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Guest Posts, Humor, memories

The Curious Case of Russell Wilson and the Toilet Ambush

November 15, 2020
russell

By Mike Schoeffel

I

There’s no way to say this without it sounding downright strange, so I’m just going to come out with it. Russell Wilson, husband of Ciara, Super Bowl-winning quarterback and potential future NFL Hall of Famer, once ambushed me while I was sitting on a toilet in a Florida hotel. We were 13 years old. The TV show “Jackass” was popular at the time, so I’m assuming Russell was doing his best Bam Margera impersonation. Most millenials out there know what I’m talking about: Bam did this recurring bit where he’d rush into the bathroom while his dad was dropping a deuce and slap him, hard, all over. Bam’s dad would holler and cuss. It was chaos.

Cut to today. Bam is, well, Bam. Russell is the highest paid player in the NFL. I’m a freelance writer in Western North Carolina, hardly getting by. I do, however, have an awesome dog. I know this is a lot to take in.

Russell’s attack was harmless. Just a stupid teenage thing. He didn’t rip off my shirt, like Bam often did with his father. The ambush lasted a few seconds, at most, yet it’s given me a story to tell at weddings and get-togethers for the rest of my life. It’s an untoppable story. Other people talk about their kids. I reminisce about the time a multi-millionaire benignly walloped me while I was on the John.

It’s so strange and ridiculous as to be unbelievable. Yet it’s true. I know I can’t objectively prove that it happened. Unlike Bam, Russell didn’t record the incident in question. But I know that it happened. I even wrote a terrible poem about it, back in my early 20s, during my cringe-worthy Bukowski years. It’s called “i was once shoved off a toilet by a guy who went on to become a super bowl winning quarterback.”

To wit:

ok

so

the title

pretty much sums up

the first part of the story

so i’ll just pick up

at the second half

this guy

who shoved me off a toilet

in pensacola, fla

when we were 13

and teammates

on an aau baseball team

is set to make $20 million

in the very near future

he’s buddies with obama

knows drake

has shared a stage

with jessica alba

i mean, shit

his lookalike

that fills in for him

during commercial shoots

makes six figures a year

for heaven’s sake

and here i am

eating campbell’s tomato bisque

(79c per can)

three nights a week

picking my boogers

and sleeping in til 11 a.m.

trying to get by

on $1,200 per month

if i was smart

i’d had given him

a swirly

but instead

he pummeled me

on a toilet

and i still haven’t

gotten back

on my feet

Jeez.

II

Perhaps I should provide some background. I could start by explaining why my 13-year old self was in a Florida hotel with a kid who eventually became one of the most famous athletes in the world. It’s simple, really. At one point in my life, I was good at sports. Not great by any means, but talented enough to receive an invitation to play on an AAU baseball team (as mentioned in the above so-called poem) known as the Capital City Riverdogs.

This team was filled with kids who mostly lived in richer areas than I did. Russell, for instance, eventually graduated from Collegiate, perhaps the most prestigious private school in the Richmond area. Many of the players on the team knew one another somehow, but I was an outlier, raised in podunk Powhatan, a county of about 29,000 people, most of whom don camouflage and harvest deer in the fall. I wasn’t into that. Not because of high-minded morals or anything. I just wasn’t into it. I preferred hitting things with aluminum sticks and throwing stuff. My nickname was Chico, because I tanned so darkly during middle school baseball tryouts that one of my teammates thought I “looked like a Mexican.” Racist, I know. But we were young and stupid.

The Riverdogs were a talented group. In addition to me and ol’ Russ, there was also a kid on the roster by the name of John Austin Hicks (or “Jazz,” as he was known back then). Baseball fans may recognize the name: he’s now a catcher for the Detroit Tigers. If memory serves, he wasn’t even our starting catcher most of the time. He earned a lot of at-bats, sure, but catching duties were mostly reserved for Daniel Astrop, who went on to play football at Davidson. Jazz was kinda gangly back then, not yet into his own. He certainly is now. Likewise with Russell.

