Track Time

Today was Anthony’s 12th birthday and despite Mom and Dad asking him repeatedly for weeks what he might want as a gift, his reply was a consistent “I don’t know!” (He really wanted a camera but I’m still pricing them — and he’s not getting one better than mine.)

I had some suggestions for places to go and things to eat, all of which were met with opposition or just not logistically feasible for our back-up plans. I even threw out the idea of going to the local go-kart track to see if he would bite.

He was skeptical. But Ann, tired of his indecisiveness, made up his mind while he was taking a shower: we were going go-karting and he was going to like it. After all, I took the day off from work to spend it with him.

Go Kart World sits off the 405 in Carson and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think it was no longer in business or even abandoned by its owners who were suddenly in the midst of some kind of legal trouble. You’d think that — until you see the number of celebrities who have spent the day there: Cindy Crawford, Quentin Tarantino and yes, even David Beckham. The last one makes sense since he played for the L.A. Galaxy whose home is just a few blocks away. The arcade walls are covered with even more celebrity pictures than what’s on their website.

I guess if you want to have some fun on the down-low, this is the place to be.

Anyway, there are a ton of options for racing from a single ticket to an all-day pass. We opted for the all-day pass since it didn’t make any sense to spend $30 for two hours when the day pass was $37.50. It also gives you in-and-out privileges if you decide to go for a bite to eat and come back (which is what we did).

There are five tracks to choose from but really, for bigger kids and adults, there’s only three to be concerned with. And even then, you could break it down to just two since the Turbo Track isn’t all that exciting and very narrow which doesn’t allow for passing. Fun, but the competitive spirit is all but extinguished.

Anthony and I found ourselves on the Slick Track first. It’s nothing more than an oval with slippery curves that are perfect for drifting. Having played my share of driving video games in the past, I had this track figured out by my second go-around.

And while helmets are not necessary when driving, we brought ours anyway so that we could record some GoPro footage to share with everybody. Here’s our first time on the Slick Track. If you’re a fan of the old Daytona USA arcade game then you’ll dig the background music.

You might have noticed I had two GoPro mounts on my helmet. You’re right. That’s because I didn’t want to keep one in my pocket in such a cramped little car — more on that later — or keep removing it. I figured I might as well leave it and just switch positions as I needed to.

Also, at about 3:00 you’ll see Car #10 enter from the left side. The guy was a real bag of dicks and kept bumping Anthony on this track and the larger Super Track. His kids were also a couple of ill-mannered dillweeds who did the same thing but my boy got even with them by pushing them into the wall on the Super Track. As for the dad, I bumped him a few times at about 3:12 just to distance him from Anthony. This kind of stuff isn’t encouraged since it’s a family amusement center but hey, if dude’s going to be an asshole and take out my kid, I’m going Tony Stewart on his ass.

With that out of the way, we headed over to the Super Track which, as its name implies, is  the largest track at the facility. Here’s how that went (with music from Daytona USA once again).

Anthony and I mix it up a little at about 1:30 of this video and he later bumps me toward the Start line (you can hear me laughing about it later). As for that stupid yellow car in front of me? There was just no getting past them no matter how hard I tried. I wish I had a banana peel or turtle shell convenient.

So while the overall experience is indeed fun, especially for a first-timer, there’s plenty of other little things that I didn’t prepare for.

The stench/emissions produced by those tiny little lawnmower engines that power the go-karts can nearly gag you, especially when you’re directed to use a car under the overpass where it kind of collects. I had to throw the faceshield down on my helmet a few times as I was waiting just to cut back on the cloud of black smoke that was enveloping me.

At 5’10” and 200-something pounds, the size of the cars leaves something to be desired. For me, they required contortionist entry and exit as well as adjusting the seat belt before sitting down since most drivers are kids and they use a smaller size. It’s pretty cramped inside and by the time we were done, my elbows were sore from having them rest against the inner wall of the cars. But while I don’t like small, confined spaces these didn’t bother me much — except for getting in and out, which was no small task. I felt like I had done some core workouts by the end of our visit.

The arcade is less than impressive with games that someone like me, who grew up in the ’80 arcade era, would never bother to play. There’s also a fair share of claw and skill games to choose from. The only money I spent in there was for a can of Hawaiian Punch: driving these things can make you thirsty real fast.

Even with those few little things, it’s safe to say that we both had a great time and are looking forward to returning for whatever special occasion happens to be next on our calendar or any other day that finds us struggling with ways to spend it.

