The Self-Reflection Pool

Sometimes when you look at your own life, it can be like that scene in Lord of the Rings where Frodo looks into Galadriel’s mirror.  Only instead of seeing your own possible future that may involve an epic quest, a long-bearded wizard in robes, and smoking & drinking with hobbits, you look at your present and how your past shaped it.  You reflect on how you’ve changed, evolved, grown, and matured as an adult.

I’ve been doing exactly that more and more over the past several weeks.  A dose of self-reflection with a dash of nostalgia (and maybe a little booze…just a little **insert over exaggerated winky face here**).  I realize how much I’ve grown, evolved, and matured over the last several years.  This doesn’t mean I’ve changed into a completely different person.  I haven’t.  However, I feel like I’ve grown and matured in certain ways, having learned from the past because of my achievements and mistakes, trials and errors, pizzas and beers.

You see, I’m the type of person who gets more ideas in his head than there are bad Nicholas Cage movies.  And, because of this, I could never pin myself to just one idea to pursue as a profession, occupation, or career.  Throughout my youth each day my brain would bounce from idea to idea of the things I wanted to do.  An archaeologist, a world traveler, a rock star, a writer, a historian or history professor, and then my brain–SQUIRREL!! 

I became frustrated with myself because my brain constantly bounced around, and this left me unhappy.  But now?  I’m happy with my professional and extracurricular life.  This fact is quite ironic.  Why?  Because I do none of those aforementioned things professionally.  Instead, they’ve become hobbies.  

You see, I work for a good company doing a job I like.  I get decent paychecks, and there’s a great camaraderie and flexibility there. I have a career I enjoy and am happy with it.  And with it, comes a sense of stability and contentment.  But what about those ideas I constantly waffled on?  Allow me to elaborate:

–I used to want to travel via extended trips, such as a three-month backpacking trip through Europe, or something like in the film “Eat, Pray, Love.”  That’s not me anymore.  I still enjoy travel, but I’d rather go on shorter trips, such as long weekend jaunts and yearly vacations.  For instance, in recent years I went on some long weekend trips to visit Washington DC, Gettysburg, and New York.  Hence, travel is my hobby.

–In my early 20s my brother and I had our own heavy metal band.  We also played in a metal band briefly in my early 30s.  Both of us wanted to be rock stars.  Now, I don’t want to be a rock star.  However, my brother and I play in a classic & modern rock cover band in Sacramento, and I really enjoy jamming and playing the occasional venue around town.  I also play in a monthly Irish music session at the Fox & Goose pub.  Hence, music is my hobby.

–I’ve always loved history and archaeology.  I wanted to be an archaeologist and/or professional historian.  I actually went to graduate school for a semester and found that I really didn’t enjoy it.  At least I tried it, right?  But there’s nothing wrong with being an amatuer historian and binge-watching The Civil War by Ken Burns…right?  Hence, history is my hobby.

–And as for archaeology?  The Presidio of San Francisco has an archaeological dig site, excavations, and a laboratory.  They accept volunteers, which I was more than happy to sign up for.  I get to be a weekend Indiana Jones.  Hence, archaeology became my hobby.

–I’ve loved books and reading since I was a teenager and have wanted to write my own tales.  I still do that.  I’m just writing as more of a hobby now.  However, the difference between this hobby and the others is that I’m still working to finish the books I started, and I intend to submit them to agents and/or publishers.  If my books eventually get published, that’s great!  If not, then that’s okay.  Hence, writing is still my hobby.

Looking back, I realize how immature I must’ve been.  Even though I had many great life experiences, my own undecidedness, my tendency to SQUIRREL! made things rather unstable and untenable.  But a person can grow and evolve (hopefully not growing and evolving into swamp creatures like the mold buildup does at Florida rest stops).  

As another example, I no longer want to just bounce around the planet.  I enjoy having a homebase, a home, from which I can continue enjoying life.  I’m currently saving to buy a house, and hope to do so soon.  Sacramento is my home, and my family and friends are here.  I get to go to Republic FC soccer matches, game nights or evenings at the pub, and also rocking out with the cover band I mentioned.  Although if I lived anywhere else right now, I’d consider the California coast.  

And I’ve been finding new hobbies.  I’m part of a league-winning bar trivia team, and last summer, I took swing dancing classes.  I’m very self-conscious when it comes to dancing, and for me to have fun going swing dancing speaks volumes.  As in, it would speak enough volumes to reach the level of Vogon poetry.

I’ve learned that life doesn’t have to be huge and complicated.  It can be just as exciting and fulfilling if it’s simple and stable.  If you’re looking for an epic quest, navigating California traffic to the store because you just had Taco Bell and ran out of toilet paper can be a harrowing journey itself.  We all try our best to make our lives worthwhile.  We grow and mature, and try to be better people for it.  Never stop doing these things.  I know I won’t.  Who knows how much I’ll continue to grow?

