An Unexpected Gift From My Other 10-Year-Old Baby

Ten years ago, I completed one of the most arduous and difficult things I have ever done. The result of that work also happens to be what I consider one of my greatest achievements. I don’t know its exact slot on the officially ranked list, but I feel safe in saying it is definitely Top 10. And what is this life-changing achievement? In 2013, I officially finished my one and only novel, The Reluctant Blogger. It would go on to be published by Cedar Fort Publishing in August of that same year.

In the months that followed, I got to experience firsthand what it is like to have something you have put all of your heart and soul into-something you cherish almost as if it were your own child-placed in the public domain. I got to experience what it is like to be critically analyzed by people who know what writing is truly about, and by people who don’t have a freaking clue. And for the most part, all I could do as the reviews rolled in during the waning months of 2013 and the early days of 2014, was take it.

By and large, people were very kind. The reviews from book bloggers were overwhelmingly positive and as people started to post their reactions on sites like and Amazon, the good feelings about my work greatly outweighed the negative Nancys who felt that the time spent reading my prose was on par with a lunchtime visit to the DMV.

However, there was one individual who is an author himself that reviewed my book whose opinions I took very seriously. His name is Theric Jepson and he is a scholar, a novelist, and a more than qualified critic who kindly agreed to read my book. He told me upfront that he would get to it when he felt like it. He also stated that he offered no guarantees, but if he felt so inclined, he might review it one of the multiple journalistic platforms he contributes to.

That initial communication happened in the fall of 2013. I would end up waiting approximately six months before I would hear anything from him again. In fact, I had pretty much given up and accepted that there would be no review. However, in February of 2014, I received an email from Mr. Jepson informing me that he had completed my book and had published not one…but THREE reviews of my book…on THREE different websites. The first review was a complete breakdown of all that he felt was wrong with my book. It was substantial. The second was a review that highlighted what he liked about my book. It was a bit shorter. And the third was a deeper dive into the issues I addressed and how well he felt I accomplished what he believed I was trying to say. The website on which the positive review was posted is now defunct, so that kind of sucks. The other two live on in the links provided below. But suffice it to say, he liked my characters and felt that their experience was real. He HATED my attempt at a unique novel structure. In reading his critiques, I couldn’t argue with his assessment. If I were to write the book again, I would definitely take his suggestions and try to implement most if not all of them. Finally, he felt I addressed some important topics, but was possibly not on point with my assessment in every case. Final analysis, if he had given the book a grade based on the three different posts all added together, I believe it would have landed at around a C-.

When I finished reading what he had to say, I will admit to being a little disappointed. But on the other hand, I had to acknowledge that he had given me not just a review, but an in-depth three-part review. That he had been moved to do so seemed a win in and of itself.

I had forgotten about those three reviews, as I have forgotten about most every review I received on my book. To be honest, I rarely think about my book at all anymore. But every so often, I Google myself and read some of those old reviews just to be reminded that I gave some folks out there in this great big ol’ world we live in a positive experience once upon time. (Yes, I am that vain.)

Well, today was one of those days I decided to look back. And, lo and behold, I came across a follow-up blog post that I had not seen before. It was published in 2016, two years to the day after the three I mentioned above. I could try to share with you what the following words made me feel, but I would fail. So instead, I will print them below and I think you’ll be able to figure it out yourselves.

And as a final thought: Thank you so very much for this follow-up Theric Jepson. My gratitude is only seven years late, but it is as heartfelt as I can express.

Revisiting The Reluctant Blogger

Those of you with excellent memories or a fetish for reluctant bloggers may recall that two years ago today I posted, simultaneously here at AMV and over at MMM and at the AML blog, three takes on Ryan Rapier’s then recent novel. In writing this post, I’m intentionally not reviewing those reviews, but I suspect if you added them up and divided by three you would get a moderately negative take. And if I were to reread them now, I would probably remember all the things I complained about and I might lose my way in this remembrance of the novel.

See, for all its flaws of structure and point of view, I still think about the characters of The Reluctant Blogger all these years later. I think mostly of the protag’s father’s second marriage and of the pain the protag causes his love interest. These things—or, rather, these people are still with me. I think of them regularly.

And, in my opinion, the most important aspect of good fiction is characters who live on in the mind. It’s why Jane Eyre might be my favorite novel. Because I still think about Jane. I love Jane. She’s, like, my very good friend.

