Doctor Strange: Movie Review

I saw Doctor Strange two Fridays ago. While it was definitely a good movie, well made, it definitely didn’t have me jumping out of my seat begging for more.

In a cinematic universe such as Marvel’s MCU, where the audience have come to expect larger and larger action sequences, a movie with relatively mild action and no explosions barely registers as a blip on the radar. That doesn’t mean that Doctor Strange was in anyway a let down. Marvel has beat the action movie drum long enough and I think they have come to terms with the fact that it may be time to try a new route, and Doctor Strange is definitely their biggest step in this new re-branding.

With over a dozen movies already released, plus five television shows, it was only a matter of time before Marvel started recycling some of their material. Doctor Strange to me seemed like a blend of Iron Man and Thor: The Dark World. They combined the character development and personal tale of Tony Stark with the overall story and tone of TTDW.

Meet Dr. Stephen Strange. A very successful, highly educated, self-absorbed dick who doesn’t respect his coworkers or those closest to him, and seemingly has no family to speak of. He’s a 1%er who drives expensive German cars, lives in a New York penthouse, and thinks he’s just God’s gift to man. Sound familiar? Let’s push forward. Said character gets into a horrible accident that physically maims him, and threatens his ability to return to his former life. Desperation and necessity beget progress, and our antagonist discovers their true calling.

Moral of the story: Don’t text and drive. Or maybe DO text and drive and then after dodging paralysis you might end up getting magical powers and your own movie!

The story moves like Thor: The Dark World in that the main antagonist isn’t trying to conquer the world, he’s trying to destroy it, himself included. There’s also a lot of instant teleporting from one place to the next. In TTDK this was caused by the convergence, and our hero was constantly swooping from one place or dimension to the next in the midst of battle. In Doctor Strange, our hero and company chase and are chased by the villains from one portal to the next, hop scotching across the city and world in Scooby doo fashion.

And that’s pretty much the movie. Despite the mystic allure of the movie and the exotic aroma the advertising gave off, the movie itself is pretty straight forward. It was pretty easy to follow. The story was linear with no detours. No twists. No turns. No tangents. The people you thought were good were good, and the bad guys were actually bad. No fake Mandarins or Obadiah Stane gotchas.

Pretty much everything you thought was going to happen, happened. An 8 year old could have guessed how the story was going to end after the first 20 minutes. Again, I am not trying to smack down the movie. It had great acting, great casting, great wardrobe, setting, effects, dialogue, etc. and the expected MCU quips to keep you chuckling. It just wasn’t grade-A original like Iron Man, Winter Soldier, or Guardians.

There isn’t anything bad to say about this movie. There also isn’t anything to brag about. Marvel made a solid, entertaining movie that will easily turn a profit, result in plenty of children’s toys and nerd swag, and which will bridge the gap between Civil War and the next Avengers installment and keep the MCU franchise churning forward.

Would I watch Doctor Strange again? Sure, why not. Would I purchase the DVD? Naw, but it would be a cool Christmas present maybe.

Post Script

One small grievance I have is not necessarily with this movie, but with what I consider to be an anachronism on Marvel’s part. Way back when, two and a half years ago in Captain America: Winter Soldier, Hydra agent Jasper Sitwell while being interrogated by Cap, Falcon and Black Widow spilled the beans on Zola’s plan for world domination and in the process rattled off a few names of people that would be targeted for death by the helicarriers once active. Among those names was Stephen Strange aka Doctor Strange. At first glance I suspected that perhaps the events of Doctor Strange actually took place prior to the events of Winter Soldier and that this was simply a slightly out of place side-quel that Marvel would simply weave back into the fold.

Viewers dorkier than I noticed that in Doctor Strange there were awards dated 2016 which confirmed the story itself takes place in current times, and several years after the events of CAWS.

So then what’s the deal with Sitwell name dropping Stephen Strange years before he was the sorcerer supreme of Earth?

Well, some people have supposed that Zola’s algorithm didn’t just find people that are currently problematic to Hydra but that might be down the road, and that Stephen Strange simply fit the bill as a potential pain in the ass. Possibly. But of the 7 billion people in the world who could pose a threat, I find it odd that Sitwell- a high ranking SHIELD and Hydra member would recall an apparent nobody by heart, especially when neither Cap, Black Widow, nor Falcon would know who the hell Stephen Strange even is. Sitwell name dropped Bruce Banner because the hulk at the time of CAWS was clearly on Hydra’s radar and was someone anyone in the world would likely have known by name, an additionally was close friends with the Avengers. To immediately follow up Bruce Banner with an apparent nobody??? I call bullshit.

This boils down to three theories:

  • Jasper Sitwell for whatever reason memorized the name of some random d-bag doctor no one knows or cares about. (unlikely)
  • Stephen Strange was already the sorcerer supreme of Earth at the time of CAWS (my guess) and someone at Marvel *oops forgot* about the earlier name drop, and messed up in Doctor Strange (also my guess)
  • It was simply an innocent Easter egg not intended to be anything more than a crowd pleaser (annoying, and not like Marvel to do)

At this point it really doesn’t matter, but it did irk me the night I saw it in theaters.

Trump Voters, Don’t Get Survivor’s Guilt

The election is over, but I still have plenty left to say.

