A Flat Tire, Religion, And The Worst Idea Ever

The other day my lovely wife got a flat tire while running some errands without me. Thankfully, she was able to safely pull into a nearby service station before any harm was done to her Elantra’s back rim. The missus then called to apprise me of the situation, including telling me there was no spare tire (aka donut) in the Hyundai’s trunk, before purchasing a new tire and having it mounted. The station’s attendant nonchalantly informed my wife that only about 50% of today’s newer vehicles are equipped with some type of tire replacement. A donut is now actually considered to be more of an optional item instead of a standard feature. I found that news to be entirely suspect, so I launched a full-blown investigation into the matter.

Well, maybe full-blown is a bit of an exaggeration: I looked it up on-line, and I read the Elantra’s manual after the missus got home. To my surprise, the newly discovered information was absolutely correct. Supposedly, one of the main reasons why there are no spare tires, in approximately half of the newer models, is because the majority of stranded motorists would much rather whip out a cell phone, to enlist the aid of a tow truck driver, than attempt to change a flat tire. In addition, I was told current government regulations, concerning fuel efficiency, was a major factor as well. Nowadays, parking sensors, rear-mounted cameras, touchscreens, Bluetooth, and even wi-fi comes standard on most vehicles, but I guess having a spare tire included in the purchase price is just asking too much.

I certainly don’t think issuing a marriage license to a same-sex couple is asking too much of Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, though. The Rowan County employee recently had her 5 minutes of national fame after refusing a gay couple their newly acquired rights. Mrs. Davis tried to appear non-discriminatory, by refusing to give out marriage licenses to heterosexual couples as well, but to no avail. Her fa├žade eventually became quite transparent, so she was forced to finally admit she was unwilling to perform a portion of her duties based on her religious beliefs. The government official’s refusal to do part of her job earned her several days behind bars on a contempt of court charge. I understand Davis’ duties changed a bit when the United States legalized gay marriage nationwide, but whose job description hasn’t varied at times throughout their employment?

Some people consider Kim Davis to be a martyr for Christ, but I think she handled the entire situation poorly. I can see only two respectable positions to take in this particular matter. The elected official should either perform all of her duties, as a county clerk, or resign. The Apostle Peter says, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” We are also told to “Honor everyone” and to “be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” (1st Peter 2: 13-19) My unsolicited advice for Mrs. Davis is as follows: by all means, pray for those your conscience tells you may be on a destructive path, but do not make a spectacle of yourself in the process.

I’m sure those words of wisdom will go unnoticed especially since Pope Francis “secretly” met with Mrs. Davis, at his request, while touring the United States this past week. The Pope supposedly offered Davis his support and encouraged her to continue the fight. I’m not Catholic, although neither is Mrs. Davis, but I must say I’m more than a little disappointed in the Bishop of Rome, in this instance, since the last thing Davis needs is any additional encouragement to do what I think is wrong. The Pope bears no significance in my life, so I really shouldn’t care what he thinks one way or the other. I’m not aspiring to sound harsh, but in my chosen realm of Christianity the Pope simply has no relevance. I have a personal relationship with Christ; therefore, I don’t require anyone intervening on my behalf, or relaying messages to God, because I go straight to the source.

I have no use for religious figures, whether associated with the Vatican or not (the “middleman” if you will), to hear my confessions or to absolve me of my transgressions. Regardless, I still respect the leader of the Catholic Church, and I admire his commitment to God. Pope Francis appears to be a humble man who exudes an abundance of gentleness at all times. He effortlessly spreads a message of all-inclusiveness, compassion, and love, seemingly more so than anybody preceding him, wherever he goes. I think the Bishop of Rome triumphantly advocated for universal responsibility and unity, during his recent visit, without offending either the Democratic or Republican Party. I appreciate that because I don’t think religion should ever be used to promote a political agenda and vice versa.

To the contrary, Kanye West has no qualms about self-promotion, and he tends to have an agenda at all times. The popular rapper recently announced his intent to win the U.S. Presidency in 2018. Of course, the next two presidential elections are to be held in 2016 and 2020, so I think his current confusion already suggests there’ll be some problems with his future campaign. Nevertheless, I’m sure he won’t get discouraged since he has such a high opinion of himself. Anyone who would title an album Yeezus, with “I Am a God” listed as one of his tracks, surely doesn’t possess much humility. The rapper’s ego is so elevated that even Donald Trump seems meek in comparison.

The thought of Kanye West as President only gets worse when adding his wife, Kim Kardashian, into the mix. The enormous following the power couple maintains is quite frightening. Their impact on today’s society is reminiscent of the influence former talk-show queen, Oprah Winfrey, had during her reign on television for well over two decades. The possibility of President West and First Lady Kardashian occupying the White House in the near future is not so far fetched. I’m not too confident the American public, especially the younger generations (sorry!), would denounce a feasible West candidacy.

Kanye and the missus assuredly have the finances to support a sustained campaign; the happily married couple enjoys a combined net worth of approximately $215 million. Enlisting the help of Kim’s mother, Kris Jenner, would be a wise decision and extremely beneficial for Mr. West. Kris Jenner, the mastermind behind the Kardashian empire, is a marketing genius, and she has a knack for successfully promoting any agenda regardless of how absurd or immoral it may be. She is unapologetic for exploiting her daughters’ “mistakes” (and their bodies) in exchange for growing the Kardashian fortune estimated to be around $300 million. Popularity, hoards of money, and a shrewd campaign manager have the makings of an effective campaign.

