Thanks for reading

I haven’t posted anything on this blog for what feels like ages. I suppose I’ve just been too busy to make time to do so. When I do have spare time, I’m so overwhelmed with ideas for what I should be doing that I usually end up not doing anything at all. I’m glad to say, however, that I’ve been maintaining a prolific engagement in several other writing assignments. Simply put, life has become insanely preoccupying. Thanks to all the readers who make writing worth it.

Solitude vs. Alone

I walk around every day alone in a world filled with people. I can’t move about the college campus without being inundated by bodies all around me. When I simply wish to go from point “A” to point “B” without having to avoid running into people I want nothing to do with, I can’t. I am constantly forced to dodge left and right in order to keep from knocking people off their feet. I have actually gotten to the point at which I feel that if people are not going to be careful, then I can’t care if I run into them. I used to worry about this sort of thing when I lived back East. But, back there it seemed that people were at least genuinely sorry if they bumped into you. Out here, I can’t say the same. There is this gross lack of concern for fellow human beings out here. I know people complain all the time about there being too many Mormons. I don’t think that’s my problem. My problem is that there are too many self-absorbed, selfish, ignorant, egotistical douche bags all over the place – and I’m sure they come from a wide variety of religious backgrounds.

After that tirade, I hope I’ve gotten the point across that I feel very alone, most of the time. I go to the movies by myself, often. I go to the store and go clothes shopping by myself, whenever necessary. I talk to myself – I don’t have conversations with myself, c’mon, I’m not that crazy – whenever I feel like hearing myself say something. I’m not saying this so the reader will feel sorry for me. You shouldn’t, and I don’t want you to. If anything, you ought to feel sorry for yourself. You ought to consider how overly self-absorbed a society we are all becoming. The world is getting to the point at which nobody talks to one another or cares about anybody outside their own group. Even then, if people had nothing with which to benefit you, would you really even care about them? I don’t want any specific reader to think I am targeting them. Perhaps, you truly are an altruistic Utilitarian who legitimately cares about their fellow men and women of the world. But, if not, you ought to look at yourself. I get sick of getting cut off by people multiple times a day because they’re behind the wheel of their over-sized SUV or pickup truck yapping away on their cellphone about how important their bullshit life is to the one person unfortunate enough to get caught bored enough to answer their phone while this dipshit is out driving around cutting people off without using their turn signal.

In this state of mind, I honestly believe I am not alone. This is why, as alone as I am, I still find it necessary to make a point of getting away from the daily nonsense of getting things done in life, in order to find solace in solitude. It was intensely satisfying to get in the kayak and get out on the middle of a reservoir and stare at the sun and the mountains and the birds while listening to some of my favorite sappy music on my iPod. When I am out there on the water, I feel anything but alone – I feel at one, all one and completely satisfied with my life. I look at the mountains that surround the (lake) and I think back to the paintings I used to make when I was a child. It’s pretty much the same image. I wonder what came first. Was I painting those pictures because I knew I would someday end up in a place like the one I envisioned, or did I end up here because I finally figured out how to fulfill my dreams? Either way, thank God. This must be a sign that I’m doing something right.

 

All We Have to Fear is the Government Itself

We are nearing the 11th hour, the time at which the mounting suspense builds within the minds of those concerned with the future of our once proud nation – a nation built on solidarity, freedom, patriotism, and glory. So far I feel nothing but shame and embarrassment for the state of our country’s leadership. Is leadership a word that even applies now? I stand, unfortunately, idly by, like millions of others who grew up being told that their vote counts, that this nation is founded on democracy – power to the people – yet the people have no choice but to helplessly watch politicians childishly bicker over semantics and minutia. No longer will a letter to a congressman, governor or especially the president ever be taken into consideration – that is of course if the letter is even opened or read. No longer do our votes really count, nor have they for a long, long time.

A decision that could have been made weeks or even months ago, to mitigate a problem that most likely could have been avoided completely years and years ago, had everything politics actually been done truly for the sake of the citizens of America. That’s where the problem lies: in politics. Politics has become merely a corrupt place for power-hungry men (and some women) who are filled with greed and pure evil to pursue their own agendas. In the media, issues of varying levels of importance, from not at all to possibly of concern to the entire nation, are played out using frames of strategy, sport, competition and battle. The focus of news stories is not, ultimately, what is going to be best for this country and which politician will do his best to honestly and diligently solve any problem he or she can? The focus of these stories is “Who will win the fight? Who’s going to look really good while making his opponent(s) look really, really bad? Who can squander the most money trying to win these fights? Who can out-bicker the other?” And so on forever until we all submit and give in the notion that none of this has anything to do with anybody’s best interest except for the stars of these morbid soap opera-like tabloidesque scenarios.

