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?

 

 

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!

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“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.

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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.

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The Fanta looks different here.  Tastes different too!

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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!

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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!

David 1

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.

Elizabeth Loraine Kolodzik Wohlers Bero

A month and a half ago, my mother, sister and I visited my Grandma and Grandpa at their retirement home.  While walking down the halls of her wing, we noticed that each resident had a one page story next to their room that told of their life experiences and how they ended up at the Touchmark Senior Living Center.  There was something strange when we got to my Grandma’s room however.  She did not have a story to share…

So that day, we interviewed her and began writing the story of her life, condensed into one page, and in a little over a week, she had a story to share at the Touchmark.  Unfortunately, a few weeks later, she was diagnosed with dementia, and for medical reasons was transferred to the hospital.  Although she can no longer live at the Touchmark due to her condition, her story lives on, and I am grateful we were able to share it before she had to leave.

This is her story.

***

grandma-young-2

It was the last thing Betty had expected on what would’ve been an ordinary day in Oshkosh Wisconsin, the town where she was born on May 13th, 1929, but for the strange man that had showed up on her doorstep. “Hello, my name is Hubert Wohlers, and I’d like to see Betty,” he said to her father, with hopes to meet who was said to be the biggest babe west of Lake Winnebago.  Much to her father’s reluctance, he called for his daughter.  As she approached the door, Hubert realized the rumors had held true.  Betty wasn’t sure what it was about the strange man that drew her attention: his bold approach, his courage, or perhaps his good looks?  Soon however, the man would no longer become so strange to Elizabeth Loraine Kolodzik, and on June 11th, 1949, Hubert Wohlers would take her hand in marriage.

 

grandma-and-grandpa-hugh-wedding

Through the values of love and hard work, the two built a house, life and family in Neenah, Wisconsin, together raising four children, Kathy, Mike, Debbie, and Mark.  Betty’s knack for socialization served her well as a cashier for National Foods and with friends while participating in some of her favorite activities, including bowling, volleyball, and golf.  Hubert worked as a head oiler for Kimberly Clark, using his skills as a craftsman to build a cabin in Boulder Lake of which they frequented and eventually another home for him and Betty in Freemont, Wisconsin.

grandma-and-the-kids

Grandma and Grandma with their Children

Although the two shared a mostly peaceful and loving life together, tragedy struck when Hubert passed away from a sudden heart attack in 1991.  Betty, and her family were devastated by Hubert’s death that seemed to be undeserving and much too soon.  Though she would always keep the bold stranger who swept her off her feet in her heart, another blessing was just around the corner…

grandpa-hugh-young

“Does anybody know Betty Wohlers,” Bill Bero bellowed across the room, followed by an eruption of laughter inside the Weymont Run Country Club on a bright Spring day in 1992.  Though a bit embarrassed by such a boisterous voice calling for her, Betty humored Bill with a round of golf (of which Bill admitted Betty was better).  One round turned to several more, and over time, Betty couldn’t resist Bill’s stunning wit, lighthearted personality, and strikingly handsome features.  In June of 1993, the two joined hands in marriage with a wedding so full of joy that some of her grandchildren dropped to the floor from dancing so hard.

grandma-and-grandpa-bill-wedding-2

 

grandma-and-granpa-bill-wedding

Let’s cut the cake!

kids-at-the-wedding

Kids at the wedding.  Thank you mom for the outfit.  I think I won the lamest dressed award at every major event in my childhood.

Nothing brought more happiness to Betty’s eight grandchildren like a trip to her and Bill’s lake house in Waupaca, Wisconsin.  Through the years, the grandchildren would revel with excitement each time they gathered together with fish fries, pontoon rides, dips in the lake, and long nights spent playing cribbage in their cottage.  As their kiddy cocktails turned into old fashioned’s, they realized the greatest blessing wasn’t a cabin by lake to party and play at, but the family that brought them all together to one of the most wonderful places in the world.

