Monday, April 29, 2019

Avengers: Endgame (a movie review post)

Pre-movie thoughts:
We're going to be seeing Endgame in just about two hours from now. This is almost the most anticipation I've ever had for a movie. Other highly anticipated movies of note: The Phantom Menace, Spider-Man (maybe my most highly anticipated movie ever), Fellowship of the Ring. People who know me (or who have followed along here for any length of time) will know that Star Wars is my "true love," but it wasn't my first love. No, my first love, through Spider-Man, was Marvel. And, well, what has happened with Star Wars since Disney let Kathleen Kennedy have control of it has somewhat tarnished my love for Star Wars. Sorry, Star Wars, it's not you... oh, no, wait... it is you.

At any rate, this, this waiting to go see Endgame, feels a little like a return to my first love. Even if Spider-Man turned to dust in the last movie. What Marvel has done here over the last decade or so and 20+ movies is... astounding. It's what Star Wars should have been, because it was Star Wars that proved that people would come back to "to be continued" movies in the first place. So... here I am, sitting here, actually, more than a little like my 13-year-old self waiting to go see Return of the Jedi, which, yes, I left off that above list because the anticipation you feel for something as a kid is rarely the same as it is when you're an adult.

Anyway... It's time to go. I'll let you know what I think.

Post-movie thoughts:
That was a very fast three hours. There was nothing to mark the passing of it beyond the fact that my butt started to hurt at some point. The theater we usually go to recently went through this big renovation thing and put in these overly large reclining chairs, and they're still not comfortable! Is there some rule about not having chairs that are comfortable? Or maybe it's because my butt is already worn out from sitting on bleacher seats all week at the four softball games my daughter had this past week. Whatever, my butt hurts.

Yeah, I'm just avoiding talking about the movie, because, really, what am I supposed to say about it? You can't talk about this movie without it being some kind of spoiler. Can't talk about the opening scene because... See? Can't even talk about the Stan Lee cameo, the last one of him EVER, because even that's spoilery. And I certainly can't tell you my favorite scene because Mark Ruffalo would probably show up at my house and yell "NO SPOILERS!" in my face, which would be fine if he just showed up as himself, but I'm not sure he wouldn't HULK out on me and smash some thing.
No, none of that has anything to do with the movie.

Now, I'm not going to say it was the best movie I ever saw, though it did make me cry a bit and make my wife cry a lot. It wasn't life-changing or anything like that. I guess I'm too old for that kind of shit these days. It was pretty perfect, though. A perfect ending, a perfect wrap up, a perfect whatever you want to call it. I mean, look, here's the thing: As I've mentioned before, I've read The Infinity Gauntlet, the source material for all of this... stuff, and I was at a loss for how they were going to wrap it up without just copying the story, and they managed to pull that off gloriously. It was a great job on the part of the writers.

Even my younger son, who has the capacity to be even more critical of things than I am (he's young; I'm sure he'll mellow out with age; I did) said after the movie something along the lines of, "I'm trying to think if there were any faults in [Endgame], and I can't think of any, not even with the <spoilery content removed>." So... there you go. There are no faults with this movie. Unless you just don't like super heroes but, then, that's a fault in you, not the movie.

I suppose, in the end, my recommendation doesn't matter one way or the other anyway. Either you're already planning to see it (if you haven't already) and nothing I say is going to keep you from it, or you've already foolishly gone against the Marvel movies and are living a piss poor life because of it. Justice League doesn't even rise to the level of a bad joke in comparison.

I guess what I can say is that the actors deliver the kind of performances we've come to expect from them. With the exception of Edward Norton as the Hulk 11 years ago, they have been spot on with their casting, and the fixed that error with Ruffalo. It's difficult to imagine anyone doing that role better at this point. Well, I can't imagine it, anyway.

So, yeah, great movie. You should see it. I mean, if you do, then I can actually talk about stuff from the movie in a few weeks... like <censored> and <censored> and wasn't it AWESOME when <censored> and who the <censored> at <censored>?!?!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

I Never Had Big HAIR

My daughter's in choir this year. A few nights ago, they had this big concert performance thing with the other high schools in the city where we live. Mostly, the choirs sing the kinds of songs you'd expect high school choirs to sing: old songs, frequently religious in nature, that sound very somber and serious. Mostly, it's uninspired, safe choices, but that's the way these things go, right?

