They Have Hercules Pots

San Francisco Trip Day 2 – March 12

9:22 a.m. – As near as I can tell, that harsh scraping sound grating on my ear drums appears to be my eyelids grinding over my corneas. It’s bright out, but not too bright. Sort of how light it is at early dawn. (With the exception of about one hour two days from now, this is as bright as it is going to get outside for the duration of our trip.) It seems early, but there is no denying that there is sunlight coming through the window of our hotel room. Shannon is clearly still asleep, but I can’t help but wonder what time it is. I do my best to focus on the hotel alarm clock next to the bed. 8:22…cool, it isn’t that late.

Except wait!

Is it really 8:22? Didn’t daylight savings time kick in even before we went to bed? I’m pretty sure it did and unless the tooth fairy has an unscrupulous business associate that messes with clocks, that means it is really 9:22…now 9:23 in the morning. Crap! I really should get up or we are going to waste an entire day of our vacation. I’ll just lift the blanket up and…

10:27 a.m. – Wow, that went quick. I really do need to get up now. I’ll hop in the shower and…and what? Put on a fresh set of clothes? Apply some deodorant? Brush my teeth? How hilarious I sound now that I recall we don’t have any luggage/personal care items thanks to my new best friend, the absent pilot from Southwest who teed up and set in motion the entire nightmare from the day! Clearly, my first agenda item is to find the nearest Walgreen’s/CVS and get what basic necessities we can’t live without until our bag shows up, hopefully later today.

However, before that, I need to plug my phone in as I forgot last night and it is getting dangerously low.

10:28 a.m. – #%*@!!! All that self-congratulatory back-slapping I did for myself the night before was a little premature as I realize the charger I had thrown in my carry-on didn’t match the cord I had thrown in my carry-on and is therefore useless to me. Add charger cable to my list of necessities I need to find basically immediately.

10:43 a.m. – Good News: There is a Walgreen’s literally across the intersection from our hotel and I am able to get all of the basic self-care items I need along with a charging cord for my phone. Bad News: They are sold out of Dr. Pepper Zero. What in the crap is the problem with either the Dr. Pepper corporation or else every solitary retailer in this freaking entire nation that we can’t stock the single greatest culinary invention from the previous two decades combined at decent levels so that I won’t have to stare at empty shelf after empty shelf where Dr. Pepper Zero should be, wondering where I’m going to get my next fix? It’s criminal and needs to be addressed. This has nothing to do specifically with my vacation, but I felt it needed to be addressed.

10:52 a.m. – Shannon has jumped in the shower, so I go in search of a CVS that apparently exists somewhere on Fisherman’s Wharf where I believe the possibility of finding a Dr. Pepper Zero exists. Yes, this was my entire motivation and yes, I understand how pathetic it sounds. Don’t care!

11:06 a.m. – I walk three-quarters of a mile, but I find that CVS and blessed day, they have Dr. Pepper Zero! I buy two.

I begin the walk back to the hotel. I haven’t mentioned this, but it is raining. Not a steady rain like we are used to in Arizona, but more like a swirling misty rain like I experienced during my mission in England. It gives you the illusion that it isn’t really raining that bad, but when you get where you are going, you find you are just as wet as you would have been walking through a regular rainstorm. This walk is making me nostalgic for my mission. It is also soaking me through quite effectively.

11:54 a.m. – We have put ourselves together as effectively as possible and it is time to find something to eat. We haven’t really eaten since the shrink-wrapped sandwiches from the night before and we are ready to try something unique here in this city which apparently is teaming with awesome culinary opportunities.

We decide to try a Korean restaurant called Surisan, which is located one block from our hotel. (A block in San Francisco meaning I could throw a rock from our hotel window and hit it…especially since I’d be throwing it downhill. Basically what I’m trying to convey is that city blocks aren’t very big and there isn’t one flat piece of ground in the entire bay area.) They apparently have an amazing blueberry French toast plate that they include as part of their brunch menu. Korean restaurant/French toast??? Whatever, it sounds great.

12:02 p.m. – We arrive and the place is hopping. It is not warm outside and yet all of their outdoor seating is full. At least the part not directly in the rain. However, because there are only two of us, we get in and as we walk to our table, we see a large number of patrons with this noodle dish in front of them. We are intrigued. We look on the menu and discover that this dish is called Pimped Up Ramyun. I kid you not, that is its name. Now, there are a number of things going on with this dish. First off, the pimped-up part has to be associated with the fact that you can buy these exact ramyun noodles at Walmart for about $1.75, but the dish is listed as $21 on the menu. So…not sure what they added to the noodles, but it must have included platinum dust. Additionally, this place has been featured on television for its Millionaire’s Bacon, which you get one slice of with the noodles, so there is that as well. They also put a fried egg on top. Oh, for heaven’s sake, here’s a picture of it:

Obviously we ordered it along with the blueberry French toast and then split them both between us.

12:16 p.m. – Why did we bother with that stupid French toast crap? The noodles are to die for. To be fair, the French toast isn’t bad either, but it is no Pimped Up Ramyun, I’ll tell you what! And the bacon? To call it Millionaire’s Bacon may be a bit of hyperbole…but not much. That was amazing bacon! This meal on it’s own has single-handedly saved the vacation that had started into a toilet spiral the night before.

12:39 p.m. – We get the bill. I’m still loving this meal and it is still the saving grace of our trip thus far, but I made one mistake. I ordered an orange juice. SEVEN BUCKS!!! I won’t be making that mistake again. Dr. Pepper Zero only from here on out. Shannon suggests that water is also good, and free. I patronizingly chuckle at her naivete.

12:47 p.m. – Walking back to our hotel, we decide we have everything we need to head out for whatever it is we want to do, especially since we have no luggage. After a bit of discussion, we decide to head to the Legion of Honor Art Museum. This means it is now time to discover how to navigate the city’s mass transit system. Handily enough, there is a bus stop on our way back towards the hotel (half a rock’s throw distance I guess) and I get on my phone and discover the bus we need can pick us up at that exact spot. Awesome!

12:52 p.m. – The bus arrives and we realize we are on the wrong side of the street to catch said bus. We wave frantically and run across the street and get on. Shannon starts to try to pay and the bus driver is literally like, “Whatever, just get on and don’t worry about it.” But since we are good God-fearing people, we are determined to be honest and so she keeps trying, much to the chagrin of the bus driver. Meanwhile, I have started a conversation with another city transit worker on the bus and he asks where we are going. I tell him and he informs me we are on the wrong bus. We were on the right side of the road to begin with. Fortunately, Shannon has not had any success getting the machine to accept her dollar bill and so we hop off the wrong bus and watch helplessly as the correct bus we needed to catch pulls away from the stop we had been at just three minutes before.

12:55 p.m. – Back at the correct bus stop, we meet a family from Tucson, of all places, who are visiting San Francisco as well. They inform us that if we are going to do the bus thing for three days, we need to download the app and that you can purchase a day pass on the app and then not have to worry about tickets. Awesome! They also inform us that we can pretty much ride for free if we want because not one bus driver gives a rat’s behind whether we pay or not, they only care about getting you on, getting you seated and taking off for the next stop. Schedule is everything to them. Good to know! I get the app and go ahead and buy the day pass for both of us. I half-heartedly try to scan it throughout the day, but it never works and no one seems to care anyway. Cest la Vie!

1:46 p.m. – After a couple of confusing bus transfers that were very harrowing in the moment, but ultimately successful, we arrived at the Legion of Honor. My first impression? I was impressed that they had a golf course right across the parking lot. Just kidding! Well, kind of. I did gawk at the golf course for a moment, but then moved on.

1:50 p.m. – Coming through the front door, I am greeted by Rodin’s The Thinker. The ORIGINAL Thinker! I haven’t even made it to the front desk and I am looking at a piece of art I have actually heard of in my life. Holy crap! I think this might be the first super legitimate art museum I have been to in my life.

2:01 p.m. – The person we purchase our tickets from is originally from Tucson. This comes up because Shannon is wearing an Eastern Arizona hoodie and I am wearing an Arizona State hoodie. As an aside, the number of people we met on this trip either from or with ties to Tucson was statistically astounding. Anyway, he was super friendly and asked if there were any teachers in our group. I thought he said teenagers and replied, “No.” Shannon nudged me and whispered, I’m a teacher, which…she now is. And when it comes to art, she has been for fifteen years having taught art masterpiece classes in the classroom of every single one of our children. But as it relates to this moment, the kind ticket dude gave us the student rate and we got in to this amazing museum for $6 each. As he handed us our tickets, he said, “We Arizonans have to take care of each other.” Dang! I have to admit that Tucson is growing on me. I don’t want to like go there or anything, but man, the people seem pretty cool. At least the ones in San Francisco.

2:05 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. – For Shannon? Two and a half hours of heaven. For me? An hour and a half of very enjoyable art observing, a half hour of, “I hope she gets tired of this soon,” and then a half hour of, “Hey, they have Hercules pots downstairs” coupled with, “Please don’t make me go to the Porcelain Room.” The Hercules pots were really cool. And yes, I realize how neophytish I sound calling them Hercules pots.

Here are some examples of the art we saw:

Rodin’s The Thinker


Russian Bride Painting That Is Bigger Than My Living Room

Van Gogh

Greek Pottery from 500 BC

One interesting thing about this one.