For the most part it feels as if the two halves of the country just got done kicking the snot out of each other. After a long, hard fought battle, Team Trump has emerged victorious. We won the fight. And now it seems as though many Trump voters have taken on a sort of survivor’s guilt. We’ll don’t. Don’t feel bad for winning.

Just a few days ago I wrote this blog about gloating just a little. And just yesterday I wrote another blog about how in spite of the difference of opinion, we are still one country. But don’t mistake what I said in “We Are Still America”. I am not sorry that Trump won. I am not sorry that I voted for him. I am a little bit disheartened that so many people have reacted to the results so critically.

In light of the five day long consecutive violent protests from Democrats, and on the continued outpouring of anti-Trump doomsday rhetoric reporting from the left media, many on the right are wondering, was it worth it? Yes. Yes, it was.

Let’s play a little game here and put ourselves back in the election cycle. Let us dig up all the grievances and concerns people had against Trump and really dissect it now that we are removed from the fog of political war.

Concern: Was a Trump victory worth it in light of the protests?

Yes, yes it was!

Back in May 2016 I wrote a blog about a Trump rally I had been to on May 27. That rally in San Diego did have its fair share of anti-Trump protestors. But relative to protests in other parts of the country like Los Angeles, or Albuquerque, ours was child splay. Elsewhere in the nation, Clinton and Sanders supporters were attacking men, women, and children. They were burning down cop cars. Vandalizing random cars, businesses, and homes that just happened to be in their path. They littered, and left a scene comparable to a war torn nation in their wake. And of course what would a Democrat led protest be without attacking law enforcement? In light of all this nonsense I joked: If this how anti-Trumpers are behaving when the primaries are still going on, imagine what they’d do if Trump became the Republican nominee. Better yet, imagine what they would do if he won the election

Well… now we know. Act like a bunch of little whiny bitches.

These are the people we beat. These are the people who would be determining the path of our country had they won.

And who is to say it would have turned out any different if another Republican had won, say, Ted Cruz? Democrats are not protesting because Trump won. They are protesting because Clinton lost, and for that we cannot be apologetic. Raiders fans are incapable of losing (or winning for that matter) a football game without stabbing at least three people. Does this mean every other team should forfeit the game to avoid the tantrum that follows their defeat? Of course not.

Grievance: Trump Isn’t Presidential Enough

I heard this one a lot. “He doesn’t have the temperament of a president” “He doesn’t act presidential” “He’s hot headed”. So if you were to swallow what the liberals are feeding you, they’d have us believe that if only Trump had been more presidential, that might have changed their minds. Really? Maybe they would have disliked him a little less, but would it have been enough to make them vote for him?

No.

Remember back in 2012 when Mitt Romney ran for president? That guy was as presidential as it got. Romney was practically Mr. Presidential. The guy never cussed, never drank, never did drugs, never spoke ill of someone else. He had been married once to the same woman forever. He was clean shaven, well groomed, well spoken, and it looks as though he had been born in a suit and tie. He was a red governor in a historically blue state so clearly he could play well with others. Any yet Romney lost by a hell of a greater margin than Trump won by. Mitt Romney’s cool and calm demeanor, his business aptitude, his politeness, his charm, his temperament, none of it fucking mattered to Democrats in 2012. Why would it matter now? Democrats say they want someone more presidential and they got it with Romney and they laughed him out of town by a landslide. Don’t feel bad about how Trump behaved. It was a tactical move to get elected, and it worked.

Retrospect: Democrats say they liked John Kasich

Louis C.K., one of the least funny comedians ever, went on some tirade about how he really liked John Kasich. John Kasich is A-OK. Oh, John Kasich, he’s just the bee’s knees. You Republicans really ought to get behind this guy. That’s probably the only funny thing Louis CK has ever said because no one else seemed to like Kasich. Here is a clip from the New York Times with the final primary delegate count of the four last standing Republican candidates.

2016-republican-primary-results

Remember Marco Rubio, the guy who no one that you knew voted for in the primaries? Well Kasich got less delegates than him. In fact, the only state he managed to take a majority in was his home state of Ohio. So let me get this straight. Louis CK wanted Republicans to put our three legged horse in the race of a life time? Yeah, no shit. I bet he did. Because had we supported Kasich, the general electoral map would have looked like a naked Smurf wearing red gloves.

Electoral map of the 2016 presidential election if John Kasich was the Republican nominee.
Electoral map of the 2016 presidential election if John Kasich was the Republican nominee.

Grievance: Trump was supported by racists

And? We cannot help who we are supported by. Trump denounced the support he got from the KKK in the 2016 election and he denounced Donald Duke back in 2000 well before he had any formal political ambitions, but Democrats seemed to have forgotten that.

Democrats also only consider white racists. They don’t consider black racists, or Hispanic racists, or pretty much the fact that everyone, including non-whites, is capable of racism.

Never mind all of this garbage being propagated on Twitter and social media calling for white genocide, raping white women, and killing police officers.

http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/07/08/black-lives-matter-supporters-celebrate-police-deaths-twitter/

These are the people who support BLM and of the two candidates, which do you think they voted for? So if we’re going to go down the path of judging a candidate by their supporters, can we at least not be hypocrites?

