part of that tasting for me is, for better or worse, experience gained through a variety of employment opportunities. And if there's one thing that I've learned about jobs it's that, most times, it's not so much the task as it is the people you spend your day tasking with. While I do not want to bore you with rote digression, I do feel that a brief history is in order.

I been working hard all my life.
I been working so hard.
Beat down like an antebellum slave boy.
Working the whole day long

Being from a family that didn't feign 'poor', my parents let us know from an early age that if you wanted anything...get yo ass to work and earn it.
I started by mowing summer lawns, delivering newspapers and popping popcorn at the White Horse Drive In Theater. Pizza Hut opened their doors to me in 1973 and promptly showed them to me for the last time in early 1974.Next was the infamous Abney Mills cloth room experience with Durham, a story in itself.
Then came The Crystal Shoppe (retail) which taught me a bit about customer service.
Next was Parker Plant, another of those 'experience jobs', occupying my off time. Then came McDonald's, Neptune Measurement (machine shop), ice cream biz (retail), propane gas company manager (all this taught me was that working for a propane gas company sucked big ones).

I been working hard all my life.
I been working so hard.
Beat down like an antebellum slave boy.
Working the whole day long

McDonald's again, but not before a short stint hanging sheet rock for a new mall. An internship and part time job in a small college multimedia department taught me that multimedia is what I excelled at (and is what I do now). I also enjoyed managing so I've been able to combine the two skills and do that as well. After building a web site for a water chiller manufacturer, I was promoted to manage the inventory of that facility until the job ended abruptly in 1996. Our own video production company was facing tough times so in March of 1999 I ended up closing it and throwing in my lot with CableVantage,LLC- a subsidiary of Raycom Media.

I been working hard all my life.
I been working so hard.
Beat down like an antebellum slave boy.
Working the whole day long

And that brings me to now. All of the above 'positions' had me working with a great number of people, and heaven knows that I've worked with a variety of them. Some great, most good, some terrible and some downright nasty. But I had never worked in an environment where creativity flowed like wine and people were happy with their jobs. CV is that place.
The people that I work with now, and most for ten years now, are the absolute best group of co-workers one could imagine. More like family, they have been here through good times and bad, supportive and loving and always made me feel like I belonged.
I can always count on at least a laugh a day, I trust them in their abilities, and enjoy having a good cup of coffee with them. The very nature of our business (advertising production and sales) makes for a strange environment and it takes a special (read special) type of person to endure it. Quick-witted, slightly profane, entrepreneurial in spirit and professional in demeanor, this core group has survived corporate buyouts, GM changes and flaky, deadbeat clients. We've held on through location changes and peer acceptance, and we still trudge across the tundra, mile after mile. Every year, we wonder if there will be a next year, and when there is, we gather together and raise a glass. For now, we're contracted through December 2009 with the usual no guarantees after that. And when the time comes, and our contract is not renewed, this core group will part ways. And I will surely miss them all. But we'll always have Paris, as they say.

Oct 12, 2008

Re: That Stooopid Ride.

Reid, I almost feel bad for asking you to relive what must have been a nightmarish Brandon travelogue; but that is one of the funniest things I've ever read!

Now this is "Brandon tenacity":

The journey from Waco along Jones Street was particularly hairy as Rock started a swerve move designed to dislodge my grip from the hood. Not a chance!

Priceless! Classic!

That stooooopid ride

I don't remember the date, or the time of the occurence. I do remember the second thoughts that I had immediately after Rock left the Pic and Go with me on the hood. Durham is correct about the exit from the curb, me holding on to the back side of the hood closest to the windshield, one of the few regrets of my life. Rock sped away as if my life depended on it, and it almost did. We sped down Traction to the stop sign at Jones St. Rock did not observe that stop sign, virtually eliminating any planned "hop off when slowing" escape plan that I could hatch. By the time we passed Waco St, he must have been doing 55 or better. The journey from Waco along Jones Street was particularly hairy as Rock started a swerve move designed to dislodge my grip from the hood. Not a chance! I think that I can better illustrate with graphic aids.

