Feb 01

Okay, so a couple of weeks ago, I made my kids sit down with the wife and me and watch City Slickers.  I had DVRd it a few weeks prior and thought it would make for a good, relatively clean night of family entertainment.

Now, I had originally seen City Slickers pretty much when it had first come out back in the early 90s.  In the early 90s, I was in my early 20s and I remembered thinking the movie was pretty funny.  I didn’t remember the entire plot, but I remembered that it was a bunch of city guys going on a cattle drive to find themselves or something.  I remember Jack Palance being funny, and I remember that he won like an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role (which must have meant that there weren’t many actors up for that award that year…).

So, the wife and I and the kids all settle in and we’re gonna have us a good couple of hours of family comedy.  And then the movie starts and Billy Crystal’s character is all mid-life-crisis-ish because he is approaching 40 and he hasn’t really accomplished anything of importance with his career and he wants to figure out something that gives his life meaning…

***screeching breaking sound of tires on pavement***

Whoa there, family fun night!  As a 44-year-old guy, I’m not finding the premise nearly as funny as I did over 20 years ago.

So Billy Crystal’s character is completely, cynically miserable and his wife has had enough.  She is tired of dealing with his misery and she tells him to go with his friends on this cattle drive and find his “smile” again.  He wants to know what they are going to do if he can’t find his smile, and she foreshadows that his ass is going to be on the street if he can’t find his smile.

There is absolutely nothing funny about this movie.

So the mid-life crisis crew go on the cattle drive and the hired hands are jerks and crusty old Jack Palance’s character starts out creepy but ends up being a good guy and then he dies and the jerky hired hands take off and the mid-lifers are left to bring in the cattle on their own.  And they do.  The city slickers drive the cattle through a storm to the destination and they find their manliness and whatnot and they are all happy.  And Billy Crystal’s character sees his wife and he smiles and points at his smile.

“I found it,” he says.

And the wife says, “So, are you going to quit your job?”

And Billy Crystal’s character says, “Nope. I’m just going to do my job better!”

WHAT!!!  There is nothing funny or touching or ANYTHING about this movie.  How did I ever think this movie was funny?  What in the name of anything made me think I would enjoy watching this stupid movie in my 40s?  Billy Crystal goes on a cattle drive and discovers that driving cows has given his mid-life ass meaning and he doesn’t need a job to give his life meaning because he drove the cows and he just needs to quit looking for something better and do his current, meaningless job selling radio advertising better to be a better person or something.  This may be the stupidest movie EVER!

And then it hit me… it’s only a movie.  City Slickers is not real life.  Billy Crystal didn’t really drive those cattle.  Billy Crystal was a wildly popular comedian before he landed major roles in movies suck as When Harry Met Sally, Throw Mama from the Train, City Slickers and City Slickers II.  Billy Crystal found even more success later in life as the voice of Mike Wazowski in Monster’s, Inc and Monster’s University.  Billy Crystal is a beloved, famous millionaire.  Billy Crystal does not and probably never has worked as a crappy ad salesperson.

And I have come to the conclusion that old comedies are not meant for current family movie nights…

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Aug 10

Anyone who hasn’t read anything from The Bloggess is truly missing out.  She is one of the funniest bloggers in the blogosphere.

The Bloggess is actually a woman named Jenny Lawson.  She recently had a book published, a memoir of sorts, that I just finished reading.  One of the funniest books I have read… ever… and I highly recommend it.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir)

I’m not much of a book reviewer, so I’m just gonna tell you what I liked (and didn’t like) about the book.  I like Jenny.  She’s freaking nuts… literally.  She has some phobias that seem so “out there” that it is easy to laugh along with her and her story.  Her upbringing made her unique, and contributed to her being absolutely insane.  I actually laughed out loud while reading this.  It’s always nice to be able to laugh at someone with deeper issues than the ones roaming the inside of your head, isn’t it?  Well, that is, until you realize that your own phobias and issues might be a little different than Jenny’s, but are they really any less bizarre?  Of course they aren’t!  We’re all freaking nuts; Jenny just captures it better with words than most of us can.

I’m going to be honest, I bought Jenny’s book because, in the furthest recesses of my mind, I have hoped that this little blog of mine will somehow turn into an actual career writing for a living… somehow.  I don’t know how, but somehow. And here is one of my favorite bloggers, and she has done it.  She has reached a pinnacle that I think many people who blog hope to obtain.

I bought Jenny’s book to support a fellow blogger.  There seems to be a community, a sense of fellowship, amongst bloggers.  Of course, this is another community that I don’t quite fit in with.  In fact, I don’t even know how one gets to that community.  There are all kinds of bloggers who recommend each other and comment on each other’s blogs.  I have commented on several, and I have never had that action reciprocated.  So, I just keep doing my thing… you know, bitching and whatnot…

Jenny, in her book, writes of her circle of blogging friends.  She writes about rich women, and how she thought that she would never be able to fit in with them… and how she ends up kind of fitting in with them.  That was one part of the book I didn’t care for.  I, too, hate the rich… but I don’t imagine finding myself on a golf course with a bunch of doctors or lawyers having a gay old time.  That, in my mind, would be… uh… gay?

After reading Jenny’s book, I decided that I should maybe try to follow her style a little.  I feel like she has a very similar sense of humor to mine, she’s just a hell of a lot funnier.  And she writes “f**k” a lot… and “vagina”.  Maybe I’d be funnier if I wrote “f**k” and “vagina” more — or at all.

Anyway, you should really check out her book.  It’s f**king awesome, and it smells like vagina…

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May 29

Why are so many parents sooo screwed up these days.  I mean, the wife and I are far from perfect,  but I consider us to be pretty good parents.  And I know a lot of good parents exist — but there are some pretty poor excuses out there as well.

I recently rented a movie at RedBox.  I’m kind of into cheesy horror, and RedBox had a brand new release.  I couldn’t find any real reviews or anything for this gem because it was that fresh (straight-to-video).  The movie is called The Dead Want Women. It features Eric Roberts, so I figured it couldn’t be that bad, right?  I mean, Eric Roberts is Julia Roberts big brother.  Sure, he’s been in some duds, but he usually plays a pretty good meanie.  And the cover of this thing looked so campy that I figured it had to be good.

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Come on... this looks pretty corny-good, right?

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Now, when I rented this, I was not planning to sit down and watch it with my kids.  I wouldn’t let my 8-year old (or even my 14-year old) watch a R-rated horror movie.  The violence is just too much.  I don’t need my kids having nightmares.  Any horror movie that is scary without violence would be rated PG-13 (and there are some pretty good ones).  When you throw R-rated on a horror movie, you just figure there is going to be a lot of blood and guts and gore.  Personally, I love the gore, but I don’t want my kids exposed to it.  Too desensitizing, in my opinion.  There will come a time when we can enjoy the gore together, but that time will be some years in the future.

Okay, so I watch The Dead Want Women, and it totally sucked raw rhubarb.  I mean, this thing is a worthless pile of crap.  Eric Roberts seemed to be having a good time playing this role, and for that alone he should be permanently barred from ever making another movie… EVER!  The acting really wasn’t bad.  The make-up was horrendously clownish, and the plot was totally dented.  Now, the silly make-up would have worked if the movie had some campiness to it, but this dreadful wretch tried to take itself too serious and failed on more levels than I want to take the time to write.

What really gets me, though, is that by the time I got around to writing a review for this festering boil-of-a-movie on the RedBox website to prevent some other poor soul from sitting through even part of this monstrosity, there were some other reviews filing in.

Now, to be fair to some of the reviews that this film has garnered, there was an unusual amount of seemingly unnecessary nudity in this movie.  There are some strange sex scenes, and this one poor actress goes for almost half the movie completely nekked.  I think she may have lost a bet with the director or something…

So anyway, back to other reviews of this pile.  The very first review of the movie on RedBox stated (due to the sex and nudity) that the film is “Not for children.”