In the past, I’ve heard a few impassioned American citizens threaten to actually leave the United States if certain candidates were ever elected into office, but I assumed they weren’t being serious. However, if there does come a day when Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are residing at the White House then I’d have to seriously consider abandoning this country. I cannot imagine living anywhere where its citizens would elect an egotistical rapper as their nation’s leader. That’s the worst idea ever! Suddenly, getting a flat tire and not having a spare doesn’t sound so bad.


As time goes by I realize I’m being discriminated against more and more often, and I’m certain it’s only going to get worse. I’m not being treated unjustly because of my race (that’s another story) or due to my religious beliefs. I suppose I could be considered a victim of age discrimination since I’m singled out and treated differently based on my fondness for “the good old days.” I’m mostly discriminated against though for maintaining a pro-choice attitude pertaining to advanced technology that is obviously running rampant in the world today. I’m not opposed to progress, but I am against forcing it on people.

“The man” (whoever he is) insists we blindly accept change, whether we like it or not, without even considering the consequences. He continuously and vigorously imposes his will on us until ultimately we are either too exhausted to continue resisting or else we’re left feeling inadequate when we don’t succumb. I often think the younger generation, who I’m beginning to suspect may be “the man” (in this instance), is eagerly waiting for those of us a bit leery, of their pursuit of never-ending advancements in technology, to expire. The reason being there would then no longer be any of us left, to challenge the only kind of life they’ve ever known, regardless of how well-intended we were with our warnings.

Fortunately, “the man” has failed a time or two in the past when attempting to get everyone on board with his agenda although not for his lack of trying. We currently continue to have the option of reading books, magazines, and newspapers without the aid of technology. However, I’m positive offering periodicals on-line and books via the Kindle was intended to replace all paper copies of those types of literature. Thank goodness that hasn’t happened (at least not yet). I reckon there is still enough of us on this earth, who prefer perusing a genuine newspaper on Sunday mornings, to halt any inclination publishers may have for offering on-line editions only. The day I lose that choice is the day I become an ignoramus because I refuse to read a book or a newspaper on a computer screen.

I thought compact discs were finally safe from extinction, but now I’m not so sure. I recently discovered, while vacationing in North Carolina with my family, that cd players are no longer prevalent in some of the newer vehicles. Our rented Chrysler 200 came equipped with extensive “bells and whistles,” almost to the point of being too confusing to drive, yet the mid-size car was void of a compact disc player. I can understand omitting the cassette tape player, as a standard feature in newer models, because that format of recorded music is no longer even produced. I can also understand why a manufacturer might provide a way to attach an iPod to the vehicle’s speakers since many people are entrenched in that sort of technology. What I can’t comprehend though is why the cd player is apparently being phased out when approximately 50% of the population continues to fancy purchasing CDs instead of downloading music off of the internet.

I figured the people had already spoken, in regards to preserving compact discs, and I no longer needed to worry, but I guess the verdict is still out. I have well over a thousand CDs in my collection, but my only alternative in North Carolina was listening to a lame radio station while cruising in the rented Chrysler. I experienced another unwanted encounter with advanced technology, during my outing in the Tar Heel State, and once again (as expected) I was not a fan. My family and I went out for an ordinary dinner, but the restaurant’s ordering process was anything but ordinary. We entered the establishment expecting the simplicity of good food and good conversation, but instead we were instantly forced to kowtow to a newly acquired piece of state-of-the-art-technology. We were informed the iPad setting on our table was actually our menu. The waitress explained how convenient the contraption was, for all concerned, but of course to my chagrin.

My anxiety level immediately rose like a launched rocket ship. The young lady tried teaching us (mostly me) how to use the gadget, but I probably would’ve been better off trying to learn Chinese. I did discover that successfully swiping a computer screen with my finger, navigating through numerous food items and over 150 beer options, was extremely difficult, confusing, and tiresome. The waitress’ proclaimed convenience, for using the iPad, was in actuality our inconvenience in disguise. If it weren’t for my tech-savvy son, sitting at our table, we might’ve died from starvation before the evening was through. I don’t think dining out should be that complicated; therefore, I can’t imagine ever going back there in spite of how tasty the food and beer might have been.

Once in a while we’re seemingly given a choice, but when a negative consequence accompanies one of the options, but not the other, is it then really a choice? For instance, some grocery stores now offer their customers additional savings if they download the week’s digital coupons onto their shoppers’ card. We all have a similar card, yet only those who go on-line before shopping gets the luxury of receiving more for their money. Not everyone has a smartphone, and not everyone owns a computer: whether due to modest finances or simply by choice. Regardless, penalizing people based solely on them not embracing technology seems unfair. I think it’s blatant discrimination.

Unfortunately, Starbucks has recently expanded their love of advanced technology as well by offering a new promotion deemed “Mobile order and pay.” Also a bit unfair. They are literally encouraging customers to “skip the line” by doing everything on their electronic devices. At Starbucks it’s no longer first-come, first-served…it’s first-texted, first-served. It pains me to know my favorite place to write is part of the problem although I’m not willing to sacrifice my grande, dark roast coffee (with free refill) for the sake of fairness. I’m a very weak man when it comes to my Starbucks fix.

