Jan 26

I am, I think, probably the poorest sport of a sore loser that I know. And it’s not just with stuff I lose at (which would entail a list far too long to list here). My sportsmanship sucks at all levels of losing. I’m a very gracious winner, but if I or my family or even people I don’t know but I have associated with on some level lose, I’m a pissed off cry baby waiting to cause a scene.

I mean, I was at the YMCA the other night and I was on an elliptical with a little TV attached. I was jamming to my MP3 player and I decided to put ESPN on the TV just to have something to watch other than my feet going round and round on the elliptical. There’s a college basketball game on, so I decide I’ll watch.  Now, I couldn’t give two craps about most college or professional sports.  A bunch of people with height and skills that I could never possess playing games that could lead to lucrative careers… playing games… while I struggle to make ends meet and try to face the fact that I will work a job making less in a year than most professional basketball players make in about half a week.  And I will work a job until the day I die.  And I start to hope for that day just so I won’t have to work a job anymore.  And that is depressing.  And I’m getting off topic…

So the teams playing are Florida and Tennessee.  I could care less about either of those teams.  I didn’t have a horse in that race.  So, how did I decide who I was going to root for?  Well, Tennessee is losing by about 14 points.  And Tennessee isn’t ranked.  Florida is ranked #6, so I decide I’m going to root for the underdog.  And you see, this is how I usually end up on the losing side of stuff.  When  one is predisposed to root for the underdog, one is going to face a lot of disappointment.  Underdogs are underdogs for a reason: they have less likelihood of winning because they aren’t as good as the favorite.  So, Florida starts to pull away.  Before you know it, Florida is ahead by over 20 points.  And I’m starting to get pissed.  I’m seeing smug looks on all of the Florida player’s faces.  The Florida coach is starting to look like an arrogant jackass.  I’m starting to see Florida getting away with fouls that aren’t getting called.  And Florida is suddenly up by 30 points and the game is over and I’m completely pissed off.  I hate the state of Florida and everyone associated with the state of Florida and I vow to do everything in my power, which is quite limited, to destroy everything associated with Florida… all because of a stupid college basketball game that I didn’t give two craps about before I started watching it…

I am a very poor sport.

My oldest kid played in an indoor soccer tournament a couple of weekends ago in Rapid City.  The family and I went to watch.  And for everyone of the three games that my kid’s team played and lost, I sat there acquiring a major disdain for Rapid City, South Dakota.  As our team would get further and further down in the score, I would become increasingly annoyed with the parents of the winning teams.  How dare they cheer for their kids!  How dare they encourage their players!  Whose bright idea was it for all of the parents for both teams to sit together?!?  Is someone just trying to make my life miserable?!?

Now, I honestly am a rational adult.  I know that those parents have every right to cheer for their teams.  I know that good parents encourage their children whether they win or lose.  I’m just not that good of a parent.  I want my kid and his friends to win.  Of course, they have to play better than the team they are playing against or that won’t happen, but when in the heat of the battle, I don’t think reasonably.  When in the heat of battle, all I can think about is how I want my kid to win.  If he can win at soccer, maybe he can win at life.  If he wins at life, maybe he will end up with a good paying job that he actually enjoys in a place that he likes living.  In other words, I don’t want my kid to end up like his old man.  I’ve lost a lot in my life and I have learned from those losses.  You know what I have learned from losing?  I’ve learned that losing sucks.  Period.  Sure, you win some and you lose some, but losing still sucks.  There is no redemption in losing.  You lose and then you work hard to improve and if you still lose after working hard and improving, give up and do something else.  Because losing sucks.  There is absolutely nothing you can do to make losing not suck, so avoid losing.  I know this isn’t possible, but it is a worthy pursuit.

My younger son plays in a kids basketball league at the YMCA.  His team played this past weekend, and his team lost.  These are 9 and 10-year-old kids.  And as my kid’s team is losing, I’m looking at the 9 and 10-year-olds on the other team and I start to dislike them immensely.  I dislike their smug little smiles and their cocky attitudes as they score more points.  Of course, their smiles aren’t really smug and their attitudes aren’t cocky, but it sure seemed like they were as they were kicking my kid’s team’s butts!  If my kid loses at 9 and 10-year-old basketball at the YMCA, he may be destined for a crappy existence in someplace like Scottsbluff, NE where he would have to work for over 100 years to make what the average professional basketball player makes in one year… and I want more for my kids than that…

See, I think of my current misery associated with life in the panhandle of Nebraska as being a direct result of the many loses and failures I have experienced over the course of my life. Because I am a loser, I am here.  If I were a winner, I would be living elsewhere doing something else and being paid exceptionally well to do it.  Currently, if I were to become fed up with my job and were to search for something else, what would I do? Maybe I could sell farm equipment; that sounds pretty rewarding, doesn’t it?  I could work at the sugar factory; there’s a dream come true!  I could maybe make slightly over minimum wage at Walmart; that would lead to my praying for God to strike me dead every working minute of every working day…

You see, winners don’t have to consider an entry-level job at Walmart as a real possibility for earning a living.  Real winners don’t even have to shop at Walmart.  So I’m a poor sport… I’m a sore loser… especially when it comes to my kids.  I want my kids to have completely Walmart-free futures…

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Sep 25

My purpose on this blog is never really to piss anyone off.  Oh, I know I come across as bitter and cynical at times, mostly because I’m pretty bitter and cynical at times.  Life is not fair, and life is less fair when one is short, fat, not overly bright, and ugly.  I know we are all made in God’s image, but I think I may have been made in the image of His big toe.  I know that God loves us for who we are and not what we look like or how smart we are, but I just have a feeling things would be a little easier if I looked more like Brad Pitt and less like God’s big toe.  So, yeah, my outlook and attitude need to change and whatnot, but I really do not set out to piss anyone off… except for maybe a county commissioner or two… jokingly… on occasion.

