Category Archives: Life

Generation Complication: Play

Work is important, and so is play. Often times it feels like even leisure activities manage to become a new source of stress and complexity.

In this post I’m not referring to large scale or important events like traveling overseas, weddings, graduations, funerals, and so on. These all do require massive planning, coordination, reservations, and cost sharing.

Don’t Make Fun Events Stressful

In short, don’t make otherwise fun events, stressful ones.

Growing up, my parents would make me and my siblings all wear matching outfits and pose for our annual Christmas photo. There was always a rush to get dressed, a rush to the photographer, a lot of yelling, a lot of tension, a lot of my sister and me getting grounded for – gasp – not having authentic smiles.

Then stress would manage to sneak itself into the holidays themselves. Every year without fail my siblings and I were rushed to open our parents presents, then immediately whisked off to Grandma 1’s house, and then plucked out and flung over to Grandma 2. There was never any breathing room and the experience sucked the life out of the fun.

Christmas-de-stress

Traffic accidents, funerals, IRS audits, cancer in the family, and Piers Morgan evoke negative emotions, and rightfully so. But not everything needs to be a stress fest.

Your family’s annual Christmas photos should not be stressful. Christmas and Thanksgiving should not be stressful. A trip to Disneyland should not be stressful. A vacation should not be stressful. Camping, road trips, beach trips, going to the movies, parties and casual get-togethers should not be stressful.

If you’re stressing out over something that’s supposed to be fun, you’re doing it wrong.

Don’t Over Plan

I’ve witnessed people of all walks turn leisure activities into stressful activities, and simple days at the beach into overcomplicated logistical nightmares.

As a kid in the 90’s I didn’t have a cell phone or social media account, but miraculously I was somehow able to hang out with my friends after school, on weekends, and during the holiday breaks between semesters.

My mom did have a cell phone, but not everyone did. And before texting was popular and Facebook was even a whisper, somehow her and all her friends and relatives managed to coordinate parties just fine, without the endless game of ping pong that we now call planning a party.

Please don't....
Please don’t….

These days, planning a party or social outing requires no less than 87 text messages, satellite imagery, and four carrier pigeons. Where are we meeting? Can we move it back? Whose car are we taking? Who’s driving? Who’s coming? Where are you parking? What are you bringing?

Having fun yet? Remember, keep it simple, stupid.

You Only Need One Chief

Democracy sucks sometimes, especially when it comes to festivities. A lot of people like to weigh in or change something about an event for no other reason than they get to feel like they were in control. If you schedule something for Saturday they’ll ask to move it to Sunday. You schedule it for 2pm, they’ll insist it get pushed to 4. You plan on everyone meeting at your house, they want to get picked up. You already have a static plan in place, but they insisting on altering it in some way. There are always going to be people who attempt to swim against the tide. Don’t let them steer you off course.

I remember the good old days when planning went like this “This is the time. This is the place. We’ll find out who’s coming when we get there. I’m leaving my place at 11 if you want to hitch a ride. Hope to see you Saturday! Oh, and bring some friends!”

When hosting, be the chief..
When hosting, be the chief..

Don’t be uncompromising where it’s easy and convenient. 15 minutes here or there won’t kill you. But once the original planner is feeling like this is no longer what they wanted to do, it’s gone too far. Pick one chief to lead all the Indians.

Hosting Simply

When it comes to hosting a party, especially at home, here’s a simple tip. More is better. Expecting 10 people? Prepare for 20. People may bring a friend, or at the very least an empty stomach. My mom and dad are notorious for running out of red wine at their house parties and I always get stuck on a liquor run. You’d figure after all these years they’d learn we have a family of alcoholics and simply double down in the wine department.

When you throw a party don’t be conservative. Expect to throw down some mullah and don’t expect to make it back. You wanna be the host with the most? It’ll cost ya.

Costco
When hosting events, Costco is your best friend.

If someone’s friend or significant other decides to tag along, it shouldn’t throw a major wrench into your perfectly planned watermelon-slices-to-people-ratio.

Besides, if you over purchase anything, there’s no reason you can’t eat hotdogs, artichoke dip, and red wine for the next two weeks. The meal of champions!

Attending Simply

Bringing a little something to take the pressure off the host is always appreciated. Of course what you bring depends on the nature of the party, and if you’re sticking around or simply poking your head in for a quick visit to show face.

Attend Simply
Someone invite this guy to the party!

Whatever it is you bring, make sure it fits the party.  Go with the flow and bring something that would please the crowd. If you aren’t sure just call ahead of time and ask what the host is running low on. For summer parties you can never go wrong with beer, ice, and chips.

Don’t be RSVP Hell-bent

This isn’t me saying that people should never expect others to RSVP. Sometimes there is a place for it, sometimes it really doesn’t matter, so pick your battles.

In my humble opinion, people are too RSVP oriented nowadays. This means that with any social gathering, regardless of the cost, scheduling involved, nature, formality, or urgency of the event, they fully expect everyone to affirmatively say “Yes, I am going.” Or “No, I am not going”. The days of “Hey we’re throwing a party, hope you can make it!” seem to be long gone.

It used to be this is what we’re doing, when we’re doing it, and whoever shows up shows up. These days you have some party planner up your ass and around the corner “Are you coming? Well are you?! LMK! Did you RSVP? Did you get my evite?! LMK ASAP!” As if your attendance will make or break the plan.

If someone can’t make it or doesn’t show up, miss them, but don’t harass them. There will always be a next time, and it’s not worth souring friendships over party attendance.

