Top 5 skate video parts of all time

There are things that are good.  A movie that made you laugh or action-packed, or maybe a song that has a good solid beat to jam to; something that keeps you entertained for a solid period of time.

Then, there are things that are great.  Something that has an impact on your life.  A song that instantaneously triggers the senses captured in a particular memory.  That scene in a movie that leaves you with goosebumps, provokes a heavy emotion, and challenges your normal process of thinking.  It’s the urge to escape, trying to navigate life in your mid-twenties, staring at a beautiful spring sunset across the Cascade Mountains in Seattle’s Central District as the piano riff of Kanye West’s “Runaway,” plays in the background, or how I subconsciously throw out Forrest Gump quotes years after the movie was released, something I imagine I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.

And as any avid skateboarder will tell you, nothing gets you stoked for a day of skating like a good skate video.  A respectable video part gets the juices flowing, warms you up before you even get to the skate park, and makes you nod your head in approval.  But there are a few parts out there of which I can tell you the exact time and place I was when I first saw it, where not just the skating was great, but the music, style and personality of the skater/video all meshed to create something special.  A part that would inspire me to go bigger, harder and faster than I did the day before.  A part that made you and your friends jump up and down uncontrollably, screaming “Ohhhhhhhh” when the final hammer was stuck.

Something I would watch over and over again, each time with the thought, “someday, that could be me.”

So, in honor of Go Skateboarding Day, I’ve compiled a list of what I consider to be the top 5 video parts of all time.  Understanding that this list is very subjective, and that the reasons for including these parts are very personal to me, there may be some debate as to which parts are actually the best.  However, putting that aside, and keeping the time periods and skill levels in perspective, low and behold, are my top 5 skateboarding video parts of all time.

5. Heath Kirchart and Jeremy Klein, The End. Birdhouse Skateboards, circa 1997.

“Oh man, I popped the fattest ollie going down that hill, I was going so fast…” said Austin Moody as he described his mad dash back to his house.  It was the first day we had hung out since his return from a summer in Louisiana, and already we were finding ourselves in a heap of trouble.

Austin and I had spent a considerable amount of time at Mary Carter’s house that afternoon, chatting away and trying to impress her with our terrible jokes and foolish, teenage ways.  Mary Carter was, in all respects, a huge babe, stealing the hearts of nearly every teenage boy in Asotin High School’s Freshman class, and while we were busy drooling over Mary, I had totally spaced the fact that I was supposed to attend Jim Stuck’s Eagle Scout Ceremony.  Having received the message from my sister, Moody immediately skipped town to avoid an unpleasant confrontation with my parents.

On and on he went, telling me how I was going to be in “So much trouble,”and how sorry he was.  The sympathy only lasted a day, blaming me for the whole thing afterwards.  However, as a consolation for my potential grounding, or maybe the fact that he simply forgot to take it with him in his flurry, he lent me his VHS copy of, “The End,” my very first skate video experience.

And what an eye-opening experience it was!  There were goofs, pranks, and most importantly, skateboarding—lots of it.  Monumental for its time and filmed entirely on 16mm film when most skateboarders barely had the funds for Sony Handycam quality, it was my first real exposure to skateboard culture.

Andrew Reynolds’ part blew my mind with his frontside flip over a 13-stair handrail (more on him later).  Tony Hawk, arguably the most famous/influential skateboarder of all time rounded the video off with an epic vert ramp session in the middle of a bull ring that included “The Loop.”  But to me, the stand out part in that video was Heath Kirchart and Jeremy Klein’s skate excursion through the streets of LA in Gucci suits.

Starting with them living out the many negative stereotype associated with skateboarders and bearing no apologies, the two drive a van from spot to spot like a couple of hooligans, crashing into things along the way with total disregard to the law (my favorite is when they drive the van down the El Toro stair set), until the van blows up and they “die.”  From there, it takes them into a heavenly dream sequence, living the high life surrounded by babes in a giant mansion and playing Goldeneye until they decide to go an epic skate adventure.  With David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure” as their song of choice, they take to the streets, dressed to impress and using a giant ramp to skate over obstacles that would normally seem unfathomable.