I received an email almost 2 months ago from someone who was upset by one of my posts.  She was upset about my attitude towards residents of Gering, NE.  I actually like most residents in Gering that I have met.  I feel that some of them may be a little closed-minded, but they are entitled to their opinions… and I am entitled to mine.  The lady who sent me the email was upset about a post I had written on the night Teresa Scanlan (a local gal) won the Miss America Pageant.

On that night, I watched a number of disagreements develop online about where Ms Scanlan was actually from.  Residents of Scottsbluff were claiming she was from Scottsbluff which infuriated residents of Gering.  Instead of just being proud of a local young person achieving such a prestigious accomplishment, they were bickering about who should get to claim her.  It was anal, so I wrote a post about it.  I poked fun at both Scottsbluff and Gering residents.  That post resulted, almost two years later, in me receiving the following in my inbox:

On Mon, 5 Aug 2013 13:54:22 -0600
Name…: Xxx Xxxxx
Email..: xxxxxx@xxxxx.com

 Subject: Your attitude toward Gering

Wow, I was interested in reviewing Teresa Scanlon s reign as Miss
Nebraska and Miss America and pulled up your blog. You
put down Gering residents this way and wonder why Gering is not eager to
merge with Scottsbluff? You’ve bolstered the case for why it will never
happen with your snarky attitude. Gering has SO much going for it
compared to out-sized opinion of itself that Scottsbluff has.
Scottsbluff has serious issues both economically, socially and educationally that Gering 
avoid by choosing to live here. As a former longtime teacher in Scottsbluff, I would
go into bankruptcy before sending any of my children and now grandchildren
to school there! The only reason Teresa transferred to Scottsbluff
High for her final year is that they could offer her more of the courses she
needed to graduate early…nothing more. She has grown up in Gering, attended
church and made friends there throughout her growing up years.

Finally, I like the fact that someone wishing to contact you has to identify
themselves, but we have no idea who you are.
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> Browser: Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; MSIE 10.0; Windows NT 6.1; WOW64;
> Trident/6.0)
—–
No virus found in this message.
Checked by AVG – www.avg.com
Version: 10.0.1432 / Virus Database: 3211/6070 – Release Date: 08/11/13

Okay, so this former school teacher had a lot of points to make.  I didn’t take anything she wrote too personally.  She was, after all, apparently just venting at me.  Venting is mostly what I do in my blog.  I understand the need.  However, after reading her rant over several times, I decided I needed to give her a response.  I replied with the following:

 

Xxx,

Thank you for your email. I’m sorry you were offended by my blog. If you read the post about Teresa and where is she from and this is the post your email is referring to, you must have read it with blinders on. I made fun of both Scottsbluff and Gering residents. You seem to think I am from Scottsbluff. I am not. I am originally from another state. I have lived in both Scottsbluff and Gering in my almost 20 years in the panhandle. I currently live in Terrytown. I noticed several things in your email that didn’t seem quite right.

My snarky attitude is mine alone. To say that the reasons the two communities won’t merge are bolstered by my snarkiness seems, to be honest, snarky. You say that Scottsbluff has an outsized opinion of itself. The town? I didn’t know towns had opinions. Are you referring to the people of the town? You seem to feel that everyone in Scottsbluff is one in the same, but I don’t think that is probably true. You are entitled to your opinion, however, as am I. Apparently you don’t have any friends or family on the other side of the river.

You also say that “Scottsbluff has serious issues both economically, socially and educationally that Gering avoid by choosing to live here.”  First of all, you list three issues, so your use of the word “both” is not correct. And you were a school teacher, correct? In Scottsbluff? And you no longer teach there? Well, I think that will probably help Scottsbluff with some of its “educational issues”. In addition to the incorrect use of the word “both”, the sentence doesn’t make any sense. Gering can’t choose to live anywhere. Gering is a municipality and has no free will… or thoughts… or anything. The residents of Gering can make choices, if that is what you meant. You really like to pit Gering and Scottsbluff against one another as if there really weren’t people involved, at least that is the tone I get from your email.

You honestly would go into bankruptcy before letting your children or grandchildren go to school in Scottsbluff? I would never say anything like that about our local schools… not in seriousness. Both Scottsbluff and Gering schools are staffed by local teachers who, for the most part, care about our children and our childrens’ futures. I wouldn’t hesitate to send my children to either school system. I mean, I understand the good-natured rivalry between Scottsbluff and Gering, but to say that you would declare bankruptcy before sending anyone from your family to one or the other…
this is exactly the kind of attitude that exists between certain members of both communities (and it does seem to be more prevalent in Gering) that drives me nuts.

The entire purpose of the blog post I wrote about Teresa winning Miss America was to show that, on a great occasion for the state of Nebraska, we should be proud of an outstanding accomplishment from a local young person.
Immediately after she won, I saw several huge arguments on Facebook about whether she is from Scottsbluff or Gering. I thought that was silly. I thought we could all be proud for her, not because of exactly which city she is from, but because she is from our state and, more specifically, our area. Thank you for taking the time to send me an email letting me know that she is actually from Gering and that Scottsbluff sucks. I had no idea anyone from Gering would have that attitude? What a surprise. You have opened my eyes…

Rich

I replied to Xxx’s email within a day or two of receiving hers back at the beginning of August.  I have yet to receive a response…

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Aug 05

I’m having a hard time blogging as of late. Nothing much is striking me as funny. I’ve got a post I’ve been working on about Castle Rock Construction out of Minnesota (that did some hail damage repair for us last year… and into this year), but there is nothing funny about the crappy experience Castle Rock provided.  That post serves more as a warning.  I’ve also got posts partially completed about soccer as a sport, defining a successful career, and great free things in a bad economy.  I also took an awesome trip with the family to Mexico that I should probably blog about, but that holiday ended as most do… with going back to work… and there is nothing funny about going back to work.