At any rate, us Riverdogs were decent enough to reach a national tournament held in Pensacola, Florida. It was a big trip for me. I’d never traveled that far from home, and we drove the entire 12 hours, from Richmond to the panhandle, in a small white pick-up truck owned by the father of the only other Powhatan kid on the team: Derek Starr. Derek, I’ve heard, went on to become a world-class Halo player. But let’s stay on track.

I remember a few things in particular about that Florida journey. Being crammed into that small pick-up is chief among them. We played N64 on a small TV powered by a cigarette lighter in an effort to make the close quarters more bearable. I also recall pond alligators at the hotel and a team from Cuba destroying us by 20 runs. Then there’s the horrible ear infection that besieged me during the 12-hour ride back to Virginia. I was curled up in the back, in one of those half-ass seats that small trucks often have, reeling from the pain.

I also have movies in my mind of Russell swatting dingers at the tournament’s home run derby. Then he swatted me like a heavy bag, with my pants around my ankles. I’m not sure which one happened first. But I remember it, Russell. I remember.

III

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed in July of 2018 when I came across a video that caught my eye. It was of Jazz hitting a towering home run against Justin Verlander, down in muggy Houston. Gone was the gangly kid of Riverdogs fame. In his place was a physically-imposing man, a lumberjack in uniform: 6-feet-2, 230 pounds. He seemed so comfortable in his body, so sure of his movements. He’d just taken one of the greatest pitchers in MLB history deep, and there he was, rounding the bases as though lazily jogging through the park. I saw this clip at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday. I was working from home, still in my underwear. An over-medium egg popped in the pan, so I got up to flip it.

There was more to that clip than just an old teammate of mine homering at baseball’s highest level. What most people wouldn’t know, without doing some research, is that Jazz and Verlander graduated from the same high school: Goochland, the only high school in a county of the same name that’s perhaps more podunk than Powhatan.

A years before that home run, when Verlander was still a Tiger, Jazz had an opportunity to catch him. A battery from the little Land of Gooch, a county of 23,000 people. Who would’ve thunk it? In fact, Verlander played on the same American Legion squad — Post 201 — that I did, though he did so years before I donned the uniform. One of my former high school coaches coached him during legion ball. That coach used to tell us a story about how Verlander, as a sort of parlor trick, would stand on home plate and hurl a baseball over the center field fence, some 350-plus feet away.

It’s a Paul Bunyan-sized tale. And like the Russell Wilson toilet incident, there’s no way to prove this happened. But I like to believe it. Because it’s a helluva good story.

IV

Brushing shoulders with greatness before that greatness has manifested itself is a funny thing. At the time, there’s no way of knowing that what’s happening will one day become the stuff of legend. One moment, Russell is Richmond’s All-Metro Player of the Year. The next he’s winning a Super Bowl. How did he get from Point A to Point B? How many people who start at a similar Point A end up at a vastly different Point B? Selling insurance? Working construction? Freelancing from home in their underwear? Not making $35 million per year?

In 2006, Russell won All-Metro POY, he threw 33 touchdowns and led Collegiate to a state title. I was second team All-Metro quarterback that year. I’d thrown 29 touchdowns and led my team to a gut-wrenching defeat in the state semifinals, which ended when I tossed an embarrassing interception on a two-point conversion at the end of the game. The receiver was wide open in the back of the end zone, but I threw it directly into the chest of the defender in front of him. I remember thinking, right before that fateful throw, “Jeez, he’s wide open.” We lost 20-18, and I collapsed on the turf like a sad sack.

The All-Metro reception that year was held at a fancy hotel in Richmond. I sported a truly awful Beatles-esque du on steroids. It was 2006: cut me a break. Russell gave a speech that night. I have no recollection of the specifics, but I recall feeling that he was something special. Well-spoken, smart, talented. Even so, I don’t think anyone in the room believed he’d become this big.

