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July 2008

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
July 30, 2008

A friend of mine from out of town e-mailed me last week and told me she and her family were heading to Gulf Shores, Alabama for a little "r and r."

The Gulf Coast, particularly the Redneck Riviera, is one of my favorite vacation destinations. Snow white sand, lots of great seafood, cool breezes sweeping in off the coast, me and my bronze tan in a Speedo...ahhh...life is good at the beach.

Now, I would never presume to think that Batesville's Budweiser Beach is anywhere close to the beauty of an Orange Beach, Alabama or a Seaside, Florida. But, you know what? Bud Beach is an underrated little oasis on the White River. Sure, it borders a cow pasture, and the view across the water is a mammoth dirt bank, but still, Budweiser Beach can provide a relaxing time with family and friends hanging out together in the sand, taking in the sun.

I'm convinced we take places like Budweiser Beach and the White River for granted. Zipping up the river in a boat, well past Bud Beach, and then cutting off the motor and leisurely floating back down is one of the most relaxing things to do in the summer. There's always a chilled breeze, and the flow of the river peacefully guiding the boat back downstream will calm any stressed out person. It's odd that you don't see more locals taking advantage of the beauty the river offers.

In fact, there are lots of treasures in our little community that people sometimes forget or don't even know.

Before a few weeks ago, I didn't even know I could get an old-fashioned, hot lather shave at the Anderson Brothers Barber Shop. I think a leisurely afternoon drive from Cushman to Bethesda provides glorious countryside vistas. The Ahi tuna at Josie's is delicious. Seeing a movie on the big screen at the Melba is like stepping back in time. And a lunch from the Southside Dairy Bar or E & B Bigger Burger eclipses most of the fast food fare on St. Louis St.

Another underrated dining spot in the area is the Batesville Country Club. Their big steaks and delectably-prepared seafood provide some of the best dinners around. Trust me, if you eat out a lot, having a social membership at the B.C.C. is worth it for the meals alone.

***

Speaking of the Batesville Country Club, the manager, one Mark Higginbottom, decided a few months ago to begin calling me Cottontop -- a sarcastic reference to my pre-maturely white hair. Around the same time, my brother began calling me Edgar -- meaning the albino rock star, Edgar Winter.

Ha. Funny. Ha. Ha.

Cottontop and Edgar.

Ha.

Of course, my friends have nicknames. There's Chippy, my aforementioned brother, and the Colonel, a name attached to the aforementioned Higginbottom because he looks like a younger and, um, healthier version of Col. Sanders. Spike would be the nickname for the Colonel's wife, Lisa, because her hair literally defies gravity.

And, then there's Pinky, a surly character who haunts area golf courses and wears gaudy golf attire similar to what a pimp would wear if a pimp golfed.

(He's also been called Butt-Head by your humble scribe due to the fact that his hair is parted straight down the middle. He'll deny it, but if you ever run into him, ask him to take off his golfing cap.)

Oh, and Pinky has also provided me with a third nickname: Albino.

More hilarity.

Ha. Ha.

But, I have to say, if Pinky or Chippy or whomever saw my bronze tanned self in a Speedo, they'd realize that Copper is a more appropriate moniker for me.

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
July 23, 2008

This isn't going to be another one of my boring rants about movies. But to put the following column into perspective, I must begin this week with the opening scene of last year's thriller, Eastern Promises. Some of you probably have not seen this film set in the dangerous world of the Russian mafia, but the movie is currently airing on the pay channels (Cinemax, HBO, etc.) if you want to catch it.

So, the opening scene...

It's an ugly rainy night, and a guy is in a dimly lit barbershop waiting for a shave. Suddenly the barber, a menacing-looking bald dude with a creepy moustache, holds the customer down while another guy takes the barber's straight razor and -- slllliiiittttt! -- opens up the poor customer's throat.

This scene was rolling through my head the other morning when I walked into the Anderson Brothers' Barbershop in Southside. My brother-in-law and a pal with the unfortunate nickname of Pinky have been longtime customers of the Anderson brothers, identical twins with a long history of buzz cuts, flat tops and straight razor shaves. It was the latter service that always had my interest. I'd never had the pleasure of leaning back in an old-fashioned barber chair with hot wet towels pressed into my face and then lathered up in warm cream for a close shave. It had seemed, in my mind, to be a long-gone art preserved only through old Clint Eastwood westerns or gangster films like Eastern Promises.

