Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year of the Pen

As the years have begun to accumulate and my age becomes easier to track by the grayness in my beard and the creaks in my bones. I have become aware of how short of a year really is. It is the last day in the year of our Lord two thousand and thirteen.

My kids have each advanced another year in age and although it was not a year of particular repute it was still none the less memorable. I got to see my son play his first hockey game. Spent the month of December at home which meant I was able to spend time with my three year old daughter during the day while the boys and the oldest daughter were in school.

I started this blog so I would have a way of not only getting my own thoughts out but also to leave a written accord of my trials and lifes journey for my kids to someday read. Then there is the book I've started which is better than the first book I started and hopefully I will finish it. whether or not it sees the light of day is another matter altogether.

Professionally I was eschewed and impugned. But in the end it was probably for the better. My travels again sent me to the deep south of Arkansas and Louisiana and Texas. I garnered no new skills but did manage to sharpen the ones I do have.

My wife and I saw the passing of 10 years of marriage go by with 11 just around the corner.

You know I must say I do not find the yearly accounting of ones life to be all that interesting to me. So I can assume no one would find this one to be all that interesting either.

On Sunday I will begin the juggernaut of travel take flight again. I will return to the scene of the crime. Which is Dallas Tx.

Mostly this entry is a lot to do about nothing really more of just an exercise for me to get the ink rolling through my fingers. For the last couple of weeks I have been writing a book. And because of the public nature of this blog I am not at liberty to divulge the details of what it is all about.

The clock sits at 11:30. Which means the end of the year is imminent. What will 2014 bring? who is to say other than the blessing of another year. I hope many things this year not the least of which is to be a better father and husband. To trim down and be little healthier.

The Year of the Pen is a good title and a better indication of where it is I am striving for.

Oh the other thing that came to pass this year is my new found fondness for red blended wine. Or the Malbec wines.

I will say this I am ready for winter to pass and summer to return I am already tired of the below 0 temperatures and the snow and wind.

Rickets I have the hiccups and have had them all day. I can't seem to get rid of them! The worst thing about the hiccups is not trying to get rid of them but rather trying to figure out how you got them in the first place.

Oh well since this post was nothing more than an empty attempt to get one last blog in before the stroke of midnight and i have a good 15 minutes to go before the gong of a new year I will sign off for now so that I can go and corner the missus and bring in the new year good and proper. Nothing worse than to start off a new year bollocked.

So a toast to a new year with new blogs and new things. Out with the trash of yesterday and in with what is to be garbage tomorrow.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Patron Saint of Travelers

When I first started to travel the first valuable lesson I learned was the quixotic notion that I was invincible and immune to the Machiavellian efforts of others would shelter me in the bosom of the virgin mother was but a myth.

I believed in the fallacy of my own immortality and the St. Christoper, I carry would ensure I would be sheltered from the high minded political aspirations of others. Nor did I give any credence to the notion of the spoken word would in any way prevent me from rising beyond the humble beginnings of a middle class upbringing. Where my faith was not placed in a higher being but the justice of righteousness. And the misguided belief of what is holy and good is wrapped in the veil of being right.

It starts like this.

I'm in east Texas. Winter storm Cleaon is promising to bring to bear the full measure of mother natures emboldened fury across the southern portion of the US before turning north across the mid Atlantic states.

The job I am on has been stretched out until Friday. So I know I will be stuck in the big D for the weekend. I know this because of years of travel during the winter. That and the full knowledge the least little bit of weather will shut down Dallas for days.

So on Wednesday I make the all to familiar call to my wife. She is neither surprised nor is she shocked. She doesn't like it, but she has become resigned to the whimsical changes in my schedule. This is not to say she likes it. More like she is accepting of the changing tides of my chosen profession.

But that night after work a small silver lining begins to break. An acquiescent to the gods. But with the proviso I will have to wait until morning for the final verdict.

Later that morning I get the call I am free to proceed to the nearest airport and make my way home. After I have attended to my personal hygiene needs, my bag packed I take my rented chariot and turn it in a westerly direction and while en route to the airport, I call travel and am rewarded with changing my ticket for no cost for today instead of tomorrow.

I am emboldened and at the same time happy I will have the rare opportunity to call my wife and announce I will be returning to home and hearth a day earlier instead of days later. I was expecting joy and happiness. But instead I am met with skepticism and the deadpan delivery of "call me when you are on the plane".

2 and a half hours later my rented chariot has been returned and I am on the bus to terminal B. My app for American Airlines informs me I am still on time. The weather report tells me the hour of Armageddon will not begin until after I leave. I am comforted knowing I will escape the clutches of mother nature unharmed and unscathed. My month long vacation will begin a full day ahead of when it was supposed to.

My giddiness lasts for about 8 minutes. This is because it is the time required to move from the rental car facility to the terminal. During that 8 minute trip my departure slides a full hour.

My proverbial blue sky outlook begins to be overshadowed by the dark clouds I see a building on my horizon and with it the knowledge I have entered a game of chicken with mother nature and the airlines.

Allow me to digress for a moment. When your mode of transportation is a metal tube with aluminum wings you enter into an agreement that leaves you both powerless and defenseless. You surrender your immediate future and your ability to move freely into the hands of air traffic control and to the bureaucratic machinations of an industry whose notions will only be in agreement with yours for only as long as it meets their needs and goals. The second your paths become dissected your needs run a distant last place to theirs. And rightfully so.

The government workers and the airline industry are charged with keeping you and your fellow passengers safe. It would serve little purpose for them to allow an airplane to take off or land when the conditions for safe passage means you will die at a rapid and uncontrolled descent back to mother earth. So for this I am grateful they watch over us.

On the other hand when you begin the delay process, you the passenger would like to have at your disposal some working knowledge of how long your delay will last. And you have to be satisfied with knowing there are at times when they simply don't know.

But in this case when I arrived at the gate and began asking for details of my delay the gate agents were neither interested nor were they engaged in providing help.

Their day was beginning to come apart at the seams. And not only were they dealing with hundreds of delays and cancellations that affected hundreds of people, but they also were just trying to get through their shift so they could go home.

My flight was supposed to take off at 7pm now its delayed until 8. Then it went to 8:30 then 9 and after that it went became apparent I was headed to being cancelled.

Now you have to understand when you begin to play chicken with mother nature and the airlines you must figure out where the line is at where the decision to stick it out diverges with the decision to seek out shelter for the night. In this case I drew the line at 10:30.

