Sunday, May 29, 2011

Seeing Green Again

North California Dreamin' & The Grove
Leaving LA, I headed east for Death Valley, it was kind of an intimidating drive to be honest, absolutely nothing for miles but once you actually got to the park it wasn't bad since there were actual people around in RV's and what not.  I made a stop at a big boys and a goofy little "Alien Jerky" place when I was getting some good ole 4 dollar gasoline.  From Death Valley I headed up another famous park, Yosemite, but to my disappointment the main road which leads up into the park was closed off, I'm guessing this is a seasonal thing, I found a back road which I took but it just wasn't worth the trouble.  So I got to see the outskirts of Yosemite at least.  I headed up to Carson City, Nevada to grab a shot of the capitol and stayed there for the night.  I booked it to San Francisco the next day, passing through Sacramento, stayed there a night, did the Golden Gate Bridge thing for a bit and headed northward along the Pacific Coast Highway. swinging past Muir Woods and stopped in Eureka after doing a quick excursion at the Bohemian Grove.  I debated making a kayaking trip up to the owl statue, but I was due to meet with some of my family in 2 days in Portland and I didn't want to fall behind schedule (as you can probably tell by this post, I've been making quick stops and passing through things rather quickly now).  I did however, finally get the guts to try and hike the wilderness to the owl but I was stumped when I ran into 3 steep hills that were impossible to walk and climb up so I turned around and asked one of the locals where I could find a trail.  She warned me that they have video surveillance all around and once you get to a certain point the local sheriff's office basically swarms the entire area....I figured it'd be worth the fine and would be a good story...but once logic and time constraints came into play, I decided to forgo my invasion of the grove.  Most of the locals there at some point or another have kayaked to the grove where they are merely given a stern warning by authorities to leave....a lady told me that people come up there to protest during the annual retreat but not as much any more.  The protestors were mostly active during the Vietnam War and at the height of the Iraq War.  She did say, that the locals have mixed feelings about the Grove.  The local feel that while it's weird and creepy what goes on in the grove... and yes they do ship prostitutes in from San Francisco (a lot of male prostitutes) the rich vacationers do bring in a lot of money into the community.  Bill Gates loves tennis and apparently the Grove does not have a tennis court, so he paid money to have people fix the local run-down tennis court which the whole community now enjoys.  The local golf club gets a nice economic boost during those two weeks in July as well.  Again, I'm not going to tell you what the Grove is, just google it, but that's what the locals told me.

The Pacific Coast Highway
What a gorgeous drive, I had to keep stopping every couple of minutes to snap photos, either of the coast or the redwood trees or one of the ridiculous tourist traps along the way.  I saw everything from a tree house to a bigfoot shop (apparently I was in bigfoot country) to "mystery" trees, to you name it.  When I entered north California and into Oregon what struck me was all of the green.  I didn't realize it, but I hadn't really seen green grass and green landscape in weeks and I was taken back when I saw it again.  It was an awesome scenic route which I followed up a ways into Oregon before heading to Diamond Lake for the night.  I was so excited that I finally got to use my new fly fishing rod there, although only for an hour before it got dark, it was stocked with lots of trout.

Out w/ Asian, In w/ Moroccan
Portland, Oregon is a very large and very cultural place to be.  The downtown area was pretty cool, and was a hippie paradise (I fit in quite well with my beard).  I stayed with my uncle Don and his family for the night and we went to this Moroccan restaurant where you have to sit cross legged on the floor for dinner.  Thank goodness they chose Moroccan because me and asian food had not been getting along lately.  It was fun, even when I was shamefully pulled onto a belly dance floor with one of dancers....shaking my head as I type this, there's an embarrassing moment I'd like to forget, I'd rather be playing horribly on stage in Nashvillle.  Again, I fit in great at this place partially because I speak some Arabic and also once again because of the beard.  If it wasn't for all the rain and the terrible traffic, Portland would be a nice place to live.