I’ll sign off with this bit of advice.  If someone resembling a long-bearded wizard in dirty robes approaches you in the street asking if you’d like to meet his hobbit friend, be cautious.  This could just be a random hobo with his tweaker friend named, Douche Baggins.

The Blurring of the Days

Do you get the feeling that as the days pass during this lockdown, this quarantine and social distancing that we’ve been in, time seems to have sped up?  It’s as if each day ends almost as soon as it begins.  While staying at home all day, every day, I’ve had plenty of time to workout, go on longer runs and more walks, absolutely not watch Tiger King, and get caught up on some Netflix and Amazon shows.  And drink and write more (as I’m writing this very sentence, I’m drinking whiskey like a proper writer).  I also promised myself to read more books and play my guitar more. But failed to do either of those.

However, I have exercised more, and started writing again.  This blog website is proof of that.  I know many of us tell ourselves that if we just had more time, more opportunity to get those special projects done, we would be churning out achievements faster than NCIS or Criminal Minds can spit out new episodes.  I’m sure we all started out with these good intentions.  

Such as:

-Getting your body beach ready with a crazy workout schedule, but then very soon after realize, like everyone else, that donuts exist.

-Painting the house.  

-Building a backyard catapult (who doesn’t want one of those?).  

-Crocheting a Tardis blanket.

-Actually doing the laundry.

-Learning to cook some new, amazing meals because you’ve seen so many cooking shows.  Now’s your time to shine in the kitchen and show your spouse or significant other that your cooking skills would make Gordon Ramsay jizz his pants! But you end up just putting taquitos in the microwave instead, and calling it done.

But despite our earnestly good intentions, we end up doing this:

-Constructing a World War One trench system around the house to keep out the toilet paper hoarders.

-Rearranging the furniture because you’ve been meaning to do it for months, then realizing you don’t like the new arrangement, moving the furniture again, and then again, and again, until you’ve made a couch/chair/nightstand fort in the corner of the living room while your only source of light is a Coleman lantern.

-Creating a science lab in the garage to determine if in fact, the answer to the world’s most burning question, is whether or not a Twinkie can be used as an explosive.

-Staring at the teetering mountain of grungy dishes in the sink, doing your best attempt at a Jedi Mind Trick to get them to wash themselves.


-Wondering if the aging, moldy leftovers in the back of the fridge, possibly leftover from the Korean War, would give you superpowers if ingested.

Lately it’s felt like time is hurtling faster and faster.  It’s as if I’m sitting inside the Millenium Falcon as it heads to light speed, the days streaking passed me, stretched and blurred just like the stars outside the cockpit window.  With each rapidly passing day, I feel like I’ve failed to do something productive or meaningful.  One more book left unread, one more page left unwritten, one more guitar piece left unlearned, one more pizza left uneaten (only kidding, never leave a pizza behind!).  You get the idea.  It’s hard to not feel guilty when we have the time to accomplish things, but end up scrolling FriendFace, Instracram, and Chitter while binge watching YouTube tutorials on primitive hut construction instead.

And of course, making sure that absolutely no pizza and tacos get left unattended.  Remember that in this difficult time…to think of the tacos. **Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” begins playing the background**

I’m here to tell you right now, as much as I’m also telling myself, that you are not required to be productive.  Do not feel any form of guilt.  These days are unprecedented in recent history.  None of us have experienced this before.  What you and I need to do above all else is to just live.  Get through your day as best and safely as you can.  If that includes building a sofa-sized Lego Star Destroyer, then create your ultimate weapon against the Rebel Alliance!  If your day includes relaxing in the garden, or on the couch (next to your Lego Star Destroyer) as you read or watch TV, that’s perfectly okay too.  You do you!

We will all get through this.  Together.

Foolin’ In Doolin

The town of Doolin, Ireland, circa 2003.

“Two people got blown off the Cliffs this year so far,” the bus driver informed the nearby passenger who had asked about the Cliffs of Moher.  Our bus from Dublin to Doolin was nearing its destination, and with that, the famous Cliffs of Moher.  “In fact, two to three people usually die each year because they get too close to the edge without minding the high winds.”

I guess I would have to be cautious while at the Cliffs.  I didn’t bring my parachute.  But before the Cliffs of Moher, there was Doolin!