I drew this line because after that the ability to acquire a room for the night would become rather difficult if not impossible. Having never spent the night in an airport before I didn't want this to become the night where my cherry was popped.

But it held steady and thanks to one of my fellow passengers who was tracking our inbound plane, which was originating from Amarillo I held firm. Planes were taking off so the airport was still functioning. And even though the temperature had descended below the freezing mark and the rain outside had begun to accumulate mass and making the transition from a liquid to a solid I still held to my belief at the end of this travel day I would lay my head down on my own pillow and in my own bed.

Then several things began to happen, which began to alter my views of getting home.

First the flight to Knoxville was coming back to the terminal for the second time. The first time it came back was because it had run out of the time they were allowed to stay on the runway. And the second time was due to a passenger who just could not take it any longer and demanded to deplane.

As I was to learn there is a law in place that if passengers deplane twice then the plane is cancelled.

The second item was the Little Rock plane returned to the terminal because of deteriorating weather.

And the final event was on our plane. After all 17 passengers boarded the flight and the attendant didn't close the door right away. Instead the pilot got off and back on twice and the gate agent and the crew held 3 discussions which involved a lot of finger pointing and the shaking of heads.

I knew we were doomed. And as it turns out I was right because the pilot lost the battle of who was going to inform us we were not going anywhere.

Allow me another digression for a moment.

During the 7 hour odyssey of waiting for some kind of word or indication, I approached the counter a handful of times. Each time my inquiries were met with either a complete lack of interest or they suddenly had better things to do than to seek out an answer to my questions.

In the end myself and 2 others became the primary point of information for the other less traveled passengers. I didn't mind and I'm sure they didn't either. But the point here is the gate agents should have been much more cooperative in their interactions with passengers.

I did have an opportunity to speak with an AA manager. I know he was a manager because he wore a green neon vest. A large man whose collared button down shirt, khaki pants and brown patent leather shoes fingered him in a station above those who worked the gates. Even without the neon vest I would have pegged him for a guy whose station in life had settled in middle management.

My conversation with him was to be the highlight of my evening.

"Excuse me, sir, might I have a word"? I asked.

"Sure. What can I do for you". He answered.

"I'm on the flight to Rapid City. And I know you guys are busy but you know I have asked several times for updates for our flight, but your gate agents aren't really all that helpful."

He exhaled loudly and briefly looked down at his shoes for what I can only imagine was guidance. Then he looked up and over to the counter where 3 of his agents were engaged in various conversations with frustrated passengers.

Before he could speak, I continued on.

"I'm not just your run of the mill passengers. I am actually a 1k flier with Delta. So you know I get it. But I have to tell you I've been at this gate for 6 hours and not once has anyone made an announcement about the status of our flight. It would be nice if your gate agents took a moment or two and made us aware of the disposition of our flight. As it is myself and a couple of others are providing all of the updates for the everyone else." I said.

He sat back against the driver's seat and ran his port like digits through his pointy close cropped haircut. Then he crossed his arms against his chest and settled his beleaguered gaze on me.

"I have to tell you your service to your passengers leaves a lot to be desired. If this were a Delta flight we would be a lot better informed than we are now." I said.

He dropped his hands to the steering wheel and then with his left hand disengaged the brake. With his right hand, he turned the key and started his cart. His gaze turns from me to the carpeted floor in front of him.

And as he started to pull away, he looked at me for a long time the thoughts of his response running across his eyes. And as he started to pull away, he said to me "I'm sorry to hear that sir. You make sure and enjoy your next flight on Delta." And then he drove away robbing me of a snarky response and  leaving me without a well placed rebuke.

And as he pulled away, I couldn't help but laugh. It was a good line.

But my night was not finished. Now that my flight was canceled I had to find and then get to a hotel for the night.

Pulling out my trusty smart phone I made a reservation to a hotel 12 miles from the airport. Now all I needed to do was find a ride to the hotel.

I called the hotel and asked for a ride. But they had not a shuttle past 10pm. It was now well after midnight, so I was left without am trying to find a cab willing to drive in the freezing rain and on ice covered roads.

When I left the gate, I made my way to a cab stand only to find there were no cabs. But I did find 6 others who not only were looking for a cab, but had actually called one for themselves. The first time I called the dispatcher she said it was going to take an hour. But after talking to my fellow stranded passengers I found they had been waiting for an hour already. So I called back and after a few times of going back and forth, we were moved to the head of the line.

10 minutes later 2 cabs appeared to take us to different hotels. I was now the qualified hero of my new friends.

And 40 minutes after that I was at my hotel.

Before I left AA I was told I was on the 12:20 flight tomorrow. I figured it would take me the same 40 minutes to get back to the airport so I set my alarm for 9am and went to bed.

At 8:30 I got a text message from wife telling me that the flight was cancelled. So I turned off my alarm and went back to sleep.

12:30 I got up and checked the evening flight which was also canceled and after making a call to travel I found out I was booked on the 7pm flight the next day.

So here I sit in the Presidential suite in the Holiday Inn writing this account and enjoying a nice bottle of red wine. I don't know if tomorrow I will find myself ascending to 30,000 feet and winging my way home or spending another night comfortably ensconced in my room. Either way the past 24 hours have been a good reminder of why air travel is such a joy.

But in the end, I'm glad the Patron Saint of Travelers is looking out for me.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Brothers in Arms

Anyone who has ever served in the service can not only give you the definition of the Brotherhood, but can give you a description so finite as to make Websters seem inadequate. 

The reason is those of us who joined live and breath the same fetid air. Eating at the same trough and when the shit comes stand shoulder to shoulder, taking and giving in equal measure to ensure our brothers in arms live to see another sunrise.

And even when the calling of war remains a distant and immeasurable theory the gargoyles who haunt the horizon and seek to strike, harm upon your brothers in arms is not an immediate concern, you remain steadfast in both their safety and welfare.

The quality of those who stand up and volunteer to take an oath of safety and security is bar none and second to no other force in the world. 

For those who seek the safety and shelter under the guise of military support there is the belief that the oath taken by those who serve do so at the behest of God and Country. In truth their reasons are far more simplistic and self serving in nature. 

Young men who are from humble beginnings and backwater small towns who recognize their futures are bleak and will be mired in lifelong pursuits of happiness, but understand that in the end their lives will amount to little more than nothing.