And The Reluctant Blogger also provided me with new friends.

So with that in mind, regardless of whatever I’ve said in the past, I recommend it.


Welcome to the Chase Center

Day 3, March 13, 2023

8:12 a.m. – I’m definitely nearing 50. On our wild child-free vacation, Shannon and I finished the previous night by staying up until midnight clubbing downtown…watching procedural murder mysteries on television that ranged from Magnum PI 2023 (unwatchable) to Monk (highly watchable). And yet, having done nothing the night before, we are still completely worn out and sleep in until after 8. I’m in no mood to hang around and watch lousy TV for another hour while Shannon prepares for the day so I head out of our hotel and down to…yes, I walked three quarters of a mile again for another Dr. Pepper Zero. I know, I know. It’s pathetic. But it’s not like I headed to the opium dens buried in the underbelly of the city, so…why don’t we all relax and let a man wallow in his addictions.

8:46 a.m. – I’m staring at an empty shelf where the Dr. Pepper Zero once stood. I am bereft. I am lost. I am…


Just order enough to last for more than a day! It’s not a hard request. Just add a zero to that number on your order sheet and we’d all be happy. SHEESH! Instead, I have to settle for a (*cough*) Regular Diet Dr. Pepper (*cough*). Despite what the miniature man says in the commercials, it is NOT the Sweet! That would be Dr. Pepper Zero. Alright, I’ll stop, but my day is practically ruined and it hasn’t even started yet. Well done, CVS! I know you were there for me yesterday, but this is a what have you done for me lately world, and today you failed! Let’s move on.

9:31 a.m. – Today, we begin our adventures by heading out to visit the Japanese Tea Garden, located in Golden Gate Park. Unfortunately, with all we hope to accomplish today, we do not have time to search another stellar breakfast like the day before, so we settle for Pop Tarts from the CVS. And why Pop Tarts? Because CVS does not carry any delectable cherry and cheese pastry options like they should. I’m really starting to doubt the long-term viability of CVS as a publicly traded corporation. So it’s a cold Pop Tart and a quick dash out to “our” bus stop to once again catch the 28.

10:08 a.m. – After another thrilling bus ride complete with transferring buses in a part of the city where we have no idea where we are, we arrive at Golden Gate Park. Unfortunately, I panicked and had us get off a couple of stops early so we get to walk another three quarters of a mile uphill to get to where we are going. Oh well, the wind that was promised has not really materialized, Golden Gate Park is astonishingly gorgeous and for the first since we’ve arrived, the sun is peaking through the clouds. For a day that had previously promised gale force winds and a non-stop deluge, a walk like this ain’t bad at all.

10:25 p.m. – The Japanese Tea Garden is located directly across from the Botanical Gardens which are also apparently amazing and much larger. To be clear, we didn’t go there. We went to the smaller version across the road.

And were perfectly content with our decision.

The Japanese Tea Garden was created in 1894 as part of The California Midwinter International Exposition which was part of a sprawling event that would eventually consolidate into the World’s Fair. It really is amazing how many iconic landmarks in our country were created specifically for a World’s Fair. Kind of makes me sad we don’t have them anymore. Anyway, once the exhibition was done, the gardens were turned over to the Hagiwara to manage and maintain. Makoto Hagiwara took the initial one-acre property and built it into the five-acre attraction that it is today. After his death, his family continued to maintain and improve the gardens until 1942 when sadly, the Hagiwaras became victims of the movement to relocate a vast majority of Japanese Americans to internment camps. The Hagiwara family would never again return to oversee the gardens. There are many truly sad and devastating stories that are born out of WWII. This is one. But I am truly grateful to Hagiwaras for what they created and left for all of us to see and experience.

10:42 a.m. – While taking in the serenity of the gardens, we get a message from Logan that he has made All-State choir. We are thrilled. I take a picture and say, this is exactly where I was when I learned you had made All-State Choir. It’s not exactly where were you when JFK was shot or when you heard about 9/11, but it was a momentous event, so I took the following picture to document exactly where I was when I heard it. And congrats to my son, Logan.