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The grandchildren in the 90’s

grandchildren-at-the-cabin-with-grandma

Grandma and the Grandchildren (2011)

grandma-and-grandpas-lake

Grandma and Grandpa Bill’s lake

Never shy about expressing her opinion, you can count on Betty to inform her grandchildren of her disapproval, whether it be with bad behavior or a poor choice of an outfit.  And she’ll definitely let them know they aren’t quite as handsome as Aaron Rodgers or her favorite president, John F Kennedy (who in Betty’s words, is a “Hunka-Hunka-Hunk!”).   Though it may be a brash approach, it’s a personality they wouldn’t have any other way.  It’s what they love about her, and why they cherish every chance to visit (and every now and then, even throwing a little tease back her way).

Betty reminds us that sometimes, just the simple act of being yourself can make the greatest, most loving impact on people’s lives.

hip-grandma

 

That Time Ted Cruz Didn’t Endorse Trump, But Did…

A bead of sweat surfaced across my brow as I listened to his words come out of the radio.  The car had been shut off for minutes now, and though I knew full well the dangers of sitting in a hot car in the middle of Summer, I dare not move a muscle.  I feared the intricacies of modern technology may very well disrupt the flow of sound coming from the speakers.  The anticipation pumped through my veins as if it were the Olympic finals for the 100-meter dash, waiting for the starting gun to pop.  Will Ted Cruz Endorse Donald Trump???

It was a speech of substance.  I know it was—it always is.  That didn’t matter.  Not to me, and not to anybody else—the millions listening across the world.  There was only one thing we wanted to know, one thing we’d remember, and one thing only.  And as the words “vote your conscience” came out of his mouth and onto the attendees of the Republican National Convention, I must shamefully admit as a Republican myself, that an uncontrollable smile grew upon my face.  Sure, I knew the consequences of his actions and the blow back he’d face.  I knew the pounding he’d get from the party insiders and Fox News pundits.  But finally, we had a man of principle, a man who couldn’t be bullied, bought off, or persuaded to vote against his beliefs; a man who could stand in defiance to the establishment.  That night, as the deluge of boos rang across the convention floor, Ted Cruz proved that he was the most punk rock politician in America.

And then, last week, Ted Cruz caved.  He endorsed Trump, and disappointment set in.

***

I’m not entirely sure if it’s the fact that we’re dealing with Trump that I felt let down.  After all, I’ve come to a similar conclusion to Cruz’s in regards to my attitude towards him (which believe me, hasn’t been an easy journey, something I’ll continue to struggle with up until election day and probably past, especially whenever he opens his mouth), even though I once swore that I’d never vote for the man myself.  But in Ted Cruz, I saw something more.  Somebody better than the rest of us, somebody who was incorruptible, above the fray, a man who could do no wrong, certainly the closest thing to a Lincoln or Washington possibly in our lifetime.  And no matter how much the haters wanted to hate, they didn’t have an ounce of substance to back it up, for he was truly a man of principle.  He was the man who would eventually save us from the perpetual crash and burn.

It was almost as if it were a fairy tale.  Something too good to be true.

…Well, last week, I relearned a very important lesson: Ted Cruz, like the rest of us, is a human being.  One who’s occupation happens to be that of a politician.

Too often, we tend to get caught up in the excitement of elections, especially when it comes to presidential candidates.  And who can blame us?  They’re in our faces constantly, as if they’re the superstars that can do no wrong, people whom we accept as being bigger and better than anything in our lives, to the point where we’re willing to sacrifice anything just for the sake of their success.  It’s almost as if we hold them up to a God-like status.

But are they not made out of flesh and blood just like us?  Are they not bound to the same temptations that cause us to sin?  Why is it because they’re constantly in the public spotlight that we elevate them to a holy status?

