Archive | August, 2020

Whiskey Makes You Louder

21 Aug

Like all unrepentant alcoholics, I have a drink of choice; bourbon and coke. It doesn’t matter how bad the brand, it always tastes good, and it gets your buzz on. But it has one big side effect – it makes you louder. This can be a problem.

I am a stationary drunk. As long as no one expects me to go anywhere, I’m the happiest, more joyful person you could meet at the bar. I’ll listen to your stories, I’ll tell you about the pipe tobacco I’m smoking (I’ve got a great bar), and have a lot of fun. It’s when you tell me to move that I start getting angry.

Alcohol blurs things, and most importantly, it makes you less tolerant of little social conventions. Someone cuts in front of you, someone decides to belt out a song… you could ignore it in most situations. But get a little liquor in you, and man, those social conventions are out the window.

Now being Scotch-Irish (and several others), I either hold in that temper until it builds up and explodes later, or go the slow burn and I get vocal and snarky. When drunk, it’s usually the second – when sober, the first (you’d think it’d be the opposite). However, because of the liquor, I find my volume for all those comments (that would normally be under my breath) would be increased. Thankfully, the subject of my ire is usually on the other side of the bar, so I haven’t ended up in a fight.

When I switch up my drink, I find it interesting how different liquors affect me. Shifting to a scotch and soda, it’s the same booze, but I drink it a lot slower… which can come in handy. Gin and tonic is great on a hot day (and I live in Arizona), but that can make you far more angry, and is usually mixed wrong. Rum and coke is a good alternative to bourbon and coke but rum does something else to me… usually get more goofy. Wine gives me a much different drunk than beer… there’s a lot more bathroom runs with beer at least.

What kind of drunk are you? What’s your drink of choice? Have you noticed it changed based on the alcohol? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Baja Arizona, Little Egypt, and the State of Jefferson

20 Aug

Every US presidential election, people call for ending the Electoral College, but there’s a big obstacle… it’s written into the Constitution! To shift to a purely popular vote, you’ve got to amend it, and that’s really difficult. But what if there was a better way?

Hear me out – let’s make more 15 states! Take all the cities that feel that they are being underrepresented and give them statehood! Suddenly they get their own senators and two more electoral votes. For the rural voters, you get rid of all the big city dominance of state politics and still have your seats in the Senate. Politically, Republicans and Democrats get roughly equal representation and preserves single-party dominance in their existing states. In the House of Representatives, it would work out about the same.

Here’s the current map – so my plan means cutting out 14 urban areas (and Puerto Rico, because they voted to and deserve to be admitted) and having them create their own states and creating a more equitable and electoral balance that’s closer to the popular vote.

New State – # of Representatives (Current # Reps in State)

  • Boston – 5 (9)
  • New York City 17 (27)
  • Philadelphia 7 (19)
  • Northern Virginia (add to DC) 2 (11)
  • Atlanta 6 (14)
  • Miami 5 (27)
  • Chicago 8 (18)
  • Detroit 5 (14)
  • Dallas 7 (36)
  • Houston 7 (36)
  • Phoenix / Tucson (South Arizona) 6 (9)
  • Los Angeles 25 (53)
  • San Francisco 8 (53)
  • Seattle 4 (10)

So that puts the new Electoral Count at 565. These 15 new states will be overwhelming Democrat, leaving the original states overwhelmingly Republican. As a bonus, that would allow someone from rural Illinois (such as I used to be) to feel that Springfield represents my interests instead of Chicago. Chicago can feel like they’re not having to drag the rest of rural Illinois with them. However, most importantly, the electoral numbers will be closer to the popular vote.

Now I thought about cutting up Ohio, North Carolina, Oregon, and Tennessee, but the numbers just didn’t add up. Believe it or not, this has been tried in California multiple times, starting with the State of Jefferson back in 1941 to the most recent “Cal 3” initiative back in 2017. Apparently, there’s a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to this.

Where did I get the math wrong? What new states would you include? Let me know in the comments below!

Death Race Kansas (Part 2)

19 Aug

When you get off the interstate, you discover many things: abandoned buildings, lots of farms, and a lot of traffic crammed into narrow lanes. Having grown up in the rural Midwest, this was not that surprising, but then I met the orange semi.

