How to Plan a Wedding, Part 1

The air was damp.  My rain jacket fluttered against the ocean breeze as I boarded the M.V. Coho at the tip of Washington State.  My mission was clear—perform reconnaissance for potential wedding venues, but time was limited, and stress was mounting.  Nothing I haven’t been used to lately.

To be honest, life’s been a little hectic these last few months.  When I popped the question, I thought it was gonna be all gum drops and lollipops.  I was on top of the world!  Nobody told me planning a wedding was going to be hard work.  At least I found this guy for some advice.  Go Cougs!

Heck, if it were up to me, I’d go see Elvis at the ol’ chapel in Vegas, but since she’s looking for something a little more proper, and I love her and all, I decided to accept.  And luckily, I had my good buddy Mike Masters tag along, and let me tell ya, he could barely contain his excitement!

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The departure was smooth, with only a mild wind brushing against the water; nothing worrisome to the crew tending the Coho.  There had been rougher sailings on the “Black Ball Line,” I’m sure of it.

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And here we are 15 minutes later.  The sights were just as wonderful, but don’t just take my word for it.  You be the judge.

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Boy, the ocean doesn’t change much minute by minute.  At least it’s getting a little warmer outside.  Who would’ve guessed.  At least I feel good about water now.

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Hair of the dog, here’s another 15 minutes.

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Nothing much had changes in 5 minutes.  I thought the ocean would be a little more exciting than this.

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We were getting close!  Can’t you tell?

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And here we were, pulling into what they call the Inner Harbor of Victoria.  A quaint little place by the looks of it, though it was hard to get pictures with everybody in the way.

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I managed to scrounge together a few good ones before undocking.

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Our first stop, was this castle, Craigdarrach I think they called it, or Craig’s Crotch, or something—the Canadians were always a little goofy with their names.

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Not exactly my idea of a good time, but Mike Masters was pretty insistent.  I think he was trying to impress his babe by acting noble and taking her to an establishment of such extravegance, but I knew better.

Luckily, we didn’t go to every place he wanted to go.

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I’m not gonna lie, the place was pretty fancy!  But man, were they sticklers or what!?  “Don’t go in this room!  Don’t touch that!  You’re not allowed to drink water!”  Give me a break why don’t ya.

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Not sure about the wedding dress…

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Or these crappers.

Sure, they had a room or two to get hitched, but the no red wine policy was a no-go—not with my mom, anyway.  They didn’t like you dancing either.  And check out the flower girl and ring bearer outfits.

If I knew any better, I’d say there were a few ghosts hanging around Craig’s Crotch.  No thanks.

Sorry Mike Masters.  This place gives me the creeps!

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The Fairmont Empress was next, and boy, was it classy, like a real life Wes Anderson film.

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With such posh interior, fire places, wood stained upholstery, marble and a giant tea room overlooking the bay, I knew right then and there the babe was going to love it.

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IMG_3511IMG_3519IMG_3537IMG_3574IMG_3585Immediately, I set up an appointment for formal consultation.

“I’m very impressed with the amenities you’ve presented,” I told the gentlemen running the joint.  No way I was gonna screw this one up.  “So, how much does a wedding run at a fine establishment such as this?”

“Typically, our wedding runs around $225 per person, with a $15,000 minimum,” he said.

“…Seems reasonable,” I replied with a steady nod.  “Let me see here, 225 dollars a person… that’s almost 500 dollars a couple–wait… what the–500 dollars?!”

I stared into space and contemplated.  I made it this far, I wasn’t going to blow my cover now.  “Multiply that by 50 couples, that’s like… $25,000 dollars!  Screw that!”

“Sir… Sir?”  My body gave a little jolt back into reality as my mind raced for a quick answer.  Great.  How am I going to get out of this one?

“Now, if it were up to me, I’d say yes right away,” I said, my mouth moving faster than my mind could keep up.  “But I must consult with my fiancé.  She’ll has to make the final decision.  You know how it goes…  But don’t worry, I’m sure she’ll say yes.  Be on the lookout for her email.”  He understood completely.

“We’ll be in touch then.”  We agreed with a handshake, and went on my merry way.  Phew… close call.

The search continued.  Venue after venue we passed, from the parliament, past a few churches, to several other hotels.

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Too bland

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Too old fashioned

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Too Miami Vice

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Heheh.  Erected…

Something seemed off about each one though.  Well, to me, these looked really nice and beyond adequate, but I had a feeling she wouldn’t go for it.

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How could I look my babe in the eye with sincerity and say, “Mission Accomplished?”  Time was running out, my chance of success was looking bleak, and worse of all, Mike Masters had to call it quits.

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So there I was, stuck in this foreign corner of the world, alone without the slightest idea of where I hold my wedding.  Along the waterfront I stood, contemplating my mission and the purpose of life among other mysteries.  How can I possibly go back now?  Across the water stood one last hotel.  The Delta they called it, glowing like the centerpiece of a Liberace Candelabra, shining with full clarity now with Mike Master’s head out of the way.  It looked promising.  It had to be.  It was my last hope.

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I crossed a pedestrian bridge and descended upon the hotel.  It’s exterior lay home to a tributary of paths to a much calmer, greener part of town.  The inside was sleek and modern.  Grandiloquent, but not over the top.  No need to show off.  That’s my motto.

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The staff was courteous while I toured the joint, showing me plenty of spaces for dinner, receptions, ceremonies, the whole 9 yards.  I could see it all unfolding, my family conversing with her family, the bridesmaids and groomsmen partying it up, Gibson yelling at people about football, Ulrich bragging about his pecks—it was all going to work itself out… for the right price of course.

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“Hmm… I really like what you’ve done with the place, but finances are of concern,” I told the wedding coordinator.  That was correct, to a certain extent—maybe a little exaggerated.  But being the frugal person I am, I had to negotiate.

“Oh, well we offer a half-price discount on all our reception halls if you get married on a Sunday.”  …So far so good.

“Sure, but what about the rehearsal dinner?”

“We can set you up at the hotel restaurant.  And if you want a private room, we can probably wave that fee as well.”

…Hmm.  She’s good.  But I’m better.  “Alright, I’m sure the dinner is superb.  But we’re also looking at a few other places around Victoria, like the Empress. Pretty classy place if you ask me… Gosh.  I just don’t know if we can fully commit…

“We also offer a free breakfast the morning after your wedding.”  …What? Free breakfast?

“Free break—well why didn’t you say so!?  I think we have ourselves a deal!”  A cautious smile slipped from her face as I vigorously shook her hand.  “My people will be in touch.  Let’s talk soon!”

The Delta it is!  The best part was, I didn’t even have to consult with the babe!  Boy, is she going to be glad she doesn’t have deal with choosing the wedding venue. Decorations? Leave that to me!  I have that all under control.  Oh, and I got the perfect idea for a cake as well!

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#drakecake

As I left Victoria that day, a sense of pride swelling within me, one phrase ran through my head…  “Mission complete.”

Wedding planning isn’t so bad after all.  Neither is the ride home on the black ball line.  Just as pretty as the ride over.

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It’s Official. I’m a freakin’ Nerd!

I knew the day was coming.  The fuzzy letters on the computer screen, the amount of squinting required to read road signs, and driving at night… well, let’s just say there were some close calls.  Yet, I put it off as long as I could.  And against my better judgement, everything I’ve ever used to guide my moral compass, I acquiesced.

