Stealing Cars & Groceries: Nobody Cares

Car alarms are useless. It doesn’t matter what kind of car you own, whether it’s a Lexus or a Hyundai, there is no real protection offered to you in the case of auto theft. I’ve never been the victim of this sort of crime in my life, but if it happens to me, I can’t say that I would be surprised. Just today I heard a car alarm going off in a grocery store parking lot, and neither me nor any of the people in the area cared enough to see what was going on. That’s just the way it is. An alarm is seen as more of an annoyance rather than an alert that something bad is going on, which is why I find car alarms completely useless and ridiculous. I click the button on the remote a couple times, first for the initial lock and the second to make sure the alarm is set, but that doesn’t really matter at all because nobody cares. Unless you are within eyesight of your car being broken into, the thieves will get away with whatever they want, and unfortunately this doesn’t just apply to automobiles.

As I left the grocery store today, I was behind a woman who set off the stores alarm when leaving, and and she didn’t even stop, not that it mattered because an employee was quick to offer her an apology for the “malfunction” and send her on her way. For all anyone knew this person could have stolen every item in her cart, but because nobody cared, she left the store free of any suspicion that any wrongdoing had taken place. The popular phrase, “the customer is always right” seems to take away any responsibility of the customers that shop at a particular store, one that is much more interested in having said customer return than the potential loss that is taken if a non trustworthy person decides to walk out the door with more groceries than they have paid for. I just don’t get it, and I wonder why stores let people get away from the flashing lights and beeping sounds of the security sensors as if the store is the one at fault.

I don’t plan to steal a car or anything from a grocery store but I have to say that it seems pretty easy to do so. When was the last time you heard a car alarm in the parking lot and actually went to investigate what was going on. That is somebody else’s problem, just like when a teenage employee doesn’t think twice about the person leaving the store while alarms go off all around them. I don’t condone stealing, but if other people are getting away with it then why should I continue to pay my weekly grocery bill at full cost? Don’t people care enough about what they own to step in and put an end to this madness? The evidence clearly says no, and that is why I won’t be surprised if either of my cars are stolen at some point in the near future.

Amerigo: An Italian Father’s Day Dinner

IMG_3703Well today is father’s day and I didn’t see my dad at all, but before you go casting stones at the ungrateful son, let me clarify that I did take him to dinner last night as our way of celebration. Why didn’t I take my dad to dinner on the actual father’s day? He had planned to take his father out to dinner that night, and there are only so many meals to go around, so I told my dad to pick wherever he wanted to go and my wife and I would meet him for dinner the night before. We settled on Amerigo, one of our favorite Italian restaurants in Memphis, and said we would meet him there at seven. I showed up right at seven o’clock, my wife left behind at home with her sore back not feeling up to dining out, and my dad was already there for standing in the dimly lit waiting area. We told the hostess I had arrived, and like a celebrity seated immediately upon arrival, we were ushered directly to our seats without a wait.

We quickly looked over the menu, deciding what we wanted before the waiter even arrived to introduce himself and take the drink orders, so by the time he showed up, we were prepared. My dad got the goat cheese and walnut salad with smoked salmon, while I got the goat cheese penne pasta with grilled shrimp. We talked for a little while, the only interruption being the loud family at the table behind us who had taken it upon themselves to do some sort of happy birthday chant, paired with rhythmic clapping that echoed against the walls throughout the restaurant, completely unprovoked by an employee, the first time I can ever remember seeing this take place. It was annoying but over soon enough, and before long the food arrived. The first thing I thought as I looked down at the plate before me was “that looks like a lot of tomatoes”, and it really was. With each bite of pasta I tried to get one or two tomato pieces on the fork with it so that I wouldn’t be left with an excess of tomato scraps at the end of the meal, but that is exactly what ended up happening, about a third of my plate completely covered once everything else was eaten.

The pasta itself was pretty bland, which would account for the excess tomatoes and goat cheese trying to hide that obvious and glaring flaw. The star of the dish were the grilled shrimp, four perfectly cooked and seasoned crustaceans at the corners of my plate. I cut each of them up into little pieces, trying to get as many bites with a piece of shrimp as possible, but I certainly would have opted for more. The service was fantastic, my water glass never less than half full before the waiter would arrive with a refill, and it was a nice dinner with my dad, despite my food being altogether disappointing. The important thing about last night was taking time to appreciate and honor my wonderful father, and everything else, including the food, didn’t really matter all that much.