Don't get me wrong, there are exceptions even when the school is staying within the paradigm, but, generally speaking, the music isn't very... exciting.

However! One of the schools did a whole 80s-themed set with music by the likes of Tears for Fears and Queen. It was a lot of fun, and the kids even dressed in (mostly) 80s styles. The one thing they didn't get right? The HAIR! Not a single one of them had appropriate 80s HAIR!

Now, look, I get it: 80s HAIR takes a certain amount of commitment, possibly more than is appropriate to ask of a high school student for a single evening's performance, but I think it would have taken their performance up another level.

But, then, who am I to talk? I never had 80s hair.

Hey! It's not my fault! My hair was already thinning by the time I was 15, and you can see the progression of my hair loss in my student IDs/yearbook photos. No, I can't show them to you. For one thing, I only have one of my yearbooks (and that not exactly on purpose), and, though I still have my student IDs (at least, I'm pretty sure I do), I have no idea where they are in the catastrophe of boxes that is my garage. (If you want to buy any of my old collectible stuff, make sure you check out my eBay auctions!)

At any rate, the whole HAIR thing got me to thinking... And I kind of wish I had an old 80s photo of me with big HAIR to post: But do I really? Okay, no, not really. Don't get me wrong; if I had one, I would post it, but, alas...

Oh! But the HAIR thing got me thinking; I'm just not sure about what. How weird things were in the 80s? Where things actually weird in the 80s? Would I go back and re-live the 80s and high school if I could? The answer to that used to always be "no fucking way," but I've been rethinking that a bit lately. Not because I would want to go back to the 80s for its own sake, but it's clear to me now that the 80s was when we really started to go off the rails as a nation. Reagan's presidency was a disaster and set up for so much of what is going on today. So, yeah, I would probably choose to do that all over again just so that I could be more politically aware at a younger age and start working then to stop what is happening now.

And, well, opt out of "christianity" at an age where I could have been saved from "christianity" and its harmful effects.

So, anyway, one of the songs that choir sang was "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," and that also got me thinking. I mean, would I want to rule the world? At this point, oh, absolutely! Which I never would have said when I was younger. Or even a few years ago. So, I thought, hey! I'll write a post about that in relation to the song! I mean, that would be cool, right? But...

The problem arose when I looked up the lyrics to the song... What the fuck? What does any of that even mean? Which reminded that I have actually looked up those lyrics before and had the same thought. Other than the line, "Everybody wants to rule the world," which is pretty self-explanatory, the rest of the song is nearly meaningless phrases joined together by... nothing. And maybe that's what the 80s were like? Anyway... Because it's probably still a good song, here you go:

Monday, April 22, 2019

Not My Crisis (Existential Violence, part four)

I guess all of this started for me with a thought I've seen repeated all across social media:
This is not the America I grew up in.

Because this is not the America I grew up in. Or, at least, it doesn't feel like it is. Even growing up in the South, where racism was (and is) more than common, we were all taught (at school, anyway) that racism is wrong. I suppose it's not difficult to digest that message as a kid, and I did. I took it to heart. But, maybe, I just got lucky with good teachers...

I have a cousin who used to call the Civil War, the war of northern aggression, and used to argue all the time that it was about state's rights. I'm sure he still believes those things (though I haven't spoken to him in 20 years). Honestly, thinking back, I did get some of that in school, about the state's rights issue, but that was always overshadowed for me by the issue of slavery. It seems that an awful lot of people in the South came away with the White Supremacist message that the North unlawfully stole their slaves, and they have been champing at the bit ever since to get them back.

But it's more than just the racism and the South for me that's causing the disconnect; it's this whole problem with Nazis. While there were conflicting messages going out about the Civil War and racism, there was no conflict on the issue of Nazis. It was pretty standard teaching that Nazis were the ultimate evil and Hitler pretty close to Satan incarnate. People seemed to agree that World War II was an experience we never wanted to repeat. And yet...

And, yet, here we are with Nazis in the White House (and there seem to be an awful lot of them with the name "Stephen;" what's up with that?). And I can't, for the life of me, wrap my head around how we, as a nation, got to this place. Again. It makes me feel crazy, as if I'm the one suffering from the existential crisis.

So I have to remind myself on pretty much a daily basis that this is not my crisis. I mean, it's not my crisis. The problem is not in my head; it's external.

