Eating my World

Just another weblog


In October of 2009 I was working in Israel for the first time. While at work I overheard people talking about visiting Petra as a weekend trip. I enquired how everyone was doing this. They all said that you have to book a tour. As tours aren’t generally how I like to travel, I asked if anyone had tried to just go it on their own. There were comments that no one knew how that might be accomplished and lots of comments about safety. Safety shmafety. I got back to my hotel and googled “seeing petra without a tour”. There were a few people that described the process and it seemed doable to me, and as I didn’t get the gene that makes people afraid of the unknown, I decided to embark on the trip on my own. So I booked a trip from Ede Dov airport in Tel Aviv. They are a smaller regional airport that services Elat Israel which is where I would need to start the trip. As I had only brought my large suitcase to Israel I borrowed a backpack from a friend in Israel. The backpack was his sons bag that he used while in the military. Why does that matter? You’ll see.

                I arrived at the airport on a Friday afternoon and entered the airport as you would any other. Except this is Israel and to say security is strict here is the understatement of the century. I walked up to the counter and the questioning began. “Where are you going? Why? Who booked your trip? Why? Is that your bag?” etc. I was answering all the questions to their satisfaction until the bag question. “Is this your bag?” Me, “Yes”. They look at the bag and see the name Goldrich, clearly not my name. The lady says, “Why does it say Goldrich?” My first thought was that I was finally going to get the cavity search I had always dreamed about. Close. I explained that it was the bag I was using and that it was a friend’s bag he had loaned me for the trip. She made a phone call and two armed guards arrived and said “Come with us please”. Sweet, hopefully they have lube. They take me out of the terminal and to a building out back. I was asked to sit outside while they rooted through “my” bag. After a while they asked me to come inside and to take off all my clothes except for my underwear. They gave me a metal detection once over and then said to get dressed and go back outside, which I did. A few minutes later they come outside with my laptop and asked if this was my laptop. Yes, it’s my laptop. “Then where is the charging cord?” they asked. “It better be in that bag you are searching through, because I packed it”. They went back inside and searched more and found it. Then they called me back in and asked me to strip again. Same drill, metal detection etc. I go back outside and sit. After a few minutes they come out with my electric shaver. They ask, “Is this yours?” Yes. “Are you the only one that uses it?” Yes. “You cannot take it with you” I ask why, they say “Because it is not allowed, you may pick it up on your way back”. My way back? The plane has already left. I have missed it at this point and I tell them so. No they say, they are holding the plane for me. At this point they escort me out to the airplane. I am not allowed to carry my bag and I am told not to get out of my seat for the duration of the flight.      

                I arrived in Elat 30 minutes later without further incident. I retrieved my bag (less the shaver) and walk out of the airport completely clueless about what to do next. A cab driver leaning on his car said, “You need help?” I said “Yeah I want to go to Petra, any idea how I do that?” He responds, “Sure, I will take you to the border, you will cross into Jordan and get a cab to Petra”. Perfect. He drives me to the border which Jordan which is mostly deserted except for military. I go to the exit window, some pleasantries are exchanged and they ask what I am doing, I tell them and they tell me what to do. You have to walk across the zone which is a ¼ mile of demilitarization zone. There are military on each side pointing guns at each other and I had to walk between them. I finally get to the Jordan side and with nothing in English I walk up to the window and hand them my passport. The guy stamps it, asks for some money and then I go to the next window and do more stuff. When I am done, I head for the gate (picture a crappy old chain link gate, yeah, that is what gets you into Jordan), a big Arab reaches for my passport and then literally starts yelling at me. My Arabic isn’t what it should have been for this type of encounter so I gave him my WTF are you wanting me to do face. He points to the windows and I realize I have forgotten one of them. After going back getting another mystery stamp and back to the gate where I am now allowed in.

                Let me set the scene. There is nothing in front of me except for a small dirt parking area with a bunch of run down cars and about 10 Arab guys in the Tunic thing they wear, which are all chatting. One guy breaks off and comes over to me, “Where do you want to go?” he says. “Petra, how do I get there?”. He says, “I can take you for $100”. I had already done some research and found that the going price was $75ish. I barter, and eventually we settle on $75 for a round trip ride. He walks back to the guys and words are exchanged and almost immediately they are all screaming at each other with many of them pointing at me. I’d be lying if I didn’t have second thoughts about my life choices at this point, but I’m not quitter so I stand there waiting. Soon the fight trails off and my guy comes back and says, “OK I take you”. My guess is he underbid the job and no one else was willing to do his cheap work. So we get in his car and head off. We haven’t driven far when I see a piece of crap car on the side of the road and we are pulling up behind it. Oh so this is where I will die, I say to myself. My driver says, “This guy will take you to Petra”. I am told to get out and get in the other car. Sure, why not, I mean this adventure isn’t sketchy enough. I get in the other guy and it’s a younger guy driving, seems friendly, says “Hi” which is 100% of his English language repertoire. That’s ok I don’t even know hi in Arabic. Off we go into the desert. It’s about a 3 hour drive. I had told the first driver that I needed to be taken to a hotel as I hadn’t booked one and as we arrive in the city of Petra my driver pulls up to a super sketchy motel. He points to it and stops. I think AH HELL NAW. We go inside and I think, nope. Not going to happen. They try to book me a room and I try to tell them in the most polite way, hell no. The desk guy screams at my driver (Im suspecting because he wasted his time) and we get back in the car. He tries to pull up to another sketchy place and I say “No, I need pool, 5 star, do you know 5 star?” He nods and off we go. He pulls up to a super nice place and I thank him. I try to ask where he will pick me up on Sunday, which starts off the worst game of charades you’ve ever seen. He says noon and I points to a spot. I am skeptical that I will ever see this kid again.

                I book myself a room in the Movenpick, drop off my stuff and head for Petra which is actually a bit of a walk to get to. Its 100 degrees and I get a ticket, some water and head out. Petra is everything the photos show. It’s unbelievable. It’s also how a bunch of poor people make their living and you are bombarded by people trying to sell you horse or donkey or camel rides. It’s nonstop. I spend the rest of the day wandering the ruins and return to my hotel in time for dinner. When I was researching Petra, I came across a post that said, “If you really want to see something cool, get up before light and walk into Petra in the dark and sit and watch the sun come up over the Treasury building”. I decide I am definitely doing this. The next morning my alarm goes off at 4am and I get up and start walking. Let me just tell you how unbelievably spooky walking into Petra in the dark is, but I get to the treasury and get to watch the sun come over the hill and hit the building. It’s easily one of the top 3 incredible moments of my life. I continue walking into the ruins and as I am walking, a woman with a child on a donkey comes riding towards me, as they pass I lift my camera as the child reaches out to me and click the shutter. It’s the best photo I have ever captured for lots of reasons, mostly because it feels like it captures the magic of the moment.

                The next day I check out of the hotel and start to prepare myself for trying to figure how to get back to the border as I am certain my ride isn’t coming back for me. But as I exit the hotel, there he is, right where he said he would be. Amazing. I get in the car and off we go. As we exit the town we stop at one of the many military checkpoints. I say military but really it’s just a bunch of guys with Kalashnikovs. I am in the front seat with the driver and he pulls up and rolls down his window and takes off his sunglasses. I sense a bit of seriousness and tension. A guy with an AK comes to the window and starts talking. He continually points to me. After some time another guy with an AK comes over to the car and gets in the back seat.  To say I have some concern about this is also an understatement. This seems really bad. Off we go with Mr AK in the back. While we drive I construct a plan that if I get poked with the AK, I am grabbing the steering wheel and we are going to cartwheel down the highway at 80mph. I’m not going out without a fight. But after an hour or so we pull up at a small town and stop. The guy gets out of the back seat, says thanks and walks off. All that worry for nothing. We were just giving the guy a ride. We make it back to the border without incident and I get back into Israel and get a cab back to the airport. Security is a disaster again, so much so that I have to give them my Israeli friends phone number to call to get them off my butt. They call and then immediately let me go without future questioning.

                I arrive back at the small airport and they are waiting with my shaver (Im not kidding). It has a receipt on it that says “Shever”. I still have the receipt somewhere. I go back to work the next day and tell people of my adventure. They all agree that I am insane. I disagree. It was a fantastic adventure and a few years later, I was able to take Rena back with me. As I had already done the whole thing, I knew exactly what to do and it went off without a hitch. Rena loved it and loved the adventure just like I did.