When the recruiter in his starched uniform shows up at the doorstep of an impressionable teenager with slick brochures and videos produced by civilian marketing firms the feeling of belonging to something greater than oneself permeates a young man's brain like a meth addict taking their first hit. Its at this time the young man in question falls completely under the spell of God and Country.

The truth is that spell lasts until he is in boot camp and understands the men he serves with are depending on him to keep the gargoyles at bay. The notion of God and Country becomes a distant memory and the immediate knowledge the Brothers whom he stands beside are the real reason behind the oath that is taken in a windowless room that has seen the likes of him and thousands of others who have stood in the same place for similar reasons.

The bonds of servitude are replaced by brotherhood and the knowledge that at any time there could come a time when you are asked to serve a much higher calling. During such times the shared experiences of those around you meld you together in a place and time others can neither imagine nor understand.

When the real application of guns and blood bring you and those who stand beside you to a place where the cost of your reality is a real time movie played out before you. The script, written by the almighty and the ending dictated by the gargoyles who charge your position and with the all vitriol of Dantes sonnet. 

Ask any veteran of war, why they performed acts of indescribable selflessness in the face of certain death and the answers you get has nothing to do with God and Country. Instead, you get men who afterward are almost meek and unassuming in their answers. Their only concern is for those who they have the same indescribable shared experiences.

This is where the bonds of Brotherhood are forged in the extreme. But the bonds forged by those who wear a uniform and stand shoulder to shoulder and never see the blood and destruction of his fellow man are just as strong and run just as deep. Their time together on far away longitudes are not to be discounted nor are they to be diminished by the lack of an actionable location.

For all of us serve together. Race, politics and religion take a second tiered place to the safety and well being of those who took an oath and live and die together. Letters from home are shared and consumed together. Their lives, hopes and dreams live in a cloud as one.

And the moral shortcomings that abound when young men visit distant shores are not visited upon loved ones at home. Their secrets are more closely guarded and kept better than any mission visited upon them by white haired men in foul fitting suits whose perches are cemented in the hallowed halls of Washington.

They laughed at the follies of their brothers. Rejoiced in their success and cried in their pain. During my time in uniform I knew the names of their kids and wives. Sought counsel and gave my counsel to those who I served with. The troubles I lived with whereas known to me as they were to those whom I served with.

The secrets of our lives were safer in the confines of the metal hull we all lived beneath. 

And after the enlistment was over and we all returned to the bosom of our homes the brotherhood I had known washed away. All of us were scattered to the winds of time. Each of us taking the time spent together and storing it away.

Today it's nearly 25 years ago and thanks to social media the bonds of brotherhood forged so long ago has reattached itself to my everyday life. Thankfully, I am in the knowledge that those I spent so much time with are succeeding in their individual pursuits. 

May the Happy Valley live forever.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Time Travel In The Dark

You ever notice driving at night feels a lot like time travel? That if you were to be denied access of all time keeping devices or GPS tracking the time and distance traveled at night would become almost impossible to gauge.

3am on a Friday morning I leave the hotel on the south side of Little Rock and head down to my car. As I pass the lobby, I am greeted by the night auditor. A thin woman on the north side of 40 with her blonde pageboy hairstyle she is odd in the way all low wage 3rd shift workers are. She is petulant and blindly happy all at the same time. Her posture standing at odds with her facial demeanor and her voice contrastingly different from you would expect.

As I find myself standing in front of her with my suitcase beside me and a computer bag on my shoulders, she asks me "are you checking out"?

"Please". I say

"Room"? She asks

I give her my room number and she thumbs through a stack of checkout slips in front of her. As she gets to the bottom of the pile her brow creases and a sturdy frown encompasses her face. As she looks back up at me the frown dissipates like smoke. A smile that never reaches her eyes greets me when we are again eye to eye.

"214"? She asks me again.

I nod and as her head drops I see the smile drop without hesitation and the frown take over her features. Her body language begins to take on a more aggressive appearance. Her hands no longer paging casually through the stack of paper in front of her. Her legs while crossed when she began now uncross and her shoulders square up to the desk. Halfway through her second pass she finds my checkout slip and her instant, aggressive demeanor falls away and becomes more feminine and languid as she hands me the checkout slip.

"Here you go, " she says.


Outside the air is close and confining. The heat of the August day is rising from the black asphalt like an outdoor convection oven. A light breeze from the north pushing the heat past me, but doing little to dissipate the claustrophobic humidity. The humidity is close and so oppressive it gives off the smell of an eminent afternoon rain shower.

My gaze drifts skyward looking for the telltale signs of rain. But the moonless sky is clear. Pinpoints of distant stars protruding from the heavens like the light from a distant lighthouse. Near 30000 feet I see the unmistakable blinking lights of a plane soaring across the heavens.

I put my bags in the trunk and set out for a 24hr Fedex store just a few miles away. Frequent travel has taught me the valuable lesson of not checking bags. I have plenty of time for this stop. My flight leaves in 6 hours and with the shortstop for luggage drop off and a gas station top off I will get the Memphis in plenty of time.

30 minutes later, my chariot is pointed East towards Tennessee. I like this time of night. Seeing the sun beginning its ascent into the sky always gives the feeling of being reborn. Its now 4am and traffic is light, mostly truck drivers.

With the window down and the radio turned up I listen to blues and jazz. My mind begins to clear and I start to come down off of the stress from the past week.

The miles roll by and time becomes distant. The dark sky keeps me in a cocoon of timelessness. Before long the first 100 miles are behind me and yet I feel as if I just left Little Rock. The lights of roadside distractions come and go. The radio plays on and every song feels like it is the first.

At 5:30 the horizon begins to transform from an endless black horizon to the amber beginnings of daybreak. And before I know it amber turns to first traces of a yellow sky. I start to see features on the horizon the night sky had blanketed in a cocoon of inky blackness.

Somehow another 100 miles have fallen behind me and the morning sky has given way to full daylight. The egg and hammers have now joined the trucks and state patrol vehicles.

And just like that I have traveled in time to another land the 200 miles behind me feeling like it was never there.

You can't beat time travel in the dark.

Friday, August 16, 2013


Back in 1938 I doubt if Pappy Hoel ever envisioned the creation of the Jackpine Gypsies would ever be the catalyst for an event that would bring hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts from around the globe. And transcend a lifestyle But in fact, that's what has happened.

