Dear Jack: ‘Twas the Tornado Warning before Christmas

5 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack: Twas the Tornado Warning before Christmas

Dear Jack,

We had originally planned to drive straight to Nonna and Papa’s house after I got off of work last Wednesday, on December 23rd.

However, it quickly became common knowledge that tornado-inducing weather would be surrounding us if we did.

So instead, our family stayed home that night, spending about an hour and a half in the downstairs bathroom over the course of a tornado warning.

You and I watched clips from the Rocky movies on my phone; like both of the fights between Rocky and Clubber Lang (Mr. T).

We made the most of it, but it is definitely problematic that the one room in the house you’re supposed to go to during a tornado is, by default, the most uncomfortable one for a family to hang out in.

I assume that in most houses, the bathroom in the middle of the house on the main floor is also the most cramped.

Had we been able to go to the bathroom connected to Mommy’s and my bedroom, we would have been fine because the walk-in closet is connected it.

However, that’s on the corner of the house so I guess it’s less safe in the event a tornado brushed by that corner of the house.

After the tornado warning was finally over, Mommy and I let you set up your Noah’s Ark camping tent (which was pretty relevant to the story, actually) and you got to sleep next to our bed.

That was a special treat for you because the last time we let you sleep in the same room as us, you were still a newborn.

I had predicted this at the time, and turns out I was right, that we actually could have gotten away with driving to Nonna and Papa’s house the night of the storm, because the storms were actually north and south of us the whole time.

But we obviously didn’t take that chance.

Christmas Tree

Sure, we had a wonderful Christmas once we got there. No chaos or conflict to speak of.

None except for that which I created in my web series, Uncle Nick’s Enchanted Forest, which I filmed 8 webisodes of while we were there.



The Importance of the Perfect Ending

It’s satisfaction we’re looking for; not perfection.

Editor’s note: This post pretty much gives away the ending to the first Rocky movie and the finale episode of Lost.  If that matters to you, please don’t read it.

When it comes to movies and TV series, if the ending isn’t satisfying, I typically label the whole thing as “not that great.”  Movies like Quarantine and Vantage Point could have been so good, but the 90th minute proved the other 89 to be a waste of time.  On the other side of the token, movies like Cast Away and The Social Network could have totally had a lame, pointless, or predictable ending; but instead, the events leading up to the finale were brought together in a way that had me leaving from the theatre thinking, “good job, movie makers” instead of hearing a collective, annoyed gasp from the audience at the ending of another M. Night Shyamalan film that we all tried to give a chance.

Of course a good ending doesn’t always mean they all lived happily ever after, but at least that the characters learned from their experiences and became better people accordingly.  Like the first Rocky for example; by the end of the movie we realized we didn’t truly care whether or not he actually won the fight.  The point was that Rocky was given the chance to fight someone out of his league, he fought a good fight, and that Adrian was there to support him no matter what happened.  It was a perfect ending, even if our expectations were assuming he would win the fight at the end.  “Perfect” endings don’t actually have to be perfect; they just have to be worth the ride.

I have come to the realization that one of the reasons I am a movie enthusiast is because watching good movies is a fun way to (metaphorically) download lessons on social situations into my brain and to become more “life experienced” without having to actually live through those experiences myself.  Sure, a major part of life is learning from your own mistakes.  But most of the time, I prefer to learn from other people’s mistakes- and I don’t care whether or not it’s someone I actually know in real life or a fictional character in a movie.  I think it’s such a wonderful bonus that in addition to the character building experiences I already learn from everyday life, I can extract this knowledge from stories shared through the seemingly petty vehicle of entertainment.

To me, no ending will ever be better the finale episode of the TV show Lost, where the characters reunite in the afterlife to reminisce their shared years of life on Earth together, despite the fact that by that point (not the entire six seasons) they had all been dead for decades or even centuries.  It was unique and extremely creative in that it superseded the limited perspective of the human lifespan.  Despite acknowledging that while what we do here on Earth does indeed matter and yields eternal consequences, it reminds us that one day this life does indeed end.  And whether or not we fully understand The Smoke Monster or why Walt was so special or how long Hurley and Ben Linus ended up staying on the island, the point isn’t that we get all our questions answered in detail.  And whether or not you’ve ever seen an episode of Lost to understand those bizarre references, the perspective of looking back on the meaning of our lives from an post-life view is pretty interesting; it reminds us who and what truly matters to us.