My Quest for a Gold 64 GB iPhone 6 Plus


Let me just start by saying, I want to give Verizon and Apple a big chunk of money, I really really do. This however has proved problematic if not impossible as of 8:45am on November 5th 2014.

This story starts on October 1st, when I wandered into the Snohomish Verizon store and ordered an iPhone 6 Plus. I only went there because these particular crafty lads promised me they had a work around that would allow me to keep my coveted unlimited data.

It would have been great if they had phones in stock. After all I watched Tim Cook on my computer tell me that the iPhone 6 Plus would be available for purchase on September 19th. But what he meant to say is that there are about 12 phones available on that day, which will be divided evenly between 424 Apple stores, 2330 Verizon stores and 2200 AT&T stores. No other stores will see iPhones this year. But hey why not lie and get everyone all jacked up excited to get a new phone that is harder to obtain than yellow cake uranium.

I ask the young lad in the store if he has any iPhone 6 Plus phones in stock, he replies “Let me check”, then he walked to the back of the store. My heart raced, maybe the rumors of no phones anywhere in the western hemisphere were wrong, maybe Snohomish had the inside track. I would imagine that what happened next is he wandered to the back where another employee fresh out of high school was tilted back in his chair playing some game on his phone. He looks up to the worker entering the backroom, “Another idiot whining for an iPhone?” “yep” my guy replies. Then they have a laugh. My guy asks the other what his high score is, “98337739” he replies, “dude that is tight”. Kids talk in terms that we adults use for how clothes fit. It’s confusing.

My guy wanders back to me, now blue from holding my breath, “No sorry we don’t have any left”. What he should have said was, “No we never had any, it’s unlikely we will ever get any, and if we do get some, you can bet you could have made your own out of shit you scavenged out of leftover motorhome parts in less time”. After all the little kids in China do a fine job of building electronics for 8 cents a month, but they aren’t doing it fast. Next the salesman wants to debate the usage on my account. He said “Who is this person on your account that is going nuts on the data?” I say “Oh that is my girlfriends daughter” He said “Dude she is way over her allotment every month and is paying mad overage fees”. “She’s mad at who?” I respond. “Dude, not mad, PAYING MAD overage fees”. I tell him that sentence makes no sense. He asks what she is doing to run up so much data. I lie and tell him that she is in college and is addicted to pictures of hairless cats, that she literally downloads tens of thousands of cat pictures every month. “Dude seriously?” “Serious, uh dude, tight or… something”, I respond.

My guy hands me a stack of papers resembling a home purchase contract and tells me my phone will arrive on October 22nd.

On October 21st I tell everyone at work that tomorrow is the day that I get my sweet shiny new Gold 64 gigabyte iPhone 6 plus. Everyone is excited for me. They gather around me and pat me on the back and tell me how much they admire me, at one point lifting me on their shoulders and walking through the office chanting, “Cary is awesome, he’s getting an iPhone 6 plus!” I am embarrassed but happy for the recognition. I even get an email from my senior manager asking if he might see my new phone when I get it, I promise him that he can. I can’t sleep on this night. I get up and sneak to the bathroom with my iPad to look at pictures of my new phone on It’s beautiful and I am giddy for its arrival.

October 22nd comes and I am so excited. I know that the shipment may not arrive until the afternoon so I fight the urge to call them until about 3:30pm. At 3:31 I call, “Hello this is Cary Cleland, I ordered a phone and it’s supposed to be there today, can I come in and get it?” “Uh who?” the guy on the phone says. “CARY CLELAND, I ORDERE….” “Sir we didn’t get any phones in today. Your phone is not here”.

Wait, what?

Of course I ask when it WILL be in. The kid responds, “I don’t know dude, probably a couple days. We will call you”. Ok that was super disappointing, but hey a couple more days shouldn’t kill me. I let 3 days go by before calling again. Same scenario, “Hello, this is Cary Cleland…..” Kid cuts me off and responds “no phones have come in yet. They will probably be in next week”. I say “probably?”. He says, “yeah probably”. I hang up. I let another 5 days go by before repeating the aforementioned phone game. Same deal. Only this time I add, “So level with me, is my phone ever coming? Is there really such a thing as an iPhone 6 Plus?” He assures me it will and there is and says maybe another week. Tight.

Apple wanting to create more desire and desperation for their product, at the same time they tease people with the release of the iPhone 6 Plus that no one can obtain, they also release a version of IOS that renders my iPhone 4s almost unusable. It’s painfully slow, nothing works like it once did. From the second I “upgrade” to IOS 8, my phone is a constant reminder of the phone I will never own. I try using it for simple tasks and it sits there doing nothing. It may as well be screaming at me “HAHAHAHAHA YOU STUPID ASS, YOU HAVE NO 6 PLUS! HOW TIGHT IS THAT!?” Very tight indeed.

November 3rd I start to lose my mind and I call the Verizon store again. This is the date at which the frustration level of the employees at the Verizon store matches my frustration level at being told over and over, a few more days, a few more days. The kid tells me that they have in fact received a large shipment of phones and that they reside in many boxes in the back room. However he states “We are really busy so I really don’t have time to see if your phone is one of the ones that arrived”. At this point, I drove straight to the store and smashed him in the face with my iPhone 4s, rendering him unrecognizable. Actually that last part just happened in my head. I say to the kid “You mean to tell me that I have been waiting for 2 and ¼ fortnights for my phone and it’s very likely that it’s sitting within your reach, and you don’t have the time to check to see if my phone is one of ones you received?” I say this in the tone that says “I am driving to the store at this very second to smash you in the face with my iPhone 4s rendering you unrecognizable, your life is in peril as we speak and you should immediately rethink your being too busy. He in fact reads my tone correctly which is unusual given his age, and says “Hold on I will go look”. He comes back and says “sorry your phone isn’t one of the ones that arrived. We got some gold 64 gig Pluses but none are yours”. I say “Of the ones you received are any of them for people that ordered their phone AFTER me”, he says “No but if one of them don’t pick theirs up, you can have it, I will call you”, Not tight, I hang up.

But of course now I am hot as a hornet. (How to Write Blogs for Idiots, “Always find room to throw in one old timey saying, it keeps the old people engaged in your topic. Done and done!) The next day I call the corporate Verizon number and sit on hold for 894 hours until I am able to talk with a representative. My call was in fact recorded for quality purposes. What they should have recorded is the 894 hours of Verizon blather I had to endure while waiting, then play that recording in the call center on the loud speaker at 189 decibels. Doing this would fill the help people in the call center with seething rage so that when they finally answer my call, they can appreciate my current mental state.

I get a nice girl that seems to appreciate my frustration and takes the Verizon pledge to make my day a little brighter, which I hope entails getting me a damned phone. (How to Write Blogs for Idiots states “Try to refrain from dropping the F bomb or the capital G word, old people have a very low tolerance for these)

At this point in the call I would imagine that there is a large red decision button on my help girls computer, when pressed it says either,  “see if you can get customer so mad that he has a heart attack and dies right on the phone” or “Give the customer a phone ASAP”. She pressed it and it says the former. She says to me, “Uh it says here that your order was canceled a week ago”. Have you ever been filled with furious rage on the phone while at work around people? I am screaming in a whisper “are you kidding me! I didn’t cancel anything! I am going to whisper something to you young lady, if I don’t get a damned iPhone 6 Plus in Gold with 64 gigabytes of internal storage soon, I swear to almighty heaven, I will go to at&t today and switch carriers!” She responds “Uh sir, I can’t hear you”.

She puts me on hold and goes to do research into why my order was canceled. She comes back with no answers. She informs me that she consulted with her manager and neither of them could solve the mystery. Long story short she put me on some jump the line thing where I am put to the front of all Verizon lines for a phone. Great, but while she is speaking I am following my daily routine of checking the Apple website to see if the Alderwood Apple store has any phones. In the same vain as talking snakes and parting of seas, a miracle happens and there are phones at the Apple store. I tell my helper girl of my discovery and that I am just going to go get one from Apple. She tells me that she will keep my order active until I get to Apple, if they have phones, I can call and cancel my Verizon order.

When I get off work, I am filled with nervous anticipation. I pick up Rena and ask if we can stop at Apple on the way home. She sees the glimmer of hope in my eyes and concedes. We get to Apple and as I walk through the door the lovely helper greeter girl asks me what I am seeking. I say “A gold iPhone 6 Plus with 64 gigabytes of internal storage!” much like the little kid in Christmas story. She says “OK we have one and I am going to put your name on it so that when it’s your turn you won’t lose your phone”. Those were the sweetest sounding words I had ever heard.