…I went to the eye doctor.

“Well, you’re legal to drive,” optometrist said to me as he flashed a bunch of different lenses in my face after reading a few lines in front of me.

“Well, that’s good news,” I thought to myself.

“…barely.”

Wait… what?!”

“Looks like you have a stigmatism.”

A stigmatism?  A stigmatism!?

I had heard of these stigmatisms and society’s view of them.  The goofy looks people constantly give me, how they start talking slow just to get me to understand stuff… you know, discriminatory type of stuff we’re talkin’.  And then I got to thinkin’.  There’s a legitimate stigma against stigmatisms!  No wonder I’ve had all this prejudice against me lately.

…But I had to know for sure, and I had a bad feeling about this.

“So, what does that mean, doc?”

“I’m going to prescribe a pair of glasses for you.  I want you to wear them at all times.”

Glasses… at all times?  Are you freaking kidding me?!

I couldn’t believe it.  My heart sunk.  And who could blame me?  32-years glasses free can mess with someone’s ego—big time.  Just think about all those years I spent looking down upon my fellow man with a height of superiority.  And now, it turns out that I’m no better than the rest… back to square one.

“Well, maybe it isn’t so bad,” I told myself.  “There are plenty of people with glasses.  My boss wears them all the time, and he’s a good guy.  The dude from U2 is always sporting them, and he’s always walking around with a nice swagger to his step.  And Justin Walker—he’s like the coolest guy I know!”

There were others though… like that Paul Krugman jerk.  God, he thinks he’s so smart.  Or that other lame-o that runs the Republicans, Mitch McConnell.  Good God, what a dork!  There’s plenty of em’, all smug and corny-lookin’.

Mitch McConnell

Geez Louise!  Hand me a barf bag why don’t ya?

And what about the ones are still glasses-free?  “What’s Gibson gonna think?  Surely, he’ll have a comment or two about it.  And Ulrich… talk about a giant pain in the ass.  For God’s sake, Ben Woodward doesn’t even wear glasses!  Don’t tell me I’m going to be dorkier than him now…”  The thought of any of those with glasses—no thanks!  Why, just imagine if Gretch had glass—

Oh God—GRETCH!!!

I tossed the glasses and backed away in horror.  Don’t freak out, you know you can do this…

It wasn’t a question of whether I could or couldn’t, it was only a matter of… when.  It was now… or never.

I repossessed my newly acquired pair of glasses, placed them around my eyes, then turned to the mirror, a little anxious, yet, with a small dash of hope.  “Who knows?  Maybe I’ll look good…”

It was worse than I could’ve ever imagined.

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Just look at me.  I’m a freak!  A total nerd!  Who’s going to wanna work with me now?  I might as well kiss my engineering career goodbye!  My parents are already looking into ways to disown me, I just know it.  And the babe… well, if she never talks to me again, well, I can’t say I blame her.

The worst part is, half the time, they don’t even fit right!  C’mon!!!

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I mean, what is this, another side effect of old age?  First the grey hair, then the pulled muscles, and now this?  What did I ever do in this life to deserve such abuse!?

…How much longer do I have?  How much longer can even I hold on…?

Man, this stinks.  Sure, it makes me see a little better at night, helps me concentrate on other things besides avoiding obstacles in the road… perhaps it’ll help me concentrate on the magazine…  Yea, at least I have the magazine.  Well, not my magazine, but I get to senior edit the whole thing.  Just look at me here, all professional-like and glasses free.  Talk about a hunka-hunka-hunk!  Chicks dig it!

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That’s just the sneak peek.  Go ahead and take a gander and subscribe!  The link is below!

YOU CAN Magazine Volume 5

Yep, those were the days, back when I could sprint like a Giselle and drink like a young Robert Downy Jr., exercising the legs and the arms without a care in the world!  Now, this writing’s all I have.  It’s all I do, exercise the ol’ fingers since nothing else works.  Sort of fitting, I suppose.  I mean, there’s all sorts of writers and ol’ smarty pants who wear glasses… or wore.

Like Steven Hawking, savior of the universe.  Yea, I guess that guy was pretty smart, rest his soul.  Or what about Steve Jobs?  He sort of changed the world with his iPods and iPhones, and iGlasses, that guy.  John Lennon?  There’s another one.  He wrote Sergeant Peppers when he was completely on glasses, and some pretty wacked out ones at that!  Pretty amazing if you ask me.  But let’s be honest, the dude probably could’ve used a stronger prescription.  I mean, Yoko Ono?  Ughz.

Speaking of hippies, what a nutcase Hunter S. Thompson was!  But hey, he wore those glasses, so everybody took him seriously.  That’s probably the same with Steven King, and that guy’s not even dead yet!

Wait a minute…  That’s it.  I’m officially a writer now!  Yea, all these years, I was trying my hardest and getting nowhere.  Now, all of a sudden, I put these puppies on and, “poof!”  Out comes a magazine!  I can’t even imagine all the places it’s going to take me, like Las Vegas!

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1 of the 7 natural wonders of the world.  6 to go…

Man, I can’t wait to see the look on Gibson’s face when he sees these bad boys.  He’s already pissed that I’m in a magazine before him.  He won’t even know what to say.  He’ll actually have to look at me with a little… respect.

I get it now.  It was all an unnecessary evil, a step in my own evolution, like the ending of that 2001 Space Odyssey movie.  Sure, I’m not the handsome hunk of yester year, but that doesn’t even matter.  Who needs looks, when I have glasses?

Steve Brule who cares

Who Cares?

 

 

London Calling Part 2: The Sights

Buckingham Palace

My mind was flooded.  Unable maintain all the information Mike Masters was feeding me, I grew wary, then dizzy, my vision blurring trying to navigate his directions on Google Maps.  The data overload fried my circuits, and the harder I tried to concentrate, the faster he talked, my condition worsening with each additional landmark mentioned.

“Ok, so you are here, Trafalgar Square.”  Right.  Trafalgar Square, got it.  “Go North a few blocks, and you’ll be at Piccadilly Circus.  Go there…”  But why would I want to go to the circus?

“Go back the other way, and you’ll be at BBBBBBBB…” …I’m waiting…  “BBBBBuckingham Palace,” he finally said, emphasis on “Bucking” for some reason.  That must be the place with the guards in the goofy hats…

Go across the bridge, and you’ll see the Eye of London.  An eye, like the one in Lord of the Rings?  Wait a minute!

“Across the river is Big Ben.”  …Who’s Uncle Ben, and how do you know I’m going to see him?  “Keep going, though.  You’ll pass a couple bridges.  First, there’s the Millennium Bridge, like the one in Harry Potter.”  Harry Potter?  Who cares about that dingus?  “Then, there’s the Tower Bridge, not to be confused with the London Bridge.”  London Bridge?  I thought that thing fell down years ago???  “Cross it, then go to the Tower of London…”  Hold on, which one do I go to? Tower Bridge or London Tower?