It’s a Danish artist’s interpretation of the Calling of Matthew. Yes, that Matthew! We chuckle at how much it doesn’t resemble the clothing or skin color we had seen recently when viewing the same moment in history depicted on an episode of The Chosen. But it is interesting to us that many of these artists painted things as they would have been in their own time period and made no effort to paint a scene in its proper historical context. No judgement, just an interesting observation.

5:22 p.m. – We arrive back at the hotel to find that our bag has made the grueling trip from Las Vegas to San Francisco. It was an incredibly joyous reunion. I went upstairs and immediately took a shower.

6:13 p.m. – For dinner, we decide to try another restaurant within spitting distance from our hotel called Brick and Beam. I assume it takes its name from the fact that the building is entirely made of red brick and inside you can see the beams holding up the roof. It’s only a guess, but I feel pretty confident I’m on to something. The burgers were pretty good, but they were no ramyun noodles that had been marked up 1000%.

7:03 p.m. – It is probably best if we walk off the dinner we just had and so we start down towards Fisherman’s Wharf. We step into some shops looking for a Golden State Warriors shirt for Shannon so that she won’t be out of place at the game the following night. But we are not successful. What’s interesting is that everything is pretty much shutting down and it isn’t even 8 p.m. I hadn’t realized San Francisco is the City that Yells Shut The #$!@ Up I’m Trying to Sleep, beginning at 9 p.m.

7:48 p.m. – Any walk along Fisherman’s Wharf worth its salt will end at Ghiradelli’s Square. Our walk was worth its salt. However, as we arrived Shannon saw that the main Ghiradelli’s store was closed for remodeling. She was not impressed.

7:52 p.m. – Never fear. Another location was open that allowed us to get a wee bit ice cream smothered in hot fudge and caramel. Our trip was saved!

8:41 p.m. – We arrive back at our hotel and settle in for the night. For the first time, I turn on the TV and try to find something to watch. I don’t know how it happened but I ended up stopping on Magnum PI. Not the old one, but the new one. I apologize up front to any fans of this show, but let me just say. THAT SHOW SUCKS! It is terrible. We kept watching only because it resembled a car wreck and everyone knows you can’t look away from a car wreck. It is a travesty what they have done to the memory of Tom Selleck and a truly great 80’s television show. The only thing worse is…

10 p.m. – …a horrific episode of Murder, She Wrote. Not a remake, the original. Good night that show has not aged well. Was everyone really that bad of an actor in the ’80s? Thankfully, we were saved by…

11 p.m. – …Monk! That show has aged fine. Hallelujah! My faith in crime procedurals was taking a beating.

12:00 a.m. – With our faith restored in television, we turn out the lights and call it a day.


It’s Gone South by Southwest

As a journal writer, I suck! I just struggle to provide any detail to the rather mundane details of my life. However, if I believe there is a possibility someone out there might actually read what I’m writing, I feel a pressure to add detail and description that would make my musings somewhat interesting. With that in mind, I’m harkening back to blog posts from yesteryear as I chronicle the recent 25th Anniversary trip Shannon and I took to San Francisco…just two and a half months after our 27th anniversary. (Thanks again, COVID-19!) With that said, bail now or forever hold your peace.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

3:47 p.m. – Since I am old enough to remember the events of 9/11 and the realities of air travel in the months and years that followed, for twenty years I have been diligent in following the TSA’s advice of arriving 2 hours prior to my flight time to ensure that I make it through security. Our flight to San Francisco leaves at 5:35 and I am feeling guilty that we are little late. However, I’m seeing the crowd levels in Sky Harbor and feel fairly confident that we have arrived in plenty of time.

3:56 p.m. – Aaaand, we are through security with approximately an hour and 15 minutes to kill before boarding begins. Twenty freaking years and I still haven’t learned that I don’t need nearly this much time to get through airport security. Oh well, it will give us time to find a good place to eat before we get on the plane.

4:43 p.m. – Having literally hiked the entire square of gates A through D in Terminal 4, Shannon and I realize there is not one airport restaurant we have any interest in. It’s fine! We should be landing in San Francisco on our connecting flight from Burbank around 8 p.m. We can wait and eat there. San Francisco is known for its restaurants and culinary options. Just be patient. That single egg and piece of toast I ate at 9 this morning will be fine. Everything will be fine!

5:05 p.m. – Boarding begins right on time. This is a good sign!!!

5:25 p.m. – Everyone is on the plane and seated and life is good. We even got seats right next to each other, which is never guaranteed on a Southwest flight! We are truly favored by the airline gods!!! My only question is should I be concerned about the wall of dark clouds forming in the distance? I shake off this negative thought. We will be in the air long before they can cause any problems.

5:30 p.m. – The dark clouds turn out to be no problem at all. However, the pilot that is supposed to fly our plane not being in Phoenix yet is a problem. A big problem! Yet the very jovial flight crew doesn’t seem to think it’s that big of a deal. They are yucking it up and having a grand time at the front of the plane. Meanwhile, several of us passengers in the back begin comparing notes and realize that several of us only have between 45 minutes to an hour to make a connecting flight. This concerns us a great deal.

5:52 p.m. – We finally get the attention of a flight attendant and ask about connecting flights. Now, I don’t think I’m out of line here, but I would think that someone in the airline business would have connecting flight issues at the forefront of their mind if a flight is delayed. Am I crazy for thinking that? Apparently, because we seemed to catch this flight attendant completely by surprise with this question. She walks to the front of the plane and suddenly the entire jovial crowd starts looking very concerned.

5:55 p.m. – A crew member gets on the intercom and asks how many of us are connecting to San Francisco. There are nine of us. They tell us we need to get off the plane immediately and reticket for the next flight that will get us to San Francisco. You know what’s funny? A direct flight for San Francisco left a few gates over from where we boarded at 5:50 p.m. Actually, that’s not that funny.

6:14 p.m. – We finally make it to the ticketing agent desk and commence to have a good news/bad news conversation. The good news? The next flight to San Francisco is a direct flight meaning we will not have to deal with any connection issues. And thus concludes the good news portion of our conversation. The bad news? It isn’t scheduled to depart until 10:55 p.m., which would then put us in San Francisco around 12:05 a.m. Oh, and we had to voluntarily separate ourselves from our baggage which is still headed to Burbank with no clear idea whether it will get to San Francisco at all seeing as it has missed the same connecting flight we did. I felt a twinge of sadness for our bag, all alone in an unfamiliar city, not sure where it is spending the night. Then I looked around and realized, at least our bag was closer to San Francisco than we were. At this point, it is very possible that I may have freaked out.

6:31 p.m. – Now that we are ticketed for the 10:55 flight, the first order of business…don’t let those Southwest jackals see you cry. Second order of business, deal with the fact that this is scheduled to be our first vacation in which we didn’t plan on having a car. Which means we need transportation from the airport to our hotel. Transportation that would be readily available at 8:05 in the evening, but at 12:30 in the morning? Not so much.

6:48 p.m. – Special shout out to MGL Limo Worldwide who worked with us and assured us that a driver would be waiting for us at 12:30 in San Francisco. We definitely had to pay for it, but they had us covered. Next up, trying to figure out how to deal with our poor lost baggage.

6:52 p.m. – I finally get a hold of someone in baggage services with Southwest in San Francisco. At first we are told that unfortunately, they close at midnight. But then they acknowledge that they don’t leave until the last plane arrives so we will at least get to file a report in the event that our bag has not arrived in San Francisco by the time we get there. Then, I open up a complaint report with Southwest. In this moment, I feel a little bad for the people on the front lines at Southwest. It has been a ROUGH year for them. On the other hand, I am still pretty hot so I try to be polite while letting them know in no uncertain terms how little joy I am feeling in that exact moment. To my credit, I didn’t yell once.

7:07 p.m. – As an afterthought, I realize we should probably call our hotel to let them know we are coming but will definitely be a little late…or a lot late. I get them on the line and let them know that we should landing a little after midnight and that we should be there by 1 a.m. I ask them to please not give our room away because we are definitely coming. I am informed that if we aren’t there by 1 a.m., their system automatically cancels all reservations for people not physically there and they can not guarantee our room. At this point, I am doing my best to keep it together and not say anything that will freak out Shannon because the act of holding my crap together while trying desperately to not lose it on some faceless Marriott worker on the other end of the line while having my wife freak out next to me is not something I believe I am capable of pulling off. In the end, the manager I am speaking with tells me he is not on the night shift but he will pass along our message. His suggestion is that I call as soon as we land and hope for the best. I agree to do this because…my options are quickly dwindling at this point. AND I HAVEN’T EVEN LEFT ARIZONA YET!!! I’m beginning to wonder if I even should. But then the thought of all that would be involved with cancelling everything and trying to get our lost bag back sinks in and so…onward and hopefully upward, eventually.

7:38 p.m. – With all of our phone calls made and all of our arrangements as in place as we can get them, it is time to acknowledge that the egg and toast from that morning is beginning to wane significantly. So, which of those exquisite restaurants that I was so hoping to try earlier should we go to? Apparently, none of them. They must have all heard me express my lack of enthusiasm to Shannon earlier because on a Saturday night, with an airport still full of people, 80% of the restaurants in the airport close at 7 p.m.