The two meet their untimely end however when they negligently light themselves on fire with a cigar and a bottle of booze and are forced to skate off a long dock into the ocean to relieve themselves.

Though the part can be seen as promoting anarchy, I see it as a blend of wit, creativity, and gnarly skating, and will always be one of those parts I remember from my early days of skateboarding.

4. Daewon Song, Round 3. Almost Skateboards, circa 2005.

As far as influential skateboarders go, Rodney Mullen is among the top of the list.  He is credited with inventing almost every flip trick seen in street skating.  During his prime (and arguably to this day), his abilities on a board were on whole other level when compared to the rest of the field.  Nobody could touch him, but Daewon Song was always around to give it the ol’ college try.

In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Mullen and Song came up with a string of videos, cleverly titled “Rodney Mullen vs. Daewon Song,” rounds 1 through 3.  Although Daewon Song was an accomplished skater with a creative style, it seemed as though he could never quite keep up with Rodney.  His tricks were quality, and his effort was well and good, but each time they’d face off, the consensus among the skate community (at least among me and my friends) was that Rodney Mullen would always be the greater skater.

In Round 3, that all changed.  Daewon beat Rodney, hands down.

In Round 3, Daewon solidified himself as one of the most creative, technically adept skaters of all time.  His combination of flip to grinds to manuals and his willingness to huck himself between roofs and other dangerous gaps put him on top once and for all.  And using one of the best songs from the 2000’s, the spirit of the times really shines as the music pushes the intensity of each trick combination up into the song’s climax.  At the very end, you’re left wondering what else can be accomplished on a skateboard.

Today at over 40 years old, Daewon continues to discover new ways to advance skateboarding with new trick combinations and ways of interpreting the sport.  Every time I watch this part, I’m reminded of the potential skateboarding has, and that there’s always some other aspect that nobody has looked at, waiting to be unlocked.

I’m reminded that the possibilities are endless.

3. Mike Mo Capaldi, Fully Flared. Lakai Shoes, circa 2007.

It blows my mind to think how fast time has passed, that 10 years ago, I was finishing up my final semester of college, ready to face a world full of opportunity, a place ready to be explored and conquered.  Some might say it was the cliché indoctrination thrust upon college graduates skewing my optimism.  But if I had to make an educated guess, I’d say it had more to do with Mike Mo’s part from Fully Flared.

From what I consider as possibly the best skate video of all time (although it would have to duke it out with Chomp on This), it’s hard to actually pick a single part from Fully Flared that stands out above the rest. Having been instrumental in the evolution of the modern skate videos by combining the highest quality of skateboarding and video production, Fully Flared was Spike Jonze’s masterpiece, starting with the most epic intro to a skate video that will ever be made (as in, nothing will top it… ever).

Each part seems to complement each other with its unique perspective on the sport, making it that much harder to declare a part as truly the best. Though my personal favorite may be Brandon Beibel’s part with his gangsta steez and huge muscles (starting around the 47:40 mark), looking at the video from an overall standpoint, Mike Mo skating behind the Arcade Fire’s “No Cars Go” ultimately takes the cake.  His style and skill level backed behind the energetic beat really captured the attitude of the skate scene in the late 2000’s—representing a changing of the guard you might say.  It set the tone for a new era of skateboarding, with Mike Mo at the forefront.

At a minimum, I encourage you to watch the intro that transitions into Mike Mo’s part, right after he does a switch flip over an exploding set of stairs (no joke, you need to watch if you’ve never seen it).  But if you have a chance, take the time to sit down watch the video in its entirety.  At over 10 years old, it is still the standard of how great skate video are made.

Andrew Reynolds, Stay Gold. Emerica Shoes, Circa 2010.

Andrew Reynolds—one of the legends of the sport.  Known as “The Boss” and the king of the frontside flip, his style is distinct, incorporating flips and technical tricks down large gaps and stair sets, all the while making them look basic.  Tricks simply become twice as incredible when he’s performing them.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw him skate, pulling a cabilariel over a rail and down a 12 stair drop in “The End,” and continuing his onslaught of flip tricks down stair sets and in and out of slides.  Instantaneously, he became my favorite skater.