Every year during the first week in August at the base of the Black Hills the modest town of 5000 residents in Sturgis balloons into a population that exceeds the population of the entire state of South Dakota. Its where misogyny, bare knuckle fights and bare naked female flesh are as common as the black top that cover the streets.

During that week there are more cops per square mile than in Washington DC. Every night the amount of garbage that is collected rivals that of New York on New Years eve.

The rules that govern polite behavior is suspended and the odious nature of man regresses to the days of Wild Bill Hickock and Doc Holiday. The air is filled with the smells of leather, roasted meat and the exhaust fumes from thousands of bikes. The testosterone filled air leaches to your skin and sticks to your clothes filling your taste buds with a nocular sour taste that is both indescribable and has the consistency of gum.

Men and women alike clad from head to foot in black leather chaps and riding vests. Their vests festooned with patches declaring American pride. "Ride it like you stole it", "live free or die" and cartoonish statements about brotherhood. "Nice trailer pussy", "I rode mine to Sturgis".

Pictures and paint jobs depicting female genitalia. Open displays of nipple pastied boobs and ass cheeks. There are more tattoo artists in one city block than most cities have in its entirety. The ambiance of an 1850 wild west town comes alive in 21st century terms.

There is a strong sense of impending violence lurking at the edges of the crowd. Not unlike the feeling of being strung up on a meat hook like a side of beef. The closer you get to the heart of downtown only intensifies as the gentile white males who attend looking for a good time gives way to the outlaw bikers who dwell like gargoyles looking for prey. For those uninitiated to the world of the self aggrandizing and the Hollywood romanticized illusion of bad boy 3 patch members let me assure you they are not given nor are they prone to deeply spiritually held beliefs nor are they the plotting and sympathetic anti hero's in outlaw biker movies.

They are instead the mentally and emotionally stunted versions of sock puppets who have all of the gravitas of a bar of soap. But make no mistake, their ability for unprovoked violence and the sadistic nature with which they inflict themselves on their victims confirms the long held suspicion that they are incapable of restraint and devoid of moral compass.

Over the years the 1%'s who owned the event has given way to a higher socioeconomic class of biker who pulls into town in with million dollar motor coaches. But don't be fooled because Sturgis is still where outlaw bikers, grifters, main line cons and white supremacists travel when they want to be among their own. But during any biker rally an uneasy cease fire exists between those who live outside the law and those who enforce it. A tacit agreement between the gargoyles that sit on the shoulders of humanity and stalwart enforces of American jurisprudence who agree to let the want to be's and the industries of capitalism coexist in an arena devoid of real world violence.

The irony here is both of them act as overseers of a 19th century plantation. Lawmen serve as notice that while the illusion of lawness that permeates the biker culture there is in fact a body of men who see that the laws are adhered to and not thrown over the gunnels. But the three patch clubs serve as a reminder of what the consequences of stepping over the line of brutality and violence can bring down upon them.

And if you don't believe you are accountable for restraint and good behavior the gargoyles will systematically eviscerate your internal wiring and begin to break bones and stomp your existence into the gutter. And by the time deputized lawmen reach you all that will be left is a bloodless pulp of broken bones and an empty and lifeless shell of who you were.      

For everyone else you are on a week long pass into the garden of Gethsemane. A seven day reprieve from being tacked up on a societal mortal cross. Because during that week you are by either nature or proxy a biker. And the vices of your fellow man are both freely given and explored. Whether its hillbilly heroin, weed, pills or booze, it's all available in amounts large and small and done so without the judgement of your fellow man.

Jack Daniels shots with a beer back from can't see to can't see. The chance to step into iron leather and feel the full heart and soul of an iron horse roar to life. The mechanized life blowing through the rear tailpipes and the throaty rumbles vibrating your whole body. Its rider given into the illusion of positive control when he goes from full throttle to fuck it.

Entry into the mythological world of modern day iron horse outlaws and the chance to live in an ethos made famous by the movie Easy rider is granted with the possession of an iron hog and a love of the open road on your terms. The seduction of living in a world that is both uncompromising and free from the restraints of normal society are easy to fall victim to. During any biker rally week the belief you belong to an exclusive club is inescapable. You're surrounded by black leather clad men riding throaty 1000 pounds two wheeled iron horses with all the rumble of a bombing raid. The laws of government are meant for those encased in four wheeled air conditioned bubbles.

For bikers stand your ground and the second amendment are a religion built around the belief that backing down and giving in are for those who come unequipped with backbones or the moral vacuity to do otherwise. A defect in their DNA. The biblical writings of the meek inheriting the earth are a cosmic joke meant for those who live from the convention of political correctness. A biker lives in the ethos of freedom and fighting for what you believe in. It's why there are so many active duty and veterans in the biker culture.

For the hardcore biker a bed roll and a spot on the ground is all that is required for sleeping, but for most others campgrounds become a hedonistic garden of Eden full of a Pavlovian copulation of booze, music and sex.

The thing about the biking culture is it does not lend itself well to the notion of equality of the sexes. Women are treated with the same consistency and in the same manner as BBQ pulled pork. The only homosexual contact had better between two women because if two men were caught in the throes of copulation or intimate contact the cross they would be tacked up on is one in the literal sense. The disembowelment of their lives would serve as a reminder in the biker world a man's cock only acceptable orifice of penetration is in a woman's body. Tolerance of sexual orientation is not a birthright in the biker culture rather the only acceptable copulation would be better defined from a biblical definition from Revelations or that of the Republican party.

Like main line cons who accept their fate of stacking time in concrete castles and are guarded by iron bars and a militia of men who are charged with keeping the gargoyles at bay. Bikers accept the same nihilistic fate of dumping their bikes on a 4-lane blacktops and backwater country roads. Knowing that every ride could be their last.

Every year the number of bikers who lose their lives riding across the hard road of the Black Hills goes into double digits. Their families getting death notices from vacant eyed and hardened men and women who carry a badge. And while they mourn the loss of their husbands, brothers, fathers and friends the rite of passage known as Sturgis rolls on unencumbered without the moralities and the victimhood of dying. If the deceased is lucky a drink will raised in his memory.

This is the religion of Sturgis.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Parking Garages and Last Minute Flights

When I write my novel about the Great American travel experience I am going to include a chapter on parking garages and piss soaked elevators. Nothing is more off putting than stepping on an elevator that has had time to marinate in urine through a 100 degree window.

