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rex austin barrow

rex austin barrow

actor/writer

Is Broken Candy Less Sweet?

1024 768 Austin Barrow

Is Broken Candy Less Sweet?

Last night I sat on a bench with my daughter waiting on some take out. She desperately wanted to use my phone to occupy her mind while we waited, but I insisted that we talk instead, and boy did she take me to school.

She came along for the ride because I have the doors off of my Jeep. I know it’s not my winning personality and I’m okay with that. She likes loud music and wind in her hair, and if she can have both at the same time, she smiles. So, how could I possibly deny her the opportunity?

I’m not sure, but I would guess that her favorite thing about going to this particular restaurant is the fortune cookies. I always loved these as a kid, but as an adult, I’m a little less excited. Frankly, I think they usually taste similar to a lightly sugared piece of cardboard. I even have this practice where I don’t select the fortune cookie, just in case I don’t agree with the destiny typed out inside. I wait until everyone else has chosen their cookie, and then I take the last one. This way, I can still eat it because we all know that the prescribed premonition will come true if you eat the cookie.

She grabs a handful, one for each of the four of us. It’s going to be a bit of a wait, but you don’t want to forget dessert. As we are sitting and chatting, she accidentally drops one of them on the floor, and it breaks … tragedy.

All of a sudden, this cookie is no longer a viable dessert. It’s packaged, so it didn’t get dirty. The twenty-four inches between her hand and the floor did not alter the chemical make up of the treat. It tastes the exact same. The only alteration is a small fissure exposing the little piece of paper that lays out her absolute future.

How often does this happen to us? You open up that KitKat bar and accidentally break one of the bars along the length instead of the edge. Staring at that enormous round lollipop, nearly tasting it before you open the package, but it’s spoiled when it bangs against the counter and chips before you had a chance to eat it. And the absolute worst (at least for me) is opening a package of Pepperidge Farm Cookies, Geneva of course, and finding out they have been crushed by the milk on the ride home. Just thinking about it makes me die a little inside.

Why? That was my question for the little lady whose face had gone long looking at the fortune cookie sitting on the floor. “Don’t you think it will taste the same?” I asked. She replied, “Of course, but the experience will be different.” Yes, it will.

How many times have we set up an idea in our mind that things will work out a specific way, and we have inserted disappointment before we have even had the chance to have the experience we were planning? The experience will taste just as good, just a little different. This only becomes more important, the sweeter the experience. Man, I do this to myself all the freakin’ time.

Looking at my cute little life coach with dumbfounded realization, she giggles, picks up the cookie, and goes back to telling me about the kids on the playground. The cookie was eaten later that evening. The fortune was told and forgotten, and the experience was still as sweet.

So the next time I reach for a sweet treat in life, I’m going to enjoy it no matter what.

I’m Not Scared of the Dark … I Promise

3266 1837 Austin Barrow

I'm Not Scared of the Dark ... I Promise

It seems like one of the significant accomplishments between childhood and adulthood is the mastery of fear. I can remember spending the night at my grandparents’ house, which seemed cavernous, old, and full of ghosts, and being more afraid of the dark in those moments than in any other. I used to memorize where all of the light switches were on the wall. That way, when I needed to go into a room, I could stick my arm into the inky blackness and trace my fingers along the wall until I found the switch.

I’m no longer afraid of the dark, but I don’t like to ride crazy amusement park rides. I don’t know that I could fully admit that I’m scared, but my equilibrium and my stomach would undoubtedly admit to a full-fledged fear. However, when I look at all of these kids being slung in three different directions at once, faces full of electricity, I’m jealous.

Something is thrilling about being a child and jumping on to a large piece of machinery that slings you about with abandon. You lift your hands into the air and let it take you where it may. The only goal is not to throw up, which should be a goal in just about every situation. This is, of course, in spite of filling your gut with cotton candy, caramel apples, foot-long corn dogs, and deep-fried Oreos. Man, don’t you just love carnival food.

So this morning, waking up with a carb and sugar-induced hangover, I got online and saw dozens of photos of people flying about through the air. Some of them covered in smiles and laughter and others with their eyes squeezed shut as tight as they can trying to bear the fear to the end. I know I witnessed this several times last night. I was amazed at how that fear would melt from faces and be replaced with joy and amazement, probably because despite their thoughts seconds before, they survived.

There’s a nugget of wisdom somewhere in that moment, that playfulness and excitement can make fear disappear entirely. It reminds me of the moments after my wife gave birth to our firstborn. She had experienced a ridiculous number of hours of labor, and the moment she saw our son … forgotten.

So mastery is probably the wrong word, but perhaps understanding is a better one. It’s time to look for the fun and enjoy the electricity of excitement that we have when we just let loose and play like we did when we were kids. I don’t know who said it, but man it rings true, “Sing like no one is listening, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching, and live like it’s heaven on earth.”

Stories Hiding Everywhere

950 646 Austin Barrow

Stories Hiding Everywhere

In this age of overabundance, I’m always amazed when I discover the story of a unique person that has gone untold in a grand scale. There are so many hidden gems of human compassion, suffering, expansion, and struggle that are still buried, waiting to be dug up, refreshed and retold. I was reminded of such a tale when I took a wrong turn this past weekend and ended up down a dead-end road. Deep beneath the water that lapped at the edge of the dirt road, a man’s story has been waiting to be told.

The fall of 2005, I had recently relocated to Fayetteville, Ar. to attend graduate school at the University of Arkansas. My wife and I were getting readjusted to a slower pace of life, having finished a six-year-long stint in southern California. The mountains were washed in color from the changing of the season, and we were out exploring the revealed ruins of a grand resort in the city of Monte Ne.

Built by William “Coin” Harvey, this health resort was wholly submerged with the creation by the Army Corp of Engineers of Beaver Lake. The resort had a private rail line from nearby towns that ended in a gondola ride from the train station to the hotel. That’s right, I said a gondola ride. He had the boat shipped from Venice. Nothing like true authenticity.

It seems, however, that Coin was not so good with the coin. He made numerous attempts to keep his unique destination open for business, and there are reports of many famous individuals visiting the resort over the years. In fact, the only ever presidential convention held in Arkansas was at Monte Ne for William Jennings Bryant, The Great Commoner.

One attempt to keep attention on his dream was the creation of a pyramid which would house a time capsule filled with all of the advancements of the modern era. The stock market collapse of the late twenties officially ended the construction, but that didn’t slow Coin’s efforts. He sent word to every wealthy man he knew to join The Pyramid Association to assist with what he thought was quite the worthy mission.

Having piqued my interest, I assumed that the school library had some compelling information about this wild attempt to create a unique experience in the middle of nowhere. There was definitely fruit on that tree. If memory serves, I found several published pamphlets calling for assistance to build the pyramid and some advertisements for patrons to come and stay for the healing waters of the Ozarks. One ad included a picture of the “lagoon” he had created. An orchestra was perched on a floating island surrounded by a man-made amphitheater with stone seats.

No secret that this endeavor ended tragically, bankrupt and underwater. However, it is one of those tales that always leave me wanting a little more. What could have possibly been going on in Coin’s life? He moved to Northwest Arkansas, bought thousands of acres of land, miles from anyone or anything, and opened a business with no experience. This is not the actions of your everyday person. He was probably a little eccentric, maybe a little crazy, but a dreamer for sure.