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

I’m sorry.  If it weren’t for sex and nudity, is this reviewer saying that a violent, R-rated horror film normally would be cool for the kids to watch?  Does this reviewer normally sit back and watch people’s flesh disintegrate in Cabin Fever while sharing popcorn with the toddlers?  Hostel is fine for the kiddos, but if they added too much nudity or sex, suddenly it would be deemed “not safe for kids”?  Seriously.

I thought maybe this one reviewer was just a little bit tilted as far as his or her perception went, but then I came across another gem that read, “Unclothed scenes put in at bad time! Dont watch this with kids!!”  Wow, the splattering blood and charred human flesh are all fine and good, but put in some “unclothed scenes” and suddenly it’s not kid-friendly?

I guess I can only hope that these reviews weren’t actually written by parents.  Maybe they were written by single people who dream of some day watching horror with their children.  Maybe they will realize that the violence and gore of a typical R-rated horror movie are enough that you really shouldn’t be letting your kids watch it in the first place.

Or maybe — just maybe — watching The Dead Want Women was enough to actually cause some temporary brain damage to these folks.  I feel that even I have been somewhat dented from the experience…

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Mar 30

Last night, the wife and I took our youngest boy and two of our nieces to see the local high school’s rendition of The Wizard of Oz.  I’ve been to a couple of high school plays here locally (Beauty and the Beast and High School Musical), and they were both very enjoyable.  Good acting, great singing, a good testament to local talent destined to find futures somewhere outside of the panhandle where their talents will be useful.  Last night’s performance, however, was something really special.

The wiring that caused the Wicked Witch and her monkeys to fly was cool, but that wasn’t the reason this performance was so special.  The pyrotechnics made me jump on more than one occasion, but they weren’t the reason the performance won’t be soon forgotten.  The reason I found Scottsbluff High School’s performance of The Wizard of Oz so endearing was… they got it right!

The original movie starring Judy Garland is over 70 years old.  I grew up watching that stupid old movie once a year, every year, throughout my adolescent years.  It never got old.  It was always exciting.  And last night, I felt like those teen-aged kids up on the stage had seen that stupid movie even more times than I had.  All of the kids in this play were excellent.  Even the tiny munchkins, played by a bunch of little kids who were up way past their bed times, were absolutely amazing.  It was a few of the leads, though, who stole my heart.

Maggie Hopp, who played Dorothy, pulled off Judy Garland’s pouty, defiant innocence with flair.  She sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow to near-perfection.  At times, I almost believed that the late-Garland’s spirit had possessed young Hopp.  Watching her made me feel like a child again, sitting in our small living room in front of our small television, my brother, sister, mom, dad and me, wishing for Dorothy to be able to click her heels at least one more time and once again return to Kansas.  If I had realized then what I know now (that Kansas is a lot like Nebraska), I would have wished for poor Dorothy to go to New York, or Los Angeles, or somewhere she and Toto could have a successful future… but I didn’t.

Carlos Santana (no, not the aged-musician who still rocks) was amazing as the Cowardly Lion.  His no-holds-barred performance was hysterical.  For a teenage boy to get up in front of a full auditorium and hold nothing back in his performance of the blubbering coward who slowly finds his courage… it was unforgettable in the best of ways.  It takes someone with a lot of talent and self-confidence to get up on stage and play a chicken so well :)

Chris Brening pulled-off a convincing and very likable Scarecrow.  Like Carlos, Chris didn’t seem to have an issue being a complete goofball on stage, and this character needs to be goofy…. and dance… and wobble around… without falling off of the small stage.  There was more than one occasion where I thought the Scarecrow was going to fall into the orchestra pit, but he didn’t!

During the first half of the play, Aaron Aguallo’s microphone wasn’t working very well and he was hard to hear.  After the intermission, Aaron’s voice brought life to the heartless Tin Woodsman.  Once I could hear his voice, I had a very hard time believing that Jack Haley himself wasn’t actually up on stage instead of Aaron.  This was what was so cool about this performance: the kids pulled off the characters so closely to the original casts’ rendition… yet each with just a hint of uniqueness that made them their own.

Karenna Booth was stunning as the good witch Glinda, and her singing gave me goosebumps.  The only things that commonly gives me goosebumps in Nebraska are the chilly winter nights.

Emily Yanke was terrifically evil as the Wicked Witch of the West.  She cackled like an old pro and seemed to relish her inhumanity.  Kind of makes me wonder what this young lady does to small animals on the weekends… but her performance was superb… and that’s not a word I use much :)

I could go on and on… but I’m not really used to having nice things to say. Don’t get used to it!  If you don’t already have tickets to tonight’s performance or the final performance on Saturday, you are probably out of luck.  Both nights are sold out.  However, if you know someone who has tickets and you don’t like them very much… steal them.  This show is worth petty larceny.

Thanks to the cast and crew of the The Wizard of Oz.  Old guys like me seldom feel young anymore, but all of you helped me feel a little younger for a couple of hours last night.

Next post: back to bitching, I promise…

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Oct 11

The wife and I just celebrated our 17th anniversary.  I know, I know… the fact that there is a woman alive who would be willing to put up with my crap for 17 years may lead one to question her sanity.  Well, the fact that she is slightly tilted doesn’t make me love her any less.  Anyway, one of the biggest problems we have here in the craphandle of Nebraska when it comes to celebrating events is the lack of good places to eat.  We have a ton of little Mexican restaurants which are good and fine and all, but we weren’t in the mood for Mexican.  We have a Chili’s and an Applebee’s, which are pretty interchangeable chains.  We have a Shari’s and a Perkin’s, which, once again, are pretty interchangeable chains.  We have a few fast food places, and a couple of bar and grills that tend to be more bar than grill… and our anniversary fell on the eve of a Husker game… so being surrounded by a bunch of drunk Husker fans didn’t sound like the most romantic choice.  We wanted to go somewhere for a good steak-type meal, but didn’t want to have to take out a home equity loan to be able to afford it.  We have a chain here called Whiskey Creek that isn’t bad, but again… bar and grillish with a Husker game.  There is a place here called The Emporium, but it seems to be sort of European in flair (which means although the food is excellent, you get very little of it and spend a small fortune).  Last time we ate at The Emporium, I had to swing through the drive-through at McDonald’s just to get filled up afterwards.

One of the great things about Facebook is that it is filled with people more than willing to give their biased recommendations.  I put a post on Facebook asking for some recommendations for somewhere decent to eat.  Of course, I know all of the restaurants in the area, but I was figuring there may be one I just wasn’t thinking of that someone else could remind me of.  Lucky for me, just such a thing happened.  One of my Facebook friends recommended the Little Moon Lake Supper Club.  It had probably been 12-years since I had been to Little Moon, and I had forgot all about it.  I could hardly remember the place, but I remembered that I liked the food.  So, we were off to Little Moon!

The Little Moon Lake Supper Club isn’t in Scottsbluff, NE.  The Little Moon Lake Supper Club isn’t in Gering, NE.  The Little Lake Moon Supper Club is right outside Henry, NE.

“Where is Henry, NE?”

Henry, NE is in the middle of NOWHERE!  Little Moon is not in Henry, but is located about a mile back on a dirt road outside of Henry, and it is about 30 miles from my house… and it’s getting dark… and it’s raining cats and dogs.

We drove through the pouring rain.  This is the first decent rain we have had in weeks, so the roads are a little oiled-up-slicky.  We crept along at a safe speed well below the speed limit.  Now, I can’t exactly remember how to get to Little Moon, I just remember that there is a sign off the highway that points the way.  So, we were driving for over a half-hour when we finally got to Henry.  I slowed down and started looking for the sign once we passed town, and there it was.

