Saturday, June 9, 2018

Abandon Ship!?


This shit still work? Has anyone paid the fucking light bill? The custodian? Yelled at the neighbor kids about smoking blunts because it upsets the dogs? This place smells like an abandoned locker room and poorly aged bullshit. What happened to our grandiose blog about life lessons and irresponsible day drinking? Does Mason still work here? Did we hire a caretaker to water the succulents while we decided to fuck off to nowhere to be lazy because writing is too damn hard? I could of sworn we had a cat. Clearly we’ve had squatters, but I don’t think they published anything unfortunately. At least there would have been some outward appearance of activity here. So it goes, Mr. Vonnegut often reminds us. So it fucking goes, as I think of it. Just seems better when you have to use so many cuss words.

We really only had 3 stools and a couch that was never good for anyone’s health to sit on. Squatters took the couch, thank the almighty, but I’ll do my best to dust off the stools and set them aright. I’ll clear out the beer cans and the cigarette butts and the moldy trash can liners and blow the dust off the few books we could afford to line the shelves with. But I’m far from meticulous and I’m working in a chaotic space so don’t expect the following to adhere to thematic presentation with thesis arguments and page numbers and figures and bibliographies. I’m just passing through because I had to use the john and it seems the place could use a little dust up and in doing so, I’ll write some stuff on the walls while I meander around. I doubt the central air works but I’ll open the windows and let the spiders in. Besides, the squatters didn’t find this old whiskey bottle and “if you plan to cheat the devil, you owe him an offering.”

A lot of times we talked about current events so just to sort of “go through the motions” of what it is we used to do, here’s some of my thoughts on the condition of our current condition:

-Racism, still alive and well, has started having more spawn points, and the fiends are getting stronger and braver. Of course this is difficult for many of us to see and hear about, especially the collateral damage of racist beliefs and actions. On the other hand, we gain real insight when we stop pretending and admit there’s a problem. Once we can go there, then we can dress the wound and find some remedy and begin to heal. We need to talk to each other, see each other, and listen actively. I don’t know if that’ll be enough, but it’ll be a helluva improvement from our current trajectory.

-We seem really angry about shit lately. Instant gratification, instant information, instant indulgence is eroding our ability to digest, process, dream, heal, and meditate. Our anger is as instant as our love, as our hate, as our apathy, as our attention span. We give in to divisive persuasion too easily as our news has become entertainment while our consumption drive becomes unattainable. We can’t keep up with the Jones’, we can’t even keep current on our mortgage. And while we’re all fired up about what fucking bathroom someone should use, the world burns around us.

-If you let fountain Coke get warm and sit around awhile, it sort of tastes like mold. 1/10, would not recommend.

-Racism and anger and fear, these are all demons and while we must fight off our demons, we can still learn things from them, question them, and “don’t give in to their logic” as my good friend Dr. A.M. Lazer once told me. Face them down and many times I find them to be much smaller than first perceived, much less powerful, and even their once mighty bark cannot mask their feeble frame.

-There’s too much suicide. Good, solid people who contributed much to the fabric of our culture are leaving us and it seems endemic. If you love someone, don’t believe their bullshit, but also show them your love, your admiration, your pride in them. We’re too hard on ourselves and don’t show enough appreciation for those around us.

-We’re all too offended by shit these days. Especially those of us who are offended about those being offended by something. It’s okay to not have a position on something; to question it, to think about it, mull it over, and to constantly reevaluate. Just because some news anchor or dude on a podcast or the talk radio figures have an absolute position on something doesn’t mean you have to as well. It’s important to have a moral compass but it’s also important that the compass is calibrated from time to time.

-The lesson I’m learning most lately is this: being open and honest with others is terrifying and you are definitely opening yourself up to embarassment and pain and possible betrayal but there is also the chance that you’ll connect on a more meaningful level, and experience incredible connectivity to those around you. We hide from each other too much. I think it would be better if we drop pretentious facades more quickly, more often, more easily. It’s a good practice in humanism. This doesn’t mean you can trust everyone equally or in equal measure. That’s your call.

The whisky is running out and the lights are definitely not working. If I find myself in the neighborhood again, I’ll bring some of those new car scent air fresheners shaped like a poorly drawn pine tree and I’ll probably being packing. This neighborhood is sketchy as fuck when the sun goes down.

From the abandoned offices of BD&LL

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Who the Hell is Phil Vassar?

I recently purchased a laptop to make it easier for me to get my thoughts down in this blog whenever I feel like writing a little something, but with so much going on still with elections, protests, and everything else that divides us, I’ve had a tough time finding motivation to actually write anything. I’ve definitely had more thoughts on these subjects recently, but as I’ve written on so many controversial topics lately, I just was looking for something positive to write about.

I tend to ‘feel big’ when it comes to issues that we’ve been dealing with lately and it’s pretty easy to get depressed when you see so much negativity slung back and forth amongst your friends and neighbors. I’ve always tried to make a conscious effort to research things I don’t know much about rather than just relying on Facebook, Twitter or any other source of information that can be manipulated by straight opinion over fact and I’m currently reading a few books to help me to better understand a few of these things which I will discuss in a future post, but for this post I wanted to get back to the Banana Daiquiris of this blog. 

After dealing with so many serious issues for a while here, I felt it was time to let loose a bit and talk about a recent positive experience I had with my cousin Scott.

A week ago my cousin Scott had come from Fort Worth, Texas to come and see his mom and his dad (who is currently battling cancer). They were always the closest (geographically) relatives we had and consequently they were more like brothers and sister to us than anything. 

When I first started going to college in Moorhead, Scott was subbing and living in Fargo and eventually took a job with the railroad. In the short time that he was there, we spent a ton of time together and got even closer. We could certainly still find ways to get into plenty of trouble together and one of my funniest memories is of him being the drunkest guy at my 21st birthday and telling my mom how beautiful she was and then kissing her! The night continued down those lines for a while until Scott disappeared only to show up jumping on my bed at 6am telling me to wake up because he just got out of the drunk tank and my neighbor, his girlfriend, was not too impressed with him.