My travel buddy Alisa and I had decided to go to Doolin, a small town in County Clare, and also visit the Cliffs while we were there.  Why Doolin? Because a friendly (maybe drunk) Irishman in Quay’s bar in Dublin recommended it as we knocked back the pints.  Always follow the advice of the locals no matter how inebriated.  Well, not always because they might advise something crazy like snorkeling in a giant vat of mayonnaise or running for political office.  But this gentleman had bought me a Guinness, so I thought he was at least worth listening to. 

Doolin is well known for having fun and lively music sessions, which is why I wanted to go there.  You see, I love Irish traditional music.  And in Ireland, traditional music is a large part of the culture.  In pubs around the country musicians will gather at various times to play tunes and songs together.  Since it is traditional music, most musicians and singers know many of the same tunes and songs.  They gather together to play music they love while consuming metric tons of beer for the fun of it.  These gatherings are called sessions.  

During these sessions, if you happen to get drunk enough to run around the town naked while laughing at telephone poles in the process, or you make a whole slew of new friends, or you learn what “whack fo’ the diddle” actually means, or you make a fool of yourself by trying to speak with an Irish accent, that’s all part of the fun. No judgement.

Doolin here we come!  The only real hurdle was getting there on time.

You see, the traditional music sessions in Dublin ended around 9:30pm to 10:00pm, and after that, they pumped out the latest popular music on their sound systems. So we were a little disheartened after we bought our bus tickets and realized we wouldn’t arrive in Doolin until just after 9:30pm.  As we later found out, we had nothing to worry about.

After scaring the tourist who had asked about the Cliffs of Moher, the bus driver dropped us off in Doolin.  Alisa and I hurried to the hostel where we purchased our bunks and dashed up to the dorm room.  We didn’t even bother trying to lock up our packs.  We just threw them on the bunks and dashed away, flying out of the hostel and down the lane.

Not far from our hostel we saw the sign for O’Connor’s pub just up the street.  To me, it was like a beacon of good times ahead.  Especially since the sun was setting and its beams of light illuminated the door, as if the rays of the heavens guided us to the pub while a chorus of angels cast their holy singing voices in welcoming chants of, “Drink here!”

The street was eerily quiet as we approached the pub.  It seemed we were the only people awake and about in this small, Irish town.  But we learned the truth when we stepped inside.  A cacophony of sound greeted us, as we heard traditional music playing as soon as the heavy, wooden door was barely a few inches ajar.  Once fully opened, the din of people chatting and the clank, clink, crash of pint glasses added to the mix.  Inside, O’Connor’s pub was packed more full than an arena crammed with teenage girls and old creepy dudes at a Brittany Spears concert. 

I looked back outside, and saw almost no live humans while the inside was full of churning bodies, music, beer, and good spirits.  I knew this was the reason for the empty street.  Everyone was inside the pub.  A good sign.

Alisa and I threaded our way through the entryway and found the session band.  There were two fiddlers, a flute player, a guitar player, a button accordion player, and a bodhran player.  This bodhran player had the most rustic and unique bodhran I’ve ever seen. His bodhran’s frame was made from tree bark, instead of the nice, finished wood that has been sanded and stained.  A crude goatskin was stretched tight over it and fastened in place with rope.  And it sounded fucking amazing.

The music was rocking in full swing, belting out favorites like Drowsie Maggie, The Star of Munster, The Mason’s Apron, and Julia Delayney’s.  The session band had the attention of the entire pub.  Given the amount of people in here, probably the population of the whole town.

The next thing on our list, and this is important to complete your all-Ireland experience at a country pub, was beer.  Easier said than done at a Doolin pub.

Navigating this crowded pub to reach the bar was like a mosh pit at a Megadeth concert.  I would know.  The only difference was that here in this modest country pub there were no Mad Max villians or guys wearing chain mail.  This made approaching the bar a little less dangerous.  Only a little.  I may have seen an orc from Lord of the Rings, but I can’t be too sure.  It was in passing and we were thirsty.

Alisa and I managed to reach the bar and get some pints with only a minor bit of elbowing and sword fighting, then returned to the band to enjoy the rest of the evening.  The band would play a rollicking set of tunes, and we would drink more beer.  The band would later take a five or ten minute break, and we would drink more beer.  Every now and then a new fiddler or flute player would show up and the other musicians greeted him or her happily.  

We drank more beer.

Sometimes in between instrumental sets, someone in the pub would break out in song.  That’s the beauty of a session.  Anyone can join in.  One particular man that sang several songs that evening stood out in my mind.  I don’t remember his name, but I’ll refer to him as the Old Irish Singer.  He stood next to the session musicians the entire evening.  He was an older gentleman with short, gray hair, which was covered in a wool tam o’shanter cap.  He was neither tall nor short, neither thin nor fat, but did possess a bit of paunch.  He carried his paunch like a badge of honor and wore a coarse, tweed jacket most of the evening with a scarf draped around the back of his neck.