10:58 a.m. – I know I’m going on and on about the sacrifices of the Japanese people who built these gardens and the structures in them, but part of it is realizing just how committed people were to the common good of humanity in a way that it feels people just aren’t anymore. I am not suggesting that these traits are unique to those of Japanese descent, because I am aware of what many of our American Founding Fathers gave, and those of my faith who built the Salt Lake temple. But when you are in the presence of something truly astonishing and learn what it took to create it, it’s hard not to reflect on the day and age in which we live and wonder if we are capable of doing the same. As an example, I provide this plaque next to the bridge pictured above. I mean seriously…dude sold his family’s sole source of income to build this bridge all so it could be donated to a place honoring Japanese heritage. Then left his son in the United States for decades so that he could earn the money to buy back their farm. Holy Crap! Pretty dang impressive.

11:17 a.m. – Run into a couple near the bathrooms who comment on our Arizona attire. Turns out, they have family in Safford. We’re in San Francisco and they have family in Safford. Just like the time we went on a cruise and I made a fool of myself trying to get selected as part of the Dating Game show in the Starboard Lounge (we did get selected by the way thanks to me dancing in circles spanking my own rear) knowing that it was fine because no one there could possibly know us or The Gila Valley, only to find out that a couple from Safford was on board. You can go anywhere and you will find ties to the Gila Valley. Don’t try to fight it, it just is!

11:32 a.m. – With limited time, we decide to leave and get lunch on our way across town to the Coit Tower. Another good size walk to get out of Golden Gate Park and we are on our way.

12:13 p.m. – A co-worker of Shannon’s who grew up in San Francisco, suggested we simply had to try this specific Deli. It happened to be along our bus route so we hop off and hope we got the directions right.

12:29 p.m. – Thank heavens, we did. And that led to a fantastic lunch at Lucca’s. I got the Shrimp Salad and…my sandwich was so good, I can’t for the life of me remember what Shannon got. All I know is, it wasn’t as good as mine. We also had their “World Famous” potato salad. I don’t know what qualifies it as World Famous, but I suppose I’m talking about it Arizona so…

Also, this was my first real deli experience. I don’t count Shlotzky’s because, well…they’re not a real deli. I have to say, to be standing there in a place that had no room to stand in was pretty exhilarating. Don’t know why, but it was.

1:22 p.m. – Through a series of possibly unwise bus selections, we have to make a switch in the middle of China Town. Not the touristy part of China Town. The frankly very dirty part of China Town where I didn’t feel my safety was 100% guaranteed. China Town was on our list of things to see. Well, we saw it (not really) and crossed it off the list of things we needed to do.

1:48 p.m. – Arrive at Coit Tower and take ride to the top. Because I had been there previously with the boys, I apparently felt in the moment that it was not impressive enough to take a picture. I mean, what? The Golden Gate Bridge shrouded in mist in the distance? eh. Alcatraz standing like a gleaming fortress across the bay? No biggie. All of San Francisco at our feet? Whatever.

Of course I’m kidding. I really do regret not getting a picture. Also, we see how close Pier 39 is and decide to walk since the day has turned out so nicely.

2:03 p.m. – We are hit with the realization that while Pier 39 was clearly visible from not far away, it is kind of like the bottom of the Grand Canyon is visible from the top. Some of the streets we are walking down have a slope much closer to 90 degrees than to 45. I would honestly say that if I were to walk my dog on these streets, I would live in constant fear of one day waking up in the trauma ward with no less than 23 broken bones having made one wrong step that sent me careening to my doom.

2:23 p.m. – We arrive at Pier 39 and shop for a while. The sun has disappeared and the temperature has dropped dramatically. We noticed from up at Coit Tower that there are Sea Lions in town so we stop in to see them. Most of them are content to lay comatose and do jack crap. But two of them are quite animated as they engage in a spirited game of King of the dock corner. Now, understand there are a large number of completely empty docks to lay on, but these two feel this one corner is where it’s at. It is quite fun to watch right up until the sea lion next to them either felt ill or had had enough of those two and promptly let loose with a poop stream unlike anything I had ever seen, and I’ve seen elephants poop in real life. Not to be crude (which I’m gonna be) but it was like the fecal matter equivalent of Niagra Falls opened up and let loose right there on those two wrestling sea lions. It was both fascinating and horrifyingly disgusting all at the same time. It also instantly qualified as a top 5 vacation moment because, I mean c’mon. A sea lion crapping by the gallon? That’s priceless!