The Roman aristocracy arranged for entertainment to be provided for all classes of the plebeian and royal populations. The gladiators who fought in the Parthenon for the cheers of the crowd aided the those in power in keeping the citizens docile and distracted. As the fools looked on, no one took time to think about anything else than the gore and bravado they witnessed in the ring. Conversations were centered around the trivial and simplistic, while nobody talked about the government. Back then, though, anything said against the royal leadership would have been treasonous sedition. Democracy has always been a myth; it was then and it is now. Even if I were able to look the President or the Speaker in the face and tell them what to do, their answer would be simple. They would mutter some rhetorical nonsense about their future campaign hopes and how it’s not as simple as doing the right thing. Just as this blog post is a jumble of rants and half-finished thoughts, so is the legitimacy or efficacy of the American government a complex farce. The whole system is just a way of keeping 99 percent of the people in this country under the thumb of the top one percent while they rob us blind, lock us away and throw away the key.

By Tuesday, I’m sure some kind of last-minute agreement will be made regarding the solution to the national debt crisis. I can guarantee that it will be a really crappy Band-aid (it won’t cover the entire wound and it’ll fall off before anything is completely healed) and whatever is finally done will only be a way for both sides (Republican and Democrat) to get out of the scrap feeling like they can still eventually screw over the other later and ultimately win the next election. Just remember, average American citizen, what politicians do has nothing to do with you, me, or anybody either one of us care about. What politicians do is merely for personal gain of more money and more power. The devil himself has every one of them wrapped around his bony, scaled fingers and he’s sticking the middle one up at us.

What Happens if You Eat a Bad Word?

If you eat a bad word, what happens? Do you end up with word vomit or diarrhea of the mouth?

I’m not sure if this is actually the case or not, but I do know that a couple of bad words have come out of my mouth over the course of time. I’ve argued, fruitlessly, with people regarding my philosophy on cussing – every now and then, it’s therapeutic to drop an f-bomb or substitute tears with swears. Am I right? Who knows? Does it feel better? Hell yes!

Ultimately, I admit that over time I have found interest in keeping my speech rating down to the PG level – but there was a time when I sounded like a scurvy pirate with an endless supply of Captain Morgan. Honestly, you couldn’t convince me that swearing indicates a lack of education or that you have a small vocabulary, because I don’t have a small vocabulary; I simply have a flair for the euphemistic vernacular that so colorfully and vociferously illustrates my tendency toward irascibility and agitation. Trust me, I am always sure to equally and unequivocally express those ever-desirable moments of sheer ardor when I experience them, too.

No, the reason I have tamed down the frequency at which I excessively expedite expletives is simply so I don’t alienate – and, rather, do ameliorate – my audience. However, I will warn you – if you’rearound when I accidentally break something or hurt myself, you’re going to hear about it. I promise not to dose myself with a maligned helping of mental ipecac in the presence of anyone with tender ears. From now on, I have vowed to talk like a Disney movie – without all of the sub-contextual sexual innuendo meant to keep the moderately educated, easily amused, carnal minds of parents entertained while sitting through yet another animated movie about an underdog animal whose mother (and maybe father) died, thus forcing said underdog to overcome evil (embodied by an ambiguously flamboyant super-villain boisterously driven by inexplicable malevolence) and save the world/achieve impossible heights of love and happiness and live happily ever after. No, I will keep the innuendo to a minimum (locker room humor has never been my forte).

I just want to say one more thing about cussing and then I’ll move on to the next topic. This has to do with the use – by my fellow members of society – and substitution of nonsense words for commonly used swear words. Examples of these are: “shiz, dang, shut the front door, sonofabeesting, etc.” These words may not be listed on the FCC or Motion Picture Association of America’s databases of taboo words, but they still evoke the same emotional response from the listener and invoke the same contextual outcome. When you tell somebody (and why we feel it necessary to announce this anyway is beyond me, but…) that you have to go to the bathroom, no matter how you word or phrase it, you are still saying the same exact thing. Perhaps this is not the best example considering the subject matter. I do know that The Bible has several swear words in it. One of the tamer ones – actually a phrase – is “pisseth against the wall.” Clearly conversations about excretion have been occurring since at least the days of Moses, and I’ll hazard to guess it’s been much longer than that. These conversations are used to purvey specific grammatical, contextual, syntactic, sympathetic or otherwise philosophical responses that we as humans take in, digest and spit back out in some other way, shape or form all in the name of communication.

