About: Gabe Hart
Gabe Hart is an English and Language Arts teacher at Northeast Middle School. He was born and raised in Jackson, graduating from Jackson Central-Merry in 1997 and Union University in 2001. Gabe enjoys spending time and traveling with his daughter, Jordan, who is eight years old. His hobbies include reading, writing, and playing sports . . . even though he’s getting too old for the last one. Gabe lives in Midtown Jackson and has a desire to see all of Jackson grow together.
Check out Gabe's latest contributions to Our Jackson Home:
In May of 2016, there was weeping and gnashing of teeth—or so it would have appeared. Schools rich in personal and communal history were closing. Their doors were shutting for good, and the buildings would just sit there, rotting. There was no clear plan for what would happen to those buildings other than the fact that they wouldn’t house students.
“Are we broken?” I saw those three words at the top of an article a couple of months ago. They were referring to the current political climate in our country. Without delving into specifics, it’s safe to say that our present political situation is a bit perilous. Communication between parties vacillates between accusatory and defensive. The president is being investigated for obstruction of justice relating to a foreign country tampering in our election.
Balance. Poise. Grace. Stamina. All things that are waning for this thirty-seven-year-old man. Honestly, I never had a lot of physical grace or poise. In my athletic years, I generally excelled by crashing, slamming, and flinging my body all over the court or field in order to succeed. I was never a graceful athlete. Unfortunately, for me, the workout at Pure Barre required all of the aforementioned attributes.
I remember being in the locker room as a seventh grade basketball player at Tigrett Junior High School and coming to the realization that I was going to have a hard time keeping up with most of the guys on the court. I had some normal feelings of insecurity and nervousness, but nothing out of the ordinary for a prepubescent boy in 1992. Fast forward twenty-five years and those feelings came back in a hurry as soon as I walked into the CrossFit Jackson gym.
The first rule of Fightshop is: you don’t talk about Fightshop. Wait. That’s not it. That’s Fight Club, the Brad Pitt and Edward Norton film where dudes just generally beat the snot out of each other. The Fightshop is sort of like that, except you’re beating on bags, not people. And we can definitely talk about the Fightshop because it’s tough to find a better workout around town. The first thing I noticed during my first visit was the plethora of heavy punching bags hanging from a black, metal contraption.
Let’s suspend our thought for the next ten to fifteen minutes and imagine what could be. Let’s not think about dollars and cents or logistical structure. While those things are necessary, they’re not for us right now. What we need are open minds and unencumbered ideas about what our downtown might possibly be if we could just think a little bit beyond what we’ve always thought. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen beyond. I’ve seen what downtown Jackson could be if we could just all get on board.
Sitting in an intro philosophy class my sophomore year at Union University, I was asked a question: Would it be ethical to sacrifice a person (or a few people) in order to find the cure for cancer? Well, yes, of course it would, I said. We’re talking about cancer, right? I was nineteen and, apparently, omniscient—or so I thought at the time. The certainty of an arrogant college student is a certainty like no other.
The Wizard of Oz. That’s my earliest memory of the power of a tornado. From the time I saw that witch riding a bicycle in the air with that house spinning out of control, the power of a tornado had me under its thumb. As a five-year-old, I had no idea how close I would come to that dominance that struck so much fear in me as a child. West Tennessee, and Jackson in particular, is no stranger to tornadoes. As much as we think tornadoes are an indiscriminate act of nature, they’re not.
2017 is not even a week old yet. The taste of black eyed peas and turnip greens may still linger in your mouth. The ink on that list of “resolutions” is barely dry. Thoughts of a future dance in your head as you sneak that last bit of Christmas candy from the aluminum foil-wrapped plate from your in-laws’ house. Maybe you’re not a candy person but a leftovers kind of guy. I mean, who wants to waste food, right?
The precious things are always removed first. They’re handled with care, preserved, and safeguarded so as not to disturb their history or perceived beauty. Careful hands wrap them in padded blankets or quilts and gently set them in an arrangement that will in no way cause a fracture. The pieces that are disposable or not as aesthetically pleasing are swept into a pile or thrown away or burned or sold. And so goes the process of preparing for the demolition of a building.
I was never a baller. I wanted to be one, though. The grace and fluidity with which truly great basketball players move is unparalleled in any other sport. I was jealous. I’m tall and used to be pretty thin, but I never had the grace the true athletic players seemed to have. Gravity appeared to have a stronger hold on me than it did my teammates and my opponents. Sure, I was able to dunk a ball for a period of time in my 20’s and early 30’s, but it was off one foot and more of a “rim grazer” than a true “flush.”