I returned to work after almost two weeks off today.  As anyone who reads this blog knows, I hate work. My attitude sucks when it comes to work. It’s not where I work or the job itself (at least not 100%), it’s just that working any job sucks.  So, since my vacation was supposed to “revitalize” me, I thought I would try heading back to work with a new attitude.  In an effort to make this happen, I spent Sunday evening before returning to work reading Fish! A Proven Way To Boost Morale and Improve Results… I mean, it’s proven, right?

Okay, I’m not going to do a book review here. The book was stupid.  Much like Who Moved My Cheese, this crapfest was a silly little fictional story that makes it seem like adapting to change and changing your attitude is something easy that anyone can do… and your life will be much better for the effort.  The numbskulls who write these books need to spend a few weeks working in the real world with real customers before they write this nonsense.

Anywho, I decide I’m going to have a positive attitude.  Yep, just like that. That’s how easy it’s supposed to be. I’m going to look at the positive in every situation that comes up.  And I go to work… on a Monday… after being away from the office for almost two weeks. I don’t know who is stupider: me or the authors of this insipid book.

Now, please realize that these books are not really written to help anyone.  Motivational business books are written solely for the purpose of making the authors a lot of money. Since the advice found in most of these books is worthless, the only way the authors can make bank is to make the books attractive to managers and executives who are too lazy to really work with morale issues in their companies and are looking for an easy “fix”.  The people in charge need to say:

“Hey, we need to implement changes for, or get more results out of, our drones and we really don’t want to pay them more to make that happen… so we need some cute little book that will make them want to work harder for us for the same money (or at times less than) they are currently making.  Pick up a couple hundred copies of Fish! A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results and make it mandatory reading for the worker bees…

Then, the authors make bank and write supplemental books to their original book that are even cheesier than the original, like Fishing with Boys! A Proven Way To Make Your Preschool Boy Not Pee All Over the Toilet Seat. I knew all of this going into my new Monday morning positive attitude approach, but I figured it was still worth a shot. Something needs to change. My attitude may be the answer.

So, I get to work with my sparkling positive attitude. First thing, I get employees telling me about all of the stuff that went wrong while I was gone. I inform them that I am working on a new, positive attitude and have no need for their negative “facts”.

Then, the phone rings and a longtime customer that I have done many special things for to make their service work beyond what they paid for cancels service. They are going with a competitor that I don’t care for much at all.  But that’s okay… right? I mean, I have this whole new positive attitude thing going on, right?

And then a customer calls in and asks for a “manager”… which I guess would be me. Anytime, as a manager, you have a coworker say, “Can you take this call? They want to speak to a manager,” you know it’s not going to be fun. So I take the call and the person is upset that they haven’t heard back from tech support and they left a message over two hours ago on a Monday where the techs are dealing with all of the messages from over the weekend and this wait time is unacceptable and their service isn’t working and they need something done right this minute and no they don’t want to talk to a tech that boat has sailed and I need to get someone out there right NOW! So, I book a service call… for Wednesday… which is the soonest I have someone available… and the positive attitude that I started the day with slit its wrists during the call. It’s about half way through the work day and my negative, pessimistic attitude is giving my positive attitude a really scathing eulogy before cremating it and scattering its ashes to the hostile, unrelenting panhandle wind.

Tomorrow is Tuesday. Maybe Tuesday is a better day to try a positive attitude…

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Mar 07

Everyone has his or her own version of the “American Dream” tucked away somewhere in the nether-regions of her or his subconscious.  Our personal versions of the “American Dream” are part of what motivates us to get out of bed every morning and live life.

Little Johnny wants to grow up and get married and have a family and own a home and be a fireman so he can spend his life saving the lives of others.  Then Little Johnny wants to retire and travel and enjoy his final years.

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Little Suzie wants to grow up and get married and have a family and own a home and be a doctor so she can spend her life saving the lives of others.  Then Little Suzie wants to retire and travel and enjoy her final years.

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Little Barack and Little George wanted to grow up to be politicians so they could meddle in people’s lives and screw over a country.

Everyone has a dream.  Some people realize that dream, and the rest of us learn to settle.

Settling sucks.

Little Adventurer Rich wanted to grow up and get married and have a family and own a home and be a something-that-makes-a-lot-of-money-and-helps-a-lot-of-people-but-isn’t-dangerous-or-doesn’t-involve-sticking-his-hands-in-other-people’s-guts.  Then Little Adventurer Rich wanted to retire and travel and enjoy his final years.

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Little Adventurer Rich got a cold slap across the face as a wake-up call.  When you decide to grow roots in rural Nebraska, there is no such thing as a job where you can make a lot of money.  If you don’t get the job that pays a lot of money, the retirement and travel associated with the retirement become pipe dreams.

I’m thankful for the marriage and the family and the house.  The rest of my “American Dream” is things I will need to learn to live without.  Well, I guess those things are already lacking, so I won’t need to learn to live without them… I need to learn that I will never have them.  It’s called “settling”.

As I cruise through this ever-increasingly difficult mid-life crisis, things start to fall into perspective.  I’m not the kind of guy who wants a fancy sports car or a token 20-something-year-old mistress to help realize unfulfilled dreams.  I’m happy driving crappy used cars (even considering getting a minivan).  My wife is my only link to sanity.  If I lost her, I would lose all bearing on life.  So, I’ll keep my 40-something-year-old model.  Besides, the only 20-something-year-olds interested in old farts like me are after gold, and my veins are full of nothing but pyrite and cholesterol.

So, since I’m not looking for the typical remedies for my ills, I’ve been trying to figure out how to become less miserable.  I look in the mirror and this old guy looks back at me, with his gray hairs and his frown lines, and I start to get pissed off at him.  He looks so much older than I feel.  Why didn’t he do something with his life?  Why couldn’t he have been better looking or more self-confident?  Why didn’t he take advantage of opportunities that I’m sure were available to him (yet, strangely enough, neither he nor I can think of any)?  Why has he let me down?  Ooh, sometimes I just want to throttle that loser in the mirror.  He doesn’t look like the kind of guy who would ever be successful.  He looks like a stupid goat farmer…

… goat farmer…

…GOAT FARMER!

