Monthly Archives: June 2015

Part 1 of Part 2: Simi Valley Hassan and the Raiders of the Lost Mercado

As previously stated in the post from a week ago, The Long Unwinding Road, I am documenting my family’s recent vacation to Magic Mountain and Newport Beach in a multi-blog post, running journal format. Today’s entry is day two of our trip. For day one, please click on the above title. For day two, please read on.

5:30 a.m. – Ding, Ding.  When we had checked into our rooms the night before, I had a faint premonition in the back of my brain that being placed in the two rooms closest to the elevator on our floor might be problematic. But I forgot about and chose to hope for the best. Until right at this moment. Though not overly loud, the chiming indicating the arrival of an elevator car was just loud enough to seep into my subconscious and rouse me from a surprisingly good night’s sleep. Oh well, how many people can possibly be staying at this crudhole of a hotel and how many of those people can actually be up at 5:30 in the morning?

5:32 a.m. – Ding, Ding.

5:34 a.m. – Ding, Ding.

5:37 a.m. – Ding, Ding.

5:40 a.m. – Ding, Ding.

Okay, now I’m really getting annoyed. Has someone let their four-year-old child loose on the floor or has some jackanus taken it upon himself to play the stupidest practical joke ever? I’m not sure, but my desire to pummel someone is rising quickly as any chance of going back to sleep has been lost in the early morning mists of Simi Valley.

5:54 a.m. – After about six more elevator runs, some bozo decides to stand outside the door to my room and start barking directions to some faceless peon, about when and where he needs the “female players.” I don’t know exactly what that means, but if we have accidently wandered into the middle of an all-girl soccer or softball tournament being played nearby I might as well get up now. I shift in my bed and reach for my phone to check my e-mails when both of my sons call over to me. It would seem I am not the only one suffering from insomnia at the hands of a satanic elevator.

7:20 a.m. – After showering and getting ready before my wife and oldest daughter (always a mistake I make on vacation) we decide the plan of attack should be for me to take the three middle children (Things 2-4) and go get some fruit and donuts from a grocery store. As we walk into the hallway outside our door, we see a piece of paper taped to the wall that says Miss Stevens, Make-up and Hair, Room 324 Underneath this bit of info is an arrow pointing beyond our doors to a location somewhere further on down the hall. Interesting. I have a growing suspicion that this might have something to do with the Grand Central Station feel of our hotel at 5:30. But what kind of soccer team needs hair and make-up? And who is this Miss Stevens that she needed that many people to do her hair and make-up? Staring at that sign, I was certain that these questions and more would haunt me for the rest of the day. We walk to the elevator and press the button. I grit my teeth when I hear the all too familiar Ding, Ding, but get on the elevator anyway. We reach the lobby and…

7:22 a.m. – …walk right into the middle of a movie set. There is equipment and lighting everywhere and I am suddenly very nervous that one of my children is going to be so distracted that they will walk into something that will have the potential of costing me thousands of dollars. I don’t know why the fact that someone shooting a movie in our hotel suddenly made our morning from Hades so much more palatable…but it did. I load Things 2-4 into the van (which still carries a hint of puke stench from the car seat) and we set off to look for a grocery store. Being from Arizona, we expect to find one without delay and soon be back at our hotel and then on about our business.

7:36 a.m. – Yeah right!!! What is it with California and their inability to place businesses in logical locations? We have passed just about every form of capitalistic commerce on this planet, but have yet to see even the remotest glimpse of a store selling, you know…food! I know everyone in California is obsessed with their appearance, but come on. People still gotta eat.

7:40 a.m. – I look at our gas gauge and decide we had better fill up. Besides, surely the gas station attendant will be able to point us in the right direction of a grocery store, or heck, even a farmer’s market. Right?

7:43 a.m. – I now quote directly from Hassan, the gas station attendant who appears to not understand any English word other than, “Gas.”

“Uhh…Groceree? No, no. No groceree here.” He gestures generally to express that it is his opinion that no grocery store exists for many miles in any direction.

Thanks!

7:49 a.m. – After starting down a different street that intersected with the one we were just on, we find…drum roll please…a GROCERY STORE! And by my calculation, it was possibly one hundred yards down, and across the road from the gas station where we just filled up. So in fact, Yes, yes. Yes groceree here.