From Fargo, Scott followed the BNSF career to Wichita, Kansas where he continued to move up the ladder for the company, and even found a girl willing to marry him! His brother, my cousin Mike (who I have no doubt would literally kill someone for me) joined Scott in Kansas and found himself an awesome girl as well not too far from where Scott had found his wife Michelle…with Amanda, Michelle’s sister! Both girls are awesome people and holidays are now so much easier for all of them!

Scott eventually got another promotion and is now residing in beautiful Fort Worth, Texas (I actually have no clue how pretty it is as I keep telling him I’m coming to see him but just never do because I’m apparently really busy…). Somewhere along the line my cousin, who grew up 20 miles away from me, has developed a southern drawl and a love for country music (apparently).

When Scott made the trip up to check in with his dad (who seems to be gaining strength every day), he made a special point to come over and see us in Red Lake Falls. With my school bus driving I was only able to make it out to lunch with him but I had suggested that he come back later and we could go see the band that our buddy Jesse had playing at his bar, but Scott had wanted to see a guy who happened to be playing at the Casino in Mahnomen, MN for quite some time and asked if I would be interested in coming with him. The guy’s name was Phil Vassar and I had never heard of him.

After a quick Google search I found out that this Phil Vassar was a country musician and I am not a country music fan by any means (Zach Brown is the only band I like at all). I told my cousin that I wasn’t very interested in a country show, but he guaranteed that I would know some of his music for sure and that I would like it. I hadn’t done anything sporadic for a while, so a random country music concert at a casino with one of my favorite cousins sounded like something that had to be interesting and hopefully memorable.

After my route, I drove the 20 miles to my aunt and uncles place and had a nice visit with them and stole a slice of pizza, then Scott and I were off to my second country music concert ever (the first was to hang out with a girl…the sacrifices we make).

I figured that we were in for a good show when the first people I saw after getting a couple of drinks was one of the craziest guys I knew in college…but that was a long time ago and he happened to be with his pregnant wife. So I guess the jury was still out…what was I in store for?

My go to move when I’m forced to listen to country music at all is to listen to all the words and drink copious amounts of alcohol (I think that’s what all country music is about, right? That and T-Swifts latest breakup.), so I was starting to get a little buzz going when Phil first showed up on stage. I had never seen the guy before in my life, so I wasn’t sure who exactly the lead singer was before he started rocking (or countrying?) out on his piano, and although I wasn’t familiar with the song, he was pretty darn good and not at all the country I was expecting.

As the night went on Scott kept saying, “oh, you’ll know this one.” But I never did. He did play some other popular songs, as well as some Christmas songs which I was familiar with, but even though I didn’t know the music, it wasn’t bad and the guy really put on a good show. If I have a complaint it would be that he never brought his biggest fan (see video below) onto the stage. This guy literally danced the entire show except when security told him he had to sit, at which point we tried to start a, “let him dance!” chant which really fizzled out before it got going. But time heals all wounds, and before long he was back up dancing and doing his thing.

The one person Phil did bring on stage was a birthday girl, probably around his age, who did her best to put the moves on him while he sang her a song. Scott and I ran into her and her husband after the show in the casino and he did not seem too impressed when we asked he if she got a room key from Mr. Vassar.

If I wasn’t having a good time hanging out with my cousin, watching the dancing man, and all the random people dressed up as elves and other Christmas characters, I would have changed that when Phil played his final song of the night…Purple Rain. If there was ever a guy who knew his audience, it was Phil Vassar. The crowd went crazy, I tried to video tape it but eventually the music just took over and I had to be the crazy Prince fan that I am.

After the show Scott and I decided to keep the night going a little bit by stopping in the Casino bar for another couple of beers and to listen to the band that they had playing in there. At this point I’m not sure how good the band was, but they looked like they hadn’t changed their wardrobe or hairstyle since the 70’s and totally rocked it (literally this time). They played a ton of Fleetwood Mac and other 70’s and 80’s rock tunes and said they had just opened for someone like ZZ Top or someone not too long ago. I’ll be honest, the details at this point are starting to get a little fuzzy…I hope there really was a band.

At one point while Scott and I were enjoying what I hope was a band and not a hallucination, a pretty girl came up to chat with us. She apparently either took her mom to the show, or her mom took her, either way she was probably in her early 20’s and still trying to fit into a bar scene…but she was with her mom.

She came up to our table (still with her mom) and was kind of flirting a bit with us and asked us how old we were, at which point I told her 30 for some reason (apparently I thought shaving 3 years off my age would convince her and her mom that it would be cool to have her come 60 miles back with me to good old Red Lake Falls?!). But as she continued to talk with us she lit up a cigarette (you can still smoke in the reservation casinos - which is disgusting) and proceeded to fake smoke (take a quick drag but don’t inhale, then immediately blow the smoke out). When she began to “smoke,” her mom immediately started in on her about how bad it was for her and then went on to kind of rag on her for not doing it right anyway, which really was quite funny! Pretty soon my oldness started creeping in as well, and I was sounding much closer in age to her mom than her (which was probably the case). I began my whole, “smoking is bad and one day you’ll regret it. We all have to go through that rebellion stage but someday soon you’ll realize how dumb it is,” old man thing. 

I’m actually pretty surprised she didn’t take me right there on the casino bar floor.

I wish this story would end with me making some sweet moves on this girl and the night getting really interesting; maybe we meet up with Phil and just continue to tear it up into the next day, gamble all of the shows receipts on black jack, lose it all then just continue to party. Join Phil’s tour, become a full roadie, learn an instrument, join the band and eventually take over for Phil himself…but I had to drive bus the next day again, so we hung out at the casino for a while to sober up, played some black jack (I did win a bit), then headed back to my aunt and uncle’s place, grabbed my car and headed home.