For these reasons, he has enjoyed a long and storied career in an industry where success is often fleeting.  After a breakout video part, the pressure is on for amateurs and pros alike to step up their game.  The audience, for better or worse, expects harder tricks down bigger gaps and rails—a tall order for any skater new to the industry.  Reynolds had no problem delivering for most of his career, but like any athlete, the window of success can be short, and age quickly becomes a factor in your ability to perform, especially north of 30.

Thus, even with his proven track record, questions inevitably began to surface with Reynold’s skill level and whether he could maintain it or not. It’s not uncommon for a popular skater to get the coveted final part in a video, regardless of whether he deserves it or not.  Even I asked myself a similar question when his name flashed across the screen the first time I watch Emerica’s “Stay Gold.”  New talent was emerging, and the trends suggested they were quickly surpassing the veterans.

“Will he get the last part in the video just because of his name recognition?”  The answer—a resounding “no.”  He deserved it, and then some.

The calming musical selection in his intro nearly tells the entire story. It was known that Reynolds’ career would begin to wind down.  Sure, he’d still be a pro, and he could sell plenty of boards, but you can only keep up with the fresh legs for so long.  After a career full of fame, partying, drugs, and turmoil, here was a man, clean, mature, and wise, giving it his all one last time before passing the torch.

Nearly half of the tricks performed could be considered enders for any ordinary part.  He revisits the legendary spots of his past video parts and takes it a step further. Each trick is crisp and carefully selected, taking thought, time and care to ensure that not only the trick was landed, but that it was well thought out and performed cleanly.  It was as if he knew the significance of this part and how important it was not only for him, but to the entire skateboard community.

What we were left with was exactly everything we needed, and absolutely nothing we didn’t—truly a memorable experience from start to finish. This was Andrew Reynold’s Magnum Opus, a showcase of his gift to the world.

It’s quite possibly the closest thing we’ll ever get to a perfect part.

Honorable Mentions:

A couple more parts that didn’t quite make the list, but are still worth mentioning and checking out if you have the chance.

Rodney Mullen – Second Hand Smoke

PJ Ladd – PJ Ladd’s Wonderful Horrible Life

Xeno Miller – Enrolling in the Middle Class

Arto Saari – Sorry or Menikmati… or Minefield (or pretty much anything Arto Saari)

 

 

1. Jamie Thomas, Misled Youth. Zero Skateboards, Circa 1998.

“Jess… Jess!  Mute Grab!” It was the last thing I remember saying. A day later, I awoke, laying in a hospital bed with no knowledge of the events that had succeeded the infamous line…

I had tried my hardest to convince him, but the prospect of a killer mute grab into the Snake River up past Buffalo Eddy just wasn’t enough to break his attention from his girlfriend (of which to this day I still can’t understand, but oh well).  So, I tried harder, and harder, and… apparently, I tried too hard, for as Shaun Walters described it, I slipped and fell head first, landing on a pile of rocks 15 feet below before sliding into the river.

What ensued were lots of tears, lots of payers, and a two-week hospital stay. After it was all said and done, Thor had jumped in after me to pull me out, an off-duty nurse, who just happened to be at the same beach as us, took care of me until the ambulance came, and Jon Shaw was forced to drive my squirrely, 85 Buick Regal back to my house.

Oh, and the whole thing could be blamed on Jess.

The good news was, I recovered with only minor long-term effects (I mean, there’s probably a little memory loss or brain damage here or there, but I’m not sure which memories they are, so I’m not going to ever worry about it!). The bad news, I couldn’t skateboard, for over a month.  And for an avid 18-year-old skater, it was absolute torture.

So, every night, I’d sit in my basement and watch Jamie Thomas’s part from Misled Youth.

Hearing the opening keyboard loop of Baba O’Riley fade in still gives me chills to this day.  It was the sound of hope; the sound of inspiration.  My heart would pound as I’d watch Thomas walk up the Hollywood High stair set holding his busted head with the greatest rock song of all time playing in the background.  In a way, it was like he was subtly telling me, “Don’t worry, we’re going to make it through this.  It’s going to be good.  Real good…”

What ensued was an onslaught hammers, trick after trick down the biggest stair sets and baddest rails of the day.  Not only did he go big, but he had the technical variety to back up his style. The lipslide down the blue Rincon rails that led to a six-foot drop, the benihana down the long double set, kickflip down the Macba 4 block… tricks nobody in their right mind would consider even attempting at the time.  In under 5 minutes, Jamie Thomas opened our eyes to a new style of skating.

