Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Art of the Break-Up

Bluffton Today column
July 28, 2010

Warning: intense humor and sarcasm to follow.

Mom is always right. Admittedly, it takes about thirty years of mistakes to come to this realization. And once you finally do concede that your mother will eternally be correct, you begin to flip back through that ol’ rolodex in your mind and wonder if there is anything valid that you have missed.

Mom has certainly had some gems over the years, and the more I think about her advice the more I appreciate it. Having recently re-entered the dating world after a decade hiatus, I have been tapping into some of her most prolific mom-isms. Namely, never date a guy whose legs are skinnier than yours. (Check.) And the spin-off of that rule, never date a guy who weighs less than you do. (Check mate.)

After a twenty-plus year career in education, Mom had compiled a mental list of all of the pain in the-you-know-what students over the years. And when she retired, my sister and I inherited a rather long list of names we should never use were we to provide her with grandchildren. Said logic was also to be applied when choosing a mate. Bottom line, Mom had a lot of bad students named Jacob over the years – so we avoid Jacobs (among others) at all costs.

With a Mom like ours, it is only natural that my sister and I have also become rather adept at creating some “rules” (i.e. pushing our ideas on others). As such, my sister has a very strict keep your nails and hair trimmed at all times credo, which luckily her husband follows to a tee. I have since adopted this rule as well, and send out an early warning to any future callers. Let’s keep the personal hygiene in check, why don’t we. However, as a side note, over-zealous “manscaping” can be perceived in a negative fashion. It’s a thin (hair) line to walk, so be careful. Ok? Thanks.

A recent quandary had me scouring the Mom and sister database for wisdom, and I’ve come up empty. So, alas I turn to you as I ponder the rules of the break-up. Since I haven’t dated or had to deal with a break up since, well, cell phones were the size of Volkswagons, I need a little help.

Consider this. You are dating someone and buy them a rather generous birthday present, let’s say for arguments sake, two tickets to an NFL game. Now, the plan when you bought the tickets (because everything lasts forever, not!) is to attend the game together, in a city six hours away, in late September.

You still with me?

Ok. If you break up in June, are you still bound by the birthday gift contract? Meaning, can I re-sell the tickets, in a non-scalper way, pocket the $350 and buy myself something fabulous? I say yes.

Whoa Nelly! Slow down. Before you make a judgment, I would like to enter some additional evidence in the case. A very generous Christmas present to the aforementioned “break-up” and one additional birthday present are also both still at my house, despite attempts to arrange for a pick-up. I say, if he doesn’t want them after 30 days, then I keep them too.

Hold on. If you don’t yet agree with me, I have one final piece of evidence. If, hypothetically speaking, the “break-up” was the one who determined that breaking up was indeed the correct course of action then I might argue that all of the above is moot. All aforementioned presents are mine, and after this column I will likely never have another date again.

Yes, he broke up with me, can you believe it? Of course, I simply contend that he jumped in line and did the deed before I had the chance. This is called self-preservation.

This dating thing is for the birds! Send me your best break-up stories and I may even throw in a prize. Say, two tickets to see the Jets play the Dolphins in Miami on September 26th …

Courtney Hampson will most likely be single for the rest of her life and she’s ok with that. Send her your break-up story at

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Facebook = Free Therapy

Bluffton Today column
July 14, 2010

Last Saturday I swayed in the hammock. Cold beer. Nice breeze. Blackberry in hand. I know that final component almost ruins it, but in truth, I get a heck of a lot of entertainment value via my Blackberry. So she (yes, she’s a girl, I call her Betty) is always close by.

On this particular afternoon I was perusing Facebook and pondering the perfunctoriness of the phenomenon. My friend Natalie has just shattered two bottles of red wine and was dealing with a grape-flavored river running through her kitchen. My sister’s American flag had been stolen from off of her house (Happy 4th of July!). My college crony Cari was back at home in Washington DC for the holiday weekend. And my three-decade-pal Lisa was demonstrating the Slip n’ Slide for her kids, and hoping the neighbors weren’t watching.

After getting all the news fit to Facebook, I headed in for a refill on the Corona. My dog, Darby, emerged from somewhere in the shade and followed me inside. I opened the door to the refrigerator and looked down at my panting pup only to find that one side of his face was swollen beyond recognition.

I panicked. Darby has a penchant for sticking his snout where it doesn’t belong and has had an angry bee or two stick it to him. So I grabbed the Benadryl, mashed up half a pill, and put it in some peanut butter … but Darby wouldn’t bite. I knew something was really wrong now. Peanut butter is the secret elixir in our house and if Darby didn’t start spinning in excited circles, I knew my next step was to get the vet on the phone, pronto.

At 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, a holiday weekend no less, I called the emergency vet line and waited for the call back. I sat on the cool kitchen tile, with Darby’s ever-swelling mouth, face, and neck in my lap. Tears rolled down my cheeks and onto his.

Dr. Nance called me back in record time. His guess was a snake bite and he told me to meet him at the office in fifteen minutes. I was there in five and pacing the parking lot when he arrived in bathing suit and crocs, straight from his July 4th celebration, I’m sure.