For all the allegations of Trumps supporters being old, white, straight, Christian males, how many non-white people do you know that voted for Trump? How many blacks, Hispanics, Asians? How many Jews, Catholics, an atheists? My experiences may be anecdotal, but I do know people from all of these camps that voted for Trump. People I know firsthand, that I went to school with, worked with, including myself.

Trump won three times as many black votes as Romney did in 2012. He won more Hispanics that Romney did. He won more young voters than Romney did. In fact, I think the only category he slipped in was a 1 point drop in the white women vote from Romney.

For Republicans this may very well be the first step in a long awaited paradigm shift the party has needed, towards a more diverse constituency.

My Advice: Republicans, grow some balls

Conservatives out there, we did it! But in spite of our victory, some still seemed unsure of their victory. Like a Chargers lead in the first half, we keep wondering if we’re going to choke and throw the game in the 4th quarter. Some of my friends are acting like Eeyore in spite of this amazing victory. “Do you really think he can do it?” Yeah, I do. I wouldn’t have voted for the guy if I didn’t think he could deliver, and neither would you.

We won the presidency. We have a majority in the house and senate. Within a few short months, we’ll get to appoint a Supreme Court Justice. By this time next year we’ll have virtual control of all three branches of government; executive, legislative, and judicial.

So why be so timid? We won, act like it. Grow some balls. I’m not professional poker player but one thing I know is that when you’re the big stack, the chip leader at the table, you make big moves to knock out the competition or you’ll get chipped away piece by piece in a battle of attrition and eventually lose. We have two years minimum to get what we want done with minimal interference from Democrats.

Now is not the time to stall at the start line. Now is the time to sprint for the finish line and not look back. If we don’t do a political blitz now on issues like gun rights, we’ll assuredly cede them to Democrats forever.

This election was the culmination of decades of Republicans caving on issues of importance. We allowed Democrats and liberals to control the vernacular, the terminology, and the narrative. When you control the language, you control the ideas. When the term ‘progressive’ is used exclusively to define leftist ideas, regardless of how shitty they are, you become indoctrinated into thinking anything else is wrong. Republicans have held on tenaciously in an echo chamber of liberal bullshit for decades, and despite retaining their sanity, some are on the edge of losing their spine. They’re war torn and battle broken. We’ve heard so much liberal media bullshit and propaganda for so long that we’ve started to commiserate with it, even if we don’t out right believe it.

Liberals haven’t shown an ounce of restraint pushing their agenda, and imposing their views on everyone else. From gun rights, to punitive taxation, death penalties, to how much soda you can buy, what kind of cars you can drive, or fast food restaurants giving toys with kid’s meals. Liberal high school principals have suspended students for wearing American flag shirts on Cinco de Mayo. In my hometown of San Diego, liberals have vehemently been against the Mount Soledad cross even after a private organization bought the land the cross was on from the government. It’s not that they didn’t want the cross on public property, it’s that they didn’t want the cross to be featured prominently anywhere. The fuckery must end. And Trump is the one to end it. Liberals haven’t been shy about pushing their politics, and neither should we.

Don’t let the liberal media win by succumbing. Be resolute. Have the courage of your convictions. And grow some fucking balls.

After the Storm

The storm will pass. The skies will clear. The protestors will eventually empty the streets when their bosses finally call them and say “Dude, I know you aren’t sick. I saw you throwing rocks at police on CNN last night. Get your ass to work or you’re fired.”

Republicans, keep your heads down like we do. Keep up the good work making sure the cogs of society continue to turn. Good job not meeting stupidity with stupidity by counter protesting, that would only inflame the situation.

This fire will burn out on its own so long as the media doesn’t continue to put fire on it.

Do not feel bad that we won. Do not stomp swinging now that we’ve knocked out Clinton. Keep up the fight and don’t let up!

We Are Still America

This isn’t a gloat piece. This isn’t a puff piece. This is from the heart. From my heart. I know these are tumultuous times. Divisive times. But just stomach through this. This wasn’t written for one person, one party, one side. This is for everyone.

For years I avoided the news. I would try to keep up with certain local news, but the media at large was always so negative. The world, it seemed, was also going to hell. Crime, corruption, politics, wars, traffic, accidents, and generally just people being horrible to one another. Add on top of that the occasional natural disaster, disease, localized catastrophic event or pollution. I eventually cut cables entirely, and would avoid the news like the plague. It’s not that I didn’t want to know what was going on or that I thought it was nothing but propaganda. I’m sure a lot of it was. But I would hear and read about these horrible things happening around the world, of which I had virtually no control, only to get saddened, angry, stressed, and dismayed. It cannot possibly be good for ones health to be surrounded by that kind of negativity, all the time.

The election cycle didn’t change the news too much. Still incredibly negative. But social media has certainly changed or at least I finally noticed it change during this most recent election cycle. Social media is also something that for years I have tried to actively avoid but I couldn’t resist the allure of Facebook these past couple months as the political season heated up and finally culminated in the election. As I scroll through Facebook what I see bothers me more than what used to bother me when I used to watch the news: Rampant negativity. But instead of coming from a handful of news networks, this negativity was coming from dozens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of people.

There are a lot of scared people out there. Worried and fearful. Afraid that the sky around them will start falling. As far as they are concerned, there was a tectonic shift beneath their feet.