I had my first inkling, approximately a dozen years ago, as to where our nation was most-likely headed concerning its admiration for advanced technology. My lovely wife and I were dining out one evening when I noticed a gentleman romancing his cellphone instead of his female companion. I vividly remember how engrossed the man was with his tiny object and how defeated the ignored woman, seated across from him, looked. I pointed out the awkward situation to my wife, and we both agreed it was truly a sad sight to behold. The clueless man continuously ogled and caressed his electronic date for the duration of their stay. Now, the previous scenario has become the rule, not the exception, in today’s society. Spying an assortment of electronics on nearly every table in a restaurant is commonplace nowadays. I assume if people are willing to forgo conversations with their loved ones, while out for dinner, then it’s fairly conceivable they’re probably not sufficiently interacting with one another at home either.

I’m troubled that droves of people have become so attached to their electronic devices even to the point of idolatry. I’m also concerned about what other types of technological discrimination is waiting for us just around the corner. Here’s where I’m suppose to say, “To each his own.” I’m not lobbying to thwart the advancement of technology, but I am adamantly opposed to being forced into a lifestyle I believe is detrimental to relationships. Just because it’s the norm that doesn’t make it right. I presume some of you are guilty of rolling your eyes, at some point while reading this, and mistakenly referring to me as a dinosaur or else making some sort of horse-and-buggy wisecrack. If so, I’m left wondering why. I assuredly have no desire to make the horse-and-buggy my main mode of transportation, but I hold no animosity towards anyone who does. I’m not anti-technology…I’m just pro-choice!


It’s quite interesting, as well as refreshing, how the Holy Spirit intervenes seemingly under even the most trivial of circumstances. I was having a little trouble deciding what to write about when I remembered Christ is interested in every aspect of my life. Once in a while I find myself becoming a bit too complacent, when walking with the Lord, that I sometimes forget He has all of the answers. I made a simple plea for some clarification, during my evening prayers, as to what topic I should be entertaining. The very next morning, while continuing a Bible study I had started in January, I came across 1st Timothy 6:6-8.

The Apostle Paul said, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” Previously, I had considered offering my thoughts on contentment; however, I had just come up with a clever title pertaining to a different subject altogether, so I figured that ship had already sailed. Obviously, I was wrong. Immediately after reading those verses I no longer had any doubt as to what I was suppose to be writing about at this time. I cannot (and will not) dismiss the Holy Spirit’s intervention as merely a coincidence.

Google defines contentment as “a state of happiness and satisfaction.” I prefer Wikipedia’s definition which states, “Contentment is a mental or emotional state of satisfaction drawn from being at ease in one’s situation, body and mind.” How many people do we know who have the aforementioned abundant supply of food and clothing, as well as many other things, yet they are still discontented? It’s fairly difficult though to rebuke those who are not content since our country actually promotes this type of behavior. We are encouraged to buy into the notion that we must constantly strive to advance in our careers, upgrade to larger homes and more expensive vehicles, and be the first in line when the newest technological device hits the shelves.

What it really boils down to, in today’s society, is we have a misguided admiration of the almighty dollar. The noticeable differences between the haves and have-nots are what tends to divide us as a nation. We are erroneously separated into categories based on our financial status; however, the Bible warns us (again in 1st Timothy) that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” I’m not contending there’s anything wrong with ambition, and I’m certainly not implying there aren’t any fulfilled have-nots living amongst us. In fact, I would venture to say there are probably more individuals with much less money, than those with beaucoup bucks, who are content with their lives. The problem with making accumulating wealth a priority, and striving to obtain more possessions, is that inevitably it becomes a vicious cycle, so there’s rarely a chance of achieving any sort of lasting satisfaction. How much would be enough?

Not so long ago my father was asked what was on his “bucket list.” After pondering the question, for a quick moment, he unexpectedly replied, “Nothing.” My father was born of modest means, did not attend college, and was the sole breadwinner for his family of six. Looking in from the outside it appears as though he hasn’t had too much excitement in his life. He’s rarely traveled, has never been on a cruise, had never purchased a new vehicle until recently, and my father doesn’t even own a computer, yet he is content. He explained how important raising a family had been to him, how he couldn’t think of anything he desired to do (even if money was no object), and how even if he could he still wouldn’t change a thing.

I consider myself content as well although I have many things on my bucket list. I’d like to travel more especially outside of the United States. I also wish to one day partake in bungee jumping, go whitewater rafting, and possibly run a half marathon. Attempting to run a full marathon (26.2 miles) would just be silly. I’ve already tried my hand at waterskiing, snorkeling, and parasailing – and I really don’t even know how to swim. I went skydiving several years ago as well. Some folks think it’s ridiculous to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, but I highly recommend the exhilarating feat.

For me, skydiving on November 26th, 2001, was somewhat of a religious awakening. I would think it’s nearly impossible to fall from the heavens, at 13,000 feet, without considering one’s mortality. I even pondered what could possibly go awry before boarding the compact aircraft; hence, the reason why I quickly penned a short letter to my lovely wife before takeoff. I reminded the missus how much she and our son meant to me, and I apologized for the times, during our then 18 years together, when I wasn’t the perfect mate she deserved. I reckon I was yearning for complete contentment “just in case.” I asked my bride not to read the note unless something went amiss up in the blue sky. Of course, anyone who knows my wife most-likely has already guessed she read my heartfelt words before I even got on the plane.