The nights aren’t quite as wild as they once were, but they can still be random and fun. I tend to not go out as much as I used to, and that’s certainly alright with me as I am undoubtedly getting a bit older every day, but whenever my cousin Scott comes to town I am still more than willing to throw caution and common sense to the wind and do whatever comes our way…even if that means attending a country music concert. This night showed me that I’m still young enough to rock and roll, but also old enough to lecture pretty girls at the bar about the poor choices they are making…all but ensuring that one of those poor choices won’t be me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Truth be Told

This is not a credible news source. I do not generally start off my posts with statements like this, but after all of the fake news sources and stories being spread throughout Facebook during the past election and continuing still, I’m not sure what people believe anymore.

Throughout the election I kept seeing posts from people which obviously came from right or left minded groups but were easy to spread because they were written to agree with what the person sharing them wanted to believe, even if they weren’t true. I, like many Americans, made the false assumption that this was a minority of people, that the majority of our country had had to do a book report or two in their educational career and knew the importance of citing legitimate sources. I believed that after being told that these stories were not in fact 100% true, and in some cases not true at all, that people would look into it a little more and then feel silly, but would be more careful with what they posted and shared moving forward. But to be honest, I felt that they were so obviously false that I didn’t even need to say anything…as it turns out, I was wrong.

Here is a clip from the John Oliver show which you really should watch. It’s about a 30 minute segment so make sure you have some time to watch it all (you can maybe skip the last 5 minutes where they just run a montage of people saying “fuck 2016”) but the rest is really good, and depending on your hope for America, kind of sad:

If you don’t want to watch, here is some of the quality information taken from the show:

62% of America says they get their news from Social Media

44% of Americans get their news from Facebook specifically

Of the sites most shared on Facebook which sway towards the Right or Left, 38% of the Republican sites and 19% of the Democrat sites were found to contain some falsities or be a completely false reporting of facts and events. (A key here would be that any % is bad, Democrats aren’t better just because they have a smaller percentage, 19% is still way too much!)

The problem with these sites (Here’s a link to check out some of the ones people have identified) is that a lot of people are taking them as facts; I’m not the only one who made the mistake that people truly would be able to decipher the difference.

In Oliver’s show he talks about how President-Elect Trump even cited false data from stories during his campaign and when called out he responded, “What do I know about it, all I know is what’s on the internet.”

But he also fueled these fake news organizations with the things he was saying on stage at his rally’s and during the Presidential debates, one stat that was grossly falsified was when Trump claimed that 81% of whites were killed by blacks in gun deaths, when the accurate number was actually 15%. A claim that Bill O’Reilly called Trump out on.

The sad thing about all of this is not that it led to the election of Trump (It may have been one of the factors, but there were definitely more), but that we are willing to defend these sites as cold hard facts even after they are proven to be false. It has caused us to have a mistrust for the media (which isn’t entirely unwarranted) but most of the false claims aren’t coming from trusted sources such as The New York Times, Washington Post, or some of the other big papers out there. They’re coming from sources as listed on the link above and because of that we no longer trust papers that actually give a damn about the truth. Can they choose who to back and report more on positive stuff that they agree with? Absolutely. But they hold themselves to a higher standard whereas, even if that is the case, you can rest assured that the story will be truthful.

One of the underlying problems here is Facebook and social media in general. It has obviously evolved into a news source rather than just a gathering spot for individuals to share craft ideas, recipes, and give each other crap about fantasy football or deer hunting. My friend Chris had posted an article on Facebook, about Facebook (where I get my news)…my head may blow up…where they talk about it being time for Facebook to start to try and do something about this large stream of false news being propagated throughout their medium (HERE’s the link). When I first read the article another RLF native had commented that it would be a slippery slope, which I completely agreed with…but then I opened my eyes more to what was happening on the web site.

Each day I would log on and see so many of these false stories being shared and re-shared and commented on as fact and I was worried for where our country might lead if this is how we get our “news.” I thought maybe I should start to attempt to do something about it, so I started to comment on a few about how the story was false and then I would link to an actual news source for back up, or if someone just presented data, I asked for their source so that I could check it out.

The first one where I provided an actual news source didn’t have any follow up responses as of when I last checked here, but the second one where I asked for their source was what really got me.

The post claimed that Trump had won the popular as well as the electoral vote (which isn’t true – Clinton was up over 700,000 in the popular vote as of this posting) and was very detailed, going through the numbers in each state to show that Trump was the overall winner. The post also said, now we can stop the debate, here are the facts!

So I commented on the post, “Not that it makes any difference because Trump won the Electoral College and is in fact our President-Elect, but I was just wondering where you found this information as there has been a lot of false news reports out there and I am just looking for Trust Worthy sources.”

Obviously I was being a bit condescending as I knew the information to be false, but I just wanted people to start to think about checking their sources a little more.

The response: The person deleted my comment.

I would have been fine with them deleting the post, I would have been fine with them deleting my comment and then saying in their post, “according to …..” to show where they found the information, but by deleting the very question as to the source of the material the person was willfully spreading lies, in which case they were no better than the fake “news” outlet in which they were spreading falsities. So is the power of Facebook. People who read his post who do not question it will share it as fact and will debate it with fury, but the truth is we’re no better than the people who are trying to profit off of advertising revenue generated by these false sites, the only difference is they’re running a business and we’re running from the truth.

Next time you have to help your child with a book report and have to find at least three credible sources to support your claims, please do me a favor and cite some of the sites you are posting about on Facebook. Let’s see how it turns out when the site doesn’t hold out in academia but is spouted as truth to your friends and family on social media.