It takes a lot to genuinely upset me. Namely watching Disney’s Fox and the Hound. But the one sure thing that gets me is the idea or presence of hopelessness. That someone can be so downtrodden that there is no light at the end of their tunnel. No path out of perdition. As I see the posts of friends and family members hurting right now, it breaks my heart. It truly does.

I get that there are concerns about a spike in racism, or sexism, or any other ism. That there is or will be a spike in hatred, or bigotry. There isn’t. And there won’t be. This may not come as much solace from someone who voted for Trump, but it just might. Maybe a little.

Listen, I don’t hate gays. I don’t hate women. I don’t hate Mexicans (I’m half). I don’t hate non-whites, or Muslims. I don’t hate the poor. I don’t hate people on government subsidies. There are a couple billion people in this world and I maybe hate one person, and no, it’s not Hilary Clinton.

The assholes out there were assholes before November 8th. The racists out there were already racists. Those inclined to burn down buildings and vandalize police cars weren’t born on November 9th. Some people are just shitty, and they don’t need a very good reason to shit all over everything and everyone else. To the people out there whose candidate of choice didn’t win, I feel for you. I really do. But I want to reassure you that the sky isn’t going to fall. You are not less safe now than you were on November 7th.

We need to remember that most people don’t wake up wondering how they can make other peoples’ lives miserable. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from, we wish for the same things. Health, food on our plate, a roof over our head, a safe neighborhood for our children, all children, to play in. We want jobs, pride of workmanship, good communities, and good schools. We want the next generation to have a better life than we had. I don’t think it matters who you voted for, we can agree that we want the same things, it’s just that no two of us can agree on the best way for everyone to accomplish these things. But just because we can’t agree, doesn’t mean we can’t get along.

Trump won the election. He didn’t win the country. This country is still all of ours. It belongs to each of us, even those who feel disenfranchised, ignored, abandoned, or marginalized.

For all the squabbles, and bitter disagreements, we are still America. One America. Sink or swim, fail or fly, whatever we do we’re going to do it together. The person in the cubicle next to you that voted for the other candidate, they are still human. They were a decent human being before the election and they are the same person now that the election is over.

Thanksgiving is coming up and hopefully you have a large, loving family or group of friends to spend the holiday with. Some of those people you may not have seen in a very long time. Don’t botch the holidays over an election. Don’t lose a friend or sour a family event because of a political grievance.

I have my opinions but this specific post is not going to be me telling you how to think, or what to think. This isn’t a political op ed. It doesn’t matter if you are Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, socialist, green, independent, or if you voted for Trump or Clinton or wrote in Mickey Mouse. United, we truly do stand, and divided we will most certainly fall. Each one of us is a tiny red, white, or blue thread in the fabric of this great flag, and if we start tearing apart at the seams this entire thing will fall apart. Lets not allow that to happen.

flag-unravel

Fret not. Even if I disagree with you, I still want the best for you. We are still America.

Trump Won, and I’m gloating just a little

Ordinarily I would not gloat about Trump winning. No, really. I’m not usually a sore loser or a sore winner. But I’ve taken a lot of shit from people, friends and family and strangers alike this election cycle because of the candidate, and even the party I supported.

I’ve never referred to a candidate by one of those monikers like Obummer, McSame, McLame, McBush, Killery, Hitlery, etc but certain people just couldn’t help themselves when posting on my wall about Drumpf, Dump, and Cheeto, whatever that means.

I’ve never messed with anyone’s property because of a political sticker. Never peeled it off, never put a sticker over it, never keyed their car. Nada, zilch. I had my Trump yard sign vandalized twice. Someone came on to my property, my home, to disrespect and intimidate me out of supporting a candidate. Is that not voter intimidation on a micro scale? And it’s happened across the country, people getting their signs stolen, their car set on fire because they had a Trump sticker, getting pulled out of their cars and attacked because of a Trump sticker. At the insistence of my girlfriend, and parents, I removed my sign because I didn’t want to risk someone doing something malicious to me, my property, or worse yet, someone I cared about.

I’ve never threatened to leave this country if someone I didn’t like got elected. But I can’t even count how many friends and family members I’ve seen say or hint at this, of course, always democrats. And I’ve seen celebrities say the same thing, of course, always democrats.

I’ve never insulted someone for their political opinions. I have challenged them, sure. I have argued, and debated, and for unknown reasons wasted hours of my life writing nauseatingly long responses on social media that no one probably read. But I have not insulted them. I have not said anything akin to “wow I can’t believe you would vote for Hilary, I just thought so much better of you than that”. But I have had dozens of people insult me in this election cycle, not just alluding or insinuating, but calling me racist, sexist, xenophobic, bigoted, et al. The usual democrat fare. I had one ‘friend’ comment on a blog I shared “I always tell people there are some smart Trump supporters out there” when I posted something he actually agreed with me on that wasn’t even Trump related, basically making it known that in the dozen years I’ve known this person he thought I was a idiot, and that prior to me writing some random blog, he thought all Trump supporters were idiots.