On this earth we are “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). We are here experiencing the lower story (life’s fleeting moment) although the upper story (God’s divine plan) is the only thing that truly matters in the end. Ultimate contentment is surrendering all things to Christ. It is realizing your soul is your greatest asset. Assuredly, I am not against earning a good living, climbing up the company ladder, or having a bucket list as long as those desires are secondary. It’s not important that I once went skydiving, and I’m not too concerned whether or not I’ll have the opportunity to someday experience any of the other adventurous activities on my bucket list. Regardless, I’m content.

A Positive message

With all of the negative rhetoric running rampant in this great country of ours, especially amongst the presidential hopefuls for 2016, I thought it would be refreshing to write something with a positive message. Therefore, I’m not about to mention the ludicrous protesting happening (again) in Ferguson, Missouri. It makes no sense to me why anyone would be against law enforcement protecting law-abiding citizens from people like Michael Brown. Instead, those protesting insist on honoring the deceased delinquent. What’s even worse is combining all White police officer shootings of Black men into one neat little package. Each incident is entirely separate from the others and deserves the respect of being thought of as such. Regardless, all lives matter, yet there are sometimes dire consequences awaiting those who choose to participate in robbery and resisting arrest.

In remaining positive, I also won’t divulge the fact that Donald Trump is constantly applauded as a “self-made” successful businessman, but in reality he came out of his mother’s womb a millionaire, and he has since owned four businesses that have gone bankrupt. Although there’s something to dislike about every candidate, vying for the presidency of the United States of America, I’ll attempt to solely focus on what I actually like about them. Of course, there’s at least one possible foreseeable problem with that; what I might choose to offer as a compliment may indeed be the exact thing someone else despises about the presidential hopeful. However, this blog is about me remaining positive. If a candidate isn’t even mentioned in this piece…I’m sure that speaks volumes as to what I must think of them.

Donald Trump says he’s in favor of repealing America’s birthright citizenship policy. I agree. I’ve been against rewarding newborns (of illegal immigrants) the automatic right to U.S citizenship, simply because they were born here, for a very long time. I am also on the same page as Mr. Trump when it comes to his disdain for America’s incessant pursuit of political correctness. The Donald made headlines recently (what’s new?) after responding to a tasteless line of questioning, apparently in a politically incorrect manner, during the first Republican debate for 2016. The business mogul absolutely was singled out and attacked by Fox News commentator, Megyn Kelly, so I say what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. I’m not about to disagree with Trump’s unflattering comments about Rosie O’Donnell either. I’ve heard the former co-host of The View publically berate and belittle him, as well as many others, so I’m fairly unsympathetic when people tend to treat her in the same fashion.

Similarly, Kelly Osbourne was recently lambasted, while guest-hosting on The View, after she said what many perceived as being a politically incorrect statement. The irony is Ms. Osbourne was trying to put Donald Trump in his place, concerning his take on our nation’s illegal immigration problem, when she blurted, “If you kick every Latino out of this country, then who is going to be cleaning your toilet, Donald Trump?” I’m not a fan of Kelly Osbourne whatsoever, but I think her comment was totally correct. Every “day laborer” I’ve ever seen, at least in Arizona, has appeared to be of Hispanic descent. The majority of housekeepers in hotels, all across the United States, seem to be of the Latina persuasion as well.

It’s apparent to me many illegal immigrants are content working America’s less than glamorous occupations, at extremely low wages, just as long as they have the opportunity to continue living in this country. My point is I strongly doubt if Mr. Trump could find a White, legal citizen to clean his toilet unless he’s willing to pay a decent wage. People simply need to lighten up and cut Ms. Osbourne some slack. The other thing I appreciate about Donald Trump is due to his immense wealth he doesn’t have to pander to special interest groups to run a legitimate campaign. The Donald is his own special interest. Oops…I forgot…maybe that last comment wasn’t too positive.

Dr. Ben Carson has said he is not a fan of political correctness either. I admire his candidness, and I relish the fact he’s not a seasoned politician. Dr. Carson also boldly refutes the theory of evolution which is my sentiment exactly. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both have been defending Planned Parenthood recently in the wake of the “scandal” involving the family planning center. Videos have surfaced of Planned Parenthood personnel discussing, in a nonchalant manner, the harvesting of babies’ body parts. At a time when most of the other candidates are threatening to defund the agency’s clinics, across the entire nation, Mr. Sanders and Mrs. Clinton are commending the organization’s existence. The released videos are definitely unfortunate, and maybe the government could reduce the institution’s annual funding a bit, but I think Planned Parenthood is a vital agency especially for the younger generation.

I know I was thankful for the family planning center, in the mid-eighties, when I was dating my girlfriend (aka lovely wife) and even after we got married. Fortunately, we were allowed to obtain birth control without parental consent. Who wants to hear their parents’ lectures (or worse yet – them saying no) when a young couple thinks they’re doing the right thing? After our wedding we were able to continue purchasing birth control from Planned Parenthood at an affordable rate. The clinic enabled my wife and I to responsibly start a family when we were certain we could afford raising a child without any financial assistance.