Homeless In Seattle
By now, you may have figured out my obsession with homeless people.  Not really sure why, maybe it comes from a deep fear of being homeless myself.  It just fascinates me as to how people can get themselves into those situations, I don't quite understand it.  I arrived in Seattle late the next day, since I just HAD to get my picture taken in Salem at the Oregon capitol building, putting me a couple hours behind....stupid.  I'd been wanting to spend a night and a day as a homeless person just to see what it was like (thanks Mr. O for the idea ;-)  )so I parked near, I think it was I-5, and slept under the highway in my sleeping was quite warm surprisingly, it was a bit frightening but more so out of a fear of getting picked up by police than anything else.  Seattle is known for having the friendliest and safest homeless population in the country which is why I chose Seattle as a prime place to do this.  I do regret that I wasn't able to interactive with the homeless people there as much as I would have liked but from what I could tell they did seem quite polite and down to earth.  Standing around asking for change got kind of old after a while so I checked into a place and went to the Space Needle.  I wanted to hop around the grunge music scene, since that is another thing Seattle is known for but I was just to tired due to the lack of sleep the night before.  However, the place I was eyeballing was called "The Funhouse", definitely check that place out if you're ever in Seattle and want to hear some good underground music.

My head is turning east, and I am more than ready to come back home but there is still much to see, please continue to pray for a safe journey home.


Monday, May 23, 2011

And the Last Shall be First: LA, Jay Leno & Jerry Springer

City Review
When you work in government, I guess you notice or pay more attention to the finer details of a city and it's lay out.  One city that stands out in my mind that had excellent residential zoning was Knoxville, TN.  I know, random, but so are most of the things on this trip!  Los Angeles was a dump.  At least downtown LA any how.  I was driving through thinking to myself "come on LA, get it together".  There were some streets that were just completely littered in trash and literally communities of homeless people on both sides of certain streets. Almost every street sign was covered in graffiti.  It was a mess, but I can imagine the LAPD probably have their hands full with other, more immediate things.  Santa Monica was very crowded and the infrastructure was packed very tight and it gave me a headache trying to drive around there.  It was a typical downtown city, nowhere to park and the public parking you could find would go from 10-20 bucks (it was like that in downtown LA too).  Beverly Hills, Pasadena and Burbank were all very nice.  Burbank especially was very clean and very what I call "normal" and the folks there were friendly.  I spent a night in Laguna Beach and that was probably the cleanest beach I'd ever seen and absolutely gorgeous.  The entire area of Laguna smelled like flowers, I'm not sure how that was possible but it definitely should get an award for best smelling town.  I spent a lot of time on Hollywood Blvd, and took one of the longest hikes of my life in Griffith Park to the Hollywood sign...which it turns out, is fenced off!!  My last day in LA, I went back to Burbank for a few hours to do a tour of Warner Brothers Studio, which was pretty cool, saw too many things the really mention on the blog, but I'll say one of the highlights was getting to play around on the old "Friends" set and getting to see the Warner Brothers Museum which had the original props and costumes of some of the biggest films in history like the Dark Knight.

Story Time: LA Edition
Korea Town
The first day I entered LA I drove around looking for my one meal a day place and passed what I thought was a Chinese Restaurant.  When I pulled up a middle eastern man jumps out in front of me and was really excited to valet park my car, I looked around and the parking lot was empty so I said "Why don't I just pull it up four feet and park it myself". No no, he had to valet park it, I would have been distrusting of this until I saw  a host stool with a sign that said "valet parking"....for chinese?  Okay whatever, so I handed him my keys, hoping I would see my car again.  I walked in, and to my surprise it's not a Chinese Restaurant that I stumbled onto but a Korean place...."okay that's fine" I thought, it's still probably somewhat cheap.  I looked at the menu, it's all in Korean so I had to ask the waitress what everything meant, I recognized her accent when she said "fish" so I said "I'll go with that."  She gave me a funny stern look and started making hand gestures portraying a fish ...I continued to say "Yeah I like fish, I'll go with that." She walked away looking confused.  When she returned with the entree of fish, I finally understood what it was she was trying to tell me....that the fish was boiled minutes before they serve it to you, eyes..head.. and all.  I left the liver alone.  I think I should give up on Asian food.

The Tonight Show
Hopefully some of you were able to catch me on the Tonight Show w/ Jay Leno, because I wasn't able to!  The crappy place I stayed at traded NBC for a Chinese station so I wasn't able to watch it.   But anyway, let me back up here.  One of things I was determined to do was see the Tonight Show, I remember watching it as a kid on Friday Nights and it has so many good childhood memories associated with being able to stay up late on Fridays with my family so it was awesome to get to see it live....AND front row.