I’ve never trolled anyone because of their political beliefs. But I have had select people systematically troll my social media just so they can shit on every political or opinionated thing I post regarding this election cycle. These people are nowhere to be found when I post a picture of my dog, or a beautiful scene while hiking, or share a photo or blog post about a vacation I took to Hawaii. These people don’t even bother to wish me happy birthday. These trolls are all but non-existent when I post neutral, non-political things. But I can’t take a fucking shit without these trolls commenting on how bad it smells. I can’t post a selfie with my Trump shirt without them shitting all over it, making fun of it with sarcastic, underhanded comments if not out right insults or provocations. The moment I posted something “pro Trump”, I was lambasted, insulted, mocked, and bombarded with a mile long counter post about why I’m basically a human piece of shit.

I’ve never threatened to unfriend someone because of the candidate or party they support. But I have seen about a dozen friends on social media claim they would, and each and every one of them were democrat. One even unfriended me. And I am certain one chose not to do business with me when they learned of my political standing.

I’ve never cried because my candidate won, or lost. But last night before the results were even finalized, I scrolled down my feed and saw about 6 or 7 friends of mine talking about how sad they were, and how they cried, and how they are terrified, and the whole sob fest. I didn’t cry when Obama won, TWICE, and has royally fucked over a ton of people I know, yours truly included. Trump hasn’t even done anything yet except win. He hasn’t even been sworn in. But cry if and when his policies result in your fucking health insurance premiums quadrupling in 5 years. Cry when you lose your job because the entire industry no longer exists. When something tangible happens that adversely affects your life, then maybe you can cry and I’ll give a shit.

I’ve said for years, and especially the last year and a half, that the media is full of shit, and the polls are full of shit. And it turns out I was right.

So I have been threatened. I have been insulted. I have been trolled. I have been marginalized. I have been unfriended. I have been mocked. And you know what? I am gonna fucking gloat a little bit. Because I put up with alllllll that shit, and won. Trump put up with much more than that, and he still won. The mainstream media was against him. The democrat and republican establishment were against him. Celebrities were against him. Democrats would burn down cop cars and buildings and threaten and attack people with toddlers, and women, and the elderly just because Trump was giving a nearby speech or hosting a rally.

So you know what.

Trump won. Ha, ha, HA. IN YOUR FACE. Donald Drumpf won. The Cheeto won. This guy you’ve been shitting on for a year just took the wind right out of your sails. You threw everything you had at him and he juggernauted his way through like champ. And I am thoroughly enjoying watching all these rude people I’ve been seeing the last year eat their words.

President Trump. Get comfortable hearing those words because you’re going to be hearing them a lot for the next 4 years. 48 long months. One thousand four hundred and sixty excruciatingly long days.

So please forgive the shit eating grin on my face.

And if you still plan on leaving America, give me a call. I’ll help you pack.

A Year of Travel and Adventure

Starting about a year ago, I strapped in to one hell of a roller coaster. The last 12 months, from October 2015 to now, have been jam packed full of events. The past year has been tiring, fun, stressful, fast paced, and all around excellent.

Louisiana – The Adventure Begins

The adventures began last October when my longtime friends TJ and Jessica invited Jenny and me on a week long trip to Louisiana with them. They were flying out there for vacation, but also to take their engagement photos in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The trip was a blast from day one. Our flights landed within about an hour of each other so coordinating was super easy. It was late and we needed to catch some sleep to springboard into the rest of the trip. We all hopped in a rental – some all-wheel drive Infiniti sports sedan – and tore our way through the middle of Louisiana to our first destination of the Pelican State.

As you may or may not know, drive-thru daiquiri shops are a real thing in Louisiana and other parts of the south, so when in Rome! Another regional quirk I noticed was Dollar General stores, which appear to be to Louisiana, what Starbucks is to California – there’s one every quarter mile.

daquiri

Our first morning we woke up bright and early and went on a swamp boat tour. A must-do if you’ve never gone. Our guide had the coolest accent, and was a pro at handling that thing. He could drift around a bend and manage to get our 6 foot wide swamp boat through a water gate with just inches to spare without breaking a sweat. He told us all about the nutria rat problem, we saw tons of gators, and even had a three foot Chinese tuna jump into our boat and smack TJ in the face. It was awesome.

Our next stop was New Orleans. On our drive in, we turned on suitable playlist on Spotify and stumbled on the comical and tragic song, Senor El Gato! We had a beautiful suite just a few blocks from Bourbon Street. I wish I’d had my Fitbit then because god knows I must have walked several marathons up and down the French Quarter alone in search of voodoo shops, bottomless Hurricanes, the perfect masque, and restaurants to fill TJs insatiable hunger for OYSTERRRRRRSS!!!!!

img_20151014_122408200

After a couple days in the city we ventured out of the concrete jungle and into the bayou. We drove 140 miles from our hotel in the French Quarter all the way to Avery Island to visit the Mc. Ilhenny Co. aka the Tabasco factory. I may very well be addicted to Tabasco sauce so I couldn’t very well visit Tabasco’s home state without knocking on their door. We went on the Tabasco food tour, which I HIGHLY recommend. Your first meal is in the official Tabasco restaurant, and from there we hopped in a tour van with our trusty guide and drove to several parishes to try the best cuisine the region had to offer. Gumbo, jambalaya, cracklins, shrimp etouffee, boudin, andouille.  I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much, and so well.

