Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston
Weekly observations on travel, work, parenting, and life as it goes on around me. Airing Fridays on Alabama Public Radio.
info_outline Cannonball 08/05/2022
Cannonball Sometimes I quickly conceive a brilliant idea and quickly make plans to execute that idea and I realize I'm smarter than I give myself credit for. ___________________ Several years ago, I arrived at the neighborhood pool early one morning to swim laps. It was a habit I had gotten into that summer and the week before, my buddy Josh and I had talked about our workouts – how we warm up, how we keep track of laps. Stuff like that. I was going to try some of his ideas and it was early that day, but someone was already in the pool, putting in their work – head down, strong kicks, big flip turns. I put my towel in a chair, put my googles and my pennies - which I use to count sets - in a neat little pile at the end of an open lane at the edge of the pool. I started stretching and took a look at the other swimmer. It was Josh. He has an unmistakable balding pattern that was clearly visible in the water as he headed down his lane towards me. “Oh,” I thought, “this is going to fun.” When Josh made his flip turn, I had backed away so he wouldn’t see me. I kept stretching and by the time he was headed back towards me and got close to the end of the pool, I took four or five running steps and I launched and tucked into the tightest cannonball an unlimber, middle-aged man could tuck in to. My launch was high, my angle was perfect, my timing was perfect, and I rolled slightly backwards to hit the water on the small of my back to make the biggest explosion possible right next to him. I saw a hole in the water form around me. I saw the water rise up on either side of me and then cave in back down on top of me, and I felt that wonderful concussion one feels when the water slams down on you after executing a flawless cannonball. It must have thrown Josh ten feet in the air. I imagined him air born, mid-stroke, staring wild-eyed through his goggles wondering what in the world had just happened. Who did this? I heard big drops of water still hitting the surface and as I came up and I was gasping for air because I already laughing. Most events in my world take careful and deliberate planning. But every now and then I have a quick and brilliant idea and I throw together a quick and brilliant plan that works flawlessly and I surprise myself at how well I’ve done. I tell myself that I’m smarter than I give myself credit for. Usually when I rush things, things go wrong. Josh stood up, looked at me with his mouth wide open, ripped his googles off and…it wasn’t Josh. It was someone I had never met before. Someone I didn’t know. I just stood there. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t form a word. And I finally just muttered “Oh. Sorry,” and swam away as fast as I could and didn’t stop swimming until he had finished his workout, left the pool and I had seen him drive away. It was awful. Quick planning did it to me again. I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep it Real.
info_outline "Do You Have a Dog Voice?" 07/29/2022
"Do You Have a Dog Voice?" It's a rediculous question I ask when getting to know another couple. Their answer tells me a lot. . . -------------------------------- When my wife and I meet new couples, there’s always a series of get to know you questions. “How did you two meet?” is a standard one. “Tell me about your children” is another. But a question I enjoy asking that tells me most of what I want to know about a couple is this: “Do you change your voice when you talk to your dog?” “Do you have a dog voice?” If the couple say that they don’t have a dog, or that they only have cats, or that they don’t have a dog voice, I’m going to be on the fence about whether these people are worth getting to know. And I understand if you feel my position is an extreme rush to judgement over a silly “get to know you” question. And you’re right. It is. But there’s something about dog people and their admission to having a dog-voice that makes me think “These people are just the right kind of crazy.” I can tell when any member of my family is talking to our dog, Lucy. Each one of us has a distinct “Lucy-voice” and no two are the same. Lucy, of course, does not care what voice anyone uses so long as it leads to attention or a scratch or food or a walk. A well-known part of Presidential polling is that Presidents, or Presidential candidates, who have a dog get increased favorability ratings because of the dog. People tend to like Presidents who have dogs. Remember the number of times Joe Biden was pictured with his beautiful German Shephard, Champ, during his campaign? Those two were all over the media and that was no mistake. Champ got votes for Biden. According to an article on the Huffington Post, dogs make voters think, “He seems like a guy I could have a beer with.” And there’s probably some truth to that. According to that same article, the first president in over 150 years who did not have a dog was the same guy who orders his steaks cooked well-done and then covers them in ketchup. You can guess who I’m talking about. Amazing what these preferences tell us about people, myself included. At dinner the other night, I asked my dog voice question to a couple we’ve been friends for a while. They did not answer Yes to the dog voice question, they immediately began talking in their dog voices about their dog. They didn’t think about it, they didn’t hesitate, they instantly replied in their dog voices and begin telling us about their English bulldog, Louise, and how they talk to her and how they treat her and on and on. My wife joined in talking about our dog, Lucy, using her dog-voice and the three of them talked for a while about their dogs, using their dog voices the whole time. I observed. I said nothing. And I thought, “Now these people – including my wife – might just be on the other side of crazy.” I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep It Real.