You have to reserve tickets online (they are free) and then you have to print out the ticket, show it to the staff and they give you a number according to your arrival, they hand out more tickets than they can seat.  That means, you have to get there early if you want to actually see the show.  So that morning I drove around trying to find a fed ex so that I could actually get my ticket printed, between that and the traffic it took me almost all morning to get this done (I had to be at the studio no later than 2:30).  By the time it happened, the engine light on my car started flashing...oh no this can't be happening, what now? "I want to go home" was my first thought.  The car was sputtering and I could barely get it to go...but I was determined.  I forced it down the highway from Hollywood blvd to Burbank and arrived at the 2:45.  They were still allowing people in but when I got my number it was number 275 followed by the guard telling me "hey the numbers are getting kind of high, so it's not probable that you'll get in".  Great, so I'm thinking not only was I late but after I waste my time in line for an hour I'll probably have to call a tow truck (which I did).  The line was moving, and there was only 25 people in front of me by the time they cut it off, I watched as they let random people come in through the side entrances, cutting in front of those of us who had been standing out there for over an hour.  At this point I didn't care really about anything but the car, but it was hilarious to hear the snickering of people in front and behind me as they watched the guards allowing groups and more groups of people to cut to the head of the line.  "They must know someone", "I bet they are VIPs" were just some of the comments I heard, and what made it funnier was these people cutting didn't look like "VIPs".  It was just funny to me to see how worked up people got over this, I mean I wanted to go to the show, but come on, its just that, a show!  The scripture Matthew 19:30 popped into my head and I didn't quite understand why, but I knew that  it must mean there is a catch to all the "line cutters".  When they finally cut us off, the customer relations people told us that if we come back tomorrow we'll be guaranteed to be let in the show.  This worked out good for me, I could get my car fixed in Burbank, catch a bus bank to Hollywood where I was staying and come back in the morning, get the car (hopefully) and get to the show...perfect.  Luckily, the car was towed to a dealership 2 miles away and b/c of the warranty didn't cost a thing to fix(it turned out to be merely a spark plug).  So I got the car the next day,(have to give a shout out to Eddie at the dealership who was kind enough to drive me back to Hollywood Blvd so I didn't have to pay for a cab), headed to the show and was directed around back to a waiting room with all the other 'leftovers' who returned from yesterday, new ticket in hand.  They first gave us a stern lecture on how no photos are allowed and if they see you pull your phone out you'll be kicked out of the studio in a flash (no pun intended).  They then walked us outside and in front of the long lines ....funny, I could hear the same snickers that I heard when I was standing in line the day before.  We breezed right past the lines and into the studio.  The seating was completely random.  They'd let two people in and take them into a corner on the third row, and then another handful in the center aisle up a few rows and then for no reason at all took me and a Canadian couple about my age and directed us to the front row, right smack in front of the stage where the guest couch is.  Ohhh Lord, I see what you were trying to tell me yesterday with that scripture now, I'm glad I listened.  So sure enough, according to a few people I know who watched it, I was on camera a couple of times, I got to rush the stage as Leno entered and gives the crowd high fives and hand shakes.  The whole thing was fun and interesting.  They spend a lot of time in the beginning trying to get the crowd all jazzed up and Jay comes out in the beginning in jeans and tells you to try and laugh at the guests jokes, even if they aren't funny, so they don't feel "self conscious".  Another interesting note, the agents of the stars on the show usually sit to the side of the stage and laugh at their clients jokes, or initiate the applauds to make their client look good or to give them a boost of confidence.

Lessons Learned From "Baggage"
When leaving the Tonight Show, a gentleman stopped me and a few others with free tickets to see Jerry Springer.  I forgot the Jerry Springer Show was no longer on air, and I thought thats what I was getting when I went to the studio the next day, but actually what I entered was the TV Show called "Baggage" but I learned more about production in that two hour span than any student could in a semester.  Quite frankly, I thought the whole process was rather sad.

If you haven't seen the show "Baggage" before (I'm embarrassed to admit that I have), basically a young man or woman will have to pick between 3 eligible bachlor/ettes for I guess a date.  Each of the 3 contestants reveal a secret about their lives and the main guest weeds out among the 3 based on their relationship 'baggage'.  Wow, typing this makes it seem even dumber.  There were 3 young women; a partier, a country girl, and a hardcore christian from Russia.  The contestants actually get paid for being there so that's why they do it.  In addition to the contestants being paid...some of the people in the audience are actually PAID actors to be there!  Maybe, I'm in the dark, but I had no idea TV shows did this.  I thought guests were there because they actually wanted to be there.  The show had to really work hard to get people to laugh at all the jokes and to sob or "aww" when something cute was said...if we didn't do it enough, or do it right, they would cut and make us do it again!  I'm not sure if the guests on the show were legit in their stories or if they were completely made of the guys I had lunch with after the first show (they wanted us to stay there for 3 shows but I left after the first taping) told me that a lot of shows make up everything, so he wouldn't be surprised if everything on 'baggage' was made up or at least hyped up.  This guy was pretty cool and one of the paid actors.  Before I left, they wanted me and a group of others to sign some legal document, I declined, partially so I could blog about some of this nonsense that goes on in Hollywood.