Think it doesn’t matter? Kids come on my bus telling me that Hillary wanted to take everyone’s guns away…show me a credible article where she states that. Now remember that the next Presidential election will be held in 2020, so the kids I see on my bus, 14 and up, they’ll be part of the voting process…let us just hope they have the gull to actually know that they are voting based on facts rather than what “100% Fed Up” or “Occupy Democrats” is reporting as facts. Let them learn from our mistakes, and let us start to question our sources once again.

We get to choose the media we read and believe, the results of the this past election may have been swayed by false news sites, but in reality we have no one but ourselves to blame. We demand better from our youth, it’s time that we start to demand better from ourselves. I know the slogan for terrorism is; “If you see something, say something.” So if you really want to protest, let’s protest these false sites by calling them out. But don’t just yell at your friends and tell them they’re wrong; point them in the right direction. Check their source and then find out if it’s accurate or if you find it not to be, point them in the direction of where they can find accurate information. It will be hard as people are pretty sensitive to being told they’re wrong (especially after finding a “news source” that specifically tells them they’re right) but be persistent…the fate of our democracy lies in our hands.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Brief thoughts on the Donald

In the great words of the Foo Fighters, “I have another confession to make!” (I had to put the exclamation mark, because that’s how I always hear this lyric)

As it turns out, I’ve been totally corrupting your kids.

For those of you who are not aware, my side gig (or main job, I’m not sure how that works) is as a school bus driver, something I’ve done now for somewhere around 4 years I believe?! The years sure fly by!

In this time as a school bus driver I’ve gotten to know some pretty awesome kids and families. When I started I wanted to do something extra for these kids, as a bus driver I know that other than their parents I’m one of the first people they see every morning, and how someone starts their morning has a major impact on how their day goes. It goes without saying that I try and be as positive as possible when they come on my bus, trying to call them all by name and tell them a very emphatic “Good Morning!” (There’s that exclamation point again!)

But after a little while driving I wanted to add even more to their morning and daily routine. I started putting up little inspirational quotes and life lessons every day and that first year I had the kids bringing me them whenever they found something that they thought constituted a life lesson or just a great quote about living life to the fullest, loving who you are, and just overall words of kindness. I was even able to get some of the kids to do little homework assignments throughout the year where they really got a chance to show me their creativity, and surprisingly, most of the kids did them!

But the life lessons are the things that I guess I’m apologizing for at this point. Throughout these four years I’ve tried to stress the importance of loving yourself, no matter what anyone else tells you. To stick up for yourself. To treat others like you’d want to be treated. To not judge a book by it’s cover, and to recognize the beauty that is all around you. Overall, I just want them to recognize the positive things that surround us every day and to know that they are better than good enough to do anything. I also try to express to them how important empathy is, and to try and know other people’s stories before you judge them, as well as the treacherous idea of lumping groups of people together based on any small part of them that makes up a wholly unique individual.

I apologize for this because there is an individual who is currently running for our highest political office in America who seems to have gotten there by shitting all over these ideals that I have been trying to convey to this next (great) generation.

I recently shared a post from the Daily Show with a statement saying that if someone’s daughter, niece, friend, or whatever brought home a guy who said something like Donny here said, you’d be much more likely to greet him with a shotgun rather than voting for him for President. And the sad thing is, this is just the most recent of hate filled speech that he has spewed. He has alienated the disabled, Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, Women, and pretty much every group out there (Warren Buffet doesn’t appear to be a huge fan either), and he’s done so in multiple ways, multiple times.

I know people aren’t too keen on voting for either Trump or Hillary in this upcoming election, but the sad truth is that no matter how hard a third party tries to dethrone the Republicans or Democrats, the individuals running there (most notably Johnson and Stine) aren’t really that impressive either. So we will end up with either a Trump of Hillary President and I guess when I watch these debates and I think to myself, which of these two candidates do I feel are going to be more diplomatic? Which one do I think could be the best President? I watch as Hillary lets Trump talk and talk and talk (mostly repeat, repeat, hate, repeat) and then when she speaks, he constantly interrupts her and shows absolutely no respect, I wonder to myself how he’ll do as our symbol of leadership not only to our American people, but also to the citizens of the world. Trump is the stereotypical arrogant American that has spurred other countries to hate us worldwide, and the idea that he even has a shot at this election makes me question our countries moral compass as well.

The good thing that this election may spur is the idea that the two party system isn’t working anymore. If, out of all the people who could have ran, these are the two best our major political parties could come up with, then maybe it’s time to dig deeper, remember that our founding fathers never wanted a simple two party system, and find someone who steers this country in the direction most of us want it to go in. A direction that once again puts us as a beacon of hope for other countries, not the laughing stock this election season has brought forth world wide.

Until I hear from parents of kids who ride my bus telling me to stop spreading love with daily life lessons and quotes, I’m going to assume that you’d like your kid to not turn out like Donald Trump…and I guess I have to assume that means you don’t want a person filled with so much hate, to run our country.

Here are two quick things I’ve been thinking about with this election and the case for Hillary as well:

1.       When I was born the president in office was Ronald Reagan (Saint Reagan to some). By most accounts people thought he was a pretty good president, although everyone has had their flaws as well. Just a couple days ago a great friend had his first child, a daughter. I can’t help but think how cool it would be for her to have only spent a little time on this earth before knowing that not only can women do absolutely anything in this world, but also that she lives in a country where people support that idea.

2.       The less popular of these two thoughts, HRC was tried for her “crimes” and nothing came of it. Last I checked we live in a country where you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Not that they always get it right, but it is what it is.

Bottom line is this: I love the kids I get to drive every day. I love that they’re interested in not only the little quotes I put up daily but that they see situations in their own lives that these quotes relate to, and come and talk to me about them. I love that they are interested in who will be our next leader of America and like talking to me about such things. I like that they have great heads on their shoulders and parents that care enough about them that they let them join the conversation. I just hope that my talks with them maybe show them that there is good and bad in this world and that often we can’t do much about the bad, other than try to be the good.  To quote one of last week’s life lessons,

“I’m looking for a world where love will no longer be extraordinary.”