We guzzled more beer.

The Old Irish Singer always had a pint of Guinness in one hand and a set of wooden spoons in the other.  During the instrumental sections of music, the reels and jigs, he merrily clacked away with the spoons in rhythm with the tunes.  In between the reels and jigs, he would belt out some of the best renditions of Irish traditional favorites that I’ve ever heard.  And he did it all acapella.  

We continued beering drink.

The music session wasn’t scheduled for any set timeframe.  The band played until late into the night.  By the time they ended, many of us remained in the pub chatting and socializing.  We got to chatting with the Old Irish Singer about how awesome everything was.  He informed us that O’Connor’s was one of three pubs in Doolin; all three equally busy and raucous every night, and that he alternated between O’Connor’s and Mcgann’s.  

The effect had no beer on us, because we could liquor our hold!  So more beer please!

This went on until around 3:30am or so.  It would have continued until dawn, but one of the men behind the bar, maybe the owner, I don’t know, went about the main room and shouted, “All right, we’re closing!  Get the hell out of here!”

Alisa and I stumbled out of O’Connor’s pub and into the pitch black.  Yes, it was pitch black because Doolin was too small to be bothered to put up streetlights.  We allowed our eyes to adjust to the dark, allowing the chilly air to shake off the beer goggles, and then staggered back to the hostel while narrowly avoiding a fall into the nearby stream.  

People shouldn’t leave random streams just lying around where hapless drunks could fall in!  Think of the safety hazards!  Falling into the stream would have been quite awkward, because we would be standing at the edge of the Cliffs of Moher the following day.

Myself during the session at O’Connor’s pub wearing an Indiana Jones fedora like a proper dork. Circa 2003.
The Cliffs of Moher.

Dublin Shenanigans

Me at The Temple Bar, wearing a fedora like a proper dork.

I didn’t mean to start a mosh pit at a dance club in Dublin. It just kinda happened. I swear.  After all, I was in Ireland and there was much alcohol involved. But before I get into that let me fill you in on how I came to be in Ireland’s amazing capital city, and some of the shenanigans that took place.

I had always wanted to visit Ireland.  In June 2003, I finally arrived there after taking a train from London to Hollyhead, and then a ferry trip from Hollyhead to Dublin.  The ferry pulled in to Dublin at about 5pm, and then I met my friend and travel buddy, Alisa, at the hostel in the middle of the city.  So what does any country-respecting, culturally aware and knowledgeable travel wannabe do in Dublin? Listen to great Irish music of course! And Drink. And see the historical and cultural sights and wonders of the Irish capital. And Drink. 

That’s right.  By the time we were checked into the hostel, it was evening and the Book of Kells, Dublin Castle, and the St. James Gate Brewery were closed anyway.  So Alisa and I hit the Temple Bar district like every other tourist, ready to do battle with our livers, and started knocking back all that great Irish beer.  We enjoyed the lively and fun Irish music sessions, where local musicians come to the pubs to play traditional music. It’s fucking amazing.

I must say that Irish people are very friendly.  They’ll approach complete strangers to say “Hello, how are you?” and “Where are you from?” and “Care to join me for a pint?”  We had great fun meeting local people in Dublin. And even greater fun pub crawling and starting mosh pits with them.

The surprising thing I found about Ireland was that there were people from all over the world there.  Irish (der!), French, English, Norwegians, Daleks, fellow Americans, Canadians, Australians, Wookies, Germans, and the occasional Nerd.  And we were all drinking in Irish pubs together, having a great time. See! World peace can be achieved with alcohol!

Overall, day one in Dublin was great.  Alisa and I had a great time. Now, on to day two!

During the day I toured the St. James Gate Brewery.  This is where Guinness is made and all things holy occur.  At the end of the brewery tour, one will end up at the top of the facility in a place called the Sky Bar.  From here, you get a free pint of Guinness, and can look out over the city of Dublin from several stories up.    The Guinness Brewery is a Mecca for beer aficionados, drunks, barley connoisseurs, alcoholics, Irish culture lovers, and those seeking the world record on something like, “most live hamsters fitting into a single human mouth.”

Afterwards, Alisa and I visited Trinity College to see the Book of Kells.  For those who don’t know about the Book of Kells it’s actually four books, not one.  The Book of Kells are the four gospels of the New Testament which were written and hand drawn over 1,200 years ago by Irish monks.  They are an orgy of intricate artwork, color and Celtic knotwork, which show holy scenes from the Bible. There is so much hand-drawn artwork, one sometimes forgets there is the occasional gospel verse.  I wish I could include pictures of the stunning artwork, but when I tried to take a shot one of the security staff gave me the stink eye and said, “No photography allowed.”