Hillary Clinton has a reputation of reaching across the aisle to get things done. The same can be said of Jeb Bush although probably not to the extent of some other compromising Republicans namely John Kasich and Chris Christie. I’m an avid supporter of bipartisanship, so I have high regard for anybody who’s willing to negotiate, with the other party, to do what’s best for the United States. Mr. Bush, believe it or not, has sometimes been criticized, by members of his own party, for being too liberal. I admire how the former Governor of Florida dismantled affirmative action in his state. I also fancy how he’s a proponent of “three-strike” laws. I believe if a lawbreaker hasn’t learned to abide by society’s rules after already being convicted of two felonies then the miscreant will most-likely never learn. Therefore, repeat offenders should be subjected to harsher sentencing, on their third strike, and kept isolated from law-abiding citizens.

Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee both seem to have a major problem with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Mr. Paul desires to, at the very least, minimize the government agency, and Mr. Huckabee insists the stressful annual event, of filing tax returns, could easily be simplified. Both candidates are in favor of dismantling the IRS and implementing a fairer tax system. Mike Huckabee envisions a new tax system where all tax returns could effortlessly be completed and returned on a standard postcard. That sounds phenomenal to a guy who spends an enormous amount of time each year sifting through numerous tax forms. Rand Paul wants to eliminate foreign aid, and his non-interventionist attitude relating to war definitely tugs at my heartstrings.

Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker are adamantly opposed to transgenders serving in the United States Armed Forces. I would assume our nation’s military is busy enough without having to be inconvenienced with figuring out how to make a confusing situation (both literally and figuratively) like that comfortable for all concerned. I wish the former “Don’t ask, don’t tell” U.S policy, instituted by the Clinton Administration in 1994, was still in effect today. I have no problem with homosexuals serving, but I don’t think their sexual preference needs to be identified nor celebrated.

I found out, while researching the presidential hopefuls’ positions, that Mr. Walker returned $60,000. of his annual salary, each year for many years, when he was a Milwaukee county executive. It was a promise he made to his constituents when he first ran for the elected position. He did so because he had previously been an outspoken critic of the pay level for county jobs. I commend the Wisconsin Governor for keeping his selfless campaign promise. Governor Walker and the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, have their fondness for the old Patriot Act in common.

The Patriot Act was signed into law by George W. Bush in 2001; however, a key provision of the law that allowed for unlimited access to collected phone data (in essence spying), by the National Security Agency (NSA), was sadly buried in June of this year. The three of us would like to see Section 215 of the Patriot Act resurrected for the sake of America’s national security. To the contrary, Mr. Christie and I dislike famed hacker and traitor, Edward Snowden, for his cunning ways. Hacking into our government’s files and releasing private information is unacceptable under any circumstance. Another thing I like about Governor Christie is that he distinctively advocates for Social Security and Medicare “means testing.” That simply means if people do not need the money they’re receiving, from the entitlement programs, then they should stop accepting the benefits.

Martin O’Malley has a novel idea as well. The Democrat would like to see the Electoral College abolished. I too am in favor of our country’s president being determined by the popular vote instead. I’ve never understood why one person’s vote should be more important than another person’s vote, yet that’s the type of inequality the Electoral College election process promotes. Mr. O’Malley not only has a fine Irish name, but the former Governor of Maryland has stated he “proudly” holds an F rating from the National Rifle Association of America (NRA). I can’t help but fancy his sense of humor.

There you have it: a thorough synopsis of the things I like about many of the candidates who are hoping to occupy the Oval Office in early 2017. It wasn’t all that simple either. However, it’s refreshing to know there are others out there who actually think the same way as I do about certain things. I’m quite aware I offer a glimpse of where I stand, on an array of issues, when revealing all of the aforementioned candidates’ viewpoints I truly respect. I’m proud to be an Independent voter. I’m about the person – not their political affiliation. I’m James McCleary, and I approve this positive message.

Whose Chair?

It’s my chair today. That’s definitely not always the case, and it’s all because of Richard. I’m only aware of Richard’s name because that’s what everyone (the staff and customers alike) calls him at the Starbucks I frequent in Sun City, Arizona. The scene there is reminiscent of the Norm from Cheers situation – cue the music- “where everybody knows your name.” I’m one of the few exceptions though; the folks at this particular Starbucks don’t know my name, and I truly hope it remains that way since I prefer to stay “off the grid” as much as possible. Even though Richard doesn’t know my name, or anything about me, I’m sure he thinks of me as “the guy who steals his chair.”

Therein lies the problem with my newfound nemesis. Once or twice a week, for approximately the past year, I’ve been patronizing the Sun City coffee shop mostly on days when I really need to focus on my writing. My words just have a tendency to flow from my pen a little better when seated at that location. However, I assume Richard has also been a faithful customer, of the same establishment, but for a much longer time than I have been. In addition, he visits the store at least 6 days a week (I’m never there on Sundays to know if it’s actually 7). Therefore, apparently Richard (and seemingly most everyone else) thinks he’s entitled to the chair of his choice, which happens to be the exact one I’ve grown fond of, whenever he walks through the front door.