But first, I needed to get around Great Bend, Kansas first, since I ran into two crippling construction SW of town, so I was going to vary my trip to add a few miles south to save half-an-hour. However, as I was laying on the gas NE of there, I got busted by the state troopers for going 15 mph over the limit within 10 minutes of reaching the Kansas highway. This was really stupid on my part since I always believe in the 8 mph over the limit principle… or the cop’s motto: “over 9, you’re mine.” I was more annoyed that I was in the flattest, most open area of Kansas… not a city, not even a small town, FARMS and this guy busted me. But that was on me–now I gotta see if I can pay someone to fight it or pay the… rather reasonable $150 fee. Considering red light cameras in AZ are closer to $250, it’s relatively inexpensive. Still a pain, but… (shrug).

I kept with my 8 mph limit after that on these two-lane highways. The main difference on these highways is that trucks block five cars behind them and make convoys. And there is rarely NOT traffic coming from the other direction. So I had to book it to 90 mph to get around these semis and then pray I didn’t get hit. Along the way, I saw many interesting things, including the stock yards, fields of (what I later confirmed to be) sorghum, and one guy flying a stars-and-bars (first Confederate) flag in panhandle Texas. I really appreciated that, having studied the Civil War and having met many reenactors, the “Heritage not Hate” is conveyed by not flying the more common southern cross battle flag.

Unfortunately, you can’t see it in the previous picture, but here’s a better shot.

The coolest small (mostly abandoned) town I passed through was Nara Visa, NM. All the stores were closed, even though there were a lot of trucks parked there, they obviously didn’t make enough business to support the old Ira’s Bar or Truck Terminal. Ira’s Bar looked like a really cool building, though. It was past here that was the most dangerous.

This one orange semi was holding up five cars going 58 mph down a road that was listed for 65. No big deal, this happened all the time, except now there were no passing lanes, no easy moves to get around it, and of course, no chance in hell he was going to getting off the road before Tucumcari. So I had to bolt it to get past him and the other four cars that were behind him. Boy, was he pissed. He flashed his lights, slammed his horn, and didn’t give it up for a solid minute. So I was determined to get the hell away from this guy.

The only problem is that you can only go so far without getting behind another semi. So every time I was getting more minutes between me and pissed off trucker, I felt like there was a lot more chance that Mr. Orange Semi would catch up. Of course, Asher had to go pee in Tucumcari, so sure enough, we had to pass him again once we reached the interstate. And because my boy was downing water like it was going out of style, had to stop and pass him AGAIN before we reached the brother-in-law’s place. I was sure I’d have to have a slugfest at some truck stop.

Did you ever get some guy who decided to become your driving nemesis? Tell me in the comments below!

Death Race Kansas (Part 1)

18 Aug

As the great Led Zeppelin once wrote, “There are two paths you can go down, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.” So instead of taking the two interstates from Nebraska to New Mexico, I took the smaller highways to find the more direct 13-hour path. This turned my leapfrogging into Death Race 2020.

Gee, Marcus – exaggerate much? Well, if you’re reading this… yeah. It got you to keep reading, didn’t it? 🙂 Actually, I rather enjoyed taking the smaller highways–often two lane–between Tucumcari, New Mexico (“It’s a long way to Tucumcari, it’s a long way to go….”) and Beatrice, Nebraska (pronounced “Be-ah-tris”) I discovered that interstate driving was usually pretty dull and involved a whole lot of passing trucks, waiting for some guy who had the audacity to drive two miles an hour slower than you to pass the guy you’re trying to pass, and coming up on another person to pass again. With highways, there was a lot more to see, a lot more cities (that shows you more), and as I learned, a lot more dangerous to pass on the crowded two-lane highways.

Somehow when you drive home instead of flying home, you acquire a lot more stuff. Take this, for example, Mom’s toy chest. Or at least, we think it’s Mom’s Toy Chest, and it’s not even my mom’s toy chest, it’s my wife’s. And of course, no toys. It might also have been Grandpa Miller’s WWI army chest, but as far as I know, he never served. Uncle Walt would have been Vietnam and they certainly didn’t have something like this.

The point of my rambling? Four years ago we stopped by the Miller farm in Gretna and somehow Uncle Walt or my wife (memory fades) insisted we take this old thing and shoved it into our car. Of course, it was a rental, since we were flying, so we dropped it off at my dad’s place until we stopped there again. Well, guess what? We stopped there again and Dad got tired of having it fill up his shed when it was already filled with other wood products. So we picked it up. Oh, and we got a big screen TV (from a friend who didn’t need it), a bunch of microwave popcorn (from a great-aunt who didn’t need it), and a book and a mug (because I wanted it).