Actually it might better be described as a Mercado, and maybe that was the problem preventing me and my new friend, Hassan, from communicating effectively. You see, it’s a grocery store, but it’s a Mexican grocery store. As in, everything is in Spanish, including all of the tabloid magazines at the checkout.  However, despite some obvious communication problems that might occur, I would totally shop here if they opened a store in Thatcher. They have what I can only describe as a salsa bar with multiple large plastic display canisters full of different kinds of salsa. Also, their bakery is going at full steam making fresh tortillas. This place is awesome!!!

7:53 a.m. – We find the fruit (it was located next to the pinatas) and get some very good looking bananas and a couple of apples.

It was then that I spot something I have never seen before.As is becoming a trend in most stores, there are smaller stores located along the edges of the larger mercantile, much as you would expect to find in a Walmart. And just as you would expect, there is a hair dresser, a phone store and a…you guessed it, Immigration and Naturalization office. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not making fun or in any way trying to cast aspersions on anyone or anything. It’s just something that completely caught me off guard. But frankly, if being able to pick up some milk while extending a work visa works for this store’s core customer base, it works for me. And I say that with no malice or derisiveness intended.

8:04 a.m. – Since Mexican donuts are not quite the exploding sugar bombs my kids are expecting, we leave with the fruit, but head over to The Donut Café to get our pastries. With a name like Donut Café, I feel confident that the fried portions of early onset diabetes will be available here.  I am not disappointed.

8:16 a.m. – With fruit, donuts and three children in tow, I arrive back at the Grand Vista Hotel. On our way to the front entrance, we are stopped outside by someone associated with the movie that was setting up when we left. It seems we have been gone just long enough for them to actually start shooting.

8:17 a.m. – Surprisingly, the woman who stops us, suddenly waves us forward. Out of the side of my mouth, I tell my kids to not look at anything or anyone and to stay right next to me.

8:18 a.m. – We make it back to the elevator without tripping or breaking anything. Awesome!!! That’s when I hear the director say, “Okay, great. I think we got it. Just in case, can we get that family back? They were great.” I look over at the one person associated with the filming crew who is still visible to us and ask, “Were they shooting?” He nods and mouths, “You did great.”

Well, there you go. The Rapiers may soon be headed to a theater near you.

Shannon asked later and found out the film being shot is an indie film entitled, Miss Stevens, and is about a grade school teacher who begins suffering from a sort of mid-life crisis. Sounds like the perfect Lifetime movie to me, but according to the person Shannon talked to, distribution rights have not been picked up yet. So, we’ll have to wait and see if it ever sees the light of day.

9:10 a.m. – Time to start loading up the van. I take the first load by myself and head for the elevator. As I step onto the elevator car, I am bombarded…nay, brutally accosted by the smell of acrid human gas. Before my mind can fully absorb what I’ve walked into, the doors closed and I am ensconced in my own personal gas chamber. I mean it is horrid. I don’t know what the person who rode this slow-moving trap of death before me had for breakfast or dinner, but what I do know is that death poured out of this person’s backside in great abundance mere seconds before I had the great misfortune of happening upon the aftermath. Like most hotel elevators, this car had advertisements for the hotel restaurants on the walls. The pictures of the food mixed with the vile stench combine and almost cause me to vomit. Furthermore, included on the posters is a picture of the chef. By the time I finally reach the lobby floor, I have come to hold that man personally responsible for my dilemma. (Yes, I now recognize the pure irrationality of my thinking, but you weren’t there so don’t judge.) In that moment, I hate him, I hate his food, and more than anything, I hate the Grand Vista Hotel. It’s time to go.

9:30 a.m. – So we leave. Unfortunately, I had read the opening times wrong for Magic Mountain, so while my family’s success in meeting my directive of leaving the hotel by 9:30 is truly admirable, it is also pretty much in vain as we will be arriving at Magic Mountain probably about 40 minutes early. Oh well, at least we won’t be spending another moment at the Grand Vista. You’ve got to take life’s blessings as they come.

