Jeff Pearlman

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Fuck My Husband

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So I was sitting in a coffee shop the other day, and an adjacent table was occupied by a writer named Ashley Brechtel. We began to chat, and she told me about her life and dreams and goals and hopes—and the dickhead husband who treated her like garbage. Ashley is 30, and is trying to do something dramatic: Break away and start anew. She’s an awfully good travel writer (this is her site) who aspires to go to Thailand and chase her dreams. One problem: Dough. Or, really, lack thereof.

Hence, Ashley started a Kickstarter page to raise funds. I donated, and I encourage others to as well. This is more than a young woman taking a trip. It’s a journalistic life changer.

Anyhow, this is the link to her appropriately named FUCK MY HUSBAND Kickstarter page. And here, in her own words, is the wonderful Ashley Brechtel (she’s a cool Twitter follow, too) …

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As an adult, when something traumatic happens in your life, you find yourself going home. Back to that place where your mom is waiting with a comforting hug and greets you each morning with a cup of coffee and a nudge to eat something. Sure, you begrudgingly run into childhood acquaintances at Wal-Mart and exchange false pleasantries. And, unfortunately, slathering yourself in bug spray every time you go outside is a necessity. But those small nuances are worth it because you’re home.

Home for me is Waveland, Mississippi, and my trauma stems from my husband of nine years walking out on me unexpectedly. While coming home is comforting, it’s also painful. As I write this in my favorite little coffee shop with its original hardwood floors and friendly patrons, it’s hard to push the fishing pier around the corner from my mind. It’s where my husband asked me to marry him when we were both 20-years old. When I leave here I’ll pass the parking lot where we shared our first kiss four years earlier. Each road I drive down holds a memory. When you marry your high school sweetheart there is no true escape.

My husband has been a part of every decision I’ve made for more than 13 years now. I’ve passed up scholarships because they were too far away from him. I’ve moved all over the world and country to fulfill his career goals. At the time, these decisions seemed romantic, but now I see they were foolish. I have never embarked on an adventure that didn’t involve him in some aspect … but that’s about to change.

My husband has asked for a break from me and our marriage for three months while he decides what he wants. As I let this new reality sink in I’ve been forced to ask myself what I want. I want to write my own story. I want, for the first time in my life, to go on an adventure that I created just for me. I want to not cry and not feel sorry for myself. I want to be happy again. That’s why I’ve started a Kickstarter Project. My goal is to go on a journey of self-discovery on my I. I raise the money. I choose the location. I make my own story.

Since I’ve made this decision, I’ve found the strength and confidence that’s been missing since he left. And while I’m still scared about my future I’m also excited about what opportunities await me.

Quality Inn, room 235

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Woke up a few moments ago not knowing where I was.

I hate when that happens. I’m on my fifth day of travel, third different motel. They’ve all been sorta grungy and grim. Here, in Gulfport, Mississippi, room 235 of the Quality Inn is surely like room 203 of the Quality Inn, and room 118 of the Quality Inn. The air conditioning unit makes a soothing hum, but the smell reminds me of a cardboard box that was soaked by a night of steady rain. The shower head is coming off the wall, and was probably installed 15 years ago. The carpet is a shade of dark booger, surely to hide a lifetime of stains and real boogers. The remote control is jarringly sticky, which immediately causes me to wonder whether the guy here before me was jerking off to some skin flick on Channel XX3.

There are hairs here and there. If you look close enough (as I, regrettably, do) you’ll see many strands, surely from many people. The sight immediately grosses me out, though I’m not entirely sure why (from a logical standpoint). You can’t get sick from someone else’s hair. It’s just … hair.

I sometimes wonder how the art is picked out for motels. It’s always the same—a picture that exists, but goes unseen. It’s neither ugly enough to be offensive nor beautiful enough to be noteworthy. I can picture some Quality Inn executive assistant to the assistant executive, walking through a warehouse in Topeka, coming upon a stack of 10,000 prints—$3 a pop, bulk—and saying, “OK, we’ll take those.”

When hotels are beautiful, they’re one of my joys. I love walking into a clean room, with neat folds and beautiful views and, just maybe, a mint or two waiting on a brilliant white pillowcase. But when I’m in room 235 of the Quality Inn, a motel visit is merely a motel visit.