7:47 p.m. – Our first option of what remains open is a grab and go station that sells shrink-wrapped sandwiches. I turn up my nose in disgust and exclaim that there has to be something better. We then begin our second sojourn around the Terminal 4 gates in search of something, anything better.

8:29 p.m. – Shannon and I both settle for a shrink-wrapped sandwich.

8:48 p.m. – Sandwiches inhaled (as far as shrink-wrapped sandwiches go, I’ve definitely had worse) we settle in and realize we have…just 1 and a half hours until we are scheduled to board. Deja vu sucks!!!

10:12 p.m. – We have both walked, used the restroom, and are anticipating the boarding process beginning. But…something doesn’t feel right. The plane is already parked outside, the ticket agent has felt the need to let us know that the pilot for the flight is already there and everything is good to go. However, there is a lot of huddling going on at the actual door by the gate, then at the ticketing desk, then at the gate door, then as 10:25 approaches, everyone disappears. The entire mob of folks all now standing in anticipation of boarding this flight takes on an ominous feel. It doesn’t help that the flight one gate over headed to El Paso is already an hour + delayed. They better figure something out or crap is about to go down.

10:26 p.m. – For the first time in association with this flight we hear the two phrases, “we apologize for the slight delay” and “it will be just 10 to 15 minutes.” The gate agent gets on the intercom and explains that we are waiting on a couple of passengers coming in from Las Vegas who need to make this flight and that we will be boarding in “10 to 15 minutes” and that they apologize for the “slight delay.”

10:50 p.m. – After much standing and huddling by the gate door, the Southwest folks then get on the intercom and explain that their systems are down and that they are having to do everything manually and that we should be boarding within “10 to 15 minutes.” There also may still be two passengers coming from Vegas. They say this, but they don’t sound convinced. Again, they apologize for the “slight delay.”

10:59 p.m. – We actually begin boarding, and it is within the 10 to 15 minute time frame. Well done, you! We all get on the plane (Shannon and I are not sitting together this go round) and…we sit. The flight crew again seems to be content with just hanging out as the pilot comes out to chat with the stewardesses. It’s all very collegial with the only elephant in the room being that…THE PLANE WAS SUPPOSED TO LEAVE AT 10:55.

11:12 p.m. – After having been told that we are still waiting for two passengers from Vegas, we continue to sit until the original gate agent comes on the plane and heads into the cockpit for the next ten minutes. We are finally told that the delay is due to having to do all the paperwork manually without the aid of a computer, and…there were no passengers from Vegas. They conclude with “we should be getting you out of here in the next 10 to 15 minutes and we apologize for the slight delay.” It takes every ounce of restraint not to scream out at him that I hate him. That I hate all of them. That I have been at the airport for almost seven and a half hours and that I believe that no longer counts as a slight delay. Instead, I sit quietly and contemplate whether I truly want to be kicked off the plane or not.

11:55 p.m. – With no explanation as to why it has taken an additional 40 minutes to pull away from the gate, we begin to pull away from the gate. I look at the faces of the flight crew and realize they are just as annoyed as we the passengers are. I feel in that moment, a kinship. I feel that we should all join together and revolt against the man. But one, I don’t know how we do that. And two, any action a mob might take at this point would only serve to keep us out of San Francisco that much longer. I sit quietly and pray it won’t take long for them to serve that trail mix crap.

12:50 a.m. (California time) – We land and my first call is to the hotel. Come to find out, the night shift is totally fine with us arriving whenever as long as they know we are coming. We are good on that front. We hop off the plane and book it to the Southwest baggage office to discover that our bag is in…Las Vegas, of all places. We file a report and are assured they will deliver it to us as soon as possible. It’s 1 in the morning. None of us want to be there and we’re all annoyed. We say thanks, and don’t entirely mean it. They say no problem, and don’t entirely mean it either.

1:08 a.m. – We find our driver and we are on our way. We have been assigned a Mercedes S class car. After our day, it truly feels like a little bit of heaven. Actually, I think it would feel like a little bit of heaven even if our day had been perfect. That was a freaking nice car!

1:46 a.m. – We arrive at our hotel and they couldn’t be kinder. We make it to our room and collapse into bed. Thankfully, Shannon had the foresight to pack an extra pair of underwear each in a carry on and I had chargers for our phones. All we needed now was sleep!

1:54 a.m. – The room directly above us comes to life as the people staying there decide it is the perfect time to pick up every belonging they have in the room and drop it on the floor. Then they decide since it worked so well the first time, they try it again. This continues for about 20 minutes. I would have been livid and called to complain except…I just couldn’t care anymore. At some point, we fell asleep with the knowledge that our 25th to 27th Wedding Anniversary trip could only get better from here. Right?

Walt and Encanto

“Umm…Mr. Barker, you have a visitor.”

The low-level executive at the Walt Disney Studios closed his eyes in frustration. He was busy. He’d told Marjorie he was busy. What part of busy was unclear? He stared at the receiver in his hand currently awaiting his response with resignation.

“Marjorie, could you pick up?”

He heard the click indicating he was no longer on speaker. Before she could speak, he started in.

“Marjorie, I thought I explained how behind I am. Unless it’s the CEO, I don’t have time for visitors. Can you please figure out a good excuse for me, because I don’t even have time to think of one, and deal with this?”

“Mr. Barker…” Marjorie hesitated. The hackles on the back of the executive’s neck began to rise. Marjorie never hesitated.

“…I believe your schedule may have just opened up. Your guest is quite insistent and has made it clear time is of the essence.”

He hung up the receiver without responding and sighed deeply. He could not conceive of anything that could possibly take priority over the project sitting on his desk. But the truth was, he knew Marjorie understood that as well as he did, so despite a myriad of reservations, he stood and grudgingly made his way to the door of his office.

Stepping out into the hallway in front of his admin assistant’s station, his heart stopped and his jaw involuntarily dropped open. Standing in front of him was a man who would have commanded the immediate attention of the CEO himself, let alone someone as low on the org chart as him. Despite any plausible explanation, he found himself staring into the face of the man who started it all, Mr. Walt Disney.

Unable to produce a sound, the executive stood dumbstruck, his mind unable to comprehend what was happening. Marjorie for her part, seemed equally incapacitated and simply sat at her desk, her eyes darting nervously between the two men.

Sensing that no formal introductions were forthcoming, the visitor stepped forward with his hand extended and said, “I believe you probably recognize that I’m Walt Disney. From your stunned expression, I assume you are struggling with the fact that I’m standing here when the reality of my circumstances are that I’m dead.”

Through the haze crowding into every corner of his brain, the executive managed a half nod.

“Well, I would normally be happy to explain to you what is occuring, but my understanding is that I have exactly three hours for my visit. Three hours that began approximately,” Mr. Disney paused to check his watch, “six minutes ago. Suffice it to say, you wouldn’t understand it all even if I told you, but the short of it is, I have two hours and fifty-four minutes to glean all I can regarding the current status of the company started.”

The executive began looking around at all of the other offices along his floor and slowly realized the traditional work day had ended over an hour ago. Due to the time crunch he was under, he hadn’t left and had actually kept Marjorie on the clock long past a time that would be appreciated by the folks in Fiscal. In short, on this floor he was alone.

“Uh, if you can wait a moment, my assistant and I can try to find someone more qualified to show you around or answer your questions, sir,” the executive stated as he moved around the barrier in order to pick up the receiver of Marjorie’s phone.

“Young man, did you not hear me? I have less than three hours. I can’t wait for anything. I would actually love to tour my theme parks, but the time it would take to even get there would not allow it. I would love to get a full corporate rundown on all that the Disney company is involved with today, but again…time. However, as I contemplated how I would spend my three hours, I believe there is one thing I can do that will adequately inform me as to whether or not the company I gave my heart and soul to is living up to my expectations.”

The bold declaration hung in the air as Mr. Disney stood confidently staring at the obviously flummoxed executive. When it became clear that Walt would not be volunteering what it was he expected without some prompting, the executive finally broke the silence.

“Ohhkayyy. What is it you believe I can do for you?”

“Do you have access to a screening room?”

“I do.”

“I would like to see the most recent animated feature released by the Walt Disney company. You still produce animated features don’t you?”

“Uhh, yeah. We just released the 60th Disney animated feature last week.”

“I want to see it.”

Mr. Barker breathed easily for the first time since this unexpected encounter began. This request was actually something he could handle quite easily. With a half smile and quick nod, he shot back, “Let’s see what we can do.”

The executive picked up the phone and began firing instructions into the receiver and less than ten minutes later, the two men were seated in a small screening room one floor up from the young executive’s office. As an afterthought, he’d asked Marjorie if she wanted to join them, but she quickly produced an excuse and begged off. He was on his own and not entirely certain that he wasn’t in the midst of experiencing a mental breakdown. Nevertheless, he glanced over into the expectant gaze of Mr. Disney and raised his eyebrows.

“Go on, man. We haven’t got all day.”

The room went dark and the screen came to life with the story of Mirabel Madrigral as told in the motion picture, Encanto.

Almost immediately, a look of astonishment crossed Walt’s face.

“How are your animators doing this? Drawing all of this would take a decade or more?”