Rounding out the trip was a visit to a Halloween haunted attraction, the Garden District, several small museums, several visits to Café Du Monde, a fine dining experience at The Bourbon House, the worst comedy show I have ever been to, and dozens of amazing restaurants.

I Bought my First Home

All the while I was in Louisiana getting fat and drunk, I was also in escrow. Now, whether it’s an omen or not is beyond me but I will always remember the day I closed escrow because it was on November, Friday the 13th.

This wasn’t my first real estate, but it was my first home, meaning I planned to actually live there and not have it be solely an investment property. I love my house. Earlier that spring I had been on the house hunt and ran into a series of duds and lemons. After a failed, painstaking negotiation with a previous seller, I gave the search a rest for a while. I am so glad I did because the home I ended up buying was one I had been eyeballing a year earlier. My good friend Mark Wayman saw that the sellers had lowered the price, and a couple months later it was mine.

Three little cabins on two lots, about 100 feet from and with a view of the lake, beautiful scenery all around, on a heavily treed lot. Top to bottom, I love my new home and getting the keys was one of the coolest, most exhilarating things ever.

It’s been great having friends and family come up to visit, drinking some cider and playing board games.

Georgia, and Wedding # 1

Back to South I go. Just days after I bought my house I was jet setting again, this time to the Peach State and the land of red soil for my cousin’s wedding. I don’t know what it is about the South but it’s awesome. We landed early in the morning. The Atlanta airport is a train wreck. It’s massive, and it seems like not a soul who works there knows where to find anything. Four employees pointed us in the opposite direction to the rental car lot, but fifth times a charm!

The drive from Atlanta to our destination was rainy for the first couple hours. I never knew just how big of a city Atlanta was, but there was traffic before the sun came up.

Once the sun rose it became abundantly clear how beautiful the state is. Trees, trees, and more trees as far as the eye could see. Which wasn’t that far since so many dang trees obstructed your view. I marveled at the undertaking it must have been to clear a path of trees across the state to make room for highways stretching hundreds of miles. Must have been enough lumber to last a life time, and yet couldn’t have even been a drop in the bucket.

Just like in Louisiana, there were Dollar General stores evvvvverywhere in Georgia. So at this point I am guessing this is a Southern thing.

My aunt and uncle live on this 140+ acre lot in what to me felt like the middle of nowhere. In the summers they have this big Christian summer camp complete with human hamster balls, giant water slides, a lake, baseball, capture the flag, RC planes, and some absolutely legit laser tag that looked more professional than the MILES gear we used in ROTC. Unfortunately I didn’t get to partake in these festivities but people in the South really know how to have a good time.

I did however go hunting for the first time, and that was a whole other experience itself. Read “My First Hunting Trip” to read more about that. One of our first nights in town there were hurricane warnings, flash flood warnings, and parts the town we were in had even lost power. Coming from the desert that is San Diego, a hurricane was a fun experience to cross off the bucket list. Jenny and I stayed in a summer camp bungalow in the middle of the woods, away from our relatives, which made it all the more interesting.

Georgia also has some amazing chain restaurants that I would love to have back home, including Waffle House (where believe it or not I had a bomb ass Philly cheese steak), Zaxby’s, and the Cracker Barrel store/restaurant. And if you want the largest menu of milkshakes ever, you have to find yourself a Steak ‘n Shake. Damn the south has some good eats.

Georgia was a beautiful state and I would love to go back!

Two Weeks in Ohio

October was Louisiana. November was Georgia. Now fast forward to December where I spent the first half of the month in Ohio! This time it was for a business trip for Nationwide (is on your siiiidddde). Christmas time if my favorite time of the year so I was a little bummed to miss out on a couple Christmas parties and all the festivities that go with it. But Nationwide spares no expense and they own their home hotel (yes, Nationwide Insurance owns their own hotel in Ohio) which was dressed to the nines in holiday splendor. This place was very nice. It had a sort of colonial feel to it, and the entire place was adorned with holly, and the hallways and lobbies all filled with Christmas music. Each lobby had a decked out Christmas tree, and a quaint seating area with a 24/7 fire place.

I cannot speak on behalf of Ohio, but Nationwide sure knows how to cook up some grub. We had access to a dining area and every day got breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And we’re not talking some lame ‘continental breakfast’ where you are starving after your meal. This place’s breakfast would put 94th Aero Squadron to shame. If there wasn’t a waffle station, there was an omelet station, or a crepe station. And that’s the breakfast. No joke, I think I gained 10 pounds on that trip.

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Ohio in December is f***ing cold. Remember, I’m from San Diego and have experienced a hot Christmas. Here I was inappropriately dressed for 30 degree weather, with heavy winds. My group consisted of people from neighboring states including New York, who had a laugh or two at my expense. Joe, thanks for letting me borrow your jacket buddy.

On my trip to Ohio I did a lot of good, professional tips regarding the insurance industry. But that pales in comparison to the awesome people I met on the trip. There was a ton of good food, great people, excessive drinking, boisterous laughing, and a hilarious late night, boozed conversations.

Back to San Diego!

