The Allure of Minnesota

IMG_2503I’ve been thinking about moving to Minnesota recently, like really thinking about it, of course all the thinking means absolutely nothing if I can’t get my wife on board, which admittedly would be a near impossible task. For someone who grew up in southern California and Florida, warm weather is what she’s knows and loves, so it stands to reason that the harsh Minnesota winters are not at all appealing to her. I could let that discourage me, but I was on the debate team in high school, so if there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s crafting a convincing argument. Granted, I didn’t win a lot of debates, but I did make the team that anybody could sign up to be on, so that should count for something. Plus, it’s not like we’ll be able to move right away since my wife still has a year of school left here, so I’ve got some time to wear her down, um, I mean show her the benefits of moving north.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Memphis, and there are times that I even love Memphis, but summertime is not one of them. Some of the things that I love most about living here are the parks and the things you can do outside, but when it’s not even officially summer and the heat index is consistently over a hundred degrees, it’s absolutely miserable being outside. It’s kind of ironic that the one time of year when it stays light the longest so you can actually do things outside after work, but it’s so hot that being outside has completely lost all appeal to me. And by the way, it’s not just me that feels this way. Remember that wife I referenced in the first paragraph, the one that grew up in Southern California and South Florida? Well, she is absolutely hating this heat too. We were at some store the other day and we’d been inside for a little while, maybe Target, and when we walked out it was a few minutes after seven in the evening, a time when you would think the heat should have relented at least a little bit, but it smacked us in the face and my wife, not normally one to complain about how hot it is, did. So maybe I’ve got a better chance of convincing her to move to Minnesota after all.

I just love the idea of living in Minneapolis, a city I’ve only been to a handful of times, but when I liked each time I was there. One of my favorite things about the city, is that even in the middle of a fairly big metropolis, there is so much natural beauty. A couple of years ago when I was on vacation there, we went to this beautiful park in the city that had a really big waterfall and some several hiking trails and it was just pretty cool, and despite it being July, it really wasn’t so hot outside, which is really all you can ask for in the middle of Summer. We even went to a Minnesota Twins baseball game, and it was enjoyable, whereas now, I made up my mind last night that I’ve missed my chance to go to any of the Memphis minor league baseball games this year because it’s just way too hot and would not be at all enjoyable.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to convince my wife that we should move to Minnesota or not. In fact I think the chances of that happening or probably pretty slim, but it is nice to know that we are both in agreement that it is way too hot in Memphis right now. At least for now there’s hope which allows me to dream about the allures of Minnesota. Hopefully those happy thoughts will get me through this hellish Memphis summer.


The Bus Ride From Hell


There will come a point at the end of your life where you reflect back on things you have done, the good memories you’ve made and the regrets you have, whether it be peacefully on your deathbed, or in the seconds before you die in a horrible accident. I’m not sure how I’m going to die, but I am one hundred percent sure that when I think about the important decisions I made in my life, the good and the bad, the one that’s going to haunt me the most is the time I took the greyhound bus from Fort Pierce, Florida, to Memphis, Tennessee.

It was the summer of 2014, and a very hot one at that, but my spirits could not be dampened, because despite the misery of living under those devastating meteorological conditions, I was about to have a two week vacation. My wife and I, taking our first trip together as a married couple since our honeymoon, were going to go visit my dad in Memphis for a week, then go spend a week at the beach in Destin with my mom’s side of the family for a week after that. I was getting to spend a substantial amount of time with my family that I hadn’t seen in a while, and I didn’t have to worry about work for two weeks, so I was about to be living a pretty stress free life. I just had to get out of Fort Pierce first, and since I wasn’t confident enough to drive my car on the interstate, for fear that the speed alone with shatter it into a million little pieces, there was no way I was going to drive it across multiple states, which made the getting out of town part a little more difficult.