Which does not mean that it's not my responsibility; clearly, I am part of the mass of people who didn't work hard enough 20 years ago to start putting a stop to this assholery. We all let the GOP get to the place where they are today. Well, not millennials. America is not one of the things that anyone can legitimately say that millennials are ruining.

No, that's pretty much just the Boomers, and the Gen Xers who let them get away with it. But they are our parents, and it's difficult for a child, even an adult child, to step up and tell his parent to quit acting like a sociopathic idiot. But it's no excuse. We should have done more to stop this escalation, even though I'm not sure what that more would have been. Certainly speaking up sooner and louder that this shit wasn't okay.

But we didn't... And, now, we're at a crisis point because of it. So many crises...
But the climate crisis is the one that may kill us all, and the GOP seems pretty intent on letting it do just that. You know, for profit. Unless someone shoots us all first, because the GOP also seems just fine with that.

Unfortunately, all of this really comes down to an issue of violence and whether violence will be necessary to restore sanity to the United States. The Right is heavily armed and Trump (#fakepresident) has already been hinting at the use of force to retain his power. And we know that he loves dictators and authoritarian rulers.

Then there's the need to for someone to just make the GOP stop what they're doing. They've become like the disobedient child who doesn't listen because the parent only ever makes threats and never follows through, so the kid pushes and pushes and pushes... And that's what they've been doing for decades, now, and no one has ever said, "Enough!" And it's time for that.

Yeah, I realize that we get the opportunity to do that through voting, but I'm not sure that's going to be enough and in time this time. Or that the GOP will voluntarily relinquish power as they get voted out. They've shown themselves to have more authoritarian tendencies than are healthy for the USA.

Then there's the issue of the growing lack of confidence in democracy, which is not a topic I'm really going to get into right now, but it's disturbing on so many levels, because for more than 200 years America has been Democracy. It's probably that more than anything else that's feeding the existential divide in the United States. How can we be the United States without democracy? Obviously, in my mind at least, we can't.

All of that, I guess, to say that now is the time to really cling to the ideals that America was founded on. Cling to them and stand by them. The idea that ALL men [people] are created equal and that people should be allowed to pursue their own happiness. You know, as long as that happiness is not controlling someone else's happiness, because that's bullshit.

This is not the America I grew up in.
But, then, the America I grew up in was not the America I thought it was.
It's time to make America better than the America I thought it was.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

SHAZAM! (a movie review post)

Before I get into the nitty gritty of this review, I'm going to say two things:
1. SHAZAM! is good. It's fun.
2. It's by far the best DC movie that Warner Brothers has been able to put together.
So let me go back to point one: SHAZAM! is good. Not great, not even very good, just... good. If I were ranking all of the Marvel (MCU) movies, I'd probably put Iron Man 3 at the bottom of that list; SHAZAM! rises to about that level. Put another way, it's around the level of most of Fox's X-Men movies. Not the best X-Men movies, just the bulk of them. Like definitely better than the dumb Wolverine origin movie.

It feels somehow appropriate to me that the only movie Warner Brothers has been able to pull off with a solid story (since Batman Begins) is with a character DC stole from an independent comic publisher.
But that's not a story for this post, and one you can look up for yourself if you're so inclined.

As with most DC movies these days, they're a little sparse on the origin side of things. Not with Billy Batson, per se, but with everything else. Mostly with anything and everything to do with The Seven Deadly Sins. There's no explanation provided as to what these are other than that, basically, the previous champion, some thousands of years ago, let them out of a box all Pandora style because he failed to be pure of heart. But, without a religious context, none of this make any sense, and they don't provide a religious context other than "Wisdom of Solomon." [And I have to say, if the Wisdom of Solomon is supposed to be one of Captain Marvel/Shazam's super powers, they really don't put it to good use.]

Then there's the wizard... Um... Why? I mean, not why is there a wizard, but why all of it? Why is he the last of seven; meaning, why didn't the wizards do anything about replacing the wizards as they began to die off? How did he come to be the last one? That seems more than a little on the stupid side. And I'm assuming there are seven wizards to stand opposed to The Seven Deadly Sins but, again, why? None of this is explained. Also, he's goofy. It's good that he wasn't in more of the movie.

