Why My Mall Sucks

I’m not one to visit a shopping mall very often but I know a winner when I see it. The overall experience of walking into a giant super plaza like The Mall of America is magical and unforgettable. Seeing all the people bustling about and all the wonderful stores and side attractions makes you feel like you’re in a wonderland of some sorts; the carousels, bungee jumping, and kiddie trains choo chooing about adds to the eye and ear pleasing scene.

I would like to say the same thing about my own mall close to home but that is not the case. The Westwood Mall in my hometown of Jackson, Michigan pales in comparison to other multi store complexes I have been to in other cities around Michigan and in other states. For one reason, it seems like it is so dead there most of the time; no wonder certain stores can’t stay in business. Compared to other shopping malls, I would say Westwood is pretty bland and boring. Kansas’ Great Mall in Olathe had a lot of cool stores to choose from and the entertainment value there was endless. Plus, it had a lively atmosphere that Westwood is lacking right now. Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor is, in my short opinion of malls, probably one of the best in Michigan, you couldn’t possibly walk out of that place disappointed, especially if you drove a ways to get there. The mall in Novi, Michigan has two floors and lots of picture worthy tourist attractions. The food court, another thing Westwood lacks, is amazing and it includes some well-known restaurant brands and others that are more local to the area; this also provides an area to chill, eat, and chat it up with friends and family. Westwood has two floors but the second is for staff only and probably storage as well. Hmm…I wonder what the employees do up there while on their breaks?

I recently went to the mall in Rockford, Illinois. It was called the Cherryvale and sported two floors, escalators, a glass elevator, and many store outlets that are popular among people today. There also were video screens around the food plaza that showed up to date news on movies and sweepstakes being held throughout the mall. These screens had a recurring section of featured YouTube videos being played, most of them involving cats and goats in trees. The ethnic diversity in Rockford made this mall an interesting place to hang about. I found it neat to order a frozen yogurt from a man that I was sure had roots in India and thought resembled Raj’s dad on The Big Bang Theory from the way he spoke; I was a little intimidated by him. Another neat thing about this Cherryvale was the free samples being given out around the place by employees. They seemed so nice and I tried every one of the samples that I came into contact with, even the little cups of yogurt from Mr. Kootherpali. The Chinese restaurant actually had people of that heritage working behind the counter and giving out samples. A Spanish person spoke Spanish to a cashier who also spoke Spanish and I was like “this is unlike anything I’ve ever seen at home”. That same thing happened at a McDonald’s in Rockford; it was the first time I heard a real conversation all in Spanish, besides in TV and movies.

It is no quick trip through the gigantic plaza of Cherryvale and unlike Westwood or even the Jackson Crossing you feel like the outside is far away and you are in the “belly of a beast”; at Westwood, it is only a short walk before you see the doors again making it seem less intimate and appealing. That’s what I like about malls, feeling like you could never go home because there is always something new to see everywhere you look.

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This shopping mall in Manila, Philippines completely blows the tiny Westwood out of the water

 

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Things to do during a NASCAR rain delay

The 2014 Daytona 500 got red flagged for rain so Jack and I got bored and started to present some interesting facts about the race, number one being the starting point.

1. Try to offer a scientific explanation of the commentators left to right positioning on screen:

The main speaker of the broadcast is always on the left, being the traditional rule in TV etiquette (at least here in America). The audience’s eyes seem to focus more on the left side of the screen so the guy who is going to speak the most will obviously be over there, with some exceptions. I know this is the thing in America but in other countries, such as Japan, it might be different. On talk shows, the guest star is on the left because he/she is the star, the one being spotlighted and the viewers eyes are trained on them. In America, we also read left to right, drive on the left side of the car, and on Windows computers have the start button to what Beyonce would say.

2. View highlights of classic driver fights, from the ‘water cooler’ race of 1979, to The Intimidator saying “that son of a bitch”, to ‘the shove’ of 2006 with Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth, to the Edwards and Keselowski feuds at Talladega. And also a little bit of Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, and Tony Stewart mixed in there.

3. Watch last year’s Daytona 500 with a person who didn’t watch it last year, betting money on who will win, when cautions will come out, etc., and relaying events that had not happened yet and talking about people who were still alive then, maybe watching the race.

4. Entertain self with episodes of “Bob’s Burgers” and “American Dad”.

5. Sing karaoke songs. Any songs related to racing are very welcome.

6. Shoot hoops.

7. Play a game of Twister.

8. Watch the “circus act” on the track as jet dryers and workers try to dry the surface, sometimes using squeegees and boxes of Tide to the tune of “Car Wash”.