“We don’t hand draw anything anymore. Everything is done with computerized animation.”

Walt shook his head and looked as if he wanted to follow up with more questions, but he stopped, turned back to the screen and resumed watching.

The executive noted a contemplative frown cross the old man’s features as the refrains of the movie’s first song filled the room. But he said nothing.

The next 120 minutes followed without another word spoken between the two men. The executive, who had seen Encanto no less than 30 times, kept his attention focused on his unexpected guest and never once shifted his gaze to the screen. However, as the movie entered its final climax, his sense of how Mr. Disney felt about what he was seeing remained a complete mystery-the only hint comprised of a brief brushing of the eye at a crucial moment meant to elicit an emotional response.

As the film concluded, they continued to sit in silence as Walt Disney studiously examined the credits and the executive continued to watch closely for any indication of how the movie had been received.

Finally, Mr. Disney turned to Mr. Barker as the credits continued to roll. The executive pushed a second button and the screen went dark as the lights came up.

The executive held his breath as he awaited Mr. Disney’s verdict. However, the first words out of his mouth relayed an unexpected question in the form of an observation.

“There’s no villain.”

“Uhh…no. That’s true. There is no villain. It’s more of a film about personal growth, family introspection, and the finding of one’s self-worth. It’s actually a trend in our animated movies lately. I can’t think of a memorable villain in the last…I don’t know, four or five movies we’ve done?”

“Hmm.” The old man turned back to the screen and narrowed his eyes, contemplating his next question.

“Is it financially wise to focus an entire movie on a…South American demographic?”

“Well, it was the number one movie at the domestic box office over the Thanksgiving weekend. Keep in mind that we are still experiencing pandemic level box office returns, but it had a significant opening at just over forty million dollars.”

“Forty million dollars!” Walt bellowed. “Movies today can make forty million dollars in a single weekend? That’s insane!”

“Actually,” the executive stammered, “the Disney company has produced quite a list of movies that have brought in over one hundred million dollars in a single weekend, but again, we haven’t seen numbers like that since before the pandemic.”

“One hundred million dollars,” Walt breathed, his eyes glazing over. Then, shaking himself back into the moment, he added, “I’m sure I’d love to learn more about this pandemic you keep mentioning, but time is running short. But if I understand you correctly, this movie performed well?”

“It’s only been out for less than a week, but…yes. Pretty well.

“Your heroine is not a princess, and she’s practically the only one in the entire movie who doesn’t have magical powers.”

The executive wasn’t sure if he was being asked a question or if he was even meant to respond. Before he could decide, Walt went on.

“The music…this Lin Manuel-Miranda fella. That kind of thing flies today?”

“Oh, yes! His most recent Broadway musical was a massive hit. This is the second animated Disney movie he’s written songs for. The other one was quite popular.”

“Did he throw so many words into those songs as well?”

“As a matter of fact, he did. That’s kind of his style.”

“Hmm,” Walt murmured again. “Well, I have to admit that this experience has been very enlightening.”

After more than two hours together, the finality of the statement without any insight as to the feelings behind it was more than the executive could handle. He blurted out, “Well, did you like it?”

Walt turned and regarded him silently for several seconds. Finally, he responded.

“I would never have made that movie,” he said quietly.

The younger man’s heart fell. Although he hadn’t been directly involved in the making of Encanto, he still felt a sense of pride for what the company had produced. To hear that the man who had started it all was not impressed hurt more than he ever could have imagined.

“Well,” he fumbled, “I’m very sorry to hear that. We often ask ourselves around here, ‘What would Walt think?’ or ‘What would Walt do?’ I have to admit it is truly disheartening to learn we aren’t…there, I guess.” His eyes dropped to his knees as he struggled to find any additional words to say.

Walt leaned forward, placing a comforting hand on the young man’s knee. “You misunderstand what I’m saying. I would never have made that movie. And the Walt Disney company would have been so much the less for that decision.”

The executive looked up, confused.

“That movie was beautiful. The story…so much deeper than anything I ever produced. Each character was layered with personalities traits that were so rich and compelling. The music is not what I would listen to, but it’s ability to move along the narrative is unmatched in any film we produced in my day. The themes of my films were always some form of good triumphing over evil. What I just watched was so much more.”

The younger man stared back at Walt incredulously. “But, you are the ultimate example of dreams and imagination. Certainly you would have arrived at this point, as we did.”

“Maybe,” the older man acknowledged. “But I doubt it. I was a pioneer. But even pioneers are limited by their own life experiences.”

He stopped and looked away. “Let me put it this way. Have you heard the story about my inspiration that led to me creating Disneyland?”

“You mean the visit you had to a park with your daughters where they rode a carousel while you sat on a bench and watched?”

“Yeah, that one. That experience inspired me to create a place where families could experience enjoyment together. But that’s as far as it went. This movie can help families understand what it means to be a family. To be accepting of each other, and truly love each other, despite our faults. That’s extraordinary!

“Long story short, I never would have made that movie because I was limited in my vision of what an animated movie could be. But the dream that I had for this company, that imagination and powerful storytelling would continue to lead it to new and exciting frontiers, is so beautifully encapsulated and portrayed in this movie, Encanto. Thank you, for humoring an old man and providing me this opportunity to experience that.”

Walt stood and made his way for the door. As he reached for the handle, he turned back and said, “And that Lin Manuel-Miranda guy. He’s pretty good. It would have been fun to get him together with the Sherman brothers.”

“Funny you should say that,” the executive laughed. “We made a sequel to Mary Poppins a few years back, and he starred in the Dick Van Dyke role and even wrote some of the songs for that movie as well.”

“Mary Poppins!” Walt exclaimed. “But clearly he’s not British.”

“Well, neither was Dick Van Dyke, if we’re being honest.”

Walt dropped his head in acknowledgement. “Ain’t that the truth. And don’t think for a moment that P.L. Travers has ever stopped letting me hear about that one, even beyond the grave. But I still say it was worth the worst Cockney accent I’ve ever heard if it gave us a chance to see that man dance.”

He returned his gaze to the executive and smiled. “Mr. Barker, it has been a pleasure and two hours very well spent. And obviously in light of the circumstances, that’s saying something.”

Then he stepped through the door and was gone.

If We Have A National Embarrassment, It Isn’t Simone Biles

“Selfish, Childish National Embarrassment…”

Those are the words Texas Deputy Attorney General, Aaron Reitz, used to describe Simone Biles following her self-removal from the Olympic team gymnastics all-around competition earlier this week. To his credit, Mr. Reitz felt impressed to remove his tweet where he expressed this opinion and later issued a very significant apology.

But seriously, what is it about our society that Mr. Reitz felt the unabashed freedom to say that in the first place? I mean, I understand that we in America have Freedom of Speech. But I have also been taught that where much is given, much is expected. And so I ask, when are we going to start expecting more of ourselves with regard to our speech freedoms?

Now some might argue I am speaking in favor of Cancel Culture. I’m not. I’m speaking in favor of growing up. I’m speaking in favor of being human. I’m speaking in favor of exhibiting Christlike behavior in a country that claims to be majority Christian.

Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware of the worldwide religion that is athletics. And I am more than aware of our belief as human beings that we somehow have the right to rain down abuse on those who participate in athletics. It goes back centuries. But does that make it right?

“Well, they make millions of dollars for what they are doing.”


I mean, I’m sorry, I don’t understand how someone else’s success give us the right to say hateful, hurtful, or vicious things about them. I have a friend who is doing very well financially. Does his success mean that I should now feel the right to get on social media and blast him personally if some aspect of his business doesn’t perform to my satisfaction? Of course not. But athletes are different right?

“They should just shut up and play sports. I don’t want to hear their political crap.”

Says the guy whose previous 15 social media posts are hateful, politically motivated, and generally truth impaired.

Athletes have a right to speak up just like anyone else separate from what they do for a living. If they bring it into the arena, every person has a right to turn off the broadcast. But do we really need to turn everything we disagree with into another reason to be ugly to our fellow human beings?

“Well, they were being ugly first.”


I’m pretty sure when I read the Bible it didn’t say, “If thine enemy offends thee, get on social media and take that (expletive) (expletive) down. And watch those likes roll in, baby.”

I don’t know Simone Biles. What I do know about her is that she has dedicated more of her life at 24 years old to gymnastics than I have dedicated to any one thing at 48. She has represented our nation at the highest levels of her sport and come away victorious more than any other person in history. So if she feels like her health might be at risk if she continues, I’m gonna give her the benefit of the doubt. Because if she goes forward and injures herself in a way that will inhibit her the rest of her life, I get to turn off the TV and say, “Well, that’s a shame.” Simone? Not so much.

Am I contributing to our nation becoming softer? I don’t know. I don’t care.

But it does seem to me that our world is turning into a place where being kind to someone we don’t know might be the most difficult thing a person can do. It’s easy to be hateful. It’s easy to be a jerk. Especially from behind a keyboard. Showing compassion? Apparently, that takes guts.

So that’s why today I will commend Simone Biles. I’m glad she showed us a different path forward for someone who is struggling with mental issues or mental illness. It’s been far too long in coming.

