Monthly Archives: April 2014

KISS

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recently inducted nine new artists including the legendary but controversial “psycho circus” that is KISS as members of its elite institution. Many say this honor is a long time coming, they’ve been eligible since 1999, but others argue there is no place for a band like them in the Hall of Fame. I was close to finishing my tenure at Aurora Heights Elementary School when I first learned of the make-up wearing foursome. I’m not exactly sure how I discovered them, or how I was even able to, since my mother was still listening to her Beatles records, my father was and assumingly always will be stuck in the 1950’s, and my older sister was listening to the hippest Disco music of that era. On second thought, I probably received my KISS education on the school playground (quite fittingly) where a young boy can learn a lot about life during recess.

Ricky, whose last name is being withheld to protect the innocent (or more likely in his case the guilty) always seemed to be the one kid teaching the rest of us the important happenings in pop culture. I remember once when he was sent to the principal’s office after bringing KISS’ Love Gun album to school because it included a cheesy cardboard cut-out of a “love gun” packaged in with the record. I guess even way back then the schools frowned upon having guns on campus. I recall Ricky having to make another trip to the principal’s office for bringing his Farrah Fawcett poster to school and showing it off to all of us hot-blooded male classmates who were eagerly awaiting our turns to take a peek. He had the classic poster with Farrah posing in a swimsuit. My parents only allowed me to have the one with her wearing blue jeans and a white sweater, but of course that did not stop me from hanging the treasured picture above my bed.

Because of Ricky I knew about KISS, but the first time I really experienced the group for myself was when I purchased their album, Rock And Roll Over, which at the time was only the second record I had ever bought. The Hard Rock album was most definitely in stark contrast to the first record I had previously acquired, Endless Summer, by the Beach Boys. I certainly was never a big fan of their style of Surf music, so I must’ve gotten it only because I knew it would’ve met with my parent’s approval; therefore, I have absolutely no idea how I got away with owning a KISS record on my parent’s watch. Maybe because the album cover was cartoon-like in appearance; hence, not showing the full magnitude of the band’s scary persona, or possibly my parents simply had more pressing issues to deal with at the time.

Either way KISS had become my favorite band, at least for awhile, and I still thought the group was somewhat cool several years later when one winter I taped a photo of them to the inside of my high school locker. The picture captured all four members wearing black attire with a generous portion of artificial snowflakes falling down on and around them. Written in bold, blood red lettering on the accumulated fake snow, mounded in front of them at the bottom of the photo, was the clever and seasonably relevant phrase, “Merry Kiss-mas!” I thought the picture, taken from a music magazine, was awesome, but many of my peers thought it was lame and had no trouble telling me so.

KISS was and still is quite tame, compared to many if not most Rock and Roll bands, especially by today’s standards. Sure they’ve written countless songs featuring double-entendres, and I believe they coined the phrase, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old.” However, they have rarely used profanity in their songs and never the f-bomb that I am aware of. The majority of their songs seem to be less focused on complicated lyrical content and aimed more towards simply rhyming words, but most importantly the band longs for their audience to feel like partying every day. Gene Simmons, bassist and vocalist, as well as the fire-breathing and blood-spitting member of the band freely admits KISS has always been about capitalism. He has done so in the past and will continue doing anything for a buck such as silly movies (check out “KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park” sometime), reality television, and stamping the KISS logo on every type of merchandise known to mankind including genuine coffins for burying the ultimate KISS fans.

I thought KISS was harmless enough, so I never read all that much into their perceived aura. The church I attended during my youth obviously felt differently about it because I can remember one particular weekend when my Sunday School class devoted the entire hour to denouncing Rock and Roll music to all of us teenagers in attendance. I was told AC/DC stood for bi-sexuality, The Eagles’ hit song, “Hotel California,” was an ode to the devil, and KISS was actually an acronym for Knights In Satan’s Service. I’m not sure how much merit any of those claims hold true that my youth pastor made so many years ago, but interestingly enough all three of the aforementioned artists are now members of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. For me, the excitement of KISS has long since worn off, like the intricate make-up that once graced their faces, but there’s not one doubt in my mind a band like them has earned their place in history as inductees into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Cell Phones

