Freelancers Lament – Oh, It’s Tuesday Again

With a wary set of fingers I perch myself atop my keyboard and settle myself into a focused stream of conscience only achieved with a hand full of gummi bears and some groovy tunes. My fingers feel like they’re wound up tight and made of rubber belts driven by a cog somewhere inside me, my eyes are tearing up as we speak due to the early pollen drop, and my overall demeanor is bleak due to the forecast of cold rain for the next week. There are a few positives, which I’ll get into after our fun Tuesday game of “guess that location.”

So, this week is going to be a one time (so I promise) off photo challenge. You see, emotionally I remember taking this picture, however, physically I can’t place where it was. The beauty of working with Google photos is that when you take a photo, if you’re connected, it will give a limp place holder location as to where you had taken the photo. This one, however, escapes the Google complex. It remains a mystery as to where it was taken.

I can describe the emotional details, although I’m doubtful that they’ll help determine the location of said wind farm. It will paint a more vivid picture of the picture (hmmm, why does that seem like the worst usage of the English language ever?). I had been in the truck for weeks at that point and the whir of scenery was magnificent. There was hardly a lag in interesting things to look at which rendered my fragile mind sort of tired. I had ventured to new states and experienced some of the most beautiful places in the country. I was also a tiny bit malnourished from a diet of cans of herring and a morning parfait from McDonalds. Things got a bit hazy for a while, however, from the chronological timeline displayed in the Google album I can assure you I know it’s somewhere in Oregon or Washington state, and I’m strongly hedging on the concept of on the border between the two.

The problem is, I’ve been recently to that exact area and don’t recall this sight.

It was after seeing Snoqualmie Falls, after staying at the Motel Six in Pendleton Oregon, but before seeing Portland for the first time. Chances are it’s somewhere off of Interstate 84, but place is questionable.

Hints I’ll provide aren’t strong, however, if you can find where this location is, I’ll be over the moon.

  1. The river in located in the photo is more than likely the Columbia River, the big ole river that separates Washington state and Oregon for quite some distance. Very few bridges cross that river, including the main interstate crossing in Portland, Cascade Locks (aka Bridge of the Gods), and The Dalles.
  2. Primary consideration was given to Arlington Oregon, which is home to one of the worlds largest wind farms, however I have yet to find any proof there is this train trestle there.
  3. The photo located directly after it was one of the Bonneville Dam. a place that I would frequent while living in Oregon. So, it had to be somewhere east of there.

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It’s boggling my mind, however the photo is more poignant than just being another photo in my Tuesday challenge. I’ve taken the initiative to dive head first into my writing career and really expand my client base. This began by signing up for an internet platform that caters to freelance writers called writers.work. I was leery but decided to dive headlong in. I wasn’t disappointed.

The best thing about the platform is the fact the assist you in creating a portfolio illustrating your experience in a sort of social media sort of way. Click to interact features give you promise that potential clients will see your page and demand  you by name. Of course, I know it doesn’t work that way, but I have hope. Through the app I’ve been able to find potential assignments, all the while building an impressive portfolio page.

As I created the page, I realized I had forgotten about a bunch of what I had written. Some of it was really good stuff.

So, my career is going to be the aspidistra that refuses to die and I’m going to devote some time in creating text as opposed to cleaning coins out of consoles.

If you’re curious to see my portfolio, please visit My Portfolio Page

 

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Waters That Create and Destroy

Tuesday! What used to be a day that just sort of wedged itself in my week, unwelcomed, is now one of my favorite days. I spend lots of time and energy pondering what location I want to revisit and share with everyone. This week was one of a certain sort of depression, so I had to dig deep and find a happy place. While perusing my email files, cleaning up, I found an email with nothing but the title of this place. I smiled and popped that baby open, immediately smiling remembering that day.

It was raining, hard. The temperature was sort of hovering between unpleasantly cold and uncomfortably frigid. The rain had been beating on us the entire duration of our trip to that particular state and I was sort of over it. Slogging from the car to the little foot bridge that led to the fish hatchery, I found out the hard way that Birkenstocks in this particular state in early Spring don’t mix. I braved on and wasn’t disappointed when from atop the little hill I could look out over what seemed like dozens of trout tanks. The colors of the Rainbow Trout splashing around was something tough to really describe. Imagine glow sticks in a blender, that’s how vivid they were. The melancholy that seemed to company every raindrop that was penetrating my spirits and skin was lifted.

After a little stroll, taking turns with the umbrella, we followed a path that led to an amazing azure pool of water fuller than any blue water I’ve ever seen. Guess where I’m at! Your hints include:

  1. The area was actually popular during and right after the civil war for guerillas and outlaws escaping justice. The countryside around was still rugged and lacking civilization.
  2. The park itself was denied purchase when requested to the fish and wildlife commission when requested and was almost doomed to never become a protected park. A sort of flim-flam man stepped in and used some of the millions of dollars that he made selling medicines and tonics (efficacy was questionable) and bought it up himself, making it a park for all to enjoy.
  3. The pool, pictured below, is fed by a natural spring and accumulates before transferring over to the river that shares the same name as the park. An estimated 20 million gallons of water visit the pool per day from the spring, leaving the water as clear as can be.

Roaring River

On a side note, the excitement of the day sort of reached a peak earlier when I finished reading my 6th book of the year (insert happy here). It was a fairly easy read, considering I’ve been allotted tons of time to hunker down and purge on something other than food for a change. It’s a way of healing, I suppose, and the book I finished was sort of a noodle scratcher. Dam Break In Georgia, a book I grabbed due to the fact I’m fascinated by dams, proved to be way far off from what I had expected it to be.

First of all, the book, if you don’t read the second to last page thoroughly, you’ll be surprised to find it a deeply religious book praising the faith and courage of the Christian community of Toccoa, Georgia and Toccoa falls College.  I’ve been to Toccoa, I actually lost the keys to my car there once, but never knew anything of the dam break. Perhaps an event of mass devastation that happened in the seventies isn’t something to learn about by word of mouth, I’m unsure. I was curious, but not exactly ready to read a bunch of religious testimony about how the lord delivered people that day. I was close to putting the book down.

Quick preface to my religious beliefs – I don’t know what they are. (I really thought that paragraph was going to accumulate more momentum, it did not) I am incredibly envious of those that have blind faith in their beliefs, at the same time I’m the one that still doesn’t believe we really “exist”. I mean, we’re here, taking a ride around the sun and all, but the bigness of it and our long term impact is uncertain.

Back to the book, the expectation of a book detailing the engineering aspect of how and why the dam broke and the subsequent destruction was absent. Maybe that was a good thing, and perhaps this book fell in to my lap for a reason. Although the book faintly hinted that it had changed their religious standing and not only concreted some in faith but converted others. I blazed through the first few chapters, unaware that the tone of the book was right there. Twenty four chapters highlighting briefly the trials and tribulations of those that witness and suffered this great mass disaster. They, however, were not the sobbing hysterical crowd that we’re used to seeing.

Every single story was one of absolute faith, unwavering and solid. A few stories described parents watching their children being ripped away with the water from the broken dam, which was estimated at times to be going quicker than 100 miles per hour. Without losing their minds, they collected their courage and with gratitude thanked the lord for accepting the children into his care. For me, I was disappointed in this reaction, but that’s more because I’ve been a witness to the modern day “victim” mentality. Instead of crying for their own pain sorrow, they rejoiced in the fact those that were hurt were out of pain, never to feel pain again.

The most selfish quote of the book was “I didn’t want to be alone or die alone.” Within two paragraphs, however, she was begging for acceptance into heaven. That was as teetering as the faith in the community was.