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My Regrettable Decision

I’m not above admitting when I’ve made a mistake, which is exactly what I did, earlier this week, on a Tuesday. Since I had to work on Saturday, I only had to work from eleven to two on Tuesday, so I spent the morning writing and drinking coffee, and then perusing my bookshelf for the next book I would read, since I just finished Lust and Wonder, by Augusten Burroughs the day before. When browsing a bookstore, I wait for the spine of one of the books to interest me, then I pull it out to read the back to see if I’m interested, and only then do I make the purchase, and that is the same way I choose what to read at home, looking at my bookshelves until something jumps out at me. I’m not sure why, perhaps I liked the style of the font on the spine of the book, or something about the author’s last name, Navarro, spoke to me, but for whatever reason, I decided to start reading Story of a Sociopath, and now I regret it immensely.

Don’t get me wrong, the book so far has been fantastic, but my timing couldn’t have been worse. A week from today, my wife and I leave for a weeklong vacation on the Gulf of Mexico, along with my brothers, my mom, and grandmother, and I’m not at all confident that I will finish this book before that time comes. It may seem insignificant that I finish the book before vacation, and perhaps I’m a total nut job in the way that I think, but I absolutely don’t want to take Story of a Sociopath on this trip, and it has nothing to do with what the book is about. I grew up going to the beach every summer, and one of my favorite things was picking out the books I would take, interesting books that I had restrained myself from reading, reserving them especially for week where I had nothing to do, and could lose the day, sitting in the sun and reading them.

For me there is something special about the books I read on vacation, picking them up years later and being transported back in time to those wonderful days of summer spent at the beach, and for some reason, taking a book that I’ve already started before vacation just doesn’t have the same effect for me. I have 708 pages left in this monstrous book I’m reading, so now it’s a race against the clock, to see if I can finish it in the next six days, which given that I have to work forty hours, write six more blog posts and ten thousand words in my book, and somehow find time to get the sleep necessary to have the energy to perform all of these tasks, it’s seeming more unlikely by the minute. I’ve consulted my wife, the resident expert on all of my personal problems, and she suggested putting it aside, and resuming it when I return home from vacation, but that too doesn’t appeal to me. I’m too invested in the story now to put it aside, while reading something else, my mind will likely wander back to Thomas Spencer and what is happening in his world, so it seems that I have no choice but to read on, trying my best to finish the book before we leave next Saturday. Wish me luck.

How to Fix Bad Driving

There are few things that I hate in life more than bad drivers. I hate them because their actions directly impact the lives of innocent people who just happen to be within close proximity of them, and it’s not fair to anybody that actually follows the rules of the road. The two most common types of bad drivers I encounter on a daily basis, are people on their phones and people driving too slow. There are already steps being taken and laws being passed to keep people off their phones, but when it comes to people driving too slow, there is a lot more that needs to be done. The other day I was on the interstate, the speed limit sixty-five miles an hour, and I was behind a car that wasn’t even going fifty, and this isn’t a rare occasion for me, often the victim of being stuck behind someone driving well below the speed limit. When I was finally able to switch lanes and pass the offending car, I looked over to see an elderly woman, hunched over the steering wheel, squinting to see out of the windshield ahead of them, and I thought to myself that this person should not be driving.

I get that it’s tough getting older, when things that used to be so easy for someone become increasingly more difficult, but it’s just irresponsible to let bad drivers, regardless of their age or experience operating a vehicle, drive among us. That is why I think that a driving test should be required every couple of years, to ensure that drivers continue to operate at acceptable levels. It’s a pain to renew your drivers license, standing in long lines, but I’m of the opinion that this should be done every two years along with having to pass a written and road driving test. I would be more than willing to spend a few hours of my day every couple of years renewing my license, if it meant that our roads were safer. I’m not just saying that elderly people are the only bad drivers out there, because they are not. I’m amazed at how many people don’t know how a four way stop is supposed to work, or what to do if a stoplight isn’t operating, and a written test would ensure that drivers kept up with the laws rather than cramming the information into their heads to pass the test at fifteen, then forgetting the bulk of what was learned.