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Little Moon Sign

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So we turned south and drove over a pot-holy, washboardy, rain covered, muddy road very slowly for the next mile.  This is what the visibility was like:

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Rainy night

Okay... maybe the visibility wasn't this bad, but it was for the camera on my Droid.

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Finally, after much bouncing and jarring and being splattered by muddy water, off in the distance, we saw what we thought might be our destination.

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In the distance

Is this it?

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“Is that it?” I asked the wife.

“I think so,” said the wife.

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Distance two

Really... this is it?

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“Not much too it, is there?” I said.

“No, but I remember the food being good,” said the wife.

Well, I guess if your first impression is bad, the odds go up of thinking the food is better than expected, right?!?

Once we got a little closer, it looked a little better… and I stress little.

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Outside

Night-time pictures taken by a Droid in a rainstorm kind of... uh... suck.

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Once we got inside, things started to look a even better (or, at least I can take a little better pictures).

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Inside

Yes, I believe the decor dates back to the 60's, but I'm not sure... since I wasn't alive for most of the 60's.

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We walked in and there is like no one there.  I saw tables up ahead, but there is no one sitting at them. There was one dude wandering around with a jacket on, but he appeared to be slightly disturbed, so we left him alone.  This seems strange, since the gravel parking lot was pretty full of cars.  I looked to my left and there’s a bar, but there is no one at the bar.

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The bar

Kind of reminds me of the bar in The Shining... as most empty bars do.

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There were some people leaving, and the disturbed dude in the jacket, but I didn’t see anyone eating fabulous grub.  Finally, a harried lady came shooting out from a little room on the side and asks how we’re doing.  We told her we were fabulous, and she asked if we have reservations.

Oh crap.

We most definitely did not have reservations.  The lady said that they have room and that wouldn’t be an issue, they just need to do some rearranging.  She quickly disappears back into the room and I saw her darting back and forth past the door and stuff clanged and clattered.

“Oh crap, do you really think they have room?” I asked the wife.

“I’m sure she wouldn’t have told us they do if they don’t,” said the wife.

The harried lady jetted back and forth past the door a few more times as more clanging and clattering transpired.  Finally, she reappeared back by the bar, brushing her hair away from her sweat-covered brow.

“I can seat you now,” she said.

So, we followed her through the little side door and found ourselves in a nice little dining area.  The paneling on the walls, carpet on the floors, and lighting hanging from the ceiling all screamed “I was cool before disco was a glint in it’s father’s eye,” but it was clean.  There were a few empty table, but most of the tables held groups of people who were dressed a lot fancier than the wife and me.  We sat down and scoped the place out.  There was apparently another room off of the dining room we were in, because people came in and went through another door in our dining room and disappeared… never to return.  Also, the waitresses would disappear back in that nether-region, but they would reappear.  So, there was either like a private party going on back there… or those unlucky guests who disappeared into the “special” seating section were actually what we ate later that evening.  Either way, there were only two waitresses on duty, and they both seemed as harried as the seating lady.  There did seem to be an awful lot of people for only two waitresses.  Guess that’s why places like you to make reservations.  I made a mental note.

In addition to the two waitresses and the seating lady, there was a young woman who, I’m guessing, was on her first night as an employee.  The young lady looked like she may still be in high school, and she appeared to be terrified of screwing something up.  She was very fun to watch.  Harried-seating lady directed the young-one to get us water.  Young-one nervously brought over a pitcher and attempted to pour out of the side of the pitcher into the wife’s and my glasses.  She did the wife first, and a small splash of water spilled over onto the glass-topped table.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said Young-one.

“It’s alright,” the wife smiled.  Really, it wasn’t that big of a spill.  In fact, we wouldn’t have probably even noticed the small spill if Young-one didn’t seem so nervous and hadn’t apologized for it.

Young-one slowly brought the pitcher to my glass and hesitantly poured from the side, shaking the pitcher slightly in an attempt to get some ice into my glass.  She would shake and pour a little bit, and then stop… and breath… and then shake and pour a little bit more.  After several start and stop combinations, she finally got my glass about half full.  I think she decided that was about all the fuller she could risk getting my glass without spilling, because she stopped at half, set my glass down, and left.  I looked at my half-full glass and then at my wife, who was smiling.

“Poor thing,” said the wife.  “She seems so nervous.  Must be her first night.”

“Yeah, poor thing,” I agreed.  “You don’t think she’s our waitress, do you?”

We saw Harried-seating lady pull Young-one aside.  Harried-seating lady took Young-one over to an empty table at the far side of the dining room and proceeded to show Young-one how to properly fill a glass by pouring from the side of a pitcher.  Young-one nodded and a light seemed to go off somewhere in the recesses of her consciousness.  I don’t know if she actually understood what Harried-seating lady was saying or if she was remembering a fond memory from her childhood… from a couple of weeks ago… but she seemed to understand something, and that made me feel good.

Harried-seating lady finally returned to us.  “All of our menus are out, so it will be just a couple of minutes before we can show you a menu.”

“That’s fine,” I said, looking around at all of the other diners in our dining room, not one of whom had a menu.

“Can I start you with something to drink?”

So, I order iced tea and the wife ordered a Sprite.  Harried-seating lady hurried off in search of our drinks.

When Harried-seating lady left, I asked the wife, “Where do you think all of those menus are?”

“They must be in the other dining room,” she said.

I looked again to the door leading to the mysterious dining area from which diners entered but never returned.

“Yeah… the other dining room,” I said.

From the kitchen, Young-one emerged carrying a glass of iced tea in one hand and a glass of Sprite in the other.

“Watch this,” I said to the wife in anticipation of something funny.

We watched Young-one carefully bring each glass to the table… without spilling a drop.  She gently set each glass down, smiled (in relief, I believe), and scampered on her merry way.

“Dang it,” I said, “she didn’t spill them.”

The wife rolled her eyes.

Finally, one of the two harried waitresses brought a couple of menus from the “other” dining room and handed them to us with a smile.  I glanced over mine for traces of fresh blood, but found none.  We looked over the menu and both decided that steak sounded quite good.  After this stupid new “eating healthy” crap that we’d been doing, a little red meat seemed like an excellent choice.  Also, I ordered the appetizer combo… ’cause nothing says “cheat day” like a big pile of deep-fat-fried crispiness.

While we were waiting for our cardiac-arrest appetizer tray, our waitress brought over a surprise relish tray.  I like surprises… even if they are healthy.

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Relish tray

That's right... the little bowl is filled with pickled herring... and I love pickled herring for two reasons. First, I love the way it tastes. Second, the wife hates pickled herring... so I get it all.

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In anticipation of the big cheat we were taking from our new healthy way of eating with this meal, the wife and I had barely eaten anything all day.  We polished off that relish tray in short order.  And then came the appetizer.

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Appetizer

There was actually more than this. We both dug into it before I could get the Droid out to take a picture.

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Oh man, was that greasy stuff good.  There were fried mushrooms, fried mozzarella sticks, and some of the biggest, best homemade onion rings that I have ever seen or tasted in my life.  We almost polished off the appetizer tray before the steaks came, but not quite.  We had a little left over to take back for the kiddos.

The steaks arrived.  I’m kind of pissed, because I took a picture of my steak dinner in all of it’s glory, but my stupid Droid didn’t save it.  Picture if you will a beautiful piece of seared meat, blood slowly spreading beneath it’s rare goodness, surrounded by crispy french fries and a Mexican corn medley.  It was good sized, even though I ordered the small ribeye (yeah, I knew with the fat-filled appetizer I wouldn’t need a large… even when splurging, I was being a little health conscience… ’cause I would have never ordered a small before).  I could have sliced it with a butter knife.  The first bite absolutely melted in my mouth.  I don’t know if it was just because it had been over 2 weeks since I had eaten any real red meat, but that was the tastiest steak I have ever tasted.  I didn’t even care if it wasn’t beef… if, perhaps, it came from some illicit activity in the “other” dining room… I ate that whole thing in no time flat.