Almost 40 people went to be with the lord that day, and when the news crews arrived, expecting mass sorrow, they were disappointed. The strength that came from the common bond of church was unbreakable. For me, sort of unbelievable. After that last post that I did, or whenever it was, about the Mormons and what not, I am hyperaware of the difference a strong religious can have in a persons life. How is it possible that the entire population didn’t grieve? I don’t get it.

At the end of the day, it was a great book, but without some sort of proof these stories weren’t embellished I’m unsure. There was also the financial aspect of the college, which was in desperate need of funding right before the dam broke. Almost like a publicity stunt the “strength of the community” ended up inspiring people from across the globe to send them money. Checks were rolling in from other colleges, congregations, even private individuals spent their last cents resurrecting the flooded church. Finances of churches always boggle me, this didn’t help.

I hope I’m wrong.

(you know the drill about guessing where the location is, and if you’d like my copy for free, shoot me an email)

Cruel Culture

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

Edward Bulwer-Lytton

If I have to explain the magnitude of this statement, perhaps you’re on the wrong website. Or there’s a good chance that you’ve never given it much thought. Maybe there’s a chance that in your new-world-mentality there isn’t really any reason to ponder the things that don’t matter. Right now, I’m in one of those incredibly insightful moods that can only come from reading another book to completion.

I bow slightly at my keyboard, sort of motioning to you, the reader, my feeling of pride in this next completion. To be honest with you, my friendly internet pals, I’m cuddled under a heated blanket, drinking a cold one, nursing by bruises from a good natured scuffle last night. I didn’t feel like writing the review that has been sitting in my draft file ever since I completed the book previous to this current book that I’m bowing for. Typing isn’t really flowing right now, and the need for food and someone to talk to is pretty high on the list of priorities, but I just really need to get this off of my mind.

Deep in my heart and soul, I believe if you’re going to create anything for intake by the general population, you must do it right. Cutting corners isn’t okay. Creating a subpar product due to time constraint or lack of imagination doesn’t cut the cake either. Do it, or don’t do it, and in the form of writing, for gods sake, don’t do it if you’re not going to at least have some sort of plot, topic, or point. (At this moment, if I were doing a YouTube video about this book I just finished reading, I’d point an eerie spotlight on the slightly torn dust jacket of my copy of Cruel Shoes by Steve Martin).

I love Steve Martin, he embodies everything in a comedian that I need. He’s not extraordinary to look at, he’s not over the top with jocularity, and his magic trick (there is only one) is the best magic trick I know. I’ve been known to perform it to small children and never get a groan or anything less than a roar of laughter. From his King Tut dancing to the best movie ever made, The Jerk, Steve Martin is my dude. I even love the non-comedy stuff, the banjo picking musician side. Okay, I do love dry humor and love banjos even more, but really, how can you get anyone more perfect?

Perfection was shattered, however, upon reading Cruel Shoes. I picked it up at a used book store, actually putting a book by Anita Thompson back and getting this one instead. How could it be bad? The man is pure genius! So, when I got home, the book found its place on top of the “next to read” pile. I was getting very close to completion of The Cat Who Saw Murder, a rare murder mystery that was only printed once in 1939, so reading Cruel Shoes was going to happen quickly. This morning was my day, I went to write a detailed review on the cat book because I had stuck a fork in it last night, but my mood wasn’t conducive of encapsulating the excellence of the book. After about four episodes of Hoarders and lazy hunting around the internet I decided to cuddle up and start my next book.

At a whopping 128 pages, I knew I’d probably blast through it before even needing to get up to pee. I did not get up to pee either, I wanted to get that damn book over with. From the first chapter, if you can call them that, I was sort of scratching my head, confused at what I had just put my eyeballs through. So I re-read it and was left just as confused, and sort of disappointed. The next chapter wasn’t much better, although there was a hint of a punch line at least. In reality, and after reading the brief book flap overview I was expecting a book of comedy routines in text form delivered by the pen of one of my comedy heroes.

No with a capital “N”. I was daunted but not defeated after the seventh or so chapter titled “serious dogs”, a sketch, I guess, about a pack of intellectual dogs. The imagery around sophisticated dogs chatting about art is funny, the text delivery is not. It’s one of those art forms that don’t transcend to text very well. I could have chalked it up to it being his first book, but there was something nagging at me, his name was going to be attached to this book, forever. As long as our society doesn’t go along the lines of Fahrenheit 451, this book will be seen, read, and interpreted, for good or ill.

Oddly enough, after diving into the internet to see if I was off my rocker about this book, my point of view changed. I read reviews from people that say (perhaps sarcastically) that this book changed their life and their view of the world. How, I’m not sure. There was also a review of a person recanting his childhood, and reading it at recess in fourth grade because the other kids didn’t like him. Heck, after reading the book and reading his praise, I probably wouldn’t like him either, he’s probably a weird dude. What was I missing? I was pretty confident I knew what the book was missing, a freaking punch line.

This particular review on goodreads.com really encompassed my feelings. Written by a man who had his wife warn him, a wife that is a huge Steve Martin fan, that it wasn’t funny.

“It isn’t very funny. At all. Maybe two of the 30 or so vignettes made me laugh. At all. And I love comedy. I love Steve Martin. I love laughing. But this book just wasn’t funny.”

I was the same, the bit about The Smokers was the best. Pretty much a story about people that smoke, and love smoking, and like to gather around others that smoke and then die. Otherwise, comprehension of what the heck this book was trying to achieve was beyond me. I’ll be happy to send this off to anyone that would like to read and try to actually “get it” like a few people say they have on the internet. I’ll even pay the postage.

The bigger window that opened for me, however, was that whole “name on the cover” thing. This is his legacy, what’s yours? Are you a selfie queen to your 4000 followers on instagram? Do you have a cult following in a car club for some reason and are milking it for all it’s worth? Do you design a medical device that allows women to pee standing up to avoid germs on public toilets? Great (insert clapping here), but when do you draw the line?

The society we’ve become is toxic in the form of information. Just this morning I was researching The Cat Who Saw Murder book, trying to pinpoint an actual value on the antiquated copy I have, and stumbled upon a Yahoo Answers article written by a man, perhaps trying to be satirical, titled, My cat is trying to murder me, I need help immediately!? I dove in, reading the story of this man that apparently is either on some really fun dope or just weird (maybe the same fourth grader mentioned earlier turned adult). Paragraphs describe the horror of this cat trying to kill him, initially with Windex. I did my usual move, put my mouse hand in the air, palm turned to the ceiling at about shoulder level, shaking my head in disbelief.

The responses though, that’s what got me. He actually engaged the reader. Sure, there were some “troll” responses, but at the end of the day, which if it were a true story, a very bad day, got readers. He GOT READERS! I was one of them. That was when I really went down the rabbit hole, thinking to myself “this is the dumbest thing on the internet”. What did I do? I typed “stupidest thing on the internet” into my Ecosia search engine and was immediately sorry I did so. What started as an innocent search for information about a rare book turned into an onslaught of fart jokes and people tripping over things. This is where we are folks, and none of us like it here.

This is where I escaped the internet to pick up a book from the stack, Cruel Shoes.

I hunker down, prepared to laugh, my phone buzzes with a friend request from a guy that I sort of dated in high school (although we never actually went on a date). I laugh, put the book down, snoop a little bit, then go back to reading. Phone buzzes, CVS wants my feedback, and they’re offering me a $2 off coupon for doing so. Spotify acts up, and I have to restart the app so I can continue listening to The Last Chance To Dance Trance. All of this information, bombarding me at once. Maybe that’s why my funny bone wasn’t tickled.