Right then my phone rings. It’s Verizon helper girl, she says “Cary we have a problem!” I say “No we don’t, I am at the Apple store and I have a phone with my name on it” She says “Great I can cancel your order, but the Snohomish store just ordered you another phone. It appears they saw that your order had been canceled and reordered your phone. However because I had already ordered you one and you can only have one phone with the discount, they charged you full price ($900 and change), as soon as you get your new phone, call that store and tell them to cancel your order”. OK Deal.

Finally it’s my turn and a fine older gentleman Gene, walks up and says “You are next and I understand you are getting a 6 Plus?” I respond “YES! A gold iPhone 6 Plus with 64 gigabytes of internal storage!”  He says “one second, let me grab it”. He returns seconds later holding a box on a red velvet pillow. There are angels singing, and the world is a little brighter. A baby bunny runs under my feet while a small fawn smiles from across the room. Everyone in the store turns to face me and applauds approvingly. Gene then starts the adoption process, name address, blah blah blah. Then comes the last button, ACCEPT. He says “Would you like to press it?”. I tell him I do and I did. The screen says “Approval in 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, DENIED.

Wait what?

He says “Oh that is strange, let’s try it again”. We do and in 3, 2, 1, DENIED. I look up, the room is dark, I can barely make out the box that holds my precious. Something ominous catches my eye. It’s Satan sitting across the room, grinning his smug evil grin, I notice the bunny dead at his feet. Gene says that he will call Verizon to figure out what is wrong. He is on hold for hours upon hours, finally when he gets through, he explains the circumstances to the Verizon person on the phone. He argues the facts but after a lively debate he hangs up. “They don’t know what is wrong”. He says “I have an idea” and walks to the back room, I see Satan’s face fading. I flip him the bird and snottily tell him “I am getting a damned phone, whether you like it or not”. He stares blankly at me.

Gene returns with a different box. He said that sometimes they get an odd phone that won’t register. He is sure this is the case, and this next phone should work… We perform the steps and……………………………… DENIED.  Damn you Satan…

I leave the store after being there for two hours, unable to buy a phone. UNABLE TO BUY A PHONE. Excuse me, I thought I lived in AMERICA where when I want a thing, I can go GET a thing any damned time I want. Apparently not true if the thing is an iPhone 6 Plus.

So here I sit, on November 5th 2014, 35 days since I first ordered my phone. It seems like so long ago that I sat in front of my computer with dreams of a new phone. Watching as Tim detailed it’s every glorious feature. The greatest phone in all of the land, and not just any phone, A gold iPhone 6 Plus with 64 gigabytes of internal storage. A phone that I am sure I will never be privileged enough to own. If all this weren’t bad enough, my brother Thayne got one of the 1st 12 phones. He calls me everyday to ask if I got mine yet. Yesterday he called after I had left the Apple store to ask if I had gotten it. I didn’t answer, instead I drove to his house and smashed him in the face with my iPhone 4s rendering him unrecognizable and then stole his. Tight.

Seattle to Portland 2014

Us What people normally give you when you tell them you are going to ride 204 miles in near 100 degree heat is a blank stare that screams simply, why, for the love of god why? Of course I have no answer. I’ve done it before, in 2010 I believe.  I was terrified as I had never done anything like it before. I remembered knowing I had not trained hard enough or long enough to finish 204 miles. Not sure having it done it before and being successful was helpful this time around or if it makes it worse. I remember it being fun for 100 miles, terrible for the next 50 and the last 50 were spent mumbling like a crazy person to just keep pedaling and ignore that my body is slowing dying. This time I actually feel like I am stronger, however I think Rena was where I was last time. Wondering if she could really do it, wondering if she had trained hard enough for long enough.

The prep this time around was much more involved. I had years to obtain all the things that were needed for the trip. Rena had months. Accessories for the bike, lights, computer, bottles etc. We had to get Rena completely geared up.  Then of course there is the nutrition part. Apparently riding 204 miles in the heat requires special consideration. My body is not accustomed to such extreme situations and it requires extra STUFF not to die. We settled on electrolyte pills which seemed easier to swallow (pun intended) than the tabs that you put in your water which give you the chemicals you need to live but also have the added benefit of making your water taste like stale salinated duck pond water. We also would have a mix of a thick liquid which has the purpose of giving your muscles all the things they need like protein, things, other things and yet more things. It’s creamsicle flavor which I am not sure is meant to be funny or not as it tastes less like creamsicle and more like Satan’s armpits on a hot summer Thursday afternoon. I was told that mixing the armpit drink at 6 times the amount used in an hour gives you a thick pancake batter like sludge that you can take a pull off of every 30 minutes instead of a full bottle an hour. It’s a trade off, what’s worse, 20 oz of nastiness per hour or 2 oz of sludge every half hour? We chose sludge out of mere convenience.

With supplies obtained and loaded into the motorhome, water, energy bars (both with and sans gluten), other food stuffs etc. We have coerced Adam and my favorite sons girlfriend Bri into driving the sag wagon. I’ve been calling it shag wagon but I believe I may have been confusing its purpose. They are to follow us and stop at predetermined locations so that we might supply up and try to eat. As a side note, our bodies have this really cool mechanism that works like this. When it thinks you are dying because you are riding 204 miles in volcano like heat, and in spite of the fact you need truckloads of calories to live, it decides that anything you put in your mouth will make you sick. Your body creates a punch in the gut like feeling with every bite you take. SUPER!

It’s been decided that we must “roll” at 3am, but the week before I start checking the weather forecast and because Jesus hates cyclists, we start to watch the weather prediction climb with each advancing day. Ten days out, it says 65 degrees and overcast and dry with a large smiley face that says “I LOVE YOU CARY”. Then each day thereafter the smiley fades and what appears in its place is a giant middle finger with the temperatures climbing into the hell-o-sphere, which is awesome. It’s determined that 3am will not work with the updated temperature forecast so it’s decided that we will roll at 2am. Swirl that delicious statement around in your mouth awhile. Mmmmm…. 2 A M. YUMMY. The alarm goes off at 11:30pm the night before to give us time to regret having to eat a giant breakfast, which is also required for this ride. Someday go to bed at 3pm and set your alarm for 11:30pm, get up, eat a giant breakfast of things you don’t normally eat, just to see how well your body responds to it. Spoiler alert, it’s screams “KEEP IT UP MISTER AND I AM GOING TO PUKE THIS RIGHT BACK UP!”

We leave the house after loading up the truck with everything we will need for the first 100 miles as that is the first place we will meet Adam and the sag wagon. We are to meet at the Husky Stadium parking lot, which we do. There is lots of nervous anticipation and I feel a little sick. After quite a bit of getting everything loaded in our jerseys and bikes, a group picture is taken and we are off. Of course it’s dark and there are very few people on the road other than the partiers ending their nights. It takes all of about 100 yards for me to drop a chain and put my derailleur into my spokes due to an error in shifting. It’s early and I am not making good decisions. We get it straightened out but it winds up not working right for the rest of the day. I have recently upgraded all my components on my bike to good stuff, really good stuff which I have never had. When I had my crappy old components, one handy benefit was them shifting themselves all the time. When I got my new stuff, I was so happy to have components that shifted properly and not by themselves. When I screwed up my new stuff right off the bat, the result is that it now constantly shifted by itself. The irony was not lost on me, even at 3:00am.

The first 100 miles are uneventful except for Rena entertaining us all at a potty stop with not getting her feet unclipped in time and doing the slow fall that has happened to every person that has ever used clipless pedals (for the record, clip in pedals are called, obviously… clipless pedals) has done many times. Also we experience a brief moment of absolute terror. One of the risks of drafting when cycling is that your wheel can overlap the wheel in front of you. It’s not an issue if you happen to be leaning to the side that allows your tire to come off theirs. If you are leaning to the side that pushes your tire harder into theirs, hang on, you are going down and probably everyone right behind you too. I don’t remember what the exact circumstance was but I overlap the wheel in front of me, and I am going down, I hit the brakes which is a 6 of one, half a dozen of another situation as hitting your brakes is going to cause the rider behind you to overlap your wheel and then they are in the same spot you were in .005 seconds before. I really didn’t mean to hit the brakes, it’s just reflex. In .007th of a second, I have overlapped the wheel, screamed, hit the brakes, Dean screams and in some rare miracle we don’t crash. It does cause all of us to go into cardiac arrest though. If you haven’t had the opportunity to experience that for yourself, you can’t understand how terrifying this situation is. From there, Rena and I wind up slightly ahead of the group as we get to Centralia which is at the 100 mile mark. We arrive at the motorhome with Adam and Bri waiting for us. Up to this point, it has not been hot. We’ve really lucked out, the first  7 hours went like the first time I did this. They were fairly easy and Rena tells me that I was right, that it really was easier than she anticipated. But as we roll up on the motorhome it’s like someone turned up the heat and I knew, this is where the work was really going to begin. After force feeding ourselves and making more sludge, we roll.