While we’re eating, Young-one noticed that our drink glasses were empty.

“Would you like refills?” she nervously asked.

“Why, yes, thank you,” I replied, and she scampered off with our empty glasses.  She sure liked to scamper.

“Poor thing,” mutters the wife.

During the course of our meal, I had a blast watching Young-one take increasingly larger and larger piles of dirty dishes from the empty tables to the kitchen.  I could see her self-confidence growing as her piles of dirty dishes grew larger.  She seemed, to me, to be growing reckless… and I was loving it.

“Ooh…ooh,” I whispered to the wife, “watch this.  I think she’s gonna lose it.”

“She is not,” the wife said.  “Don’t be mean.  Poor thing.”

Needless to say, she never lost the dishes.  Needless to say, I was disappointed.  I mean, it was neat to see that young girl smile with pride as she navigated the large piles of dirty dishes flawlessly to the kitchen, but it would have been neater to see the dishes crash to the floor and her fleeing the dining room in tears.  Just sayin’…

Anyway, Young-one returned with our filled drinks and easily set the wife’s Sprite down in front of her.  As she was sliding my iced tea into position, her wrist lightly brushed against the lemon placed on the rim of my cup, and the lemon tumbled down into the basket of butter on the table.  Young-one bit her lower lip, and I swear her eyes suddenly grew moist.  She set my glass down, started to reach for the lemon wedge, and drew her hand back.  Her hand flew forward again in an attempt to grasp the lemon, only to return to her side as her eyes grew increasingly wet.  I just smiled, watching in amazement.  The wife nudged me, but I ignored her.  Finally, Young-one reached forward one last time and gently placed her index finger and thumb on the outer rind of my lemon wedge.  She was careful to only touch the outer rind.  She held the lemon wedge up in front of her chest, looked at it, and then held it out to me like it was something she wished dearly to get rid of.

“I didn’t want to touch it,” she whispered to me as she blinked back tears.

I took the lemon from her and dropped it in my glass of tea to show her that I wasn’t afraid of her cooties.

“That’s okay,” I said.  “No big deal.”

Her trembling lip turned up in a slight, forced smile as she turned and walked quickly out of the room.  I started to snigger.

“Poor thing,” the wife said, but she sounded like she was ready to burst out laughing as well.

We were in such a good mood that, even though we were stuffed, we ordered a piece of pecan cheesecake to share… and it was awesome.

We had a really good time at the Little Moon Lake Supper Club.  The service was exceptional (especially considering the fact that I think they may have been a little short on staff).  We didn’t wait an unacceptable amount of time for any of the courses.  All of the food was exceptional… not a thing sucked.  Young-one’s entertainment was superb.  I really hope she doesn’t get discouraged and quit, ’cause she’s fun :)   Even the price was very reasonable.  With tip (and we tip pretty well), we got out of there for around $60.  Of course, we didn’t drink the alcohol, which I’m sure would add heavily to a tab, but we were both stuffed on good food and we even had some to take home.

If I were to give out stars or thumbs or anything like that, I’d give the Little Moon Lake Supper Club in Henry, NE some stars, and my thumbs would all be up.  Good value, great food, pleasant staff, and the funny new girl.  Poor thing…

Tagged with:
Sep 02

I’m a happily married dude.  I am about to embark on, most-likely, a once in a lifetime adventure with my family: a cruise to the Bahamas.  However, when I discovered that almost a third of the guests on Royal Caribbean’s  Majesty of the Sea were attendees of some sort of fraternity leadership conference that Royal Caribbean was happily ($$$) hosting, the wind in my sails diminished just a little.  Even though I’m happily married, I am not dead.  I had some preconceived notions of what the view around the pool on that cruise ship was going to look like.

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the Dream

This is not what frat boys look like.

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My “notions” were quickly replaced by reality.

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the Reality

This... I'm afraid... is what frat boys look like.

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Yeah.  Disappointing, to say the least.  Anywho, now I can try to focus on actually enjoying the family time, right?

The ship is amazing.  It’s like 14-stories tall, and it travels across the ocean; this in and of itself is utterly amazing to me.  There are two formal dining halls, a buffet, a pizza place, a deli, and a burger joint.  Everything except the burger joint is included in the cost of the cruise (you have to pay an entrance fee of like $5 to get into Johnny Rockets).  There was a full-fledged casino, two or three lounges, an awesome weight room with a spectacular view of the ocean (which I promised myself I would use… but never did), a teen hang-out area, a little kid hang-out area, two small swimming pools (constantly full of frat boys), two hot tubs (constantly full of frat boys), a basketball court, a climbing wall, a ping-pong table, and the Chorus Line theater which had nightly live entertainment.  The center of the ship was kind of like a mall, with various stores selling various expensive items: a Caribou Coffee, a jewelry store, a liquor store, a gift shop and the like.  Each day, in the area between the stores, they were selling different garbage that looked expensive and was ridiculously inexpensive.  The wife and youngest son each got a watch for like $10 each, and they looked like they were worth much more.  We’ll see how long they actually last :)  Needless to say, the ship itself was pretty cool.  Our room, on the other hand, not so much.

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Stateroom

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Standard rooms on a cruise ship are extremely small.  I cannot stress enough how small these stinking rooms are.  It’s a good thing you pretty much just sleep in the rooms, because, in a family of four, someone would end up dead if you had to spend too much time together in those stinking rooms.

So, we check in on the ship and go through a “muster drill”.

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Muster Drill

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A muster drill is where they make everyone get outside by the lifeboats and tell you what to do to avoid dying if the ship starts to sink.  Great!  Now that we are all now terrified, let the fun begin.

We spent the first night at sea and just enjoyed the boat and tried to avoid the drunk, potty-mouthed frat boys.  Man, when the frats were sober, they were bearable, but once they got liquored-up, we pretty much had to walk with our hands over our sons’ ears to block the f-bombs.  Thanks, Royal Caribbean!  Thanks for not warning us our cruise was going to be a floating college party full of frat boys with no chicas for them to concentrate their alcohol-fueled, testosterone-driven horn-doggedness on.  I actually overheard a frat boy talking to a girl who appeared to be about 16-years-old, and he was trying to talk her into going to one of the lounges with him.  She kept shaking her head, looking around for someone to rescue her, and I heard him say, “I keep forgetting you’re under age.”  Man, that girl’s parents (as well as almost every parent with a daughter on that cruise) had to be loving Royal Caribbean for that week.

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Really?
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The next day, we ported in the Nassau.  Pretty cool, if you could look past the poverty that was prevalent everywhere.  We got off the ship and were immediately accosted by numerous people trying to get us to take a taxi or go on a tour or buy stupid toy turtles.  One old guy even asked me if I needed something to smoke, and when I told him I didn’t, he got pissed and stormed off.  We walked around the streets of Nassau.  Me loving people the way I do quickly grew tired of the people constantly in our faces, and we returned to the ship after a short time.

Later that afternoon, we went on a snorkeling tour.  We got on a boat and left the port area to an area where we could check out the corral.  We boated past a lot of really nice houses and the tour guide dropped a few names while cruising past these mansions.  Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan had houses there, along with a bunch of other people whose names I don’t remember.  Can’t imagine owning a mansion of such incredible grandeur surrounded by such intense poverty.  Nothing like rubbing it in the face of the locals, huh?