We dined at one of the many Irish cafes and then bivouacked back at the hostel.  The battle plan was to gather more intelligence from our fellow hostel guests about the local pubs for our planned drinking assault.  Before we set out, Alisa informed me she would be staying in that night, and wanted to retire early. No worries, so I set out for the Temple Bar and commenced with Operation Guzzle and Flirt.

The evening went well.  I was knocking back the pints while socializing with a random group of Irishmen and a couple of American girls.  We all ended up pub crawling around the Temple Bar district together. The Quays Bar, Farrington’s, and others were all invaded and conquered by us.  One of the friendly Irishmen we crawled with invited us all back to his flat for more drinks.  

While at his flat, someone suggested a nightclub.  I don’t remember the name, but it was one of those underground clubs (literally). I do remember that our Irish host had to knock on the door, speak to someone through a tiny window in the door like a speakeasy, where we then paid our cover charge before being allowed in.  And by in, I mean we descended a flight of stairs to enter the dark and smoky club, thumping with pop music and bass beats. I half expected there to be vampires and mobsters…or both.

By this time I was drunk enough to pay 9 Euro for a Long Island Iced Tea.  That’s about 14 bucks in ‘Merican. And half of that drink ended up on the dance floor.  I shouldn’t neglect to mention that I was wearing an Indiana Jones-style fedora all night.  Because I’m a dork.  

Anyway, while I was on the dance floor Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” started playing in the club.  The energetic guitar riffs mixed with the blood in my alcohol system made me want to head bang and rock out.  So I did just that, and while doing so…may have accidentally bumped into everyone next to me on the dance floor.  In good-natured fashion and sportsmanship, several of the other Irish gentlemen on the dance floor took to my drunken nudging by kindly bumping me and their neighbors back.  Some people didn’t seem too keen on the idea (I can’t imagine why), but many others loved it and joined in. Next thing I know, there was a full-blown mosh pit going in the middle of the dance floor at this nightclub in Dublin.  Good times!

As the end of the evening drew near (more like early morning), I returned to the hostel.  You see, in a hostel you purchase a bed in a room full of bunks that are shared with other travelers.  That’s what makes them so cheap. As I entered the dorm room I noticed Alisa wasn’t in her bunk. In my inebriation I felt I needed to make sure she was ok.  One of the other travelers in the room saw me looking around.

“Are you looking for your friend?” she asked me.

“Yes.  I just want to make sure she’s alright?”

“I think I saw her in the next dorm room,” she pointed out the room to me.

I walked to the indicated dorm room and knocked on the door.   Not a millisecond later the door flung open. Out poured two buck-naked men who ran down the halls of the hostel.  Not only were they clad in their birthday suits, they were giggling as they pranced around this Irish establishment with cries of, “Tee hee hee!”

Then a third man, fully clothed, poked his head out of the room and yelled towards his naked companions, “You couple of sausage jockeys!”

I walked into the room and found my friend there.  She was also fully clothed, but suspiciously had her camera around her neck.  I looked at her, then back at the two naked gentlemen who were just returning from their late night hostel prancing session, and then back at her.  Alisa just looked at me with a complete innocent look on her face, shrugged, and asked, “What?”

The night pretty much ended after that.  I nursed a hangover the following day by taking some headache meds and seeing more of the city’s sites.  The next night was another dose of pub-crawling with great people, beer, and craic. And then we went to Doolin and Galway for more shenanigans.    But that’s another story.

The Ghosts of Gettysburg

I may have seen a ghost in Gettysburg.  You know Gettysburg? It’s the town in Pennsylvania that hosted the famous battle during the American Civil War.  In July 1863, two epic armies from the North and South came together in this small, Pennsylvania town to slug it out like two nuclear apocalypse survivors fighting over a box of Twinkies.  I love history. I’m a big Civil War buff, and had wanted to visit Gettysburg for many years. Therefore, almost on a whim, I bought a red-eye flight to Washington DC, rented a car, and drove to Pennsylvania.  

When I finally reached the town, it was already late afternoon.  So my tour of the battlefield and visit to the Gettysburg National Military Park would have to wait until the next day.  I figured that evening would be perfect for a ghost tour! Oh…and food. And beer. One cannot forget the important things in life!

In Gettysburg there are several groups offering ghost tours, paranormal treks, and various history walks.  Since so many people died in the battle, there are a plethora of stories about restless spirits, phantom entities, and zombie Elvis sightings.  There’s apparently so many ghosts in Gettysburg, Sam and Dean Winchester would need three dump trucks full of salt to put them to rest. I wasn’t concerned about any of that, I just thought a historical ghost tour would be fun.