9. Figure out that from Neil Armstrong’s name, Neil A spelled backwards is A lien (Alien). So the joke is “did they send him to the moon or did they send him BACK to the moon?”. You could also get “Strong Mr. Alien” out of that. Again, it’s all a conspiracy. NASA didn’t really send anyone to that rock in the sky. It was staged. Neil Armstrong is a geniusly made up name that could have double meanings.

I’m only joking of course. I’m a realist. I don’t believe in conspiracies, hoaxes, and other crap passed around the Internet by people with no life. Paul McCartney is alive and well.

10. Thinking “when are they going to get this damn race started again?” and “They didn’t have to introduce all 43 drivers to us with a cheesy ceremony like that”.

11. Catch up on your favorite TV shows on Netflix (The Walking Dead, everyone!).

12. Reminisce about the first 38 laps of the race, watching it all over again if you have to.

Am I in a Movie?

My family and I were in Lansing on the twelfth of February – my sister Emily’s 18th birthday – and heading over to the CSL Plasma center to donate for some money like we’ve been doing for over 2 years now, excluding her and my dad. Not the best way to get by but it helps out a lot since we are so cash-strapped and can’t even afford a new dryer. It was supposed to be a great day for my sister – I mean, this is her last day officially as a kid and will soon be able to do anything she ever dreamed of, except drink yet, of course, which isn’t a big priority for her anyway.

First, my dad pulled into the Speedway/Sunny Day gas station to, you know, fill er up. It’s usually a stop and go, normal everyday situation. But today I sensed something different. For one thing, Dad was slower than usual, and he is pretty slow anyways; he was in the store for quite a while. Finally, he came out of the store with a receipt, crinkled it up, and threw it in the trash. We were making jokes about him being slow and a putz and other jokes about Charles and Al, two lovable buffoons, who didn’t go to donate today. The commotion broke out as my dad, Bob, was pumping gas. I was in the middle seat, thinking away absent-minded, and heard some shouting behind me. Then I heard a gunshot but was oblivious to the moment, didn’t know exactly what was happening at first and didn’t react immediately. Then a grey SUV backed up into another behind a gas pump and smashed its front bumper up pretty good, pushing in the front end of the car like an accordion. The damaged car turned around and fled, the driver obviously pissed. We thought at first that a riot was going to break out and this was some sort of dispute. But then Emily and my uncle Jack, who saw the action from the backseat, believed it was an undercover cop after they saw a man in a brown coat running after the criminal’s car. The details were murky from my point of view but all the undercover cop did was shoot the guy’s tires; I thought someone got shot and was lying on the ground; It could have ended up much worse. The criminal fled in his car and jumped over a snow bank.

Later on, behind the snow bank, I saw a couple of men chasing the fugitive after he ditched the car which either crashed into something or was cornered by the police. The guy was obviously wanted and had been staked out perfectly at the gas station. As we were finally getting the hell out of there another grey SUV pulled into the gas station and seemed to drive over the debris left over from the collision as if the driver didn’t notice it was there. I thought “how stupid can this guy be?”

I guess it’s a good thing we weren’t in the middle of the commotion or dad wasn’t walking towards the store as that SUV backed up into the other one. We should have ducked our heads when that gun went off but I guess we’re not so used to situations like this. It was fairly controlled and the cop knew what he was doing and obviously had some backup to stop the criminal from getting away. Still, though, shooting a gun off in broad daylight in front of innocent bystanders is a bit risky. Jack had this crazy idea afterwards that it was a scene being filmed for a movie and the people at the gas station were extras. It sure seemed like it because I’ve probably been to gas stations a million times and nothing like this ever happened. It was like an action scene from an old Bruce Willis’ flick or an episode of COPS. Either way, it was surreal.

Dad was so slow getting out of there, just taking his merry time with pumping the gas; Mom and Jack were yelling for him to hurry up, and it is funny when my uncle Jack gets nervous because he sounds like a little schoolgirl with his voice getting high. A blue-shirted employee of the Sunny Day convenience store came out and looked around like “What the hell?”

In front of us was a brown car at the pump and an African-American man near it with a winter hat and a red plaid, Paul Bunyan-esque shirt on. He was just laughing like what just happened was no big deal. Yeah, I’m sure he’s seen his fair share of eruptions in the cruddy city of Holt-Lansing.

“Just another day in Lansing” I said.