The snorkeling was kind of lame.  On the way, they warned us that people had seen lion fish in the area we were going to, and lion fish are apparently quite poisonous.  Coolest thing about snorkeling was that I actually found a lion fish.

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Lion Fish

This isn't the actual fish we saw, but it looked almost exactly like this.

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I got both of my boys and the wife to see it before one of the tour divers discovered it and scared it away.  Bastard!

That was pretty much the day in Nassau.  The next day, we relaxed on the beaches of Royal Caribbean’s private island, Coco Cay.  This was, by far, the most relaxing day of our adventure.

Swimming in the ocean…

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Swimming at Coco Cay

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… playing with the conch…

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Good Eating

These ugly suckers are surprisingly good eating

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…tearing it up at the water park

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Ocean Fun

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… avoiding the killer seagulls…

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Killer Seagulls of Coco Cay

These suckers will attack a hot dog like their lives depend on it

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… or hanging out in the hammocks…

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Dream Hammock

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…oops, I forgot… stinking frat boys…

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Reality Hammock

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Overall, a very good day.  Then, back to the boat for a relaxing evening and lots of eating.

The next day, we ported in Key West, FL.  Can you say “tourist trap?”  Of course you can. I really felt for all of the foreign (non-US) guests on the Majesty of the Sea when we ported in Key West.  Every single one of them had to take part of their day to go through US Immigration, whether they were getting off the boat in Key West or not.  The immigration officers apparently set-up shop in the theater and the lines were horrendous of families waiting for immigration’s approval.  I imagine those vacationers wasted hours of the last day of the cruise waiting for US Immigration to check them out.  Honest to God, it’s no wonder why so much of the rest of the world hates the United States.  Sometimes, our laws are just retarded.  I really thought it was cool how there were different people from all over the world on this cruise and, except for the frat boys, we all got along just splendidly… up until “Homeland Security” kicked in and the US made sure there wasn’t someone vacationing from Japan or France setting off a dirty bomb in Key West (or someone who has just spent thousands of dollars on a vacation trying to sneak into the country… if they can make that kind of money, they have brains and a good work ethic… let ’em in!) by making every man, woman and child go through an immigration checkpoint.  I didn’t feel safe, I felt embarrassed for our country.  Why not allow these people to enjoy the last day of their vacation and check them out after the cruise in Miami?  I didn’t have to go through immigration in the Bahamas… and I could of been planning to buy some crack from that dude who wanted to know if I needed a “smoke”… or something!!!

Anyway, back to the non-crappy part of the Key West visit.  We did a little sight seeing

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ahhh... art

Nothing says "art" like naked chicks... and NO, that's not me lying on my back looking up. He's part of the "art"... and my wife wouldn't let me lie beside him...

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… did a little shopping…

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Key West

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… ate some conch fritters…

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Conch Fritters... yummy

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… enjoyed frozen chocolate-covered Key Lime pie on a stick…

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good stuff

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and overall had a touristerrific, sunshiny day!

Then, back on the ship for the last time.  We had a wonderful evening of eating lots of food and swimming with the frat boys… and then eating some more.  I crap you not, I gained 10# on that stinking cruise!

When we woke up the next morning, we were in Miami.  Up and at ’em and off the ship.  We spent an entire day at Miami International Airport (’cause we had to watch our luggage… we could have “checked” it at this storage place, but they want to rape you and kill your first born as payment for that, so we said “screw it, airports are fun”).  We discovered that Miami isn’t too exciting when experienced from the airport, so airports aren’t really that fun.  Didn’t even get to see Tubbs, let alone Crockett :(

Finally, a turbulent flight back to Denver, a late-night hotel stop on the way home, and finally back to the Craphandle.  And then, back to work with another year until the next real vacation.

Crap man… I just realized how much I miss my ΣAE buddies…

Tagged with:
Sep 01

Have you ever dreamed of the perfect vacation?  Have you thought about it for years and years, and then made the decision that you were going to make it happen?  Well, the wife and I did just that: we planned for, saved for, and made happen our dream vacation.  We went on a cruise to the Bahamas.

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Bahamas

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Yippee-ki-yeah!

First off, I have to give a big shout-out to the wife.  She is the one who squirreled away money (tax refunds, Christmas bonuses, a little extra cash-flow every month, etc) to make our dream become a reality.   I want it to be known that the time I had with my wife and two sons was much more enjoyable than I am about to make it appear.  In fact, given the opportunity, I would remain with my wife and sons on that stinking cruise ship with the stupid frat boys until the day I die (if given the choice), and I would be one of the happiest dudes alive… until I died on the cruise ship, and then I would be one of the happiest dudes… uh… dead, I guess.

The wife and I planned on going on a cruise for our 15th anniversary.  It was going to be a really special treat, and we had been looking forward to it for years.  The problems that led to us not being able to make that happen were like the perfect storm of CRAP that transpired in the few years leading up to the 15th year of our ultimate declaration of love.  We had started a little business together, built it up to a level of creating a decent profit,  and had recently sold that business to a clueless chick who ended up declaring bankruptcy and screwing us out of a lot of money. At that point, we should have declared bankruptcy ourselves, but decided to take the higher road and repay all of the debt we owed.  Some “sage” at some point in time made me believe that repaying your debts will benefit you in the long run.  Yeah… I’m still waiting to reap the benefits of that stupid little piece of advice.   Shortly after being screwed in the candy business, the economy took a major tank; and shortly after that, reductions in pay (as opposed to raises) were the trend of the day.  Some of the employers had the balls to call it what it was (a reduction in pay), while others called it a “pay restructuring” or a “new compensation plan” and made you read Who Moved My Cheese.

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Who Moved My Cheese

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Needless to say, the 15th anniversary cruise was suddenly a pipe-dream.

Shortly before the 15th anniversary, we had started to save for the dream.  When we realized that it wasn’t going to happen at the 15-year mark, we decided to prolong it a couple of years and make it a full-family-free-for-all.  In other words, we were going to take our sons.  Much less romantic, absolutely NO hanky-panky,  more full of farts and body odor, and multitudes of inappropriate comments at the absolutely most inappropriate times.

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Chubbies

Mommy, is that big lady in the bathing suit pregnant, or is she just fat?

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Sounded like a relatively fair trade to me.  Don’t get me wrong… I likes me that there hanky-panky… but I likes me thems there farts too…

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Fart:)
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… theys makes me giggle… and giggling is good for the soul :)

So, we have it all planned to go on a cruise to the Bahamas.  We decide on Royal Caribbean, and we were ready to set sail on the Majesty of the Sea.

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Majesty of the Sea

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MS Pool / Day

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MS Pool / Night

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Sounds pretty cool, right?  Sure does.  Of course, we have to get on the ship in Miami, and we live hundreds and hundreds of miles from Miami.  So, we have to fly.

I hate flying!

I hate the fear of having no control of anything while soaring at 30,000 feet above the earth (or, as I like to think of it, about a 40 second nightmarish fall to a certain, messy, instant death).  My palms get clammy and my stomach doesn’t feel too swell just thinking about it.  I also hate getting to the point of being able to get on the stinking plane,  You know, the whole TSA nightmare.

“But they are just keeping us safe!” says the nincompoop who likes the TSA.

“Flying is a privilege, not a right,” says the government advocate.

I’m gonna call BS on both of those statements.  They are not keeping us safe by patting down small children and old ladies.  They are not keeping us safe by subjecting us to radiation.  They are not keeping us safe by making me put all of the liquids I need in 3 oz bottles and limiting them to a 1 quart bag.  This is all retarded.  This is all “shock and awe” in an attempt to make us think that they are really keeping us safe… and, in the meantime, they are stepping all over our civil liberties.  But it’s all in the name of “stopping terrorism,” so the vast majority of us just let it slide. And when there are armed National Guard in front of Walmart making sure we aren’t trying to bomb super centers, that will be all right too.  And when they start reading our mail and listening in on our phone conversations in the name of national security, we’ll be fine with that as well.  And when the civil unrest finally starts, those involved in the unrest will be hauled off to “camps” to protect the rest of the population from the “extremists.”