Recently, people don’t even seem to have a funny bone. Friends, perhaps by social media only, have turned on each other. Light hearted people that do nothing but try to make people laugh are getting read the riot act because they’re offended at a shared tweet. People are up in arms over such complex things, politics aside, such as what color you think a damn dress is. The “I’m right” ideology is rampant and the stress is real. I’m not going down the rabbit hole of when an opinion becomes fact debate, but here are a few things to take into consideration.

1) I’m not a fan of Cruel Shoes, however I am a fan of Steve Martin. This does not make the book free from criticism. I feel like in order to embrace an artist of sorts, all forms should be consumed, even the rough stuff. It paints a vivid portrait of the individual. (Think the Lennon – Ono era)

2) Fact based science, simple as that. However, when there are opinions involved, there can be no actual “facts”. To create a “fact” around something like a book, music, movie or politics is based on perhaps research BUT taken in and spit back out with your own personal preference.

3) Delicate usage of adjectives, real adjectives, has become the norm. Simply saying “I didn’t like the book” would be more eloquently phrased and probably better taken in if the sentence were restructured to read “I severely detested that odious piece of literature due to lack of structure.” Words, people, use them.

So, at the end of the day, I’m displeased with the fact I didn’t write my steaming hot review on The Cat Who Saw Murder. I’m also very proud of the guy that decided to write about his cat trying to murder him on Yahoo Answers. I even threatened to bring death to this Shoes book, by burning it in the back yard, but talked myself out of it. I want someone else to read it. I want to be able to have a scholarly chat about it.

HMU if U wanna git ma copy

The world we live in, SMDH

(that was an example of people not using adjectives, or even words, let me rephrase)

If you’re genuinely interested in this thought-provoking piece of literature, please feel free to contact me through the comments section below or send me an electronic mail. I’d be happy to send my copy to you, for free even, just to see if it numbs your brain like it did mine.

Included below are links to the guys Yahoo Answers pieces. Worth the read. Also, the reviews for Cruel Shoes on Goodreads. Third, a link to Ecosia, a search engine that plants trees to create sustainable lifestyles for third world countries. You should use it instead of Bing or Google. Last, a link to my Paypal. More and more artists are asking for funding via Patreon and whatnot. I haven’t created a funding buzz in a while, your donations keeps me in books and heated blankets (insert my sweet smile here).

Cat Dude (I don’t want to ruin the end of the story but it involves Wal-Mart)

As one review states, it will haunt you.

Clicking the link takes you to a place where you can donate however much your little heart desires. Keep these fingers typing and out of trouble

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Origin of the Oak!?

Okay, this is going to be thrown together, but more in depth coverage at our eleven o’clock newscast 😉

We played hookie today and went to see something in South Carolina that I’ve never seen in person but have been dying to see

Hints:

1) I’m over 500 years old and am sort of cranky at the development that was threatening to destroy my habitat

2) Although I’m big, I’m not the oldest, especially in these parts. There’s a Taxodium up in North Carolina that claims to be 1,600 years old

3) The park closes at five, however that’s a good thing. It encloses the park around me so that I stay safe!

Creedish, Hutterian, Mennonites, and Survivor (The book review that isn’t really a book review)

“May I be of complete and utmost service.

Let my every task be my grace.

In my every labor lies my salvation.

Let my effort not me wasted.

Through my works may I save the world.”

Creedish prayer (extracted from the book Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk)

I was leaving the Anytime Fitness in Goshen, Indiana on a freezing cold evening in February a few years ago. The blast of cold hit my face and I pushed the heavy door against the wind to exit the steamy environment. I had just showered, perhaps the first one in about three days due to being on the road on a tight schedule doing RV transport. Steam billowed from my naked arm skin, still hot from the shower, into the darkness of the parking lot. The gym itself was housed in what looked like an old Pizza Hut, but was gorgeous after the renovation, which was in the same parking lot as a strip mall. An already closed hardware store abutted a post office which cuddled next to the DMV office which was adjacent to a nail parlor. Other store faces sat like missing teeth on the façade of great building. There was a grocery store, sleepy due to he time of the night, and in a separate building there was a glowing mecca of red, green and white. You could almost hear the mariachi music from where I was, at least 1/8 of a mile away.

Arriving at the truck I toss my gym bag and damp towel into the back, atop the mattress that had pretty much been home for the previous two weeks. I spun around, knowing I took too much time in the gym, we were already fifteen minutes behind schedule and still needed to eat. My partner was already halfway through his cold can of Chef Boyardee Ravioli, so I had major catch up to do. Grabbing my can of herring, I pulled the top off and helped myself to my delicious dinner of semi-gelatinous fish and a few crackers. Sitting there in dark silence, I noticed the odd configuration of posts, and attached were plain black horses with their buggies. The horses seemed happy enough, and the buggies seemed charming, and at that moment I didn’t give it much thought. Horses and buggies are a dime a dozen in North Central Indiana. What those people do for transportation is none of my business.

Watching the horses got boring, just like the herring, countless cans of herring, had become. Running an efficient RV transport gig doesn’t include lavish meals and drive throughs, it was work. Work, maybe a moment of play a day, and then sleep. In between sleep cycles, you’d focus all of your attention on load boards, weather, traffic, back to load boards, gas prices, it’s a lot of work, not physically, but mentally. Staying on top of the boards and weather gets to you. The green blobs that you saw ten minutes ago have suddenly turned pink and the route that was paved in roses is now full of thorns. I was taking that moment, eating my herring and watching the horses to take a breather.  From the corner of my eyes, I spied, something I couldn’t understand.

Trotting out of the Mexican restaurant, adorned in plain back woolen looking clothes, black hats and plain shoes were three young men. Accompanying these young men, two young ladies, adorned in long delicate floral print dresses draped around tiny frames and sweet bonnets. The only exception to the whole scene was one of the young men was wearing one of those tacky sombreros and one of the girls was holding onto what looked like a stuffed florescent colored monkey. I watched as they laughed and flowed across the parking lot, un-phased by the cutting cold and made their way into the buggies waiting patiently for them at the hitching post. The young men helped the young ladies into the buggy, carefully, and handed them their Styrofoam to go boxes to place on their laps. Off they went, and there I was left with questions upon questions.

Rewind the calendar about a month and put yourself in the frigid tundra that is central Western Minnesota, Morris to be exact. In order to create a more lucrative transport system, it was time to put the old million mile truck out to pasture and grab a gently used CPO from a dealership there which assured that this truck was better than any other on the used truck market. With intentions on grabbing the truck sight unseen, we were surprised to learn about the trucks past, as a work horse on a Hutterite colony. A what? A who? With a blank look and title in hand, I glace at the owners name, Sam something or other of the Hutterite Brethren. My partner and I looked at each other with curiosity and a splash of concern. Were these people like those in Indiana? Why did they get such nice flashy trucks? So many questions.

This all brings me back to the book, Survivor, which I purchased without even reading the back cover to get a brief insight as to what the heck it was about. I knew the author is solid, and I’ve read his other stuff before and expected something on par with prior experience. Upon the first few pages, I was extremely skeptical as to if I was even going to finish this book. It seemed raw for the sake of shock value and didn’t seem to bring any depth to the storyline. To be fair, I’m not one for lavish fiction that includes supernatural aspects and crudeness. I was concerned this book was going to turn into a stream of bitter dialogue from a disgruntled character. I was wrong, and pleasantly surprised.