3:04 p.m. – We arrive back at our hotel to freshen up and prepare for the evening.

4:08 p.m. – For the first time, we get on a train headed in the opposite direction of everything we have done in San Francisco. It’s a little unnerving because I am going to have to remember this route and how to get back so we can navigate this same route in reverse at about 11 p.m. in a city we aren’t from. The thought of it is a little unnerving. But I’m also getting excited because more and more people are getting on the train wearing the colors as I am. EEK! This is gonna be AWESOME!!!

5:12 p.m. – And just like that (minus a lot of transportation transfers that were confusing and time consuming) we were there. The mecca of professional basketball on the West Coast. Ladies and Gentlemen, The Chase Center.

5:30 p.m. – I have been to America West/Footprint/Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix. It is impressive. But this place is next level. It was awesome! It didn’t hurt that there was this:

And this:

And this:

Oh wait, that’s just Felix. But still we love Felix. He’s the Chase Center attendant who let us down to almost floor level to get that close to Steph and Klay. Bless Felix! In fact, I nominate him for Sainthood!

7:08 p.m. – The lights go down and they announce the starting lineup for the Warriors. I can feel my 16-year-old self literally melting into a puddle. Everything would be absolutely perfect if it weren’t the very inebriated man one row in front of us whose birthday it is. He is rooting for the Suns and trying to pick a fight with every single person within ten feet.

7:12 p.m. – The game starts and Klay Thompson drains a three. It was glorious. So glorious in fact that the inebriated guy gets up to leave saying something about needing a drink. His girlfriend, who is seated next to me, is frustrated because this is what he wanted to do for his birthday and he is already going to miss most of the beginning of the game.

7:17 p.m. – Klay makes another three.

7:19 p.m. – Klay strikes from downtown again.

7:41 p.m. – Klay hits from three for the fourth time. I could drag this out and make you live all eight of Klay’s FIRST HALF three pointers, but…

7:43 p.m. – Klay hits another three. Sorry.

8:03 p.m. – Halftime comes and the Warriors are cruising. The drunk guy finally comes back and he is now so drunk that he has entered the “I’m sorry” stage of inebriation. He’s apologizing to everyone, most of whom don’t care and would just prefer to see what is happening on the court, but he saves his deepest apologies for his girlfriend and whoever it is he is seated next to, whom he then spends (and I’m not exaggerating) the entire second half of the game with forehead to forehead as they discuss…whatever. I do know that it probably wasn’t basketball as I’m 99% certain he never once looked up at the game again. I would just mention that tickets to Warriors games in San Francisco are not cheap. If I were going to have a heart to heart with a friend on my birthday, I think there are significantly less expensive ways to do so.

9:21 p.m. – WARRIORS WIN!!! It was glorious! I saw Steph, Klay and Jordan Poole all go nuts on the offensive end and the whole thing couldn’t have been more perfect. Have I mentioned that my wife is amazing? Best Christmas present ever!

9:45 p.m. – We plan to let the initial rush of crowd clear out and be part of the second level crowd so that we aren’t in the worst of it, but also aren’t alone leaving the Chase Center late in the evening. The picture below shows how well we guaged the crowd. It was a little eerie, but that place cleared out amazingly fast. And we boarded a train that was basically almost empty. Not a great feeling in my stomach at this point.

10:40 p.m. – We get off the subway and head above ground for our last transportation transition. The topside streets were basically deserted. We walk to where we are pretty sure we need to be to catch the final train and then stand there as the wind whistles down the empty thoroughfare. Good gosh I hope we’re right! A bus appears from nowhere and pulls up alongside us on the other side of the train stop. The driver leans out his window and asks if we went to the game and where we are headed. We tell him the name of our hotel and ask where we should be. He points to right where we are standing and says we are definitely in the right place. He then stays there and talks with us until our train appears. He was awesome and super friendly, and I’m fairly certain he waited with us to make sure we were safe. He is one my new heroes. The train shows up, our new friend calls out to the train driver and directs him to get us home safe. Which the train drive does.

11:05 p.m. – We walk into our hotel and are greeted by the very kind staff who welcome us back with kind greetings. I just have to say that on this night, I am feeling pretty good about the people of San Francisco!

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.