Rant much?  Why yes, thank you, I do.  Anywho, I hate the TSA.  They are just people doing a job, right?  Yeah, so are the buttmunchs who send you unsolicited spam, and the jerkwads who call you at 7:30 on a Saturday morning trying to get you to buy their auto insurance.  Personally, I’d rather flip burgers at McDonald’s than help implement the military state and invade citizens’ civil liberties… but hey, that’s just me.

So, we get to the airport in Denver, check our bags, take off half of our clothes, get radiated, and make it through security.  We get on the plane, and we fly to Miami.  Well, we fly to over Miami, and then we circle over Miami for like an hour because of some storms.  Then we fly to Ft. Lauderdale because we’re low on fuel.  Then we sit in the plane on the tarmac for like an hour getting refueled and waiting for the okay to fly back to Miami.  Then we fly back to Miami and land.  My least favorite parts of flying, other than the turbulence and the extreme heights and the small seats in “business class” and the fat-assed flight attendants who bump my shoulder every time they walk down the narrow aisle (I thought flight attendants had to be petite… now they’re all fat or dudes and most definitely like banging into passengers) and the narrow aisles and the small restrooms and the long lines to the small restrooms and trying to pee in turbulence… the parts I hate the most are taking off and landing.  Taking off and landing are where most accidents occur.  Well, on the trip to Miami, what was supposed to be a 4-hour non-stop flight from DIA to MIA turned into an almost 7-hour ordeal with two take-offs and two landings.  We really got some bang for our buck on that stupid flight.  So, instead of having an afternoon to check out Miami, we went straight to the hotel, grabbed some supper, and got ready for bed.

The next morning, after feasting on the hotel’s all you can eat breakfast buffet (just the beginning of us gorging ourselves), we take a cab out to the port.  Going through the boarding process is quite a bit less intimidating than the airport security, but still kind of sucks.  Finally, we get on the boat and are ready to really start enjoying our vacation… when I notice them.

Dudes… young dudes… rich-looking young dudes… everywhere.  Preppy guys looking like their ready to get their drink on.  What the…?!?  And they all have Greek letters on their shirts.  Frat boys… seriously… everywhere!  Most of them appear to be ΣAE (Sigma Alpha Epsilon), although there are some something-with-a-Deltas there, and a something-Kappa-something or two as well.  EVERYWHERE!!!  It’s nothing personal against young gentlemen in fraternities, God love ’em.  I just have a very strong aversion to guys who are almost guaranteed success because they have rich daddies and like looking down on those not in their group.  I had to deal with frat boys when I went to college, and I didn’t much care for them then… and now, almost 20 years later, my dream vacation is in jeopardy of being tainted by an extremely large ship FULL of them…

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Frat Boys

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… and not a sorority girl in sight :(  It was shaping up to be a long week.

to be continued

Tagged with:
Feb 12

So I watched The Social Network last night.  My oldest son just turned 13, and he really wanted to see this movie, and this movie is PG-13, so we got it for him for his birthday.  If you live in a cave, you might not know that The Social Network is the story of how Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook.

Facebook Mark Z

We all enjoyed the movie.  I thought they were only able to drop one F-bomb in a PG-13 movie, but it looks like this one was able to get away with a couple.  The language and some of the implied sexual content made me a little uncomfortable watching this with my son (The Suite Life of Zack & Cody’s Brenda Song goes all Monica Lewinski in a bathroom stall… which was odd to watch with a boy who has grown up watching that particular show).

Brenda Song

Overall, however, this was a good flick.  It was kind of cool to see how one of the world’s most addictive on-line presences got its start.  It’s kind of funny, the Mark Zuckerberg character is not very likeable, but you just can’t hate him.  He is emotionally immature, self-centered, egotistical, arrogant… highly intelligent and hard not to kind of like.  He screws over his girlfriend, his best friend, and a group of preppies that are counting on him.  In fact, he appears to only have his interests in mind with almost every decision he makes.  Still, you can’t help but root for the dorky little jerk.  Whether or not the real Mark Zuckerberg is anything like the character played by Jesse Eisenberg, who knows.  Not me, for sure.  I am neither in the same social strata as young billionaire geniuses nor successful Hollywood actors.

I bet that a lot of people who have not seen this movie (or who haven’t gone to a prestigious college in the last few years) will not know that Facebook was started as an ultra-exclusive, Harvard-student-only website.  Quickly, Zuckerberg let it spread to other prestigious universities, and then less prestigious universities, and then, when the true monetary potential of Facebook came into focus… the world.  In the original plans for Facebook, us average folks weren’t included.

I remember a few years ago, I had a recent college graduate as a coworker. He had graduated from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.  I had recently started a Facebook account, and I was talking to him about it.  He made a comment about how “Facebook just isn’t the same since it isn’t exclusively college students anymore.”  I took offense at his statement.  I felt he was saying that us old timers and regular Joes were ruining something that had once been “hip” and “fun”. How dare we reconnect with relatives and old friends.  How dare we stay in contact with people who would have normally faded silently into our pasts.  If I had known then what I know now, I may have said something like, “Yeah, I bet that’s the same thing the preppies at Harvard thought when they started to let a bunch of cornhusker hicks from UNL join Facebook.”  Hahaha… sometimes hindsight makes me feel kind of good.

Watching a good movie should do one of two things:

1. let you escape from reality, or

2. make you think.

The Social Network , for me, did both.  I enjoyed watching the snotty people get what was coming to them.  I enjoyed seeing how Facebook got its slightly-shady start.  As far as the thinking goes, it made me wonder why , in the grand scheme of things, some people are smarter than others, thus giving them an unfair advantage in the ability to come up with cool ideas and make a crapload of money.  Why am I not one of those brilliant people?  I know… I know… anyone can learn anything and you are only limited by your ability to sacrifice and learn and blah blah blah blah… that’s a load of phooey.

**SEE, look at ME, I’m all old using words like PHOOEY, for crying out loud.**

Some people are just naturally smarter than other.  Some people have a definite advantage in the race to success.  Of course, in the case of the movie versionof Mark Zuckerberg, he kind of screwed over a lot of people to get there.  Part of me thinks his sacrifice is not something I could bring myself to do.  The other part of me… the sane, rational part… thinks that for a net worth of that is now probably in the tens of billions of dollars, I may have screwed over a friend or two along the way as well :) But since I ain’t real smart or nothin’, I’ll just keep tryin’ the way I have been tryin’ most my life…

Filthy Rich

Tagged with:
Sep 15

I have come to the conclusion that the negative attitude I hold toward all things Nebraska is starting to have a negative impact on my health.  My family has an ongoing rivalry with heart disease, and heart disease seems to be winning.  All of the males (and some of the females) on my dad’s side of the family have battled high blood pressure and I am no exception.  I can actually feel my blood pressure rise when I get stressed, and I am constantly getting stressed.  The stress gets so bad that, once it kicks in, I can’t concentrate.  My thoughts flutter around my head like moths around a campfire.  If I try to pull those thoughts into my psyche to concentrate on, the thoughts, much like the moths, burst into flames and are forgotten.  The feelings of hopelessness then descend in waves, and I actually begin to question my sanity.  Ever felt like you were going crazy?  Not a good time.  Stress makes me feel like I’m going crazy.