But in that same spirit, I will also offer this to Mr. Aaron Reitz. Thank you, sir, for your apology. We all say and do stupid things and it was good of you to recognize that your tweet regarding Simone Biles fit into that category. I hope you will take this experience and think twice before spewing hatred ignorantly. As someone who has done the same thing, I can testify that showing restraint and kindness is the better way to go.

Recreation and the War Against Stagnancy

When I decided to run for my local town council, I never once considered that I was taking on the moniker of Politician. To my way of thinking, I wasn’t a politician because I had no ulterior motive. I wasn’t the front man for a large nameless organization lurking in the proverbial shadows. I wasn’t running to represent the high-minded ideologies of a political party. I was running because I wanted to be a part of making my town better.

Not that I thought my town was bad. It wasn’t. I just believed there were things that could be done to improve it. In fact, some of those things were already starting to take shape as Thatcher had just completed a splash pad park that was proving quite popular with not only Thatcher residents, but also residents from neighboring communities that stretched from Fort Thomas to Duncan and Morenci.

But to my idealistic mind, I was running because I believed a new splash pad park should be just the beginning. I wanted to ensure that in no way would a small park that provides a decent respite from the summer sun for small kids be the culmination of our focus on recreation and amenities that the Town of Thatcher could provide to its citizens. I believed—and still believe—that we should think bigger.

Over the last six years, others with views similar to mine have joined the Thatcher Town Council and as a result, a new soccer field/amphitheater complex is taking shape at the intersection of 8th Street and Reay Lane. When fully completed, this new complex will have the potential to be a major draw not only for residents of Thatcher and neighboring communities, but also for much of Southeastern Arizona and beyond.

Now, I understand that parks aren’t everything. I realize that they generate no revenue. I realize that they require significant funds to be spent annually for their upkeep. But on the other hand, I also understand what parks say about communities in which they are found. I understand what a small greenbelt or a full-size soccer complex can say to the family of a young professional looking to relocate or a recently retired couple looking for a winter home. I understand that a well-kept park system speaks to a community’s pride in itself. And I understand that once a community’s pride in itself is stoked, more often than not, greater things are on the horizon.

As evidence of this, I point to some of the changes we’ve seen in Thatcher over the last three years. Red Lamp Mobile Home Park has been cleared out to make room for revenue generating businesses along our main commercial thoroughfare. A proud bronze eagle sits atop a beautifully decorated monument in the middle of a totally revamped Church Street—a street that now boasts pavement that stretches from curb to curb and provides for parking and a bike lane on either side of the street. Striking new welcome signs framed by newly planted trees greet visitors on either side of town, informing them of their arrival in Thatcher.   

To me, all of this is positive change. It is evidence of a growing community.

Now I understand that some may question whether growth in our community is actually a positive thing. I think that’s a fair question. Those of us living in rural America generally do so because we enjoy the many benefits that come from a slower pace of life. But my answer to that would be that no community truly stays the same. A town’s identity is always somewhat fluid, and often if you are not growing, you are stagnating. And I would further argue that stagnation is the first step toward a town’s eventual demise.

Which brings me to the subject of a community recreation center. Currently the Town of Thatcher—in partnership with the Town of Pima, Graham County and Eastern Arizona College—has been investigating the possibility of building a recreation center that would house: athletic courts that could be used for basketball, volleyball, pickleball, and more; an indoor pool complex that could possibly include a warm water leisure pool, a cool water lap pool and a hot water wellness pool as well as a water recreation area for families; possible indoor racquetball courts; an indoor walking/jogging track; an Aerobic/High Fitness studio; and an ADA compliant wellness area that could possibly replace the current EAC Wellness Center.

The reason for exploring these possibilities is simple: each of these amenities are vital to the growth and sustainability of the Town of Thatcher as well as every community in the Gila Valley. In order to continue providing volleyball and basketball leagues for both youth and adults, Thatcher desperately needs more court space. Barring a major renovation, or complete replacement, the pool at EAC has a very few short years left. And should it go, Thatcher swim team, aquatic classes at EAC, seasonal lap swimming at the college, and a public pool facility in Thatcher all go with it. Additionally, in a world where year-round swimming is developing into a near-required amenity for both young professional families and mobile retirees alike, it is becoming more apparent each day that no such aquatic facility exists in the Gila Valley.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit and tour recreation centers like the one we hope to build in Thatcher. Each facility visited was a beautiful centerpiece for its community. And more importantly, each facility I visited was full. Full of individuals playing pickleball; full of young families enjoying a morning swim; full of high school volleyball players taking part in a summer camp; full of children receiving swimming lesson; in short, full of people who are busy living in a vibrant, thriving community.

Additionally, in each facility I and my fellow team members visited, we discovered the same two truths. The communities we were in are similar in size to the population base of the Gila Valley. And secondly, each of those communities are experiencing positive economic growth. I believe Thatcher, AZ is a special place. I believe the entire Gila Valley is special. But I also recognize that our valley is at a crossroad. And it is the same crossroad that faces every rural community in America: Grow or Stagnate. I believe working together as a community to build a recreation center that has the potential to meet so many needs for our citizens, as well as provide economic stimulus for our area, is one essential key to establishing the Gila Valley’s position on the road that leads to growth and continued prosperity. I invite all those in my community who agree, to take the opportunity in coming months to get involved in this process and help transform this desired possibility into a reality.

What About Dad?

Image may contain: one or more people and people standing

Through the course of recent history, there are thousands of photos that would be considered iconic. There’s the photo of a navy sailor kissing a girl in Times Square following the end of WWII; the girl running down the road after having been napalmed in Vietnam; three fireman raising an American flag over the debris of the World Trade Center following 9/11. Those are just three examples from a list that could go on and on.

The photo at the top of this post is never going to be widely seen outside of our family and so it will never belong in the same conversations as those photos noted above. But for the Ryan and Shannon Rapier family, this photo has already become iconic.

It represents so much. But for me, more than anything it represents the day our family died.

Now, I can already hear the voices out there. “Whoa, dude! Slow down. I know it hurts, but don’t you think you’re overreacting just a bit? Your family’s fine and hundreds of thousands of families have gone through this. Dial back the melodrama already!”

And trust me, I get it. I am fully aware how over the top my statement of familial fatality is. But let me explain.

I’m talking about my family of children. Now some could argue it had already died and I would concede that it had been on life support for three years since my daughter, Abby, graduated high school. But she still lives nearby and I see her regularly.

This was different. On Monday, June 6, 2020, I watched my son walk away from us for two years. To make it worse, that boy who walked away isn’t coming back. Ever! On top of that, if all goes according to plan, Abby will leave Thatcher within the next few months and I will have two children gone from beyond my regular sphere.

I know it is the natural order of things. I know that from a religious perspective there is no place I would rather have him be. I know it’s supposed to be the best/worst day ever. Except it mainly it felt like the worst.

Now before anybody reaches out to me and tries to console me with insights meant to make me feel better, please know that I already know. I know that if he had not gone, I would be sad in a whole different and probably worse way. I know that he will be better for having gone through this experience. I know it all. For those who aren’t clear, I actually did it myself almost 30 years ago and I am familiar with the outcomes.

I just miss my son.

You see, unlike most teenage boys, this kid actually seemed to enjoy being around me. Our Rapier male bonding road trips across the country these past two summers were carried out at his request, not mine. He would wander into Shannon and I’s bedroom at night just to talk and we would have to beg him to leave so we could go to sleep. Long story short, he’s my friend. One of my best friends.

And what sucks is that when my wife posted the picture associated with this post on her Facebook page, that post was inundated with comments of friends telling her it was okay to have “mom cries” or something like that. Tons of female supporters expressed to her how difficult it is to be a missionary mom on day one and expressed sympathy while offering support. It was wonderful. For her.

I posted that day too. You know what I got?

“He’ll be a great missionary!” Or some variation of that sentiment.

No offense folks, but thanks a lot! I actually already know that. What I want to know is where’s my permission to cry? Heaven knows I did far more of it standing there in the middle of an airport than I’m comfortable with. Especially in front of people I don’t know.

Where’s my support group of dads who are there for me in case “I just need to talk”?

I’ll tell you where they are. In the same place I would, and will be. Looking at the pictures of families crying and thinking, yeah, that sucks. But…whatcha gonna do?

Sometimes it just bites being a man. Not being able to express your feelings out of fear that you will appear weak. Not being able to cry like a dang baby when your world gets flipped on its head because…I mean, c’mon. We’re men!

I experienced every emotion conveyed in my wife’s face as she clings to my son in the picture above. I desperately wanted to keep him here, take him home and tell the Church that, I’m sorry, Braden Rapier is apparently not available until further notice. Which made it suck even more when I had to be the one to say it was time to say final goodbyes. To be the one who forced the end upon everyone else. I despised not being able to give in to the selfish desire to sneak one more hug in after Shannon was done because I had to adhere to the unwritten rule: Mom goes last.

In short, I hated having to be the Dad.

So, to make up for all that, I decided the best thing to do was throw myself this pity party on my blog and document what I actually have felt and not a bunch of platitudes conveying what I should be feeling. Does that make me weak? Probably. Do I care? Not so much.

Now before anyone reaches out to me based on what I have I written, let me just say: Please Don’t. In this situation, I will truly be fine with letting the thought count.