The stench is overpowering and the need to vomit or seek immediate ventilation is a truly a primitive survival like urge. What possesses someone to piss inside of an elevator that has glass windows facing the sun during the heat of the day, in the middle of June?

The first lesson of a road warrior is never ever park your car in the parking garage next to the police station. The reason is fairly obvious. The second is never to ride elevators with glass windows in the summer.
When you park near a cop shop the customers whom they serve inevitably come out with desires that range from immediate revenge to a good scrubbing down in a hot shower.
And because it's a tough call as to which way they are leaning it should always be your policy to avoid parking in garages near penal institutions and then of course to never get into elevators located in the same garages.
You know now that I think about it this level of sage advise probably has a monetary value attached to it. Perhaps I should write the great American Road Warrior novel first and then dispense this advice on Oprah or the AC360.

This is how I find myself stepping into the elevator in downtown Rock Island IL. Normally I would have heaved my largess down the ramp, but I had in tow, my suitcase, tools, computer and cpap machine. As the doors parted and the wafting odor of baked in urine hit me in the face and would not relent. I hold my breath for the ride to the street, but alas was forced to exhale and take in a lung full of nefarious urine gas. If I were to forgo one of the five senses for life at this moment it would have to be smell. I really want to wretch into a garbage can but pride and the knowledge of the order it brings prevents me from expelling the contents of my stomach inside this elevator.

Right now at this minute I would love to have someone who romanticizes the occupation of world traveler inside this elevator. Because at this moment I would be screaming "how romantic is it now"!!!

The third role of my novel would have to be the last minute flight. There are a few things that bother the road warrior than having to drop everything and pack your bag because you have been summoned to the far reaches of this country or the globe.

When you travel you have so much energy stored for the flight out and the flight back. Because the rest of your store is saved up for the job that week. People who don't travel for a living don't understand how draining air travel is. The flight itself is not that bad, except for the cramped space, recycled air, 2oz cups for liquids (1.5oz's of which contain ice) and the bags of peanuts containing 6 peanuts. But everything that leads up to the flight is very taxing. First, there is the repacking of everything, then there is the drive to the airport hours before the flight and the return of the rental car and the checking in and least but not least the feeling conveyed by the TSA you are a criminal for just showing up at the airport.

Then when you get off the plane there is a moment where you are disoriented. It takes a few beats for you to orientate yourself to being on the ground again, but more importantly, it's the recognition of not being in the same surroundings you were when you got on the plane.

Now its off to baggage and then the ride or sometimes the walk to the rental car counter. All of which takes a bit of getting used to. Even if its an airport you are familiar with and have spent many hours in. It's at this moment your defenses come up. And you ramp up your energy because in order to make it through the next several days you have to operate at a level that is not normal or natural.

Last minute flights suck and urine soaked elevators should be reserved as a form of enhanced interrogations. There is not a better way to put it.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fathers Day

During my twenties kids and fatherhood were a very distant thought and even further ambition. I viewed fatherhood as a leash and a responsibility that was only going to prevent me from seeing the next horizon or the next adventure.

Pounding down the 4 lane blacktop, soaring to 35000 feet or on the high seas throwing the bow of her Navy's finest towards the heavens only to catch her thundering hull a second later. Far away lands and distant towns calling me forth. It's what drives a young man. But fatherhood and full time responsibility were never am calling I aspired to.

I recognized in myself a faltering piece that was unable to both dedicate and to appreciate what it would take to raise kids. Because the biggest part of being a father is the total giving over of yourself for your kids.

As I moved into my 30's I began to realize I had no real home or permanent tera forma that held me in place. Late night bars and solitary life on the road started to take its toll and I gave real consideration that life as a husband and father had perhaps passed me by.

The true test of a man is the nurturing and raising of your kids. The understanding that now as you move through life, everything you do is for them. Who you are is a reflection of who they will become and how they themselves will navigate the world.

I have 4 kids. Two girls and two boys. For my girls I am constantly aware of how I treat my wife is the kind of man I would want them to be with and for the boys I want them to see how you should treat a woman. And to mold them into good solid young men.

My dad never raised a hand to my mother or my brother and I. I've never seen him drunk or out of control. I learned from him how to be a man and a responsible father.

For a man's fatherhood is a concept or a theory. It's anything but reality until she gives birth and you hold your child for the very first time.

I remember the first time I saw each of my kids for the first time and what's more is the instant attachment that overtook me. The overwhelming love and affection for each one was born in an instant and grows like a wild fire every time I get to see them and love them.

The satisfaction of watching the world come alive in each of them as they see things for the first time and the heartbreaking sadness of seeing them fail.

In order to make a marriage work it takes both of you working every day making it work. But being a parent bares more responsibility and takes more energy and thought than you ever thought. And in the throws of difficulty it only gets harder.

For me parenthood is a like Harry Chapin's "Cats in the cradle". Since the day they were born, I have had to cram a weeks worth of time into just a few precious day at a time. There is a lot of guilt amassed in me for not having the time to spend with them every day. I fear there will a day when then weeks and months spent on the road will come to roost in my heart for all of the time I have spent away from them.

But as I come through the door and I hear the squeals of laughter and joy, my fears slough off I hear "daddy's home" and the sound of driving feet headed for the door I am whole again. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

It's Almost Done

Try as might I can't get past the ongoing deluge of restrictive nature of watered down language and the constant assault on a person's ability to exercise the right to speak openly and honestly. 

I was raised to stand up for what is right and for what I believe in. To never back down. Having the courage of my convictions.

In my youth my parents my brother and I were taught right from wrong. Taught from an early age that to be a man you first must be right with yourself before you can be right with the world. To stand tall in the face of adversity. Recognize the popular is not always the right way. 

In order to stand up for what is right your back must be stiff and your courage must not waiver.

This is the position I now find myself in.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. In the youth of our nation the fortitude of our fore fathers was tested with deadly force. Their belief to form a society where its citizens were free from the bondage of tyrannical overlords was unyielding.

They fought for their freedoms and our freedoms with arms and with quill pens. Many lives were lost and families shredded. Loyalties were tested and blood bonds were formed.

56 men signed the Declaration between August 2, 1776 and January 22, 1777, including two future presidents, three vice presidents, and ten members of the United States Congress.