And then came the slow-mo section.  Just when we thought our minds couldn’t be any more blown, The Doors “The End” fades in and Thomas proceeds to execute another round of bangers, bigger and crazier than the one’s before.  The nosegrind down the 14-stair that he bailed on earlier with a raised fist to the giant backside 180 over the rail and down the Rincon drop, the smith down the 18-stair, backside lipslide down Hollywood High… my jaw would lock in the open position as I’d watch him perform each feat, my body completely frozen as if I had peered into the eyes of Medusa.  And the perfect 5-0 down the huge white rail, only for Thomas to shake his head in disappointment and lift his finger so he could go back and do it, “one more time?” Classic.  A textbook example of how to put together a bangers section.

Nowadays, there are plethora of skaters who “go big,” but 20 years ago, that number was slim.  Nobody went big, at least not like Jamie Thomas.  He was the pioneer, starting with the infamous Leap of Faith and taking it a step further in Misled Youth.  When others had only a handful of tricks they could do down big gaps and rails, Jamie had all the bases covered, and for years, his part in Misled Youth was the standard for final video parts.

To this day, his part has stood the test of time, cementing Jamie Thomas as one of the GOAT’s of the sport.  It’s a part I will never forget… a part that inspired a battered and broken teenager to get back on his board; one that gave him so much hope 15 years ago.

***

Maybe I’m becoming a bit of a curmudgeon in my older years, but I can’t help but think of the rise the digital age and how a skater’s newest part can be viewed with a few clicks at your computer.  Though beneficial beyond a doubt, I often wonder if young skaters these days understand the significance of the skate video, if they’ll ever have the same appreciation me and my friends did when videos were harder to come by.

At the same time, I occasionally go back to watch these old videos online, recalling the days when my life revolved around a board.  “I’ll be a skater for the rest of my life,” I’d say in total confidence, back when the world was a much simpler place.  Now, I admittedly find myself scoffing when I see a group of skaters at a spot, even going as far as to sympathize with those kicking them out. “Am I this out of touch with the scene?” I ask myself.  Perhaps it’s just a part of growing up.

However, with all that has changed in the nearly 20 years since I picked up a board, the memories I have while skating, some of the best of my entire life, will forever remain, even if I don’t get out and skate like I used to. The youthful spirit captured in skateboarding has always been constant.

Whenever I revisit these old videos, I’m reminded of that.

How to Plan a Wedding, Part 2: Let Her Buy the Purse!!!

Sometimes, you don’t realize what you’re missing until it slaps you in the face.  And these days, with our lives so convoluted with wedding planning and the rest, we tend to lose track of the small things.  My mom says Kanye West’s fault.  I tend to disagree, though his new album has been taking up a lot of my time lately…

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That West dude?  C’mon mom, a little respect is all I ask…

The point is, when the workloads are stressin’ you out, it’s easy to get distracted.  We forget to take a moment to breath in the fresh air.

Thus, it was one of those weeks.  Hours were long, demands were high, and I had this strong hunch that Casual Friday was about to turn into Casual Saturday, even carrying over into a “What the Flip?” Sunday.  But since I’m no longer on the West Coast, the wife beater and track pants weren’t going to cut it.

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Yep… those were the days…

I had to step up my game.

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I walked into the office, strutting around in my finest Sunday attire, Gucci sneakers and all.  “Hey… what’s going on guys?” I asked, stretching out and getting comfortable.  “Yep… yep yep yep yep yep… Fine day to be in the office, wouldn’t you say?  Ahh, sort of, just threw on whatever I could find, you know what I mean?  Gee, Matt.  Looks like you did the same, heheh.  Didn’t even take the time to put on any socks—“ I stalled, my eyes locked on his feet.  “Wait a minute.  What are those??”