To pull everything together, the elaborate painting of the upbringing of the young man in a church sect was fascinating to me. Immediately upon the first mention of this fictitious Creedish Church, my mind went directly to those young people in the parking lot, normal as can be, enjoying life. I though of Morris, Minnesota and the fine truck that was once used by the Hutterian Brethren. I felt like I had some sort of first hand knowledge about these church sects, and I refrain from using the word cult, even though in the book it referred to the fake church as such. The more the book went into detail, the more I frowned at the depiction of the Creedish Church. I understand, it was a book, it’s not real, and it’s not something that should be taken offense to. I did, though, and I couldn’t figure out why.

What the author was trying to illustrate was a death cult, however, it was more of a morph of existing modern church groups. There were issues and situations that resonated with reality and although I can’t speak for what sort of research actually went into the writing of the book Survivor, but it shadowed on realistic propensity and real people. Those same actual people are those that have fascinated me since learning of their existence. They’re real, and although the author of the book was intending on creating a satirical piece, I found it disrespectful to the cultures that were semi-shadowed in the book.

The common misconception of the public in regards to the structured church communities is antiquated. My ignorance was embarrassing, and it caused me to want to research as much as possible about these groups. The exhausting part, however, is it’s impossible to wrap your mind around an entire lifestyle just on a Wikipedia page. I needed to see it first hand, and needed to put this curiosity at peace. Thankfully we were placed right back in Morris Minnesota a few weeks after getting the truck for some work to be done. Twenty miles or so due west was the Big Spring Colony, a Huetterian homeplace that stood like a statue in the frozen winter landscape. As we approached, I compared what I was seeing in 3D to what the plot of land looked like on Google Earth. It was so gigantic, yet so tiny. Dormitories, maybe three in total, were configured around a garden and a church, unlike most modern churches, sat modestly on the same campus. Across the road, the massive rendering plants and steel rendering facilites sat separate, looking like a Stone Henge made of building, solitary structures separated by vast nothingness but symolizing so much.

Let me give you a tiny bit of background about the Huterrian Brethren. They have their colonies (a much better term than sect) in which families live and flourish, working together to achieve a certain lifestyle. This lifestyle is revolved around serving the lord and work. It sounded remarkably like the book, Survivor, however without the fiction. The labor and toil of the book resulted in nothing, mass suicide actually; the labor of these real people result in a colony of less than 120 people, the maximum at any given time, grossing close to 9 million dollars a year…relatively tax free. This isn’t without an unfathomable amount of work, when it’s bean season, everyone is out harvesting, when there’s a cattle emergency, everyone is out helping. It’s a community glued together with teamwork. I call it admirable.

Of course, upon cruising down the road and spying from the truck I couldn’t have gained this knowledge. Countless websites vaguely tell you what goes on, mostly because the Huterrians aren’t as big a fan of the internet as the rest of us screen zombies. There is a fantastic piece, written by a Donald Huffman on the official Huterrian website that zeros in on the basic facts that any non-Huterrian should know. He took a leap of total submersion and created a brilliant, easy to read explanation as to what life on a colony is like.

http://www.hutterites.org/beliefs/donald-w-huffman-life-hutterite-colony/

As we did a quick five-point-turn and headed back toward, what I would call civilization, I looked back on what was actually what a civilization should look like. I couldn’t look out the window anymore, because I felt a deep shame, almost like being a visitor at a zoo. This community of people, hard working and religious people. aren’t animals to be gawked at. I felt shame in my curiosity, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I dug deeper into their life.

My research and reading led me to absolutely admire this group of people and be a bit scorned against the book Survior. I understand, again, that it’s a work of fiction, however, what really needs to happen is a real life documentation as to how hardworking and admirable a small group of likeminded people working together can be. Isolated for the rest of the work? Yes. Innundated with old-timey ways that most of the world would probably laugh about? Yes. However, they have the best technology for manufacturing, they have the most efficient way of educating (although recently certain states have regulated their home schooling practices), and crime is absent. Not just low, completely absent.

There is a flip side to the amazing coin, however. The modern entertainment business has started to glamorize some of these religious groups, for what I can assess nothing but profit. Take for example the program Pure, put out by the CBC, then picked up by WGN America. I saw the commercial promoting it, and the claim that it’s based on the true story of the Mennonite Mob. Of course, my curiosity got my eyes and ears and I found myself programming my DVR to watch it, at my own pace (there is never a moments peace and quiet in this house, so I ended up getting up at 3 am and watching it in the dark, with a glass of wine as I would have done watching it during the original air time, I felt that was important). I settled into my chair and thought back to all of those “horse and buggy” communities of Northern Indiana, so when one of the first scenes featured a horse and buggy I was excited. Maybe a good visual depiction of what really goes on behind the scenes. Something seemed off. Despite the tepid acting and the odd choice of casting one of the Trailer Park Boys characters in a serious role, it just didn’t have that good of a story line, it seemed forced and without real direction.

I didn’t give up on it, however. I settled in again, in a quiet house, to see if the show would start firing on all cylinders the second episode. It had gotten better, but it left me wondering exactly how closely it was written to follow the real story. The answer in a nutshell, Dr. Suess books are probably closer to depicting the real life and struggles of that community than the show did. Investigators of Mennonite heritage in Canada were sort of upset at the fact they didn’t even use the right buggies, the ones used were Amish buggies. To the casual bystander and watcher, we don’t know that, but still, even I know not all buggies are created equal. I’ll keep watching, but with a more jaded mind towards it, knowing that it might as well be pure fiction.

In the non-fiction realm, however, those same glamorized Mennonites aren’t the only ones to gain some publicity. One of my all time favorite bloggers, Emily Smucker – The Girl In The Red Rubber Boots, is a Mennonite and an overall amazing person. I found her blog when I was researching the culture after the whole Mexican restaurant episode. I found her blog and learned more in three blog posts than I had reading any other webpage. I’ve followed her have never missed a post. She’s more normal than I am, but I can almost promise you, she gets looked at a million times more differently than I do. I applaud her for creating this incredibly revealing without being too extreme. Her articles about attending weddings and visiting family make me realize that simplicity isn’t really what we think it is. She eats donuts, shops at Goodwill and has illnesses like the rest of us. Just because she was raised in a different religion as most of us makes unique but not alien. She and I share an incredibly common bond, she feels sort of spiritual connection with the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, just like I did.

She embodies everything I wish my life was. Adventure, people, amazing writing, constant new experiences, and sometimes disappointment in the oddest things. In a recent article she had written about going to a beach and being snubbed by other Mennonite girls, something that any female, aside from maybe a bathing suit model, can probably relate to. I felt for her, and knew that insecurity, no matter how deeply veined you are in your beliefs, is a real thing and the only way to conquer it is with sheer confidence. She went on to talk about going to a pie baking contest (something I can’t relate to). Believe it or not, the people at the pie contest snubbed her too. I couldn’t imagine being rude to this incredibly bright young lady, who I sincerely hope goes places both physically and spiritually.

Beyond such termed Anabaptists as the Mennonites and Huterrian Brethern, there’s also those sects (I’m not going to give them the glorification of calling them colonies) that profit and prosper on the gullibility of the general population. The roommate and I were talking the other night and he made a playful reference to my sudden (to him) fascination to the church scene, although I haven’t stepped into a church to worship in a few years. I explained the colony concept and the Mennonite fellowship and he struck me with an unexpected blow. His aunt and uncle, who grew up in the south and had fallen prey to our incredibly unhealthy diet, had found salvation and moved to what he called “weight loss church”. With a caution ear, I listened about the principals of the church and how his family members went from having a house and land to living in a basement on a compound somewhere in Texas.