No matter which side of the parallel between real life and the entertainment world I am on, I am still wired to want the perfect ending.  I have to believe that in real life I will live a long and happy life with my family.  Simply, I just want a realistic and satisfying ending, with a few pleasant surprises thrown in for good measure, since I know there will be unpleasant surprises disguised as necessary plot lines.  A perfect ending isn’t always defined by all the ends being tied together when the credits roll.  Instead, it’s knowing there is meaning behind it all- that is satisfaction.

The Token Bad Guy: Osama bin Laden is Dead

From Ben Linus to bin Laden, evil has a name.

Now that President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden is officially dead, it makes me think about how there always how to be a “bad guy”, both locally and world-wide.

In Judd Apatow’s Jewish comedy (a franchise he has specialized in for the past decade, based on a strategic formula including Seth Rogen and/or Paul Rudd, a good dose of bromance, a classic soft rock soundtrack, mostly ad-lib dialogue, a heavy and almost dark dramatic element somewhere in the plot line, a running time of at least 2 hours and 15 minutes, an unpredictable ending but no “twist”, and constant references to reproductive organs) Funny People, there is a scene where Adam Sandler’s character is babysitting his ex-girlfriend’s two young daughters. As they play, one of the girls takes him captive like he’s a dragon, while the other has come to rescue him. He looks up at them and says to each one, “Are YOU the good guy or are YOU the good guy?”

While in cartoons and children’s own made-up playtime storylines the antagonist often takes pride in knowingly being evil, in real life the Bad Guy usually doesn’t realize that he’s the Bad Guy. It amazes me that there always has to be a handful of countries in the world that serve as a current Bad Country. It’s been England (watch the movie The Patriot about the Revolutionary War). It’s been Germany (the Nazi’s). It’s been Russia (watch Rocky IV) and still kinda is.

Why can’t the evil leader of a country think to himself: “Oh no! I’m ‘that guy’. I’m the bad person that’s causing problems with the rest of the world. I need to start with the man in the mirror and change my ways”. From what I’ve read about Adolph Hitler, in his own mind he simply was carrying out an ultimate version of Charles Darwin’s concept of “survival of the fittest”. He was only advancing what he saw as in the inevitable. He wasn’t a sadistic tyrant, not the way he saw it. He didn’t see himself as the Bad Guy.

From each holy war ever fought in history, down to the elementary school bully, the true villain is doing what is right according to his own view. The Bad Guy is dead wrong, yes. But he doesn’t see it that way.  While obviously I don’t have the potential to become a radical tyrannical leader of threatening foreign country, I still can find myself in a similar scenario as North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, by simply being the Bad Guy on a much lesser scale in everyday situations and not realizing it. If only Bad Guys always realized they’re the Bad Guy… well, it might help a little.

“We’re never gonna win the world, we’re never gonna stop the war. We’re never gonna beat this if belief is what we’re fighting for.” -John Mayer (“Belief”)

*Some bad guys, like this one, may or may not repent of their evil ways in the end.

Manspeak, Volume 10: Exploration

It’s not something we sit down and think about, but there is definitely something morbid, grotesque, and disgusting about a whole refrigerated bin full of chopped up bones, blood vessels, and body tissue for sale. With blood swishing around in the Styrofoam container. Somehow it never processes in my mind when I’m with my wife at the grocery store, walking by the Meats Department as we plan for that week’s meals.

Blood is an interesting substance. I am intrigued by the human love/hate relationship with it. It is the physical source of life- without it, we die. Blood is a major theme in both the Old and New Testament of the Bible, with countless traditional hymns and modern songs with the word in the title.

But for most, the sight of blood gives an uneasy feeling. With good reason. The sight of blood is a sign of death.

From a skinned knee to a busted nose, when blood leaves the body, it is life escaping.

While blood keeps us alive, we don’t usually want to see it. It’s definitely better kept inside. The main exception I have found to this is the male population. Like most American men, the Rocky movies along with Band of Brothers and Fight Club happen to be among some of my top favorite films of all time. All include a lot of blood. Why are men so fascinated by other men causing each other to bleed?