So what does this all mean? I think it means that in the name of communicating effectively, some of us have stifled the flow of ideas by declaring that some words aren’t fit for airspace. Ultimately, I think that words are words. Why do some words make people cringe or result in the speaker achieving a certain level of societal opprobrium? I haven’t the foggiest. I will say, simply, this. Nobody’s perfect; but if you can speak it, spell it and put it in a proper sentence that forms a complete idea, then what the heck? Go for it!

If I Say Hi, Turn and Run!

The following post is hopefully going to serve several purposes; I hope it entertains whoever reads it and, for me, I hope it restores my own faith in myself. Whatever else reading or writing this post accomplishes is just polish on the patina.

There are a few things I would like to bring up and possibly begin to rant about. For those who know me, I sometimes have a flair for the dramatic – the timbre, volume and intensity of my voice change whenever I get even the slightest bit passionate about something. For those who don’t take the time to get to know me or simply don’t seem to ever comprehend who I am, apparently it just comes out as yelling – nothing more, and certainly nothing worth listening to – at least that’s what the people think who don’t care enough about me to understand me. So for everybody’s sake, I’m going to put this rant into black and white and that way there will be no confusion about whether or not I’m yelling. Instead it’s just a whole lot of really fast typing. I can assure you there is nothing angry about this. I have a grin on my face and a happy song in my head.

For a little over three years now, I have been single. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, this hunky, tall, dark and handsome delicacy has been walking around unchained and untamed on this chunk of rock – God’s green earth – for over three years now. “How,” you might ask “has this travesty managed to go un-quelled for so long?” I’ll tell you how; actually, there are a few possibilities – hypotheses if you will.

First of all, I have been living in an area – beautiful as I find it and love it as I do – that is filled with the antitheses of the kind of women who would make practical partners for me. Id est: teenage girls, women who are married and spitting out babies by age 20, and more and more married women! Oh yeah, there are a few dozen really grungy looking women who like to smoke cigarettes, drink coffee and get tattoos of their ex-boyfriends names turned into poorly punctuated cliche poetry that is written in two different fonts. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against a smoker or coffee drinker, but I quit those things for a reason. For those of you who dont’ feel you fall under any of the categories I’ve already covered, I know you’re out there, I just don’t know you or where you are. E-mail me.

So that gets me back to the whole problem I have with finding a woman I legitimately want to date who legitimately wants to date me back. I am now an active Mormon – I wasn’t, by choice, for over a decade. It just so happened that during that specific decade in my life, 95 percent of the women my age who stayed active in the faith did what 95 percent of women their age who are active in that same faith do – they get married and start spitting out babies. Essentially what I did was limit the already narrow margin for success to a much narrower margin. It’s kind of like trying to get a camel to pass through the eye of a needle at this point. Why? Because I want to marry a woman who is not only Mormon but an exemplary one; don’t we all deserve that? I got my act together and this is why. Eventually the smart ones like me grow up, we don’t just keep getting older, we actually begin to get wiser too (ever so slowly, but it happens).

When I still lived in Moab – population: 7,000; population of decent looking, available women who actually shave their legs and armpits and shower at least once a week: 4 – I became single after dating a woman for almost two years. At which point the fore mentioned population of dateable women dropped to 3. I figured coming to Cache Valley, the site of Utah State University’s main campus and therefore the home of literally thousands of single women, would be the answer to my most prevailing prayer: God? Can I please, please, please get married and start doing this life thing? For real this time? I think I might have been wrong. Originally I thought the dating pool I would be swimming in would be an Olympic-size pristine pool of pixies and princesses all daintily fighting over my every whimsical consideration. I thought that I could approach this area with a Byronesque caprice that would know no falter. Poof! Then my little cloud exploded, mushroomed and left me scorched – sitting atop a heap of ashes that barely resembles the foolish, boyish dreams I once had.