Dean’s mate Lori, one of our foursome has decided that 100 miles is enough. She was feeling pain from old injuries which was making life miserable for her, so we roll from Centralia as a threesome. From the second we roll I feel terrible. No energy, it’s hot as hell and I know I am in for a rough second 100 miles. After 5 miles of flat hot farmland we get to a monster hill. It looks like the Bataan death march. Unlike the first 100, there is no talking, no happy excited faces. All the groups that flew by us in the first 100 are experiencing the same hell as everyone else. It was a REALLY REALLY hot and long grind. You can taste misery in the air. Rena had to stop to breathe in the middle of it but as I rolled to the top of the hill, Rena had made up ground and was right behind me. The top of the hill looked like a battle zone. Riders everywhere dumping water on their heads and drinking. Water bottles are being refilled at the park luckily located at the top of the hill. We finally roll from there. It gets no better and no cooler. Quite the opposite. It starts getting hot. No shade, sun beating down on black asphalt hot. Overheating engine in the middle of Death Valley in August hot.

We make it to Vader and it’s getting unbearable. There are a couple hundred people making the small store owners very happy as they sell every available drink in the small store. I watch the lady bring out the last case of water. I buy 4 bottles, two for each of us to drink and two to dump over our jerseys. We leave our bit of shade sitting at the store for a few short minutes and have to deal with a hill right from the start. It’s a good climb to where you have to turn right and Rena is hurting. Someone rolls by me and they tell me, they think my partner has stopped for a break. I wait at the top of the hill in the sun. I think to myself, I’m being cooked. Slow roasted, self basting with a salty stinky liquid. I am going to be delicious soon. Rena rolls up, I tell her she is going to get a short break as we have a downhill section. We settle into a grind. Rena and I are not breaking speed records and Dean gets ahead of us. I pull, Rena has her head down pedaling. There is no talking, only heavy breathing. Crash site At exactly this place, 5.5 miles since we left our shade and drinks, the worst thing happens. In the space of about 1 second, I hear the tell tale horrific sound of Rena’s tire overlap mine and almost immediately hear a scream that means she is going down. Rena is new at riding, I know in the space of that second, that she doesn’t have the experience that is going to get her out of this unscathed. I am unclipping my pedals even as I am realizing what has happened. I am completely stopped within feet and turn around to see her crumpled on the ground, bike on top of her. Someone else has already gotten stopped and is telling her to lay still. It’s a horrible helpless feeling but I know instantly our day is over. She isn’t going to shake this one off. I’m scared inside, I want to throw up. Rena is the nurse and knows what to do at times like this. I am comedic relief, I don’t do trauma. Rena has had the wind knocked out of her and she is in a bit of shock. She has hit the guardrail and hurts everywhere and it’s determined immediately that we are headed to the nearest hospital. Luckily for us, Adam is fairly close and I am able to call him to come get us. We are being helped by one of the Honda Goldwing group that rides the route and offers help to people that need it. I sadly load up the bikes. I didn’t want the day to end like this. It was really hot and I am unsure if we would have made it, but it will be hard to not ever know. Adam drives us to the hospital and Dean decides to finish on his own. Rena has avoided serious injury, just lots of bruises.Rena bed   We leave the hospital after a couple hours and drive to Portland to meet Dean. It’s a long disappointing ride. When we get to Portland it’s 100 degrees and we go to the park where the riders complete the ride. It’s a giant party and I feel like I have a sign on my head that says “DID NOT FINISH”. Everywhere people are celebrating their accomplishment. We are just grateful Rena is in one piece but it’s still disappointing. After a while we decide we should go line up to watch for Dean. The race organizers have set up an impressive finish line for the riders to ride through as they finish. They are announcing every rider as they finish, the loud speaker blasts “204 MILES YOU HAVE DONE IT!!!” I look over at Rena, she has tears in her eyes. She worked really hard to accomplish this, and yet it was not to be. She thanked me for not finishing without her. I tell her this was always an “I go we go” (her favorite saying). I said well maybe next year. Of course that is like telling a mom minutes after giving birth, hey lets have another one soon! You need time for the pain and horribleness of this one to fade. I told her by next February, you will start thinking, “yeah, that really wasn’t all that bad, lets try again!”  At 9:45pm Dean rolled through the finish line. It was his slowest time ever. We walked up to him and my first thought was that we probably need to take him to the hospital. He looked terrible, pale and wet. He wasn’t making much sense. After some time and a coke injection of sugar he was back to normal. He said  that this was the hardest one he has ever done and he has done many. It was an adventure for sure. I just wished we could have finished the race either at 204 miles or sooner on our own terms.  Maybe next year. Better times

The Fattest Guy in Israel

I have often been heard to say in my most self deprecating way, that when I am in Israel, I am the fattest guy here.  OK that is not totally true, why just today I saw a guy who clearly outweighed me. OK maybe not completely outweighed me, but for his height, he was more round than I. Oh and he was about 70 years old, and clearly not Israeli. OK so what I am trying to say is that I am not really the fattest guy here. There are other fat guys, basically the other Americans. How can I tell if they are American or not you ask? Well like this.

Funny hat, running shoes. And I think his belly is bigger than mine.

I have to say, I have been a lot of places in this world but I can say unequivocally that Israelis are the most beautiful people I have ever seen. As a general rule. I don’t think there is another place I have been that makes me feel so badly about myself. I walked home a couple miles from dinner tonight with my stomach sucked in so hard, that now it hurts. I swear every guy in this country has a six pack, even the old guys! I have created a faux pack method whereby I wear a tight shirt and suck in my belly while bending over which gives the illusion of a giant 6 pack. Its like a 6 pack of two liter bottles stuffed into an XL Target V neck tee on a guy with some sort of spinal defect. Its hot, trust me.

Back home in the toothless capital of the NW Granite Falls,  I think I am in the words of Zack Galifianakis, “to most people a solid 2, to others a 3”.  OK maybe a tad higher, but grading on a curve, here I am solidly under the 5 mark. Hell everyone I know would be under the 5 mark here, and I know some good looking people.  Its a country of Fabian like men. OK that  guy on the left is Andrew Zimmern, he doesn’t count.

Men here rock the Speedo with manly gusto.  I think I might get one just to say I did. There will be no photos. Not from me anyway, maybe from the shocked onlookers but that is it.

And the women are just as beautiful as the men (notice how I covered the men first? That’s because I have a girlfriend and I’m not stupid). Look at this clown carrying his girlfriends pink bag to the beach. I am surprised he isn’t carrying HER to the beach. (Note, google is an amazing resource for girl butt pictures. That is my story and I am sticking to it. It would have been really creepy for me to sneak behind this couple just to record her butt cheeks and his lack of self esteem)

I mentioned to my boss Bob today something about the people of Israel being so fit and gorgeous. He said, I am staying in Tel Aviv in close proximity to all the beautiful people and that its not representative of all of Israel. I suppose that is true to some extent. I didn’t find Jerusalem to be as packed with beautiful people as Tel Aviv.

What makes it worse for me is that the food is so good, and as the Big Giant Airplane Company is paying for it, its FREE. My god, that is a curse of monumental proportions for trying to keep fit and trim in the land of Fabiagoddess-a-topia. Tonight I went to sushi at Moon, one of my favorite places in Tel Aviv. Its chocked full of trendy well dressed gorgeous people. I sat at the counter with a younger Israeli kid. We started talking, his name was Ziv. Come to think of it, it probably still is. Anyway, he has maybe 8 pieces of sushi and a water and says “well that’s it for me” and pushed away. Did you just read what I wrote? PUSHED AWAY AFTER 8 PIECES OF SUSHI! I think I ate about 49 pieces in the same amount of time, along with a salad and a glass of wine. When he said goodbye, see you Thursday (we have a pizza date at my favorite pizza place, Phillipe), I responded “spurbt shurby chobery chia petter bursday”, my mouth stuffed to capacity with spicy tuna roll. He was short change for a tip so I said I would cover it, he said “Thanks, I will buy pizza on Thursday”, but as he left I could see the fear and regret in his eyes. He is probably going to stand me up.