No one needs to be using a cell phone while driving a vehicle. Yes, if you are suppose to be meeting someone someplace and you’re running late…it’s nice to be able to call and let that person know. Yes, if you are headed home and your spouse would like you to stop and pick up something on the way…a cell phone can be very convenient. Yes, if your car breaks down or if you’re in an accident…having a cell phone in your possession may help to rectify the situation sooner. However, I long for the “good old days” when a stranded motorist would have to walk to the nearest house and ask the homeowner if they could use their phone to call somebody for assistance. I’ll say it again. No one needs to be using a cell phone while driving a vehicle. Talking on a cell phone when driving is a distraction like fiddling with the radio, attempting to eat a meal, and trying to put on make-up. Since there aren’t any specific regulations against those other types of reckless behavior then I can somewhat understand the argument, if and when creating distracted driving laws, of not singling out cell phone users.

I would not have made the previous statement, a few short years ago, as a longtime proponent for a national ban on all cell phone use when operating a vehicle, but this is what typically happens in our society. When enough citizens stand firm in their beliefs, regardless of how ill-conceived or irresponsible they may be, the rest of us tend to follow suit. We eventually all become desensitized to the situation including even those who at one time or another had lobbied for cell phone use regulations. A perfect example of the “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mentality happened in my own family several years ago. A family member who shall remain nameless, but not my wife or my son, was rear-ended by a distracted driver who admittedly was reaching for his phone at the time the accident occurred. My family member was so angry about the ordeal, and insisted there should be a law against such asinine behavior, but then a couple of years later I was a passenger in that family member’s vehicle, so imagine my surprise when he began fumbling around with his cell phone to answer a call. He unintentionally began drifting out of his driving lane and almost caused an accident himself.

You should see my wife trying to answer her cell phone while pushing a shopping cart down the aisle when we’re getting groceries. She inevitably veers to the right before eventually coming to a complete stop and usually before clipping any of the merchandise on the shelves with the front end of the cart. Speaking of my lovely wife (good save), we were recently in California where cell phone use while driving is prohibited, and I must say it was refreshing to see all of the alert drivers with their eyes forward and with their hands on the steering wheel. I know California has its share of problems, but the Golden State absolutely got that one right unlike most of the other states in this country. This sort of situation is precisely why I normally prefer federal regulation over individual state’s rights.

Public safety should not just be a West Coast, East Coast, or somewhere in between concern, but it should be of national concern. Talking on cell phones when driving will never be completely outlawed, but all states should at least ban texting and driving! When some states enact certain rights and/or regulations which differ from the majority of the other states it can be a little confusing to the average citizen, but it’s downright absurd when adjoining cities are allowed to have a separate set of rules from one another. Here in Arizona there are anti-texting laws in Phoenix but nowhere else in the Valley; therefore, drivers heading east and west would be texting legally, illegally, and then legally again all in the matter of a few minutes and during one short drive. On another ridiculous side note, it is currently legal to purchase fireworks in the entire state of Arizona, but it is illegal to use them in almost all of its cities. I don’t even begin to understand the logic behind that one.

What I also have trouble comprehending are the numerous reports showing that almost everyone who texts while driving admits they know it is dangerous, yet they continue participating in the negligent act. Many of these guilty texters have an array of excuses for their behavior, and they claim not being able to do so would infringe on their rights. I say anyone who texts and drives ultimately could someday infringe on my right to life. Many members of a particular party in our state’s legislature consistently and stubbornly express the importance of personal freedoms and individual responsibility, so these elected officials are unwilling to pass or even consider banning texting and driving. Without any common sense regulation in place my responsibility as a defensive driver becomes much greater as I am left trying to navigate my vehicle among the multitude of distracted texters. They commonly are crossing over into my driving lane and interfering with the normal flow of traffic by not being able to concentrate on a consistent speed.

I would rather take a chance with the drunk-drivers on our streets and highways than with those who text while driving. I don’t make that declaration light-heartedly because reports do show drunk-driving to be a safer irresponsible act than texting and driving, and at least the drunks tend to keep their eyes on the road. The great state of Arizona has strict laws against driving drunk, as does every state in the United States, but the Valley of the Sun is one of the only six remaining states which currently doesn’t ban the more treacherous conduct of texting and driving. I have long since given up hope of Arizona ever passing laws against using a cell phone while driving; however, I do continue to hope for a nation-wide ban on texting and driving not just for my sake but for everyone’s safety.