“…You have got to see the Crown Jewels…”  See the family jewels, check… “And while you’re over there, go ahead and check out St. Paul’s cathedral.”  …Saint Turkey—who?  “Oh, then there’s the clubs!”  I hope he’s not talking about that Playboy Club he was going on about earlier…

“Oh, you’re going to London?” said another Mike.  This one was bigger, scarier, and has been known to give me a creepy look or two in the past.  “Go check out Harrods.  Fanciest department store you’ll ever go to, and the Toy section; biggest and best anywhere.”  Now I have to go to a toy store?  “Also, they have the most upscale food court you’ll ever see at a mall…  And make way for the Queensguard!  They don’t mess around.  They can’t even drink alcohol…”  No alcohol???

My legs began to numb.  My head spun.  Each word spoken from a Mike fell into obscurity.  How in the world will I do all of this in one day?

…I wouldn’t.  I would have a night and a day.  There was still a chance, and the moment I checked into my hotel at the grandiose Trafalgar Square, across the street from the massive courtyard standing at the helm of the National Gallery, I’d waste no time.

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Disclaimer, not my actual picture of Trafalgar Square.  Mine got deleted for some reason.  Arg Apple!!!

***

I followed the pink signs off the Knightsbridge underground station.  “Winter Wonderland” they said, with an arrow pointing in the direction of darkness.  Some would call me foolish, putting blind faith in such an arbitrary sign.  Yet, through the eternal dimensions of black space, bright, neon lights could be spotted, if only ever so slightly.  It glittered through each breath that precipitated under the moonlit twilight; lights shrouded in mystery, begging for discovery.  I crossed the street with the light as my guide.  It was where I needed to go.  It must be…

It was a lonely walk along the dirt path, silence being my only companion.  One side sat a long pond that wrapped around a few acres of grassy fields and scattered trees.  The others side was just that, an endless plain of grass and flora, though it was hard to tell exactly what lay beyond the darkness.  I kept my conscience occupied with Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” playing inside my head, resounding the closer I made my way to the source, anticipating a crescendoed climax the moment I reached my destination.  In time, civilization would seem to rejoin me in my quest, for a group of hooligans sharing some naughty British slang snuck up on me.  They looked to be some Ben Woodward lookin’ chaps, greasy, long hair, lanky stature, spider fingers, all smoking their cigs and holding their lovers.  They didn’t bother me, nor did I bother them.  All of us seemed to be looking for the same thing.  So, we journeyed further into the park…

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Yes… I was in Hyde Park.

A large plot of carnival rides stood before me, lighting up the night sky with music, laughter, and excitement.  This is what I had come to see, an electric super show, erected in desolation.  I reveled in its magnificence as it tempted me inside.  As captivating as it was, I could not stay.  Another destination called my name, and time was of the essence.

It wasn’t hard to spot Harrods, the enormous castle of a department store that the Mikes talked so highly of, only a brisk skip away from Hyde Park.  It lit up like a Christmas tree; t’was the season after all.

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The inside was just as glamorous as the outside.  Layered in elegance, each floor was home to a maze of showcases; scents and perfumes, men’s and women’s clothing, home and décor, appliances, Christmas decorations, and the ever so anticipated toy section, each segment connecting to another with just as much style and curiosity as the one before it.  It reminded me of IKEA in ways, minus the frustration (PS: I HATE IKEA).

Proper, orthodox, and classy, Harrods was everything I’d imagined it to be, as was London.

First stop was the clothing section, drawing me in like a woman from the better side of the West Virginia border.  So profound, profuse—profligate…  Louis Vuitton, Versace, Prada, Gucci and more… all names I had recognized, thanks again to the lyrical selections of Kanye West.  Section after section, I was tempted with a suit or similar garment from one of these merchants, affording me the opportunity to match the genteel fashion sense of London’s natives and set me apart from those back in the motherland.  Only the lack of room in my suitcase prevented such a purchase, and having already been asked for directions on the streets (the charade given away once my American accent was noticed), I could assume my appearance was satisfactory, at least for the weekend.

Then… I saw them.

Gucci Shoes

They were the most stunning pair of shoes I’d ever laid eyes on.  Just the thought of me strutting around Idaho with these beauties gave me chills.  Mike Gibson’s face would boil with rage.  Ben Woodward would follow me around like a sick puppy, clinging to the faux fur lining.  Bill would of course give me his classic scoff, acting disgusted, but only to conceal his pending jealousy.  And Josh Ulrich… why, he couldn’t even muster the words for a proper insult, nor an erudite Instagram post, too frozen awe to speak.

“Excuse me sir, how much for the shoes?” I asked.  The question was unnecessary; there was no doubt they’d be mine.  At this point, I could pretty much feel them clinging onto my feet, a confidence I had not felt since the first time I set eyes on the Yeezy Boosts.  It was only a matter of time—

“That would be six hundred and seventy-five pounds sir.”

“675 pounds?  Well, shucks.  My budget was 500,” I told him.  I thanked him for his time and settled for a stuffed Christmas pooch at the Toy Store for 15 pounds.  It was either that or the ball point pen for 7.

It’s too bad he wasn’t willing to negotiate.  I was serious.  I would’ve bought them for 500, though apparently, according to the credit card company, 500 pounds isn’t the same as 500 dollars (still arguing, but don’t worry, pretty sure I’m going to win this one).

I made my way towards the exit, finding the food court on the ground level.  With a full-service steakhouse, oyster bar, whiskey bar, and an artisan dessert shop in the middle, the Mikes were correct; it was the fanciest food court in town.  Easily ready to spend 25 pounds plus on a fish and chips basket with a fine brew, I took an open seat next to the bar.  Unfortunately, it was too late, as I was quickly shoed along.  9:00 PM was far past this bartender’s bedtime.

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I found refuge near what Masters referred to as “The Piccadilly Circus.”  Though quite an interesting place of commerce and innovation, it didn’t have much to do with the actual circus.  They do know how to do up Christmas however.

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“Shake Shack…” I whispered softly, as if the words naturally echoed out into obscurity, drawn to its neon sign.  “Shake Shack… Shake Shack… Shake Shack…”  I had to give it a try.

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Turns out, British burgers are about as good as the American counterparts.  If not… better.  Proud to make that my first meal in the UK, no anarchy needed.

The night was young, and I’d have loved to stay out longer, but partying wasn’t an option—not on this night.  A big day was ahead of me.  So, I headed back to the hotel lobby and settled for an old fashioned, a fancy one at that (the bartender took 5 minutes to make it!).

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“So where are you from?” asked the Bartender, who was a foreigner from Milan (the “city of fashion”) himself.

“Do you know where Washington State is,” I asked, just so he didn’t confuse it with Washington, DC.

“Oh C’mon!” he snapped back with slight offense.  Apparently, many Brits are familiar with Washington State, for I received the same reaction with the same exact words by others when the same question was asked.  Nothing to get too worked up over.  I actually found it a bit flattering that so many in the UK were familiar with the homeland!

Back in the room, I settled the night with a few scenes from American motion picture classic, “Total Recall” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.  “Hmm… they have pretty good taste in cinema too,” I thought to myself before fading into a slumber.

***

Rise and shine.  A run around the bridges and a hearty breakfast with a cup of tea, and I was off to take the Mike Masters tour.

 

Anybody ever watch that movie, “Get Out”???

***

Saw Buckingham Palace.  Looked like a nice place, except those dudes in the goofy hats wouldn’t let me in.  Much feistier than they look in the movies.