info_outline Turn Off the Lights 07/22/2022
Turn Off the Lights I say it all the time: "Turn off your lights when you leave your room!" It's yet another way I've become my father. --------------------------------- I heard myself say it and I could hear my father’s voice coming out of my mouth as it happened. “Please turn off your lights when you leave your bedroom,” I said to my teenage son. “There is no need to leave those lights on if there’s no one in there. Ceiling fan, too. Turn it off or I’m taking money out of your allowance.” I remember as a child my father saying this to me. As I’d leave for my walk to school every morning, my parents would pester me to turn off the lights. They’d remind me that electricity costs money and replacing light bulbs does, too. I’d shake my head and roll my eyes and wish my parents would worry about things that really mattered, not about light bulbs and a little bit of electricity. One of my neighborhood friend’s father worked for Alabama Power back in the day and I remember the father telling me that the cost to run an one-hundred watt light bulb for a day was about fifty cents or something like that. And I’d remind my parents of that as I made a huff about turning around, going back into my bedroom, and turning off the lights. Well, I have now become my father in yet another way. I now remind my own children, and one child in particular, to go back and turn off their lights when they leave their room. Whatever light is on, if they’re leaving their bedroom for any reasonable amount of time, turn it off. It’s a waste of money, I say, to light an empty room. Besides that, the power rates are higher in Alabama than average and the LED bulbs that I buy to replace the old bulbs cost a good bit more, too. These new LED light bulbs are impressive with how little electricity they use and how long they’ll last, by the way. It’s somewhat strange to know that at my age of fifty-three years old I’m buying light bulbs that could very well outlive me. I tell my children that these light bulbs are the only inheritance they’ll get from me so treat them well. These light bulbs will be my memory. However, my urgings and reminders and pestering and threats do little to get my kids to turn their lights off. Nothing I do or say works. My wife reminds me that they’re teenagers and their brains are full of hormones and random thoughts and confusion and it’s just a jumble in their heads at this age. She says I need to give them a break. My reply is that there doesn’t appear to be anything at all going on in their heads these days if they’re incapable of simply remembering to turn off their lights. Which is, I’m guessing, exactly what my father said about me about forty years ago. I’m Cam Marston and I’m just Trying to Keep It Real.
info_outline Engage Brain before Opening Mouth 07/15/2022
Engage Brain before Opening Mouth It's not uncommon for me to consider something only after I've said it aloud which is the opposite of how it should happen. It usually leads to awkward moments... ----------------------------------- I asked a new acquaintance of mine, in a voice that was, perhaps, too loud, if his son was given the name Carson because he was conceived in a car. His wife overheard me, turned and looked at me with an expression of shock and disgust. My acquaintance however, turned to me, smiled, and started nodding. His wife then turned to him with a more severe look of shock and disgust. I could see an awkward moment brewing between them, so I told them, in a voice that was, perhaps, too loud, that I was only curious because my wife and I had initially planned to name our oldest son Plane-son. My wife overheard me turned and looked at me with an expression of shock and disgust mixed with the expression of “you and I are going to have a talk later”. And this is how my wife and I began meeting the other parents on my son’s middle school baseball team. Have you ever had a thought that, the first time you consider it, is after its left your mouth and is “out there.” Where you say it out loud and then wonder, “Where did that came from?” And you wish that your brain would give you a moment or two to edit what you’re thinking before it escapes and you watch as expressions quickly change and you realize a boundary line has been crossed or a sense of decency has been breached. It’s a condition I live with and at least once a week I realize an inappropriate and unedited thought has introduced itself to me too late based on the expressions of those around me. It’s the reason I find myself rushing client calls. I fear saying the wrong thing before I think about it and having it spoil a work opportunity. I’m the first to forgive anyone who says something off the cuff and it turns out inappropriate. I can relate and I assure them no offense was taken. I’m surrounded by friends who understand my malady and as many times as they’ve told me to first engage my brain before engaging my mouth, I think they’ve finally understood that there are times I’m a passenger on my own train with no idea where it’s going, only that it’s quickly and unexpectedly left the station. And my wife is patient. Whether it’s things I’ve said, ideas I’ve had that I hold too tightly to, or whatever, she realizes that this brain of mine never intends harm or offense, but can run amok and warrants her persistent calm attention. I may dig in on an idea, but usually, in the end, I realize my ideas were rushed, and poorly thought out. Like our youngest son’s name. I fought for it but in the end I’m grateful my wife convinced me that the name Canoe-son was not a good idea. I’m Cam Marston and I will never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
info_outline Camp Mac 07/08/2022