They believed in order to be free we as a people had the right to worship at the alter of your choice to speak freely and to protect our homes and our borders from those who would do us harm. So much blood was spilled.

But it wasn't just spilled blood our nation was built on. Men like John Adams fought a mighty battle with nothing more than a quill pen and a bottle of ink. 

They believed if a nation was to be free its citizens must be able to freely express themselves.

Today with the advent of social media corporate cabals realize they death knell they face. And in order to ensure their own survival they pass policies meant to stifle our ability to speak and to wright our views. We are threatened with the most basic of our civil liberties.

Now is the time when we as a free society need to push back and with the full weight of our collective will tell those in who lord over us our voices will not be shuttered.

The greatest threat to a free society is when its citizens go into that big goodnight. We talk about gun control and losing that liberty but the bigger picture we must all take the time to face is the loss of all of our liberties.

Today is the day when the voices of our huddled masses should cry out forsaking the opaque cabals who would seek to destroy our pursuit of happiness.

So to the cabals I say this we the people are the scary things that go bump in the night.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring Break

As I drive around Arkansas I have noticed a hint of spring in the air. Little buds are starting to sprout at the end of branches. The air smells different and where brown covers the ground a hint of green has started to appear.

The best thing about spring is not only the change in colors but the signaling of a new season fast approaching. The winter chill hanging around has started to give way to warmer air.

It gives you the feeling of a phoenix rising from the ashes of a frozen tundra. People in general seem to be more upbeat. Friendly and less dower.

There is an expectation of good things just around the corner. You feel lighter and happier. The sky has a blueness to it that seems dampened during the winter months. A heaviness that just permeates everything and everyone.

Maybe its because of the bundled clothing. Your closed off and separated from your surroundings. Unwilling to allow yourself to feel connected to anyone or anything. Or maybe its because during the winter months the cold keeps us locked away.

I know for me the spring and summer months are when I feel the most alive and open and ready for new things.

When the thermometer starts getting above 70 the windows come down in the car. The tunes get turned up. A smile comes more easily.

Ah Spring looking forward to just having a break from the winter blues. Mow the grass water the lawn and just send some quality time with my kids and the wife.

Kinda short today but its late and I'm tired.

Starting to work nights now which means I will be missing the great sunshine of spring. It's the downside of what I do. giving up the day time in order to earn a living at night. The graveyard or vampire hours are the worst.

You spend days in bed sleeping and your u all night working. Its great for getting the week to fly by but not so much if your at home.

Also this week my Bluetooth antenna died on my phone this week. Nothing makes you feel more stupid than when your dealing with a smart phone. Also its a sad state when I have to get a new replacement phone and then spend a large amount of time getting it back up and working .

Ugh I'm tired and been up all night. Try this again later.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

It's All About The Content Baby!

When I first started out running the road you had very few options for car content. That is to say if you were going to log a lot of road miles your choices were either the AM / FM radio, cassette tapes, silence or if the weather was nice the sound of wind with an undercurrent of what passed for earlobe entertainment.

As time has went on the advent of satellite radio. But you had to be in a Ford branded radio to get it and then later your choices doubled because you could also get it in a Chevy brand.

There was stil the option of regular radio and then as cassette tapes were on their way out you could listen to CD's.

Now you have MP3 players on your phone. Internet radio on your phone and also the aforementioned satellite radio in the car or on your phone.

CD's have went the way of the dodo bird. Which is a good thing because tapes and CD's take up space. and they weigh a ton when packed into your carry on or in your checked luggage.

Which reminds me you also have books that come on your phone or tablet. So now when packing your bag you no longer have to make room for paperback or hard cover books.

This is definitely a case where technology is a great thing. I listen to 3 different pod casts on a regular basis. Adam Carolla, Jay Mohr and Marc Maron. I also have only the music I want to listen to downloaded on both my phone and tablet.

I carry around 3 digital books at all times. I also have a subscription to XM / Sirius radio. I now have more content to pass the time than I have time to listen or watch. And speaking of watching when I started to run the road if you missed an episode of your favorite program well thems the breaks kid. But now with Hulu and Netflix all of my programs are right there whenever I want to watch them.

And here is one better for you. I can video chat with the wife and kids whenever I want to. Gone are the days when only the sound of a voice was all you had.

I play words with friends all the time with people scattered all over the country. And of course there's facebook and twitter for that immediate connection.

Here's something crazy. When I was in the Navy you only had the written word to keep you connected to family and friends. Today I understand they have email and a internet connection to keep them connected while they are at sea. How crazy is that??

I'm still holding out for the flying cars. Speaking of cars. Used to be I kept a truckers atlas beside me at all times to get from one place to the other. Now I have a GPS that fits in my pocket for all of my navigation needs. And if for some reason that either fails or I don't have access to it there is always Google Maps to keep me on the straight and narrow.

Yesterday I picked up another pair of Bluetooth headphones. Several of my peers have this brand made by LG. It doubles as a music headset as well as a telephonic headset. Battery lasts for 15 hours and I wear both  earbuds so I get that stereo affect when I'm on the phone and the best part is no matter how nosy it is the background stuff is filtered out. Love it.

Now when I write the great American Road Warrior manual I'm going to include a chapter on both content for long drives but also for air travel. I'm also going to include information on the best headsets to carry and Apps for the road. It's a must if your going to run the road a lot.

I'm also going to include a chapter on luggage. Now tell me how it is that FedEx can ship my tools and luggage all over the world and never breaks a handle or a wheel. But if I give it to the airlines guaranteed if I have to check it more than 3 times I'm going to get a bag back that is voided of zippers, wheels and handles.

Give you an example. When I started traveling I was buying luggage on an average of twice a year. Now it never mattered how expensive it was or who made. In fact I came up with the bright idea of trading in my softsided luggage for a clam shell hard shell. Daring the airlines to break this one. First trip out I get it back with a golf ball size hole in the middle of it and both wheels missing.

When I went to ticket counter and complained I got the "sir  its normal wear and tear and we don't cover any of those defects"

SO I moved up to a 1650 pelican case. It made it about a year before I got it back with a defect. The defect was the handle on the side. Now if your not familiar with pelican you should be. Although its not sexy (pretty much comes in black) the special ops guys use it as does NASA and major outfits that need luggage that is very sturdy. Its waterproof, fire proof and the handles and wheels are attached with 2in thick reinforced hardened plastic like rubber. It is the bag you should always use for air travel.