***As this post is now over 1,800 words and we haven’t even arrived at Magic Mountain yet, I have decided to break this post into two and finish the rest of our day in a separate post. For those who care, I promise it won’t be as long of a break as it was between part 1 and part 2.

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Should Caitlyn Jenner Also Appear On The Cover Of ESPN’s Guide To Abject Stupidity

Oh, man. There is just so much to talk about this week. To those five of you out there who care, I promise that our day in Magic Mountain is coming, but I find I can’t contain myself. I have to spout of on one more subject before we get there.

Let me state unequivocally that I don’t give a rat’s behind about whether or not Bruce Jenner chooses to transition himself to Caitlyn Jenner. As a religious person, I understand that many might expect me to be outraged over this whole thing, but…I’m not. ISIS outrages me. A reality show star who was once a great athlete about the time I was being born? Not so much. It really has no effect on my life and so whatever he/she chooses to do, it makes no difference to me.

Having said that, ESPN’s decision to give the Arthur Ashe award (an award that recognizes an individual for showing great courage over the last year) to Jenner interests me very much—mainly because of the massive PR disaster it threatens to be.

And in my opinion, deserves to be. Here’s why:

Lauren Hill was a girl who seemed to have life by the tail as she graduated high school. As a senior, she was popular, intelligent, and a highly sought after as a college basketball player. She was recruited by several institutions and eventually decided to sign with Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati. However, before she could realize her dream of playing college basketball, she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

Now there are a lot of people who would take this diagnosis and retreat to live out their days feeling sorry for themselves. But not Lauren. She continued to work hard through her illness with the intent of making an appearance in at least one college basketball game. Her coach and teammates at Mount St. Joseph supported her in her efforts. She also used her story to raise money for cancer research. In other words, she did things that might be considered, I don’t know, courageous.

Noah Galloway is a United States Army veteran who served in Iraq. In 2005, he was injured by an IED and lost an arm just above the elbow and a leg just above the knee. However, since that time, Noah has not let his disabilities stop him. He has been fitted with prosthetic limbs and currently works as both a personal trainer and motivational speaker. He routinely competes in 5ks and 10ks as well as even more rigorous competitions that one might not expect from a double amputee. He has also started the No Excuses Charitable Fund which provides money to different charities that include Operation Enduring Warrior and children’s programs through the YMCA.

What is interesting is that I am aware of both of these individuals…BECAUSE OF ESPN!!! Well, okay, I am aware of Noah because of his involvement with the TV show Dancing With the Stars, which is on ABC, which is owned by the Walt Disney Corporation, which also owns ESPN…so I might be stretching it, but basically the people behind the ESPYs are the same people who have brought Noah to the attention of the American public at large.

Lauren, on the other hand, was featured prominently on ESPN many times. For even more irony, at least one of her segments (the one where I first heard about her story) was introduced by ESPN anchor, Stuart Scott. Both Lauren and Stuart lost their battles with cancer in recent months.

So maybe you can imagine my level of astonishment when I heard that ESPN had (in what I believe had to be a knee-jerk reaction to his/her appearance on Vanity Fair) named Caitlyn Jenner as their Arthur Ashe recipient for 2015. The choice is insane. I mean, let’s look at what these three individuals accomplished through their “acts of courage.”

Lauren Hill not only appeared in, not one, but two Mount St. Joseph basketball games. She also raised over $1.5 million for cancer research.

Noah Galloway has certainly profited from his fame, but the man lost two limbs—neither one by his own choosing (sorry, that will be the only somewhat snide comment I will make regarding Caitlyn Jenner’s transition)—in service to our country. Regardless of your feelings on the Iraq war, that kind of sacrifice is worthy of our praise.

Caitlyn Jenner, on the other hand, has been part of one of the ugliest three ring circuses ever foisted upon the American public. Keeping Up With The Kardashians is American entertainment at its most disgusting. And Bruce has been right there, front and center. Furthermore, has he/she used this transition in his/her life to further the cause of fellow transgender folks in our culture? Not so much. Instead he/she has used this whole experience to…you guessed it, get himself/herself a new reality series.

NICE!!!!