Why I think this was sad.  First, here you have a so called 'celebrity' Jerry Springer, and you have to pay people or give away free tickets to see him and the show.  Secondly, you're not confident enough in your product that you have to encourage reactions from people.  Third, who watches this crap anyway? What is the point? What is this doing to benefit society?  Nothing, and I'm surprised it can even find advertisers for the time what is this accomplishing?  I believe it (and call me conspiracy theorist I don't care) is a form of social engineering...Here's why:  A lot of the guests gave very candid answers and they were actually pretty funny and some of the 'baggage' in my opinion wasn't baggage at all.  I was really digging the Russian chick and wanted to marry her.... her 'baggages' was she didn't drink, she gave half of her money away to charity and didn't believe in relationships lasting over 5 years(without getting married)....tell me, what was wrong with that?!?!?  But as an audience member, I was told to "ohhhh" as if it was something horrible.  Now, whoever watches this show, might interpret these things as 'bad' since it was considered bad on a tv show and even the audience themselves thought it was 'bad' baggage to have.  We don't really know the power and influence tv has over people, but I'm thinking that shows like this don't help, aside from the entire show being just downright garbage.  Maybe the older I get the more uptight I get, but I was disgusted with the whole thing.

Another long post, I know, but LA was massive and I stayed busy the whole time I was there....I've got to weed through over 500 pictures to post on facebook so I'll try to do that always, thanks for reading!

From Bohemian Grove: Monte Rio, California (ha yeah, google it sometime)

PS: Big Congratulations to my two friends Josh and Nathan on your recent graduations.  Josh is now a doctor, and Nathan a lawyer.  Wow, so proud of both of you guys, you worked so hard these past 3 years and I am honored to call you my friends.

Monday, May 16, 2011

San Diego…No that’s NOT what it means Anchorman

I’ve had three people now tell me this line, I have to see this movie apparently. The name is actually derived from the Catholic Saint Didacus.  Shame on you all haha.  

The Zoo
San Diego is known for having one of the Best Zoos and it definitely did.  I got to see some creatures I never thought I’d ever see.  So many beauty creatures and they are all made for our enjoyment.  It brought the story of Noah to a whole new light for me and the story of Adam giving the authority to name them.  I spent most of the day there, trying to learn as much as I could, except for birds, what a boring species.  You couldn’t even see them half of the time.  I was all about the different monkeys, bears and cats. 

Mission Beach
A Very cool place, lots of surfing, kayaking and it is what I call a young persons beach.  Other beaches like Cocoa Beach were cool but mostly old people as well, it is Florida after all and the residents don't have a sales tax.  Mission Beach is surrounded by a couple of colleges and it's overall just a great atmosphere.

VIP With Fast Freddy
It was a complete fluke that I met this dude.  He played football as a wide receiver for Ohio State back in 1999...I told him "I was in 8th grade back then" haha.  He was a really cool dude, and one night I went out early and he just happen to be making friends with everybody (actually everybody already knew him), he must have taken a liken to me and my random travels, after chewing fat for about an hour he said "I'm going to make sure you get the most out of downtown San Diego."  What happens when two strong personalities collide? You get chaos and lots of fun.  He took me to some places where we didn't have to wait in line, everybody knew him, and we got free access everywhere.  Computer is about to die, but I'll tell more later.  I haven't looked him up yet, so he was either legitmately a former football player or the biggest drug dealer in San Diego.  Who knows, but he showed me a good time and I got to meet lots of people that night because of him.  But it did make me ponder something different....aging gracefully, will explain on another post.