But I’ll leave my banana peels at home no matter how badly I’ll want to bring them.

Snopes It, People

I’ve been around this Interweb thing long enough to remember a seemingly endless line of chain emails.

“Bill Gates” and his “AOL Email Forwarding Tracking System” promised to give the winner — they would be chosen from a pool of those who forwarded the email — a cool $50k. Because he had nothing better to do than keep track of how emails were being forwarded (but I sent it anyway).

Of course back then, there really wasn’t a way to verify this kind of information. What about the promise of winning a Walt Disney World vacation for, yet again, forwarding an email? All we knew was that Walt Disney, Jr. wanted to send one of us to Florida and slap $5,000 in our hand for simply participating.

How would any of us know who won? When would we find out? Why wouldn’t we send that email to our closest 50 contacts, right?

Wait.

Walt Disney, Jr.? I knew for a fact — Google was still years away — that the elder Disney only had daughters. Not that I’m a Disney freak (because they really scare me) but it’s just something I had learned years prior.

That’s when my skepticism in these chain emails started, and when I stopped forwarding them.

Flash-forward to present day. It’s an election year and the mud has been slinging from every direction — candidates and voters. And to make it very clear, I’m not in full support of any of the candidates because they all have something very, very ugly lurking inside them.

Then there’s Donald Trump who lets his ugliness show because he’s sans filter. Out of all of the candidates, he’s the one I despise the most because he’s just a mouth without a plan. Well, he has plans but they carry all the credibility and feasibility of building a football stadium in downtown Los Angeles in a week for less than $5. He will be bad for America and will turn it into the laughingstock of the political world if he wins.

But his supporters love him because “he’s not afraid to speak his mind.”

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Okay, folks. Whatever.

So how does my extreme dislike of Trump have anything to do with the beginning of this blog post? Let me explain.

As I had mentioned, it’s an election year and people are desperate to share their opinions against the ones they hate and for the ones they support. My social media feeds are filled with both pro- and anti-Trump rhetoric with me being in the anti-Trump camp.

And I share pictures to show this.

For the most part, the things I’ve posted take a humorous slant at Trump because, let’s face it, he’s a joke. In addition to the one above, here are a few others.

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IMG_4905This last one is interesting because it includes a quote from Trump — a verifiable quote that was taken from one of his speeches.

It’s clear I don’t like the guy. But if I may, I’m going to defend him for a moment just for the sake of proving the point of how completely stupid people can be when it comes time to choose the next person to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Here’s a Trump “quote” that’s been making the social media rounds — except that it’s a hoax.

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Times aren’t what they used to be. Forwarding a picture of a guy whose camera allegedly survived the WTC attacks may have been believable in 2001 but we’re smarter than that now — or at least I’d like to think we are.

I was curious about this quote because, despite it sounding like something he’d say, I wasn’t convinced that he did.

So I searched for it and one of the top Google hits was an article on Snopes that debunks it and breaks it down into little itty-bitty bite-size chunks. My instinct was right.

Then there’s this picture:

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This one is ugly because it mentions racism for the sake of proving that it’s okay for Mexico to be “racist” against Guatemala. This added fuel to the Trump supporters’ fire because of his totally rational plan to make Mexico build and pay for their own wall to keep out all of those rapists and drug dealers he talked about.

But ah, if only this picture told the real story. It doesn’t. Half of the land shown in this picture is freaking Arizona and was meant to draw attention to how the wall effects wildlife, not keeping Guatemalan immigrants out of Mexico.

Look, I know it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and start posting pictures like this willy-nilly but the least people can do is get their crap together and make sure they are accurate.

The Internet isn’t just Yahoo or Lycos anymore so don’t be so damn lazy because I’m going to be “that guy” and if I’m not, someone else will.

Get your facts straight or look like a fool. And let us not forget what the great Abraham Lincoln once said:

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The Great Escape

I had originally intended to write about an incident I witnessed last night involving the neighbors that live on either side of me. Long story short, I’ve grown tired of repeatedly reporting this idiot neighbor to Animal Control for having his dog off-leash and seeing it go after other neighborhood dogs — and their owners on occasion. I figure for as big a nuisance as that dog is, if those involved in the fracases don’t bother to report this jackwipe* and his wild animal then I shouldn’t really give a damn, either.