God

They say you should never talk about politics or religion if you aim to keep your friends, or in my case readers, but I have never been one to really care what others think of me, so why start now. I’ve already scratched the political surface with my previous writings and have even touched on religion a bit, but as I was worshipping at Copper Hills Church this past weekend I was suddenly and overwhelmingly compelled by the Holy Spirit to share with you my thoughts on God. As I began seriously considering what needed to be said I couldn’t help but rethink the situation, and I started searching for reasons not to discuss this subject. That is what sometimes happens when the human flesh battles with the Spirit. Sitting in my usual spot (the comfy chair by the windows) at Starbucks, where I do most of my writing, I continued thinking about other possible topics to pursue, but the voice of the Holy Spirit is not easy to dismiss nor should it be. That being said, I am still struggling some with the subject matter since there is so much I could say, yet I feel a heavy sense of responsibility for conveying it in a complete and accurate way.

Therefore, the following is not me speaking on behalf of all Christians, but it is simply the truth as I know it. I also know that being prompted to write this at this time, with Easter upon us, is not just a coincidence. I have never been a big fan of the Easter Bunny, but I have enjoyed coloring eggs and participating in Easter egg hunts in the past. The reason I celebrate Easter though is because it is a special time for me to acknowledge that God’s only Son, Jesus, rose from the grave. He did so after suffering a painful and brutal death on an old wooden cross; therefore, conquering death for everyone who truly believes in Him. Jesus Christ was a spotless (sin-free) man, yet he willingly and humbly paid the ultimate price for each and every one of our sins. The sacrifice he had to endure seems very unfair, and it was, but fairness died in the Garden of Eden when man chose to disobey God, so now all believers and non-believers alike lead imperfect lives and experience unfairness while on this earth.

Although the sun shines and the rain falls, on both those who believe and those who don’t, believers are no longer enslaved to sin whereas non-believers still are. The only way out of enslavement is to acknowledge the one and only God, believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and then accept Him into your life. That is precisely when the Holy Spirit begins to dwell inside of you and the gift of eternal life in Heaven with Him is given. Please be advised though that you’re not immune to sin after becoming a believer. Bad stuff still happens, and life remains unfair, but now you have your Savior walking by your side at all times. That’s the Good News! I cannot imagine dealing with the perils of everyday life such as losing a job, family issues, health issues, or even death and tragedies like 911 without having God in my corner.

Every Christian has their own story as to what brought them to the realization they needed God and to that certain point in their lives when they finally made the decision to follow Him. On the testimonial scale of 1-10, ten being the most earth-shattering, mine is maybe a two. I am almost envious of the numerous powerful testimonies I have heard over the years of people overcoming addictions, abusive backgrounds, and rotten childhoods with the much needed help of Christ. On second thought, maybe I’m actually more thankful I did not have to endure anything like that to lead me to Him. I was raised in a Christian home, so I knew the truth at an early age, and at some point I made the most important decision I will ever make of accepting Jesus into my life. As a Christ follower I am not perfect and still have many faults, please don’t tell my wife, and I would be a bit leery of any Christian who would pretend otherwise.

On that note, I would now like to apologize to any non-believer who is reading this and who has ever encountered a judgmental, arrogant, or hypocritical person that call themselves a Christian. I know it’s not that far fetched because even I encountered some of them at the church I grew up in. I am reminded of an episode of the hit television series, The Big Bang Theory, where Sheldon finds out his very religious single mother is having, in his character’s all too familiar expanded word choice, “coitus.” He is extremely disappointed in his mother’s actions and tells her, “I’ll condemn you internally, while maintaining an outward appearance of acceptance.” Sheldon’s mother responds with the humorous line, “That is very Christian of you.” There are so many things wrong with the aforementioned scenario that I wouldn’t even know how to address it, but I do believe my responsibility as a Christian is to accept others as who they are and allow God to do the judging if and when He sees fit. There is a huge difference between being a Christ follower or just being religious. I once had a keychain that read, “I’m not religious, I just love the Lord,” which I think says it all. Well, I have now blogged about both politics and “religion” at great lengths, and I truly hope the Holy Spirit is pleased. Happy Easter!


