Behind the scenes: Dinner half baked with Drew Baker.

In my previous posts, I alluded somewhat that me and Drew needed to work out our schedules to find an appropriate time we could meet up for a small interview. Now, I am not going to pitch some kind of wacky adventure or goofy story, because none of that happened. Drew and I getting together for a small light-hearted chat wasn’t anything even close to jumping through hoops, but rather one of the more easy parts of the entire assignment. All I did was call him up, ask when he had some free time, and where he would like to meet up.

First off, I live in Tampa, while Drew lives in Orlando. I used to live in Orlando too, and I even went to high school with Drew. I was coincidentally talking to him several days before I was aware that I needed to have someone to interview for this course, and just by chance we happened to be talking about our high school memories, so the ideas just clicked. “I am interested in the story Drew has to say, so why don’t I interview Drew about his high school football career?” was my initial thought, “but he lives in Orlando, so I guess I need to make a day of it…”

That was probably the only rough part of this interview: meeting up. We agreed that it would be best if we both drove halfway to each other and met in the middle. We decided that since it would be around noon we would just grab something to eat and have our discussion there at the restaurant.

Before the interview I wanted to ask Drew some questions on what it was like being on the football team, what his experiences were once he was there, and just find out about his story. I knew he had prior experience on the football team, but I really didn’t know too much about it aside from he quit for a reason unknown to me. I thought to myself that this interview would be a great way to see the duality of the experience: playing and then not being able to play.

We both drove about an hour to see each other, then had our interview, caught up on each other’s lives, and then went our separate ways once again. It was a very pleasant experience just to see a friend again, but I am glad that I was also able to create something out of it. Hopefully the interview is a kind way for me to semi-praise and immortalize Drew as maybe a small compensation for the time he had to miss due to his injuries. I know it’s like comparing apples to oranges, but it’s something I am capable of doing.

An interview with Drew: reflections

When I interviewed Drew Baker and dove into his life, I came out blazing hot and ready to whip this story out and share my experiences as soon as we said our goodbyes. The window of time we had to even organize our little conversation in person was very slim, due to our schedules, so I had to make every moment count. I needed to pop onto my blog and wring out all the information I could into a post while details were still piping hot within my memory.

It was almost like I withheld what questions I was asking him for the reader and let them discover where the discussion went on it’s own path. Now that I have given the interview time to cool off and the dust has settled, I am returning to my blog and will go into further detail about the interview.

First off, my lead was simply just an introduction: what his significance will be during the interview (an ex high school football star) and an allude to his rise and fall. It was intentionally right at the start of the interview because the two of us are already comfortable. This might sound like a personal question saved for after some warm up (doesn’t it sound like something you don’t dive into? along the lines of “why did you stop following your dreams” perhaps?) but I know Drew well, and to him it was more of “let me get to know you better”.

Afterwards, my hook wasn’t necessarily a strong grabbing item, but rather more or less gradual questions that lead into each other. My soft hook was “He played only for his freshman year”, which raises questions such as “why did he quit?” and to some more experienced football savants, you would know that being on THE school football team during your first year is quite and accomplishment that you wouldn’t really just throw aside. What caused him to not want to play, or perhaps what MADE him unable to play?

Overall, my thesis was more or less when I asked “what stopped Drew from playing” because it implies this is going to be a story about Drew, Drew’s experiences, and what Drew felt about high school football. Stopping playing already explains the outcome, but perhaps his journey do that decision was full of unique moments regardless, and maybe his decision wasn’t as black and white as “I want to quit”, but more of a mixture of feelings that made him decide quitting was the best option.

Questions I asked him were things such as: Why did you quit football? How long did you play? What drove you to get back in there and keep playing despite your injuries? Was there anyone in particular that pushed you? [regarding that last question] and what did that person think when they knew you couldn’t play? Did you always like football? What were you going to do now that you can’t play? What do you think of the high school football scene? Do you think that football puts kids on a pedestal and is somewhat glamorized in a bad way? How did other kids treat you as a football player?

Overall it was more or less an enjoyable conversation with a friend rather than a suit and tie interview. You have more fun with it that way.

Dinner Half-Baked, with Drew Baker

My evening with Drew Baker was quite the interesting event. We decided that we would meet up at our favorite restaurant Applebee’s, a place he used to work at prior, in order to have an interview. We met around 7, ordered our drinks, and I started my questions.

I went to high school with Drew and he played for our school’s football team. He told me he was a middle linebacker for Lake Mary high school, and that he played for only his freshman year. I asked if he quit due to him disliking the sport, or if he had his own reasons.

“I had to stop due to an injury where I was speared during practice,” he explained, “I was walking back into my team formation then I suddenly gained consciousness in an ambulance. Turns out I got speared in the back, uh spearing is when someone rams their head into you, and it hit me in the spine. It was so hard I blacked out. My thoracic vertebrae 11 and 12 were shattered and I had to have surgery.”

When I asked him what he did after that, considering he would be unable to play, his answer surprised me. “My dad talked me back into it,” Drew began, “He was really supportive and encouraging of my recovery and getting back out there. He told me that ‘you should always finish what you start’, and to me that is one of the best pieces of advice he has given me, I always hold it close to my morals”. I questioned Drew if he felt his father was pushing him, to which he explained “I was pushing myself, my two uncles, my father and my own self all played football. There was a tradition that the ‘Baker boys’ played football in this family, and I just love the sport so I would continue to play no matter what.”

Drew played for one year, so of course I asked what really stopped him. “It was a second injury. I got spear headed again in the same location during an actual game and that took me out of commission for certain. There wasn’t any recovering back to football after that blow.” I asked if that was a let down to him and his family, and he responded with “well of course, but they still supported me in what I do.”