Danger. Seeing how close to the edge of life a man can get and still survive. A subconscious curiosity about life after death. To step up close to that window between life and death and try to look through it, knowing that once that line is crossed, there is no coming back to this life.

A form of exploration.

Three weeks ago when my company moved offices, I decided to take a walk around the development. I scaled down a steep hill on the other side of the building and found an interesting discovery, the kind I longed to find 20 years ago when I was a boy pretending to be a Ninja Turtle in the woods behind my backyard.

What I found was a 6 foot tall tunnel. I could barely see a light at the other end. After stepping inside and walking about 50 feet inside, not being able to see anything around me, and unsuccessfully trying not to think about the Saw movies , I pictured a creepy man wearing a pig skin mask, poking me with an anesthetic needle. Within about 10 seconds flat, I was back outside.

A challenge was now set in place: Must conquer the tunnel. I recruited my co-worker John. We made it just as far as I did alone, until he said, “I think I’m stepping on a snake right now…” After darting back outside to equip ourselves with big sticks we found outside underneath some trees, we marched back inside a little bit more confident this time.

We trekked the tunnel all the way through.  It was only a few hundred feet long, but at the end we found a metal ladder.  I climbed up to a welded shut drain opening, where I could see the sky and hear the cars cruising on the road above me. We did it. Made it to the end of the mysterious tunnel. And to this day, we are the only two people at our company to have explored and conquered that tunnel, not to mention the only ones to even know where it is.

While I am not “discovering the New Word” like Christopher Columbus did (even though the Russians had to be well aware of our continent based on the fact that there are only 53 miles of ocean between Russia and Alaska), I can still discover and explore not only interesting places that few people know about, but more specifically in my case I can uncover new social observations and conspiracies that seem to successfully slide under the radar. I thrive on it.

Why the true stereotype of the man ignoring his map and/or GPS and refusing to stop to ask for directions? A man is wired to explore new things. There’s no getting around it. The stereotype must live on.

“If you could keep me floating just for a while, ’til I get to the end of this tunnel…”  -Dave Matthews Band (“Jimi Thing”)

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:




The Opposite of a Beach Bum

Along with “Check, please!”, “I think it’s time for Plan B”, “That’ll leave a mark!” and “Smooth move, Ex-Lax”, one of my favorite overused quotes from ‘80’s sitcoms is the sigh-infused “I need a vacation…” When my wife and I were planning our honeymoon last year, many people assumed we were flying out to somewhere in the Caribbean Islands. Because that’s the normal American thing to do, understandably. Though we have never been to a sunny beach coast together before, we both were aware that sitting on the sandy shores all day doing nothing would drive us both stir crazy.

There are two kinds of people in the world: Vacationers who relax and vacationers who explore.

And while it’s possible to do both, ultimately a person’s instincts causes them to plan their vacation according to one over the other. The observation is this: People who like to sit and relax while on vacation (often known as “beach bums”) generally go to warmer, sunny locations and stay in hotels. People who like to explore go to less sought after places often with colder temperatures and higher elevations and stay in lodges, cabins, and bed-and-breakfast’s.

In the last two years, my wife and I have traveled to the foggy, cold, rocky coasts of New Zealand, Maine, and Northern California. We are drawn instinctively to places where there are not a lot of other people around and where there is exploring to be done. Always in search of the next perfect, quaint local coffee shop. Or that beautiful scenic drive we can only take in a rental car in a city we’ve never been in before.

And when we can’t go on a week long vacation to a place we can really only get to by plane, we enjoy hanging out in The Highlands of Louisville, KY (an artsy hippy neighborhood with lots of cool, weird ethnic restaurants including Moroccan, Turkish, and Argentine, to name a few), Sevierville, TN (equipped with black bears), and Fort Payne, AL (my hometown that somehow became cool again when I wasn’t looking).

Most people take their vacations in the summer, when it’s hot. As I do. And most people travel to places that are even hotter than where they live. As I don’t. I loathe the depressing England-like climate of American winters, except in the summer when I want to escape to it. I escape to a more isolated city with less people around with no need for AC.

If people go on a summer vacation to escape all the chaos around them, why do they go to a really busy beach where it’s honkin’ hot? Shouldn’t they do the opposite? Shouldn’t they cool off in a quiet, peaceful place? I am the self proclaimed opposite of a beach bum.