Back To School

A few years ago I decided to go back to school as a full-time student, and even though my experience wasn’t quite as eventful as Thornton Melon’s, Rodney Dangerfield’s character in the timeless movie, Back to School, it certainly did have its moments. In actuality, I was not going back to college but rather I was experiencing higher learning for the first time since graduating high school many, many years ago. I had this crazy notion I could just get in and get out in four years, earn some sort of Degree, and then start making lots of money. My objective was to begin with two years of community college and then transfer to one of the Arizona State University campuses, besides the one my son was already attending, so I could also graduate as a Sun Devil. I already had visualized celebrating my accomplishment by getting a tattoo of the school’s mascot, Sparky, with the anticipated year of my graduation (2013) scrolled across the icon’s chest.

Because my high school days were ancient history (my transcripts had most likely disintegrated by now) I was forced to take a placement exam to see where I was at academically. I would then know the appropriate class levels to begin at which would enable me to start my college career. The results showed I excelled in all areas except math. What? I know how to add, subtract, divide, multiply, and figure percentages. I also knew how to calculate my batting average when I played baseball, and I do my own taxes for crying out loud. I’ve always prided myself on being both creative and analytical unlike most people who tend to be either one or the other. Maybe my mother has been wrong all these years and I’m not that special after all. No, that can’t be it. I still believe I am both a creative and an analytical person, and I’m positive I do know basic math very well, but algebra is a whole different monster.

I think my initial experience of trying to learn the awful subject when I was in 9th grade was a contributing factor to the inevitable downfall of my college career. In the “good old days” high school consisted of only grades 10-12, so the freshmen in junior high were obviously the “top dogs” which was quite fitting for my school since we were the Berg Bulldogs. One full year of algebra, during that time, was the only math class required to earn a high school diploma. The luck of the draw gave me Miss Dralle as my algebra teacher. She was a first year teacher and fresh out of college. She was somewhat of a looker, especially for a math teacher, and I suppose many of us guys even considered her to be a fox. For my younger readers that translates into being hot!

Miss Dralle may have been a decent teacher, but at the very least she was a total distraction. She was thin, very cute, and had brown feathered hair, and who didn’t love feathered hair back then, but she was also a bit timid and easy to take advantage of sometimes. One day in class I noticed an open window, and I was smart enough to put two and two together. When we were suppose to be solving algebraic equations at our desk, and when Miss Dralle was not looking, I escaped out the window just to have some fun. What is it with me and windows anyway? I strolled around the building, walked back into the school, and then re-entered the classroom through the door. Miss Dralle questioned my whereabouts but not too seriously since each student was allowed to sharpen their pencils across the hall with her permission. I didn’t have her permission this time, of course, but that was a fairly forgivable offense. My great escape was exhilarating, but the best part was hearing the laughs and giggles from my peers as I walked through the door.

Although I barely passed the one and only algebra class, imperative for completing high school, I now thought for sure I’d have an easier time of it since I was a mature adult striving for something better in life. Unfortunately, that was not the case in my situation. Let’s be honest here – the majority of people on this planet will never ever need to even once use algebra in their entire lives. Anyway, I eased into college life by enrolling in a summer class, at Glendale Community College, a couple of months before the fall term was to begin. I decided to start with a required speech class, Interpersonal Communication, just to get it over with because I absolutely despised the one semester of speech class I had to endure in high school. My former teacher was adequate enough and the class wasn’t all that difficult, but I did have an immense fear of public speaking back then. After utterly disliking my first experience, of presenting a speech in public, I refused to give any of the mandatory remaining speeches in front of my classmates for the remainder of the term.

As much as I disliked public speaking I really didn’t mind the preparation, so I was always prepared on time. However, my dry mouth, sweaty palms, and trembling body prevented me from ever volunteering to go first, and when I finally was the only student left to participate I would then shamefully decline. My teacher was kind enough to eventually allow me to present the assignments in front of her, and only her, either before or after school. That was barely, but thankfully, enough to pass the class. As a somewhat mature adult, going back to school with a sense of purpose, I was able to overcome my fear of public speaking although still to this day I enjoy it just about as much as eating broccoli or visiting the dentist.