However, in most ways, the actors make up for the deficits in the story. Zachary Levi is Chuck but on a more epic scale. He's perfect for the role, and it may be DC's first real bit of "nailed it" casting. Well, I think Ben Affleck is pretty spot on for Batman, but I may be in the minority for that. Asher Angel is also great as Billy Batson, though he plays Billy a bit more rough around the edges than Levi plays Shazam. Levi certainly brings a lot more "wide-eyed innocence" to the adult version of Billy than Angel brings to the 14-year-old version. But, you know, that's fine. They were both enjoyable to watch.

Mark Strong is fine as the villain. The character has no real depth, so it's not like he had to do more than just be menacing. I don't think anyone else could have done anymore with the role than he did. Well... Maybe Nicolas Cage; he has a certain kind of crazy that might have gone well in the role.

And not be spoilery, but look away if you don't want to be spoiled.

I think the biggest failing of the movie is the ending. DC/Warner Brothers seems to be intent on having huge mega-battle endings. Like ending Wonder Woman with a battle with the God of War. It was an unnecessary jump that I think hurt the film. And, so, like that, SHAZAM! ends with a battle wherein he creates the whole Shazam family. The movie does no real setup for it, and it ruined a confrontation that should have come down to Shazam against Dr. Sivana. There was no need for the too large battle with all of the Sins and the added... shazams? It didn't make the ending better. It was just added muddle.

But, you know, all of the stuff after the beginning of the movie and before the ending is great! Don't let it sound like I thought it was a bad movie. It wasn't. It was totally fine and enjoyable and worth seeing on the big screen if you want to see it. It's a step in the right direction for DC. It's small, but it's a step.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Stop This Crazy Thing! (Existential Violence, part three)

Let's go back for a moment, one more time, to my first post on this:
Part of the problem with the midlife crisis of motorcycle dude was that it wasn't sustainable. I don't think these kinds of things ever are. As I said, the wife who worked in the flower shop didn't work there, initially, because she needed to: It was just an avenue for social interaction for her. However, one of the things she frequently talked about was her fear that her job would actually become necessary due to all of the money her husband was spending on his reckless behavior. She didn't handle the money beyond what she made in the flower shop, so she didn't even know how he was doing things like buying little red sports cars and street-racing motorcycles at the drop of a hat. Not to mention the various medical bills they'd incurred due to his injuries from his... activities.

Unfortunately (for you), I don't know how all of that worked out. Summer came to an end, and I went back to school. I've never really even thought about it again until recently. My question, now, is whether she ever got to a point where she said, "Enough is enough. Stop this shit now." Or did he kill himself? Or did he work through his issues without killing himself before she got to that point? Since it was only his own life he was endangering (well, except for some other people who were endangering their lives in the same way as he was), did she even have a right to tell him to stop?

This is where everything gets complicated.

But let's look at things another way:

When I was a sophomore in college, I was coming back from some place or other with a friend in his car. We got into one of those deep philosophical questions that college students are apt to get into:
If the speed limit is 65mph, why does the speedometer go all the way up to 120mph? Does the car really go that fast, or is it just to make you think that the car could go that fast? I suppose this was an important question to us, but, for me, it was just an abstract one... until we started talking about how fast we'd ever driven.

Now, as I mentioned last post, I had a Hyundai. The speedometer in it only went up to 100mph, but I liked to joke that the car wouldn't even fall that fast, and the fastest I'd driven it was in the 75mph range, and that was more a function of the fact that I was listening to music and kind of just going along with the traffic... until I looked down and saw how fast I was going and slowed back down to the speed limit. Yes, even at 20, I wasn't a speeder. At least not on purpose.

My friend, though, was one of those people who didn't believe in going under the speed limit and, even as we were discussing all of this, we were zipping along in the 75 range. He admitted to having gone 90 on multiple occasions, then began to lament how he'd never gone up to 100. This while in the midst of the discussion of why his speedometer went to 120. At which point he did something that I was adamantly not okay with: He said, "Let's find out," and, as the saying goes, put the pedal to the metal.

I'm going to say three things about this:
At 100mph, you are no longer really driving a car, at least not a car that's not made for those kinds of speeds with the kinds of tires designed to allow you to keep control of your car. I wasn't driving, but I could still feel that the car was doing something more akin to gliding, like a toboggan going down a snowy slope. We were fortunate that the road was fairly straight where we were in East Texas at that point.
However, hills, even smalls ones, are not your friend at those kinds of speeds.
After going 100, 70 feels slow.

Also, I never got back into a car with him again with him as the driver.