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OH…EM…GEE!  I look like a goat farmer!  A stupid goat farmer!  Being a goat farmer would be AWESOME!  No stupid customer problems! No stupid technology! Just lots and lots of goats!  You feed them, you breed them, you take care of them, maybe you milk them, then you kill them and you eat them. Maybe you sell them.  Maybe you sell the milk or sell the meat.  Maybe you hire them out to breed with someone else’s goats.

OH… EM… GEE! I could be a GOAT PIMP!

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If not goats, maybe ostrich, or rabbit, or some other semi-exotic meat that people are willing to buy.  I wouldn’t make my riches being an exotic meat farmer, but being out on a farm, working with my hands, being responsible for only my own actions and relying only on my own efforts… I may not be able to retire, but I wouldn’t want to gouge my brains out through my ear holes before going to a “job” every day, so it is something I could see myself doing until I finally snap and they end up throwing me in a loony bin!

Maybe my family wouldn’t be able to have some of the things we have now, like satellite television or cell phones or Internet or new clothes or gas for the used cars or, you know, food to eat other than goat… but it would all be worth it!  If you can’t make it to the top of the food chain doing something you hate, crawl to the bottom of the food chain raising goats!

Now, I just need some land and a shack to live in.  I’m sure I can pick up some land on the cheap in Nebraska, right?  And I’ll need some starter goats.  Do they sell starter goat kits?  Never mind, I’ll Google it later… while I still have Internet :)  And I just need to convince my family that we would be better off without all of the stupid “conveniences” or modern life. I’ll never be able to provide for my family in the ways I dreamed as a kid, so it’s time to change the dream!

Little Adventurer Rich wants to grow up and get married and have a family and own a home and sell that home and buy a goat farm and raise goats!   Then Little Adventurer Rich wants to lose his mind and get locked up in a “facility” with lots of padded rooms where he will enjoy his final years dreaming of his goats…

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Finally, a dream I may be able to accomplish…

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Sep 29

… you don’t see anything wrong with the following sign:
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Now, this isn’t a bar in some seedy part of town.  This is a bar right on Main Street in downtown Gering, NE.  The bar is driven past by many, many locals on a daily basis.  This bar is only a block from the local convention center that hosts visitors from all over the region.  This bar posts its daily lunch specials on the little sandwich board, and usually there is some stupid backwater play on words that usually is little more than misspelling, like “turkey sammich”.  This one, which I snapped a picture of this past summer, in my opinion, doesn’t seem quite right.

Now, I am far from a prude.  My mind is in the gutter more than I care to admit, and off-color humor has it’s place; however, I’m not so sure that place is a downtown business district.

You know, I think I am slowly establishing a knowledge base for what truly makes a redneck.  Off-color humor can be (and usually is) funny.  You don’t have to be a redneck to believe that.  When a business owner has the same sense of humor as the typical 13-year-old boy, we’re getting into redneck territory.  When 13-year-old humor is posted on main street for everyone to see, the redneck is running rampant…

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Aug 25

I always get jealous of my kids this time of year.  They are off to school and have all kinds of new stuff start in their lives.  New classes, new teachers, new sports, new friends.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch of adulthood, I still get up every morning and go do what I do every stinking day.  Nothing new, nothing exciting, nothing offering much of a reason to get out of stinking bed.

“Oh, wait,” says the tiny little voice of optimism that reaches out from the deep recesses of my small mind.  “Maybe you’ll make some new friends today!”

“Yeah,” I remind that stinking voice, “I work in tech support.  I may meet a new person who is all pissed off because his or her Internet isn’t working.  Sounds like fun.”

“Uh… well… they’ll be happy if you help them with their problem,” says the diminishing voice.

“Because I did what I am paid to do,” I replied. “They aren’t going to want to invite me and the family over for supper because I did my job.”

“… well… you, uh… sometimes, you’re coworkers are fun to be around,” squeaks the voice.

“Yeah, maybe today someone will come up with a new and exciting excuse to call in and not be able to come to work, and I can stress out (because everything stresses me out) trying to figure out how to reschedule stuff or make up for the work that coworker was supposed to do,” I tell the voice.

“You’re hopeless,” says the voice as it crawls back into the murk of my mind, hidden from all conscious thought… just where I like it.

Other than the weekends and the occasional scheduled vacation, I don’t find myself looking forward to too much during the course of any given day.  Sometimes, I’m gifted a sporting event or a musical performance in the evening that makes the latter-half of a work day go by a little quicker.  Usually, though, life is routine.  For the kids, their lives are pretty routine as well, but their routines change from year to year and from season to season.  Life as an adult can be… well… pretty mundane.  I’m pretty sure I’m not the only adult who feels this way.  I know this is one of the main reasons why I have changed jobs so many times: just to break up the mundane.  I also have a feeling this is why American Idol and Monday Night Football are so popular: most of us just don’t know how to find excitement in our lives, so we settle for the faux-excitement of vesting our emotions in the efforts of someone who is actually living what we perceive to be the excitement.  And for many of us, even most of the stuff we look forward to isn’t really so much about us as it is about our kids.  Going to a kid’s baseball game or a kid’s soccer tournament or a kid’s piano recital.  Once you’re old, you start to realize why people live vicariously through their children — because the life of an adult kinda sucks.  All the good stuff happens to the young.  Even the Bible agrees with me:

“Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
I find no pleasure in them’ ”— (Ecclesiastes 12-1)

Old age is the days of trouble when no pleasure is to be found.