In the end, I am a guy and in many ways I have already retreated into my natural male tendencies of suppressing my feelings and focusing on the logistical and mundane as a coping mechanism. I’m fine with that.

Also, the only thing worse than not being able to talk about my feelings of sadness over my son leaving would probably be talking about them. It sucked! I miss him like crazy already. What more is there to say?

Finally, I know the platitudes are correct. I’m glad he’s where he is. I am so grateful for the experiences I know he’s going to have. I can’t wait to meet the man who is going to come home. It will be wonderful. And the family that died on June 6, 2020 will be reborn, like a Phoenix, into something greater and more wonderful.

But in the short term, when I am alone and I allow myself to dwell on what is missing in our home, I can’t help but fight back tears. I know what is happening is a good thing, but I was under the incorrect impression that all the painful growth of a mission was supposed to happen to the missionary, not the family. I didn’t sign up for that.

So I guess in the end, I’m telling everyone to ignore everything I have written in this post. These words are the just the irrational ramblings of a crazy man who is struggling to process what has happened to him in a world where men are expected to do that kind of thing on their own. I both hate that and completely understand it all at the same time.

To finish, I guess what makes this whole process most difficult is that I know what he’s going to face. I know how hard it’s going to be. Nobody else in my little family understands it, but I do. And there are going to be things that happen during the next two years to my son that I wouldn’t wish on an enemy, and there is nothing I can do about it. That, more than anything, hurts so very bad. I know it will be for his good, but my natural instinct is to protect him from things like that, and I can’t. I mean, I could…but I can’t. And I’m having trouble dealing with that. I know there will be wonderful things that happen as well and for those life-changing events I am so excited for him. But as he goes to bed tonight in a place that is foreign to him and he is finally left to himself to deal with his thoughts and feelings, I have an inkling of how he feels. Like I said, I did it myself 28 years ago this month. It’s a very lonely place. And it doesn’t matter how much you know the Lord is with you or that you are where He wants you to be, it’s not home. And that’s when the reality begins to sink in that the life you left behind isn’t going to be there when you return.

He’ll be fine. He will survive the hard times like literally hundreds of thousands before him have. But I’m a parent. And I can’t help but worry. However, as a male parent (this blog post aside) I will do it quietly or with as much faked bravado as possible. That’s just what we do. But every great once in a while, I find myself wishing there was a manly way to break down.

Until then, though, we’ll go with everything is fine. We’re all good and there is nothing to see here. I am proud of my son and I am praying for him morning, noon and night. And I know for a fact, he will be a fantastic missionary. He better be. Because his mom didn’t give him up for two years to be anything less. And because I’m a dad, that’s the last thing I told him before we watched him walk away through the gateway to adulthood.

White America Can’t Let This Go

Today, I didn’t want to write about the ongoing issues regarding race that are enveloping our country at the moment. I wanted to write a much lighter piece about our family selling a vehicle that we’ve owned for 16 years. But talking about anything other than the death of George Floyd, the current state of race relations in America and the desperate need for institutional change in our country just seems wrong.

Which I suppose it the whole point, isn’t it? As a white American, if I get down or depressed or stressed out about the plight of African-Americans in our country, I can just choose to not think about it anymore. I can focus on something else. The color of my skin allows me to leave those overwhelming problems behind.

Which is why for decades nothing has changed.

I can tell myself that I’m not racist. I truly do believe I’m not. I certainly try not to be. I’ve empathized with African-American families who have lost loved ones to police brutality, but I’ve also been guilty of becoming judgmental when negative aspects of the victim’s life come out. I have to admit to having thoughts of, “Well, maybe he did something to deserve this. I mean, he’s barely in his early twenties and he already has an extensive police record.” If you’re white and reading this, be honest. Have you not had similar thoughts as well?

I’ve also found it easy to dismiss the plight of the African-American community when protests have turned to riots. I have, in the past, justified myself in moving on to other thoughts because if that is how those individuals feel about their own community, why should I get too worked up about it? I have my own problems. Which I would then move on to and forget about what day to day life might be like for people in this country with skin color that is different than my own.

Writing those two paragraphs makes me ashamed. It legitimately brings tears to my eyes because I have always thought of myself as a Christian person who wants to do good.

And at that same time, I know that my failures in this area do not define me in total. I really don’t believe I’m a bad person.

I’m just privileged. So privileged in fact that I have the luxury of not having to think about race problems.

A few years ago, I got pulled over crossing the San Carlos Apache Reservation. The Native American officer who pulled me over wasn’t a police officer. He was a tribal equivalent of a game and fish officer. He had been driving in front of me for several miles at a rate of speed that was at least ten miles below the posted speed limit. When the time arrived, I passed him legally and did not exceed the speed limit in doing so. He pulled me over anyway. He took my license without specifying what I had done wrong and left me sitting in my vehicle on the side of the road for over 10 minutes before returning to ask me what my hurry was. He then suggested I slow down. He never told me how fast he clocked me going. I’m not sure he had the equipment in his vehicle necessary to do so. He just stopped me because he felt I was going too fast and he had lights on top of his truck that gave him the power to do so.

It was extremely frustrating. I whined and moaned about that experience for weeks and declared I would never stop for any law enforcement on the reservation again. My attitude was that if tribal cops wanted to call ahead and have me stopped by “regular” law enforcement, I would be happy to deal with them.

Now, after two days of reading account after account of African-American men who have been pulled over, detained and harassed-simply because they match a description of being black-I feel pretty silly. For them, there’s no one to complain to. There is no “regular” law enforcement coming to help them in their search for justice.

They just have to take it.

And that has to stop.

The problem is, I feel powerless. What am I supposed to do? I am a pretty average white guy in rural Arizona. I have no power. I have no ability to enact change.

Except I do.

I am friendly with a number of people of color. I say friendly, because I worry about granting myself the designation of friend based on my lack of interest in what their American life experience has been. One of these people I have great respect for is a woman named Royce Hunt. She’s amazing. Yes, she never gets me the form I need on time for an annual event I oversee, but it is well known where I live that if you want someone committed to getting things done in our community, you call Royce. Over the years, we have talked on occasion about the struggles African-Americans face in society, but the truth is I could have listened more. I should have listened more without the prompting of national riots. Now, one concern I do have is that people of color are likely to be bombarded with people like me suffering from white guilt who suddenly want to know “their story.” I don’t know that forcing those conversations now is necessarily the answer either.

But what I can do is vote. And those are the conversations I can have. I don’t need to badger people who are different than me to share their most uncomfortable experiences. I’m certainly open to hearing them should they want to share them. But what might be more productive is talking to Royce, or talking to my brother who is Asian-American, or talking with many other voices I know about political issues. Issues that I think I understand, but maybe could understand better with added perspective from a person of color. I can then act on that information and add my voice at the ballot box to those who would make our country better for EVERYONE. I can vote for candidates who will fight for better funding for schools that teach predominately black and Latino students. I can vote for candidates who are willing to stand up and say we need to open up the hood on law enforcement in this country and seriously evaluate what we can do better. I can vote for candidates who recognize that statues of Confederate heroes are an abomination to entire communities within in our country. It’s not a culture issue, it’s a form of intimidation. We never erected a single statue honoring the Japanese pilots who bombed Pearl Harbor. So why would we recognize the men who committed treason against our nation and caused the death of over 400,000 loyal American military men just to protect the institution of slavery? We shouldn’t, and I can vote for candidates committed to tearing those abominable monuments down. And lastly, I can vote for issues I don’t even know about yet because to this point they have never affected me.

Bottom line, I can vote for a lot of things. And I can speak up on those issues and let others know why I am voting for those things. I can also be more compassionate. It’s not much, but it’s what I can do. It’s what I, as a privileged white American in the middle of nowhere, can do. And by doing that, I can go from being “not a racist” to being a person who is actively against racism. I believe it’s my duty as an American. But significantly of more importance, I believe it’s the answer to a question I try to ask myself everyday:

What Would Jesus Do?

Today, I believe He’d tell me that Black Lives Matter and to do what He would do if He were here.

So to the best of my ability, I will. I hope we all will. Because if we don’t, then we may have to acknowledge that America isn’t as great as we all think it is, and never was.

End The Riots? Demand Real Change Now!

George Floyd – Killed by an officer who knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. This officer had 18 previous complaints filed against him and had been involved in three police shootings with one fatality.

Ahmaud Arbery – Shot and killed by two men who took it upon themselves to be neighborhood protectors. They followed Arbery, who had stopped at a house construction site, looked around and left without removing any item, and confronted him with shotguns. When Arbery tried to run around them, they blocked his path. He then grabbed the shotgun of the man closest to him in an attempt to get past his assailants and he was shot three times. The killers were a father and son and the father had been a local police officer before his retirement. This former police officer had been suspended by the department one year prior to this event for failing to take mandatory firearm training. The local department found no reason to charge either man with a crime following the shooting. Two months later, after footage of the exchange was released, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took up the case two months after the incident and within 36 hours had found evidence sufficient to charge both men with murder.