One of the cool things about the town of Gettysburg is many of the buildings and houses from the 1860s are still in use today.  The ghost tour I signed up for had all the guests meet our guide behind one of these older historic buildings, which also happened to be a bar.  Included with my ticket for the tour was a free beer from said bar. I also need to point out that behind this bar was a cannon. You read that right.  A frickin’ cannon from 1861 was just sitting there! How awesome is that?

There I was standing next to a Civil War era cannon, holding a beer while in Gettysburg, and about to embark on a historical ghost tour!  I could barely contain my excitement, and thus, I nearly needed to change my pants. I also may have audibly cackled in glee like a Shakespearean witch, hunched over a cauldron, about to engage in magical shenanigans. 

The tour itself was both educational and entertaining. The guide took us to various spots around the town, at night of course, and regaled us with historically accurate stories from the battle as well as tales of ghost sightings, supposedly haunted buildings, and strange creepers.  When I say strange creepers, interpret that however you like. It could be a creepy crawly, a poltergeist, or a guy in a trench coat flashing people who are exiting a Taco Bell drive-thru. Let your imaginations run wild.

During the ghost tour one particular building stood out to me.  The guide explained that not only was it an original building, but that it had been part of the battle.  She then pointed out the bullet holes in the brick wall, which were leftover from the battle. If that wasn’t cool enough the tour guide told us the building was also haunted.  Apparently, Confederate soldiers used the top room of the building to fire on Union troops, who of course shot back. Eventually Union troops stormed the building and the Confederates inside were killed.  She told us that people report seeing eerie figures in the top window, and the ghosts of Confederate and Union soldiers inside.

And I was standing at the base of this building with its bullet-ridden scars from the Battle of Gettysburg.  I love history!

The building from the battle with bullet holes still in the wall.

After the tour I returned to that building.  I wanted to get a better look at it, and maybe see if I could find any more evidence of the battle.  And maybe spy an apparition? The side of the building with the bullet holes is well-lit. So I went around the opposite side, which was actually rather dark.  This took me on a side street of Gettysburg, and for some reason, I had the feeling that I needed to get my phone out.

I took my phone out, opened the video camera app, and started recording.  Let the video speak for itself. What can I say? I captured something in that eight second clip.

I’m not sure what kind of ghost that was, but it looked strangely familiar.  If you’re still reading this, then please enjoy a few of the photos I took of the Gettysburg battlefield the following day. 🙂 

All kidding aside, the town of Gettysburg was great.  I would return there in a heartbeat and tour the battlefield again.  The real ghosts of Gettysburg are the thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers that died there, fighting in a war that ripped the nation in two.  May their spirits rest in peace forever.

The site of where the 20th Maine fought on Little Round Top.
Here I am, standing atop the Little Round Top and Devil’s Den is behind me.

Remember To Live

We are living in historic times.  The world has necessarily shut down and everyone is sheltering in place as we try to beat the Coronavirus into submission.  When historians and archaeologists look back on this era, they will undoubtedly conclude that what human civilization valued above everything else, was a clean butthole.  Future scholars five hundred years from now will make arguments in their university dissertations that 21st century humans considered toilet paper as the world’s most worthy commodity.  Beavis may be regarded, not as a moronic cartoon character, but as a prophet with his shouts of, “I am Cornholio! I need TP for my bunghole!”

At this very moment, doctors, nurses, and medical personnel are the front-line warriors against the Coronavirus pandemic.  They are the ones in the trenches, fighting off the enemy. And the most important thing we can do to aid them, as well as ourselves in this fight, is to stay the fuck at home.  If we stay home, we can help stop the spread of the virus. The last thing a hospital needs is to be completely overwhelmed like Walmart employees on Black Friday. If we all stayed home and ceased non-essential functions, we can beat this sooner.  

I know many of you might be going stir crazy by staying home all day, every day.  And I’m sure any introverts reading this will think, “I’ve got books, Netflix, video games, and taquitos in the freezer.  My life has changed how?” But we can’t forget to live our lives as best we can. Even if that means playing beer pong with your dog, or attempting to play Jenga with your cat.  Living life is important!

But how?  Let me offer some suggestions.

–Daily walks.  This can be done as long as you remember your social-distancing, and is great to get some fresh air for a short while.  You can also use your daily walks to scout the perimeter, spot for bandit ambushes, and see if there are any taco trucks still around.

–Cooking. Take this time to cook more and learn new dishes using whatever you find in the pantry.  It could be a healthy and delicious meal (as long as tofu and brussel sprouts aren’t involved), or it could be a mishmash of kielbasa sausages smothered in Cheese Whiz with Oreos on the side.  No judgement.