                                                                           -         Patch Adams

Maybe you still totally want to vote for a bigoted asshole, and thanks to this great county we live (it is still an amazing country despite what you may have heard) you can certainly do that but just make sure you get educated. Watch the debates, read some unbiased media, check which candidate your views most align with here, and get yourself registered to vote here!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I'm with Kap.

If you’ve never seen the movie Watchmen, the opening credits (which this scene was taken from) is easily one of the best done ones I’ve ever seen, which says a lot because I am highly addicted to movies! It’s a scene which illuminates the tragedy at Kent State where a peaceful protest was broken up with uncalled for military force. It’s also a great way to start a blog post where I will defend Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem protest.

I am very surprised (actually I’m not at all unfortunately) with the reaction that this protest has received. From people saying that he should be thrown out of the league for not standing for the National Anthem, people calling him un-American, saying he has no right to say anything because he makes so much money playing a game, and even bringing up his heritage as a half white, half black man, and those were the nicest of the things that people were saying!

But here’s the thing, for everyone who says that this protest is backwards, that he shouldn’t be disgracing the Anthem because it stands for everything he’s trying to fight for, you’re wrong. The National Anthem was derived from a poem from Francis Scott Key, a poem which ends with some pretty racists things:

"And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:"

What this portion of the poem is referring to, is the fact that the British offered to free any slaves who joined their forces (A promise they kept) and Key is relishing in the fact that they were able kill so many of the traitorous slaves (which in itself is a pretty big oxymoron).

But, what we celebrate is the first part of the anthem and many, many years ago (actually only in 1931) this was declared to be our National Anthem which was to represent everything that America stands for, and what we’ve recently found out, there is a heavy emphasis on the “Stands.”

So if I was a black man or woman, or heck if I had had relatives somewhere down the line who had been slaves, then I could see taking offense to this song, despite it being our National Anthem, but I think we all know that the slavery thing isn’t what this protest is about. What it’s about is the perceived amount of social injustice the black and other minority individuals and groups have to face every day. Something that is hard to dispute, and given the increased notoriety and exposure of the most recent, questionable shootings we have seen across all media (social, mass and all channels really), it is hard to dispute that there certainly is an issue that needs addressing.

Eric Reid joins Kaepernick's protest

So what happened after those shootings? What most people remember is the mass rioting and the call that all police officers are bad, and by rioting I mean they burnt shit down! And by all cops are bad, I mean some crazy bastards went after innocent officers and killed them, simply because they were wearing a badge (a badge which reads, “To Serve and Protect” even!). To say there was unease in this country is a massive understatement.

So some time passes, and Mr. Kaepernick has some time to think about all of these issues that minorities are facing, and as a professional athlete in arguably the most popular sport in the world (it has to be getting a little closer to soccer by now right?), he says that he can do what so many of those other people can’t or wouldn’t do. He can take a stand by taking a knee.

Now taking a knee was not his initial posture as I’m sure will be pointed out to me, he sat down during the National Anthem and the country went batshit (See how popular football is?). He is not a veteran protestor, he is a human being who saw some injustice and wanted to bring some attention to the cause and to do so in a nonviolent way. After the first initial backlash and his explanation, he has now started taking a knee rather than sitting, so that he can still show respect to the men and women who have fought and died protecting his right to protest.

That’s right people, those people that you are so concerned for, the ones who have fought and died for our freedoms, including the freedom of speech and the freedom to peaceful protest, those are the things they are fighting for! So when people say that Kaepernick and the others who have now joined him are un-American they are downright wrong. Other than a few people’s feelings, he is not hurting anyone or anything.

Kaepernick has been joined by players from other teams:
here opposite Brandon Marshall from the Denver Broncos

But there are people out there that say things like, in this country we stand for the national anthem, and if you don’t like this country than you can leave!

But those are truly the un-American people; they don’t get what this country is about at all. We disagree all of the time, and I guarantee that a lot of the people who have been vehemently bashing Collin Kaepernick and the rest of the NFL protestors have also spent plenty of time bashing the President of the United States of America, which seems like it would be un-American as well, but once again that would not follow suit with what this country was based on, and the rights and freedoms that men and women fight and die for every day. You get a say in the conversation, and you may be chastised for it, but not punished by law unless you are threatening or violent.

A lot of people are also bashing Collin because he is no longer the starting quarterback for his team and they say that he is just an attention grabber, that he’s simply doing this to be in the spotlight. I also have a problem with this. The man was the starting quarterback for a team that appeared in the Super Bowl just a few short years ago. If the subject of the protest wasn’t so important to him do you think he’d really be drawing all this attention to himself and occupying the time with the media which could be spent on trying to win his spot back? Football obviously is not the most important thing on this man’s mind as of right now.

He’s a spoiled rich kid from a mixed race family. He hasn’t known the true troubles of the people he is defending and really shouldn’t get a say in it.

Right after 49 individuals were killed at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, I made a Facebook post stating that I was a gun owner, that I loved shooting and hunting, but that I felt that it was time to do something towards stricter gun laws. I said I wasn’t sure what we could do, but that it was time to start the conversation towards change. It wasn’t up a minute before I was being attacked for wanting to eliminate all guns. I had to double check what I had posted because I didn’t remember saying anything like that, but I was certainly being called out by several individuals.

Generally I’m pretty socially passive about these things. I might have an opinion, but I’m not going to voice it as I know that backlash for certain topics is flat out crazy (that’s right guys, you’re fucking crazy), but this bothered me as we had just recently lost all of these innocent people and it seemed like individuals were more concerned with their guns than with real human lives! Remember, I wasn’t saying anything about taking guns away, just stricter gun laws, or any ideas on how to work towards keeping the guns away from mentally unstable individuals…fucking crazy.