Thank you, Dos Equis man!
Thank you, Dos Equis man!

Generation Complication: Work

Through experiences with friends, high school, college, jobs, more jobs, and a career, I’ve learned some valuable things. Have you heard of Keep It Simple Stupid, or KISS? Simplicity truly is king, and it’s been lost on this generation. In this two part post, I’ll go over simplicity in Work, and in Play.

Work

I remember in college my friends and I had visions of grandeur. Every juicy idea we had was the big one, the idea that would turn us all into multimillionaires overnight and before we knew it we’d be throwing Gatsby style parties and posing for the cover of Forbes. We’d talk about going international, but would always gloss over the parts about going local. We praised all these bells and whistles our company would offer alongside our flagship product. Unfortunately those bells and whistles didn’t yet have a bike.

Before you set out to conquer the world, conquer your neighborhood. Whatever it is you or your business does, whether it’s brewing beer, grilling burgers, or producing cars, come up with a money maker or winning strategy, lock it down, and hone it in.

Americans are raised being told “you can be whatever you want when you grow up” and while that’s not patently untrue, it should be amended to “it’s possible to be whatever you want when you grow up, and it’s going to take some time”. This cliché reassurance parents give their children has resulted in many young adults believing that all they need to do is throw themselves into the wind, and success will simply follow.

The 9th Symphony wasn’t Beethoven’s first and only draft. There was the iPod before there was ever an iPod 2, 3, 4 or 5 – and it sucked. But it sold. But what did Beethoven and Steve Jobs have in common? They were both willing to put their nose to the grinding stone.

Your first restaurant’s menu won’t be a mile long. Your first invention won’t have a million features. And that’s fine! The big players in any industry didn’t spring up overnight. The good stuff takes time. It requires practice, experience, trial and error, success and failure. Allow yourself to be small and nimble in the beginning of any new venture. This gives you more agility and flexibility when it comes to reacting to unexpected situations or a changing market.

Don’t worry if your product only comes in two colors. Sell a few, save up, regroup, and when you are able to, come up with a bitchin’ third color.

So whether you are an entrepreneur or work for the man, expect to struggle for a little while you find your bearing. We don’t live in a vacuum, so be prepared to put in your dues and work well with others, as well as learn from them.

Keeping it simple is a good idea. But first, try starting simple and see how that goes.

The Cold Hard Truth about Beauty and the Beast

Okay, let’s set the record straight on Beauty and the Beast. I loved the Disney movie since I was a kid, but come to think of it, I have a bone to pick with a few things.

Despite common misconceptions, Gaston is not the villain in Beauty and the Beast. In fact, some might even argue he was the unsung hero of the movie. Yeah, maybe he’s a weeeee bit misogynistic and self centered, but to say he’s the villain of the movie is definitely over reaching.

For in town there's only she, who's as beautiful as me.
For in town there’s only she, who’s as beautiful as me.

Let’s get down to business.

He has Good Manners

Oh, you thought Gaston was rude? You’re so ignorant. Read a book already. While your bigoted self was bumping along to Belle, you may have missed the part where Gaston exhibited his amazing manners “Pardon… ‘Scuse me… Please let me through”

Gaston is the classic gentleman
Gaston is the classic gentleman

He’s Faithful

True, he never successfully wooed Belle, but he was faithful to the idea of being in a relationship with her. At the very least, it’s safe to say he wasn’t a philanderer. Remember those three banging blonde chicks who were always drooling all over him? Gaston could have had any of them, or all of them, but instead he had his sights fixed on Belle and only Belle. Is that true love or what?

Three banging blondes
Three banging blondes

He’s Strong

He can lift three women above his head, with one arm. You won’t even find a Cirque De Solei performer who can do that.

He can break a leather belt by flexing his neck muscles. Leather, by the way, has a tensile strength of 1800 PSI, and those are conservative estimates.

And what about the casual one-hand push-ups?

He even went toe-to-toe with the Beast in hand to hand combat.

He’s Not Afraid of Commitment

Most women complain that men aren’t willing to commit to a long term relationship. Gaston proposed to Belle and even threw her a wedding, and despite customs he knew her family was struggling financially so he paid for the entire thing himself. Talk about chivalry.

Commitment? No problem.
Commitment? No problem.

He’s Very Talented

He can juggle up to six eggs at a time without cracking them, plus an egg basket.

He's roughly the size of a barge.
He’s roughly the size of a barge.

He’s got a good vocabulary. Do you know what expectorating means?

He can fire a musket three times without reloading, which is actually impossible. So on top of everything else, Gaston might be magical.

He’s a Pillar of the Community

It’s quite clear that all the villagers look up to Gaston, not only as a source of leadership, but as a source of protection. He’s arguably the best hunter in the world, and it’s his job to keep the villagers safe from wolves, criminals, and other dangers.

Imagine this scenario. The townsfolk find out there is a dangerous monster who is beating and starving women, and locking people in dungeons. He already has two victims under his belt, and who’s to say there won’t be more?

Gaston bravely leaps into action, rallying the town and summoning their courage to confront the monster threatening their town. Does Paul Revere ring a bell?

The British are- er... the Beast is coming!
The British are- er… the Beast is coming!

And more importantly, let’s not forget who asked Gaston to go to the castle and rescue Belle from the Beast. It was Belle’s father, Maurice.