Yesterday Adam and I were talking, we agree that there seems to be an unsettling trend towards stupidity in our grand nation. Sure, there have always been idiots, and the US, hasn’t been the only place to house them. Idiots, stupid people, nincompoops, and morons unfortunately are everywhere, but it’s not just the normal bunch of ass hats in society that I am talking about. I am talking about my observed trend of it getting worse. I would go out on a limb and say it has now past the 50% mark or people that will say or believe anything, to people that are skeptical or critical of things they hear and won’t just regurgitate things they have heard as fact. Matter of fact, I think we are way past 50%.

The most disturbing thing about this is that it’s not just the people from the lowest educated sectors of our society. I know people that are educated, that have been to college, that have good productive jobs that believe the silliest nonsense without having ever given it a thought to its validity. And what’s more, they will tell you that they really don’t care if it’s true or not. They believe it and that is that.

I think computing for the masses and the internet for all it’s greatness is largely to blame. Up until this decade, if you wanted to disseminate some bit of BS to the masses, you had to fire up your typewriter and put out a chain letter. That was a lot of work, and face it, stupid people are generally lazy, so going through all the work of sending out a letter pointing out the similarities between Obama and Hitler (spoiler alert, there are none), took a lot of time and effort. Not today. Today anyone with a computer can spew forth nonsense as fact and with a few clicks of a button, send it out to their friends who will in turn, without any thought to whether it’s true or not, send it to all their friends, who will then send it to me.

I am one of the rare people today that have not the capacity to read something and shrug off its validity. If I read it and its BS, I MUST check it and if in fact its BS, then I will let the person know its BS. This has of course gotten me into much trouble and as a matter of fact on several occasions, blocked from receiving emails from people I have corrected. I have been defriended (come on Webster, how is defriend not yet a real word?) on Facebook, I have even been chastised by my mother and am sure I have lost friends over it. Although I will contend that if you are so offended by the truth, we weren’t meant to be friends anyway.

What is ultimately the most frustrating thing to me in regards to BS, is that it’s so easy these days to verify it being fact or fiction. The internet, while the cause or vehicle of most modern stupidity, can also be the cure. OK so you are lazy and don’t want to fact check. I get that, but then why error on the side of everything being fact (with subsequent forwarding of the email) when with almost 100% certainty, anything you get in an email meant to set a fire burning in your soul for, but not limited to; crime, gays, Obama, taxes, abortion, gay rights, ANYTHING US government related, ways to get free money, ways to cure sickness and disease, signing your name to the end of the email to find little Billy, gay marriage, 9/11, black people, brown people, Muslims, the “sanctity” of marriage, and lastly anything quoting something someone famous said about any given topic. All of it, with almost 100% certainty is not true. SO WHY DO I STILL GET THESE EMAILS?!

Here is a little litmus test for BS, pay attention this is going to be really technical. Ready? Here it is; if you receive any bit of information in the form of an email, IT’S BS.  I KNOW CRAZY HUH!!!!! Yep it’s that easy! Now, will you be 100% correct in assuming (without checking) that everything you receive that falls into the aforementioned list is BS? Nope, but you can bet your ass you will be correct a lot more than assuming everything is fact without checking it. AND as an added bonus you won’t look stupid by forwarding something that is untrue. I had a friend once that kept sending me BS emails. The second I saw the topic, without even checking I would know that it contained no truth. So I would go find the truth, reply to all (as is my MO) and explain to this “friend” that they are not helping people be smarter and more informed by sending out BS without checking it first. His last reply (before I was removed from his BS email list) was to explain (and I am not kidding, I wish I was) was that he didn’t care if it was true, that it was up to everyone he sent it to, to determine its truth. He was simply passing it along. I asked why pass such obvious BS along as possible fact? He never responded.

I wish it was just an email problem but it’s really not. I don’t know how many times I will hear someone say something that they are regurgitating as fact, which is not. People simply do not care about being right anymore. They have beliefs that THEY believe to be true, despite what science, history or statistics might tell them to the contrary. The problem with this is that it’s a virus and more and more people are catching it. People that I consider to be intelligent frequently spew nonsense as fact. I would even feel better if people prefaced every questionable thing they said with, “I heard, although haven’t verified, that X is true, that…”. Perfect, then we can have a discussion about whether or not it stands up to scrutiny. But just stating everything as fact just makes you look like you have no ability to be critical of information, that you have no desire to push society towards reason and truth.

You can help turn this trend. 1. Stop forwarding chain emails without fact checking them first. This does not mean trusting someone else’s fact checking. It doesn’t mean not being critical of facts you might find. Trustworthy sources are far and few between on the internet. If it comes from someone’s blog, that is more often than not opinion, not fact.

2. Stop believing everything you are told. Be skeptical. Be critical. Assume everything is BS until you KNOW otherwise. Knowing is a tough thing, as such, don’t state things as fact until you know they are. If you don’t know for certain that its fact, then discuss the topic as something you are learning about. No one expects you to know everything. I know almost nothing in the grand scheme of things, so I try not to state things as fact unless I know they are.

Here is an example of questioning everything. Yesterday I saw a chart on Facebook that stated that the mineral content of organic vegetables was higher than conventionally grown ones. My BS detector went through the roof despite the fact the chart said the study was done at Rutgers University. I asked myself, how would a carrot that was grown with natural (I use the term “natural” loosely) fertilizers instead of their synthetic counterpart, or sprayed with natural pesticides (yes organics are sprayed with pesticides) instead of what everything else is sprayed with, be able to alter the carrot in such a way as to affect its mineral content. After about 2 minutes of research, I found (at that the study is often misquoted by organics proponents and that any claims that organic vegetables had higher mineral content was simply not true. This is what I am talking about. A chart stamped with “STUDY PERFORMED BY RUTGERS UNIVERSITY” doesn’t mean anything. It means someone made a chart and typed those words, no more. Be skeptical, be critical, read, question.

Our society can’t stand to get much dumber and still think we have a future.

Made in China

As of late, I have been listening and reading all the press surrounding Apple and their main supplier Foxxconn and also been getting an earful from a friend that despises Apple with every ounce of his being.

Apparently Foxxconn (and many other Chinese suppliers) don’t treat their workers well or pay them a decent living wage, and working conditions are bad and what do you know their safety record is rather lackluster and if you are even paying even a little attention, you know that China gives not one shit for their environment.

So here’s the rub, today CNN had an opinion piece ( entitled “When will workers share in Apple’s wealth?”. Hey I can answer that!!! Pick me pick me!!!! Yes Mr. Cleland? The answer is this, who gives a shit, that’s my answer. China has managed to lure just about every manufacturing job in the world to their fair country. How did they manage that monumental task you ask? Well there are a multitude of reasons. The biggest one is that they have little to no environmental protection laws. They care not for their environment and have no problem with destroying it for profit. This is actually the number one reason for companies moving production of whatever they want to build to China. Love the pristine beauty of America? Yeah, that is because we have strict laws preventing companies from polluting. Not polluting costs a lot of money. You have to pay big money to have all your hazardous waste disposed of properly. Its much cheaper to just pump your crap into the air or dump it in your rivers like China does. Have you seen the air quality index for Beijing lately? Its literally off the charts. Its gotten so bad that the current measuring system for measuring the crap in the air doesn’t even go to the level that the air is now.

Another reason jobs have moved to China is wages. Of course as with most things, there is more to it than that. China is a communist country and they frown on workers unions, matter of fact, they throw you in prison for even mentioning creating one. So like any business (or political system) where people have no rights, they tend to abuse the workers. Manufacturing wages in China are pretty low by U.S. standards. Workers generally have no rights, almost no benefits and have no way to rectify any of it.  In Shenzhen, the arrival of the factories meant wages for the average worker went from $50 a month working in a rice paddy to making $250 a month. To the people in that area, the factories have been an absolute boom to the economy.  By everyone’s measure, the “grimness”  of the factories is much less than the grimness of working long hours in a rice paddy.

Now, my press (and friends) would like me to get on the poor Chinese bandwagon and complain to Apple, and guess what, I’m not. I am not going to feel one bit sorry for a country that has lured away all our manufacturing jobs by paying their people nothing and destroying their country. The Chinese generally don’t play fair in the global manufacturing market. If the Chinese want better pay and clean air, guess what, they can do what Americans did, fight for it.  What I will do, is write to Apple and tell them to bring their manufacturing to the U.S. and that I am willing to pay for it.