So I said screw this, I’m fighting the good fight here because idiots generally drown out the voice of the reasonable and I wanted my voice heard about working towards a better future with less gun violence. I matched every comment I received and even started commenting on other posts, kept stirring the pot to call out all of the lies people tell on subjects they find so near and dear to their own wellbeing. It was a strenuous task, and I’m sure I didn’t gain any friends by doing it, and the bottom line result from the whole thing was nil. Time passed and apparently our country once again forgot about gun violence as we’re so apt to do once the NRA and their enthusiasts get involved. Congress staged some sit-ins but then went on their scheduled break, so as most people generally thought may happen, we returned to the same shit, us just sitting back waiting for the next mass shooting to occur.

My point with my experience is this, I’m nobody. I’m just your average middle class Caucasian American who grew up in a good home and who writes silly thoughts on a silly blog. My stage is pretty small as I climb upon this soap box where we have about 200 people who once clicked the “like” button on our Page and I can also share my posts with all of my Facebook “friends,” many of which (like most individuals on Facebook) I have not spoken with or seen in years.

Now look at the stage the Kaepernick commands. The man sits down during the National Anthem and the next day the whole country and a lot of the world all of a sudden is drawn to this man and his message. It’s a big commitment, that little act of revolution.

And it shouldn’t matter if he’s black, white, both or something else. The Seattle Seahawks show of support for the message was without question on point. They stood in unity, not as a support strictly for the flag and against Kaepernick, but in unity for unity. What Kaepernick is fighting shouldn’t be a black thing; it should be a people thing. We should all be pissed off by the injustice we have now all been exposed to through police and anti-police violence, and an individual brave enough to stand up (or sit down, or kneel) in order to get the conversation started again should be heralded for his non-violent protest, which is an unalienable right of all people in a democracy.

I never thought I'd be a fan of anything Richard Shermann ever did,
but this show of Unity by the Seattle Seahawks was truly patriotic.

I stand with Kaepernick on this issue, because it’s an issue that needs to be addressed. It’s similar to why I made a stand for stricter gun laws. I live in this little utopian realm where when I see injustice, I feel like it’s my moral obligation to try and make it right if I have the power. In America we all get a voice, what we do with it is completely up to us.

So how will you use your voice? Will you sit and complain how this person is ruining your favorite past time by not standing during the national anthem (while you probably sit on your couch or easy chair watching the game), or will you respect the balls it takes to continue to kneel despite all the pressure he’s facing not only about his cause, but while trying to keep his job?

It is your unalienable right to disagree with me, but don’t try to say that what he is doing goes against America, because it is what makes America great, and look at that, we didn’t even need Trump to get us here!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Life Lesson in Progress...

The summer of 2016 was certainly a great one for us at Voyageur's View, as we dealt with more and more families and just generally great individuals of all sorts. We had far too many rainy Saturdays, so our overall numbers were certainly down compared to what they have been in the past, but as we make a concentrated effort to provide a better camping experience for all, the experience is becoming a better one for our guests, our staff, ourselves and we'd like to think, our community. But our transition hasn’t been an easy one...

 When Christopher Ingraham first came to town last summer I spent some time discussing with him how our campground had once been known as a "party" campground and that we had really been doing our best to make it more favorable for families and just anyone who was looking for a great camping experience and he asked me, "How? How do you go from a party atmosphere like that to a family friendly one?" and that question certainly gave me pause.

 Ten years ago we decided that we had had enough of the crazy antics of some of the individuals who kept coming to our campground. We were certainly starting to get older (although I was only 23 at the time), but more than that, we knew that we had a beautiful facility that our parents had worked so hard to make a reality and we didn't like seeing people come in and destroy it. I would also say that it was pretty safe to say that a lot of the community did not respond favorably to our crowds or our operation. We knew that we didn't want to keep running it the same way, but the question first arose then.

 How do you turn a "party" campground into a family friendly one?
Well the answer had to start with the problem. How do we eliminate the individuals and groups who just want to come and destroy the place, party and leave? For those of you who remember how the place used to look mid weekend, there would be tents all the way out to the road and garbage would be flying all over the place as the clientele at that time did not care how the place looked. So we started with that issue. We started by cutting back the number of sites that we rented for our busiest weekends a little each year. We then would make golf cart trips around the campground to remind people to make sure they were using their garbage barrels and bags so that their garbage wasn't blowing around everywhere. It seemed like a pretty simple request, but when we would come back later, the garbage would still be flying all over the place. So our next step was to tell these individuals that they now had 30 minutes to pick up their garbage or they would be told to leave our campground.

 I know it seems a little harsh, but we needed to take a stand against the elements that were ruining our beautiful park and garbage was certainly an easy thing for individuals to keep track of, and after getting a warning such as that, it should be easy enough to get your crew to grab a couple pieces here and there and pick up your site. But if they didn't have it picked up in the allotted time, well, you never get anywhere with idle threats, so we evicted sites.

 It is important to note, too, that at this point we still were not taking any sort of damage deposit for our sites; it wasn't until our sister started insisting on taking a credit card imprint to make sure the sites got clean that we had any other sort of recourse than to remove individuals. If you ever drove by after a long weekend and saw our crew out picking up heaps and heaps of garbage, it was all done by individuals who paid less than $12 per site.

 I could go on and on about the horror stories of how asking people to pick up their garbage would even lead to fist fights and the involvement of the very awesome Sheriff's Office we have here in Red Lake County, but suffice it to say that without steadfast determination to vastly improve the atmosphere of our campground, there is no way we would still be around.

 Our security personnel back in the day (which usually consisted of our dad, Ryan, myself and few awesome local friends) really should have been getting hazard pay. They didn't take a lot of crap from the really bad people they were dealing with, but because of that, they made it known pretty loud and clear that certain behavior would no longer be tolerated at our facility. Patrick Swayze's Road House character certainly could have been inspired by some of these awesome guys that we had working for us!