The Beast is no Saint

Beast may have got the girl in the end, but just because he was romantically opposed to Gaston doesn’t suddenly make him the hero of the movie. While people say Gaston tried to imprison Belle and Maurice, it was more like house arrest. After all, they were placed in their own basement, and for a few minutes at most.

Let’s not forget that the Beast successfully imprisoned both of them, and kept Maurice a prisoner for weeks. Beast only agreed to free Maurice go, if Belle agreed to take his place, with the intention that one day the Beast might get some giggidy time with her. That’s not just sexual harassment, it’s quite possibly sexual predation.

Gaston is the bad guy? Riiiiiiggghhhhhttt.
Gaston is the bad guy? Riiiiiiggghhhhhttt.

And of course there is the physical abuse, the forced starvation, the verbal abuse, the elder abuse, and the horrible work conditions suffered upon his employees. Come to think of it, the Beast is actually an asshole.

What about Belle?

On one hand, she had Gaston. A local boy who worked hard and trained to master the art of manliness and become the ideal provider and protector any woman would dream of. He constantly threw himself at Belles feet only to be rejected repeatedly.

Yay! Spousal abuse is totally worth wealth and luxury!
Yay! Spousal abuse is totally worth wealth and luxury!

In the end, Belle choose a man who was abusive in every way conceivable. Why? Because he’s filthy rich, and lives in a giant house with maids and servants to spoil her rotten.

That should come as no surprise to anyone. Here’s a clue, in the opening scene/song of the movie, Belle refers to living in a “poor provincial town” and talks about how she despises it. So Belle doesn’t like poor people, and she considers anyone from a small town to be a hillbilly idiot. Bigot much?

In conclusion, Belle is an entitled, classist, gold digging whore, and Gaston is the fucking man.

In With the New?

I swear, I’m not against change. You might think I am, but I’m not. Change can be good, change can be bad. I don’t think it’s quite accurate to make the blanketed statement “change is good”. I think change is just change, and good or bad depends on the situation.

Some people can be way too anti-change when it comes to certain things, for example changing their underwear, or apartheid. But nowadays I feel like the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, and now people are aching for change simply for the sake of change. They want new for the sake of new.

The new norm
The new norm

I don’t know if it’s a generational thing, or simply a contemporary societal thing, but whatever it is, I’ve noticed that more and more people are adhering to the out with the old, in with the new mentality. They’ve fallen for the whole ‘new and improved’ bit. But truth be told, new isn’t always improved and sometimes changing things too often or too hastily can be detrimental.

Technology

People are constantly burning through technology and replacing it with something newer. People say “OMG! I can’t wait to get the new iPhone 6!” but in other words they are saying “I can’t wait to get rid of my iPhone 5”.

There’s nothing wrong with upgrading from time to time, but if you have owned every. single. iPhone. that’s been released you might have a problem.

Losers.
Losers.

Imagine that at one point you were excited enough to camp out front of the apple store for three days in a fucking tent in 40 degree weather to get your new phone, and then imagine that in 9 months you’d be just as anxious to get rid of that very same phone. Does anyone else find this ridiculous besides me?

And let’s not forget the ever rotating roster of iPods, televisions, goPros, tablets, and laptops.

Cars

You’ve met the car whore, right? These people, usually men, change cars more often than they change their car’s oil. It’s too big or too small. Too slow, or not fuel efficient enough. Not enough storage, or a pain in the ass to parallel park. Whatever the reason, these people’s cars have a life cycle of 18-36 months. The second that lease expires, boom, new car.

Romantic Partners

I suppose this is worse than the car whore. You may notice I refer to a lot of things as whores in my various posts. Selfie whore, car whore, attention whore. But what about real whores? I get that in some areas like LA and NY being an actual whore is a rite of passage. Not knocking on casual dating. Or even casual sex. The people playing that game have a clear directive: DTF. They know they aren’t in it for the long haul, or even the short haul. The game is get laid and bounce, fair enough.

HPV waiting to happen.
HPV waiting to happen.

But what is up with serial daters? These people are incapable of not being in a relationship. There is no such thing as being single for them. They are eternally on the rebound. As soon as they are done with one relationship, they are immediately on the prowl for their next failed relationship. It doesn’t affect me at all. But I worry for these people, because they are constantly setting themselves up for emotional disaster. I wonder if they give actual relationships a fair shake, or if they duck and run the second things get a little shaky.

Fads

Another thing people are constantly cycling through is fads. More so now at an alarming rate than ever before. Forget tangible things like say consumer goods and ya know, human beings. People can’t even commit to a damn idea these days.

Gluten free, paleo diet, the green movement, the occupy movement, juicing, kale, acai, hands up don’t shoot, the ice bucket challenge, exercise, twerking, planking, Harlem shaking. These things are short lived fire crackers that ignited with a bang and disappeared just as quickly as they arrived.

fads

Think about something like Snapchat, which literally is a photo or video taken and shared with the intent of being discarded in a matter of seconds.

In With the Old

Again, I’m not anti-change. But there’s something to be said when people are constantly getting new cars, clothes, boyfriends and girlfriends, gizmos and gadgets. They are so fidgety and anxious they are always bouncing from one thing to the next, never sticking with something long enough to really enjoy it.

People can’t listen to the radio without constantly changing the station. They can’t even listen to their own playlist without changing songs every two minutes before the current track is done.

I’ve been told my blog posts are too long, even though they would only make up 5-6 pages in a paperback novel.

When I found out about Robin Williams passing away two hours after it was announced, my friend informed me “that’s old news”. Old news? Really?