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and then…

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Another thing like this happened on July 7, 2007. 7/7/7. Supposed to be one of the luckiest days ever but not for an unfortunate driver in Detroit. As we were heading out from Detroit at night from a 14-inning stint with the Red Sox, the Tigers winning by the way of a walk off double, we came upon an intersection on MLK Boulevard. We were about to cross it when a car came zooming by from the left and hit the side of a car coming from the road in front of us, smashing in it’s side door and spinning it around several times. The other car just kept on going through the intersection and never looked back, the driver not stopping and facing up to their reckless, life threatening mistake. This night was another lucky break for us, being in the right place at the right time. Dad called in the accident like a noble Samaritan would.

Afterward, back in 2014, we donated and got our money and left the strange city of Holt-Lansing where there are shoot and runs, people just nonchalantly walking out into the street full of cars, and poor beggars on every corner. As day turned to night, we arrived at Ruby Tuesdays in Okemos to eat dinner. A fine restaurant with a nice salad bar that really upped the meal I got (a slice of hickory bourbon chicken with a side of onion rings). We had a young waitress that looked like in she was in her 20s, blonde and kind of ditzy like a pre-Penny at the Cheesecake Factory. I thought she was kind of cute and I smiled at her and tried to get her attention and it worked quite a bit. Even walked by the section where she and the servers were and then walked right around the middle bar and stool section. So silly of me, I thought afterward.


DP 

Swinging With The Spainards

Hola, amigos. It has been quite a while since I have blogged and I am excited to get going again. Since I last left there have been quite a lot of adventures that I have partaken, some in particular were me posing with a jay-hawk and slipping on the ice and landing on my tush, rather comically. Going off on a tangent…

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Learning another language is a major challenge. Just ask me, who still can’t manage to get that fantastic “rolled r” sound down. I just sound ridiculous when I try. In particular, I have been trying to learn Spanish which I seem to be more comfortable with learning than other foreign tongues. It’s not just about memorizing a long list of words translated from English. You have to speak the words in complete sentences and try to have a fluent conversation. In real life you aren’t going to have the luxury of having the conversation slowed down so you can understand what is being said. No, in reality, those frigging Mexicans and what nots seem to speak a mile a minute that you wonder if the people native to that language can even understand. Like speeding up a song so that it is barely comprehensible. And unlike English, if you say a word a particular way, for instance, it could mean something else and possibly offend someone. And in some of the most ruthless countries that most likely means getting stabbed and left to die alone. Oh, the horror.

Anyways…it is a work in progress and by no means will I succeed at having the trusty weapon of a second language tucked under my belt in a matter of weeks. It might take months or even years to finally watch a movie in Spanish without the English subtitles on. Spanish is a beautiful and artful language that is more flexible than standard American-speak. Words can be rearranged to convey different meanings, unlike English which follows strict guidelines unless you are Shakespeare or Yoda (Different ways, arranged these words they be). I’m getting into the meat and potatoes of an independent at home Spanish course online. It seems to be helping me and I have managed to string a couple of sentences together without the help of Google Translate. Hooray for me. I’m off to a nice start but doubt I will get to the point of speaking effortlessly without paying top dollar for the whole deal, the whole lesson package. If I bought that then I could learn the lessons on the go or when I’m out for walks, instead of being tied down to my computer. One night while my dad was snoozing I was repeating words from the Spanish course in a normal speaking voice. He overheard me and said, between chainsaw snores, “Be quiet”.

Another fantasy of mine has been to visit another country such as China and immerse my self in the language of the land. I’ve heard that’s the most effective way to start building up your confidence because I would be among people of different culture and background. As soon as I got used to their ways the language portion would not seem like such a challenge to me anymore. It would become an extension of myself in a sort of way, another part of me that I can switch on and off whenever the situation calls for it.

Then again, getting dumped into a country I have no experience with would feel like a nightmare for a while. I wouldn’t know what was being said or if people were saying things about me that weren’t very nice. I guess it would be helpful to have a translator on my side. I could be like Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, learning Chinese rather quickly and fluently and then fighting a huge hoard of angry Chinamen and living to tell the tale. Nothing like a fish out of water, eh?

Well, next time I talk I should be able to go a restaurant and order my meal in Spanish – to the annoyance of the waitress who I might impress and score a date with. Or not.

See you later. ¡Hasta la vista, lectores y seguidores!