Camp Mac There are some parts of human evolution that have not changed. What made a kid happy a long long time ago is the same stuff that makes kids happy today. And what made a parent happy a long time ago remains unchanged, too. _________________________________________________ "My fifteen-year-old twins will have been at camp for nearly a month when I pick them up late next week. It will be wonderful to see them again. All my kids have loved Camp Mac and my oldest kids, who haven’t been to camp for a few years, still stay in touch with many of the friends they made there. Listening to parents and teachers and the media talk, Camp Mac is not a place one would think young teenagers would enjoy. It has no air conditioning in the sleeping cabins – just widows with screens. No cell phones are allowed, in fact no electronics are allowed at all. A few times over their four-week term they hike into the Talladega National Forest, pitch tents, start fires, and sleep outdoors and at some point on that hike, they skinny-dip under a waterfall. During the days they play games outside, they wait in line to eat in the mess hall, they have girl-boy dance parties where, I’m told, they dance with each other. They attend patriotic flag raisings, and dress in all whites for their weekly Sunday service. According to the stereotypes, none of these things sound anything like “fun” for today’s young teenager. Kids today like comfort and instant gratification. But my kids love Camp Mac, and they’ll quietly cry when I drive them away late next week. There’s an assumption that kids these days are different and there certainly are some differences. I remember as a kid blushing any time I even spotted a girlie magazine on a magazine rack far behind the counter at a service station. There was nothing in that magazine that any child today can’t find in twenty seconds on their cell phone. So there are certainly some differences. But, deep down, I don’t think we’ve changed all that much. As people, even as a species, we’re still very much like the way we were way way back in the past. I’m betting one hundred years ago when a city kid went camping, they got excited about it. It was fun. And I’m betting it might have been the same two hundred years ago and the same maybe two thousand years ago. We like to think we’ve evolved and advanced as a species, but I don’t think we have. Child or adult, we’re still much the same as we’ve always been. Our tools have changed and by using these tools, we’ve changed our environment, but what made kids happy a long long long time ago is what’s making kids happy today. Not what gives them pleasure, mind you, but makes them happy. What made adults happy and sad a long long time ago is what makes adults like you and me happy and sad today, too. I don’t know why but there’s great comfort in knowing that these things are unchanged. Like the happiness I’ll feel seeing my twins this time late next week. I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep It Real."
info_outline Father's Day 06/17/2022
Father's Day Father's Day is Sunday. I've done some brilliant things on Father's Day and Mother's Day. And I've made some bone-headed mistakes. Transcript: Father’s Day is Sunday. I hope all you fathers have a wonderful, celebratory, appreciation filled day. And I hope that you with fathers still alive offer the same yours. My newly widowed father simply wants a phone call. That plus a year’s supply of casseroles. I remember a conversation with my mother years ago. My children were entering their teens, and I asked my mother at what age does a child become grateful for the extraordinary amount of work parents do for them. At what age will my children turn to my wife and me and say, “Thank You for all you’ve done.” And my Mom’s reply? “We’re still waiting,” which stung a bit. Speaking of mother’s, I remember a Mother’s Day when I was a teen. My father and mother told my brothers and me that on the Sunday of Mother’s Day, Mom didn’t want much, just something to acknowledge her – something that reminds us of her, and they left it up to us. When Sunday morning came, my brothers and I had done nothing. We just never got around to it and, wow, what a mistake. I remember my mother’s oceans of tears, and I remember how upset my father was and I have never missed a Mother’s Day and, in fact, today I over-prepare for the Mother’s Days in our household. I used to take my kids to a florist and tell each of my four kids to pick out five flowers that make them think of their mother. My wife would get a large random arrangement of twenty flowers that was not particularly attractive, but each flower had a story of why it reminded one of my children of their mother and the kids would go through each one of the flowers one by one with her. My brothers and I have given my father fruit trees for Father’s Day for as long as I remember. None of them ever survived. And by now his camp in Clark Country would be full of mature fruit trees but the soil or the climate or something kills them every time. We’ve stopped and now just make a sincere and grateful phone call which I’ll do early Sunday morning. Around my house this past week, my wife and children have been finding sheets of paper with a short list of Father’s Day gift ideas on it. I’ve printed about ten of them and placed them in strategic places – on toilet seats, in cereal boxes. Some items are very practical – for example a couple new pair of short pants, some are helpful – like a full detailing of my car, and some are highly aspirational, like a bottle of Macallan 18 scotch which is both crazy expensive and hard to find and I’d feel guilty that that much money was spent on me for something that will be slowly, deliciously, intentionally, and reverently consumed only on perfect days with choirs of angels singing from the heavens in the background. It would be, though, the perfect way for my family to say “thanks, Dad.” Are you listening? I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep It Real.
info_outline Middle Aged Lame (Replay) 03/18/2022
Middle Aged Lame (Replay) My first golf tournamanet revealed quite a few things about me and my people that I'd prefer to not acknowledge. (This commentary disappeared off the Keepin' It Real podcasts and I'm repostiing it at the request of a friend. Originally posted 9/16/19.)
info_outline I Can't Help But Wonder if Evolutionary Progression Has Left Me Behind 01/11/2022
I Can't Help But Wonder if Evolutionary Progression Has Left Me Behind There's a picture taking satellite the size of a tennis court orbiting earth four times further than the moon. How did they do that?
info_outline Hurricane Dissonance (repeat) 12/13/2021
Hurricane Dissonance (repeat) Welcome to Keepin' It Real. I hope you'll take a moment to listen to this short commentary and consider adopting these commentaries for your public radio station. They've aired on Alabama Public Radio since 2018 and have developed a loyal following. Reach out for more info.