BUT I got MINE back from Delta with the handle cleaved completely off. It looked like someone had taken a laser to it and the right wheel had been literally carved out.

Now I ask you what the Fuck are they doing to destroy this piece of luggage? And when I showed my now destroyed bag to the airline all I got was a shrug and a "sir its normal wear and tear". And That was delivered with a straight face.

Name me another industry that gets away with this kind of nonsense??

You just want to go across the counter and beat the shit out of someone. Or at the very least smack that complete indifferent look off their face.

I'm starting a 12 day stint out here in wonderful AR. The best thing to say is its getting warmer. Plus I have had great mexican food everyday.

And since we are now minus one dog the hunt for another one is in full swing. We like the Boxer breed and are looking for a pup to replace the one who had to be put down over the weekend. I miss him I do and when I was at home this weekend I found myself looking for him. Its sad but like they say at least he's not suffering anymore.

Speaking of chapters to be written in my great American Road novel I'm also going to include a chapter on rental cars. It is my opinion the heated seat is the single greatest invention ever!! I live that heated seat a lot. to the point I really don't need the heater on. The drawback is it makes you a wee bit sleepy at times.

Not a lot to ponder today but tomorrow I'm going to write about guns, sequester and the media plus a spattering of our defunct political system. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Death in The Family

Its starts as an innocent trip to the vet. You know something is wrong. You know it could be serious. But you tell yourself your pet will be fine. I mean he's been with you as a part of your family for the last 10 years.  Deep down though you suspect it could be a lot worse than just old age. The lethargy and distended belly speak volumes as to how bad it could be. But the real tip off is his attitude. You raised him since he was a puppy. Since the day he was wrapped up in a blanket to protect him from the cold he has always had a personality that was as unique as anybody I've known

Curious and energetic crossed with an intelligence and a spark of life in his eyes giving him an almost intangible human like quality. Indian Hills Judd was  more than a boxer. He was a part of the family.

But we as humans treat our puppies like people which is why we become so attached to them in the first place. They become our defacto kids, confidants, witnesses to our fallacies and our victories.  Comforting in our time of grief.

A cancerous tumor had worked its way around the main artery that feeds his heart. The vet saying it was both inoperable and so large in size that putting him down was the only real humane option he had. What led us to his office in the first place really was the distended belly.

A tumor we were to find out that had burst and as dumping blood into his belly. Because it was an anti coagulant type of tumor the bleeding would never stop.

When he went into surgery he had a 1 in 3 chance of survival. the one chance being the tumor was isolated to one location and was not cancerous. So we knew going in his odds were slim at best. But hearing the news the next day didn't make it any easier.

the hardest part was my wife and I knew was still to come. We were going to have to break the news to our kids. Which as it turned at would be harder on us than it was on them.

When we told them there comments were "at least we still have 2 dogs". Who knew in a moment of trial our little kids would be the source of strength we would be able to draw from.

R.I.P to our beloved Judd.. You will be missed dearly.  And Judd could you watch over Bogie?? We love and miss you.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Have You Seen The Sunrise This Morning?

Ft Myers FL, 0530

The sound of nuclear fallout sirens becomes part of a dream I'm having about bicycling across Europe.  I can hear the siren all around me, but I can't seem to find the source. I keep riding, but all around me the sounds of certain and imminent destruction continue to rain down on my ears. And then I'm awake.

Miami is a good 2 hours away from Ft. Myers. I need to get up and get ready. Traffic will probably eat up a chunk of time. 30 minutes later I am freshly laundered and ready for the day. The curtains in my hotel are drawn to ensure complete darkness while I sleep. I hate coming back to a dark and silent hotel room, it's depressing. And the overwhelming silence screams loneliness and isolation. So before I depart for the day I always do two things. First, I open the drapes all the way so when I enter my room I am greeted by the outside world through double plate glass windows. This eases the sense of claustrophobia. Second, I turn on the TV and reduce the sound to just above a whisper. The sound from the set gives the aura of a false sense of activity inside.

I take a minute to watch the dark streets outside the window. There are a few cars on the road undoubtedly others like myself who are starting their daily commute. Their days starting ahead of mine.

As I enter the lobby of the hotel I am greeted by the smell of fresh brewed coffee and the continental breakfast buffet. I inhale deeply and take a moment to enjoy the comforting smell of breakfast and the start of a new day.

Outside the air is warm and the humidity is close enough to touch. There is dew on the windows from the humidity. It takes me a few minutes to wipe it all off. In the car I roll the windows down and turn on the back window defrost as well as the front windshield. The dew on the windows won't leave without a fight.

Windshield wipers at full speed I leave the parking lot my windows are still down. The salt marsh air filters in the car freely. Soon the sun will rise and its heat will chase the dew away. As people get out and about the salty air will be replaced with smog and car exhaust. But right now the air is still fresh and the sounds of humanity are still held at bay by cover of left over night fall.

This is my favorite time of day. Yesterday and all that came with it was smothered by the darkness. Today, as he soon starts to lighten up the western sky a promise of a good thing to come still abounds.

0630 the darkness is now in full retreat. The light from the west is starting to take hold. The horizon is still pink and the clouds that are hanging low look like they are on fire. I'm on I-75 heading south to Miami. Crossing alligator alley the cool water and the heavy warm air collide, creating a low hanging fog over the Everglades. Soon it covers the freeway, making visibility difficult. The sun hasn't risen high enough to burn off the fog. But the further south I go it too goes the way of the dew on the grass.

The sun moves higher its burn is hot, clearing the freeway and making my descent south free of fog. The night time cover of darkness is now a distant memory. The colors of the Everglades start to pop. Green vegetation and pure white egrets cover the ground. Cypress trees and Sawgrass holding back the mysteries of freshwater swamps. Black gators on the tops of banks and sliding gracefully on top of the water. On the surface, it looks like an idyllic and peaceful.

The morning brightness becomes more vivid my eyes starting to squint I put my sunglasses on. This part of the freeway has 10 foot fences with barbed wire mounted on top facing the Everglades. Whatever predators are out there these fences are meant to keep them at bay. I wonder what creatures could be so big as to require 10 foot barbed wire fences. I see gators swimming in the marshes and birds of prey circling overhead. I wonder what poor creature is close to death to garner their attention.