Fast forward to the following spring, 2007. Baseball time. We hosted Collegiate in a non-conference game early in the season. Russell came on in relief during the later innings. I faced him once, and he struck me out on three straight 90-plus MPH fastballs. No movement on his pitches. Pure power, plain and simple. I was used to facing kids throwing in the upper 70s, kids on teams that could barely field rosters. I wasn’t ready for Russell.

These are the memories: subjective, unverifiable. Yet there is some documentation. Check out the Richmond Times-Dispatch record book. It’s available online. Look under most passing touchdowns in a season. There’s Russell: 40 in 2005, 33 in 2006. And there’s me, the very last name on the list: 29 in 2006. Right below some guy named Lee Bujakowski.

V

It’s August 2019 and Bam Margera is in trouble. After being in and out of rehab for years, the former Jackass star reportedly is thrown off an airline flight for being too drunk. The following day, he posts a string of videos on his Instagram page pleading for help from Dr. Phil, of all people. “The only person that I will believe on the planet is Dr. Phil,” he says. The Good Doctor agrees to meet him, and the two apparently talk about filming an episode.

Who knows what will come of it? Bam’s apparently had a string of misfortunes, some self-induced, others out of his control. He was arrested in Iceland for beating the hell out of a rental car and refusing to pay for damages. He was assaulted with a baseball bat outside of his bar, The Note, after apparently calling a woman the n-word (“I called her a crazy bitch and an idiot, but I definitely didn’t use the n-word,” he told Philly.com). He was held at gunpoint in Colombia, which purportedly caused him to relapse into alcohol abuse. These are, apparently, the facts.

Bam is 40 now, no longer baby-faced. He’s chunky and grizzled, with heavy bags under his eyes. He looks defeated, and I feel for him. Every time I see a new picture of the guy, he looks more and more like his dad, more and more like the guy he used to terrorize in the bathroom. Things apparently have been going all right for Papa Phil, though. He lost 41 pounds on VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club: down to 312 from 353. I don’t know if he’s kept it off, but if so, good for him.

VI

In February 2014, Russell plays a solid, but not great, game. Thankfully, he doesn’t have to be transcendent. He completes 18 of 25 passes for 206 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. A picture of serenity on one of sports’ biggest stages: the Super Bowl. His Seahawks blowout the Broncos, 43-8. It’s the third-most lopsided final in the history of the Big Game. Russell, then 25 and in his second season, has outplayed Peyton Manning, maybe the second greatest quarterback in NFL history. The former Collegiate star has fulfilled his potential, reached his Point B. The special kid has become a special adult, on top of his game at the game’s highest level.

Michael Strahan interviews Russell after the historic win (it is, after all, the Seahawks’ first championship). The Lombardi Trophy gleams between them as navy blue and bright green confetti rains. Strahan, who won a Super Bowl of his own with the Giants in 2007, asks Russell a question:

“A lot…has been put on your back, and you handled it like a veteran player. What does it say about you and the team to come out here and perform on the biggest stage…?”

As Russell responds, it’s 2006 again. He’s a thin teen, but well-spoken, modestly accepting an award in front of the best football players in the Richmond area that particular year.

“My teammates are just incredible,” he says. “We’ve been relentless all season. Ever since we lost to Atlanta last year in the playoffs, I remember having that good feeling of ‘man, we’re going to go to the Super Bowl.’ It all started with the championship off-season we had, going into training camp and having that mentality. Tonight was unbelievable.”

He says a few more things, thanks Seattle’s fans. I’m seeing all of this unfold on TV from my wife’s grandpa’s house in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Another podunk town, though not as much as Powhatan. It’s the first year of a new family tradition, one in which we eat an unhealthy amount of seafood and watch the Big Game in the Bluegrass State. The following year, I’ll move to Austin, Texas, for 24 months or so, to work in a coffee shop and freelance. I’ll never hit a home run in the MLB or throw a pass in the NFL. Nor will I enter rehab. My life isn’t glamorous. But I like making eggs in the morning and walking my awesome dog up the hill in the afternoon.