 

 

And it turns out, Uncle Ben’s was kind of a bust…

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Here’s where the London Eye’s supposed to be, except all I saw was a stinkin’ Ferris Wheel.

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The Tower Bridge.  Didn’t see any London Bridge, so I think I was right.  It did fall down a long, long time ago.

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The Tower of London, just an old castle.  This is where the Family Jewels are.  It cost me 28 pounds just to see them though, and they wouldn’t even let me take any pictures!

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You could however take pictures of some of their guns and armor and stuff.

 

Speaking of Family Jewels, this guy kept his well protected!  Heheh.

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And finally, St. Turkey’s Cathedral.  Man, did they have a killer organ in there!  I stood in humility as the organist laid down a long string of heavy Castlevania riffs, the eyes of St. Turkey and his friend Paul donning, urging me to confess my sins!  I left an hour later, purified, ready to face the world with a clean slate.  It’s only a matter of time, however before I make my return, the adulterations of the mortal world too much for one soul to handle.  Until then, St. Turkey’s got my back.

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I managed to find a pub or two before the night was over.  Though not much for Cask Pub Beer, their fish and chips were decent enough to keep me satisfied.  Once again, I retreated back to the hotel a little early for my nightly slumber.  After a full day to touring and running, I was pooped, and had a plane to catch tomorrow!

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Though proud of myself for nearly completing the Mike Masters’ challenge in its entirely, there was still more to be seen.  Not just in London, but in England all together.  I want to go back and hang out in the old pubs built in 1200 AD and watch a soccer game or two, maybe hang out in the old villages and farms a little bit.  Something seems so quaint and wholesome with the whole experience.  And what about Scotland?  I am part Scottish after all, and St. Turkey’s got nothing on St. Andrews.  You think having a church is cool?  St. Andrews has an entire golf course!

And with such elegance and prestige, it’s hard to believe they pissed us off so hard back in the 1700’s, not to mention the beef William Wallace had with em’.  But I’m good with the Brits.  They treated me well, and all that war and fighting crap was a long time ago.  Forgive and forget, that’s my motto.

So don’t worry London.  Like our buddy Arnold used to say, “I’ll be back.”

Disney Has Officially Ruined Star Wars

The new Star Wars is garbage.  Sorry, I know it’s a touchy subject, and I’m probably going to piss a bunch of people off, but somebody had to have the balls to say it.  In fact, all the new ones so far (excluding Rogue One) have been garbage.  Probably even worse than episodes I, II, and III.

“Wait, worse than I, II, and III—“  THAT’S RIGHT I SAID IT!!!  Maybe I liked Jar Jar Binks!  So???

Sure, normally, I wouldn’t be so worked up about something like this, but leave it to the internet to ruin everything with a bunch of dumbasses on twitter:

Newsweek: BEST ‘STAR WARS’ MOVIE EVER? ‘THE LAST JEDI’ FIRST REACTIONS PRAISE MARK HAMILL IN ‘EMOTIONAL’ AND ‘UNEXPECTED’ SEQUEL

Turns out, that Net Neutrality bull crap couldn’t prevent this trash from rearing its ugly head.

That’s right, I went there, you commie bastards.  This crap’s got me in total A-hole mode, so spare me your tears.  They won’t work.

Then there’s the guardian.  I wonder whose ass they’re trying to kiss?

Star Wars: The Last Jedi review – an explosive thrill-ride of galactic proportions

And perhaps the most atrocious offense of them all:

Review: ‘The Last Jedi’ Is ‘The Dark Knight’ Of The ‘Star Wars’ Saga

Comparing this to The Dark Knight?  Really?  From the guys who tell us how to spend our money?  I think this Forbes writer stuck his pencil too far in his ear.

Don’t know what type of agenda these people have, or if their blind loyalty to the franchise has their heads shoved so far up Luke Skywalker’s ass that they’re unable to develop a coherent thought, because this movie was all around sloppy.  Just 2 and half hours of “WTF!”

***WARNING: SPOILER TIME***

So, I’m watching this thing, and it starts out saying the Resistance is pretty much wiped out, all except for Leia, Admiral Akbar, that Poe dude (the pilot), and a couple others in the fleet, and I’m all, “Sure, ok.  I’ll buy that.”  So, after a space battle or two and some crap dialogue, it cuts to Rey handing Luke his lightsaber.

“Huo—ho—wha—Jimmy—hold on there just a minute!” I say to myself.  “This happened in the last movie, right after they blew up that star killing planet!  Now all of a sudden, the First Order’s back in business and the rebels are down to their last ship, within minutes of the last movie ending?  Something ain’t right here!”

Then, a few scenes later, Leia and Admiral Akbar get blown into space.  I’ll get to Leia in a bit, but yea, they kill off the “It’s a Trap!” dude!  I’m not saying that they’re not allowed to kill him off or anything, but you gotta do it the right way!  He was a beloved character in the franchise, and there was no emotion surrounding his death, whatsoever!  It was just, “Ok, the admiral’s dead now.  This chick with purple hair’s in charge.

Our fishy friend deserved better than this.  The fans deserved better than this…

No respect.

And while we’re on the subject of characters, the new ones in the series are… um, how do I say this politely… not good—at all.  They try way too hard.  Poe’s that guy at work who just can’t seem to realize he’s not funny and that nobody likes his jokes, and Finn is super loud and obnoxious.  Half the time I just want to scream, “Hey!!! Shut the F#*$ up!!!”

Think about some of the older characters: Chewbacca, R2D2, Boba Fett, and on.  They weren’t overbearing, didn’t push for more screen time, and weren’t overhyped by the other characters.  They just played their part in the movie, and people overtime came to appreciate their roles.

And sorry to say this, but there’s nothing special about Rey either.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate her, and have nothing against her, but she’s no Princess Leia, and for her to have that much power with such a lack of training is indolence on the writers, a cheap “out” that’s overused.  And don’t worry, I’ll touch on this more when I make my way back to the abominable Leia moment.

And remember that Maz lady from the first one?  She looks like a reptile, has weird glasses, and is super old?  Well, she makes an appearance in this one too, and it’s straight up ridiculous (and not in the good way).  For starters, she gets a call from Finn and Poe as if they can just call this super important, mysterious, high in-demand person of the galaxy up at any time, after one brief meeting.  That’s like me getting introduced to Tony Soprano and him being like, “Here’s my personal line.  Feel free to give me a call.  I’ll always answer.”

Along with that, throughout episode VII, you keep on hearing stuff like, “Oh, Maz is so cool.  She’s been around for 1000 years (even though we never heard of her in the other movies), she knows the ins and outs of the galaxy…” and blah blah blah.  So, when you finally meet her, it’s sort of a letdown.  The worst part is, she could’ve been a character I liked, but instead of letting the character develop naturally and having faith in the audience to come to that conclusion, J. J. Abrams pretty much told us, “You must like this character.”  It’s a major flaw in the new movies, and it sort of pisses me off!  I mean, c’mon!  Nobody likes to be told what to do!

***NOTE: Before you say anything, I know J. J. Abrams didn’t direct this one.  However, he was an executive producer and has been heavily involved with the reboots, and since not a lot of people know who Rian Johnson is, I’m going to go ahead and crap on Abrams, since the issues started with him.***

Now, on to the bad guys.  Kylo Ren’s straight up a little whiney bitch!  Think about Darth Vader.  He was a bad dude, and sure, we didn’t like him, but man, was he a badass or what?  You see him come in, and you’re straight up, “I’MA GET THE F OUT!”  Darth Maul too!  It was disappointing that he was overhyped and didn’t have a larger role, but one look at him and you’re all, “Damn, that’s one scary dude.  Pure evil!”