So, in an effort to add something interesting to the monotony of adulthood, I decided this year to get myself a small game hunting license.  As a kid, I used to hunt all the time.  I grew up out in the country, and all of my friends lived in town, so I’d find myself on almost any given day out in the fields near our house shooting stuff.  I’d shoot rabbits and snakes and all kinds of critters.  As I grew older, I tried to shoot only things that could be utilized.  I’d kill jackrabbits and feed them to our dogs.  My blue healers loved fresh rabbit and weren’t quite fast enough to catch them on their own.  I’d kill cottontails and make my mom cook them (which happened about twice before she said “no more”), and then I learned to make the best rabbit jerky in the world.  I’d hunt sage grouse and pheasant and deer (all during the correct season, of course).  I enjoyed hunting, and I haven’t hunted since I moved to the No-Hunting-or-Trespassing capital of the United States — Nebraska.

I’ve scoped out a few of the extremely small public areas around the panhandle where hunting is allowed, and I plan on killing some stuff.  I plan on getting some rabbits and some squirrels and some doves and some crow and maybe even a pigeon or two and I’m going to eat them.  I got a smoker a couple of years ago for Father’s Day, and I’ve learned that EVERYTHING is good smoked.  Heck, if I run into any rattlesnakes or big old bull snakes, I may even throw them on the smoker.

The wife is, of course, disgusted with my plan, and the boys are terrified.  But, by golly, I’m gonna start filling our freezer with numerous small, rodent-like creatures.  I need to go back and re-hone my skills at being able to provide for my family with my own hands and some of the firearms collecting dust in the closet.  I need to reconnect with my primal self.  I need to prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse.

… I need to find something more exciting than the anticipation of Sunday’s new Robot Chicken episode to look forward to each week…

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Aug 15

Well, it’s that time of year again.  Although the actual season doesn’t end for well over a month, what we often think of as summer is drawing to a close.  It’s sad.

It’s not sad that the extreme heat of summer will soon turn to the frigid cold of winter.  I love the cold.

It’s not sad that my boys will continue in the educational process.  The sooner they get through school, the sooner they gain skills that will enable them to surpass their lame father in a meaningful career… outside of the panhandle.  I don’t want to wish away their childhoods, and I do not look forward to the day when they leave home to start lives on their own (along with my wife, my sons are really the only friends I have here in Huskerland… because I’m kinda pathetic… and people don’t really seem to be drawn to my vibrant personality… but whatever).  The sooner they move away from the panhandle, the sooner the wife and I can get the hell out of here and I can figure out what I’m going to do with my life.  I’ll only be like 52 — that’s young, right?  Yeah, I’m delusional…

Soon, every night will once again be filled with one kid’s or the other’s activities.  The peace and quiet, the time to collect one’s thoughts, the fun family time — they are all about to go out the window, and I’m not looking forward to it.

This year, the oldest boy enters high school.  The wife was looking through the pile of crap that the school sends out with all of the rules and suggestions and whatnot.  There was a flyer for the high school’s booster club in the mix.

“Huh,” said the wife, ” that sounds kind of fun.”

“Yeah,” I said.  “I wouldn’t mind getting involved with something like that.”

“Oh, never mind,” said the wife as she read the flyer over.

“What?” I asked.

“Never mind,” said the wife, “you’re not going to want to do it.”

“Why?” I asked.

The wife just looked at me, and I suspect that she may have been trying to come up with a lie.  She ended up telling me the truth.

“They charge $25 to be a member of the booster club,” she finally admitted.

“They charge you $25 to volunteer your time?” I asked.  I should have been incredulous at this point, but life has taught me that most things make absolutely no sense, and much of what life offers seems to have been created exclusively to piss me off.

“See,” said the wife, “I knew you’d get upset.”  She knows me well.

“Guess they charge $25 to keep out the riff raff,” I said.  “Looks like it’s working… ’cause they’re keeping me out.  All of those doctor’s wives and lawyer’s wives can handle it just fine on their own.”

“It’s twenty-five dollars,” said the wife.  “It’s not exactly country club membership pricing.”

“Yeah, twenty-five bucks is like twenty percent of our weekly grocery budget,” I said.  “They want our kids to starve so we can volunteer for the booster club?”

“I don’t think the boys will starve over twenty-five dollars,” said the wife.

“Well, they could!” I shouted, and the wife just walked away. Apparently she doesn’t love our boys as much as I do…

Oh summer, how I will miss you.  I wish the fun and relaxation you offer could be found all year round… but with colder temperatures.  I am, however, a little excited about the whole “high school” thing.  Just from the intro packet that the school gave out, I can already tell that I am going to find a whole new world of stuff to piss me off and to bitch about in a very short period of time…

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Aug 08

Every year during Oregon Trail Days, the illustrious City of Gering hosts the renowned International Food Fair.  This is a one night only event that many locals look forward to from the moment the festivities end one year to the moment they begin again the following year.  I mean, come on!  Having some cultural diversity in downtown Gering is a great thing, right?

The entire downtown area is closed off and vendors representing food from all over the “world” set-up shop to bask the attendees in the glow of multicultural cuisine!  Now, to be honest, I haven’t been to this event very often, because long lines amongst throngs of people waiting to overpay for food isn’t my idea of a good time.  Last time me and my oldest boy tried going down there (several years ago), I ended up getting pissed at the long lines and we walked down to McDonald’s and got ourselves some international Big Macs… they’re Scandinavian, right?  This year, however, the wife’s and my nieces were visiting from Denver for a week, and we’d run out of things to entertain them with here in the panhandle (surprise!)… so we decided we’d all treat ourselves to some international fare.