I still remember the conversation I had with my mother after I got my first tattoo. It went a little something like this: Me: So, I need to tell you something. Mom: What happened? Me: Nothing happened. I got a tattoo. Mom: WHAT?! Me: I said, I— Mom: WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!! Me: I just wan— Mom: THAT’S JUST STUPID! You know those things never come off! Me: Yes. I know, but— Mom: So, now you drink beer AND have a tattoo?! Well, you’re just white trash!
On Sunday afternoons during the months of September through January, odds are, someone you know is watching football. In fact, in the fall of 2015, twenty-six of the twenty-seven most-watched shows on television were football games. The one exception was the Republican primary, which was the thirteenth most-watched show over that time span. Football is, unquestionably, the king of all sports in America right now. One could argue that it is the most popular form of viewing entertainment, period.
A few years ago I was talking to a friend of mine who lives in Denver about her plans for the evening. She told me she was going on a bicycle pub crawl. I had no idea what she was talking about. She explained that she and a group of her friends would rent bicycles and ride around downtown Denver and visit the local pubs and bars in the area. The idea was to have one drink at each location and then move on to the next place via bicycle.
I still remember my last day of high school. I remember leaving the parking lot and listening to the Dave Matthews song “Number 41,” and I still remember the lyrics that were blaring from the speakers of my Nissan Maxima. “I will go in this way, and I’ll find my own way out. . . .” They seemed poignant at the time, though I’m not sure in what way exactly. As a matter of fact, I’m not really sure that I even liked Dave Matthews. I think I wanted to like Dave Matthews because all my friends liked Dave Matthews.
We live in a critical society. Social media is mostly to blame for that, along with twenty-four-hour “news” networks and talk radio. Everyone has a voice whether they have anything worth saying or not. If you have a bad experience at a restaurant, Tweet about it. If your hotel bed isn’t as comfortable as you think it should be, grab your phone and give it two stars on Google. I don’t exempt myself from taking part in the reactionary culture in which we find ourselves.
In 2005, Bruce Springsteen went on a tour with just himself, an acoustic guitar, a harmonica, and a pump organ. This tour was in support of his album entitled Devils and Dust. It was a follow up to The Ghost of Tom Joad, which was released in 1995, and was a sequel to Nebraska. On each of these albums Springsteen wasn’t backed by the E Street Band.
I got my first tattoo when I was twenty-three years old. I worked for it, too. I was married at the time, and it took me two years to convince my wife that I should have one. I guess the compromise was that it would be a cross, which was hard for her to argue against. I picked the cross off of a poster-sized print hanging in the tattoo shop. The design was “flash,” which is a stereotypical design of a tattoo, but I didn’t know that at the time. I knew I wanted a tattoo, so I picked one out.
My grandfather used to have a desk in a spare bedroom in the house he shared with my grandmother. I would stay with them some nights if my parents were out of town or if I just wanted a change of scenery for an evening, and that’s the room where I would stay. If I had any homework, I would sit at the desk and pretend to do it. I was usually a little distracted, though.
The events, places, people, and things that we remember in our lives can be extremely non-discriminant. In a singular moment, I sometimes think that whatever I’m doing or whoever I’m talking to in that moment is so important or emotional that it will be burned into my mind forever, only to realize a few weeks later that I can’t even remember the moment. I simply remember thinking that I would remember the moment.
When I was five or six years old, I attended a Vacation Bible School at a Baptist church somewhere on the south side of Jackson. I can’t remember the name of the church now, only that on the last afternoon every boy and girl, ages five to nine, were packed into a multi-purpose room (what Baptists might call a “fellowship hall”), and a man or woman told us that we needed to be saved. I don’t ever remember any name of the devil being used . . . no Satan, Lucifer, or Beelzebub.
Connections in life are kind of a funny thing. When I think of the people who have influenced me in my past and whose teachings and values I subconsciously carry with me to this day, the difference in each of those people is quite striking. There are few common denominators between them. They range from passive to aggressive, from strong type A personalities to passive type B personalities, from men to women, and any other clichéd opposite I could choose to put in this description.
There’s a quote about nostalgia from one of my favorite television shows, Mad Men. In the scene, Don Draper, the creative director at a Manhattan advertising firm, is trying to sell his pitch to Kodak. He invokes the word nostalgia and explains it like this: “Nostalgia—it’s delicate, but potent. In Greek, ‘nostalgia’ literally means ‘the pain from an old wound’. It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.” We all have memories from our childhood.
At some point over the last thirty years, our society became afraid. I’m not sure exactly when it was or what it is we have grown to fear. Is it the unknown? Is it our cultural differences? Something has made us collectively afraid. We left neighborhoods and cities for gated subdivisions and homogenous housing. Our front porches vanished and were replaced with garages, insulated from the world.