The problem here is that I was a nonconsensual partner in what he was doing, and it was life-threatening. We were lucky. Fortunately, once he got above 100 and felt like he couldn't make the car go any faster without burning up the engine, he took his foot off the gas and let it slow back down. However, I protested the whole thing the whole time it was happening; it's not like I was a silent partner in the whole business, and he ignored what I was saying until he'd done what he wanted to do.

And this is how I feel, kind of all the time, in the U.S. right now. Like I'm stuck in a car with some dude in the midst of midlife crisis who is doing his best to get his car up to 120mph, and I have no way to make him stop. Or stick more closely to the analogy, I'm hanging on for dear life to some guy on a dirt bike while he speeds along one of those dirt bike tracks with all the hills and stuff and my options are to keep holding on until he crashes or to let go and hope the fall doesn't kill me.

Which makes me wonder if there was a part of motorcycle dude's brain screaming to be let off during his whole breakdown with reality.

But I kind of doubt it, because when you're in a state like that, you are left without any ability to reason. Like about 1/3 of the country, right now, driving us down the freeway at top speed with no intent to slow down. And they can't see the danger or, even, comprehend that there might be danger. And they don't really care, because  they think they have it all under control.

Anyway... I had intended this to only be three parts, but this post is getting long, so it looks like I'm going to have to do one more.

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Fundamental Crisis (Existential Violence, part two)

Philosophers have been debating the meaning of life for... well, for longer than there have been philosophers. It was probably this question, in fact, that birthed philosophy. What is existence and what does it mean? What does it mean that "I am"? All of which led to existentialism, which is not exactly related to the existential crisis.

And none of which is related in any way to any time a high school student says, "It's, like, so existential, dude."

While existentialism may have to do with existence and what it is; the existential crisis has to do, specifically, with the meaning of that existence. "Does my life have meaning?" or some variation of that question. Maybe a better way of putting it is, "What's the point of all of this?" Honestly, it's not a bad question to ask, though it may be the cause of so many mid-life adults suddenly finding themselves expounding on the virtues of their childhood religion; here in the USA, that would be "christianity." They can't find any internal meaning to their lives, so they are left with having to rely on an external meaning, false though it may be (it is). For most people, a belief in something false is better than no belief at all (as expressed in the horrible move The Life of Pi).

But, if it's a good question to ask, what, then, is the problem?

And there are sooo many problems...
but I'll just mention two:
1. The inherent violence involved in the internal conflict.
2. The tendency of those who have "achieved meaning" to try to force that on everyone else.
oh, and maybe
3. The attempt to find an answer to something that is essentially unanswerable. Because, face it, this is not a math problem or, if it is, it's the kind where each individual is his/her own variable arriving at a different solution when you plug the person into the equation.

While not every midlife crisis expresses itself in the way the one I spoke about in part one of this series did, it is certainly a good example of the cliche mid-life crisis. Something only becomes a cliche by being, essentially, common. So common in fact that when my dad had his own mid-life crisis which just so happened to correspond with the need for a new car for my family, my mom said, "He better not get a red one." He did, of course, get a red one. Not a sports car, mind you, because we couldn't afford anything like that, but the sportiest red thing we could afford. A Hyundai. heh

Going out and buying a red Hyundai may not sound "violent," but at the time, Hyundai was a very new car company so, actually, this was risky behavior. It was as risky as my dad could afford to be and, probably, more money than my parents could easily afford since it was a brand new car and not used. It was the same behavior as the guy in the last post, just on a much lower level.

The need to prove or derive that one's life has or has had meaning must be maddening. Maddening to the point of insanity. Not actual clinical insanity (though maybe it should be?), but enough to make people do things they previously would never have considered. And you can't talk to these people about their behavior because it's all unreasoned behavior. You can't talk reason to people acting on their emotions or on their instincts.

It's difficult, here, to not get bogged down in all the minutia involved in all of this, but this is only a blog post, not one of the myriad of books that have been published dealing with this issue. Anyway...

In the end, it all comes down to two ways of approaching the issue of the meaning of the individual life, which can be expressed in the wording of the question the individual asks:
1. What's the point of all of this, my life? Look at all the things I've missed out on because I was working/having a family/being responsible (or whatever it was you were doing rather than the things you think you really wanted to do).
2. What's the point of all of this, my life? Will anyone remember me after I'm dead and gone? What difference have I made?