Kylo Ren is nothing like Vader, or Maul.  He’s a crybaby, and he throws fits when he doesn’t get his way!  Like seriously, how can somebody be that good with the force if you’re that emotionally unstable?

And they expect the audience to accept that this Supreme Leader Snoke dude’s this all-powerful force user on the level of the emperor, with no explanation whatsoever!  I mean, the guy’s throwing other force users around and shooting lightning bolts out of his arse and stuff!  Don’t you think if he was that strong and ambitious, he would’ve been tight with the emperor and stuff?  I mean, this guy’s no young hunk from the Hamptons system of the galaxy.  He’s a pretty haggard lookin’ dude—a dusty old bird!  Like, you know he’s had to be around for a while, yet, nobody knew about him until now, and he became the most powerful force user ever?  Whatever.  Sounds like they needed a bad guy, and “Oh, how convenient.  There’s this supreme leader that just happens to be strong with the force.  Golly gee, how did we miss that?”

But finally, back to Leia and the stupid crap they pulled with her.  So, her and Akbar get blown into space, along with a couple of others and she’s floating around for a couple minutes, presumably dead.  Because, it’s space after all, and nobody can survive out there.  But OMG, get this!  After getting blasted with a giant laser cannon and flying into space, she wakes up, opens her eyes, reaches out, and floats her way back to the ship, on her own will.

Let me repeat that.  She wakes up, in space.  She regains consciousness, opens her eyes, sticks out her hand, and floats her way back to the ship…

Excuse my language, but “WHAT THE F#*&@!!!”

It’s like J.J. Abrams was all, “Hey, check out the super cool plot twist I came up with, all by myself!  Everybody knows that Carrie Fischer died, so let’s trick them!  Let’s make them think that Leia dies like they all suspect, and then bring her back to life, because of the force!  Wow, I’m so smart!”

Wow, J.J.  You got us real good.  Who would’ve thought that Princess Leia could suddenly use the force and defy the laws of Physics?  You sure fooled us.  Douche bag.

Oh!  I can’t believe I haven’t talked about Rose yet!  Not so epic spoiler alert:  She suuuuuuuuuuuuuucks!!!

So, they added this girl to the story, pretty much because they didn’t have a good reason to keep Finn around (there wasn’t a good reason to have him in episode VII either, but I digress).  The two end up going on this pointless adventure to this casino planet, which turns into a giant lecture on “greed” and “inhumane treatment of animals” and “the environment,” and “insert whatever stereotypical, preachy trope you’d like.”  All it amounts to is a God-awful CGI scene of them riding these Wompa Horse things they freed from captivity through the casino and ruining a bunch of rich people’s day.

At the end of it, they ride off into a field with the horses and Finn says something smug like, “It was worth it to mess up the town.”  Give me a freakin’ break.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, Rose and her SJW, beyond moral, holier than thou attitude, pulls the ultimate “hold my beer” moment.  She takes off the horse’s saddle, lets it run away, then says, “now it was worth it.”  God, just give me a blaster to the head and put me out of my misery!

And then, we’re supposed to believe that these two mediocre rebels go to this casino halfway across the galaxy, have several sentimental conversations, get thrown in jail, just happen to find a code breaker there, then break out of jail, get passed security to set a bunch of horses free, go on a wild chase, find an enemy ship, take it over, and make it back so they can break the code, all within the span of 18 hours?  What sort of retarded crap is that???

And yes, I understand the word “retarded” is very insensitive these days.  Well, oh, my God.  I.  Don’t.  CARE!!!

Well, since I’m on a role, I might as well piss off the rest of the feminists out there with this super sexist remark.

In the old James Bond movies, the women for the most part were useless, but at least they were all babes.  Not only is Rose a weak character (her portrayal as being strong unbelievable), but she’s not even hot.  Not.  At.  All.  Period.

Oh, and at the very end, just when you’re like “Thank God, they’re going to kill Finn’s ass off!  Halleluiah, praise Jesus!  I never have to hear his obnoxious voice ever again!”  Guess who happens to come along to save him at the last second, on cue with another terribly delivered peace and butterflies, politically correct, FCC compliant line?

F you Rose.  Seriously, F you.

And how many, “just in the nick of time,” moments can there be in a single movie?  I think they may have broken the record along with the, “Oh boy, we thought we were out of trouble, but golly gee, now they know our plan,” or “We’re out of fuel,” or “Oh no, now they have a big cannon.  What are we going to do now?”  You’d think for one of the biggest movie franchises of all time, they could’ve found some less lazy techniques to maintain suspense.

And the jokes!  They’re awful, not fitting, and way too many of them!  I think the only time I laughed was when Yoda came back and burned down the Jedi tree before Luke could.

The Porgs aren’t cool either.  I know a bunch of fanboys tried to make them a thing when the first trailers came out, but they’re not.  They’re just dumb.  And pointless, like pretty much everything else in this movie.

In fact, the only possible redeeming quality of this movie is Luke Skywalker, but they even manage to screw that up, starting from the very beginning!  When Rey hands him his lightsaber, he tosses it over his shoulder like a total dickhead, a complete antithesis of the character built from the original trilogy.

At the end of the film, Luke stands in front of a bunch of AT-AT’s, and Kylo Ren directs them to blow Luke away.   When they fail to do so, what does Luke do?  He steps out of the smoke and taunts Kylo Ren.  Congratulations, J.J.  Enjoy the cheap laugh you received from a couple of kids.  You just turned Luke Skywalker into a cocky A-hole.

It’s like he said, “screw you” to the original movies and started making stuff up!  There’s no limit on the force, people just happen to gain its power whenever convenient, and personalities developed over many years change on the whim.  Is nothing of the original Star Wars sacred to these people?

Usually, the capitalist in me would say, “let it be,” but they’re doing it off the back somebody else’s hard work and great story-telling just so they can make a quick buck, all at the older fan’s expense.  And taking advantage of their loyalty, to me is most cardinal of offenses.

The worst part is that they should know better after the debacle that was the prequels.  Everybody rails on how bad the second trilogy was, and there’s a stigma forever held against them.  Sure, the prequels were bad in their own respects, and if asked about the new ones, a typical response would be, “Well, at least it’s not episodes I, II, and III.”

And they’re right.  They’re not episodes I, II, and III.  They’re worse, whether you can admit it or not, and they have no excuses.

London Calling: The Tube

“Welcome to the UK.  May I have your passport, please?” asked the customs official in a proper accent.  Now you’re talking my language!  No more of this bonjourno or ciao crap!

After a question or two and a stamp of the passport, I had officially become a visitor of the UK.  And man, with less than an hour had been spent, my outlook was already on the up and up!

To be honest though, everybody had talked the place up at work, telling me where to go, what to see, and how to get there!  “Oh, you can take the Tube anywhere,” mentioned my boss.  “It’s easy!  They’re all over the place…”  Wait, the Tube?  What’s a Tube?