This is the breakdown: not only am I surrounded by 18 to 21-year-old women who want to do nothing more than text and/or make out with the dumbest, fakest toolboxes (also within the same age bracket), but I am surrounded by said dumbest, fakest toolboxes – thus creating unwanted competition. They are the “dirty rotten” to my “scoundrel” – the “dumb” to my “dumber” – the “Glee” to my “Fame.” Their bees knees are fit, in shape and can run 5K without thinking twice about it. My bees knees are arthritic, in need of glucosamine, and snap, crackle and pop every time they squat. This is a pretty bitter attitude that I have, I admit. You probably think I am not exuding the qualities of a good, church-going, changed man. Maybe you’re right. Maybe I’m sick of being single.

For a few months I tried my damnedest to show a particular woman how much she meant to me by showing her how much I could mean to her. Basically what I ended up showing her was how much of an idiot I can be. First of all, she didn’t care for a second about who I am. Second of all, she already thinks she knows enough about me to know that I’m worthless. Third of all, I have to stop thinking people a decade younger than me are in any way compatible with somebody my age. Apples and oranges don’t grow on the same trees. They might make it into the same basket that sits on the counter-top, but that kind of artificial selection… ugh, it’s getting late.

The bottom line is: Eventually I’m going to find somebody who has the patience, intelligence and overall magnitude of character that it will take to be able to put up with, appreciate and love… me. I don’t, by any means, need somebody who is perfect, I just need somebody who thinks I’m perfect for her. In the meantime, I have something to say for all of the women I come into contact with between now and the end of time. Get over yourselves. Just because I talk to you doesn’t mean I like you, want to date you, or, especially, want to marry you. Usually if I talk to you, it’s because I feel bad for you. I get sick of hearing women talking about guys freaking them out. I’ll give you some advice. Quit watching Lifetime movies. Just because a guy says something to you doesn’t mean he’s going to start stalking you or drown you in a pool in Beverly Hills and then hide your body in your lesbian sister’s linen closet while she’s on vacation. Don’t get me wrong, some guys will do stuff like this; most guys are just out there trying to get to know as many women as they can so eventually they can figure out who they can actually have a real conversation with and who can’t get beyond the 26 letters of the alphabet without feeling “awkward” or “weird.”

If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. Eventually I’ll find a fantastic person whom I will respect and love and not have to explain myself to, and when I do, please don’t pinch me. For all of you who I’ve offended – good. The rest of you know I’m mostly just kidding. So with a big smile I say to you, “good night.”

Baskin Robbins Has My Number!

In a few days it will officially be summertime. In fewer days it will be Fathers Day; and the day before that it will be my 31st birthday. What does this mean? Simply – it means that I am quantifiably one year older than I was a year ago. It means that now I can make commentary regarding my “thirties.” I remember, growing up, there was a television show on during prime time called “Thirty Something.” I have no idea what it was about, I just remember seeing a white guy with a red beard in the previews. I probably wasn’t allowed to watch it. Enough about outdated network television programs. I’m turning 31.

Regarding that commentary about my “thirties,” I definitely have a lot of hope and aspirations for my thirties. My twenties were spent philandering and partying, playing and punting, forgetting and, uh…forgetting. Now it’s time to do a whole lot of stuff worth remembering. This will be my second summer living in the beautiful Cache Valley, Utah. I can surely assert that the nine months of winter is definitely worth the awesomeness that one can experience here when the snow finally thaws. Well, at least most of the snow – the mountain peaks are all still covered. In fact, I think I just saw it snowing on the peaks of the Wellsvilles a few minutes ago. Flowers are in bloom, birds are running across the street and flying in front of my Jeep while I’m driving, homeowners are riding their mowers around in their lawns and my eyes and nose are itching every now and then from allergies. Allergies aside, I love it here. Every year that goes by, I can honestly say with hope, I am actually slowly but surely getting just a little bit better at this whole life thing. It shows it my surroundings.

For those of you who are older saying, “Ha! Thirty-one, you’re still a pup,” I want to let you know one thing: I’m thumbing my nose at you and saying, “Ha!” right back at you. For those of you who are in your twenties and think 30 is so old, I’ll let you know another thing: Pshhh! I’m just getting started.

Shula’s Steak House? I don’t know, maybe.

Disclaimer: After posting the initial draft of this blog, I received a procedural follow-up call from a representative of Shula’s Steak House that regarded my dining experience. I explained my concerns with the experience and then received a second phone call from the manager. He was very sincere as he responded to my remarks and offered to send a gift certificate as a gesture of good will. I will leave this review up but must say that I am confident Shula’s staff aims to please and will do their best to make up for last night’s unfortunate events.