The night Russell helped the Seahawks win the Super Bowl, right around the time he was lifting the Lombardi Trophy skyward, a childhood friend texted me.

“Well, Chico, can you believe the guy who shoved you off a toilet is a Super Bowl champion?”

I couldn’t. But at the same time, it’s hard to imagine a universe in which anything else is the case.

Mike Schoeffel is a freelance writer based in Western North Carolina. His work has been published in THE USA TODAY, The Austin American-Statesman, The Richmond Times-Dispatch and numerous other publications. He has also won several Virginia Press Association and North Carolina Press Association awards. Additionally, Mike works full-time as an Asheville firefighter. You can find more of his work here.

 

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Guest Posts, Humor, Owning It!

Eulogy For an Aging Book Guy

November 20, 2017
book

By Timothy Eberle

I’m thinking about giving up my identity as a “book guy.” (Which doesn’t mean that I’m giving up on reading per se; simply that I’m considering no longer so aggressively inserting that particular pastime into my outward facing persona.) And not because “book guy” has somehow become any less gratifying a façade – if anything, my affection for its particulars have only strengthened with time. (I love the thick-rimmed glasses, the t-shirts adorned with faded images of out-of-print novels, the smug sense of superiority I get to feel as I stare over the spine of “Infinite Jest” on the subway – the teeming mass of my fellow commuters immersed in the decidedly less-worthy diversions of “iPhones,” “newspapers,” and “not desperately trying to impress a train-ful of strangers with a faulty air of intellectual authority.”) The honest truth is that I actually really like being a book guy; it’s simply that, as time progresses and mores shift, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to justify the “book guy persona” as anything resembling efficacious. (For one thing, I’m finding that, past a certain point, people are unwilling to tolerate the use of a word like efficacious in what was, up to that point, casual conversation.

Compounding the issue is the fact that, at some point over the last several years – a time which was for me primarily spent agonizing over the decision as to whether or not taking up pipe-smoking would be seen as a bit too “on the nose” – television has apparently become really, really good. Not to overstate the fact, but the near universal consensus appears to be that we’re living in what can only be described as a new golden age of the medium, with legitimate auteurs reshaping the television landscape through a groundbreaking combination of breathtaking cinematography, innovative storytelling, and an eagerness to confront even the most pressing social issues of the day. Which is – of course – objectively good for humanity.

But it’s objectively terrible for me. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Humor, Resistance

Recovering My Alternative Factuality: A Thank You to Mr. Trump

April 1, 2017
security

By Nina Gaby

DJ, may I call you that? It’s informal but then again, you are “for the people” of which I am one. Saying “President Trump” just carries all sorts of negativity, and this here is a little thank you note. Don’t worry, I’m not an academic or anything. I don’t even have an MFA. (That’s a college degree for people who are serious about their writing.) I just wanted to check in.

First off, DJ, you got me back in the pool. Last time I was this depressed was right after Reagan’s election. I’d just stopped drinking. I was all sorts of bloated and baggy-eyed (you know what I mean, bro) and wow, if I didn’t just swim my way out of that depression and addiction! I was gorgeous! Not a “10” but I bet you’d have looked twice at me, all artsy and zaftig1. Sober, however, I might have been a bit rejecting of you and for that I’m sorry in retrospect. You know I’m older now and have Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and shoulder shit and stuff and can’t really swim, but I’m back in the pool….I strap on one of those belts and jog back and forth, back and forth, just thinking about you. (PS I’m also doing yoga and lifting weights again, thanks to you.)

And who knew pink was my color? I never wear hats. But that march, well, a whole new me. Continue Reading…

beauty, Binders, Guest Posts, Humor, Owning It!, Self Love

The Other Plastic Surgery.

February 16, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Sara Bir. 

There’s a face I’m sick of seeing, and it’s not the rearranged mess of a scandalized Hollywood star. It’s a face I confront in every reflective surface—the bathroom mirror, the screen of my smartphone if I tilt it just so. Perhaps this face may even appear superimposed on that of a celebrity of a certain age, if I pause while zipping along through my Facebook feed.