***

My topcoat and parted hairline cloaked any traces of my foreign status as I walked down the steps to this supposed “Tube,” though it looked a lot like a subway if you asked me (FYI, they have funny names for a lot of their stuff over there).  The British have a tendency to be much more presentable in their fashion, at least in public.  And the girls like to do themselves up big time, especially on a Friday night!  Like, “holy cow, you must’ve spent hours in front of the mirror putting on make-up,” style of done up!

And get this… one even talked to me!  Schya, I know.  Kind of a big deal, right?!

I’ll never forget the look she gave me, that layer of glittered makeup, the precisely drawn-on eyebrows, her crispy, blond hair caked in product, the hair spray stinging the nostrils.  As I looked at her, there was but one thought that consumed my mind… “Man, I hope nobody lights a cigarette nearby!”

She turned her head, expecting her two friends walking next to her.  Instead, there was me.  Out comes a shrill gasp.  Taken aback, her eyes widen and mouth hangs agape.  “Ohae, Christ!”

Quickly, she scurries past me and finds her girlfriends.  No matter.  I had Tubes to ride, places to be.

Friday nights on the Tube can be a little tight as well.  For better or worse the skinny cabs of the Piccadilly line force you to get cozy with your fellow commuters.

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At least their seats are more like couches.  Before being packed in like a can of sardines, I found an open spot on one and got comfortable.

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A few crackles on the Tube intercom brought the patrons to attention.  I remained calm, having heard these types of official announcements many a time riding the DC Metro.  “Attention green line passengers,” the voice would usually say in a succinct manner.  “The elevators at the Mount Vernon Square Station are currently out of operation.  Maintenance will be conducted on Sunday, from 6 AM to 8 PM.  I braced myself for something similar, more professional and proper, of course, as is the British custom.

“Why ello dere,” mentioned the operator.  Wait a minute, is the operator a 15-year-old boy?  A slight paused commenced before the young lad continued with his official, important, Tube-sponsored announcement.  “Well… you might be wonderin’ why when you try to go north at the Wimbledon station, they keep on makin’ you go south.”

…No, not really, but yes, continue.

“Well, dats because… and actually, you’ll probably hear about this on the news lata…”

Go on…

“…But the power cables… they fell down.  They’re layin’ down on the tracks… all of em’.  Another long pause commenced.

 “The last time this has happened has been… why, since before I can even rememba…”

And that was it.  That was the entire announcement.  I sat back and took a deep breath.  What the hell was that?

So yea, I guess you could say there are some interesting characters on Tube.  I mean, get a load of this guy with his kazoo keyboard, trying to be the next Ed Sheeren or something!

Honestly though, he wasn’t too far off!  His style was enigmatic, a collaborative combination of instruments classified as juvenile, yet captivating.  The patrons couldn’t help but engulf themselves in his interpretation of the classic tune, “Jingle Bells,” especially the lady across from me!  She acted like she was annoyed, as did I, burying her face into her phone and everything.  Her eventual toe tapping gave away the façade.

But his musical endeavors didn’t come without consequence.  Stop after stop, new passengers boarded, greeted by his siren song.  And one by one, they stayed and listened, put under a soporific-like spell the minute they entered the Tube.

The lady across from me… she took it the hardest.  Struck by his soothing voice and her phone forever removed from her face, she lost herself, her eyes fading, unwilling to move from her spot on the couch… not for the end of the world—

“Oh my God!”  Her rising face and deep gasp said it all.  Precious seconds spent in a blissful existence of song and dance were no more—this was her stop!

She shot up and made a break for the exit, minding the gap the furthest thing from her mind.  “She’ll never make it,” I thought to myself as I watched the doors come to a swift close in front of her face.  “They’re moving too fast.  She’s doomed, her entire day—ruined!  How will she ever get off—”

Wham!  The doors slammed, separated only by mere inches.  Without missing a beat, the music man shoved his foot in the middle, right in the nick of time.  “Jingle bells, jingle bells,” he continued… but the doors were relentless—determined to shut, no matter the casualties.  They opened once again, only to shut on his delicate foot with twice the force.  Unfortunately, a Tube entertainer’s salary doesn’t always provide for adequate footwear.

This music man was undeterred, however; his commuters deserved better than this.  In a courageous display of might, he took another step, wedging his body between the doors.  Sacrificing his body, the lady stepped past before either could be crushed.  “Jingle all the way…”

Pop!  The doors slammed into each other.  On one side, the lady walked her way to luxury, never to acknowledge her savior, ever again.  On the other side, the music man stood, stoic and un-phased at the fact that he was nearly decapitated.  “Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh, hey!”  He sends me a wink and a smile, needing no praise for performing his civic duty.  He knows I’ve enjoyed his performance; my stupid grin gives it away.  I reward him abundantly with a pocket full of pounds.

***

It’s getting late, and even in London’s prestigious Trafalgar Square, the underground corridors can become a bit sketchy, let alone tricky to navigate, especially for a foreigner like myself.  At such a late hour, the usual commuters tend to vacate, leaving the unsavory to populate the Tube’s tunnels.

I walk alone, eyeing the end of a corridor that looks to be the exit near my hotel, at least one can only hope.  To my left sit two homeless kids, their belongings spread out across the ground.  A line of a brownish/green substance lays on top of an open piece of cigarette paper.  OPSEC ringing, I surge forward, not willing to stick around and find out what type of herb they were using.

The boy begins to speak.  “It’s Lokke,” I imagine he says.  I can’t quite understand though, nor do I try to.  Just pretend like he wasn’t talking to you.  Works every time.

“It’s Loke!” He says again, louder this time, and more legible.  Still, my mind is races, survival instincts overcoming.  Ignore him.  Keep walking, and whatever you do, don’t stop.  The exit’s only—

“IT’S LOCKED YOU BLOODY BLOKE!”  I freeze, coming to a realization.  Ahh, this exit must be locked!

I turn to address the lad.  “Oh.  I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you.  The exit is locked you say?”  I thank him for the friendly suggestion and turn back.

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“You know, I think I’m starting to get the hang of this ‘Tube’ thing,” I thought to myself as I emerged from the depths of the underground a block away from my hotel.  “It’s a shame I only have a day to spend here.  I was really starting to feel at home in the UK.  It’s sort of like I was a natural…”

…A native.

The Florentine Horror!!!

I munched slowly, unsure exactly what type of meat I had placed in my mouth.  The rest of my family had called it quits many bites ago, the fishy taste far from what they were expecting.  But with two sandwiches purchased, I couldn’t justify giving up that easily.  Besides, why would it be the busiest vendor in Florence’s Central Market if it were that bad?  I mean, you had your choice of pizza, burgers, fried rabbit, seafood, pasta, porchetta, you name it, and people were lined around the corner for this stuff!

Lampredotto

“This tastes funny,” said my sister after her first bite.  Hey, that’s my line, used to say that all the time whenever I didn’t like something.  It was her idea to get this stuff in the first place!

“I’m sure it’s an acquired taste,” I replied.  “You just got to get used to it.  You know, be a little cultured every now and then.  Wthis stuff called again?”

“Lampradotto,” answered my mother, reading from the Wikipedia page.  “A typical Florentine dish, made up of meat from the…” a rapid grin began to grow on her face.  Oh, no.