Yet, a shave with a straight razor and all the goodies is making a comeback in the cities. Swank new establishments are popping up everywhere offering men old-fashioned shaves along with a tumbler of Scotch, manicures and, oh yes, a haircut if one so desires.

The Shave of Beverly Hills, for instance, will offer a shave for only...$65.

At the Anderson brothers' establishment, a thorough comfortable shave will only set you back eight bucks. I can also safely say the fellow customers won't be as stuffy as those you might find at that Beverly Hills shop.

And as my unfortunately nicknamed friend Pinky told me: "They'll shave you so close you won't have to pick up a razor for a week. Guaroooonntee it!"

Thankfully, when I walked into the Anderson brothers' that morning, I found they weren't bald with menacing looking moustaches like that guy in Eastern Promises. My throat would be safe. The brothers were pleasant-looking gentlemen with matching thick heads of white swirling hair. A few other customers were waiting, and the brothers were buzzing and clipping through their clients with a no-nonsense efficiency while peppering occasional comments on the particular barbershop topics of that day: gas prices, the idiocy of some in the U.S. Senate, and praise for the hard-working Americans trying to make it through these tough times.

And, without sounding too feminine, my shave was delightful: the hot towels, the warm shaving cream, the patient and gentle working of the blade, then the burning rush of some type of tonic over my newly baby-smooth face. I walked out refreshed, energized and somewhat giddy I had finally experienced the simple pleasure of a straight razor shave by someone who knew what he was doing.

It was like a facial for men who wouldn't be caught dead getting a facial.

Not that I've ever had a facial.

I think Pinky has though.

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
July 16, 2008

Two or three years ago on Classic Rock 93 KZLE's website, I posted a tongue and cheek request to have CBS News reporter and sometime 60 Minutes contributor, Lara Logan, move to Batesville and become KZLE's new news director. (This was back when CR93 was known as The Max 93One FM.)

About a week later, I received an e-mail from someone claiming to be Logan, telling me how flattered she was by my post. Thinking it was a joke with a fake CBS e-mail address, I nevertheless replied with a skeptical bent believing I'd receive a note saying the address was invalid. Besides, why in the world would a CBS News reporter based in Iraq waste time cruising the net, happen upon a small town Arkansas radio station's website and then shoot off an e-mail of gratitude?

Surprisingly, I received a reply from the CBS News e-mail address belonging to Ms. Logan. She told me her appreciation was sincere and gave me a few details that, without a doubt, confirmed it really was her. She happened to be in Washington on a break, and a friend had apparently forwarded the website posting to her.

So, I humbly replied, told her I was sorry I doubted her and since I had a morning radio show at the time on KZLE, I asked if she would tape a phone interview with me. She gladly said yes, told me she would contact Kevin Tedesco -- the publicist for 60 Minutes -- to set it up, and a couple of days later she called for the chat.

She was gracious, sharp, funny and even put up with my mispronunciation of her first name (it's not pronounced "Laura") as well as my pedestrian questions about the Iraqi situation.

Now, with her star rising at CBS News and a promotion to the Washington, D.C. bureau, Ms. Logan is falling into the unfortunate realm of tabloid attention. A week or two ago it was revealed that, while in Iraq, she found herself in some romantic entanglements involving a CNN reporter and a married contractor from Texas. Eventually, news came that the contractor was divorcing his wife and Ms. Logan is pregnant.

The bottom line is none of this is any of our business, but unfortunately, there is an innate thirst for gossip in our genes. The trials and tribulations of others, whether they be a celebrity or Joe Don down the street, can give us a superior, snotty attitude. "Well, if Lara Logan is having romance issues with different men, then she must be a bit on the unsavory side -- unlike me," someone will likely think.

Of course, that's bullpoop. We all have our own issues, but knowing Kirstie Alley is approaching 300 lbs. keeps some of us "above" her.

So, cheers to Lara Logan for her success and integrity. I don't care about her personal life; I just know she's a top notch journalist.