People are hanging out with one friend but ignoring them, because they’re too busy nose deep in their cell phone texting someone else.

Yeah, new can be cool. But what about things that are so good they are worth keeping around for a long time? Isn’t that worth even more? What about not moving so fast that everything worthwhile is instantaneously converted into yesterday’s garbage?

In with the new, out with the old?

Forget that. In with the old.

Friends hugging
Friends hugging

My Take on Sons of Anarchy

I’ve been an avid fan of Sons of Anarchy since it first aired back in 2008. SOA lasted a lot longer than people expected. Series creator Kurt Sutter originally didn’t plan on the show lasting any more than 3 seasons, but with record high ratings and level of viewers, the show was stretched out to 7 seasons. I would say that with the exception of Season 3, the entire series was amazing. Here is what the show is, and meant to me. (Spoiler alerts ahead).

soa jax

Honest

Sons was dark, it was edgy, suspenseful, hilarious, bloody and violence, and at times it was even heartbreaking *cough Opie Cough*. Most importantly, it was honest and faithful. In that honesty, the show never pulled any punches. It didn’t take the easy route. It didn’t run your characters to the edge of a cliff and work up a nail biter, just to reel them back in like some bullshit CW TV show. Sons would kick him (or her) right off. Fan favorites, show veterans, women, and children. In Sons of Anarchy, nothing is sacred.

Sons of Anarchy is not dickless like Vampire Diaries

Sons of Anarchy is not dickless like Vampire Diaries

Faithful

It was faithful and ‘stuck to the script’. Kurt Sutter once had a quote on the SOA website blasting other studios for having no balls. SOA has balls. Big balls. They would go there. No other TV show would have had the balls to air anything remotely close to the Season 2 or Season 6 Premiers. It was also faithful to the viewers, and wouldn’t cut the story or viewers short, just to make filming easier. The 60 minute show would frequently air 75 or 90 minute episodes, usually 2 per season, the entire sixth season was 90 minute episodes, and the series finale crept up on two hours. Does your TV show do that?

Depth

If all you know about the show is what you’ve seen on the commercials or ads, then you haven’t the slightest idea what the show actually is. Get past the criminals, the bikes, beards, guns, skulls, and highways and show has a lot of meaning and depth to it, which I have explained below.

Religion

The show, and specifically the series finale was ripe with religious innuendo. The bread and the wine left by the homeless woman was obviously a reference to Jesus, and the sacrifice he made. Whereas Jesus sacrificed himself to cleanse the sins of his fellow man, Jax in his final days did the dirty work necessary to prevent his brothers from having to commit to sin at all. They get to live free of punishment, because of Jax’s actions. The way Jax died, arms spread out, also ringed of Jesus Christ. Heck, even Jax and Jesus both start with J, as did both of their father’s, John and Joseph. But that could be stretching.

Take this wine, this is my blood, which shall be given up for you.
Take this wine, this is my blood, which shall be given up for you.

Harbinger

After years of fans wondering “what’s the deal with that homeless lady?” Jax finally asked the question outright in the series finale.

Was she Death? Was she God? Time? I think she was Fate, but more importantly, she was a harbinger, or omen. She presented herself to numerous characters over the course of the show, but usually to Jax and Gemma. The common thread here is she always appeared just before a wave of change, such as before Jax’s mission to lead the club away from crime, or before his final rampage.

Harbinger of doom
Harbinger of doom

Death

The last thing the homeless women gave to Jax in their final encounter was her blanket, as if to give him comfort or solace. She knew what he was going to do, and that gesture reassured him of his path. Not only that, the blanket itself was instrumental in the execution (no pun intended) of his plan, before offing August Marks.

Most importantly, when Jax wore the blanket, he looked like the Grim Reaper – Death – which the show alluded to all the time. That was actually some scary shit.

Jax as the Grim Reaper in Series Finale
Jax as the Grim Reaper in Series Finale

Family

The show is all about family, and what you would do to protect them. I think this show’s answer to that question is “anything”. And what happens when one of your loved ones hurts another. The problem is that one man’s path to protect his family might cross paths with another, and when that happens, we witness anarchy.

This was no more evidenced than by Gemma’s longstanding and heated relationship with Tara, and their tug of war of influence over Jax and the kids.

soa family

Martyrdom

Martyrdom and self-sacrifice was as big a theme as any in this show. Jax and Juice selling their souls to protect the club. Tig sacrificing himself to avenge and protect his daughters. Gemma hiding her rape to keep up the morale of her family and the club. Tara sacrificing a promising career and future to love a criminal and raise his son from another woman.

But then there is the sacrifice. You know what I’m talking about. The moment that stands out tallest among them all: When Opie sacrificed himself to the prison guards to save his brothers. Without even any context, this scene was the most heart wrenching of the entire show. But why? Because Opie had already lost so much to the club. Of all the club members, he had spent the most time in prison because a fellow member betrayed him. Then Opie was set up to look like a rat, and in a case of mistaken identity his wife was viciously murdered at the hands of the club. Then, in an effort to cover it up, Opie’s father was also killed by the club president. It seems so unfair, because Opie had given so much already. But Opie also had nothing else to lose. The club was all he had, so for him self-sacrifice was the only move he had.

Opie made the ultimate sacrifice.
Opie made the ultimate sacrifice.

For those who are well read, Opie and this scene reminded me of the Boxer the horse, and what befell him, in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.