Based solely on the fact that it was much cheaper than flying, we decided to make our trip to Memphis via Greyhound, the bus not the dog, though I can’t imagine that riding on the back of a bony dog would have been much more uncomfortable than the reality we ended up with. Fort Pierce was only the second stop on the Greyhound’s journey through Florida that began in Miami and ended somewhere less fun, presumably, but even so, the bus was already packed by the time it arrived at the truck stop gas station by the interstate. My wife and I waited in line to board, and once our tickets were scanned and we made our way onto the bus, it was clear that there was no room for us to sit together, so she took a seat near the front, and I walked to the back, plopping down on the seat next to a guy whose head was completely under a blanket, presuming correctly that if he was sleeping then I wouldn’t have to talk to this guy for the four hour trip to Tallahassee. Unfortunately he snored most of the way, so even though he wasn’t badgering me with conversation, he still managed to make the first leg of the trip an annoying one.

It was dark by the time we arrived in Tallahassee where Leticia and I were reunited in the greyhound station that somehow smelled worse than the overnight train, the “Trenitalia,” that runs from Rome to Paris. Fortunately, we were able to sit together for the rest of the trip, which seemed like it would never end. We would ride on the bus for a few hours, then make our next stop, where occasionally we would change buses, and then start the process all over again. Shortly after four in the morning we arrived at the Atlanta bus station, which thanks to my extensive research beforehand, in an attempt to ease my nerves and make me feel better about riding on Greyhound for the first time in my life, I read some pretty horrible stories recounted by passengers passing through the Atlanta station. Like a gentleman, I let my wife exit the bus before I did, which also meant that I could kind of use her as a human shield if something were to go down, not that I was thinking such terrible thoughts.

I was carrying a bag over my shoulder as we stepped out into the muggy Atlanta night, and some guy who was just hanging around by one of the street lamps stepped up to me and asked if I had a laptop he could borrow. I told him no and then he pointed at my bag, the kind of bag that were clearly built to carry computers, and asked what was inside. Luckily I had left my laptop at home for this trip, so I was more than happy to open up my bag and show him the contents that included an extra t-shirt, my toiletries, some snacks, a book, and a notebook, none of which interested him, so he let me go inside while he went looking for his next target, and luckily, I didn’t get approached by anymore strangers for the rest of the trip.

From the time we left Fort Pierce until the time we arrived in Memphis, the trip took about a total of twenty hours, which is almost a full day that I will never get back. I feel like when you look back on bad experiences, you can find one or two positive things that happened or something meaningful you can take from the bad experience, but that’s not the case here. Not only was the trip incredibly long with a maddening amount of stops, but the whole on bus experience was awful, from the signature stench of Greyhound, which smelled to me like sadness and body odor, to the uncomfortable seats left my butt incredibly sore after only about six hours, which left me to shift every few minutes for the remainder of the trip, endlessly searching for a more comfortable position that just couldn’t be found. Sure we paid less money to take the bus rather than flying, but what we lost, all that time and our innocence, was worth way more than the money we saved. Hopefully I never find myself riding Greyhound ever again, but if it does end up happening, maybe I’ll get lucky and be stuffed inside somebody’s suitcase under the bus, because I would much rather be a decomposing corpse than to willingly ride that bus from hell ever again.

The Worst Thing About Summer

IMG_3212Even though it’s not officially summer yet, the devastating heat has crashed the party, and unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going anywhere. There are some things I love about the Summertime, the fact that it stays light later so I can enjoy doing things outside after I get off of work, the traffic is considerably lighter during my morning commute with the kids out of school which is definitely a plus, and then there’s the vacations I’m fortunate enough to get to go on every year, but while these are all big positives, I still hate summer overall. I’ve always been a man who prefers a cold wintery day to a hot sunny one, and there are a lot of people that disagree with me. I know because most often when I comment on what a beautiful day it is when it’s overcast and in the mid forties, people scoff at me in disbelief, but I experienced one of their ideal days last weekend, a sunny day in the upper eighties, and I have to say, it was pretty awful.