With the surface scratched, I dug deeper into the concept and was able to find out more, maybe more than I cared to. Titled, The Remnant Fellowship, the principals were pretty much rooted in the same principals as anorexia. You eat only when you’re hungry in order to keep your spirit full. Somehow, this woman, Gwen Shamblin, who founded the fellowship, was able to extract the exact words in scripture to create this profitable, what I will go as far as to say, cult. If anything, the shame that is cast upon members that are a bit fluffy so much that they restrict the entry to only those that fit the mold. An aryan race of church goers that are all sickly looking and in need of some multivitamins and a trip to the cheesecake factory. They looked hollow, and unlike the colorful writings of Emily, there is total lack of that lust for life. The excerpts I read, the fellowship were sort of following a light at the end of the tunnel, all the while throwing out some pretty impressive tithings.

I’m not qualified to give religious advice, nor am I in a position to title an entire fellowship as a fraud. After reading Survivor, which this entirely long post is actually about, it sort of opened my eyes to the unrealistic stereotypes we tend to put these religious groups in. Think of it this way, if someone told you of this group of religious individuals that was really into being compassionate and helping needy people, but they had a few skeletons in the closet, would you think less of the general good they do (there are limitations of course). They might appear plain to you, no flashy name brand clothes or plunging neck lines, but remember what your parents taught you when you were little? Isn’t it what’s in the inside that counts. In the book they were plain clothed in the group and worked as slaves but did so with no hesitation. Once the main character got a taste of pop culture driven on appearance he pretty much self destructed.

My jealousy of the simple life was amplified after reading the book. Seeing as how I’m the most insecure, ugly person in the world, in my book at least, it would be an absolute blessing to me to have something like a church, that isn’t whitewashed, to encourage me to become confident. Of course, you can ask to be absolved of sin and give alms, but are you ever really going to be whole inside? The book painted that picture, and painted it in technicolor.

This entire post was a bit long, and I apologize, but every time I thought I could wrap it up I got emotional and kept typing. Even if one person reads this, I’ll feel that all of this has not been in vain. On this day, when the majority of people are getting excited for a bunch of guys tossing a ball around, maybe take a moment to expand you mind and read some of Emily Smuckers stuff. You’ll find that she really in a gem in the blog world. If only I could be as optimistic as she while still being real someday.

Check out the Girl In The Red Rubber Boots Here

For now, I’ll watch the puppy bowl.

 

 

Reconstruction Site.

Guess what! It’s Tuesday (seriously though, I just had to look and make sure), and that means we have a new round of my guess the location game. Let me be sure that we’re cool about this, I’m not in anyway trying to make you visit places, but you should. I’m also in no way swiping images randomly from the internet. If you want that, you can sit your ass scrolling through Facebook posts.

(I’m lost, I’m a frayed rope tying down a leaky boat, to the roof of a car on the road in the dark and its snowing)

Which brings me to another point, I forgot I have two other blogs wide ass open that I have neglected. It saddens me to say this site here has become an unloading zone for everything. Philosophy, car junk, my little picture thing, it has becoming cluttered like Facebook and Twitter (which I avoid like the plague, and if anyone wants to explain to me how and why it works, I’m all ears). I’d like to streamline my blogs and encourage you to adventure to them, depending on what your interests might be.

(If I’m more, then it means less, last call for happiness, I’m your dress near the back of your knees and your slip is showing”)

First we have my newest edition that sort of went silent the day after it was created, The Preservation Of Automotive Enthusiasts. That will be the go to page for my car related info, since I’m trying to get back into my car culture. After landing my first paid writing gig in god knows how long, writing about, imagine that, cars, I missed how much I enjoyed it. So I plan on doing more. Follow that site and throw it out to any of your car friends. The more the merrier.

(“I’m a float, in the summer parade, up the street from the town that you were born in. With the girl at the top wearing tulle, and a Miss Somewhere sash, waving like the queen.”)

I also have LBG Landscape Design,  it’s another barren wasteland of a few ideas I had back when I wanted to start my own business. The concept was called “Cyber-scaping” and was pretty much an on call landscape designer, wherever you are, 24/7/310 (paid vacation). I still think its a damn good idea and want to see what will happen if I throw it out there. Here’s the idea, send a picture of your area, and rough measurements and I can landscape from here. No need having some weird person scramble through your yard and not listen to your opinions. I’ve been designing landscapes since 2002, and have been pleased with 100% of my results Take into account that I’m trained in almost every zone (sorry Florida, you’re out) and can cater to your needs and color schemes. Prices vary. There will also be some advice columns, so if you’re a plant buff, or just really bored, follow that one. My designs have been called magnificent.

(“Beauty is just another word, I’m never certain how it’s spelled, please tell the nurse to turn the tv back on. Throw away my misery, it never meant that much to me, it never sent a get well card.”)

And of course, this one, the old Nikkiweed.wordpress.com, the brain child of this whole mess. Can you believe that of the over 200 posts on this page, only five were done last year? That there makes me very VERY sad. Lending myself to catering to everyone elses needs except my own carnal need of creation. (side note, I think it should be “the needs of everyone else”, but for some reason my pinky finger wants to let it go). People used to listen to me, I used to talk, now I find myself secluded and shy.

(“I’m broke, like a bad joke, that your uncle told at a wedding reception in 1972. With the little boy under the table with cake in his hair, stared at the grown up feet as they danced and swayed.”)

I can’t stand it anymore, though, I’m dusting off my dancing shoes and getting back into the rhythm. I know what happened, and I am hellbent on resurrecting that writing maniac that I once was. I think , for the most part, my proximity to anything that sort of resembled a muse was absolutely gone. Being surrounded by filthy cars and passive aggressive clients that never want to claim responsibility for the nastiness made me lose my faith in the good of people. Everyone sucked. This manifested itself in my brain and squelched any momentum for writing I had. I was lost, and couldn’t stand it any longer, so I turned to the one thing that always lulled me back to a better time, music.

(“and his Father laughed and talked on the long ride home, and his Mother laughed and talked on the long ride home, and he thought about how everyone dies someday, and when tomorrow gets here, where will yesterday be? And he fell asleep in his brand new winter coat.”)

I reached back to obscurity, to The Weakerthans. Painting a picture with words is usually pretty simple to even the most novice writer, but song writers, they have to create not just a picture, but a whole freaking mural. This isn’t as simple as a 4/4 count and a drum solo, the interwoven simplicity of drums and lyrics with a bass line that would offend nobody, you get the sweet sound from the Canadian band The Weakerthans, the soundtrack of me getting back on track, specifically Reconstruction Site (available on Spotify).

(“I need a shiny new machine, that runs on lies and gasoline, and all those batteries we stole from smoke alarms, disassemble my despair, it never took me anywhere, it never once bought me a drink.”)

The title track, is perhaps the catchiest, however, without supporting songs it’s sort of an island in a sea of impeccable songwriting. Highlighted between paragraphs are passages of the entire song, which seems hollow when written in Times New Roman. For each of the aforehand mentioned pages, it seems there is a corresponding album by that same group. As for this post, the resonance of Reconstruction Site sim simply put in a brief synopsis of the album, “A hospitalized man lightheartedly sorts through his thoughts, emotions, and shortcomings, and elects to ignore his mortality.” My mortality was drinking last year, perhaps attributing to very few selections put on the page.

I could let these blogs die, I could continue to pump some sort of artificial life into just one of them, but I’ve decided to apply 100% into them all. It seems like all I have left. I’d like to look aback and see a legacy of words, probably many of them left unread, by most, but at least it kept me from scrolling social media or staring blankly at a television.