Anarchy

You’d think the Sons – given their name – would be all about anarchy, but they aren’t. The Sons actually have a very organized system set up for how they handle their affairs, and deal with members and insubordination.

Despite this, the Sons do land themselves in a handful of shitty situations that at times seem very chaotic. Chaos is the protagonist of the entire series. It is amazing how one misstep, one lie, one deception, one bullet, can result in such a devastating and endless series of events.

Yeah, Sons of Anarchy sounds cool. But I think the point of the club’s name is not so much to literally mean “children of chaos”, but more likely, that we are all the byproduct of chaotic situations. Jax Teller is the show’s biggest testimony to that, and despite his actions or best intentions, he couldn’t change himself or his club. As my friend Brett tells me, a rock cannot change the river.

David vs. Goliath

This ties back into the religious innuendo, but the underdog narrative also makes for good story telling in general.

In season one, the sons are a big fish in a small pond, operating unopposed in their small, fictional town of Charming, California. They are in the minor leagues, and their protagonists are a rival small time motorcycle club, a street gang in Oakland, and some skinheads. As the show moves on, the threats escalate, and the enemies the Sons encounter get bigger and badder.

The Sons graduate, and clash with skinheads, rival MCs, the Aryan Brotherhood, the ATF, the IRA, the Russian mobs, the Chinese mafia, crooked cops, sadistic US Marshalls, Mexican drug cartels, and even the CIA.

The World Keeps Spinning

With a lot of cunning, the Sons (usually) ended up on top, by the skin of their teeth.

I think the message of the show is to keep on keeping on. No matter what adversity you face. The problems, the troubles, the confusion. Do the best you can with what you have, work hard and push through to make the best life you can for yourself, your family, and your children.

We’ll always be remembered, but the world keeps spinning long after we’re gone.

soa world keep spinning

Thankful

With Thanksgiving a week behind us, this post might seem a little ill-timed, but the hell with it. I’m posting it anyway.

I have a ton to be thankful for. Some of those things are obvious like my health, a roof, food on my table, etc., and some are not so obvious, and I want to take some time to bring attention to them, and also bring attention to some of the people I am happy to have in my life.

My Parents

I am so thankful to have my parents. Not just parents, but my parents. My parents fucking rock. I wasn’t born super rich with a billion dollar trust fund to my name, but my parents always took care of me. Although divorced when I was very young, and even though they did not always agree, my parents had a unified front when it came to raising me. Many divorced or separated parents use their children as a bartering token, or form of leverage to enact revenge on their ex. My parents didn’t do that. When my (step)mom came on to the scene, she faced the obvious challenge of being a third wheel when it came to me. But if anyone asked me today, I would tell you have 1 dad and 2 moms. Not 1 mom and 1 stepmom. And my birth mother would agree with you. I’m fortunate to have been raised in a (very unusual) situation in which my parents were able to put parenting before politics. Something truly rare these days with divorced parents. Moms and Dad, I’m thankful for you.

My Enormous Family

Most of friends have but a glimpse of the size of my family. Let me break it down to you. As its height, I had 4 grandmas, 4 grandpas (yes 4 each), 2 moms, 1 dad, 1 brother, 1 sister, 9 aunts, 9 uncles, and 20 cousins. We’re unfortunately without Grandpa Hernandez at the time of writing this, but I’m still so happy to have my enormous crazy family.

Grandma’s house on Christmas and Thanksgiving was always the place to be. Drop in any random Wednesday and you’re bound to bump into a few cousins. Grandma would say I was “too flaco” and sit me down to eat something. Score.

There was the ever abundance of relatives keeping your ass in line. It truly takes a village to raise a kid. When I fucked up, and I did plenty, I had not just 1 or 2 relatives barking at me, I had a village of relatives lecturing me to not fuck up again. And for that, I am truly thankful.

My Good Family

Out of 25 grandkids in total, you figure at least one of us would have ended up on the wrong side of the law. Nope. To the best of my recollection, no arrests, no DUIs, no gang members, no domestic violence, no drug addictions, no alcoholism, none of that shit. Even an unfathomably low level of inter-family bickering.

Am I bragging? A little. But more importantly I’m thankful that our family instilled a sense of values into us. That none of us grew up to be low lives. That we all kept our shit together in rough times, and Grandpa passing was a very rough time. And that after all these years, our reunions still fill the house with noise and laughter.

 My Role Models

I had a very big and diverse group of people who raised me, in addition to my three wonderful parents.

Fred, Todd, De Veau, Johnny and Tawny, Jeff, Steve, Tobie, Vicky, Enas, Mr. and Mrs. Diaz and countless others.

If you read this post, you know who you are. You helped mold me into the person I am today (for better of worse!). You all kept my ass in line when I was a kid and even now into my adulthood. You are all honorary parents of mine, and I am thankful for having you all in my life.

My Awesome Friends

Getting older is tough. People grow up, and grow apart, and admittedly it can be very sad. I prided myself on having a select group of close friends, vs. an endless list of “associates”. Here’s a quick shout out.

Jenny, Adriana, Anders, Becky S, Becky W, Brett K, Brett N, Brian, Candice, Fred, De Veau, Jon B, Jon VM, Louis, Melody, Nick, Ryan, Stephane, and TJ. (Please notice with the exception of Jenny that was all alphabetical, so no one getting butt hurt on me).

I haven’t kept in touch with all of you as much as I would like to, but I am nonetheless thankful to have you in my life.

My Upbringing

I’m thankful for the life lessons I was taught and raised with.