In order to try to alleviate a little of the stress I feel in my life, I decided to focus this entry on something about the panhandle of Nebraska that actually makes me happy.  That’s right, I’m going to try to find a positive angle to follow on something.  Finding something in the panhandle that I don’t perceive as completely sucking is not easy, but I’m going to give it a shot.

Nebraska is known for its beef: marbled, corn-fed beef that practically melts in your mouth.  If you want a truly great rib-eye steak (perhaps the best rib-eye on the planet), and you want to experience that steak in a truly Nebraska-esque setting, there is only one place to go…

The Oregon Trail Wagon Train.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

The Oregon Trail Wagon Train is a local landmark.  It used to be known as “Gordon Howard’s” until the Howard family sold it.  I’m sure that most folks are familiar with a chuck-wagon-style cookout.  Many of the touristy places in the West and Midwest have these kinds of cookouts, but most of them serve crap like barbecue beef or barbecue chicken… you know, the shredded stuff that goes on a bun… and with most of them, you are paying for the experience (because the food sucks).

I remember going to the Flying T chuck-wagon supper last summer near Rapid City, SD.  It was over $20 per adult, the food was not impressive, and the portions didn’t come close to filling me up.  The staff was kind of rude and barked orders to the paying customers (which, I guess, is supposed to be part of the charm).  There was some good-old country music after the meal (if you like good-old country music… which I don’t) and the band tried to hawk their CDs the whole time.  I love Rapid City… the Black Hills are one of my favorite areas to visit… but I will never go back to the Flying T.  There are much better places to eat in the Black Hills.

Anywho, back to a good chuck-wagon meal.  At the Oregon Trail Wagon Train, the ambiance is pretty rustic.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train,Nebraska,panhandle

They have a horse-drawn wagon and they take you for a short ride.  Usually on the wagon ride, the driver will point out spots in the vicinity that were actually part of the Pony Express trail. It’s pretty cool to think that Pony Express riders used to actually ride so close to where you are about to enjoy your heavenly steak.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train,pony express

The “cowboy coffee” is plentiful and is cooked over an open fire.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train,Cowboy Cofee

When you get to the botton of your cup, you get a mouthful of grounds… which is the way it should be.  If you ain’t chewing your coffee, it ain’t real cowboy coffee.  All of the food is cooked over wood coals from a real fire… as opposed to a fake fire, I guess.  The boiled potatoes and the green beans are cooking in these funky, homemade-looking metal structures, and the “grill” is loaded with fire wood.  When they light the wood, you know that good times are getting near.  See, this is the thing with the Oregon Train Wagon Train: you pay something like $22 per adult (same as the Flying T), but you are actually getting an honest-to-goodness rib-eye dinner that exceeds the quality of a steak you could get in a fancy chop house.

On my last visit to the Oregon Trail Wagon Train (which was a couple of weeks ago), there were a crapload of grasshoppers.  I happened to notice a spider hanging in her web on the eave of one of the old buildings.  I figured that, since my family was about to dine on some good grub, I would treat the spider.  I grabbed a grasshopper and threw him into the spider’s web.  Honestly, I didn’t figure the spider would mess with him, but I went back about fifteen minutes later and found the following:

Oregon Trail Wagon Train,Spider eating grasshopper

Oregon Trail Wagon Train,Spider eating

I showed the kids (the wife refused to look) and they thought it was gross.  You can actually see where she has her mouth attached to the hopper.  You know she injected her venom into the hopper, waited for the venom to start dissolving the workings inside the exoskeleton, and is now sucking out the juicy remains.  Awesome!  The kids didn’t really think so… not right before dinner.  Still, I thought it was pretty cool.

While I was playing with the spider, the wood on the grill had been started.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

Now we were just waiting for the fire to burn to coals and the steaks would go on.  There are some pretty cool things to check out while you are waiting for the steaks to start cooking.  There is a path you can follow that takes you back to the North Platte River.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

Usually this area is kind of mosquito-infested, but this late in the summer, I guess the mosquitoes had other things to do.  There is a little fort for the kids (of all ages:) ) to check out.  You can actually climb up into the watch tower and check out the grounds.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

There is a old black lab that hangs out (except she seems to disappear at meal time) and she loves to have her belly rubbed (if you are so inclined to rub a dog’s belly… which I am).

Oregon Trail Wagon Train,Nebraska

There are a variety of old tools attached to the sides of the out buildings that are kind of fun to check out.  The Oregon Trail Wagon Train also has a small gift shop and a small bar attached to the gift shop, so you can buy some overpriced, low-quality toys and nick-knacks right before you start downing the brews.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

I usually avoid the gift shop and the bar.  Why pay for a beer when there is all of that free cowboy coffee to chew on?

For the more sportsy people, there are a couple of horseshoe pits.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

Yeah, I guess horseshoe tossing ain’t really a sport, but this is Nebraska, so horseshoe tossing is right up there alongside tumbleweed chasin’, cow tippin’, and sheep… uh…

sheep,nebraska,scared,nervous,oregon trail wagon train

… shearing?  Besides, tossing a shoe from time to time can be kind of fun.

If you run out of things to do and are feeling a little bored waiting for the steaks to go on the grill, there is a multitude of spiders which I am sure would love to find a juicy grasshopper in their webs :)

Oregon Trail Wagon Train,spider

Finally, the fire has burned down to coals, the coals are raked out nice and smooth, and the steaks get thrown on the grill.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train Coals

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

Oregon Trail Wagon Train,rib eye steaks

Every time I have been to the Oregon Trail Wagon Train, the guys in charge of grilling the steaks seem to have a beer in their hands.  Every time.  And dinner is served 7 nights-a-week all summer long.  I wonder if they are hiring?

The dinner bell rings, we all get in a line, and we proceed by the grill.  They ask you how you like your steak done, and you get it exactly how you like it.  You then get a heaping spoon of green beans and a large, red boiled potato.  You help yourself to the available condiments (from which steak sauce is absent… and you better not even think about asking for it) and make your way to a table.  Waiting for you on the table is a freshly baked loaf of the best sourdough bread in Nebraska.

After you gorge yourself on a hearty meat and potato meal, you head to the ice cream counter and get yourself a cone filled with delicious home-made vanilla ice cream.

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

While you are licking your dessert, you are directed to the campfire area where one of the steak cookers (half-baked on beer) will lead the entire dining group through several sing-along songs that are usually silly and probably quite fun (if you go for sing-alongs… which I do not).

Oregon Trail Wagon Train

Oregon trail wagon train,Bayard,Nebraska,panhandle

We usually leave after a song or two and head for home, quite satisfied.

I promised myself that I was not going to bitch about anything at the Oregon Trail Wagon Train.  This chuck-wagon-cookout is the best cookout-type place I’ve ever been to, and I am trying to manage my blood pressure.  However, I am know for breaking promises… and it goes against my nature to not complain about something, so I’m gonna complain about the flies.  The Oregon Trail Wagon Train is out in the middle of nowhere.  You can see Chimney Rock from the cookout site, which is also in the middle of nowhere.

Chimney Rock,Nebraska,Bayard,panhandle,Oregon trail wagon train

When you are in the middle of nowhere and you cook-up good grub, you are going to be invaded by flies.  And I’m not talking about a few flies, I’m talking about flies of horror movie proportions.  The setting is great, the food is awesome, but you are going to spend a large portion of your time waving flies away from your plate.  I guess this doesn’t bother me too much.  The food is worth the waving, but I kind of wish the owners of the Oregon Trail Wagon Train would do something about the flies.  I don’t know what they could do, but if they could find something, I would not have a single bitch about the place :)

If you ever find yourself in the panhandle of Nebraska, I have a couple of things to let you know.  First, I want to apologize that you are in the panhandle of Nebraska.  Second, if you find the time, check out the Oregon Trail Wagon Train .  It’s out of the way, but worth it.  Besides, the entire panhandle is out of the way, and your here, so you might as well eat some good grub!