Breonna Taylor – Was shot eight times as she lay in bed by officers who were not in uniform who broke through her front door. Officers claim they knocked first and identified themselves. Taylor’s boyfriend and neighbors stringently deny this account and claim officers broke through the door without identification. Taylor’s boyfriend then fired his legally licensed gun at what he thought were intruders and three police officers returned fire. It should be noted that neither Taylor nor her boyfriend were thought to have committed a crime. The “no knock” warrant to search her house was issued because there was a belief that an acquaintance of Taylor’s had used her house to receive a package of drugs. The acquaintance had already been arrested and no drugs were found in the apartment. Why this raid had to be conducted at midnight has never been explained by police.

Atatiana Jefferson – Killed by an officer who fired at her through a back yard window of her own home. The officers had been called to investigate a non-emergency situation by a neighbor who was concerned about her front door being left open. Officers arrived at this non-emergency situation, drew their weapons and proceeded to circle the home and at no time approached the front door.

Oscar Grant III – Shot and killed by an officer who had 10 previous complaints issued against him for excessive force before he shot and killed Grant who was lying unarmed on his stomach begging not to be tased.

Freddie Gray – Killed en-route to jail inside a police van by injuries consistent with those experienced by individuals in major car wrecks. Gray was placed in the back of a police van without restraints (seat belts) despite policy that required such action. Many speculated he was taken on a “rough ride”, a practice where a suspect is placed in a police van without restraints and without the ability to see or use their appendages for protection. This was never proven, but the fact that the practice had a name was of significant concern to prosecutors who tried the police officers involved for multiple crimes connected with the death.

Laquan McDonald – Shot in the back and killed while walking away from a police officer who had over 20 complaints previously filed against him, including 10 for use of excessive force.

Tamir Rice – Shot and killed while holding an Airsoft gun by an officer who had literally just arrived on scene and had been deemed “emotionally unstable with a lack of maturity” by the previous police force he had worked for (and was in the process of being fired from when he resigned) before he was hired by the Cleveland PD without any background checks having been processed.

The list could go on and on.

I believe the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line each and every day are good and amazing individuals who want to provide safety and security to the communities they serve. I work with some through my role as a town councilman. I know they feel as disgusted by what they saw on screen with the death of George Floyd as the rest of us. I believe what is happening in our country is that a very small number of officers are giving the rest a bad reputation.

But there are clearly problems. And they demand address.

Bad cops are getting into the system when they shouldn’t and then are not being weeded out as evidence mounts suggesting that they should be. This has got to stop.

Now don’t misunderstand, I’m not suggesting that addressing this specific problem will fix all of the issues that currently exist with well-documented institutional racism in select police departments or over-policing of predominately black neighborhoods or any of the other race issues that exist between police departments and minorities across this country.

But it would certainly help.

It’s time to demand that those whom we give the right to use deadly force meet stringent personality tests and guidelines during their recruitment. And what should happen when red flags arise regarding propensities toward excessive violence? Officers must be IMMEDIATELY removed from situations where those opportunities to apply excessive force come into play. It simply has to happen.

It’s time to stop ignoring truth. I support good police officers and I stand with the many officers who put their lives on the line to protect us and our freedoms. I am a huge believer in people like Sheriff Chris Swanson who kept the peace in his town of Flint, Michigan by joining protesters and being a part of the community while fulfilling his role to serve and protect. I support the cops who have stood and knelt in solidarity with protesters, disgusted by the acts of the men who murdered George Floyd while wearing a badge. I stand with cops who are tired of having their hard work flushed down the toilet by idiots who shouldn’t be allowed to have jobs as mall security.

But unfortunately, not every cop is worthy of that support. And to those who aren’t, I refuse to offer it anymore.

So as white Americans, can we all just stop being afraid to join in saying Black Lives Matter? They do! Saying it doesn’t diminish the value of other lives. It simply acknowledges injustice being unfairly borne by a specific race of people. They deserve our support, not our suspicion. They tried kneeling, they tried turning their back, they tried/are trying peaceful protest and they tried/are trying rioting. To this point, none of it has moved us in White America to demand change. Well, today it has moved this middle-aged white guy. It’s time to do something. I mean, actually DO something. So let’s start by getting rid of bad cops. It truly is the least we can do.

It’s Time To Own That I Am Human Scum, And Proud Of It

I miss my mom. She would have turned 71 this year. Unfortunately, cancer took her in 2009 at the age of 59.

She was a great mom. She was an even better grandmother. Unfortunately, she didn’t get to nurture that talent nearly long enough. It’s incredibly sad to me that two of her grandchildren were born after her death and that a third was too young to remember her at all. We, her family, are all a little less because of time lost with a truly inspirational woman.

And in memory of my mom, I will tell you that she was one who never ran from a fight. She was very active in her community and she was a tireless advocate for the children and families she counseled with later in life. She believed in standing up for what you believed in even if it was hard. I’ve spent my adult life trying to live up to her example.

Which is why I am no longer content to rage away here on my own personal blog or whine and moan among my tight circle of friends who feel the same way I do politically. Anyone who has ever read a posting from this blog knows my feelings about President Trump. I am not a fan.

I find President Trump to be reprehensible and a true threat to the soul of who we are as a nation. Despite his MAGA campaign slogan and his constant draping himself within the flag, I believe his approach to governing and life in general to be un-American. It has nothing to do with issues. In a number of instances I probably agree with what he has tried to accomplish. But the price has not been worth it.

So if that is what I believe, what am I supposed to do? Sit back, keep my mouth shut, and hope he doesn’t get re-elected? Write the occasional blog post that highlights his latest example of buffoonery or worse? I suppose I could do that. But I decided to try something a little more.

A couple of months ago, I reached out to the organization, Republicans for the Rule of Law. They are an organization made up of individuals who believe in conservative values, but cannot in good conscience support Donald Trump. This group asked me to submit a short video explaining my background as a Republican and why I can’t support the president. I did so.

That short explanation turned into a conference call which produced material that was edited into a three minute video and was released this morning on the website, In conjunction with the release of this page, the New York Times ran the following story covering the initiative.

My picture sits atop that article, so I guess I’m out there whether I like it or not.

In a tweet dated October 23rd of last year, President Trump described people like me who are known as Never Trumpers as HUMAN SCUM!

Well, like the Trump supporters who reveled in being labeled deplorables, I take great pride in this label. I will happily be recognized as someone Donald Trump thinks is human scum. However, there are some labels that I will not accept from him nor anyone who supports him. To those individuals, I would say the following:

  1. I am not a liberal. I believe in the same compassionate conservative values I held when I voted for George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney. I didn’t shift. You did!
  2. I am not a RINO (Republican In Name Only). In fact, I’m not a Republican at all anymore. I waffled on leaving the only party I had ever known during my adult life up until the day Donald Trump turned his back on the Syrian Kurds who helped us defeat ISIS in exchange for protection from a Turkish invasion. They kept their end of the bargain. Donald Trump did not and as a result, thousands of our allies lost their lives and hundreds of thousands were forced to leave their homes and join the massive ranks of the world’s refugee population. I won’t be a member of a party that accepts that. In fact, I would suggest that such a move is totally against all values I understood Republicans to stand for. So who are the RINOs really?
  3. I do NOT hate America. And how dare you suggest otherwise! I respect your right to espouse your views without calling your patriotism into question. I vehemently disagree with them, but I respect your right to espouse them. Loving all things Trump does not make someone a patriot. Conversely, calling out reprehensible behavior on the part of our president does not disqualify an individual’s patriotism either.

For the last four years, I have heard the following justification of Mr. Trump: Oh, I wish he wouldn’t say some of the things that he says, but he’s doing such a good job. Well, I’m sorry but what he says matters a great deal. Mr. Trump has spent the last two weeks basically accusing a media personality he doesn’t like of murder, without the slightest shred of evidence. Think about that for just a second. The leader of the free world is trying to intimidate a member of the press by repeatedly accusing him of crimes of which there is not one shred of evidence and which can also be easily refuted. That’s horrifying! And that kind of behavior can be directly tied to protesters in Kentucky hanging their governor in effigy. You know, the kind of idiotic crap that third-world dictators pay their mobs to do in the streets.

Well, that’s just Trump being Trump.

No, it’s a problem. It’s unacceptable. And if it were President Obama doing the exact same thing, Trump supporters everywhere would be calling for his removal. If we lived in an alternate universe where the president today was Hillary Clinton, the cries of “Lock Her Up!” would be ringing across the nation. Unfortunately in 2020, it’s just another day at the office in the Trump White House.

I can’t accept that anymore. Not without trying to do something about it.

I fully recognize that my efforts will amount to little more than nothing. As I have indicated in a previous post, I unfortunately believe Mr. Trump will probably be reelected. I hope not, but I suspect it will happen.

But I am going to follow the example my mother set for me and stand up and do what little I can. I’m doing it for a number of reasons, but first and foremost because I want my children to see in me the same resolve that I saw in her. That’s important to me.

Secondly, I believe in my country. America didn’t need to become great again. It was great already. It was great before Donald Trump got elected and it was on the road to becoming greater all the time. I believe in the years since his election, he has become the largest impediment to its greatness. And I believe we as Americans deserve better. So let’s demand better, even if we have to spend the next four years putting our house back in order to do it.