I arrive. I plop down my suitcase. I brush my teeth. I go to sleep. I wake up.

And, hopefully, I recognize my whereabouts.

Andrew Stratman, a coffee shop and great music …

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As I write this, I’m sitting in the Mockingbird Cafe in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi—watching a future star.

His name is Andrew Stratman. He’s a 27-year-old country singer from Vienna, Missouri. He’s a gritty looking dude with a husky, sandpaper voice, a pulled-down backward baseball cap, a black T-shirt and a dream.

The guy absolutely kicks ass.

I’m not just saying that. I used to cover music for The Tennessean. I’ve seen tons and tons and tons of acts in small clubs, in bars, in dives. Some have been amazing, some OK. some terrible. Here, in front of six or seven of us, I’m witnessing the best of the bunch.

Take a listen …

The man drives from gig to gig in his Dodge truck. He worked construction in the past, some different blue-collar jobs here and there. Not long ago, he decided to chase his dream and pursue music. He’s decided to give it all he has, with dreams of making it a career.

I like his odds.

I also love surprises like this. I was sitting in this coffee shop, going through clips, enjoying the drinks but drifting toward sleepiness. Then the music starts, and suddenly I’m thrown into the pure pleasure that is the great live show.

Happy evening.

Coffee Shops

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As we speak, I’m sitting inside a quaint little coffee shop called the Mockingbird Cafe in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

Before a few hours ago, I never heard of Bay St. Louis or the Mockingbird Cafe. I certainly didn’t know there was a coffee shop here, or that it’d feature cool paintings of superheroes, like these …

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I love coffee shops. Starbucks are fine, but I’m more into independent ones with their own little idiosyncrasies. Different drink mixes. A barista with 101 donkey tattoos. Funky music. Fans on the ceiling. Unique chairs. I love the illusion of social interaction, which isn’t always an illusion. I’ve had some amazing conversations in coffee shops, oftentimes with other writers struggling through projects and procrastinating through life. There’s a bond in coffee shops. Not among patrons merely seeking out java, but the regular denizens, who call such places their second home.

Here in Mississippi, I stand out as a fast-talking New Yorker with liberal beliefs and a Jewish star dangling from his neck. Inside the cocoon of the coffee shop, however, I fit perfectly in.

I’m home.

Barry Bonds Turns 50

Throughout the years, I’ve made my opinions on Barry Bonds known. He was a cruel, nasty guy to cover and deal with, and the day he retired was a day reporters everywhere celebrated.

That being said …

Today is Barry Bonds’ 50th birthday, so instead of thrashing him, I’ll take the opposite approach: If we set aside PED for a moment, and pretend they either didn’t exist or didn’t matter, Bonds was—without a second’s debate—the most dominant and fearsome ballplayer I’ve ever seen. There is no close second.

I’ve never seen a guy turn on fastballs like he did. Never. Best memory: 2002 World Series. Giants-Angels in Anaheim. At the time, Francisco Rodriguez is this fearsome, heat-slinging rookie closer. He’s as close to unhittable as I’ve seen. The guy is breathing fire. The radar is hot: 99, 98, 99, 99, 99, 97, 99. I mean—crazy speed. Bonds comes up in Game 6, his team leading 3-0. Top of the sixth. I’m sitting in the auxiliary press box, thinking, “This is the moment when youth kills aged.” First pitch—high and at the chest. Bonds swings—gooooooooone. And gone and gone and gone. An absolutely majestic shot into the right-center stands.

Damn.

Before he got laughably big, Bonds was a Griffey-level talent. Would steal you 40 bases, hit lots of doubles into the gaps. Didn’t have a very good arm, but knew the angles as well as anyone. The defense of Bonds is that, even pre-steroids, he was Hall of Fame worthy. And it’s true—he was a five-tool guy who would have dominated the game along the lines of Griffey and Willie Mays.

He was that good.

Happy birthday.

Poor insult choices

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Earlier today, while doing research for the next book, I checked Twitter on my cell phone and found the above message.

It came from somebody named @The_Grid_Kills. It’s a man (no chance it’s a woman) who clearly likes the Oakland Raiders, as well as the anonymity that allows him to insult whoever (and whatever) he wants without consequence. This is, for my money, the worst part about the medium—negative, negative, negative, but without a name or accountability. Drives me crazy.