First of all, I believe if I were transgender, I would find Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner to be appalling. Many of these individuals struggle through this process (regardless of whether you believe it to be right or wrong) in the face of opposition from family, work and society at large. Bruce/Caitlyn on the other hand, benefits financially and faces none of those things. Heck, his family loves the additional attention it is bringing—with possibly the one exception being Kim Kardashian, but only because the spotlight might have drifted from her and Kanye for half a millisecond. Bruce/Caitlyn faces no financial hardship because of this decision and furthermore trivializes the entire transgender issue by dragging it through the muck of reality TV. (And yes, as an aside, I consider you part of that same cesspool Duggar family.)

But again, ESPN is the one with egg on their face over this one. This is bad. There is no way to justify this. They’ve tried by issuing some pathetic statement about how their choice was made to possibly help “…educate people on the challenges the transgender community faces.” But seriously, that’s a load of hog crap. Turning over the transgender issue to the Kardashians doesn’t do a spits worth of good for the transgender community.

Furthermore, ESPN is in essence a sports network. Which means its core audience is men who watch sports. (Pause for a moment.) Yeah, not exactly the demographic that is the most sympathetic to the plight of the transgender community. They are, however, the type of people who would very much get behind the story of say…I don’t know…Lauren Hill? Or Noah Galloway?

So to close, let me make two prediction. Somehow, ESPN will also find a way to honor Lauren Hill at the ESPYs. And secondly, the person who greenlit the idea to get the ESPYs into bed with the Kardashians will find out the hard way that getting screwed by that family isn’t nearly as fun as they make it appear on their vile excuse for a television show.

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Get Right or Get Rand Over

Did you know that Republicans have won the popular vote in a presidential election exactly once in the last 23 years?

Once!!!

So whether you are one of those red state enthusiasts who aligns with the tea party or if you are moderate conservative who is somewhat concerned at the leftward leaning direction our country has been trending in as of late, this little nugget ought to concern you. And at the minimum make you ask why.

Now, over the years I have heard many arguments put forth as to what exactly the Republican problem is. I have heard that the liberal media is to blame, I have heard that we weren’t able to get our message out correctly and I have heard that our candidate wasn’t conservative enough. All of these points might have some validity, but at the core, they are (in my humble opinion) not the real issue.

The problem as I see it is that a number of Republicans, from the lowliest of the party, right up to the party leaders in Washington, are not at their core what they claim to be.

(I will now pause as I wait for the loud cacophony of protests to die down.)

Is everyone done defending their conservative honor so that I might continue? OK, good.

For those who think I’m crazy, may I present the following examples.

1. Republicans hate Obamacare because we, by definition, are against government intrusion into healthcare and believe in a free market system that would cure all of the ails in our country’s medical dispensing system. We are violently opposed to a government run single-payer system because we believe that it would destroy our nation’s healthcare as we know it.

One word blows this argument out of the water. And that word is: Medicare.

Let me define Medicare for you. Medicare is a government run, single-payer system that provides healthcare coverage to a vast majority of our senior citizens over 65. So by the definition above, Republicans should be doing everything in their power to get rid of Medicare.

But we’re not. In fact, when the push to stop Obamacare was being made, the most common Republicans tactic was to point out that Obamacare would cut Medicare by $700 million.

So if the above statement were true, wouldn’t we be all for anything that would cut Medicare? Or at least wouldn’t we avoid using Medicare cuts as a scare tactic to defeat the bill? The answer seems clear to me, but then maybe I’m crazy. Let’s try another one, but we’ll stick with the Obamacare debate.

2. Republicans also opposed Obamacare because, as Sarah Palin pointed out, the bill paved the way for “death panels” and that flies in the face of our core belief that life is sacred and we should do all we can to protect life.

Then why would we be against a government run system that would pay for every treatment available as opposed to putting those decisions in the hands of private insurance companies whose purpose for existing is to make profit and not necessarily save people. The answer is simple, it would cost too much and would lead to much higher taxes. Which is the whole problem with healthcare to begin with. It’s too expensive. And the reason it’s too expensive is because we spend millions upon millions of dollars trying to save people in the last six months of their lives without thought to cost or quality of life for the people we are saving. That is the conversation conservatives should be starting because free-spending liberals never will. If you want healthcare costs (and by extension, your taxes) to go down, grown-up decisions have to be made regarding what is good money and what is bad money to spend with regard to healthcare. Or in other words, death panels.