“…The fourth stomach of a cow.”  Instantly, my face flipped.  I tossed the sandwich across the table and dimmed my eyes, settling into a deep, and hopeless stare into space while my mom settled into an uncontrollable giggle.  The more I fumed, the more she giggled, and vice versa, the bustling, public setting preventing a scene.  Cow stomach?  Are you freaking kidding me???  12 Euros down the drain!

Lampredotto Selfie

I went for my beer, half full of course.  For some reason or another, the Italians find it acceptable to fill a beer glass with a considerable amount head.  That crap wouldn’t fly in the states.  No way José!  Unfortunately, I’d have to buy another one, half full, just like the last.

Italy Beer

What a bull crap pour!

And to be honest, I don’t know why people lose their mind of the food here.  They have a tendency to skimp on the toppings, you know.  It’s like, two slices of peperoni, really?  Every restaurant you got is nothing more than a poor man’s Olive Garden, minus the breadsticks.  Speaking of Olive Garden, where the heck are they?  They’re supposed to be everywhere around here, like Starbucks!

Starbucks… there’s another thing I could use.  At least a cappuccino’s here are only a euro.  And check out the sweets!  Now that’s something you can’t get at your average Starbucks!

At least they got one of these places.

Italy McDonalds

The Fanta looks different here.  Tastes different too!

Fanta

I guess they got some pretty nice art, too.  I mean, check out these fancy schmancy churches, decorated with paintings and all!  My church was never quite this nice.  You think they’d spend a little less time on the art and a little more time on the food.  Cow stomach?  Give me a break!

Or the infrastructure while we’re at it.  Get a load of this tower.  The whole thing’s about to tip over!

Pisa 2

And check this one out!  This church even has this giant dome with a painting that has devils eating dude’s and stuff!  Sheesh, I’d hate to be that guy.  And at the top, God’s having a party and stuff!

Devil eating a dude

And what’s with this guy, standing around with his dingle all hanging out?  And everybody’s taking a picture of it too!  I can’t believe it!  For heaven’s sake, there’s kids watching!  This is most inappropriate, and people are just staring at him, like it’s no big deal!

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At least he’s not this guy.  He got his hacked off!

And look at those abs!  That butt too!  I bet ya that guy did some killer planks back in his day.  Man, people must’ve worked out all the time back then.  No wonder so many people are taking pictures.  Why, dad’s even snapping away.  This is getting a little weird now.

There’s some cool things about the old country, I suppose.  Check out this place is right on the water!

And get a load of this guy.  Talk about a hunka-hunka-hunk!!!

Town pic 1

They got some nice views too.  Look at me!  I’m on top of the world!

Oh, and it turns out, I’m an uncle now!  Her name’s Lottie, and I think she likes me… and wine too!  Also, as a bonus, she ralphed all over my little sister.  Ahahaha, serves her right!

Lottie and the wine

I think we’re gonna get along just fine.

Me and Lottie

It was sad to see her go, though.  Not saying I shed any tears or nothin’.  Not sayin’ I didn’t either…

Lottie Sad

Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t!  Who cares?!?!  It’s not like I had a choice.  I had things to do, places to see, that type of stuff.

Like this London place people are talking about…

Why do we Stand?

It’s morning at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.  Welders, electricians, shipfitters, and engineers alike settle in to begin their day working to repair the pacific naval fleet.  The rain pounds the asphalt as I walk from my office to the machine shop for a work brief, ill equipped for the weather as usual.  It’s been this way for weeks now, as is the norm in the Puget Sound, with no signs of a respite.  Any second now, a trumpet will sound through the loud speakers, signaling the national anthem.  All that are inside are free to go about their business while the it plays.  However, those caught outside are instructed to stop what they’re doing and stand at attention.  I pick up the pace and walk briskly to the door, fast enough to make it in inside, slow enough not to bring about unnecessary attention.  I’m almost there, mere seconds from sanctuary—

“Badum, badum!” the trumpet plays.  Only a few steps separate me from the entrance of the shop.  I hesitate.  My mind goes into hyperdrive.  Do I sneak in?  I don’t want to be late for the meeting.  Besides, I don’t think anybody will even notice, and who would blame me if I did?  Nobody will ever see…

***

If you’ve ever spent an extended period of time on a military base, most likely you’ve had a similar experience, especially if you are stuck in extreme weather conditions.  Every morning at 0800, the Star-Spangled Banner rings throughout the base, and every morning, everybody who is outside stands at attention out of respect for our military, including me, no matter how many thoughts vacillate through my head.

So, it’s no surprise that several different emotions ran through me last Sunday as I watched players kneel during the anthem, or link arms to make a statement that didn’t seem to have much to do with the anthem.  I was angry, even furious at times.  The headlines on CNN, “NFL players take a knee in defiance of Trump,” didn’t make matters any better.  “How could somebody be so disrespectful to a country that has given them so much?” I thought or, “Why protest like this?  Why make a political statement at the expense of the American Flag?” or perhaps the most egregious, “What are they doing?  This kneeling crap’s going to screw up my fantasy team (which it did)…”

At the same time, I was sad.  Watching the demonstrations take place, it was almost as if I no longer recognized the country that I had grown up in.  I felt that I could never watch a game and cheer for a team I loved so much the same way ever again.  It was as if by a single gesture, all the excitement, the entire livelihood of the NFL had been sucked out of me.  Perhaps the worst part was that I didn’t see a single leader of the NFL, the coaches, commissioner, or any of the broadcasters have the courage to say what those players were doing on the field was wrong.

After all, standing for the national anthem is a practice that’s been entrenched into most of us since we were young.  It’s an anthem that often gives me goosebumps, and even a little swell in my heart after a beautiful and emotional rendition.  And I hate to admit, but during times of inebriation, I’ve admittedly sang the anthem at the top of my lungs like a jackass.  But if you’re anything like me, for most of your life, you’ve stood with your hand over your heart, many times just to go through the motions, never really stopping to ask the question, “why is it so important to stand for the national anthem?”

Many of the reasons the players chose to kneel were well expressed, most stemming from the that inequalities still exist in our country and that social justice must be attained before they choose to stand again, a viewpoint exacerbated by Trump’s recent comments.  And how much can I argue that inequalities don’t exist?  After all, we are a country that for better or worse, has been through a lot since its inception, born with its ailments, or foibles perhaps, that the founders knew couldn’t be cured with just the stroke of a pen.  They were shortcomings that would take years of pain, suffering, and intense battle to overcome.

“America is great because she is good.  If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great,” said Alexis de Toqueville, the French diplomat who had spent a copious amount of time studying democracy in the early years of the United States, eventually authoring, “Democracy in America.” The founders shared de Toqueville’s sentiment that the American citizenry consisted of a good-hearted, God-fearing people, and had faith that they could, and would carry out the dream of a free society if given the chance.  With this, they were granted the power to choose its leaders through a representative Republic, with the ability to form, to quote from our constitution, “a more perfect union,” of which many risked and sacrificed their business, riches, security, and in some cases, lives to fight against all odds, against the most powerful nation on the planet, so that one day, maybe, just maybe they could secure this dream for the American people.

We are a country that in order to remain united and survive past its infancy, had to accept the inhumane practice of slavery.  And although slavery existed, the founders knew the system of government they had set in place would allow the will of the people to eventually right its wrongs and put an end to the practice.  And with a war that cost the lives of roughly a million Americans, a great president, and nearly divided our country for good, we paid our debts and were able to overcome this evil.