Predictions For The Back Half Of 2020

There aren’t many things in this life that will get an American more excited than an opportunity to make a prediction about future events. And even though we’re wrong about 97.6 percent of the time, the dopamine rush when you get a prediction right is just intoxicating. Which is why we feel the need to share what we think is going to happen in every facet of life despite having no qualifications, knowledge, experience or insight. We just know we have better brains than the experts and we’ll trust our guts over the generals eight days a week and twenty times on Sunday.

So with that said, I am here to present my own list of predictions for the rest of this year based on keen observation and my generally myopic view of the world. And be prepared: if even one of these suckers works out, know that you all are going to hear about my genius for years to come.

  • A High School In Washington State Changes Its Native American Themed Mascot To The Murder Hornet.

In 2012, the Washington State Board of Education passed a resolution asking all educational institutions in Washington who still had Native American themed mascots to consider changing them. At the time, approximately 50 schools still had mascots which met this criteria. But with the arrival of the Murder Hornet in the state, these schools have been provided a special opportunity. I mean, no school is going to get too excited about changing their mascot to the Hornets. Hornets? Big Deal! An appropriately placed boot can wipe out several standard hornets in one stomp.

But Murder Hornets? That’s a whole different ball game. Think of the intimidation factor. “You better not mess with us Murder Hornets, or we reserve the right to kill up to 50 of your small children over the course of the next year. Uh huh! That’s what I thought!”

You heard it here first. Be on the lookout for the St. Mary’s Blessed Children of the Poor Murder Hornets, the charter school of your nightmares, coming to a high school athletic contest near you in 2020/2021.

  • Mike Pence Contracts COVID-19 Through An Outbreak That Occurs At The National Republican Convention And Requires Hospitalization And Isolation In The Very Mayo Hospital He Toured Without A Mask In April.

Republicans have said they are moving forward with a live, in-person convention in Charlotte, NC in August. This is likely precipitated by the strategy the president is taking of declaring victory over COVID-19 and doing all he can to focus the election on a recovering economy. I do understand his strategy and I understand the reasoning of moving ahead with an in-person convention. It would be hard to make the case that you fearlessly defeated an enemy if you are delivering the speech touting said victory in a zoom meeting while you hide from said enemy.

  • No Movie Released During The Rest of 2020 Surpasses A Worldwide Box Office Of $500 Million.

I realize $500 million is a lot of money. But for perspective, in 2019 two movies made over $500 million in North America alone. A movie making $500 million worldwide last year would have been the 15th most successful movie of the year. But this year, despite the loud voices of a few, I don’t believe the general public is going to be in a hurry to head back to theaters. In fact, as a second associated sub-prediction, I believe we’ll see the trend of releasing films directly to rental streaming continue beyond social distancing requirements. I also sub-predict several national movie theater chains will suffer the same fate as JC Penney.

  • Demand For New Automobiles Decreases Such That The Average Overall Price For A New Toyota Camry Drops Below $20,000.

I’m planning on buying a new car later this year. It just so happens I’m very interested in a Toyota Camry. There’s a chance this may be more wishful thinking than an actual prediction.

  • This Will Be The Ugliest Presidential Campaign Of Our Collective Lifetimes.

What do you do if you are a generally unlikable human being and you are put in a position of trying to make someone else look even more unlikable than you? That’s the predicament now facing Donald Trump. And boy, don’t doubt for an instant that he, and his vile little mini-me 1 and mini-me 2 aren’t up to the task.

Over the weekend, Donald Jr. leveled the claim that Biden is a pedophile. No proof of course, because in Trump-world proof is never required. What is required is to define your opponent with a slanderous allegation first, before that same definition can be assigned to you. With 23 named women-some of whom were minors at the time-on record with allegations of sexual misconduct against the president, it’s going to be important for the Trump campaign to get the stink of sexual miscreant slathered all over Biden as soon as possible. That way, when the damaging label comes calling for him, the hope is that we the public will have given the entire subject of sexual deviancy a collective shrug. Sounds almost Clintonesque doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, Eric Trump spent his weekend trying to breathe life into the ridiculous claim that COVID-19 is an overblown hoax meant to take down his father. He further claimed that once the election is over, COVID-19 will magically disappear. I could offer further thoughts and perspective on this, but instead, I’ll just go with what most rational human beings would say to this idiocy…Man, just shut the h*** up, you freaking Jack-wagon!

But here’s the problem. This is just a preview of what’s to come. You see, Trump isn’t just going to dust off the Clinton playbook on how to deal with your political adversaries, he’s going to give it a massive overhaul complete with dual exhaust, gold rims and a hydraulic lift system. He knows he is going to have to generate as much dislike for Biden as existed for one of the most unlikable presidential candidates ever to come down the pike in the form of Hillary Clinton. That’s not an easy task. It’s gonna take a river of money the size of the Amazon all spent on advertising designed to bombard us into the stone age. And that’s just on the Republican side. I’m already tired of this election and it hasn’t even really started yet. And to make it worse, I live in a designated swing state. Maybe I should just join a monastery for the next six months. Or better yet, I’ll just disconnect my Facebook and stay in quarantine with just my Disney+ subscription to keep me company. When is the second season of The Mandalorian supposed to drop anyway?

  • Republican Senators Will Eventually Attempt To Have Former President Barack Obama or Current Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden Testify Regarding “Obamagate”.

Boy have we seen this movie before. President Trump throws out the wackiest of claims and then demands that nationally elected GOP Senators and Reps back him up. Initially, these elected officials do all they can to avoid getting swept up in the latest hi-jinx of Trump’s on-going reality series Keeping Up With The KarTrumpians. But in the end, after months of non-stop conspiracy theory validation (minus any actual proof, of course) from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, the pressure from their radicalized base gets too high and these GOP politicians trade in their solid reputations for a ticket to board the express train to Wackoville. Republican senators will follow this model once again and we should expect hearings on this Trump self-described “biggest political crime and scandal in the history of the USA.”

Which leads me to my next prediction:

  • Republicans Will Lose Control Of The Senate.

Way back in 2016, I made a prediction that despite how much fun it would be for Republicans to throw the world’s biggest temper tantrum and elect Donald Trump, in the end, The Notorious DJT would ultimately damage the party so severely that it would take decades to recover. For the record, I am standing by that prediction. For evidence, I say look no further than my home state of Arizona. I recognize that election day is a long way off, but polling today suggests that by January 2021, Arizona will be represented by two Democratic senators for the first time since 1953. It didn’t have to be this way. Had Republicans not run off Jeff Flake in 2018, there is sufficient evidence to suggest he would have held on to his seat in a general election. But he had committed the ultimate crime in the new Trump-GOP era. He spoke ill of the king. That’s not allowed. He voted for the president’s agenda over 90% of the time. But that’s not good enough. You have to kiss the ring, or anything else for that matter, whenever The Don says so or you are a Dead Man Walking. Well, it’s possible that the GOP could follow Jeff Flake into attaining Dead Man Walking status in Arizona if trends don’t change. The same is true in Maine, Colorado and Nevada. Georgia is now looking to be in play nationally in 2020 as is North Carolina and possibly even Florida. Now I don’t believe those states will all flip over into the blue column, but the writing is on the wall. Trump has done nothing to expand the base. Nothing! He may still win the White House based on his Reality TV/Larger Than Life persona, but those traits don’t play well down ballot. And a scenario that seemed all but impossible to Mitch McConnell one year ago now looks more and more like a real possibility: his days as senate majority leader may be coming to an end.

  • Democrats Will Screw Up A Prime Opportunity And Lose The White House In 2020.

The playbook is simple. Republicans laid it out for them in 2012 and 1996. You can’t win a presidential election by simply pointing out what an idiot/miscreant/sultan vile betrayer/demon overlord the other guy is. It never works. These parties live in a bubble and listen to what their base is saying and always fail to hear what the voters who make the difference are saying. Loyal democrats hate Trump. They hate him more than cats hate water. But while the middle of the road voter might not actually care for Trump, their overriding concerns are about actual issues that affect them. They care about their jobs. Voters that will decide this election in the states that matter care about manufacturing jobs, oil production jobs, and maintaining a way of life that mirrors the romanticized lives of their parents and grandparents. For all of his faults, Trump gets this. Time and again, Democrats have proven that they don’t. We’ll see if Biden figures it out in time, but if he’s forced to placate the progressive wing of his party then we’ll know he hasn’t. And we’ll know that he’s going to lose.

  • By December 2020, A Majority Of Folks Will Just Be Too Exhausted To Be Angry And Scared Anymore.

I wish this was a real prediction. Heaven knows we need it to come true. Everyday just feels like we’re all on a never-ending loop of the Jerry Springer Show and it sucks. We need to stop. We need to start seeing every other person for who they actually are and not for the radically segmented portion of the population they supposedly represent.

So instead of a prediction, let’s call it my 2020 Christmas wish. I wish for us all to calm down. I wish that if a world-threatening pandemic strikes us again, our most concerning thoughts will be on the welfare of others and not on who should take the political blame or what political statement I’m making if I wear a mask. I wish for 24-hour news channels to be banned as part of the final COVID-19 bailout bill. I wish for people to care about each other. All the time.

Bottom line, I wish for the impossible…and I know it. But like I said at the top of this post: ridiculous odds aren’t gonna stop me from making such a wild prediction. Because imagine the dopamine rush I would get should I happen to call this one right.