The first assignment of my Interpersonal Communication class was to pair up and learn as much as possible about the other person, in a short amount of time, and then give a five minute speech introducing that person to the rest of the class. My chosen partner was Myron Begay (boy, I could’ve had some fun with that name if I wasn’t somewhat of a mature adult), and my initial short speech was a complete success. Myron was of Indian descent, so weeks later when I read in the local newspaper about an Indian tribe member who was receiving an award, and his last name was Begay, I assumed he must be a relative of Myron’s, so I clipped out the article and presented it to him the next day at school. Myron thanked me but admitted he did not know the man in the story. He then went on to inform me that the name Begay to Indians is as common as the name Smith is to Americans. I guess I was receiving quite the education at the community college.

Another student I sat next to in my college speech class and enjoyed being around was named Cody. I could tell from the first day of class he must have been one of those popular kids back in high school. He was funny, good-looking, had an athletic build, and nothing seemed to bother him. My suspicions were confirmed when shortly thereafter I noticed him conversing with the most popular girl in our class, Brittany, on a daily basis. I felt like I was holding my own, not unlike Mr. Melon from the classic movie, and fitting in nicely with the youngsters when one day Cody declared to the entire class, “James is the coolest old guy I know.” Ouch! Overall, attending a year of college later in life was a great experience. I even finished with a perfect grade point average (thanks to dropping algebra). I learned how to cram an enormous amount of worthless information into my brain, for tests and final exams, only to forget most of it the very next day. I also learned Chuck Berry probably would’ve been crowned the “King of Rock ‘n Roll” instead of Elvis if not for U.S. racial tensions during that era. Now there’s some information I’ll probably never have to use again…sort of like algebra.


Taxes

They say the two certainties of life are death and taxes. I’ve already previously touched on the subject of death, so I guess it’s only fitting I should now discuss the topic of taxes and what better time than the month of April when tax season is in full swing. This time of year I can’t help but feel pretty darn special. Although I have been married to my lovely wife for almost 27 years (yes, I did the math to be absolutely sure since I am writing about taxes and not the death of me) it is still nice to be wanted by someone else. Uncle Sam wants me bad! He wants me to file a federal income tax return, and he insists that I do it very soon. I have heard the argument our government cannot legally force its citizens to pay taxes, so some people choose not to submit a return. I don’t know how true that is because I’m too lazy to do the research, but I do know there are some people sitting in prison for tax evasion, so common sense tells me not to take the chance.

Ever since I was a pimply teenager, earning a paycheck from McDonald’s, I have usually completed the annual tax returns on my own. Call me crazy, I’m sure many people do, but I used to actually enjoy the whole process of filing a return. Gathering pertinent information, organizing numerous receipts, and even filling out all of the forms was kind of fun. The thrill of figuring my own taxes has significantly worn off with the increase in not only the number of forms to fill out but also with the difficulty of trying to comprehend them. Being self-employed for most of our working years, and dabbling in the stock market has only complicated matters. Each year we typically have to file Schedules A,B,C,D,E, and SE, as well as Form 8949. One recent year when my wife was an employee at a salon the owner wrongfully, yet purposefully, claimed her as an independent contractor so she wouldn’t owe as much in taxes. We were forced to dispute the claim by filling out Form SS-8. We did win the case, of course, because we had right on our side.

This year I thought I might have to include Form 8903 which had an attachment number of 143. Really? Attachment #143? You have got to be kidding me! I don’t know exactly how many attachments are possible for a single tax return, again with the laziness, but I am quite aware there should be an easier way for completing them. Like most other things in my life I am very “old school” when it comes to doing my taxes. I still fill out the forms by hand, instead of electronically, and then send them to the Internal Revenue Service via snail-mail. I figure I’m doing my part in helping to keep the United States Postal Service open for business. I also find the “old school” way more convenient by affording me the luxury of viewing both the instructions and the forms at the same time. It is so much easier than having to click back and forth from one to the other on a computer screen. I am constantly hounded by everyone wanting me to do everything through the internet, and the I.R.S. is no exception. I am aware eventually I probably will not have a choice in the matter, that’s what routinely happens with the advancement in technology, but for now I will joyfully continue not banking, paying bills, or filing my tax returns on-line.

