Tag Archives: Arizona

Saying Goodbye

My wife left me yesterday. It wasn’t entirely unexpected either. In fact, we both knew it was coming since she’d been talking about it for some time, so I let her go without putting up a fight. I must admit I am somewhat surprised that neither of us seemed all that sad or concerned when saying goodbye. We’ve been married for almost 30 years, for crying out loud, so you’d think my wife’s departure would have been quite the ordeal, yet in actuality it was a far cry from an emotional farewell. I suppose the missus leaving me really wasn’t that big of deal since my lovely wife will be back home, from a business convention in Vegas, tomorrow.

Saying goodbye isn’t as cut and dried as one might think. Bidding a fond adieu is actually a tricky concept. When saying goodbye to someone, we are not assured of ever seeing that person again. That’s a sobering thought, but it’s certainly true. We assume we’ll meet again in this lifetime, but no one is promised tomorrow. I have an aunt who routinely goes out of her way to say “see you later” instead of goodbye. I think her preferred choice of words is a superstitious attempt at fooling Mother Nature. I believe she’s even alluded to that in the past. To each their own.

The airport can be such a sad place, with countless goodbyes being said. On the other hand, the airport can be the happiest place on earth (no offense Disneyland). It’s a place where one can witness numerous reunions with loved ones, relieved embraces of military personnel returning from deployment, and an abundance of authentic ear to ear smiles. So much happiness can be found within the confines of an airport. I reckon train stations and bus stops evoke similar feelings although I’ve never experienced either of those places firsthand.

George Bailey, Jimmy Stewart’s beloved character in It’s A Wonderful Life, boasted that the three most exciting sounds in the world are “anchor chains, plane motors, and train whistles.” I don’t doubt that is true, for those who are desiring to set out on a new journey, but that’s surely not the case for any loved ones left behind. In the summer of 2007, I had the mindset akin to that of George Bailey when my wife, my son, and I uprooted from Iowa, to Arizona. I longed for a new adventure – an opportunity to chart a different course – a chance to explore the unknown. I did not give a lot of thought at that time as to what my mother and father, or anyone else for that matter, might’ve been going through because I was solely focused on what was ahead…not on what was being left behind.

Remember when you were a kid, and your parents used to say once in awhile, or maybe quite frequently depending on the amount of grief you gave them, “just wait ’til you have kids of your own”? It was almost as though the people raising you were actually taking some comfort in their hopes of getting sweet revenge one day. Our folks were surely angry, frustrated, or disappointed when such statements were made. Regardless, as it turns out, I’ve recently found their ancient warnings to be profoundly correct. The shoe indeed is on the other foot. I’ll soon be experiencing what my parents were forced to experience when saying goodbye to them 10 years ago.

I can now fully empathize with my folks because after spending the past decade in Arizona, my son has decided to move back to Iowa. He has grown extremely weary of the desert sun and is looking forward to the Midwest’s changing seasons, rainstorms, and even the snow. His mother and I are very fond of Arizona’s sunny days, the dry heat, wearing shorts yearlong, and NO SNOW. We’re used to having our only child living just twenty-two minutes away from us, but soon he’ll be 1,187 miles away. I’m truly excited for my son. I admire his independence, as well as his courage to try another path, but I’m not too happy about saying goodbye. That’ll be a tough one.


Bring ‘Em Back

I am absolutely fond of traffic enforcement cameras on interstates and at intersections. (Well, there probably goes half of my readers.) Photo-enforcement is such a touchy subject, amongst us civilians these days, although it really doesn’t make much sense to me why some would be against curtailing speeders and red-light runners. Why doesn’t everyone desire safer roads? There seems to be two main reasons why some people are opposed to the cameras: they’re either certain it’s a ploy by local governments to make money, or they’re convinced an individual should have the right to confront their accuser.

It’s true that a traffic violator cannot cross-examine a camera; however, neither can anyone who’s captured on a surveillance camera when robbing a bank or a convenience store. Should all cases then be dismissed simply because the offender was not caught in the act, by an actual human being, at the time the offense was committed? Of course not. If that sort of logic is acceptable then I would think we’d have no other choice but to also render all security cameras, in all establishments, useless in the aiding of law enforcement. The right to confront the accuser, under these types of circumstances, is a weak argument at best.