Now excuse me for a moment. I need to read the latest scoop from the National Enquirer.

***

Finally this week: from my nemesis in Newport, the last word on my aborted attempt to be President of the United States for Life (POTUS4L):

Dear Rob:

In your June 27 column, you wrote:

"These folks supporting Anne Pyle are NUTS! Judging from the continual e-mails I'm getting, it's almost as if they are a cult, worshipping at the altar of Pyle and Manilow. Before you know it, they're going to be putting on their black shrouds, Nikes and having the Kool Aid party, if you get my drift.

 

"That scares me. Cults are wacky, particularly if they're primarily made up of women because, really guys, we all know how off-kilter the girls are, right? Remember my fellow brothers, they caused the fall of man by eating that apple. With a chip like that on their shoulders, no wonder they're a little cuckoo.

 

"So, knowing all of this and knowing the potential danger of running against the Pyleontologists, I am withdrawing my name from the candidacy of the POTUS4L."

I, too, am withdrawing my candidacy for POTUS4L. In part, because I no longer have time for political aspirations. I have long been a Genealogist (which is very time consuming), but I have suddenly been cast into the role of a Pyleontologist, which we all know is the science of treating man and woman as equal.

The old days of keeping the woman barefoot and pregnant are gone. If being a woman means being a member of a cult, than I am guilty as charged. We may be a little cuckoo, but Eve did not eat the Apple...Adam did. Eve may have given Adam the Apple after taking a small bite, but Adam is the one who ate the whole thing and Eve got blamed for it. That has been par for the course over the years. The male does the dirty work while the female bears the blame and the cleanup.

I believe there are many Pyleontologists out there who agree with me. Therefore, I am starting a seminar with specialists who know how to handle difficult situations. I hope we can get Lorena Bobbitt to be one of our first presenters on the program. Ms. Bobbitt is well known for her propensity to cut an offending subject short. If she needs a male assistant to demonstrate her technique on, are you available, Rob? Other potential guest presenters are Hillary, Marge Simpson, Peggy Hill, Miss Piggy, and others too numerous to mention.

Thanks for listening,
Anne Pyle

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
July 9, 2008

The bet was a hundred bucks.

Now, I have no idea what prompted your humble scribe to take the bet because, trust me, $100 is not pocket change to me. Plus, there's the fact that I had never played a round of golf in my life.

I tried to play a round in high school when I joined the golf team on a lark. After my first pathetic drive on the first day of practice, the team and the coach burst out laughing when I put the tee on the fairway to continue my play. (Teeing off on the fairway, I learned that day, is a golf no-no.) Needless to say, I quit after about the fifth hole and switched to the tennis team the next day (which, trust me, is another column completely).

What indirectly drove me to the golf course on this recent afternoon was my 10-year-old son's sudden interest in golf. Since the embarrassment in high school, I completely lost any desire to be the next Tiger Woods (or John Daly, for that matter). While many of my friends and family have played the game, I would turn up my nose at a silly waste of an afternoon hitting a bloody little white ball. But the simple fact was I never again wanted to make a fool out of myself in front of the other golfers on the greens.

So when my son asked me to take him to the driving range the other day, I tried to switch him to another outing.

"Don't you want to go swimming or maybe see a movie?" I asked.

"Oh no, Dad. I want to tee off."

Sigh from Dad.

So off we went with his junior-size golf clubs and a new bag of tees. After borrowing a driver for me, we set ourselves up side by side and plugged our tees in the grass. I scanned the course for any golfers in the immediate area around us and tried to remember the basics of a solid hit: never let your eyes off the ball, feet flat on the ground, and don't slam the sucker off the tee -- just try and make a decent swing, following all the way through.

And then I hit that baby sky-high -- and sharply to the left. But still: at least I hit it for a good length.

The afternoon went on with more high flies to the left, many fumbling shots that landed 15 feet away, and an occasional soaring drive right down the middle. And, though they were few and far between, the latter shots were the hook that drew me back onto the golf course -- and into the bet.