The whole ordeal has added much undesired drama to my life. Whenever Richard shows up, and I have already established position, he’s visibly irritated with the situation. He rarely says anything (at least loud enough for me to hear) about the “injustice” I’ve supposedly done to him. He doesn’t have to because many customers, and even some of the staff, freely mention it nearly every time this scenario occurs. They never say anything to me directly, when relentlessly referring to the chair I’m occupying as being Richard’s, but they don’t lower their voices either when discussing the matter amongst themselves. I pretend not to notice their senseless dialogue.

The most absurd thing I’ve overheard thus far, regarding the seating arrangements, was when my archrival was away on vacation. One Starbucks’ employee was telling another that Richard had called and said he was going to be gone an extra day and to not let anyone take his chair while he was away. To my knowledge, neither Richard’s name nor mine is stitched into the chair’s dark brown leather to suggest any type of ownership. Neither of us purchased the piece of furniture as well, so I would assume becoming the chair’s occupant is on a first-come, first-served basis – as it should be. That is certainly not the case (at least at one time) with a booth located at a rib joint in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.

In the mid-eighties Rock and Funk legend, Prince, bought the rights to a specific booth, inside Rudolphs Bar-B-Que, during his reign over the music industry. Only the artist’s most devoted fans are aware of this little-known fact about him. Of course, that’s the reason why I know. No one was to ever inhabit his booth, regardless of how crowded the place might be, in case Prince had a sudden hankering for some ribs. His unconventional purchase guaranteed him a reservation at a moment’s notice. Aww…to be disgustingly rich. I still like the entertainer nonetheless.

The funny thing about the Richard saga is that there are three other identical chairs at the Sun City Starbucks, but apparently neither my nemesis nor myself fancies them as much as we fancy the one in the corner. That’s right. There are a total of four indistinguishable chairs, arranged in pairs, at my favorite Starbucks, yet obviously Richard and I are only content, for whatever reason, occupying the same one. I suspect it’s because our chair is snugly positioned, surrounded by windows, and is furthest away from the incoming traffic and all of the noisy regulars. In addition, there are two other Starbucks nearby; however, they have some challenges for a guy such as myself who depends on a little peace and quiet when attempting to write his next masterpiece.

The coffee shop to the east (in Glendale) opens a little later and is usually overrun by as many as seven construction workers. They invade the compact area, with the only comfortable chairs in the store, at the precise time I prefer to tackle my writing for the day. They’re predictably boisterous, and sometimes even obnoxious, while utilizing the stereotypical language of blue-collar workers. It’s no mystery why it’s difficult for me to concentrate in the midst of all of that. The main obstacle I encounter at the Starbucks up north (in Peoria), a mere mile from my home, is that I’m constantly interrupted by people who’ve come to know me there. I sometimes feel like Norm at that location because people tend to want to sit by me and carry on conversations. Not good if your main objective is to be productive. Besides, the chairs up north aren’t nearly as comfy as the one in Sun City.

The real problem, as I see it, is Richard has gone to great lengths recently in preventing me from claiming his chair. He used to mosey into Starbucks around 6:00am, and he’d stay for about an hour and a half. I normally was already there by that time, consistently arriving around 5:00am, since I’m an early riser and that particular store opens at 4:00am. Suddenly, Richard began coming to the coffee shop earlier and earlier until one day he was finally sitting in my chair when I showed up at my usual time. I can’t believe my adversary has decided to rearrange his entire life just for the sake of a piece of furniture.

On second thought, I can somewhat relate because I countered with a minor adjustment myself. I began setting my alarm clock instead of just waking up on my own, as was previously the case, so I’d have a better shot at seizing the all-too elusive chair. I’m fully aware the Bible says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” but my alpha dog mentality has been too strong for me to resist. Now when I pull into the Sun City Starbucks’ parking lot at 4:15am, many times Richard is there. I’ll be darned if I’m going to resort to standing at the front door of any establishment, waiting for the business to open, just to capture a desired chair.

Whenever I see Richard already relaxing in my chair I don’t even bother stopping anymore; I simply continue on to one of the other two aforementioned Starbucks. I’m positive Richard does the same thing, if I get there first, because we haven’t been inside the same coffee shop at the same time for quite a long while. I only wish to patronize the Starbucks in Sun City once or twice a week, as I mentioned before, so I’m astonished by Richard’s selfish shenanigans especially since he has easy access to our chair the rest of the week. I guess one Starbucks just isn’t big enough for the both of us.

If I Was To Run For President

If I was to run for president it would be history in the making. I would take a completely unconventional path to the White House. First, I would compose a list of all of the inappropriate things I have ever done, throughout my entire life, and I’d present it to the media the day I entered the race. The neatly typed document would include my juvenile record although I was promised my early indiscretion would be expunged on my 18th birthday. However, in today’s world of mischievous computer hackers, and so much personal information now floating around in “the cloud” (whatever that is), I’m not so sure that promise wouldn’t be broken. Regardless, I would hope my egging transgression, committed at the age of 16, would not be a deal breaker for the American public.

Next, I would refuse to give any additional detailed information, concerning the lengthy list, or even make mention again of my prior sins for that matter. So many candidates have said they’re through discussing specific issues, from their past, but then they continue talking about them whenever hounded by the press. I absolutely would not retreat from my vow of silence in regards to my distant past. If I was to run for president I would not make any promises, but I would be totally transparent with my devised agenda. My modest qualifications, for the position of president, includes earning a high school diploma, operating a fairly successful business (for 5 years), and possessing common sense. My formal education certainly pales in comparison to practically everyone, but the latter attribute (common sense) is seemingly absent amongst the majority of those who are currently occupying the political arena.