We arrived and scoped the place out.  I’m thinking maybe some Middle Eastern curry may be in order, or perhaps some Jamaican jerk.  If worse comes to worst, I always like a good gyro.  And then I notice what kinds of “international” treats are available at the food fair…
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Alright!  The Chinese place in downtown Gering set up a booth selling — Chinese!  Our journey through a smorgasbord of foods from around the world has begun…

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Okay, we have us some Mexican.  What else we got…

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… alrighty, we have us another Mexican burrito place.  Next…

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… uh… I’m starting to see a trend develop here.  So far, we got us some Chinese and lots of Mexican.  What else do we have?  Out of the corner of my I, I spied something “Italian”, so I go to check it out…

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… so, looks like an Italian sub is the country of Italy’s submission to the International Food Fair.  I’m kind of suspecting the people who ran this booth hadn’t actually ever been to Italy, but at least it’s not another burrito place.

The panhandle of Nebraska is filled with Germans.  I started looking for some of that traditional German fare, and I wasn’t disappointed…

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… or was I?  Germans in this area are big lovers of garlic sausage, which is kind of like brautwurst, but garlic-ier.  I found no garlic sausage, I found no sauerbrauten, and there wasn’t a spätzle or knödel in sight.  But there were brats. I don’t know how well this booth represented Germany, but it reminded me that I kinda miss those tailgate parties from my college days.  Maybe there was a different German booth…

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… or not.  Looks like brats are as German as this International Food Fair was going to get.  This booth also introduced the famous “pulled pork sandwich”, which I believe comes from Ethiopia.  No, wait a second, I’m thinking of kitfo.  Pulled pork is… uh… pretty much an American barbecue thing.  Well, American is part of the International community, so American fare at one booth isn’t bad, right?

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… oh, for the love of…

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… I give up.  The International Fare at this food fair seems to be a Chinese place and a bunch of places selling Mexican and American food (with the occasional brat thrown in for good measure, and an Italian sub).  At least this place from the Sandhills of Nebraska make their sign interesting by trying to disguise their weaseliness.  Notice how they have a “meal” price of $8.00.  The meal includes a sandwich and a water or Powerade.  Notice how a sandwich alone is $7.00… and a water alone is $1.00.  That isn’t even a combo meal… that’s just them adding the prices conveniently together for you and making it look like you’re getting a deal.  I will give them credit for knocking a buck off if you go with the Powerade option, but I deduct credit for a “Philly”-style sandwich having American cheese.  Either throw some provolone on it, drench it in Cheez Whiz, or take “Philly” out of the name.  I do love how they state they raise their own beef, and how there is “No mystery meat here, folks!”  I thought this was hilarious… I don’t think the people at the Chinese place felt the same…

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Now this place has it going on.  They have the “Mexican” nachos, the Pennsylvania Dutch funnel cake, and the fries from the country of Ribbononia.  And they have Indian tacos, which are, of course, associated with the Navajo Nation… which I count as American, but you can count it however you want.

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This one is kind of hard to read, but it's Indian Tacos for $6.50 and drinks for $1.00... and the unadvertised meal-deal of a taco and a drink for $7.50.

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Got nothing for this one, but I took the picture, so here it is. Julie's Antiques has some cool stuff, so I recommend checking it out...

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There were other booths at this food fair, but they all served pretty much the same or similar things. There were some awesome boy scouts selling Pizza Hut pizza, but anyone who claims that Pizza Hut is anything other than Americanized pizza is dented and shouldn’t be listened to anyway.  So, my oldest boy and I got Indian Tacos and the rest of the crew got Chinese.  I think the whole experience set us back only a couple hundred bucks, and I was once again reminded why I don’t usually go to the International Food Fair in Gering, NE.  The concept is great, but the delivery (or offering) is severely lacking.  Gering’s International Food Fair hosts pretty much the same food you get at a normal fair, but offers the disappointment of being mislead about the whole “International” thing…

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Aug 02

Our final day in Omaha was capped with another night in the camper.  This was kind of sad, because we knew that our vacation was slowly coming to an end.

Day five was to be our shopping day, so we hitched up the camper, left Mahoney, and drove to a mall in Lincoln.  We ate lunch at the mall food court (so everyone could get what they wanted… my family all got Chinese and I got a gyro).  We spent a few hours doing some back-to-school shopping, and then we decided we better head for our next destination.

The plan was to camp at Johnson Lake south of Lexington, but they wouldn’t let me make a reservation because we were just staying for one night.  They only make reservations for two nights on the weekends, so I wanted to get there before dark in case we needed to hunt down another camping spot for the night.

We swung into Grand Island to search for some place for supper.  I spotted the billboard for USA Steak Buffet and remembered seeing that billboard on other visits to Grand Island.

“Hey, let’s go to USA Steak Buffet,” I said.

So, immediately, the oldest son starts looking at reviews on the wife’s smart phone.  Needless to say, the reviews aren’t good.

“Uh, Dad, the reviews suck,” said the boy.

“Oh, you can’t always trust the reviews,” I said, thinking about how a really crappy dining experience would make for a humorous addition to my blog.  “I think we should try it anyway.”

“Dad, look at these reviews,” said the boy.  So I looked:

A Google User reviewed 5 months ago

Overall 0 / 3
This place sucks. Way over priced. Found hairs in the food. Tiny steaks. Do not come here.

A Google User reviewed 11 months ago

Overall 0 / 3
Waaaaaay over priced for what you get. Steaks are small and chewy. Family of give can’t go without paying over 60 bucks. Everytime you back, the price goes up. No group rates either… All you get for a group of 10 or more is 10% gratuity added to your bill. Poor value.
Liked: Food
Disliked: Service, Atmosphere, Value
A Google User reviewed 4 months ago

Overall 0 / 3
Way over priced for a not so great buffet
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“Oh, come on,” I said, “that’s only three reviews.  If it was that bad, there would be more.”

“But, Dad, the one dude found a hair,” said the boy, and I knew I was fighting a losing battle.  There was no way I was going to be able to talk the entire family into eating crappy food just for the sake of my blog, so we pulled in beside Olive Garden.