I think, right now, in the US, we're caught up in the conflict between these two questions. On a national level. It's the existential crisis of the American soul:

"Hey, look at all of this stuff I've missed out on because we (the USA) have been so busy being the responsible one and taking care of other countries and other people! It's my turn! I want mine! Fuck everyone else and let them burn! Let the whole world burn for all I care, because it's my turn and I want what's rightfully mine!"

"Hey, I want history to look back and see that this was the point where the US became a real force for good in the world, became a country that tackled climate change and poverty and health care. Became a country that put people's needs ahead of corporate profit. It's time to make a difference in the world!"

It's irreconcilable. Unfortunately. Because you can't reason with the people who suddenly find themselves in a position where they need to "feel" alive. You can't explain to them that if they continue to do dangerous stunts on dirt bikes or cliff diving or whatever that, at best, they're going to get seriously injured and, at worst, they're going to get themselves and, possibly, others killed. They... don't... care.

Which is the current problem:
Republicans don't care.
I don't just mean Republican politicians; I mean Republicans.
Because if Republicans cared about, say, the rights of women to not be unwillingly groped, they wouldn't vote for many, many of the Republicans in office, including the one in the highest office (#fakepresident) who bragged about it.
Because if Republicans cared about, say, children being taken from their parents and put in dog cages, they would speak out against it and force their representatives to do the same.
Because if Republicans cared about, say, preserving the environment for future generations, they would stand up against the fossil fuel industry.
Because if Republicans cared about children being murdered in their schools, they would demand stricter gun controls and give up on that whole prying their guns from their cold, dead hands.

So, in essence, we have an unresolvable conflict of interest. Or, at least, one that I can't see a resolution for. What I know, all I know, is that enough is enough.
But more on that next time...


If you enjoyed reading this post, please share it.
It's not hard, just a couple of clicks.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Queso Kings (a food review post)

Let's talk grilled cheese.
Because who doesn't love grilled cheese, right? I mean, it's so loved it's in The Sims.
Actually, historically, I am not a lover of grilled cheese. That's what will come of growing up with white bread and American cheese as your sole ingredients. And I grew out of ever wanting American cheese on anything by about the time I was in middle school. I'm pretty sure it glows in the dark, though I've always been too afraid to check.

Around my house, we make pretty darn good grilled cheese. And, yeah, I know how I'm frequently saying about how we have a hard time finding restaurant food that is better than what we make at home, but we spend a lot of time working on cooking stuff for the purpose of having better food than you can get at a restaurant. Better and better for you, because we don't use all the processed crap that most places will serve you. So, you know, when we make grilled cheese, my wife makes the bread, because a good grilled cheese starts with good bread. No, we don't make our own cheese, but I do make sure I'm getting quality cheese. And, of course, a grilled cheese at our house is rarely just cheese and bread...

Maybe I'll do a post someday about the various grilled cheeses we make.

I only tell you all of this so that you understand what it means when I do a food review and I'm saying that something is as good or better than what we make at home. That means something.

Not to get sidetracked on cheese but, awhile back, my wife and I decided to start doing more sampling of local cheese places, kind of the result of a birthday trip a few years ago to Cowgirl Creamery (which makes my favorite cheese ever!). The short of that is that last year when we were in Eureka, we made a stop at the Loleta Cheese Factory (they provide samples of everything!); they have an attached grilled cheese bar: Queso Kings. We, of course, got lunch there, because what's better than grilled cheese for lunch, right?

Unfortunately, Queso Kings does not have its menu posted on its website, so I can't tell you what we got. Well, I can tell you the name of the thing my wife got: Sweet Baby Cheesus. She loved it. But I don't remember what was on it or anything more than the name.

We took another trip to Eureka this year and took our kids with us this time. One of the reasons was to take our kids to Queso Kings, because grilled cheese is kind of my daughter's dream food. Grilled cheese and mac'n'cheese... hmm... I'm sensing a pattern. My wife, again, got the Sweet Baby Cheesus because she loved it so much. I'm pretty sure my son (the younger one) and I got the thing in the picture posted above (which came from Queso King's FB page), which was most excellent.

As an aside, we don't often do grilled cheeses with meats here at home, except for the rare occasions when I make grilled tuna, which doesn't quite count, so it's unlikely I'll better that one here at home.

Unfortunately, I don't remember what my daughter got, so I can't comment on it.