 So we kept dwindling the numbers of our campsites until we got to what we felt was a manageable number, where we didn't need a staff of 10 - 12 guys at night to ensure things weren't getting burned down and our security crew got a bit tamer.

 We next had a great crew who had some military and law enforcement background who took the reins for us, as we had started to see a decline in the individuals who were only coming to destroy stuff and started to deal with more individuals who had serious attitude problems. This group of security was awesome because not only were they good at conversing with our guests, but when a problem did arise they knew the legal code and were able to assist our local law enforcement in not only making sure any perpetrators were being caught, but that they were also being prosecuted.

 Who wants to come back to a place where you actually have accountability anyway?

 We seriously can't thank all of the crews that came before enough; they paved the way for our new breed of security guards, who are certainly more on the customer service realm of the spectrum than anything else. They are as personable as you could hope for and they also have a background in bouncing at bars around the area so they have had their share of dealings with intoxicated individuals.

 It doesn't really seem to matter what you do, or where you camp, chances are you're going to run into individuals who have had a few drinks. Ninety-nine percent of the time, this is not an issue, most people are pretty fun loving and respectful regardless of their impaired state, but every now and again, we still get groups or individuals who push the boundaries a little too far, and only in extreme cases do we ask any of these groups to leave the night of an incident. Our general rule now is to make sure the group is in bed, not being a pain for the groups around them and then we go and speak with them in the morning to tell them that they are no longer welcome at our facility. We then speak with the groups surrounding the problem site and let them know what the situation is, and try and reassure the other groups that this is an isolated incident rather than the norm. More times than not, we will also refund the groups around the problem site so they know how seriously sorry we are that they had to put up with the rude behavior of the other campers.

 So after explaining all of this to Chris, we then had a few weekends where we dealt with some real jerks. They were removed from our facility for various infractions of our rules and were certainly very rude to our staff and other campers while they stayed with us and on their exit from our facility.

 In the past we would deal with these individuals while we were removing them, lose a night or two of sleep over it, and then just get back to dealing with great individuals. But those times of only dealing with these jerks at our facility appear to be over, as the new generation of (excuse my French) assholes, are now taking to the internet to bash our (and I'm sure every other) company for not allowing them to do whatever the hell they want.

 We saw it all this year from false allegations of sexual assault, to made up user names and emails to leave multiple reviews to hurt our overall rating, to a really classy group who tried to target the family market by claiming they had been down to our facility with their families and had a terrible experience because of our rude staff and terrible facilities.

 The good news is that we have a lot of individuals who come to our facility once a week (if not more) all summer long. Groups who have been coming since we opened in 1985, who once brought their wedding party but now bring their grand kids. We also know that we maintain our facilities better than most campgrounds because the thing is not a business to us, but another part of our family. As far as our staff goes, these reviewers better watch out because we have the absolute best kids that work for us. Saying something bad about them is not a wise thing to do. We have always been a family business and those kids (a lot of them are kids of individuals who will read this) are like little brothers and sisters to us (maybe kids as we're no longer that young I guess!).

 We've tried to provide a family type atmosphere to our guests because our end of the operation has always been a family atmosphere. The kids that worked for our parents in 1985 still come back to check on our dad as well as tell stories of our mom. They come to see the place where they probably had their first job, and second family. We'd like to think that it's the same reason that our guests return year after year, and week after week.

 For years we had it listed on our website that we did not recommend our activity for families on the weekends due to the crowd we drew. There are still remnants of that crowd that we are working diligently on removing (damn the reviews!) but this year we re-did our website and removed that as well as told a little more of our story, to let people know that we are a family run operation that encourages family to take part in our activity.

 Maybe it was the fact that we lost our mom far too early or the fact that when that happened, those same wonderful kids that we consider brothers and sisters took over the operation for us so we could grieve. Maybe it’s the fact that although many businesses are brick and mortar, ours has many moving parts including a heart that beats stronger everyday with the wonderful guests and staff we get to call friends and family.

 Ask me how you change a "party" campground into a family campground and I certainly won't have any direct answer, but for us it's always been one and we won't stop improving the atmosphere until it feels the same way for all of our great guests. Partiers, Internet Trolls, and everything else I'm sure we'll see in the years to come are but side notes to the unbelievable people we get to serve and work beside every day. Plus, there is no state more beautiful as the one we live in, and the natural beauty of Red Lake Falls certainly sells itself, just ask Chris, Bri, Jack and Charles Ingraham!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Part 1 of the Adventures in the North: The Unfamiliar within the Familiar.

On Friday evenings, I drink. Heavily. I should blame it on being a Midwestern Northern WASP male. But I don't, I blame it on being alive and I blame it on myself for letting my job grind me up into a working-man-zombie-burger, USDA Prime, aged 32 years. And while the blame is being divvied out: I blame the repeal of the 18th amendment, Jimmy Carter and the states California and Washington for spearheading the craft brew movement, Kentucky for the sweet, delicious, scrumtrulescent nectar of the Old Gods: bourbon, and the human race for it's pure luck and ingenuity; our proclivity for taking every advantage of a fortuitous accident. The birth of the new is rooted in the Chaos of the present. Not that I'm going to drag us into the philosophical rabbit hole or make you choose the pill that makes you larger against the one that makes you smaller. If so inclined, go ask Alice. Or, in good faith, Jefferson Airplane.

I digress; detoured not lost; Fridays I drink because I work.

You work, you get paid, you drink.
You get bandannas and ice cream when you win at the track.
That's life.
So I do what WASPS do. I took a vacation. A homecoming actually, but without the pomp and circumstance. Just to my liking.