Olive Garden is not even close to one of my favorite places to eat, but the wife loves it and the boys don’t mind it, so I thought we’d give it a shot.  There was, however, like a 40 minute wait to get in, so we turned right back around and headed to Buffalo Wild Wings across the parking lot.

There was no wait to get in at Buffalo Wild Wings, and there was no hair in our food.  I really don’t have anything interesting to write, but I’m almost positive that USA Steak Buffet would have given me something to complain about.  But, sometimes you have to take one for the team at the expense of something to bitch about in a blog.  Although… this was only the second time I had ever been to a Buffalo Wild Wings, and I can honestly state that they are the noisiest restaurants on the face of the planet.  Apparently they are where you are supposed to take people you don’t actually like and want to talk to, because carrying on a conversation in a Buffalo Wild Wings is nearly impossible… especially if you are old and can’t hear very well in the first place.  Also, who in the hell came up with the idea of frying a part of a chicken that used to be disposable (because it’s almost all fat and no meat), covering it with a spicy sauce, and charging caviar prices for it?  That person should be shot.  Seriously, the prices for chicken wings are absolutely dented!  I guess if I think about it long enough, I could come up with a bitch about most anything…

So we eat and we drive and we drive and we drive and, before you know it, it’s dark.  We turn off at Lexington and try to find this state park that we’ve never been to — in the dark.

“We are so screwed,” I informed the family.

“Why?” asked the wife.

“I bet we get there and they have no open spots,” I said.

“What makes you think that?” asked the wife.

“Because that’s just my luck,” I said.  “Then, we’ll be driving around in the dark trying to find some place to spend the night.”

“If worse comes to worst, we can always get a hotel,” says the wife.  “You need to try to see the bright side of things.”

“There won’t be any open hotel rooms and we’ll end up parked in a rest area,” I said.  “So we’ll crawl into the hot camper with no air conditioning.  Then, a serial killer who frequents rest areas will find us and he’ll be all It’s like Christmas, time to open the present.  Then he’ll tear off the camper door and shiv us all to death as we groggily try to figure out what in the hell is going on.  It’s gonna be horrible.”

“Please don’t talk like that in front of the boys,” said the wife.  I glanced at the boys, and they did look a little peaked.  “That is never going to happen.”

“Mommy…” said the youngest boy, tears welling up in his terrified eyes, “are we going to die tonight?”

“Of course not,” said the wife, “you’re father is just an idiot tonight.”

So, we finally find the campground and they have an opening.  Lucky for us, ’cause I’m pretty sure there was a serial killer with our names on the dull blade of his near-blunt object waiting for us at a rest area.

We wake up the next day and I take the boys out geocaching for the morning while the wife enjoys a relaxing shower back at camp.  Geocaching is kind of geeky, but it is cheap fun, which is important when you are on a poor man’s camping vacation.  We find a few caches, and we head back to grab the wife and then drive into Lexington for lunch.

I had never really been through Lexington before, and I was a little shocked at the town.  There is literally a Mexican restaurant on every corner… and there are a lot of corners.  Before we got into town, we passed a Tyson foods processing plant, which I’m assuming is the employer in Lexington.  And apparently Tyson processing plants attract a lot of non-English speaking minorities.  In addition to the Mexican restaurants, we passed two Islamic centers… in Nebraska?!?  Who’d a thunk it?!?

So we settle on one of the Mexican places that has “buffet” in the window, ’cause we all like a good buffet (unless the reviews mention hair in the food, apparently).  On this whole trip, I really didn’t take any pictures for the blog because, well, I’m kind of an idiot.  However, Restaurant La Hacienda was so cool that I actually thought to get out my phone and snap a couple of pictures.
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See, Restaurant La Hacienda actually serves what I think is probably authentic Mexican food.  Scottsbluff touts it’s plethora of authentic Mexican restaurants, and people who move away always clamor about how they miss the authentic Mexican food in Scottsbluff.  Authentic in Scottsbluff means fried tacos.  A flour tortilla filled with beef taco meat and fried in fat to make the tortilla look like a corn taco shell like you buy at the store.  Then the cheese and lettuce and tomatoes are added, and that is authentic Mexican.  Don’t get me wrong, I love fried tacos (anything dripping with grease has got to be good, right?), I just don’t really imagine a lot of Mexicans in Mexico eating these on a regular basis.  I have a feeling fried tacos are a little more Tex Mex than they are Mexican…

So, anyway, at Restaurant La Hacienda, there was not a staff member (including our waitress) who spoke fluent English.  How awesome is that?  The small buffet was filled with things that were unrecognizable to me.  Different meats in sauces, for the most part, with the obligatory beans and rice.  The thing is, this wasn’t ground beef like in the fried tacos of Scottsbluff.  These were chunks of inexpensive meat filled with fat and gristle, but they were cooked for so long that the pieces of meat literally fell apart in my mouth.  An full of flavor?  Of course they were.  This is the kind of food I suspect the majority of Mexicans in Mexico eat — inexpensive, flavorful, fattening, and just down right delicious.

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This was soooo much better tasting than it looks...

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My favorite dish was the most bizarre (in American terms).  If was like strips of pork fat cooked on a tomatillo sauce. The fat reminded my of pork rinds (same flavor, but mushy instead of crispy).  It was absolutely to die for (and I’m sure my cholesterol levels after eating it had me near death).
And of course, there was flan for dessert.  There is nothing on this planet that is more heavenly than flan done right… and this flan was done right.
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The above tray was actually full until I came across it.  The Mexicans (I don’t think there was an English-speaking person in the place, staff or customer) looked at me like I was some kind of deranged, gluttonous gordo blanco… which I was.  The Cheesecake Factory can kiss Resaturant La Hacienda’s hiney!

So, after our fattening, delicious meal (if you’re ever in Lexington, check Restaurant La Hacienda out!), we headed back to Johnnson Lake, loaded up the camper, and headed for home.  We did a little more geocaching along the way.  We stopped in Ogallala so the family could get some supper (I had overdone it for lunch and didn’t need any further fuel for the machine… plus, good Mexican food gives one gas, and I was so full of gas, I had no room for more food).