–Binge Watching.  Now you have the perfect excuse to watch all your favorite shows in one sitting.  Get caught up on some great shows and movies. For me, I’m working my way through Supernatural, I started The Good Place, and may give others like Outlander a try.  Who knows? You may find a new show or movie you never thought you’d like.

–Video Games.  Are you an Xbox warrior, slaying the world’s digital enemies, hoping that one day your efforts of saving the planet will be recognized by society?  Well, now’s your chance. Stay the fuck inside, play every Call of Duty title, and save the world. For real.

–Crafting and Art.  You might have little crafting or art projects you’ve been putting off.  It could be crocheting Xenomorph, face-hugging aliens or painting a picture of Bob Ross painting himself painting a happy tree, a Happy Tree-ception if you will.  Regardless of what it is, creating is good for you, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Especially if you’ve ever wanted to make your own backyard catapult.

–Books.  I love books.  I own many. If you’re a big reader, then you’re probably like me, in that you have a large stack of books on your “to-read” list, but this never prevents you from buying new ones. But now the bookstores are temporarily closed.  So devour that “to-read” list! Devour it like a hungry zombie that’s fresh out of brains and stumbled into a Mensa convention!

These are just a few suggestions on how to keep yourself occupied while you’re bunkered up at home.  Remembering how to live our lives is important. Because when this is over, and it will be eventually, appreciating all that life has to offer will be taken much less for granted.  People will have a new love for game nights with friends, sporting events will be jam-packed, and restaurants will have a wait time of about twelve years. And most importantly, speaking as a Californian, the taco trucks will return.

We just have to do our part.  Stay home, have a pint, and wait for all this to blow over.

The Pizza Conspiracy

One of my first jobs was as a pizza delivery guy.  I’m sure some of you are thinking that everyday as a pizza guy is like it is in porn.  You know…where the delivery guy shows up to the door and a scantily clad goddess answers the door wearing only a thong made from Red Vines?  She tells you she doesn’t have any money, but if you come inside, you could work “something” out. That “something” usually involves extra sausage.

Let the sexy times ensue.  Am I right? Anyone? I guess you didn’t see that one.

Well, I can assure you this never once happened to me.  Who knew that the world of 1980s porn wasn’t real? They should prepare high school seniors for this reality.  Anyway, I wanted to recount an interesting phenomenon I encountered during several deliveries. It is something both fascinating and somewhat concerning, but not as concerning as devouring three packages of Double-Stuff Oreos in one sitting while watching Meg Ryan movies…not that I would know (he writes with suspicious innocence).

Continue reading “The Pizza Conspiracy”

Don’t Surf On Space Mountain

The rocket ship coaster car on Space Mountain came to a halt.  Thankfully we were in the beginning of the ride in that little tunnel with all of the flashing lights.  If you’ve ever been to Disneyland and ridden Space Mountain, you know it’s a roller coaster in the dark.  The opening section of the ride is set up like a space station launch tunnel that leads you into a slow climb full of streaming lights and a countdown.  Then you’re whisked away over the other side to enjoy a thrilling ride in the blackness of “space”, the terrified screams of fellow park visitors, and 1960s sound effects.

So when the ride halted in the middle of the space station launch tunnel, I thought to myself, “I’m glad that the ride broke down here where we can still see, and not in the middle where it’s nearly pitch black.”   As if on cue, all the lights switched off. What followed was what normally happens when all light in a room full of people is suddenly extinguished. There are the obligatory screams of “Eeek!” and “That’s my leg!” and “Who’s in my mouth?” 

Once we’d all settled down, that’s when I felt it.  A phantom finger, from out of the shadows, brushed against my lips.  The finger quickly retracted followed by the sound of mad cackling.

This really happened.

Continue reading “Don’t Surf On Space Mountain”

Sporks In The Road

My name is M.A.D. Hagan, and I  was born and raised in California.  Even though I’ve lived most of my life in the Golden State, the land of movie stars and $3,807.23 per gallon gas, countless farms and pothole-filled roads that resemble the Western Front’s “no man’s land”, and an amazingly diverse, melting-pot population and junkies, I’ve also lived in other places.  

Life has a way of providing each of us with a bunch of choices, opportunities, or a seemingly endless series of forks in the road.  Where your life takes you, the adventures you have, your trials and tribulations, your triumphs and defeats, everything that happens to you or the things you do, or the things that will happen to you or the things that you will do, has its foundation in those life choices.  Do I join the military or the circus? Do I try to go to college or become a phone sex operator? Do I eat a healthy-ish meal of rice cakes smothered in strawberry jam, or consume an entire box of Fruit Loops?

I call these life choices, “Sporks In The Road.”