“Oh these things?  Just, my loafers.  I only wear them whenever I feel casual.  30 bucks at JC Penny’s…” On and on he went, as if they were just no big deal… on purpose, I presume.  I couldn’t blame him.  A total Gibson move, I know, trying to make me jealous and all.  I’d have done the same if I were in his shoes (no pun intended).

Before setting my priorities for the day, I hopped on the net—time to research the perfect loafer.  I needed a shoe I could easily slip on, something that didn’t draw too much attention; you know, the type of shoe you could walk into the local McDonalds without shame.  But most importantly, I needed something I could rub in Matt’s face, for the right price too.  “Ok, what do we have here.  J Crew?  Talk about boring…  Michael Kors? I swear I saw a pair of those at Payless.  Hmm… at least these Alligators look pretty cool.  What else do they have—Whoa.  Wha… what are these?”

My eyes lit up like a kid’s feasting his eyes on the Nintendo 64 on Christmas morning, or the smokin’ hot lifeguard with the sun outlining her silhouette, or Val Kilmer whenever he sees a cheeseburger.

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Somebody’s gone down hill lately.  Sheesh!

They were… perhaps the most beautiful article of clothing I had ever seen in my entire life.  The way the snake skin mellifluously scaled across the vamp, the attention to detail, from the tassels on the tongue to the little tiger roars on the heel…

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My mind became consumed with illusions of grandeur.  Walkin’ down the street, rocking the bleach blonde locks with a fine pair of shades, wheelin’ and dealin’ like a high flyin’, limousine ridin’ son of a gun!  I was almost there.

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And once I had these bad boys in my possession, I was honestly going to have a hard time holdin’ those alligators down!

It was the pair of shoes I was meant to wear.

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And for a price of only 1,850 dollars, these puppies could all be mine! Nothing a paycheck or two couldn’t handle.

I scurried home from work that Sunday, barely able to contain my excitement. “Wait till the babe see’s what I have in store!”  I knew she was going to love them, and she couldn’t wait for me to walk around the town, stylin’ and profilin’, makin’ all the heads turn!  I’m talkin’ Jared Kushner, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, anybody who’s anybody in DC!  All those turkeys were going to shoot me a look of awe, mixed with a hint of jealousy!

I thought about it the entire way home.  And when I say the entire way, I’m talkin’ the walk to the metro, the ride home, into the condo complex, up the elevator, through the door…

“Hey babe, how was your day?” I casually asked, anticipating a reactionary, “good, how are you?”  All a setup for my grand scheme.  That’s right, keep it cool.  Don’t draw too much attention to yourself…

“Hey hun, we need to talk…” she said to me, in a somewhat somber tone.  Ok. There better be good reason, like somebody dyin’ or something.  I sat next to her on the couch and took a deep breath, awaiting the bad news.

“So, there are a few purses on sale, and they’re really nice.”

Purses?  You sat me down for purses?  Don’t you see that I have something more important on my mind?! A lesser man would’ve say it. However, as for me, I kept my composure and listened.

“So, this one is a Chanel…”

My mind suddenly became scattered.  Chanel??? What the hell’s a “Chanel?”

“It’s a very rare purse, and it’s one that I’ve been keeping my eye on for a really long time.  Now it’s on sale, for a really good price too.  And to be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever see this for this price ever again.  But the best part is, I have credit on this site, so it’s only going to cost me around 200 dollars!  Isn’t that great?”

I took a moment to gather my thoughts.  “But babe, you already have tons of purses.  Do you really think buying another purse is the wisest choice right now?”

…Look, I’m a little new to this whole “getting married” thing.  It’s my first time, and heck, there’s a good chance it’s going to be my last!  So, there may be a few things I need to learn about relationships, or whatever.

And apparently, it’s a really bad idea to tell your babe that she shouldn’t buy a Chanel purse.

But really, what’s the big deal?  I loved her before the purse, and it wasn’t like I fell in love with her because she had a couple fancy ones before.  To be brutally honest, I never really paid that much attention to her purses in the first place.  And every time I tried to explain all that to her, the situation just got worse and worse!