I have eaten at enough “nice” restaurants and dropped enough quid on expensive dinners and their respective settings to feel justified in writing the occasional review on a dinner experience every now and then. If you include my 11 years of restaurant experience that spans across 23 restaurants and includes just about any position you can think of from server to cook to host to dishwasher, I would say I know the business.

Ultimately, none of this matters regarding the words I am about to say about my experience last night at Shula’s Steak House at the Promenade Shops in Center Valley, Pa. Why doesn’t it matter? Because when I go out to the Gyro Company and spend $14 on a Zeus – a double-length gyro with French fries on it and a giant mess of tzatziki sauce – I don’t expect mindblowingly excellent service. When I go to a supposedly well-renowned steak house with an important date and drop over $200 I want service with a smile that you can’t tell is faked.

Last night was the first time I had ever been to any of the Shula restaurants (there are at least five that come up when you Google the name). Upon entering Shula’s Steak House and being seated at our table, we were asked if it was our first time and then told that it is a restaurant themed on the 1972 perfect season of the Miami Dolphins who were coached by Don Shula. We were told that two people were going to be “taking care” of us and then it was explained to us that the football on our table was the steak menu. As I struggled to hear my own thoughts – we were seated next to a boisterous party of eight or so who were not afraid to get drunk and loud in a “nice” restaurant – I tried to hear the mellow drone of one of our server’s memorized, verbatim rundowns of the wine and martini menus. I kept telling myself not to worry about the noise. I should have just said something, but then again, I didn’t want to give the impression I was an imbecile. It already seemed like the waitstaff was judging us.

Before I go on I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not a hard customer to please. Quite the contrary, I am easily pacified when you treat me like somebody who is going to spend a couple hundred bucks in your restaurant.

The most redeeming part of eating at Shula’s Steak House was the food. The menu is filled with expensive a la carte cuts of beef and an extensive selection of seafood that includes at least four preparations of lobster. I’m not sure if our servers were too preoccupied with the large party that was next to us, or if they just assumed that my date and I were too low-class to care about, but I wasn’t given the impression that we mattered. The funniest thing is we both usually tip about 30 percent when the service is worth it.

The steaks were cooked to perfection, the tomato and fresh mozzarella chopped salad and lobster mashed potatoes were great, the asparagus with balsamic reduction drizzle were undercooked but good, and the molten chocolate cake was the best I’ve had – and I’ve had several. I would have completely enjoyed my experience if it wasn’t for my laundry list of complaints about the service and setting. Allow me to share a few:

The back of my chair, which was in a high-traffic area, was bumped seven or so times by a variety of restaurant employees. Not once did anybody stop to apologize.

At one point a linen napkin was dropped on the floor and I warned our server as she walked by it not to slip on it. She acknowledged, said she knew it was there and then walked by it three times.

Our table must have been in the part of the restaurant that is also the easy-to-forget-about section. I say this for two reasons – 1) our two servers seemed to forget about us at least once and 2) trayjacks and trays filled with dirty dishes perpetually adorned my line of sight. I. Cannot. Stand. Looking. At. Dirty. Dishes. While I’m eating. Don’t just pretend you work in a fine-dining establishment, WORK in a fine-dining establishment. We were constantly reminded that the large party next to us was spending more money than we were due to the fact that their refuse was left sitting all around us (behind us, in front of us, and to our sides).

There seemed to be little regard for the fact that I wanted to eat with the proper utensils for each course. My lobster cocktail was not served with a cocktail fork, so I was left to use my dinner fork. I don’t know if they usually serve shellfish without cocktail forks, but either way, what was I supposed to do about the shortage of forks? There was no subsequent replacement to make up for the fact that I used my dinner fork. I also realized that the table next to us was offered a rendition of a finger bowl – a wrapped lemon, a warm towel and some water on a plate. I, however, apparently did not deserve such a lavish accoutrement.

I could probably continue to trash the service we received last night, but I’m tired. I laid awake last night thinking of how irritated I was by being treated like a low-class Neanderthal. You may think I’m a snob for being so upset by bad service. The problem is not that I think I am upper-crusty, I just don’t have the kind of money it takes to drop over $200 on bad service and not blink an eye over it. Beside our detached servers, the rest of the staff at Shula’s were hospitable and seemed to at least care enough to talk to us when we were within their “bubbles.” Overall, I give Shula’s a 10 for food and a two for service and atmosphere. Do I feel like I got ripped off? Yes!