Family is important.

Respect your elders. Look out for your siblings and those younger, weaker, or less fortunate than you. Stay together no matter what.

Work hard.

Work ethic is very important. No, don’t waste your years working away, but also don’t be a lazy sack of shit. My grandparents worked their asses off for my parents. My parents worked their asses off for my siblings and me. And I’m gonna work my ass off to give my kids the life they deserve.

Do right.

From a young age I remember my mom and dad telling me to do the right thing. “Boy, always do the right thing”. Those words echo in my mind every day. Don’t rip people off to make a quick buck. Tip well. Share. Be charitable. It’s not that I’m righteous or holier than thou. I’m legitimately thankful I was raised to be that way, because not everyone was and it pisses me off.

Martinisms

My dad is Martin, and he taught me what I call “Martinisms”. Here are some of my favorite martinisms:

  • If the mind is weak, the muscle must grow.
  • Stupid hurts.
  • Two in the chest, one in the head. When in doubt, empty the clip. Bullets are cheap, life is expensive.

And of course I’m thankful for bacon and California burritos.

Seriously though, this Thanksgiving I had a lot to Thankful for. For those in my life I hope you all know how thankful and grateful I am that you are in it.

Happy belated Thanksgiving everyone!

How Not to Use the Self-Checkout Lane

What better inspiration for a blog than one’s firsthand experience of something incredibly annoying? Recently, I was at Albertson’s patiently waiting for one of the four self-checkout kiosks to become available. I waited in line for what felt like an eternity (6 minutes), because the four other patrons ahead of me had a combined IQ of 17.

When grocery stores first introduced the self-checkout kiosks, they were God’s gift to man. The inept, the decrepit, the fearful, the outright lazy, and parents with kids dared not venture into the strange land of do-it-yourself. Why spend time scanning groceries when there’s a kid 10 feet away perfectly willing to do it for me, and bag my groceries alphabetically.

But one day the unthinkable happened. The sky darkened. Stupid people became more brazen, and starting using self-checkout.

Self-checkout machines were not invented as a form of entertainment, or to raise your self-esteem. The whole point behind the self-checkout lane was (and still is!) for people with only a few items to get in and out as fast as possible. All the rules about how to use and how to not use the self-checkout kiosks boils down to one thing: Hurry the fuck up.

Have Payment and Sufficient Funds Ready

What better way to look like an ass than to be caught pants down at the kiosk, fumbling for your credit card or digging in your pockets for an extra 17 cents. The kiosk didn’t just pop out of nowhere and boom, suddenly you’re first in line and caught off guard. While you’re making your last pass down aisle 12 and begin making your way to the register, you should be getting your ducks in a row. As soon as you find yourself staring down that machine, you should be hitting the ground running, ready to scan, swipe, bag, and bounce.

Payment
Have your payment ready

Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast

A for effort for the people who try to be quick. But if you’re going so fast every other item doesn’t get scanned, then F for execution. You know in the slasher films where the girl is being chased by the killer, and she’s trying to unlock a door but she can’t, because her hands are so jittery she can’t even stick a key in a damn lock? That’s how you look when you try to be a show off at the self-checkout. Take it easy, and scan each item methodically. If you really want to be quick, remember this one piece of advice: Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

Frustrated People
The cause of mass shootings

No Alcohol

If you haven’t figured it out by now, every time you purchase alcohol a store rep has to come over, check your ID, and type in some authorization code that seems to take an eternity. Even though the store lets you, the unwritten law is don’t go to the self-checkout if you’re buying alcohol because it holds up the line. As a matter of fact, when at self-checkouts, don’t purchase alcohol, cigarettes, or any products that require you to present an ID or get help from a store clerk.

Alcohol on Shelves
No Alcohol at the self checkout!

No Produce

If what you’re buying needs to be weighed, or if you have to manually scroll through an endless list of different breeds of tomatoes, then you don’t belong in the self-checkout lane. Women tend to be the biggest offenders of this rule, probably because women are more likely to buy produce, and men are more likely to buy frozen pizzas. If you’re getting one banana, your sins are forgivable. If you’re into juicing, or it looks like Carmen Miranda is hiding in your basket, then you need to get in a regular line. The rule here is: If it has a bar-code then get it. If it requires a scale then forget it.

No Produce
No produce in the self-checkout lane

No Coupons

In this instance, women are the only offenders. Coupon collectors are already annoying enough as it is when you’re in a regular line with a skilled cashier who knows what the hell they’re doing. Imagine the frustration of everyone in line behind you as you un-crumple a million paper coupons and tediously scan each one. The whole point of the self-checkout is expedience, not thriftiness. If you want to use coupons, get your ass in the regular line.

Coupon whores don't belong in the self-checkout lane
Coupon whores don’t belong in the self-checkout lane

10 Items or Less

Yo mother fucker, I see you over there and that’s clearly 12 items.

Seriously though, be courteous. I’ve noticed people have started breaking the 10 items or less rule in the regular express checkout lane. It’s becoming the new speed limit. The sign says 65, but we all drive 70, and cops let you slide by without a ticket.

If you require the use of a shopping cart to hold your entire purchase, then you don’t belong in the self-checkout. Baskets only people!

This person does NOT belong in the self-checkout lane.
This person does NOT belong in the self-checkout lane.