Rough Around The Edges: Me and Sushi
After another trip to the barbershop to keep this beard under control, the ladies there (yes a lady owned barbershop again) told me I HAD to go to this place called Ra Sushi, where for happy hour you get a really good deal on Sushi food.  I’m not sophisticated at all in this department and pictures this:

I walk in, bearded, sweaty from the zoo, with a backpack and without the one thing that made me feel like a million bucks no matter what I wore, my watch.  Everybody else is in suites, dresses, as if session in Richmond just adjourned for the evening.  I approach the bar where you circle the kind of sushi you want made for you and hand it to the chef.  He makes it and gives it to you.  Everybody is using chopsticks and using them with ease and what seems like natural skill. Not me, no, I have to ask a lady beside me how to use the dag gone things.  At first, it was easy and I thought “this isn’t so bad” but somewhere between then and the end of the meal my fingers would not clasp the sticks properly. First, I dropped a piece of sushi into my lap. Then, I dropped some unknown meat into an unknown soup which splattered everywhere (I can’t tell you what I ordered, other than the shrimp sushi, I have no idea what else I got).  Frustrated by this, I grabbed one stick and started stabbing at the food, this later got annoying so finally I gave up and was the only person in the place picking stuff up by hand. “Enough of this crap” I thought.  The girl beside me could not stop laughing, I was more than happy to make her day.  Later on that evening, I was walking around looking for a starbucks so I could do some blogging and every time I came within distance of one (or so I thought) the gps on my phone would completely change saying “Rerouting”…..followed by me saying “blankedy blank blank blank!!” out loud, forgetting that I wasn’t in the car but outside…around people.  The old lady walking behind me actually laughed as I apologized.  Suddenly I realized, I was slowly becoming like the homeless people who talk to themselves.  Dear Lord.  

A friend once told me that I’m rough around the edges, I take it as a compliment J   

Adios….For Now. 


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Message to the Men

Back by popular demand, my “message to genders” post.  The previous one I checked, was one of the highest read posts.

Being Prepared 
Earlier on the this blog, I talked about how important being prepared is to being successful in the work environment….being prepared probably defines manhood to a large degree, in my opinion. 

As men, we should be prepared for any and all situations that may come our way.  This means constantly learning and growing in mind, body and skill (Like the The Prophet Napolean Dynamite said "Girls like guys with skills!" actually it was with less enthusiasm). 

Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” 

I keep this quote on my facebook page for a reason and it means something different to me than it did when I first posted it.  I have a hard time living by it. I pondered this over a prayer when I was in Moab, I have a hard time accepting the Calvinist perspective that God predestines everything in my life, I also think this is a dangerous theological concept that hurts the Christian faith, but I am still open to the possibilities and have reconciled it at a personal level by accepting it as a possibility.  However, I remain a firm believer in free will, and that God allows us to exercise a small level of control over our domain.  The problem both perspectives lead to, is when we assume God controls everything that happens we may tend to blame Him and give up entirely our own responsibility to respond and act.  On the flip side, if we assume that everything is up to us, we may constantly blame ourselves when things do not go the way we intended.  Learning that you can't control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to it is supposedly the defining mark of maturity....this felt, well, incomplete.  So when I pick up a guitar and I play it, its not me strumming but God's predestined will ordering me to play it?  No, but I think we exert stewardship over our emotions and our mind.  The body is connected to our mind thus we have control over that as well within reason.  Anything beyond that, ultimately is beyond our control.  I still believe, that all things work together for the good of his ultimate will, but I think His will is more relationship than it is dot mapping every physical occurrence.  

As men, one thing I think we have the biggest trouble with is our control issues.  Not to say we exert control over people, but we like to have control over our situations and there is nothing wrong with  that.  However, when things happen which we have no control over we allow it to affect how we feel about ourselves and our manhood.  If you’ve ever read the book “The Shack” you’ll see how the main character in the story felt like he failed as a father because his daughter was taken from him, despite the fact that it wasn't his fault and there really wasn't anything he could have done better to prevent the incident.  Then he resorted to blaming God "YOU let this happen."  

So in summary, manhood is an art that we must pursue bc we have the free will to pursue it, something to be continually worked at and like truth and beauty, it is ever fleeting and hard to hold on to, hard to grasp and hard to understand (especially for women) but I think a major piece of the puzzle is using those faculties which God allows you to have control over to be prepared for whatever comes your way.  You might never need to know CPR, but know it anyway just in case.  You might never need to know how to change a flat, but know it anyhow.  You might want to take spiritual precautions as well and think of scenarios that could happen which might affect your faith later on down the road, bring those fears before Christ and resolve to not let it affect your faith if it happened.  And when things go wrong, if it’s out of your control, it does not affect who you are as a man.  Lastly, know that doubt is not to be confused with humility....Know what you want and go after it with full force.  Or as the Lord said to me "fiercely". 

Sorry to get theological, but I felt that since we bear the image of God the two concepts are inseparable.   