I’m not usually demanding, however, I’m going to be. Listen to Reconstruction Site by The Weakerthans and then tell me where you are emotionally, that’s the find the photo this week. This is my shiny new machine.

Okay, so I did steal this image, forgive me. My copy of this cd is got knows where. (God, if you know, lemme know, k?)

certainfear

Locate The Luminary

This has gotten to be really fun, this find the location game, so I think I’m going to keep it up. Like the attention seeking blogger I am, I keep an eye on my analytics and see that it seems like all of my faithful followers sort of have fun with it too. So, on with the fun!

Despite having an interesting day, starting out with a frozen wool blanket that I was trying to keep my Oleander alive with wadded on the ground next to my poor shivering plant, our work van starting on fire this morning and leaving it working but charred, and a popcorn kernel that decided to go rouge and cut my gum, I’m going to share something cheerful. Maybe it’s because I need some freaking cheer right now. So, put on your smile and get your thinking caps on.

I’ve gone to the location of todays challenge two years in a row for their holiday celebration. For several years, it was almost impossible for me to get in the spirit, but it’s hard not to when stepping foot into this tiny town. I still think back and have a smile just thinking about it. (Note, there were some clue in that last paragraph 🙂 )

Here are your hints:
1) Every December, this tiny town cuddled between mountains sets out over 2,500 luminaries lining the narrow streets for their Festival of Lights and Luminaries.

2) This tiny town wouldn’t be much be it not for a resurgence of local art and shops a few decades ago. This tiny town has always been a tourist joint, even back as far as the 1800’s.

3) The Jarrett House, one of the main attractions of the tiny town, has stood since 1884 and hosts several special holiday specials during the luminary event.

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Okay, I know this picture challenge might have been better placed around the holidays, but hey, I wasn’t doing it back then.

For those that saw last week, the answer is Snoqualmie Falls in Washington State.

Click here to take a peek and remind yourself of the coolness.

The charity this week is one of, well, assistance. No donations needed, just perhaps spreading the word that there indeed is help out there for those that are freezing up in the great white north. I have found myself incredibly grateful, melancholy at times, but mostly grateful that our temperatures aren’t as ridiculously cold as I remember growing up in Wisconsin. I see people post on social media their cold weather stories, and man, I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine ever being that cold again and I can’t believe there are people that are without heat.

It might not even be a matter of being without heat, but a drafty house can zap all the heat provided. Constant heat running and then escaping out of drafty windows does nothing but rack up the already crippling bills associated with heating. Wisconsin has an emergency assistance program called WHEAP that assists in various services including bill assistance and emergency repairs.

Share  This Link WHEAP 

You might help someone from having to sit in the cold.

Shopko, the store for you?

“Television is chewing gum for the eyes.”
Frank Lloyd Wright

Back in the days of Frank, he was absolutely right. The sad thing is, since his statement, the chewing gum has morphed into an unfathomable mass that is everywhere we look. The transformation from getting your information from the local cracker barrel, to the newspaper, to the evening news is a thing of the very distant past. Do you remember when you had to wait until 6 pm to watch the local newscasters tell you the happenings not just from your locale, but the entire world. Before cable tv blasted your brain with multiple news outlets, before all that jazz, what was there? Word of mouth? Raven deliver note? Television brought an innovation that made it simple to deliver a message to multitudes of people at once. All you needed was a set of rabbit ears and a few minutes of your time, to chew some mental gum and digest what they were feeding you.

Today, (this is me sounding like an old codger shaking my fist at my lawn) the world is slap full (haha) of information coming at you from all directions. Sure you can still perch in front of the six o’clock news, but you can watch it at your own convenience. I can record last nights six o’clock news and watch it at 7 am the next morning, but then again, it would be old news by then and whatever was exciting yesterday would be a thing of the past. Let’s take that a step further and include the elephant in the room, our smart phones. Those handy little things that go with us everywhere including the bathroom. Those magazines that used to litter the toilet-side are now digital, and reading articles that had content are replaced with scrolling social media as we try and make our bowels move.

Graphic? Yes. Pertinent? Hell yes.

Here’s the thing. News has always travelled fast, and if anything it’s only getting faster. With the invention of apps that link you to the local police, you can get an alert if there’s crime near you. At that point you have an option of sharing on social media, to alert those that don’t have that app what’s going on. From there, they share, then strangers share, then before you know it, the neighborhood is informed. Man, I love technology. Man, I hate technology.

Here’s the crux of this whole rant, my darling, adorable baby sister posted on her social media that Shopko is closing. The a vague click bait that was the title had me depressed, because growing up Shopko was the it place to go. With the nearest mall an hour away, it was the closest place you got name brand stuff. The jingle was catchy, a pleasant female voice singing “Shopko, the store for you!” and indeed it was. I thought to the recent trip I took to see that same sister get married, and couldn’t help but take a visit to Shopko, conveniently located across from the bowling alley, to grab a few forgotten items that were needed for the rest of the trip. Everyone was pleasant, the store clean, and something about it felt like home.

Normally I’d plug some sort of quote about some small town and get nostalgic about it. The fact is that I haven’t really found one single celebrity that fan grasp the small town feeling. Perhaps the fame got to their heads, but there’s nothing quite like the warm embrace that is a small town, and that’s what Shopko did. They catered themselves to the small towns, maybe blue collar, that weren’t big enough to attract the attention of a Wal-Mart or Target. Shopko thought about the little guy, they wanted to make sure quality products were available and fairly priced. These stores gave jobs to local teenagers, allowed moms to have part time jobs, and introduced pharmacies and optometrists to small communities otherwise lacking.

Shopko IS small town, well, technically they call them “hometown” stores. All of that is crashing around them, and I can’t let it rest until I say my peace.

“Put alcohol in your mouth to keep the words from coming out of your mouth.”
Ron Swanson

Before I got myself back together, I had a rough patch in Utah. Not to go into great detail, I relied heavily on prayer (not to anything or anyone in particular), hope, loved ones, and the compassion of a small town. Brigham City Utah was that tiny town. After being about fifteen minutes from a stroke, a medic recognized my ailment and took an immediate course of action. At the time I was without medical insurance, a car, and not much money, and that wasn’t the worst of it. I was 2000 miles from home. Medication was prescribed, and the medic drove me to the nearest Shopko to get the medicine I needed. The nearest hospital was out of the picture. Shopko was our oasis.

After watching the medic speak with the pharmacist from the blood pressure machine that I had my arm locked into, I was given a solid nod. I knew somehow this Shopko was going to help me out. Within a few minutes, the pharmacist was supplying the medic with a bag of meds, at no cost, to get me stable again. The small town vibe was strong and Brigham City should have been proud to have such a fantastic store within their city. You wouldn’t have gotten that attention in Ogden.

Naturally, after seeing the report of the Shopko closures, I had to check to see if the Brigham City location was closing. Scrolling through the list, I was recognizing lots of tiny towns I’ve passed through in my travels, towns that don’t have much else. Burlington, Colorado, where our car blew out a spark plug and a shade tree mechanic, the only in town, wasn’t around (and uncertain when he was going to be back). Nampa, Idaho, the location of my curiosity while doing RV transport imagining a Tampa of Idaho (it’s not). Pretty much all of the Lincoln, Nebraska stores are closing, where my cousin lives and I can only imagine shops there. Then I saw the list that included Greybull, Wyoming, a town with a total population of less than 600.