 Minnesota. I hadn't been home during the summer since 2013, I think. On account of weather, don't feel bad for me. Especially if you're from the North. I know you won't. I live in the land of perpetual sunshine. California. Is not a sentence, but a land of many things: the bear flag (badass), Surf City, Fame, Xanax and Chardonnay Lunch. But at this time of year there is a small window of time in the cosmic experience where the weather in my two homes, Minnesota & California, is essentially the same. There was a slight bump in humidity, but summertime Minnesota, next to a lake, during the summer, has Orange County California beat in the beauty contest by droves of mosquitoes. Correction, swarms of mosquitoes. 
Minnesota, in a canoe, on a lake, during the summer, is heaven. Here's my friend, Ed, who braved the waters in the canoe with me. Thanks for paddling 5 miles with me, Ed. Not to mention the 10 miles of mountain biking.
If it weren't for the open plains and perfect square sections of land I got a bird's eye view of coming in, it seemed the tin-can time machine, owned and operated by Allegiant Airlines, failed to transport me across time & space. Irony is proof of God, for irony can be no other than God's sense of humor, which is, by necessity, wonderful. That said, it is quite ironic that time travel takes so long. The time magnified and slowed exponentially by the pain developing in your ass. Airplane seats suffer the same disarming fate of anything that could be good: value engineering.

But the flights were uneventful this time around. I'm grateful for that. Fuck turbulence.
The North Farmlands. Just outside of Fargo.
Look at all that open space, California.
I wrote another blog about home in 2014. You can find that here. This piece is not that one. Here, I explore and discover within the familiar. In 2014, I expressed the feeling of the familiar - the experience of being home. While this piece and that one may share feeling, sentiment and nostalgia, the following, I hope, is more experiential and experimental than it is existential; though I am sure it is that as well. This one has 137% more pictures though, so... there is that.

First off, I became a Godfather and an uncle. I told you God has a sense of humor. I'm sure Grady will grow up to be a fine man. I would only be concerned with the influence of his Godfather. That should probably be limited for the dude is a little off. Also part of life.

Second, I drank there too. Though not as much as Fridays in general, except for the Thursday I was there. That was like a Friday. 
When in the North, drink it.

So after flying in to Fargo, spending Saturday and part of Sunday with my in-laws, attending the baptism and swearing in of the new Godfather, I parted ways with my in-laws and my wife. Taking my ever faithful shadow dog Tater-Tot, we ventured off to my hometown, Lake Bronson, MN thanks to my good friend and resident mad-man, Josh (more on him later) who delivered me from Fargo to Grand Forks and my wonderful mother, who, in the big city, was searching for a new fridge since the one at home from the Reagan years finally died, brought me the rest of the way. Not that it matters but  Lake Bronson is home to less people than were on my flight to Fargo, but I love it just the same. Perhaps because of that.
My faithful companion Tater Tot seen here
making sure the Frisbee is dead before
demanding I bring it back from the dead
by throwing it. Again. And again. And..
So once I was settled in and my parents grew accustomed to this silly man-bun thing I had going on, I had a couple beers, some Pizza Corner pizza (one of the old and one of the new, not the same), and got some rest for I had plans for next day.

Monday, I awoke, made some coffee while I allowed Tater out in the wide open nothing to do her morning business, and searched around some of the sheds on the property for a mountain bike. Once procuring said bike, I loaded it into a car that was much too small to handle said bike and hence required the assistance of what is called a "bungee strap" (or "tarp strap" to you weirdos) in order to deliver it, flat tires and rusted chain, to my father's auto shop. After some penetrating oil and dry graphite lubrication, as well as some adjustment to the breaks and shifting mechanisms, I was able to get the bike back into working order. 

My wife's bike, which had found it's home on my parents
property, gets set for another voyage. It proved to almost
kill me, or rather I did by way of it.
The bike was a necessity, for my plan was to bike to and within Lake Bronson State Park. The town of Lake Bronson was once referred to just as Bronson. During the depression, the WPA was utilized to dam the river in the neighboring area and create a lake. Thus the state park and the lake, christened Lake Bronson for the town, came into existence. Then, the town was renamed Lake Bronson. A lake named for the town, the town named for the lake. God at work again with that irony.

I packed backpack, water, granola bars, a towel, and my wife's extremely expensive camera (what could wrong?), drowned myself in sunblock, packed what I thought was a working bottle of mosquito repellent and took off for the park. It's a mile out of town, but due to a grant the town received, a bike path has been built from town to the park, and to the dam. Not that it's really needed. There isn't much traffic. There isn't any traffic, really. I raced a tractor into town during the week and mostly won that race. But I'm mostly out of shape too. So I'm mostly just awesome then. According to my Fitbit it took me 12 minutes to make it from town to the dam. Maybe not so awesome, but it was a fun ride. I took some pictures:

The Lake Bronson dam from the down river side. It was flowing really well when I was home due to a recent bout of rains in the area. A great roar of water filled my ears while it took me 20 attempts at a panoramic.
Here is really bad picture of a picture inside of a plaque
depicting the construction of the dam in 1937.
There is much more to share and as such, I planned from the start to break this up in parts. Probably a trilogy because trilogies are awesome but I won't know for sure until I get there. Some highlights from the next episode!

*Mike sees a boat!
*enters the ranger station for the first time in his life
*climbs a popular attraction
*remembers to remember he's just an okay swimmer
*almost dies! Bears live here..

I hope you come around for part 2. Some personal notes on me right now:

Listening to: "White Bear" by The Temperance Movement
Reading or recently read: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, "For Whom the Bell Tolls" by Ernest Hemingway, "Catch 22" by Joseph Heller. Upcoming reads: "Jailbird" and "Mother Night" by Kurt Vonnegut and "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck.

Whiskey & the Wolves is still being built member by member, football season is coming up, and I'm just learning how to deal with long hair like the California hippie I'm supposed to be. Here's proof of how terrible I am at it. Take care, readers and may we meet again on the long road back to the middle.