Concerning municipalities receiving funds (via fines), from non-abiding citizens, I say, “so what.” If a city can garner a few bucks while making their streets a little safer then good for them. Slow down, don’t run any red lights, and it won’t matter. Besides, obeying traffic laws isn’t all that difficult. Speed cameras on freeways allow for drivers to exceed the posted speed limit by 11mph (at least they did on Arizona’s Loop 101) before snapping a photo of the perpetrator. Unfortunately, most of the municipalities in the Valley of the Sun have discontinued using the traffic enforcement technology. I miss the cameras. I miss them a lot.

The majority of Arizona’s elected officials erroneously embrace the ideology of “personal responsibility” above all else. That apparently includes the public’s safety, and it surely explains why the Grand Canyon State is one of only three states (Montana and Texas being the others) without statewide texting while driving laws. I have lived in the Valley for eight years, and I’ve utilized the same roads when there was and when there wasn’t photo-enforcement; therefore, I know of which I speak. When Arizona had speed cameras on the Loop 101, I’d set my cruise control 7mph over the posted 65mph speed limit. I’m aware I was still breaking the law, but I found 72mph to be my self-appointed “safe speed” in which I thought all drivers should adhere to when on the freeway.

I flowed with the majority of the traffic (at 72mph), and I wasn’t at all concerned about human law enforcers even though they had every right to pull me over. I never had the propensity to tap my brakes either, when going past the photo radar, because I knew I was within the “acceptable” speed. Now that the cameras no longer exist I am literally one of the slowest drivers, if not the slowest, on the 101. I’ve increased my “safe speed” to 73mph (sometimes 74mph) in an attempt to keep pace with the rest of the drivers…but to no avail. The vast number of vehicles whizzing by, and the rate of speed in which they’re traveling, is absurd and undeniably unsafe. Removing the red-light cameras, at most of Arizona’s congested intersections, was just as ridiculous and just as unsafe, and their absence has contributed to the decline of our state’s public safety as well.

It is not uncommon, after one’s traffic light turns green, to encounter one, two, three, and sometimes even four vehicles carelessly (and illegally) veering directly into their path of right of way. That definitely was not the case when the cameras were in place. I have learned over the years that leaving “personal responsibility” up to the individual is almost always a monumental mistake because many people tend to take a lackadaisical approach to their responsibility. One need only read the blog, “Responsibility…And The Blame Game,” by the talented up and coming writer, James McCleary, to understand what I’m saying. Sometimes we need our government to intervene, on behalf of its citizens, to make our world a safer place, and I think this is one of those times. I miss the traffic enforcement cameras…I really do. I wish they would bring ’em back.


A New Halloween

I thought I knew everything there was to know about Beggars’ Night until I moved away from Iowa and made Arizona my home. My first Halloween in the desert was quite a learning experience. It was approximately twenty minutes into the two hour time frame our city had allotted for trick-or-treating, but my wife and I had not yet given out a single treat. I could not help wondering why we weren’t being solicited by any ghosts or goblins (It’s the one time of year I don’t mind strangers knocking on my door). Our porch light was on, and only the screen door separated any trick-or-treaters roaming outside from the fun size candy bars awaiting them inside our welcoming home. For a split second I thought maybe we had the wrong evening, but I quickly dismissed that notion since both my wife and I are perfectly capable of deciphering a calendar.

I began contemplating that maybe the Scary Sounds Of Halloween cd, I had purchased for the special occasion, was too frightening for a little princess or super hero who might be traipsing through our neighborhood. A half an hour or more had now elapsed, and we definitely could hear some intermittent commotion going on outdoors. Every so often the obvious voice of a child could be heard passing by our house, but no one came to our door asking for a goodie. I finally decided to brave the unknown, on the other side of the screen door, in an attempt to solve the mystery. I did not need to enlist the help of Scooby Doo (and the gang) to crack the case wide open because once I got outside the overwhelming evidence was crystal clear although it was something I had never seen before.