We left at 5:20 am from my dad’s place in Nebraska and proceeded to pour my sleepy son into car where he slept until we reached Concordia, Kansas. When there’s no interstate, often US highways make up the slack for busy roads by creating four-lane divided highways, so we enjoyed a smooth ride from Hays, NE to Salina, KS (which I always want to add an additional S to the end). Then had to navigate another hour of interstate before turning off towards Great Bend, KS.

This is getting too long, so we’ll continue the obstacles of getting past Great Bend later. Do you prefer the highways or interstates? Let me know in the comments below!

Strongly-Supplied Summer Stock

17 Aug

My son loves theater, which is like saying ducks like water. So when my dad offered to show off his community theater in Nebraska, Asher couldn’t wait to see it. I was expecting this low-budget amateur place in the middle of a cornfield. Well… I was right about the cornfield!

The Lofte Community Theatre in eastern Nebraska has been around for 40 years and has amassed this amazing treasure trove of costumes, set decorations, and construction materials.

Apparently they started off in a red barn, so when they built a new building, they built it to look like a red barn, but inside is a gorgeous 400-seat theater. They normally do several productions a year, but naturally that’s been rather difficult.

Dad told us that the most common expression is that “I didn’t know this was here!” Which is NOT what you want when you run a theater. 🙂

Asher was over the moon to check this place out, and it was REALLY impressive. Have you found one of these jewels where you least expect it? Let me know in the comments below!

Photogenic Bears

16 Aug

You want to feed a small herd of endangered bison. You’ve got a nice plot of prairie, so no problem. But wait… You’re a half an hour outside of Omaha. You can sell this!

So was born the Wildlife Safari Park in South Bend, Nebraska. It’s a really amazing drive thru sanctuary for all manner of really large animals and some others. First off, we saw a prairie dog town, which is really cool, despite the difficulty for farmers.

We then drove through a whole mess of elk, followed by a whole flock of pelicans and cranes. My son was fascinated by the algae filled pools, which proved that one man’s pest is another man’s fascination.

They had six bald eagles in a netted compound, which was the most I’ve ever seen at a time. I joked that “we chain up these eagles to symbolize freedom,” but since I had to repeat the joke twice to help my son get it, it must have fell flat.

That’s when we went to the black bear pen and this animal was on the other side of the enclosed area and actually walked over to a rock outcropping to pose for us! It was the highlight of the visit.

We didn’t see any wolves, considering they could have been hiding anywhere in that weed filled valley, but the bison didn’t disappoint.

Incredible place, even if we had to wait for the a-hole Canadian Geese to get out of the road. It was an amazing place not far from my dad’s farm, and apparently, the Omaha zoo is even better.

Has that ever happened to you? Finding a jewel of a place where you least expect it? Tell me in the comments below!

Without Civility, There is no Civilization

15 Aug

As I’m heading home, returning to the Midwest reminds me that without civility there is no civilization. The politeness you project to the people you meet is essential to living in harmony, regardless of how fake it is.

Chatting with a waitress is probably the easiest example of this. Last night, I went out with friends and simply asked about her necklace. It was a triquetra, a simple three ovals interconnected together, which was an old symbol of the Trinity. She wore it because she liked the TV show Charmed.

Now I watched the show, it was… Okay. I enjoyed it in TNT when I was waiting for the show I really wanted to see to come on. Did I tell the waitress any of this? Hell no. I asked the question, she answered it, it’s not her fault I didn’t like the show as much as her.

When the three kids were riding their bicycles in the middle of a major road and would not move over, I could have got really close and freaked them out to teach them to be safe… But I’m not an a-hole. Even when they passed me and jeered at me, I didn’t get the clutch and chase after them to prove that 2 tons beats one hundred pounds every time.

Because in the end, they’re either going to grow out of it or grow into big a-holes and the lesson would be wasted. Which is why one of my Maxim’s comes from Winston Churchill, “When you have to hang a man, it costs you nothing to be polite.”

Do you agree? Do some people need to be yelled at or do you bend to the side of civility? Let me know in the comments below!

Double Vision in your Hometown

14 Aug

Going back to your hometown is like having double vision; you see things the way they are and the way they were at the same time. Now add wind storm damage, lack of power, a pandemic, and a funeral.

So I grew up in Morrison from 7 to 17, and lived off and on between college and jobs until I was 23. So it’s been twenty years away from this place; you don’t really appreciate it until you leave. I had such a case of wanderlust that it never occurred to me to stay. Now I wish I could go back, but time and circumstance make that very difficult… And may never happen.