I just couldn’t understand it!  I mean, am I wrong?  Is another purse really all that necessary?  We have to save for a wedding for heaven’s sake, and we’re talkin’ bout purses?

Nope!  Not worth it.  Plenty of other ways to spend our money.  And the worst part was, by the end of the night, we got so worked up, that I didn’t even have a chance to bring up the pyth—

…Ohhh crap.  The pythons…

I couldn’t sleep.  Couldn’t concentrate the next morning.  A cloud of guilt followed me around work the next day, lasting long into the evening. How could I seriously look her in the eye and tell her I’m going to buy an $1,850 pair of pythons?

Yes… Howwas the burning question of the moment.  I had absolutely every intention of informing her of my pending purchase.  I just needed a little help crafting my pitch.  I needed a little advice from my friend Jack.

A veteran of the military, you could count on finding Jack at the local bar after work, sending you a friendly hello while you walk past on any given day.  Every now and then, I’d stop by for a drink and a little BBQ, and each time, I’d be greeted with a handshake, smile, and a swath of knowledge on hand.  Jack was a man—distinguished, wise, and most importantly, gay.  If there was anybody who I could trust with such a sensitive topic, it was him.

I walked into Willies that afternoon, and as predicted, there was Jack, as if he already knew I was on my way, having prescient knowledge of the situation at hand.  “Hello, young Zack,” he said to me, sticking out his hand for a hearty shake.

“Hello, Jack,” I replied, honoring my half of the shake before getting down to business.  “I need some advice.”  He leaned in, ready for me to pour my heart out.  “My girl and I got in a fight yesterday.  She wants to buy this purse, but I told her I thought it was a little expensive—“

“Oh, let her buy the purse!” He shot back, wasting no time with his response. “Don’t be such a prude!”

“But Jack—“

“If it makes her happy, then give it to her!  You can’t be such a drag about that type of stuff…”  He shook his head, lifting his cocktail towards his mouth and taking a sip.  “I like you, but you have a lot to learn, young Zack… a lot to learn…”

The admonishing continued, but his word was final.  So, I accepted the chastisement, and began crafting a new message. I now knew what I needed to say.

“Hi babe, I’ve given it some thought, and I want you to buy the purse.  In fact, I’m going to send you some money to help pay for it.”  I pressed send on the messenger app and awaited the response.  There was no way she could say no to the pythons now.  Man, I can almost feel them gripping my feet…

“Oh babe, you’re so sweet,” She messaged back.  Alright.  So far, so good…  “But I’ve really been thinking about what you said, and now that we’re getting married, we really should be thinking about our finances.  So, I’m not going to get the purse any longer.”

Wait, what?  No!  This is not how it’s supposed to go!  I scurried up a new text.  “But babe, you deserve a new purse!  I want you to have it.  I was actually thinking about how I needed to get a new pair of shoes myself, so you should get the purse.”

“Oh, that’s great hun!  I’ll tell you what.  We can go to the mall next week and find you a pair.  I have a few stores in mind.”

“Actually, I was thinking about getting a pair online.  I can show you when I get home.”

“No need.  I want to take you to the Galleria at Tyson’s corner anyways. It’s amazing.  They have so many stores.  And the food court is really fancy…”

I stared helplessly into my phone, as if were watching my dreams fade away with each passing text.  I’ll never get my pythons at this pace…

A week later, we found ourselves at the Galleria.  Sure, they had a few good picks that were up my alley, and on most days, I would’ve easily splurged on a flashy pair of sneakers, but I just couldn’t get the Pythons out of my head.  Nothing I saw seemed right.

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At the end of the day, I settled for a bland pair of loafers, big whoop. Nothing fancy, even for $120 bones. But they’ll have to do.  We’re on a budget after all…

Allen Edwards Loafers

Meh, they’ll do…

I at least got my old pair of Gucci’s fixed up.  They served me well these last few years, and I guess they’ll have to get me through at least one more season.

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Lookin’ Good!

 

 

This isn’t the end however.  Far from it.  The dream of Ric Flair lives on.  And one day, I’ll have my Python Tassel Loafers.  And when that day comes, look out.  Cause I’m going to have a hard time keeping those pythons down!

Woo!

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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.

Harrods

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.