Not my circus, not my monkeys. Deal with it or don’t. It’s no longer any of my business.

Now onto my life.

We have two cats: Monte and Steve. And they are extreme opposites.

At 15 pounds, Monte is one great big lump of orange-tabby love. He’s the friendliest and calmest cat you’ll probably ever meet or as Ann and I like to say, “He’s a lover, not a fighter.” He really is.

Steve, on the other hand, is much different. He’s very skittish and will often wildly jump in the air if he’s walking by me and I happen to twitch my foot. We think he drank too much coffee when he was a kitten.

And Monte will talk to you in little gurgly bursts while Steve will just meow and meow and meeeeeoooooooooooowww at the slightest mention of his name.

We sometimes let Monte roam the backyard because a) we know any plans of an escape are practically impossible considering his girth and b) he likes to roll around in the dirt. Steve? We’ve tried but given his uh…skittishness, the outdoor life is just not for him. Sometimes even the indoor life is scary for him.

Take, for example, the day we brought him home. Tommy, the name he was given at the shelter, was running all over the place trying to find a place to hide. Eventually he did but he was so well hidden that we came to the conclusion that he had escaped. Ann and Anthony walked up and down the street calling for The Cat Formerly Known as Tommy but didn’t get a response nor did they see him.

We eventually found him hidden not only underneath the couch but inside the bottom of it. Steve is funny that way.

In the past, Steve has made a few runs for the door and 99% of the time, we catch him. Given his personality, who knows how he would handle himself if he ever escaped into the wild.

Well, Monday night we sort of found out.

The patio screen door has a hole in it but it was a little warm that day so we left the sliding glass door open so get some air flowing through the house. We covered the hole with a piece of Anthony’s child safety gate that we normally put in front of the couch at night to keep Arliss off of it.

Monday night as I was nodding off, I heard a noise at the back door that woke me up. By the time I realized what was going on, Monte had slipped his chubby body between the gate and the screen door, and squeezed his way outside. Seeing this, I jumped into action and brought him back in the house.

After a minute of scolding him, it dawned on me: I need to see if Steve had gotten out.

No chance, I figured. He likes sleeping in the closet at night. Or on our bed, in the kitchen window, etc. He’s got his spots.

But I checked all of them and Steve wasn’t in any of them. I started to panic and woke up Ann.

We then grabbed flashlights and began to search the backyard — every corner of the backyard. We called for him and he never responded, something unusual for Steve. With that in mind, we went back in the house to check again.

Still not in any of his hangouts; still not speaking up.

Then we really started to panic. Remember, this skittish Steve. He doesn’t even like when any of us P-pop in his face (as when using a word such as pepperoni or anything else with more than one P in it. He’ll run away because it annoys him so much.

That’s why we were worried. If Steve can’t even handle something like a P-pop, there’s no way he would do well in the wild — especially considering the coyote population in our area. Yes, in southern California, even in a city with the word “beach” in its name, we have a coyote problem. They do and have eaten neighborhood cats.

Total panic mode. Ann even woke up Anthony to help us join the hunt. They went to search the backyard again while I got in the car to drive around the neighborhood and look for him.

None of us had any luck. At this point, after exhausting pretty much all we could do by 2:30 am and knowing that work/school alarm would be going off at 6 am, the only thing I could do was sob and think of what a great cat Steve was.

Even though he was tweaky, he was still our kitty. He loved having his belly scratched and batting LEGO pieces around the floor. Oh, and chewing on Anthony’s Nerf darts. Temptations cat treats were his favorite and at the sound of the crinkling bag, he’d come running. That didn’t happen Monday night.

We were nearly certain Steve was gone and there was nothing we could do. The thought of coyotes just gave me chills and I would have lost it if I had heard him put up a fight while…ugh. Just never mind. I was a mess enough as it was.

We decided to go to bed around 3 am and we were all upset. Then I saw Monte sitting at the patio door, looking outside as if he was expecting Steve to come back any minute.

I sat down next to him and pet him, quietly sobbing and looking out the door with him. My heart hurt. I got to bed at about 3:30 am.

The six o’clock alarm went off. I hadn’t gotten much sleep between then and 3:30, as if running on 2.5 hours of sleep would be healthy to begin with. As usual, Ann was up first. This was our first day without our tweaky Steve.

I was still in bed, obviously tired. I started to compose a Facebook post regarding Steve’s escape along with a picture of him curled up with Monte. It was almost a goodbye to him, considering his demeanor and lack of outdoor experience.