Friday, May 13, 2011


From Vegas to Zona
Arizona was also a pretty cool state and there is much to see.  I met up with my cuzsters Kris and Shay (I call them that because although technically they are cousins, we grew up together and they are basically sisters to me).  After all the stress of the past week or so, it was so nice to see them and I finally felt like a had a piece of comfort from home.  We met up in Flagstaff and took a trip up to the Grand Canyon

I tell you what, I’ve gotten into some messy situations along this trip but nothing scared me more than riding in the backseat of a BMW letting girls take the wheel.  Not that they are bad drivers, I just haven’t left control of the wheel to someone else in nearly two months!  I got used to it after a while and even fell asleep on the way back but at first I was a jittery as a bug.

The next day we parted ways and I took a trip off to I-40 to see the big meteor crater.

The Girl In the Flatbed Ford and Mr. Najavo. 
I kid you not, on my way to the meteor which is close to the town of Winslow, Arizona the Eagles song “Take It Easy” came on the radio.  An Omen perhaps.  So I drove to Winslow after seeing the crater and come to find out there is NO girl in a flatbed ford.  The radio ad said “get your picture taken with the girl in the flatbed ford” so I thought as a tourist attraction they actually paid a “ten” to be out there all day taking pictures for tips.  No, what the radio ad failed to mentioned was that if you want your picture taken with a girl in a flatbed ford you have to bring your own girl!  Rip Off.

I’ve always admired the Navajo people for their contributions during WWII.   But their history is kind of a brutal one as is a lot of native American history (not us Cherokees of course, we are peaceful ;) )  I originally wanted to take a night and spend it on one of the Navajo reservations up in Monument Valley where some tribes still live closely to the way they did a hundred years ago.  I couldn’t find where to do this trip at, so stopping and talking with some Navajo’s and Apaches who were selling some ‘authentic’ Navajo stuff was good enough.  The guy I talked to was a descendent of Manuelito, who I think was the last official Chief of the Navajo’s.  He had quite an interesting perspective on history, and just life in general.  A lot of the natives I found were sort of quiet, not quite sure if they are shy, or just say more by saying less, but it was interesting.  Continuing south I passed through the Red Rocks in Sedona.  Sedona was the epitome of a Cowboy down and like Moab in many ways.  Would love to go back there.  On the way south I stopped at the Montezuma Castle where the Sinagua people dwelled for hundreds of years before vanishing around 1400.  The people themselves didn’t vanish, but for some unknown reason they fled this little cave dwelling which was a fascinating piece of construction.   

Phoenix: Land of Crime & Hunnies
I was fortunate to get to meet up with my friend Jared in Phoenix, whom was a part of my small group at the Church I go to back home, and stay at his place for a night.  He just moved to Phoenix about 3 months ago and just moved into his place about a month ago.  In addition to that, a few weeks prior somebody had thrown a cinderblock at his backdoor and stole a tv (left the remote though).  We took a quick journey over to this famous burger joint in Scottsdale called Greasewood Flats.  What I learned about Phoenix, according to some, is that there is a 10:1 Girl to Guy ratio.  It’s consistently warm, so for you single guys I recommend it as the place to be.  Some other places I’ve discovered are perfect for single guys, and these are just based on my observations are Austin and Charlotte, Phoenix is definitely right up there with those two cities. 

The Shoplifter.
The next morning, I left Jared’s house early and went to get some gas at a nearby gas station.  After paying and putting the cap back on, a guy comes running out of the convenient store followed by the cashier running and hollering after him.  I’m not sure how much he stole, but I decided what the hay, I’ll follow the guy to see where he’s going.  He had run over to a grocery store that was across the road so I was in a perfect position to follow him.  I followed him (in my car) to a nearby rundown neighborhood so I went back to the gas station and reported to the cashier where he went.  He thanked me and told me the guy comes in almost everyday and usually pays so he was astonished that the guy would steal from him.  It wasn’t enough to call the police over, but if it happens again, at least the cashier knows where the police can find the guy if he ever does it again. 

My final stops in Phoenix were at the state capitol, and the Hensley’s Budwieser distribution (owned by John McCain’s wife), the guard there must have thought I was a little nutty for wanting my picture taken in front of it but it was a classic shot.  Next Stop…California

Back On Top: Utah To Arizona

The Colorado disaster, although ending on a good note, took a lot out of me mentally, spiritually, financially and I caught myself wanting to come home.  That was before I met Utah.  