Our final leg put us getting into Scottsbluff/Gering about 8:30 pm on day 6, and we had to get our dog from the boarding house before 9:00 pm, so we were right on track.  And then we get to the first set of railroad tracks in Gering… and we get stopped by a train.  The train passes, and we get to the first set of railroad tracks in Scottsbluff… and we get stopped by another train.  We get our beagle (who was intensely happy to see us :) ), and we head for our house… only to get stopped by one final stinking stupid train… and I was reminded of one of the many reasons I need to get out of this area once in awhile.  In fact, after the three back-to-back train delays, I was already ready for another vacation…

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Aug 01

After our fun-filled day at the Henry Doorly Zoo and the disaster at the Cheesecake Factory, we drove back to Mahoney State park and our camper for another good night of sleep.  So far, our family’s summer vacation was getting off with mixed reviews.  The wife and two boys were having a blast.  I was having a moderately good time, but the stupid apple cider incident at the Cheesecake Factory had left a bad taste in my mouth (which I’m sure a refill of apple cider would have washed away).

Day three of the vacation was designated as our day to spend in the state park.  Just a day to relax and maybe enjoy the park’s water park.  We actually slept in this day, which was nice.  After a late lunch at the camper, we donned our swimming attire and drove to the pool.

Mahoney State Park has a very nice water park/pool.  We actually spent most of the day there, and we all got a little sunburned.  There was a crowded wave pool, a kiddie area, a diving board and like three decent water slides.  All of the areas were fun, but I learned to hate people on tubes.  The wave pool was a blast when you weren’t dodging some idiot on a tube, and I can’t count the number of times I had some tubed jerkwad’s feet in my face.  Apparently, when you are on a tube, you don’t have to display common courtesy to anyone.  Everyone else is responsible for getting out of your way.  Guess I should have forked over a few bucks and rented a tube myself so I could have been a rude jerkwad.

After a cooling day at the pool, we retreated to the camper and enjoyed another camper meal.  In the evening, we played a round of mini golf (which is the only kind of golf non-rich people play).  Earlier in the day, a group of college-aged kids walked by our campsite with golf bags on their shoulders, obviously on there way to the driving range.

“There go the rich kids,” I snarled as they sauntered past.

“How do you know they are rich?” asked the wife.

“Because they’re carrying golf clubs,” I pointed out.

“They look like college kids, and they are camping, so I doubt they are rich,” said the wife.

“Yeah, whatever… it is obvious they have rich parents,” I said.

“How can you know that?” asked the wife.

“Because they play golf,” I stated.  Sometimes I just don’t understand the wife’s naiveté.

“And we’re camping, and we don’t golf, thus we are poor?” asks the wife.

“You’re starting to catch on,” I said, smiling with the knowledge that the wife was grasping a major life lesson.  Apparently, she rolls her eyes as she learns…

Another night in the camper was followed by our fourth day of vacation.  This day was another to be spent in Omaha.  After a light lunch at camp, we drove back in to Omaha and straight to Fun-Plex.  Fun-Plex is a small amusement park with both amusement park rides and a small water park.  It was so stinking hot that we tried to include some form of water activity on any day we actually spent a considerable amount of time outside.  Even the zoo had water misters placed conveniently throughout.

Fun-Plex was pretty okay.  We bumper boated and roller coasted and tilt-o-whirled and go carted before the heat started to get to us and we retreated to the water park.  The water was a little dirtier here than at Mahoney, and the waves in the wave pool weren’t quite as ferocious, but there were just as many little old men and fat ladies in tubes sticking their feet in my face.  Again, there were also slides, and a nice “lazy river” that was fun to swim in.

Two days in a bathing suit surrounded by young people in bathing suits made me realize something: I am old and fat… and I’m not too certain I was ever anything different!

I’ve always been a fatty, and I don’t remember ever hanging out with shapely people at a pool anywhere.  I think that’s because the shapely people all hang out with other shapely people, and they leave us fatties to ourselves.  It’s almost a form of discrimination, I think.  I’d see a bunch of shapely girls in bikinis walk by with a group of muscular young men, and then I’d see two fat kids walk by the other direction.  And it’s kind of funny, ’cause the skinny people are always looking around and laughing and talking, while the fat people pretty much just stare at the ground.  I would probably have other observations about how the skinny people discriminate against (and have more fun than) the fat people, but I spent a lot of time looking at the ground, so I’m sure I missed a lot.

Young people upset me.  Especially young, fit people.  Even my own kids are often the objects of my jealousy.  Both of my boys are relatively fit and healthy.  They are also pretty smart, and they aren’t ugly.  Because of their fitness and intelligence, I’m sure they will have an advantage in life that my ugly fat belly and ignorance didn’t permit.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I want the best for them.  I want them to be successful and happy with whatever they decide to do with their lives.  I just wish that I would have been given the advantages of fitness and good looks and intelligence (or at least one of them), but apparently God wanted to put some hurdles in front of me to develop some sort of character trait that I wouldn’t have found if things had been easier for me.  I’m sure God is now shaking His head as He realizes that I don’t learn from obstacles (I retreat like a Frenchman), but I think He’s still working with me….

So, after a fun yet somewhat degrading day at Fun-Plex, we let the youngest boy decide on what kind of restaurant to go to for supper.  The youngest loves Chinese and Mexican, but he settled on Mexican.  I found the closest decent-looking Mexican place and we ate.  I don’t remember the name of the place, but it was pretty typical.  We got chips and salsa, and the waiter was great at refilling our glasses.  I had some sort of fajita-type-stuff, and it was good.  Nothing out of this world (at least not enough to remember the name), but everyone seemed satisfied.  And I didn’t get screwed on the refills…

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