If I was to run for president it would be as an Independent. I do not fully agree, or disagree, with either of the two major parties’ platforms. In addition, I’m adamantly opposed to partisanship; therefore, if I was elected president I’d be able to form partnerships with Democrats and Republicans alike to do what’s best for the country. However, collaborating with the Tea Party might be a different story. I blame their existence, these past several years, for the much needed compromise missing in Congress.

I’m all for fiscal responsibility but not at all costs to the American public. Those Grover Norquist pledges, signed by almost all of the Tea Party clan, are utter nonsense. I assuredly would not add to the nation’s outrageous debt, but I wouldn’t be able to balance its budget either. (Not even if I had a full 8 years and a compromising Congress.) No one could responsibly make this country solvent again, after 14 plus years of careless overspending, in that short amount of time.

If I was president I’d be fine with leaving some issues left up to the states to decide, but generally I prefer consistency throughout the land especially when it comes to public safety. I would aim to make texting while driving illegal (nationwide) with a mandatory jail sentence even for first-time offenders. I’m a proponent of having a required sentence already in place, for all life-threatening infractions, so violators will be well aware of their punishment beforehand; hence, acting as a deterrent to those contemplating breaking any laws. Potential lawbreakers may be more apt to reconsider their actions when knowing there’s an unavoidable harsh penalty awaiting them. I have no tolerance for anyone who foolishly puts another person’s life at risk.

I definitely place computer hackers into that category, near the top, of people who need to be dealt with in a severe manner. I’m not sure if those hackers, who are “genius” enough to disable a moving vehicle or redirect the flight plan of a commercial airplane, are truly trying to cause harm or if they’re wreaking havoc on innocent people simply because they can. Regardless, anybody who’s inclined to tamper with the safety of others needs to realize that would not be acceptable on my watch. I not only have contempt for hackers like “patriotic whistleblower,” Edward Snowden, but I’m not too fond of those who blatantly shine their laser pointers into the cockpits of airplanes, temporarily blinding the unsuspecting pilots, as well. Again, I’m in favor of having mandatory jail sentences for the likes of these people.

If I was elected as President of the United States I would not attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I believe our nation’s healthcare system was much worse before “Obamacare,” so I wouldn’t be willing to revert to the way that it was. However, I would listen to anyone with a legitimate suggestion for improving the ACA. I’m not too familiar with the specifics of Medicaid or Medicare, but I’ve often wondered if combining those programs with “Obamacare,” into a single entity, would be a cost saving measure somehow. I do think President Obama made a mistake, through one of his many executive orders, by quashing the government’s policy of threatening prosecution for anyone negotiating with terrorists. Now, American families can make deals, with known terrorist groups, for the release of a confined family member. This sets a horrible precedent, and only the wealthiest Americans would have a legitimate shot at paying the necessary ransom to free their loved ones. That’s not right!

I am anti-war. It’s quite sobering when pondering the accumulated costs, both financially and in American lives, due to our nation’s involvement in unjust wars over the years. I proudly hold an isolationist’s viewpoint because in general I don’t think it’s appropriate to get involved in other countries’ affairs. I also don’t believe in forcing our type of government, no matter how wonderful it may be, on any other nation. I highly doubt if we’d appreciate it if the tables were turned. I imagine the United States of America would fight tooth and nail to keep from being subjected to another country’s form of government. Remember the Revolutionary War? Obviously, I would not hesitate to declare war if we were ever attacked on our own soil.

If I was sworn into office my agenda would surely include nixing any further development of driverless cars and putting the kibosh on the use of drones in residential areas. It’s apparent, at least to me, there are numerous drawbacks with both of these technological advancements including losing some of our beloved freedoms. We should maintain the right to drive our vehicles, and expect privacy in our own backyards, but that’s not where we’re headed. As president I would also advocate for the disbandment of affirmative action, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). I desire a country where equality actually means equality.

If I was president I’d petition for all grand jury rulings, of the racially charged kind (whether real or imagined), to be read in the morning instead of in the evening as currently tends to be the case. I think this simple change would most-likely prevent the spontaneous actions of many miscreants looking for a “justifiable” reason to loot and vandalize their neighborhoods. I figure delinquents are more prone to disregard the law in the shadows of the night than during daytime hours. Announcing verdicts before lunch would allow for heated citizens to cool down, and to reconsider their contemplated endeavors, before the sun sets. If they still choose to instantly riot at least the culprits’ identities would be less difficult to capture in the light of day.

If I was to run for president I would have no chance of winning whatsoever. I would not have any special interest groups backing me; therefore, I would not have the money to launch a competitive campaign. I know I lack the education, experience, and name recognition needed to become a viable candidate for president. Oh, and did I mention the money? I am certain I’d make a better president than anyone who has already entered the race, but it’s just not possible for a transparent Independent with common sense to be victorious at this time. I guess the making of history will have to wait.

It’s Coming…Again!