It felt like I hadn’t been home in forever. Between all the trips out of state, hours of flying in a crammed seat, it was great to finally be back home. But December was half way over and Christmas was fast approaching so it was time to make up for lost time with interest. The day after I landed I whisked Jenny off and we bought a fake Christmas tree. Only the Charlie Brown trees were left, but we got a screaming deal on the display model – Walmart knocked off like $100. Score! I went all out with ornaments, stockings, holly, decorations, and all around Christmasness. For the next two weeks my house smelled like pine and cinnamon.

I also have an inner Martha Stewart that comes out around Christmas time and not to brag, but my decorations dominated. See pics!

Snowboarding in Big Bear

At this point, I’ve owned my house for over a month and haven’t been there once due to my chaotic schedule so Jenny and I had to set aside time to retreat to Big Bear and escape the hustle and bustle. Here’s a photo of us in front of the “Sold” sign, which I insisted my real estate agent keep up until after I had a chance to take a picture in front of it. Thanks Mark!

Hawaii

New Years came and went, and before we knew it April was here and I was jet setting yet again to another state, this time to Hawaii.

Hawaii was a blast. I had been to the state before, but only to Kauia, which felt like the Palm Springs of the Pacific because it was almost all old people and retirees. This time around we went to O’ahu and stayed in Wai Ki Ki.

Not that I normally get home sick, but when I landed in O’ahu it felt a lot like being back home in San Diego. At the time we went, the weather was absolutely perfect. Mid-80’s, super low humidity, clear skies, with only the occasional rain, usually before we woke up. Basically, perfect San Diego weather.

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Just like San Diego, O’ahu has half a dozen military bases. Tons of beaches. Lots of beautiful hiking. Snorkeling. A tourist city. It used to be part of a foreign country (the Nation of Hawaii vs Mexico), and the native population still has a huge cultural impact on the city. Every other street and community in San Diego is Spanish, and on this Pacific Island every other street was Hawaiian. I felt right at home in this city. Heck, they even had a Costco! It was like someone carved San Diego out with a knife and threw it into the middle of the Pacific.

Hawaii was just too much to fit into this blog, so I’ll put more about it later.

A Summer of Weddings

The summer of 2016 was the summer of weddings for me. I went to three weddings in three months, and was in one of them. I also went to two bachelor parties.

Bachelor Party # 1

was for my friend Brett, in April. There were a lot of faces I hadn’t seen in a long time, or seldom get to see now that adult life has taken over. It was great to catch up with old friends. We spent a couple days in Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas but one particularly funny moment was when we were hanging out in an outdoor jacuzzi when it started dumping rain. I mean pouring! I’ve never seen fifty people in bathing suits running so fast and looking so pathetic, including myself. Anders, the road trip was a lot of fun man.

Wedding # 2

was my high school buddy TJ and his now wife Jessica! Despite having been sunny the entire week prior, mother nature decided to pull a fast one and make it rain the day before the wedding. Again I was ill equipped. Thinking “oh, it’ll be sunny!” I brought surf trunks and not much warm to wear besides by suit. Luckily Big 5 has a Dickies jacket on sale, and would you believe it, liberal Santa Barbara’s Big 5 actually had no shortage of 22LR on sale? Naturally I had to buy some.

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The wedding took place in beautiful Santa Barbara in this awesome sort of Spanish villa in the middle of an open air plaza. It was super simple but incredibly fun and the weather cleared up just in time for the main event! The pre-wedding, ceremony, and rehearsal were all in the same plaza which made travel arrangements a cinch. Those who know me know that I’m not much of a dancer, but I danced my ass off at that wedding. TJ and Jessica, you guys had an awesome wedding, and who doesn’t appreciate an open bar?! You have some really cool friends, and I still need to check out your new digs!

Wedding # 3

Was for my college friend Brett and his now wife, Adriana. Besides being a ring bearer when I was four or so, this was my first time actually being in a wedding and it was a cool experience. Prior to the wedding the groom’s party had a photo shoot, and I might say, we nailed it. Taking a limo to the wedding was baller, and Brett I appreciate the custom beer mug! The scene was beautiful at Admiral Kidd conference center on base, and again, it was great to see so many old faces I hadn’t seen in years.

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Over the Line

Literally the day after Brett’s wedding I was up at 4:45 AM to get ready for Over the Line on Fiesta Island. While this isn’t a wedding or a bachelor party, it was just one more spice thrown into the mix that has been my last 12 months. You can read more about my OTL experience here.

Bachelor Party # 2

Was for my cousin Cortlen in July. Damn, this was a fun trip! Basically, we all went camping and white water rafting up outside of Sacramento in the American River (middle fork). Half of the people there were my cousins so it felt like an extended family reunion.

The drive up there and back down was long, but I had some awesome company. I picked up my cousin Kevin from Long Beach and the two of us headed up North on our adventure in the ‘X-star’. Kevin’s a Hillary supporter but we won’t hold that against him! He was an awesome road trip buddy and damn I don’t think I have laughed that hard my entire life.

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We went on some awesome hikes and found a little creek with a natural bridge created by a fallen tree, just like in the movies. There was beer pong, camping, knife and hatchet throwing competitions, exploding beer cans, and we almost saw some Hatfield and McCoy business go down between two of the ‘resident campers’.

Rafting was another story altogether! You’d have to do it for yourself to get it, but it was a lot of fun rafting with my cousins and we have some cool pics to show of it.

Anthony, you did a great job orchestrating the entire trip.