I went to the zoo just to walk around for a bit with my dad, because it was a perfect day as ascribed by the masses, and on a day like that, you really should get outside and “enjoy” it. As the weekend approached, virtually everyone that came into my work was talking about the weekend and how they’re going to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather, which is a positive attitude that isn’t completely meritless, and in fact I was so hyped up by all the talk about the weather that I was actually excited about the possibility of doing something outside. Dutifully, my dad and I set out to enjoy the beautiful day that mother nature had blessed us with, only it became evident fairly quickly, at least to me, that it was already too hot for my liking. Nobody in their right mind would set their in-home thermostat above eighty degrees, yet here we were willingly walking briskly in the heat, which might even constitute as exercise in some states.

Once we were nice and hot and ready to die, we left the zoo, but then, instead of walking a few steps to the car in the parking lot, we had another several minutes of walking ahead of us, because we had the bright idea to leave our car at the park and walk to the zoo, what with it being such a beautiful day and all. Who could have blamed that decision? This day was talked up so much and everyone kept saying how beautiful it was going to be, so we would have been stupid not to walk through the park on such a fantastic day. We get back to the car, which was a level of hell in and of itself because the interior felt like a brick pizza oven, the heat punching me in the face and pulling me inside to drown in it as soon as I opened the door. The windows were rolled down and the air conditioner was turned on, and it only took a couple of minutes to feel like I might actually make it out of this situation alive. As I sat there, suffocating in the heat, I thought to myself a terrible thought, that we aren’t even actually to summer yet, and then I wished for the heat to go ahead and finish me off right then and there, to spare me from the agony that lies ahead in July and August.

Summer in St. Louis

When I was ten or eleven, possibly even younger than that, I went with my dad on a summer vacation trip to St. Louis. We did a lot of fun things while we were there, that I have vague recollections of, but the overwhelming takeaway from the trip wasn’t fond memories that we will forever cherish, but rather of how hot and miserable it was there. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to St. Louis, Missouri in the middle of summer, but there’s a good chance that satan himself lives there because it is quite literally hell on earth. The first stop on our trip was at Busch Stadium, the old one, to watch a Cardinals baseball game. From what I remember about the game, my favorite player, Mark McGwire, popped up a couple times and struck out the other, not once getting on base. The highlight of the afternoon was the frozen lemonade my dad bought for me at some point during the game, probably after seeing me watching the man walking through the stands with the delicious and refreshing treat rather than watching what was happening on the field below. After the game all of the kids were welcomed onto the field to run the bases, which was pretty cool, despite having to run in hundred degree temperatures with dirt being kicked up from the other runners hitting me in the face giving me flashbacks from my desert storm days.

The other things we did in St. Louis were go to the zoo and go to Six Flags, both of which turned out to be less than thrilling experiences. At least the zoo was free so we didn’t feel obligated to stay all that long and milk as much fun out of the day as we could. There’s a picture of me somewhere standing next to a metal statue of a cobra or python at the zoo, which I inexplicably felt the need to place my hand on, which of course was piping hot from the overhead sun and gave me a nice jolt of pain as I burned my hand. At Six Flags it was even worse because not only was it hot, but we were just standing in line for rides, barely moving, whereas at the zoo at least we were walking around and looking at different animals. The worst thing about six flags was waiting in line for the gigantic wooden rollercoaster. As a child I wasn’t the biggest fan of roller coasters, but I agreed to go on this one because I knew how much my dad really wanted to, but as we inched forward in line, that old familiar feeling started building up in the pit of my stomach, the mounting fear becoming more and more unbearable. I don’t know how long we stood in line but I think it was probably well over an hour, and by the time we got tot the front of the line, I just couldn’t stand it any longer and told my dad that I couldn’t go on the ride. I’m sure he was disappointed, but we made the walk of shame together, back through the crowd who I’m sure thought I was the biggest chicken in the world, but at least I was safe from the sure peril that would come from riding the roller coaster.