Wait … wait. I digress. My point wasn’t to rip @The_Grid_Kills, who doesn’t interest me one way or another. It was to make a point about insults, and what works vs. what doesn’t. I’m being 100 percent sincere.

From my vantage, insults about looks don’t work. They just don’t. I’m 42. I have two kids and a smart, thoughtful, beautiful wife. I dress like a homeless guy in flip-flops and I cut my own hair without using a mirror. I am well aware that I’m no Tom Cruise, and I’m totally at peace with that (I don’t think I’m an AIDS-stricken mortician either, but maybe—thanks to advances in modern medicine—AIDS-stricken morticians are quite handsome, and the remark was a compliment). So, truly, appearance insults are no more impactful than a light wind. Equally lame are “You’re so old …” barbs. I don’t get them yet, but—without fail—I will. And they’re dumb, because (if we’re lucky) we all get there. Ripping someone’s age is future self-mutilation.

So what works? How do you get under a writer’s skin? Easy: Insult his writing. Rip it, slam it. Your book sucked. You misspelled 10 words. You had a bunch of facts wrong. Jim Smith’s book was so much better. Those are the things that get to me; that eat me up; that sting.

Those are the things that make me wish I worked as a mortician.

With AIDS.

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Kel Mitchell

kel

George Washington is dead.

Mike Darr is dead.

Edward Koch is dead.

Tupac Shakur, James Madison, Shannon Hoon, Manute Bol, Charlton Heston, the girl from Poltergeist, Spuds McKenzie, Len Bias, my great grandmother—all dead.

Kel Mitchell, however, is not dead. Even though, back in 2006, an Internet hoax convinced many people of his passing. Nope. Mitchell—the former star of Nickelodeon’s “All That” and the shockingly wonderful 1997 flick, “Good Burger”—continues to work as an actor, comedian and voice guy, as well as one who believes strongly in spreading the Gospel.

Here, Kel speaks to death rumors, proposal rumors and Bieber rumors. You can visit his website here, and follow him on Twitter here.

Kel Mitchell, welcome to Quazland, home of the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Kel, you’re a guy who had this huge run on TV, starred in a 1990s kid movie staple (Good Burger)—and is now the subject of a lot of “What the heck ever happened to …” Internet posts. It strikes me that people take a certain Sadistic pleasure in this; an odd enjoyment in seeing celebrities fade from the spotlight, then mocking the fade (or, in your case, spreading death rumors). Do you think I’m off on this? On? And how do you explain it?

KEL MITCHELL: I continued to work. I feel that people all watch different types of entertainment on television. I got into voice-over work on cartoons and guest-starred on many different live action television shows, but you have to understand that everyone does not watch the same shows. So it’s just about letting people know what you are doing to make them aware. When the death rumor started I was like, “I’m alive and well and since we are talking about me let me tell you what I am working on now.”

J.P.: I know a lot about your career, but little about your journey. Like, I know you’re from Chicago, I know you nailed an audition, I know you starred in the series Kenan & Kel from 1996–2000, but, well, how did this happen? What’s your life path from birth to show business? Were you pushed into it? Did you seek it out? What was The Breakthrough Moment all performers seem to have?

K.M.: I grew up in Chicago. I love my city—a lot of good people. I was a bit of a class clown growing up and my parents did not want me following the wrong crowd. We had good kids in my neighborhood and we also had gang violence in my neighborhood so my parents kept me in programs that were positive. They enrolled me in a summer course at a community theater and I fell in love with the art of acting. I did not look at it as a way onto television. At the time it was just something to keep me on a good path. I later started acting in plays that showcased in downtown Chicago and got discovered by a local model and talent agency. Actually, my first big gig was I got to model on the back of the Cap’n Crunch box. I remember being chased by girls in my neighborhood.

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J.P.: My kids are 10 and 7, and they recently saw Good Burger for the first time. They absolutely loved it, and I kept wondering—as a performer—how in the world were you able to maintain that character for so long? I mean, the voice, the antics, the dialogue—how did you not lose your mind? And, looking back, how do you feel about the film?