“What the heck happened?” I think in shock, every single time, because the face glaring back at me does not match my memory of what my face looks like. The skin at the corners of eyelids and lips is creased, slack; the purplish sacks under the eyes are increasingly puffy and swollen, almost like bruises. My nose, which has always been large, is gleefully launching into a mid-life growth spurt, veering off-center to one side and becoming bulbous and shiny, like Santa’s.

This is the other plastic surgery. It’s the kind that rearranges your face in totally unexpected ways. This surgeon of mine should be taken to court, I grumble, but I didn’t hire him. Or is it her? Perhaps they work as a husband-wife team, the practice of Mother Nature and Father Time. They are certainly not exclusive; in fact, it’s impossible not to get a referral. And they’re quite generous with appointments, happy to work your countenance over again and again. They really don’t make any compromises, those two. Try as you might, these practitioners will always be in your health network.

 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015.

 

The handiwork of Drs. M. Nature and F. Time is understandably a concern for anyone whose career demands fresh, fussed-over faces. Thank god I’m not a glamorous media figure, because even without a long, expensive vacation to Camp Nip’n’Tuck, the shifting topography of my head is, to me, as startling as Renée’s, or Madonna’s, or Kenny’s, or Nicole’s.

That’s because the face I unfailingly expect to greet me from a mirror is perhaps circa 1999, or maybe 2004, or maybe not from any specific era of my life except an idealized past. Who knows what I’m idealizing, because, at a still-spry 38 years, inside I feel more confident and sorted-out than I ever did when my skin cells still had snappy elasticity. After a few seconds adjusting to the very human lady blinking back at me in those oh-so-unbeautiful morning minutes after rustling out of bed, I just sigh and call a truce.

I went to my husband for a sympathetic ear, and also to gauge the waters of our marital relations. Alas, my vigilant team of plastic surgeons also did a number on my breasts and abdomen. The stomach is quite fit if I flex it, something I only do if I’m scrutinizing my profile under the unflattering florescent lights of a dressing room. Otherwise, the unflexed tummy flesh and skin are rubbery and malleable, like Silly Putty. As for my breasts, once I stopped nursing my young daughter, they vanished; my cup size is essentially –AA. This is the one session with Mother Nature and Father Time that’s made me feel youthful, because now the only place I can find bras that fit is in the little girl’s section at Target.

Still, men like boobs. One evening, at bedtime, I worked up enough courage to ask my husband, “Are you still attracted to me even though I’m so different now?”

“What?” he said, distracted. I’d disturbed the constant, anxious reverie about his receding hairline. As if he has time to think about where my boobs went! Isn’t that what internet pornography is for?

So I dropped it. In fact, no one seems to notice the havoc my plastic surgeons have wreaked on my face. Sometimes, if I go months without running into a friend, they’ll even say, “You look great!” And I, in turn, am pleased seeing their glowing, radiant selves, and I don’t even think about scrutinizing their expanding pores or multiplying crow’s feet. Maybe that’s because their faces are not stretched in high definition across a television that spans an entire wall in our living room. Maybe because the energy inside someone when you see them in person has so much to do with how you perceive the physicality of that face.

While trapped in the snaking line of the express checkout at the grocery store yesterday, the cover of a Prevention magazine caught my eye. “Stop aging!” the headline blared. I’ve flirted with capsules, lotions, and masks, and I can vouch that it’s not humanly possible cease the steady march of the Other Plastic Surgery. We all know there’s really only one way to stop aging, and that’s to die. I’d rather keep on living, with this ever-dynamic face. I found it looks years younger when I don’t scowl at the mirror.

 

servicesSara Bir is a chef, food writer, and usually confident parent living in Ohio. Her essay “Smelted”, from the website Full Grown People, appears in Best Food Writing 2014. You can read Sara’s blog, The Sausagetarian, at www.sausagetarian.com. This is her second essay on The Manifest-Station.