However, I do somewhat have a choice in how my tax dollars are spent by who I vote for at the polls. The two major political parties of this country sure do talk a lot about taxes, and even though they differ fundamentally on the amounts and the methods of taxation the truth as I know it is I can always count on them to eagerly spend my money on their agendas. I honestly do not mind paying the government my fair share of taxes, but surely there is a much better and less complicated way of doing so. The one time I made a mistake on my federal tax return the I.R.S. sent me a kind letter stating they had made a correction because they had found an additional deduction I could have taken which then increased the amount of my refund for that year. If Uncle Sam knows my financial situation, even better than myself, then why not simply either send me the dang refund check, or the bill for the amount I owe, instead of placing a giant heap of unnecessary stress on me every April.

A wise woman, my wife’s Grandma Proctor, once said that receiving a refund check from the government at year’s end was not good business sense because that money was rightfully ours to begin with, and they were only using it to their benefit for the entire past year. As much as we used to look forward to the delight of receiving an annual refund check I thought Grandma Proctor’s logic made perfect sense, so now we usually have to make a payment at the year’s end. Considering the aforementioned two certainties of life (death and taxes) I suppose paying taxes is better than the alternative…but not by much.


Last Vegas

No, the title of this blog is not a typo. The first time my wife and I went to Las Vegas is also probably the last time for visiting the Nevada tourist trap. I am so relieved that “what happens in Vegas…stays in Vegas” because I am extremely embarrassed at what transpired during our wedding anniversary getaway to Sin City. Boredom happened! I can’t remember if we spent two days there, or just one, but either way our trip lasted way too long. I suppose if money was no object we could’ve had a much better time, but I am always looking for a bargain, so I’m not that willing to shell out beau coup bucks on any show only to be entertained for an hour or two. Luckily, my wife and I are on the same page when it comes to being careful with our finances. I think by now you’ve got the point – We Are Cheap!

We aren’t much for gambling either, but we did allow ourselves $20 each to blow, or hopefully to win big with, but probably to blow. My wife and I played the nickel and quarter slots until all of her money was gone, and I decided to stop when I still had about seven dollars left because I was simply bored. The slot machines of today have buttons to push rather than handles to pull, which I think diminishes the fun of playing them, but I admit I do enjoy the sound of clanking coins. Neither of us tried our hand at any of the card games since we’re not too familiar with them, the house rules, or even the proper protocol. We also were afraid of possibly irritating the casino’s card dealer and the intense players gathered around the table. I had to wonder why we even came to Las Vegas in the first place. Maybe we could find some cheap entertainment outside of our hotel.

We were staying right on the Vegas Strip where we had heard most everything was suppose to be within walking distance of our hotel. As we ventured out, up one side of the street and down the other, we noticed several men lining the streets, who were all about twenty feet from one another, for as far as the eyes could see. They were handing out what appeared to be something the size of a trading card, and they were getting everyone’s attention by slapping them against the palms of their hands. They would then offer one to each passerby. All of the working men were similar in their looks and accents, and I’m sure Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio would have a field day if the Strip was within his jurisdiction. However, it is not “America’s Toughest Sheriff’s” territory, so I’ll never know if those men were legal immigrants or not.

I had already received a few of the gifts from the brown-skinned men before my brain could even register that they were photos of nearly naked women. Each card was advertising various strip clubs and escort services in the area. I wasn’t considering the offers placed before me although as a one time avid card collector I was intrigued at the thought of starting a new card collection. I had collected baseball, football, basketball, and even Elvis Presley and Kiss trading cards in the past, so I wondered why this would be any different. After one look from my wife – I stopped wondering! I dropped the unwanted gifts to the ground like many of the men walking up ahead of us had done. Because of the awkward situation, all of us men had been forced into, we all were now uncomfortably accompanying our female companions. The incessant slapping sound, heard throughout the duration of our visit, became a tremendous annoyance to me.

What isn’t annoying is the movie, Last Vegas, starring aging iconic actors Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, and Kevin Kline. The humorous film is a refreshing change from many of the comedies being shown in theaters today. The movie was not only entertaining, but it also did not have to resort to the all too common crude humor or continuous swearing to make it funny. The thing I really appreciate about rated PG-13 movies, like Last Vegas, is that the f-bomb is only allowed to be used once throughout the entire film, so if and when the word is said it usually brings with it some sort of added value to the script. I have heard there are well over 200 f-bombs in the R rated blockbuster, The Wolf of Wall Street , and I would think the audience would quickly become desensitized to the obscene word. I would walk out of the theater before I’d ever let that happen to me. I give Last Vegas an enthusiastic and well-deserved thumbs up, but as far as I’m concerned the boredom that “happens in Vegas”…can stay in Vegas!