K.M.: The blessing of being on a sketch comedy show like All That—which is where Good Burger was created—is that you get to play so many different characters all different and fun to play. I was never stuck playing the same role over again and even when I had to play one of the characters for a long period of time I never looked at it as I am going to lose my mind playing this role because I understood who I am off camera is not this character. It’s a job and I am thankful to have it and that people embrace it.  If you are a doctor and have to get in a lab coat every day you don’t say, “I am so tired of getting in this lab coat and scrubs.” You are thinking about how happy you are that you are saving lives and making people feel better. It’s about the blessing to be able to do what you love. Complaining would be silly.

J.P.: You’re a devout Christian, which fascinates me. As we speak, the world is heating at an abnormal rate, and it looks more and more like this planet’s future is imperiled. There’s conflict everywhere. War. Famine. Murder. Slaughter. Cancer. Heart disease. Another season of the Kardashians. How do you continue to believe, when so many signs say, “We’re all completely screwed?”

K.M.: The earth has always had its conflicts but we need not stress about the problems that are going on in this world. No matter what happens your faith will keep you strong, You cannot allow fear to control you. Believing the “signs” of this world is not living in faith. I follow the word of God and what he says about me and his children. Not what the headlines say.

J.P.: You were a young star. Is show business a worthwhile pursuit? What I mean is, so many parents push their kids toward a career on stage, in film, etc. But is it a gateway to happiness? Or do the perils outweigh the bliss?

K.M.: You have to let your child know that this is a job and when they have to get their own home and have their own bills (if they continue in this profession) this job will pay for that. So stay away from wrong choices because what they do now can help or hinder this job. Look at the long run of it all. Also let them know that this is a talent that they have been blessed with by God and to not allow negative behavior to block that talent. Also, never push your child if you see that this is something they do not want to do any longer. Pray with them to help them find what other job or talents they have that they can pursue. God has blessed us all with many talents and the ability to learn new and exciting things. He is the one who knows the plans for our lives. So seek him first. A good, prayer-filled life makes every job a gateway to happiness.

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J.P.: I touched on this, but in 2006 you were the subject of a death hoax that spread all over MySpace. What was your initial reaction to this? How did it impact you? Did your family receive actual sympathy calls?

K.M.: It was a shock for the first 45 minutes. I was like, “It’s sad that someone would get a kick out of spreading a rumor like that.” I did get a few phone calls from family members. It did not bother me or upset me because I am alive and well and, like I said, when people asked it was a way to promote what I was working on currently. I was not the only one this has happened to—you see Twitter feeds of hoaxes played on actors all the time and, like me, they are blessed and alive. I just pray for haters. Its all love.

J.P.: According to several Internet reports, you apparently own and operate several Wendy’s franchises outside of Biloxi, Mississippi. How the heck did that happen? Why fast food as a business endeavor? And have you ever stepped behind the counter and said, “Welcome to Wendy’s, home of Wendy’s, may I take your order?”

K.M.: I would do that if it were true but it is not. This is yet another rumor. I do not own any Wendy’s, but maybe I should look into it …

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J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

K.M.: I learn from low moments which makes them great moments. So with that being said—every moment has been great! I am thankful foreach moment and to still be doing this after all these years and still have a fan base I think that is awesome. God is good.

J.P.: How hard is it for a guy known for comedy to be taken seriously? For example, have there been roles you’ve wanted to audition for where someone will say, “Um, no, no, no” based solely on your background? Are you pigeonholed?

K.M.: No, I am not pigeonholed. Of course you have casting directors who see you in a certain way but you have to be the one to change their perception of you. Put yourself on tape and send the audition even if they do not want to see you in person. Create roles for yourself by writing, filming or producing something on your own that will show them that you are multifaceted. The only person that can put yourself in a box is you.

J.P.: As we speak, Justin Bieber seems to be imploding. Why do so many young stars struggle with life, and the adjustment to adulthood? What makes it so difficult?

K.M.: He is a teenager. Every teen or young adult has made mistakes and done things that they are not proud of. In his case it is broadcast in media but we can not judge him. We need to pray for him that he makes better choices.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH KEL MITCHELL:

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: I pray about calming the winds and God getting me home safely and it works every time. He takes away the fear.