But I got to show my son around and tell him all the fun stories about growing up here. Showed him the park, the old factory, my old homes… Actually found the school buildings open so a quick look at the high school, middle school, and elementary schools I went to was interesting. Most of them still have the 1960s shell, but have either been renovated or added on to. Even found a door open to the auditorium, so I could show him the massive (for the town) stage that we had… And that spoke to his little theater geek heart.

The funeral was nice and weird. Got to show Asher the church I grew up at which has a lot of really cool stuff and secret places. Even played some ping pong; the boy really wanted to go back. We were all masked in the sanctuary, we didn’t sing the hymns, but the preacher was great. Then we drove to the cemetery and interred her there. Then I dragged him around to visit my mom’s grave, my grandpa’s, my good friend’s, and my brother’s.

And that’s probably the reason I don’t come back very often. Most of the folks I knew are gone. When you move around as much as I did, you realize that it’s not the places you miss as much as the people. So when my mom died in 1993, followed by my brother is 1996, I had less and less incentive to return. My cousin still lives here, and he’s wonderful, but my uncles and aunts are spread out more. There’s always an excuse not to come.

The preacher said that she really didn’t know my grandma that well (he arrived 14 years ago and she became less and less talkative after grandpa died 12 years ago), but he knew who she was because he knew her kids and family. That was a great tribute. The family loves readily, laughs easily, helps out others, slow to anger, and slow to forgive… and that came all from my grandma. Not perfect, but wonderful, and with six children, fourteen grandchildren, and 22 great grandchildren to show for it.


13 Aug

Crossed Iowa and finally got home to Northwest Illinois only to find that the Deracho ™ completely messed up my hometown and knocked out power and cell phone service. So I had traveled 24 hours to reach a disaster zone.

Somehow, the last 6 hours of the trip were the worst, more likely because I was tired of driving so long. We stopped in Iowa City for lunch, watching all the college students buying supplies out of the local Target. Think about that for a second. College students are back physically at school. Too dangerous for high schoolers, just fine for kids one year older. That speaks for itself.

So we reach Morrison and see… Well, this. Trees had fallen all over due to 100 mile winds, messing up power lines, throwing the entire turn black. We made it to the visitation all right and said hi to the family. After a half hour, the boy got bored, so I took him on a walk of (one of my) old neighborhoods and even ran into my good friend’s mom sitting on her porch with her grandson. So had a good conversation.

The place we’re staying still has no power, but we made do on movies we had already downloaded and battery power. (Neither of us brought physical books, so we were at a disadvantage.) Hung out with a friend and my cousin before crashing in front of the “TV.”

Power is still out in the morning, but it did get restored to half of town. My situation is unusual, because of the wind storm, but what did you do when your family last lost power. Let me know in the comments below!

The Long Road Home (Part 2)

12 Aug

Here’s where things are gonna suck. A 14 hour drive across the Great Plains to reach our next destination. And then Google suggests an alternative to the interstates.

Naturally, I’m a little suspicious. But we get up early… Okay, I get up early and drag my son out of bed… And then we got the road at 6 am Mountain time. So that’s an estimated arrival at my dad’s place in Nebraska by 8 pm. Not looking forward to this trek.

One thing I’m shocked by is how green the Llano Estancado is. Knowing how little rain gets to Eastern New Mexico and West Texas, I’m expecting Arizona levels of desert. Nope, green as far as the eye can see. Apparently, not enough water for crops, but plenty for grass!

I turn off the interstate at Tucumcari, NM, and am pleasantly surprised. We’ve got hills, we’ve got scenery, we’ve got… A two lane highway, but hey, I’m thankfully not behind too many trucks. We cross the panhandle of Texas and Oklahoma no problem.

Even Asher was doing great on this leg of the trip! We’re doing fine until Kansas when we realize a) how frickin big Kansas is and b) remember that summer means construction. We get stuck behind three one lane roads, one for twenty minutes, so that throws off my estimate.

However, once we reach Nebraska and have to cut across country roads (still US highways), things get easier. Mostly because I can beat the estimate thanks to driving way over the speed limit in this rural area.

I forgot how beautiful this region is. You get a very sckewed view of how the Great Plains look from the interstate. It’s really quite beautiful once you get off it. As my Dad says, “Nebraskans made I-80 the most boring stretch of road so that no one would be tempted to stop and stay.”

Made it to my dad’s place at 8:30 pm, safe and sound, and had a great time talking and relaxing. Have you ever been surprised on a road trip? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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