Bicycle Stories

I own a nice bicycle and so does my wife. We bought the matching pair almost seven years ago, immediately after moving to Arizona, and I do mean immediately. After unloading all of our worldly possessions, from the rented Penske truck, we promptly went to Wal-Mart and purchased our new bikes. We then used the emptied truck to transport them back to our house. I see the shiny blue bicycles, hanging from hooks in the garage, every time I’m getting into my car to go someplace. I can count the number of times, on one hand, I have straddled my “two-wheeled waste of money.” My wife has straddled hers even less. The thought of riding mountain bikes together in the desert seemed like such a good idea when we first bought them, but for whatever reason the excitement quickly lost its appeal. Maybe it was due to the uncomfortable seat, hurting my tush when riding, or maybe it was because we found tennis and hiking to be much more enjoyable activities. Either way my butt hasn’t been on a bike in over six years.

That definitely was not the case during my youth. Back then my “two-wheeled friend” was not only fun to ride, but it was usually my only form of transportation. I grew up in a single car family, my mother didn’t drive, so having my very own wheels, to tool around on in our small-town, was pretty important. It meant the difference between either having freedom or else being stranded at home all day. Many times I rode to Tastee Freeze, or the shopping mall, to purchase baseball and football trading cards. Having a bicycle also allowed me the necessity of riding by the homes of potential girlfriends. How else can a boy pick up chicks during summer vacations? I rode to and from school, weather permitting, during my years at Berg Junior High, and although traffic could be quite heavy in the mornings it wasn’t too bad by the end of the school day, so I made up a game to make my afternoon rides home a little more enjoyable. I would try to complete the two-mile trek without having to grab onto the handlebars or put my feet on the ground. The success or failure of my invented game would usually depend on the precise timing of the only set of stoplights between school and home. I won about 50% of the time.

Many years before I could even consider attempting no-handed endeavors I had to first learn how to ride a bike. My parents taught me in our modest backyard by having me push myself off from a small embankment. That enabled me to already be sitting and balanced on my bicycle before I was ready for takeoff. I thought maybe my parents were having a little fun at my expense: making me learn how to ride on rough terrain and with a couple of large trees acting as a scary obstacle course as well. Looking back, I’m sure they just logically assumed a grassy yard would cushion a fall much better than a cement street could. Of course, we didn’t wear any helmets in the “good old days,” nor seatbelts when riding in cars, for that matter. I don’t know how I ever survived my childhood especially when soon after mastering the art of bike riding I got the bright idea of thinking I could ride a no-handed wheelie. However, It never failed that each time I would “pop a wheelie,” and then let go of the handlebars, I would fall off and onto my backside, so I finally gave up the pursuit of the no-handed wheelie after far too many bumps and bruises. I guess I was a little slow back then.

I wish that was the only bad bicycle experience I could remember, but it isn’t. One afternoon, when I was still in elementary school, a buddy and I rode our bikes to the shopping mall where a bowling alley was located in the basement of the building. We parked our two-wheelers in the bike rack, just outside the mall entrance, and went downstairs to play a video game or two. A mere ten minutes later, after playing a few arousing games of Defender and Caterpillar, we came outside only to find my bicycle was nowhere to be seen. My friend and I checked all of the nearby ditches, hoping someone was just playing a cruel joke on me, but after several minutes I was finally forced to admit my bike had been stolen. I jogged home in disbelief as my buddy pedaled next to me since he still had his ride. I could not help being extremely upset with myself in knowing my combination bike lock was wrapped tightly around the seat stem of my stolen “two-wheeled friend.” I irresponsibly had decided not to trouble myself with locking it up because we were only going to be inside for a few minutes, but now I knew I was in for a whole heap of trouble when I got home. After recalling my past bicycle experiences, and after taking all things into consideration, I am perfectly content in continuing to watch my shiny blue bicycle hang from hooks in the garage.