The grand irony will be someday the Chinese worker will get these things (its already heading in that direction), and much to their surprise, when they do, the jobs will be gone. Right now its  cheaper to do business in China, but the hassles are great. Logistics to have products made such a long way away are monumental. The only way its worth it, is that its still cheaper today to do business there. As workers in China are successful in getting a living wage and benefits like Americans have fought for, then it will no longer be cheaper to do business there and the jobs will come back. Until then I won’t give one crap about the Chinese getting a fair wage. You want to know what I care about? I want to be able to purchase something made in my country, by my people.

I have an aunt and uncle that run a hunting gear business.  They make hunting/outdoor wear and they make it in the U.S. I asked Gary what the difference was between having one of their high end coats made in the U.S. vs having it made in China. I don’t remember the exact figures but it wasn’t as different as I would have expected. It comes down to how much profit a company wants to make on a given product. Here is where Apple and others could be leading the charge. They could be making factories here in the U.S. and be bringing jobs back here. Here is the one issue with that though. You are going to pay more for everything. iPads won’t be $600, they will be $1000 but the nice thing is that it gave an American a job. Its a catch 22 for sure and I can see how people are upset at American companies making gross profits buy moving their manufacturing to China, but feel sorry for China, I won’t.

Americans are going to have to decide to stop buying Chinese products before this ends. As my GF can attest, I have started asking where everything I buy is made. Everyone should do this. I am not saying I don’t buy it because most times, I still have to as I have little option to find it made anywhere else, but at least I am sending a message to stores, that I am paying attention. I even have sent emails to companies asking them to please bring the manufacturing back to the U.S. The good news is that it is happening. Its a slow trend but it looks like some companies are bringing work back to the U.S. This is good news for sure, but it would be a faster trend if people started making noise. When you shop, tell the people at the store that you would rather buy things made in America.

The only thing I feel guilty about, is going to Walmart from time to time. I won’t feel one bit of sympathy for the Chinese worker that has a job that used to be here in the U.S. Like I said, the American worker was once where he was, and we had to fight for better pay and benefits. If the Chinese don’t like their system, they can rise up and create change in their own country (which it appears they are doing), god knows we have enough problems for me to worry about right here in the good old U.S of A.  Should Apple demand that Foxxconn pay their workers a higher wage?  No, Apple should figure out a way to bring the jobs back to America. I want don’t want an iPad made by a Chinese worker making a fair wage, I want an iPad made in the U.S.  The Chinese are on their own, when it comes to their working conditions.

Why Men are Smarter than Women

My friend ____  (name removed for privacy issues, but I will give you a hint, its the same as my name but with an arrie instead of an ary) posted a Facebook comment yesterday that alluded to the pain caused by a pair of shoes she was wearing.  I read the post and felt the familiar tingle in my pants that causes me to want to write.  Lets get this next part out of the way right now.  I’m going to say it. I don’t want to say it but I am going to.  Ready? Here goes.  Women are dumb.  There, I’ve said it.  Now before all you women start soaking your torches in gasoline, let me just say, men can be dumb as well but for completely different reasons, and its not my job to point those out to you. You can write your own blog about that.  This one is going focus on your dumbness.

Stupid thing # 1

You know what men will never do?  Let me rephrase, you know what straight men will never do?  Buy shoes like this:

Stupid shoes

What in gods good name would make women think these are a good idea to wear around for a night?  Look at these stupid things!  Do you have any idea who designed these?  I’ll give you a hint, they don’t have a vagina.  Or at least not as original equipment.   These were designed by penis packing gay men, bitter and hateful for not being born a woman.  Women being genetically predispositioned to shiny expensive things snap up these devices of torture without one thought as to the design/comfort correlation.  Lets take a moment to study some basic anatomy.  This is a woman’s foot in a natural standing position.  And let me just add.  Apparently out of the 8 gazillion images on the web there are no normal bare foot side images of women’s feet.  Look at the picture and pay particular attention to the angle of the base of the foot in relation to the ankle.  You will notice that this is almost a perfect 90 degree angle.

Natural Foot

Now lets look at a womans foot in a stupid shoe position.

Stupid Shoe Position
Stupid Shoe Position

Notice the angle now.  You can clearly see the unnatural position the foot is now in.  I will guess the angle at a full 180 degrees.  I have a theory and it is this.  I don’t think women have any angle calculation capacity as it relates to shoes.  They see a shoe like the one in the first picture and are unable to correlate that into pain.  Men on the other hand look at that shoe and immediately think, “broken ankles, blisters, corns, sprains, carpel tunnel ankle, ingrown toenail etc”.  Women think, “I would look so hot in that shoe” with nary a worry for its torturous design.  Furthermore, not only can women not tell that this is a terrible shoe, they will wear it and immediately complain of the pain it is causing them but say that it is indeed worth it for the beauty it bestows upon their feet.   Then after a couple hours of pure spiked heel hell, women will most likely remove the shoes and carry them.  Go downtown on a Friday night and you will see hundreds of women carrying stupid shoes.

There is a great irony to women wanting to look good by wearing these shoes.  Ready for it?  Its not to look good for men.  Its to look good to OTHER WOMEN.  The hell you say.  Yep totally true.  Most women could care less about looking good to men.  Hell they will go to lengths to keep men away, such as wearing a fake wedding ring so as to not be bothered.  No, the low cut shirts, the mini skirts, the high heels, they are all for women.  We are after all animals, and just as in the animal kingdom,  the female species needs to look better than the other females so as to attract a male.  Of course somewhere in the evolution of humans, women lost the need to attract men all the time but kept the need to LOOK like they were attracting men.  Men are very confused by this.  Take for instance the low cut shirt.  Men see boobies and must stare.  We can’t help it, we don’t know why, we just do.  Its nature for gods sake!  Then when we do look,  we are yelled at for looking.  PIGS!  “But, but, you are showing the boobies, and I am ever so confused.  You show the boobie but you don’t want anyone to look?”  Years ago I had a cartoon on my desk that showed a woman sitting at the desk of a plastic surgeon.  The caption above her head said, “I want them big enough so that I can yell at men for looking at them”.  Exactly.

I digress.

Men (straight men) on the other hand, buy shoes (and all clothes for that matter) based solely on comfort.  Which with almost 100% certainty does not equate to looking good or being fashionable.  We for the most part were born without the need, or some may argue, the ability to look good.  Case in point, there is no way to dress up the horror that is a mans genitals.  Enough said on that.  If you look at my shoes, and for the record, I, as my kids can attest, am metro sexual.  I do love the shoes.  But fortunately I do still love the boobie as well.  ANYWAY, if you look at my shoes, although a few are fairly fashionable, they are all comfortable.  And if by some slim chance I wind up buying a pair that aren’t comfortable, they immediately get returned.  Done.  All my clothes, comfortable.  Shorts, baggy.  Shirts, loose. Collars, wide and tie free.  Underwear, keep things in place while allowing me to breathe freely.  Air is after all, big Jim and the twins best friend.  There isn’t a chance in hell of me wearing a tight mini skirt and high heels.  Hell if I were flaming gay, I wouldn’t wear it.

Stupid thing # 2


Women are generally women’s worst enemy.  They are the cause and reason for almost all your daily pains and discomfort.  Lets take your hair.  Women would love to just let their hair go like men do, but they can’t, know why?  Because their girlfriends would laugh at them and make them feel bad.  Men on the other hand can just decide on some days to not do a damned thing with their hair and when they see their buddies the most they might get is, “wow your hair is completely f**ked up today dude”,  “yeah I know right, I didn’t shower cause I was drinking beer and playing video games”.  Women on the other hand would be horrified to show themselves to their friends without being all primped up.

Hair cutting.