All of our neighbors, who were participating in the annual event, were sitting in chairs at the end of their driveways and handing out holiday gifts to every passerby who was wearing a costume. I immediately cranked up the volume on my stereo system, so the “scary sounds” emitting from the tower speakers could easily be heard outdoors. I grabbed the large bowl of candy, brimming with Butterfinger and Snickers, a couple of lawn chairs, and I set up shop at the end of our driveway. I went back inside for a cold beer before easing into one of the comfy lawn chairs for the evening. For me, after discovering craft beer, Beggars’ Night isn’t complete until I’m sipping on a Four Peaks’ Pumpkin Porter.

Every Halloween, since being apprized of the proper trick-or-treating protocol, we’ve had well over 100 guests expecting a handout. We have now experienced seven Halloweens in Arizona, but my wife and I are still amazed at how many parents, accompanying their children, wear costumes while trekking through our neighborhood. Most of the chaperones donning costumes don’t ask for candy, so I suppose they simply enjoy “dressing up.” Some of them can be seen enjoying adult beverages as well. We continue to be a bit perplexed by the number of parents who have newborn children and are willing to push a stroller up and down the streets in hopes of receiving some free candy. Who is it for? The toothless “sleeping beauty” occupying the stroller? Sometimes the baby isn’t even wearing a costume. Regardless, I always oblige the new parents because I figure it’s only candy, and if they’re willing to beg for it then I’m willing to accommodate them.

The same goes for the high school and college age kids we inevitably have wandering our city’s streets on Beggars’ Night. Heck, I’d gladly join them (even at my age) if I thought I wouldn’t get hassled so much by those who think trick-or-treating is strictly for the little ones. It’s no secret to those who know me that I have a massive and most-likely abnormal sweet tooth. I easily can eat piece after piece of deliciously rich cheesecake or pecan pie, and I certainly am able to devour a half dozen or so assorted doughnuts in one sitting. Sometimes I think even sugar needs to be sweetened. Therefore, I probably should not be the one in my household in charge of buying the bags of fun size candy bars for Halloween…but I always am. In addition, I’m a bargain hunter, and I clip coupons (I’ve rarely paid more than $1.50 per bag), so there’s no question there’ll be plenty of Butterfinger and Snickers leftover after the last trick-or-treater has come and gone.

I possibly went a little overboard last year (even by my standards). I began buying bags in late September, when the sales first started, and before I knew it I had amassed a pretty significant amount of candy. We ended up with 23 bags of fun size candy bars. We used 8 of them on Beggars’ Night. I know what you’re probably thinking, but you would be wrong. I do not prematurely open the bags of candy and then have to go back to the store to buy more. I don’t know why exactly, but for some reason I’m disciplined when it comes to refraining from partaking of my stash before Halloween. Afterwards though is definitely a different story. You would think the remaining 15 bags would at least last until New Year’s, but again you would be wrong. The sad thing is my wife doesn’t care all that much for candy, so the person in our household with the sweet tooth is literally left holding the bags. However, you won’t hear me complaining. With me in charge of the Halloween candy supply, whether in Iowa or Arizona, there will never be a shortage of Snickers on my watch.


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.


March Madness

This blog is dedicated to my lovely wife because she enthusiastically suggested I write one and title it March Madness although fully knowing the subject matter would have nothing to do with the NCAA Basketball Tournament. The catchy phrase most commonly relates to the college basketball playoffs always held during the month of March. She thought it would be clever putting the emphasis on the Madness part, but I told her I didn’t think it would be such a great idea. I explained how I would be concerned that anyone checking out my site may either see the title and choose to skip it, assuming the blog was about college hoops, or they might instead be enticed into reading it, supposing the topic was indeed about basketball, but then would become very disappointed after finding out it wasn’t. After great consideration, and remembering “a happy wife is a happy life,” I have decided to honor her request.

The infinite number of empty shopping carts found scattered around, the entire premise of a parking lot, and needlessly occupying numerous potential parking spaces is sheer Madness! My first thought about this typically seen scenario is that this sort of behavior must be an Arizona thing since I don’t recall this situation being all too commonly found in the parking lots of Iowa. Then I remember many residents of Arizona are transplants from other states, including Iowa, so I’m not sure where the culprits come from, but I do know for some strange reason(s) they are not putting their shopping carts away after using them.