I came into Moab later on in the afternoon and had just enough time to get a good hike in up at Arches national park.  The hike didn’t take me to the main delicate arch itself, I figured I’d save that for the next day when I had more daylight.  The national park there is remarkable and there is so much to do for those who love the outdoors like myself.  Rafting, horseback trails, biking trails, plenty of hiking the only problem is this time I didn’t have time for all of that because I wasted so much time in Colorado.  I had to be in Arizona in a couple of days to meet my cousin/sisters in Flagstaff.  I did get to hike up to the delicate arch (although I really wanted to bike it). 

The Rest of Utah
Such a gorgeous state and I think it’s highly underrated.  It was very green up north, the Great Salt Lake was pretty and not too far from that was the Bonnefeild salt desert which I had fun driving on.  A little slushy though.  I was really booking it this day, leaving Moab after an early morning hike, hitting up the state legislature in Salt Lake City, driving past the Mormon Temple there, The Great Salk Lake and then the desert, it was a busy day and my final destination for the night was Vegas.

In Nevada, I took the Great Basin Highway, then the Loneliest Road, followed by ET Highway and swung by the outskirts of Area 51 to see if they would shoot me and try to see if I could catch a UFO along the way.  I saw some weird stuff but no UFO’s.  I arrived in Vegas, late, very very late, however, this city does not sleep.  No, I did not gamble.  Not that I’m overly opposed to it, I just think this trip and life itself is enough gamble for me.  The next morning I stopped by the famous Gun Show and took a shot at Osama Bin Laden with a 1928 Thompson automatic.  I even dressed up for the occasion.  Passed by a replicate Simpsons house and headed for Arizona.  

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Colorado Adventure that Wasn't but then Was

Plans For Colorado
When I entered Colorado I was excited and had high hopes for lots of outdoor adventures; camping trips, fly fishing, hiking, overnight trail rides, maybe some rock climbing, the whole works. None of it happened.

Instead what I got were snowstorms, some lost items, and a swollen esophagus. Things did turn arou however, after close to a week. Due to the whether, I was unable to fly fish at any location I went to, Estes Park, Aspen, Breckenridge, Frisco...I stopped everywhere in search of good weather and could not find it. I had not given thought to the fact that Colorado does not experience spring in many places but rather it jumps from winter straight to summer, and winter was not ready to quit. Also, Colorado is the kind of place where you have to plan ahead, way ahead, if you want to get the most out of it. I then came up with a couple of crazy ideas that would make Colorado fun...including learning how to wrestle an alligator. This did not pan out either.

Denver & The Shaman Priest
Despite my failure to make the most out of Colorado, my first day in the state was great. I toured the state capitol, visited with the staff members of the House Majority Leader, shared some stories about working as a legislative aide then got a tour of the US Mint. This might not have worked out, I had my backpack on and the guards wouldn't let me in, but there was a gentleman named Mike who was kind enough to give me the keys to his car which was parked just five minutes away (my car was way over on the other side of town), I had to run and a five minute window but was able to make it back in time for the tour. The Mint tour is free so I advised hitting that up if you're ever in Denver.

Later, I went to a nearby starbucks to catch up with some people back home when I was suddenly and randomly approached by a hippie looking guy with a ponytail..."Looks like you're planning a roadtrip" he said, I had my map out so this was pretty obvious. "Yeah, me and my wife did that for a few years once..." he continues on and on and somehow we ended up in a conversation about how is wife is a palm reader and the 'real deal', not like all these other "junk" psychics. Uh huh. He himself he later revealed, is a Shaman Priest, or in otherwords a "witch doctor". I thought this was intriguing and he told me about the experiences he's had getting involved in the wiccan rituals with other witches near Manitou Springs whom they he said, are pretty "hardcore". Now, I don't know much about this stuff but I told him it would be sweet to go to one of these covens and preach the gospel and how I planned to do this (halfway joking), he literally feared for my life and gave me his card and told me to call him if I got into any trouble. These people just happen to be celebrating their annual Betane Day in Littleton, Colorado.