“When you were injured, how well were you treated?” I questioned Drew. “It was awful, everyone ignores you. That’s the reality of it though, you are only worth something when you can preform. Some kids only want to be your friend when you are on the team so they can get credibility by knowing you, but when I was benched nobody acknowledged me. It really sucked, but I took it with a grain of salt. It’s a shame how teens grow up only wanting popularity, so that’s why I was humble about myself. I never bragged about playing football, I didn’t want popularity I just wanted to play the sport I loved. I also didn’t want to brag in front of people that didn’t make the cut, I was just kinda playing you know?”

I asked what he felt about football players being glamorized and put on a pedestal, and how he felt about that: “it’s very unfortunate. It’s way to glamorized, people only want to be your friend for the title, and people that really love the game can go on to be successful. Some kids go to college on that, but you gotta remember that it’s all just one big competition, and think of how crushing would it be if you followed your dream, got super close, and some kid that was just ‘better’ than you took it all away?”

eJwFwdENhCAMANBdGABKW6S4DCFo0ETFQO_rcrvfe1_zGZdZzaH6ztW57Zy1j81O7aO03bbe27WX95y29tsV1VKPe390OoxBgEEAIUWRhOLIc0BYojChpASR3EIEIXv2zAsCEKHP.png

Drew told me that after his time playing football was up, he moved onto the hobby of juggling. “A friend of mine [Brent] from football came with me and my family on vacation once after I invited him. He brought a duffel bag of juggling equipment and asked if I wanted to learn. Six months later I was preforming on big ticket venues like Universal, Disney, and the boardwalk. Juggling was definitely a really fun and engaging hobby I picked up afterwards.”

477469_330627763670020_228463599_o.png

With all those questions being said, our dinner finally arrived. We decided that the meal sounded better than more questions. I asked what his final words on the matter was and he just told me “thanks for having me and it was a pleasure being here” before we chowed down.

Busch Gardens walk in the past

When I was a wee lad I used to go to Busch Gardens every other month when I would visit my grandparents that lived in Tampa. I, living in Orlando, would always look forward to visiting them for a weekend and having the three of us go the the park. There were rides, games, and shows that kept me entertained for the entire day. Now that I have an 8 year old girl I baby sit attached to me at the hip that wants to go every day, what is it like returning to Busch Gardens for a day of fun now that I am an adult?

Well for starters, everything is exhausting. The bearing heat, the overpriced drinks, the long walks between each attraction, all of it is miserable. When I was a kid spunky and full of energy, I could easily run between each attraction with little to no effort. Now that I am a gross disgusting oozing adult with bad skin and worse face, it’s a marathon just to get from the parking lot to the entrance. Heat bearing down hasn’t been a kin to any suffering since Moses lead the Jews through the desert for decades.

Since I was accompanying my 8 year old companion, she wasn’t nearly tall enough to ride all the rides I am able to. The rides would be the most thrilling thing present at the theme park, but she unfortunately missed the cut on what she could and could not participate in. It was real heartbreaking to see her left out, but I am no stranger to adversity and I simply did not abandon her to ride them myself.

Of course, when it comes to making a profit, theme parks will squeeze every penny out of the customers. Overpriced lunches accompanied with overpriced drinks means that you are paying for a second ticket practically when you are already in. When you go to the main dining hall, there will be certain times you can view a dancing and singing performance show on the gigantic stage at one side of the room. This, of course, means everyone will try to rush in last minute and finding a seat to eat is impossible.

All this being said, what is the point of going to Busch Gardens, let alone any theme park at all? The answer: the happiness you get when you see the look on your kid’s face. The girl I was babysitting was ecstatic the entire day. She loved the food, she lost her mind at the show, she fell in love with the dancing and the singing, she enjoyed all the rides she was tall enough for, and she even didn’t mind the long distance between locations. To her it was all a fun day at the park with the guy she looks up to like a big brother. After all that’s said, to me Busch Gardens is certainly worth it. Busch_Gardens_Tampa_logo.png

Local Flea Markets and the small business owner.

This weekend I went to my local flea market just to see what was there. I never go with any intention on finding something, usually it’s just to browse to see if anyone is foolishly throwing away something that I know has a lot of value. It’s almost like a garage sale except much hotter and with extremely unhealthy food that’s easily available.

With flea markets, you could find a real gem of an item, for example a really rare baseball card, and you or the seller might not even know. But when that special person comes by with the unique knowledge of cards, they can pick it up for a few bucks and turn it into a huge profit. I go to these markets looking for unique or rare items of the things that I AM personally knowledgeable of, like rare and expensive Pokemon games or playing cards, or rare and expensive Yugioh games or cards.

While I was at this flea market in particular, a certain booth caught my eye. It was young man, in his mid twenties, on the floor doing spray paints with a couple of tables of his finished work in a ring around him. His style was very unique, similar to the spray paint street art you would see in New York.

When I approached his booth, I noticed that all his works were references to pop culture. Star Wars, Mario, Dragon ball Z, all of it was real iconic “nerd themed” paintings. He mentioned how he was doing a special sale, 20$ for two paintings, because he needed rent money and things were getting tough. After I saw his work, saw him grinding for that cash, and saw him out here working his behind off for just 20 bucks per two paintings, I clicked with him and got this vibe of respect.

He was really into making the deal to his promise, 2 paintings for 20 bucks, even though I only wanted one. He went out of his way to make sure I got one I wanted, and started up a personal commission right there on the spot to make good on his deal.

In the end not only did I get two great pieces of art, but I also realized something: the flea market has more than interesting items and good deals, it has good honest people trying their hardest to make a living. I highly encourage you to check out your local flea markets, because you don’t know WHAT you will find.