At any rate, if you're ever in the Eureka area or, now, the Sacramento area (because they just opened a new location there) and you fancy a grilled cheese -- or even if you don't because you will as soon as you take the first bite -- you should stop at Queso Kings. I'm pretty sure you won't be sorry you did.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Flower Delivery (Existential Violence, part one)

I spent a summer during college working for a flower shop. Mostly, I did deliveries, which was actually pretty fun. Back in those days, I really enjoyed driving. When you're 20, there's not much better than cruising around with your music blasting and singing at the top of your lungs. Especially if you're getting paid to do just that! Of course, even rush hour traffic in Shreveport (at the time, anyway; I don't know about now) was nothing compared to the kind of traffic we have out here in the Bay area all the time, and driving is something I actively avoid these days.

All of which is beside the point. Beside it, because what's important is that I worked at that flower shop.

Except for the other delivery driver, all of the other people who worked at the flower shop were women, and it was owned by a woman. I suppose that makes sense. In the South, if you were a dude who liked to do anything with flowers, it made you automatically gay. Even working as a delivery driver made you suspect, I shit you not. Meaning, it was said to me in all seriousness more than once by dudes who found out I delivered flowers, "You're not gay, are you?" Which is to say that I don't think a guy could have gotten away with working in a flower shop or arranging flowers in the South back then. And that still might be the case, especially these days, in a lot of places. If you like to work with flowers, it means you're gay and, if you're gay, you're going to get the shit beat out of you.

Yeah, that bit of social commentary was free.
But, then, it's all free, but that was extra free.

What this all means is that I spent a considerable amount of time that summer listening to this small group of women doing a lot of gossiping, especially about their home lives, and talking shit about their husbands. Or praising them, depending on the day. There was one woman in particular who -- the correct word here is not precisely "complained," but I don't have a better word than that at the moment -- complained about her husband a lot: He was in the midst of a midlife crisis and, evidently, doing everything he could to kill himself.

I don't mean that he was trying to commit suicide, at least not directly, but he had taken up living dangerously and doing all kinds of extreme sport shit.

It all started with a red sports car. A small red sports car (I don't remember what kind, but he did offer me a ride once which I awkwardly declined). A convertible. Which he never drove below the speed limit unless you count the brief number of seconds it took him to get to 60 when taking off from a red light (which is why I declined a ride in the car). I think there were numerous speeding tickets involved in all of this.

From the sports car, it moved on to skydiving, hang gliding, and I don't know what all else. He really wanted to try surfing, but it's not really the kind of thing you can do in Louisiana. Still, she wasn't too concerned until he took up dirt bikes. At the point when I started working there, he'd already hurt himself several times, and she was legitimately frightened that he was going to die.

I'd heard a lot about him by the time I finally met him. He came walking through the back door of the flower shop in all of his dirt bike gear and covered in, well, dirt. He was in his 50s, hair gone to grey, wiry frame. I don't know what he did for a living (other than try to kill himself), but his wife worked at the flower shop for the social interaction, not because they needed the money, and that money was just hers to spend as she pleased, so she also used to talk about what she bought with her paychecks. He had a swagger to his step, unless it was all of the dirt bike padding that caused it. Honestly, it was hard to tell.

He'd come by that day because he'd wrecked his dirt bike that morning -- but don't worry, because he was okay -- and it was going to take a couple of weeks for the repairs. Because he didn't want to wait to get the motorcycle back, he'd gone to buy a new one. However, while there, he'd been seduced by a crotch rocket (that's the motorcycle equivalent of a sports car, for those of you who don't know) and decided to take up street racing while waiting to get his dirt bike back. He wanted to show off his new bike; unfortunately, not a single one of us really cared. The other delivery driver might have because he was also a mechanic and into that stuff, but he wasn't there that day.

The husband-guy really needed the prospect of death to prove to himself that he was alive, something that I've never understood and I hope that I never arrive in a place like that. What strikes me now, though, is the inherent violence of this kind of existential crisis. Maybe all existential crises, because they all boil down to the same thing: a conflict between what was and what will be and what to do about it in the now. All conflict contains some amount of violence, even if it's not physical.

When I contemplate the current existential crisis we're going through in the USA, right now, this guy, with his need to risk death in order to feel like he's living, is what comes to mind.
But more on that later...


If you enjoyed reading this post, please share it.
It's not hard, just a couple of clicks.