Wedding # 4

Was for my cousin Cortlen. This time the wedding was all the way up on Monterey. Another long haul back on the road, this time in the Subie. The ceremony was at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands and had a beautiful view overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Big Sur Coast. The view, magnifique! It’d been a year since I was in Monterey and I had forgotten the natural beauty of the area.

The ceremony was quick and beautiful, and Cortlen and Ally, I am so happy for you guys! Sorry we couldn’t chat more but I know there were a ton of guests you had to make the rounds to.

We spent the first night at a hotel, and the second night at a VRBO type thing with some relatives and that’s where the fun was. We had the staples of any good time, good food, good company, and good alcohol. I learned Mexican dominoes and another game I really enjoyed called Linkee. Imagine “Taboo”, but with a twist. My sister and I were on the same team, Team Awesome, and naturally we were victorious.

The ride down was a lot of fun. My mom, dad, brother and sister drove up together and the six of us hop scotched on the way south at a number of wineries and wine tasting rooms including Eberle winery and a tour of their massive, underground wine cave.

In the last 12 months I have done a lot. At one point I had been to six states in six months. At other point I had been to three weddings in three months. In total I have been to four weddings, been in one wedding, been to two bachelor parties, and traveled lord knows how many tens of thousands of miles by foot, car, boat, and plane. I’ve bought a home (three homes actually!). I’ve made some amazing new friends and reconnected with dozens of old friends and relatives I hadn’t seen in ages. I’ve eaten some amazing food, drank some incredible wine, and brewed some good beer. I feel like I have made great strides professionally, personally, and physically.

I truly am blessed to have such amazing friends, and such an amazing family. Growing older doesn’t come without it’s downfalls, and one that I’ve grappled with for the past couple years has been the difficulty in keeping up with friends and family as we all grow older and get stuck in the rhythm of our daily grinds. But growing older is also a privilege not everyone gets to enjoy. While I have lost contact with a number of friends over the years, it makes me appreciate all the more the relationships that are still very much alive.

The holidays are fast approaching and I am excited for them, and equally excited to see what 2017 and the next 12 months have in store for Jenny and me.

To all of my amazing friends out there, you know who you are. Thank you for being a part of my life, and Jenny’s life. For all the great memories, all the fun stories, all the late nights, and early mornings. For all the long drives, and funny moments gone in an instant. For all the good food, good drinks, and good times, I am incredibly grateful.

I love you all and am happy to have you in my life.

The US Postal Service Sucks

People talk shit about everything. Go on yelp and there is usually no shortage of bad reviews about every business under the sun. Well for most of my life the USPS has actually done a pretty decent job. I’ve very rarely ever had problems with sending or receiving mail.

However in the past three weeks I’ve experienced quite a few problems with the USPS. I don’t know if this is a temporary set back because of internal changes, or if it’s always been shitty and I somehow managed to skate by without any problems all this time.

Returned Mail

In the past week alone, I have had five separate people tell me that mail they sent to me was returned back to them. In each case the the sender emailed me a photo of the returned mail and I was able to verify that they had my name/business name correct, and my mailing address correct, along with proper postage.  FIVE times.

Black Hole Mail

About two weeks ago I placed two orders from the same online vendor within 3 days of each other. The vendor confirmed both orders had been shipped out.

I got one delivered on Monday, September 19.

It has now been a week, and the second package is not yet here. It is entered the USPS black hole of mail.

Torn Open Mail

In the past month, I have had three separate pieces of mail that were torn open. Not open, like as if my the hands of another person rifling through my mail. I mean TORN open as if by a machine, maybe one of their processing machines.

One of them looks like the envelop was run through a paper shredder and then saved at the last minute. The envelop and the contents of the envelop were torn in half. The USPS had to repackage the envelop and contents within a plastic pouch. One of the ‘packages’ had shreds of the document mailed to me, as well as pieces of a personal check that was not intended for me – meaning someone else’ mail also got torn in half, and not knowing which documents/pieces of documents went to who, the USPS gave me someone  else’ check.

The check was unreadable so I cannot ascertain who was supposed to have received it, but someone else out there got half a check they won’t be able to deposit.

Employees that barely speak English

The icing on the cake today was that I came to the office and had three voicemails/emails from over the weekend from various people concerned about the undelivered mail they got bounced back to them.

1 times a fluke, and maybe even 2, but 5 times in about a week is a fucking epidemic. So I called the USPS to bring the issue up. I requested the call back service as opposed to waiting on hold for 45 minutes like the queue said it would be.

To their credit I did get a call back within about an hour, but the laughable aspect of it was that the employee clearly didn’t speak English very well. We are a country of immigrants and English is understandably not everyone’s first language. But it does seem prudent to me that the USPS and other government agencies would hire people who speak the de facto official language of the country.

Go home USPS, you’re drunk.

Childhood Animal Drawings and Sketches

I used to draw A LOT when I was younger. Rough sketches, finished drawings, pastels, chalk, charcoal, paint. I just loved it. I was digging through some old notepads that were buried in my garage and found some old art work from circa 1998-1999. Several of these are of pets I had as a kid, including Hazey, Getty (the German Shepherd I had years before Major), Kody, Pearl, and Lilly. Thanks for viewing!

 

Sane rantings from an insane dude.