In addition to the written test, the driving portion would also help solve the issue of keeping people off the roads, who are no longer able to drive safely. I would say that most people pick up bad driving habits over the years, and that is direct result of not having to prove one’s driving ability after the initial test. If I were president, this would be a top priority for me, because in 2015 more than 35,000 people died in a car accident, and I would bet that most of those were caused by an irresponsible or bad driver. Driving is a part of every day life, and unfortunately it claims way too many innocent lives, which could easily be avoided if there was something in place to keep more bad drivers off the road. Maybe necessary changes will take place in the coming years, but until that time, I will continue to drive defensively with my head on a swivel, trying to avoid any potential danger brought about by bad drivers.

What I’ve Been Reading: June Edition

IMG_3691It’s Monday, the universally most hated day of the week. At this point you can’t even see the weekend through all of the work yet to do, and it’s pretty discouraging, but we go through this week after week and somehow we make it through, and I don’t suppose this one will be any different. Most everyone has something they like to do once they are home from work, a way to unwind and relax before starting the whole process again tomorrow. Mine is reading and this is what I’ve been reading lately, so maybe you can take use some of these recommendations to help you get through the monotony of the work week.

The Road: Written by Cormac McCarthy, this novel focuses on the journey of a dad and his son, as they walk a lonely road in search of a better life. The world that once was, is no more, and very few people populate these United States. There are no stores or gas stations, no restaurants or movie theaters, all having fell victim to the disaster that destroyed nearly everything. The search for food and shelter are their top priorities, and they get by, relying on each other to keep moving on. It was a really good book, the voice of the father telling the story as it unfolds.

Spring Torrents: This book from the 1800’s, written by Russian author Ivan Turgenev, is one of my wife’s favorite books, and thus was highly recommended to me. It’s the story of a man, who while traveling through Germany, meets a girl who becomes the love of his life, and then his fiancé. It’s a story of one man’s journey, from the time he meets the girl, to returning to Russia to sell his estate so they will have enough money to start their life together. While in Russia, something unexpected happens that changes everything. It’s a pretty short read that ends rather abruptly, and while that annoyed me at first, I think it was the author’s intention to make the point at how quickly things can end.

Election: Written by Tom Perrotta, this book focuses on a high school election as several students try to become the next president of their school. Written from several different perspectives, a teacher, and several of the students, you get a sense that some things in high school are more important to some people than to others. It’s a story of betrayal, perseverance, of students and teachers alike constantly battling themselves in a struggle of right and wrong. I was first introduced to Perrotta through a book of short stories I read last year. Since then I’d been looking forward to reading more of his work, and Election did not disappoint.

Lust and Wonder: Augusten Burroughs is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I read A Wolf at the Table last year, a memoir of his childhood, and quickly became fascinated with his life, and the way in which he shares it. Of all the books on this list, Lust and Wonder is the one I recommend above the others, the story of his adult life, searching for love and contentment while battling his own personal demons, was a book that I had a hard time putting down. I started it late Saturday night and finished it today on my lunch break, getting lost in the story each time I began again. Like Jack Kerouac, Burroughs words feel like a privilege to read. There are several of his books that I haven’t read yet, but I am going to spread them out over time, using them as rewards going forward after I finish a particularly difficult book. I feel that it would be a disservice to the writer to binge read all of his work at once. To truly appreciate the greatness of his words, I think you need to take a break from them so that when you return you will see how truly lucky you are to be reading them.

Mulan Asian Bistro: Dinner with Dad

IMG_3655Last night after work, eager to catch up with my dad after returning from his trip to Denmark, we went to dinner at Mulan Asian Bistro in Memphis, the former burger place, that was formerly Dan McGuiness, an Irish style pub whose club sandwich I miss very much. We arrived about seven thirty, and it immediately struck me as odd that this restaurant was so empty on a Friday evening, perhaps a bad sign, but nevertheless we were led to our table and seated right away. The waiter brought over the menu, that was very large and contained sections of food from several Asian countries, reminding me of the Seinfeld episode where Babu Bhatt opens up the dream cafe that features a myriad of different cuisines from around the world. We looked through the menu for a while, and decided to order a few appetizers to share rather than picking a single dish, thus allowing us to try several different options to get a general feel of whether we liked this restaurant or not.