• You’re married to the rapper Asia Lee. How did you propose?: I took her out to a romantic breakfast. Then we drove to a drive-in theater to see a double feature (something we both had been wanting to do for a while). We enjoyed watching the movie and eating in the car—we saw Bridesmaids and Hangover II. We we got home. She turned on the lights but they would not work because before we left I secretly turned off the power switch to our home. She walked around going, “Why are the lights not working?” I got on bended knee in the dark and opened up the ring box that had a light in the inside of it. I said, “I found some light” and then asked her to marry me. She said yes. One of the happiest days of my life.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Jason Bateman, James Worthty, the 405, Topeka, Netflix, Willie Stargell, the Big Mac, Winter Olympics, Def Leppard, Eddie Murphy: Netflix, Eddie Murphy, Jason Bateman, Big Mac, James Worthy, Willie Stargell, Winter Olympics, Topeka, 405, Def Leppard.

• Your full name is Kel Johari Rice Mitchell. Where did that all come from?: Kel means yesterday, today and tomorrow.  Johari means Jewl in Swahili. Rice is a family name and Mitchell is my family name.

• I’m a horrible dancer. What can I do to improve?: Practice what style you love the best then jump in dance battle circles. When you win one … congratulations! You have improved.

• One question you’d ask Natalie Wood were she here right now?: What was your favorite film that you starred in.

• In 1997 you won a Cable Ace Award. Where’s the trophy right now?: When I got a divorce from my first marriage it was left by accident at the home I no longer stay at.

• Five greatest actors of your lifetime?: Kermit the Frog, Fozzie the Bear, Ms. Piggy, Gonzo, Grover.

• Who wins in a fight between you and Elvis Costello? How many rounds does it go?: A draw. LOL—I can dream, right?

• In exactly 19 words, make a case for tomato soup: Tastes like warm ketchup in a bowl. Campbell’s creamy tomato soup on the go is only $4.99. Great value!

Pennie Reece, the Honey Princess

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Microfilm serves many purposes.

It’s great for research. And for genealogy. It makes you really tired and bored, which induces naps. It serves as a wonderful threat element for children, along the lines of, “If you don’t clean your room, you’ll be forced to read through the 1977 Nashville Banner.”

At its best, however, what Microfilm does is bring forth from the dead stuff like this—HONEY PRINCESS MAKES COAST VISIT TO PROMOTE HONEY.

I want to know more. I need to know more. What is this Honey Princess the article speaks of? Is she made of actual honey? Does the title come with honey bestowing powers? Does she taste sweet (that’s not an intentional sexual reference, though it definitely works as one)? Does she march hand-in-hand with the Graham Cracker King?

Mostly, what I want to know is, what the heck happened to Honey Princess 1991, Pennie Reece? And does she still have the crown?

To be determined, I assure you …

Microfilm Hell

This is me. Right now. At this very moment …

Photo on 7-21-14 at 5.43 PM #2I’m in a library. Deep down in the South. I’ve been in this spot—this exact spot—for four or five hours. I’ll be here until the library closes. Then I’ll return tomorrow morning.

It’s Microfilm Hell.

I hate microfilm. Hate, hate, hate it. I’m dizzy. I’m starving. My eyes are numb. There’s an annoying multiple-step process here, where first you have to fit the image, than assign it to a page, then press print, then wait 30 seconds for the paper to emerge. I’ve now repeated those motions, oh, 200 times. I. Am. Losing. My. Mind.

And yet … I know no other way. I’m no Walter Payton or Jerry Rice or Jerry Seinfeld. Not even in half the ballpark. But I’ve always loved their stated philosophies to success—take any talent you have, assume it’s not nearly enough, and use that as motivation to bust your ass harder than anyone else busts their ass. That’s why I do my own research 99 percent of the time, even though it tears apart my brain bits and turns me into a drooling troll by day’s end. I genuinely believe that my only chance at writing great books (not just good books) is to work as hard as humanly possible.

Scratch that. I’m not actually sure whether I can write a great book. Greatness, to be honest, is probably something that will always elude me as a journalist. But I can shoot for great, and hopefully find very good. Or excellent. Or … whatever.

I’m babbling. The point is, I could easily pay some college kid to sit here and go through the microfilm on my behalf. But would he know exactly what I’m seeking? No. Would the material be glued to my brain, for inevitable future use? No.

So here I sit.

In hell.

 

Showtime Book
Love Me, Hate Me Barry Bonds Book
Sweetness Walter Peyton Book
The Bad Guys Won Book
The Rocket that Fell to Earth Book
Boys Will Be Boys Book

Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life