I have purchased a few brand new vehicles over the years, and I have always done my part in trying to protect them from acquiring any damage. I’m constantly going out of my way to find parking spaces far away from the store, whenever parking in a lot, and hugging the curb on end spots in order to avoid those dreaded car door dings. I take these drastic measures to preserve my vehicle’s exterior finish, but nothing can save it from the mysteriously left behind shopping cart. Nothing irritates me more than when I come out of an establishment and find that a “basket on wheels” has been left next to my automobile. Except, of course, when it’s actually resting firmly against my car’s exterior. Almost all of the damage done to my vehicles in the past have not been caused by me, but by the negligence of others, and it never fails that after just a short couple of years my once immaculate vehicle ends up significantly marred.

I am astonished as to any reason why a rational person, when done using a shopping cart for their convenience, would not place the empty cart into one of the numerous cart corrals provided by the store. Just seems like common sense to me. One recent evening I was waiting in the car, while my wife was retrieving a movie rental from our local Wal-Mart, when not one, not two, but three separate individuals left their carts in two empty parking spaces during the brief time span of 5 minutes. I was reminded, at that point, ignorance does not discriminate because the three guilty parties weren’t alike in any aspect whatsoever. One person was alone, the other was half of a couple, and the last offender was part of a large family. They all appeared to be of different races, and they were all getting into various types of vehicles. The most puzzling thing to me is there was a shopping cart stall a mere few feet away from where everybody had chosen to leave their carts.

There are no second chances to leave a first impression, and I think shopping cart etiquette speaks volumes as to who a person is. The truth as I know it is if the only one thing I know about a person is their decision of not properly putting their shopping cart away then I would have to presume that individual is irresponsible and selfish. If a human being cannot grasp the basic concept of doing what’s right, by considering others and their property, then I’m left wondering what else that person is capable of doing. I realize I may seem all high and mighty discussing this topic, but it is only because I can honestly say I have never improperly abandoned a shopping cart in my entire life. Please join me in helping to make this world a little better place by responsibly placing your “basket on wheels” in a proper location after using it, and at the same time you will be leaving behind a great first impression to anyone who may be watching. Together we can stop the Madness.


Senate Bill 1062

Well, I was hoping to ease into the blogosphere world, but today’s topic is huge in the state of Arizona. Senate Bill 1062 is just setting there on Governor Brewer’s desk waiting to be either vetoed, signed into law, or it could just lay there a few more days and then automatically become law. I think the latter choice would be the cowardly way, so just do something already! SB1062 is designed to permit anyone in Arizona to refuse business or service based on “religious freedom.” Most proponents of the bill claim it would protect people from having to serve those they disagree with based on their own religious beliefs. Whereas, most opponents of the potential law insist it would allow businesses the right to refuse service to anyone they deem religiously unfit, in essence allowing for legalized hate, particularly against homosexuals. The one thing both sides seem to have in common is that each group considers themselves to be the victims.

The truth as I know it is business is business, and religion is religion, so I don’t think God would condemn a business owner for providing a service to a customer who happens to have a different sexual preference than their own. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, many Christians tend to be very boisterous about their opposition to homosexuality, yet those same Christians seem willing to give unwed heterosexual couples who are living together a “moral pass.” My Bible says that sin is sin, and although we have all sinned the Good News is we can be forgiven. That being said, by no means do I think any church should ever be forced to perform gay marriages.

Recently, a cake decorating business made the news for denying service, due to their religious convictions, to a lesbian couple. I have to wonder if that same business would have refused service to liars, cheaters, or gossipers. What about those potential customers who may have been divorced, had sex before marriage, or gave birth to a child out of wedlock? Not to mention Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, or even Catholics since many of their practices differ fundamentally from that of the beliefs of most Christians. If so, I don’t think a business like that would ever be able to survive.

In many cases what we like about this country is the diversity and uniqueness of our fellow man. It is much harder to find someone just like ourselves than someone different from us. Common sense dictates SB1062 would create many more problems than it could possibly ever fix.