We did all of these different activities on different days, using my great aunt Sue and great uncle Milt’s house as our base, the place where we would return to each evening to sleep before heading out again the next day. My dad and I slept in the basement, and despite being across the Missouri border in Illinois, it too was unbearably hot, although it was made better by the presence of a seemingly unending supply of chocolate milk, which aunt Sue poured very liberally and would do so whenever the urge to drink some struck me, which was likely every fifteen or twenty minutes. I remember one day, some of their friends had a pool and said we could go over there and swim, which sounded like the best thing in the world to do on a day that was miserably hot, but when we got there, it was not as refreshing experience as we had built it up to be, the water also having been inflicted with the curse of that summer, causing it to be more like warm bath water than what we had been hoping for. All in all it was a very hot trip that frankly I’m surprised that we walked away from without having a heat stroke, but that being said, I’m glad I had the experience because the miserable stories that were once our reality, can be looked back on now and laughed about.

Summer is the Worst

IMG_3980If Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, it’s a safe assumption that summer, its polar opposite, is the worst. I absolutely hate summer, but believe it or not, there are actually some people out there who love it, and while I’m not here to judge, there is little doubt in my mind that those people are insane. I can somewhat understand this thinking if you are a student, and see the summer as a much needed break from school, but even then, I can remember growing tired of the summer fairly quickly, always ready for school to start back again, not because I liked school, but because it signified the beginning of the best months of the year. I know there are some people that think every day is important and a gift to be cherished, but for me, once the vacation is over, I would be perfectly fine fast forwarding the next two months of my life, regaining consciousness once September begins.

Think about all the good things that happen once September arrives. Football starts, which is unarguably the greatest sport we have to watch. Today I went over to my dad’s house for lunch and we watched the NFL Redzone replay of week sixteen last year while we ate. I delighted in watching Antonio Gates score on a short touchdown against the Browns, because one of the great things about football is being able to watch with interest a game that happened seven months ago. The next event of interest, primarily my own, is my birthday. I’m one of the people who likes their birthday, because again, it marks the start to the greatest time of the year, but I can see why other people might not be all that excited about September 4th, so feel free to disregard this point altogether. Moving on.

Once October gets here, the leaves begin to change and the air begins to cool and their is just an unidentifiable quality that brings me copious amounts of happiness every day when I step outside in the morning and the world just smells like fall, whereas now when I step outside and a wave of heat punches me in the face, I’m already mad at the world by the time I get to my car with beads of sweat gathering on my forehead. I really hate summer. So once fall gets here, Halloween follows soon after, a holiday that I don’t really celebrate much as an adult, but a day nonetheless that acts as a milestone on the journey towards Christmas, which really is the greatest time of the year. Less than a month later comes Thanksgiving, a holiday that combines my two favorite things in life, eating a lot of food and watching football. By this time the happiness comes on a daily basis, each morning a crisp new beginning full of hope, these feeling only growing more intense as December rolls on.

Finally Christmas arrives and it is a great time spent with family, enjoying all of the traditions that I’ve practiced for a lifetime that make the day so special. By now it is cold outside, and I’m the happiest person in the world, enjoying the simplicity of sitting around a table, playing board games with my brothers, while laughter fills the air. There is nothing like this in the summer time. Summer vacations are great and full of good memories, but once they are over, they’re over, there is nothing left lingering to carry over into your daily routines, but in the fall and winter, there is just something magical about the way those days make me feel, where I look forward to leaving the house every day, feelings that summer just can’t bring to me. I guess what I’m really trying to say is this; vote Kendall Curtis for president in 2028 and I will do everything in my power to ban summer, the worst time of the year.

4th of July: A Walk in the Park and a Great Movie

IMG_3983It’s the fourth of July, independence day, so it’s pretty common to go watch a fireworks show tonight, but it’s raining, I hate loud noises, and I don’t feel like fighting traffic downtown, so the thunder shaking the walls of my apartment will have to suffice. Growing up I always celebrated this holiday in the same way, having a big cook out at my grandparents house, with burgers, hot dogs, cheese dip, watermelon, and homemade ice cream, but over the past few years those traditions have fallen by the wayside so I really wasn’t sure how I was going to spend my day. Last year was great, my wife and I, along with my brothers, mom and grandmother were all in Minneapolis watching a Twins baseball game, which is really the most American way to celebrate America’s independence, but unfortunately, my vacation was last week so all hopes of starting a new tradition on the 4th, involving going to a baseball game, diminished rather quickly.