1. Rock - start your engines;
2. The "what stop sign?" left turn
(Larry's surreal realization section);
3. The Jones Street - downhill acceleration section;
4.The Jones Street swerve-a-rama
(The part of the trip that served to remind me that life is indeed precious. Rock must have seen the sheer terror on my face as I shifted from left to right and back again on the hood of the bird. Still on my back at this point);
5. The Dorsey Avenue speed and shake
(Another attempt to test my death grip. I am now on my stomach facing Rock through the windshield. At this point I am begging for my life while not blaming Rock for this vehicular faux pais on my part);
6.The final left turn backstretch
(This is the part of the trip where my true Brandon tenacity shines through. I feel as if I have almost slain the dragon, that is, if Rock actually stops where we first started);
The end of the journey...the real laughter will now begin.

Yes Mr Durham, I do remember that you held your laughter until I had fired up the much-needed ciggy, and for that you are held in my highest esteem. You did, however, lose it post-ride.
I deserved it. It was a moment of sheer stupidity on my part. A valuable lesson was learned, though. And I have followed that lesson to this day. Greg "Rock" Chandler has never had the pleasure of my stupid ass on his hood since.

Oct 10, 2008

Things are working out jeessst fine:

The stock market's reaction to guvmint intervention hasn't been so good thus far., but there are those who think it will get better. But if it keeps circling the bowl, our supreme leaders will be pitching a bail out for the bail out. You heard it here first at MTH.

On a local sports front: It would appear that our beloved Clemson Tigers are struggling. And the rhetoric is angry at best. I guess we gotta take the bad with the good. And right now there is an ass-load of bad. Hi Ho.

The guvmint did this recently. An eyewitness to the pre raid assembly said it looked like a small army...is it a stretch to think it was a practice run on something they've got in store for the folks in flyover country? They're actually cracking down on illegals. Why all of the sudden is this a priority? They've mostly ignored the problem for 25 years.

Apocalyptic times? Reid lampooned the notion recently. I don't know. Financial collapse with porked out solutions, chicken plant raids with hundreds of officers and helicopters, and Clemson can't get a first down let alone score a touchdown. As was overheard in the canteen, "Shut the hail up, you fixing to skeer me".

Oct 8, 2008

The Brandon File: Sometimes you had to hang on for dear life.

I'm not certain of the year, but I do remember the event pretty well. It was the summer of 1975 or maybe 76. We were hanging around the Pic and Go. The guys were talking the usual junk: girls, cars, sports and girls. Oh, I said girls already; well, chicks were discussed a lot. All of them except me were smoking cigarettes. I was a good boy, just ask around.

I can't remember exactly which of the Brandon deviants were present that day, but I seem to recall, Doug, Tim, Me of course, Johnny Buchanan and Larry Reid. Now this would be a day that I am sure shaved at least a few days off of Reid's life.

Greg "Rock" Chandler was one of the middle children of the MacArthur Street Chandlers. I didn't know Greg all that well, but he seemed to be an OK guy. Other than a small speech impediment he seemed to be a normal Brandonista. He drove a green and white Pontiac Firebird, and like most of us that had cars, he was a little bit reckless. Which is what made what Reid did all the more amazing.

As I said, we were all standing around shootin' the breeze when Rock, in the Firebird, whipped up to the curb just outside the P&G. What happened next only our esteemed in house author, Larry Reid, can describe in all the horrific detail. Reid with teen aged agility (and judgement) hopped from the sidewalk outside the little store onto the hood of Rocks Firebird. Rock promptly dropped her down into drive - and took Reid for a ride. As Rock sped away - and I mean in a zero to fifty kind of departure - all we saw was the terrified surprise on Reid's face as he and Rock disappeared over the Traction Street hill.