Sometimes these life choices bring you to a Waffle House in the Florida Panhandle at 2:37am, shoveling down smothered & covered hash browns with syrup and chili (and of course a waffle on top, we’re not savages) in order to soothe your troubled innards, burning and burbling with too much rum, cheap beer, and destroyed inhibitions.  You do this while giggling at the drunken characters that always frequent every Waffle House in Anytown, USA until you realize you were merely gazing and giggling at your own hazy reflection in the restaurant’s window panes, which are already moist from Florida’s inhumane humidity and your own drool.  

Like I said, Sporks In The Road. 

If you think about it, all of us live out our lives and make our choices, choosing directions on that flimsy, plastic tine on the Spork In The Road in front of us, leading us to a life of interesting and great experiences, even if we don’t see it that way.  I think we’ve been conditioned to never feel satisfied in life, that we have to be wealthy, famous, rockstar athlete CEOs with 2.7 trillion Instagram followers in order to not be a failure. Well…that’s bullshit.

If you’re feeling like your life has sucked, that you haven’t been super-duper successful, and that the Magic Wand of Wealth, Happiness, and Free Tacos (™ ) never bonked you on the forehead, then perhaps you just need a little perspective.  Allow me to use myself as an example.

I’m not rich, not famous (don’t want to be), and I have less than a hundred Instagram followers.  However, I’ve lived a life where my choices, my seemingly random direction changes, my feelings of restlessness, have led me to a lot of interesting and amusing experiences.  I’ve always felt like I was just bumbling along in life, just getting by. But in retrospect, my life has contained so many unique, yet different things.  

For instance:

-I went pub-crawling in Dublin with the local Irish.  And survived.

-I went mountain biking in Panama to explore an old Spanish fortress, and saw the Panama Canal too.  It’s rusty.

-I accidentally stumbled into the red light district in Frankfurt (seriously, it was an accident…I just stumbled in…I didn’t know where I was…stop laughing), and was accosted by a gauntlet of German street pimps.  Those fuckers are aggressive. And sexy.

-I am a pretty good musician.  I’ve played guitar for over two decades.  Even though I started playing mainly to learn my favorite Megadeth and Metallica songs, my musical tastes have since greatly expanded.  This includes Irish traditional & Celtic music, classic rock, flamenco, and big band swing music. And not country.

-I served eight years in the US Navy, got involved in the intelligence community, and earned a top secret clearance. With this experience, and newly gained knowledge, I can confidently tell you, assure you, that positively 100%, there are absolutely no grey aliens in the government.  Stay away from those conspiracy sites.

-I once drove from Pensacola, FL to Sacramento, CA in two and half days.  I did this by making myself as Caffeinated As All Fuck (Caffeinated As All Fuck is defined as “enough caffeine to make a water buffalo’s heart explode”).  Afterwards, I slept for twelve hours. I will never do that again.

-I have eaten at a Waffle House in the Florida Panhandle while drunk at 2:37am.  And survived.

-The Navy sent me to Monterey, CA to attend the prestigious Defense Language Institute (DLI) where I would learn a foreign language quickly.  During the 18 months I spent there, the languages I learned were Bullshit, Alcohol Consumption, and Arabic.

-I lived in Bahrain for a year, working as a command investigator for the US Navy base there.  What was that like, you ask? Well, it was so hot and humid there it was like walking into Jabba the Hutt’s taint.

-I have climbed on Mayan Pyramids in Belize where another tourist asked, in utter disbelief, why an escalator was not installed on the pyramid.  I’m serious.  

-I was once married for a decade, in what became the longest relationship of my life.  But that is another story.

I listed all of those things to give examples of how, if you put events in your life into proper perspective, it can make you realize that life is amazing.  Go wherever your life choices take you. My mother, at age 20, decided she wanted a family, and raised me and my brother. One of her joys in life has been seeing us grow into the people we became, that we grew up to be healthy and happy.  

If you don’t think your life was that interesting because you’ve only been raising your family, what about the time that you laughed your ass off when one of your kids coated the family dog in a bag of flour, and the dog then ran off into the neighbor’s yard during their Sunday football barbeque, leaving a white, dusty cloud in its wake, and causing the neighbors to sneeze uncontrollably?  Or when your kids used permanent markers to draw beards (and maybe a penis) on their faces the morning of school picture day? Or how proud you felt when your child became an adult?

It’s all about perspective.  When you look back at all the directions you took, the tines you chose for each Spork In The Road of your life, you realize that life is pretty amazing.  Try to always enjoy where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going. Learn from your mistakes and the bad things that happened, and appreciate all the good things that happened.  So here’s to all of you, especially if you’re reading this while on your phone at 3:00am, may all the choices in your Sporks In The Road of life lead you to happiness and free tacos.