I woke up early this morning, about five, and after reading for a little while, decided to go to the park for an early walk before it got unbearably hot outside, as Memphis summers tend to do. It was a beautiful morning, a bright blue sky with the sunlight on my back as I walked along one of the trails at Shelby Farms. It was early enough so it wasn’t very crowded, which was nice, because after having passing just a few people, I was already growing tired of saying “good morning”, an insane ritual of having to speak with a complete stranger just because you are walking past them, but I nodded and mumbled the words anyway, lest I seem like a jerk for not responding. I walked for an hour, but it didn’t seem that long, walking past several lakes surrounded by trees and smelling the fresh honeysuckle along the way, sweeping me up in the spirit of summer.

This afternoon I went to the movies with my dad and watched “Baby Driver” a film I knew nothing about going in, but was a little skeptical of due to what struck me as an odd name. The movie focused on “Baby” a young man indebted to an apparent mobster, although I don’t believe an official organization is mentioned, pays him back by being the getaway driver for various heists and robberies. It’s a very compelling story of someone being forced into a bad situation, and his struggle to get out of it to save himself and the girl that he has fallen in love with. “Baby” has a strong connection to music which is apparent throughout the movie, bringing a completely new perspective to music in film. Overall I really enjoyed the movie, however there were a couple of things toward the end that struck me as pretty unbelievable, the director seeing how far he could stretch the reality to cram even more action into the last few minutes. I’m giving it a 4 out of 5 rating, and I definitely recommend you checking it out, but of course you don’t have to, because we live in America, and you’re independent to do as you please.


Vacation is Over

This morning I woke up at 3 a.m. and didn’t go back to sleep. Before that I woke at 1:30 and before that at 12. In a normal night I wake up maybe once, but the universe seems to conspire against me when it knows I plan to wake up early to drive long distances as I do today, and shows no mercy towards my tired body. We left Fort Morgan, the vacation was over and I had to drive home, which is the worst part of the vacation as I’m sure it is with most people. We left the beach house a few minutes after four, and a few minutes into the trip I was already tired, but soldiered on pretending like everything was okay. My wife saw through the act, asking me numerous times if I needed to stop for coffee, which I did, along with a couple more hours of sleep, but I couldn’t let everyone down, so I drove on. After about three and a half hours I stopped for gas, and let my brother drive, which made me so nervous I wasn’t able to sleep at all.

Four hours in we stopped for breakfast at Hardee’s, a place I’d been envisioning in my mind for days. I got two biscuits, one with pork chops and gravy and the other a steak biscuit. My wife, Leticia took over, and I ate my breakfast like a ravenous squirrel as we continued dos the road. I wasn’t too worried about Leticia’s driving, but for some reason I was unable to fall asleep, a problem that I encounter on airplanes and now in cars apparently. We arrived in Memphis shortly after 11, and I unpacked the car, my suitcases, shopping bags full of new shoes and anything else resembling a great vacation. My brother went home, but how his car didn’t get towed from the apartment complex that I live in I will never know. It took two trips, up and down the stairs and now everything we brought back is sitting in my bedroom, waiting to be unpacked. Maybe I’ll deal with all of that tomorrow, because right now I’m exhausted, and the thought of putting t-shirts on hangers in my closet and shorts in my drawer seems way too tough to handle.

I will miss the beach, I always do, but I guess the fun we had outweighs the trouble I have unpacking. Memphis isn’t so terrible. There are great restaurants to eat at and fun things to do, the only downside being that these things are no longer accompanied by a week at the beach. My wife asked me early in the trip if I thought I could live full time in the beach house, and I originally told her no, thinking that I needed to live in a town with a lot more culture, but now that I’m here, it’s hard to not want to live that life. Maybe one day I’ll have enough money to live that life, carefree on the beach, but until then, I’m content to keep doing what i do, working too much with the hope that perhaps I will get another vacation like this in the future. Please excuse me, I think it’s time for me to go and take a nap.