Any guess as to what’s bringing this sweet business to it’s knees? It might not be what you think. It’s not declining sales, although the sales trend is on the downswing, it’s not enough to really impact that much. It’s not the fact that they aren’t needed anymore and replaced with internet shopping, there are plenty of people just like me that hate online shopping. The company says those actually are the things hurting, them, but I did some digging and got to the not so PC reason. So what is it, you might think.

Big pharma. *insert gasp* Sort of ironic seeing as how the very first Shopko was founded by Pharmacists. Actually, the pharmacy is one of the pillars of the store, not just the variety of home goods, attire and accessories.

To be fair, it’s not 100% pharma, but it’s a damn big chunk. The company didn’t pay it’s bills, including a whopping bill for $69.8 million dollars for drugs stocking their pharmacy shelves. Try and picture that in lottery terms, how many scratch off would you have to rub to even get a portion of that. After working in the pharmacy business, I can see how this bill got into the astronomical spectrum of debt. Drugs aren’t cheap, and when they’re not on the shelf, they’re not going to get sold. That’s just how it works, people want their drugs, they want them five minutes ago. Patience just doesn’t happen at the pharmacy, everyone thinks they’re dying.

Shopko, just like any other pharmacy in this country, preys on the insurance companies for payment on covered medications. Prices, which are ridiculously inflated, knowing that the insurance companies are going to cover it. This was evident to me as I worked in the pharmacy, on error I forgot to apply a patients insurance and the total for his three prescription medications was near $750. This is actually pretty conservative from what the Pharmacist told me. The out-of-pocket prices don’t really seem based on anything, not from what I can find. Upon questioning why, I got the limp dick response of “research and development, the actual material cost next to nothing.” I can only compare it to cultivating an apple tree. You need to work with it, do the work and reap the fruits of your labor. An investment of three years, some fertilizer and some water can easily provide you bushels of apples for years to come. Once the tree bears the fruit, the upkeep in next to nothing. In the pharmacy world, it’s the opposite.

I applaud the research and development aspect, however, once the drug hits the shelf, if anything the price should incrementally go down. Take for example warfarin, it’s been on the market for decades, There’s not research going into it, yet it’s still almost $2.50 per pill out of pocket, and it hasn’t decreased in price, and the way the market is looking, it’s going to keep going up. The warfarin plant already bore the fruit of a life saving drug and instead of being humane about it, the manufacturers sit on the heaps of money being brought their way.

This is where the middleman comes in. Everyday, a man in a plain van arrives at the pharmacy, any pharmacy, with sometimes three hand trucks full of crates of medications. (side note, I loved putting the drugs away in the morning, it was like a scavenger hunt full of surprises). These crates of medications come, like clockwork and the shelves are always brim full. The middle man pumps pills from point A to point B and sends the bill. When you’re operating on a shoestring budget, as Shopko has been for a while, these daily shipments of pills can get pricy. They could not, however, cut off their nose despite their face, the revenue generated from those pharmacies were important. Those patients needed meds and Shopko provided, perhaps because they actually cared. It would have been easy to restructure and cull the pharmacies in at least some stores, but they didn’t do that. They kept dishing the dope.

Here’s the thing, there are people buying those pills. There are people chasing those pills, there are down right junkies out there that will do anything to get their pills. Especially in some of these small towns, a trip to the pharmacy isn’t just a visit to the drive through window, it becomes a chat and social event. There will never be a decline in pill popping for as long as there’s lack of education on self healing and advertisements for the newest best drug on the market (usually at astronomical prices). Couple that with Obamacare and people feeling that everything they read on the internet about their health is true, it’s only going to be a tailspin.

Many people will say “well, it’s simply that Shopko didn’t pay it’s bills and they didn’t restructure when they became shaky.” I can agree with you, on the bills, but at the same time, I sort of shrug at it. What company can afford to let a customer go into arrears amounting to almost 70 million dollars before it gets sort of cranky about it. What company keeps cramming crates of pills in the same stores that aren’t paying their bills? What company cries woe is me after realizing that they may never see that money, but doesn’t make a public statement about it aside from a lawsuit? A company that’s making to freaking damn much money. A company that’s capitalizing on the drug crisis. A company that sits as a middle man and has to answer to someone, presumable someone that they’ve had to pay for product. It’s hard to make McKesson look like a victim, but at the same time it’s hard to write them off as greedy.

Those bills racked up, and at the same time, there are other companies that Shopko owed, like Adidas for example. That’s a lot of freaking shoes, and after a while Adidas said, “no more shoes for you.” That was it. Sort of like when I decided to forget to pay my phone bill, Verizon said “no service for you.” I got my shit together and paid it, it was something like $300. It was devastating financially, but I couldn’t live without it. Shopko, however, can live without the pharmacy. Actually, it’d probably do the world a slice of good to have one more pharmacy close down.

Of course, those patients are going to be thrown in the laps of some other pharmacy in the neighborhood. Same apples, different bushel.

I don’t typically get rant-like, and at the same time, I’m not trying to. The message I’m trying to get across here, is a bifold brochure of wellbeing. On the front cover there’s a picture of a field, maybe with a dog catching a frisbee, the title will read “The Key To Chaos”. Upon opening the brochure there will be a flow chart with a you are here box at the top, filtering down through internet research about your health, minute clinics with barely certified medics giving advice, rushed emergency room visits, imaginary pain, drugs prescribed, drugs obtained, money paid. From there it gets hazy, you have a chance of getting hooked on the drugs, you have a chance to have to take them for the rest of your life, you have a choice to explore alternative medicine. Rinse, repeat as necessary. In this opioid addicted world, this is the flowchart of modern day humanity. We are a drug culture.

I can see why Shopko tried it’s hardest to keep those doors open to provide the culture what it wants and needs. Not paying the bills, however, was pretty bad form. I can’t speak for their accounting practices, but it can go without saying it had room for improvement. Looking over their shoulder, McKesson isn’t mourning the loss of Shopkos business, those same people are going to be needing drugs provided to them. All it really means is one less stop for the unmarked van to make every morning. The impact of the unpaid bills on McKesson is trivial, but a cautionary tale to all other pharmacies, struggling or not, that they don’t mess around. They will stab you when you’re already down and then twist the knife when you’re begging for mercy. Survival of the fittest, I guess.

I’ll be interested to see what happens after the bankruptcy is finalized and the judgements handed out. Even after reconstruction, there is the destruction of the brand. It will be hard for anything to look upon a Shopko with any sort of confidence. Much like the Bi-Lo of the south, people are going to cast their gaze at Shopko wondering how long this store or that will hold.

Go shop at Shopko, buy from them online. At least give them a little bit of hope.

Find The Fall

Interstate 90 is an exercise in patience. Just take a look at map and trace the entirety across the country with your finger. If anything, it’ll beg you to stop. The diversity of scenery you’ll witness between Boston and Seattle is too much to really comprehend, Everything from a cold looking harbor to another cold looking harbor (with a Ferris wheel). Somewhere in between you’ll see the massive expanses of South Dakota and the snore fest that is Indiana. You’ll also be whisked through big ole cities like Cleveland and Chicago.

This week, I’m featuring a “name the location” that will be somewhere along the I90 corridor. Hints include:

1) Although it looks massive in the picture, this waterfall is only 269′ tall and require only a short walk from the parking lot.

2) Over 1.5 million people come to take a peek at this site, although the actual park is only 2 acres large. At some periods of high rainfall, the falls are hardly visible due to a blinding mist caused by a rise in the river level and the increased speed of the river itself.