Charles in Charge

Well, hello there! Does the cheesy 80’s sitcom come to mind? If it does then you may have come to the right place, maybe. This is about a man named Charles who thinks he’s king of the castle but just until his egotistical bubble pops and he’s sent crashing back down to Earth and opens his eyes to see that he is in fact a loser like all the other losers strolling around. It’s about the camping trip we had planned for the summer in August. It turned out to be a disaster…

The camping trip was hell, Charles in charge, being an ass, turning the camp into Gilligan’s Island, bringing everything except the kitchen sink. Bought a $150 canopy, sold it later on and I swear I saw the same one at the Jackson fair, judging by the identical box on the ground. Chaz starts (or attempts to start) fires every time with some success, walks around with silly straw hat, uses whole tank of propane. Drank 10 beers, still drives. Totes, totes, totes, for just three days, but wears same clothes. Brought way too many chairs, I really couldn’t decide which to sit in. I prided myself in getting my tent pitched before his, which I did. When it comes to people like Chaz, I really get a competitive edge, which I should feel terrible about, but it’s Chaz so no.

Weather was hot and unbearable. Mosquitoes, gnats, bees buzz about like motorcycles, can’t touch us from bug repellent, MC would be proud. Always resorting to rubbing my face with a towel to cool things down, but works as good as a lawnmower in a cornfield.

Went fishing for the first time, caught nothing but got a few bites. Worm gone every time. Stuck in seaweed and other messes, losing a bobber and some line. Had a fisherman look with a camo jacket, sleeves rolled up, and shirt wrapped around my neck to avoid sunburn.

First attempted dinner on a campfire sucked, ended up using propane. I literally spilled the beans in the fire, ending up eating the “enemies” food, according to Jack and Emily.

Slept in tent , felt miserable, bee/flies buzzing constantly in my corner, repellent only kept them off for about 10 minutes, the cheap stuff. Still a better story than Twilight.

Raccoon, joked about it being in the tent, ate food from our picnic table under Chaz’s Christmas lights pavilion. Was it Roger, our three legged raccoon who used to visit us on occasional nights while we were still living way back in the sticks?

Em’s car brakes failed, had to be towed away along with Jack and Emily. They left me some food in a Styrofoam box, didn’t heighten my spirits much. Rain poured after I wished there would at least be a thunderstorm to authenticate the experience.

Fight ensues between Mom and Charles, “We’re all God’s children”, Charles said. Tells us about his days as a youth, getting swirlies, pants pulled down, etc. Big discussion about keeping secrets and holding back lies about one another, Charles tries to establish firm ground with “our side” and forget our differences, but it seems all hogwash. Like the Sith trying to forge peace with the Jedi. That ain’t ever going to happen.

Peed in the woods; different setting feels nice even with mosquitoes threatening to bite you a nice blood. TMI, I know.

Finally succumbed to going into town for food and supplies. Ate at Jet’s Pizza, big screen showing The Open, every detail fleshed out, every wood fiber of ESPN’s broadcasting desk looking realer, every wrinkle and sweat drop magnified on the players faces, blades of grass looking crisp. Mickelson won the Open, his fifth major, further more the ‘good guy’ of golf.

Trip home back to normalcy, Kashmir beating into my ears. A hellish three days at this Crooked Lake, dysfunctional ending as usual. Next time I go, there won’t be any “Charles in Charge”. I guess the good thing about this camping trip was that I avoided using the rustic facilities for both reasons: number one and especially number two.

A Two-Way Mirror of Events

People like me, that have a life desire of pursuing the near infinite answers of the universe, often sit bored on the couch or in front of the computer on Google and think like a philosopher, wondering about the alternative, parallel side of father time, where events in history took a different path. Bizarre scenarios such as one where the United States doesn’t even exist or where humans have built spacecraft in the 1800s and colonized on Mars.

So in the midst of time it is always nice to think…

What if?

This is the type of question that the world begs to know the answer to but, sadly,will probably never find the answer to, unless we can find a Doc Brown who can supe up an old station wagon with a Flux capacitor. Which, to tell you the truth, is not worth the effort. If time travel were possible, wouldn’t it have already been invented, in the future? We should have people from the future in our time right now, telling us of events to come, helping us avoid tragedies. And if they are here, they sure haven’t helped the world much seeing that all of the what ifs we bring up haven’t been reversed,for better or worse. It’s kind of like asking Santa for that toy you’ve always wanted but never getting it at Christmas, even if he does promise you. And let’s be honest, there is no man in a red suit traveling to millions of houses in 140 countries dropping into random peoples houses in the middle of the night to deliver rather expensive presents that are seen on the shelves of Wal-Mart and other stores year round. Even Superman couldn’t do that. Shoot, I just ruined Christmas for a bunch of kids…oh,well…they need to be taught young.