While we waited for the food to arrive, I scrolled through pictures my dad had taken on his two week vacation, as he told me all about his trip, mostly spent in Copenhagen, while venturing further into Denmark on several occasions to check out some art museums that sounded absolutely fascinating. The food arrived, teriyaki chicken skewers, vietnamese spring rolls, fried shrimp, and crab and cream cheese wontons, the table now full of delicious food for us to try. As we ate, we talked more about the trip, and how the only downside was the food in Denmark, which sounded pretty terrible, a complete contrast from the meal we were enjoying. As someone who can’t stand mayonnaise, my dad quickly found that Danish food was not something he particularly enjoyed, as they tended to put mayonnaise on everything, including pizza, which sounds positively revolting.

Our meal was delicious, the teriyaki chicken being the standout performer of the evening, perfectly cooked and tender, full of great flavor, however the vietnamese spring rolls were something both of us could have gone without, a cold wrap of lettuce, white noodles, and shrimp, that fell apart and littered the plate after the first bite. Perhaps there are people out there, healthier than I, that enjoy a mouthful of assorted greens with each bite, but I’m the type of person who would have preferred a better ratio of shrimp to lettuce. The fried shrimp was okay, as it’s a hard dish to mess up, but it was pretty bland and didn’t have the explosion of fresh flavors I’d come to expect in shrimp in my years of dining in Orange Beach, off the Gulf of Mexico. The crab and cream cheese wontons were delicious, and the sweet sauce provided a nice contrast to the savory flavors of the filling. Overall the meal was good and I would definitely return to Mulan to eat again, next time staying far away from the vietnamese spring rolls.

My Opinion of Graduations

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Graduation is one of the single worst experiences we subject ourselves to willingly, whether we are the graduates attending our own ceremony or there to support someone we care about. I haven’t been to a graduation ceremony since my own, seven years ago, except for my sister-in-law’s, and unless I have kids and they are smart enough to make it through school, which isn’t a given if they inherit my passion for school, I might not attend a graduation for the rest of my life. I was living in Florida while my two brothers graduated from high school in Arkansas, so I missed those, and when they graduate college, I don’t expect them to subject themselves to a multi hour ceremony of mostly other people’s names being called, so I won’t have to go to those either. My cousins who are graduating high school, at least so far have urged me not to attend the ceremony, whether it be because they don’t want me to waste my evening sitting there, or they are embarrassed by my presence, I’m not sure, but nonetheless I’m very grateful for them not wanting me there.

For some people I’m sure graduation is a big deal, and something they will remember forever, but I’m not one of those people. I don’t even really remember anything from my own graduation, not the speech that was given or how I felt walking across the stage, nothing at all, except for the purple robe that I wore which I only remember because of the pictures that were taken. In the very unlikely event that I’m ever asked to give the commencement speech at a graduation I’ll have to decline, because honestly I can’t think of much else that interests me any less than speaking to a group of strangers and pretending that I have some profound knowledge to impart on them throughout their life’s journey. If someone thinks I have any kind of useful advice to give a younger generation of graduates, I’ll write a blog that they can read, and my effort will stop there.

I’ve been to my fair share of graduations over the years, for family members, and I’m happy for them at having accomplished their goals, but the only thing I can remember about any of these ceremonies is how bored I was, and how thankful I was when they finally ended. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but it’s hard for me to believe that anyone actually enjoys the entirety of a graduation ceremony. Each person in attendance is there to show their support for a single person or a select few individuals, and every other name called is vastly ignored waiting for the graduation to end. Perhaps principals or teachers enjoy watching a class leave their school forever, but I bet that is probably because they see it as a celebration at never having to see this group of people in the same room again. Life can be pretty monotonous as it is, so there’s no reason to subject yourself to anymore than is absolutely necessary, hence my opinion why you should, at all costs, avoid going to a graduation ceremony.