Let’s try one more.

3. Republicans pushed for basic standards in education because we as a nation were scoring so low in comparison to other countries when it came to math and science.

Which led to No Child Left Behind, which in turn led to Common Core, which in a further turn led to a barrage of standardized testing which is choking the life out of education. Now to be fair, I believe I, and Republicans in general, have come around to the correct side of this issue. Unfortunately, I believe that is because the name Obama is attached so closely to the words Common Core. The bottom line is that freedom by its very nature includes the freedom to fail, which sadly, a lot of free people are going to choose every time. But if we as a nation truly believe in freedom as a right as opposed to a slogan, then we are obliged to let them instead of trying to test each and every student into oblivion.

Which brings me to my ultimate point. Republicans are setting themselves up for another disaster in 2016 if they don’t figure out how to be what they say they are.

For decades, Republicans (and more recently the tea party) have claimed to be the sole bastion of support for the Constitution. If you listen to a political speech during a campaign or pay attention to any number of conservative media outlets, it won’t take long before you hear the cry go out that liberals are destroying the Constitution and we as conservatives are the only chance this sacred document has for survival.

However, if that’s the case, how do we as Republicans justify our representatives this last week during the debate over extending the Patriot Act?

Now before I get into this, let me digress. For two presidential elections cycles, Ron Paul has been viewed by most as the side-show circus act meant to entertain us while we try desperately to slog our way through a primary contest that borders on torture (which we also apparently support by the way). Very few have taken him seriously as a real candidate except his small group of avid supporters who would probably storm the Federal Reserve and burn it down if he directed them to do so.

But here’s the problem. His ravings were only bat-crap crazy about twenty percent of the time. The rest of what he had to say often made sense, regardless of whether you agreed with him or not. Unfortunately for Mr. Paul, he always seemed to undo himself by going off in his shrill, high-pitched voice on some lunatic ranting that would undercut his previously presented twenty minutes of solid logical thinking. In short, despite making many excellent points over the course of a thousand and one debates, he made himself easy to dismiss.

Such is not the case with his son, Rand.

Rand Paul holds many of the same beliefs as his father. But the son is a much more skillful politician. He leaves the 20% of tin-foil hat stuff at home while articulating the other 80% incredibly well. And in so doing, has developed quite the talent for highlighting hypocrisy in the Republican leadership, and by extension, the Republican Party at large.

The latest example of this phenomenon came last week when Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and others took to the Senate floor demanding that the National Security Agency be allowed to continue the practice of collecting every Americans’ cell phone data in the fight to keep America safe from the threats of terrorism. Never mind that a major Republican pillar is that we despise the encroachment of a large federal government. You would also have to dismiss the awkward reality that this program flies directly in the face of the Constitution (which again, we claim to be the sole protectors of). According to the Republican leadership in the Senate, taking away this tool from the NSA would cripple our attempts to keep this country safe.

Well, just to be clear, I for one am all for safety. I love my family and want nothing more than to keep them safe. So sign me up for an opportunity to give away my freedoms if it means protecting my children from terrorists. And by the way, just how many terrorist acts have been prevented by the government snatching and storing my personal cell phone data?

(Crickets)

Are you kidding me? The NSA can’t point to one single time that this practice has thwarted a terrorist attack?

Sadly, the data suggests that the answer is no, they can’t.

So then, why do they need to encroach on my constitutional rights? And furthermore, why are my “conservative” representatives leading the fight to keep this encroachment in place?

Well, these are the exact questions Rand Paul and his libertarian flavor of Republicanism kept asking throughout the debate.

So, that leads me to believe that those of us who consider ourselves Republican had better start asking ourselves one very important question. Does the party I belong to really oppose big government or not?

In my opinion, not only is that the question I should be asking, but it is the single most important question Republican presidential hopefuls need to be asking as well. Because right now, Rand Paul seems to be the only one who knows the right answer.

As for everybody else?

Well, let’s just say that lip service to core beliefs has been a recipe for disaster time and time again. In fact, the exact number would be five times since 1992.

(To those looking for day 2 of our California trip, I apologize. I will continue with that commentary in the coming days.)

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