Okay, enough of my ranting. Here are some frequently asked about what if scenarios and my best answers as to what would happen, leading to the present day:  

If the attacks on the twin towers on 9/11/2001 had been avoided…

Pro: About three thousand lives would have been spared and the kids today would still have living family members and friends.

Pro: George W. Bush’s presidency wouldn’t have been remembered as so much of a joke but the man could have been respected and even gotten to speak at the 2012 Republican convention (where he was heavily shied away).

Con: America wouldn’t have beefed up security at airports and elsewhere and wouldn’t have been more prepared and aware against future attacks.

Con: Bin Laden would still be out there, America unaware of his devious plans, probably cooking up something even more destructive seeing that his “master plan” had been defeated.

Con: America would sink into total destruction and nuclear fallout, with severely mutated humans and animals (according to an episode of Family Guy).  

If John F. Kennedy had not been assassinated or Lee Harvey 

Oswald was caught in the act…

Pro: JFK would definitely have been reelected to another term, but…

Con: The Civil Rights Act wouldn’t have been put into action by Lyndon B. Johnson, making it quite tougher for blacks to win the racial movement (and JFK was not for equal rights).

Pro: The Vietnam War might have ended sooner.  

If Abraham Lincoln had cancelled his trip to the Ford theater on that fatal night and was still alive…

Pro: Lincoln would have gone on to teaching as a professor at a college after his presidency.

Pro: He would have likely lived into his 80s.

Pro: As a mentor, Lincoln would have stayed in the White House with his son Robert.  

Con: He would have wanted to ship the slaves back to Africa or to a small remote island, taking an emotional stand for the blacks being his strategy to win the people’s approval all along and to keep the Civil War under control.

If the Titanic had cleared the iceberg and not sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic…

Pro: The passengers, especially the steerage, would have gone onto America to live their hopes and dreams and find good paying jobs

Pro: Many of the well accomplished would have continued in their fields and gotten more fame, such as John Jacob Astor IV. Some of these people could have had fledgling businesses over in America, that might have continued on today

Pro: Perhaps the ship could have been sailed again and could have survived to this day and be put into a museum, fully intact

Pro: I wouldn’t have sat through a pointless 3D version of the film.

Con: Obviously, there wouldn’t have been a movie about the disaster, and we might not have heard of Leonardo DiCaprio for that matter.

If the Challenger space shuttle had not broken apart, and had successfully gone into space…

Pro: The teacher/astronaut Christa McAuliffe would have been celebrated for being the first teacher in space, not mourned for the loss of her.

Pro: NASA would have taken the developmental successes of Challenger and have applied them to future space shuttles

Pro: There wouldn’t have been a 32 month hiatus between missions, maybe allowing for another mission (possibly to the moon again?).

Con: Since there would have been no disaster, NASA wouldn’t have known how to react against possible future failures and wouldn’t have known what works and what doesn’t.

If the Internet existed a long, long time ago (Jesus’ time perhaps?)…

Pro: What we think we know now we would know for certain (If Ben Frankin really did fly a kite in a thunderstorm or if it was Christopher Columbus who first discovered the land that was to be called America.)

Pro: Things could have been done a lot quicker and efficiently, such as searching on Google for how to treat infections (not bleeding them out)

Con: People’s privacy and freedom would have been severely limited, especially back in the days of powerful empires. No one could have hid and the most powerful figures could have controlled and influenced people over the Internet in ways unimaginable for those days.

If dinosaurs had not gone extinct (damn you, meteorites or whatever did it)…

Pro: We could do more research on the dinosaurs and find ways to breed different types, leading to scientific advancements but…

Con: We surely wouldn’t be living like we are now because dinosaurs would have us literally backed up into a corner and…

Con: Other mammals (such as us) couldn’t have evolved and wouldn’t even exist  

If Steve Bartman had kept his hands to himself in 2003…

Pro: The Cubs would have been 4 outs away from the Promise Land.

Con: They would have made it to the World Series against the New York Yankees, but the curse would still have rung true with the Cubs being overwhelming over matched. Yankees win series 4-1 and Bartman is still unknown.

These are basically edumucated guesses, and rather pointless, but it is fun to paint a picture of an alternate history where everything is turned upside down. And until some crazy scientist comes up with a way to travel back in time we will never know for certain whether Galileo was smoking weed while gazing at the stars or if curiosity did kill the cat.

A Day in Hell

Complete with volcanic fires, roasting spits, chained slaves turning a wheel, and a madman called the Devil constantly scorching hellmates with his pitchfork.

Hell, Michigan that is. Continue reading “A Day in Hell”