We are a country that continues to fight against the evils of racism to this day.  During the civil rights movement of the sixties, people of all backgrounds fought against many powerful institutions to pronounce the treatment of a group of people based on their race is wrong, and it must be stopped.  And through peaceful protest, heavy persistence, and battling past the constant threat of violence, those who had fought so long for fair and equal treatment won the argument and changed the hearts of Americans alike.

We are a country who continues this rejection of prejudice to this day.  At the recent riots in Charlottesville, while many in the media screamed of fear and the rise of fascism, white supremacy and racism, I saw a swath of Americans who came together to take a stand against a vile display hate and anger.  The hundreds of demonstrators that came to protest that day were highly outnumbered by the voices denouncing them from all around the country, voices that aren’t afraid to speak out, not matter where the source of such evil comes from.

And when it comes to evil, we are a country who has had a proven track record against it.  On December 7th, 1941, there was little hesitation from our country to take action after the attack on Pearl Harbor, judging by the response of our leaders and the abundance of young men willing to join the military to take a stand against the Nazi’s and Imperialist Japan.  And like the soldiers of the American Revolution, Civil War, and other wars before them, they fought, risked, and sacrificed, from the beaches of Normandy to the islands of the Pacific, enduring the harshest of conditions and all horrors that come with war.  They fought to defeat this evil, for there was a belief that what they were fighting for was something greater than themselves, that although they may fall, their brothers would fight on to secure their way of life, that their sacrifice may result in a much better world for their friends, family, and the rest of the world.

We are a country who from the beginning, has always promoted science and innovation.  Not by force and coercion, but by allowing the pursuit of happiness to take its course, to let one take command of his or her own ideas, dreams, and visions of the world and watch them flourish.  Through this, we’ve built and powered great cities, from New York to San Francisco.  We’ve taken command of the internet, unleashed its power and provided an infinite catalogue of knowledge and the ability to connect with people thousands of miles away with just the click of a button.  All throughout our history, we’ve created thousands of other inventions most of which go unnoticed in the day to day grind: the automobile, airplane, iPhone with GPS capabilities, indoor plumbing and waste treatment, air conditioning, electricity, fresh drinking water, refrigeration, an MRI machine, Disneyland, Nintendo, Instagram, and the list goes on.  Thousands—millions of inventions that make our lives better, each and every day, most of which are taken for granted by everyday citizens, including myself.

We are a country that promotes the free expression of art, creative ideas, and different modes of thinking.  And through the advancement of music and motion pictures, artists continue to find ways to experiment and express themselves, creating art that touches our hearts and makes us laugh, cry, and at times jump up with excitement.  By watching films like the Godfather, Forrest Gump, Star Wars, or any John Hughes movie, or by attending your favorite band’s concert, whether it be Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Metallica, or Kenny Chesney, this art holds a deeply emotional and significant impact on our lives and has changed the way we view the world.

I mean, c’mon, we are a country that put a man on the mother f’n moon for God’s sake!  Excuse my language, but think about this for a second.  Back in the day when the Pilgrims came over, it took 2 to 3 months just to sail across the ocean, one way, and this ain’t your luxury Carnival Cruise we’re talkin’.  These trips sucked, and if you wanted to go and visit Europe, you best believe you were gonna stay there for a long ass time.  Then, America was born, and in less than 200 years, we flew a couple of dudes into space, traveled nearly a million miles, landed on the moon, and brought their asses back to Earth in a little over a week!  That’s incredible!  (And if you’re one of those people that believe the moon landing was a hoax, Buzz Aldrin will come and punch you in the face!)

Imagine Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson talking about this after they wrote the Declaration of Independence.  “You know Tom, after we get this forming a country stuff figured out, someday, we’re gonna walk on that big old moon up there.”  Forget about it.  It never happened!  And who could blame them?  The country they helped form was able to do something inconceivable, something that nobody in their wildest dreams could’ve ever thought possible, a feat no other country has ever been able to do, ever!  Man, if they were alive today, they’d be damn proud of what this country has accomplished.

Somebody once shared a quote from John Adams that has stuck with me, “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.”  These great men who set the foundation for this country, who did the heavy lifting and hard work in its early days, and those who, to this day, serve to protect our country, our freedom, and our way of life, who allow us to live peacefully without the threat of anybody taking that away, it’s these people who allow us to live our lives as we see fit.  It’s these great men and women who allow people like me to drink Rockstar energy drinks and share silly stories of my misfortunes when I should be studying mathematics and philosophy.  It’s these same people who provide artists like Kanye West the opportunity to share their crazy views while creating their amazing beats without the fear of censorship.  It’s these people who give us the luxury to watch, play, and celebrate a game in which two teams try to carry a pigskin across a field.

It’s these people of whom we are indebted to, of whom deserve our deepest gratitude.

And above all, we are a country that comes together during the tough times.  I’ll never forget September 11, 2001, watching on a 13-inch television set in Mr. Rayburn’s science class as a Junior in High School when both towers of the World Trades Center came down, knowing that the one and only world I ever knew would be changed forever.  And I’ll never forget the emotions felt during that time, the amount of pride I felt as an American, in my fellow countrymen, seeing almost every single person I knew set aside their differences and unite to heal as a country.

It’s a spirit of lending a helping hand to our fellow man that continues to this day, as I watch several strangers come together, donating their time, money, and efforts to provide aid and rebuild the lives of victims of the hurricanes in Texas and Florida.

I see the national anthem as an allegory for this type of spirit.  Played before times of intense battle and divisiveness, where fans will relentlessly jaw insults back and forth and two teams will spend 60 minutes pounding the crap out of each other, we all can take a moment to stand with our hands on our hearts, to remember that there are things in this world and in our lives that are bigger than us, bigger than Donald Trump, that there are principles we all can unite around.

We can take a moment to reflect on those great men and women, admittedly greater than myself who have served and those who have shaped this great country through art, innovation, risk, and sacrifice into what it is today, to allow us to partake in such coveted pastimes such as the NFL.  It’s a reminder that someday, through hard work, patience, and sacrifice, we too may become the great men of our generation.  It’s a reminder that though our country is not perfect, nor will it ever will be, we have the ability to change, to strive towards a more perfect union.  Our system of government allows it.

…It reminds us that America is great because she is good, and despite our differences, the flag and the anthem unite us.  It always has.  It is the single most unifying symbol we have.

If anything good has come out of the craziness of this kneeling fiasco, it’s given me a chance to reaffirmed my beliefs on standing for the anthem and the importance behind it.  It’s given me the opportunity to articulate my views so that others who do not know better may understand.  Never again will I question whether or not I should try to sneak in at the last second to avoid having to listen to the anthem for a minute on a military base.  And as long as America remains great, I will always stand at attention when the anthem is played, on base or at a sporting events, no matter the weather.  I will show respect for the American flag, and I ask you to do the same.

I ask you to set politics aside, and remember the reasons as to why it’s important to show this respect when our anthem is played.  I implore you to search within yourself, to look at the big picture, to remember that even with the present inequalities or injustices you may see in your life (and trust me, I have a list of my own), that there is so much more good than bad that has come about from this country and from the people living in it.

I implore you to stand next to me with your hand on your heart, unified.