Do you want the space and joy to get back into your body? To get into your words and stories?  Join Jen Pastiloff and best-selling author Lidia Yuknavitch over Labor Day weekend 2015 for their 2nd Writing & The Body Retreat in Ojai, California following their last one, which sold out in 48 hours. You do NOT have to be a writer or a yogi.  "So I’ve finally figured out how to describe Jen Pastiloff's Writing and the Body yoga retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch. It’s story-letting, like blood-letting but more medically accurate: Bleed out the stories that hold you down, get held in the telling by a roomful of amazing women whose stories gut you, guide you. Move them through your body with poses, music, Jen’s booming voice, Lidia’s literary I’m-not-sorry. Write renewed, truthful. Float-stumble home. Keep writing." ~ Pema Rocker, attendee of Writing & The Body Feb 2015

Do you want the space and joy to get back into your body?
To get into your words and stories? Join Jen Pastiloff and best-selling author Lidia Yuknavitch over Labor Day weekend 2015 for their 2nd Writing & The Body Retreat in Ojai, California following their last one, which sold out in 48 hours. You do NOT have to be a writer or a yogi.
“So I’ve finally figured out how to describe Jen Pastiloff’s Writing and the Body yoga retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch. It’s story-letting, like blood-letting but more medically accurate: Bleed out the stories that hold you down, get held in the telling by a roomful of amazing women whose stories gut you, guide you. Move them through your body with poses, music, Jen’s booming voice, Lidia’s literary I’m-not-sorry. Write renewed, truthful. Float-stumble home. Keep writing.” ~ Pema Rocker, attendee of Writing & The Body Feb 2015

Featured image courtesy of Timothy Krause.

Guest Posts, Humor, Self Love

Self Love and The Police.

December 22, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

By Natan Baruch.

I saw the flashing lights in my rearview mirror.

“Fuck,” I said. I didn’t even think I was speeding. I pulled to the shoulder and rolled down the window. An officer approached.

“License and registration, please,” he said. I handed them over. “Hmm,” he said. “Do you know what the problem is?”

“No,” I said. “I’m afraid I don’t.”

“You’re being a dick to yourself,” said the officer. “I’m gonna have to give you a complement. I love your hair. Is that a recent cut? And here, have a Warhead. Black cherry. Your favorite.”

I lifted my hand and he dropped the candy into my palm.

“Didn’t they discontinue these in the nineties?” I asked.

“So what if they did?” said the officer. “You deserve the best.”

“Oh, I don’t know—”

“Please step out of the vehicle,” said the officer.

“What?” I said.

“Now,” said the officer.

I stepped out of the car and the officer gave me a hug. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Humor, Women

Dear Breasts.

October 16, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Naomi Alana Zener.

Dear Breasts,

We’ve had a parting of ways of late. Two pregnancies and two breastfed babies later, you’ve decided to de-friend me and befriend gravity, forcing me to heftily rely on and rendering me beholden to the much-needed sturdy, non-sexy bras that no woman wants to be seen buying, because you are well on your way to touching my toes. However, in spite of your impudence and your defiant desire to move in directions that my twenty-something year old former self would never have imagined, we now stand at a crossroads in my mid-thirties, both literally and figuratively. I could scream, rant and rave, putting the best plastic surgeons on speed dial, or I could sit back and accept my new udder-like image.

In truth, loving you was never easy. When younger, a washboard chest was not as enviable as was having washboard abs. Then, a few years into adolescence, you grew overnight. Having only really only ever known A grades, I was suddenly confronted with the letter D, the upside of which was that I garnered the favour of copious amounts of male attention. I often wondered if you were my friends or my foes. In the end, you became the best ‘wingmen’ a gal could ever ask for. Many dates, some good and many bad later, I found myself in the arms of the man I wanted to and ended up marrying, a self-confessed breast man, who worshipped at the altar of my beckoning bosom.

Continue Reading…