Leave the Kids at Home

This is a store, not kindergarten. If you can’t find a sitter, fine. But make sure your kids are well behaved, and most importantly, don’t let your kid use the machine. Yes, you win the parent of the year award for wanting to teach your toddler how to buy groceries, but when there’s a line of people behind you, set the kid aside and make haste. Kids are slow, and if they touch the wrong button or mess up the machine, then a clerk has to come over to bail you out. Teach your kid something useful like how to file taxes, and do it on your own time.

Kids Shopping
T-t-t-today junior! Leave your brats at home

Bag at the End

It sounds counter intuitive but from personal experience I’ve found it’s usually easier and faster if you bag your items after you’ve paid. When scanning, simply place the items on the weight tray. The kiosks usually take 5-10 seconds and the end of each transaction to process your cash or credit card payment. Use this time to two-birds-it and bag your groceries while the machine is wrapping up your purchase and printing the receipt.

The New Whores of the 21st Century

Long gone are the days of Sodom and Gomorrah. You pedal your ass on the street corner and still call yourself a whore? That is so 1990’s. No, no, no. I’m not talking about actual whores / prostitutes / hookers. Whores have evolved since then. In fact, the word “whore” no longer exclusively refers to someone who sells sexual favors for money. In today’s common usage, a whore can be anyone who over indulges in something – usually something incredibly annoying. It can also mean women or men. Let me now introduce you to the new whores of the 21st Century!

Selfie Whore

The term Selfie didn’t exist last century. In fact, it was first coined in 2005, making it less than a decade old at the time of this writing. But despite selfies being so young, they have gained tons of popularity and notoriety in the “social media” world.

Now, don’t confuse a selfie with a self-portrait, as there is a huge difference. Self-portraits have been around for centuries, are tasteful, and are intended to accurately depict what’s going on. Selfies are more of a disease, in which the selfie taker feels the compulsion to take pictures of themselves from exaggerated angles and lighting, in weird or inappropriate places, poised with stupid faces, to deceive the viewer of said selfie. They also look incredibly ridiculous while attempting to take the selfie.

Just take this girl for example.

Instagram Whores

When selfie whores graduate, they rank up to become full on Instagram Whores. Why stop at taking photos of yourself, when you can take photos of absolutely everything?! Duck faces and bathroom shots are so amateur. Instagram whores have mastered the craft of taking photos of their legs, their food, their pregnant belly, the sky, and their friends’ shoes in a circle.

Remember when you’d go to Disneyland with your friends, and there would be an Asian tourist aiming their camera directly at the ground, taking a photo of the asphalt? And you would ponder to yourself “What the fuck are they taking a picture of?” We’ll fear not, because taking pictures of dumb shit has officially become the cultural norm.

Man photgraphing the ground
I’m getting the angle juuuuuuusssstttt right.

I think The Oatmeal described it best, with this list of 7 things you really don’t need to take a photo of.

Filter Whores

An off shoot of the Instagram Whore is the notorious Filter Whore. As if taking pictures of dumb shit wasn’t enough, these people have to lie about the dumb shit they are taking photos of by applying wanna-be Photoshop filters on every photo they take.

Another recent phenomenon is the use of the hashtag #nofilter. I find this particularly interesting, because people feel the need to clarify “This time, I’m not lying”. First of all, it’s interesting because most of the time people use #nofilter they are in fact still using a filter. “Oh right, I’m supposed to believe the sky is orange in your neighborhood, and over here at my house 4 miles away it’s blue.”

Beautiful sunset! #nofilter  riiiiiiiiiiigghhhhtt
Beautiful sunset! #nofilter riiiiiiiiiiigghhhhtt

I have a novel idea. How about when you don’t use a filter, you simply don’t tag your photo, and when you do use a filter, you fess up and tell everyone what filter you are using.

Hashtag Whore

That gives us a nice, smooth transition into the topic of the Hashtag Whore. Taking photos of yourself at weird angles, dumb shit, and even lying about it is not enough. No sir! The truly committed whores have also reveled in the dark arts, and learned of a new evil: The Hashtag.

Again, I’m not against hashtags. Their original function was pretty nifty, actually. By hashtagging a photo, you allow other web-goers to find similarly tagged photos and posts they may be interested in. It’s like a crowd sourced search engine. Fair enough.

But then, the true hashtag whores came out of the wood work and do this.

The most annoying couple you know
The most annoying couple you know

Attention Whore

If someone has mastered all of the above, then they are officially an Attention Whore. Attention whores engage in social media, but not to be social. Their entire existence revolves around the never ending need to seek out attention from everyone and everything by any means possible. Facebook? Sure. Instagram? Of course. Selfies? Who doesn’t! Pictures of your food? Because taste buds are so old fashioned! Filters? Reality isn’t good enough. GoPro? I’m a hero! Hashtags? The cherry on top.

Nothing is too small, stupid, or pointless to share with the world for this group. Expect pictures of everything and anything. The food, the sky, themselves, their feet, their legs, how they look in the morning, traffic conditions, their reflection, their food before they eat it, their food after they eat it, their dog, their cat, their baby, their baby bump, sunsets, and sunrises.

Attention Whore
Because what good is a picture of the beach without your feet?

Why enjoy things for the simple sake of enjoying them, when you can rub them in everyone’s face? If it exists, by golly, they’ll post that shit to Facebook and tag it to death. But fear not! If not enough people Like it, they’ll delete that shit and post it again tomorrow.

Go Fuck Your Selfie
Go Fuck Your #Selfie

 

The People in Your Life

Some of my blogs are inspired by recent events like what’s on the news, or by something I had been dwelling on for days or even weeks prior before getting the nudge I needed (and a spare 45 minutes) to sit down and write about it.