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Aug 27

The church which I attend has a lending library.  I had never checked out a book to read until recently, when I picked up and started thumbing through Fearless by Max Lucado.   Because my every waking moment (and most of my dreams) are overflowing with fear in one form or another, I figured this may be a good book to read at this point in my life.

Now, the full title of the book is  Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear.  Hey, that sounds pretty sweet, huh?   Yeah, a life without fear is a life I wouldn’t mind living.  I had never read a complete Max Lucado book before.  My mom is big on reading Christian books and is always sending the wife and me books that she feels will help us in our daily struggles with life.  I’m sure I have a Max Lucado or two in my current library that the wife has read .  I’m sure I have read their back covers as well.  Books that show one how to apply the bible to his or her life should probably consume more of my free-time, but I have always preferred reading books that help me escape from reality.  Because of the high level of fear I have been experiencing recently and  because Max Lucado is a best selling author, I figured this was the time to give Fearless a read.

I was disappointed.

Max Lucado is a good writer.  He has a very casual style and he incorporates great little stories into his writing that help emphasize his points.  The stories seem like they could be true, but could very well be made up; either way, the stories make the read more interesting.  I guess I was hoping that reading his book would cause an epiphany.  You know, there would be that one passage that would change the way I look at things.  I guess my major disappointment was that passage doesn’t exist.  The book wasn’t really that deep.

Max did a great job of highlighting most of my major fears.  The problem is, he kept going back to the Bible.  I know, I know, the Bible should be the source for alleviating fears.  The Bible should be the reference one turns to when times are tough (and when times aren’t tough).  After all, the Bible is God’s Word, right?  The Bible should have all of life’s answers, right?  A person should be able to live a fearless life with little stress by trusting in God’s word, right?  Yeah, easier than it sounds.

Faith is hard.  Life is hard.  Constantly having examples thrown at you of people from like 2000 years ago who actually saw Jesus, and saw his miracles, and touched him, often sounds a little empty to those who have never heard a voice from the clouds overhead… or seen the dead brought back to life.  If it was easy, it wouldn’t be called faith.

In the portion of his book dealing with those who find occasional doubts in their faith, he uses himself as an example.  He claims that he overcomes his doubt by remembering that even the disciples doubted after the crucifixion.  Jesus had to physically visit them after the crucifixion to get them to believe.  Thomas actually had to put his fingers in the wounds on the hands of Jesus to believe… and these are the guys who saw the miracles.   That is how Max overcomes his doubt.  Seriously?  I’ve never met Jesus in the flesh, all I have is the Word of God contained in a testament written over 2000 years ago by a bunch of guys who had to touch Jesus after the crucifixion to truly believe.  I was hoping to find an epiphany regarding faith in Fearless.  What I found I already knew: faith is hard.

Max stresses again and again (and uses Biblical quotes to drive the point home) that God does not want us to be afraid.  Jesus does not want us to be afraid.  As bad as the world gets and as hard as life can become, don’t get stressed.  There is nothing to fear.  I fear pain.  I fear getting my throat slit by a radical muslim because having my throat slit would hurt.  I fear dying a slow, painful death by cancer because it would hurt.  I know the pain would be over when I’m dead, but I fear the pain.

“But look at the pain Jesus endured before he dies,” you may say.  “Jesus didn’t complain about the pain!”

In response to that, I’m pretty sure that it is glaringly obvious that I am not the son of God… and before the crucifixion, even Jesus prayed that He might not to have to go through what was about to happen.  He didn’t complain, and He did submit Himself to the fact that God’s will be done, but he did throw out a “Hey, if there’s anyway We can do this sin-forgiveness thing without My flesh being stripped from My body and the whole trip to hell thing, that would be cool.”  I’m paraphrasing, of course.

There is a section of the book where Max discusses the fear of global calamity.  He begins the chapter discussing disclaimers.  He makes fun of disclaimers from pharmaceuticals and goes on to a “what’s next?” type disertation on how maybe babies should be given a disclaimer before being born about the hazards of life.   It is all tongue-in-cheek, of course, but it got me thinking.  Why weren’t we given a disclaimer before birth?  Wouldn’t that have been fair?  You know, something like the following:

You are about to be born.  God loves you and wants you to become a faithful servant.  Of course, after you pass through these vaginal walls, you will have no recollection of God… nor anything else.  You will be an infant who must learn everything that you are ever to know in this life starting in a few minutes.  This life will not be easy.  If you are lucky enough to be born in a place that allows Christianity, you will have to build your faith based on the writings of people who lived thousands of years ago.  If you are not born in a place that allows Christianity and you still become a Christian, there is a chance you and those you love will be brutally murdered.  There is also a chance that you will never even hear about Christ; if so, you’re on your own.

This life will also contain sin.  Sin is full of fun things that everyone else is doing that are bad for you and God doesn’t like it.  Sin should be avoided, but you are human, so you will sin.  Sin is accompanied by much guilt, but if your faith is strong, you can ask for forgiveness for your sin and the guilt should disappear.  At times, the sin will be quite tempting.  You must focus on your faith to avoid the temptation.  Faith most likely will not always come easy.  If you decide that faith is not for you, you will find yourself in hell after you die.  Hell is an awful place  full of constant suffering.  It appears that a vast majority of people in this life will end up going to hell.  The odds are stacked against you.

The choice is now yours:

1)  You are about to enter a life where there is much pain and suffering, many broken dreams, and physical and emotional pain (and where the odds are strong that you will end up in hell, where the pain and suffering are multiplied by infinity for infinity).  This life also contains bouts of unexpected joy and happiness, but they don’t last for long.  If you make it through this life with your faith intact, you will gain entrance into heaven.  Heaven is a great place with no pain or suffering, and you will be surrounded by the constant presence of God’s love.  All of your questions will be answered and you will have no fear.  But please remember, the odds are stacked against you.  If you are willing to take the chance,  please proceed toward the light… and don’t say that you weren’t warned!

2)  If you prefer to go back to the black nothingness from which you came, please press the exit button to your left.  No harm, no foul… thank you for your time.

I don’t remember being given the choice, do you?  Not to say that I would have chosen option 2, but sending a bunch of people to hell without giving them the choice pre-birth doesn’t seem quite right.  We all have the choice after birth, but that’s when we have been touched by sin and have the influences of the world to deal with.  Sometimes I get quite pissed at Adam and Eve for eating that stinking apple!

I always have issues taking advice from someone who makes a ton of money giving out advice.  Dave Ramsey is an example; Max Lucado is another.  Max has written dozens of best selling books, and you don’t get poor by writing best selling books.  As noble as his intentions may be, he still has a financial security that the average person does not have.  Why don’t we hear from more poor Christians proclaiming that the only true security is in Christ?  It’s always the rich dudes who are telling us that money can’t buy security, and this is usually in the same breath with which they are trying to sell us something else.  In Fearless, at the end of the book, Max is trying to peddle everything from calendars to more books to stinking t-shirts.  It always seems to me that professional advice givers are teeming with hypocrisy.  Dave Ramsey tells us to only spend on the things we need in the same book where he peddles his coffee mugs and crap.  Max Lucado portrays himself as a good Christian who tries to lead a Godly life not focused on the things of this world, as he tries to sell his readers all kinds of worthless crap.  Isn’t buying worthless crap a sin?  If not, it should be :)

Max’s book is good reading for the existing Christian.  I don’t think he is going to convert anyone, but I’m not sure that was his purpose.  I don’t feel any less fearful than I did before reading it.  The epiphany I was hoping for didn’t come.  I guess that’s what I get for trying to find epiphanies in the words of man.  I need to look Elsewhere.

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