Men are perfectly happy with going to a barber or hair stylist that is as cheap as possible.  If I could get a haircut at the gas station while getting gas, I totally would.  Women, oh hell (say hell like a black woman, they do it best) no.  Women have been convinced by other women that anything short of a $100 haircut is a sin against god and man.  Or woman.  Last January I asked my daughter what she wanted for her birthday.  She responded that she wanted a bazillion dollar haircut from Gene  (we sodomize women) Juarez.  I asked how much, she says around $100.  Sigh.  OK fine, its her gift.  She calls GWSWJ (Gene we sodomize women Juarez) and I fuck you not, they inform her that she needs to come in a week before her HAIRCUT for a CONSULTATION.  Great, I get to drive to the mall twice! I was hoping that would happen.  After the consultation and the list of 57 things that are recommended for her hair, Sara and I agree on a haircut and some other things that men are incapable of understanding.  When we actually get there, she goes in, she is greeted by the most fake human beings I have ever seen in my life.  I am not sure they are even real people.   She is given a robe made of baby kitty fur with fresh petals of a rare African violet pasted to it.  She is asked if she wants some tea,  maybe a mocha frappacino chai skinny latte topped with real gold dust sprinkles and a baby hummingbird.  I am told it will take a week and three fortnights to complete her hair so I leave.  About an hour later I am called on the phone by Sara.  She says, “Dad my stylist Claudelle says that I really need a baby seal oil treatment because my hair has lost all its natural luster due to using Suave shampoo for years.  Its only $847 but it does come with a $5 off coupon for the $97 dollar shampoo I need to use to keep the baby seal oil from washing out of my hair, but I won’t have them use the extra shiny foil and pure platinum hairbrush with bristles made of T-Rex bone, that will save us money “.  I can’t really remember what I said in response. I think I was in a stupid people induced coma.  When Sara was done I went in to meet with the GWSWJ finance people to discuss payment terms.  Right now BECU is showing a 30 year fixed rate of 3.9%APR for a GWSWJ styling.  I chose not to pay and to just stab everyone in the face with my 12”  Shun Santoku knife to get out of paying.  I’m lying,  I just dreamt that last part.  Seriously the bill was close to $200 dollars with the $25 DOLLAR TIP I WAS SHAMED INTO LEAVING.  Talk about adding insult to injury.

A quick look at GWSWJ’s website lists their services.  One, and I kid you not, is called “The perfect Blowdry” $47.  I’ll tell you what, you come to my house, I will give you a REAL perfect blow dry for free.  We will drink a couple bottles of wine, get rip shnickered drunk, race up the road in my Mercedes with you topless hanging out my sunroof, hair blowing in the wind, screaming “fuck  you Gene Juarez!!!”  I will film the whole thing, put it on youtube,  you’ll be famous.

All for free.

And as an added bonus, you can yell at me for staring at your boobs.

Surviving the jungle

Last week I went on a “meet and greet” date as they are called in the online dating world.  One of my friends (she knows who she is) calls them a scratch and sniff.  Anyway, as some of you know, I am back into the world of dating and let me tell you, dating in my 40’s is not like dating in my 20’s.  As I remember, and I barely do, dating in my 20s was much easier.  I have not dated in 20 some years and its a struggle.  One of the most treacherous parts of 40s dating is the sex.   At some point my date and I started discussing said sex and our experiences with it.   The comment was made (and I am paraphrasing) that there are a lot of men that have no idea what they are doing, uh, lets say “south of the border”.  I think the statement was probably accurate, but there is a reason, a damned good reason and I have chosen an analogy for said reason.  Buckle up, I’m going to use the V word. Mom if you have somehow gotten a hold of this and are reading, its  best if you stop here and go make a pie or something.

The vagina is one of the most mysterious devices ever created.  It is both loved and feared by all men.  The vagina is also one of the most difficult parts (other than the mind) of a woman’s body to figure out.  After telling my date this much, she quickly disagreed.  I told her that a vagina is like an Amazonian jungle, and its not just like one jungle, they are all completely different jungles.  Millions of jungles, none of them the same, all of them with different flora and fauna and terrain.  A trip south of the border is akin to a trek through a jungle that you have never seen before.  Your task, to make it to the other side of the jungle, alone, to make it to the lost city of Orgasm-O-topia, and let me tell you, that is one hard place to find.  The biggest problem is that for at least your first few trips into the jungle there will be no instruction.  You must make it to Orgasm-O-topia on your own, no directions, no map, no path, no vagina GPS, NOTHING! You must whack your way through this jungle for god knows how long until by complete luck and chance you happen upon the city, or until you get the  “oh just stop it already” tug on the ears.  Few men ever find said city on their first excursion into the jungle.  They wander and poke and prod and weep aimlessly for what seems like hours only to sadly slink home defeated without ever having glimpsed the beautiful city.  Our poor tongues bruised and aching from the trip.  Half our hair torn out, our poor ears reddened and sore from all the pulling and steering.

As I stated before, all jungles are completely different.  The most rare of all jungles is the one that you step into, walk about 3 steps and bump head on into the screaming lost city.  Men if you have somehow found one of these jungles in your dating travels, kudos to you, hang onto it.  For the men that say that all jungles are this easy for them, well all I have to say is bullshit.  Most jungles are not like the aforementioned jungle, they are long arduous treks with very little hope of finding the city.  One jungle may require you to climb a tree along your path.  Others may require you to swim a river or spelunk a cave.  Some require special tools and devices to get you to the city.  The twisted irony being that you will not be presented these tools and city finding aids until your 10th or 20th trip to the jungle.  Women want you to find the lost city but most don’t want to make it easy for you by just providing a few simple tips which would shorten your trip to mere minutes.  Finding the city is like any Indiana Jones like adventure, it must be fraught with perils and danger.  Some jungles have traps and snares.  Touch the wrong place and you may get slapped right out of the jungle, never to return again.  Again there are no warnings, no hieroglyphs written on the walls by men that have traveled this path before, warning you of said perils.  It might be nice if there were a permanent marker stamp stating STAY OUT, that men could purchase and have at the ready.  Other men would see the stamp placed in some areas and know that other men have lost their way at these locations.  Maybe a little skull and crossbones indicating certain death if trespassed.

Lets be clear about something, women do not want the journey to be easy.  They want us to get there, but they want us to do it on our own. They need to know we know how to “get places” without our hands being held.  Which is ironic given all the crap we take for refusing to ask for directions. I think women see us reaching the city as a right of passage, that is why there cannot be any direction or aid given.  I feel that if I ever found the city on my first adventure into the jungle that at the point of reaching the city, I would kneel and she would take a sword and touch both shoulders and deem me worthy of entering the lost city.  Maybe a key would be given that I would wear around my neck as a sign to all men that I have conquered the most difficult of tasks that womankind has to offer.  But, if after numerous trips through the jungle, wandering aimlessly, looking at plants and poking at ferns, you are still unable to find the city, then as sign that they have given up all hope that you will ever find the city on your own, you will be given some instruction.  The instruction may be as simple as “turn here” or “for the love of god would it hurt to touch HERE?” Or in the worst of cases, she just tells you “oh the hell with it, I will find the damned city on my own”.  Or the instructions may be like reading a Chinese road map.  If the latter, its best to just admit defeat and find someone else to date.

Speaking of the date.  After rambling on for what must have seemed like an eternity to her, she said “but what about men, men are difficult as well!”.  “Are you kidding?” I said. “Penises are like a trip through a football field sized dry lake bed.  There isn’t a blade of grass between you and our city.   There is even a giant sign on the ground that says, START HERE, and another at the finish line that you can actually see from the starting line that says END HERE.  You can actually see the city (ours is not lost) from where you are standing at the starting line.  That’s it, we are that simple.  Women on the other hand, my god, if ever there was something that should have instructions tattooed on it, its the vagina.

Its unlikely there will be a second date.

The Fly Rod

As spring shows its face (albeit slowly) my thoughts start to turn to spring activities.  Its just about time to dust off the fly rod and think about hitting the lakes and streams of the great northwest.  Its hard to ever think about fishing without thinking of my grandpa.  This morning I was chatting with a friend about fly fishing in Montana over email and I was immediately transported through time to my childhood.

Starting at about age 8 my parents used to put me on a Greyhound bus in Las Vegas to go to spend the summer with my grandparents in Anaconda Mt.  Funny, parents cringe to even let their kids walk to school alone these days and mine used to hand me a box of sandwiches and tell me to make sure and change buses in Salt Lake City and waved goodbye as I left for a two day journey to Montana.  Once at my grandparents house, there was almost immediately a fishing trip planned with Grandpa.  It wasn’t that long ago but let me tell you, Montana was not the yuppy get away it is today.  We would go fishing to many of the places touted in fly fishing magazines today and never see another soul.  Today its like fishing at the mall. I digress.  Whether Grandpa took me to a lake or stream, it was a guarantee that we would catch loads of fish.  Grandpa must have had the patience of Job to fish with me.  I figure by the time I really could fish on my own, I owed Grandpa about $18,589.50 in lost flies.  “GRANDPAAAA I GOT ANOTHER SNAGGGGGG!!!’ I would yell.  Or cry.  He would always stop what he was doing and help me.  Some times the help would come in the form of  “Well wade out and get it undone”.