I then started to compose a flyer in my head that we would post around the neighborhood, then thought about when we should start looking at the shelter for him. Even though he’s chipped, I’m certain the phone numbers are not current.

But as I started to compose the somber Facebook post, I heard Ann calling me from the den quietly then progressively louder.

“Dave! It’s STEVE! IT’S STEVE! I found Steve! OMIGOD, he’s on the patio!”

I dropped everything and ran to the patio. Yes, it was Steve in Ann’s loving embrace, the hug that only he allows her to give. Anthony was excited. Ann cried. I was relieved.

Then I grabbed him and gave him a big hug as I cried. It was chilly that night but Steve was warm. The only thing we could figure was that he had gotten inside the shed in the backyard and found a nice little nook to sleep in. That, or he hopped the wall and curled up on our neighbor’s patio furniture. Steve’s good at curling up. Monte? Not so much.

But wherever Steve was hiding that night, it kept him safe from harm and that was a relief to all of us. For as little sleep we got that night, we were all so happy and excited to have good ol’ Steve back in our lives — even if he was only gone for a matter of hours.

Steve and Monte

Here’s Monte (background) keeping an eye on his brother from another mother the day of his return. Steve seems a little more reserved now, as if being in the wild sort of humbled him a bit.

Regardless, I’d rather have him back and meoooooooowwwwwing around the house than worrying if he is going to end up as coyote chow.

Welcome home, Steve. Now don’t ever do that again.

*Jackwipe: a phrase coined by a friend of ours, combining the words “jackass” and “ass-wipe.

Adios, Amigo

There are very few things on television, let alone television advertising, that I can honestly say I enjoy.

Sitcoms? Not so much. Dramas? Bo-ring!

Reality shows? Don’t get me started.

I’m just not into watching television. In fact when faced with the task of simply changing the channel, I get lost because I don’t even know where the Guide button is on the remote. Seriously – I have to inspect it for at least 15 seconds before I find it, and I kind of like it that way.

However, there’s a certain character who was a perennial favorite of mine and today I found out he’s been given a send-off only he would be worthy of receiving.

He’s the fictional spokesperson for Dos Equis beer or, as we all came to know him, The Most Interesting Man in the World.

This advertising campaign was just brilliant. Commercials were simple montages of his believable adventures with voiceovers that described his traits or persona, which only led to his mystique:

  • His blood smells like cologne
  • Sharks have a week dedicated to him
  • If opportunity knocks and he’s not at home, opportunity waits
  • He gives his GPS directions*
  • Mosquitoes refuse to bite him purely out of respect

And today, he embarked on his final journey: to Mars, never to return.

“His only regret…is not knowing what regret feels like.”

Ugh. This was the perfect way to end this campaign and I’m not afraid to admit that watching it sort of made me a little weepy inside. Hearing him utter his catchphrase one last time as he was being propelled deep into space really effed with my head, man.

But my attachment might go a bit deeper than most.

When this campaign first started some nine years ago, my family all went nuts. We had reason to.

“My God, that’s Uncle Lupe,” I recall many of my cousins saying. They weren’t far from wrong.

Uncle Lou, rest his soul, was our version of The Most Interesting Man in the World because of his lifelong habit of being adventurous and unpredictable:

  • He’d randomly show up at your door because he was in there area, even though he lived on the other half of the state
  • He wrote a book while sailing to the Galapagos Islands during hurricane season

There’s much more to the man than just those anecdotes, both of which were absolutely true. My family will attest to the fact that he lived a life that was pretty much parallel to that of TMIMITW and, to top it off, he sort of resembled him.

Now, sadly, the real adventurer and his doppelganger are no longer one with this earth.

Dos Equis, your campaign succeeded in doing what not many could: they made me care, and I don’t even drink beer** regularly. I couldn’t even care about Clara Peller, Homer and J.R., or the J&R Whiskey Liquor Lads the way I did about your character. And seriously, they were the only commercials that would make me go silent just so I could watch his latest adventures and catch up on the newest witticisms about him.

And honestly, I completely forgot what he was advertising at times.

So in closing, I raise a glass to The Most Interesting Man in the World and wish him much luck on his journey to Mars which, given his history, I’m sure he will turn into an inhabitable place.

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¡Adios, amigo!

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*This was my own contribution
**When there’s beer at the office for Social Hour, I’ll have one