They returned a few minutes later with Reid lying face down on the hood in a death grip with a windshield wiper...or something. As the car slid to a stop, Reid disembarked looking a little ashen and fumbling for a cigarette . I have to admit, I was afraid for the old boy as his amazing journey began, and was quite happy to see him make it back to the safety of the P&G in one piece. But the sidewalk mood that summer day was hysterical as the loiterers doubled over in spasms of laughter.

Reid, I promise I didn't start laughing until I saw you were still alive. Now I can't say the same for Doug, Tim and the other deviants. We look forward to hearing about those fateful five minutes from the passenger himself.
The photo above is of the sidewalk where Reid took one small leap for man. The red truck is where Reid made the leap, but facing the opposite direction of Rock's Firebird that day.
So in honor of Reid's adventure, a blast from the past:

Oct 5, 2008

Liquidating With The Juice.

No, I am not endorsing the newest colon cleanse. Instead, I am referring to THE JUICE, Heisman Trophy winner and record setting pigskin prodigy, O.J. Simpson.

It would appear that justice thinly disguised as karma, if you proscribe to either thing, has risen and finally taking a big hearty bite from O.J.'s backside. His recent conviction on charges of robbery and kidnapping appear to be the end of the long odyssey that has been Simpson's last 13 or so years.

O.J. was the quintessential American hero. From meager beginnings he exploded on the scene as a record setting running back with USC. After leading the team to the National Championship in 1967, he won the 1968 Heisman Trophy and continued on to the NFL where he further established records and wowed fans with his uncanny speed and agility. His popularity as a player and his Madison Avenue good looks paved the way for movie roles and lucrative commercial opportunities. Few black men in American history have fared better than O.J. Simpson.

But in June 1995 the brilliant star that was O.J. fell from the sky as hard and fast as SkyLab and with far more damage and loss of life. The Juice's estranged wife, Nichole and friend, Ron Goldman were found brutally murdered at the Brentwood home of Nichole (and former crib of OJ). Simpson was arrested and charged, the circus of OJ's trial unfolded and thus began his desert wandering days.

Ito, Furhman, Clark, Darden, Bailey, Shapiro, Cochran, Kardashian, Resnick, Vanatter, Lange and Kato Kaelin nauseatingly became household names and the mostly black and female jury took about twenty minutes to return a not guilty verdict. Two years later in a civil suit brought by Goldman's family, OJ was found guilty and ordered to fork over 8+ million dollars. As of this writing, the Goldman's claim to have never gotten a penny from OJ who deftly hid what he could by moving out of California and through legal entanglements. Pity that. But it had to cost him. Lawyers aren't cheap.

OJ's latest arrest occurred when he and a few cronies were caught attempting to aggressively take sports memorabilia items that OJ claimed belonged to him. One can only surmise that his years as a pariah had left him a little thin in the wallet. He probably needed his "stuff" back to sell for his own benefit. OJ did pocket 600 thousand bucks in advance of his hypothetical book, If I Did It, but Goldman was able to wrest that cash cow away through the edicts of his aforementioned civil suit. The Juice had to be getting desperate for cash. Why else would he take the kind of chance he took in that Vegas hotel room? Well, perhaps that is a dumb question; after all, this is The Juice we are talking about: that perfect blend of skill, sex and stupidity all mixed up in a racial kool aid imbibed only by the most diversity sensitive of our society.

After the 1995 murders, The Heisman Trophy was gone, the movie and commercial deals were no more and his reputation dried up faster than Nichole's blood on the Brentwood pavement. The OJ phenomenon had run it's course. This latest run in with the law may effectively remove his mug shot from memory. Most folks, save the most dedicated race hucksters, think it's high time "The Juice" gets what he deserves. This latest conviction and destined trip to the stripey hole is viewed by many as a deferred payment for that bloody scene the cops found in Brentwood; and for the farce that transpired in the L.A. courtroom.

I suppose that OJ will have to convince someone on the outside to continue the dogged search for the killers of Ron and Nichole on the golf courses of America.