First Trip Ever to an ER
Of all the crazy things I wanted to do in Colorado, and of all the things that COULD have put me in an ER, what got me?...A piece of frikin' that is. You have got to be kidding. So after being trapped in Frisco for a couple days b/c of snow I headed out to explore Aspen and hike up to this famous hot spring there. Halfway along the trip I stopped at another ma and pa diner as I always like doing and after the first bite into my lunch I suddenly can't breath, but was able to gag enough to allow some air to flow. For 20 minutes I couldn't swallow anything down, water would bounce back out as quickly as it would go in. I never felt anything like this before. Mike the manager was kind enough to take me to an ER which was literally right behind the place. Seriously, the whole time I'm sitting there I'm thinking, "What?!? A piece of food? Seriously, this is ridiculous, why couldn't I have had my finger bitten off by a gator!?" Lame. It actually turned out to be kind of serious(possibility of it going into my trachea), and it actually wasn't entirely my fault. Apparently, my esophagus was swollen and I have what is called eosinophilic esophagitis or something like that. Basically a disease where white blood cells build up in the tube between your mouth and stomach. Ya' learn something new every day.

The Most Awesome Dork I've Ever Met
A title I will display with pride. Give me a holler if you want to hear about this one :)

Ransomed Heart MinistriesThe next day after my trip to the ER, when I decided I had enough of Colorado. Nothing I wanted to do had worked out and I was tired of lingering, so I set out to head south onward to Moab, Utah. As I made my way back down south I stopped at a few guest ranches and outfitters to network in case I ever wanted to take a summer to work out there. I got a return call from a ministry I contacted the first day I was in Colorado called Ransomed Heart Ministries. I gave up on hearing back from them but I had finally heard back as I was on my way to Colorado Springs for they had just gotten back from a retreat. If you haven't heard of this ministry, it includes the authors of the books "Wild At Heart" and "Captivating", both very good books. While John and Stasi Eldridge were not there (they were at their son's graduation) I had the pleasure of meeting Sue and Greg and they were very incredible people. They gave me some audios and stuff to take with me for the rest of my trip. If you guys are reading this, thank you so much for the gifts. After my frustration at the ER, those things provided really uplifted my mood and I am so grateful for your generosity.  The extra blessing venturing out that way was getting to hike around the Garden of the Gods, and spending a night in Durango which was a cool town and I got to meet some very cool people.  So despite the hiccups, Colorado ended on a good note.

Tootles For Now,


PS: The picture of me and Joel Olsteen is now up on Facebook, thanks Amos for the picture!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Build a Castle, Not an Empire

Greetings on this Sunday evening, and Happy May 1 from Colorado!  The place where God vacations.  I know I promised I wouldn't get too philosophical, but that's half the fun of this blog right? To tell stories, give thoughts, and to keep in touch.  By the way, some of you have asked, and yes I'm aware of the tragedy that happened in HOD, I've been trying to wrap my brain around it.  I will always remember him as being a kind, true southern gentleman and the epitome of a professional.  Thank you everybody for keeping me informed, please continue to pray for the family.

One thing I've noticed since entering my 20's and the working world is the emphasis people place on titles.  Director of this, CEO of that.  Titles are proudly waved as a display of success but the truth is, if you try, they are rather easy to obtain.  In Delaware, I can actually incorporate myself and become Joel Hensley, Inc.  I can be the CEO!

There are those who earn the right to their titles.  I've been diligently praying to God about this and hope that he will help me obtain things of long-lasting value.  That might not necessarily get me the kind of 'titles' which sound cool, but ultimately it will be more rewarding.  The truth is, with hard work, the titles will follow.  To me, character is more important and that is what I will do my best to strive for. Get into something for the right reasons and not for the prestige.  What gets me (or as Peter Griffin from Family Guy would say, "Grinds My Gears") is when people seek titles at the expense of other people or of a cause, how many have sold out in many ways for the sake of titles?

So my advice is this, do not seek titles, work hard and do what needs to be done...sometimes you'll receive titles and recognition, sometimes you won't, but to seek a title solely for its own sake is a mistake.  As Angus McFadyen (as Robert The Bruce) in the movie Braveheart said it best..."Lands,titles, men, power...nothing.  I have nothing," or as Wallace said earlier in the film "What does it mean to be noble?  Your title gives you claim to the throne of our country but men don't follow titles...they follow courage."

Castles and Empires
As the headline of this blog says, seek to build a castle instead of an empire.  What is the difference?  Castles last longer and are built on a strong foundation, they are stable, they build from the ground up, they do not move, they focus on reinforcing what is already there and making it strong.  Empires on the other hand, stretch themselves thin, looking for more to obtain rather than strengthening what it already has.  Empires with the exception of a few, typically don't last longer than a few hundred years, if that.  This can easily be applied to politics, but in your own life, seek out the things that will remain and don't decay quickly over time.  Go for quality and not quantity and ultimately the things that last forever which I will touch on at a later date :-)  .