This post is inspired by – but not about – a dream. This dream was intense because almost everyone I know or knew was in it. People from various circles of friends, and relatives from different families, and people from different times (or decades) of my life, all hodge-podged into a single dream. I couldn’t tell you what it was about, but it felt like going through 20 years of photo albums in one go.

I woke up, mind on fire. I’ve met so many people. So many interesting people. So many different people. They didn’t all have to be from different continents, from exotic places, speaking different languages. What makes them interesting and stand out in my mind is the vast difference in personalities a lot of them had. There were so many archetypes and personality types from opposite ends of the spectrum that my Rolodex of friends, family and acquaintances could fill the pages of an award winning TV series. Something important that I realized is that they were all there for a reason. Or at least, they all served a valuable purpose, whether I keep in touch with them today or not.

The people in your life all have a purpose. They each fall into one of two camps: They are there to either teach you what to do, or they are there to teach you what not to do.

Messy People

Some people are going to be messy, dirty, or unsanitary. Their purpose is to teach you to be clean, pick up after yourself, and to take good care of yourself and your surroundings. Take care of your personal hygiene. Exercise and take good care of your body. Take care of your environment, whether it’s your kitchen, bedroom, or car. Take care of the environment by not littering, not throwing your cigarette ashes out the window, and making as small a footprint as possible.

Messy Room
Honey Boo Boo’s home

Punctual People and Late People

Punctual People
Man looking at his watch.

Some people are going to be punctual, and their purpose is to teach you to do the same. Punctuality means more than showing up on time. It means RSVPing to let people know you’ll be attending at all, and doing it in a timely manner as well. Admittedly this is an area I can improve in, and have been actively improving in.

Other people are going to be habitually late, or slow to act. Their purpose is to instill patience in you. Many events are time sensitive. Many are not. Know how to tell the difference, and only rile yourself up when absolutely necessary. Showing up 10 minutes late to a wedding is worth an earful. Showing up an hour late to a football party is not.

People with No Drive

You’ll undoubtedly cross paths with your fair share of lazy, un-driven people. How this laziness manifests can take many forms. It can be in the form of a serial couch surfer who spends hour after hour, day after day, month after month, watching way too much TV, not progressing in areas of hobbies and interest, employment, or self-improvement. This is one of the single most important types of people you can meet. They stand as a cautionary tale of what not to do. Every time you sit down to watch TV, no matter how well deserved it may be after pulling 3 hours of overtime, you’ll second guess whether or not it’s worth it.

Slob
Honey Boo Boo’s dad

This group of do-nothings serves a very valuable second purpose in your life, and that is to teach you to help others. It’s not your job to fix people, but every once in a while everyone can use a little help or word of encouragement. Some praise, suggestions, or motivational counsel can go a long way. Learn to reach out to others who may be in need of help. If you can help them, great. If not, then at least you know you tried.

Stressful People

I know a thing or two about stressful people. Actually, without knowing you, I can bet you my left leg that I know more about stressful people than you ever will. These panicking, high blood pressure inducing individuals will be one of your greatest life challenges. Everyone stresses over big things like cancer, IRS audits, colonoscopies, going for 4th down, and being kidnapped by ISIS terrorists.

Stressful people stress over things like where to eat breakfast, a flat tire, a $5 late fee, burnt toast, spilled milk, someone else’s marital problems, the color of the sky, and how far you’ve driven since they last called you 15 minutes ago.

Learning how to deal with stressful people is one of the single most invaluable skills you can master. I consider myself a double black belt in this martial art, meaning I out rank Batman.

Stressful People
Stressful People

Seriously though, stress is a killer. Stress can ruin weddings, funerals, parties, social outings, careers, friendships, and marriages. If you let stress be the prevailing emotion, you will surely be miserable. Despite how crappy or dire the situation, taking it in stride will ultimately determine your happiness.

You can’t always avoid these people like the plague, especially when they are family. But you can learn how to not get sucked into their tornado of stress, and make yourself an anchor of calm amidst their stressful storm.

Snobs

Whoever first uttered the phrase “The suit doesn’t make the man. The man makes the suit.” Was a true genius. You can learn a lot from snobs. Some snobs, as snobby as they are, actually know a thing or two about their particular snobecialty, be it watches, or wine, or audio equipment. And that’s all fine and dandy. But the most important thing you can learn about snobs is this: Don’t be one.

Snob
Anyone who says the word “Quite” is probably a snob.

You can drive yourself crazy heeding the insult laden, condescending advice of snobs. You’re drinking the wrong wine. You’re driving the wrong car. You’re watching the wrong movies, and you’re wearing the wrong shoes.

A $1,500 pair of Oxfords says nothing good about you. It doesn’t say that you have class. It doesn’t say you have good style. It doesn’t say you support quality. It doesn’t even say you are wealthy, or make good money. All it says is you spent an exorbitant amount of money on something you could have paid considerably less for.

Don’t spend your life trying to live up to the expectations of snobs. Remember, the suit doesn’t man the man. The man makes the suit.

Conclusion

You’re going to come across many different types of people in your life. Some will come and go, others will stick around for a while, and others will be with you ‘til the very end. Some people should be emulated, others should be a cautionary tale, and others should be avoided like the plague entirely.

Regardless of which category they fall into and how long they are in your lives, the people in your life all serve a valuable purpose. Learn from them.

The People In Your Life
The People In Your Life