I-75 for the most part is clear of traffic. My rental and I move at a good clip south my Nexus 7 tablets are playing my favorite podcast. I am alone with my thoughts. The voices blaring out of the car's speakers are what keeps me company.

As a rule I am a night owl. Rising early in the morning and starting the my day has never been an easy thing for me. If I had my way days wouldn't start before before 10 possibly noon. I have always felt the early morning hours are the hardest to overcome. For some it comes easily I am not one of those people.

The irony here is I love seeing the sun come up. The rising sun has always given me hopes of a better day than the one before it. What's more is that if I had my way I'd be able to blissfully sleep through it all. Joining the day well after the sun has burned off the night before.

Better still, I would start my day well after the morning commute has ended. It's now 8am and I have now stopped on the north side of Miami. Traffic is gridlocked I still have 20 miles to go and my 8:30 arrival is not looking good. As I sit there patiently waiting for traffic to start moving forward I look in my rear view mirror and am startled to see a black Cadillac STS coming at me. I see the driver. Hes just noticed I was not moving. His speed is clocked around 70. I hunch my shoulders waiting for the impact. At the last second he swerves into the adjacent lane missing me by less than a foot. His brakes fully applied his car starts to skid. His car slides over and flies past me.

My heart is racing knowing the traffic gods were with me. Had he hit me at that speed I would surely have been killed. Fortunately the other lane was moving and no one was beside him. 300 ft in the other lane to his car stops.

I take a moment to cross myself and give thanks my time on earth has been extended for a while longer.

Picking up the phone I call my wife tell her I love her and that she was almost a widow this morning. She's grateful I'm still on this earth.

As my day moves forward I'm just grateful I got to see the sunrise. And more importantly, I get to see the sunset with the promise of the new day lurking on the horizon its a good day to be alive.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Walking among Models

South Beach is a cacophony of noise made up of electro, techno drum beats smashed together with pulse pounding Latin jazz with overtures of Cuban based ballads. A visual stimulus made up of Latin infused art Deco, exposed flesh and neon colors of every stripe.

A reality producers wet dream of suntanned and stripped to the waist alpha males with over developed pectoral muscles, ABS of steel and in your face personality's that would drive ratings into the stratosphere. Of women dressed in thronged backed bikinis with strutting exposed breasts. They exude sexuality and seduction with attitude to spare.

A mythical cornucopia seen only in the fairy tales that are produced by Hollywood.

During the day the streets are lined with gleaming exotic cars from Italy with names like Ferrari, Lamborghini,  Maserati and Bentley. Corvettes, Beamers and Lexus look like using Honda's.

Hotels with rooftop bars overlooking the street, Tattoo parlors and shirt shops smashed next to and even on top of bars. The beaches filled with hard bodies who are there to worship at the feet of blue skies and sunshine. The Atlantic waves kissing the sand gently and with warmth. The air not as salty as you would think. The beaches, white the sand soft and silky against your feet. 

And when you take it all in you realize there is a reason why South Beach is the home the rich and overindulged. You no longer wonder why it's referred as the home of beautiful people. Every inch of South Beach designed for the extravagant. All of it is over the top.

It's a place where booze flows as easily as the Mississippi. 32oz mojitos and margarita's with 2 Corona bottles overturned and sticking out of the glass. Beer is served by the bucket and 2 for 1 drink specials are the first thing the hostess talks about. The menu almost an afterthought.  

Sunglasses and clothing combined with haircuts right out of Vogue or GQ. Latin playboys put together like movie Lotharios. Or cocaine cowboys. A cacophony of chest hair and bling to spare.

Soccer moms out for a run with jogging strollers. Their legs encased in spandex and yoga pants, they’re blouses tied in a knot just below their breasts. 

Tattoos and piercings are more common and frequent than a biker rally.

Your senses are overloaded your in a place that's been in the news and in the movies and it's exactly as you've seen it on TV.  It's the music, the sights and smells. To anyone whose sees it for the first time it's hard to process and you truly feel like you don't belong.

Every site more exotic than the last. Every smell more magnificent than the last. And you realize that this is exactly what the other side of the tracks is like.

And this is just during the afternoon!

Around 6pm there is a lull. The street side parking opens up. Movement on the street lets up just a bit and then like coming out of a fog bikini clad women sporting sarongs begin to appear in full force followed by hard bodied and bare chested men. The human beach traffic that just minutes ago were being bathed in sunshine are now looking for a meal and new conquests to pursue. There is an odd mix of beach bodies and smartly dressed upwardly mobile couples roaming the street elbow to elbow.

A new coalition of sites and sounds assault the senses. The music seems to have picked up an energy that wasn't there before. 

New languages appear that weren't there before. Happy hour is in full swing the booze is coming in greater quantity and is much more freely than before. The mob consuming it quickly before happy hour ends and the 2 for 1 specials closes out.

Neon Lights bouncing off of the art Deco buildings, breathing new life into South Beach as afternoon turn to evening and then melting into nightfall.

After spending 4 hours on South Beach it was time for me to go. The nightlife was one that I wanted to see, but just couldn't stay for.

The thing I didn't mention were the models. This weekend was the annual Model Beach Volleyball tournament. I watched a few rounds. Runway vs Print. I wasn't aware there was a thing between the two disciplines. But I guess there was. The thing is watching models play volleyball wasn't as fun as one might think. They had been out there for the better part of 8 hours and the bloom was off the rose for them. Their hearts weren't just into it.

And I couldn't shake the thought that I was really on a set of a rom-com movie titled Runway vs Print. The model version of Alien vs Predator.

And the other thing was. They just were no match for my wife in the looks or body department. So while i did take photos (more for everyone else than myself, I assure you) none of them could stand up against the woman I love and adore.My  modeltific wife just had them beat hands down. Her looks and figure so far above them that nary once did my loins quiver with lust in foreign or domestic.

This was supposed to be a weekend getaway for the anniversary of 10 years and the honeymoon we never had. Disappointed and saddened I was that I would not be able to share this experience with her.

For 4 hours I was in the land of model OZ. I was rudely shaken from my dream when I decided it was time to eat. There is an Irish pub called Finnegan's on South Beach and I had a hankering for some corned beef.

How was I rudely awakened you ask?? Simple When I asked the waitress how was the corned beef?

I got this for a response. "Corned Beef"? "I have no idea". "Let me ask".

And there it was I was back.