No matter where we fished, no matter the method used, Grandpa always kicked my hiney at fishing.  He would catch more, catch bigger fish than I. Always.  I have a few very clear memories of specific fishing trips.  I wonder what it was about these few that have always stuck with me.  I remember once we were fishing a tiny tributary of the Big Hole river. It was tiny. You could jump across in some places.  There was a spot that had a little water fall.  Grandpa told me to get on my belly and sneak to the edge of the top of the water fall and look in the pool.  I did and was rewarded with staring into a pool with probably 20+  24″ trout.  It was a sight to behold.  I tried to catch one but they didn’t get to be 24″ by letting some snot nosed 10 year old catch them.  Another memory is of us fishing the Big Hole river. It was a good day of fishing and we were done by about 2pm.  As we were walking back to the car, I was a few hundred yards in front of Grandpa.  I walked by what looked like a good fishing hole behind a boulder and stopped to drop in my line.  The bank was REALLY steep and was just sand.  I couldn’t really stand on the bank so I dropped my line in from the road.  My fly was immediately taken by a huge trout. I fought it for  just a second or two before hoisting it to the steep sandy bank.  Rookie move.  The fish came out of the water and was 24″ easily.  It came off the fly and flopped around on the steep bank as I am sliding down trying to grab it.  Before I could even get close it was safely back in the water.  AHHH!!!!!!  This whole event took maybe 5 seconds.  Grandpa walks up just as I am crawling back up the bank.  I scream my story.  His reply was “Uh huh…”  “NO REALLY IT WAS HUGE!!!!”.  Ah the fish that got away.  I will never forget it. I will never forget Grandpa messing with me about his disbelief.  He got such a kick out of such things.

Grandpa always fished with a bamboo fly rod that he had for as long as I remember. It was weathered and repaired and to me was as perfect an object as a thing ever was.  I remember as a kid I got to use whatever was laying around, which most often was a spinning rod with a fly reel attached, but Grandpa always had the bamboo.  The last time I ever saw Grandpa fish, was about 10 years ago, we were camping with my parents and grandparents in Montana near Anaconda. Grandpa and I walked to this stream.   I sat and watched him cast the bamboo rod.  He was probably 90 years old at this time and I could tell that this was probably the last time that this rod would be cast by his hands.  I sat and admired these weathered hands work their magic as they had so many times before.  It was as if his rod had been crafted for him and him only.

Once back at camp I sat with my mom and told her that there are few things that hold as good a memories for me as did fishing with grandpa.  I told my mom that when my grandparents died, there was nothing I really wanted, but having that fly rod would be amazing.  My mom said that I should just ask Grandpa if I could have it.  I told her I couldn’t do that.  Not my style.  Later that evening, my mom told me that she had told Grandpa what I had told her earlier and that he said that I could absolutely have the rod when he passed on.  I was happy but there was so many more people that deserved it more than I.  I was sure that one day it would silently disappear into the hands of a family member more deserving.

Well time passed and my grandparents did both pass away as life makes its cycle.  Shortly after his passing my mom was at my Grandparents house to help clean out their possessions and decide what to do with everything.  She called me one day and said, “Cary I have some bad news. The fly rod is gone. Someone must have already taken it”.  I was disappointed but not surprised.  I had little hope of actually getting the rod.  I have to admit a little anger at the unknown  family member taking the rod, but it was gone and I knew it would happen so that was that.

Its a good thing you can’t see me type this next part for I am unable to tell it without crying.  The year after my Grandpa passed away, we were at my parents house for Christmas.  We had opened gifts and were sitting there amongst wrapping and things, when my mom said, “Oh wait, Cary I have something else for you, close your eyes”.  She walked to her bedroom and as she was coming back said “Are your eyes closed?” I said they were.  She walked to me and laid something in my hands and said to open my eyes.  I opened them and looked down at my grandpa’s fly rod.  I could do nothing for seconds but wipe tears from my eyes.  So many memories of such an amazing man sitting there in my hands.  No physical object ever given to me was this special.  Through cloudy eyes, I asked my mom how she got it.  She told me that my aunts Linda and Delores had run across it in my Grandparents house and had remembered seeing it on the list that my Grandparents had made of things that they wanted to go to people.  Grandpa despite being in his 90’s had remembered that he had promised me the rod and had put my name on the list as the recipient of it.   They put the rod aside for me.  Months later they had told my mom and gave it to her to give to me.  I sat looking at the rod for a long time.  It was weathered and aged from years of use.  It was once broken and had been repaired with a method Grandpa often used, epoxy tape wrap.  The cork handle is dark from years of sweat and dirty hands.  I imagined the thousands of fish that this rod had caught.  The family fish dinners around a camp fire produced with this piece wood and metal and cork and a little epoxy.  I feel guilty for the fleeting moment of anger towards the earlier disappearance of the rod.  Guilty for thinking family took it, when in reality, they took it for me.  I will never be able to show enough gratitude to them.

This year as I start the fishing season, I will take a moment to hold The Rod.  To feel its smoothness and its age. To breath in the smell of weathered cork and to remember a great man that cared so much for his grand kids.  And to think about family that cared enough for me to give me something incredibly special, that I am still not sure I deserve.

Grandpa in his early years clowning around as he loved to do.

Is it still the “Happiest Place on Earth”?

Well I have just returned from what is probably my 45th ish time to Disneyland with Sara and Emily.  We spent a week bouncing around southern Cali from Disneyland to Universal to Knotts.  As usual we had a great time, but this morning as I take the first look at the charred remains of my checking account, I have to start asking myself if it was worth it.  A quick estimate of how much the entire trip cost with airfare (and keep in mind I got free hotel from my Hilton points) puts me somewhere around 3 grand.

Let me just say that we had a great time.  Can I, should I put a price on these faces?

I guess the real question is somewhat of a moral one for me.  Disney is not the greatest company and does it makes sense to let them rape my checking account in exchange for our week of fun? I’ll go one further, did we have fun? We did but I’m not sure that was because we were at Disneyland or if it was just because we were together, laughing, joking and just being generally goofy (pun intended) for a week. Most of our good times came from the silliness that is a certainty when Sara, Emily and I are together without supervision.  Emily constantly giving us the “cheese touch”. Sara and I discussing the lack of attractive men in their 40’s and me addressing every Disney employee by name (much to Sara’s horror) are just a sampling of the hi jinx that we engaged in.  What else could we have done for 3 grand? There are lots of places we could have gone and done. I think we could have done Europe on the cheap for a week if I could have gotten a good airfare.  We certainly could have done Mexico and maybe Hawaii.  Once you spend 3 thousand dollars for a week vacation, there are loads of things that can be done at that price.

Disneyland these days is almost certainly packed to the gills with kids and parents, which means that you are going to stand in lines all day for everything.  The lines for all the good rides were an hour. Soaring Over California was 90 minutes.  And as if that wasn’t bad enough, if you want to buy a water to quench your thirst after standing in line for 90 minutes, Disney is going to bend you over to the tune of $4 for it. Want a sweat shirt for the kids $50. Dinner at the Blue Bayou restaurant $130.  My god I can eat at some amazing restaurants for that price.  And is the food worth it? Absolutely not. Its mediocre at best.  Insult to injury.  Disney isn’t happy enough to charge you $75 dollars a day to get into their park, they want to make it hurt once you are there.

I have to question the morality of it. Disneyland is supposed to be a place for families. The plaque on the bridge as you enter Disneyland states “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy”. Walt’s vision was a place where all people could come and enjoy a bit of old world fantasy. I’m not sure it was his intention for me to feel like I have been robbed every time I buy a water.

I grew up loving Disneyland and I don’t remember my parents ever complaining about the cost of things.  I remember my mom and dad fighting about how to GET to Disneyland but once we got there, it was one of the rare times my parents weren’t fighting.  Disneyland was always a place where Kate and I connected as well.  There was just something about it that has always held good memories for me, but increasingly as I get older I am just not as happy with this “Happiest Place”.  For the same money I could have given my girls a cultural experience. We could have visited another country. We could have eaten great cheap street food. We could have learned new words in another language. We could have met people that expanded our view of the world and people around us. We could have hiked in a jungle, swam in an ocean or waded in a stream.

As a parent, I need to do a better job of where I spend my vacation dollars. My kids have seen enough Disney for a while. I think next time, I will spend my 3 grand to expand their view of the world around them and not just fill Disney’s grand pockets with my hard earned vacation dollars.