Sure, it takes a lot of work to get to where they are; there’s no question about that.  People such as Cruz are brilliant in their work, and they certainly didn’t get to where they are by being lazy.  And hey, I’m sure most of them probably find enjoyment out of the whole process—campaigning, giving speeches, getting praise, all that stuff (I mean, why else would you want to do it—well, power, but I digress).  More power to them (no pun intended, seriously).  But in their line of work, their success is usually met with large amounts of compliment and adulation, where they’re frequently reminded of how great a job they’re doing, and how awesome they are for doing a job which in many respects is relatively simple—representing our interests.  It even seems like the most hated and polarizing of politicians somehow find a way to retain a relatively large fan base.

But what about the rest of us?  Could they do some of the work that us every day American’s do?  Are they actually harder workers, and do they perform more difficult work than us?  I can’t exactly say on the whole, for every person is different, but I’d be shocked to know of one who obtains the skills to rebuild a car engine or do major automotive repairs, something each one of them rely on in order to do their job.  Or what about the computer scientist working to create the next technological breakthrough for the world, or the farmer who quietly goes about his business, producing food for thousands and thousands of people that will never know who exactly it is that’s providing their sustenance of live?  Both are professions of extreme importance that go unnoticed by most of the population.  And the list goes on.  The audio technician who runs their PA equipment, the suit tailor who makes sure they stay looking sharp, the chef that prepares their food, the military personnel or secret service that keeps them safe… name your favorite occupation.  Chances are, their connected is some fashion.

And are they actually better people than us?  Again, that question depends on the individual, but can any of these politicians say they’ve made a sacrifice equal to that of a lifetime missionary, or a stay-at-home mom, people who are willing to give up extra income, success, and much more to be involved in the lives of children, whether it’s their own or others, to make sure they grow up in a healthy environment and have the best chance of growing into decent human beings?  Some of them might like to think otherwise, but I have my doubts (and serious ones for a couple of them).

The truth is, they’re more like us than we think, working just as hard or even harder to rise up and advance in our line of work.  It may just be that the passions and gifts we were born with may have led us down a different path that’s equally as important in the end, regardless of the credit we receive.

And like us, they make mistakes, they sin, and every now and then, they make decisions that they know in their hearts are wrong, but through the same weaknesses and temptations engrained in human nature, they chose accordingly.  I think as humans, we have a tendency to be a bit more harsh on ourselves for our shortcomings and inconsistencies than we do for others (at least I do).

This is not an excuse for them to mess up and make poor judgements in their line of work, however.  Quite the opposite.  How they decide affects our everyday lives, and the more we treat them like royalty, the easier it is for them to treat us like peasants.

It’s a reminder that we must be vigilant when it comes to holding their feet to the fire, especially from within our respective parties.  We must remind them that it is they who work for us, not the opposite.  That’s why they’re called “Public Servants.”

I’m sure many of you find yourself in the same predicament as I do, having to choose between two inferior candidates with a situation that I have a hard time articulating without using the phrase, “this really sucks.”  At the same time though, I can understand how you could be excited for your particular candidate.  Whether or not you believe in their cause or because they’re on the same side as you, it feels good to be part of a team, especially if at the end of the day, you’re team wins.

But ask yourself this.  After November, when the media blitz and the hoora of the campaign fizzles, when it’s all said and done, regardless of the winner, did America actually win?

There may yet to be an answer to that question.  Maybe the answer lies in us and our willingness to act long after the election is over?  Maybe there’ll still be tons of work to do?  Maybe the ones who told us they’d solve all of our problems were full of it?   Maybe it’s actually us who need to do the solving, not them…  And are we willing to put our egos aside, come together to make sacrifices and fix the problems when called upon?

***

If you asked me again, I’d probably still consider Ted Cruz to be the most punk rock politician in America today.  I mean, I still like the guy, and on the whole, think he’s a good person.  However, I know now that he’s not as punk rock as I thought he once was.

I mean, he is a politician after all…