As the taste of grilled hamburger and homemade ice cream disappeared from my mouth, and the brilliant glow of fireworks vanished from the sky, my mind automatically shifted into a different mode. On the evening of the 4th of July, for some reason unbeknownst to me, I began to focus on the upcoming Christmas season. Maybe it’s because I tend to realize, around Independence Day, that we are now closer to Christmas future than we are to Christmas past. That’s not to say I hadn’t given the glorious holiday some thought beforehand, or I wouldn’t have already purchased a loved one’s present last month while vacationing in Palm Springs. I sure hope the recipient fancies the gift since Palm Springs would be a long ways to travel (from Iowa) just to return the item.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one thinking about Christmas this early because the city of Glendale, our neighbor to the east, held their annual “Christmas in July” event this past weekend, and my lovely wife agreed to accompany me to the afternoon affair. We had not participated for the past several years, so I figured we (at least I) should do it up right. I scoured our walk-in closet for the day’s proper attire. I proudly put on my seasonal, although currently out of season, t-shirt featuring the famous flagpole scene from the timeless movie, A Christmas Story. The shirt’s caption reads “I Triple Dog-Dare You!” in reference to the young characters’ disagreement over whether or not a person’s tongue would stick to a frozen flagpole. SPOILER ALERT…it does.

I waited until we got into the car before boldly asking the missus if we could listen to Christmas music on the way to Glendale, and much to my surprise she granted me permission. You think you know someone after 28 years of marriage, but that was not the response I was expecting, so I had to go back inside the house to grab some Christmas music. I settled on one of my many homemade compact discs, Jimmy Mac’s Favorite Tunes Of The Season (Vol.4), and off we went. We made one quick stop, at our local Wal-Mart, to choose a Redbox movie rental for later that evening. I received several strange looks, from numerous people walking by, assumingly because I was wearing a seasonably unfashionable t-shirt out in public.

I was glad to be leaving Peoria, and I was very appreciative of my wife, for honoring my previous request, as the joyous sounds of Amy Grant, John Denver, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra resonated from the car’s speakers. I’m fully aware the missus was just “humoring me” at first, but by the time we arrived at our destination she was be-bopping to the holiday music as well. Even more shocking was her suggestion of having Stouffer’s Lasagna (our traditional Christmas Eve meal) later for dinner. My wife is certainly no Scrooge, but she doesn’t adore Christmas nearly as much as I do (no one does), so I was pleasantly surprised at the lengths she was going to on this special day. It appeared as though the entire day was going to be like Christmas in July.

Our first stop, after reaching Glendale’s Historic District, was to the city’s visitor’s center. I couldn’t help but smile after spying the giant, practically naked inflatable Santa just outside the building’s main entrance. Mr. Claus was relaxing in a hammock, attached to a couple of palm trees, and sipping on a foofoo drink complete with a tiny umbrella. We were given a map of the area and a mysterious grab-bag gift: a small notebook and pen decorated with snowflakes and a Christmas tree. My wife and I walked hand in hand, from shop to shop, gazing at the numerous lawn displays along the way. We sampled Christmas cookies and candy canes, and I bought a small scoop of Peppermint Candy ice cream at an old-fashioned ice cream parlor.

Most of the businesses, throughout the picturesque neighborhood, were playing Christmas music. Many of the owners, and shoppers alike, were adorned in holiday apparel. The people of Peoria might not have appreciated my cheery shirt, but in downtown Glendale I was fitting right in. Santa Claus was hanging out at one of the quaint shops. All of the visiting children were having their pictures taken with him, but the jolly old elf did take the time to wish the missus and I a Merry Christmas. He possibly may have been the real Santa since I’m somewhat of an expert at detecting the fake ones; however, with this particular Kris Kringle I just couldn’t be certain one way or the other.

During our festive outing we noticed two teenage boys having a snowball fight across the street. Obviously, the snow before us was manmade, but it was a nice gesture by the city, in keeping with the holiday spirit, nonetheless. The only thing missing was a winter nip in the air, but that was hardly possible with the day’s triple digit temperatures. We ended our time in Glendale’s Historic District with a free ride on Ollie the Trolley. I felt as though I was in an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as the trolley puttered around town. Of course, I knew we really weren’t heading to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe to visit King Friday.

When we got home my wife was willing to listen to even more Christmas music (bless her heart), but I decided it was time to retire the sounds of the season for now. I had already broken my “no Christmas music before November 1st” rule, so I figured I should quit while I was ahead. My other strict holiday rule is “no Christmas music after December 25th.” My wife doesn’t care for that one. She’s not a “cold turkey” type of person like I am; she prefers to wean herself off the stuff, like an optimistic junkie, although she’s pretty successful. Anyway, we still had our Stouffer’s lasagna to eat and our Redbox movie to watch. Our Christmas in July came to a close that evening as we sipped on homemade eggnog while watching A Merry Friggin’ Christmas.

Many people complain that Christmas seems to come a little earlier each and every year, and I imagine most of them finish their tirades with a “Bah! Humbug!” However, apparently they’re correct because last year I wrote a blog (“It’s Coming!”) about Christmas, during early September, but this year I’m writing about the holiday, and it’s only July. It’s no secret I love everything about Christmas: the decorations, the lights, the presents (giving and receiving), the music, the movies, Santa Claus, and most-importantly celebrating the birth of Jesus. Try as you may to avoid, ignore, or deny the coming of Christmas, but it’s just no use. Brace yourselves people. It’s coming…again!


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