As we walked in the front door, the vet tech came in the back door, and I was comforted by the fact that they both made Darby their priority (much love to Bluffton Veterinary Hospital!). They assessed the damage, concurred on a snake bite to the shnoz, and as I waited for a prognosis I did the natural thing …

I grabbed Betty and updated my Facebook status: Courtney Hampson is at the vet. Snake bite. The dog. Not me.

Why did I feel the need to share this with Facebook? Well, because I was alone and scared. Darby is my best friend. He is the one I wake up to each morning, the one who greets me at the door each afternoon, and the one who lay beside me each night. (Yes, I need a life, but focus people.)

And my Facebook friends didn’t disappoint. As Dr. Nance got Darby patched up (and drugged up – in a responsible doctor way), messages of support started rolling in and instantly made me feel better.

I guess I could have picked up the phone and talked to someone, but cognizant of the fact that it was a holiday, I didn’t want to burden anyone with my current emergency. Instead I turned to Facebook where oddly, someone is always listening.

Courtney Hampson is obsessed with Facebook, ChapStick, and sweet little Darby. Friend her if you “like” this. She can be reached at

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Marty Falle Is Stirring Up Dust

CH/CB2 Magazine
July 2010 issue

He made me cry. Yup, sitting right there in front of the coffee shop, in a jam-packed shopping center, on a busy memorial day weekend, with hundreds of visitors passing to and fro. My eyes filled with tears as the lyrics unfolded. He made me cry before he even hit the first chorus.

Marty Falle fancies himself a Midwestern cowboy, complete with hat and boots. No, he’s never herded cattle or lassoed a wild stallion, but to Falle “cowboy” is a mindset. It’s old America. It’s the simple life. It’s appreciation for those things that truly matter. It’s pick-up trucks, scuffed boots and a country bar on a Friday night.

Born and reared in Ohio, Falle parents believed that the arts were just as important as English and math. And, as such they insisted that he and his siblings play a musical instrument during their formative years. One viola, a saxophone, a guitar and a bass later and Falle was hooked.

“Music was meaningful in our family,” Falle says.

However, using his vocal instrument didn’t really occur to him until he was recruited - from detention to choir - in high school. The choir director offered a detention reprieve to the band of football brothers, if they were willing to help fill out the male-depleted choir. “We were bribed and it worked,” Falle reminisced, with a Cheshire smile. With his strong tenor voice, Falle quickly became a standout ascending to lead soloist and then participating in the school’s barbershop quartet, pop ensemble, musicals and school plays.

When he headed to Ohio University he majored in applied voice, but quickly changed gears. Convinced that music would never pay the rent, he graduated with a double major in history and communications and a double minor in philosophy in music. All the while, he kept the music going and his college band, Voices, was ever-popular in Ohio playing to crowds as large as 4,000.

Falle won’t reveal how many years that four-part degree took, but once in hand, he was off and running and headed to the big city. There, he climbed the corporate ladder of a Fortune 500 company, ascending to Senior Vice President and a life fraught with travel, stress, deadlines, and empty suits. While the corporate world paid the bills, Falle found balance with his music.

Eventually music tipped the scales. Falle traded in his New York City commute and a closet of suits in favor of the beat of a different drum. He left the corporate world and started three “lean and mean” smaller companies. Now, he has the best of both worlds … he’s his own boss, lives by the mantra “if it’s not fun, I’m not going to do it,” and has the flexibility to pursue his one true love, the music.

Speaking of love, Falle is clearly a romantic. And, the thematic undertones of his lyrics suggest the same. With two original albums to date, and a third in the works, Falle tells a story with each.

His first album, “Ohio,” speaks to lost love, broken hearts, regret and the emptiness that accompanies heartache. In fact, it was a broken heart brought that brought him to the beaches of Hilton Head Island, where he retreated, healed, and now lives full time.

It’s the writing that brings Falle the most joy. “It’s therapeutic, inspirational … there is so much I want to write about, I need three lives to get it done,” he says.

Falle’s second album, “Dingtown,” is inspired by all of those small American towns, where life is simple, folks work hard and they recognize what is important. (Dingtown is also the name given to his seven-piece band of musicians who help to create the full country experience.) The lyrics speak to Falle’s own journey, of learning who he is and coming back home again, if only symbolically, to that Midwestern cowboy in his heart.

Falle’s original songs will entertain and move you (did I mention that the preview of album three brought me to tears?). The songs also provide significant insight into who Falle is, if - and only if - you are willing to listen close.

But, if it’s just the two-step you are after, Falle plays to that crowd too. His live shows are abundant with cover songs courtesy of all of his inspirations – the Eagles, Johnny Cash, Dwight Yokum, Alabama, and Garth Brooks.

And his voice, his stage presence … wow. Utter magic. Falle makes you want to hoot and holler in your best Southern drawl, throw back a Bud, and eat cracked crab with drawn butter. He’s that good. Smooth. Sultry. Soulful. Country.

You can find him playing ‘round here most weekends (he frequents the Metropolitan Lounge and Bluffton LIVE in Bluffton, and The Smokehouse on the Island), and if you’re lucky, all the boys of Dingtown will be with him.

Even in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, this Midwestern cowboy manages to stir up some dust.