A few days after the day at the driving range, I text messaged a friend -- a really good golfer -- to take me out for a round. Word spread that the goofy dude who always made fun of everyone golfing was actually going to attempt a round. When I arrived, my brother and a friend had decided to follow my other pal and me to watch a likely butchering of the game of golf by yours truly.

And it was my brother who made the bet: a $100 wager that it would take me more than 10 strokes on the first hole.

I won. It only took me eight strokes. My brother's mistake was not making that particular wager on the second hole. Or the third. Or the fourth. Etc.

Because that's how the afternoon went. I ended up having an average of ten strokes per hole. My tee-offs were sometimes decent, but my Achilles' heel was my performance on the fairway. Big clumps of dirt would go flying while the ball never moved. Sometimes I would take a swing and miss the ground (and the ball) completely ("Practice swing!" I would yell). And when the club and the ball finally met, nine times out of ten, the ball only sputtered about 12 or 13 feet -- if that.

It didn't matter though. The next time my son and I go to the driving range, I'll be taking some irons to work on my fairway drives. I'm going to work on this little thing called golf, and soon, I hope a father and his son will be spending afternoons on the course.

In the meantime, if any of you see my brother, tell the jerk he still owes me a hundred bucks.

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
July 2, 2008

Locked-in syndrome is a rare condition that occurs when one's brain stem is massively damaged and causes complete paralysis. Unlike a person in a vegetative state, victims with locked-in syndrome are mentally coherent, yet they are "locked in" their body. They perceive, think and experience things as they did before, but they cannot move.

The damage to the stem can come from severe head trauma, a medical overdose, or in the case of the late French journalist, Jean-Dominique Bauby, a massive stroke.

As the jet-setting editor of the French fashion magazine, Elle, Bauby was at the top of his game when he suffered his stroke in his early 40s. After waking from a coma, Bauby found himself at a rehabilitation center on the shores of the English Channel. His mind still vital and alive, Bauby could not speak or swallow, and a ventilator pumped air in and out of his lungs. His right eye lid, working improperly, had to be sewn shut, leaving only his left eye and his hearing as narrow strands to the outside world.

Miraculously, Bauby's speech therapists taught him a method of communication through the blinking of his working eye. In time, Bauby had written a memoir of his experiences as a victim of locked-in syndrome entitled The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Transcribed entirely through Bauby's communicative blinks, he detailed the horror of being trapped in a motionless body, comparing it to the old clunky diving gear where the diver is encased in a cumbersome suit and a large metal helmet, as the air supply flowing through a long tube from the suit to the surface provided the only conduit to breathe.

But Bauby held a secret weapon to battle his unbearable misery: his mind and spirit - tools that freed him from his oppressive cocoon. Through memory and imagination, Bauby tells of fantasy feasts to placate his inability to eat; the memories of times with his children and his father; and the ability to place himself in any portion of the world where beautiful vistas reign.

About 10 days after Bauby's book was published to great acclaim, he passed away. Last year, the American artist and film director, Julian Schnabel, released his cinematic adaptation of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and I recently caught up with it on DVD.

The first 20 or so minutes of TDBATB are told entirely through the eye(s) of Bauby, portrayed by the excellent French actor Mathieu Amalric (he's the new Bond villain in the upcoming 007 flick), and then gradually reverts from his view to a combination of glimpses inside his memories, and the people and places around him, as well as moving back to his point of view from time to time.

What makes this film so engrossing is not only the obvious human drama of a man living life to its fullest and suddenly being cut down to a vibrant soul trapped in a lifeless shell, but also the drama concerning the bittersweet and lingering melancholy of his anguish over the (pre-stroke) breakup with his children's mother; the cherished flashbacks and fantasies he calls upon to relieve his spirits; the ambiguous and eventual revelation (to us) of a mystery love that haunts his memory; and the beautiful dream states that envelop him, vividly brought to life by the gorgeous and quirky eye of Schnabel.

It's probably too simplistic to take TDBATB as a call to live each day of life to its fullest because deep tragedy can come in an instant to whisk it all away. It is that, but it's also a spectacularly moving testament to an immaculate spirit that can overcome the limits and pain of a devastating situation.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which was nominated for four Academy Awards last year, is available now on DVD, and those wary of subtitled films should get over such silly aversions and experience a gorgeous movie.

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

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