3) The deadest giveaway is simply to say “The Owls Are Not What They Seem”

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Last week we had two correct guessers (close enough for disco, in my book, selecting Denver/Aspen area. The picture of the black eyed susan is actually in a large field across from the alleged entrance for Hunter S Thompsons ranch in Woody Creek, Colorado. Taken in August, 2017, the weather was perfect for snapping photos and site seeing. I’d recommend visiting nearby Aspen and taking a gander in the deluxe lobby of Hotel Jerome. Absolutely beautiful décor mix a modern and classic motif beautifully. Take the extra five minutes and go all the way to the rooftop that overlooks a beautiful panorama of the nearby mountain range.

Pictured below are a few snaps from my visit to the hotel, the what I would call the “highlight” of my trip to Aspen.

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I’m going to start a new fundraising effort with each weeks “name that location”. I don’t want any of the money, but I’ll find a good cause and share with you weekly. If you’d like to donate to the cause, I’ll include a link for you to directly donate OR you can click my picture (to the right, on desktop) and donate to the Paypal.

This week I’m going to donate a chunk towards the sweetest little girl (and her mom is amazing) that I’ve ever met. Sam is an incredibly bright and creative little girl that is absolutely oozing with positivity and potential. Her mom, is just as incredible. A few years back, I decided to check myself in voluntarily to a recovery center for my excessive drinking. She came through, knowing very little about me, except what she had heard from mutual friends, and brought me a huge bag of brand new clothes, underwear and personal care needs that I would have otherwise not been able to get. Sara, in by book, is an absolute angel, and her daughter follows suit.

Sam, the precious daughter, is selling Girl Scout cookies. After sharing a link via private message with friends, Sara reached out to people to see if anyone had interest. It being a group message, you were able to see everyone else responses, and I was stunned. People were so self centered they thought only of themselves and said things like “No cookies, I’m keto” or “Sorry, on a diet.”

What the actual fuck people. You don’t have to buy the things, it’s about helping a little girl accomplish her goals and learn about small business. This isn’t about your new years resolution, this is about instilling pride in a little girl and encouraging her that she can do whatever she sets her mind to, and knowing Sam, that’s a hell of a lot.

If you don’t want to eat cookies, or don’t want to pay the whacky shipping fees, select the option at the top of the page, where you can buy a box or ten of cookies to be sent overseas. It’s more or less donating a lump sum. Click the link provided below and share some love. I’ve put in my order, you should too!

Link:

Buy some cookies from Sam and help her achieve her goal!

 

The Book Review that Never Happened

“Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.”

John Locke

With the momentum of a mudslide after a rainstorm, I dove into the self inflicted challenge of reading 19 books in the year 2019. The first book on the list, by chance, was 100 Things Phish Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die, solely because I got it for Christmas. Last year I received a book or two as gifts and they sat on my shelf, instilling false confidence in me. You see, much like an old timey library in an old timey house, I had shelves lined with books that I hoped people would look at and think to themselves “whoa, she’s well read”, knowing deep down I hadn’t read them all. I was cheating myself. All of those pages wanted to be read, and I found distractions to keep me from reading.

I think in 2018 I read two and a half books, Crime and Punishment (which should have been three smaller books) and 3/4 of The Brothers Karizmov (which should have been a series of short stories). I enjoyed them, especially the axe murder part and the prostitute aspect and the imagery of gardens in The Brother, but they didn’t really didn’t get my momentum going to keep reading. I’d pick up The Brothers and have a feeling of anxiety, knowing that I wasn’t really having fun with the reading. It was like a chore, and I don’t like chores. I didn’t even have them as a kid, why would I self inflict them as an adult. As I sit here, I have a pile of unfolded laundry on my bed, not because I’m lazy and don’t want to fold, but because I don’t see the urgency of folding right this moment. That’s the same lackadaisical attitude I took towards reading. “Eh, maybe it’ll come out as a movie.”

100 Things, was different in a way that can only be assimilated to Classic Rock Radio. Place yourself in a situation, perhaps when you were in your teens, you listened to what your parents listened to, and didn’t really appreciate it. You more than likely rolled your eyes at it and thought “gee whiz, Mom, why do you have to listen to such square music.” For me it was my mom listening to Supertramp. I had no appreciation for the talent they had (argue if you’d like, if you’re not a fan, but a band that can sell out stadiums has to have some sort of talent). I had totally forgotten about Supertramp until I was driving the work truck and it came on the classic rock channel. For some reason I felt like I need to pay it a little more attention. The songs seemed more pertinent, and the vocals seemed larger than life. I needed to hear more. I was hooked.

Much like Supertramp was the anthem of my Moms early twenties, Phish was mine. My first listen was in 1999, the apex of the Phish scene, according to band members, the book, and others in the scene. I was young, full of angst, and without a single thread of musical taste. Friends were listening to things like The Spice Girls and Britny Spears, I wasn’t going to do it. I couldn’t do it. Upon hearing a teenage cover band doing a rendition of Birds Of A Feather, I knew I found my band I knew that was the path I was going to take. I wrote papers about the album Lawn Boy for a creative writing class, I did a computer animation for the song Fee in my creative technology class. I was in deep. I continued to follow for the next fifteen years.

Long story short, I was in a relationship with a person that had no respect for personal tastes of anybody but himself. In his eyes, Phish was a music that only people that were whacked out on drugs would listen to. The songs were too long, and in his words “you’d have to hit your head on a rock to make this tolerable.” In an act of what I thought was compromise, I shelved my Phish and tried to forget that I ever listen to them. It wasn’t easy, and I was stupid for doing so. I found myself listening to Hair Nation, not by choice and ignoring music all together. It wasn’t until my pilgrimage West, to Oregon, that I was able to really dive back into Phish. With nobody to tell me what was acceptable to listen to, I feasted on the 20 minutes jams for four days straight. Colorado ’88 was my anthem.

Diving into the 100 Phish Things book reminding me of the liberation I felt, not only as a teenager when I first listened, but when I started listening again. Back when I started listening, I didn’t know a single thing about the band, aside from the liner notes. Over a decade of listening to them, left me with not much more knowledge aside from personal experiences at a few concerts and what I had read on the internet. After reading the first ten pages, I new I was in for a ride. The superficial knowledge was blown out of the water with in depth comprehensive information. The writers break the book down in to smaller, digestible pieces which made for easier absorption of information. I flew through the book in no time at all, sometimes laying in bed with a glass of wine and one of the live Phish albums playing in the background. It was an excellent way to blast into my reading goal.

I’m not going to pick the book apart and critique it, however. The appreciation I have for the art of writing is far beyond being petty and picking apart someones writing style. Much like fashion or landscaping, I have high opinions and don’t feel it’s fair to compare my taste to others. The only disconnect in the entire book was the fact it was written by two people and at times it didn’t seem like the other person knew the co-writer wrote the same thing three chapters prior. Otherwise it’s a seamlessly fun book that reads like an adventure novel, it puts you in the front row with the chompers and the rail riders. To people that aren’t into Phish, however, it’s probably only good as a paperweight. I loved every second, and learned a few things, most excitingly part was learning that Phish was 40 miles down the road when OJ Simpson made his famous chase. Stuff like that, which is important to me and useless to others is why this book is good. Very good.

Much like my reintroduction to Supertramp, my reintroduction to Phish was met with a new sense of appreciation for the music. I listened to Phish as a teenager and young adult, and the reprieve brought me a new excitement for an old band. My mom still listens to Supertramp, and I can’t blame her, it was a part of her. Phish was a part of me, and now, armed with 100 reasons why (actually a hell of a lot more) Phish is the band it makes me want to listen even more. Knowledge is power, and upon reading this book, I feel empowered to quit my job and follow Phish on the road. Immerse myself in the Phish culture, become one of them.

I couldn’t leave my little buddy though.

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